The Bruins were a young team last year that was supposed to be rebuilding. However, Belmont exceeded expectations and was the top team in the Atlantic Sun. Now everyone is returning except for Keaton Belcher. The Bruins are led by rising sophomore Ian Clark. Clark had an eFG% of 55.6 in his rookie year. He shot the ball over 40% from three and over 50% from two. Clark's achilles heel was a high turnover rate, but improvement in that area will make him one of the best options in the conference. Clark's supporting cast features two outstanding juniors. 6'9" Mick Hedgepeth can score with efficiency, get to the foul line, block shots, and rebound. The other junior is Drew Hanlen. He had a great sophomore season and distributed the ball well. Kerron Johnson and Scott Saunders are two more guys who should see an increase in minutes. Both struggled with efficiency on offense, but have the talent to be big time contributors for the Bruins. Belmont will certainly excel on defense. As long as they can keep their turnovers down (23.6% last season for 319th in the nation) their offense will also be near the top in the A-Sun.
Last year, Campbell finished 14-6 in conference largely due to defense. Now they have just four major players back from that campaign. All four are under 6'5". Junard Hartley was fourth in the nation in assist rate and and third in the nation in steals percentage. However, Hartley struggled shooting the basketball. Lorne Merthie is another defensive stopper with an outstanding ability to get steals. Merthie mad 69 threes last season on 41% shooting. Preston Dodson is the closest thing Campbell has returning that is a big man. Dodson is a decent rebounder and scorer. Campbell will have to look to newcomers for size. Among the newcomers is 6'8" transfer Keishawn Mayes. Mayes was named to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team as a freshman at Maryland-Eastern Shore and should be a factor down low. Campbell will certainly be a different team this season, but if they can remain solid on defense they will be able to stay very competitive in the Atlantic Sun.
East Tennessee St.
ETSU had an inconsistent season that ended with an NCAA Tourney loss to Kentucky after winning six straight games. The team will be led by three seniors. Tommy Hubbard, Justin Tubbs, and Micah Williams all have fairly similar skill sets. None of them are particularly great three point shooters, but finish inside the arc well. All three take good care of the basketball, but don't have good assist rates. Hubbard played the most minutes last season, but only posted an eFG% of 46.2. However, Hubbard is a great rebounder for his size on both sides of the ball. The main threat inside for ETSU is Isiah Brown. Last year Brown shot the ball well and blocked shots. ETSU could still probably use a long range shooter, but this is pretty much the same team that went to the NCAA Tourney last year.
Florida Gulf Coast
The Eagles won just five conference game last year, but amazingly swept Belmont. 6'1" Reed Baker is still around for his senior year and will be the Eagles go to guy. Anthony Banks is also a very good low post option despite being undersized. Banks was 38th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. Last year the Eagles really struggled shooting and taking care of the ball on offense. They forced a lot of turnovers on defense, but didn't rebound or force missed shots. FGC should just be focused on getting better in what will again be a rebuilding year. The Eagles will again likely be towards the bottom of the totem pole in the A-Sun.
Ben Smith is a huge loss for the Dolphins. Smith played 93.7 percent of Jacksonville's minutes (third in the nation). He did so with high usage and great efficiency. Travis Cohn and Ayron Hardy will be trying to replace him this season. Cohn was a significant contributor last season, but had a bad turnover problem. Hardy was more of a role player, but had great efficiency in his role. Hardy was also a solid defender and accumulated a bunch of blocks and steals. Down low the Dolphins will be undersized. Jacksonville could have some trouble finishing at .500 in conference this season.
The Owls were very streaky last year. They lost five conference games in a row, then won six in a row, then lost seven more in a row. Markeith Cummings freshman year was successful. The 6'7" Cummings had an ORtg of 104.1 and was used on 27.6% of possessions. The Owls have two other decent bigs down low. LeDaris Green and Matt Heramb make Kennesaw St. one of the bigger teams in conference. Last year Green was a very good rebounder and shotblocker. Both Green and Heramb shot too many threes for the Owls. The shot just 26% and 33% respectively from behind the arc. Kevin McConnell and Spencer Dixon are the best two options at guard for Kennesaw. Both had ORtg's just above 100 last season. The Owls will be competitive in the A-Sun if they can maintain some consistency.
