Midwestern State tips off the 2013-14 campaign ranked 13th in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II Poll as released Friday afternoon.
It's the third preseason poll to give the Mustangs high marks as MSU ranks 8th in The Sporting News D2 Preview and is 12th in the Division II Bulletin Top 25.
The Mustangs carried the most No. 1 votes in the Lone Star Conference Preseason Poll released earlier this week but were outpointed by perennial preseason champ Tarleton State by three votes.
The Mustangs have claimed at least a share of five of the last seven conference titles while advancing further than any other LSC program in NCAA Division II postseason play in each of the last five years including three straight Elite Eight runs in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
MSU is one of four teams from the South Central Region to receive mention in the poll joining No. 1 Metro State (Colo.) in the rankings while Fort Lewis (Colo.) and Tarleton State (Texas) are receiving votes.
The Mustangs schedule features five games against teams receiving mention in the preseason rankings including contests against No. 25 Harding (Ark.) on Nov. 29, Arkansas Tech on Nov. 30, California State, San Bernardino on Dec. 22 and two rivalry games against Tarleton State on Jan. 15 and Feb. 5, 2014.
MSU opened the exhibition season with an 85-79 win over Mid-America Christian Wednesday night at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
The Mustangs, who claimed their seventh Lone Star Conference championship last season after rolling to a 22-9 record, return four starters buoyed by the injection of guard JaMichael Rivers, who averaged 10.5 points and 3.2 rebounds for MSU's 2012 Elite Eight squad. The senior, who sat out last season, garnered Preseason All-America mention from The Sporting News.
Another member of the Mustangs' Elite Eight run of 2012 returns in senior guard DeJuan Plummer, who averaged 5.5 points in 33 games two seasons ago, while Derek Kaster (6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and redshirt freshman Patrick Smith also return from last season's roster which produced a 22-9 mark, a Lone Star Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Division II South Central Region semifinals.
A strong group of transfers buoys the roster including Kevin Wagner (McLennan CC/Texas Tech), Tavarion Nix (Redlands CC), Xavier Blackburn (North Dakota State), Abiodun Adegoke (Western Texas) and DeVaughn Jones (Lackawanna).
A quartet of freshmen fills out the strong recruiting class consisting of Devante Pullum (Little Elm HS), Michael Ashiofu (Elsik HS), Nick Powell (Henrietta HS) and Cory Bennett (Iowa Park HS).
Midwestern State opens the season at the SWOSU Classic in Weatherford, Okla. on Nov. 8-9 battling former conference foes Southwestern Oklahoma State and East Central (Okla.).
The Mustangs play Langston (Okla.) in their final exhibition game Monday night at Ligon Coliseum. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.
Midwestern State struck for two goals in a 67-second stretch of the opening half then added another score early in the second half before holding on for a 3-2 win over Angelo State Friday afternoon at the ASU Soccer Complex.
The win clinches a share of Midwestern's fourth Lone Star Conference championship as the Mustangs, but will have to head back to San Angelo next weekend after the Belles scored two goals in the 48th minute to wrest away hosting rights.
The teams finished with identical 7-2-1 league marks and split the regular season series as the Rambelles came away with 1-0 on Sept. 26 in Wichita Falls. Angelo State earns the right to host by way of the second tiebreaker -- conference goal differential -- ending with a +7 margin to MSU's +6.
Midwestern struck first when Katy Catney hammered in her third goal of the season off an assist from senior Emily Saville in the 24th minute, then 67 seconds later sophomore Ashley Cottrell emerged from a scrum off of a throw-in to give the Mustangs a 2-0 advantage in the 25th minute.
MSU controlled the run of play taking advantage of scoring opportunities with stunning accuracy placing each of its 11 shots on frame.
Senior midfielder Mickey Brown put the game away knocking in her third goal of the season off of a feed from Catney in the 56th minute.
Angelo State broke up the MSU's bid for a school record tying 8th shutout of the season when Maggie Schaffer scored on an assist from Sierra Anderson in the 48th minute. Salena Alvarez scored on a breakaway just 45 seconds later allowing ASU to pull away the league's top seed.
The Mustangs finished the campaign with a perfect 7-0 mark on the road -- a first in program history -- and will most likely face Texas A&M-Commerce in the LSC semifinals Friday in San Angelo.
Midwestern State closes the regular season Sunday afternoon against Southwestern Oklahoma at the MSU Soccer Field. Kickoff for Senior Day is set for 3 p.m.