(Editor's note: Quotes included from Montana State and Montana Press Releases)
Coming off a historical season that included both a regular season and conference tournament championship, Montana State Men's Basketball was selected to finish first in the 2022-23 Big Sky preseason polls, the conference announced Wednesday.
The Bobcats return two starters and nine players overall from last season’s 27-8 squad — including Big Sky MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Jubrile Belo and co-Big Sky Top Reserve RaeQuan Battle.
“It shows that this program has gotten some respect,” Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle said of the preseason polls. “We weren’t picked to win the league last year, yet we were the best team in the regular season and the conference tournament. The preseason ranking is great for the media and for the fans, but we have a long way to go before our ranking comes to fruition. We know what we have to do to get there.”
The Bobcats received eight out of 10 possible first-place votes from Big Sky coaches, while both Northern Colorado and the University of Montana received one. Head coaches were not allowed to vote for their own respective teams.
Will the ‘Cats run it back? 🤔 #ExperienceElevated pic.twitter.com/MWMBrWwVjT— Big Sky Conference (@BigSkyConf) October 26, 2022
Montana State also topped the media poll with 19 of 26 possible first-place votes for a total of 258 points. Montana was once again selected to finish third behind Northern Colorado with 204 points, which did include one first-place vote.
The Griz finished the 2021-22 season fifth in the Big Sky with an 11-9 record against conference opponents. Montana returns their leading scorer (15.1) and rebounder (8.2) Josh Bannon who earned All-Big Sky second-team honors as a sophomore. Brandon Whitney, Mack Anderson, and Lonnell Martin Jr. are also starters returning this season.
"It feels good to be voted in the top four coming off of two years you didn't finish there. Some of that is respect, I believe, in terms of just Montana as a program even before me," head coach Travis DeCuire said. "Some of that I think is respect for some of the talent that we've brought in. Then the returners have earned respect."
Check out how the media thinks the #BigSkyMBB race will shake out 👀 #ExperienceElevated pic.twitter.com/GHBODIyrnI— Big Sky Conference (@BigSkyConf) October 26, 2022
Both polls remained nearly identical; however, the media poll did show a sizeable gap between No. 6 Northern Arizona and No. 7 Portland State (40 points) whereas the coaches poll had the two programs tied for seventh.
Montana State is hosting Montana State University Billings this upcoming Sunday, October 30 for an exhibition game at 2 p.m. MT.
Meanwhile, the Griz already hosted their Maroon-Silver Scrimmage this past Tuesday and will top off their season officially on Nov. 8 at Duquesne.