Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wednesday's 5-spot: What to watch for

Bet the kids will love Gen Okoro's athleticism.
Fans in the stands! - It's "Dream Big Day" at Richmond, so hundreds of elementary school kids will be encouraged to do just that while taking in the Spiders game against George Mason at noon. The players should get something out of it, too - the chance to play in front of a sizable - and noisy - crowd. The attendance at last year's "Dream Big" game was 1,334, a figure that's more than double Richmond's average gate this season (647).

Can the Patriots recover?  - George Mason rolled into December with a 5-2 record, but the Patriots have gone 1-9 since and are coming off a particularly ugly 59-40 loss at Rhode Island. And while this stretch started with the Patriots losing close games, each of Mason's four Atlantic 10 losses have come by at least 15 points. With obvious depth issues and the natural adjustments to a new coaching staff, no one was expecting the Patriots to go unbeaten this season. But they're better than they've played lately. Here's hoping the Rhode Island loss was rock-bottom and the Mason turnaround starts Wednesday.

Defense first - Old Dominion's recent stretch of surrendering at least 80 points in four of its last five games - all double-digit losses - hasn't left the Lady Monarchs much to be proud of. Getting back to the kind of aggressive, often-disruptive style ODU has employed with some success under coach Karen Barefoot could help ignite a team that, while still rebuilding, can produce much better results than it has in some of its recent performances.

Atlantic 10 Player of the Year showdown - If the award was being handed out today, we're pretty sure it would go to a Ram. But which Ram? We think the line ought to form behind VCU's Robyn Parks. But clearly Fordham's Erin Rooney is building one heck of a case, too. The New Zealand native is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest while leading Fordham to victories in 13 of its last 14 games. Parks' Rams will face Rooney's Rams at the Siegel Center Wednesday, and while the team result is obviously paramount, which one of these stars gets the individual edge could be pivotal in determining who gets the league's top player honors come March.

Keira's droppin' dimes - Speaking of individual honors, VCU freshman Keira Robinson has a leg up on the league's top newcomer award after the 21-point, 10-assist effort against St. Joseph's cemented her conference-high third A-10 Rookie of the Week award. It was the third double-digit assist effort in less than a month for Robinson, who is averaging 8.4 helpers over her last nine games. Granted, her turnover count is a little high, too. But remember, folks, she's just getting started.

Today's games

George Mason (6-11, 0-4 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (7-10, 1-3), noon

Old Dominion (7-9, 0-2 Conference USA) at Southern Miss (13-2, 2-0), 8 p.m.

Fordham (14-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10) at VCU (15-2, 3-1), 7 p.m.

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