College Basketball

Coastal Carolina men, Liberty women picked to win Big South

Winthrop men’s basketball coach Pat Kelsey doesn’t put much stock in conference preseason polls, especially where the Big South is concerned.

That’s understandable, especially after how the Eagles performed last season.

“I really think you can go 7, 8 or 9 deep – they’ll all have a chance,” said Kelsey, who led Winthrop to a 20-13 record and the Big South tournament’s championship game last season. “That’s why I don’t pay attention to preseason polls.”

The Eagles were picked to finish fourth in the Big South this season in the league’s preseason poll, league officials revealed Monday during the conference’s annual media breakfast.

Gardner-Webb was picked seventh in the poll, taken from a vote of the league’s coaches and selected media. Coastal Carolina was named the favorite to win the conference title.

The Chanticleers, who return four starters from last year’s 21-13 team, garnered 14 first-place votes and 297 points to edge defending regular-season champ High Point by four points (293 points, 12 first-place votes).

“There’s a lot of teams that bring back their entire rosters, or bring back a lot of good players,” said Bulldogs coach Tim Craft, who returns two starters from last year’s 18-15 team.

“We can certainly have a pretty good year, but where we’ll finish no one knows. The league’s pretty deep.”

That’s why just about every team has a chance to win the Big South title this season, according to Kelsey.

“The first three teams mentioned (at the bottom of the poll) could beat any of the teams in the 1-2-3 spots,” Kelsey said. “Anybody could beat anybody on any given night.”

Women: Eagles third, Bulldogs sixth

Winthrop was picked to finish third and Gardner-Webb sixth in the Big South’s women’s basketball preseason poll.

Liberty edged out defending league champion High Point as the coaches’ pick to win the league title, picking up five first-place votes and 113 points. The Panthers got three first-place votes and 110 points.

The Eagles also got three first-place votes, and 104 points. The Bulldogs finished with 56 points, just edging out UNC Asheville (55) and Presbyterian (54).

Six from area all-Big South

Six players from the Observer area were named to the Big South’s preseason all-conference teams.

On the men’s side, Gardner-Webb’s Jerome Hill, Winthrop’s Keon Moore and Presbyterian’s Jordan Downing – a Hopewell High grad who transferred from Davidson – were second-team picks.

Winthrop’s Erica Williams was a first-team pick on the women’s all-Big South team, while Winthrop’s Schaquilla Nunn and Radford’s Ayana Avery, a West Rowan graduate, were named to the second team.

High Point swept the preseason player of the year honors, with John Brown taking the men’s award and Kaylah Keys the women’s award.

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