Livingstone is learning to live with the expectations of an elite CIAA program.
The Blue Bears, picked to finish second in the Southern Division by the leagues coaches behind Winston-Salem State, won a school-best 22 games last season and advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time. This year, theyre adjusting to being the hunted.
The expectations are there. We cant avoid them, Blue Bears coach James Stinson said at Media Day in Charlotte. They are going to be there and with us returning 10 players (were expected) to be at the top of our game.
Shaw, which returns 6-foot-4 guard Curtis Hines (13.4 points per game, 51.2 percent shooting last season), was picked third and J.C. Smith, historically a preseason fixture at the top, slipped to fourth.
I think its accurate, Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said of his teams ranking. With the way we finished last year, certainly the coaches paid attention to that. We lost quite a few of our games at the end of the year and certainly did not go into the tournament with the best frame of mind.
J.C. Smith, which went 16-11 last season, will need someone to replace All-American guard Trevin Parks, who averaged 25 points per game, but all-conference forward Emilio Parks, who averaged 15.4 points and 6.7 rebounds a game, returns.
Winston-Salem State, which went 21-7 last year, returns preseason All-CIAA forwards Tyre Desmore and Preston Ross to a team that went 12-1 on its home floor but was swept by Livingstone, which won the South for the first time.
I think we can compete with everybody in our division, Stinson said. Its just that we have to afford ourselves to get some easy basket opportunities and get into the flow of a game.
St. Augustines coach Tony Sheals, whose Falcons were picked last in the six-team division, considers the prediction a good starting point for a team that returns Joel Kindred, a 6-4 senior guard who averaged 11.1 points per game as a junior.
I dont put a lot of credence on the order of finish, Sheals said. Somebody has to be first and somebody has to be last. I hope it does motivate the kids, but I hope that is not the single-most motivation. Our goals will always be to win 20-plus games, to win the CIAA Southern Division, win the CIAA tournament and go to the NCAA tournament.