Thomasville, NC--The Barton College men's basketball team sits atop the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches Poll as it begins the defense of its NCAA DII National Basketball Championship. With three returning starters, 12th-year head coach Ron Lievense has added a talented cast of newcomers to what should be another strong team.
The Bulldogs went 31-5 last season, culminated with one of the most exciting finishes in basketball history. Barton, down seven with 45 seconds left in the title game to defending champ Winona State (which was riding a 57-game win streak), rallied behind 10 points in the final 39 seconds from Elite Eight MVP Anthony Atkinson, who scored the game-winning lay-up as time expired.
Lievense must replace Atkinson, forward Mark Friscone and Alejo Barovero, develop some chemistry and ride the wave of a National Championship if the Bulldogs hope to have another successful campaign. Barton will start the season with a 21-game win streak on the line. The Bulldogs are also the two-time defending conference regular season and tournament champions.
Mount Olive College returns five full- or part-time starters from last year's 23-8 squad, including a young backcourt that grew up in a hurry in 2006-07. The Trojans eclipsed the 20-win mark for the fourth year in a row and made its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Junior point guard Justin Melton established himself not only as a playmaker throughout the season, but also as a scoring threat late in the year, averaging 14 points per contest in four post-season games.
Sophomore guards Kendrick Easley and Mike Holloman each started more than 20 games last season as freshmen and were frequently joined in the starting lineup by Josh Brown, also a sophomore this year. A 2007-08 Preseason All-America honorable mention, Easley was last year's conference Freshman of the Year and was selected to the national Division II All-Freshman Team.
Seniors Brandon Streeter and Lydell Walker and junior Chris Holloway will anchor the Trojans' inside game. Streeter recorded six double-doubles, while Walker was nationally ranked in blocked shots.
At 6-2, senior Montel Jones has played both in the backcourt and frontcourt throughout his career. Jones is the lone remaining player from the Trojans' 2005 NCAA II Elite Eight team.
Queens University of Charlotte looks to improve on its accomplishments from a season ago when the Royals finished tied for second place in the final year of the CVAC. After finishing 20-10 and earning the program's sixth NCAA Tournament berth in the past 12 years, Queens Head Coach Brian Good and his Royals have good reason for optimism as they enter the 2007-2008 season. The newest edition of the Royals features 11 letter winners and four talented newcomers with the ability to make an immediate impact.
Senior guard Darnell Evans (16.4 ppg) is one of the top returning scorers in Conference Carolinas and he couples with sophomore post John Thompson (12.3 ppg) to lead the Royals' scoring attack. Akeem Miskdeen and Andre Lockhart return to the Royals' backcourt to give Queens one of the most experienced groups of guards in the league. Queens has added more depth to the roster this season with significant amount of size in the frontcourt provided by the newest members of the team combined with the three other returnees' playing experience.
The Royals face one of the most challenging schedules in recent memory as they will play seven opponents who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season. Although the road certainly won't be easy, Queens will have plenty of opportunities to make the 2007-2008 season another successful campaign.
Rounding out the men's poll 4-11 was: Pfeiffer, Limestone, Erskine, St. Andrews, Anderson & Lees-McRae (tied), Coker, and Belmont Abbey respectively.
Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Preseason Poll (# of
First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Barton College (6) 96
2. Mount Olive College (4) 92
3. Queens University of Charlotte 81
4. Pfeiffer University 74
5. Limestone College 64
6. Erskine College 57
7. St. Andrews Presbyterian College 40
T-8. Anderson College 30
T-8. Lees-McRae College 30
10. Coker College 25
11. Belmont Abbey College 16