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Women's Schedule Analysis, Part I

11/12 Davidson (Preseason WNIT) 7:00pm

2004 Recap: 16-12, RPI #181

The Scoop: Davidson had a pretty good year in the Southern Conference,
posting a record 13 wins in league play. The Wildcats had a deep lineup,
with nine different players getting at least 13 minutes a game. Four of
those nine return, including leading scorer Katie Hamilton. However,
Davidson lost its top two post players and its best distributors. The duo
of Meghan Bryant and Courtney Laird combined for 16 ppg, 11.7 rpg and 63
blocked shots. Robyn Flewelling and Lindsay Shade combined for just 8
ppg, but also dished out 5 apg. Davidson also lost second-leading scorer
Ashley Hallsted, who was one of their best long-range bombers at 34%.

Hamilton was the league's rookie of the year, averaging 11.9 ppg and
shooting 36% from three. She's Davidson's most dangerous player by far,
and will likely draw Lindsey Harding or Monique Currie as defenders. With
no size in the post, little-used 6-2 center Katie Delk might get the call,
or else Davidson could go with a three-forward lineup. That would involve
veterans Emily Callahan (6.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Brynn Kelly (4.2 ppg, 4.2
rpg), and Janell Crayton (4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg). Davidson will also need to
find a new point guard, with possibilities including veteran Jessica
Mitchel or frosh Honna Housley.

Two things are certain with Davidson: they will be extremely small
(their tallest player is 6-2) and they will shoot a lot of threes (530
last year, 100 more than their opponents). In addition to Hamilton,
Callahan and Crayton won't be shy about taking that shot either. Duke's
job will be to lock down on Davidson's shooters. That means they'll have
to be vigilant in calling out high screens so that players can rotate over
to cover shooters. If Duke can stop penetration and force contested
jumpers, they'll be in good shape. With no settled point guard for
Davidson, Duke should pressure the ball and make use of traps. Meanwhile,
the Devils should pound the ball inside early and often, using their size
and height differentials to their advantage. Davidson will likely
collapse into a zone early on, so the Devils will also need some
accurate long-range shooting.

11/14 Preseason WNIT Second Round 2:00pm (assuming Duke win)

1. Middle Tennessee State

2004 Recap: 24-8 (NCAA Second Round), RPI #60

The Scoop: The Blue Raiders are best known for their first-round conquest
of UNC in last year's NCAA tournament. As such, they are not to be taken
lightly. Their 2005 schedule certainly shows that they're looking for
challenges, with games against Alabama, Houston, South Carolina and
Cincinnati lined up along with the WNIT. With their top three scorers
returning and a pair of promising transfers from the SEC coming in, MTSU
has reason to be optimistic in 2005.

Their only significant loss in personnel was forward Keisha McClinic, a
tough and versatile player who could rebound, pass and hit the three. On
a team without a lot of significant size, she will be missed. However,
MTSU's Big Three of guard Patrice Holmes and forwards Krystle Horton & Tia
Stovall return. Holmes led the team with 15.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, 3 spg
and 57 threes (for 33%). She scored 18 points against both UNC and
Georgia. Horton averaged 15 and 5.7 while Stovall netted 10.7 and 5.5.
Stovall lived at the foul line, getting over 5 attempts a game and
converting at a 71% clip. While this trio is tough, what they aren't is
big--Horton is 6-2 and Stovall 6-1.

Beyond their big three, MTSU doesn't have a ton of proven depth. Ciara
Gray is a good shooter (32% 3FG) who's returning from a knee injury, while
Chrissy Givens has a shot at starting in the backcourt. However, the Blue
Raiders are looking towards 6-3 center Amber Benjamin (transfer from
Auburn) and 5-11 guard Monique Martin (transfer from Georgia) for a lot of
their support. Benjamin could give them the size, strength and rebounding
that they'll need against top clubs, while Martin could be the running
mate that Holmes needs to take some pressure off of her. Throw in four
other frosh, and MTSU could go eight or nine deep, if need be. The team's
weaknesses include shooting (only 28% as a team from three), size (there
are no proven shotblockers for them) and turnovers (18 a game). Of
course, they force 20 turnovers a game, so that's a wash.

Keys to winning this game would include keeping MTSU off the boards and
the foul line and containing Holmes. Lindsey Harding will almost
certainly draw her as her defensive assignment, and she'll have her hands
full. Once again, Duke will have to take advantage of their size and
power inside and try to get Horton & Stovall in early foul trouble. There
will also be no intimidation factor for MTSU after making UNC look stupid
last year, thanks to superior team play. This is a smart, well-coached
unit that knows how to win, and if Duke winds up playing them, it should
not be considered any kind of automatic win.

or

2. South Florida

2004 Recap: 14-15 (WNIT 1st round), RPI #95

The Scoop: USF got a bit of unwanted publicity recently after Andrea
Armstrong, a convert to Islam, quit the team after initially petitioning
the NCAA for the right to wear long sleeves and a head scarf while
playing. That bit of controversy aside, USF figures to be a very stiff
test for MTSU in the first round of the WNIT, and an upset is certainly
not out of the question. Don't be deceived by their 2004 record; the
Bulls played a tough non-conference schedule and then had to contend with
an underrated Conference USA slate, all with a very young team. USF
played (and lost to) Miami, Florida, FSU & Georgia, and all but the
latter were tight affairs. Meanwhile, USF beat TCU and Cincinnati and
lost close games to Charlotte, DePaul, and Houston. Many of those teams
had All-Americans.

The best news for USF is that their top nine scorers return;
essentially, that's every important player from last year. They may have
been young, but they got their sophs & frosh a lot of experience and that
figures to pay off this year. The team's most potent offensive weapon is
5-11 forward Jessica Dickson, who averaged 18.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg last year.
Anchoring the middle is Nalini Miller, a 6-2 center who averaged 10.4 &
7.6, along with 47 blocks. Both players got plenty of free throw
attempts, with both going over 100. Miller didn't crack 50% for the year,
however. The other member of the team's big three is point guard Anedra
Gilmore, a 5-6 player who averaged 7.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6 apg, 2.5 spg and
shot 42% from three. That's significant, because the team as a whole shot
29% from the bonus stripe. Avoiding their weaknesses, USF only attempted
9 threes per game last year.

USF gave 12 different players at least 11 minutes a game last year,
overcoming their problems with shooting by trying to wear opponents down.
Outside of the top three players and guard Rachael Sheats (6.4 ppg), no
one on the team averaged more than 5 ppg. Still, everyone had their
role--Ezria Parsons played 23 minutes a game but managed to get 6 rpg
along with 4.8 ppg. Another plus for USF will be the return of forward
Rae Rae Sayles, who got hurt after only five games last year. She is a
top-notch rebounder and a good scorer, a player who should be one of the
more important contributors on the team.

South Florida wins with depth, offensive rebounds (13 a game) and
defense (21 forced turnovers a game). While not a big team, they do have
a trio of 6-2 players and several shorter but capable rebounders. This is
another group that won't be scared of a big-time opponent, and MTSU's
success in a smaller conference should serve to motivate the Bulls.
Whether this will be enough to overcome their shooting weaknesses against
MTSU remains to be seen, but it should be an interesting, evenly-matched
game.

11/17 Preaseason WNIT Semifinals TBA (assuming Duke win)

1. Notre Dame

2004 Recap: 21-11 (NCAA Sweet 16), RPI #30, Final Ranking #20 USA Today

The Scoop: The Irish had a youngish team last year that persevered
through a brutal schedule to complete a fine season. While they lost 11
times and to some teams they should have beaten (Seton Hall and Georgetown
come to mind), ND played 11 ranked teams and crushed eventual national
champ UConn by 15 points. They also beat ranked teams like Auburn,
Virginia Tech, Miami (twice), Boston College (sweeping the new ACC teams!)
and Villanova, along with tough teams like Marquette and Middle Tennessee
State. This team grew up in a hurry, rallying to win 20 games after
losing 4 of their first 7. The Irish will be poised for a breakout season
in 2005 behind their veterans and some new talent.

