Westminster Men's Basketball Sits Atop SLIAC Preseason Poll

Tanner Cochran, Jimmy Villalobos, Carter Wands (returning starters)
Tanner Cochran, Jimmy Villalobos, Carter Wands (returning starters)

After winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament in the 2016-17 season, Westminster men's basketball was selected to repeat its title based on a poll from the league's head coaches.

"We are flattered to be picked by the SLIAC coaches as the preseason favorite," said Westminster Head Coach Matt Mitchell. "Very few teams have won our league when picked to win it. This will present a strong challenge to our guys. It also shows how our conference has a lot of unknowns this year. It should be a very exciting season."

Westminster received five first-place votes for 72 points. MacMurray (4) and Spalding (1) were the only other two teams receiving first-place votes.

Last year's squad is returning 10 players from last season, including three starters.

The top returning scorer is Jimmy Villalobos, who averaged 12.2 points per game. Villalobos is one of the team's top threats from behind the three-point line, going 55-142 (38.7%) last season. 

Westminster also returns a strong back court in Tanner Cochran and Carter Wands.

Cochran, who spent most of his time at the shooting guard position but split time with Wands in the point guard position, is returning 7.0 points per game and 2.6 assists per game. Wands returns as the team's top passer, averaging over three assists per game last season.

Westminster also boasted one of the top benches in the league last year and will look to Stu Hollandsworth and Collin Caywood to step up and take a larger role on the team.

Hollandsworth, one of the top defenders on the squad, averaged just under eight minutes per game last season. Westminster will look to presence in the post offensively and defensively.

Caywood was second on the team in made three-pointers last year, hitting 34 total threes and shooting 40% from behind the arc.

On top of the strong returning class for the Blue Jays, Westminster adds 11 newcomers to the mix as they begin the run to defend their SLIAC title and head back to the NCAA Tournament.

Westminster faces Columbia College in an exhibition contest Nov. 8 before traveling to Simpson Nov. 15 for their first official game of the season.

The full SLIAC preseason poll:

Westminster 72 (5)

MacMurray 67 (4)

Greenville 56

Eureka 54

Spalding (1)

Webster 42

Principia 36

Iowa Wesleyan 34

Blackburn 26

Fontbonne 15