West Liberty Men Picked to Win 4th Straight WVIAC Title
The West Virginia Conference men's basketball coaches have made West Liberty the overwhelming favorite to win a fourth consecutive WVIAC title.
Coach Jim Crutchfield's high-flying Hilltoppers collected 14 of the 15 first-place votes on Thursday when the WVIAC coaches announced the results of their annual preseason poll.
West Liberty finished with 224 points to easily outpace Charleston in the voting. The Golden Eagles, who dropped a thrilling 93-90 overtime decision to West Liberty in last year's WVIAC Tournament championship game, were second with 201 points while Fairmont State picked up the one remaining first-place vote to come in third with 191 points. West Virginia State and Alderson-Broaddus rounded out the top five.
The Hilltoppers would be the first team to win four straight WVIAC men's basketball championships since Fairmont State won eight in a row from 1971 to 1978 under legendary head coach Joe Retton.
West Liberty made a little history last year when it became the first conference team to win back-to-back NCAA Division II regional championships and the Black and Gold appear poised for another record-setting run with the top eight scorers returning from a team that has posted back-to-back 30-win seasons.
All five starters are back, led by All-America senior guard Alex Falk (18.0 ppg.), All-WVIAC junior backcourter Cedric Harris (15.8 ppg.) and 2012 WVIAC Freshman of the Year C.J. Hester (14.4 ppg.). They're joined in the lineup by seniors Tim Hausfeld (12.3 ppg.) and Chris Morrow (12.9 ppg.).
There's plenty of quality depth on the bench with sophomore guard Shawn Dyer, who averaged 11.5 ppg. in a reserve role last winter, returning along with junior forwards Nick Brown (8.1 ppg.) and Keene Cockburn (7.9 ppg.).
Crutchfield – who now leads all NCAA men's coaches in career winning percentage (207-43, .828) – also adds promising redshirt freshmen Kelvin "Bubby" Goodwin and Mike Lamberti to the mix along with another top-notch recruiting class.
The Hilltoppers tip things off on Nov. 9 when they take on Urbana (Ohio) in the opening game of the Don Callan Invitational at Cedarville (Ohio) University.