If there was a title to the story of the Southern California women’s basketball team over the past decade, it might be: “Promise Lost.”
The talent, the potential, the parade of All-Americans that should have made this one of the premier programs on the West Coast, seemed to dissolve into a smoldering heap every single year.
There was the cruel succession of ACL injuries that cut short the careers of Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, who were among the most elite recruits in the country when they committed to USC. There were inexplicable late-season losses to lower-division conference teams that would leave the Trojans’ résumé lacking when it came in front of the NCAA committee. There were coaching changes and personality conflicts and, to be very honest, a whole lot of underachievement.
But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.
Scott Rueck will await the Committee to see if he’s managed to shift the Pac12 paradigm. As the Oregonian asks: If Scott Rueck leads Oregon State women to NCAA Tournament, how big of an accomplishment is it?
Fordham took any mystery out of the Committee’s hands by upsetting Dayton to claim the A-10 crown. This accomplishment is six years removed from their 0-for season and gives New Zealander Rooney what she missed by a sliver last year: An NCAA berth.
We’ve been watching this unfold over the season: High Point v. Winthrop. In the end, Dequesha McClanahan leads Winthrop to first-ever Big South title
“What a game and what a tournament. I’m very proud of our players, this program and very thankful to our administration and all of our loyal fans and supporters that were here and suffered without a championship for over 30 years,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “That’s what really makes it meaningful for them and our team.”
“It was a game where we couldn’t make a shot, but we found a way to win,” Husker coach Connie Yori said. “That says a lot about our mental toughness. We did a great job on the offensive glass. Every game doesn’t come down to playing pretty, but you find a way to win.”
When is two points more than two points? When it’s a basket that sends a figurative bolt of electricity through a team and its fans. And that was exactly what Jewell Loyd’s alley-oop did in the second half of the ACC tournament title game.
The Fighting Irish are champions of their new league, and they will go into the NCAA tournament undefeated at 32-0. They execute offensively, are patient even when things aren’t clicking as well (which is rare, but happens), and are very dependable on defense.
But … they are also just really darn fun to watch.
Yes, a bit of a surprise, because of the upset of South Carolina, but Kentucky falling apart at the end? Not so surprising this season. Tennessee’s SEC title might give them a #1 seed, which would be (be honest) a surprise.
Tennessee adopted the motto of “Grind for Nine” at the beginning of this season, referencing the team’s blue-collar mentality as it pursues the program’s ninth national championship. The Lady Vols haven’t been to the Final Four since 2008, which is also the last year they won a national title. Back then, Pat Summitt coached the Lady Vols, before resigning in 2012 because of health reasons. Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant, became the team’s head coach.
The conference tournament title won Sunday was the first for Warlick as a head coach. As she accepted the trophy afterward, she said hello to her longtime mentor, who did not make the trip. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt,” Warlick said to the crowd. “I know she is watching this broadcast.”
The crowd erupted in cheers.
“(Quinnipiac) did a great job executing,” first-year Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t do a terribly wonderful job of stopping them in the defensive end.”
BTW, there was news in the MAAC quarters as the Rider team scored its biggest win in years — maybe ever — with a 63-56 upset of Fairfield.
Interesting games coming up:
BYU women’s basketball: Cougars will meet “scary” Pacific in WCC semifinals Monday. Of course, the other WCC semi is classic rematch: Gonzaga v. St. Mary’s.
Quakers v. Tigers: Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2 Ivy) are both tied atop the Ivy standings and face each other in the season finale at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.). The winner earns the outright Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The loser has already clinched second place and therefore, an automatic berth in the WNIT.
However, Gibbons readily admits the greatest motivation comes from preserving history as Holy Cross wants to prevent Navy from equaling its feat of capturing four consecutive Patriot League Tournament championships. The Crusaders set that standard from 1998 through 2001 under the direction of Gibbons.
“We certainly would like to stop them from tying our record,” Gibbons said. “We’re playing for a lot of alumni who were part of that great run.”
Yup, it’s UConn (with Stewart’s block earning a SportsCenter nod) agains the Cardinals. In the classic, “Careful what you wish for,” the New York Times notes that “Louisville Confronts Elephant in Its Room”
For all the strides the Louisville women have made in becoming a perennial basketball power, the climb to the top remains daunting. Connecticut, the Cardinals’ opponent in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, has won 14 straight against them.
From the Boston Globe, some nice coverage of Barb Stevens at Bentley: Barbara Stevens has Bentley women’s basketball program point toward perfection
This is where it all happens, in Barbara Stevens’s warm and inviting office on the second floor of Bentley University’s Dana Center. A large bookshelf behind her neatly arranged desk in the far left corner of the room is adorned with trophies and nets cut down from Northeast-10 title games and framed photos of the teams she has coached in 28 seasons as the head coach of Bentley’s wildly successful women’s basketball program.
“I keep telling my players if they keep winning them, then I’ll keep putting them up,’’ Stevens jokingly remarked to an office visitor Thursday afternoon.
But this is where Bentley’s unrelenting pursuit of perfection is mapped out on a daily basis. It is where Stevens doggedly prepares through exhaustive film study and advanced scouting. And, as anyone will tell you, Stevens, 58, is nothing if not a evangelical minister of the coaching gospel, “Practice makes perfect.’’
I think we may have heard this coming a few years back: K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson fired after 18 seasons
Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. Lot of money for the coach of an 18-13 basketball team that enters the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in the league’s lower division.
But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. She’s paid for her ambassador skills. She’s paid for her promotional and PR skills. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university, be it talking to engineering alumni or youth groups or coaches all across the country or all of America itself, courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.
When Coale talks about the importance of sport in young girls’ lives, or the importance of education, or the importance of hard work to fulfill dreams, people listen. Some of those people are impressionable. Others are influential. Coale reaches them all. I’ve said it before; Coale’s next job won’t be coaching a basketball team, it will be vice president of the university.
- From the Tulsa World: John Klein: Shock looking to add speed, versatility in WNBA draft
- With the new CBA, Nate notes that WNBA free agent negotiations open Monday
- Hey, Meet the new head coach of your Phoenix Mercury
- Speaking of the Merc, sheeee’s baaaaack (sorta): Tulsa Shock have named Bridget Pettis as an assistant coach on Fred Williams’ coaching staff and Former Shock coach Teresa Edwards named assistant with Atlanta Dream
- WATN? Kedra Holland-Corn: Bahrain.