CONCORD, N.C. – Gardner-Webb was picked to finish fourth Tuesday afternoon in the Big South Conference men's basketball preseason poll, released in conjunction with the league's annual media day.
The Runnin' Bulldogs collected five second-place votes, seven third-place votes and 12 fourth-place votes to finish with 218 points in the tabulation, which was compiled from votes by the Big South's 10 head coaches and select media members from each school.
Head coach Tim Craft's squad finished nine points behind third-place UNC Asheville – the defending tournament champion – and a healthy 36 points ahead of High Point.
Winthrop collected all 30 first-place votes to finish as the unanimous preseason favorite on the men's side (300 points). Liberty was picked second with 236 points.
Gardner-Webb is coming off its fourth-straight winning campaign, finishing with a 17-16 mark in 2015-2016. Craft directed his team to the Big South Conference semifinals for the second season in a row in the process.
The 'Dogs welcome back one of the top post rotations in the conference, headlined by All-Big South forward Tyrell Nelson (6-7, 235, Sr.). Centers L'Hassane Niangane (6-10, 245, Jr.) and Brandon Miller (6-6, 250, R-So.) provide plenty of rebounding and defense as well.
Nelson averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds last season en route to second-team All-Big South Conference honors. The Charlotte, N.C., native led the Big South with 12 double-doubles and was at his best in the league's postseason tournament.
Gardner-Webb also welcomes back talented and tough point guard LaQuincy Rideau (6-1, 210, So.) and quick wing David Efianayi (6-2, 175, R-So.) with starting experience, as well as wing Jamaal Robateau (6-5, 180, R-Jr.) and forward D.J. Laster (6-5, 210, So.).
Junior college transfer Liam O'Reilly (6-2, 180, Jr.) will add good touch from the perimeter after two successful seasons at Collin (Texas) College.
Gardner-Webb opens its 2016-2017 season on the road at SMU, tipping off on Friday, November 12.