Wide open race for top spot

More news about: Amherst | Bowdoin | Scranton | Tufts | Wartburg
Just a handful of points separate the top three teams in the poll to start the season.
# School (1st votes) Rec Pts Prev.
1 Amherst (6) 27-4 576 6
2 Tufts (5) 28-3 574 5
3 Scranton (8) 29-3 568 4
4 Wartburg 27-4 536 8
5 Bowdoin (4) 31-2 512 2
Full preseason women's basketball Top 25

Thomas More's departure to the NAIA leaves a wide open race to replace the Saints as the top team in Division III women's basketball when the season tips off next week. Six teams received No. 1 votes and the final few ballots accounted for the narrow difference at the top. Ultimately Amherst, which won back-to-back titles before last season, takes the top spot over rival Tufts and national semifinalist Scranton.

The Mammoths return three starters, including All-Americans Madeline Eck and Hannah Fox, and more than 80 percent of their scoring and rebounding from last season. In a year without an overwhelming favorite to open the season, the Mammoths' consistent excellence, championship pedigree and suffocating defense make them a good choice. Amherst was also the preseason No. 1 at the start of last season.

Conference rival Tufts starts the season just a shade behind the Mammoths in the No. 2 spot. Like Amherst, the Jumbos return the majority of a starting line-up that lost a heart breaker on the road in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Erica DeCandido, who was Tufts' leader in points, rebounds and assists per game, is back at power forward. The Jumbos will play their first season under head coach Jill Pace following Carla Berube's jump to Division I Princeton. Amherst hosts Tufts in the team's only meeting on Jan. 18.

Scranton, which beat Tufts in the national quarterfinals, checks in next with 568 points but the most top votes of all teams. The Lady Royals bring back every starter but Bridgette Mann who missed a large part of last season with an injury. Key returnees include All-American Makenzie Mason who was the Conference and Regional Player of the Year. Scranton's first big test comes at No. 13 DeSales in early December.

No. 4 Wartburg also returns four starters and its conference's most valuable player, shooting guard Emma Gerdes. The Knights open the season against No. 19 UW-La Crosse on Nov. 15. Bowdoin, which was the national runner-up the last two seasons, comes next. The Polar Bears lost three key players in Abby Kelly, Hannah Graham and Taylor Choate, but do return All-American Maddie Hasson.

No. 7 Mary Hardin-Baylor and No. 9 St. Thomas also garnered top votes in the preseason poll.