Big Sky Conference

Eastern Washington, Montana tabbed Big Sky men’s hoops preseason favorites

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FARMINGTON, Utah (October 17, 2019) – For the first time in 15 years, Eastern Washington has been tabbed the Big Sky men’s basketball preseason coaches’ favorite, while Montana was picked by the media to win the title.

Coaches could not vote for their own team while the media – made up of the league’s sports information directors and Big Sky media members – could vote for all 11 teams.

Eastern Washington collected eight of 11 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll while totaling 96 points. Reigning champion Montana received the remaining three first-place votes and 87 points while Weber State was a close third with 86 points. 

Montana led the way in the media poll with 13 first-place nods and 354 points. Weber State followed with 12 first-place votes and 345 points. Eastern Washington came in third with 330 points and nine first-place votes. Northern Colorado received the remaining two first-place votes while being picked fourth with 275 points.

“I think that tradition earns you a few votes, so when you win games consecutively, people are going to put you up there, regardless of what you return,” sixth-year head coach Travis DeCuire said in a UM press release. “We’re a long ways from being at that championship level, but our guys except it and we expect it of them. It’s October now, and hopefully by March we’ll be at that level.”

The Big Sky has had two preseason favorites three previous times since 2006 with the last coming in 2015.

Eastern Washington senior Mason Peatling boxes out Montana forward Mack Anderson/ by Brooks Nuanez

Eastern Washington advanced to the Big Sky Championship game for the second-straight season in 2018-19. Under third-year head coach Shantay Legans, the Eagles return three starters including a pair of Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team selections in senior forward Mason Peatling and junior guard Jacob Davison. Both averaged just over 15 points per game to guide the squad to a third-place finish in the regular season.

Montana will look to become the first Big Sky team since 1973 to win three-straight regular season titles and the first team since 1982 to claim three consecutive Big Sky Championships.

The Griz return an All-Big Sky First Team honoree in senior guard Sayeed Pridgett off last season’s NCAA Tournament squad that finished 26-9 overall and 16-4 in league play. The two-time defending Big Sky champions sport a youthful roster for 2019-20 with just five upperclassmen on the 15-man roster. Sixth-year head coach Travis DeCuire and the Griz also return senior guard Kendal Manuel who was named Big Sky Co-Newcomer of the Year as well as the league’s top reserve.

Weber State guard Jerrick Harding splits Montana State defenders/by Brooks Nuanez

Weber State will be led by two-time All-Big Sky First Team selection Jerrick Harding. The league’s preseason MVP averaged 21.4 points and 1.7 steals per game for second in the Big Sky last season. He will be joined by fellow senior guard Cody John who was an All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection with 14.8 points per game. The Big Sky’s all-time winningest coach Randy Rahe has led the Wildcats to a top-three regular season showing in 12 of his 13 years, finishing third last year.

Southern Utah was picked fourth in the coaches’ poll with 71 points after making a second-straight trip to the Big Sky semifinals last season. Northern Colorado followed in fifth with 65 points while Portland State was sixth with 59. Rounding out the poll was Montana State (42), Northern Arizona (35), Sacramento State (32), Idaho State (21) and Idaho (11).

In the media poll, Southern Utah came in fifth with 247 points followed by the same order as in the coaches’ poll with Portland State (220), Montana State (188), Northern Arizona (150), Sacramento State (127), Idaho State (92) and Idaho (48).

The Big Sky features four new head coaches this season in Idaho’s Zac Claus, Idaho State’s Ryan Looney, Montana State’s Danny Sprinkle and Northern Arizona’s Shane Burcar.

The 2019-20 season gets underway Tuesday, November 5 with seven teams in action. Conference play begins Saturday, December 28 as teams take part in a 20-game double round robin format for the second-straight season.

The 2020 Big Sky Basketball Championships presented by My Place Hotels take place March 9-14 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Tickets go on sale next week.

2019-20 Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ Poll
TeamPoints (1st-place votes)
1. Eastern Washington96 (8)
2. Montana87 (3)
3. Weber State 86
4. Southern Utah71
5. Northern Colorado 65
6. Portland State59
7. Montana State 42
8. Northern Arizona 35
9. Sacramento State 32
10. Idaho State 21
11. Idaho 11
2019-20 Big Sky Preseason Media Poll
TeamPoints (1st-place votes)
1. Montana354 (13)
2. Weber State 345 (12)
3. Eastern Washington 330 (9)
4. Northern Colorado 275 (2)
5. Southern Utah 247
6. Portland State 220
7. Montana State 188
8. Northern Arizona 150
9. Sacramento State 127
10. Idaho State 92
11. Idaho48

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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