Preseason MVP: Coryon Mason is a big-time potential scoring threat who will have the ball in his hands a lot more often this season after averaging 8.8 points per game last year.
The Ceiling: The Wildcats will be a team to watch in March as they return 10 players from a 20-win team last year. It’s not inconceivable to believe that ACU can pull off an upset and earn its first win in the NCAA tournament, considering they have one of the deepest front courts of any mid-major program.
The Floor: The floor is still remarkably high for Abilene Christian as worst-case scenario might still have the Wildcats at the top of the conference, but just falling short in the Southland Conference Tournament and missing out on the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Game of the Year: Stephen F. Austin
Impact-First Year Player: Immanuel Allen
Projected Starting Five:
G | 6-0 | Sr. | Oklahoma City, Okla.
G | 6-4 | R-So. | Lake Oswego, Ore.
F | 6-8 | Jr. | Overland Park, Kan.
F | 6-6 | Jr. | Nevada, Mo.
C | 7-0 | R-Sr. | San Angelo, Texas
It has been quite a process for Abilene Christian head coach Joe Golding. Golding is entering his 10th season leading his alma mater and has built the program into one of the top programs in the Southland Conference.
But it was not an easy process by any measure.
"We didn't have a whole lot of success at the Division II ranks and then we were one of the worst Division I programs in the country so we take a lot of pride in where we are now and try to protect that every day,” Golding said. "You want to build your program to a level where you're competing for championships every year and that takes a lot of work from players and staff.
"We're a lot better than we were four or five years ago and we take a lot of pride in that. Last year was important for us because we were able to follow up a tournament season with competing for the league title."
Last year was an extremely important year for the Wildcats program as they sought to maintain the success of their first NCAA tournament appearance.
The Wildcats exceeded expectations by posting an impressive 20-11 overall record and were ready to compete for another run at the NCAA tournament as the two seed in the Southland before the season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We lost a lot of starters the year after we went to the NCAA tournament and people thought we were in panic mode but in reality, it was a chance for a lot of our young guys to step up,” Golding said. “They were able to step up and win 20 games and get second in the conference."
The 2020-2021 season could be another run at the NCAA tournament as the Wildcats return 10 players from last year’s roster including a deep frontcourt of Kohlton Kohl, Joe Pleasant, Clay Gayman and Airion Simmons.
"I think this is the best frontcourt we've ever had here at ACU,” Golding said. “We have a lot of depth and that will be a strength of this team this year. I feel like we have four guys there that can start for anybody in our league.
"We're very excited about our team and we're very blessed to have so many guys back during this COVID-19 pandemic."
While ACU must replace last year’s leading scorer Payten Ricks, Golding’s expectations for this season are the same as he will use a committee of talented guards in place of Ricks.
"My expectations for this year are the same as the last two years,” Golding said. “We want to go to the NCAA tournament again and compete for the conference title."