Today marks the official start of basketball season, at least in my mind. The Iowa State women’s basketball team will hold its media day later today at 2.
Of course, the Cyclone Fanatic team will be on the scene will complete coverage. Intern Garrett Kroeger is set to take over the beat this season and I know he will do a bang-up job. Chris Williams and I will be there as well to see if we can dig up some content of our own.
This year’s team is setting up to be an interesting one after the Cyclones finished last season below-.500 for the first time since the 2002-03. Bill Fennelly’s squad has a handful of impactful returners plus some highly skilled newcomers.
With that said, here are the five things I will be watching during women’s basketball media day.
1. Can Seanna Johnson possibly be any better?
In case you missed it, Johnson was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team yesterday. That’s good news after she somehow was left off of the team in 2015-16.
That fact didn’t matter because Johnson went on to tear through the league anyway. She finished the season as the league’s second-leading scorer (17.0 points per game) and rebounder (9.4 rebounds per game).
She is the Big 12’s returning leader in both categories and was the only player in the country last season to average more than 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
So that leads to this question: Can Seanna Johnson be even better during her senior year?
I’m interested to find out what Johnson focused on improving during the offseason and how she’s seen her game grow. In my opinion, an All-American season isn’t out of the question if she’s able to take steps forward.
2. How do the new international players fit in?
Fennelly and his staff welcomed three new international players to their team this season. They join sophomore Bridget Carleton to give the Cyclones four players from outside of the United States.
The other three, freshmen Adriana Camber, Aliyah Konate and Sofia Zivaljevic, will all likely be asked to fill some role during their first season in Ames.
Specifically, I want to know how, or if, Zivaljevic, a native of Montenegro, will fit into the point guard rotation. Plus, I’m interested to hear how the 6-foot-4-inch, Konate, a native of Germany, can make an impact in the post.
3. How does Bridget Carleton avoid the sophomore slump?
Carleton is another player with room to make a big jump in 2016-17. She was named honorable mention All-Big 12 as a true freshman and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her on first or second team after this season.
Carleton spent the summer with the Canadian national team, so I’m intrigued to hear how that’s impacted her game leading into her second season in Ames.
She’s, maybe, one year off from being a top five player in the Big 12, but there’s no doubting her and Johnson could make for a helluva one-two punch.
4. Who plays point guard?
Point guard is one of the few question marks in Iowa State’s starting five. Junior Jadda Buckley is back, but I think Fennelly and his staff would much rather she plays off-the-ball. That leaves junior Emily Durr as the only player on the roster with experience at the point.
Freshmen Nia Washington and Zivaljevic will likely both be asked to make an impact during their first seasons in Ames and, maybe, even by the first game. Another name to watch here could be redshirt freshman TeeTee Starks.
Starks was really good at times last season before a knee injury cut her season short. It will be interesting to see how Fennelly and co. use her after her year off.
5. Where does Heather Bowe fit in?
Bowe brings a great deal of experience to an Iowa State front court that suddenly has a handful of weapons. Sophomore Meredith Burkhall, Johnson and Carleton will likely hold down the three forward spots, so I’d expect Bowe to come off the bench.
That said, the 6-foot, Wisconsin native, started 55 games during her career at Vanderbilt, so she’ll be a really solid option, and better than anything ISU’s had recently, off the bench. How many minutes does she play and how much does she score?
I have no clue, but she’ll be a huge piece of an Iowa State team that I think will be much improved in 2016-17.