ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE PREVIEW
-1. BELMONT. Last season the Bruins won 12 of their last 13 games, tied for the regular season title, and won the conference tournament before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They return three starters in Justin Hare, Boomer Herndon and Josh Goodwin. All three averaged in double figures last year, and Herndon, who is the center, was very strong on the glass. Oladapole Fagbenle should also be a big factor for the Bruins underneath. They will once again be one of the better teams in the conference and could very easily repeat as conference champions. They have a very strong and well balanced team.
-2. LIPSCOMB. The Bisons are very strong at the guard position. Eddie Ard
and Brian Fisk both return to the roster this season after averaging over 16 ppg last season. If they are week in any area it is in the paint, but around the perimeter they are very solid. Both Ard and Fisk are great at shooting it from the outside as well. Last season the Bison went 21-10 and nearly made the NCAA Tournament, but lost in overtime in the Atlantic Sun Championship game to Belmont. They will once again be one of the stronger teams in the league this year though.
-3. EAST TENNESSEE STATE. Losing Tim Smith
, who was the conference player of the year last year and one of the best players ETSU has seen in a long time, wont be easy. Brad Knuckles returns at center and he should be big for them underneath, but the only other returning starter is guard Travis Strong. He did average more than 10 ppg last year and should be a major contributor to this years team. Courtney Pigram will likely step into the starting lineup and be a major asset as well. Still, the Buccaneers appear to be in building mode. If some of their returning players who came off the bench last year can step up they could end up having a fairly decent year though.
-4. KENNESAW STATE. The Owls are a hard team to figure. They return all five starters from last season, including guards Golden Ingle and Ronell Wooten who both averaged over 15 ppg. However, they lost nine of their last ten games last season after having won seven in a row prior to going into the tank. Andre Morgan and Brent Ragsdale also averaged in double figures, so it is hard to imagine how they finished so poorly. Nevertheless, they do appear to have the experience and talent to be a force in the league this year.
-5. GARDNER WEBB. Chris Gash is the only returning starter from last years team, so the Bulldogs have a major rebuilding year on their hands. Guard Rickie McPhee should be a nice addition to the starting lineup, but other than that this team is really lacking in experience and it could be difficult for them to finish toward the top of the standings.
-6. CAMPBELL. The Camels were 9-11 in conference play last year, which is a major improvement from the 0-20 year they had the previous year. They did lose two contributing starters and may have trouble building on that this year, but they do have two very good guards in Eric Smith (16.8ppg) and Ledell Eckles (9.9 ppg). They dont appear to be very strong underneath though and that could be a problem, but this is a team that is slowly building themselves up.
-7. STETSON. The Hatters lose four starters off of last years team, which struggled for most of the season, but really got hot late and won 12 of 13 before losing in the conference semifinals. Gabe McMillen will be returning at guard and the team will likely look to him for leadership. Garfield Blair could also get a starting position out on the perimeter. Other than that the Hatters appear to lack experience and it could be a long year for them.
-8. NORTH FLORIDA. The Ospreys have one of the more interesting nicknames in college basketball, but on the floor its been a major struggle for a team who has only been a member of div1 for two seasons. They do have a very good forward in Rashad Williams (16.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) but other than that they are lacking in talent and experience. They are still feeling the growing pains of making the jump to div1. They won just four games last year and should improve on that, but not to the extent to where theyll be a force in this league.
-9. MERCER. The Bears gave up over 80 ppg last year, and really need to improve their defense this year if they want to be competitive. They do have two starters returning in Sam Dolan (forward) and Montavious Waters (guard) but other than that they appear to be lacking in more areas than they are strong.
-10. JACKSONVILLE. The Dolphins won just one game last year and were one of the worst teams in all of div1 college basketball. Forward Marcus Allen, who averaged over 11 points and 6 rebounds a game last year, returns, but other than that they dont appear to be all that strong in any particular area. Still, it will be difficult to be as bad as they were a season ago.
RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH
-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnt all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.
1. East Tennessee State
2. North Florida
4. Gardner Webb
8. Kennesaw State
-Please feel free to send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether its good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as its constructive.