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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State men's basketball program was selected to finish fourth out of 12 teams in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches and media polls, it was announced today by the league office.

The fourth place selections mark the team's second highest predicted order of finish in both polls since joining the Big Sky in the 1996-97 season. The 2005-06 squad was picked third in both polls, but the league featured just eight teams at the time.

In addition, Sacramento State received one first-place vote in the coaches poll, the first time that has happened since joining the league.

The same teams made up the top four spots in both polls with Weber State, the defending Big Sky regular season and tournament champions, assuming the top spot in each poll. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona flip flopped places 2-3 with the Eagles being selected second in the coaches poll and Northern Arizona second in the media poll.

The coaches poll saw Weber State garner eight first place votes and 117 total points followed by Eastern Washington (one first-place vote, 100 points), Northern Arizona (two first-place votes, 99 points), Sacramento State (one first-place vote, 90 points), Portland State (80), Northern Colorado (73), Idaho (65), Montana (56), North Dakota (38), Idaho State (35), Montana State (24) and Southern Utah (15).

Of the seven preseason polls for the Big Sky that have been released by different media outlets, Sacramento State has been selected no lower than fourth in each of them. That includes Blue Ribbon (1st), ESPN (2nd), Sporting News (3rd), Athlon Sports (3rd) and Lindy's Sports (4th).

The reason for heightened optimism heading into the 2014-15 season is Sacramento State returns all five starters from a team that went 14-16 overall, 10-10 in the Big Sky and qualified for the conference tournament for the first time since 2006. The list of starters include senior guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity. McKinney was a unanimous first team all-Big Sky and second team all-district selection last year while Garrity received honorable mention all-league accolades for the third straight year. Other returning starters include junior swingman Cody Demps, senior forward Zach Mills and senior center Alex Tiffin. All five of those players started at least 24 games a year ago.

Overall, the team returns nine players from a squad that set Div. I-era (1991-pres.) school records for Big Sky victories (10), home wins (11) and home winning streak (seven games). In addition, the squad's 14 overall wins tied for the second best mark in the Div. I era. The Hornets, who are guided by seventh-year head coach Brian Katz, won eight of their final 12 regular season games before falling to North Dakota, 79-76, in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal round.

Sacramento State will play 18 conference games this season, featuring the normal Thursday-Saturday matchups. The University of Idaho is joining the Big Sky, creating a 12-member league in which each school will play seven teams twice, and the other four teams on one occasion. Previously, there was an odd amount of teams in the conference which resulted in more difficult travel schedules and several Monday games.

This year's Big Sky Tournament field will now feature the league's top eight teams, one more than the seven-team field that was used last season. The regular season champion will, once again, host the tournament which will take place March 12-14. The tournament will feature four quarterfinal games, two semifinal matchups and the championship game. There are no byes in the quarterfinal round for any team.

Sacramento State had its first official team practice on Oct. 3, and the squad is now less than two weeks away from its first exhibition game at home against Holy Names on Tuesday, Nov. 4, The Hornets will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 14, at 13th-ranked Gonzaga.
COACHES POLL (First Place Votes)
1. Weber State (8) - 117
2. Eastern Washington (1) - 100
3. Northern Arizona (2) - 99
4. Sacramento State (1) - 90
5. Portland State - 80
6. Northern Colorado - 73
7. Idaho - 65
8. Montana - 56
9. North Dakota - 38
10. Idaho State - 35
11. Montana State - 24
12. Southern Utah - 15

MEDIA POLL (First Place Votes)
1. Weber State (31) - 424
2. Northern Arizona (4) - 339
3. Eastern Washington (1) - 318
4. Sacramento State - 298
5. Montana - 297
6. Northern Colorado - 242
7. Portland State - 227
8. Idaho - 207
9. North Dakota - 175
10. Idaho State - 125
11. Montana State - 104
12. Southern Utah - 52