Feeds:
Posts

Archive for April, 2015

Women’s College Basketball Is Better Than Men’s (AND they’ve got facts to back it up!)

Even many who love and defend women’s basketball often judge it a little differently than men’s, on the presumption that it’s a less mature sport.

I don’t begrudge anyone for thinking this — I would still think the same if I hadn’t had the game on my mind for the past seven weeks. (Have I mentioned my editor is patient?) And it would make sense if there were any truth to the notion that women’s basketball is less talented.

But it isn’t. As it turns out, not only is women’s college basketball as strong and deep in college-age talent as the men’s game, but for the rarest talent, it is significantly more so.

In other news: Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here? Alleva: LSU needs to ‘revitalize’ women’s basketball

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell has reached the NCAA Tournament during all four of her years with the Lady Tigers. However, in a recent interview with WAFB-TV, athletic director Joe Alleva sees a need for improvement.

“I’m not saying the product is bad, don’t get me wrong,” says Alleva. “But it’s not as good as it’s been, in some past years, when we were playing in the Final Four.”

Ummmm.. ok? Former Eastern Michigan women’s basketball coach AnnMarie Gilbert, who left after report of NCAA violations, will coach at Virginia Union

“I gotta moooooove!” Sky’s Sylvia Fowles seeking trade

Yikes: Four Southeast Missouri State women’s basketball signees released from NLI

Go to your happy place… go to your happy place… oooo, ICE CREAM! Dolson Still Happy As ‘Big Mama Stef’

Soon, the Family Farm Ice Cream shop in Wallkill, N.Y., will debut a new sundae. It will honor Stefanie Dolson, the former Minisink Valley High player who won two national championships at UConn and just completed her rookie season with the WNBA‘sWashington Mystics and teams in Russia and Turkey.

More than anything, the concoction is designed to honor the cherry-on-top personality that has always drawn people to her, even five years after she left town to join the Huskies as a freshman. That’s why it took Dolson more than two hours to say hi to the estimated 500 people who showed up at the ice cream shop last weekend to see her.

Don’t forget what day is coming up…Lobo encourages female athletes to dream at BU luncheon

More than 500 people attended the event including student-athletes from the university as well as local high schools, including the Susquehanna Valley girls basketball team which one the program’s first state championship last month. The luncheon got postponed by a snowstorm on Feb. 2.

“My theme is that I was fortunate to be raised by a really strong-willed woman who let me understand that I could be whatever I wanted to be through sports, who encouraged me to dream,” Lobo said.

Read Full Post »

BG and Glory was, “At least the authorities took it seriously.” ’cause like some readers, I had a flashback to Rosalind Ross.

The ESPNers wrote eloquently about the “other” things that came to mind: An espnW email chain about the Brittney Griner arrest

When news broke on Thursday that Brittney Griner and her fiancée, Glory Johnson, had been arrested for a domestic incident, it sparked the following thoughtful exchange among several espnW writers about the various complicated tentacles to the story.

How do you cover such a complex issue — breaking news about domestic violence between two women who are both active athletes, are stars of their respective teams and are engaged to each other?

The headlines also prompted other folks to speak. From Arizona: Alesha Durfee, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of Women and Gender Studies at ASU’s School of Social Transformation, Talks About Domestic Violence Among Women

In other W news:

Sweet turnout for basketball star Stefanie Dolson’s visit home

“It was over the top to get to meet Stefanie,” said Catie O’Connor, a fourth-grader at Goshen Intermediate School. “She was so nice. It was really special, it was awesome. It means the world to me. I really look up to her. I’m very excited.”

Dolson, a Minisink Valley graduate who won two national championships at the University of Connecticut and now plays for the Washington Mystics in the WNBA, spent more than two hours meeting with fans at Family Farm. At one point, a long line formed outside the building. According to Family Farm co-owner Jean Halahan, about 500 people showed up to meet the personable Dolson.

Post Draft News:
Liberty makes superb additions on WNBA Draft Day

It was supposed to be an unremarkable draft for the New York Liberty, which traded its first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun in last year’s deal for center Tina Charles, but coach Bill Laimbeer had some surprises. The Liberty traded guard-forward Alex Montgomery to the San Antonio Stars for the ninth pick, with which they chose Brittany Boyd, a tenacious point guard from the University of California who modeled her game after Cappie Pondexter.

Boyd, who played in the 2013 Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden, said she loved the energy of the arena. If called upon, she’s ready to be the Liberty’s floor general.


Pitt’s Brianna Kiesel ready for her journey in WNBA

Welch Prepares for Transition to WNBA After a stellar career as a team leader for the Gamecocks

Blake Dietrick, Wellesley native, takes shot at WNBA

Butler High grad Cierra Burdick’s WNBA dream comes true

A little podcast: Dishin & Swishin 4/23/15 Podcast: Stephanie White takes the helm in Indiana, previews the season

WATN? Ticha Penicheiro: Former NBA and WNBA greats put on clinic for Cuban basketball players

and WNBA legend Ruth Riley looking to leave positive impact on Filipino kids.

Ruth also had something to say about how “bad” Connecticut is for the game: UConn raises women’s basketball in US, says former WNBA star

For former WNBA star Ruth Riley, the dominance of University of Connecticut in women’s college basketball does not present a problem.

It’s the catalyst that should raise the bar for the sport in the United States.

“You respect your opponent and you respect the fact that you know it’s an incredible program,” Riley, who won Olympic Gold in the Athens Games in 2004, said Thursday afternoon at Marriott Hotel.

Another WATN? Former Tech and WNBA player Alicia Thompson to be named Lubbock High’s girls basketball coach

On the college front, some disconcerting news, but not totally surprising if you’ve read some of the surrounding area’s message boards:

From a mother’s perspective: The WSU women’s basketball allegations

Former Wichita State players and parents are speaking out about the allegations that Coach Jody Adams and her coaching staff have mentally and verbally abused players in the program. The mother of a former player that transferred said these allegations are nothing new.

She also said that what brings it to life now is the fact that there are four transfers and two of them are starters.

“We’ve voiced concerns for a while now. There have been groups of players that have gone in together. I know several parents that have written letters and have had meetings.”


Eric Sexton issues statement on Jody Adams allegations

Former WSU players speak out on abuse allegations

Former players talk about allegations against WSU women’s basketball – KSN-TV

More Chiney! My Message To My Younger Self (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #3)

Read Full Post »

I’m kinda psyched to get to the Garden this year. From Mechelle: 

Boyd, a WBCA All-American this season, seems eager to traverse three time zones and jump right into a different kind of classroom setting. She will get the chance to learn from veteran guards such as Tanisha Wright (a free-agent signee who spent her first 10 seasons in Seattle), Epiphanny Prince (obtained in February from Chicago in a trade for Cappie Pondexter) and Essence Carson.

“I think those players are going to prepare me and challenge me each day to get better,” said Boyd, who averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds this season at Cal. “I just want to learn and figure out how we can be great as a franchise.”

Speakin’ of Bill (and how he kept dragging the old Detroit Shock behind him), a little WATN? with Tweety: Return to WNBA unlikely for Flint’s Deanna Nolan after success in Russia

Hardcore women’s basketball fans may remember Deanna Nolan as a silky smooth guard for her WNBA championship career with the Detroit Shock.

That was a few years ago, but she hasn’t hung up her sneakers just yet.

She’s still got it.

At 35, the five-time WNBA All-Star is wrapping up her eighth season in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Nolan plays for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team, which competes in both the Russian and Euro leagues.

More post draft stuff:

Mike Peden at Full Court offers up his 2015 WNBA Draft Analysis: Minnesota makes the most of draft pick trades with New York

Atlanta: Massengale living a dream

Chicago: Aleighsa Welch ready to continue career in the WNBA

 Following a whirlwind few weeks, Aleighsa Welch was back in a place she feels most comfortable on Monday – South Carolina’s practice facility inside the Carolina Coliseum.

Welch, recently drafted by the Chicago Sky of the WNBA, is back in Columbia preparing for graduation and her life as a professional basketball player.

“I finally got a chance to sit down after the draft to think about and realize you’re just a few steps away from playing in the WNBA,” said Welch. “That part of it has been exciting.”

Welch proud of legacy she’ll leave at USC

Tulsa: Mungedi drafted by Tulsa Shock

From walk-on, to Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, to Women’s National Basketball Association draftee. Former Nevada center Mimi Mungedi was selected by the Tulsa Shock with the 25th pick in the WNBA Draft on Thursday, April 16.

The Shock took the 6-foot-8 Gabon native with the first pick in the third round, making Mungedi just the second Wolf Pack player to be selected in the WNBA Draft (Tahnee Robinson was the first in 2011). Mungedi’s WNBA odyssey has been one for the ages. She didn’t pick up a basketball until she was 12 years old. Mungedi averaged a mere five minutes a game as a walk-on freshman at Nevada, before starting 11 games as a sophomore.

Then came her coming out party. Mungedi won back-to-back MWC Defensive Player of the Year awards her junior and senior season. She left her mark in the Nevada record books, setting single-seasons record in blocks (74) and career blocks (162).

Old college stuff to chew on from Charlie: Way-too-early Top 25 for 2015-16

And the transfers keep on coming:

West Virginia’s Bre McDonald and freshman guard Tyara Warren will not return.

Kansas State announced the departures of Meeks, Jones.

Sad news from the West Coast: DHS girls basketball pioneer Barb Iten dies

Barb Iten, the former longtime area educator who led Davis High to the first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section girls basketball championship, died at her home in Vacaville on Sunday. She was 65.

Iten coached only one season (1974-75) at DHS, but it was a memorable one.

That team (which featured the legendary Denise Curry) went 23-1 — including an unofficial split of two games with UC Davis. The Devils beat Grant, 64-31, for what would be the school’s first section crown in modern CIF history.

Read Full Post »

First we have DT taking the season off.

Then we have Z.B. leaving early to enter the draft.

Then we have Ms. Loyd leaving early to enter the draft (and coach McGraw being not so happy) Is it a bad idea? Good Idea?

Then we have CP3 absenting herself for a hunk of games. (Will Big Syl be next?)

Then we have a HUNK of transfers (as Blue Star Media notes:College players on the move, but not many coaches ):

Minnesota

Virginia

Wichita State: Returning starters Michaela Dapprich and Alie Decker are among four players leaving the Wichita State women’s basketball program

Indiana

Vanderbilt

Oklahoma State: Four players transfer and top recruit decommits amid departure of assistant coach Richard Henderson

USC: Women’s Basketball Loses Two Key Freshmen Players

Boston College

Texas: Nekia Jones.

