(HALIFAX, N.S.) The U SPORTS no. 5-ranked Dalhousie Tigers are the team to beat in 2018-19 according to the AUS men's basketball pre-season coaches poll released today.
This marks the fourth year for the AUS pre-season coaches' poll, which is voted on by the league's eight head coaches, who rank the other seven squads and are not permitted to vote for their own teams.
This is the third consecutive year Rick Plato and his Tigers have been the early choice among his peers.
Dalhousie, hosts of this year's national championship, received five first-place votes and 47 total points in the polling. The Tigers finished in first place last season with a 16-4 regular season record before losing AUS semifinal play to the StFX X-Men by a score of 84-81.
Sven Stammberger, the team's leading scorer and rebounder (18.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg), has completed his five years of eligibility, but Alex Carson (17.0 ppg), Savier Ochu (10.5 ppg) and Keevan Veinot (8.2 ppg) are returning and will look to lead the program to their fourth title in five seasons. Also wearing the black and gold this season is Mike Shoveller, who will be using his fifth year of eligibility after playing four years at Queens and representing Canada at the Commonwealth games last April.
The Saint Mary's Huskies finished second in the voting with three first place votes and 44 total points.
The Huskies, who finished in third place in 2017-18 with a 14-6 record, will have reigning U SPORTS rookie of the year Nikita Kasongo back after a freshman season that saw him start in all 20 of regular season games and finish fifth in league scoring with a 18.9 points per game average. Senior guard and first team AUS all-star Kemar Alleyne (19.4 ppg) is also returning.
Head coach Jonah Taussig has also brought in guard Nevell Provo, a North Preston native who played three seasons with Loyola-Maryland in the NCAA, guard Johneil Johnson, a Lake Echo native transferring from Regina, and small forward Jelani Mofford, an Ontario native who played in the NCAA at UNC Greensboro.
The defending AUS champion UNB Reds were third in this year's poll with 36 points despite losing Javon Masters following a five-year career that saw him break the all-time national scoring record.
UNB finished with a 16-4 regular season record last year to finish in second place. Head coach Brent Baker and his reds squad captured the program's first conference title since the 1966-67 season by defeating the Memorial Sea-Hawks 93-86 in semifinal play and the StFX X-Men 84-81 in the AUS final.
The Acadia Axemen follow in fourth place in the poll with 32 points. Hosts of the 2018 U SPORTS Final 8 championship in Halifax, the Axemen fell to Carleton 81-64 in the national quarterfinals. 2018 AUS defensive player of the year and first team conference all-star Erik Nissen has graduated.
Acadia will look to veteran guards Ben Miller (a 2017 AUS second team all-star) and Nick DePalma to lead the charge this season. DePalma is chasing the AUS all-time record for three-point field goals made. He currently sits seventh with 177 heading into his final year of eligibility. Former UPEI standout Scott Morrison holds the all-time record with 220.
The StFX X-Men were ranked fifth in the coaches' poll. The X-Men entered the 2018 championship ranked fifth and upset both Acadia (fourth) and Dalhousie (first) to make it to the finals versus UNB where they narrowly missed the title, falling 84-81.
The X-Men have graduated Kevin Bercy—a 2018 AUS second team all-star and the 2017 AUS MVP—as well as AUS second team all-star Julius Antoine and starting point guard Davonte Provo. They return third-year guard Justin Andrew, fourth-year guard Tristen Ross and third-year forward Azaro Roker.
The Cape Breton Capers finished sixth in the poll. With 2013 AUS coach of the year Matt Skinn back at the helm, the Capers hope to make their way back to the AUS playoffs after missing the postseason the past two years. Skinn was the head coach when CBU last claimed the AUS title (2012-13) and is returning from Calgary, where he served as an assistant coach with the reigning U SPORTS champion Calgary Dinos.
The Memorial Sea-Hawks came in seventh with 14 points and the UPEI Panthers round out this year's rankings in eighth place with seven points. The Sea-Hawks are coming off a 5-15 regular season where they entered the 2018 playoffs as the sixth seed and upset the no. 3-seeded Saint Mary's Huskies to advance to the AUS semifinals.
The Panthers look to make their first playoffs appearance since 2016 with head coach Darrell Glenn in his second season at the helm of the program. UPEI finished in seventh place last season with a 3-17 record.
2018-19 AUS Men's Basketball Pre-season Coaches' Poll
1. Dalhousie (5), 47 pts.
2. Saint Mary's (3) 44 pts.
3. UNB, 36 pts.
4. Acadia, 32 pts.
5. StFX, 25 pts.
6. Cape Breton, 19 pts.
7. Memorial, 14 pts.
8. UPEI, 7 pts.
The 2018-19 regular season gets underway Thursday night in Halifax when the Saint Mary's Huskies host the Acadia Axemen at 8 p.m., followed by all eight teams seeing action this weekend.
This upcoming schedule for this week is as follows:
Thursday, Nov. 1 - Acadia at Saint Mary's, 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 2 - UNB at StFX, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Memorial at UPEI, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3 - UNB at StFX, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Cape Breton at Dalhousie, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Acadia at Saint Mary's, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4 - Cape Breton at Dalhousie, 3 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4 - Memorial at UPEI, 3 p.m.
For the full 2018-19 AUS men's basketball schedule, click here.
All games will be webcast live at www.AUStv.ca.