Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey is flattered that his team was picked to finish third in the Big South’s men’s basketball standings this season.
But Kelsey added a warning – don’t put too much stock in those predictions.
“Those predictions, by January or February, could be completely thrown out the window,” Kelsey said Monday during the Big South’s basketball media day.
“The parity that you saw last year is telling. If you look at the middle to the bottom of the preseason rankings, you have a lot of surprise possibilities from all of those teams.”
High Point, which tied Charleston Southern for the Big South regular-season title last season, was this season’s preseason pick in voting among the conference’s coaches and selected media.
The Panthers, 23-10 last season, got 17 first-place votes and 320 points overall to beat out 2015 tournament champion Coastal Carolina’s 10 first-place votes and 301 points.
Winthrop picked up three first-place votes and 281 points overall, followed by Radford, Gardner-Webb, Longwood, UNC Asheville, Charleston Southern (which got the final first-place vote), Presbyterian, Campbell and Liberty.
Last season, the battle for the conference title turned into a free for all heading into the final weeks of the season. Seven teams – High Point, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Radford – were tied atop the league standings in mid-February.
Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft, whose Bulldogs tied for sixth last season, said that could happen again.
“The last two years, the top seven teams have been separated by just one or two games,” Craft said. “There was a lot of turnover in the league, as far as players graduating. It’s going to be wide-open and pretty exciting.”
Flames women again No. 1: Liberty was the preseason pick to take the Big South women’s title – the 18th time in the past 19 seasons the Flames were voted No. 1.
Liberty, the defending league champions, received six first-place votes and 116 points, with Winthrop a close second with four first-place votes and 105 points.
Radford was third in voting by the league’s coaches, followed by High Point, Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, UNC Asheville, Longwood, Coastal Carolina (which received one first-place vote) and Charleston Southern.
Brown, Rininger preseason POYs: High Point’s John Brown and Liberty’s Ashley Rininger were named the Big South preseason players of the year.
Brown, a 6-foot-8 redshirt senior forward, earned the preseason award for the third consecutive year – the first player in league history to be so honored. The three-time first-team all-Big South pick is one of two returning players nationally with 1,500 career points and 600 rebounds.
Rininger, a 6-4 senior center, is a two-time first team all-Big South selection, and was the most valuable player in last season’s conference tournament in leading the Flames to their 16th league title.
Area players make preseason teams: Eight players with Observer-area connections were named to the Big South’s preseason all-conference teams.
Gardner-Webb forward Tyrell Nelson, a Metrolina Christian grad; Winthrop guard Keon Johnson and Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, a Northside Christian grad, were all named to the men’s preseason first team. Winthrop guard-forward Xavier Cooks was named to the second team.
On the women’s preseason teams, Winthrop teammates Erica Williams, a guard-forward, and Schaquilla Nunn, a forward-center, were named to the first team. Eagles guard Aliyah Kilpatrick of Matthews, and Gardner-Webb forward Olivia Parker, a Providence Day grad, were named to the second team.
Tournament sites TBA: Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said that a decision on the host sites for the 2016 men’s and women’s conference tournaments would be made “in the next two weeks.”
Coastal Carolina had served as host for the tournaments since 2013, but the school announced in late August that it would be joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2016.
Under Big South conference bylaws, members that leave with less than two years notice are ineligible to host championships. League officials put the rights up for bids to host the basketball championships, scheduled for March 3-6 (men) and March 10-13 (women).
1. High Point (17)
2. Coastal Carolina (10)
3. Winthrop (3)
7. UNC Asheville
8. Charleston Southern (1)
1. Liberty (6)
2. Winthrop (4)
4. High Point
8. UNC Asheville
10. Coastal Carolina (1)
11. Charleston Southern
NOTE: First-place votes in parantheses.