CSU women’s basketball projected to win the Mountain West; Nystrom named preseason POY

Justin Michael

The 2016 Mountain West women’s basketball preseason poll was released Wednesday and as the three-time defending regular season champions, the Colorado State Rams are once again are projected to finish atop the conference.

The Rams received 283 points and 17 of 29 possible first-place votes from the league coaches and media, with Boise State coming in at No. 2 with 271 points and 11 first-place votes, and Fresno State close behind with 221 points. The remaining first place vote went to New Mexico, whom was projected to finish sixth.

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Along with being conference favorites, senior guard Ellen Nystrom was voted preseason MW Player of the Year and selected to the preseason all-conference team. Nystrom returns to CSU after an excellent 2015-16 season, in which she set CSU’s single-season assist record (186) and was selected as the 2015-16 MW Player of the Year.

The Lulea, Sweden native is one of nine letterwinners the Rams return this season and is just 68 points shy of 1,000 in her collegiate career. Selected to the All-Mountain West and Mountain West All-Defensive teams in each of her three previous seasons, Nystrom has been a force on both ends of the court throughout her time at CSU.

Fellow senior and Scandinavian Elin Gustavsson is also closing in on the Rams’ 1,000-point club, needing just 30 points to accomplish the feat. Gustavsson averaged 10.6 points in 2015-16, and turned it up even more in the postseason, averaging 16.8 points per game on 58.8-percent shooting in the MW Tournament to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

The two seniors have played an integral role in the success of the women’s program, which includes the only three-peat as MW Champions in conference history and the first NCAA tournament appearance (2016) since 2002.

The Rams dominated in every way possible last season, both individually and more importantly as a cohesive unit. At one point the team won 28 consecutive games and their winning percentage (.939) was the best in program history.

Since head coach Ryun Williams has been captaining the ship, this program has been as successful as any mid-major in the country and leading the team to an undefeated record in conference-play was a testament to the type of talent that this team possesses. Based on the preseason projections, the Mountain West feels that the crown is not going anywhere.

The Colorado State women’s basketball team makes its Moby Arena debut on Friday, Nov. 4 for a 7 p.m. MT exhibition game with CSU-Pueblo.

2016-17 Mountain West Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll:

1st – Colorado State (17 first-place votes), 283 points

2nd – Boise State (11), 271

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3rd – Fresno State, 225

4th – UNLV, 201

5th – San José State, 197

6th – New Mexico (1), 176

7th – San Diego State, 126

8th – Wyoming, 123

9th – Utah State, 97

10th – Nevada, 66

11th – Air Force, 28

2016-17 Mountain West Women’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team:

Brooke Pahukoa, Senior, Guard, Boise State

Ellen Nystrom, Senior, Guard, Colorado State

Bego Faz Davalos, Junior, Center, Fresno State

Cherise Beynon, Junior, Guard, New Mexico

Dezz Ramos, Senior, Guard, San José State

Preseason Player of the Year:

Ellen Nystrom, Senior, Guard, Colorado State

Preseason Freshman of the Year:

Mykiel Burleson, Freshman, Guard, New Mexico

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Hallie Gennett, Junior, Forward, San José State

Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.