The University of Maine women’s and men’s basketball teams were picked sixth and ninth, respectively, in the preseason America East coaches polls.
There are nine teams in the conference.
The women’s team is coming off a season in which it finished 18-16 overall, 9-7 in America East, but reached the conference tournament final where it lost to Albany 66-50. The Black Bears finished fourth during the regular season.
The men were 7-25 a year ago, 3-13 in the league, and tied for last.
The women return three starters in AE All-Rookie Team selection Blanca Millan, who averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists a year ago, along with guard Tanesha Sutton (7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.6 apg) and forward Fanny Wadling (5 ppg, 3.7 rpg). Freshman Julie Brosseau (6.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg) also saw significant minutes.
UMaine must replace three-time, All-AE first-team guard Sigi Koizar (14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg) and Laia Sole (9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), who was an All-Rookie team selection and the winner of the AE Sixth Player Award.
Sole is one of five Black Bears who transferred after the season. Four of the five were freshmen.
Interim head coach Amy Vachon has five newcomers on the roster and Parise Rossignol of Van Buren has returned to the team after leaving it following the 2015-2016 season.
New Hampshire, which was upset in the conference semifinals by UMaine after winning the regular-season title, was picked to win it again as the Wildcats earned eight first-place votes and 64 total points.
Six-time America East tourney champ Albany was chosen second with the other first-place vote and 53 points. They were followed by Binghamton (51), Hartford (43), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (34), UMaine (31), Vermont (24), Stony Brook (16) and UMass Lowell (8).
The Black Bear men have gone 24-98 over the last four seasons overall including a 13-51 America East mark.
Defending AE regular-season and tournament champion Vermont was picked to defend its title, earning six first-place votes and 62 points.
New Hampshire was the only other team to receive first-place votes as the Wildcats earned three to go with 58 points. Albany was third (49 points) followed by Binghamton (37), UMass Lowell (31), UMBC (29), Stony Brook (27), Hartford (23) and UMaine (8).
UMaine has nine new players after having four players transfer.
Leading scorer Wes Myers (16.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.6 apg) was one of four players who transferred although he was actually suspended by head coach Bob Walsh after breaking the jaw of teammate Marko Pirovic with a punch during an altercation and ultimately told he wasn’t welcome to return this season. He wound up at the University of South Carolina.
Second leading scorer Andrew Fleming of South Paris (10.7 ppg, team-high 6.5 rpg), an All-Rookie team choice, headlines the list of returnees along with Ilker Er (10.1 ppg, 4 rpg) and Aaron Calixte (7.6 ppg, 2.4 apg). Er played in just 11 games a year ago and Calixte only appeared in five due to injuries.
Walsh said in a news release that being picked last, “bothers me.
“It bothers our players. But that is a good thing. All Black Bear programs show up with something to prove when we play, with a pride and toughness that is evident.
“So, hopefully, this becomes part of our identity. The great thing about competition is we get to play the games and the results speak for themselves. If we don’t like it, we get to do something about it,” he said.
UMaine opens the season on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The men play Division III Husson University of Bangor at 3 p.m. and the women face Division II Stonehill College at 5 p.m.