Friday, March 1, 2013

Regular-season update: the stretch run

Liberty's seniors: (from left) Brittany Campbell, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola,
LaKendra Washington and Devon Brown.

A look at how each of Virginia's Division I teams stands as we head into the final few days of the regular season (RPI numbers from

Liberty (23-6, 15-2 Big South)
RPI: 64
Last 10: 10-0
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Charleston Southern (Senior Day for Devon Brown, Brittany Campbell, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola and LeKendra Washington)
Thursday's 68-31 dismantling of Coastal Carolina - Liberty's 40th straight win over the Chanticleers - clinched Liberty's 14th Big South regular-season title in the last 16 seasons. The conference tournament begins Wednesday, but the top-seeded Lady Flames have a bye in the first round and will begin defense of their title in Friday's quarterfinals against the 8/9 winner. Gardner-Webb is locked in as the ninth seed, and depending on the results of Saturday's games the eighth seed will be Coastal Carolina, Radford or Longwood.

James Madison (19-9, 13-3 CAA)
RPI: 77
Last 10: 8-2 (Both losses to No. 18 Delaware)
Remaining schedule: Sunday vs. George Mason (Senior Day for Tarik Hislop and Kanita Shepherd); Wednesday at Drexel
JMU and Drexel are tied for second place in the CAA standings with Delaware having clinched the top spot. With a win over George Mason Sunday, there's a good chance the Dukes will move a game in front of a Dragons team that will spend its Sunday at Delaware. Even so, the race for the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament will likely come down to Wednesday's season finale at Drexel, which is 3-1 against the Dukes over the past two years and won by two points in Harrisonburg earlier this season. Neither team can drop below a No. 3 seed in the CAA Tournament, so if form holds these teams would meet for a third time in the tournament semifinals. Drexel ousted JMU in last year's CAA semis.

Hampton (22-5, 13-0 MEAC)
RPI: 87
Last 10: 10-0
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Florida A&M; Monday vs. Bethune-Cookman; Thursday vs. North Carolina Central (Senior Day for Keiara Avant, Ariel Phelps, JoNiquia Guilford and Olivia Allen)
Winners of 13 straight, the Lady Pirates are three home victories away from running the MEAC table en route to their third straight conference regular-season title. Remarkably, Hampton has fashioned its 22-5 record despite having played just eight games at their Convocation Center, which when the week began was tied for the third-fewest home games out of the 343 teams in Division I. The Lady Pirates are 8-0 at home this season and 37-6 over head coach David Six' three-plus seasons. Hampton will need to win the MEAC Tournament to make a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance but will be clear favorites to do just that.

Virginia (15-13, 7-10 ACC)
RPI: 94
Last 10: 3-7
Remaining schedule: Sunday vs. Florida State (Senior Day for China Crosby, Simone Egwu and Telia McCall)
Talk about limping to the finish line. The injury-riddled Cavaliers surrendered a season-high 80 points in Thursday's 21-point loss at N.C. State, Virginia's fifth straight setback and its seventh in eight games. There's little doubt the Cavaliers will deliver an inspired effort Sunday against the nationally ranked Seminoles, but effort hasn't been the problem. Virginia will then be seeded 6th, 7th or 8th in the ACC Tournament beginning Thursday in Greensboro, N.C. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the worst the Cavaliers can finish is 15-15 with an RPI that still should be well inside the cutoff for WNIT consideration.

Richmond (16-13, 6-7 Atlantic 10)
RPI: 106
Last 10: 5-5
Remaining schedule: Sunday vs. Charlotte (Senior Day for Sam Bilney, Rachael Bilney and Ryann Dannelly)
The streaking Spiders will take a four-game winning streak into Sunday's finale against the even-hotter 49ers, who have won 12 straight and are 8-0 lifetime against Richmond. Win or lose, the Spiders will be seeded somewhere between 6 and 11 at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Regardless of what happens there, a WNIT bid for Richmond seems likely.

Virginia Tech (10-18, 4-13 ACC)
RPI: 123
Last 10: 3-7
Remaining schedule: Sunday vs. Miami (Senior Day for Alyssa Fenyn, Aerial Wilson, Kerry Sarver and Rachel Nichols)
Two straight victories, including a pummeling of nationally ranked Florida State, could make these Hokies an intriguing entry in next week's ACC Tournament. Figuring out Tech is pretty simple - when the Hokies can score at even an average rate, they're pretty dangerous. They're a very respectable 9-4 when they score at least 50 points, 6-0 when they reach 60. The problem is they've had a whopping 15 games when they've managed 49 or less and are 1-14 in those games. Tech lit up Florida State for 71 on Sunday, then notched 62 more in Thursday's 10-point win at Wake Forest. Here's hoping the points keep coming.

