Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday dribble: CAA still too close to call

Thursday kicks off a huge two-game set for VCU - at James Madison tonight, home against league-leading Old Dominion Sunday. Two victories and the Rams will own at least a share of first place in the CAA. Two losses and they'll be flirting with no first-round bye in the conference tournament. Things are that uncertain as we near the end of a wide-open CAA race.

In other CAA action Thursday, Old Dominion hosts William and Mary, UNC Wilmington visits George Mason, Drexel goes to Georgia State, Towson hosts Hofstra and Northeastern is at Delaware.

A breakdown of Thursday's games involving Virginia schools:

Clemson (12-16, 3-9 ACC) at Virginia Tech (14-13, 3-9 ACC), 7 p.m.
Not only are the Tigers 0-6 in ACC road games, but they've been blown out of every one. Their closest loss came by 14 points, and three of the six were by 20 or more. Of course, this doesn't guarantee the Hokies anything. But if Tech competes as well in its final home game as it has in its previous three contests, Clemson should be staring at an 0-7 road mark by night's end. The winner of this game will move out of a three-way tie (Miami is also 3-9) for last place in the ACC. Miami is hosting No. 9 Florida State.

William and Mary (11-15, 4-11 CAA) at Old Dominion (14-11, 12-3 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Lady Monarchs have owned this "rivalry" for decades, and they can't afford to mess around with these guys tonight, not with the Drexel-VCU posse on their tails in the CAA race. The Lady Monarchs surely won't shoot 17.9 percent in the first half again the way they did Sunday against James Madison. But they can't count on the 61.8 first-half performance they blitzed the Tribe with when these teams met in Williamsburg last month, either. Then again, they probably won't need to shoot lights-out, as outside of Taysha Pye the Tribe usually has trouble scoring enough to keep up. But we would like to see ODU clean up some of those unforced turnovers.

VCU (18-9, 11-4 CAA) at James Madison (20-6, 10-5 CAA), 7 p.m.
If the Rams are the type of competitors we think they are, they can't wait to tip this one off. A couple of weeks ago, VCU rushed shots and played without poise while a mostly Dawn Evans-less JMU slapped the Rams around their own floor in a 71-56 rout. VCU is a lot better than it showed that night. Then again, this time the Dukes should benefit from a full dose of Evans, who turned her ankle midway through the first half at VCU and did not return. All signs point to an all-out war between two teams that could very well meet again on this floor in a couple of weeks with a whole lot more at stake.

UNC Wilmington (10-16, 5-10 CAA) at George Mason (8-18, 1-14 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Seahawks have won 11 straight in the series, but when these teams met two weeks ago in North Carolina, Wilmington needed a late 3-pointer to hold off the Patriots 51-47. Despite its record, Mason has played very competitively of late. If the Patriots are going to get another CAA victory, this seems like the spot.

Wednesday's game

Temple 77, Richmond 67: Brittani Shells had 21 points, Crystal Goring had 13 and 8 rebounds and, as expected, the Spiders (16-11, 5-7 Atlantic 10) used their defense to turn the Owls over (20 times). Unfortunately for Richmond, when Temple wasn't giving the ball away they were shooting it at a 48-percent clip. Furthermore, they had no giveaways over the final 7:12, a span in which they erased a three-point Richmond lead and pulled away with a 10-0 run inside the final three minutes. Still, this marked the third straight quality effort by the Spiders; they're just 1-2 in those games but are starting to have the look of a squad that is on the verge of better results. That is, if they can negotiate a tricky bit of scheduling that has them at George Washington Friday at noon and ending the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday in St. Louis.

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