Bowie State: The Bulldogs, who were left out of the NCAA Division II playoffs despite 21 wins, are hungry to atone for last season’s tournament shortcomings.
Winston-Salem State: Rams are primed to make a run at Livingstone for the top spot in the Southern Division.
Livingstone: After consecutive tournament titles, the Blue Bears are retooling with Eric Dubose and Ty Newman leading a young squad.
Virginia State: Coach Lonnie Blow has built a team capable of pushing the established powers at tournament time.
Five to watch
SG Ty Newman, Livingstone: Top returning Blue Bear averaged 14 points on 54.7 percent shooting last season. He can shoot the 3-pointer, too, at a 46.1 percent clip.
SG Diondre Pratt, J.C. Smith: The senior is expected to grow as an offensive threat after averaging 11 points on 51.4 percent accuracy last season. Also averaged 4.9 rebounds.
SF Stedmon Lemon, J.C. Smith: If the Golden Bulls make a run at the South Division title, Lemon, a senior who averaged 14.3 ppg on 49.7 percent shooting last season, will lead the way.
PG Ray Anderson, Virginia Union: Rebuilding the once-dominant program starts with the junior’s versatility. Anderson averaged 14.8 points and 4 rebounds last season.
PF Quincy January, St. Augustine’s: Big impact as a freshman with 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Falcons, January shot 63.6 percent from the floor.
▪ J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner is three wins away from 500 for his career, which spans 27 seasons. He’s the league’s active leader in victories.
▪ Shaw coach Joel Hopkins, who left the Bears after winning the 2002 CIAA tournament and advancing to the Division II Final Four, returns to the program.
▪ Winston-Salem State has three Division I transfers: forwards Keith Armstrong (East Carolina) and Jerome Simmons (N.C. A&T) and guard C.J. Ford (Murray State).
Two-time champion Livingstone will be hard-pressed to duplicate the feat in 2016. Winston-Salem State and Bowie State are the league’s deepest teams.
NEXT: Conference USA