The 2016-17 Liberty men's basketball team has been picked to finish second in the Big South, as voted upon by the conference's head coaches and members of the media. Additionally, redshirt senior guard John Dawson was named a first team preseason all-conference selection. The preseason poll and all-conference teams were announced at Tuesday's 2016-17 Big South Basketball Media Day, held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte Concord Golf Resort & Spa. Liberty, which earned 236 points, finished inside the top two of the Big South preseason poll for the first time since 2003-04, when the Flames were also picked second. Additionally, Dawson is the Flames' first preseason all-conference performer since Davon Marshall and John Caleb Sanders both made the second team leading into the 2013-14 season. Winthrop was a unanimous selection for first place in the Big South standings, garnering all 30 first-place votes and 300 points. Defending Big South champion UNC Asheville is listed third with 227 points, while Gardner-Webb (fourth place, 218 points) and High Point (fifth, 182) round out the top five. Radford (sixth, 128), Charleston Southern (seventh, 121), Campbell (eighth, 101), Longwood (ninth, 82) and Presbyterian (10th, 55) complete the preseason listing. Dawson was joined on the preseason all-conference first team by Big South Preseason Player of the Year Keon Johnson of Winthrop, Xavier Cooks of Winthrop, Tyrell Nelson of Gardner-Webb and Chris Clemons of Campbell. Dawson performed well during his first year with the Flames in 2015-16, pacing the team in scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg) and assists (3.4 apg). For his efforts, Dawson was named an honorable mention All-Big South performer at season's end. Dawson helped Liberty defy last season's preseason predictions. Despite being picked 11th in the Big South preseason poll, the Flames ended up fifth in the final conference standings at 10-8. Head Coach Ritchie McKay's squad returns three other starters, in sophomore guard Lovell Cabbil (9.9 ppg), redshirt junior guard/forward Ryan Kemrite (8.3 ppg) and sophomore guard Caleb Homesley (7.2 ppg). The 2016-17 Flames will also feature five freshmen and senior transfer Ray Chen. Liberty will open the season with back-to-back home games, as matchups with Cairn (Nov. 11) and VCU (Nov. 15) tip off a 17-game home schedule at the Vines Center. The Flames' first of 18 Big South contests is scheduled for Dec. 29 at Presbyterian. The 2017 Big South Men's Basketball Championship returns to a home-site/earned seed format last used in 2012. The four lowest seeds will compete in the first round on Feb. 28, which will be hosted by the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played at the No. 1 seed on March 2-3, while the highest remaining seed will host the championship game on March 5 at 1 p.m. on ESPN -- the first Big South title game appearance on ESPN since 2007.
2016-17 Big South Men's Basketball Preseason Poll Team (First-place votes) – Points 1) Winthrop (30) – 300 2) Liberty – 236 3) UNC Asheville – 227 4) Gardner-Webb – 218 5) High Point – 182 6) Radford – 128 7) Charleston Southern – 121 8) Campbell – 101 9) Longwood – 82 10) Presbyterian – 55
2016-17 Big South Men's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team Keon Johnson, Winthrop Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb Xavier Cooks, Winthrop Chris Clemons, Campbell John Dawson, Liberty
Second Team Ahmad Thomas, UNC Asheville Armel Potter, Charleston Southern Kevin Vannatta, UNC Asheville Miles Bowman Jr., High Point Ed Polite Jr., Radford
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