A look ahead -- and a few reasons to be thankful

November, 25, 2009

There's plenty of basketball to come over the long holiday weekend, including five interesting story lines for the teams below.


Yes, Connecticut. It's not that any of Hofstra, Richmond or Clemson look like particularly good candidates to end the Huskies' winning streak, particularly playing in Storrs. But I'm interested to see how Connecticut mentally handles playing three teams that clearly don't pose a tremendous threat in the span of three days. Do the Huskies come out flat and let one of these teams hang around into the second half, or do they dispatch them with the clinical detachment that so often sets them apart?

Ohio State

Baylor set the bar pretty high in routing California over the weekend. It also might have poked the proverbial bear just before Joanne Boyle's team spends Thanksgiving weekend in the middle of Ohio. But should the Buckeyes and Bears meet in Sunday's final of the Buckeye Classic (they play IUPUI and Southern, respectively, in Saturday's openers), it's precisely the kind of game Jim Foster's team needs to win to live up to its preseason billing. Samantha Prahalis is putting up ridiculous numbers (45 assists against just 17 turnovers), and they've come against some decent teams.

South Carolina

Freshman Kelsey Bone has come out of the blocks like a sprinter, averaging 21.3 points and 11 rebounds, but equally noteworthy is Valerie Nainima's early success. Nainima was a big star on a small stage at Long Island University, but after sitting out last season as a transfer, she doesn't seem to be struggling with her lines in front of a much bigger house. The Gamecocks have played some good competition in wins against Charlotte and Penn State (as well as a loss at Clemson), but back-to-back-to-back games against Oklahoma, Notre Dame and San Diego State in the U.S. Virgin Islands are another level up the food chain.

St. John's

The Red Storm have done what they should do against teams like Stony Brook, Massachusetts and Boston University to open the season, winning comfortably. But a game against Florida at Florida International's tournament in Miami represents the first big test for a team with sleeper potential. Freshman guard Nadirah McKenith hasn't started yet, but 15 assists against four turnovers in three games is a good way to earn minutes. The Gators are looking to prove there's life after Sha Brooks.

Boise State

It's not just for football anymore. All right, it's mostly still for football. But I'm interested to see how the Broncos fare against UNLV and either Washington State or Bradley at the UNLV Lady Rebel Round-Up. There are many teams in the Northwest with a better winning percentage over the last five seasons than Boise State, which is 4-0 this season, including a win against a Portland State team that should be a Big Sky contender. Guard Tasha Harris is making the most of her sixth year of eligibility.

And since it seems to be the season for giving thanks, some things on my list:

I'm thankful for a sport that allows us to watch players like Mississippi State senior Alexis Rack grow and progress through four full seasons (although I'll concede they would likely be thankful to have the option of leaving early for millions of dollars).

I'm thankful for a chance to watch Angie Bjorklund shoot, Tina Charles rebound, Allison Hightower defend and Courtney Vandersloot pass.

I'm thankful we still have another four months to figure out who the good teams are.

I'm thankful for the chance to listen to Geno Auriemma hold court after a game, particularly if it's a night when I'm not trying to file any stories.

I'm always thankful for free parking and free soda.

And finally, I'm thankful for the sanity check provided by Tegan and Sara's Reflections, about the most creative few minutes of video I've stumbled across recently on the Net.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.



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