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…’cause it’s never too early to look towards 2017 (yes, I’ve already made hotel reservations – hasn’t everyone?), Marc Tracy at the Times: Mighty UConn Faces a Future of Rising Powers

Take a peek at the 10 all-Americans selected this season by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. UConn’s Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck each made the cut.

But Stewart and Jefferson are seniors, and Tuck, a redshirt junior, announced Wednesday that she will join them in the W.N.B.A. draft (where they may well comprise the top three picks).

By contrast, all-Americans likely to return include Baylor’s Nina Davis, a onetime Big 12 player of the year; the big scorers Kelsey Plum, of Washington, and Kelsey Mitchell, of Ohio State; and South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson, who is just a sophomore.

Folks are already discussing next year’s top 10.

Yes, they made the WNIT finals, but FGCU women’s basketball roster facing big makeover

Four years after replacing a massively sized, massively successful senior class with an even larger group of newcomers, the FGCU women’s basketball team now is repeating the process.

The unknown is great.

Maryland Basketball: Kaila Charles gives hope for Lady Terps’ future

Maryland should have high hopes for the future of the women’s basketball program. 

Next year, the Lady Terps will welcome in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. It’s a class that features three McDonald’s All-Americans and one of the players that has the potential to make a great impact to an already talented Maryland team.

Yes, UConn’s losing three seniors, but don’t count’em out yet. Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register writes: Stewart worked to leave UConn women’s program prepared for future

Knowing the pressure that awaits the returning players with herself and fellow All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck graduation, Stewart has offered some guidance. Whether it was taking Katie Lou Samuelson out for dinner when Stewart thought Samuelson hit the proverbial wall or cracking jokes to Napheesa Collier during the stretching portion of the warmups before the national championship game, Stewart took the responsibility of bringing along the younger Huskies to heart.

Graham offers up: Sophomore Kia Nurse holds the cards for UConn

Four national championships in four seasons. It is one of those feats that can be matched but never bested, Connecticut seniors Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as secure in that legacy as a golfer who wins four majors in a calendar year.

Unless …

With two championships in her first two seasons, Kia Nurse is halfway to matching that haul. Granted, halfway is a long way from the whole way, but when it comes to tiebreakers, Nurse earned an unbeatable one almost a year ago on a basketball court in Toronto.

Also: Returning UConn players say they’re ready to take baton

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson said the team has heard the critics say that without the three seniors, the gap will close between UConn — which beat teams by nearly 40 points a game — and programs such as Baylor, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

She said they’ll use that as motivation.

“We kind of want to prove to everyone that we can still do it, and I think all us are going to be ready when that time comes,” she said.

Howard Megdal: How Geno Auriemma still gets excited for next year

…it is through that lens, accomplishment as a subset of personal journey, that leaves Auriemma excited for what comes next. He said that until he and associate head coach Chris Dailey come to the decision that they can’t “get the kids to where they need to go”, he wants to keep coaching. He doesn’t usually get to think much about his championships because there’s always so much to do. He revealed that conversations about next year had already begun—Gabby Williams was in his office discussing how she needed to get better to compensate for the lost greats. Next year, Auriemma said, is never far from their minds. He doesn’t make it sound like such a bad thing.

“These three leaving, the rest of the players coming back are in for a rude awakening,” Auriemma said. “But you can’t disregard what all this, the impact that it has on the players coming back. And it will last for a while. But then obviously it will—they’ll have to earn it like these other guys.

From John Walters, Newsweek: FOUR SPORTSWRITERS HAVE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE WITH UCONN COACH GENO AURIEMMA

To cover UConn on a daily basis affords these writers unfettered access to the John Wooden of women’s basketball without having to combat, for most of the season, the incursions of big-time media outlets (even if ESPN headquarters in Bristol is just 45 miles west). “It doesn’t matter if you’re from The New York Times or from the JI [Adamec’s paper], Geno treats everyone the same,” says Adamec. “The first time I showed up to a practice, he approached me and said, ‘You made it all the way from Vernon [another tiny eastern Connecticut hamlet]?’ As if to congratulate me for finding them.”

The banter, over the years, has led to a rapport that has laid the foundation for a trust and candor between both parties that is rare if not unique in sports. For years Geno would host a Final Four party on the eve of the national championship game—even in the years UConn was playing—to which media were also invited. “At the 2000 Final Four party in Philadelphia, I brought my wife, whom Geno had never met,” says Jacobs. “He gave her a hug and said, ‘Your husband’s an asshole.’ She replied, ‘I know.’”

Hello again, Lindsay Kramer at Syracuse.com: Quentin Hillsman plans on staying in charge of Syracuse women’s basketball

The breakout star of the 2016 NCAA women’s basketball tournament wasn’t a player.

It was Syracuse University coach Quentin Hillsman.

Hillsman has been highly regarded in coaching circles during his decade of running the Orange, as evidenced by the steady stream of compliments from opposing coaches in SU’s streak to the national title game Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

An encouraging word: Bonvicini to Barnes: Go for it.

Winner. That’s the first word that comes to mind for Joan Bonvicini when speaking of her former star Adia Barnes.

“Adia’s the kind of person that you never want to say you can’t do something.” 

Not so encouraging words out of Nebraska: Yori resigns following athletic department investigation | Women’s Basketball

Hmph. I know there are some head coach openings, but….Lady Vols, associate coach Kyra Elzy agree to part ways

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WNITCoyotes over Eagles, 71-65

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team relied on its seniors, shooting and swagger during its energetic postseason run.

But in the WNIT championship game, FGCU ran into a team just as experienced, just as offensively gifted and with just as big a chip on its shoulders. And this time it was the Eagles’ opponent that was spurred by a wild home crowd.

Coyotes claim WNIT championship

Saturday was a special day for the University of South Dakota.

In front of a capacity crowd of 7,415 at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota women’s basketball team closed out its final game in the 37-year old facility in historic fashion.

Daily Republic Editorial Board: OUR VIEW: SD’s success in women’s basketball tough to ignore

Collectively, the accomplishments of South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and the successful hosting of major postseason games are all really impressive for our state.

Nationwide, there is a lot of room to help the popularity of women’s basketball grow. But we hope NCAA officials realize that our state can make a strong influence on that.

The successes this year are just too hard to ignore.

A little south of them, more folks are playing basketball…

Gene Wang, Washington Post: Look past U-Conn., and women’s Final Four is full of surprises

With the Syracuse women’s basketball team having reached uncharted territory in the Final Four, Coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but recall how his early years contributed to his professional development.

He grew up in suburban Washington, where his high school coach, Aaron Holder, showed how to build a champion from scratch at Forestville. In 1985, Hillsman’s freshman year, the Knights won the Maryland Class B title three years after the school opened its doors for the first time.

“Forestville High School was a special, special place, and Aaron Holder really instilled in me doing things the right way, being a hard worker, and was responsible for me becoming a basketball player and becoming a good coach,” said Hillsman, 45, the first African American male head coach to the reach the women’s Final Four. “What he’s done for me has been so big. That’s where it started with me.”

John Kekis, AP: Syracuse women reach for new heights

Charlie: Alexis Peterson’s confidence, competitiveness drive Syracuse

When Syracuse point guard Alexis Peterson talks about filling the lane, she might not be talking about basketball.

“I love to bowl,” Peterson said Saturday. “I have my own ball, my own bag, my own shoes, my own towel. I am a great bowler.”

Paul Shepherd, Newsday: Syracuse women looking to get takeaways from Washington

The Syracuse and Washington women’s basketball teams have faced each other just one time.

Who knew in November that the 66-62 Syracuse win in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas would be a preview of their second matchup in the same season?

 

Paul Doyle, : For Morgan Valley, Long Trip From UConn Back To Final Four

Early in her coaching career, Morgan Valley faced a dilemma.

The Vermont native and UConn graduate had coached at Holy Cross and New Hampshire. She had an opportunity to pursue a job at Towson University in Maryland, but it would be far from her New England roots.

She sought the advice of UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, a mentor.

“CD said you can’t be afraid to move around if this is what you want to do,” said Valley, now in her first year at the University of Washington. “That’s kind of been my attitude.”

Nice to be in Indy so we can get some of David Woods’ writing: What do Chantel Osahor and Steph Curry have in common?

In summer basketball, Kelsey Plum’s team once played against Chantel Osahor, her future Washington Huskies teammate. Plum’s coach told the team to drop into the paint against Osahor, a 6-2 post player who surely would not shoot from outside.

Osahor stayed out there and never left her feet. Her left-handed set shot is a throwback to the 1930s.

“Whack, whack, whack. First three shots of the game. Nailed them,” Plum recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, we should get up on her, right?’ We lost by like 30, and she kicked my butt. Definitely made an impression.”

And more David: The remarkable parallels between UConn and Oregon State

Graham: Jefferson as key to UConn’s success as anyone

In one sense, Moriah Jefferson is a curious candidate to embody why the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team continues to make and accumulate history at a pace unlike almost anything else in sports.

As a recruit, readying to speak in person with Geno Auriemma for the first time, Jefferson listened as friends asked if she was nervous about the encounter. It struck her as an odd question. She was just going to be talking to someone about basketball, a sport she had played her whole waking life, minus perhaps two weeks many years earlier when she quit in protest after her dad told her she couldn’t play in leagues against boys any longer. 

These folks are good: WBCA All-Americans: UConn’s Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck; South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson; South Florida’s Courtney Williams; Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner; Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell; Baylor’s Nina Davis; Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner; Washington’s Kelsey Plum.

Wade Trophy: Breanna Stewart (also AP Player of the Year.)

WBCA Defensive Player of the Year: Moriah Jefferson

AP Coach of the Year: Geno Auriemma

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Emotional day as UConn players, coaches are honored

A little more than three hours after exuberantly cheering as three of their teammates walked onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s All-American team, the Huskies sat in stunned silence as their wise-cracking quote machine of a head coach ran out of one-liners to deliver and words to utter.

Graham: Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

The weekend might prove Connecticut is invincible in the moment, but the coach who built the dynasty seems painfully aware that there is no such thing as immortality in sports.

“The longer I’m at this, the more I’m starting to understand it might not happen again,” Auriemma said. “And you really need to appreciate what these people do every day, to make it work.”

Kevin Baxter, LA Times: Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma keeps making a case to be considered the greatest basketball coach

VIDEO: Previewing Oregon State-Connecticut with Doris Burke of ESPN

From Excelle Sports: The Canadian guide to defeating Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson

You’ve heard it countless times by now—Connecticut hasn’t lost since November 18, 2014, an 88-86 defeat to Stanford.

But Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, the two best players for the Huskies, did suffer a loss this past summer while playing for the United States in the Pan Am Games, an 81-73 defeat to Canada.

The parallels and overlaps from that game to this one are nearly endless. The two best players for Oregon State, center Ruth Hamblin and guard Jamie Weisner, are both Canadian national team players (though neither played in that game). And Oregon State coach Scott Rueck served as an assistant for the U.S. during the Pan Am tournament.

