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January 10, 1994 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-10

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4 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, January 10, 1994

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With Lions, Hawkeyes, Boilers, Big
Ten is top conference in the land

As Big Ten play got underway this
week, each of the eleven teams was
mainly concerned about its own perfor-
mance. But there is something else on
everyone's mind this season: to once
and for all prove that the conference is
the best in the Division I-A.
College Sports ranked the Big Ten
second behind the Southeastern Confer-
ence in the preseason, but Purdue and
Northwestern have since joined Iowa,
Penn State and Ohio State in the CNN/
USA TODAY Top 25, and Indiana and
Minnesota in the top 35. Furthermore,
eight Big Ten teams are positioned for a
berth in the NCAA tournament.
SEC number one? Not any more.
"There is no question about our
conference being the best women's
basketball conference in America," Indi-
ana coach Jim Izard said. "I would
venture to say that in the next couple of
weeks we will have six teams in the top
The parity of the conference this
season should make for a wide-open
race for first place. The Hoosiers, Nit-
tany Lions, Wildcats and Hawkeyes
entered conference play undefeated and
the Big Ten sported a 87-20 out-of-
conference record.
"The polls are coming out with a
different person winning the Big Ten
and that's the way its going to be,"
Northwestern coach Don Perrelli added.
"Maybe the winner is going to have ...

three or four losses."
This parity makes it almost impos-
sible to provide an accurate forecast for
the upcoming season. Even the pre-
season coaches poll looks abit outdated
in its predictions, with a number of
teams playingbeyond expectations. But,
with much caution and humbleness, I
offer this order-of-finish for the 1994
Big Ten season.
No. 1: Penn State
The Nittany Lions finished first in
the preseason coaches poll ahead of
Iowa, yet the No. 2 Hawkeyes have a
one-place edge in the CNN/USA TO-
DAY Top 25. But with Iowa's loss of
All-American candidate Tia Jackson to
knee injury, Penn State still has to be
considered the favorite for the top spot.
"I think they have a lot more expe-
rienced players returning," Michigan
coach Trish Roberts said. "The tradi-
tion there at Penn State is phenomenal."
This season, the Nittany Lions fea-
ture a fast-paced, guard-oriented of-
fense, led by juniorguard Katina Mack
(14.9pointspergame). Andwithfive of
last year's top six scorers back, they are
the top-scoring conference team, aver-
aging 89.8 points a game. They recently
blitzed St. Joseph's, the Division I top-
ranked defense, 77-48.
"We are very deep in the guard
position, but lean in the post position,"
Penn State coach Renee Portland said.
"We have changed our offense a little
bit to become a little more guard-ori-

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ented. We have always run a lot, and we
are going to keep on running."
No.2: Iowa
Although the loss of preseason All-
Big Ten team selection Jackson for the
year to knee injury deprived the
Hawkeyes of one of their top players,
no one feels sorry for Iowa's prospects.
They are still loaded, and Jackson's
absence has been cushioned by the rest
of the senior class.
"One of the things that has been
impressive about this team is the out-
standingleadershipby our five seniors,"
Hawkeye coach Vivian Stringer said.
Iowa lost three key members of last
year's Final Four team, and have legiti-
mate concerns about filling some of
those voids. Senior forward Necole
Tunsil (16.1 ppg) leads a strong and
meaty frontcourt, but with the loss of
point guard Laure Aaron to graduation,
there is no experienced general to run
the floor. Iowa's top-ranked defense
(54.1 points allowed per game) has
been able to compensate, however, for
some offensive shakiness.
No.3: Purdue
The Boilermakers (1-0 BigTen, 9-
0 overall) are one of the conference's
teams soaring above preseason predic-
tions, as their No. 14 national ranking
indicates. Although Lin Dunn's team
returned no seniors, herfour freshmen,
led by Leslie Johnson (18.2 ppg), have
sparked an up-tempo, balanced squad
of four juniors and three seniors.
"In order for us to be successful, in
order forusto challenge for the top two
or three teams in the conference, our
freshmen are going to have to come
through for us," Dunn said. "Leslie
Johnson, Danielle McCulley and Nicki
Taggart really have the potential to
contribute as freshmen."
Johnson gives Purdue much-needed
bulk and muscle inside, which was
promoted team-wide by an off-season
weight conditioning program. The post
has been complemented in the perim-
eter by Purdue's top returning scorer
-junior guard Cindy Lamping.
"She's special," Dunn said. "We're
going to be looking to her for leader-
ship, to score. We feel likewe are going
to have a balanced attack, in that we
have perimeter shooters and we have
rugged, post-players inside. A lot de-
pends on maturity."
No.4: Ohio State
Last year, the Buckeyes were the
pride ofthe Big Ten, becoming the first
team in the conference's history to
make it to the national championship
game. And although sophomore pre-
season All-American Katie Smith
(20.8) is lighting it up again this year,
Ohio State is still coping with the losses
of three starters.
"I'm scared to look at what percent-
age of our points and rebounds we lost
with those three players," Buckeye
coach Nancy Darsch said. "It makes us
quite a different team. We don't have
the senior experience and leadership

