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The ACC Women After the First Lap

A quarter of the ACC season has gone by, so let's take a look at where
each of the teams stand:

NC State is 0-4 in the league and 8-9 overall as the Wolfpack Women are
struggling with team continuity. With so many new players, it's been very
difficult for them to get an established rotation going. Despite the
presence of Kaayla Chones, State is struggling on the boards, getting
outrebounded by each of their ACC opponents. The Pack have been close in
their two home losses, losing to UNC at the buzzer. That game was
especially frustrating because the Pack's Kendra Bell rebounded the ball
with a 1-point lead in the closing seconds but was whistled for
travelling--a dubious call at best. The Pack aren't especially bad at
anything except free throw shooting--a factor that has hurt them in close
games. The good news for State is that they have talent and a great RPI
(63, with the #8 strength of schedule in the country). If they can get to
8-8 in the league, they still have a chance at postseason play. They have
to start winning at home, however. Chones also needs more help; Marquetta
Dickens is coming on a bit, but no State player other than Chones is among
the league's top 30 scorers.

Wake Forest picked up a surprising win at NC State, thanks to 27 points
from Cotelia Bond-Young, one of the more underrated players in the ACC.
The Deacs still have a long way to go and were easily handled by Duke, UNC
and Maryland, who may well be the best three teams in the league. This
guard-oriented team is getting killed on the boards. Their best players
are all guards or small forwards; with the departure of Tiffani Listenbee,
they have no one to grab rebounds or defend opposing posts. Wake does
have balanced scoring, with Bond-Young, Liz Strunk, Tonia Brown and Erin
Ferrell (Mo Currie's high school teammate) all between 10 and 12 ppg--and
all in the top 20. Wake, currently at 1-3 in the league and 8-7 overall,
has a shot at the WNIT if they can get to 8-8 in the league.

Virginia and Georgia Tech are both 1-2, with UVa having knocked off the
Jackets in Charlottesville by a single point. The big news surrounding
Virginia is the indefinite suspension of star forward Brandi Teamer, who
is averaging 12.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg. No reason was given, but the
highly-touted Hoos were off to another poor start. Currently standing at
7-7 with a very difficult schedule (#5 in the country), Virginia lost at
home to Clemson and was crushed by Maryland. Virginia only shot 27% in
that game and was outrebounded by 19. Considering that the Terps aren't
exactly known for their prowess on the boards, this was a humiliating
stat. Teamer was ACC rookie of the year (over Monique Currie) but has
actually gotten much worse since then, looking continually out of shape.
She's still a very good player who can score inside and out, so if she can
get her head back in the game, she'll make Virginia better. Til then,
Debbie Ryan will rely on team ball, good chemistry and getting small
contributions from lots of different players. The Hoos play 3 of their
next 4 on the road, so this will be make-or-break for them.

Tech is very similar to Florida State in that both teams have one great
scorer who is a wing, solid play at point guard and few big wins. Tech is
having serious struggles on offense, partially because no one on the bench
is helping very much. The Jackets are 10-5 overall with one good out of
conference win: Southwest Missouri State. They also beat Florida State
thanks to their defense and great play by wing Fallon Stokes. The bad
news for Tech is that three of their next four games are on the road after
starting with the Virginia loss. That unfortunately includes games at
Maryland, UNC and FSU. The Jackets will need to get at least a 2-2 split
to stay in the conference race and compete for an NCCA bid. Beyond Stokes
and point guard Alex Stewart, the Jackets have almost no offense. Their
young players need to bring a lot more to the table and need to do it

