Thursday, November 10, 2011

Opening Night for 11 of our 13

It's opening night and we start with 10 -- 10 games and a top 10 (too bad it's 11/11/11 instead of 10/10/10  ) -- of what's in store as the 2011-12 women's basketball season tips off.

10. Norfolk State at Texas Southern (noon): Bring the coffee, croissants and a few rakes as the Spartans play one of the first games in Division I. The matinee, which is at 11 Central Time, pits NSU, picked to finish last in the MEAC, against the Lady Tigers, picked to finish ninth in the 10-team SWAC. Why the garden tools? It's "Plant the Seed Early," Day, an outreach designed to get middle schoolers from Houston in the seats. Last year's opener drew 3,600 and they're looking to surpass that total today. We know NSU coach Debra Clark would love to plant the seed about winning and winning on the road. Norfolk State 58, Texas Southern 54

9. James Madison at Quinnipiac, 4 p.m.: We can't imagine the Dukes minus Dawn Evans but after this afternoon, we won't have to anymore. The Dukes, defined by the flashy point guard the last few years, begin again with some young 'ins along with a few vets we expect to see great things from this season (Tarik, we heard you had a great summer!). Seven freshmen for Quinnipiac, picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference. Four frosh and two sophomores for two-time defending CAA champs. JMU 67, Quinnipiac 57

8. High Point at VCU, 4 p.m.: This afternoon delight features the first glimpse of LadySwish's top team in the state led by Courtney Hurt, a no-brainer of a pick earlier this week when ESPN writers selected the five best players at each position. You won't get an argument from us, as VCU's power forward put together a 2010-11 campaign that included 25 double-doubles and 12.4 rpg -- both No. 1 marks nationally. Let's just hope VCU doesn't need any last-minute heroics from Hurt, who saved the Rams from defeat last year with a putback in the waning seconds for a 65-64 victory over these Panthers. VCU 72, High Point 64

7. American at George Mason, 5 p.m.: It's crazy getting to Fairfax by 5 pm on a Friday; lucky the Eagles are just making the trek across the Beltway. We don't envy the Patriots, who face the daunting task of meeting Patriot League preseason favorite American, which finished 22-9 last year and has four starters back. Say hello to former ODU assistant Belle Koclanes if you go. Koclanes is currently an assistant coach under AU's Matt Corkery. (PS: Send that tape right over to Kenny Brooks, whose Dukes play American on Sunday.) George Mason 55, American 52

6. Longwood at Georgetown, 7 p.m.: Speaking of DC, getting to Georgetown by 7 on a Friday night is no picnic, either. Neither is an opener against the Hoyas, the preseason No. 10 team according to AP. Each team returns four starters, but the Hoyas complement got them to the Sweet 16 a year ago. No one can accuse Lancers coach Bill Reinson of easy scheduling. Georgetown 75, Longwood 44

5. Appalachian State at Virginia, 7 p.m.: After 34 years, you look over at the Virginia sideline and Debbie Ryan is no longer there. Sure, you've had months to get used to the idea, but tonight the Joanne Boyle era officially begins in Charlottesville.Boyle's first game also marks the first time Virginia has played App State, a team that boasts a 25-7 mark from a year ago. Speaking of 10s, Boyle has won all nine of her openers; can anyone say 10-0? Virginia 63, Appalachian State 54

4. Cornell at William and Mary, 7 pm: Call this one the battle of the brains. These teams combined to win a total of nine games last season, a memory we know the Tribe is eager to erase. Five starters back, including super soph Kaitlyn Mathieu, and the healthy return of Chanel Murchison and Janine Aldridge along with an improved Emily Correal (22 points and 14 rebounds in the team's lone exhibition) are reasons to look forward to a fresh start for W&M. William and Mary 70, Cornell 55

3. Liberty at UNC Greensboro, 7 pm: Hello, Wendy Palmer. As a LadySwish diehard, you know that tonight begins new eras at Virginia and Old Dominion (we leave out Tech as Beth Dunkenberger's tenure wasn't exactly an era). Ryan's former assistant Palmer is the new kid at UNC Greensboro, taking over for Lynne Agee, who departed in March after 30 years coaching the Spartans. A slow start out of the gates last year no doubt has Liberty hungry to make an unforgettable first impression. Avery Warley is fresh off her Pan Am Games experience and Devon Brown is healthy -- all good news for the Flames, who have won three of the last four in this series. Liberty 59, UNC Greensboro 54

2. Richmond at Navy, 7 p.m.: Did we say youth? Navy has seven freshman and six sophomores (including Patriot Preseason Player of the Year Jade Geif). Five frosh and six sophomores for Richmond. Hey, kids. Have fun out there tonight!  Richmond 57, Navy 56

1. Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, 7 pm: Why do we make this game No. 1? (really these games were in no particular order). Cause we love when the state teams play each other. Admittedly, it'll take some getting used to seeing Karen Barefoot in front of the Lady Monarchs bench instead of Wendy Larry. It's not exactly the same learning curve, but Dennis Wolff begins his women's basketball coaching career for the Hokies. We'll be in the front row for this one -- the first of many juicy in-state matchups. Just an FYI: ODU will start true freshman Ashley Betz-White at point guard tonight, as Michelle Brandao remains sidelined while she awaits clearance from the NCAA. Old Dominion 72, Virginia Tech 62

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