By Drew Schoenbauer – [email protected]

The SJU basketball team has had quite the rollercoaster of a season.

The team has had some close wins and tough losses, but they’re still seated toward the top of the conference. They are currently sitting in fourth place behind Bethel, St. Thomas and Carleton.

ALEXUS JUNGLES • [email protected] Junior guard Patrick Strom is consistently a leading scorer for the Johnnies. He is averaging a .408 field goal percentage and a .396 three point percentage.

“We came into [the season] with a lot of people outside our team saying that it’ll be rough and not as good as last year,” junior John Oliver said. “But I feel like we’ve been doing very well so far.”

Head Coach Pat McKenzie agrees.

“It’s been a good season so far,” McKenzie said. “We’ve certainly struggled a little bit as of late in doing some things we were doing really well earlier in the year, but overall we’re in the playoffs and we have a chance to make a run.”

The MIAC has proven to be far more competitive this year than in previous seasons.

McKenzie, an ‘04 SJU graduate and former Johnnie basketball player, has noticed the leap in competitiveness this season.

“In my time in the league, and I’ve been around probably 15 years in the MIAC, it’s as good from top to bottom as it’s ever been,” McKenzie said. “Each team has at least three guys that are legit scoring threats. Whoever wins our conference is going to have at least five losses. It’s as good and balanced as I think it’s ever been.”

Oliver has noticed the change in conference toughness as well.

“In previous years there’s kind of been just two, maybe three, top teams and after that it kind of drops a little, but I feel this year it’s so spread out talent-wise,” Oliver said. “All the MIAC teams are competing every single night. You don’t really have the top teams anymore. The competitiveness of our conference has jumped a lot this year.”

Bethel and St. Thomas, the top ranked teams, have both lost five times during this season compared to last season’s winner, St. Thomas, who finished with only two losses.

With the regular season coming to a close, this could potentially lead to an unpredictable post-season. However, the Johnnies are still confident in their abilities to do well for themselves.

“I think if we can tighten up some things we’re trying to do defensively, I like our chances,” McKenzie said. “I think we’ve got a good group, I think we can play with anybody in the league and we’ve shown that. Just get some things tightened up at the right time and we have a chance to make a run.”

At 3 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 18, the Johnnies will travel to St. Mary’s to play their final regular season game before playoffs.

“In my mind there’s still a lot of season left to play,” Oliver said. “It’s time to get the guys rolling for playoff time and make some magic happen.”