Saturday, August 21, 2010

Norfolk State releases 2010-11 schedule

No one can accuse Debra Clark of over-scheduling.

Then again, why should she? The Norfolk State coach is directing a team that went 4-23 last year, and 10 of the 12 players on the current squad are either freshmen or sophomores. The idea should be to spoon-feed these baby Spartans a succession of reasonable matchups with similarly rebuilding teams. In that respect, NSU's 2010-11 schedule is just about perfect.

This may seem obvious, but NSU hasn't always followed this script. Two years ago - before Clark took office - the Spartans followed up a 5-23 season by scheduling non-conference opponents from the ACC (Miami) and Big East (Seton Hall) along with perennial NCAA qualifiers Old Dominion and Utah. Predictably, NSU got crushed in all of those games and went on to finish with a 1-27 record.

The Spartans figure to be much more competitive with their 2010-11 foes. Their non-conference opponents include St. Paul's (an old rival from the Division II CIAA that went 8-20 last season), McNeese State (7-22), Wofford (8-21) and Houston Baptist (3-25). NSU defeated St. Paul's last year and lost to Wofford in overtime.

In fact, NSU will only see opponents coming off successful seasons in Morehead State's Comfort Inn and Suites Classic, where they will face Morehead State (22-11 and advanced to the inaugural Women's Basketball Invitational) and Central Arkansas (21-8). By the way, Central Arkansas provides proof that the kind of transformation the Spartans are hoping to achieve is possible. Sugar Bears were just 6-23 two years ago - their 15-win improvement was the biggest in Division I last season - and they did it despite a roster featuring six freshmen, two sophomores and a junior. To be fair, one of those freshmen was among the best in the nation - Megan Herbert averaged 21.8 ppg and 13.8 rpg in her debut season.

The Spartans also figure to have chances to win against the two newcomers to the MEAC, Savannah State (9-21) and North Carolina Central (11-18). NSU won by 12 at Savannah State last season.

“This will be a very competitive schedule for us,” Clark said. “Our non-conference opponents will help us prepare for the teams in our league. Our ultimate goal every year is to compete with each and every team in the MEAC, and this schedule affords us that opportunity.”

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