Nov. 10: at Illinois, 2 p.m.
Nov. 12: Loyola-Chicago, 2 p.m.
Nov. 15: at Belmont, 7 p.m.
Nov. 18: Findlay, 7 p.m.
Nov. 21: UIC, 11 a.m.
Nov. 25: Quincy, 2 p.m.
Nov. 29: at Xavier, 7 p.m.
Dec. 4: at Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.
Dec. 8: E. Illinois, 6 p.m.
Dec. 10: Milwaukee, 2 p.m.
Dec. 16: at Michigan, 2 p.m.
Dec. 19: Maryville, 6 p.m.
Dec. 21: at Valparaiso, 8 p.m.
Dec. 30: W. Illinois, 2 p.m.
Jan. 4: Oral Roberts, 6 p.m.
Jan. 6: Denver, 2 p.m.
Jan. 9: Omaha, 6 p.m.
Jan. 13: at South Dakota, 2 p.m.
Jan. 18: at W. Illinois, 8 p.m.
Jan. 20: at N. Dakota State, 2 p.m.
Jan. 27: at S. Dakota State, 3 p.m.
Feb. 1: at Oral Roberts, 8 p.m.
Feb. 4: at Denver, 3 p.m.
Feb. 7: South Dakota, 6 p.m.
Feb. 10: at Omaha, 2 p.m.
Feb. 15: N. Dakota State, 6 p.m.
Feb. 24: S. Dakota State, 3 p.m.
• Coach Niecee Nelson enters her second season as the head of the program. “I think last year, what we did, we laid a really good foundation, building up character, talking about effort and how much effort and hard work we have to play and practice with,” she said. “The foundation is there. The returners, their buy-in has been awesome and giving them the leadership skills is awesome.”
• The Mastodons finished last season with an overall record of 5-24 overall and 2-14 in conference, finishing ninth in the Summit League.
• The team has three players who represented their respective countries in international competitions: Anna Lappenküper (Germany), Emma Tuominen and Sofia Rajala (both Finland).
• The team has five returners from last season and eight newcomers including Hannah Albrecht, from the now-closed Saint Joseph's, and Wayne graduate Sh'Toya Sanders, a transfer from Chicago State.
• The team was picked to finish eighth in the Summit League preseason poll. With the departure of IUPUI from the league, all Summit League members will travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the conference tournament.
4 games of interest
Nov. 10 at Illinois: The Mastodons' season opener is against one of two Big Ten teams on the nonconference slate.
Nov. 15 at Belmont: The Bruins have made two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and were picked first in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference poll. Canterbury graduate Darby Maggard was a first-team All-OVC selection last season for Belmont.
Dec. 16 at Michigan: The Wolverines will provide quite the challenge for the Mastodons. Michigan tied for second with Maryland in the Big Ten preseason rankings.
Dec. 30 vs. Western Illinois: The Mastodons open Summit League play at home against the Leathernecks. The game is the first of four consecutive home league games before a six-game road trip.
3 key players
De'Jour Young, Jr., G: The Concordia graduate averaged 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Anna Lappenküper, Soph., G: She helped lead the German U20 National Team to a European Championship in July. Last year, she averaged 6.7 points in 30.6 minutes per game.
KeShyra McCarver, Sr., F: The lone senior averaged 5.5 points. Her leadership will be critical for the Mastodons this year. “She's been asked to take on a huge leadership role,” Nelson said. “She's been supported by the other returners. She's led by example and she's definitely a vocal leader, too.”
2 points of concern
Newcomers: With eight newcomers, there's had to be an adjustment period. “Anytime you have a lot of youth, it's a lot of teaching,” Nelson said. “We had to break down defensive drills all the way to the very beginning, but what that does for the five (returners) is it gives them a bigger leadership role and they've stepped up big.”
Defense: The Mastodons were outscored by an average of 70.6 to 56.8 last season and gave up 49.1 percent of shots from opponents from the field. “Identity will be defense,” Young said. “I think that's the thing about this team is that we're all locked in. We have the energy to break down offenses.”
1 major issue
Offense: Coupled with defense, scoring must improve, as well. The team averaged 38.8 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. “Anytime you have that record going into the first year, there's a lot of room for improvement everywhere,” Nelson said. “We have a lot of shooters and there's a lot of presence in the block. In transition, we always want to get out, run and try and score easy layups. In addition, we have our 6-3 post player who bangs back to the basket. Another exciting part is 3-point shooting. With the 3-point shooting and going in-out, we have a lot of threats.”
– Aubree Reichel, The Journal Gazette