In the preseason Big Sky media polls released Wednesday, the Idaho State women’s basketball team came in at No. 2 in the conference selections while the men’s squad placed second-to-last.
Under 13th-year head coach Seton Sobolewski, the Benagls’ women’s team received two first-place nominations and 206 total votes, less than 20 behind Idaho, which was picked to be the top team in the media poll. Behind Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Montana State and Northern Colorado round out the top five.
In the Big Sky coaches poll, though, the Bengals and Vandals tied for the top spot in the conference.
<button type="button">×</button> </p> <!--Tout Middle Article Injection Point--> <p>Story continues below video</p> <p>"The recognition of being picked first in any poll is nice," Sobolewski said in a statement. "It's a reflection of the work we've put in, but there is still a lot of work to do to earn the top spot. I feel there is going to be more parity this year, and Big Sky play is going to be tough, especially under the circumstances."
Last season, Sobolewski’s team finished third in the Big Sky with a 13-7 conference record and an 18-13 overall mark, advancing the to the semifinals of the conference tournament where they fell to in-state rival Idaho.
The Bengals seem poised for another impressive season and will be led by senior guard Dora Goles, who was announced as a preseason all-conference pick on Tuesday. Goles last year averaged a team-high 12.7 points and set a single-season school record by knocking down 69 3-pointers.
In addition to Goles, Idaho State brings back its No. 2 and No. 3 scorers from last season — junior guard Callie Bourne, who was the Bengals’ top rebounder, and graduate guard Estefania Ors.
On the men’s side, the Bengals received just 86 total votes, besting just Idaho (50 votes) in the Big Sky men’s basketball preseason media poll. Idaho State also finished 10th in the conference coaches poll.
The top-five of the men’s preseason media picks were Eastern Washington (24 first-place votes), Montana (2), Northern Colorado (2), Montana State and Weber State.
Last season, which head coach Ryan Looney’s first in Pocatello, Idaho State finished with an 8-22 overall record and 4-12 mark in Big Sky play, which was tied with Idaho for the worst in the conference.
Looney believes improvement is in the cards for his second season. The Bengals return seniors Tarik Cool and Malik Porter — ISU’s top-two scorers from a year ago — while adding Daxton Carr, a Cal Poly transfer who was forced to sit out last year, and 6-foot-8, 250-pound center Brayden Parker, who missed last season with an injury.
While Idaho State’s coaches expect Cool and Porter to make a jump in their final year, they feel Carr has the potential to be an impact player right away and expect Parker, a Preston High alum, to become a real presence down low.
Last season, the Bengals lack of size forced 6-foot-5 Porter to play center at times. Having a true big man in Parker, the coaches believe, will allow them to gain a new dimension offensively and defensively while opening up greater opportunities for their guards.