The Barton College men's basketball team sits atop the 2006-2007 preseason poll as voted on by the conference coaches. The Bulldogs are coming off a precedent-setting 28-4 season that ended with an Elite Eight overtime loss to eventual NCAA D-II champ Winona State (MN). The Bulldogs ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in 2005-2006, return four starters and eight lettermen and have added a talented cast of impact recruits. Thus, Barton, which was ranked No. 2 nationally in the 2006-2007 Street & Smith's preseason poll, hopes to be a force on the D-II basketball scene again this year.
The Bulldogs won the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference regular season (18-2) and tournament titles, as well as the East Regional crown, this past season. The Bulldogs' attack will be led by the dynamic senior duo of 5-10 point guard Anthony Atikinson and 6-7 swingman Alejo Barovero. Atkinson was CVAC Player of the Year, All-State first team, All-Region first team and honorable mention All-America. Barovero was All-CVAC first team, All-Region and MVP of the East Regional.
Sophomore guard Bobby Buffaloe (CVAC Freshman of the Year) and 6-6 sophomore center Brian Leggett round out the returning starters. Senior 6-5 forward Mark Friscone, an inside-outside threat, also saw starting time last season. Head coach Ron Lievense, in his 11th year at the BC helm, has taken three of his 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament and has won 84 percent of his career games in the "Dog House."
Mount Olive College places second in this year's preseason poll. The Trojans are ranked in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Top 25 for the second consecutive year, coming in at No. 19 in this year's national poll. They were ranked as high as No. 5 last year and have now been nationally ranked for the fourth straight year.
The Trojans will return three starters, including two All-CVAC selections, from last year's squad, which surpassed the 20-win mark and advanced to the NCAA II Tournament for the third year in a row. Senior guard Elton Coffield, a two-time All-CVAC first team selection and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 NCAA II East Regional, enters this season with 1,353 career points. Senior forward Elijah Rouse was named to the All-CVAC second team last year and was among the conference leaders in rebounding. Rouse scored a career-high 24 points in the championship game of last year's CVAC Tournament. Senior forward Chris Bartley, who started 31 of 32 games last year, gives the Trojans a presence in the paint and beyond the arc. The Trojans return four other letterwinners who saw significant playing time last season. Top newcomers include Division I transfer Brandon Streeter and freshman Kendrick Easley, son of former NFL All-Pro safety Kenny Easley.
Pfeiffer University moves down one spot from last years poll to place third in this year's survey. The Falcons return seven players from a team that ranked as high as No. 6 nationally last year, led the country in forced turnovers (27.9), and offensive rebounding (15.4) to finish 18-11 overall (12-8 CVAC). Pfeiffer returns three outstanding seniors in DeMario Grier, Rick Buffaloe, and Tavares Cooper that have previously combined for 76 career wins. The Falcons have already been noted as a preseason 'Team to Watch' nationally in the Street and Smiths Preseason College Basketball issue. Senior Guard Demario Grier was also named 2nd Team All-American by the same publication. The additions of two transfers along with a host of incoming freshman have the Falcons excited about the new season.
Rounding out the men's poll 4-11 was: Limestone, Queens, St. Andrews, Erskine, Belmont Abbey, Coker, Lees-McRae, and Anderson respectively.
CVAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll (# of First place votes in
1. Barton College (10) 100
2. Mount Olive College (1) 85
3. Pfeiffer University 83
4. Limestone College 65
5. Queens University of Charlotte 59
6. St. Andrews Presbyterian College 53
7. Erskine College 50 8. Belmont Abbey College 47
9. Coker College 28
10. Lees-McRae College 19
11. Anderson College 16
2006-07 CVAC "Preseason Players to Watch" List
(As selected by the member institutions)
Name: School: Year: Highlights:
J.R. Howell Anderson SR 67-159 & .421 from 3-point range
Anthony Atkinson Barton SR 05-06 Honorable Mention All-American, All-East Region, CVAC Player of Year
Alejo Barovero Barton SR 05-06 All-CVAC 1st Team & East Region MVP
Sidney Hoff Belmont Abbey SR Averaged 3.68 rebounds
Anthony Bell Belmont Abbey SR. 12.3 ppg., 4.29 rpg.
Jason Fulwood Coker SR Ranked 6th nationally in 3-pt percent
Abram Ludd Coker SR Forward & Team Captain
Craig Wiliams Erskine SR 6'7 Center
T.J. Taylor Erskine SR 6'1 Guard
Aaron Dugger Lees-McRae SR 05-06 All CVAC Honorable Mention
Shawn Poppie Limestone SR Holds LC career assists record with 420; Led team with 121 assists last season
Terrell Smith Limestone SR One of the Saints best defending guards
Elton Coffield Mount Olive SR Two-time All-CVAC, Most Outstanding Player 2005 NCAA II East Regional
Elijah Rouse Mount Olive SR 2005-06 2nd Team All CVAC 5th in CVAC in rebounding
DeMario Grier, Pfeiffer SR All-CVAC 1st Team
Tavares Cooper Pfeiffer SR 2006 CVAC All-Tournament
Chris Jones Queens SR CVAC Honorable Mention
Taiwon Grooms St. Anderws JR 26 G, 46.7 FG%, 13.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG
DeRalle Piersall St. Andrews So 27 G, 49.1 FG%, 3.37 PPG, 1.7 RPG