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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about some previews?

Albany Regional breakdown – UConn

Three observations

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

Greensboro Regional breakdown – South Carolina

Three observations

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

Oklahoma City Regional breakdown – Notre Dame

Three observations

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

Spokane Regional breakdown – Maryland

Three observations

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

Michelle says: Savor all 63 games — not just final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey! It’s time for the Mascot Bracket!

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

Don’t wanna listen? How about dance?

In non-tourney news:

Ouch: Three players leave Vanderbilt women’s basketball team

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

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

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

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(yes, it’s been that kind of year).

Okay, that’ll learn me to look ahead: Holy Cross (9-14, 5-5) gets a first half lead on American (13-8, 8-2) and holds on for the 67-61 victory. Junior Raquel Scott scored a career-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting. AU is still atop the Patriot, but they’re keeping the door open for the rest of the crew.

Southern Miss in not impressed. They take down C-USA #2, Western Kenducky, 63-61. Next up, conference leader Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders defeated UTEP, 74-53, as Cheyenne Parker, a 6-foot-4 transfer from High Point, recorded the first triple-double in program history.

Called it: Tight game between Ohio and Central Michigan. Bradford’s 29 made her the all-time scoring leader in program history, but there not enough of other folks for the Chippewas, and the Bobcats prevail, 74-66. Reminder: Bob Bolden, former Penguin head coach, is leading Ohio:

The Baby Bobcats — there are six sophomores, one freshman and only one senior on the roster — continued to leave jaws wide open in the Mid-American Conference with a stunning 72-60 victory over the defending champion Zips in the Convocation Center.

What this team really has problems with is talking about what has been a fairytale type season in which a pumpkin has turned into a gilded coach.

Second-year coach Bob Boldon grudgingly — and finally — admitted that Ohio has become a legitimate contender in the MAC. The team is 16-3 overall and 7-1 and two games ahead of Akron in the East Division.

Also called it: Billikens kept it tight in the first, but the Flyers pulled away in the second, 87-72, behind senior Ally Mallott’s career-high 30 points.

Also called: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Keep those (Fresno State) Bulldogs rollin’ – though they had to come back against Colorado State to get the win.

With its back against the wall, the Fresno State women’s basketball team delivered the counterpunches necessary to remain unbeaten atop the Mountain West Conference.

Tough-as-nails defense and consistent free-throw shooting fueled the Bulldogs’ rally from a six-point halftime deficit to a 53-49 win over Colorado State on Saturday afternoon. It marked the first time in conference play this season that Fresno State had trailed at the break.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Keep those (Gonzaga) Bulldogs rollin’.

Same with Stanford and Washington State: close in the first, not so much in the second. Cardinal win, 75-56.

Marist bounced back from its stomping by the Q to win a tough battle with Iona.

Neither the league’s top scorer nor an early deficit was enough to derail the Red Foxes on Saturday.

Despite facing two of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s best players and trailing in the second half, the Marist College women’s basketball team won at Iona, 63-58, in New Rochelle.

The Montanas were unkind to Sacramento: The Griz move to 8-1 in the Big Sky as they take down the Hornets in a Debbie Antonelli Special, 94-86.

The Anti-DebAntSpec: 41-38.

Heather Macy’s young East Carolina program is moving forward – they take down Tulane, 67-63.

Well, hello! Norfolk State reminds Hampton that the MEAC is still up for grabs.

Again, close (and moving in the right direction) but no cigar: San Diego rallied from a 12-points deficit to get the win over San Francisco, 74-69.

Bryant roared back in the second, but still couldn’t overcome Robert Morris. Both teams now sit in second place in the NEC, looking up at Central Connecticut State.

Duquesne with a nice win over Fordham, 56-46, to keep the A-10 tight. Tight, that is, behind conference leader George Washington.

Jillian Alleyne’s 30 helped bring back the Ducks from a 14-point deficit as Oregon stopped the UCLA Bears, 67-65.

No conversation about rebounding and Oregon women’s basketball goes long without bringing up star junior forward Jillian Alleyne.

Alleyne is a double-double machine, practically recording one just by waking up on game day. She does most of her work early, fighting to get superior position against the opposition. The end result is the ball seemingly falling into her hands, deceptively masking all of the work that goes into her boards.

This was uglier than expected: #7 Oregon State over USC, 68-35.

How happy is Tennessee-Martin to be in conference play? With their win over the Racers, their record is 13-9, and they’re 9-0 in the Ohio Valley (West). Sure helped that sophomore Ashia Jones tied the program’s single-game scoring record with 44 points.

Revenge taken: FCGU over Northern Kentucky.