we had at the one and two guard last
No.5: Northwestern
The No.18 Wildcats have not been
challenged in the Big Ten's preseason,
and a clash between their post-oriented,
halfcourt game and the up-tempo play-
ing styles of the rest of the conference
should make for interesting results. Se-
nior center Patricia Babcock had keyed
the interior play (10.7 rebounds per
game), with Northwestern leading the
Big Ten teams in field goal percentage
and rebounding margin.
"With the team that I have this year,
we are going to play four post players,"
Perrelli said. "We just don't have the
No.6: Indiana
Although ranked 10th in the pre-
season Big Ten poll, Izard predicted
before his Hoosiers played even one
game that they had the potential to be a
nationally-ranked team. And, indeed,
the No.34 Hoosiers may be playing as
well as anyone in the conference, thanks
to the return of guard Kris McGrade to
spark Izard's frequent rotation of play-
"She picks up the players around
her, she makes everyone around her



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No.8: Wisconsin
The Badgers, like many in the Big
Ten, have the capability toplay beyond
their preseason conference ranking (No.
8). Wisconsin averages 84.8 ppg, and
junior forward Camille Williams gives
the team perimeter shooting that can
match with anyone's in the Big Ten.
But, unlike last year, they can also get
things done inside, with 1992 Big Ten
Freshman of the Year Barb Franke (17.0
ppg, .576shooting percentage)reemerg-
ing as a force after sitting out a year with
a knee injury.
"Williams, I think, has emerged as
one of the better players in the Big Ten
and we've got a great freshmen class
that are expected to really help us out,"
Badgers coach Mary Murphy said. "I
think we'll also be a much different
team than we've been, especially last
year when we were decimated on the
No.9: Michigan State
Spartan coach Karen Langeland
expected her team to be much better
than their preseason conference rank-
ing of No.7, but the team has been slow
toget on track thus farthis season. They
dropped four pre-conference games to
the likes of Bowling Green and Central
Michigan, while getting blown out by
Purdue in their Big Ten opener. None-
theless, Langeland remains enthusias-
tic about her core of players, led by
junior forward Keisha Kelly (18.8 ppg)
and a much-heralded recruiting class.
"Basically, our three sophomores
last year led our team in all categories,
and we can add to them the five new-
comers who I think will be immediate
contributors to our success," Langeland
said. "I think (the Big Ten) will be
surprisedwhen they see our team play."
No.10: Illinois
Last year, the Fighting Illini en-
dured their sixth-straight losing season
and with the competitiveness of the Big
Ten this season, they might as well
chalk up a seventh.
But the somewhat improving Illi-
nois squad is capable of putting a scare
into a Big Ten opponent or two, espe-
cially with the three-point prowess of
senior guard Mandy Cunningham (21.6
"We realize it is going to be a great
challenge come January, but the play-
ers have a real good attitude," Fighting
Illini coach Kathy Kindsey said. "Last
year our players began to believe in
themselves. We hope to see a more
positive change in our season."
No.11: Michigan
You can look at the Wolverines
upcoming Big Ten season in two ways:
optimistically and realistically. The op-
timistic view is that Michigan can eke
out a number of wins as the kids quickly
mature. The realistic view is that the
rebuilding process may not be as kind,
and 11th place is awaiting Michigan
come April. Avoid the disappointment
and think realistically.




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Freshman center Catherine DiGiacinto
yesterday in Calihan Hall.'Michigan drc
than all of last season.


