The long awaited return of the season preview!
1. Martin Luther: Three starters have graduated from last year’s title team. The offense should be a joy to watch, with talented distributor Michael Zinzow feeding a deep group of finishers, both inside and outside the arc. Two-way talents like Ronald Corley and Nicholas Purvis will keep the defense at a high level. It isn’t the deepest roster in the country, but there’s no reason this team can’t make another deep run.
VERDICT: Final Four
2. North Park: It ain’t easy being Martin Nault. The Vikings have fielded many talented teams under Coach Bpolesel, but despite four forays into the tourney’s second weekend they’ve never made it to the Final Four. Now, in Nault, they have two more seasons with one of the country’s best players. Vikings fans feel their time has come. Can Nault handle the pressure and lead North Park to the promised land?
VERDICT: Elite Eight
3. Augustana: Coming off a PIT final four, the CCIW’s other Vikings are looking to break back into the real dance. They’ll lean on an excellent defense to get there. There’s no go-to offensive stud on this roster, but there are a few solid scorers and just about everyone guards. Sophomore Cullens, who two years ago was about to sign with MLC until a FedEx envelope of cash appeared at his door, is a blossoming star. Expect a solid bounce back season.
VERDICT: Round of 32
4. Milwaukee Engineering: MSE was a pleasant surprise last year, as Coach Shizz maneuvered a solid but unspectacular roster to a comfortable NT berth and a top 30 RPI. This year’s roster looks to be in a similar situation. They’re solid enough defensively, and Blanchard’s shooting gives them something to build around on offense. I'm not betting against them.
VERDICT: NT First Round
5. Illinois Wesleyan: It’s been a return to form for Coach Kcs, with back-to-back NT appearances culminating in a Cinderella Sweet 16 run last year. Only two regular starters return from that squad. There’s a solid nucleus here, but the bench is a major concern. The zone helps in that department, but I think the lack of depth still holds them back.
6. Carthage: Another rebuilding year looks on tap for young Carthage. There are some promising building blocks, but right now this is a team that doesn’t score or defend particularly well. There’s some talent on the roster, and a solid coach, so they’ll be respectable. But they’re probably still a year away from the postseason.
VERDICT: No postseason
7. Wisconsin Lutheran: It was a breakthrough season for WLC a year ago. The Warriors won twenty games and made the postseason for the first time in twenty years. Repeating that effort will be tough. Some capable frontcourt players remain, but the only returning guard is Walter Dewitt and his 6 ATH/DEF. That won’t be enough for a repeat postseason berth.
VERDICT: No postseason
8. Elmhurst: King of the SIMs! The Bluejays have a couple of decent human-recuited seniors. Charles Bowen is a defense monster floating in a sea of irrelevance.
9. Northland: Patrick Kelley has some game, and he’s only a junior. That’s about it.
10. Millikin: Seeing this roster just makes me sad. The CCIW really misses ex-coach Shaf.
11. North Central: C Mark Keen is actually a respectable player. At least they won’t go 0-27 again this season.
12. Wheaton: Bottom of the barrel.