Washburn men’s basketball team starts off season ranked fourth

Luke Warnken

Washburn may only sport 10 teams, but the Ichabods and Lady Blues are making a bang in Division II and the MIAA. The Lady Blue volleyball team is ranked third and the Ichabod football team moved back up in the rankings to 18th. The WU soccer team has gotten back on track and is looking to finish over .500 in conference play with a postseason tournament as the cherry on top. Golf and tennis has had a successful fall season so far also. Then the NABC released the men’s preseason Division II top 25. The Washburn men’s basketball team looks to follow suit of the other WU teams as it starts the season off ranked fourth in the nation.

“Well rankings are always nice. You obviously want to  be ranked No. 1 at the end of the year,” said Bob Chipman, Washburn head coach. “It says that we had a great year last year. We have everybody back.”

Washburn will look to finish stronger this year after a disappointing early departure in last year’s NCAA tournament. The MIAA tournament champs will again be lead by NABC All-American Will McNeill. The senior average 20.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, ad 2.3 spg. McNeill broke the school record for career steals, steals in a season and average steals per game while being named to the all-region time, was an unanimous all-MIAA selection and garnished all-defense honors.

“Will is maybe the best player in Division II basketball,” said Chipman. “He’s gonna score a bunch.”

McNeill will get some help from fellow seniors, Martin Mitchell, Bobby Chipman and Zack Riggins. All four players started a majority of the game with Mitchell running the point and Riggins and Chipman banging on the boards.

“We call him [Bobby Chipman] a Washburn guy,” said Bob Chipman. “Always doing the right thing. Zach Riggins has been tremendous and Martin Mitchell is one of the best point guards we’ve had here in awhile and can’t forget Joe Smith.”

The 6-foot-9 Smith will look to fight junior Alex North for the fifth starting spot. Redshirt juniors Leon Flowers and Bryce Simmons look to chip in after sitting last year. Sophomores Kyle Wiggins and Christian Ulsaker and junior Jared Henry look to bring some help off of the bench. Washburn only added on three new players in freshmen Khai Hutchinson from Leavenworth, Kan., Colton Anderson from Lenexa, Kan., and Topeka’s own Evan Robinson. The freshman will have to learn quickly to keep up with the older Ichabods.

“Sometimes at this point of the year we’re still introducing offense,” said Chipman. “This group we got three offenses in and they’re running them pretty good. We got great seniors.”

The bullseye will be on the Bods back after a strong 25-8 2011-2012 season. Nevertheless the Ichabods know what the expectations are.

“Nothing less than a MIAA championship, that’s our short-term goal. But our long-term goal is definitely a national championship,” said McNeill. “I think that we have the keys to succeed.”