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Women's Hoops Aims to Defy Preseason Poll Expectations

Brittani Lusain
Brittani Lusain

OGDEN, Utah – The Big Sky preseason polls were released by the conference office on Tuesday with the Northern Arizona women's basketball team slotted 11th and 12th in the Coaches and Media Polls respectively. NAU received 18 points in a vote by the league's head coaches, while the 'Jacks tallied 24 points in the vote by Big Sky media members and sports information directors.

The Lumberjacks posted a 6-24 overall record last season with a 2-16 record in Big Sky play. They played fifth-seeded Montana tough in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament before eventually falling, 78-63.

NAU returns a senior class of five consisting of Rene Coggins, Bradlee Cotton, Taylor Leyva, Brittani Lusain and Catelyn Preston. All five seniors started at least 11 games last season with Coggins starting a team-high 29 games. She is also the Lumberjacks' leading returning scorer having averaged a career-best 11.1 points per game. In all, NAU returns six letterwinners.

Last season's Big Sky regular season champion, Montana State, was voted the favorite in the Media Poll receiving 156 points and six of 15 first-place votes. Idaho, the defending tournament champion, was selected as the coaches' favorite with four first-place votes and a total of 110 points. The Vandals were also voted a narrow runner-up in the Media Poll with two first-place votes and just three points behind the Bobcats.

The league's parity was apparent in both polls based on the amount of teams who received first-place votes. In the Media Poll, five teams led a ballot while four teams were picked first by at least one head coach. While Idaho garnered the second spot in the Media Poll, North Dakota was voted second in the Coaches Poll. The Fighting Hawks notched four first-place votes themselves.

The top five teams were consistent in both polls with differing order between Montana State, Idaho, North Dakota as well as Montana and Eastern Washington. Montana, Eastern Washington and North Dakota occupied the third through fifth spots in the Media Poll, while Montana State, Montana and Eastern Washington were in successive order from third through fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Both polls reached a consensus in the sixth through 10th spots with Idaho State – last season's tournament runner-up – followed by Sacramento State, Weber State, Northern Colorado and Portland State. NAU and Southern Utah were flip-flopped in the final two spots in the preseason vote.

All 12 teams will once again convene in Reno, Nev. for the Big Sky Tournament to be held from March 6-11.

NAU's Road to Reno gets under way in El Paso, Texas on Nov. 11 in its 2016-17 season opener versus UTEP.

2016-17 Big Sky Preseason Coaches Poll (First Place Votes in Parenthesis)

1. Idaho – 110 (4)

2. North Dakota – 107 (4)

3. Montana State – 98 (3)

4. Montana – 92 (1)

5. Eastern Washington – 83

6. Idaho State – 64

T7. Sacramento State – 60

T7. Weber State – 60

9. Northern Colorado – 53

10. Portland State – 30

11. Northern Arizona – 18

12. Southern Utah – 17

2016-17 Big Sky Preseason Media Poll (First Place Votes in Parenthesis)

1. Montana State – 156 (6)

2. Idaho – 153 (2)

3. Montana – 143 (3)

4. Eastern Washington – 140 (3)

5. North Dakota – 132 (1)

6. Idaho State – 89

7. Sacramento State – 86

8. Weber State – 76

9. Northern Colorado – 70

10. Portland State – 53

11. Southern Utah – 28

12. Northern Arizona – 24