Welcome back to All in the Game, y’all.
At the ACC Tip-Off in Charlotte in October, N.C. State Elissa Cunane said this of the Wolfpack opening their season against No. 1 South Carolina: “We’re going to learn so much from that game, being literally our first game of the season. It’s also encouraged us to prepare a lot earlier – take preseason more seriously, take every single practice more seriously. We have bigger opponents this year. We have to be ready for every single game.”
When asked if the Wolfpack has national championship expectations, Cunane simply said: “100%. Why would you sell yourself anything less than that?”
After Tuesday night, it’s clear that N.C. State is not quite national championship material yet. At least not right now, with Jada Boyd and Kayla Jones still hampered by injuries, with Diamond Johnson and Madison Hayes not fully integrated into the Wolfpack’s system as newcomers, and with Cunane getting outplayed by the Gamecocks’ bigs.
But the good news for N.C. State is this: on the season’s opening night, they got exposed by one of the best teams in the country. Wes Moore and this team are aware of the holes they have and the problems they need to address. And they have until March to figure out how to fix them.
Moore, at that same event in Charlotte, said this about his team: “We have some steps to make still nationally, as far as, you know, Final Four and above. We realize it’s really tough when you get in that neighborhood. So, we know we’ve got a challenge ahead of us.”
Indeed. The next checkpoints of sorts for N.C. State are not far away either. On Thanksgiving, they’ll face No. 4 Maryland in the Bahamas. On Dec. 2, they travel to No. 8 Indiana. And on Dec. 16, they’ll host Georgia, a team that should be ranked but isn’t. Playing well in those games would be good indicators of the progress N.C. State needs to make as it pursues its first Final Four berth since 1998.
Standout stats from the opening week
Duke forced Winthrop into 32 turnovers in its season-opening 95-39 victory on Tuesday. That’s the most the Blue Devils have forced an opponent into since Nov. 15, 2016, when Longwood had 34 turnovers. Duke also has a 39-game winning streak against teams from the Big South. Of the defense, head coach Kara Lawson said: “We need to be a great defensive team, we’re not there right now, but yes, there were some possessions where we did an excellent job of running our schemes and playing our assignments correctly.”
Also worth noting for Duke is Imani Lewis, who led the Big Ten in rebounding last season at Wisconsin. She came off the bench for the Blue Devils against Winthrop and had 16 points, six rebounds and four steals in less than 15 minutes of action. Lewis said after the game: “I just want to make an impact; that’s my biggest goal. If that’s setting a screen and getting someone open, that’s good. If that’s rolling to the basket, drawing two and allowing my teammate to get a kick-out, that’s good too. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this team successful.”
In her Notre Dame debut, Stanford transfer Maya Dodson scored a career-high 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting as the Irish topped Ohio 105-69. And in her collegiate debut, heralded recruit Sonia Citron tallied 13 points, a team-high seven rebounds and six assists.
Fellow freshman Olivia Miles dished out 11 dimes for Notre Dame in its win over Ohio, and it marked the first time Notre Dame started a freshman point guard since Lindsay Allen in 2013. Miles followed that performance up with 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Irish’s win over Western Illinois on Thursday.
Pitt topped Radford in its season opener 82-63, marking the most points ever scored by the Panthers under Lance White in a season-opener. Emy Hayford scored a career-high 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the win.
Elizabeth Kitley had a career-high 34 points in Virginia Tech’s dominant 75-38 win over George Washington.
Around the ACC
Lance White has signed his second top 100 recruit to Pitt. Carnegie, PA native Aislin Malcolm signed her national letter of intent earlier this week. Ranked as the 98th best player in the 2022 class, Malcolm also had offers from Charlotte, Northwestern, Richmond, Boston College, Yale, Davidson, Penn State, Penn and Columbia, among others.
Georgia Tech’s season-opening win at Central Michigan on Tuesday marked the 200th victory of Nell Fortner’s career.
Elsewhere in women’s basketball
In an extremely lame move, the CAA is standing by its decision to not allow teams from James Madison to compete in conference championships for the 2021-22 season. This is because presidents at other CAA schools are real salty and have hurt feelings over James Madison leaving the conference for the Sun Belt. By not allowing JMU to compete in conference championships, it essentially denies them of NCAA tournament bids for women’s and men’s basketball. Again, this is really lame, and it should make other schools think twice about joining a conference this petty. All this move does is hurt student-athletes.
Emma Shumate has transferred to Ohio State. A top 60 recruit in the 2021 class from Dresden, Ohio, Shumate was initially committed to West Virginia and had been on campus in Morgantown earlier this fall. She entered the transfer portal in early October. It’s unclear if she will be eligible to play for the Buckeyes this season.
Just a thing I noticed about the Big South: The conference has had a different champion – in both the regular season and the tournament – in four of the last five seasons. High Point, Campbell, Radford, Liberty and UNC Asheville have all claimed championships in that span. Liberty is now in the ASUN. On opening night, the Big South went 1-9, with five losses to Power Five teams.
East Carolina inked a 2022 Top 100 recruit this week as Amiya Joyner signed her NLI. A 6-foot-2 forward from nearby Farmville Central, Joyner chose the Pirates over offers from UNC, Wake Forest, Pitt and Clemson, among others.
Stuff I wrote
As part of a panel for the Hartford Courant, I answered some questions and made some predictions about this women’s college season.
For WUNC, I previewed the four Division I women’s basketball teams in the Triangle.
Top recruit Teonni Key will miss the 2021-22 season for North Carolina after suffering an ACL tear. I wrote about what that means for the Tar Heels at The Next.
I saw No. 1 South Carolina beat No. 5 N.C. State on Tuesday. Here are my takeaways, for The Next.
And for Inside MD Sports, here are my takeaways from the No. 4 Terps’ win over Longwood.
Late Thursday night, I jumped on the Pittsburgh Sports Now postgame show to talk about Pitt’s football win over UNC.
This profile of Kim Mulkey by Ross Dellenger at Sports Illustrated is incredibly interesting and pretty revealing. Three things I learned:
Kim Mulkey doesn’t drink, but loves Barq’s root beer.
Her office at LSU is inside the football stadium and she has a key to the facility.
She demanded to hear “Neck” upon her arrival at LSU.
Brandon Sudge is covering women’s basketball in the Peach State again. In this story, he takes us inside Georgia Southern’s victory at Auburn.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Aaron Rodgers. That’s it.
Be safe. Y’all be good.
You can support All in the Game by subscribing. When you hit the subscribe button, you’ll notice there’s options for free, monthly and yearly subscriptions. For now, all of these posts are going to be free and visible to everyone. But if you want to throw me $5 a month, or $41 a year, I won’t stop you. I’ll probably spend it all on coffee, or books.