The Bisons had a solid 14-6 season last year and have everyone back. Last year, however, the 14 conference wins were due to offense and some luck. Lipscomb had the best offense in the conference, but also one of the worst defenses. Adnan Hodzic will certainly get his fair share of publicity entering his final season and deservedly so. Hodzic was a very efficient and very high volume scorer. The 6'9" big man shot 60.4% from the floor, rebounded, drew fouls, and took care of the basketball. Fellow senior Josh Slater is nearly as important. Last year Slater had a phenomenal assist to turnover ratio and shot the ball at 37% from deep. It doesn't end with just those two. Jordan Burgason shot 44% from three last year. Brandon Brown and Michael Taylor both had ORtg's of 107.5. Lipscomb will potentially have one of the best offenses at the mid major level. Defense will prevent the Bisons from running away with the A-Sun. Unless drastic improvement can be made on the defensive side of the ball, Lipscomb should be behind Belmont and ETSU for conference supremacy.
Last year Mercer could score, but couldn't stop their opponents from scoring. This year they no longer have (arguably) their two best offensive players in James Florence and Daniel Emerson. They still have a good amount of offense left. Jeff Smith is an experienced guard and Brandon Moore should be in for a breakout season. 6'7" Brian Mills shot a ridiculous 68.3% from two and is back for another year. Basically, the Bears will still be a solid offensive team. If they can't improve on defense they will almost certainly be in for another average season in conference.
The Ospreys did not have much offense last year. Only one player on the team, Jerron Granberry had an ORtg over 100. Turnovers were a big problem. Three key guys returning are Andy Diaz, Brad Haugabrook, and Matt Sauey. All three were used on a high percentage of possessions last season, but weren't efficient. Diaz and Sauey are both 6'7" with some potential. Bringing down their turnovers would be a big help for the Ospreys. North Florida will still be relatively young and will need to use this as a learning experience most likely.
South Carolina Upstate
USC Upstate is losing their two most used players from a 6-23 team. This, of course, is not good news for the Spartans. Last year they were led by 7'3" (not a typo) Nick Schneiders. The big man was a big time shot blocker and anchored a decent defensive team. With Schneiders gone the Spartans will presumably take a big step back on defense. Offensively, not one player for USC Upstate had an ORtg over 100. Coach Eddie Payne has eight new recruits coming in, but this year should be a big time rebuilding year for the Spartans.
The Stetson Hatters were really bad last year. Expectations have to be low again this season. However, Coach Derek Waugh may have the program on the right track via recruiting. Corey Walden, Luis Jacobo, and Steven Forbes are three high school recruits who will play in 2010-11. Additionally, Liberty transfer Chris Perez and Delaware transfer Adam Pegg will be ready to go for the Hatters in 2011-12. Stetson isn't close to competing in the A-Sun, but look to be on the right track.
Player of the Year: Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb
The 6'9" junior can do it all for Lipscomb. He shoots well, draws fouls, rebounds the ball, takes care of the basketball. He was used on nearly 30% of Lipscomb's possessions and had an ORtg of 114.8. Expectations are high for the Bisons and Hodzic is the biggest reason why. Coach Scott Sanderson himself has said, "The message I sent [to the team] is that I hope their minds are refreshed and renewed and that they are ready to have a banner year." Hodzic has the skills to lead Lipscomb to that banner year.
Best of the Rest:
1) Josh Slater, Lipscomb
2)Markeith Cummings, Kennesaw St.
3) Ian Clark, Belmont
4) Justin Tubbs, ETSU
5) Anthony Banks, Florida Golf Coast
Breakout Player: Brandon Moore, Mercer
The 6'5" senior plays bigger than size for Mercer. He is a well above average offensive rebounder and shotblocker. He gets to the line very well and shot 56% from two. Moore even made nine of 18 threes last season. Turnovers are a weakness, but he should be able to improve in the area. With the graduation of James Florence and Daniel Emerson, Moore will become a much more featured player. As long as he can keep his efficiency up he will be one of the top players in the A-Sun.
Best of the Rest:
1) Brandon Brown, Lipscomb (43.8 %Min, 107.5 ORtg, 20.3 %Poss)
2) Tevin Galvin, Jacksonville (51.4 %Min, 101.6, 17.4 %Poss)