2017-18 MCAC Men's Basketball Poll & Preview

2017-18 MCAC Men's Basketball Poll & Preview

Anoka-Ramsey & Central Lakes Take Top Spots in MCAC Preseason Coaches' Poll

NJCAA National Tournament participant Anoka-Ramsey Community College was selected by the league coaches as the Southern Division preseason favorite in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference for the upcoming 2017-18 season, while Central Lakes College was narrowly picked as the team to beat in the Northern Division. 
The Golden Rams received a heavy majority of the first place votes while a late-surging Rochester Community & Technical College Yellowjacket squad was seen as a strong challenger. Both ARCC and RCTC were ahead of the remaining Southern Division squads, which has several schools that will feature some new coaches at helm this season.   Central Lakes College was selected first in the North Division,  while Vermilion Community College was only one vote off the top mark.  The head coaches at the top two Northern Division squads have more than 900 combined wins between them, with Jim Russell entering his 19th year in Brainerd and Paul McDonald entering season number 28 in Ely.  

In MCAC Pre-season Coaches Polls and in Player-of-the-Week voting, coaches do not list their own team and cannot vote for their own nominees.  
2016-17 Records  MCAC  Overall  2017-18 Northern Division Poll Community 
Anoka-Ramsey  (South) % 12-2 28-5 1. Central Lakes College Brainerd
Rochester CTC   (South) * 8-6 17-12  2. Vermilion Community College  Ely
Central Lakes College (North) ` 11-3  21-8  3. Rainy River Community College International Falls 
Vermilion CC (North)` 10-4 18-12 4. Northland CTC Thief River Falls
St. Cloud Technical & CC (South)` 10-4 20-7  5. Itasca Community College Grand Rapids
Rainy River CC (North)` 9-5  20-8   6. Mesabi Range College  Virginia 
Riverland CC (South) ` 11-3  22-8 7. Hibbing Community College Hibbing
% State Champ * Runner Up      8. Fond du Lac Tribal CC  Cloquet 
Ridgewater College (South)  8-6 17-8 2017-18 Southern Division Poll Community
Fond du Lac Tribal & CC (North) 7-7 11-13  1. Anoka-Ramsey Community College Coon Rapids
Minnesota West CTC  (South) 5-9 8-18 2. Rochester CTC (rv)  Rochester
Mesabi Range College (North) 5-9 11-14  t3. Riverland Community College  Austin
Western Technical  (South) 1-13 5-20 t3. SCTCC St. Cloud
Itasca CC (North) 2-12 7-20 5. Ridgewater College Willmar
M State (South)  1-13 5-22  6. M State  Fergus Falls
Hibbing CC (North) 1-13 5-22  7. Western Technical College La Crosse WI
 Northland CTC (North) '   -  - 8. Minnesota West CTC  Worthington
' = State Tournament Participant 

The regular season championships in the Southern and Northern Division will be tabulated by the 14-game MCAC Divisional schedule.  Each team will play teams in their division twice, in home-and-away format.  MCAC teams will also compete in Inter-Divisional games against selected opponents during the month of December- these contests count only towards overall season marks.  In late February,  MCAC Northern and Southern Division Champions will  be awarded.  The top four finishing teams from each Division will then meet for the MCAC /NJCAA Region XIII State Tournament at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids.    The 8-team Minnesota College Athletic Conference/Twin Cities Gateway Men's Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal, Semifinals and Championships are set to take place Friday-Sunday, March 2, 3 & 4 at the ARCC Athletic Complex in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.  New for 2017-18, there will be no consolation bracket in the State Tournament, with the exception of a third-place contest.  With Lake Superior College entering league play in 2018-19, expect to see a new format for Divisional and Conference games in upcoming years. 

The 2017-18 NJCAA Division III men's basketball season gets underway in early November, with MCAC Inter-Divisional contests scheduled for December and Divisional play commencing in January. 


Anoka-Ramsey Community College 

Coon Rapids, Minnesota  

Last Year Head Coach:  Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website: 

28-5 Overall, 12-2 MCAC South Champion

MCAC State Champions

NJCAA National Tournament 

Ron Larson  10 years; 163-107 

Rory Larson, Brady Larson 

Team Preview

The Golden Rams had the best overall season of any MCAC team in 2016-17, winning the MCAC Southern Division, the MCAC State Tournament and earning a bid to the 2017-18 NJCAA Division III National Championships.  Anoka-Ramsey went 1-2 on the NJCAA national stage, losing to Herkimer in the 3rd place game to conclude the season. 

