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MBB | Eastern Connecticut State Favored to Win Little East in 2016

MBB | Eastern Connecticut State Favored to Win Little East in 2016

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the second consecutive season, the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors were selected by the head coaches of the Little East Conference as the preseason favorites to win the LEC regular season title for 2016-17. Eastern Connecticut State received five first-place votes for a total of 53 points.

The Warriors are returning the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-LEC performer Hugh Lindo (Enfield, Conn.) and another First Team All-LEC member in Sophomore Tarchee Brown (Rockville, Conn.). Lindo averaged a double-double for the Warriors in 2015-16 with 12.0 points per game and an LEC leading 11.2 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2% from the floor. Brown ranked fourth in the Little East in scoring last season after averaging 17.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting and 36.3 percent from behind the arc. Eastern Connecticut State will welcome top newcomers with guards Carlos Gonzales and Darius Smith with hopes to replace the loss of All-LEC Defensive Team Kevin Leumene and All-LEC Second Team member Trachone Preston. Eastern Connecticut State finished last season 18-8 (11-3 LEC).

The Keene State Owls placed second in the 2016-17 Preseason Poll with three first-place votes for 51 total points. The Owls are back-to-back defending Little East Conference Champions and are coming off an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance last season. The Owls enter the season ranked 19th on the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll. Head coach Ryan Cain returns to the bench along with a veteran group with five seniors, four of which played major minutes for the Owls last season. First Team All-LEC power forward Matthew Ozzella (Medway, Mass.) leads the charge this season after averaging 12.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor. Sophomore and 2015 All-LEC Rookie Team performer Ty Nicols (Springfield, Mass.) returns with his 12.8 points per game to the Owls offense.

The UMass Dartmouth Corsairs and head coach Brian Baptiste comes in third on the 2016-17 LEC Preseason Poll with three second place votes for a total of 42 points. Coach Baptiste enters his 34th season with a career 593-287 record and has 2015 LEC Rookie of the Year in Nick Portelance (Fairhaven, Mass.) back to lead the way in 2016-17. Portelance averaged 14.3 points per game and 10.5 rebound per game and shot 54.0 percent from the floor. The sophomore center ranked second on the team in points, behind 2015 LEC Player of the Year and LEC leading scorer Jordan Rezendes. The Corsairs will have a large hole to fill in replacing Rezendes 29.7 points per game, which was good for 35.6 percent of the Corsairs' offense along with his 6.4 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. Portelance will look to shoulder the load for the Corsairs along with returning seniors Jon Robinson (Chatham, Mass.) and Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.). Robinson averaged 10.6 points per game and Akanni averaged 9.9 points per game.

The Plymouth State Panthers received 36 points to place fourth in the 2016-17 LEC Preseason Poll. Head Coach Andrew Novick is entering his sixth season with the Panthers after finishing last season 15-11, 6-8 LEC. The Panthers are returning five upperclassmen along with three key incoming freshmen. The Panthers will have to overcome the loss of All-LEC First Team and All-Defensive Team performer Uche Nwokeji (15.6 PPG, 43 3P%). Returning is Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) the Panthers 2015-16 leading scorer with 15.7 points per game along with senior forward Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) who averaged 13.9 points per game last season.

Rounding out the remaing 2016-17 Little East Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Poll is University of Southern Maine (29 points), Western Connecticut State and first year head coach Jason Harlow (28 points), Rhode Island College (26 points) and UMass Boston (15 points).

The 2016-17 season kicks off on November 15, 2016 with seven of the eight LEC men's programs in action. The 2017 Little East Conference Championship qualifies all eight institutions and is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 with the quarterfinal round and culminatingin a final four format at the highest remaining seed on Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25.

The Little East Conference was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport (basketball) conference and has expanded into what is now New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.

Institution First Place Votes Points
1. Eastern Connecticut State 5 53
2. Keene State College 3 51
3. UMass Dartmouth   42
4. Plymouth State University   36
5. University of Southern Maine   29
6. Western Connecticut State   28
7. Rhode Island College   26
8. UMass Boston   15