Atlantic Sun Season Preview
Expect to see Belmont in the Big Dance.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
Defending Regular Season Champion: Campbell
3. East Tennessee State
5. North Florida
7. Kennesaw State
9. Florida Gulf Coast
10. USC Upstate
Summary: Beyond the top four teams in this league, I’m going to be honest and say that I might as well have thrown seven names in a hat and drawn them out randomly to fill the 5-11 spots in the standings. The race for the league title in the Atlantic Sun, a league that has become known for pulling early season upsets over BCS opponents in recent years (though Gardner-Webb is no longer in the conference), should be competitive. East Tennessee State returns most of it horses from a team that had a disappointing regular season, but ran through the conference tournament to earn a 16 seed and a first round game vs. Kentucky. Lipscomb has been building up to this season for a while around star center Adnan Hodzic (who happens to be the nation’s leading returning scorer and considered entering the NBA draft before pulling out), and Belmont surprised Atlantic Sun fans (all 57 of them who are scattered throughout the South), in what was supposed to be a down year for the Bears, by tying for the best conference record (14-6). I’m going to pick Belmont to come out on top over the other main contenders because of the program’s experience and stability at the top; the Bears have one of the country’s most underrated and well-respected lead men in coach Rick Byrd. Even though Belmont absolutely has less talent than East Tennessee or Lipscomb, they have fewer question marks as well. Expect to see Belmont in the Big Dance for the fourth time in five seasons.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.