FORT WAYNE –
New head coach Brady Sallee was 136-109 in eight seasons at Eastern Illinois, where he was a 22-9 record with an appearance in the women’s NIT last season.
Ball State has not had a winning record since 2008-09, when the Cardinals went 26-9 and upset Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals return five of their top six scorers from last year’s 9-21 squad, including leading scorer Brittany Carter (8.8 points per game).
Carter and second-leading scorer Jazmin Hitchens (8.6 ppg) played high school ball together at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis.
Freshman Nathalie Fontaine, a 6-foot-2 guard, hails from Stockholm, Sweden, where she was named the 2009 winner of the Scania Queen Award as the top player in Scandinavia.
4 games of interest
Jan. 10 vs. Miami: The Cardinals’ MAC season opener comes against the Red Hawks, the preseason favorite in the MAC East.
Jan. 16 at Bowling Green: The Cardinals’ first conference road test is a major one against the Falcons, picked to finish second to Miami in the East. Ball State was 2-12 away from home last year.
Feb. 7 vs. Central Michigan: A major divisional collision at home against the Chippewas, picked to finish second in the MAC West.
Feb. 10 vs. Toledo: Three days after Central, the favorite to win it all in the MAC comes to Muncie.
3 key players
Carter, G, So.: In addition to her 8.8 ppg scoring, Carter led the Cardinals in three-pointers with 49 and steals with 50, and was second in assists with 90.
Hitchens, G, Jr.: Hirchens, the second-leading returning scorer, is Ball State’s third returning rebounder (106).
Brandy Woody, G, Jr.: Woody averaged 6.5 ppg, led the Cardinals with 114 assists, and is the team’s top returning rebounder with 115 (3.8 rebounds per game).
2 points of concern
Shooting pains: Ball State shot just 36 percent last year, almost six percentage points worse than its opponents. And among their key returnees, only Hitchens shot better than 35 percent (36.9)
Clean that glass: With the departure of Suzanne Grossnickle and her 5.5 rebounds per outing, the Cardinals will scramble to find someone to get on the boards. Hitchens and Woody averaged just 7.6 rpg between them, and they’re the team’s leading returning rebounders.
1 major issue
How quickly will Sallee pick up the pieces? He had more than a measure of success at Eastern Illinois, but he’s got a major reconstruction project in front of him with the Cardinals. How quickly his team buys into what he’s selling will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Cardinals can top their nine-win campaign of a year ago.