A-10 Preview: Women’s basketball begins league play fighting for top spot

Media Credit: Sophomore Hannah Schaible is averaging 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game heading into conference play. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Hannah Schaible led GW with 15 points in their 99-45 exhibition win over Division II Virginia Union.

Coming into the season, women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis said his goal was to send his team to the NCAA tournament.

After an impressive 69-66 win over Dayton on Sunday in the team’s conference opener, the Colonials move to 12-2 and see that goal within reach. But they’ll have to continue their success through Atlantic 10 play to secure a spot in the field of 64.

With a 6-foot-5 freshman averaging 11.4 points per game, a veteran guard returning to the floor from a costly injury and a 16.9 rebounding margin (second-best in the NCAA), GW has some new weapons in its arsenal to build on an 11-5 conference record last season.

But with GW, and others, vying for that top spot, where will everyone fit? Here’s our look at the league’s 14 teams:

Davidson

This Season: 4-9
Last Season: 16-16, 11-7 SoCon

As conference newcomer, Davidson is predicted to finish 12th, after Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Wildcats will enter conference play with a losing record, including a six-game losing streak that was broken by a 67-57 win over ACC contender Virginia. The win over the Cavaliers was the Wildcats’ most significant, as Virginia boasts a .769 winning percentage, but only half of Davidson’s wins overall came from teams with winning records.

Watch out for: New kids on the block. Here’s what we know so far: the Wildcats rank fifth in three-point field goals with a .335 percentage, fourth in blocked shots (4.2 per game) and fifth in offensive rebounds (14.2 per game). Still, the Wildcats lack experience in the conference and will likely be unable to do much damage as they fall second to last in rebounding margin (-2.6 per game) and last in turnover margin (-4.23 per game).

Takeaway: Even though they defeated Virginia, Davidson has the worst scoring margin in the conference, falling to opponents by nearly 12 points on average. Unless Davidson can pull some surprises out of a hat and quickly acclimate to the A-10 competition and styles of its opponents, that No. 12 spot seems about right for the Wildcats.

(2014-15): Davidson at GW – Feb. 5 at 11 a.m.
(2013-14): Did not play

Media Credit: File Photo by Aly Kruse | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Head coach Jonathan Tsipis huddles with his team last season.

Dayton

This Season: 9-3
Last Season: 23-8, 14-2 A-10

Dayton is the unanimous A-10 preseason poll favorite. The Flyers know how to win and have won before: Dayton won the A-10 regular season title and is coming off its fifth straight NCAA tournament run. Although the Colonials were able to steal a victory in Ohio this Sunday, expect the Flyers to battle even harder at the Smith Center when the teams meet again Feb. 8.

Watch out for: Veterans. Dayton returns four players who averaged double-digit figures, highlighted by leading scorer and junior guard Andrea Hoover, who averaged 17.3 points per game last season and headlined this year’s Preseason All-Conference First Team. Hoover leads the Flyers in total points from the field, beyond the arc and the line.

Takeaway: Dayton has the consistency and talent to potentially halt GW’s advances and take that No. 1 spot in the conference. The Flyers are second in the A-10 in three-pointers made and fall somewhere in the top five for most other statistical categories. With the help of team leaders, like Hoover, Dayton will need to break from the pack early to shut down GW and St. Bonaventure.

(2014-15): GW at Dayton – Jan. 4 (GW 69 Dayton 66). Dayton at GW – Feb. 8 at noon
(2013-14): Dayton 90 GW 69, GW 88 Dayton 79

Duquesne

This Season: 8-5
Last Season: 20-13, 10-6 A-10

Scouted as a middle-of-the-pack team in the preseason, Duquesne will come into conference play after riding a five-game win streak through the middle of December. Yet the Dukes faltered to mediocre teams, falling to Providence while shooting a low 26 percent. Ending the non-conference play with a win against Lehigh, Duquesne will hope to use this drive to spark another string of victories.

Watch out for: Paint play. Duquesne takes the second spot in the conference in rebounding margin (+7.1 per game) and field goal percentage (.428). Sophomore forward Amadea Szamosi poses the greatest threat to opposing competitors: She holds the top spot in the league in field goal percentage, shooting .560 in open play.

Takeaway: The Dukes will need to wreak havoc on the defensive side of the ball to make an impact on the floor. Though they have a +0.31 turnover margin, Duquesne has an assist/turnover ratio below one, with 219 assists and 222 turnovers, so the team will need to thwart opponents offensively as well if it wants to maintain a winning record.

