clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Women's Schedule Analysis, Part I

11/18 @ Penn State 7PM

2005 Recap: 19-11(NCAA First Round), RPI #20, Final Ranking: #22/#23 AP/USA

The Scoop: Penn State is currently a program swimming in controversy. Coach
Rene Portland kicked off 3 players immediately after the end of the last
season, including third-leading scorer Jennifer Harris. Harris has struck back
with lawsuits accusing Portland of harrassing her due to her sexual orientation
as well as race. Portland's views on homosexuality have been well-documented
over the years, but the odd thing in Harris' case is that she claims to be
hetero--but that Portland constantly accused her of being a lesbian.

Politics aside, what is most definitely true is that Portland is facing this
season with very little returning talent. Not only do the Lady Lions lose
their top three scorers, they also lost 6 of their top 7 scorers. The only
returnee of note is post Amanda Brown, who started 28 games and averaged 7.2
ppg and 6.4 rpg. PSU will add former NC State player Kamela Gissendanner, who
will likely start at power forward. The Lady Lions only have 10 players on
the roster, with one of them a walk-on who just joined the team. PSU will
likely have at leat one frosh in the backcourt, probably point Brianne
O'Rourke, though wing Mashea Williams will also likely see plenty of time. At
wing, frosh Courtney Molinaro or soph Adrienne Squire will likely get the

It's to say much about how this team will do, given the crucible of playing
under a microscope thanks to Portland, and having virtually no experience.
Brown is 6-4 and frosh Rashida Mark is 6-2, but they have no other quality size
on the team. This will be a problem against Duke's power game. The Lady
Lions will have an "us against the world" mentality that should aid them,
along with playing at home. Duke certainly can't overlook them; in fact,
PSU hasn't played a single exhibition game, so there's no telling what
their players can actually do. In this instance, Duke is best served
playing their own game: power ball inside, generating turnovers and
running whenever possible.

11/20 @ Old Dominion 2PM

2005 Recap: 22-9 (NCAA First Round), RPI #31

The Scoop: While ODU isn't ranked, they always have a strong club and play
especially well at home. Many members of this team also have a bitter taste in
their mouth from the last time they played in the Constant Center: when
Minnesota defeated Duke in the 2004 regional finals. Last season, only
Tennessee and CAA upstart Delaware beat the Lady Monarchs at home, while
Rutgers and Virginia Tech both lost. This is a mid-Atlantic rivalry that I'd
like to see continue, and it has a bit of its own history. The 1997 ODU team
that lost to Tennessee in the finals beat Duke in the regular season that year,
while the 1999 Duke team that lost in the national finals defeated ODU in the
Sweet Sixteen.

The Lady Monarchs will be without graduating senior guard Shareese Grant, who
was the team's biggest star. Still, they do return guard Lawona Davis (11.2
ppg, 5 rpg, 2.3 apg), who's a slasher and speedster. In the post, 6-2 Tiffany
Green returns, and she put up 10.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Forwards Tish Lyons and
Sherida Triggs both put up solid numbers, with Lyons going outside a bit more
and averaging 7.4 ppg and 4 rpg, while Triggs stays near the post and gets 6.9
ppg and 6.2 rpg. TJ Jordan is the team's long-range bomber, sinking 47 but at
only a 30% clip.

ODU doesn't have a lot of height, but they are a powerful rebounding club.
They outrebounded their opponents by nearly 11 boards a game last year and held
them under 37% from the floor. It's a good thing they did, because ODU shot
just 44% as a team and an awful 28% from three. They don't have a true
playmaker on the squad and they tend to turn the ball over a bit. Duke must
play to their strengths here. ODU will not likely use much zone and will
prefer to try and muscle Duke inside, even with a height disparity. The Devils
will need to be aware of this physical play and adjust accordingly. Williams
needs to clear some bodies inside to send a message that Duke won't back down,
and Currie needs to drive hard to the hoop. ODU doesn't have Duke's firepower,
so they will seek to slow down tempo, force contested jumpers and muck it out.
If Duke controls the boards in this game, they will win. Keeping the Lady
Monarchs away from the offensive boards is an absolute necessity. ODU will run
if Duke turns the ball over, because they do have some quickness, but they will
avoid trying to turn the game into a track meet. Anytime Duke can push tempo
will be to their advantage. As long as Duke can focus past the crowd, and rely
on its own defense, they'll be in good shape. Starting the year off with two
road challenges is a nice way to test this group.

