The 2017-18 Hillsdale College men's basketball team is expected to contend for a conference championship, at least according to the preseason coach's poll.
The Chargers, a veteran team which only lost two players to graduation, was picked to finish third according to the poll, released Wednesday morning by the conference office.
Hillsdale didn't receive any first-place votes, but did get 96 poll points, good for third out of 12 G-MAC programs. The University of Findlay received 11 of 12 first-place votes and was picked first, followed by back-to-back conference champion Kentucky Wesleyan. Following Hillsdale in the poll were Alderson Broaddus (fourth) and Ohio Dominican and Walsh (tied for fifth).
This year's team figures to be one of Hillsdale's most experienced squads in recent years, led by veteran returning starters Stedman Lowry, Ryan Badowski and Nate Neveau. Lowry is entering his fourth year as a starting guard while Badowski and Neveau are entering their third seasons as starters. A big junior class is led by guards Neveau and Harrison Niego and front court players Nick Czarnowski, Gordon Behr and Jack Cordes. Czarnowski figures to step into a starting role after finishing last season strong.
This is Hillsdale's first season in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference after being in the GLIAC since 1975. The Chargers have only missed the postseason once since 2007, and step into the new league at a time when its roster is experienced and prined to win. Findlay, Ohio Dominican, Lake Erie and Walsh join Hillsdale as first-year programs in the G-MAC, while Malone, also formerly of the GLIAC, joined starting with the 2016-17 season.
Kentucky Wesleyan and Alderson Broaddus have won each of the past four G-MAC championships, AB in 2014 and 2015,, and KWC in 2016 and 2017. Kentucky Wesleyan was ranked as high as 15th in Division II last season and always fields a tough and athletic men's basketball squad.
Hillsdale plays an exhibition game against Big Ten favorite Michigan State on Friday, Nov. 3 and then opens the regular season a week later against GLVC contender Southern Indiana.