Monday, November 30, 2015

Gimme Five - the state's top teams (Nov. 30)

        1. JMU (4-1)
      Last week: 3
      The Dukes vault to the top after a 2-0 week featuring a dominant win over tough Liberty (ask Cal and Ohio State how tough) and an escape-from-the-dead overtime win at Hampton Sunday that left coach Kenny Brooks scrambling for superlatives.

      Shoutout to: Jazmon Gwathmey, your new Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week.

      Next up: vs. American (0-6), Saturday, 7 p.m.

2. Virginia (5-2)
Last week: 1
The Cavaliers drop a notch after Rutgers and Tulane cooled off Virginia’s formerly sizzling guards on consecutive days at the Paradise Jam. Still a lot to like about the way the Cavaliers have started, though. And to be fair, Virginia still owns arguably the two best wins of any of the state’s teams so far – at Middle Tennessee State and against Green Bay in the Paradise Jam opener.
Shoutout to: Lauren Moses. On a team where the guards have dominated, the 6-2 Moses was Virginia’s lone representative on the Paradise Jam all-tournament team. She particularly stood tall in the Tulane and Rutgers matchups, averaging 14 points  on 54.5 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds over the two games. With the guards likely to continue drawing the prime focus of opposing defenses, here’s hoping Moses can continue to get hers.

Next up: vs. Iowa  (6-1), 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Game kicks off a stretch in which the Cavaliers play eight of nine games at home.
       3. Richmond (5-1)
       Last week: 2

       The Spiders opened with five straight wins before they got caught on the wrong end of a shootout Sunday in a 98-80 loss to Marquette in the FIU Turkey Slam final. Going in Richmond hadn’t allowed more than 62 points in any game and had kept four teams in the 50s. Marquette, on the other hand, hung 95 on FIU in the tournament opener.

      Shoutout to: Janelle Hubbard and Micaela Parson, both of whom made the FIU Turkey Slam all-tournament team.

      Next up: vs. Furman (4-2), 5 p.m. Tuesday.

      4. Virginia Tech (5-1)

       Last week: 5

      A light week for the Hokies with just one result – Wednesday’s 73-42 whipping of Wofford – on the books. Tech’s lineup of opponents to date hasn’t exactly been rigorous so we’re giving them a bit of the benefit of the doubt here. We’ll have a lot more to go on a week from now, though, as Tech’s schedule is about to get a lot more interesting – and revealing.

      Shoutout to: Chanette Hicks. The true freshman enduring a trial-by-fire as the Hokies starting point guard came up big against Wofford with six steals, the most by a Tech player since 2011.

      Next up: Thursday at Penn State (3-3), 8 p.m. in Big Ten/ACC Challenge; Sunday at No. 8 Tennessee (5-1), 2 p.m.
      5. William and Mary (4-1)

Last week: (NR)

Is this really the fifth-best team in Virginia? Well...the team is off to its best start since the 1998-99 season, and there’s certainly no shame in the lone stumble, a six-point setback at Richmond. A couple of key stats: out of 344 Division I teams, William and Mary ranks among the nation’s Top 35 in fewest turnovers committed per game (13.2, 34th) and free throw percentage (77.5, 13th). So OK, maybe we're not absolutely convinced this is a Top-5 team, at least right now. But given those numbers, we are confident someone’s going to have to actually beat these guys, because they don’t beat themselves.

Shoutout to:  Marlena Tremba, who lit up American for 22 points in last week’s 62-51 victory. When Tremba is feeling it like this, the Tribe is truly dangerous.

Next up: at Delaware State (1-5), Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. 

On the verge

Liberty (2-4) – Team’s mired in a four-game losing streak, although the competitiveness of the Lady Flames’ games against N.C. State, Ohio State and California – and the second half against JMU - indicates a team much better than that record. It would help if the Lady Flames would stop falling 15-20 points down before top form kicks in. 

VCU (4-1) – Those thieving Rams (11.2 steals per game) have made themselves extremely tough to run offense against (and nearly impossible for Campbell, which trailed VCU 23-8 at halftime last week).

Rear echelon 
(not necessarily in order)

Radford (2-2) – Wednesday’s home date with Davidson will mark the Highlanders’ first game against a Division I team since Nov. 20’s last-second 54-53 loss at Youngstown State.

Longwood (1-4) – The Lancers are 1-0 at home after last week’s 60-49 win over N.C. Central, and star guard Daeisha Brown appears to be closing in on the form she displayed prior to last season’s ACL injury. Longwood will play three of its next five games at home.

George Mason (3-5) – Guard Taylor Brown scored 21 points and nailed the game-winning jumper in Sunday’s 64-63 victory that gave the Patriots third place in UNLV’s Lady Rebels Roundup and brought a successful end to Mason’s five-game, 11-day road trip.

Hampton (0-6) – JMU spectacular comeback in Sunday’s 68-56 overtime victory at Hampton obscured the fact that the Dukes didn’t crack the 40-point barrier until less than three minutes remained in regulation. Elite defensive performances are nothing new at Hampton, and if that kind of effort becomes routine the Lady Pirates should be in good shape going forward. That said, Hampton clearly left a victory on the free throw line – missed five straight in the final 31 seconds – and the ability to knock these shots down may be an ongoing concern. Hampton was shooting 59 percent from the line heading into the JMU game and is now at 56.3 percent, a figure which ranks 332nd in Division I.

Old Dominion (1-6) –  Some Paradise. The Lady Monarchs went 0-3 in the Virgin Islands – including losses by 46 and 32 points – and played their third game without leading scorer Jennie Simms and starting center Ije Ajemba after both were benched for a violation of team rules. In short, the trip will provide a stern test of coach Karen Barefoot’s renowned skill in finding positives in any situation.

Norfolk State (0-5) – As expected, Siobhan Beslow (10.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), a graduate transfer from La Salle, has been a nice addition and pairs with Kayla Roberts (11.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg) to provide a solid post duo. But the Spartans are allowing 83.6 points per game, and it’s hard to beat anyone with a defense that leaky. 

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