Men's Basketball Picked to Finish Third in the South Atlantic Conference

Denzail Jones Earn Preseason All-Conference Honors

ANDERSON, S.C. – Following last season’s second consecutive trip to the NCAA and an Elite Eight appearance, the Anderson men’s basketball team has been picked to finish third in the South Atlantic Conference by the league’s coaches.

The 2010-11 season saw Anderson become just the second team in South Atlantic Conference history to claim an NCAA Regional Championship, and the first team from the state of South Carolina to win a regional championship since Lander in 1999. 

The Trojans entered the 2011 NCAA Regional as the seventh seed last year, upsetting No. 2 Lincoln Memorial, No. 6 Montevallo and No. 1 seed Augusta en route to their first-ever regional title.

“Having lost the talented players off last year’s squad and still getting picked third is a big compliment,” said Anderson head coach Jason Taylor. “However, there is nothing in college athletics more irrelevant than preseason rankings. But it’s all about getting better day in and day out. Every team is going to be tough this year and it will be a battle every game.”

Junior guard Denzail Jones was named to the preseason All-SAC second team after leading a balanced Trojan offensive attack last season that saw five players average double figures. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native saw action in 32 games and averaged 12.5 points per game. He poured in a season-high 28 points at Mars Hill on the strength of 17-of-18 shooting from the free throw line and was 8-of-16 from the field in the home win past Lincoln Memorial in mid-February. He also displayed his unselfish side, leading AU in assists 12 times, while ranking 10th in the SAC in assists per game.

Jones was named to the All-Southeast Region Tournament Team after helping lead AU to the title, averaging 12.3 points and was a clutch 10-of-11 from the free throw line during the regional.

Lincoln Memorial, ranked fifth in the preseason NABC/NCAA Division II national poll, was been tabbed by the SAC men’s basketball coaches to win the conference title. After winning the regular-season and SAC Tournament championships a year ago, LMU returns three preseason All-Conference selections, including first-team pick and reigning SAC Player of the Year Desmond Johnson. The Railsplitters received six first-place votes in the poll. Johnson, who averaged 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds in 2010-11, has been named preseason All-America by several media outlets, including Sporting News and Division II Bulletin. 

Just behind LMU in the coaches poll is Wingate, which after going 19-10 overall and 12-6 in the league a year ago, returns two first team All-SAC picks in Odell Turner and Jaime Vaught, both of whom averaged double-digit scoring in 2010-11. The Bulldogs received three first-place votes from the coaches.

Anderson, coming off a thrilling Elite Eight run last season, is No. 3 in the SAC to start 2011-12. The Trojans are followed by No. 4 Newberry, No. 5 Carson-Newman and No. 6 Catawba. The Indians, who received one first-place vote, return preseason All-SAC first team selection Keon Moore, while AU and C-N each return one preseason second-teamer. 

Tusculum and Lenoir-Rhyne, which both have one student-athlete on the preseason All-Conference second team, are No. 7 and No. 8 in the poll, respectively. 

Mars Hill and Brevard round out the coaches poll at No. 9 and No. 10, but each return a preseason All-Conference first team selection. MHC’s Sammy Emile was a second team All-SAC pick in 2010-11 and is the league’s top returning scorer, while BC’s Gaither Hendrix averaged 14.9 points per game last season, good for 10th in the conference. 

The preseason All-SAC teams are voted on by the league’s media relations directors. 

AU opens the 2011-12 campaign with four consecutive contests versus teams from the Conference Carolinas and for the second straight year Anderson will open the season in Greeneville, Tenn., on Nov. 11-12, by participating in the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge.

The Trojans will meet two teams from their former conference for the first time since the 2010 campaign, with Barton and Mt. Olive representing Conference Carolinas. Barton was a “bubble” team last season after posting an 18-10 record and did not receive an at-large bid, but will be looking for its second appearance in the ‘Big Dance’ since winning the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2007. The Bulldogs are perennial contenders for NCAA appearances, having participated in the NCAA Tournament on five occasions (1997, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009). Mount Olive, another regional foe, ended its 2010-11 campaign with an uncharacteristic 14-13 record. 

The 2012 Food Lion SAC Basketball Championship will take place March 3-4 in Hickory, N.C.


SAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll

Team                         Points (1st-Place)
1. Lincoln Memorial  96 (6)
2. Wingate   92 (3)
3. Anderson   68
4. Newberry   60
5. Carson-Newman  50
6. Catawba   49 (1)
7. Tusculum   48
8. Lenoir-Rhyne  46
9. Mars Hill   29
10. Brevard   12

Preseason All-SAC First Team
Gaither Hendrix, Brevard
Keon Moore, Catawba
Desmond Johnson, Lincoln Memorial
Sammy Emile, Mars Hill
Odell Turner, Wingate
Jaime Vaughn, Wingate

Preseason All-SAC Second Team
Denzail Jones, Anderson
Ishmael Sanders, Carson-Newman
Allan Jones, Lenoir-Rhyne
Brandon Armstrong, Lincoln Memorial
Cam Carden, Lincoln Memorial
Justin Steigerwald, Tusculum

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