CARDS FACE #19 SPARTANS IN ACC VS. BIG TEN SHOWDOWN ON ESPN 2.
Faced with a 1-4 start and headed to East Lansing to play a top 20 opponent on nation television tonight, Jeff Walz has reverted to "the old Coach Walz". The Cardinal head coach is looking for defense, court-awareness and...did we mention defense?...and those who can follow the train schedule will get the ride.
First stop is East Lansing...a city probably still buzzing after Izzo's come from behind win last night over the UofL men's team...where a 4-1 Suzy Merchant coached squad awaits.
This one will be played in the Breslin Center and a 7 p.m. tip is scheduled for ESPN 2 viewers.
We're getting Pam Ward and Rebecca Lobo tonight behind the microphones. It's time to play "Lobo says"...where you take a shot or sip every time she mentions "UConn" or "Geno". (Be sure to designate a driver if you're watching this one away from your home).
MSU lost to #4 Baylor by eight last time out in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament in the Bahamas for their first loss of the season. They beat Cincinnati by 40 the night before and also have home wins over Georgia, Western Michigan and Idaho.
Junior guard Tori Jankoska will be one the Cards will have to throw off the tracks. She lit the Bearcats up for 30 and Baylor for 23...making the All-Tournament team. Junior forward Aerial Powers (surely a candidate for Worldwide's All-Name team) is the active career Big Ten rebounding leader...so the Cards will need to throw a boxcar or two in her path as well.
For the Cards, it's hard these days to predict who will actually start...or finish...a contest but we'll expect that the M&M girls, Action Jackson and Taja Cole will be prowling the court for Walz. After that, Cortnee Walton's rebounding strength will need to be retrieved from the caboose and Arica Carter's engineering skills at driving the Cardinal Express will be essential if UofL is going to pick up their second win of the season.
After that, it's anyone's guess. Sam Fuehring and Erin De Grate have drawn a couple of starts this season but look to be specific role players. Asia Durr's availability will depend on how she feels and what the doctor's say. Walz has mentioned several times that he feels she's done for the season. She sat out the triad in Estero and we'd be surprised to see her
Syd Brackemyer, Dakota Weatherford and Brianna Jones may or may not get time off the bench. They didn't see a lot of time on the court in Florida and when you play three games in three days..especially when it is early in the season...you normally figure a coaching staff might go deep into their bench to rest a few starters (or finishers) and to get a look at a few combinations.
From what we've seen so far this year, Weatherford's hustle and tenacity would seem to be something Louisville could use these days. Brackemyer is as good as her knee will allow her to be but can be a lock-down defender and complimentary passer when 100%. Jones can shoot but her defensive skills are a work in progress.
I'm pretty sure all these girls want to be on the train and achieve success this season. What they will have to endure is a relentless, driving, no-excuses coaching style that they'll be under now. Maybe even a return to the checkered shirts Jeff used to wear.
The train is at the East Lansing station. We'll know who the conductor, engineer, brakeman are and who's asleep at the switch around 9:00 tonight...