CHARLOTTE — Charleston Southern men’s basketball coach Barclay Radebaugh, in past years, has used low rankings in preseason polls to motivate his team. That strategy won’t work this season.
With four returning starters from a team that finished third last season, the Buccaneers were picked to win the South Division of the Big South Conference at the league’s annual Basketball Tip-Off media event. It is the first time CSU has been picked as the league favorite.
CSU was picked to finish eighth in last year’s poll of media representatives and coaches but finished with a 19-12 record.
“We are honored to be picked first in the South Division in this year’s preseason poll,” said Radebaugh, the 2011-12 Big South coach of the year. “While we feel good about our team, we are very aware that this year’s Big South Conference race is wide open. There are six or seven teams that could be picked as the preseason favorites.
“Also, there will be a team that is picked lower that will surprise us all with a great year. Last year, we were picked eighth and finished third.”
Charleston Southern sophomore guard Saah Nimley was chosen to the preseason all-conference first team, while sophomore guard Arlon Harper was selected to the second team. In addition to the four starters, CSU returns 10 players who earned letters last season.
CSU received 16 first-place votes and finished ahead of Coastal Carolina (eight first-place votes) and defending league champion UNC Asheville (five).
Campbell was the pick to win the North Division. The Big South Conference expanded to 12 members this season and will have divisional play in men’s basketball for the first time.
The Buccaneers open the 2012-13 season at Charlotte on Nov. 9, followed by a game at Arizona on Nov. 11.
Charleston Southern’s women’s team was picked to finish sixth in the 11-team league. Fred Applin is the new coach at CSU, inheriting a team of five returning seniors and three juniors. CSU went 18-15 overall last season, posting a 9-9 league record.
“I think it’s a tough league with a lot of good coaches and talented players in the league,” Applin said. “Picked sixth is something that is difficult because the competition is really good, but our team can learn and grow from it. Where we are picked does not define this team. We want to be better and our seniors will help us build upon that.”
CSU’s women open the season Nov. 10 at UNC Greensboro as part of the Big South/SoCon Challenge.
Liberty was picked to finish first in the women’s preseason polls, followed by High Point and Winthrop. Liberty has been the preseason favorite in 15 of the last 16 seasons.
Big South men’s preseason poll
1. Charleston Southern 157
2. Coastal Carolina 147
3. UNC Asheville 130
4. Winthrop 67
5. Gardner-Webb 58
6. Presbyterian 50
1. Campbell 166
2. VMI 136
3. High Point 103
4. Liberty 98
5. Radford 57
6. Longwood 49