ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Nebraska was picked to win the Big Ten women’s basketball title this season, while Penn State guard Maggie Lucas was chosen Preseason Player of the Year in a vote by conference coaches and media.
Penn State, winners of the last two conference titles, was selected to finish second. Lucas, last season’s conference player of the year, averaged 20.1 points and led the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (.462).
The Cornhuskers return four starters — led by senior Jordan Hooper — from last year’s team that won 25 games and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
However, Nebraska lost All-America point guard Lindsey Moore, who now plays for the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.
Coach Connie Yori was surprised her team was voted the preseason favorite.
“This is the first time Nebraska has been picked to win whatever conference we were in,” she said. “I didn’t pick us to win the Big Ten. I don’t know why anyone else did. We have a lot of work to do.
“It doesn’t change who we are or what we do. It does put a little bit more of a target on our backs.”
Lucas and Hooper were voted on conference’s preseason All-Big Ten first-team by the coaches and the media along with Rachel Banham of Minnesota and Courtney Moses of Purdue. Samantha Logic of Iowa was voted to the first team by the media, while Klarissa Bell of Michigan State was voted by the coaches.
Although Lucas is a veteran, she faces a learning curve in adjusting to playing without backcourt mate Alex Bentley, who graduated.
“I think I’ll be playing a little more point this year, so I definitely need to improve that aspect of my game,” Lucas said. “Handling the ball and handling pressure.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington thinks Lucas, who is on the Wade Trophy and Wooden Award watch lists, is capable of handling the new duties.
“Maggie’s done a fantastic job of being a leader, growing into a leadership role,” Washington said. “Every year she’s added new things to her game. This year, one of the biggest things she added is growth in leadership and being patient and having poise.
“She was always the younger of the core players on our team, so she didn’t necessarily have to have that. She could just play and let the upperclassmen take care of the leadership. She sets such a high standard with her work ethic in practice.”