Syracuse Women’s Basketball faces tough schedule in 2019-2020 season
Syracuse Women's Basketball faces tough schedule in 2019-2020 season
For Syracuse Women’s Basketball, this offseason has been about healing. The wounds of an early tournament upset at the hands of San Diego State are still open and on the minds of most fans. To Coach Quentin Hillsman, the loss has led many to doubt the Orange’s ability, citing low preseason projections and disparaging articles. However, Hillsman is confident that his team is going to come out of the gates and shock the NCAA.
Hillsman stated again that the goal of this team is to go undefeated and win a national championship. Syracuse will have to manage a different lineup from last year, an inordinately difficult schedule and the pressures that come with being a power five basketball team with lofty expectations.
The Team as We Know It
It’s impossible to discuss the team without acknowledging Tiana Mangakahia’s absence on the court. Mangakahia, who recently received her final treatment for breast cancer, was the Orange’s star player. ‘Cuse might have otherwise struggled to cope with that loss if not for redshirt junior Kiara Lewis.
Lewis was a transfer from Ohio State in the 2017-2018 season. Her addition was always meant to fill Mangakahia’s shoes, as Coach Q said on media day that he fully expected the Australian standout to be in the WNBA by this time.
With Hillsman’s full endorsement, all eyes will be on Lewis as she takes on a major leadership role this year, which is crucial with the amount of fresh talent brought in this year.
The Orange have added six new women to their roster. Among them are three graduate transfers: Brooke Alexander, Elemy Colomé, and Whisper Fisher, all of whom are expected to play a large role in the lineup. Fisher voiced this feeling when she told the NewsHouse about how the culture at Syracuse is what sets this team apart.
“It’s a winning school here. That’s what you do here…” Fisher said. “It’s just always high energy every day. Everyone wants to compete every single day. I’m excited to win.”
This year will also see the return of several key veterans who all feel ready to take on a leadership role. Emily Engstler and Maeva Djladi-Tabdi each could assume a starting position alongside Lewis, while Gabrielle Cooper, Digna Strautmane, and Amaya Finklea-Guity will retain their starting spots.
With all the players squared away, it’s worth noting that this team lacks some size, and it’s a point Hillsman readily acknowledges. He said that this is the fastest team he has ever coached. This is a talented quick team with a lot of mobility and a deep roster. What remains to be seen is how well they can cope with a difficult schedule.
The Road Ahead
Syracuse will start this season with a trio of games (Ohio, Maryland Eastern Shore, and Albany), but on November 24th the first true test will come in the form of Oregon. The Ducks finished the 2018-2019 season as the seventh-ranked team in the country, and many are picking them to sit atop the NCAA this season. Defending Wooden Award winner and Wade Trophy recipient Sabrina Ionescu held off on the WNBA to stay at Oregon and win a title. The Orange could very possibly have their biggest challenge in only their fourth game.
While Oregon is one of the favorites in the NCAA this year, Syracuse will face another challenge as they enter 2020. In three consecutive games, they’ll see Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame, who were ranked 5, 25, and 3, respectively at the end of the season. What’s more: Syracuse faces Louisville and Florida State a second time each later in the season.
Coach Hillsman wasn’t shy about the difficulty of this schedule, and said that they scheduled their games like this very intentionally. He said he wants to play tough teams to show what the Orange can do and to keep the challenges coming.
Ready to Go
Every player on media day said they’re most excited for game one. It’s a deep roster with a lot of talent, and each and every one of these women is eager to prove what they can do to the NCAA and the nation as a whole. Coach Q’s strong statements and the players’ enthusiasm show the Orange don’t intend to leave anything off the court this season.
Syracuse Women’s basketball begins their season on November 5th at the Carrier Dome.