A chance to repeat?
Lady Vols will be the team to beat in 2007-08
Posted: Wednesday April 4, 2007 11:54AM; Updated: Wednesday April 4, 2007 4:09PM
CLEVELAND -- Tennessee finally returned to the top of women's college basketball on Tuesday night, beating Rutgers 59-46 to give the Lady Vols an unprecedented seventh title. With Wade Trophy winner Candace Parker returning, Tennessee has a good shot at No. 8 in '08.
Herewith is an early look at next year's landscape.
1. TENNESSEE Parker is one of four starters returning for the Lady Vols. Tennessee loses Sidney Spencer, but it will have plenty of experience. Point guard Shannon Bobbitt will be one of four seniors next season. All contributed heavily to the Lady Vols' championship run. Bobbitt proved capable of providing the same long-range threat as Spencer. The 5-2 Bobbitt played big for the Lady Vols during the postseason, pushing the tempo and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in the title game.
2. RUTGERS The Scarlet Knights didn't make it to the championship game by accident. They're loaded with talented players who have bought into head coach C. Vivian Stringer's defense-first way. A gifted group of freshmen should be even better after the lengthy tournament run. The Rutgers veterans have already proven more than capable of providing strong leadership, too.
3. CONNECTICUT Geno Auriemma is bringing in another freshman class loaded with talent. They'll join a team that gained valuable tournament experience this season. Freshman Tina Charles came up big inside for the Huskies, but struggled in the Regional Final against LSU's Sylvia Fowles. That's sure to make Charles determined to come back even stronger next season. Charles and the rest of the starting five, all of whom averaged at least 10.5 points per game, will be back.
4. LSU Who knows who will roam the sidelines for the Tigers next season, but they will bring back everybody from a team that reached its fourth consecutive Final Four. That means another year of Sylvia Fowles. A 6-6 center, Fowles can dominate a game on both ends. She can score around or over opponents and controls the boards. The Tigers need to find consistency from the outside, though.
5. MARYLAND The Terrapins might not have gone as far as they should have in the tournament, but you can't count them out. They've got too much talent. Shay Doron will be gone, but All-America Crystal Langhorne will be back anchoring the inside game. Surely, the Terrapins will find a way to fix the turnover troubles that plagued them so much in losses this season.
5. OKLAHOMA We already know how dominating All-America center Courtney Paris is inside. The Associated Press player of the year is surrounded with a talented -- and young -- supporting cast who should be even better next season. Freshman point guard Jenna Plumley made a big impact once she was inserted into the starting lineup late in the season. With her NBA range, teams can't afford to keep sagging in on Paris. Add a top-10 recruiting class, and the Sooners should make a good run next season.
7. GEORGIA It seems as though Tasha Humphrey has been in the Bulldogs' lineup forever. She'll be there once again next season, controlling the inside. And, after what she considered a down season, look for Humphrey to close out her career strong. Freshman point guard Ashley Houts had an impressive season and will be even better next year.
8. NORTH CAROLINA It won't be easy replacing Ivory Latta and Camille Little, but the Tar Heels will bring back Erlana Larkins, one of the best post players in the country. Rashanda McCants and LaToya Pringle proved during this season they are ready to carry more of the load, too. Throw in a couple of talented freshmen to help out Alex Miller in the backcourt, and North Carolina should be just fine.
9. DUKE Point guard Lindsey Harding and center Alison Bales are headed out the door and to the WNBA. And, of course, Duke won't have head coach Gail Goestenkors, who left to take the Texas job. Goestenkors leaves the program better off than she found it, though. Guards Abby Waner and Wanisha Smith stepped up big this season along with forward Carrem Gay and center Chante Black.
10. GEORGE WASHINGTON People might not have heard much about Kimberly Beck, but she's about as good as any point guard in the nation. The return of 6-4 Jessica Adair and 6-3 Jazmine Adair gives Beck a strong post game to work with, too. If the Colonials can match their excellent defense with a bit more scoring, this year's run to the Sweet 16 won't be the last.
ON THE FRINGE: Stanford, Texas A&M