ASU tabbed 2nd in Peach Belt Conference, USC Aiken 4th

Peach Belt Conference
By  | 

Thursday November 1, 2012

AUGUSTA, GA – Just six months removed from playing in the national championship game, the University of Montevallo men’s basketball team was selected as the Peach Belt Conference preseason favorites in a poll of the league’s head coaches released on Thursday. The Falcons collected five first-place votes and 139 total points in the poll to edge out Augusta State by two. The Jaguars collected seven first-place votes and finished with a total of 137. UNC Pembroke was third in the voting, one point ahead of USC Aiken. Columbus State was next followed by Clayton State, Georgia College and Lander. Georgia Southwestern, Francis Marion, North Georgia, Armstrong, newcomer Young Harris and Flagler rounded out the voting.

Montevallo’s two-point margin is the closest in the preseason poll since Francis Marion edged out USC Aiken 105-104 to start the 1998-99 season. Montevallo is the preseason favorite for the first time in its four-year tenure in the Peach Belt, thanks to their magical run in 2011-12 that saw them capture their first PBC Tournament title, host and win the NCAA Southeast Regional and advance to the Elite Eight and the national championship game. The Falcons were 29-8 overall last year, 12-5 in league play and return three starters from last year’s team including senior preseason All-Conference selection Drico Hightower, senior forward Marvin Fitzgerald and sophomore point guard Ryan May.

Augusta State returns four starters from last year’s 17-11 squad that finished second in the east division and advanced to the semifinals of the PBC Tournament. Four of the Jaguars top five scorers return including 2011-12 PBC Freshman of the Year Devon Wright-Nelson who averaged 14.2 ppg and was named to the preseason All-Conference team. Also back is senior Travis Keels, junior Harold Doby and sophomore Devonte Thomas. In all, 70% of ASU’s scoring returns along with 63% of their rebounding. Nine newcomers will also take the floor for ASU this season.

UNC Pembroke finished the 2011-12 regular season in a tie for third in the east and advanced to the PBC Tournament for the second year in a row. The Braves are looking for a return trip to the PBC championship game which they first reached two years ago and may have the team to do it this season with three returning seniors leading the way. Shahmel Brackett returns for his final campaign. The 2009-10 PBC Freshman of the Year has been named PBC All-Conference each of the last two seasons. Brackett led the Braves with 14.1 ppg last season as UNCP as a team returns three of their top four scorers with seniors K.J. Cooper and George Blakeney also coming back.

USC Aiken won the 2011-12 men’s basketball regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for fourth time in the last five years. The Pacers return three starters from that team including senior guard Re’mon Nelson, who led the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game and was named to this year’s preseason All-Conference team. Also back are junior guard Jesse Seilern and junior forward Maurice Hubbard. The Pacers will also be bolstered this year with six Division I transfers coming in, all them in their junior years.

The 2012-13 PBC landscape will have a slightly different look than in years past. For the first time since the 08-09 season every team in the league will play the same amount of conference games. That is thanks to the addition of Young Harris College, who begins their first year of league membership and provides balance to the divisions as they become the seventh team in the west.

The men's basketball season begins on Nov. 9 with league play getting underway in mid-December. The season goes on through the PBC Tournament March 7-10, 2013, at Columbus State University.