Xavier Lady Musketeers:
About the Lady Musketeers:
Coach Kevin McGriff has taken a program that was is shambles and turned them into a team that has made seven straight postseasons including four NCAA Tournament berths with three in a row. He has them in position to make it four straight NCAA tournaments as the Lady Musketeers are eighth in the country and jockeying for a high seed in March. The Lady Musketeers have a good high low game with their three frontcourt players Ta'Shia Phillips, Amber Harris, and April Phillips combining for 37 points a game. They also are combining for 24.4 boards a game. The guards have been doing their part with Tyeasha Moss connecting on .486 of her threes. Special Jennings has shown great leadership at the point guard position, averaging five assist per game. The Lady Musketeers have another element of a good team - a good 6th man in true freshmen Katie Rutan, who is averaging 9.3 points a game off the bench. The Lady Musketeers are a tall task literally and figuratively for any team and will be Sunday for the Lady Bulldogs.
Projected Starting Line-Up:
About the Lady Bulldogs:
The Lady Bulldogs hit a bit of a slump early in the season, losing all their games at the Paradise Jam Tournament, but have rebounded well from it winning their last four games. The Lady Bulldogs three-guard lineup of Rack, Lumanu, and Govero have combined for 43.6 points a game. The trio have also combined for 7.8 steals, showing they are also great defenders with Lumanu making the SEC All-defensive team last year. The Lady Bulldogs don't possess as much size as last year, which has forced Sharon Fanning-Otis to employ a four-in one-out offense taking advantage of the perimeter skills of her basketball team. The offense has been largely successful as the Lady Bulldogs have an 8-3 record on the season. The Lady Bulldogs have had a strong start to the season but Fanning-Otis is still looking for scoring off the bench after inserting Chanel Mokango into the starting lineup. Bethany Washington and Ashley Jones are two players that Fanning-Otis is looking to get in the rotation and provide that scoring on the second unit. The Lady Bulldogs have also struggled at the foul line something that could come back to bite them as the season progresses. The Lady Bulldogs have many strengths but will have to correct their weaknesses if they hope to make the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.
Projected Starting Line-Up:
Mississippi State - Senior Center Chanel Mokango from the Congo is having a solid season up to this point, averaging 7.3 points while also pulling down 7 boards per game. Mokango is also the Lady Bulldogs leading shot blocker with 2.09 a game. The Musketeers have the best front line the Lady Bulldogs will have faced all season and will need her to have another performance like her 18-point game against Mississippi Valley State.
Xavier - 6'5 junior forward Amber Harris, is enjoying a terrific season, leading the charge for the Lady Musketeers, averaging 14.2 points while pulling down 7.9 rebounds per game. In addition, she also has 17 blocks and 19 steals on the season. She will be the most difficult match-up for the Lady Bulldogs as the Lady Bulldogs lack size up front and will likely have to double-down on the post to keep from getting taken advantage of down low.
The game versus the Lady Musketeers is probably the toughest match-up of the season for the Lady Bulldogs due to Xavier's great size and inside play. Fanning-Otis may have to deviate from her four-in one-out strategy and play Rima Kalonda extended minutes to counteract the Lady Musketeers size. The Lady Bulldogs have the edge at the guard spots due to the good play of Rack and Lumanu. The Lady Musketeers, while having more size than the Lady Bulldogs, are averaging 3.7 less rebounds which probably can be attributed to the fact that their guards haven't been involved on the boards like Armelie Lumanu who averages 5.5 a game. The Lady Musketeers have the stronger bench at this juncture in the season and will look to take advantage of the Lady Bulldog lack of depth. This is a game on paper that looks tough for the Lady Bulldogs to win but if they can force 20 turnovers like they have 10 of the first 11 games then they definitely have a chance to upset Xavier.
Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org