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the MSG employee (and her fabulous family) who offered me a seat with her “group” so that I could be near the two South Korean students who I escorted to their first Liberty game. She’s a two-time cancer survivor, with three young children who are GREAT company. So. Much. Fun. And so much generosity of spirit. A classic WNBA experience.

Of course, it helped that the Liberty won. Not to be a party pooper, but when it takes the ferocious effort of the soon-to-be-retiring Swin to inspire your team to to a close win over a struggling team... I’m not impressed.

On the flip side, a shout out to the “Not in MY house” Dream who stopped the Sparks.  With authority. Admit it – you lost money on that bet.

“We just wanted it,” McCoughtry said. “I told the team this was the game that could be the turnaround for our season. If we can beat them, we can beat anybody in this league. I hope the girls take this win and build their confidence so we can contend in this league and do some damage.”

Sucky Sancho news, though.

In case you haven’t notices, Elena is DAMN good. Delle Donne Brings Versatility To Life In MVP-Caliber Performance

As the Sky make their push for the playoffs over the last dozen games, they’ll need EDD at her MVP-best. Which is right where she was on Sunday in Seattle. 

Delle Donne poured in 35 points on a neat 14-for-24 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, and drained the game-winning three right over Breanna Stewart’s outstretched arm with just one second remaining.

For the geeks amongst us: Free Basketball: Analyzing The Historic Number Of WNBA Overtime Games

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But I gotta say, with all the hate and horror this past week, I have to wonder about Skylar’s tweet:

Some of the comments I heard from the fans last night disgusted me. Completely unnecessary and nothing to do with ball.

Not. Okay. SO not okay.

Speaking of NOT OKAYBrittney Griner Responds To Happy Father’s Day Trolls On Twitter

Speaking of ALSO NOT OKAY: Who the hell writes your headlines AP/ESPN? This is what you produce after a three-overtime game? Wings beat Mercury in 3OT in first game between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson since divorce Take a moment sports and copy editors and look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who do I work for, a sports site or a gossip rag?”

Now, about that triple-OT game. It was a doozy – with lot of basketball drama. From Swish Appeal: 

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello was quick to give Dallas credit for their resilience.

“We just didn’t have the energy, we built that seven-point lead, and we got some wide open three’s and we just broke down,” Brondello said. “This (Dallas) is a team that has a lot of confidence; Skylar Diggins got back into the flow of her game. We were on our back foot, obviously, foul trouble hurt us – when Diana went out.”

From Jeff Metcalfe: 

The Mercury (4-8) dropped the second of back-to-back games after losing Friday in Los Angeles and fall to four games under .500 for the third time.

“We let it slip away,” said Taylor, who scored 21 points. Taylor said she did not commit a foul with 15.5 seconds left but was told by the official “that he thought I wanted to foul. But I didn’t. It was a game we had control of but had too many mistakes and too many breakdowns. We have to take a look at ourselves and try and turn it around.”

BTW @WNBA – any way you can contact google and inform them that the Shock are no longer the Shock?

Dream: Carla Cortijo embraces role as WNBA’s only Puerto Rican-born player

Yes! LeBron, Russell Westbrook praise WNBA in new ad set to debut Monday night and Hell, yes! WNBA’s Nneka Ogwumike shot the ball 20 times in a game and didn’t miss

Cool: Sports Humanitarian finalists: Brent Burns, Tina Charles, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Paul

Fever: USC’s Mitchell thriving in WNBA

“I think this put me in the best situation, honestly,” said Mitchell. “I use it as motivation just because I felt I could have been a higher draft pick. But, at the end of the day, I knew I was going to make the most out of any opportunity I had and I had to put my best foot forward.”

Yes, yes, how soon does June 21st get here!?!??!?!? WNBA Power Rankings: Minnesota Lynx, LA Sparks Continue Early Dominance From Michelle: 

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve looked around after practice and saw nearly 50 members of the media there to greet her and her Lynx players to talk about being on the cusp of the best start in WNBA history.

“There are a lot of people here, something must be going on,” Reeve said with a chuckle.

That good humor is hard-earned, as Minnesota has stormed out to a 10-0 record to open the season, matching the best start in WNBA history.

LaChina’s Podcast: 

On this week’s “Around the Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson covers the Lynx’s historic start to the WNBA season and speaks with two of the game’s brightest stars — Sky rookie Imani Boyette and three-time WNBA champion and Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

Flashback time: Twenty years later, a look back at WNBA’s first game

“All those games I’d watched as a kid, the Celtics-Lakers games, it was in that building, on that court,” said Lobo, who finished the first game with 16 points and six rebounds. “It was that same kind of atmosphere in terms of a lot of fans there, TV cameras right there. It felt big.

“The game itself I remember us winning, which was important. But there was just so much around it that is even a bigger memory to me than some of the things that happened on the court.”

AdiosFormer UConn star Swin Cash on WNBA farewell tour and Retiring Swin Cash trying to stay in the moment in final WNBA season

And yes, I know they’re doing a “Top 20 of the last 20 (WNBA 20th Season Celebration Will Honor 20 Greatest Players),” and Mel’s asked for your input (WNBA Top 20 All-Time Players: The Guru Offers You the Chance to be His Committee but all those lists do is start arguments vs. discussions of the game. Me? I’d rather they just put in them in (reverse) alphabetical order…

Babcock McGraw: Parker, Catchings among 20 best players in WNBA’s 20-year history

International: China, France, Spain and Turkey clinch women’s basketball places at Rio 2016

Geno Auriemma getting ready for run with U.S. women’s national team

BTW: Coming to New York for the USA National team game on July 31st? Gimme a holler – maybe we can meet for dinner afterward? (And if you want to avoid ticket fees, I can pick up seats for you too – womenshoopsblog@gmail.com

Also: It’s to early to plan for FIBA 2018/Spain… but it sure ain’t too early to start saving for the trip….hint, hint, hint.

NCAA: 

Goodbye/hello: St. Bonaventure women’s basketball Miranda Drummond transfers to Syracuse

Goodbye? Morgan State reassigns women’s basketball coach Donald Beasley

Oregon Ducks women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves excited about incoming recruiting class

Coach Jeff Mittie seeks faster pace from K-State women’s basketball team

Congrats:

The 1991-92 and 1992-93 Arkansas Tech University women’s basketball teams have been selected for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
 
The Golden Suns of the early 1990s are the only four-year college basketball teams from the State of Arkansas to ever win back-to-back national championships.

Another Library addition: Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life and Q&A with women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

Less than a month after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2013, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her new book, “Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life,” details her battle and eventual triumph disease. 

High School: Two girls’ basketball players in Ky. sue coach for bullying, intimidation

Two graduating seniors are now suing their prep basketball coach, accusing him of bullying, abuse and intimidation.

Four months after finishing their Muhlenberg County (Greenville, Ky.) girls’ basketball careers, Makayla Sampson and Kerra Vincent are seeking disciplinary measures against Lady Mustangs coach Mike Harper as well as compensation for the injuries and resulting medical treatment they say he forced them to play through, according to WBKO-TV.

Ball: Women’s rec basketball gets a starring role in new Pistol Shrimps documentary

The pistol shrimp is a ferocious creature the size of a human finger, armed with a deadly, oversized claw that functions like a handgun, sending tiny air bullets speeding at 60-plus miles per hour toward its victim. These Pistol Shrimps are 13 women on a rec league basketball team in Los Angeles. They, too, are fierce. They’re funny. They have their own dance team. And last season, they almost went undefeated. So, so close.

The Shrimps’ chase to the L.A. City Municipal Women’s Basketball League division championship provides the backdrop for a new documentary, “The Pistol Shrimps,” which introduces viewers to the most famous women’s intramural team in the world, and is only tangentially about the game of basketball.

“From the outside, we look like an unassuming basketball team,” says singer/songwriter/point guard Jesse Thomas, No. 99 on the Pistol Shrimps. “But after you watch the movie, you realize there’s a lot more going on than just basketball. It’s inspirational.”

From Deadline: ‘The Pistol Shrimps’ Tribeca Trailer: These Women Are Ballers On And Off The Court

Warning to haters from Pistol Shrimp baller Aubrey Plaza, just in time for the NBA Playoffs: “You’re either with us or you’re against us — and God help you if you’re against us because we will dunk on your ass so hard!” Here’s a first look at The Pistol Shrimps, a docu-take on the basketball collective made up of actresses, comics and attitude. Shocked — shocked! — to learn that there were no women’s leagues in Los Angeles, they formed their own, and a hard-fouling, trash-spewing semi-juggernaut was born.

 

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Welp – I guess the cream of the West showed the Challengers of the East, huh?

Fare-the-well:  Inside The W with Michelle Smith

Swin Cash was on a conference call for the WNBA on Monday morning, talking with reporters in conjunction with Tuesday night’s nationally televised game between the Sparks and Liberty, which is an anniversary rematch of the first-ever WNBA game back in 1997.

She was, as always, a passionate, eloquent advocate for the league, a veteran spokeswoman for her team, and as it turns out, a soon-to-be-retiree.

Cash announced Tuesday morning via a personal essay for The Players Tribune that she will be ending her decorated WNBA career at the end of the 2016 season.

Social Reaction: Swin Cash’s Retirement

Film Room: Running Down a Dream

Candace Parker Provides Perfect Spark

Crap: Chicago Sky loses guard Laney to season-ending knee injury –

WATN? WNBA star Nicole (Ohlde) Johnson: Never give up

NCAA

“In the recent months, there have been accusations and false attacks made of my character and coaching,” Swoopes said in a statement released by a public relations firm. “I stand proudly in my values, actions and intent of representing the best interests for students — as athletes, but more importantly as individuals.

High/Middle School

Thank you : Master at his Craft: Longtime Collinsville Middle School girls basketball coach retires

After 30 years and more than 600 victories as a girls basketball coach at Collinsville Middle School, formerly North Junior High, Greg Craft is calling it a career.

Craft, 55, retired in May as a science teacher and coach. More than anything, he will miss the relationships he’s built with players during the last three decades, and it’s that aspect of retirement that has Craft not ready to completely say good-bye.

WBHOF

June Courteau first heard an official’s whistle while growing up in Minnesota, specifically when she exceeded the three-dribble limit during a high school physical education class. Her reaction was swift and pointed.

“I told the teacher ‘that’s stupid,’ ” she said.

Courteau undoubtedly has been on the other side of such a comment. She has 45 years worth of experience in officiating. She worked for decades on the court in the heat of the moment. She now oversees such work as the NCAA coordinator of officials.

It’s hard to separate Natalie Williams the basketball star from her volleyball alter ego. This weekend’s festivities in Knoxville will constitute a supreme effort in that regard.
Since she was on a basketball scholarship at UCLA, Williams considered herself to be a volleyball walk-on. She was a four-time All-American walk-on (1989-1992) who helped lead the Bruins to volleyball national championships in 1990 and 1991. She was the first woman to receive All-American honors in both sports in the same school year (1992-93).

Sherri Coale, in her own words
Summitt’s stand re-launched OU women’s basketball, and ignited a Hall of Fame coaching career
Friends and Foes: Conradt, Sharp Reflect on Coale
Sherri Coale has been model of consistency at Oklahoma

The AAU girls basketball tournaments that span age groups and take place throughout the country serve to promote the sport. They also honor and preserve the legacy of Bill Tipps.Eddie Clinton is involved with the AAU program in West Tennessee and benefitted from Tipps’ assistance as the organization’s national chair. Clinton saw firsthand Tipps’ people skills and diligence in action. “It was a labor of love for Bill,” Clinton said. “Whatever it took to build girls basketball, he wanted to do. Girls basketball would not be what it is today without Bill Tipps.

“We’re girls and we just want to have fun,” said 90-year-old Mary Wersells, the first girls’ basketball coach at Simeon High School as she reflected on the history of the sport.

Nearly four decades ago, Title IX was enforced which prohibited discrimination against female athletes. This opened the doors for pioneers in Chicago like Wersells and 81-year-old Narcissa Roberts, who became the first girls’ basketball coach at Corliss High School in 1973.

INTERNATIONAL
Library Additions: 
Rise and Fire by Shawn Fury. Writes Shawn:
The book basically traces the jump shot’s influence on the game from the time of its introduction to today’s dominance of the 3-pointer. But along the way I take a lot of detours and one chapter focuses on the 1968 Iowa girls title game. It featured the shooting exploits of Jeanette Olson and Denise Long. I write about both players and that famous game and then of course about Denise being drafted by the Warriors. It was my editor’s favorite chapter in the book and several reviews have noted it, including the Washington Post’s.

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HOT

Even in first gear, 1. Minnesota and 2. Los Angeles look inevitable. Shifting the WNBA Playoff format may have been one of the best decisions the league has made in the last 10 years.

Can the Lynx be the Warriors of the WNBA this season? Should they try?

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

3. Yesterday’s game against Washington notwithstanding, Atlanta seems to have finally all its talent together. Can Angel continue to “trust” and can her teammates continue to show up…

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

Sitting in the parking lot of Austell’s Riverside EPICenter, where his team practices, Dream coach Michael Cooper said there are two reasons why the WNBA squad is 5-1 and atop the Eastern Conference after finishing fifth and missing the playoffs last year.

The first is an upgrade at center and at point guard.

The second reason given by Cooper was chemistry. Leading scorer Angel McCoughtry referred to it as positivity after Sunday’s win over Chicago.

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

4. New York: Interesting comment from last night’s Seattle/NY broadcast – when leading by 7 last year, the Lib did. not. lose. That’s been an issue this year – the Storm’s comeback attempt is a case in point. Charles is on fire, and Sugar is smokin’, but the rest of the team is a question mark – do the show up (hello, Indiana game) or not? Much of the Lib’s future will depend on Prince’s ability to return (post Olympics?) to create a more consistent inside/outside balance.

5. Indiana: The team that defeated Atlanta on opening day was not the team that showed up at the Garden on Friday. Dunno how much Maggie Lucas’s injury will impact the team as a whole (or knowing they’ll be working for a new coach next year), but, the good news is…

Rookie Report: Tiffany Mitchell Shining For The Indiana Fever and Fever’s January still working back from knee injury

6. Chicago: Now that Sloot is back, perhaps we’ll see their real potential

The Sky’s not the limit: DePaul alum Allie Quigley an integral part of the Chicago Sky

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

After a rough start to their season, the Chicago Sky are getting back on track. Last season, they compensated for a lackluster defense by outrunning and outgunning the competition, playing plenty of three-guard lineups with Elena Delle Donne at the 4.

This year, things are a little different. With their center position log-jammed, coach Pokey Chatman has had to figure out minutes distributions for her post players, which has led to larger lineups and a lack of continuity at the 5.

Despite this, the Sky have retained their success on offense, and after starting 1-4, they’ve won their last three games to vault them back into playoff contention. 

And: Wrigley’s World: Sky star Elena Delle Donne’s four-legged fan

7. Dallas: Young and Gun. This early in their Texas career it’s important to win on their home court. Or, if they’re going to lose, lose with high scoring enthusiasm. Eventually, though, the word “defense” will have to enter their play.. ditto health.

8. Seattle: Not sure what to make of them, but the Stewie/Loyd pairing is sure sweet (sometimes). How quickly can Boucek mold old and new?

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

Q and A: Breanna Stewart On Transition to Storm And Going Back To Connecticut

On Friday, Breanna Stewart returns to Connecticut for the first time since leaving UConn just a few months ago. Ahead of the Storm’s meeting with the Sun (7 PM ET, WNBA League Pass), Breanna Stewart talked to reporters about adjusting to the WNBA, her partnership with Jewell Loyd, and what it will be like to return to Connecticut.

