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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team, which won both a share of the regular season title and the conference tournament title, was picked to finish third in the official Mountain West Preseason Media Poll.
The media poll was released Monday.
The Lobos were picked behind No. 20 San Diego State and No. 19 UNLV.
The conference also released the preseason All-Mountain West teams, and for the third straight year, UNM is represented on the squad. Kendall Williams, a junior guard from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of four juniors on the five-man preseason All-Conference team.
Williams joins Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State, Deonta Burton of Nevada, and UNLV’s Mike Moser. Franklin was named Preseason Player of the Year and his teammate Dwayne Polee II was named the Co-Newcomer of the Year, along with Bryce Dejean-Jones of UNLV.
UNLV’s Anthony Bennett was named Preseason Freshman of the Year.
The Lobos picked up 122 points in the poll of 18 media members from around the Mountain West, two members from each of the nine media markets of the league.
San Diego State received 10 first place votes to edge UNLV in the voting 153-151.
The Rebels took the other eight first place votes.
Last year San Diego State went 26-8 overall, tying New Mexico for the MW regular season title with a 10-4 conference mark.
“Well since I’ve been here we have been anywhere from first to fifth and the only time the poll got it right was last year,” said head coach Steve Alford. “And I think there were people that thought UNLV should have been first last year.”
When asked if being picked third is motivation for his team, Alford said that with the blueprint for success that has been instilled, it can be used in that fashion, but it’s not overly necessary.
“We’ve won a lot of championships and at the end of the year, we want to be cutting down nets and sizing up rings. We don’t go out there thinking that since we were picked third, we will play for third place,” said Alford.
The No. 20 Aztecs return four starters and seven letterwinners from last year’s squad. UNLV went 26-9 and finished in third place in the MW with a 9-5 mark. They return two starters and six letterwinners from that squad While San Diego State and UNLV have received a lion’s share of the preseason attention, it is New Mexico that is both the defending regular season and tournament champions, and the Lobos will be looking for a fifth trophy for the trophy case as the team opens play on Nov. 12, which will be the first game of Alford’s sixth year in Albuquerque.
The Lobos went 28-7 last year, tying for the second-most wins in school history. UNM returns eight letterwinners from that squad, including three starters in Williams, Tony Snell, and Hugh Greenwood. 2010-11 starter Alex Kirk isn’t counted among those starters, but he returns as well top sixth-men Demetrius Walker and Jamal Fenton.
The 6-4 Williams was a second team All-Conference selection last year after averaging 12.1 points per game and leading the Lobos in assists and steals. He has scored at least 400 points in each of his first two seasons and could join Kenny Thomas in being the only Lobos to score 400 points in all four of their seasons.
Here are the results of the Mountain West preseason media poll (first place votes are in parentheses):
1. San Diego State (10), 153 points
2. UNLV (8), 151 points
3. New Mexico, 122 points
4. Colorado State, 106 points
5. Nevada, 89 points
6. Wyoming, 70 points
7. Fresno State, 49 points
8. Boise State, 43 points
9. Air Force, 27 points