As if finishing 16-16 a year ago wasn’t enough, the Colorado State men’s basketball team found another reason to have a chip on its shoulder heading into the 2014-15 season when the Mountain West preseason polls were released Tuesday morning.
The Rams, who return one of the more experienced teams in the league from last season, were picked to finish fifth by the conference’s media members. Defending regular-season champion San Diego State was picked to repeat as conference champions this season, followed by Boise State, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State in the top five.
Trailing Colorado State by just two votes in the poll is Wyoming, who comes in at sixth ahead of Fresno State, Nevada, Air Force, Utah State and San Jose State.
The Aztecs received 34 of 35 first-place votes, with New Mexico picking up the lone other vote.
Despite the loss of last year’s Conference Player of the Year Xavier Thames, SDSU returns a bevy of talent, including first-team All-Mountain West picks Dwayne Polee II and Winston Shepard. Joining the Aztecs’ duo on the All-Mountain West team are Wyoming forward Larry Nance, Jr., who was also named the preseason Player of the Year, Colorado State guard Daniel Bejarano and Boise State sharpshooter Anthony Drmic.
Bejarano’s preseason recognition marks the fifth time since 2003 that at CSU player was named to the preseason all-conference team, and the first since NBA veteran Jason Smith was tabbed in back-to-back seasons in 2005 and 2006.
San Diego State forward Angelo Chol was selected as the preseason Newcomer of the Year and highly-touted UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn, ranked as the No. 5 overall player in the Class of 2014 by ESPN, was selected as the Freshman of the Year.
Colorado State kicks off the 2014-14 season on Monday, Nov. 10 against Montana at Moby Arena.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.