The University of Maine men’s and women’s basketball teams have both been picked to finish eighth for a second straight year in the America East preseason coaches polls.
This is the third straight year the men have been picked eighth, which is exactly how they finished in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Both the Maine men’s and women’s teams also lost p lay-in games last season.
The preseason favorites among the men’s and women’s teams are Boston University and the University of Vermont, respectively.
The BU Terriers — which received the maximum eight first-place votes from the coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own teams — are the preseason favorite for the second straight year. Last season, they finished third behind conference champ Binghamton University and Vermont.
“The last two years, the fifth- place team ended up winning, so most of the time, unless a team has major adjustments, it’s the same order of finish as the previous year’s actual finish,” said Maine men’s coach Ted Woodward. “Sometimes you can use it as a motivational tool, but it’s much more for fan discussion and preseason buzz than anything else, so it doesn’t overly concern us.”
Maine women’s head coach Cindy Blodgett took a similar approach to her team’s preseason ranking.
“It’s something we can pretty much count on every year and I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it,” she said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t irritate me. Does it mean anything? Absolutely not. I continue to talk to my team about the type of team we’ll become in six months.”
America East women’s coaches believe the Vermont Catamounts will be the America East’s standard-bearer in six months. Vermont got five first-place votes and a total of 61 points to edge Hartford, which received the other four and 60 points total.
“Would I be excited if we were picked first? Sure. That’s where you want to be,” Blodgett said. “Obviously that’s not where we are as a program right now and both our coaches and players are aware of that, based on the last two seasons.
“Do I hope that will be used as a source of motivation for our players. Certainly.”
Maine’s women lost two of its top five scorers in Brittany Boser and Colleen Kilmurray, but return point guard Kristin Baker (6.3 points per game, 4.1 assists), No. 2 scorer Tanna Ross (7.2 ppg) of Hampden, and No. 3 scorer Samantha Baranowski (6.6 ppg, 3.1 rebounds) to lead a younger team.
Blodgett says the youthful talent is exciting.
“It is because you’re directly impacting their development on a daily basis,” Blodgett says. “I have a certain vision for our program and all these younger players we’re bringing in are part of that vision.”
The Maine men lost leading scorer Mark Socoby of Houlton when he opted to transfer, but return nine letterman such as starting guards Gerald McLemore, an AE All-Rookie team selection who averaged 12.1 ppg last season, and Junior Bernal (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.1 apg) plus starting junior forwards Sean McNally of Gardiner and Troy Barnies of Auburn.