BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — West Liberty has been picked to win the 2023 Mountain East Conference men’s basketball championship after a vote conducted by the league’s head coaches. The Hilltoppers garnered five first-place votes and edged Fairmont State by two points (115-113) in the preseason voting.
West Liberty won the 2022 MEC Regular Season and Tournament Championships last winter and earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Atlantic Regional. The Hilltoppers ranked as high as No. 2 in the country a season ago. West Liberty returns All-American and MEC Player of the Year Bryce Butler as well as Malik McKinney (8.8 ppg, .510 FG%) and Zach Rasile (7.7 ppg, .490 FG%) to the lineup this season. The Hilltoppers also bolstered their rosters with the addition of transfers Stephen Cannady (Mercyhurst) and Alek West (Ohio Dominican).
Fairmont State was picked to finish second with 113 points and six first-place votes. The Falcons return four starters in 2022-23, including All-Atlantic Region first team standout Isaiah Sanders. Sanders enters the season just 147 points shy of 2,000 for his career. The Falcons also return senior guards Zyon Dobbs and Briggs Parris, as well as standout post Seth Younkin for their final seasons. Fairmont State ended the 2021-22 season ranked No. 24 in the NABC National Poll and made a NCAA Tournament appearance last March.
Charleston was picked third in the preseason poll with 102 points. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 24-7 campaign and return four starters in 2022-23, including guard Keith Williams and forward Eddie Colbert.
West Virginia State finished fourth in the preseason voting and received the final first-place vote. The Yellow Jackets received 93 points in preseason voting. West Virginia State went 24-8 a season ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Atlantic Regional with a first-round win over West Liberty, 103-94. The Yellow Jackets return a pair of double-figure scorers from a season ago, including forwards Anthony Pittman (15.8 ppg) and Noah Jordan (12.1 ppg).
Notre Dame (81) and Concord (67) rounded out the top half of the preseason poll at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, while Alderson Broaddus and Glenville State tied for seventh in the poll with 51 points apiece. Davis & Elkins (48) was voted ninth, followed by Wheeling (32), Frostburg State (28) and West Virginia Wesleyan (11).
The 2022-23 regular season gets underway on Friday, Nov. 11. The MEC Tournament is slated for March 1-5 – returning to Wesbanco Arena in Wheeling.
2022-23 MEC Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
1. West Liberty (5) – 115
2. Fairmont State (6) – 113
3. Charleston – 102
4. West Virginia St. (1) – 93
5. Notre Dame – 81
6. Concord – 67
T7. Alderson Broaddus – 51
T7. Glenville State – 51
9. Davis & Elkins – 48
10. Wheeling – 32
11. Frostburg State – 28
12. West Va. Wesleyan – 11
( ) – first-place votes