The Univesity of North Florida has had to postpone a men’s basketball ASUN doubleheader for the second time this season because of the conference’s COVID-19 protocols.
The UNF athletic department announced on Thursday that there would be an indefinite suspension of team activities for the men’s program, including its ASUN road games at Liberty this weekend on Friday and Saturday due to a positive COVID result and contact tracing protocol.
The Ospreys (5-3 in the ASUN) are one game behind Liberty, North Alabama and Bellarmine in the league standings.
The Ospreys had to postpone their opening ASUN series on Jan.1-2 at Stetson because of the COVID-19 protocols.
According to the league policy, a positive test within the UNF players, coaches or staff, or possible exposure to someone who was positive, triggered the protocols. The league does not specify who received a positive test.
Jacksonville University is scheduled to play at Bellarmine on Friday and Saturday. UNF’s women’s series against Liberty remains on schedule for Saturday and Sunday.
How the ASUN tournament projects
It’s mid-season in ASUN men’s basketball … sort of.
All conference teams should have completed 10 of their 16 games entering this weekend but because of postponements due to the conference’s COVID-19 protocols, only one team, winless Kennesaw State, has played that many games.
Florida Gulf Coast (2-4), which had to postpone its first four games, has played only six. The rest of the ASUN teams have played eight times.
It’s a traffic jam at the top going into this weekend’s doubleheaders — with only 26 day before the ASUN tournament begins in Jacksonville on March 3.
Liberty, North Alabama and Bellarmine are tied for first at 6-2. UNF and Lipscomb are at 5-3 and Jacksonville and Stetson are 3-5. Even eighth-place FGCU can’t be ruled out, at 2-4.
Using the two conference tie-breakers (head-to-head results first, followed by NCAA Net rankings), here’s how the tournament would look if it began today:
• March 3: Play-in game, No. 8 Gulf Coast vs. No. 9 Kennesaw.
• March 4: Quarterfinals, No. 1 Liberty vs. Gulf Coast-Kennesaw winner; No. 2 Bellarmine vs. No. 7 Jacksonville; No. 3 North Alabama vs. No. 6 Stetson; No. 4 Lipscomb vs. No. 5 North Florida.
The quarterfinals will be March 5 and the championship game on March 7. The games will be played at UNF Arena and JU’s Swisher Gym but the rotation hasn’t yet been decided.
One thing is certain: North Alabama has the toughest road left. The Lions still haven’t played the two teams with which they’re tied, Liberty and Bellarmine, and also have a doubleheader against Lipscomb, all in successive weeks to close out their schedule.
Huge gap in NCAA Net
Mostly due to a non-conference schedule that included Purdue, Mississippi State, South Carolina, TCU and Missouri, Liberty is the highest-ranked team in the ASUN on the NCAA Net rankings — and it’s not close.
The Flames, who went 2-3 against that lineup (beating Mississippi State and South Carolina) are 89th in the nation this week on the net rankings. The next-highest ASUN team is Bellarmine at No. 187 and no other team is among the top-200.
UNF is 289th and JU is 299th.
ASUN Volleyball split
Like almost every other sport, volleyball in the ASUN has undergone changes to scheduling and tournament format to minimize travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ASUN has split volleyball into two divisions, with North Florida and Jacksonville joining Stetson and Florida Gulf Coat in the South Division. Liberty, Lipscomb, North Alabama, Kennesaw State and Bellarmine will form the North Division.
Each team will play their divisional foes four times each, two matches at home and two on the road. UNF and JU will open their ASUN schedule by playing at the UNF Arena on Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.
After the regular season, the top-two teams in each division will host conference quarterfinal matches on March 27, with the winners advancing to the ASUN Championship at Kennesaw.
In the meantime, the Dolphins and Ospreys are off to mixed results in non-conference games.
JU beat Georgia Southern on Tuesday in a sweep, 27-25, 25-20 and 25-17.
Freshman Jenna McNamara led JU with nine kills and Sydney Bolding and Hannah Edelman had seven each.
UNF is 0-4, losing to South Florida twice in a home-and-home series and Central Florida, both games in Orlando.
JU plays its first home match of the season on Feb. 9 against UCF at 6 p.m. UNF plays at Georgia Southern the same day, then returns home to face Clemson on Feb. 12 — in a match that begins at 9 a.m.
Strong off the bench
If the ASUN had an award for Sixth Man of the year in women’s basketball, Liberty freshman center Bella Smuda would be the mid-season favorite.
Smuda, a 6-foot-5 resident of Exton, Pa., is averaging 6.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game for the Flames, entering this weekend’s games at North Florida (Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. at UNF Arena). She has come off the bench in all 15 games and is shooting .505 from the floor and leading the team in blocks.
