Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday's results: Virginia, George Mason, VCU are winners

Taleia Moton, 33 points vs  ODU

Some observations after Sunday's results, which included the opening games in CAA play.

Virginia 69, Richmond 56
 *Virginia is the best team in the state.We haven't done state rankings in a while -- our bad -- but while we had VCU as a preseason No.1, the Cavaliers have the consistency and depth we can't find in the Rams. That said, we like this Richmond team, a lot -- young, gritty, with just not quite enough to get past Virginia on Sunday. Free throws had a big impact on this one; Virginia scored 21 points from line to Richmond's 12. We like Abby Oliver more and more with each passing game. Check out her line vs. Virginia: 6-of-16 field, 4-of-9 from 3, 7-of-7 from the line, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 23 points. A little help from her 'mates, and who knows where this Spiders team will be come March. Shout out to Ariana Moorer for a 17-point,7-rebound afternoon.

Towson 65, James Madison 58

*We didn't offer our usual predictions, but had we, we would not have picked this. Is Towson suddenly a concern in the CAA? Keep in mind the Tigers are 5-2 with losses to UConn and Maryland. This is only the second time in 31 meetings that the Tigers have beaten JMU (5-1). Speaking of free throws (see above), that was the difference as the Dukes got 12 points to Towson's 25 from there.This game is a reminder that as good as the Dukes have been, they're still not the veteran group Kenny Brooks has coached of late, and days like this one make for a competitive CAA.

George Mason 85, Old Dominion 69

*The Lady Monarchs might be the worst team in the CAA-- today at least. We're not sure. But their guard play is frightening and they cannot find any sort of  scoring consistency except for Tia Lewis. If there's a tendency to blame new coach Karen Barefoot, that's premature. This is a group she inherited that doesn't run very deep. Much of that is about youth. Two sophomores and a freshman are in the starting lineup, and there is no backup at the point for that freshman, Ashley Betz-White, and it will stay that way until Michelle Brandao gets eligible, and at this point we're beginning to wonder. Will that be this season? We like Betz-White and Tiffany Minor has showed promise, but these are freshmen, folks, being asked to do too much too fast.

Another issue: Barefoot's style doesn't play to the strengths of Mairi Buchan, who is getting lost on the stat sheet with too much regularity these days. Ditto for Jo Guilford, and while Jackie Cook had 17 in this one, there are games we can't find her.  ODU has a much-needed home stand coming up against winnable opponents (though North Carolina A&T is far from a gimme). This schedule, which Barefoot didn't design, has been nothing short of brutal with road trip on top of road trip and another coming up in a few weeks to another place this young team doesn't need to be: Knoxville. But here is our concern about ODU at this point. Where are the wins going to come from in the CAA? We don't doubt the Lady Monarchs are capable of an upset -- but would you pick them against JMU, Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel, VCU? We're not so sure Towson and W&M are going to be any less imposing, either. This young team has a long season ahead, and we're hoping by March will have the experience to make some noise in the conference it once owned. Until then, it's going to be bumpy.

*As for the Patriots, how good must it feel to knock around ODU in your own gym? Mason (6-1) had only ever beaten ODU once in 50 tries prior to Sunday, and that was a fluky game when the Lady Monarchs seemed stunned by Tiffany Green's game time decision not to play. If the CAA ended today instead of just began, Taleia Moton would be on the first team after a career-high 33. And yes, this is her third consecutive game scoring 30 or more.

Delaware 73, William and Mary 57

*We were high on this Delaware team before anyone else, though we hardly see that as reason we should be headed to Vegas. Behind a healthy Elena Delle Donne, we're confident this team is top 15 in the nation. EDD had 23 against W&M with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. We love the Tribe as they are one of our teams, but we're also happy for Tina Martin, whose group is off to its best start (6-0) in the 41-year history of the program.

VCU 67, Northeastern 60
*VCU is hard to figure. This one was far closer than we figured, but that happens when you let your opponent shoot 42 percent. There are going to be nights when Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour (who combined for 42 points in this one) are going to be enough. It's those other nights that worry us.

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