Dishin & Swishin December 22, 2011 Podcast: Never underestimate Brenda Frese and Matthew Mitchell


When you need a break from those Christmas carols, we have podcast that will be just as much fun!

In the pre-season AP poll, coach Brenda Frese’s Maryland Terrapins were number ten, and Matthew Mitchell’s Kentucky Wildcats were number seventeen. The similarities between the two teams, the programs, and even the coaches are there, and not just because both seemed to have been underestimated at the time.

When most people think ACC women’s basketball, the mind goes straight to Duke and North Carolina.  SEC fans start with Tennessee, Georgia, and maybe Louisiana State. While other programs have had flashes and moments of glory, it is Maryland and Kentucky that have put in place coaches that are building programs that are steadily and repeatedly crashing into the upper echelon of their conferences.

Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. Photo: Maryland Athletics.

Frese is in her tenth season at Maryland, and the Terps have won at least twenty games the last seven years in a row, and have been in post-season tournaments each of the last eight years (seven NCAA tourneys and one WNIT). In 2005-06 Maryland won the national championship behind a star-laden team featuring Kristi Toliver, Crystal Langhorne, Shay Doron, Marissa Coleman and Laura Harper. That team was young, and they had a synergy on and off the court that made them special. A lot of that team can be seen in this year’s group.

The undefeated and fifth ranked Terps have only one senior getting more than fifteen minutes per game, all conference performer Lynetta Kizer. Kizer, however, was suspended at the start of the season, and has not yet earned back her starting spot. The rest of the team has accepted her back though without question, and she is the second leading scorer on the team. The undisputed star on this team now, however, is sophomore Alyssa Thomas. Thomas is averaging almost 16 points per game, while adding seven rebounds and three assists. This team is more than just those two, and coach Frese in detail describes them in the podcast, as well as touching on next year’s Jimmy V Classic, a potential date this week with Elena Delle Donne and Delaware, and her health-related activism regarding leukemia drug availability.

Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell. Photo:Kentucky Athletics.

Meanwhile at Kentucky, Matthew Mitchell is more than just the King of Pop or the Dougie dancing coach you see on YouTube from Kentucky’s first night celebrations. Having started his coaching career under Pat Summitt at Tennessee, Mitchell is in his fifth year at Kentucky, and in those years has changed the Kentucky culture towards women’s basketball into a program striving to be as competitive as the men’s side. It’s no coincidence that 25 win seasons started with the arrival of junior guard A’dia Mathies. Already Mathies has won USBWA national player of the week honors this season, and is averaging sixteen points and five assists per game. Still, it might be the return to health of redshirt senior point guard Amber Smith and freshman guard Bria Goss that have the most impact, as their play is allowing Mathies to return to the off guard role she is so effective at.

A young, aggressive, team getting big minutes out of other freshmen and sophomores, the Wildcats also added former UConn forward Samarie Walker to the mix this past weekend. Coach Mitchell and I discussed the season and his expectations for his team, despite their age and inexperience, transfer DeNesha Stallworth (sitting out this season), the need for the SEC to strongly get behind Coach Summitt’s health initiative and more.

Two teams that many may have underestimated, two coaches that have had amazing success in reasonably short careers, two teams with young, emerging stars. Maryland undefeated, Kentucky with a tight loss to Notre Dame only on their resume for this season.  Both legitimate threats to crack the top of the NCAA tournament field at the end of the year.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and I wish you and your families a very happy holiday!

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