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Archive for April, 2013

but it ain’t me: SDSU INTERIM WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH LEAVES FOR USC

Jualeah Woods, the interim women’s basketball head coach at San Diego State following the unexplained retirement of Beth Burns, was hired as an assistant on Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s staff at USC. Technically it is a downgrade for Woods, who spent eight years at SDSU and held the title of associate head coach under Burns.

Speaking of Cooper: Texas Southern names new head women’s basketball coach

Ella Vincent writes:  Brittney Griner Is Revolutionizing Women’s Basketball – Will Brittney Griner’s coming out break down the “feminine” wall of women’s sports?

Basketball star Brittney Griner is one to watch for many reasons. She came out and revealed she was gay before she had her first professional game aft for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She is one of the rare athletes to come out as an active player. It was a moment that showed how far America has progressed-but also how far it still has to go. Google her and “Brittney Griner man” shows up as often as her dunks when she played for Baylor University. More disturbing than the comments about her being a man are the attempts to make Griner feel ashamed for preferring pants over dresses. However, with Griner set to debut on the national stage this summer, can butch female athletes be free to express themselves?

Angela Hattery offers: Homosexuality and Professional Sports: A lesson from Brittney Griner to the NFL

On April 15 th , 2013 Brittney Griner, arguably the best player in women’s college basketball, was selected as the number one pick in the WNBA draft; she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury and will play alongside the legendary point guard Diana Taurasi.   Three days later SportsWorld buzzed with the news that Brittney Griner had “come out” as gay.   

Critics pondered how Baylor, as a conservative Baptist institution, would deal with Griner’s announcement given that the Baylor student handbook reads in part:

The University affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm.

  Her coach, Kim Mulkey, while acknowledging that Griner was taunted and harassed during her career “professed ignorance” of her players’ relationships.

The official Baylor comment is that they will not “call out” Griner given that she has brought so much positive attention to the university.

Anyone else callin’ “bull” on Mulkey and  Baylor’s “ignorance”?

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From Variety: Media Coverage of NBA’s Jason Collins Varies Widely

The news Monday that Jason Collins had become the first active player in any of the four major U.S. team sports to reveal himself as gay itself provided a new demonstration of how idiosyncratically different media cover a story.

Even ESPN and ESPN.com seemed to be at odds over how to treat the NBA center’s news, which came two weeks after the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major-league game, while ESPN analyst Chris Broussard created his own controversy with [his] comments:“If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, (but) adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God,”  Broussard said on a special edition of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

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Spring had back-sprung.

Speaking of back-sprung: Yah, I might be jumping to conclusions, but what are you saying about the expectations for your program when you hire a coach who was 41-52 in three seasons at her previous job and has a career record of 120-113?

Need a little WATN? Here ya go: Cooper hires Levandusky as girls’ basketball coach

A little international news: First ever Jr. WNBA program to be launched next year in the Philippines

Chiney is Chasing my wildest dreams in Nigeria.

England is thinking long-term: Improving Allen looking towards Rio Olympic qualification

Dominique Allen was part of the British women’s basketball team that made their debut at London 2012, thanks to a wildcard hosts’ invite from world governing body Fiba.

But the 23-year-old insists qualification for Rio is more than a dream, even if it means a rapid rise up the world rankings.

“We have the EuroBasket in June in France so preparation is starting for that and I am really looking forward to getting back to it,” said Allen, who will return to the Olympic Park for the first time since last summer’s Games on Sunday July 21 for the National Lottery Anniversary Run.

“We just want to do as well as possible. We got some great experience at the Olympics and before the Olympics and we just want to keep that momentum going.

So, how are you at long-term planning? Wanna vacation with me in Turkey and watch the World Championships (Sept 27-Oct 5)?   I would be nice to watch the qualifiers for Rio play…

I can only imagine the headlines that were proposed — and then tossed — but it is good news for Salisbury U: Perdue’s gift is a major perk

Madeline Perdue was a student and athlete at the university, then known as Salisbury Teacher’s College, who dedicated her time to the community and to the campus. She played basketball and field hockey, for which she was named the Athlete of the Year in 1938.

“Madeline Perdue is fondly remembered by many throughout the Salisbury community, including the campus,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “She brought warmth to any gathering as a businesswoman and a sports enthusiast. She was, in many ways, ahead of her time, and made it easier for succeeding generations of women to pursue their dreams. I’m grateful to have known her and to have enjoyed her animating spirit, which has contributed so much to the Perdue family legacy.

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it sorta feels like spring!

From Tennessee: Carolyn Jackson retiring as Brainerd High’s girls’ basketball coach

Carolyn Jackson said she played very little when she was on Riverside’s basketball team. Little did she know then that spending time on a high school basketball team’s bench would become what she’s noted for.

Now after 40 years, a 965-285 record, numerous district and region titles and a state championship, Jackson has decided to retire as girls’ basketball coach at Brainerd, where the gymnasium is named for her and longtime boys’ coach Robert High.

“I’ve been coaching for so long, I felt it was about time to step down,” Jackson said. “I don’t have anything left to prove. I’ve done just about all I set out to do.”

Something seems to be brewing in Rocky Top: Heather Mason relieved of duties as UT’s associate strength and conditioning coach

In Pennsylvania, Lewiston coach Kevin Kodish reflects on 29 years at the helm

The one single factor that enabled me to coach for 29 consecutive years was the loving support of my family. No one can truly appreciate how much a coach’s family has to sacrifice unless they go through it. My wife, Shelly, and daughters Katy and Brooke gave up a lot of for me, and there aren’t words I can come up with that can give them their true due.

To the future athletes of Mifflin County, I ask three things:

Do right

Do your best

Treat others as you want to be treated

I humbly ask parents and athletes to remember that not everybody will be an all-conference performer. Not everyone will be a starter. Not everyone will be a great player. But everybody can do the best they can each and every day.

More news from PA: Dan Burt named Duquesne women’s basketball coach

“Dan Burt is the perfect choice to lead our women’s basketball program,” Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio said in a statement Saturday. “He has demonstrated a strong commitment to the university and our student-athletes. I expect the program to grow under his leadership and compete for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship annually. The addition of Dan ensures that everything is in place for the continued success of Duquesne women’s basketball.”

You stay put: Hartford Coach Jen Rizzotti Signs Contract Extension Through 2018

Reaping the benefits:

Jay-Z Adds WNBA’s Skylar Diggins To Roc Nation Sports

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury Player And Gay WNBA Draft Pick, Signs Deal With Nike

Patricia Babcock McGraw explains Why Griner’s game matters more than anything else

Kelly Kline says It’s time for the WNBA to acknowledge Griner and other gay athletes

Did Brittney Griner really “come out” last week or did she just quietly and politely remind all of us of the importance of living our lives authentically?

In last week’s widely publicized interview with SI.com, Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, said simply, “Being one that’s out, you know, it’s just … being who you are. Again, be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people say because they are always going to say something. But if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

After that answer, dozens of media outlets wrote “coming out” stories.  Yes, she is one of the first athletes to acknowledge her sexuality before turning pro, but coming out? I don’t think so! 

What are Griner’s soon to be teammates and opponents doing? Battling in Russia

Having previously secured European women’s professional basketball supremacy by winning the prestigious EuroLeague Championship back in March, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Deanna Nolan are now driving their Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg to the Russian League title.

McCarville, Whalen Hoping To Pick Up Where They Left Off

There are differences these days for Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville. The two no longer wear the maroon and gold at Williams Arena. They’ve traded in Dinkytown for downtown, and they certainly have more experience and basketball mileage on their odometers. 

It’s no longer 2004, and they’re no longer chasing Final Fours together. 

But it sure is hard to tell when you see them in action.

Find out about The Mercury’s New Point Guard

Clay at Full Court says, Despite setbacks, San Antonio concedes nothing

“We’re never picked to do well,” says San Antonio coach and general manager Dan Hughes, and this year is no exception. Not only did the Silver Stars lose their leading scorer and rebounder to injury (Sophia Young, 16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), the West now has three of the strongest rosters ever assembled in the same conference.

Oklahoma State’s Young ready for fairy tale in New York

The road to the WNBA hasn’t been easy for Young. From nearly giving up basketball in high school to breaking her arm while dunking in practice at the end of her sophomore year to losing coaches she practically considered family in a plane crash, Young has had more than her fair share of heartbreak.

Perhaps that’s why the wait seemed like an eternity.

Swish Appeal wonders, What are your ways to improve WNBA attendance in 2013?

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but the rest of the world sure did.

Here’s hoping you and yours are safe and hugged.

As for the basketball world, here’s what I missed:

It’s never too early: The early NCAA women’s basketball preseason top 10

Job filled: Pepperdine promotes assistant Ryan Weisenberg to job as women’s basketball coach. I guess only folks near the program can say whether this is a good or lazy hire.

Another job filled: New women’s basketball coach Randy Norton’s UAB connections go way back

Another job filled: Wright leaves Gannon to coach Miami (Ohio) women’s basketball

You stay put: Duke extends women’s basketball coach McCallie’s contract through 2018-19 season

It’s about time: Alabama reassigns women’s basketball coach Wendell Hudson to administrative role

And well they should: Special year treasured by Irish fans

 They came with basketballs to be signed, and cameras to snap photos.

They formed a line that snaked down the north dome of the Joyce Center, around the concourse, and past the basketball office in the south dome, to get autographs.

They showed up more than 1,200 strong, forcing a move from Purcell Pavilion to the north dome.

Notre Dame women’s basketball fans showed up in record numbers to celebrate a remarkable season, and bid farewell to seniors Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner at the Fighting Irish women’s basketball banquet on Tuesday night.

From Sean Farrell: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: A Season In Review

With the selection of Kayla Alexander in the WNBA Draft last week, the women’s basketball season officially came to a close. Between a 24-8 record, an appearance in the Big East semifinals and the NCAA Tournament, it was arguably the most successful season in Quentin Hillsman’s seven years at Syracuse.

From jords: Kentucky Women’s Basketball 2012-13: Year In Review

Congrats: Schimmel Sisters, Angel Goodrich Win Prestigious NABI Honor

Angel Goodrich, Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) alumnus who recently was selected by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, only the second Native player to be drafted into the league, and Shoni and Jude Schimmel, the first Native Americans to play in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament championship game, were named the recipients of the 2013 Phil Homeratha Leadership Award. The award, named after the late Haskell Indian Nations University women’s basketball coach, Phil Homeratha, will be presented during the NABI Championship games taking place at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday, July 21.

Cool: Roonie Scovel Talks About Seeing Former Player Drafted by WNBA

Podcast: Brenda & Mechelle:  WSC Radio Show: April 19, 2013: The end of the NCAA basketball season, the WNBA Draft and more

A blog entry from Elena: A little girl’s dreams realized

My days leading up to the draft were spent with 11 other rookies going to meetings to help ease the transition into the professional sports world. Rookie orientation was only three days long and as you can imagine, there is a lot of information that can be helpful in preparing to enter the WNBA. So, because of the short time period, we had to fit a lot of meetings into those three days. Because I was so busy focusing on the tips and information I was being presented with, I barely had time to focus on the fact that I was just days away from one I had dreamt of for as long as I could remember. Playing professional basketball was a lifelong dream and I was lucky enough that, due to the fact that the league existed for most of my life, this was a realistic dream.

