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…and Graham having to count to 10 several times…. (Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga and gains 5 points in AP voting. Arkansas beats Miss. Valley St. and gains 3 points. Sure, that makes sense.) I know I don’t get all het up about them because it’s such a pain to be one of the people who votes in these polls….if you take that position seriously. Which means you should be watching a LOT of games and/or reading a lot of game reports. Which, honestly, in many cases ain’t gonna happen ’cause you’re too busy coaching or writing.

But, even if I don’t get all het up about it, others do and some argue “polls mean nothing until after the season is over,” there’s no doubt that being ranked can be a huge benchmark for a program and a measure of validation for the coaches and players.

So, I understand why Graham is cranky.

In a week where St. Mary’s Danielle Mauldin is ESPN’s player of week (teammate  Jackie Nared was also nominated) , Graham writes: West Coast Conference flexes its muscle

It took Gonzaga winning for a lot of people in women’s basketball to notice the West Coast Conference. A Gonzaga loss should help people see how much the league has grown.

If you aren’t keeping an eye on the WCC, you’re missing a good show.

He also adds: Undefeated teams? Unanswered questions (Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma St.)

The AP Top 25 offers an interesting check this week on the value of scheduling. After its win against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s should be a strong contender to break into the rankings, likely at the expense of the team it beat. On the other hand, the Gaels didn’t attract a single vote a week ago. Arizona State and Arkansas, the unranked teams with the most votes in the most recent poll, didn’t hurt their cases in the abbreviated week, so will one of those two replace Gonzaga instead?

Sweet win for Kelsey’s Badgers: Missed chances, UW sink Phoenix

This one might hurt for a while.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team appeared headed for a big win over in-state rival Wisconsin on Monday night, only to watch Badgers guard Nicole Bauman hit a 35-foot bank shot with 0.4 seconds left to tie the game.

Wisconsin put the finishing touches on its dramatic comeback in overtime, escaping with an improbable 65-61 win in front of 4,931 fans at the Kohl Center.

Ditto for ASU:

No. 24 Arizona State women’s basketball validated its return to the national rankings for the first time in four years with a hard-fought 63-60 win Monday night over No. 20 Syracuse.

Says Jeff Metcalfe: ASU women’s basketball looking good in unproven Pac-12

The good news locally is that No. 25 Arizona State is the revelation of Pac-12 women’s basketball so far.

The Pac-12 as a whole, though, still has somewhat of an unproven feel with the full start of conference play beginning Friday. Wins such as No. 4 Stanford over No. 5 Tennessee, ASU over No. 10 North Carolina and unranked Washington State over No. 18 Nebraska and the scare Oregon State threw into No. 2 Notre Dame before losing 70-58 Sunday make statement. But a combined 8-23 record vs. Sagarin top-50 teams sends the opposite message.

VCU’s having a nice start to the season.

So, keep an eye on Jan 2 – that’s when 13-0 San Diego takes on 12-1 Saint Mary’s.

And keep an eye on Jan 5 and Jan 9th – that’s when 13-1 NC State takes on Syracuse and North Carolina.

And keep an eye on January 16th – that’s when 13-1 Mississippi State takes on Tennessee.

So, who’s been eating cupcakes? Mechelle & Michelle: Conference Play Begins (BTW, American Conf. play has already started.)

Michelle also asks: Have They Met Expectations?

Did you catch espnW’s Photos of the Year?

BTW, not only was she good for the league, but Griner was good for writers. She ranks high on Swish Appeal’s list. And, congrats to Kate Fagan, whose piece on BG, “Owning the Middle,” earned her a place on some “Best of 2013″ lists. You might want to check out Fagan’s “Bo’13” list.

For my own year-end list, though, I’m sharing some of the best sports pieces written by women (at least the ones I’ve read and enjoyed), along with a few non-sports stories, too. I’m singling out female writers because not enough female writers get singled out. Part of this is because, statistically speaking, there are so many more men writing about sports. But I also believe there tends to be more showmanship — morelook at me, I’m writing — on the part of the male writers who frequently tout each other’s work on social media. The lopsided nature of most of these lists is because sports media is still a boy’s club. Very few women work in executive, decision-making roles on the editorial side, so cultivating and growing female voices is still less of a priority than it should be, as is attaching female writers to impactful, meaningful topics — and not just stories about women or subjects that need a “softer” touch.

All “best of” lists should be taken with a grain of salt, obviously, because one person’s great read is another person’s snoozefest. The problem is, the paucity of women on these lists, year in and year out, delivers a specific message to young female sportswriters: Yes, the door is open to you, but just barely.

Oh, yeah – and here’s  New Year’s Resolution for the Three to See: Be seen on court, not by tweet.

WATN? Mazzante set to announce her retirement

Kelly Mazzante has traveled the world playing basketball. The Montoursville legend became the Big 10’s all-time leading scorer for men and women at Penn State before winning two WNBA world championships and playing well throughout Europe.

Wherever she has been, Mazzante has never forgotten her home. She has worn uniforms in the WNBA, Slovakia, Russia, Hungary and Italy, but Mazzante always has been, and always will, be a Montoursville girl.

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made the Notre Dame v. Oregon State game mighty interesting. It was a four-point game with 2:21 left, and then the #2 Irish pulled away for the victory.

Despite the best game of sophomore Ruth Hamblin’s career (12 points, eight rebounds and nine blocks) and 18 points from Weisner, the Beavers’ quest for their first win over a ranked team since 2003 continues.

OSU has been close before: The Beavers took Cal down to the wire last season — the Bears would go on to play in the Final Four — and earlier this year led Penn State for long stretches before falling 61-56.

“I don’t know that I’m a believer in morale victories, but I’m a believer in progress and steps forward and learning lessons,” Rueck said. “I don’t know how you measure it, but we grew up a lot today.”

Less rusty and rust-free:

#25 Oklahoma over Samford by 25.

#23 Cal over Lafayette by 17.

#18 Nebraska over Oral Roberts by 36.

#15 Penn State over Hartford by 14.

#14 Iowa State over William & Mary by 20.

#12 Colorado over Southern Utah by 16.

#11 Oklahoma State over TX-Pan American by 42.

#8 Maryland over Charleston by 52.

#7 Louisville over SMU by 20.

#6 Kentucky over Grambling State by 63.

#5 Tennessee over Lipscomb by 68.

#1 Connecticut over Cincinnati by 33.

In other games, Indiana took down Xavier to stay undefeated.

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Indiana is working on its best start since…. Archie, Flip and Marcus ruled the airwaves.

Despite the loss of the team’s top three scorers from last season, the Hoosiers have reloaded with seven freshmen and redshirt sophomore Kaila Hulls, who is donning cream and crimson for the first time in her career after transferring from Bowling Green.

Freshman guard Larryn Brooks leads IU in scoring at 19.5 points per game and she dropped 37 points against Virginia Tech on Dec. 4 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Six of the Hoosiers’ top seven scorers are in their first season playing for IU. First-year players are responsible for 71.2 percent of the team’s scoring.

It’s great timing, ’cause IU is going to recognize 1972-1974 women’s basketball teams

“Becoming a varsity sport in 1971, our women’s basketball program compiled an incredible four-year record of 62-15, advanced to two Elite Eights and reached the 1973 Final Four,” IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Fred Glass said in a release. “We are thrilled to give this amazing group of women the recognition they so richly deserve.”

Speaking of history, check this out from PA: Helen Myers and the dandy 1926-27 West York girls’ basketball team“Every member was a star. Helen Myers and Wilhelmina Bufflap at all times outplayed their guards. Anna Joseph and Kathryn Sheffer2in center held their own against all odds. Margaret Stauffer, Catherine Neiman, and Marguerite Strayer as guards put up such a mighty battle that West York outclassed its opponents with a total score of 622 points to 390.

