ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The 2017-18 Southern Vermont College men's basketball team is putting in its final preparations before starting regular season action on Wednesday, November 15 as the Mountaineers look to get back into the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) playoff tournament.
The league announced the results of its preseason poll on Monday with SVC being selected by the NECC coaches to finish second in the standings with three of the eight first-place votes. Becker College received four top nods to edge the Mountaineers by three points in the poll.
Southern Vermont will once again be led by head coach Dan Engelstad who returns to lead the Mountaineers for his fifth year—having never missed the Conference postseason since coming to Bennington.
"I have high expectations for this group," Engelstad said. "I want them to achieve at the highest level on the court, in the classroom, and in the community. These guys are going to be successful because they are supremely talented, understand how to play the right way, and genuinely care for their teammates."
The Mountaineers went 16-9 in the regular season last year, and they claimed their third-straight No. 1 seed in the championship tournament with a 14-2 mark in league action. SVC posted a semifinal win on its home court to make the NECC championship round for the third consecutive year—but unfortunately fell in the title game to post a final record of 17-10.
"Whenever you fall short of your goal, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth; it's served as motivation for us to work harder to achieve our goals this season," Engelstad commented. "To get back there and win the championship, we're going to have to stay 'process driven,' not get too high, and not get too low. We need to compete every day and have fun playing the game we all love."
Southern Vermont returns eight players from last year's team while welcoming in six new faces. Among the returners are three seniors—Daemond Carter (Forestville, Md.), Claude Payne (South Plainfield, N.J.), and Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.)—and junior point guard Josh Borders (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).
Pierre was named to the All-NECC Third Team last season while recording the second-most points per game for the Mountaineers (16.7). He and Payne each grabbed 5.6 boards per game with Payne notching 9.8 points per contest while ranking ninth in the NECC with a 52.5 field goal percentage.
Borders added 10.5 points per game to a balanced SVC offense, and he also had 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per tilt. Carter was limited to just 10 appearances last season, but the 2014 NECC Rookie of the Year still posted 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in that action.
"I enjoy coaching this group," Engelstad added. "They work hard and genuinely like each other. This group has improved drastically from our first practice. We are deep, talented, and can throw different looks on the floor. This team has some returners and some new faces, too. I have been impressed with how they have all meshed in a short amount of time."
SVC opens up the regular season on November 15 against a Keene State College squad which won three games of the NCAA Division III tournament last year before falling to the eventual-National Champion Babson College team; Southern Vermont will host the Owls at the Mountaineer Athletic Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Additional non-conference contests for Coach Engelstad's group include matchups at Castleton University (Nov. 25) and Lehman College (Dec. 9)—as well as a November 21 faceoff at home against Fitchburg State University; all three of those teams made their respective conference's postseason semifinal round last winter.
Prior to the holiday break, SVC will head to Southern Florida for the 2017 HOOP MIA Holiday Slam from December 18-20; that tournament was relocated from Puerto Rico after September's Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory. While in Miami, Southern Vermont will take on Cortland State and Carthage College—the latter having received votes in the D3hoops.com preseason Top 25 poll.
Following New Year's, SVC has one more non-league tilt (Jan. 3 vs. Mass. College of Liberal Arts) before the Mountaineers begin NECC action at Wheelock College on January 9; Southern Vermont has had great success against the Conference during the regular season over the last three years—posting a record of 46-2 in that time. SVC will hold Senior Day on Saturday, February 17 in conjunction with a 1 p.m. season finale against Newbury College.
2017-18 NECC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Becker – 53 (4)
2. Southern Vermont – 50 (3)
3. Lesley – 43
4. Mitchell – 41 (1)
5. Dean – 27
6. Elms – 24
7. Newbury – 22
8. Wheelock – 20
(Parentheses denote first-place votes)
– #LetsGoSVC –