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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
2009-10 Big Ten Non-Conference Analysis: Part III
Author: Jimmy D
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
It’s that time of year to take a tour of the 2009-10 non-conference schedules for each Big Ten women’s basketball team.
The third installment includes previews of Michigan, Illinois and Iowa.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (145)
The question they must be asking in Ann Arbor, "Is Head Coach Kevin Borseth leading the program on the road to recovery as evidenced by the results of his first year and a half at the helm, or is he taking them back down the stairs to the cellar as evidenced by their 2008-09 Big 10 season?" Last year’s non-conference campaign resulted in notable wins against Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, NC State, Cincinnati and Kentucky. Pretty impressive. And for 2009-10, there is no shortage of potential upset candidates: Xavier (24), Boston College (40), Kansas (56), Marquette (59) and Tennessee NCAA giant killers Ball State (48). Even their Big 10/ACC Challenge opponent, Virginia Tech (131), and rematch foe Southern Mississippi (127), lead by senior Stephanie Helgeson, pits the Wolverines against teams with better RPIs from last year. As to the direction, Coach Borseth would like to you to choose the former, but with a three year horizon. Since his arrival in Ann Arbor, his starting line-up has lacked year-to-year stability, and that will be true again this year. Whichever direction they are going, Michigan will provide us with one of the more intriguing non-conference slates to follow.
Looking at the 2009-10 roster, the first thing you notice is the return of 6’-6” senior post Krista Phillips. What may not be quite as apparent is that Phillips only started seven games last year, averaging 6.0 points in 19 minutes per game. Last year’s starters Carly Benson, Jessica Minnfield, Melinda Queen and Stephany Skrba have graduated, taking with them over 40% of the scoring, 50% of the rebounding and minutes played. But Coach Borseth showed last year that he was not afraid to go to his bench, starting Veronica Hicks, and giving significant minutes to Carmen Reynolds and Courtney Boylan. And Ashley Jones should be back after redshirting last year. In order for Michigan to improve, these players will need to increase their scoring commensurate with their increased minutes on the court. But who will be on the court? With about two weeks till the season starts, at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, Coach Borseth had not settled on a starting line-up. So beyond Veronica Hicks, no one else on the returning roster seems to have impressed enough to stake out a starting spot. So attention naturally turns to their new players. Michigan has six incoming freshman, but with none ranked higher than 75 by Blue Star and only two ranked higher than 150 - 6’-5” forward Samantha Arnold (79) from Lake Park HS, in Roselle, Illinois (a western suburb of Chicago) and Nya Jordan (145), a 6’-0” guard from Detroit Community HS one wonders whether they are going to be ready for prime time if Coach Borseth feels the necessity to call on them for significant minutes. But he may not have much choice.
Non-Conference W/L prediction: 7-3, taking wins from Marquette, Virginia Tech, Ball State and Southern Miss if they are improving, and 3-7 if things go not so well. Big 10 non-conference SOS – 4.
ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (119)
For a top flight program, this non-conference schedule might not jump out at you. But for the Fighting Illini, this is a pretty tight, competitive schedule. The overall range goes from Temple (27) at the top to Siena (199) at the bottom, the widest spread for any team in the Big 10. Of their ten opponents, seven teams have a better RPI from last year than Illinois – Temple, Bradley (112), Illinois St. (52), Alabama (94), Wake Forest (64), Marquette (59) and Oakland (66). However, their schedule might not be as difficult as last year’s RPIs make it look. For example, Illinois St. will be without Kristi Cirone, who will be playing professionally in Greece this year, not Normal. Last year, Cirone, the second player to win the Jackie Stiles Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award for three-consecutive years, set the Redbirds single-season records in scoring (657) and assists (203) to become the school's career leader in both categories. And RPI-wise, Alabama, Wake Forest and Marquette may have unduly benefitted from simply being in their respective conferences. Still, the Fighting Illini will have to be ready to play every game since they will have a realistic shot at winning, or losing, each game on their non-conference schedule.
The Illini 2009-10 roster has experience, with seniors Jenna Smith, All Big 10 first team, and forward Lacey Simpson returning, and youth. With only 10 players on the last year’s roster (and only nine after senior Chelsea Gordon’s late January ACL injury), then-freshmen guards Macie Blinn, Fabiola Josil and Lydia McCully found themselves in the starting line-up. Add to this a much heralded six player freshman class, all ranked in the top 150 by Blue Star, and the Illini could be poised for good things this year. The freshmen are led by 6’-2” forward Destiny Williams (16), a McDonald's All-America selection. Williams played on the U.S. U19 National gold medal team at the 2009 U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand this summer, and could round out a very formidable front line for the Illini. Brianna Jones (43), a 6’-2” forward from Central Catholic HS, in Toledo, Ohio, played with Ms. Williams on the Michigan Crossover AAU team out of Detroit. Coach Jolette Law has one more 6’-2” forward, Charisma Penn (70), out of Shaker Heights HS, Ohio. Penn was ranked 17th nationally and was listed as the No. 2 forward in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz. 5’-11” guard Amber Moore (109) was ranked No. 2 in the state of Michigan by MichLadyBallers.com and helped lead Country Day to the Michigan Class B state title in both 2009 & 2008. She was the 2009 Michigan Class B Player of the Year and considered Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue before choosing Illinois Two other in-state recruits, one upstate, one downstate, round out the class, Adrienne Godbold (101), a 6’-0” guard and Kersten Magrum (149), a 6’-1” forward. The most interesting fact about Godbold is that she attended the same high school as current WNBA star Cappie Pondexter, a former Jolette Law pupil at Rutgers. As with Michigan, this should be an intriguing non-conference campaign, but with more upside potential.
Non-Conference W/L prediction: 8-2, with another loss to Temple, this time at Temple – the Illini lost at home last year 66-47 – and Marquette. Big 10 non-conference SOS – 6.
IOWA HAWKEYES (37)
The Hawkeyes have a challenging non-conference schedule. While it does not approach Tennessee’s level, Head Coach Lisa Bluder may not have forgotten the year Iowa entered the Big 10 portion of their season undefeated, but did not get an invitation to the Big Dance. If they get through this schedule undefeated, look out: Iowa St. (14), South Dakota St. (23), Big 10/ACC Challenge foe Boston College (40), Kansas (56), probably UCLA (62), along with in-state rivals Drake (102) and Northern Iowa (174). Go Hawkeyes.
Last season saw the graduation of another talented trio of Hawkeyes – point guard Kristi Smith, center Megan Skouby and forward Wendy Ausdemore. They took with them almost 60% of Iowa’s scoring, but surprisingly, only a third of their rebounding. This presents an opportunity for Junior Kachine Alexander, a 5’-9” guard who lead the team in rebounds last year, Sr center JoAnn Hamlin, a 6’-3” transfer from Kansas St. and fellow Sophomores foward Kelly Krie and guards Kamile Wahlin and Hannah Draxten to step to the fore. The rest of Coach Bluder’s bench was rarely called upon, and the 2009 freshmen class is guard oriented, save for 6’-5” center Morgan Johnson (284). So it will be interesting to see what develops in Iowa City this year.
Non-Conference W/L prediction: 6-5, with losses to Iowa St., Boston College, South Dakota St., Kansas and maybe UCLA. Big 10 non-conference SOS – 3.
Next up: Michigan, Illinois and Iowa.