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Chat Review! From Mechelle:

Bob (College Station): Mechelle, how about that atmosphere for the A&M-Baylor game in Dallas…they say regional finals are always some of the most tense games because it’s win and you’re into the Final Four…You agree?

Mechelle Voepel: I was trying to think if I’ve ever been at a regional final that was quite like that one in Dallas – where you had a big crowd with a lot of fans from *both* schools from the same state and the regional itself was in the very heart of that state. And considering how fun and passionate the rivalries are between all the Texas schools. And how many of the Baylor and TAMU players are from Texas. AND … that Gary Blair is from Dallas. There was so much about that regional final that was hard to duplicate anywhere else. I feel lucky that I was there. And it was pretty emotional, actually watching the Baylor and TAMU players in the post-game handshake, because they respect each other. Particularly the way the TAMU players all hugged Baylor senior Melissa Jones … that was a pretty moving scene. And yes, regional finals can be among the most pressure-packed and emotional games you’ll ever witness.

Also at ESPN (Which is doing a *sarcasm on* GREAT job of burying their writers’ work *sarcasm off*):

Did you catch Sport Science and Maya?

There’s other video (it’s great to have Nikki on the team, no?):

Mechelle writes: Final Four isn’t what most predicted – But there will be a key rematch, a team chasing a three-peat and a first-timer

Graham writes: Final Four features different makeups

Charlie asks: Is Stanford favorite in wide-open Indy?(And I say, “Umm, yaaaaah!”) – Guard play between Cardinal’s Pohlen and Texas A&M Sydneys tandem is key matchup

He also says, UConn favored, but little margin for error

The crew tries to pick who’s gonna win now that the teams are set. There’s also these picks: Cardinal (not UConn) a unanimous pick.

W0ndering who DID get the picks right? Andrew Feldman has the Final Four brackets by the numbers

With two No. 1 seeds and a pair of 2-seeds in the women’s Final Four, 3,751 brackets (0.01 percent) in the Women’s Tournament Challenge had the correct four teams.

Upsets by No. 2 seeds Notre Dame (beating top-seeded Tennessee in the Dayton Regional final) and Texas A&M (knocking off Baylor and Brittney Griner in the Dallas Regional final) might have accounted for most brackets — 119,976 — getting just two of the Final Four teams.

Michelle Smith is working hard over at espnW: Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Jere’ at the New York Times writes of Notre Dame/UConn: For Winning Team, the Fourth Time Will Be the Charm

Notre Dame will have the Texas A&M upset to draw upon. It also carries momentum from its first victory against Tennessee in the Dayton Regional final, which came after 20 consecutive defeats to the Lady Vols. And the Irish will not be awed by UConn after losing twice this season by fewer than 10 points.

“We will definitely reference Texas A&M, the fourth time’s a charm,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw said on a conference call. “I think it’s going to be a mental hurdle to get over. It’s difficult, I hope, to beat a team four times.”

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If you get to Indy tomorrow,

(fingers crossed the weather doesn’t make a mess of things), stop by the Werner Ladder presents Shootaround with Beth and Debbie live show on Friday, April  at 9:30 p.m. ET at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Ballroom Salons.

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Really?

From Maine Public Broadcasting: Cindy Blodgett: I was fired without cause.

SIDELINES: Blodgett’s firing no reason to celebrate

Defiant Blodgett feels betrayed by UMaine

“Four years ago when I was offered this job and took it, it wasn’t about me, it was about building a program,” Blodgett said.

“Part of it is, you have to recruit good people to buy into what you want to accomplish as a program and you have to re-create the culture,” she explained. “We were in the process of that. Wins would come as a byproduct once that culture was built. What I do feel unfortunate about is, we will not be able to see our first recruiting class graduate. Obviously, that’s where the lack of commitment (from the university) came in terms of allowing us to see through our actual building process.”

So, Cindy, what’s your record?

24-94.

Cindy. You were put in an impossible situation. You were a legendary player with little coaching experience. It didn’t work out. Get a grip and move on gracefully.

