For a team with little height, no depth and one star shooter, Mazzante, who struggled with the lingering effects of mononucleosis, PENN STATE did all right for itself last season, winning the Big Ten and making it to the Sweet 16. Now the pressure will be on local (Montoursville, Pa.) hero Mazzante to take the team further. Along the way, she'll want to break a few of the scoring records within her reach; with 2,238 career points, she is 16 shy of the school's record for men and women, and 341 short of the seven-year-old Big Ten record set by Ohio State's Katie Smith. Mazzante also hopes to show that declining an invitation to the USA Basketball tryouts this summer so she could work on her conditioning and ball handling was the right move.
Just winning the much-improved Big Ten again is going to be a struggle, especially with the continued challenge presented by PURDUE. Perhaps no group of seniors is more driven than the Boilermakers' senior quartet of forwards Lindsey Hicks and Shereka Wright and guards Beth Jones and Erika Valek, who were part of the nation's No. 1 recruiting class four years ago. They have reached the Final Four, the second round, and the Elite Eight, respectively, in their three seasons at West Lafayette. New team T-shirts read UP on the front; on the back are the words SENSE OF URGENCY and, on the next line, SENSE OF PURPOSE. These Boilermakers, led by Wright and point guard Valek, will be smaller but quicker than recent editions. "It's a whole new look for Purdue," says Wright, "so no one knows what to expect."
Actually, we do. Purdue and every other senior-led team will feel a sense of urgency and purpose all season, and come April, the rest of us—like Patterson, Curry and Auriemma—will feel a sense of loss.