Women’s Basketball: Complete 2016-17 Preview

 

By: Alex Smith

This Friday, they’ll have their chance. A chance to prove the world wrong.

After a combined eight wins over the past two seasons, the Boston University Terriers were picked dead last out of ten teams in the Patriot League’s preseason poll. All of their expectations come from within, as clearly those on the outside looking in don’t see the trend reversing itself.

With a new identity, the women’s basketball program is finally ready to step out of the long shadow cast by former coach Kelly Greenberg. Greenberg had damaged the program deeply, as accusations of bullying resulted in four scholarship players quitting the team back in 2014. She was let go after that season ended.

In came Katy Steding. The gold medalist and member of the 1996 “Women’s Dream Team” enters her third year at the helm, and her second recruiting class has fantastic potential.

Three new pieces come in for the Terriers, two of them freshman. Nia Irving, a 6’1″ forward, captured Maine’s Gatorade Player of the Year during her senior season. She dominated at Lawrence High School,  posting an eye-popping 25.6 ppg. Even more impressive, she averaged 21.1 rebounds. Regardless of the quality of opponent she faced up north, her record speaks for itself: her team went 73-10 while she donned the jersey.

Irving will be sidelined with an ankle injury to start the season, but expect her to make major contributions. She may begin the year off the bench, especially as she continues to heal, but in time she could be a star. The only question is how soon she’ll be ready to take on that role.

Vanessa Edgehill joins Irving as the other freshman on Steding’s roster. A 5’8″ combo guard, she offers decent size at either guard spot and brings versatility to BU. The only caveat: she suffered an ACL tear and missed her senior season in high school. Making the jump for her could take time, but she’s a solid, skilled player and once the confidence and the first step return there is no reason to think she won’t be effective.

The Terriers also received reinforcement through transfer Sophie Beaudry, a 6’5″ Canadian center previously at Monmouth. A junior, she towers over her teammates, and that should carry over to the opposition as well. She’s one of the Patriot League’s tallest players, and will solidify the middle of the floor defensively. For a team that conceded almost 70 points a game last year (while scoring just over 50), every shot she affects will make a difference.

Beaudry will start from day one, and figures to be key offensively as well. Despite her length she’s extremely strong, and that combined with her increasingly refined post game will present a challenge for any opponent. Add in her ability to step out and hit from 12-18 feet and BU have got a real weapon, one the rest of the conference doesn’t know much about.

This cast of new faces joins an experienced crowd of upperclassmen. Sarah Hope headlines the group, but her 7.3 ppg will need to increase if her team is to succeed. She’ll run point for the Terriers despite being more of a true two-guard, but it’s a position she’s comfortable in. A dead-eye three point shooter, look for her to be the benefactor of open space as BU’s posts demand opposition attention.

Corinne Williams, a tri-captain alongside Hope and Courtney Latham, is BU’s most important player this season, at least in the early going. The versatile junior wing was BU’s best defender last year, filling the box score with almost 5 rebounds per game to go with 1.2 steals. A scorer of 6.8 ppg last season, expect her totals to rise as she’s added range to her game and worked tirelessly to develop polish on the offensive end. She’s my pick to lead BU in scoring this year.

Kara Sheftic bridges the Williams-Beaudry gap, and though she was purely a post player last season, with Beaudry occupying that role she’ll step out and play some 4 . The change could be for the best, as she struggled with foul trouble at times when playing closer to the hoop. Her 4.8 rebounds per game may not increase much this year, with Beaudry and Williams on hand to gobble up rebounds, but she will remain crucial in keeping opponents off the glass. With Beaudry on the floor she’ll get smaller matchups, and could punish weaker defenders.

The Terriers feature plenty of backcourt experience to go along with their front-court depth. Junior Meghan Doogan was an explosive scorer at the tail end of last year, and if she can harness those flashes she could be the surprise of the season. Payton Hauck showed her athletic ability throughout her freshman year, and with experience comes better decision making. She should also break through as an impact player for this team if that consistency improves.

Courtney Latham provides experience at the point as she enters her senior season, but her role has been limited due to shooting struggles. She does provide above-average defense at the point guard spot, which should be the reason she earns minutes this year. Lauren Spearman is the other option to back up Hope, and the sophomore possesses a wicked handle and a quick first step. She’s an interesting backcourt option that could provide scoring in a pinch.

The wild card on this team is forward Meghan Green. She led BU in scoring last season, but didn’t appear in a few contests down the stretch. Then, at seasons end she began featuring off the bench and played a key role in the postseason, scoring 17 points in a narrow playoff loss at American. If she can thrive in bench role, and potentially play small forward, it could allow BU to play bully-ball and pound teams down low.

Naiyah Thompson will back up Williams at small forward, and the sophomore is similar in terms of length and build. Her wingspan makes her tough to get around, and she thrives in transition. Erin Bayram can play center or forward, and has increased range on her jumper. This opens up interesting combinations, as she could excel in high-post situations against the zone.

Make no mistake, this team has a lot to prove. A margain of -17 points per game is far from ideal, but expect a couple early season wins as there is reason to believe that BU is much improved on both sides of the ball. Through their new players, increased size and new offensive system, they should expect to more than double their 3 wins from last season.

The Patriot League as a whole lost an extremely talented senior class last season, and the conference’s second best player (behind Kelsey Minato) was Jaqui Klotz. She transferred away from Bucknell this season, who were still chosen as conference favorites. Youth will be prominent for all these teams this season, and coach Steding said as much in episode one of the BU Basketball Podcast.

This could open the door for BU to surprise in the league. A weaker field of younger teams up against a BU group that is more experienced could give BU an edge, especially on the road where they were routinely blown out last year. Nearly every area of this team needs to improve, but there is reason to believe that it has. Now, they need to let their playing do the talking.

Terrier madness is later tonight and WTBU’s radio coverage can be heard on Mixlr:

https://mixlr.com/wtbusports/embedwtbusports is on Mixlr

Tomorrow’s opener can be heard on TSRN, with myself (Alex Smith) and Eric Getzoff on the call. Liam O’Brien will also be making his WTBU debut in the contest.

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