Sam Houston State has been predicted to finish third in the 2014 Southland Conference men's basketball race according to the annual preseason vote of the league's head coaches and SIDs.

The coaches tabbed Sam Houston State third and Stephen F. Austin fourth, while the SIDs had the Bearkats and Lumberjacks tying for third. SFA, which played in the NIT for the second time in its history, received the final first-place vote from the SIDs.

Northwestern State, which won the Southland Conference tournament last season, is the preseason favorite. Oral Roberts was selected to finish second in both polls and received two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and three in the SID poll.

Senior forward James Thomas, a preseason second-team all-conference honoree, is one of four returning starters for the Bearkats, who tied for fifth in last season’s standings at 8-10 and were 17-17 overall.

In the coaches’ poll, McNeese was picked fifth, followed by Southeastern Louisiana sixth and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi seventh. Nicholls, Central Arkansas, Lamar take the 8-9-10 spots in the poll followed by newcomers New Orleans and Houston Baptist, picked 11th and 12th, respectively. The SIDs had Southeastern finishing fifth and McNeese State sixth with A&M-Corpus Christi, Nicholls, Lamar, UCA, New Orleans and Houston Baptist rounding out the poll.

Since both Abilene Christian and UIW will not play a full slate of league games in their first year of transition into Division I, they were not eligible to be picked in the preseason polls. Additionally, neither team is eligible for postseason play until 2017-18.

The 2013-14 season begins Friday, Nov. 8 with conference play starting up Jan. 2. The top eight teams based on conference winning percentage earn berths to the 2014 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament March 12-15, at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.

2013-14 Men’s Basketball Preseason Polls
Coaches’ Poll
Place Team (first place votes) Total
1. Northwestern State (10) 120
2. Oral Roberts (2) 98
3. Sam Houston State 96
4. Stephen F. Austin 93
5. McNeese State 80
6. Southeastern Louisiana 70
7. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 56
8. Nicholls 45
9. Central Arkansas 40
10. Lamar 38
11. New Orleans 33
12. Houston Baptist 23

Sports Information Directors’ Poll
Place Team (first place votes) Total
1. Northwestern State (8) 118
2. Oral Roberts (3) 108
T3. Sam Houston State 89
T3. Stephen F. Austin (1) 89
5. Southeastern Louisiana 80
6. McNeese State 78
7. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 62
8. Nicholls 48
9. Lamar 41
10. Central Arkansas 31
11. New Orleans 25
12. Houston Baptist 23