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No thanks

Texas Tech’s Kristy Curry drops bid for LSU job

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and when on ESPN.

Programing of interest:

Final Four Specials
NCAA Women’s Final Four Special Presented by Capital One: The 30-minute Women’s Final Four preview show hosted by Wingo, Lawson and Peck from Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis will precede the national semifinals Sunday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m.

The Experts: NCAA Women’s Championship Special: The hour-long round-table studio show Tuesday, April 5, at 1 p.m. on ESPNU will field Wingo, Lawson, Peck, Lobo, Burke and a guest coach to be announced at a later date.

Crunch Time: Women’s Tournament: The two-hour show will air Tuesday, April 5, at 2 p.m. on ESPNU and will revisit the last few minutes of the best and most exciting games of the NCAA Championship.

College Basketball Live: Women’s National Championship Special: The 90-minute special hosted by Cara Capuano, Abby Waner and LaChina Robinson on Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m. on ESPNU will highlight and preview the Women’s National Championship game.

NCAA Women’s Championship Special Presented by Capital One: ESPN will begin its National Championship game coverage with an hour-long preview special, also hosted by Wingo, Lawson and Peck, from Conseco Fieldhouse Tuesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m.

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in Louisiana: Curry interviews for LSU coaching job

In Maine: Next UMaine women’s coach needs to be dynamic, well-connected and Blodgett to speak at Bangor press conference; discretionary fund revealed

In Virginia, a confirmation:Former Cavalier Staley says she’s staying at South Carolina and Staley sticking around at USC

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Proof that even those who

remember the past are condemned to repeat it (perhaps because Twitter makes people stoopid?): The Angel in Turkey kerfuffle.

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A little W news from Jayda

Around the WNBA: League is feeling a draft

If only NCAA tournament bracket picks were this easy. Based on a WNBA pre-draft teleconference call, the first two slots are filled and there shouldn’t be any surprises. The picks are also your best bets for “franchise” players as the remaining teams will fill need and add depth with their selections.

Speaking of the W, check out Swish Appeal’s Draft Prospect capsules. So far we’ve got:

WNBA Draft 2011 Prospect Capsule: Courtney Vandersloot – “She’s mesmerizing.” and WNBA Draft 2011 Prospects: How Much Better Is Courtney Vandersloot Than Other Point Guards?

WNBA DRAFT 2011 PROSPECT CAPSULES: JASMINE THOMAS – “She Means What She Says & She Leads By Example”

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Hey, AP, it’s JERICKA Jenkins!

It’s not the first time the Lady Pirates star has had her name mangled. Last month, in an otherwise fine story about Jenkins’ successful battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the writer left the “k” out of her first name.

Look, mistakes happen. But the AP’s gaffe is particularly unfortunate because Hampton doesn’t have All-Americans every day. In fact, Jenkins is the first Lady Pirate to earn AP All-America recognition in the school’s Division I era (since 1995).

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always a Cavalier — but not a Cavalier coach.

From John Altavilla at the Courant: Tonya Cardoza Not A Candidate At Virginia

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Auriemma Cites McGraw’s Common Roots

Because Connecticut and Notre Dame will be meeting a fourth time this season on Sunday night at the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse there may be a tendency to apply a Big East conference label to the second national semifinal game after Stanford and rookie Texas A&M meet in the opener.

But in terms of common backgrounds of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw the meeting between the Huskies and Irish can also be called the Philadelphia semifinal.

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(just ask Miami).

One great thing this year was Toledo fans selling out the arena (7,020 is a Rockets and MAC record) and them all leaving happy.

Another great thing is the opening line to a game report for the semi-final game between USC and Illinois State: “Jacki Gemelos scored 15 points to lead USC.”

Toledo and USC meet in the finals this Saturday at 3pmEST (in Toledo) and will be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network.

Writes Nate at Swish Appeal:

Before haters – like Swish Appeal’s own Holly – relegate the Pac-10 to mid-major status, I would like to suggest that potentially owning the WNIT (in addition to making a Final Four appearance for the past four years) counts for something.

