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the Final Four only twice in 31 (now 32) tournaments

  • 1989 Auburn, Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Tennessee
  • 2012 Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford

So why did Rachel Whittaker of the Times-Picayune say this on March 29th?

“In other words, a high probability exists that Baylor, Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut could repeat as Final Four participants in New Orleans next month.”

And yes, it’s Easter Sunday-afternooning quarterbacking, but in the same article …. “oops!”

“Those four would have to actually fall on their face,” said Lieberman, a two-time national championship winner at Old Dominion and the only woman to play in a men’s professional sports league (United States Basketball League). “Now there’s parity beneath them, but those four would have to absolutely mail it in and have a horrible tournament, and I can’t see it happening.”

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Road-warrior Florida escaped James Madison, 85-80.

[Freshman] Moss scored a game-high 27 points as Florida survived another close contest, topping James Madison 85-80 in the Elite Eight of the WNIT in the JMU Convocation Center on Saturday.

“Sydney has played her best basketball in these past four ballgames,” coach Amanda Butler said. “That’s what great players do. … You see great players raise their level of play.”

They’ll travel again to face Drexel, which took down Auburn, 56-43.

In the other semi, it will be Kansas State, which defeated Illinois, 66-48. Said Head Coach Deb Patterson:

“That was a real exciting win for our team and our program against a very dangerous and high quality Illinois basketball team. They brought a lot of different components to the floor, and we felt like every possession up the floor you were having to be very intelligent. On the offensive end of the floor, they are a very talented team to run offense against. They are very good at what they do. I am extremely pleased with our overall effort, quite frankly on both ends of the floor. We competed very well. It felt good to put a total game together as a basketball team, at a time where anything else would not have got you to this place.”

They’ll face Utah, which escaped St. Mary’s, 58-55.

“We played an incredibly gritty game today, completely different than the last game we played,” Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. “We shot the basketball incredibly well early in the game and then defended unbelievably well down the stretch to finish it out. I couldn’t be prouder and happier for our kids.”

The semis will be played Wednesday, April 2. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, April 6, 3pm EST.

Congrats to the Detroit Mercy Titans, which won the WBI — and their first women’s basketball post-season title — by virtue of their win over McNeese State.

Calihan Hall was electric for the championship game. The Titans faced the McNeeseState Cowgirls. McNeese State had a down year compared to where they had been the last two seasons (consecutive conference championships and NCAA tournament bids).

The first half of the game was highly competitive. McNeese State stayed close with the Titans and went on a run midway through the first half to take the lead. By the end of the half, the Cowgirls held a two-point lead.

The Titans came out hot in the second half and went on a huge 10-2 run, which changed the entire dynamics of the game. The Titans would not let up and their constant effort led to their first championship, winning 73-62.

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From Full Court: Norfolk welcomes home Elizabeth Williams and Duke Blue Devils

Elizabeth Williams’ McDonald’s All-American uniform never looked so baggy.

On the 5-foot-6 Jenna Frush, the jersey hung like a queen-size bed sheet, the brilliant red shorts hung down to her ankles, and the No. 15 jersey resembled a nightgown.

It was just one of the treasures the Duke Blue Devils found while rummaging through their sophomore teammate’s bedroom, all thanks to the NCAA Tournament coming to Williams’ hometown.

Rob Glough has a preview of the Norfolk games.

And here’s a preview of the Duke-Nebraska game.

Nebraska has won 13 of 15 and believes it can play with anybody, especially after Monday’s 74-63 win over Texas A&M on the Aggies’ home court.

One key for the Cornhuskers, Moore said, is not getting psyched out by Duke’s resume.

“We understand that they’re a big name, but we have been playing successfully and having a good run,” she said. “So we just need to make sure we stay focused on the things that we’ve done up to this point and not necessarily psych ourselves out against a big name like that. Just play Nebraska basketball.”

Her coach, like all the others in the regional, trusts that her point guard can make it happen.

From KHAS-TV: Huskers anticipate Easter Sunday game with Duke

Meanwhile,  the Winston-Salem Journal says the Duke women intent on changing a trend while the Herald Sun says the Road beckons for Final Four-minded Blue Devil women

Curt at the SBT has: Clash features two of nation’s best guards

I think, when you look at (Notre Dame), again, my reference is back to when I was in the Big East, they pass as well as UConn,” Henrickson said. “If you look at the stats, 65 percent of their field goals are assisted. If you pass that well, that leads to a lot of uncontested shots.”

Notre Dame’s passing revolves around All-American point guard Skylar Diggins, but Kansas also has a stellar point guard in Angel Goodrich, and the Jayhawks have an assist on 61 percent of their field goals.

There’s a similar focus at the Lawrence Journal: Guards take center stage for KU-Notre Dame women’s showdown

Basketball?