(2014-15): Duquesne at GW – Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 80 Duquesne 68

Fordham

This Season: 8-5
Last Season: 25-8, 11-5 A-10

Even though the Rams won the A-10 championship and earned an NCAA tournament berth for the second time in program history, they are expected to finish fifth in the conference. After suffering the loss of their all-conference post players, Erin Rooney and Abigail Corning, Fordham needs some underclassmen to step it up a notch.

Watch out for: Stifling defense. Fordham shut down non-conference opponents with a scoring defense that only allowed 52.2 points per game on average. Junior forward Samantha Clark ranks fifth in the conference in defensive rebounds, averaging 5.7 per game to prevent second-chance points for opponents.

Takeaway: Along with Dayton, the Rams will have confidence and momentum as they enter A-10 matches. With a league title under their belts, the Rams need to accrue more offensive diligence to match their suffocating defense and propel them to a top-five finish.

(2014-15): Fordham at GW – Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.
(2013-14): Fordham 67 GW 58

George Mason

This Season: 8-5
Last Season: 8-23, 1-15

With a record of 8-5, George Mason is hoping to prove itself after last year’s disappointing season. Although they are predicted to finish in the bottom five of the A-10, the Patriots have the offensive aggression they need to defy the standings. But after gaining four wins straight, Mason lost its rising momentum with a tough loss to Towson on the road.

Watch out for: Junior guard Taylor Brown. The redshirt junior Patriot leads the conference with 24.3 points per game, possessing a career high of 35 points against UMass. Named to the A-10’s All-Conference third team, Brown has 41 assists this season and is an 80 percent free-throw shooter.

Takeaway: With a scoring margin of +5.4 and a +6.5 rebounding margin, Mason has the capability to battle conference contenders. However, last season’s results show that, while the potential is there with Mason, execution is key with this bunch.

(2014-15): GW at George Mason – Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. George Mason at GW – March 1 at 2 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 72 George Mason 56, GW 94 George Mason 68

La Salle

This Season: 9-4
Last Season: 15-15, 9-7 A-10

Predicted to finish in the middle of the A-10 pack at eighth, La Salle will need to excel from the perimeter and utilize its skilled ball-handling guards if it wants to compete with top contenders. If sophomore guard Jasmine Alston continues to swipe the ball from opponents, La Salle could be in a good position to create more turnovers and accumulate points. Alston leads the conference with 34 steals, amassing 2.6 per game on average.

Watch out for: La Salle as a deep threat. The Explorers rank second among their conference opponents in three-point field goals, holding a .370 percentage and falling just below Duquesne’s .374 percentage. Senior guard Alicia Cropper and sophomore forward Micahya Owens rank seventh and eighth in the conference in three-pointers made, tallying 2.2 and 2.0 long-range buckets made per game, respectively.

Takeaway: Despite the fact that they are not predicted to shine in the upcoming conference play, the Explorers have the ability and skill to defend their current standings among the top five teams of the A-10.

(2014-15): GW at La Salle – Jan. 24 at 1 p.m.
(2013-14): La Salle 77 GW 68

Massachusetts

This Season: 6-6
Last Season: 4-27, 1-15 A-10

Selected to finish last in the preseason polls, UMass once again finds itself in the bottom third of the conference after a dismal 2013-14 season. The Minutewomen are 12th in the conference in scoring margin and average only 61.8 points per game.

Watch out for: Senior Kim Pierre-Louis. The Ottawa, Ontario native is third in the conference with 17.5 points per game and second on her team with 6.8 rebounds per game. She ranks sixth in the conference with a .517 percent field goal percentage.

Takeaway: While UMass may not finish last as predicted, the Minutewomen seem destined for a finish in the lower part of the standings.

(2014-15): GW at UMass Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 89 UMass 76, UMass 54 GW 78

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Then-sophomore guard Chakecia Miller navigates around a Rhode Island player.

Rhode Island

This Season: 8-4
Last Season: 7-23, 2-14 A-10

Even thought they were predicted to finish 13th in the conference, the Rams have used strong defense to post eight non-conference wins. They had won seven straight before falling to Dartmouth in their final non-conference game.

Watch out for: Defense. Rhode Island is third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 57.8 points per game and holds the opposition to a third-best .348 field goal percentage. On the other side of the ball, freshman guard Charise Wilson is fourth in the conference with 16.4 points per game.

Takeaway: While an 8-4 start is a success, it came against a weak schedule. Six of Rhody’s eight wins came against teams with a sub-.500 record. Rhode Island’s offense, ranked last in the A-10 with 58.5 points per game, may not be enough to ensure continued success in conference play.

(2014-15): GW at URI Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 83 URI 68

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Then-freshman guard Chakecia Miller leaps from the paint to bank in a layup against Richmond in 2012.

