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I’m kinda psyched to get to the Garden this year. From Mechelle: 

Boyd, a WBCA All-American this season, seems eager to traverse three time zones and jump right into a different kind of classroom setting. She will get the chance to learn from veteran guards such as Tanisha Wright (a free-agent signee who spent her first 10 seasons in Seattle), Epiphanny Prince (obtained in February from Chicago in a trade for Cappie Pondexter) and Essence Carson.

“I think those players are going to prepare me and challenge me each day to get better,” said Boyd, who averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds this season at Cal. “I just want to learn and figure out how we can be great as a franchise.”

Speakin’ of Bill (and how he kept dragging the old Detroit Shock behind him), a little WATN? with Tweety: Return to WNBA unlikely for Flint’s Deanna Nolan after success in Russia

Hardcore women’s basketball fans may remember Deanna Nolan as a silky smooth guard for her WNBA championship career with the Detroit Shock.

That was a few years ago, but she hasn’t hung up her sneakers just yet.

She’s still got it.

At 35, the five-time WNBA All-Star is wrapping up her eighth season in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Nolan plays for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team, which competes in both the Russian and Euro leagues.

More post draft stuff:

Mike Peden at Full Court offers up his 2015 WNBA Draft Analysis: Minnesota makes the most of draft pick trades with New York

Atlanta: Massengale living a dream

Chicago: Aleighsa Welch ready to continue career in the WNBA

 Following a whirlwind few weeks, Aleighsa Welch was back in a place she feels most comfortable on Monday – South Carolina’s practice facility inside the Carolina Coliseum.

Welch, recently drafted by the Chicago Sky of the WNBA, is back in Columbia preparing for graduation and her life as a professional basketball player.

“I finally got a chance to sit down after the draft to think about and realize you’re just a few steps away from playing in the WNBA,” said Welch. “That part of it has been exciting.”

Welch proud of legacy she’ll leave at USC

Tulsa: Mungedi drafted by Tulsa Shock

From walk-on, to Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, to Women’s National Basketball Association draftee. Former Nevada center Mimi Mungedi was selected by the Tulsa Shock with the 25th pick in the WNBA Draft on Thursday, April 16.

The Shock took the 6-foot-8 Gabon native with the first pick in the third round, making Mungedi just the second Wolf Pack player to be selected in the WNBA Draft (Tahnee Robinson was the first in 2011). Mungedi’s WNBA odyssey has been one for the ages. She didn’t pick up a basketball until she was 12 years old. Mungedi averaged a mere five minutes a game as a walk-on freshman at Nevada, before starting 11 games as a sophomore.

Then came her coming out party. Mungedi won back-to-back MWC Defensive Player of the Year awards her junior and senior season. She left her mark in the Nevada record books, setting single-seasons record in blocks (74) and career blocks (162).

Old college stuff to chew on from Charlie: Way-too-early Top 25 for 2015-16

And the transfers keep on coming:

West Virginia’s Bre McDonald and freshman guard Tyara Warren will not return.

Kansas State announced the departures of Meeks, Jones.

Sad news from the West Coast: DHS girls basketball pioneer Barb Iten dies

Barb Iten, the former longtime area educator who led Davis High to the first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section girls basketball championship, died at her home in Vacaville on Sunday. She was 65.

Iten coached only one season (1974-75) at DHS, but it was a memorable one.

That team (which featured the legendary Denise Curry) went 23-1 — including an unofficial split of two games with UC Davis. The Devils beat Grant, 64-31, for what would be the school’s first section crown in modern CIF history.

First we have DT taking the season off.

Then we have Z.B. leaving early to enter the draft.

Then we have Ms. Loyd leaving early to enter the draft (and coach McGraw being not so happy) Is it a bad idea? Good Idea?

Then we have CP3 absenting herself for a hunk of games. (Will Big Syl be next?)

Then we have a HUNK of transfers (as Blue Star Media notes:College players on the move, but not many coaches ):

Minnesota

Virginia

Wichita State: Returning starters Michaela Dapprich and Alie Decker are among four players leaving the Wichita State women’s basketball program

Indiana

Vanderbilt

Oklahoma State: Four players transfer and top recruit decommits amid departure of assistant coach Richard Henderson

USC: Women’s Basketball Loses Two Key Freshmen Players

Boston College

Texas: Nekia Jones.

