It’s a new season for Texas women’s basketball.
After losing to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Longhorns will open their season Sunday with the hope of grabbing a third Big 12 title.
After a strong finish last season and a long off-season, Texas is now the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 conference title for the first time since 2004. The Longhorns have an impressive No. 3 preseason national ranking from SLAM Magazine and are ranked No. 9 by ESPN.
“I’m really, really looking forward to seeing what this team is capable of doing,” head coach Karen Aston said.
After two home games, the Longhorns will have early tests this season when they travel to the west coast to play No. 6 Stanford and No. 23 UCLA. In addition to the games on the west coast, Texas will also battle No. 4 Tennessee and No. 5 Texas A&M before the conference season begins.
Aston, in her third consecutive season as head coach, said she favors the tough start in non-conference play.
“We are in better shape this year and that probably comes from the third year of training,” Aston said. “We have a base now, where we can really play a lot of different ways.”
However, Aston isn’t afraid to admit her freshmen players — including High School Player of the Year and freshman guard Ariel Atkins — don’t have all the plays under their belts yet, and, despite the confidence boost from high expectations, the team still has a long road ahead.
“One game at a time — that’s really the only thing we need to focus on,”
Texas has 10 returning letter-winners this season, including 6-foot-7 junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who fouled out in the final minute
Stafford was given preseason All-Big 12 honors while Atkins was named the Preseason Freshman on the Year.
In addition to the Longhorns’ strong returning core, ESPN recently ranked Texas’ recruiting class No. 11, giving Aston more confidence in her team.
“We have experience to go along with some young ones that will bring us a different level of energy and, to say the least, talent,” Aston said.