The men’s basketball team has been picked by the Midwest Conference coaches to finish fifth in conference this season. This ranking comes as a surprise to the Vikings, who won the Midwest Conference and the MWC Playoffs last year and have earned a berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament in each of the last two years. The Vikings, then ranked 18th in nation, were eliminated from last year’s NCAA tournament in the final seconds of the first round by Washington University, who would go on to win the national title. However, the Vikings have dropped in the polls after the graduation of All-American guard Ryan Kroeger, who finished his Lawrence career as the No. 3 scorer in school history. This year, Lawrence received several votes for a top-25 position in the country but still sits toward the bottom of the “others receiving votes” section of the national poll. When asked about the pre-season poll, Vikings forward John Dekker commented, “Regardless of what the polls say, we still have a target on our backs.” While fellow senior Jamie DeMatthew added, “That’s just the nature of the beast.” The Vikings return seniors DeMatthew, Dekker, Tyler Culitan, Dustin Lee, Yui Ueno, and Drew Shaw, though Lee will be facing a month on the sidelines, as he broke his hand during a pre-season game against Milwaukee School of Engineering. Returning juniors Jon Mays, Erik Borresen, and sophomore Tyler Crisman will also be playing vital roles this season. The Vikings also welcome a small freshman class consisting of Josh Ward, Connor Klusendorf and Scott Beauchamp. The Vikings will start their season with a difficult opening week, facing five opponents in seven days. The Lawrence season will start against the Marian University Knights, who will travel to Alex Gym Nov. 17.