From the Great American Conference
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – The Great American Conference men’s basketball coaches have selected Arkansas Tech, the defending regular-season and tournament champion, as the preseason favorite to win the conference championship, the league office announced on Thursday.
The Wonder Boys won 26 games last season and advanced to their first-ever NCAA Division II Regional Championship game. Head coach Doug Karleskint has guided Tech to back-to-back seasons with at least 25 wins. They must the replace GAC Player of the Year, Johnie Davis, and will look to seniors Will Paul and Jared Williamson to fill Davis’ void. Paul, a center, averaged 10.3 points and led the team in rebounding and shot blocking. Williamson shot 41.7 percent from the 3-point arc and averaged 12.1 points per game.
Southwestern Oklahoma State, runner-up to Tech at the GAC Tournament, placed second in the preseason poll and garnered one first-place vote. The Bulldogs return 2011-12 GAC Defensive Player of the Year Thomas Davis. In addition to averaging more than a block and a steal per game, Davis scored 13.5 points per game and hit on 52.5 percent of his shots. In GAC play, those numbers increased to 16.0 points per game and a 56.3 field-goal percentage.
Henderson State grabbed the last first-place vote and took third in the poll. Last season, in the first year under the guidance of head coach Doug Nichols, the Reddies finished second in the regular season and qualified for a conference tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Reddies return Denzel Lyles, an All-GAC First-Team member and the Newcomer of the Year. Lyles shot 44.3 percent from the 3-point arc. They also return the league’s leading rebounder, Andrew Ensley.
Ouachita Baptist edged out Harding for the fourth spot. Southeastern Oklahoma State took sixth and Arkansas-Monticello placed seventh. Harding returns Zach Roddenberry, who led Division II in field goal percentage. He connected on 70.1 percent of his shots and averaged 15.3 points per game. UAM, off a 20-win season, features the top-returning scorer in the league, Kori Forge. He finished third in GAC in scoring, netting 17.0 points per game.
Southern Arkansas and East Central rounded out the poll. Coaches did not include provisional members Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene in the preseason ballot.
The 2011-12 regular season tips off Friday, November 9 and culminates Saturday, March 2. The GAC championship returns to Bartlesville, Okla. at the Bruin Fieldhouse and will take place from March 7-10, 2013. Eight of the league’s nine teams will participate in the event.
|2012-13 Great American Conference Preseason Men’s Basketball Poll|
|RANK||SCHOOL (2011-12 Record)||Points||1st-Place Votes|
|1.||Arkansas Tech (26-6)||63||7|
|2.||Southwestern Oklahoma State (17-12)||51||1|
|3.||Henderson State (16-11)||46||1|
|4.||Ouachita Baptist (16-12)||42||–|
|6.||Southeastern Oklahoma State (12-17)||31||–|
|8.||Southern Arkansas (13-16)||14||–|
|9.||East Central (5-21)||13||–|
Eric Moyer is the Assistant Commissioner for Communications at the Great American Conference.