Ohio State is working on defining itself: Defenses turn attention to Buckeyes’ Ameryst Alston

The OSU newbies wrote an exciting first chapter by shocking West Virginia 70-61 in Morgantown in the season opener behind a 29-point performance from Ameryst Alston.

The sophomore point guard would follow that with a 28-point outburst against Florida Atlantic in the second game, and word about Alston and the free-flowing, basket-attacking style of McGuff began to circulate.

As the storyline progressed, defenses started to place more roadblocks on the court for Alston, and points for the entire team became harder to find.

An injury provides an opportunity: Volleyball player’s first contributions highlight move to 10-0

Just days after the Iowa State volleyball team fell out of the NCAA tournament in early December, senior Tenisha Matlock was on the hunt for a pair of basketball shoes.

With the loss of sophomore forward Madison Baier for the season to a torn ACL, the 14th-ranked women’s basketball team was searching for a tall player to replace her.

Revved up: Princeton University women’s basketball tops an SEC opponent for first time (Looks like Alabama will get some help from Baylor: Hayden to transfer to Alabama)

In what Graham called “the game of the year” (so far) the Gaels downed the #24 Zags in overtime. Writes Michelle:

Ascribing the designation of “statement game” after a big victory can be a tricky business. What exactly is the statement? Are we limited to only one?

Because when Saint Mary’s closed out a 79-78 overtime win over Gonzaga at home Saturday afternoon, there were a few things to say about the 11-1 Gaels.

For starters, this team is for real. The best start in school history has now included wins over Washington, Alabama, USC and the No. 24-ranked Bulldogs, who have won nine consecutive West Coast Conference regular-season titles since 2004.

It doesn’t get easier for St. Mary’s. Up next: Portland, 12-0 San Diego and 11-1 BYU.

How “on fiyah” is Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas? She notched her  second triple-double in three games as the Terps whomped Wofford. 

Central Michigan put up a fight — and there was not a lot of defense played by either side — but #17 Purdue escaped with a 109-97 win.

#14 Iowa State cruised to a win over Holy Cross, but their tests are coming in January: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

From Chicago Now: Women’s Sports 2013: Five Great Moments for Women…and Chicago Chicago Sky Makes Playoffs

Speaking of the W: Albert Lee has several Reasons why the WNBA should not significantly spend more money in the immediate future

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With conference play just around the corner…

Jan. 27: Notre Dame at Maryland, ESPN2
Feb. 2: Notre Dame at Duke, ESPN 
Feb. 2: Stanford at Cal, ESPN2
Feb. 9: Louisville at UConn, ESPN 
Feb. 10: North Carolina at Duke, ESPN2
Feb. 16: Kentucky at Tennessee, ESPN 
Feb. 23: Duke at Notre Dame, ESPN

…it’s intriguing to reflect how the top teams fared in their pre-Christmas games.

After watching South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia fall, Mike at Mel’s blog is still bullish on the SEC: Best Conference Race Ever Looms Ahead

As 2013 closes, one thing is sure in women’s college basketball: The mighty Southeastern Conference will chew up some teams and reward others. So here’s our best guess preview.

We have said all along Kentucky is the best team here. One loss to a higher-ranked team does not discount that. In fact, it gives them something to work on.

But it is Tennessee who is the defending regular-season champ. That’s a
”Yeah, But” thing. Someone else wins, yeah, but it’s because Tennessee stumbled in this or that game.

Meanwhile, Doug writes: UConn women have looked nearly unbeatable

The women’s basketball season is almost two months old and one thing is clear, the UConn Huskies are by far the best team in the country.

While some already see a record ninth title for Connecticut as a foregone conclusion, the rest of the nation can take some solace that Brittney Griner and Baylor looked just as unbeatable last season. That’s until Louisville stunned the Lady Bears with one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

Picking up on their earlier tweet exchange, Rebecca Lobo and Lin Dunn join David for a nice chat on “The UConn dilemma: Is dominance good for the game?”

From Logan Lowery at the Daily Journal: MSU women relishing their 12-1 start

Mississippi State is off to the second-best start in school history for women’s basketball.

After winning just 13 games during his initial season with the Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer has started his second year 12-1 before the Christmas break.

“We’re 12-1 at Christmas, that’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment for our group,” Schaefer said. “I’m excited for them.”

Learn a little about the 12-2 Missouri Tigers: Senior forward Kulas took circuitous route to MU

In a perfect world, Williams said it wouldn’t have taken Kulas three college stops to find the right destination. That said, Williams wouldn’t change her daughter’s journey if she could.

“She ended up where she needed to be. Finding a home at Mizzou has been a great, great thing for her,” Williams said. “Her journey has made her grow into a better person, a better ballplayer.

“The journey that she took, I’m not sure that’s how I would’ve wanted … but I feel like it did happen for a reason.”

Williams said her daughter’s year at Johnson County was “tremendous for her.” It proved to be a launch pad for Kulas’ basketball career.

How about that team in Indiana? Gerardot speaks to IU basketball success

 Today Tabitha Gerardot is, well, Brigitte, and not Indiana women’s basketball’s third-leading scorer. Tomorrow she could be Sophia or Carmela or Aisha.

It’s all about perspective, you see. It’s role playing with a linguistic purpose.

This matters to Gerardot, who is working on her masters in linguistics with visions of become an interpreter or a translator when the former Canterbury standout is done with helping the Hoosiers’ basketball resurrection.

Arizona is 3-7, so in honor of the holidays,  Zack Rosenblatt decided to put his own twist on “Festivus,” with a focus on the Wildcats and their season thus far.

Just replace the pole with a 10-foot basketball hoop (with “a great strength-to-weight ratio.”)

AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES

What’s been disappointing, or overlooked, for the Wildcats this season.

Bad start: For the first time in Butts’ six years at the helm, Arizona won’t have a winning record through non-conference play. Before 2013, she’d won about 75 percent of non-conference games. Entering Sunday’s non-conference finale with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Wildcats are 3-7, which included a recent five-game skid.

Getting in to the holiday spirit, Mark Carmin offered Purdue women’s basketball 10 Stocking stuffers

Graham offers up “10 players who have risen to the occasion” and his mid-major musings: Gonzaga remains No. 1

‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists. And while the end of the basketball year technically comes not with a ball dropping in Times Square but confetti on a court in Nashville, starting a new calendar signals a shift of sorts in the start of conference play across much of the country. So to match the reflective spirit of the week, and before we get to the top 10, what would an all-mid-major team for the first half of the season look like?

Shereesha Richards, F, Albany: She put up 20 points and seven rebounds against Duke — in the first half. No wonder Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said the 6-foot-1 forward was better than her league (and as a former America East coach, McCallie ought to know). Richards is averaging 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage but has taken nearly 50 more shots than those ahead of her.

Injury note: Maryland women’s basketball: Forward A’lexus Harrison to redshirt

Encouraging news: Hatchell eyeing return

Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible.

The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy with more ahead as she holds out hope of getting back by conference tournament time.

“You don’t realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don’t have it,” Hatchell said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“It was like a tsunami hit me and all of a sudden it’s taken away. But that’s my motivation, to get back out there.”

Equally encouraging news:  “Coach Holly Warlick said that freshman guard Jannah Tucker, who will be enrolling for the spring semester, is expected to join the team when it reconvenes after Christmas break.”

WATN? Ashley Battle: 2 local girls basketball coaches share Connecticut connection

While watching UConn and Duke on national television, Quaker Valley junior Karen Pugh felt a bond with the top team in women’s basketball.

“Our offense is very similar (to UConn),” she said, “as far as transition and passing and finding the open shot.”

How does a Western Pennsylvania high school team share traits with the most dominant women’s program in college basketball?

It’s no coincidence.

