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Panthers picked fourth in LEC Preseason poll

GORHAM, Maine - The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth received four first-place votes and 58 total points to earn top honors in the Little East Conference annual poll of the league's eight men's basketball head coaches.

The Corsairs narrowly bested defending conference champion Western Connecticut State University, which collected a single first place vote and 55 total points to finish second. Keene State College, which captured the 2001-02 regular-season title, received the final three first-place votes and 51 total points to place third, while Plymouth State College finished fourth with 43 points.

Rounding out the poll were the University of Massachusetts Boston in fifth place with 28 points, the University of Southern Maine in sixth place with 26 points, Rhode Island College in seventh place with 16 points, and Eastern Connecticut State University in eighth place with 11 points.

The top four teams in this year's poll all advanced to the semifinals of last year's conference tournament, which saw the Western Connecticut State University Colonials withstand a furious second-half rally by the host Keene State College Owls, to post an 86-83 triumph. Western Connecticut earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they advanced to the second round before concluding the year with a 21-7 record.

All eight conference teams will participate in the 2003 Little East Tournament, which marks a change from 2002 event, when only the top six teams advanced. Four quarterfinal round games will be held on Tuesday, February 25, at the campus sites of the higher seeded teams. The highest-remaining seed will host the semifinals and championship game scheduled for Friday, February 28 and Saturday March 1.

The Little East Conference Tournament champion will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Little East Conference

Men's Basketball - Pre-Season Coaches' Poll

Team (First Place Votes) Pts

1. UMass Dartmouth (4) 58

2. Western Connecticut (1) 55

3. Keene State (1) 51

4. Plymouth State 43

5. UMass Boston 28

6. Southern Maine 26

7. Rhode Island College 16

8. Eastern Connecticut 11

(Courtesy of the Little East Conference)