Richmond

This Season: 8-4
Last Season: 14-16, 8-8 A-10

The Spiders come into conference play riding a five-game win streak after beating UAB in overtime on the road last Tuesday. Selected to finish in the middle of the conference at sixth, Richmond finds itself in the middle pack in just about every major statistical category.

Watch out for: Three-point shooting. The Spiders are third in the conference with 6.2 three-pointers per game as a team and feature two players, senior Liz Brown and sophomore Janelle Hubbard, in the top five in three-point shooting percentage. Despite ranking 12th in rebounding margin, redshirt senior Genevieve Okoro is fourth in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game.

Takeaway: Fifth in offense, sixth in defense, fifth in field goal percentage and 12th in rebounding margin, the Spiders lack a true team identity. However, they can do a little bit of everything, which puts them on track to fit right in the middle and be a solid opponent.

(2014-15): GW vs. Richmond Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. GW at Richmond Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.
(2013-14) GW 72 UR 58

Saint Joseph’s

This Season: 4-8
Last Season: 23-10, 10-6 A-10

After reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they were defeated by eventual champion UConn, the Hawks are off to a disappointing start. Saint Joe’s lost leading scorer and A-10 All-Conference Second Team selection Erin Shields to graduation, and the loss has hurt. They are ranked 13th in the conference in scoring margin and 12th in field goal percentage as opposing teams are shooting at will against the Hawks.

The Colonials got their 11th straight win Wednesday by dismantling the Hawks’ offense in a 83-69 victory.

Watch out for: Potential. Despite winning only four games, the Hawks have three players in the top 30 of the conference in points per game, including Preseason A-10 First Team selection Natasha Cloud. Shields was the only key loss, as the core of the team returned. Saint Joe’s has played a difficult schedule, including three games against Top 25 teams – all losses – and has not lost to a team with a sub-.500 record.

Takeaway: Don’t sleep on Saint Joe’s. With the core of the team returning and back-to-back postseason appearances, the Hawks can do some damage in the A-10. However, the lack of success early on raises questions about just how good this team can be.

(2014-15): GW vs. SJU Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 74 SJU 67; SJU 75 GW 69; GW 82 SJU 79 (OT, A10 Tournament Quarterfinals)

Saint Louis

This Season: 7-6
Last Season: 12-18, 7-9 A-10

The Billikens enter conference play on a three-game win streak after an overtime win against Ball State last Tuesday. Saint Louis was projected to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason polls and are off to a mediocre start.

Watch out for: How the Billikens fare against good teams. All but one of SLU’s seven wins come against teams who were at or below .500. All but one of its losses come against teams that are above .500.

Takeaway: Unless SLU proves it can beat the conference’s top teams, it will fit just about into that ninth place prediction.

(2014-15): GW at SLU Feb. 11 at 8 p.m.
(2013-14): SLU 61 GW 84

St. Bonaventure

This Season: 10-3
Last Season: 24-11, 11-5 A10

The Bonnies, selected to finish fourth in the preseason polls, are the only team other than GW with double-digit wins heading into conference play. They boast the A-10’s second-ranked defense, both in terms of points against per game (55.4) and field goal percentage against (.342).

Watch out for: Junior forward Katie Healy. Healy was selected to the Preseason All-Conference First Team and is 10th in the conference with 14.5 points per game. She also ranks 18th in the A-10 with 6.3 rebounds per game. St. Bonaventure is 12th in the conference in points per game, which puts added pressure on Healy to bolster the offense.

Takeaway: After a successful non-conference run, the Bonnies come into A-10 play with the focus on defense. However, the weak schedule so far may have covered up any holes in the team. Of their 10 wins, only two have come against teams that now have a record above .500, while all losses are against winning teams.

(2014-15): GW vs. SBU Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
(2013-14): GW 64 SBU 74

VCU

This Season: 9-4
Last Season: 22-10, 9-7 A-10

The Rams open their A-10 schedule riding a five-game win streak. VCU was projected to finish 10th in the conference in the preseason polls after losing Robyn Parks to graduation. Parks averaged 21.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season

Watch out for: The turnover margin. The VCU men’s team might be more well known for creating “havoc” on defense, but the women have been doing the same. The Rams are first in the A-10 in the turnover margin at +1.57 (La Salle is second at +.23).

Takeaway: The quick start will assuredly help VCU’s confidence after losing one of the conference’s best players. However, the Rams are the worst shooting team in the A-10 with a .359 shooting percentage and might not have the offense to keep up with the conference’s top teams.

*All statistics as of Jan. 4, 2015

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