Archive for March, 2012

Well, the NCAA has, too:

Denver (AF) – The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee today announced new rules governing the transfers between Division I women’s basketball programs, taking effect immediately. According to the committee, these changes are intended to improve the level of parity in college women’s basketball.

“We just looked at the results and knew we had to do something,” said Greg Christopher, chair of the committee. “It wasn’t just having all those one seeds in the Final Four, or even all of those 1-2 matchups in the Elite 8, but the scores in those games were almost embarrassing.”

According to Christopher, under the new rules, student athletes who wish to “transfer down” will be subject to liberalized rules intended to foster player movement. Student athletes who wish to “transfer up” will be required to meet current requirements and, in some cases, will be prohibited from transferring at all.

The new rules provide that a student who wishes to transfer from a team that reached the Elite 8 in the preceding national championship tournament may transfer to any team that did not finish in the Elite 8 and begin to play immediately. The same rule will apply to a student who played for a team that won at least one game in the tournament and wishes to transfer to a team that did not win any games in the tournament.

“We were inspired by what Tina Martin has done at Delaware,” explained Carolayne Henry of the Mountain West Conference, who is the incoming chair of the committee. “We saw how she used transfers to take her team from being an also ran in a mediocre conference to a top ten ranking. Not everybody can have an Elena Della Donne fall into their laps, but even a few players like Raven Ferguson could help out a lot of teams. Look what Kevin McGuff did with Dee Dee Jernigan, at least until the end of that game.” (more)


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are announced.

And more:

Brittney Griner is AP Player of Year

Kim Mulkey named top coach

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Aston to Texas.

Flashback to last year.

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Long day of travel, but I’m now safely ensconced in the Mile High City.

A little catchup before tomorrow’s games:

From Richard Deitsch: Women’s Final Four coaches talk teams’ strengths, biggest concerns

Elliot Almond at the Mercury News: Baylor’s Brittney Griner presents an imposing obstacle to Stanford women’s NCAA title hopes

From the Dallas News: Baylor’s Brittney Griner ready to fulfill large promise

From Mechelle: Baylor feeling perfectly relaxed – Perfection aside, 38-0 Lady Bears just focused on winning national championship and Despite illness, Mulkey keeps it light – Baylor’s coach has visible symptoms, but takes comical approach Saturday

Elliot also has: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike’s Stanford University sisterhood coming to an end

Tom FitzGerald at the San Francisco Chronicle: Ogwumikes put Cardinal front and center in Final Four

Michelle writes: For Ogwumike, it’s now or never – Nneka makes her fourth trip to Final Four, craves first title

Summer McKesson at the NCAA: UConn relishes role of underdog: Without superstar or loaded roster, Huskies still in title hunt

Graham has: You again?! Irish-Huskies, Round 4 and Dolson’s play peaking at right time

Fagan has: Big stage awaits Skylar Diggins

Nate at Swish Appeal has: Notre Dame’s Rebounding Balance Key Against UConn In NCAA Women’s Final Four

From Al Lesar at the SBT: Only one way to silence Geno

From Curt at the SBT: Pride fuels defense

From HoopFeed: Pink Room Webcast: Final Four Preview with Ros Gold-Onwude & Kevin Danna

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Mechelle somehow finds the brain space to write about the US National Team: Wealth of luxuries for Team USA

With that much firepower spread out to cover every spot on the floor, the Americans could just spot the rest of the world a player. Of course, they’re not going to do that. So the last position, which will be filled this summer, could be used as much for the purpose of preparing for the next Olympics as it is for competing in these upcoming Games.

“Our job at USA Basketball is not only to win a gold medal this year, but also to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do in 2016, 2020,” Auriemma said. “So we’re not just picking the best team for this year, which obviously is the No. 1 goal, but we also want to be conscious of, ‘What do we need to do to keep this thing not only where it is, but to get it even better?'”

She also wonders: So, what about Cappie Pondexter?

Why wasn’t Pondexter, who is definitely one of the top scoring guards in the world, one of the 11 named? Callan and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, who isn’t on the selection committee, said it was just a part of the tough process of putting together the team.

Yet there is also the fact that Pondexter didn’t play in the 2010 World Championships; she told USA Basketball back then that she was too tired from her just-completed WNBA season to compete. However, Pondexter did attend Fashion Week in New York City during the time the U.S. team was practicing for those worlds, which did raise some eyebrows.

