After wrapping up the 2014 season with a share of the Big Ten title, the women’s basketball team is predicted to be the second best team in the Big Ten this year, according to preseason coaches and media preseason polls.
Head coach Suzy Merchant discussed her excitement for the season during the Big Ten basketball media day on Thursday, Oct. 16.
“Three returning starters back and a great group of upperclassmen and vets that I think will lead us to hopefully promising places and a really, really talented group of three freshman that came in as well,” Merchant said.
Merchant was referring to freshmen Jasmine Lumpkin and Lexi Gussert, both of which play guard and forward and will be playing games early on this season.
“They all have a very high IQ for the game and pick up things very quickly,” Merchant said. “The versatility in our system and the balance that we need in order to have a really strong offensive attack is important to be able to move people around.”
The leading ladies of the season will be sophomore guard Tori Jankoska, sophomore forward Aerial Powers and senior forward Becca Mills, creating a dynamic offense for the Spartans.
“I’ve had a lot of great point guards that usually end up being more deferring point guards, kids that defend a presence and ball presence. That’s the things I talked about with great ball play,” Merchant said about Jankoska. “High volume shooters aren’t usually one of them.”
Since their 23-10 overall record last season, the Spartans lost redshirt sophomore Branndais Agee and redshirt senior Madison Williams due to recent injuries. Agee tore her ACL during the summer after having a successful second half post-season. Williams underwent surgery on Thursday, the eighth of her career in addition to four ACL injuries.
“That’s been a little frustrating,” Merchant said. “Those two kids will obviously be out, but everybody else is practicing and healthy at this point and/or coming back.”
Last season, the Big Ten went through a 10-second in the backcourt rule. According to Merchant, this has given the athletes freedom of movement, protecting the shooter and protecting the ball handler, which has “changed the game in a positive way.”
With Maryland and Rutgers recently entering the Big Ten, the team will prepare to face these two competitive programs. MSU has played Maryland during the NCAA Tournament the last two years, giving them a little bit of an advantage over the other teams in the Big Ten that have not competed against Maryland or Rutgers before.
“We’re excited to see how that translates in the polls and in day-to-day grind of the season,” Merchant said.