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No. 2 Duke hasn’t come close to No. 1 UConn, Register
No. 2 Duke Ready To Take Another Swing At No. 1 UConn, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Duke, Courant
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Tuesday at No. 2 Duke, Post
No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke, Post
UConn women in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, Post

No. 2 Duke women set for No. 1 UConn challenge, News & Observer
No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten, Durham Herald Sun

Mechelle Voepel: Can Duke compete with UConn?, ESPN

There are some “big” games you anticipate with confidence … and others with trepidation. In women’s basketball, Connecticut vs. Duke — No. 1 vs. No. 2 Tuesday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET) — is the latter.

For this one, we’re all a bunch of Fox Mulders saying, “I want to believe.” Yes, I’d bet even most UConn fans would like to see this be an exciting game between two 10-0 teams that sit atop the rankings.

Rebecca Lobo: X factors to keep an eye on – Fouls? Free throws? Offensive flow? These elements might impact showdown

The top two teams in the women’s game meet Tuesday night when top-ranked UConn heads to Durham, N.C., to play No. 2 Duke. The Huskies have beaten the Blue Devils six straight times with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. (Duke kept it close for a half last season, down only two points at the break, but UConn blew it open in the second half.)

Does Duke have the talent and experience to beat UConn? Yes, without a doubt. Will the Blue Devils finally be able to play a full 40 minutes in order to get the W? We’ll have to tune in to see (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Here is what I’ll be keeping my eye on while watching the game.

Charlie Creme: The history behind 1-vs.-2 matchups – Blue Devils riding 24-game home winning streak into showdown

Just more than a month into the season, there is little to no debate over which are the two best women’s college basketball teams in the country. With possible apologies to those in Knoxville, South Bend and Lexington, Connecticut and Duke entered the season at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and neither team has done anything up this point to indicate any errors in that assessment.

The real question, as we embark on another 1-versus-2 matchup on Tuesday night (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 ET) in Durham, N.C., is whether the Blue Devils are right there with the Huskies as a true threat to the top spot … or merely closer to the rest of the pack that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame, Kentucky and a few others.

From espnW: Demanding Perfection – Top players for UConn describe what practice is like playing for coach Geno Auriemma.

From Doug: No. 2 Duke ready to meet No. 1 UConn

Today will mark the 52nd meeting between the top two teams in the poll, with the No. 1 team holding a 31-20 edge in the series. UConn has been in that game 17 times, including going 10-1 as the top-ranked team. Duke has played in this game six times, going 3-3. The two teams met once as the top two teams in the nation in 2003, with No. 2 UConn beating top-ranked Duke 77-65.

In other news:

As Rutgers women’s basketball continues to roll, No. 16 Georgia looms

Somewhat surprisingly, little has gone wrong thus far in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season.

After losing four of their top-six scorers from a year ago, the Scarlet Knights, who feature no seniors, have quietly blended youth into balanced offense. Four Knights — three underclassmen — are averaging double figures through 10 games. As a team, Rutgers is actually scoring 12 more points per contest (68.1) than last season (56.0).

Buckeyes try to shake out of slump

The Ohio State women’s basketball team gathered for a film session yesterday that served as a double feature without the box of popcorn.

The Buckeyes (7-6) had to watch the postmortem of their 64-49 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday and follow that with a look at Tennessee Martin (6-3), their opponent tonight at Value City Arena.

Coach Kevin McGuff entered the room knowing that his young, largely inexperienced team is at a crossroads.

From the .com: Sheryl Swoopes Embraces New Role as Head Coach at Loyola Chicago

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

“My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back,” Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call – one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Stinky news for Asjha Jones and the Sun: She’ll Miss WNBA Season

Meanwhile, the Lynx continue their Roster Review: Janel McCarville

 … coming into the season, though, McCarville hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. 

The center quickly answered any and all questions. As she got into shape during Training Camp, her knack for finding open teammates became obvious and it seemed like she was perfect for a team with offensive threats like Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Throughout the season, her role became extremely important for the Lynx and she averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game while helping the Lynx win the 2013 title in her first season with the squad. 

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Asjha Jones to sit out WNBA season

*added* Danielle McCray may be out, too.