Florida State's SOS is a solid 26, thanks to playing UConn, TCU, Harvard
and LSU. Allen is playing very good basketball--not quite as good as
Stokes, but still very good. The good news for the 9-6 'noles is that her
supporting cast is much better. FSU has proven to be a good rebounding
team, staying within 1 carom of Duke and even with Maryland. Their worst
rebounding games were a 30 point loss to UConn and a 7 point loss to
Georgia Tech. No one player stands out in the post, though Genesis Choice
is averaging 6 rpg and Trinetta Moore 5. Frosh post Ronalda Pierce is
suddenly playing a lot better, and that's energized the team. The most
important factor for FSU has been the emergence of frosh guard Shante
Williams, whose numbers are nearly as good as UNC's Ivory Latta. Seeing
those two match up will be highly entertaining. The 'noles have a
favorable sechedule right now after 3 straight road games; 3 of their next
four games are at home and the road game is at Wake Forest. Beating
Maryland was huge; the team shot 55% from the field as both Allen &
Williams had big games. If the 'noles take care of business, they could
carry a 6-2 league mark into the halfway point. This is another NCAA
bubble team that has their fate in their own hands.

Clemson had been wiped off the map by UNC down the stretch and then
dropped a game on the road to Florida State, but got a much-needed win
against the Wolfpack. Both teams badly needed that game, but it was the
Tigers who got it. The Tigers stand at 12-3 and 2-2 in the league, with
quality wins against South Carolina, BYU, Western Kentucky and Rutgers in
their back pocket. That's boosted them to a #31 RPI despite a SOS of 122
overall. The story for the Tigers has been the consistent scoring of
Lakeia "Chicken Bone" Stokes. She had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 4
assists against State, leading her team in all three categories for the
third straight game. The Tigers are getting nice support from post Maggie
Slosser and guards Julie Aderhold and Julie Talley. Clemson is playing
good defense but still not shooting all that well from three, and their
rebounding is still a big question mark. UNC and FSU beat them easily
because of rebounding issues. With a reasonable schedule ahead (road
games at Tech and Maryland, home games with Wake and Virginia), Clemson
has a chance to get a leg up in the ACC race.

The surprise team of the league has been Maryland. The first hint
should have been a close loss to #1 Texas Tech. Despite getting hammered
on the boards, the Terps played fierce defense and kept it interesting.
After that, Maryland went out and beat a decent Georgetown team, State,
Virginia and Wake on the road. Their defense left them against FSU but
there's no denying that the Terps have improved across the board. Shay
Doron and Kalika France both average about 12.5 ppg as mere frosh, while
forward Crystal Washington is one of the league's most improved players.
Point guard Alli Spence has been fantastic, running the team well and
popping threes. Doron and France get better with each game. Maryland is
11-4 and 3-1 in the league, and will need to finish with at least 9 ACC
wins to get into the NCAA's. Winning on the road will be a major
difficutly for a young team, especially one that still has to play UNC and
Duke twice. There's no question that Brenda Frese is already doing some
amazing things.

UNC dropped to 13-2 and 3-1 in the league, with Maryland their next
opponent. This is another road game for the Heels and a significant
danger. Maryland nearly beat them in College Park last year and this is a
much better Terps squad. Rebounding will be key for a team that has
incredibly balanced scoring. Latta and Leah Metcalf hit threes and pass
the ball, Nikki Bell slashes, Camille Little scores and rebounds with the
very best of them, and La'Tangela Atkinson does a little bit of
everything. With a relatively young squad and no true senior leader, the
Heels have struggled on the road so far (losing 2 out of 3) and will have
to try to physically intimidate the Terps. The matchup between Maryland's
guards and UNC's guards should be very interesting. After that, UNC goes
to Wake (a place that's given them some trouble) and Virginia (where they
lost last year). The Heels should cruise at home against Georgia Tech.
Like many other teams in the ACC, one gets the sense that UNC is still
very much in a formative phase, with their best basketball yet to come.

That leads us to Duke, currently 4-0 in the league. The Virginia game
on the road will be a significant test, given the Hoos' understandable
bitterness over how last year's game played out. Duke then plays the
talented young Terps in Cameron and faces Tennessee two nights later. The
Devils will have a week between games before playing Virginia, which could
hurt their sharpness. Being #1 again in the AP poll has put that big
target on their backs again, and hopefully the Devils will do a better job
of making #1 an advantage, not a burden.