Tanaya Atkinson
Ben Solomon/American Athletic Conference

Women's Basketball

Women's Basketball Picked to Finish Third in American

PHILADELPHIA -- Coming off a 24-8 overall record a season ago, the Temple women's basketball team has been picked to finish third in The American by a vote of the league's coaches. 

UConn was selected as the preseason favorite to win the title. The Huskies tallied 121 points and 11 of 12 first-place votes. UConn enters the season returning seven letterwinners and four starters, including 2016-17 American Athletic Conference Players of the Year Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, from last year's squad that went 36-1 (18-0 in The American) and became the sport's all-time winningest team in NCAA Tournament play.

USF was picked to finish second with 110 points and garnered one first-place vote. The Bulls, who reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years a season ago, return seven players from last year's squad, including last season's American Freshman of the Year Tamara Henshaw and All-Conference First Team members Kitija Laksa and Maria Jespersen, in 2017-18.

Temple and American Athletic Conference Co-Coach of the Year Tonya Cardoza were picked third in the preseason poll with 98 points. The Owls will be without returning All-Conference selection Alliya Butts, who made the preseason second team. Senior Tanaya Atkinson, last year's American Sixth Player of the Year, will be expected to lead the squad this year.
 
UCF was chosen fourth in the preseason poll with 91 points. The Knights finished the 2016-17 campaign with a 21-12 overall record and added 14 wins from the 2015-16 campaign. The 14-game swing was tied for the second-best turnaround among women's Division I basketball teams. Guard Aliyah Gregory, a First Team All-Conference selection and the third leading scorer in The American in conference games a year ago, returns to UCF for her senior season.

SMU (79 pts.), Tulane (73 pts.) and Memphis (53 pts.) were picked fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the preseason poll. Cincinnati (50 pts.), Tulsa (43 pts.), conference newcomer Wichita State (31 pts.), Houston (27 pts.) and ECU (16 pts.) were tabbed eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th to round out the tallies.

UConn junior Napheesa Collier was the preseason choice for American Player of the Year. Collier led The American in scoring last season and was an AP, WBCA and USBWA First Team All-American in 2016-17. Collier and teammate Gabby Williams were unanimous preseason All-Conference First Team selections. Samuelson joined Collier and Williams on the first team, along with Gregory and Laksa.

The American enjoyed tremendous basketball success in 2016-17 highlighted by UConn winning an NCAA record 111 consecutive games and advancing to its 10th straight Final Four. Six teams – UCF, UConn, USF, SMU, Temple and Tulane – were selected for postseason play. The Shockers became a member of the conference as a full member on July 1.
 
All 12 league schools will tip off the conference schedule the final weekend of December.

The 2018 American Women's Basketball Championship will take place March 3-6 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
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