Speaking of open spots: I called it, just didn’t notice it while I was in Nebraska: A Penguin becomes a Bobcat (Bolden goes to Ohio)

Thanks to this Rebkell thread that updates coaching changes:

Filled 
1. Seton Hall – Anthony Bozzella (HC Iona)
2. Ohio – Bob Boldon (HC Youngstown State) 
3. Ole Miss – Matt Insell (AC Kentucky)
4. Columbia – Stephanie Glance (HC Illinois State) 
5. CS Fullerton – Daron Park (Former AC USC) 
6. Southern Illinois – Cindy Stein (Illinois Central College HC)
7. Towson – Niki Reid Geckeler (Howard HC)
8. UT-Pan American – Larry Tidwell (Lamar HC)

Open

1. UT-Arlington
2. Clemson
3. ETSU
4. Dartmouth
5. Jacksonville
6. Coastal Carolina
7. USC
8. Radford
9. South Alabama
10. Missouri State
11. Loyola (IL)
12. William & Mary
13. Ohio State
14. George Mason
15. St. Peter’s
16. Iona
17. NC State
18. UMBC
19. Incarnate Word
20. Youngstown State
21. Illinois State
22. Pittsburgh
23. Pepperdine
24. Howard
25. Miami (OH)
26. Lamar

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“I’m going to Rio.” (But Merc – and face it, W – fans are wondering: are ya goin’ to Phoenix?)

BTW, if Sue, Diana and Catch do get to Rio, Mr. Colangelo, any chance we might be able to purchase their USA Basketball jersey? #USABasketballmarketingembarrassmentfail

A little @BrendaVanLengen and @MechelleV doing their post-Olympic review, the WNBA & NCAA volleyball podcast stuff.

A little mish-mosh:

Business model for SS&E based on Spurs’ success

The Silver Stars of the WNBA and Rampage of the American Hockey League, both celebrating their 10-year anniversaries, have evolved into what officials say are profitable franchises, including marked upswings in attendance and the standings.

Cool! Lady Swish will be pleased: Welcome to L.A., Dawn.

Ouches: Seattle and Connecticut

Behind the scenes with Patricia Babcock McGraw as the Sky’s Fowles, Cash share some Olympic stories

“It drove me crazy not to be playing,” Fowles said. “There were a couple of times the trainer had to say, ‘You have to slow down. You’re trying to get back too fast.’

“I had to make a grown-woman move. The young me would have said, ‘Just play through the pain.’ But I’m at a point in my career now where I have to be smart, and knowing that I had to come back to the Sky, the coaches and trainers agreed that I needed to sit out for a bit and work back slow.”

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US women’s hoops rookies are experienced veterans

Referring to the five newcomers on the US women’s Olympic basketball team as rookies is a bit misleading.

Sue Bird actually finds it amusing.

“Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones are considered rookies, that’s pretty comical,” the American point guard said. “In terms of Olympic experience, it’s new for them. They’ll enjoy it the same way we did the first time.

“But they’ve faced almost everyone we’ll be playing against.”

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  • Fans of Rick Riordan’s “Kane Chronicles” will be pleased to see that the Washington Monument is alive and well….
  • Birding list for the trip: Rock Dove/Pigeon, House Sparrow, Starling, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Osprey, Fish Crow, Goldfinch, Cardinal, Mocking Bird, Gulls, tons of Chimney Swifts.
  • How do you know someone rides the DC Metro? They have $10 worth of Sacagewea coins in their bag
  • Contrary to what you may have seen on ESPN’s Sports Center last night (ESPN Olympic page), the women’s team didn’t spend the morning eating bon bons while the men’s team was there with the troops? They were busy hosting a “Hoops for Girls” Basketball Clinic at the Armory
  • Going out to American University (power in the Patriot League) I start at George Washington (used to be power in the Colonial). Interesting perspective. Equally interesting is the walk to AU from the subway (does every subway stop end in a Whole Foods?): On the way I pass St. Ann’s, read about the Washington Immaculata, take a peek at the National Presbyterian Church, consider the buildings razed to put the NBC studios up, say “konichiwa” to the guards at the Japanese Embassy, and wave to the Homeland Security folks. Ah, D.C.
  • Is there anything more amusing than sitting outside at a coffee place and listening to the conversations walking by?

Now back to basketball: Just want to send a shout out to Oscar Dixon. Old school W fans will recall his thoughtful coverage of the league with fondness. Anyone who’s crossed his path, as I did during the Orlando all-star game, will know him as a generous man with a great smile. Great to see his face again. Now all we need is Mike Terry and Stick and Lena and Kelly to reappear and all will be well in the world.