Callan on Friday tried to defuse speculation that Pondexter’s choice back then was in any way related to USA Basketball’s decision for 2012. But, if nothing else, it did help make way for a player such as Lindsay Whalen to get a spot on the 2010 world championship team, and now she is one of the Olympians.


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Recipient Of 2012 Nancy Lieberman Award

Speaking of point guards, did you catch this piece from the Washington Post on Kara Lawson? West Springfield and Tennessee grad, shows “smart, thoughtful” side on ESPN broadcasts

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Kate Fagan and Luke Cyphers: Women continue to shatter stereotypes as athletes. So how come they can’t catch a break as coaches?

Since 2000, NCAA programs have added 1,774 women’s head coaching jobs. Men have filled 1,220 of the openings.

Women have entered the rest of the workforce at all levels and now make up 57 percent of college students. Sports are bigger than ever for them too, with an average of 8.73 women’s teams per school.

And yet female coaches continue to be sidelined. Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer is only half-joking when she says, “We’ll have a female president — and one woman coaching women’s college basketball.”

It’s not as if women are finding new opportunity in the men’s game: Only about 3 percent of men’s teams are coached by women, the same percentage as before Title IX’s passage. Coaching is a man’s world.

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are announced.

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Dishin & Swishin podcast, featuring Stephanie White, Christy Winters-Scott, Mel Greenberg, Shimmy Gray-Miller and Doug Feinberg.

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but readers of this blog wouldn’t be surprised at all: Texas, Karen Aston talk

In another “who knows if this is going to happen” vein, at Auburn looks like they’re talking to Georgia Tech’s Joseph and North Carolina State’s Harper.

In other coaching news, big shoes to be filled: Time for Northern Kentucky coach Nancy Winstel to move on after building Norse

“I’m a 100 percent-type person, and I tell my players, you’ve got to be 100 percent in,” Winstel said. “I think I was starting to feel like maybe I wasn’t 100 percent in all the time. And when the leader may be thinking that, then it’s time to take a good, hard look at what you’re doing.”

The Norse evolved into a national power, tallying 636 victories and winning the 2000 and 2008 NCAA Division II national championships, under the six-time Great Lakes Valley Conference coach of the year.

She retires with a 675-255 record in 32 seasons. That makes her the third winningest coach in NCAA Division II history.

Wow. Trinity Valley coaching duo leaving for Ole Miss

Side by side they helped lead Trinity Valley Community College to its sixth women’s national championship.  Side by side Michael and Kenya Landers will leave for assistant coaching positions at the University of Mississippi.

The husband and wife who acted as co head coaches the last two years in Athens, submitted their resignations on Thursday.  The resignations are effective Friday.  TVCC President Dr. Glendon Forgey said the search for a replacement to lead the women’s basketball program would begin immediately.

Hmmm… seems all this “coach talk” as got people thinking about the future: Stanford assistant Paye could succeed VanDerveer

Every once in a while a large bug crawls around on the court at practice. Stanford assistant coach Kate Paye loves to see who’s the first to jump, since she’s the one who planted the plastic creature.

Last year she had the whole team thinking she had crossed some kind of threshold and gotten her arm tattooed. They kept getting a glimpse of her body art during practice. Finally they surrounded her to find out if it was real. It wasn’t, and she relished hooking them in.

Otherwise, Paye is the real deal.

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Baylor will feed off Mulkey’s actions – On-court chemistry and leadership from players more important than ever

Mulkey is getting great care, and she will do everything she can to be on the sidelines against Stanford on Sunday in Denver and keep this from being any distraction for the Lady Bears. But the players are human, and one of them is Mulkey’s own daughter, Makenzie. Still, you can bet Mulkey will tell them very convincingly not to worry about her.

All teams tend to get their emotional compasses from their coaches. And in Baylor’s case, Mulkey provides a great deal of confidence. It radiates off her.

Plus, she’s the one who makes the strategic decisions. Some head coaches hand off elements of offense or defense to assistants, to the point of relying on them to be basically in charge of that. There’s nothing wrong with that system; for some programs, it works very well. But at Baylor, while Mulkey listens to her staff, she is always the one who makes the call.

If you missed Mechelle’s chat, check here for the transcript.