Kansas State: Jones prepares to transfer while Meeks eyes graduate degree

Some who benefitted from transfers:

Mississippi State got Oklahoma State’s Roshunda Johnson

Oakland got Illinois’ Taylor Gleason.

Oregon got BC’s Kat Cooper.

Minnesota got Marquette’s Kenisha Bell.

DePaul got Illinois’ Jacqui Grant

So you’re looking to find gem in the European basketball mines? Check out this from Blue Star: I wish these stories weren’t true 

There are success stories. Check out this list of international newcomers to the NCAA (Spain is represented quite well).

The NCAA spins a happy tune: Women’s basketball championship a success across multiple platforms

The 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and Women’s Final Four hosted in Tampa Bay resulted in successes across multiple platforms.

The Women’s Final Four attendance totaled 39,540, marking the highest attendance for the Women’s Final Four in the last five years. The national championship game attendance reached 19,810 fans in Amalie Arena.

In addition, the first and second rounds of the championship, taking place at the top 16 hosting sites under the new Division I women’s basketball format, recorded the second-highest total attendance since 2004. The overall 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship also recorded the third-highest number of fans since 2004, with a total of 239,746 going through the turnstiles.

Coaching News:

Utah looks to Pacific for their new coach, Lynne Roberts.

UALR says “Stay Put Please” to Joe Foley.

So does Syracuse to Q.

Lafayette brings back a classic: Theresa Grentz

Interesting… Kansas says “Yes” to Brandon Schneider. After Jody Adams said “No.” 

Georgia stayed local… and generous when they hired Joni Crenshaw. Writes Jordan James: Crenshaw follows Landers’ lead, but will put own stamp on program

Western Carolina lured back a two-time assistant when they signed Stephanie McCormick as head coach.

North Florida looks to Miami for their new head coach, Darrick Gibbs.

Air Force tags Chris Gobrecht.

Portland State got Lynn Kennedy from NAIA’s Southern Oregon.

Southeast Missouri State University snagged Rekha Patterson from Ball State.

Some post-draft news:

ESPN – Draft Grades (Yah, I’m kinda excited about the Lib this year)

Bleacher Report has 2015 WNBA Draft Results: Full List of Selections and Top Takeaways

Atlanta: Logic a promising work-in-progress for Dream

Atlanta: Hrynko of DePaul to fight for roster spot

Chicago: Sky’s top pick Parker puts troubles behind her

Chicago: Parker in ‘disbelief’ over WNBA draft selection

It didn’t take long for Cheyenne Parker to hear her name called during the 2015 WNBA draft Thursday night.

Less than 30 minutes to be exact.

“It was crazy, I just dropped to my knees,” Parker said about being selected. “I was just lost for words. My initial thought was, ‘Is this real? Did this just happen?’ I am just so blessed.”

Los Angeles: Sparks draft Central Michigan’s Crystal Bradford with No. 7 pick in 2015 WNBA Draft

Minnesota: Lynx trade for guard, draft Cal forward and U’s Shae Kelley

New York: Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer Eager To Work With Kiah Stokes

New York: How 2 prize rookies will fit in with new-look Liberty

Phoenix: Wichita State’s Alex Harden surprised by WNBA Draft

Seattle: Storm’s rebuilding nearly complete after 2 top draft picks

Seattle: Storm got the cream of the crop in drafting Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd

Tulsa: Shock selects Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B. with No. 2 pick in WNBA draft

Washington: Punch Shots: Cloud deserves her shot at the WNBA

Washington: How will Ally Malott and Natasha Cloud fit with the Washington Mystics in 2015 and beyond?

Semi-drafted: Princeton’s Dietrick earns spot on Washington Mystics training camp roster

Not drafted: Jude Schimmel Talks of Managing Her Sister Shoni’s Career. BTW, did you catch her new book: ‘You Don’t Have to Leave the Reservation to be Successful’

Speaking of the W:

Did ya catch the video, Sue Bird: Revealed?

You can never get enough Chiney. First she’s Dishin’ and Swishin’ (CO reflects on the Draft Experience & first year in the WNBA) and then she’s video-ing.

The Power of Drake, Scandal And The Upcoming WNBA Draft (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #1)

The Way Female Athletes Are Shown In The Media Needs To Change (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #2)

 
 

Read Full Post »

Lauren Hill dies at 19 after battle with brain cancer

Lauren Hill touched a nation with her desire to play for Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team, even as she battled an inoperable brain tumor.

Her resolve, spirit and courage were celebrated Nov. 2 when she realized her dream at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. Cheered on by a sold-out crowd of 10,250 and a television audience, Hill scored the first and last basket of the Mount’s 66-55 victory over Hiram College.

She passed away Friday at the age of 19.

Read Full Post »

T is for Tampa…and Tenth

Coach McGraw and her Fighting Irish team made UConn’s march to their tenth title in 20 years anything but a foregone conclusion. With a smart game plan against Connecticut’s killingly fast offense– slow the game down, force Connecticut to play court game, disrupt Stewart’s access to the ball — Notre Dame kept the game rubber band close. UConn would go on a run, you’d get a feeling “here it goes, they’re going to snap,” and then the Irish would reel the Huskies back in.

It felt like UConn, as a team, was playing “whack-a-leprachaun” – every time there was a surge someone – and it was everyone: Jefferson, Nurse, Stokes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Tuck and that tall kid – took the basketball in hand and stuffed them back.

Not until about the five-minute mark in the second half, with Kaleena’s Mosqueda-Lewis’ dagger three followed by a back breaking two, did it feel like arena staff could safely break out the National Blue Championship gear. Notre Dame simply couldn’t score enough points to defeat a team that evolved from its matador-esque defense back in November to a shut-down, harassing, nightmare inducing wall.

“I really thought we had nothing to lose, and we would come out loose,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw, whose team (36-3) has lost its past four to UConn, including last season’s national title game. “Turns out, it was just the opposite and I don’t know why.”

Yes, press row might have dubbed Stewart MOP, but she knew better:

It wasn’t the same kind of Breanna Stewart-takes-over-the-world performance we saw in the past two national championship games. In fact, Stewart was downright contrite Tuesday about winning most outstanding player in the Women’s Final Four for a record third time. Stewart said her teammate Moriah Jefferson deserved it.

“I told her we could share it,” Stewart said.

Wrote Graham:

Jefferson didn’t play the perfect game, but she played a perfectly complete one.

“She just has a powerful presence that she’s grown into, which makes it that much sweeter to see her transformation as a leader,” one former Connecticut player said of Jefferson in the winning locker room. “Her energy is so contagious. Her body language, her attitude, it’s all just very life giving to her team. And then she can also back it up with her ridiculous talent. She’s so fast, she’s so quick, she’s a great defender, she finds her teammates. Then what elevates her to another place is she can shoot the ball; she can knock down the 3.

“I just admire her.”

And when Maya Moore admires you, well, you must be some kind of special.

In the end, whoever you name as the “best” player of the tournament, watching Stewart struggle to compose herself as she spoke to Holly reminded us that most folks have not a clue about what goes into earning a championship. Much less 10.

Yes, UConn has been dominant. And Notre Dame’s heartbreak has been… heartbreaking. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the sport doesn’t have the ability to step up and challenge Auriemma’s program. If fact, there are signs they can (hello, Dayton!) and will. An interesting perspective from Kate on Wooden/Auriemma/dominance: 

Stay with me here — it might sound outlandish, but when you look at history, a pattern emerges.

The first NCAA men’s championship was played in 1939. Exactly 25 years later, Wooden won his first title. Over the next 11 years, the Bruins would win nine more, beating North Carolina by 23 points one year, Purdue by 20 points the year after. The Bruins finished undefeated four different times and, during this stretch, never finished with more than two losses. Wooden won his final title in 1975, exactly 36 years after the first championship game.

The first women’s championship game (AIAW) was played in 1972. Exactly 23 years later, Auriemma won his first title with UConn. Beginning in 2000, for the next 15 years, the Huskies would win nine titles, beating Louisville by 33 points one year, Notre Dame by 21 points the year after. UConn went undefeated four times and never finished with more than four losses. Auriemma won his 10th title exactly 43 years after the first championship game.

This happened in Major League Baseball, too.

Now, all we need to do is make sure Indiana has cleaned up its political mess (did anyone notice the boos when Indy 2016 was mentioned?) and we can start 2015-16 with a clean palate. ’cause I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking Notre Dame is going to be scary good next year. And Texas. And Tennessee. And the Pac12 looks to be a hot-bed of feistiness. And I can’t wait to see what happens with Maryland. And… well, you get my point.

More on the game:

Huskies Beat Notre Dame 63-53 For 10th National Title, Courant
UConn women win 10th national title, defeating Notre Dame, Register
Auriemma not apologizing for getting best players year in, year out, Register
A look back at each of UConn’s 10 national titles, Channel 8
Mosqueda-Lewis Goes Out With A Bang, Courant
UConn Women’s Basketball Team To Do ‘Victory Lap’ Through Storrs, Courant
UConn holds off Notre Dame to claim 10th national title, USA Today
Through 10 titles, winning never gets old for Connecticut, USA Today
UConn fends off Irish, wins program’s 10th title, ESPN
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis makes big impact in final game, ESPN

UConn women beat Notre Dame to give Geno Auriemma 10th national title, Sporting News
UConn completes NCAA three-peat; Auriemma matches Wooden mark, Tampa Tribune
UConn dashes Notre Dame’s dream again in NCAA finale, Tampa Tribune
Raising bar, visibility to new heights, Tampa Tribune

Women’s Final Four notes: Rivalry brings attention to sport, Tampa Tribune
UConn women beat Notre Dame for 10th national basketball title, Tampa Bay Times
UConn coach Geno Auriemma extends his legacy, Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay shines with women’s Final Four, Tampa Bay Times
Huskies Beat Notre Dame 63-53 For 10th National Title, Orlando Sentinel

Party spills from arena in Tampa to streets in Connecticut, Fox Sports
Pictures: UConn’s 10 National Championships, Courant
Photos: UConn Women Vs. Notre Dame In NCAA Title Game, Courant

Read Full Post »

Some more stuff on tonight’s game.

