Tuesday, November 15, 2011
WIAC Men's Basketball Preview
In a similar way to my preview of WIAC football, I will look at the upcoming Men’s basketball season in the WIAC. This however will be just one post with short summaries of each team because I actually have classes and other things going on right now not just trying to do something somewhat productive in the summer like with the football preview. Without further ado here is a look at the WIAC men’s basketball scene in 2011-2012
2011 Final Standings:
1. UW-Stevens Point 26-4 overall, 14-2 WIAC
2. UW-River Falls 20-8, 12-4
3. UW-Whitewater 17-9, 10-6
4. UW-Platteville 17-10, 9-7
5. UW-La Crosse 14-12, 9-7
6. UW-Superior 15-12, 6-10
7. UW-Oshkosh 11-14, 5-11
8. UW-Stout 10-15, 4-12
9. UW-Eau Claire 9-16, 3-13
Team by Team Breakdown (in order of last year’s finish):
Despite being without the back court of the previous season’s national championship team, Matt Moses and Jared Jenkins, the Pointers were still a national force to be reckoned with. A talented front court and experienced players paved the way for UWSP to take home both the regular season and tournament crowns in the WIAC with some ease. The front court of Hoezel, Krull and Hurd was just too much for most teams. Couple that with Jerrel Harris and Dan Tillema scoring from the backcourt and you’ve got a deadly team. Unfortunately for the Pointers Tillema went down with a brutal elbow injury and that hampered the Pointers’ ability to make a longer run in the NCAA tournament. Overall the Pointers 2011 team was just another juggernaut for the most historically dominant school in the conference.
This season will be much different than previous seasons for this Pointer squad. This year’s team will be set back by the departure of 4 of its starters. The starting frontline graduated and the main hope for the future in dead-eye shooter Jerrel Harris followed former Pointer assistant Lance Randall to St. Leo. That leaves a ton of responsibility at the feet of Dan Tillema. Tillema impressed me with his performance in the exhibition game against the Badgers, putting up 24 points on former Platteville coach Bo Ryan’s squad. He and his brother Tyler will handle many of the scoring duties and will start along with Jordan Giordana, Jordan Brezinski, and Trevor Haas. Dan Tillema aside the rest of the starters are role players at best on most Point squads of the past. These guys have some experience and have defining roles they can contribute with but just aren’t the caliber of player Point normally has starting. After those guys is where the real trouble starts. A whole mess of unknowns and young players fill out the bench and that is where Point will be weakest this season. Especially with the type of grind it out game and tough defense they love to play it will be interesting to see how Point does when a number of starters have to get some rest or sit on the bench due to foul trouble. That, in my opinion, is how you attack this team. Get their starters in foul trouble and make hay when those guys are on the bench. Despite not being on the level of past UWSP teams Point will still be Point and will at the very least be hosting a first round WIAC tournament game.
Player to Watch: Dan Tillema
Big Question: How does the team play with starters on the bench?
Best Game(s): At Augustana 12/10/11 OR Vs. St. Thomas 12/22/11
What to say about the Falcons in 2010-2011? I’ll start with “WOW.” The Falcons came from relative obscurity to make it all the way into February undefeated in the conference and then lost 4 straight conference games down the stretch, made it to the WIAC title game but then lost to the Pointers and then got bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament. UWRF only lost 1 game at home all year, a 70-66 loss to UWW to start their 4 game slide. From November to February UWRF just kept winning. Jake Voeltz led the charge upfront with 15 points and 7 boards per game. Shane Manor and Jontae Koonkaew also averaged double digit points for the Falcons.
Newsflash to the Conference’s SIDs who picked Falls to finish 3rd this year, the Falcons are GOOD. Yes Voeltz and Koonkaew are gone but back are Manor, Aaron Anderson (who shot a ridiculous 50% from beyond the arc last season on over 100 attempts), as well as Brian Kimble and Ollie White a couple of more than capable role players at the guard and forward positions respectively. Just as if not more important than those returners is a couple of guys who weren’t on last year’s team but will be on board for the 2011-2012 season. First of which is Wade Guerin, the 6-8 senior Center from Bloomington, MN was an All-WIAC Honorable Mention in 2010 but missed last season due to injury. The 5th year senior averaged 14 points and 8 boards a game in 2010 and will more than make up for the loss of Voeltz. Another important influx of talent to this team is Chris Palmer. The 6-4 junior transfer forward from St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN is going to be a big time player for this team. Palmer averaged nearly a double-double for the Cardinals out of the MIAC with 17.5 Points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He also shot 90% from the line 52% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. He averaged about 2 assists and 1 steal a game and had a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. If this team has to play on the first day of the WIAC tournament, I’ll be shocked.
