The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team will enter the season with plenty of people watching after the NJCAA men’s basketball pre-season polls were released Monday.
The Cougars, who captured the Region IX title a year ago and went 1-1 at the national tournament, enter the season ranked 14th in the nation.
WNCC will open the season this week when they travel to Riverton, Wyoming, for games on Thursday and Friday. WNCC opens Thursday against Central Wyoming College before facing No. 3 College of Southern Idaho on Friday.
WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer said his team is ready, somewhat.
“We have not put a whole of stock in either team,” he said. “We are focused on what our team has to do offensively and defensively in transition with communication. It is for them to go out and enjoy themselves and play hard is the key as they compete for Western Nebraska.”
Last season WNCC finished with a 27-8 record and were 14-1 at home while averaging 95.6 points a game.
Fehrninger said he doesn’t know what it will take to win back-to-back regional titles considering he is focused on getting his team ready for the season.
“We are trying to beat Central Wyoming right now; I have no idea what it will take to repeat,” Fehringer said. “We don’t know what the league has to offer and how talented the other teams are. We just know that we have a few pieces that no other team has. I think that gives us confidence to say it is us against you.”
When WNCC opens the season Thursday, they will see a November slate of games field with competitive teams. Most of those games will be at home, too. WNCC will face No. 3 College of Southern Idaho twice on Friday and then against on Nov. 10 at Cougar Palace. They will also face No. 12 Indian Hills in a home and away series with Indian Hills making a trip to Cougar Palace on Nov. 23 and 24 for the Thanksgiving Classic.
WNCC will battle No. 8 Salt Lake Community College at Cougar Palace on Nov. 9 as well as facing No. 20-Division II ranked Iowa Lakes Community College on the road.
“If there was a time to face adversity, I would say doing it at home is a lot better than doing it on the road,” Fehringer said. “These boys will at least have a chance to have the support at Cougar Palace, the community of Scottsbluff which always gives us a little extra juice when we are in the Palace.”
Northwest Florida State, who defeated the Cougars at the national tournament 109-91 a year ago, is the pre-season No. 1 ranked team followed by South Plains, Southern Idaho, Coffeyville Kansas, and Eastern Florida State.
The top 10 is rounded out with Vincennes at No. 6 followed by Odessa, Salt Lake, Hutchinson, and Florida Southwestern State. Holmes Community College, who the Cougars beat in the first-round of nationals last year 87-73, is 13th in the nation, just one slot ahead of WNCC on the pre-season ladder.
The first regular season poll will be released December 4. By then the Cougars will have played 11 games. WNCC opens the home season Wednesday, Nov. 7 against Colby Community College at 6 p.m.