And, now, how about those MIAC men

St. Thomas won 7 of 8 MIAC men’s basketball titles from 2014 through 2021, then left the conference. Not only is St. Thomas no longer found at the top of the conference standings, but most of the other most successful teams during that period are not expected to be found at the top. They would include St. John’s, who averaged 3rd place over those 7 years; Bethel and St. Olaf, who averaged 4th place; Augsburg, 5th; and Gustavus, 7th.

Instead, we expect the Big 4 to be Macalester, who averaged 10th place from 2014 to 2020; Hamline, who averaged 8th; Carleton, who averaged 7th; and St. Mary’s, 10th. It’s a turnaround of stunning proportions. (MIAC did not conduct a pre-season coaches’ poll, so we’ll be filling the gap.)

1. Macalester. Take the Scots, for example. They finished 9th or 10th every year from 2014 to 2020. They moved up to #6 in 2022 and to #4 last year under 6th year coach Abe Woldeslassie, though there is not a single Minnesotan among their top 8 performers. They are led by 6-2 junior guard Caleb Williams (from Wisconsin), who torched the Minnesota Gophers for 42 points in an exhibition, then averaged 27 ppg in the Scots’ 1st 3 games while shooting 48%. Guards Kaden Holdbrook (a freshman), Coby Gold (14 ppg last year) and Eric Wentz (from North Dakota) are all averaging in double figures in those 3 games. Those guards have a 6-7, 6-6, 6-5, 6-5 frontcourt in support as well. Macalester has won MIAC titles only in 1937 and 1981. Woldeslassie is your oh, so very obvious choice for Coach of the Year.

2. Hamline. The Pipers were just 10-10 in coach Jim Hayes’ 10th year, but they return 8 contributors from that team, all of them juniors or younger, and all of them 6-3 or better including 6-8 and 3 6-6 forwards up front. The top returning scorers are 6-6 forward Austin Holt (from Colorado) (16 ppg, 10 reb a year ago) and 6-3 junior guard Daniel McCarell (Stillwater; 15 ppg last year). Hamline finished as high as 5th just once in the past decade until they did it again last year.

3. Carleton. The Knights won the regular season and post-season titles last year (17-3, 24-4) as coach Ryan Kershaw won coach of the year honors in his rookie season. (He took over from Guy Kalland who coached the Knights for 38 years.) The Knights return 5 of their top 6 performers, led by 6-1 junior guard Luke Harris (from California) with 17 ppg-5 reb-3 ast on 52% shooting. He scored 26 in Carleton’s opener this week. Meanwhile, the sky’s the limit for 6-5 freshman forward Sam Koelling (Michigan). The 5 returnees scored 38 ppg a year ago, but 6 MIAC teams return more points from a year ago. Still, Harris is probably the #2 player in the conference after Caleb Williams, and he’ll keep the Knights near the top of the heap. Carleton finished above 5th place just once in the decade until finishing 3rd in 2022 and 1st in 2023.

4. St. Mary’s finished dead last (11th place) 5 times in 6 years ending in 2019. Since then, they climbed up to 5th, 9th and 3rd. St. Mary’s long has recruited the Chicago area. Now, surprisingly, 4 of the top 6 returnees are Minnesotans, but it’s also true that the other 2 are from Chicago and/or elsewhere in Illinois. The big 2 are Cameron Mallory, a 6-5 junior guard (from Illinois) who scored 16 ppg in the 1st 3 games this year on 63% shooting; and Breyton Buyerman, a 6-4 junior guard (Simley) who scored 14 ppg with 6 boards. The top 6 returnees have averaged 57 ppg among them so far this year.

5. St. John’s. The Johnnies have finished 1st or 2nd every year (except the COVID year of 2020) since 2018, and they return 6 contributors (who scored 48 ppg last year) from last year’s runners-ups. Kooper Vaughan, a 6-1 junior guard from St. Charles, and Ryan Thissen, a 6-6 senior wing from Eastview, and Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside. They scored 30 ppg last year and 33 ppg so far this year. The strength and balance of the MIAC is illustrated by the simple fact that, even if they finish in 5th place as forecast here, the Johnnies will probably contend for a conference title.

6. Concordia. The Cobbers improved from 3-22 to 8-17 to 11-14 last year under 4th year coach Tyler Bormann, and they will continue to improve in 2023-2024. They, too, have a nice inside-outside combo in 6-9 Jackson Loge (Morris) and Matt Johnson, a 6-1 senior guard (Fergus Falls).

7. St. Olaf. The Olies finished in 2nd place in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 but slumped to 5th the past 2 seasons. They’ll be good but the rest of the MIAC has improved a little more. 6-2 senior guard Connor Martin (Illinois) and 6-4 soph forward Kobe Kirk (Mouds View) lead the way. They scored 27 ppg last year and are scoring 37 ppg between them in 3 games this year so far. Fellow Mounds View grads, both seniors, 6-6 Brendan Kauls and 6-4 Josh Albers join Kirk on the inside. Dan Kosmoski is in his 30th year with the Olies.