Graham Hays on Dailey and Geno: an incredible team – ‘Longest running odd couple in basketball’ has won seven NCAA titles

University of Connecticut associate coach Chris Dailey is either one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in women’s college basketball or its most frequently rehired.

It kind of depends on how seriously you choose to take head coach Geno Auriemma when he talks about the person who, among many duties, works with the Huskies’ post players.

“With this group that we have right now, and our post players and who they are right now, she’s gotten fired at least once every practice, maybe twice every game and she won’t leave,” Auriemma quipped a day after he and Dailey advanced to their 13th Final Four together. “So I’m kind of thinking that she really likes these kids. I was trying like hell to get rid of her because I didn’t think our post players would ever amount to anything this year.”

Debbie and Beth have their Final Four Preview Podcast. They talk about the year in review, COY, and All-Americans.

Charlie has his UConn-Notre Dame breakdown and his Stanford-Baylor breakdown.

From Hoopfeed: Final Four coaches preview Denver – Coaches of the Final Four teams talked with the media yesterday about the upcoming weekend giving their opinions on everything from their expectations to how to handle the high altitude of Denver.

Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma

On the altitude
I don’t know what you can do about it. It’s not like there’s one team out there that’s waiting for us, and we’re visiting, and they have a huge advantage. I think all four teams are having to go through similar scenarios. But we’ve talked to our team doctor and he’s let us know how to best prepare for it. I suggested turning the oxygen off in the plane on the way over there for about an hour and get them used to sucking for breath, but he advised us not to do that. So I guess we’ll have to deal with it when we get there.

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Kim Mulkey has Bell’s palsy

More info on Bell’s Palsy

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It’s WNIT Finals time,

and I’m proud to say I called the finalists (Well, yes, out of the semis, but who’s really counting?).

First semi: James Madison came back to take down Syracuse 74-71. In a post-Dawn Evans season, the team and coach Kenny Brooks have done a great job regrouping, and the 4000+ fans in attendance loved every second of it.

“That’s got to be the second-loudest crowed I’ve ever heard,” said Brooks, a 1992 JMU graduate and former point guard. “The first was, I think, it was my junior year. We played the University of Richmond for first place. It was at midnight, and it was on ESPN, and we have 7,500 rowdy, had-already-been-partying students in the building.”

Second semi: San Diego’s great run ended on Oklahoma State’s home court, 73-57. Said the Toreros coach Fisher,

“It’s really been a storybook run for this team. This team was picked to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference, we ended up tied for second and then to have this run in the postseason is so great for our young players. … It’s been a great, just priceless time for this group.”

The Cowgirls had great games from Toni Young  (27pts) (who, you may remember, broke her arm dunking last season), Liz “fear the frosh” Donohoe, 20pts,11 rebs and Tiffany Bias (15pts, 8 assists).

“They’re just playing a lot looser, a lot freer,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “Tiff said on the way up here it’s kind of like a pickup game right now. That’s kind of how we’re playing, and our players are enjoying playing that way.

“Because of that, I think all three of them have been more productive and have been able to use their athletic ability.”

The Finals are scheduled for 3pmEST at Gallagher Arena and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

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*I will not get a John Denver song stuck in my head. I will not get a John Denver song stuck in my head. I will… DABNABBIT!*

From Mechelle: The upside to predictability – Four 1-seeds are fun to watch offensively and play very strong defense

From Michelle: Stanford ready for challenge – Cardinal look forward to playing Griner, Baylor in semifinal

CHAT ALERT: Mechelle’s looking for questions for tomorrow’s 2pm EST gig.

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forecast? Will I see you in Colorado?

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Illinois hires Matt Bollant

Tough day for the mid-majors.

(Though I admit, there was a moment I thought I’d royally screwed up – successful mid-major coach goes to a university starting with an I.…)

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writings of their reporters, but I’m a good seeker:

Why slam Brittney Griner for dunking?

Baylor one of best teams ever? (Hi Nate, “special to espnW”!)

Voepel: 1-seeds make trek to Denver

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then you could say Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is a top chef.

Revenge against what? The feeling of seeing something that was within her team’s reach, but not attained. Revenge against disappointment.

