Photo courtesy of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Atlantic Sun Conference doesn't have a representative in James Bowman's Top 100 programs list, but Florida Gulf Coast has been a program on the rise as we described after the 2012 A-Sun Tournament. Can they repeat as conference champions in 2013? Or will a new champion emerge? Below are our preseason picks for the conference.
Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year: Brittany Kennedy, FGCU
The Oregon State transfer had an immediate impact once she became eligible in December. For the 2011-12 season, Kennedy ranked third in steals at 2.4 per game; what’s so astonishing is that there were only four players in the conference who had more total steals and Kennedy only played 25 games. She registered a steal in all but four games and had three or more steals in 10 games.
Atlantic Sun Player of the Year: Victoria McGowan, Stetson
McGowan, the do-it-all point guard from Stetson, is the catalyst for a team that finished 23-11; she was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for 2011-12. And even though she’s listed as 5’4”, McGowan plays with a poise and confidence much bigger than her height. Multiple times last year, she essentially put Stetson on her back and led them to victory. She also was the only player to record three triple doubles this past season (a game that we covered) and the only player in the country that had more than one. McGowan dominated the A-Sun in almost every statistical category: first in points (563), assists (160), steals (88), field goals made (186), and free throws made (129).
Favorite to win conference: Stetson
The Hatters return essentially everyone from a team that was one game from the NCAA tournament. The team that they lost to in the A-Sun tournament final, FGCU, has been depleted by graduation and a season ending knee injury to superstar guard Whitney Knight. However for Stetson, their nucleus remains intact: McGowan, second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Sasha Sims (13.9 pts, 7 rebs), Shanasa Sanders (11.8 pts) and Cherisse Burris (2011-12 All Atlantic Sun Freshman). Couple that with the additions of Oregon transfer Ashley Buis and versatile guard-forward Simone Taylor (knee injury) - Stetson not only has experience but depth that will make them very formidable.