Eastern Washington proved worthy of its No. 1 preseason Big Sky Conference ranking a year ago when the Eagles went on to win an outright Big Sky Conference title.
EWU, which returns the bulk of its roster, is preparing for an encore.
The Eagles were picked first in both Big Sky preseason coaches and media polls on Wednesday by a sizable margin.
Nine of 11 head coaches and 24 of 28 media media members picked the Eagles to repeat ahead of annual contender Montana, second in both polls.
Idaho was picked 11th – last place – and 10th, respectively, following an 8-24 year.
EWU has never won back-to-back Big Sky titles.
Fourth-year head coach Shantay Legans, the reigning Big Sky Coach of the Year, hopes to end that trend.
“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 Legans, who has won 41 of 58 career Big Sky games.
“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.”
EWU finished 23-8 last season, which ended hours before the top-seeded Eagles were set to begin the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Boise.
On Tuesday the league chose EWU senior guard Jacob Davison (18.4 points per game) as the Big Sky preseason Most Valuable Player, joining the preseason All-Big Sky team with junior Kim Aiken Jr (12 ppg, 9 rebounds per game).
EWU returns four starters and the majority of its bench but lost Big Sky MVP forward and leader Mason Peatling 18.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.75 assists per game) to graduation.
The Eagles open the season Nov. 25 at Oregon.
Idaho women picked firstIdaho, often at or near the top of the Big Sky Conference women’s standings, was picked to win the league in the coaches and media polls.
The Vandals and Idaho State were tied with 91 points in the media poll, each followed by Northern Arizona and defending champion Montana State in both polls.
The Vandals finished 22-9 last season and would have faced Montana State in the Big Sky Tournament title game in Boise.
Idaho returns All-Big Sky selections Gina Marxen and Beyonce Bea and has size inside with the return of starting forward Natalie Klinker.
“This is a new team,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “We haven’t done anything yet and that’s going to be my message to them.”
EWU, which posted a 4-26 record last season, was picked ninth by the media and 10th by coaches.
The Eagles open the season Nov. 25 at Washington State.
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