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November 07, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 5A


Daily Sports Writer
Last season, the Michigan
women's basketball team exceed-
ed expectations as it advanced to
the second round of the NCAA
Tournament while tying a pro-
gram-record 22 wins. But this is
not last season. The Wolverines
are in transition mode, and they
welcome a lot ofnew faces to their
Michigan returns one starter
from last season - junior forward
Nicole Elmblad - and only two
other players that saw playing
time last year - sophomore guard
Madison Ristovski and junior
forward Cyesha Goree. Besides
them, the Wolverines welcome
junior transfer Shannon Smith,
three freshmen and four players
returning fron anterior cruciate
ligament injuries, who didn't see
action last year. In other words,
of the 14 players on the team, only
four saw NCAA action last season.
Uncertainty with this year's
lineup brings Michigan coach
Kim Barnes Arico to center stage.
The second-year coach will have
her hands full finding offensive
rotations that can push the ball
as well as rebound. Barnes Arico's
squad is small, and her current
starting lineup features only one
listed true forward: Goree.
The guard position is the
strength of this young team.
Sporting six guards on its roster,
plus one guard/forward swing
player, Michigan is filled with ball
Leading the way is Smith, who
Barnes Arico said would be the

team's go-to scorer. Smith played
her freshman year at North Caro-
lina before transferring to Trinity
Valley Community College, which
she led to a junior college national
championship while averaging
15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8
assists per game.
After Michigan lost its potent
offensive ability when Kate
Thompson, Jenny Ryan and
Rachel Sheffer graduated, Smith
will have big shoes to fill. Barnes
Arico is going to look to Smith
first on the offensive end and
hopes the transfer can play big
Joining Smith is another new
face, freshman Siera Thompson.
The 5-foot-7 point guard has a
strong hold on the starting posi-
tion and showcased her speed in
the team's lone exhibition game,
putting up 13 points on 50-per-
cent shooting to go along with
seven assists.
After Smith and Thomp-
son, the starting lineup isn't as
straightforward. Barnes Arico
made a last-minute decision to
start Ristovski in the exhibition
game because of her strong week
of practice. Ristovski took advan-
tage of her opportunity, finish-
ing the game with 15 points, six
rebounds and four assists.
Last season, Ristovski came off
the bench, averaging 2.3 points
per game in 12.5 minutes. Barnes
Arico praised Ristovski for her
ability to crash the boards from
the guard position, and with a
lack of size on the team, such a
knack could lead to a permanent
starting role.
Behind Ristovski, the Wolver-
ines have two freshman guards
- Paige Rakers and Danielle Wil-
liams. Rakers could've seen play-

ing time early, but she tweaked
her foot early in the preseason,
causing a slight setback.
As for Williams, ESPN.com
ranks her as the 97th-best pros-
pect in the country and Barnes
Arico's already making com-
parisons to a young Ryan. In her
junior season, Williams helped
lead her high school to a national
championship. Her role this sea-
son is still up in the air, but Wil-
liams could see more playing time
if she continues making strides in
practice and Ristovski's produc-
tion falls off.
Lastly, Michigan has redshirt
sophomore Halle Wangler, who
transferred from Oakland. How-
ever, she will have to sit out the
season due to NCAA transfer
The Wolverines have serious
size issues. Last season, Elmblad
started at forward - despite being
listed as a guard - because of
her strong rebounding presence.
The junior had a breakout sea-
son, averaging 4.3 points and 5.4
rebounds in 29 minutes per game.
Barnes Arico will need Elmblad
to step up as the only experienced
The fifth starter will be Goree,
who saw limited time last year.
But this season, Barnes Arico says
Goree is a different player, having
lost over 20 pounds and improved
her conditioning in the offseason.
In the exhibition game, Goree
started out strong but soon got
winded - something more game
experience can help fix.
BehindGoree, Michiganisvery
thin at forward. The Wolverines
were initially counting on sopho-

Junior guard Nicole Elmblad is the only starter returning from the team that earned a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

more Kelsey Mitchell, one of the
players returning from ACL inju-
ry, but she suffered a broken foot
during preseason workouts and is
now expected to be out three to
five months. '
Next up is sophomore Rebecca
Lyttle, who is also coming off an
ACL injury. Lyttle didn't play last
season, and her production is an
unknown for this team. In her
sophomore year of high school,
Lyttle helped lead her team to the
state finals averaging 13 points,
eight rebounds and 3.5 assists per
game. After her sophomore sea-
son, Lyttle struggled with inju-
ries, something that's followed
her to college.
While junior walk-on Nicole
Flyer is new to the team, she's not

new to Michigan athletics. The
first-year forward spent her first
two years as a Wolverine on the
rowing team, but when Barnes
Arico assessed her team's size
problems, she had her coach-
es find a Michigan athlete tall
enough to play forward. While
Flyer fit the bill, her role on the
team is still up in the air, as her
game experience is very limited.
If the Wolverines are thin at
forward, then they're virtually
non-existent at center. Michigan
sports two center/forwards, who
are both coming off ACL injuries.
Senior Val Driscoll last saw
action during her sophomore year

when she averaged one point and
0.7 rebounds per contest. Like
the rest of the team, Driscoll is an
unknown, but Barnes Arico says
the senior is in the best shape of
her life and has shed 30 seconds
off her mile time.
The Wolverines also have
fifth-year senior Kendra Seto.
The Ontario native transferred to
Michigan after her freshman year
at Vermont and sat out her sopho-
more year due to transfer rules. In
her junior season, Seto played 27
games for the Wolverines, averag-
ing 1.5 points and 1.4 rebounds in
8.3 minutes per game. After sit-
ting out last season with an ACL
tear, Seto should see significant
playing time with a relatively
undersized team.

