Minnesota picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten

Paul Cordes

As the preseason No. 9 team in the Big Ten, the Minnesota women’s basketball team has a lot of room to move up this season.

Coach Pam Borton said she hasn’t seen her team ranked this low since her tenure at Minnesota began in 2002. However, she isn’t letting the low ranking bother her.

“We’ve always been ranked either third or fourth with a target on our back and the high expectation,” she said. “I think we’re in a situation where we have an opportunity to surprise some people.”

The Gophers’ experience level is a prime reason for the low ranking. Minnesota returns just one starter from a year ago in senior guard Kelly Roysland, while losing five players before their eligibility expired.

That will give Roysland the largest leadership role on the team, as she has become the new face of Gophers women’s basketball.

Both Borton and Roysland acknowledged the strength of the Big Ten and how difficult road games are during conference play. Roysland said the level of competition is extremely high, and with the team’s first eight games of the year at home, the first Big Ten away game will mean a big change for the young players on the team.

“(The younger players) haven’t really experienced the Big Ten atmosphere and that can kind of be a little overwhelming at times,” she said. “But that’s a process we’re going to have to go through and hopefully as the season goes along we’re able to learn and grow.”

OSU preseason No.1

After losing just one conference game last season on its way to a Big Ten title, Ohio State is once again projected to be crowned the conference champion.

Coach Jim Foster will have three returning starters, including All American and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year senior center Jessica Davenport.

Foster said he believes this year’s team will be very balanced and be able to get points from a lot of players.

“We have a well-rounded team,” he said. “Balance is huge. When you have a player like (Davenport) people like to focus in on that. But the reality is we had four people average double figures last year and we should have four or five players average double figures this year.”

Being the top team in the conference usually puts a little added pressure on a team, but Davenport said she will take a “we’ve been here before attitude” into the season.

“Returning players know how it is and we’ll do a good job of letting the freshmen know how it is,” she said. “We have targets on our back and everyone wants to beat us but we’ve been here before. We’ll play our games and we’ll win them.”

Third Player of the Year award for Davenport?

Davenport will make a run for her third Big Ten Player of the Year award as she leads No. 5 Ohio State this year.

Davenport led the Big Ten last year in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, blocks, and defensive rebounds. She helped Team USA earn gold in the Opals World Challenge last spring and was picked unanimously by Big Ten coaches and media to earn the Player of the Year award this season.

Davenport talked about her role on the team as well as the added pressure of being picked to be the best of the Big Ten.

“I’m just going to make sure I bring energy to every game and be a vocal leader, as well as lead by example,” she said. “I realize what the expectations are of me and accept them, so I really don’t feel any extra pressure.”

New coach at IU Ö again

For the third consecutive season, the Indiana women’s basketball team will begin the season with a new head coach.

This year, Felisha Legette-Jack will take the helm for the Hoosiers, and she said she is extremely excited to be at Indiana and is there to stay.

“I’m ecstatic. Once you feel the electricity and the adrenaline rush that you get when you step into Assembly Hall, you have to be excited,” she said. “Eventually we’re going to turn this thing into something great.

“The future is bright for Indiana women’s basketball and I’m just glad to be along for the ride.”

Senior guard Leah Enterline has been through every coaching change and said having to learn new systems each year and having to adjust to new styles each year was something that was very tough for her as a player.

However, Enterline said she is very excited about what Legette-Jack is bringing to the program.

“Coach Jack brought her staff in and they bring so much passion and energy to the game that it’s just amazing,” she said. “It almost knocks you off your feet the first time they came in, because you just weren’t expecting all of the excitement and passion they were bringing.”

Leggette-Jack outlined her plan to bring some stability to the program in order to “make Indiana the Mecca of women’s basketball.”

“Our plan is simple. We are here to pursue championships on and off the court,” she said. “In the classroom first, our character in the community and then basketball comes third. If we take care of our character and our academics, basketball will take care of itself.”