Coming into the 2016-17 season, the Meryhurst Lakers men’s basketball team ranked eighth in the preseason poll released by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association Atlantic Region poll on Nov. 7.
Mercyhurst received 11 points in the poll conducted by coaches.
West Liberty University received 60 points and six first place votes to take the top spot on the poll, followed by Fairmont State (47) and Virginia State (40).
This comes after the team posted a 22-9 record for the 2015-16 season, and went 15-7 in the conference.
Last year not only marked the first year the team was victorious in PSAC championships, but also the program’s first win in the NCAA Tournament Atlantic Regional.
The Lakers beat Wheeling Jesuit of West Virginia 66-65, which was followed by a second-round loss to PSAC rival Kutztown University, 73-79.
“I think the ranking is pretty accurate, but rankings are just rankings. It doesn’t really determine who a team is,” said senior guard Durrell McDonald. “I believe that any team can be more than what the ranking is.”
McDonald is one of five seniors who will lead the team when they take the court this year.
“I think the seniors now equal up to the seniors last year…and the underclassman that came up equal up to the guys before them,” McDonald said.
Other returning seniors include Kevin Marsh, Justin Senou and John Majors.
“Preseason has been really good for us,” said senior guard H’ian Hale. “A lot of guys learned the defense, plays … it’s all about buying in and I think up to this point everybody’s buying in.”
Hale is the only returning starter from the previous season. He averaged 4.5 points per game and also led the team in assists with 125.
Hale highlighted the importance of the defense this year, coming off of a season where the Lakers were ranked best in the nation for allowing only 60.3 points per game.
“I think our ranking is based on our success…I think a lot of coaches have respect for the program,” Hale concluded.
The Lakers’ first game of the season was on Nov. 11 at home against Mount Aloysius College, where they beat the Mounties 103-37.