ETSU men’s basketball team picked to finish 3rd in the SoCon pre-season poll

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The Southern Conference announced Thursday that the ETSU men’s basketball team has been picked to finish third by both the league’s coaches and media, while the Buccaneers placed three players on the preseason all-conference team.

            The coaches, who vote for the preseason all-conference squad, were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting. The team included 11 members due to a tie in the voting. While the media do not vote on the preseason all-conference team, both the coaches and media do vote on their own preseason polls.

            The Bucs, who must replace all five starters from a year ago, return 2017-18 SoCon Freshman of the Year Bo Hodges (Nashville), who was joined on the preseason all-conference team by teammates and junior-college transfers Tray Boyd III (Memphis) and Jeromy Rodriguez (Santiago, Dominican Republic). ETSU was slotted third in both polls, earning 67 points from the coaches and 198 points and two first-place votes from the media. The Bucs put together what at the time was the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games from December to February last season, opening league play 13-0 before UNCG halted both streaks. ETSU finished a game back of the Spartans in the SoCon standings and was 25-9 overall, making its third straight appearance in the league tournament’s title game.

            Wofford senior guard Fletcher Magee was the coaches’ pick for preseason player of the year. Magee, who was named the Malcolm U. Pitt Player of the Year by the SoCon media last season, hit 148 3-pointers, the fifth-most in NCAA Division I history, and was a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. He led the league in scoring with 22.1 points per game.

            UNCG picked up 78 points and six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll to edge Wofford, which earned the remaining four first-place votes and 74 total points. In the media poll, the Spartans totaled 231 points and 16 first-place votes, while the Terriers accrued 214 points and six first-place votes.

            Led by first-team all-conference pick Francis Alonso and SoCon Defensive Player of the Year James Dickey, who was a second-team All-SoCon pick, UNCG went 27-8 overall and 15-3 in conference play last year, setting a school record for overall wins and claiming its first SoCon tournament title and NCAA appearance since 2001. Alonso and Dickey were named to the preseason all-conference squad this year.

            Magee and second-team All-SoCon forward Cameron Jackson helped Wofford go 21-13 overall and 11-7 in the league to tie for fourth. The Terriers, who return all five starters from the squad that knocked off then-No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill last season, made their fifth postseason appearance in nine years when they hosted Central Michigan in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament in March. Magee and Jackson are members of the preseason all-conference team.

            Furman and Mercer check in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in both polls. The Paladins went 23-10 overall and 13-5 in SoCon play last year, while the Bears were 19-15 overall and 11-7 in the league. Mercer played in the College Basketball Invitational, winning its first game over Grand Canyon before falling to eventual champion North Texas. Furman’s Matt Rafferty and Mercer’s Ross Cummings earned spots on the preseason all-conference team.

            The Citadel and Chattanooga were next in the polls, with the Bulldogs checking in at No. 6 in the coaches’ poll and No. 7 in the media poll. The Mocs, who went 10-23 overall and 3-15 in the SoCon to finish 10th, were picked to rebound to seventh by the coaches and sixth by the media. The Citadel, which finished eighth in the SoCon last year at 5-13 (11-21 overall) returns first-team all-conference selection Zane Najdawi, a preseason pick this year. Samford, Western Carolina and VMI round out both polls, in that order.

            This season opens Tuesday, Nov. 6, with nine of the league’s 10 teams in action. The 2019 Ingles SoCon Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale will be held March 8-11 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

2018-19 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll

Team (1st-place votes)           Total

1. UNCG (6)                             78

2. Wofford (4)                           74

3. ETSU                                    67

4. Furman                                 57

5. Mercer                                  48

6. The Citadel                           38

7. Chattanooga                         30

8. Samford                               26

9. Western Carolina                  20

10. VMI                                     12

2018-19 Preseason Player of the Year

Fletcher Magee, Sr., G, Wofford

2018-19 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team

Zane Najdawi, Sr., F, The Citadel

Tray Boyd III, Jr., G, ETSU

Bo Hodges, So., G/F, ETSU

Jeromy Rodriguez, R-Jr., F, ETSU

Matt Rafferty, Sr., F, Furman

Ross Cummings, Jr., G, Mercer

Francis Alonso, Sr., G, UNCG

James Dickey, Jr., F, UNCG

Bubba Parham, So., G, VMI

Cameron Jackson, Sr., F, Wofford

Fletcher Magee, Sr., G, Wofford

2018-19 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll

Team (1st-place votes)           Total

1. UNCG (16)                           231

2. Wofford (6)                           214

3. ETSU (2)                              198

4. Furman                                 169

5. Mercer                                  136

6. Chattanooga                         103

7. The Citadel                           96

8. Samford                               69

9. Western Carolina                  59

10. VMI                                     45       

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