Throw the Records Out the Window

The non-conference slate for the Lady Raiders is over and Steve Strain takes a look at the team and how its shaping up.

With the Lady Raiders 30-point victory over Houston, Sunday, they finish the non-conference portion of their schedule at 10-2.  


My broadcast partner Chuck Heinz and I got to talking about that after the game, and I started comparing this year's team to last season's, and I began thinking about which team I felt better about at this point in the season.


The previous season's version of the Lady Raiders was unbeaten and nationally ranked heading into conference play.  You can't say either of those things about this team.  


However, the vibes I'm getting from this team are better than from any of the others I've seen in my 3-plus seasons calling Lady Raider games - including last season's when the Lady Raiders went unbeaten two games into conference, and were ranked as high as tenth in the nation.  


I think they are also better than the NCAA tourney team two years ago.


It wasn't uncommon for last year's team to play 11 so it would be hard to argue this year's team is deeper than last year's.  But the talent of the 2012-'13 version is better 1-11.  And some of the individual's players from last season's team are noticeably better.  


First in my mind is Christine Hyde.  With her, it's not as much that her overall game has improved, but that she is "bringing it" literally every game this season instead of only in spurts.  And give her a big pat on the back for her free throw shooting.  She's close to 20 percentage points better than where she finished from the stripe last year.


I also like what Haley Schneider has done to improve.  Whether or not she is an impact player in conference play remains to be seen, but her hard work has paid off and is definitely noticeable.   Her sister Kellyn as a freshman does have a chance to be an impact bench player in the Big 12 right away.


Sophomore Amber Battle is maturing as well, and the addition of Jackie Patterson gives Tech a presence of versatility at the post with her ability to score inside and out.


Another positive about this team is its balance.  In previous years, they may have relied too much on Kierra Mallard and if Mallard had an off night or wasn't playing at all they didn't always know whom to look for to score.  Now, they simply know somebody will step up - regardless of whom.


So at 10-2, they don't have a perfect record, and no national ranking beside their name.  But unlike last season, they have a great chance to go into conference play flying under the radar.  

A win Wednesday in Stillwater would quickly change that, but who would be complaining if that happened?

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