OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona men’s basketball team was picked second by the coaches and fourth by the media in the 2010-11 Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls released on Wednesday.
Two-time defending Big Sky Conference regular-season champion Weber State is the favorite in the men’s basketball preseason polls. The 2010-11 media and coaches’ polls were released Wednesday by the league office.
Randy Rahe’s Weber State Wildcats received six of the nine first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and 61 total points. The Wildcats earned 21 of the 28 first-place votes in the media poll and 238 points. Weber State finished 13-3 in conference during the 2009-10 season, and have compiled a 28-4 Big Sky record over the past two seasons. The coaches and media both picked Weber State No. 1 last season.
Weber State returns reigning league MVP Damian Lillard, a junior guard from Oakland, Calif. Lillard averaged a league-high 19.9 points per game, shot .853 percent from the free-throw line and .393 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats also return starting forward Kyle Bullinger, center Trevor Morris, forward Darin Mahoney and guard Lindsey Hughey.
The media and coaches selected eight of the nine teams in the same slot. The only difference was at the No. 2 position.
The media selected Northern Colorado second, while Northern Arizona drew the No. 2 slot from the coaches. Northern Colorado earned two first-place votes from the media and 197 total points. Northern Arizona garnered one first-place vote from the coaches and 56 total points. Northern Colorado was tabbed fourth by the coaches, while NAU was picked fourth by the media, earning one first-place vote.
Northern Colorado, led by first-year coach B.J. Hill, won a school-record 25 games in 2009-10, finishing second in the regular-season standings. The Bears return three starters, including senior guard Devon Beitzel. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Lafayette, Colo., was a second team all-conference selection last season, averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting .444 percent from 3-point range. Beitzel missed the Bears’ final seven games with an injury.
Northern Arizona, led by 12th-year head coach Mike Adras, finished 14-14 in 2009-10, falling to The University of Montana in the Big Sky quarterfinals. The Lumberjacks return four starters, including senior All-Conference guard Cameron Jones, who averaged 19.3 points per game. The Lumberjacks return nine letterwinners, including senior forward Shane Johannsen.
Montana, which upset top-seeded Weber State in the Big Sky Championship game, was selected third in both polls. The Grizzlies received four first-place votes from the media and 196 total points. Two coaches selected Montana first. Montana returns senior center Brian Qvale, who scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament loss to New Mexico. Montana must replace All-Conference guard Anthony Johnson, the team’s leading scorer each of the past two seasons.
Montana State was tabbed fifth in both polls, followed by Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State and Sacramento State.
Portland State will not be eligible for the NCAA post-season in 2010-11 due to a low APR score during the measured span of 2005-09. The NCAA gave PSU a one-year restriction this past spring, preventing the Vikings from having a shot at the NCAA or NIT. Because of the penalty, Portland State is not eligible for the 2011 Big Sky Championship.
The top six teams from the Big Sky will qualify for the league championship, which begins with quarterfinals on Saturday, March 5. The semifinals are Tuesday, March 8 with the championship on Wednesday, March 9. The semifinals and championship will be played at the site of the regular-season champion.
2010 Preseason Polls
1. Weber State (21) 238
2. Northern Colorado (2) 197
3. Montana (4) 196
4. Northern Arizona (1) 175
5. Montana State 133
6. Eastern Washington 106
7. Portland State 98
8. Idaho State 59
9. Sacramento State 56
Weber State (6) 61
Northern Arizona (1) 56
Montana (2) 50
Northern Colorado 46
Montana State 31
Eastern Washington 30
Portland State 27
Idaho State 14
Sacramento State 9