Voters at this week’s Big South Media Day in Charlotte, North Carolina, feel High Point’s women’s basketball team will win this year’s conference title and UNC-Asheville is the favorite on the men’s side.
High Point, the 2023 Big South Runner-up, finished with 80 points and eight of the nine first-place votes from the voting panel of women’s coaches. The Panthers return two starters and eight letterwinners from the 2022-23 squad that played in the WNIT and are the preseason favorite for the third consecutive year and fourth time overall.
Presbyterian College and Radford tied for second in the women’s poll with 61 points each.
UNC-Asheville is the preseason favorite for the first time since 2017-18, as the voting panel of head coaches and media bestowed 16 first-place votes and 166 total points upon the defending Big South champions.
Asheville returns four starters and eight letterwinners from a squad that won a school-record 27 overall games last season as well as a 16-2 mark in Big South contests. This is the sixth time that the Bulldogs are the Big South’s men’s basketball preseason favorite, as the five previous times were 1989-90, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2011-12 and 2017-18.
Other notes from Big South media day:
UNC Asheville forward Drew Pember (Knoxville, Tenn.) has unanimously been voted the 2023-24 Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches and media panel, it was announced this morning. Pember is the first Big South student-athlete to be voted Preseason Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons since Chris Clemons from 2017-19.
Pember was the 2022-23 Big South Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, and earned Collegeinsider.com Lou Henson and Lute Olson All-America honors, as well as All-District distinction from the USBWA and NABC.
The Knoxville, Tenn., native became the first player in Big South history to lead the league in scoring (20.9), rebounds (9.1) and blocked shots (2.3) in the same season, and was the national leader in free throws made with a Big South single-season record 266. Pember recorded three 40-point outings — including a school-record 48 points against Presbyterian on Jan. 25 that was the most scored in a Division I game last year.
The 2021-22 Big South Defensive Player of the Year led the Bulldogs to the Big South regular-season and tournament championships, and was voted Tournament MVP after averaging 29.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ three-game run to the title. Pember received all 19 first-place votes and 190 total points in the voting to earn the top spot on the preseason All-Conference team.
High Point guard Lauren Bevis (High Point, N.C.) has been voted the 2023-24 Big South Conference Women’s Basketball Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches, it was announced this morning. Bevis is the first player from High Point to receive the conference’s top preseason honor since Skyler Curran in 2021-22.
Bevis starred at Gardner-Webb last season and turned in a First-Team All-Conference campaign as part of the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ run to the Big South regular-season and tournament championships. The graduate transfer ranked second in the conference last year with 15.7 points overall, and upped her average to 17.7 in Big South contests.
Bevis was the Big South’s top three-point shooter in 2022-23 at 40.9 percent as well as 97 made threes, and added a 41.5 overall field goal clip and 85.6 percentage from the charity stripe (77-of-90). She brings career totals of 1,389 points, 259 three-pointers and an 85.4 free throw percentage to the Panthers this season. Bevis received seven first-place votes and 79 points in the voting to earn the top spot on the preseason All-Conference team.