(Courtesy: Conference USA)
DALLAS, Texas -Liberty and MTSU tied atop the predicted order of finish for the 2023-24 Conference USA men’s basketball season in a vote by the conference’s nine head coaches, the league announced Thursday.
Additionally, 10 student-athletes were named CUSA Preseason All-Conference honorees, headlined by Preseason Player of the Year Isaiah Crawford of LA Tech.
Crawford, who has twice returned from season-ending injuries to garner All-CUSA honors in 2020-21 and 2022-23, is coming off a career year in which he finished ninth in the league in scoring (13.7).
His stat line also featured 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game, along with a 49.5 field-goal percentage and a 42-percent clip from long range.
Liberty collected five first-place votes and finished with a total of 71 points.
The Flames enter their first season in CUSA after posting a 27-9 record in 2022-23, including a 15-3 mark in ASUN play.
Liberty reached the ASUN Tournament Final, where they fell to Kennesaw State, and picked up a win over Villanova before bowing out in the second round of the NIT.
The Flames are represented on the preseason all-league team by senior forward Kyle Rode, who was tabbed Second-Team All-ASUN for the second-straight year after averaging 10.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season.
He scored a season-high 23 points in the ASUN title game to become the 31st 1,000-point scorer in program history.
MTSU earned a first-place vote and also tallied 71 points in the poll. The Blue Raiders’ 2022-23 campaign ended in a narrow 68-65 loss to Final Four darling Florida Atlantic in the semifinals of the CUSA Basketball Championship.
MTSU is one of three schools to place multiple student-athletes on the preseason all-conference list in senior guards Elias King and Camryn Weston.
Weston is MTSU's leading returning scorer (10.6 PPG) and tallied a team-high 91 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game out of the backcourt.
King is coming off a 2022-23 season in which he averaged 9.3 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from three-point range.
WKU (two) and LA Tech (one) grabbed the remaining three first-place votes with the Hilltoppers claiming the No. 3 slot and the Bulldogs coming in at No. 4. UTEP (41) edged out Sam Houston (38) for the fifth spot in the poll.
FIU (31) came in at No. 7, followed by NM State (30), and Jacksonville State (12) rounded out the preseason predicted order of finish.
Seven of the league’s nine teams are represented on the preseason all-league team including reigning CUSA Freshman of the Year Arturo Dean (FIU), who finished eighth nationally with 2.53 steals per game to go with 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
WKU and UTEP joined MTSU with multiple honorees as Hilltopper seniors Dontaie Allen and Brandon Newman, and Miner seniors Tae Hardy and Calvin Solomon landed on the preseason all-conference team. Sam Houston junior forward Cameron Huefner rounds out the preseason all-league squad.
Allen emerged late in the year, averaging 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 11 starts to close the season.
A Purdue transfer, Newman arrives in Bowling Green after posting 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game off the bench last season. Hardy and Solomon led UTEP in scoring (12.8) and rebounding (6.0), respectively.
Huefner was named to the WAC All-Newcomer team after averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting 45.1 percent from three.
The 2023-24 campaign tips off Monday, Nov. 6, and culminates in the 2024 Conference USA Basketball Championships March 12-16 at Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala. The men’s final is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 16, to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
2023-24 CUSA Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
|Rank||School (first-place votes)||Total|
|4.||LA Tech (1)||48|
CUSA MBB Preseason Player of the Year
Isaiah Crawford, LA Tech
CUSA MBB Preseason All-Conference Honorees
|Arturo Dean, FIU||So.||G||Miami, Fla.|
|Isaiah Crawford, LA Tech*||Sr.||F||Fort Worth, Texas|
|Kyle Rode, Liberty||Sr.||F||Lexington, Ky.|
|Elias King, MTSU||Sr.||G||Atlanta, Ga.|
|Camryn Weston, MTSU||Sr.||G||Albany, Ga.|
|Cameron Huefner, Sam Houston||Jr.||F||Adelaide, Australia|
|Tae Hardy, UTEP||Sr.||G||Ellenwood, Ga.|
|Calvin Solomon, UTEP||Sr.||F||Houston, Texas|
|Dontaie Allen, WKU||Sr.||G/F||Falmouth, Ky.|
|Brandon Newman, WKU||Sr.||G||Valparaiso, Ind.|