VU Trailblazers ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Div. I Men's Basketball preseason rankings; Poll sets up clash of Top-5s this weekend.
The Vincennes University Men's Basketball Team is the NJCAA's No. 1 team in 2014-15 pre-season rankings, which were released earlier this afternoon from the NJCAA Headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO.
The Trailblazers - 34-3 last season and coming off of two consecutive trips to the NJCAA Final Four - are followed in the poll by:
2. Trinity Valley,
5.College of Southern Idaho,
The remainder of the Top-20 are: 11. Southwest Tennessee, 12. New Mexico, 13. Kilgore,14. Northwest Florida State, 15. Seward County, 16. Paris, 17. Harcum, 18. Howard, 19.State Fair, and 20. McLennan.
For a complete look at the NJCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Preseason Rankings,
VU was recently ranked No. 2 in The Sporting News' Pre-Season College Basketball Rankings. Indian Hills was the No. 1 in that publication.
Today's poll results set up an early-season clash of Top-5's when fourth-ranked Columbia State visits Vincennes this weekend as part of the field for the Trailblazers' annual Kiwanis Invitational at the VU P.E. Complex. VU will take on Jefferson Tech at 7 p.m. Friday (following Columbia State and Olney Central at 5 p.m.) and then face Columbia State at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
“This will probably be the number one event in junior college basketball that weekend – and it’s the kind of game you don’t always see this early in the season,” VU Coach Todd Franklin predicted several days prior to today's rankings coming out. “We’re probably going to be fairly high in the (NJCAA preseason) rankings when they come out – we were second in The Sporting News poll – and you have to think Columbia State will be up there, too, because of the pieces they’ve added since last year.
“When you add Olney Central into that, the Kiwanis Invitational is a strong field and one that people should enjoy watching that weekend,” he added. “Olney Central always plays a tough, physical and intelligent brand of basketball, and I think you would have to say that Columbia State has to be respected as a very good team. That game on November First could have a post-season tournament feel to it.”
VU and the Chargers (28-4 in 2013-14) have some history. The Trailblazers defeated Columbia State, 95-89, in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Div. I National Championship Tournament last spring in Hutchinson, KS. The win over the Chargers gave VU its second straight trip to the NJCAA Final Four when the Trailblazers overcame a near-record-setting night by Columbia State’s Thomas “T.J.” Dunans, who scored 52 points. Dunans’ performance placed him in a tie for the third most points ever scored in a game at the national championship tournament.
The Sporting News’ preseason honors included naming Dunans the Junior College Preseason Player of the Year. The 6-5 sophomore has verbally committed to Auburn.
The Chargers, who were No. 12 in The Sporting News' preseason rankings, are a formidable opponent – at least, on paper – because, in addition to Dunans, Columbia State welcomes back 5-10 sophomore point guard Justin Pride and adds a handful of transfers to bolster the roster.
But VU has a deep and talented roster this season as well.
The Trailblazers return experienced sophomore guards Charles Foster and Everett Clemons, as well as battle-tested forwards Mychal Mulder, A.J. Patty and Nigel Holley from last season’s Final Four squad. Other returners include guards Jaelan Manson and Jantzen Goodwin and forward Stuart Jackson.
A talented crop of newcomers is expected to provide important contributions in quick fashion as VU looks to make another run at a NJCAA District 16 title and a deep trek into the 2015 NJCAA Div. I National Championship Tournament. In addition to 6-2 sophomore transfer guard Donte’ McGill, who relocates from NCAA Div. II Goldey-Beacom College, freshmen forwards Mangisto Deng, Dequandre Dentmond and Keith Mack will help anchor the front line while 6-9 freshman center Makur Puou figures to patrol the middle. Backcourt competition for the veteran guards comes in the form of freshmen Ronnie Rousseau and Corey Thomas.
The 6-1 Foster is tops among the returners in scoring last season at 12.2 points per game. He also averaged 3.1 assists per contest and shot 42 percent from 3-point range. Mulder, a 6-5 wing, contributed 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while the 6-0 Clemons chipped in with a 5.6 ppg average and dished out 3.8 assists per game in 2013-14.