November 9, 2005
By Sara Livingston
Daily Sports Writer
It's hard to believe the same Wol-
verine who was perfect from the floor
in Sunday's women's basketball game
against the Ohio Legends is notorious
for day-dreaming in practice and drift-
ing off to cloud nine. Yet, that's how it's
gone for sophomore guard Jessica Star-
ling since the beginning of her fresh-
After averaging just 18.4 minutes last
season, Starling is ready to turn things
around and become an integral part of
both the Wolverines' offense and defense
both in the gym and on game day.
"We've known that we need Star-
ling," coach Cheryl Burnett said. "I
have never ever hesitated to say she is
one of the ones that works the hardest
and plays the best defense in games. She
handled the ball well, and we needed
another ball-handler and another scorer,
and that was Jessica Starling."
During the team's daily practices,
Starling has a tendency to get a little
too comfortable on the bench and tune-
out what Burnett says to the team. As
a result, Starling has seen few minutes
on the hardwood and has been forced to
come in off the bench in the Wolverine's
two exhibition games.
She played just 17 minutes against the
Ohio Legends but contributed on both
ends of the court. After sinking a wide-
open 3-pointer and a lay-up in the first
half, she managed to pick up an assist
and a rebound while also snatching four
steals to end the night. Starling finished
the game with seven points on 3-for-3
shooting, an improvement from the 5.4
points she averaged last season while
just one-third of her 161 shots.
From the fan's point of view, Starling
is one of the team's hardest workers and
Fifty's 21 Big Ten questions
Michigan sophomore Jessica Starling went a perfect 3-for-3 against the Ohio Legends.
it's time to go over some stuff.
Because I hear a lot of talk around
campus about the Big Ten title -
who's going to win, who's got a chance
and who's out.
It seems as if people can talk about
nothing else at this point in the year.
Michigan has always been
a football town, so, even
with basketball season just
starting and hockey as the
No. 2 team in the country,
football still gets top bill-
And in honor of notorious
rapper 50 Cent - who this
month is coming out with
a new video game, "Bul-
letproof," and a new movie, I
"Get Rich or Die Tryin"'- I HEF
have decided to answer 21
Questions about the Big Ten Cai
race. Let's get right to it. in th
Who's actually going to win? Can
Joe Pa really win another one?
Penn State has just one game left
- on the road against Michigan State
- and if the Nittany Lions win they're
in. It's that simple. Ohio State is the only
other team with just one loss, but the
Buckeyes still have to play both Michi-
gan and Northwestern. Paterno's glasses
are thicker than bricks, but it looks as if
he's still able to relate to young players.
A year ago, there were more questions
about Paterno's health than ridiculous,
unbelievable plot twists in ABC's Lost.
But he's finally silenced all the critics,
and the fans at Beaver Stadium appear to
be back behind the old man.
So is Penn State pretty much set?
Do the Wolverines have to win out?
Is there a scenario where Michigan
could actually go to a BCS game?
Interestingly, Michigan is the team
that scares Penn State the most - it is
the only one of the four teams contend-
ing for the title that has actually beat the
Nittany Lions. All that has to happen for
Michigan to go to a Big Ten game is: 1)
Michigan has to win its last two games;
2) Penn State has to lose to the woeful
Spartans; 3) Wisconsin has to lose to
Iowa. That three-way tie between Penn
State, Ohio State and Michigan would
give the Wolverines the nod. If Wiscon-
sin wins but all the other stuff happens,
then Penn State goes because of its over-
all record. Confusing, huh?
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said he
and the players talk every Sunday about
where they stand in the conference, and
where they stand right now is way out on
the outside using a telescope to see in. In
fact, I recently learned in my Naked Eye
Astronomy class that over the last week
or so, Mars was the closest
it's going to be to Earth in
the next 100-plus years. So
I guess it's safe to say that
even Mars is more down
to Earth than Michigan's
hopes of a Big Ten title.
How many teams are in
the race? Who could win
besides Penn State and
N Five. Michigan, Wiscon-
BERT sin and Northwestern are all
technically in the race. All
ht Up three of those teams have
gamne two losses - meaning they
all need help. Maybe not as much help as
Lewis Libby, but they are all long-shots
at this point.
But how many are really in the
race? Would it be possible to have a
No. Though all five teams are techni-
cally in the race, only four teams could
actually tie for the Big Ten champion-
ship. Since Ohio State has to play both
Northwestern and Michigan, one of
those three teams has to finish the year
with three losses.
