Oct. 6, 2009
DENVER, Colo. -The Mountain West Conference released its men's basketball preseason media poll and all-Conference team today at the league's media day being held at The Mtn. studios in Denver, Colo.
Conference media overwhelmingly selected three-time defending MWC champion BYU as the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West Conference men's basketball regular-season title in 2009-10. The Cougars, one of three teams to share the regular-season crown in 2008-09, captured 23 of 24 first-place votes and 215 points for the top spot in the poll. San Diego State, the 2009 MWC Tournament runner-up, collected the remaining first-place vote and 166 points to finish in second, followed closely by UNLV in third with 161 points. Utah and New Mexico, who split the 2008-09 MWC regular-season title with BYU, landed in the fourth- and fifth-place spots, respectively, with the Utes tallying 143 points to the Lobos' 141 points. Wyoming received 89 points to finish sixth, followed by TCU (82 points) in seventh, Colorado State (58 points) in eighth and Air Force (25 points) in ninth to round out the poll.
BYU is coming off a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and a 25-8 overall record in 2008-09. The Cougars received an at-large berth after capturing their third straight Mountain West regular-season title with a 12-4 mark. San Diego State turned in a fourth-place effort (11-5) in regular-season Conference play. Following their runner-up finish in the MWC Tournament, the Aztecs advanced to the semifinals of the 2009 National Invitation Tournament, closing out the season with a 26-10 overall mark. UNLV (21-11) and New Mexico (22-12) joined the Aztecs in the NIT, while Utah (24-10) captured the 2009 MWC Tournament crown and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, making its first trip to the Big Dance since a Sweet 16 appearance in 2005.
Over its 10-year history, the Mountain West Conference has received 22 bids to the NCAA Tournament, including 13 at-large berths. The MWC has had at least one at-large qualifier in nine of those 10 years, including eight straight. Since 2003, all nine MWC teams have participated in postseason play at least once.
Three juniors and two seniors representing four institutions were chosen for the 2009-10 preseason all-MWC team. BYU's Jimmer Fredette received Preseason MWC Player of the Year honors, while UNLV's Derrick Jasper garnered Preseason Newcomer of the Year accolades and San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard collected Preseason Freshman of the Year kudos.
All-Conference Team Bios
Preseason Player of the Year
Jimmer Fredette (6-2, 195, Jr., G, BYU) - A first-team all-MWC and MWC All-Tournament Team selection in 2008-09. Also named to the USBWA All-District team. Is the Cougars' returning leader in scoring (16.2 ppg) and assists (135). Last season, ranked among Conference leaders in scoring (5th), assists (3rd), free throw percentage (2nd/.847), steals (2nd/50) and assist/turnover ratio (8th/1.59). Scored in double digits 29 times in 2008-09, including eight games with 20 or more points.
Jonathan Tavernari (6-6, 215, Sr., G/F, BYU) - A two-time all-Conference pick after earning MWC Freshman of the Year honors in 2006-07. Returns as Cougars' top rebounder (7.2 rpg) from a year ago. Last season, ranked among league leaders in 3-point field goals (2nd/85), steals (3rd/49), rebounding (4th), scoring (6th/15.7 ppg) and 3-point percentage (8th/.381). Scored in double figures 26 times, including 10 games with 20+ points. Also collected a team-best seven double-doubles.
Billy White (6-8, 226, Jr., F, San Diego State) - An all-MWC honorable mention last season after earning all-Conference and MWC Freshman of the Year honors in 2007-08. Led the league with a 66.3 field goal shooting percentage in 2008-09 and also tied for sixth with 26 blocks. Returns as the Aztecs' leader in scoring (8.8 ppg), blocks and steals (31). Scored in double figures 13 times last season.
Zvonko Buljan (6-9, 235, Sr., F, TCU) - Named the 2008-09 MWC Newcomer of the Year. Also received all-MWC honorable mention. Ranked second in the league in rebounding (7.8 rpg) last season. Also ranked among Conference leaders in field goal percentage (t7th/.500) and scoring (15th/12.3 ppg) in 2008-09. Led the team with 21 double-digit scoring games and nine double-doubles.
Tre'Von Willis (6-4, 195, Jr., G, UNLV) - Ranked among MWC leaders in assists (10th/105), steals (10th/35) and scoring (19th/11.4 ppg) in 2008-09. Is the Aztecs' top returning scorer and rebounder (4.3 rpg) from a year ago. Scored in double digits in 19 games in 2008-09.
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215, Jr., G, UNLV) - Sat out the 2008-09 season after transferring to UNLV from the University of Kentucky. As a true freshman in 2006-07, he played in 34 games for the Wildcats, starting the final 27. He was second on the team and third among SEC freshmen with 2.9 assists per game while shooting 61 percent from the field. Jasper missed 11 games during his sophomore season (10 while rehabilitating from offseason knee surgery), but finished the year shooting 46 percent from 3-point range and averaging 5.5 rebounds per game.
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Kawhi Leonard (6-5, 200, G, San Diego State) - Leonard, a product of King High School in Riverside, Calif., averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 3.0 blocks in 2008-09. The Los Angeles Times Player of the Year had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds six times as a senior for a team that went 30-3, won the CIF-Southern Section Division I-AA title and finished in second place in the Southern California Regional. In addition to being named L.A. Times Player of the Year, the CalHiSports.com Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year was one of seven Los Angeles-area players to receive the John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award (CIF-SS Div. I). Leonard was also a CalHiSports.com all-state first-team pick, a Collision All-Star Game participant and ended the year ranked No. 56 on ESPNU's Top 100.