Fresno State Basketball

Fresno State, with history of exceeding expectations, in lower half of preseason poll

Fresno State has a history of exceeding expectations, winning more Mountain West men’s basketball games the past four seasons than all but one of the other teams in the conference.

The Bulldogs, 23-9 a year ago in the first season under coach Justin Hutson, has won 20 or more games four years in a row and in five of the past six. They are the only team to earn a first-round bye at the conference tournament five years in a row.

Fresno State coach Justin Hutson smiles as the Bulldogs mount a comeback against San Diego State in a 66-62 victory at the Save Mart Center on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. The Bulldogs were down by 20 points in the first half. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

They are charged with doing it again after they were picked to finish sixth in a preseason poll of media that covers the league on a regular basis, which was released on Tuesday as part of the conference’s media day in Las Vegas.

Utah State, the defending Mountain West Tournament champion, was the first unanimous selection preseason pick in conference history.

The Aggies received all 17 first-place votes and 187 points in the poll and were followed by San Diego State (150), New Mexico (141), Nevada (135), Boise State (128), Fresno State (103), UNLV (89), Air Force (76), Colorado State (59), Wyoming (36) and San Jose State (17).

Fresno State, which opens its season Nov. 5 at Oregon, did not have a player selected to the preseason all-conference team.

Utah State guard Sam Merrill was selected as the preseason player of the year in the conference, San Diego State guard Malachi Flynn the newcomer of the year and Nevada forward K.J. Hymes the freshman of the year.

Merrill last season led the Mountain West in scoring, was the conference player of the year and the most valuable player at the conference tournament.

The Aggies guard was joined on the preseason all-conference team by Utah State center Neemias Queta, Air Force forward Lavelle Scottie, Boise State guard Derrick Alston and Colorado State forward Nico Carvacho.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada