Cougars Picked to Repeat as Regular-Season Men's Basketball Champion
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The American Midwest Conference and its men's basketball coaches have announced the league's preseason men's basketball coaches poll, picking last season's regular-season co-champion, Columbia College, as the favorite to repeat in 2011-12.
The Cougars, who were 26-6 in 2010-11, finished the year ranked No. 18 in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Top 25 Coaches Poll, and Columbia was one of three qualifiers from the AMC in last March's Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. Columbia is led into the 2011-12 season by AMC Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference performer Henrique Medeiros, who returns for his senior season after averaging nearly 10 points per game with 94 assists and 64 steals last season. Wendell Crowder also returns for the Cougars after averaging 6.8 points per game on the way to being named AMC Freshman of the Year.
The Cougars tied for the regular-season championship at 12-2 with another NAIA tournament qualifier, McKendree University, but at season's end, the Bearcats departed the NAIA and the AMC for NCAA Division II membership.
Last year's third-place team in the regular season, Park University, earned its way into the NAIA tournament as the AMC's postseason tournament champion, coming from behind to beat Williams Baptist College in the quarterfinals, followed by another come-from-behind win in the semifinals, by two points at Columbia. The Pirates then led wire-to-wire in the championship game at McKendree, beating the Bearcats, 72-59.
Reco Anderson, who averaged 9.4 points per game, was the Pirates' spark in the second half of the season, including 25 points to beat McKendree in the AMC tournament championship, and Melvin Gatson also returns after averaging 5.7 points in 2010-11, including 13 second-half points in the AMC semifinals at Columbia, which came down the stretch in the Pirates four-point postseason victory.
Park was 21-9 in 2010-11, reaching as high as No. 13 during the regular season in the NAIA Top 25. The Pirates finished 10-4 in the AMC and will begin the year picked to finish second in the American Midwest Conference.
The Pirates and Cougars will be coached by the last two AMC coaches of the year, as Jason Kline begins his seventh season at the helm of Park University's program, while Bob Burchard is in his 24th year on the sidelines at Columbia.
The AMC tournament begins March 1 with the quarterfinal round on campus sites, followed by a March 3 semifinal round, and the championship game will be played at the home court of the best remaining seed on March 6.