Westminster College, last year's SLIAC Tournament Champion, is the slight favorite in this year's Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll. After last year's historically close race in the standings, another tight conference wide race is expected with five of the ten teams in the SLIAC receiving first-place votes.
Westminster, who became just the sixth seed lower than a #1 or #2 seed to win the tournament, bring back their entire starting squad along with 12 total players from last year's team that finished 12-16 overall. They received 70 total points in the poll, receiving four first-place votes. Heading up the list of returners is a trio of juniors: Tanner Cochran, Romo Tabb, and Jimmy Villalobos. Cochran, a guard, averaged 9.4 points last season while starting 26 of 28 games. Tabb, a forward, averaged 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last year while shooting 50-percent from the floor and earning Third Team All-Conference honors. Villalobos averaged 7.3 points per game last year and earned All-Tournament team honors while helping the Blue Jays to the postseason conference title. Also returning is Carter Wands, a guard, who averaged 6.4 points and 2.2 assists per game as a true freshman last year. Head Coach Matt Mitchell will have to replace Nick Carlos, the SLIAC Tournament MVP and their top outside threat last year after his departure. Junior transfers Sean O'Brien and Cody Shaw should help fill that role.
Spalding University was picked second in the poll, receiving 67 total points and two first-place votes. The Golden Eagles were 13-14 overall last season and bring back 12 players and four starters from last year's squad. Head Coach Kevin Gray will lean on the big man in the middle, Nick Trisko. Trisko averaged 12.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last season while shooting 57-percent from the field. Surrounding Trisko will be guards James Turner, Rylan Rowe, and Domonique Ellis. Turner, a senior, was second on the team in scoring last year at 13.2 points per game and led the team in assists. Rowe (9.7 points) and Ellis (7.5 points) each saw valuable time last year as true freshmen and will be counted on to provide outside threats for the Golden Eagles after the graduation of sharp-shooter Brandon Goeing. James Abrams, a forward, is also back after missing last year. Among the top newcomers joining the team are Brandon Williams, Joshua McKenzie, and Damarcus Kennedy.
Webster University was chosen third in the poll with 65 total points, picking up two first-place votes. The Gorloks went 13-12 overall last season under head coach Chris Bunch and return 13 players including all five starters. The list of returning starters begins with All-Conference forward Hunter Ward. Ward averaged 16.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game; leading the team in all three categories. Ward also finished with a team high 31 made three-pointers. Senior guards C.J. Moore, Rabasa Turner, and Adam Etter will join Ward and give the Gorloks an experienced group of starters. Moore averaged 10.3 points per game last year while also finishing with 35 steals. Turner meanwhile averaged 6.8 points per game and led the team in three-point percentage with a .407 mark and Etter averaged 5.9 points and 2.5 assists per game. Sophomore center Evan Milligan saw action in 24 games last season as a true freshman and averaged 7.4 points per game while leading the team in blocked shots. A pair of incoming freshmen forwards should bolster the Gorloks depth. Enrique Tankins averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game as a high school senior while Nolan Huot wrapped up his high school career with 1,200 points and All-State honors.
Greenville College was picked fourth with 57 points and received one first-place vote. The Panthers, under the guidance of head coach George Barber, finished 13-13 overall last year while switching to an up-tempo playing style that led all NCAA Division III in scoring at 112.8 points per game. The Panthers bring back 11 players and three starters from last year's team that earned a share of the SLIAC regular season title, although they will have to replace First Team All-Conference player Tim Daniel. Returning for the Panthers are three senior guards in DeAndre Brown, Michael Hohm, and Shane Smith. Brown averaged 14.9 points per game while Smith averaged 12.0 points. Hohm earned All-Conference honors after averaging 15.1 points per game and leading the conference in steals with 90. The Panthers' rotation will get deeper with the addition of juniors Kealin McLean, Marquis Scott, and Kieshaun Young-Jones.
Iowa Wesleyan University was the final team to receive a first-place vote and picked up a total of 51 points, finishing fifth in the poll. The Tigers finished 13-12 overall last year in their second season under head coach Alex Huisman. The Tigers bring back 13 players including three starters although they must replace senior All-Conference guard Chris Fowler. The Tigers will look for guard Brock Butler to continue his growth after averaging 13.6 points per game and more than doubling his scoring output from the previous year. Also back is senior forward Mitchell Drey, who averaged 11.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last season. A trio of juniors in Marquis Jones (9.1 points), C.J. Singletary (9.9 points), and Elijah Johnson (4.2 points) round out the Tigers' returners. The Tigers welcome in a group of newcomers that include a pair of transfers in Michael Soukup and Steven Soukup.
