The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, November 6, 2019

The year of the freshman? — Kellie Harper speaks — Must-click women's basketball links

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Young and ready

Over the past two college basketball campaigns, it would be hard to argue against the idea of experience.

The Notre Dame run, filled with upperclassmen who won the 2018 championship and nearly repeated in 2019, are just one example. Kalani Brown and Baylor, Teaira McCowan and Mississippi State, even Sabrina Ionescu in her junior season with Oregon — that’s 2019 alone, but it’s been quite a few years since Breanna Stewart won the MOP at the Final Four as a freshman.

This season could be something else entirely. It’s early, of course, but just anecdotally and statistically, the freshmen are impressive right away.

I was struck by how effective Maori Davenport is at the defensive end, immediately, for Rutgers.

Aliyah Boston, playing for South Carolina, posted a triple-double in her debut.

Note that she just did something A’ja Wilson never did at South Carolina. Do you know how hard it is to do something A’ja Wilson never did at South Carolina?

But wait, there’s more.

And I’m not even sure Owusu is the freshman on Maryland I’m most impressed by. Diamond Miller is going to be great, maybe as soon as this year.

Even in a ragged opener at Fordham, the court awareness and length of Sam Brunelle, the ability to get to the rim and into passing lanes by Anaya Peoples — Notre Dame will be far better in March than they are in November.

Let’s not forget Rickie Woltman’s double-double in her Purdue debut, and I will not be swayed from my Bergen County love for Michelle Sidor’s game at Michigan.

There are teams you should expect in New Orleans in April, who will get there based on experience — Ionescu and Oregon again, for instance, and Baylor, who dominated New Hampshire in ways never before seen.

But there are a ton of talents in this Class of 2019, one that many coaches privately disparaged in favor of the 2020 Paige Bueckers class. And you can expect plenty of them to make memories this March.


This week in women’s basketball

PJ Brown has your Arizona curtain-raiser.

Terrific HerHoopStats season preview podcast.

Monica McNutt talks to Diane Richardson of Towson.

Friend of The IX Sarah Kustok gets the Evan Drellich treatment.

I talked to Val Ackerman about the ongoing CBA talks.

Danielle Atkinson is at Hofstra to build.

Check out this thread for all the High Post Hoops conference previews.

Christyn Williams profile from Alexa Philippou is customarily excellent.

Emma Meesseman reflects.

Mitchell Northam has your season guide.

Natalie Weiner is back on the NCAAW beat!

A dedicated reporter means you get stories like this from Madeline Kenney.

Don’t sleep on UCLA.

Always read Michelle Smith.


Tweet of the week


Five at The IX: Kellie Harper, Tennessee

Back to the in-person interviews next week, but in the meantime, enjoy some Kellie Harper season preview from her media avail.

On starting out on the road:
"At this point, I am just excited to get started. I am going to be partial towards Thompson-Boling Arena, so I am going to want to play here as much as we can, but it will be good for us to get a road trip under our belts early in the season."

On how the first postgame film session went with the team:
"I thought the film session went really well. We were really honest, but I think we are also using that as a teaching moment and teaching opportunity. We try to be positive, and although at times we are critical, we want to be positive. We really worked on talking about our urgency defensively and getting into position on defense a little quicker than what we did in our exhibition game. We just talked about little things. There was nothing huge we talked about, just little plays here and there."

On if she saw any specific areas that the offense needs to improve on after watching film:
"Our offense needs to get better, period. But we know that is a work in progress. I think right now our spacing, timing and passing - all of those things - can improve, and that would improve our offense. When those things get a little bit better, I think our shooting percentage will go up. Hopefully our defense will help that by turning some plays into offense."

On how she feels about the team's ability to hit from behind the arc:
"I think if you pull the stats on this program from last year moving into this year, I think it is a concern on our three-point shooting percentage. We have players that can make shots. I don't know yet what that percentage is going to be. We hope to continue to improve it. We have players in the gym getting extra shots up. Our staff has really been diligent on making sure that happens. I think we are going to put the work in, so hopefully you will see that pay off."

On if there is a certain number of three-point shots she'd like to see in every game:
"No. I am not really a coach that lives and dies by the three. I never have been. But I have always had some pretty good shooters on our team, so I think right now we are going to try to maximize what we have and try to get open looks. I just think if we have an open look, we have to take it, because I think when you are shooting in rhythm, you have a better opportunity to shoot a better percentage. But you always have a great opportunity to get to the boards. I think for us that will be a big part of our offense."

On developing this team into being better shooters:
"You try to get easier shots. You try to work for easier shots. I think a few things… it is kind of like bunting, I guess. We are going to try to get to the free throw line, get some second-chance points and try to score in transition. Those are some ways to find some easier opportunities. But again, when our players shoot it, I want them to have great confidence. I don't want them hesitating, and hopefully we can continue to give them that confidence as they get into the gym."

On what she learned from her rotation from the exhibition game:
"I think the biggest thing for us in terms of our rotation is just knowing the minute limitations for some of our players. I think there are some of them that are maybe two-minute max or two-to-three minute max. And it is not that their conditioning is bad, it's just the level of focus that is required to be successful at this level is tough. It is taxing. Then there are some players I think can go for a stretch of six to eight minutes at a time, so just knowing who those people are and keeping our players on the court as fresh as possible is going to be really important for us."

On if she is expecting some fans in Johnson City:
"I totally expect to see orange in the gym when we walk in Tuesday night for the game. I think there are a lot of people that have high expectations and anticipation for what this team is going to look like. I know we have a lot of Tennessee fans up in the Tri-Cities area, so hopefully they will come out and support the Lady Vols."

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