USA Basketball is doing its job getting the word out: USA Basketball Women’s National Team Kicks Off Training Camp

From John Altavillia at the Hartford Courant (who you’ll want to track through the Olympics. Imagine watching six kids you covered in college go to the Olympics. “Pretty amazing,” as he said): Geno Auriemma, Maya Moore Put On Clinic As Part Of Olympic Training Weekend

The biggest surprise at practice was seeing who WASN’T practicing: Asjha Jones, who rolled her ankle during the last Sun game. Geno had some very complimentary things to say about Jones and her role on the Olympic team, in particular pointing to her MVP work in Europe last season. Watching the tail end of practice, I couldn’t help but notice how tall and skinny our posts are (“we’re not a very good rebounding team at the moment,” Auriemma told the team during practice. Later, adding to reporters, “we should be a really good offensive rebounding team). There’s no “Venus to the Hoop” on the court (take the time to read the book before the Games start. It’ll give you a wonderful, new perspective.). There’s no doubt Parker (Auriemma: “She could be as dominant as Lauren Jackson”), Fowles and Charles are talented athletes. But none have been to the Olympics, and it’s been a while since they’ve been in an NCAA-esque “one and done” situation.

Ditto with Jones, but, Auriemma said, “Asjha’s been around a long time. She’s seen things and done things that those kids can learn from. She accepts what ever role you give her and she plays it perfectly. You say, ‘Asjha, we need a stopper, we need you to go defend a 6’6″ kid,’ she’ll say, ‘I  gotcha coach.’ Because she’s strong enough and smart enough. ‘Asjha, we need some points.’ Well, she’s got a million different ways of scoring the basketball. ‘Asjha, we need three minutes from you tonight.’ ‘I got ya coach.’ ‘Asjah, we need 23 minutes from you tonight.’ ‘I gotcha coach.’ She’s a pro. She’s knows her job, she knows her responsibilities, and she does it every day. She’s a great role model for these kids.” Auriemma’s counting on her to be the senior leader, the “elder statesman on the team” with this young group.

On the short time to “input” stuff, Auriemma said: “I’ve always felt, like in the NCAA tournament, when you get to this level all the teams that you’re playing are pretty good, so you can’t just say, ‘All right, we’re going to press the hell out of them, steal it and dunk it.’ Well, if you could do that against them, they wouldn’t be here. If you think you’re going to trick’em — well, you’re playing against pros. That’s not going to happen. The way you win in the NCAA tournament and the way you win here, is you really have to execute in the half-court set. You have to get the shot you want, when you want it, by who you want it. That takes time. And we don’t have time. So we have to figure out, can we get enough transition baskets and can we, in the half-court set, get enough things done in a short period of time that we’re comfortable that whatever we need during the course of the game we have access to. I think rebounding is going to be huge. As the tournament wears on, there’s a lot of missed shots. We should have a great offensive rebounding team. Should. That’s going to be a huge point of emphasis for us – offensive and defensive rebounding. With the athletic ability that we have and the depth that we have, the more possessions we create for ourselves, that plays to our advantage. If we just make it a one possession, we shoot we run back, we shoot, we run back —  now I think we give the other team a chance to stay with us.”

A little from Sue Bird on the “transition” from rookie to senior leader: “When I think back to my early days playing with USA Basketball, those older players, Dawn, Lisa, Sheryl, Tina, they were great people to learn from. It wasn’t neccesarily what they said, it was how they carried themselves. How they prepared. They knew what to expect. For the younger players, we were just kind of wide-eyed. They did a great job of leading by example. Of course, they would say things — especially Dawn, being a point guard. Now that I’m one of the older players, I do hope that I have some knowledge, some experience with the Olympics that I can pass on, because some of these younger players… I’m going on my third Olympics, and for them it’s their first and they could eventually get to their third. And I hope by that time, they’ll be just as knowledgeable and experienced as I feel now. I hope I can play a small role in helping them go through that evolution.”

More Sue on “the first time” v. “the third time:” “It’s a little different. There’s always the expectation of winning a gold medal. And it really has nothing to do with the expectations of the the media, or outside expectations. It’s the expectations we put on ourselves. This time, it’s just knowing what it takes to get through the Olympics. Eight games in 16 days. It can wear on you. Knowing that we have to improve each game. And come the quarters, semi’s and finals — it’s one game. We’re now all in the WNBA, where we play three or five game series. Here, there’s no chance to mess up. You have to be on your game. There’s definitely a certain preparation in that. You have to be ready. So, when you’ve done it, you’ve experienced that and you’ve been to that place mentally, you know how to get back.”

From Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register, Jones expects to be back at practice tomorrow.

Doug “the fabulous” Feinberg (yes, I’m still hoping he needs an Olympic Lackey) is writing about the tall folks: Post Players Give Auriemma Options in the Middle. (Anything that has an AP byline is his) He also has Women Chase Gold Again

“We have an opportunity to have one of the greatest Olympic teams all-time given the combination of players we have with the depth, experience and youth,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “I have tremendous respect for every team we’re playing over there and by no means will this be easy at all. I’m focused on trying to make this team maximize the unbelievable potential they have.”