In the last four games, Smuda is averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. In last week’s 78-52 victory over JU, she had 15 points and 12 rebounds, with eight of her rebounds coming off the offensive glass.
Smuda was the 13th-ranked high school post player in the nation by ESPN.
JU picked to win
The Jacksonville University women’s lacrosse team was picked by ASUN coaches to win the conference title in the preseason poll and attacker Jenny Kinsey was a unanimous selection as the preseason player of the year.
Kinsey led the Dolphins in points with 22, assists with nine and was second with 13 goals during an abbreviated spring season in 2020.
Also named to the preseason All-ASUN team from JU were attackers Sarah Elms and Alyssa Arnold, midfielder Molly Brock and defenders Maddie Sturgell and Casey Sullivan. Elms led JU with 18 goals last season (fourth in the NCAA in goals per game with 4.5) and Arnold had seven goals and seven assists.
All six players from JU on the preseason All-ASUN team are from Maryland.
The Dolphins open the season on Feb. 12 at High Point, then next play at East Carolina on March 6. The homer opener is March 13 against Florida.
ASUN basketball schedule
Jacksonville at Bellarmine
When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: Freedom Hall, Louisville Ky.
Most recent lineups
Dolphins (9-9, 3-5)
0 Dontarius James, F, 6-8; 18.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
13 Bryce Workman, F, 6-7; 10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
11 Trey Sides, G, 6-2; 6.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
13 Tyreese Davis, G, 6-6; 11.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg
14 Mo Arnold, G, 6-2; 7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Knights (9-5, 6-2)
0 Ethan Claycomb, F, 6-7; 11.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
30 Nick Thelen, F, 6-7; 5.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
13 Dylan Penn, G, 6-3; 12.2 ppg, 3.6 apg
25 C.J. Fleming, G, 6-0; 12.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
32 Pedro Bradshaw, G, 6-7; 14.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg
The skinny: The two teams meet for the first time ever. … JU has lost its last five games, four of them by single digits. The Dolphins lost at home to Liberty 59-54 and 64-58. … James had 27 points in the second game. … Bellarmine swept Kennesaw State 84-67 and 84-73. Bradshaw had 40 points and 14 rebounds in the two games. … JU continues to do without main outside threat Kevion Nolan, who was injured three games ago.
Liberty at North Florida
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.
Where: UNF Arena
Most recent lineups
Ospreys (8-7, 6-2)
11 Jazz Bond, F, 6-4; 19.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg
4 Marissa Mackins, G, 5-8; 15.1 ppg, 3.5 apg
13 Rhetta Moore, G, 5-8; 12.0 ppg; 5.2 rpg
14 Erin Jones, G, 6-1; 8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
22 Summer Knights, G, 5-6; 3.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Flames (12-3, 8-0)
20 Mya Berkman, C, 6-3; 10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
11 Makalea Kestner, F, 5-11; 4.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
23 Emily Lytle, F, 5-11; 14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
12 Ashtyn Baker, G, 5-6; 12.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
24 Alyssa Iverson, G, 5-7; 3.7 ppg, 2.6 apg
The skinny: The Ospreys can earn a share of first place in the ASUN with a sweep of the Flames. Easier said than done because Liberty is on an 11-game winning streak this season, and has won its last 16 ASUN games, dating back to last season. … UNF split with the Flames last season, winning 68-50 at home and losing 76-54 in Lynchburg. … The Ospreys swept North Alabama last week, with Bond setting the school scoring record with 35 points in an 80-77 victory in the second game. Bond hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win. … Liberty swept Jacksonville, led by forward Bella Smuda off the bench with 27 points and 20 rebounds.
Bellarmine at Jacksonville
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Swisher Gym.
Most recent lineups
Dolphins (2-9, 0-6)
12 Tamia Stallings, F, 6-0; 1.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
1 DeShari Graham, G, 5-10; 11.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg
2 Erin Wilson, G, 5-10; 15.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
4 Alexis Pierce, G, 5-9; 9.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg
23 Khalela Hayes, G, 6-1; 7.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg
Knights (3-10, 3-5)
33 Lauren Deel, F, 5-11; 10.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg
42 Sheniqua Coatney, F, 6-2; 7.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg
3 Breia Torrens, G, 5-5; 9.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg
4 Tasia Jeffreis, G, 5-7; 12.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg
22 Kathleen Scott, G, 5-8; 5.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg
The skinny: The Dolphins are playing Bellarmine for the first time. … JU has lost six in a row after a difficult season filled with injuries and interruptions due to ASUN COVID-19 protocols. … The Dolphins lost their last five games by double-digit margins, including 26- and 32-point deficits against Liberty last week. … Hayes, a freshman, had games of 17 points and six rebounds, and 13 points and eight rebounds against Liberty.