Will Wisconsin choke? Again?
Has Barry Alvarez become more of
a choker than Latrell Sprewell at this
Yeah, you almost feel bad for the
Badgers - but not really. All they had
to do was win their last twogames
and they would have been guaranteed
at least a share of the title. It's kind of
reminiscent of last year, when Wiscon-
sin lost its final two games to lose the
Big Ten title by just one game. I still
remember Brutus the Buckeye stomping
on roses last year when Ohio State beat
the Wolverines in the last game of the
year. The Buckeyes thought they had
taken the Big Ten Championship away
from Michigan - but then Wisconsin
had to go and blow it, losing to Iowa 30-
7 to give away the title.
But what happens if Penn State
and Ohio State lose? What happens
if there's a two-way tie? How about a
three-way or even four-way tie?
Let's see - what are the other
options? It's possible that Penn State and
Ohio State both tie with just one loss. It's
possible that Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn
State and Ohio State - or Penn State,
Ohio State and Northwestern - will
all tie. This is the most contested Big
Ten race in recent memory, and, unless
Jim Delany, the conference's commish,
gets incredibly lucky, there will be a
contested, split title when the year's over.
So what would happen? If it's just two
teams - say Penn State and Ohio State
- the conference's BCS bid goes to the
winner of the head-to-head matchup (in
that example, Penn State). In the event of
a multiple-team tie, the winner is deter-
mined by overall record, including non-
conference games. With its undefeated
nonconference schedule, Penn State is in
the lead around the final turn.
Where will the Wolverines end up
if they don't win the Big Ten? Back to
Probably - if they're lucky. A record
of 8-3 could get Michigan into the Capi-
tal One Bowl or Outback Bowl, but if the
Wolverines lose to Ohio State (or Indi-
ana) and drop to 7-4, it could be off to
San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. Ugh.
Since the Rose Bowl is the national
championship game, where will the
winner of the Big Ten go? Who will
I don't know. I really have no idea. I've
heard plenty of talk about it - includ-
ing the possibility of a Penn State-Notre
Dame Fiesta Bowl. That would be fun
because it would pit a football coaching
god against the coach South Bend is cur-
rently worshiping - at least for a couple
I know you're excited, but how
much do you really want to see "Get
Rich or Die Tryin"'? Will you buy the
I think I'll leave Bulletproof on the
shelf, but the movie is another story. My
philosophy has been, and will always
be, that any movie with a rapper in it
is good and any movie about a rapper
is even better. Take a look at "Belly,"
"How High," "8 Mile" or anything that
Mos Def has been in if you want more
than my word.
is one of the first to dive for a loose ball
on defense. But that hustle and dedica-
tion doesn't transfer over to the practice
court and that's what Burnett looks at
when divvying up playing time.
"If she practices the way she played
tonight, she will be in there a lot," Bur-
nett said emphatically after Sunday's
game against the Ohio Legends.
During the team's first exhibition
game against Athletes In Action, Star-
ling played a meager five minutes, fail-
ing to get off a shot or grab a rebound.
After the team's one-point win, she real-
ized it was time to make a change if the
Wolverines were to avoid a repeat of last
season - when they finished with a 5-
23 record (1-15 Big Ten).
"I think I went back and I reevaluated
our last game," Starling said. "I noticed
that, in order for us to win, we need con-
tributions from everyone - everybody's
role is important and I have to step up."
Last season, Starling was primarily a
jump-shooter and a role-player in Bur-
nett's fast-paced offense. But, coming
into this season, Starling has established
herself as a defensive force. Along with
junior Kelly Helvey - the "backbone"
of the Wolverine's defense according to
Burnett - Starling has an opportunity
to make a noticeable impact on defense
by aiding Helvey whenever possible.
"I realized that I am going to have to
get better on defense, and that means
I am going to have to get in the pass-
ing lanes," Starling said. "And then I
just realized I should just leave it on the
court like it's my last every time I play."
Yet, it's not Burnett's words that have
been motivating Starling but rather the
recognition that she has nothing to lose.
The Wolverines head into the regular
season ranked second-to-last in the Big
Ten. And since the Wolverines finished
last season with just one conference vic-
tory, Starling said she feels she and the
team have nowhere to go but up.
"I think that with the little (wins)
that was motivation in itself," she said.
"Every game we go into, we are the
underdog. I have nothing to lose. I only
have something to prove. And I think,
as a team, we have gotten into that men-
tality that we have nothing to lose and
we only have something to gain."
- Ian Herbert can be reached
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