FRISCO, Texas – New Orleans was voted to the top spot of the 2019 Southland Conference Men’s Basketball preseason poll, announced by the league Thursday. Last year’s regular-season champion Sam Houston State is tabbed to finish second while reigning tournament champion Abilene Christian is picked third in the poll.
While the Privateers received half of the first-place votes, there were five total squads who were considered to be the top team on at least one ballot. The Bearkats garnered the second-most with seven, followed by four for Central Arkansas. Stephen F. Austin and Lamar each earned one.
UNO went 19-14 with a 12-6 mark in league play last year and earned the No. 4 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament, where they knocked off top-seeded Sam Houston State before falling to the Wildcats in the title game.
The Privateers lost in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and aim to extend their string of postseason appearances to four-straight seasons in 2019-20. UNO is led by First-Team Preseason All-Southland selection Bryson Robinson and reigning Southland Freshman of the Year Gerrale Gates.
Coming off its first Southland championship since 2009-10, Sam Houston State is chosen to finish second. The 2019 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, senior forward/center Kai Mitchell will have plenty of points up for grabs with the departure of brothers Cameron and Josh Delaney.
Abilene Christian is slated to finish third after setting single-season program records for regular-season wins (25) and conference wins (14) en route to its first Southland Conference Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance. The Wildcats lost five of their six leading scorers with First-Team Preseason All-Southland honoree Payten Ricks entering as the top returning scorer.
Stephen F. Austin, who received one first-place vote, is selected to finish fourth after missing the 2019 Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in 15 years. With four first-place votes and a pair of second team preseason all-conference picks, Central Arkansas is predicted to come in fifth.
Battle of the Border rivals Lamar and McNeese occupy the sixth and seventh spots in the poll, respectively, and are separated by just five points. The Cowboys’ Roydell Brown and Sha’Markus Kennedy, along with Lamar’s T.J. Atwood, made up the rest of the preseason all-conference second team.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi checks in at eighth in the poll with 147 points, followed by Houston Baptist (129), Southeastern Louisiana (113) and Nicholls (101). Northwestern State and UIW round out the field.
The preseason poll is voted on by the head coach and sports information director from each Southland school. Each individual ranks the other 12 teams in their predicted order of regular season finish. Ranking one’s own school is not permitted.