FLORENCE, Ky. — The University of Rio Grande has been picked third overall and second in the East Division of the 2016-17 River States Conference Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll released Thursday by the conference office.
Head coach David Smalley’s club has three full-time starters, one part-time starter and junior forward Alexis Payne (Deep Water, WV) – who missed the entire 2015-16 due to injury – back from last year’s team, which finished 19-10 overall and 12-5 in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The River States Conference is formerly known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The conference changed its name effective July 1, 2016 as part of a re-branding. The 13 conference members remain the same from last year, and they span five states.
The RedStorm lost a pair of seniors to graduation – guard Sarah Bonar, a first team All-KIAC honoree, and center Harley Adler, the program’s all-time leading shot blocker.
Rio Grande received 117 points in the overall balloting and 49 points in the voting for the East Division. The RedStorm got one first-place vote toward the overall ballot and one to win the division.
Indiana University East is the favorite poll. The Red Wolves got the maximum number of 12 first-place votes in the polling of the league coaches.
IU East is the overall favorite among the 13 teams in the conference and also the favorite to win the RSC East Division. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.
The Red Wolves have four starters returning from last year’s team that was 22-11 overall, 15-2 conference and reached the NAIA Division II national tournament as the conference tournament runner-up. NAIA Third-Team All-American Tia King (20.5 ppg) is the top returning player.
Asbury (Ky.) University is picked second overall in the conference and is the picked as the favorite in the RSC West Division. The Eagles were 24-10 overall, 16-2 conference last year and won their second conference tournament championship in a row.
Asbury, which has three starters returning, reached the NAIA Division II national tournament Sweet 16 after a first-round victory. Asbury received eight of the 13 first-place votes within the RSC West Division.
Point Park (Pa.) University (19-11, 12-5) checks in behind Rio Grande in fourth overall and gives the RSC East Division three of the top four picks in the poll. IU Southeast (15-15, 11-7) is picked fifth overall and second in the RSC West Division. The Grenadiers received four first-place votes to win the RSC West.
Ohio Christian University (16-13, 8-9) is picked sixth overall. The Trailblazers are in their second year in the NAIA and the conference and their first year as postseason eligible in each. The top four teams in each division make the RSC Tournament, so OCU is predicted to make the playoffs in the fourth spot of the RSC East.
IU Kokomo was picked eighth overall and third in the RSC West Division as a predicted playoff team. After WVU Tech ninth overall out of the RSC East, Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College is picked as a playoff team at 10th overall and fourth in the RSC West. The Eagles got a first-place vote to win their division.
Rounding out the overall ballot were RSC West Division teams Brescia (Ky.) University, Cincinnati Christian University and Midway (Ky.) University.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.