They are led by All-America candidate Jacqueline Batteast. Of all the
potential opponents that Monique Currie might wind up facing, this is the
matchup that fascinates me the most because both players are so similar.
Batteast had to carry the scoring load for the Irish, and the 6-2 forward
was more than up to the task, averaging 16 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 bpg
and 1.5 spg. Like Currie, Batteast lived at the foul line, getting 150
attempts (but only converting at a 63% clip). More than half of her
rebounds came at the offensive end, a crucial stat for a team that lacked
an imposing low-post presence. Batteast also proved that she could hit
the three when left open, nailing 10-29 for 35%. If Duke does indeed wind
up playing Notre Dame, foul trouble could be the telling factor in the
matchup between Currie and Batteast.

Surrounding Batteast is an array of experienced complementary players.
Megan Duffy is the team's sharpshooter and playmaker, averaging 9.9 ppg
and shooting 40% from three (114 attempts). She also got 2.9 rpg and 3.9
apg, and did a nice job of getting to the foul line (105 attempts). At
the other forward is the very solid Courtney LeVere, who at 6-3 can hit
the short range jumper and post up. She averaged 8.6 ppg and 4.5 rpg, and
also blocked 1.2 shots a game. The other returning starter is center
Teresa Borton, the team's fifth option who averaged 5.8 ppg and 4 rpg
while shooting 53%. The only major losses for the team are starting guard
Le'Tania Severe, a slasher who averaged 7.3 ppg and attempted 118 free
throws; and bomber Jeneka Joyce (she attempted 120 shots; 111 of them were
threes!). Injury-plagued senior Katy Flecky recently quit the team after
averaging just 3.6 ppg last year.

The team will miss Severe's energy most of all, but speedster frosh
Tulyah Gaines will help with playmaking and penetrating. 6-5 frosh
Melissa D'Amico could help in the post, while touted soph forward Crystal
Erwin could be in a position to help a lot more this year. But the team
will rise and fall on Batteast and her continued growth as a player.
Coach Muffett McGraw knows how get the most out of her teams and has
done well in the past surrounding a star with great role players and
shooters--her 2001 national title is a testament to that. Despite Duke's
greater overall depth, size and quickness, the Irish would be very tough
to beat because of their experience and a potential home court advantage.
If Duke makes it to the third round, they will play on the road.

or

2. Nebraska

2004 Recap: (18-12, WNIT 2nd round), RPI #58

The Scoop: Nebraska is a major-conference team that plays against a pretty
good schedule but is unremarkable on a year-to-year basis. In 2005, they
may be less remarkable than usual, because they'll be losing 4 of their
top 5 scorers and will be reloading with a ton of (mostly Serbian) JuCo
players. How competitive they'll be at the beginning of the year is a
good question, and a win over Western Illinois in the WNIT's first round
is far from a given. Nebraska's solid wins came against Ohio State,
Kansas State, Colorado and Rice; they were pounded by league stalwarts
Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor. They also lost 2 matchups with Colorado
and generally struggled on the road, going 4-6.

The Huskers lost wing Alexa Johnson, the team's top scorer at 12.8 ppg.
Johnson shot a fine 40% from three and averaged 4.7 rpg. Also gone is the
team's top defender in Keasha Johnson, a 5-10 wing who averaged an
impressive 8.4 rpg to go along with her 11.1 ppg. Another important loss
is Margaret Richards, a slashing guard who amassed 128 foul shots to go
with her 9.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg. The last significant loss is center Katie
Morse. A solid post presence, she averaged 8.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg and nearly 2
bpg. She could also take her game outside, shooting 33% from three.

Returning for the Huskers are guards Kiera Hardy and Jina Johansen.
Hardy averaged 9.1 ppg but will need to improve her 31% mark from three.
Johansen only put up 5.2 ppg but was the team's playmaker, averaging
nearly 5 apg. The team will need immediate help from JuCos Bojana
Samardziska, Jelena Spiric, Ivana Drmanac and Elena Diaz in the
frontcourt, or they will be eaten alive by the vicious Big XII. Nebraska
will be aided by a tremendous homecourt advantage, but look for their game
against Western Illinois to go down to the wire.

or

3. Western Illinois

2004 Recap: 20-9, RPI #113

The Scoop: WIU won last year's Mid-Continent Conference regular-season
title, but were unexpectedly beaten by Oral Roberts in the MCC Tourney.
That spoiled a fine season overall for a solid mid-major club. They
played a decent non-conference schedule, getting pasted by Kansas State,
beating Wisconsin and narrowly losing to Indiana and Western Kentucky. In
general, they had problems on the road, only going 7-7 on the season.
They will no doubt be a tough opening draw for Nebraska, though playing
them in Lincoln will be difficult to overcome.

