by Benny Benton
MIAMI – The Barton College men's basketball team is ranked sixth in the D2SIDA Southeast Region Preseason Poll.
It is the first time the Bulldogs have started the year in the poll, which is now in its fourth season. The sixth-place position matches Barton's highest ranking ever in the D2SIDA poll.
Barton enters the 2017-18 campaign as one of two preseason favorites in Conference Carolinas along with Limestone College this season after producing its second straight 20-win season a year ago.
"We have a very young team, but what comes with youth is a great aggressive spirit," said Barton head coach Ron Lievense, who is entering his 22nd season at the helm of the Bulldogs. "The guys are really confident and are not intimidated by anybody. We have a long way to go to be a quality team, but the youth allows our guys to not fear anybody, and our guys won't.
"We're busy working on getting better every day. We have to get better to play at the level people are thinking we should play at. So our whole focus is getting better, and if we do that, I think we can be a pretty good team as we mature and grow."
The Bulldogs will have their ranking tested early and often this year. Barton will host Augusta University, ranked No. 4 in the poll, on Saturday in the 45-Second Classic, the first of nine games this season against programs regionally-ranked in the preseason poll.
They will face Virginia Union, preseason ranked No. 7 in the Atlantic Region, during University of Mount Olive's Pickle Classic on November 17, and will visit UNC Pembroke, the No. 3 team in the Southeast Region, four days later.
"Our schedule is very difficult, but that's how you grow a team," Lievense said. "We may win some of those games and we may lose a few, but it will allow our guys to grow and develop a toughness to prepare us for our conference tournament."
Lincoln Memorial University and Queens University, both ranked among the top-five nationally, shared the top spot in the D2SIDA poll, followed by UNCP and Augusta.
Columbus State University starts the year in fifth, just ahead of Barton and seventh-place Limestone. Carson-Newman University was picked eighth, with USC Aiken and King University tied for the final two spots.
The D2SIDA poll is administered and voted upon by Division II members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Barton opens its season at home on Friday in the 45-Second Classic with a 7:30 p.m. matchup against Peach Belt Conference member Young Harris College.
D2SIDA Southeast Region Preseason Poll
(2016-17 record in parenthesis)
T1. Lincoln Memorial (30-6)
T1. Queens (30-4)
3. UNC Pembroke (24-8)
4. Augusta (24-8)
5. Columbus State (20-10)
6. Barton (20-10)
7. Limestone (27-6)
8. Carson-Newman (19-11)
T9. USC Aiken (18-9)
T9. King (19-12)