LSU women earn highest ranking since 2009

Bill Martin

The LSU women's basketball team will start the season with its highest preseason ranking since 2009 as the Lady Tigers were tabbed No. 17 in the USA Today Women's Preseason Coaches' Top 25 poll that was released last week.

The Lady Tigers received 276 points and were one of six Southeastern Conference teams in the preseason Top 25. Tennessee comes in at No. 4 followed by No. 8 Kentucky, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 17 LSU, No. 21 South Carolina and No. 22 Georgia. Defending national champion Connecticut tops the rankings and garnered 31 first-place votes.

The No. 17 ranking is LSU's highest to start a season in the Nikki Caldwell era and the highest since opening the 2009-10 season at No. 17 in the Coaches' poll. In their second season under Caldwell, the Lady Tigers finished the year No. 21 after compiling a 22-12 record and their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2008.

Expectations are high for this year's squad, which returns three senior starters in National Player of the Year candidate forward Theresa Plaisance, center Shanece McKinney and guard Jeanne Kenney. Leading the backcourt is sophomore guard Danielle Ballard, who delivered one of the most impressive freshman seasons in school history. Ballard shattered the LSU single-season steals record with 100.

Plaisance led the SEC in scoring as a junior with 17.0 points per game, and the squad is expected to have even more scoring options with a unique freshmen class and the ability to play Ballard off the basketball more. Raigyne Moncrief, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was LSU's highest ranked guard signee (No. 6) since Allison Hightower in 2006. She led the Lady Tigers in scoring during their August Spain exhibition trip.

The Lady Tigers officially open the season at home in the Sue Gunter Classic/Preseason WNIT Opening Round against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 8.