© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Below is the Boilermakerís schedule for the year.
This preview was written prior to the Valparaiso game, thus the thumbnail for that contest does not reflect reality. The Crusaders did put up a fight while the Boilerís evidenced a host of problems running an offense. One hopes this was a small road bump on the way to a successful season.
The questions about the Boilersí abilities to rebound and run an effective offense are not likely to be answered in their opening game. The Crusaders are not likely to put up too much of a fight in Mackey.
The scheduling of in-state opponents is said to improve recruiting and a teamís stature locally. Indianapolis-based Butler gives the Boilers some in-state exposure, but shouldnít pose much of a test on the court.
U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
The Boilers go from the kiddy pool to the deep end in a hurry down in the Paradise Jam. The Blue Devilís new head coach is Joanne P. McCallie from Michigan State. One thing in the Boilerís favor is their familiarity with McCallie and her rigid adherence to the match-up zone. Thatís about it, however, as Duke returns a bevy All-Americans and looks to return to prominence in the womenís basketball world. Any hope that Purdue might have in pulling off the upset rests on their abilities to hit outside shots.
Ever since Dawn Staley turned the Temple Owls into perennial NCAA participants there have been rumors that she would leave for greener pastures. For now she seems content heading the Atlantic 10 power. They will prove a stern test for the Boilers, but it is certainly a game the Old Gold and Black can win.
11/25 either Connecticut, Old Dominion or Stanford
All are tough, good teams. Old Dominionís star has been on the wane lately, but they are a proud program.
11/29 at North Carolina
The Tar Heels are Purdueís foes in the Big 10/ACC challenge this year. Thus the Boilers have the chance to avenge the team responsible for sending them home from the past two NCAA tournaments. The Heels lost several players to the WNBA last year, but return a stable of speedy athletes led by Erlana Larkins. In Chapel Hill, the Heels are prohibitive favorites.
After running the Virgin Island Ė North Carolina gauntlet, the Boilers return to Mackey for a confidence builder against Southeast Missouri State. The Red hawks should be an easy victory.
12/8 Notre Dame
The Irish have underachieved of late, and they would like nothing more than to knock off the Boilers on their home turf. If Purdue stays focused and plays under control they should have no trouble sending them back to South Bend without a victory.
12/19 at Gonzaga
Gonzaga would dearly love for its womenís program to follow in the steps of the men. This hasnít happened as of yet, and to date the Bulldogs remain on the outside of the basketball elite. Knocking off a team like Purdue would help establish the teamís cred, and they will be a tough out on their home court.
12/21 at Washington
Purdue continues its west coast road trip against Washington. A solid PAC 10 team, the Huskies will be another tough, but winnable, contest.
After a few Big 10 teams, the Boilers will play Connecticut out of conference in a nationally televised game. If the team doesnít know what itís all about before Jaunary 6th, playing a team like Connecticut will bring it all into high relief. Like the games against Duke and North Carolina earlier in the year, the benefits of playing a team of this caliber before the NCAA tournament out weight the prohibitive likelihood that the Boilers will lose big. I certainly hope that Iím wrong, but the Huskies eat teams like the Boilers as an appetizer.
Big 10 Season
Between the big name graduations and coaching upheaval, the Big 10 conference is very difficult to read. In addition, adding two conference games to the schedule means that every team will play all but 2 teams twice. Thus the luck of home court selection will count for much less this year than in earlier seasons. Time will tell which of the new coaches will excel and which will stumble. The one sure bet is that Ohio State will be one of the better teams Ė after that itís anybodyís guess.
You know itís an odd year in the Big 10 when youíre glad that the Badgers are one of the teams that Purdue will only play one time. Great things are anticipated in Badger land. The biggest reason is pre-season Big 10 player of the year Jolene Anderson. With the departures of Davenport and Gearlds, Anderson is the unquestioned best player in the Big 10. Along with Anderson, the Badgers bring back all their other key players. This consistency is the primary reason Wisconsin has been predicted to do very well this year. However, these consistent players are the same ones who 7-9 in the Big 10 last season. Go figure.