Mulkey has led her undefeated, No. 1-seeded Baylor team into the Women’s Final Four in Denver, with the Lady Bears playing basketball with brisk efficiency. Baylor will be joined by the other three No. 1 seeds: Stanford, Connecticut and Notre Dame. Everybody can wake up; the mostly snooze-worthy Elite Eight games are over.

Final Four picks: Baylor not unanimous (What, are you kidding?!?!)

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UConn gave their fans palpitations, and then revved up their defense in the second half to handcuff the Wildcats and move in to their fifth Final Four in a row. Writes Graham: Hayes answers call for Huskies – With teammates in foul trouble, senior guard steps up, leads UConn to Final Four

Forget about Maya Moore, Tina Charles or Renee Montgomery coming to the rescue. For a good stretch of Tuesday’s regional final between Connecticut and Kentucky, as whistles blew and fouls piled up, it didn’t look like Tiffany Hayes was going to be able to count on much help from even those teammates with eligibility remaining.

In a moment feared by many fans whose expectations begin and end with championships, a career defined largely by those Hayes played alongside rested squarely on the senior’s shoulders.

And those aren’t big shoulders.

That loud hiss you heard during the first half of the Maryland-Notre Dame game was the sound of some brave bracketeers watching their brackets crashing. Behind Skylar’s triple-double, the Irish made quick work of the Terps.From Kate Fagan: Notre Dame simply dominates Terps – Skylar Diggins notches Irish’s first triple-double since 1990

Skylar Diggins caught the ball at the top of the key.

She faked left, drove quickly right, put a dribble far ahead into the lane, swung the ball to her right hand, absorbed a Maryland defender, and kissed the ball off the glass. The whistle blew at about the same time Diggins turned — face steeled — toward her oncoming teammates. And-1. Dagger delivered. No time on the first-half clock.

Oh, wait, this was in the first half?

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go hand in hand. It gets louder during tournament time, and gets even louder when your team loses.

I’m not saying officials don’t make mistakes. That would be like saying players or coaches or announcers or reporters don’t make mistakes. But, remember the old saying: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Folks complain, but rarely have any sense of the reality of the officiating training process. Nor do they seem to be interested in actually learning about the job — the art, the science, the actual rules.

So, I invite folks to not just whine, but learn and offer actionable solutions. First step, some (slightly ancient) articles to peruse:

Making the Calls: The World of the Referees

There’s little doubt Title IX and the evolution of the female athlete have changed how women’s basketball is played, coached and marketed. But the impact on those who officiate the games is rarely acknowledged. While coaches, players and fans often rail against the officiating, there often is a lack of understanding and appreciation of not only the basics but, as it were, of the art of reffing.

“What’s expected of officials now has increased exponentially,” says Dee Kantner, a Division I ref for 19 years and currently Director of Referee Development for the WNBA. “You used to just show up, stretch out a little, go out on the floor, and boom, you’re done,” she recalls. “Not anymore. These athletes are quicker and stronger. They’re doing things that a lot of people aren’t used to seeing. You just don’t show up at the game and expect to be sharp and work the games to the top level it needs.”

Earning Their Stripes: Officials In Training – October 2007

Currently Supervisor of Officials for the WNBA, Dee Kantner began officiating in 1982 and is acknowledged as one of the top Division I referees. A few years ago Kantner said this about being a women’s basketball official:

“It’s not a vocation or an avocation that a lot of people innately say, ‘That’s what I want to be,’ because there’s so much negativity surrounding it. Everyone’s always focusing on the bad things about it: people yell at you, you wear bad polyester…. But those are far outweighed by the positives.”

And what are those positives? You get to stay close to the game you love; you stay in shape; you earn a little extra pocket money. And if you’re patient and good – and I mean really good – you might become one of the handful of Division I officials who do the job full-time and earn a six-figure income.

So where do these “positive” people start and how do they learn the craft? Well, if one imagines the officiating pool as a pyramid built on experience and shaped by geography and opportunity with Division 1 at its peak, its base – it’s foundation – is the high school official.

Coaches and Officials: Reaching Across the Divide – July 2006


For some, it’s as much a part of the game as the squeak of basketball shoes. Getting that intangible advantage can be reflected in how a coach works the media, a player, the other coach or, for the purpose of this discussion, an official.

