Watch to watch for in the week ahead

January, 23, 2011


Iowa at Ohio State: The schedules are favorable for both of these Big Ten preseason favorites after this week, which also includes Iowa hosting Michigan State on Thursday, but that will be small comfort for Monday's loser. Iowa is both a dangerous and prolific 3-point shooting team, but it is not an efficient 3-point shooting team, hitting just 29.2 percent of its shots behind the arc. That makes it all the more important for the Hawkeyes to value possession and give shooters maximum opportunities -- in four losses, Iowa averaged 16.5 turnovers, compared to 14.3 in 15 wins. Considering all four games were in play late, those possessions mattered. In the wake of Sarah Schulze's unfortunate knee injury for Ohio State, Ashley Adams becomes one of the most intriguing names in the conference after the 6-foot-5 freshman put up 13 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists in Thursday's win at Illinois.

Miami at Florida State: The polls differ on which team should be favored, but Miami seems to have the most to gain in this ACC clash. The Hurricanes can validate a 4-0 conference start lacking in marquee wins by earning their biggest road result of the season (granted, it would top a short list). Both teams live at the free-throw line, even if they sometimes look like strangers in a strange land at the charity stripe (both shoot 67 percent from the line). Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson weren't the problem in Miami's only loss this season at Nebraska; it was the rest of the team shooting 10 of 29 from the floor. So who steps up alongside the Miami stars?


West Virginia at Georgetown: It promises to be a telling week for West Virginia, which also travels to DePaul on Saturday, as Mike Carey's team looks to win on the road against ranked competition. This will be the fourth game in 11 days for the Mountaineers, but easy wins against Marshall on Jan. 19 and South Florida on Jan. 22 allowed Carey to rest key players, including Madina Ali, playing with a stress fracture in her right leg.


Connecticut at Rutgers: With due respect to Pittsburgh, which trailed by just six points at halftime of its game at Connecticut last week, this shapes up as a better game by which to gauge the Huskies without Samarie Walker, if only because it's in Piscataway and the Huskies and Scarlet Knights don't always play nice by the banks of the Raritan River. Two seasons ago, the game at Rutgers featured 32 fouls. Three seasons ago, the last time the Huskies lost a Big East regular-season game, two Huskies finished with four fouls and two more had three fouls. Without Walker, Geno Auriemma is going to have to get creative if his team -- and particularly freshman post Stefanie Dolson -- runs into foul trouble.

Texas A&M at Oklahoma: Texas A&M took 11 more shots than Iowa State in Saturday's 60-51 win, the first for the Aggies in Ames and the first home loss for the Cyclones in their past 20 games. That shouldn't be a surprise; entering play on Saturday, Gary Blair's team averaged 16.2 more field goal attempts per game than its opponents, easily the best such mark among teams in the top 20. Danielle Adams had been shooting just 41.7 percent from the floor in conference play before hitting 10 of 19 shots against the Cyclones.

Charlotte at Richmond: In doesn't get any easier for Richmond, which experienced A-10 life to the fullest last week with a big victory at Duquesne and a tough loss at home against Dayton, its first in conference play. The Spiders held the Flyers to three assists and forced 22 turnovers on Saturday but couldn't overcome the visitors collecting 51 rebounds and going to the free-throw line 31 times. That doesn't bode well against a Charlotte team that, despite being beaten soundly on the boards in Saturday's loss against Xavier, is tied for the conference lead in rebounding margin and leads the league in free-throw attempts. Neither team can afford to let Temple pull too far ahead in what might still be a race for second behind Xavier.


Green Bay at Butler: Is it the game of the year in the Horizon? Both teams will be perfect at 7-0 in league play entering the night. Last season's game in Indianapolis was a three-point contest inside the final minute before the Phoenix held on for the season sweep. The senior trio of Brittany Bowen, Chloe Hamilton and Alyssa Pittman leads the Bulldogs, while sophomore Lydia Bauer and junior Hannah Quilling are emerging as ever more consistent complementary options for the Phoenix with backcourt starter Adrian Ritchie still sidelined by a sprained MCL. Quilling totaled five points, six rebounds, three steals and 11 assists, and Bauer scored a career-high 20 points in Green Bay's 85-39 demolition of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over the weekend.

"Lydia is as good a shooter as anybody in our league," Green Bay coach Mat Bollant said after the Milwaukee win. "It's exciting to see her taking steps. She was out for a long time with the shoulder injury, so it's taken her a little while to get back in great shape and to get her legs underneath her."

Gonzaga at Saint Mary's: It's another mid-major with a national profile going on the road to face its primary conference challenger. Blowout victories against Santa Clara and San Francisco over the weekend allowed Gonzaga to make ample use of its bench, and Meghan Winters seized the opportunity by hitting 6-of-13 3-point attempts. But it's Saint Mary's most likely to make use of the long-distance shot in this game, with Kate Gaze, Jasmine Smith and Suzie Davis all shooting better than 40 percent. The game also pits the conference's two top shot blockers, although national leader Louella Tomlinson has more than a bit of a cushion on Kayla Standish.

Arizona at USC: The Wildcats are 4-3 in the league at the moment, but as their place on the outside in Charlie Creme's most recent Bracketology suggests, they could use a road win -- preferably against a team other than the Pacific Northwest quartet at the bottom of the conference standings. The Women of Troy simply aren't shooting well enough to consistently beat quality competition, but Briana Gilbreath knocked down 14-of-30 shots against California and Stanford over the weekend, albeit both times in losses.


Wake Forest at Maryland: There aren't any truly compelling matchups to close the work week, but after Maryland needed overtime to escape with a victory at Virginia on Friday and then cruised past North Carolina by 23 points on Sunday, it might at least be interesting to see if the Terrapins come out focused for a weekend that also includes a low-profile game against Longwood. Maryland didn't have the same leading scorer in back-to-back games until freshman standout Alyssa Thomas made it two in a row at Virginia and then three in a row against North Carolina.

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



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?