UConn vs. Notre Dame the premier rivalry in women’s basketball, Tampa Bay Times
NCAA women’s basketball final: It’s not your mother’s rivalry, Tampa Bay Times

Tonight, Notre Dame (36-2) and UConn (37-1) meet for the second straight year in the women’s national championship game. UConn is in the title game for the fifth time in the past seven seasons, seeking its 10th overall title.

“It’s super exciting,” said Turner, a Notre Dame freshman from Pearland, Texas, who watched UConn defeat Notre Dame on TV last year. “I grew up seeing the Final Fours. I went to the Final Four in San Antonio a couple of years ago, and I was thinking, ‘Wow this is awesome. I want to be able to do that.’ That’s one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame, to be able to compete in Final Fours. This is what I wanted my whole life.”

For the multiple All-Americans who will take the floor tonight at Amalie Arena, this is the rivalry they’ve grown up with — or helped develop.

This Year, Geno, Muffet Show Admiration On Eve Of Title Game, Courant
NCAA Title Game Capsule: Notre Dame Vs. UConn, Courant

UConn women imagine trading places with coaches, Channel 8
Notre Dame Coach Says Familiarity With UConn Will Help In Title Game, Courant

“This one’s definitely different,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Monday of this national championship game. “We started the season and looked at what we lost, so to say we’ve come a long way is an understatement. I’m proud of where we got to.

On Eve Of Final Game, Mosqueda-Lewis Reflects On A Great Ride, Courant
Sharpshooter Tuck on way to becoming latest UConn superstar, Tampa Tribune
UConn’s Morgan Tuck talented but unheralded, Tampa Bay Times

Moriah Jefferson, ESPN VIdeo w/LaChina
Breanna Stewart, UConn on brink of third title in a row, USA Today
UConn’s Stewart and Notre Dame’s Loyd have emerged as leaders, Register

A year ago it all seemed so simple for sophomore sensations Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

The presence of senior leaders and All-Americans resulted in the resident superstars being the recipients of everything their veteran teammates brought to the floor.

When times got tough, Stewart could look to Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley to do all the heavy lifting. Loyd relied heavily on the experience, counsel and talents of Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.

When they step onto Amalie Arena for tonight’s national-championship rematch (8:44 p.m., ESPN), they will do so as not only the nation’s top two players but a pair of All-Americans who made the transition from productive underclassman to team leader.

Turner could be difference this time for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune

Underdog Notre Dame has chance to be remembered, ND Insider

Four consecutive Final Four tries to win a women’s basketball national championship.

Four straight disappointments — for a variety of reasons.

Why should No. 5 be different for Notre Dame?

Tonight’s challenge against big, bad, bully Connecticut is right in Muffet McGraw’s wheelhouse.

Auriemma, 9-0 In Title Games, Enjoys It While It Lasts, Courant
Geno Auriemma’s legacy stands on its own, Tampa Tribune

Notes: A different kind of Final Four for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune
At UConn, Lessons to Respect the Past, NY Times

Today, none of the current UConn players can remember a time when the program’s expectation was not a national title. Auriemma’s first title, in 1995, actually predates the births of some of his current freshmen.

The UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey makes her current student-athletes learn about the players who have come before them. Dailey, who has sat by Auriemma on the bench since he took the job 30 years ago, speaks of the past generation of Huskies as if they were fallen soldiers who deserve respect, honor and remembrance.

UConn aims for 10th national title, Boston Globe
The UConn standard, NCAA.com
The Huskies Are Better Than The Wildcats Ever Hoped To Be, FiveThirtyEight.com

Women’s NCAA championship: Who has the edge?, Columbia Daily Herald
Five questions before UConn – Notre Dame: Can the Irish stop the Huskies?, SI

4. How does UConn stop Notre Dame?

UConn is not a great defensive team and at times they have to hide average defenders such as Mosqueda-Lewis and reserve guard Saniya Chong. Some of their guards get beat off the dribble but they have shot blockers such as Stewart to bail them out.  

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph is in charge of the scouting Notre Dame, an assignment she’s had since she joined the staff in 2008. She knows that Notre Dame will get off a lot of shots but where the game will be won for UConn is how tough the Huskies make those shots. “It’s fun to watch them play, I must tell you,” Ralph said of the Irish. “They are smart, well coached, and I see tons of similarities with us. We both have Princeton-style type of offensives and the kids who make reads and come off screens as opposed to running plays whereas other teams you are scouting a play.”

For Inspiration, Notre Dame Can Look to 2001 and Niele Ivey, NY Times

Ball in the air. Game on the line. Season on the brink.

Strangely enough, Niele Ivey did not have a Katie Douglas flashback to 2001, did not feel that old, familiar dread of a championship dream floating toward the rim, a balloon still with the possibility of being burst.

Notre Dame gets another crack at dethroning the UConn dynasty, Notre Dame Insider

When Auriemma and his Huskies talk women’s teams, Notre Dame is generally at the head of the discussion. Indeed, you can make a good argument that the rivalry between the two schools has become the No. 1 in the game.

There’s mutual respect among the players, starting with first team All-Americans Breanna Stewart of UConn and Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame.

And, of course, there’s mutual respect between the coaches, Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw.

If anyone can beat mighty UConn, it may be Notre Dame, NY Newsday

“They’re a lot like us, and I think that’s why they have had success against us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday night. “So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t, and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t. So Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me. I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it’s not going to be any fun.”

Read Full Post »

Birds…

A big “Thank you” to Pat, President of the Tampa Audubon, who willingly spent 6 hours with me today birding. Some GREAT views of birds, including the surprisingly elusive (you can hear me, but you can’t see me!) Limpkin.

Highlights of the day were…

The Great Blue Heron trying to figure out how to eat the snake it caught. (not my photo,but it sure looked like this)article-2252569-16A20325000005DC-408_634x420

An immature Little Blue Heron (again, not my photo)

8228heron

Swallow-tailed Kite (nope, not my photo!)

swallow-tail-soaring-tn

The baby Barred Owl. (Nope, not me)

1-baby-barred-owl-david-naman

And, of course, my first Limpkin, who soared past us, disappeared, then reappeared to give us lovely, long looks as it ate its preferred food, snail. (N.M.Ph)

limpkin-400

Read Full Post »

It’s been a busy weekend for WBHOF inductee Lisa Leslie.

She was visiting with Spain and Prim to talk Final Four and Geno. She then spoke with Swish Appeal to do a Final Four preview, discuss the Sparks’ offseason (what? they’re loaded!), talk about the “What’s in Your Wallet” Capital One Cup.

The award recognizes universities for their broad athletic success. That means the Cup’s standings are based not just on the major media attention-grabbers like basketball and football, but sports like gymnastics, water polo, volleyball and field hockey – which explains why North Dakota State, New Hampshire and BYU are in the running with the “big dogs.” A total of $400,000 is granted to be used to further the education of the student athletes. Leslie has been on the Capital One Cup advisory board for four years.

Speaking of being on boards, more congrats to Leslie, as she is now  making plans to visit Massachusetts to be inducted as a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Read Full Post »

Game 1: If you want a win, send a Cable

It was ugly, then it was maddening, and ultimately it was heartbreaking – unless, of course, you’re an Irish fan. Wrote Jonathan Czupryn of the NY Times (thanks again, Knicks, for losing. Keep it up!)

South Carolina, which entered Sunday’s national semifinals with the 11th-ranked scoring defense in Division I, forced Notre Dame to play in the mud, slowing the game with gritty defense and stifling ball pressure.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Coach Muffet McGraw and the Fighting Irish adapted to Coach Dawn Staley’s game plan as effectively as they conformed to Florida’s 80-degree weather.

Women’s Final Four: Notre Dame edges South Carolina in thriller, Tampa Tribune

On Sunday, senior Madison Cable, who had yet to score and attempted only four shots, scored the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left after rebounding a missed shot by Jewell Loyd under the basket and putting back up nearly uncontested.

“I think it was a good time to get my two points for the game,” Cable said.

David Cloninger: 

There was no panic.

When Aleighsa Welch put back Tiffany Mitchell’s missed 3-pointer with 72 seconds remaining in Sunday’s national semifinal, South Carolina led for the first time all night. The Gamecocks were going to do it again – snatch victory from defeat – and they were going to Tuesday’s national championship game. It was scripted.

Notre Dame changed the ending.

Irish eyes smiling after this victory, Tampa Tribune

Think it didn’t matter? South Carolina players dropped to their knees or lay on the court when it was done. And the tears came. The Gamecocks were in the first Final Four in school history. It mattered. Dawn Staley’s team kept fighting back all night and grabbed its first lead, 65-64, with a little more than a minute left. The dream lived.

And now it had died.

Maloof: ND’s Loyd comes up big in crunch time, NCAA.com
Young frontcourt leads Irish back to title game, Michelle Smith, ESPN

“I think a lot of people coming in said we couldn’t handle their frontcourt and I think we did a really good job of it,” Turner said. “We just tried to battle the whole game and not let up.”

Turner and Reimer fueled Notre Dame’s offense in the first half, going a combined 8-for-11 from the floor for 20 points and eight rebounds. 

Notre Dame Shatters South Carolina’s Title Dreams, Courant
Cable’s putback puts Irish back into title game, ESPN
College women’s basketball: Unlikely hero lifts Notre Dame to national final, Duluth News Tribune
Notre Dame squeaks by South Carolina to secure spot in NCAA title game, ND Insider

Thanks to one of the most improbable finishes in program history Sunday night, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team gets a shot at powerful No. 1 Connecticut in Tuesday’s NCAA Championship Game.

With freshman forward Brianna Turner, the team’s best shot-blocker and rebounder, fouling out with 3:11 remaining in regulation, with point guard Lindsay Allen – the MVP of the Oklahoma City Regional with a 25.5 scoring average – held scoreless and fouling out with 1:39 remaining, and with the team trailing for the first time with 1:12 left while in the midst of a 7:35 scoreless string, things couldn’t have looked bleaker for No. 2 Notre Dame against third-ranked South Carolina in Sunday’s first semifinal at Amalie Arena.

Or brighter, if you consider Notre Dame’s point of view.

