After earning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year last season, FIU junior guard Jerica Coley was named SBC Preseason Player of the Year, while Middle Tennessee was picked to win the SBC East Division and UALR was tabbed to win the SBC West, the league office announced Tuesday.
Coley, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., led the conference in both points (23.4) and blocks (1.9) per game last season. Averaging 39.4 minutes a game, Coley was a huge contributor to a Panthers team that finished third in the conference and reached the semifinals of the SBC Championship last season. The Panthers received one first-place vote in the SBC East Division this season and are predicted to finish second.
MT, which received 10 first-place votes in the SBC East Division, had three players earn Preseason All-SBC First-Team accolades. The Blue Raiders won the SBC East Division title in 2011-12 with a perfect 16-0 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. MT returns 10 letter winners from last season, including SBC Preseason First Team selections Ebony Rowe, Icelyn Elie and Kortni Jones.
Rowe, a junior forward, led the SBC in offensive rebounds (5.7), steals (2.4) and field goal percentage (.545) last season. She averaged a double-double as she also brought down 10.1 rebounds a game.
Elie, a senior forward, finished second in offensive rebounding with 3.5 per game, fifth in free throw percentage (.758) and ninth in scoring (13.7). Both Elie and Rowe were First-Team All-SBC selections last season.
Blue Raider senior guard Kortni Jones completed the Preseason All-SBC first-team trio after draining a league-high 115 three-pointers and shooting .350 from beyond the arc last season. She posted 16.8 points per game, second best in conference, and her 1.2 assist to turnover ratio ranked third in the SBC.
UALR sophomore guard Taylor Gault rounded out the Preseason All-SBC first-team after earning SBC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SBC honors last season. She registered 16.0 points per game in 2011-12 and finished in the top-15 in both steals (1.7) and blocks (0.8) per contest.
Gault will look to lead UALR to its third consecutive SBC Tournament title after the Trojans knocked off the Blue Raiders 71-70 in overtime last season in the finals. The 2011-12 Trojans made their third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and reached the 20-win mark for the sixth-consecutive season. UALR also finished atop the Sun Belt's West Division for the fifth-consecutive year.
Arkansas State received the final first-place vote in the SBC West and was predicted to finish second. The Red Wolves return four starters, including junior forward Jane Morrill who was named to the Preseason All-SBC second-team. Morrill led the team in scoring with 16.2 points per game and also led the team with nearly 5.5 rebounds a game.
In addition to seven regular-season games televised on the Sun Belt Network, ESPN3 will air four contests including Western Kentucky's matchup against the Blue Raiders on Jan. 27 and South Alabama's contest against MT on Feb. 20. The SBC Network will also televise two quarterfinal games and both semifinal matchups at the SBC Championship, and the finals will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Now in its fourth season, the Sun Belt Network is a joint partnership with Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST). Each game will be available in 13 states across the southeast and is often available on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan outside of the CSS and CST markets. The agreement with CSS and CST has resulted in the broadcasting of football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, and softball contests throughout the last three seasons. In whole, the Sun Belt Network has been responsible for over 100 events airing on CSS and CST over the past three seasons.
2012-13 Women's Basketball Preseason All-Conference First Team
Taylor Gault (UALR, Sophomore, Guard)
Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
Icelyn Elie (Middle Tennessee, Senior, Forward)
Kortni Jones (Middle Tennessee, Senior, Guard)
Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
2012-13 Women's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Taylor Ford (UALR, Junior, Guard)
Jane Morrill (Arkansas State, Junior, Forward)
Chenise Miller (Florida Atlantic, RS-Junior, Forward)
Finda Mansare (FIU, Senior, Forward)
Mansa El (South Alabama, Senior, Guard)
2012-13 Women's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Third Team
Janette Merriex (UALR, Senior, Guard/Forward)
Jasmine Shaw (Louisiana-Monroe, Junior, Guard)
Mary Nixon (South Alabama, Senior, Guard)
Chastity Gooch (WKU, Sophomore, Forward)
Alexis Govan (WKU, Sophomore, Guard)
2012-13 Women's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year
Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
2012-13 Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll
First Place Votes in Parentheses
1. Middle Tennessee - 65 pts (10)
2. FIU - 54 pts (1)
3. South Alabama - 45 pts
4. Florida Atlantic - 29 pts
5. WKU - 26 pts
6. Troy - 12 pts
1. UALR - 54 pts (10)
2. Arkansas State - 39 pts (1)
3. North Texas - 33 pts
4. Louisiana-Monroe - 24 pts
5. Louisiana-Lafayette - 15 pts
2012-13 Sun Belt Composite Women's Basketball Schedule
Date Game Time Network
11/11/2012 Memphis or Grambling at Middle Tennessee 2 p.m. ESPN3
12/6/2012 Xavier at Middle Tennessee 7 p.m. ESPN3
12/11/2012 Louisiana-Monroe at Texas 7 p.m. Longhorn Network
1/10/2013 Louisiana-Monroe at Troy 12 p.m. Sun Belt Network
1/12/2013 FIU at UALR 1 p.m. Sun Belt Network
1/26/2013 Florida Atlantic at Arkansas State 5 p.m. Sun Belt Network
1/27/2013 Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee 2 p.m. ESPN3
2/9/2013 Florida Atlantic at South Alabama 5 p.m. Sun Belt Network
2/16/2013 North Texas at Troy 5 p.m. Sun Belt Network
2/20/2013 South Alabama vs. Middle Tennessee 7 p.m. ESPN3
2/23/2013 WKU at Louisiana-Lafayette 5 p.m. Sun Belt Network
3/2/2013 Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky 11 a.m. Sun Belt Network
3/9/2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Quarterfinals 12 p.m. Sun Belt Network
3/9/2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Quarterfinals 2:30 p.m. Sun Belt Network
3/10/2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Semifinals 12 p.m. Sun Belt Network
3/10/2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Semifinals 2:30 p.m. Sun Belt Network
3/11/2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Final 1 p.m. ESPNU
All times Central (CT) and subject to change