The basketball season is right around the corner and southeastern Minnesota is stockpiled with talent.
The Big Nine is going to be a gauntlet. We wanted to dig a little deeper to find out which teams and players will be the ones to watch.
Eight of the 12 Big Nine coaches participated in the Post Bulletin's Preseason Coaches Poll. First-year Red Wing coach Oliver Simmons chose to sit this one out as he gets to know the ins and outs of the conference. Three coaches did not respond to multiple requests from the Post Bulletin.
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Coaches couldn't rank their own team, and they were asked to name a Preseason Player of the Year and a five-man Preseason All-Big NineTeam.
A first-place vote was worth 11 points, a second-place vote 10 points, and so on, all the way down to an 11th-place vote which was worth one point.
The votes were recorded. The points were tallied. Here are the results.
Big thanks to the coaches who were more than generous with their time.
BIG NINE COACHES PRESEASON POLL
1. OWATONNA, 73 VOTES (4 FIRST-PLACE VOTES)
2019-20 record: 17-11, 14-8 in conference play
The skinny: Opposing coaches are really high on the Huskies this season. They got four first-place votes, and the lowest they were ranked was third. Six-foot-8 big man Evan Dushek is an absolute stud. The junior will carry the Huskies this season, but he'll have plenty of help. Brayden Williams could be the best player for a ton of other programs, and he and Dushek will be a problem for opposing defenses all year. The supporting cast is especially strong, too ,for the Huskies, but they'll go as far as Dushek, Williams and Peyton Beyer take them.
2. MANKATO EAST, 69 VOTES (2 FIRST-PLACE VOTES)
2019-20 record: 27-2, 22-0 in conference play
The skinny: Mankato East blitzed the conference last year with a 22-0 league record, and opposing coaches still have a ton of respect for Joe Madson's crew. But they're going to be a very different-looking team this year. Jax Madson is now playing for Concordia St. Paul, and All-Big Nine selections Joich Gong and Jordan Merseth have graduated. Plus, three of Mankato East's top-seven players are not playing this year: Pal Kueth, Ben Snaza and Jack Pemble. The loss of Kueth (out due to personal reasons) is huge because multiple coaches voted him first-team All-Big Nine. But the presence of BJ Omot still looms large. The 6-6 guard/forward is an absolute scoring machine. He owns multiple Division I offers, and Mankato East will undoubtedly be stocked with more rising talent. But to think that its goes 22-0 in conference play this year is too much to ask.
3. AUSTIN, 68 VOTES (1 FIRST-PLACE VOTE)
2019-20 record: 23-5, 17-5 in conference play
The skinny: Do-everything guard Agwa Nywesh has graduated, but the Packers still have super high hopes for 2021. Okey Okey (11.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 46 percent from 3-point range) and Teyghan Hovland (10.5 points, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 spg) were all-conference selections last year, and Victor Idris is talented, too. Head coach Kris Fadness has done a terrific job of building a program and developing talent. He'll undoubtedly have some young Packers who are ready to make a big-time impact, and one to watch is Emmanuel Manyuon. Austin's going to be a scary team that could beat anybody in the Big Nine.
4. MANKATO WEST, 58 VOTES (1 FIRST-PLACE VOTE)
2019-20 record: 7-20, 5-17 in conference play
The skinny: Mankato West is due for a big jump this year. After finishing just 5-17 in conference play last year, it received one first-place vote and five top-four votes. A big reason why is the development of juniors Mehki Collins and Buom Jock. Collins was an All-Big Nine selection last year as a sophomore, and Jock is a 6-6 wing who's just wired to score. He averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He's a next-level player who can impact the game on both ends.
5. ROCHESTER MAYO, 53 VOTES
2019-20 record: 22-6, 18-4 in conference play
The skinny: Elite scorers Gabe and Mason Madsen are now hooping at Cincinnati. So, the Spartans are going to have to rely on some different leaders this year. New coach Kevin Landrum has some guys who can really play. The backcourt is going to be really solid. Point guard Mo Hammadelniel can do it all, Michael Sharp is a sniper from 3-point distance and Andre Crockett has a terrific feel for the game. An X-factor is Makuei Riek, a 6-5 wing with a 6-8 wingspan. The Spartans will be deep and talented. How they adjust to new roles will truly define their season.
6. WINONA, 45 VOTES
2019-20 record: 12-15, 9-13 in conference play
The skinny: Two coaches voted Winona junior Jasper Hedin to their Preseason All-Big Nine squad. The bouncy 6-6 wing can absolutely fill it up at all three levels. He put up some good performances on the AAU circuit this summer for the Minnesota Lightning. He'll anchor a Winona team that was a tough out last season. One coach picked the Winhawks to finish in fourth place.
7. ROCHESTER CENTURY, 40 VOTES
2019-20 record: 19-9, 16-6 in conference play
The skinny: Jack Fisher, Mark Leonard, Canon Tweed and Stephen Olander all averaged double-digits last season, but they've all graduated. The Panthers will have to do their best to replace their four standouts. Sometimes, when you have a bunch of seniors that played for a long time, there's an idea that there isn't much talent behind them. That's not always the case. New faces don't always mean a big dropoff. RJ Sarr could be one to watch, and some younger Panthers will get their time to shine.
8. ROCHESTER JOHN MARSHALL, 39 VOTES
2019-20 record: 9-13, 11-16 in conference play
The skinny: The Rockets received three sixth-place votes, but most coaches don't think they'll have enough weapons to truly compete with the contenders in the conference. John Marshall will have to lean on its strong defense and its player development if it wants to change that. Ty Tuckner is a well-rounded player who's on the rise. He can stretch the floor really well for a big man, and he's a beast on the glass. If he gets position inside, it's over, thanks to his variety of moves. Offense was hard to come by last year (51 points per game) and All-Big Nine performers Lincoln Meister and Jacob Daing are gone, but if Tuckner can get some help and their defense remains stout, JM could rise up the list.
9. NORTHFIELD, 34 VOTES
2019-20 record: 8-19, 7-15 in conference play
The skinny: Kip Schetnan led Northfield in points (16.6), rebounds (4.4) and 3-pointers (66) last season, and the all-conference selection is back and better than ever for the Raiders. He got a lot of love from opposing coaches. Schetnan is going to be a tough matchup for everybody, and his backcourt accomplice Karsten Clay is a baller, too. If its supporting cast steps up, then Northfield could be a tough out. Most of the coaches ranked Northfield near the bottom of the conference, but one coach tabbed it fourth and another had it fifth.
10. RED WING, 22 VOTES
2019-20 record: 3-24, 2-20 in conference play
The skinny: Deso Buck is a certified bucket-getter. Buck poured in 18.1 points per game last year as just a sophomore. He's certainly on the radar of opposing coaches. First-year coach Oliver Simmons will get right to work rebuilding Red Wing. Buck is a great lead guard to start with. Junior forward Denval Atkinson (10.2 points, 7.2 rebounds per game last year) is another nice weapon.
11. FARIBAULT, 15 VOTES
2019-20 record: 4-23, 3-19 in conference play
The skinny: John Palmer was an all-conference pick last year, and he's back for his senior season. Faribault will need its 6-foot guard to play at an All-Big Nine level this year if it wants to make some noise.
12. ALBERT LEA, 12 VOTES
2019-20 record: 13-13, 10-12 in conference play
The skinny: All-Conference performers Chay Guen, Javarus Mucha-Owens and Koby Hendrickson have all graduated. In fact, Albert Lea's five leading scorers have all movd on. Coach Spencer Dahl will have his work cut out for him if he wants to rise up the pecking order in the Big Nine But there are plenty of questions about some of the other teams in front of them, so it's certainly not inconceivable.
PRESEASON ALL-BIG 9 TEAM
Player of the Year Voting
1. Evan Dushek, Owatonna (5 votes)
2. BJ Omot, Mankato East (3 votes)
All-Big Nine Team
G Teyghan Hovland, Austin (4 votes)
G Kip Schetnan, Northfield, (3 votes)
G/F Mehki Collins, Mankato West (4 votes)
G/F BJ Omot, Mankato East, (7 votes)
F Evan Dushek, Owatonna (unanimous)
Just missed the cut: Jasper Hedin, Winona (2 votes); Mo Hammadelniel, Mayo (2 votes); Buom Jock, Mankato West, (2 votes); Pal Kueth, Mankato East (2 votes); Okey Okey, Austin (2 votes); Brayden Williams, Owatonna (1 vote); Victor Idris, Austin (1 vote); Deso Buck, Red Wing (1 vote).