Pat Mollo, Staff Writer
Dennie Bridges court will be rowdy this Saturday, Nov. 14 as the Titans of Illinois Wesleyan University open up their regular season against Benedictine University.
A new season brings new players, new fans and new opportunities all with Titan basketball at the nucleus.
The Titans are ranked third in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s preseason rankings behind nationally-ranked Elmhurst and Augustana.
Augustana tops the rankings in the conference as they are also ranked first in the nation. Elmhurst is ranked second in the conference and eight nationally, while the Titans are third in the conference and 24th nationally.
“Conference play this year won’t be a cake walk but it never is. The conference is always strong but I know were a great team and we can handle it,” senior Mike Marietti said.
The 6’8’’ senior from Frankfort is the captain of the team this year and will earn his fourth varsity letter. Unfortunately for the Titans, he’ll have to lead from the sideline to start the season. The big man in the paint is coming off of meniscus surgery. Marietti’s progress is day to day and will be out for the first few games of the season.
Also captaining the team this year is senior Brian Nelms. Nelms will be one of a few taking over the duties of point guard after the graduation of All-CCIW selection Dylan Overstreet.
Seniors Bryce Dolan, Joel Pennington and sophomore Brady Rose will also be asked to fill Overstreet’s shoes.
Where the Titans have the potential to be a threatening basketball team is shooting. Nelms, Dolan, Pennington and Rose will all have impact at point guard, but they also excel at the other guard positions and shooting the three ball.
“I think our most obvious strengths lie in our pure skill to shoot the basketball. We are very unselfish and we have the ability to every time down the floor to get a good look offensively,” junior Alec Bausch said.
Last year, Dolan, Pennington and Rose accumulated field goal percentages of 46 percent, 43 percent and 39 percent respectively. Already dangerously efficient, those percentages should rise and more shots will fall this season now that those players have an extra year of experience under their belts.
While the guards shoot on the outside, the Titans have many reliable big men to do the dirty work down low. Manning that task on the boards this year will be juniors Alec Bausch and Trevor Seibring, as well as Marietti when he returns.
In 2015, Bausch, Seibring and Marietti collected 405 rebounds. While that number isn’t small, improved rebounding is the imperative to winning. For the Titans to play best, the big men will have to follow the lead of the guards by using experience to improve from last year.
The Titans have showed in their preseason games against Nazarene and Hannover College, a couple of early season shortcomings have made their presence known.
“We have struggled a bit on defense which is nothing out of the ordinary for preseason. We are seeing glimpses of great defense but we need to pull some things together,” sophomore Kevin Connelly said.
Like any other season, aspirations to succeed in the playoffs are high. However, The Titans are now two seasons away from a final four appearance in 2014. Coach Ron Rose and the squad are hungry to get back to a flourishing offseason.
“This year we have a great group of guys lead by Mike and Brian who have experience and hunger to go very deep in the playoffs. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Bausch said.
Hopefully a new year for the Titans will bring along some hardware and a couple of cut nets along the way.
The Titans tip off Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Shirk Center at 7:00 p.m.