In a poll of Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball coaches and sports information directors, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was picked to finish exaclty where it left off last March — fifth in the OVC West Division.
The preseason poll was released at the league's annual media day Wednesday.
"We don't get caught up in polls," said SIUE's second-year coach Jon Harris. "We're really excited about the returning guys that we have as well as the incoming guys."
The Cougars, 6-22 last year and 3-13 in conference play, lost seven points per per game with the graduation of center Grant Fiorentinos and 4.4 more with the loss of Jake Newton.
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But top scorer Burak Eslik (14 ppg) and Carlos Anderson (10.3 ppg), the Alton High School alumnus who made an immediate impact last season as a true freshman, both return.
The junior class also is deep with returning contributors with point guard C.J. Carr (7.5 ppg), Jalen Henry (5.5 ppg) and Keenan Simmons (5.6 ppg) back in the mix.
Harris' nephew, Tre Harris, also a graudate of Edwardsville High School, will see his first action after sitting out a season as a transfer from Kansas State.
Freshmen Kevion Steward (Cordova High School, Memphis) and Justin Benton (Houston High School, Memphis) represent the Cougars future.
Murray State was picked by coaches to win the OVC's West Division, followed by Eastern Illinois, Austin Peay and UT Martin. Southeast Missouri followed SIUE in the selections.
Belmont was chosen as the favorite in the East Division, as well as the overall champion. Tennessee State was chosen second followed by Morehead State, Tennessee Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State.
The pre-season player of the year pick was Belmont's Evan Bradds. The junior averages 17.6 points per game, was fourth in the OVC in rebounds and led the all of NCAA Division I with a .688 shooting percentage.
The SIUE athletic department announced single-game men's and women's basketball tickets have gone on sale.
Tickets are available by calling 855-SIUE-TIX or by visiting SIUECougars.com/TIX.
Featured on this season's slate of games for SIUE is a Nov. 18 matchup with the Salukis of SIU Carbondale. Last season, SIUE defeated SIU Carbondale on the road 76-74. This year's matchup features game tickets as low as $5 online at siuecougars.com with the promo code BOO16 (Oct. 24-31).
The men's schedule includes 13 games beginning with an exhibition game against McKendree Nov. 5. The Cougars have nonconference home contests against IUPUI (Nov. 26), Stetson (Dec. 7), Missouri Western (Dec. 10) and Missouri S&T (Dec. 28).
The OVC season begins Dec. 31 for the men's team against Tennessee Tech. SIUE also has home contests against Austin Peay (Jan. 12), Murray State (Jan. 14), Tennessee State (Jan. 25), Jacksonville State (Feb. 4), Southeast Missouri (Feb. 9), UT Martin (Feb. 11) and Eastern Illinois (Feb. 25).
The SIUE women's basketball team begins its home season Nov. 6 with an exhibition contest against Lindenwood.
The nonconference schedule features four games beginning with SIU Carbondale Nov. 23. The Cougars also face Western Illinois (Nov. 27), UMSL (Dec. 11) and Illinois State (Dec. 23).