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#2 Notre Dame is rollin’, rollin’, rollin‘ the ACC. regular and, most likely, post-season. And yes, it was nice for UNC to defeat Duke, but let’s remember who the Blue Devils had riding the bench. That being said, congrats to Coach Hatchell, presented the 2014 Kay Yow Champion Award (h/t Sheila).

#7 West Virginia is upsettin’, upsettin’, upsettin’ the Big 12 (as most of the teams are free-falling). From Nate:

Just a week ago, SB Nation’s West Virginia site The Smoking Musket had a post updescribing why the Mountaineers women’s basketball team wasn’t getting the respect they deserve in the national polls.

Well, the team handled business on the court on Sunday to fix that.

With a win over Baylor in Waco on Sunday, they’re now ranked #7/8 in the polls and right on pace for a #2 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament (barring something crazy like Duke winning theACC tournament happening). And the narrative of what makes this team a potential sleeper in the hunt for a final four spot has taken hold: veteran experience (sorry, Albert).

#1 UConn is stompin’, stompin’, stompin’ the AAC, with #3 Louisville hoverin’, hoverin‘ hoverin’ right behind. And, as always, “Thanks, Graham.” Cardinals, community embrace Shoni – Fans come from all corners for senior night, Native American Appreciation Night

Schimmel finished with nine points, again unable to crack the code against one of the only teams left to beat. Four times she tried in the past 14 months. Four times the shots didn’t fall.

What was remarkable was that 22,163 people cleared off their cars or waited out airlines after yet another blast of winter overnight in the Louisville area and then trudged over uncleared downtown sidewalks because they believe in her.

Native American fans. Louisville fans. Basketball fans.

Anyone who appreciates a good story, really.

“I know a lot of people were traveling, and a lot of people were coming here,” Schimmel said. “And so, you know, it’s great for them to travel across the country to watch a game that’s on TV. It’s very special to me because they are Native American, and they’re coming out to just watch us. For them to do that, it’s pretty cool.”

Boink! Stony Brook shocked the heck outta the Danes, 66-56. The Seawolves earned the second seed in the conference tourney, because UNH lost to Maine (I warned ya about ’em).

The Flyers are atop the A-10, but the conference tourney championship is no guarantee.

Wow, what a traffic jam in the Big 10!! But the story of the week was (thanks, Swish Appeal) Purdue’s senior day win over Nebraska includes surprise return of KK Houser.

Most assumed KK Houser had played her last game on Keady Court after she tore her ACL in East Lansing against Michigan State a month ago. Fortunately for KK she would play for the fans in Mackey one more time. KK came out and went through warm-ups and started the game Sunday alongside April Wilson, Liza Clemons and fellow seniors Dee Dee Williams and Courtney Moses. KK played the first 2:34. While KK was a bit of a defensive liability Purdue had a 2-0 lead when she checked out…KK Houser entered the game briefly at end before returning to the bench amid a standing ovation. In those last minutes she was able to pull down two rebounds.

JMU recovered from its “WTH?” loss to the College of Charleston, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll get much of a threat from the rest of the CAA folks.

Phoenix and Penguins and Raiders, “Oh, my!” That’s the Horizon.

Ah, the “don’t pigeon hole me” Ivy. It’s the Quakers, Tigers and Crimson. (Coach Delaney-Smith has tied the record for most wins by Ivy League coach.) From Mel:

The victory for Penn (19-6, 9-2 Ivy League) put this edition of the Quakers to second all-time in program history behind the 22 in 2000-01 that belonged to the first of two contingents that became Ivy champs.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s bunch have stayed the course while losing critical parts of the roster, the most recent this past week when Katy Allen was lost the rest of the way after suffering a foot injury.

But Kathleen Roche, a 5-11 junior guard, stepped up big time, knocking down six three-pointers, one short of a Penn record, on the way to 20 points.

“It’s incredible how people step up and Keen works extra hard, she’s in the gym before all of us and it really showed tonight,” Baron said. “Even with Katy out, it really hurts us, but it just shows that other people like (freshman) Stephanie Cheyney (seven points off the bench) or others are willing to step up.”

