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Texas A&M WBB starts SEC play Monday

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The Women’s Bouncy Ball team finished the nonconference part of the 2016-17 schedule at 10-3. The Ags start SEC play by hosting Vanderbilt on Monday night.

Danni Williams
Danni Williams leads the SEC in points per game going into conference play
Jimhu’s iPhone

Ags 90 PVAMU 62 on Dec 28

Women’s basketball wrapped up 2016 last Wednesday by beating Prairie View 90-62 at Reed Arena. The Ags blew a 27-18 first quarter lead and allowed the Panthers to go on a 16-0 run and hold the lead for 21 seconds at 33-31 with 4:40 to go in the second, as Coach Blair used the bench early. But A&M’s superior size and talent was too much to allow this to stand. The Ags regained a 43-37 lead by halftime and shut out PVAMU for the first 4 minutes of the third quarter. By the end, everyone played and only Alyssa Michalke was held scoreless in 2 minutes of play.

Blair only let Khaalia Hillsman play 24 minutes, but that was enough for her to lead the team with 22 points. Khaalia’s ability to score at will against the shorter Panthers contributed to Curtyce Knox getting a career high 15 assists. That ties Curtyce with Sydney Colson and Jordan Jones for the 5th best single game for assists.

Nonconference review

The Ags enter SEC play at 10-3 with close losses to USC (currently 10-2) at home and SMU (10-4) on the road, and a blowout loss to Dayton (7-7) at a neutral site. The Ags best win was clearly vs #25/21 Syracuse, with the next best win coming against Texas Tech.

Three Ags had statistically notable performances in the first half of the season. Curtyce Knox is leading the country in assists per game with a 9.8 average. Danni Williams leads the SEC in scoring average while Anriel Howard leads the SEC in rebounding average.

Conference outlook

The Ags were picked to finish 8th by SEC coaches before the season began. The table below summarizes preseason and current metrics, with the obvious caveats that it’s way too early to take RPI and computer rankings too seriously.

SEC WBB 1/1/17

Team OOC W-L Preseason SEC coaches Preseason AP/USA today Week 8 AP/USA Today RPI (12/31) Sagarin
Team OOC W-L Preseason SEC coaches Preseason AP/USA today Week 8 AP/USA Today RPI (12/31) Sagarin
South Carolina 10-1 1 4/3 6/6 3 3
Mississippi State 14-0 2 10/11 5/5 5 7
Tennessee 8-4 3 13/14 RV/RV 24 21
Florida 9-4 4 20/24 69 40
Kentucky 9-4 5 19/19 17/23 8 23
Auburn 10-4 6 RV/RV 27 46
Missouri 10-4 7 24/RV 51 79
Texas A&M 10-3 8 RV/23 RV/RV 43 36
Vanderbilt 10-3 9 RV/- 63 86
Arkansas 11-2 10 114 72
LSU 11-2 11 15 26
Georgia 8-5 12 99 96
Alabama 12-1 13 128 52
Ole Miss 11-2 14 RV/- 119 39
SEC WBB as of Jan 1, 2017

What we see it that the top has stayed pretty much as predicted, while the rest of the league, like the Ags, is in various states of inconsistency and uncertainty. S. Carolina and Miss State remain the favorites.

S. Carolina starts with an all-conference/all-America duo in the frontcourt with Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson. The Gamecocks graduated a couple of outstanding guards in Tiffany Mitchell (multiple SEC POY) and Khadija Sessions, as well as backup Tina Roy. Transfers Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray join veteran Bianca Cuevas-Moore as the backcourt replacements, which are the main source of doubts about the Gamecocks chances to go all the way.

Vic Shaefer has built Miss State into a top team. The Bulldogs only graduated one senior from last year’s team that had the misfortune of drawing UConn in the S16. Victoria Vivians and Dominique Dillingham made the first and second teams of the preseason all-SEC list. They’re very different: Vivians is a do it all natural talent, while Dillingham is the scrappy dive on the floor leader. MSU also has a veteran PG in Morgan William and depth in the post with Chinwe Okori and soph Teaira McCowan.

Tennessee remains very dangerous, with the ability to lose to unranked Penn State and Virginia Tech, but then dominate Stanford. The Lady Vols are still loaded with McDonalds All-Americans. Center Mercedes Russell and wing Diamond DeShields stand out.

Kentucky has an experienced and talented core that have helped them stay in the rankings, led by phenomenal guard Makayla Epps. But UK fans have been concerned about depth, as the Cats has so many players leave or decommit that they had to add 2 walk ons and give a scholarship to another walk-on to get to 11 eligible players (a 12th is sitting out a transfer year).

The preseason pick of Florida couldn’t foresee the Gators leading scorer and preseason second team all-SEC forward, Eleanna Christinaki, bailing on her team after a minor suspension. Ronni Williams will have to carry the team.

With 14 teams and 16 conference games, SEC teams play everyone at least once and three teams twice. The Ags get two shots at Miss State, Florida, and LSU.

Up Next: Vandy

  • Vanderbilt Commodores
  • 6PM CST January 2, 2016
  • Reed Arena
  • TV: SEC Network Radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM

I’ll be at Reed, but I suspect that even many WBB fans will watching the Rose Bowl. The game should be over in time to catch the start of the Sugar Bowl.

The Ags and Vanderbilt will complete the conference opener lineup for the SEC, which started on Sunday as I was writing this post. S. Carolina and Miss State dominated Alabama and LSU, respectively, while Tennessee hung on to win at home vs Kentucky. Mizzou pulled away from Georgia in an ugly early game. Florida lost at home to Auburn. Ole Miss pulled away from Arkansas in the third quarter and then survived an awful fourth.

Coach Blair has called Vandy the most improved team in the conference. New Coach Stephanie White came from the WNBA to replace longtime coach Melanie Balcomb, who joined S Carolina as an analytics assistant after being let go. White, who coached Indiana to the WNBA finals in her first year, will get paid better in college. She brought former Purdue HC and ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck back to coaching as an assistant.

The Dores are 10-3 with 2 of the 3 losses coming to teams that were ranked when they played (Indiana and #8 Louisville). Vandy has an upset win against Duke to their credit. The Commodores are leading the SEC in 3 point FG% (40.7%) and F 3FG made (98). The team seems to be very balanced in scoring, with six players averaging between 8.1 and 12.5 ppg, and 5 players contributing between 14 and 21 treys to their total.

The question for Vanderbilt coming into Reed is whether center Marqu’es Webb will be ready to go. Webb played against Louisville after being taken off the court on a stretcher vs Tennessee Tech. She didn’t play in their last game, a loss to Memphis. With or without Webb, Vanderbilt seems to favor a 1 big 4 guard lineup.

  • #0 6-1 Fr F Kayla Overbeck
  • #10 5-8 Fr G Cierra Walker
  • #3 5-10 Jr G Rachel Bell
  • #33 5-11 Jr G Christa Reed
  • #30 5-11 Fr G Lealea Carter

But this could change. Only Bell and Reed have started every game for Vanderbilt.