The Cougars are coming off a 32-4 campaign, their first 30-win season since 2000-01 and their fifth all time.
All 17 players on the 2013-14 roster are from Indiana.
Top returnees include senior guard Skylarr Shurn, sophomore forward Brooke Ridley and senior guard Jenelle Wilson.
The Cougars return just two double-figure scorers.
Among the newcomers is former Indiana All-Star Akyah Taylor, a 5-foot-11 center/forward from Elkhart Memorial, who transferred in the spring from Michigan State.
4 games of interest
Saturday vs. Indiana Tech: First of two cross-town meetings this season with the Warriors.
Dec. 7 vs. Indiana Wesleyan: First meeting since the Cougars, then ranked fourth, knocked off No. 1 Wesleyan at Wesleyan, 54-48, to win the Crossroads League tournament last year. It was the Cougars’ 10th tournament title and their first tournament win at Wesleyan since 1995.
Jan. 8 vs. Bethel: The Pilots inflicted one of Saint Francis’ four losses last season in overtime at Mishawaka and lost by just three in the rematch at Saint Francis before the Cougars pounded them 71-44 in the conference tournament.
Feb. 1 at Indiana Wesleyan: Saint Francis returns to the scene of its last regular-season loss, a 59-57 squeaker. The Cougars didn’t lose again until bowing out of the NAIA national tournament in the third round more than a month later.
3 key players
Skylarr Shurn, Sr., G: Shurn was the Cougars’ second-leading scorer last season (14.8 ppg) and also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Shurn scored 17 of her team-high 21 points in the second half of the Cougars’ comeback win over Indiana Wesleyan in the Crossroads tournament.
Brooke Ridley, So., F: Ridley averaged 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Cougars last year, third and second, respectively, on the team. She also led the team in blocks with 67. No one else had more than 14.
Jenelle Wilson, Sr., G: Wilson averaged 9 points and is the Cougars’ top returning distributor with 2.5 assists per game.
2 points of concern
Who’s this year’s Kayla Drake? Drake was the undisputed engine for the Cougars last year and not just because she led the team in scoring at 15.7 ppg. She also led them in steals (90) and assists (2.7 apg) and was third on the team in rebounding (3.9 rpg). Someone will have to step into all those roles.
Inside job: Ridley’s a good start down low for the Cougars, but she’ll need help. Look for Taylor and Kalah Baer, who averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13.4 minutes last year, to provide the help.
1 major issue
How do you follow 32-4? The problem with winding up on top of the heap is everyone guns for you. The Cougars are in that position now, with just three seniors who regularly contribute and nine freshmen and sophomores. How quickly the kids develop will determine how much or little drop-off there is.