FLORENCE, Ky. — The University of Rio Grande was picked fifth overall and fourth in the East Division of the 2016-17 River States Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll released Thursday by the conference office.
The RedStorm return just one full-time starter – senior forward Corey Cruse (Fort Mitchell, KY) – from last year’s team, which finished 17-14 overall and 7-9 in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The River States Conference is formerly known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The conference changed its name effective July 1, 2016 as part of a re-branding. The 13 conference members remain the same from last year, and they span five states.
Among the losses for head coach Ken French’s squad were a pair of first team All-KIAC selections – guard D.D. Joiner and center Dwayne Bazemore.
Rio Grande received 89 points in the overall balloting and 38 points in the voting for the East Division.
Indiana University East is the overall favorite poll. The Red Wolves have two all-conference starters returning from last year’s team, which reached the Final Four of the NAIA Division II National Championship.
IU East, 22-14 overall and 12-4 conference in 2015-16, received 11 of 13 first-place votes in the overall ballot and is also the favorite in the RSC East Division with 11 of 13 first-place votes.
Ohio Christian University (24-10, 11-5) was picked second in the overall ballot and is also picked second in the RSC East Division behind IU East. The Trailblazers, who received one first-place vote in the overall poll and two to win the division, are in their second year in the NAIA and in the conference and are eligible for the postseason in each for the first time this year.
Cincinnati Christian University (23-9, 11-5) was picked third overall in the conference and is the preseason favorite to win the RSC West Division. The Eagles won last year’s conference postseason tournament and reached the NAIA Division II national tournament.
CCU received one first-place vote in the overall poll and 10 of 13 first-place votes within its division.
WVU Tech (16-14, 8-8) and Rio Grande were picked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the overall poll, giving the RSC East Division four of the top five spots in the overall conference voting.
Asbury (Ky.) University was picked sixth overall in the conference and IU Southeast was seventh as the next teams from the RSC West Division. Asbury got three first-place votes to win the RSC West. Point Park (Pa.) University is picked eighth overall and fifth in the RSC East.
The top four teams in each division will make the RSC Tournament, of which IU Kokomo and Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College are picked to tie for the fourth-and-final playoff spot in the RSC West. IU Kokomo and Alice Lloyd are predicted ninth and 10th in the conference overall.
The final three teams in the poll were Brescia (Ky.) University, Carlow (Pa.) University and Midway (Ky.) University.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.