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Courtesy: Russell Hons for UNDsports.com
Junior Conner Avants and the Fighting Hawks were picked to finish sixth by the Big Sky coaches and fifth by the media in the league's preseason polls released on Friday.
MBB pegged fifth by media, sixth by coaches
Courtesy: Ryan Powell, UND Media Relations
Release: 10/13/2017
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OGDEN, Utah – The North Dakota men's basketball team was selected to finish sixth in the Big Sky Coaches' preseason poll and fifth in the Big Sky Media preseason poll that were released by league officials on Friday. The coaches and media both selected Idaho to win the regular season title.

The Fighting Hawks were one of four league teams to receive at least one first-place vote in the media poll and finished with 146 points, while the coaches' ballots supplied the defending Big Sky Champions with 71 points .

In both the coaches' and media polls, Weber State took second and was followed by Montana in third. Northern Colorado, who was ineligible for postseason play a year ago, and Montana State tied for fourth in the coaches' poll. The Bobcats were fourth, right in front of UND in the media poll, while Eastern Washington trailed the Fighting Hawks by one spot in both polls, finishing seventh in the coaches and sixth in the media.

12th-year head coach Brian Jones has two starters back in Geno Crandall and Conner Avants along with Big Sky Reserve of the Year Cortez Seales to anchor his 2017-18 squad. That trio helped the Fighting Hawks raise their first Big Sky regular season and tournament banners after posting a 22-10 record and advancing to the program's first NCAA Division I Tournament last season. Crandall was a second-team All-Big Sky performer as a sophomore and named to the Preaseason All-Big Sky Team earlier this week.

"I'm excited about this team. We have a lot of new faces and the preseason poll is just like last year where we were not picked to win it," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "The league is even deeper this year, than it was last year and there are a lot of upperclassmen-laden teams.

"That will be the challenge for our guys. I do think we have a talented group. We just need to continue to work together and understand what our program is all about. That will be our goal during the non-league season, so our new faces understand the rigors of Division I basketball and understand how challenging Big Sky play is going to be."

Jones' newest roster also boasts a pair of Division I transfers in Marlon Stewart (Creighton) and Dale Jones (Iowa) that are expected to ease the burden of losing three starters from a championship squad.
 
UND opens the 2017-18 season on Friday, Nov. 10 with a game against fellow NCAA Tournament participant Troy at the Outriggers Resort Rainbow Classic in Honolulu.

Big Sky Coaches' Preseason Poll

1. Idaho (10) 117
2. Weber State (1) 103
3. Montana 101
t4. Northern Colorado (1)   83
t4. Montana State 83
6. North Dakota 71
7. Eastern Washington 63
8. Portland State 55
9.  Sacramento State 48
10. Idaho State 25
11. Northern Arizona 23
12.  Southern Utah 19


Big Sky Media's Preseason Poll

1. Idaho (12) 211
2. Weber State (3)                195
3. Montana (3) 188
4. Montana State 180
5.  North Dakota (1) 146
6. Eastern Washington 144
7. Northern Colorado 106
8.  Sacramento State  87
9. Portland State 76
10. Northern Arizona 59
11. Idaho State 52
12.  Southern Utah 38


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