FRISCO, Texas – Defending tournament champion Abilene Christian has been selected as the favorite to top the 2019-20 Southland Conference’s 2019-20 women’s basketball standings, the league announced Thursday. Four other schools also received first-place votes.
ACU topped the polls with 14 first-place votes and 273 total points in just its second year of postseason eligibility. The Wildcats are coming off of a Southland Tournament Championship where they won three games as a No. 4 seed in order to gain an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament last season.
Senior preseason all-conference selections Dominique Golightly, Breanna Wright and Lexie Ducat are three-of-four starters returning for the Wildcats this season and will look to continue the program’s success after closing out the 2018-19 season with a 23-10 overall record and a 13-5 conference mark.
The Wildcats led the Southland in several categories last season, including shooting percentage (45.8), three-pointers made (265) and defensive rebounds per game (31.8).
Stephen F. Austin came in next in the polls with 255 points and nine first-place votes after finishing last season with a 16-2 mark in Southland play. The Ladyjacks return three starters in Stephanie Visscher, Alyssa Mayfield and Marissa Banfield. Led by head coach Mark Kellogg, SFA is primed to challenge for the league title as the Ladyjacks have consistently presented a well-balanced game plan. Last season, they ranked among the conference’s top-four teams in scoring (70.4) while leading the league in defense, limiting opponents to 56.9 points per game. The Ladyjacks will look to continue their efficiency at home after going 17-0 inside William R. Johnson Coliseum throughout their 2018-19 campaign.
Sam Houston State is voted third, receiving 234 points and one first-place vote. After an impressive turnaround season, reigning Southland Coach of the Year Ravon Justice and her SHSU squad will look to build upon their 11-7 conference record from last season. Led by preseason first-teamer Jaylonn Walker and second-team selections Amber Leggett and Jenniffer Oramas, the Bearkats return a total of four starters and will implement a very experienced rotation that is not afraid to attack the basket. Last year, the Kats ranked 12th nationally for free throws attempted (718) and ninth nationally for free throws made (510). Justice’s squad certainly does not slack on defense either as the team finished last season ranked fourth in the nation for turnovers forced (22.72).
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rounds out the poll’s top four, earning 229 points and a first-place vote. The Islanders capped a remarkable postseason run in the Southland Tournament after qualifying as the No. 8 seed. Head coach Royce Chadwick led his team to a trio of wins in the tournament over the No. 7, No. 3 and No. 2 seeds before falling to Abilene Christian in a 69-68 championship thriller. The Islanders led the preseason all-conference rosters with four selections in first teamers Alexes Bryant and Dalesia Booth and second-team picks Dae Dae Evans and Emma Young.
Lamar occupies the fifth-place spot with 195 points and a first-place vote of its own, followed by Central Arkansas (172), Nicholls (154), New Orleans (113) and McNeese (111).
Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, Houston Baptist and UIW round out the 2019-20 preseason poll.
The Southland women’s basketball season gets underway Tuesday, Nov. 5, with nine schools in action throughout the league.
The preseason poll is voted upon by the head coach and sports information director from each
Southland school. Each individual ranks the other 12 teams in their predicted order of regular season finish. Ranking one’s own school is not permitted.