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Archive for March, 2015

One breath-taking and elegant. One grinding and bruising. Two different styles on display and, contrary to some continuously un-infromed bloviators, people were paying attention: Women’s hoops (Tennessee-Maryland & Dayton-Connecticut), ‘Pardon the Interruption’ lead cable sports nets for Monday March 30, 2015

In the Dayton v. UConn game, the Flyers reminded everyone that there is no anointing of champions – it is an honored to be earned. For 20 minutes, women’s basketball fans and prognosticators looked with amazement as Dayton matched the Huskies shot for shot and speed for speed. Then UConn changed the pace in the second half and then (eventually) put some distance between their pesky A-10 opponent to notch a win and earn a trip to Tampa Bay. From Jeff Jacobs

…before there could be Tennessee for the first time in eight years, before there could be the rivalry that once was considered irresistible, there were the irrepressible Flyers hitting 7 of 10 three-pointers in the first half.

Before we could wade deeper and deeper in the furor over Indiana’s “religious freedom bill,” a furor that spread into our state Monday when Gov. Malloy signed an executive order banning state-paid travel to Indiana and adding it would be “a wise choice” to move the 2016 women’s Final Four, well, there was the matter of that school located about 40 miles from the Indiana border.

“I can’t say enough great things about the kids from Dayton,” Auriemma said. “That’s one of the best teams we’ve played in the last five years.”

Tennessee and Maryland went at each other like two heavyweights. Not a lot of finesse involved, just a lot punch/counter-punch. One would pull away, then the other would claw back. Then, in the last few minutes, the Terps scored, Tennessee went cold, and so Maryland moves into their second Final Four in a row.

Using a vastly different blueprint from a year ago, Maryland is back in the Final Four.

The Terrapins earned a berth in the national semifinal last season by relying heavily on the all-around play of All-American senior Alyssa Thomas.

There are no such standouts on this team, so the Terrapins have featured a more balanced attack. Four different players have led them in scoring during their four NCAA tournament victories.

Hmmm… I guess Mechelle didn’t get my memo: In Tampa, it’s UConn’s title to lose

There will be no long-awaited rematch of UConn and Tennessee in the Women’s Final Four. But the more recent incarnation of women’s hoops’ preeminent grudge match — UConn versus Notre Dame — could be on the horizon.

For the third time since the NCAA tournament began for women in 1982, all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four: UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland.

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in the WNIT: 

Semifinals
Wednesday, April 1
Temple at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
UCLA at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

How they got there:

West Virginia 75, Villanova 70 OT
Michigan 69, Southern Miss 60
Temple 69, Middle Tennessee 57
UCLA 82, Saint Mary’s 66

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On yesterday’s games….

From Graham: Allen scores 23 to lead top-seeded Irish to fifth consecutive Final Four

A point guard who spoke loudly and backed up every word of it got this started. A point guard who lets her play speak for her kept it going. All the way to Tampa.

Skylar Diggins, meet Lindsay Allen.

Not so long ago, Notre Dame was a respected program in college basketball. It mattered. It was healthy and reliable. But it wasn’t a program that influenced seasons. Had it been a country, it would have been Sweden. Maybe Australia.

It was pleasant. A superpower it was not. Influence comes and goes, with lasting power hard to come by, and the reach of the national championship won in 2001 had started to wane. Then came Diggins, the homegrown hero who memorably chose Notre Dame ahead of Final Four-regular Stanford. By the time she was a sophomore, the Fighting Irish were back in the Final Four. Then they went back the next year. And the year after that. Diggins left but they went back a fourth time, players who were attracted by Diggins, either directly or in the results that followed her, taking the reins.

Former Lehigh coach Muffet McGraw appreciates Notre Dame women’s basketball run more than ever, AP

It would be easy to forgive Pottsville native Muffet McGraw if she started taking Final Four appearances for granted.

After all, the Notre Dame women’s coach has become a regular of sorts on college basketball’s biggest stage — reaching her fifth straight Final Four with a 77-68 win over No. 2 seed Baylor on Sunday night.

Despite the top-seeded Fighting Irish’s wild success, their longtime coach has only grown more appreciative of the ride as the wins have piled up.

Notre Dame knocks off Baylor 77-68 in Oklahoma City regional final – Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen scored a team-high 23 points to send the Irish to its fifth-straight Final Four

With each step up the ladder, MVP chants echoed inside Chesapeake Energy Arena for the unlikely Notre Dame star as she cut her piece of the net.

“It’s just a great moment for our team overall,” she said, “to make it to another Final Four.”

The No. 1 Irish defeated two-seed Baylor 77-68 Sunday night and it wasn’t the espnW National Player of the Year, junior Jewell Loyd, who played hero in that scene. Instead, it was the formerly pass-first point guard who led Notre Dame to its fifth-straight national semifinal appearance.

 Hurting Baylor women expect to be bigger, better next season

The immediate pain made it difficult for Nina Davis to think about Baylor’s bright future.

For the second year in a row, the Lady Bears’ season ended with a loss to Notre Dame in a regional final.

“We fell short, and we thought we had a great opportunity to get to the Final Four,” said Davis, the sophomore who was the Big 12 player of the year. “But we had a great season.”

Hairopoulos: Early lead slips away, Baylor women’s season again ends just short of Final Four

South Carolina v. Florida State

From Mechelle: South Carolina books first Final Four – Seven years after she took over, Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks having historic season

Asia Dozier thinks she first shot free throws from the regulation distance when she was about 7 years old.

“But it was on an 8-foot goal,” she said, “so it was a little easier.”

Tiffany Mitchell thinks free throws are the least nerve-racking way to score — hey, it’s just you and the basket — which is why she gets so annoyed about missing them. She doesn’t do that often; Mitchell is an 83.9 percent shooter from the line this season.

In the final 27 seconds of South Carolina’s regional final 80-74 victory against Florida State on Sunday, the two juniors went to the stripe six times. With their program’s first trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance, Mitchell and Dozier came through, making all six.

Analysis: South Carolina 80, FSU 74 – Gamecocks trailed by 10 points before earning first trip to Final Four

Twenty-three years have passed since Dawn Staley went to the Final Four. But that’s where she and top-seeded South Carolina are headed later this week.

The Gamecocks trailed much of the game, but rallied in the closing minutes to beat No. 2 seed Florida State 80-74 in the Greensboro Regional final on Sunday.

Staley went to the Final Four three years in a row, 1990 through 1992, while a player at Virginia. She had a long professional career that included three Olympic gold medals. She began her coaching career at Temple in 2000, and then took over South Carolina in 2008.

Staley joins Baylor coach Kim Mulkey as the only women in Division I history to both coach and play in the Final Four.

Noles’ Dream Run Ends In Elite Eight

The Seminoles, who were either leading or tied for all but 3:43, end their season 32-5 after setting a school record for the most wins in a season.

“It feels like they took from us something that belonged to us,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said. “But somebody had to take it from somebody.

“And, ultimately, they made the plays down the stretch.”

The NY Times’ Vic Bernstein was there: With Late Surge, South Carolina Earns Its First Final Four Berth

 There are only a handful of elite programs in women’s college basketball, and every year, it seems, those same teams run through the N.C.A.A. tournament on the way to the round of 8 and the Final Four.

This year’s tournament, though, is going to be a little different. The blue bloods will have some new blood, and don’t be surprised if South Carolina makes itself perfectly at home at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., next weekend.

On today’s games: Tennessee v. Maryland

Elite Eight Preview: Tennessee vs. Maryland, Swish Appeal
Maryland women’s basketball: Terps look to punch Final Four ticket vs. Lady Vols, Testudo Times
Tennessee stands between Terps women and return to Final Four, Baltimore Sun
Reprieve and Persist: Tennessee Lady Vols vs. Maryland Terrapins, Rocky Top Talk
Final Four worthy encore for either Lady Vols or Maryland, Knoxville News Sentinel
Warlick looks for first Final Four, Arkansas Online
Lady Vols, Terps meet in another high-stakes game, Kingsport Times News

From Michelle, we’ve got the Spokane Elite Eight breakdown and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has ‘swag’ – Sophomore’s competitive fire sets the tone for Terrapins’ success

While her daughter Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was playing her role as the designated hot hand for Maryland in its 65-55 Sweet 16 victory over Duke on Saturday at Spokane Arena, Andrea Kimbrough was home in Pennsylvania — at a baby shower.

There was a big pile of gifts still to be opened, and the mother-to-be hadn’t gotten to hers yet, so Andrea Kimbrough found herself in an adjacent bar with a group of Shatori’s cousins watching the game on TV.

“I was stuck,” Andrea Kimbrough said. “I had to watch.”

Luckily, it was relatively pleasant viewing, with her daughter putting up 24 points and the Terrapins moving into the Elite Eight. Watching her daughter play isn’t her favorite thing, not by a long shot.

UConn v. Dayton
Dayton Reminds Auriemma Of Earlier UConn Teams On The Rise, Courant
Flyers In Sixth Consecutive Tournament Appearance, Courant
NCAA Capsule: UConn vs. Dayton, Courant
Huskies have their eye on the Final Four, Register
Stokes recording blocks and special tourney moments, Register
Sunday Gravy: UConn women take madness out of March, Register
UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis finds her comfort zone, Albany Times Union
UConn, Dayton coaches renew a lopsided rivalry, Albany Times Union
Practice, interviews day before UConn women compete in Elite Eight, TheDay
Dayton ready for challenge of top-seed UConn, FoxSports
Dayton aiming for big upset of UConn, Albany Times Union

Luke Cyphers as the Albany Elite Eight breakdown and Dayton: ‘Nothing to lose’ vs. UConn, ESPN

Then there’s the other coach, Dayton’s Jim Jabir. He’s going nowhere but up, no matter what happens Monday. Which is why Jabir and his Flyers are having so much fun right now, despite facing the two-time national champs.

Jabir genuinely enjoys his days on the media room dais, perhaps because it has been such a long climb up there: Buffalo State to Siena to Marquette to Providence to Dayton. Except for that first stop, they were Catholic schools all, which made sense for a kid from Brooklyn’s Xaverian High, the alma mater of another guy who liked the 3-point shot, Chris Mullin.

“We are excited to be here,” he said. “Still excited to be here.”

UConn’s success drives Dayton, AP article from Columbus Journal Gazette

Hi, Harvey! To Longtime Geno Auriemma Assistant, There’s No Better Place Than UConn

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and ponder Indy 2016.

How can any women’s basketball fan imagine attending the Final Four in Indianapolis if this ridiculous legislative apology for discrimination stands? Much of the analysis is looking at this from the men’s side of sports (of course), but it is all table setting for a year long debate.

From the New York Times: Sports Entities Begin to Digest Implications of Indiana Law

Most affected leagues and teams have either declined to comment or expressed muted concern.

But one influential agent went further, strongly suggesting that officials in professional and college sports reconsider their presence in the state in light of the law.

“I urge the Indiana Pacers, the N.C.A.A. and the professional sports leagues to not only condemn this blatantly unconstitutional legislation, but to take forceful action against it by re-evaluating their short- and long-term plans in the state,” Arn Tellem, the sports agent, said in an email. Tellem’s clients include the basketball stars Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis as well as Jason Collins, the first openly gay N.B.A. player.

And several basketball players who could find themselves playing for a national championship next week expressed, like Johnson, broader tolerance of people who are gay.

It was nice to see this from the Pacers/Fever:

The following joint statement was issued today by the NBA, WNBA, Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever in regard to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently signed into law in Indiana:

“The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere.”

Additionally, Pacers and Fever owner Herb Simon stated:

“The Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have the strongest possible commitment to inclusion and non-discrimination on any basis. Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be. ”

I appreciate the statement, but it needs to go further. Imagine, if you will, NCAA champion-WNBA Champion-FIBA Worlds Champion Brittney Griner’s Phoenix Mercury play NCAA champion-WNBA-Champion-Olympic Champion Tamkia Catching’s Indiana Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and, say, Wimbledon great Billie Jean King graces the arena with her presence. They all decide to go out for dinner afterward… and are refused service.

How can any right-minded American think that is at all okay? There needs to be a commitment to do everything in their power to overturn this idiocy – in Indiana AND Arkansas (’cause 19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting)

Oh, and WBCA? Where is your voice? *crickets*

Kate Fagan writes: DEAR INDIANA, YOU NEED TO AMEND YOUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

If you contend you’re more like Illinois and Connecticut (two other states with “religious freedom” bills) than you are like Alabama and Louisiana — prove it.

Turns out that 19 other states have some form of a “religious freedom” bill, including the aforementioned two: Connecticut and Illinois. That’s surprising, considering that nobody is calling for the NCAA or NFL to boycott holding events in Chicago or Hartford. But do you want to know one reason why? Because the potential discriminatory nature of the “religious freedom” bills in those states is counteracted by the statewide policies protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

These anti-discrimination policies are not county-by-county. They’re not just government employment protection. They are sweeping measures that include public and private employment, public expression and interactions while receiving goods and services.

You, Indiana, have no such sweeping anti-discrimination policy. (Neither does Alabama or Louisiana.)

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Just gotta say…

Holy CARP those two games were OFF. DA. HOOK!!!

Congrats to all four teams for putting on a great showing for women’s basketball.

Next!

Now must finish up the last bit of work at work, find that pile of paperwork and make my way home and get ready to teach bright and early.

Yes, it stinks when work gets in the way of basketball…

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Man, do I love the Elite Eight. The last four in made it via

Rout. There are moments in sports when the individual or team are just in a zone, and there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do about it. Such was a moment yesterday, when even Auriemma just shook his head at what was happening on the court against Texas. From the Albany Times Union: Connecticut women’s basketball blasts Texas to reach Elite Eight

“Today was a lot of fun,” Stewart said. “Right from the start, shots were going in, and we were being aggressive. We knew Texas had big post players. We thought if we could get them moving a little bit, we could get any shot we wanted.”

Connecticut shot 55.7 percent for the game, a figure lowered only because of the final nine minutes when Auriemma cleared the bench. Stewart, after starting 2-for-7, made her final nine field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers.

That being said, it’s exciting to see the return of high quality basketball in Austin. Looking forward to next year and the Texas-UConn series to see what happens when both teams are at full strength.

Upset: The feisty Flyers may have flown under the radar this season, but no more.

Jabir’s A-10 upstarts, who’ve become this tournament’s Cinderellas with consecutive upsets over second-seed Kentucky and third-seeded Louisville, for the first time this March betrayed some jitters. The normally smooth ball handlers turned it over 14 times in the first half against the Cardinals. A series of uncharacteristically wild Flyer passes included an outlet from Ally Malott to Jabir on the sidelines, and two others to an empty space in the corner near where Louisville’s large red costumed mascot stood.

In the locker room at halftime, Jabir addressed the gaffes with his crimson-clad squad. “I said, Look, I know the bird is red, but he’s got a yellow beak, and the only person in the building with a bigger beak than that bird was me, and I wasn’t playing.”

Wondering how many P5 programs are adding them to their “No Play” list (along with Green Bay, Princeton, Gonzaga, Arkansas-Little Rock…) after Dayton toppled Louisville.

Comeback: Down 17, Holly’s crew clawed their way back and used OT to secure the win.

It’s called the “persistence drill.”

The Lady Vols divide their roster into three teams at practice, and one team goes out to play defense with a 45-second shot clock. And they can’t leave the court until the clock gets to 0:00.

If that team fouls or gives up a basket, it resets to 0:45. If the group gives up an offensive rebound, it resets as well. And if the team gets a stop, the clock stops where it is — and a new team comes in.

“It’s taxing and they don’t like it. We’ve done it for 40 minutes with one team on defense the whole time,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “You just put their backs against the wall and see if they fold or if they are going to step up and get it done.”

The Lady Vols ran that drill five or six times this season.

And they ran it again on Saturday evening in Spokane Arena.

Nice work, though, by Fortier, a potential Maggie Dixon Coach of the Year (though, that award has not always been a signal for future success…)

Workmanlike: Maryland and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, made sure their former ACC rivals kept their distance, and eased into the E8.

“I think we just love being able to beat Duke in the NCAA tournament,” Frese said. “Just so many classic matchups with both teams. I think we make each other better. Just tremendously proud of our fight today. It wasn’t an easy game. I thought Duke kind of controlled some things in terms of kind of putting us into a half-court [game], but we did a phenomenal job in the second half.”

It’s Super Sunday, so sit down!

It’s the battle of the Green and Gold.

From Graham: Notre Dame, Baylor have wow factors – All-Americans Jewell Loyd and Nina Davis make Sunday’s matchup must-see TV

The word that matters this time of year is win. But all the better if there are some wows along the way.

And with Loyd and Baylor’s Nina Davis around for Sunday’s regional final (8:30 ET, ESPN), two teams that do a lot of the former are led by players who excel at the latter.

It’s not that they are definitively better or more talented than their peers, not when you see a display like the one Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart put on in the Sweet 16, but you can’t take your eyes off how they do what they do.

“I sit there just like you guys do,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of Davis. “And I go, ‘How did she just do that?'”

Similar themed stories from the AP Baylor women haven’t forgotten loss to Notre Dame and ND Insider: History with Notre Dame on Baylor’s mind

Memories of Notre Dame’s 88-69 victory in the South Bend Regional of the 2014 NCAA women’s basketball tournament still sit in the collective craw of head coach Kim Mulkey and her Baylor basketball team.

On the eve of Sunday’s 8:30 p.m. regional championship rematch between second-ranked Notre Dame (34-2) and fifth-ranked Baylor (33-3) in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Bears admitted the porridge Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and her team prepared last March 31 hasn’t sat well during the 363-day hibernation in the series that Baylor still leads, 4-1.

It’s the Battle of Maroon.

From Mechelle: Modest Mitchell worth talking about – Junior All-American has South Carolina one win away from first Final Four

They’ll be tough moments during a practice at South Carolina, and that’s when she does it. Tiffany Mitchell will let loose the wisecrack or dry remark that seems completely inappropriate for everyone’s tense mood right at that instant.

Except, it’s actually pretty much exactly what everybody needs.

“It comes naturally from her personality; she’s a fun person,” said her good pal, Gamecocks forward Aleighsa Welch. “She takes basketball very seriously, but she values her teammates, and she’s one of the most selfless people you’ll meet. She makes everything a fun situation. Even sometimes when it probably shouldn’t be. She’ll find a way.

“I think she gets a lot of it from her mom, because they’re both definitely characters.”

The ESPN crew makes their picks, and there’s only one unanimous choice.

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Compare and contrast….

Elite 8:
#3 over #7 by 11

#1 over #4 by 7

#1 over #5 by 39

#2 over #6 by 8

#2 over #11 by 12

#4 over #8 by 10

#1 over #5 by 6

#7 over #3 by 4

OR

#1 over #5 by 51

#7 over #3 by 15

#1 over #4 by 10

#2 over #11 by 4

#1 over #4 by 2

#2 over #3 by 15

#1 over #4 by 21

#2 over #3 by 1

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Sunday, March 29
Villanova at West Virginia, 2 p.m. ET
Michigan at Southern Miss, 3 p.m. ET
Temple at Middle Tennessee, 5 p.m. ET
Saint Mary’s at UCLA, 5 p.m. ET

How they got there:

Villanova 63, St. John’s 55 –  Recap
Temple 80, NC State 79 OT –  Recap
Michigan 65, Missouri 55 – Recap
West Virginia 60, Duquesne 39 – Recap
Middle Tennessee 82, Ole Miss 70 – Recap
UCLA 74, Northern Colorado 60 – Recap
Saint Mary’s 77, Sacramento St 69 –  Recap
Southern Miss 76, Eastern Michigan 65 –  Recap

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California University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball ends emotional season with Division II national championship

Kaitlynn Fratz lifted her arms once to call for the ball as the time ticked down on the Division II national championship in South Dakota.

The California University of Pennsylvania senior guard brought her hands down as the pass went to the other side of the court, then raised them back up again as the final buzzer sounded and teammate Mikki Glenn tossed the ball into the air.

Freshman Shatara Parsons burst off the sideline and lifted up Fratz, who kept her hands up high and her thumbs down, holding up four fingers to represent 44: the number of Shanice Clark, the teammate that the Vulcans lost more than two months ago and honored in every part of their season up until the championship round.

Shout out to Penn State grad and Vulcan coach Jess Strom, who in the third year, led the program to their second title and, more importantly, help hold the team together in the face of Clark’s death.

“People probably think I’m crazy for not calling a timeout but I’ve figured out that they will come back,” Strom said of her patience at the beginning of the game. “We’ve gotten down a lot early this year, but we fight.

“I know they’re fighters so I don’t worry too much.”

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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the upcoming games…

#4 UNC v. #1 South Carolina

David Caraviell, Post and Courier: For Gamecocks, an all-too-familiar foe awaits in Sweet 16 and In women’s basketball, battle of Carolinas bigger than one game

She won two national championships at Francis Marion, she married a man from Florence, and she’s a member of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. High school coaches from the Palmetto State will comprise much of her camp staff this summer. Sylvia Hatchell may be in her 29th season as head coach of the women’s basketball program at North Carolina, but her ties south of the border remain strong.

“I have probably more houses and real estate in South Carolina than I do in North Carolina,” she said.

No wonder, then, the Tar Heels have proven such a formidable foe for Dawn Staley’s program at South Carolina, in more ways than one. 

Willie T. Smith, Greenville News: Hatchell, Staley continue to battle for talent in SC

David Cloninger, Go Gamecocks: Lost stars, same style with Tar Heels – DeShields and McDaniel missing, but UNC still likes to run

Joedy McCreary, AP

Top-seeded South Carolina earned a conveniently short trip for its NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance.

Its opponent — fourth-seeded North Carolina, the lowest seed left in the region — got an even shorter one.

Video: Dawn Staley on playing UNC in NCAA tournament

#3 Iowa v. #2 Baylor

Andy Rennecke, SCTimes: Peschel riding high with Hawkeyes

Don’t let Kali Peschel’s statistics fool you. She means a lot to the Iowa women’s basketball team.

The former Sauk Centre star averages 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds a game in an average of 16.2 minutes per contest, but she does all the dirty work for the Hawkeyes, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 after two wins last weekend.

Luke Meredith, AP: Iowa women’s basketball team, Johnsburg’s Dixon ready for Baylor

By almost every measure, Lisa Bluder’s 15-year tenure at Iowa has been a roaring success.

Bluder has won more than 300 games and is a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year. Her Iowa résumé includes 14 winning seasons, 44 All-Big Ten honorees and 67 academic all-league picks.

Bluder’s only blemish had been 11 NCAA tournament appearances, including seven straight, had produced zero trips to the Sweet 16. But the third-seeded Hawkeyes (26-7) finally came through for Bluder on Sunday – and their recent play suggests they might be able to keep winning

Steve Batterson, Waterloo Cedar Fall Courier: 

Before packing its bags for the Sweet 16, the Iowa women’s basketball team hit the reset button.

“Those old goals, they don’t work anymore,’’ center Bethany Doolittle said. “We’re going to have to set some new ones because we’re not satisfied just getting to the Sweet 16.’’

Kyle Mann, Daily Iowan: Hawkeyes ready for race-track pace

The Gazette: Hawkeyes back to work, with more nets on their mind

Dubuque Telegraph: Iowa women’s basketball team rockin’ the big dance

Shehan Jeyarajah, The Baylor Lariat: Mulkey’s coaching style brings intensity, success to Baylor women’s basketball

Up 33 points with seven minutes left against Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, you’d think Kim Mulkey could relax.

Perhaps the most successful coach in Baylor history, regardless of sport, Mulkey was set to lead a young Lady Bears squad to their seventh Sweet 16 in as many years.

But even with the game decided and a trip to the Oklahoma City Regional all but booked, Kim Mulkey was on her feet.

“If you go back and look at the game, everyone’s playing,” she said. “Looking back to when I was a player, I didn’t ever go and play half-speed because the score’s lopsided, so I won’t go and coach like the score is lopsided.”

AP: Mulkey, Lady Bears confident as ever entering Sweet 16

#3 ASU v. #2 FSU

Joedy McCreary, AP: Florida State, Arizona State square off in women’s Sweet 16

For years, Florida State and Arizona State have been fighting their way up the ladder in women’s basketball.

One is about to move a step closer to its first Final Four.

#4 Stanford v. #1 Notre Dame

AP Game Preview

AP’s Clif Brunt: Stanford’s VanDerveer, Notre Dame’s McGraw to face off

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Notre Dame’s Muffett McGraw will coach against each other Friday in the Sweet 16 for just the third time in their Hall of Fame careers and the first time in the NCAA Tournament.

VanDerveer said she is surprised she hasn’t faced McGraw more often. VanDerveer is in her 29th year at Stanford, and McGraw is in her 28th at Notre Dame.

Robby Howard: Goshen News: Irish enter Sweet 16 with smiles

Tom Coyne, AP Irish freshman Brianna Turner exceeding expectations on offense

 Notre Dame freshman Brianna Turner is a crowd pleaser.

The 6-foot-3 forward from Pearland, Texas, brings the home crowd to its feet with her blocked shots, her fast-break layups and most enthusiastically when she catches a lob pass from a teammate down low and completes the play with an alley-oop layup.

“Plays like that are just amazing plays and we get energy off that,” Irish forward Taya Reimer said. “It gives the crowd energy and when they’re into it that obviously gives us a lot of energy and we build off that.”

From the Fort Wayne Gazette: Irish junior goes from role player to key role and Al Lesar, NDInsider: Mabrey’s impact for Notre Dame a product of work, short memory

Mention the NCAA Tournament. Knock on wood.

That’s the extent of Michaela Mabrey’s superstition.

Beyond that, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s sniper is focused on her work, so she leaves nothing to chance.

WNDU-TV: ND women gear up to take on tough Stanford team on Friday

John Reid, San Jose Mercury News: Stanford in rare underdog position

It will take some doing for the Stanford women’s basketball team to reach its 13th Final Four. The Cardinal, the No. 4 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional — ranked No. 14 in the nation — is up against second-ranked Notre Dame in today’s regional semifinal at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

The Irish (33-2), who won the national title in 2001, are fourth in the nation in scoring offense at 81.1 points per game. Expect the Cardinal (26-9) to slow the tempo until the lane opens up for drives to the basket by guards Amber Orrange, Lili Thompson and Bri Roberson.

Saturday

#1 Maryland v. #4 Duke:

Sameer Pandhare at the Duke Chronicle: 

“It does feel like another ACC battle, per se, from the standpoint of their longevity in the league,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “This team has just done a great job of just staying right there. There’s nowhere else to be and nothing else matters until we get after things on Saturday.”

Louisville v. Dayton

AP: Freshman forward Hines-Allen leading the way for Louisville

”When we were recruiting her, everything we heard was good but we didn’t know about her consistency,” Walz said. ”You can get away with some things in high school, but they need to be corrected sooner or later. She’s improved and has had some fantastic games this season.”

A10: Dayton Heads to Albany for Regional Semifinal Against Louisville

Tina Charles offers some Tourney Flashback: 

Ouch.

That’s the only word that comes to mind when I think about UConn’s regional final game against LSU in 2007.

That game still haunts me.

I was a freshman.

I was exposed.

From the folks at ESPN – and the web folks are back to hiding stuff again:

Spokane Regional breakdown

Spokane is a familiar place for NCAA regionals, so it’s only fitting that it hosts a very familiar matchup.

Top-seeded Maryland and fourth-seeded Duke are preparing to renew their long ACC rivalry and rehash their national championship matchup from 2006 in the opening game here Saturday.

The Terrapins (32-2), who have never failed to reach the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed, ride a 26-game winning streak into their fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. Duke and Maryland have faced off 81 times in their history, so this is a matchup of teams and coaches who know one another incredibly well.

Albany Regional breakdown

With fifth-seeded Texas and seventh-seeded Dayton reaching the Sweet 16, the Albany Regional has the most unpredictable group of teams. But at the same time, the region has the nation’s most predictable team.

The New York state lottery has better odds than a bet that Connecticut wouldn’t reach the state capital. The Albany Regional, however, also includes three teams that had to win second-round games in enemy territory to advance. Joining the top-seeded Huskies are the Longhorns and Flyers, who each upset a better-seeded team (Cal and Kentucky, respectively) in a true road game in the last round. And third-seeded Louisville, which couldn’t host because of a venue conflict, won on the road at 6-seed South Florida.

While No. 1 overall seed and two-time defending champion UConn is the overwhelming favorite to emerge from these three games and get to Tampa, the region’s other three teams at least know they are battle tested.

Here are three X factors from each Sweet 16 game in Albany.

Oh, Carolina! Here we go again

The South Carolina seniors had some time to take mental snapshots of their arena and soak in the feelings of affection that poured down on them from the crowd as their second-round NCAA tournament game concluded Sunday. Such are the benefits of a 29-point victory.

“You think of the memories you’ve had in this gym with these fans,” South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch said after beating Syracuse in her final game at Colonial Life Arena. “There’s no place like home. The sweet part is knowing my journey isn’t over.”

Meanwhile on Monday, the North Carolina seniors couldn’t bask in the happiness of winning their last game on their home court until the final buzzer sounded. Freshman Jamie Cherry’s winning basket with 1 second left brought all in Carmichael Arena to their feet, and kept alive the Tar Heels’ season.

Oklahoma City breakdown

Fans in Oklahoma City are used to watching some of the best individual talent basketball has to offer, albeit one fewer of those stars than they would like at the moment when it comes to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the regular NBA tenants of Chesapeake Energy Arena. So this is as good a place as any to assemble the most competitive collection of star power in the Sweet 16.

Both the regional in Albany, New York, and this one in Oklahoma City feature three of espnW’s 2014-15 All-Americans, but only in Oklahoma’s capital do those players have to compete against each other for a place in the Final Four (Connecticut claiming all three of the representatives in New York’s capital). And in Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, Baylor’s Nina Davis and Iowa’s Samantha Logic, Friday’s semifinals offer not only three of the best players in the country but three players unique in style among their peers — Loyd’s commanding athleticism, Davis’ undersized ferocity and Logic’s triple-double smoothness.

Greensboro Regional breakdown

The Greensboro Regional — along with Oklahoma City — also represents a half of the NCAA bracket that really showcases coaching continuity. In Greensboro, the coach who has been at her school the shortest amount of time is Dawn Staley, who’s in her seventh season at South Carolina, and 15th overall as a college coach.

Joining Staley in this quarter of the draw are Sylvia Hatchell (29th year at North Carolina, 40th overall), Charli Turner-Thorne (18th season at Arizona State, 21st overall) and Sue Semrau (18th season at Florida State and overall).

North Carolina has been to the Final Four in 1994, 2006 and 2007. But South Carolina, Florida State and Arizona State are still looking for their programs’ breakthrough to the final weekend of the season. But Staley made such a breakthrough while a player at Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to their three Final Four appearances in 1990, ’91 and ’92.

espnW’s Sweet 16 picks – Only Graham dares to be different.

The Division II Championship is running, too. The Finals feature the #14 California University (PA) Vulcans v. unranked Cal Baptist. The Lancers have been roaring through the tournament, defeated their five opponents by an average of 17 points.

“We’ve been the underdog in every game we’ve played so far, so we’re just going in and playing the best game we can play,” CBU coach Jarrod Olson said. “It just so happens that we’ve been able to win some games with some larger margins, and I’m definitely happy about that.”

The game in on Friday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EST and will be broadcast live across the country CBS Sports Network.

She may not know it, but this is Debbies favorite NCCA team: Sacramento State’s ‘bodies flying’ mantra pays dividends for women’s basketball team

They have already broken their own NCAA records for three-pointers made and attempted in a season, and they rank second nationally among 343 Division I teams in scoring at 86.1 points per game, second only to top-ranked and defending national champion Connecticut (89.7).

But the Sacramento State women’s basketball team is more than just a run and gun offensive team. The Hornets have evolved into menacing defensive pests, which could be a point in their favor when they host to Saint Mary’s on Thursdaynight in the WNIT round of 16.

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At least, this is what SHOULD be their reaction to this piece of homophobic, regressive, faith-twisting legislation: Indiana law allows biz to reject gays

And the follow up: WBCA supports NCAA’s decision to move tournament.

And the follow up: NCAA moves headquarters from Indianapolis.

Personally, I’ve attended every Final Four since 2000. I ain’t going to Indianapolis in 2016.

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Tonight, the resilient Eastern Michigan folks are going up against a tough Southern Miss team.

Up next:

Thursday, March 26
St. John’s at Villanova, 7 p.m. ET – Aaliyah Lewis leads St. John’s women’s basketball team into WNIT’s Round of 16
NC State at Temple, 7 p.m. ET
Missouri at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET
Duquesne at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Ole Miss at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m. ET – Poppa against son.
Northern Colorado at UCLA, 10 p.m. ET
Saint Mary’s at Sacramento State, 10 p.m. ET

How everybody got here: 

Sunday, March 22
Temple 61, Penn 56
St. John’s 77, Fordham 63
Villanova 71, Old Dominion 66
Southern Miss 77, TCU 73
Missouri 67, Kansas State 48
Middle Tennessee 70, Arkansas State 60
NC State 69, ECU 65
UCLA 63, San Diego 58
Eastern Michigan 69, Tulsa 59
Ole Miss 63, Georgia Tech 48
Northern Colorado 59, South Dakota 58

Monday, March 23
Michigan 74, Toledo 58
Sacramento St 84, Eastern Washington 49
Saint Mary’s 83, Fresno State 64

Tuesday, March 24
West Virginia 57, Hampton 39
Duquesne 48, Richmond 47

Congrats to *undefeated* Thomas MoreNCAA Division III Champions.

The national championship trophy arrived in Crestview Hills shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday. Students, families, and fans lined the sidewalks outside of the Connor Convocation Center.

When the women’s basketball team bus arrived behind a police and fire truck escort, coach Jeff Hans was riding shotgun with the newest member of the Thomas More family: the 2015 NCAA Division III national championship trophy.

“It was a little more realistic when I woke up this morning and the trophy was in my room,” said Hans. “I knew that it wasn’t a dream.”

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some agita involved!

First, Cherry channeled her inner-Charlotte Smith to launch the Tar Heels over the Buckeyes and into the Sweet Sixteen. From Mechelle:

Cherry added her name into Tar Heels lore Monday with the game-winning basket with 0.6 seconds left, as No. 4 seed North Carolina survived a rally against No. 5 seed Ohio State 86-84.

“I just try to get to the open space as fast as I can,” Cherry said of her philosophy on launching a last-second shot. “I’m just glad I was able to hit it and go to the Sweet 16. Just hearing my teammates talk about doing that last year, I wanted to do it, too.”

She will, and it’s worth noting that the Tar Heels have made it to the regional semifinals without Diamond DeShields, who was their leading scorer last season as a freshman.

Arizona State decided to spot UALR 16 points, then clamped down on defense and revved up their offense.

“You guys like the movie ‘Elf’?” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said before humming a tune from the Will Ferrell comedy, in which a man raised as an elf leads regular folk to believe in Santa Claus once again. “I think our fans believed, we believed.”

End result: The Sun Devils are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009, but the Sun Belt should be proud.

“I’m very proud of my teammates and proud of Ka’Nesheia [Cobbins] and Kiera [Clark],” senior Taylor Gault said. “We’re just tough. Ka’Nesheia is just so tough for even being out there because her ankle, and Kiera has given this team so much, and we’re all just so proud of each other. We don’t have anything to hang our heads about because we fought and we never gave up, and I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”

Why does this sound familiar: “Schimmel’s clutch play powers Louisville past USF.” In a battle of physical, feisty foes, it was Jude’s play in the last few minutes that insured the Cardinal’s season continued.

“One of the biggest things Coach Walz said was that he knew this game was going to come down to the wire and would come down to whoever was disciplined enough and execute in the last few minutes of the game,” said Schimmel, who added a team-high six rebounds and five assists. “I was trying to pick and choose when I go hard up until the last four minutes of the game. Then once the four minutes hit, I said, ‘It’s all or nothing right now.'”

Yah, there was a little smack talk goin’ on between Thomas and Rasheed, but the game still had to be played by the folks on the court. Princeton hung tough,  noted the NY Times,

Perfection was at stake, but maybe even more significant, more alluring, Princeton had an opportunity to send shock waves through a tournament that rarely registers even a tremble.

It had been six years since a No. 1 seed in the N.C.A.A. women’s bracket had lost before reaching the round of 16. Yet there was mighty Maryland — nestled amid the adoring faithful at its home court, Xfinity Center — looking slightly dumbstruck in the first half against undaunted Princeton.

…but Maryland just had too much Mincy. From Graham:

You know who would have enjoyed watching Maryland and Princeton play?

People in Spokane, which hosts one of the coming week’s regionals. People watching one of the other four games going on at the same time on a busy Monday.

Really, anyone who enjoys watching two really good basketball teams go about their business. Or make that one really good team and one championship contender.

In a clash of red uniforms, it was Orrange that helped lead Stanford to the victory over Oklahoma. From Michelle:

In a moment that was quintessentially Amber Orrange, the Stanford senior guard was celebrating the Cardinal’s 86-76 win over Oklahoma to reach another Sweet 16, closing out her quietly stellar career at Maples Pavilion, when Stanford’s sports information director approached to grab her for the postgame television interview.

Orrange, with a look on her face that indicated she wanted to run in the other direction, acquiesced reluctantly. Maybe she knew somebody had been stationed at the foot of the bleachers near the entrance to the locker room specifically to keep her from escaping.

In four years, Orrange has never sought the spotlight, but it just keeps finding her anyway.

I’ll be honest, I thought Tennessee would stomp Pittsburgh. How great for the Panthers program that they didn’t.

Tired of losing and eager to play for a winner, Pittsburgh guard Brianna Kiesel pondered transferring earlier in her career before deciding to stay and see whether a coaching change could spark a slumping program.

Little did she know she’d have an opportunity to play a game quite like the one that closed her remarkable career.

Kiesel scored 24 of her career-high 32 points in the second half Monday as Pittsburgh made a frantic rally in the closing minutes before falling 77-67 to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Warlick appreciated her effort:

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick stopped Brianna Kiesel in the post-game handshake line, hugged her and whispered in her ear.

Warlick’s message was an obvious one after Kiesel scored nearly half of Pitt’s points, but she couldn’t allow the Panthers’ senior point guard to leave college basketball without hearing it.

“She just said I was a good player and I played my heart out,” Kiesel said “That’s all I could [ask for]. I left it all out there.”

Florida State made sure the in-state upstarts from FGCU understood that this was the Seminoles year to rise.

With five minutes gone in the second half in the biggest game in FGCU women’s basketball history and the Eagles unable to get a shot to fall, junior guard Kaneisha Atwater flew full speed at the basket and watched her flying runner hit the backboard and roll off the rim as she fell to the floor.

As she got up to get back on defense, Atwater — fearless, tireless, physically and mentally unbreakable all season — slapped the court and let an epithet slip from her lips that was understandable given the situation.

This kind of drought was never going to be good enough against one of the best teams in the country.

Adding insult to injury was another damn injury. Rutgers was already shorthanded when they entered their game against UConn, and then they lost guard Briyona Cantyguard Briyona Canty at the beginning of the second half. Not sure it would have made a difference, but injuries stink.

“I told the team that what we did in the game was pretty impressive,” Auriemma said.

For UConn, so deep and versatile, this was a redemptive night for two of its biggest stars, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson, the two who had the smallest offensive impact on Saturday’s first-round rout of St. Francis Brooklyn.

Mosqueda-Lewis had just two points in 16 minutes Saturday, the first time in her career she had been held to single figures in an NCAA Tournament game. Her 23 points on Monday were her NCAA Tournament high.

Charlie had Five Observations From Monday

1. Forget first-half jitters: North Carolina and Oklahoma are young teams. Princeton and UALR have never played in games of this magnitude. Yet nerves were a non-issue for any of them. The Tar Heels, Sooners and Trojans were all relaxed, started quickly and led at the half. Princeton trailed Maryland but played so well it felt like the Tigers were ahead.

In fact, despite trailing 42-38, and considering it was playing on the home floor of a 31-2 No. 1 seed, Princeton might have played its best opening half of the season.

Graham offers up some First impressions on the Sweet 16

You won’t find this road to Tampa, Florida, in any Rand McNally atlas. No two teams travel it quite the same way.

For No. 1 seeds Connecticut, Maryland, Notre Dame and South Carolina, their roads in the first two rounds were mostly free of traffic, the Terrapins and Fighting Irish forced to tap the brake lights a couple of times in the second round but still on schedule.

For some, such as No. 3 seed Arizona State, the road was a white-knuckle uphill climb through a snowstorm with the check engine light on, while for others, such as third-seeded Iowa, it was a drag race down an empty country highway.

 

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In the New York Times, KW revisits Christ the King: For an Elite Girls’ Basketball Team, the Same High Standards Amid New Challenges

After the cruelty of a 5:30 a.m. wake-up, a ride to the St. George Terminal with her father, a 6:20 Staten Island Ferry, the J train to the M train, Dominique Toussaint finally arrives at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, Queens. From her home on Staten Island, the trip can take two hours.

So is it worth it?

“This is my future,” said Toussaint, all of 16.

On the flip side, Jonathan Czupryn’s lazy story on parity – or the lack thereof – in the women’s game just makes me cranky. I mean, really, you want to compare the men’s and women’s games with numbers and you don’t mention Title IX and the ridiculously uneven funding of the two sports? Or the fact that the men have a 50-year head start on the women because folks BANNED girls high school state tournaments? Or the fact that the low scoring/slow play of the men increases the chances of upsets… or the fact that… I mean, the list goes on, but only if you are serious about your subject.

How about we celebrate the upsets that DID happen on the women’s side? How about we celebrate the growth/rebirth of programs these last five years? How about you convince your NY Times brethren to write about the game NOT because the Knicks are losing, but because it deserves some thoughtful coverage…

Grrrrr… off to stare at my crushed bracket….

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#4 Duke v. #5 Mississippi State

Well, we know ONE official (or set of officials) that won’t be moving on. ’cause that was a clear offensive foul. But, Vic – remember what the Caterpillar said to Alice: “Keep. Your. Temper.” ’cause that T just hamstrung any comeback MSU had in its tank. The Escaping Devils say, “Next!” Writes Mechelle: 

She was also the only player on either side to play all 40 minutes — the first time this season that Stevens has done that — and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie joked about it afterward.

“I guess I forgot that I never took her out,” McCallie said, “but she was absolutely fantastic. If you saw Azura play in December, she couldn’t play 20 straight minutes. She would have been just dying to come out.”

Sunday, the only people who were dying for Stevens to leave the game were on the Mississippi State side, to get some relief from having to guard her. Stevens — whose first name is pronounced AZ-er-ray — acknowledged she was “very nervous” before Friday’s NCAA opener, and thinks that showed in her play. However, it’s not as if she didn’t help Duke a lot in a 54-52 victory in which every point and rebound counted. She had 11 points and nine rebounds against the Great Danes.

#11 Miami v. #3 Iowa

Everything was flowing for the Hawkeyes. Hard to believe this is Iowa’s first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 1996. 

#2 Baylor v. #10 Arkansas

Great crowd came out to support Baylor. Not much of a game... unless, of course, you were a Bears fan. 

#2 Kentucky v. #7 Dayton

What. A. Fun. Game. Were you yelling at your tv as much as I was? Flyers swoop into the 16 for the first time, Wildcats go off to practice free throws.

#1 South Carolina v. #8 Syracuse

Another great crowd. This is what folks are talking about when they say athletes want a “championship feel.” They don’t care that it’s the opposition’s fans… they just don’t want to play in an arena where they can hear their sneakers squeak. The Gamecocks move into the Sweet Sixteen looking ready for bear. From Mechelle: Depth, Dozier lead Gameocks

South Carolina guard Asia Dozier recalls attending Gamecock women’s games when she was in junior high school, and not having any problem getting a good seat. Dozier, a Columbia native whose father and uncle are twins who played basketball at South Carolina in the 1980s, realized she had a chance to help improve the atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena.

“I probably came to my first women’s game here in seventh grade,” Dozier said. “At halftime, they used to announce to everybody who was in the upper deck to come down and fill in the empty seats close to the court. Now to see the fans rush in when the doors open, it’s a complete turnaround. It’s an amazing feeling to know we played a role in changing the fan support here.”

#3 Oregon State v. #11 Gonzaga

Gonzaga handled the pressure, handled the OSU home crowd, handled their business and, behind the great game by freshman Wolfram, another “mid-major” makes the Sweet Sixteen.

#1 Notre Dame v. #9 DePaul

No surprise, the Blue Demons made the Irish uncomfortable for a bit — but Notre Dame recovered and dumped DePaul, advancing to the next round.

#4 Cal v. #5 Texas

After a strong start got derailed by injuries, Texas was dismissed by some. They’re out to prove folks wrong. They faced Cal on Hess Court and triumphing, 73-70, reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 11 years. From Michelle:

McGee-Stafford was the centerpiece of a dominate-the-paint strategy on both ends of the floor that propelled fifth-seeded Texas to a 73-70 win over No. 4 seed Cal at Haas Pavilion on Sunday and into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.

“This is how we start our legacy,” McGee-Stafford said. “We were able to do something that hasn’t been done in over a decade and it just goes to show that hard work eventually pays off.”

From Graham: Five Observations From Sunday

Half of the Sweet 16 is set. Here are five takeaways from Day 3 of the women’s NCAA tournament.

1. You come at the king …: You probably know how the rest of the famous line from “The Wire” goes. No. 11 Gonzaga wasn’t whistling “The Farmer in the Dell” or anything else in the final seconds of its second-round game against No. 3 seed Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon — although Gill Coliseum was probably about as quiet as a deserted street at night — but the basic premise is the same.

The Pacific Northwest is still property of the team from Spokane. Changing that goes through the Bulldogs.

Take a breath, ’cause up next:

#7 FCGU v. #2 Florida State

From the Cape Coral Breeze: FSU next for streaking FGCU women

From the News-Press: Notes: FGCU knows task gets tougher against FSU

#8 Princeton v. #1 Maryland

From Graham: Key classes fuel Terps, Tigers – Maryland, Princeton power on after losing stars Alyssa Thomas, Niveen Rasheed

Arguably the loudest ovation of the day inside the Xfinity Center on Saturday was not the one that greeted the man who works in the Oval Office. That had nothing to do with politics or partisanship on a day that saw President Barack Obama take in his niece’s game. Abraham Lincoln could have walked in during the opening game between Princeton and Green Bay, when the stands were still more empty than full save for concentrated patches of orange and green, and the reception would have paled in comparison to that a few hours later when Alyssa Thomas appeared on the video board during the game between Maryland and New Mexico State.

A year removed from her final college game, the best player in Maryland women’s basketball history is a hard act to follow.

So, too, is Niveen Rasheed, still perhaps the best player in Princeton history two years after she last played college ball.

#10 Pittsburgh v. #2 Tennessee

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pitt women’s basketball team hopes to reach ‘Summitt’ of dreams at Tennessee

From the Knoxville Sentinel: Mike Strange: Pitt women’s improbable story leads to Knoxville

Also from KSN: Tennessee coach Holly Warlick makes impression on Pittsburgh coach

From the Chattanooga: John Shearer: Remembering Meeting The Pittsburgh Women’s Coach

#5 Oklahoma v. #4 Stanford

From the Oklahoma Daily: Women’s basketball to battle Stanford in second round

From the Stanford Daily: Card to play Oklahoma for Sweet 16 Berth

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Stanford women to face physical Oklahoma in NCAA Tournament on Monday

#5 Ohio State v. #4 North Carolina

From the Columbus Dispatch: Buckeyes, Tar Heels like to run

The NCAA tournament mountaintop that the Ohio State women’s basketball team intends to reach will take on a slightly steeper grade at 6:30  Monday night when the Buckeyes face North Carolina on its Carmichael Arena home court.

Fifth-seeded Ohio State (24-10) stopped 12th-seeded James Madison 90-80 in a fast-paced first-round game on Saturday to get a shot at the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8), a traditional power out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

From OSU The Lantern: Alston, Mitchell fueling Ohio State women’s basketball in NCAA Tournament

From the Daily Tar Heel: UNC women’s basketball wins for ‘mama bear’

From the New York Times: A New Start for Sylvia Hatchell, a Veteran Tar Heel

In this season of many returns — to health, to basketball, to the N.C.A.A. tournament — Sylvia Hatchell has embraced a saying.

“I tell people, ‘This is my 40th year,’ but in a lot of ways, it feels like my first,” Hatchell, the 63-year-old coach of the North Carolina women’s basketball team for the past 29 years, said of her coaching career after her fourth-seeded Tar Heels survived No. 13 Liberty, 71-65, in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament on Saturday at Carmichael Arena.

#8 Rutgers v. #1 Connecticut

From NJ.com:  Some reward: Rutgers now faces Geno Auriemma and UConn, his basketball machine | Politi

From Keith Sergeant: Rutgers women’s basketball team to President Obama: ‘We busted your bracket!’

From UConn: Top-Seeded UConn Set to Face Eighth-Seeded Rutgers in NCAA Second Round on Monday

From the Courant: Effort, Unselfishness Are The Keys To UConn’s Success and Rutgers Works To Return To UConn’s Level, Courant

From the Register: UConn women well aware of what Rutgers brings to the table, Register

The Knicks lost *again*, so from the NY Times: Rutgers’s Coach Is Used to Winning, but Not When She Faces UConn, NY Times

From NJ.com: NCAA Tournament 2015: Can the mighty UConn women’s basketball team be beat?

From NorthJersey.com: Tall task in Storrs for Rutgers women,

#6 South Florida v. #3 Louisville

From the Courier-Journal: USF a familiar foe for U of L women

Also from the C-J: USF’s Courtney Williams to test U of L women

From the Oracle: Bulls charge to second round

From the AP’s Mark Didtler: Louisville and USF look to advance to Sweet 16

”The one thing that we take great pride here at Louisville is the ability to play different ways for different opponents,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said. ”We’re quite aware we’re not going to be able to play that same way defensively, so we’ll have to figure out a new game plan and move on from there.”

#11 Arkansas-Little Rock v. #3 Arizona State

 From the Merced Sun-Star: Sun Devils in for tough test against Trojans

From FoxSports: UALR-Arizona St. Preview

Waiting for their turn in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona State’s players sat in the stands and watched Arkansas-Little Rock get knocked around by Texas A&M.

The bigger Aggies pushed the Trojans, bumped them, fouled them when they tried to get off shots.

What caught the Sun Devils‘ attention was the reaction of UALR’s players: Nothing.

”You can tell that nothing really bothers them,” Arizona State forward Sophie Brunner said. ”They just make things work.”

From the Examiner.com: Women’s NCAA second round matches ASU and UALR in Tempe Monday night

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Under an enormous amount of scrutiny – both by the Secret Service and by grumpy Committee bashers – the #8 Tigers and #9 Phoenix put together a nice game. Princeton dominated the boards and nailed their free throws to secure their first NCAA tourney win.

Courtney Banghart had seen it once too often. It was not much more than a year ago and one more time than she could stomach watching Annie Tarakchian, then a sophomore, catch the ball in good position near the basket, hold the ball over her head and look to pass without ever showing the slightest inclination to propel a strong frame to the basket.

“Annie is about the most gentle soul on this earth, and she’s really kind,” Banghart said. “Those two, gentle and kind, are not great inside the lines. Inside the lines for the first year and a half at Princeton she was gentle and kind.”

So when Tarakchian was passive one too many times in practice before a key road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth a season ago, Princeton already in a hole in the Ivy League race by then, Banghart whistled proceedings to a halt and delivered a simple rebuke. 

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

If you recall, Susie McConnell-Serio’s team opened the season rather inauspiciously. That’s all forgotten as #10 Pitt Panthers produced a HUGE win for the program as they upset #7 Chattanooga, 51-40.

“Walking up to hal court at the end of the game I said to him, ‘This is bittersweet,’ because I have so much respect for him,” she said. “I think he is one of the best coaches in the game, and I’m so happy that he’s still coaching because he just has so much to offer to his players.

“So as happy as I am for our team and our program, it was hard to look at him as I was shaking his hand.”

It’s fly like an Eagle time, as #7 FGCU defeats #10 Oklahoma State, 75-67. They move into the second round for the first time in program history.

Smesko said the men’s team’s run two years ago has been “fantastic” bringing recognition for the school, located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, in southwest Florida.

“We’ve been right on the precipice for a long time,” Smesko said. “We know our next game is going to be against one of the very best teams in the country.”

#13 Liberty has been a hard-nosed program for a while – as #4 North Carolina quickly re-discovered – but the Tar Heels pulled out the win.

 Latifah Coleman and Allisha Gray weren’t going to let Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the NCAA Tournament end so soon.

Gray scored 17 points and Coleman had 15 to lead North Carolina past Liberty 71-65 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) shot 49 percent, led by 14 and withstood the Flames’ late push to give their Hall of Fame coach a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to fight leukemia.

“This whole week, I have been so stressed out,” Hatchell said. “It’s a good stressed because I’m so excited about the tournament.”

Taking lessons from their football team, #15 Boise State was not intimidated by #2 Tennessee – even on their home court. In the end, the Vols escaped the Broncos.

The Lady Vols were clinging to a 63-58 lead after Boise State’s Camille Redmon made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:51 remaining. But Redmon missed her second free throw, and Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale sank a 3-pointer 13 seconds later to spark a game-clinching 8-0 run.

“I’m satisfied we got the W, but we could do much better,” Graves said. “Our one-on-one defense has got to be tight right now. This is crunch time.”

Coach Trakh can be proud of the effort of his #16 New Mexico State team against host, and #1 seed, Maryland. The Terps ruled the Aggies, 75-57.

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

“Like PT boats attacking a battleship,” New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said in describing the destruction the 6-foot-3 Jones inflicted on his shorter, slighter players as top-seeded Maryland won its NCAA tournament opener Saturday.

All season, the Terps have won by continually switching guises. As if to prove that versatility, they beat New Mexico State with a bruising inside attack in the first half and a barrage of jumpers in the second.

#12 James Madison and #5 Ohio State gave us the Debbie Antonelli Special, with the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 90-80.

The Buckeyes — who started three freshmen and bring sophomore Shayla Cooper off the bench — shot 58 percent in the second half and scored on seven consecutive possessions down the stretch.

“Obviously, when you get to this time of the year (and) you have kids who have experienced it, that can be beneficial,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But I also think for kids who haven’t, then have that youthful energy and that passion to be a part of it. … That can take you a long way.”

#12 Quinnipiac and #5 Oklahoma gave us the second DAS, combining for 97 points in the first half and 99 in the second. Sooners scored more, so they win and move into the next round.

When the Sooners were 5-5 in non-conference play earlier this season, it was tough imagining them making the NCAA Tourament, much less imagining them winning a game in it. But after finishing in second place in the Big 12, Oklahoma came ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their 111 points against Quinnipiac showed that despite their lack of experience you should never count out a Sherri Coale coached basketball team.

Sun Belt champ Arkansas-Little Rock battled #6 Texas A&M wire-to-wire, then the #11 seed made good on the upset, 69-60, earning coach Joe Foley his 700th win.

“Tops right now,” he said. “Top game. It’s unbelievable, playing against a friend, playing in the NCAA tournament. It was fun. And to play as well as we did. We played great, and we deserved it.”

Taylor Gault scored a season-high 25 points, Kiera Clark added a career-best 22 and 11th-seed UALR beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M in an opening-round game Saturday.

“The thought I had was to shoot and drive and do whatever I knew I could do best for my team,” Gault said.

#3 Louisville tamed #14 BYU, but the game may be remembered for this action by the Cardinals’ Mariya Moore than the actual score.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s inside presence out-muscled the Cougars from the opening tip. The Cardinals outscored BYU 44-30 in the paint, and added 11 second-chance points on 33 rebounds to net the win.

Barely two minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Mariya Moore drew a technical foul — and the ire of both coaches — leveling BYU’s Morrison with a hard push off a screen.

BYU leading scorer Lexi Eaton responded to the physical play of the game with an elbow of her own two minutes later, a move that went uncalled by the officials — though she did receive a foul on a push on the same play.

#2 Florida State was in their comfort zone, and easily handled #15 Alabama State, 91-49.

“This experience is huge for our program,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “It’s been a while since we have actually had an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We only have one true senior that actually played (Saturday). We’re extremely young.”

Alabama State was composed early but wore out, committing 32 turnovers against a stifling Seminoles defense.

#14 Ohio spotted #3 Arizona State 16 points in the first half, but the MAC played the PAC even in the second. Nice re-focuser for the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Elisha Davis increased the lead on the next possession, getting a steal and making the layup. In a 54-second span, ASU had gone on a 7-0 run.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the spurt was a result of ASU’s defense.

“When our defense is turning people over and we’re getting easy buckets in transition, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said.

Ohio coach Bob Boldon gave credit to that aspect of ASU’s game.

“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “That really contributed to us getting frustrated on the offensive side.”

Speaking of “re-focusers” #16 Cal State Northridge sure as heck provided that for Stanford as what seemed like a blowout-in-the-making turned into a dogfight. Cardinal escaped, 73-60.

How many hard lessons is this year’s Stanford women’s basketball team going to have to learn?

The Cardinal have already learned that beating Connecticut doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Chattanooga, that knocking off Oregon State doesn’t mean you can beat Oregon, that winning Pac-12 titles isn’t a default status, that changing your entire offense and turning it into a well-oiled machine isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that hosting an NCAA tournament game isn’t the same as winning it. At least not if you don’t play well.

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

Courtney Williams did what she does, as host #6 USF dispatched #11 LSU:

South Florida made the most of its first home NCAA postseason game.

Courtney Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alisia Jenkins added 15 points and No. 6 seed South Florida beat 11th-seed LSU 73-64 in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday night.

The announced crowd of 5,560 erupted as the final seconds ticked off.

“I took a moment and went out there (on the court) and was like `wow,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “This is what we’ve wanted and worked for.”

The Old Big East fans were having serious flashbacks in Storrs as they watched #8 Rutgers and #9 Seton Hall go after it in OBE style. 

“What a great game,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We played hard. I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well and just played extremely hard. We’re glad to have gotten that game under our belts.”

One year after staging a double-overtime thriller in the third round of the WNIT, Rutgers and Seton Hall turned in another memorable affair. For the second straight year in the postseason — and for the 34th time in 41 meetings all-time — the Scarlet Knights prevailed.

The #16 Terriers knew what they were getting into when they drew the #1 Huskies for their first-round match. But the game, did prompt a nice story in the NY Times about St. Francis guard Sarah Benedetti :For a St. Francis Player, UConn, Long an Inspiration, Turns Rival

When Sarah Benedetti moved to Canton, Conn., as a fifth grader in 2004, she almost immediately started rooting for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. That year, UConn became the first Division I university to win the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball.

Benedetti began attending Huskies games with her family and teammates. She idolized the UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was so obsessed with the sport that she arrived at Canton High School at 6 a.m. each day to shoot for an hour before classes started. Her father, Sergio, rebounded the ball for her.

Now a senior at St. Francis of Brooklyn, Benedetti competed Saturday night against her former favorite team.

Benedetti did well.

They were smiling from the moment they took the floor, especially when UConn’s starters were being introduced. This was their moment. And Benedetti, with a large cheering section on the day that her old high school lost its bid for a Class S state championship, did her best, making three three-pointers in a first half in which the team’s hole progressively grew deeper. She scored 13 points.

Said coach Thurston post-game:

“This was an incredible experience for our program. This team is the first time that St. Francis has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament on either the men’s or women’s side. Coach Auriemma is a gentlemen. He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending National Champions to knock us out.”

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

1. ACC flies high: In two days, the ACC went from filling one eighth of the field to representing one quarter of it. While other teams are disappearing, everyone from the ACC remains present and accounted for. No one in the conference has lost, and the league is 8-0 after another four-win day Saturday. Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville all cruised into the second round. The Tar Heels had to withstand a late push by Liberty, but otherwise, the games were not only wins but also comfortable ones.

Even Pittsburgh, a No. 10 seed, thoroughly controlled Chattanooga from start to finish in handing the Lady Mocs their eighth straight tournament loss. For the second straight year, Chattanooga had a 25-game win streak snapped in the first round of the tournament. Panthers freshman Stasha Carey’s 16 points and 13 rebounds were just the second double-double in Pittsburgh NCAA tournament history.

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

12:00 #4 Duke vs #5 Mississippi State, ESPN 2
12:00 #3 Iowa vs #11 Miami, ESPN 2

2:30 #2 Kentucky vs #7 Dayton, ESPN 2
2:30 #2 Baylor vs #10 Arkansas, ESPN 2

7:00 #3 Oregon State vs #11 Gonzaga, ESPN 2
7:00 #1 South Carolina vs #8 Syracuse, ESPN

9:00 #4 Cal vs #5 Texas, ESPN 2
9:00 #1 Notre Dame vs #9 DePaul, ESPN

Oh, and thanks, pilight, for keeping official track of this:

Note that this does not include the men’s play-in games. This is round of 64 vs round of 64. 

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

BIG UPSET happens when an upset involves teams more than four seeds apart 

CLOSE means a game was decided by single digits or in overtime 

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

80-90-100 is the number of teams scoring that many points

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What’s exciting about the first round is not so much the winners/losers but the margins of victory. Upsets – or upsets avoided – often come on last second shots. Margin of victory often comes down to size & physical fitness or skill level/coaching. So much fun to see teams go head-to-head for the first time.

Squeak!

The Great Danes may be kicking themselves over this during the off season – #4 Duke by 2 over #13 Albany, courtesy of a last second Greenwell three.

The Duke women’s basketball team was staring at the abyss. Which is pretty much what an NCAA tournament first-round loss at home at Cameron Indoor Stadium would have felt like for the Blue Devils: a bottomless gulf.

Fortunately for Duke, though, Rebecca Greenwell was there to fill up the bucket.

“Kudos to her,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of the redshirt freshman’s 20 points, six coming on 3-pointers. “I mean, she killed us. That’s the game: It’s her.”

The #12 Toppers couldn’t top #5 Texas, as the Longhorns escaped with a 2-point win, 66-64.

“I told the players after the game this was a hard-fought win and there’s no shame it went down to the wire,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.

Imani McGee-Stafford had 24 points and 14 rebounds as sloppy Texas overcame 19 turnovers — including one that could have cost the Longhorns the game — and erased a late seven-point deficit.

Missing key players for extended parts of the season has toughed up both #9 Nebraska and #8 Syracuse. Only the Orange move on, though, by a slim three-point margin.

Timber!

#9 Depaul came back from a big deficit to get the win over #8 Minnesota. Bruno is a damn good coach. And Stollings is going one SO happy to add a healthy B to Zahui B. ZB notched a mere 21/22 in this game.

After making only two of 20 three-point attempts in the first half, DePaul started to connect as the Gophers faltered. They made six of 14 in the final 20 minutes, including three during their rally.

“I actually didn’t think our defense was particularly good in the first half and at the beginning of the second half,’’ Bruno said. “Maybe the 15-point deficit was the best thing that could have happened to us, because it really showed [his players] that our backs were going to be up against the wall, and they were going to have to fight to have a chance to win.”

#11 Miami built a nice first-half lead over #6 Washington, and rode Motley’s 30 to the upset win, 86-80.

Motley — who had 32 points in Miami’s biggest win, a 78-63 win over Notre Dame that likely sealed a tournament bid — hit a jumper in the lane to give Miami a 73-71 lead. Four free throws put the Hurricanes up six with a minute left.

“Her pull-up, when she goes to shoot it, the person on the bench keeping score is already writing two,” Miami coach Katie Meier said about Motley. “She’s just so consistent.”

#10-why-did-they-get-a-bid Arkansas was down 13, but came back to tripped up #7 Northwestern by 2, 57-55.

“Big boost of confidence in our first year to be in the NCAA and then to win a game like we had to win,” said Dykes, the former Razorbacks player and ESPN analyst. “We just kept saying this is a fight more than a basketball game. Our guys love that. They love that theme.”

I warned ya the WCC was tough. #11 Gonzaga took down #6 George Washington, 82-69.

With George Washington storming back within six points and the shot clock winding down Friday night, Gonzaga forward Sunny Greinacher didn’t think. She let it fly.

The ball went through net with 3:15 left to play and the 3-pointer turned to be the game-winner as No. 11 seed Gonzaga upset No. 6 seed George Washington 82-69 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

“I loved the way we battled,” Zags coach Lisa Fortier said. “I’m very happy with our performance.”

Phew!

The #14 ‘wabbits had a 2-pt lead over the #3 Beavers at the half, but Oregon State pulled away the second for the 74-62 win.

#5 Mississippi State had just enough to keep the #12 Green Wave of Tulane at bay, 57-47.

As it should be in 10 v. 7 games, the higher-seed Dayton kept Iowa State at arms length for the 11pt win.

Nice showing by #14 American in their first tourney, as they gave #3 Iowa quite the tussle, finally falling 75-67.

#13 Wichita State proved it was no slouch as they kept within striking distance of #4 Cal for most of the game with Harden matching Gray’s 22/9 output. But the Bears had too much team support, and ended up with the 12-point win, 78-66.

Just sayin’….

Yah, #1 South Carolina stomped #16 Savannah State, 81-48 – but just think: The upset MEAC champs scored 30 first-half points on the SEC champs…

Yah. #2 Baylor stomped Northwestern State but… hmmm… No buts. NWSt got stomped.

Same thing happened to #15 Tennesseee State when they faced #2 Kentucky, 97-52.

None of the Irish starters played more than 29 minutes as #1 Notre Dame cruised past #16 Montana, 77-43.

In WNIT news, Round 1 is done. Round 2 starts Sunday.

Wednesday, March 18
Michigan 72, Cleveland State 50
East Carolina 74, Radford 52
Ole Miss 80, UT Martin 70
Arkansas State 61, Western Michigan 49
Eastern Washington 67, Washington State 65

Thursday, March 19
Old Dominion 69, Virginia 62
St. John’s 64, Army 56
Fordham 70, Central Connecticut State 67
Penn 65, Hofstra 58
Temple 67, Marist 54
NC State 73, ETSU 58
West Virginia 84, Buffalo 61
Hampton 45, Drexel 42
Duquesne 72, Youngstown State 54
Georgia Tech 69, Elon 47
Middle Tennessee 69, Ball State 58
Southern Miss 79, Texas Southern 69
TCU 85, Stephen F. Austin 80
Kansas State 86, Akron 68
Missouri 69, Northern Iowa 61
South Dakota 68, Creighton 58
Northern Colorado 53, Colorado State 48
San Diego 63, Long Beach State 56
UCLA 70, CSU Bakersfield 54
Sacramento State 87, Pacific 79
Fresno State 79, San Francisco 73

Friday, March 20
Toledo 72, Wright State 64
Villanova 71, Maine 60
Richmond 67, Stetson 66
Tulsa 78, Missouri State 72
Eastern Michigan 80, Drake 70
Saint Mary’s 92, Hawaii 88 OT

ROUND 2

Sunday, March 22 (all times ET)
Temple at Penn, 2 p.m.
Fordham at St. John’s, 2 p.m.
Old Dominion at Villanova, 2 p.m.
TCU at Southern Miss, 3 p.m.
Missouri at Kansas State, 3 p.m.
Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee, 3 p.m.
NC State at ECU, 4 p.m.
UCLA at San Diego, 5 p.m.
Eastern Michigan at Tulsa, 6 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
South Dakota at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.

Monday, March 23
Michigan at Toledo, 7 p.m.
Eastern Wash. at Sacramento St, 10 p.m.
Fresno State at Saint Mary’s, 10 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24
Hampton at West Virginia, 7 p.m.
Richmond at Duquesne, 7 p.m.

In NCAA Division III, the finals are set. It’ll be Thomas More going to their first championship game, courtesy of their 62-52 win over Tufts.

Friday night’s victory (30-2) helped the Saints (32-0) forget a rather difficult anniversary. A year ago Friday, Thomas More’s 2014 season ended in the quarterfinals — and Moss tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. “I had surgery and I was ready to come back when we started practice in October,” said Moss, who bears a black brace on that knee. “I’m not 100 percent though, I’d say more about 85. I’m still a little slow,” she said with a sly grin. “It’s still hard to move side to side sometimes; I have to slide my feet.”

They’ll face off against George Fox, who returned to the title match with their 70-58 win over Montclair State.

“We are just elated to be going to the national championship game,” head coach Michael Meek said. “We have had nothing but fantastic support from our community back home and we use that as motivation when we play. This is just an awesome experience for these women and I can’t wait for us to play tomorrow night.”

From the good folks at D3Hoops: Title game is two perfect

Thomas More defeated Tufts on another record breaking night for Sydney Moss while  George Fox’s full court press wore down Montclair State, setting up an national title game between two undefeated teams.

You can catch the game here at 7:30pm.

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What time is it?

Game time!

What time is it!

Game … um, no, I’m not following the games at work… what would make you think that?

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A little history from Michelle: Oral history: Harvard stuns Stanford – A look back at the 1998 NCAA tournament, the only time a 16-seed toppled a No. 1

A week before the NCAA tournament opener, Stanford was positioned as one of the best teams in the country, after three straight trips to the Final Four. Seven days later, the Cardinal became the first and only No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, with a 71-67 defeat against Harvard. As with all great sports upsets, there is an intriguing backstory only the people involved can tell. We consulted our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight for some statistical context. Then we spoke with nine prominent people involved in the game and asked them to set the scene in an oral history of that game — starting with a devastating moment at the end of Stanford’s Pac-10 finale against Oregon State.

Vanessa Nygaard, former Stanford forward and longtime WNBA, college and high school coach: “We were ahead comfortably, but then Oregon State started closing the gap, and I went back in.”

Beth Goode, former Stanford sports information director and current senior women’s administrator: “Vanessa’s injury happened right in front of me. It was one of those unmistakable things when she went down. You knew it wasn’t good.”

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach, one of five coaches in NCAA women’s history with 900-plus wins: “The doctor at Oregon State said it was not an ACL, and we would have it looked at when we got back on Sunday, which was selection day.”

From Kate, a little history that’s a tad more modern: The swagger Of UConn – A look at how the Huskies’ dominance came to be — but it’s not for everybody

During last year’s college basketball season, Rebecca Lobo watched in person a number of Connecticut’s practices.

And during one of these afternoons, the former UConn star and current ESPN analyst noticed something strikingly familiar: coach Geno Auriemma running ragged one of the team’s best players.

Lobo also instantly recognized the drill: one-on-one from the wing, the emphasis on defense. The players form a line at each wing. First player in line is the defender; next one has the ball. If the defender gets a stop, she rotates to the back of the opposite line; if she gives up a bucket, she immediately runs to the opposite wing to try again — against a fresh offensive player.

The thing about this drill: Each repetition is exhausting. So if you don’t get a stop within the first two attempts, the likelihood of ever getting one plummets. After successive reps against fresh teammates? Might as well wave the white flag.

Except, of course, a white flag doesn’t exist at UConn.

From Mechelle: Massengale steps up at Tennessee – Senior guard and fellow Chicagoan Nia Moore look to make big impact in tourney

Mechelle’s been busy! Wilson right at home with Gamecocks

The fact that A’ja Wilson didn’t have to look far to find her college destination didn’t mean that she didn’t look hard. She explored different options, and waited until last April to announce her decision.

And when the hometown kid said she was staying with the hometown school, the rest of the country could almost hear the cheers of happiness mixed with relief coming from Columbia, South Carolina.

Some things are meant to be. Like Wilson playing for the Gamecocks. She’s from Hopkins, South Carolina, just outside the state capital city, and went to Heathwood Hall in Columbia. As she prepares for her first NCAA tournament for South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Regional, Wilson knows she’s right where she’s supposed to be.

How about some other youngsters? TOP FRESHMEN READY TO MAKE NCAA TOURNAMENT DEBUT

How about some previews?

Albany Regional breakdown – UConn

Three observations

1. What an interesting road it’s been for Seton Hall senior guard Daisha Simmons. She struggled first to obtain a release from Alabama, and then to get a waiver to play this season at Seton Hall. But it worked out, as the Pirates are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Simmons is averaging 16.9 points, plus has 131 assists and a team-high 80 steals.

Greensboro Regional breakdown – South Carolina

Three observations

1. It has been a big season for Ohio, which is the No. 14 seed and faces No. 3 Arizona State in the first round.

Oklahoma City Regional breakdown – Notre Dame

Three observations

1. It’s time for the annual Sherri Coale appreciation salute. She took over at Oklahoma for the 1996-97 season, which was also the first year of the Big 12. At that point, the Sooners had made just two NCAA tournament appearances, and the school had infamously shut down the program for roughly a week in 1990 before sanity prevailed.

Spokane Regional breakdown – Maryland

Three observations

1. Kudos to New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh, who has the Aggies in the NCAA field for the first time since 1988. Trakh, in his fourth season in Las Cruces, also has taken Pepperdine and Southern Cal to the Big Dance. His Aggies, the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion, are the No. 16 seed and take on No. 1 Maryland in the opening round.

Michelle says: Savor all 63 games — not just final

We’ve arrived, a little earlier than in previous years, at the start of the NCAA tournament. And while many people might want to jump straight to the ending — one they think they can already write — we refuse to do that.

We are going to soak in the process of reducing a field of 64 teams down to one champion over the course of three weeks.

Because whether conventional wisdom suggests this in an exercise in inevitability, that Connecticut will be cutting down nets like last year, and the year before that, there are still 63 other teams determined to make sure they’re hoisting the championship trophy in Tampa.

Before the first games tip off (ESPN2/WatchESPN, noon ET Friday), let’s take a moment to appreciate the journey. We have plenty of time to focus on the end result, let’s not miss all the great stuff in the middle.

From Cheryl Coward: Cal refocused after the Pac-12 tourney, ready to help showcase women’s basketball in the Bay area as an NCAA early round host

Nearby: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers refocus after Pac-12 tourney loss

Scott Rueck doesn’t ever like, nor does he typically believe a team needs, to lose a game.

But Oregon State’s fifth-year women’s basketball coach was OK with his team’s loss to Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament two weekends ago for one simple reason — it wasn’t the NCAA tournament.

In order to win a tournament, Rueck says, a team has to be hungry enough and know exactly what it is playing for because every other team will bring its best performance.

It’s about doing everything you do as well as you possibly can, he says.

Also nearby: From Marcus Thompson II: Stanford needs Thompson’s ‘A’ game in NCAAs

They say it takes great guards to make noise in the NCAA tournament. That gives hope to Stanford, coming off as uninspiring a season as it has had in years.

Guard Amber Orrange, a battled tested senior who’s as smooth as they come, is a rock on which coach Tara VanDerveer can rely. If Lili Thompson can take her game to another level for the postseason, that gives the Cardinal an advantage to milk.

The recruiting standard has been set high by new coach Marlene Stollings and her staff at Minnesota.

The one-player class of senior forward Shae Kelley has flourished.

The first and only player Stollings signed since taking over the Gophers, Kelley has entered the NCAA Tournament with the fifth-best scoring average in the Big Ten at 17.5 points per game. She’s seventh in the conference with 9.4 rebounds per game. Her leadership was relied on even more after the loss of star guard Rachel Banham to a season-ending injury.

Pat Eaton-Rob from notices that “other” team from Connecticut:

Quinnipiac has quietly put together a 31-3 season, joining UConn and Notre Dame as the only teams in the tournament with more than 30 wins. They swept through an undefeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season in just their second year in the league and then dethroned 9-time conference champion Marist, 72-61, in the conference title game.

The Bobcats are 104-29 since the 2011-12 season, with the second-highest winning percentage (.782) of all New England Division I schools during that span. They trail only UConn (.933).

Tim May at the Columbus Dispatch notices that “other” team from Ohio:

As Kiyanna Black recalled, coach Bob Boldon had a grand plan for Ohio University women’s basketball when he was named the 10th coach in school history two years ago.

“When he first got here, his first words were ‘MAC championships,’” said Black, a junior from Africentric. “And I’m just sitting there looking at him, ‘We’ve got to win a few games, first.’

“At first it felt so far away. But we just kept working and kept grinding, and believing in him and his staff. And we’re here.”

Speaking of coaches: Sue Semrau still building legacy at Florida State

And more coaches: Seton Hall’s Tony Bozzella set to enjoy father-daughter dance at NCAA Tournament

And more coaches: From Sue Favor: New Mexico State, coach Mark Trakh moving on up

New Mexico State has vaulted back on to the national basketball stage this spring, in a big way.

They won the Western Athletic Conference Championship earlier this month, for the first time in program history, after going 13-1 in league play and 22-7 overall. That put them into the NCAA Tournament, after a 27-year absence.

And MORE coaches: A first for American, and its coach

 To many Easterners, Iowa is a “flyover state.” Count Megan Gebbia among them.

“My initial reaction (after the NCAA women’s basketball selections were made Monday) was, ‘Wow, Iowa, I’ve never been there,’” said Gebbia, second-year coach at American University.

She’ll be here sometime today, when the Eagles arrive for preparations for their NCAA debut.

Hey! It’s time for the Mascot Bracket!

Don’t wanna read? Then take a listen to Dishin’ and Swishin’s NCAA Tourney Roundtable featuring Doug Feinberg, LaChina Robinson, Debbie Antonelli and Lin Dunn

Don’t wanna listen? How about dance?

In non-tourney news:

Ouch: Three players leave Vanderbilt women’s basketball team

Vanderbilt women’s basketball has announced its third departing player in the past week following the program’s first losing season in 16 years.

Freshman guard Paris Kea will transfer, per a Vanderbilt news release. Last week, the program lost freshman twin sisters Audrey-Ann and Khalèann Caron-Goudreau, who will also transfer.

Echo ouch: Brooks to leave Indiana University, third to depart program in last 3 days

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So, fill out a bracket!!

She writes: Committee didn’t put together a perfect bracket, but it’s close

The so-called “geographic S-curve” that’s used in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament is one of those things that, no matter how often it’s explained, still doesn’t sink in with everybody.

I’m not just talking about people who only occasionally tune in to the women’s game. Folks who follow the sport regularly still sometimes hit the wall with that S-curve. Probably because it doesn’t necessarily always fit with that unwritten part of “procedures and principles.” To wit, common sense.

But this year, I think the NCAA women’s selection committee applied its guidelines with a sensible acknowledgement of potential regional attendance considerations. That’s the part of the women’s bracket process that adds in more nuance and sometimes increases the difficulty.

Charlie does a little Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking: Geography, RPI not clear-cut

This year’s bracket offered few surprises, but was very revealing at the same time. From seeds to the at-large teams selected, the bracket shaped up largely as expected, but there’s still plenty to analyze.

Geography didn’t matter at all

When it came to the top seeds at least, the committee stuck strictly to the S-curve and didn’t apply those rankings geographically. The surprise is that it goes against one of the NCAA’s stated goals. As stated in the principles and procedures for bracketing the teams: The committee will attempt to assign each team to the most geographically compatible regional and first‐/second‐round site, by order of the S‐curve

Geography may not matter, but time does. So hurry up and fill out a bracket!

Michelle identifies the 2015 bracket winners and losers

There’s one constant to this bracket-revealing practice that we’ve come to expect — not everyone is happy when their names and seed numbers are revealed. But some programs will clearly be more pleased than others as the field of 64 settles into national consciousness before games begin on Friday.

Need a little help filling out your bracket? (And DO fill out a bracket. If you whine about the lack of coverage, the biggest way to show you WANT an increase is to fill out a bracket!! Fill out SEVERAL brackets!) Maybe this will help: 2015 March Madness Predictions

FiveThirtyEight’s women’s NCAA tournament forecasting models calculate the chance of each team reaching each round, taking into account a composite of power rankings, pre-season rankings, the team’s placement on the NCAA’s S-curve, player injuries and geography, where data is available.

From Graham: Five burning questions off the bracket

A change in scheduling format this year means one fewer day to wait for the start of play in the NCAA tournament. But there is still plenty of time before Friday’s first-round games to ponder these five questions about the bracket.

1. What is next for undefeated Princeton?

Leave it to the NCAA women’s basketball committee to turn a glass slipper into glass ceiling.

Win all the games you want. Earn whatever votes you can. Make whatever history you will. It matters not to the selection committee. The first undefeated team not named Baylor, Connecticut or Notre Dame in nearly two decades, the No. 13 team in polls of both Associated Press voters who cover the sport all season and coaches who make their living within the sport, Princeton is a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament because, well, the committee says so.

And the committee knows perfection, and it hasn’t been wrong yet.

Agree with the committee? Disagree with the committee? Prove you know more than them and fill out a bracket!

From espnW: THE A-LIST: 11 CRAZY SELECTION MONDAY REACTIONS

Let the madness begin! From light shows to subdued golf claps, here are some celebrations that stood out on Selection Monday.

11. The “Dramatic Lighting” – Florida Gulf Coast even got the lighting crew involved in the celebration. Wait for it … wait for it …

espnW is also Breaking down the bracket so you have no excuse not to fill out your bracket!!

On St. Patrick’s Day, Graham celebrates orange: Dietrick drives Princeton to 30-0 – Senior guard leads way as best season in program history continues

It took more than four months, but Princeton finally needed someone to put the ball in the net.

With university presidents current and past looking on from the stands at the Palestra in Philadelphia and a national television audience observing from afar (the latter possibly as unusual as the former when it comes to the Ivy League), Princeton couldn’t shake rival Penn as the seconds ticked away early in the second half of the regular-season finale. Seeking to become just the 15th Division I team to complete an undefeated regular season, the Tigers led by five points at halftime but watched the Quakers score the first four points of the second half and cut the deficit to a single point.

All the while, Princeton coach Courtney Banghart stood with arms folded and watched, the pose as much spring-loaded as stoic. Good plays and bad plays came and went; her arms stayed fixed in place.

Still thanking the Knicks for losing! Connecticut Occupies Usual Perch

It has been 20 years since Rebecca Lobo led Connecticut to the undefeated season that started it all for Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies. On Saturday, UConn will begin its quest for a 10th title over that span.

The bracket for the N.C.A.A. women’s tournament, announced Monday night, revealed the Huskies as the No. 1 seed of the Albany Region for the ninth consecutive year. Just as men’s teams around the country plot ways to foil undefeated Kentucky’s path to a national title, so, too, does it appear as if the women’s tournament will run through Connecticut yet again.

BTW – Rebecca and the President have already filled out a bracket!

and: For Pawn in Disputed Transfer, a Winning Move

On her way to helping Seton Hall earn its first berth in the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament in two decades, Daisha Simmons had to make a few stops. Literally.

Many days this season, she drove her brother, Chaz, to and from his dialysis treatments as he struggled with end-stage renal disease. On other nights, often after 11 p.m., she also picked up her mother, Christena, from work at Target, a crucial timesaver because Christena otherwise relied on public transportation and had an early morning job delivering mail for the Postal Service.

That was on top of Simmons’s basketball commitments and, of course, her schoolwork at Seton Hall.

From the Trentonian: Undefeated Princeton women’s basketball shown lack of respect with No. 8 seed

For the first time all season, the Princeton women’s basketball team had something of a bad night.

Owners of a perfect 30-0 record, an RPI of 12 and a Sagarin Rating of seven, the Tigers entered Monday night’s NCAA Tournament selection show watch party at the Shea Rowing Center hoping to snag a No. 4 seed.

Note to the rest of women’s basketball: If Courtney asks you to play’em, say yes! (And not saying these folks refused) How N.J. women’s college basketball missed a big opportunity in 2015 | Politi Bits

The NCAA Tournament women’s selection show will take place tonight at 7 p.m., and New Jersey will have three teams in the field — and three compelling stories. 

Rutgers, one year after winning the NIT, will return to the NCAA Tournament field in its first Big Ten season. Seton Hall, with an experienced lineup, will make its first tournament appearance in two decades. And Princeton, in perhaps the most compelling story in the entire field, is just one of two unbeaten Division 1 basketball teams in the country — along with the powerhouse Kentucky men. 

You’re probably wondering how those three teams did in head-to-head competition, right? Well, they never played each other. And that stinks.

Syracuse women’s basketball skips the hoopla, eyes historic NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 trip

Tennessee State women get rematch in NCAA Tournament

One of Larry Joe Inman’s initiatives when he became women’s basketball coach at Tennessee State was to bolster the level of competition on the schedule.

“I said it all along, we have to play better teams to get better,” said Inman, who took over in 2012.

Over the next three seasons he scheduled the likes of Tennessee, Louisville, Florida, Ole Miss and North Carolina State.

By the time the Lady Tigers played No. 12-ranked Kentucky in their final non-conference game this season, they were vastly improved. They led midway through the first half and trailed only 65-61 with 8:14 left.

TSU went on to lose 87-75, but it will get another shot at Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Hey, take a moment from reading and fill out your bracket!!

From Ann Killioin at the SF Chronicle: Stanford women’s success this season comes as pleasant surprise

When Tara VanDerveer sat her team down at the start of the season, she asked about expectations.

And she told the team hers: “We’d like to host the tournament.”

Sure, sure, agreed her players. After all, doesn’t Stanford regularly host an NCAA game or two?

“No, you don’t understand,” VanDerveer said last fall. “That would be a tough goal for us.”

But mission accomplished Monday, when the NCAA Tournament pairings were announced. This year, the NCAA returned to a system in which the top 16 seeds host the first two rounds.

Glad the Buckeyes are in the tourney… gives us more Jim Massie: Ohio State draws No. 5 seed, will play James Madison on Saturday – Buckeyes grow up fast, back in NCAA tournament

The Ohio State women’s basketball team watched the NCAA tournament selection committee talking heads fill two brackets Monday night before finally learning its seed and destination for the opening round.

As waits go, this evening didn’t resemble a flight delay in Chicago or Atlanta.

Gamecocks top seed in Greensboro bracket in NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament field has been announced, and the South Carolina Gamecocks are a top seed, as expected. If they make it out of Columbia alive, they’ll travel to Greensboro, N.C. for the Sweet 16.

The Greensboro bid comes as a minor surprise to some pundits, many of whom expected the spot to go to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are ranked ahead of Carolina by most voters. The selection committee is thought to reward deserving teams with favorable geographic destinations. With the Irish headed to Oklahoma City, either that didn’t happen in this case or the committee decided South Carolina deserved the geographically friendly bid. The two team are obviously very close.

Maryland women’s basketball earns No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament

There was a time three months ago when they were a 6-2 team, missing their star player from the previous season and unsure of the road ahead.

The Maryland women’s basketball team found itself in those early days of disappointment — found its identity as a joyous team without an obvious center.

The Terps haven’t lost since, and they had the perfect chance to reflect on their journey Monday night as they found out they will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which will begin this weekend.

Do the math: Can Notre Dame women’s basketball overtake UConn?

Doug writes: Auriemma: Huskies no lock to 3-peat as women’s champions

Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies are such heavy favorites to win another women’s national title that they’ve already been penciled in as the inevitable champs. So it seems all they need to do is just roll out the ball to hoist the trophy.

Don’t count the Hall of Fame coach among those who believe the top-seeded Huskies are a lock to three-peat.

”The fact that everybody thinks it’s a done deal, that we’re going to win the whole thing,” Auriemma said, ”are probably people who have never coached, or haven’t coached in a Final Four or have won a national championship.”

UConn’s Chris Dailey not a typical assistant coach. (We knew this already, ’cause she’s an Associate coach.)

Keith Sergeant writes: Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer takes high road (sort of) on NCAA Women’s Tournament draw

From Ryan Dunleavy at the Asbury Park Press: Even in Big Ten, Rutgers women’s basketball can’t avoid UConn

If C. Vivian Stringer was less than thrilled about a NCAA Tournament first-round matchup against in-state rival Seton Hall, just imagine how the Rutgers women’s basketball coach feels about a possible second-round game against Connecticut on the powerhouse’s home floor of all places.

Actually, you don’t have to. The Hall of Famer let her feelings be known to anyone able to read between the lines.

Speaking of not avoiding UConn: U of L, UK, WKU women all in UConn’s region

From Rick Bozich – Shhh! Louisville women not ready to talk about Kentucky — yet

It is the most intriguing game on the NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket that nobody at the University of Louisville wanted to talk about:

A Sweet Sixteen women’s version of a Louisville-Kentucky Dream Game – with the winner almost certainly drawing an opportunity to play defending national champion Connecticut.

Imagine.

Psssst! Have you filled out your bracket!!

Rocky road trip: Boise State women’s basketball draws Tennessee in NCAA Tournament

Imagine the Boise State football team drawing a playoff game at Notre Dame. Or the men’s basketball team opening the NCAA Tournament against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

That’s the scenario that faces the women’s basketball team, which will play its first NCAA Tournament game in eight years Saturday at Tennessee – the school that brought the sport to the national stage.

“That’s about as legendary a program as there is,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said moments after Monday’s bracket announcement on ESPN. “The greatest fan base there is in basketball, basically.

George Washington to begin NCAA Tournament play Friday against Gonzaga

Pitt women earn trip to NCAA tournament, will face Chattanooga on Saturday

The Pitt women’s basketball program had waited six years to return to the NCAA tournament.

ESPN and the selection committee decided to make them hold on for an agonizing 40 minutes longer.

NMSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Aggies to face Maryland in NCAA Tournament

“You’re going to play somebody tough whether you’re a 15 or 16 seed,” NMSU coach Mark Trakh said. “We’re just excited and we’re going to prepare to win the game on Saturday. That’s the only way to prepare. You could tell by the reaction of the kids and the community that this is something special right now. Hopefully, we’ll just build on it. And next year we’ll be a 14 seed, the following year a 12, a 11 and work our way down. But for the first step, and considering we were picked to finish fifth in our conference, we’re really, really excited about this right now.”

Duke and UNC get No. 4 seeds in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

Albany is coached by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who was an assistant to Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie at Michigan State.

“We really have to plan for the entire weekend, be efficient and smart,” said McCallie, who had the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight four straight years before falling to visiting DePaul in the second round last season. 

“I don’t know if the selection committee has a sense of humor or not – when I have all these former players and former assistants in the business themselves, I guess it just means I’m getting old.

Here’s a burning question for the Committee: have you filled out your bracket?

Speaking of tournaments, don’t forget about the WNIT. A new friend just asked an innocent question about the WNIT, and I answered:

I’m always intrigued by the non-major conference folks who won their regular conference title but missed out on the NCAA’s because they lost their conference tourney games. SO, my eye is on: Maine, UT – Martin, Colorado State, Hawai’i, Drake…

I think ETSU has a chance to make a name for themselves. Fresno St. is, traditionally, tough. And Eastern Michigan’s been on a mission. All of the WCC teams are dangerous.

Ole Miss is seasoned unlike most any other team. They’re probably the most “grownup” team out there – athlete-wise…

And the WBI

More from the Times: Diana Taurasi Focusing on Playing in Russia, Where the Money Is

It’s a March evening in this mining city, which straddles the border of Europe and Asia, and 4,000 locals have come to see Taurasi’s team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, play Orenburg Nadezhda in the quarterfinals of the Euroleague, the top women’s professional basketball league in Europe. In the upper deck, groups of miners and factory workers who have been bused in from the provinces stomp their feet, blow horns and bang on drums. Most of them work for various subsidiaries of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, the multibillion-dollar metal producer that owns the team.

“Vperyod! Vperyod!” they shout in unison. Forward! Forward!

Deftly, fluidly, her aquiline features fixed in airtight concentration, Taurasi drives the lane, pivots around a pick set by her teammate Candace Parker and maneuvers past the 6-foot-4 frame of DeWanna Bonner to sink a perfect left-handed layup. “Tau-ras-eee!” booms a thickly accented announcer. 

She may be playing in Russia, but do you think has Taurausi filled out her bracket? DA!

Adios: Seattle Waives Temeka Johnson

On the flip side of the tournament bound teams, you have this from Florida: InstaGraham: UF women’s basketball team feels the disappointment

It’s only fitting that the Gators women’s basketball team’s season ended in a 71-49 blowout loss to Auburn in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Wednesday.

That’s the way Florida’s season went and it’s what the players unfortunately had to get used to.

The season is over for the Gators — there will be no NCAA tournament, not even the WNIT.

And if the Gators get invited to the Women’s College Basketball Invitational today, I doubt they’ll go.

Because there is no more room for disappointment this season – Florida has experienced too much of it.

Mid-country: NIU women’s basketball: Head coach Kathi Bennett guides Huskies through troubling times

Women’s basketball won 12 games and lost 17 times in 2014-15. It went 8-10 in conference play and was bounced from the MAC Tournament in the first round. It registered only three victories away from home.

Yet, 2014-15 proved to be head coach Kathi Bennett’s best coaching job in her five seasons at NIU. Managing a Div. I basketball team is a tall task; keeping that team together and on track through injuries that ravaged more than half the roster requires a certain level of leadership and command.

 

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Mark Trakh – New Mexico State. Hired in 2011, his first year with the Aggies his record was 6-24. His second, 15-16. Last year, 11-20. This year…well, if you’ve been reading the WHB, you know about what’s been happening: they’re going’ dancin’!  FOB Dave was glad I left my mitts off him, mostly because he wants Trakh to stick around. (I claim it was because the folks in N.M. were so kind to me, I didn’t want to give away both their coaches.) It’ll be interesting to see where the Aggies go from here — and it’s hard not to wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t “resigned” from USC in ’09.

Mike McLaughlin – Penn. Back when I had enough time to follow/scan all the different divisions of women’s basketball, I noticed McLaughlin’s success at Division II Holy Family. So, when he was named Penn’s new head coach in April of ’09, I wasn’t totally taken off guard. But, did anyone really expect him to raise the quality of Quaker basketball so quickly?

McLaughlin has revitalized the Penn women’s basketball program. The Quakers have improved their win total every year under his guidance and the climb from the bottom to the top of the Ivy League culminated on the final day of the regular season in 2013-14 when the Quakers clinched their first Ivy League title and NCAA Tournament berth in 10 years. 

Tory Verdi – Eastern Michigan. FOB coach T suggested I take a deeper look at coach Verdi. The MAC has given us some great basketball these past few years, but in 2012, things unravelled quickly for EMU. Verdi stepped into a program in disarray and quickly established a new winning tradition: EMU finished 18-14 in the 2013-14 season with an increase of 10 wins and a nine-game improvement in overall record. But what coach Verdi and his team did after junior Shannise Heady was killed in a car crash was extraordinary. Looking forward to see what EMU does in the WNIT.

 

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Andy Landers Announces Retirement

 Andy Landers, the only full-time women’s basketball head coach in University of Georgia history, announced his retirement on Monday. Landers recently completed his 36th season in Athens, during which he recorded his 850th win with the Lady Bulldogs.

“I feel blessed to have had the privilege of working at the University of Georgia for the past 36 years,” Landers said. “Athens is a wonderful community where I have raised my family and had the unwavering support of my wife Pam, my daughter Andrea and my son Drew. I appreciate the support of a wonderful Bulldog Nation…our loyal fans…and the Fastbreak Club members. I owe a special thanks to Coach Vince Dooley for entrusting me with the challenge of building a successful program 36 years ago and to Greg McGarity for continuing that trust and support. A big thank you to Hugh Durham for being a young coach’s mentor…to Presidents Davison, Knapp, Adams and Morehead for their guidance and leadership…to all my former and present staff members and coaches who worked tirelessly to help make the success that we have a reality.

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Congrats to St. Francis – Brooklyn, who defeated Robert Morris on their way to their first NEC title and their first trip to the Dance. They did it with three wins on the road and dead-eye shooting.

Sarah Benedetti led the Terriers with 29 points, including five 3-pointers. Jaymee Veney and Eilidh Simpson added 14 points each.

The fifth-seeded Terriers defeated No. 4 seed Sacred Heart then top-seeded Central Connecticut in double-overtime of the semifinal game before finishing off No. 3 seed Robert Morris.

“I’ve always loved the underdog story and I think this is the definition of a pure underdog,” Benedetti said. “It just feels awesome.”

Houston Baptist couldn’t pull off the next huge upset, so Northwestern State is in the Tournament again.

“I don’t know if we can put that into words,” Northwestern State co-coach Brooke Stoehr said of going to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. “I know how I felt last year, and it was pure elation. I’m not stunned by what this group has done but just amazed. Their character and resiliency has been unbelievable.”

It took overtime, but Green Bay finally subdued the Wright State Raiders to make it to the NCAA – and get a smidge of revenge for last year’s loss to WSU.

A year after watching Wright State have the celebration honors on the same Kress Events Center court, UWGB gained sweet revenge in a thriller of a Horizon League tournament championship.

The top-seeded Phoenix overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half and secured a spot in the NCAA tournament by outlasting the Raiders 86-77 in overtime before a boisterous crowd of 2,214.

“It’s almost a relief, but I think our kids really wanted it badly,” said Borseth, his newly issued hat snug on his head.

Wichita State earned their third straight Missouri Valley conference title by defeating Missouri State 60-43.

Michaela Dapprich is at it again.

The Wichita State forward continued her usual late-season surge with 24 points as the Shockers beat Missouri State 85-71 on Sunday for their third straight Missouri Valley title and another trip to the NCAA tournament.

Alex Harden led top-seeded Wichita State (29-4) with 27 points. Jamillah Bonner added 18 points, Kelsey Jacobs had 10 to help the Shockers win their 12th straight game.

“I’ve just been feeling strong,” she said. “I’d like to say I wait until the end of every season to play my best, but it just happens that way. Everything falls into place toward the end.”

Florida Gulf Coast built a nice lead in the first half, then kept Northern Kentucky at bay on their way to the A-Sun Conference title.

“The most exciting part of coaching, for a coach, is to see their team celebrate,” Smesko said, after his Eagles (30-2) won their 25th consecutive game. “So when the buzzer sounds, and to see them all go to midcourt and have the type of enthusiasm for their accomplishment, that’s definitely the highlight of coaching.”

Every tape session at FGCU the past several weeks has star

A mid-game blackout couldn’t distract James Madison – and they needed their total focus to defeat the upset-minded Pride.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that we did it with a different cast of characters,” coach Kenny Brooks said. “It’s not like we had one superstar come through who just really sparked our program over a short period of time. We’ve had five different Players of the Year.”

The latest is Precious Hall, the 2015 CAA Player of the Year who entered the title game with a 20.9 scoring average and was coming off two straight 19-point performances.

In this one, the junior guard made one basket and scored nine points with six turnovers in 33 minutes.

“Precious will admit she didn’t play as well as usual, but the other kids stepped up,” Brooks said.

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a lot.

From the Times: Bracketology’s Birth: Filling In the Blanks, Running on Caffeine

Bracketology began with two die-hard college basketball fans in a tiny office watching games, eating junk food, drinking caffeinated beverages, working around the clock and wishing the weekend would never end.

Today, Joe Lunardi and Charlie Creme are ESPN’s bracketologists: Lunardi projecting the N.C.A.A. tournament field for men’s basketball and Creme for women’s. They have been with the network for more than a decade and are familiar faces to many fans who follow the sport closely. To them, though, their part-time job is more a labor of love than a demanding occupation.

Just in time – here’s Charlie’s latest bracketology.

Also from the Times, this appreciation from a daughter: The Child of a College Basketball Referee Recalls Years of Fairness

My father, Michael Eggers, was an N.C.A.A. Division I men’s basketball official for 41 years. Few, if any, officials have been able to say the same, or ever will.

After having officiated more than 2,000 games, he worked his final one, Southern California at U.C.L.A., on March 4. My family was in attendance, wearing black and white, of course.

In February 2008, I joined my father on the road for an especially grueling stretch of games: three states and three conferences in three days. There was Texas A&M at Missouri, then Arizona State at Arizona and finally Pepperdine at Portland. I secured press credentials and, with his permission, documented what happened away from the ball.

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(inspired by this past season, and a brief twitter exchange with @ladyswish) Some names to jot down when you’re pondering your next women’s basketball coach – be it for next year, or in three years. And, as I read some of these bios, it simply reinforces the connection between point guards and coaching.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson – Albany. She’s only been there for 5 years, and accomplished a ton! Four straight league titles, anyone?

Jody Adams – Wichita State. Coach Adams, now  in her 7th year, has transformed the program. When when she took over in 2008, the Shockers had recorded 11 wins in the previous seaon.  WSU just won their third MVC conference title in a row and, with a team so young, it’s hard not to imagine there’s not more success in their future.

Jennifer Azzi – San Francisco. The revival of the Dons has been well chronicled at the WHB. Don’t know if Azzi would be interested in attempting to “rebuild” another program. I’m sure her current gig has been exhausting. But, a program that’s settle and needs a spark? Maybe.

Cedric Baker  – Savannah State. It’s been a long 12 seasons, but they won their first MEAC title this year.

Courtney Banghart – Princeton. She’s young. She’s smart. She just went undefeated and has earned her program a ton of attention. Who knows if she wants to leave the Ivy, but wow, what potential.

Laura Beeman – Hawai’i – The Wahine was a hot mess. Now, after three year’s of Beeman, not so much.

Bob Boldon – Ohio. First the Penguins. Then the Bobcats. Bob is a builder.

Anthony Bozzella – Seton Hall. Wherever he goes – LIU, Iona, Seton Hall – he turns programs around.

Kenny Brooks – James Madison University. In his 13th year, all he does is coach teams that win. They just earned their fourth CAA title in six years.

Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky. The ‘toppers just won the C-USA conference title and this year marked the first time WKU has been ranked in 17 years.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that, in her first year Clark-Heard helped WKU to a 13-win improvement over the 2011-12 season output. It was the largest in Sun Belt Conference history, as WKU turned a 9-21 mark into a 22-11 record.

Brittney Ezell  – East Tennessee State University. In only her second year at the program, ETSU was picked for a bottom finish in a conference preseason poll. Instead, the Lady Bucs finished second to UT-Chattanooga and scared the you-know-what out of Mocs in the So-Con tourney.

Tricia Fabrini – Quinnipiac. Since the Bobcats moved up into the Division I ranks, they’ve shown they belonged – be it in the NEC or the MAAC. It’s been a 20 year journey, but maybe she could be tempted by another position?

Donna Finnie – Houston Baptist – It’s way early in her career with HBU, but consider what the Scotland native has already accomplished:

As Donna Finnie begins her second year as head coach in 2014-15, the HBU women’s basketball program looks to soar to new heights after a record-breaking inaugural season in the Southland Conference. In Finnie’s first year at the helm of the program, the team made huge strides both on and off the court. The Huskies won 12 games, the most since HBU began the transition to NCAA Division I in 2007. The Huskies also boasted the highest RPI in program history (251); a significant improvement from the 2012-13 campaign. Offensively the team exploded to produce one of the most efficient scoring attacks in the nation.

On this year, from WHB: The Huskies (15-17) were the 8th seed in the Southland and yet made it to the finals.

Cindy Fisher – San Diego. In her 10 year tenure, Fisher has moved the Toreros into the “often win” column.

Megan Gebbia – American. In only her second year, Gebbia took her team to their first Patriot League Championship.

Kellie Jolly Harper – Missouri State. Seems to me Harper was the sacrificial “next coach” at North Carolina State. She handled a no-win situation with grace, but couldn’t move the program forward. She’s having better fortunes at Missouri State, where she’s revivng the profile of a program that sailed to the stratosphere behind Jackie Stiles.

Yvonne Sanchez – New Mexico. She’s rebuilt a program that fell rather precipitously after coach Flanagan retired. Her first few years were not particularly encouraging, but this year has been different – even after she had to dismiss the team’s captain and center. The Mountain West predicted UNM to finish ninth in the conference, after finishing in ninth place a year ago, but they made it to the conference finals. She has not gotten a contract extension (yet). Folks I spoke to while I was in Albuquerque said the admin wanted more butts in the seats.

Karl Smesko – Florida Gulf Coast. Since joining Division I, all the Eagles have done is terrorize the A-Sun.

Brooke and Scott Stoehr – Northwestern State. Hired in 2012 to revive the Demons’ program that had won just six games the year before, the Stoehrs have done just that. The Demons just won the conference tournament title and earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history.

Jonathan Tsipis – George Washington. – In 2012, Tsipis took over a program that had won 25 wins over three seasons. WHB’s has been tracking the return of the Colonials to the top-25 all season long.

Kevin McMillan – Tennessee Martin – Six years ago, McMillan inheirited a team that went 2-27. Now, the Skyhawks have repeatedly ruled the roost in the OVC.

Amy Williams – South Dakota. Not easy to win in the Summitt, with in-state rival ‘wabbits lurking, but she has.

Ryun Williams – Colorado State. Left South Dakota and, in three years, has turned around a Colorado State program that had a decade of poor results. The #1 seed in the Mountain West was upset in the conference tourney, but I expect they’ll be back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other folks out there, ready to move up, including assistants that I know nothing about…. So, who else would you put on this list? womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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and while it doesn’t get the attention the DI – top 25 folks do, it’s still played with skill and a ton of passion.

NCAA Division III – They’ve reached the semis and four teams are headed to Grand Rapids Michigan.

March 20th, 5pm: Thomas More v. Tufts

About the Saints: 

By winning the program’s first sectional championship, these Saints have cemented their place in Thomas More history. They are far from satisfied, and remain focused on their mission to bring a national championship to Crestview Hills. In the midst of the celebration, 2014 graduate Katie Kitchen emotionally embraced her close friend and former teammate Wainscott.

“That’s what it’s about, keeping that tradition and playing for the people before you,” said Wainscott. “To accomplish something that she wanted so bad, nothing beats it.”

About the Jumbos:

The Tufts University women’s basketball team earned a return trip to the NCAA Championship “Final Four” with a 58-52 victory over defending national champion FDU-Florham in the quarterfinals today at Cousens Gym. “We’re so excited to be heading back to the Final Four,” said coach Carla Berube. It’s been a long journey from the end of last year, through the summer and in to pre-season.We’ve worked extremely hard, always together. It’s like a big family. We’re just so excited and so proud of the team.”

March 2oth, 7:30pm: George Fox v. Montclair State (Or, Scott Rueck’s former team v. Carol Blazejowski’s former team)

About the Bruins:

Morris drained five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points to help the George Fox Bruins win a battle of 30-0 teams on Saturday. No. 3 George Fox beat No. 6 Calvin College, the host school, 78-63 to advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four.

“We’re super excited about this opportunity,” Bruins coach Michael Meek said. “We knew this was going to be a difficult task to play Calvin. They have such a great program. I have so much respect for them.”

About the Red Hawks:

MSU (30-1), which also set a new single-season record for victories, will take on undefeated George Fox University (31-0) at 7:30 pm with unbeaten Thomas More (31-0) meeting Tufts (30-1) at 5:00 pm. The winners meet in the national championship game on Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 pm.

It will be the first appearance in the NCAA Division III Final Four for the Red Hawks. Montclair State played in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Final Four in at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles in 1978 and placed third.

NCAA Division II – Third Round

Monday March 16th, 8pm: Union (TN) is baaaack… and they’ll face Nova Southeastern in a battle of 1 v. 2 seeds.

Monday, March 16th, 7pm: California (PA) is baaack…and they’ll face Bloomsburg in a battle of 1 v. 3 seeds.

Monday, March 16th 7pm: Stonehill will face New Haven in a battle of 4 v. 2 seeds.

Monday, March 16th, 11pm: Cal Poly Pomona will face Cal Baptist in a battle of 7 v. 5 seeds.

In the other half of the bracket:

Monday, March 16th 8pm : They’re baaaaack… Emporia State will face Fort Hays in a battle of 1 v. 2 seeds.

Monda, March 16th: West Texas A&M will face UC-Colorado Springs in a battle of 1 v. 2 seeds.

Monday, March 16th, 7pm: Limestone will face Anderson (S.C) in a battle of 2 v. 3 seeds.

Monday, March 16th, 7pm: Ashland will face Lewis in a battle of 5 v. 2 seeds.

The quarterfinals start March 24th in Souix City, South Dakota.

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From Kate Fagan: The wait is the hardest part for TCU

Pinned to the fridge inside Raegan Pebley’s home is a piece of orange construction paper, covered in red crayon.

Although that would seem like the work of kids — and Pebley does have two, a daughter and a son — this masterpiece was actually created by the Texas Christian coach and her husband, Keith.

They divided the paper into columns with the crayon:

Favorites we need to win. Teams we need to jump. Mid-major upsets that hurt us. 

Each column was then filled with school names — essentially a road map outlining Championship Week, and, if all went according to this plan, a path for TCU to arrive at the promised land: the NCAA tournament.

Another team in waiting, but less nervous: Safely off NCAA bubble, Buckeyes wait for seeding

The seat cushions won’t feel like they’re bristling with pins and needles on Monday night while Ohio State waits to see where it is seeded in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

After a two-year postseason absence, the Buckeyes played their way into the tournament this season with a third-place finish in the Big Ten regular season and run to the championship game in the conference tournament.

Coach Kevin McGuff expects the selection committee to place Ohio State somewhere between a fifth and seventh seed.

“That sounds about right to me,” he said. “It’s always a guess. I know geography matters. They try to do something with that. But who knows?”

More on the dancers and wanna-be dancers from the Idaho Statesman: NCAA women’s basketball tournament: Boise State will dance; who joins in?

Read more here:

What are their chances? Check out Charlie’s latest best guess in his Bracketology.

Reminder of today’s games:
NEC – St. Francis (Brooklyn) vs. Robert Morris – ESPNU – 1 p.m.
CAA – Hofstra vs. James Madison – CAA.TV Comcast SportsNet – 1 p.m.
Southland – Houston Baptist vs. Northwestern State – CBS Sports Network – 1 p.m.
Atlantic Sun  – FGCU vs. Northern Kentucky – ESPN3 – 2:30 p.m.
MVC  – Wichita State vs. Missouri State – ESPN3 – 3 p.m. Of interest: This game game features two Tennessee Vols going mano-a-mano: Kellie Harper v. Jody Adams.
Horizon League – Wright State vs. Green Bay – ESPNU – 3 p.m.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s sure happy to be dancin’ – CAGoua6UYAATbzv

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games left in the first round of post-season play. Saturday’s ticket-punchers included:

Their legs may have given out, but not their hearts. Eastern Michigan stayed even with Ohio through the first half for the MAC championship game, but the Bobcats proved too much for them in the second. Coach Boldon continues to make a name for himself as a transformative winner.

After finishing 9-21 and 6-23 in the previous two seasons, Ohio completely flipped the narrative in 2014-15. Its 27th win surpasses a program record set almost three decades ago.

“It’s fantastic,” Boldon said. “There’s a bunch of cliches for this moment because it’s just hard to put it into words. You work when school starts and, in the fall, these kids show up and you’re selling them on a vision and you hope they’ll buy into what you’re selling.

“This team has truly bought into what we’re doing.”

Savannah State ended MD-E Shore’s run of upsets and claimed their first MEAC title, 65-47.

“It means the world, especially to me,” said Ezinne Kalu. “Well, I’m pretty sure it means the world to all of us, but it’s been a long journey. … We came from being the last seed to being the second seed to being MEAC champions.

“It’s definitely a feeling we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”

Lots of oddness in the SWAC this year, but Alabama State could care less.

Alabama State wrapped up an NCAA tournament berth Friday with its semifinal victory in the SWAC because Southern was ineligible after failing to meet minimum APR requirements

That wasn’t enough. The Lady Hornets wanted a ring and the prestige that comes with winning the conference tournament.

They got it.

Jasmine Peeples had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Britney Wright added 17 points to help Alabama State beat Southern 73-55 on Saturday.

“I told my girls, ‘We want the hats. We want the T-shirts, we want the trophy and we want the ring.’ And they bought into it and thought the same thing,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “When I mentioned to these ladies they said they want to win.”

The Rainbow wasn’t enough, as Hawai’i was upset by Cal-State Northridge, 67-60.

The best thing to do against shot-blockers? Make them block shots.

To do otherwise, to retreat to safe perimeters and hoist 3-pointers out of fear, is to surrender before you start.

Hawaii returned 11 shots to their senders on Saturday at Honda Center.

That is one reason CSUN is the repeat winner of the Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament.

“It’s the old Bill Russell thing,” coach Jason Flowers said, after the 67-60 victory.

“They were blocking them out of bounds. We kept possession. Just because it might not work the first time, it doesn’t mean you stop doing it. It’s the character of the group. They kept their head down and they kept attacking.”

Montana spotted Northern Colorado a 13-point lead, and then roared back to claim the Big Sky title, 60-49.

“Unbelievably good win and it was an unbelievable game,” said Montana coach Robin Selvig, whose team trailed 29-16 at halftime. “They I thought were pretty dominant the first half. We were having a hard time. They’re really good right now, really well-coached.

“… I was really wondering how we were going to turn it around second half. Somehow these guys just put together maybe the best run of basketball we’ve had in a long time for about 10 minutes.”

New Mexico State survived all the WHB attention and claimed their first WAC title…and their first NCAA bid since 1988. For reference, and perhaps appropriately enough, George Michael’s Faith topped the charts.

“We recruited them, we went to their homes, we sold New Mexico State as hope,” NMSU coach Mark Trakh said. “We told them what could happen. Now we can sell a program because we have built a program.”

This year’s team was also the program’s first team to win a conference tournament.

As expected, Southern Miss gave Western Kentucky all it could handle, and then some. But the Toppers prevailed.

Alexis Govan did it all with the game on the line: making free throws, taking a charge and grabbing a rebound.

Govan scored 22 points and made two free throws with 23 seconds left and Western Kentucky held on for a 60-57 win over Southern Mississippi Saturday night in the Conference USA tournament championship game.

“I looked at her and said, `Alexis, that ball’s going to you,'” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “When she went to the free throw line, I don’t look at her because I don’t want to make her nervous.”

That in-state rivalry delivered, as Arkansas-Little Rock escaped Arkansas State, 78-72.

After allowing a season-high 38 points in the first half and continuing to give up easy baskets for most of the second half, Little Rock, the nation’s third-stingiest defense, turned up the intensity when it mattered most.

“If we couldn’t play defense like we did and count on it, we wouldn’t have won that ball game,” coach Joe Foley said. “Our kids always knew in the back of their minds that we could get some stops at the end of the game if we kept it close.”

American claimed their first Patriot title, pulling away from Lehigh in the second for the 66-50 win.

After coming up short in four previous trips to the Patriot League finals, American (24-8) won its final eight regular season games plus three in the postseason and will represent the Patriot League as the automatic qualifier for the first time. The Eagles now await an announcement of their destination for the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament which gets under way at 16 sites on March 21-22. The tournament field and matchups will be unveiled at 7 p.m. on Monday evening.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said American senior forward Arron Zimmerman. “I was just saying, I was standing there in the corner when the shot clock was running down there and it was just a moment from my dreams. I’ve dreamed of this and it was awesome.”

Sunday games:

NEC, 1pm: St. Francis (Brooklyn) looks to pull the major upset against last year’s conference champ, Robert Morris.

This marks the first time a No. 1 seed has not played in the NEC title game and the first time a No. 5 seed has reached the final since 2010, when No. 5 St. Francis (Pa.) defeated No. 2 Long Island. 

It is the Terriers’ first appearance in the championship game. In addition to upsetting top-seeded Central Connecticut State in double overtime, they also defeated Sacred Heart on the road in the quarterfinals. 

Those wins followed end-of-season victories at Bryant and rival LIU Brooklyn.

CAA, 1PM – COMCAST Sports Net: James Madison has rolled through the regular season conference schedule… except for that one-point loss at home against Hofstra. And they just escaped Elon by three. What kind of motivation with that inspire as they face the Pride, who are in their first ever title match?A-SUN, 2:30: Florida Gulf Coast is already packing their bags for the NCAA. But that doesn’t mean that Northern Kentucky doesn’t want snatch the conference crown out of their hands.

Southland, 1PM: An incredible run for the 9th seed Houston Baptist. They took down McNeese State by 1, Corpus Christi by 2, and then knocked off top-seed Stephen F. Austin by 7. How much will they have left in the tank wen they go up against Northwestern State? The Demons overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to knock off second-seeded Lamar, 70-64, in overtime and reach their second straight SLC Tournament championship game.

Horizon, 3PM – ESPNU/3: Wright State has lost twice this season to Green Bay, both times by double digits. Let’s see if they have better luck this time. I doubt the Phoenix will take them for granted, especially after the battle they had with the Penguins.

MVC, 3PM – ESPN3: Since coach Adams arrived, the Valley has belonged to Wichita State.The Shockers will go for the conference title against Wright State, who they’ve beaten twice this season. Oh, and someone is wondering if Kansas might be looking at WSU’s Jody Adams.

Wichita State head coach Jody Adams, the first potential candidate in this, the latest KU coaching-search blog, has done a remarkable job in building a winner and bringing positive attention to the Shockers’ women’s program.

Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference records in seven seasons before Adams took over: 8-10, 7-10, 7-11, 2-16, 8-10, 4-14, 3-15. That’s 17-55 in the four seasons leading up to Admas’ first.

Under Adams: 4-14, 8-10, 10-8, 12-6, 15-3, 14-4, 17-1. That’s 46-8 in Adams’ past three seasons. Phenomenal. Adams has taken the Shockers from worst in the Missouri Valley to first.

 

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Yes, we got in our big grant renewal proposal before the 5pm deadline. Thanks, Chris!!! Now, all you readers you, think positive, funding thoughts!

In other news…

Most folks held serve on Thursday, but some eyebrow raisers on Friday.

In the Southland, Houston Baptist (14-17, 6-12) toppled Texas A&M Corpus Christi (16-16. 12-6), 49-48.

It was the Blue Hens upsetting the Dragons, 55-48.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “I think they stepped up and followed the game plan beautifully. We were able to knock down some shots, but I thought it was a tremendous effort defensively for us. Our communication on the floor was much better.’’

I wouldn’t call this outrageously surprising, but Southern Miss floored it in the second half to take down in-conference C-USA rival, Middle Tennessee, 65-53.

“I’m very proud of our team,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Our locker room was not very nice at halftime, nor were many timeouts very nice. This kid [Tamara Jones] sitting next to me – if you ask her at about the 8 minute mark if your coach cared for you at all, she’d probably say ‘heck no.’ I really challenged her extremely hard. I said some things to really, really challenge her and to make her really mad with me so that she would respond. What an unbelievable response.”

USM will face Western Kentucky, which withstoodfurious comeback from Barefoot’s ODU team. Hmmm… maybe the Monarchs will rise again.

“This one’s a hard one,” coach Karen Barefoot said, her voice breaking. “I’ve never felt so proud of being their coach. They played very hard, with a lot of heart, toughness.”

Indeed, the Lady Monarchs proved that Barefoot’s oft-stated belief that they are never out of a game was more than just talk. Down 18 at halftime, ODU pulled even with 9:34 left and actually led by five with 7:53 to play.

Their season totals are similar, but their Southland conference records make this an upset: Northwestern State over Nicholls State with authority, 84-67.

It was Friday the 13th and the Northwestern State women’s basketball bus had broken down, leaving the Lady Demons scrambling to get to the Leonard C. Merrell Center for their Southland Conference Tournament quarterfinal against third-seeded Nicholls.

Bad omens? Not quite. Once Northwestern State reached the Merrell Center – its home away from home – all was right with the Lady Demons’ world.

Super-scoring Sacramento State couldn’t stop Northern Colorado in OT, so it’s the Bears moving into the Big Sky finals. Cool note: John Stockton took in some games.

Maryland-Eastern Shore continued its upset ways, taking down the pretender to the MEAC throne Norfolk State, 69-64 in OT. They’re into the tournament finals for the first time.

In the Missouri Valley, top bulldog Drake (20-9, 15-3) was pushed into overtime by Evansville (12-18, 6-12), where it fell to the seventh-seed, 84-79.

“We had a good conference season, but none of that matters come tournament time,” freshman guard Maddy Dean said. “We expected better out of our team, and we didn’t pull it out tonight.

“That’s tough. It hurts.”

I said it once, and I’ll say it again – Eastern Michigan is on a mission and you don’t wanna get in their way. Ball State was their latest conquest, 75-65.

“Wow, what a game,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m just really, really proud of our kids. Tremendous effort. There were times where we faced adversity, where we were on our own and things didn’t go our way; where we didn’t fold, but we just fight right back.”

It’s been an emotional two months for EMU as its dealt with the loss of a teammate during the season. Junior forward Shannise Heady passed away in a car accident on Jan. 25.

Squeak! WHB still hasn’t managed to curse’em, but it was close. New Mexico State survives OT v. Seattle U, 79-75 and moves into the WAC finals.

“Give Seattle all the credit in the world, they played really really hard and executed well,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said, “Having said that, I’m really proud of our young student-athletes, they did a great job out there.  They’ve been handling pressure all year and they always felt they could win that game.”

Might have cursed their in-state rivals, though. New Mexico falls in the Mountain west finals to Boise State. The Broncos rode Spaniard Yaiza Rodriguez’s 18 points to win their first MW title and earn the NCAA tourney bid (first time since 2007).

“To be able to be with everyone you love, representing a university who you have so much passion for, it was awesome,” Pahukoa said.

Hello, Hawai’i! They move into the Big West finals with their 73-64, win over CS Fullerton.

The Big Dogs are back – though Hartford did NOT make it easy, even though they were down two starters. Albany wins a chance to dance.

“A lot of credit to Hartford — they played with a lot of passion, a lot of guts, everything,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They played really, really hard. But at the end, we just turned it up defensively and a couple timeouts, I said, ‘We better be getting that ball to No. 25 [Richards].’ And she stepped up and did what she does.”

Jennifer Gish writes: UAlbany women’s basketball worthy of more fans

Games to watch today: 

MAC Final – Eastern Michigan v. Ohio. It out to be a fierce battle of green uniforms. 1pm, TWCS, BCSN, Comcast Michigan, ESPN Full Court, ESPN3. EMU’s resliancy is amazing (and EMU becomes the first six-seed to make the MAC women’s title game). Kudos to coach Verdi (his dance moves) and his staff. Ditto with former Penguin coach “Bob the Builder Boldon” and his work with the Bobcats.

This is the third time Ohio and Eastern Michigan have faced each other this season.  The two teams split the season series, 1-1. Last time, the Bobcats fell to the Eagles, 73-61 in Athens.  That loss snapped the Bobcats 10-game winning streak.

MEAC FinalMD-E Shore v. Savannah State. Someone new will be dancin’ from the MEAC. Will the upset-minded Hawks take down their third upper-seed, or with the Tigers prevail? 3:30 EST, ESPN3.

Big Sky: Northern Colorado v. Montana. 4PM EST. Two championship game vets battle (Griz, 20th time. Bears 2nd time in three years).

WAC: New Mexico State v. UT-Pan American. No basketball team representing the University in Edinburg, whether called Pan American University or UT-Pan American, has ever reached the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The last game between these two teams was an Aggies win by 20. But when they hosted NMSt, the Broncos only lost by 3. 4PM, ESPNU, ESPN3.

American: Lehigh v. American. No doubt American is the favorite, but after losing their last four in the regular season, the Mountain Hawks seem to have found their second wind. 6PM EST, CBS Sports Network.

Playing American provides extra motivation for O’Reilly. One of the Eagles’ starters, senior forward Arron Zimmerman, was a high school teammate of O’Reilly’s.

Zimmerman is one of several players capable of a big night for American. Senior point guard Jen Dumiak will draw the most attention from Lehigh’s defense.

Big West: Cal State Northridge v. Hawai’i, 6PM, EST, streaming through Fox Sports. The return of the Wahine has been a fun story. How will it end?

C-USA: Western Kentucky v. Southern Miss. 8PM EST, CBS Sports Network. This could be a doozy. The Toppers have been on my radar all season, and Southern Miss has been determine to knock over their hatrack (see what I did there?).

Sun Belt: Arkansas State v. Arkansas – Little Rock. 8pm EST, ESPN3. In-state rivalry. What more needs to be said?

The two best women’s basketball teams in the Sun Belt Conference, led by its two most successful coaches, will finally collide in the conference tournament final. The third meeting of the season between UALR and Arkansas State was realized Friday when both teams won tournament semifinal games. Now the top-seeded Trojans and No. 2 Red Wolves will play with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line at 7 p.m. today.

Some other stuff:

From Mechelle – Nina Davis always in right place

 There’s a quality that exists among certain basketball players that really can’t quite be attributed to their size, or quickness, or even skill level. And that is their magnetism to the basketball. Or vice versa.

It seems almost freakish sometimes, doesn’t it? In a good way, of course, for the people who have it. Although even they often can’t explain it.

“I guess from playing for so long,” Baylor forward Nina Davis said, “I just know where the ball is going next.”

Well, that’s not exactly it. She’s only a sophomore, so we’re not talking about a grizzled veteran. The bottom line is that Davis has a knack for being where the ball is, and we’re probably never going to be completely sure how she does it.

But it’s something that Baylor assistant coach Bill Brock noticed when he was recruiting the 5-foot-11 Davis.

Espnw honors Jewell Loyd as their POY, Mitchell as their FOY, and Semrau as their COY.

FiveThirtyEight says: Princeton Enters Women’s Tournament As An Unusual Sort Of Undefeated Team

Unlike UConn and Notre Dame last season, which were the clear top-two teams entering the tournament, Princeton won’t even be favored to advance from its region. None of its wins came against teams now ranked in the Top 25. Its conference schedule was a breeze: Penn was the only other Ivy League team with a winning conference record, and just Cornell joined Princeton and Penn with a winning overall record.

Princeton’s nonconference schedule wasn’t all that hard, either. After Tuesday’s regular-season finale, senior guard Blake Dietrick said she started thinking 30-0 was possible when the Tigers beat Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor.

Check out this nice video on the Ivy Tigers: Perfect Princeton Is Ready To Dance

The AP’s writes Steve Megargee writes: Women’s mid-majors could be poised for breakthrough tourney

Mid-major women’s basketball programs historically have much less success in the NCAA Tournament than their counterparts on the men’s side.

Perhaps this is the year that changes.

The latest Top 25 includes four mid-majors ranked 20th or higher: No. 13 Princeton, No. 17 Chattanooga, No. 19 George Washington and No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast. Gonzaga, Green Bay, James Madison and Western Kentucky also have appeared in the Top 25 this season.

“We just want to win and want to prove to people we can compete in March,” said Princeton guard Blake Dietrick.

Dishin’ and Swishin’ is talking da Bears and da Buckeyes.

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Must watch Snappy TV – Fun stuff from the Huskers: WBB Lip Sync-Staff

Nice stuff from Mechelle: Bonded by basketball: Sisters love Big 12 tournament

If you were at the recent Big 12 women’s basketball tournament, you might have seen them on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center. Who was that group of people who were there for every session and seemed like they were having a blast no matter who was playing?

One day, they were wearing matching white T-shirts with the words “Geneva’s Convention” on the back. That might have set some minds stirring. Hmmmm … there aren’t any players or coaches in the Big 12 named Geneva, are there? Nobody is from a town of that name, are they? Does Switzerland have anything to do with it?

No, no, no. Geneva Tuttle was a very big women’s basketball fan, and the Big 12 tournament became her annual bonding event with her three sisters. And after illness took Geneva in 2007 at age 67, the gathering expanded to other family members.

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