WIAC Men's Basketball Preview - Blugolds Picked to Finish Seventh

MADISON, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - Defending national champion, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is the preseason favorite to win the 2011 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) men's basketball championship, according to the league's sports information directors.

The Pointers, who return four starters from last year's squad, claimed all nine votes in the preseason poll and own a WIAC-high 25 first-place trophies. UW-Stevens Point is ranked No. 1 nationally in a preseason poll conducted by D3hoops.com after winning the third national trophy in program listings. The Pointers are the third team in NCAA Division III archives to win three or more crowns, joining UW-Platteville and North Park University (Ill.). UW-Stevens Point has just 11 scheduled home games on Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse where they were 16-1 a season ago. Twenty-two of the Pointers' 33 games last year were decided by 11 or more points and in those games, the Pointers were 21-1. Head coach Bob Semling owns the league's third-highest winning percentage of all-time at .804, trailing only Bo Ryan and Ken Anderson.

UW-Whitewater, ranked No. 21 by D3hoops.com, returns two starters from last season's WIAC championship squad and must replace three of its top four scorers, including 2010 WIAC Player of the Year Dustin Mitchell. The 2010-11 schedule begins with six of eight games away from home where the original floor (since 1967) at Kachel Gymnasium in Williams Center was replaced in the offseason. Head coach Pat Miller needs eight victories to reach 200 in his career and become the 15th individual in WIAC history to achieve the milestone.

UW-La Crosse begins the 2010-11 campaign with five of six games on the road. The team's nine WIAC victories a year ago were the most since 2006-07 when they accumulated 12 wins. Senior guard Tony Mane needs 394 points to become the school's all-time scoring leader, surpassing Larry Halverson's mark of 1,822 set from 1973-77. Mane also tops the school's all-time list with a 87.7 free-throw shooting percentage. The Eagles have recorded three of their top-four single-season free-throw shooting marks the last three years. Head coach Ken Koelbl needs five wins to reach 100 in his career.

UW-Superior welcomes Matt Siverling as its head coach and is the program's third leader in the last three seasons. Siverling most recently was a video coordinator at the University of Arkansas after previously serving as an assistant at UW-Eau Claire (2004-07) and University of Florida. Senior forward Jake Smith is just the second player in program history to claim All-WIAC recognition three years. He needs 355 points to become the school's all-time leading scorer, surpassing the total of 1,794 set by Jim Sevals from 1963-67. The Yellowjackets will look for back-to-back winning seasons for the seventh time in school history and just the third time since 1966.

UW-Stout returns 70 percent of its scoring and 67 percent of its rebounding from last year's unit that ranked first in the WIAC in rebounding (36.7 rpg) and second in scoring (77.3 ppg). The Blue Devils closed last season by winning seven of their final nine contests, including victories over UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater who were both ranked in the top-five nationally at the time of the game. The 2010-11 roster includes 11 individuals who are first year to the program.

UW-Platteville returning seniors Nick Allen and Eric Wall have a combined 161 games played and 89 games started. They were members of last year's squad that established a school record with 78.8 free-throw shooting percentage. The Pioneers are 424-150 all-time in Williams Fieldhouse where they start and finish the 2010-11 campaign with five of seven games. Four teams playing on Bo Ryan Court this year account for 11 of the 36 NCAA Division III national titles - UW-Platteville (4), UW-Stevens Point (3), UW-Whitewater (2) and Washington University (Mo.) (2).

UW-Eau Claire brings back two starters who received the starting assignment in all 25 contests. The squad's seven returning letterwinners accounted for 41 percent of last year's points and 32 percent of last year's rebounds. The Blugolds finish the 2010-11 season with seven of 10 games away from Zorn Arena. This year's roster includes four transfers and four freshmen.

UW-River Falls returns five of its top-six scorers and four of its top-five rebounders from last year's club that lost five games by three points or less, including three WIAC bouts. Senior Jontae Koonkaew ranks eighth in the Falcon record book with 304 career assists. The Falcons play six of their first seven and four of their last five contests away from home.

UW-Oshkosh brings back four players who started at least 21 games during the 2009-10 season that saw the Titans lead the NCAA Division III in free-throw accuracy at 80.6 percent. The Titans lost 2009 WIAC Player of the Year D.J. Marsh to graduation. He led the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals during each of the past two seasons. Head coach Ted Van Dellen is the longest tenured men's basketball coach in the WIAC with 21 seasons to his credit and he needs 11 wins to pass Bo Ryan for fifth place on the league's all-time list.

2010-11 Preseason Predictions --Voted on by WIAC Sports Information Directors
                                                        2009-10 Record
1. UW-Stevens Point (9)             12-4, 29-4
2. UW-Whitewater                        13-3, 23-6
3. UW-La Crosse                         9-7, 17-9
4. UW-Superior                             7-9, 15-12
5. UW-Stout                                   9-7, 16-11
6. UW-Platteville                           8-8, 14-12
7. UW-Eau Claire                         6-10, 14-11
8. UW-River Falls                         3-13, 9-16
9. UW-Oshkosh                            5-11, 11-14
( )--First-Place Votes
 
Team Tidbits
UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach: Terry Gibbons; 20th season (16th at UWEC); 274-236 (overall) / 226-169 (UWEC)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/12
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach: Ken Koelbl; 8th season at UWL; 95-87
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 6/8
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Tony Mane, Sr., G (2008-Honorable, 2010-First)

UW-Oshkosh
Head Coach: Ted Van Dellen; 21st season at UWO; 343-190
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 8/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-Platteville
Head Coach: Jeff Gard; 2nd season at UWP; 14-12
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/7
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-River Falls
Head Coach: Jeff Berkhof; 5th season at UWRF; 39-63
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Jontae Koonkaew, Sr., G (2007-Honorable, 2009-Honorable, 2010-Honorable)

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach: Bob Semling; 6th season at UWSP; 119-209
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 12/3
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Louis Hurd, Sr., F (2010-Honorable); Jared Jenkins, Sr., G (2010-First)

UW-Stout
Head Coach: Ed Andrist; 22nd season (11th at UWS); 382-316 (overall) / 132-125 (UWS)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Eric Hostetter, Sr., G (2010-First)

UW-Superior
Head Coach: Matt Siverling; 1st season at UWS
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 10/2
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Jake Smith, Sr., F (2008-First, 2009-Honorable, 2010-First)

UW-Whitewater
Head Coach: Pat Miller; 10th season at UWW; 192-61
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 8/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: Phil Negri, Sr., G (2010-Honorable)