Hilltoppers picked to win Conference USA title

By  | 

For the first time as a Conference USA member, Western Kentucky has been picked by the league coaches to win the conference.

The Hilltoppers were selected as the CUSA favorite in the annual preseason poll while WKU senior forward Desean Murray and sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth were selected to the preseason all-Conference team, the league announced Thursday.

Western received nine first-place votes from the CUSA coaches with 2018 CUSA tournament champion Marshall receiving the other five. Marshall defeated the Hilltoppers 67-66 in last year’s championship game.

This is the first time WKU has been picked to win its conference since the program was projected to win the Sun Belt in 2013-14.

It’s also the first time the Hilltoppers have had multiple preseason all-conference selections since George Fant and T.J. Price in 2014-15.

Murray, a graduate transfer from Auburn, averaged 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists as a junior while starting all 34 games for a 26-win Tigers squad that claimed a share of the SEC regular-season championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-4 forward from Stanley, N.C., shot 45.5 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line, while leading Auburn in rebounding and averaging 2.7 offensive boards per content.

Hollingsworth averaged 13.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists while starting all 38 games as a freshman, marking one of the best debut seasons in the history of WKU.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Lexington set new Hilltopper records for most points scored (506), minutes played (1,312) and games started by a WKU freshman and was named to the CUSA all-freshman team.

CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON COACHES POLL

1. WKU (9)
2. Marshall (5)
3. Old Dominion
4. North Texas
5. Texas San Antonio
6. Louisiana Tech Tech
7. Southern Mississippi
8. Alabama Birmingham
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Florida International
11. Texas El Paso
12. Florida Atlantic
13. Charlotte
14. Rice

CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

Jon Davis, Charlotte
Daquan Bracey, Louisiana Tech
Jon Elmore, Marshall
C.J. Burks, Marshall
Roosevelt Smart, North Texas
Ahmad Caver, Old Dominion
B.J. Stith, Old Dominion
Zack Bryant, UAB
Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA
Taveion Hollingsworth, WKU
Desean Murray, WKU