MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - If the Sun Belt Conference basketball coaches are right, the University of Louisiana's men's squad will be in one of the closest races in league history and the women's team will be in the thick of the fight for a second straight league title.
The preseason polls were announced Monday at the start of the Sun Belt's annual basketball media gatherings, this year hosted by Middle Tennessee at the site of the league's postseason tournament March 3-7 at MT's Murphy Center.
The 11 men's coaches were as evenly divided as possible in their predictions on a winner in the league's West Division, with the Ragin' Cajuns getting six first-place votes and defending West champion getting the nod from five coaches. And all 11 coaches picked the Cajuns or the Pioneers either first or second.
That shouldn't come as a surprise. Denver edged the Cajuns by one game in last year's final West standings courtesy of a regular-season sweep, but UL handed the Pioneers an 88-69 crunching in the Sun Belt Tournament finals for their second straight tourney crown and NCAA tournament berth.
"Since we've been up there around the top of the league for six years, I think people figure we're going to be there again," said Cajun men's coach Robert Lee. "It's an honor, but you've got to remember that we lost basically three all-league players."