Last season was a big one for the UNC Bears Men's Basketball team, and many seem to think that the UNC Women could have a big year this season. The UNC Women have been picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference in the preseason media poll, following Portland State, picked to finish on top.
The polls were released on Tuesday by the conference office. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Portland State received six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll for a total of 61 points. The media gave the Vikings 156 points and 11 first-place votes. Head coach Sherri Murrell enters her fifth season at the helm of Portland State, where she has collected a record of 83-46. In 2011, the Vikings lost in the championship game in the Big Sky Tournament. They lost to Montana, who eventually went on to the NCAA Championships where UM lost in the first round to UCLA. PSU went on to play in the WNIT Tournament where it lost in the first round to Wyoming.
Portland State lost two starters in Lexi Bishop and Kelli Valentine, but return three starters including the regular-season Most Valuable Player and first team All-Conference guard Eryn Jones. PSU also returns Courtney VanBrocklin and Shauneice Samms. VanBrocklin was named Top Newcomer last season as well as second team All-Conference. PSU finished last season with a 20-12 overall record and 12-4 conference record. PSU and Northern Colorado were regular-season championships, but PSU earned the right to host the championships by winning a tie breaker.
Northern Colorado was picked second by the media with 134 points and two first-place votes. The Bears were picked third in the coaches’ poll with 49 points and one first-place vote. NC is coached by Jaime White, who enters her seventh season with the Bears. She has a 62-88 record and led the Bears to their first ever postseason appearance as they played in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
Northern Colorado lost two starters in Courtney Stoermer and Brittany Fernandez, but return three starters in D’shara Strange, Lauren Oosdyke and Kaisha Brown. Strange was named Outstanding Freshman and Honorable Mention All-Conference, and Oosdyke was named first-team All-Conference.
Montana was picked second in the coaches’ poll with 55 points and one first-place vote, and third by the media with 129 points and three first-place votes. The Lady Griz went into the Big Sky Tournament as the No. 4 seed and had to play three games in three days. UM made it to the championship game, and defeated host Portland State 62-58 to make it to the Lady Griz’s 19th NCAA Tournament. Montana lost to No. 3 seed UCLA in the first round of the tournament.
Head Coach Robin Selvig enters his 34th season with the Lady Griz, and has a 758-233 record. He lost two starters in Sarah Ena and Big Sky Tournament MVP Stephanie Stender. But UM returns three starters in Katie Baker, Kenzie De Boer and Alyssa Smith. Montana finished last season 18-15 overall and 10-6 in the Big Sky.
Montana State was picked fourth in both polls. The coaches gave the Bobcats 47 points with one first-place vote, and the media gave MSU 125 points and two first-place votes. Montana State returns three starters from last season’s team that led the Bobcats to a third-place finish in the Big Sky Conference. MSU returns Katie Bussey, Rachel Semansky and Ausha Cole and lost two starters in Sarah Balian and Lyndi Seidensticker. The Bobcats are coached by Tricia Binford who is in her seventh season with MSU and she has an 84-95 record.
Picked fifth in both the coaches’ and media polls was Idaho State. The coaches gave ISU 34 points and the media had 114 points and one first-place vote. Idaho State is under head coach Seton Sobolewski, who enters his fourth season with a 44-47 record. The Bengals return all five of their starters from last season, including first team All-Conference member Chelsea Pickering, Honorable Mention Kaela Oakes and Ashleigh Vella.
Last season, the Bengals advanced to their 13th Big Sky Conference Tournament. ISU lost in the first round to Montana 66-53. The Bengals finished 12-1 at Reed Gym last season which is the second best home record in school history. Over the last two years ISU has posted a 22-4 home record. ISU finished last season with a 18-12 overall record and 9-7 BSC record.
Rounding out the coaches poll was Northern Arizona (6th, 28 points), Eastern Washington (7th, 26 points), Weber State (8th, 13 points) and Sacramento State (9th, 11 points). Rounding out the media poll was Eastern Washington (6th, 73 points), Northern Arizona (7th, 54 points), Weber State (8th, 38 points) and Sacramento State (9th, 32 points).
The 2011-12 basketball season starts November 11, and the conference season begins on December 29. The Big Sky Women’s Basketball Championships is slated for March 8-10 and will be hosted by the regular-season champion. The championships game on March 10th is set for 5:00 p.m. Mountain, and will be broadcasted by Altitude.