Monday, November 19, 2012

How does your team grade out?

Longwood's Chelsea Coward
Is it too early to be handing out grades for what teams have done so far? Of course it is. But we'll take a crack at it anyway:

Old Dominion (3-0) - The Lady Monarchs have beaten Virginia Tech by 20, South Carolina-Upstate by 31 and VCU by 23. No, it's not a murderer's row of competition. Remember, though, ODU won just 11 games last year. Who were they supposed to schedule, UConn, Baylor and Stanford? But even more than the margins of victory, what's struck us about this team is how enthusiastically they're going about their business. You know how coach Karen Barefoot is relentlessly upbeat and chipper? This team is becoming just like her. It's as though their water bottles have been spiked with 5-hour energy. It just looks like they're having so much fun out there. Then again, what's more fun than winning by 20-plus every night?
Grade: A-plus
Honor roll: Jackie Cook: The newly crowned CAA Player of the Week is averaging 17.7 points and 8 rebounds while carrying herself like someone who has been waiting her whole career for leadership duties.

Hampton (4-0) - Click here for a more detailed analysis of the Lady Pirates' season so far. Here's the short version: a Hampton team that graduated its top three players from a year ago, including an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, has apparently somehow gotten even better. We'll know a lot more after this week, as the Lady Pirates are headed to the Virgin Islands for a three-games-in-three-days-gauntlet of South Carolina, DePaul and Florida Gulf Coast. Any win in this series would be impressive. Based on what the Lady Pirates have done so far, we won't be shocked if they win all three.
Grade: A-plus
Honor roll: Keiara Avant. 22 points, 12.5 rebounds per game and one MEAC Player of the Week honor to her credit so far.

Liberty (2-1) - The Lady Flames posted two consolation-round victories in the preseason WNIT, and they hardly need to apologize for losing their opener at Duquesne (a lot of teams are going to lose there). But if we could just do something about the turnovers. Liberty had 35 turnovers against Duquesne, and 29 more in Saturday's 68-63 win over Sacred Heart. In three games the Lady Flames have committed 85 turnovers, which have led to 85 points by their opponents. We hate to keep harping on this, and the Lady Flames do so many other things well that they'll always win their share of games. We just can't help but imagine how good they could be if they even took average care of the ball.
Grade: C-plus
Honor roll: Tolu Omatola: Earned Big South Player of the Week honors for spearheading Liberty's victories over Grambling and Sacred Heart.

Virginia (3-0) - The Cavaliers surprised us with how thoroughly they took apart JMU in their opener, then surprised us again by barely surviving at Penn three days later. Sunday finally brought kind of what we expected from this team - an often-suffocating, never-in-doubt rout of overmatched Providence. So far, so good - and remember, this team isn't completely healthy yet.
Grade: A
Honor roll: Sarah Imovbioh: First on the team in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and second in scoring (13.3 ppg), all while still learning the nuances of college basketball.

Richmond (1-3) - The Spiders are turning it over way too much. Assuming they can clean that up, this team is still going to win a bunch of games. As it is, there's no shame in any of the close losses they've had already. Not sure a lot of people realize how challenging the Spiders' schedule has been. Everyone knows about Miami, but road games at Boston University and Hartford are no joke, either. In fact, the best player the Spiders have seen so far probably isn't one of the Miami kids, but BU's Chantell Alford, the reigning two-time America East Player of the Year.
Grade: B-minus
Honor roll: Rachael Bilney: A team-high 14.5 ppg constructed in part on 44-percent 3-point shooting.

Janaa Pickard
George Mason (2-1): After comfortable victories over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Morgan State, we know this much - the Patriots would do great in the MEAC. They also nearly overcame a disastrous first half to catch Oakland in their season opener. We're still not sure how the Patriots will stack up against tougher competition. But they've looked pretty good against who they've been matched up against so far.
Grade: B
Honor roll: Janaa Pickard: The Patriots asked for improved production from Pickard this season. So far, Pickard has delivered (a team-high 12.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

Norfolk State (1-1) - The Spartans turned in an 'A' effort in turning back Penn in their opener, then put in 'D-minus' work a week later against South Carolina-Upstate by losing focus, then panicking as what looked to be a 15-20-point victory morphed into a 7-point overtime loss. Since this happened in Game 2, the hope is the Spartans can learn from it. Then again, given how many veterans are on the team, this NSU team should have already known better.
Grade: C-plus
Honor roll: Kashay Barnes: Offense-minded junior college transfer who has provided the Spartans one of the few dimensions they lacked - a pure scorer.

Longwood (1-3) - We're not going to factor in last week's 102-49 loss at N.C. State, a game the Lancers likely agreed to for financial concerns. Instead, we're focusing on how the Lancers gave Richmond fits, handled Air Force and hung within a point of Murray State before losing their grip on the rope in the final six minutes. All in all, the efforts of this group have been a mildly pleasant surprise.
Grade: B-minus
Honor roll: Chelsea Coward: Team-high totals of 18.5 ppg and 11.5 rpg.

Ayana Avery

Radford (2-1)
Late-game hiccups in their season-opening 65-63 loss at Marshall are all that stands between the Highlanders and an unblemished record. The competition hasn't been the most rugged (Bluefield?), but otherwise we've liked what we've seen from a Radford team that has caused its usual defensive havoc while showing signs of being a bit more explosive offensively.
Grade: B
Honor roll: Ayana Avery: The sophomore sharpshooter has made 4-of-6 3-pointers off the bench in two of the Highlanders' three games.

VCU (0-3)
Everyone could see this season was going to be tough sledding, particularly early, for this stripped-down Rams team. So when we checked them out on Saturday at Old Dominion, we paid little attention to the scoreboard and focused instead on whether the Rams were playing hard and trying to run their stuff. They were. As long as that keeps up, the Rams have enough talented players to eventually starting picking some teams off.
Grade: C
Honor roll: Robyn Parks, who lit up Manhattan for 34 points last week and, like ODU's Jackie Cook, seems to be embracing her leadership role.

William and Mary (1-3)
The Tribe came into the season lugging a recent history of struggling to close out winnable games, so it was particularly disappointing to see them open 2012-13 with less-than-stellar efforts in the final two minutes of narrow losses to East Carolina and at Pitt. And on Sunday, the Tribe shot 27 percent from the field and just 55 percent from the free-throw line (16-of-29) in a 7-point loss at George Washington. We keep saying it, but once again this team's talent and potential is much better than its record. We're still convinced a breakthrough is coming.
Grade: C-minus
Honor roll: Emily Correal:17.8 ppg and 11.3 rpg, stats highlighted by a 24-point, 21-rebound effort against ECU.

Kirby Burkholder
James Madison (1-2)
One of our favorite shows back in the day was "Hogan's Heroes" featuring a character named General Burkhalter. We think of that show every time we see the name Kirby Burkholder, to the point where we've mentally nicknamed her "The General." So far, JMU's General has been in complete command of her talents, as she was scorching hot in the Dukes' first two games, then didn't force things when she became to focus of the opposing defense in the third. So an A-plus for Kirby, who by the way looks NOTHING like the TV show general. As for the Dukes overall, though, well, they got caught with their pants down (figuratively speaking) at Virginia, then came home and got bitten by the Bobcats of better-than-people-realize Quinnipiac. The 20-point rout of Murray State that followed suggests the Dukes may be restoring order. But while they're trending upward, at this point grade-wise we can't go higher than....
Grade: C-minus
Honor roll: The General

Virginia Tech (1-2)
There's no question the Hokies have a deeper, more talented bunch this season. Unfortunately, games against Old Dominion (35 points) and Michigan State (29) showcased the same kind of offensive impotence Tech endured during its 7-win campaign in 2011-12. The good news is that in between these drought-filled contests, they were able to hang 71 points on a good Appalachian State team. So the potential is there. We just need better performance.
Grade: C-minus
Honor roll: Alyssa Fenyn (a team-high 8.7 ppg) is shooting 47 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 83 percent from the line. Can we get this girl some more shots?


  1. Even if Longwood's loss to NC State is not factored into the analysis, their record is still 1-3 (not 1-2).

  2. Our bad! Thanks for the correction.