The Wayne State men's basketball team was picked to finish 15th in the 2016-17 NSIC Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Poll released Thursday by the league office in Burnsville, Minn.
Minnesota State was voted by coaches as the team to beat in the league this season with 11 first-place votes and 220 points followed by defending national champion Augustana in second with 190 points and two first-place votes. MSU Moorhead and St. Cloud State tied for third with 183 points each while Winona State was fifth at 174 points. Sioux Falls (172), Northern State (151), Southwest Minnesota State (124), Upper Iowa (102) and University of Mary (96) conclude the top 10 teams while Wayne State, which finished 5-24 last year and 3-19 in the NSIC, was 15th in voting with 29 points.
The NSIC South Division poll also had Minnesota State as the favorite with 47 points and five first-place votes with Augustana second at 42 points and two first-place votes. Sioux Falls was third with 36 points and the remaining first place vote followed by Winona State (35) and Southwest Minnesota State (23) in the top five. Upper Iowa (20), Concordia-St. Paul (14) and Wayne State (7) round out teams in the South Division poll.
Matt Thomas, a 6-foot junior guard from Elkhorn, was listed as Wayne State’s Player to Watch in the NSIC this season after leading the Wildcats in scoring last year with 16.5 points per game. He ranked 11th in the league in scoring while producing double figures in 26 of 29 games last season. Thomas had a team-high 47 3-pointers last year and also led the Wildcats in assists at 2.96 per game.
Wayne State plays a pair of exhibition games next week before opening their regular season as the Wildcats host Midland University Tuesday, at 7 p.m. followed by a Friday, Nov. 4 exhibition at Creighton, also at 7 p.m. The Wildcats open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Hillyard Tip-Off Classic in St. Joseph, Mo., facing host Missouri Western at 7:30 p.m.