The latest incarnations of the teams from Stanford and Alabama
have a great deal in common. Both are favored to reach the Final
Four in Cincinnati. Both have the bulk of their starters back
(the Cardinal has five, the Crimson Tide four). Both are gaining
a key component that was missing last season. And both open the
season on the same day. At the same time. On the same court.
Stanford and Alabama meet on Nov. 17 at Maples Pavilion in Palo
Alto. "It's good to have an early tough game as a barometer,"
says Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer (page 158), who has rejoined
Stanford after coaching the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic
team. "If you do well, it's great. If you don't, you can
pinpoint things to work on."
VanDerveer's experienced crew should do well. Though Stanford
will be without multitalented forward Kristin Folkl, who has
chosen to concentrate on volleyball, All-America guard Kate
Starbird and guard Jamila Wideman and center Olympia Scott will
be starting for the third season. The Cardinal is already
familiar with the Crimson Tide after beating Alabama 78-76 in
overtime in the West Regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament
VanDerveer began watching film of Alabama the day after the
Olympics, but some of the Tide's key players can't be found on
tapes from last season. The 6'2" Yolanda Watkins, who was an
All-SEC center two years ago, is back after missing last season
due to a knee injury. Junior forward Tausha Mills spent last
year at Trinity Valley Junior College in Athens, Texas (she was
named national junior college player of the year). They combine
with Shalonda Enis (page 164) to give Alabama one of the
country's most imposing front lines. "We really have some
hosses," says 5'5" point guard Brittney Ezell. "I come up to
their waists, so I just tell them, 'Put your hands at your
waist, and I'll get you the ball.'"
Iowa also has a group of intimidators: centers Tangela Smith,
Amy Herrig and Simone Edwards. Last season, her first as the
Hawkeyes' head coach, Angie Lee was named AP coach of the year;
this season she's looking for her team to collect an award of
Center Kara Wolters, a 6'7" senior, and forward Nykesha Sales, a
6-foot junior, are the top awards candidates at Connecticut.
They may be hampered in their quest, however, because Jennifer
Rizzotti, a four-year starter at point guard, has graduated. Her
replacement is 5'7" junior Rita Williams.
Georgia has also lost a terrific guard, national player of the
year Saudia Roundtree. However, with three-year starters
La'Keshia Frett and Tracy Henderson, these Bulldogs could be
even better than last season's, who lost in the NCAA title game.
The defending champion has a whole new backcourt, but as long as
6'2" forward Chamique Holdsclaw and her 16.2-points-per-game
average are at Tennessee (three more years), the Lady Vols will
be in the title hunt.
Western Kentucky welcomes Jaime Walz, a 5'11" guard who was
named national high school player of the year last season. She
scored more points (4,948) in her career than any other Kentucky
high school player, male or female.
When forward Sheri Sam graduated, Vanderbilt lost 20.4 points
per game. Still, the Commodores have 6'7" senior Angela Gorsica,
who finished third in the nation in blocks (3.3 per game), and a
rosterful of experienced underclassmen.
Old Dominion has returned to its old dominion--the elite of
women's hoops. The '85 national champs could make a run at
another title with four returning starters, including 6'5"
forward Clarisse Machanguana, who averaged 18.3 points per game.
It's no wonder that coaches Marian Washington of Kansas and Ceal
Barry of Colorado have great expectations this season: The two
were assistants on the Olympic team under VanDerveer. They're no
longer working with gold medalists, but Jayhawks guard Tamecka
Dixon and Buffaloes forward Erin Scholz are among the best in
the Big 12.
Standout guards Katina Mack and Tina Nicholson graduated, so
Penn State is counting on senior forward Angie Potthoff to lead
the Lady Lions back to the Sweet 16. Texas Tech is looking to
junior center Alicia Thompson, who averaged 17.4 points and 9.2
rebounds per game, to help it extend its 30-game home winning
streak. The outlook is promising at North Carolina State, too,
where center Chasity Melvin, guard Jennifer Howard and forward
Umeki Webb--the team's top three scorers--are back.
Florida has been to the NCAA tournament the past four years, but
the Lady Gators haven't shown that they know what to do when
they get there, losing in either the first or second round. Led
by 6'2" senior center DeLisha Milton, they are primed to take
the next step. The same goes for Virginia, which ended its
season in the regional final the past two years. The Cavs are
relying on senior guard Tora Suber for points (17.6 per game) as
well as for leadership.
Texas was a dominant team in the mid-1980s; led by sharpshooting
guard Danielle Viglione, the Longhorns should become a national
power again. After winning its first ACC tournament title last
season, Clemson, with four starters back, will try to repeat as
league champs. Notre Dame is depending on 6-foot guard Beth
Morgan and 6'3" center Katryna Gaither, two All-Big East
players, while LSU has five starters returning, including
All-SEC guard Elaine Powell.
Duke coach Gail Goestenkors, the 1995-96 ACC Coach of the Year,
is hoping that senior guard Kira Orr can help her team duplicate
the success of last season, when the Blue Devils advanced to the
second round of the tournament. Stephen F. Austin lost three
starters but welcomes back five seniors, plus outstanding junior
guard Katrina Price. Memphis, which won the inaugural Conference
USA title last season, could win the second, too, behind forward
LaTonya Johnson (20.7 points per game). Arkansas point guard
Christy Smith had missed only two minutes in 19 career SEC games
before a knee injury last January knocked her out for the rest
of the season. She's ready to start a new streak.
Last March, in the school's first appearance in the NCAA
tournament, San Francisco reached the Sweet 16. With six of
their top seven scorers back, the Lady Dons (just call them the
Donnas) should again end the season in the NCAAs.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN INSET UConn's Kara Wolters: Can she grab another title?
COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Holdsclaw (23) and Frett (under basket) will try to get back to the title game. [Chamique Holdsclaw in game]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND [See caption above--La'Keshia Frett in game]
1 Stanford 29-3
2 Alabama 24-8
3 Iowa 27-4
4 Connecticut 34-4
5 Georgia 28-5
6 Tennessee 32-4
7 Western Kentucky 19-13
8 Vanderbilt 23-8
9 Old Dominion 29-3
10 Kansas 22-10
11 Colorado 26-9
12 Penn State 27-7
13 Texas Tech 27-5
14 North Carolina State 20-10
15 Florida 21-9
16 Virginia 26-7
17 Texas 21-9
18 Clemson 23-8
19 Notre Dame 23-8
20 LSU 21-11
21 Duke 26-7
22 Stephen F. Austin 27-4
23 Memphis 20-11
24 Arkansas 21-13
25 San Francisco 24-8