Kansas State: Jones prepares to transfer while Meeks eyes graduate degree

Some who benefitted from transfers:

Mississippi State got Oklahoma State’s Roshunda Johnson

Oakland got Illinois’ Taylor Gleason.

Oregon got BC’s Kat Cooper.

Minnesota got Marquette’s Kenisha Bell.

DePaul got Illinois’ Jacqui Grant

So you’re looking to find gem in the European basketball mines? Check out this from Blue Star: I wish these stories weren’t true 

There are success stories. Check out this list of international newcomers to the NCAA (Spain is represented quite well).

The NCAA spins a happy tune: Women’s basketball championship a success across multiple platforms

The 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and Women’s Final Four hosted in Tampa Bay resulted in successes across multiple platforms.

The Women’s Final Four attendance totaled 39,540, marking the highest attendance for the Women’s Final Four in the last five years. The national championship game attendance reached 19,810 fans in Amalie Arena.

In addition, the first and second rounds of the championship, taking place at the top 16 hosting sites under the new Division I women’s basketball format, recorded the second-highest total attendance since 2004. The overall 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship also recorded the third-highest number of fans since 2004, with a total of 239,746 going through the turnstiles.

Coaching News:

Utah looks to Pacific for their new coach, Lynne Roberts.

UALR says “Stay Put Please” to Joe Foley.

So does Syracuse to Q.

Lafayette brings back a classic: Theresa Grentz

Interesting… Kansas says “Yes” to Brandon Schneider. After Jody Adams said “No.” 

Georgia stayed local… and generous when they hired Joni Crenshaw. Writes Jordan James: Crenshaw follows Landers’ lead, but will put own stamp on program

Western Carolina lured back a two-time assistant when they signed Stephanie McCormick as head coach.

North Florida looks to Miami for their new head coach, Darrick Gibbs.

Air Force tags Chris Gobrecht.

Portland State got Lynn Kennedy from NAIA’s Southern Oregon.

Southeast Missouri State University snagged Rekha Patterson from Ball State.

Some post-draft news:

ESPN – Draft Grades (Yah, I’m kinda excited about the Lib this year)

Bleacher Report has 2015 WNBA Draft Results: Full List of Selections and Top Takeaways

Atlanta: Logic a promising work-in-progress for Dream

Atlanta: Hrynko of DePaul to fight for roster spot

Chicago: Sky’s top pick Parker puts troubles behind her

Chicago: Parker in ‘disbelief’ over WNBA draft selection

It didn’t take long for Cheyenne Parker to hear her name called during the 2015 WNBA draft Thursday night.

Less than 30 minutes to be exact.

“It was crazy, I just dropped to my knees,” Parker said about being selected. “I was just lost for words. My initial thought was, ‘Is this real? Did this just happen?’ I am just so blessed.”

Los Angeles: Sparks draft Central Michigan’s Crystal Bradford with No. 7 pick in 2015 WNBA Draft

Minnesota: Lynx trade for guard, draft Cal forward and U’s Shae Kelley

New York: Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer Eager To Work With Kiah Stokes

New York: How 2 prize rookies will fit in with new-look Liberty

Phoenix: Wichita State’s Alex Harden surprised by WNBA Draft

Seattle: Storm’s rebuilding nearly complete after 2 top draft picks

Seattle: Storm got the cream of the crop in drafting Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd

Tulsa: Shock selects Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B. with No. 2 pick in WNBA draft

Washington: Punch Shots: Cloud deserves her shot at the WNBA

Washington: How will Ally Malott and Natasha Cloud fit with the Washington Mystics in 2015 and beyond?

Semi-drafted: Princeton’s Dietrick earns spot on Washington Mystics training camp roster

Not drafted: Jude Schimmel Talks of Managing Her Sister Shoni’s Career. BTW, did you catch her new book: ‘You Don’t Have to Leave the Reservation to be Successful’

Speaking of the W:

Did ya catch the video, Sue Bird: Revealed?

You can never get enough Chiney. First she’s Dishin’ and Swishin’ (CO reflects on the Draft Experience & first year in the WNBA) and then she’s video-ing.

The Power of Drake, Scandal And The Upcoming WNBA Draft (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #1)

The Way Female Athletes Are Shown In The Media Needs To Change (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #2)

 
 

Lauren Hill dies at 19 after battle with brain cancer

Lauren Hill touched a nation with her desire to play for Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team, even as she battled an inoperable brain tumor.