From Full Court: Making sense of the Mystics’ Meesseman mystery pick

From the Pittsburgh Courier: Brittney Griner is Gay — Can the WNBA finally move on?

Last Wednesday during a press conference the #1 Draft pick in the WNBA, Brittney Griner did the unspeakable. She casually, matter of factly and openly came out as gay in her first press conference as a professional basketball player.

Griner enters the WNBA as one of the most successful college basketball players (male or female) ever, and she will do wonders for the Phoenix Mercury as a low post defensive stopper. However, what is more important than her play on the court is that her openness about her sexuality shows that as a league and a business the WNBA has finally grown up. Griner’s admission shows that the WNBA is no longer obsessed with finding that “crossover” star to “save” the league and might actually get back to the business of promoting good basketball.

More: Brittney Griner discusses being gay

From Kate Fagan: What does it mean to be an openly gay athlete?

From Jemelle Hill: Brittney Griner’s inspiring message

From LZ Granderson: No perfect time- Society’s not waiting for NFL to be fully prepared for an out player

From AZ Central: WNBA is fine with gay athletes such as Brittney Griner; why can’t men’s major pro sports seem to handle it?

From Fox Sports Arizona: Mercury embrace Griner as player, person

From Outsports: Podcast: Brittney Griner comes out to little fanfare

From HoopFeed: Before Brittney: Emily Nkosi talks about Griner and life since leaving Baylor after coming out

Will her play translate into the W season? WNBL grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin has re-signed with the Bendigo Bank Spirit for next season.

Movie time! Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt’s life, career chronicled

Pat Summitt smiled, laughed and shook her head at times.

The Hall of Fame coach, who has early onset dementia, was part of the audience watching a screening of a documentary about her career. “Pat XO.”

“It’s a wonderful film and they did a great job with it,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “It was really incredible to see all those people share their stories.”

Four losses:

Hall of Fame Clemson women’s basketball coach Tribble dies at age 80

Hall of Fame coach Sheridan dies: Shadle Park great won five state volleyball titles, two state girls basketball titles with Highlanders

Crash kills former Orange Park women’s basketball star, Alicia Gladden

Godwin Heights mourns girls basketball player who collapsed, died during practice

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NOW where is she going…

So glad you asked!

Now that we’ve hit the lull between the end of the college season/WNBA draft and the start of the WNBA season — a time I like to call SPRING MIGRATION, WHOOOP! — I’m off for a weekend of birding in lovely Key West, Florida.

Well, to be more specific, I’ll be on a boat putt-putting around the Dry Tortugas.

I’m likely to see the Brown Booby (I kid you not. Clearly, teenage boys were involved in the bird naming process back in the day) and, if I’m lucky, a Red Footed Booby (yes, they have red feet.). If I’m WICKED lucky, I’ll see a White-Tailed Tropicbird.

It’s likely I’ll be internets-free — shocking, I know — so I’ve asked the basketball gods to keep it down for a few days.

Back on Tuesday!

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on espnW

Speaking of Chicago, at the Tribune Shannon Ryan thinks Loyola’s rolling dice on Swoopes

Another opening: Buchanan resigns as EIU women’s basketball coach

You stay put (until, perhaps, you get a better offer?): Dayton’s Jabir rewarded with extension and South Carolina, Staley agree to extension

Ouch: Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Loryn Goodwin has left North Texas.

Nate does a little Monday Morning Quarterbacking on himself: 2013 WNBA Draft: Top undrafted prospects

After the past two WNBA drafts I’ve taken stock of some of the top undrafted players. This year, that includes three players we had been following throughout the 2012-13 NCAA season and a third who multiple people considered a first round pick.

At Full Court, Clays says Competence, not controversy, rules WNBA draft and  Mel says Top draft picks ready to become faces of the WNBA

With ESPN being the bridge in many ways through its other properties beyond telecasts that connects the NCAA and the WNBA when it comes to women’s basketball, network headquarters was the appropriate place to originate the highly anticipated draft that was beamed Monday night in a first-ever prime time window.

Draft day PHOTO GALLERY

Beginning last fall with its “Three to See” promotion focusing on collegiate superstars Brittney Griner of Baylor, Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, and Skylar Digggins of Notre Dame, ESPN kept the spotlight on the trio throughout the collegiate season and then transitioned the focus here on draft night with the correct assumption that the trio would be off the plate after the Phoenix Mercury, Chicago Sky, and Tulsa Shock made their picks at the top of selections in that order.

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And the children shall lead them…

Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins discuss sports and sexuality

SI Video host Maggie Gray: “Another big topic in sports recently is sexuality, especially with the NFL. In football it was rumored that maybe one or more players were going to come out–that would become huge news in the sports world and in general. In female sports, women’s sports, in the WNBA, players have already come out, and it’s really accepted. Why is there a difference between men and women in that issue?”

Brittney Griner: “I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different. Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

Gray: “You’re in a different position where you’re not just a regular person, you’re a famous athlete, you’re the number one pick in the WNBA draft. How difficult was it for you to make the decision?”

Griner: “It really wasn’t too difficult, I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that. I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

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Welcome: Coop introduced at USC

Weclome? I kinda think Missouri State was thinking they’d catch a Kim Barnes Arico, snagging Milleson from DII Drury. Then they felt it hadn’t work out. Maybe she’ll have better luck at George Mason.

Wow: Beth Burns retires from San Diego State?

In a sudden, unexpected, even bizarre announcement, San Diego State women’s basketball coach Beth Burns retired Tuesday, just eight months after signing a five-year contract.

On a better note: Susan Dufrane to be honored by Indiana Basketball HOF

Susan Dufrane can trace girls basketball’s timeline to when there wasn’t a timeline, when fastbreaks were considered unladylike.

“It’s kind of funny when you look back at it,” Dufrane said of a version of girls basketball played back during her youth and maintained in some pockets of the country until the mid 1990s.

“It was called ‘basquette’. You had three girls on offense in the front court, and three girls on defense in the back court,” Dufrane said of a game that resembled a pair of 3-on-3 contests played on opposite sides yet sharing a single ball.

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Kevin McGuff becomes the new women’s basketball coach at Ohio State.

Tell me again why players — who have a year-by-year scholly — have to sit out a year when they transfer and coaches — who often have multi-year contracts — don’t?

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1-3. Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins go 1-2-3

BG: OMG it’s TH! and Teary-eyed Brittney Griner selected No. 1 by Mercury in WNBA draft

EDD: Delle Donne happy to be part of Sky and from Delaware: Delle Donne drafted No. 2; headed to Chicago

SD: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Diggins headed to Tulsa

4Washington Mystics select Tayler Hill with fourth pick

5. Bone Sets Aggie Women’s Basketball History, First Aggie Selected in WNBA First Round

6. Storm selects Tianna Hawkins in WNBA draft

7. Oklahoma State’s Toni Young selected seventh by New York Liberty in WNBA Draft

8. Syracuse women’s basketball star Kayla Alexander picked 8th in WNBA Draft

9. Cal’s Layshia Clarendon selected ninth overall by Indiana Fever in WNBA draft

10Mathies selected 10th in WNBA draft

11. UConn’s Kelly Faris drafted 11th overall by the Connecticut Sun

12Lindsey Moore picked in 12th the WNBA Draft

Who else got picked:

K-State’s Chambers, KU’s Goodrich chosen in WNBA Draft

St. John’s women’s basketball sees first two players selected in WNBA draft in Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith

Lady Lions’ Bentley and Greene Drafted to WNBA

No pressure: What’s next for star trio? Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins must play well, help WNBA continue to grow

Now it’s official: Nothing outlandishly bizarre happened. The 3 To See were the top picks in Monday’s WNBA draft. So let’s examine what lies ahead for Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins.

Is Big Bad Bill back?  Draft grades: Liberty score an A

New York coach/general manager Bill Laimbeer snagged a slice of pizza as he was on his way out after chatting with the media here at the WNBA draft. He passed on the brownies, though. It already had been a sweet-enough night for the Liberty.

Asked if the draft could have gone any better, Laimbeer grinned and said, “No, actually. We came into this draft with certain names on certain spots, and they went exactly as we expected.”

Fagan writes about Bill’s draft picks: Young motivated by late coaches – Forward rededicated self to game after OSU’s Budke, Serna died in a plane crash

“Potential” means you haven’t done anything yet — or so the saying goes.

Toni Young heard it a lot from coach Kurt Budke during her first two seasons at Oklahoma State. “Potential is just what you can be,” Budke would say to Young. Sometimes he might change the phrasing, but the point was always the same: Young had a long way to go.

 Every day, Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna tried to light a fire under the 6-foot-2 forward. They wanted Young to dedicate herself to improvement, instead of just skating by on raw talent, which she had in abundance. “They would tell me all of the time that I could be a great player and play in the WNBA if I just put my effort into it,” Young said Monday night, after the New York Liberty selected her with the seventh pick of the first round in the WNBA draft. “When no one else believed in me, the two of them did.”

Swish Appeal has a Q&A with Brittney Griner on her 2013 WNBA Draft experience

They also offer a little pick-by-pick analysis.

So does the Bleacher Report. They’re also Breaking Down Top Picks That Will Have Biggest Impact

Mechelle takes time to reflect: Before 3 To See, this trio starred – Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo helped pave the way

In the spring of 1997, when they were poised to be “three to see,” the irony was that no one had actually seen them play competitive basketball for a while. All had been on a break from the sport. The pro hoops world that Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo were about to enter was exciting, but uncertain. Would this WNBA thing actually last?

Leap forward to the Twitter generation. The expected top three picks in the WNBA draft — Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins — aren’t going into unchartered territory. The WNBA will start its 17th season in May.

From Chiney: Friendships make women’s basketball special

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SI’s Richard Deitsch, dat is! WNBA Draft gets interesting following top three picks

Mike Thibault sees opportunity where others see misery. The new coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, a franchise with 11 wins over the past two seasons, is confident that the No. 4 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft will produce a quality player.

What it is unlikely to produce is a shot at one of the following players: Brittney Griner, the game-changing 6-foot-8 center from Baylor; Elena Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 forward from Delaware whom many consider a cross between Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi, or Skylar Diggins, the heady and popular Notre Dame point guard who will be a box-office draw for the team that drafts her. That trio of college All-Americas are near-locks for the first three picks for the April 15 WNBA Draft

The Courant’s John Altavilla says, Sun Face Difficult Decisions In Monday’s Draft

Things will be quite different with the Connecticut Sun this season. Not only is there a new coach, Anne Donovan, but a team within one win of playing for the WNBA championship in 2012 will be without pillar Asjha Jones, who is taking the summer off to rest.

