Shepherd University has been picked to finish sixth in the 2012-13 WVIAC Men's Basketball Coaches' Poll. After a 32-3 campaign that saw West Liberty earn its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, the annual preseason poll of WVIAC coaches has installed the Hilltoppers as the favorites to win a fourth straight conference title.
West Liberty (32-3, 21-1) garnered 14 first-place votes and 224 total points to lead the field, besting No. 2 Charleston (26-7, 18-4) for the top spot. The Golden Eagles, who dropped a 93-90 overtime decision to the Hilltoppers in last year's WVIAC Tournament championship game, received 201 points in the voting. UC also earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
Fairmont State (9-18, 7-15) picked up one first-place nod and 191 total points for third place in the poll. West Virginia State (14-13, 12-10) tallied 156 points for fourth while Alderson-Broaddus (18-10, 14-8) notched 146 points and is picked to finish fifth.
Shepherd (14-14, 11-11) was sixth, just ahead of Wheeling Jesuit (22-10, 16-6). The Cardinals are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Pitt-Johnstown (15-14, 12-10), West Virginia Wesleyan (22-9, 15-7) and Concord (17-12, 12-10) rounded out the top 10. The Bobcats made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Seton Hill (11-16, 9-13) edged Glenville State (7-20, 6-16) for 11th. Davis & Elkins (8-19, 4-18) is 13th while Bluefield State (1-26, 0-22) and Ohio Valley (8-18, 8-14) rounded out the preseason poll.
West Liberty returns the top eight scorers from the first WVIAC squad ever to win back-to-back regional titles. The Hilltoppers led the nation in scoring (102.4 ppg) for the sixth time in the last seven years last winter and head coach Jim Crutchfield now leads all NCAA men's coaches in career winning percentage (207-43, .828).
Charleston finished second in the conference in 2012 and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament behind Player of the Year PJ Reyes. Although the Golden Eagles lost Reyes to graduation, the squad returns an abundance of experience.
Shepherd features one of the most dynamic players in the conference in first-team all-WVIAC standout Chad Moore. He poured in 20.8 points and grabbed 10 rebounds a night last year. Brantley Osborne (15.3 ppg) and Sidney McCray (12.8 ppg) are the top deep threats for Coach Justin Namolik, having combined for 129 3-point field goals last season. The Rams brought in a number of talented players.
Wheeling Jesuit is coming off a 2012 NCAA Tournament appearance following a standout season and looks to reach the postseason once again. Head coach Danny Sancomb returns second-team all-conference selection Ben Seifert (10.8 ppg), who ranked among NCAA Division II leaders with 224 assists. Recardo Gaddy (14.1 ppg) drilled 101 three-point shots and Joe Prati (6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) saw significant playing time in all 32 games.