AUGUSTA, GA – For the first time, the Georgia Southwestern men’s basketball team has been named the preseason favorite in a poll of the league’s head coaches, released on Tuesday. The Hurricanes received 10 of a possible 12 first-place votes to finish with 141 points overall to outdistance second-place UNC Pembroke. Augusta State and Clayton State were tied for third place with Montevallo in fifth and USC Aiken sixth. Georgia College, Francis Marion, Columbus State, Armstrong Atlantic State, Lander, North Georgia and Flagler rounded out the voting.
The Hurricanes finished atop the PBC west division last year for the first time in school history and were a #1 seed in last season’s PBC Tournament. GSW was ranked as high as 16th nationally, finished 20-9 overall, 12-5 in league play, and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time. GSW returns three of its top four scorers off of last season's squad, including: 2011 PBC Player of the Year and All-American Phillip Brown (averaged 14.7 points and a league-best 10.9 rebounds per game), 2011 PBC Freshman of the Year Colin Slotter (led the team in scoring at 15.0 ppg), as well as 2008-09 PBC Freshman of the Year and three-year starter Evan Mobley (11.6 ppg last season). Also returning are two other letterwinners with significant starting experience in 6-foot-6 forward Matt Shaw and 6-foot-3 guard Bobby Glover. Marlon Rivera from Florida Gulf Coast University and fellow NCAA Division I and Atlantic Sun transfer 6-foot-10 center Milos Kleut from Lipscomb University headlined the Blue & Gold's 2011-12 recruiting class.
UNC Pembroke reached the PBC Tournament championship game for the first time in school history and had their first winning record since 1999-2000 as they went 16-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play last year. UNCP also reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history. Preseason all-America selection Shahmel Brackett will headline a long list of contributing returnees for the Braves. Brackett led the team with 15.3 points per game last season and connected on nearly 42 percent (155-for-370) of his shots from the field, including a 36.6 percent (52-for-142) accuracy from the perimeter. George Blakeney led the team in rebounding a year ago with 6.4 boards per contest, including nearly three offensive rebounds per outing. Brackett and Blakeney are two of nine returning letterwinners from last year’s team, joining forward Nathan Priest and seniors Mike Robinson and Cody Hughes.
Augusta State won their third consecutive PBC Championship (fourth in the last five years) and their second PBC Tournament in the last three years in 2010-11. After making three straight trips to the NCAA Elite Eight, the Jaguars streak was broken as they reached the NCAA Southeast Region finals for the fourth straight time. The Jags return two starters (senior guards O'Neal Armstrong and Tye Beal) and four letterwinners (juniors Kyle Armour and Travis Keels), along with redshirt freshmen Charles Robinson and Devon Wright-Nelson. Coach Dip Metress has hit the recruiting trail hard, bringing in eleven newcomers, including eight true freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
Another coach and team busy with recruiting was Gordon Gibbons and the Clayton State Lakers. After finishing in a tie for second in the west division with a 10-7 league mark, 19-10 overall, Gibbons has brought in a huge recruiting class that includes three Division I transfers – guards Anthony Salter (Hawaii), Tony Dukes (USC Upstate) and Teandre Williams (Oregon). Also new to the Laker fold this season is senior point guard Bradley Tumer, a transfer from Division II Carson-Newman who finished fourth in the nation last season in assists. The Lakers also return starters Torrin Greene and Juron Dobbs, who are among the five letterwinners returning this year.
The 2011-12 season will begin on Nov. 11 with conference play beginning on Nov. 30 and continuing on through the PBC Tournament. The tournament returns to Columbus, Ga., and the Frank G. Lumpkin, Jr. Arena March 1-4. Columbus State also hosted the PBC Tournament in 2002 and 2003.
The 2011-12 preseason poll is listed below. Teams were given 12 points for a first-place vote, 11 for a second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.
A team-by-team preview of the 2011-12 season can be seen here.
|1. Georgia Southwestern||10||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||141|
|2. UNC Pembroke||1||5||2||0||3||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||118|
|t3. Augusta State||1||2||4||3||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||115|
|t3. Clayton State||1||2||3||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||115|
|6. USC Aiken||0||0||1||1||3||5||2||0||0||0||0||0||90|
|7. Georgia College||0||0||0||2||3||2||3||2||0||0||0||0||84|
|8. Francis Marion||0||0||0||1||0||1||4||1||4||1||0||0||64|
|9. Columbus State||0||1||0||0||1||0||2||2||1||3||2||0||58|
|10. Armstrong Atlantic State||0||0||0||0||0||0
|12. North Georgia||0||0||0||0||0||0