Saint Martin's Narrow Favorite In Men's Hoop Preseason Poll
A Second Team All-GNAC selection in 2021-22, junior guard Kyle Greeley is among three starters returning for Saint Martin's this season.
A Second Team All-GNAC selection in 2021-22, junior guard Kyle Greeley is among three starters returning for Saint Martin's this season.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – Saint Martin’s is expected to repeat as champion but the early returns say that it won’t come easy.

The 2021-22 regular-season champion is picked in the top spot once again in a closely contested 2022-23 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll.

The Saints were among five teams to receive first-place votes, picking up three to lead the poll with 81 points. Northwest Nazarene, which finished second last year, received two first-place votes and is picked a close second with 78 points.

The next three teams in the poll are separated by just nine points. Montana State Billings received two first-place votes and is picked third with 69 points while Western Washington earned one first-place vote and is slotted fourth with 66 points. Seattle Pacific is picked fifth with 60 points.

The remainder of the poll finds Alaska Anchorage picked sixth (53 points), followed by Central Washington (52 points), Western Oregon (48 points), Simon Fraser (23 points) and Alaska (20 points). Western Oregon received the remaining first-place vote.

After winning just six games in 2019-20 and two games in the COVID-challenged 2020-21 season, Saint Martin’s was hard to stop in 2021-22. The Saints won eight of their first 10 conference games and finished the season outscoring opponents by almost 10 points per game. Potent from outside, the Saints led the GNAC and ranked fourth in Division II with a .425 three-point percentage while also ranking in the Division II top 30 in assists per game and field goal percentage.

The Saints will rely on three returning guards to continue that dominant long-range presence. Junior Kyle Greeley earned Second Team All-GNAC honors after averaging 13.3 points per game. He shot 52.3% from the floor and 45.9 percent from three-point range, ranking third in the conference. Sophomore Jaden Nielsen-Skinner shot 41.7% from both the field and three-point range and finished 17th in Division II with 5.4 assists per contest. Junior Tyke Thompson averaged 8.6 points per game, shooting 47.2% from the field and 41.5% from outside.

Northwest Nazarene advanced to the 2020-21 NCAA West Region final and followed that up with a respectable second-place GNAC finish last season with a young but experienced lineup. The Nighthawks hung their success on defense, leading the conference with 38.7 rebounds and 8.4 steals per game while limiting opponents to a GNAC-low .489 field-goal percentage and .313 three-point percentage.

The Nighthawks return 10 players from last year and three starters, led by sophomore guard Tru Allen. The GNAC Freshman of the Year and Honorable Mention All-GNAC choice averaged 12.2 points per game and ranked third in the conference with 1.7 steals per game. Junior forward Gabriel Murphy also earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors after he led the conference with a .591 field goal percentage and averaged 11.1 points per game. He ranked 27th in Division II with 3.2 offensive rebounds per game. Senior guard Kobe Terashima averaged 6.7 points per game and was fifth in the GNAC with 4.5 assists per contest.

After not competing during the 2020-21 COVID season, Montana State Billings amassed 13 wins last year and finished with a 13-15 overall record and a 9-8 conference mark. One of the top defensive teams in the conference, the Yellowjackets allowed opponents a GNAC-low 66.8 points per game and was second with a .422 field goal percentage defense.

With eight players and four starters back, MSUB rates as one of the most experienced teams in the conference. Senior guard Carrington Wiggins snared First Team All-GNAC honors after he averaged 17.2 points per game, ranking second among all returning players. He connected on 48.3% from the field and shot 78.9% from the free-throw line. The Yellowjackets also return a formidable frontcourt of senior forwards Bilal Shabazz and Malik Brikat and sophomore center Emmanuel Ajanaku. Ajanaku finished seventh in the GNAC with 6.8 rebounds per game while Shabazz averaged seven points and five rebounds per game.

Western Washington started last season strong but lost seven of its final 10 games and faded to eighth in the conference standings. One of the top-scoring teams in the GNAC, the Vikings averaged 79.2 points per game and ranked third with a .478 field goal percentage. Also solid defensively, WWU led the league with four blocks per game and ranked second with 36.4 rebounds per contest.

Junior guard D’Angelo Minnis was voted the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year and earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors. Minnis averaged 12.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while ranking fourth in the conference with 4.5 assists per contest. Senior guard Daniel Hornbuckle also earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC accolades, averaging 13.9 points per game while ranking second in the conference with three three-pointers per game and sixth with a .435 three-point percentage.

Two years removed from a GNAC championship, Seattle Pacific placed sixth in the conference standings despite returning all five starters from that title-winning squad. The Falcons averaged 74.3 points per game and led the GNAC while ranking second in Division II with an .807 free-throw percentage.

