Expectations within the women’s and men’s basketball programs at Eastern Washington are already high for this season.
The rest of the conference’s coaches and media agree.
In polls released on Wednesday, the Eastern Washington women are the coaches’ favorite choice to win the league this season, one point ahead of Northern Arizona. The Eagles received six of the 10 first-place votes; the Lumberjacks got three; and the Montana Grizzlies, picked third, received the other.
NAU and EWU are flipped in the women’s preseason media poll, each of them garnering 12 first-place votes.
On the men’s side, the Eagles are third in the coaches’ poll and second in that of the media, with Weber State the overwhelming favorite in both. The Eagles won the league’s regular-season title last season but lost top scorers Steele Venters (who transferred to Gonzaga) and Angelo Allegri (who spent time this summer in the Charlotte Hornets organization). Both Venters and Allegri were first-team all-conference selections, and Venters was the MVP.
Yet they retain David Riley, the Big Sky Coach of the Year, and five players from their rotation a year ago in Cedric Coward, Dane Erikstrup, Casey Jones, Ellis Magnuson and Ethan Price.
In both men’s polls there are three distinct tiers, with the trio of Weber State, Eastern Washington and Montana at the top. In the middle are Sacramento State, Portland State, Idaho State and Montana State. At the bottom are Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado and Idaho.
The Vandals, who finished last in the league in 2022-23 with a 4-14 Big Sky record, will be led by first-year head coach Alex Pribble, who was hired to replace Zac Claus in March.
The Idaho women, who will also have a first-year head coach, Carrie Eighmey, are predicted to finish eighth by the coaches and seventh by the media.
Last season the Eastern Washington women’s team finished fourth in the regular-season standings but will return Jamie Loera, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, as well as Jaydia Martin (third-team all-Big Sky) and Jacinta Buckley (honorable mention).
The EWU women will host an exhibition game against Montana Tech on Oct. 29 before opening the regular season at Southern Utah on Nov. 8.
The EWU men have no such exhibition and begin their season at Utah on Nov. 6 in the first of four straight road games. Their first home contest is against Walla Walla University on Nov. 22.