With the team starting practice this past Monday and their season-opener against Greenville University less than a month away, I thought it would be appropriate to dive into the 2018-2019 men’s basketball season and give some insight on what is expected. Looking at things from a season ago, the Duhawks came up just short of an Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) tournament championship, losing to Central College 113-108 in the semi-finals. Not only did this loss bury any hope for a bid in the NCAA Division III National Tournament, but a win would have matched them up in the IIAC tournament championship game against Nebraska Wesleyan University. The Prairie Wolves of Nebraska Wesleyan went on to become the 2018 NCAA Division III National Champions.
Hope is not lost within this program, but instead driven, with a mindset of both success and revenge. Breaking down the schedule for the Duhawks, nine of their first ten games are at home. The Athletic and Wellness Center is a tough place to play for an opposing team, with Loras going 11-2 on their home floor last season and only losing their two games by an average of four points.
The Duhawks roster is stacked from top to bottom, returning almost everyone from a season ago. Among the team standouts include sharpshooter senior Josh Ruggles, who averaged 22.4 points per game last season and shot the ball with tremendous accuracy from behind the arc. Senior Ryan Dicanio will look to add onto his totals from a season ago, where he finished averaging 17.8 points per game while shooting just shy of 46% from the field. Seniors Will McClaughry and Jake Toman look to round out their careers’ at Loras as dominant big men in the post, while smaller combo guards such as senior Demond George and junior Matt Dacy-Seijo will continue to cash in from deep. Guys such as junior Ben Burkholder, sophomore Cole Navigato, and junior JT Ford will look to further grow as role players and provide quality minutes throughout each game.
Overall, the ultimate goal for this basketball squad is to avenge last year’s early exit in the conference tournament and come out as champions in the newly established American Rivers Conference. However, this team is capable of so much more. They have the shooting from behind the arc that can light up any team on any night, play fundamentally sound defense, and also have the senior leadership to propel resilience when the going gets tough. Obviously, every team’s goal is to win the national championship, but when it comes to this season, that goal does not seem that far out of reach.