Key Returners: 

Kevin Schramm, Forward, Roseville, MN; Chris Morgan, Forward, Davenport, IA; Ramose Riddley, Forward, Minneapolis, MN; Jefferson Belmont, Guard, Naples, FL  

New Faces: Jarrett Baptiste, Guard; James Lloyd, Guard; Malik El-Amin, Guard; Jackson Sutton, Forward

Coach Larson on Expectations for the Golden Rams in 2017-18:

"We'll once again have good balance across positions with the ability to score in multiple ways. It's doubtful we'll average 90 points per game again, so the key will be can our defense keep us in games when the offense isn't clicking. With four returning sophomores, and four sophomore transfers, there is enough experience and overall talent to compete for the postseason, and make another strong run." - Ron Larson 


Notable about the Golden Rams:  Head coach Ron Larson is assisted by two of his sons, Rory and Brady. 
Moving on: Mamadou Ngom (Univ. Minnesota-Duluth) and Edvonte Copeland, University of St. Mary, Kansas
First game:
Saturday, Nov. 4th at Lake Region State College, North Dakota

Central Lakes College 

Brainerd, Minnesota 

Last Year Head Coach Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website: 
21- 8, 11-3 North, 3rd Place State Tournament  Jim Russell 19 yrs.; 402-159   Brian Voight http://www.clcraiders.com/sports/mbkb/index
Team Preview

The Raiders finished third in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference / NJCAA Region XIII state tournament in 2016-17.  Central Lakes returns Keonte Jenkins, a 2016-17 NJCAA Second Team All-American and solid nucleus of new and veteran players. 

Coach Russell on Expectations for Central Lakes:  " We have some new faces and some good returners, so we should be a very competitive group!"

Key Returners: 

Keonte Jenkins, Guard, Fort Wayne IN; Thomas Kornbaum, Forward, Little Falls MN 

New Faces:  AJ-Jureau Ray, Guard, Minneapolis MN; Noah Champion, Forward, Maple Grove MN; Various Wilson, Forward, Indianapolis IN 

Moving On: Nick Wiesmann - Mayville State ND; Lamontrell Fuller - Mayvillie State ND; Darsean Woodson-Mayvillie State ND; Trey Heinsius - MN Morris; Deshawn Patterson - Tabor College KS; Radamus Jones - Tabor College KS; Darrelle Bacon - Concordia University CAN; Ronald Bacon - Concordia University CAN; Trayvon Lackey - Concordia University CAN; N'Gai Dixon - Kansas Weslyan KS;  

Notable about the Raiders:
Coach Russell won his 400th game in the MCAC State Tournament in 2016. 
First game:

Leech Lake Tribal College, Saturday, Nov. 11th

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Cloquet, Mn 

Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website
12-17, 10-12 North Brian Burtnyk, 1st season    http://fdltcc.edu/campus-life/thunder-athletics/mens-basketball/
Team Preview

The Thunder finished with a 13-11 overall record in 2016-17 and tied for fourth place in the Northern Division at 9-5.  FDL will be the last MCAC men's team to tip-off the regular season, opening with Western Technical College on December 1st in La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

The 2017-18 FDL roster features nine freshman and six sophomores. 

Notable about the Thunder:
The Thunder will be lead by first year head coach, Brian Burtnyk.  Darius Williams was named to the MCAC All-Northern Division Team in 2016-17.
First game
Friday, December 1st, Western Technical College

Hibbing Community College 

Hibbing, MN

Last Year Head Coach Assistant Coach / Staff Team Website
1-24, 1-13 North  Brad Matuszak, 2nd season.  1-13, 1-24   http://hibbing.edu/athletics/men's-basketball/schedule/
Team Preview
Notable: Coach Matuszak enters his second season with the Cardinals. Last year's lone win came at the expense of local rival, Itasca Community College. Returning sophomore Aaron Musburger was one of the top rebounders in the Division last winter.  This year's Cardinal roster features student-athletes from Georgia (Christian Wood), Florida (Dontaveaus Johnson) and Southport, England (Jake Edwards) in the UK.
First game
Nov. 17th vs. St. Cloud Technical & Community College 