11/22 Fairfield 7PM

2005 Recap: 12-17, RPI #197

The Scoop: Fairfield wasn't a good team in 2005, and they will certainly
be a bad team in 2006. They lost their top three leading scorers in and
return only Sabra Wrice, who averaged a modest 7.9 ppg. Fairfield has a
number of freshmen who will likely get some minutes. For Duke, this will
be a game where the team may wind up practicing different sets and
experiment with unusual lineups. Fairfield won't have enough height to
challenge Duke inside, and their young team may find it hard to play at

11/26 Arkansas State (Duke Classic) 3PM

2005 Recap: 21-11 (WNIT Third Round), RPI #74

The Scoop: ASU is an extremely tough mid-major that's a great draw for Duke in
the first round of their classic. The Indians are not afraid of strong
competition, having played Minnesota, Louisiana Tech, and Texas Tech last year.
Arkansas State then beat SEC schools Mississippi State and Arkansas in the
WNIT. The latter game was a huge triumph, considering that the Ladybacks have
been dodging them for years.

ASU returns five of their top six players, including their three double-digit
scorers. At center is 6-3 Adriane Davie, who put up an impressive 14. ppg and
10.2 rpg. At off guard is Ali Carter, who averaged 13.9 pg and sank 53 threes,
good for 34%. Their point guard is Rudy Sims, whose numbers included 11.6 ppg
and 5 apg. Off the bench, the Indians will have Katie Caraway at guard (6.9
ppg) and Kelsey Lock at wing (5.9 ppg). Their top scorers are all quite
versatile; the big three can all hit threes and get to the foul line. Davie in
particular did a nice job of this, with 172 free throw attempts. As a team,
Arkansas State shot 72% from the foul line, an impressive stat.

This is certainly a team deserving of respect, one that will not be afraid of
Duke or Cameron Indoor Stadium. It does have a number of flaws that can be
exploited by Duke. Other than Davie, the team has no quality size. Duke will
need to pound away inside, hopefully getting her in foul trouble. The team
does not generate a lot of steals and also turns it over a lot--20 times a
game. ASU was also outrebounded as a team. The Indians rely on shooting,
controlling tempo and getting to the foul line. Duke must control all three
areas. The Devils should press heavily and try to get easy baskets, but be
careful not to foul excessively. Smart defense is the rule of the day--don't
handcheck if you get beaten, but instead rely on teammates to rotate over to
help. Duke has a size advantage, and so simply needs to hold its ground
defensively and force bad shots. ASU will likely try to zone Duke and force
quick threes; the Devils must be patient and instead look for the right shot,
and never forget about the post players. This should be an interesting matchup
in a tournament where Duke's first round opponents historically have usually
been patsies; it's good to see them toughening up a bit.

11/27 Auburn (Duke Classic) 3PM

2005 Recap: 16-13, RPI #38

The Scoop: Auburn and Duke have played a number of close games recently,
and it's been an enjoyable series. This season, the Tigers will lose
their top three scorers in Natasha Brackett, Louise Emeagi and Nicole
Louden. The team will reorganize around its frontcourt, led by
shotblocking Australian Marita Payne. While she only scored 8 ppg last
year, she did grab 8 rpg along with blocking 141 shots (nearly 5 a game!).
She's a load at 6-5, but an even bigger like will be KeKe "Aircraft"
Carrier, a 6-7 powerhouse who will certainly challenge Alison Bales
inside. At wing, look for 6-4 frosh DeWanna Bonner to attack Duke inside
and out, while 6-2 Alexis Ogubie provides a nice backup post presence,
having averaged 4.8 ppg and 4 rpg.