Player to Watch: Chris Palmer
Big Question: How does the chemistry work with Guerin coming back and Palmer in the fold?
Best game(s): 11/22/11 Vs St. Thomas and 11/26/11 @ Puget Sound
Not many knew what to expect out of UWW in 2011 after the departure of Dustin Mitchell, but most probably thought that the Warhawks would still be a top 4 team in the league, and they were right. Transfers Chris Davis and Antone Byrd were the team’s leading scorers at 21 and 13 points per game respectively. DJ Dantzler and Alex Edmunds also averaged double digits for the Warhawks. Davis also averaged 9 boards a game for UWW. I honestly don’t have much to say about the season, they basically won the games they should have, with the possible exception of a loss at Stout and the tournament loss to Superior, and lost the games they should have too.
Well another season of Warhawk basketball and another slew of new faces. As I look down the roster the only names that jump out to me are Davis and Edmunds. Everyone else was a minor role player at best on the Warhawks last year. That being said I expect Pat Miller to squeeze every last drop out of this team. Davis will be the focal point for sure but I’m not sure even he can carry the load he will be likely asked to do but the guy did almost average 20-10 last year so he’s obviously got quite a bit of talent. Davis is too good for this team not to be tourney bound but whether this team starts on the road or at home is not as clear.
Player to Watch: Chris Davis
Big Question: Who will step up to share the load with Edmunds and Davis?
Best game: Vs Illinois Wesleyan 11/30/11
Pioneers, oh Pioneers. You talk about a team that is balanced as all get out and refuses to lose at home and there are your 2011 Platteville Pioneers. Despite finishing just above .500 in conference UWP had 4 players average double digit points and lost only 3 home games all year. While Nick Allen lead the team in points and was an All-WIAC selection Chas Cross was the story down in the driftless area. Cross was the only freshman to receive votes for All-WIAC honors and was the 2nd leading scorer on the team. UWP had a really rough stretch early in the year with 5 striaght losses, 4 of which were by 2 points or less and 2 of which went into overtime. The high points for UWP were wins at home against UWSP, on the road at Superior and the tournament win at La Crosse.
Three of last year’s top four scorers are gone including Nick Allen and word is Chas Cross will be out until about January with an injury so the early going may be rough. UWP does have 4 guys coming back who were solid role players and could step-up this season. Brett Stangel, Eric Gerber, Rob Stallion and Matt Weik all were solid last year and will need to grow this season in order for UWP to be successful. If the Pioneers can navigate the early part of the schedule without Cross they could be hosting a WIAC tournament game, even if they don’t I still see them playing in the post season.
Player to Watch: Chas Cross
Big Question: How do the Pioneers do without Cross early on?
Best game: 1/18/12 Vs Stevens Point
It was the Tony Mane show in La Crosse last season as the Senior guard split the Player of the Year award in the WIAC with Superior’s Jake Smith. Mane averaged a whopping 25 points per game which was 15 ppg higher than the next highest Eagle, Al Cherry. The high points of the season were a 5 game home winning streak in December and winning 5 of their last 6 conference games. On the downside UWL lost to each of the 3 teams that did not make the WIAC tournament but only one of those was at home. It was in that home game that Mane scored “only” 20 points the only one of the three he scored below his season average. In their best games, Mane dropped 35 on the Warhawks in a big win and put up 27 against River Falls. What made the difference in the River Falls game was the output of Mane’s supporting cast with Cherry, Rumpel and Degner combining for 51 points. The Eagle’s season ended in disappointment losing 66-63 at home to Platteville in the first round of the WIAC tourney. Mane had 33 in that one but no one else reached double digits for the Eagles.
Mane is gone but back is most of his supporting cast from last year. It will be tough to replace 35 points per game between him and Jordan Rumpel but I think balance will be much welcome on this team. I think newfound scoring balance and expirence on this year’s squad puts this team in a very similar place to the team that knocked them out of last year’s tournament, UW-Platteville.
