Having postseason expectations, not just hopes, show how far Colorado College men’s basketball progressed this season.
The second-seed Tigers enter this weekend’s Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament expecting to win the six-team league’s postseason title and automatically advance to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 2004.
In the recent past, CC (15-10, 11-4 SCAC) hoped to play well and pull off a couple of upsets. The Tigers expect better after their best season since a 17-8 mark in 1992-93.
The runner-up finish gives CC a bye into Saturday’s semifinal against the winner between host Austin and No. 3 seed Dallas. The Tigers won two of three games against four league foes, including top seed Trinity (Texas), and swept No. 5 Centenary (La.) during the regular season.
“Hopefully we can build on that and get a spot in the Big Dance,” Tigers sophomore forward Chris Lesnansky said.
The keys to CC’s success are the scoring depth from freshmen Justin Berardino, Tyler Jonas, James Lonergan, Juwan Rohan and Luke Winfield, the leadership of junior guard Ryan Milne (14.2 points, SCAC-best 4.6 assists), and a strong inside game.
“We are the deepest we have been in my time here,” said Milne, who was named to the national D3hoops.com team of the week after his 60-foot, game-winning buzzer-beater Saturday lifted CC into second. “When the freshmen are hitting their shots, we are hard to stop.”
Milne, a 2011-12 D3hoops.com all-West Region honoree, is a potent outside threat. Lesnansky (team-high 15.4 points, 7 rebounds) and senior Ian Rewoldt (9.1 points, SCAC-best 8.4 rebounds) give the Tigers a strong frontline.
“What I dreamed of since coming here is having a balanced attack,” sixth-year coach Andy Partee said. “We absolutely do with Milne and Lesnansky. Rewoldt has a knack for getting rebounds.”
Continuing this successful season with a league tournament title is no longer just a hope.
“There is no reason to think we cannot win it,” Lesnansky said.
The Tigers women enter their SCAC tournament at the same site as No. 6 seed. They play No. 3 Austin at 2 p.m. Friday.