The question for Auburn comes at point guard. They will likely turn to
another frosh, 5-8 Whitney Boddie, with senior Nitasha Brown probably
getting the call to start early on. Look for Bonner to be used at off
guard in addition to wing, and for frosh Sherell Hobbs to be plenty of
minutes at the three. This will be a young, huge and athletic squad and
will be one of the few that can match Duke's overall size at every
position. Experience and home court advantage will be in Duke's favor.
Currie needs to have a big game here, because I believe that the
frontcourts will neutralize each other. She'll need to hit the short
jumper as well as get to the foul line. At this point, I don't think
there's anyone on Auburn's roster that can contain her one-on-one. For
the posts, it will be crucial for them to be aggressive without committing
silly fouls, and for the point guards to get them the ball in good spots.
This game could come down to who can shoot the three better, and so Duke
must be ready to hit some open shots. Hopefully this matchup will occur,
because it could be a really intriguing one. I suspect that this group
from Auburn will be heard from on the national scene this year.


11/27 George Mason (Duke Classic) 3PM

2005 Recap: 12-16, RPI #161

The Scoop: While it's quite unlikely that Duke will be playing GMU, one
never knows. The Patriots return 5 of their top 8, including leading
scorer Jen Daniels. For this offensively-challenged, slow-down club, that
mark wasn't much: just 10.9 ppg. Daniels nailed 41 threes at a 36% clip
and led the team with 2.3 apg. The team returns two experienced forwards
in Moni Akintunde and Tracy Ann Holness. The former averaged 8 ppg and
5.3 rpg, while the latter put up 7.3 and 3.4, along with 17 threes.

As one might expect, Mason doesn't have much quality size. The team
added a couple of frosh who were over 6-2, but this team already had
problems rebounding the ball. Their slowdown style enabled them to get
big upsets over Miami and Georgetown and helped them stay in a lot of
games. I suspect that they will zone Duke as quickly as possible, hoping
that the shots don't fall and that they can box Duke out effectively.
They will be facing a team with a huge front line in Auburn first and will
likely use much the same strategy. Duke must be careful to shadow their
shooters closely, because shutting them down means beating Mason easily.

12/4 @ Texas 1:30PM (TV: FSN)

2005 Recap: 22-9 (NCAA Second Round), RPI #12, Final Ranking #11/#17 AP/USA
Today, Preseason Ranking #12/#12 AP/USA Today

The Scoop: The Lady Longhorns lost four regulars, including top-notch point
guard Jamie Carey and wing Heather Schreiber, along with utility player and
defensive stopper Kala Bowers. Texas had a good but not great season in 2005,
making it to the Sweet Sixteen. Of course, Texas played their usual tough
schedule, losing mostly to ranked teams. When Duke played them last, to start
the 2003-04 season, the Lady Longhorns took care of an Alana Beard-led team to
start off the season. Two years prior, Duke beat Texas in the NCAA tournament
on route to the Final Four.

This year's Texas team returns one-time Duke recruit Tiffany Jackson, the
team's leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and rebounder (8.7 rpg). She also was a fine
shot-blocker and should be one of the top post players Duke faces all season.
Also returning is point guard Nina Norman, who scored 7.8 ppg and dished 3.5
apg. The last solid veteran is Coco Reed, who averaged 5.7 ppg. Texas has
perhaps the best recruiting class in the country, including top 5 recruit Erika
Arriaran. This dynamic guard has been compared by some to Diana Taurasi. In
the post, Aubry Cook and Mariana Mergerson will help in the post. Cook is a
rugged back-to-the-basket player, while Mergerson is a willowy forward with
inside-out skills. Carla Cortijo is a pure point with fine defensive skills,
while Crystal Boyd is a scoring wing.

Jody Conradt will have a lot of talented parts to work with, and one senses
that this team will be much better in February than in December. Texas has
struggled in preseason and will be at a height and experience disadvantage.
Dealing with a player like Currie will also be a revelation for this team.
Jackson is a fine player who can score and rebound with the best of them, and
Norman is a good leader. This is a game where Duke needs to be physical, needs
to capitalize on mistakes and force a lot of them. Texas will be at home
(where they lost only to Rutgers last year), and this will give them a lot of
confidence. If Duke can get a lead early and take the crowd out of the game,
then they should be fine so long as they avoid mistakes. It should be noted
that Texas never plays zone, and so Duke will have a strong chance of winning
if they can establish their post game.