“You can’t take a veteran off a team who has been a significant contributor without expecting an adjustment for everyone, in the locker room and on the floor,” Donovan said. “But the positive is we already understand she will not be with us and we know we have to fill the hole. It presents a new opportunity for others to establish themselves. We know what we have and we know what we don’t have.”

From Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press: Tayler Hill expected to be top-10 pick

Tonsillitis slowed Tayler Hill during her senior season at Ohio State, but it won’t be a hindrance on the biggest night of her basketball career. The former Minneapolis South High School guard played the final half of her senior year with strep throat and missed two games to have her tonsils drained.

Hill, who recently had her tonsils removed, is healthy and ready to find out where she will play when the WNBA draft is held Monday, April 15.

Gina Mizell thinks Several former Oklahoma high school standouts could hear name called

Dawn Lee Wakefield notes: Kelsey Bone among 12 candidates in historic first live WNBA draft broadcast

Nate wonders: Who’s the best center prospect after Brittney Griner?

Part of the reason I like keeping track of draft prospect statistics, both before and after they’ve played a year in the league, is because it helps to really put in perspective just how good WNBA stars were in college.

They’re not only the elite or All-American caliber players but the most efficient and productive players in the nation.

And that helps to put both the hype and reality of Brittney Griner into perspective. But it also helps to demonstrate just how strong this year’s group of centers could be: there are three centers not named Griner who also appear on first round mock drafts and the stats suggest that at least two of those “other” centers could end up being better than any of those drafted last year. Digging back further – and taking Liz Cambage’s two year absence from the league after her rookie season into account – this year’s group has a chance to become the best overall in a number of years in terms of the number of players that actually make a roster.

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At espnW (Hey, I gotta ask, do boys suffer from “stress sweat”?): Clarendon leaves leadership legacy – Cal’s success raises stock of WNBA draft hopeful

Layshia Clarendon watched intently as an inexperienced teammate dribbled the ball off her foot and out of bounds.

Sensing her frustration, Clarendon retrieved the orange and white basketball, offered an encouraging pat on the back and applauded loudly. The next time through, her teammate didn’t bobble even a single dribble.

This didn’t happen to one of Clarendon’s California teammates at this year’s Final Four in New Orleans, but rather to a young girl, no older than 4, at the WNBA’s annual pre-draft fitness day youth clinic Sunday at ESPN’s KidsCenter.

Two radically different venues, but with the same comfortable leader.

A little video preview of the draft with Swin. And, of course, there has to be a preview of the Best of the Rest.

A little W stuff:

From Ned at The Day: Donovan makes her transition to the Sun

On the West Coast, Jayda notes: Seattle Storm enters training camp with major roster issues

A couple of piece from the Courier Journal: Program-defining upset for Louisville women’s basketball: They’ll always have Baylor and What will Louisville women’s basketball team do for an encore? Outgrow Cinderella’s slipper

On paper it looks like a team that could make another Final Four trip.

“I’m really excited about that, but I’ve got to make sure my players understand that we just went on a pretty special run,” Walz said. “And if you’re going to sit here and think the same thing is going to happen without going back to work and getting better individually, it’s not going to happen.

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From the .com, where they continue the “Three to See” theme, they also have have Prospect Files and Q&As:

Bone:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
I knew I wanted to play professional basketball when I watched the Houston Comets win four consecutive championships, and I was at all four of them. I knew I had a legitimate shot at being a professional when I went overseas for the first time to France and played international basketball at the age of 16. I played against superior talent and several of the players from foreign countries were going pro. I was able to do well in that environment and realized that I could play this game professionally.

Delle Donne:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
Defending the guard spot. I play this spot on offense and need to be able to defend this spot on the defensive end.

Faris:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
With each new level the competition gets tougher and tougher. Players become smarter and stronger than they were in college. Just as I learned when I got to college, I will have to learn to adjust again in the WNBA.

Hawkins:

What strengths, qualities or skills will be able to bring to a WNBA team?
Relentless rebounding ability; the ability to run the floor, the ability to shoot the midrange to 3-point range.

Rogers:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
When I won Rookie of the Year for the Big East and I was sitting on that podium with soon to be professional players Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Young:

When were you introduced to the game of basketball?
Sophomore year in high school

Sue and Richard l’Alien speak in Mike Peden’s: After top three, WNBA Draft a top-heavy toss up

“Previous drafts show that (Pokey) Chatman and Chicago have been influenced by NCAA tournaments,” Cohen said. “Chatman is very hands on and picky with the way her guards play, seeing as Vandersloot has had her growing pains.”

However, the Sky suffered migraines after Epiphanny Prince was sidelined with a broken foot. Without her offense, opponents harassed Fowles, quashing a promising start to knock Chicago out of playoff contention.

“Delle Donne is so skilled. She represents the type of player you have to be now,” Favor said. “She has the greatest potential to succeed.”

The Hartford Courant adds: Top 3 Picks Predictable, So Suspense Starts With No. 4

There is a running joke about Monday’s 2013 WNBA Draft. It’s the one about the how one draft can suddenly resemble two.

“The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft,” said Mike Thibault, the coach and GM of theWashington Mystics and owner of the fourth selection. “I tried to come up with creative ways to get one of the three, but none of it worked.”

Mike Brown at the Tulsa World is thinking: Shock could land Skylar Diggins in Monday’s WNBA draft

Nate reminds folks that Tianna Hawkins leads this year’s group of scoring interior forwards

Roger Cleaveland at the Republican-American warns: Sun not in position to draft impact player

From Virginia’s Daily Press, David Teel has Suffolk product Sugar Rodgers awaits Monday’s WNBA draft

Sugar Rodgers set Georgetown career records for points and steals. She was the nation’s No. 4 scorer this season and exited the college game with a 42-point epic in the Big East tournament.

So it’s no surprise to hear Mike Thibault, the Washington Mystics‘ coach and general manager, say Rodgers is among the top four perimeter players available in Monday’s WNBA draft. And it’s no surprise to read mock drafts — yes, such shenanigans have trickled down to professional women’s basketball — that project Rodgers as a top-10 lock, a perhaps a top-five selection.

Yet Thibault, whose team owns the No. 4 pick, has some reservations about Rodgers, a 5-foot-11 guard from Suffolk’s King’s Fork High.

The writer who makes me wish I were an Ohio State fan wonders: Ex-Buckeye Hill should go early, but to which team?

“She is not afraid,” said Laimbeer, who has the fifth and seventh first-round picks. “I think that’s the thing. She will attack the basket at will and can get to the free-throw line. She creates contact. Those are good characteristics to get to the next level. We’ve definitely eyeballed her.”

Speaking of Ohio State, the job that no one seems to want (According to a message from Wendy Parker on Mike Flynn’s Twitter page, Jeff Walz said this about the Ohio State job rumors: “The only person who has offered me a job job is Geno at his restaurant.”), here’s something on the Search for the Next OSU Women’s Basketball Coach: A Progress Report

Some interesting discussion of skill building in the women’s game: Nebraska’s Connie Yori: Game is ‘overcoached, undertaught’

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Connie Yori recalls a telling conversation with a seventh-grade girl who was on hand for one of Yori’s camps a few summers ago.

Yori told the girl that she hopes the camp is a good experience for her, and that she learns a lot.

“She said, ‘I played 100 games this summer,'” Yori said. “In other words, she thought she really didn’t need to work on her (individual) skills. Here’s a kid playing all these games and basically thinking she has it all figured out.”

Perhaps what Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles says about youth boys basketball — that it has become game-heavy and skill-light — also applies to the girls game.

Said Yori: “I’m not saying this about all kids, but there are some kids who are just not working on their individual skills enough. So, therefore, it isn’t as commonplace for people to make open shots.”

And finally, who says players are the only ones who can do videos? Check out this rockin’ ‘tube by the Trainers. (I mean, ATHLETIC Trainers – get it right, get it right).

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Well, before everybody starts complaining about how UConn’s dominance is bad for the game (I’m doing a private countdown), let’s address the fact that, for some folks, we’re already at the “Is this as good as it gets” stage: Women’s college basketball plateaus

Back in 1995, when Connecticut won its first NCAA championship in women’s basketball, the sport seemed ready to explode.

The attention Rebecca Lobo, Jen Rizzotti and the rest of the Huskies received from the adoring media, especially in the New York City area, helped fuel a “Year of the Woman” campaign for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and the birth of the WNBA a year later.

Title IX triumphs!

But as the confetti fell on UConn’s eighth title team Tuesday night in the New Orleans Arena, there was the general feeling that women’s basketball, both on and off the court has plateaued.

I’m always amused by folks who think women’s basketball will grow in an uninterrupted line upwards, or that somehow “social agendas” — read “empowering women,” “fighting sexism,” “fighting homophobia,” “advocating for equal opportunities” — are hindering the game’s growth. (Is there anything that DOESN’T have a “social agenda”?)

That’s why, while I love the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, it also frustrates the hell out of me. Why?  Because it lays out the history of women’s basketball as if it were a natural, fight-free progression. It was not. And is still not.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: imagine if the small-minded, homophobic and sexist folks hadn’t won the battle to ban girls basketball in the mid ’20’s and 30’s. Consider what was happening at the turn of the century:

When Doctor Naismith joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1898 basketball was generally regarded in Kansas college circles as a woman’s sport. This could scarcely have been surprising to its inventor, for girls had begun playing it in the East when it was barely a month old. Coeds on Mount Oread experimented with it as early as 1896, the Kansas University Weekly reporting on November 21 that the girls had organized several teams and that the freshman and sophomore girls hoped to play a match game. There is no record of this contest, if it was played, but if the young women carried out their plan it probably was the first basketball game on a Kansas campus.

In 1897 their athletic facilities were enlarged. A space was reserved to be used as an athletic field for women and facilities were provided for an open-air basketball court. [2] The women of Baker University first played the game in the spring of 1897, when the contest between the Delta Delta Delta team and one picked from the other girls of the university was a feature of the first spring field day, according to The Baker Orange of May 19. Girls pioneered in basketball at Washburn College, Ottawa University and Emporia Normal, as well as at K.U. and Baker. TheWashburn Weekly Review announced on November 3, 1898, that “we may expect our young ladies to issue a challenge to some of the neighboring schools for a basketball game before long,” and reported a week later that they were learning the fine points of the new pastime at the Y.W.C.A. gymnasium in Topeka.

Heck, what might have happened if THIS sentiment had prevailed in the men’s game:

Veteran basketball men say that one factor that prevented basketball from becoming a major sport during the first decade of its existence as a Kansas college game was that men students regarded the game as effeminate.

