The Old Dominion Lady Monarchs released their nonconference schedule on Wednesday, and the slate of foes is much improved.
Remember the three bottom-rung MEAC teams from last year (neither Hampton nor North Carolina A&T among them), UMass Lowell and a rebuilding Radford team visiting Norfolk? Those kind of check-off wins weren't much for the folks who are regulars at the Constant Center to be excited by.
The 2014-15 schedule is more attractive. There's Duke and Louisville and California -- three Top 20 teams from a year ago. Nice to see some Virginia schools on the slate, too -- a Nov. 25 date at Virginia Tech and Dec. 5 vs. VCU. And a William and Mary game that returns some tradition to the program.
One lament -- the Blue Devils -- who, no doubt, want to given Virginia Beach's Elizabeth William a chance to play close to home her senior year -- are the lone sexy opponent at home. Cal and Louisville are road games.
Here's how it looks.
The season opener at the Constant Center comes against a Presbyterian team that finished 12-19 last season, winning eight of its final 11 and ranking second to UConn in the NCAA in scoring defense. Next comes the Tribe under second-year coach Ed Swanson -- a series ODU has dominated but still nice to see -- and then Duke. A No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, Duke was upset by DePaul in the second round, but injuries were the story of the postseason for the Blue Devils.
The rest of the home schedule: Rider, 15-17 last season, a Howard team that finished 11-20 and VCU, the surprise team in the Atlantic 10 that advanced to the WNIT, but has since lost Coach Marlene Stollings to Minnesota.
While Dec. 21 opponent University of Illinois at Chicago finished 26-9, winning the Women's Basketball Invitational, the tournament that is one notch below the WNIT, that game is in Las Vegas. That's a shame for ODU fans, who would certainly love to reminisce with Coach Regina Miller, a Lady Monarch alum and former assistant coach.
But what we see is an upgrade overall, a schedule that reflects the direction Coach Karen Barefoot wants to move in. Granted, the year will be tougher than anticipated due to the transfer of projected Conference Player of the Year Shae Kelley to Minnesota. While we like what we hear about West Virginia transfer Jennie Simms, eligible this season, we really liked the idea of Kelley and Simms playing together along with the return of Ashley Betz-White, injured all of last year.
So while it's only June, ODU gives us something to anticipate. Can't wait to see how it plays out.