The good news for WIU is that they will return intimidating 6-7 shot
blocker Zane Teilane. The bad news is that they lose MCC player of the
year Tiffany Cornelius. That power duo was responsible for nearly half of
the team's points and couldn't be stopped inside by most conference foes.
Cornelius was a rugged forward who averaged 14.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, and 2.1
apg. She also lived at the foul line, shooting 70% on 125 attempts.
Replacing her all-around production will be difficult, especially as teams
will now be able to collapse on Teilane. This super-big was extremely
effective last year, scoring 14 ppg on 57% shooting. She also averaged a
dominating 9.4 rpg and 4 bpg, while shooting a solid 71% from the foul
line on 104 attempts. Teilane would be a tough matchup for either
Nebraska or Notre Dame if the rest of her teammates could help pick up
her slack.

WIU also returns most of its perimeter players. Jessica Cook is adept
at hitting the short jumper and driving, averaging 9 ppg at a 53% clip.
The team's shooters are Orinta Kavaliauskaite and Rita Castans, who
averaged 8.4 and 7.5 ppg, respectively. Kavaliauskaite shot 36% from
three (98 attempts) while Castans was the real gunner, taking 144 threes
and converting at a 37% rate. Castans also led the team in assists at 2.5
per game (playmaking was not the team's strength). Off the bench, forward
Liga Bergvalde (3.2 ppg) and guard Kristina Grbic (2.8 ppg) will be
expected to contribute off the bench, especially since they'll be seniors.

Overall, WIU will likely struggle to put up a lot of points and will
definitely struggle against more athletic teams. Teilane is a major
weapon, and the team will have to find ways to use her but take care to
insure that she stays out of foul trouble. She erases a lot of defensive
mistakes and her rebounding gave WIU an edge over most of their opponents.
For a team that doesn't defend well against perimeter players and turns
the ball over too often, that's an important advantage. If Teilane has a
big game against Nebraska, they will have a great shot at winning if their
shooters can convert open looks. If Teilane gets in foul trouble, the
Huskers will win by double digits.

11/19 Penn State 7:00pm

2004 Recap: 28-6 (NCAA Elite Eight), RPI #3, Final Ranking #5/#6 AP/USA Today

The Scoop: Penn State was one of the best teams in the country last year
but like Duke will have to rebuild without one of its best-ever players.
The Lady Lions lost one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history with the
departure of Kelly Mazzante, who averaged 20 ppg last year along with 4.1
rpg. While never a great shooter, her relentlessness on the offensive end
made her a constant threat. PSU will also miss Jess Brungo, a tough
forward who could score (10.1 ppg), rebound (5.9 rpg), hit threes, block
shots and play team defense. The team's starting center for most of the
year, Reicina Russell, decided to transfer. She cited a desire for more
playing time (and shots) after averaging 4.4 ppg and a team-high 6.7 rpg
in 21 mpg. (Oddly, she went to Georgia, where coach Andy Landers has
promptly signed several more post players. So much for more playing time.
See also: White, Crystal and her decision to transfer to LSU.)

The good news for Penn State is the return of guard Jess Strom and
forward Tanisha Wright. Wright was the team's second-leading scorer last
year at 14.8 ppg and also averaged 4 apg & 4.7 rpg. Her ability to
penetrate complements Strom, a 35% three point shooter who led the team in
assists with nearly 6 per game. Strom also averaged nearly 3 steals per
game along with 3.7 boards. Both shot over 80% from the foul line, and
both had over 100 free throw attempts last year. Also returning is
part-time starter Ashli Schwab, a 6-3 center whose numbers were modest
(3.1 ppg, 3 rpg). Without Russell, she'll be asked to help right away.
Another post player who'll need to step up is Amanda Brown, a 6-4 center
who averaged 3.7 & 2.8 in limited playing time; she has the potential to
be a solid shot-blocker. Penn State will need help in replacing Mazzante
at off guard; candidates include returnee Jennifer Harris (1.9 ppg) and
frosh Amber Bland, one of the top players in Ohio last year. There's no
question that Penn State will need a lot of help from its frosh and last
year's bench players if they're going to have a major impact on this
year's national scene.

