The University of Maine men’s basketball team has been picked to finish eighth among nine teams in the America East preseason coaches poll released Thursday.
Defending Vermont was the unanimous pick to win the league with seven first-place votes and 64 points, followed by Maryland, Baltimore County (53 points, 1 first-place vote), Stony Brook (48) and Albany (47). UMass Lowell (38) was fifth, Binghamton and Hartford tied for sixth at 23, then came UMaine (15) and New Hampshire (13).
Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.
UMaine did place one player on the preseason all-conference team in senior Andrew Fleming. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 13.8 points, 7 rebounds and 3.1 assists last winter before suffering a season-ending broken wrist and concussion during an 81-53 loss at Stony Brook on Feb. 23.
The former standout at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris, a Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection, is one of three returning starters this season for the Black Bears. He is joined by 6-8 junior forward Vilgot Larsson and 6-4 guard Sergio El Darwich.
El Darwich, who is from Lebanon and played at Lee Academy, averaged 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3 assists, and Larsson, who is from Sweden, produced 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per outing.
The only other returnees are junior forward Miks Antoms (1.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg), and redshirt sophomores Solomon Iluyomade and Mykhailo Yagodin, each of whom appeared in one game.
Former George Stevens High School of Blue Hill star and All-Maine pick Taylor Schildroth is among the newcomers for coach Richard Barron’s team.
The Black Bears went 5-27 overall a year ago and posted a 3-13 conference record for the third straight season.
UMaine, which lost to top seed Vermont 73-57 in the league quarterfinals, has not won more than four conference games in a season since 2012-13, when it went 6-10 in.
Joining Fleming on the preseason all-conference team were Albany guard Cameron Healy, UMBC guard K.J. Jackson, Vermont forward Anthony Lamb, UMass Lowell guard Christian Lutete and Binghamton guard Sam Sessoms.
UMaine will play exhibition games at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor against Bangor’s Husson University on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m., and the following Sunday, Nov. 3, at noon against McGill University from Montreal.
The Black Bears’ first game will be against Merrimack College in Bangor on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.
The University of Maine’s nonconference schedule includes a Nov. 27 game against defending NCAA champion Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the University of Connecticut on Dec. 1 in Hartford, Connecticut.
UMaine’s first conference game is against Stony Brook on Sunday, Jan. 5, at 1 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center.