Her resolve, spirit and courage were celebrated Nov. 2 when she realized her dream at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. Cheered on by a sold-out crowd of 10,250 and a television audience, Hill scored the first and last basket of the Mount’s 66-55 victory over Hiram College.

She passed away Friday at the age of 19.

Coach McGraw and her Fighting Irish team made UConn’s march to their tenth title in 20 years anything but a foregone conclusion. With a smart game plan against Connecticut’s killingly fast offense– slow the game down, force Connecticut to play court game, disrupt Stewart’s access to the ball — Notre Dame kept the game rubber band close. UConn would go on a run, you’d get a feeling “here it goes, they’re going to snap,” and then the Irish would reel the Huskies back in.

It felt like UConn, as a team, was playing “whack-a-leprachaun” – every time there was a surge someone – and it was everyone: Jefferson, Nurse, Stokes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Tuck and that tall kid – took the basketball in hand and stuffed them back.

Not until about the five-minute mark in the second half, with Kaleena’s Mosqueda-Lewis’ dagger three followed by a back breaking two, did it feel like arena staff could safely break out the National Blue Championship gear. Notre Dame simply couldn’t score enough points to defeat a team that evolved from its matador-esque defense back in November to a shut-down, harassing, nightmare inducing wall.

“I really thought we had nothing to lose, and we would come out loose,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw, whose team (36-3) has lost its past four to UConn, including last season’s national title game. “Turns out, it was just the opposite and I don’t know why.”

Yes, press row might have dubbed Stewart MOP, but she knew better:

It wasn’t the same kind of Breanna Stewart-takes-over-the-world performance we saw in the past two national championship games. In fact, Stewart was downright contrite Tuesday about winning most outstanding player in the Women’s Final Four for a record third time. Stewart said her teammate Moriah Jefferson deserved it.

“I told her we could share it,” Stewart said.

Wrote Graham:

Jefferson didn’t play the perfect game, but she played a perfectly complete one.

“She just has a powerful presence that she’s grown into, which makes it that much sweeter to see her transformation as a leader,” one former Connecticut player said of Jefferson in the winning locker room. “Her energy is so contagious. Her body language, her attitude, it’s all just very life giving to her team. And then she can also back it up with her ridiculous talent. She’s so fast, she’s so quick, she’s a great defender, she finds her teammates. Then what elevates her to another place is she can shoot the ball; she can knock down the 3.

“I just admire her.”

And when Maya Moore admires you, well, you must be some kind of special.

In the end, whoever you name as the “best” player of the tournament, watching Stewart struggle to compose herself as she spoke to Holly reminded us that most folks have not a clue about what goes into earning a championship. Much less 10.

Yes, UConn has been dominant. And Notre Dame’s heartbreak has been… heartbreaking. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the sport doesn’t have the ability to step up and challenge Auriemma’s program. If fact, there are signs they can (hello, Dayton!) and will. An interesting perspective from Kate on Wooden/Auriemma/dominance: 

Stay with me here — it might sound outlandish, but when you look at history, a pattern emerges.

The first NCAA men’s championship was played in 1939. Exactly 25 years later, Wooden won his first title. Over the next 11 years, the Bruins would win nine more, beating North Carolina by 23 points one year, Purdue by 20 points the year after. The Bruins finished undefeated four different times and, during this stretch, never finished with more than two losses. Wooden won his final title in 1975, exactly 36 years after the first championship game.

The first women’s championship game (AIAW) was played in 1972. Exactly 23 years later, Auriemma won his first title with UConn. Beginning in 2000, for the next 15 years, the Huskies would win nine titles, beating Louisville by 33 points one year, Notre Dame by 21 points the year after. UConn went undefeated four times and never finished with more than four losses. Auriemma won his 10th title exactly 43 years after the first championship game.

This happened in Major League Baseball, too.

Now, all we need to do is make sure Indiana has cleaned up its political mess (did anyone notice the boos when Indy 2016 was mentioned?) and we can start 2015-16 with a clean palate. ’cause I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking Notre Dame is going to be scary good next year. And Texas. And Tennessee. And the Pac12 looks to be a hot-bed of feistiness. And I can’t wait to see what happens with Maryland. And… well, you get my point.

