By Nate Sanchez
The media and members of the Western Athletic Conference converged in the Orleans Arena for the annual WAC Basketball Preview on Tuesday, Oct. 15. This is the first such event attended by the ’Runners since joining the conference on July 1. New Mexico State easily took the number one spot, as they’ve represented the WAC in the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years.
Despite the lack of familiarity with Division I conference play, the men’s basketball team was ranked third in both the preseason media and coaches’ polls. Senior forward and team captain Brandon Barnes’ skills last year drew the eyes of the media, as he was named to the preseason All-WAC team. Barnes led the team in rebounds per game with 5.1 and with 12.1 points per game was second on the team only to Stephon Carter.
“Balance will be a big strength for us this year,” said men’s Head Coach Rod Barnes. “I like the pieces of our team this year. Chemistry, unity and teamwork are going to be very important this year. It’s going to be more of a team effort this year.”
The women’s team ranked fifth in the media poll, with redshirt junior guard Tyanna Outland and redshirt junior center Janae Coffee representing the Runners on the preseason All-WAC second team. Coffee was an easy choice for the all-conference honors, as she led the team in rebounds, blocks and field goal shooting last year and was second on the team in overall scoring. Outland scored an average of 13 points per game and has been named CollegeSportsMadness.com’s Independent Player of the Week three times in the last year.
Among the coaches at the arena for the preview was Idaho University head coach Don Verlin, who will make his return to CSUB in one of the three conference games played at the Icardo Center. Verlin served as head coach for the Runners for the ’92-’93 season when he coached CSUB to a perfect 33-0 record and a Division II championship.
“It’s gonna be weird to go back to the Icardo Center,” Verlin said. “We had a lot of success while we were there and we had a number of great players. Probably more than anything, I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends.”
The men’s basketball team will start the season away from home, but will return for their first home game on Monday, Nov. 11. The women’s team will also start their season in Washington and return home on Wednesday, Nov. 20.