ROCK HILL, S.C. – The Anderson men’s basketball team has been predicted to finish third in the South Atlantic Conference this season in a vote by the league’s coaches, as released Wednesday by the conference office.
Following a one-year absence, the Trojans will be looking for their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in five seasons after posting a 19-9 record last year and being named as a “team to watch” three weeks ago by the Division II Bulletin.
During the course of the 2013 season, AU garnered wins past No. 11 Montevallo and 12th-ranked Lincoln Memorial and finished in a tie for second in the SAC regular-season standings. AU advanced to the semifinals of the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament before falling, 75-70, in overtime to eventual tourney-champion Wingate.
AU has averaged more than 22 wins per season over the past four years and has proven to be a threat to win the SAC title each season since joining the SAC for the 2010-11 campaign. The Trojans are an impressive 47-10 at the Abney Athletic Center over the past four seasons, including five wins past nationally-ranked teams at home.
Head Coach Jason Taylor, the winningest coach in AU men’s basketball history since the school became a 4-year institution, returns four starters, along with eight additional players.
“I say this each year because it is true - there is nothing more irrelevant in college athletics than preseason rankings,” said Anderson head coach Jason Taylor. “But we appreciate the respect. Our conference is good and it will be a challenge.”
Lincoln Memorial, the defending SAC champion was voted No. 1 in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll. LMU went 25-6 overall and 15-3 in the SAC in 2012-13 en route to the program’s second conference title in three years. After finishing as runners-up at the 2013 Food Lion SAC Basketball Championship, the Railsplitters earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Division II Basketball Championship – their third-straight trip to the tournament.
Lincoln Memorial finished last year ranked 13th in the NABC national poll, and has been tabbed 13th in the 2013-14 Division II Bulletin preseason poll. The Railsplitters received seven of the possible 12 first-place votes in the SAC preseason poll.
Just behind LMU in the preseason poll was Carson-Newman, which received the other five first-place votes. The Eagles, 20-8 overall and 12-6 in the SAC last year, finished fourth in the conference standings, marking their best season since 2007-08. C-N was led by SAC Player of the Year Antoine Davis and SAC Coach of the Year Chuck Benson, both of whom return in 2013-14.
Anderson was followed by Wingate at No. 4. The two teams tied for second in last season’s conference standings at 14-4. Wingate, which earned a selection to the NCAA Tournament, finished 22-9 overall.
Newberry was No. 5 in the poll, while SAC-newcomer Queens was sixth and Lenoir-Rhyne was seventh. Newberry finished sixth in last year’s SAC standings at 10-8, Lenoir-Rhyne was fifth at 11-7, and Queens went 12-8 in Conference Carolinas to finish fourth in its division.
Completing the poll are Catawba at No. 8, Tusculum at No. 9, Coker at No. 10, Brevard at No. 11 and Mars Hill at No. 12. Catawba finished seventh in the SAC last year, Tusculum finished eighth, Brevard finished ninth and Mars Hill finished 10th. Coker, meanwhile, was eighth in its division in Conference Carolinas.
Also announced on Wednesday was the 2013-14 preseason All-SAC Team, which was led by Carson-Newman’s Davis. An 18.7 point-per-game scorer last year, Davis was named an All-American by DII Bulletin and an All-Region selection by Daktronics in addition to his conference Player of the Year accolades.
In addition to Davis, three more members of last year’s All-SAC First Team – Anderson guard Chandler Hash, Carson-Newman guard Ishmael Sanders and LMU forward Vincent Bailey, return as members of the 2013-14 preseason All-Conference First Team.
Hash tied for fourth in the conference in scoring at 17.9 points per game and led the league in free throw shooting at 91.3 percent. The 6-foot guard started all 28 games a year ago and was named SAC Player of the Week on two occasions and earned SAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men’s basketball.
The Greer, S.C. native ranked third in the country and second in the league in 3-point field goal accuracy (47.7%), while recording four 30-point games and six more where he eclipsed the 20-point mark, scoring a career-best and team season-high 38 points vs. vs. Catawba in early February.
Sanders ranked third in scoring at 18.6 points per game and first in three-pointers with 99, and Bailey finished 12th in scoring at 13.5 points per game and fifth in rebounding average at 7.4.
Also earning spots on the preseason First Team were Catawba center Tyrece Littler and Newberry forward Dondray Walker. Both were members of last season’s All-SAC Second Team.
Little’s scoring average of 16.1 points per game was sixth in the SAC and his rebounding average of 9.1 was third, while Walker averaged 14.3 points per game, good for ninth in the conference.
Making up the preseason All-SAC Second Team are LMU guard Lorenza Ross, a 2012-13 All-SAC Second Team pick, Wingate center Deion Turman, Wingate guard Ryan Daye, Coker guard Julian Nelson, Catawba guard Elon Edwards and Lenoir-Rhyne guard R.J. McClure.
“We are excited about Chandler’s recognition,” added Taylor. “He is a complete student-athlete. Chandler is well-rounded and the honor is well-deserved.”
The 2013-14 SAC men’s basketball regular season officially gets underway on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Anderson will open the season on the road with two contests at the PBC-SAC Challenge, hosted by Georgia Regents University – Augusta, formerly Augusta State. In their first meeting since early in the 2010 season, the Trojans will face Lander on Nov. 9 and the host Jaguars on Sunday, Nov. 10 at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
2013-14 SAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Team Points (1st-place)
1. Lincoln Memorial 117 (7)
2. Carson-Newman 114 (5)
3. Anderson 100
4. Wingate 83
5. Newberry 71
6. Queens 66
7. Lenoir-Rhyne 65
8. Catawba 60
9. Tusculum 36
10. Coker 34
11. Brevard 31
12. Mars Hill 15
2013-14 SAC Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Antoine Davis F Sr. Carson-Newman
Chandler Hash G Sr. Anderson
Ishmael Sanders G Sr. Carson-Newman
Vincent Bailey F Sr. Lincoln Memorial
Tyrece Little C Jr. Catawba
Dondray Walker F Jr. Newberry
Lorenza Ross G Jr. Lincoln Memorial
Deion Turman C Sr. Wingate
Ryan Daye G Jr. Wingate
Julian Nelson G Sr. Coker
Elon Edwards G So. Catawba
R.J. McClure G Sr. Lenoir-Rhyne