College hoops: TSU men picked fourth in OVC; UT, MTSU women top conference picks

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 10:53am
Staff reports

Tennessee State was picked to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason men's basketball poll, which included votes from league coaches and sports information directors, the OVC announced on Tuesday.

TSU, which finished fifth in the conference last year, returns all five starters along with three Division I transfers.

Austin Peay, which returns nine players and four starters, was picked the preseason favorite. Tennessee Tech was tabbed to place second, while defending league champ Murray State was predicted to finish third.

Tennessee State also placed two players on the All-OVC Preseason Team — forwards Kenny Moore and Robert Covington. Moore, a senior, led the Tigers with 14.6 points a game while averaging 6.9 rebounds. Covington, a junior, averaged 13.4 points and was third in the league with 7.5 rebounds per game. He also led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (.460).

TSU hasn’t finished over .500 since the 1995-96 season and just missed doing so last year with a 14-16 record. But the Tigers did finish 10-8 in league play, their first winning record in conference action in five years.

TSU expects to be a contender in coach John Cooper’s third year. Transfers 6-11 Muniru Bawa (Indiana), 6-4 guard Jordan Cyphers (Utah) and 6-7 forward Kellen Thornton (Illinois State) are expected to contribute.

TSU's women were picked to finish seventh after going 9-21 and 5-13 in the OVC last year.

• Lady Vols on top: The University of Tennessee was picked to capture the Southeastern Conference women's basketball championship by members of the media, the league announced on Tuesday.

Vanderbilt was picked to finish fifth.

Tennessee has won two straight SEC championships and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last season.

Despite losing Angie Bjorklund and Kelley Cain, the Lady Vols will have six seniors, including preseason SEC Player of the Year Shekinna Stricklen. The 6-foot-2 guard/forward averaged 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds last year.

Also on the preseason All-SEC first team, was Volunteers forward Glory Johnson (12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg). Guard Meighan Simmons landed on the second team after averaging 13.5 points a game as a freshman.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, went 20-12, reaching the NCAA Tournament and tying for third in the SEC with a 10-6 mark. The Commodores lost two of their top three scorers with the graduations of Jence Rhoads and Hannah Tuomi.

They return sophomore Stephanie Holzer, who was named to the All-SEC preseason second team. She averaged 11.1 points and six rebounds in just 18.8 minutes a game as a redshirt freshman.

• MTSU picked to win East: Middle Tennessee State is the choice to win the Sun Belt Conference's East Division in women's basketball, according to a vote of conference coaches.

MTSU was 14-2 in league play last year and captured the East Division crown for the third straight year. The Blue Raiders finished the season 23-8 and reached the NCAA Tournament.

After being named the league’s top freshman last year, 6-foot-1 forward Ebony Rowe shared co-Preseason Player of the Year honors with Denver’s Kaetlyn Murdoch. Rowe averaged a double-double of 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. She set five school single-season freshman records and recorded 16 double-doubles.

Junior forward Icelyn Elie, from Lebanon, was tabbed to the preseason all-conference second team after averaging 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds a year ago.