Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
DENVER, CO - The 2017-18 New Mexico State men's basketball team was selected to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference in both the WAC Preseason Coaches and Media Polls on Wednesday.
"Fortunately, the league office doesn't hand out banners and trophies in the preseason," Aggie head coach Chris Jans remarked. "It looks like the preseason voting was close and it could eventually shape up to be a tight race down the stretch. We hope to be a part of a competitive conference season."
The last time NM State was picked to finish second in both polls came in 2010. The Aggies were picked to finish atop the league in both polls for four-straight season prior. The 2012 preseason media poll was the last time NM State didn't get picked to win the league crown. The previous year in 2011 was also the last time New Mexico State was picked second in both polls.
The Aggies received a first-place vote in the coaches' poll for a total of 40 points to GCU's 46 points and six first-place votes. CSU Bakersfield was right behind NM State with 38 total points while Utah Valley followed with 36 points, including a first-place vote while Seattle U, UT Rio Grande Valley, UMKC and Chicago State rounded things out.
The media poll didn't differ much with the exception of Utah Valley picked to finish third over CSUB as both teams flip-flopped spots. The first-place votes were a little more spread out in the media poll with GCU receiving 14 to NM State's seven while UVU collected three and CSUB grabbing two.
Redshirt junior forward Eli Chuha earned WAC Preseason First-Team All-WAC honors on both polls after a breakout sophomore campaign. The Redlands, Calif., product averaged 12.4 points and 8.9 boards for NM State and led the Aggies to a program-record 28 wins.
Joining Chuha on the first-team were Joshua Braun (Grand Canyon), Nick Dixon (UT Rio Grande Valley) and Fred Sims Jr. (Chicago State). CSU Bakersfield's Damiyne Durham completed the first-team on the coaches' poll while Utah Valley's Isaac Nielson was selected on the media poll.
The second-team on both polls had a bit more shake up with Sidy N'Dir getting the nod on the coaches' poll while Jemerrio Jones got the nod in the media poll for NM State. N'Dir averaged 13.7 points through nine games and led the Aggies in scoring until a season-ending foot injury kept him out. Jones ended his first year in the Crimson & White nearly averaging a double-double with 9.7 points and 8.4 rebounds to go with his WAC All-Newcomers nod.
Grand Canyon's Joshua Braun was voted as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year for the second-consecutive season. The last player to be named the league's preseason player of the year and eventually won it was NM State's Pascal Siakam in 2016 before being selected by the Toronto Raptors in the first round (27th overall) of the NBA Draft.
New Mexico State opens the season with an exhibition game against Southeastern at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 before hosting East Central University in its home-opener on Nov. 10. The Aggies will also be celebrating their 50th season in the Pan American Center.