November 1, 2022
2022-23 Conference USA preview
Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Charlotte are atop the league
This is the final season for Conference USA as we know it. That is a statement that has become all too familiar over the years in the midst of the realignment of college athletics, as C-USA has transformed multiple times since its 1995 founding.
Six of the 11 teams in the league (Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA) are playing their final season before entering the American Athletic Conference. Old Dominion, Southern Mississippi and Marshall already exited for the Sun Belt and begin their new eras this season.
In July 2023, C-USA will add Jacksonville State and Liberty from the Atlantic Sun Conference, plus New Mexico State and Sam Houston from the Western Athletic Conference. In 2024, Kennesaw State will join from the Atlantic Sun, giving C-USA 10 members.
But there is one final season under the current alignment. Middle Tennessee was selected first in the C-USA women’s basketball preseason poll with 118 total points and nine first-place votes, followed by Louisiana Tech (104), Charlotte (95, two first-place votes), Rice (77), North Texas (75), Western Kentucky (66), UAB (58), UTEP (43), UTSA (36), Florida International (34) and Florida Atlantic (20).
Let’s break down each team’s roster and outlook for this season.
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Coach: Cara Consuegra, 12th season
2021-22 record: 22-10, 15-3 C-USA
The 49ers returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2009 and lost to Indiana, 85-51, as a No. 14 seed. Both members of the senior backcourt, Mikayla Boykin and Jada McMillan, were named to the C-USA preseason team. Boykin scored 13.2 points per game and grabbed 5.5 rebounds per game in 2021-22, while McMillan dished out 126 assists and scored 8.6 points per game. The team loses C-USA Player of the Year Octavia Jett-Wilson’s 19.1 points per game and Defensive Player of the Year KeKe McKinney’s 8.1 rebounds per game. Jett-Wilson is now playing professionally in Greece.
Coach: Jennifer Sullivan, second season
2021-22 record: 5-25, 1-17 C-USA
The Owls are bringing in transfers Joiya Maddox from Rutgers, Jada Moore from Kansas State and Devyn Scott from Fairleigh Dickinson. There are also four freshman on the roster. Redshirt senior forward Janeta Rozentale returns after leading FAU with 11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season.
Coach: Jesyka Burks-Wiley, third season
2021-22 record: 15-16, 6-12 C-USA
Sophomore point guard Tanajah Hayes is the Panthers’ leading returning scorer at 9.3 points per game. FIU lost top scorers Kyla Nelson and Ariel Colon and leading rebounder Emerald Ekpiteta to graduation. Junior guard Mihaela Lazic joins the team from South Florida, as does senior guard Kaliah Henderson from Saint Joseph’s. Junior forward Ajae Yoakum also transfers in from Eastern Arizona College, where she was a junior college honorable mention All-American.
Coach: Brooke Stoehr, seventh season
2021-22 record: 21-12, 11-7 C-USA
The Lady Techsters won C-USA’s Western Division last season and fell to Charlotte, 68-63, in the conference championship game. Senior guard Keiunna Walker is the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year after she scored 19 points per game last season. Walker recorded the fourth triple-double in Louisiana Tech history in a double-overtime win over Rice with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in 49 minutes. In addition, junior forward Anna Larr Roberson is on the preseason All-C-USA team after averaging 15.3 points and 8.5 rebounds last year. She scored 44 points and set a C-USA record with 20 made field goals in the Rice game. The two-time national champions have not returned to the NCAA Tournament since 2011 but did make it to the WNIT last season, losing to Houston.
Coach: Rick Insell, 18th season
2021-22 record: 27-8, 14-4 C-USA
Three Middle Tennessee players earned preseason All-C-USA honors: redshirt senior forward Kseniya Malashka, junior forward Courtney Whitson and junior guard Savannah Wheeler, who transfers from Marshall. Malashka was named C-USA’s Sixth Player of the Year in 2021-22 after the Belarussian scored 13 points per game off the bench. Center Anastasiia Boldyreva (at 6’6 from Moscow) and guard Jalynn Gregory were All-Freshman team honorees last season. The Lady Raiders made it to the semifinals of the WNIT last spring, falling to Seton Hall 74-73.
Coach: Jalie Mitchell, eighth season
2021-22 record: 17-13, 10-7 C-USA
Guard Quincy Noble enters her senior year with preseason C-USA honors. After scoring nearly 18 points per game as a sophomore, Noble was the league’s preseason Player of the Year last season. Her scoring dipped to 14.4 points per game and she was ultimately a C-USA Second-Team selection, but UNT made the WNIT for the first time in 20 years. The team fell to Charlotte by three points in the C-USA semifinals prior to the WNIT loss to Tulsa. UNT loses second-leading scorer Aly Gamez (11.1 points per game) and top rebounder Madi Townley from last season, and it brings in four freshmen.
Coach: Lindsay Edmonds, second season
2021-22 record: 14-13, 8-9 C-USA
Senior forward Ashlee Austin is preseason All-C-USA and led the Owls with 16.5 points per game last season. Austin’s scoring improved from just 1.6 and 1.8 per game in her first two seasons, which included a WNIT title in 2021. Sophomore forward Malia Fisher was the only other double-digit scorer Rice boasted in 2021-22. But Fatou Samb (a 6’4 center from Cal) joins the team, and there are six freshmen.
Coach: Randy Norton, 10th season
2021-22 record: 16-15, 8-10 C-USA
UAB adds four freshmen, including guard Denim DeShields (sister of Diamond and daughter of Delino) and forward Molly Moffitt (from the Irish national team). Sisters Sara and Tracey Bershers transfer in from UTRGV and Oklahoma State, plus redshirt freshman guard/forward Amiya Payne arrives from Middle Tennessee. Last season’s top scorer, Zakyia Weathersby (14.7 points per game), is playing professionally in Turkey. However, guards Margaret Whitley and Emily Klaczek return as double-figure scorers.
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Coach: Kevin Baker, sixth season
2021-22 record: 14-15, 6-12 C-USA
Sophomore forward Elina Arike is the Miners’ top returning scorer at 8.8 points per game. The Finnish-born Arike also led the team with 6.6 rebounds per game. The team’s top two scorers from last season, Destiny Thurman and Katia Gallegos, transferred to Colorado State and Tulsa, but UTEP brings in point guard N’yah Boyd from Oklahoma State and guard Jazion Jackson from North Texas. The 2008 Miners hold the distinction of being the most-recent C-USA team to both win an NCAA Tournament game and receive an at-large bid.
Coach: Karen Aston, second season
2021-22 record: 7-23, 3-14 C-USA
Junior forward Jordyn Jenkins was named to the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Preseason Watch List as well as the All-C-USA team. Jenkins transfers from USC, where she led the Trojans in scoring and was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season. Junior guard Kyra White also transfers from USC, where she started 22 games, and there are five incoming freshmen. Sophomore forward Elyssa Coleman, a former Longhorn, is the leading returning scorer at eight points per game.
Coach: Greg Collins, fifth season
2021-22 record: 18-12, 11-7 C-USA
Guard Mya Meredith was the C-USA Freshman of the Year in 2021-22, scoring 12.7 points per game before she tore her ACL in February. All-conference performer and Egyptian national team member Meral Abdelgawad (19.5 points and seven rebounds per game) graduated, but sophomore guard Alexis Mead returns double figure scoring. Former WNBA Rookie of the Year Temeka Johnson joined the coaching staff after leading John Curtis High to consecutive Louisiana state titles.