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Weber State basketball: Men picked 2nd, women at bottom in Big Sky preseason polls

By Brett Hein - | Oct 21, 2021

Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

Weber State guard Seikou Sisoho Jawara dribbles the ball in a game against Montana State on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

With the college basketball season two weeks away, the Big Sky Conference released preseason media and coaches polls for both men’s and women’s hoops this week.

After going 17-6 and finishing second in the regular-season conference race in last season’s shortened slate, WSU men’s basketball was picked second in both polls for the upcoming campaign.

Defending champion Southern Utah was picked first in both men’s polls, garnering 8 of 11 first-place votes from coaches and 23 of 29 first-place votes from media.

Weber State received two first-place votes from coaches and five from media. Montana State got one first-place vote in each poll.

The Wildcats return nine scholarship players from last season and have five second-time seniors in returners Michal Kozak, Cody Carlson and Dontay Bassett, and transfers Koby McEwen and JJ Overton.

“It gives us something to work for. Everyone’s got to get a position, we got second, so it just gives us more motivation to work to prove that we’re first,” Carlson said. “Everyone’s hungry. We just have to prove ourselves and we get the opportunity to come back from last year.”

Returning freshman of the year Dillon Jones feels enough motivation for other reasons and sees preseason voting in a different light.

“I was looking forward just to see what people think. It’s always interesting to see what people think. For them to pick us second, I get it, and I hope it motivates us, but at the end of the day you never know how things will go,” Jones said.

“For example, Isiah (Brown) wasn’t on the preseason team last year and he was unanimous first team and the newcomer of the year. It doesn’t really mean anything on the grand scale of anything.”

Following SUU and Weber at the top, both polls ranked Montana State, Montana, Nothern Colorado and Idaho State in order behind them. Eastern Washington and Portland State share seventh and eighth between the two polls, Northern Arizona and Sacramento State share ninth and 10th, and Idaho was picked 11th in both.

In his initial season starting points, Ken Pomeroy‘s formula has Weber State at tops in the Big Sky at 114th nationally, with Southern Utah at 122 and Montana at 148. The Big Sky is rated 17th among 32 conferences. After routinely finishing between 24th and 27th, the Big Sky finished as high as 17th in 2018 and 2020, marking a sort of pinnacle of recent success and skill within the conference.

The WSU men open the 2021-22 season Thursday, Nov. 4, in an exhibition against Concordia-St. Paul, a Division II team from Minnesota where Carlson transferred from. With road trips to Duquesne and Washington State, a tournament in Florida, and home games against Utah State, Fresno State and BYU, the Wildcats have one of their more compelling schedules in recent memory.

For the Weber State women, going 12-71 in the last three seasons expectedly produce similar preseason voting results. The coaches selected WSU 10th and the media last in 11th.

The Wildcat women bring in a score of newcomers hoping to take a leap in the league standings with better depth at point guard, and what fourth-year coach Velaida Harris describes as a speedier team with a better ability to play fast and apply pressure on defense, while relying on the experience of players like Jadyn Matthews and Kori Pentzer.

“We feel like we can make a significant jump with the experience and what the newbies bring. Collectively, as a group of freshmen, it’s the most talented group I’ve brought in,” Harris said. “Me being in my fourth year, my experience has changed as well. I think the combination of those things, they’re going to enable us to make a jump.”

The regular season opens for both teams Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Dee Events Center. The women’s team hosts North Dakota at 4:30 p.m. and the men take on Western Colorado at 7 p.m.

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