College basketball coaches, as a rule, try not to put a lot of stock in preseason polls.
That said, there is no denying a team’s place in the voting hierarchy is a reflection of what a program has done lately.
Coach Ted Woodward’s University of Maine men were selected to finish third in the America East Conference, while coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bear women were picked to wind up eighth during the league preseason coaches polls released Thursday during the annual media day event in Hartford, Conn.
There are nine teams.
The UMaine men received one first-place vote and 51 points to finish third behind first-place Boston University (62 points, 6 first-place votes) and No. 2 Stony Brook (57, 2). New Hampshire (41 points) and Vermont (35) round out the top five.
“I think they’re certainly great points of discussion for fans,” Woodward said of polls. “It’s part of what makes college basketball extremely exciting is you’re always able to look at the upcoming season.
That said, the Black Bears have goals well beyond finishing third in America East and they’re willing to work to accomplish them.
“We’re just going to do the best we can to focus on ourselves and focus on our goals and understand that everyone starts out 0-0 and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get where we need to go but we’re very excited to get started,” Woodward said.
Bears junior guard Gerald McLemore, who last season earned All-America East first-team recognition, was one of five players named to the preseason all-conference squad.
He was honored along with senior unanimous picks Greer Wright of Binghamton and John Holland of Boston University, senior Evan Fjeld of Vermont, and junior jake O’Brien of BU.
“He’s a tremendous representative of our program and of our league,” Woodward said. “He deserves all the accolades he’s receiving. He’s an incredibly hard worker.”
On the women’s side, Blodgett wasn’t surprised her UMaine women were selected to finish near the bottom of the conference standings.
“We certainly don’t deserve to be ranked any higher, based on our performance last year, and the only one that controls that is us,” said UMaine’s fourth-year coach.
That doesn’t make the voting any easier to accept.
“It actually makes me a little bit sick to my stomach when I see UMaine in the polls in that capacity,” Blodgett said, “but only we can change that.”
Boston University was a nearly unanimous choice at No. 1 with 64 points and eight first-place votes, followed by Hartford (56 pts., 1 vote), Binghamton (50), Stony Brook (39) and Maryland Baltimore County (37).
The Bears finished one point behind No. 7 Albany and four points ahead of last-place New Hampshire.