Behind a 31-3 record from last season, as well as a group that returns three of its five starters in addition to a strong freshman class of four, the Shawnee State women’s basketball program will open the season ranked fifth in the NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll released on Tuesday evening.
The Bears received 196 points in the poll and were the recipient of one of the nine first place votes. SSU fell two spots from the 2016-17 final poll, where they were ranked third overall. Shawnee State finished the 2016-17 season 31-3 and were Mid-South Conference regular season and tournament champions.
The number five ranking is the third highest Shawnee State has had in the preseason poll since joining NAIA Division I in 2010-11. The Bears were ranked fourth in 2011-12, and were second in the 2012-13 poll. Shawnee State also received a first place vote in the preseason poll for the first time since joining NAIA-I.
Campbellsville was the second-highest Mid-South Conference team in the poll, coming in just behind Shawnee State at sixth. Lindsey Wilson, who shared the regular season title Shawnee State last season, begin the year at eighth overall. Cumberland (Tenn.) is the final Mid-South team ranked in the preseason poll, with the Phoenix ranked 22nd. The Mid-South Conference is tied for the most teams ranked in the top 25 with the American Midwest Conference, with four.
Defending NAIA National Champions Oklahoma City claimed the top spot in the poll, getting eight of the nine first place votes. Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) is second, followed by Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) and Vanguard (Calif.). Following Shawnee State in the poll is Campbellsville, Westmont (Calif.), Lindsey Wilson, Benedictine (Kan.) and Baker (Kan.).
The Shawnee State women’s basketball program opens the season on Friday, October 27 when the Bears welcome Kentucky Christian to Waller Gymnasium. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.