More on the game:

Huskies Beat Notre Dame 63-53 For 10th National Title, Courant
UConn women win 10th national title, defeating Notre Dame, Register
Auriemma not apologizing for getting best players year in, year out, Register
A look back at each of UConn’s 10 national titles, Channel 8
Mosqueda-Lewis Goes Out With A Bang, Courant
UConn Women’s Basketball Team To Do ‘Victory Lap’ Through Storrs, Courant
UConn holds off Notre Dame to claim 10th national title, USA Today
Through 10 titles, winning never gets old for Connecticut, USA Today
UConn fends off Irish, wins program’s 10th title, ESPN
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis makes big impact in final game, ESPN

UConn women beat Notre Dame to give Geno Auriemma 10th national title, Sporting News
UConn completes NCAA three-peat; Auriemma matches Wooden mark, Tampa Tribune
UConn dashes Notre Dame’s dream again in NCAA finale, Tampa Tribune
Raising bar, visibility to new heights, Tampa Tribune

Women’s Final Four notes: Rivalry brings attention to sport, Tampa Tribune
UConn women beat Notre Dame for 10th national basketball title, Tampa Bay Times
UConn coach Geno Auriemma extends his legacy, Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay shines with women’s Final Four, Tampa Bay Times
Huskies Beat Notre Dame 63-53 For 10th National Title, Orlando Sentinel

Party spills from arena in Tampa to streets in Connecticut, Fox Sports
Pictures: UConn’s 10 National Championships, Courant
Photos: UConn Women Vs. Notre Dame In NCAA Title Game, Courant

Basketball…

Some more stuff on tonight’s game.

UConn vs. Notre Dame the premier rivalry in women’s basketball, Tampa Bay Times
NCAA women’s basketball final: It’s not your mother’s rivalry, Tampa Bay Times

Tonight, Notre Dame (36-2) and UConn (37-1) meet for the second straight year in the women’s national championship game. UConn is in the title game for the fifth time in the past seven seasons, seeking its 10th overall title.

“It’s super exciting,” said Turner, a Notre Dame freshman from Pearland, Texas, who watched UConn defeat Notre Dame on TV last year. “I grew up seeing the Final Fours. I went to the Final Four in San Antonio a couple of years ago, and I was thinking, ‘Wow this is awesome. I want to be able to do that.’ That’s one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame, to be able to compete in Final Fours. This is what I wanted my whole life.”

For the multiple All-Americans who will take the floor tonight at Amalie Arena, this is the rivalry they’ve grown up with — or helped develop.

This Year, Geno, Muffet Show Admiration On Eve Of Title Game, Courant
NCAA Title Game Capsule: Notre Dame Vs. UConn, Courant

UConn women imagine trading places with coaches, Channel 8
Notre Dame Coach Says Familiarity With UConn Will Help In Title Game, Courant

“This one’s definitely different,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Monday of this national championship game. “We started the season and looked at what we lost, so to say we’ve come a long way is an understatement. I’m proud of where we got to.

On Eve Of Final Game, Mosqueda-Lewis Reflects On A Great Ride, Courant
Sharpshooter Tuck on way to becoming latest UConn superstar, Tampa Tribune
UConn’s Morgan Tuck talented but unheralded, Tampa Bay Times

Moriah Jefferson, ESPN VIdeo w/LaChina
Breanna Stewart, UConn on brink of third title in a row, USA Today
UConn’s Stewart and Notre Dame’s Loyd have emerged as leaders, Register

A year ago it all seemed so simple for sophomore sensations Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

The presence of senior leaders and All-Americans resulted in the resident superstars being the recipients of everything their veteran teammates brought to the floor.

When times got tough, Stewart could look to Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley to do all the heavy lifting. Loyd relied heavily on the experience, counsel and talents of Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.

When they step onto Amalie Arena for tonight’s national-championship rematch (8:44 p.m., ESPN), they will do so as not only the nation’s top two players but a pair of All-Americans who made the transition from productive underclassman to team leader.

Turner could be difference this time for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune

Underdog Notre Dame has chance to be remembered, ND Insider

Four consecutive Final Four tries to win a women’s basketball national championship.

Four straight disappointments — for a variety of reasons.

Why should No. 5 be different for Notre Dame?

Tonight’s challenge against big, bad, bully Connecticut is right in Muffet McGraw’s wheelhouse.

