Hounds picked first, Zias third in LSC South basketball

PNT Staff

The Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team has been given the favorite’s nod to make it three consecutive Lone Star Conference South Division championships in 2004-05, according to the conference’s preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and media.
Meantime, ENMU’s women were third in the poll, behind Angelo State and defending South champion West Texas A&M. The Zias put together a surprisingly strong season in 2003-04, going 16-12 and staying in contention for the division title until the final weekend of the regular season.
The ENMU men, coming off a 20-9 season and a berth in NCAA Division II regional competition, earned 10 of the 18 first-place votes and finished with 116 points. Texas A&M-Kingsville, which finished second last season despite a home-and-home sweep of the Greyhounds, came in second in the poll with 100 points and seven first-place vote.
The remaining first-place ballot went to Angelo State, picked for last place in the seven-team division.
The Hounds have gone a combined 21-3 in the division over the last two seasons, including 10-2 last year.
Senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt finished second in preseason player of the year voting with six votes, two behind TAM-K senior forward Robert Hamilton. Hunnicutt is the league’s top returning rebounder (8.8) from last season.
Hamilton averaged 18.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in helping Kingsville to a regional tournament berth in 2003-04.
Two-time champion Tarleton State was picked to repeat in the North Division. The Texans were 28-4 last year and ranked No. 2 nationally at the end of the season.
In the women’s poll, Angelo State (12 first-place votes) and WT (10) were separated by just two points (164-162). The Zias were second on one ballot and third on 11 others and totaled 117 points.
ASU, which won the LSC postseason tournament last year, also had the preseason player of the year in senior center Natalja Tsurbakova. She earned league player of the year and defensive player of the year honors last year, averaging a league-best 20.5 points while grabbing 7.6 rebounds and blocking 2.29 shots per contest.
WT senior post Celeste Stevenson was the only other player to receive votes.
Northeastern State’s women, another two-time champion, are favored to make it three consecutive crowns. The Lady Reds earned 12 of 20 first-place votes and posted 131 points to 94 for runnerup Southwestern Oklahoma.
SWOSU junior forward Julie Dawson, who averaged 19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds last season, was named the North’s preseason player of the year.

LSC preseason basketball polls
Men
South
School (1st-pl. votes) Pts.
1. Eastern New Mexico (10) 116
2. Texas A&M-Kingsville (7) 100
3. West Texas A&M 93
4. Midwestern State 61
5. Abilene Christian 49
6. Texas A&M-Commerce 44
7. Angelo State (1) 41
Preseason player of the year: Robert Hamilton, Sr. F, Texas A&M-Kingsville.

North
School (1st-pl. votes) Pts.
1. Tarleton State (14) 131
2. Northeastern State (2) 108
3. SW Oklahoma (2) 104
4. Central Okalhoma (2) 79
5. SE Oklahoma 60
6. Cameron 40
7. East Central 38
Preseason player of the year: Jamaal Shell, Sr. G, Southwestern Oklahoma.

Women
South
School (1st-pl. votes) Pts.
1. Angelo State (12) 164
2. West Texas A&M (10) 162
3. Eastern New Mexico 117
4. Midwestern State 100
5. Abilene Christian 96
6. Texas A&M-Commerce 70
7. Texas Woman’s 51
8. Texas A&M-Kingsville 32
Preseason player of the year: Natalja Tsurbakova, Sr. F, Angelo State.

North
School (1st-pl. votes) Pts.
1. Northeastern State (12) 131
2. SW Oklahoma (3) 94
3. Cameron (3) 93
4. Tarleton State (1) 83
5. East Central 57
6. SE Oklahoma 52
7. Central Oklahoma (1) 50
Preseason player of the year: Julie Dawson, Jr. F, Southwestern Oklahoma.