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except when they remind you that a D-I before your name doesn’t mean much. For instance:

Pepperdine played its lone exhibition contest of the 2012-13 season and dropped a 67-60 decision to 2012 NAIA National Quarterfinalist Westmont. (Westmont was actually the #1 seed, and got upset by some Chaps who were Ladies)

Kent State lost to Gannon University — ranked 15th in the DII preseason polls.

Having fun yet, new head coach Misti Cussen? Not so much, as Oral Roberts got hammered by DII Harding University. In their first exhibition game, the Lady Bisons got “shocked” by Wichita State.

Maggie Lucas from Penn State is blogging at ESPNw. So does Nerd City kid Chiney.

Candice Wiggins is writing at SlamOnline: Nike: The Goddess of Victory (It’s more than just a costume)

Mel has some Guru College Musings: Delaware and Delle Donne Still Making Their Own Histories

Delle Donne, however, is the first from a non-BCS conference to make the AP team since Amanda Wilson did likewise in 1998-99.

The AP preseason squad began in 1995-96, which is why you won’t see Nancy Lieberman, Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Lynette Woodard or Carol Blazejowski’s names on historical lists.

Technically, one could say Delle Donne is the first from a Mid-Major per se because back in 1998-99 no one was using BCS terminology, which is derived from the Bowl Championship Series in football.

The six power conferences usually monopolizing the BCS are Pac-12, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences.

No one was using Mid-Major terminology, either.

From ESPN the Magazine: ‘Same heart, same pride, same fight’ – New Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick leads pivotal transition

HOLLY WARLICK stands behind a large mahogany desk, her gray-blue eyes scanning the office in front of her. Autographed photos and lifetime achievement awards dot the walls around her; every imaginable kind of orange Tennessee memorabilia, from Lady Vols Russian nesting dolls to a Pat Summitt bobblehead, fill the massive bookcase at her back. “What am I supposed to do with all this?” Warlick asks to no one in particular. “It’s too big; it’s too empty. It’s just — it’s Pat’s.”

After 27 years as an assistant coach for the Lady Vols, Warlick always envisioned herself as the heir apparent to the legendary Summitt. Only it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. “I’d often joke I would be pushing her out of here to games in her wheelchair,” recalls the 54-year-old, her voice perma-hoarse from years of coaching. “Pat and I discussed it in this very room, and I was really, genuinely happy with that.” Instead, Summitt’s diagnosis of early-onset dementia in 2011 and subsequent retirement at the end of last season destroyed any dreams of a celebratory passing of the torch. Now, premature or not, the future of Tennessee women’s basketball rests squarely on Warlick’s shoulders.

Something to keep you focused during the NCAA season: From Nate: 2013 WNBA Draft: How do we identify prospects with the best chances for success in a ‘deep’ draft?

With James Bowman continuing his look at the top women’s college basketball programs this week, I’m going to start officially looking ahead to the 2013 WNBA Draft for the remainder of the week. We’ll begin today with a look at what NCAA Division I statistics suggest a player has the talent to make it as a pro, as we began to discuss previously.

Oh, and the NCAA approves tougher sanctions. Please excuse the side comments….

The NCAA is demanding everyone in *men’s high visibility* college sports play by the same book.

Those who deviate from it *if you can catch’em* and flout the rules *so that they can get the recruits that will keep their job and make the alumni happy* will soon be paying a steeper price. *of course, depending on how steep, the risk might still be worth it*

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s board of directors passed a package of sweeping changes that will hold coaches more accountable for rule-breaking offenses and threaten rogue programs *huh? Rogue suggests there are programs that currently flout the rules! I’m shocked? Are they scared?* with longer postseason bans and fines that could cost millions of dollars. *So, who hasn’t learned their lesson recently?*

Coaches *who are pissed off that they’ve seen “illegal” behavior but haven’t had the guts to actually make an official complaint* say it’s about time.

*I hear folks singing “Catch me if you can.”*

But critics worry this may be just another round of tough talk and little action.

“It sounds nice in theory but until I see a big-time coach like (John) Calipari or somebody get suspended for a year, I will not believe this will do anything,” said David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor and past president of the NCAA watchdog The Drake Group. “I think there a lot of loopholes in there when you start reading it.”

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From Michigan State: Madison Williams to Miss the 2012-13 Season  – The 6-7 center re-injured her left ACL and will miss her third-straight season.

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From the Daily Illini: Illini women’s basketball routes Marian in 1st season exhibition

Kids? Listen to me an listen good: Spell Check is the devil.

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“Madam President.” After winning 1st WNBA title, Fever promote longtime front-office executive Kelly Krauskopf to team president

And on this day to deal with Hurricane Sandy, all the wind blowing, all the bluster, what better occasion to commemorate Bill Laimbeer’s return to the WNBA?

This is not good news for the league. It’s great news. The villain has returned. Every good story needs one. The WNBA has been bereft of a true rivalry – a rivalry with personality and animosity – since Laimbeer left the league three years ago and the Bad Girl Detroit Shock relocated to Tulsa.

Detroit-Connecticut was must-watch. Tulsa-Connecticut is just another game.

Speaking about the tall Aussie who was on the Olympic team: Medicos order Jackson to rest

Recovering Opals star Lauren Jackson’s WNBL return has been postponed, with Canberra Capitals’ medical staff on Tuesday ordering her to have at least another week of rehabilitation.

Speaking of an Aussie teammate, almost a year after she had the left worked on, Sue Bird had right hip surgery. She’s been rehabbing in Connecticut.

Frank, who was named Wednesday the school’s acting women’s basketball coach, sat Thursday in nearly the same place as Summitt and Warlick in one of the conference rooms at the Wynfrey Hotel for his appearance at the 2012 SEC Media Day. He didn’t have to face a wall of television cameras and microphones, but he did have to begin to explain how the Rebels were going to work their way out of a scandal that has engulfed the program.

From the OVC:

In recent years, the popular move when it came to coaching vacancies in the Ohio Valley Conference women’s ranks was to hire an assistant coach from another school or from within the established program. This year, when vacancies came open. That wasn’t the case.

Noticeably missing from the returning seniors is Lexie Gerson, who underwent hip surgery in early September and will miss the entire season. She was named to last year’s ACC All-Defensive team, ranked No. 15 in the country in steals.

“The loss of Lexie was quite a shocking blow,” said head coach Joanne Boyle in a released statement. “She has been a tremendous defensive spark for us on the court. We are all wishing her a speedy recovery and know that she will be back next season with that same energy and enthusiasm.”

From the middle-ish of the country: Missouri women’s basketball players eager to start new season

From another school in the middle-ish of the country: CU Buffs’ Jen Reese rebounding from eye injury

From out in Oregon: Breaking the bad – A summer chemistry lesson emboldens injured Ducks squad to dream

As odd as it may seem, Paul Westhead accused himself, Oregon’s coach, of doing a little too much coaching the last couple years.

His free-wheeling, fastbreak system got the UO women into the WNIT in 2010, to cap Westhead’s first season with the Ducks. But then came records of 13-17 and 15-16, and Westhead started to tinker.

“I saw us stuck, and tried to unstuck ’em,” he said the other day, “and probably got more stuck. I’m going to avoid that this year. … I’ve never been a big X-and-O guy anyway. Much of what I do is chemistry — getting them to play quick, fast, hard, every moment, and quicker, faster, harder the next moment.”

James continues his countdown:

This entry in the list of Swish Appeals Top 100 Programs in Division One women’s college basketball looks at the teams ranked #41-70. But how come there are no non-DI schools on the list?

And continues:

This entry in the list of Swish Appeals Top 100 Programs in Division I women’s college basketball looks at the teams ranked #26-40 and discusses which stat can mean the difference between making a tournament and not.

