Previewing the Carolinas’ NCAA Division II men’s basketball conferences:
Favorite: Virginia State overall; Virginia State (North) and Winston-Salem State (South) in divisions.
Contenders: Bowie State, Virginia Union, Shaw
Also: Johnson C. Smith is picked seventh and Livingstone eighth of 12 teams.
Players to watch: Christian Kirchman, 6-2 G (Johnson C. Smith); Walter Williams, 6-4 G (Virginia State); Richard Granberry, 6-8 F (Virginia State); Omari George, 6-4 F (Bowie State); Kenneth Collins, 6-7 F (St. Augustine’s).
Comment: Granberry and Williams give Virginia State an inside-outside tandem.... Ahmaad Wilson, who scored 20 points in Bowie State’s CIAA tournament title victory last March, returns. ...Winston-Salem State has a strong backcourt of 3-point specialist Robert Colon and William Crandell.
Favorite: Limestone, Barton.
Contenders: King, Mount Olive.
Also: Belmont Abbey is picked fifth and Lees-McRae sixth of nine teams.
Players to Watch: Donovan Harris, 6-6 F (Limestone); Michael Boykin, 6-0 G (Barton); Deion Lane, 6-5 F (Belmont Abbey).
Comment: Limestone has three leading scorers back from a team that won the league title and a first-round NCAA tournament game. ...Lane, a former Independence High standout, could vault Belmont Abbey into contention. ...Former league power Pfeiffer has dropped to Division III.
Contenders: Lincoln Memorial, Carson-Newman.
Also: Catawba is picked fourth, Wingate fifth, and Lenoir-Rhyne eighth of 10 teams.
Players to Watch: Jalin Alexander, 6-3 G (Queens); Charles Clark, 6-3 G (Carson-Newman); Dorian Pinson, 6-5 F (Lincoln Memorial); Todd Withers, 6-8 F (Queens).
Comment: The Royals went 30-4 last season but fell to Lincoln Memorial in the NCAA Regional finals. Those teams figure to battle it out again, but Queens – behind Alexander and Withers – might have an edge in experience. ...Wingate lost several starters from a team that battled the Big Two last season.