READING -

The Alvernia men's basketball team comes into this year nationally-ranked in many preseason polls. The Crusaders return a core group of seniors and a veteran-laden starting lineup, making them the early favorites in the Commonwealth Conference.

Ranked as high as 9th in one preseason poll, the Crusaders are coming off an outstanding campaign last year. Mike Miller's team captured the conference championship and hosted its first NCAA Tournament game.

However, Alvernia's run ended in the second round, much earlier than the Crusaders anticipated. That has them coming into this season more focused and motivated than before.

Alvernia begins its season Friday night at the Franklin & Marshall Tournament against Middlebury.

Key returners: Chris Davis, Brian Parker, Kahlil Bennett, Harrison Deyo, Lamont Clark.

Key newcomers: Mike Miller, Matt O'Keefe