With intraleague action scheduled to begin on Wednesday, I thought this
might be a good time to see where every team in the league stood. I will
begin, naturally, with Duke.
Duke (5-2): It's been a bit of a bumpy start for the Devils, with
losses at Toledo and at home to South Carolina. The Toledo game was almost
understandable, given that it was Duke's first road game and was against
a tough team. Losing to USC was a different matter, especially since
Duke was shredded by their outside shooting. On the other hand, wins
against Texas Tech and Louisiana Tech have beefed up Duke's NCAA
credentials considerably. Duke has proven that there are few teams that
can keep up with their quickness, but there are teams that can contain
them in the halfcourt.
Duke has evolved into having a Big Three: Alana Beard, Iciss Tillis
and frosh Monique Currie. Beard is the third leading scorer in the
league at 17.4 ppg and leads the league in steals at an eye-popping 4.4
per game. She's also #3 in assists, #12 in rebounds, #2 in field goal
% and #2 in assist/turnover ratio. Not bad for a player who isn't a
true point guard. Tillis is the second leading rebounder in the league
with 9 per game. She's also #13 in scoring (13.5 ppg), #5 in steals,
#7 in blocked shots, #7 in offensive rebounds and #1 in defensive
rebounds. She's really proven herself so far. Currie is #12 in
scoring (14 ppg), #15 in rebounds and #7 in FG%. She's truly a
delight to watch on offense. Unfortunately, few of the other veterans
have been able to step up on offense on a consistent basis. Wynter
Whitley has become the team's best post defender.
The Devils still have to play Tennessee before the month is out, and
that game will tell Coach G a lot about where her team is. On a
disturbing note, Assistant Coach Joanne Boyle has been in the hospital
due to bleeding in her brain. She's expected to recover, but please
send her your good wishes
UNC (7-1): The Heels have gotten off to an excellent start, with
quality wins over a good George Mason team and top 20 Old Dominion, with the
latter game on the road. Their calling card this year is offense,
scoring over 92 points a game. Nikki Teasley's return to college
basketball has been a success so far, as she's averaged 17 ppg and 3.7
apg. She's also shooting 39% from three and getting 2.6 steals a game.
The Heels have the league's most devastating three-guard attack, with Teasley,
Coretta Brown (16.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 38% threes) and frosh Leah
Metcalf (13.8 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.6 spg, 40% threes).
Where the Heels have a problem is with their inside game, especially
in terms of depth. Candace Sutton has been solid with 12.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg
and 1.8 bpg, but their production drops off severely after her. Chrystal
Baptist has been servicable at power forward, averaging 7.8 rpg, but
she's limited as a scorer. Beyond that starting five, the Heels don't
have a ton of talent or size. UConn really exposed this problem,
outrebounding UNC by a ridiculous 39. If the starters stay out of foul
trouble, then UNC will be tough to stop, because they can really put
points on the board. Their only interesting non-conference game will be
against South Carolina, a team that of course beat Duke.
NC State (6-1): The great news for State is that Ivy Gardner is
healthy again, just in time to help beat Old Dominion. The Wolfpack Women have
played the toughest schedule in the league, beating top 20 George
Washington and ODU and getting crushed by #2 Tennessee. The Pack's usual
staples have been in effect: excellent defense, very good depth, a
punishing inside game. The loss of point guard Terah James has hurt
their offensive productivity and the team has a negative assist/turnover
Their most consistent player has been Carisse Moody, averaging 14.7
points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals a game. She's the only State player
averaging in double digits at this point, though I think the tough
schedule is skewing the numbers a bit. Nanna Rivers has done a decent
job at point (3.4 apg) but the Pack don't really have anyone to help
her. The Pack still have several tough non-conference games ahead of
them, including Wisconsin, Georgia and Mississippi State. Early season
play has shown that the race for the ACC crown will be very tight
between Duke, State and Carolina, but there are a couple of teams right
below them who will also have a say.
Florida State (5-1): Speaking of teams that will be difference-makers,
FSU has proven my preseason prediction of their being a surprise team
somewhat prescient. They've beaten some solid clubs in St. Mary's and
St. Joseph's and lost in OT to top 20 Florida. Thus far, the 'noles
have been one of the best scoring and rebounding teams in the league,
which is remarkable considering they lost their best overall scorer in
Brooke Wyckoff and best rebounder in Levys Torres from last year's
FSU has developed their own Big Three, and it's got some surprising
names on it. It's topped by the leading scorer in the ACC at 19 ppg,
Shinikki Whiting. She's also getting 6.8 rpg, shoots 81% from the foul
line and 47% from three. Filling in admirably for Wyckoff is Tennesse
transfer Tasheika Morris, who is scoring 18.5 ppg (second in the
league), pulling down 6.5 rpg, and shooting 54% from the field. Old
standby April Traylor is also playing well, with averages of 14.3 ppg,
4.8 rpg and sporting an impressive 47% mark from three. Most of FSU's
deficiencies are on defense, and how they match up against the league's
great scorers will be interesting to see. The Seminoles will play solid
team like Indiana and Auburn before they jump into the heart of their ACC
schedule, but won't face any top-ten opponents.
Maryland (4-2): A team expected to make some noise this year, the Terps
have gotten off to a somewhat shaky start. They were beaten pretty thoroughly
by Mississippi State and nipped by Dayton. Maryland shot poorly in both
contests. They have no wins against any top-25 teams to their credit,
although both DePaul and Richmond are decent squads. An upcoming game
against Penn State should be a useful yardstick for coach Chris Weller to
measure her team by.
Maryland is one of the most experienced teams in the league, and its
statistical leaders are pretty much whom you might expect. DeeDee Warley
is averaging 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds a game and is shooting 54%.
Marche Strickland (whose brother Trent will be attending Wake Forest next
fall) is scoring 11.2 ppg and is 15-15 from the foul line. Wing Renneika
Razor is averaging 6 boards and 2.5 steals a game. Vicki Brick has done
well in her return from injury, getting 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per
game. As a team, Maryland is about in the middle of the league in
virtually every statistical category. Maryland won't beat you with their
star power, but rather relies on depth, experience and teamwork.
Virginia (5-2): The very young Hoos have played quite well so far, with
several of their freshmen rising to the challenge presented to them.
Since starting the season with a narrow win against Hampton and losses to
Richmond and Rutgers, the Hoos have knocked off a couple of very solid
teams in Virginia Tech and UCSB. All but one of their wins has come at
home, which is not surprising for such a young team. Virginia still has
some interesting games coming up, including perennial power FIU and
Tulane on the road.
It should surprise no one that Telisha Quarles is the team's leading
scorer at 15 ppg. What is interesting is that there are three other
players hovering at around double figures as well: Brandi Teamer (10.7),
LaTonya Blue (10.3) and Anna Prillaman (9.6, shooting 40% from three).
Teamer and Blue are also doing the job on the boards, averaging 8.9 and
6.4 rpg, respectively. Blue is making a strong case for All-Rookie
status, seeing as how she's also averaging 4.1 apg and 2.4 spg--her
overall skills are quite impressive. The problem is that Virginia still
has a thin rotation and is painfully young. That aside, they're setting
up a nice foundation for future success.
Georgia Tech (4-2): The Jackets have put up some big numbers against
some extremely weak teams, but also lost to mediocre squads like Kansas State
and Southern. The rest of their December slate is relatively light, with
only a game against rebuilding Georgia offering a big challenge. It's
unclear how ready they'll be for the pressures of the ACC schedule.
Several Jackets are putting up huge numbers. With Neisha Butler on
academic suspension for a semester, Tech has gone to its post players for
help. Most notably, Regina Tate (out for a year with an injury) has put
up some mind-boggling stats, averaging 17.3 ppg and 9 rpg--making her top
5 in both categories. She also leads the league in field goal
percentage (59%), while teammate Sonja Mallory leads the league in
rebounding at 9.2 per game and is third in blocks at 1.7 pg. She's also scoring
an impressive 17 ppg. Another Jacket, Nina Barlin, leads the league in
assists at 8.5 a game. Utility player Milli Martinez is also doing well,
scoring 10.7 ppg and getting 3.7 apg. Overall, Tech is one of the better
scoring and rebounding teams in the league, and also leads in
assist/turnover ratio. We'll see how these numbers hold up when the
competition gets better.
Clemson (3-2): As I predicted, the Tigers are having a rough time of it
trying to adjust to life without Erin Batth. The only players who have
stepped up are guards Chrissy Floyd and Krystal Scott, who are averaging
15.4 and 12.8 ppg, respectively. Floyd also chips in with 5 rpg (making
her the Tigers' leading rebounder) and Scott is averaging 3.8 apg. While
the Tigers beat South Carolina and Illinois at home, they were upset by
extremely weak teams UMASS and Furman. The Tigers were somehow
outrebounded in both of those games and shot under 40%. Clemson will
play Penn State on the road this month, so that will be a huge test for
their young frontcourt.
That Clemson is having trouble scoring is no surprise, but the fact
that they have one of the worst defenses in the league is troubling.
They're also one of the worst rebounding teams in the league so far.
They need their young post players and Marci Glenney to step up
immediately if they want a shot at making it to the NCAA's.
Wake Forest (2-3): Unsurprisingly, Wake is once again having trouble
scoring. They're getting very little point production from their post
players, though LaChina Robinson is one of the league's better rebounders
at 9 rpg. The team's star is Eafton Hill, averaging 12.5 ppg and leading
the conference in blocks at 2 per game. Also contributing is Tonia
Brown, scoring 11.8 ppg and 2.2 spg.
Wake's overall stats are horrible, but they are skewed by a 50-point
beating at the hands of #1 UConn. Much more disturbing are their
numbers in losses to UAB and Western Carolina. Both teams shot 52%,
while Wake barely broke 40%. A big Wake team was also badly
outrebounded by UAB. Both losses were on the road. Wake has a number
of only modestly challenging games ahead of them, so a winning record
going into league play is not out of the question. But their defense
must improve dramatically, and they have to find ways to score.