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Both men’s, women’s basketball teams tabbed to win NEC

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For the first time in Red Flash history, both the men’s and women’s basketball programs are ranked No. 1 in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

The SFU men’s team finished the 2016-17 season with a 17-17 record.  Sophomore guard Keith Braxton from Glassboro, New Jersey, and junior guard Isaiah Blackmon from Charlotte, North Carolina, both return for head coach Rob Krimmel’s team.

Braxton was the NEC and ECAC Rookie-of-the-Year last season. He averaged 13.1 points while leading all Division I freshmen with 8.6 rebounds per game. Braxton captured seven NEC Rookie-of-the-Week awards.

At SFU’s Basketball Media Day on Nov. 2, Braxton was asked about the incredible shot that won last year’s NEC semifinal game against Wagner. The shot was highlighted repeatedly on ESPN’s SportsCenter program.

“It was a moment we all shared together,” Braxton said.

Blackmon ranked sixth in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (50.0 percent) last season and led the Red Flash with 13.7 points per game in 2016-17.

The Red Flash men’s team will face a daunting non-conference schedule this year, with games at Atlantic Coast Conference powers Duke and Louisville, as well as nationally-ranked Saint Mary’s College. Duke is the nation’s top-ranked team in the preseason.

“We want to bring the guys into environments that will be loud, so they experience that early,” said Krimmel. “The environments in the (NEC) championship and semifinals last year were hostile.”

On the women’s side, SFU posted a 17-15 record in 2016-17 and a 13-5 NEC mark. The team graduated three seniors last May.

“We’re excited about the team we have this year,” said Joe Haigh, Red Flash women’s basketball coach. “There are a lot of new faces that we are excited about and we have a good returning core to build around.”

Two of the returning faces to the Red Flash Women’s team are Maya Wynn, a senior guard from Reisterstown, Maryland, and Jessica Kovatch, a junior guard from Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Last season Kovatch became just the 25th player in NCAA women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 points in her career in 47 games or fewer.

Wynn is a three-year starter and enters her senior season in search of her first NEC title.

“It’s both pressure and inspiration,” Wynn said.  “We have to work even harder to get to the championship.

“Being picked number one does put a target on our back, but hopefully that makes us work even harder, get better, and prepare us for an NEC championship run.”

The women’s team’s non-conference schedule includes games at Cincinnati, Gonzaga and Boise State.

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