2004 Women's Basketball Season Previews
Illinois Fighting Illini
2003-2004 Record: 12-17, 4-12 Big Ten Conference (8th)
Head Coach: Kathi Bennett, Career Record: 286-160, Record at Indiana: 62-57 (5th Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard Cyndi Valentin
This year's edition of the Indiana Hoosiers will be without last year's leading scorer. Jenny DeMuth tore her ACL just minutes into the team's Midnight Madness season-opening practice and will be out the entire season. Junior guard Cyndi Valentin will be called upon to pick up the slack created by DeMuth's injury. Valentin, an all-conference selection a year ago, set the standard in 2003-04 from the free-throw line with a .925 percentage. The mark was both an Indiana and Big Ten record. One of the youngest teams in the country, the Hoosiers will also turn to a trio of sophomores in the starting lineup. Guards Annika Boyd and Leah Enterline averaged 4.2 and 5.1 points per game in their freshman seasons and center Sarah McKay averaged 5.9 points and 5.4 rebounds each time out. The lone senior in the starting lineup will be forward Jamie Gathing who sat out last season due to a knee injury.
2003-2004 Record: 16-13, 10-6 Big Ten Conference (4th) - Lost to Virginia Tech in NCAA First Round
Head Coach: Lisa Bulder, Career Record: 428-191, Record at Iowa: 73-49 (5th Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: center Jamie Cavey
Lisa Bulder comes into her fifth season at Iowa with three returning starters, led by senior center Jamie Cavey, the centerpiece of the offense. Having been selected to the All-Big Ten team last year, she leads all conference returnees with 16.8 points per game a season ago. Johanna Solverson will also be returning to her starting position this year. The junior forward averaged 5.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game a season ago. The team's next returning scorer Lindsay Richards underwent knee surgery in the off-season and is expected to rejoin the team in January. The junior guard recorded 5.4 points and 2.9 assists per game in 2003-04. Last year the Hawkeyes led the league in scoring with 73.4 points per game, as well as allowing the most points of any conference team, also 73.4 per game. The injection of junior guard Crystal Smith into the starting lineup should help the Iowa defense. Smith averaged 1.69 steals per game, despite averaging only 16.5 minutes per game. With increased playing time, Bulder expects Smith to be a difference maker, especially on the defensive side of the court.
2003-2004 Record: 14-17, 6-10 Big Ten Conference (7th)
Head Coach: Cheryl Burnett, Career Record: 333-153, Record at Michigan: 14-17 (2nd Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: forward Tabitha Pool
In her second season as the coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Cheryl Burnett will look to maximize the potential of her extremely young team. With a ten-player roster of seven freshman, one sophomore, no juniors, and two seniors, the leadership of 2003-04 All-Big Ten forward Tabitha Pool will be invaluable to the Wolverines. Pool's 7.8 rebounds per game rank as the second highest total of any Big Ten returnee. In addition to her rebounding total, she brings back with her 13.3 points per game from a season ago. Pool also led the Michigan squad in assists (65), blocks (24), and steals (44). The only other upperclassman on the roster is senior forward BreAnne McPhilamy, who averaged six minutes per game last year. Sophomore guard/forward Kelly Helvey started 22 games as a freshman a year ago and averaged 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in her freshman campaign.
