For the first time in over two decades, the Buena Vista men's basketball team will have a new voice leading its program, and the team is eager to get its 2018-19 season underway.
Todd Lorensen takes over as head coach of the team this season and brings with him a great deal of recent success. Prior to arriving on campus late last spring, Lorensen guided Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, to a third-place national finish in 2018 after leading the team to the junior college national championship a year earlier. In his four years at SWCC, Lorensen posted a 113-25 overall record, including a 65-9 clip the last two seasons.
As he takes over the Beaver program, he's excited for what is ahead and leading Buena Vista going forward.
"Our staff has been very pleased with our progress through the first three weeks of practice," Lorensen says. "We have made progress every single day which is a good sign. If that continues throughout the season it will put our team in a position to have success in game action. This level has tremendous coaching and I'm excited to be challenged as a program every time out on the court."
"There have been plenty of positives to point to so far," he adds. "Our guys have had a great mindset each day to work hard and improve. When our staff can coach technique and detail as opposed to effort and focus it makes a huge difference. I like the versatility of our team. We have a lot of talented players and I think we can match a variety of different schemes based on what our opponents' strengths and weaknesses are. We can overload the floor with shooters, we can play a line up with more athleticism."
BVU is coming off a 17-9 campaign a year ago, including a third-place conference finish where it went 10-6. The team will face the challenge of replacing its top-four point scorers from that team that averaged 84.3ppg and its top-four rebounders. Junior Timothy Jeffries is the leading returning point scorer at 9.3ppg and rebounder (3.1rpg). Senior Connor Winkelman looks to bring his veteran leadership to the forefront after averaging 7.8 points per game and dishing out 70 assists last season. Sophomore Michael Demers appeared in 17 games off the bench for the team a year ago and played nearly 10 minutes per outing. He played a strong second-half of the year and finished with 4.5 points per game and made 10-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc.
"Our two returning starters have done a great job of setting the tone and helping everyone," says Lorensen. "I dont buy into the captain concept very much and haven't mentioned it to this team once. On great teams, they know without being told."
Despite the low number of returning experience, Lorensen still has a number of players returning this season that have made an impact on the varsity reserve team, and also has a number of newcomers added to the roster. He is excited about the group in general and says there are several that will step in and make impacts.
"We have thirteen to fourteen guys who are in contention for extended playing time," he says. "That has made for a great competitive environment throughout practice. Robert Hawkins has probably been our most consistent incoming player, and we feel he can become one of the best players in the conference over time.
"Our roster doesn't have much height which would generally be considered a weakness but our style of play will help minimize those concerns. Our biggest weakness right now is a lack of a familiarity. Everything is new to our players, and for me the league is new and provides a lot of unknowns or questions. It is going to take time this season, and our goal is to be peaking in late January."
BVU was picked seventh by the league coaches in the annual preseason coaches poll. The Beavers have made the conference tournament in each year of its existence. Lorensen knows the American Rivers Conference is a tough league to play in, but is excited for how his squad will match-up against other conference foes.
"The league is really good from top to bottom," he states. "Nebraska Wesleyan and Loras have set themselves apart coming into the season, and after that, you could make an argument for a lot of teams. As the league has shown in recent years anyone can beat anyone which will make for an exciting league battle. I think our goal will be to survive the first half of conference play and be ready to make a run from there."
The Beavers will play their first American Rivers Conference game on November 28 when they host Coe College. They will also play at both Loras and Simpson prior to Christmas. In addition to a tough conference slate, Lorensen has his squad playing a tough non-conference schedule as well leading up to A-R-C play. It will officially tip-off the season at home against Bethany Luther on Thursday, November 15, before hosting Gustavus Adolphus and Elmhurst the following week. In between those three contests, is a road game at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
"We open with two returning NCAA tournament teams and Stevens Point is top-ten in most, if not all national polls," Lorensen adds. "It will give us an early litmus test for who we are and where we are, but win or lose we need to focus on getting better each day and trust that our team will be playing its best when it really counts."
Prior to opening the season, BVU will also play a pair of tough exhibition games. The Beavers will travel to Drake on Thursday, November 8 for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off against the Bulldogs before turning right around the following afternoon and playing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha at 12:00 p.m.
"It's a great opportunity for our program to play on a big stage in the state of Iowa," says Lorensen, regarding his team's match-up at Drake. "I have tremendous respect for the Drake staff and the program they are building. It will be fun to see our guys compete every possession."
Thursday night's game against Drake will be televised nationally on ESPN+ A local radio broadcast will also be available at 97.5FM KBVU.