Men's basketball picked second in A-Sun preseason polls
Ben Smith
Ben Smith
Last season, the JU men’s basketball team came up one game short of advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

This season, the Dolphins are predicted to be in the race for the title again as JU was picked to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason polls released on Wednesday.

“We are pleased to be picked high in the preseason polls, but we know that we’ve got a lot of hard work in front of us to reach our goal of a championship,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren.

Leading the Dolphins to an 18-13 record last season was point guard Ben Smith, who returns for his junior season by being picked on the A-Sun preseason all-conference team. As a sophomore, Smith led the team in scoring, assists and steals to earn first team all-conference recognition.

“Ben is the one of the leaders on this team, on and off the floor,” Warren said. “He’s been through the battles in this league and understands the level of commitment it’s going to take for us to be in the championship race again.”

Three-time defending champion Belmont was picked by both the coaches and media to repeat as the regular season and tournament champion. The Bruins received seven of the possible 11 first place votes in the coaches’ poll while getting 25 of the possible 33 in the media poll.

“Belmont is very deserving of being picked as the league champion,” Warren said. “Until somebody knocks them off, they are the team to beat in the league.”

The Dolphins were tied with ETSU in the coaches’ poll with 104 points. JU received one first place vote to ETSU’s two. In the media poll, JU received five first-place votes while ETSU took home just three and is picked third.

Both polls agreed on the rest of the league standings, starting with Lipscomb in fourth place as the Bisons will host the 2009 A-Sun Championship.

Stetson is selected fifth, followed by Mercer, Campbell, Kennesaw State, Florida Gulf Coast, USC Upstate and North Florida.

The Dolphins open practice on Oct. 17, with the season opening less than a month later on Nov. 15 against Florida State at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.