Michigan State Spartans
2003-2004 Record: 22-9, 10-6 Big Ten Conference (4th) - Lost to Texas in NCAA Second Round
Head Coach: Joanne P. McCallie, Career Record: 235-125, Record at Michigan State: 68-52 (5th Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard Lindsay Bowen, forward/guard Liz Shimek, guard Kristin Haynie
The Michigan State Spartans were selected to finish second in the conference by the Big Ten coaches. The Spartans return all five of their starters from a season ago, including three that were selected to All-Big Ten teams. Junior guard Lindsay Bowen returns as the team's scoring leader, averaging 13.5 points per game last year. A 2003-04 All-Big Ten honoree, Bowen will be joined in the backcourt by fellow All-Conference team member Kristin Haynie. The junior guard averaged four assists and 2.7 steals per game a season ago, both team highs. Junior Liz Shimek, who plays primarily on the wing, is on pace to become the first Spartan to ever record both 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. Last season she averaged 10.8 and 8.1 per game respectively, making her the third member of the Spartans selected to an All-Big Ten squad. The frontcourt is anchored by senior center Kelli Roehrig, who averaged 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Michigan State had the Big Ten's top scoring defense last year allowing only 56.1 points per game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
2003-2004 Record: 25-9, 9-7 Big Ten Conference (6th) - Lost to Connecticut in NCAA Semifinal
Head Coach: Pam Borton, Career Record: 119-61, Record at Minnesota: 21-11 (3rd Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: center Janel McCarville
The expectations for Pam Borton's Minnesota Golden Gophers have grown. While winning 25 games in each of her first two years in Minneapolis, Borton took her team to the NCAA Final Four a year ago and returns three starters from that team. Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Janel McCarville leads the trio. Despite breaking her left hand in practice, McCarville is expected to only miss a handful of early-season games. McCarville's 17 double-doubles and 10.8 rebounds per game led the Big Ten last year, while her 2.88 steals per game were good for second most of any conference player. Despite losing Minnesota's all-time leading scorer Lindsay Whalen, the Gopher backcourt should continue to be strong. Juniors Shannon Schonrock and Shannon Bolden averaged 8.9 and 6 points per game respectively, but their potential shown in games where Whalen was sidelined with injuries. The Gophers will rely on these two veterans to continue to impress from downtown. While starting all 34 of the team's games last year, Schonrock shot 37 percent from beyond the arc, while Bolden connected on nearly 44 percent of her chances. McCarville and the Shannons will look to improve upon an impressive offensive output a season ago, when the Gophers were second in the conference in points per game with 71.5 and scoring margin, while averaging nearly 12 more points per game than their opponents.
2003-2004 Record: 8-20, 1-15 Big Ten Conference (11th)
Head Coach: Beth Combs, Career Record: 44-45, Record at Northwestern: 0-0 (1st Season)
Head Coach Beth Combs might be new to Northwestern, but her starting five won't be. When Combs came over to the Wildcats from Colgate she inherited an experienced group of starters, led by senior guard Samantha McComb. Last season McComb averaged 11.2 points and 2.7 assists per game, while entering the top-10 of the all-time Northwestern lists in three career categories. Joining McComb in the backcourt will be fellow senior Melissa Culver. The guard averaged 6.8 points and 2.1 assists per game in 2003-04. In the front court, junior forward Ifeoma Okonkwo and senior center Sarah Kwasinski will carry the load. Okonkwo, who led the team in rebounding and double-digit scoring, averaged 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds each time out, while Kwasinski put up 8.7 points and 5.2 boards, in addition to leading the team with 37 blocks. Senior forward Suzanne Morrison will return to the lineup this season after missing last year with an ankle injury. Other than these five starters, the rest of the Wildcats' roster is made up of underclassman, including five freshmen.
Ohio State Buckeyes
2003-2004 Record: 21-10, 11-5 Big Ten Conference (3rd) - Lost to Boston College in NCAA Second Round
Head Coach: Jim Foster, Career Record: 547-245, Record at Ohio State: 43-20 (3rd Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard Caity Matter, center Jessica Davenport (Freshman of the Year)
Not since Katie Smith ran the floor of St. John Arena have the expectations been so high for the Ohio State women's basketball team. Selected by the conference's coaches to win the Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes return most of their core players from 2003-04. Last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jessica Davenport led the Big Ten in field goal percentage connecting on over 62 percent of her attempts. She also led the league in blocked shots averaging 2.58 per game. The 6'4" center split touches last year with Latoya Turner, who has graduated, but now will become the focal point of a frontcourt that also includes Tennessee-transfer Michelle Munoz. The Ohio State backcourt remains intact from last season. The Buckeye's leading scorer (14.8 points per game) from a year ago, Caity Matter returns for her senior season. She will be joined by junior Kim Wilburn, who last year led the conference with 2.94 steals per game. Also in the backcourt is sophomore Brandie Hoskins, whose assist to turnover ratio is second best among conference returnees at 1.63. Ohio State outscored opponents last year by a margin of 11.6 points per game, by allowing the conference's second fewest points per game, 56.7.