Consider this recent example: Watching a nationally televised game between the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and Detroit Shock, the Shock were making a furious comeback. On an inbound play, Detroit center Ruth Riley was called for a foul – probably her fourth, maybe her fifth. Immediately Detroit head coach Bill Laimbeer, all 6’11”, 260 pounds of him, loomed over official Lisa Mattingly (who’s got to be 5’8” or so on a good day), saying “Oh, that’s a terrible call. A terrible call! And millions of people are watching on television and seeing what a bad call that is. That’s a horrible call,” he continued, “and it’s all out there on national T.V. for everyone to see.”

Never mind the fact that the replay clearly showed the television audience the correct call was made, it was obvious he was using his physical size, his recognition of the media exposure (both coaches were miked), and the pressure of a close game, (imagine if it had been at Detroit!) to try and influence how the game was being called -– though it is hard to imagine how that might work on such an experienced official as Mattingly.

OFFICIATING UNDER REVIEW: Coaches, Conferences and the NCAA Working to Collaborate

It goes without saying that any coach interested in how officials are evaluated by the NCAA regional advisors or during the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship should read the very clear “2008-09 NCAA Women’s Basketball “Officials’ Performance Evaluation Form.”

While doing so, though, they should also pay particular attention to following section of the introduction:

 Please note that this performance instrument was not created with the intent of replacing those used by individual conferences; rather, the NCAA women’s officiating program is interested in creating a systematic approach to selecting and advancing the best officials for its tournament. 

Why the caveat?

“This is often an area that is misunderstood by coaches as well as the general public” said Mary Struckhoff, the NCAA’s coordinator of women’s basketball officiating, “I think it is natural for people to assume that because the NCAA writes and establishes the playing rules, that it also oversees regular season officiating.


“It is important for people to understand that each conference oversees its respective officiating program, while the NCAA championship falls under the purview of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee,” explained Struckhoff.

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Mr. Curt, he gone.

Curt Miller to Indiana.

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before the wailing and the moaning about how far women’s basketball has to go reaches a deafening pitch.

1) 1989 (thanks guest editor Tom). That was the last time all top seeds in the women’s tourney advanced to the Final Four. The men, by the way, within the last 4-6 years.

2) If you’re actually a fan of the game — that is, you know, you’ve been following it all season — the “top four and everyone else” has been part of the ongoing narrative. We’re not particularly surprised (and I’m betting the Brackets will bear us out).

3) I’ve never understood why people let the Final Four wipe out the entire season. It’s been an intriguing one, hasn’t it. Thoroughly enjoyable with interesting characters and plot twists. I guess, though, there are some who just want to know the “who did it” of the end of the book. But that sort of underminds the purpose of reading the book, doesn’t it?

4) Finally, it’s been said before and it should be said again — Cinderella’s in the game are lovely stories. But boy, often they get their you-know-what handed to them the next time they attend a dance. This year, we have “Rematch Part Quatre” (oiy) and “Finally, let’s see where we stand.” Fun times. Let the games begin! (And see you in Denver.)

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I saw no fight. I saw feistiness, mouthiness and a profound lack of good sense.

Moving on to the important stuff: the Vols played the Bears tough but, honestly, if Sims is doin’ her thing like she was Baylor looks to be unbeatable. Writes Mechelle:

Some games are decided by heart and hustle being a little greater on one side than the other. But other games aren’t really about that at all. They’re about a team just being so talented, so efficient, and so down-to-business that the squad seems almost machine-like.

That’s how No. 1 seed Baylor looked Monday in a 77-58 NCAA tournament regional final win over second-seeded Tennessee. It was as if Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears were a group of basketball “terminators,” relentlessly pursuing a victory with nothing able to stop them.

Mechelle adds: Amid uncertainty, honor the success – In August, Pat Summitt said she intended to coach three more seasons

We don’t know if we just saw the last game on the sidelines for Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. We are unsure of how to write or talk about this — it has been that way the past few months — but now the 2011-12 Lady Vols have finished this season with their legendary mentor.

This particular journey ended with a 77-58 loss to top-seeded Baylor on Monday in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight in Iowa’s capital city, a place that has had a girls’ high school state basketball tournament that dates back all the way to 1925. And that somehow seems appropriate, as this felt like a historical game for many reasons.

From Jere’ at the Times: Sticking to Business as Others Celebrate Her Career (Wowza, that orange suit deserves to hang next to Sonja’s white mink!)

