Wabash was picked to finish fourth by the North Coast Athletic Conference men's basketball coaches in the league's annual preseason poll, released Thursday afternoon.
The Little Giants received a total of 55 points in the poll. The College of Wooster, the men's defending regular season and conference tournament champions, were picked to finish first in eight of the nine ballots to earn a total of 80 points. Wittenberg garnered the only other first place votes and finished second in the final tally with 70 points. Ohio Wesleyan was picked to finish third with 56 points, one point ahead of Wabash. Hiram (48 points), Denison (37), Allegheny (27), Kenyon (18), and Oberlin (14) complete the preseason picks.
Wabash returns three starters from last year’s 18-8 team that finished second in the North Coast Athletic Conference standings with a 12-4 league record. Head Coach Mac Petty guided his squad to second place in the NCAC regular season standings.
Senior Wes Smith (left) is back after starting in all 26 games last season. Smith was a First Team All-NCAC selection for the second straight season along with and D3hoops.com Third Team All-Region honors after leading Wabash in scoring (18.2 ppg), steals (49), and blocked shots (31). He also tied for second on the team in assists (53) and was second in rebounding (6.7 rpg).
The Little Giants will need to replace All-NCAC players Aaron Brock and Chase Haltom. Junior AJ Sutherlin could fill either roll after transferring from Earlham College where he earned Honorable Mention All-NCAC honors averaging 16.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Senior Ben Burkett started 22 games last year, averaging 7.1 points and 3.9 boards a game. Seniors Andrew Gilman and Dominique Thomas and juniors Brian Shelbourne and Aaron Zimmerman will all see playing time at the guard position. Derek Bailey, Jordan Surenkamp, and Nick Curosh provide plenty of experience coming off the bench.
Freshmen Pete Nicksic and Wes Zimmerman could also make an immediate impact in their first season with the Little Giants.
Wabash begins play this Saturday with an exhibition game against NCAA Division I opponent Indiana State University. Tipoff at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, Indiana is set for noon.
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