Crusaders Top SSAC Men's Basketball Coaches' Preseason Poll
This is a news release from William Carey athletics
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Defending SSAC regular-season and tournament champion William Carey (Miss.) was selected as the favorite to capture this year's Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) crown in the 2014 SSAC Men's Basketball Coaches' Preseason Poll, the conference office announced Friday. The Crusaders accumulated 128 points, including 7-of-12 first-place votes, to top the preseason conference ranking.
During the 2013-14 season, William Carey went 18-0 in SSAC regular-season play and cut down the nets in Montgomery with an 85-73 win over former member Emmanuel (Ga.) in the conference tournament final. The Crusaders were one of three programs to represent the SSAC in the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship, along with Emmanuel and Belhaven (Miss.).
There, No. 3-seeded William Carey outlasted Philander Smith (Ark.), 109-93, in the first round, but was upset by then-defending national champion and No. 14-seeded Georgetown (Ky.), 98-90, in its second round contest. The Crusaders finished the year with a 28-3 record.
Longtime William Carey head coach and athletic director Steve Knight, who was named the SSAC Men's Basketball Coach of the Year and NAIA Men's Basketball Coach of the Year after the Crusaders' 2013-14 campaign, is excited to begin the team's conference title defense.
"We are honored to have been selected on top of the SSAC Men's Basketball Coaches' Preseason Poll. It speaks highly of our program and we are looking forward to the challenge of defending our SSAC title this season," Knight said. "Our league is very competitive and there are a number of quality teams who could win it all this year."
First-year SSAC member Dalton State (Ga.) will be paramount among these competitors. The Roadrunners were picked to finish second in the SSAC, amassing 123 points and three first-place votes in the preseason coaches' poll. Dalton State compiled a 26-4 record during the 2013-14 season, but was ineligible for postseason play as a first-year NAIA member.
Martin Methodist (Tenn.) (111 points), Bethel (Tenn.) (102 points) and Faulkner (Ala.) (92 points) round out the SSAC's top five programs.
As one of the NAIA's largest conferences, the SSAC has produced multiple NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship qualifiers in each of the past five seasons—including three or more in each of the past four campaigns. Over that span, the SSAC has had four national quarterfinalists, three national semifinalists and one national runner-up.
Mobile (Ala.) (78 points), Loyola (La.) (73 points), Coastal Georgia (72 points), Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) (52 points), Belhaven (47 points), Blue Mountain (Miss.) (33 points) and Brewton-Parker (Ga.) (25 points) complete the 12-team poll.
Bethel and Loyola received the remaining two first-place votes in the poll.
Middle Georgia State will also play a full slate of SSAC games this season—and will be a countable conference opponent—but will be ineligible for rankings and postseason play at both the conference and national levels as a first-year SSAC and NAIA member.