ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Furman Paladins are the preseason favorites to win the 2022-23 men’s basketball title in polling of the league’s 10 head coaches and media, while Chattanooga graduate student center Jake Stephens is the coaches’ selection as the preseason player of the year.

The coaches, who also picked a 10-member preseason all-conference team, were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting. Five different programs were represented on the preseason All-SoCon squad, with Samford leading the way with four selections.

Furman collected six first-place votes and 78 points in the coaches poll and topped the media poll with 263 points and 18 of the 28 possible first-place nods. Head coach Bob Richey’s Paladins went 22-12 last season, reaching 20 wins for the fifth time in six seasons, and turned in a 12-6 league mark to finish second in the SoCon standings. Furman, which fell on a buzzer-beater in overtime of the title game of the Ingles SoCon Men’s Basketball Championship, returns a pair of preseason All-SoCon performers in fifth-year guard Mike Bothwell and fifth-year forward Jalen Slawson, both of whom were first-team All-SoCon selections by the coaches last season. Slawson is the defending SoCon Defensive Player of the Year.

The Paladins are the coaches’ preseason favorite for the first time since sharing the top spot in the South Division in the 2003-04 poll and top the media poll for the first time since 2020-21.

Samford checked in second in the coaches poll with 74 points and the remaining four first-place votes and finished third in the media poll with 223 points and five first-place votes. The Bulldogs, led by reigning Anton Foy SoCon Coach of the Year Bucky McMillan, tied for third in the SoCon last year with a 10-8 league mark and went 21-11 overall for their first 20-win season since 2016-17. Samford is represented on the preseason all-conference team by senior forward Logan Dye, junior guard Ques Glover, who was a first-team All-SoCon pick last season, junior forward Jermaine Marshall, and senior guard Bubba Parham, who spent three seasons at Georgia Tech after beginning his career at VMI, earning SoCon Freshman of the Year honors from the league’s media in 2017-18 and leading the SoCon in scoring the following year at 21.4 points per game.

Defending SoCon regular-season and tournament champion Chattanooga is second in the media poll with 231 points and three first-place votes and fourth in the coaches poll with 60 points. The Mocs, who went 27-8 overall and 14-4 in league play last season, are now under the direction of former VMI coach Dan Earl, the 2020-21 SoCon Coach of the Year, after the departure of 2021-22 SoCon Coach of the Year Lamont Paris following the season. Earl brought with him former Keydet star Jake Stephens, a first-team All-SoCon pick last season who finished second in the league in scoring (19.6 points per game), rebounding (9.0 per game) and blocked shots (2.0 per game). The versatile big man led the SoCon in field-goal percentage (.551) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.490) last season.

UNCG is third in the coaches poll with 63 points and fourth in the media poll with 201 points and a first-place vote.

Wofford checks in at No. 5 in both polls, earning 41 points in the coaches poll and 168 in the media poll. The Terriers boast two preseason All-SoCon selections in senior forward Messiah Jones and senior forward/center B.J. Mack, a second-team All-SoCon pick last year.

ETSU is No. 6 in both polls, collecting 40 points from the coaches and 138 from the media. The Bucs are represented on the preseason all-conference team by junior guard Jordan King, a third-team All-SoCon pick a season ago.

Mercer is seventh in both polls, receiving 39 points from the coaches and 137 from the media, as well as the remaining first-place vote. The Bears were one point out of sixth place in both polls.

The final three in both polls also mirrored each other, with Western Carolina in eighth followed by The Citadel in ninth and VMI in 10th. The latter two programs are both under new leadership, as Ed Conroy returns to The Citadel, where he coached from 2006-10, and Andrew Wilson, a former assistant in the SoCon at both College of Charleston and Georgia Southern, replaces Earl at VMI.

The SoCon Basketball Media Day presented by Ingles will take place in Asheville, North Carolina, at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville on Wednesday, with interviews with head coaches and players conducted by Pete Yanity airing on ESPN+ on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern. The league’s women’s coaches will go first, followed by the men’s coaches.

The 2022-23 season gets underway Monday, Nov. 7, with nine SoCon teams in action, while Mercer opens its season on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The 2023 Ingles SoCon Men’s Basketball Championship will be held March 3-6 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville in Asheville, North Carolina, with the semifinals airing live on ESPN2 or ESPNU and the final on ESPN.

2022-23 Southern Conference Preseason Coaches Poll

Team (1st-place votes)      Total

1. Furman (6)                      78

2. Samford (4)                     74

3. UNCG                            63

4. Chattanooga                   60

5. Wofford                          41

6. ETSU                             40

7. Mercer                            39

8. Western Carolina            29

9. The Citadel                     17

10. VMI                              9

2022-23 Preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year

Jake Stephens, Gr., C, Chattanooga

2022-23 Preseason All-Southern Conference team

Jordan King, Jr., G, ETSU

Mike Bothwell, 5th, G, Furman

Jalen Slawson, 5th, F, Furman

Logan Dye, Sr., F, Samford

Ques Glover, Jr., G, Samford

Jermaine Marshall, Jr., F, Samford

Bubba Parham, Sr., G, Samford

Jake Stephens, Gr., C, Chattanooga

Messiah Jones, Sr., F, Wofford

B.J. Mack, Sr., F/C, Wofford

2022-23 Southern Conference Preseason Media Poll

Team (1st-place votes)      Total

1. Furman (18)                    263

2. Chattanooga (3)              231

3. Samford (5)                     223

4. UNCG (1)                       201

5. Wofford                          168

6. ETSU                             138

7. Mercer (1)                       137

8. Western Carolina            79

9. The Citadel                     57

10. VMI                              43