How much will experience matter?
Last year’s squad was young and went through growing pains, but the Cajuns finally have some experience coming back. One of seven returning juniors is a healthy preseason second team All Sun Belt Conference guard Keke Veal, who was limited to 13 games last season but led the Cajuns in scoring average with 11.9 points per game. Junior guard Brooklyn Arceneaux led the team in total points last season, picking up the slack after Veal’s injury, but the Cajuns will be without her for at least two months as she recovers from her own off-season injury.
How’s the health picture?
Injuries were a big part of why the Cajuns fell off toward the end of last season, sandwiching a four-game winning streak between an eight-game and a three-game losing streak in their last 15 games. It’s already not looking great for the Cajuns, who have been battered and bruised during the preseason. In addition to Arceneaux’s extended absence, they will be without junior guard Sylvana Okde, who is out for the season after injuring her ACL. Jasmin Mills, who missed the last month of last season, is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a bone bruise.
How much of a youth movement will be there?
The Cajuns lost three members of last season’s freshman class, as Melody Williams, Braile Fields and Jeremica Edwards all left after their freshman season. But UL-Lafayette replaced those losses with four freshmen to go with redshirt freshman Jodi Quinn, a St. Thomas More product. A pair of those freshmen, 6-foot Simone Fields and 6-foot-2 D’Rae Tullock, give the Cajuns some of the size they’ve lacked in recent years. They make up two-thirds of the Cajuns players on the roster who stand 6-feet or taller. Fields scored a team-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the Cajuns last exhibition game.
Is the program still geaux-ing local?
Local high school St. Thomas More has been a pipeline to the Cajuns. Five players on the current roster prepped there: Veal, Arceneaux, Quinn, preseason third team All-SBC guard Kia Wilridge, and the team’s lone senior, Robbie Brown. Junior forward Adrienne Prejean (Lafayette High) gives the Cajuns a half dozen homegrown Acadiana players. The group — minus Quinn, who redshirted — combined to score 872 points last year, 45 percent of the Cajuns scoring output.
Can they win the Sun Belt?
They’ll have to get over some of the bumps and bruises they’ve already suffered through the preseason, but coach Gary Brodhead sounded confident in his club’s chances at the team’s media day. “The league is wide open,” Broadhead said. “If you tell me who’s going to win it, I’m going to say it’s us.” The Cajuns were tabbed to finish sixth by coaches, with defending regular-season champion Arkansas State the overwhelming favorite to win again with nine first place votes .
-- Luke Johnson