#7 Louisville Women's Basketball Preview

Louisville Cardinals

Overall rank: #7
Conference rank: Big East #3
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Once you get to the Final Four, you want to go back again and again. Such was the case for the Louisville women’s basketball team, which reached the national championship game two years ago before losing to Connecticut. That has fueled Coach Jeff Walz to go out and recruit talented in-state and out-state athletes and overturn his roster. There was some upheaval last year, but despite that an influx of scoring talent in the recruiting class should keep Louisville in Big East title talk.

2010-11: 22-13, 10-6
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost to Gonzaga in regional semifinals, 76-69)
Coach: Jeff Walz, 96-46 overall

Who’s Out:
Two of Walz’s players graduated following the 2010-11 season. LaToya Johnson, a 5-5 guard, only played in five contests as a reserve and averaged 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Keshia Hines, a 6-2 center, will be the bigger loss, although her overall numbers (7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds) come in below the top four scorers. Three other players also are off the 2011-12 roster. Polly Harrington, a 6-0 freshman forward, averaged just under two points and one rebound a game a year ago; she transferred to Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. Nikki Burton, a 5-11 sophomore guard last year, didn’t see any playing time and is now at Wingate University. Rachel Story, who was a 5-7 sophomore guard from Milwaukee, saw time as a reserve in 23 games but barely broke the one-point and one-rebound barrier. She is now at Illinois-Chicago.

Who’s In:
Three players are new to the roster as freshmen. Sara Hammond, a 6-2 forward, is an in-state native (Mount Vernon, Kentucky), and her 2,121 career points are the most in Rockcastle County history. She averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds during her senior season. Bria Smith, a 5-10 guard, was a four-year starter at Christ the King High School in New York, and she averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds. Smith was also the only NYC player to earn selection to the McDonald’s All-American game and was also named Miss Basketball for New York. Jude Schimmel is a 5-6 guard from Mission, Oregon and the younger sister of sophomore Shoni Schimmel. Jude averaged 28.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game her senior year of high school.

Who to Watch:
Two double-digit scorers are back with the Cardinals for 2011-12. The first, Monique Reid, is a 6-1 forward who averaged 15.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. Also keep an eye on Shoni Schimmel, who had 15.1 points per game but also was the team’s leader, far and away, in assists with 172. The scoring drops off pretty quickly after that, so it is clear Reid and Schimmel will be the go-to girls for the Cardinals this season.

Final Projection:
Louisville will be one of the teams in contention for the coveted Big East championship and further success in the NCAA tournament. The five players Walz lost barely cracked 10 points per game as a collective group, with Hines leading the way. That makes Walz’s job easier as he doesn’t have to fill as many holes. Look for the Cardinals to click right away.

Big tests await this month with games against Texas A&M and Xavier, followed by Florida State and the traditional Louisville-Kentucky clash. Look for Connecticut and Notre Dame to be among the Big East contenders for the title, but Louisville will not see them until February and both games are at home.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Monique Reid, Forward, Senior, 15.5 points per game last year
Shoni Schimmel, Guard, Sophomore, leading 3-point shooter (36.5 percent)
Tia Gibbs, Guard, Junior, led team in steals with 95
Becky Burke, Guard, Senior, 7.9 points per game
Sara Hammond, Forward, Freshman, DNP last season

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#28 Monique Reid

Madness 2011 Women's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#6 Bria Smith
#14 Sarah Hammond