Borton’s squad might have a shot

With a couple improvements, the team could have a shot at the Big Ten title.

by Paul Cordes

Last year was a very interesting year for the Minnesota women’s basketball team.

Certainly a rebuilding year, the Gophers had just one senior as they were fresh off of five players leaving the program early in a two-week span.

They were young, inconsistent, at times sloppy and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in head coach Pam Borton’s tenure at the University.

But this year, things could be very different.

I’ve gotten a chance to watch them this year with a conference that is literally wide open for the taking; it’s tough to rule them out for a run of their own.

After much deliberation, I’ve devised a threesome of necessities for Minnesota to be successful, all of which are undoubtedly in the grasp of this Gophers squad.

Firstly, Minnesota’s guards have to take care of the ball.

Last year, the Gophers were second-to-last in the conference when it came to turnovers, giving up the ball 611 times. Only Wisconsin was worse with 618.

Last year, then-freshman guard Brittany McCoy had her fair share of troubles as she adjusted to her first year of collegiate play.

Already this season, the now-sophomore McCoy looks much more comfortable handling the ball, and has already amassed 20 assists in the Gophers’ first two exhibition games this season.

If McCoy, who looks like she’ll be handling the majority of the ball-handling for Minnesota at point guard, can reduce her turnover numbers from a year ago, she will help the Gophers’ cause immensely.

Secondly, junior guard Emily Fox has to adjust to the constant and aggressive pressure she is likely to see this year.

The preseason All Big Ten selection and possible All-American candidate will have a target on her back all season, and teams are going to do everything in their power to keep the ball out of her hands.

Minnesota is going to depend on her for a substantial amount of scoring, and Borton has already said when games come down to the wire, Fox is going to have the ball.

In Minnesota’s only slightly competitive exhibition game against Minnesota State a week ago, Fox had troubles with the pressure put on her by the Mavericks.

Fox scored just eight points, all of which came in the first half and was almost a non-factor offensively.

If Fox can slowly start to adjust to opponents’ defenses targeting her, she could have herself a breakout season.

Which brings us to the third and most important factor in my opinion – the Gophers’ post play.

Last season, post play was undoubtedly the weakest link.

Two freshmen started at center for the Gophers and though they showed moments of potential, they were inconsistent to say the least.

But with a year of experience, the Gophers’ sophomore centers Ashley Ellis-Milan and Zoe Harper have the opportunity to do some real damage and help Fox if she finds herself swarmed.

Ellis-Milan has already said she’s tired of using the “youth card” and is ready to get to work.

Senior forward Leslie Knight really heated up toward the end of last season and she is likely to play a big – if not the biggest role – in the paint this year.

The addition of 6-foot, 4-inch freshman forward Kristen Dockery is going to make a solid impact as well if she can get herself healthy.

None of the above should be considered out of reach for the Gophers as they try to get back on track this season.

Last year this young team exceeded the expectations of many and has the potential to do so again this season.

Borton is certainly known for having her players ready to go, and all the signs are pointing in the right direction for Minnesota as it prepares to open its season Nov. 9 against U.C. Riverside.

-Paul Cordes welcomes comments at [email protected].