Blue Star Media: Women’s Final Four upstarts relish unlikely journeys

Jamie Weisner had no good reason to hear out to first-year Oregon State coach Scott Rueck when he made his first recruiting visit to her home on Valentine’s Day, 2011, when she was a junior in high school.

Most of the other Pac 12 schools were already interested in the fine-shooting guard with plenty of swagger. So where some local schools near her home in Clarkston, Wash., and a few more in the Midwest.

Oregon State was mired in the depths of the Pac 12. After inheriting two scholarship players following a wave of defections and the firing of his predecessor, Rueck held tryouts to fill a roster, adding soccer and volleyball players to get to 11.

The Beavers were in the midst of what would become a 9-21 season, with only two wins in conference play.

Yet Weisner not only listened to Rueck, she followed him to Corvallis.

Take 2: UW Huskies’ astonishing run helps editor rediscover his love for women’s hoops

Michelle Smith: Kelsey Plum learned to lead, and wins followed

Mechelle: Right place, right time for Washington coach Mike Neighbors

At the center of it is a man who lives with heart issues that, before he turned 30, made him take stock of everything he knew about life. “I was not a very independent thinker,” Neighbors said. “I had a heart attack at 29. It was an eye-opening moment that your life’s really, really short.”

He evaluated himself and everything around him. He recognized he wasn’t a very fast or comprehensive reader, and immediately set about changing that. He left teaching and coaching at the high school level to go into college coaching, despite it initially being a drastic pay cut. He began to write down his philosophies on living and working, then passed them around for people to read.

Seattle Times: How UW’s Talia Walton draws strength from mother’s battle with liver cancer.

Graham: The combination that could crack UConn code

Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese helped lead Oregon State from the bottom of Division I to the top of the mountain, only to find a volcano beneath their feet.

A volcano from the otherwise rolling hills of New England that erupted 120 of the past 121 times it rumbled.

Top shot blockers Breanna Stewart, Ruth Hamblin will square off in semifinals

Harvey, NY Times: UConn’s Seniors Are 2 Wins From a Feat Never Accomplished

Mechelle: Unfazed and focused UConn blocks out the noise

Beware of the bubble! No, not the usual bubble referred to in the NCAA tournament. But the UConn bubble. It is made of some very powerful stuff. No women’s basketball team has more outside “noise” to deal with, yet nobody deals with it better.

Whether it’s praise or criticism — and UConn has been so consistently great, sometimes the praise actually sounds like criticism — it seems to have no effect on the undefeated Huskies, who are seeking to become the first women’s basketball team to win four consecutive NCAA titles.

Breanna Stewart’s teammate: ‘People don’t get to see how fun she is’

BTW: UConn Vs. WNBA Team? Don’t Go There, Say Lobo, Lawson, Burke

Don’t forget, Monday’s games… Meet the Alaska Anchorage Hoosiers

Alaska Anchorage’s Seawolves are about as “Hoosiers” as you can get, considering their campus is more than 3,000 miles from Indiana.

The 33-year-old women’s basketball coach, Ryan McCarthy, loves the movie and fulfilled a lifelong goal Friday — he shot a jumper at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The men’s record-holder for scoring average, the Seawolves’  Jesse Jackson, is from Indianapolis. A former basketball coach and athletic director, Harry Larrabee, is from Shelbyville. Basketball icon Oscar Robertson is the great-great-uncle of Anchorage women’s  guard Kiki Robertson.

And you thought the rural domicile of Hickory’s “Shooter” Flatch was in a remote location?

 

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Notre Dame v. Louisville, 2pm ESPN2. Lobo: U of L women ‘absolutely’ could top Irish

“It’s kind of been fun watching them reach what people kind of expected from them on the outside early in the year,” Lobo said of U of L. “They’re just coming together. Young team – Coach Walz, I think it takes some time to learn his system, especially on the defensive end. But they’ve turned into a team that’s really fun to watch.

TAMU v. Tennessee, 4pm ESPN.

Yesterday:

Nice program win for Temple as they upset ranked conference-mate #19 USF with a 24-10 fourth quarter surge.

A put-back from senior Erica Covile with one second on the clock gave the Temple women’s basketball team a 68-66 upset victory over #19/17 USF on Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center. The win was the program’s first over a nationally-ranked opponent since February 25, 2009 when the Owls topped #13 Xavier, 74-65. The Owls move into sole posession of second place in The American with a 9-2 conference mark, 15-7 overall. The Bulls dip to 16-6, 9-3 in conference play.

Green Bay has turned back all comers, but the teams chasing them keep on wackin’ each other on the head: Detroit takes down the Penguins, 69-68, on a(nother) last second shot.

The Patriot looks more and more like it’s going to be a great showdown between Bucknell and Army.

Looking at the America East and seeing the Feb. 14th game between Albany (congrats to Shereesha Richards, the all-time leading scorer in school history) and Maine as a fun day to be a basketball fan.

Gotta love me some inter-conference rivalry. Down 16, Robert Morris made sure that Bryant didn’t sail through the NEC unscathed.

I warned ya! The Hatters take down Jacksonville, 66-61.

Ooooo! Debbie, did you catch this great match up? Montana State outlasted Sacramento State, 116-99. That’s the most points the Bobcats have scored. Speaking of the Bobcats, wonder how the team will be impacted by the firing of the AD.

Doink! BYU says, “Back, you Gaels, BACK!” and sends Saint Mary’s to a 65-44 loss,65-44 loss, securing sole possession of the top spot in the WCC.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “I think this was one of the best games we played all year, and the win is a huge victory for our program. We started the game strong and made a great effort defensively, especially in the first quarter. Our defense really set the tone for the rest of the game. We had incredible play from our guards. Kenzi, Lexi and Kylie all played wonderfully, and really let their shots come to them.”

San Diego lurks at 11-2 in the conference.

Colorado State is now at 10-0 in the Mountain West… and Fresno State is at 9-1.

Honestly, kids, if you’re going to go three overtimes, you really should have accumulated more than 66 points for the win. (Morgan State over Savannah State).

Bowling Green had a great third quarter...but Central Michigan punched back with a better fourth. Chips win at the buzzer, 76-75, and move to 9-2 in the MAC.

C-USA’s going to be fun: the two top teams went at it, and UTEP emerged victorious, outscoring the Hilltoppers by 10 in the final quarter.

So, the Big South is no longer a walk in the park: UNC-Asheville is now 11-2 in conference, Gardner-Webb is finding its sea legs and, of course, there’s Liberty.

It was iffish in the beginning, but Abilene Christian gathered themselves for a final push to earn a win against Southeastern Louisiana.

Yup, I see you, Central Arkansas, now 9-1 in the Southland.

And that’s Arkansas State undefeated in Sunbelt Conference play. The Red Wolves are 12-0 in Sun Belt play for the first time in school history and extended its school-record home winning streak to 22.

Mine! Tennessee-Martin is not going to give the OVC to SIU-Edwardsville (yet?). Skyhawks win, 85-79, with a fourth quarter comeback.

FINALLY! And what a way to do it: Norfolk State earned its first win of the season… in DOUBLE overtime. (Air Force – your turn.)

For a team that has faced more than its share of adversity all year, what was a little more on Saturday?

The Spartan women’s basketball team lost a seven-point lead with three minutes left in regulation and had five players, including a trio of starters, foul out. But none of it was enough to prevent NSU from earning its first victory of the year, a 110-108 marathon win in double overtime over Howard at Burr Gymnasium.

 

Monday

#5 Maryland v. Ohio State, 9pm ESPN2

About that “other game” on Monday, NutsandBolts’ Jeffrey Newholm:

Yes, South Carolina has arrived as a national power in women’s basketball. Monday evening the #1 ranked Huskies, winners of 59 games in a row, will come to Colonial Life Arena in Columbia in the Gamecock’s first ever sold out game at the 18,000 seat venue. It’s the biggest home game in the history of USC, also undefeated and the #2 team in the country. The Super Bowl may be Sunday but die-hard women’s basketball fans may be looking forward to this game even more. As I usually do for big game previews, I’ll look at this game from every angle, then pick a winner.

From Sue/Jim Clark: No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 South Carolina: Geno Auriemma says he just wants a good game

Auriemma was effusive in his praise of the Gamecocks and their ascendance to the top of women’s basketball. His focus, however, was on All-American senior Tiffany Mitchell.

“Any time you start a program going in the right direction, you can point to why,” Auriemma said. “I think everybody pointed to the A’ja Wilson signing at South Carolina as being a significant milestone, but they wouldn’t be in a position to sign somebody like A’ja Wilson if Tiffany Mitchell hadn’t already been there and done what she’s done and how she’s done it.”

And more:

Auriemma Sees Post Play Edge For South Carolina, Courant

UConn’s next great rival? Maybe South Carolina, if the Gamecocks can topple No. 1, Charleston Post and Courier

Mitchell in, Dozier out for Gamecocks’ clash with top-ranked UConn, Post and Courier

Gamecocks trying to emulate top dogs, The State

Injured South Carolina’s Mitchell Expects to Play vs. UConn, AP article from WLTX

Michaux: South Carolina says it’s ready for UConn, The Augusta Chronicle

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from the U19 Championships? Ask Paul!

A is for All-Star Five and congratulations to A’ja WilsonNapheesa CollierAlanna SmithDaria Kolosovskaia and Maria Vadeeva. I would also throw into the mix Louise DambachEmese HofLaura QuevedoRaisa MusinaJulie Allemand and Ksenia Levchenko and Azura Stevens for my terrific 12.

B is for blowouts and regrettably there were far too many throughout the competition.

C is for competition format. Twelve teams is a maximum for women’s youth events and four spots for the Americas is at least one too many in the current mix.

D is for Dawn Staley, the winning coach from the USA who I thought did a good job considering the loss of key personnel ahead and during the tournament.

I’ll add my A for Announcers. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the team that handled the games. It was like having two Kara Lawsons working side-by-side, reminding viewers of what basketball announcing should be – player knowledge, history and game analysis.

W news…

So, have you decided who got the best of the trade?

Mike weighs in: Who won three-way trade?

WHAT ATLANTA GETS

Atlanta’s participation likely made this arrangement possible, as a direct trade between Chicago and Minnesota was difficult to fathom with their available assets. Expected to be a contender in the East early in the season, Atlanta’s campaign has been nothing short of a mess. Shoni Schimmel’s lack of conditioning and a mismanagement of resources on the floor has been a baffling endeavor for head coach Michael Cooper; in Atlanta’s last game before the All-Star break, a 97-92 road loss to Chicago, he seemed unaware of the foul tally with McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes, costing them crucial minutes in a close game.

Schimmel’s stamina is returning to last year’s form, but the Dream no longer have a proven center. Their involvement in the trade was interpreted as a tacit admission that a rebuilding phase was more likely than a run at a championship. With a pair of 22-year-olds and five 2016 draft picks to this point, such a philosophy is believable.

Mechelle (edit: hate auto correct! you think it would know by now) weighs in: Three-team trade boosts Lynx, Sky

Minnesota really wants to win the 2015 WNBA championship. Chicago is hoping that it made the best of a very difficult situation. And Atlanta, while not giving up on making the playoffs this year, is looking more toward the future. Those are the general takeaways from the big three-team trade announced Monday.

Wonder how Marynell Meadors is doing. What, too soon?

David offers up an Eastern Conference team-by-team midseason review: A close race but blockbuster trade may shake things up

NEW YORK LIBERTY (12-5, 1st place)

If one team did not want to see the All-Star break, it was Bill Laimbeer’s Liberty. They are on a five-game winning streak, coinciding with the return of Epiphanny Prince from her obligations in Russia and insertion in the starting lineup. Prince and All-Star Tina Charles are the only Liberty players averaging double figures, but it seems to be Charles (17.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and someone else stepping up night in and night out. One night it is Sugar Rodgers hitting big shots, another it is Kiah Stokes dominating on the defensive end.

“We just have to stay disciplined in who we are,” says Charles. “It’s definitely been working for us to be number one in the East right now. We are just going to stay disciplined in who the Liberty is and just competing out there.

Keep an eye on: Four of the Liberty’s last five games are against Eastern conference playoff contenders Chicago, Connecticut, Washington, and Indiana, with the fifth game against Western leader Minnesota.

Tulsa Fire Sale! Give Tulsa fans free entry for rest of the season

Tulsa Shock minority owner, Stuart Price announced that he is calling on majority owner Bill Cameron to open seats to the remaining nine Shock home games for free. On Monday, after a few weeks of speculation, Cameron announced that he is moving the team to Arlington, Texas. The WNBA governing board approved the move in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Price has indicated that he is also filing a lawsuit against Cameron.

“Our community and fans have been here through the bad times and they deserve better than to lose the team just when it finally turns the corner,” said Price. “The players and coaches also deserve better than to have their winning season disrupted with the relocation news.”

Who dat on the cover of the Chicago RedEye? 

In her rookie season, Elena Delle Donne led the Sky to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. A year later, the team was in the WNBA finals.

Delle Donne transformed her team—can she do the same for the WNBA? There’s reason to believe so.

Today’s NBA players are rock stars. On a first-name basis with the world, they appear in summer blockbusters and soda commercials and earn hundreds of millions of dollars on the court and even more off it.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s—30 years after the league’s inception—the league was floundering. Interest had dwindled to the point that the Finals weren’t even televised live.

That all changed when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league in 1979.

Seems to me the W has ridden three surges in popularity/attention on women’s athletics:

  • The ’96 surge (which brought pre-and-early Title IXers in and a strong lesbian following) capped by soccer’s ’99ers.
  • The ’00 UConn surge (which brought current college fans to the W) capped by Taurusi.
  • The 2014-15 surge (which reinvigorated national attention and media coverage and activism) capped by the “Summer of Women.”

Here’s hoping the W can build on it’s young talent and successfully navigate the current upheaval in cable access and media coverage. If women’s basketball college coaches are smart, they’ll fully embrace the both the W AND the changing social perception of sexuality and use both as leverage in building their programs – starting with getting sufficient support from their Athletic Directors.

Did you catch this: BETH BROOKE-MARCINIAK

Welcome to The Drive, powered by Ford. In this series, Sage Steele goes back to campus with former college athletes to revisit the places and life-changing moments that inspired their drive to succeed. Beth Brooke-Marciniak, former Purdue women’s basketball star and global vice chair, public policy for EY, travels back to her alma mater.

A little more on the 2016 inductees: 

If the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2016 class was a player, it would be a combo guard strong enough to post up beneath the rim.

Or, perhaps a center not afraid to shoot the occasional three.

The six-person class that will be inducted in Knoxville on June 11, 2016, is being celebrated for its versatility.

From the Deseret News: Taylorsville native Natalie Williams to be inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016

Williams said she’s so focused on accomplishing new goals, she doesn’t always take the time to reflect on just what she’s achieved.

“I forget how much I’ve accomplished,” she said. “I’m always working on trying to do more.” One of the great joys of her life currently is coaching her three daughters, the oldest of which, Sydney, 15, will play at Alta High this winter.

Ayla, 8, and Nation, 5, also play, while Sydney’s twin brother Taurasi is a hip-hop dancer.

She said she’s not worried about whether her daughters will feel the pressure that may come as fans and media compare them to her, as she tries to help them focus on the same thing that helped her achieve so much success.

“All Mom cares about is hard work and effort,” she said.

Speaking of Utah:

Lynne Roberts doesn’t consider her hiring as the dawn of a new era for the University of Utah women’s basketball team. Roberts, the first head coach to come from outside the program since 1975, is just looking forward to the challenge of getting the Utesback to where she says they belong.

“I want to be national relevant,” Roberts said. “If there’s a sentence that would be it.”

After four years at the helm of Chico State and nine at Pacific, Roberts now heads a Utah program that has fallen on hard times. The Utes, who have an all-time record of 837-364, are a paltry 23-49 in Pac-12 play since joining the conference in 2011-12.

Speaking of rebuilding:

The idea of revamping a roster for the second straight year is nothing out of the ordinary for Louisiana Tech women’s basketball coach Tyler Summitt.

Summitt, the young 24-year-old coach who is constantly reminded by his mentors that implementing a culture takes two to three years, sat back and watched his predominately new team workout last week just as he did in 2014 during his inaugural season with the Lady Techsters.