The Falcons will be challenged to replace the experience of First Team All-GNAC guard Divant’e Moffitt and College Sports Communicators Academic All-American Harry Cavell. Senior forward Shaw Anderson was an Honorable Mention All-GNAC selection, averaging 13.8 points and four rebounds per game. Junior guard Zach Paulsen will be asked to provide more production after averaging 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 48.5% from the floor.

Picked to finish sixth, Alaska Anchorage placed third with a 9-6 conference mark and a 14-9 overall record. One of the top outside shooting threats in the GNAC, the Seawolves shot 38.3% from three-point range and the team’s 10.8 three-pointers made per game ranked sixth in Division II. The Seawolves’ 16.8 assists per game ranked 16th in Division II.

The Seawolves will be challenged with the departure of all five starters and just five returners from last year’s squad. Senior guard AJ Garrity is UAA’s top returning scorer, having averaged 6.2 points per game. Junior guard Caleb Larsen averaged 5.1 points per game. Alaska Anchorage hopes to bolster its roster with eight transfers. The list includes a quartet of Division II transfers, led by senior guard Da’Zhon Wyche of Texas-Tyler and junior guard Tyson Gilbert from CSU-Pueblo.

Central Washington experienced great success last year, compiling a 17-9 overall record and advancing to the GNAC Championships final. The top shooting team in the conference, the Wildcats led the GNAC with 81.3 points per game and the team’s .489 field goal percentage ranked 19th in Division II.

The Wildcats’ seven returners are led by senior forward Matt Poquette, who averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. His .570 field goal percentage was sixth in the conference and is second among GNAC returners. Sophomore guard/forward Colby Gennett is expected to see an enhanced role after averaging 5.7 points per game in 26 games and 18 starts.

Picked to finish eighth, Western Oregon hopes that it can climb the conference ladder with nine returners and four starters. The Wolves averaged 72 points per game last year and the team’s .767 free-throw percentage was third in the conference. Western Washington was also third in the conference with an average of 3.5 blocks per contest.

Senior guard Cameron Cranston leads the returners. He finished fourth in the GNAC last season with 18.3 points per game, was second with 1.3 blocks per game and was fifth with 1.6 steals per contest. Senior forward John Morrill-Keeler averaged 11.5 points per game and finished sixth in the conference with 7.2 rebounds per game. Senior guard Yosani Clay averaged 10.2 points per game while sophomore guard Qiant Myers’ 3.9 assists per game were seventh in the GNAC.

Simon Fraser is picked ninth after finishing seventh last year, one win short of a winning overall record at 12-13. The Red Leafs averaged 72.8 points per game while ranking fourth in the conference with 35.8 rebounds per game. The team returns eight players and two starters, led by junior guard David Penney and senior guard/forward Jahmal Wright. Penney averaged 10 points per game and was third in the GNAC with 4.6 assists per game. Wright averaged six points per game.

Alaska was the surprise of Division II basketball last year. After entering the postseason with an 8-14 record, the Nanooks proceeded to win four straight games to win the GNAC championship and then upset Cal State San Marcos and Azusa Pacific to advance to the Division II West Region final. The Nanooks won with a lot of grit, averaging 74.1 points per game while ranking second in the GNAC with a .777 free-throw percentage.

The Nanooks hope they can recapture that magic with a young lineup this season. Junior forward Abdullahi Mohamed is UAF’s lone returning starter. He averaged 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shot 48.1% from the field. Alaska will also put its hopes on a corps of seven transfers, including a pair of Division III transfers in senior guard Jordan Kanoe and sophomore guard Paul Johnson.

The 2022-23 GNAC men’s basketball season commences on Friday, Nov. 11 with nine of the conference’s 10 teams in action. Conference play begins with four contests on Thursday, Dec. 1. The 2022-23 GNAC Championships take place March 2-4 on the campus of Western Washington University.

Pos. Team (1st Place Votes) 2021-22
GNAC Record
1. Saint Martin's (3) 18-9 11-6 (1st) 81
2. Northwest Nazarene (2) 12-9 10-5 (2nd) 78
3. Montana St. Billings (3) 13-15 9-8 (4th) 69
4. Western Washington (1) 14-14 7-10 (8th) 66
5. Seattle Pacific 14-13 7-8 (6th) 60
6. Alaska Anchorage 14-9 9-6 (3rd) 53
7. Central Washington 17-9 9-7 (5th) 52
8. Western Oregon (1) 9-18 6-10 (9th) 48
9. Simon Fraser 12-13 7-9 (7th) 23
10. Alaska 14-15 5-11 (10th) 20

Votes awarded on 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
Conference finish order in 2021-22 determined by Points Ratings System