Seattle Pacific Unanimous Pick In Men's Basketball Poll
Seattle Pacific went 18-2 in conference play in 2019-20 and 22-7 overall. The Falcons went 10-3 in the abbreviated 2021 season.
Seattle Pacific went 18-2 in conference play in 2019-20 and 22-7 overall. The Falcons went 10-3 in the abbreviated 2021 season.

Friday, October 15, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – They won the conference regular-season title two years ago, made the most of the COVID-riddled 2020-21 season and return just about everyone that played during that two-year span.

So it is no surprise that Seattle Pacific is the unanimous favorite in the 2021-22 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll.

The Falcons received all 10 first-place votes and a perfect 100 points. Seattle Pacific won the 2019-20 regular-season title with an 18-2 record and went 22-7 overall. Seattle Pacific was one of four GNAC teams that were able to play in 2020-21, finishing with a 10-3 mark.

Alaska Anchorage is picked second with 77 points with Western Washington one point behind at 76 points. Alaska, who was the GNAC’s surprise team in 2019-20, is picked fourth with 64 points while 2020-21 NCAA West Regional finalist Northwest Nazarene is picked fifth with 61 points.

Rounding out the poll is Central Washingon (47 pts.), Simon Fraser (41 pts.), Western Oregon (34 pts.), Saint Martin’s (28 pts.) and Montana State Billings (22 pts.).

Seattle Pacific was a solid all-around team in 2019-20, averaging 79.5 points per game while leading the GNAC in field goal percentage (.497) and ranking second in Division II in free-throw shooting (.807) behind Western Oregon. The Falcons allowed just 70.4 points per game and outscored opponents by an average of 9.1 points per contest. Seattle Pacific put together a 13-game schedule in 2021, which included 10 home games, and went 10-3.

All five starters from that 2019-20 team return with almost all having seasoned themselves further last year. Senior guard Divant’e Moffitt was fourth in the GNAC in scoring two years ago, averaging 17.1 points per game, and averaged 17.6 points per game in 2021. He was a First Team All-GNAC and D2CCA All-West Region selection in 2020. Senior guard Harry Cavell was the conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and averaged 16.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2021.

The Falcons’ returning lineup also includes sophomore guard Zach Paulsen, senior forward Medhi El Mardi and senior guard Sharif Khan, all of whom averaged at least seven points per game in 2021. Sophomore forward Shaw Anderson, the 2020 GNAC Freshman of the Year, returns after sitting out the 2021 season. He averaged 12.8 points per game and was among the conference leaders in free-throw shooting (.810) and three-point shooting (.563).

Alaska Anchorage did not let finishing fifth in the regular season stop a spirited charge in the postseason in 2020, advancing to the GNAC Championships final in a series of close contests. The Seawolves averaged 79.5 points per game and led the conference with 17.3 assists per contest. They ranked 10th in Division II in three-point percentage (.408) while leading the nation with 406 three-pointers made.

Senior forward Oggie Pantovic, a First Team All-GNAC selection in 2020, leads two returning starters for the Seawolves. He averaged 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and was the only player to rank in the GNAC’s top 10 in both categories. Junior guard Tobin Karlberg was an Honorable Mention All-GNAC selection after averaging 12.9 points per game. The Seawolves are complemented by six transfers, including senior guard David Rowlands from Hawaii Pacific and senior forward Hunter Sweet from Concordia (Ore.).

The 2020 GNAC champions, Western Washington overcame a rough spot midway through the season to win five of seven games to end the regular season and set up its GNAC Championships run. The Vikings averaged 79.5 points per game and were among the conference’s top rebounding squads at 37.1 per contest. Western Washington was third in Division II with 154 total blocks and led the GNAC with 5.1 blocks per game.

Western Washington returns a pair of Honorable Mention All-GNAC performers in sophomore guard D’Angelo Minnis and junior forward Jalen Green. Minnis averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line. Green averaged 13 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while ranking third in the GNAC in blocks (1.52 per game). Senior forward Luke Lovelady returns after averaging 6.6 points per game in a reserve role.

Picked to finish 10th two years ago, Alaska posted its best conference record in four years thanks largely to senior guard Shadeed Shabazz. The GNAC Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, Shabazz set GNAC single-season records in scoring (798), field goals attempted (588) and made (274), steals (114) and steals per game (3.86). He led Division II in steals per game and was third in the nation in scoring with 26.6 points per contest.

The Nanooks return three starters in total. Senior guard Koby Huerta averaged 8.5 points per game while sophomore forward Mawich Kachjanni was a presence in the paint, averaging 5.3 points and six rebounds per game. Alaska also reloads with seven transfers, including four Division I transfers led by senior guard Quin Barnard (Washington) and senior forward Coleman Sparling (UT-Arlington).

After placing fourth in 2020, Northwest Nazarene made more of the 2021 season than any GNAC team. The Nighthawks amassed a 13-5 record and earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Division II Championships. They proved to be the surprise of the West Region, beating 2019 national runner-up Point Loma and No. 1 Colorado Mesa before falling in the regional final to host Colorado Mines. Northwest Nazarene averaged 78.1 points per game in 2021 and finished third in Division II in free-throw percentage (.842).