That doesn’t mean Summitt and his coaching staff haven’t been hit with obstacles when dealing with a group of six newcomers.

Speaking of prepping for the NCAA season: 

The Gamecocks have been conditioning on and off the court in preparation for the season.

“Today was very important,” said USC sports performance coach Katie Fowler, who recently joined the program after serving in a similar capacity at Maryland. “We’ve been working a lot on our speed work. They’re tapering down a bit this week.”

The Gamecocks, who advanced to the Women’s Final Four last season and were ranked No. 1 in the nation for several weeks, are determined not to be one-hit wonders and are dedicated to improving.

Liz, Liz, Liz. Don’t call a lawyer. Grow up and decide if basketball is what you want.

WHEN did that happen?

When did we collectively decide to reward bad behaviour?

When did it become OK for sport stars to be petulant, cloaked from reality and allowed to bask in their own sense of entitlement unchallenged?

When did the media and the public become so fearful of upsetting the delicate young geniuses who dot our sporting landscape that we stopped calling an act of self-indulgence what it is?

I love Aussie basketballer Liz Cambage, even though what I’m about to say will cost me contact for a time.

Finally, as an educator who loves sports and respects the hell out of classroom teachers, I’ve been wanting to do something like this for YEARS! (And REALLY cranky that I can’t embed the dang video. I’ve tried and it just won’t let me.)

Key and Peele: Education Center

As an AAU coach once told me, “If parents cared as much about their child’s teachers as they do about why I put the team in a zone or man-to-man-defense, imagine what would happen to education.”

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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.

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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.

 

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I was kind thinking that was what was going to happen. A tad disappointing, sure, for those who hoped for a better match. But damn, there was some beautiful basketball on display, wasn’t there? The game was worth that jab step-drive by by MoJeff.

From Graham:

“We weren’t settling,” Stewart said. “We were really attacking them. We knew that we could drive past some of their bigs. We got the shots that we wanted. And we knocked them down.”

And the biggest presence on the court was the player who ran that offense, the smallest player on a court of giants.

With the first half winding to a close, Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson dribbled at the top of the key, calm but balanced on the balls of her feet. In front of her stood South Carolina’s Tina Roy and, more distant, two tiers of Connecticut students in the stands of Gampel Pavilion. The rumble of voices started to build even before Jefferson completed the crossover that left her defender helpless. It crescendoed into a roar as she exploded to the basket and finished.

UConn Women Make A No. 1 Statement Against South Carolina, Courant

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies (23-1) with 23 points. She drained five more three-pointers. Breanna Stewart added 22. She had eight rebounds. And Morgan Tuck scored 17 points.

Still it was Moriah Jefferson, with 16 points, six assists and two steals, who brought the blowtorch on this cold and snowy night. With the exhilaration and creativity that has come to define her career, she slipped her tiny body into every seemingly inaccessible crevice South Carolina left open.

Auriemma Likes These Competitive Matchups, Courant

“People are afraid to play these games in February because what happens if we lose? They are afraid of the aftermath. I look forward to the aftermath. I am going to be a lot happier Tuesday morning than I was Monday night. … That’s what coaching is, to help your players understand the significance of everything. That’s how we treat it here.”

Photos: No. 1 South Carolina At No. 2 UConn Women, Courant
UConn women hand top-ranked South Carolina first loss, Register

“We had something to prove to ourselves more than anything to show that despite all the teams that we were playing and blowing out, people saying we didn’t have the competition,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a game-high 23 points to go with four steals as UConn improved to 17-3 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups. “We just wanted to show that we could stand up for and (rise) to the occasion.”

UConn women’s basketball up for this ‘challenge’, Boston Globe

Generally one play doesn’t summarize a game, yet it did Monday night at Gampel Pavilion when the UConn women’s basketball team apparently was supposed to be threatened by undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina.

With just over 11 minutes remaining and the No. 2 Huskies on a fast break, All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis received a trailing pass from point guard Moriah Jefferson and found tiny point guard Tiffany Mitchell defending her.

Mosqueda-Lewis used her bulk, flicked Mitchell to the floor like a mosquito and then drained a 3-pointer.

Women’s showdown: No. 2 UConn humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Philadelphia Inquirer

The final score was 87-62. Afterward, answering the first question, Staley used the word “efficient” a couple of times to best describe UConn. 

“They think about who should shoot the ball and who should have the ball in their hands, and they’re patient enough to wait for it,” Staley said. “It makes basketball a beautiful thing to see.”

UConn Sends Message With a Rout of No. 1 South Carolina, NY Times

As the lead grew, South Carolina’s bigger players started to look winded. UConn’s, spurred on by an announced crowd of 10,167 that braved a New England snowstorm to watch the show, seemed to get fresher.

Stewart called it a statement game, a chance to show the rest of the country that the Huskies — who play in the lightly regarded, and sometimes derided, American Athletic Conference — can contend with the best teams that power leagues like the Gamecocks’ Southeastern Conference have to offer. Mosqueda-Lewis said plainly, “We’re as good as people think we are.”

UConn proves it is clear-cut No. 1 team in demolition of South Carolina, SI

“When you compare UConn to some other programs, they are sharp, efficient and there is no fat to what they do,” Staley said. “We have a 24-hour rule. We will be dejected for 24 hours and then we have to move on.”

