I have covered some information about our team roster broken down by post and guard positions. Now for the overall season prospects. First, I don't have any insider info, and I have only briefly looked at the rosters of some of our best B10 opposition teams. So this is just from my being a loyal fan who follows the team and watches or listens to every game that I can, as well as following our recruiting info and also info from the official team website.
The first impression of loyal fans is that we lost a lot of experience in the post position. Not only experience, but losing Sam O and Drey Mingo, we lost some very skilled players who in a lot of ways were the heart and soul of the team. We also lost up and coming talent in Taylor Manuel who transferred for undisclosed reasons. However, as I covered in the post analysis, we do have some skill and experience in the post. Our four primary players there are Whitney Bays, Liza Clemons, Camille Redmon, and Joslyn Massey. None of us fans have seen Bays on the court in a game, but I expect big things from her. If there is one key player who must remain healthy for a really good season, it would be her. Expect her to get a lot of playing time. Coach V has said that she plans to play a 4 and 1 offense, with 2 of the 4 (guards) crashing the boards. So Bays should be that 1 post player, with Camille Redmon backing her up. Clemons could also play there if needed. Some of our competition have a lot of height, especially Michigan State and Ohio State. This is why we will need to rely on Bridget Perry as a 6-2 guard to add to our team height on the court. We also have some 6-0 guards in Dee Dee Williams and Torrie Thornton to help out in the paint. As long as we stay healthy I believe we will hold our own in the paint. On offense at times we will run schemes to take advantage of our stable of guards with a ton of experience and youthful athletic ability.
Much has been made of turnovers, and rightly so. It seems that that bugaboo has haunted us for years. I'm not exactly sure why since we have so much skill and experience at handling the ball. The only things I can say about that are, one, a lot of them were by the post players, and two, a fast running team is playing a risk/reward type of game plan where a certain number of turnovers are expected. Those things being said, I am hoping for a reduction in turnovers per game this year. Great teams simply do not lose the turnover battle.
For rebounds, I have more or less covered that already. It isn't that complex, our players must play smart and get themselves in position and block out, play physical, and fight for every rebound. That is another aspect of the game where we obviously need to hold our own.
Two aspects of the game where we should excel is are shooting and passing. About half of the team are excellent 3-point shooters. Assuming we shoot a good percentage there, that should open up some lanes and shots in the paint. Whether we are running a fast break or playing in the half court, we should do well shooting the ball.
Defense. Well, like Coach MP, Coach V places a very high priority on defense. Players who get lazy on defense will be on the bench. Coach Auriemma has said that he considers Purdue to always play as a well-coached team, and I believe one reason he said that was because of our team defense. I expect nothing less than tough, steady, pressing defense the entire season. We have enough players to keep that up the entire game.
The schedule: As I said earlier, I don't know quite as much about what to expect from some of the other teams. If history is any indicator, our best conference opponents will be Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State. Some of the other teams may pull some surprises such as Illinois, Wisconsin, or Northwestern. Penn State will have 7 Freshmen, but from all indication they are an impressive lot. Another note is that 4 of our first 6 conference games are on the road, against some of our toughest competition. Our conference schedule doesn't really do us any favors. But then it is a physical conference no matter where the games are played. In non-conference we will not play Notre Dame or UConn, but we will play at Duke and Stanford down in a tournament in Mexico. We also play at Green Bay which always seems to put together competitive teams the last half a dozen years at least.
Predictions: I am not so good at this. As a minimum, expect us to finish in the top 4 or 5 teams in the Big Ten, compete for another Big Ten tournament championship, and get into the NCAA tournament. Can we win any championships? Well I won't rule any out and will leave that up to readers to predict for themselves.
Two overall things which are often overlooked in analyzing teams and that is character and academic achievement. Since Coach V has been here, I cannot single out a single player who I would say was lacking in either category. I am very proud of our girls and this year just as proud. They are fine representatives of Purdue University. I am very proud of each player as well as the overall team and staff, no matter what their final won-loss record looks like. But expect a competitive, winning season. Now let the games begin.