ROCK HILL, S.C. - The Newberry College men's basketball team has been predicted to finish ninth in the South Atlantic Conference in the 2009-10 season according to the annual preseason coaches' poll, which was released today.
Newberry is entering its first season under head coach Steve DeMeo and returns only three players who have seen playing time in the Newberry scarlet and gray.
Catawba College, which has won back-to-back Food Lion South Atlantic Conference men's basketball tournament titles, is the preseason favorite to win the 2009-10 regular season crown. The Catawba Indians received six first-place votes and 77 total points.
Catawba returns senior guard Antonio Houston, who has been the MVP of the conference tournament the last two years. Houston was named to the preseason All-Conference first team. Rob Fields, who averaged 15.9 points as Catawba's sixth man last year, joins Houston on the preseason All-Conference first team.
Tusculum College is picked to finish second in the coaches poll. The Pioneers received two first-place votes and 68 total points. Tusculum, which begins the season ranked sixth by the DII Basketball Bulletin preseason national poll, returns 2009 SAC Player of the Year and All-American Kyle Moore.
Moore was named to the preseason All-Conference first team, while forward Josh Bennett, who finished third in the league in rebounding last season, was named to the second team.
Lincoln Memorial University was picked to finish third. The Railsplitters received 63 total points.
Lincoln Memorial University starts the season with a pair of preseason All-Conference selections. D'Mario Curry, a first-team All-Conference pick last season after leading the Railsplitters in scoring, returns as a preseason first-team selection. Sophomore Desmond Johnson, who was named the SAC men's basketball Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 10.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, was named to the preseason All-Conference second team.
Lenoir-Rhyne University picked up the final first-place vote and received 58 total points for fourth place in the preseason poll. The Bears have won the last two regular-season championships, and five over the last seven years. During that span, the Bears have not finished lower than third in the conference standings.
Lenoir-Rhyne placed two returnees on the preseason All-Conference team. Forward D.J. Blackmon averaged 13.8 points last season and was named to the preseason All-Conference first team. Senior guard Marcus Hodges, who led the SAC last season in 3-point field goal percentage, was named to the second team.
Wingate University is the pick for fifth place in the coaches poll. The Bulldogs received 39 points.
Mars Hill College received 33 points for sixth place. The Lions placed a pair on the preseason All-Conference second team in senior guards Stoney Polite and Danny Sanders. Sanders averaged 16.8 points last season.
Carson-Newman College, which has led the league in scoring average the last two seasons, is the pick for seventh place. The Eagles received 30 points. Guard Jordan Dixon, who was fourth in the league in assists last season, was named to the preseason All-Conference second team.
Brevard College comes in eighth in the poll with 24 points. The Tornados return senior forward Jonathan Whitson, a preseason All-Conference first-team selection. Last season, Whitson averaged 19.1 points and led the SAC in rebounding at 8.7 per game and was named All-Region by both the NABC and Daktronics.
The 2009-10 season opens Sunday, November 15, with Wingate hosting Armstrong Atlantic State. Five more teams open play on Monday, November 16.
The 2010 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference tournament will begin on Wednesday, March 3 with quarterfinal games on campus sites. Winners advance to the semifinals on Saturday, March 6 at the Catawba Valley Community College Multipurpose Facility in Hickory, N.C. The championship game will be Sunday, March 7 at 2 p.m.
The first chance for fans to see the Newberry team under DeMeo will come on Friday, November 6, in Greenville when the scarlet and gray take on the Furman Paladins in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. at Furman's Timmons Arena. The regular season opener comes on Monday, November 16, in Eleazer Arena when Newberry hosts the Warriors of Southern Wesleyan University for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
2009-10 Men's Coaches Preseason Poll
Poll (1st) Points
1. Catawba (6) 77
2. Tusculum (2) 68
3. Lincoln Memorial 63
4. Lenoir-Rhyne (1) 58
5. Wingate 39
6. Mars Hill 33
7. Carson-Newman 30
8. Brevard 24
9. Newberry 13
Men's Preseason All-Conference
Jonathan Whitson, Brevard
Rob Fields, Catawba
Antonio Houston, Catawba
D.J. Blackmon, Lenoir-Rhyne
D'Mario Curry, Lincoln Memorial
Kyle Moore, Tusculum
Jordan Dixon, Carson-Newman
Marcus Hodges, Lenoir-Rhyne
Desmond Johnson, Lincoln Memorial
Stoney Polite, Mars Hill
Danny Sanders, Mars Hill
Josh Bennett, Tusculum