Itís been feast or famine since head coach Pam Bortonís arrival in Minneapolis. She rode a previous coachís recruits to the Final Four, only to watch wholesale player defections that decimated the squad. This season looks to be a rebuilding year, but the lack of recent transfers is a sign for cautious optimism in Gopher Country. The teamís signature is one of a tough nosed, aggressive defensive team, and there is every reason to expect this style of play in 2007-2008.
1/03, 1/14 Indiana
Nobody is giving Indiana any credit, but they may be a tough team this year. They have finally hired a competent coach who is recruiting well and has the team playing up to their potential. They may surprise a few folks before the seasonís over.
1/10, 2/21 Michigan
Nobody has further to go than Michigan. New head coach Kevin Borseth wasnít left with much when he took over. Borseth managed to get it done year after year in the Horizon League while at UW-Green Bay, and he looks to be the new head coach with the best track record. No doubt the Maize and Blue will struggle for another season or two, but there is reason for hope at last in Ann Arbor.
1/17 Penn State
It looks as if the soap opera that has been Penn State womenís basketball is finally over. Controversial head Rene Portland stepped down at the end of last season Ė it may never be known if that decision was voluntary on her part. Into her place steps long time Notre Dame assistant Coquese Washington. Washington has some promising players to work with such as Gissandanner and OíRourke, but probably not enough fire power to crack the top third of the Big 10 this year. Washington has one of those impeccable rťsumťs that make her impossible to evaluate. She has a host of accomplishments from being an assistant on a national championship team, playing in the WNBA on a championship team, and being an accomplished lawyer. How these translate into wins and losses in State College remains to be seen.
1/20, 2/03 Northwestern
It seems like it was just yesterday when Beth Combs took over at Northwestern, but she is now one of the senior members of the Big 10 coaches. The Wildcats have been improving by baby steps, but expectations are for a giant leap forward with the addition of 6-5 freshman Amy Jaeschke. Early season losses to New Mexico and Western Michigan donít bode well for the Cats, however.
1/24, 2/14 Iowa
One wonders if Lisa Bluder is starting to feel some heat in Iowa. Since her arrival the team has gone through the same script Ė they usually start fast (a consequence of mandated games against a host of in-state rivals from mid-major conferences) then start to stub their toes as their schedule toughens up in conference. The team returns all five starters, and this just might be the Hawkeyeís year. In Iowa City, the major hurdle to big wins has been the teamís ability to play defense. If they figure out a way to manufacture a stop against a tough opponent, the team could go all the way.
1/27, 3/2 Illinois
Long time Rutgers assistant Jolette Law has taken over the Illini helm with the retirement of Theresa Grentz. Since her arrival in Champaign, Law has excelled at talking the talk Ė making bold predictions about the teamís abilities. Now it is time to see if they can walk the walk. The team is very talented, but has always been undisciplined under Gretzís guidance. If Law can coach half as well as she can talk smack, they will be a team to be reckoned with.
2/07, 2/18 Ohio State
The Buckeyes lost 2 seniors to the WNBA in Jessica Davenport and Brandi Hoskins. Donít expect much of a drop off, however, as they add Jantel Lavender and bring back a host of talented players. One knows what one will get with a Jim Foster coached team Ė a solid, opportunistic team that can usually find a way to win. Until post season, that is. OSU has made early departures from the NCAA tournament its signature move. That wonít affect how they play during the regular season, however, and they are the odds on favorite to run away with the regular season conference championship.
2/11, 2/24 Michigan State
When Joanne P. McCallie left for greener pastures, the Spartans called on Eastern Michigan head Suzy Merchant to take over the team. This was a puzzling move as Merchant was a generally successful but not spectacular coach for the mid-major institutions she worked at prior to getting the nod from MSU. She is the new coach most likely to be completely over her head in the Big 10, but time alone will tell if that prediction comes true. This year the team has 6-8 Alyssa DeHaan to help it along, but she may not have a whole lot of help, nor anyone to reliably get her the ball. The Green and White are ranked in the pre-season Top 25; I do not expect to see them in the ranking published at the end of the year.