Maryland again looks like team to beat in Big Ten

CHICAGO (AP) Maryland quickly took command in its inaugural Big Ten women's basketball season, and big things could be in store again.

The Terrapins - unbeaten in conference play and a 2014-15 NCAA Tournament semifinalist - return three starters and add two freshmen who were McDonald's All-Americans.

''We've had changes like everybody else in the offseason now and it's molding this new team and seeing what's the best version we can be,'' coach Brenda Frese said. ''We're going to be led by our veterans, which will be our four seniors, and love the fact that they have so much experience.''

Ohio State is projected to contend behind Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Kelsey Mitchell, who became the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring last season.

''We played at a very fast pace last year, and so I'm hoping we can even play a little bit faster with more depth,'' Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said.

Maryland went 18-0 during the 2014-15 Big Ten season, swept three conference tournament games and won a school-record 28 games in a row until an 81-58 loss to Connecticut in the NCAA semifinals. The Terrapins lost All-Big Ten guard Laurin Mincy (13.5 points) while No. 2 scorer Lexie Brown (13.3) transferred to Duke.

''She transferred out, there's not much more I can elaborate,'' said Frese. ''It was a personal choice.''

Maryland returns Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, a junior guard who averaged 13.3 points and led with 328 rebounds, plus junior center Brionna Jones (12.4 points). Both played in the off-season World University Games and the Pan American Games. The new faces include prep standouts Kiah Gillespie and Brianna Fraser.

Several rules changes will be introduced this season, including a switch from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters. Teams will reach the bonus to shoot two free throws after a fifth foul in each quarter.

They'll also be allowed to advance a throw-in to the 28-foot mark in the final 59.9 seconds of a game or overtime when a timeout is called by the offensive team. The shot clock goes from 35 to 30 seconds for men but is unchanged for women.

''It's going to be tough,'' said Purdue coach Sharon Versyp. ''All of us coaches have to strategize totally differently. You have to understand your timeouts. . I was fortunate. Our team was able to go to Italy (during the summer), so we had a lot of those same rules.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.