1 Win at Texas A&M, play well at UConn
Penn State's ultrasuccessful season ended last year with a Sweet 16 loss against Connecticut by 18 points. In women's college basketball, there is a significant distance every year between the true contenders and the 15 or 20 teams a level below but still highly ranked. Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor and Duke appear to be true contenders going into this season. Texas A&M isn't ranked as high but did win the national title in 2011. A matchup against the Aggies comes Nov. 14 in Texas. If Penn State wants to be considered as one of the legitimate contenders, it needs to win that game and follow up with success against Connecticut in early December on the road.
2 Find another outside shooter
Penn State shot well last year -- 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point land -- and has the personnel to do so again. Guard Maggie Lucas made 41 percent of her 3-pointers and nearly three per game. She has been picked as a preseason All-American. But someone will need to replace the shooter's touch of Zhaque Gray. She was Penn State's second-leading 3-point shooter last year. Ariel Edwards, who projects as a starter, could be the one to do it, having made just less than 33 percent of her 3-pointers last season.
3 Remember last season
The common refrain for most coaches and players is forget last season, whether it was good or bad. Penn State needs to remember how it broke through last year and earned its highest ranking. It needs to keep that confidence and attitude. This team should win the Big Ten. With four starters returning from last year in Lucas, Mia Nickson, Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene nearly everyone is back who led Penn State to success. Behind the Nittany Lions, Ohio State, Nebraska and Purdue are about even, and they are fringe Top 25 teams. Penn State has the tools to own the Big Ten, like it did last year, and needs to carry that confidence all season.