From the Sun Belt Conference
Reigning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Tony Mitchell was named 2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year, while Middle Tennessee and North Texas were unanimous selections to win the SBC East and West Divisions, respectively, the league office announced Wednesday.
In conference games last season, Mitchell averaged a double-double and led the league in points per game (15.9), rebounds per game (11.8), three-point percentage (.471) and blocked shots (50). The sophomore forward also shot 58.1 percent from the field which placed second in the league.
The Dallas, Texas native will look to lead the Mean Green, which has averaged 21 wins per season over the last six years and is under the direction of first-year head coach Tony Benford. NT received all 11 first place votes in the SBC West after advancing to the SBC Tournament finals in 2011-12 for the third consecutive year. The Mean Green currently holds the league's highest winning percentage (65.6) among all programs since 2006-07.
MT was tabbed to win the SBC East after taking all 11 preseason first place votes. The Blue Raiders won the SBC Regular Season crown in 2011-12 with a 14-2 mark and earned votes in this year's USA Today coaches' preseason poll for the first time in program history.
The Blue Raiders return 10 of their top 12 leading scorers from last season, including Preseason All-SBC First Team selection Marcos Knight. The senior guard from Rentz, Ga., registered 11.8 points and 3.0 assists per game last year. His 1.6 assist:turnover ratio in conference play ranked third in the league, as he also shot 48.3 percent from the field.
MT also returns Preseason All-SBC Second Team selections JT Sulton and Bruce Massey, as well as Third Team honor Raymond Cintron. The Blue Raiders finished in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 10 last season with a 27-7 record.
Picked to finish second in the SBC East was South Alabama under the direction of 14th-year head coach Ronnie Arrow. The Jaguars return seven letterwinners and their top three scorers from last year's 17-12 squad, with Preseason All-SBC First Team selection Augustine Rubit leading the way.
Rubit, a junior forward from Houston, Texas, earned All-SBC First Team accolades last year and was the only Jaguar to start all 29 games. He led the league in rebounding for the second consecutive season and ranked 38th in the nation with 9.2 per game. He also returns as the league's leading scorer after dropping in 15.2 points a game last season, second best in the conference.
After leading UALR to a first-place finish in the SBC West last season, sophomore Will Neighbour inked his name on the Preseason All-SBC First Team. In his rookie season, the big man poured in 10.5 points per game while pulling down 5.3 rebounds. He also proved his shooting accuracy by knocking down 81.5 percent from the free throw line and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Neighbour was a Second Team All-SBC selection last season and will look to lead a young UALR team that welcomes nine newcomers. The Trojans are guided by 10th-year head coach Steve Shields and are projected to finish third in the SBC West as they return three letterwinners.
Arkansas State senior guard Trey Finn rounded out the Preseason All-SBC First Team after sinking 11.6 points per game last season for the Red Wolves. Finn tallied 21 double-digit scoring games last season and also brought down 5.3 rebounds per game. He started 29 of 30 contests for ASU and connected on a team-high 61 three-pointers while shooting 45.9 percent from long-range.
Under the direction of fifth-year head coach John Brady, ASU was picked to finish second in the SBC West Division. The Red Wolves return four starters from last year's team, including leading scorer and Preseason All-SBC Third Team selection Marcus Hooten.
Defending SBC Tournament champions WKU was tabbed for a third place finish in the SBC East and returns 63.3 percent of its scoring from last season. The Hilltoppers knocked off Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season and have won at least one game in its last three NCAA Tournament appearances (2008, 09, 12).
WKU returns four starters and nine letterwinners from last year's team, including Preseason All-SBC Second Team selection George Fant. The Hilltoppers have made it to at least the SBC Tournament semifinals in eight consecutive seasons.
The SBC will have two regular-season nationally televised games on ESPN2 in addition to the SBC Championship finals in Hot Springs, Ark., on March 11. Florida Atlantic will travel to Indiana on Dec. 21 in the first nationally televised game, and either WKU at MT or UALR at NT will be aired on ESPN2 on Jan. 26.
Four SBC contests will be nationally televised on ESPNU, and an additional eight matchups can be seen on ESPN3.com. The Sun Belt Network will air seven regular-season games and the SBC Championship quarterfinals and semifinals.
Now in its fourth season, the Sun Belt Network is a joint partnership with Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST). Each game will be available in 13 states across the southeast and is often available on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan outside of the CSS and CST markets. The agreement with CSS and CST has resulted in the broadcasting of football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, and softball contests throughout the last three seasons. In whole, the Sun Belt Network has been responsible for over 100 events airing on CSS and CST over the past three seasons.
2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason All-Conference First Team
Will Neighbour (UALR, Jr., Forward)
Trey Finn (Arkansas State, Sr., Guard)
Marcos Knight (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
Tony Mitchell (North Texas, So., Forward)
Augustine Rubit (South Alabama, Jr., Forward)
2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Brandon Peterson (Arkansas State, Sr., Forward)
Greg Gantt (Florida Atlantic, Sr., Guard)
JT Sulton (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Forward)
Bruce Massey (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
George Fant (WKU, So., Forward)
2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Third Team
Marcus Hooten (Arkansas State, Sr., Guard)
Raymond Cintron (Middle Tennessee, Sr., Guard)
Javier Carter (South Alabama, Sr., Forward)
Freddie Goldstein (South Alabama, Sr., Guard)
T.J. Price (WKU, So., Guard)
2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year
Tony Mitchell (North Texas, So., Forward)
2012-13 Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll
First Place Votes in Parentheses
1. Middle Tennessee – 65 points (11)
2. South Alabama – 51 points
3. WKU – 47 points
4. Florida Atlantic – 29 points
5. Troy – 22 points
6. FIU – 17 points
1. North Texas – 55 points (11)
2. Arkansas State – 40 points
3. UALR – 33 points
4. Louisiana-Lafayette – 24 points
5. Louisiana-Monroe – 13 points
2012-13 Sun Belt Composite Men's Basketball Schedule