Women's basketball not looking past last-place Ball State
Brady Sallee has been the Ball State women's basketball coach since 2012. In his six full seasons, Sallee's paced the Cardinals to a WNIT appearance in each campaign.
This time around, Ball State is 2-6 in the Mid-American Conference – dead last in the MAC West Division.
But that doesn't mean Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara and her Chippewas are overlooking Sallee's Cardinals.
"It doesn't mean a damn thing to me," Guevara said of Ball State's record. "Any team coached by Brady Sallee is going to come in here and try to kick your butt. He's pretty intense, and his team plays with the same passion."
The Chippewas (15-5, 6-2 MAC) tip off against the Cardinals at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at McGuirk Arena.
From a season ago, which Ball State finished 25-7 overall, Sallee returned just two starters – sophomore forward Oshlynn Brown and senior guard Jasmin Samz. Key players departing from the Cardinals were Moriah Monaco, Carmen Grande and Destiny Washington.
One player that's impressed Guevara is freshman forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir, a 6-foot starter from Keflavik, Iceland. She averages 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Dis Agustsdottir shoots 51.4 percent from the field and 48.7 percent from 3-point range.
"She can flat out play," Guevara said. "She can score in a variety of different ways."
Brown, at 6-foot-1, was a member of the All-MAC Freshman Team for her efforts in the 2017-18 season. This year, she has registered a team-high 13.6 points per game and 9.4 rebounds.
CMU senior forward Reyna Frost is tasked with containing Brown. Frost averages 19.5 points per game, 12.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 blocks and 2.0 rebounds. She's been named the MAC West Player of the Week six times this season.
"They have a nice post player inside," Frost said. "We don't see a ton of physical post players, so it'll be a challenge for us to guard her and get rebounds."
Guevara believes CMU is more experienced than Ball State, but that is not always a recipe for success. It's especially true against a Cardinals team that poses a solid inside-outside attack between Dis Agustsdottir and Brown.
"When hard work beats experience, it's because the experience isn't working as hard," Guevara said. "Those young players are playing a lot, so they're only going to get better."
In the CMU women's basketball locker room, Guevara said there's a standings board. She continuously reminds her team not to get caught up in the fact that they are atop the MAC West.
Playing for a championship every game day is something Guevara stresses to all the Chippewas.
"That's how we have to approach it," she said. "We are playing for a championship. These are the things we have to do if we want to protect home court."
At 6-2, CMU leads the MAC West, followed by Toledo (5-3), Northern Illinois (4-4), Eastern Michigan (3-5), Western Michigan (2-5) and Ball State (2-6). The MAC East has three teams with more than six wins.
For Guevara, that's what makes the conference special.
"Throw out records," Guevara said. "We've got really good coaches. Maybe if a team is 2-6, I could tell you they are one of the best 2-6 teams in the conference because of all the weapons.
"When the weapons are firing, watch out."