By Tim Gutowski Published Nov 23, 2004 at 5:21 AM

{image1} Over the last several years, local college basketball fans have grown accustomed to success. In fact, they've come to expect it.

If you're one of them, the 2004-'05 season should not be disappointing. Wisconsin is ranked in the Top 25 and is expected to challenge for another Big Ten title. Marquette is intent on returning to the NCAA Tournament in its last campaign in Conference USA. And UW-Milwaukee is the defending Horizon League champ and picked to claim the league title this season.

While Marquette and UWM will not meet in the regular season, Wisconsin hosts the Panthers and visits the Golden Eagles next month, allowing alumni and fans a chance to compare notes and talent. And there is no lack of the latter. Below is my local All-Star team, comprised of players from the state's three best programs (with apologies to UW-Green Bay).

Point Guard
This one is too easy. Marquette's Travis Diener will go down as the school's best point guard ever, including Doc Rivers. Last season, Diener became the first player to lead C-USA in both scoring (18.8) and assists (6.0) in the same campaign. He also demonstrated his tenacity when he returned from a scary whiplash incident in January to barely miss a beat. In MU's first five games this year, Diener averaged 22 points and 6.2 assists. While the scoring numbers will hopefully come down as his teammates improve, don't expect a letdown from the 6-1 senior.

Shooting Guard
While this category partially hinges on what position MU's Steve Novak actually plays (shooting guard? small forward? designated shooter?), UWM's Ed McCants has the goods to claim the category. McCants is 6-3 but plays bigger. He averaged 17.1 ppg in his maiden season at UWM as a junior, and he's expected to vie for Horizon League POY honors. He's outstanding from outside (42.8 percent from three-point range) and can finish with authority. His dribble penetration isn't as strong as the rest of his game, but he could be the most explosive player in the state.

Small Forward
This decision came down to two Tuckers: Alando at UW and Joah at UWM. I'll give the nod to the former. Alando Tucker missed all but four games with a foot injury last year, but if he returns to his impressive freshman form, coach Bo Ryan will be thrilled. The 6-5 leaper scored 12.0 ppg and pulled down 5.9 rpg in 2002-'03. Like Joah in Milwaukee, Alando uses an assortment of offensive moves to get his points. But he does his work mostly in the paint, while Joah tends to work from 12-to-15 feet. With the loss of Devin Harris to the pros, Tucker's scoring numbers should rise. His health is key to the Badgers' conference chances.

Power Forward
This is probably the least accomplished position in-state, but we'll give the nod to versatile UW senior Zach Morley. The JUCO transfer matured quickly when Tucker was injured last year, and he finished third on the team in both scoring (8.9) and rebounding (5.8). His wild 'do earned a mention on every Badgers telecast, and his overall floor game justified the attention. Morley won't back down bulky four-types in the paint, but he will get his points, get to the free-throw line and make the quality pass.

Another easy one, despite the fact that the winner isn't a traditional center. And although he's not a typical pivot man, Mike Wilkinson may be the best basketball player in the state. Wilkinson averaged 13.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg to earn second-team All-Big Ten accolades last year, and he should be a first-team selection this time around. Extremely durable inside despite his 6-8 frame, Wilkinson gets to the line and is a tremendous offensive rebounder. He's also the team's senior leader now that Harris is a Dallas Maverick. The Blue Mounds, Wis. product is a joy to watch for any college basketball aficionado.

Newcomer of the Year
Because incoming freshmen (or JUCO transfers) are difficult to count on, I'll simply provide a few to watch. UW redshirt frosh Brian Butch is probably the most heralded. At 6-11, he gives the Badgers the size inside to offset an inexperienced backcourt. At Marquette, 6-8 freshman Ryan Amoroso will get a chance to fill the vacuum inside left by departed center Scott Merritt. Amoroso averaged 24.1 ppg and 12.2 rpg while leading Burnsville HS to a Minnesota state title last year. And closer to home, Wauwatosa East product Allan Hanson could make a splash at point guard for UWM. There's still a chance the 6-footer could redshirt, but he did tally five assists in 13 minutes in UWM's season-opening win over Prairie View A&M.

Best Coach
With Tom Crean, Bruce Pearl and Bo Ryan on the ballot, this is a difficult choice. But for his astounding results, the nod goes to Ryan. Ryan has led the Badgers to two regular-season and one post-season conference title in his three seasons. His teams have never lost a conference home game at the Kohl Center. Need more? He's also the winningest Division III coach ever (.822 winning percentage at UW-Platteville). To match him, Pearl will have to take his Panthers to the NCAAs again -- and win a game upon arrival. And Crean will have to end MU's C-USA run with a 20-win season and a return to the Sweet 16.

In a tight race between McCants and Wilkinson, I'll give my Most Valuable Collegian award to Diener. Dwyane Wade may have been sensational, but the Golden Eagles wouldn't have won their NCAA opener two years ago without the incredible shooting and moxie of Diener. He was a one-man show last season, and his 34-point effort against Air Force last week shows that he's back -- and he's bigger and better than in his previous three seasons. If he gets some help, it could be a special season at the Bradley Center.

Sports shots columnist Tim Gutowski was born in a hospital in West Allis and his sporting heart never really left. He grew up in a tiny town 30 miles west of the city named Genesee and was in attendance at County Stadium the day the Brewers clinched the 1981 second-half AL East crown. I bet you can't say that.

Though Tim moved away from Wisconsin (to Iowa and eventually the suburbs of Chicago) as a 10-year-old, he eventually found his way back to Milwaukee. He remembers fondly the pre-Web days of listenting to static-filled Brewers games on AM 620 and crying after repeated Bears' victories over the Packers.