Penn State certainly wasn't shy about playing the best last season.
They whipped LSU, Kansas State, Texas and Baylor while losing to Old
Dominion, UNC and Louisiana Tech. They won the Big 10's regular season
(beating Purdue twice), only to lose to the Boilermakers in the final of
the conference tourney. PSU handled capable Virginia Tech and Notre Dame
squads in the NCAA's before losing to UConn in the East Regional finals.
There's no question that their team stats were hard-earned and not
inflated by playing an easy slate.

What those numbers reveal is a hard-nosed team that won with defense and
smart play, but not a spectacular one. They scored about 70 ppg and gave
up only 57. They rarely turned the ball over, outrebounded their foes by
4 and blocked a bunch of shots. They shot an amazing 78% from the line as
a team and got plenty of attempts. Losing Mazzante and Brungo will hurt
them offensively, but Strom & Wright aren't a bad core to build around,
especially since those two are the team's playmakers. Wright is also
regarded as one of the best defenders in the Big 10. Penn State may not
be a top-ten quality team, but they will still be a tough team to beat,
especially given that Duke will have to play them right in the middle of
the WNIT. PSU's best players are in positions where Duke is more than
capable (point guard and small forward), so the game could come down to
how well Duke's posts can take advantage of their matchups.

11/21 Preseason WNIT Final TBA (assuming Duke wins)

1. Ohio State

2004 Recap: 21-10 (NCAA 2nd Round), RPI #32, Final Ranking #21 AP

The Scoop: If Duke makes it all the way to the WNIT finals, my guess is
that their opponent will be Ohio State. The Buckeyes were painfully young
last year and struggled in the early going, but they put together a solid
conference record highlighted by three wins over Minnesota. The best news
for OSU is that they return everyone except for rugged forward LaToya
Turner and also bring in a good frosh class. Ohio State did well early in
the season, though they did stumble at Nebraska. But after their only
significant nonconference win of the year (at UCSB), the Buckeyes
proceeded to lose 6 of their next 8 games. That included road losses
against Rutgers and a mediocre Illinois team as well as three straight
home losses. However, the Buckeyes turned it around, going 11-4 down the
stretch and putting in respectable showings in the Big 10 and NCAA
tournaments. With two frosh getting extended playing time, 2004 served as
a warm-up to a potential breakout season in 2005.

Ohio State's strength lies on the perimeter. They will be led by
fifth-year senior Caity Matter, a gunner who took 209 threes last year and
hit 35% of them. She averaged 14.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 1.9 apg along the
way. Also returning is last year's frosh standout Brandie Hoskins (a
one-time Duke recruit). Hoskins averaged 9.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg and an
impressive 4 apg. She also shot a solid 37% from three (on 41 attempts)
and was a starter from day one. The third guard in OSU's lineup is Kim
Wilburn, the team's point. While she only averaged 6.4 ppg, she put up
4.1 rpg, 5 apg and 2.9 spg as the team's ballhawk. Added to the mix this
year will be highly-regarded frosh Marscilla Packer, a local scoring
machine. One thing Ohio State won't be lacking is shooters.

The team's weakness will be in the frontcourt. The good news is that
6-6 C Jessica Davenport, another outstanding freshman from last year, will
be back and ready to improve on her already-impressive numbers. It must
be noted that Ohio State coach Jim Foster is noted for developing post
players, especially with his right-hand man, a figure well-known in Duke
circles. That would be Pete Gaudet, Coach K's former chief assistant, who
was well-known for his post play acumen. They have already molded
Davenport (another one-time Duke recruit) into an ultra-effective scorer
and shotblocker. She put up 12.5 ppg last year, shooting 63% from the
field. She led the team in free throw attempts at 136 (hitting 65%), and
also averaged 5.7 rpg and 2.5 bpg.