And yes, we’re gonna call two in a row dominant: since Wayland Baptist won the first nine titles, only the Big East (Marquette, 2008: South Florida, 2009) and Big Ten (Wisconsin, 2000; Ohio State, 2001) have claimed consecutive WNIT titles.

As described by Matt Sussman of SBN’s Hustle Belt, the USC Trojans have the opportunity to do just that against the Toledo Rockets for a conference that has widely been considered sub-par over the last few years.

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Another Aussie in the W,

but not in Tulsa?

Liz Cambage keen to get WNBA show on the road

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Cal leading scorer Stallworth to transfer

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Did you know attendance for the tournament was up 65%?

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From Walt Moody at the Centre Daily: Lady Lions still feeling ache of last loss

It’s really hard,” point guard Alex Bentley said of the second-round loss that was decided in the game’s final five seconds. “It still hurts to this day. Obviously, each day gets better. Each day, you can take a little bit away from it. You just have to move forward.”

Penn State coach Coquese Washington believes a little hurt is not always a bad thing.

For a change in Spokane, it’s not the future of men’s coach Mark Few that everyone is talking about.

Never before has there been a major opening just a few hours away when Graves is one of the hottest commodities in the coaching ranks.

Across the state, Washington is without a coach after Tia Jackson’s resignation earlier this month. Instantly, speculation turned to Graves, who says he’s perfectly happy at Gonzaga.

Tennessee’s Glory Johnson remembers talking with teammate Vicki Baugh way back in November about the sorry state of the Lady Vols’ defense.
Johnson was recalling their conversation on Monday night following a 73-59 loss to Notre Dame in the Dayton Regional final. And it sure sounded like time, not to mention UT, had stood still.
Oh, and Deadspin notices women’s basketball. (Is that a good thing?) Let Us (Mostly) Rejoice In Pat Summitt’s Misery

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Several articles out of Maine:

Blind eye to Blodgett’s vision

UMaine players upset over Blodgett’s firing

High school basketball coaches stunned by Blodgett’s firing

Blodgett’s firing sends a message to other UMaine coaches

Fired UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett to hold press conference Thursday

Cindy Blodgett hires lawyer

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— as in the four teams are ready for the Final Four. Which explains why my reaction to the games last night is a tad musical.

Killing the Blues is just what UConn did.

First Georgetown, and then Duke. The Blue Devils kept it close in the first, but then Maya did her Roadrunner impression (beep! beep!), and the Huskies were off to the races. Duke’s offense suffered from bad decisions and Connecticut’s found its groove: 24 assists on 32 baskets. The end result? A deju vu-esque 35pt win. Write Rob at DWHoops:

Duke kept it interesting for a half, but they once again were blown out by the UConn Huskies. The Blue Devils didn’t accomplish any of the pregame goals I outlined in our DWHoops game preview, and they paid for it with the worst NCAA Tournament loss in Duke history. Rebounds? UConn led, 40-27. Tempo? UConn ran the ball down Duke’s throat, with a 12-4 edge in fast break points. Shot-making? Duke shot an excruciating 25% from the floor. The Devils hustled and scrapped to stay within 3-6 points for most of the first half, thanks to some timely shooting by Shay Selby and the usual hustle by Jasmine Thomas. Duke was within 3 points with under four minutes to go, and one could see UConn start to wear down a bit. Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes both picked up 2 first-half fouls that were silly. The Devils not only were unable to capitalize, they inexplicably didn’t hold the ball for the final possession of the half. They missed 2 late cracks at the basket and gave Moore enough time to hit a shot at the buzzer, giving UConn the double-digit halftime lead they wanted so badly. Then the Huskies shot an absurd 72% in the second half against a Duke defense that had completely broken down.

Graham on Maya:

As the story goes, at some point during the team’s stay in Philadelphia, sophomore Kelly Faris’ mom gave her daughter a paddleball, partly in jest for a team that finds a way to compete at anything and everything, if also as a way to kill the tedious hours of hotel time that come during the postseason. Faris, Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln promptly spent a good portion of an evening passing the paddleball, and the corresponding record for consecutive hits, back and forth. Welcome to Connecticut basketball.

