Women’s basketball to be tested in non-conference play

Junior guard Brianna Cummings drives around a defender in a 78-70 win over Villanova last December. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor
Junior guard Brianna Cummings drives around a defender in a 78–70 win over Villanova last December. Villanova is one of at least five power conference teams on GW’s challenging 2016-2017 schedule. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

The two-time reigning Atlantic 10 champion women’s basketball team unveiled its non-conference schedule last week, with hopes of making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance this spring.

In head coach Jennifer Rizzotti’s inaugural campaign, the Colonials will face at least eight postseason teams from 2016, including Syracuse — last year’s runner-up to NCAA national champion UConn (38–0).

“We will take on a challenging non-conference schedule this season which features a number of high-quality opponents that made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament and WNIT last season,” Rizzotti, who also helped lead USA women’s basketball to a gold medal this summer in Rio, said in a release. “In order to get to where we strive to be, it is important for us to be challenged every time we step onto the floor.”

GW, which went 267 overall last season, will try to get battle-tested before entering league play by squaring off against at least five power conference teams.

One of the more anticipated clashes at the Smith Center will be a rematch with 2016 NCAA Elite 8 contender Stanford in late December. In the second game of a home-and-home series, the Colonials will seek revenge against the Pac-12 squad one year after the then-No. 15 Cardinal trounced them 8463 on the West Coast.

The Colonials will also play host to a talented Princeton side that made the 2016 NCAA tournament with a 23–6 record. The Nov. 13 meeting will be the first between the two programs since the 2008-2009 season.

GW’s slate also features a pair of local contests at 2016 WNIT participant Georgetown and American.

On the road, women’s basketball faces tough tests against Villanova, whom they defeated 78–70 in the first game of a home-and-home series last year, and perhaps its biggest challenge at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida during Thanksgiving break.

In addition to facing top-tier opponents like the Orange and Ohio State/Florida Gulf Coast, Rizzotti thinks the tournament’s format will help the team gear up for postseason A-10 play.

“The Gulf Coast Showcase is going to be an amazing opportunity for this team,” Rizzotti said in a release. “First off, to be able to take on national runner-up Syracuse in the first game will give our players a great benchmark on where we want to be. The Showcase is the same format as the Atlantic 10 Championship with three games in three days, so that is important for this team to get a feel for that accelerated schedule against quality opposition.”

While dates and times have yet to be announced for conference matchups, A-10 pairings were released in July.

St. Bonaventure and Duquesne represented the A-10 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, and will both visit the Smith Center this spring. The Colonials will also visit the Dukes  one of three teams GW will face twice in 2016 (Dayton, George Mason, Duquesne).

2016-17 schedule:

Saturday, November 5 vs. UMBC (Exh.) | 1 p.m.

Friday, November 11 at Georgetown | TBA

Sunday, November 13  vs. Princeton | TBA

Wednesday, November 16 vs. Coppin State | 7 p.m.

Sunday, November 20  at Villanova | TBA

Friday, November 25 vs. Syracuse (Gulf Coast Showcase) | 5 p.m.

Saturday, November 26 vs. Ohio State or Florida Gulf Coast (Gulf Coast Showcase) | TBA

Sunday, November 27  TBA (Gulf Coast Showcase) | TBA

Sunday, December 4  vs. Illinois | TBA

Wednesday, December 7 at American | TBA

Saturday, December 10 at South Dakota State | TBA

Wednesday, December 21 vs. Stanford | 7 p.m.

Friday, December 23 vs. Loyola (Md.) | 12 p.m.

Atlantic 10 Schedule (Dates/Times TBA)

Home: Davidson, Fordham, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, VCU, Dayton, Duquesne, George Mason

Away: La Salle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Richmond, Saint Louis, Dayton, Duquesne, George Mason

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