College basketball preview: Hampton women


COACH: David Six (4th season at HU, overall, 42-17).

OPENER: Nov. 9 at Southern Miss.

5 GAMES TO WATCH: Nov. 16 vs. LSU; Nov. 22 vs. South Carolina (Paradise Jam); Dec. 30 at Virginia Tech; Jan. 12 at Howard; Jan. 28 vs. Howard.

STRENGTH: Versatility. The Lady Pirates lost key players from their NCAA tournament team, but return a good group led by Alyssa Bennett, Keiara Avant, Ariel Phelps and Nicole Hamilton. Among the newcomers are redshirt freshman Brielle Ward, ODU transfer Jo Guilford and 6-6 JC transfer Verdine Warner.

WEAKNESS: Rotation, early role definition. Projected point guard Lauren Johnson tore an ACL and is out for the season, and Guilford recovers after having her knee 'scoped. Last year's role players must become this year's leaders. The Lady Pirates figure to be a little disjointed early against the most ambitious non-conference schedule in program history.

PREDICTION: Hampton probably won't match last season's 26 wins, but expect HU to play for a fourth consecutive NCAA berth. Six's teams always play defense — they led the MEAC in major categories last season — and the 6-6 Warner can be a game-changer.

Dave Fairbank

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