CCIW Season 61 Preview
Tier One: National Contenders
1. Millikin: After being knocked off the conference perch the past few seasons, Millikin looks ready to reclaim that spot. Everyone returns from a team who won a NT game last season. There aren’t a lot of flaws with this bunch – they guard, they rebound, and unlike the old-school Millikin teams, these guys even shoot the three. They also have great depth. Don’t be surprised to see them make a deep NT run.
Tier Two: NT-Bound
2. Northland: This may seem too high for a team that missed the NT last year, graduated its best player, and has only one senior. But this ranking will make more sense by the end of the year. Wesley Piper was important, but he’s the only loss from a squad that went 10-6 in conference. Northland’s five man sophomore class improved at a scary rate last season. Pair them with some solid upperclassmen like last year’s breakout star William Damiano, and this team will be an extremely tough out by season’s end.
3. Martin Luther: The Knights have had an incredible three year run (44-4 in conference, 3 straight tournament titles). They’ll take a step back this year after the graduation of stars John Ishmael and Steven Hervey. But the cupboard is far from bare, and the eight underclassmen figure to improve quickly as the year goes on. Like Northland, this team will look differently by season’s end than they do today. They have enough talent to keep the NT streak going.
Tier Three: Good Chance To Dance
4. Illinois Wesleyan: These guys are hard to figure. They boast a very strong starting lineup that may be second only to Millikin. However, the bench features a bunch of youngsters who aren’t yet ready for prime time. Luckily the standard IWU zone should help keep those talented starters in most of the time. There’s enough talent on this roster to get back into the NT after a string of PIT appearances. Keep an eye on soph Rueben Williams, who improved at a breakneck pace last year.
Tier Four: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?
5. Augustana: The Vikings are coming off a fantastic two year run. They should step back to the pack this year after graduating six. The backcourt is still solid, with four seniors and two new JUCOs to provide depth. But the frontcourt, save stud George Newman, is a mess. He’s the only one above 55 REB. Much-maligned Mark Archer, last seen crying in his dorm room after Coach Blackwell publically called him the worst player on the team, is the likely starting PF. This squad goes as far as Newman and Smith carry them.
6. Wheaton: Coach Will’s been in a bit of a rut at Wheaton – always solid, but never quite good enough for the postseason. That should come to an end this year. Senior Joe Hall is the main man, but there’s a solid supporting cast too led by Chicago favorite Harold Carey and junior PG Salisbury. This team is talented enough to break the postseason drought. The big question – does that mean NT or PIT?
7. Milwaukee Engineering: Coach Branch’s rebuild showed some fruits last year. MSE went 3-13 in conference, but was much more competitive than prior seasons. And they did it starting multiple freshmen. For the first time there are legitimate postseason aspirations in Milwaukee. Sophomore posts Batiste and Scott should be a formidable tandem for years to come. Are they ready for the postseason though? We'll see.
8. North Park: This feels a bit low for a team coming off of two consecutive NT appearances, but the loss of five seniors stings. PG John Tatro is a good one though, and JUCO James Medlock will make an immediate impact. North Park won’t be a pushover. However, my gut says Coach Polesel will be coaching in the PIT this year.
Tier Five: The One Man Band
9. Carthage: These guys have shown steady improvement, managing a 8-8 conference record last year. The key player is Andrew Parkin, quite possibly the best player in the CCIW. His supporting cast is decent, but lacks a second standout to take some pressure off of Parkin. The overall roster doesn’t look like a tourney team. But who wants to bet against a player that good? This team will be very interesting to follow.
Tier Six: Not Yet
10. Elmhurst: Here’s another team who surprised people with a solid 9-7 CCIW record last year. Three seniors are gone though, and only three upperclassmen are on the roster. There’s a lot of young talent here, particularly in young big man Steven Cordero. They’ll be a force in the future as long as those youngsters can overcome some low work ethics.
11. North Central: It’s been a tough couple of seasons, but this squad may have turned the corner with a very nice recruiting class. It’s a good thing, because other than sophomore David Reason, there’s not a lot to like about the other guys on the roster. Expect a young lineup that takes its share of lumps. Check back on this team in two seasons.
Tier Seven: The RPI Anchor
12. Wisconsin Lutheran: Coach hasn’t logged on in months. The only two decent players graduated. Let’s all just hope this is the last year of the ghost ship.