BRIDGEPORT -- West Liberty is the preseason favorite to with the 2017 Mountain East Conference men's basketball championship after a vote conducted by the league's coaches.
The MEC had two teams earn the No. 1 ranking in the country last year and consistently had three in the top 10, and will begin the season again with three nationally ranked teams in West Liberty, Fairmont State and Wheeling Jesuit.
The Hilltoppers, who were tabbed as the preseason No. 1 team in the country by the Sporting News, finished atop the MEC preseason poll with 120 points and 10 first-place votes. West Liberty brings back three starters from last year's team that went 31-4 and came within one point of playing for the NCAA title, including All-MEC selections Devin Hoehn and Zac Grossenbacher, and last year's Freshman of the Year David Dennis.
Fairmont State finished second in the poll with 109 points and one first-place vote. The Falcons went 25-5 and made the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years last year, and will be led by All-MEC forward Matt Bingaya.
Wheeling Jesuit, which earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking last year, was just behind Fairmont State in the poll with 103 points and collected the remaining first-place vote. The Cards bring back four starters from last year's squad that went 28-4 and made the NCAA Tournament, including first team All-MEC honoree Haywood Highsmith.
Notre Dame, led by first team All-MEC honoree Will Vorhees, was picked to finish fourth (84 points) after its run to the MEC Tournament finals a year ago, finishing just ahead of Charleston in fifth (83 points). Concord and Shepherd finished in a tie for sixth with 61 points, followed by West Virginia Wesleyan (58), Glenville State (50), West Virginia State (29), Urbana (20) and UVa-Wise (14).
The poll was released on Tuesday at the Mountain East Conference Media Day at the Courtyard by Marriott in Bridgeport, W.Va.
The men's basketball season begins on Friday, Nov. 11.
|Mountain East Conference
Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
|1.||West Liberty (10)||120|
|2.||Fairmont State (1)||109|
|3.||Wheeling Jesuit (1)||103|
|8.||West Virginia Wesleyan||58|
|10.||West Virginia State||29|
|() denotes first-place votes|
2015-16 All-MEC Players Returning
Matt Bingaya (FSU) -- All-MEC First Team
Haywood Highsmith (WJU) -- All-MEC First Team
Will Vorhees (NDC) -- All-MEC First Team
Zac Grossenbacher (WLU) -- All-MEC Second Team
Devin Hoehn (WLU) -- All-MEC Second Team
Thomas Wimbush (FSU) -- All-MEC Second Team