Before I get to the Greene and the Edwards/Agee conundrums, there is one additional problem with the rotation as it stands today. Through the first 14 games (exactly half of the regular season slate) there are 10 players on Penn State’s roster that average 10+ minutes per game. This can mean one of two things. It can represent the early season dominance enjoyed by the Lady Lions which has allowed Coach Washington to give some garbage time to the backups when the result is already in hand. It could also mean that Washington is looking to foster experience and depth on the roster. This seems like a reasonable idea in theory, but the truth of the matter is that in the NCAA Tournament most teams will use a rotation of 7 or 8 bodies because more of the minutes will go to the best players in single elimination games. This is why Coach Washington needs to play her star players more minutes in Big Ten play, not only to condition them for the tournament but to give them more time to establish a greater continuity.
The other issue with the rotation is the fact that Nikki Greene, arguably PSU’s 3rd best player and unquestioned X factor, can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble. Through her first 14 games this season, she has amassed 45 total personal fouls for an average of 3.2 per game (5 earns you disqualification in the college game). Because of her foul struggles, Greene has played an average of less than 20 minutes per game. That means that she is sitting on the bench for over half of the game. If this Lady Lions want to make noise in the tournament, this simply cannot happen.
Her head coach shares the same sentiment. "She has struggled with foul trouble over her career, but when she's on the floor, we're just a better team," said Coquese Washington. "Our guards, they play fast, and we get up shots and shoot 3s and all that, but without the presence of somebody on the inside, both offensively and defensively, it just doesn't work nearly as well."
So it is clear that keeping Nikki Greene on the floor is priority number one for this team. Which of her fellow frontcourt mates should join her in the starting lineup? While Edwards is the incumbent starter and has played well so far this season, I believe that Coquese Washington needs to turn to her freshman in Candice Agee if she wants to unlock this team’s highest potential. Yes, Edwards is a more polished offensive player, but Agee has 3 inches on Edwards. This makes her more of a force on the defensive end of the court (she has more blocks this season than Edwards despite playing less than half the minutes). The biggest impact this will have will be on Nikki Greene. With Agee alongside her more often, Nikki Greene will not have to provide as much help defense in the lane, and thus will become less foul prone and be able to log more minutes for the Lady Lions. Furthermore, I think this will be a healthy new role for Ariel Edwards. Pairing with the electric Dara Taylor off the bench, Edwards would give the second unit a nice scoring punch and would serve as a great insurance policy should one of the Penn State bigs gets in foul trouble.