Location: Spartanburg, SC
Conference: Big South
2017-2018 Record: 7-25, 2-12 in conference
Head Coach: Dave Dickerson, 1st year at school, 68-64 overall
Best Season: 1982 NAIA National Champion
Record vs. Jackets: 1-0
Pre-Season pick: 11th in the Big South
Leading returning scorer: Deion Holmes, 15.5 points per game
The Spartans are looking at a new coach and a new conference home in 2018. Dave Dickerson was brought in to help the Spartans transition from the Atlantic Sun to the Big South conferences. It looks to be a tall order for the former Tulane head man, the Spartans finished at the bottom of the Atlantic Sun are were picked to finish in the bottom of the Big South. Dickerson’s offense will rely heavily on two returning double digit scorers, guard Deion Holmes and forward Malik Moore. The Spartans will have to look for production from freshman in the front court, no returning player is taller than 6’6. Tech will have a chance to notch a revenge win, the Jackets lost 59-54 in 2014, before starting the ACC grind.
Kennesaw State Owls
Location: Kennesaw, GA
Conference: Atlantic Sun
2017-2018 Record: 10-20, 6-8 in conference
Head Coach: Al Skinner, 35-58 at KSU, 420-349 as a HC
Best Season: 2004 DII National Champion
Record vs. Jackets: 1-3
Pre-Season pick: 7th in the Atlantic Sun
Leading returning scorer: Tyler Hooker, 10.8 points per game
The Owls travel down 75 to play the Jackets for the first time since 2013. Al Skinner begins his 3rd season at the helm looking to replace two double digit scorers from last season, look for UCF transfer Danny Lewis to play a big role in filling that scoring gap, Lewis will be eligible to play in January. An interesting matchup will be Owls guard C J Washington playing against his old high school teammate Jacket forward Kristen Sjolund, both helped lead Tompkins HS in Katy, TX to their first state title game.
Gardner Webb Runnin Bulldogs
Location: Boiling Springs, NC
Conference: Big South
2017-2018 Record: 14-18, 9-9 in conference
Head Coach: Tim Craft, 88-78 at Gardner Webb
Record vs. Jackets: 0-1
Pre-Season pick: 2nd in the Big South
Leading returning scorer: David Efianayi, 17.5 points per game
The Bulldogs will rely heavily on 1st team pre-season All Big South player, David Efianayi to lead a deep squad that expects to compete for the conference title. DJ Laster will be the main option in the front court, the 6-6 senior averaged 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. Jaheam Cornwall is another player that will be expected to help score, the sophomore guard shot .439 from behind the arc last season. This looks to be a good early season test for the Jackets, against an experienced team that will compete for a conference title and NCAA berth in the Atlantic Sun.
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic
2017-2018 Record: 9-25, 7-9 in conference
Head Coach: Robert McCullum, 9-25
Best Season: 2004, NCAA Tournament, win in the first four vs. Lehigh
Record vs. Jackets: 0-6
Pre-Season pick: 8th in the MEAC
Leading returning scorer: Justin Ravenel, 8.6 points per game
Florida A&M will be the 2nd of the two matchups that the Jackets have with HBCUs this season. The Rattler’s have size in the front court with 6-9 Tulane transfer, DJ Jones, and 6-10 redshirt junior Ifyeani Umerurike as well as 7-0 senior Isaiah Martin, who will be eligible to play in January. Justin Ravenel looks to the be top scoring option, he really came on in conference play, averaging 12.6 points per game and shooting .417 from behind the arc. Coach McCullum dipped into the JUCO ranks to help bolster his squad, signing 15.2 per game scorer Rod Melton JR, as well as Rich Anderson, who lead the JUCO ranks in 3-point shooting at .547.
A strong set of four winnable games for the Jackets. With the meat grinder that is the ACC, the Jackets need to rack up as many non-conference wins as they can in order to show growth in Pastner’s third season in Atlanta.