This is more of a match-up of socio-cultural phenomena.

“Angel Goodrich was a rock star over in Tahlequah (Okla.),” Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said Saturday on the eve of the 12th-seeded Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame, top-seeded in the Norfolk bracket. “Literally a rock star. Thousands of people went to her home games and followed her around.”

Don’t think I caught this from Graham: Diggins, Goodrich take center stage

It’s a point guard’s responsibility to make sure a team gets where it’s going. None in the college game do that any better than the two who will square off Sunday when No. 1 seed Notre Dame plays No. 12 Kansas.

It might not be a coincidence that both Skylar Diggins and Angel Goodrich are conscious of where they came from.

 The Norfolk Regional features four of the seven finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, the honor given annually to the nation’s best point guard and named after the star who played her college basketball in this city (although only three of this season’s finalists will be on the court, with Duke’s Chelsea Gray sidelined by injury). But even in that kind of company, Diggins is in a league of her own. She’s the one with back-to-back trips to the national championship game, who mastered Connecticut and awaits a likely place among the top three picks in the upcoming WNBA draft. And, yes, the one with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and headband aficionados.

Mechelle says: No. 6 seed Sooners steal spotlight: Oklahoma, not top-seeded Baylor, will have home-crowd advantage

Defending NCAA champion Baylor — the overall No. 1 seed with the superstar who tweets about “needing” to throw down a couple of dunks and then does just that — is used to being the main attraction.

But while the Lady Bears certainly will not lack for attention here in the Sweet 16, they are kind of second-billed this weekend in Oklahoma’s capital city.

Oklahoma, with its campus just 20 miles down Interstate 35, is the star attraction for the locals. The No. 6 seed Sooners will meet No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Center (4:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2), followed by Baylor vs. No. 5 Louisville (6:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2).

“It is fun to be in front of a home crowd in Oklahoma City,” Oklahoma senior Joanna McFarland said, “because it is a really good base for women’s basketball.”

From NewsOk: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale reflects on last meeting with Tennessee

Guerin Emig at the Tulsa World thinks  OU must overcome Vols’ image

They don’t have Pat Summitt on the bench or Candace Parker or Chamique Holdsclaw in the lineup. Still, Tennessee, Oklahoma’s opponent in Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup, can buckle your knees.

“You always will think, at least my generation will think, of Tennessee and UConn as those big teams, the best in the country,” OU forward Joanna McFarland said. “You’re like, `Whoa, stars in your eyes.’ “

Dan Fleser says Lady Vols will find out how well their game travels and adds: SEC good regional preparation for Lady Vols

Tennessee’s SEC opponents won’t lift a hand this weekend to help the Lady Vols at the Oklahoma City regional.

Still, they’ve received credit for helping during the season with the preparation.

“I think it’s faster-paced, more talent, teams are bigger this year,” said senior Kamiko Williams, who lauded the addition of Texas A&M. “I think that has helped us out.

From NPR: Defending Women’s Champs Baylor To Battle Cardinals’ Tough Defense

From the LA Times (ish): Brittney Griner: Baylor Legend Will Key Lady Bears to Dominant Win

From the NY Times: Brittney Griner, Me, and Four Amazing Years at Baylor

Covering the team that was the reason I chose my soon-to-be alma mater hasn’t hurt.

With my press pass, recorder and laptop, I have had a front-row seat to women’s basketball history these past four years, but being on campus to experience it all has made it even more memorable.

When you watch the Lady Bears on the court, you see that they are great role models and serious about the game they play. But when you walk around Baylor’s lush campus, you see another side of them.

Mike Grant of the Courier Journal says: One small obstacle in Louisville women’s basketball tournament road: Mount Griner

How do you stop a woman who dunked three times in her last game, an 85-47 rout of Florida State? How do stop a woman who has powered the Lady Bears to 74 victories in their past 75 games?

“I’m trying to put six on the floor,” U of L coach Jeff Walz said Saturday. “I’m hoping our officials are bad at math tomorrow night and we just get them real confused.”

BTW: Something to keep an eye out for:

Rebecca Lobo ‏@RebeccaLobo: We asked Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel what she would do if Griner tried to dunk on them tomorrow. She replied : “Pants her.

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so I guess that means #1 Stanford didn’t go down to #4 Georgia, 61-59.

Chiney did everything she was supposed-expected to, but the rest of her teammates couldn’t make shots. It also hurt that Greenfield went to the bench with a sprained finger, but honestly, the loss wasn’t a HUGE surprise:

Somehow the shock of seeing Stanford’s run of five straight trips to the Final Four come to a premature end, didn’t carry the same sting.

Along with the sense of disappointment came perspective for what the top-seeded Cardinal accomplished.