The bad news for OSU is that with Turner gone, they are seriously
undersized at power forward. It's going to be up to former Tennessee
player Michelle Munoz to step into the breach, but at just 6-0 it'll be
quite a challenge for her. Her first season for OSU was underwhelming to
say the least: 5.1 ppg and 2.7 rpg for a player with her credentials was
disappointing. She now has the opportunity to step in and make a
difference right away, and she could be the difference between a good
season and a great one. Another player who could help is Stephanie
Blanton, a highly-touted high school player who made a minimal impact as a
frosh: 3.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg. As a 5-11 wing, she could allow OSU to go to a
slightly bigger lineup when necessary. Packer, Hoskins and Matter are all
only 5-9 and Wilburn is just 5-6, and that height disparity is something
that's going to give OSU problems all year. Even with Turner last year,
they were only +0.7 on the boards and allowed 13 offensive rebounds a
game. Against a team like Duke and a player like Monique Currie, that
could be problematic.

Duke matches up nicely with Ohio State. Davenport's size could be
neutralized by Bales and Black. In fact, Bales played her team several
times in high school and usually won. OSU doesn't really have anyone to
guard Currie. As long as Duke manages to bust through screens and keep a
spy on Matter at all times, OSU could have a lot of trouble scoring. If
Hoskins and Davenport had big games, that could be trouble for Duke. Foul
trouble will also be a significant factor in this game; Currie or Bass
picking up early fouls could hurt Duke, while Davenport getting in early
trouble means that Duke could feast inside. Hopefully both teams will get
far enough for this matchup to materialize.

or

2. Arizona

2004 Recap: 24-9 (NCAA 1st Round), RPI #33

The Scoop: Arizona has a tremendous one-two punch in sharpshooting point
guard Dee-Dee Wheeler and space-eating center Shawntinice "Polky" Polk.
The duo led a shallow lineup to a solid season that ended in
disappointment with a first-round loss to Michigan State. Along the way,
Arizona didn't have a lot of big wins. They defeated a decent BYU squad,
edged New Mexico in the Pit, and beat PAC-10 foes Stanford and UCLA once.
Of course, they also dropped games to UCSB, ACC also-ran Virginia, and
lost 4 times in conference. Still, it was a solid season by any
measure, one that could set up an even better one in 2005.

Arizona will lose two significant players from last year. The first is
guard Aimee Grzyb, the team's gunner. She averaged 10.9 ppg last year and
nailed 35% of her 170 threes. Also gone is part-time starter CoCoa
Sanford, who averaged 5.2 ppg and 4 rpg. The Wildcats will need immediate
production from some of their frosh to make up for these losses. However,
Wheeler and Polk will handle the bulk of the scoring. Wheeler averaged
16.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5 apg and 3 spg, shooting 35% from three (130
attempts). Simply put, she was one of the best players in the PAC-10.
The huge but agile Polk averaged 16.6 ppg (shooting 57%), 10.3 rpg and 2.5
bpg. She also averaged 2 apg and 1.5 spg, showing the quickness of her
mind and hands. Despite those numbers, there's a sense that Polk has
barely scratched the surface of her talent. There were some games where
she seemed a bit out of it at both ends. A further problem was her
near-constant foul trouble, averaging over 3 a game and fouling out 7
times. When Polky was in the game, her 6-5 frame caused no end of trouble
for opponents. When she wasn't, Arizona was suddenly much easier to
guard.

The other players for Arizona include Natalie Jones, a guard who
averaged a solid 8.8 ppg and 4.6 rpg; Danielle Adefeso, a 6-2 center who
put up 4.4 and 2.6; and Shannon Hobson, a 6-2 post who averaged 4.4 and
2.6. With Grzyb gone, shooting becomes a significant concern for Arizona.
They only shot 32% from three as a team to begin with, and of the
returnees, only Wheeler and Jones hit more than 20 threes. The bottom
line for the Wildcats is that they will need a lot of help from their
supporting cast if they want to contend for the PAC-10 crown. If players
like Adefoso and Hobson can help take the pressure off Polk inside and
some more shooters emerge, this is a team that has a chance to do some
special things. Arizona would likely have to beat Rice and then Ohio
State to go to the finals. The matchup between Wheeler & Polk vs Matter &
Davenport would be a very intriguing one. Ultimately, I think OSU's
superior firepower gives them the overall edge.

or

3. Rice

2004 Recap: 22-10 (WNIT second round), RPI #52

The Scoop: The Owls had a solid season, playing against a very tough
non-conference slate and giving WAC champ Louisiana Tech some significant
challenges. In fact, Rice broke up a La Tech winning streak by beating
them in overtime. The Techsters had the last laugh, winning the last two
matchups of the season, including the WAC tourney final. Rice played (and
lost to) Arkansas, LSU, Baylor, Stanford and Nebraska, a strong group of
opponents for any program.

