Chris Markwood (right) makes his on-campus debut as the new head coach of the University of Maine men's basketball team on March 23, 2022. He is joined by UMaine Athletic Director Ken Ralph. Credit: Ronald Gillis / UMaine Athletics

The University of Maine men’s basketball team was picked to finish last in America East in the preseason coaches poll.

UMaine finished with just 12 points, with Vermont leading the way with 63 points including seven first-place votes. In second place is Bryant with 58 points and two first-place votes.

In third place is UMass Lowell (47), followed by Binghamton (42), UMBC (40), UAlbany (25), New Hampshire (23) and NJIT (14).

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.

UMaine is starting the season with new coach Chris Markwood at the helm, and the Black Bears are looking to improve on their 6-23 record a season ago. UMaine went 3-15 in America East that year.

Markwood said he was prepared for a low ranking and that there is not much stock being put into the ranking.

“It was expected for me as a coach,” Markwood said. “We don’t put a ton into it. Is it a little bit of motivation, no question, but in my mind, it’s reality and it’s where our program is right now. I expected that and I am fine with the spot. I knew taking this job it was something we were walking into and It’s something we will have to build up, which is an exciting challenge.”

There isn’t a set rotation yet as Markwood and the UMaine coaching staff goes through the eight newcomers and nine returning players. Players are grouped in new lineups every day at practice, Markwood said.

“We’re trying to group some guys together, not as much as this is the starting rotation but who works well together,” Markwood said. “We have two scrimmages coming up and we’ll toy around with that in the scrimmages and in the last couple weeks of practice.”

The Black Bears’ strength is versatility.

“I think it’s a talented group and I think the strength of this group is the versatility across the board,” Markwood said. “We have versatile guards that can score the ball and have wings that can score the ball, older guys that can score at this level.”

On the media day call, Markwood mentioned his front court of Ata Turgut and Kristians Feierbergs and how the tall forwards can play inside and on the perimeter.

Markwood said he hopes to have a rotation by the time conference play starts in January.

The Black Bears only return three players with 12 or more starts from a year ago, leaving a lot of room for new players to earn a spot in the rotation. With that comes a lot of decisions for Markwood, but the first-year head coach said he is embracing that aspect of the position.

“It all falls on you, the decision making, which I really want and is why I felt I was ready to be a head coach,” Markwood said. “There’s a lot that goes into the decision-making process, whether it’s recruiting, putting your system in, what’s the best fit for this roster and not just what you like but something that your guys can be successful in.”

After Markwood graduated from the University of Maine, he was hired as an assistant coach in Vermont under head coach John Becker. On Thursday’s media call, Becker had good things to say about UMaine’s new head coach.

“He will do a great job at Maine,” Becker said of Markwood. “It will take a couple years for them to get guys in Maine but they’ll play hard for him and he knows what he’s doing. He certainly knows what I’m doing.”

The Black Bears start their season on Nov. 7 when they travel to the University of Nebraska.

UMaine’s America East schedule starts on Jan. 5, 2023, on the road against UMass Lowell.

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.