Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris was named Preseason Player of the Year and the Bulldogs were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball race in a survey of media released Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Defending regular-season co-champions San Diego State and Boise State were the overwhelming top two favorites among those gathered at The Renaissance hotel for the league’s annual Media Days.
The Aztecs – 27-9 overall and 14-4 in the conference a year ago while advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament – received 22 of a possible 25 first-place votes and 272 points. The Broncos earned two firsts and 234 points. Utah State (190), UNLV (185) and Fresno State (182) rounded out the top five. The Bulldogs did earn one first-place vote.
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher returns three starters, including 2014 co-Defensive Player of the Year Skylar Spencer and preseason All-Conference forward Winston Shepard (11.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.9 assists).
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Boise State went 25-9 overall, tying for the most wins in program history. The Broncos also return three starters, including Newcomer of the Year James Webb III.
Harris, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard from Rialto, was a first-team all-conference and All-Defensive Team honoree last season after averaging 16.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals for a Fresno State team that went 15-17 overall but 10-8 in the conference – earning the sixth seed for the league’s postseason tournament.
“Marvelle has worked really hard over the course of his career at Fresno State,” fifth-year coach Rodney Terry said. “He’s been a guy who has worked hard on his skill set and developed as an individual player. Marvelle’s also grown into a leadership role for our team. I think his teammates have contributed to his development as well and I look for him to continue to give us really good leadership for this year’s team.”
Courtney Alexander (1999-00) and Melvin Ely (2001-02) are the Bulldogs’ previous conference preseason players of the year. Both went on to be first-round NBA draft picks.
“We’ve had some really good players come through Fresno State,” Terry said. “Obviously, Marvelle has one more year to play here and he’s got to put it in the books day in and day out and get it done at that level. To be in that conversation, with those types of guys, just shows how hard he has worked. But I think also, he would probably say that his teammates have been a big part of that as well.”
Fresno State plays a home exhibition against Dominican on Nov. 6 before opening the regular season against Pepperdine at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 and Lamar at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Save Mart Center. The conference opener is Dec. 30 at UNLV.
Teams facing fines over scheduling – Mountain West basketball teams could one day face fines for not scheduling strong non-conference games, Commissioner Craig Thompson said Tuesday.
The fines are part of a proposal that’s been discussed within the league but hasn’t been formalized.
“Scheduling is really and truly the lifeblood,” Thompson said. “It is something we are in the midst of addressing.”
Since sending five teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2013, the Mountain West has sent the same number to the tournament over the last two seasons combined. Some felt Colorado State was snubbed last season, after the Rams won 27 games and went undefeated in nonconference play. Strength of schedule is part of what hindered the Rams.
Mountain West men’s basketball poll
First-place votes in parentheses, total points
1. San Diego State (22) 272
2. Boise State (2) 234
3. Utah State 190
4. UNLV 185
5. Fresno State (1) 182
6. New Mexico 164
7. Colorado State 144
8. Wyoming 101
9. Nevada 97
10. Air Force 51
11. San Jose State 30
Preseason All-Mountain West Team
G – Marvelle Harris* Sr. Fresno State
F – Winston Shepard** Sr. San Diego State
G/F – Anthony Drmic Sr. Boise State
F – James Webb III** Jr. Boise State
G – Josh Adams*** Sr. Wyoming
Preseason Player of the Year: Harris
Preseason Newcomer of the Year: Tim Williams, Jr., F, New Mexico
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Stephen Zimmerman, Jr., Fr., F, UNLV
*2014-15 All-Mountain West first team
**2014-15 All-Mountain West second team
***2014-15 All-Mountain West third team