Unbeaten no more: No. 2 UConn women’s team humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Sporting News
UConn women hand South Carolina its first loss of the season, CBS Sports
It’s UConn and everyone else – again, AggieSports.com, The Eagle

I thought South Carolina would give UConn a game, maybe even win. UConn was impressive, so impressive it was bad for the women’s game. It looks like another year where everyone is else playing for second. South Carolina seemingly had proven to be a worthy challenger. But, UConn won by 25 points, 25 points? Can anyone beat UConn?

1 Done: Huskies maul Gamecocks, The State

“We’re tied for first in our conference, and we don’t want to lose sight of being a really good basketball team,” Staley said. “That’s what we are.”

The loss stung, as it should have. It was their worst since 2011.

But there’s a lot of basketball to be played. Asked if they’d like to play UConn again, Staley and her players interrupted each other.

“Absolutely. Of course.”

Fans turn out for Gamecocks at Vista bar, The State
Video: A’ja Wilson quizzes Geno Auriemma, The State
Video: Mechelle & Michelle on the game, ESPN
Sapakoff: Gamecocks will benefit from Rivalry 101 lesson at UConn, Charleston Post and Courier

The only thing better than No. 1 vs. No. 2 pitting the established power with nine NCAA championships against new kids on the title contender block is a long, loud series.

Round Two is tentatively scheduled for the Final Four in Tampa.

A certain meeting will happen next season in Columbia.

“This is absolutely part of our journey,” Staley said. “In order to accomplish some milestones that we have this particular year, this is part of our journey. I think each and every time we need to learn a lesson.

“This isn’t a destination game for us. We have a lot of basketball left to play.”

There’s an interesting question for those with better basketball brains in their heads than mine: Is UConn in the American the next LaTech, or is UConn in the American the next UConn? The Huskies pretty much stomped all over their Big East opponents, minus a couple of hiccups (Rutgers, Villanova) and the Dearly Departed Diggins-led Irish. And, despite not playing against “challenging” competition, UConn still managed to rack up the Championships.

Fast-forward to last night: Connecticut beat the (current) best team in the SEC. How do folks think they would fare against South Carolina’s fellow conference-mates?

So, if no other conference poaches UConn, will the women’s basketball program continue to thrive? Or, as Jere’ posits, will the (sometime in the future) departure of Auriemma defeat the program (the way, perhaps, Mulkey’s departure signaled the “end” of the LaTech as a powerhouse program)?

In other news:

Ooops! Did Norfolk State take their eyes off the prize?

Nice to read: Large crowd signals continued resurgence of UMaine women’s basketball team

Fans of the University of Maine women’s basketball program have for several years been yearning for a team in which they can believe.

Finally, the Black Bears and their supporters are enjoying that winning feeling.

The most recent evidence supporting UMaine’s return to prominence was Sunday’s 63-45 victory over Hartford. It came in front of an announced crowd of 3,287 fans at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

“Oh my gosh. There was like 3,000-something. Wow!” UMaine junior Liz Wood said after she increased her career point total to 1,006 with an 11-point effort.

Deja vu in New Jersey: Tony Bozzella, Seton Hall bringing excitement back to Walsh Gymnasium

Equally nice to read: From Jeff Metcalfe, Present, future bright for ASU women’s basketball

“Charli (Turner Thorne) is doing a great job with her team,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I am very impressed with how well they are playing. They are playing with a lot more purpose than I remember them. I think that is a real credit to her and what she’s doing.”

Was wondering who’d be lucky enough to land this Aussie: LA Sparks sign Australian center Marianna Tolo

So you think you can shoot? Or write? From Swish Appeal: A call for new writers and photographers

With a h/t to Sue: Talking about men’s and women’s sports differently

Much of what we see in the plot is not terribly surprising. There are numerous gender specific words dominating the top spaces in the women’s articles and many of the middle positions for the men. It’s nonetheless interesting to consider that gender-specific terms are even more key for the women than for the men. In other words, for female-specific words like she there’s a greater difference between the articles about men’s and women’s basketball than there is for male-specific words like he. This seems to be caused by the fact that men’s basketball is an all men’s zone with not only the players but also the other major actors like the coaches, referees, commentators, etc. being male. Hence, words for women rarely show up. In contrast, many of the coaches and other actors in women’s basketball are men.

The presence of the word girls in the top 20 is also quite striking, especially since the corresponding boys does not appear in the men’s list. We might expect to see the use of the term girls applying to the players, and it does sometimes, usually used in quotations from coaches and the players themselves,

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and what a great trip. The landing, though, was a tad tough, what with having to jump deep back into work. What is it about taking a break seems to make work want to take it out on you…

So, about that championship game. Yah, it was a while ago, and ya, the final score says comfortable blowout, but it was a fun game, with Notre Dame showing a lot of heart (after a lot of nerves). I sure hope the ridiculousness between the two coaches/programs fades like so many family blowups.

Some of the good news: ratings.

Now, for those who are moaning, “oh, here we go again, UConn is “bad” for women’s basketball,” I simply say: don’t ignore what happened with the REST of the teams this past season. Lots of parity. Lots of young coaches. Next step: demand excellence from them. Raise expectations. Identify best practices. Stop complacency. Push for Title IX compliance. And hope for a little bit of luck and courage in the recruiting wars.

Case in point: From Mechelle –  A’JaWilson decision a big win for Staley – Nation’s top prospect averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as senior

....even though South Carolina was regarded as the favorite to land Wilson — a 6-foot-5 forward from the Gamecocks’ own backyard in Columbia, S.C. — the fact that she really did stay put is a big victory for coach Dawn Staley’s program.