Is it too early to ponder Christmas gifts? NO! From FIBA:

We are proud to inform you that FIBA has released its latest instructional DVD, entitled ‘Queens of Hoops’, a valuable tool which we hope can inspire and assist the continued growth of women’s basketball worldwide. (WHB note: I wonder if they talk about “attractive costuming”?)

Leading international stars Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson and Céline Dumerc are among the 12 players from around the world who reflect on their careers to date, share their know-how and pass on some of the secrets that have helped them reach the top of the women’s game.

The DVD also features the expertise of renowned coaches Jan Stirling, Geno Auriemma and Tom Maher.

We invite you to watch the videos by going to FIBA’s Coaching Library Website coachinglibrary.fiba.com.

For instructional videos go to http://coachinglibrary.fiba.com/pages/eng/cl/QueensOfHoops/p/qoh_teaser.html

For interviews with players and coaches go to http://coachinglibrary.fiba.com/pages/eng/cl/news/p/videos.html

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hurricane. I can’t get “For those in peril on the sea” out of my head.

That being said, I am safe, on high ground and have electricity, so I’m making use of good fortune to do some catching up.

Congrats to Brockton, MA’s Jim Daley:

There is no room left on retired Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls basketball coach Jim Daley’s coaching resume. It’s filled with 510 wins, 15 league championships and 30 tournament appearances just to name the highlights of his 33-year tenure on the Panthers’ sideline.

However, Daley still has one more basketball bow to take because on Nov. 18 at Holy Cross, the longtime Whitman-Hanson icon will be inducted into the Massachusetts High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

More congrats to Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, named the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. She coached the Grand Haven girls basketball team to the Class A state championship last March.

A little high school Title IX news from Columbus, Indiana: Teams aim for equal billing: Schools have four years to comply with court ruling

The Jennings County girls basketball team has played Franklin County the past 11 years, with most of those games taking place on Saturday afternoons.

But if the Panthers are to continue playing the Wildcats after this season, they likely will have to find a “prime-time” spot, meaning a Friday or Saturday night or the night before Thanksgiving.

In WNBA news:

Wanna own a W team? Mebbe not: Sparks’ Former Owner Sues Law Firm

The former owner of the WNBA team Los Angeles Sparks accused its former attorney of legal malpractice, claiming in court that he helped the team’s current owners squeeze it out of the franchise.

Where’s Swin at? Star basketball player, McKeesport native returns to help children ‘Cash’ in

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Swin Cash returned to McKeesport to seek support and new partnerships for her Cash for Kids nonprofit as she strives to help the youth of her hometown.

Inviting community leaders, local organizations and city youth to the Palisades on Saturday, Cash focused on her off-the-court passion of working with children.

From Indianapolis: President Obama calls Catchings, Dunn, Krauskopf to congratulate Fever on WNBA title and  Indiana Fever owner Herb Simon savors ‘special moment’

Herb Simon has owned the 2012 WNBA champion Indiana Fever since the franchise’s inception in 2000. The Fever won their first title last Sunday, defeating the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to claim the best-of-five Finals 3-1.

In the aftermath of their breakthrough triumph, Simon, who has also owned the Indiana Pacers since 1983, answered questions about the meaning of the title to him and a variety of other topics.

Question: Was the Fever’s WNBA championship your most satisfying moment as an owner?

Simon: It ranks right up there. This was a very special moment for all of us. The team, the way they played. I tell you, I got very emotional that last game. It was one of the greatest things that I’ve experienced.

From Chicago, Patricia Babcock McGraw writes: WNBA crown completes Catchings’ glittering resume

We all just want to fit in, even world-class athletes.

Tamika Catchings was feeling a bit left out during a special ceremony at the WNBA All-Star Game in 2011. It was the league’s 15th season and the top 15 players of all-time were being honored.

In an WNBA/College crossover story: Big Ten women’s basketball: Penn State’s Alex Bentley learns as Fever intern

In a “Local Makes Good” story: WNBA title for Markham’s Sutton-Brown

During her professional basketball career, Tammy Sutton-Brown had the good fortune to play for championship teams overseas.

But for the 34-year-old Markham native and Markham District High School grad, the biggest championship came this past weekend as a member of the Indiana Fever who defeated the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 to claim the WNBA crown in four games.

Another one from the West Coast: January savors WNBA crown

Briann January isn’t at Disneyland – and she won’t be any time in the near future.

But who needs the happiest place on Earth when you’ve just made a lifelong dream come true?

Another from Pittsburgh: Just call her, ‘Champion’

Shavonte Zellous’ smile, energy, work ethic, enthusiasm and passion are as infectious as ever, but after Zellous helped the Indiana Fever win its first WNBA championship Sunday, it is clear her game is still as good as ever, too.

More importantly, her penchant for rising to the occasion is intact.

Sure, the Lynx are left to ponder what went wrong and how to fix it, but ne despair pas, Los Lynx fans: Blueprint For Success Still In Place

Our attention may be shifting to the NCAA, but the W folks are abroad: Temeka Johnson blogs: Russian team off to strong start

Hello all, I’m back. I know I told you that I would write about the new additions to our team once they got here, so guess what: THEY ARE HERE. We have Epiphany Prince who played at Rutgers University (WNBA, Chicago Sky), Erin Lawless, who played at Purdue and also on the Slovakian National team, and Shay Murphy who played at USC (WNBA, Chicago Sky). These are the new additions to our team along with myself, Michelle Snow, and a few new talented Russian players as well.

Mechelle writes a really important piece about two big off-season stories: Laimbeer returns, Stern to retire in ’14

On the same day NBA commissioner David Stern announced when he would be saying goodbye to his job, Bill Laimbeer said hello to the WNBA again.

In the grand scheme of things, the WNBA will be considered a small part of Stern’s legacy as one of the pre-eminent sports czars of our time. And Laimbeer always will be known more as one of Detroit’s “bad boys” — a hard-nosed, blue-collar player who relished the fact that opposing fans loved to hate him — than as a WNBA coach.

But to those who follow women’s basketball, the contributions Stern and Laimbeer have made to this sport are quite significant.

College news:

Using appropriately groan producing verbiage, Swish Appeal begins their survey of top Division I women’s basketball programs: Division One women’s college basketball:  #71-100

Speaking of top programs, it means nothing – and it’s not surprise —  but Brittney Griner, Baylor women’s basketball unanimous preseason favorites

Speaking of polls, the fabulous D3Hoops has their pre-season rankings up,  and all eyes are on Calvin.

The Stanford Daily says: W. BBall: VanDerveer and Cardinal reload as season approaches

There was some drama in Vol land, but now it’s over: Top women’s basketball prospect Jannah Tucker recommits to Tennessee

As for the drama at Ole Miss: Adrian Wiggins Fired From Ole Miss

“The allegations and findings that led the University to this decisive and swift action are now being further examined jointly by the University and the NCAA,” the university said.

In addition, student-athletes Kay Caples, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, and Brandy Broome, a transfer from Pensacola State College, are ineligible to compete at the University after failing to meet NCAA transfer eligibility standards.

There’s some “drama” (as in, something with a storyline) from Cali: Stanford Women’s Basketball’s Six Pack, Episode Four – Summer At Stanford : Greenfield, Payne and Samuelson give viewers an inside look at their summers on The Farm

Not to be outdone, over at the California Golden Blog, they have a Women’s Basketball Season Preview Part 1: Embracing Expectations

From the Hoosier State: IU Women’s Basketball Implements New Practice Routine

So what about those new points of emphasis? They mean MSU women’s basketball to make changes on defense

The “Secretary of Defense” may have to wage his battles a little differently this season. 

