ROCK HILL, S.C. – After finishing eighth in the South Atlantic Conference standings last season, the Anderson University men's basketball team has been tabbed to finish eighth in the league this season in a vote by the league's coaches, as released by the conference office Wednesday morning.
With the regular season set to tip off in nine days, the Trojans will be seeking their third consecutive appearance in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament this season and its seventh overall appearance after a two-year absence.
The Trojans closed out last year with three wins in their final four regular-season contests, including a 76-71 road win over Wingate, and bring back their top three scorers among seven returning letterwinners off last year's 10-19 squad.
Senior guard Gage Ellis, who captured Honorable Mention All-South Atlantic Conference honors at the conclusion of last season, earned Preseason First-Team All-Conference accolades. He started all 29 games and ranked 10th in the conference with 14.9 points per game. The Greenville, S.C., native reached double-figure scoring in 25 contests, while pouring in a season-high 34 points at Lees-McRae in early December. Ellis ranked 12th in the SAC in field goal percentage (51.0%) and was 18th in the league in free throw percentage (72.2%).
Senior forward Jeremy Bouton has bookended his stellar career with All-SAC accolades after being named Second-Team All-Conference. He saw action in all 29 games a year ago and was ninth in the league with more than six rebounds per contest. Bouton ranked third on the team and 23rd in the SAC with 13.1 points per game, while posting double-figure scoring in 23 games and reaching the 20+ point plateau in four games. He grabbed at least 10 rebounds in three games, including a career-high 14 boards at Newberry.
The Orlando, Fla., native earned SAC All-Freshman Team honors at the conclusion of the 2015-16 campaign.
Lincoln Memorial, which is ranked No. 4 nationally by both Street and Smith's and the Division II Bulletin, outdistanced Queens in the voting and was picked to win the 2018-2019 South Atlantic Conference title after picking up seven top votes and receiving 107 points from the panel.
The Railsplitters have won or shared the last six SAC regular-season titles and was ranked No. 1 in the nation before being upset at home by nationally seventh-ranked Queens in the finals of the 2018 NCAA Southeast Regional. LMU went 32-2 and was a perfect 20-0 in South Atlantic Conference play last season, notching the program's fourth consecutive 30-win season.
Queens earned its first bid to the Elite Eight a season ago and finished the season with a stellar 32-4 mark after falling to Northern State in the national semifinals. The Royals are ranked No. 11 nationally in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Poll.
Carson-Newman earned the No. 3 position in the poll with 84 points. The Eagles, who finished last season with a record of 23-8 overall and 14-6 in SAC play, made their third NCAA postseason appearance in the last five years in 2017-18. At No. 4 in the poll was Wingate who picked up 76 points from the head coaches. The Bulldogs went 15-15 overall and were 11-9 in the SAC last season. Lenoir-Rhyne followed as it received 75 points, landing in the No. 5 position. The Bears closed out their 2017-18 season at 11-16 overall and 9-11 in the SAC.
Catawba earned the No. 6 spot with 70 points. The Indians were 11-15 overall and 7-13 in the SAC a season ago. Newberry came in at No. 7 with 58 points. The Wolves posted a 15-14 overall record and were 9-11 in conference. Anderson landed at No. 8 in the preseason poll as it collected 44 points from the head coaches. Coker came in at No. 9 with 39 points, followed by Tusculum with 34 points. Mars Hill rounded out the poll as it notched 22 points.
The South Atlantic Conference also announced its preseason All-SAC teams. Headlining the first team is preseason All-American Cornelius Taylor from Lincoln Memorial. A second team All-SAC pick a year ago, Taylor averaged 14.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, with 3.9 assists per game.
Also earning first team honors were Lenoir-Rhyne's Djibril Diallo, Wingate's Marco Haskins, Ellis, Carson-Newman's Malik Abraham and Newberry's Marshall Lange.
Diallo, Haskins and Ellis were All-SAC honorable mention selections last season. Diallo averaged 15.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, while Haskins averaged 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and shot 81 percent from the charity stripe.
Abraham posted 11.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game last season, with Lange scoring 12.6 points with 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Earning second-team honors were Queens' Shaun Willett and Daniel Carr, Anderson's Bouton, Coker's Kahlil Halls, Lenoir-Rhyne's Cory Thomas and Mars Hill's Austin Gilyard.
Anderson is slated to open the season on the road at Southern Wesleyan, Nov. 9-10, as the Trojans are competing in a Conference Challenge (SWU Tip-off Classic). The Trojans will lead off the two-day event by squaring off against Lander at 5:30 p.m. at Historic Tysinger Gymnasium, while the Trojans and the host Warriors will tip-off at 4 p.m. that Saturday.
South Atlantic Conference
2018-19 Men's Preseason Poll (First-Place Votes) Points
1. Lincoln Memorial (7) 107
2. Queens (4) 104
3. Carson-Newman 84
4. Wingate 76
5. Lenoir-Rhyne 75
6. Catawba 70
7. Newberry 58
8. Anderson 44
9. Coker 39
10. Tusculum 34
11. Mars Hill 22
2018-19 SAC Men's Preseason All-Conference Teams
Cornelius Taylor, Lincoln Memorial
Djibril Diallo, Lenoir-Rhyne
Marco Haskins, Wingate
Gage Ellis, Anderson
Malik Abraham, Carson-Newman
Marshall Lange, Newberry
Jeremy Bouton, Anderson
Khalil Halls, Coker
Shaun Willett, Queens
Cory Thomas, Lenoir-Rhyne
Daniel Carr, Queens
Austin Gilyard, Mars Hill