After winning its first ever NAIA National Championship a year ago, Oklahoma Wesleyan begins the 2009-2010 season as the No. 1 team, announced Monday (Oct. 26) in the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll. After a 35-2 campaign and a run through the 2009 National Championship field, Oklahoma Wesleyan was voted No. 1 with 404 total points and 13 of the possible 15 first-place votes. The Eagles become the fifth different team in the last five years to be rated the No. 1 preseason team.
Oklahoma Wesleyan should be stacked with four starters coming back including First Team All-American Steve Briggs and Third Teamer Sadiel Rojas. Briggs led the country last season with 4.5 three-pointers per game, including a Tournament record 26 treys, and was 10th in scoring (21.4 ppg). Rojas averaged 10.3 rebounds, good for ninth in NAIA statistics. The Eagles won a school record 35 games last year and will start this year on a nation-best 18-game winning streak. OWU opens up the season on Nov. 3 against Friends (Kan.), who is receiving votes in the Preseason Top 25.
No. 2 Black Hills State (S.D.) notched 387 total points and one first-place vote after reaching the Fab Four of last year's National Championship. Black Hills has the luxury of returning all five starters from a 30-5 team. Junior Luke Enos leads the group after shooting over 61 percent last year and averaging 15.5 points while being named to the NAIA All-America Second Team.
Searching for its fourth National Championship ring, No. 3 Bethel (Ind.) tallies 364 total points in the poll. The road will be tough as the Pilots have to replace NAIA Player of the Year, William Walker. Bethel went 33-4 last year and has made the postseason eight times.
No. 4 Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) earns 353 total points to represent the Great Plains Athletic Conference in the top five. The Tigers are excited to have back 2007-08 First Team All-American and GPAC Player of the Year, Preston Broughton. He sat out last year with an injury redshirt. Junior Brady Wiebe is scheduled back after pouring in 17.3 points for the 25-9 Tigers a season ago.
The national runners-up from 2009, Ozarks (Mo.) is voted in the No. 5 spot. The Bobcats recorded 352 total points after finishing last year ranked No. 19. Ozarks went 25-11 overall and advanced to the National Championship final as an unseeded team. Jared Howerton returns as the top scorer (14.8 ppg).
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents. The first regular season Top 25 poll will be announced on Monday, Nov. 30.