BRENTWOOD, Tenn.- In a preseason poll of the league's head coaches and sports information directors, UT Martin has been selected to win the Ohio Valley Conference Women's Basketball West Division while Tennessee Tech is picked to take the East Division in 2012-13. The the Skyhawks picked up 19 first-place votes and 129 points. The Golden Eagles earned 15 first-places votes and 121 points.
UT Martin went 15-1 in the OVC and 23-9 overall last year to claim its second regular-season title and first since the 1998-99 season. The Skyhawks went on to win its second straight league tournament title as it defeated Tennessee Tech, 82-65, in the championship game. UT Martin earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and fell to Tennessee, 72-49.
“Being picked first is a great honor for UT Martin,” head coach Kevin McMillan said. “It is another one of those firsts for our program.”
UT Martin has never been picked first in the preseason poll. However, UT Martin was picked second in 2011-12 and in 1999-2000.
McMillan is in his fourth season at the helm of the Skyhawks and will have three starters among five players returning from last year's championship team. Among the top returnees is the duo of Heather Butler (Medina, Tenn.) and Jasmine Newsome (Millington, Tenn.).
Butler, a junior guard, was selected as the league's Preseason Player of the Year after leading the league and ranking fourth in the nation with 23.8 points per game. Butler was third in the NCAA with a conference-best 42.3 three-point field goal percentage. She is one of 25 players nationally to be named to the Preseason Wade Trophy Watch List. Newsome, a junior guard, was named the 2011-12 OVC Player of the Year. She led the league with 6.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game while ranking second with 19.6 points each time out. Butler and Newsome combined for 1,386 of UT Martin's 2,563 points last season.
In the West Division, Eastern Illinois picked up the remaining five first-place votes and 113 points for a second-place predicted finish. SIUE, which is in its first season as a full Division I member, is selected to finish third with 86 points followed by Murray State (77), Austin Peay (47) and Southeast Missouri (39).
Eastern Kentucky is selected to finish second in the East Division after earning six first-place votes and 106 points. OVC newcomer Belmont garnered the three remaining first-place nods and 86 points in the East to be predicted to place third. Rounding out the East Division are Morehead State (69), Tennessee State (68) and Jacksonville State (40).
Belmont officially joins the league this season while SIUE becomes a full-time Division I member this year. The Cougars will be eligible for postseason play this year after finishing third in the OVC last season. The Bruins went 12-18 overall and 11-7 in the Atlantic Sun to finish third last season.
The 2012-13 campaign kicks off on Nov. 1 when Tennessee State host North Alabama and UT Martin welcomes Martin Methodist in exhibition games. The regular-season begins on Nov. 9 with Conference play starting on Dec. 29. Nine different teams have won a regular-season title with Tennessee Tech leading the way with 16.