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Basketball reloads for NCAA tourney run

November 18, 2011

The Falcon men’s basketball team opened their season ranked No. 21 in the nation and is expected to finish third out of the nine conference teams, according to the WIAC 2011-12 Preseason Predictions.

UW-River Falls is predicted to finish third behind UWStevens Point in first, and UW-Whitewater in second. Coach Jeff Berkoff says this prediction is practical and he is expecting to have a year like the 2010-11 season, which was one of the best in UWRF history.

“We think it is realistic to shoot for a top half of the conference finish or better. Our league is so tough from top to bottom; you just never know how the season will play out. We need to stay healthy and win the close games,” Berkoff said.

Captains leading the Falcons this year are seniors Aaron Anderson, Brian Kimble, Shane Manor, and junior Ollie White. Manor was named a Pre-season All-American by D3 Hoops, which is a Division III basketball information source. All-Americans are voted on by sports information directors. Manor said he is honored to receive this but all that matters is how the team does.

Berkoff said there were four good seniors last year and they will need players to step up in those leadership roles. The team has four starters returning, and center Wade Guerin returning from an injury that caused him to miss the 2010-11 season. Guerin was honorable mention all-conference his last season in 2009-10.

The team finished the season last year with a 20-8 record and ended their season with a loss against Illinois Wesleyan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, according to the UWRF Athletic website. This was the first time the Falcons made an appearance at the national 61-team tournament. Kimble said this year will hopefully be like last year, but with a better ending.

“We lost a few big games towards the end of the season so this year we cannot let that happen again. It was nice to make it to the conference finals and to the national tournament but as a team we want to win it this year,” Kimble said.

Kimble and Manor said this year will be a reloading year for the team. Kimble said with some starters coming back, and good transfers, as well as freshman, will make the team more complete and ready for the task at hand. Berkoff said some new players to look out for to contribute are Chris Palmer, Ethan Thomforde, Taylor Peterson and Colin Utke.

Manor said as a team they want to enjoy the season as a whole, win the conference and do the best they can in the NCAA tournament.

“We have a lot of experience back and know what it will take to get back to that point and hopefully further, but with that we will need to put in a lot of hard work and dedication in order to achieve our new goals and surpass what we did last year,” Manor said.

The Falcons have their first home game at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22 against the University of St. Thomas at the Karges Center.

“We are ready for another historic year, hopefully River Falls is ready,” Kimble said.