Someone who WAS playing (whoopee) and didn’t seem to miss a shot: Diana. From John: Diana Taurasi Says She’s Ready To Go On Olympics Team(and John unpicks some of the consequences of her decision to get healthy).

Mr. York is also in the house, under USAToday’s banner: Diana Taurasi says she healthy, ready for Olympics

Gene Wang is workin’ it at the WaPo: U.S. women’s basketball team faces outsize expectations

Two years ago, after the U.S. women’s basketball team throttled host Czech Republic in the title game of the FIBA world championships in Karlovy Vary, 6,000 Czech fans, including President Vaclav Klaus, celebrated at KV Arena.

Despite the 89-69 result, Geno Auriemma, the U.S. national team coach, recalled the Czech team was so pleased to have been within striking distance at halftime that the final outcome was all but an afterthought. At least the Czechs hadn’t met with a fate similar to, say, South Korea, which fell to the United States by 62 points, or Spain, a 106-70 loser.

Such is the reverence with which the rest of the world views the Americans’ supremacy in the sport, and it’s no wonder with an Olympic roster that includes six gold medalists from the 2008 Games; the reigning WNBA most valuable player, Tamika Catchings; the reigning WNBA rookie of the year, Maya Moore; and enough NCAA titles to overload even the most spacious trophy cases.

From Tom Shcad at the Washington Times: Auriemma, U.S. women’s hoops team ready to live up to expectations in London

The United States has dominated the international basketball scene since 1936, when the men’s team won its first of seven consecutive Olympic gold medals. It’s home to the Dream Team, the Redeem Team and a current squad poised to continue those sterling traditions.

But as of late, it’s been the American women who truly deserve the title of dynasty. The numbers speak for themselves: eight World Championships, four straight Olympic golds and 33 consecutive wins in Olympic play dating back to Aug. 7, 1992.

“We might be the most dominant team of any team since the Russian Red Army,” Auriemma said, referring to the Soviet men’s hockey side that won 18 World Championships from 1963 to 1990. “Every time we play, everybody thinks we’re supposed to win — and we’re supposed to win by a lot. And that’s a lot for these players to carry around, I know that. But at the same time, that’s what you sign up for: when you play USA Basketball, it’s pressure.”

Make sure you also check in with Full Court for some of Kelly Kline’s great photos, not to mention a little (legal) video on “Da hip hype.” And yes, that is Diana guarding a very big man. Like many top women’s teams, a local baller was tapped to round up a group of players to offer the women some (big) bodies to go up against in practice. It’s a tough gig, ’cause you have to do what they (read: the coaches) want you to do, not what you want to do. The crew will be back for more tomorrow (read, today). Said the ring-leader, his face lighting up, “It’s fun!”

Get the lowdown from WNBA.com: U.S. National Team Practice Report – July 14, 2012

Now it was time to do all of this against some defense, as the coaching staff call upon a group of male players to scrimmage with the women’s team. The first five players to take the floor for the U.S. were Sue Bird at the point, Taurasi at the shooting guard, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker at the forwards and Sylvia Fowles at center.

Both teams rotated in players throughout the scrimmage, with the exception of Asjha Jones for the U.S. women, who sat out of the practice to get an extra day of rest for a nagging injury. She expects to suit up and participate in full on Sunday.

The men put up a good fight, hurt the women’s team on the boards at times, but overall it was the women’s team that led from start to finish. Auriemma would occasionally stop play to provide instruction, but overall seemed pleased with the execution and effort of his players.

Mike Peden is workin’ the WNBA/Olympic beat over at the Examiner: Olympic speculation morphs to jubilation for USA women

Moore is already a well-versed explorer, representing the United States when they won the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women, and relishes her upcoming trip to further demonstrate female fluency in athletics.

“To get a chance at 23 to represent my country at the Olympics is something I’m going to be smiling about for the rest of my life,” Moore said. “To have Seimone and Lindsay there makes me smile. To come back from injuries and different trials that Seimone did, it’s really fun and there’s going to be a comfort level with those two.”

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Asjha Jones

“It’s an honor,” said Jones. “My mom, everyone in my family is so excited for me. I think it’s exciting how people respond to you when you tell them. A lot of people want to cry. Just to see the way people react to the news is really special. I’m really exited. I’m so excited to be a part of this.

Add on: From Mechelle: Why did Jones addition happen now?

