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Just ask Jeff Walz.

He offered Tuesday to email or call the boss of anyone who wanted to come to the game but couldn’t because of work. He’s already had 100 or so fans take him up on that, including someone in the mayor’s office.

”Whoever sends me a note on Twitter or on Facebook – if they give me their boss’ email – I’m writing them a note asking if they can make the ballgame,” Walz said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Check out Aneela’s “Top 25 Players To Watch in NCAA Tournament

Washington: ‘Sharp’ Huskies Head To NCAA Tournament

The Huskies are sharp, because they share a common goal and have rallied around each other. They are in sync. They are focused.

“The difference between last year and this year, last year we were happy to be there,” junior Kelsey Plum said. “It was a cool accomplishment after having not been in the NCAA tournament for a long time.

“We were just so excited about the whole thing, we lost focus in the game. This year, we’re not just happy to be here. We’re trying to do something with it.

Connecticut: Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson looking to make history

UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokes that when the trio now known as ”The Big Three” first arrived on campus, he wasn’t sure they should play as freshmen either.

Stewart, he said, had unbelievable talent, but was often lackadaisical, because things were too easy for her. Jefferson, he said, had no grasp of running an offense. Her idea of playing point guard, he said, was to run at full speed until she ran into something.

Tuck was the best of the three in practice, but that didn’t always translate to games.

Little by little, he said, they began to gel.

Connecticut: Former Huskies break down UConn’s winning ways

Utah: Jeff Judkins keeps Cougars steadily successful

As BYU’s women’s basketball players, assistant coaches and supporters reacted excitedly when the Cougars received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last Monday, head coach Jeff Judkins stared stoically at the large screen, realizing the task that lies ahead.

It was almost LaVell Edwards-like, which is fitting, because Judkins is having the kind of success that the legendary football coach had in Provo in the 1980s and ’90s, albeit in a sport mostly out of the national spotlight.

“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” BYU guard Makenzi Pulsipher said. “He’s such a good, nice person, but he’s also a really, really good coach.”

California: Jordin Canada leads UCLA back to the Big Dance

During a recent practice at UCLA, one of the Bruins players commented out loud about point guard Jordin Canada, “She’s our all-conference player, let’s just get it to her.”

And Canada cringed.

“Her shoulders went in, and she looked uncomfortable,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “She didn’t like it. But at the same time, when the lights brighten, she’s at her best.”

California: USF coach Azzi welcomes chance to return to Stanford for NCAAs

Jennifer Azzi’s expression — an ear-to-ear grin — didn’t change when she saw that her USF team was matched against her alma mater Stanford, during Monday’s NCAA selection show.

Azzi knows how these things work — Azzi against her mentor Tara VanDerveer is the kind of story line selection committees love. She knows how often basketball can bring one full circle — such as when the Tennessee kid won a national championship with Stanford back home in Knoxville in 1990. 

“These things happen,” she said.

Florida: NCAA women’s bracket has distinct Florida flavor

It has been a season of firsts for women’s college basketball teams Florida, and the roll will continue in the NCAA Tournament.

When the field of 64 was announced on Monday, it marked the first time that five teams from the Sunshine State were selected.

Georgia: Georgia back in tournament under 1st-year coach

New York: Syracuse women’s basketball team a victim of bad timing

What’s the old cliche, if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all?

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is living proof of that. The Orange have had their best regular season in program history. Syracuse went to the ACC championship game and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, again, its best ever.

The high seed means the Orange are rewarded with one — possibly two — home games for the first two rounds of the tournament. And when does the NCAA Tournament committee (with help from ESPN) have Syracuse playing.

Friday at 2:30 p.m. Right after the Syracuse men’s game. A weekday afternoon when the majority of local people are working or in school.

New York: With Two Bids, Iona Savors ‘Incredible Accomplishment’

For Cluess and Godsey, that made last Monday twice as sweet. They understand better than most the challenges midmajor programs face in facilities, recruiting and financing when competing against major conferences for players as well as victories.

