June 16, 2021 

The NCAA roster roller coaster: will continuity or change win out?

Come see who made big changes, who returns their core

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As we all continue to come out on other side of the pandemic, the landscape of women’s college basketball is no different.  This season we saw limited practice time, shortened schedules, postponed and canceled games, altered travel, opt-outs and now a transfer portal that is in overdrive.  

The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes in spring, fall and winter sports, introducing us to “super seniors” and allowing transfers without having to sit out a year.  Conferences are greenlighting intraconference transfers as well, including recent announcements by the SEC and Big East.  It is no surprise that rosters across the country will look different in 2021-22, but this year will have a different turn.  

Many coaches will have the benefit of experienced returners, some have been looking for one or two players in the portal and others are completely overhauling their roster while relishing a summer back in the gym with their players.

But just remember — the rollercoaster has not come to a complete stop and we will see many more flips, turns, additions and transfers in the months ahead.  Here’s a look into some programs to keep an eye on:

TEXAS LONGHORNS (Big 12 Conference)

In his first season in Austin, Vic Schafer molded his team to peak at the right time, finishing 20-10 and an appearance in the Elite 8.  It does not hurt that he had the No. 1 overall WNBA Draft pick, Charli Collier, on the block and experience on the roster.  5’9 grad transfer Kyra Lambert stepped up late in the season, dropping 23 against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament and coming up with clutch plays in the Sweet 16 vs UCLA.  Sophomore Celeste Taylor played 32 minutes a game, led the Longhorns in steals and averaged 12.3 points per game.  She entered her name into the portal and is headed to Duke.  So, what’s next?

Texas brings back a roster that can thrive in Schafer’s system, with battle-tested juniors Joanne Allen-Taylor, Audrey Warner and Lauren Ebo and younger players who will earn more playing time.  They secured the No. 4 ranked recruiting class in the nation with three top-20 ranked high school players and 2 No. 1 ranked JUCO prospects headed to campus.  Coaches love familiarity and 5’7 junior guard Aliyah Matharu, who was recruited by and played one year for Schafer at Mississippi State, is a great addition to their roster.  Matharu averaged 10.2 points a game last season in the SEC and has three-point range, international experience and was a 5-star recruit out of Washington D.C.  

With a more traditional off-season where the Longhorns can work together again, this new look roster will be prepared for the challenges ahead.

IOWA HAWKEYES (Big 10 Conference)

Expectations are always high in Iowa City and last season was no different.  The Hawkeyes finished sixth in the regular season Big 10 standings and battled their way to the conference tournament finals, falling to Maryland.  This season was the coming out party for freshman All-American Caitlin Clark, whose final stat line holds up against any player in the nation — 26.6 points, 7.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game.  She was named the 2021 Dawn Staley Award winner which goes to the best all-around guard in the country.  

Clark’s playmaking ability led Iowa to average 86 points per game, a Sweet 16 appearance and heading into 2021-22, they return all five starters including junior Monika Czinano and sophomore McKenna Warnock.  Sophomore guard Megan Meyer and freshman Laura Jensen entered the portal this spring with Meyer committing to Drake.  But the portal is bringing another playmaker right down Interstate 80 East in 6’0 guard Kylie Feuerbach, who started 24 of 28 games at Iowa State last season.  Feuerbach will be teaming up with a familiar face, having played on the All-Iowa Attack AAU team with her new backcourt mate in black and gold, Caitlin Clark.

All-American Caitlin Clark (Photo credit: Iowa Athletics)

Consistency is the name of the game for head coach Lisa Bluder who brings in another top 20 recruiting class.  The upcoming season is setting up to be one with high expectations and big results for Iowa.

MISSOURI STATE LADY BEARS (Missouri Valley Conference)

Up-tempo and aggressive are pillars of the program that head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton is building in Springfield.  Her second season at the helm of the Lady Bears program saw her named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Coach of the Year and her squad finish No. 14 in the final coaches’ poll.  For a team that finished 23-3 and lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Stanford, the 2021-22 roster will look different, yet very familiar.  “Super senior” Brice Calip, leading scorer and reigning MVC Player of the Year, is returning to join MVC Defensive Player of the Year junior Jasmine Franklin in the backcourt again.

The Lady Bears inked three guards in the early signing period and also signed 6’2 power forward Ifunanya Nwachukwu, the No. 12 overall JUCO player out of Chipola College.  But the additions didn’t stop there.  Depth comes to the floor in Maria White, a graduate transfer from Cleveland State.  She was the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Horizon League and averaged almost 20 points per game as a first team all-conference selection.  Joining White out of the portal is 6’3 Jennifer Ezeh, a top 100 player coming out of high school who missed her first season at Duke due to injury and did not play this year because of the opt out by the Blue Devils.

Putting back-to-back undefeated conference seasons together is no easy task, so watch for Coach Mox and her team to be riding close to that and more this year.

OREGON STATE BEAVERS (Pac 12 Conference)

The ‘COVID season’ was especially challenging for Pac 12 teams.  Oregon State was able to get wins when it mattered, finishing 12-8 with a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.  Aleah Goodman, an All-Pac 12 selection entered this year’s WNBA Draft and junior Jasmine Simmons decided to return home to Australia after three seasons in Corvallis.  Freshmen Sasha Goforth and Savannah Samuel entered the transfer portal in late March.  Where does the ride go now?

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 23: South Carolina vs Oregon State during the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament held at the Alamodome on March 23, 2021 in San Antonio, TX. (Photo by Mark Sobhani/NCAA Photos)

It starts with two “super seniors” returning for head coach Scott Rueck —Ellie Mack and Jovana Subasic, who bring leadership and experience to the roster.  The Beavers will get 6’6 forward Kennedy Brown back after she missed last season rehabbing an ACL injury.  She started 23 games as a freshman and is skilled on both ends of the floor.  Pairing Brown inside with 6’4 Taylor Jones (12.3 points per game this season) is a potent one-two punch.  

Two graduate transfers guards, Emily Codding (St. Mary’s) and Tèa Adams (San Diego State) committed this spring to go along with an exceptional incoming freshmen class.  Five-star recruit Talia von Oelhoffen graduated early and joined Oregon State for thirteen games this winter.  She along with guards AJ Marotte of Texas and Greta Kampschroeder, a top-10 high school prospect and one of the best shooters in her class, will add depth and scoring to a youthful Beavers roster.  

With a full schedule of training, practices, and games to mold together, be sure to keep a close watch on Oregon State. 

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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