Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Sue Guevara knew the question was coming.
In her 11th year as Central Michigan's women's basketball coach and her 18th as a head coach, she knows what to expect on media day, particularly when her team is picked in the preseason poll to win the Mid-American Conference championships.
"Nice respect -- nice to be picked first," Guevara said on Monday at the team's annual media day at the Kulhavi Events Center. "Target's on the back. Nothing new. Been there, done that. Just need to have the result be different than it was last year."
The Chippewas were picked to win the conference a year ago, and they did indeed accomplish that feat, becoming the first CMU women's team since 1985 to capture the regular-season MAC title.
But then came the league tournament, in which the Chippewas were upset in the quarterfinals by rival Western Michigan.
"Last year is last year, but I think there is a feeling in the gut that we want to go further," Guevara said. "It was disappointing, but we've moved on."
The Chippewas won 23 games a year ago, the second-highest total in program history. It was the sixth time in the last seven years that the Chippewas have won at least 20 games.
Four starters return, including 6-foot-3 senior Tinara Moore and 6-foot junior Reyna Frost, the former the 2017 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, the latter the reigning MAC rebounding champ.
Guards Cassie Breen and Presley Hudson also return. Hudson, a junior, quite simply may be one of the very best to have ever played at CMU when it is all said and done, and Breen, a senior, may be among the most underrated players in the league.
Also back are guards Aleah Swary and Amani Corley, while an influx of newcomers, including guards Micaela Kelly and Maddy Watters along with forward Krya Bussell combine to give Guevara perhaps her deepest team.
"I think we have a fair amount of weapons," Guevara said. "I don't think people are going to be able to focus just on (Hudson). I think we have a lot more scorers now and I think we have more people who can get our bigs the ball."
With Kelly and Watters joining the fray, the Chippewas have three players - including the do-it-all Hudson -- capable of playing the point.
"All three of them can score, know how to deliver the ball," Guevara said.
That bodes well, Guevara said, and should free up Hudson to play the role of scorer. She led the Chippewas, and ranked sixth in the MAC, in scoring a year ago (16.8 points per game) when she totaled 537 points, the third-highest for a single season in program history. She also hit 92.6 percent of her free throw attempts, which ranked fourth nationally.
It should also enable Guevara to rest the likes of Hudson and Breen, who averaged 36.5 and 33 minutes per game, respectively, a year ago.
"With (Kelly) and with Maddy, you're going to look at Breen and Pres probably not playing 40 minutes, which I think will be good down the road," Guevara said. "When it comes March, it's guard time, it's all about your guards, and you want them to be fresh."
The Chippewas, as has been their custom during Guevara's tenure, will face a rugged nonconference slate before the MAC opener at Ball State on Dec. 30.
Among the November and December opponents is Purdue of the Big Ten, Vanderbilt of the SEC, Duquesne of the Atlantic 10, and mid-major power Quinnipiac, which last season finished 29-7, won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships, and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
"A lot of different teams with a lot of different styles," Guevara said. "It does get us ready for the Mid-American Conference and it has the last couple years. We don't shy away. You can ask our players, they want to play those kinds of teams."
Welcome to Mount Pleasant
The Chippewas open with three straight at McGuirk Arena: Nov. 10 vs. Purdue; Nov. 14 vs. Vanderbilt; and Nov. 17 vs. College of Charleston.
The Chippewas played at No. 1-ranked Notre Dame to open the 2016-17 season, and later visited Purdue and then hosted Illinois. The Chippewas drilled Illinois, winning by 31 points.
"We played at Purdue last year," said Guevara, whose team lost to the Boilermakers by 11 points. "Purdue is one of the few Big Ten teams that will play us. I'm very grateful to (coach) Sharon Versyp for the fact that we will get to play.
"Vanderbilt they were looking for a game and they were willing to come here. How often do you get an SEC opponent that will come into Mount Pleasant? I'm thankful for (coach) Stephanie White and I know the staff; I think sometimes that helps too. We go down there next year
"Same thing with Quinnipiac. That's another really good mid-major program. Those are three really good teams with good RPIs and they're all here."