The return of a lot of talent and experience usually leads to high expectations in college basketball. That is the case for this year's Hofstra women's basketball team, which gets back AP All-American honorable mention selection Shante Evans and the talented backcourt trio of Candice Bellocchio, Nicole Capurso and Kate Loper.
The Pride, which finished 19-12 last season, also returns forwards Candace Bond and Anma Onyeuku and senior center Marie Malone, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
So is this the best Hofstra team since coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey took over in 2006?
"In terms of skill set and talent in every area, yes, it is the best team from top to bottom," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "It's also a hard-working group."
If the Pride's non-conference schedule is any indication of how good Kilburn-Steveskey thinks her squad can be, a little bit of pressure shouldn't pose a problem. Hofstra opens its season at Gonzaga Nov. 13 and hosts St. John's in its home opener Nov. 18. The Pride also has Hartford, Kansas State, Princeton and a possible matchup with Marist on its non-conference schedule.
Each of those teams made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Kilburn-Steveskey said it's the toughest non-conference schedule since she's been with the Pride.
Evans, who will represent the United States in the Women's Pan American Games later this month, is convinced Hofstra has the talent, depth and experience it will need. "This is going to be our best team." Evans said. "We only lost two seniors, who weren't our main scorers. We're all veterans and we know our offense. Candace Bellocchio and Marie Malone have been here for five years. Capurso's a senior, I'm a junior and Candace [Bond] is a junior . . . A bunch of upperclassmen will be leading the way."