Monday, December 9, 2013

JMU, Va. Tech remain atop state rankings

Toia Giggetts and JMU remain No. 1
Who's ranked where? Don't ask us. Oh, right, we're telling you. After No. 1, which were pretty confident in, ranking the state's teams is no easy task. But we gave it our best shot.

1. James Madison (6-2)

Man, we wish these Dukes hadn't lost a pair over Thanksgiving. Then again, when you consider JMU's two conquerors, Mississippi State and Wright State, have a combined record of 16-4, it's not as though the Dukes lost to some chumps. Besides, there's no doubt after wins over UCLA, Liberty and Virginia that JMU is the No. 1 team in the Commonwealth. Kirby Burkholder is averaging 18.4, Toia Giggetts just came off a career high over Pitt (and she's shooting 52 percent from the field) and Nikki Newman has an impressive 44 percent shooting percentage from 3. Even with the two losses, the Dukes are having the kind of preseason that could get them into the NCAA Tournament's at-large bid discussion.

Next game: Prairie View A&M, Dec. 14

2. Virginia Tech (7-2)

Yeah, Richmond beat 'em. (Frankly, the Spiders are a puzzling bunch to rank). And Indiana in Bloomington wasn't pretty. But the win against Michigan State was big, much like the numbers Uju Ugoka has put up in the last six games (137 points). Hannah Young (8.6) and Taijah Campbell are backing her up on the boards, and Monet Tellier and Vanessa Panousis have been generous enough to impress Kris Kringle with 79 assists between them).

Next game: USC Upstate, Dec. 15

3. VCU (7-1)

We admit, this might be too high for the baby Rams, especially considering their schedule hasn't exactly been a who's who of Top-25 teams. Still, most of their success has come on the road. And the Rams aren't just beat teams; they're flat-out embarrassing them. It's not just Robyn Parks in double socring figures, but Isis Thorpe (14.5) It'll be interesting to see if the Rams can keep this up once the competition gets stiffer. But we can't help thinking back to how they were within five at Ohio State with 1:20 to playing and wondering, hey, maybe they really are this good.

Next game: Cleveland State, Dec. 15

4. Hampton (6-3)

Hard to get a feel for these Lady Pirates, sparked by freshman Malia Tate-DeFreitas, a complement to Alyssa Bennett and Nicole Hamilton. The performance at home against American was ghastly, though we take heart that the Eagles followed that up with a win over always-perplexing Drexel. Speaking of the Dragons, Hampton gets its shot to solve Denise Dillon's offense on Dec. 18.

Next game: Bethune-Cookman, Dec. 9

5. Virginia (3-5)

Headed into finals below .500 is troublesome for a Cavs team that has beaten High Point, Louisiana Tech and Liberty (by one). They haven't won since Nov. 19 -- a date with Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 17 should fix that -- and a Christmas tournament awaits where they could face an always-dangerous Florida Gulf Coast team if they get past a first-round meeting with Tulane.

Next game: Maryland Eastern Shore, Dec. 17

6. Liberty (4-5)

Can someone help Ashley Rininger out? The sophomore center, shooting .604 from the field, leads the Flames with 15.7 ppg and 10.1 rpg, but she could use a lift from her teammates. The one-point loss to Virginia still stings, but Liberty has to like winning four of its last five after dropping its opening four.

Next game: Anderson (S.C.) exhibition, Dec. 12

7. Richmond

Spiders, what do we do with you? The wins over Miami and Tech -- wow! (We give Richmond the nod over ODU here due to those wins.) But losses at North Carolina A&T and at Liberty make us question. It appears Gen Okoro is rounding into form and freshmen Olivia Healy and Janelle Hubbard are having an impact early. And the good news for Spiders fans is Richmond has won three of its last four.

Next game: College of Charleston, Dec. 14

8. Old Dominion (5-4)

Lady Monarch fans might take issue with our ranking, but while Shae Kelley has exceeded our expectations, it's still awfully hard to know exactly where ODU fits among the state's teams. They lost to Tech and beat Radford; their other wins are over a pair of MEAC low-rung teams, winless UMass Lowell and a Boston University team that is 3-6. Wish they had pulled out the OT win over Marist, but we need some convincing before we push ODU up another few rungs. The Dec. 30 date at VCU should be worthwhile.

Next game: At Pitt, Dec. 15

9. George Mason (5-3)

Three straight losses for these Patriots, who last won by nipping Longwood on Nov. 26. Three road games in six days heading into finals made for a weary Patriot effort against Akron on Saturday. First-year coach Nyla Milleson has to be pleased with her trio at the top: Taylor Brown (Hoyas loss), Janaa Pickard (double-double machine) and Sandra Ngoie (13.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg off the bench).

Next game: Alabama Birmingham, Dec. 21

10. Longwood (3-4)

Couldn't be more impressed by Daeisha Brown, and we know there are a couple (Xavier, George Mason) that the Lancers would love to have back. Losing Raven Williams to a broken foot helps, as she averaged 14  ppg (good news is she's due back in a month). While the loss to High Point on Saturday was a disappointment, we're expecting the Lancers to be no fun to play in the Big South.

Next game: Savannah State, Dec. 15

11. Norfolk State (3-5)

Spartans notched their first MEAC win, taking down Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. As for 14.6, that's how many points leading scorer Rae Corbo averages and how many rebounds NCAA leader Rachel Gordon averages.

Next game: East Carolina, Dec. 17

12. William and Mary (1-6)

Love the win against UMass and love the play of freshmen Marlena Tremba and Latrice Hunter. Credit vets Kyla Kerstetter, Jazmen Boone and Kaitlyn Mathieu for making the transition to first-year coach Ed Swanson. Just like McGuire at Radford, growing pains for Swanson at W&M.

Next game: Radford, Dec. 18

13. Radford (2-6)

Long time since Nov. 12, when the Highlanders last won, but it's all part of the growing pains for first-year coach Mike McGuire. Last six have been on the road -- next five at home.

Next game: Appalachian State, Dec. 16

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