#20 Purdue Women's Basketball Preview

Purdue Boilermakers

Overall rank: #20
Conference rank: Big Ten #2
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The Purdue women’s basketball team may have been beaten up a bit in Big Ten Conference action last year, finishing just one game above .500. The Boilermakers made up for it with a strong non-conference slate that saw them go 12-5 against non-league opponents. Add to that a friendly home arena and several strong returning players (including the return of every big starter), and you have the makings of a Purdue team that could challenge for a conference title this season.  The early part of the schedule is a killer, but that could pay huge dividends down the road if everything works out.

2010-11: 21-12, 9-7
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost in second round to Connecticut, 64-40)
Coach: Sharon Versyp, 228-126 overall, 111-61 at Purdue

Who’s Out:
The good news for Purdue is Versyp’s 2010-11 squad had no seniors on it. The Boilermakers did lose one player, forward Ashley Wilson, who was declared academically ineligible for Purdue’s spring semester last season. The 6-foot sophomore elected to transfer instead. Wilson only averaged 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in her two years at Purdue, so her presence won’t be missed too much.

Who’s In:
Because everyone but Wilson returned, Versyp didn’t need to stock the cabinet with too many incoming players. As a result only two newcomers grace the Boilermaker squad this season and both are from Indiana. Liza Clemons, a 6-2 forward from the Fort Wayne area, pulled off 15.0 points and 11.8 rebounds per game as a high school senior. Torrie Thornton, a 6-foot guard from Carmel (just outside of Indianapolis), averaged 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. Both players made the 2011 Indiana All-Star team, and for them to come to Indiana’s strongest women’s basketball school is a coup for Versyp.

Who to Watch:
The team’s two deadliest 3-point shooters both return. Together, 6-0 guard Brittany Rayburn and 5-6 guard Courtney Moses combined to go 100-for-282 from the perimeter. While Rayburn’s strength is scoring (14.4 points per game), Moses is more of a helper and a scorer as evidenced by her team-leading 105 assists. Drey Mingo, a 6-2 forward, is an inspiring story. Mingo averaged 12 points and 5.8 rebounds per game despite being stricken with bacterial meningitis early in the 2010-11 season. Mingo took time to recover but still started 24 of Purdue’s 33 games. She is healthy and should contribute more to this year’s lineup.

Final Projection:
Wilson’s exit won’t impact Purdue one bit thanks to the talented newcomers Versyp recruited and the presence of everybody that contributed to last year’s great season. If everyone gets off to a solid start, don’t be surprised if Purdue pulls off a 25-win campaign and gives other Big Ten schools a run for their money. Penn State is the team projected to give Purdue the most fits inside the conference, and the Nittany Lions don’t play Purdue until mid-February in West Lafayette.

Purdue won’t look that far ahead, of course… not with a brutal schedule that includes Duke, Texas A&M and Notre Dame during a 10-day stretch that starts in December. It could be a stretch that makes or breaks Purdue, but if the Boilermakers survive that run with just a few battle scars then look out.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Drey Mingo, Forward, Senior, 12 points per game
Courtney Moses, Guard, Sophomore, led team in assists
Brittany Rayburn, Guard, Senior, 14.4 points per game
Alex Guyton, Forward, Senior, led team with 49 steals
Liza Clemons, Forward, Freshman, DNP last season

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:

#43 Brittany Rayburn

#45 Drey Mingo

Madness 2011 Women's Basketball Recruit Rankings:

#73 Liza Clemons