October 29, 2008

USC Aiken the coaches' favorite to win PBC women's hoops title

AUGUSTA, GA -- In the closest vote in conference history, the USC Aiken Lady Pacers have been chosen as the women's basketball team to beat in the Peach Belt Conference this season in a poll of the league's head coaches. USCA received four first-place votes and 90 total points, just one ahead of Clayton State and four in front of Francis Marion. Columbus State was fourth in the voting with Lander fifth and North Georgia sixth. Augusta State, Armstrong Atlantic State, GCSU, UNC Pembroke and GSW round out the voting. Yesterday, the USCA men's team was the top pick in the preseason poll, making USCA the first institution since Clayton State in 2006 to have both progams as the preseason favorites.

The Lady Hurricanes return three starters, seven players overall, from a team that finished the 2007-08 campaign with a 1-26 record. Junior guard Brittany Reynolds is the Lady Hurricanes top returner after averaging 10.6 points and posting 12 double-digit scoring games last season. Reynolds averaged 6.4 rebounds per game and finished eighth in the conference with 0.74 blocks per contest. Another returning starter, senior post player Jamilah Sharp averaged 6.3 points and contributed 5.9 rebounds per game. Junior guard Cherelle Pullen (2.0 ppg.) started 11 games, senior guard Monica James (2.8 ppg.) appeared in 20 contests and junior forward Krystal Thomas (3.9 ppg.) played in 25 games. There are seven new faces are on the roster, including three freshmen and four transfers.

The Lady Pacers were one of the unprecedented five PBC co-Champions for the 2007-08 season. Head coach Mike Brandt welcomes back three starters from last year's 20-8 team with seniors Meredith Legg, Megan Starnes and Morgan Johnson returning. Legg was named All-Conference last season and enters this year with 234 made three-pointers, second-most in PBC history and 25 away from first place. Seven of the Lady Pacers' top nine scorers return this year.

Clayton State was also a PBC co-Champion with a 20-11 overall record after advancing to the NCAA South Atlantic Regional championship game. Coach Dennis Cox returns three straters and seven letterwinners for this season including senior guard Marie St. Fort who can surpass the 1,000-point total for her career this year. The Lakers are ranked #21 in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Top 25.

Francis Marion came out of nowhere under first-year coach Heather Macy to claim a share of the PBC title, equalling the biggest one-season turnaround in NCAA history. With seven letterwinners and three starters returning, the Patriots hope to better their 21-9 record. FMU led the nation in scoring last year with 89.3 ppg and in steals with 18.5 per outing. Senior point guard Kevina Ransom will run the show for the Patriots after leading the nation in steals last year with 4.9 per game and she was also ranked 16th nationally in assists.

Two new coaches have joined the PBC ranks as Armstrong Atlantic State will look to rebuild under Matt Schmidt while Augusta State will welcome Tes Sobomehin for 2008-09.

The Lady Hurricanes open the 2008-09 season on November 17 at home against North Alabama.

The preseason poll is listed below. Teams were given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for second and so on. Click here for team-by team preseason notes.  

2008-09 Women's Basketball Preseason Poll

Rank Team                         1st 2nd  3rd 4th 5th  6th  7th  8th  9th 10th Total

1. USC Aiken                4    3    2    1     0   0     0    0   0    0    90

2. Clayton State          3    3    4     0    0   0     0    0   0    0     89

3. Francis Marion         3    3    2     1    1   0     0    0   0    0     86

4. Columbus State       1    2    2    3    1    1     0   0   0    0     76

5. Lander                     0    0    0    2    4    1     3   0   0    0     55

6. North Georgia          0    0    1    2    1    1     3   2   0    0     51

7. Augusta State          0    0    0    1    1   4     1    2   1    0     45

8. Armstrong Atlantic    0    0    0    1    1    3    2   2   1     0    44

9. GCSU                       0    0    0    0    2    1    2   3   2    0     38

10. UNC Pembroke       0    0    0    0    0    0    0   2   7    0     21

11. GSW                      0    0   0    0   0    0    0   0   0  10    10

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