Surely you are well aware that the Arizona women’s basketball season came to an end with a loud thump in Knoxville, Tenn., on Tuesday night. The No. 1-seeded LSU Tigers pounded the ninth-seeded Wildcats into submission by a score of 76-43 inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Thus, a season of frustration and injury was over and a first round win over Oklahoma gave Joan Bonvicini another 20-win campaign to ease some of the pain.
It is clear now though that if Arizona intends to become one of the nation’s elite programs in the country, they will need significant improvement in two areas -- at the post and at the point. Shawntinice Polk, when healthy, has been one of the best players in the nation. However, her numbers this season reflected nagging knee and achilles tendon problems that made her a little better than average player. Danielle Adefeso graduates, leaving Arizona with no one else to call upon down low except for the unproven Chari Smith and the unsteady Shannon Hobson.
The point guard position may be even more troublesome. Dee-Dee Wheeler, an AP honorable mention All-American is gone and the Cats are left with two sophomore guards, Ashley Whisonant and Jessica Arnold, and a proven senior in Natalie Jones, who will play the three spot. One word describes the player that Arizona needs running their offense ?- “LEADER!” The Tucsonans desperately need a spark plug that will give them a steady presence on the road and at home. Certainly, the addition of redshirt guard Joy Hollingsworth will help but more will be needed.
On top of these personnel issues is an improving Pac-10 Conference. Five teams invaded the NCAA Tournament from this band of unknowns and most of the bunch will be better next year. ASU gets Jill Noe back from a knee injury, USC is on the rise, UCLA will only be better with its star threesome and look out for Stanford again as Candace Wiggins contends for National Player of the Year honors.
One carrot that will be in front of Arizona all season is the opportunity to play at home during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. McKale Center will host a sub-regional, and if a team can play at home in the dance, who knows what can happen!
But first they must get there. This season, the Wildcats battled through numerous injuries and seven different starting lineups to manage 20 wins, which is very respectable. However, next year, respectable may not be enough and a 20-win campaign will be difficult to achieve. But it will be fun to speculate and there are some new recruits that look promising. That loss against LSU proved that the home team still has a ways to go. Let’s get behind them, buy some season tickets and watch to see what happens. Have a great off-season!
See you next year on the radio!