KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Fort Hays State men's basketball team was tabbed fourth in the MIAA preseason coaches and media polls released during MIAA basketball media day on Wednesday at the College Basketball Experience.
The Tigers finished fourth in the conference standings last year, going 18-11 overall.
Eight of the Tigers' 14 players will be new to the team this year.
"Even style of play is going to be so much different," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "Last year everything was through Brady (Werth) — pound it inside and play off that. This year, I don't know if we've identified anybody yet that's a complete low-post scorer. I think our bigs are going to be more 3-point shooters, space the floor. It'll be a different look in a lot of ways, not only new players, but the way we're going to be successful playing is going to look a lot different than it did a year ago."
FHSU returns four players who saw action last year. Senior guard Aaron Nicholson is the Tigers' top returning scorer after averaging nine points per game last year. Senior forward Devin Davis averaged 8.6 points off the bench last year while junior Jared Vitztum averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and sophomore guard Nyjee Wright added 4.8 points as a freshman.
The Tigers added five transfers — senior forward Jake Hutchings (Chaminade), junior guard Perry Carroll (Allen County), junior guard Alvin Thompson (Cloud County), junior forward Jackson Miller (Coffeyville Community) and sophomore guard Gabe Pieschl (Cloud County).
Johnson said he expects the Tigers to have good balance but will be looking for a go-to player to emerge.
"We've had a great player the last three or four years — Rob Davis, Hadley Gillum, Brady Werth," said Johnson, who enters his 19th year at FHSU with a career record of 359-172. "I think we have more good players this year, more players that are capable of doing things, whether it be making plays for others or scoring, but I don't know if we have that first-team all-league guy. In basketball, it seems to me that over time, the team that has the best player wins the game. So that'll be a big question for us. I don't know if we have a first-team all-league guy. If we do, he probably hasn't identified himself in the preseason."
Defending national champion Northwest Missouri State topped both the coaches and media polls after an undefeated season. Missouri Southern was second in both polls while Washburn was third.
The Tigers will open their preseason slate against the University of Kansas on Oct. 24 in Allen Fieldhouse. Check back to the hdnews.com and Friday's print edition for more on MIAA media day.
Men's Coaches Poll
1. Northwest Missouri (13) - 169 points
2. Missouri Southern (1) - 157 points
3. Washburn - 131 points
4. Fort Hays State - 124 points
5. Northeastern State - 99 points
6. Central Missouri - 96 points
7. Lincoln - 93 points
8. Pittsburg State - 92 points
9. Rogers State - 68 points
10. Emporia State - 66 points
11. Newman - 61 points
12. Missouri Western - 58 points
13. Central Oklahoma - 44 points
14. Nebraska Kearney - 16 points
Men's Media Poll
1. Northwest Missouri (19) - 279 points
2. Missouri Southern (1) - 259 points
3. Washburn - 238 points
4. Fort Hays State - 198 points
5. Pittsburg State - 183 points
6. Lincoln - 156 points
7. Central Missouri - 140 points
8. Emporia State - 123 points
9. Missouri Western - 120 points
10. Newman - 103 points
11. Rogers State - 102 points
12. Northeastern State - 88 points
13. Nebraska Kearney - 64 points
14. Central Oklahoma- 46 points