After posting 21 wins last season and advancing to the WNIT second round, the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs were picked second in the 2015-16 Conference USA Preseason Poll, according to the league coaches. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders were selected as the C-USA women’s basketball preseason favorite to win the league’s regular-season crown.
Last season’s C-USA Newcomer of the Year, Jennie Simms, a preseason All-C-USA selection, will lead Old Dominion, which placed second in the preseason poll with four first-place votes following its exciting run in the 2015 C-USA Championship. Simms emerged as one of the dominant guards in the league and led ODU in points (19.3 ppg) and rebounds (8.1) on top of first-team all-conference honors.
Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell, who has compiled a 29-5 C-USA record in his first two years in the league, will guide a unit led by C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Olivia Jones. Jones, an all-conference first-team selection a year ago, averaged nearly 20 points per game and broke seven Middle Tennessee sophomore records. Now a junior, Jones needs merely 40 points to join the Blue Raider 1,000 point club.
Placing third in the tight preseason poll was defending C-USA champion and NCAA participant WKU, which also received four first-place votes. Leading the Lady Toppers will be preseason All-C-USA selection Kendall Noble, who was the 2015 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. The local product out of Hazard, Kentucky, finished the 2014-15 crusade with the most steals in WKU single-season history (105), a mark that ranked 14th in the nation. Noble was also a finalist for the 2015 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year award.
Southern Miss senior Jerontay Clemons earned preseason All-C-USA honors after a plucky all-around performance a season ago. Clemons produced a team-best 62 steals and scored in the double-digits during 24 outings for the 25-11 Golden Eagles. The guard was also a second-team all-conference selection and a member of the C-USA All-Defensive squad.
UTEP senior Cameasha Turner represents the Miners on the preseason squad. The 5-9 guard completed a breakthrough season with the orange and blue to earn second-team all-conference honors and was a C-USA All-Defensive team honoree. Turner was the only C-USA student-athlete to finish in the top 10 in three-point field goal percentage (.387), points (15 per game) and steals (2.1 per game) during the 2014-15 season.
A versatile swing guard for Charlotte, Lefty Webster earned preseason all-conference honors on the heels of a resilient finish to her sophomore season, where she closed the year with double-digit scoring performances in her last 10 games. A threat on both ends of the floor, the junior averaged over two steals per game to go along with 14 points per game and nearly six boards per contest.
Louisiana Tech wing Brandi Wingate was named the C-USA Sixth Player of the Year last season and earned a nod on the preseason squad. The accurate senior shot 55 percent from the field along with 78 percent from the free throw line.
Rounding out the preseason team was Marshall senior Leah Scott. The Detroit native started in all 32 games for the Herd, which saw some postseason action in the WBI Tournament. Scott finished in the C-USA top five in defensive rebounds (5.4) and was eighth in the league in scoring (15.4 points per game). She was also the first Marshall student-athlete to earn multiple C-USA Weekly honors in the same season.
Conference USA will open its 21st women’s basketball campaign on Friday, November 13, and the season will culminate with the 2016 Conference USA Basketball Championship, March 8-12 in Birmingham, Alabama. UAB will serve as the host school for the second year in a row. The women’s championship game is slated for Saturday, March 12 at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST, and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
2015-16 C-USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Lefty Webster – Charlotte – Junior – G – Norfolk, Va.
Brandi Wingate – LA Tech – Senior – G/F – Columbia, Md.
Leah Scott – Marshall – Senior – G/F – Detroit, Mich.
Olivia Jones * – Middle Tennessee – Junior – G/F – Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Jennie Simms – Old Dominion – Junior – G – Accokeek, Md.
Jerontay Clemons – Southern Miss – Senior – G – Coldwater, Miss.
Cameasha Turner – UTEP – Senior – G – Dallas, Texas
Kendall Noble – WKU – Junior – G – Hazard, Ky.
*Denotes Preseason Player of the Year
2015-16 C-USA PRESEASON POLL (#) first-place votes
1. Middle Tennessee (5)
2. Old Dominion (4)
3. WKU (4)
4. Southern Miss
7. UTSA (1)
9. Louisiana Tech
11. Florida Atlantic