Nashville --- In a preseason poll of the league's head coaches and sports information directors, the Tennessee State University women's basketball team was picked to finish the 2010-11 Ohio Valley Conference race in eighth place.
"Well getting picked in eighth place isn't exactly where you want to be," said head coach Tracee Wells. "But given the fact that we have such a young team, it's actually what I would expect. Although I don't believe we are an eighth place team."
The Lady Tigers finished the 2009-10 campaign with an overall record of 10-18 with a 7-11 conference mark, just one win away from a four-way tie for fourth place. TSU entered the OVC tournament as the eighth seed and dropped the opening round game to No. 1 ranked Eastern Illinois. The Lady Tigers lost four players from last year's squad, including starters Oby Okafor, LaDona Pierce, and Nikki Rumph. TSU has eight letterwinners returning for the 2010-11 season in addition to six newcomers.
"When you lose Oby Okafor and when you no longer have a Kendra Appling, the Conference is probably unsure of what we do have. The beauty of that is that we don't have anything hanging over our heads in order to be ready for this season. Every game will tell a story, and the Lady Tigers will have to prove themselves night in and night out. We get to come out and play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may. At the end of the day, the top eight go to the tournament and we plan to be in that number."
Among the returners, senior Meredith Stafford brings the most experience back to the court, starting in 26 games last season. Stafford finished the season as the second leading scorer and averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in conference games. She posted a season high 25 points against Austin Peay and registered double-digits in scoring in 11 games.
Also returning from last season are sophomores Kesi Hess, Simone Hopes, Ashley Tate, Jasmin Shuler, Destiney Gaston, Avery Jones and Denisha Mumford. Jasmin Shuler ranked in the top 15 in the league in made three pointers and three-point field goal percentage.
During media day, OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche discussed the new tournament format as well as the relocation of the tournament to historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The venue will host the championship, which will now be a four-day event.
Eastern Illinois was picked to win the 2010-11 Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball title (151 points, 10 first place votes) while Morehead State was selected to finish second, garnering seven first-place nods and 137 points. Austin Peay picked up 120 points and the final three first-place votes for a predicted third place finish followed by Tennessee Tech with 117 points to finish fourth. Rounding out the poll were UT Martin (97 points), Murray State (83 points), Eastern Kentucky (79 points), Tennessee State (45 points), Jacksonville State (31 points) and Southeast Missouri (30 points).
Tennessee State will host Bluefield College in an exhibition contest on Nov.9 before facing Alabama on Nov. 12 in the first official game of the season.
2010-11 OVC Women's Basketball Predicted Order of Finish
1. Eastern Illinois (10 first-place votes) - 151
2. Morehead State (Seven first-place votes) -147
3. Austin Peay (Three first-place votes) -120
4. Tennessee Tech -117
5. UT Martin - 97
6. Murray State - 83
7. Eastern Kentucky - 79
8. Tennessee State - 45
9. Jacksonville State - 31
10. Southeast Missouri - 30
2010-11 Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference Women's Basketball Team
Chynna Bozeman, Morehead State
Ta'Kenya Nixon, Eastern Illinois
Tacarra Hayes, Tennessee Tech
Alex Jones, Eastern Kentucky
Alecia Weatherly, UT Martin
Kellie Cook, Tennessee Tech
Jasmine Rayner, Austin Peay
Rachael Isom, Murray State
Courtney Lumpkin, Morehead State
Brittany Wiley, Jacksonville State
Preseason OVC Player of the Year: Chynna Bozeman, Morehead State