The 3-0 Ags arrived in the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, a tourney that is played as two parallel round robins (the Island Division and the Reef Division) with no cross-division games or overall champion. There's also a men's tourney going on at the same time. A&M is the highest ranked team in the Reef Division, and will play Memphis, tu, and Syracuse on Thurs-Saturday. Texas A&M is the sole representative for the SEC, while the ACC and Big 12 have a team in each division.
The #12 AP/#11 USA Today Aggie women come into the tourney as the only ranked team in the Reef Division. The Aggies have started the season with a 3-0 record, having knocked off North Texas and Houston on the road and crushing Prairie View in the only game at Reed Arena so far. Only #25 DePaul has played as few games as the Ags. Combine this with a one game suspension for violating team rules for Courtney Williams and an indefinite suspension for backup post Rachel Mitchell, and we haven't seen the team at full strength yet. Against the weaker teams we've played so far (UNT is currently 3-3, UH 1-4, PVAMU 0-3) the team has not needed to be at full strength. Although Memphis, tu, and Syracuse are not top teams, they are a significant step up in quality compared to what the Ags have faced so far.
A&M has been starting Karla Gilbert, Achiri Ade, Chelsea Jennings, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. Jennings got the start when predicted starter Courtney Williams served her one-game suspension in the season opener, and kept the starting spot when Williams returned. However, Williams played 30 minutes off the bench vs the Cougars. The silver lining in Mitchell's suspension has been that it's given valuable PT to fish post Jada Terry. Although Jordan Jones has been the starter at point guard, redshirt Curtyce Knox, who may actually be even quicker than the lightning-fast Jones, has had good minutes as the sub.
Memphis Nov 28 5 PM CST
We open the tourney against 3-2 Memphis. The Tigers two losses were by 2 points to Samford as the tying bucket rolled off the rim and in OT vs Arkansas-Little Rock. The Tigers are led by 5-7 Soph. Guard Ariel Hearn (18 ppg) and list two centers as probably starters in 6-1 Sr. Pa'Sonna Hope and 6-2 Soph Asia Fuqua-Bey. 5' 9" RS-Fr G Mooriah Rowser and 5-10 Sr. G Devin Mack round out the probably starters, with 5-9 Fr. G the leading scorer off the bench. A&M should have a big advantage inside and Courtney Walker will probably guard Hearn. A&M should handle this one easily as long as they are focused and not looking forward to either Texas or time on the beach.
Memphis is 3-0 all time vs Texas A&M. This is their first game against a ranked opponent since 2006. The gap won't be so long after Thanksgiving. As a member of the new American Conference, they get to play UConn and Louisville at least twice each this season.
tu Nov 29 5 PM CST
T-Day +1 vs the Sips! The Ags last played Texas in Austin as our last regular season game in the Big 12. I watched the underdog sips prevail against the Ags 79-64 as Yvonne Anderson hung 25 on us and Chassidy Fussell added 19 while going 5 of 7 from behind the arc. All of our starters from that team are gone, but Karla Gilbert, Tori Scott, and Kristen Grant still have less-than-fond memories of that last trip to the Erwin Center. For tu, Fussell is now a senior and Nneka Enempkpali, who came off the bench as a freshman to grab 14 boards is a junior starter. Texas will be the first team we play this year where we will face comparable or better size in the paint. 6-7 Soph Imani McGee-Stafford will start at the post with the 6-1 Enempkpali at forward. Transfer Krystle Henderson is a 5-4 Jr who will start at PG, while 5-7 Soph Empress Davenport will start at the other guard. Fussell will start as the 3. Enempkpali, Fussell, and McGee-Stafford are all averaging above 10 ppg.
Texas lost their first game of the year last weekend when #6 Stanford visited Austin. The sips led at halftime by 7, but the Cardinal D shut them down in the second half. tu went 5-29 after the break. The Horns hung around thanks to abysmal free throw shooting and Stanford superstar Nneka Ogumwike fouling out late in the game, but tu managed to commit some really bad turnovers to let Stanford escape.
This game should be interesting. I think Texas presents matchup problems, and their size in the paint could highlight our lack of a zone-breaking 3-pt shooter. Texas isn't just big, they rebound well, outboarding the Cardinal 55-40. Can Karla and Achiri do better against the tu front than consensus All-America Ogumwike? Fussell is the kind of player you want on your team, but who drives you crazy when she's an opponent. On the other hand, Stanford forced the sips into 20 turnovers against only 7 assists. Texas gets the benefit of having experienced quality opposition already.
Syracuse Nov. 30 at 7:15 PM CST
Another orange team. Syracuse enters the Jam undefeated at 5-0, unranked but receiving votes. Like the Ags, Syracuse has beaten up on weaker opponents. After a close win on the road against currently 3-4 Washington State, the Orangewomen have run away from 1-3 Dartmouth, 3-2 Cornell, 3-3 Maryland Eastern Shore, and 4-1 Maine. Syracuse has beaten these opponents by 41, 41, 71 and 55 points. Syracuse's scoring leader is 5-9 Soph Gurad Brittney Sykes, who started 31/32 games as a freshman and made the Big East All-Freshman team. Sykes is averaging 20.6 ppg. 5-7 Sr Rachel Coffey starts at the point. The other starters are 5-11 Soph Brianna Butler (another BE All-Freshman), 6-3 RS-Sr Post Shakeya Leary, and 6-0 freshman Isabella Slim. Leary, like our Karla Gilbert, spent last year backing up a WNBA draft pick (Kayla Alexander).
Surprise! Syracuse is known for a 2-3 zone!
The game against Syracuse will be happening while the football team takes on Mizzou. Johnny Football's possibly last regular season game will get more eyeballs, but the ladies will get to spend the weekend in the Virgin Islands instead of Columbia, MO.
When cuppycup honored me by suggesting that I do my coverage of Women's Bouncy Ball as a contributor instead of a mere fanposter, he didn't throw in tix to the islands, so I'll be trying to keep up with the games via box score watching, audio, or the live internet feed on YouTube Live. The quality of past tourney feeds has been spotty in the past, but it will be worth trying. OK, I admit that I'll be mostly watching the football game on Saturday…
The Ags return to Reed for two games after the rare Thanksgivukkah convergence.
BTHO Memphis, tu, and Cuse!