Alva Review-Courier -

GAC coaches predict sixth place finish for Rangers


October 19, 2018

ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State men’s basketball team has been predicted to finish sixth in the 2018 Great American Conference preseason coaches poll that was released Thursday.

The Rangers earned 78 points in the poll and came in with the only other first-place vote outside of Southern Nazarene. In a league expected to run deep with talent once again, only 14 points separated Northwestern from second-place Southeastern Oklahoma State (92 points), with Arkansas Tech (86), East Central (83), and Southern Arkansas (80) at the front of the pack.

After being picked 11th in the GAC coaches poll a year ago, Dirden knows that it’s not about where you start the year but where you finish it that counts.

“To some people, pre-season rankings mean a lot. We could have been picked first or picked 12th and it’s not going to change our mindset.”

The Rangers will be looking to build on a breakout 2017-18 campaign that produced a 22-7 record and the school’s first NCAA post-season victory. Northwestern finished the 2017 regular season in second place behind only No. 13 Southern Nazarene (24-2) and are planning on picking up right where they left off.

“These guys are motivated to a pretty high degree” said head coach Shawn Dirden, now entering his third season leading the program.

Northwestern returns two key starters from last year and will be led by GAC Newcomer of the Year Treyvon Andres and point guard A.J. Jones, and will be looking to its youth to step in a fill the roles of its five graduating seniors (Brandon Green, Cody Halvorson, Cedric Collinge, Greg Minor Jr. and Trey Johnson).

Dirden has been encouraged by the way his players have treated pre-season workouts and is happy to see more vocal leadership out of Andres and Jones.

“I expect big things from those guys. Their focus has been there, and they’re motivated to help lead this team to where it needs to go” said Dirden.

Northwestern enters 2018 with 11 new faces, but Dirden is confident that his staff has brought in the right players to make the transition seamless.

“We’ve done a great job recruiting and I think we’ve put some important pieces around those two returning players to have an opportunity to compete at a high level again in the GAC.”

Northwestern opens the 2018-19 season in just 22 days in Tahlequah, Oklahoma at the MIAA/GAC Challenge. The red-and-black will start the year with non-conference games against the University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State University for the fifth straight year.

“We know both those teams well and we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’ll be good to see such strong opponents early in the season, so we’ve got to go out there and learn how to win on the road” added Dirden.

“We’ve put a lot of work into practice and defensive drills all off-season so I know the guys are excited to head down to Northeastern. Now we’ve just got to go out there and own it.”


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