St. Thomas Tommies
December 14, 2023, Fiserv Forum
Head Coach: (246-87 overall, 28-33 in Division I)
Two-Year NET Average: 255.0
Two-Year kenpom Average: 253.5
Projected 2023-24 T-Rank: 239
Projected Starters: PG Raheem Anthony (6'4" 5th), SG Brooks Allen (6'7" 5th), SF Kendall Blue (6'6" So), PF Parker Bjorklund (6'6" 5th), C Ahjany Lee (6'9" So)
Photo from St. Thomas Athletics
The Tommies 2022-23 season showed massive improvement from their debutant season in Division I. They jumped more than 100 spots in kenpom from 305 to 202, more than doubled their Summit League win total from 4 to 9, and posted their first winning record at 19-14. They did lose two of their top-three scorers in fifth year senior Riley Miller and standout freshman Andrew Rohde, but the bulk of their team is back and looking to improve once again.
Replacing Rohde at the point is the hardest task. Raheem Anthony is a D3 up-transfer that was third nationally in scoring at 24.6 ppg. Anthony had a ton of D1 interest, but he was a former opponent of St. Thomas while at St. Mary's (MN) in the MIAC so they are familiar with his game and ability. He's joined by a trio of proven wings. Brooks Allen, Kendall Blue, and Parker Bjorklund all have length and inside-out scoring ability. Ahjany Lee had a solid freshman campaign and got better as the season went on, putting up better efficiency and rebounding in league play. The bench has a number of options, with Ben Nau and Ryan Dufault both experienced back court options and Courtney Brown giving Tauer a versatile wing off the bench.
Offensively, the Tommies are transitioning nicely to D1. After a year where they pretty much just protected the ball and bombed threes, they recruited additional length and strength. They were still great at protecting the ball, but the physicality allowed them to attack the interior more and put more pressure on the defense as they got to the line more often. Defensively, Lee is the centerpiece as the team's primary rim protector. However, their wings all have the ability to guard up which allows them to switch positionally. That said, none of the Summit League teams ranked in the top-100 defensively per kenpom, and only 2/10 were in the top-200, so that is definitely their weakness.
Two years ago, the Tommies were picked to finish last in the Summit and came in 8th. Last year, they were picked 8th and finished 4th. They will again be looking to overachieve and have the experience and talent to do just that. Bjorklund, Allen, and Blue is an excellent core to build around and Anthony is the type of player that could make an immediate impact at the D1 level. Tauer has proven to be a capable coach thus far and while the Tommies are still in the transition phase, there's no reason they can't compete for a regular season Summit League crown. This is a dangerous guarantee game as the Tommies had a lead in Omaha over Creighton with less than 10 minutes to go in last year's opener. At worst, this is a perfectly fine opponent, at best, they have Quadrant 3 upside.
Marquette Connection: From Fall 2017 through Spring 2021, the Brookfield Central Lancers went 85-17. The driving force behind that team was star forward David Joplin, now at Marquette, and guard Ben Nau, now at St. Thomas. They were never better than the 2020 season, when they entered the WIAA State Tournament ranked #2 in the state and were 24-1 after beating rival Brookfield East in the WIAA Sectionals. But remember, this was March 2020. "Every game from here on out, it could be our last game" said Joplin after the victory that did indeed prove to be the final game of their season due to the Coronavirus shutting down the basketball season later that night. The subsequent year, Joplin went on to be named First Team All-Conference and All-State while Nau shared All-Conference honors with his teammate. While both were standouts as teammates, they will be opponents when St. Thomas visits Fiserv.