Monday, January 3, 2011

Virginia, Richmond battle for state bragging rights

 We were touting the Richmond-Virginia matchup as THE battle of the state's best teams, until Dawn Evans and JMU snatched victory out of the Cavaliers' clutches last month in Harrisonburg. Guess it was another case of premature prognostication. Not the first time we've experienced that....  Anyway, it should still be one heck of a confrontation. 

Monday's games

Richmond (9-4) at Virginia (9-5), 7 p.m.
The Spiders have won 5 in a row, have won their last 4 games against ACC teams (3-0 last season plus a win over N.C. State this year) and are 5-0 against Virginia teams in 2010-11 with an average victory margin of 22 points. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have won 5 of their last 6 (thanks, JMU) and - here's the big one - are 7-0 at John Paul Jones Arena. Virginia has won despite flurries of turnovers of late - at least 23 in each of their last four victories. The Cavs probably won't be able to get away with that many mistakes tonight as the Spiders feast on turnovers - they scored 32 fast-break points thanks in large part to 34 Radford turnovers in last week's 73-50 victory. The Spiders will need to hold their own on the boards, as they've been outrebounded in 3 of their 4 losses. If this game were in Richmond, we'd probably lean towards red-hot Richmond. But since it's at JPJ, we just can't pull the Spiders' trigger.  Virginia 78, Richmond 75

Radford (3-10) at UNC Asheville (7-4), 5 p.m.
The Highlanders staggered through their non-conference schedule (5 straight losses, 1-10 vs. Division I teams) but typically get well when Big South play commences. Radford has won six straight conference openers, including four on the road. The Bulldogs have won 4 of their last 5 thanks to a balanced effort led by Copper Hill, Va. native Lindsey Thompson (16.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg). There's not a lot to recommend Radford here, but we felt the same way last year at about this time, right before the 1-10 Highlanders opened Big South play by winning at eventual regular-season champion Gardner-Webb. The streak has to end sometime, but until it does, we're going to ride that puppy - and the Highlanders. Radford 63, UNC Asheville 62

Liberty (5-7) at High Point (6-7), 7 p.m.
The Lady Flames didn't get the RPI boost they'd hoped for from a souped-up schedule, and that loss to N.C. Central (RPI 329) is like an anvil around their necks. But they still head into Big South play with momentum after last week's strong effort against nationally ranked St. John's followed by a convincing win over LaSalle during Maryland's Terrapin Classic. The Lady Flames won all three meetings with High Point last season, in large part because while High Point is really good at shooting the 3, the Lady Flames have been even better at defending the 3. We suspect Liberty will keep that up in a successful Big South opener. Plus they'll want to get a good feel of High Point's Millis Center, as it will also be the site of the Big South tournament in March. Liberty 59, High Point 53 

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