ATLANTA—With a goal of returning to the NCAA tournament in 2018, Georgia State was picked to finish second in the annual Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll that was announced on Tuesday afternoon. Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds earned All-Sun Belt Preseason Second Team honors after being named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year last season.

Voting for the Preseason Sun Belt All-Conference Team and Poll was conducted by the league’s 12 head coaches.

Georgia State went 20-13 last year and finished in second-place in the conference standings with a 12-6 mark. The Panthers advanced to the postseason for the third time in the last four years, while also winning 20 or more games for the third time in that same span.

“Our guys have worked hard since last season ended and are excited for the regular season to get underway,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Although we don’t put too much weight into preseason polls, it is nice to see others have so much respect for us. Now we need to earn that respect on the court.”

In his first season with the Panthers, Simonds averaged 13.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists to earn the league’s top freshman honor, while also being recognized as an All-Sun Belt Third Team member. He shot 53.5 percent from the floor, playing in 29 games and making 22 starts. Simonds was named Cancun Challenge Tournament MVP after leading GSU to the title and scoring 39 points on 17-of-24 shooting in the event in Mexico. 

He was also named Sun Belt Player of the Week and College Sports Madness National Mid-Major Player of the Week in January following impressive performances at Troy and South Alabama.

UT Arlington was selected to finish first in the league, receiving 128 points and nine first-place votes. Georgia State came in second with 116 points, followed by Troy (115 pts.), Georgia Southern (114 pts.) and Louisiana (113 pts.). The Panthers did pick up one first-place vote.

UT Arlington’s Kevin Hervey was selected as the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year for a second year in a row. Hervey led the Mavericks to the Sun Belt regular season title and an appearance in the NIT last season.

The Sun Belt Conference championship will return to New Orleans, La., March 7-11. The top four teams at the end of the regular season will receive a bye into the quarterfinals of the championship. All 12 teams will once again qualify for the championship.

Georgia State will open the regular season on Nov. 10, facing Carver Bible College in the GSU Sports Arena. Less than 100 men’s season tickets currently remain available for purchase in the lower reserved section. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 404-413-4020 or visit GeorgiaStateSports.com.

Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Rank - Team - Points (first-place votes)

1. UTA - 128 (9)
2. Georgia State - 116 (1)
3. Troy - 115 (1)
4. Georgia Southern - 114
5. Louisiana - 113 (1)
6. Texas State - 71
7. Arkansas State - 68
8. Coastal Carolina - 67
9. South Alabama - 43
10. Little Rock - 37
11. Appalachian State - 35
12. ULM - 28

Preseason First Team All-Sun Belt

Tookie Brown (Georgia Southern, Junior, Guard, Sport Management)

Ike Smith (Georgia Southern, Junior, Guard, Sport Management)

Kevin Hervey (UTA, Senior, Forward, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Erick Neal (UTA, Senior, Guard, Broadcasting)

Jordon Varnado (Troy, Junior, Forward)

 

Preseason Second Team All-Sun Belt

Ronshad Shabazz (Appalachian State, Junior, Guard, Criminal Justice)

Jaylen Shaw (Coastal Carolina, Senior, Guard)

D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State, Sophomore, Guard, Sociology)

Bryce Washington (Louisiana, Senior, Forward, Accounting)

Wesley Person (Troy, Senior, Guard, International Business)

 

Preseason Third Team All-Sun Belt

Demario Beck (Coastal Carolina, Senior, Forward)

Mike Hughes (Georgia Southern, Senior, Guard, Sport Management)

Frank Bartley (Louisiana, Senior, Guard, Sociology)

Travis Munnings (ULM, Junior, Forward, General Studies)

Nijal Pearson (Texas State, Sophomore, Guard, Business Management)

 

Preseason Player of the Year

Kevin Hervey (UTA, Senior, Forward, Interdisciplinary Studies)