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Alaska Anchorage Favorite To Win Men's Hoop Championship
The Seawolves finished tied for third in GNAC last year and finished 21-11 overall. Alaska Anchorage returns eight letterwinners and five starters.
The Seawolves finished tied for third in GNAC last year and finished 21-11 overall. Alaska Anchorage returns eight letterwinners and five starters.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – Conference coaches are predicting a major shift in men’s basketball in 2016-17, and Alaska Anchorage is picked to lead that shift in the GNAC Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll.

The Seawolves, who finished the regular season tied for third last year, claimed nine of a possible 11 first place votes to receive 119 points in the poll. Western Washington, last year’s preseason favorite, was picked second with 100 points and received one first place vote.

Central Washington, which won six of its final eight games to secure the No. 5 seed in the GNAC Championships, received the other first place vote and is picked third with 83 points. Alaska, which advanced to the GNAC Championships final last season, is picked fourth with 79 points. The Nanooks are followed by Seattle Pacific (73) and Western Oregon (71).

Alaska Anchorage returns an experienced squad with eight players and four starters back from a team that finished 21-11, including three with all-conference credentials. The Seawolves were picked third in The Sporting News’ Division II Preseason Top-10 and were No. 21 in Division II Bulletin’s Preseason Top-25.

Senior guard Sekou “Suki” Wiggs leads the list. The transfer from Idaho was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year and earned Third Team D2CCA All-American honors after leading UAA with 24.1 points per game. An honorable mention for Division II Bulletin’s Super 16 list, Wiggs had 20-point performances in 21 straight games. Senior forward Corey Hammell was accorded Second Team All-GNAC honors after averaging a double-double of 12.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and led the league in rebounding. Senior guard Spencer Svejcar was a Honorable Mention All-GNAC choice and finished the season averaging 11.8 points per game.

Senior guards Diante Mitchell and Travis Parrish also return while the team loses just one All-GNAC performer in second team guard Brian McGill. The Seawolves add one Division I transfer in senior forward/center Connor Devine, who averaged 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last season at South Dakota State.

Western Washington was the clear favorite in last year’s poll, but struggled much of the year and tied for sixth in the regular season standings at 9-11. After qualifying for the GNAC Championships on the final day of the season, the Vikings showed signs of renewed life. They beat Alaska Anchorage in the quarterfinals before dropping a 91-90 contest to Alaska in the semis.

First Team All-GNAC forward Jeffrey Parker returns for his senior season. Parker averaged 17.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year and led the GNAC with 78 three-pointers and 2.5 three-pointers made per game. Sophomore guard Trey Dreschel returns after working his way into a starting role as a freshman, averaging 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The two are joined by junior guard Brett Kingma, who could move into a starting role after averaging 7.2 points per game in 27 appearances off the bench.

Western Washington will have to fill holes left Second Team All-GNAC guard Kyle Impero and honorable mention guard Ricardo Maxwell, but reload with six newcomers, led by California junior college co-player of the year Deandre Dickson, who averaged 17.9 points, 12.5 rebounds and two blocks per game at Bakersfield College.

Central Washington is picked third despite returning just one starter from last year’s squad. Senior forward Terry Dawn made his first significant contributions as a starter last year, averaging 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 25 starts. Sophomore guard Naim Ladd will bolster the backcourt after averaging 10.2 points per game as a freshman and finsihed sixth in the conference in three-point shooting (.420). The Wildcats also welcome back jenior point guard Marc Rodgers, who missed all of the 2015-16 season due to injury.

The Wildcats will have to replace a pair of GNAC all-stars in first team center Joseph Stroud and honorable mention guard Gary Jacobs, but welcome four transfers into the fold. The newcomers include Alaska Anchorage transfer guard Dom Hunter (13.3 points per game in 2014-15) and guard Jawan Stepney, who averaged 11.9 points and 3.9 rebounds last season at Arizona’s Cochise College.

After going 7-19 in 2014-15, Alaska bounced back strong to finish second in the regular season standings at 15-5 and went 22-8 overall. The Nanooks advanced to the GNAC Championships final, losing to eventual national semifinalist Western Oregon. Senior guard Brandon Davis leads two starters and seven returners, having averaged 10.9 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field. Senior forward Bangaly Kaga averaged 12.2 points per game and was the team’s leading rebounder at 6.2 rebounds per game.

The Nanooks lose three starters, including First Team All-GNAC scoring machine Travante Williams and honroable mention center Almir Hadzisehovic, but returned an experienced squad that includes senior forward Zach Peterson (5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds per game) and three redshirts. Alaska also adds three transfers, including a Division I product in senior guard Nahjee Matlock, who averaged two points per game in 28 games at Montana State.

Seattle Pacific kept its national-leading streak of NCAA Tournaments alive, qualifying for its 12th after tying for third in the regular season standings at 14-6 (22-9 overall) and advancing to the GNAC Championship semifinals. Amassing lucky 13, however, will be a tough challenge as the Falcons lose all five starters, including All-GNAC performers Mitch Penner, Gilles Dierickx and Bryce Leavitt. They also have a new head coach after Ryan Looney departed for Point Loma Nazarene. Grant Leep steps in for his first season at the helm after seven years as a Falcons’ assistant.

