BEAVERTON, Ore. — Both USC Aiken basketball teams got good news when the Division II Bulletin preseason polls came out on Tuesday.
Fresh off its first-ever NCAA Division II Southeast Region title and Elite Eight berth, the Pacer men’s basketball team has been tabbed the No. 4 team nationally, while the women, who advanced to the second round of the 2013 NCAA tourney, were ranked 12th.
The Pacer men were 25-8 last year, including a 15-4 record league mark en route to claiming the Peach Belt Conference regular-season title. Head coach Vince Alexander’s team won the league tournament and hosted the Southeast Regional. The Pacers rolled through the regional, downing Belmont Abbey (94-76), Wingate (69-57) and Barton (82-75) to earn their Elite Eight berth in Louisville, Ky. In the Elite Eight, USC Aiken fell to eventual national champion Drury, 84-75.
Alexander returns virtually his entire line-up from last year’s Elite Eight squad. The team features 10 seniors and three sophomores, including two of which are newcomers.
The 2013-14 team features seniors Rick Alderman (6.0 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game last season), who redshirted last year, Kinley Branch (7.4 ppg., 3.6 rpg.), Santoine Butler (12.1 ppg., 6.6 rpg.), Paul Larsen (12.9 ppg., 9.0 rpg.), Shane Porchea (2.2 ppg.), Derrick Scott (2.8 ppg.), Jesse Seilern (9.7 ppg., 38 steals), DeVontae Wright (8.2 ppg., 86 assists), Ronald Zimmerman (15.3 ppg.., .454 from the three-point line) and Alvin Brown (8.9 ppg., 5.9 rpg., 3.3 bpg.), who returns to the Pacers after sitting out the last two seasons. Brown was named the PBC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2010-11 campaign.
Grant Harris saw valuable minutes as a freshman a season ago while Hendrix Emu and Gavin Stephenson will see plenty of playing time this season.
Metro State, West Liberty and Seattle Pacific were selected ahead of the Pacers while Bellarmine rounds out the top five.
The women’s team was 22-8 last year, including a 13-6 mark in the Peach Belt Conference. Head coach Mike Brandt’s team advanced to the conference semifinals before falling to Clayton State.
The squad earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and downed Lenoir-Rhyne 94-71 in its opening-round contest in Morrow, Ga. The Pacers fell to the Lakers in the second round of the tournament 83-66.
The 2013-14 team features just one senior in Porsha Martin. Last year, Martin totaled 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. She drained 49.4 percent of her shots from the floor and canned 82.8 percent of her charity tosses.
Also returning to the line-up for Brandt are juniors Mackenzie Reese and Emily O’Rourke, along with sophomore Kassy Johannsen.
Brandt added six newcomers to the roster, in addition to Amaura Brandt, who missed last season due to an injury. The newcomers include sophomores Tiffany Addison and Mariah Durian, along with freshmen Jasmine Coach, Kate Duff, Carly Gilreath and Alexis Ware.
Bentley earned the top spot in the rankings while Clayton State and Gannon rounded out the top three.
The Pacer women open the season Nov. 8 at home against Anderson in the Holley Tractor/Crescent Automotive Conference Challenge.
The USCA men have two exhibition contests against Division I institutions before opening regular-season play Nov. 8 against P.R.-Rio Piedras in Maygauez, Puerto Rico, in the Mayaguez Basketball Classic. On Nov. 1, Alexander’s team has an exhibition at Mississippi (7 p.m. EST) and Nov. 3 at South Carolina (2 p.m.).