“I think the reason that I’m not going ballistic right now is like we’re 33-3,” Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike said. “That was a huge achievement for our program.”

Still, it’s surprising that for the first time since 2007, Stanford won’t be playing for a spot in the Final Four.

That’s because Andy’s team did what it needed to do to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2004.

“The senior class … this is our fourth NCAA tournament, and we have been to three Sweet 16s,” guard Jasmine James said. “So to finally make the next step and go to the Elite Eight and now to be going into another game to try to compete to go to the Final Four is definitely back to where Georgia basketball needs to be – trying to compete for a national champion

Smith also offered up some quick analysis of the game.

From Full Court: Jasmine James guides Bulldogs to upset of No. 1 seed Stanford

With her team clinging to a two-point lead with just 23 seconds to play, Georgia senior point guard Jasmine James headed to the foul line for two crucial free throws. Well, almost.

James cast a look to her left, toward the first rows of the stands, mere feet beyond the sideline.

There sat her parents — Greg and Janine — who’d flown almost six hours and endured a lengthy layover to watch their daughter in the regional semifinal against No. 1-seeded Stanford.

They will face the Cal Bears, who find themselves in their first Elite 8 after defeating the upstart Tigers.

The sum of LSU coach Nikki Caldwell’s fears about the Golden Bears came true in the game’s final 20 minutes. And as quick as you could say “transition basket,” the Lady Tigers’ season was over.

“We really tried to establish an inside attack and put the ball inside quite a bit,” Caldwell said. “I thought (Cal guard Brittany) Boyd really took it upon herself to push the tempo, which really got their transition game going. And that gave them some easier looks.”

Writes Elliott Almond:

This time Cal made its free throws, and the Golden Bears are headed into uncharted territory.

Second-seeded Cal broke open a close game in the final six minutes Saturday night in a 73-63 victory over Louisiana State to reach its first Elite Eight in school history in front of a crowd of 6,146 at Spokane Arena.

That Bay Area showdown local women’s basketball fans wanted? Not happening.

The Bears (31-3) will face Georgia on Monday after the Lady Bulldogs upset top-seeded Stanford in the other regional semifinal.

“We’re kind of in awe of this whole thing,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We were us in the second half. I’m excited more people are seeing what I already know.”

Michelle Smith adds:

As Georgia celebrated its 61-59 upset of top-seeded Stanford, the chant began from the corner with the Georgia pep band.

“S-E-C, S-E-C.” Pretty soon, the LSU band, seated in the opposite corner of the gym, joined in.

But Cal spoiled the sing-a-long.

The Bears, willing to play as aggressively and as physically as any team in the SEC, completed the power shift in the Pac-12 on Saturday by defeating LSU 73-63 in the Spokane Regional nightcap, punching their ticket to their first Elite Eight.

So while Stanford, the team that has always stood in line in front of Cal, takes an early flight home Sunday morning, the Bears play on. How’s that for a changing of the guard?

I’m not quite buying the implications of the phrase “changing of the guard,” but the Pac12 sure has gotten more interesting.

Michelle offered up some instant analysis of the Stanford-Georiga game and the Cal-LSU game.

BTW, if you can get behind the pay wall, you  can read Ann Killion’s lovely piece:  Why Lindsay Gottlieb has Cal women’s hoops in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight 

Elena Delle Donne was magnificent against the Wildcats, and Martin’s adjustments in the second half — daring to go man-to-man, urging her players to crash the boards — almost got her Hens an enormous upset. But Delaware could quite get out of the hole they dug. Writes the News Journal’s Kevin Tresolini:

Down 14 at halftime Saturday, Delaware drew considerable confidence from what had become its not-so-secret weapon in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – the second-half comeback.

Delaware had rallied from seven down at halftime against West Virginia and eight behind after 20 minutes against North Carolina at the Carpenter Center to win in the first two rounds.

“We wanted to go down with a fight if we were going to go down,” Elena Delle Donne said. “Even at half, we didn’t think we were going down.”

The Hens played better defense in the second half, but writes Fagan:

The pace was, in fact, brutal. Delaware was expending so much energy just getting the ball up the floor and getting a shot off without a turnover that little was left for other crucial things like closing out on outside shooters and boxing out on defense. Because of this, each time the Blue Hens pulled within striking distance — like late in the second half when they cut Kentucky’s lead to two — the Wildcats would fly down court and force a foul or whip the ball around and get an open look. Then they would set up their full-court press and make things difficult for Delaware, often forcing a turnover. (The Blue Hens turned over the ball 19 times.)

The key was that, when the rest of the Hens began to rise to the occasion, so did Kentucky’s “no-names.”  Especially Kastine Evans who nailed a killer 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining to all but seal the game.

“Kastine has no fear,” said Mathies. “She hustles on every play. We ran a play and the play is designed for anyone that gets open. She got open off the stagger screen and she made it. That shows how confident she is in herself and we’re glad she took the three and made it.”

Added coach Mitchell

“We’re extremely excited to win. We beat a very good team in Delaware. I’m so proud of our team, of finding a way to advance to the next round.”

Kentucky will face a familiar foe, and they think they might finally have enough to get past UConn

They will face Connecticut because, while Dolson gamely & gimpily fought to play 26 minutes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scared the you-know-what outta UConn fans by going down with what looked to be an ankle injury (no, that wasn’t responsible for her going 1-6 from 3, her shot was off and rushed. “I guess it would have been worse if they were all air balls, said an honest KML), it was the freshmen (Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points and one turnover) who stepped up to guide the Huskies to a 76-50 win over Maryland:
Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck did not consider themselves to be freshmen. They considered themselves as impact players. Their intentions were to come in and play a definitive role on a team with national championship aspirations.For months their plan did not completely come together. No matter how relentless UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph was with Jefferson or no matter how relentless associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Marisa Moseley were with Stewart and Tuck, there were questions whether they were getting through, whether the players were making any progress.

As it turns out, it was all a part of the process.

While the frosh finally “showed up”, UConn’s defense has been a consistent. Said coach Frese:

“I said the other day Connecticut can make really good teams look really bad, and that was on full display today. Obviously we really struggled against their defense. They made it very difficult. They were quicker to loose balls. I thought they were aggressive with their rebounding, but just disappointed overall in how we played.”

It’s likely the Huskies will have to lean heavily on their youngsters if they want to defeat Kentucky. That might be okay. Writes Mike DiMauro: Watch ‘Stewie’ and you see Elena

It was either fitting, or ironic, that two games ended with two standing ovations for two such similar players. Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart. Except that maybe – probably, even – nobody in women’s basketball has them occupying the same airspace.

Delle Donne’s college career ended Saturday at Webster Bank Arena in the Sweet 16, succumbing to Kentucky and Kastine Evans’ killer three late in the game. When it ended, a UConn crowd gave Delle Donne a standing ovation, prompting a tweet from Elena after the game saluting UConn’s “classy fans.”

Stewart’s college career, meanwhile, accelerated into the passing lane a few hours later, helping the Huskies reach the Elite Eight for the eighth straight season. “Stewie,” as her teammates call her, was magnificent: 17 points, eight rebounds, a 3-pointer and four blocks.

From Mechelle: Win or lose, it really has all worked out

Let’s face it: Not many kids have the chance to play for UConn, which has won seven NCAA titles. Fewer still get that opportunity, then decide to walk away from it. Which Walker did, after appearing in 17 games for the Huskies in the 2010-11 season before transferring to Kentucky, and Delle Donne did after leaving Storrs before ever playing for them. 

But it has all worked out for Delle Donne, for Walker, for UConn and for women’s college hoops.

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From the LA Times’ Bill Plashke: For Westmont College women, sadness fueled an ardor on the court – The women’s basketball team at the school south of Santa Barbara rallied around Coach Kirsten Moore and her baby after her husband died unexpectedly. Their crowning gift to her was an NAIA title.

Her final pep talk wasn’t a pep talk at all. Kirsten Moore was beyond pep.

Her final pep talk, given while surrounded by her Westmont College women’s basketball team before the NAIA national championship game, was her chance to say thanks.

Moore thanked her team for keeping her soul alive. She thanked them for sitting in the third row for her husband’s funeral, for playing with her infant daughter in the third row of the team bus, for sharing her pain and embellishing her joy. She thanked them for their patience when she was weeping at an unseen memory, or staring blankly into an uncertain future, or disappearing just before tipoffs to nurse her child.

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Ashland University (OH) Eagles. This is the first national championship for AU in a “team” sport.

From the New Philadelphia Times Reporter: 

Ashland came up short of a national championship a year ago.

The Eagles did not let history repeat itself.

River View High School graduate Kari Daugherty scored 26 points and hauled down 12 rebounds as the Ashland University women’s basketball team claimed the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 71-56 win over Dowling (30-4) in San Antonio on Friday night.

From Pat Turner at the Express-News: 

“It was a great game,” Ashland coach Sue Ramsey said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with their performance, not only in this game but the past 365 days. After losing last year, they made it their commitment to come back. They deserve this.”

Said Dowling coach Joe Pellicane: 

“If you’re going to lose, it’s better to lose to the best team in the country. They are a great team. They deserve to be national champs.”

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I think Kate wins: Her quick hit on the Kentucky/Delaware game.

Doug a close second: His AP report.

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