Webster University edged out Spalding University as favorites in the 2015-16 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Poll while a total of four teams received first-place votes.
Webster, coached by Chris Bunch, received 71 total points including four first-place votes to grab the top spot in the poll. They return three starters and 8 of their 10 top ten players from last year's team that tied for the SLIAC regular season title, going 17-9 overall. The Gorloks will have to replace the program's second all-time leading scorer, Ahmad Smith, but the continued development of forward Hunter Ward should offset the scoring loss. Ward, a junior forward, averaged 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season while earning All-Conference honors. Junior guard C.J. Moore will also be counted on to increase his scoring output after shooting 53-percent from the field and averaging 9.3 points per game last year. The Gorloks will rely on the size of junior forward Joe Henry who showed signs of success as an inside presence last year, shooting 55-percent from the field. The Gorloks bring in several newcomers including junior transfers Xavier Dortch (8.8 points and 4.1 assists per game) and Davian Joseph as well as freshman Jahmad Wilburn.
Spalding, who has won at least a share of the last three SLIAC regular season titles and won the conference tournament title last year, received 70 total points and four first-place votes in the poll. Head Coach Kevin Gray returns just two starters and four players from last year's squad that went 18-10 overall. Leading the way is senior guard Brandon Goeing, a First Team All-Conference performer, who averaged a team high 15.1 points per game while leading the conference in three-point field goals with 72. Also returning is starting guard James Turner, who averaged 8.7 points per game while hitting on 43-percent of his three-point shots. Senior guard Victor Cosby is also back after seeing time in 19 games last year, starting five. The Golden Eagles will count on newcomers Nick Trisko, a junior forward; Jalen Bradley, a freshman swingman; and Domonique Ellis, a freshman guard; to provide minutes in the rotation.
Fontbonne University was picked third in the poll, receiving 64 total points including one first-place vote. Fontbonne will be led by first-year head coach Lance Thornhill. The Griffins were 13-14 overall last year and advanced to the SLIAC Tournament championship game. Leading the way on the court will be senior forward Jared Greenlee, who averaged 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game; earning Second Team All-Conference honors last year. Also returning are junior forward Ben Kissing (8.2 ppg) and senior guard Richard Dorhauer (6.3 ppg).
MacMurray College received 63 total points in the poll for fourth place. The Highlanders, coached by 2014-15 SLIAC Co-Coach of the Year Todd Creal, claimed a share of the regular season title last year after going 13-13 overall and will return seven players including two starters. Heading up the returners is senior Deavis Johnson. Johnson, an explosive forward, averaged 11.6 points per game and led the conference in rebounding at 9.9 per game while earning Third Team All-Conference honors. Senior guard Kollin Keltner averaged 5.7 points per game last season while ranking second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. Sophomores Alex Bott, Lance Buhlig, and Brent Long all saw valuable playing time last year, each appearing in at least 25 games. The Highlanders will need to replace defending SLIAC Player of the Year Clayton Whitlock, and will count on a group newcomers to fill those needs. Among those expected to earn playing time is freshman center, and IBCA All-State player, Marcus Chausee; as well as transfer guards Michael Cameron and Sam Douglass.
The final remaining first-place vote went to Greenville College, who received 43 total points and were picked fifth. The Panthers, coached by Dr. George Barber, finished last year with a 13-12 overall record and a 10-8 mark in the SLIAC. The Panthers will need to replace First Team All-Conference player, forward Ron Harris. The Panthers bring back senior forward Tim Daniel (12.8 ppg) and senior guard Brian Ehresman (9.0 ppg). The Panthers welcome a large group of newcomers and will look to push the tempo this season after averaging 74.8 points per game as team last year, second best in the conference.
Westminster College was picked sixth after receiving 38 total points. The Blue Jays finished last year with a 5-25 overall record and a 4-14 mark in conference play. Among those returning for the Blue Jays are forwards Matt Murphy (9.0 ppg) and Tanner Grentges (7.8 ppg) and guard Tanner Cochran (7.5 ppg). Head Coach Matt Mitchell brings in a group of newcomers including junior transfers Zac Nelson and Jackson Sublette and freshman forward Stu Hollandsworth.
Iowa Wesleyan University received 36 total points in the poll and are coming off a season in which they went 12-13 overall and 8-9 in the SLIAC. Last year the Tigers doubled their win output from the previous season and will be under the guidance of second year head coach Alex Huisman, the 2015 SLIAC Co-Coach of the Year. Senior guard Chris Fowler, a Second Team All-Conference player last year, is back after leading the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game while shooting 46-percent from the field. CJ Singletary, a guard, averaged 8.4 points per game as a true freshman and will be counted on to continue to provide scoring punch. Another sophomore, forward Marquis Jones, averaged 7.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game last season and returns to the Tiger lineup.
Eureka College received 24 total points, finishing eighth in the poll. The Red Devils were 12-13 overall last year, going 9-9 in the SLIAC. Coach Chip Wilde returns two starters and nine players from last year's team. Greg Kent, an all-around player, will be leaned on even more this year. Kent averaged 7.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.3 steals per game last year while earning Third Team All-Conference. Also returning is junior forward Parker Gibson, who averaged 6.0 points per game last year while knocking down 31-percent of his three-point attempts. Eureka will look to newcomers Sam Feehan, Tommy Goulding, and Alex Wiegand to provide minutes.
Principia College was picked ninth, receiving 20 total points. The Panthers went 6-19 overall and 4-14 in the SLIAC last season under head coach Mike Bushong. They will once again lean on the shoulders of their big man, Justin Ball. Ball, a Second Team All-Conference player, averaged 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game last year while shooting 45-percent from the field. Also returning is Parker Davidson, a sophomore guard, averaged 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in his first year at Principia and Jeff Ross, a sophomore forward, who averaged 10.2 points per game.
Blackburn College received 14 total points and will welcome new head coach Steve Kollar. The Beavers finished 6-19 overall and 5-13 in the SLIAC last year. They return 12 players including three starters. Junior guard Chris Davis is back for the Beavers after averaging 15.0 points per game last season as is senior guard Jamie Moore, who averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Jordan McMillen, Willie Orange, and Reed Rusten all saw valuable minutes last year and are expected to contribute more this year. Blackburn brings in a group of newcomers highlighted by Taivon Kincaid, Jake Maestranzi, DeAndre Manuel, and Ugo Pierantoni.
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