Speaking of the W, from India: Swin against the tide

The 6’1” tall frame of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend Swin Cash stands out from the group of U-16 basketball enthusiasts assembled at the St. Dominic Savio School’s court. The three-time WNBA champion’s role on the occasion is to serve as mentor for the students from 164 schools around Mumbai during what was the Reliance Foundation 3X3 Junior NBA Championship in the city. Yet as she spoke and advised the aspiring athletes, both boys and girls, she maintains that she was a tad biased towards the girls.

“You talk about the NBA, and all you think of are male athletes. So it’s good for them to see people like me to serve as role models,” she says, laughing.

Al Lee at Swish Appeal asks, What are the Big Three Rookies doing during their first offseason as pros?

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I must believe the following are ESPN errors:

Marist over #20 Oklahoma, 76-69. How glad are the Foxes to have Casey Dulin back: 7 rebs, 7 assts, 17 points.

“Oh, my God! We’re so excited!” senior shooting guard Leanne Ockenden said after scoring 17 points to help the Red Foxes earn their first-ever triumph in Poughkeepsie against a top-25 team.

Rutgers over #16 Georgia, 61-58. Guess that’s what you get when you order up cupcakes for your OOC schedule.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was hoping her team would be ready for a top-25 challenge.

The Scarlet Knights answered with a thrilling 61-58 victory over No. 16 Georgia.

Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney each scored 18 points to help Rutgers hand Georgia its first loss of the season.

“We needed to have our confidence as this is a young group,” Stringer said. “This is a major game to find out how well we’re going to play at that level.”

#6 Stanford over #3 Tennessee, 76-70. TN was no match for Chiney.

Ogwumike was Tennessee’s biggest problem — she finished with 15 field goals and 11 offensive rebounds. The Lady Vols knew they had to stop her, but they couldn’t do it.

“She is the heart and soul of that team,” Warlick said. “She was just a force inside that we had trouble with all night. Rebounding is effort and positioning and knowing where the ball is coming off, and that’s what Chiney does. She’s just at the right place at the right time.”

But Ogwumike was hardly the only issue.

(Clearly, it was a good day to wear red.)

Some other teams almost became part of the error-fest:

#23 Syracuse over St. Joe’s – by 2. That’s four 20pt games in a row for the Orange’s Sykes.

#7 Louisville over #11 Colorado – by 7. And they needed every one of Shoni’s 30pts.

#13 Oklahoma State over Georgia Tech – by 8. Donohoe shines again.

#25 Gonzaga over Washington State by 8.

Holding the party line:

#14 UNC over High Point, 103-71, as coach Hatchell watched.

#19 Nebraska over South Dakota, 87-53.

#22 Iowa over Drake, 73-51.

#24 Florida State over Long Beach, 72-57.

In other games:

Great win for the Hampton program: they take down Kansas State 86-75 (2OT)

Kids, don’t do this to your coach: Penn spotted Drexel 19. Then came back to win the game by two.

USC did a little better, spotting Hawai’i 10, winning by 11.

Who dat? The Illinois Chicago Flames, dat’s who! They’re #1 in the Horizon, and just took down Wisconsin, 58-56, thanks to a Rachel Story game-winning three-pointer with twenty seconds remaining. It’s the sixth win over Wisconsin in program history and the first in 34 seasons.

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Don’t be fooled by the final score — ’cause you know coach McCallie can’t be pleased that the Great Danes were UP on Duke during a hunk of the first half.

Syracuse’s Sykes likes to score. Let’s see how the Orange handle St. Joe’s, ASU and NC State.

Speaking of NC State (Moore’s Wolfpack best kept secret in Triangle) : Down goes #12 LSU.

N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

UNLV over Clemson. That’s got to be a frustrating loss for the Tigers.

Almost. Readers of this blog are familiar with the Winthrop Eagles. #10 South Carolina is REALLY familiar, having had to fight tooth and nail to escape with a 8-point win. Perhaps they had a Tar Heel hangover?

Oh, those in-state rivalries! Missouri State (3-6) took down Missouri (10-2), 67-53.

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Ole Miss this season, mostly because of their new head coach, Matt Insell. Their game against Sims… I mean, Baylor, has made me put both eyes on the team.

Speaking of  coaches — how much does 0-9 Prairie View miss Cynthia Cooper.

Speaking of Coop, it ain’t all wine and roses in USC land. The Trojans fall to the buzz-saw that is Saint Mary’s second half, 71-55.

Loss numero uno for UTEP, as their trip to Puerto Rico pitted them against Georgia Tech.

More baby steps for San Francisco – a nice away win over traditionally strong Fresno State.

Yes, they have a gaudy 10-1 record, but 4-5 Pacific kept within 7 of Florida State.

Today, Mechelle and Michelle recognized that #3 Tennessee To Be Tested by #6 Stanford  – as will a series of undefeated folks. Ellitot Almond has some more on the game and Steve Megargee adds:

After playing just one ranked opponent in their first 10 games, the Lady Vols will face their toughest test of the season thus far Saturday when they travel to No. 6 Stanford (9-1). Tennessee has lost its last two games in this series by double digits and hasn’t won at Stanford since 2005.

“It would be great to get a ‘W’ to break that drought, but also just to show the rest of the country that we mean business,” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tom FitzGerald at the SFGate thinks the Stanford women have tall task against Vols

When your goal is the national championship, any slipup hurts. The sixth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team has already flunked one big test, losing at No. 1 UConn by 19 points. Now it faces another.

The Cardinal (9-1) play No. 3 Tennessee at Maples Pavilion Saturday, and the battle on the boards should be ferocious.

A player who expects to be featured in that battle finds time to blog: A lot to celebrate for Nerd Nation 

Last week I was either living in the library or hibernating in my room. The short time I did sleep, I dreamt about school. Four long papers and three tests later, my brain is officially fried … I have survived finals week!

It is always a challenge for us student-athletes to balance sports and school. But it is a challenge we readily accept. Nonetheless, I am glad it’s over. While most students go home for Christmas break, we prepare for (as Coach Tara says) our basketball final.

#11 Colorado (9-0) v. #7 Louisville: UofL women’s basketball players talk Slaughter, Buffalo revenge and Louisville women’s next test is unbeaten No. 11 Colorado

Because any suspense over the outcomes was cast aside not long after tipoff, there’s only been one question for observers of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team the past four games: Can the Cardinals reach 100 points?

U of L has been batting .500 in that regard, posting totals of 91, 99, 108 and 105 points and averaging a 49-point margin of victory over four midmajor opponents.

#13 Oklahoma State (9-0) v. Georgia Tech.

When Rutgers goes up against 11-0 Georgia, they are  seeking a “quality victory.”

Heading into the highlight of its nonconference schedule this afternoon against 11-0 and 16th-ranked Georgia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is 8-2 against a schedule that some have labeled soft.

There is some plausibility to that statement, what with lopsided wins over Northeastern, Howard, Davidson and Wagner on the resume, but the schedule Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer has embarked on has largely been by design in an effort to get this young team some confidence and momentum.

With the schedule it has played, is Rutgers prepared to step up in class against the Bulldogs?

Rick Nixon at the NCAA.com wonders: Good scheduling or for real? How will surprising unbeatens fare in conference play?

Being an undefeated team in late December sometimes comes with a footnote. While an 11-0 start for Connecticut is expected, others like Arkansas, Indiana, UTEP, Colorado and San Diego standing undefeated at this point of the season merits attention, and also speculation on how these teams will fare once conference play tips.

Arkansas, now 11-0, has won 20 consecutive non-conference games during the past two seasons. In fact, Razorbacks head coach Tom Collen has built a 90-21 all-time record in non-conference play in seven seasons. Since 1982, Arkansas is 199-14 in non-conference games. The Razorbacks, which will play 10 of the 13 non-conference games at home, have two non-conference games remaining this season withTennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State both visiting Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. A home win against Middle Tennessee State and a road victory at Kansas rate as Arkansas’ top wins over the first month-plus. On Jan. 2, South Carolina will pay a visit to Fayetteville to signal the start of Southeastern Conference play.

Congrats to coach McGraw, who will be inducted into Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m sure she’s not looking ahead as her Notre Dame crew will face the always stubborn Chippewas, though CMU is not as strong as they have been the past few years.

Cool news for when #5 Kentucky (11-0) goes up against #2 Duke: Rupp Arena sold out. Which leads Mark Story to ask: If Kentucky-Duke women fill Rupp, is it time for UK Hoops to play more games there?

On the other side of the spectrum: BYU women’s basketball: The magical, but unseen season

Lying in the shadows of a nationally recognized football program and the high octane offense of an exciting men’s basketball team, the BYU women’s basketball team is quietly making their way into the years’ best BYU team with an extremely impressive start. Through ten games the Lady Cougars have lost only one game and yet continue to play to crowds that are closer to 500 than 1000. With a little more support from the fans, could this special season turn magical?

From the Miami Herald: UM’s Krystal Saunders stays strong for women’s basketball team despite family tragedy

It has not been the senior season University of Miami guard Krystal Saunders envisioned, and the past five months certainly have tested her mettle.

Saunders’ troubles began before the season started. In July, she was involved in a serious car accident while riding with three teammates to visit her mother’s Broward home in West Park. Saunders sustained a concussion and injuries to her neck and back.

It looks at first glance like one of college basketball’s more unlikely friendships, so of course it has improbable origins.

The connection between Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale and Marist’s Brian Giorgis brings together programs from different parts of the basketball strata Saturday in Poughkeepsie. It is a partnership that ought to be a model for moving the game forward, one of the sport’s biggest programs willing to go on the road to play one of the most successful small programs. Even if in this particular case, the roots of the series stretch all the way back to a field goal missed nearly five decades ago.

That part might be tricky to replicate.

Somewhat related, the APs John Marshall offers this: Arizona State to retire Becenti’s number

In the sacred Navajo hoop dance, performers bounce and hop as they whirl hoops around their arms and bodies, a ritual honoring the circle of life.

For Ryneldi Becenti, a smaller hoop within that greater circle helped guide her life.

Whether it was a rusted rim tacked to a tree or iron attached to glass under the bright lights of a WNBA arena, watching a ball go through an 18-inch hoop held sway over Becenti, bringing her closer to her deceased mother, making her a role model for her people, taking her from the reservation around the world and back again.

“It is in my blood,” Becenti said. “I slept, ate and drank basketball. It was all I had.” 

A little WNBA news from Doug: Delle Donne stays in Chicago for winter

Whether working basketball clinics, meeting with business leaders or just showing her face around town, Delle Donne is making the most of her time in the Windy City.

“It definitely has been a huge chance to help get the word out about the team and the league,” Delle Donne said. “They see me and being 6-foot-5, they are like who’s this athletic tall girl at these business meetings. They want to follow us next year. It’s important to have our faces out there so they can get excited about it.”

Michelle Smith straddles the W and the NCAA with her piece on Nicole Powell: WNBA veteran, former Stanford star finding her niche on Gonzaga sideline

Nicole Powell stood on the court in front of the visitors’ bench in Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the screen above center court and smiled widely as the strains of the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme boomed through the speakers.

The video highlights showed a young Powell, wearing her trademark headband, etching her spot in the Stanford women’s basketball record books as a three-time All-American.

When it was done, and the Stanford fans stood and applauded, it was time to get down to business. For Powell, that meant coaching the opposing team.

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You kinda knew, but you sorta hoped, and then you saw: “Smoosh” as it was Another Big Game, Another Big Performance By The Huskies

From John Altavilla at the Hartford Courant: No. 1 UConn Women Dominate In 83-61 Win Over No. 2 Duke

You figured time might be on Duke’s side Tuesday. Maybe this would be the night the Blue Devils could put the past behind them and summon the resources to knock UConn off the mountaintop the Huskies have grazed upon for so long.

Yes, that would have made for a nice story.

But the reality was something quite different. Or should we say the same.

Folks had a hard time figuring out who UConn’s brightest star was. From the CT Post’s Rich Elliot: Stewart, No. 1 UConn trounce No. 2 Duke

STAR OF THE GAME: Mosqueda-Lewis made a career-high 7-of-11 3-pointers and scored 21 points.

From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: No. 1 UConn ‘Two’ much for Duke

Mosqueda-Lewis hit five 3-pointers in the second half, none bigger than the one after Duke had sliced the lead to 13 and right after she misfired for one of the rare times. When Breanna Stewart grabbed a tough rebound in traffic and the ball made it back to Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn senior guard Bria Hartley said to her teammates and coaches on the bench “she’s not missing two in a row.”

It’s likely Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had some other words going through her mind at that point.

Elliot and Jeff Jacobs shared headline writers: UConn’s Mosqueda-Lewis returns with a splash and  KML Makes A Big Splash In Her Return

The second brace Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tried?

“I don’t really feel it,” KML said after she hit a career-high seven three-pointers as UConn routed Duke 83-61 Tuesday night. “It’s better than that huge brace I had on before. It’s just like a sleeve.”

Who knew that the second black brace came equipped with a GPS device? Or maybe it was some crazy, high-tech thingamajig that only some ingenious Dukie could invent. Who knew that KML would be able to punch a few buttons and it would direct the basketball directly from her fingertips to the bottom of the basket? Or maybe the artist — the “artiste,” Geno Auriemma called her — just got into the beautiful shooter’s groove.

Kate Fagan over at ESPN offered a counter-point: Stefanie Dolson is heart of Huskies

Dolson isn’t the most talented player on the UConn roster. That title belongs to Stewart, who scored 24 points against Duke. Nor is Dolson the smoothest member of the squad. That would be junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who played for the first time in eight games and dropped 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

But Dolson is the most important player.

When UConn coach Geno Auriemma walked into the press room after the game, he looked at the stat sheet and said, “How many assists did Stefanie have? Six? There are some centers in the country who don’t get six assists in a full year.”

Nate agrees:

Stefanie Dolson might not be focal point of the highlights from UConn’s 83-61 win over Duke last night, but her presence in the game was undeniable.

Perfectly receiving the ball in the high post, turning and finding the open player. Beautifully stepping into a 3-point shot as the ball is rotated to her after a defensive breakdown. Setting the screen that frees up the player who ends up scoring.

Of course, playing without much fanfare is not new for Dolson

From the News & Observer’s Jacobs: No. 2 Duke women again fall short vs. No. 1 UConn

“I’m looking for a shift,” McCallie said earlier this year. “Something’s going to shift. Something’s going to go – boom! And you’ll know it when you see it. That will be the beauty of it.”

But the long-awaited shift did not come against UConn, which instead lowered the boom in a suspenseless 83-61 victory.

The game stayed close only through the first media timeout. Then the Huskies went on a 24-4 tear as Duke displayed almost breathless impatience, fumbling the ball, losing concentration, and employing what McCallie described as “horrible shot selection.” Afterward the coach said, “It’s very disappointing, because we didn’t fight throughout.”

From Rob Clough over Full Court (UConn 83, Duke 61: Same song, seventh verse) and at DWHoops: Different Season, Same Story Again

There were a few stats that truly defined UConn’s relatively easy win over Duke in the Jimmy V Classic. UConn had 25 assists on their 30 field goals, a testament to their extremely precise and unselfish passing. The second telling stat is their 20-4 edge in second chance points, which reflects how much they outhustled the Devils. When one combines skill, speed and hustle, it’s hard to defeat that team, especially if their jump-shooting is highly effective. What was a close game in the first five minutes of the game turned into a “tough shot” contest that UConn won going away over the next ten minutes, a span that coach Geno Auriemma described as when “we did nothing wrong”. Duke started taking contested jump shots, one-dribble jumpers, one-pass jumpers, etc. instead of at least trying to attack the basket.

Who knows what the future holds...for the Duke v. UConn series.

Other ranked teams did their fair share of Smooshing: Georgia, Tennessee, Louisville and LSU.

In other news… some GOOD news: Sylvia Hatchell doing ‘really good’ – UNC coach still hoping for possible return to sideline by season’s end

The first thing Sylvia Hatchell does is reassure you. Yes, she’s feeling OK. Better than that, in fact.

“I am doing really good right now,” Hatchell said, then adds with a chuckle, “My biggest problem is I get bored.”

Hatchell would love nothing more than to be at work with her North Carolina women’s basketball team, deep into her daily to-do list. Cancer has a way, though, of shoving itself to the top of that list and trying to force off everything else.

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No. 2 Duke hasn’t come close to No. 1 UConn, Register
No. 2 Duke Ready To Take Another Swing At No. 1 UConn, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Duke, Courant
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Tuesday at No. 2 Duke, Post
No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke, Post
UConn women in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, Post

No. 2 Duke women set for No. 1 UConn challenge, News & Observer
No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten, Durham Herald Sun

Mechelle Voepel: Can Duke compete with UConn?, ESPN

There are some “big” games you anticipate with confidence … and others with trepidation. In women’s basketball, Connecticut vs. Duke — No. 1 vs. No. 2 Tuesday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET) — is the latter.

For this one, we’re all a bunch of Fox Mulders saying, “I want to believe.” Yes, I’d bet even most UConn fans would like to see this be an exciting game between two 10-0 teams that sit atop the rankings.

Rebecca Lobo: X factors to keep an eye on – Fouls? Free throws? Offensive flow? These elements might impact showdown

The top two teams in the women’s game meet Tuesday night when top-ranked UConn heads to Durham, N.C., to play No. 2 Duke. The Huskies have beaten the Blue Devils six straight times with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. (Duke kept it close for a half last season, down only two points at the break, but UConn blew it open in the second half.)

Does Duke have the talent and experience to beat UConn? Yes, without a doubt. Will the Blue Devils finally be able to play a full 40 minutes in order to get the W? We’ll have to tune in to see (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Here is what I’ll be keeping my eye on while watching the game.

Charlie Creme: The history behind 1-vs.-2 matchups – Blue Devils riding 24-game home winning streak into showdown

Just more than a month into the season, there is little to no debate over which are the two best women’s college basketball teams in the country. With possible apologies to those in Knoxville, South Bend and Lexington, Connecticut and Duke entered the season at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and neither team has done anything up this point to indicate any errors in that assessment.

The real question, as we embark on another 1-versus-2 matchup on Tuesday night (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 ET) in Durham, N.C., is whether the Blue Devils are right there with the Huskies as a true threat to the top spot … or merely closer to the rest of the pack that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame, Kentucky and a few others.

From espnW: Demanding Perfection – Top players for UConn describe what practice is like playing for coach Geno Auriemma.

From Doug: No. 2 Duke ready to meet No. 1 UConn

Today will mark the 52nd meeting between the top two teams in the poll, with the No. 1 team holding a 31-20 edge in the series. UConn has been in that game 17 times, including going 10-1 as the top-ranked team. Duke has played in this game six times, going 3-3. The two teams met once as the top two teams in the nation in 2003, with No. 2 UConn beating top-ranked Duke 77-65.

In other news:

As Rutgers women’s basketball continues to roll, No. 16 Georgia looms

Somewhat surprisingly, little has gone wrong thus far in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season.

After losing four of their top-six scorers from a year ago, the Scarlet Knights, who feature no seniors, have quietly blended youth into balanced offense. Four Knights — three underclassmen — are averaging double figures through 10 games. As a team, Rutgers is actually scoring 12 more points per contest (68.1) than last season (56.0).

Buckeyes try to shake out of slump

The Ohio State women’s basketball team gathered for a film session yesterday that served as a double feature without the box of popcorn.

The Buckeyes (7-6) had to watch the postmortem of their 64-49 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday and follow that with a look at Tennessee Martin (6-3), their opponent tonight at Value City Arena.

Coach Kevin McGuff entered the room knowing that his young, largely inexperienced team is at a crossroads.

From the .com: Sheryl Swoopes Embraces New Role as Head Coach at Loyola Chicago

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

“My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back,” Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call – one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Stinky news for Asjha Jones and the Sun: She’ll Miss WNBA Season

Meanwhile, the Lynx continue their Roster Review: Janel McCarville

 … coming into the season, though, McCarville hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. 

The center quickly answered any and all questions. As she got into shape during Training Camp, her knack for finding open teammates became obvious and it seemed like she was perfect for a team with offensive threats like Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Throughout the season, her role became extremely important for the Lynx and she averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game while helping the Lynx win the 2013 title in her first season with the squad. 

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you were a ranked team named North Carolina, Nebraska, Tennessee, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Maryland, Notre DameKentucky, Georgia, Baylor, Oklahoma (Ellenberg seems to be ok) and Cal.

A little more excitement was had by Penn State, LSU and Purdue.

St. John’s is NOT enjoying being the host of the Chartwells Holiday Classic.

Yah, I see you’re 8-1, West Virginia. Let’s chat after you meet Oklahoma State and Baylor.

Baby steps — San Francisco earned its fourth win.

It took two overtimes, but Michelle Plouffe (and the Utes) took down BYU, 82-74, earning Plouffe espnW Player of the Week honors.

Cats might get nine lives, but giving Michelle Plouffe 10 extra minutes doomed the BYU Cougars on Saturday.

In leading Utah to in-state wins against Utah Valley and BYU this past week, the latter with one of the season’s most impressive individual finishing kicks, Plouffe earned espnW national player of the week honors and provided the young Utes with some much-needed momentum.

Yup, they take this in-state competition seriously: two overtimes later, it was Memphis over Tennessee Tech , 78-76.

Wyoming is putting together a nice season so far (“Fallon Lewis is too small, and Kaylie Rader is too young. And somehow, it doesn’t matter.“). Tough to get games against ranked opponents, though.

Yes, they’re 9-1, but the tough part of Arizona State’s schedule doesn’t hit until late January. Then it’s Cal, Stanford, Utah and Colorado.

Probably my fault: Grand Canyon (“Who?” you ask? “The only for-profit institution with a Division I athletic program,” I answer. ) deals East Carolina their first loss of the season.

DEFINITELY my fault: Quinnipiac takes down Albany. Big.

Resisting the WHB curse, UTEP moves to 9-0.

The kind of game Debbie Antonelli lives for: Sacramento State 99, UC Irvine 94.

And another one: Eastern Michigan 104, Detroit 96.

It’s a signature win only in the sense that the Bearcats have been waiting for something to hang their hat on: Cincinnati over Ohio State.

In the battle of the Missouri Valley v. the Horizon League, it was the Shockers over the Phoenix, 63-58.

Happy 1000th point for Pittsburgh’s Kiesel.

Graham Whites abWout the Wabbits.

Megan Waytashek watched more basketball during her first two years at South Dakota State than she ever had before or likely ever wants to again. As injuries separated her from the court for the first time in her life, all she could do was sit and watch. Game after game after game.

As Wednesday night crept toward Thursday morning, watching a game was all she wanted to do. Over and over again.

No matter that the final exam period began the next day for Waytashek, a mechanical engineering major, and others at the school in Brookings, S.D., an hour north of Sioux Falls and four hours west of Minneapolis. Those headaches could wait a few hours more. She just wanted to keep watching scenes from South Dakota State’s 83-79 victory against No. 12 Penn State from earlier that night, the one in which she had 18 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. The one in which she was in the middle of the celebration at the final buzzer.

About that Blue and White v. White and Blue game tomorrow:

No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke and Huskies get boost as Mosqueda-Lewis, Tuck ready to return and KML, Tuck expect to play at Duke and KML And Tuck Are Likely Available For Duke Game and UConn women back at full strength.

A UConn fan site preview and DWHoops preview.

From Jim Fuller: Senior guards go way back in UConn/Duke rivalry

It’s not uncommon to see parents vigorously cheering on the UConn women’s basketball team. It’s rare to look up in the stands and not see at least one of Kiah Stokes parents as well as family members of current Huskies Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart, among others taking in the action.

However, in UConn’s trip to Pacific back during 2010-11 season, Hartley had a couple of familiar faces who made the trip to see her play. Yes, they were family members just not her own. It was the parents of Duke point guard Chelsea Gray who came out to show support to one of their daughter’s best friends.

Ooooooo! Rival For UConn Women? Duke Hasn’t Put Up Much Of A Fight

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In this case, it’s women’s basketball players and blood clots:

Antonita Slaughter from Louisville.

Kyvin Goodin-Rogers from Kentucky.

Rebekah Dahlman from Vandy.

Other injury news: Washington freshman Chantel Osahor out indefinitely with stress fracture

Returning from injury news: Marist visits rivals with Casey Dulin set to debut

The last time Casey Dulin played in a game she scored 13 points to lead the Marist College women’s basketball team in its NCAA tournament opener in March.

Today, 266 days since that loss to Michigan State, the senior guard returns to action, making her 2013-14 debut against host Boston University after breaking her right foot in late October

Speaking of Marist: Marist hurdled obstacles to find success again

In transfer news: She moved in high school, and it looks like she’s moving in college: Breanna Hayden to leave Baylor.

Friday the 13th brought no bad luck for East Carolina, which made mincemeat of Alcorn State and kept their record unblemished.

San Diego resisted the WHB curse and moved to 10-0 with their win over Long Beach State.

In the battle of the W’s (Williams and Wetmore v. Wurtz and Whyte) it was Washington over Wisconsin.

Army played Ohio State tough, but the Buckeyes squeezed out a win.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team got a do-over with the clock ticking toward zero last night at Value City Arena and left smiling this time.

The Buckeyes, who lost to Gonzaga on a buzzer-beater on Sunday, rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 2:23 to reel in Army 59-56 in front of a crowd of 4,183.

Wow — tough to got through two overtimes and lose by 13. Welcome to UCF’s fate against the Owls of Florida Atlantic.

Mechelle adds her voice to the good wishes sent to the Frese family: Frese’s son wraps up chemotherapy- Tyler Thomas, 5, will get his blood checked regularly for the next year and a half

...the image you immediately see in your head when the Maryland women’s basketball coach is mentioned is her standing on the sideline, nodding, clapping and sending out good vibes to her players.

Likewise, with every public mention of her son, Tyler Thomas, and his battle with leukemia, Frese has been similarly upbeat. One can imagine that in private, she and husband Mark Thomas have shed tears and had their low points of fear and worry. There is no worse emotional pain than that felt by a parent or guardian of a sick/injured child.

But Frese has always talked about Tyler winning against the disease and about how he received terrific medical care at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg Children’s Center. You can surmise that 5-year-old Tyler both inherited and was inspired by his mom’s buoyant attitude.

Speaking of Mechelle’s voice, check her out as she (and Coach McCallie) talk Duke v. UConn with David at Dishin’ & Swishin’: Is #2 Duke ready for #1 UConn?

More on the upcoming game from John Altavilla: Coach McCallie On A Number Of UConn-Duke Topics

On the current condition of senior guard Chelsea Gray, who is back after a dislocated knee cap ended her junior season on Nov. 17, 2012:
“It’s been extraordinary; I have never been a part of that kind of story [recovering from knee dislocation]. She’s worked hard, preserved, put herself into position to be in tip-top shape. … We’re not there yet. It’s December, but we are at a good stage with her. I’m proud of her. It’s a hard injury.”

And: Jay Bilas Offers A Fresh Insight Into Duke-UConn and Gray And Jones A Potent Duke Guard Combination

Over at Mel’s blog, Mike Siroky toots the SEC horn: Kentucky Plays Another Masterpiece Game

The Southeastern Conference women’s college basketball teams retain their mastery of the rest of the world.

Those AP-ranked teams are now 47-3 (and there is another undefeated league team and two with one loss each, which makes the top nine 73-5).

Déjà vu all over again: For the second straight week, the biggest win was by the team we have dubbed the best in the league, the national Game Of The Season (so far).

From Lady Swish: JMU preps for St. John’s tourney

For JMU, the next five days are filled with opportunity and possibilities.

The Dukes (6-2) will play three games over this span, with two of them coming against resume-enhancing opponents. If successful, JMU can brand itself as not just a team good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but one capable of making some noise once they get there. And trust us, perception is important when it comes to the NCAA selection committee.

Some players making an impact:

From Carl Adamec: UConn’s Chong reports for freshman duties

“Sometimes it’s hard being the only freshman. A lot of times I’m doing things on my own,” Chong said. “I’m the only freshman and I know they have their eyes on me. I have to give them my 100 percent every time and let them know I’m working hard.

“My roommate (Jade Strawberry) is a volleyball player so I didn’t always see her during her season. She’s out practicing or I’m out practicing so I have to do a lot of things on my own. I’ll go to class by myself. I’ll interact with other people on my own. But when things get tough I just ask the older girls on the team and they’ll help me.”

From Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White Shae Kelley doing it all for ODU

Through eight games, Shae Kelley leads Old Dominion in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, minutes played, yards after the catch, goals-against average….

OK, we made a couple of those up. But only a couple.

From Aggie Sports: Gilbert making an impact on and off court in her hometown

Gilbert does her student teaching in the area and enjoys when she is recognized for her on-the-court work, but she also takes great pride when fans recognize what she hopes to do in the classroom.

“It defines me as not only a basketball player, I’m also someone who desired to teach and help out younger kids and be a big part of the community,” she said.

From Mike Esse at Penn State Athletics:

Two words: patience and dedication. Put those two together and you get Lady Lion senior Talia East.

The 6-foot-3 forward from Philadelphia wasn’t seeing the playing time she wanted in her first two years due to injuries and veterans in front of her. In 2012-13, East began to show flashes of the player she could be and now in her final year in Happy Valley, she is a dominating force inside for the Lady Lions.

From Ken Sickenger at the Albuquerque Journal: Lobo women’s hoops: Alexa Chavez goes from walk-on to key performer

“Honestly, I told her what I tell all our walk-ons,” Sanchez said. “‘You probably won’t play much, you probably won’t travel, and your main job will be to work hard at practice and help the team get better.’”

Chavez was undeterred by the high-work, low-reward prospects.

“Alexa came in and just never stopped working and never stopped improving,” Sanchez said. “Now she’s in a position to help us win basketball games and she’s skilled enough to do it.”

So, where are you traveling to in 2015?

In W news: Use Of Instant Replay Headlines WNBA Rule Changes

In Arizona, the New Phoenix Mercury GM is Phoenix Suns exec

From the Daily Nebraskan: Former Husker basketball player Kelsey Griffin finds happiness playing abroad

Kelsey Griffin left Nebraska as a 2010 First-Team All-American, a three-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection, the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and the No. 3 player on Nebraska’s career scoring list with 2,033 points.

Yet somehow, when she entered the WNBA after being drafted as the No. 3 overall pick by the Minnesota Lynx and subsequently traded to the Connecticut Sun, she felt as if she was on her own.

Jim Massie writes about what we already know, but it’s always fun to read his work: Katie Smith returning to WNBA — as a coach

Next spring will find Katie Smith feeling a familiar itch that time finally has persuaded her to scratch in some other way.

Smith, the most-decorated player in Ohio State women’s basketball history, ended her long playing career at the end of the 2013 WNBA season. The 39-year-old returned to her home in Upper Arlington to finish her graduate work for a degree in dietetics and to serve as a grad assistant mentor to the current OSU women’s team.

Several basketball players on espnW’s “Impact 10

NO. 2 BRITTNEY GRINER

NO. 6 ELENA DELLE DONNE

NO. 7 MAYA MOORE

NO. 9 CANDACE PARKER

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Wisconsin hung with Gonzaga through the first, and then the Bulldogs ran away with the win.

