WBB projected to finish 10th in A-10

Paris Carter
Contributing Writer

A season ago, VCU’s women’s basketball program was faced with modest expectations coming off of an 11-19 campaign in the 2012-13 season. The Rams responded by doubling their win total and earning a postseason bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. A lot has changed since the team was defeated by the Princeton University Tigers late in March, and the Rams will be looking to find their comfort zone early in the season under the tutelage of new head coach Beth O’Boyle.

After a successful three-year stint at Stony Brook University in New York, O’Boyle spoke highly about the new opportunity she’s been afforded.

“VCU is my dream job,” O’Boyle said in a press conference.  “We are in a great conference, in a great location for girl’s college basketball, it’s warm and it’s really close to my family.”

Sopohmore guard Keira Robinson was recently named to the Atlantic 10 third-team preseason. PHOTO BY Brooke Marsh.

There are plenty of reasons to be thrilled about O’Boyle’s inaugural campaign, but with that excitement also comes the harsh reality that this year’s version of the team will have to replace three of the five starters from the 2013-14 roster. Among those players who will be missed is first team all-Atlantic 10 performer Robyn Parks, who ended her career with one of the most dominant seasons ever by a Ram. Parks led the A-10 in points, rebounds and finished second in steals. The team, mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores, will have to step up as a collective unit.

Conventional wisdom would tell you between a new head coach leading the pack and a first team All-Atlantic 10 performer graduating, the Rams should be prepared for a steep learning curve. Even with that in mind, it’s hard to really get a gauge on what to expect from this bunch. Yes, a few important pieces from last year’s team are gone, but there are a few things going in VCU’s favor as well.

The Rams have a young bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to inexperience. Five of the top six scorers off of last year’s team are returners. VCU should have very little trouble putting points on the scoreboard. As for who is the most likely candidate to take over Parks’ role as the leader on the floor, sophomore Keira Robinson looks poised for a big breakout. A season ago, Robinson matured into a true floor general, averaging 11 points a game while dishing out six assists a game, good for second in the conference. Expect increases in both of those categories as the game continues to slow down for the young, uber-talented point guard.

Among other players who will have to step up is fellow sophomore guard Isis Thorpe, who finished second on the team in scoring a year ago. As the only two juniors on the roster this season, Adaeze Alaeze and Melanie Royster will be expected to serve as leaders both on and off the hardwood.

Something else to note about those five returners leading the way in scoring: all of them are still sophomores and juniors. Not only will there be exceptional depth for the coming season, but moving forward, experience will continue to be something the Rams can fall back on for at least another year before coach O’Boyle will have to worry.

As for performance, O’Boyle spoke a little about what she’s looking for here in her first season when first introduced as the women’s basketball coach in April.

“My expectations will be high, but my goals will be simple,” O’Boyle said. “I want our players to excel in the classroom, to be the best student-athletes that they can be. On the court, they will compete. We will practice hard. We will get after it in the Atlantic 10.”

The rest of the A-10 coaches have slightly lower expectations for the Rams. The preseason poll was released on Oct. 21, with VCU projected to finish 10th in the conference this season; a far cry from last season in which the Rams finished right in the middle of the standings and went on to exceed all expectations.

This year, O’Boyle’s team begins their season with a Nov. 14 showdown at the Verizon Wireless Siegel Center against the Wagner College Seahawks. The biggest battle this season will come from within, as growing pains are sure to be a struggle for this bunch early on. If the Rams can overcome some of their relative inexperience and create momentum going into the second half of the season, it’s possible for this team to find themselves playing well into March once again in 2015.

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