|Photo by Mike Carlson|
Coming off the most successful season in program history, Saint Leo has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the 2012-13 Sunshine State Conference men’s basketball title.
The Lions, who placed third in 2011-12, collected 180 points and 10 first-place votes in a preseason poll conducted among coaches and sports information directors.
Florida Southern, which won the 2012 SSC tournament championship, was picked to finish second. The Moccasins received 172 points and six first-place votes. Eckerd, which tallied 143 points and one first-place nod, took the No. 3 spot. The Tritons were followed closely by Rollins, which was tabbed fourth with 137 points and the remaining first-place vote.
A mere seven points separated the teams in the fifth through eighth slots. Nova Southeastern was predicted to place fifth with 75 points. Just one point back was Florida Tech in the sixth slot with 74 points. Lynn took the seventh spot with 71 points, while Barry was eighth with 68. Tampa rounded out the ranks.
Saint Leo returns all of its starters from last year’s team that won a school-record 18 games. Competing under first-year coach Lance Randall, the Lions concluded 2011-12 with an 18-12 overall mark and a 10-6 conference record. The squad earned the first NCAA tournament bid in program history.
Leading the way for the Lions will be a pair of senior guards who received first-team All-SSC recognition last season. Trent Thomas, who was also named SSC Newcomer of the Year, led the team with 15.4 points per contest. He also registered 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals. Marcus Ruh tallied 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, a team-high 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per contest.
Also returning from last season’s starting rotation are seniors Shaun Adams and Tom Neary. Adams contributed 9.2 points, a team-best 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Neary recorded 7.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and a team-high 1.4 blocks per contest.
Florida Southern also returns all of its starters from last year’s tournament champion squad. The Moccasins posted a 20-10 overall mark and tied for fourth in the SSC with a 9-7 record.
The Mocs will expect big contributions from senior Seth Evans, who was an All-SSC first-team selection in 2012. The guard averaged a team-high 18.2 points, as well as 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He’ll be joined by fellow starter Brett Bailey whose 14.8 points and team-high 6.8 rebounds per contest earned all-conference second-team honors a year ago.
Another key performer for FSC will be reigning SSC Freshman of the Year Kevin Capers. In his debut season, Capers tallied 14.1 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per contest.
2012-13 SUNSHINE STATE CONFERENCE MEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL
Rank – Team, Points (1st Place Votes)
1 – Saint Leo, 180 (10)
2 – Florida Southern, 172 (6)
3 – Eckerd, 143 (1)
4 – Rollins, 137 (1)
5 – Nova Southeastern, 75
6 – Florida Tech, 74
7 – Lynn, 71
8 – Barry, 68
9 – Tampa, 52