Women’s Basketball Program Among Nation’s Best

The Nebraska women's basketball program was selected the No. 22 best overall program in the nation in a recent series by Swish Appeal, an on-line magazine.

The impressive evaluation of programs done by Swish Appeal included rationale on each of the 100 programs in a week-long series that concluded with 1-10 rankings on Friday, Aug. 20. Postseason success, coaching consistency, facilities, attendance, recent success, recruiting success and history all factored into the rankings.

Swish Appeal's countdown began with a look at the 71-100 programs, before adding the list of top 41-70 teams. The third grouping included 26-40, before the Huskers were grouped in the 11-25 range at No. 22.

Nebraska's consistent rise in national prominence under 2010 National Coach-of-the-Year Connie Yori culminated with a Big 12 championship and a trip to the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16. The Huskers became the first Big 12 men's or women's team to roll through an unbeaten regular season (29-0), before tying the conference record with a 30-game unbeaten streak to open the season.

The Huskers claimed their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while climbing as high as No. 3 in the national polls. NU finished the season ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25, and No. 7 by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches. Nebraska finished with a 32-2 overall record that included a 16-0 Big 12 Conference mark.

Along the way, the Huskers expanded their fan base for women's basketball, attracting a school-record 7,390 fans per game to the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Nebraska, which ranked seventh nationally in attendance, also led the Big 12 in conference games by drawing 11,393 fans per game.

Yori, who was the WBCA, AP, USBWA, Naismith and Kay Yow National Coach of the Year, took the reins of the Husker program before the start of the 2002-03 season after the program had struggled through back-to-back losing seasons. In her first season, NU battled through another losing year with a roster that was limited at times to just five healthy scholarship players.

At that time, Yori's stated goal for her program was to get the Huskers into the top 100 among women's college basketball programs.

Since then, the Huskers have earned seven consecutive trips to the postseason, including NCAA Tournament berths in three of the last four years. Nebraska has also turned into a force both athletically and academically at the conference level.

In 2009-10, Nebraska's entire starting five earned postseason honors from the conference, led by 2010 Big 12 Player-of-the-Year Kelsey Griffin. A three-time first-team all-conference selection, Griffin captured unanimous first-team All-America honors and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft. She has been a part-time starter during her first season in the league with the Connecticut Sun.

A finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award, Griffin was also a three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 selection and Nebraska's first-ever Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner.

The 6-2 forward from Eagle River, Alaska, was joined on the first-team All-Big 12 squads on the court and in the classroom by fellow senior Cory Montgomery last year. Montgomery, a 6-2 forward from Cannon Falls, Minn., was also chosen with the first pick of the third round in the WNBA Draft by the New York Liberty.

Senior guard Yvonne Turner gave the Huskers three first-team all-conference players for the first time in school history. Turner, an Omaha native, was also the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection. Turner went on to play professionally in Australia following her senior year.

Dominique Kelley, a Lincoln native, added honorable-mention recognition as a junior guard, while point guard Lindsey Moore claimed a spot on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in 2010.

Following Nebraska's record-setting 2009-10 campaign, Yori received a contract extension through 2014-15, providing more stability to the program. The Huskers will also be bolstered by the addition of the Hendricks Training Complex in 2011-12, which will offer practice courts, new locker rooms and team areas, and coaches offices for the Huskers. Nebraska's athletic medicine, and strength and conditioning areas at the Devaney Center will also be expanded.

The addition of the Hendricks Training Complex at the Devaney Center will coincide with Nebraska's move to the Big Ten Conference in 2011-12. The move to the Big Ten will not only provide the Huskers a spot in one of the nation's most tradition-rich conferences, it will also promote academic opportunities for all student-athletes at Nebraska. The Big Ten Network will also supply expanded media coverage opportunities to Nebraska women's basketball.

More exciting changes are on the horizon for the Huskers, as construction begins on Lincoln's new Haymarket Arena downtown. The arena is scheduled to open in 2013-14 and will be the home of Nebraska men's and women's basketball. The Haymarket is just steps away from the heart of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln city campus.

Nebraska will head into the 2010-11 season with a much different look than 2009-10, following the graduation of a six-player senior class. Kelley and Moore will anchor the list of Husker returning players, along with seniors Catheryn Redmon and Jessica Periago, and juniors Kaitlyn Burke and Harleen Sidhu. Nebraska will be bolstered by a five-player freshman class that includes two-time Nebraska High School Player-of-the-Year Jordan Larson, and Arizona High School Player-of-the-Year Rebecca Woodberry.

The new-look Huskers will face an aggressive schedule in 2010-11, but top schedules are nothing new to the Nebraska program. In fact, NU has faced one of the nation's top 30 schedules in each of the last three seasons. This year's schedule will include 16 other schools that were ranked among the top 100 programs by Swish Appeal, including three of the top 10 programs and six of the top 25.

Nebraska tips off its exhibition season on Oct. 31 against Pittsburg State, and opens the regular season against 2010 NCAA Tournament second-round participant Vermont on Nov. 13 at the Devaney Center. The Catamounts were ranked as the No. 85 program in the nation by Swish Appeal, and will be the first of six non-conference foes on the top-100 list (No. 16 Louisville, No. 34 Marist, No. 67 Indiana, No. 71 South Florida, No. 84 Creighton).

The Huskers are scheduled to tip off their final Big 12 Conference season against Oklahoma on Jan. 8, 2011 at the Devaney Center. The Sooners topped the list of 11 Big 12 schools in the top 100 by coming in at No. 5 on the Swish Appeal chart, while No. 9 Baylor will also visit the Devaney Center on Feb. 9. The only unranked Big 12 school was Colorado.

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten next season will bring similar power from top to bottom in the conference, as 10 of the Big Ten's 11 current teams were ranked among the top-100 programs, led by No. 10 Ohio State. The only Big Ten school not in the rankings was Northwestern.