Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wanted: Star Needed

While watching CSN this afternoon, and getting to see the Virginia women's basketball team take on Florida State for the second time something became apparent. After all, it's hard to explain how this team has been so inconsistent this year. They can score in the 70s one game and 43 the next. Is it all from inexperience?

Virginia lost to Florida State at home today, 67-58, continuing their ACC woes. The Cavaliers are 13-6 on the year and 2-5 in the ACC. The Seminoles are a good team, but Virginia should have beat them today, in fact they should have won both games. The ACC is one amazingly tough conference, it is number one in the RPI rankings. Virginia is 2-5 and have yet to play UNC or Duke, the top two teams in the nation! In other words, things are beginning to look grim.

Well the offensive futility seems evident enough. The 17 turnovers did not help matters either. Even though Virginia won the rebounding margin, they sure couldn't grab the big ones down the stretch when their feverish comeback fell short. All these problems are fatal to a team fighting for the NCAA, but maybe their biggest problem is this: When the game is the on the line, who is going to step up?

Virginia's men do not have this problem. Sean Singletary is the man, it's just a fact. He will make that big shot when it's needed. The women don't have that player. That lack of leadership really seems to have cost them these ACC games. One good candidate would be Sharnee Zoll. The sophomore PG has established herself as a leader. The flaw is, her preoccupation with running the offense has made her pass first, shoot second. This has cost her some offensive numbers herself. This game she finished with 7 points and 7 assists. Zoll might be a great leader, but it's hard to say she can change gears quickly enough to be the go-to shooter with the game on the line.

Lyndra Littles is an emerging star. Her size and speed give her the ability to play inside and out. Her flaw would be youth. She is only a freshman. During the comeback trail she missed critical free throws that would have helped UVa pull off the comeback. She also has to learn to avoid foul trouble since her 15 points and 8 rebounds were stymied by 4 fouls. In fact she only played the first three minutes of the first half.

Brenna McGuire is a pure shooter and a great teammate. McGuire however has failed to show that "selfishness" needed to be a go-to player. She is more than willing to give others the credit and glory while she sits back and makes big treys. While that garners much appreciation from her teammates and is a welcome change of pace from many other talented players, sometimes a big time player has to know when it's okay to take charge of the game. McGuire's 8 points are just not going to be enough. She scored over 20 against Miami, and Virginia women's basketball need her to play like that for them to get the key wins in the ACC.

Siedah Williams may be the best candidate. She has been by far Virginia's most consistent scorer. She has range for a big player and can hit those boards especially offensively. Williams problem is the same of most centers, they have to be given the ball, creating their own shots isn't a viable option. Zoll must make a concentrated effort to give Williams the ball when the game comes down to the nitty-gritty. She may not be the flashiest player on the team, but she has experience, talent and all the determination that a star needs.

Next up for Virginia is a home date with the Hokies of Virginia Tech as the Commonwealth Challenge continues. UVa currently leads overall 9-3 and the women will look to add to that growing margin. The Hokies fell earlier 78-59 to the Cavaliers at Cassell Coliseum earlier this year. The win is still one of Virginia's biggest. This time the Hokies will be looking for revenge. Offensive execution will be big yet again. If the Cavaliers can get their shots to fall, they should have a good chance of winning. If not, the NCAA tournament becomes farther out of sight.


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