Men's hoops picked to finish seventh

AUGUSTA, GA -- Following a remarkable 2007-08 season, the USC Aiken Pacers have been selected as the favorite to win the 2008-09 Peach Belt men's basketball title in a poll of the league's head coaches released today. The Pacers received seven of a possible 10 first-place votes to edge out second-place Augusta State by three points. Clayton State was third, one point ahead of North Georgia in fourth. Armstrong Atlantic State was fifth with GCSU sixth and GSW in seventh. Columbus State, Francis Marion, Lander and UNC Pembroke rounded out the voting.

The Hurricanes return two starters and four players overall from a team that finished the 2007-08 campaign with an 8-19 record.  Senior guard Anthony Sargent, an All-Conference selection last season, led the PBC in scoring and 3-point field goal percentage averaging 22.0 and 3.52, respectively.  His 1.88 steals per contest ranked second in the Peach Belt.  Fellow senior and returning starter Rick Russell averaged 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.  Off the bench, junior Ric Roderick chipped in 4.9 ppg and sophomore Danny Hunt saw action in 25 games.  Nine new faces are on the roster, including three freshman and six junior transfers.   

USC Aiken receives the PBC preseason vote for the first time ever following their breakout performance last season. The Pacers won the PBC Championship for the first time in 15 years with a 27-4 overall record and 19-1 mark in the conference. For 2008-09, the Pacers will once again look to forward Chris Commons. The All-American and co-PBC Player of the Year averaged 21.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. USCA returns four of five starters to the floor, but will be missing guard Jeremy Fears who is now playing professionally overseas after averaging 17.3 ppg last season.

If there was one team that overshadowed USCA's accomplishments last year, it was Augusta State. The Jaguars finished second in the PBC and lost in the second round of the PBC Tournament, but rallied to win the NCAA Regional and advance to the National Championship game, becoming only the second PBC team to do so. The Jaguars finished the year 27-7 and have hopes of returning to the Elite Eight in 2008-09. Back is center Garret Siler who once again led the nation in field goal percentage and led the PBC in rebounding. Also returning is All-Conference guard Ben Madgen. However, the Jaguars will have to replace Tyrekus ‘AJ' Bowman, who averaged 19.8 ppg and was a co-PBC Player of the Year.

Clayton State had trouble finding consistency in the regular season, finishing 9-11 in conference play, but put it all together at the right time as they won the PBC Tournament as the seventh seed, earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and reached the regional finals where they fell to ASU. The Lakers return two starters and eight total players from last years 19-15 team.

North Georgia finished fourth in the PBC standings and made a run to the semifinals of the PBC Tournament, finishing the year 18-11 overall and 12-8 in the conference. Three starters return for the Saints, including All-Conference guard Andre Morgan, who is one of six seniors on the roster.

The 'Canes open the 2008-09 season on November 15 against Puerto Rico-Cayey in Valdosta, Ga. and return to Americus the next evening for the home opener against Carver Bible.

The preseason poll is listed below. Teams were given 10 points for a first-place vote, 9 for second and so on. Click here for a  team-by team preview.

2008-09 Men's Basketball Preseason Poll

Rank Team             1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Total

1. USC Aiken           7   3   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   97

2. Augusta State    4   6   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   94

3. Clayton State     0   0   4   5   0   0   0   1   0   0   70

4. North Georgia    0   1   3   2   2   2   0   0   0   0   69

5. Armstrong Atl.   0   1    2   3   2   0   2   0   0   0   66

6. GCSU                 0   0    1   0   4   3   2   0   0   0   55

t7. GSW                0   0   1   0   3   1   0  2   2   1  42

t7. Columbus St.    0   0   0   1   0    3   2   4   0   0   42

9. Francis Marion   0   0   0   0    0    1   5   1   3   0   34

10. Lander             0   0   0   0   0    1   0   3   6   0   26

11. UNC Pembroke 0   0   0   0   0    0   0   0   0  10  10

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