Penn State Nittany Lions
2003-2004 Record: 28-6, 15-1 Big Ten Conference (1st) - Lost to Connnecticut in NCAA Regional Final
Head Coach: Rene Portland, Career Record: 649-222, Record at Penn State: 562-193 (25th Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard Tanisha Wright (Defensive Player of the Year), guard Jess Strom
Despite losing over 4,000 career points in the graduations of Jess Brungo and Kelly Mazzante, the cupboard is far from bare in Happy Valley. Rene Portland, who won her third consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year award in 2003-04, enters her 25 th year at the helm of the Penn State team with a pair of outstanding seniors. The Nittany Lions are led by guards Jess Strom and Tanisha Wright. Strom is coming off of a fantastic junior season, in which she was at or near the top of many Big Ten offensive categories. Coming into the 2004 season, Strom has the best assist/turnover ratio (1.96) of any Big Ten returnee and is second in assists (5.41) and steals per game (2.88). Strom currently sits fifth on the all-time Big Ten assists list with 641. That puts her 251 behind Northwestern's Nancy Kennelly's 892; a total Strom is capable of reaching. Sharing the backcourt with Strom for the two-time defending conference champions is Wright, a member of the Preseason All-Conference Team. Having won the honor the last two seasons, she is the only player in conference history to repeat as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The two head a team that outscored opponents by a conference best 12.4 points per game a season ago, while holding teams to a conference third-best 57.4 points each time out.
2003-2004 Record: 29-4, 14-2 Big Ten Conference (2nd) - Lost to Georgia in NCAA Regional Semifinal
Head Coach: Kristy Curry, Career Record: 136-31, Record at Purdue: 136-31 (6th Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard/forward Katie Gearlds (Freshman of the Year)
The two-time defending Big Ten Tournament champion Purdue Boilermakers have been selected by the media as the preseason favorite to win the conference title. The Boilermakers lost four of their five starters from a year ago, but have a pair of sophomore sensations to fill in the holes. Katie Gearlds, last year's Freshman of the Year as selected by the coaches, returns and looks to move into the starting lineup. As a freshman she averaged 10.6 points per game while serving as a reserve. Gearlds, who can play both guard and forward, was second on the team in steals and points per game and third in assists and blocks. Fellow sophomore Erin Lawless will also play an increased role. The forward averaged 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game coming off the bench in 2003-04. The lone returning starter from last year's 29-4 squad is senior center Emily Heikes. Last year she averaged 6.2 points and 6.3 boards per game. Head coach Kristy Curry has won either a regular-season or tournament championship in each of her five years in West Lafayette.
2003-2004 Record: 10-17, 4-12 Big Ten Conference (8th)
Head Coach: Lisa Stone, Career Record: 385-135, Record at Wisconsin: 10-17 (2nd Season)
Returning All-Big Ten Selections: guard Stephanie Rich
Wisconsin Head Coach Lisa Stone has a strong nucleus returning from her first season at the helm of the Badgers' program. Four starters from the 2003-04 team will again be on the floor this year, led by junior Ashley Josephson. The guard led last year's squad in scoring with 12.3 points per game and has the highest three-point percentage of any Big Ten returnee. Josephson will be joined in the backcourt by senior Stephanie Rich, last season's Big Ten assists leader, with 5.81 per game. An All-Big Ten honoree last year, Rich averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game a season ago. The frontcourt also returns a pair of veterans this year. Senior forward Ebba Gebisa is second among conference returnees with 1.96 blocks per game a year ago. She is accompanied in the paint by junior Jordan Wilson who cracked the starting lineup in the middle of last season and averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds each time out.