9. Washington: Bill’s early advice was to “get healthy.” They’re getting there (as their win over Atlanta showed). Will it hold?

HOT MESS

10. San Antonio: I love Dan Hughes, but what on earth has he wrought? GM Ruth will have some reorganizing to do. Are Peters and Jefferson strong enough building blocks?

11. Phoenix – They look at sixes and sevens, with not-good rumors floating… NOT what the fans (or the GMs) expected, no?

.com: Petrovich Molds All-World Talent into Reserve Role for Mercury

Scottsdale Health; Diana Taurasi: Back, and Better Than Ever

12. Connecticut: Would love to talk to coach about his learning curve.

The message on Friday from Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was pretty simple.

If his players don’t want to put out the effort that he wants in the game plan that he has devised, than they just aren’t going to play for him.

“Everyone in this league wants to play and you have to reward people when they are playing hard and when they are playing efficiently,” Miller said following the loss to Atlanta on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

To the fans, please be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In other news:

SlamOnline: Go Ahead and Respect It How going to a WNBA game changed one man’s outlook on the women’s game.

I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t a fan of the WNBA growing up.

I didn’t pay much attention to their games, even though I knew a few of their stars (Lisa Lesile, Sue Bird and Becky Hammon). Heck, I didn’t even watch those dominant, title-winning women teams at UConn. All because I thought watching women’s basketball, wasn’t a “cool” thing to do.

Who, as a male sports fan, watches that stuff? (Insert sarcasm and misogyny.)

Unfortunately, our counterparts receive a bad reputation for their game. You’ll hear offensive comments regarding their skills, looks and even sexuality. Despite having backing from the NBA and an aggressive public relations plan, the WNBA can often struggle to catch America’s attention.

But something changed for me last Tuesday, as I covered the New York Liberty vs Atlanta Dream game at Madison Square Garden.

LaChina: ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: All about chemistry

On this week’s “Around The Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson and this week’s special guest host former WNBA All-Star Chasity Melvin delve into the discussion of team chemistry.

The two highlight how the Mercury are finally showing signs of gelling together, how the Lynx haven’t missed a beat this season, which rookies are shining in the first weeks and give their take on the first-ever WNBA AP rankings. Plus, they share their picks for the NBA Finals.

Think the WNBA is in Trouble? Let’s Talk Some NBA History

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

Early on, no player more important to WNBA than Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

For those interested in expansion: Women’s hoops league to put team in Nashville

NCAA

Excelle Sports feature on ESPN’s Holly Rowe details workload covering women’s basketball

As Breanna Stewart walks to center court for the tip-off at the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a murmured buzz runs through the crowd that’s seated courtside. But it’s not for Stewart, the most recognizable name in the women’s college game, or even for UConn, the mecca of women’s college basketball.

“It’s Holly Rowe,” someone says over my shoulder, pointing toward the court. Sure enough, Rowe glides past in a navy blue dress and heels, smiling to the fans who shout her name and stopping to shake hands or hug those who extend a greeting.

Throughout the game, Rowe, a longtime ESPN sideline reporter, hustles from one bench to the next and works her way up and down the sideline, stopping only briefly to review notes or chat with the occasional fellow member of press row before dashing off to cover the next on-air moment.

Flashback to the Old Big East days: Bulger sisters sparked WVU women’s hoops success

Re: Duke Transfer: UConn Fans Are Going To Like Azura Stevens, Says ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli

As Azura Stevens was emerging as a college prospect at Cary High in North Carolina, analyst Debbie Antonelli took special interest.

Stevens, after all, was playing for Antonelli’s alma mater. Before playing for Kay Yow at North Carolina State, Antonelli — then Debbie Mulligan — played basketball at Cary High.

So Antonelli has a history with Stevens, who recently transferred from Duke to UConn. And as an analyst for many ACC games, Antonelli has watched Stevens develop during her first two years of college.

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

Speaking of transfers: McDonald’s All American Lindsey Corsaro commits to UCLA after getting release from Kentucky

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

Scott Rueck’s ‘vision of what elite is is even more clear’ after Final Four run

In this wide-ranging conversation with The Oregonian/OregonLive, Rueck reflects on the memorable season and looks ahead to what’s next for the Beavers. 

It’s officially June. Have you finally had a chance to really step back and reflect on everything that happened this past season?

From time to time, because it comes up so much with people. There’s obviously been a lot of conversation about it. I don’t know if you step back and look at the whole picture, really. I don’t know when that will happen, necessarily. But just the specific moments that come up have been fun to go back and look at. I’ve watched our highlight video a few times. That was really well-done and that brings back vivid memories. There’s a lot of reliving the Baylor game with all of us. That’s the one that tends to come up the most. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Women’s Basketball: Ohio set to dominate the MAC again

Dumping high expectations on a team certainly doesn’t make playing any less stressful.

That was the reality Ohio struggled with all last season, a year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, with a returning roster that could produce the best result in program history.

Yes, there was pressure. At times, that led to visible stress.

Embrace the Challenge: Courtney Banghart and the Tasks Ahead for Women’s Basketball

On the right wall in Courtney Banghart’s office is a framed article: Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders from 2015. There, her name and accomplishments are listed alongside people such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Banghart’s lead of the Princeton women’s basketball team to a 30-0 regular season, and the first NCAA win in the program’s history, earned her a continuous spotlight all season long.

As a leader in the national spotlight, her abilities to guide her team are tested night in and night out. But this upcoming season could be one of the most unpredictable for her in many seasons. She is forced to handle not just a drastically changing roster but also a league continuously growing and evolving.

Hello! UCF WBB adds 8-time WNBA All-Star Nykesha Sales to coaching staff

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

Stay put: Purdue’s Versyp Granted 6-Year Contract Extension

Bye: Purdue’s Komara to join White’s staff at Vanderbilt

Shoo: Alabama women’s basketball program moving games out of Foster Auditorium

After four years playing in a refurbished Foster Auditorium, Alabama women’s basketball is moving back a few blocks to Coleman Coliseum.

The school announced the move Tuesday morning as coach Kristi Curry expressed her desire to create an electric game-day atmosphere. Foster Auditorium holds 3,800 while Coleman Coliseum seats more than 15,000.

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

The second person Nancy Lieberman called after she got the assistant coaching job with the Sacramento Kings was Muhammad Ali.

She shared her first memory of seeing ‘The Greatest’ at the age of 10.

“Late 60’s early 70’s, you know, people were telling me, you know, I’m stupid, I’m dumb, I’m never going to make anything of myself, girls don’t play sports and I saw this man on T.V. you know, defying the odds and saying he was the greatest of all time,” said Lieberman.

It wasn’t until she was 19 or 20 years old when she met him.

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

The Australian women’s basketball team have received a taste of what to expect at the Rio Olympics in a 58-55 loss to Spain before Spanish fans.

After smashing Argentina by 42 points in the first game of their European tour a day earlier, the world No.2 Opals had a much tougher task against world No.3 Spain in San Fernando on Tuesday morning (AEST).

Team Canada’s Tatham promoting women’s basketball to next generation

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

A top U.S. coach is in the Gaza Strip to help set up the territory’s first female wheelchair basketball team.

“I think for Gaza this is a very unique thing,” said the trainer, Jess Markt. “I think there are not so many opportunities for women to play sports here, and particularly for disabled women.”

Markt, 40, was a track athlete until 21 years ago when he suffered a severed spinal cord in a car accident. Three years later, he began playing basketball and in recent years he has coached wheelchair teams in Afghanistan, India and Cambodia.

POLITICS

Women’s Sports Foundation Report:
Coaches of Women’s College Sports Face Widespread Gender Bias; Many Fear Speaking Out

80% of female coaches believe it is easier for male coaches to secure high-level jobs  

Today the Women’s Sports Foundation released, “Beyond X’s & O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College sports,” the first study to measure the issue of gender bias in coaching of women’s college sports on a systemic basis.

The findings confirm that there is a systemic gender bias directed at female coaches of women’s sports; it is not sporadic or limited to a few institutions. As a result, women face limitations in pay and professional advancement in the coaching workplace. And it’s a trend showing no signs of improvement. 

(Yes, this is politics) Naomi Jackson at espnW: On loving broken women and Brittney Griner

Everything in my life has prepared me to love damaged women, women who drag their broken wings behind them “like a decoy,” as poet R. Erica Doyle writes in her collection, “Proxy.”

“You hold back enough to keep them curious. Women like that. Wounded enough to be salvageable. Women like that, too. Fixing broken things. Take in the broken wing you drag like a decoy.”

It begins, as everything does, with my mother. Schizophrenic and eventually unable to care for her children, my mother vacillated wildly between affection, praise, bouts of intense creativity and joy and seemingly infinite rounds of melancholy, listlessness and abuse. Living with a mother whose mental illness made her behavior erratic and her presence unreliable made me an expert at reading other women, at shaping my needs, desires, and self to fit their moods.

As I move into grown womanhood, I’m shedding this tendency toward accommodation and emotional acrobatics that put other people’s (lovers, friends, colleagues) needs before my own. I get it wrong sometimes, as humans do, but we make the road by walking.

Jane McManus: It’s time to lift the ‘veil of ignorance’ when it comes to campus assault

Baylor’s former president and chancellor Ken Starr sat with ESPN’s Joe Schad for a televised interview after a Pepper Hamilton report alleged systematic disenfranchisement of students who reported being sexually assaulted by other students, including some players on the football team.

Starr called for transparency and simultaneously hid behind his “veil of ignorance,” a garment that can be found next to the cloaks of deniability in Aisle 5. It’s a gutsy move, calling for others to be forthright when you can’t lead by example.

Starr was evasive throughout the interview, even on a question about how Baylor handled the assault claims.

SO….. what do you think the folks who gave the video below a thumbs down were thinking?

Maybe they like this Onion report: College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed

 

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So, yeah, many of the conference tournaments have started, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have to worry about the first rounds…

“DOH!” says the Ohio Valley. Murray State straight up stuns #1 Tennessee-Martin. How big an upset? The Pacers are 11-16 (7-9) and the Skyhawks are 21-8 (14-2). The Skyhawks just played Murray State to close out the season and beat them by 21. SIEU must be thinkin’ “We don’t screw up, we get into the NCAA.” Of course, Belmont might be thinkin’ the exact same thing.

Fly, Eagles, fly: FGCU leads mid-major rankings into the postseason

If mid-major teams often play with the freedom of nothing to lose in the NCAA tournament, perhaps it’s because they already survived the part of the season when there was everything to lose. With NCAA at-large bids rarely a certainty, a season’s worth of good work can vanish within a few bad minutes in a conference tournament. But with automatic bids soon up for grabs, here is a final look at the rankings.

Wow, being a Clemson Tiger these days must be disheartening. 0-for in conference play.

You stay (Boyle), you go (Butts). This could be a busy list.

Oh, this could get ugly right quick: FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Crap: Theriot Will not Return for HuskersTheriot’s career had great moments, but also disappointment

The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, site of one of the great moments in the career of Rachel Theriot.

In 2014, Theriot helped lead the Huskers to the Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s first title in their new league. Theriot was tournament MVP.

Theriot won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game against Rutgers. The senior point guard had surgery on her foot on Monday. That ends a career filled with lots of great games, but also disappointment, as her junior and senior seasons were each cut short because of injury.

So, I’m pleased that coach Dave Magarity is part of the WBCA’s “COY Region/Nominee” process. But, I’d like to mention that Army (26-2, 17-1) has had a (rather recent) tradition of winning. Bucknell, now 23-6, (17-1), not so much…

“It feels good to get a piece of a championship,” said fourth-year Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “This team has been through so much, and for it to result in a banner in the rafters is very rewarding. I’ve been told Army is one of the better teams in the history of the Patriot League, so for us to match them at 17-1 is an incredible accomplishment.”

Bucknell’s run through the league schedule started with an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Army West Point. The Bison’s lone loss came to the Black Knights and has been followed by their current nine-game winning streak that they will take into the postseason. The streak is tied for the longest in program history.

Woot! to the NCAA’s “Team of the Week:”

Fresh off of claiming the school’s third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.

Speaking of the Miners: UTEP star Turner overcomes struggle and thrives

Growing up in the hardscrabble parts of Dallas, Turner spent some nights on a floor in an apartment with six of her siblings, some at houses of various coaches looking out for her. Some days she ate better than others. Those days, she didn’t pass out in a gym. Some days she did pass out in the gym. Going to practice hungry was common.

Turner learned the rules of the street.

“I saw shootings, killings,” Turner said. “You hear shots and you get down on the ground, protect yourself. I saw lots of drugs, weed, cocaine, prostitution. Not a lot of girls I went to school with went on to college. I wanted to break that cycle; I didn’t want that to be my story.”

But there’s another part to this: Turner isn’t running from anything.

Speaking of players overcoming:

This year has not been what anyone expects of Iowa State, least of all the Cyclones themselves. This is a proud and distinguished program that’s used to the postseason; Iowa State has gone to the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 19 seasons, including the past nine years in a row.

But the Cyclones finished the regular season Tuesday at 13-16 overall after an 82-57 loss to West Virginia.

So why did it still seem like such an uplifting night in Ames, Iowa?

Because Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson was back on the court, after a very emotionally difficult past 10 days in what’s been a challenging season for the Cyclones. Johnson had missed the previous two games while at home in Minnesota with her family after her father, Curtis Johnson, suffered a stroke on Feb. 20.

Speaking of really good players: Courtney Williams worked hard to become one of game’s top players

You’ve heard the story before, countless times. It’s about the high school standout who comes to college and becomes perplexed and frustrated that what once came pretty easily had become challenging.

Common as the scenario is, it’s still a major hurdle to clear for every player who encounters it. But if she does, it’s a process she never forgets.

South Florida senior guard Courtney Williams can attest to this. She has become one of the top players in college, and is looking forward to a professional career. But she had to go through that “what I am doing wrong?” phase at one point, too.

Ladies, start your engines! UConn ready to raise the bar even higher in postseason

The undefeated Huskies are like a standout Broadway troupe that has been doing the same show for a while. They have all their lines memorized and know every mark they must hit. So how, when you’ve been essentially nailing it again and again, do you still find another gear?

That’s really the “secret” of championship teams, isn’t it? Even when they appear to be at their best, there’s somewhere else to climb.

“Back in the day, we used to say, there’s regular-season Shea Ralph, and there’s tournament Shea,” Auriemma said of the former Huskies star and current UConn assistant coach who was the most outstanding player of the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “And those are two different things. And we like to think that our team is the same way.

Ya-da-UConn “undefeated” Ya-da-UConn “national champions” Ya-da… NOT UConn?      Johnson County women’s basketball team shooting for perfect season: Defending NJCAA Division II champs are 30-0 entering postseason

The Johnson County Community College women’s basketball program earned its bona fides long ago and its second national championship last season. The Cavaliers are accustomed to winning.

So when coach Ben Conrad says: “It is surprising we haven’t gotten beat. That’s not normal,” it’s apparent something is up.

JCCC begins postseason play Tuesday with a 30-0 record, the first time the Cavaliers have finished the regular season undefeated. All but two of those wins have come by double digits. Most of those double-digit wins have been margins rarely seen outside of video games.

Looking ahead, Charlie says: NCAA’s final reveal holds small clues for Selection Monday

Mechelle, who’s been writing up a storm, notes: Bubble teams look to make big noise during Championship Week

In the five major conferences — which accounted for five automatic and 27 at-large NCAA berths last year — there are some bubble guppies and bubble sharks. The guppies don’t have much NCAA tournament history, while the sharks do — but as the “bubble” part of their description suggests, both are in precarious positions in regard to this year’s tournament.

Let’s take a quick look around the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as they get set to face off for conference supremacy and automatic tickets to the Big Dance.

Check out the ‘Around the Rim’: Championship Week Preview podcast with Chiney and LaChina

During the first half, the two are joined by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn to discuss if UConn’s recent slow starts should be concerning, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola’s retirement and her comments on “players’ entitlement” and front-runners for the national coach of the year award.

In the second half of the show, the duo chat with espnW’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme who breaks down the significance of the upcoming conference tournaments and sheds light on which teams could make a case for a tournament bid this weekend.

Connecticut’s WNBA Team Is More (and Less) Tied to UConn Than You Might Think

…as UConn continues its skyward trajectory under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Sun look toward the 2016 season — the WNBA’s 20th — facing an uphill climb, and a clear goal to strengthen its place in the state’s women’s basketball market after a run of disappointing seasons.

The best way to do that? Win.

“For us, it’s going to come down to: how do we legitimize ourselves?” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s vice president and general manager. “People know who we are. We’ve done great things. We have to win a championship. I think that’s when people start putting us in the same conversation with UConn.”

Hello, Prez! Atlanta Dream names Theresa Wenzel new president

WATN? Jessica Davenport: A Global Basketball Journey Close To Home

One Last Time: Q&A with WNBA star, Olympian and author Tamika Catchings

In her new book, “Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion,” co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.

Thanks for the story, Sally: Going on offense vs. Down syndrome: Most people saw limits for Frankie Antonelli. Parents Frank and Debbie saw potential.

They had counted with an unthinking confidence on having healthy kids, maybe even a team roster’s worth. She played basketball at North Carolina State before becoming a sportscaster, and he hit .400 for the Columbia University baseball team before making a career in elite sports management, and they hoped to add some quality little strivers to the general population. Their first child was an easy birth, and they were so confident of their second that she played nine holes of golf the day he was born. Then he came out scrunched up with the cord around his neck, and holes in his heart.

The doctors spoke in dead-end terms, even the ones who tried to be positive. Though it was 1997 and not the Victorian Age, one said, “Don’t let anybody tell you to institutionalize him.” Statistics showed most Down syndrome children would not see 50.

He won’t develop properly, they said, or play games like other children. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words can’t and won’t,” Debbie says. Defeatist words. They seemed to apply as much to her, as to him. You can’t have a career with a disabled child. You won’t be able to work.

But the Antonellis were athletes, and athletes don’t deal in can’t and won’t. They deal in can, and will.

Eighteen years later, Frankie Antonelli is a junior in high school with sparkling eyes, and a well-defined V shape from fitness training. “Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m a celebrity,” he says, wise-guy-like as he introduces himself to a reporter. With a motor-speech impediment that doesn’t dull his meaning, he proceeds to argue with some spirit that he’s the best basketball player in the Antonelli Driveway Series.

Video: Coordinator of Pac-12 women’s basketball officiating Violet Palmer reflects on a pioneering career

Congrats to Brenda VanLengen, winner of the 2016 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

On a dabnabbit, but congrats note, WHB fave Jim Massie is closing up shop at the Columbus Dispatch. Hopefully he’s at the top of the Mel list next year.

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Lombard headed to women’s basketball HOF

Lombard will start his 38th year coaching girls high school basketball this fall owning a record of 1,165-109 [Holy CARP!!! WHB]. He reached his 1,000th win before losing 100 games.

Lombard spent seven years at Nazareth and the remaining 30 years at Canyon High. He has won 17 Texas high school state girls basketball championships. The latest title was won last year.

“I’m very much looking forward to the trip to Tennessee,” Lombard said. “But no much more than looking forward to our next basketball season. The year-to-year seasons still excite me. I know it sounds crazy but I still even enjoy preparing for practice.”

Cool! Basketball star Kia Nurse to carry Canadian flag at Pan Am closing

“I’m super ecstatic, and I wish (my whole team) could be here,” Nurse said. “All 12 of us would definitely attempt to hold the flag together and wave. But I’m so pumped for this and really excited and fortunate to have the opportunity.”

Not really a surprise: Analysis finds ties between wealth, winning in NC high school sports

Okay, a little less cranky about there not being an opponent set for UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic, but I would appreciate the SEC schedulers FIXING THIS

Auriemma said UConn’s hope to play in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden is in jeopardy. An SEC scheduling modification has apparently taken Kentucky out of the mix and the Huskies may now be looking at just another nonconference game away from the Dixon format. 

As we head into the second half of the season, Michelle has a team-by-team midseason report card.

The second half of the WNBA has arrived, and while Minnesota appears to be the front-runner, the list of potential title contenders appears longer — or at least perhaps less obvious — than it has in the past few seasons.

Remember the preseason picks? Ouch:

Atlanta Record: 7-10
Grade: C-minus

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… a hard working, fast-paced, everyone plays kinda of team (and no Isiah Thomas in the house), but i know better than to trust early W returns. Yes, the win vs. the Dream was against a team with its full compliment of players, but the same cannot be said for the W’s v. Phoenix and Indy.

That being said, Tina is playing like she gives a hoot about basketball, Essence is playing like her body is 100%, and Boyd is bringing a Becky-esque energy to the floor. And we’re undefeated at home. Can’t ask or much more than that…except, maybe, Piph returning early and healthy.

The Dream – everyone’s “with caveats” anointed Eastern champ stumbled badly out of the gate. They seemed to have regained their footing, coming away with a tough win over the Mystics, who had been galloping out of the gates.

Speaking of galloping, how about the Connecticut Sun? Most folks didn’t think they even had a horse in the race!

Storm warnings in Seattle, as Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis discover just how hard it is to adjust to the WNBA’s skill level and pace.

Catch and Shavonte are working herself back into both sides of the lineup and Indiana is happy.

It’s not easy being Cardinal: Former Stanford players get WNBA season off to rough start

For an overview on the season so far, check out Jeff House in da house. 

Scatter shooting around the W, after the opening weekend of games, and there were a few games that catch the eye and make me say, “Hmmmm.”

Pitt’s McConnell-Serio embraces new rules for women’s basketballGary Blair Reacts To NCAA Women’s Basketball Rule Changes  and Mike Strange: Men’s basketball should be watching women’srule changes

If there’s a wall, build around it: Muslim Girls Design Their Own Culturally Appropriate Basketball Uniforms

WBHOF: 

When Door Opened For Women’s League, Lisa Leslie Walked Through It

Lisa Leslie, former OSU coach Kurt Budke among inductees into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

On the day before the Fever honor Lauren, she’s Honored By Indiana Basketball Hall Of Fame

A woman who never even met the late Lauren Hill was so touched by her story that she donated an engraved brick in her name to the the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The brick reads: “Lauren Hill: Hero.”

Swoop, there it goes: Nike (NKE) Becomes Exclusive Oncourt Apparel Provider for the NBA, WNBA

Long-term NCAA planning: 

The pre-season WNIT field is set.

Not yet set is the Maggie Dixon Classic at MSG… but rumors include Kentucky and UConn. Maybe we can break 180 WHB tixs??

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Quigley, other WNBA players to miss games for Euro tourney

New York’s Epiphanny Prince (Russia), Los Angeles’ Kristi Toliver (Slovakia), Indiana’s Shavonte Zellous (Croatia), Atlanta’s Celine Dumerc (France) and Minnesota’s Anna Cruz (Spain) are among those who will miss WNBA games and face potential fines from their teams or the league.

The winner of the Eurobasket earns a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Yeah, it would be cool to play in the Olympics,” Quigley said. “We’ll see.”

Speaking of Zellous: Zellous wins arbitration case against Turkish club

From Indy: Miss Basketball. National champion at Purdue. WNBA player. Successful college coach. And now Stephanie White is leading the Indiana Fever.

Nearly every one of Stephanie White’s early coaching stops played out void of fanfare.

They include one season as an assistant for the Ball State University women’s basketball team, the following winter in the same position at Kansas State and two years at the University of Toledo.

Have whistle, will travel.

Congrats! Basketball Star Tamika Catchings Named Latest Laureus Ambassador

From Illinois: Who will step up for Sky if Fowles doesn’t play? and As superstar Sylvia Fowles demands a trade, Sky see no limit in WNBA season

From New York: Wiggins feels sense of purpose with Liberty and Bill Laimbeer: ‘My time has passed’ for NBA job

From Georgia: McCoughtry now ‘living my own life’

If I said this were a story about a WNBA player who talked about doing yoga and feeling refreshed … who said she is learning to appreciate sunsets, cookouts and walks in the park … who uses terms like “relaxed” and “lightness” to describe her current state of mind … whom might you guess it was?

Probably not Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, right? While being one of the best women’s basketball players in the world the last several years, McCoughtry often has been paired with adjectives like complex, intense, inscrutable, mercurial and moody.

The lights are on Maya Moore. She knows it. Maybe it explains why she speaks in measured and balanced tones when challenging colleagues, reporters, and as usual, herself.

The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player and dazzling 25-year-old Minnesota Lynx veteran guard wrote an in-depth first-person story for the Players Tribune magazine in April about the lack of visibility for the league, overseas struggles and women’s basketball in general.

In addition to bringing the issues out in the open, Moore offered solutions and suggestions for enhancing the sport during an exclusive discussion with Womhoops Guru (this blog, not the Guru himself) on Wednesday when the Lynx played the Mystics in a preseason game.

A caring, personable ambassador, Moore’s motivation was simple.
From Connecticut: Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas showing off versatility (Which they’ll need, considering all the injuries they’re having.)
In NCAA news, the transfers have landed.
It’s Villanova for former Vol Jannah Turner.
it’s South Carolina for former Yellow Jacket Kaela Davis.
It’s Texas for former Commodore Khaleann Caron-Goudreau.
It’s Oakland for former Blue Demon ShaKeya Graves.

The Savannah State University football program and women’s basketball program have been ruled ineligible for postseason play because of a failure to meet minimum APR scores, according to the NCAA.

In addition, the SSU women’s softball team is facing level one APR penalties and the men’s and the women’s basketball team is facing level two APR penalties while the football team also faces level three APR penalties.

It’s pretty common to hear that Title IX creates a huge financial burden on colleges such that even if a school is lucky enough to be making millions on football or basketball, federal law mandates that a certain amount be spent on women’s sports. Leaving aside how this story implies schools are being forced to support women’s sports against their will (which I hope isn’t true), it also misses the fact that in some circumstances, women’s sports make money.

Yes, so-called “non-revenue” can be profitable. This isn’t saying they always are, because the conditions need to be right; but when they are, a school that is out of compliance with Title IX because it doesn’t have enough women participants could actually add a sport and increase its net cash in-flow after expenditures. Seems counter-intuitive, right? But it’s true. Come join me on a short, economic journey through arithmetic-land, where the only bias is a strong belief that when facts and common sense collide, facts win.

BTW: Joanne is now only  $265 away from her Kickstarter goal of $2500 to support the publishing of “Finding a Way to Play.” That means if 18 WHB readers give $15, not only will they get a free, autographed copy of the book, but they’ll help her reach her goal.
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Come on, folks – love the game? Love its history. Donate.

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Another setback for LJ – which is a real bummer (especially for those of us who were looking forward to seeing her in Turkey!)

More on Milyse Lamkin: Sam Houston coach taught life lessons

Although she was devoted to developing the young athletes she coached into responsible citizens, Lamkin’s commitment to her community didn’t end at the school’s doors. Like her mother, Mildred Lamkin, she believed in making San Antonio’s East Side a better place to live. For example, she was choir director at her church.

“After basketball practice, she would go right to church,” said Sam Houston senior Dajah Thomas, who played three years on Lamkin’s basketball team. “She just helped a lot of people.”

NOW the AJC pays attention? Dream moving forward

To make the postseason in 2015 for the seventh time in the team’s eighth season will require keeping the nucleus of the squad together, as well as finding a few key parts to support the bench.

“I think we have a great foundation,” Cooper said.

A loss for those who cover women’s basketball:Longtime LA Sparks photographer Eric Wade dies

The media core who covers the Sparks every summer has got to know each other over the years. You work for different publications but you work together, and sometimes you become friends. Such was the case with Eric Wade and myself.
Eric had a calming presence, even when speaking about teams and players he was passionate about. He was funny; Just last month he and Sparks forward Jantel Lavender and I engaged in some brief jokes on Twitter. Eric was also observant and kind, and he loved photography. He was always behind the lens, shooting something.

Hats were Eric’s thing. He often wore Kangols, but sometimes opted for the dressier style, as he did the day I took this picture of him taking a picture.

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“Now, That’s More Like It”

So this was the game we were waiting for between Phoenix and Minnesota. The one that felt like a collection of future Hall of Famers trying to out-do each other. The one that had the fans on their feet, screaming their heads off, while the folks watching on television probably felt like they were right there in the thick of it, too.

This is what we thought these Western Conference finals — between the two best teams in the WNBA — would be like. That Friday’s game really wasn’t like that is a tribute to the Mercury. That Sunday’s game did live up to that billing was a tribute to both teams.

Writes Tim Leighton of Twin Cities:

There it sat Sunday, in the middle of the Minnesota Lynx locker-room floor. No player, coach or member of team management got too close for fear of disturbing its aura. The Lynx’s WNBA championship trophy, with its three silver spires holding a basketball, stood as a simple reminder that the Lynx aren’t ready yet to call it a season.

Tom Powers offers this nice turn of phrase:

Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus joined Moore in forming a deadly Game 2 Bermuda Triangle. The trio combined for 72 of the 82 Lynx points. As Reeve often notes, it’s mostly about the stars come playoff time. And the Lynx had all three of theirs shining brightly.

“We always say great players make great plays,” said Augustus. “And you saw that through the night. Great players made great plays for us.”

Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune:

Sunday, midday, the Lynx players were in the locker room for a film session. Coach Cheryl Reeve walked in clutching the 2013 WNBA championship trophy.

She walked over and had Janel McCarville pull on the trophy. Reeve let go, easily. “We can do that,” she said. Then Monica Wright gave it a tug. Reeve held on a little longer, let go. “We can do that,” she said. Then she went to Rebekkah Brunson. Only this time, Reeve took hold with two hands and tore it away.

“It’s ours,” she said. “And we’re not letting it out of here.’’

And then Reeve put the trophy on the floor in the middle of the room and walked out.

Message received.

From Nate Sandell, “special” for the AZ Central folks: 

“Their defense picked up and we stood around,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. “We’re a team built on ball movement, but somebody would get the ball and everybody would stand and just have a look at that person trying to make the play.”

It was a dramatic reversal for the Mercury, whio had proved to be better team for the first seven quarters of the series.

 

From the other Nate: Seimone Augustus caps off Minnesota comeback to win Game 2, 82-77

All-Stars Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen made big plays throughout Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, but fellow Olympian Seimone Augustus was ultimately the hero of the Minnesota Lynx’s 82-77 win over the Phoenix Mercury.

With the game tied at 75 apiece, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called an out-of-bounds play that had Augustus follow Moore around a screen to clear space for a mid-range jumper and Augustus not only converted the shot but also drew a foul for a three point play that put the Lynx up for good.

 

But the Lynx wouldn’t even have been in position to win had it not been for the play of Moore and Whalen prior to that moment.

From Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer: 

Midway through the third quarter, Maya Moore had a look on her face that said it all. Not today, Phoenix. Not today.

Moore scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 second half points, to help keep the Lynx title hopes alive this afternoon at the Target Center. The Lynx struggled earlier on – shooting 14.3 percent in the first quarter (2-for-14) – and faced an uphill climb trailing 22-9 entering the second quarter. But there was no quit in this squad.

Awwwwww….Little League star Mo’Ne Davis adds Game 2 visit to dream summer

In the “other” series, Indiana Fever rookie Maggie Lucas isn’t easing off throttle now

It was mere minutes after the Indiana Fever had beaten the Chicago Sky 77-70 to open the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. Maggie Lucas could have been reflecting on the moment, considering how necessary her eight points turned out to be for the Fever.

Instead, she was in the locker room afterward, lifting weights. She is a “gym rat,” coach Lin Dunn said. First one to arrive, last one to leave.

Michelle writes: Sky’s fate rests with shooting stars – Chicago needs to solve Indiana Fever defense in Game 2

Indiana, led by the defensive stalwart Tamika Catchings, made it tough for Delle Donne to get in any offensive flow. The 12 shots she took were the fewest she had taken in a postseason game.

“The first thing is trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of her hands,” Catchings said. “Not just me, individually, but as a team. We tried to take the ball out of her hands, make it difficult for her to catch it, and when she did, we brought different people out.

“We can do a lot better too.”

Delle Donne and the Sky are thinking in the same terms.

From Brian Sandalow at the Sun-Times: Sky still trying to figure out Fever

While the Sky aren’t fixating on their history with the Fever, they’re aware of it.

“I think everybody kind of thinks about it,” guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It’s not something that we really talk about a lot, but it’s something that I’m sure we all think about. We know who we’ve lost to in the past.

Philip Hersh at the Tribune writes: 

It’s pretty easy to see why the Fever won Saturday night’s opening game of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals 77-70.

Indiana caught the Sky with their guard(s) down.

Indiana’s starting backcourt of Briann January and Shavonte Zellous was simply too much, with its outside shooting and dribble penetration shredding the Sky’s defense.

The Fever guards utterly outplayed starting guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot, both ineffective for the second game in a row.

In the Dishin & Swishin 08/29/14 Podcast: WNBA Eastern Conference Finals coaches Lin Dunn & Pokey Chatman talk about the playoffs

Nate reflects back: 

You can never force the circumstances that create a classic moment in sports, which is part of the very reason we tune in and watch instead of just ignoring games with long odds or abandoning teams that seemingly have no hope.

The best moments are those that somehow manage to define the odds, whether evolving or preceding the first tip and the 2014 WNBA Playoffs has already produced a classic in the first round.

What might be hard to appreciate in retrospect about the Chicago Sky’s dramatic 81-80 win in Game 3 against the Atlanta Dream is that it really seemed like that game was over long before the fourth quarter began.

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DOWN goes L.A. Yikes. As Phoenix moves on, you have to wonder, “Who’s going to come in and get all that Cali talent on track?”

Whoops! Chicago got seriously Angel-fied and the Dream live to fight another day. (Hello, Old Big East!)

We don’t really need a reminder that Angel McCoughtry can completely take over not just playoff games but entire series. Because we’ve seen it happen enough in recent years. Nonetheless, Sunday’s game was indeed another example of how dominant McCoughtry can be on both ends of the court.

And that’s what the Atlanta Dream absolutely needed her to be in order for their season to continue.

On a night of the WNBA playoffs when a more recent No. 1 draft pick — Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (2013) — threw down a dunk and was unstoppable in ending Los Angeles’ season, McCoughtry’s arsenal was even a little more impressive.

And, btw – I have 155 folks joining me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. There’s still time to sign up, if you want to come with: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com

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Didja catch the Dishin & Swishin Podcast: Kara Lawson and the Washington Mystics making noise in crowded Eastern Conference

A nice piece on Essence Carson by The Record’s Kara Yorio: WNBA star, musician Essence Carson still connected to her hometown of Paterson

She was born and raised in a place that struggles under the weight of poverty, crime and a negative reputation.

“As a kid you don’t really realize anything,” she said one day recently while driving through Paterson. “You just have fun. You don’t realize what you have and what you don’t have. You don’t realize how your family might be different from somebody else’s.”

Carson’s grandfather, mother, sister and some friends still live in Paterson and she visits often. Her grandmother died in 2005.

Raised predominantly by her grandparents — “They were really strict, but there was a reason why” — Carson was a straight-A student who, before basketball took over, went to band camp in the summer.

“I was a nerd,” she said.

There was a little hang over the “game after the game.” The Mercury survived Indiana via a rare 0-for from Catch and a 14-point run.

“I don’t necessarily think we played that well, but at the end of the day we won the game so we’ll just move on and try to get some rest and keep going,” said Diana Taurasi. “I think today was one of those days where we were at our highest level but we figured it out toward the end.”

There was more surviving in Tulsa as the Shock kept it wicked close (yah, I know, we’ve heard that story before, right?) until Maya  scored 13 of her 40pts (her 11th 30+ game this season) in the final 5 minutes.

She’s just that good….Elena Delle Donne scores 21 points in Sky’s victory vs. Mystics

Fowles had her ninth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Delle Donne came off the bench to score 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting in just less than 161/2 minutes. It was her second game back 
after missing 17 of the previous 18 because of a flare-up of Lyme disease. The Sky went 5-12 without her.

‘‘[The lungs are] feeling a little better than the last game,’’ Delle Donne said. ‘‘I think it’s just going to be something I continue to build on but just play into it since obviously we have so many games right now.’’

…even at well below 100% : Patricia Babcock McGraw: Delle Donne returns, but her battle continues

The plastic jug Sky forward Elena Delle Donne kept sipping from during a win Thursday night looked like it contained orange Gatorade.

Turns out it was Pedialyte, the substance parents turn to when they fear dehydration in their babies or toddlers.

“I was like a little kid out there,” Delle Donne said with a laugh.

It was good to see Delle Donne laugh, and smile, and joke around. It’s been awhile. What this 24-year-old woman has been through the last two months is heartbreaking.

Welcome back, coach Cooper! Sorry your team didn’t win.

And yes:  2h 2 sizes 2 small! RT : As we head towards the playoffs, The Eastern Conference is tighter than a pair of Spanx!!

The sisters Ogwumike went at it again, and it certainly was a better game than their earlier game. Both were their team’s high scorer, but it was Toliver who decided the winner.

“Man, this (stinks),” Chiney Ogwumike said. “It is really painful. But at the same time, we play a lot of young players, and I guess in order to win as a team and to deserve the wins, you have to go through these pains. It (stinks). It really hurts now. But you move on to the next. We have another game in 48 hours. I don’t know how to fathom that right now.”

Parker, who returned from a strained left knee that kept her out the previous two games, had nine points, four rebounds and four steals.

Toliver was 0-for-6 from the field before her final shot.

By the way, with a handful of games left, the battle for the final two spots in the West is kinda spanx-y – especially with Seattle taking down the Stars.

Thanks, Jayda: Transcript: Karen Bryant’s farewell speech as longtime Storm executive

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does the basketball. And yes, I know I’m a little over an hour away from Colorado Springs and the U18 team practice… but it’s just. not. going. to. happen.

So, whadImiss? (Thanks, Richard)

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the New York Liberty: A Rookie as Feisty as She Is Steady

Carson said that despite Cruz’s size, her speed and on-court relentlessness made for a seamless transition to the league. At 5 feet 9 inches and 155 pounds, Cruz is smaller than other W.N.B.A. guards. But her willingness to draw contact during drives to the basket and her flashy ball-handling have made her a fan favorite, and she often draws some of the largest cheers during pregame introductions, along with Pondexter, a six-time All-Star, and Tina Charles, who grew up in Queens.

On Aug. 8, in part because of Cruz’s rising popularity, the Liberty will hold their first Noche Latina game, which will celebrate Hispanic culture. Her parents will be in New York for the event.

“I didn’t expect it at all, but I appreciate it,” Cruz said of the adulation. “They make me feel like I’m home.”

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the Phoenix Mercury!  A Two-Handed Push Elevates Phoenix Mercury to No. 1

“We didn’t win a championship, and we didn’t lose one tonight,” said Brondello, a former point guard and two-time Olympic silver medalist for Australia who is in her first season with the Mercury. “It’s more about, O.K., let’s learn from it and move on to the next game. That’s been our mentality through this whole streak.”

Taurasi, however, summed up the night’s frustration and physicality in her inimitable style. Both teams complained about the officiating, leading to three technical fouls, the last two on Brondello and Taurasi in the final minute. So what did the Mercury learn from this game?

“We’ve got to get better at football,” Taurasi said. “We will. If we’ve got to put our helmets on, that’s what we’re going to do from here on out.”

Surprise! About that Phx/Minny matchup: Rebounding leads Lynx past Mercury

In a game with such a wealth of riches, talent-wise, it might seem downright boring to focus on something as fundamental as rebounding.

Yet if you wanted to point to one thing that decided the heavyweight bout Thursday between the two best teams in the WNBA, you gotta go with the glass. Maya Moore and her Lynx outrebounded Diana Taurasi and her Mercury by a handy margin in front of a jazzed-up Minnesota crowd of 9,513.

From Nate:

While the Phoenix Mercury were storming through the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx were quietly keeping themselves within striking distance without their full complement of talent.

And in tonight’s nationally televised game on NBA TV, the Lynx showed just how dangerous they can be at full strength by ending the Mercury’s league-high 16-game winning streak with a 75-67 win in Minneapolis. Neither team played particularly well, but in a significant regular season game that got increasingly physical throughout the starters that had been missing for so long loomed large for the Lynx.

From the Bright Side of the Sun: Phoenix Mercury: The war rages with the Lynx, the streak is over, and the season is just getting started

Awesome! (And not really WNBA related, BUT) NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

Equally awesome! Delle Donne savors return to court

Guzzling Pedialyte on the Chicago Sky bench, there was very little that could have sapped the childlike joy from Elena Delle Donne on Thursday night.

“It was amazing,” Delle Donne said after scoring 10 points in 11 minutes in her first game back in a month, an 87-74 Chicago victory over New York that keeps the Sky a half-game behind the Liberty for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “Even when [coach Pokey Chatman] had her little freak-out at one point, it was great. It’s just awesome to be back with the team, competing, being back out on the floor and I’m just enjoying every second of it.”

Nerd City at Work! Chiney Ogwumike records 12th double-double as Sun hold off Stars

Optimism! Shock looks at rebuilt WNBA contenders as assurance in own direction

As the season nears its end and the playoff push continues, the Tulsa Shock appears to have the perfect combination of short-sightedness and perspective.

Finally! (we know) Tulsa Shock’s Riquna Williams to undergo season-ending knee surgery

From Mirin Fader at SlamOnline: Dream Big – Rookie PG Shoni Schimmel has brought Showtime to the WNBA. But her transition hasn’t been easy.

“There are big things in store for Shoni’s future. Everyone can see that,” Thompson continues. “But that would probably be the one thing that I think that Shoni is really taking the time to get better at.”

Schimmel is specifically working on her one-on-one defense. She wants to be able to contain the elite players in the league, not just be able to break them down with a single crossover and get to the basket.

Every day she works on her agility, using ladders to develop more quickness to help with sliding laterally so she can better stay in front of whoever she’s guarding.

This isn’t the first time Schimmel has had to make adjustments.

From Advocate.com: ESPN Short Lifesize: Brittney Griner Highlights Income Disparity for WNBA Stars

In other news:

Tough news for the Quakers: Stephanie Cheney decides to leave Penn women’s basketball

On November 14, Penn women’s basketball will begin the road to its Ivy League title defense. However, that title defense will have to come without one of the team’s young developing forwards.

Rising sophomore Stephanie Cheney, who played in 22 games for the Quakers last season, has left the program, leaving the team without a piece in the post that coach Mike McLaughlin could have utilized.

Roots! Women’s Basketball Adds Clare Berenato to The Coaching Staff

“Clare comes from great basketball bloodlines,” said Gaitley.  “Her mom, Agnus was the head coach at Pitt and her aunt [Bernadette McGlade] is our A-10 Commissioner.  She has great knowledge of the game and is a terrific people person.  We are excited to welcome her to the Fordham family.”

This explains it! I’ve already gotten two inquiries about the Maggie Dixon Classic (for those who don’t know, I’ve been gathering a group of folks to attend. Started with 25. Last year we had 140.) UConn women’s basketball will play St. John’s in Maggie Dixon Classic

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And not just because it’s my mom’s 81st.

It’s when Phoenix and Minnesota meet at the Target Center. (And NO, it is not on national TV. Anyone got any pull?). If anyone’s going to derail the Merc’s march to a new WNBA win-streak record, it’ll be the Lynx. Both have leaders drawn from a UConn program that knows records are nice, but it’s winning the final game that earns you the prize.

Maya may be on the road to MVP but, more importantly, she’s gettin’ her posse back. Augustus is back and Brunson is right behind her. Finally, the Lynx *knock wood* are fully healthy for first time all season.

Five of Moore’s WNBA-record 10 30-point outings have come with Augustus out of the lineup.

That’s a double-sided paradigm. Augustus’ absence affords Moore more touches. But it also allows defenses to double-team her more often.

“I think it’s the same for both of them,” Reeve said. “‘Mone can benefit a lot from Maya playing as great as she is. Nothing’s easy for them.”

Brunson’s return offers similar avail in the post. No longer is Janel McCarville primarily responsible for clearing out the lane and tearing down rebounds — both Brunson specialties. Brunson’s post-up abilities also allow Reeve to make full use of her offense, which features a lot of high-motion facilitation from McCarville.

They’ll meet a Merc team that seems to be clicking on multiple cylinders. As the .com’s Kate Bennert notes, Griner is stronger, Diana is leading, and Brondello’s influence is a cypher.

It will be great to see these two teams go at each other, but it’s not just a record on the line, it’s home court and the top seed in the West. I’m not sure if San Antonio or LA should be considered legitimate threats, but both teams have the talent capable of upsetting the favorite. It would be a toss up of who I’d rather face — probably L.A., ’cause Dan Hughes has proven he can coach you right into the loser’s locker room.

Looking at the standings in the East reminds me of the bad old days – 5 of the 6 teams under .500. The East is easily dismissed because it still looks like no one wants the number one spot. The Dream were flying, but have suddenly hit a three-game losing streak (was Coach Cooper that important? Get well fast, sir!)?

No, I’m not counting Seattle out (and hoping Sue Bird is back in), but it’s been a tough season for the Storm – even with triple-doubles.

Will Chicago, with two of it’s big four back healthy (and MIP candidate Quigley) figure out their internal puzzles and be all that they can be? Is the return of Delle Donne on the horizon? Not as optimistic about Vandersloot, though.

Ooooh, look. There are the Mystics – as Stef Dolson, Bria Hartley Continue Smooth Transition To WNBA

Aside from her new swash of purple hair, a look she began to percolate as soon as her UConn career was over, nothing seems particularly different about Stefanie Dolson.

“If you want to know the truth, that [the new hair color] may be the most fun of all this season,” Dolson said. “A conversation starter? Yes.”

Indiana’s keepin’ it together. And Lin’s savoring her “farewell tour.”

Connecticut and New York (not my curse) are fighting not to drown in the basement. The Sun will be cheering against the Lib (whose final games  all East teams, except Phx) because it’ll mean a nice draft pick.

Boy, the off-season coaching carousel ought to be interesting….

Before we get there, Nate has some WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year candidates: Searching for a diamond in the rough

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Well, carp!!!

Michael Cooper has tongue cancer

I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection,” Cooper said. “I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.”

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Here in Omaha at a conference and the folks I’m sharing my lovely student housing with are from there. I got it — with a syllable missing, granted —  but the folks I was speaking with were impressed nonetheless. See, women’s basketball is a multi-purpose tool!

*ooooo! Sun shower in Omaha!*

Prepping for my presentation tomorrow with my two friends….

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But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have time to wonder if Skylar is bucking for MVP.

If Catch is going to come back.

If Chicago is doomed without the Donne.

If Anne Donovan is bucking for COY  — tonight notwithstanding. Or this news: Danielle McCray has undergone a surgery to repair a torn ligament in her thumb.

If the Dream are going to become a reality or go “poof!”

If Phoenix can continue their rebirth and truly challenge Minnesota (we see you Penny Taylor).

In other news:

Not good news for coach Curry: Alabama women’s basketball’s top returning scorer granted release.

Good news from a former Maine Bear: Blodgett named BU women’s basketball assistant coach

Speaking of Nebraska (Lincoln, though): NU Women’s Basketball Returns To Devaney Center For One Game

The Nebraska women’s basketball team plans to honor its first NCAA Tournament team when the Huskers return to the Bob Devaney Sports Center to take on Utah on Sunday, Nov. 23.

The game, which was announced by Nebraska on June 25, will mark the Huskers’ first game at the Devaney Center since moving into their new home at Pinnacle Bank Arena for the start of the 2013-14 season.

And yes, that was Gary Harris, Son of WNBA Great Joy Holmes-Harris, who was Drafted 19th Overall in the 2014 NBA Draft

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Well, not so much if you’re a Sparks fan, but HEY, what a great game to have on ESPN, no? Debbie must have been thrilled: the Sparks shot 48% and the Dream 53%.  Atlanta had a RIDICULOUS 68 pts. in the paint (and Shoni added 7 assists).

Langhorne is still gettin’ her groove on, but Bird’s cold night against the balanced Mercury doomed Seattle. 

In wise news: Fordham held on to coach Gaitley.

In sad news: Texas A&M-Commerce players Aubree Butts and Devin Oliver died in a Tuesday car crash.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy and a loss that is felt by the entire university community,” A&M-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones said in a release. “It is made more grievous by the dreams that will not be fulfilled. Our prayers go out to the loved ones of those we have lost.”

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FINALLY!!! This has been a pretty delightfully ridiculous winter/spring, but worth every hard, exasperating, inspiring moment. And getting a chance to walk up a mountain and see these gentlemen?

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Cerulean Warbler

 

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Hooded Warbler

Well, that just puts the cherry on top.

Oh, and the W season is about to start, and the Lib are BACK in the Garden and BACK in black… Let us see what magic Trader Bill has wrought.

The start of the season means it’s preview-pa-looza time.

Over at WNBAlien, Richard is back with a vengeance:

WNBA 2014 Last Minute Awards and Season Predictions

MVP

It seems like a relatively short list of candidates this year, compared to usual. Someone like Tina Charles or Tamika Catchings might be in the fold again if their teams do surprisingly well, but otherwise I see five likely possibilities: Elena Delle Donne in Chicago; Angel McCoughtry in Atlanta; Maya Moore in Minnesota; Candace Parker (again) in LA; and Diana Taurasi in Phoenix.

WNBAlien Special – Grading the Trade Catchup: Charles forces her way to New York, Sun make the best of it

The biggest news of the WNBA’s draft night this year had nothing to do with the players being selected.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Tulsa Shock

The rebuilding – or just ‘building’, if you don’t count the Detroit variant of the franchise – continues for yet another year in Tulsa. They’ll tell you they’re aiming for the playoffs, but it’s going to be hard work achieving that barring some serious collapses elsewhere in the West.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Seattle Storm

I may have been the only person on Earth who predicted the Storm would make the playoffs last season (I kept pointing it out when analysts claimed no one had, because it’s nice to be right once in a blue moon).

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: San Antonio Stars

San Antonio’s season last year was an uphill struggle from the beginning. Sophia Young (now Young-Malcolm after her marriage) tore her ACL before the season even began, and Becky Hammon played a grand total of 12 minutes before suffering the same fate. Any team, shorn of their two veteran leaders and best players, would’ve struggled from that point on. So given that both are now back in the fold, the youngsters have an extra year of experience, and there’s another high draft-pick to add to the mix, they should bounce right back to being the 21-13 team from 2012, right? Well, maybe.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Phoenix Mercury

After being the darlings of many experts and fans in preseason a year ago, the Mercury have been lost in the shuffle a little bit this time around.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Minnesota Lynx

At some point, there’s not much more to say about the Minnesota Lynx. If you’re reading this, you probably watched them play last year, and the year before, and the year before that – you’ve seen how overwhelming they can be. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks were a very good team last year. They had their flaws, and some ugly nights, but based on points per possession over the course of the regular season they were the second-best offensive team in the league, and the second-best defensive team. Of course, with the way American sports works, their season was defined by the disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of Phoenix, rather than any success they’d had before that point. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Washington Mystics

After a couple of embarrassingly terrible years, Mike Thibault took over and made this franchise respectable again last season. He turned over half the roster, created a cohesive and deep team, and just flat-out got them playing again. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: New York Liberty

There are lots of positives for the New York Liberty heading into this season….So why does it still feel like this team has a lot more questions than answers circling around it going into 2014?

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Indiana Fever

While there is turmoil everywhere else, the Indiana Fever, Tamika Catchings and Lin Dunn just keep chugging along, showing up and winning games. That said, 2013 was a difficult season for Indiana.

2014 WNBA In-Depth Previews: Connecticut Sun

Well if we thought Chicago’s offseason was messy, welcome to a team where a bomb went off.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Chicago Sky

Last year was meant to be the breakthrough for the Chicago Sky… It’s kind of a shame that the offseason hasn’t managed to carry that positivity through to 2014.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Atlanta Dream

Dream fans were starting to get a little worried early in the 2014 offseason. For a squad that had reached the WNBA Finals in three of the last four years, there was still a clear weakness in perimeter shooting that needed to be addressed, and some question marks around their guard corps.

Not to be outdone, Swish Appeal offers:

2014 WNBA Eastern Conference Predictions and 2014 WNBA Western Conference Predicted Standings

2014 WNBA: Michael Cooper era for Dream begins Friday night against Stars

Phoenix Mercury Media Day: Videos, notes, and how this team more self aware than last years incarnation

WNBA Friday Game Preview and Open Thread: Five games start at 7 p.m., three on NBA TV

The .com has Top Storylines of the 2014 WNBA Season and the always insightful 2014 WNBA.com GM Survey 

And what say the ESPN experts? 2014 WNBA season predictions

New to the scene Andrew Lovell writes: Ogwumike ready to start pro career – No. 1 draft pick helps lead young Sun squad into Friday’s season opener

Chiney Ogwumike stood near the free throw line, hands planted firmly on the hips of her 6-foot-4 frame.

Sweat dripped from her braids down to the already-saturated white WNBA headband as she listened to every word leaving Katie Douglas’ mouth.

It wouldn’t be fair to say Ogwumike was angry. But you better believe she wasn’t pleased.

Mechelle says the Dream are favorite in the East

At some point, we might start wondering if the Atlanta Dream have “Alydar” syndrome. For you youngsters, that’s the horse that finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978.

Alydar was a very talented colt, good enough that he could have won the Triple Crown himself. It was just his bad luck he happened to be 3 years old at the same time as Affirmed.

Michelle says the Lynx are in front of pack in tough West

The WNBA is at its best in the West again in 2014.

There can be little argument that the power in this league continues to lie in the Western Conference, but there might be some argument about which West team reigns supreme.

Minnesota — its star-studded roster largely intact — is coming off another impressive title run, a sweep in the WNBA Finals against Atlanta last fall that sets up the Lynx as the early favorites to repeat.

And yes, brilliant headline writer: Bird’s return should bolster Storm

Sue Bird is a believer in chemistry. To a point.

“Sure, you have teams that might be less talented that can get farther than a team with more talent because they know how to play together,” Bird said. “But there’s definitely a happy medium. We want to have both.”

As the Seattle Storm retool for a new WNBA season and prepare for a brutal opening stretch, a happy medium would probably suit them just fine.

Another newbie, Melissa Isaacson adds: Stronger Delle Donne ready for tipoff- WNBA’s 2013 Rookie of the Year remained in Chicago, bulked up in offseason

At 6 feet, 7 inches and roughly 300 pounds, Miles Bankston was his usual formidable obstacle in Elena Delle Donne’s path, but common sense and team protocol dictated he not flip the franchise player on her head as she drove toward him 10 days before the season opener.

Last year it would not have mattered because Delle Donne would have avoided contact, team scrimmage or otherwise, and settled for her patented fadeaway jumper.

“This time,” Chicago Sky assistant coach Christie Sides said with a satisfied smile, “she turned the corner, hit the big boy and finished over him.”

A little video: Mechelle & Michelle: WNBA Players To Watch

A little audio: Roundtable previews the WNBA (The roundtable consists of theSeattle Times’ Jayda Evans, Bluestar Media’s Wendy Parker, and Fox Sports’ Cindy Brunson. Dishin & Swishin’s David Siegel is the host.)

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It’s a battle between the Rutgers and the Kansas State folks. From Mechelle: Controversy swirls at Kansas State

Leticia Romero sits in a Starbucks, about 4,600 miles away from her home in Spain’s Canary Islands. It’s a gray afternoon, an average April day in Kansas.

For the Kansas State breakout freshman star, this is her first spring in the Little Apple. It also appears to be her last.

A 5-foot-8 guard, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, Romero wears a purple Kansas State shirt. Which — all things considered — seems ironic. “This last month has been really frustrating,” Romero said. “And right now, I’m in a position where I don’t know what to do.”

That position happens to be at the center of yet another NCAA-at-a-crossroads issue, as amateurism has become the story of the past college sports year. We’ve seen Oklahoma’s Pastagate, Johnny Football’s autograph scandal and Northwestern players’ attempt at unionizing. But Romero’s situation touches on another hot-button issue — the NCAA’s transfer rules.

In the W:

Ouch: Devereaux Peters out indefinitely

No surprise, but…sadness: Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to retire after 2014 season

On the move: Dream add depth with the acquisition of veteran Swin Cash

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After upsetting the Cardinal, USC looked like they had nothing left as they faced Oregon State. But, Coop helped them “raise the roof” and earn a trip to the dance.

If there was a title to the story of the Southern California women’s basketball team over the past decade, it might be: “Promise Lost.”

The talent, the potential, the parade of All-Americans that should have made this one of the premier programs on the West Coast, seemed to dissolve into a smoldering heap every single year.

There was the cruel succession of ACL injuries that cut short the careers of Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, who were among the most elite recruits in the country when they committed to USC. There were inexplicable late-season losses to lower-division conference teams that would leave the Trojans’ résumé lacking when it came in front of the NCAA committee. There were coaching changes and personality conflicts and, to be very honest, a whole lot of underachievement.

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

Scott Rueck will await the Committee to see if he’s managed to shift the Pac12 paradigm. As the Oregonian asks: If Scott Rueck leads Oregon State women to NCAA Tournament, how big of an accomplishment is it?

Speaking of the Committee, Charlie tries to work through their headache predict AND explain the brackets.

Fordham took any mystery out of the Committee’s hands by upsetting Dayton to claim the A-10 crown. This accomplishment is six years removed from their 0-for season and gives New Zealander Rooney what she missed by a sliver last year: An NCAA berth.

We’ve been watching this unfold over the season: High Point v. Winthrop. In the end, Dequesha McClanahan leads Winthrop to first-ever Big South title

“What a game and what a tournament. I’m very proud of our players, this program and very thankful to our administration and all of our loyal fans and supporters that were here and suffered without a championship for over 30 years,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “That’s what really makes it meaningful for them and our team.”

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

After an up and down season on and off the court, Nebraskan sophomore Rachel Theriot took control of the Huskers future and guided them to their first Big 10 conference title.

“It was a game where we couldn’t make a shot, but we found a way to win,” Husker coach Connie Yori said. “That says a lot about our mental toughness. We did a great job on the offensive glass. Every game doesn’t come down to playing pretty, but you find a way to win.”

No surprise, the Irish claimed their first AAC title – but were you a little surprised by how close the game was (at first)?

When is two points more than two points? When it’s a basket that sends a figurative bolt of electricity through a team and its fans. And that was exactly what Jewell Loyd’s alley-oop did in the second half of the ACC tournament title game.

The Fighting Irish are champions of their new league, and they will go into the NCAA tournament undefeated at 32-0. They execute offensively, are patient even when things aren’t clicking as well (which is rare, but happens), and are very dependable on defense.

But … they are also just really darn fun to watch.

Yes, a bit of a surprise, because of the upset of South Carolina, but Kentucky falling apart at the end? Not so surprising this season. Tennessee’s SEC title might give them a #1 seed, which would be (be honest) a surprise.

Tennessee adopted the motto of “Grind for Nine” at the beginning of this season, referencing the team’s blue-collar mentality as it pursues the program’s ninth national championship. The Lady Vols haven’t been to the Final Four since 2008, which is also the last year they won a national title. Back then, Pat Summitt coached the Lady Vols, before resigning in 2012 because of health reasons. Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant, became the team’s head coach.

The conference tournament title won Sunday was the first for Warlick as a head coach. As she accepted the trophy afterward, she said hello to her longtime mentor, who did not make the trip. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt,” Warlick said to the crowd. “I know she is watching this broadcast.”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Yes, most of us had Marist v. Iona penciled in to the MAAC finals. Quinnipiac decided to erase that prediction.

“(Quinnipiac) did a great job executing,” first-year Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t do a terribly wonderful job of stopping them in the defensive end.”

BTW, there was news in the MAAC quarters as the Rider team scored its biggest win in years — maybe ever — with a 63-56 upset of Fairfield.

Interesting games coming up:

BYU women’s basketball: Cougars will meet “scary” Pacific in WCC semifinals Monday. Of course, the other WCC semi is classic rematch: Gonzaga v. St. Mary’s.

America East: Stony Brook continues to surge under coach Beth O’Boyle — and gets a second shot at Albany for their efforts. Can they pull off the upset – again?

Quakers v. Tigers: Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2 Ivy) are both tied atop the Ivy standings and face each other in the season finale at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.). The winner earns the outright Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The loser has already clinched second place and therefore, an automatic berth in the WNIT.

Davidson will try and stop Chattanooga‘s quest for the Southern Conference title.

Same old, same old in the Patriot semis: Navy v Holy Cross, Army v. American, with a little extra oomph:

However, Gibbons readily admits the greatest motivation comes from preserving history as Holy Cross wants to prevent Navy from equaling its feat of capturing four consecutive Patriot League Tournament championships. The Crusaders set that standard from 1998 through 2001 under the direction of Gibbons.

“We certainly would like to stop them from tying our record,” Gibbons said. “We’re playing for a lot of alumni who were part of that great run.”

Yup, it’s UConn (with Stewart’s block earning a SportsCenter nod) agains the Cardinals. In the classic, “Careful what you wish for,” the New York Times notes that “Louisville Confronts Elephant in Its Room”

For all the strides the Louisville women have made in becoming a perennial basketball power, the climb to the top remains daunting. Connecticut, the Cardinals’ opponent in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, has won 14 straight against them.

Speaking of former Big East teams: It’s the Mountaineers hunting Bears in the Big 12 title game. Remember Sims’ 48 against West Virginia in January? And the rematch in March? (TV: Fox Sports 1?)

From the Boston Globe, some nice coverage of Barb Stevens at Bentley: Barbara Stevens has Bentley women’s basketball program point toward perfection

This is where it all happens, in Barbara Stevens’s warm and inviting office on the second floor of Bentley University’s Dana Center. A large bookshelf behind her neatly arranged desk in the far left corner of the room is adorned with trophies and nets cut down from Northeast-10 title games and framed photos of the teams she has coached in 28 seasons as the head coach of Bentley’s wildly successful women’s basketball program.

“I keep telling my players if they keep winning them, then I’ll keep putting them up,’’ Stevens jokingly remarked to an office visitor Thursday afternoon.

But this is where Bentley’s unrelenting pursuit of perfection is mapped out on a daily basis. It is where Stevens doggedly prepares through exhaustive film study and advanced scouting. And, as anyone will tell you, Stevens, 58, is nothing if not a evangelical minister of the coaching gospel, “Practice makes perfect.’’

Also from the Globe, there are a couple of back-and-forth stories: Bullying accusations continue against BU coach Kelly Greenberg.

I think we may have heard this coming a few years back: K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson fired after 18 seasons

Happier news out of the Sunflower state: They stumbled, but didn’t fall: Wichita State’s women’s basketball wins second consecutive MVC title. The conference tourney looms.

Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. Lot of money for the coach of an 18-13 basketball team that enters the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in the league’s lower division.

But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. She’s paid for her ambassador skills. She’s paid for her promotional and PR skills. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university, be it talking to engineering alumni or youth groups or coaches all across the country or all of America itself, courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.

When Coale talks about the importance of sport in young girls’ lives, or the importance of education, or the importance of hard work to fulfill dreams, people listen. Some of those people are impressionable. Others are influential. Coale reaches them all. I’ve said it before; Coale’s next job won’t be coaching a basketball team, it will be vice president of the university.

A little W news:

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Wisconsin hung with Gonzaga through the first, and then the Bulldogs ran away with the win.

Speakin’ of dogs, the Danes are still undefeated.

Wow – BU has not had a fun first year in the Patriot League.

Why don’t people listen when I say “‘Ware the Wabbits”? In the first half, the Lions got kicked but good by South Dakota State. Penn State then got their rabbit’s foot working and it looked like they were going to recover from a 20pt. deficit to escape with a win. But no, the Jackrabbits pull a huge win upset out of their hat.

Yes, I see you, undefeated Indiana — but Iowa looms on January 2nd.

Eastern Michigan goes up against Big Blue — and earns its first loss of the season, 89-75.

Graham puts the spotlight on some deserving teams and coaches: WCC offers some of nation’s best basketball

What college soccer fans have known for years looks increasingly a fact of life in basketball. Teams that treat the West Coast Conference as a little guy put themselves at risk of a big surprise. 

Gonzaga’s win at Wisconsin on Tuesday night finished a Midwestern sweep that began with a win at Ohio State and cemented the Bulldogs as the team atop the rankings. But this isn’t just about the WCC’s flagship program, the one with three Sweet 16 appearances and a regional final since coach Kelly Graves arrived. Four teams from the conference appear in this week’s rankings, teams with a combined 33-2 overall record and 9-1 record against major conferences this season. 

What used to be the six power conferences, including the old Big East, were the only leagues a season ago that ranked ahead of the WCC in RPI. Two seasons ago, the WCC ranked eighth among all conferences. That is in contrast to the previous decade, when the league finished better than 12th on just two occasions. Credit the arrival of a proven program like BYU with some of the improvement, but it’s also about growth from programs like Saint Mary’s and San Diego, which advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT two seasons ago, finished second in the league for the second season in a row last season and now finds a home in the mid-major rankings for the first time.

Let’s get this hype started: Duke v. UConn, December 17th.

John Altavilla – Duke-UConn: It’s More Than A Game and Another 1 vs. 2 Just A Week Away For UConn

Mechelle & Michelle: Top Teams Face Off

Ouch: Kentucky’s Stallworth sidelined after knee surgery

Good news: Maryland’s Frese celebrates son’s success in beating leukemia

So, just how happy are the Sun? 

Asked how he was doing after his Liberty ended up fourth in the WNBA draft lottery Tuesday, New York coach/general manager Bill Laimbeer joked, “Oh, I’m just destroyed and heartbroken.”

He was totally kidding, of course. Last year, with the “3 to See” lottery, coming in fourth left Mystics’ president/managing partner Sheila Johnson visibly stricken and disappointed.

But this year, while No. 1 is coveted as always — Connecticut has the top selection, followed by Tulsa, San Antonio, and New York — the talent available for the top four picks is not perceived to have a precipitous fall-off between selections.

Speaking of the W: Michael Cooper interview, Part II: The Atlanta Dream’s offseason, the 2014 WNBA Draft, and Pat Riley’s influence

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why. Every time I thought, “well, that’s the game,” the players said, “Nope!”

I certainly enjoyed watching the Kentucky/Baylor game on my ‘puter as I cooked up some serious chili. Not sure the men’s teams waiting for the game to conclude were too thrilled. But really, it was Calipari’s fault. And, as Mechelle noted

So what happened? A “Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files” kind of game. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn’t going to get enough money.

Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, “Holy (blank)!” That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women’s hoops game.

This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.

There were other games this past weekend, and don’t let the final scores fool ya — some were nice and close through the first half. Which doesn’t mean a lot to the losing team, but it does suggest the winners need to not be let off the “so, how good are you?” hook.

Cal over Pacific.

Texas A&M over Washington.

Gonzaga over Ohio State (I TOLD you the Buckeyes were a tough out.)

Tennessee over Texas.

Purdue over IPFW.

South Carolina over Charlotte.

Penn State over Georgetown – and they needed all of Maggie’s 2000th point.s.

Iowa State over CS Fullerton (thanks, Hallie.)

Nice win for Auburn over St. John’s.

Eastern Michigan is still loss-free.

Ditto for San Diego.

Ditto with Notre Dame, who stomped all over UCLA.

Duke is still undefeated (#500 for McCallie) as the Blue Devils sorta handled Oklahoma in a game that saw defense prohibited in the second half (and some gimpiness).

They’re not as strong as they usually are, but it’s still important to ‘ware the ‘wabbits – as the Phoenix discovered. BTW, nice story: UWGB freshman Buck’s drive inspires Native Americans

There are not a lot of players like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Tesha Buck playing basketball at the NCAA Division I level.

A little more than a decade ago, there were none.

Buck is a Native American who already has overcome long odds to reach this point in her career.

In the most recent NCAA race and ethnicity report from the 2011-12 season, there were 10,151 male and female basketball players in Division I. Just 25 of them — 21 women and four men — were Native American/Alaskan Native.

In 2000, there were no Native American/Alaskan Native female basketball players. In 2008, there was one.

Not my fault – Fordham deals Holy Cross their first loss of the season.

So, I’m not saying ‘ware the Sun Devils yet — though that win over UNC was nice — but it did take them an OT to take down Long Beach State. I guess we’ll get a better sense of who they are after they work through Syracuse-Cal-Stanford-Colorado.

126 points!

Okay, is Michigan State down or is it Virginia Tech that is up?

Yes, it was against UMass-Lowell, but when was the last time Seton Hall scored 97pts?

Not my fault, neither: ‘nova earns its first loss at the hand of St. Joseph’s.

Phew! (Or I would have had to deny blame again): BYU squeaked by Creighton, 52-51.

No squeaking involved, as UTEP continued to roll.

Yah, they’re still undefeated, but let’s see what happens when Arkansas meets South Carolina four games from now.

Yup, Wisconsin’s improved.

So, how glad are the 1-8 Seahawks that they let Cynthia Cooper go?

Yes, there have been some major injuries, but boy is Hartford not enjoying their season so far.

*all sing* “What a difference a coach makes….” The Penguins are 1-6.

From Michelle Smith: Cards move on without Slaughter- Jeff Walz, Louisville making adjustments after losing senior guard for the season

Slaughter collapsed on the bench last Tuesday during the Cardinals’ game against Missouri State. The clot was discovered in follow-up examinations. Walz said Monday that doctors believe the clot was not related to her collapse, but was discovered during the subsequent evaluation. The collapse, doctors believe, was caused by a “cardiac event” and Slaughter is still being evaluated. In the meantime, Slaughter has begun to take blood thinners, the treatment expected to last six or seven months.

“They don’t know if the clot was there before or after,” Walz said. “But they are two separate incidents. They are still trying to determined what caused the cardiac event.”

Writes Graham of this past week’s events: Cats, Cards cap strange week in Commonwealth

Expressing that magnanimity that perhaps comes with a second-half comeback in front of a full house in your arena, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell heaped praise on Louisville counterpart Jeff Walz after last Sunday’s rivalry game, and then offered what surely seemed a benediction without any hint of foreboding.

 “It’s a good time for basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Mitchell said.

Little did he know he was also about to play his part in what proved to be the strangest of weeks for women’s basketball in the Bluegrass State, one that turned the basketball court into something of a refuge for Louisville in the aftermath of Antonita Slaughter’s collapse and subsequent season-ending diagnosis of blood clots, and a labyrinth impossible to escape for Kentucky in a four-overtime game against Baylor.

So where does basketball in the Commonwealth stand a week later?

A little W info, as James over at Swish Appeal is talking to the Dream’s new head coach Michael Cooper on the hiring process, what makes a championship team, and Running With The Dream

Full Court has a nice coaching/coast bookend: Team turnarounds are Carol Ross’s coaching calling card

The plain-spoken Southerner is popular with players, fans and the press alike. Her coaching philosphy is built around heavy doses of the basics — hard work, discpline and defense, defense, defense. “I would hope that any team that I have the opportunity to influence – and that will be the Sparks now – that they are going to play very hard, they’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion,” Ross told Full Court when she took over the reins in LA. “I can tell you that whoever is … wearing the Sparks uniform, they will play hard, and they will play with great passion and they’re going to compete very hard every night.”

Surprise! WNBA’s No. 4 pick in 2013 draft, Tayler Hill, expecting first child

Who’s got next (from Nate): Five seniors off to strong starts

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From Jeff Metcalfe: Russ Pennell will not return as head coach of Phoenix Mercury

Russ Pennell will not return as the Mercury’s coach in 2014 after serving as interim coach for the final 18 games this season.

“I just wanted to stay in college basketball,” Pennell said Friday. “I had a great time with the Mercury. They treated me great from the top down. At the end of the day, my calling is in college basketball, and it was in the best interest for me and my family to pursue some other things.”

From Nate: The Atlanta Dream’s decision ‘to move in a different direction’ is both surprising and understandable

There’s reason to believe the Dream were sincere in their statement that they’re looking to simply change direction (and style of play?) after going 0-for-9 in their three WNBA Finals appearances over the last four years.

Williams, whose contract runs through Nov. 30, will move to a consultant position as the team transitions to a new head coach and general manager.

“Coach Williams has been an instrumental part of our success since the team’s inception, and although we have decided to move in a different direction, we appreciate Fred’s dedicated service and ensuring that the Dream remained among the top teams in the WNBA,” said Atlanta Dream co-owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler. “He is a great teacher of the game, and is well respected by his peers.”

In this case, there’s plenty of reason to believe that changing direction is genuinely the right thing to do rather than a euphemistic condemnation of Williams’ job performance.

From the News-Sentinel: Former players defend Holy Cross women’s coach

More than 50 former players, managers and coaches have signed a letter that refers to Gibbons as a “father figure” and someone they consulted when facing critical life decisions.

“Above all, he was a leader who always taught us to do right and — more importantly — to be ‘men and women for others’ in the Jesuit tradition,” the letter reads.

From the Gaston Gazette: Hatchell has lots of support in cancer battle

Support for Hatchell within the Tar Heel family was clear on Thursday. When Hatchell’s was shown wearing UNC’s “Zero Dark Thursday“ marketing T-shirt while giving a pre-recorded message during a stoppage of play in the first quarter imploring Kenan Stadium fans to support the Tar Heels, fans drowned out Hatchell’s message with loud cheers.

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opening the box of College Basketball….

Yup, the WNBA GMs (and Rebecca) got it wrong.

As for the Dream, I don’t care what teammates and others say about Angel, it seems she needs a Jeff Walz intervention. Being emotional is one thing. Letting it get into your own head and game is another…28% shooting is the result.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx return to WNBA throne with sweep through postseason

The Minnesota Lynx finally can exhale.

The WNBA championship trophy is back in their grasp.

The punctuation on a season of dominance wasn’t pretty, but the prize at the end of their journey certainly was.

Los Lynx welcomed at the airport.

While I’m waiting for folks to start saying “The Lynx are bad for women’s basketball,” Tim adds Minnesota Lynx see more WNBA titles on the horizon, and Mechelle writes Lynx were the favorite all along – Minnesota wins second title in three years — now what’s next?

A few days before the WNBA Finals got underway, I managed to stir up a hornets’ nest.

Uh, no, not with anything I wrote. I mean literally stir up a hornets’ nest. Doing yard work on a day off from playoff games, I inadvertently disturbed some bees. Suddenly, buzzing creatures were coming at me from all directions.

I made a frantic run inside, and actually was happy to have escaped with just four stings. So having watched the Minnesota Lynx just win the WNBA title in a 3-0 sweep over the Atlanta Dream, I kind of have of an idea how the Dream feel.

Jon at the AP writes,The next dynasty? Minnesota Lynx bask in celebration of 2nd WNBA title in 3 seasons

Behind a curtain in the bowels of Target Center, the Minnesota Lynx gathered as a team for one last time this season. A few thousand jubilant fans waited in the arena, watching a video introduction for the team that had just captured its second WNBA championship in three seasons.

On the big screen, fans read words like “Dynasty” and “Greatest Team In History.”

“No pressure, guys!” finals MVP Maya Moore said to the group.

Kent continues the theme: Lynx among WNBA’s best already, and still on the upswing

At first, Shelley Patterson wanted no part of the comparison.

Patterson is an assistant coach for the Lynx, who just finished a dominant 7-0 run through the WNBA playoffs. Appearing in their third consecutive championship series, the Lynx swept Atlanta to win their second title.

Patterson was director of basketball operations for the Houston Comets in 1999, the year that team won the third of four league titles in a row. She saw the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson dominate. When the subject of WNBA greatness comes up, the early Comets teams are where the discussion begins.

In the “Duh” file: Minnesota Lynx’s Janel McCarville: ‘I would love to be back’ and McCarville fits right in with Lynx – Center teams with former college teammate Whalen to win championship

In March, the Lynx made a three-way trade with Tulsa and New York to get McCarville from the Liberty — she hadn’t played in the WNBA the past two years — and Minnesota really did have exactly what Whalen was hoping for. The whole package.

“The chemistry with the team, how good of an off-the-ball partner Maya is,” Whalen said. “How good of a shooter Seimone is. Brunson rebounding, myself driving. I just felt like [McCarville] would really fit the team well. Having this be her first championship with us is just really special.”