From Eric Adelson at Yahoo: Pat Summitt remains the ultimate winner even though her Lady Vols were eliminated by Baylor

If you ever met Pat Summitt, even for a moment, you know.

If she ever spoke a single word to you, it’s understood.

If you met her steely glance at any point in her unparalleled career, you get it.

Although it is immensely sad that Summitt, 59, may not coach another basketball game, it is as crystal clear as her icy blue stare that she does not need to walk onto a basketball court to continue as a coach for the rest of her life and beyond.

Because once Pat Summitt coaches you, you stay coached.

Duke couldn’t use their off-court brains to support their basketball IQ, and going away from their successful offensive plan spelled their doom. The other doom-bringer was spelled N.n.e.k.a. And yes, says Michelle, Stanford really is that good

What else does a team have to do to show that it is really, really good?

Stanford would like to think that Monday night’s 81-69 win over second-seeded Duke in the Fresno Regional final would have banished any lingering doubts about the Cardinal.

But the questions about whether Stanford has what it takes are only just beginning.

Post-game, the Nerd City Kid seemed beyond thrilled to go up against her USA Basketball teammate. “Seems everyone else has played her.” Yup, they have, and now it’s Stanford’s turn. Scott at the San Francisco Chronicle writes: Ogwumikes, Griner make Stanford-Baylor must-see

Women’s basketball not your cup of grog?

That’s fine. This will not be a screed against the haters, or ignorers.

I’m no missionary. I merely offer a suggestion that you put aside your prejudices and preferences so you can enjoy a classic.

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Wait, there’s more!

Baylor’s Brittney Griner is the biggest star on a big stage
Knowing Monday could be Pat Summit’s final game makes match up bittersweet for Baylor’s Kim Mulkey
Vols, Bears play in Des Moines for berth in the Final Four
Summitt’s future adds emotion to big game

Stanford holds ace in the hole vs. Duke
Stanford women attract many older, ‘wiser’ fans
Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer is truly tough
Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike says knee is ‘fine’
Ogwumikes pose Devil of a problem for Duke
Sisters on Stanford Take the Teammate Bond to Another Level

Digital Global Sports, aka Brenda, has a Women’s Regional Final Preview: (1) Baylor vs. (2) Tennessee (Check the site for her chat with coach Warlick and BG.)

If you’re not ready to move forward, Nate has some Morning Links: A Look Back At The NCAA Women’s Sweet 16

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Kim Mulkey is Title IX personified

Mulkey looks back at her playing career in Ruston, La., with fondness in particular for the administrators whose acceptance of women’s sports didn’t seem forced by Title IX.

“I think F. Jay Taylor was a visionary and pioneer in the women’s game,” Mulkey says. “There’s probably not another university president at that time that valued the importance of a women’s basketball program more than him. He was proud, he loved it, he talked about it, he gave it the resources.

“How many male presidents at that time could envision what this would mean to a university in north Louisiana? He was special in my life and to all of us at Louisiana Tech.”

Makes me think of another conversation I had while I was in Kentucky. A co-worker, 65ish, spoke fondly of his mother-in-law’s enthusiasm for the game of women’s basketball. Apparently she played and watched the NCAA tourney obsessively, edging closer and closer to the screen as her eyesight failed, yelling at the players. Said my friend, “I remember conversations about the game between her, who had played, my wife, who wasn’t allowed to play, and my daughter, who now could play.”

Talk about a lost generation in sports.

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Summitt Retains Her Essence but Lets Go of the Reins

Inevitably, there have been awkward moments. Yet the Lady Vols (27-8) have reached an accustomed position, playing in a regional final here Monday against top-seeded Baylor (37-0), seeking a chance to play for a ninth national championship in what could be Summitt’s final season as the coach.

“No team has had to deal with something like this,” Alicia Manning, a senior guard, said. “I think at first, it was a little shaky. Everyone was trying to find their role without overstepping people’s boundaries. With anything, it takes time. They’ve developed a lot of chemistry. Things are rolling really well right now.”

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First we have a “Big 6 v mid-major” story: Syracuse at JMU at 7 p.m. ET

Then we’ve got a “feel good story” v a “nobody’s noticed story“: San Diego at Oklahoma State at 8 p.m. ET

In a related story, congrats to NJCAA Champs Trinity Valley College, who won a battle between two undefeated teams.

