|POSTED 1:17 p-m 11/10/9 The coaches in the Midwest Conference believe that both the St. Norbert College men's and women's basketball teams have a leg up on everyone else this season.
The Green Knights are picked to finish first in both coaches polls. The St. Norbert men's team, which returns two starters, finished 18-6 overall last season and 12-4 in league play. The women's team is coming off a 20-5 season and a 15-1 conference mark.
Monmouth College's men's and women's teams are both picked to finish 7th this season. The Fighting Scots men went 8-15 last season and 5-11 in Midwest Conference play. Mark Vershaw's club returns three starters from last season: junior guard Eric Grant, junior forward Eric Cogdill (8.8 ppg) and senior post Zach Ott (8.5 ppg).
The Monmouth women's team, coached by Melissa Bittner, ended last season with a 14-9 record, including a 9-7 conference mark. Like the men's team, Monmouth's women's squad has three starters coming back: senior guard and four-year starter Lynsey Barnard, who was a second-team All-Midwest Conference selection last season, junior guard Justine Boone and junior forward Allison Andrews. The Scots lost to graduation 1,000 point scorer Melissa Gorski and Tansha Hughes, who led the conference in scoring and rebounding.
The Knox College men are predicted to finish 10th in the conference after a 2-21 season (2-14 MWC) a year ago in coach Rob Purlee's first year at the helm. The Fire have three returning starters: Midwest Conference honorable mention selection Matt Goedecke, a junior who led the Prairie Fire in both scoring (13.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.5) last season, sophomore guard Ben Wetherbee (12.4 ppg) and sophomore Joe Kozak (6.6 ppg).
The Knox College women, 6-17 (3-13 MWC) last year, are picked to finish 9th this season with five starters coming back. The six wins were the most by a Prairie Fire women's basketball team since 2001. The key player back for Knox is senior Erin Navolio, who earned second-team All-Midwest Conference honors and led the Fire in scoring at 11 points per game. Also returning are senior Kate Moon (8.7 ppg), sophomore Krystyna Williams (9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), the team's leading rebounder and second leading scorer, and sophomore Lynn Mueller (8.5 ppg).
Knox could also get big contributions this season from former Galesburg High School standout basketball players Claire Anderson and Kelly Ricketts.
Carroll College (16-8, 12-4 MWC), last season's co-Midwest Conference men's basketball champion, is picked to finish second this season behind St. Norbert. Ripon (9-13, 7-9) is projected third, followed by Lake Forest (7-16, 6-10), Lawrence (19-7, 13-3), Grinnell (18-7, 13-3) - last season's other league co-champion - Illinois College(11-12, 8-8) and Beloit (4-19, 2-14) in the ninth spot.
Ripon (17-9, 12-4), last season's MWC champ, is picked second in the women's poll. The Red Hawks are followed by Carroll (13-10, 8-8), Lake Forest (12-11, 9-7), Illinois College (14-10, 9-7), Beloit (15-9, 12-4), Grinnell (4-19, 3-13) in the eighth spot and Lawrence (6-17, 3-13) 10th.