Where would our game be if it had grown in lock-step with the men’s game? Yes, it probably would look different on the court — sort of how men’s gymnastics is different than women’s gymnastics — BUT off the court?:

  • Perhaps the fan bases would grow at an equal level (’cause, back in the day, they were huge for both girls and boys teams).
  • Perhaps coaches would have been equally paid and respected. For instance, maybe a reporter would be asking, “Would Coach Mike Krzyzewski have been successful coaching in the women’s game?”
  • Perhaps college athletic scholarships, offered to men as early as the 1870’s, would have also been offered women, as opposed to having to be legislated. ‘Cause, as we know, even legislation, most universities are still not in compliance.
  • Perhaps the homophobic bullying tossed at women’s basketball players would be called out/challenged directly by coaches, parents and the media and called out for the hate speech it is. Perhaps, then, Kim Mulkey would not feel the ned to play the ostrich, but be a leader amongst coaches who say “Enough is enough.”

I’m not offering the above “what ifs” as an excuse, but as an example of how things ain’t so simple and/or cut and dried when it comes to women’s athletics. Knowing history is essential to making progress.

So, I look forward to reading Val Ackerman’s “White Paper,” in which, she will present her findings on her “comprehensive assessment of the current state of intercollegiate women’s basketball” and present “her conclusions and recommendations about how best to position and manage the sport.”

  • Revenue generation
  • Marketing and television strategies
  • Image and branding
  • Youth/grass-roots tie-ins
  • Cost structures
  • Scheduling
  • Governance/management
  • Championships

The above points of focus center on topics one might call “hard skills” involving money, tactics and personnel, which is essential to developing strategic plans for growing the game. That is, IF the NCAA actually has the will (and personel) to take action. There have been earlier studies on improving all of the above — with grants given out by the NCAA in 2010 — but for some reason (yes, I can think of some) schools seemed unwilling to adopt identified “Best Practices.” And there was nothing the NCAA could do about making them because universities are independent beings. (Sound familiar, WNBA?)

I’m going to guess that Val’s paper will NOT address “political” issues such as university funding of sports or homophobia within and without the sports. That being said, there does seem to be a sea change happening (and a corresponding backlash – did you see this reaction to the firing of Rice?), primarily led by student-athletes.

Recall this from 2012: Athlete Ally: Hudson Taylor tackles homophobia

The gay jokes. The homophobic slurs, those comments uttered so habitually on the practice mats that no one stops to notice what they actually mean or whom they hurt. They stung Hudson Taylor.

Wear an equal rights sticker on your helmet during a match and we’ll have a hard time cheering for you, some of his Maryland teammates warned. Their words clawed at Taylor, tore at him the way their words tore at so many athletes never bold enough to speak out before. He wondered if by taking this stance he was actually hindering his cause, if his teammates were becoming more homophobic simply because he asked them not to be.

“Sometimes, 18- to 22-year-old young men don’t realize how much an impact their words have,” said Maryland wrestling coach Kerry McCoy. “Hudson brought that issue to the forefront for our team.”

Yes, I wish coaches would speak out more. But, I do understand the fear factor: did you see this from The Tucker Center?  Examining Online Intercollegiate Head Coaches’ Biographies: Reproducing or Challenging Heteronormativity and Heterosexism? Writes Pat Griffin:

Let’s look at the decision whether or not to include a description of one’s family in a professional bio through the lens of heterosexism.  For a heterosexual married coach or athletic administrator, this decision is relatively minor.  Being heterosexual and married with children is what is expected and accepted. Heterosexuals freely share this information in a million little ways every day: wearing a wedding ring, placing family photos on a desk in the office, having casual conversations with colleagues about family, bringing family to department social and sports events. Why wouldn’t she or he want to include this information in a bio? There is no real down side to providing information about a heterosexual spouse and children. To the contrary, in a sports world where many high school recruits and their parents, athletic directors or the general public still view non-heterosexuals in negative ways, this “evidence” of heterosexuality can be read as a big plus, whether intended as such or not: The coach is not gay! 
Through the same lens of heterosexism, the factors affecting the decision of lesbian, gay or bisexual coaches in same-sex relationships to include their family information in a professional bio are quite different from those of their heterosexual colleagues.  Their decision is a big deal in ways that it is not for heterosexual coaches.  Here is why – Lesbian, bisexual and gay coaches carefully consider this decision because it can open the coach to professional and personal risk in a world where heterosexism is the norm.  Only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. There are no federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Many coaches work in schools that do not even have institutional non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation or gender identity. As a consequence, most lesbian, bisexual and gay coaches have no legal protection against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

So, maybe the tipping point will be led outside of the college arena. How can you not draw hope from this?

NHL, Players Union Launch Initiative To Battle Homophobia

The National Hockey League and its players union launched an initiative today that it hopes will stamp out homophobia from the game.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tells our Newscast unit that the partnership with You Can Play is intended to send a message that everyone is welcome in the NHL as a player or a fan.

“This is really about celebrating diversity, whether or not it’s your national origin, the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, and making you feel comfortable that whoever you are you can have a place you can play,” Bettman said.

And while there is this (NFL More Homophobic Than Ever, Asking Prospects If They’re Gay and The NFL Sets the Standard for Homophobia) there is also this and this Donté Stallworth, Wide Receiver, Joins Group Fighting Homophobia In Sports

“I think it’s important for us as professional athletes not only to set the tone in our own respective fields, but also for the kids who are watching our programs or our sports,” he said. “If you isolate a child and teach them hate, hate, hate, that’s the way they’re going to grow up. … And unfortunately, that’s the environment that I grew up in. There was a lot of disrespect for gays. I unfortunately was a part of that. But as I got older, I became more ashamed of that and more open to rights for all.”

Yes, I see women’s basketball as being more than “just basketball.” I can enjoy the game for the game’s sake — niche sport or not. But I also enjoy the fact that it can have a bigger role: It can challenge our preconceived notions and push us to consider our conscious (and unconscious) biases about the “natural state” of the world around us. Why would anyone want to shy away from do that?

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From Jere’ at the New York Times: W.N.B.A. Hopes Griner Can Change Perceptions, As Well as Game Itself

Another question is whether Griner will become as transformative off the court as she has been on the court.

Even before she plays her first game, her influence has been significant. A decade ago, W.N.B.A. officials might have been reluctant to celebrate as a standard-bearer of the league someone who did not conform to conventional standards of femininity, said Mary Jo Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.

“You cannot ignore her athleticism, and the W.N.B.A. has not tried to isolate or marginalize Griner,” Kane said.

“That is a rather remarkable and fundamental shift.”

Yes, says Jayda, Griner is going No. 1, but another Texas-based player is excited for the future of the league:

“The exposure that our game on the collegiate level has gotten has done really good things to our game as a whole,” said Kelsey Bone, a Texas A&M center who’s expected to be a top-five pick. “The notoriety that’s coming into this league, when you talk about the day and age of modern technology, will give the WNBA a chance to put the game on another level nationally.”

Based on league history, however, perhaps “Wait and See” would be a better tag.

I’l agree — for the moment, ’cause I want to see the advertisements that support the phrase. Too often it seems the league plays it safe and won’t take risks — as if it’s not actually confident in the product it’s marketing. In fact, in the past, it’s been the merchandise endorsement folks who’ve had the most memorable WNBA ads.

Who can forget the classic Nike Little Rascals, who combined humor, sass and a knowledge of the game.

“Coop needs to know.”

“Pumps are for EX-players.”

“Momma can’t help your jump shot.”

Remember the ads that assumed the audience’s knowledge of a player’s on-court skill.

There was  Sue Bird’s American Express commercial?

How about Taurasi for 8 O’Clock Coffee?

Here’s my suggestion: reunite the original rascals — or pick a new smarty-pants trio — and craft 15 seconds of brilliance that highlights the current and incoming players skills and personality. For instance:

(At a restaurant, where she leans over to hand someone a napkin they dropped. Three teenagers, in WNBA jerseys, look at her. Says one:) Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever. Five time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award. People say you’re nice. Elena’s nice, too. But her game is nasty. You should studying game tape, not menus. Here are some notes on her game. You better get ready. Or you can wait and see.”

Or how about this for a promo?

(Voice over) Who’s got next?
*Show a Leslie dunk*
(A different voice over) No, who’s got next?
*Show a Parker dunk*
(A different voice over) Nooo, I wanna know, who’s got next?
*Show a Griner dunk*
(Shared amongst the three voices) Oh, yeah — I know, and I’ve got my season tickets. I can’t wait and to see it — live.
*montage of great plays*

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draftees have a better chance to surprise this year.

Mechelle says the WNBA draft hinges on the No. 4 pick

Last September when the WNBA draft lottery was held, Washington president/managing partner Sheila Johnson couldn’t hide the look of frozen horror when the Mystics got the No. 4 pick. Fourth was the “tough-luck” spot in a draft where there were perceived to be three prizes.

Washington’s woes were not Mike Thibault’s worry that day. He was still coach of Connecticut and focused on the playoffs. But almost seven months later, the No. 4 pick doesn’t look as bleak as it did last fall, and now it’s Thibault’s choice to make.

Remember when Swish Appeal set up their 13 to Watch? Now Nate offers up A preliminary draft board for the 2013 WNBA Draft

Last year, I posted an essay about the evaluation of draft prospects in terms of minimizing risk, drawing from principles outlined in the widely-read book Moneyball. Since then, I’ve set out to see if there are tangible ways to weigh a prospect’s value by their level of risk relative to past prospects based upon a set of red flags and similarity ratings. The following is a partial draft board based what I’ve been able to put together.

From the Des Moines Register: Iowa State’s Prins, Poppens bullish on WNBA teams’ interest

From the Daily Princetonian: Rasheed looks to go pro after Princeton

From the Bleacher Report: WNBA Draft Order 2013: Teams in Best Position to Acquire Elite Talent

Here’s the espnW’s first-round mock draft

Full Court offers up their WNBA 2013 draft preview: One, two, three, and then…

Some interesting dribs and drabs on the college season:

From Zach Neiner at Penn State: Breaking the stigma of women’s basketball

In December 2011, I sat in the Ernie Davis dining hall at Syracuse University with a friend watching, for a moment, Syracuse battle West Virginia in an empty Carrier Dome.

We made jokes about the game, itself, and attendance. Before this school year, I carried the same stigma as most do toward women’s basketball.

“Women’s basketball?” we thought. “What’s that? It’s certainly no men’s basketball.”

A lot has changed since that day.

For more than six months, I have covered women’s basketball, quickly learning to admire the beauty, the athleticism and the competition of the game. And how can one not?

From Fort Myers: FGCU ready to move on after disappointing end to season

Sharing the same facilities every day at a small school, the Florida Gulf Coast Universitymen’s and women’s basketball teams also share a close bond.

So it’s not that the women weren’t happy when the men, whom they consider brothers, made a historic run in the NCAA tournament last month. It’s just that seeing the program achieve unprecedented success was bittersweet after the women’s own promising season ended in disappointment.

From the AP’s Gary Graves: Louisville expects to grow from title-game loss

Add Lee Michaelson: For Louisville, season may be over but the magic lives on

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by folks who used to play against each other in the W.

At Pitt, they’ve chosen Suzie McConnell-Serio.

At Loyola, they’ve chosen Sheryl Swoopes.

Kellie didn’t have to wait long: Missouri State hires Kellie Harper as new women’s basketball coach

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(Well, yes, I AM back writing again, but again, this ain’t about me.)

From Sherri Coale: As Good as it Gets

The membrane was just too thin. The stories were everywhere, and they were great stories. I just couldn’t tell them. Not while they were happening anyway. I was afraid if I wrote, I’d prick what little protective covering we had left and we’d leak all around the room in a form too liquid to pick up. So I just trudged on trying not to think too much about any of it. “Right foot. Left foot. Breathe…” I just woke up every day and followed that drumbeat over the mountain and through the woods of this season.

And we wound up here in the land of as good as it gets.

In W news, this is encouraging: Penny Taylor’s Journey Back

In other W news, this is not surprising: Liz Cambage not returning to Shock

Which leads to this piece: Likely top WNBA draft picks discuss playing in Tulsa

Are ya wondering who’s going to be at Bristol Draft Day? 

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(Well, yes, I am actually BACK home, but this ain’t about me.)

Cynthia Cooper continues her bouncy coaching journey and lands at USC.

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— or perhaps, even expected — but let us not forget the AMAZING run the Louisville Cardinals had this tournament. And yes, as Auriemma said, every program should use that run as inspiration for a “Why not us?” run.

Unfortunately, if the play of Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Tuck is any indication of UConn’s future, the answer to what question may be, “Because UConn is dominating again.”

From the professionals:

Rich Elliott: Championship a dream come true for Huskies, Post
Kevin Duffy: No. 8 for Geno a ‘team title’, Post
Kevin Duffy: 5 quick thoughts on UConn’s rout, Post
UConn’s Final Four Most Outstanding Players, Post
UConn in NCAA championship games, Post
Most points in women’s Final Four, Post

Eight Expectations: Huskies Top Louisville 93-60 For National Championship, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn’s Greatness Arrives Earlier Than Expected, Courant

Each of UConn’s championships has taken on its own characteristics, of course, and this one is unique in the way a young team regathered, recalibrated in the final weeks and closed so fast, so furiously, on brilliance. This was supposed to be Baylor’s season again. Brittney Griner was supposed tower over the game a final time. Thanks to Louisville’s colossal upset in the Sweet Sixteen, it didn’t happen.

And thanks to a magnificent, young group led by Breanna Stewart, the first freshman to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player since Tonya Edwards of Tennessee in 1987, it did happen for UConn.

After Tuesday, It’s All Over For Faris, Doty, Buck, Courant
A Look At UConn’s Eight National Championships, Courant
Our View: Huskies Reach The Summit, Courant
Bob Englehart: CONGRATULATIONS, UCONN … AGAIN!, Courant
Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Louisville For National Championship, Courant

Great Eight, JI
Huskies defeat Louisville to win eighth national title, tying Tennessee for women’s record, Register
Friendly rivals Bria Hartley and Bria Smith square off in title game, Register
Photos: Counting the Crowns – UConn Women’s Basketball, Register
Fans gather in Storrs in anticipation of eighth national title, Register
Huskies cruise to eighth NCAA women’s championship, Day
Mike DiMauro: Annie was looking down on this night, Day

Confetti rained on them from what felt like the heavens Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena, showering the UConn women with trimmings befitting a national champion.

Only this time, a piece just might have actually come from heaven.

It would have come from Ann Miller.

Ann, who made the UConn women one of her passions, died early Monday morning after a long battle with cancer. She fought to stay alive long enough for her Huskies to beat Notre Dame the other night at the Final Four.

“Just an update. Ann is comfortable,” Sandy Brouwer wrote Sunday night on Miller’s Facebook page, awash in tributes now. “She is unable to be awake now but I have the UConn game on for her so maybe she can hear it. I truly believe she has held on until game night. Hopefully peace tonight. Thanks everyone for all the kind thoughts and words. Ann was able to read or hear most of them.”

UConn women defeat Louisville, tie Tennessee for most national titles, Daily Campus
Three-point shooting propels UConn over Louisville, Daily Campus
It’s not about how, but when, Daily Campus
UConn win resonates with fans back home, AP article from SI
Breanna Stewart finds her footing, leads UConn to eighth title, SI
UConn leaves Big East on top but still left behind, USA Today
NCAA women’s basketball championship: Stewart, Connecticut show their title mettle, Washington Post

The University of Connecticut Huskies simply do everything harder. When they hit you, someone winds up flat out on the floor holding their mouth, and when they run, the score gets out of hand fast, and when they get anywhere near a national championship trophy, they just reach out and grab it.

U-Conn. does things different — and better — on a consistent basis than every other team in the country. You could see that in every single detail of their play as they demolished Louisville in the NCAA women’s basketball final at New Orleans Arena, 93-60.

Three keys to UConn’s 93-60 victory over Louisville in national title game, Times-Picayune
UConn’s dominant NCAA Tournament run continues in championship victory against Louisville, Times-Picayune
UConn senior Kelly Faris ends her college career with a national title, Times-Picayune

Louisville coach Jeff Walz cited Faris’ explosiveness as a main reason for UConn putting the dagger in the Cardinals on Tuesday.

She converted two devastating 3-pointers that Walz admired after the game.

“Kelly Faris was great for them,” Walz said. “She might not always be the high scorer, but just how hard she plays … she counters any kind of run we were trying to make with back to back 3s.

Deflating loss won’t diminish the magical run the Louisville Cardinals made to the national championship game, Times-Picayune

They were indeed the giant killers and quintessential Cinderellas of this year’s tournament. The Cardinals knocked off No.1 Baylor in the Sweet 16, No. 2 Tennessee in the regional finals and No.2 Cal in the national semifinals en route to becoming the first fifth seed to make it to the national championship game.

So with that thought Slaughter fought back her tears as she considered what ultimately went wrong Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena.

“Personally I think my teammates fought the hardest but we just came up short tonight,” Slaughter said. “We are not going to hang our heads. We did the unthinkable.”

Mechelle Voepel: UConn once again last team standing, ESPN

To understand just how great eight was for the victorious Connecticut women’s basketball team Tuesday night, let’s go back to how it began here in the Crescent City 22 years ago. Geno Auriemma was still kind of an “upstart” coach then, trying to establish UConn as a factor on the national scene.

Well, at least the Final Four part started in New Orleans. It was Auriemma’s sixth year coaching in Storrs, Conn., and the Huskies had broken through to the season’s last weekend in 1991. They played Virginia, for which Auriemma had previously been an assistant coach, and lost in the semifinals.

“We almost carried ourselves like & we didn’t belong here,” Auriemma said. “When we left and we didn’t win, I thought, ‘What if we never go back?'”

UConn’s Stewart lives up to hype, ESPN
Kelly Faris makes championship exit, ESPN

On this night, after UConn’s historic win, the two guards had only a moment together before the rest of the Huskies found Moore, too. And at one point during the celebration, Moore was surrounded by Faris, sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and assistant coach Shea Ralph, who won an NCAA title with the Huskies in 2000. Freeze-frame that moment, and there are multiple generations of Huskies, a lineage of greatness. And if you zoom in, you’ll see Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, wearing oversized “2013 NCAA champs” T-shirts, sweat dried.

In a way, Moore turned over the team to Faris two years ago. And on Tuesday night, Faris did the same with Mosqueda-Lewis. The two players were standing shoulder to shoulder on the sideline as they waited out the last seconds of the game.

Auriemma, UConn blast into record book, NCAA.com

An 8th National Title, Built on Spirit, Not Stars, New York Times

Faris became the epitome of UConn’s resolve. Given her hustle and resourcefulness, Faris would never have a bad game, Auriemma often said. And she seldom did, always assigned to guard the opponent’s top scorer, succeeding with fundamental brilliance — a rebound, a steal, a defensive stop. Just as she muzzled Skylar Diggins on Sunday, Faris held Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel to 3-of-15 shooting in the championship game. And she hit four 3-pointers of her own.

“Will she leave as one of my favorite players?” Auriemma said. “Absolutely. They’re never going to introduce her as, ‘That was Kelly Faris, she was a great passer or a great shooter or a great ball-handler.’ Kelly is great at putting you in position to win. That’s what she’s great at.”

An Appreciation of Perseverance, New York Times

As often is the case in the separate but parallel worlds of the men’s and women’s Final Fours, the female experience is demonstrably understated. A lasting memory of the men’s tournament will surely be Kevin Ware cutting down the final threads Monday night for the Louisville players he inspired after sustaining a gruesome leg injury against Duke.

After three operations on her left knee, Doty knows what Ware has experienced and then some, just not as graphically or publicly.

From Swish Appeal: UConn’s eighth national championship could be dawn of a new era of dominance
Stewart guides Huskies to 8th National Championship, Full Court

Louisville women’s basketball falls to UConn 93-60 in National Championship game, Louisville Courier Journal
Tim Sullivan | Success is nice, but Louisville women’s basketball still has work to do, Louisville Courier Journal

There’s a scene in “Independence Day,” in which Will Smith finds himself at the controls of an alien spacecraft.

Its power and maneuverability are so advanced that the veteran pilot carries on like a child on a theme park thrill ride.

“I have GOT to get me one of these,” he says.

Jeff Walz must have had that same sensation Tuesday night.

UConn 93, Louisville 60 | Huskies snuff out the Schimmel spark, Louisville Courier Journal
Cards’ run still great, even in defeat, ESPN

After the United States men’s hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice,” it still had to beat Finland for the gold medal. It did not, however, have to turn around and beat the Soviets a second time.

One giant too many left Louisville one win short of the greatest run in the history of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

Or maybe Louisville’s 93-60 loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night simply ended that run without damaging it so very much. Maybe even the most lopsided result in championship game history can’t dull the shine on what preceded it.

Nate talks about 2013 WNBA Draft prospects at the Final Four: Layshia Clarendon, Kelly Faris, and Skylar Diggins

Cal’s Layshia Clarendon, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, and UConn’s Kelly Faris are not the guaranteed, immediate WNBA superstars that Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne project to be, but there is a reason all three played in the Final Four, and each should be a 1st Round pick in the up-coming WNBA Draft.

Is it November yet? Mechelle offers up the Top five contenders for 2013-14

• Don’t think Notre Dame and Baylor, despite big senior losses, are just going away. Although they have to replace Skylar Diggins at point guard, the Irish bring back four starters. Baylor loses four starters, but the Lady Bears do have their All-American point guard back in Sims.

• The ACC should be mighty interesting next season, with Notre Dame joining the mix and a freshman class at North Carolina that’s projected to be the nation’s best.

• Who’s the favorite in the Big 12 after two seasons of Baylor running the table in the conference? Probably Oklahoma, led by Aaryn Ellenberg.

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coach Hatchell and player/coach Staley: Naismith Hall of Famers.

Congrats to McGraw, Griner and Warlick: Award winners.

