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Utah State Picked as Team to Beat in Big West Basketball : Polls: Coaches think UC Santa Barbara is the best team going into the women’s season.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Utah State, the Big West men’s regular-season basketball championship last season for the first time since 1980, was picked to repeat in the coaches’ preseason poll Wednesday.

The Aggies have center Eric Franson, the conference’s player of the year, back along with two other starters.

“In the old days I might have looked at it as a negative to be rated as the favorite, but it doesn’t bother me now,” Coach Larry Eustachy said. “I look at it more now as an honor for our players, although I’m not sure at this point that we really deserve it.”

Long Beach State, which won the conference’s postseason tournament and NCAA berth last season, was rated second with Nevada third and Pacific fourth. Utah State received six first-place votes, Nevada two and Long Beach State and Pacific one each.

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UC Irvine, which was eighth in the regular season but advanced to the semifinals of the tournament after upsetting Utah State, was ranked fifth. Cal State Fullerton was last.

In the women’s poll, also taken at the conference’s preseason media gathering, UC Santa Barbara was ranked No. 1 with six first-place votes, followed by New Mexico State, Hawaii, UC Irvine and Pacific. Long Beach State was eighth and Cal State Fullerton ninth.

In a change from the past, only the top six teams will advance to the postseason tournaments.

The coaches’ polls, with points:

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Men--1. Utah State 93, 2. Long Beach State 81, 3. Nevada 80, 4. Pacific 74, 5. UC Irvine 52, 6. Nevada Las Vegas 51, 7. New Mexico State 50, 8. UC Santa Barbara 30, 9. San Jose State 24, 10. Cal State Fullerton 15.

Women--1. UC Santa Barbara 94.5, 2. New Mexico State 88, 3. Hawaii 81.5, 4. UC Irvine 63, 5. Pacific 60, 6. Nevada 46, 7. Nevada Las Vegas 43, 8. Long Beach State 31, 9. Cal State Fullerton 26, 10. San Jose State 17.


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