By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
As the no. five seed for the Colonial Athletic Association's championships starting today, the Hofstra women's basketball team will be looking for its first NCAA tournament berth in program history. It will be a very tough road to the big dance in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
Why Hofstra can win:
Shante Evans: The sophomore forward has 15 double-doubles this season, including one of the most prolific scoring games in school history against William & Mary when Evans dropped 36 points and added 14 rebounds. Evans has consistently put the team on her back, averaging 18.6 points per game, becoming a force down low on both ends of the court.
The Perimeter Game: As of late, the Pride's deep shooting has been less than stellar (28.5 percent in its last 12 games), but this team has a tendency to use three-pointers to blow teams out. The ball moving ability of junior guard Candice Bellocchio will give the likes of freshman guard Kate Loper and junior guard Nicole Capurso the opportunity to hit some big three-pointers to give Hofstra some much needed momentum.
The Full Court Press: If Hofstra can hit its shots and its defense is able to get set, even the best teams in the conference will have trouble holding onto the ball and getting past half court against this quick team with very active hands.
Candace Bond: Though she does not light up the score sheet, the sophomore guard is one of the emotional leaders of this team on the court. The spark of the full court press, Bond has no trouble putting her body on the line to frustrate opposing offenses. One of the most athletic players on this squad, Bond plays the game the right way, going all out until the final buzzer sounds.
Why Hofstra is in for a challenge:
Rebounding: This team is lacking size and in a majority of its losses, opponents were able to control the offensive rebounding battle and find a way to get second, third and sometimes fourth opportunities to put the ball in the basket. There have been games where teams have outrebounded the Pride by 20 rebounds or more (Drexel outrebounded Hofstra 55-25 on Jan. 23). No team can win with a rebounding margin like that, especially against some of the larger sides in this conference.
The CAA: This is a hotly contested conference with the top half of the standings believing they can win this tournament. These games will truly show the tenacity of this team and test how the Pride can deal with physical play. The CAA is not a conference you can win with finesse alone. Sometimes you need to take your licks and regroup quickly. Hofstra may not be able to handle its blows as well as other teams in this conference can.
No rest for the weary: If Hofstra is able to advance; it will have little or no rest for the tournament. After the William & Mary contest on Thursday, the Pride would take on a rested VCU squad the next day. History shows that teams without a bye do not fare very well in the later rounds of the tournament. No team has been crowned champions without having a bye. The last time a team that did not start with a bye and made the finals was UNC-Wilmington with the number six seed in 2002. The Seahawks were thoroughly beaten 76-48 by Old Dominion.