Player to Watch: Al Cherry
Big Question: How do you replace a Tony Mane?
Best game: 1/4/12 @ Platteville
The 2011 Yellow Jackets were a bit of an enigma. So much talent and experience between co-POY Jake Smith, Marcus Helland, Dan Culy and Greg Roeder got this team to 6-10 in conference and a 6 seed in the tournament. I just don’t get it. I saw a bunch of talent and not a lot of wins. The only win that stands out was the win the first round of the WIAC tournament over Whitewater. Every other win was expected. How this team lost to last year’s UWEC squad still boggles my mind. I could just never get a grip on this team.
It does not look good for UWS this season. All that talent is gone. All that remains are Dustin Ritchie, Trent Davis and Ben Aalfs, some decent pieces but not ones that are going to get you very far. Unless coach Silverling’s recruiting class is off the charts I don’t see how this team sniffs the WIAC tournament.
Player to Watch: Ben Aalfs
Big question: How does this team deal with the loss of its core for the past 4 seasons?
Best game: 2/4/11 Vs Oshkosh
The Titans 2011 season was the second consecutive season in which UWO finished 5-11 in conference and finished outside of the WIAC tournament. It was disappointing to say the least. It was a growing season for many players and overall the Titans simply struggled to score the basketball. UWO never won more than 2 games in a row all season and only once won back to back conference games. The Titans best game was a loss in 2 overtimes to UWW at home. Overall 2011 was just a bad, bad year for UWO men’s basketball.
You know how I said 2011 was a learning year for many Titan players, specifically the sophomores from TVD’s large 2009 recruiting class? Well here is the thing, most of those players are no longer on the team so that whole season of learning went right down the drain. Besides graduating senior Cory Wittwer UWO also lost Brian Washington, the high flying sophomore center from last year’s team, Paul Wojahn, the team’s 6th man, TJ Kellner, the starting small forward in 2011, and Bryan Gregory, a freshman in 2011 who was a rotation guy. 5 pretty key losses from last year’s squad. Here is the upside, TVD got a couple of transfers that can have an immediate impact on the team and the top 2 scorers from last year are back. Jade Royston is also back after an injury caused him to redshirt last season. I can’t say I’m in love with this year’s Titans squad because you never know what will happen with transfers, but I don’t hate it either. If Mario Johnson and Martell Hutchinson can contribute, this year’s team will be nothing else if not fun to watch. I see this team squeaking into the WIAC tournament this year.
Player to Watch: Mario Johnson
Big question: How do the transfers gel with the team?
Best game: 11/22/11 Vs Augustana
Run and gun was the name of the game for the Blue Devils last year. Stout put up 78 points per game but let up 79 points per as well. While outscoring their opponents in the first half the Blue Devils were crushed in both the 2nd half and overtime by 40 points on the season. Mahlon Thomas was only able to play 9 games before injury cost him the rest of his season. Eric Hoestter was left with the scoring burden and did average 17 point per game. Overall Stout couldn’t stop anybody in 2011 and thus didn’t win many games.
Remember how I said it doesn’t look good for Superior this year? Well it looks as bad if not worse for Stout. Zero seniors on this year’s roster and the top 2 returnees averaged 18 points per game combined last year adds up to very few wins for Stout this year. They’ll be on the outside looking in come tournament time.
Player to Watch: Steve Pax
Big Question: Can Stout stop anyone on defense this year?
Best game: 2/11/12 Vs Eau Claire
Terry Gibbons’ final season was not a great one for the Zorn Zanies. The proud program finished last in the WIAC due mostly to the fact that the team was made up of a bunch of freshmen and transfers. The team didn’t win a single conference game away from Zorn Arena. They were outscored by an average of 4 points per game, by contrast even the other bad teams in the conference were around 1 point per game. Not much to say but a bad, bad year for UWEC.
It doesn’t look any better this year. Marcus Ruh went with Jerrel Harris to St. Leo and left new Coach Tyler Green scrambling. Add on the leading returning scorer coming in at under 10 points per game and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. UWEC finishes outside of the WIAC tournament by a long shot.
Player to Watch: Nick Craggs
Big Question: What does coach Green do with this team?
Best game: 1/4/12 Vs Stout
1. River Falls
2. Stevens Point
4. La Crosse
9. Eau Claire
Chris Davis (co-POY)
Dan Tillema (co-POY)