CBT's D3 Men's Update: An OAC Preview
Number 99. Yes, in just a few months, the Ohio Athletic Conference will start its 99th season of men’s basketball.
As the conference comes close to a century of storylines, a new batch will soon begin. Although some rosters remain unfinalized, the start of the school year means we are one step closer to fall basketball.
As for the teams themselves, they each have reasons to be optimistic.
The Yellow Jackets often find themselves as a consistent under-the-radar team in the conference, but their 2019 title has proven that the squad can strike at any time.
After finishing middle-of-the-swarm last year, Baldwin Wallace looks to bring a majority of the team’s players back, including Anthony Mazzeo, Jake Snyder, and Drew Wennes who each received All-OAC Honors.
The trio will headline the team as they hope to again be in contention for the conference title.
Although the Comets had one of the best defenses in the conference, their struggling offense mostly canceled it out. As a result, they finished with an average 9-8 record.
Worse news for the offense: David Sanford, last year’s only double-digit scorer, has transferred to conference rival Marietta.
However, the team was young last year and they are bringing back other positive pieces including Alex Eyink, Ryan Suever, and Ryan Roth. Each shoot 38% or higher from beyond the arc.
For coach Damon Goodwin, the message to the young squad is simple: “keep chopping wood”.
“We have a chance [to win the title],” Goodwin said. “We have a core group.”
Coming off their first conference winning season since 2007-08, the Knights have an exciting young squad that hopes to make last year’s successful season a repeat occurrence.
Any combination of Isaiah Young, Zane Leitwein, Eric Panning, or Tre Watkins can go off at any time. Emmanuel Perdue, the team’s leading scorer, is returning for his fifth year as well.
The team’s depth makes Heidelberg a scary team not only for next year, but the years following too.
The Blue Streaks historically have found themselves near the top of the standings, but the past few seasons have not been kind. This was especially true last year, when the team finished dead last in the standings.
Next season brings an opportunity to turn things around.
“It’s really family and sacrifices in our motto,” coach Pete Moran said. “Putting the last two years behind us.”
Luckily, the team has a gem in Chase Toppin, who in his first year averaged nearly 19 points a game before injury cut his season short. David Gentry is another player to look out for after leading the entire conference in field goal percentage with 66% last season.
There will be a lot of new faces this year as well with seven transfer students, including five that have formerly played in Division I before leaving for better education.
“I want to be clear on this, none of them are portal kids,” Moran said. “I don’t even know how to get on the portal. These are young men that – I call them homegrown tomatoes.”
The Blue Streaks last won the OAC Championship in 2016, but since then they slowly have been losing power. This squad, however, has the perfect opportunity to bring the team back to former glory.
“These guys are excited,” Moran said. “They truly do embrace our tradition and the success that we’ve had over the last 30 years and they’re also excited to start their own tradition.”
The Pioneers continued their reign as the top team in the OAC during the 2021-22 season, winning their fifth conference title in 11 years and their second in a row. Along the way, they won every single conference game. In national play, the team made its way to the final four before ultimately losing to the eventual champions, Randolph-Macon. By the end of the season, they ranked second in the nation, according to d3hoops.
For a team that has been consistently dominant over the past decade, expectations remain unsurprisingly high even though four out of last year’s five starters were seniors. If none exercise their fifth-year option, more eyes will be on junior Addy Black, the only regular starter that was not a senior last season, as well as Sahmi Willoughby, last year’s team leader in rebounds and blocks.
On top of that, they are winning the transfer battle, grabbing Capital’s leading scorer last year in David Sanford, as well as several others.
It would be tough not to be excited for this Raiders team, which has seen forward Christian Parker blossom into one of the top players in the conference. Last season, in only his sophomore year, he ranked second in the conference in points per game, rebounds per game, and field goal percentage.
Mount Union will have one of the most dangerous pairs in the conference, as the team landed Jeffery Mansfield, a 5th year transfer from Wilmington who led his former team in points with 16.4 last year.
Although the team fell just short of the OAC title, the Raiders hope to continue their strong streak and add to the top 25 finish that the school had last season.
The Fighting Muskies finished with a league-high 15 conference losses last season. They are also likely losing four important seniors.
Although, there are some things to look forward to with this team, starting with their new head coach, Nathan Wahle. Additionally, Zaveon Croff finished the season in style, averaging over two steals a game and leading the team in points (among players who were not seniors).
The Wahle era has begun, and this team should be fun to watch.
The Polar Bears had a disappointing season where they went 3-13 in the conference, but they have a lot of potential with the amount of seniors they will likely have next season.
C.J. Napier, last year’s team leader in points and minutes, headlines the group, but any combination of Adam Scott, Landen Long, or Michael Berner can go off at any time too.
Do not let last year’s record fool you, this team could be scary next season. All they need is a little more consistency out of their players.
Over the past decade, the Cardinals often found limited success, usually landing near the bottom of the conference standings. Last season, however, the team turned it around with their first winning record since 2006-07.
Flying high, Otterbein will likely bring back two major contributors to its turnaround – Dallas Patrick and Cam Evans, who were the team’s top two leaders in points last season.
Micah Mills is the new head coach in town. He has the task of turning around the Quakers following a disappointing 4-14 showing in the conference last season.
“We have to learn how to chase our best self,” Mills said.
At the helm is Obed Achirem, who has the potential to become a star at Wilmington, nearly averaging a double-double in his freshman year before his season got cut short.
Additionally, look out for forward Abdul Kanu, who will return to the team after not playing last year due to the pandemic. He last played in the 2019-20 season, where he averaged 12.5 points a game on nearly 50% shooting.
Wilmington will bring forth a new style next year, which should cause optimism among fans.
“We’re going to play with a lot of passion and excitement for the game of basketball,” Mills said.
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