Rio Grande cracks NAIA top 25 poll

Published 1:11 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rio Grande SID


RIO GRANDE — For the first time in almost five years, the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball team can call itself a Top 25 squad.

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The RedStorm were ranked No. 20 in the latest NAIA Division I Coaches Poll released Tuesday night by the national office in Kansas City, Mo.

Rio Grande, which currently sits at 13-5 overall and 6-1 against Mid-South Conference opponents, 102 points in the balloting of a panel of head coaches representing each of the division’s 10 conference and unaffiliated groups.

It marks Rio’s first appearance in the Top 25 since the RedStorm was ranked No. 17 in the January 19, 2009 NAIA Division II poll when the school was a member of the now-defunct America Mideast Conference.

Head coach Ken French’s RedStorm has won six straight outings, including a 132-121 double-overtime triumph over Campbellsville University on Saturday. It was the highest scoring game in terms of combined points in Rio Grande history and is the highest-scoring game in NAIA Division I thus far this season.

Former Ironton All-Ohio junior standout Travis Elliott is a co-captain for the RedStorm.

Rio Grande returns to the court on Thursday night, traveling to No. 4 University of Pikeville, last week’s top-ranked team.

In addition to Rio, Pikeville is one of three other MSC teams to appear in this week’s Top 25. Defending national champion Georgetown jumped from 18th into a tie for 11th this week, while St. Catharine dropped from 14th place into a tie for 24th.

The RedStorm has posted wins over Georgetown and St. Catharine during the course of their current winning streak.

SAGU (Texas) is the new top-ranked team this week, earning seven first-place votes and moving up from second place.

Cal State-San Marcos, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), Pikeville and Evangel (Mo.) round out the top five.

All 10 conferences and independents are represented in this week’s poll. The Golden State Athletic Conference and the Mid-South Conference lead all leagues with four teams apiece.