Cowboys, Cowgirls picked to finish in middle of Southland pack

By By Rhett Manuel / American Press

McNeese State’s men’s and women’s

basketball teams were picked in the middle of the pack by Southland

Conference sports information

directors and coaches for the upcoming season.

The Cowgirls, coming off a 21-15 season

when they played for the SLC and Women’s Basketball Invitational

tournament championships,

was picked fourth in both polls.

They return three starters, including Cecilia Okoye, the SLC’s reigning newcomer of the year. However, they will be replacing

Caitlyn and Ashlyn Baggett, who led the Cowgirls to two NCAA tournaments and last year’s WBI final.

“Practice has been different without two of the best players that have come through this program,” Cowgirls head coach Brooks

Donald Williams said in a school news release. “We are just trying to find our way, but I love the group that we have and

I like the returners that we have coming back.

“Cecilia has had a great fall, summer

and preseason,” she added. “She is a kid that has grown up a lot. It

think she was a

different player from the beginning of last season to conference

and maybe the middle of conference play. She was inconsistent

last year and I think she has been more consistent in her play and

work ethic so far.”

Stephen F. Austin, which has won 15 regular-season SLC titles, was picked in both polls to win the championship.

The Cowgirls open their season Nov. 8 at home against Wiley College.

McNeese’s men were picked fifth by coaches and sixth by SIDs and return junior guard Kevin Hardy and forward Desharick Guidry,

both preseason second-team all-conference picks. The Cowboys were 14-17, 7-11 last season.

“I don’t put that much into it,”

Cowboys head coach Dave Simmons said about preseason predictions. “I

have been ranked low

and played for a title. I have been ranked high and out of the

race early. With all the new teams and new coaches in the league,

I think it is wide open.”

The Cowboys open their season on Nov. 8 at nationally ranked Michigan State.

Northwestern State, which won the SLC tournament and played in the NCAA tournament last season, was picked to repeat. The

Demons return 12 lettermen, led by preseason first-team all-SLC picks sophomore point guard Jalan West and senior forward

DeQuan Hicks.

Two SLC newcomers, New Orleans and

Houston Baptist, were picked to finish 11th and 12th, respectively.

Newcomers Abilene Christian

and Incarnate Word were not eligible for the polls as the

transition into Division I. They will be eligible in the 2017-18