Michigan women's basketball team expects to keep improving
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
ROSEMONT, Ill. - A year ago, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth sat in the same room in the Crowne Plaza hotel and stewed.
His team finished last in the Big Ten Conference in 2008-09 and many questioned whether the Wolverines were improved.
Then Michigan went on to win 21 games and reach the semifinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
So this year, Borseth has no such concerns, even though Michigan was not among the three teams named as conference favorites Thursday in the preseason coaches poll.
“We weren’t this time,” Borseth said, laughing slightly.
There are reasons.
First, the Big Ten only released the top three teams in the coaches’ and media polls so even if coaches or the media did pick his team to finish last, he wouldn’t know.
It’s unlikely, however, they did.
Borseth has set the NCAA tournament as a goal for Michigan as it begins its season on Nov. 12 against Alcorn State.
“When you’re building a program, you’re fragile,” Borseth said. “It’s, one of the reporters asked me about the level of consistency or inconsistency to your program. It’s a game of ups-and-downs, that’s what it is.”
Borseth has started to see it in practice. He has to replace his center, Krista Phillips, and his point guard, Dayeesha Hollins.
At the point, he’ll likely plug in junior guard Courtney Boylan. At center, he is trying a different philosophy.
Having the 6-foot-6 Phillips allowed his teams to play differently than they ever had before. Phillips would play behind defenders in the post and use her size and length to block and deflect shots.
With her graduation, it left Borseth going back to his old style of play, which is fronting post players. It hurts in rebounding, but helps in creating overall havoc.
One player Michigan will look to is 6-foot-4 Val Driscoll. It is a strategy she never played before - and described it as “a lot of work.”
The first day she tried it, the results were bad.
“I was like, ‘What is going on,’” Driscoll said earlier this month. “Every ball I went to get I missed. Sam (Arnold) and Rachel (Sheffer) scored on me every single time.
“The next day, I got better at it.”
The style leaves Michigan vulnerable for offensive rebounds if not played correctly, but that is part of what Borseth is enforcing.
And he said slowly his team is improving at a style that forces teams to regroup and recover - which can lead to forced, and many times contested, shots.
“We’re just experimenting right now with doing something defensively that we haven’t done in a couple years,” Borseth said. “It’s high risk, high reward.”