There aren’t many players left from Eastern Washington’s NCAA Tournament team last year, and that has apparently lowered the expectations placed on the Eagles men’s basketball team.
Out of 11 teams, Eastern landed eighth in the preseason Big Sky coaches’ poll and seventh in the media poll, both of which were released Thursday.
Southern Utah, which won the conference’s regular-season title last season, is first in both polls, collecting eight of the 11 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and 23 of 29 such votes cast by the media.
The top six are the same in both polls: Weber State is second and Montana State is third, followed by Montana, Northern Colorado and Idaho State.
Idaho received the fewest possible voting points in the coaches’ poll and just 38 in the media poll, a distant 11th in each. The Vandals are coming off a 1-17 Big Sky record last season.
Eastern finished tied for second last season with a 12-3 record and then won the conference tournament to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
As a No. 14 seed, the Eagles led third-seeded Kansas at halftime during their first-round matchup before losing to the Jayhawks 93-84.
Less than a week later, Eastern head coach Shantay Legans accepted the same position at the University of Portland.
A roster exodus followed. Nine players transferred, leaving six on the roster this year who were on it last. Just two of those six – sophomores Ellis Magnuson and Casson Rouse – have any career starts at Eastern.
David Riley was promoted from associate head coach to replace Legans. He brought in 12 new players, a mixture of freshmen and transfers.
The Eagles are scheduled to begin their regular season at Nevada on Nov. 9. Their first scheduled home game is against Walla Walla University, an NAIA team, on Nov. 15.
This will be Southern Utah’s final season in the Big Sky before moving to the Western Athletic Conference for the 2022-23 season.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.