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Men's Basketball Picked Sixth in the Big South
The Liberty Flames men's basketball team was selected to finish sixth in the Big South Conference for the 2010-11 season, as voted on by the conference's head coaches and members of the media. The announcement was made Tuesday at the Renaissance Suites Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., as part of the 2010-11 Big South Basketball Tip-Off Media Luncheon.
Liberty is coming off a 15-16 season and a sixth-place finish in conference play. The Flames ended the 2009-10 season with a 10-8 conference record, with half their Big South victories occurring on the road.
Head coach Dale Layer enters his second season at the program's helm, returning three starters from last year's squad – Jesse Sanders, Evan Gordon and Antwan Burrus.
Sanders, who averaged 8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season, became the first player in Big South and school history to garner two career triple-doubles when he posted 11 points, 10 boards and 10 assists against Kentucky Christian on Dec. 12. Sanders' first three-category performance occurred during his freshman season against Presbyterian College.
Gordon returns to the Flames' roster after a successful freshman campaign, last season. The Indianapolis, Ind., native finished the year as Liberty's second-leading scorer, averaging 12.0 points per game. Gordon's performance during the year earned him a spot on the Big South All-Freshman Team as well as VaSID All-State Rookie of the Year honors.
One of Liberty's most improved players last season, Burrus began the season playing limited minutes. However, the forward began to provide the Flames with a spark off the bench in December, leading to a starting role in the final 16 games of the season. The sophomore concluded the 2009-10 campaign averaging 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
The voting panel tabbed the 2009-10 Big South regular-season champions, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, (206 points) as the preseason favorite to win the conference championship by a 15-point margin over Winthrop (191) and a 25-point margin over UNC Asheville (181).
Presbyterian College (159), who was picked 10th in last year's preseason rankings, grabbed the fourth spot in this year's poll, while High Point (139) was picked to finish in the fifth position. Despite receiving a first-place vote, Liberty (124) lands in the sixth spot, followed by Charleston Southern (115) and VMI (85). Radford (83) and Gardner-Webb (32) rounded out the preseason poll.
High Point guard Nick Barbour was selected as the Big South Preseason Player of the Year. The other four members of this year's preseason team include Coastal Carolina's Chad Gray, Presbyterian College's Al'Lonzo Coleman, Charleston Southern's Jamarco Warren and VMI's Austin Kenon.
The first official day of practice for the Flames is slated for Friday. Liberty opens the 2010-11 season at home on Nov. 12, playing host to Virginia Intermont inside the Vines Center. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. The Flames then head to South Bend, Ind., to take on BIG EAST member Notre Dame on Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.
2010-11 Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
Rk Team (first-place votes) – Points
1. Coastal Carolina (10) – 206
2. Winthrop (5) – 191
3. UNC Asheville (4) – 181
4. Presbyterian (4) – 159
5. High Point– 139
6. Liberty (1) – 124
7. Charleston Southern – 115
8. VMI – 85
9. Radford – 83
10. Gardner-Webb – 32