Rice countered their opponents' superior talent by wearing them down
with depth. Eleven players got at least 10 minutes per game, and nine
different players got starts. The team will lose their leading scorer,
Lindsey Maynard. She averaged 11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 2.5 apg, while
shooting 37% from three. The three pointer was a big weapon for the
Owls, with six different players sinking at least 10 shots last year. For
a team that had trouble rebounding (especially in stopping offensive
rebounds), this was a significant edge. Rice also loses Elisa Inman, who
put up 7.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg.

Returning for the Owls is their top post presence, Lauren Neaves. The
big forward averaged 10.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 2.8 bpg. Also coming back is
forward Michelle Woods, who put up 9.5 ppg and 6.1 rpg; she also shot 40%
from three on 70 attempts. The team's backcourt of Amber Cunningham (5.3
ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg) and Eshombi Singleton (4.4 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.6 apg)
also returns, along with utlity forward Anne Peck (7.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
Rice is a disciplined club that will fear no matchup, but probably doesn't
have the personnel to handle matchup problems like Shawntinice Polk and
Dee-Dee Wheeler in the second round. They'll make that game very
interesting, however.

or

4. St Joseph's

2004 Recap: 22-11 (WNIT 3rd round), RPI #64

The Scoop: It's difficult to say much about this St Joe's team. While
they had a nice season overall and had a good WNIT run, they didn't beat a
ranked team, getting crushed by UConn and Penn State. They also lost
three times to Philly rival Temple. The problem is that St Joe's lost its
top five leading scorers. That included forward Irina Krasnoshiok (12.8
ppg, 5.2 rpg), outstanding post player Stephanie Graff (12.6 ppg, 7.4
rpg), point guard Erin Brady (10.7 ppg, 3.7 apg) and shooters Amra
Mehmedic and Elizabeth Mohan (7.4 and 5.5 ppg). The Hawks only return
three players who received over 10 mpg, and only one of them scored over
5 ppg. That's guard Ayahna Cornish, who put up 5.2 ppg. Unless their frosh
and JuCos come through immediately, it could be a long year on Hawk Hill.
This is a proud program, but it's going to be tough for them to beat the
likes of Richmond, Xavier and Temple in the Atlantic 10 and even tougher
for them to advance in the WNIT. The chances of Duke playing them is very
slim indeed.

11/26 Stephen F Austin (Junkanoo Jam) 8:30pm

2004 Recap: 9-19, RPI #220

The Scoop: Duke punished SFA last year in the Duke Classic by 66 points.
While they return 11 of their top 12 scorers from what was a painfully
young team, they still have a lot of issues to address. Their biggest
problems remain size and ballhandling. SFU turned the ball over 100
times more than their opponents, and fields no regular taller than 6-1.
Their best players were a pair of forwards: 6-0 LaToya Mills (12.2 ppg,
8.1 rpg) and Kendria Smith (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Both prefer attacking the
rim to shooting jumpers, and neither is an adept passer. The team's
playmaker is also their third leading scorer, Nikki Carr (7.8 ppg, 3.1
rpg, 3 apg). Guard Kirby Killingsworth took 152 threes but only made 24%
of them, for 7.1 ppg.

Most likely, SFA will be outmatched inside. They will almost certainly
zone Duke early and often and try to keep the ball out of Mistie Williams'
hands. They'll try to attack Duke off the dribble and get Mo Currie in
foul trouble. Duke will need to respond by forcing lots of turnovers and
finding seams in the zone, preferably with lobs. SFA has a lot of bodies
and they will use them in an effort to slow Duke down. Since this game
will be in the Bahamas, it will be important for Duke to concentrate on
the task at hand, especially since the players might be tempted to look
ahead to Kansas State. This is one of only two teams ranked over #200 in
last year's RPI on Duke's schedule.

