Women’s basketball picked to finish 15th in A-10 preseason poll

By Daniel Malone

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team was picked to finish 15th out of 16 teams, according to the Atlantic 10 Conference’s preseason coaches poll released Wednesday.

The Minutewomen, who are guided by third-year coach Sharon Dawley and finished the 2011-12 season with an 3-11 conference record and 8-21 record overall, received a total of 56 points in the poll, finishing ahead of only Rhode Island’s 21 points.

Atop the poll was preseason favorite and defending A-10 champion, Dayton. The Flyers, who were awarded seven first place votes by the league’s coaches – more than double the amount of any other team – graduated four starters last May, but are primed to rebound with the help of the A-10’s reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrea Hoover.

The remaining first place votes went to second place Richmond (one), third place Charlotte (one), fourth place Duquesne (three), fifth place Temple (one) and seventh place St. Bonaventure (one).

UMass is set to tip off its 2012-13 regular season campaign, which includes a nationally televised game on the CBS Sports Network at St. Louis in February, on Nov. 10 at home against Kent State.

Watson named second team A-10

Also announced Wednesday was the inclusion of UMass center Jasmine Watson to the A-10’s preseason all-conference second team. Watson, who returns for her senior year with the Minutewomen, led the team in scoring (12.3 points per game), rebounding (7.3 rebounds per game) and blocks (1.6) last season.

While she represents the team’s only preseason award recipient for the upcoming season, Watson is no stranger to conference accolades, having been voted to the preseason all-conference third team for the 2010-11 season and earning A-10 Rookie of the Year honors in 2009-10. Watson enters her final season 20 points shy of joining the University’s esteemed 1,000-point club.

“She’s quite a force when we get her the ball when we need to get her the ball,” Dawley said of her senior leader on a media conference call Wednesday.

Watson, a native of South Bend, Ind., will travel home with the team to play in front of family and friends for the first time in her four-year collegiate career when UMass travels to Notre Dame on Nov. 18.

Daniel Malone can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.