No one should ever accuse us of not going out on a limb, of course, in a few months no one may be able to accuse us of being right either. In any case, we could not wait to tell you our thoughts on 10 key non-conference games coming up in 2002-2003. This is only a very small taste of what is to come as we, for the third straight year, will give you our thoughts on over 1,000 games during the season. But for now, assuming no injuries, no personnel losses and assuming all freshmen meet expectations, consider the summaries below 100% reliable....
Notre Dame at USC- November 29
Two schools with a storied football history meet in a big basketball game in Los Angeles. Irish had a very solid season in a "rebuilding year" (we think it was Muffet's best coaching job yet) and return almost all their firepower led by Batteast and Ratay. Throw in some top notch recruits and the Irish may be on their way to championship #2. Talent latent, but inconsistent Women of Troy always seem one big game away from a break-out year and this could be the one. Hoffman, Woodward and Gipson match up real well against ND front line, but to win this one
USC must find some backcourt play (Jessica?) or Alicia will make them pay big time. Duke transfer Craig joins up December 19, so if USC can pull off an upset here, it could be a big season. Notre Dame 75-73.
Purdue vs. Vanderbilt (at Tempe, Arizona)- December 7
Lots of high GPA's and SAT's here, but it will be two very different basketball teams on the court. Anderson is basically a lock to be 1st WNBA pick and only a handful of teams have the size and depth to even slow her (Purdue ain't one of them). Ashley also causes a set of problems for not always disciplined Boilers who have athletic edge, but need to keep game in transition to benefit. Valik and Wright will keep Vandy defense busy, but Mary Jo better not get in foul trouble or it will not matter. In the end, Vandy has the best player, but Boilers have better
team 1-5. Purdue 73-67.
Oregon vs. BYU in Portland- December 7
Early season match-up between two teams that ended last season as hot as fire and are looking to take a major step up. BYU surged to the sweet 16 with a late season run while the Ducks flew to the WNIT championship. A lot will depend on tempo as athletic Ducks look to run and disciplined Cougars look to execute. Expect Shaq to cause real issues for less than fleet of foot BYU, but unless UO Frosh Ganes is already a major force, BYU will own the boards. Cougars 68-62.
Colorado State at Colorado- December 12
No love lost here and despite some new faces both teams will be darn good. We expect revenge to be significant advantage for Buffs who endured beating in Fort Collins last season from "little sister." CU lost a lot, but the potential is there for the Buffs to be very good. The key appears to be finding leadership as there is plenty of talent among Bjorkland, Lappe and Scott. CSU lost a key player in Gorton and a fine coach in Collen, but everyone else is back and Denker is one of the best young minds in the game. CU fans have accused us of not giving them respect the past few months, but here is a bit, CU at home 73-71.
Oklahoma at TCU- December 14
Sooners certainly due to be down after losing most of last year's national runner up team. Of course, some excellent recruits, a talented (and photogenic) coach and veterans Hill and Jackson will keep OU from falling too far. The frenetic pace may be a thing of the past for OU, but make no mistake, they will win their share. Frogs getting better every year under Coach Mittie and have experience and talent to win a bunch of games and move to the next level. TCU will already have visited Purdue, Arkansas and Texas so they will be used to playing tough games (one of toughest out of conference schedules in the country). Frogs deeper and this season, better, TCU 73-69.
Stanford at Tennessee- December 18
On the surface this may appear a much bigger game to Cardinal than Vols, but rest assured it is key for both. Stanford would no doubt have gladly given up their 32-3 record last season to have made the final four and lose the "choke" tag some seem to be hanging on them. Of course, anything less than a championship seems to imply "choke" in Knoxville and the Lady Vols must certainly view 02-03 as a real chance to jump back ahead of UCONN. Robinson's health is important, but Vols have plenty of other "bodies" to throw in the low post and with Kara running the offense and Shanna bombing from outside, UT frontcourt will find plenty of openings. Powell will need to find some help or this could get out of hand as Cardinal not able to keep up on defense. Tennessee 93-74.
La Tech at New Mexico- December 21
Interesting match up here as LT likely to be in foul mood all year after rare first round NCAA loss last year. Coach Barmore's program will have had a month to gel before this one (10 new players !), but it still is likely to be driven by a core of returning players including Frierson, Ford and Obaze. If Leon can find a few more athletes among the ten newcomers, Tech's defense will be its usual self and that means trouble for a less than potent UNM line-up. Still, low scoring games are just what the Lobos like and Jordan is not likely to let LT have too many second chances on the offensive end anyway. UNM also has a lot of players
with lots of experience and the Pit will be rocking. Should be a good one, LT 60-55.
Texas Tech at Rice- December 30
Two very well coached teams hook up in Houston and expect a slow and deliberate pace. The slower the better for under-appreciated Owls who need good games from Liggett and Hayes while making sure Pierson and Perkins don't run on them. Tech better be focused or they will lose and we expect Owls to give their all. Neither team liable to shoot lights out and foul shooting will play a role. TT also may be looking ahead to January 2nd match up versus Rutgers. Still, you can't coach speed and Raiders have lots more, Texas Tech 59-55.
Penn State at LSU- January 4
Two very good, albeit very different teams match up here. Legendary coaches find a way to win with what they have and Portland vs. Gunter is a perfect example. PSU has found good supporting cast for Maz and she alone will keep the Lady Lions in most any game. More often than not, Lions live and die with KM. LSU will take more of a team approach and even given the star power of Augustus, the Tigers can and will look to any of 9-10 players versus a total roster of 7 last year. Tigers may struggle with chemistry early on, but with so many weapons and at home on national TV, we have to give them the edge. LSU also much more deliberate on both ends of the court and it pays off, besides, who will guard Temeka? LSU 71-62.
Connecticut at Duke- February 1
By the time this game is played two sets of doubters will have been quieted: The set that thinks UCONN's returning players are not top 10 caliber and the set that thinks Duke is overrated. There will be A LOT of high school All Americans on the benches and on the floor highlighted by two guards who may prove to be two of the best- ever. Taurasi vs. Beard is reminiscent of Bird vs. Magic, but it will be their supporting casts that decide this one. Duke front court has played in more pressure games and has more firepower. UCONN won't lose many in 02-03, but this will be one of them. Duke 81-74.