The 2023-2024 season is underway and this is a great opportunity to breakdown the central region and what to expect. The Central region consists of: University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL), University of Wisconsin Platteville (UWP), Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW), University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign (UIUC), and University of Wisconsin Stout (Stout). Let’s take a look below at the region.
Nebraska- Final Four Bound?
Analysis: It is not out of the realm for UNL to think that they could make the final four this year. At last year’s nationals, they played extremely well and only lost to the eventual champions Michigan State. They are only losing a few players from last year and their returners only seem to get better and better each season. They learned a lot from last season’s mistakes and will correct them. They will put the pressure on their opponents and make a run for the title. The Cornhuskers are a very athletic team and one of the best catching teams in the country and that is not changing anytime soon.
Key Contributors & Departures: UNL has most of their team returning, but lose big time players like Colby Chohrach, Tre Sumrall, and Tommy Eggert. However, they still have players Noah Willey, Caleb Fowler, and Dillion Mundy, which means the talent drop off is not far and with some new recruits they will easily fill those shoes and be as much of a problem as they were last year.
Platteville- Consistency will be Key
Analysis: For UWP to compete, they need to be more disciplined and play with more confidence. Last season they would be playing well and all of a sudden things would take a turn and they would forget to stick to the game plan. The Pioneers know what needs to be done and need to trust in their abilities to do it. They also need to reduce injuries as that hurt them more than anything at the end of the season. If they bring in a big recruiting class, they should be able to fix some of these issues and see some success.
Key Contributors & Departures: UWP loses Adam Ebert and Austin Kurey, this season, and Eli Huntley after the fall semester. All three were big time players in arm strength and catching ability. These are shoes that will need to be filled if Platteville is going to compete. The Pioneers will need players like Cody Baxter, Zak Lathrop, Dylan Fabry, and Andrew Jones to step up and be bigger contributors on the court. Players like Caleb Newell and Tomas Zander will be around, but they need to be able to count on these individuals to hang tough and get outs when they are not on the court.
Concordia- Bring on the Wins!
Analysis: Last season the Falcons got their first win under their belt at nationals and expect that to be a continued trend for them. With a year of experience, they now know what they have to do to get a win. They have the athletes and talent. It is now just putting it together and getting some hungry new recruits and they will hit their stride.
Key Contributors & Departures: For the most part, this is a new team so we shouldn’t expect too many departures. They will still have Connor Knott leading the charge and he has improve a lot since last year so expect him to keep his team on track and push them to get better to get wins.
Illinois- More Tournaments!
Analysis: They were a new team on the scene last year and were only able to come out to the last tournament of the year before nationals. For Illinois, their goal will be to just get out to more tournaments and get the experience they need in order to pick up their first win. It looks like they will try to get out to UWP’s tournament in the November and get those games. For this team, it feels like this will be a squad that will pick up on the game fast and make for some interesting matchups.
Key Contributors & Departures: As a new team, they will not have any key departures as they are still young and most of their players should have a few years to play yet. Charles Cardenas has been doing a great job of getting the club started and it sounds like they have been having practices with a lot of people in attendance! We look forward to seeing what they can do by the end of the season.
UW–Stout- Become an Official Club
Analysis: UW Stout is another Wisconsin team looking to be a part of the league this year. They still have several hurdles to get through, but they got the paperwork in and have the first of few meetings with the school to be approved as an official club on campus. They are hoping that they can get everything completed and hopefully make their first appearance at UWP’s home tournament in November. We are excited to see how the central region grows!
Key Contributors & Departures: Not applicable for this team, as right now they are working on doing all the recruiting they can. We are confident in their ability to succeed as a club as they have a great board set in place and their coach Jacob Sebranek is making sure they stay on task and helping them learn the game. The blue devils will be ready to compete in no time!
Central Region Superlatives
Most underrated player: Jalen Sims
Jalen is going into is junior year and has been a work horse for UWP the last few. He is quick off the attack and always comes in clutch with a big catch when it is needed. He can be counted on to keep UWP in points and is always looking to help his teammates. We expect this to be his biggest year yet.
Program on the rise: Concordia University Wisconsin
In their second year, we should see some big strides as this year they have some experience under their belts and can focus more on game strategies as they know what to look for. They are looking to get to a few events this semester, which should put them in the right spot to make a bigger jump. We look forward to the Falcons getting more wins!
Biggest Unknown: University of Wisconsin Platteville
UWP comes in losing some big players from last year’s squad and they are a very young squad. The Pioneers will be looking for the returners to step up and lead and not rely so much on their best players. If they can play with confidence, it will make the difference in whether or not they pull it all together to compete with the best.
Coach of the Year: Tre Sumrall & Dustin Sprunk (UNL)
If UNL does what they did last year and find ways to keep improving, these two will certainly be coaches of the year in the Central region. Both have a lot experience and are always looking to help their team get better. With Tre no longer playing, he can spend more time developing plans and ways to improve after each event to get the Cornhuskers to a possible final four run.
Pre-Season Power Rankings
1. Caleb Fowler (UNL)
2. Noah Willey (UNL)
3. Dillion Mundy (UNL)
4. Caleb Newell (UWP)
5. Tomas Zander (UWP)
6. Connor Knott (CUW)