With a roster consisting of only one senior and a combined 16 sophomores and freshmen, the UAFS women’s basketball team will likely be one of the youngest teams in the Heartland Conference this season.
And the rest of the conference has apparently taken note of that.
The Lady Lions have been picked to finish sixth in the seven-team conference by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors in the recently released preseason conference poll.
UAFS finished 7-19 overall and 3-9 in conference play a year ago. They finished sixth in the league, failing to qualify for the four-team conference tournament. The Lady Lions, who were picked to win the conference last year, received 33 points in this year’s voting and no first-place votes.
St. Mary’s is the favorite to win the conference, but the Lady Rattlers weren’t a unanimous selection. St. Mary’s received 72 points in the voting and nine of the 15 first-place votes. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin was picked to finish a close second, receiving 63 points in the voting and six of the 15 first-place votes.
UTPB won the regular-season championship last season, edging runner-up St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s, however, beat UTPB in the conference tournament championship game to earn the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament.
Newman was picked to finish third (50 points), followed by St. Edward’s (48), Texas A&M International (37), UAFS and Oklahoma Panhandle State (11).
Lubbock Christian, Oklahoma Christian, Rogers State and McMurry also will compete in league play, but each is a provisional member of NCAA Division II and is ineligible to compete for the conference title or qualify for postseason play.
The Lady Lions began preseason practice on Oct. 15, ushering in the preseason with program’s annual Moonlight Madness celebration. UAFS has an exhibition game at NCAA Division I Missouri State University on Oct. 31 and will host Evangel University in an exhibition game on Nov. 2 at the Stubblefield Center.
UAFS will make its regular-season debut on Nov. 8-9 when it plays Harding and West Texas A&M, respectively, in the Lady Lions Classic at the Stubblefield Center.