The Naismith Award. A perfect regular season record. The No. 25 ranking going into the season. The program’s first victory in the NCAA Tournament.
Women’s head basketball coach Courtney Banghart has earned her fair share of accolades before this season even starts. But this year, as with every year, the end goal remains the same: a championship.
Last year’s unprecedented level of success certainly does nothing to dampen expectations for her team. After going 30-0, the team saw the second round for the first time after beating University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and fell to the Maryland Terrapins, a Final Four team in the tournament.
Of course, with incredible success for the program comes unprecedented media attention. One of the remarkable things about Banghart, however, is the extent to which she seems to appreciate the growing media coverage. And she wants to instill the same attitude in her team.
“I told [the team] that they’re ready to share a great story. We want to do all we can to share a great story. Last year’s scrutiny made for a really great story, and they were followed for it,” Banghart said. “Now the ranking is the result of the trust we’ve earned in our program. It has nothing to do with this year’s performance yet. We want to honor the respect that we’ve gained and the trust we’ve gained as a program, and make sure it’s a story that people want to follow.”
“I think for the fan base, and for the media, in a good way, people are excited to see how the group responds to 30-0. But for me, how do I get this particular group exceeding their expectations,” Banghart said.
There’s no doubt nbso online casino reviews this team generated buzz around the nation after their streak of success. But at times, earning attention and earning respect may seem like two very different tasks. As an Ivy League team, respect might seem hard to come by, even after achieving literal perfection in the regular season. Having reached as high as the No. 13 ranking last year, the Tigers found themselves a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which many thought was relatively low for a team of their caliber.
However, motivating her team to surpass expectations — both their own and those of outsiders — continues to be a constant focus for Banghart.
“I think we did a good job of proving that the ranking was underseeded. I was proud of how our kids handled it, and how they responded to it.” Banghart said. “We know it’s a matter of what we do through the course of the year. Last year’s success, both in the tournament and before the tournament, will bode well, if we give ourselves that chance again.”
The determination to not rest on the laurels of last season and to continually build on successes, is one of the ways Banghart is turning around the women’s basketball program. Her first season, in 2007-2008, saw a program still in the midst of rebuilding, and the team finished just 7-23. Within two seasons, she took the team to 26 wins and hasn’t dipped below 21 wins since.
When asked about how the program has changed, Banghart emphasized the quality of players in the program and the importance of developing them in a winning system. She highlighted that the continued growth of the program depends not only on her recruitment of great players, but also on her pushing them as far as they can possibly go.
“The players that have been here have been singularly focused on getting better. You’ll see an improved version of last year’s team in the pieces that are back.” Banghart said. “The culture of progress and the culture of commitment depends on the development of the players. So we first get really good players and we get them better.”
Indeed, if there’s one thing Banghart seems bent on doing, it’s making sure her team knows that any limit, or any ceiling, on their potential success is long gone.
“Last year’s crew, I got them to where they surpassed their limits too,” Banghart said. “That’ll be my job again this year.”