NAC men's basketball poll eyes Eagles to repeat in North and South
Northern Athletics Conference, Sports Information Department
WAUKESHA, Wis. -- The Benedictine University Eagles men's basketball team was picked to win its second-straight Northern Athletics Conference South Division title, while Eagles of Edgewood College were chosen to repeat in the North Division, according to the 2009-10 preseason coaches' poll.
Benedictine, which received 61 poll points and five of 12 first place votes, comes into the 2009-10 season with the loss of NAC Player of the Year Jared Bailey, who averaged 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for the 19-8 (12-4 NAC) Eagles. Benedictine does however return their second and third leading scorers: junior guard Cameron Snelling (11.1 points per game) and senior forward Dan Klecan (10.7). The Eagles, who received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2009 NAC Men's Basketball Tournament, will look to avenge their early exit from the tournament this season.
The Spartans of Aurora University, the reigning NAC tournament champions, and the Raiders of MSOE were both picked to finish second in the South. The teams each received 58 poll points, just three points behind Benedictine. Aurora received four first place votes and MSOE received the remaining three.
The Spartans (16-13, 10-6) won a pair of road games in the 2009 NAC Tournament, including a 74-72 upset victory over South Division champ Benedictine in the semifinals, before a three-point win at home versus Wisconsin Lutheran College in the tournament final, securing a third-consecutive appearance to the NCAA III Championship tournament. Seniors Shane Roland and Dusty Magee, who each averaged over 15 points a game last season, will lead the Spartans high-powered offense which averaged over 80 points a game as a team. The Spartans are one of three NAC teams to play a Division I opponent in an exhibition game this season, squaring-off against Northern Illinois University on Sunday, Nov. 1.
MSOE (18-8, 11-5) finished just a game back of Benedictine in the standings last season, and return a pair of All-NAC honorees who will look to turn the game deficit into a game advantage. Junior forward Austin Meier, a first team selection, and senior forward Jeremy Off, a second team selection, were the team's top two scorers and rebounders last season combining for 29.1 points and 15.7 rebounds a game. The Raiders will get things started early this season against some of the best competition in the nation as they take on Division I Marquette University in an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Wisconsin Lutheran College was slated fourth in the South with 32 poll points. The Warriors (15-13, 9-7) claimed the No. 7 overall seed in the NAC tournament last season, and captured two road victories before falling to Aurora 82-79 in the final. WLC lost All-NAC first teamer Kyle Plath to graduation, and will need to look elsewhere to fill his 18.4 points per game void on the NAC's top scoring team a year ago (83.2).
Concordia University Chicago (10-14, 7-9) was picked fifth with 25 poll points while Dominican University (10-15, 5-11) was picked last in the South with 18 poll points. Both teams finished in these same spots last season. CUC is the third team to play an exhibition game versus a Division I opponent as they take on Chicago State University on Friday, Nov. 13.
The Eagles of Edgewood College will be led by sophomore guard Ben Wisniewski, a second team All-NAC selection and reigning NAC Freshman of the Year. The Eagles received nine of 12 first place votes and 67 poll points. Wisniewski led the Eagles to a 13-13 overall (11-5 NAC) record last season with a 15.8 scoring average and 2.0 assists per game.
Concordia University Wisconsin received the remaining three first place votes and 57 poll points for a predicted second place finish in the North. The Falcons (13-13) finished in a tie for second place with Rockford College last season, both with 10-6 NAC records, just one game back of division champ Edgewood. Junior guard Edward Newton-Kemp, a second team All-NAC selection, will return to lead the Falcons.
Rockford received 51 poll points and was chosen third. The Regents boasted the North's best overall record last season at 17-10, but lost first team All-NAC selection Renell Taylor to graduation. They do, however, return second team honoree Danny Armelin to their lineup this season. The Regents, led by NAC Coach of the Year Ryan Rebsom, improved their win total by 16 games last season and will look to increase on that total this season.
Lakeland College and Marian University both received 32 poll points for a tie at the North's fourth place spot in the poll. Marian had a two game advantage on the Muskies (10-15, 4-12) last season with a 6-10 NAC record (10-16 overall) claiming the last spot in the conference tournament.
Maranatha Baptist Bible College (6-20, 1-15) received 13 poll points for a last place finish in the North Division.
The NAC regular season concludes with the annual North/South Challenge which pits the divisions' teams against each other based on the final NAC standings. The South Division won last season's challenge 4-2. This season's challenge takes place on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The 2010 NAC Men's Basketball Tournament is scheduled for Feb. 23, 25 and 27. The top four teams from each division make up the eight-team tournament, with the tournament champion receiving the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA III Championship tournament.