The Pittsburg State Gorillas came in tied for fifth in the MIAA preseason coaches poll and seventh in the media poll, as the conference released its polls Wednesday in conjunction with MIAA Men’s Basketball Virtual Media Day.

The Pittsburg State Gorillas came in tied for fifth in the MIAA preseason coaches and seventh in the media poll, as the conference released its polls Wednesday in conjunction with MIAA Men’s Basketball Virtual Media Day.

Pitt State finished 13-13 overall last season and missed the postseason after starting its season 12-6, losing seven of its last eight contests on the back end of its  conference schedule.

The Gorillas return seniors Eric Ray, Adrian Herrera, Eric Marshall, Drake Green and Andra Bailey, as well as juniors Courtney Ingram and JaVon McGee. Bailey and Ray earned All-MIAA honorable mention for their play last season.

“Definitely our experience, returning lettermen, returning starters and the kids who got a lot of experience last year will definitely be a factor for us,” Pitt State men’s basketball coach Kevin Muff said. “I think we’re a very athletic team, we can get up and down the floor offensively and we’ve got a variety of different ways to score the basketball, which will help us. And probably defensive . . . we have the opportunity to be a very aggressive defensive team this year.”

Starting point guard Ray led Pitt State with 12.2 points and 2.7 assists per game, and he shot 78.7 percent in free throws, 49.0 percent field goals and 47.5 percent behind the arc. Marshall averaged 9.8 points and 4.0 rebounds, Bailey 9.2 points and 8.2 rebounds, Ingram 9.0 points and 3.3 rebounds, McGee 8.8 points and 7.0 rebounds, Green 6.4 points and Herrera 5.3 points.

Last year’s biggest Gorilla — 6-foot-8, 275-pound forward Chris Ware — transferred to NAIA program Indiana Tech in May. Ware averaged 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot 53.9 percent field goals and 76.5 free throws during his 18.6 minutes per game last season.
“We’re not a very big team and we don’t have a true ‘five-man’ like we did last year,” Muff said. “We’ll have trouble matching up with big players on other teams in our league . . . I think it can pose problems for them as well, so it can be a negative and a positive on both ends.”

Despite any height disadvantage last season, Pitt State outrebounded its opponents, 964-807.

This year’s tallest Gorillas are 6-6 — McGee, redshirt junior Arjok Guguai and incoming freshman Jake Ediger.

Pitt State made 34.1 percent of its 3-point attempts last season — paced by Herrera (33 makes) and Ray (29 makes).

“We’re not a great 3-point shooting team, we weren’t last year, but that’s something we’ve tried to strengthen through recruiting and hopefully we’ll get some production from behind the 3-point line as well,” Muff said.

The Gorillas outscored their opponents 964-891 in the first half, but opponents turned it around in the second half for a 1,005-989 advantage. Pitt State averaged 17.4 turnovers and forced opponents into 16.7 turnovers per contest.

Conference rival Missouri Southern (26-5 overall, 19-3 conference last season) received a total of 18 top spot nods in the polls — 11 media votes and seven coaches.

Explosive, high-rising swingman Jason Adams (6-5, 187 senior from Carthage, Mo.) and sophomore guard Marquis Addison highlight returning players for Southern head coach Robert Corn. Australian native Christian Salecich transferred from Saint Louis University, where he played two seasons for head coach Rick Majerus and scored 6.4 points per game his freshman year.


2011-12 MIAA Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll
No.    Team (1st Place Votes)    Points
1.    Missouri Southern (7)   97
2.    Central Missouri (4)      92
3.    Fort Hays State            70
4.    Washburn                     68
T5.    Northwest Missouri     64
T5.    Pittsburg State            64
7.    Missouri Western          44
8.    Southwest Baptist         40
9.    Emporia State               36
10.    Truman                       20
11.    Lincoln                        10

MIAA Men’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll
1.    Missouri Southern (11) 141
2.    Central Missouri (1)      117
3.    Fort Hays State            114
4.    Washburn                     112
T5.    NW Missouri (1)         77
T5.    Missouri Western       77
7.    Pittsburg State             72
8.    Emporia State              56
9.    Southwest Baptist        53
10.    Truman                      26
11.    Lincoln                       13