GREAT FALLS — The 2023-24 college basketball season is rapidly approaching as three of the six Frontier Conference teams will begin their non-conference schedules on Oct. 27.
During the conference’s media day, which was held Tuesday via Zoom, the preseason coaches poll was released with two-time defending champion Montana Tech as the favorite to three-peat.
The Orediggers are returning all five of last year's starters, including preseason MVP Caleb Bellach and 2022-23 newcomer of the year Asa Williams. Tech finished its 2022-23 season in the elite eight of the NAIA national tournament.
"We really like our team," said Tech head coach Adam Hiatt. "We're excited about all the returning players we have along with our new incoming freshmen. It's a good group. We have nine of our top 10 minutes played from last year returning, all five returning starters."
The only other team to receive a first-place vote was Rocky Mountain College. The Battlin' Bears are returning 10 players from last year, including preseason all-conference players Kale Robinson and Maxim Stephens. Rocky will be looking to win its first Frontier Conference title since 2014 under the lead of Bill Dreikosen, who is entering his 24th season as the head coach. Dreikosen is the only coach to have led a men's Frontier team to an NAIA national championship, which he did during the 2008-09 season.
Third place in the poll is MSU-Northern. Head coach Shawn House is in his 22nd season with the Lights. This year's roster is mixed with a good amount of returners and a handful of new additions. Following them in fourth place is last year's tournament runner-up, Providence.
The Argos are one of three teams that will enter the season with a new head coach. Following the departure of Steve Keller, J.C. Isakson came over from the women’s side at Providence. He’ll be taking over a team that is returning 12 of its 15 guys from the previous year. One of the returners will be all-conference guard Davien Harris-Williams, and Isakson said the team has added four instant impact transfers.
Rounding out the coaches poll are Carroll College and Montana Western. Both squads will be introducing new head coaches this season — Ryan Lundgren at Carroll and Patrick Jensen at Western. Jensen was promoted to head coach after spending five years on the Bulldogs' staff, while Lundgren comes to Carroll with experience at numerous levels. He was most recently the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at the College of Southern Idaho before taking over the Fighting Saints.
"I think we've got a really good team," Lundgren said. "We've got a lot of guys coming back. When you look statistically, it might not be a ton of guys that put up huge numbers last year, but they're all guys that have made significant strides in the right direction. I think you're going to see a lot of guys break out this year."