There are expectations now. So there’s one difference.
The Kansas women’s basketball program has had inflated hopes before. Coach Bonnie Henrickson has had All-Big 12 talent. And the Jayhawks have won some big games, too.
But when the preseason polls come out later this month, it seems likely that the Kansas women will find themselves somewhere among the nation’s elite. And this won’t exactly be normal.
This is what happens when a program makes a breakthrough run to the Sweet 16. And when a point guard, senior Angel Goodrich, establishes herself as one of the best playmakers in the country.
“It’s good for them, for the excitement,” said Henrickson, in her ninth season at Kansas. “But they recognize it’s not going to win us any games. It will not have any affect if we’re gonna lose. From a maturity standpoint, they won’t get caught up in any of that.”
Fortunately for Henrickson, the Jayhawks feature a roster that appears capable of handling expectations. It starts with Goodrich, who averaged 14.0 points per game last season while leading the nation with 250 assists. Goodrich elevated her game to another level in March, and the Jayhawks rode the wave to a Sweet 16 appearance before bowing out to Tennessee.
“She grew into her own before we ever made the run,” Henrickson said.
The Jayhawks will also benefit from the return of post player Carolyn Davis, who was perhaps the team’s best player last season before a knee injury cut her year short. Davis averaged 16.9 points per game, while averaging 5.7 rebounds per night.
The Jayhawks also return sophomore guard Natalie Knight, a former Olathe South standout who provided crucial consistency as a true freshman.
Henrickson believes the Jayhawks will be good. That seems certain. But she also says her team must find ways to win more games in conference play. The Jayhawks finished just 8-10 in the Big 12 last season before squeaking into the NCAA Tournament. And while defending national champ Baylor will be heavily favored, Kansas could be in the mix to finish in the top three or four. But mostly, Henrickson says she’ll preach the same message she always has. There are expectations now. But that doesn’t mean anything needs to change.
“We’ve proved to ourselves and the community that we can be that team,” Davis said. “That’s our expectation and nothing less. Once you get that taste, you can’t get it out of your mouth; you can’t get it out of your system.”