12/6 @ Texas Christian 8PM

2005 Recap: 25-7(NCAA Tournament), RPI #23, Final Ranking: #25/#24 AP/USA Today

The Scoop: Jeff Mittie's club was quite tough at home, though they lose
WNBA player Sandora Irvin. Irvin was a ferocious shotblocker, rebounder
and defender who grew into being an all-around offensive threat. The good
news is that nearly every other important player is back. Guard Adrianne
Ross is back from a torn ACL and should help with scoring immediately.
She was averaging 11.8 ppg before she went down with the injury.
Playmaker Natasha Lacy is back, with her averages of 9.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3
spg and 5.8 apg. At wing, Ashley Davis averages 9.8 ppg and 4.1 rpg,
while forward Vanessa Clementino puts up 7.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg.

This team likes a fast tempo and will likely need to go even faster than
last year, given that it's going to be perimeter-oriented. Lacy is not
unlike Harding in that she is both quick and powerful. She can hit the
three, get to the foul line and deliver assists. Harding will have a
significant challenge here, especially because Lacy has a height
advantage. Duke might put Currie on her at times in order to mix things
up. TCU will likely try to spread the floor and take Duke's post players
outside. The Devils should counter by putting in Black and Gay, who can
cover a lot of room on the court. The Lady Frogs do turn the ball over 19
times a game, and this should be exploited. This team can shoot, with
Ross and Davis the primary threats. With TCU's lack of an established
post game, Duke should attack that weakness, playing straight-up man
defense and pounding the ball inside whenever possible. Duke has the
personnel to adjust if TCU tries to either speed things up, slow it down,
or spread the floor. This will be a challenging road game just 2 days
after playing Texas.

12/19 Ball State 7PM

2005 Recap: 16-13, RPI #199

The Scoop: Last season, Duke held the Cardinals to just 31 points with a
suffocating defense. The Devils held leading scorer Kate Endress scoreless on
8 attempts and forced her into 7 turnovers. Endress and her 18.5 ppg average
are gone this year, but Ball State returns every other significant player.

Ball State will likely start a pair of 6-2 players in the post, Raechelle
Hampton and Becca Bajorek. Neither are great scorers (totalling 13 ppg),
though they do combine for about 10 boards a game. The backcourt will feature
Tina Bolte, the only other player on the squad who averaged in double figures
in 2005 at 11.2 ppg, shooting 32% from three. At point is Kelsey Corbin, who
averaged nearly 4 apg but 3 turnovers a game as well. Lastly, the wing will be
Julie DeMuth, a tremendous rebounder (7.2 rpg) at only 5-10.

The plan here for Duke will be the same as it is against most opponents:
pound it inside, dominate the glass, rotate over on shooters and push
tempo. Duke will likely want to trap and press a lot, but shouldn't be so
worried about a knockout punch as to take bad defensive risks. If Ball
State survives the initial blitz, Duke will simply have to be patient and
use its superior size and depth to wear them down.

12/22 Colorado State 7PM

2005 Recap: 15-13, RPI #114

The Scoop: The Rams have a history of being a good program, and have a
chance to be quite good in 2006. The team will feature five returning
starters, including three seniors. They're quite used to playing tough
teams, having matched up against UConn and Notre Dame last year. CSU has
a potent inside duo that led the team in scoring and rebounding. Lindsay
Thomas was in the pivot, scoring 12.5 ppg and grabbing 7.8 rpg. Melissa
Dennett was at the four, scoring 14.5 ppg, snaggin 8 rpg, shooting 54%
from the field and getting to the foul line an impressive 142 times. The
main problem this pair will face against Duke is size; Dennett is 6-2 and
Thomas 6-3.

In the backcourt are Vanessa Espinoza and Sara Hunter. Both averaged
around 3 apg and could hit the three. Espinoza scored 10.3 ppg and shot
38% from three, while Hunter averaged 7.8 ppg at a 40% clip. At wing is
Molly Nohr, who averaged 4.6 ppg. CSU lacks quality depth and will need
to rely on a mix of frosh and a JuCo for help. The key for Duke in this
game is to get CSU's bigs in foul trouble early on. Currie and Williams
in particular will need to challenge them inside. Duke must be careful
not to leave their backcourt unoccupied, because they will hit the open
jumpers. The Devils should play them tight and force them to drive and
shoot over their bigs--Espinoza is 5-3 and Hunter 5-6. The Rams turned
the ball over 19 times a game last season, and trapping their guards with
Duke's height could lead to plenty of errors for CSU. All-in-all, this
should be a nice test a few days before the ACC season begins.

