Hilltoppers picked to win C-USA, Hollingsworth and Murray named to Preseason Team

WKU Guard Taveion Hollingsworth (13) attempts to shoot for two as his shot is defended by Marshall Guard Jon Elmore (33) during the Hilltoppers 67-66 loss in the championship game of the Conference USA tournament against Marshall University on Saturday March 10, 2018 at The Star in Frisco, Tx.

Alec Jessie

WKU men’s basketball has been named the preseason favorite to win Conference USA for the first time since joining the league, the league announced Thursday.

Coaches within the conference picked the Hilltoppers to win C-USA in the annual preseason coaches’ poll. WKU received nine first-place votes. Marshall, the defending C-USA Tournament champion, received five first-place votes. The Hilltoppers and Thundering Herd were the only two teams to receive any first-place votes after Marshall defeated WKU 67-66 in the C-USA Tournament championship last season.

Marshall, who pulled off an upset over fourth-seeded Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament last season, is returning Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, both of whom are on the Preseason All-Conference Team.

Rounding out the top five is Old Dominion, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio.

This is the first time the Hilltoppers have been picked to win their conference since 2013, when they competed in the Sun Belt Conference. The Hilltoppers went on to finish second in regular season conference play that year behind Georgia State.

The league also announced that sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth and graduate transfer forward Desean Murray were named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference Team. They were two of 11 players selected to the team.

This is the first time that multiple WKU players have been named to the preseason all-conference team since 2014, when T.J. Price and George Fant received the honor.

Hollingsworth put together one of the best freshman seasons in WKU basketball history last year. He started all 38 games as a freshman, averaging 13.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team after setting WKU freshman records in games played, minutes played, and points scored. Hollingsworth is WKU’s leading returning scorer this season.

Murray is a graduate transfer from Auburn. He started all 34 games for a Tigers team that won a share of the SEC regular season championship. Murray averaged 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

The Hilltoppers will be participating in Hilltopper Hysteria Thursday, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. They’ll also have an open scrimmage Saturday at 2:30 p.m. before starting off their exhibition slate against Campbellsville at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30.

Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.