 Itasca Community College 

Grand Rapids, Mn


Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coach Team Website:
9-18, 4-10 North Shannon Roberts, 3 years 16-65 Overall Bill Adamson  http://www.itascacc.edu/get-involved/athletics/mens-basketball/
Team Preview

Key Returners: Trevor Elhard, Forward, Grand Rapids MN; Will Stevenson, Forward, St. Paul MN; Brian Buchanon, Guard, Memphis TN; Cameron Scott, Guard, Clemson SC; Zachary Carney, Forward, Remer MN; Royale Williams, Guard, Minneapolis MN

New Faces:  Johnathan Weidenborner, Forward, Northome MN; Tyrone Maxwell, Guard, Brooklyn Park MN; Devin Borstad, Center, Superior WI; Christian George, Guard, Grand Rapids MN

Coach Roberts on Expectations for the Viking program in 2017-18:  "With this years returning players, we have the leadership this program has been missing. Because of this leadership, I expect great things"

Notable about the Vikings: 
ICC will face a pair of early season non-conference tests when they play Leech Lake Tribal College (11/08) and Gogebic Community College (11/21) in November.
First game
Friday, November 17 at Vermilion – 8 p.m.

Mesabi Range College 

Virginia, Mn

Last Year Head Coach Assistant Coach  Team Website 
11-14 Overall, 5-9 North Ryan Ostendorf   3 years, 48-35    Matt Breeden, David Wilson, Jesse Bennett  www.mesabirange.edu 
Team Preview

Notable about the Norse: The 2017-18 roster features three athletes from Florida and one from Louisiana.   Mesabi Range will host an Alumni Contest on Saturday, November 11th.  The Norse 2017-18 schedules features only two contests against non-MCAC team; they will play Gogebic Community College two times this year- December 6th and January 9th.  

Coach Ostendorf on the Norse in 2017-18: "We expect to return to the upper echelon of the MCAC Northern Division. We hope to be a high paced, high tempo offense, and a full court pressure defense."  

Key Returner: Kristian Young, Guard, Lecanto, FL  

New Faces: Bryce Hempel, Forward, Plymouth, MN; Dorian Nesmith, Forward, Melbourne, FL; Calvin Green, Guard, Crystal, MN; Calvin Lee, Guard, Monroe, LA 

Moving On: J'neil Gibson - Providence University College, Canada; Delon Samuna - Bacone College (OK); Kristofer Warren - Greenville University (IL)  

First game
Tuesday, Nov. 14 vs. Rainy River – 7 p.m.

M State  

Fergus Falls, Mn

Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coach Team Website:
5-22 Overall, 1-13 South Shawn Sorenson; 1 year; 0-0 Overall;  Daniel Berge  http://athletics.minnesota.edu/landing/index
Team Preview

 Key Retuners:  Isaiah Lemke; Chris Tungseth 

 New Faces:  Aaron Solberg; Sam Priem; Austin Miller

 Coach Sorenson on expectations for the Spartan squad in 2017-18:  "We have expectations of great sophomore leadership to help our freshman and team improve each game."

Notable on the Spartans in 2017-18: New head coach Shawn Sorenson is a former student-athlete and assistant at M State.  The Spartans will open up with a pair of games at home, against Mayville State JV and NDSCS in early November. 
First game:
Friday, Nov. 3rd  Mayville State (JV)
Minnesota West CTC 
Worthington, MN

Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coach:  Team Website: 
8-18, 5-9 South Aaron Poor Bear Taylor Lupton http://www.mnwest.edu/student-life/athletics/mens-basketball
Team Preview

Minnesota West CTC heads into the 2017-18 season with a new head coach, with Aaron Poor Bear taking over the Bluejay program this fall.  Minnesota West will tackle four non-MCAC opponents to prepare for league play; Iowa Lakes, Northeastern, Northeast CC and Dakota County Technical College.