About that basketball game tonight:

Sally’s here! Louisville women’s basketball might have one more stone for its slingshot

Louisville women’s basketball Coach Jeff Walz babbles with a rapid-fire stutter and promises to blaze away from the three-point line. His star player, Shoni Schimmel, is a round cherry bomb of a kid, with her bright red uniform and explosive, shredding play. Do the Cardinals have no sense of gravity nor decorum at this women’s NCAA Final Four? Apparently not. “Why not go out with a bang?” Schimmel said.

Rachel Whittaker at the Times-Picayune: Three keys to victory in Tuesday’s women’s basketball national championship

Swish Appeal offers Louisville help Finding the ‘perfect’ gameplan to beat UConn in the 2013 National Championship

And a ton of other stuff (thanks Nan!)

UConn one step from eighth national title, Post
UConn women’s game day: Tuesday vs. Louisville, Post
UConn vs. Louisville: Who has the edge?, Post
ESPN analyst Lobo breaks down UConn-Louisville, Post
Auriemma, Huskies, See UConn’s Eighth Title Ready For The Taking, Courant
National Championship Game: Louisville Vs. UConn, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Auriemma And Walz? Wiseguys, But Good Fellows, Courant
Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame, Register
UConn vs. Louisville gameday capsule, Register
Huskies want title for senior trio, Hour
NCAA Women’s Championship Game Preview Capsule, Hour

Dolson playing through pain in UConn’s quest for the title, Daily Campus
The different worlds of Walz and Auriemma, Daily Campus
Louisville’s Jeff Walz on how to beat UConn, Daily Campus
Louisville squads bond over dual title opportunity, Daily Campus

Hartley, UConn Head To The Finals, Deer Park-North Babylon Patch
Full Interview: Breanna Stewart’s high school coach talks about former player’s success at UConn, CNY Central
Greg Stokes’ daughter Kiah reaches NCAA title game for UConn, Des Moines Register
Better than the sum of the parts, NCAA.com

Overheard in New Orleans, ESPN

Who will hoist the NCAA trophy?, ESPN
Admiration, comedy between rival women’s title game coaches, New Orleans Times Picayune
2013 Women’s Final Four championship breakdown, Louisville vs. UConn, New Orleans Times Picayune
Expectations not fully met in Women’s Final Four semifinals, New Orleans Times Picayune

Once again, Louisville is the underdog, Full Court
Louisville women plan to pour cold water on UConn’s latest title run, Louisville Courier Journal
UConn’s Auriemma says Huskies didn’t sneak into tournament despite not winning Big East, Louisville Courier Journal

Got this one right — unfortunately, Providence Journal
John Adams: UConn one big victory shy of Lady Vols, Knoxville News Sentinel

About those teams already getting ready for next year: 

It’s official: Clemson hires UAB’s Audra Smith as its new women’s basketball coach 

Audra Smith knows how to succeed as a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She’s eager to do it again as Clemson’s new women’s basketball coach.

Smith, the former Virginia player who spent the past nine years as UAB’s head coach, was hired to take over the Tigers’ struggling program Monday and make an impact in the already tough and soon-to-be beefed up ACC.

It’s optimistic: Moore’s arrival at NC State offers link to successful women’s basketball era under Kay Yow

No one has to tell new coach Wes Moore how important it is for North Carolina State to have a successful women’s basketball program.

Moore spent two years here in the 1990s as an assistant to late Hall of Famer Kay Yow, giving him roots in a tradition-rich program that has fallen off in recent years. It’s his job to build the Wolfpack back up again to a team that routinely finishes in the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference and makes the NCAA tournament.

It’s prophetic?: Cal on map, recognition should follow

It’s historical (and starts out with a huge error, but….) Remembering All American Red Heads, traveling women’s basketball team

 

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From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: Interesting memories of 2009 title game for Monique Reid
and former Husky recruit Hammond has no regrets
and Caroline Doty, Louisville’s Monique Reid brace for national title game

As they prepare to play their final collegiate basketball games when UConn and Louisville square off Tuesday in the national title game at New Orleans Arena, it could quite possibly be the last elite-level basketball contests of their lives.

It won’t be hard to spot the duo. Just keep an eye on the bulky knee braces.

The stories of Doty and Reid are more studies in perseverance or cases of what might have been.

They are both members of a select club where there is no membership fee, and the ability to keep an eye on the prize in the wake of persistent pain is the requirement for inclusion.

and Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame

 

From Kelly at USA Today: Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for Connecticut

From Michael grant at the Courier-Journal: UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women

From John Altavilla, Hartford Courant: When All Is Said And Done, They Are Just Kids and UConn Almost Had Louisville’s Sara Hammond

From Rich Elliot a the Connecticut Post: Dolson Not Looking At Surgery After The Season

From NPR: Leading Ladies: Connecticut, Louisville Set For Championship (I looked, but couldn’t find their article Gracious Gentlemen: Louisville, Michigan Set For Championship.)

From the Times Picayune: UConn a huge hurdle for Louisville to overcome in women’s basketball championship

Mechelle gets Auriemma in one:

Having a team with such outstanding underclass players as freshman Breanna Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suggests that if No. 8 does come Tuesday for UConn, there’s good reason to think Nos. 9 and 10 might follow immediately after.

That kind of thinking is both what Auriemma sort of craves, and what drives him crazy. He’s irritated if he ever perceives the Huskies are being counted out as title contenders or somehow short-changed in national prestige. But it also bugs him when people think UConn should just be expected to be in this position year after year, as if it’s automatic and easy to stay great just because you’ve been great. 

In other words, Auriemma might just kind of thrive on being irritated. It’s a motivation, a needle that keeps sticking at him from two different sides.

Michelle Smith: Cardinals’ Slaughter finds confidence – Junior guard has 17 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament, nears record

 Louisville coach Jeff Walz will tell you that there were moments during Antonita Slaughter’s freshman year with the Cardinals  when he thought she’d be better suited to fill the teams’ water cups than play.

And he would tell her so. That had to hurt, right?

“I didn’t take it personally,” said Slaughter, now a junior, smiling.

Graham: Schimmel embraces leadership role – Junior guard knows she doesn’t have to do it all for Louisville to win

From the moment Shoni Schimmel arrived, Louisville was always going to follow her lead. She was too talented, too much a force of nature on a basketball court for things to unfold any other way.

It just wasn’t clear whether that path would lead the Cardinals to a national championship game or out of the picture, like one of the junior’s high-risk passes sailing past a befuddled teammate on its way toward the fourth row of seats.

How much did you love the sign, “Mrs. Shimmel, Send more daughters!”

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crowds?

Don’t know how it came across on TV, but it seemed the energy and reactions of the fans during the two games mirrored the teams. During the game game between the two young pups, fans were pumped and enthusiastic and energized in a “Wheee! We’re here! We’re a little nervous, but BOY-O, it’s a new experience!”

During the second game between the two old dogs, fans seemed tense and anxious, weighed down by history and expectation. It was as if they were afraid to invest too much in the outcome, since so much seemed already invested. In made for quiet, nervous viewing from both blue and neon-green clad fans.

Anyhoot-and-any, that’s what if felt/looked like from the nosebleeds. Now from the view at court level:

Louisville Women A Step Closer To Goal, Courant
Antonita Slaughter makes it a distance run, Louisville Courier Journal

Louisville women continue to shock college basketball, CardinalSports.com

Analysis: Louisville 64, Cal 57, ESPN

Party crashers? Sorry, Jeff Walz, your team remains the life of this postseason party. 

Louisville’s coach had T-shirts printed up for his traveling party that had “#partycrashers” emblazoned on the back, a reference to his team’s role in denying the Final Four either a final appearance from Brittney Griner or a familiar face in Tennessee. That was the attitude the Cardinals brought with them, an us-against-the-world mentality that invited people to fuel their fire by doubing them. But after a wild second-half comeback and a 64-57 win against California, the Cardinals are going to have to deal with the fact that they’re the life of this party.

At Full Court: Cinderella season continues for Cardinals, ends for Cal

Cal Bears women’s basketball team falls to Louisville in the NCAA semifinals, Mercury News

With Cal stinging from defeat in the semifinals of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, senior Layshia Clarendon immediately offered her teammates positive words to put the 64-57 loss to Louisville in perspective.

“Don’t hang your heads, we’ve come too far,” was the message Clarendon said she delivered to her teammates. “I just can’t help but smile because what we’ve done is beyond amazing.”

Cal comes up just short, San Francisco Gate

Cal disappointed, but not devastated, ESPN

UConn defeats Notre Dame to advance to national title game, Register
Fourth time’s the charm, Day
UConn breaks curse of the Irish, Day
Dolson has become a media star, Day

Dolson is a budding media star, answering questions with corresponding facial expressions and voice intonations that match her wit. When NBC Connecticut’s Dianna Russini asked Dolson about her expectations for New Orleans last week, Dolson shot back, “wait til you see my dress.”

Dolson unloaded a few four-letter words after collapsing to the deck in the regionals last week, fearing her aching legs and feet might have finally endured the big one. She grinned when asked about it later and in a high pitched voice, said, “awkward.”

Stewart has entered rare air, Day
Rich Elliott: New, improved Huskies get better of Irish this time, Post
Kevin Duffy: Freshman Stewart rises to occasion, Post

Twenty nine points later, after an all-time great individual effort, Breanna Stewart was the hero, swarmed by her teammates. It looked, though, that she didn’t want any part in the celebration.

“That’s Stewie,” joked Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. “She’s very emotionless.”

Outwardly, yes. But on the inside, Auriemma suggests that Stewart — who hit the inevitable freshman wall a few months ago — is hardly “emotionless.”

Huskies Break Notre Dame’s Spell, Winning 83-65, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Behold The Metamorphosis Of Breanna Stewart, Courant

As she put her hands about two inches from Auriemma’s hair, fake massaging the most famous coiffure in women’s basketball at the postgame news conference, Stewie, the simultaneously intense and goofball freshman, had shown America this was no joke at all.

“Stewie probably puts as much pressure on herself as any kid I’ve ever coached,” Auriemma said to ESPN after the game. “My God, she was amazing tonight.”

Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Notre Dame In Final Four, Courant
Video: UConn Women At The Final Four, Courant

From Mel: UConn snaps the Notre Dame spell — and gets Louisville’s wizardry next

Huskies Conquer Demons, and Irish, NY Times
UConn’s next star steps to the fore, NCAA.com
Stewart finds stride at right time, ESPN
Huskies turnaround keys: Stewart, defense, ESPN
Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for UConn, USA Today

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish dream denied, South Bend Tribune

“It’s been a dream come true, just having the opportunity to play for my hometown school and right in my backyard for coach (Muffet) McGraw, and just being able to learn from her every day,” Diggins said. “The experiences I’ve gone through, I’ll never forget. The people that I’ve met, I’ll never forget. It was just such a great time, and I had a great time going through it. I wouldn’t want a different group of girls in the locker room, I wouldn’t want a different group of coaches. “Just the people I’ve met … I know they will be a part of my circle of life. That’s just a blessing in itself.”

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Tough way to end a stellar career, South Bend Tribune

Bitter end for Notre Dame, Diggins: Irish’s season, star’s career finished at the hands of rival UConn, Chicago Tribune

Diggins denied, but still a winner, ESPN

Diggins ends legendary collegiate career, The Observer

Skylar Diggins exits stage as UConn advances to title game, Sports Illustrated

“We were a Sweet Sixteen team before she came here, and suddenly, we became a Final Four team,” said McGraw, teary-eyed in the Notre Dame locker room. “That changes the perspective nationally. Certainly, she is the main focus behind that. I hope there’s another one out there, but I think she’s one in a million.”

UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women, Louisville Courier Journal

Five thoughts for Tuesday’s final, ESPN

Queenie has some Notes, observations, and random things from New Orleans.

And in shocking news: BREAKING: Jeff Walz To Resign After Title Game To Work For Geno

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By SNL:

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Check out how the teams do…

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my trip last week to Nebraska and my trip this week to New Orleans: Nebraska was freezing, New Orleans is not.

Things that happened in New Orleans:

  • Sitting at the WBCA All-Star game and listening in a couple of SEC folks deconstruct the second half of Kentucky/UConn game.
  • Coming up with a new game to play: Guess which high school player is going to which program based on their style of play.
  • Watching Griner take a moment for a picture with a young fan. Griner standing on the arena floor, fan in the stands: Fan is almost as tall as Griner’s upper body.
  • Yummy, yummy po’ boys at Mothers.
  • Being stalked by friend Renee and her crew. Always good to see familiar faces — even if it’s only once a year.
  • Chatting with deeply-in-the-know-folks about certain coaches who make goofily loud statements about how they’d rather be in a place known for its pasta v. goin’ to New Orleans. Clue-free, much?
  • Walking. Lots of walking. Staying up on St. Charles — a little nearer than I was back in my youth hostel days, but still a walk into the center of the city. Beautiful buildings — brick being the specialty of the house.
  • Pelicans. Brown, that is, are all over the city ’cause, you know, it’s the state bird. And their NBA basketball team is renaming itself the Pelicans. (Guess they got jealous of the Stormy Petrels, huh?).
  • Actually, pelicans are a similarity to my trip to Nebraska, in that we saw a string of 9 migrating white pelicans. And we’re staying nearish to the Blind Pelican.
  • Teasing coach McCallie as you meet her walking the streets ’cause she’s got that “I lost my rental car in the parking lot” look. Liking the fact that she can go with the flow and approve of the sleek silver corvette I point out for her. (BTW, she did find time to provide some F4 analysis.)
  • Knowing my day is brunch, basketball, basketball, dinner. What could be better?

From those folks actually working:

About that Purple, Black and Neon-Green High School Game: Black Team Clinches Win in 2013 WBCA High School All America Game, and no, celebrity coaches Swin and Catch did not throw basketballs at each other. But they got close to throwing on a jersey to secure their team a win.

Sports Illustrated points out that In women’s Final Four, it’s a heated rivalry and two newcomers (even though I know Richard knows Walz has been there before.).

The Times-Picayune’s Trey Iles says, California women’s basketball a Bear of a team when it comes to rebounding, Rachel Whittaker says Connecticut freshmen adjusting to Women’s Final Four stage, hoping to give seniors one more shot,
Cal, Louisville feature tough teams looking to continue Women’s Final Four runs,and Terrance Harris writes, Notre Dame and UConn leaving past in the past as the rivals square off — again– in the Women’s Final Four

The entire state of Connecticut might be in frenzy these days trying to figure out just how deep No.1 Notre Dame has gotten into the heads of its beloved Huskies these past two years.

Arguably the best rivalry in women’s college basketball has become awfully one-sided these last 24 months, with the Fighting Irish winning seven of the last eight games over UConn.

But as far as Notre Dame senior All-American point guard Skylar Diggins is concerned, nothing in the past, not even the three wins over the Huskies this season alone, has meaning as the two powerhouse programs from the Big East get set to square off for a fourth time this year during the national semifinal round of the NCAA Women’s Final Four on Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena.

No surprise, a ton of stuff from the Horde (thanks, Nan):

Huskies believe they’re ready to avert failures vs. Irish, Post
UConn vs. Notre Dame: Who has the edge?, Post
Breaking down the women’s Final Four, Post
Incoming freshman Saniya Chong will get close up look at her future teammates, Post
Auriemma Says Whatever He Can (To Anyone) To Motivate Players, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis Join Exclusive Club Of All-Americans, Courant
UConn Women Face Common Dilemma Vs. Notre Dame – Not Letting Another Team Get Inside Your Head, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn Women Will Win This One, In First 39 Minutes, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis named to WBCA All-America squad, Register
Roads for seniors Skylar Diggins, Kelly Faris lead to the same place, Register
Notre Dame vs. UConn, Register
UConn gets one last chance to beat Irish, Day
This is the one that counts, Hour

Kelly Whiteside at USA Today thinks that For Notre Dame, Connecticut, it comes down to crawfish:

It’s easy to be unnerved by a bowl of crawfish.

“It was looking back at us,” Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins said as she described her team’s experience sampling the local Final Four fare. “Had eyes in it still.”

In a way, the Notre Dame-Connecticut women’s national semifinal on Sunday is little like a bowl of crawfish. We’ve seen it more than once (or twice or thrice) but it’s still transfixing. You don’t want to look away.

From the Chicago Tribune: Loyd and Tuck: A tale of two seasons

Gene Wang, WaPo: Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz basking in Final Four

From the YouTubes, Notre Dame athletics is workin’ it: During the 2nd day of the Final Four, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team practiced at Tulane University, had their head shots taken for the ESPN broadcast, and celebrated at the Final Four Salute dinner.

Congrats – and so well deserved – to AP COY McGraw (Gives me chance to shout out a former Lib player, WATN? COY: Vanessa Nygaard is girls’ basketball coach of the year)

Yup, AP Tom, McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years

From the SBT:

From the Mercury News’ Stephanie Hammon: Brittany Boyd shows maturity in sophomore season for Cal women’s basketball team

“I knew that going with a very exciting, dynamic freshman point guard there were going to be some times where you say, ‘OK, that’s a growth moment,’ but a lot more times that you see the spectacular,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted to give her that rope and that empowerment to be her and she has continued to stay with us and try to get better every step of the way.”

“I grew up in a sense,” Boyd said. “I understand the game more.”

Hammon also adds: Cal women’s basketball team expects the unexpected from Louisville’s defense

“After our Baylor win, we went into the press room, and they’re all asking me how long are you going to enjoy this, and I said, ‘For a lifetime,’ ” Walz said by telephone from New Orleans, site of this year’s Final Four. “I said, ‘We’re going to talk about this the rest of the day, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next year.’ I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and really just come to the conclusion life’s too short. You have to enjoy your moments.”

The Louisville Courier Journal makes up for lost time:

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel is shining bright in the NCAA Tournament

Q&A with U of L’s Monique Reid: Been there, done that, doing it again

Women’s NCAA: Cards’ defense can baffle Cards, too

If you find yourself puzzled as to what kind of defense the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is running, take heart.

Sometimes the U of L coaches and players don’t know, either.

The Cardinals’ shifting schemes have keyed their surprising run to the Final Four. They will switch defenses as many as three times in a single possession, and as you might expect, that occasionally causes confusion on both sides. During the Elite Eight victory over Tennessee, coach Jeff Walz’s assistants asked him what defense the team was in.

“I turned around and said, ‘I don’t know. Shut up,’ ” Walz said. “ ‘Who cares? They’re playing hard.’ They started laughing.

Inside the Louisville-California women’s matchup

Akoy Agau in his words on Louisville basketball in the Final Four

‘If it can happen three times . . .’ Auriemma’s Huskies face an Irish streak

Jere’ from the NY Times adds: Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville

Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.

NBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and folks on “Women’s Basketball as a Model for the NCAA”

Griner says, “Why not, ” Swin says, “Why should she have to?”

Some chick offers The UConn perspective — historical, physical and emotional — on Sunday’s semifinal

From Harvey Araton at the New York Times: At Intersection of Fading Eras in Women’s Game

Donehew, who was a graduate assistant and director of operations for Summitt’s team from 2001 to 2008, was close enough to be inside the circle after the painful diagnosis came in the summer of 2011. She was part of a small group that included Summitt’s son, Tyler, meeting one day to plot a strategy with Summitt on how to proceed publicly.

“We talked about what she wanted to do moving forward: her career, her plans, her legacy,” Donehew said.

But what of the heritage of the Big East, where Donehew has worked for the past four years, joining the conference at a time when its women’s basketball fortunes had become very much the competitive equal of its acclaimed and soon-to-be-mourned big brother?

And, since there are folks on the gentlemen’s side who are all het up about the officiating in the Syracuse/Michigan game, I have an excuse to revive this brilliant April Fool’s from a few years back: 

Cleveland, April 1 (AF) – The NCAA and the Women’s Basketball Officiating Consortium announced new assignments for game officials in Tuesday’s women’s Division I national basketball championship game today, replacing the previously-assigned officials with a new group who had not previously officiated in this year’s NCAA tournament. The original crew, Sally Bell, Dennis DeMayo and Dee Kantner, will be replaced by University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, Maryland coach Brenda Frese and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

Mary Struckhoff, the National Coordinator of Women’s Basketball Officiating for the NCAA, announced the new officiating crew at a press conference last night. “While we realize that many fans will be surprised by this change, we think it will make for a more exciting contest. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing this group try to manage a basketball game. We’re particularly delighted that Brenda was able to take time out from updating her resume to officiate on Tuesday night.”

The reactions of the referees originally scheduled to officiate the game were surprisingly upbeat. “I think this is the finest group of coach/referees they could have assembled,” said DeMayo. “I know that every one of them has corrected my officiating mistakes dozens of times, and made sure I knew exactly how I had missed each call. It’s an honor to give up my spot in the national championship game for these outstanding individuals. I’m looking forward to reviewing the game tape with them so I can learn how someone can call a game so well from 30, 40 or even 70 feet away from the play.” (Click to continue reading)

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are here.

Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White offer up their Full Court mid-major All-Americans: Much more than Delle Donne

Given the nature of the American sports media, it’s easy to think that the only special players are the ones who play at the biggest schools. But special players can be found throughout the Division I ranks — and not just at Delaware — so the Fullcourt.com Mid-Major All-American team is our way of recognizing some of the talent that often gets overlooked.

Of course, as is the case with our Player of the Year, as every so often there’s a star so incandescent she manages to seize the spotlight no matter where she enrolls.

Mechelle has a nice piece on Griner.

Baylor’s Brittney Griner glanced up at the national championship banners inside the New Orleans Arena and winced a bit Saturday.