Senior guard Will Parker is the Falcons’ most experienced returner, averaging 4.5 points, 18 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while playing in 28 games and mking 14 starts. Senior center Joe Rasmussen played in 28 games, averaging 6.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Seattle Pacific is bolstered by six newcomers, incuding sophomore transfer forward Trey Miller, who played in five games last year at Division I North Dakota State.

Western Oregon put together a season for the ages in 2015-16 under first year head coach Jim Shaw, winning its second straight GNAC regular season title, a GNAC Championships title and the West Region trophy to advance to the Wolves’ first Division II Elite Eight appearance. The team’s 31-4 overall record and 18-2 conference marks were both program records.

But with the loss of four starters, including three all-conference performers and GNAC Player of the Year Andy Avgi, coaches have the Wolves picked to finish sixth. The lone returning starter for the Wolves, junior forward Tanner Omlid, performed well after transferring from Division I Army as he averaged 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.2 percent from the field. Western Oregon aims to reload with two Division I transfers in guard Ali Faruq-Bey from Idaho State and guard Evan Garrison from Portland State.

Montana State Billings is picked seventh in the poll after finishing 11-17 last year. The Yellowjackets returned a young, but experienced squad, which includes the return of all five starters. Senior guard Jace Anderson finished as MSUB’s leading scorer, averaging 14.1 points per game and shooting 48.1 percent from three-point range before his season was cut short after 12 games by injury. Senior guard Marc Matthews assumed the scoring mantle, averaging 14 points per game while making 85.5 percent his free throws. Also returning is GNAC Freshman of the Year Preston Beverly, a forward who averaged 13 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and sophomore forward Christian Evans, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in a reserve role.

Saint Martin’s, picked eighth, improved by 12 wins under first year head coach Alex Pribble and competed for the No. 6 seed in the GNAC Championships until the final day of the regular season. The Saints’ 15-13 overall record was their first winning season since 2009-10. Senior guard Tyler Copp leads all five starters returning for the Saints, having averaged 10.1 points per game with 67 assists. Senior center Fred Jorg provides an experienced presence in the front court and averaged 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season.

Northwest Nazarene finished last year with an 8-18 overall record and is picked ninth in this year’s poll. The Crusaders will look to replace three starters, including both starters in the backcourt. Senior guard Bouna N’Diaye was the Crusaders’ top scorer in 2015-16, averaging 15.1 points per game while also registering 31 blocks, earning Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors. Sophomore guard Nikola Prvulj earned a starting spot towards the end of the season and averaged 5.6 points per game while shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range. Northwest Nazarene welcomes seven newcomers, led by Division I transfer Kaileb Rodriguez from Nevada.

Concordia, picked 10th, turned over all five starters in its first season in the GNAC and struggled to a 7-20 overall record. While the Cavaliers are still relatively young, they return their top two scorers from last year. Senior forward Drew Martin averaged 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while senior guard Latrell Wilson averaged 14.9 points per game and shot 81 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Jarrett Gray returns as a sharp-shooter, having averaged 4.8 points per game while hitting on 36.7 percent from three-point range. Six reserves return as the Cavaliers welcome three transfers, including senior center Tre Vance from Division I Oral Roberts.

Simon Fraser continues to be a team in transition. Picked 11th by conference coaches, the Clan went 2-24 in 2015-16 and needed a 90-70 road win at Concordia to head off a winless conference schedule. The team will have its third head coach in as many years with Steve Hanson taking the reins after one season as the program’s top assistant coach. The Clan is led by junior guard/forward J.J. Pankratz, who averaged 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and junior guard Andrew Williamson, who averaged six points per game. Simon Fraser welcomes three transfers, including redshirt freshman guard Vinnie Safin from Chico State and junior guard Kedar Wright from cross-town British Columbia.

Exhibition games for GNAC teams begin on Sat., Oct. 29, with Seattle Pacific taking on Division I Brigham Young and Simon Fraser hosting Douglas College. The non-conference schedule opens on Fri., Nov. 4, when Alaska Anchorage hosts Portalnd Bible. Conference play opens on Tues., Nov. 29, when Western Oregon hosts Concordia.

2016-17 GNAC PRESEASON MEN'S BASKETBALL COACHES POLL
Pos. Team (1st Place Votes) Overall
Record
GNAC Record
(Place)
Pts.
1. Alaska Anchorage (9) 21-11 14-6 (tie 3rd) 119
2. Western Washington (1) 16-15 9-11 (tie 6th) 100
3. Central Washington (1) 18-8 13-7 (5th) 83
4. Alaska 22-8 15-5 (2nd) 79
5. Seattle Pacific 22-9 14-6 (tie 3rd) 73
6. Western Oregon 31-4 18-2 (1st) 71
7. Montana State Billings 11-17 8-12 (7th) 63
8. Saint Martin's 15-13 9-11 (tie 6th) 55
9. Northwest Nazarene 8-18 4-16 (10-th) 36
10. Concordia 7-20 5-15 (9th) 32
11. Simon Fraser 2-24 1-19 (11th) 15

Votes awarded on 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

 

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