MADISON, Wis.--University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the defending NCAA Division III champion, is the preseason choice to secure the 2013 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) men’s basketball championship, according to the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
The Warhawks, ranked third nationally in a preseason poll by D3hoops.com, received 15 first-place votes in the conference projections after winning the third NCAA Division III championship in program history and 10th by a WIAC program a season ago. The 2011-12 squad also captured the 14th league crown in school archives and finished third in NCAA Division III with a 50.9 field goal percentage and sixth in scoring defense at 58.2 points per game.
Senior Luke Knoble placed second in the conference with a 62.9 field goal percentage and third on the team with 9.7 points per contest. Junior Eric Bryson added 8.6 points per game and converted 39.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Gone due to graduation is Chris Davis who captured Player of the Year honors from the WIAC, National Association of Basketball Coaches and D3hoops.com. Head Coach Pat Miller is the winningest active coach in the conference with 238 victories to his credit.
UW-Stevens Point, ranked No. 15 by D3hoops.com, secured the remaining three first-place tallies in the league poll and is slotted for second in the conference race. The Pointers own a league-best 26 regular-season conference championships and have finished no lower than third place in the WIAC standings since the 1999-2000 campaign. Last year’s team earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Championship for the sixth consecutive year and ranked fourth in NCAA Division III with a 78.1 free throw shooting percentage. Senior Tyler Tillema led the team and finished fourth in the league with 17.3 points per contest, while senior Jordan Giordana topped the conference with a 44.6 three-point field goal percentage.
UW-La Crosse returns four starters and seven players who saw action in at least 20 games from last year’s team that reached the WIAC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2007. The 2011-12 squad ranked second in the conference in scoring defense at 59.5 points per game and recorded 234 steals - the second-most in a single season in school history. Senior Jeff Heiden is back after missing 21 games due to injury. He led the Eagles with 13.8 points per game in the six contests he participated in. The Eagles will play nine of their first 12 games away from home.
UW-Platteville returns three starters and five of its top-eight scorers from a season ago. Junior Chas Cross and sophomore Jake Manning were second on the squad with 9.5 points per contest. Manning also contributed 5.3 rebounds per game, while senior Rob Stallion topped the squad with 5.4 rebounds per contest. The Pioneers will play eight of their first 11 games at Bo Ryan Court to begin the year.
UW-River Falls is coming off a 2011-12 campaign that featured its second straight NCAA appearance and first-ever WIAC tournament title. Senior Ollie White is the lone returning starter and was second on the team with 12.4 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per contest a year ago. The Falcons own a 22-3 record at Karges Center the last two seasons, but will start the year with seven of their first 10 contests away from home. Head Coach Jeff Berkhof is eight victories away from ranking second on the school’s all-time wins list. The program has 999 wins dating back to the first year that basketball records were kept in 1912.
Matt Siverling returns to UW-Eau Claire as head coach after holding the top spot at UW-Superior the past two seasons. He was an assistant coach for the Blugolds from 2004-07. The Blugolds return their top-three scorers from a year ago, including senior Jordan Petersen who led the squad with 14.7 points per contest. UW-Eau Claire will start the 2012-13 campaign with seven of its first nine games away from home, including five straight to begin the season.
UW-Stout returns four starters and all 10 players who appeared in at least 20 games last season. Senior Erik Olson dished out 108 assists and topped the WIAC with a 2.16 assist/turnover ratio. Junior Alex Oman posted 18.4 points per game, playing in only 14 games due to injury. The Blue Devils were second in the conference in rebounding margin and first in offensive rebounding. They return their top-four rebounders from a year ago - each averaged over four per game.
UW-Superior welcomes Paul Eberhardt as its new head coach in 2012-13. He most recently served as the head coach at Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.), and was an assistant coach at Winona State University (Minn.) and UW-River Falls. Three starters return from a year ago, including senior Brendan Bauer who was second on the team with 10.3 points per contest and finished sixth in the WIAC with 5.6 rebounds per game. Junior Bronson Byrne led the conference with a 64.6 field goal percentage. The Yellowjackets are seeking their fourth straight winning season which would be the longest streak since a five-year stretch from 1949-53.
Pat Juckem begins his first season at the helm of UW-Oshkosh after spending the last seven years as the head coach at Coe College (Iowa). Junior Dylan Wurtz is the top returning scorer at 8.5 points per game and he hit 41 percent of his three-point attempts. Last year, UW-Oshkosh led the NCAA Division III with an 81.8 free-throw shooting percentage. The Titans have posted at least 16 wins in 12 of the past 17 years.
2012-13 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors
1. UW-Whitewater (15) 29-4 overall, 13-3 WIAC
2. UW-Stevens Point (3) 20-8, 12-4
3. UW-La Crosse 17-10, 8-8
4. UW-Platteville 14-12, 8-8
5. UW-River Falls 20-8, 12-4
6. UW-Eau Claire 15-10, 7-9
7. UW-Stout 9-16, 4-12
8. UW-Superior 14-12, 8-8
9. UW-Oshkosh 4-21, 0-16
( )--First-place votes