Who are they?
Augstana College is a small Division III school in Rock Island, Illinois. The Vikings compete in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, which includes schools like North Central College, Illinois Wesleyan University and Elmhurst College.
What did they do last year?
In their conference and division, the Vikings had an excellent season in 2016. They finished the year with a 24-9 record, going 11-5 in the CCIW. Augustana had an incredible postseason as well, moving through the Division III tournament all the way to the title game.
Although Augustana lost 79-78 to Babson College (it’s in Massachusetts — don’t worry, I had to look it up), I think Vikings fans would agree that the season was a great success.
Key losses, Key returners
Augustana is returning most of its leading offensive threats from a year ago. Junior guard Chrishawn Orange led the team with 16.4 points per game in 2016-17 and was fifth in the conference, as well.
In addition, Dylan Sortillo (11.3 points per game) and Nolan Ebel (3 assists per game) return to the team just a year after they made their way to the Division III championship game.
The piece that Augustana will be missing from the 2016-17 season is Jacob Johnston. Johnston, who graduated, was second on the team with 13.1 points per game and first in rebounding at just under 6 per game. He was listed at 6-foot-5, but his time on the floor should be filled pretty easily by guys like Sortillo and Ebel.
Augustana will be an interesting team to watch this Wednesday against Illinois at the State Farm Center. Its most important returning players are all guards and listed at 6-foot-3 or shorter. That’s not to say there is a lack of size on their roster; the Vikings have eight players listed at 6-foot-7 or above. Most of them are underclassmen or relatively inexperienced, so it will be interesting to see how guys like senior AJ Dollmeyer (6-foot-9, 260 pounds) matches up in the post. Dollmeyer did average 1.69 offensive rebounds per game last year (top 10 in the CCIW), but he was gathering in less than four rebounds per game.
The guy that Underwood will need to keep under control is Chrishawn Orange. As a sophomore, he was a top scorer in the league and will be the best player on a Vikings team with plenty of returning players.
Orange is having a similar year already in 2017. His numbers haven’t increased a ton — he is scoring 16.7 points — but he is also notching over five boards per game and has shot 50 percent from three so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Underwood rotated between Da’Monte Williams and Mark Smith guarding him on defense to try and shut him down.
Out of all the games leading up to Big Ten play, this game is the most winnable for Underwood and the Illini.
Don’t be fooled — this is a very solid Augustana team, one of the best Division III teams in the country. That being said, the Vikings are still a Division III school. Illinois should be able to out-muscle and out-hustle the Vikings fairly convincingly. It may even provide a chance for guys like Trent Frazier and Da’Monte to have a breakout game and for the Illini to top the century mark for the second time this season.