Basketball around the Beltway: women’s conference call

Most of the premiere Division I women’s college basketball conferences are already underway. A few of the locals have high hopes this March, while others need miracles to make the field of 64. The women’s NCAA Tournament does not have the First Four/Opening Round/Play-in/Unnecessary Appendix Game. Two teams already heading home: Virginia Tech after the Hokies’ ACC first-round loss to Boston College, and Virginia after the Cavaliers’ second-round defeat to Duke. Hopefully they were able to enjoy their Bojangles allotment.

Big Ten: Banker Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.

No. 5 Maryland (27-3, 16-2) is the No. 1 seed for the second-straight year despite getting swept by No. 2 Ohio State in the regular season. The Terps lead the nation in rebounding advantage and three-point shooting while also being very stingy defensively (leading the league in opponents field goal percentage and ranking 3rd in defending the 3-pointer). They won last year’s conference tournament and return most of the talent from that squad.

Causes for Confidence: Junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is a force on both ends of the floor (No. 5 in the Big Ten in scoring and No. 4 in steals) while junior center Brionna Jones is ridiculously unfair in the low post (nation-best .679 shooting percentage). Their four seniors (Brene Moseley, Chloe Pavlech, Tierney Pfirman and Malina Howard) are ideal glue players.

Causes for Concern: Turnovers has been their Achilles heel all season. They rank 11th in the Big Ten in turnover margin. Their shrinking bench (only six players saw more than 15 minutes in a 33-point win Sunday against Minnesota) may need to be deployed more when playing back-to-back days, and their reserves had issues against Wisconsin (allowing the Badgers to turn a 21-point game into a 2-possession affair in the last five minutes).

Team to watch out for: No. 9 Ohio State has beaten them twice and boast sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who’s averaging 31 points against the Terps this winter. They also were able to turn the Terrapins over (20 in College Park, 23 in Columbus) in crucial stretches.

First Game: Friday’s quarterfinal against Iowa, noon.

Atlantic Ten: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond.

George Washington (23-6, 13-3) prevailed in a three-way tie for first place to secure the top seed after going 2-0 against Saint Louis and Duquesne. They were able to do so minus force of nature Jonquel Jones who was averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds a game when she went down with a shoulder injury. Three other Colonials were named all-conference as coach Jonathan Tsipis has now posted three straight 20-win seasons.

Causes for Confidence: Junior forward Caira Washington provides the necessary punch in the post (12th in the conference in scoring and 6th in rebounding) while junior guard Hannah Schaible is fresh off taking A-10 Player of the Week honors. GW leads the conference by a wide gap in rebounding margin.

Causes for Concern: The Colonials lose the ball over quite a bit as well, ranking 12th in the A-10 in turnover margin. They still don’t have Jones back, although coach Tspis told GW’s student paper The Hatchet that she worked out in warm-ups Saturday. Their likely semifinal foe could be Richmond or VCU. The Spiders and Rams benefiting from playing that much closer to home.

Teams to watch out for: Lets talk about VCU and Richmond for a moment: the Rams are 2nd in the conference in steals and the Spiders are 5th. VCU beat GW by 11 in D.C., and if they don’t get by St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals, watch out for the Bonnies. The league’s best shooting team edged the Colonials during their regular season match-up as well.

First Game: Friday’s Quarterfinal against George Mason, 11 am.

George Mason (11-18, 6-10) enters the tournament on a three-game losing streak, including a game against VCU where they scored just 34 points.

Causes for Confidence: Coach Nyla Milleson has tried to build around Taylor Wright (14 points and 3 assists per game) the last couple of years, and the red-shirt senior is coming off a 20-point performance against league co-champion George Washington.

Causes for Concern: The Patriots allow the 2nd most points in the conference, and if they fall behind don’t have the firepower to catch up, ranking 12th in the A-10 in made threes per-game.

Team to watch out for: George Washington awaits in the quarterfinals, and the Colonials swept the Patriots in the regular season.

Next Game: Friday’s quarterfinal with George Washington, 11 am.

Big East: McGrath-Phillips Arena, Chicago.

Georgetown (16-12, 9-9) closed the regular season with two double-digit victories to finish .500 in the league. UConn and Notre Dame may no longer be roaming wild in the league, but DePaul dominated the conference this year and boasts the best player in Chanise Jenkins.

Causes for Confidence: Guards are gold in March and the Hoyas have a pair of gems in Dorothy Adomako and Dionna White. Coach Natasha Adair’s team also leads the league in rebounding margin.

Causes for Concern: They lost both games to St. John’s during the regular season, shooting 29 percent on Valentine’s Day. Heartbreaking, indeed. Should they advance, top seed DePaul (winners of six straight with two double-digit victories over the Hoyas) is the likely semifinal foe.

First Game: Sunday’s Quarterfinal against St. John’s, 9:30 pm.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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