The Montana men's basketball team was picked to win the Big Sky conference by media members, the league announced on Thursday afternoon.
Coaches put the Grizzlies second, with Eastern Washington receiving eight of the 11 first place votes. The Montana State women's basketball team was picked to win the conference by both the coaches and the media.
"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," Montana men's basketball coach Travis DeCuire said in a 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 Grizzlies have won a Big Sky regular-season or tournament title six times in the last 10 years, reaching the conference title game eight times.
Montana does lose five of their top seven scorers, but do return Sayeed Pridgett, a first-team All-Big Sky performer last season, who was voted on the Preseason All-Big Sky Conference team on Wednesday. Several other role players also return for UM.
Weber State was picked second in the preseason media poll, followed by EWU and Northern Colorado. Southern Utah rounded out the top five. The coaches picked the Wildcats third, followed by the Thunderbirds and the Bears.
Both the media and coaches were in agreement on the rest of the poll: Portland State in sixth, followed by Montana State, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State, Idaho State and Idaho.
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The Bobcats were, however, picked to win the Big Sky on the women's side. Led by conference preseason MVP Fallyn Freije, Montana State took five first-place votes in the coaches poll and seven in the media poll.
“We aren’t surprised by the preseason polls with the experience we have returning, but we also know what matters is where we finish in March," Montana State head coach Tricia Binford said in a release. “We have a lot of work to do between now and tournament time in Boise in a very competitive conference.
"These expectations are no different than what we have for ourselves and we’re excited to get the season started.”
Freije had to set out last season due to NCAA transfer rules — she came to Bozeman from North Dakota. Teammate Oliana Squires was also named to the preseason squad and they were the only teammates on the six-player team.
Idaho was picked second in both polls, followed by Portland State and Idaho State. Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington, Montana, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State, and Southern Utah rounded out the preseason media poll.
The coaches had the Griz in fifth, followed by the Bears, Eagles, Lumberjacks, Thunderbirds, Hornets and Wildcats.