Gold Nuggets picked 2nd in GCAC hoops, 30th nationally

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NEW ORLEANS — Though it’s just a preseason snapshot, Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball has gained ground in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and the NAIA compared to one year ago.

In preseason coaches polls announced Tuesday, the Gold Nuggets were picked to finish in a second-place tie in the GCAC, and they were 30th of the 31 NAIA Division I teams receiving votes for the national top 25.

A year ago XULA was picked third in the GCAC and 32nd nationally. The Gold Nuggets followed that by tying for third in the GCAC regular season, finishing second in the tournament and collecting zero points in the final four polls before the national tournament, which XULA missed for just the fourth time in its last 23 opportuntities and the second time in the last three seasons.

XULA returns 10 letterwomen from last season’s 19-13 team, including four of its top five scorers. The Gold Nuggets will open at 6 p.m. Thursday at city rival Loyola, which is No. 20 nationally. The Gold Nuggets’ home opener will start at 1 p.m. Sunday against Southeastern (Fla.) — No. 4 in the preseason in NAIA Division II — at the Convocation Center.

Dillard, which hasn’t won a GCAC regular-season or tournament championship since 2003-04 — the Gold Nuggets have won a combined 11 titles since then — was picked to win the league. XULA shared second with Philander Smith. Last year’s regular-season and tournament champion, Talladega, was fourth, followed by Edward Waters, Tougaloo and SUNO.

Despite its No. 1 ranking in the GCAC, Dillard received zero points nationally. The only GCAC team in the top 25 is Talladega, which outpolled Pikeville by two points to grab the 25th position. Future XULA opponents in the top 25 are No. 8 Lindsey Wilson and No. 13 Our Lady of the Lake — both will visit the Gold Nuggets in December.

Also announced Tuesday was the preseason All-GCAC team, but the Gold Nuggets had no representatives.

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