CHARLESTON, SC - Charleston Southern was picked eighth in the 2017-18 Big South Conference Preseason Poll, announced Tuesday at the league's annual Basketball Media Day. CSU earned 98 total points in the poll conducted by Big South head coaches and a media panel.
It was also announced Charleston Southern sophomore guard Christian Keeling has been named to the 2017-18 Big South Preseason All-Conference First Team, the league announced Tuesday at its annual Basketball Media Day. Keeling becomes the first Buc to earn first-team recognition since Saah Nimley in 2014-15.
UNC Asheville received 23 of the 29 first-place votes and was tabbed as the preseason favorite. Winthrop (3 first-place votes), Liberty (1) and Campbell (2) received the other first-place votes and rounded out the top four. Gardner-Webb, High Point and Radford were selected fifth through seventh. CSU was picked ahead of ninth-place Longwood and tenth-place Presbyterian.
Barclay Radebaugh, CSU's all-time winningest coach and the fifth winningest coach in Big South history, will lead a young roster in 2017-18. The Bucs do return three starters in seniors Javis Howard and Cortez Mitchell, as well as Keeling.
Keeling is joined on the first team by Campbell's Chris Clemons, Winthrop's Xavier Cooks and UNC Asheville's duo of Ahmad Thomas and MaCio Teague. Clemons, a junior guard, was tabbed Big South Preseason Player of the Year.
Keeling, a 6-4 guard from Augusta, Ga., put together one of the most productive freshman seasons in CSU and Big South history in 2016-17. He set a program freshman scoring record with 539 points (17.3 PPG), becoming the sixth player in the conference's 33-year history to go over 500 points as a freshman. Keeling was the only Division I player in the country to lead his team in scoring and rebounding, pace all league freshmen in both categories and rank top-ten league-wide in each.
"It's a blessing," Keeling said of the recognition. "It's proof that all my hard work is paying off. I just want to give a special shout out to my coaches and teammates. I gotta give respect to them because they're the reason why I got picked. The atmosphere and the energy around our program is great and we're looking forward to the season."
Keeling was honored as Big South Freshman of the Week seven times; more than anyone in at least the last 13 years. He finished fourth in the league in scoring and fifth in rebounding and field goal percentage. Keeling posted 27 double-figure scoring efforts, ten 20-point games and six double-doubles.
CSU opens the season on Nov. 10 at Davidson. A trip to North Carolina State follows two days later before the Bucs tip off the home slate on Wednesday, Nov. 15 against Columbia International.
The entire preseason poll is detailed below.
2017-18 Big South Men's Basketball Preseason Poll (First-place votes in parentheses)
1. UNC Asheville (23)
2. Winthrop (3)
3. Liberty (1)
4. Campbell (2)
6. High Point
8. Charleston Southern
The entire Big South Preseason All-Conference Team is detailed below.
2017-18 Big South Conference Men's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Chris Clemons (Campbell) – Preseason Player of the Year
Xavier Cooks (Winthrop)
Ahmad Thomas (UNC Asheville)
Macio Teague (UNC Asheville)
Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern)
Ed Polite Jr. (Radford)
Ryan Kemrite (Liberty)
David Efianayi (Gardner-Webb)
Kevin Vannatta (UNC Asheville)