DePauw women picked to defend title, men seventh
CLEVELAND ó The DePauw women and Wooster men have been tabbed as the favorites for the 2017-18 North Coast Athletic Conference basketball seasons, based on balloting from the league coaches.
DePauw, which won its fifth NCAC womenís championship last winter, earned eight of the nine first-place votes cast by league coaches for 76 total points.
Kenyon, which last won the league title in 2008, finished second in the poll with 64 points, while Oberlin earned the final first-place vote and finished one-point behind Kenyon in third with 63 total points. Denison finished fourth overall with 48 points, followed by Wittenberg (43), Ohio Wesleyan (40), Hiram (36), Allegheny (18) and Wooster (17).
The Tigers, who won both the 2016-17 NCAC regular season and tournament titles, welcome back eight letterwinners and three starters from last yearís team that finished the season with an overall record of 27-3 and competed in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th year in a row and the 18th time overall.
Junior guard Maya Howard, a first-team All-NCAC selection last winter, is the top returning scorer from last season as she averaged 12.1 points per game, which included a season-best 23-point performance in a 60-46 win over Denison.
Senior forward Melinda Franke and sophomore guard Sydney Kopp also return to the starting five for the Tigers this season.
Franke ranked fourth in the NCAC last season in rebounds with 188 (6.3 rpg), while Kopp owned the leagueís second-best shooting percentage from beyond the arc at .355 after knocking down 30-of-39 attempts from long distance.
Despite coming off the bench in all but two games, senior guard Emily Budde is DPUís second-leading returning scorer from last season at 9.1 points per game.
Budde has peaked at the right time in each of the last two seasons as she has won back-to-back Nan Nichols Awards as the MVP of the NCAC Tournament.
Head coach Kris Huffman returns for her 25th season at DePauw with an outstanding overall record of 571-117 (.830), which included leading the Tigers to a pair of NCAA Div. III titles in 2007 and again in 2013.
The Tigers open their season Nov. 17 in the Paul F. Knueppel Classic at Wisconsin Lutheran against the host team.
Wooster, which is in search of its 18th NCAC menís title overall and its first outright crown since 2014, earned six of the first-place votes cast by the menís coaches to top the poll with 96 points.
Three-time defending champion Ohio Wesleyan collected the final four first-place votes and finished second overall with 93 points.
Wittenberg finished third overall with 73 points, followed by Denison (59), Wabash (57), Hiram (55), DePauw (44), Kenyon (37), Allegheny (25) and Oberlin (11).
The Fighting Scots, who won the NCAC Tournament title last winter, return three starters off their 2016-17 squad that finished the regular season with an overall mark of 21-8 and extended their Div. III record by qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the 15th year in a row.
DePauw opens its season on Wednesday by hosting Franklin at 7:30 p.m.