The year is going by a little too fast for Carlynn Savant.
She’s nine hours into her master’s program in sport and exercise psychology. Her strapless dress has been selected and will be ordered in December for her July 14 wedding to Missouri’s Bobby Musil, a discus and hammer thrower for the track and field team.
Nevermind that she begins her senior season Saturday as a forward on the Missouri women’s basketball team. The Tigers will play an exhibition game against Truman State University.
“It just feels like this season just popped up,” Savant said. “It’s my last first game. It’s really surreal.
“I just really want to go out every single game and just play my hardest like it’s my last game, because it’s my last season. I kind of want to go out with a bang.”
Missouri coach Cindy Stein said the 1 p.m. game at Mizzou Arena will be used to give the Tigers’ talented freshmen more repetitions and find the right balance within the team.
“We’re not really concerned with the score as much as we’re concerned about making sure our chemistry is good,” Stein said. “That we’re finding a group out there on the floor that’s doing what we need them to do.”
As of Thursday’s practice, Stein could only say that returning seniors Savant, Tiffany Brooks and EeTisha Riddle would likely be starting Saturday’s game. The remaining spots are tightly contested, especially at point guard, which could go to any of six of Stein’s seven guards.
“I think the most important thing is who’s playing well, so they’re in the game,” Stein said. “We can start all kinds of people, and we don’t have to have the same starting lineup every game. The good thing is, we have the flexibility to change our lineup depending on the matchups with the other teams.”
That flexibility includes Savant, who started her time at Missouri playing guard, but naturally gravitated to her high-post position. Stein said Savant has been posting up much better, taking the ball to the basket and drawing the foul during practice.
“The key for Carlynn is she’s always such a great outside shooter. People have to respect that,” Stein said. “They have to get there and defend her. People used to guard her with guards, but now we have counter-options.”
Adopting a mantra that rings similar to that of other Missouri teams, Stein said the team will be focused on winning one game at a time — even though the team is ranked ninth in the Big 12 Conference preseason coaches’ poll.
“We’re not really worried about that because the polls have never been right since we’ve been here,” Stein said. “I think that Missouri has not traditionally been a power. Therefore, sometimes we get overlooked, and that’s not all bad.”
This wouldn’t be the first season for missed looks. For the 2005-2006 season, Missouri was ranked 10th in the conference preseason, but finished fourth and received an NCAA tournament bid, falling to Virginia Tech in the first round. Oklahoma received the first-place ranking, followed by Texas A&M and Texas, which Stein said have all been traditional powers in the Big 12.
“Those people are always getting the notoriety. and that’s great,” Stein said. “Let them have it.”
Missouri returns three starters and 10 letterwinners from the previous season, losing its lead point and post players LaToya Bond and Christelle N’Garsanet, who were both drafted into the WNBA.
Savant will enter Saturday’s game as her own version of Missouri power. A three-year letterwinner, Savant’s impact is from the 3-point line, where she shot a school accuracy record of 46 percent last season. That mark also earned her a No. 1 ranking in the Big 12.
That’s her offense. But her defense? She’s working on it.
“For three years it’s been defense, defense, defense that they’ve been trying to get me to do,” Savant said. “Maybe I’ll do it this year. I really do try, but it comes tougher to some people than others. That’s something I do need to step up.”
As for the wedding, her biggest worry is keeping her fiance from sneaking peeks at digital photos of her wedding dress on her computer.
“We got most of it planned before the season,” Savant said, “so I wouldn’t have to worry about planning a wedding, the season and school.”