Tuesday, January 06, 2009
2009 MWC Women's Capsules
By Ken Sickenger
Journal Staff Writer
COACH: Ardie McInelly (8th year, 48-151)
KEY PLAYERS: Raimee Beck 5-8, So., G (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Brooke Cultra 5-11, Sr., G (14.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Kim Kreke 6.3, Sr., C (9.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: It's another season of playing spoilers for the Falcons, who were picked to finish last in the MWC and seem unlikely to finish better than eighth. Air Force's best non-conference win was over Navy, which snapped a five-game losing skid.
COACH: Jeff Judkins (8th year, 149-80)
KEY PLAYERS: Shawnee Slade 5-11, Sr., G/F (11.8 ppg, 1.3 spg); Mindy Nielson 5-10, So., G (11.3 ppg, 3.75 apg); Coriann Wood 6-1, So., F (8.8 ppg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: With 14 underclassmen, BYU is the second-youngest team in Division I. That said, the Cougars put together a solid pre-conference record that includes wins over USC and Oregon and a loss to No. 1 UConn. BYU, as usual, has size, but guard play will determine if the team can crack the MWC's top tier.
COACH: Kristen Holt (1st year)
KEY PLAYERS: Kandy Beemer 5-5, Sr., G (8.2 ppg, 1.8 apg); Britney Minor 5-10, Sr., F (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Amaka Uzomah 6-0, Sr., F (3.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: The Rams have a new coach and more wins than they did in all of 2007-08. CSU shares the ball well and played a number of close games during its mediocre pre-conference schedule. A last-second win over South Dakota was the high point. [Ken is confused. South Dakota is not even a Division 1 school] Still, the Rams are in rebuilding mode and figure to battle Air Force for eighth place.
COACH: Don Flanagan (14th year, 294-128)
KEY PLAYERS: Amy Beggin 5-6, Jr., G (16.1 ppg, 3.9 apg); Angela Hartill 6-3, Sr., P (12.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Amanda Adamson 6-0, Sr., G (9.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: Depth, chemistry and Beggin's leadership have allowed the Lobos to overcome the loss of career scoring leader Dionne Marsh. Blowout losses to powerhouses Stanford and Texas A&M do little to marr a solid pre-conference slate that featured wins over DePaul and Nebraska and briefly vaulted the Lobos into the Top 25. If Beggin gets enough scoring help, UNM could exceed its predicted fourth-place finish and contend for conference title.
SAN DIEGO STATE
COACH: Beth Burns (12th year, 193-144)
KEY PLAYERS: Jené Morris 5-9, Jr., G (15.4 ppg, 3.8 spg); Paris Johnson 6-4, So., C (16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg); Quenese Davis 5-9, Jr., G (11.4 ppg, 5.9 apg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: Picked to finish second in the MWC, the Aztecs started slowly. Talented sophomore Allison Duffy has played in just one game after a September arrest led to a suspension. (She was charged with public intoxication.) SDSU has turned the corner, however, winning five straight, including an upset of No. 4 Texas last week. Morris and Johnson provide an excellent one-two punch for a team that could win the conference if its relatively thin bench holds up.
COACH: Jeff Mittie (10th year, 205-99)
KEY PLAYERS: Helena Sverrisdottir 6-2, So., G/F (16.6 ppg, 5.2 apg); TK LaFleur 5-8, Jr., G (15.6 ppg, 2.3 apg); Rachel Rentschler 6-2, So., F (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: The Frogs reloaded with transfers after losing the likes of Adrianne Ross and Lorie Butler-Rayford to graduation. The replacements, particularly LaFleur and Rentschler, shone early as TCU upset top-five powers Maryland and Cal and climbed into the national Top 20. The Frogs played the strongest non-conference schedule of any MWC team, but losses at Fresno State and at home to SMU are a bit puzzling. Even so, Sverrisdottir has made an effective transition to point guard and TCU looks like a sure title contender.
COACH: Kathy Olivier (1st year)
KEY PLAYERS: Shamela Hampton 6-3, Sr., C (14.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg); Erica Helms 5-7, So., G (12.3 ppg, 3.6 apg); Jamie Smith 6-0, Fr., G/F (10.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: It's been an up-and-down start for the Rebels under new coach Olivier. Fresno State and Oregon State blew out UNLV, but strong play in the post by Hampton and newcomer Smith have helped the team hang tough against stronger foes. Olivier coached some successful teams at UCLA and figures to get the Rebels back into MWC contention at some point, but a middle-of-the-pack finish this season seems more likely.
COACH: Elaine Elliott (26th year, 543-218)
KEY PLAYERS: Morgan Warburton 5-11, Sr., G (19.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg); Kalee Whipple 6-0, Jr., F (17.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Katie King 6-1, Sr., F (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: Losing point guard Leilani Mitchell to the WNBA proved a significant blow to the Utes, preseason picks to win the MWC title. Add a knee injury that knocked out her planned replacement, junior Hennasea Tokumura, and Utah has had freshmen running its offense. A mediocre record is deceiving because all but one of the Utes' losses have been to quality teams. The Utes won't run the conference table as they did last year, but with Warburton and Whipple leading the way, this team will be in the hunt.
COACH: Joe Legerski (6th year, 107-60)
KEY PLAYERS: Emma Langford 6-2, Fr., F (12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Megan McGuffey 5-11, Sr., G (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Elisabeth Dissen 6-1, Sr., C (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
UPDATE/OUTLOOK: No team took a bigger graduation hit than the Cowgirls, who lost four starters after their NCAA Tournament run. This Wyoming team has been a blue-collar bunch, led by McGuffey and talented freshman Langford. The pre-conference schedule was unremarkable and included two losses to Gonzaga. The Cowgirls will be disciplined and tough to beat in Laramie, but finishing among the top four seems unlikely for such an inexperienced squad.
TCU, New Mexico and San Diego State have given the Mountain West visibility, both with upset wins and national rankings. The MWC ranks among the top eight conferences according to various RPI services, which should rate three NCAA Tournament bids come March.
Unlike last season, when Utah went 16-0 through the conference schedule, several teams figure to battle for the top two spots. Those seeding positions will be valuable in a revamped MWC tournament that gives them byes to the semifinals.
Based on the pre-conference schedule, as many as five teams appear capable of contending. Utah has two of the conference's best players, TCU and San Diego State have superior athleticism, New Mexico has depth and a strong home-court advantage, while youthful BYU has shown surprising talent. Wyoming and UNLV start league play a step behind the leaders but remain dangerous. Colorado State and Air Force will try to spring an upset or two but can't expect much more.