COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Utah State men's basketball has been picked fifth in the 2013-14 Mountain West Conference preseason media poll, as selected by a voting panel comprised of Conference media and announced Tuesday morning at the league's preseason media days, held at the league office in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Defending Mountain West regular-season and tournament champion New Mexico is the preseason favorite to win the MW men’s basketball regular-season title again in 2013-14. The Lobos received 23 of 24 first-place votes and 263 points to garner the top spot in the poll. UNLV claimed the remaining first-place vote and 214 points to tie with Boise State at the second spot, while San Diego State garnered 212 points for the No. 4 spot.
Mountain West newcomer Utah State collected 156 points for fifth, followed by Colorado State in sixth (142 points) and Wyoming (112 points) in seventh. Rounding out the poll were Fresno State (96 points) in eighth, Nevada (84 points) in ninth, Air Force (61 points) in 10th and MW newcomer San José State (30 points) in 11th.
The MW also announced a preseason all-Mountain West team. Due to a tie in the balloting, six players were chosen, led by Preseason Player of the Year, New Mexico senior guard Kendall Williams. Also on the preseason team were New Mexico junior center Alex Kirk, Boise State junior guards Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks, Nevada senior guard Deonte Burton and UNLV junior forward Khem Birch.
San Diego State senior forward Josh Davis garnered Preseason Newcomer of the Year accolades, while UNLV guard Kendall Smith was tabbed as the Preseason Freshman of the Year.
Last season, the Mountain West sent a league-record five teams to the NCAA Tournament, and the league was ranked as the No. 1 RPI conference in the country. With five of its nine teams earning bids to the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Mountain West had the highest percentage at 56 percent of its teams included in the Big Dance of any of the 31 conferences. The Mountain West was also one of six conferences with five or more teams participating in March Madness in 2013.
The 2013-14 MW preseason poll and the preseason all-Mountain West Conference team were announced at the start of the league's annual media days, being held Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 8-9. The league's 11 coaches will visit with local, regional and national media, as well as film Mountain West commercials and PSAs.
USU head coach Stew Morrill is part of the six coaches who will be in action Tuesday, joined by Air Force's Davie Pilipovish, Boise State's Leon Rice, Nevada's David Carter, San José State's Davie Wojcik and New Mexico's Craig Neal. On Wednesday, Fresno State's Rodney Terry, Colorado State's Larry Eustachy, UNLV's Dave Rice, Wyoming's Larry Shyatt and San Diego State's Steve Fisher will have their turn.
The Aggies are in their inaugural season in the Mountain West after eight seasons in the Western Athletic Conference.
The 2013-14 USU men's basketball roster consists of 16 players, including eight returning lettermen and four returning starters from last season in senior guard Preston Medlin, senior guard/forward Spencer Butterfield, senior center Jarred Shaw and sophomore guard Marcel Davis. The other returning lettermen include junior forward Danny Berger, junior forward Ben Clifford, senior guard TeNale Roland and junior center Jordan Stone.
The roster also includes senior forward Sean Harris, who missed last season with a knee injury and continues progress entering the season. Additions to the squad are seven newcomers in sophomore forward Kyle Davis, and six freshmen in forwards James Croasdell and Jalen Moore, guards JoJo McGlaston, Viko Noma'aea and Terrell Young, and center Carson Shanks.
Morrill is entering his 16th season at USU and 28th overall. In 15 years at Utah State, Morrill has taken the Aggie basketball program to unprecedented heights leading USU to a 366-129 (.739) record, including a 186-62 (.750) mark in the Big West and Western Athletic Conferences. The Aggies are entering their third different conference under Morrill in 2013-14.
USU opens the 2013-14 season with an exhibition against Central Methodist (Mo.) on Friday, Oct. 25, and then hosts Adams State (Colo.) in another exhibition on Friday, Nov. 1.
The Aggies host USC in the regular season opener on Friday, Nov. 8, then host in-state foe Southern Utah on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.