"The experienced women's basketball team from UNC is on track to compete in the Final Four. Stay tuned for updates!" - WRALSportsFan.com

“The experienced women’s basketball team from UNC is on track to compete in the Final Four. Stay tuned for updates!” – WRALSportsFan.com

Several banners are displayed in Carmichael Arena in North Carolina, with some being blue to represent NCAA Tournaments, second-round appearances, and a handful of Sweet 16s.

There are also a few white banners representing the women’s basketball team’s three Final Four appearances and single national championship (1994).

Courtney Banghart, who has been the head coach for five years and led her team to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, has a specific color banner in mind for their next achievement.

During the ACC Women’s Basketball Tipoff in Charlotte on Tuesday, Banghart stated, “Our aim is to reach the white.” She expressed her team’s goal to transition from blue to white.

She may have the team she needs to achieve it, with Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby leading the way. However, the Tar Heels (22-11 last season) will face challenges in a tough non-conference schedule and a competitive, seasoned ACC.

In the past three years, the Tar Heels have achieved 60 wins, made it to three NCAA Tournaments, and reached the Sweet 16. However, they have not been able to place higher than third in the ACC regular season or advance past the semifinals in the ACC Tournament.

Kelly, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, stated that there is a heightened sense of urgency.

According to Ustby, who is the team’s captain, the team has carefully examined its flaws and made efforts to create a sense of responsibility among all members. This includes three players who transferred from prominent programs and five freshmen.

In the initial week of training, the athletes displayed a sign that read “Preparing for Final Four team…” on the team room door. The intention was to temporarily restrict access to others, but it has stayed up.

According to Ustby, the sign should remain visible as our team is continuously making progress. We are consistently putting in the work and effort, and eventually, the results will be apparent to everyone.

North Carolina

Coach Courtney Banghart has been with the University of North Carolina for 5 years and has a record of 76 wins and 43 losses. In her overall coaching career of 17 seasons, she has a record of 330 wins and 146 losses.

Record for 2022-23 season: 22 wins, 11 losses (11-7 in the ACC). Team was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Preseason AP poll ranks No. 16.

The returning players for the team are as follows: Guard Deja Kelly, who is a senior and averaged 16.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, and had a team-high of 101 assists; Guard/Forward Alyssa Ustby, also a senior, who averaged 13.2 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and had 30 blocks; and Forward Anya Poole, another senior, who averaged 5.0 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Notable additions: G Lexi Donarski, a 6-foot, graduate transfer from Iowa State (averaging 12.3 points per game, with 88 3-pointers made and named Big 12 defensive player of the year twice); F/C Maria Gakdeng, a 6-foot-3 junior transfer from Boston College (averaging 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with a 57.8% field goal percentage); G Indya Nivar, a 5-foot-10 sophomore transfer from Stanford (previously named NC Gatorade Player of the Year while playing for Apex Friendship).

Notable departures: G Kennedy Todd-Williams joined Mississippi (averaged 13.4 points per game, led the team with 52 3-pointers, and had 5.4 rebounds per game); G Eva Hodgson (averaged 9.2 points per game and had 50 3-pointers)

The first game of the season is on November 8 against Gardner-Webb, available on the ACC Network Extra.

Important out-of-conference matches: November 30th against South Carolina on ESPN, December 10th at UConn on ESPN, and December 19th against Oklahoma in Charlotte on ESPN2.

Outlook: The veteran Tar Heels, with three senior starters returning and veteran pickups in the transfer portal, are looking for big things in Banghart’s fifth season. UNC reached the Sweet 16 in 2022, but dropped a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the second round last year … The schedule will provide UNC with an opportunity to prove itself against some of the top teams in the nation, including South Carolina, UConn and, potentially, Iowa. “I’ve been in this business a long time, it’s how you do in March and April. We’re doing the groundwork of what we should be doing in October so that we can be where we need to be in March and April.” … The Tar Heels will redshirt freshmen Laila Hull and Ciera Toomey as they rehab from injuries suffered in high school.

The speaker states that while acquiring talent is a significant part of their role, it is also the responsibility of others. The team has established a desirable style and culture, resulting in the successful recruitment of three skilled transfers who are also strong competitors. The speaker credits their colleagues to the left, Deja and Alyssa, for their bold vision for the program and their consistent actions to make it a reality.

I have been working on improving my leadership skills, which I believe is my biggest area for growth. As someone who has been in this league for a long time, I am now able to mentor and guide younger players and newcomers. I understand the importance of going through personal growth steps and leading by example. This is something that I am passionate about. – Kelly

According to others, there is a positive and competitive relationship between our teams. We know each other well and when we face off, there is a unique energy and intensity. This dynamic is beneficial not only for our league, but for women’s basketball as a whole. Our games always end up being close and exciting. The opposing team has several talented players, including 12 McDonald’s All-Americans. I am confident that this year will be no exception and we will have some great games against them, whether it’s two or three times. This was stated by Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks.

Since January 2020, Virginia Tech has won eight out of the ten times that the teams have played, including the most recent four matches.

Source: wralsportsfan.com