BATON ROUGE -- Led by the return of honorable mention All-America forward Theresa Plaisance, the LSU women’s basketball team is ranked No. 16 nationally in an early preseason ESPN.com Top 25 poll for the 2013-14 season, the website announced on Thursday.
The poll, conducted by ESPN.com analyst Charlie Crème, has LSU as the fourth-highest ranked Southeastern Conference team behind No. 3 Tennessee, No. 6 Kentucky and No. 13 Texas A&M. Defending national champion Connecticut tops the list.
The Lady Tigers return seven players from a squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and finished the season ranked No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll. Plaisance will be a National Player of the Year candidate after leading the SEC in scoring with 17.0 points per game as a junior.
LSU also welcomes the return of SEC All-Freshman guard Danielle Ballard, who shattered the single-season school record for steals with 100 in her first year as a Lady Tiger. Veteran leaders Jeanne Kenney, Shanece McKinney and the return of Anne Pedersen, Derreyal Youngblood and Sheila Boykin create a solid nucleus from a squad that posted a 22-12 overall record in 2012-13.
LSU’s depth will be much improved with the addition of talented freshmen guards Raigyne Moncrief and Rina Hill and forward Jasmine Rhodes. All three freshmen will be on campus this summer to participate in preseason workouts.
In two seasons under head coach Nikki Caldwell, LSU has improved its finish each year, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice and the Sweet 16 for the first time in 2008. Caldwell has compiled a 45-23 record at LSU with 11 victories over ranked opponents.
2013-14 ESPN.com Early Preseason Poll
7. North Carolina
10. Notre Dame
13. Texas A&M
17. Michigan State
19. Penn State
20. Iowa State
21. Oklahoma State
23. Georgia Tech
25. West Virginia