RMAC basketball coaches pick Mesa men to finish fourth, women eighth

It appears the Mesa State College men’s and women’s basketball teams are destined for another trip to the RMAC Shootout tournament this year.

At least, that’s what the coaches think with the release of the preseason polls Thursday.

The men, who are coming off a 13-14 season and a seventh-place finish in the RMAC, are picked to finish second in the RMAC West Division and fourth overall. The Mavericks have four returning starters, including preseason All-RMAC post Kurt Bangle (6-foot-8 senior). Point guard Aaron Markham (6-0 junior), guards Andre Carter (6-1 senior) and Ryan Mathews (6-1 senior), and forwards Jake Swartzendruber (6-5 senior) and Justin Ashbaugh (6-5 senior) return for Coach Jim Heaps as well.

Defending RMAC Shootout champion and NCAA qualifier Fort Lewis (24-6 last season) is picked to win the RMAC regular season title. Metro State is favored to win the East Division over Nebraska-Kearney, which is picked third in the conference.

The Lopers have the RMAC preseason player of the year in forward Drake Beranek (6-4 junior).

Western New Mexico, Adams State, CSU-Pueblo and Colorado Christian are picked to finish fifth through eighth and qualify for the Shootout.

The Mesa State women’s team is picked to finish fourth in the RMAC West Division and eighth overall. The Mavericks are coming off a 14-14 season and a fourth-place finish in the RMAC. They have two returning starters in seniors Abby Hancock (5-9 guard) and Stephanie Delgado (5-11 forward), but lost their three leading scorers, Brittany Fowler, Cassie Hutto and Kelsie Gourdin. Fowler and Hutto graduated. Gourdin transferred.

Coach Timi Brown added six college transfers, including Fruita Monument High School graduate Erin Richardson (5-5 junior point guard) from Eastern Utah Junior College.

Grand Junction High School graduate Hannah Walsh (5-7 junior) is expected back, but Raysha Ritter isn’t returning.

Defending RMAC regular season champion Fort Lewis (26-4) is picked to defend its title led by preseason player of the year Allison Rosel (5-11 junior forward) and All-RMAC guard Laura Haugen (5-9 junior).

Nebraska-Kearney is picked to win the RMAC East Division and finish second. RMAC Shootout champion CSU-Pueblo is picked third followed by Metro State, Regis, Adams State and the Colorado School of Mines.

The Mesa State men’s and women’s basketball teams begin practice with ‘Midnight Madness’ festivities at 11 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Brownson Arena. The Mavericks host their first games in the annual Thanksgiving Classic.


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