“I thought, ‘We should have another one up there. We should be here fighting for one more,'” Griner said. “It definitely makes it hard, but you can’t run from stuff. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

More from Mechelle: Final Four offers good mix – Favorites or underdogs, there is something for eveyone in New Orleans

If you’ve seen “Oz the Great and Powerful,” you know the most emotion-provoking characters in film are not actually humans. China Girl, the doll, and Finley, the helpful winged monkey, are voiced by real people, but they are computer-generated imagery. They steal your heart and steal the show from James Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.

The Louisville and Cal teams are flesh-and-blood folks, but they have a fairy-tale quality that almost makes it seem as if they could have been manufactured in someone’s imagination.

Meanwhile, the box-office big names — No. 1 seeds Connecticut and Notre Dame — are also here, ready to live up to their star power.

She adds another piece: Diggins ready for final shot at title

It’s no easy trick: being focused on an ultimate goal, but not too focused. Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins has been thinking about winning a national championship for the Fighting Irish since she was a little kid and saw her hometown team celebrating the NCAA title in 2001.

That’s a long time to carry a very specific dream that an extremely small amount of Division I players actually get to realize. Diggins has been in the past two NCAA title games, with the Irish losing to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor last season.

Graham says, Jeff Walz keeps Cardinals believing

The old basketball adage about a shooter’s mindset holds that a player misses 100 percent of the shots she doesn’t take. A coach also loses out on the potential rewards of 100 percent of the gambles he or she doesn’t take.

And if you think it’s difficult to play for Walz, the bellicose, sarcastic sideline ranter, try figuring out what college basketball’s mad genius is going to try next. 

More Graham: Reid’s heart makes up for bum knee

Monique Reid might be limping toward the end of her college career, but she’s about to put some distance between herself and any other woman who has played basketball at the University of Louisville.

She grew up going to Louisville games long before her hometown school started playing games in a downtown NBA-style arena. She was the kid who attended all the basketball camps and sat in the front row when the Cardinals played. She was the ball girl who idolized players like Sara Nord. And Sunday, she’ll become the first player in program history to play in two Final Fours.

Michelle writes: There’s no place like home – Berkeley High star Boyd committed to Cal despite coaching change

Brittany Boyd arrived at Cal a year and a half ago knowing how to play at one speed — on your mark, get set, go — every outlet pass turning into a race to the rim on the other end of the floor.

Races, mind you, that she would usually win because she is the fastest player on the floor.

“She gets the ball, and you just have to book it down to the other end,” junior forward Gennifer Brandon said. “I just tried to stay close to her in case she wants to dish it.”

Fagan suggests Players, not past meetings, are key – Stewart, Jefferson could be the key to Huskies finally solving Irish this season

Finally, Fagan gives us Four storylines for the Final Four

The heavyweight matchup Sunday night is UConn-Notre Dame Part IV.

That game has the most buzz because the storylines are endless: the Big East rivalry, the last go-round for Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, the up-and-coming play of UConn freshman Breanna Stewart. And, of course, the million-dollar question: Is it possible for the Fighting Irish to beat the Huskies four times in one season? Considering that between them UConn and Notre Dame have 19 appearance in the Final Four, it makes sense that Sunday’s second semifinal is overshadowing the first, between No. 2 seed California and No. 5 seed Louisville. The Golden Bears are making their first appearance in the Final Four, and the Cardinals are making their second.

But even though the Cal-Louisville game is flying under the radar, there are some interesting subplots to pay attention to when the two teams tip off Sunday (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET). So we start with that game as we break down the key things to watch going into Sunday’s national semifinals.

At Swish Appeal, Richard Kent has some 2013 Final Four tidbits from Louisville’s Jeff Walz: Griner, sideline style, and unexpected scoring

The S.A. Admin says Cal, Louisville a matchup of fun teams looking to take away each others strengths

Jessica Lantz picks up an old story thread: Native American heritage draws support for Schimmels, Louisville in Final Four run

I grew up in Oklahoma – no secret there. And Oklahoma, the literal end of the Trail of Tears means “Red People” in Choctaw. As a native Okie, these are things that you learn about when you take Oklahoma History, a required course in the junior high curriculum. But for other folks in other states, these things might be overlooked – like most of the small native population is.

Despite being in this country well before any of my ancestors, the Native American population is relatively small in the United States. Natives account for 0.8 percent of the population in the 2010 U.S. Census, but in Oklahoma the number is a “whopping” 8.6 percent. That makes the heartland of America (as some call the state) the fourth-most populous when it comes to identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native behind Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

So when I was watching the NCAA women’s basketball tournament regional games in Oklahoma City, where a pair of Umatilla Indians were busy knocking of the No. 1-ranked team in the country en route to the Final Four, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the camera panned to a large contingent of smiling faces rooting for Jude and Shoni Schimmel.

In non-Final Four news, I guess we’ll soon find out if Gail’s at Ohio State, if Courtney or Cynthia is at USC, and what, if any impact, the Rice/Rutgers fiasco has on C Viv.

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the Drexel Dragons, 46-43 over Utah.

“This was the perfect finish for a great team,” Drexel head coach Denise Dillon said. “It was obviously a long season but this team wanted as many games as possible. I wanted to coach this team 100 more games. And this team wanted to play 100 more games. I couldn’t be happier with this outcome and giving the senior class a championship.”

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for the first time since 2004.

Graham reflects: Since the last time we were in New Orleans …

Let’s see, the last time the women’s basketball world gathered in New Orleans for a Final Four, Andy Landers and Georgia lost a regional final played in the state of Washington; Duke lost a regional final in Norfolk, Va; Tennessee lost a regional final against a program that wore a lot of yellow and had never reached a Final Four; and Connecticut extended a long streak of semifinal appearances without having to leave the Nutmeg State in the first four rounds.

 Oh, and the Phoenix Mercury were expected to use the No. 1 pick on a player with both uncommon ability and mass name recognition. 

So, um, clearly a great deal has changed since 2004.

But if some things stay the same, there are at least a few ways in which women’s basketball looks different on this visit to New Orleans.

Graham sings Kayla’s praises: Irish in good hands with McBride

One of college basketball’s more perplexing puzzles involves finding a shot Kayla McBride can’t hit.

Hand in her face? Please, you’re going to have to do better than that. Off-balance jumper from a tough angle? Child’s play for the Notre Dame junior. On the move, in traffic — with the shot clock winding down? Been there and done that.

But while opposing defenders and coaches have largely come up empty this season, freshman Jewell Loyd long ago discovered her teammate’s shot-making kryptonite.

Congrats to Sky: Diggins Named the 2013 Nancy Lieberman Award: Top Point Guard

From Curt: Big East goes out in style

Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. West Virginia already left for the Big 12.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova split away from the Big East, but took the name with them.

Rutgers, in another season, is heading for the Big Ten. Louisville, in another season, is going to the ACC.

Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida are staying in the league, welcoming in, among others, Southern Methodist, Memphis and Tulane. The league will have a new name, the American Athletic Conference.

But the last hurrah for the current Big East Conference in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament promises to be remarkable.

A little number counting from Norfolk: Notre Dame, Duke helped Norfolk Regional draw animated crowd

Jim Fuller writes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has become much more than just a shooter

There was no questioning that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ majestic jump shot was going to be her calling card the moment she arrived on UConn’s campus.

However, even after a brilliant debut season where she set the program record for most points by a freshman, the sweet-shooting Mosqueda-Lewis was clamoring for so much more.

In case you need it, John Altavilla has a Short Refresher On The UConn Vs. Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Rivalry

Clay at Full Court thinks that, UConn-Notre Dame: Just this once, tactics may trump talent

From the Cal Bear blog: 

Observing Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her players this afternoon was a good illustration of just how far women’s basketball has come.

Gottlieb and her five starters spent two hours at New Orleans Arena today going through a series of interviews and photo shoots to promote the Final Four. It was attention fit for royalty, and the Bears appeared to have a lot of fun doing it.

Elliott says, Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb knew destination early

The Mama Bear has used a gentle touch to get her players to believe in each other like a family. It has helped the Cal women survive two overtime games to reach their first Final Four in history — and 53 years after the last appearance by the men’s team.

“She’s always been a people person,” older sister Chris Gottlieb said. “Since she was a kid bouncing around with a ponytail, it was ‘everybody loves Lindsay.’ “

Elliott and Stephanie Hammon add, Confidence is soaring for Cal women’s team

Clay also is busy Breaking down Cal and Louisville

As for the Louisville articles: *crickets* Nice Job, Kentucky papers.

Looking to the future:

A Moc is now a Wolfpack: NC State hires Wes Moore as coach

Sooners return three starting guards next season

And, from FOB Ellyn, this cool news:

‘Throwing open the door’ for female athletes

Lincoln Presidential Library explores the growth of women’s basketball in Illinois through oral histories

SPRINGFIELD – With basketball fever in the air, it’s easy to forget that the thrill of the game was denied to many Illinois girls less than 40 years ago. A new oral history project by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum chronicles the early struggles for girls and young women who wanted to play basketball.

Illinois didn’t host its first state high school basketball tournament for girls until 1977, five years after Congress passed Title IX. That landmark education law succeeded in “throwing open the door” to growth in girls’ and women’s sports, dramatically changing American culture.

The oral history project – entitled “What About the Character of the Girls?: Girls’ and Women’s Basketball in Illinois, 1968-1977” – includes 18 interviews, with many more to come. Participants include Sue Strong, whose Sterling team won the state’s first girls’ basketball tournament; Jill Hutchison, the winningest basketball coach in Illinois State University history; Linda Gollan, the first girls’ basketball coach at Hinsdale South High School, and Lorene Ramsey, former head coach at Illinois Central College.

The title of the project comes from Ramsey, who was only allowed access to the gym one day a week when she was coaching in Pekin decades ago. Her request for more gym time was turned down by administrators who said sports helped develop the character of boys. Ramsey responded by writing “What about the character of the girls?” in red letters across the rejection memo and sending it back to the school’s athletic director.

The oral histories can be heard at http://tinyurl.com/GirlsBasketballHistory. Additional oral histories are featured at www.OralHistory.illinois.gov.

The interviews were conducted by Ellyn Bartges, who knows firsthand about the difficulties facing female athletes. Bartges played in Illinois’ very first girls’ high school basketball tournament. She later coached basketball and softball at the collegiate and high school levels. Her own memories are part of the project, thanks to an interview conducted by Mark DePue, head of the oral history project at the Lincoln Presidential Library.

“These interviews capture an extraordinary time in the history of Illinois and the nation,” Bartges said. “Women, joined by some forward-thinking men, were working hard to give girls something that is taken for granted today – the same athletic opportunities that boys routinely enjoy.”

Bartges began conducting the interviews while working on her master’s degree at Western Illinois University. The project originally focused on the Illinois scene but expanded to incorporate stories from throughout the country while Bartges pursued her Ph.D. in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Illinois. The interviews now include people who influenced or impacted players and coaches in Illinois.

Bartges is now an affirmative action administrator at St. Cloud State University. She is available for interviews at320-308-5123 or via email at elbartges@stcloudstate.edu.

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