But Maryland’s women’s basketball team didn’t necessarily need to announce itself Thursday, because the league’s coaches and media members did it for them: The Terrapins were voted as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten despite being more than two months away from their inaugural conference game, against Ohio State.
“Obviously, I appreciate the respect … that they have for our tradition and our program, and what we’ve been able to do throughout so many years consistently,” Coach Brenda Frese said. “Truly honored in the fact that [we] haven’t played a conference game and to be preseason selected number one. I think at the end of the day, it’s just a preseason ranking, and we have to continue to work extremely hard.”
Said Walker-Kimbrough: “We’re know how competitive they are. We know how much women’s basketball means to the Big Ten.”
Maryland is six months removed from its last season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, capped by a run to the Final Four, where it lost to ACC newcomer Notre Dame. It will now have to search out new rivals in the Big Ten, and it will have the luxury of Frese’s Big Ten background leading that charge: Frese’s breakthrough in the national coaching scene came during the 2001-2002 season, when the Iowa native led Minnesota to a 22-8 record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament’s second round before departing for Maryland the following season.
“I think the fact that I grew up in the Big Ten, coached in the Big Ten and I’ve always followed it, I think it definitely gives you an edge because you know and understand styles of play and what the competition is going to look like,” Frese said.
Big Ten coaches voted Michigan State and Iowa to finish second and third, respectively, while the media chose Michigan State and Nebraska behind Maryland in those spots. Terrapins guard Lexie Brown was tabbed by the media as a preseason first team all-conference pick, a year after she burst onto the scene as a true freshman. Brown — the daughter of Dee Brown, an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings and a former NBA player — started 29 games and averaged 10.1 points per game. She scored in double figures in all five of the team’s NCAA tournament games.
Brown expects the Big Ten to carry intelligent and big, physical teams, but Maryland certainly has the personnel to be dominant. The roster will have to compensate for the loss of Alyssa Thomas, one of the most decorated players in program history, but it returns two starters and nine total letterwinners. Brown will run the point, and the the perimeter is stacked with talent, including Walker-Kimbrough and Laurin Mincy, the team’s lone senior.
“Our expectation is to win a national championship,” Brown said. “We lost a lot with our graduating class of seniors, but I think this group is really going to come together.”