Now, before anyone starts grumbling about this being a case of the college-connection version of nepotism, remember that Auriemma doesn’t pick the team. He has input, but a committee makes the decisions about who fills the Team USA roster. National team director Carol Callan heads up the committee; the other members are five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, San Antonio Silver Stars coach/GM Dan Hughes, Indiana Fever GM/CEO Kelly Krauskopf and WNBA executive Renee Brown.

Additional add on/flashback from AP Doug: US women’s Olympic team soon to be unveiled

One of the hardest tasks for any coach is cutting players.

It’s even more difficult when many of the players involved have helped you reach the pinnacle of your profession.

Fortunately for U.S. women’s national basketball coach Geno Auriemma, those decisions are made by a five-member selection committee. Sure the UConn coach gives a lot of input on whom he would like on the Olympic team, but the committee has the final say.

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Mechelle on Ms. Jones:

“She doesn’t need to warm up much; she comes out and she’s hitting shots right away,” he said. “She does a pregame shooting routine that’s probably the shortest of anybody on our team, but it works for her. It’s like a machine — somewhere along the line when she was younger, she was well-taught.

“She’s a leader, but it’s not because she says a lot. The players joke about it: If you get the ‘Asjha look’ in your direction, you know it’s time to buckle down. When she does speak, it gets quiet.”

Mechelle on Catch

Yes, Tamika Catchings is in her 30s now and still looking for her first WNBA championship. Her beloved college coach, Pat Summitt, went public this summer with the diagnosis of a serious illness, and Catchings has dedicated this season to her.

But Catchings really doesn’t need any add-on motivators. She never has. You could say that is the case with most great athletes. It’s just especially so with Catchings, who has done about all there is to do in her basketball career except these two things:

1. Win a WNBA title;
2. Find her “off ” switch.

Mechelle (gosh, she’s been busy!) on the Lynx: Can Lynx go from worst to first?

It’s hard to be a long-term, consistent success. Even the best franchises have down seasons. Even the best front-office leadership can make mistakes with personnel. Players’ injuries and the failure of certain prospects to ever reach their projected potential are variables that are nearly impossible to predict.

But the most successful franchises generally maintain stability through the toughest times. They prepare well for both the best and the worst happening. Yes, it’s much easier said than done. But if the Lynx really had a long-term plan, it wasn’t evident.

Read a Michelle Smith preview of the Lynx-SASS and the Merc-Storm. Then revisit her Lib-Indy preview and take a gander at the Dream-Sun preview.

Don’t want to do that much reading? Check out the Video

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Dishin’ and Swishin’ you’ve missed this:

Tiffany Jackson, Forward, Tulsa Shock

Asjha Jones, Forward, Connecticut Sun 

Alex Chambers, Author, 13 Teams: One Man’s Journey with the WNBA
Alex became known as the WNBA’s Superfan when a couple of years ago he went on a journey to see every WNBA city in the span of around one month.  Alex has now put his memories and thoughts on paper, and on July 15th  his book will be available at Amazon.com Alex and David discuss the WNBA, his journey, and share a few stories.  Listen to this and you’ll see why you have to buy this book!

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shouldn’t have been named to the US National Team, it’s always useful to wait until the games have actually been played to render judgment: Second unit provides spark, US routs Canada 87-46

Lindsay Whalen scored 16 points to lead the United States to a 87-46 win over Canada on Monday night in the second round of the women’s basketball world championship.

Swin Cash and Asjha Jones each added 10 for the Americans (4-0). The U.S. will face Belarus on Tuesday.

For the second straight game the U.S. got off to a slow start as Canada jumped out to an 11-5 lead with 4:27 left in the first quarter. It was the biggest deficit the Americans had faced in the tournament. Coach Geno Auriemma put in his second group led by Whalen, Angel McCoughtry and Tina Charles and they quickly provided an immediate spark, blowing the game open.

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Connecticut’s Asjha Jones

For Asjha Jones of the Connecticut Sun, resilience is simply in her nature. The nine-year pro has been a staple of consistency during her time in the league and the same mindset has been true off the court. In fact, the vicious nature of cancer has, unfortunately, been a part of her life since early childhood.

“It seems like cancer keeps popping up everywhere,” Jones said. “It’s kind of always been there. My grandmother passed away when I was really young, maybe three or four, my father’s significant other passed away, and one of my mom’s really good friends is battling currently.”

From Michelle Smith at Fanhouse: Katie Douglas Puts Heart, Experience Into Breast Health Awareness Week

…as the WNBA‘s Breast Health Awareness Week winds down Tuesday with the Indiana Fever’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks, Douglas, the Fever guard, said it’s been an “extremely positive and powerful week for me.”

“I would love for my mother to be at my games and it’s been almost 11 years since she died,” Douglas said. “I’m doing everything in my power to make her proud.”

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