LOGAN -- After winning four-straight regular season Western Athletic Conference Championships and two WAC tournament titles in the past three years, Utah State's men's basketball team is picked to finish first in the conference once again during the 2011-12 season according to league's media, while the coaches have tabbed the Aggies third as the WAC's preseason polls were announced Tuesday.
Two of Utah State's players were recognized as well as senior guard Brockeith Pane was named preseason first-team all-WAC by both the coaches and media and was selected the league's preseason player of the year by the media, while senior forward Brady Jardine was named to the preseason all-second team by the coaches.
Nevada is the coaches pick to win the WAC this year after receiving five first-place votes and 46 points, while New Mexico State is slated to finish second after garnering 41 points, but no first-place votes.
Utah State received three first-place votes and 38 points and was picked to finish third, followed by Hawaii (32), Idaho (24), Fresno State (18), San Jose State (14) and Louisiana Tech (11).
In the media poll, Utah State garnered 13 first-place votes and 174 points, while Nevada was second with 162 points and five first-place votes. New Mexico State, who received 150 points and three first-place votes was picked third, while Hawaii received 126 points and three first-place votes and was picked to finish fourth. Idaho was picked fifth (89), followed by San Jose State (66), Fresno State (59) and Louisiana Tech (38).
"Both polls reflect our past success rather than our current situation," said Morrill. "The coaches considered that we lost the most valuable player, four starters and six seniors. The media did not. We appreciate the respect given to our program and yet understand that preseason polls mean nothing other than getting people excited for the upcoming season."
Overall, Utah State returns one starter and four letterwinners from last year's team that advanced to its 20th NCAA tournament all-time, including its eighth in the last 12 years under Morrill as it lost to Kansas State, 73-68, in the second round. Utah State finished the 2010-11 season with a 30-4 record -- tying the school record for wins and setting a school record for winning percentage (.882) -- and went 15-1 in WAC play to claim its fourth-straight regular season league championship, which is also school record. USU also won its second WAC tournament championship in the past three seasons last year.
Over the last four years, USU has a combined record of 111-28 (.799) including a 55-9 (.859) WAC mark.
Leading the way for Utah State during the 2011-12 season will be Pane who earned first-team all-WAC honors as a junior as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, while ranking fourth in the league in free throw shooting (.802), fifth in assists and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.32).
Pane, who was also named the most valuable player of the 2011 WAC Tournament, finished the season shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from 3-point range.
Utah State women's basketball was selected second in the Western Athletic Conference coaches' poll and third in the media poll as it was announced Tuesday by the league.
Both predictions are the highest for USU since joining the WAC. Last season, the Aggies were picked seventh in both the coaches' and the media poll.
Senior forward Ashlee Brown made Utah State women's basketball history by becoming the first Aggie to earn WAC preseason player of the year honors when she was awarded the honor by both the coaches and the media. Brown, who averaged 15.2 points per game last season, is the top scorer returning in the WAC. Last season, Brown was the WAC's Newcomer of the Year and earned first-team all-WAC honors.
"It is exciting, not even for myself, but for the program and the team. I am always happy to represent my team. Even if it just my name on there it represents Utah State, and that is all I see. I want to just improve and apply everything that I have learned in the preseason, and show my leadership the best way that I can. I just have fun playing with my team like I always do. I am just excited to be a part of it," Brown said.
The Aggies received 40 points in the WAC coaches' poll, including two of the eight first-place votes. Defending WAC regular season-champion, Louisiana Tech, was picked first with 47 points, including five-first place votes. Fresno State, the 2011 WAC Tournament champions, was picked third with 36 points and the final first-place vote. Nevada placed fourth with 33 points, followed by Hawaii with 22 points. New Mexico State was picked to finish in sixth place with 18 points, while Idaho was just a point behind with 17 points to finish in seventh place. The coaches' poll was rounded out by San Jose State in eighth place with 11 points.