Mississippi State University first-year women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer scanned a two-sheet printout of 10 points emphasis Division I officials will be asked to monitor this season. When asked for his opinion about how his new team was going to handle four areas that could make it more difficult for defenders, Schaefer said he has been down this road before and it will be up to him and his coaches to teach their players better.

“Every year, it seems they’re trying to enhance the offensive side of the game,” said Schaefer

Unfortunately, there’s some “Dabnabbit!” drama to report: Brene Moseley out with ACL tear in blow to Maryland women’s basketball team. Moseley offers up a blog entry: “Courage.”

Oklahoma had their own version of “Dabnabbit”: Williams out for season with ruptured Achilles’ tendon

So, did you catch any of the firestorm after UConn Coach Geno Auriemma Says Lower The Rim In Women’s College Game?

“The game hasn’t grown as much as it should in the last 10 years and much of the old guard doesn’t want to hear it,” Auriemma said Monday after taping “Beyond The Beat,” which airs Tuesday on CPTV Sports. “In 2002, we played the Final Four in front of 30,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“Now, 10 years later [2011], we [the women’s Final Four] can’t sell out the Conseco Field House [in Indianapolis]? So how much has the game possibly improved, in terms of how badly people want to see it?”

Auriemma believes one of the ways to increase the game’s appeal is by increasing offensive efficiency.

We know it’s not going to happen because, as Kevin Hoffman (who should learn how to spell Auriemma’s name) of Winning Hoops writes: Lowering Rims In Women’s Hoops A Logistical Nightmare. But there was some interesting (and not interesting) discussion spurred by his comments.

From the Tulsa World: Big 12 women’s basketball notebook: To lower or not to lower

“I really do think his team must be so good that he didn’t have anything to rant about, so he just started talking about lowering the stinkin’ rim,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. ” … You can go to the rec center, and can you go to an elementary gym, a high school gym, you can go to an arena like American Airlines and the goals are 10‑foot tall, and you can shoot on them and get better.

“I don’t think we want to put ourselves in a situation where we have to find a women’s goal so we can get better as players.”

From the New York Times (that can’t be bothered to have a WNBA scoreboard): Idea to Lower Rim for Women’s Basketball Stirs Talk

Other coaches around the country applauded Auriemma’s forward-thinking outspokenness. Most believed an immediate switch would be impractical — considering the number of high school gyms and playgrounds that would need adjusting — but they agreed with his central tenet: more people should be considering ways to improve women’s basketball as an attraction for fans.

“The logistics — I don’t think it’s possible,” Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves said. “But I like the train of thought, I really do.”

From David Whitely at AOLFanhouse: Geno Auriemma’s right: Lowering the rim would help women’s basketball soar higher

Geno Auriemma has coached UConn to seven NCAA women’s basketball titles. He recently guided the U.S. team to a gold medal in the London Olympics.

Now he’s a soldier in the war on women?

From the Connecticut locals: Jeff Jacobs of the Courant talks Raising Rates (Men) Ad Lowering Rims (Women)

Don’t lower the rim of expectations.

We’re not only talking about Geno Auriemma‘s ideas for improving women’s basketball. We’re talking about the academic disaster that was the UConn men’s basketball program in the first decade of the 21st century.

The headlines on UConn athletics have arrived in loud, fascinating national bursts the past few days. Some have painted Auriemma as a visionary for — among several suggestions — arguing that rims should be lowered. Others have painted Auriemma as impractical or even demeaning of women’s abilities.

Mike DiMauro from The Day shoots for another target: Fixing this problem is a layup

Geno Auriemma’s musings from earlier this week, to lower the rim in women’s basketball, has become a cause célèbre within the game. Lots of opinions across the country, again illustrating there is no bigger, better voice for the game anywhere. Never has been, never will be.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to examining whether a lower rim is practical or realistic. An unintended consequence of the debate has been the rise of a peripheral issue which has the game’s intelligentsia in almost lockstep agreement:

Ditch the smaller basketball.

Grumpy Gregg Doyel rants: Lowering rims to boost scoring in women’s hoops? Geno’s math is hideously flawed, basically wasting an entire column of digital ink because he hasn’t the ability to look beyond the surface of the issue that prompts an Auriemma to toss out “lower the rims.”

Kate Fagan, who has admitted she doesn’t watch the women’s game because it’s not like the men’s, chimes in at ESPNw:  Lowering the rims? Um, no, that’s not the answer, mostly because she thinks the game should embrace what it claims to be she doesn’t like, not like the men’s.

On the flip site, Johnette Howard (who needs to learn how to spell coach Summitt’s name) says: Listen to Geno Auriemma; it’s time for change

The irony of any suggestion that Auriemma might be a traitor in women’s basketball’s midst is that his UConn teams are perennially, consistently, and without fail the best example of all the very same traits that women’s game actually loves about itself: selfless passing, constant motion, fundamental soundness, unapologetic competitiveness and an insistence on excellence. It should come as no surprise that Auriemma is a great admirer of Red Holzman’s great Knicks squads, one of the all-time great exemplars of teamwork in sports. And at times, let’s face it, Auriemma has been as neurotic as any female coach about how coaching women rather than men is devalued, and seen as some lesser calling.

But here’s the thing I agree with him on. Women’s basketball has also been rolling out that old John Wooden quote about how much he preferred their game to the men’s for so long it feels older than Wooden was himself. And Auriemma may be the only person in the game with the stones — not just the stature — to look at a troubling aside like the last women’s Final Four in Indianapolis and essentially tell women’s basketball, “Hello? Are you not as concerned about this as I am? It’s time to get over ourselves. This is our wake-up call.

I can get behind that.

Don’t know about you, but I have a feeling of urgency about the future of women’s basketball – both at the college and the pro level. As in, is this it? (You think the non-coverage of the women’s national team was by happenstance?) Yup, Geno was stirring it up again, poking at folks and – admit it – getting women’s college basketball some attention. You don’t like it? Then look to the other coaches in the game and ask them to step up and step out of their comfort zone.

Coach Kim – I dare you to make a statement with your words, not just your clothes (though they’re damn fun). For instance, lead the fight against bullying in women’s basketball – which includes facing down homophobia (and a heavy dose of misogyny) within and without the sport.  Would love to see you face down people like BarefootSerpent who commented: Baylor’s adding a man to their team didn’t boost women’s basketball, so why would lowering the rim?

Coach Coale – I dare you to make a statement with your words (which are beautifully written), not just your shoes. For instance, lead the fight for coverage of the game – both in print, online, on television.

Coach Tara – You may be old school, but you’ve got a program who knows how to rock video world. Tap in to that creativity and dare them to be the “Best Practices” program for all women’s basketball teams – and don’t forget to connect with Mr. Luck in Indy!

Laurel Richie? You better bring it, girl — and I’m not just talking about sponsors (which we appreciate!). Slap some order on your off-the wall franchises and remind the players that it ain’t just about them and a 94′ court. They need to look at the actions of the early WNBAers and say, “I need to match that and more,” ’cause their paycheck is not guaranteed. Just look at what’s happening overseas….they’re not rolling in the dough any more that the W is.

WBCA – I dare you to make a statement and stop being so damn polite. Be an active leader, and don’t worry about whose knickers you put in a twist. Don’t settle for what the NCAA offers, dare to demand more. If you don’t reach for the main course, you’re sure as hell going to be eating table scraps.

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And we got’im!

Bill Laimbeer named New York Liberty general manager and head coach

Suddenly, I’m interested in the Lib again.

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and the desk is (almost) clear, I still come to the same conclusion: Indy winning was great for the league on so many levels.

Great: For those of us “old timers” who remember Catch being picked, despite her torn ACL.
Great: For those of us who’ve watched year after year as the Fever just missed having the right personnel around her.
Great: For those of us who watched random injury after random injury derail the Fever’s quest.
Great: For those of us who understand everything good Lin Dunn has done for the women’s professional game.

Great: For those home fans — some who’ve been loyal through thick and thin, some who gleefully jumped on the bandwagon — who got to witness a Championship victory on their home court.
Great: For those random folks who flipped channels and caught the scene of thousands of delirious fans celebrating a women’s basketball fans.
Great: For all those cranky fans who thought the season was “boring” because Minny was a prohibitive favorite to win. Psych!
Great: For a league that really needed this season to end on a bang, not a whimper.

Great: For all the attention Cheryl’s jacket-toss garnered.
Great: For every ounce of heartache and frustration on the Minnesota team — they gave a city that was starving for a Championship a taste. And they went home empty handed. Just think how ferocious they will be next year.
Great: For every “semi-scrub” on the Fever team who figured out how to be a “super sub.”
Great: For anyone who’s followed Katie Douglas’ off-court story.
Great: For Catch, who has been the epitomy of class, class and class. Not only deserved this, she earned every single second of it.

From the wires:

Mechelle: Tamika Catchings wins elusive title – Three-time Olympic gold medalist and former NCAA champ finally nabs WNBA crown

You’ll get no argument from anyone involved in the WNBA that nobody plays harder than Catchings … and yet she’s still beloved league-wide despite her limitlessly aggressive, no-off-switch style.

Which is why after Catchings and the Fever beat defending champion Minnesota 87-78 Sunday to win Game 4 of the WNBA Finals and the series 3-1, even the conquered Lynx paid genuine tribute to the Fever’s franchise icon.

As Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve put it, “There’s not anybody that cannot be happy for Tamika Catchings to finally get a championship.”

Also from Mechelle: Turning disappointment into a title – After getting cut from Australian national team, Erin Phillips focused on Fever

Indiana guard Erin Phillips never had to look far for inspiration when she felt a little weary during the WNBA Finals.

“Anytime something started to hurt, I’d glance at Katie,” Phillips said of teammate Katie Douglas, who was sidelined by an ankle injury in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Oct. 11. “I knew how much Katie wanted to be out there. You just forget about whatever pain you have. You just go to another level.”

Phillips and her fellow Fever backcourt players did that in a major way over the last five games with Douglas out. And it was an enormous part of Indiana winning the franchise’s first WNBA title Sunday with an 87-78 victory over Minnesota.

From Michelle: Fever share championship moment

While the payoff moment was watching Tamika Catchings grab that WNBA championship trophy and hoist it over her head, tears streaming down her face, it was just that — a single moment.

Championships aren’t built on a single anything. They are a compilation of moments and performances, hardships and triumphs. They are a blessed combination of the efforts of coaches and players and general managers, and even when an athlete as singular as Catchings — one of the most beloved players in the WNBA — gets what she has so obviously deserved by virtue of the Indiana Fever’s 87-78 victory in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday night, there’s so much more to it.

Lana Bandoim of Yahoo Sports has this: Tamika Catchings Discusses the Indiana Fever’s WNBA Championship: Fan View

From the Bleacher Report: WNBA Finals 2012: Catchings and the Indiana Fever Win First Championship

With only a few seconds left in Game 4 of the 2012 WNBA Finals, one of several special moments occurred. Indiana native Katie Douglas, who was sitting out the finals due to injury, trotted out onto the court to a large crowd ovation.

Shortly afterwards, the buzzer sounded and it was official. The Indiana Fever were champions for the first time in franchise history.

From the AP/Sports Illustrated: Fever top Lynx for first WNBA title

“When you come into this league, your goal and dream is to win a WNBA championship,” Catchings said. “Twelve years later … it’s so sweet right now.”

From the Indy Star: Two from Bob Kravitz

This one’s for Tamika Catchings, who finally filled out her trophy case with her first WNBA title to go along with all those Olympic gold medals and overseas championships. Did you catch that snapshot of Catchings standing on the victory podium, holding up the championship and MVP hardware? What a sight.

This one’s for Katie Douglas, the hometown girl who, sadly, didn’t get a chance to play until the final 3.2 seconds of this series but helped bring the Indiana Fever to this heady place with her work in the regular season and earlier in the playoffs.

It only figured that the Fever and Pacers Sports and Entertainment would have to go to a Plan B. It only figured that with rain pouring down, and more rain in the forecast, the team and its parent company would have to move the parade inside to the lobby of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.

After all, isn’t that what the WNBA champion Fever have been doing throughout this remarkable run to a title, Indy’s first pro hoops title since the 1973 ABA Pacers?

Something happens, you move on. You find a Plan B. You embrace a Plan C. You roll out a Plan D.

From David Woods: Fever win 87-78, claim franchise’s first championship

“It’s been an amazing journey, the ups and downs,” Catchings said.

Members of the Colts and Pacers were on hand to support the Fever, and congratulations for Catchings came from everywhere. There was this tweet from someone who knows what it’s like to wait for a championship:

“Bout Damn Time!!” LeBron James posted. (Btw, more twitter reaction here)

From Robert King: Indiana Fever fans’ excitement reaches new high in historic win

When Kristina Howard emerged from Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday night after following the Indiana Fever since their birth in Indianapolis there was nothing else for her to do except to unleash an immense victory cry.

She wasn’t alone.

Fans, young and old, turned a quiet evening in Downtown Indianapolis into one of civilized revelry — blaring car horns, screams of delight and mugging for the TV cameras looking for something to start their late-night newscasts — as they celebrated the WNBA team’s championship-clinching 87-78 win over the Minnesota Lynx.

From the “What, too soon?” files: Can the Fever do it again next season?

Not to be outdone, Nate asks: Can the Fever repeat as WNBA champions in 2013? and tracks the Fever’s Unexpected Path to a title

The Lynx had a balanced, deep and versatile roster that seemed to be built to win on paper and did little to suggest they wouldn’t finish the task by repeating as champions.

And it’s hard to appreciate just how incredible a feat the Indiana Fever’s 3-1 win over the Minnesota Lynx in the 2012 WNBA Finals was without taking into account the entirety of that narrative.

Finally, from Richard: Catchings and Fever complete richly deserved Finals victory

Unlikely as it may have seemed at the start of the series, this was a richly deserved win for Indiana. In fact, it was all the sweeter for the fight they had to show to reach the summit. They lost their opening game of the playoffs at home, made two changes to their starting lineup, and came back to knock off Atlanta. They went 1-0 down to Connecticut, then lost Douglas in the opening minutes of the decider, before playing the Sun off their own floor. And then they outplayed the strongly favoured Lynx for the significant majority of the WNBA Finals, to earn their rings. It was a championship built on defense, heart, hustle and hard work, plus pure desire to keep fighting that little bit harder than their opponents.

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From Ole Miss:

The University of Mississippi announced today that women’s basketball head coach Adrian  Wiggins will no longer serve as head coach and has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation continues over impermissible recruiting contacts and academic misconduct committed by members of his staff.  

These staff members, which include assistant coach Kenya  Landers and director of basketball operations Michael  Landers, have been terminated effective immediately. Wiggins hired the Landers couple six months ago shortly after he joined Ole Miss as its head women’s basketball coach.

Having followed Fresno State’s rise and the Landers’ success at Trinity Valley, I thought Ole Miss had pulled off a major coup.

Instead, it looks like the players and the program got the rug pulled out from under them.

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basketball watching, it’s totally stifled my fall birding. Which is annoying when you get all these reports of fabulous birds that are THIS CLOSE… but I have to work.

So, I distract myself with this: At Audubon, October is plover month. This installment is the first in our five-part series following a fictional plover, Melody, along her first migration. Only 8,000 Piping Plovers remain in the wild. Follow Melody’s journey and visit our interactive story map to learn more about Piping Plovers and what you can do to help shorebirds and their habitats everywhere.

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THIS close.

And don’t even begin to lie to me and say that you thought Indy, down Katie AND Pohlen, had a chance in youknowwhat. And, even if you were a cock-eyed optimist, there ain’t no way you call the margin of victory. And yet, look what happened.

From the Indy Star, Bob Kravitz wrties: Magical effort has Fever oh so close to WNBA title

They lost Katie Douglas to a sprained ankle. They lost Douglas’ replacement, Jeanette Pohlen, to another injury in Game 2 in Minnesota. They found themselves in a WNBA Finals series against the defending champions, the Minnesota Lynx, a team that is deeper, younger, healthier and more athletic.

“How are you going to match up now without Douglas and Pohlen?’Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn was asked before Game 3 Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

She smiled and laughed.

“Pull a rabbit out of a hat,” she said.

All credit to Indy’s defense, guards stepping up, and Tamika’s top-to-bottom fierceness. Oh, and 18,000-plus Fever fans who were, as Lobo so aptly put it, taken out of the game because Minnesota played so miserably. Auriemma sent Rebecca a morning tweet: @RebeccaLobo surprised u werent up earlier since i heard u and Terry snoring during 3rd quarter last night

Forget jacket tossing — btw, On The Fly: Minnesota Lynx Coach Fined For Throwing Her Coat In Game 2 and, from Jayda: “That Bobby Knight, Lou Piniella, Cheryl Reeve montage of meltdowns was hilarious. Guys in a different bar&I debated same. Knight took prize” — they’re this close to tossing hats in the air.

Says the Star’s David Woods:

This was easy. Or E-Z. Or “E” and “Z” as Lin Dunn put it.

“E” is Erlana Larkins. She has re-introduced herself to the women’s basketball world.

“Z” is Shavonte Zellous. She left her mark on the Minnesota Lynx as the fictional Zorro did on the Spaniards.

They contributed to a dazzling night that had Brad Stevens and Eric Gordon — a couple of Indianapolis’ basketball celebrities — tweeting about it. The Fever crushed the Lynx 76-59 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Friday, moving within one victory of their first championship.

Writes Michelle:

The look on Cheryl Reeve’s face at the third-quarter timeout expressed more than any flying jacket. It wasn’t passion. Not even anger, really, but unmistakable disgust.

There’s being beaten by an Indiana team having a great night. But being beaten like this?

From Mechelle: Zellous puts Fever on brink of title (yes, Z, Big East fans see — and have seen — you!)

The Indiana Fever had been away from home a long time. They left Oct. 9 after having survived Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals the night before. By the time they returned to Indiana’s capital city on Oct. 18, they had won the East title, lost Katie Douglas and Jeanette Pohlen to injuries, won Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, and lost Game 2.

So the 18,165 fans who filled Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night really couldn’t know exactly what they’d see from their Fever. And they never would have expected what they got: A flat-out shellacking of the defending WNBA champions.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Plenty of time left on the clock. Anyone wanna lay odds on who wins Sunday?

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sure interfere with your basketball watching and bloggin’.

Just sayin’.

That being said, I was glad I caught the second game between Minny and Indy. I mean, then I’d have missed Cheryl Reeve’s audition for Nike’s next “Doesn’t mean I can’t get all fired up” video. I’d rate her jacket fling a 8.932. Big, bad Bill woulda been proud. Said Mechelle:

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is from Philadelphia, and of course she’s an Eagles fan. Even more specifically, she admires their longtime coach.

“I’m a huge, huge Andy Reid person,” Reeve said before Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. “When I look at other coaches, I look at temperament, where they are in their career, how they got there, and their ability to handle players. That’s probably the thing I look at most.”

Reeve likes the straightforward, no-nonsense way that Reid deals with things … although she’s never one to give you the bland monotone like he does. She has a very analytical mind, but she knows how to use emotion in coaching, too.

And if that also means tossing a garment every now and again, so be it.

Coach Dunn seemed unimpressed: WNBA Finals heat up, Fever coach criticizes counterpart after fiery Lynx tie series at 1-1

Dunn said she thought Reeve should have been ejected because the wildest part of the tantrum came after the technical.

“I guess the thing that concerns me is that after she got her first technical, then she proceeded to take her jacket off, throw her jacket,” Dunn said. “In my opinion, that should have been reason for a second technical and removal, and they (the officials) did not do that, and of course, she was able to incite the crowd.

Probably right, if you’re being honest (as Lobo was).

Taj said the Lynx needed to return to strengths: running and rebounding and they did Postgame blog: Lynx pummel Indiana on boards. Larkins disappeared, and the Lynx used a record-setting rebounding to win Game Two.

Said Richard: Rebounding and jacket-tossing help fire Lynx to tie up Finals

After Indiana stole Game 1 of the WNBA Finals in Minnesota on Sunday, the Lynx had their backs against the wall last night. You can afford to drop one game at home, but if they went down 2-0 before heading back to Indiana for the next two games (if two were even necessary), Minnesota would’ve become huge outsiders to repeat as champions. They needed this one, but it was going to take a better performance than they produced three nights earlier to pull it off. The Fever would’ve settled for a split of the opening two games if you’d offered it to them before the series began, but once you take the first you get greedy. They’d beaten Minnesota on their own floor once already; why not twice?

The game benefited from some delays in other sports: Lynx-Indiana series getting attention

Wednesday’s game between the Lynx and Indiana on ESPN averaged 778,000 viewers and a 0.6 rating. Not much by NFL standards, but it was the most viewed game in the WNBA Finals on ESPN since the defunct Houston Comets played Los Angeles in 1999. (WHB note: We, of course, know it was the Lib Houston played in the 1999 Finals)

And, if coach Lin Dunn keep spewing, the ratings will be better for Game 3 tonight.

Now, it’s time for game three. The problem is the Indiana Fever are hobbling after rough Game 2 of WNBA Finals. From Michelle Smith: Physical Finals shift to Indiana.

The Star shows their support: Go, Fever! We believe in you

The Indiana Fever, who play the Minnesota Lynx tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, stand only two victories away from their first WNBA championship.

But regardless of what takes place on the court for the remainder of the series, the Fever, for more than a decade, have been outstanding representatives of and partners with this community.

Swish Appeal has a WNBA Finals open thread: Lynx try to even score

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Trenton lost the Regionals: Sports wagering law forces NCAA to remove championships from New Jersey

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it was Minny who actually ended up “down one.”

Catch was Catch, Larkins was on a mission (from Nate: Erlana Larkins’ record-tying rebounding powers Indiana over Minnesota in Game One of WNBA Finals), and Erin was busy showing Australia that, yes, they made a mistake. Says the Indy Star’s Erika D. Smith: With a basketball team this good, it’s time to get the Fever, Indy.

From Mechelle:

The Indiana Fever players sort of kept hoping against hope that Katie Douglas might show up. You know, some kind of medical-miracle thing that could make a sprained, swollen ankle well again. But they certainly weren’t counting on it.

“It wasn’t sounding good, so we continued our preparation without her,” Fever guard Briann January said. “It’s one of those things where we figured out our game plan where if we’d had her, that’s great. But if we don’t, we’re ready.”

Don’t know if Minny actually did end up with their panties in a twist (bless your heart, Lin Dunn!), but they sure were outta sorts. I imagine Coach C has all sorts of interesting things to say to her team, and that Game 2 will be a lesson of sorts. Catch up with WNBAlien’s Mega Preview.

On a side note: If only our college coaches had the courage of Seimone Augustus: Lynx star Augustus chides amendment

Seimone Augustus has always preferred to stay out of the public eye even as her basketball career has taken her to the heights of an Olympic gold medal and a WNBA championship.

With her adopted home state of Minnesota considering a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, the Lynx star is now becoming a vocal proponent of equal rights for gays.

After all, she has her own wedding coming up, to longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.

I repeat: Anyone who says *women’s* sports isn’t political isn’t paying attention.

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happy their team lost — but honestly, don’t you think that some are pleased to see Tamika Catchings back in the Finals? Doubt they thought Connecticut would be beaten like a drum, though.

Catch had a lot to do with it — as did a certain former-Australian-Sun. That was particularly important since a certain former-Indianan-Sun went down with a turned ankle. (Can we please have a Finals where EVERYone is healthy?). Another former-Liberty-now-Fever was helpful, too.

Now we got the Old Guard going up against the New Guard. COOL!

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Seimone doesn’t pull that… but there is a question to be answered. And she says it has been: Augustus: Car air freshener incident resolved

From Michelle Smith: Jessica Adair keeps dream alive

Jessica Adair is on the court in Los Angeles, working with a Minnesota Lynx assistant coach on her post moves about 90 minutes before tipoff against the Los Angeles Sparks.

She is wearing full sweats, a long-sleeved Lynx T-shirt and making her way deftly around the floor. Through layups, short jumpers and mid-range shots, she moves with ease and grace — even lightness.

That is not something she could always claim.

From Nate: How Minnesota escaped the Western Conference playoffs and returned to the WNBA Finals and The top five WNBA rookies: Who was snubbed from the 2012 All-Rookie Team. I guess Coach K doesn’t count, huh?

On the game tomorrow:

From the Courant: Katie Douglas Stands In Sun’s Path

From the Indy Star: Win or go home: Fever will put it all on the line in Game 3

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to make a game winning – and season extending – shot huh? Says Mechelle:

Indiana guard Briann January had to admit afterward that the closing sequence was a blur in her mind. This much January knew: She had missed a shot that would have been the game winner, but she wasn’t about to let up then.

“We want this so bad,” January said. “We’re going to give everything we have. That buzzer hadn’t sounded. You play until that thing goes off.”

Indeed, time hadn’t run out on the Fever yet in this game. And because January kept hustling, time hasn’t run out on Indiana’s season, either.

Writes David: Indiana Fever beat the buzzer

In an election year in which sides become polarized, the Indiana Fever have been refreshingly centrist. The left has merit. So does the right.

At crunch time Monday night, the left-handed Katie Douglas scored from the right. The right-handed Tamika Catchings scored from the left.

From Mike Peden: Zellous keeps Fever boiling to force third game with Sun

The Minnesota Lynx will have to wait a few more days to scout their eventual WNBA Finals opponent.

The “blame” can be placed on Indiana Fever guard Shavonte Zellous, who drained a long jumper with 0.5 seconds left in regulation, giving the Fever a 78-76 win Monday night over the Connecticut Sun in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals.

From the twittersphere:

Matt Zemek@mzemek

If U caught the end of Game 2 of the WNBA East Finals, congratulations. You saw pure NCAA tournament-style nuttiness. #BANANASInIndianapolis

Matt Zemek@mzemek

Do be sure to catch the final 20 seconds of the Connecticut-Indiana WNBA game on a highlight show, YouTube, or some other video outlet.

@WNBAlien

Holy cow what a finish. What a pass by Catch. What a miss by January. What a save by January. What a shot by Zellous. Wow. #wnba

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is over?

Think again!

From the Women’s Sports Foundation:

While girls’ share of high school athletic participation opportunities increased between 1993-1994 and 1999-2000, progress toward gender equity slowed and, perhaps, even reversed direction during the 2000s, a newly released report by the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls (SHARP Center), indicated. The SHARP Center, a University of Michigan and Women’s Sports Foundation collaboration, today released its latest research report, providing valuable insight into the state of high school athletics and the inequalities that still exist in the U.S. public school system, despite the passing of the landmark legislation, Title IX, 40 years ago.

“In the wake of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the state of women’s sports in the U.S. has generated great praise, and many believe that girls and women have finally achieved athletic equality. However, these findings suggest that we simply aren’t there yet. In fact, we are moving farther and farther away from equality with the cutting of interscholastic sports,” expressed Kathryn Olson, Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “It goes beyond the physical benefits of sport. Sports are an integral part of the educational experience; students who participate in sports are shown to achieve greater academic success. The decline of interscholastic athletic opportunities should be looked at as an erosion of the educational capacity.

Key findings from “The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports” include:

•    Athletic participation opportunities expanded across the decade, but boys’ allotment grew more than girls. By 2009-10, 53 athletic opportunities were offered for every 100 boys, compared with 41 opportunities for every 100 girls.

•    Despite the level of economic resources, the opportunity gap between girls and boys continued to increase. By 2010 girls participated in greater numbers than in the beginning of the decade; however, girls’ share of total athletic opportunities decreased across the decade as compared to boys’ share. During a decade of expanding athletic participation opportunities across U.S. high schools, boys received more opportunities than girls, and boys’ opportunities grew faster than those of girls.

•    By 2009-10 boys still received disproportionately more athletic opportunities than girls in all community settings—urban, suburban, towns, and rural communities.

•    In 2000, 8.2 percent of schools offered no sports programs, the percentage nearly doubled by 2010, rising to approximately 15 percent.  Additionally, schools with disproportionately higher female enrollments (i.e., the student body is 56 percent female or higher) were more likely to have dropped interscholastic sports between 2000 and 2010.

•    Seven percent of public schools lost sports programs between 2000 and 2010, while less than one percent added sports to their curriculum. Given this trend in the data, it is estimated that by the year 2020, 27 percent of U.S. public high schools (4,398 schools) would be without any interscholastic sports, translating to an estimated 3.4 million young Americans (1,658,046 girls and 1,798,782 boys) who would not have any school-based sports activities to participate in by 2020 if the trend continues.

Read The Decade of Decline report in full and learn more about our SHARP Center for Women and Girls here.

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What if?

We said yes: WEPAC Hoops for Hope Story 2

WEPAC Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and education to encourage women in five rural, southwest Kansas communities to take an active role in their healthcare. WEPAC pays for preventative cancer screenings for any women living in Wilmore, Englewood, Protection, Ashland and Coldwater, Kansas.

The WEPAC Hoops for Hope weekend is a collaborative effort between five southwest Kansas communities to increase awareness about women’s health while raising money for preventive cancer screenings. The WEPAC game is broadcasted live on Fox Sports Network and brings together high school players, high school alumni and former Division 1 college players and retired and current WNBA players from accross America.

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’tweren’t easy last year, and it looks like it ain’t going to be easier this year. Amidst conflicting stories (Pat Summitt Says Tennessee Forced Her Out As Women’s Basketball Coach and Summitt says she wasn’t forced out at Tennessee), Holly tries to move forward (Lady Vols first official basketball practice up-tempo) and still honor the past: Pat Summitt at Lady Vols’ 1st practice.

Wonder if we’ll get a little Bobbitt-redux: Lady Vols juco transfer Jasmine Phillips out to prove she’s No. 1

Speaking of honoring the past: Statues unveiled of Pat Summitt, her UT Martin coach Nadine Gearin and former women’s AD Bettye Giles

’tis the season to be bronzed: Texas unveils statue to honor Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt

Speaking of distractions: Auriemma seeks to dismiss security guard’s lawsuit

In Kentucky, Merlene is a bit cranky: Cal’s women’s clinic entertained fans, but didn’t help my hoops acumen

Then, the women watched a fashion show featuring the players in clothes bearing the UK logo. (I wonder: Do men who attend similar clinics get makeovers?)

On the West Coast, Cori Close and the Bruins try and build on last season: Women’s basketball holds first practice, stresses defense and discipline on the court

Interesting that this was “a first” for Oregon State: Women’s Basketball Hosts Successful Inaugural Tip-Off Dinner

Odd news at the high school level: Alston says he was fired over Chicken flap

Bishop Loughlin girls basketball coach Kasim Alston used the memory of Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy as the catalyst for the Lions’ run to a state Federation Class ‘A’ championship last March. Now, it seems that Alston’s request to have a one-day basketball event named in Murphy’s honor at the school was the cause for his dismissal on Sept.24.

better news: Basketball star Zabielski named to Ridgewood High School Hall of Fame

In the 1990’s, some of the best girls basketball in Bergen County was played, and Ridgewood High School was one of the premier programs of that era. Linda Zabielski was the player that set the bar and led the Ridgewood team that began what was a magical run for the Lady Maroons.

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We were one, off-balance, rim-tickling shot away from getting a game three between LA and Minny.

I guess you could, as the headline on Smith’s piece says, the Lynx “overcame” Candace’s 33, but looking at the stats, you can also see that the Sparks didn’t have a bench — well, not a bench that could impact this game.

Yes, when Candace nailed an improbable (and TV pleasing three), I’m sure fans (and the Lynx) were having Seattle flashbacks. BUT, then Monica nailed the counter-three,  (Flashback number 2:Minnesota Lynx coach: ‘We’re better’ than last year, thanks in part to talented reserves) and the ball ended up in Beard’s hands. Great defense by the Lynx (who may have had fresher legs) and Alana couldn’t carry her team back to Minnesota.

It hurt to see Candace bent over in pain. But that’s the blessing and curse of sports, isn’t it — all but one end up losers. Said (congrats coach of the year, though I still would have voted for K) Ross:

“Either it wasn’t a good play or it wasn’t executed very well,” Ross said. “You are so frustrated with every decision you make in a one-point [loss]. I will probably spend way too much time scrutinizing it.”

Interesting to read Nate’s Notes on watching the game on tape.

It’s 72-71 with just under 6 minutes left after a Whalen layup and this has been a great game: outstanding individual performances, the Sparks playing some of their best defense for about five minutes, and both teams seizing momentum for extended stretches before the other team grabbed a hold of it. The question down the stretch is who will have more energy left to dig in and win this game with championship-caliber execution at both ends.

Heartache aside, it was a great game to have on national TV. Thank you, players & coaches.

Oh, and congrats to Mama Taj on her 500th game.

That being said, LA, and the rest of the West, better work on getting a bench —  ’cause right now, Minny’s got the young legs to carry them for a while.

Next up: Can Connecticut’s mix of young and new take down the Indy vets.

From the Courant: Sun Hope To Keep Bottling Up Catchings, Playing Up Charles

From the Norwich Bulletin: Connecticut not underestimating Indiana

The lesson has already been delivered to the Connecticut Sun this season by the Indiana Fever: underestimate us at your own peril.

On June 19, the Sun were feeling pretty good about themselves after an 88-85 win over Indiana at home. The two teams both packed up and left the Mohegan Sun Arena together, bound for Indianapolis where two days later, the Fever smoked Connecticut by 34 points, the worst loss of the season for the Sun.

For a while the other night, they could have darkened the scoreboards at Mohegan Sun Arena and measured the first game of the Eastern Conference finals by first downs.And so while the venue changes tonight (to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 8 p.m., ESPN2), the narrative changes (only one team’s season could end) what remains steadfast is this: The Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever will use each other for punching bags.

Did you catch this by Graham after the first game? Charles’ true value shines in third

On those nights it’s not in use by the Connecticut Sun, Mohegan Sun Arena is a stop for musical acts that, frankly, often saw their best days long before the WNBA came on the scene.

Eddie Money, Journey (with special guest Loverboy, no less), Meat Loaf, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, all will pass through this corner of Connecticut in the next few weeks alone. They are safe bookings, familiar names that will draw crowds who don’t really care if they are any good now, happy to pay for the memories of when they were.

But on nights when they lay down the basketball court and leave the lights on, Tina Charles offers reminders of what it’s like to see a star ascending, a performer growing into the role each time she takes the stage. And her performance in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals between the Connecticut Sun and the Indiana Fever deserved an encore, never more than when she let loose with a solo in the third quarter.

Graham also added this: January meets challenges head on

What’s left to do won’t be easy for the Indiana Fever. Should inspiration be required, they might do well to look to the difficult path Briann January trod simply to have a season she can put on the line.

More importantly, they will look to her for the points, assists and defense that could make all the difference.

From David Woods: Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings will try to snap a cold spell

As the WNBA’s five-time Defensive Player of the Year, Tamika Catchings can stop almost anyone.Conversely, everyone tries to stop Catchings. That is, if she is not stopping herself.

Also, from the NY Times: Amid Successes, W.N.B.A. Is Still Facing Challenges

With all the good news that it has to shout about, the W.N.B.A. may be the quietest professional sports league in the United States.

The challenge, we all know, is rooted around narrative. Remember how important it was when ESPN — hate’em or love’em — decided to broadcast ALL the NCAA tourney games? The W needs to actively court bloggers, writters, videographers and ESPN. And when they GET a game on national TV, they need to make sure that every single seat is filled — whatever that takes. The story on the court — and off the court — has improved. We’re just not telling that story to enough audiences.

Part of that is reminding them that the W exists. It’s pretty awful that the NYTimes doesn’t carry the W on their scoreboard, and Laurel should be crawling up their butt about that. But what about SB Nation, home of Swish Appeal? Their banner lists the major men’s sports, golf, fantasy… there’s no WNBA. There’s no listing for women’s college basketball (even though the link title is CBB). Heck, the W ain’t even listed under “More.” But “Horse Racing” is. That needs to be changed.

Hey, Nate — need some help making your voice heard? Holler! I’m sure we can get enough fan response. Right?

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’cause it’s time to bring it v. the Lynx.  (Remember this from the 20th of September: Sparks deliver warning shot to Lynx)

And that’s not just because the game is on ABC at 3:30pm and there might be a national audience. It’s because if you don’t, you’re out.

It’s the lovely — and tough — reality of the WNBA playoffs. It’s tough to get a narrative going with the short series. But it sure does ramp up the pressure and tension. We’ll see if, as Mechelle writes, Lynx have Sparks on their heels

Candace Parker was irritated by her team’s indecisive pick-and-roll defense and lack of overall fight. DeLisha Milton-Jones saw a deficient sense of urgency. Alana Beard thought the Sparks didn’t defend or rebound well enough to get their all-important transition game going. Kristi Toliver felt the Sparks started the game back on their heels, and never recovered.

Coach Carol Ross noticed all of the above, along with delivering the quintessential coach’s line, “I’m going to have to look at film to review it all, but …”

It was bad, period. However, it’s because the Sparks are such a good team that they can be that blunt about it.

From the Star Tribune: Rebound machine Rebekkah Brunson keeps on chugging and Coach applauds Whalen for playing through pain.

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Candace got her points, but the rest of the Sparks fell flat – especially when it came to rebounding or defending the three. Minny, anchored by the *coulda been a Lib, no I’m not bitter, what makes you think so* fierce Becky Brunson, had their scoring satellites in sync and spanked L.A.

Whalen’s play gave me flashbacks to her college days, when she came back from a hand injury to scorch UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. Writes Mechelle:

Sure, Minnesota had some concerns about Lindsay Whalen. The wrap isn’t on her shooting hand, but it’s still a bit troublesome.

“Everybody has worries when your point guard has a sprained wrist,” Minnesota Lynx teammate Seimone Augustus said. “It was great to see her come out and be aggressive and not show any fear, to see her playing as usual.”

Whalen did indeed look like her normal self Thursday, and so did the Lynx. Those concerns about Minnesota being too worn down by its first-round series with Seattle? About Whalen’s left-wrist issues? About Maya Moore’s shooting struggles in the fourth quarter?

None of those things were any problem as the Lynx decisively beat the Los Angeles Sparks 94-77 Thursday in Game 1 of the WNBA’s Western Conference finals.

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start all over again….

ESPN 2 – 8PM EST: Sparks v. Lynx in Minneapolis: Preview

Despite barely surviving, the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx were content with their performance in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Lynx’s happiness in the Western Conference finals might hinge on whether they can add to their superb record at home and take advantage of the Los Angeles Sparks’ inconsistency on the road.

Mechelle writes: Lynx say fatigue won’t be factor – Minnesota, Los Angeles split four regular-season meetings

Did having to go the distance against the Storm weaken Minnesota’s 2012 championship chances? What about Lindsay Whalen’s wrist injury? How about the fact that the Sparks — who finished the regular season a few days before the other WNBA teams and then swept San Antonio in the first round — have played less basketball in the past two weeks than the Lynx have?

Not surprisingly, both sides downplayed the “rest” factor. Los Angeles coach Carol Ross shrugged when asked if the Sparks benefited from being done with their series earlier.

She’s also got: Douglas, Fever ready to face Sun: Friday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

The last time the Connecticut Sun made it to the WNBA Finals, Katie Douglas was a big reason why. This year, she’ll try to be a key part of keeping the Sun from playing for a league title.

From the Pioneer Press: Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen takes broken finger, bruised wrist into L.A. series

From the Minny Star Tribune: Brunson enjoying herself in Lynx’s playoff run

From SB Nation: Lynx preparing for offensive-minded Sparks

From Nate: WNBA Western Conference Finals preview: Point guard play will figure prominently for Lynx, Sparks

From the LA Times (FINALLY): Sparks face tall order vs. Minnesota Lynx in WNBA playoffs

From the Hartford Courant: Connecticut Sun-Indiana Fever: Each Team Hot After WNBA Title and Sun Well-Rested For Series With Indiana

The Day adds Supporting cast serves Sun well

You are a Connecticut Sun fan. You are asked why your team is 27-9, champion of the regular season and about to begin the conference finals Friday night.

They survived 14 games without Asjha Jones, you say.

Tina Charles, the Most Valuable Player, has been a horse, you say.

Kara Lawson hasn’t missed a shot since around Easter, you say.

You would be right on all counts.

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to the next stage of the playoffs.

Seattle gave Minnesota all it could handle, and more. Came up short by a hair, though. It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments coach R makes.

No chance for Atlanta to match NY’s Finals Futility. Indy clamped down on the Dream’s scorers, and got just enough on the offensive end to move through to the Conference Finals.

Graham has a little somethin’ somethin’ on Kara: Lawson having best season of career – Guard leads Connecticut in assists and is second in points

It is a measure of how long Kara Lawson waited for this that not only has she outlasted all but one other player selected in the first round of the 2003 draft, she outlasted four franchises that picked that day.

A decade after she entered the league, Lawson is still redefining her place in it. After too many seasons spent shoehorned into uncomfortable labels like combo guard, energy player or super sub, she is simply a point guard. Proof perhaps that good things come to those who wait, but inarguably evidence as to why good things are happening for the Connecticut Sun as they prepare to host Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

She is still a role player. It’s just a leading role. And even on a team with the league’s new MVP, Tina Charles, it might be the most important role in the days ahead.

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It’s (almost) on!

From Mechelle: Everything on line for Lynx, Dream

Minnesota and Atlanta, the two teams that met in last year’s WNBA Finals, might have their hands full Tuesday just making the conference finals.

Atlanta is on the road after not being able to close out Indiana at home Sunday in their Eastern Conference semifinal. The Dream and the Fever meet in Indianapolis in Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET.

At 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2, defending champion Minnesota hosts Seattle in their Game 3. The Lynx have lost just once at home all season, but the fact that they were forced into one more game in their Western Conference semifinal took quite an effort from the Storm.

Sunday at Seattle’s KeyArena, the halftime entertainment was your standard magic show. It was fine as such things go, but it paled in comparison to the multiple escape acts the Storm subsequently performed.

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What a fun day of basketball we had yesterday.

I’m betting that if I’d walked up to you this morning and said, “Atlanta scored 88. Against Indiana,” you’d have immediately thought, So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!”  Indy!

Psych! You should be singing along with the Jackson Five: “Goin’ Back To Indiana”

How much did coach Dunn miss January in the first game? Ask James Bowman: January’s career night gives Fever critical Game Two win; Game Three to decide series

Indiana only had two days to solve the problems the Atlanta Dream caused them in Game One or their plans in Indianapolis when they arrived back home would be cleaning out their lockers and buying plane tickets to Europe.

Indiana guard Briann January would keep the Fever alive with a career-high 24 points and send everyone back home with one more game to play as the Fever beat Atlanta 103-88 at Philips Arena in Game Two of the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals.

Adds David Woods at the Indy Star: Indiana Fever have more weapons than Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas

Conventional wisdom: Stop Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, and you stop the Indiana Fever.

Updated theory: OK, maybe not

I’m wondering if this means you need players for offense and coaching for defense?

The late night game was Seattle’s version of 6 Characters in Search of an Author —  the players just wrote their own script. Who were the characters, you ask?

Lady of a Certain Age Who Wants to be a Dentist: Katie Smith with an opening three.
Tall Lady With a Dubious Hair Color: Lauren Jackson with a buzzer-beating, game tying three.
Point Guard Lady with the Appropriate Last Name: Tanisha Wright with a “let’s play another five minutes” three.
Wise Warrior Princess-Lady with the Intimidating Lipstick: Tina Thompson with an “That Australian may have fouled out, but I’m Still Here!” three.
Lady With the Very Neat Pony Tail: Sue Bird with an “I’m tired, let’s get this done” three.
Lady With the Mysterious Injury: Sue Bird (in a dual role) with an  “And here’s the dagger to prove we’re done” three.

Seattle fans – and those of us who watched  with no loyalty but for our love of the W – got a game that captured the essence of why we love women’s basketball.

From Jayda: Seattle Storm extends season with double-overtime victory – Lauren Jackson hits big shot to make it possible, then Sue Bird finishes it off

Mechelle writes: Storm’s 2OT win one to savor – Seattle overcomes 13-point deficit, Brunson’s 22 points, 15 rebounds

Ask any truly devoted fan in any sport when they love their team the most, and they might say it’s not necessarily when it’s absolutely at its greatest peak. Rather, it might be when the team is really not at it’s best, but is giving everything it possibly has … and finds a way to beat the odds.

That’s what the Seattle Storm did Sunday night in a wild, draining, thrilling, memorable 86-79 double-overtime victory against Minnesota. Seattle was staring the end of this season right in the face, but instead forced the Western Conference semifinals to a third game back in Minneapolis on Tuesday (ESPN2, tip TBD).

Thank you, Seattle and Minnesota. You put on the kind of show that may have changed the minds of those who tuned in the watch Sports Center.

Unless, of course, they were named Kate Fagan. Too bad for her, no?

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