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 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 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|
|Team||Points (1st-place votes)|
|1. Eastern Washington||96 (8)|
|2. Montana||87 (3)|
|3. Weber State||86|
|4. Southern Utah||71|
|5. Northern Colorado||65|
|6. Portland State||59|
|7. Montana State||42|
|8. Northern Arizona||35|
|9. Sacramento State||32|
|10. Idaho State||21|
|2019-20 Big Sky Preseason Media Poll|
|Team||Points (1st-place votes)|
|1. Montana||354 (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|