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WIAC Preview: Blugold Men's Basketball Picked to Finish Eighth

WIAC Preview: Blugold Men's Basketball Picked to Finish Eighth

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MADISON, Wis. ( - Defending champion University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is the preseason choice to win the 2014 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) men's basketball title, in a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

The Pointers, who are ranked fourth in the Preseason Top 25, earned 17 first-place votes in the conference projections. UW-Stevens Point has collected a league-high 27 WIAC regular-season championships, including nine of the last 14. The Pointers return four starters and 80.0 percent of their scoring from last year's team that finished second in the NCAA Division III with a 77.5 free-throw shooting percentage and third with 9.7 turnovers per game.

Senior Trevor Hass, junior Joe Ritchay and senior Clayton Heuer finished second (11.6), third (11.2) and fourth (10.4), respectively, on the team in scoring a year ago. Back from injury is senior Tyler Tillema, who played in nine games and posted 18.0 points per contest. UW-Stevens Point will play five of its first eight games at home. The Pointers have accumulated 20-plus victories in seven of eight seasons under head coach Bob Semling, who is 13 wins away from achieving 200 in his career and matching Jack Bennett for the program lead.

UW-Whitewater claimed the remaining first-place vote and is slotted for second in the nine-team league derby. The Warhawks are ranked No. 13 by and own 14 conference titles, including four of the last eight. UW-Whitewater welcomes back 11 letterwinners and three starters, including junior Quardell Young, who led the team with 11.9 points per game and 108 assists. Senior Eric Bryson contributed 10.1 points per game. The Warhawks, who will play seven of their first 10 games away from home, but finish with four of six at Kachel Gymnasium, have won 20-plus games in nine of the last 12 seasons.

UW-Platteville brings back 85 percent of its scoring with 12 returning letterwinners and four starters, including senior Chas Cross, the reigning WIAC Player of the Year. Cross, who led the conference with 15.8 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per contest a season ago, is 88 points away from becoming the 33rd Pioneer to score 1,000 career points. In 2012-13, the Pioneers placed seventh in the NCAA Division III in scoring defense at 57.5 points per game. The 2013-14 campaign will begin with six of the first seven games at home.

UW-Stout returns four starters from last year's unit that compiled the best win-loss record (20-7) since 2005-06 when they finished 22-7. Last season, the Blue Devils ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III in scoring defense at 56.2 points per game and ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 37.9 percent. They return 64 percent of their points, 64 percent of their rebounds, 56 percent of their steals and 37 percent of their assists from a year ago. Senior Alex Oman was second on the team with 14.4 points per game and third with 4.8 rebounds per contest.

UW-La Crosse used the same starting lineup in 25 of 26 contests last year and returns three starters from that squad which led the NCAA Division III with 9.3 turnovers per contest, while finishing fourth with a 76.9 free-throw percentage and 10th with 9.2 three-point field goals per game. Seniors Luke Tweed and Braden Tice were third and fifth on the team, respectively, with 10.1 and 9.0 points per game. UW-La Crosse has earned an overall winning record in each of the last four years for the first time since 1975-78. The Eagles will play only nine home games this season, including only one non-conference matchup.

UW-Superior's 2013-14 roster will feature nine returning letterwinners and 10 newcomers. Among the returners are seniors Bronson Byrne and Jarrod Peterson. Byrne has topped the conference in field goal percentage each of the last two seasons and enters the year with a career field-goal percentage of .638, while Peterson finished second in the WIAC last year with 15.5 points per game. A season ago, Paul Eberhardt became the fourth head coach in six seasons to take a Yellowjacket team to the WIAC tournament.

UW-River Falls' 2013-14 roster will feature six freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and four seniors. Senior Ollie White is back after playing just nine games a year ago. In 2011-12, he started 24 games and was second on the team with 12.4 points per game. The Falcons will play only two non-conference home games this season and start the schedule with six of the first seven games on the road. Head coach Jeff Berkhof needs 13 wins to reach 100 in his career.

UW-Eau Claire returns its top scorer from a season ago in junior Lewis Mau, who had 11.4 points per contest and finished third in the WIAC with 1.52 steals per game. Junior Eric Effertz and sophomore Jacob Kohner each played in 24 games last year, while junior Trevor Berkley played in 14. The Blugolds start the year with four straight road games and finish the 2013-14 campaign with three of their last five contests away from Zorn Arena.

UW-Oshkosh returns three starters from a year ago, including senior Jade Royston, who was fifth in the league with 3.2 assists per game and second on the team with 12.8 points per contest. The Titans also welcome back their third and fourth-leading scorers in senior Dylan Wurtz (8.6) and sophomore Andre Wallace (5.7). UW-Oshkosh has posted at least 16 wins in 12 of the past 18 years, and will play seven of their final 11 games at home this season.

2013-14 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors

  2012-13 Record
1. UW-Stevens Point (17) 22-6 overall, 14-2 WIAC
2. UW-Whitewater (1) 24-5, 13-3
3. UW-Platteville 19-9, 10-6
4. UW-Stout 20-7, 11-5
5. UW-La Crosse 17-9, 10-6
6. UW-Superior 9-17, 5-11
7. UW-River Falls 8-17, 3-13
8. UW-Eau Claire 10-15, 4-12
9. UW-Oshkosh 7-18, 2-14
( )--First-place votes  

Team Nuggets

UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach: Matt Siverling; 4th season (2nd at UWEC); 39-39 (overall) / 10-15 (at UWEC)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 4/10
Starters Returning/Lost: 1/4
Returning All-WIAC: Lewis Mau, Jr., G (2013-Honorable)

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach: Ken Koelbl; 11th season at UWL; 143-118
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 14/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Luke Tweed, Sr., G (2013-Honorable)

Head Coach: Pat Juckem; 9th season (2nd at UWO); 112-97 (overall) / 7-18 (at UWO)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Jade Royston, Sr., G (2013-Honorable)

Head Coach: Jeff Gard; 5th season at UWP; 64-43
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 4/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Chas Cross, Sr., C (2011-Honorable, 2013-Player of the Year); Jake Manning, Jr., F (2013-Honorable)

UW-River Falls
Head Coach: Jeff Berkhof; 8th season at UWRF; 87-96
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 6/10
Starters Returning/Lost: 1/4
Returning All-WIAC: Ollie White, Sr., F (2012-Honorable)

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach: Bob Semling; 9th season at UWSP; 187-47
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 10/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Trevor Hass, Sr., G/F (2013-First, 2013-Defensive); Clayton Heuer, Sr., C (2013-First); Joe Ritchay, Jr., G/F (2013-Honorable); Austin Ryf, Jr., G (2013-Honorable, 2013-Defensive); Tyler Tillema, Sr., G (2012-First)

Head Coach: Ed Andrist; 25th season (14th at UWST); 421-354 (overall) / 171-163 (at UWST)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Returning All-WIAC: Alex Oman, Sr., F (2012-Honorable, 2013-First)

Head Coach: Paul Eberhardt; 2nd season at UWS; 9-17
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 9/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: Bronson Byrne, Sr., C (2012-Honorable, 2013-Honorable); Jarrod Peterson, Sr., G (2013-Honorable)

Head Coach: Pat Miller; 13th season at UWW; 262-79
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Eric Bryson, Sr., G (2012-Honorable, 2013-Honorable, 2013-Defensive); Quardell Young, Jr., G (2013-First)