NEW ORLEANS - Junior guard Jason Jones was named to the 2011-12 Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team and the Blue Raider men’s basketball team was picked to finish second in the East by the league’s head coaches, as announced on Wednesday by the Sun Belt office.
“Preseason polls are great for fans and sometimes even for players, but most important is where you finish in March, and obviously, one of our goals is to win the East Division and regular season championship,” Davis said. “You’ll see a lot of teams that are favored play well and some teams that aren’t picked as well win their leagues across the country.”
The Blue Raiders finished second in the East Division last year with a 16-16 overall and 10-6 Sun Belt record. MT returns 57.4 percent of the offense and looks to retain its title as one of the league’s best defense. The Blue Raiders topped the conference in steals per game (8.8), recorded the second-best scoring defense (allowing 63.2 ppg) and held opponents to a league-best 32.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The team also ranked second in turnover margin at plus 1.75 and forced 17.6 turnovers per game.
MT also has been one of the most successful teams in the Sun Belt under Davis. The Blue Raiders lead the Sun Belt, along with Florida Atlantic, with 23 league wins over the past two seasons, and MT is the only team with double-digit conference victories in each of the past four years. MT has been dominant on the road as well, collecting 40 conference road wins during Davis' tenure, making the Blue Raiders the winningest Sun Belt road team over the past nine years.
Jones was the team’s second-leading scorer last year with 13.1 points per game, while his 14.6 points per game in Sun Belt contests ranked eighth in the league and third among the SBC’s returning players this season. In addition to registering 25 double-digit performances, the Memphis, Tenn., native was the team’s top scorer in 12 games last season and the top rebounder in 10 last year.
“Jason is well-deserving of a preseason second-team honor,” Davis said. “I think we also have three or four other guys that, if they continue their hard work, will have the opportunity to make a postseason all-league team. There’s a lot of improvement of players around the league that pop out of nowhere and have a great year.”
Jones and the Blue Raiders open the season with an exhibition against North Alabama at home on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. CT. MT welcomes Austin Peay to open the regular season on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.
2011-12 SBC Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference
Martavius Adams, Arkansas State, Sr., F
Raymond Taylor, Florida Atlantic, Jr., G
Greg Gantt, Florida Atlantic, Jr., G
J.J. Thomas, Louisiana-Lafayette, So., F
*Augustine Rubit, South Alabama, So., F
Chase Hallam, Denver, Jr., G
DeJuan Wright, FIU, Sr., G
Jason Jones, Middle Tennessee, Jr., F/G
Tony Mitchell, North Texas, Fr., F
Will Weathers, Troy, Jr., G
Trey Finn, Arkansas State, Jr., G
Brian Stafford, Denver, Sr., G
Fred Brown, Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., G
Kedrick Hogans, North Texas, Sr., F
D’Andre Williams, UALR, Sr., G
* - Denotes Preseason Player of the Year
2011-12 SBC Men’s Basketball Preseason Predicted Order of Finish
1. Arkansas State (8) - 64 pts
2. Louisiana-Lafyaette (2) - 60 pts
3. North Texas (1) - 50 pts
4. Denver (1) - 40 pts
5. UALR - 26 pts
6. Louisiana-Monroe - 12 pts
1. Florida Atlantic (11) - 71 pts
2. Middle Tennessee (1) - 59 pts
3. WKU - 41 pts
4. South Alabama - 33 pts
5. FIU - 31 pts
6. Troy - 17 pts