1 Lindsay Whalen looks at what Destiny Pitts did down the stretch of last season — eight straight games of 20 or more points, a 21.5-point average over her final 12 games — and says: Give me that for a whole season. “Yes,” Whalen said. “All year. She has the talent to be able to do it. She’s got the potential to do it. And I know she’s focused and ready to go and be able to do it.”

 

2 The Gophers’ small lineup features Taiye Bello in the post, one of the nation’s best rebounders. But she’ll need help. “When we go with that smaller lineup, everyone will have to rebound,” Whalen said. “The guards have to rebound. That’s just what it is.”

3 Last season the Gophers went 11-0 in the preseason, but it was misleading. Their 11 opponents had a combined 83-206 record and only one team — Syracuse — had a winning record. It may not have prepared them for the Big Ten; the Gophers started 2-7 in conference play. This year is different. The Gophers’ 11 nonconference opponents were a combined 213-140 last season. Five went to postseason play, four to the NCAA tournament, three to the Sweet 16 and one — Notre Dame — was in the national championship game. Whalen inherited last year’s nonconference schedule. She had a hand in this one. “I want to play people,’’ Whalen said. “I want to play in big, fun games. I want challenges. I think we’ll be more battle-tested by the time we get to Dec. 28 and head out to Penn State.’’

4 Whalen thinks her bench could be better than last year. But it’s untested. The top bigs will be Kehinde Bello and Barbora Tomancova. Neither has played big minutes; Bello averaged just 4.6 minutes last season and Tomancova played just six games as a freshman before being injured. And guards Sara Scalia, Jasmine Powell and Masha Adashchyk are all new. But there is potential. Powell might be the quickest player on the team, Scalia can shoot and Adashchyk was a big scorer in junior college.

5 Taiye Bello has proved she’s a big-time rebounder. Whalen sees her becoming more of an offensive force as a senior. “I want her to really put her stamp on her career here. Really put an exclamation point on it. I want her to be better and more efficient offensively.”

KENT YOUNGBLOOD