Notre Dame Defeats South Carolina In NCAA Women’s Final Four, NPR
Farnum-Patronis: Gamecocks’ rally comes up just short
Notre Dame survives South Carolina rally to advance to title game, FullCourt.com
Gamecocks use loss as learning experience, ESPN
Cloninger Soundoff: Staley’s program built to endure, Go Gamecocks

For Gamecock fans, team still the ‘One’, Go Gamecocks
Video: Emotional Tiffany Mitchell on USC seniors’ impact, Go Gamecocks
Garnett and Black Attack

The South Carolina women went to Tampa looking to make history. They came up a bit short, but it wasn’t for lack of talent, or effort. Rather, an excellent Notre Dame team went toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks, and the Irish caught one extra break to grab a 66-65 win and eliminate South Carolina from the NCAA Tournament.

In-depth recap of Notre Dame’s victory over South Carolina, Swish Appeal

USC dribbled to the frontcourt and called timeout, but it seemed everyone in the building knew what would happen.

“We thought that Mitchell would get the ball and there would probably be a ball screen,” McGraw said postgame. Brian McCormick (also writing for Swish Appeal) sat next to me and said before the play that USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart. Steve Spurrier, Darius Rucker, and the rest of Hootie & The Blowfish knew USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart.

But ND hedged hard and beautifully, got a deflection, and forced an off-balance heave from near the hash mark by Stewart that wasn’t close when the buzzer sounded.

Game 2: Speed kills Turtles

Folks who follow the game know how devastating the cool and composed Morgan Tuck can be. The red-shirt sophomore seems to thrive on the big stage. Yesterday, when UConn’s A-game was not on tap, Tuck brought her All-American-To-Be into play to power the Huskies to a spirit crushing victory. Wrote Harvey Araton in the NYT:

Already trailing by 47-33, the Terrapins found a rare open shooter, guard Laurin Mincy, in the left corner. As Mincy set her feet and was about to launch from behind the 3-point line, the 6-foot-4 junior forward Breanna Stewart lunged with her long arms from what had seemed to be a safe distance away.

Stewart, recently named the Associated Press player of the year, deflected the shot. The freshman Kia Nurse caught the air ball, dribbled out of the pack and found a streaking Morgan Tuck filling the left lane. Tuck, a bruising 6-2 forward who missed last season with a knee injury, handled Nurse’s pass in stride, then made a gorgeous touch pass to Stewart, hustling back into the play, for a layup.

There was still 17 minutes 50 seconds left in the game, but it was all over except for the shouting, and the tabulating.

More on the game:

Maloof: Secret weapon Tuck leads UConn rout of Terps
UConn’s Tuck making most of return to court, ESPN
UConn Beats Maryland, Plays Notre Dame In National Title Game, Courant
UConn’s Kia Nurse Doesn’t Let Big Stage Rattle Her, Courant

Huskies Happy With Same Old Story, Courant
Huskies roll over Maryland, reach title game, Register
UConn easily dispatches Maryland, vies for third straight title, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four: UConn rolls into another title game, Tampa Tribune

When it was still a competitive game Sunday night, the Amalie Arena videoboard showed the familiar grin of actor Tom Cruise, who purchased a suite so his kids could watch the Women’s Final Four.

Appropriately, this was Mission: Impossible.

It was Maryland’s turn to take a crack at the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. The Terrapins tried to run with UConn. It worked for a while.

And then …

This basketball game will self-destruct in five minutes.

Story just beginning for Maryland sophomores, ESPN

You heard it here first: at the Final Four two years from now, in 2017, the Terrapins could walk away with the title. That’s how good this team’s trio of sophomores — Brionna Jones, Lexie Brown and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — are. (Also relevant: UConn star Breanna Stewart, who scored 25 points on Sunday and is going for her third title in three years, graduates the year before.)

Photos: Final Four: UConn Women Vs. Maryland, Courant

And prepping for the Finals:

UConn Vs. N.D. Perfect Ending For Tournament, Jeff Jacobs, Courant

Notre Dame is the only team in the nation that can score enough points to have any chance to beat UConn on Tuesday night. So for those outside the borders of a tiny New England state, getting Notre Dame into the national championship game is needed. Badly needed.

Yet inside the Connecticut border, there is a need, too. Or maybe a “want” is a better word. Look, South Carolina, with Dawn Staley and her program, is on an unmistakable rise. Although the Gamecocks’ first appearance in a national title game would have made for something new, something different, they proved unready when it mattered most Sunday night against the Irish in the Final Four to take that final step.

NCAA women: UConn to face Notre Dame in final, Tampa Tribune
Auriemma and McGraw’s rivalry, ESPN
Huskies, Irish set up title game rematch, Mechelle, ESPN

In a season in which there really were some unexpected thrills and surprises, the last chapter will be written again by two old reliables: UConn and Notre Dame.

It won’t be a meeting of two undefeated teams like last year’s NCAA title game, which was won by the Huskies 79-58 over the Irish. But it will be oh-so-familiar to women’s basketball fans, who’ve definitely seen this movie before. And its sequel. And the sequel to the sequel, etc.

UConn and Notre Dame to meet again for women’s national title, SI

And in the more future: Women’s issues could take center stage at future Final Fours

 When the NCAA Women’s Final Four returns here in 2019, the Tampa Bay area could find itself the epicenter of a wide-ranging forum on the most compelling issues that affect women.

If Anucha Browne sees her dream become reality, the annual championship event in women’s college basketball will also serve as a dynamic force to empower student-athletes and lure national women’s groups into the host city for networking and discussion.

“That has been my vision,’’ said Browne, a former standout basketball player at Northwestern who currently serves as the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball championships. “This is the premier women’s athletic event in the world, a celebration of women at the top of their sport. The next step is: how do you use this event as a platform to bring women together to discuss women’s issues?’’

Read Full Post »

so, of course, I’m procrastinating!

Field’s simple aim: Toppling UConn’s dynasty, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four preview: Can any challenger end UConn’s dynasty?, Sports Illustrated
Among four No. 1 seeds, UConn the one, Boston Globe
Familiar faces, star players, veteran coaches in Final Four, AP

Born to a Star and Becoming One for Maryland, NY Times

 Maryland’s Lexie Brown was cradled in the hands of a slam dunk champion. She had her diapers changed by Pervis Ellison, a former N.C.A.A. tournament most valuable player and a No. 1 N.B.A. draft pick. She was raised in N.B.A. arenas.

So no, a matchup with Connecticut, the No. 1 overall seed in the women’s bracket, does not scare her.

“No fear,” Brown said.

Lexie Brown drives Maryland’s offense, Tampa Bay Times

For the past two seasons, Maryland has become one the country’s talked-about teams thanks to a plethora of playmakers. Lexie Brown, though, is the one who makes the Terrapins’ go-go offense go.

Maryland’s Brown proving to famous father she made right choice, Tampa Tribune

UConn Knows About Final Four Pressure, Distractions, Courant
UConn Women: A Team That Jelled, And Kept Getting Better, Courant

Morgan Tuck back to normal, and that’s abnormally good for Connecticut, Chicago Tribune

It had become painfully easy to forget how good Morgan Tuck was.

That’s because during two pain-filled years at Connecticut, knee problems either limited or completely prevented Tuck from showing the skills that made her Ms. Basketball of Illinois as both a freshman and a senior at Bolingbrook High School.

Only this season has the college basketball world begun to see how good Morgan Tuck is.

Turns out, the 3-point line is only one of the spots from where Connecticut sharpshooter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is known to be unconscious.

Few Huskies value their sleep more than the second-oldest on the roster, the one affectionately nicknamed “Grandma.”

“If she stays up past 10 that’s a pretty good night,” forward Morgan Tuck said.

UConn’s Stewart ready to test the best, Register
UConn star Breanna Stewart named AP Player of the Year, Register
UConn Junior Breanna Stewart Wins Wade Trophy As WBCA National Player Of The Year, Courant
Her sights set on a grand slam, Stewart is the ultimate winner, Tampa Tribune

It was just another day in Stewie World at the Final Four, Breanna Stewart and UConn’s home away from home.

Around lunch time Saturday at Amalie Arena, Stewart was presented with the Wade Trophy for best women’s college player.

Then there was one hour of work, a frolicking Huskies practice.

After, Stewart wore a protective boot of her left foot because of an “inflammation of the sesamoid bone,” Stewart said. It might be the only hope for everyone else as Stewart and her teammates go for their third consecutive national championship, beginning with tonight’s semifinal against Maryland.

Women’s basketball Final Four preview capsule: UConn vs. Maryland, Register
USF’s Jose Fernandez breaks down UConn vs. Maryland, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four Game 2: Two-time champ UConn faces upstart Maryland, Tampa Tribune

“Everybody probably thinks they don’t have the inside game that they used to have,’’ Auriemma said. “But at this time of the year, I don’t care how many big guys you have, your guards are going to win your games in March. You have to have great guards who play great. Their guards have played great the whole tournament — that’s the biggest worry that we have.’’

Coach Frese, Maryland Hopes To End UConn’s Run At Final Four, NBC Local

Gamecocks’ first Final Four team bringing more attention to women’s basketball, SCNOW
ESPN analyst Kara Lawson breaks down Notre Dame vs. South Carolina, Tampa Bay Times
Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd the voice of experience, Tampa Bay Times

Jewell Loyd was just a freshman when she made her first trip to the Final Four three years ago. During that April weekend in New Orleans, Loyd admits she was overwhelmed by the grand scale of everything and the media attention that followed.

Irish must solve S.C.’s depth
McGraw having more fun than ever at this year’s Final Four

“I don’t think there’s pressure on us that has been in the past,” McGraw says. “We came in last year undefeated, we did some things the year before. My expectations at the beginning of the year was ‘I think we’ll be there in February but I don’t know how we’re going to get there’ and we got there a lot quicker than I thought we would.”

And McGraw admits it’s important for her to stay loose for her team.

South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell refuses to be intimidated, Tampa Bay Times

The SEC I feel like is the toughest conference in college basketball, so it definitely prepares me — and the team — for a game like this. I’m used to everybody playing us tough. They (Notre Dame) are a little more experienced being on this type of stage, but we’ve just go to settle in and play basketball. “

It’s that mentality — on and off the court — that has made Mitchell such a leader for the Gamecocks, who are playing in their first Final Four, and endeared by teammates, particularly freshman A’ja Wilson.

Read Full Post »

The Irish:

From Graham: Reimer’s hiatus pays dividends for Irish

Taya Reimer wasn’t on the court the last time Notre Dame lost a game. She wasn’t on the bench. She wasn’t in the arena. She wasn’t even in the state.

