#36 Xavier Women's Basketball Preview

Xavier Musketeers
Overall rank: #36
Conference rank: Atlantic 10 #2
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This season is all about coming home for the Xavier women’s basketball program. Amy Waugh, who guided the Musketeers to the NCAA women’s Final Four in 2001 as a player, was named the team’s head coach in April. Waugh was an assistant coach under Kevin McGuff, who stepped down after nine seasons to take the head coaching job at Washington. Having a familiar face, not to mention one known to most longtime Xavier basketball fans, should help the Musketeers stabilize the ship as it heads into a new era. Xavier has what it takes to compete for an Atlantic 10 title, but can it go back to the Big Dance?

2010-11: 29-3, 14-0
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost to Louisville in second round, 85-75)
Coach: Amy Waugh, first year

Who’s Out:
Four of the five starters from a year ago are gone, headed by Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Amber Harris, who averaged 18.7 points per game to go with 10.2 rebounds and the conference lead in blocked shots. Ta’Shia Phillips also exited, taking with her 16.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game and a shooting mark over 60 percent. Also gone from the starting lineup are Special Jennings, the A-10 assist leader (5.2 per game) and Megan Askew. Together, these four averaged close to 50 points per game, meaning the Musketeers must replace that scoring and quickly if it wants to compete for another trip to the NCAA tournament. Katie Rutan, a sophomore a year ago, transferred to Maryland.

Who’s In:
Even though many starters are gone, there are still plenty of bodies sticking around. That left room for Waugh to bring in just one true freshman, 6-3 forward Liz Stratman. Stratman, a native of Indianapolis, helped lead her Heritage Christian high school team to back-to-back state championships in 2008 and 2009 and was an All-State basketball selection from the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association last year. Also in is Chipola College transfer Tykiesha O’Neill, who averaged 18 points in 10 games last year before injuries sidelined her.

Who to Watch:
Tyeasha Moss, a 5-9 senior guard, is the lone starter back from last year’s team and will be heavily counted on to lead Xavier’s frontcourt. Moss averaged 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game a year ago, and her 64 3-point field goals ranked seventh in the Atlantic 10. With so much gone from last year’s successful team, it is hard to tell who else will step up and take charge as the Musketeers charge into battle for 2011-12.

Final Projection:
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Musketeers this season. Yes, five of the top six scoring players are gone, four to graduation and one to transfer. It always seems like Xavier finds a way to win, and even if the team slips a notch or two in the standings it still could have 20 victories and a successful season. Keep in mind Waugh knows the Xavier system, having played in it and coached as an assistant.

Early-season non-league tests include Louisville, Stanford and Cincinnati; at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas in December, the Musketeers take on Syracuse and Oklahoma. Xavier isn’t shying away from a tough schedule, which includes an Atlantic-10 test against Temple on Jan. 24.

Projected postseason appearance: NCAA

Projected Starting Lineup:
Tyeasha Moss, Guard, Senior, 10.4 points per game
Tykiesha O’Neill, Guard, Junior, transfer from Chipola College
Liz Stratman, Forward, Freshman, DNP last season
Jessica Pachko, Forward, Junior, 10.4 points per game at Marquette in 2009-10
Sabrina Johnson, Center, Senior, limited action last year