Coming off an unprecedented season, the FGCU men's basketball team has been projected to continue its success being voted the preseason favorite in both the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches Poll and A-Sun Media Poll announced Thursday.
Individually, junior Bernard Thompson was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year, while classmate Brett Comer and senior Chase Fieler were named unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team.
Additionally, Fieler was voted the Preseason Player of the Year by fans, and Thompson also landed a spot on the 10-member all-league team and was the Fan-Voted Defensive Player of the Year.
FGCU is the only team in the conference with multiple unanimous selections, while only the Eagles and USC Upstate have three members each on the squad.
FGCU (95 points) edged defending A-Sun regular-season champion Mercer (92) by three points in the coaches poll, while the Eagles received 306 points to the Bears' 305 in the media poll.
The Eagles earned six of the 10 first-place votes in the coaches poll and 16 of the media members' 33 first-place votes. USC Upstate's Torrey Craig was named the Preseason Player of the Year, while his team was picked third in both the coaches and media polls.
"It's nice to be acknowledged and it's certainly a great honor for Brett, Chase and Bernard to be recognized," said Eagles first-year coach Joe Dooley. "But it's important for us to remember that an 18-game regular season and conference tournament will decide everything, and we've still got a lot of work to do."
The Eagles, who won the A-Sun Championship on Mercer's home court last year, became the first-ever No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 and capped the 2012-13 campaign with a 26-11 record. FGCU went 13-5 in league play to finish one game behind Mercer, which, like the Eagles, returns four starters this year.
Leading that quartet of returning starters for FGCU is Fieler, who is the team's only senior. He started all 37 games last year and was one of three players on the roster to average double-figure points (12.1). His 5.4 rebound-per-game average was good for second on the club, and his 56.3-percent clip from the floor was the best among all players who attempted at least 200 shots.
Much of that percentage was due to Fieler's team-leading 59 dunks, which helped put FGCU on the national map in March while simultaneously giving birth to the #DunkCity moniker. After leading the team in scoring just twice through his first two years, Fieler paced the club in scoring 11 times as a junior, including reaching double figures 28 times. He was named to both the A-Sun All-Tournament Team and A-Sun All-Conference Second Team last year.
Last year, FGCU was picked to finish third in the preseason poll behind Mercer and USC Upstate.
Fans have their first opportunity to see Comer, Thompson, Fieler and the rest of the Eagles as part of Dunk City After Dark presented by Coconut Point Ford, FGCU's Midnight Madness event that will be shown on ESPNU next Friday at 9 p.m. Admission is free, but a large crowd is expected.