It isn’t a coincidence that she is here as the Fighting Irish return to the state of Florida for the first time since that loss in Miami nearly four months ago. And if Notre Dame is to beat South Carolina on Sunday night and return to the national championship game for the fourth time in five seasons, it won’t be a coincidence that she will be on the court.

John Fineran for the Notre Dame Insider: South Carolina next hurdle for Notre Dame women to clear

“I have a lot of concerns about South Carolina,” McGraw said Saturday before sending her team out for the first workout by the four teams. “They’re such a good team and their depth is just probably the best in the game. Actually, I think they have the most depth of any team here.”

Slap the Sign: Notre Dame Basketball: Muffet McGraw’s Most ‘Unlikely’ Final Four Team

More from John at the Notre Dame Insider: Madison Cable brings competitive fire to Notre Dame and from ND’s official site: IRISH EXTRA: Madison Cable Tuned In To Irish Success

Al Lesar at the Notre Dame Insider adds: ND’s Lindsay Allen giving defenses something else to worry about

The burden of responsibility Loyd has carried into the NCAA Tournament has manifested itself with some very un-Jewell-like performances. Combine the DePaul (3-of-15) and Baylor (5-of-18) games and Loyd is shooting a chilly 24 percent, well below the 45 percent clip she carries (along with a 19.9 scoring average) for the season.

A testament to the solid nature of the Irish program was that Notre Dame didn’t crumble when Loyd’s numbers went down the tubes.

Somebody else just stepped up.

In addition to a hot streak by long range artist Michaela Mabrey (12 of 19, 63 percent, in the last three games), 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen (averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 assists) has flipped the switch from starter to finisher; from distributor to scorer.

Denise Maloof at NCAA.com: Superstar, when needed – Irish’s Loyd can dominate or facilitate come Sunday and

David Cloninger at GoGamecocks: Final Four: Jewell Loyd shines brightest for Irish

If there was a way to do it, somebody would have done it by now.

“We do have a game plan in for what to do with a player like Jewell Loyd,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “You have to make her work.”

And make sure Loyd doesn’t work your team to death – which is where she specializes.

The Gamecocks:

From Charlie: Why South Carolina’s bench could trouble Irish

A’ja Wilson could be the national freshman of the year. Alaina Coates was the SEC’s top freshman in 2014 and is the Gamecocks’ leading rebounder this season.

Yet both come off the bench for South Carolina.

And nobody inside that locker room cares. Getting the program to its first Final Four was the only goal that mattered from day one.

From Willie T. Smith III at USA Today: Notre Dame has more than just Loyd, South Carolina knows

An extensive study of film on the Fighting Irish was enough for the Gamecocks’ coach to understand why her No. 2-ranked opponent continually finds itself in the Final Four.

“Notre Dame is like a machine from an offensive standpoint,” Staley said. “They’re like Connecticut in that they find the person that is supposed to shoot it. They make basketball look beautiful and easy because they feed off each other.”

Gene Sapakoff at the Charleston Post and Courier: Lack of women’s parity or not, Gamecocks crash Final Four cartel

That South Carolina hasn’t just reached its first Final Four but crashed an exclusive party enhances a vault from mediocrity. As a parity debate simmers within women’s basketball, the Gamecocks going into Sunday night’s game against Notre Dame are a beacon of fresh hope.

“We’re not here off luck,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said Saturday. “Our team worked to get in this position, and it just goes to show some of those other programs, if you continue to work and you continue to recruit and you continue to do things the right way, I think the basketball gods will put you in this position.”

David Caraviello at the Post and Courier: In Final Four, USC’s Mitchell receives her toughest assignment yet

The women’s Final Four ramped into high gear Saturday, when house music thumped and pep bands blared as each team walked through something resembling practice. The din quieted briefly as the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association introduced its All-American squad — which included South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell and Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, who lined up next to one another for the group photo.

They’ll get quite accustomed to that kind of proximity Sunday night.

William T. Smith, III: For Welch, Ibiam, Dawn Staley’s pitch is coming true

When recruiting South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam, Gamecocks women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley made sure the duo understood her goals for the program .

Staley believed both reaching the Final Four and winning a national title at USC were attainable.

“With both me and El, it was something she definitely pitched to us,” said Welch. “It was something she wanted both of us to really believe in. It was something we talked about on my home visit and I’m sure on El’s home visit.

More from William: Aleighsa Welch helped spark USC’s recent success

Aleighsa Welch has never met a stranger.

Friends are met with hug, acquaintances an arm around the shoulder and newcomers a warm smile.

Welch’s kindness should not be seen as a weakness, however, as beneath that smile beats the heart of a warrior.

Andrew Ramspacher at The Daily Progress: Former Cavalier great Staley returns to Final Four

Watching the game from home last week, Debbie Ryan considered the right time to send a congratulatory text to Dawn Staley.

It wouldn’t be at the final buzzer of South Carolina’s win over Florida State. It wouldn’t be when Staley was cutting the net off a Greensboro Coliseum rim in celebration of a regional championship.

No, Ryan whipped out her phone as soon as Tiffany Mitchell drained a corner 3 with 1:21 remaining to give the Gamecocks a five-point lead.

“You’re going to the Final Four,” Ryan told Staley. “Enjoy it. Have some fun.”

Gamecocks’ Staley dedicates Final Four trip to John Chaney

Vic Dorr for the Richmond Times Dispatch: For Dawn Staley, coaching brings sense of balance, fulfillment

The most stunning crossover of Dawn Staley’s basketball career occurred not on the court but rather during a job interview at Temple University.

Despite having every intention of saying “no,” Staley said “yes” in 2000 to an offer to become the Owls’ women’s coach. To this day, she seems surprised.

“I absolutely did not want to be a coach a day in my life,” Staley said. “Not one ounce of me wanted to be a coach.”

Ron Morris at The State: Building a champ: Staley has made Gamecocks into annual national contenders

Her purpose has been seven seasons in the making, yet Dawn Staley has instilled a mindset that South Carolina women’s basketball is a national championship contender.

Establishing that line of thinking sometimes has been a two-step forward, one-step backward process for Staley and her coaching staff.

Through it all, Staley said she never wavered in her belief that her program would be among the nation’s elite.

“I didn’t have any doubts, but the struggle was very real when you’re not winning as much as you’re working hard. What we put ourselves through as a staff is we had to understand it’s a process.

Amy Farnum-Patronis at NCAA.com: A matter of time

When Dawn Staley added the title “Final Four coach” to her lengthy résumé last week, it really didn’t surprise anyone in the basketball world. It had just been a matter of time.

Staley has succeeded at every level in everything she has done, so when she took over as head coach at South Carolina in May 2008, Gamecock Nation was just biding its time until she turned the program into not just a winner, but a national contender.

The Terrapins

From Kate: ‘Everybody’s rooting’ for young, fearless Terps

The Terrapins were supposed to be too young; they had lost five seniors, including the program’s leading scorer, Alyssa Thomas, from last year’s Final Four squad, and conventional wisdom suggested it would be at least a year before fiery coach Brenda Frese could make her super sophomores — Lexie Brown, Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — believe themselves capable of returning.

From Gene: To beat U-Conn., Maryland women’s basketball must first defeat doubt

Addressing the media the day before the NCAA tournament’s Spokane Region final last week, Maryland women’s basketball Coach Brenda Frese was asked for reaction to comments from her counterpart at Duke, Joanne P. McCallie, about top-ranked Connecticut.

The coach of the Terrapins’ contentious rival had mentioned there was a “monarchy” in the sport, referring to the Huskies’ nine national championships, wildly lopsided victory margins and McDonald’s all-American recruits Coach Geno Auriemma seems to stockpile by the dozen.

“She must not think her team can beat them,” Frese said.

From Diamondback Online: With renewed expectations, Maryland women’s basketball preps for UConn

“Last year, we were really excited to be there,” Mincy said after her last practice in College Park. “We were taking in the whole experience. We are going to do the same thing this year, but our mindset is a little different. We are coming in to the Final Four to win.”

But the odds are stacked against the Terps. They are set to play the tournament’s top seed, Connecticut, which has won its first four games in the Big Dance by an average of 41 points.

From Charles Walker at the Carroll County Times: Having reached elite level, Terps relish shot at ‘Goliath’ of women’s basketball, UConn

As good as Maryland has been, Las Vegas oddsmakers listed the Terps as 23-point underdogs once the match-up was set. And no one thought that particularly strange.

So why did Maryland players carry such big grins this week as they spoke of the task ahead? Well, it’s simple: They want what UConn has. And whipping the existing monarch is the surest path to the throne.

“Who doesn’t want to beat Goliath in the end?” said Maryland’s lone senior, Laurin Mincy.

From Doug: Coach Frese, Maryland hopes to end UConn’s run at Final Four

“Aren’t we tired of it,” Frese said of UConn’s dominance. “Everyone’s rooting for us. Some new stories, our sport needs it to be quite honest. I know there are a lot of people out there cheering and want to see Maryland beat UConn. For us and our sport it would be a great thing.”

Amy Farnum-Patronis at NCAA.com: Maryland’s guard play key in matchup vs. UConn

Anthony Brown at the Baltimore Wire:

What Maryland basketball has been all about the last 28 games is physicality on the boards, driving to the basket with reckless abandoned and pushing the ball in transition. Teams haven’t been able to keep with Maryland’s pace because they rebound the ball so well and their transition game is one of the best in the NCAA. Their sophomore class is a big part of their success  and Brionna Jones in the post spearheads the success of the team offensively as a rebounder and scorer.

While Maryland has their big four of Lexie Brown, Laurin Mincy, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Jones in this Women’s Final Four matchup, the Lady Terps will have to worry about these players on UConn’s squad:

The Huskies

From Mechelle: Breanna Stewart embracing UConn celebrity

 If you’re a great player like Breanna Stewart signing to come to UConn, you must realize you’ll have more on your plate than just trying to keep up the program’s crazy-high standards.

You will be a celebrity in Connecticut. Not just for the time that you’re playing, but forever after, too. Signing autographs, people adoring you, wanting to know your opinion about everything. Sounds cool, right?

“I wasn’t particularly comfortable with it,” said Rebecca Lobo, the signature star of UConn’s first NCAA title team in 1995. “I loved playing at UConn, but I never expected — because I had never experienced it before — all that other stuff that comes with it.

