WBB: Jacks start season ranked in Mid-Major poll

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Abby Fullenkamp

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Landon Dierks

And so it begins.

The start of the 2018-19 regular season schedule is upon the South Dakota State women’s basketball team.

The Jackrabbit women have a trio of tough tests to kick off this regular season but are expected to have a strong showing in each contest as they enter the season ranked second in the preseason CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll.

Marquette

The Jackrabbit women’s basketball team opens the 2018-19 regular season on the road at nationally-ranked Marquette University on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Marquette is an experienced team. The Golden Eagles return its top eight scorers from last year, including five entering their senior season.

“They’re loaded with talent,” head coach Aaron Johnston said of the Marquette roster. “All of those players have been together for a couple of years. They’re really good shooters and great at getting to the basket … It’s no surprise that they’re ranked. It’s going to be a tough one for us to start off with — especially on the road. ”

The Golden Eagles are led by senior Allazia Blockton. The defending Big East Player of the Year paced Marquette with an average of 19.1 points a game last season and was second on the team in rebounds with 6.2 a game.

Florida Gulf Coast

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will make a trip to Brookings on Friday, Nov. 9 looking to knock off the Jacks for the second season in a row.

The Eagles used an 18-5 run in the final four minutes of last season’s contest in Fort Myers, Florida to steal an 87-78 victory.

FGCU will look a little different this time around, however. The top three scorers from a season ago were lost to graduation.

The losses aren’t expected to hinder the Eagles much, as they are ranked eighth in the preseason mid-major poll.

“They lost some key pieces,” Johnston said. “But they also had some key pieces sitting out (last season). They had some transfers that weren’t able to play last year because of transfer rules that will help them immensely this year, so they’re going to be just as talented. We’re going to have our hands full.”

FGCU is led by the junior duo of wing Nasrin Ulel and forward Tytionia Adderly. Both were named to the preseason Atlantic Sun all-conference team.

Central Michigan

The team ranked third, right behind SDSU in the mid-major poll, is the Central Michigan Chippewas.

On paper, the Chippewas share many resemblances to the Jackrabbit team they will host on Monday, Nov. 12.

CMU has several experienced starters and established scorers on the roster, but also has an abundance of youth and inexperience headed into the season.

Central Michigan is fresh off the best season in school history (30-5) and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen and looks to improve on last years’ historical performance in 2018-19.

“They’re winners,” Johnston said. “They had a great run last year in the NCAA Tournament and they’re hungry, I’m sure, for more. It’s going to be another tough road game.”

The Chippewas return three players who averaged at least 11.5 points a game last season in guards Micaela Kelly and Presley Hudson alongside forward Reyna Frost.

Johnston expects to use the opening sequence of games as a measuring stick and use it to shape the Jackrabbits’ season moving forward.

“We’ll know a lot more here in about a week as to where we’re at and where we need to go,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said.