As the landscape of college sports continues to change because of conference realignment, we have news of more movement Tuesday.
According to the Associated Press, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will leave the Southern Conference and join the Sun Belt in every sport except for football beginning at the start of the 2014 season. The football program of each respective school will begin the transition from FCS to FBS and join the Sun Belt in 2015.
The two additions means 12 basketball schools will compete in the 2014-15 Sun Belt season, with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern joining Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy, Western Kentucky, Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington.
The move, as much of conference realignment has been, is motivated by the desire of both schools to become FBS football programs. The teams have won a combined nine FCS championships.
As for the basketball implications, Appalachian State finished last season with an overall record of 15-16, including 10-8 in the SoCon. The Mountaineeers lost to eventual champion Davidson in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Georgia Southern finished 14-19 this season and 7-11 in the SoCon. It, too, lost to Davidson in the conference tournament, falling to coach Bob McKillop’s team in the quarterfinal round.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.