More on Moore: Moore adds another title to résumé

 It’s one of those near-universal experiences. You return as an adult to a place that was significant earlier in your life. Even if you’re not a particularly reflective person, you can’t help but reflect. Remember when …

Minnesota’s Maya Moore is a reflective person, a thoughtful 24-year-old of whom her mother, Kathryn, says, “From the time she was a little kid, she was self-motivated. Very much so. When I was her age, I was nowhere near that mature.”

Gwinnett Daily Post enjoyed having local Maya around: Moore ends Dream run at home

“It means the world,” said Moore, who was named the series’ Most Valuable Player, of the title. “We had ups and downs. I mean, it wasn’t easy. That’s what a championship’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be hard, and when it got hard, we came together and we stuck with it and secured that victory.”

Both of those titles have come at the expense of the Dream, who have lost in the finals three of the past four years.

and Moore revels in happy homecoming

…don’t ask her which of the four titles — the other WNBA title she and the Lynx won during her rookie season three years ago, plus the two NCAA Division I women’s titles the University of Connecticut and the gold medal she won as a part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team — is her favorite.

“Why do you ask me to compare my children?” Moore joked during Thursday’s postgame press conference. “It’s like comparing kids. I love all my championships. Each are special. You can’t make me choose.

They have some VIDEO: ‘Behind the Scenes’ … with WNBA champ Maya Moore and some photos.

So does Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota Lynx clinch WNBA title: The playoff campaign in photos

Ummm… truth: Kevin Durant on WNBA Champ Fiancee: ‘She’s Got More Championships Than I Do’

Key Dae at Canis Hoopus suggests The Wolves still need to learn what the Lynx have figured out

You would think after sharing the Target Center with the cats for 14 years, the dogs would have learned this lesson from them by now:

In pro basketball, the draft really matters.

Like, really really matters. Really matters. Really.

Speaking of the draft (really?!?!) 2014 WNBA Mock Draft: Complete 1st-Round Predictions for Every Team

The Augusta Chronicle caught up with Auburn grad Le’Coe Willingham for 5 questions. (How can it possibly have been 10 years???)

From the Courant: Rebecca Lobo: Memorable Class – Mother Of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Act Work (Yes, I have to ask… when do we see the headline “Father of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Ac Work”?)

She returned last week to the Target Center where, 18 years ago, Rebecca Lobo and the UConn basketball team won their first national championship. The image of Lobo circling the court waving a forefinger in the air after the final buzzer lingers pleasantly in the memories of those blue-and-whites who were there to watch.

The sellout crowd, more than 18,000 fans, cheered. The vanquished, Pat Summit’s Tennessee Vols, took the loss hard, but with a good measure of sportsmanship, knowing nothing lasts forever.

Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Jamelle Elliott and all the others have gone about their lives since graduation with the strong principles of loyalty and desire that identified that team.

From Michelle Smith: DIANA TAURASI STUCK IN DRIVE

“There was something about her in high school that no matter what court she was on, or where, or who she was playing against, she was the best player on the floor,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “That even included playing pickup with guys.”

Taurasi and her fearless game took the Connecticut program to a different level.

“Rebecca Lobo came to Connecticut and made us a national program from being a regional program,” Auriemma said. “And then Diana came and made us a household name.”

Speaking of Lobo (again)

“I think it is always important to tell the stories of those who may feel underrepresented in certain areas,” Lobo said. “There were not a lot of prominent Hispanic female athletes when I was growing up. There weren’t a lot of female sports competitions on TV, period. It is nice to see that now young girls can easily find someone to admire, including athletes like Diana Taurasi, Lisa Fernandez, etc.”

Auriemma thinks just as Lobo helped popularize women’s basketball while on court, what she does now also has tremendous and lasting impact.

“Rebecca made people enjoy the game as a player, and as a broadcaster, she does the same thing,” Auriemma said. “And each year she gets better and better at helping the fans enjoy watching the game.

Did you know this?

Penny Toler, general manager of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, regularly gets calls from those watching her nephew play in the NFL. Colleagues, friends and former players remember the teenager who hung out at Staples Center, staying so late that his aunt had to chase him out of the gym.

Greg Toler, an Indianapolis Colts cornerback, spent summers mingling with some of the world’s best female basketball players. Now he spends falls covering and clobbering some of the world’s best football players.

“They can’t believe it’s the same Greg,” his aunt said of her callers.

As we start marking in the home and away games for our favorite NCAA teams, Clay talks about theWhite Paper Summit: Women’s basketball heavyweights look to the future and asks: The Ackerman Report (11): Who’s in charge here?

Val Ackerman’s charge was to look at NCAA women’s basketball, and the piece of her report about governance focused solely on groups that had influence within the collegiate structure. That made sense in terms of her task, but in reality, few significant changes can be made without the approval of outside entities as well.

Still, Ackerman’s list of NCAA committees makes it clear that even within the organization, power is split up too many ways.

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Turn out the Lights,” but it’s hard not to think that. Seimone took the lead last night and, with a little support from her friends, the Lynx stomped the Dream.

No surprise, Angel and Fred are cranky.

“We compliment them. They won. They beat us fair and square,” McCoughtry said.

But she clearly took issue with what she felt was excessively physical play by the Lynx and, in particular, Maya Moore.

“The whole pulling me down on the fast break, all that crap, it’s not needed,” McCoughtry said. “I really hurt my elbow when Maya pulled me down on that play. I feel like it wasn’t needed. We don’t play that way. We are going to play hard and we are going to play scrappy, but we aren’t going to pull you down and hurt you. I just felt like I deserve a little more respect than that.”

Respect – be it given or taken – needs to take a back seat to showing up, sharing the ball, playing team defense and making good decisions. ’cause right now, Minnesota’s  one victory away from WNBA title, even though they weren’t satisfied:

“Of course, it wasn’t our best game,” Whalen said. “We had a lot of turnovers, some miscues and things like that. But all things we know we can fix and clean up. We’ll watch the video. We’ll learn from it. But I think it just shows … just our ability (to survive) when there are rough patches.”

Power forward Rebekkah Brunson was grim-faced at her locker afterward.

“We’ve got some things we really need to clean up before we go down there for Game 3,” she said. “We can’t be satisfied. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We still have plenty of work to do.”

Tom Powers isn’t shy about daring the basketball mojo gods: Focused Lynx look like a lock to add to their ring collection

Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the Lynx in 2013 — for their sake.

“We don’t want to come back to Minneapolis,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “If we come back to Minneapolis, it’s going to be for a parade, not to play Game 5.”

And who doesn’t love a parade?

The universe is close to being back in harmony. The forces of nature are almost in balance. The Lynx clobbered the Atlanta Dream for the second straight time Tuesday night. They are one victory away from a WNBA title that somehow, some way, eluded them last season. It doesn’t look as if that will happen again.

From Mike: WNBA Finals: Lynx frustrate the Dream and go up 2-0

From the start, Atlanta sought to take the ball through the lane. The problem with that strategy? Minnesota knew exactly where the Dream wanted to go. The Lynx clogged the paint more frequently, disrupting drives and layup attempts, including an emphatic swat from Moore against Angel McCoughtry in the first quarter. Overall, the Dream made only 13 of 30 shots in the paint, for 26 points, making their increased scoring from the outside a moot point. Minnesota matched its paint production from game one, scoring 42 points, and taking away Atlanta’s strength,

“It was the backdoor cuts, some of the post-ups off of their deflections, screens off their offense,” said Atlanta coach Fred Williams. “That adds up to points in the paint.”

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Angel: Leading a Title Bid With a Lifted Spirit

The most joy Angel McCoughtry derived from the 2012 season was not leading the W.N.B.A. in scoring or steering the Atlanta Dream to the playoffs, but simply that it ended.

She was suspended for two games and spent a week hidden in her home. She was convicted in the court of social media when her coach was fired after a buildup of tension with her. At a playoff game, she was jittery and scared, symptoms that she attributed to an anxiety attack.

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I know Atlanta is resilient, but OUCH! Minnesota was hot ice. Atlanta was a hot mess.

From Mechelle: Lynx make quick work of Dream

In the third quarter of Sunday’s opening game of the WNBA Finals, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry ran right into a screen set by Minnesota’s Janel McCarville. The Dream star hit the deck, then sat for a second shaking her head, trying to figure out who had just constructed a wall in the middle of the court.

That’s kind of what it felt like for the Dream most of the game, actually.

Echoed by the AP: Minnesota Lynx dominate Game 1 of WNBA Finals

From Nate: Minnesota Lynx show off the flexibility of their roster in Game One rout

The Minnesota Lynx’s 84-59 win in Game One of the 2013 WNBA Finals was a pretty good example of what makes this team so difficult to beat.

The Atlanta Dream’s defense did get 15 turnovers out of the Lynx, winning the turnover (percentage) battle by a narrow margin. All-WNBA point guard Lindsay Whalen was held to just 3 points on 1-for-4 shooting, which is a positive for any opponent. All-Star forward Rebekkah Brunson had a team-high 5 offensive rebounds, but only scored 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting.

But that wasn’t enough to stop the Lynx.

And Mike Peden at Full Court: Lynx overwhelm the Dream in a dominating mismatch

It was supposed to be championship game, not a scrimmage between the varsity and JVs — but if not  for a rabid crowd of more than13,000 packing the seats at Target Center, Minnesota’s 84-59 demolition of the Atlanta Dream could easily have been taken for a preseason practice between the stars and the benchwarmers.

From Tim at the Pioneer Press: Minnesota cruises in WNBA Finals opener and Bad back can’t keep Janel McCarville out of Game 1 and Minnesota Lynx give Dream a rude awakening in WNBA Finals opener

If this is the tone, it could be a very short series. It is also perhaps reminiscent of 2011, when the Lynx swept Atlanta in three games to win their first league championship.

Minnesota set a tone physically, too, with hard screens and a willingness to take charges, not caring that it committed more fouls (18) than the Dream (11). The Lynx weren’t afraid to spend time on the floor, either, flying out of bounds to keep scoring plays alive, as Wright did in the third quarter when she batted a ball backward to Moore for a crowd-energizing layup.

From Tim Faklis at Canis Hoopus: Lynx Go Up 1-0, Beat Atlanta 84-59

Perhaps the most notable stat of the night: 0-15 shooting from beyond the arc for the Atlanta Dream, who struggled shooting the ball the entire night. Leading scorer Angel McCoughtry (6-24) and Jasmine Thomas (3-15) took the most shots for Atlanta, who collectively shot 31.2 percent on the night on 77 field goal attempts.

“We’ve been through this before. First game against Washington, it was the same thing, we bounced back,” Angel McCoughtry said following the game. “We’ll figure it out. That’s the type of team we are. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

In the battle of the Bench Sparks, Monica was the brightest.

If there was a list somewhere called “The Last Thing Atlanta Needed in the WNBA Finals,” having Minnesota bench-spark extraordinare Monica Wright turn in one of the best nights of her career was probably in the top three.

Michelle on (the other) Becky: Forward Brunson boosts Lynx

Brunson is in her 10th WNBA season. Ask her how old she is and she simply responds, “old.” She’s 31 and she laughs heartily when reminded that a simple Internet search will yield the answer.

Ask her Minnesota teammates how important she is to what they do and what they hope to accomplish, and they are much less cagey.

“She is so pivotal to the foundation of this team,” said Maya Moore, while Whalen called Brunson “our cornerstone.”

Photos from MPR. (The AP’s Stacy Bengs did a nice job!)

The Baltimore Sun pays attention: Baltimore native McCoughtry seeks WNBA title

“It means a lot, I mean each time is special. You work a lot to get there, and to get there is pretty awesome,” McCoughtry said. “This time, we’re really just trying to go ahead and get over that hump and take the victory home. We have a different team, different coach this time, so hopefully we can just be up to the challenge.” 

LSU pays attention: Augustus Set for Third-Straight WNBA Final

Augustus said she represents LSU through her achievements whether it is in the WNBA, overseas or in the Olympic games.

“You definitely need to have some pride about being able to represent Louisiana, Baton Rouge, LSU and everyone who’s ever supported you up to this point,” she said.

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Our good friend Jon Krawczynski at the AP has Five things to know about the WNBA Finals

Dream’s motivation: If the Dream can’t defeat the Lynx, it would be their third finals loss in four seasons. They were swept by Seattle in 2010. The New York Liberty is the only team to accomplish that dubious feat (Ow. Thanks for the reminder), losing three of the first four championships. “We learned from our failures,” McCoughtry said.

Hopefully a sixth thing to know is that some WNBA franchises are (or should be!) holding viewing parties. Dunno if they are, but the Lynx are ready for game three at the Gwinnett.

From Mechelle: Lynx have edge over Dream in Finals

Minnesota is the favorite to prevail in the WNBA Finals, which begin Sunday at Minneapolis’ Target Center (ESPN and WatchESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

In 2011, the Lynx swept the Dream to win Minnesota’s first WNBA title. The Lynx were upset on the way to a repeat last year, falling in four games to Indiana. Which is probably the worst thing that could have happened from the Dream’s perspective.

Atlanta knows that the Lynx are still unhappy about the title getting away from them last year, and that Minnesota’s concentration will be very keen this year to keep that from happening again.

But Minnesota also has — at least on paper — a talent edge overall against the Dream. That said, the teams split their regular-season meetings this year, both winning on their home court.

Nate gives us the 2013 WNBA Finals X-Factor: Alex Bentley’s defense at the point guard spot key to Atlanta Dream success

For the Dream, the ability to even get back to the Finals with an entirely different point guard rotation in part reflects the quality of the rest of their personnel over the past few years: their frontcourt has helped them remain among the best rebounding teams in the league and of course there’s All-Star Angel McCoughtry on the wing along with defensive standout Armintie Herrington.

Yet the main reason the Dream have almost made the point guard position look irrelevant is their style of play: they’re a team that has always liked to push the pace to score in transition and they have wings who handle the ball efficiently enough to minimize their reliance on point guard play.

Mark Remme at Los Lynx writes. Lynx Key On Slowning Down McCoughtry’s Chaos

If you’re scouting the Atlanta Dream, the word chaos seems to come up regularly. The Dream certainly bring it defensively, and on the offensive end they will their way to victory through a collection of plays that tend to deviate on each and every possession. 

In the middle of that chaos is Angel McCoughtry, the dynamic scorer who essentially can do it all. And she does it in different ways—a noticeable trait for the Lynx guards preparing to try contain her in the 2013 WNBA Finals. On any given possession, McCoughtry might go left, go right, take a certain angle they’ve never seen before or shake her way to the hoop.

The prognosis? She never does the same thing twice.

Hello, old friend: Maya Moore Vs. Tiffany Hayes: UConn Reunion In WNBA Finals

During the three years they played together at UConn, Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes traveled to three Final Fours and won two national championships, usually laughing at each other’s jokes along the way.

But starting Sunday, Moore and Hayes will be on different sides when the Minnesota Lynx andAtlanta Dream begin play in the best-of-five WNBA Finals in Minnesota.

“It’s a little different when you play against a friend like her,” said Hayes, the Dream’s second-year guard. “We have some little conversations, maybe have a laugh on the free throw line, but otherwise things are pretty much the same as playing against anyone else.”

In other news, a little history.

From Iowa: Charging Czech Day in Clutier

Most people in this area are aware of the Clutier girls basketball team’s remarkable history. From 1939 through 1948 the Clutier Charging Czechs dominated Iowa sports headlines. These girls, under the coaching of John Schoenfelder, had a record of 201 wins, 18 losses and 1 tie. They scored 12,295 points versus their opponents 5,660, and went to the state tournament six times, winning in 1942. Two of the Charging Czechs, Verna Mae Vorba and Adella Knoop were later inducted into the Iowa Girls Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Clutier Public Library proudly displays the trophy case and the pictures of the Clutier graduating classes. Also, the Library recently added the book, “From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press” by Janice Beran to the collection.

