Hounds fifth, Zias seventh in LSC preseason basketball polls

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

First-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Linden Weese doesn’t know where the Zias will finish in the Lone Star Conference South Division — but he’s pretty sure in won’t be at the bottom.

The Zias were picked to finish seventh in the eight-team division in the league’s preseason poll.

Someone will finish there, he acknowledged. “I just don’t think it’ll be us,” Weese said.

ENMU’s men, meantime, came in fifth out of seven teams in a poll of conference coaches, media and sports information directors.

While some coaches don’t mind a lower spot for their teams in preseason polls, seventh-year Greyhounds coach Shawn Scanlan said he would rather be higher.

“I would like to have people shooting at us,” he said. “I just hope we outperform the prognostication.”

Two-time defending South women’s champion West Texas A&M earned 18 of 23 first-place votes and earned the favorite’s tag over Angelo State, which received the other five votes for No. 1.

Weese said the Zias, who went 11-17 (3-11 South) last year in an injury-plagued campaign, should do better.

“They don’t know what these kids are going to do that got hurt last year,” he said of senior Elizabeth Richards and Riikka Lehtonen and junior Rochelle Vance, all of whom return after suffering season-ending knee injuries less than a month into the 2005-06 campaign. “We just need to prove some people wrong, and we’re going to start today to try to do that.

“We’ve got to change the mindset and make people start to respect us.”

The Zias play the first of two exhibition games Thursday at 2006 NAIA runnerup Lubbock Christian.

Weese said LCU should provide a stern test, with much of its team returning.

“They’re going to be a pretty well-oiled machine already, I imagine,” he said.

Tarleton State was chosen at the top in the South men’s race, earning 12 of 19 first-place votes, followed by Texas A&M-Kingsville, West Texas A&M, Midwestern State, ENMU, Abilene Christian and Angelo State.

Scanlan, whose team won South titles in 2003 and 2004, thinks the Hounds (12-16, 6-6 South) are capable of exceeding the preseason projection.

“I can’t disagree with the No. 1 or No. 2 picks, but it gets kind of scattered after that,” said Scanlan, whose team went 12-16 (6-6 South) last season. “At our level, it’s hard to (project teams). When I pick in a poll, I honestly know very little about three or four of the teams I vote on.”

The Hounds play New Mexico State in an exhibition game 7 p.m. Monday at the Lea County Events Center in Hobbs.

LSC preseason polls
Men
South Division
Team (1st-place votes) Pts
1. Tarleton State (12) 123
2. Texas A&M-Kingsville (5) 107
3. West Texas A&M (2) 101
4. Midwestern State 73
5. Eastern New Mexico 53
6. Abilene Christian 43
7. Angelo State 32
Preseason player of the year: Remi Yusuf, Sr. F, Texas A&M-Kingsville.
North Division
Team (1st-place votes) Pts
1. Central Oklahoma (9) 121
2. Southeastern Oklahoma (10) 119
3. East Central 79
4. Texas A&M-Commerce 78
5. Northeastern State 62
6. Southwestern Oklahoma 40
7. Cameron 33
Preseason player of the year: Eric Babers, Sr. F, Southeastern Oklahoma.
Women
South Division
Team (1st-place votes) Pts
1. West Texas A&M (18) 179
2. Angelo State (5) 155
3. Tarleton State 142
4. Abilene Christian 107
5. Texas Woman’s 86
6. Midwestern State 73
7. Eastern New Mexico 57
8. Texas A&M-Kingsville 29
Preseason player of the year: Emily Brister, So. G, West Texas A&M.
North Division
Team (1st-place votes) Pts
1. Texas A&M-Commerce (19) 120
2. Southwestern Oklahoma (6) 103
3. Northeastern State (4) 100
4. Southeastern Oklahoma 70
5. East Central 53
6. Cameron 52
7. Central Oklahoma 34
Preseason player of the year: Kanani Marshal, Sr. G, Texas A&M-Commerce.