Buffs Open Exhibition Slate Against UCCS Friday
THE GAME: The University of Colorado opens its exhibition schedule on Friday, Nov. 3, against the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events Conference Center.
THE BUFFALOES: Colorado returns eight letterwinners and three starters from its 2005-06 squad that finished 9-21 overall and in 11th place in the Big 12 Conference at 3-13. The Buffaloes will also have seven players on the floor this winter that did not suit up for the 2005-06 campaign: four freshmen, two transfers and Kara Richards, CU's starting center in 2004-05. CU's two top scorers from a year ago return in junior forward Jackie McFarland (17.2 ppg) and senior guard/forward Jasmina Ilic (14.8 ppg). McFarland, a second team All-Big 12 pick, averaged 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 2005-06 and is expected to move back to her natural power forward position with the return of Richards. Richards started 26 games at center for the Buffaloes in 2004-05, averaging 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds as a true freshman. She missed the entire 2005-06 season with a Jones fracture in her left foot. Ilic is CU's top long range threat as she led the Buffs with 55 3-point field goals last year and currently ranks eighth on the school's career list. The Colorado front court is stacked with depth. Senior Anna Nedovic, the most experienced Buff on the roster in terms of games played, has the height at 6-foot-4 to crash the boards and can also shoot from the perimeter. Sophomore forward Caley Dow also has a solid outside shot and was CU's second-best rebounder in 2005-06 (5.0 rpg). Sophomore Hannah Skildum can play both the small forward and shooting guard spot. She played in all 30 games last year, mainly off the bench, and is according to the coaching staff, one of the most improved players on the roster. Senior Courtney Wallace was CU's practice player award winner this past year and is on scholarship for her final collegiate campaign. First-year players in forward Aija Putnina and center Courtney Dunn add to CU's depth.
The guard position is relatively inexperienced, yet there is a ton of reason for optimism. Junior point guard Susie Powers and freshman shooting guard Bianca Smith have been waiting over a year to hit the floor in a Buffs uniform. Both players red shirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules and will be key contributors right away. The Buffaloes will continue to stress defensive improvement from their guard position and certainly have the trio to do it. Junior Lauren Lubin is the lone returning guard with game experience in a CU uniform and has been known as a solid defensive player in the past. Freshmen Whitney Houston and Candace Rucker are two of the quicker players in the program. Houston, a point guard, helped her high school team to the Tennessee State title last year while Rucker, a shooting guard, is an All-State performer out of Northside High School in Memphis.
THE COACH: Kathy McConnell-Miller begins her second season as Colorado's head coach. She was 9-21 in her first season with the Buffaloes and has an overall seven-year head coaching record of 100-109.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Buffaloes will be seeking out several team and individual milestones this season:
? Five wins will give Colorado 600 as a program (595-353) and four wins at the Coors Events Center will give the Buffs 300 in the facility (296-87).
? Jasmina Ilic needs six 3-point field goals to reach 100 in her career, which would be the seventh Buff to hit the century mark. Currently eighth on CU's all time list, matching her output of 55 3-pointers in 2005-06 would put her among the career top five. Anna Nedovic needs three 3-point field goals to reach 50. She has a shot at reaching the career top 10, needing 27 3-pointers which would be a career season high.
? Ilic and Jackie McFarland are both well on pace to reach the 1,000 point mark this season and would become the 19th and 20th Buffs to reach that milestone. They would be the first pair of teammates to hit the mark in the same season since Britt Hartshorn, Jenny Roulier and Mandy Nightingale hit 1,000 within two weeks of each other in November 2001. McFarland needs 213 points, which by using her sophomore season average of 17.2 ppg, she would approach the mark about game 13 (Dec. 30, vs. Houston). Ilic needs 280 points, which by using her junior season average of 14.8 ppg, she would reach around game 19 (Jan. 24, at Oklahoma State).
? McFarland needs just 55 rebounds for 500 in her career and 202 rebounds would put her in the career top 10. She had 277 rebounds as a sophomore. Nedovic needs 152 rebounds to reach 500, she had 182 as a sophomore in 2004-05.
? McFarland is already ninth on CU's career list for blocked shots with 65. She needs 35 to reach 100 and would be just the sixth Buff to reach the century mark.
? McFarland's 19 career double-doubles rank fourth on the CU charts and she needs just four to move into third. Her 19 double-digit rebounding games ranks seventh. She would need 11 double-digit rebounding games this season to move into third on the career charts.