From Alaska: Sweet – Early team member named honorary captain of Palmer girls squad

[92 year-old] June Liebing’s time in the Valley pre-dates the Matanuska Colony, and her basketball career here came at a time when the Palmer High School girl’s team was shooting through rafters to make a basket.

So, it would seem to most, there’s really no better person to become the PHS girl’s squad’s first honorary captain.

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From the .com: The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

Atlanta’s slogan for the playoffs reads: “Teamwork makes the dream work!” That theme was true in the path to the Finals for both the Dream and Lynx. While both teams have standalone stars, each team wouldn’t be in this place without the supporting cast, specifically the X-factors.

Each team has a spark. That one player behind the stars that really puts the team over the edge in order to win the big games. For Minnesota that energy lies in fourth-year guard Monica Wright and for Atlanta it’s in Angel McCoughtry’s go-to shooter, second-year guard Tiffany Hayes.

Also de le .com: Angel Leads the Way

“She’s been a good leader for us throughout the course of this season,” he said. “That was something we talked about extensively in the offseason. She’s matured a lot as a player, she’s emerged as a full-fledged triple threat player getting us steals, points and passing the basketball.”

Teammate Tiffany Hayes said McCoughtry’s leadership has been the driving force as the Dream prepare for their third WNBA Finals appearance in the past four years.

“I think she motivates us more this year,” she said. “She’s always led by example, but this year she encourages by being more of a vocal leader and I think that’s really been helping us.”

Dave Southorn at the Idaho Statesman notices: Former BSU point guard ‘Fast Freddie’ is running the show in Atlanta

Williams, who played for the Broncos from 1977-79, is in his first full season as head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. He has guided the team to the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, which begin Sunday, and after serving on the staff since the team’s inception since 2008, it is a moment he is savoring.

“Not many coaches get to see something built from stage one up to this point, so this is definitely a special feeling,’’ Williams, 56, said.

 Nate’s been wicked busy: Erika de Souza’s All-WNBA caliber season

It’s generally difficult to determine what qualifies someone as “underrated”, but there’s definitely evidence to suggest that Atlanta Dream center Erika de Souza has earned the label.

She was a blatant snub from the 2013 All-Star game before being added as an injury replacement for Chicago Sky star Elena Delle Donne. And by almost any statistical standard, she was an equally blatant snub from the 2013 All-WNBA team.

Three keys to the Lynx winning a second title and Monica Wright, versatility & the Sixth Woman award

With 6:23 left in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx’s loss in Atlanta on August 20, coach Cheryl Reeve took a timeout to try to stop the Atlanta Dream’s momentum.

After racing out to a 6-0 lead, the Dream were up 10-4 and nothing seemed to be working well for the Lynx – they were looking disoriented as an active Dream defense applied pressure on the perimeter and they couldn’t seem to stop Dream penetration on the other end.

Richard, too:

2013 WNBA Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream – Part 1, Match-ups and Challenges

Here we go again, everybody. The Minnesota Lynx are in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, looking to regain the title that they lost a year ago. The Atlanta Dream are back in the championship series for the third time in four years. The franchises clashed in the 2011 Finals, with relatively similar rosters – and the Lynx won in a sweep. But that feels like a long time ago, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The 2013 regular season, which saw the Dream finish .500 while the Lynx were their typical dominant selves, is largely irrelevant now. So a series from a couple of years ago definitely can’t be considered particularly important. Everyone starts the Finals 0-0, and the Dream’s confidence should be high after a sweep of Indiana to win the East, where they went some way towards reestablishing their identity. The track record of the Lynx makes them worthy favourites for this series, but they won’t have things all their own way.

2013 WNBA Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream – Part 2, Key Themes and Factors, and the Final Verdict

Now for the topics, trends, decisions and debates that are likely to decide the WNBA Finals, or are at least worth paying attention to as the series goes along. Many of them were touched upon in Part 1, where we took a closer look at the personnel involved, but now we’ll get more in depth. Then, just for fun, I’ll offer up a prediction. Although with the way it’s been going for me with picks this year in the postseason, you might want to go the other way.

Mr. Youngblood at the Star Tribune is not to be outdone: Lynx’ Maya Moore enjoying playoffs more than Lynx’s two opponents so far

For Maya Moore, the anticipation, the excitement had been building. So when the Lynx took the Target Center court last week for the first game in their Western Conference championship series with Phoenix, it was like Moore was being launched from a cannon.

“She’ll tell you the first five minutes of that Phoenix game, she just blacked out,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “because there was so much adrenaline.

“Now, she played like it,” Reeve said, laughing. “That’s why we had to take her out.’’

McCoughtry’s fuming turned Atlanta around late in season

A couple of weeks ago, Angel McCoughtry — seemingly by the force of her personality — changed the course of the Atlanta Dream’s season.

Wildly erratic during the regular season, the Dream stumbled into the playoffs at 17-17, then opened the postseason with a home loss to Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

McCoughtry’s line for the game: 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one meltdown. “If we’re not upset right now and embarrassed on national television, then we might as well go home now and not show up in D.C.,” she fumed after the game. “Right now needs to be the turning point, this very moment.’’

Lynx are looking to ‘finish job’ against Atlanta in WNBA Finals and Lynx can no longer use the ‘no respect’ line

BTW: Elizabeth Dunbar at Minnesota Public Radio has this: Lynx success has turned team into profitable venture

As the Minnesota Lynx prepare for their third straight appearance in the WNBA finals, Glen Taylor finds himself in rare position: owning a WNBA team that’s profitable.

It took a decade to get there, the billionaire says, and it feels good.

John Altavilla at the Hartford Courant: Maya Moore’s Winning Way Continues With Another WNBA Title Shot

Jayda’s still here: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

The Gwinnett Daily Post notices that the Lynx are sweeping through the postseason

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finally pays attention.

More than two weeks ago, after a dispirited loss to Washington, an aggravated Angel McCoughtry sat in her locker and defiantly said she wanted to win a championship with the Dream.

From Mechelle: Once again, it’s Maya versus Angel – Former Big East rivals, U.S. teammates face off in WNBA Finals

Matchups between contrasting stars are always intriguing. And Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Olympians whose teams meet in the WNBA Finals starting Sunday (ESPN and WatchESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), certainly have their distinct differences.

Moore seemed like she was in her 30s even when she was an 18-year-old. She carries herself with almost a regal dignity, her emotions generally hidden behind the “Maya mask” that somehow successfully mixes implacability and humility. She will not let up until she defeats you, but she’s not going to rub your face in it.

As much as Moore’s countenance rarely gives anything away, McCoughtry’s expressions say all kinds of things. Everything, actually. Over the years during games, you might see her look elated, irritated, amused, bemused, furious, frustrated, determined, resolved. In interviews, McCoughtry could be charming, funny and insightful — or she could be borderline morose. Or somewhere in the range in between.

From Michelle: Reeve shows the way for Lynx

And so we return to the WNBA Finals, the occasion of Cheryl Reeve’s seminal moment as a WNBA coach. The day she threw her jacket.

Upset over a non-foul call in Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals, Reeve lost her cool and one article of clothing, tearing off her blazer and tossing it while yelling at the officials.

But if Reeve earned national airplay with her revealing outburst, it is only a colorful distraction from a coaching career that is starting to build momentum in the legacy of the league. An illuminating moment, but still only a moment.

From SlamOnline: SLAM Radio: WNBA Finals Preview, Draft and Stash, Isaiah Whitehead

Mechelle and Brenda do the podcast thang.

HoopFeed’s podcasting, too: Lin Dunn and Brian Agler break down the WNBA finals

Watch out! WNBA Bringing Back Ref Cams for Finals

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with Phoenix knocking of Minnesota’s biggest challenger, and Indiana doing the same for Atlanta. Guess everybody will be nice and rested.

I’m looking forward to these games, especially to see how the battle in the paint plays out… tho Jayda is looking for something different: the battle No-Longer Big Easters: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

From Mechelle: Two motivated clubs meet for title

Sorry, Minnesota Lynx, you still don’t get to be the underdog. It’s your third consecutive year in the WNBA Finals, and you’re the favorite again. You wore that mantle well in 2011, but the championship slipped away from you last year.

**

Sorry, Atlanta Dream, but this is your third trip in the past four years to the WNBA Finals, and you are going to feel underestimated again. The Lynx had a 26-8 regular-season record to your 17-17. They had three players with MVP-like numbers this year (Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus); you had one (Angel McCoughtry).

From Michelle: Lynx, Dream meet again in Finals

Key to the series

Protecting the home court. Atlanta has to win at least once in Minnesota if it wants to win this series. That’s no easy task considering the Lynx’s 17-2 record at home this season. In two playoff wins in Minnesota so far, the Lynx’s average margin of victory is 19.5 points.

The Dream have won only two road games since June 23, winning at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals and at Indiana on Sunday. But Atlanta has been a dismal team away from its home court for most of the year, and that doesn’t bode well.

Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press talks pre-game prep: Before WNBA finals comes 10 hours of ‘Grand Theft Auto’

The victory in the best-of-three Western Conference finals not only gave the Lynx a berth in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, it also earned players a 48-hour furlough from coach Cheryl Reeve.

Augustus had two things in mind upon returning home: a massage and getting her fingers warmed up for a team “Grand Theft Auto” video game party.

Don’t let the frivolity give you the wrong impression, though. Nathan Meacham reassures fans of Los Lynx that Minnesota’s not expecting a 2011 Finals rerun with Dream

It’s back to the WNBA Finals for the Minnesota Lynx, who will be facing the same opponent they defeated in 2011, but that doesn’t mean there are many similarities.

“This team is really different than the team in 2011,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Each of their journeys has been very different. This group wants to get this team’s championship to cap off this journey.”

Nate offers up Three keys for the Atlanta Dream in the 2013 WNBA Finals

During his introduction to the Atlanta Dream’s game against the Minnesota Lynx on August 20, broadcaster Bob Rathbun commented, “You can game plan for the stars in this league defensively, but the reason they’re stars is that they can come through despite all the defensive pressure. That’s certainly the case with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Minnesota’s Maya Moore.”

And of course you can probably apply the same reasoning to Seimone Augustus.

Yet the thing that fans often forget when considering the defensive end of the ball is that defense is never entirely a one-on-one effort – it’s always a 5-on-5 effort. Conveniently, examples of what the Dream need to do to succeed showed up within the first four minutes of their 88-73 win in late August.

The Card Chronicle takes notice: McCoughtry Seeking Elusive First WNBA Championship

It’s been nearly five years since Angel McCoughtry left Louisville, and since then she’s accomplished just about every professional goal imaginable. Except one.

McCoughtry will go for her first WNBA title when the Atlanta Dream begin play in the WNBA Finals on Sunday at Minnesota. The Dream have played in the finals in three of the last four years, but were swept in both of their previous appearances, including in 2011 against Minnesota.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered, so they asked Doug to chime in (and don’t even ask him to make it Dream-centric): Minnesota Lynx face Atlanta Dream in WNBA finals

Ever since the Minnesota Lynx lost in the WNBA finals last year, they’ve been focused on getting back there.

Now they are three wins away from a second championship in three seasons, facing a team they swept two years ago to earn the franchise’s first title.

“We’re a very hungry, determined group of women,” said Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus. “All year we’ve talked about holding our goal and destiny in our hands. We have another chance at a title after not ending last season the way we wanted to.”

Clay writes his WNBA Finals preview: Will Atlanta live the Dream? Or will Minnesota erase last year’s nightmare?

The WNBA would have much preferred one of the Three to See, or Candace Parker and company, in the Finals. The league can certainly deal with Minnesota, with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, but 17-17 Atlanta, two-time losers in the Finals, isn’t exactly the dream opponent (sorry).

The positives are that the Dream love to run, so there should be lots of points, and Angel McCoughtry could melt down in SportsCenter-worthy fashion at any moment.

In the end, though, the Lynx are clearly better, and an Atlanta win in this series would count as the biggest Finals’ upset in league history.

Jayda also offers up some exit interviews: Nancy Darsch will not return to Seattle

Speaking of exit interviews, Mark Ambrogi at the Indy Star says Indiana Fever looking to reload for 2014 after getting swept in Eastern Conference finals

Good news for the Chicago: Sky owner Michael Alter all-in (and for those who say the League needs to avoid being “a movement”:

What Alter did not see coming but has figured out, he said, is that “this league is still about a cultural transformation, getting people [to relate to and follow] women and women athletes. And we still have a long way to go, that’s just a fact.”

He also included the phenomenon of women reporters eschewing what some, like himself, may view as a responsibility to champion women’s sports in favor of pursuing the bigger (men’s) beats.

“It’s the same thing with the corporate battle,” he said. “Men are not as comfortable saying, ‘We should do this.’ They don’t want to be the one to make the argument convincing everyone to do it. They’ll support if, but they want someone else to be the flag bearer.”

Simply put, Alter said, that attitude took him by surprise.

Mystery AP person writes: Mercury fall short of expectations, but coaching change brings strong finish

“It was a strange year, it was a little weird,” Taurasi said. “When things were not going our way through the season we worked through it. When they made the coaching change, it could have easily been a foregone season. But we stuck with it. I’m happy the way we fought throughout the season.”

In college news:

Might be an idiot: UWGB women’s basketball: Zastrow pleads not guilty to DUI charge

Might be in trouble: Georgetown places women’s basketball coach Keith Brown on leave following complaints

Georgetown has placed women’s basketball Coach Keith Brown on administrative leave, along with assistant coach Tim Valentine, following complaints of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language.

The concerns were raised by players on the eve of Brown’s second season as head coach of the Hoyas and were first reported Monday night by WJLA (Channel 7). Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications, Stacy Kerr, confirmed the circumstances that led to the university’s actions in a statement.

Awful news, reminding us how hard it can be to speak up for oneself: Maryland man arrested for assault of Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker

A Maryland man has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault in a case that involves Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker.  The No. 12 ranked 2013 recruit surprised the Lady Vols’ staff in July when she did not report to campus as scheduled, instead sending an email citing unspecified “personal reasons.”

Full Court has confirmed a police report and obtained court documents indicating that officers from the Franklin precinct of the Baltimore Police Department arrested Joshua Anthony Gerrard on Wednesday, July 25, at his home in Owings Mills, Md., on charges of second-degree assault. Gerrard remained in custody overnight and was released the following day on $50,000 bail. A trial date has been set for Feb. 12, 2014.

In high school news:

Definitely an idiot: Ex-basketball coach gets probation over play devised to hurt student heckler

Could be an eye-opener: High school girls’ hoops seeks officials

Nice to be recognized: Dover honors 2 for legendary commitment to students, community

During the introduction for Fisk the announcer read, “Marge Fisk, a graduate of DHS, Class of 1950, and the University of New Hampshire Class of 1954, came back to Dover High in the fall of 1970. Married to husband Bill and raising four children, Marge began the awesome task of revamping the girl’s Phys Ed. Department. With determination, organization and a little bit of magic she began putting together a solid sports program and some of the best girl’s basketball and field hockey teams in the state.” 

In 1975, the field hockey team won the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for Field Hockey Class AA Championships under Fisk’s leadership. In 1977, an undefeated team coached by Fisk won the Girls Basketball State Championship.

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