by Mike Potter
The wait is over for fans of ACC women’s basketball.
Yes, the action starts today, with two Triangle teams hitting the court.
No. 12 UNC (29-7 last season), which is picked fourth in the conference, will host Air Force (4-26) at 4:30 p.m. at Carmichael Arena.
Then at 6 N.C. State (17-17), picked ninth, will take on St. Bonaventure (10-19) at Reynolds Coliseum.
Conference favorite and defending champion No. 2 Duke (33-3) will open Sunday at 6 p.m. at No. 9 California (32-4) in a game to be shown on ESPNU.
The Blue Devils return five seniors, all members of the No. 1 recruiting class of four years ago including forward Haley Peters and guards Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston. Also back are junior center Elizabeth Williams, the ACC rookie of the year two seasons ago, and sophomore guard Alexis Jones who was MVP of the ACC Tournament. Joanne P. McCallie’s club also has the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class led by forwards Oderah Chidom and Kendall McCravey-Cooper.
UNC vs. Air Force
The Tar Heels will play without Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell, who is undergoing treatment from recently discovered leukemia and was released from the hospital Thursday.
Top assistant Andrew Calder, who has been with her all 27 seasons at UNC, is acting head coach.
UNC returns starters sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel and junior guard Brittany Rountree, while junior Latifah Coleman moves up into the point guard spot. Stephanie Mavunga and Diamond DeShields, forwards out of the nation’s No. 1 freshman recruiting class, will step into the starting lineup.
N.C. State vs. St. Bonaventure
The Wolfpack will play its first game under new coach Wes Moore, a former assistant under the late Kay Yow who had a solid 15 seasons at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
State will return three key seniors in forward Kody Burke, center Markeisha Gatling and shooting guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, with junior guards Len’Nique Brown and Krystal Barrett also returning high in the playing rotation.