High Point, N.C. -- The Mount Olive College men's basketball team sits atop this year's Conference Carolinas preseason coaches poll. The Trojans enter a new era as longtime assistant coach Joey Higginbotham begins his first year as head coach, taking over for Bill Clingan, who retired after 18 years as head coach. The Trojans won both the Conference Carolinas regular season and tournament titles in 2007-08. Mount Olive posted a record of 24-7 overall and 16-4 in conference play. The Trojans aim for their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and sixth straight 20-win season.
Mount Olive returns All-American guard Kendrick Easley, who was named MVP of last year's Conference Carolinas Tournament. Easley averaged 16.9 points per game and was nationally ranked in free throw percentage. The Trojans should remain strong in the backcourt with senior point guard Justin Melton (7.9 points, 4.1 assists per game) and junior guard Mike Holloman (8.9ppg) joining Easley in a three-guard offense. Sophomore guard Aaron Dobson sparked Mount Olive from the perimeter during the conference tournament.
The frontcourt will be a question mark this season after graduating three post players, including 2007-08 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year Brandon Streeter. Sophomore forward Craig Hayes saw significant minutes in all 31 games last season and shot 58.1 percent from the field.
The Barton College men's basketball team was ranked second in the preseason coaches' poll. The team returns 14 players, including four starters, from its 2007-08 squad, which followed an NCAA D-II National Championship season with a 19-10 overall record and 14-6 (tied for third) mark in Conference Carolinas.
The Bulldogs of 13th-year head coach Ron Lievense will be led by senior guards Bobby Buffaloe (1st team All-Conference) and Errol Frails, sophomore point guard Greg Mammel and 6-4 junior forward L.J. Dunn (HM All-Conference). Senior 6-6 post David King and junior point guard Aaron Suggs also saw plenty of starting duty for the Bulldogs last season.
Barton must replace the inside presence of 6-6 center Brian Leggett (1st team All-Conference), cut down on its turnovers, continue to play aggressive defense and dominate the backboards to be successful in 2008-09.
Lievense has added 6-5 swingman Jo-Jo Velez, combo guard Klevin Pollard, 6-6 swingman R.D. Dowdy, 6-6 transfer Jonathan Foster and 6-1 transfer Jaren Haley to this year's roster, so the Bulldogs hope to return to the top of the conference standings en route to another NCAA appearance.
The 2008-09 Pfeiffer University men's basketball team returns nine players from a 21 win team (21-8 overall,15-5 league record) and a second place finish in Conference Carolinas. Last year's team was ranked as high as #4 in the East Region, had wins over the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the same week and won the Bobby Lutz Invitational Tournament Championship.
Seniors Robert McGriff and Logan Call lead the group of returnees. McGriff was an All-Conference performer, made two All Tournament Teams and averaged 12ppg, while shooting 56% from the floor, despite missing eight games in mid-season due to injury. Call averaged 13ppg and shot 54% from the field last year as a junior.
The Falcons aim to lead in the Conference this year with their speed, quickness, and depth. This year's schedule is highlighted by an exhibition game against the Charlotte 49ers.
Rounding out the men's poll 4-11 was: Belmont Abbey Queens, Anderson, Limestone, Coker, Erskine, Lees-McRae, & and St. Andrews respectively.
Men's Basketball Preseason Poll (# of First place votes in
1. Mount Olive College (8) 98
2. Barton College (2) 85
3. Pfeiffer University 83
4. Belmont Abbey College (1) 74
5. Queens University of Charlotte 63
6. Anderson University 55
7. Limestone College 44
8. Coker College 40
9. Erskine College 24
10. Lees-McRae College 23
11. St. Andrews Presbyterian College 16