A look at the week ahead

January, 3, 2011


Dayton at Boston College: The toughest week of the season for Dayton begins in Boston. The Flyers play the Eagles on Monday in a game that could be delayed by overheating scoreboards before traveling to Cincinnati for their Atlantic 10 opener against in-state rival Xavier. The Flyers played 15 people in a 101-80 win against Harvard on Thursday, hitting triple digits for the third time this season. Boston College has scored at least 80 points in all but one game (not coincidentally, a loss at Michigan).

Richmond at Virginia: It's another nonconference test for an Atlantic 10 team, as Richmond puts a five-game winning streak on the line in Charlottesville. It's just the 16th meeting between the I-64 neighbors and the first since 2007, but it's a good chance for Spiders senior Brittani Shells (20.8 points per game) to grab some attention.


Kentucky at Duke: Classes are still out at Duke, so Kentucky isn't likely to get the full force of the Cameron atmosphere. But the Wildcats can expect the full force of Duke's defense, which is more than enough to worry about for most visitors. Kentucky's Keyla Snowden led the Wildcats in scoring in back-to-back wins last week against Middle Tennessee and UT-Martin, hitting 9-of-16 shots from the 3-point line.

Syracuse at Georgetown: It's the first true road game of the season for Syracuse (yes, you read that right). The Orange's NCAA tournament hopes a season ago likely crashed on the rocks of conference losses at South Florida, Providence and Villanova, and this season's conference road slate is considerably more challenging.

St. John's at Louisville: Both teams are 1-0 in Big East play and both are also candidates for a top-four finish in the conference and the two days off that brings during the conference tournament. But with as many as 10 teams potentially also in that scrum, even early January games take on extra importance. St. John's leading scorer Shenneika Smith shot 20 percent (7-of-35) in her team's two losses and 46 percent in its 12 wins.


Villanova at Connecticut: There are worse teams to welcome for a team looking to regain rhythm after a first loss in 91 games, but there aren't as many as you might think looking at Villanova's record. Playing the Wildcats and their deliberate style is an exercise in maintaining patience -- or at least sanity. Maya Moore has attempted just five free throws in 109 career minutes against Villanova, something she might be pointedly looking to change in the wake of the Stanford game.

Pittsburgh at Duquesne: The Pittsburgh derby shapes up as particularly compelling this season, with the Dukes rolling after last week's win at Ohio State and subsequent victories against Austin Peay and Ball State. In one of the season's statistical quirks, both of Duquesne's leading rebounders -- freshman Wumi Agunbiade and senior Samantha Pollino -- have more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds.

Miami at Kent State: It's an early meaningful game in the MAC, and it's also a battle of two outstanding all-around guards in Miami's Courtney Osborn (18.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game) and Kent State's Jamilah Humes (14.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.4 rpg).


Michigan at Purdue: Ohio State and Iowa are a combined 0-3 in league play, and Michigan is responsible for two of those results. After beating Ohio State for the first time in 15 tries on Dec. 30, the Wolverines turned around and won at Iowa on Sunday. Five Michigan players scored at least 15 points in one of the two games. A win at Purdue could make the weekend home game against arch rival Michigan State a showdown for first place.

Kentucky at Arkansas: Perhaps the Wildcats will have time to wave to Lexington as they head from Durham, N.C., to Fayetteville, Ark., to open SEC play. As for Arkansas, are five days enough to go from unbeaten to must-win? The Razorbacks made a statement with a victory against Oklahoma before Christmas but lost for the first time in their own conference opener at Florida on Sunday. They opened league play 0-6 last season and 0-4 two seasons ago.

Maryland at Duke:With Maryland coming off back-to-back quality wins against St. John's at home and Saint Joseph's on the road, this rivalry looks as enticing as it has in several seasons. The boards will be big. That Maryland is one of the nation's statistically dominant rebounding teams came into question after St. John's claimed an edge on the boards, but hang with the Blue Devils and any questions will be answered.

Idaho at Nevada (ESPNU, 11 p.m. ET): This isn't just about plugging company programming. Nevada is very much a team worth taking an afternoon nap to stay up and watch, with wins already against NC State, San Diego State, Illinois State and BYU. The win against the Cougars came Saturday without leading scorer Tahnee Robinson (22.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg), who the Reno Gazette-Journal reported missed the game because of a death in the family.


Temple at Charlotte: The Atlantic 10 is much more than Xavier, much as the Musketeers carry the flag for the league in the national spotlight. And even if it's for second place, the race between these two teams, Duquesne, Saint Joseph's, Dayton, Richmond and St. Bonaventure is crowded and compelling.

Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson: Sacred Heart's Callan Taylor faces FDU's Mariyah Laury in a game between two of the Northeast Conference's three top scorers this season. Picked ninth in the league in the preseason, FDU is already 2-0 in NEC play.

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



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