MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Expectations are higher than ever for head coach Sue Guevara and the Central Michigan women’s basketball program in her seventh season at the helm.
After earning their first Mid-American Conference Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly 30 years, the Chippewas were a unanimous choice to win the West Division and were picked to repeat as MAC Tournament champs in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll.
The two rising juniors spent their “offseason” in very different ways as Bradford earned a gold medal with the United States World University Games and Green rehabbed a knee injury that forced her to miss the final seven games of last season.
Bradford led the Chippewas in scoring (16.1), rebounds (9.9) and blocks (1.8) last season and set program postseason records with 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven steals versus Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. She was named All-MAC First Team and went on to earn MAC Tournament MVP honors. Green averaged 11.8 points and a team-best 2.2 steals per game, with a career-best 36 percent three-point shooting percentage to earn All-MAC Third Team honors.
“I just want to stay healthy for the whole season,” Green said. “I’d really like to play in the MAC Tournament. Our goal is get farther than we did last year. We made the tournament last year, but we want to make a name for ourselves here at Central Michigan and put on a good show for our fans.”
Experience and veteran leadership will be pivotal to the Chippewas’ success as seniors Niki DiGuilio, the 2010 MAC Freshman of the Year, and Taylor Johnson, the 2010 MAC Sixth Player of the Year, look to close out their prestigious careers with another championship. DiGuilio is on pace to becoming the program’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals, entering the season just 42 shy.
Senior Jordan LaDuke and junior Kerby Tamm, both in their third season with the program, will also be relied on heavily to provide veteran leadership through a brutal non-conference schedule. Tamm posted the fourth best three-point shooting percentage in program history last season, knocking down 41.7 percent of her attempts. Junior Jas'Mine Bracey, a 2011 MAC All-Freshmen Team selection, will lead the Chippewas’ frontcourt with her career 8.0 points and 6.1 rebounds average.
“Our team chemistry is going to help a lot,” Green said. “Our chemistry helps us click on and off the court. Everything comes together and we feel good about ourselves afterwards. Good chemistry brings a good team.”
The Chippewas battled through a rigorous non-conference schedule last season that prepared them for the MAC season and will take the road less traveled by many schools again this year. Six of the Chippewas’ 12 non-conference games will be against teams currently ranked in the top 25 nationally, while 10 of the 12 games will be against teams that appeared in a postseason tournament last season.
After opening the season at UMASS, CMU will travel to No. 7 Kentucky for the first of the six games versus nationally ranked foes. The Chippewas will also play No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 14 Dayton twice and No. 18 Purdue prior to MAC play.
“We have to be challenged if we are going to get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” Guevara said. “There is a method to our madness, but I just know this is what our basketball teams needs and wants.”
Sophomore Da'Jourie Turner is expected to step into a key backcourt role after appearing in 22 games as a true freshman and will be joined by redshirt freshman Jewel Cotton, who was named the team’s Most Improved Player and Practice Player of the Year last season. Sophomore Chelsea Lynn also returns for CMU after playing in 14 games as a true freshman and will bolster the CMU frontcourt.
CMU opens the regular season Sunday, Nov. 10 at UMASS at 1 p.m. The game will be the first of six away from McGuirk Arena, including three at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands Nov. 28-30. The Chippewas’ home opener will be Thursday, Dec. 5 versus No. 14 Dayton.