NEWBERG, Ore. – A panel of NCAA Division III coaches who make up the voting board of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association have predicted George Fox University as the No. 2 team in the nation in the 2012-13 USA Today / ESPN / WBCA pre-season poll, the same spot the Bruins were tabbed for in the D3hoops.com poll a week ago.
The Bruins, who were 32-1 last year, received one first-place vote and a total of 182 points from the eight coaches who participated in the pre-season poll, which is the highest pre-season ranking ever for the Bruins (they were picked third last year). George Fox finished the 2011-12 season as the No. 2 team after falling in the national title game 57-48 to Illinois Wesleyan University, but even picked up one first-place vote from a coach in the WBCA poll due to the season’s unusual finish.
After winning both the Northwest Conference regular season and tournament titles in 2011-12, George Fox made its sixth straight national tournament appearance and seventh in the last eight years. With home-court wins over California Lutheran University and Lewis & Clark College and away wins over Bowdoin College and unbeaten Mary Washington University, the Bruins returned to the ‘Final Four’ for the second time (the 2008-09 team went 32-0 and won it all).
A semi-final win over undefeated and defending national champion Amherst College put the Bruins in the finals, and they got off to a 9-0 start against Illinois Wesleyan. However, Second Team All-American 6-5 center Hannah Munger went down with a torn ACL seven minutes into the game and did not return, opening the door for a Titans comeback and eventual national crown.
Munger underwent off-season surgery in the spring and her rehabilitation is progressing nicely, and it is no secret that her presence (or absence) will be a significant factor in the Bruins’ fortunes this year. Still, the Bruins will be a talented team as they return 11 letter winners, including starting forward Megan Arnoldy, point guard Hayley Cusick, and “super sub” Jami Roos, the team’s third-leading scorer.
The Bruins must replace two key pieces, however, in wings Arianna Mohsenian and Keisha Gordon. Mohsenian was honorable mention All-Conference and graduated as the team’s all-time leader in games played (127). Gordon, the Bruins’ all-time leader in points (1,753) and steals (297), was NWC and West Region Player of the Year and a First Team All-American. She will be an assistant coach with the Bruins this year.
Directing the Bruins once again will be Michael Meek, now in his third year with the program after going 57-7 in his first two seasons. He was the NWC Coach of the Year and the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year as chosen by D3hoops.com in 2011-12, and was a finalist for the Russell Athletic / WBCA National Coach of the Year award.
Calvin College (28-2 in 2011-12), which was eliminated by Illinois Wesleyan in the ‘Elite 8’, is projected as the No. 1 team after garnering three first-place votes and 188 points in the WBCA poll. The University of St. Thomas (31-2) is No. 3 with one first and 181 points, followed by Illinois Wesleyan with three firsts and 180. Rounding out the top five is DePauw University with 165 points.
The only other Northwest Conference team listed is Lewis & Clark (25-4), which received 118 points and is ranked No. 11. All four of the Pioneers’ losses last season came at the hands of the Bruins, twice in the regular season, once in the NWC Tournament finals, and again in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The complete 2012-13 USA Today / ESPN / WBCA pre-season women’s basketball poll may be found on the web at http://www.wbca.org/blog/index.cfm/2012/10/30/20122013-PreSeason-DIII-Poll/.