8. Gustavus Adolphus. It seems strange to see Gustavus at #8, but they tied for #7 a year ago and have not finished above #4 over the past decade. Coach Mark Hanson retired after 32 years; his successor Justin DeGrood is now in his 2nd year. 6-5 junior forward Spencer Swanson (Waconia) leads the way with 20 ppg and 8 reb (last year) and 22 ppg-9 reb-3 assists and 59% shooting (this year) leads the way, but the supporting cast doesn’t seem to be as strong as some of the others.

9. Bethel averaged 4th place from 2014 to 2020, but dropped to #7 and #8 the past 2 years. They’ve got impressive depth with 7 returning contributors from a year ago, plus possibly the best freshman in the MIAC in Nick Burke, a 6-5 guard from Southwest Christian. Their upside seems to be much above #9, but everybody’s got a lot of depth and a bit of upside. Seriously, the Royals could finish anywhere from 4th to 10th. The MIAC is that close.

10. Augsburg averaged 4th place from 2014 through 2021, then fell from 2nd to 9th in 2023. Will they bounce back? Well, we have them 10th, so, no. They’ve got  good size led by Austin Jentzen, a 6-8 sopymore from St. Michael-Albertville. Guards Will Blascziek (6-4 junior Lakeville North) and Trent Gomez (6-0 frosh Two Harbors) are the top scorers. But, they’re not as deep as some.

11. St. Scholastica is the newest conference member and finished last in 2022 and 9th in 2023. They’ll be improved in 2024 but last place remains not unlikely. They’re the smallest team in the MIAC and also lack the depth that is so customary among their opponents. Guards Andre Crockett, Jr. (6-1 junior, Rochester Mayo) and Jeff Moore (6-2 senior, Richfield) lead the way.

Top Performers

Center–Jackson Loge, Concordia, 6-9 junior (Morris) 13 ppg-6 reb (2024)

Power Forward–Spencer Swanson, Gustavus, 6-5, junior (Winona) 20 ppg-8 reb (2023) 22 ppg-9 reb-3 ast-59% shooting (2024)

Small Forward–Ryan Thissen, St. John’s, 6-6, senior (Eastview) 18 ppg-5 reb-3 ast-55% shooting (2023)

Point Guard–Luke Harris, Carlton, 6-1, junior (California) 17 ppg-5 reb-3 ast-52% shooting (2023)

Shooting Guard–Caleb Williams, Macalester, 6-2, junior (Wisconsin) 27 ppg-5 reb-3 ast-3 stls (2024) Player of the Year

2nd Team

Center–Zach Doely, Bethel, 6-7 senior (St. Croix Prep) 18 ppg-9 reb-63% shooting (2023)

Power Forward–Austin Holt, Hamline, 6-6, junior (Colorado) 16 ppg-10 reb-3 ast-2stl-50% shooting (2023)

Small Forward–Kobe Kirk, St. Olaf, 6-4, soph (Mounds View) 19 ppg-6 reb (2024)

Point Guard–Connor Martin, St. Olaf, 6-2, senior (Illinois) 18 ppg-3 ast-2 stl (2024)

Shooting Guard–Kooper Vaughan, St. John’s, 6-1, junior (St. Charles) 23 ppg (2024)

3rd Team

Center–Matt Banovetz, Carleton, 6-7 senior (Holy Angels) 11 ppg-7 reb-2 stls (2023)

Forward–Brad Cimperman, Hamline, 6-4, junior (Woodbury) 20 ppg-5 reb-2 ast (2023)

Point Guard–Breyton Buyerman, St. Mary’s, 6-4, junior (Simley) 14 ppg-6 reb-2 ast-41% (2024)

Combo Guard–Coby Gold, Macalester, 6-2, junior (Colorado) 14 ppg-5 reb-3 ast (2023)

Shooting Guard–Will Blascziek, Augsburg, 6-4, junior (Lakeville North) 15 ppg (2024)


Power Forward–Sam Koelling, Carlton, 6-5, fr. (Michigan) 9 ppg-5 reb-2 stl-3 blk-80% (2024)

Small Forward–Nick Burke, Bethel, 6-5, fr. (Southwest Christian) 20 ppg (2024)

Point Guard–Kaden Holbrook, Macalester, 6-1, fr. (California) 15 ppg-3 reb-3 ast (2024)

Combo Guard–Trent Gomez, Augsburg, 6-0, fr. (Two Harbors) 12 ppg-2 reb-5 stl-59% shooting (2024)

Shooting Guard–Elias Batala, Augsburg, 6-2, fr. (Eastview) 8 ppg-3 reb-2 ast (2024)