MEN’S BASKETBALL: SMSU picked fifth overall in NSIC

BURNSVILLE – The Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball team is picked to finish fifth overall and fourth in the South Division in the annual Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches Poll on Wednesday.

The announcement came from the NSIC office in Burnsville.

Minnesota State was chosen as the overall preseason favorite earning, 225 points, including all 15 first-place votes (coaches can’t vote for their own team). St. Cloud State and Winona State were both picked to finish second with 191 points, followed by Augustana (181 points, one first-place vote) and SMSU (174).

Minnesota State earned 49 points to top the NSIC South Division poll, while St. Cloud State was chosen as the favorite to win the North Division with 49 points.

MSU-Moorhead (158) was picked to finish sixth overall, ranking ahead of Concordia-St. Paul (124), Minnesota Duluth (115), Northern State (115) and Sioux Falls (98). Minot State was chosen 11th overall (85), followed by Bemidji State (77), Wayne State (67), Upper Iowa (61), University of Mary (43) and Minnesota Crookston (15).

Winona State was picked second in the NSIC South poll behind with 40 points, followed by Augustana (36), SMSU (34), Concordia-St. Paul (21), Sioux Falls (20) and Upper Iowa (12) and Wayne State (12) rounding out the poll.

Mustangs senior center Nick Smith was named an NSIC “Player to Watch” in 2013-14.

He was SMSU’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer a season ago, starting all 30 games and averaging 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Smith led the NSIC in both field goal percentage and blocked shots, while ranking seventh in rebounds. He shot 59.2 percent from the field during the season, ranking 23rd in NCAA Division II and finished 34th in the country in blocked shots with 52.

Smith – the Mustangs’ all-time blocked shots leader with 121 – led SMSU with six double-doubles in 2012-13. He begins this season having played in 86 career games, scoring 851 points and grabbing 492 rebounds, while shooting 55 percent from the field, which ranks third in program history.

The Mustangs open exhibition play Oct. 26, taking on the SMSU Alumni as part of “Andy Wiersma Day,” at 4 p.m.

The Mustangs will also host Wisconsin-Eau Claire in an exhibition Nov. 3, before opening the regular season hosting a two-day classic, facing Fort Hays State and Northwest Missouri State on Nov. 9-10.