WINTHROP, Mass. - The University of Saint Joseph basketball team was predicted to finish sixth in the South Division of the 2016-17 GNAC Preseason Coaches' Poll announced on Monday afternoon by the league's front office. The annual poll is voted upon by the conference's 12 head coaches.
Saint Joseph's College of Maine and Johnson & Wales University (RI) were selected to finish atop their respective divisions. In the North Division, Saint Joseph's received 10 of a possible 12 first-place votes and 70 points in the ledger, while JWU received eight first-place votes and 67 points to take the first spot in the South Division side of the poll.
Norwich University finished second to SJC in the North with 60 points and a pair of first-place votes, while GNAC power Emmanuel College collected four first-place votes and 64 points to finish just three points back of the Wildcats in the South Division.
Behind SJC and Norwich in the North Division were Rivier University with 40 points, Lasell College (36), Anna Maria College (25) and Simmons College (21). In the South, Suffolk University was third with 43 points, followed by Albertus Magnus College (42), Mount Ida College (20) and then the Blue Jays with 16 points.
Now under first-year head coach Brandon Gade, the Blue Jays will look to improve upon a 3-22 overall record and 2-9 mark in the GNAC from last season. USJ returns six players from its 2015-16 roster, including four starters led by rising senior Carlee Putnam (Niantic, CT). Putnam led the team in scoring last year averaging 14.0 ppg and 16.3 ppg in GNAC contests.
USJ will also look to rising juniors Kayla Guest (Newington, CT) and Rajeen Mayo (Middletown, CT) to head the offense. Both averaged in double figures last season at 13.6 ppg and 11.0 ppg, respectively. Guest, along with rising senior Elisha Pertillar (Windsor, CT), controlled the boards for the Blue Jays. Pertillar averaged 7.1 rpg and Guest added 6.8 rpg.
The USJ basketball team will open up the 2016-17 season on Tuesday, Nov. 15 when they host Bay Path inside the O'Connell Center at 7 p.m.
2016-17 GNAC Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Saint Joseph's Maine (10) – 70
2. Norwich (2) – 60
3. Rivier – 40
4. Lasell – 36
5. Anna Maria - 25
6. Simmons - 21
1. Johnson & Wales (8) – 67
2. Emmanuel (4) – 64
3. Suffolk – 43
4. Albertus Magnus – 42
5. Mount Ida – 20
6. St. Joseph CT - 16
About the GNAC
Founded in 1995, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 12 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Each year, the GNAC sponsors and administers 17 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunities and community involvement.