NEW ORLEANS (GCAConf.com) – Sporting News magazine has released its preseason top 10, with two Gulf Coast Athletic Conference teams represented on the list. Two-time defending regular season champion Talladega College came in seventh in the rankings and 2016 GCAC tournament champion Dillard was placed atop the poll.
Dillard had a renaissance last season under first-year coach Mike Newell. The Bleu Devils posted a 22-11 record (8-4 GCAC) last season, finishing second to Talladega in the regular season. Dillard’s 22 wins were a 17-game improvement from the 2014-15 season and were more victories than the Bleu Devils had in the previous five seasons combined. After claiming the conference tournament championship, Dillard would advance to the round of 16 at the NAIA national tournament. The Bleu Devils return most of last year’s team, including NAIA All-America Demetric Austin and All-GCAC selection Dennis Hightower.
Talladega has been one of the nation’s most consistent teams over the past three seasons, with two trips to the round of 16, and advancing to the Fab Four in 2015. The Tornadoes posted a 25-6 (11-1 GCAC) mark last season and have been a mainstay in the NAIA Division I top 10. Since 2013, Talladega has gone 86-17, including a remarkable 33-4 against conference foes. Coach Matt Cross will return a veteran roster led by 2016 GCAC Player of the Year Jordan Washington and sharpshooter Qua Doster.
Austin and Washington were both named to the preseason All-America team, with Doster and Hightower earning Honorable Mention.
“This is very exciting for our conference,” said GCAC Commissioner Steve Martin. “The GCAC has worked very hard to establish itself as one of the elite basketball conferences in the nation. We have outstanding coaches and players and the rest of the country is taking notice. Now our teams will have to live up to these lofty expectations, and I’m confident that they can.”