It’s that time of year again. Classes have begun, the temperature is cooling, and a Terp’s thoughts turn to the Comcast Center and the upcoming women’s basketball season. Every year starts with the desire to win a national championship. Do the Terps have a shot, or is it Uconn/Tennessee/Baylor/Stanford’s to lose?
First off, the freshman class, on paper, is amazing. They all seem Division-I ready and look to contribute immediately to the team. Already they have some of that necessary swagger.
There hasn’t been the program-wide upheaval in personnel that the Terps had to endure last year. Coming into 2009-10, the team lost not only Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman but several of the supporting players as well. Combined with a largely freshman class of assistant coaches and the continuity from the championship teams was definitely lacking. There have been loses to the Terp family since last season, notably Nared and A.D. Debbie Yow, but it’s not at the court-level magnitude that was seen last season.
I’m disappointed that the pre-conference schedule isn’t tougher. Going into last year, I thought it was risky playing such a light schedule early. While it gave the inexperienced Terps a chance to build their confidence, it hurt them mightily when it came time for ACC play. The 2010 schedule features only one certain match-up with a top-25 team from last season: local rival, Georgetown. Another possible match-up might come against St. John’s at the Terrapin Classic, but tournaments are always iffy in that regard.
For a team wanting a “natty”, I think it’s a bit soft. Yes, it’s nice playing local teams, but few offer the sort of test that you need if you expect to top the polls. In the championship season, Maryland faced Xavier, Gonzaga, Michigan St., and Tennesse (with Candace Parker) in games 2-5. That’s a heck of a way to start a season, and the early success gave the team the confidence that it could play with and beat the best in the nation.
On the plus side, most other ACC teams also have a light pre-season this year, so maybe it’ll all be a wash.
As I mentioned, the saving grace over last year is with all the returning players. Kizer is solid and Tchatchouang has proven herself to be a star in the making both in France and at College Park. For me, the big question mark is Essence Townsend. She didn’t have the easiest of freshman campaigns, and that happens. I’m hoping the off-season found her building on the foundation of her first year. If she studied video of the Phoenix Mercury’s DeWanna Bonner and committed to playing towards achieving that level, she could become a major headache for Terp opponents.
If the freshman don’t disappoint, there’s no doubt that this team is a top-25 team–having Coach B pretty much gives you that. They could be a top-10-worthy team by tournament time if this young team realizes its potential. In many ways, 2009-10 was an aberrant/rebuilding year. This year should find the team back to playing Maryland basketball. The pieces are there for another championship run–maybe not this year, but soon. It’s mostly on the players to prove that they want it badly enough.