Friday, November 21, 2003
Four of top-10 teams on TV again this weekend
By Mechelle Voepel Special to ESPN.com
If you tune into the Jimmy V Classic this Sunday on ESPN and ESPN2, don't get confused. You're not watching a basketball version of "Survivor'' where Kansas State got voted off the island.
Despite an injury-plagued season, Brittany Hunter averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 2003-04 at Duke.
Yes, three of the teams that were in last week's Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in West Lafayette, Ind., -- Texas, Duke and Purdue -- will be in Raleigh, N.C., for the Jimmy V. That's just the way it worked out. The fourth team, of course, is host North Carolina State.
So there should be more top-notch hoops on national TV again this Sunday ... which is good, because you might have seen the Zapruder film so often this week you're beginning to wonder if maybe you shot JFK.
Also, if you're lucky, you can catch one of the various regional telecasts of the Preseason WNIT final (1:30 p.m. ET) between Texas Tech and Rutgers. (This is why you need multiple VCRs, people.) We'll get back to that game a little later.
First, the Jimmy V ... Duke meets Purdue (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the first time since the 1999 NCAA title game won by the Boilermakers.
Purdue very effectively defended Kansas State center Nicole Ohlde in a 79-69 victory last week. If Purdue's defense can be that good against Duke, the Blue Devils better hope their offense isn't residing in Turnoverville again.
And a little "friendly'' advice to the Blue Devils from Kansas State: If you see Purdue guard Beth Jones wide open ... expect to hear the net rip and your coach scream.
There are several points of interest in Duke-Purdue. Will Alana Beard be back in form for Duke? Can Duke establish the inside game Kansas State couldn't? Will the Blue Devils' Monique Currie look more in the flow? Will Erika Valek drive the Purdue train to another big early-season victory?
By the way, here's a frightening thought for Big 12 teams: For a while in the recruiting process, Duke freshman Brittany Hunter had Texas on her list. Fellow blue-chipper Tiffany Jackson of Texas said that she and Hunter became friends during AAU days and thought it might be fun to play together.
Jackson, a Lone Star State native, didn't want to leave home and picked Texas. Hunter, who's from Ohio, ended up deciding between Duke and Connecticut. The Blue Devils are sure glad they got her; if they hadn't, they would have lost worse to Texas last week.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 coaches undoubtedly watched that Longhorns' win, saw Jackson in action and said, "Oh, fabulous, Texas really needed another weapon.''
(Aside: "Tree,'' as the 6-foot-3 Jackson is nicknamed, says in the Texas media guide that Wilt Chamberlain is her favorite player. When asked about this, she explained in that goofy-cute way of freshmen that she hadn't actually seen his career since he retired like a long time before she was born ... but thanks to the magic of ESPN Classic, she knows how well the big guy ran the floor.)
The Longhorns do appear to be loaded. Against the Wolfpack (noon ET, ESPN2), they might work on not letting a lead get away and not having Heather Schreiber foul out with 8 minutes left. And they might assign a bodyguard to make absolutely sure little-kid-at-heart Stacy Stephens makes it to the game and is not at a movie theater for her fourth viewing of "The Cat in the
The Wolfpack are trying to turn things around after an 11-17 record last season and a 14-15 mark the year before. N.C. State hopes to do it while really challenging itself, with a nonconference schedule that includes Texas, Georgia, Connecticut and Oregon.
N.C. State has back leading scorer and rebounder Kaayla Chones at center, plus guard Terah James, who has overcome right and left ACL injuries that cost her two seasons. James is an inspiration to her teammates; who knows, maybe one day freshman Marquetta Dickens will write a book in tribute to her: "A Tale of Two Knees.''
Anyway, you'll see a couple of point guards in this game who could have been 1970s "Medical Center'' guest characters, with James and Texas' Jamie Carey. (How about Leslie Uggams as James, and Patty Duke ratcheting it WAY down to be Carey?)
In the Preseason WNIT final Sunday, Rutgers and Texas Tech meet for the fourth time in the past five years. Texas Tech won the matchup the last two seasons, Rutgers won in the 1999 NCAA Sweet 16. That was the freakish game in which no Texas Tech starter scored from the field in the entire first half.
Thus far in the P-WNIT, Texas Tech and Rutgers have held all of their opponents to 50 or fewer points. So we might get a 47-46 final ... or maybe Rutgers' Cappie Pondexter and Texas Tech's Jia Perkins will spark an offensive show. (We can hope.)
Both those stars and their teams have played very well so far. But with around 10,000 fans for each game, Texas Tech has been the runaway winner in attendance, just as P-WNIT champ Kansas State was last season.
Oh, and while new Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett didn't have Jackie Stiles this time when she faced Rutgers -- as was the case with Southwest Missouri State in the 2001 NCAA Tournament -- the Wolverines making the P-WNIT semifinals sure got Burnett's bunch off on the right foot.
Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.