12/28 St John's (Surf 'N Slam Classic) 11PM

2005 Recap: 20-10 (WNIT Second Round), RPI #90

The Scoop: St John's is an intriguing first round opponent in this California
tournament. While they have been near the bottom of the Big East for some
time, in recent years they've made some strides. They had a winning record
last year and even managed to pick up a win against Boston College. Their star
is former Uconn guard Kia Wright, a somewhat wild player who averaged 14.4 ppg,
nearly 4 apg, 2.2 spg and 4.4 rpg. She did it all for the Red Storm, and did
it with style. In the post is 6-1 Angela Clark, who averaged 11.8 ppg and 8.4
rpg. The last important returnee is Tara Walker, who averaged 9.8 rpg and 5.4

The Red Storm outrebounded their foes by 5 but had problems on offense.
Essentially, they had trouble creating a lot of easy baskets against good
teams. SJU's lack of size hurt them against elite foes, and it's likely
this may happen against Duke as well. Duke must contain Wright and frosh Lisa
Claxton and force them to make bad decisions. Forcing Wright to take bad shots
is not difficult. Clark will most likely be unable to handle Duke's post
game. The Devils mustn't worry if Wright gets a spectacular score or two,
and instead should concentrate on the bottom line.

12/30 San Diego (Surf 'N Slam Classic) 11PM

2005 Recap: 9-19, RPI #227

The Scoop: The hosts of the tournament wisely decided against scheduling Duke
or St John's as their first-round opponent. While the Toreros were terrible
last year, the good news is that they return their three best players. That
includes post Amber Sprage, who averaged 14.5 pg, 5 rpg and over 1 bpg. Also
coming back is wing Tiara Harris, who put up 10.8 ppg and 4 rpg, and playmaker
Polly Dong, who scored 5.9 ppg but dished out 4 apg. Playing on their
homecourt of the Jenny Craig Pavilion (alias the Slim Gym), the Toreros will
likely win their first round matchup and might draw a crowd if they wind
up playing Duke. Sprague is 6-5 and could be a nice matchup for whomever she
faces, but Duke will likely gang up on her to limit her touches. USD doesn?t
hit a lot of threes, and so they could be limited in their options against


12/30 Montana State (Surf 'N Slam Classic) 11PM

2005 Recap: 9-18, RPI #280

The Scoop: There's really not much to say about Montana State. The
Bobcats were a bad team in 2005, and are likely to be worse this year.
They lose the services of their top two scorers, post Kati Burrows and
guard Hillary Scott. Burrows was MSU's only double-digit scorer at 16.2
ppg, along with 7.5 rpg. Scott put up 9 ppg and was the team?s best
perimeter defender. Returning are guards Alyssa Nelson and Scotta Morton.
Nelson was the team?s playmaker at 3.4 apg, along with 7.9 ppg and 38%
shooting from three. Morton was a bomber who only hit 32% of her threes.
Other that that duo, MSU offers a time with little size and not much
experience or firepower. They also struggled on the road, and will be
playing on San Diego?s home court for this tournament. Unless Duke loses
to St John's, they will not be encountering Montana State.

1/2 Wake Forest 11AM

2005 Recap: 17-15(WNIT Second Round), RPI #78

The Scoop: Wake was a much-improved team last year, but they still matched up
horribly with Duke. That's because they had absolutely no quality size, and
Duke was simply able to pound away inside over and over. As a
perimeter-oriented team, the Deacs were able to hang close and even beat a few
teams with their three point attack, but on the nights when shots weren't
falling, things got difficult.