Rich Elliot for The Day: UConn embraces its role as the favorite

There is a sizeable target on the back of every member of the UConn women’s basketball team each time they step on the floor. It has been like that for years now as the top-ranked Huskies are considered the favorite to win every game they play.

It is a role that they have had no choice but to embrace. It is a role that has seen them thrive. And they are looking do so again over the next three days at Amalie Arena.

Greg Auman for Newsday: At UConn, it’s national title or bust

Denise Maloof at NCAA.com: ‘It comes with the territory’ – UConn’s sky-high standards are unique to rest of field

As nine-time national champions can, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma dropped an observational nugget during media sessions ahead of Sunday’s 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four.

“I wish we would lose more,” Auriemma said Saturday, to audible murmurs. “I really do.”

Yeah, right. The quote master’s two-time defending national-champion Huskies meet Maryland in Sunday’s second national semifinal at Tampa’s Amalie Arena. They’re playing in their eighth consecutive Final Four.

Why does losing sound attractive?

Harvey at the NY Times: UConn’s Domination Is Win-Win for Women’s Game, Geno Auriemma Says

“I think the attention that comes from being really good and having a certain standard that we set and a certain level of recognition, I think it has been good in that sense,” he said. “I think coaches around the country and their athletic directors can say, hey, look, look what happened up in a small place like Storrs, Conn.; look what they’ve been able to do. Why can’t we do the same thing?

Tom Jones at the Tampa Bay Times: UConn’s greatness not necessarily a boon for the sport

Patricia Babcock McGraw at the Chicago Daily Herald: Why UConn’s program is good for the women’s game

Brian Koonz at the CT Post: Lobo is right, it’s time for women’s basketball coaches to ‘grow up’

“Grow up,” Lobo snapped, addressing an invisible audience of head coaches Saturday at Amalie Arena. “Watch what they do. Watch what those players do on and off the court.

“Make yourself better. Coaches, make yourself better so that you can compete with Connecticut. Don’t try to make Connecticut worse. They’re nothing but good for the women’s game.”

As long as critics, including head coaches, complain about UConn’s dominance, women’s basketball will remain the game with a burden.

And it’s so much more than that.

You’re not here? Nya, nya: 5 things you’re missing In Tampa Bay

Ann must be pleased: Congrats to UCLA, WNIT champs. Watch out, PAC-12, for that kid Canada

The gap in the middle of West Virginia’s defense was a repeating invitation that UCLA freshman Jordin Canada couldn’t pass up.

Canada drove to the basket often and scored a season-high 31 points to lead UCLA to a 62-60 win over West Virginia for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship Saturday.

Canada was the only double-figure scorer for the Bruins (19-18) and was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

 

Read Full Post »

wait for me…”

 

In_the_sink

 

Waiting on the trip to the plane…how smart was I to not do a 6am flight! Means I get to do some early morning reading.

Sally Jenkins: Notre Dame has lost in the women’s Final Four, but never lost heart

The age-old question in any sport is, do you learn more from winning or from losing? Maybe the reason we have such a hard time answering it is because we look at the experiences as separate instead of related. Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame are in their fifth straight women’s NCAA Final Four, and on four previous occasions they’ve suffered defeat. But here’s the thing about finishing second: It means you could have been first.

Each loss is its own brand of pain and has its own cause. McGraw and the Irish have become connoisseurs of heartbreak. 

Tim Casey, New York Times: Notre Dame Doubles Down on the Mabrey Family From New Jersey

This fall, Mabrey will be joined by a familiar face on campus and on the court: Her sister Marina has signed with Notre Dame. On Wednesday night, Michaela Mabrey drove to Chicago and watched Marina share most valuable player honors in the McDonald’s All-American Game after recording 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in 17 minutes.

Marina Mabrey is also a guard, but she is more aggressive and competitive than Michaela, who led Notre Dame with 71 3-pointers this season and is known for her outside shooting. The sisters honed their skills by playing one-on-one against each other at home in Belmar, N.J. They also competed with their older brother, Roy, who averaged 17 points a game this season as a senior for St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

Garnet and Black: South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s Basketball Final Four Preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Scouting Report

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post: South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley has cooled her fire and forged a contender

Dawn Staley could be a frustrating chess opponent for Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer. The two would often play when VanDerveer was Staley’s coach on the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, and after VanDerveer had clearly won and declared checkmate, Staley would stubbornly refuse to accept it.

That competitive fire pushed Staley to take her first head coaching job at Temple in 2000, even though VanDerveer and Debbie Ryan, Staley’s college coach at Virginia, advised her against it. Staley was still in the middle of a professional playing career, and her two mentors told her coaching would consume her. It was that sliver of doubt that convinced Staley to do it. She would go on to lead the Owls to six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years while playing in the WNBA for all but the past two.

Antonya English, Tampa Bay Times: Dawn Staley: Turnaround artist at South Carolina

“I was at N.C. State (as baseball coach) when Kay Yow was the coach,” Tanner said. “I had a chance to watch Dawn up close and personal, and I sat near the court. And I remember to this day when she would come in as a point guard for the Cavaliers, she ran it. She was in charge. And it was tenacious. It was fun. It was fun to watch. And of course, she was great as well. 

“But there was no question who was directing traffic. And she’s still directing traffic.”

Final Four is USC’s party, but women’s hoops still UConn’s world, Charleston Post and Courier

It’s an irresistible story — the head coach who reached basketball’s promised land three times as a player, now leading her up-and-coming program into its first Final Four. Dawn Staley and South Carolina are the darlings of Tampa Bay this weekend, but they also fall under the long shadow of the team everyone expects to cut down the nets Tuesday.

The days leading up to this Final Four may be South Carolina’s party, but women’s college basketball remains Connecticut’s world. The nine-time and twice-defending national champions are back again, their supremacy burnished by blowout victories over two of the other three teams that reached Amalie Arena, their head coach pursuing a 10th title which would tie John Wooden for most in major college basketball history.

Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun: Maryland coach Brenda Frese gets creative when motivating her players

Two weeks ago, just days before the top-seeded Marylandwomen’s basketball team would play undefeated Princeton in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Brenda Freseshowed up to a team meeting with a can of salt-and-vinegar Pringles. The flavor was important, considered. Like so many of the flourishes in her motivational mosaic, it was no accident.

Around the room the Terps coach went, talking about disrespect and rankings. Then she reached into her tube of stackable snacks, took out a single Pringle and stood before a player, like a priest offering host during Communion.

“We were just kind of like: ‘What’s going on?'” redshirt junior guard Brene Moseley recalled thinking Thursday.

Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Maryland women’s basketball is in Final Four with a new formula

For years, the winning blueprint for Maryland women’s basketball Coach Brenda Frese has been to assemble her roster from the inside out. Front-court stalwarts Alyssa Thomas, Alicia DeVaughn and Tianna Hawkins were the most important parts when the Terrapins consistently punished opponents in rebounding, points in the paint and interior defense.

With those foundational players gone, Frese had to adjust how Maryland would operate this season with a youthful roster comprising mostly guards and wings. 

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Maryland’s Brenda Frese got to the top much quicker than Auriemma

On the surface it would seem the coaching journeys of Geno Auriemma and Brenda Frese have almost nothing in common.

Auriemma was bitten by the basketball bug growing up in Norristown. Pennsylvania, a mere 20 miles from hoops-crazy Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Frese cut her teeth in the Mid-American Conference coaching circles, first as an assistant at Kent State and then a two-year run as the Ball State head coach.

However, a timeline of their rise to national prominence displays a much faster trajectory than either one could have possibly imagined.

Roger Cleaveland, Republican-American: Coach Frese likes Maryland’s title chances

From Matthew Zemek at Full Court: Final Four preview: Can Maryland surprise Connecticut?

It is a rite of spring – Sunday night at the NCAA Women’s Final Four, with the Connecticut Huskies playing the second national semifinal to give ESPN a ratings bump when going up against the season premiere of Mad Men and the other shows that make their way onto the airwaves at this time of year.

Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame – they get the late semifinal only if they play the current colossus of women’s college basketball, the program that has taken the baton from Tennessee to give the Final Four its most central box-office attraction. Maryland gains the honor of sharing the stage with Connecticut in the second semifinal this year.

These Huskies Rank With The Best … But There’s Work To Do, Courant
Capsule: UConn Vs. Maryland, Courant
Don’t Ask Me If The Women Are Playing Too, Courant

I grew up in Connecticut where college basketball reigns over our dark New England winters, and, having hit 5 feet 11 by sixth grade, found my way onto a basketball court, where I stayed until I left for college.

The guy then asked if the women’s tournament was going on now, too. Bracing, I smiled and said, “Yeah. Yeah, it is,” the Connecticutian’s equivalent to a public diatribe. The conversation was over.

The kid didn’t deserve my anger — for all I know he was only along for a beer — but he received a dose of my larger unease, which has been approaching its boiling point since the start of this year’s March Madness.

“Beastly” Morgan Tuck gets new nickname as UConn women prepare for Final Four, Channel 8

Undesized for her position, Tuck has connected on the majority of her shots this year,  shooting 61 percent.

“The only thing wrong with Morgan is she’s not 6-4,” said head coach Geno Auriemma.

What she make lack in post-size, the 6-2 forward makes up for in poise, hand eye coordination,  and footwork. She has enough back-to-the-basket moves to make her head coach gush.

“All those little up and unders, that’s old time basketball, she’s got that,” Auriemma said. “She doesnt score on you because she jumps over you and overwhelms you with her athletic ability. She’s smart.”

So where does the poise and footwork come from?

“I guess I’ll credit my dad,” Tuck said. “He’s a pretty laid-back guy, he’s the one who got me interested in basketball.”

UConn Won’t Apologize for Success, NBC Connecticut
Hamilton native Kia Nurse charges way to the top as a UConn freshman, Hamilton Globe and Mail
Pressure to be best is unrelenting at UConn, Tampa Tribune

The AP gives us Coach McCallie’s analysis of women’s Final Four

Also from the AP: 3 women’s Final Four teams from 2014 return

The women’s Final Four will have a familiar feel to it with three of last year’s teams back in the national semifinals.

UConn, Notre Dame and Maryland all return to the Final Four while South Carolina is making its first appearance.

It’s the third time in the history of the Final Four that all four of the top seeds made it this far.

“That’s the way it is in women’s basketball,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “The absolute best teams get to the Final Four. I’m not one bit surprised Notre Dame and South Carolina are there. That’s the way it is in our game. The best teams go to the Final Four every year.”

ESPN’s Front Row: Crew members reflect on working 20 years of ESPN’s Women’s Final Four coverage

Read Full Post »

Well, almost….

IMG_0240

 

Looking forward to some sun, dinner with old friends, and maybe a little birding and the chance to see these fabulous birds:

Limpkin

Limpkin-2Snail Kite

Snail_Kite_s52-12-227_l

Painted Bunting

27dfaef06acc559a7e124bdbdcd7f418

Read Full Post »

Well, that’s disappointing…

After the WBCA’s *crickets* in response to the Indiana ridiculousness, they channel their inner Caspar Milquetoast.

Statement by WBCA Executive Director Danielle M. Donehew:

“Women’s basketball is wonderfully diverse and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association is committed to the inclusion of everyone who wishes to be a part of our community – whether they play, coach, officiate, work in, or are a fan of the sport.

“We are monitoring the political developments in Indiana as we hold an exciting 2015 WBCA Convention in Tampa, and will remain in constant contact with our partners at the NCAA as we plan for the 2016 WBCA Convention which is scheduled to be held in Indianapolis.”

Statement by the WBCA Executive Committee:

“The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association supports an inclusive culture. We celebrate the diversity of our membership, the entire women’s basketball community and society as a whole, and we oppose discrimination in any form. “

First – the Convention in Tampa and the idiocy in Indiana are two separate things. Don’t mix your events.

Second – The statement, such as it is, reads as if they don’t want to acknowledge that women’s basketball’s diversity includes a huge gay population who could be adversely affected by this so called “religious freedom” bill.

Oh. I get it.

Read Full Post »

but the folks battling it out for the WNIT post-season championship are hanging out at the Charleston Civic Center, WV.

How they got there:

 West Virginia over Temple, 66-58 (OT).

The story book post-season run for the Temple women’s basketball team came to an end in the WNIT semifinals on Wednesday, as the Owls fell to West Virginia, 66-58, in overtime. Temple closes the 2014-15 campaign with a 20-17 overall mark. 

“I’m proud of my team, I’m proud of the way they fought tonight in a hostile environment,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza following the game. “We have some young guys and we let the game slip away, but I know this whole experience will help this program in the future.”

It’s not been an easy ride for the Mountaineers.

a month ago Carey refused to let the team practice in West Virginia gear because he was so upset with their effort and passion for the game.
 
“We had people who didn’t care if we won or lost. We had people that weren’t playing hard and we had people, in my opinion, that didn’t care about the state of West Virginia or West Virginia University,” said Carey.
 
“Sometimes you have to challenge people and as a lot of you know, I’m not afraid to challenge people because I’m very passionate about this state and this university,” he continued. “And if somebody’s not, I’m going to go at them.”

The West Virginia will host UCLA, who defeated Michigan, 69-64, in Michigan.

The entire second frame was a tense, back-and-forth affair. Trading baskets, neither team was able to find separation for the bulk of the half.

But with UCLA just one step quicker, Michigan couldn’t extend its season.

“They hit big shots down the stretch, and that’s definitely a credit to them,” Smith said. “They would hold the ball for 28 seconds then hit the last shot with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. … It’s frustrating but you’ve gotta continue to play.”

From the WNIT folks:

When UCLA and West Virginia square off Saturday for the WNIT Championship (3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), each team has already banked the kind of insight that can only come from games played under pressure. For the Bruins (18-18) and their roster of 10 new players, the tournament has been almost reassuring – the stress and hard days of learning how to survive a Division-I campaign are more in the background, and now the team plays with confidence and a real sense of purpose about the future.

“Our non-conference schedule might have been a little ambitious for a young team like this, and we’ve learned a lot about the mental side of building a team,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, whose team won a tight semifinal game at Michigan on Wednesday to reach the finals. “It takes longer to rebuild confidence than it does to just keep it. But we have a confidence now that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Now, we want to take advantage of every opportunity, and capture these pieces of the foundation to build the program.”

About that thing going on in Florida…

A list of Final Four events in Tampa.

After savoring the moment, women’s teams become all business, Tampa Tribune
That lasting memory: 2008 Final Four proved to be Summitt’s last, Tampa Tribune
Final Four teams in familiar territory in women’s tournament, ND Insider
UConn-Maryland primer, ESPN
Notre Dame-South Carolina primer, ESPN
Dishin & Swishin 04/02/15 Podcast: Doug Bruno helps break down the NCAA tournament and Final Four

Maryland:
Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience, Baltimore Sun
Did Brenda Frese push her way into the discussion of D.C.’s best coaches?, Washington Post
Frese Admits Maryland Will Have Its Hands Full With UConn, Courant
Testudo Times: Maryland women’s basketball: Final Four vs. Connecticut preview
CBSLocal: Maryland Women’s Basketball Team Creating A Buzz On Campus

Jon Meoli at the Baltimore Sun: Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience

By the time they’re through at Maryland, they all emerge into their own players.

But on a team loaded with players whose parents competed in sports either professionally or collegiately, the Maryland women’s basketball team benefits plenty from its cadre of second-generation stars, led by point guard Lexie Brown, daughter of former NBA star Dee Brown.

Diamondback Online: Maryland women’s basketball readies to play Connecticut
Stephanie White: How Maryland can pull off the upset over UConn, Big 10 Network
Baltimore Wire: Maryland Women’s Basketball: These Sophomores are the Real Deal
Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Laurin Mincy savors Final Four sendoff for Maryland basketball

Laurin Mincy’s final practice in College Park as a member of the Marylandwomen’s basketball team took place at Xfinity Center’s auxiliary gym rather than the main court. Not exactly an ideal way for the redshirt senior to bid farewell to the arena where she spent five seasons forging a career notable for perseverance and revival.

A high school robotics convention had forced the Final Four-bound Terrapins to their secondary practice facility Thursday afternoon, but for Mincy, the minor inconvenience wasn’t about to spoil another opportunity to be with her teammates.

More from Gene: Maryland relies on Brown’s big shots
Former NBA Star Dee Brown Joins Daughter Lexie at Final Four

UConn:

Geno Auriemma on Moriah Jefferson: ‘I haven’t seen anybody better’, Register
A Quick Point Guard’s Unconventional Path to UConn, NY Times

“I’m so glad I was home-schooled,” Moriah Jefferson said. “I loved it. It gave me a good competitive edge.”

At 5-foot-7, the skinny and well-mannered Jefferson does not look like a typical star athlete. Still, she is one of the nation’s quickest players and one of the most valuable members on a team filled with former high school all-Americans.

A junior, she averages 12.3 points a game, leads UConn with 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals a game and shoots 59.5 percent from the floor and 50.5 percent on 3-pointers. She was named a second-team Associated Press all-American this week.

Even at eight straight, Final Fours don’t get old for UConn, Channel 8
Final Four flashback: Auriemma coaches beyond buzzer, Tampa Bay Times

They’re all still chasing UConn at Women’s Final Four
, USA Today
Virtuoso Geno Playing Everyone Like A Violin, Boneyard Blog
UConn women used to tough competition…in practice, Register
If It’s April, UConn And Mosqueda-Lewis Must Be In Final Four, Courant
UConn players trying to live up to program’s legacy, Tampa Tribune

UConn’s Stewart Halfway to Her Goal of 4 National Titles
Mighty UConn women not looking ahead of themselves, Marietta Daily
Paul Doyle: Auriemma: UConn Women are ‘Not invincible, Not unbeatable’

Notre Dame:

Taya Reimer a calming voice for Notre Dame women’s basketball
Philly Flavor At Women’s Final Four: Cheesesteaks, Anyone?, Allentown Morning Call
Notre Dame, SC basketball coaches share Philly background
AP: Notre Dame takes different attitude into women’s Final Four

Notre Dame isn’t planning business as usual this Final Four.

Coach Muffet McGraw realized after the Fighting Irish clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title for a second straight season that the team didn’t seem to celebrate much. Then it happened again when they won the ACC tournament.

”They were excited, but then I watch other teams and they’re jumping all over the place,” she said.

ND Insider: Does Notre Dame have the size to win it all?
Notre Dame Press Conference Quotes
Irish Illustrated: Notre Dame preps for another Final Four

South Carolina:

South Carolina, In First Final Four, To Face Notre Dame, Courant
The evolution of Dawn Staley, ESPN
WLTX: Coach Staley: Final Four is a Business Trip
Notre Dame offensive ‘machine’ awaits Gamecocks in Final FourCharleston Post Courier
David Cloninger: The men behind the USC women – Gamecocks’ practice squad contributes to Final Four run 

They won’t get rings.

They do get pink sneakers.

“I got these last year, but I never busted them out,” South Carolina senior Kevin Clancy said. “This week, I was like, ‘OK, gotta wear them.’”

More David: USC women’s team finds different heroes on different nights – Deep bench lets Gamecocks count on production from many players

“We’re not fazed as much by Tiffany Mitchell not having a great night because of the depth we have on our basketball team,” coach Dawn Staley said during the SEC tournament. “This particular year, (our bench) has been in situations where they had an impact on the game. They can draw on those experiences if Tiffany Mitchell had a night like tonight.”

Staley was speaking of the Gamecocks’ semifinal win against LSU, where Mitchell was 1-of-6 for four points and had five turnovers. Yet, USC won by 20.

“We’ve been playing in situations all year long where we were in the driver’s seat,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “I think that’s no longer the case. In the Final Four, we’ll go back, probably, to being the underdogs because we’re the new kids on the block.

“But we won’t act like the new kids on the block. We will definitely (prepare) to take advantage of the moment, because we never know when we’ll get back to the Final Four.”

From the AP’s Pete Iacobelli: Tiffany Mitchell, her WNBA idol Dawn Staley lead South Carolina to Final Four

Cheryl Mitchell wasn’t sure what project her third-grade daughter was working on when she asked to go to the store to pick up poster board. Tiffany Mitchell created a collage of WNBA star Dawn Staley, beginning a trek that’s landed the South Carolina coach and the Gamecocks’ standout in the school’s first Final Four.

She scored the go-ahead basket to beat North Carolina, 67-65, in the Sweet 16, then followed that with seven consecutive points to put the Gamecocks ahead for good in an 80-74 victory over Florida State in the Elite Eight.

Now the All-American and the rest of the Gamecocks (34-2) will square off against Notre Dame (35-2) in the national semifinals Sunday night in Tampa, Florida. 

Akilah Imani Nelson: Proud high school coaches following journey of USC women’s basketball stars -Long, O’Cain are their former players’ biggest fans

Getting behind the hysterical reaction to the headline: UConn’s Geno Auriemma says men’s game is ‘a joke’ to Geno Auriemma is totally right to call men’s college basketball ‘a joke’

He isn’t talking about playing basketball the “right” way or whatever, he’s talking purely about entertainment. He’s right: college basketball this year hasn’t been entertaining to watch. It hasn’t. Scoring is down, and like it or not, most Americans like sports where people can score.

He continues:

Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve moved in the fences in baseball, they lowered the mound. They made the strike zone so you need a straw to put through it. And in the NFL you touch a guy it’s a penalty. You hit the quarterback, you’re out for life. You know, in the NBA, you touch somebody in the perimeter, you whack guys like they used to do when scores were 90 to 75, they changed the rules.

Again, Auriemma is right. Every other American league has worked to improve scoring, and to make the game more enjoyable for fans.

Who ya got? Bleecher report and ESPN

In important stuff: Auriemma Hopes Indiana Lawmakers Come To Their Senses

“I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always been fascinated by people who care so much about what other people are and what they do in their personal lives,” he said. “Like, how small-minded do you have to be to care that much about what other people are doing? Life is hard enough trying to live your own life. What do you care about what other people are doing if it doesn’t affect you.

“And hiding behind this religious crap? That’s just the most cowardly thing that I’ve ever heard.

Dick Weiss, NY Daily News: NCAA, NFL, NBA and WNBA should raise their voices, condemning Indiana’s religious freedom law  

What are we doing here?

The NCAA Final Four is scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend in this state capital. But college basketball’s biggest celebration likely will be disturbed by a series of protests over a new Indiana religious freedom restoration law that critics say could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom and open the door for legalized discrimination.

Bigotry is apparently alive and well here in the heartland. I thought this ship had sailed with the passing of the civil rights laws in 1965.

Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana

THE drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called “religious freedom” laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.

They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.

That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.

But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice.

Big Business’s Critical Role on Anti-Gay Laws

Big corporations like Walmart, Apple, Salesforce.com and General Electric and their executives have done the right thing by calling on officials in Indiana and Arkansas to reject “religious freedom” laws designed to give businesses and religious groups legal cover should they deny service to gay couples.

But the business response to these laws raises a larger issue about the role companies play in the political process. If corporate leaders are serious in opposing discrimination, they should refuse to finance the campaigns of lawmakers who want to deny civil rights to gays and other minority groups.

Will Indiana law force 2016 women’s Final Four to relocate? (short answer: Yes.)

The men’s Final Four is in Indianapolis this weekend and could not have been moved on short notice. But officials have made it clear there is enough time to consider relocating future events, and that they want an environment welcoming to all athletes and fans.

”What’s going on in Indiana is troubling,” NCAA vice president of women’s basketball championships Anucha Browne said Wednesday.

”We will assess all our championships in the state of Indiana. We do anyway. We want to ensure that student athletes have a positive experience wherever we take them and our fans to. It’s the right thing to do.”

In that vein, Mazel Tov! WNBA’s Angel McCoughtry Comes Out, Is Engaged

Angel McCoughtry, the star forward for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and an Olympic Gold medalist, came out as gay through her Instagram account on Tuesday after an apparent dispute with the Turkish team she played for during the U.S. off-season..

Other NCAA teams are thinkin’ and pondering’ and changin’:

UF searching for success in women’s basketball

Few doubt Butler’s work ethic, or her passion for Gator basketball that dates back to when she was a point guard at UF under Carol Ross from 1990-94. But her eight-year tenure at Florida has produced mixed results. Butler’s 153 wins are second-most in school history, and she’s averaged 19 wins per season at UF. She’s led the Gators to three NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons, but never past the second round, and her career NCAA Tournament record is 3-3. Her career SEC record is 56-68.

Nebraska: Husker women’s basketball final grades

The 2014-15 season had its share of highs and lows for the Nebraska women’s basketball team. When the team capped off a 7-0 start to the season with a home victory against No. 9 Duke before a raucous Husker crowd on Dec. 3, it seemed to be the sort of tone-setting win that would carry over to the rest of the season. Instead, the win didn’t even carry over to the next game, as the Huskers fell on the road to a sub-par Alabama team that would go on to post a 2-14 conference record in the SEC. This wild swing of performance and fortune seemed to define the rest of the season for a Nebraska team that struggled with injuries from start to finish.

Indiana: A Look Back: Indiana State Women’s Basketball –  Meghan McKeown sat down with head coach Joey Wells to talk about the season.

Princeton: Women’s basketball completes season for the ages

Senior guard Blake Dietrick, however, commented on a different side of the team: a group of women hungry to win after not qualifying for the tournament last season.

“Last year, losing the Ivy [League title] was a reality check for us, since we had won it the past four years, then to be the team that broke the streak and let everyone down,” Dietrick said. “We were so intent on that not being the legacy that was left from this season.”

Even with this extra motivation, the level of success this team achieved was surreal even to them.

Stanford: Was this a rebuilding year for women’s basketball?

Despite the Cardinal losing winnable games this year and not playing like one of the best teams in the nation at times, this was not a rebuilding year. The Cardinal lost one elite player last year in Ogwumike and another key player in Mikaela Ruef. Losing only two starters didn’t mean that the team needed to be rebuilt — reshaped a bit, perhaps, but not rebuilt. The Cardinal made it just as far this year as they did two years ago despite the absence of Ogwumike, muffling the gossip swirling that the team wasn’t living up to the Stanford women’s basketball brand of recent years.

Purdue: Banquet recap

Coming off the program’s worst season in 31 years and a fan base which has become restless, Daniels voiced his full support for coach Sharon Versyp and the coaching staff.

“We have, in my opinion, the finest coach we could have for Purdue women’s basketball,” Daniels said. “Sharon, you and your outstanding staff that you have assembled, just set a terrific standard. We know more such years are coming. Not every season can be a national championship season but you’ve given us plenty; you’re going to give us more. This program has such a proud history and it has a proud future. I can’t wait for next year to get here and I know everybody in this room feels the same.”

Marist: Marist women ‘shocked’ by exodus; team faces ‘biggest challenge’

One by one, they came to Brian Giorgis.

“You’re in shock with each one,” the Marist College women’s basketball coach said, after the school announced four Red Foxes, including all-league forward Madeline Blais, would be transferring following the spring semester.

The exodus places a program that has reached the NCAA tournament in 10 of the last 12 seasons in a precarious position, “beating the bushes” to fill out a roster that currently will have eight scholarship players and 10 total next season.

In high school news:

Ohio: New Riegel’s Lucius retires with 542 victories

Steve Lucius always appreciated the little things in life: the closeness of a small town, the grass-roots work ethic of middle America, the competitive intensity of backyard rivalries and some of the best barbecued ribs he ever sank his teeth into.

All of those little things added up to one huge career for Lucius, who announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as New Riegel’s girls basketball coach after 30 years running the program.

“I grew up on those ribs,” said Lucius, a 1970 New Riegel graduate.

And a lot of young girls grew up on New Riegel basketball as Lucius built the Blue Jackets into one of the top small-school programs in the state.

Oklahoma: Carl Albert girls basketball coach Tim Price resigns

One of the state’s most successful girls basketball coaches has decided to make a change.

Carl Albert coach Tim Price officially resigned last week, bringing to end a very successful tenure with the Titans that included 10 state tournament appearances in his 11 seasons.

“It just got to the point to where I really felt like it would be best for me and possibly best for the program for me to go down a different path,” Price told The Oklahoman. “There’s been some building frustrations with some things going on and it just got to the point where I didn’t enjoy this past year as much as a coach should. I just didn’t want to go through it again.”

Pondering the WNBA draft, Swish Appeal Community 2015 WNBA Mock Draft

MSTU’s Cheyenne Parker Seeks Rehab, Sets Sights on WNBA Combine

It has been a little over a month since former MTSU star Cheyenne Parker was dismissed from the Lady Raiders basketball team for multiple failed drug tests.

Despite her removal from the Blue Raiders on Feb. 27, Parker still plans to complete her mission of making a WNBA roster. Parker has been going through an intense workout program with a focus on heavy lifting, cardio and skill training.

The main objective of Parker’s arduous workout regime: impress WNBA coaches and scouts on April 4 at the ProHoops WNBA Combine in Tampa, Florida.

Former WNBAer Ruth Riley was traveling – take a gander at her blog: Shining Light On A Global Misconception

Imagine a woman covered head to toe in a loose fitting black robe (Abaya) with her head covered by a hijab so the only part of her body that you can see is that by which she is looking back at you . . . her eyes. 

It is against the law for her to drive. She cannot travel by herself without the consent of a male relative. Almost every public place is segregated, with one door for women/families and one for men. Marriages are often arranged on her behalf. Her only knowledge of sports is that by which she sees on T.V. or on the internet because there are no opportunities for her to partake as a spectator, let alone as a competitor.

This image is representative of what we know of Saudi Arabian women. While I agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to share with you some of the stories beyond that image that we so often evoke. I want to share stories of the girls and women that I met in my recent Sports and Women’s Empowerment Envoy with the State Department and the NBA/WNBA throughout The Kingdom. Becky Bonner and I went from the conservative capital of Riyadh to Dammam and finished our trip in the more liberal city of Jeddah conducting clinics with elementary to college-age players, as well as meeting with some amazing groups of women.

Good to hear: Feature Doc on Trials & Triumphs of Former WNBA Player Chamique Holdsclaw Nearing Completion

The film, titled “Mind Game,” will also capture Holdsclaw’s recovery as she speaks out openly about the disorder that almost killed her, shedding light on mental illness and helping to open up conversation on the subject.

“It’s been like a mental prison because it was real uncharacteristic of me,” Holdsclaw told ESPN in a June 2013 interview. “It was real uncharacteristic of me and everybody judging me from every different angle.” 

She now runs her own basketball academy with camps nationwide, adding, “I hate that this situation occurred… I feel like I’ve hurt my family and also the victim’s family, but it’s been a great thing in helping me move forward. Now I’m on the right medication. I’ve been able to get the right treatment, and it’s really improved my quality of life night and day.” 

Read Full Post »