Eagles are chosen by the coaches to finish sixth as the Big Sky Conference preseason picks are announced
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team, under the direction of second-year head coach Jim Hayford, has been picked to finish as high as third in the 2012-13 Big Sky Conference preseason men’s basketball polls released Thursday (Oct. 18).
The media have picked the Eagles to finish third, and the coaches selected Eastern sixth. Defending Big Sky champion Montana has been selected first in both polls.
Eastern finished the 2011-12 season 15-17 overall and was 8-8 in Big Sky Conference play to finish fourth, and the Eagles hosted and won their first Big Sky Conference Tournament game since 2006. Eastern improved by five victories from the year before, as the Eagles equaled their most wins since Eastern made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.
“We want to stand by the same goal we put out there last year – we want to be a perennial postseason team,” Hayford said. “When you look at the Big Sky Conference and you talk of teams in the postseason mix, we want Eastern Washington to be in it.”
The 2013 Big Sky Championship will consist of the top seven teams from the regular-season standings. The championship will be played March 14-16 at the site of the regular-season champion. The No. 1 seed will receive a bye to the semifinals. There will be three first-round games on Thursday, March 14.
Teams will play 20 conference games this season in a true double round-robin format. While some schools begin their seasons Nov. 9, Eastern opens the next day at Washington State. The Eagles also play an exhibition game against Concordia (Ore.) on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m.
After losing four seniors to graduation from his first Eastern team, Hayford’s 2012-13 squad will return two starters and four other returning letterwinners. His team also includes three players who redshirted last season – featuring a pair of NCAA Division I transfers – with six newcomers rounding out his squad.
“Whether it’s a rebuilding year, a strong year or a team with a young roster, we want to be a part of the postseason and that hasn’t changed,” said Hayford. “Last year the team and fans were excited to host and win a postseason game for the first time in a long time. That goal remains the same.”
The Grizzlies received eight first-place votes and 98 total points in the coaches’ poll, and 24 first-place votes and 344 points in the media poll. Weber State, which lost to Montana in the Big Sky Championship game, was selected second in both polls. Randy Rahe’s Wildcats earned three first-place votes from the coaches and 92 total points. Eight media members selected Weber State first, and the Wildcats earned 318 points from the media.
Northern Colorado was selected third by the coaches and fourth by the media. League newcomer North Dakota could make a splash -- the coaches selected UND fourth, while the media picked it sixth. North Dakota played in the Great West Conference last season and finished 17-15.
Portland State was picked to finish fifth in both polls, and Sacramento State was picked to finish seventh in the coaches’ poll and eighth in the media poll. Montana State was picked seventh in the media poll and eighth in the coaches’ poll. Rounding out both polls were Idaho State, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. All three teams feature new coaches this season.
2012-13 Preseason Men’s Basketball Polls
1. Montana (24) – 344
2. Weber State (8) – 318
3. Eastern Washington – 231
4. Northern Colorado – 221
5. Portland State – 218
6. North Dakota -173
7. Montana State - 171
8. Sacramento State – 166
9. Idaho State -106
10.Southern Utah – 98
11. Northern Arizona - 67
1. Montana (8) – 98
2. Weber State (3) – 92
3. Northern Colorado – 74
4. North Dakota – 67
5. Portland State – 61
6. Eastern Washington – 53
7. Sacramento State – 51
8. Montana State – 48
9. Idaho State – 25
10. Southern Utah – 23
11. Northern Arizona - 14