With four starters and three key bench players returning, FAU was picked to finish first in the Sun Belt East Division in the coaches' poll released Wednesday as part of the conference's basketball media days.
"I think there are a lot of teams that can win it all and hopefully we are one of them," FAU coach Mike Jarvis said. "We are going to be a lot of fun to watch and hopefully we will be tough to play against."
The Owls received 71 points in the poll, with Middle Tennessee picked to finish second with 59. Arkansas State was picked to finish on top of the West Division with 64 points, and Louisiana-Lafayette was second with 60 points.
The Owls won the East Division and regular season title last year by finishing 13-3 in the Sun Belt, and 22-11 overall.
It was the most wins at the Division I level for FAU, and their 8-0 start to the conference was a school record, and an eight-game win streak during the season tied another school record.
It was the first Sun Belt regular season conference title for FAU, but the Owls fell to North Texas 78-64 in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament. That put them in the NIT, another first for the program, but they lost to Miami 85-62 in the first round.
Jarvis, who is starting his fourth season at FAU, is 42-53 in his first three seasons with the Owls.
The Owls return five of their top six scorers from last season, led by junior guards Greg Gantt (14.0 ppg) and Ray Taylor (11.6 ppg).
While FAU lost forward and two-time Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brett Royster (6.0 rpg, 8.3 ppg) to graduation, the Owls are hoping 6-foot-8 junior Kore White (5.0 rpg, 8.2 ppg) of Fort Lauderdale can step up and take control under the basket. White was inconsistent last season.
"I think [White] is capable of double-doubles. The only thing that prevents Brett from doing that is Brett," Jarvis said. "He is a special player with a special body with special gifts."
Also back are senior reserve guards Alex Tucker (7.4 ppg) and Shavar Richardson (5.9 ppg) and sophomore Dennis Mavin (5.2 ppg) who provide the Owls with solid depth.
2011-12 SBC Men's Basketball Preseason Predicted Order of Finish(as selected by the League's 12 Head Coaches)
1. Arkansas State (8) - 64 pts2. Louisiana-Lafyaette (2) - 60 pts3. North Texas (1) - 50 pts4. Denver (1) - 40 pts5. UALR - 26 pts6. Louisiana-Monroe - 12 pts
1. Florida Atlantic (11) - 71 pts2. Middle Tennessee (1) - 59 pts3. WKU - 41 pts4. South Alabama - 33 pts5. FIU - 31 pts6. Troy - 17 ptsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun