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Lamar women's hoops voted to top spot in Southland Conference preseason poll

Lamar University

Lamar received 18 first-place votes from the Southland Conference’s head coaches and sports information directors to earn the top spot in the league’s 2017-18 women’s basketball preseason poll.

Two-time defending tournament champion Central Arkansas earned the second-place spot with six first-place votes while Stephen F. Austin is favored for third place with two first-place votes.

The announcement tips off Southland Conference Basketball Social Media Day at the Toyota Center, where all 26 head coaches from the league’s men’s and women’s programs will preview their upcoming season, beginning at 9:15 a.m. CT. Coaches will participate in Q&A sessions, media interviews, social media activities and unique one-on-one segments with women’s basketball Hall-of-Famer Van Chancellor. Social Media Day can be followed on the Southland’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts and will air on ESPN3 tonight at 6 p.m.

The Cardinals return all five starters from a well-rounded team that finished third in league play in scoring offense (74.1 points per game), second in scoring defense (58.2 points allowed per game) and first in scoring margin (+15.9). Lamar also ranked second in field goal percentage defense, holding Southland opponents to .379 per game and rebounding offense (41.6 per game).

Their greatest strength came in the steals category, comfortably topping both the league and NCAA in steals and steals per game (14.2). In all competition, Lamar racked up 425 steals in 30 games – 33 more than Nicholls, which ranked second nationally.

Reigning champion Central Arkansas received six first-place votes to earn the No. 2 spot. The Sugar Bears won their second-straight regular season and tournament title last season and look to become the first Southland program to earn three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths since SFA accomplished the feat from 2000 to 2002. The team must fill a gap left in the wake of graduated all-conference guards Maggie Proffitt and Brianna Mullins and all-defensive center Raquel Logan. In all, UCA lost nearly 60 percent of their scoring and assists from last season.

The team returns two key contributors from last season in senior center Kierra Jordan and senior forward Taylor Baudoin. Both preseason all-conference picks, Jordan ranked third in conference play in 2016-17 with a .590 field goal percentage while Baudoin ranked fifth with .541.

Stephen F. Austin enters at the No. 3 spot with two first-place votes. With the graduation of 2016-17 Southland Player of the Year Taylor Ross, the Ladyjacks look to redshirt senior Stevi Parker to lead the Southland’s all-time winningest women’s basketball team. Parker averaged 11.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, two assists and a steal per game in overall play last season, starting all 33 games.

SFA led the Southland with 77.2 points per game and ranked second in field goal percentage (.468) against conference opponents.

New Orleans and Abilene Christian were voted to the No. 4 and 5 spots, respectively, to round out the top five. McNeese, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Northwestern State, Nicholls and UIW completed the top 10 in that order while Houston Baptist, Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston State are picked 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively.

The preseason poll is voted upon by the head coach and sports information director from each Southland school. Each individual ranks the other 12 teams in their predicted order of regular season finish. Ranking one’s own school is not permitted.

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