Head Coach Aaron Johnston has said he has not put much thought into it, but I have. After much thought, I believe the 2007-08 SDSU women’s basketball squad is better than the 2006-07 SDSU women’s basketball team, which made a remarkable post-season run in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament last March.
There are several similarities between the two squads; nearly all key members of the 06-07 squad are on the team this year. The only exception is superstar Megan Vogel, who is holding a clipboard instead of making clutch jump shots in 07-08 as she is a graduate assistant for Coach Johnston.
Points per game, turnovers, steals and blocks between the two years are virtually the same. Both teams played extremely well; at the end, last year’s squad won 12 regular season games in a row, and this year’s squad has something in common.
While both teams were and are not eligible for the NCAA Division I tournament, both teams did and will make a trip to the WNIT. That’s right. With Western Illinois losing on Feb. 25, the Jacks will be moving on to the post season by winning the regular season Summit League title.
Assuming they win the last two games of the year, the Jacks will have nearly as many wins, 23 to 25, as last year’s Jacks and will have accomplished an impressive winning streak despite the daunting task of playing nine tough teams in the league twice. The injury bug has hit this year’s team, and despite all the difficulties, they have been able to rise to go back to the WNIT.
While last year’s team got ink from USA Today on more than one occasion and beat big school teams like the University of Southern California, the University of Minnesota and the University of Colorado, they may not be better than the 07-08 squad. Coach Johnston has called this year’s squad talented and possibly the hardest working team in a long time.
While the current Jackrabbits are Vogel-less, they have greater depth. They have three players who score over 10 points a game (Jenn Warkenthien, Maria Boever and Kristin Rotert). Last year’s squad only had one player score over 10 points. Balance is a huge difference between the two teams. For example, Vogel led all Jacks scorers 21 games last year while Boever and Warkenthien have led all Jacks scores in seven games each this season.
This year’s team shoots the 3-pointer better than last year and are more like a team. While they lack the one big player, they are like the New England Patriots defense. They are a group of “no-names” that finds ways to win, and as of late, a group that finds ways to utterly blow out the other team. The Jacks have shown some tenacious defense, and teams that face the Jacks no longer ask who will make the clutch shots for the Jacks, but when.
It is rare for a college team to be so deep (10-players who all play significant minutes), and they are very talented. This past weekend a columinst who covers North Dakota State Athletics wrote that the Jacks will continue to dominate the series of NDSU vs. SDSU in women’s basketball for years to come. Even the three players who see limited action (Laura Nielsen, Jennifer Schuttloffel and Allison Anderson) could play a lot of minutes elsewhere.
Perhaps these players will see an increase of minutes in March when the snow is melting and the fun part is beginning. Frost Arena will be loud, and the team – which started 6-5 and could win 17 out of the their last 18 games – could have a deep WNIT run. I have a feeling that a lot of alumni will buy new shirts and dream of ringing their cowbell as the Jacks could host a third round (maybe a fourth?) in this year’s WNIT.
So, while no one will know which team is truly better, in the end, it doesn’t matter because the WNIT madness will make a return trip to Frost Arena this March. Better yet, this year cheer loud and the cowbells will be put away where they belong. Man I love change.