HIGH POINT, N.C. - The Limestone College menís basketball team was voted the top squad in this yearís preseason poll as voted on by the leagueís head coaches. Limestone and Queens tied with five first-place votes each, but the Saints finished four overall points higher than the Royals in the poll.† Barton received one first-place vote and claimed the third position. Pfeiffer University was tabbed eighth in the league overall, fifth in the east division.
For the second consecutive year, Limestone College menís basketball has earned the respect of its peers being the top pick in the preseason poll. In 2010-11, Limestone posted one of the best seasons in the programís NCAA DII history as they went 23-7 overall and 14-4 in league play. That included winning 16 of their first 19 games and earning the Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship with a thrilling 68-59 victory over Coker College in the championship game. The tournament championship, as well as the NCAA Tournament berth that came with it, were both firsts in the programís history.
Limestone returns All-American candidate Jarrell Douglass along with junior forward Joe Raga and sharp-shooting junior forward Ryan Bogdan.† Theyíll be joined by standout newcomers Josh Corry and Phillip Moultrie
Queens University of Charlotte finishes second overall and Eastern Division poll favorite as they will look to build off the momentum from their first regular season conference championship and first NCAA Tournament win since 2002-03. Last season, the Royals reeled off 13 consecutive victories from Thanksgiving until the first week of February en route to securing the regular season championship with a 16-2 conference and 21-8 overall record.
In Coach Wes Longís fourth year at the helm, Queens returns four starters and seven additional lettermen. The Royals also get Nate Blackburn back from injury in addition to signing point guard Trey Ervin.
The only loss from last seasonís team is a big one. Reggie Hopkins was the teamís leading scorer and leading assist man. He graduated as the schoolís all-time leading scorer.
Barton College is the third overall pick by league coaches in the poll. Sixteenth year head coach Ron Lievense will be guiding an experienced squad that features a veteran cast of 13 letter winners this season. The core group helped the Bulldogs win eight of its last 10 games in 2010-11 to finish the season 18-10 overall and 12-6 in the league. BC was the third seed in the Conference Carolinas Tournament and advanced to the tournament semifinals.
Barton retains three of its top four scorers from a season ago in Gerald Boston, Jaren Haley, and Jarrett Jernigan. Boston Ė a two-time All-Conference honoree Ė led Conference Carolinas with 6.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Haley was a Third Team All-Conference selection and is one of nine Bulldogs that played at least 20 games last season.
Coach Lievense has to fill a big void left after the graduation of three-time All-Conference and two-time All-District honoree L.J. Dunn, who led the league in rebounding and averaged a double-double. Barton has added eight talented new players who will be competing for playing time including three Division I transfers.
Rounding out the men's poll 4-11 was: Mount Olive, King, Belmont Abbey, Coker, Pfeiffer, North Greenville, Lees-McRae and Erskine respectively.
MEN'S BASKETBALL OVERALL PRESEASON POLL (# of First Place Votes)
1. Limestone - (5) 94
2. Queens - (5) 91
3. Barton - (1) 81
4. Mount Olive - 77
5. King - 61
6. Belmont Abbey - 49
7. Coker - 47
8. Pfeiffer - 44
9. North Greenville - 27
10. Lees-McRae - 18
11. Erskine - 16
PRESEASON POLL BREAKDOWN BY DIVISION
3. Mount Olive
3. Belmont Abbey
4. North Greenville
This year is the first year where divisional play will be used in Conference Carolinas.† Divisions are divided into Eastern and Western sides with a regular season champion being awarded to each division winner. In menís basketball four teams will represent each division in conference championship play.
For tournament championship play, each division winner will receive a No. 1 tournament seed. The No.1 Eastern seed will play the Western No.4 with the No.1 Western seed playing the Eastern No. 4.† Eastern No. 2 will always play Western No. 3 with Western No.2 always playing Eastern No.3 in the opening round. For a complete breakdown of tiebreakers, brackets and seeding, click HERE.