Last season, the Ball State Cardinals won over 20 games for the second consecutive season under coach Brady Sallee and were invited to the WNIT yet again. According to this article from the Daily News, the Cardinals want more. While I am sure they would be happy with a 6th consecutive appearance in that tournament, the ultimate goal is to reach the NCAA tournament.
In the front court, Moriah Monaco returns along with her 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game average. Destiny Washington also returns and she averaged 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, so I am confident that part of the Cardinals team will be fine. Junior point guard Carmen Grande returns and she led the team with 244 assists, to give some stability in the back court. She had 12 assists in the team’s exhibition game against Illinois-Springfield on the first. This trio not only will be leaders on the court, I believe they will act as a steadying force for all the new faces.
With the departure of Renee Bennett, who led the team in points and rebounds, this team will have a new look, and it’s not just the players. The entire identity of the team will shift. I expect them to be more fluid, and this article from the Daily News tells me coach Sallee believes the same thing. A quote from the article, “With the right combinations we are positionless,” Sallee said. “The better you make your players, the better the players make you.”
With this more fluid approach, I think we will see much more scoring, both by the Cardinals and their opponents. The Cardinals were third in the MAC in scoring offense last season, but a full 10 points behind the leaders. They were 4th scoring defense. I don’t think it will necessarily have a positive or negative effect on the win total, but it will make for a faster tempo.
Overall this is team with a lot of new faces, many of them young. There will certainly be some growing pains, but I think the team will perform well until they hit the meat grinder that will be the MAC West this season. The Cardinals will probably take some lumps, but overall I think it will be a successful season that has a good chance to send them back to the WNIT. Sorry.