COLLEGES

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: The University of Maine was picked first in the America East preseason coaches poll for the third straight season, on Tuesday.

The Black Bears received six of the conference’s 10 first-place votes and earned 78 points. Stony Brook was second with 76 votes, followed by UMass Lowell (62) and Albany (54). UMaine finished 12-4 in the conference last season and earned a spot in the conference championship game for the fifth straight season. That game, and the NCAA tournament, were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Also, three UMaine players were picked for the preseason all-conference team. Former America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Blanca Milan, senior forward Maeve Carroll and senior guard Dor Saar were all named to the all-conference team.

• Dawn Staley already has accomplished so much at South Carolina. Now she can add the first preseason No. 1 ranking in school history to the list of achievements after the Gamecocks received 29 of the 30 first-place votes in The Associated Press preseason women’s Top 25 released Tuesday.

“It’s pretty cool to be the first to do things at a place, where you can feel the love for our team in this town,” said Staley, who has won a national championship and five SEC Tournament titles since coming to the school in 2008. “They’ve been along this journey with us and allowed us to do things like this.”

Following the Gamecocks at No. 2 was Stanford, which received the other first-place vote from the national media panel. It’s the Cardinal’s highest ranking in the preseason since the 2009 season when the team also was second. UConn, Baylor and Louisville round out the top five. It is the 14th consecutive year that the Huskies were ranked in the top five in the preseason.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No. 1 Alabama at LSU and No. 5 Texas A&M at Tennessee will not be played Saturday because of COVID-19 issues, raising the number of Southeastern Conference games postponed this week to three.

The SEC said that the Aggies and Volunteers will be rescheduled for Dec. 12, but the Crimson Tide’s game against the defending national champion Tigers is in danger of not being played at all after COVID-19 cases in LSU’s program.

• No. 24 Auburn has paused team activities after nine players and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tigers game at Mississippi State scheduled for Saturday had already been postponed because of an outbreak with the Bulldogs. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday his administration had already been discussing whether the Tigers would have had enough scholarship players for the game.

Auburn also has “a handful of close contact” cases having to quarantine in addition to the positive tests, Malzahn said. He didn’t give a specific number or which positions had been hardest hit. Auburn, which is coming off an open date, is scheduled to host Tennessee on Nov. 21. There’s at least a chance the Tigers wouldn’t have been able to play Saturday anyway. The SEC requires at least 53 scholarship players to be available.

• Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman will miss the Razorbacks’ game at No. 6 Florida on Saturday after having two positive COVID-19 tests.

AUTO RACING

INDYCAR: Helio Castroneves will return to IndyCar for six races next season with Meyer Shank Racing.

Shank will expand to a second car to accommodate Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. The popular Brazilian has driven for Roger Penske for 20 years but has been in sports cars the last three seasons. Penske still entered him in the last three Indy 500s.

The Indy 500 is included in the six-race deal for Castroneves. The 45-year-old will also race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Long Beach, California, and the road course races at Indy, Portland and Laguna Seca.

“I know it’s only six races, however, one of them is extremely important for me, which is the Indy 500,” Castroneves said Tuesday.

Castroneves has said he wants to return to IndyCar, where he raced full-time from 1998 through 2017. Team Penske moved him to IMSA sports cars in 2018 but is closing that team after this weekend’s season finale.


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