Defending SLIAC Co-Champion MacMurray College was picked sixth in the poll with 49 total points. The Highlanders return four starters from last year's team that finished 15-11 overall. After losing last year's SLIAC Player of the Year, Deavis Johnson, MacMurray head coach Todd Creal will turn to Brent Long to defend their title. Long averaged 20.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while leading the conference in field-goal percentage at .635 and earning First Team All-Conference honors. Senior guard Mike Cameron is back to help run the offense after averaging 9.3 points per game and leading the team with 4.2 assists per game. Joining him in the backfield is fellow senior Tim Frazier, who averaged 7.5 points per game. Sophomore forward Derek Bourke started 12 games last year as a true freshman and averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited minutes and will be expected to continue his development. Top newcomers include junior college transfers Marshall Corbin and Riley Spencer.
Blackburn College was picked seventh in the poll, receiving 38 total points. The Beavers made a four game jump in wins under head coach Steve Kollar's first year at the helm going 10-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play. The Beavers bring back 10 players and four starters from last year's squad and will look to that experience to continue the program's improvement. The group of experienced players is led by Second Team All-Conference guard Chris Davis, who averaged 16.0 points per game last year while shooting 45-percent from three-point range. Guard Jake Maestranzi also returns after leading the conference in three-point percentage (.528) and will team up with Davis to give the Beavers a dangerous outside combination. Forward DeAndre Manuel , 11.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, and forward Willie Orange, 6.0 points per game and 56-percent shooting, will head up the Beavers inside game. Tommy Childs, Karson Hayes, and Hunter Johnson will add to the Beavers depth.
Eureka College finished with 26 total points in the poll and are expected to finish eighth in the SLIAC. The Red Devils went 12-13 overall last season, narrowly missing out on the SLIAC Tournament. Head Coach Chip Wilde returns 10 players and three starters including SLIAC Newcomer of the Year Shea Feehan. Feehan, a sophomore guard, averaged 22.1 points per game once he arrived with the team in the second-half of the season. One of the top shooters in the conference Feehan shot 54-percent from the field and knocked down 42-percent of his three-pointers while hitting 86-percent of his free-throws. Feehan wasn't just a scorer though as he averaged 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Fellow sophomore Alex Wiegand, a forward, averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while senior forward Parker Gibson returns after averaging 9.3 points per game. The Red Devils will have to replace First Team All-Conference guard Sam Feehan and All-Defensive team member Greg Kent but junior transfer Kendall Davis will have the opportunity to do so.
Principia College was chosen to finish ninth in the poll with 16 total points. The Panthers will be under the direction of new head coach Todd Zimmerman and bring back all five starters from last year's team that went 5-18 overall. Despite their record last season the Panthers were a dangerous team with the inside-outside combination of Adaku Anumu and Justin Ball. Anumu led the conference in scoring in his first season with the Panthers, averaging 25.4 points per game. Ball, an All-Conference performer two years ago, averaged 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season. Also back is Parker Davidson, an athletic guard that averaged 15.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Jeff Ross, a junior forward, is back after averaging 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year. Kaylin Hernandez-Beiner played in 19 games, starting 13, as a true freshman last year and averaged 4.5 points per game. A pair of transfers in Micah Paulson and TreVaughn Goodman as well as freshman Brennan Paulson will be counted on to give the Panthers improved depth in their rotation of players.
Fontbonne University rounds out the poll, receiving 11 total points. The Griffins went 8-17 in head coach Lance Thornhill's first year. They return eight players but just one starter from last year's team that went 6-12 in conference play. Trey Watkins, a senior guard, started all 24 games for the Griffins last year, averaging 5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Junior forward Orkan Bakis will provide added experience that will try and fill in for the losses of Richard Dorhauer and Jared Greenlee. Jack Lake, a junior post player, heads up the class of newcomers expected to play a key role for the Griffins.
The 2016-17 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Poll is voted on by league coaches. Conference action begins on November 30th.
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