“It’s so hard for one team to make it, let alone two, especially in a conference our size,” Cluess said.

Missouri: The three steps the women’s basketball team is taking in preparation for the big dance.

This time last season, the Missouri women’s basketball team was sitting around coach Robin Pingeton’s house, eyes glued to the television during Selection Monday. They were on the outside looking in. 

While watching other teams celebrate their success, the overall mindset of the team was, “That’s going to be us next year,” according to senior Morgan Stock.

New Jersey: PU Women’s Hoops Sees Silver Lining in Penn Defeat, Becoming 1st Ivy Team to Earn At-Large Bid to NCAAs

North Carolina: Coaches of Asheville men, women share special bond

Seconds after the UNC Asheville women beat Liberty on Sunday at Kimmel Arena to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, some of the first people on the floor to celebrate with the women were members of the Bulldogs’ men’s team.

It was a scene that didn’t surprise those close to the program.

There is a closeness between the teams and it begins with the coaches.

Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Nick McDevitt can’t help but run into each other several times a day because their offices are separated by a conference room, which they share along with a printer.

They wouldn’t want it any other way. McDevitt is a fan of Kirkpatrick and her staff and Kirkpatrick feels the same way about the men’s coaches.

Tennessee/Michigan: Belmont, Michigan State coaches are friends, now NCAA foes

“Suzy and I got to be good friends back then,” said Newbauer, who was an assistant at Georgia at the time. “My sister almost went to Michigan State and instead went to Indiana, so I’ve known Suzy since my first year in women’s basketball. I’ve just been really good friends with her since then. We were texting each other about, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if we wound up in the same place?’ But I didn’t think we would be playing them.”

Wanna listen while you work? LaChina Robinson and Chiney Ogwumike break down the Sioux Falls Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest L.A. Sparks F Candace Parker. 2) They then break down the Bridgeport Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest Indiana Fever G Briann January.

As a self-identified Conference Generalist, I take great pleasure in tracking programs raising their profiles. Marshall was one such story: A Different `Long Season’ for Daniel’s Herd

Marshall makes its first trip to the Women’s NIT with a visit to longtime rival Ohio on Thursday night, and riding on the bus with the Herd as it heads up the road this evening is an attitude that has carried Coach Matt Daniel’s team all season.

It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.

When Marshall opened the 2015-16 season back on Nov. 13 with an out-of-breath, 104-101 triumph at Morehead State, eight of the 12 healthy players on Daniel’s roster were in their first game in a Herd uniform. Six were freshmen … and Marshall had been picked to finish 10th in the 14-team Conference USA race by Daniel’s sideline peers.

Four months later, the Herd (21-11) has more wins than all but one team (24-5 in 1986-87) in the Herd women’s hoops history dating to 1969-70. Marshall has only its third postseason bid in its major college era, which dates to 1981-82. And while finishing tied for sixth in the C-USA standings, the Herd won a school-best 11 C-USA games (regular season and tournament) in its 11 years in the league.

So were the Jacksonville Dolphins: Mentee vs. Mentor

It happens at the start of every athletic competition. Typically after the national anthem and player introductions, and often overlooked as one of the unwritten rules of the game. It’s the coaches’ handshake, a brief meeting a midcourt that will have a deeper meaning for Yolett McPhee-McCuin Friday.

When the head coach of the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team shakes the hand of Dawn Staley, she will see more than the opposition, she’ll also see a mentor and a friend.

“Dawn Staley is someone that I mirror my program after,” said McCuin. “Not every step but definitely the how and the why. How to build a program and why we do what we do?

And: Though not a surprise, first NCAA bid reason for Duquesne women’s basketball team to celebrate

“I don’t think any of us were expecting this in the beginning of the season, so the fact that we’re even here is so exciting,” senior Emilie Gronas said. “From the preseason, we could feel this was a different team with a lot of new faces. A lot of people didn’t expect us to do as great as we did.” 

But after playing in other postseason tournaments in each of the last seven seasons, Duquesne didn’t have any preseason intentions of receiving another WNIT bid.

The Dukes broke record after record this year, setting program highs for wins (27) and conference wins (13) while earning a share of the Atlantic-10 regular-season title. Now, all of those accolades come second to achieving an ultimate goal.

Damn: A Website Went Offline And Took Most Of Women’s College Basketball Analytics With It

If you’re filling out your bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and want some statistical background to the broader forecasts, you have a slew of options. Start at Sports-Reference.com: powerful search tools; team rankings for anything from pace to point differentials adjusted for strength of schedule; and player pages with stats such as usage percentage, win shares and Box Plus/Minus. Ken Pomeroy’s site offers more detailed and adjusted team rankings and a wide array of individual player metrics. For $100 a year, Shot Analytics delivers detailed spatial analysis of shot selection, including weighted shot charts.

If you’re looking for similar information to help you fill out an NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket, you’re out of luck.

Thank you: Tonya Mirts ends 21-year tenure as Hickman girls basketball head coach

Mirts, who played college basketball for Missouri, appreciated the challenge of not being able to recruit players for high school basketball, instead developing the young women in her district.

“You get what you get and you try to make a masterpiece out of it year in and year out,” she said.

Thank you: Wanda Watkins steps down as Campbell women’s basketball coach after 35 seasons

In addition to her coaching achievements, Watkins holds a special place in Campbell athletics history. She was the school’s first female athletic scholarship recipient after graduating from nearby South Johnston High School in 1975. She was a member of that school’s 1974 North Carolina state championship team.

She served as team captain of the Lady Camels basketball team as a senior and captained the softball team for three years. Despite suffering an injury in her final season, Watkins was named MVP of the 1978-79 team and selected as Campbell’s Outstanding Female Athlete.

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It feels like the Sugar Bears have been knocking on the door of the NCAA tourney for a while now ( five straight losses in the Southland Conference Tournament dating back to 2011) Finally, it opened. The Bearkats did. not. make.it. easy. Truly a valiant effort by the #7 seed who was playing its fourth game in as many days. Central Arkansas pulled away in the fourth for a 69-62 win.

“I’m so proud and happy for this team,” said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing, who had 8 NCAA appearances in 10 seasons at Delta State in Division II, but is taking a team to the Division I tournament for the first time. “They have worked extremely hard all year long, refused to lose, and found a way to win.”

Coach Yolett McCuin‘s Jacksonville team had been tugging on the Eagles’ tail feathers all season. They lost by 19 in their first meeting. Their second meeting was a 4pt win for FGCU. The third time? Jacksonville stormed back in the fourth to notch the 2pt win, claim the Atlantic Sun tournament and clinch its first NCAA tournament berth.

“When the game started to get away from us in the third quarter and they started to pull away, my thought was ‘if we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose with the people who got us 21 wins,’” Jacksonville coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We’ve had games this year where I’ve done that to prepare us for this situation.”

Congrats to coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and her players at UNC-Asheville. Longtime WBH readers know of the rebirth of the UNC-A program under this year’s Big South COY. The Bulldogs faced down Liberty through two overtimes to earn the 64-62.

“The legacy is complete,” said Love, the senior who was part of the 2-28 team in Kirkpatrick’s first year. “We beat the beast. But what a game they played. What a hard-fought win by us. I’m so happy for this team.”

Added Khaila Webb, ‘Nobody believed in us except for us. We were picked to finish eighth, but we knew we could do it. I’m just so proud of everyone on this team.”

Well, lookee! Kellie Harper‘s Missouri State Bears became the first 3 seed to win the MVC. Oh, and their going back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. They took down top-seed Northern Iowa with authority, 71-58.

“Every run they made, we had an answer,” Harper said. “We scored right away, usually got a couple of baskets, and put them right back in the same spot. Sometimes we don’t always make it pretty, but we find a way to be successful.”

What a run for Robert Morris and (trying to retire) coach.

