ROSEMONT, Ill. — In a college basketball game, there are 200 available minutes to be played. This year, the Michigan women’s basketball team enters the season returning just 44.2 of those minutes from last year.
At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico readily admitted that this year will likely have many bumps in the road for the Wolverines, echoing the same sentiments as from Michigan’s media day last week.
“It’s going to be a bit of a transition year for us,” Barnes Arico said. “We have a lot of inexperience, we have a lot of youth, but we’re really excited about the opportunity to get on the court.”
She doesn’t know who will fill all of the minutes up-for-grabs, and she doesn’t expect to know any time soon. Barnes Arico said returning starting guard Nicole Elmblad, freshman guard Siera Thompson and junior forward Cyeesha Goree have earned starting spots, and junior guard Shannon Smith also likely has a spot. The last starting spot and the remaining minutes are up in the air, and Barnes Arico expects the battles to be in the rotation to last well into the season and to include almost every healthy body on the roster.
“It’s good to have the kids unsure of who has the starting role because then practices become a little more competitive, and everybody is fighting for the opportunity to get on the court,” Barnes Arico said.
Even among her presumed starters, Barnes Arico acknowledged the lack of prior playing time will be a factor. For example, Goree has played only 33 minutes over the first two years of her career, and Barnes Arico has said she may play more than 33 minutes in some single games this season.
STIFF EXHIBITION COMPETITION AHEAD: Barnes Arico’s first opportunity to tinker with her rotation will be Friday night in an exhibition against Wayne State. Though just an exhibition, Barnes Arico views the game as a valuable opportunity to see how her inexperienced players will perform in game situations.
“It’ll be interesting to see who responds and who steps up when the lights go on,” Barnes Arico said.
The Warriors aren’t your typical Division II opponent, as they will be sending out three Division I transfers in the exhibition. Wayne State center Shareta Brown was the University of Detroit’s leading scorer last season and averaged 21 points per game, including a 19-point performance against a more experienced Michigan squad last November.
No matter the competition, Barnes Arico expects the team’s early season games to be a learning experience for her players while she works toward determining individual roles for each player. Last year, the process was very different with the team’s experienced seniors clearly ahead of the young, inexperienced players.
“Now, everybody’s kind of on the same level,” Barnes Arico said. “So it will give an opportunity, if a kid’s not playing well, hey, let’s try a new kid. This kid’s not playing well, let’s try a new kid.”
MORE INJURY WOES: For the past two seasons, the Wolverines have not caught many breaks when it comes to injuries. Last season, five Michigan players tore their anterior cruciate ligaments, causing them to miss the entire season.
The prognosis looked brighter heading into this season, before sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell broke her foot early in the fall after suffering an ACL tear last season. Then, freshman guard Danielle Williams broke a finger on her left hand last week. Williams is expected to miss about a month after undergoing surgery last Thursday.
“It is unfortunate that this happened to Danielle so close to the beginning of the season,” Barnes Arico said in a statement. “She was expected to play a major role on this team, and losing her greatly impacts us moving forward.”