ETSU picked fourth in SoCon preseason poll

Joe Avento • Updated Oct 25, 2017 at 7:02 PM

East Tennessee State’s basketball team was picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference by the media and the league’s coaches, the conference announced Wednesday.

The Bucs, who won the conference tournament and shared the regular-season championship last season, had one player on the preseason all-conference team. Senior guard Desonta Bradford, ETSU’s leading returning scorer at 10.4 points per game, was on the 10-man team chosen by the league’s coaches.

Furman senior guard Devin Sibley was the pick for preseason player of the year. Sibley, the reigning SoCon player of the year, averaged 17.7 points per game in helping the Paladins to a share of the league’s regular-season title last year.

Meanwhile, the ETSU women were picked to finish third by the media and fourth by the coaches. Tianna Tarter was their lone representative on the preseason all-conference team.

Mercer senior guard Kahlia Lawrence was picked as the women’s preseason player of the year.

There was quite a discrepancy in the voting on the men’s polls. The coaches picked Mercer to win the league, while the media had the Bears finishing sixth. The media picked Furman as No. 1 and the coaches had the Paladins third.

Mercer picked up four first-place votes and 71 total points in the coaches’ poll to edge Samford, which got three first-place votes and 70 points.

The Bears, who went 15-17 overall and 9-9 in the SoCon last season, return all five starters from last year, including preseason all-conference selection Ria’n Holland, a senior guard.

Furman went 23-12 overall and 14-4 in league play last season and reached the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Paladins return four starters and are under the direction of first-year coach Bob Richey.

Samford went 20-16 last season, posting its first winning season since 2005-06 and claiming its first-ever postseason win with a 78-74 victory over Canisius in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Bulldogs return all five starters this season and put senior forward Demetrius Denzel-Dyson and junior center Wyatt Walker on the preseason all-conference team.

ETSU was one point behind Furman in the coaches poll. The Bucs earned a share of last year’s regular-season title at 27-8 overall and 14-4 in the league and went on to play in the NCAA tournament.

UNC Greensboro was third in the media poll and fifth in the coaches’ poll. Wofford was picked fifth by the media and sixth by the coaches. The Citadel and Chattanooga tied for seventh in the coaches’ rankings. Chattanooga, which has a new head coach in Lamont Paris, finished seventh in the media poll with The Citadel landing eighth with 70.

In both polls, Western Carolina was ninth and Virginia Military Institute was 10th.

Mercer’s women were picked to win the league by the media and coaches. Chattanooga, coming off its fifth consecutive conference tournament championship, was second.