How is it related? From the Hutchinson (KS) News: Court ceremony hits home for Trinity

The emotions were high for the Trinity Valley, Texas, women Saturday evening, especially for sophomore Keuna Flax and co-coach Kenya Landers.

Minutes before Trinity Valley embarked on its 69-55 win against Hutchinson Community College in the NJCAA national championship game at the Bicentennial Center, the basketball court was dedicated for Kurt Budke, a former Trinity Valley and Oklahoma State coach who was killed in a November plane crash.

More from the Salina Journal: Winning Tribute: Trinity Valley comes through on night Kurt Budke Court in named

Trinity Valley co-head coach Kenya Landers descended from the ladder and handed the scissors to Shelley Budke.

Budke climbed the ladder, snipped the last strand of net that had hung from the basketball goal at the west end of the Bicentennial Center, climbed down, placed the net around Landers and embraced her in a lengthy and emotional hug as they stood on the newly renamed Kurt Budke Court, dedicated to the memory of Shelley’s late husband.

Mission accomplished for Landers and her Trinity Valley women’s basketball team.

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One and two and one and two

Like an old school dance class, the women’s tournament has moved neatly into the Elite Eight with all the one’s facing the twos.

Some may pull out the old “not upsets” saw, but there is something lovely about the top seeds performing at the level they were expected to. That’s a credit to the players, coaches and Committee. Yes, I like lower seeds making noise and proving their worthy of attention, but who wouldn’t want the best of the best knocking heads to get to Denver?

Maryland did play the tortoise to Texas A&M’s hare, though, just to keep the game interesting and give their fans agita. It’s not the “OT Terps” this year, but the “Rally Terps.”

This noon-time match-up between the Terps and the defending National Champions was a heart-stopping, gut wrenching, hold-your-breath, you can’t believe what you’re seeing (both good and bad) kind of game that kept BCs talking (and occupied) for nearly every minute of our five-hour drive home from Raleigh. And we don’t think we’re even close to being talked out about this one. Like those other special games, we’ll be revisiting this one about for a good long while to come.

Penn State’s Bentley learned that you don’t tug on superman’s (or Faris’) cape, as the team that hadn’t played “against a real, true scoring team” held her to 8pts and her team to 36% shooting.

Notre Dame’s defense quickly silenced St. Bonaventure, snuffing out any hope that the Irish’s focus on the Final Four would be distracted by the Bonnies. Despite the rout, Al Lesar at the SBT sees Obvious areas for Irish concern.

Kentucky won again, sending home a stubborn Gonzaga team, but why does the image of a first-time bike rider wobbling down the road keep coming to my mind? Doesn’t really matter, though, ’cause is win-or-go-home time.

Of course, with the Wildcats facing the Huskies next, I do forsee another drinking game possibility.

From Nate: 2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Elite Eight Set: Maryland’s Impressive Comeback Headlines Sweet 16

Preview time from Mechelle: Tennessee-Baylor: Plenty of history

Monday’s regional final between No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 seed Tennessee (ESPN/ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET) will be all about the present and future of women’s basketball, with a game featuring stars who are so young in their overall careers.

But it will be about something else, too: the past of a sport that for years didn’t have a lot of national press to chronicle its accomplishments. There is a great deal of oral history, especially if you find the right folks to talk about it, people such as Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and Tennessee assistant Micki DeMoss.

And: A simple plan for an emotional game

You don’t have to dub in any violin music or add manufactured sentimentality. Monday’s regional final matchup between No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 seed Tennessee has a lot of very genuine emotional elements.

“We talk about it off the court,” Tennessee senior Alicia Manning said. “Win or lose, we’re probably going to cry just because so much has gone into this. Basically, this is the biggest game of our whole careers.”

Fagan’s Raleigh Elite Eight breakdown

Notre Dame, this region’s No. 1 seed, was so good on Sunday afternoon the Irish almost made themselves an afterthought heading into Tuesday’s NCAA regional final against the No. 2 seed Maryland Terrapins.

Michelle has the Fresno Elite Eight breakdown

For all of the success of Duke and Stanford, it’s odd that they have never met in an NCAA tournament game.

The series stands at an even 2-2. The two teams played a home-and-home series in 2008 and 2009, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie’s first two seasons in Durham, N.C. The Blue Devils won at home in ’08 and lost at Stanford in ’09.

More from Smith on Duke’s Selby who Hopes to finish on strong note

Shay Selby’s basketball story isn’t exactly storybook, but if it had a storybook ending, she’d be OK with that.

Selby is the lone senior starter for Duke, and one of only two seniors on the team. The guard is the only player on the roster who was recruited by previous coach Gail Goestenkors and not brought in by current coach Joanne P. McCallie (although McCallie recruited her while she was at Michigan State).

Blogging Gray says: Time for us to return to Final Four

Who ya got? The ESPN folks make their picks (Hmmm, looks like they’re thinking a repeat of 1998).

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At random moments during the day, you find yourself softly singing, “Nerd City Kids, Nerd, Nerd City Kids…

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some speed reading:

From the DC Basket Cases: The Raleigh Natty Regional

Whether you’ll be catching all the action in person at the RBC Center PNC Arena on Sunday, or at home (or at a sports bar) glued to your TV . . . if you aren’t excited about tomorrow’s games in Raleigh, the BCs respectfully suggest that you check your pulse.

Nate’s got some 2012 NCAA Women’s Sweet 16 Predictions: Kingston Bracket

Rebecca’s Breaking down Raleigh’s Sweet 16

Fagans says the Terps relaxed, ready for Aggiesand the AP says the Aggies have to keep Terps off the boards in NCAAs

If they do, Viv says Gary is threatening to dance again.

Graham has a couple: Taelor Karr finds home in Spokane – K-State transfer rediscovered love for basketball at Gonzaga and PSU’s Maggie Lucas diversifies game

Curt takes note: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish on way to free throw shooting mark and warns the Irish better beware of the Bonnies

St. Bonaventure knows they’re about to Take On a Women’s Basketball Titan and the Buffalo News’ Amy Moran thinks Irish talent can trump Bona defense

Al Lesar says Time, players have softened McGraw’s approach

The fans offer encouraging sendoff to Gonzaga women‎ but they are losing home-court advantage in regional‎.

Meanwhile, UK Hoops tries to put Gonzaga in the forefront, avoid side stories‎ as they feed off those other Cats.

In Kingston, Jim Fuller says the Huskies, Penn State are ready to run as the Lady Lions hope to continue charmed season against No. 1 seed Connecticut.  Bentley says “I don’t think they’ve played against a real, true scoring team.” and Faris says, “I think any player would take that as a challenge,’’

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35-10 in 35 minutes, leading her Bears to the 83-68 victory.

But N.O. matched Griner’s output and then some (39/10 in 39min) — basically slinging the Trees onto her back and carrying them past a very game South Carolina team, 76-60.Writes Michelle: Stanford senior caps big day of women’s hoops with equally impressive performance

On a night when the spotlight was supposed to belong to Duke’s Chelsea Gray and her three rows of supporters who made the 75-mile trip from Stockton, Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike took it away.

On a day when Brittney Griner dunked and led Baylor into the Elite Eight, Ogwumike took a little of that limelight, too.

And on a night when Stanford was more uncomfortable than it has been in weeks, Ogwumike simply took over.

Wonder how her legs will feel when she goes up against Duke — who simply obliterated St. John’s, 74-47, and got to distribute the minutes nicely.

Tennessee bumbled about a bit before they got their act together in the second half. Even though they came away with the 84-73 win, if they start like that against Baylor, the game could get out of hand right quick. From Mechelle: Underclassmen lead Tennessee – Lady Vols win for first time this season after trailing at halftime

More Mechelle: Baylor, Tennessee to meet again – Lady Bears beat Lady Vols 76-67 in Knoxville, Tenn., last Nov. 27

“We had heard and read where, I guess in the Big 12 we don’t get pressed like that very often, and that they have guards as good as Sims in the ACC. And that motivates you. We handled their great pressure defense.”

Uh … if that didn’t read as sardonic as it actually sounded, rest assured it was Mulkey’s way of saying she really didn’t care much for the pregame suggestion that Georgia Tech’s defense would disrupt the Lady Bears. Not much gets past Mulkey — actually, make that nothing gets past her — and she tends to be particularly motivated by slights, either real or perceived.

Mechelle also has her Des Moines Elite Eight breakdown

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