WINTER PARK, Fla. - Coming off the most successful season in program history, Saint Leo has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the 2012-13 Sunshine State Conference men's basketball title.
The Lions, who placed third in 2011-12, collected 180 points and 10 first-place votes in a preseason poll conducted among coaches and sports information directors. It is the first time in program history that the Lions have been selected at the top of the preseason polls.
Saint Leo returns all of its starters from last year's team that won a school-record 18 games. Competing under first-year coach Lance Randall, the Lions concluded 2011-12 with an 18-12 overall mark and a 10-6 conference record. The squad earned the first NCAA tournament bid in program history.
Leading the way for the Lions will be a pair of senior guards who received first-team All-SSC recognition last season. Trent Thomas, who was also named SSC Newcomer of the Year, led the team with 15.4 points per contest. He also registered 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals. Marcus Ruh tallied 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, a team-high 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per contest.
Also returning from last season's starting rotation are seniors Shaun Adams and Tom Neary. Adams contributed 9.2 points, a team-best 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Neary recorded 7.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and a team-high 1.4 blocks per contest.
Florida Southern was picked to finish second. The Moccasins received 172 points and six first-place votes. Eckerd, which tallied 143 points and one first-place nod, took the No. 3 spot. The Tritons were followed closely by Rollins, which was tabbed fourth with 137 points and the remaining first-place vote.
A mere seven points separated the teams in the fifth through eighth slots. Nova Southeastern was predicted to place fifth with 75 points. Just one point back was Florida Tech in the sixth slot with 74 points. Lynn took the seventh spot with 71 points, while Barry was eighth with 68. Tampa rounded out the ranks.
The Lions will get the exhibition portion of their 2012-13 season started when they travel to Coral Gables, Fla. to face the University of Miami on November 2. The game against the Hurricanes will serve as the first of a Division I doubleheader as they will then face another Atlantic Coast Conference team when they travel to Tallahassee, Fla. to face Florida State University on November 5.
The regular season gets started in the friendly confines of the Marion Bowman Activities Center when the Lions welcome Shorter University (Ga.) on November 9.