The good news is that some help has arrived. Center Keila Evans is finally
healthy and may be ready to contribute this year, if she can avoid foul
trouble. Joining her in the post is frosh Corinne Groves, who should be able
to get all the playing time she can handle. Back for the Deacs are their Big
Three (in scoring): forward Liz Strunk (15.1 ppg), gunning guard Cotelia
Bond-Young (15.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.3 spg) and quick point Porsche Jones (12.3
ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.5 spg). Backing up Strunk (and providing defensive help) will
be frosh Deirdre Naughton, who has the potential to be a big-time scorer and
rebounder. Another frosh who will be heard from is Yolanda Lavender, a
speedster who can score and pass.

Even in bad years, Wake usually gives Duke at least one game where they have
a realistic chance to win. They're coming closer and closer to having the
sort of athletes that could give Duke some real problems. Their backcourt
is tough, but flawed. Strunk is a great scorer and fine rebounder, but is
a poor defender. Bond-Young can really shoot and pass, but is extremely
streaky. Jones is a vastly improved player, but her size makes her a
liability at times. Duke has found ways of imposing its will on the Deacs
over the years, especially in the post. As long as Duke gets the ball to
Williams and Bales and works inside-out, they'll be in good shape against
the Deacs. However, I expect Wake to make Duke sweat more and more in
this and coming seasons.

1/5 Florida State 7PM

2005 Recap: 24-8(NCAA Tournament Second Round), RPI #19

The Scoop: The Seminoles were in a position similar to Duke's last season,
facing a shortened roster. Coach Sue Semrau responded by playing to her team's
strengths, and so she went small and athletic. She was aided by Roneeka Hodges
having a remarkable year in her one season of eligibility, but the team's role
players all improved remarkably. After a strong preseason, they managed to
knock off Maryland and UNC in overtime. They also took out Virginia Tech in
triple-overtime. That lack of depth took a toll on the team towards the end of
the season, and it showed as they had a quick exit in the ACC tournament.

FSU will feature the ACC's most underrated player in wing Alicia Gladden. She
became a poor man's Alana Beard as a sophomore, with 12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg and a
league-leading 3.2 spg. It's looking like she's going to become a more
effective offensive player in 2006, which will only make FSU better. Coming
back from a year off is Shante Williams, a dynamic scoring point guard who will
help make up for the void left by Hodges. Also in the backcourt is senior Holly
Johnson, a solid but unspectacular point who averaged 8.5 ppg and 4 apg. The
team's glue is LaQuinta Neely, a tough defender and the team's most experienced
playmaker. Ganiyat Adeduntan, who once had Duke on her list of schools,
blossomed as a junior at the power forward spot, scoring 11.5 ppg, grabbing 7.6
rpg and shooting 38% from three. On a team that didn't have a lot of shooters,
she was an important player, especially because she could take so many big
forwards outside. Where FSU struggles is in the post. Look for frosh Brittany
Miller and Kyria Buford to stake a claim inside.

FSU had success last year using a lineup that was not unlike UNC's. They used
a lot of athletes to make up for a lack of size. Alicia Gladden was the
ballhawk in the Nikki Bell role, making the defense go. Adeduntan played the
Camille Little role as an undersized power forward who nonetheless did a good
job of rebounding and could score inside and out. With Shante Williams back,
they now have an approximation of the lightning-quick point guard, except that
I think that Williams has the potential to be a much better pure point guard
than Ivory Latta. What this team is missing is an Erlana Larkins figure, one
who will be a post enforcer and rebounder. If any of the frosh can step into
this role, then FSU will be quite dangerous.

Duke still has a significant advantage in size over FSU, and should establish
the inside game as quickly as possible. FSU prefers an aggressive man-to-man
defense to take advantage of its quickness and the ferocity of Gladden. But
that kind of defense will be difficult to use against a Duke team that pounds
the ball inside. FSU could opt to double-team Williams and take their chances
with Bales and the team's shooters, or might go zone. The latter might be an
effective defense in some ways, but it takes away from their strengths. The
former is a gamble, and assumes that none of Duke's other posts will be able to
score, nor that its shooters will score. This is a game that Duke must be
careful with defensively; in particular, they have to shut off FSU's
penetration. Semrau is one of only two ACC coaches to have won in Cameron in
the last five seasons, and she's close to having a lineup that could do it