North Texas
Oral Roberts
Detroit Mercy
Michigan State
Ohio State

W 68-55
L 65-40
L 85-72
L 77-57
L 83-70
W 83-78
L 96-86
W 72-58
L 78-57
L 101-58
L 79-69
7:30 p.m.
2 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
1 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
2 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
7 p.m.
1 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
2 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
2 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
2 p.m-
@ a.,


1 l '




play harder," Izard said. "In talking
about our basketball team, I think the
first thing that comes to mind is excite-
ment. We're small, we're quick-we'll
play transition basketball, a lot of pres-
sure defense and switching on defense."
No.7: Minnesota
The No. 32 Golden Gophers sur-
prised a lot of people last season when
they finished fifth in the Big Ten. With
four returning starters, including pre-
season All-American and Big Ten lead-
ing scorer Carol Ann Shudlick (26.2
ppg), Minnesota is capable of being as
equally competitive this season. But the
question is, have they improved as much
as the rest of the Big Ten has?
"We are certainly excited about the
upcoming season," Minnesota coach
Linda Hill-MacDonald said. "We want
to be in the mix in the upper division at
the end of the year, and be successful at
the halfcourt game as well as to push an
up-tempo game when the opportunities
are available."

When Wayne Gretzky was traded
to the Los Angeles Kings, to say his
new team had to be rebuilt would be
an understatement. Gretzky wa.m
major force in reshaping the KinF
who made their first appearance in the
Stanley Cup finals in 1993.
When faced with a losing program
- as Los Angeles was - one option
is to change the composition of the
team. By trading for Gretzky, Kings
owner Bruce McNall did just that.
But sometimes adding a player just
isn't enough. A change of leadershi
may also be needed. Since May 19
the Michigan women's basketball team
has been undergoing the above men-
tioned changes. Head coach Trish
Roberts was the new leader brought in
from Maine, where she had a success-
ful four-year head coaching tenure:
Under her command, the Black
Bears won two North Atlantic Con-
ference championships (1990, 1991),
the Seaboard Conference title (190
and finished runner-up in the 1992

Crisler Arena Home games in CAPS
1992-93 record: 2-25 overall
1-17 Big Ten
11th place



Continued from page 1
was out there, you could have some
experience out on the court. She
would be able to pick-up the younger
kids and keep their heads in the game.
Because right now, there is no
leadership on the court."
Looking back at last year, it
would appear that Gray would be
the most unlikely candidate to be'
leading the team. At the beginning
of the season, the university brought
in Roberts, a coach with a passion
for winning and a strict coaching
For Roberts and Gray, it was a
case of conflicting personalities.
Unaccustomed to discipline, clashes
between coach and player eventually
resulted in Gray being suspended for
two weeks during the season.
"When I came in last year,

"I didn't think I was being lazy at
the time," said Gray, referring to the
suspension. "A lot of it had to do with
the high school I came from. I never
had to work. No one ever pushed me
in practice. I could do what I wanted
to do."
The difference between high
school and college basketball is like
night and day, and it took Gray until
the end of her sophomore year to
realize what her college coach wanted
out of her.
"Even with the suspension, it
didn't take me long before the
season was over to realize that I was
being lazy and I wasn't working
hard and coach Roberts was totally

"I knew that I had grown up,"
Gray said. "My friends, the people
around me knew that, but to name me
captain of the team let me know that
Trish also knew I had grown up. And
that meant more to me than anything
It appears that the only thing that
has kept Gray from blossoming has
been her kneecap. The injury has
been a thorn in her side ever since she
arrived at Michigan.
"The knee injury has hampered
her the whole way," Miles said.
"Her ability is still untapped. She
can run the floor. She can jump out
of the gym. She has some really
natural moves. She probably would
have been amazing to see had she
had four solid years."
It has been anything but four
solid years for Gray. It was only two
weeks into her freshman season
when she dislocated her kneecap
and was redshirted for the season.

talent as a basketball player.
If Gray decides not to finish out
the season, she is eligible to play one
more season due to her medical
redshirt freshman year. Right now,
she is concentrating on getting her
knee healthy and returning to the
"I have no control over me kne.
I can't control what might of been or
what could be," Gray said. "So I just
have to go out, if this is my last
year, and treat everything like it's
my last day. I know there is life after
basketball, but right now, basketball
is my life."
If this ends up being the last
season for Gray, she would like to
pursue a career in criminology. H
interest began by conversing with a
police officer at her high school and
was only reinforced a couple of
months ago when she participated in
a police ride-along.
"I have always been fascinated

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