11/27 Junkanoo Jam 6:00pm (if Duke loses game 1)/8:30pm(if Duke wins game 1)

1. Kansas State

2004 Recap: 25-6 (NCAA 2nd Round), RPI #8, Final Ranking: #8/#15 AP/USA Today

The Scoop: K-State is another of this year's foes that was spectacular
last year that lost a pivotal player. In this case, it was the player in
the pivot, Nicole Ohlde, who went on to become one of the top rookies in
the WNBA last year. While the Wildcats will be returning some serious
firepower in the backcourt, losing Ohlde means having to find a new post
presence. All she did was average 17.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 4 apg (!) while
blocking 53 shots and shooting 57% from the field. Basically, whenever
she touched the ball, something good happened. Either she shot it and it
went in, or she passed to an open shooter. As a result, KSU shot lots of
threes (565, ~250 more than their opponents) and hit at an impressive 39%
clip.

K-State's weaknesses were exposed by physical clubs. They got pushed
around by Big Ten teams Purdue & Penn State and didn't have a great
non-conference slate aside from those two. It's no great surprise that
they lost to a bruising Texas club in their only meeting. Overall, KSU
wasn't a great rebounding team (only +3.9 against a weak schedule) and
losing Ohlde will only make them more vulnerable in 2005.

Putting that aside, let's discuss what will make them a threat: the senior
dynamic duo of 5-11 forward Kendra Wecker and guard Laurie Koehn. Wecker
has been an outstanding player since her freshman year and 2004 was no
exception. She averaged 16.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2 spg. Koehn was
there to do one thing: shoot the ball from three. She was 100-230 from
the bonus stripe in 2004 for an impressive 44%. The Wildcats return
several other important players, the most important of which is guard
Megan Mahoney. She led the team with 5.2 apg while scoring 8.4 ppg and
grabbing an impressive 7 rpg. Brie Madden is a 6-3 center who will get
every opportunity to step in for Ohlde; she averaged 4.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg
in limited minutes. Chelsea Domenico and Claire Coggins were both
part-time starters last year at wing; neither put up impressive numbers
but both will get an opportunity.

Even without Ohlde, Kansas State can hurt a team in a lot of different
ways, and this game will require a lot of defensive discipline on Duke's
part. They can't give up open looks from three or they could get buried.
Currie and Harding will have to blanket Wecker and Koehn, while once again
the rest of the team needs to take advantage of their matchups. If this
sounds like a broken record, that's because it's true of so many of Duke's
opponents this year. Very few of Duke's foes have potent post games, but
many of them have top-notch wings and guards. One thing to watch this
year will be how Monique Currie reacts to being called upon to defend the
other team's best scorers. This is an area where Wanisha Smith could make
a name for herself as well.

or

2. Illinois State

2004 Recap: 16-13, RPI #167

The Scoop: It is unlikely that Duke will face Illinois State, given that
their first-round foe is Kansas State and Duke's is Stephen F Austin...but
you never know. The Redbirds had an average year against average
competition in 2004, but will return their top player in Katie Donovan.
The forward scored an impressive 19.9 ppg in 2004, getting 169 at the foul
line while nailing 59 threes (29%). She also averaged 6.2 rpg and 3 apg.
The team also returns guard Jaci McCormack, who averaged 11.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg
and 4 apg while nailing 55 threes at a 34% clip. After that formidable
pair, the Redbirds are a bit thin. The team loses playmaker Taren O'Brien
and her 11.4 ppg & 4 apg, as well as post Zora Skrabalova (9.8 ppg, 6.7
rpg, 1 bpg). The only other returning player who averaged more than 5 ppg
is Erin Keeney, a forward who averaged 7.9 ppg and 5.3 rpg.

In 2004, the Redbirds basically played only six, and they lost 2 from
that group. They'll need players like 6-5 center Katie Ward to step up,
and could certainly be helped by Iowa State transfer Megan McCracken at
guard. Like Kansas State, Illinois State likes to shoot the three but
isn't that great at anything else. They can block some shots, but are a
poor rebounding club and especially struggle in trying to keep their foes
off the offensive glass. Their only chance against KSU is if their own
big three goes crazy from three, and KSU misses their own shots. Given
that Illinois State didn't beat a single decent team last year, this
doesn't seem likely.