But when the new toy made its way into wider circulation on the bus soon thereafter, Moore wanted to know why she hadn’t been included in the initial record chase.

“We said that we didn’t want to invite her the first night because she probably would have been up until 5 in the morning trying to break it,” Faris said. “But she told us it wouldn’t have taken her that long.”

For Texas A&M, it Feels Like the First Time, as their third time against Baylor proved the charm. The Aggies took an early lead, survived foul trouble, got a lot of help from Sydney 1 and Sydney 2, and now are going to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Writes Joanne Gerstner at the New York Times:

In most ways, it’s hard to make 6-foot-8 Baylor sophomore star Brittney Griner disappear. But Texas A&M found the magic wand Tuesday, reducing Griner’s normally game-changing play at center into a non-factor.

Mechelle on coach Blair and the Aggies:

It all began in this city for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, literally. He was born and raised in Dallas, graduating from high school in 1963, the year JFK was assassinated here.

He served time in the Marines, then went to Texas Tech and played baseball. In 1973, he started coaching the South Oak Cliff High girls’ team in Dallas. It was a job not many would have wanted, but Blair saw something in the sport that captured his imagination as a certified sports junkie. He recognized what was beautiful about a sport with such growth potential.

Michelle Smith has Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Tim Newcomb at Time magazine says the Final Four is A Lesson in Staying Power

Ann Killon at Sports Illustrated Breaks Down the Final Four.

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Lots of chatter on who might take over from Debbie.

Dawn looks to be out.

Might it be Nikki? (I kinda hope not. She’s building something at UCLA and wbball could use some balance on the coasts.)

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on a well deserved honor: JMU’s Evans is V Foundation Comeback Award winner

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SlamOnline checks their mailbag and looks at the response of fans to their Top 20.

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Duke v. UConn

From Rob Clough at DWHoops.com: A Preview

The Match-Up: My earlier preview of UConn covered their players and the match-ups pretty succinctly. The potential advantages Duke possesses– depth, size, rebounding — were all neutralized by UConn in that game with enormous ease. UConn sagged off Duke and dared them to shoot jump shots, which they did reluctantly. When Duke started missing those jacked-up threes, UConn ran their break to perfection and blew out to an early lead. UConn was very careful to limit Duke to one shot while running them out of the building. The keys to this game are obvious. Duke has to win the rebounding battle. They not only have to limit UConn to one shot, they have to get multiple cracks at the basket, because they simply don’t shoot the ball as well as the Huskies. Second, Duke has to control the tempo. It’s not just that UConn’s running game is incredibly precise with great spacing, it’s that they gain energy while they do it.

From Vikie Fulkerson at The Day: Facing great expectations, UConn will try to reach its 12th Final Four

“Probably 1990, before we went to our first Final Four (in 1991),” he said, asked when the Huskies were last without the pressures of reaching the pinnacle of success. “I think once you get to the Final Four and you get to experience all of that it becomes an even bigger goal than what it was before you got there.

“Everyone envisions what it’s like to be there. Any season that doesn’t end in that feels like a disappointment.”

Texas A&M v. Baylor

From the AP’s Krisite Rieken: Adams must step up for Aggies to get past Baylor

Texas A&M’s Danielle Adams wishes things were different.

But when talking about her performances in the Aggies’ three losses to Baylor this season, there’s really only one way to put it.

“I’ve been playing bad against them the first three times,” she said. “I’ve been taking bad shots and just rushing my shots and just allowing them to play good defense on me.”

Also from Kristie: “Green and Yellow” not just for Packers

Baylor loves Lil’ Wayne’s tune “Green and Yellow,” a remix he made for the Green Bay Packers during their run to the Super Bowl.

But they have a request.

They want the rap star to pen a version for them as they try to make their second straight Final Four.
“Come on Lil’ Wayne, you need to go ahead and put a little Baylor in there for us,” said star Brittney Griner, who has the tune on her playlist.

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Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award.

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is here.

