The Nebraska women’s basketball team is coming off a surprising season in which they finished third in the Big Ten (regular season) and earned an NCAA tournament bid. Ultimately, the young Huskers exited the Dance in the first round, but return a lot of key contributors and bring in some good young talent.
Their reward for a great season?
The matchups for the ACC/Big Ten women’s basketball challenge pit the Huskers against the defending ACC regular season co-champion Louisville Cardinals. The Cards won the ACC tournament and advanced all the way to the women’s Final Four.
Louisville lost one key contributor to graduation, Myisha Hines-Allen who now resides in the WNBA after being selected 19th overall by the Washington Mystics. They also lost reserve guard Sydney Zambrotta to transfer (looking for more playing time). The Cards are bringing in a grad transfer Yacine Diop from Pitt as well as the #15 ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN). Don’t expect much in the way of drop-off for Louisville.
Nebraska lost starter Jasmine Cincore to graduation as well as reserve guards Emily Wood and Janay Morton. Morton was sidelined by an injury early in the season but came on to play starter-level basketball down the stretch. The Huskers return four of five starters, including their top five scorers in Hannah Whitish (2nd team all-Big Ten in 2018), Maddie Simon, Taylor Kissinger, Kate Cain (Big Ten all-freshman and defensive teams), and Nicea Eliely. Kissinger, a rising sophomore, was an early season starter while injuries forced Amy Williams to juggle her lineups nearly every game until an injury of her own forced her into a reserve role (as a three-point assassin and perimeter shot blocker).
While all three graduates were contributors, the Huskers are bringing in a freshman class that was ranked #20 in the nation by ESPN. The youngsters should bring more offensive firepower than the group they replace, something that the Huskers will need to rise to the next level.
It would be disingenuous to call Nebraska a “young” team this season as the top five returning scorers are a junior, senior, sophomore, sophomore, and junior respectively. The high level of potential in this team combined with their over-achievement last season are likely reasons why they got such a competitive draw in the challenge.
Here is the schedule breakdown.
2018 ACC/Big Ten Women’s Basketball Challenge
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Illinois at Clemson
Indiana at Wake Forest
Virginia at Michigan State
Rutgers at Virginia Tech
Duke at Wisconsin
Thursday, Nov. 29
Iowa at Notre Dame
Georgia Tech at Maryland
Michigan at NC State
Syracuse at Minnesota
Nebraska at Louisville
Pittsburgh at Northwestern
North Carolina at Ohio State
Penn State at Florida State
Miami at Purdue
Note: I’m not sure how or why, but Iowa WBB gets to travel to defending national champion Notre Dame for their ACC/B1G challenge game. Okay, I do know why. It all has to do with the fact that superstar Megan Gustafson chose to return for her senior season rather than head off to the WNBA. The Hawkeyes will be a dangerous team in the B1G with Gustafson wreaking havoc in the paint.