High Point was chosen as the preseason favorite Big South in men's basketball poll, according to the league's media at the annual preseason tip-off breakfast at the prestigious Charlotte Uptown Hotel.
The Panthers accrued 320 points, receiving 17 of the 30 potential first-place votes. High Point has won or shared each of the past three Big South league crowns, and comes off a 2014-15 season which saw the Panthers post a 23-10 record under head coach Scott Cherry. The Panthers are the preseason league favorites for the first time since 2007-08.
Three starters return for the Panthers, including John Brown, who for the third-straight season has been named the preseason Big South Player of the Year and is also a member of the preseason Mid Major Madness All-America team heading into 2015-16.
Brown comes off a 2014-15 campaign which saw the 6-8, athletic forward average 19.3 PPG and 6.0 rebounds per outing. Brown only seemed to get better as the season wore on, averaging 28.3 PPG over a four-game stretch in the Big South and CIT postseason tournaments. Brown has a chance to become just the second player in Big South history to claim four postseason first-team all-conference citations. Brown was joined on the all-conference team by senior guard senior guard Adam Weary, who garnered second team all-league honors after averaging 9.3 PPG and 2.7 APG last season.
Cliff Ellis' Coastal Carolina Chanticleers found themselves just behind the Panthers, garnering 10 first-place votes and amassing 301 points. The Chants enter the season off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, and four starters return looking to make a third-straight appearance a reality in 2015-16. The Chants will be led by junior guard Elijah Wilson, who was a preseason First-Team All-Big South selection, averaging 13.9 PPG and 3.5 RPG last season. Wilson was the 2015 Big South Tournament MVP, averaging 20.3 PPG.
Athletic 6-7 forward and native of Dakar, Senegal, Badou Diagne, who averaged 9.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG last season. The Chanticleers are coming off a season, which saw them post a 24-10 record en route to the 2014-15 league crown.
Perennial Big South power Winthrop will be among the elite again, according to the league's media, finishing third in the polls. Eagles coach Pat Kelsey heads into his fourth season at the helm in Rock Hill since taking over for Randy Peele, and Kelsey has helped get Winthrop back to contending for league titles--a place the Eagles found themselves regularly in the early 2000s under the direction of Gregg Marshall in the early 2000s, led by players like Roger Toxey.
Three starters return from a club that was on the cusp of a 20-win campaign last year, finishing 19-13. With all-league preseason all-league selections Keon Johnson (First-Team All-Big South) and forward Xavier Crooks (Second-Team All-Big South) returning, the Eagles will be in the mix once again. Winthrop finished with 281 points and finished with three first-place votes.
Radford (188 pts), Gardner-Webb (187 pts) and Longwood (172 pts) round out the top six. Radford has made three-straight postseason appearances, while Gardner-Webb made some noise with two of the league's most prestigious non-conference wins, posting victories over NCAA Tournament qualifier Purdue, as well as Clemson. Local Queen City product and 6-7 forward Tyrell Nelson was a preseason First-Team All-Big South pick averaged 13.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG a year ago.
Longwood was predicted to finish higher than it has ever been projected since joining the league in 2012-13. The Lancers welcome back one of the league's top frontcourts among its four returning starters, including preseason Second Team All Big South selection Lotanna Nwogbo. The 6-8 redshirt senior averaged 12.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG last season.
UNC Asheville (164 pts) was selected to finish seventh, and the Bulldogs welcome in a couple of high-profile transfers, looking to account for the departure of Andrew Rowsey, who transferred to Marquette.
Barclay Radebaugh's Charleston Southern Buccaneers (140 pts) received one first place vote and were selected eighth. The Bucs have just one starter returning, in forward Aaron Wheeler, from a team that finished with 19 wins last season.
Rounding out the poll were Greg Nighbert's Presbyterian Blue Hose (132 pts), who were selected ninth, while Campbell (119 pts) was picked 10th and Liberty (42 pts) 11th. The Flames will have the lone new coach in the league, in Ritchie McKay.
Below are the all-conference projections as well as the preseason order of finish according to the league's media.
1. High Point (17) | 320
2. Coastal Carolina (10) | 301
3. Winthrop (3) | 281
4. Radford | 188
5. Gardner-Webb |187
6. Longwood | 172
7. UNC Asheville | 164
8. Charleston Southern (1) | 140
9. Presbyterian College | 132
10. Campbell | 119
11. Liberty | 42
Preseason all-conference teams:
John Brown, High Point, R-Sr., F (6-8, 210 - Jacksonville, Fla.)
Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina, Jr., G (6-4, 205 - Wilmington, N.C.)
DeSean Murray, Presbyterian College, Soph., F (6-5, 225 - Stanley, N.C.)
Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb, Jr., F (6-7, 235 - Charlotte, N.C.)
Keon Johnson, Winthrop, Jr., G (5-7, 160 - Mansfield, Ohio)
Lotanna Nwogbo, Longwood, R-Sr., F/C (6-8, 255 - Lithonia, Ga.)
Badou Diagne, Coastal Carolina, Sr., F (6-7, 220 - Dakar, Senegal)
Adam Weary, High Point, Sr., G (6-3, 205 - Memphis, Tenn.)
Xavier Cooks, Winthrop, Soph., G/F (6-8, 185 - Wollongong, New South Wales)
D.J. Mason, Campbell, Sr., F (6-6, 220 - Clarkton, N.C.)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown (High Point)