Monday, December 1, 2014

JMU, Liberty, Virginia 1-2-3 in rankings

Nobody beats Okafur on the boards.
1. James Madison (5-1)

We haven't ranked the teams since the preseason, but this much hasn't changed -- the Dukes are the class of the state behind one of Kenny Brooks' most balanced groups. We know JMU is disappointed in falling to Maryland in the San Juan Shootout -- no shame in losing to the Terps, but the Dukes did not bring their A game. Six games into the season, you gotta love that Precious Hall is averaging 24 ppg and Lady Okafur, 13.7 rpg.

Next game: Dec. 3 vs. Richmond, 7 p.m.

2. Liberty (4-2)

- We'll excuse the hiccup to Elon and man, Georgia State was too close, but a win over Penn State leaves us confident in this Lady Flames team led by Tournament MVP Karly Buer. Beating the Nittany Lions and Panthers in succession earned Liberty the GSU Thanksgiving Tournament -- the first regular-season tournament title for the Lady Flames since 2009.

Next game: Dec. 6 at Radford, 2 p.m.

3. Virginia (5-1)

A 6-0 start seemed to be in the works until the Cavaliers unraveled against Toledo, losing a double-digit second-half lead, in the FIU Thanksgiving Classic (the Rockets won the tournament by defeating Arizona on Sunday). But good wins over Auburn, Ohio State and Xavier along with the formidable early-season play of Faith Randolph and freshman Mikayla Venson show us the potential this team has. Should they be No. 2 in our poll? We have the nod to Liberty, but the teams are essentially 2 and 2A.

Next game: Dec. 3 at Illinois

4. Richmond (3-2)

- The Spiders started 3-0 before dropping back-to-back decisions to Central Michigan (if you don't know the name Crystal Bradford, promise you will) and an unbeaten Arkansas team. The good news is Gen Okoro is healthy, Janelle Hubbard remains consistent and Olivia Healy is working her way back into playing productive minutes after last season's knee injury. Going to Harrisonburg promises to be tough.

Next game: Dec. 6 at James Madison, 7 p.m.

5. Old Dominion (3-2)

The Lady Monarchs played Duke well, beat Virginia Tech on the road and scored a win over William and Mary. The loss to winless Rider at home on Sunday was inexcusable, but it's one game that we hope ODU can learn from this with home games coming up against Howard and VCU before meeting a touted Louisville team on Dec. 15.

Next game: Dec. 3 vs. Howard, 11 a.m.

6. George Mason (3-3)

- The loss to Abilene Christian gives us pause, but the Patriots have a win over Tech and the Atlantic 10's leading scorer in Taylor Brown.

Next game: Dec. 3. vs. East Tennessee State, 5 p.m.

7. Virginia Tech (4-2)

- Losses to ODU and George Mason leave the Hokies further down in the rankings than we anticipated. The good news is the offensive firepower of leading scorers Rachel Camp and Regan Magarity, both freshmen.

Next game: Dec. 1 at Florida, 9 p.m.

8. William and Mary (4-2)

- An overtime loss to High Point and a seven-point deficit to ODU are all that keep this Tribe team from the unbeaten ranks. Marlena Tremba and Jazmon Boone have carried the offensive load, while Alexandria Masaquel has been a beast on the boards. Second-year coach Ed Swanson is moving this team in the right direction.

Next game: Dec. 2 at Radford, 7 p.m.

9. Hampton (0-4)

- Before Pirate fans get too disgusted by seeing Hampton all the way down at No. 9, remember we're basing this poll on what a team has done thus far, not on what happens down the road. Translation: We fully expect Hampton to be among the best teams in the state, but a rugged schedule against four teams that are a combined 18-4 has kept Hampton in search of its first W. Gotta shoot better, though, no matter who the competition. Twenty-four percent from the field isn't going to get it done.

Next game: Dec. 2 at Lehigh, 11 a.m.

10. Radford (2-3)

- Kudos to the Highlanders for pulling out a 68-67 thriller over Appalachian State on Sunday. A five-game home stand awaits starting with the Tribe.

Next game: Dec. 2 vs. William and Mary, 7 p.m.

11. VCU (3-3)

- Rams are finding their way under first-year coach Beth O'Boyle, whose motion-based offense differs significantly from the Fury under Marlene Stollings. Transfer Ashley Pegram has been an early bright spot. VCU has lost three of its last four, including a contest to W&M.

Next game: Dec. 2 at UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m.

12. Norfolk State (1-5)

- Rae Corbo and freshman Kayla Roberts have been sensational for the Spartans, who nipped Tennessee State for their first win of the season on Saturday. NSU nearly got another before falling in another OT game to Nicholls State on Sunday. Spartans only play once in the next two weeks.

Next game: Dec. 6 vs. Morgan State, 4 p.m.

13. Longwood (0-5)

- Daeisha Brown, oh how you are missed. Lancers, who nearly upset Wake Forest to open the season, still reeling from their losing their leading scorer to a knee injury.

Next game: Dec. 2 at High Point, 7 p.m.

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