Season opener: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Nov. 14
Atlantic Sun opener: at South Carolina-Upstate, 2 p.m. Jan. 10
2013-14 record: 6-25, 3-15, Atlantic Sun
Previous game: lost North Florida 87-77, March 1
2013-14 recap: It was mostly forgettable for the seventh consecutive season. Coach Lewis Preston took a leave of absence for personal and medical reasons Jan. 2, with the team 3-12, and didn't return. The squad was 9-67 under Preston and seemed to have trouble establishing a style of play on offense and defense. Assistant Jimmy Lallathin was named interim coach and promoted to head coach after the season. The team didn't do anything particularly well while being outscored (74.3 to 65 points per game), outrebounded (35.7 to 32.9) and outshot (45.7 percent to 42.2). It was slightly better at home (4-11) than on the road (2-14).
Reasons for optimism: The team returns numerous players who started numerous games last season, including leading scorer Delbert Love (12.6 points per game), leading rebounder Orlando Coleman (6.2 per game), promising forward Willy Kouassi, Yonel Brown and Bernard Morena. The team should benefit from the transfer of 6-foot-7 forward Damien Wilson, formerly of Memphis. It should also benefit from an offseason trip to Europe, where it worked on fine-tuning its offensive and defensive systems. On offense, the Owls will run four-out, one-in motion, and defense will run man-to-man. The conference schedule should be slightly easier than last season. Mercer has moved to the Southern Conference, but Florida Gulf Coast remains and was the preseason pick to win.
Reasons for pessimism: The team didn't go 6-25 because of bad luck, which is reflected in the Owls being picked to finish sixth of eight teams in the conference in its preseason poll. The Owls will play a brutal non-conference schedule that starts with games against Syracuse, California and Mercer and includes stops at Butler and Illinois. Other than the 6-10 Kouassi, the squad doesn't feature a player taller than 6-8, which will make rebounding a challenge.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC