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.
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.
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.
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.”
South Carolina v. Florida State
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.
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.
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
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