by Alan Babbitt
The Hope College men's basketball team is projected to be in the thick of a hotly contested race for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in the 2018-19 season.
The Flying Dutchmen — co-champions last season and winners of three consecutive league titles — finished second in the MIAA's preseason coaches poll.
Hope received three of seven possible first-place votes and totaled 43 points. The Flying Dutchmen narrowly were behind preseason favorite Trine University (44 points, three first-place votes).
Olivet College, which shared the MIAA championship with Hope last season, came in third with 41 points and two first-place votes.
Coaches could not vote for their own teams.
The Flying Dutchmen return four starters from last season's team that had a 19-10 overall record and a 10-4 mark in MIAA play. Hope advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament before losing to Augustana College (Illinois).
Senior guard Jason Beckman of Shelby, Michigan (Shelby HS) is the top returner for the Flying Dutchmen. He averaged 20.8 points per MIAA game while leading the MIAA in free-throw shooting at 93.0 percent during league play and placing fifth in 3-point shooting at 43.0 percent.
Hope's other returning starters are senior forwards Teddy Ray of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Homestead), and Dennis Towns of Flint, Michigan (Powers Catholic), and sophomore center Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian).
The Flying Dutchmen tip off the 2018-19 season on Friday-Saturday, November 16-17 at the North Park University (Illinois) Tournament.