Hawkeyes Picked to Finish in Big Ten Upper Division

Oct. 26, 2008

CHICAGO – – The Big Ten Conference hosted its annual “Basketball Media Day” Sunday morning at the O’Hare Marriott. All 11 women’s head coaches, along with student-athletes from each institution met the media for three hours to preview the 2008-09 campaign.

Representing the Iowa Hawkeyes was the 2008 Big Ten and WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year Lisa Bluder, along with senior student-athletes Wendy Ausdemore and Kristi Smith.

The Hawkeye women, who shared the Big Ten regular season championship with Ohio State a year ago, were picked to finish fourth in the conference by the Big Ten coaches and fifth by a selected media panel. Iowa returns eight letterwinners, including two starters and a part-time starter, and add four talented newcomers.

Purdue was tabbed to finish first in the preseason coaches poll, followed by Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota. The media panel selected the Buckeyes to win the conference, followed by Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa.

Iowa will be led by a trio of seniors – Ausdemore, Smith and Megan Skouby. The trio accounted for 52 percent of Iowa’s scoring last season. Smith led the Black and Gold in scoring (13.3 ppg) and ranked second in assists (103). Ausdemore ranked second in scoring (11.6), first in 3-pointers made (78) and third in rebounding (3.7 rpg). Skouby ranked fourth in scoring (9.2 ppg) and tied for first in blocks (23).

Preseason rankings don’t mean much to Smith, who was an honorable mention All-American and selected first team all-Big Ten by the coaches and second team all-conference by the media last season.

“Last season, we were picked to finish fifth by the media and seventh by the coaches and we shared the Big Ten championship,” said Smith. “As seniors, this is our last go-around and we want to be among the teams competing for the conference championship.”

Ausdemore is excited for the season to start and the prospects of playing at home come March.

“We want to have a great year and are looking forward to it,” said Ausdemore. “The first two weeks of practice have been good. The underclassmen are doing a great job. We are going to need them to contribute in order for us to have another successful season. We know we will need to practice hard and prepare for every game because every Big Ten team has improved from a year ago. Knowing we are a host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament will give us even more incentive. “

Nine conference teams return at least three starters from a year ago. Coach Bluder, who guided the Hawkeyes to their ninth Big Ten regular season title and 17th NCAA Tournament appearance last year, thinks the Big Ten is extremely balanced.

“Ten of the 11 schools return their top scorer from last year and seven teams return their top rebounder,” said Bluder. “Top-to-bottom, I believe the Big Ten is better than last year and we need to be at our best every night. We have a very challenging non-conference schedule, which should prepare us come league play at the end of December.”

Ohio State sophomore Jantel Lavender, who ranked third in league scoring and first in rebounding, was named preseason Player of the Year by the coaches and media and was the only unanimous choice to the all-Big Ten team by both groups. Lavender became the first player in Big Ten men’s or women’s basketball history to be named conference Player of the Year as a freshman a year ago.

Joining Lavender on the preseason all-league team was Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan, Minnesota’s Emily Fox, Illinois’ Jenna Smith and Purdue’s Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. Wisdom-Hylton returns to the Boilermaker lineup after missing last season to injury. In 2007, she was an honorable mention all-American and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The women play their first exhibition game next Sunday against Quincy. Tip-off is slated for 2:05 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes’ regular season opener is three weeks from today (Sunday, Nov. 16) when they entertain Texas State at 2:05 p.m.

Coaches Poll
1. Purdue
2 Ohio State
3. Michigan State
5. Minnesota
6. Michigan
7. Illinois
8. Indiana
9. Penn State
10. Wisconsin
11. Northwestern

Media Poll
1. Ohio State
2 Purdue
3. Michigan State
4. Minnesota
6. Illinois
7. Indiana
8. Michigan
9. Penn State
10. Wisconsin
11. Northwestern

Preseason All-Big Ten Team (Coaches and Media)
Jenna Smith, Junior, Illinois
Allyssa DeHaan, Junior, Michigan State
Emily Fox, Senior, Minnesota
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Purdue

Preseason Player of the Year (Coaches and Media)
Jantel Lavender, Ohio State

Unanimous selection in ALL CAPS