Notable about the Bluejays:
Minnesota West will open up the New Year with a January 3rd contest against Little Priest Tribal College.
First game
Tuesday,  November 14 vs. Iowa Lakes Community College

Northland Technical & Community College 

Thief River Falls, MN


Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coaches / Staff Team Website:
 - Rick Nikunen; 25 years; 326-321  Overall Chris Mclean, Asst. Coach   http://www.northlandcollege.edu/athletics/mens_basketball/
Team Preview

Key Returners:  Ju'Wan Evans, G Flint, MI; Chedonio Martin, G, Clearwater, FL; Brandon Murat, G, Poinciana, Fl; Cole Piatko, G, Massillon, OH  

New Faces: Kameron Parker, G, Niceville, FL; Keon Smith, F, Melbourne, FL  

Notable about the NCTC Pioneers:

Northland will travel to Lake Region State for a tournament on Nov. 11-12.  The Pioneers also host their own tournament to open up 2018, January 5-6, in Thief River Falls.

According to head coach, Rick Nikunen,  "We are a veteran team."  

First game
Monday, Nov. 6 at Mayville State, JV  - 7:00 p.m.

Rainy River Community College 

International Falls, MN

Last Year Head Coach Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website
12-6 MCAC ( 9-5 N. DIv) / 21-7 / 4th Place   Bill Engel; 2 years; 27-25    Drew Laverdure   http://www.rainyriver.edu/athletics/
Team Preview

Optimism is high for the Rainy River Community College men's basketball squad after a strong run in the MCAC North in 2016-17. Coach Engel notes: "The Voyageurs will need to mature and gel quickly to compete at a high level in the always rugged MCAC."

Key Returners: JP Schiffino, wing, Miami, FL; Davarius Wright, Minneapolis, MN  

New Faces: Isaiah Sims; Jesus Alfonso; Eddy Mercedes; Anthony Mera  

Notable about Voyageur Basketball: 
Two former RRCC athletes are playing in the NCAA this year: Ira Johnson at Wisconsin-Stout and Ryston Watts at Illinois State  
First game
@ Dakota County Technical College, Thursday, November 9th. 

Ridgewater College 

Wilmar, MN

Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coach Team Website
28-6, 17-5 South Nathan Thooft; 1 year; 0-0 Overall Joel Wallace http://ridgewater.northcentralus.cloudapp.azure.com/athletics/mens/index.html
Team Preview

Coach Thooft on Warrior Expectations for 2017-18: "This is a young team that will be defined by playing hard together, toughness, and executing. We are replacing a great group of sophomores that set the bar high, but this group is coming together and will compete every single night."

Key Returner: Xavier Towne, Center, Marshall, MN  

New Faces: Niko Oliver, Guard, Orlando, FL; Thomas Meyers, Forward, Olivia, MN; Daviante Ostrander, Guard, Columbia, MO  

Moving On- Akeem Oglesby, NW Oklahoma State; Jack Turnbull, Mayville State; Taylor DeLaughter, Mayville State  

Notable about the Warriors: 
The Warriors have a new leader at the helm, with Nathan Thooft taking over the Warrior program for 2017-18. 
First game
Central Lakes College, Tuesday, Nov. 21

Riverland Community College 

Austin, MN 

Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coaches:  Team Website 
15-6 / 22-8 / 2nd Place South  Derek Hahn, 3 years, 32-25  Andrew Kaiser; Andrew Lau  https://www.riverland.edu/riverland-athletics/mens-basketball/
Team Preview

Coach Hahn on Blue Devil Expectations for 2017-18:  "A lot of new faces will be relied upon heavily to contribute on a nightly basis. For this team to be successful we will need to learn to value defense and rebounding."

Key Returners:  Jace Klinkner G, Woodbury, MN; Jeremy Eriste G, Loxahattche, FL; James Landherr G, Rose Creek, MN 

New Faces:  Octavein Johnson 

Moving On to Four-Year Programs:  Darius Bell - University of St. Mary; Donte Makazu - Lincoln University; Marcus Wynn - North Central University 
First game
Dordt JV on Friday, November 10th

Rochester Community & Technical College 

Rochester, MN 


Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coaches / Staff Team Website:
17-12, 8-6 South; Runner-up in MCAC State Tournament Brian LaPlante; 21 years; 413-185   Jason Bonde; Matt Christensen http://www.rctcyellowjackets.com/sports/mbkb/index
Team Preview

Coach LaPlante on Yellowjacket Expectations for 2017-18:  "With only 3 returners we will not be very experienced, but have depth and talent. I expect that we will improve and play hard as we understand how hard it is to win in our league" 

