AUGUSTA, GA – Coming off their third straight East Division championship and second straight appearance in the PBC Tournament Championship Game, the Lander Bearcats have been voted to the top of the women's basksetball preseason coaches poll. Lander received eight of a possible 11 first-place votes for 116 points, just ahead of Columbus State at 111. Francis Marion was third with 98 while Clayton State was fourth with 90. North Georgia was fifth with USC Aiken sixth, Georgia College seventh and UNC Pembroke eighth. Flagler, a tie between Augusta and Georgia Southwestern, and Young Harris rounded out the voting.
Lander has won 23 or more games in each of the last three seasons including a 25-8 mark last year with a 15-4 record in conference. The Bearcats led the PBC in points per game, three-pointers made, free throws made, assists, steals and blocks. Head coach Kevin Pederson returns three seniors and five juniors for 2017-18 including All-Conference center Breshay Johnson and guard Mylea McKenith, both of whom were named preseason All-Conference earlier this week. Overall, Lander returns seven of their top eight scorers from a year ago.
Columbus State returned to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 2001 last season after winning the PBC west division and the tournament championship. The Cougars finished 31-2 overall, becoming the fifth PBC team to surpass the 30-win mark. CSU will have some holes to fill in 2017-18 with the departure of their top four starters but do welcome in Machala Raymonville from Armstrong State for her senior season after earning All-Conference accolades last year. Also back is junior guard Tatiana Wayne who played in all 33 games.
Francis Marion followed an Elite Eight appearance in 2016 with an 18-12 mark and a second-place finish in the PBC east division last season. The Patriots return four seniors and four juniors for 2017-18 including preseason All-Conference selection Shaunice Fulmore, who led the team in scoring with 17.1 ppg last year. Also back are seniors Briana Burgins, Khai Chandler, Kristin Tines and Keanua Williams. Overall, FMU returns their top four scorers and six of their top eight.
Clayton State has finished with a winning record for 13 consecutive seasons, including a national championship in 2011 and a 24-7 record last season with a second-place finish in the west division. The Lakers will be without six seniors from last year, including their top three scorers, but return senior forward Abreyln Rackley from last year's squad along with senior Mercedes Jenkins and junior Aysia Grimsley from Armstrong State.
The 2017-18 season will undergo several revisions as conference membership has changed from last year. Gone is the divisional structure and teams will compete in a true double round-robin this year. The top eight teams will advance to tournament play where, for the first time, the men's and women's final four will be split; each hosted by the highest remaining seed following quarterfinal play.
The 2017 women's coaches poll is below. Teams were given 11 points for a first-place vote, 10 for a second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.
2017 PBC Women's Basketball
Preseason Coaches Poll