After one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Lincoln Memorial University men's basketball team has been tabbed at No. 4 in the 2015-16 Sporting News Preseason Division II rankings. Along with that, junior guard Luquon Choice (Laurens, S.C.) has been highlighted as a Sporting News preseason All-American.
The Railsplitters went 30-3 last season, becoming only the second team in the program's more than 100-year history to win 30 games and the first since the 1976-77 squad. LMU won its third straight South Atlantic Conference regular season title, a first-time occurrence in league history, and fourth in the past five years by an astounding eight-game spread. After winning their first 20 games of the season, falling just short of the SAC and school record, the Railsplitters moved to No. 1 in the NABC Division II national poll for the second time in school history.
Tarleton State, who appeared in the NCAA Division II Final Four last season, took the top spot in the Sporting News preseason rankings, while Augustana (SD) and West Liberty were just ahead of LMU. Missouri Southern rounded out the top five. South Atlantic Conference programs Carson-Newman, the 2015 SAC tournament champion, and Queens (N.C.) were listed as possible breakthroughs.
The crowning achievement of the Railsplitters' 2014-15 season was earning the right to host the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional for the first time in school history. Lincoln Memorial advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season by mangling North Greenville 95-62 but fell short in the next round with a loss to Mount Olive, who eventually advanced to the Elite Eight.
The Railsplitters, coached by Josh Schertz (pictured), have been ranked in the top 25 of the NABC poll for 74 consecutive weeks, a stretch that dates back to December, 2010. That is the second-longest active streak behind only West Liberty and the fourth-longest all-time streak in the history of the Division II rankings.
LMU has won 86.6 percent of its games since the start of the 2010-11 season, which is the second-best winning percentage in the country over that span.
LMU's Luquon Choice was recognized as a preseason All-American honorable mention pick following a breakout season in which he was named All-SAC first team, Daktronics All-Southeast Region first team and NABC All-Southeast Region second team.
Choice led the Railsplitters in scoring with 14.9 points per game, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point territory while adding 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
The Laurens, S.C. native broke the program's single-season record by burying 100 three pointers, which ranked 11th in the nation and is the fourth-most in SAC history. Choice added a team-high 37 steals and 11 blocks to his stat ledger.
Choice surpassed the 20-point plateau in 10 of his 33 appearances last season. He matched a career-high with 34 points in a 91-61 evisceration of Carson-Newman on February 25, knocking down seven three points and going 12-for-21 from the field. Just three days before that, he scored 27 points in a win at Brevard. He posted 26 points with six trifectas in an 80-68 win at Newberry. Choice scored 25 points in two of his first five appearances, leading the Railsplitters to wins over King and Anderson.
In his first two seasons, Choice has compiled 762 points, 161 three pointers and a 40.9 percent mark from three-point range. He ranks seventh in program history in made three pointers and fifth in three-point percentage.
The Railsplitters open the 2015-16 season in Bristol, Tenn. on November 13 against the King Tornado as a part of the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge. LMU makes its home debut on November 19 against Hiwassee.
2015-16 Sporting News Preseason Division II Top 10
1. Tarleton State 2. Augustana (SD) 3. West Liberty 4. Lincoln Memorial 5. Missouri Southern 6. Bellarmine 7. Midwestern State 8. St. Cloud State 9. Montevallo 10. California Baptist
Possible Breakthroughs: Alabama-Huntsville, Arkansas-Fort Smith, Barry, Bowie State, BYU-Hawaii, Carson-Newman, Central Missouri, UC-Colorado Springs, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Indiana (Pa.), Indianapolis, Kentucky Wesleyan, Merrimack, Minnesota-Moorhead, Mount Olive, Queens (NC), St. Edward's, Union (Tenn.), Western Oregon.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught