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Big 10/ACC Challenge Preview: Part II

Published: 11/26/2009
Author: Jimmy D
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists

In Part II of the Big 10/ACC Challenge Preview, we take a look at Minnesota vs. Maryland, Iowa vs. Boston College, Indiana vs. Florida State, and Wisconsin vs. North Carolina State.

Minnesota Gophers vs. Maryland Terrapins

While the 2009-10 Minnesota roster looks similar to its 2008-09 roster, with the exception of Emily Fox, Maryland cannot make the same claim. Not only have the Terps lost four starters, but two of them, Marissa Coleman and Kristi Tolliver, were All-American caliber players that carried the team all year long. With two juniors-to-be transferring to other Division 1 programs and a projected frontline starter recently dismissed due to academics, who does Coach Brenda Frese have to address these voids and support returning starter, 6’-4” sophomore C Lynetta Kizer, the ACC Rookie of the Year? The Terps lone senior is Illinois transfer Lori Bjork. Sophomore Kim Roger, averaging 11.0 minutes per game in 17 games after redshirting her freshman season due to a knee injury, played her best basketball late, during the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Fellow sophomore Anjale Barrett also sat out a year (2007-08) due to a knee injury and last year averaged 4.0 points in 16.4 minutes per game, mostly off the bench. Possible impact freshmen include Fr - 5’-7” PG Dara Taylor (23) and 6’-6” F/C Essence Townsend (90), or perhaps 6’-3” F Tianna Hawkins, who was the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Maryland in 2008-09 and is rated higher than Townsend by the All-Star Girls Report. Also available Fr F Forward Diandra Tchatchouang from France and Redshirt freshman Jackie Nared. Unlike last year, this season, they will all get a chance to play. To be sure, Maryland won the National Championship in 2006 with a roster full of underclassmen: Fr Marissa Coleman and Kristi Tolliver, So Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne and Jr Shay Doran. But one has to ask, “With their current roster, what are the odds of lightning striking twice for the Terps?” Maybe next year, as Maryland’s heralded 2010 recruiting class will simply add more weapons to the Terrapins young arsenal. Looking at their solid 2008-09 non-conference schedule and this year’s less challenging slate (Maryland has nine non-conference opponents with RPIs over 100), even Coach Frese knows that things will be different in College Park. Their match-up against Mississippi St. confirmed that as the Bulldogs opened the game on a 17-3, and never looked back, routing the Terps 84-55. Given Minnesota’s experience and defensive intensity, this could be another for Maryland’s to see what they are made of before the ACC season begins.

  • Prediction: Minnesota in a Big 10 “upset” on the road at College Park.

    Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Boston College Eagles

    While the Hawkeyes must replace a talented trio of Hawkeyes –G Kristi Smith, C Megan Skouby and F Wendy Ausdemore, possibly relying on a quartet of untested freshmen, Boston College will see the return of all five starters. BC is better positioned, with fellow juniors 6’-6” C Carolyn Swords and 6’-4” F Stephanie Murphy anchoring their line-up. They combined to score 26.2 points and haul in 15.5 rebounds per game last year, and should aggressively go at Iowa’s less experienced frontcourt. Preseason expectations had the Eagles poised to move into the upper tier of the ACC, but a season opening losses to Harvard, Rutgers and Vermont may have refocused their attention here on terra firma. With games against Fresno St. and possibly SMU (if the Eagles win against Fresno St.) on tap over Thanksgiving, we may have a better idea as to whether BC continues in a tailspin, or recovers by the time they face off against the Hawkeyes. To make matters worse for Iowa, they have lost the services of Sr C JoAnn Hamlin due to a blood clot discovered in her leg just prior to the opening of the 2009-10 season. Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder said the ailment could keep Hamlin from ever playing basketball again. Her absence leaves 6’-5” Fr Morgan Johnson as the Hawkeyes' only true center. Also, according to the Iowa’s Official Athletic Site, So F Hannah Draxten, a projected starter this year at small forward, has seen a specialist for a bulging disc in her back. She will be off the court for at least a week, maybe longer. Couple the players they lost to graduation with these medical issues and the Hawkeyes may struggle as they work their way through a tough non-conference schedule. Jr Kachine Alexander, at 5’-9”, will find ways to continue to score and rebound through all this, and Iowa may hang with BC for a while, but the Eagles’ front line may have too much firepower for the depleted Hawkeyes.

  • Prediction: Boston College returns to the East Coast with a victory.

    Indiana Hoosiers vs. Florida St. Seminoles

    Like last year’s Penn. St. – Florida St. match up, this may be the mismatch of this year’s slate. While Florida St.’s 12-2 record earned the Seminoles a tie atop the ACC regular season standings with Maryland, Indiana, with an 11-7 record, was tied with Minnesota for fifth place in the Big 10. Florida St. did lose two of their top three scorers, but they are still picked to finish 3rd in the 2009-10 ACC Women's Basketball Preseason Media Poll, and consistently in the 13th-15th slots in many national preseason Top 25 Previews. Sr F/C Jacinta Moore is on the 2009-10 Preseason All-ACC Team, having averaged a team-high 13.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game along with eight double-doubles last year. Moore is complimented on the front line by 6’-4” So C Cierra Bravard, who was named to the 2009 All-ACC Freshman Team and finished fourth on the team in scoring at 9.7 ppg and third in rebounding at 4.7 rpg. 6’-3” Fr F Chelsea Davis (66) and 6’-0” redshirt Fr F Chastity Clayton may also find a spot in their front line rotation. In their 66-62 win over Florida, the Seminoles got half of their offensive production from the bench, as both Moore and Bravard were limited by foul trouble. This will be a tough order for the always scrappy Hoosiers, who lost over half their point total per game, and half their defensive steals and their top three rebounders to graduation. It looks like guards Jamie Braun and Jori Davis will be joined by JC transfer F Hope Elam and So F Sasha Chaplin in the starting line-up, with 5’-6” Fr Sasha Bernhard handling the point guard duties. Jr G Whitney Lindsay, So F Danilsa Andujar, Fr F Aulani Sinclair and So G Ashlee Mells will rotate in off the bench. To stay in this contest, all the Hoosiers will need to be on their game. And they still may come up short.

  • Prediction: Florida State victory.

    Wisconsin Badgers vs. NC State Wolfpack

    Last year in the Big 10 / ACC challenge, Wisconsin defeated Virginia Tech, a team that ended up tied for last place in the ACC with a 2-12 conference record, and had the worst RPI (131) in the conference. At least this year, the Badgers should find a somewhat more worthy opponent in NC State. Only two years ago, the Badgers were picked by Women’s Basketball magazine to win the Big 10 and NC State was ranked 25th in the USA Today / ESPN Top 25 Preseason Rankings. By the end of the 2008-09 season, Wisconsin was tied with Penn St. for seventh place in the Big 10 while NC State, at 5-9, was tied with Wake Forest for eighth place in the ACC standings. With neither team having an incoming freshman class expected to make a significant immediate impact, the performance of their returning players will have to tell the story in 2009-10. NC State’s top scorer, 5’-9” senior G Shayla Fields, who averaged 17.4 ppg last year, graduated. Head Coach Kelly Harper, a former point guard who lead Tennessee to three national titles, has to hope that the guards still on the Wolfpack roster live up to their recruiting rankings coming out of high school. NC State started three guards - Nakitta Cantrell, who averaged 10.9 ppg last year, Amber White, back after missing the 2008-09 season with an Achilles injury and Marissa Kastanek, a 5’-9” freshman along with two forwards - 6’-1” Sr Lucy Ellison and 5’-11” So Bonae Holston against Florida International to open the season. Holston was named the ACC's sixth player of the year and voted to the all-freshman team last year. With this kind of a line-up, it’s all about putting the ball in the basket. Against Vermont, they shoot 37% from the field, including 13.3% from 3-pt. range and they lose. Against Florida Atlantic, they shoot 49.2% from the field and 45.5% from the 3-pt line, and they win. Simple. For Wisconsin, 5’-7” G Alyssa Karel returns for her junior year. Karel scored in double digits in 26 of their 34 games; leading the Badgers in scoring in 18 games. She also led the team and ranked seventh in the Big Ten with 12.8 ppg. Look for a repeat of last year as the entire Wisconsin starting line-up returns. Like Michigan, this is a team that had a successful non-conference campaign last year, opening the season with a loss to S. Dakota St, but then going on to beat Drake, Villanova, Baylor, Virginia Tech and Marquette. Like Michigan, the Badgers then struggled with their Big 10 schedule, ending conference play with a 6-12 record. In 2008-09, the Badgers averaged only 56.6 ppg. So the key to this game: The team shoots the ball better will probably win. Brilliant.

  • Prediction: Advantage – NC State, as the storied Wolfpack program works to restore the tradition. NC State wins at home on Kay Yow Court.

    Coming next: Penn State vs. Georgia Tech, Illinois vs. Wake Forest, Northwestern vs. Clemson and Michigan vs. Virginia Tech.

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