With eight returning players and slew of newcomers, new Eastern head coach Jim Hayford receives respect from his peers
Whether or not the respect is warranted will be determined next March.
But for now, new Eastern Washington University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford and his team received notable respect from Big Sky Conference head coaches by being picked to finish third, the league announced on Wednesday (Oct. 19).
With eight returning letterwinners and several talented newcomers, Eastern was picked by the coaches to finish behind predicted winner Weber State and runner-up Montana in the league race. The Eagles were just one point ahead of fourth-place Northern Colorado, the league’s defending regular season and tournament champion.
In the media poll, Eastern was picked to finish sixth, just three points away from No. 5 Portland State. Weber State, Montana, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona held down the first four positions.
“The coaches who have been in the conference know about this much more than me,” said Hayford, “and they are saying it looks like a very competitive conference race with many close games in store for our team.”
The top six teams in the regular season standings advance to the league’s postseason tournament, which begins March 3, 2012. Last year, Eastern finished 10-20 overall and 7-9 in the Big Sky to advance to the tournament for the first time in five years.
“Both polls pick us to be in the post-season,” added Hayford, who was 217-57 the past five seasons at NCAA Division III Whitworth University. “I hope they are correct.”
Eastern opens the 2011-12 season on Nov. 11 at Gonzaga, and its league opener is Dec. 28 at Montana State. The first home game for the Eagles is Nov. 15 against South Dakota and the first league home game is Jan. 5 versus Weber State.
1. Weber State (8) – 64 votes
2. Montana (1) – 56
3. Eastern Washington – 42
4. Northern Colorado – 41
5. Portland State – 38
6. Northern Arizona - 35
7. Montana State – 24
8. Sacramento State – 16
9. Idaho State - 9
1. Weber State (19) – 210
2. Montana (4) – 193
3. Northern Colorado (1) – 141
4. Northern Arizona – 125
5. Portland State – 112
6. Eastern Washington – 109
7. Montana State – 101
8. Sacramento State – 45
9. Idaho State - 41