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WLU Men, Women are MEC Favorites

November 5, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

BRIDGEPORT - West Liberty University's nationally-ranked men's basketball team was the overwhelming choice to win the first Mountain East Conference title during Monday's inaugural MEC Basketball Media Day at the Bridgeport Convention Center.

Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers received 11 of the 12 first-place votes from the MEC men's coaches for 143 points. That easily outdistanced Fairmont State, which had 132 points after picking up the lone remaining first-place vote. Wheeling Jesuit was a distant third at 114 with Concord and Shepherd each receiving 90 points to tie for fourth place.

Charleston was sixth with 89 points, followed by West Virginia State (75), Glenville State (65) and West Virginia Wesleyan (53). Urbana (31), UVA-Wise (28) and Notre Dame, Ohio (26) rounded out the poll.

West Liberty, which won the last four West Virginia Conference championships, is coming off its third straight 30-win season and NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance under Crutchfield, who leads all NCAA men's coaches in winning percentage (241-45, .843) heading into his 10th year at the reins.

After finishing the 2012-13 season as the nation's No. 1-ranked team, the Hilltoppers open this year ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II Bulletin Preseason Top 25, No. 3 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Preseason NCAA Division II Top 25 and No. 6 in The Sporting News' NCAA Division II Preseason Top 10.

Fairmont, under second-year coach Jarrod Calhoun, is also coming off an NCAA Division II tournament run. The Falcons went 23-9 a year ago with four of those losses coming at the hands of the Hilltoppers - including a 92-78 setback in the WVIAC Tournament championship game and a 100-77 rout in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional.

The Hilltoppers open their 2013-14 season at home at 7 Saturday night when they welcome Washington Adventist (Md.) to the ASRC for a tipoff.

Women

BRIDGEPORT - Coming off its seventh 20-win season in the past eight years, the West Liberty University women's basketball team edged out Glenville State for the top spot in the inaugural Mountain East Conference preseason coaches' poll.

Coach Lynn Ullom's Lady Hilltoppers received five first-place votes and 133 points in voting by the league coaches to squeeze past the Pioneers, who also received five first-place votes and finished with 132 points. Fairmont State wasn't far behind in third with two first-place votes and 125 points.

Charleston was fourth in the balloting with 100 points, followed by Shepherd (88), West Virginia State (74), Concord (62) and West Virginia Wesleyan (61). Rounding out the poll were Urbana (48), Wheeling Jesuit (45), Notre Dame, Ohio (44) and UVA-Wise (24).

The MEC Preseason Coaches' Poll was revealed during the league's Basketball Media Day festivities at the Bridgeport Convention Center.

The winningest coach in West Virginia women's basketball history (452-207, .686), Ullom welcomes back a solid nucleus from last year's 21-8 squad which was the regular-season season runner-up in the West Virginia Conference and just missed an NCAA Division II playoff berth.

His Hilltoppers have popped up on the national radar during the preseason, being ranked No. 21 in the Division II Women's Bulletin's Preseason Top 25 and just missing a spot in the USA Today's NCAA Division II Coaches' Preseason Top 25 with 67 votes.

Glenville also returns several starters from last year's 27-4 WVIAC champions and NCAA Division II regional semifinalists but must replace Atlantic Region Coach of the Year Bunky Harkleroad, who accepted an NCAA Division I head coach job at Sacramento State last month. Charles Marshall, Harkleroad's assistant, takes over the Pioneer reins.

Fairmont is also coming off an NCAA Division II Tournament bid after winning the final WVIAC Tournament last year. Coach Steve McDonald's Falcons finished with a 23-10 record.

The West Liberty women tip off their 2013-14 season on the road Friday when the Hilltoppers open the Glenville State Tipoff Classic with a 5 p.m. game against Kutztown (Pa.).

 
 

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