SEGUIN, Texas -- Defending conference champion Texas Lutheran is the seventh pick in the 2019-20 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll.
In exclusive voting by the league's head coaches, with four different teams receiving first-place votes, Southwestern emerged as the favorite for the SCAC men's basketball season.
The Bulldogs have won four of the last five SCAC Championships. The first two were won in 2015 and 2016 with Jimmy Smith as head coach. Mike Wacker, TLU's fourth-year head coach, had led TLU to SCAC Championships and NCAA Tournament berths in 2017 and in 2019.
Wacker is 49-35 overall and 28-16 in the SCAC since taking over at TLU. The Bulldogs were 18-10 overall and 11-5 in the SCAC a year ago. TLU shared the SCAC regular-season championship with Southwestern and then went 2-0 in the SCAC Championship tournament to claim the conference crown.
The Bulldogs lost the bulk of their lineup from last season's SCAC Championship squad. Of the top seven scorers from last year, only guard Sebastian Andrade returns. TLU's other six top scorers from 2018-19 were all seniors.
From those six seniors, TLU received 56.0 of their 74.9 points per game last year. TLU also only returns 10.4 rebounds per game from the 25.1 per game the team averaged last season.
Andrade, TLU's junior guard, is the Bulldogs' top returning scorer and rebounder. He averaged 11.3 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game. He also recorded 32 assists and 21 steals.
In his two years as a valuable contributor, Andrade has averaged 10.9 points and shot 40.4 percent from the field. He is a career 33.5 percent three-point shooter. Last year, he played an average of 29 minutes per game.
TLU opens regular-season play this Friday and Saturday with back-to-back road games against Hardin-Simmons and McMurry. The Bulldogs face the HSU Cowboys at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and meet the McMurry War Hawks at 6 p.m. Saturday. Links to video and live stats can be found on tlubulldogs.com.
Southwestern, which earned a share of the SCAC regular season crown a year ago for the first time in school history, garnered six first-place votes to top the poll with 76 points.
Centenary checked in at second on the poll with 62 points following a season that saw the Gents win 10 SCAC games for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Dallas, which made a run to the SCAC Tournament Championship for the first time in school history before falling in double overtime to TLU, received one first-place vote and checks in at third with 57 total points.
St. Thomas, making its debut this year in the SCAC, collected a pair of first-place votes and sits in fourth with 49 points.
Schreiner, the lone SCAC program to post double-digit conference wins in each of the last three seasons, rounded out the top five with 44 points to finish fifth.
Colorado College, which last advanced to an SCAC Tournament title game back in 2016, received the final remaining first-place vote and sits sixth with 43 points.
TLU checked in at seventh with 38 points. The Bulldogs are followed by Trinity (37), Austin College (27) and Johnson & Wales (17).
Southwestern returns three all-conference performers off its 2018-19 team that finished the regular season with an overall mark of 14-12 and posted its most wins in SCAC play since the 2004-05 season with an 11-5 league mark.
Connor Kuykendall takes over as the head coach for Southwestern following five seasons at Schreiner in which he posted a 40-32 record in conference play, including double-digit league wins in each of the last three seasons.
The 2019-20 season begins on Friday, while the SCAC Tournament will be held at the end of February in Kerrville, Texas. Schreiner University will be the host.