Speakin’ of dogs, the Danes are still undefeated.

Wow – BU has not had a fun first year in the Patriot League.

Why don’t people listen when I say “‘Ware the Wabbits”? In the first half, the Lions got kicked but good by South Dakota State. Penn State then got their rabbit’s foot working and it looked like they were going to recover from a 20pt. deficit to escape with a win. But no, the Jackrabbits pull a huge win upset out of their hat.

Yes, I see you, undefeated Indiana — but Iowa looms on January 2nd.

Eastern Michigan goes up against Big Blue — and earns its first loss of the season, 89-75.

Graham puts the spotlight on some deserving teams and coaches: WCC offers some of nation’s best basketball

What college soccer fans have known for years looks increasingly a fact of life in basketball. Teams that treat the West Coast Conference as a little guy put themselves at risk of a big surprise. 

Gonzaga’s win at Wisconsin on Tuesday night finished a Midwestern sweep that began with a win at Ohio State and cemented the Bulldogs as the team atop the rankings. But this isn’t just about the WCC’s flagship program, the one with three Sweet 16 appearances and a regional final since coach Kelly Graves arrived. Four teams from the conference appear in this week’s rankings, teams with a combined 33-2 overall record and 9-1 record against major conferences this season. 

What used to be the six power conferences, including the old Big East, were the only leagues a season ago that ranked ahead of the WCC in RPI. Two seasons ago, the WCC ranked eighth among all conferences. That is in contrast to the previous decade, when the league finished better than 12th on just two occasions. Credit the arrival of a proven program like BYU with some of the improvement, but it’s also about growth from programs like Saint Mary’s and San Diego, which advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT two seasons ago, finished second in the league for the second season in a row last season and now finds a home in the mid-major rankings for the first time.

Let’s get this hype started: Duke v. UConn, December 17th.

John Altavilla – Duke-UConn: It’s More Than A Game and Another 1 vs. 2 Just A Week Away For UConn

Mechelle & Michelle: Top Teams Face Off

Ouch: Kentucky’s Stallworth sidelined after knee surgery

Good news: Maryland’s Frese celebrates son’s success in beating leukemia

So, just how happy are the Sun? 

Asked how he was doing after his Liberty ended up fourth in the WNBA draft lottery Tuesday, New York coach/general manager Bill Laimbeer joked, “Oh, I’m just destroyed and heartbroken.”

He was totally kidding, of course. Last year, with the “3 to See” lottery, coming in fourth left Mystics’ president/managing partner Sheila Johnson visibly stricken and disappointed.

But this year, while No. 1 is coveted as always — Connecticut has the top selection, followed by Tulsa, San Antonio, and New York — the talent available for the top four picks is not perceived to have a precipitous fall-off between selections.

Speaking of the W: Michael Cooper interview, Part II: The Atlanta Dream’s offseason, the 2014 WNBA Draft, and Pat Riley’s influence

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why. Every time I thought, “well, that’s the game,” the players said, “Nope!”

I certainly enjoyed watching the Kentucky/Baylor game on my ‘puter as I cooked up some serious chili. Not sure the men’s teams waiting for the game to conclude were too thrilled. But really, it was Calipari’s fault. And, as Mechelle noted

So what happened? A “Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files” kind of game. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn’t going to get enough money.

Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, “Holy (blank)!” That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women’s hoops game.

This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.

There were other games this past weekend, and don’t let the final scores fool ya — some were nice and close through the first half. Which doesn’t mean a lot to the losing team, but it does suggest the winners need to not be let off the “so, how good are you?” hook.

Cal over Pacific.

Texas A&M over Washington.

Gonzaga over Ohio State (I TOLD you the Buckeyes were a tough out.)

Tennessee over Texas.

Purdue over IPFW.

South Carolina over Charlotte.

Penn State over Georgetown – and they needed all of Maggie’s 2000th point.s.

Iowa State over CS Fullerton (thanks, Hallie.)

Nice win for Auburn over St. John’s.

Eastern Michigan is still loss-free.

Ditto for San Diego.

Ditto with Notre Dame, who stomped all over UCLA.

Duke is still undefeated (#500 for McCallie) as the Blue Devils sorta handled Oklahoma in a game that saw defense prohibited in the second half (and some gimpiness).

They’re not as strong as they usually are, but it’s still important to ‘ware the ‘wabbits – as the Phoenix discovered. BTW, nice story: UWGB freshman Buck’s drive inspires Native Americans

There are not a lot of players like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Tesha Buck playing basketball at the NCAA Division I level.

A little more than a decade ago, there were none.

Buck is a Native American who already has overcome long odds to reach this point in her career.

In the most recent NCAA race and ethnicity report from the 2011-12 season, there were 10,151 male and female basketball players in Division I. Just 25 of them — 21 women and four men — were Native American/Alaskan Native.

In 2000, there were no Native American/Alaskan Native female basketball players. In 2008, there was one.

Not my fault – Fordham deals Holy Cross their first loss of the season.

So, I’m not saying ‘ware the Sun Devils yet — though that win over UNC was nice — but it did take them an OT to take down Long Beach State. I guess we’ll get a better sense of who they are after they work through Syracuse-Cal-Stanford-Colorado.

126 points!

Okay, is Michigan State down or is it Virginia Tech that is up?

Yes, it was against UMass-Lowell, but when was the last time Seton Hall scored 97pts?

Not my fault, neither: ‘nova earns its first loss at the hand of St. Joseph’s.

Phew! (Or I would have had to deny blame again): BYU squeaked by Creighton, 52-51.

No squeaking involved, as UTEP continued to roll.

Yah, they’re still undefeated, but let’s see what happens when Arkansas meets South Carolina four games from now.

Yup, Wisconsin’s improved.

So, how glad are the 1-8 Seahawks that they let Cynthia Cooper go?

Yes, there have been some major injuries, but boy is Hartford not enjoying their season so far.

*all sing* “What a difference a coach makes….” The Penguins are 1-6.

From Michelle Smith: Cards move on without Slaughter- Jeff Walz, Louisville making adjustments after losing senior guard for the season

Slaughter collapsed on the bench last Tuesday during the Cardinals’ game against Missouri State. The clot was discovered in follow-up examinations. Walz said Monday that doctors believe the clot was not related to her collapse, but was discovered during the subsequent evaluation. The collapse, doctors believe, was caused by a “cardiac event” and Slaughter is still being evaluated. In the meantime, Slaughter has begun to take blood thinners, the treatment expected to last six or seven months.

“They don’t know if the clot was there before or after,” Walz said. “But they are two separate incidents. They are still trying to determined what caused the cardiac event.”

Writes Graham of this past week’s events: Cats, Cards cap strange week in Commonwealth

Expressing that magnanimity that perhaps comes with a second-half comeback in front of a full house in your arena, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell heaped praise on Louisville counterpart Jeff Walz after last Sunday’s rivalry game, and then offered what surely seemed a benediction without any hint of foreboding.

 “It’s a good time for basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Mitchell said.

Little did he know he was also about to play his part in what proved to be the strangest of weeks for women’s basketball in the Bluegrass State, one that turned the basketball court into something of a refuge for Louisville in the aftermath of Antonita Slaughter’s collapse and subsequent season-ending diagnosis of blood clots, and a labyrinth impossible to escape for Kentucky in a four-overtime game against Baylor.

So where does basketball in the Commonwealth stand a week later?

A little W info, as James over at Swish Appeal is talking to the Dream’s new head coach Michael Cooper on the hiring process, what makes a championship team, and Running With The Dream

Full Court has a nice coaching/coast bookend: Team turnarounds are Carol Ross’s coaching calling card

The plain-spoken Southerner is popular with players, fans and the press alike. Her coaching philosphy is built around heavy doses of the basics — hard work, discpline and defense, defense, defense. “I would hope that any team that I have the opportunity to influence – and that will be the Sparks now – that they are going to play very hard, they’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion,” Ross told Full Court when she took over the reins in LA. “I can tell you that whoever is … wearing the Sparks uniform, they will play hard, and they will play with great passion and they’re going to compete very hard every night.”

Surprise! WNBA’s No. 4 pick in 2013 draft, Tayler Hill, expecting first child

Who’s got next (from Nate): Five seniors off to strong starts

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I do have a “real” job — and we just got an amazing, amazing grant:

The New York Community Trust – Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education has just awarded CAT an 18 month $460,000 grant to expand CAT’s successful Early Learning Program (ELP) in K-2 classes at four NYC public schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students and English Language Learners.  The Astor Fund was designed to support projects with the potential to generate widespread, systemic improvement in reading skills in the early grades among underserved NYC students. Under the leadership of ELP Director Helen Wheelock, CAT will provide theoretical and practical, multi-tiered professional development to approximately 60 educators on the use of interactive drama strategies to support reading and emergent literacy. The program will also provide CAT’s direct services to 1,275 students in support of Common Core literacy skills. A comprehensive evaluation, overseen by Drew Allen, SUD’s Director of Research and Evaluation, will track the year-long impact of these services.

Woot!

I’m also writing  (more) bout my “real” job: Looking Back, Looking Forward…

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#25 Iowa came back from 10 down to defeat #22 Syracuse, giving the Orange their first loss of the season. (Also not my fault that ESPN had the Iowa/Cuse game recap for the UConn/UC-Davis game.

Blame the turkey? Purdue had a lead at the half, but then Duke kicked it into gear (And got Coach McCallie to her 499th win).

And then there were 6. Another injury to a scholarship player (ankle sprain) has UConn fans making rhymes (Nine little Huskies, playing oh so great/But one took a tumble, and then there were eight./Eight little Huskies, but one came up lame/Leaving only seven to continue with the game) and the team continuing to make mincemeat of their opponents.

I’m not holding my breath, but I am noticing Clemson has won some games. (First four-game winning streak since the 2008-09.)

Two teams that have made noise, but are semi-quiet this season went at it and had a hoot of a game: Central Michigan over Dayton, 94-91. Were you there, Debbie?

A not insignificant win: Wolfpack 76, Northwestern 61.

Yup, it’s gonna be a long year for Arizona: Blazers 63 – Wildcats 53.

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Busy as all get out, but I got to see the mom for Thanksgiving – so it’s all good.

Speaking of good, it was wicked scary, but it seems better: Antonita Slaughter collapses on bench

At 9:57 Tuesday night, U of L player Tia Gibbs posted a picture on Twitter of a text message Slaughter had sent to her teammates saying she was doing OK and congratulating them on the victory.

“I’m good,” Slaughter wrote. “First thing I (asked) was how many turnovers we had.

Things are getting somewhat clearer in the land of women’s basketball. Certainly the very anticipated game between Duke and UConn (Dec. 17th in Durham) got more interesting with the news that Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are well on the way to mending.

On the topic of “anticipated games,we’ve got the Wildcats v. the Bears looming (Hmm? So much for the Sooner Supplanting?). Whoops!

Speaking of interesting match ups, after some intriguing back-and-forth, it looks like there is a chance Notre Dame will continue to play Connecticut.

Speaking of Notre Dame: nice homecoming for Natalie Achonwa in Toronto.

“She’s done so much for our program and really for all of Canada basketball, being the youngest member of [the 2012 Canadian Olympic women’s basketball team],” McGraw said of Achonwa. “She’s very well known in Toronto, and it was just great that her family, friends, teammates could all come out and see her play. We were just so happy to be able to do that for her.”

In a random survey of things missed, I will say Ohio State is proving a stubborn out.

Putting the lie to the old saw, “There are no upsets in women’s basketball:

Spartans defense stunned by IPFW

(Now ranked) Syracuse over Texas A&M – but, of course, it may be the Aggies don’t like (burnt) orange.

In Mexico, ASU took down UNC.

UCLA knocked off Oklahoma on the Sooners’ homecourt.

Washington State got a huge win over Nebraska. And Nebraska also lost to UNC — which might be called an upset.

Too early to know if Kentucky over Louisville was an upset — but when state bragging rights are on the line, it’s all about the emotions.

Speaking about state bragging rights: Northwestern over DePaul.

How much is San Diego State missing Beth Burns?

Yes, I noticed!

Dem Great Danes are sitting pretty at 7-0.

ACC is chock full of undefeateds: Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame.

Ditto in the Big 12: Baylor is joined by Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

Yup, that’s Villanova at 7-0 in what used to be the Big East. And congrats to co-captain Jessica Wamala, who was named a Rhodes Scholar.

Yes, it’s early, but the Big 10’s Indiana is 8-0.

C-USA could be fun: UTEP and East Carolina are both 7-0.

Hello, EMU in the Mid-American. The Eagles are 5-0.

There have been some tests, but Colorado is 7-0 in the Pac-12.

With a 6-0 record, Holy Cross seems to have regained its mojo.

The SEC has several in the ranks of the unblemished: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee. Three one-loss teams lurk behind them, so much will be revealed during conference play.

West Coast looks like it’s going to be fun: San Diego (Congrats, Coach Fisher: best start in school history), BYU and St. Mary’s are spotless.

In a world often full of coulda-shoulda-woulda’s, here’s an interesting story: SDSU coach Johnston has no regrets about UWGB decision

It’s been six years since Aaron Johnston called former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay athletic director Ken Bothof from a Minnesota airport to inform him he was having second thoughts about replacing Kevin Borseth as the women’s basketball coach.

He ended up boarding his flight to Green Bay. But by the time he arrived, he had made the decision to return to South Dakota State University.

It’s not been easy in the land of the upstart Eagles, but coach Smesko is encouraged by last victory

No matter how you cut it, 900 wins is extraordinary. Belated shout out to Tara VanDerveeer who, despite her ridiculous record, seems to fly under the radar.

She believes her style is a reflection of her parents, who were both teachers.

“I think I knew from the beginning that coaching is really teaching,” VanDerveer said. “You have 30 public exams a year. I am a student of the game. I know the more I learn, the more there is to learn. I keep studying players and games and try to learn from everyone I’m around.

“I just try to get better every day. Tomorrow, I hope I do a better job than today.”

“I just try to get better every day. Tomorrow, I hope I do a better job than today.” Now that’s a role model.

Bits and pieces from the W:

In a WATN? moment:Adrienne Johnson – Injured Former WNBA Player Loses Comp Case

The Shock, amongst others, are hoping for top prize as WNBA draft lottery is set for next Tuesday, Dec. 10th, 3:30EST on SportsCenter. So, it makes sense that Nate at Swish Appeal has Five guards to watch

I begin this “watch list” with a look at Hartley because she was one of the hardest prospects on this list to “figure out” after the way she played last season – the harsh reality is that the WNBA’s current 11-player rosters aren’t forgiving enough to assume a player will automatically make a roster based on pedigree. But all those challenges she had during her junior season leave us with questions for her senior season, which frame the purpose of a “watch list”.

It doesn’t really matter what league you look at: in most years, the top 10 prospects for any draft are going to change over the course of a season, even if the top three remains the same from start to finish. In the WNBA in particular, we know that players can’t just leave when their stock is high or the moment they show upside, meaning scouts get the added benefit of watching a player for four years – from a prospect with upside to a finished (college) product.

So this “watch list” is the set of players who showed something statistically in their junior season that put them on pace to possibly make a WNBA roster after they leave the collegiate ranks if they stay on pace or improve.

Speaking of guards, Kate Bennert at the .com says Skylar Diggins  is Working Harder Than Ever in the Off Season

Speaking of hard workers, WNBA Tamika Catchings Talks About Giving Back to Community

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