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WIDE DISPARITY IN PREDICTIONS FOR MEN’S HOOPS IN BIG SKY PRESEASON POLL

WIDE DISPARITY IN PREDICTIONS FOR MEN’S HOOPS IN BIG SKY PRESEASON POLL

2014-15 Big Sky standings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State men's basketball program was selected to finish in a tie for fourth out of 12 teams by the media, and 10th by the coaches, in the Big Sky Conference preseason polls announced today by the league office.

The disparity between the two polls was the largest of any team in the Big Sky. Last year, the Hornets put together a record-breaking season in which the team went 21-12 overall and finished in a tie for third with a 13-5 conference mark. Sacramento State finished just one game out of first place, and narrowly missed winning the program's first conference title since 1977.

Judging by the Hornets' placement in the coaches poll, Big Sky coaches are wondering how Sacramento State will compensate for the loss of two of the best players in program history in guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity. McKinney was an AP All-American last year and Garrity a four-time all-league selection, and the two rank fourth and sixth, respectively, in career scoring at Sacramento State.

However, despite the loss of McKinney and Garrity, the Hornets return 10 players from last season's team, including three starters in senior guard Cody Demps, junior center Eric Stuteville and junior forward Nick Hornsby. Each of the three started at least 30 games last season, and ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring.

All 10 returners have at least one year of playing experience in a Sacramento State uniform, including a pair of fourth-year seniors (Demps, guard Dreon Barlett) and three third-year juniors (Hornsby, Stuteville, guard Trevis Jackson).

The same teams made up the top four spots in both polls as Weber State assumed No. 1 in the coaches poll, and last year's regular season champion Montana was picked atop the media poll. Eastern Washington, which won the Big Sky Tournament championship and advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament, was picked third in both polls followed by Northern Arizona in fourth. The Hornets and Northern Arizona both finished with 133 points and a first place vote in the media poll to finish in a tie for the fourth spot.

The coaches poll saw Weber State garner 114 total points and six first-place votes while Montana was just behind with 113 points and six first-place votes. They were followed by Eastern Washington (99), Northern Arizona (79), Southern Utah (64), Portland State (62), Northern Colorado (61), Idaho (52), North Dakota (52), Sacramento State (51), Montana State (31) and Idaho State (14).

The media poll had Montana in first with 220 total points and 14 first-place votes, followed by Weber State (194, two first-place votes), Eastern Washington (183, one first-place vote), Sacramento State (133, one first-place vote), Northern Arizona (133, one first-place vote), Northern Colorado (117), Idaho (109), Portland State (109), Southern Utah (96), North Dakota (70), Montana State (64) and Idaho State (24).

The Hornets' fourth-place selection in the media poll is tied for the second highest predicted order or finish in the poll since the program joined the Big Sky in 1996-97. Sacramento State was also selected fourth last year in the media poll, and third in the 2005-06 media poll.

Not only did last year's squad finish 21-12 and 13-5 in league, the team secured its first postseason appearance in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and first postseason win in 53 years. The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era that Sacramento State finished above the .500 mark, the 21 victories tied for second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference wins were the most in school history (regardless of conference). The postseason victory came in a CIT First Round road win at Portland.

This year's Big Sky Tournament (March 8-12) will take place in Reno, Nev., at the downtown Reno Events Center, and, different from years past, all 12 teams will now qualify for the tournament. Moving to a predetermined, neutral site for the tournament ends more than two decades of the Big Sky awarding its conference tournament to the regular season champion.

Sacramento State's first official team practice will take place tomorrow morning, and the team is just over a month away from its lone exhibition game against Simpson on Nov. 6. The Hornets open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 13, at Arizona State.

COACHES POLL - Points (First Place Votes)
1. Weber State - 114 (6)
2. Montana - 113 (6)
3. Eastern Washington - 99
4. Northern Arizona - 79
5. Southern Utah - 64
6. Portland State - 62
7. Northern Colorado - 61
8. Idaho - 52
    North Dakota - 52
10. Sacramento State - 51
11. Montana State - 31
12. Idaho State  - 14

MEDIA POLL - Points (First Place Votes)
1. Montana - 220 (14)
2. Weber State - 194 (2)
3. Eastern Washington - 183 (1)
4. Sacramento State - 133 (1)
    Northern Arizona - 133 (1)
6. Northern Colorado - 117
7. Idaho - 109
    Portland State - 109
9. Southern Utah - 96
10. North Dakota - 70
11. Montana State - 64
12. Idaho State - 24