Coach Sal Buscaglia has a sign in his office that says simply: “Believe”.

Even when his Robert Morris team was in the midst of a losing streak in January, the Colonials never lost hope. Now they’re headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

“I told them believe in our system and we’ll take you to the promise land,” Buscaglia said after Robert Morris beat Sacred Heart 56-51 on Sunday to win the NEC Conference Tournament championship. “We started winning games toward the end.”

With Sunday’s win, Buscaglia will have one last chance to get a first NCAA Tournament victory.

Green Bay made sure the Horizon status quo stayed status quo. The Phoenix used a clampdown defense to stifle Milwaukee and earn a 16th trip the NCAA tourney.

You know what I don’t want to be right now?  An NCAA Selection Committee member. Charlie offers up the Three biggest bracket questions heading into Selection Monday

1. The bubble

So much of the bubble movement took place a week ago as the power-five conferences were playing their conference tournaments, but this Sunday provided that last bit of intrigue and what is now a big question for the committee: Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles, unbeaten in league play and the Atlantic Sun’s No. 1 seed, lost in their tournament final to second-seeded Jacksonville. Most years that would have been it for FGCU. Most years the No. 71 RPI team from the 29th-rated conference would not even be up for discussion.

This isn’t most years.

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Still noticing the Tribe’s record. Sure, we’ll learn a lot when they face VCU Monday and then leap into conference play…. BUT, they’re 8-1 under third-year coach Ed Swanson, equalling the best start in program history.

The same commentary goes for the Thundering Herd.  Their only loss is to West Virginia, by 6. I’m looking at their game against Western Kentucky as a good test.

Rinse, repeat and insert the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. They have been SO bad… Now look at what folks are writing about 4th year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick’s team: 

Last season, the ninth win for the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team didn’t come until the 30th game.

What a difference a season makes.

On Friday before an Education Day crowd of 1,705, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1, matching the 1984-’85 Asheville team for the best start in school history with an 84-71 victory over a solid Furman team.

How nice to be able to ask, “Might they challenge Stanford-slayer Gardner-Webb for the Big South?

I see you, no longer undefeated UTEP. Looks like the Miners have regained their moxie.

And I see you, too, Santa Clara: coach JR Payne has them on their longest winning streak since 2005-06, folks. (Dani California, flashback.)

Yes, USC-West is undefeated. Let’s see what happens when they play Albany on the 20th and UCLA on the 30th, shall we??? (Not to mention Oregon State on January 2nd.)

Speaking of the Beavers: OSU women’s basketball: No. 7 Beavers expect best shot from No. 14 Tennessee and Oregon State Beavers ready for clash with traditional power Tennessee

“We will learn exactly where we’re at on Saturday and where we need to go as we continue to prepare for conference,” coach Scott Rueck said. “So from that standpoint, it’s the biggest test that we’ve had so far.”

Too much offense: Princeton got rolled by the Buckeyes, 90-70.

Ohio State married a wicked pace to a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting night and ran laps around the stunned Princeton Tigers, winning 90-70 in Value City Arena on Friday night.

“That’s probably as good a game as we’ve played in a while,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought our kids did a great job of executing the game plan. On offense, we played with a great pace and really shared the ball to get great shots.

Yes, we noticed: Anigwe off to impressive start for Cal women’s basketball

“After she committed to us, she improved leaps and bounds,” Gottlieb said. “She’s gone from a post player we wanted with a lot of potential to the clear cut best freshman in the country. I knew she’d contribute right away, but her ability to score at this level consistently is beyond what I expected.”

A little something from Graham: Duke’s Azurá Stevens becoming a big riddle for opponents

Few basketball players see the court quite like Azurá Stevens, but many younger siblings can identify with her lifelong plight in games of one-on-one against an older sibling. No matter how much she grew or her skills developed, her older sister stayed one step ahead of her with that maddening back-you-down, pump-fake craftiness that seems a birthright of those born first.

Hello, Hurricanes: 

Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.

The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

 

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