A look around the Big Ten conference with Coaches’ Notes, Recaps

COLLEGE PARK, MD - MARCH 25: Maryland coach Brenda Frese with Maryland Terrapins guard Channise Lewis (3) and guard Taylor Mikesell (11) during a NCAA Div.1 Women's championship second round game between the Maryland Terrapins and the UCLA Bruins on March 25, 2019, at Xfinity Center, in College Park, Maryland.(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - MARCH 25: Maryland coach Brenda Frese with Maryland Terrapins guard Channise Lewis (3) and guard Taylor Mikesell (11) during a NCAA Div.1 Women's championship second round game between the Maryland Terrapins and the UCLA Bruins on March 25, 2019, at Xfinity Center, in College Park, Maryland.(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

A quick glance around the conference as the regular season begins.

AP Poll

The Preseason AP Poll for NCAA Women’s Basketball was released on Wednesday morning, with five Big Ten Teams cracking the top 25. Maryland ⁠— a national championship contender with a deep mix of young talent and veteran leadership ⁠— tops the list for the conference, ranked fourth nationally  after earning 596 voter points. Suzy Merchant’s Michigan State Spartans begin the season ranked 17th in the country, the first time they’ve been ranked in the preseason poll since the 2015-16 season. The Minnesota Golden Gophers check in at No. 23, the Indiana Hoosiers at No. 24 and the Michigan Wolverines at No. 25.

From Ann Arbor

The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Northwood Timberwolves ⁠— a DII opponent missing their top scorer Ellie Taylor ⁠— at home in an exhibition match on Wednesday night, 97-46. Michigan played all 11 players on their roster, finding significant minutes for all three freshmen in Izabel Varejao, Maddie Nolan and Michelle Sidor.

Varejao particularly impressed with her footwork in the low post, scoring a majority of her 18 points on turnaround hook shots. Varejao grew up in Brazil but played high school basketball in North Carolina. The niece of former NBA player Anderson admitted she was nervous throughout her first time playing college basketball in the United States, but that it “felt great” to have success in her first outing. She also credited the returning post players on the roster for helping her become acclimated to the program.

“Naz [Hillmon] and Hailey [Brown] have taught me how to be tough, they’re both strong girls, very good leaders,” said Varejao.

Hillmon scored 16 points in the game on 6-7 shooting from the field. Coach Kim Barnes Arico said that battling against Hillmon in practice will allow Varejao to develop into an “elite level player.”

Michigan’s two seniors, Akienreh Johnson and Kayla Robbins, combined for 26 points on 9-14 shooting. In her first action at Crisler Center, the aforementioned newcomer Michelle Sidor scored eight points. Although she connected on her first three-point attempt, she finished the contest just 2-6 from the field. The 3000-point scorer from New Jersey hopes that her shooting prowess in high school translates to not just the collegiate level, but in Big Ten competition.

“[Sidor’s] a bucket getter and I think she really needs to have that mentality on the floor,” Barnes Arico said.

The exhibition contest was the Wolverines’ lone one of the season, officially kicking off the campaign on November 8 on their home court against Western Michigan.

More from Big Ten Conference

Around the Conference & Coaches’ Notes

Penn State ⁠— The Nittany Lions defeated Kutztown in an exhibition match, 64-44, on Friday night. Junior guard Kamaria McDaniel scored 25 points in the win, an unofficial victory for new Head Coach Carolyn Kieger.

Kieger said that her goals besides improving the on-court product were to primarily increase student involvement and interest in her program, specifically citing “passion and excitement for the season,” and wanting to fill the Bryce Jordan Center seats with more fans.

Wisconsin ⁠— The Badgers beat UW-Whitewater, 67-34, in an exhibition match on Wednesday night. Sophomore forward Imani Lewis led the scoring for Wisconsin, tallying 15 points, while senior guard Kendra Van Leeuwen contributed five assists.

Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis said that the team’s run in the NCAA tournament last year was a culmination of a process characterized by consistency, and that it gives the team confidence entering this season.

“You step on the floor knowing you do things better than your opponent,” said Tsipis.

Michigan State ⁠— The No. 17 ranked Spartans defeated Ferris State in an exhibition match on Tuesday night, 85-45. Senior guard Shay Colley led Michigan State with 14 points while freshman Moira Joiner scored 11 in her first action in East Lansing.

Maryland ⁠— The No. 4 ranked Terrapins were victorious over Lincoln (PA) in their final exhibition match on Tuesday night, 115-52. Five Terps scored in double figures, highlighted by the performances of freshman Faith Masonius and sophomore Shakira Austin, who each scored 21 points.

Austin is a player who Head Coach Brenda Frese is particularly excited about for this season, as she said the 6’5” forward spent the entire summer in the weight room and has “made the biggest jump by far.”

Nebraska ⁠— The Huskers will play an exhibition match against Rogers State on Saturday afternoon. Ironically, Nebraska Head Coach Amy Williams began her coaching career at Rogers State, where she spent five seasons with the program from 2007-2012.

Minnesota ⁠— The Golden Gophers do not play an exhibition game this year, beginning regular season play on Tuesday night at home against Missouri State.

In her second season as head coach, Lindsay Whalen said she appreciates having gone through a full year’s cycle of what the role entails — recruiting in the summer, practices in October, and the regular season. Whalen said she’s learned that the “season is a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of ups and downs.”

Illinois ⁠— The Illini also don’t play any preseason matches this year, officially starting their season on Tuesday afternoon against Chicago State.

Northwestern ⁠— The Wildcats’ season gets underway considerably later than their conference counterparts. They have an exhibition game against Ferris on Wednesday before opening regular season play on November 10 at home against Loyola Maryland.

Purdue ⁠— The Boilermakers will play their lone exhibition match on Sunday afternoon against Southern Indiana.

Purdue’s seniors — Ae’Rianna Harris and Dominique Oden — will provide leadership to a roster that was devoid of seniors a season ago. Head Coach Sharon Versyp said that the two “have a sense of urgency,” and that they “demand accountability and responsibility.”

Iowa ⁠— The Hawkeyes will host Winona State on Sunday for an exhibition contest. When asked about the stability of her program after losing 2018-19 Big Ten Ten Player of the Year Megan Gustafson, head coach Lisa Bluder said that even though characters change, the way they play the game remains consistent.

“When you have the stability of our program… it lets you have the time to develop a culture that takes a while to develop,” said Bluder.

Ohio State ⁠— The Buckeyes will host an exhibition game against Urbana on Sunday afternoon.

With a young roster containing the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the country, Coach Kevin McGuff stressed that this will be a year of development, and that it’s just a matter of how much progress can be made. His primary keys for remaining competitive with a young roster in a difficult Big Ten?

“Defend and rebound.”

Indiana ⁠— The Hoosiers square off against McKendree on Sunday afternoon in an exhibition match.

Bendu Yeaney, the junior guard and Indiana’s fourth-leading scorer from last year, will begin the season injured while concluding her recovery from an achilles rupture. Per Head Coach Teri Moren, Yeaney is expected back “sooner rather than later,” acknowledging she’ll likely return within the next couple of months.

Rutgers ⁠— The Scarlet Knights defeated Fordham last Saturday, October 26, 73-57. Junior Tekia Mack impressed with 26 points, which would’ve been a career-high should the game have counted.

C. Vivian Stringer is excited about the cohesion of this year’s roster, saying that this might be the most “unified” group she’s had in Piscataway. She enjoys watching the veteran and young players “hold each other accountable” and constantly provide suggestions for improvement. Rutgers kicks off their season on Tuesday night on the road against South Alabama.

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