Mountain West Conference Announces 2011-12 Preseason Men's Basketball Selections
New Mexico favored to win regular-season crown; Lobos' Gordon tabbed Preseason Player of the Year
Oct. 12, 2011
DENVER, Colo. -
Conference media selected New Mexico as the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West men's basketball regular-season title in 2011-12. The Lobos captured 22 of 26 first-place votes and 203 points for the top spot in the poll. UNLV received the remaining four first-place votes and 183 points to finish second, followed by San Diego State, who garnered 158 points for third place. Colorado State received 119 points to finish fourth, followed by Air Force (78 points) in fifth, Wyoming (68 points) in sixth, TCU (64 points) in seventh and Mountain West newcomer Boise State (63 points) in eighth to round out the poll.
New Mexico returns four of five starters among nine letterwinners from a 2010-11 squad that compiled a 22-13 overall record and finished in fifth place in MW regular-season play (8-8). The Lobos made their fifth straight postseason appearance, advancing to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Headlining UNM's cast of returnees for fifth-year head coach Steve Alford is 2010-11 MW Newcomer of the Year Drew Gordon (Sr., F) and 2010-11 MW Freshman of the Year Kendall Williams (So., G).
UNLV (24-9) turned in a third-place effort (11-5) in regular-season Conference action a year ago. The Runnin' Rebels made their fifth straight postseason appearance, receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Nine letterwinners, including four starters, return under the direction of first-year head coach and former Runnin' Rebel Dave Rice, who takes over the reins at his alma mater. The Rebels are led by two-time All-Mountain West honoree Chace Stanback (Sr., G/F) and three-year starting point guard Oscar Bellfield (Sr., G).
Two-time defending Mountain West Tournament champion San Diego State (34-3) is coming off the most successful season in program history. Senior guard Chase Tapley is the lone starter returning among six letterwinners from a team that set league and school records for overall wins while capturing a share of the MW regular-season title at 14-2. The Aztecs made their sixth straight postseason appearance, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. SDSU closed out the 2010-11 season ranked sixth and 11th in the final Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches' polls, respectively.
Four seniors and one sophomore representing three institutions were chosen for the 2011-12 preseason all-MW team. New Mexico's Drew Gordon received Preseason MW Player of the Year honors, while San Diego State's Xavier Thames collected Preseason Newcomer of the Year accolades and New Mexico's Hugh Greenwood earned Preseason Freshman of the Year kudos.
The Mountain West will begin its 13th season of basketball competition on Friday, November 11.
Preseason Player of the Year
Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 185, Sr., G, UNLV) - Three-year starter at point guard for UNLV. Has started a total of 99 games in a Runnin' Rebel uniform, including 78 straight. Named third-team All-Mountain West in 2010-11. Averaged 11.2 points per game last season while leading the team in assists (3.7 apg), 3-pointers made (66), free throw percentage (.833) and minutes played (33.7 mpg). Scored in double figures in 22 games last season.
Chace Stanback (6-8, 210, Sr., G/F, UNLV) - Two-time third-team All-Mountain West honoree. Has started 66 of 67 games at UNLV. Is the Runnin' Rebels' top returning scorer (13.0 ppg) from a year ago. Led the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and field goals made (162) in 2010-11. Scored in double figures in 22 games last season, including five contests with 20 or more points. Has shot 40 percent or better from the field in each of his previous three seasons, entering the 2011-12 campaign with a .454 conversion rate.
Hank Thorns (5-9, 165, Sr., G, TCU) - Named third-team All-Mountain West in 2010-11. Led the league and ranked fourth nationally in assist average (7.0) last season. Also led the MW and ranked No. 12 in the NCAA with a 2.71 assist-to-turnover ratio. Was the only player to finish the 2010-11 campaign ranked among the nation's top-12 in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Finished No. 2 on the MW's single-season chart for total assists (225) in 2010-11.
Kendall Williams (6-3, 180, So., G, New Mexico) - Received 2010-11 MW Freshman of the Year honors. Became the sixth freshman in MW history to score 400 points in his rookie season, netting 406. Averaged 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 2010-11. Was the only freshman to rank among the MW's top-10 in seven categories. Led the Lobos with 55 3-pointers.
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Preseason Freshman of the Year