Northwest Nazarene returns a core of three starters but will need to replace last year’s leading scorer in Ezekiel Alley. Sophomore guard George Reidy was a key factor last year, averaging 14 points per game while shooting 37 percent from three-point range. Junior guard Kobe Terashima was the team’s distributor, averaging 4.44 assists per game, while sophomore forward Gabe Murphy was solid down low with averages of 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. Sophomore forward James Nelson was a solid sixth-man last year, averaging 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 17 appearances off the bench.

Central Washington just missed the conference tournament in 2020, tying for sixth place with Alaska. One of the top defensive teams in the GNAC that year, the Wildcats led the conference in scoring defense by allowing 70 points per game and was among the leaders in three-point defense (.335). Offensively, CWU averaged 72.9 points per contest.

The Wildcats played a limited six-game schedule in 2021, allowing its core of five returning starters to gel. Senior guard Xavier Smith leads the group, averaging 12.5 points per game last year after starting all but one game the previous season. Senior forwards Marqus Gilson and Matt Poquette will see their roles enhance after being part-time starters in 2019-20. Gilson averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 2021 while Poquette averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Junior guard Lewis Pope and senior guard David Thompson will look to be factors in their first full seasons with the team.

Simon Fraser had its best season as a Division II school in 2019-20, finishing with a 16-13 overall record but a tough month of February saw the team finish just short of qualifying for the GNAC Championships. Simon Fraser averaged 78.2 points and 36.5 rebounds per game and was the leading GNAC team on the offensive glass, averaging 12.3 offensive boards per game.

Simon Fraser returns three of its key pieces from that season. Senior forward Jasdeep Singh earned Second Team All-GNAC honors, finishing sixth in the GNAC with 16.1 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from outside. Junior guard Wilfried Balata averaged 13.4 points per game and was seventh in the conference at 6.8 rebounds per game. Senior forward Julian Roche was a consistent presence down low, averaging 8.3 points and six rebounds per game.

Western Oregon tied with Western Washington for second place in 2019-20 in a solid first season for head coach Wes Pifer. The Wolves led the conference and ranked 19th in Division II in scoring, averaging 86.6 points per game. They led Division II in free-throw percentage (.826) and also paced the GNAC in scoring margin (+9.7) and steals (8.56 per game).

The WOU lineup has had a lot of turnover since that time, however, and will need to replace top-performing guards Dalven Brushier, Darius Lubom and Jaylyn Richardson. Junior forwards Cameron Cranston and John Morrill-Keeler both return, providing a solid presence in the frontcourt. Cranston averaged 13 points per game while Morrill-Keeler averaged 7.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game with 22 blocks. Both players were an outside threat with Cranston shooting 39.6 percent from three-point range and Morrill-Keeler shooting 50 percent.

Saint Martin’s hopes that the chance to play in 2021 will help the team move up from its projected 10th-place finish. The Saints were 10th in 2020 and finished with a 2-10 mark in 2021 but return all five starters that played last year. Senior center Marky Adams leads the group. He averaged 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last year. In 2019-20, Adams was second in the GNAC with 8.3 rebounds per game and led the conference with 2.1 blocks per game.

Sophomore guard Alex Schumacher led SMU last year with 15.3 points per game. Sophomore guard Tyke Thompson averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. Adams, Schumacher and junior guard John Moore were all regular starters in 2019-20.

Montana State Billings finished ninth in 2019-20 and played two exhibition contests in 2021. The Yellowjackets will have to deal with the loss of Second Team All-GNAC forward Brendan Howard, who transferred to Division I North Dakota, as well as its full starting lineup from two years ago. Carrying the load will be freshman forward Emmanuel Ajanaku, senior guard Brent Finn and junior guard Carrington Wiggins, all of whom seasoned with the team last year. Head coach Mick Durham also adds a trio of Division I transfers led by senior guard Damen Thacker from Idaho.

The 2021-22 season begins in the first week of November, highlighted by Seattle Pacific taking part in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in St. Joseph, Missouri. The Falcons will face Alabama-Huntsville and Northwest Missouri State. The GNAC season begins with an eight-game slate on Thursday, December 2.

Pos. Team (1st Place Votes) 2020-21
GNAC Record
1. Seattle Pacific (10) 10-3 22-7 18-2 (1st) 100
2. Alaska Anchorage DNP 20-14 11-9 (5th) 77
3. Western Washington DNP 20-10 13-7 (tie 2nd) 76
4. Alaska DNP 12-18 10-10 (tie 6th) 64
5. Northwest Nazarene 13-5 15-11 12-8 (4th) 61
6. Central Washington 2-4 17-11 10-10 (tie 6th) 47
7. Simon Fraser DNP 16-13 9-11 (8th) 41
8. Western Oregon DNP 19-8 13-7 (tie 2nd) 34
9. Saint Martin's 2-10 6-23 4-16 (tie 10th) 28
10. Montana St. Billings DNP 11-17 5-14 (9th) 22

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