AMERICUS -- The roles for the Georgia Southwestern men's basketball team have suddenly been reversed: The Hurricanes are no longer the hunters, they're now the hunted.
GSW, which was picked to finish ninth in the Peach Belt Conference last season but came out of nowhere and ended up winning the Western Division title, will begin the 2011-12 season ranked 18th in the country, according to the Division II Bulletin Top 25 Preseason Poll released Friday.
"It was great news for us, especially considering this is only our sixth year in Division II," GSW coach Mike Leeder said Friday. "To be considered one of the Top 25 teams in the nation in such a short period of time is nice for our program, but now we can't surprise anyone anymore like we did last year. The roles are reversed and we're not going to sneak up on anyone, and with that comes a whole new set of expectations. This year, we have to learn how to deal with success, while also playing to prove ourselves once again."
GSW, which went a dismal 7-20 in 2009-10, is coming off a 20-9 campaign during which the team climbed to as high as No. 16 in the nation and earned its first-ever NCAA Division II National Tournament berth. Of course, the D-II Tournament is a sore subject around Americus after the Hurricanes were stunned in the first round.
"We didn't finish the way we wanted; it's something we've talked about a lot this offseason," Leeder said. "It motivated us, and we learned from it. Hopefully, if we get in the same position this year, we'll perform better."
GSW is also the only PBC school -- and the lone institution from Georgia -- ranked in the Division II Bulletin's preseason Top 25.
GSW returns three of its top four scorers off last season's squad, including: 2011 PBC Player of the Year and All-American Phillip Brown (averaged 14.7 points and a league-best 10.9 rebounds per game), 2011 PBC Freshman of the Year Colin Slotter (led the team in scoring at 15.0 ppg), as well as 2008-09 PBC Freshman of the Year and three-year starter Evan Mobley (11.6 ppg last season).
Also returning are two other letterwinners with significant starting experience in 6-foot-6 forward Matt Shaw and 6-foot-3 guard Bobby Glover.
GSW hosts Baseline USA in an exhibition at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 as part of a Hurricane Halloween celebration with a raising of the PBC West Division Champions banner ceremony scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
The Hurricanes open the regular season at home on Nov. 15 against Trinity (Fla.) College.
ASU women's basketball team places two -- Wilkerson and Alexander -- on All-SIAC preseason team, picked to finish fifth; Rams picked to finish 10th
The Albany State women's basketball team will be one of the team's to watch this season, according to the SIAC's preseason rankings released Friday.
The Lady Rams, led by coach Robert Skinner, were picked Friday by SIAC coaches to finish fifth in the conference out of 12 teams, while rival and defending SIAC champ Fort Valley State was selected as the preseason favorite to repeat.
The Lady Rams also placed two players on the All-SIAC Preseason Team: Symone Wilkerson (5-foot-5, Senior., Guard) was chosen to the First Team, while Kourtney Alexander (5-8, Soph., G) was selected to the Second Team.
For the ASU men's team, which is coming off one of its roughest seasons in recent history, the news was not as good.
The Rams, led by coach Chris Cameron, were picked to finish 10th and did not have any players selected to All-SIAC Preseason First- or Second Teams.
Benedict was picked to repeat as the men's SIAC champ.