It was a grand occasion Saturday for a pair of newly minted 1,000-point women’s basketball scorers in FGCU’s road game at Northern Kentucky.

But the Eagles had a better time, beating the stubborn Norse, 67-46 at Bank of Kentucky Center.

Ruvanna Campbell got her fourth straight double-double , but Green Bay got the win, 64-45.

Eastern Tennessee State is 6-0 in the Southern, but they host #25 Chattanooga next.

Some headline writer has been reading the blog! Northwestern welcomes Minnesota, looks to regain mojo

Northwestern looks to return to its winning ways of old on Sunday against Minnesota after the team lost a defense-optional game versus Iowa 102-99 on Thursday.

And maybe Gene from the WaPo? Maryland women’s basketball is unbeaten in Big Ten but focused on No. 20 Iowa

It’s been 30 years since a women’s basketball team from the Big Ten went undefeated over 18 conference games. Fifth-ranked Maryland is halfway there in its inaugural season and showing it’s by far the class of the conference after having beaten three of the other four ranked Big Ten schools.

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It’s the Billikens again! This time Sadie Stipanovich hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds to play to give them a win over Saint Joseph’s, 52-51.

It’s the Peahens again! This time over Niagara, 65-58, for the second win of their season. In their previous matchup, Niagara routed Saint Peter’s by 33 points.

Yes, in-state battles are awesome: Arkansas State (9-2 in the Sun Belt) gives Arkansas-Little Rock their first Sun Belt loss (9-1), 70-69.

It took double overtime, but #14 Texas gave #24 Oklahoma their first Big 12 loss, 84-81.

Tough battle by shorthanded #10 Kentucky (though Goss is back), but two key end-of-game blocks helped the #6 Vols prevail in Lexington, 73-72.

A game of back-and-forth runs, momentum swings, floor burns and all-out effort came down to the final possession.

Down 73-72, UK got the ball back with 46 seconds left after Jelleah Sidney blocked Cierra Burdick’s shot.

Before a roaring Memorial Coliseum crowd of 7,407, the Wildcats were one field goal from their fourth victory over Tennessee in the past six games.

What the Cats found instead was stomach-churning frustration.

Their efficiency from the floor helped the Terps, who entered the contest with the fourth-best field-goal percentage in the country, shoot 54.3 percent in the first half before finishing the game shooting 52.5 percent.

“One of our biggest jobs to do was to run them off the court,” Walker-Kimbrough said.

The Debbie Antonelli Special (#1) comes courtesy of Wright State v. Oakland: It was the Raiders over the Golden Grizzlies, 108-89. Nice story out of Oakland:

A basketball player who averages 21 points per game as a junior and 19.1 as a senior, along with showing an ability to rebound, block shots and steal, is likely to end up on an NCAA Division I roster somewhere.

And that is exactly what happened for Troy Athens graduate Sinclair Russell, who is currently in her redshirt sophomore season with Oakland University

DAS (#2) was #20 Iowa over Northwestern, 102-99. Melissa Dixon hit 9-10 on three’s as the Hawkeyes made a B10 record 19 during the game.

“You’re going to hear me ro-oar!” In a game that featured sister v. sister, Maine mauled New Hampshire, 87-56. Albany is up next, Feb 1st.

FGCU is flyin’ through the A-Sun, but the Eagles remember last year’s game against Northern Kentucky:

Since becoming eligible for the Atlantic Sun tournament, the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team is 59-1 against conference teams in the regular season.

The one loss came last year at Northern Kentucky. And it was ugly.

With a 63-43 loss, FGCU suffered its worst A-Sun defeat and tied for the fewest points scored in a game in program history. 

It’s looking like the fight for C-USA top spot will be between Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Going to have to wait until Feb. 21st for that game, though.

Auburn stays winless in the SEC, going down to Arkansas, 52-47.

Speaking of the SEC, Nell Fortner offers her top five by position.

Well, oops! Down goes Long Beach State for a second time, this time of courtesy of the Wahine, 72-64.

Kansas State stole Oklahoma State’s fan belt. They defeat the Cowgirls, 52-51, in OT.

Colorado State is now 7-1 in the Mountain West. Next up: Fresno State (8-0 in the conference).

Coming up, Todd McMahon writes: Road challenges await UW-Green Bay

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team had its hands full with Ruvanna Campbell three times last season.

Horizon League-leading UWGB is bracing for its first encounter this season with Illinois-Chicago’s imposing 6-foot-3 junior forward.

“She’s in a league of her own in the conference,” Phoenix sophomore Mehryn Kraker said.

From Palo Alto: Stanford women’s basketball tops busy home weekend slate

Orrange and Samuelson are close to milestones. Orrange needs three assists to become the seventh player in Stanford history to reach 500. 

Samuelson is five 3-pointers shy of matching Nicole Powell (201) for sixth on the Cardinal’s all-time list.

Stanford faces the top three scorers in the conference this weekend and four of the top eight. Washington State’s Lia Galdeira (19.6) and Tia Presley (18.9) are second and third.

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Geno Auriemma: By the numbers – UConn coach nears 900th career win; milestone could come as early as Tuesday. Mechelle adds: 10 defining moments – UConn coach, in his 30th season, is on verge of 900th career victory

My goodness: Girls basketball coach returns to team after losing arm

Well ouch: Buchholz girls basketball team forfeits 2014-15 season

Two years after winning the school’s first state basketball title, the Buchholz girls basketball team has forfeited its 2014-15 season.

Bobcats athletic director Jay Godwin asked for and got permission from the Florida High School Athletic Association on Monday to do so, three days after finding out the team had been using an ineligible player the entire season.

and then Buchholz fires girls basketball coach after forfeited season

Buchholz High School principal Vince Perez met Friday morning with the girls basketball team and coach Rebecca Williams. By the end of the meeting, he told the team they had to go in a different direction.

That meant, Williams, a Buchholz alum, is no longer the coach after eight years.

Mechelle writes about Drake sophomore Lizzy Wendell.

Kids in really large families sometimes look for ways to build their individual identities. But rarely do they look to the laundry room to establish such a distinction.

But Drake sophomore forward Lizzy Wendell, one of the nation’s top scorers this season, was once as a teenager the voluntary head laundry washer for her family, which includes her parents and eight siblings.

“She took over the laundry for about eight months,” said her father, Mike Wendell. “We have a washer and dryer upstairs and downstairs. She just wanted to do it; she’s pretty organized.”

Lizzy explained it this way: “My oldest sister, when she came back home from college, started paying me to do her laundry for her. And I said, ‘Oh, this is easy,’ and I did it for everyone for a while.”

Eventually, “Busy Lizzy,” as her family calls her, decided to give up the chore.

“But we all liked it while it lasted,” Mike said, grinning. “That’s a lot of laundry.”

Nowadays, Wendell focuses on taking opposing defenses to the cleaners. Her 22.6 points per game leads the Missouri Valley Conference and is tied for eighth in Division I.

Good to hear: Craft says young players hungry to get better

The skinned knee is a rite of passage for the young. Finding a bandage and the will to return to the playground tag game is the best way to address the pain.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team took a tumble midway through the second half Sunday at Purdue, falling behind the Boilermakers by 12 points before rising to win a 79-71 overtime decision.

“I think us really pushing through that was a big step for our team,” junior guard Cait Craft said. “In the past, we haven’t been able to do that. We just came together, had each other’s back and pushed through it.”

Check out Swish Appeal’s mid-season COY candidates.

In W news:

John Altavilla is Catching Up With Kelly Faris

Storm trade 2 players to Sun for No. 3 pick in WNBA draft

The Seattle Storm are continuing their rebuilding project.

The Storm traded Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen to the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday for the third and 15th picks in the upcoming WNBA draft and Renee Montgomery. The Storm already have the No. 1 pick.

“As we get into the draft and look at the players coming out, we’re excited about having 1 and 3,” Seattle Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “For us a key objective is to add youth to the roster, and this gives us an opportunity through the draft.”

Pat Friday grades the trade.

More on an Aussie: Abby Bishop shoulders Canberra’s final hopes, but don’t compare her to Lauren Jackson

Catch is in India: Journey on a difficult terrain

Finally, Emotional Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team starts healing process by playing first game since tragedy  and from Graham: ‘I want everybody to know who Shannise was’ Eastern Michigan’s 21-year-old junior forward died Sunday in a car accident

The first time Bud Schimmelpfenneg, a longtime Eastern Michigan fan and booster, met one of the new additions to the women’s basketball team he reached out to shake her hand.

Shannise Heady wanted none of it.

“Oh no, I’m not shaking hands,” he recalled her telling him. “I’m a hugger.”

There weren’t any handshakes after the final buzzer brought an end to Wednesday’s game between Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, either. Just as players, coaches and staff from both teams locked arms for a moment of silence before the game and remained that way through the national anthem, jerseys alternating in a semi-circle that stretched almost all the way around the court, they eschewed handshakes for hugs when it was over. It wasn’t a normal night. It won’t be normal for Eastern Michigan for a long time. For these players, maybe ever.

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