Eastern Washington tops Big Sky Conference men's basketball preseason polls, Montana Grizzlies 2nd

Posted at 11:17 AM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 13:17:55-05

(Editor's note: Big Sky Conference media release)

FARMINGTON, Utah – Reigning Big Sky men’s basketball champion Eastern Washington has been tabbed a heavy favorite in the league’s preseason coaches’ and media polls, the conference office announced Wednesday morning.

Eastern Washington topped the coaches’ poll for the second-straight season with 99 points and nine of 11 first-place votes. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. The Eagles totaled 304 points and 24 of 28 first-place votes in the media poll.

Under fourth-year head coach Shantay Legans, Eastern Washington returns four starters including Big Sky Preseason MVP Jacob Davison who ranked fourth in scoring as a junior with 18.4 points per game. The Eagles also return junior Kim Aiken Jr. who led the league with 9.7 rebounds per game while averaging 13.3 points. Both Davison (2nd) and Aiken Jr. (3rd) were All-Big Sky selections last season while leading the Eagles to a 23-8 overall record and 16-4 mark in Big Sky play.

“Our team is being picked as the favorite to win the Big Sky this year, which is a testament to all we accomplished last year and the culture of success we’ve been able to build here at EWU,” said Eastern Washington head coach Shantay Legans. “That said, we haven’t accomplished a single thing this year, and that is our approach to the season. After winning the Big Sky last year but having to stop short of our quest towards the NCAA Tournament, our team is hungrier than ever. There is a lot of work to be done.”

Montana came in second in both the coaches’ and media polls after finishing third in the conference race a season ago. The Griz totaled 86 points and one first-place vote among the coaches while compiling 250 points and a pair of top nods from the media. Reigning Big Sky Freshman of the Year Derrick Carter-Hollinger is the top returning scorer for Montana after averaging 6.7 points per game. Incoming transfer Michael Steadman was named to the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team after posting 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as a junior in 2018-19.

In the coaches’ poll, Weber State totaled 73 points for third while Portland State received 67 points and one first-place vote for fourth. The Vikings were followed by last season’s second-place finisher Northern Colorado with 65 points for fifth in the poll.

Montana State (60), Southern Utah (56), Northern Arizona (34), Sacramento State (31), Idaho State (24) and Idaho (10) rounded out the coaches’ poll.

Northern Colorado took third in the media poll with 222 points and two first-place votes with Big Sky Preseason All-Conference selection Bodie Hume returning for the Bears.

Montana State totaled 200 points for fourth in the media poll, ahead of Weber State’s 183 points for a place in the top five. Southern Utah (173), Portland State (147), Northern Arizona (143), Sacramento State (93), Idaho State (86) and Idaho (50) round out the poll.

The 2020-21 campaign tips off Wednesday, Nov. 25 with the 20-game Big Sky Conference schedule beginning the following week on Thursday, Dec. 3. The 2021 Big Sky Basketball Championships will be held Mar. 8-13 at Idaho Central Arena (formerly CenturyLink Arena) in Boise, Idaho.

Basketball Digital Media Day is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday on Pluto TV Channel 752.

2020-21 Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1. Eastern Washington – 99 (9)
2. Montana – 86 (1)
3. Weber State – 73
4. Portland State – 67 (1)
5. Northern Colorado – 65
6. Montana State – 60
7. Southern Utah – 56
8. Northern Arizona – 34
9. Sacramento State – 31
10. Idaho State – 24
11. Idaho – 10

2020-21 Big Sky Preseason Media Poll

1. Eastern Washington – 304 (24)
2. Montana – 250 (2)
3. Northern Colorado – 222 (2)
4. Montana State – 200
5. Weber State – 183
6. Southern Utah – 173
7. Portland State – 147
8. Northern Arizona – 143
9. Sacramento State – 93
10. Idaho State – 86
11. Idaho – 50