The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team were predicted to finish second in the Mountain West Conference in the 2021-22 preseason poll, decided by the Conference’s head coaches and select members of the media and released today. The Lobos received seven first-place votes, only behind California State University, Fresno, who received thirteen.
The separation between the Bulldogs and Lobos in total vote count (269-251) and first-place votes is the closest between the predicted first- and second-place finishers since the 2017-18 season, indicating a closer than average gap between the top two teams as perceived by the head coaches and media.
This is the second time UNM has placed second on the preseason poll during head coach Mike Bradbury’s tenure with the Lobos, the other time being the 2019-20 season. During that time, UNM has finished better than was expected three times and worse than expected twice.
Bradbury said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to preseason polls like this, noting that the team picked to top the rest of the conference rarely does.
“You never know about injuries,” Bradbury said. “Clearly Fresno’s got the two best players. If one of them gets hurt, they’re probably done. We’re really thin. If we stay healthy, I like our team. If we get a guard hurt, we’re probably in trouble.”
Bradbury said he felt that someone could justify putting any number of Mountain West teams at the top of their list.
“Clearly Fresno has been good for a while,” Bradbury said. “We’ve been pretty good for a while (too).”
This is the second year in a row that Fresno State has been tabbed to finish first in the Mountain West. Voters were likely swayed by last season’s Mountain West Player of the Year Haley Cavinder and Hanna Cavinder, both of whom were named to this year’s Preseason All-Mountain West Team. Joining them from UNM is forward Antonia Anderson, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds and had a 49% field goal accuracy last year.
Anderson echoed her coach in her belief that coming second in a preseason poll doesn’t mean much, but said that her placement on the All-Conference team is a reflection of the high expectations she knows she has to live up to.
The Lobos will open their season with an exhibition game against Western Colorado University on Sunday, Oct. 31.
Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy