|Richmond's Liv Healy|
13. Radford (2-2)
Last week: 13
On Friday, the Highlanders trailed Norfolk State by just 40-36 with a little over 11 minutes left, only to fall behind by as many as 14 en route to a 12-point loss. Two days later, they actually led at Old Dominion with under 12 minutes to play and were down just three with less than 10 minutes remaining. The Lady Monarchs went on to win by 19. The two-game takeaway? The Highlanders may be undersized and undermanned, but if they can squeeze out 10 more quality minutes per night, they're going to shock some folks this season.
Next game: Friday at Wake Forest
12. William and Mary (0-2)
Last week: 9
A similar story with the Tribe, who have played winning basketball in the first half in both games so far - 25-23 lead on Longwood; 32-31 deficit at East Carolina - before the milk turned sour. New coach Ed Swanson still seems to be sorting out which combination of players work best together. The good news is he has a lot of solid candidates for minutes. He's also got an impact freshman in Marlena Tremba, the 5-9 guard from Vienna who is averaging a team-best 16.5 points in 25.5 minutes per game.
11. Norfolk State (1-1)
Last week: 12
Senior Rachel Gordon earned MEAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after her 16-point, 16-rebound effort against Radford. The 16 rebounds are hardly surprising for the ballhawking Gordon, particularly against the smaller Highlanders. But Gordon, who typically spends most of her time in the low post, also burned Radford with a few jump shots. If this is now a part of her game, this may have been the first of several big offensive nights.
Next game: Tuesday vs. High Point
10. Longwood (2-1)
Last week: 11
Utah Valley became the latest victim of the "Dae Dae Show," as Daeisha Brown went for 24 points, 21 in the second half, as the Lancers rallied for a 59-57 victory. The kid's amazing, folks. Props also to fellow sophomores Khalilah Ali (9.0 points, 9.0 rebounds), Raven Williams (14.0 ppg) and Kyndal Skersick (7.0 ppg) all of whom have stepped up their games from a year ago.
Next game: Thursday at Xavier
9. George Mason (2-1)
Last week: 10
Thought for sure Janaa Pickard (21 points, 21 rebounds against Utah Valley) would nab Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors. Then George Washington's Megan Nipe had to go out and drop 31 points on then-No. 10 Cal in the Colonials' first win over a Top-25 program in five years. Tough league, this A-10.
Next game: Tuesday vs. Towson
8. Liberty (0-2)
Last week: 6
The Lady Flames are struggling to score (56 points per game), have yet to flex their usual rebounding might and have surrendered 51 points off turnovers in their two games. That said, a lot of teams would be 0-2 if they opened at Charlotte and against JMU, particularly ones that are in retooling mode like Liberty. No reason to think these guys won't figure things out eventually. Don't they always?
Next game: Tuesday vs. Virginia
7. VCU (2-1)
Last week: 8
Robyn Parks' line for the week - 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals. In short, she ballin'. As for the Rams' new, uptempo "Fury" style, well, a year ago VCU averaged 59.1 points per game. Today the Rams are at 83.0 ppg. They've also forced 22.3 turnovers a game, produced 80 points off those turnovers and outscored their three opponents 50-10 on the fastbreak. Uh, so far, so good? Not sure what was more impressive - the victories over Youngstown State and Elon, or the fact that the Rams were within five at Ohio State with 1:20 to play.
Next game: Thursday at Texas-Pan American
6. Old Dominion (2-1)
Last week: 4
Like VCU, the Lady Monarchs have excelled in turning defense to offense. ODU scored 20 of its 61 points off turnovers against Virginia Tech and 25 of its 56 against Radford in the same fashion. Also, they've outscored their three opponents 41-4 on the fastbreak. The flipside is that points in the halfcourt have been much tougher to come by, particularly in the last two games. The return of guard Ashley Betz-White from injury should help, but the continued development of freshmen bigs Odegua Oigbokie, Destinee Young and Ije Ajemba figures to especially pivotal in ODU maximizing its halfcourt potential.
Next game: Friday at Ohio State
5. Richmond (1-2)
Last week: 7
The Spiders' shooting percentages in their three games - 31.3, 31.9, 31.1. Come back, Rachael Bilney! Now imagine what those numbers would look like if the Spiders weren't forcing 23 turnovers a game. Combine the disruptive defense with just a little better marksmanship and these guys should be fine. Speaking of fine, this just in - freshman Liv Healy (a Reading, Mass. native and - hopefully - a Red Sox fan) can really play.
Next game: Thursday vs. JMU
4. Virginia (2-1)
Last week: 2
That the Cavaliers fall two spots is less a reflection on them and more about how well the three teams ahead of them have performed. Besides, there was nothing not to like about Virginia's performance Saturday in a 95-82 beatdown of Louisiana Tech. The performance suggests that the Cavaliers are one team when All-ACC performer Ataira Franklin (16 points, 5 assists, 5 steals against LaTech) is capable of playing to her standard, and a couple of notches below that level when Franklin and her balky knee don't quite have it. Sophomore Faith Randolph continues to be a consistently strong producer.
Next game: Tuesday at Liberty
3. Hampton (2-0)
Last week: 3
For the past three years, we've left Hampton games thinking, man, Alyssa Bennett could score 20 every night if she wanted to. Well, this year, apparently she wants to, as the Lady Pirates senior is checking in at 23.5 ppg through two games on 64.5 percent shooting. No one's going to shoot that high of a percentage all season. But since Bennett's talented enough to get to her spots and get the kind of looks she wants against just about anyone, we don't expect that scoring average to dip too much.
Next game: Wednesday at LSU
2. Virginia Tech (4-0)
Last week: 5
Enough with the comparisons to last year's team - these Hokies have already blown those out of the water. The question now is - just how good is this Tech team? Is this a middle-of-the-pack, or (gulp) better, team in the loaded ACC? Does it have NCAA Tournament potential? We realize we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. Still, this should be an exciting time for Hokies fans. For after years of just hoping their team would stay off the bottom, they finally have a squad they can dream about reaching for the top.
Next game: Saturday at Hofstra
1. JMU (2-0)
Last week: 1
How does a team not only survive but thrive despite 33.3 field-goal shooting? By averaging 24 second-chance points and 21 points off turnovers the way these Dukes have done in notching double-digit victories over Virginia and at Liberty. Now imagine how this will all look when some of those shots start falling.
Next game: Thursday at Liberty