Old Dominon (19-10, 10-7 CAA)
RPI: 126
Last 10: 6-4
Remaining schedule: Sunday at Northeastern
A win Sunday and the Lady Monarchs will double the number of regular-season victories they managed last season (ODU won 10 during the 2011-12 regular season, then one more in the CAA Tournament). It won't be easy, though. Northeastern has struggled to close out winnable road games of late but is 9-2 at home this season (losses to Delaware and Drexel). The Lady Monarchs prevailed 70-67 when these teams met in Norfolk on Feb. 17. Win or lose, we believe ODU will have enough of a resume to land a WNIT bid.

VCU (10-18, 3-10 Atlantic 10)
RPI: 218
Last 10: 2-8
Remaining schedule: Sunday vs. Rhode Island (Senior Day for Daphne Adebayo and Robyn Hobson)
The Rams are in 13th place, and 12 teams qualify for the A-10 Tournament. VCU needs to beat Rhode Island and have La Salle lose to St. Bonaventure to advance. But no matter what happens, Rams junior Robyn Parks (18.4 ppg) will likely finish as the A-10's leading scorer - this from a player who averaged just 6.6 ppg as a sophomore.

Radford (13-13, 8-9 Big South)
RPI: 219
Last 10: 3-7
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Gardner-Webb (Senior Day for Katherine Brockett, Ashley Buckhannon, Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, Victoria Hamilton, Ema Reskoska and Sarah Tabb)
On the one hand, the Highlanders have dropped three straight and six of their last seven. On the other, they own either victories or narrow losses to teams that will be seeded one through four in the Big South Tournament. The Highlanders will be seeded between 6 and 8 so they'll have to win four games instead of three to take the title. Still, there's no reason to expect anything less than an extremely competitive showing from these guys no matter who they play.

Longwood (11-17, 8-9 Big South)
RPI: 240
Last 10: 2-8
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Presbyterian (Senior Day for Crystal Smith, Mieke Elkington, Erin Neal and Chelsea Coward)
The Lancers were picked to finish last in their first year in the Big South, so the fact that they will wind up as no worse than the eighth seed in the 11-team conference tournament and could finish as high as sixth is quite commendable. That "last 10" record isn't pretty, but the two wins have come in Longwood's last two games. Perhaps it's an indication the Lancers are regaining the form that allowed them to win six of their first seven conference games.

George Mason (9-18, 4-12 CAA)
RPI: 278
Last 10: 3-7
Remaining schedule: Sunday at JMU; Wednesday at William and Mary
Talk about a classic sendoff. The Patriots have five seniors. In Thursday's victory over UNC Wilmington, four of them - Joyous Tharrington, Melissa Collier, Rahneeka Saunders and Amber Easter - scored in double figures in their final appearance at the Patriot Center. Along with the fifth senior, Shavonne Duckett, they combined for 59 of Mason's 65 points. The trick now is to try and avoid beging relegated to the CAA Tournament's lone first-round game. Wednesday's visit to William and Mary could be pivotal.

William and Mary (7-20, 5-11 CAA)
RPI: 281
Last 10: 4-6
Remaining schedule: Saturday at Towson; Wednesday vs. George Mason (Senior Day for Emily Correal, Chanel Murchison, Taylor Hilton, Jaclyn McKenna and Janine Aldridge)
One win in their last two games and the Tribe can guarantee they won't have to play in the CAA Tournament lone first-round game. Saturday game certainly seems winnable as the Tribe beat Towson earlier this season in Williamsburg. Then again, William and Mary is just 1-14 in road games in 2012-13.

Norfolk State (5-19, 3-10 MEAC)
RPI: 336
Last 10: 3-7
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Bethune-Cookman; Monday vs. Florida A&M; Thursday vs. North Carolina A&T (Senior Day for Batavia Owens, Recca Trice and Marian Brooks)
The bad news: NSU went 0-13 on the road this season. The good news: All three remaining games are at home, where the Spartans are 5-4. Perhaps they can establish some momentum heading into the MEAC Tournament, which won't feature true home games but will be played in Norfolk.

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