Auriemma, 9-0 In Title Games, Enjoys It While It Lasts, Courant
Geno Auriemma’s legacy stands on its own, Tampa Tribune

Notes: A different kind of Final Four for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune
At UConn, Lessons to Respect the Past, NY Times

Today, none of the current UConn players can remember a time when the program’s expectation was not a national title. Auriemma’s first title, in 1995, actually predates the births of some of his current freshmen.

The UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey makes her current student-athletes learn about the players who have come before them. Dailey, who has sat by Auriemma on the bench since he took the job 30 years ago, speaks of the past generation of Huskies as if they were fallen soldiers who deserve respect, honor and remembrance.

UConn aims for 10th national title, Boston Globe
The UConn standard, NCAA.com
The Huskies Are Better Than The Wildcats Ever Hoped To Be, FiveThirtyEight.com

Women’s NCAA championship: Who has the edge?, Columbia Daily Herald
Five questions before UConn – Notre Dame: Can the Irish stop the Huskies?, SI

4. How does UConn stop Notre Dame?

UConn is not a great defensive team and at times they have to hide average defenders such as Mosqueda-Lewis and reserve guard Saniya Chong. Some of their guards get beat off the dribble but they have shot blockers such as Stewart to bail them out.  

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph is in charge of the scouting Notre Dame, an assignment she’s had since she joined the staff in 2008. She knows that Notre Dame will get off a lot of shots but where the game will be won for UConn is how tough the Huskies make those shots. “It’s fun to watch them play, I must tell you,” Ralph said of the Irish. “They are smart, well coached, and I see tons of similarities with us. We both have Princeton-style type of offensives and the kids who make reads and come off screens as opposed to running plays whereas other teams you are scouting a play.”

For Inspiration, Notre Dame Can Look to 2001 and Niele Ivey, NY Times

Ball in the air. Game on the line. Season on the brink.

Strangely enough, Niele Ivey did not have a Katie Douglas flashback to 2001, did not feel that old, familiar dread of a championship dream floating toward the rim, a balloon still with the possibility of being burst.

Notre Dame gets another crack at dethroning the UConn dynasty, Notre Dame Insider

When Auriemma and his Huskies talk women’s teams, Notre Dame is generally at the head of the discussion. Indeed, you can make a good argument that the rivalry between the two schools has become the No. 1 in the game.

There’s mutual respect among the players, starting with first team All-Americans Breanna Stewart of UConn and Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame.

And, of course, there’s mutual respect between the coaches, Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw.

If anyone can beat mighty UConn, it may be Notre Dame, NY Newsday

“They’re a lot like us, and I think that’s why they have had success against us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday night. “So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t, and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t. So Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me. I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it’s not going to be any fun.”

Birds…

A big “Thank you” to Pat, President of the Tampa Audubon, who willingly spent 6 hours with me today birding. Some GREAT views of birds, including the surprisingly elusive (you can hear me, but you can’t see me!) Limpkin.

Highlights of the day were…

The Great Blue Heron trying to figure out how to eat the snake it caught. (not my photo,but it sure looked like this)article-2252569-16A20325000005DC-408_634x420

An immature Little Blue Heron (again, not my photo)

8228heron

Swallow-tailed Kite (nope, not my photo!)

swallow-tail-soaring-tn

The baby Barred Owl. (Nope, not me)

1-baby-barred-owl-david-naman

And, of course, my first Limpkin, who soared past us, disappeared, then reappeared to give us lovely, long looks as it ate its preferred food, snail. (N.M.Ph)

limpkin-400

It’s been a busy weekend for WBHOF inductee Lisa Leslie.

She was visiting with Spain and Prim to talk Final Four and Geno. She then spoke with Swish Appeal to do a Final Four preview, discuss the Sparks’ offseason (what? they’re loaded!), talk about the “What’s in Your Wallet” Capital One Cup.

The award recognizes universities for their broad athletic success. That means the Cup’s standings are based not just on the major media attention-grabbers like basketball and football, but sports like gymnastics, water polo, volleyball and field hockey – which explains why North Dakota State, New Hampshire and BYU are in the running with the “big dogs.” A total of $400,000 is granted to be used to further the education of the student athletes. Leslie has been on the Capital One Cup advisory board for four years.

Speaking of being on boards, more congrats to Leslie, as she is now  making plans to visit Massachusetts to be inducted as a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.