ABOUT THE MOUNTAIN LIONS: The Colorado Springs campus of the University of Colorado competes at the NCAA Division II level and is a member of the prestigious Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Mountain Lions, coming off a 12-16 season, were picked to finish fourth in the RMAC Eastern Division in the league's annual coaches poll. UCCS has just three returning players from the 2005-06 season who combined for 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Among the new faces for the Mountain Lions are three NCAA Division I transfers and the nation's assist leader from the juco ranks. Senior guard Dolly Fiedelman is UCCS' lone returning starter, averaging 5.9 points and 2.2 assists per game last season. UCCS is led by second-year head coach Jessika Stratton who is very familiar with the Buffaloes. Stratton was a four-year letterwinner at Baylor (2000-04), helping the Bears to three NCAA tournament appearances.
EXPERIMENTAL RULES: Colorado will play its two home exhibition games with a pair of experimental rules. First, the 3-point line will be moved from its traditional distance of 19-feet, 9-inches to an experimental distance of 20-6. The line laid out on the court is actually a 3-inch thick line with the front of the line representing the women's distance of 20-6. So essentially, players can have their toes on the line for a 3-point attempt, just not over it.
Colorado used the experimental distance in five games last year, the two exhibitions and at the San Juan Shootout tournament. CU hit 36 percent (23-of-64) from the experimental distance last year while the Buffs' opponents made just 22 percent (12-of-55).
Second, the women will play under the 10-second rule to get the ball across half court currently used in the men's game. There were no back court violations by either CU or its opponent in the five games played under the 10-second rule last season.
BUFFS IN EXHIBITION: Colorado has played at least one exhibition game every season since 1997, featuring a mix of NCAA II schools, foreign teams and traveling all-star teams. The Buffaloes are a perfect 16-0 in those contests, outscoring their opponents by 28.8 points per game (88.9-60.1). CU's closest exhibition contest came in 1997, a 77-72 win over Athletes in Action. Colorado won both of its exhibition contests last season defeating the Colorado School of Mines 55-28 on Nov. 3, and Regis University 73-62 on Nov. 11. Jasmina Ilic scored 29 points to lead CU past Mines while Jackie McFarland had 13 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Buffaloes past Regis.
BUFFS PICKED 11TH: CU was picked to finish 11th in the annual Big 12 Coaches Preseason Poll. The Buffaloes received 26 points, an improvement from the 14 points received a year ago when the CU was picked to finish last. CU was 9-21 overall in 2005-06 and finished 11th in the Big 12 race with a 3-13 mark.
Defending league champion Oklahoma was picked to repeat its title receiving all 11 possible first place votes for a total of 121 points. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Big 12 Southern Division teams dominated the upper half of the poll, taking the top four spots. Texas A&M was picked second with 107 points, followed by Texas (101) and Baylor (94).
Iowa State came in fifth with 68 points, just edging out Nebraska which was picked sixth with 66. Kansas State and Texas Tech tied for seventh with 57 points followed by Missouri (43), Kansas (36), CU (26) and Oklahoma State (16).
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Colorado once again faces a tough schedule with no less than 17 games against 2006 NCAA or WNIT tournament teams. The Buffaloes will host perennial NCAA women's powers Southern California and Vanderbilt during the non-conference season as well as region rival Colorado State. Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma come to Boulder this year out of the Big 12 South along with the Buffs' usual Big 12 North opponents.
HOME AT THE CECC: Although the exhibition games will not count in the record books, Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 296-87 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.773). The Buffaloes have won 10 or more games in a season at the CECC in 18 of the previous 28 years including five undefeated seasons (1980-83, 1992-94). At 7-9 in 2005-06, CU finished its home season with a below .500 mark for just the third time in the 28-year history of the CECC.
BUFFS ON TV: Colorado's schedule features nine games that will be televised either regionally or nationally by Fox Sports Net. Two games are part of the Big 12's national package with FSN: Sunday, Jan. 28, at Missouri and Saturday, Feb. 10, at home against Nebraska. FSN Rocky Mountain will televise six CU home games beginning with the regular season opener against San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 10. FSN Midwest will televise CU's game at Kansas State on Wed., Feb. 14, which could potentially be picked up by FSN Rocky Mountain as well.
UP NEXT: Colorado will host the Colorado School of Mines in its second exhibition game scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.