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Honestly,

what took’em so long? UMaine Dismisses Women’s Basketball Coach Cindy Blodgett

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are set.

Maybe Sherri had a point about Notre Dame’s defense.

Notes the NYTimes headline: Notre Dame’s Intensity Stuns Tennessee. The Irish built a wall in the paint and Tennessee’s guards suffered horribly. Add in Skylar Diggins’ offense (24pts) and game management and you get a 73-59 Notre Dame win, their first victory over Tennessee in 28 years. Writes Graham: Indianapolis calls to Skylar Diggins

There is something decidedly old-school about Diggins’ game, even as it comes attached to a confident, charismatic, outgoing character made for the modern media world. She is comfortable meeting the demands of stardom, but she does it with a game built around decidedly anachronistic passions — getting to the free throw line by driving to the basket like a running back hitting the hole or pulling up for a jumper in the vast wasteland that is the so-called midrange.

In the late game, the Sister Act was too much for Vandersloot and her energized fan base. Both Ogwuimikes notched double-doubles as the Stanford Cardinal powered past #11 Gonzaga, 83-60. Said the Bulldogs’ coach Kelly Graves:

“They’re just a unique combination of strength, obviously skill, but the quickness with which they attack the ball on the boards is phenomenal. We’re not there yet to be able to match up with these kinds of teams that just have that kind of strength and athleticism inside.”

The Cardinal are now in their fourth straight Final Four. Writes Mechelle:

“Going to the Final Four every year — I mean, it’s a dream for people,” Pohlen said. “Some people don’t even get close.”

Gonzaga seemed close — one game away — but Stanford made that appear to be quite a wide gulf with how well the Cardinal played in every respect Monday.

The Bulldogs fans among the 11,646 in attendance did what they could to pump up Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference champion that had already beaten teams from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East in this tournament. But against the Pac-10’s giant, the Bulldogs simply didn’t have enough rocks.

Not to mention the ones they did have pretty much just bounced off the Ogwumike sisters.

BTW, welcome back Jayda: Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves not interested in Washington?

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Congrats to

Coach VanDerveer, WBCA Coach of the Year.

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’cause the Saturday games were worth it.

#1 Tennessee moved into their first Elite Eight since ’08 by holding off a revitalized and feisty #4 Ohio State. After coach Summitt’s…. impressive halftime speech propelled the Vols to victory, Graham wrote: “Ohio may just want to close its southern border at this point.”

#2 Notre Dame had little trouble with #6 Oklahoma, taking down the Sooners 78-53. Said Sherri post-game: “Maybe they don’t get enough credit for their defense because their offense is so salty.”

Did you wanna know “who dat?” for some of the heroines of the ND and TN games? Check out Graham’s: Unheralded players become elite.

Anyone who’s watched #7 Louisville knows that you live by the Shoni and, sometimes, you die by the Shoni. There was no magic for the frosh against #11 Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs’ 76-69 win means I can type “Vandersloot” again, and that makes Steve happy. He ain’t the only one. Writes Mechelle:

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves summed up the effect that his point guard, Courtney Vandersloot, has not just on the outcome of a game, but on those watching it.

“She’s mesmerizing,” Graves said. “It’s hard to take your eyes off her.”

Like Tennessee, #1 Stanford was down to #5 North Carolina and, like the Vols, the Cardinal fought back to claim the victory. “This is one of those classic survive and move on,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. Mechelle says, thank the sisters.

Can’t wait for tonight’s Elite Eight!

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So, if Swoopes returns

to play with Tulsa, does this mean she has to take back her “The WNBA dissed me when I (sorta) retired” whine?

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Quick WNIT update

Quarterfinal
Saturday, March 26
Charlotte 79, Virginia 74 (Thank you, Debbie Ryan.)
Sunday, March 27
Toledo 71, Syracuse 68 OT
Illinois State 60, Arkansas 49
Southern Cal 87, Colorado 70

Semifinal
Wednesday, March 30
Charlotte at Toledo, 8 p.m. EST
Southern Cal at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. EST

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