Key Returners:  Jumah'ri Turner, Guard, Bloomington, MN; Michael Cornelius, Forward St. Paul, MN; Tyree Caruthers, Forward, Fridley, MN

New Faces:  Tevin Killeen; Kashif Hayes; Ray Adams; Justin Wofford

Moving On-
 Akeem Smith-Mayville State; Gorg Alhag Mayville State

Notable about the Yellowjackets:
RCTC rallied late in the 2016-17 season to win seven of their last 10 regular season games and gain entry into the MCAC State tournament as the #4 seed in the South.  With a couple of upset wins, Rochester CTC played their way to the final, falling to ARCC in the championship game. 
First game
Saturday, Nov. 4 at Milwaukee Area Technical College – 3 p.m.

St. Cloud Technical & Community College 

St. Cloud, MN


Last Year Head Coach  Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website:
10-4 MCAC / 20-7 Overall / 3rd Place South Andrew Cone   Andy Cone; 6 years; 92-66 Overall   Thomas Thuok, Brent Petermeier, Cole Hanson http://sctccathletics.com/sports/mbkb/index
Team Preview

Coach Cone on the 2017-18 SCTCC men's squad:   "This year's Cyclones should be a fun group to watch. We hope to continue building on the success we have had over the past few years. Knowing that our division is tough night in and night out, we will once again look to our returning players for leadership on and off the floor."

Key Returners:  Kyle Williams, Guard, Osseo, MN; Quentin Miller, Guard, Duluth, MN; Shariff Silas, Forward, Sauk Centre, MN

New Faces:  Mitch McDonald, Guard, St. Paul, MN; Kobe Boraas, Guard, Sauk Rapids, MN; Jazz Boker, Forward, Osseo, MN; Izaiah Sanders, Guard, Chicago, IL

Notable about the Cyclones:   Head Coach Andrew Cone is approaching 100 wins in career this season. 

Moving On-   Kalu Abosi (Hamline); Cornell Pillow (Graceland); Levi Hunt (Northwestern, St. Paul); Charles Young (Crown); Lance Gardner (Elmhurst IL)

First game
Friday, Nov. 10 vs. Gogebic Community College @ Anoka Ramsey Community College 

Vermilion Community College 

Ely, MN


Last Year Head Coach Assistant Coaches/Staff Team Website: 
20-10, 12-2 South Paul McDonald, 28 years / 507-251 Reed Peterson  http://www.vcc.edu/athletics/mens-basketball/
Team Preview

Key Returners:  Demetrice Mitchell Forward St. Paul, MN Denario Jackson Guard St. Paul, MN Bradlee Lewis Guard Mpls, MN Marquail Johnson Guard Columbia, MO

New Faces:  Noel Mishiri Forward Orono, MN Del Guerrero Guard Kimball, MN Devontaye Spates Center Mpls, MN Glenn Smith Guard Columbus, OH

Moving On: Sean Knight, Univ. of  British Columbia

Notable about the Ironmen:

Head Coach Paul McDonald won his 500th game during the 2016-17 season and the Ironmen look poised to add several W's to that total in 2017-18.  With a strong recruiting class to combine with some seasoned returners, Vermilion was selected just behind Central Lakes in the Northern Division coaches poll.  McDonald notes that his team "hopes to be in the mix for a Division title" as the season wears on.   

First game
Friday, Nov. 17 vs. Itasca Community College, 8pm


Western Technical College 

La Crosse, Wisconsin 


Last Year:  1-13 Southern Division, 5-20 Overall

Head Coach Erik Wuensch, 5 years, 58-78 Overall

Assistant Coaches:  Matt Sullivan

Team Website: https://www.westerntc.edu/mens-basketball

Key Returners / New Faces:  Shawn Gerron,Guard, Michigan City, Ind. /  Alex Tecker,  Justen Kidd,  Joshua Brownlee,  Kadar Farah. 

Coach Wuensh on the 2017-18 Season:   " We are really young this season and not real big,  but we have some pretty good athletes so we will play fast to offset size."

Notable about the Cavaliers:

Head Coach Erik Wuensch and his WTC Cavalier squad will open 2017-18 playing four non-conference teams,  three from Wisconsin.  WTC will see Bryant & Stratton, Milwaukee Technical, UW-Richland and Saint Mary's JV squad in early November. 

 First game Nov. 8 @ Milwaukee Technical College