It matters from a national perspective, as does the fact that UCLA has signed what’s considered the top-ranked recruiting class for 2014. The Bruins are also underdogs in women’s hoops that fans of the sport in general will root for to provide more diversity at the elite level of Division I.

I keep using terms like “fans of women’s basketball in general,” which might sound nebulous. But after so many years of following the sport, I think I have a pretty good handle on who they are.

Intriguing case in point: Diamond DeShields’ decision to transfer from North Carolina. Clearly, the actually reasons behind her move is still to be revealed, but it’s hard not to speculate (homesickness? looming NCAA sanctions?). Mechelle reflects on her interviews with Deshields this past season.

Remember when the news broke in May 2012 that four blue-chip juniors all decided to commit to North Carolina’s women’s basketball team?

Diamond DeShields was the point person in bringing them together, and it appeared to be a lottery-jackpot day for the Tar Heels. DeShields, Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington — ranked third, eighth, 15th and 17th, respectively, in their 2013 recruiting class — were all headed to Chapel Hill, N.C.

What could go wrong?

Well, it might have crossed your mind that day — it did mine — that when a group of teens makes long-range plans to do something complicated together, it might go awry. Not being ageist; it’s just that kids are kids. We’ve all been there.

Good news for Purdue: Hamby, Bays on the mend.

Interesting news for a CSU team that had a resurgent season: Four women’s basketball players are transferring

I was saddened to hear the news of coach Joe Curl’s passing. Most within the basketball world knew of his health struggles. They forced him to step away from his position as Houston Cougars’ coach. He came into national prominence during the 2003-04 season, where he and three-time C-USA Player of the Year, Chandi Jones, led  the Cougars to the second round in the NCAA tourney and earned AP National Coach of the Year honors. I remember him smiling as he picked up the award, almost embarrassed at being surrounded by press and the “elite” of basketball — Alana Beard was the AP’s NPOY. 

I was not surprised by Terri Mitchell’s dismissal from Marquette — she never quite seemed to be able to break through within the recruiting ranks.  I wonder if she’ll thrive better on different soil. We shall see if the Anonymous Eagles’ impression (Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.) is correct.

The Bulldogs didn’t look far to find their new coach, appointing longtime assistant Lisa Fortier as Gonzaga’s next leader. She’s going to have to find some new assistants, though.  I don’t know about you, but if Kelly Graves can do in Oregon what Scott Rueck has done at Oregon State, the west coast will be wicked fun to watch. (Interesting that associate head coach Mark Campbell left the Beavers to join the Ducks.)

Congrats to Natasha Adair, who’s moved from the College of Charleston back to Georgetown. Here’s hoping she can grow a program that seems to have lost the ground that Terri Williams-Flournoy seemed to have gained. Does the athletic department triply give a hoot about women’s basketball?

I remember Maren Walseth from the first Final Four I attended (2000 in Philly). She’s now the head coach at North Dakota State University. Interesting tidbit: Walseth’s sister, Annika, played for NDSU during the 2007-08 season.    

Nice to see Yolanda Moore move up the ranks. She’s now head coach at  Southeastern Louisiana University. “Moore spent the 2013-14 season as the head coach at LSU Eunice. Taking over a program that had won 17 games combined in the previous two seasons, Moore led the Lady Bengals to a 26-3 overall record and the program’s first-ever Miss-Lou Conference championship.”

Keep Fresno State on your “watch list,” as they plucked Jaime White from Northern Colorado.

More on the “WTF list:: Women’s basketball player appeals K-State transfer denial

 Leticia Romero has known she wanted to transfer for several weeks, but she will have to wait a little longer to find out if Kansas State will grant her a release from its women’s basketball program.

Romero, a rising freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, decided she wanted to leave K-State after the Wildcats fired Deb Patterson, the coach she signed on to play for, but the athletic department denied her initial transfer request. On Wednesday afternoon, she took her case to an appeals committee led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco. As of Wednesday night, the committee had not informed Romero of its decision.

Fashion Week in Illinois: Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

In WNBA news, Nate ranks has his 2014 Draft recap: The big winners and great value drafts (Spoiler alert: Connecticut, New York and Seattle do well).

Don’t miss Swish Appeal’s other musings:

Take a listen to Dishin & Swishin’s 04/17/14 Podcast: Anne Donovan & Fred Williams discuss Connecticut and Tulsa’s draft picks and offseason moves

Have you read Griner’s book “In My Skin” yet? Did you read Kate Fagan’s piece on Griner: Held Up n Customs: Live in China Gave Brittney More Than She Bargained For. 

THE NUMBER OF moving obstacles at a busy intersection in China can feel paralyzing for a pedestrian. None of the cars, mopeds or bikes appears to be following the traffic laws, which makes stepping off the curb a game of chance, like real-life Frogger.

And Brittney Griner is about to step off the curb.

“I’ve been hit once,” she says, seemingly unfazed at a busy corner in Zhejiang. “A moped ran into me from behind, but it wasn’t going that fast. It was my fault. I was trying to avoid traffic.”

Wait … what? Trying to avoid traffic is bad? “Totally wrong here,” Griner says. “You can’t stop walking. If you’re in motion, they’ll flow around you. It’s when you stop, when you freeze, that it becomes dangerous.”

Brittney Griner talks about her experience in China to ESPN’s Kate Fagan

In other news, Pokey is optimistic surgery won’t stop Fowles (as in, back mid-season?)

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It’s been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year’s blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

As a counter to the seemingly never ending “Will the W fail” articles: For The WNBA, Jersey Sponsorships Signal Corporate And Community Support

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