In Big Ten, gap between haves,
have-nots is bigger than ever


By LEV FACHER to make, but the Lady Lions are
Daily Sports Writer in fantastic shape compared to
many of the conference's better
In the early going, the race to teams from last year that have
the top of the Big Ten women's been decimated by graduation,
basketball standings looks to play particularly Michigan and Ohio
out just like it did last season. The State.
difference, though, is that the After missing out on the
number of middle-of-the-pack NCAA Tournament last year -
teams that separate the contend- which cost then-coach Jim Fos-
ers from the rest of the confer- ter his job - Ohio State also looks
ence might shrink drastically, if to play a role in the Big Ten race.
any remain at all. The Buckeyes handed the reigns
Three of the usual suspects - to Kevin McGuff, who compiled
Penn State, Michigan State and a 213-73 record in nine years at
Ohio State - find themselves Xavier before spending two years
popular picks to contend for a at Washington.
conference championship, while Ohio State was predicted to
2012-13 regular-season runner- finish third in the women's pre-
up Nebraska and Purdue, winner season media poll, but its success
of the last two Big Ten Tourna- will be contingent upon senior
ments, are receiving preseason guard Tayler Hill's ability to rec-
attention as well. reate her 2012-13 campaign, in
The conference's preseason which she averaged 21.1 points
coaches and media poll anointed per game and accounted for
Nebraska as the favorite to win almost one-third of the team's
the conference, much to the sur- total scoring.
prise of someone who knows bet- "(She was) one of the most pro-
ter than anyone else exactly how lific scorers in the history of our
good the Cornhuskers are. program," McGuff said. "We're
"I didn't pick us to win the Big still evolving."
Ten," said Nebraska coach Con- As a native Ohioan, McGuff is
nie Yori. "I don't know why any- well aware of the significance of
one else did." the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry,
But Yori's modesty doesn't but the Buckeyes could struggle
take away from the fact that without Hill, and the Wolverines
the Cornhuskers have many of have a lot of work to do in order
the necessary pieces in place to be as successful as they were
to build on their second-place last year, when Michigan entered
finish last year. Leading scorer the NCAA Tournament as a No.
Jordan Hooper is back, as is for- 8 seed.
ward Emily Cady, who averaged The Wolverines are looking
7.9 rebounds per game. Gone is to make the NCAA Tournament
guard Lyndsey Moore, who now field for the third year in a row
plays for the WNBA's Minne- but will need to fill the void left
sota Lynx, but despite the loss, by Jenny Ryan, who averaged
Nebraska still comes into the 10.2 points and 5.2 assists last
season as one of the conference's year and was a consistent force
most experienced squads. on both sides of the ball. The
But the Cornhuskers aren't Wolverines return less than 10
the only team returning the percent of their scoring, but that
backbone of their offense. Penn doesn't mean there isn't talent.
State's Maggie Lucas, the Big Already, three guards - sopho-
Ten Preseason Player of the Year, more Madison Ristovsky, fresh-
will be back for her senior season man Siera Thompson and junior
after averaging 20.1 points and Shannon Smith - have shown
leading the conference in 3-point that they can put up big scoring
accuracy, converting on 46.2 per- numbers for the Wolverines. Size
cent of her attempts. and defense will be concerns, but
But Lucas will have to adapt Michigan is certainly capable of
to life without Alex Bentley, a pulling off a few upsets.
three-time first-team All-Big Ten Barnes Arico expects to rotate
selection, meaning that she'll her starting lineup frequently
have to play the point more often. based on how players have been
Penn State has some adjustments performing recently, an opportu-

nity afforded to her thanks to the
lack of established starters from
last season.
"With a young team, it's
important for us to reward who
is practicing well," Barnes Arico
said. "We're trying to develop a
culture of consistency. ... If that
mean's we're going to switch it
up every game this year, I think
that's something we should do."
Besides, having such a young
and largely inexperienced team
has its silver lining - as of now,
there isn't much to go on when
it comes to preparing for Michi-
gan. Despite that, some coaches
still feel that they know what to
"One of the things that Kim
(Barnes Arico) does well is that
she has a specific style of play,"
McGuff said. "Even though the
players willbe different, the style
will be the same. They'll be up-
tempo, press.... We'll still have to
be extremely well-prepared."
Michigan State is looking to
make waves aswellbehind senior
guard Klarissa Bell, an East Lan-
sing native who did it all last
year, averaging 10.5 points, 6.1
rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
But the Spartans, too, lost a key
contributor in Jasmine Thomas,
who averaged 10.3 points and 5.3
boards per game. But Thomas's
absence might open the door for
Bell to take more shots, and with
the Spartans' balanced offen-
sive attack (last year, five players
averaged between 9.1 and 10.5
points per game) it's entirely pos-
sible that the scoring gap will be
replaced and then some in the
The media and coaches' pre-
diction of Nebraska at the top is
a reasonable one, but whether
there's any substantial separa-
tion between the Cornhusk-
ers and the rest of the league's
upper-echelon teams remains to
be seen. Michigan State and Penn
State are both more than capable
of winningthe conference, while
Purdue, despite mediocre regu-
lar-season performances in the
last two years, is still the back-to-
back Big Ten Tournament cham-
pion. Wisconsin is viewed as a
sleeper, and a new coach might
be all it takes to push a talented
Ohio State team into the tourna-

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