FLORENCE, S.C. - The Francis Marion University men’s basketball team, off to a 7-0 start for only the second time in team history, finds itself ranked in a national Top 25 poll for the first time in 18 years. The Patriots, who will play Nova Southeastern University (3-4) on Wednesday to open the Palm Beach Hoops Classic in Boca Raton, Fla., are ranked 18th in this week’s National Association of Basketball Coaches (NCAA) Division II Bulletin Top 25 poll.
FMU senior 6-5 forward Jaquan Bracey was named the Peach Belt Conference’s “Player of the Week” for the week ending Dec. 14. In the Patriots’ only action last week, the Bennettsville native scored 18 points, on nine-of-14 shooting, and grabbed a career-high equaling 17 rebounds in a 70-63 road win at Catawba College. He also handed out two assists, blocked a shot, and recorded one steal, as the Patriots rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit.
Bracey has raised his season averages to 12.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He is shooting 58.6 percent from the field, has recorded three double-doubles, leads the squad with seven blocked shots, and is tied for second with 12 steals.
The Patriots will be looking to tie the best start in team history with a win over the Knights on Wednesday. The 1985-86 FMU squad won its opening eight games en route to a 22-8 record. That season also marked the last time FMU was nationally ranked, as the Patriots occupied the No. 17 spot in the Jan. 20, 1986 NAIA poll.
Junior forward Louis McCullough continues to lead the Patriots in both scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg).
Following Wednesday encounter with Nova Southeastern, FMU will face Barry University (4-2) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and the host school, Lynn University (5-3), Friday at 7 p.m.
Of the three opponents, FMU has only faced Lynn previously on the basketball court. The Patriots dropped an 84-76 decision on Dec. 4, 1993, as part of Francis Marion’s Food Chief Classic.
The Florida trip continues a string of seven straight road games for the Patriots, who will not play at home again until Jan. 10.