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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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