Women picked to finish second in The American, men predicted sixth

The basketball teams will host Cherry and White Night on Thursday at the Liacouras Center with two weeks before the start of the regular season.

The American Athletic Conference held its annual basketball media day on Monday at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott hotel, where coaches and players from each of the league’s teams talked to the press and preseason honors were announced.

After a 23-12 season, the women’s team was picked to finish second in The American in the preseason coaches’ poll. Coach Tonya Cardoza’s squad finished third in the conference last year with a 13-5 record. Perennial powerhouse Connecticut was selected to win the league.

Junior guard Alliya Butts was the only unanimous preseason first team all-conference selection. Last season, Butts averaged 15.1 points per game and tallied 80 steals on her way to a first team all-conference selection.

Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald was also voted to The American’s first team after averaging 13.6 points per game last season.

“It’s nice and all, but preseason awards don’t mean anything,” Fitzgerald said.

The men’s team, fresh off a conference regular season title and NCAA tournament appearance, is predicted to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll. The team has lost three of its top four scorers from last season, including guard Quenton DeCosey, whose 15.9 points per game led the squad.

The team is not concerned with the preseason rankings, junior forward Obi Enechionyia said.

“We were picked sixth in the past two years and we finished above that,” he said. “Last year we won the regular season title, so we don’t really think about it. We just go out there and play every game to the best of our ability, and we know that if we work hard and we’re more focused and tougher than the other team, then that should be enough.”

The basketball programs will host Cherry and White Night on Thursday in the Liacouras Center. The new Cherry and White student sections will be debuted and there will be several games and chances to win prizes.

Both teams start their seasons against Big 5 rival La Salle. The men open play on Nov. 11 at the Liacouras Center and the women have their home-opener on Nov. 14 in McGonigle Hall.

Evan Easterling and Owen McCue can be reached at sports@temple-news.com.

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