Penn goes up against Princeton March 11th. Will a NCAA bid be on the line?

This is why I’m glad I’m not on the Selection Committee: Marist gets its revenge on Iona, and the MAAC is now all tied up. Let’s say they meet a third time, this time in the conference championship. What do you do with the loser? Oh, and from Kevin Armstrong at the NY Daily News: Hoosiers on the Hudson: How Brian Giorgis transformed little Marist into monster mid-major women’s basketball program.

Giorgis laughed; glasses clinked. A teetotaler known to down Diet Cokes as early as 5 a.m., Giorgis looked at the crowd. He outlined the demands of maintaining a top midmajor program, accruing a .778 winning percentage over the last 11 winters, winning 10 consecutive conference titles, collecting five NCAA Tournament victories and outdrawing 7 of 10 men’s teams in the MAAC. He spared the supporters the specifics of his side obsession, declining to mention the memorabilia shrine dedicated to Derek Jeter in his bedroom or the emails from eBay that ping on his phone when he gets outbid by a competitor. Balance, to Giorgis, is keeping a photo of himself holding a T-206 Honus Wagner card on the same office shelf with a glass slipper that a fan gifted him to celebrate a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in 2007. He daydreams about claiming another.

“It’s been a nice fairy tale,” he said. 

The Mid-American is equally vexing, with Central Michigan and Bowling Green looking like the cream of the crop. The Chippewas overall record likely excludes them from the NCAAs, but what do you do with the Falcons if CMU wins? Oh, did you catch this at SlamOnline? Chip Shot – Crystal Bradford is creating a legacy at Central Michigan.

Crystal Bradford’s mother had a vision that her daughter would go to Central Michigan, a program that before last season hadn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1984.

“My mom really wanted me to go here,” the Detroit native recalls. “I really didn’t want to. But she kept saying, ‘I had a vision,’ and ‘God’s got a plan for you.’” A bit dubious, but ready to create a legacy, CB turned down the likes of Louisville and Michigan State and traveled northwest to put Mt. Pleasant, MI, on the map.

After leading the Chippewas in points, rebounds, blocks and steals as a soph in 2012-13, she exploded onto the national scene in March when she hung 36 points, 14 rebounds and 7 steals on 2-seeded Oklahoma in the Tourney.

Hampton is top dog in the MEAC, but their final game is against second place North Carolina A&T. Can the Bulldogs sink the Pirates?

I take my eye off Wichita, get swamped by work, and what happens? They lose three straight. Suddenly the Missouri Valley crown is up for grabs, and the Sycamores are interested.

Hello? Colorado State rules the Mountain West? They got their revenge (at home) v. Fresno State. Can they end the season (at home) and get even with Wyoming? From the Mountain West Connection: 

A team that was picked to finish seventh in the preseason polls had completed a stunning one-year turnaround filled with record breaking performances en route to their first title in twelve years. The numerous records they set read much better in list form…

  • Most three pointers in a game (19)
  • First triple-double in Colorado State history (Ellen Nystrom)
  • Largest margin of victory since 2001 (60 points vs Air Force)
  • Second fewest points allowed (28 vs. Air Force)
  • First victory at The Pit in 16 years
  • First season with two 100-point games since 2001
  • Most Mountain West victories ever (14 and counting)
  • Third most free throws made (34)
  • Three players with double-doubles in one game in 35 years
  • Second-most assists in CSU history (14, Gritt Ryder)
  • Fourth longest home winning streak (12 and counting)

… I think you get the point. All of these accolades are even more astounding when you think of where this team was just a year ago. After a disappointing tenure under Coach Kristen Holt, Ryun Williams and an all-star cast of former head coaches were brought in to restore the Rams to their former glory days.

Doesn’t look like UT Martin will get much of a challenge in Ohio Valley (throwing salt over her shoulder).

Yah, Stanford is still the boss of the Pac-12, but anyone else detecting some fault lines in their throne? (Oh, and anyone want a job? Oregon won’t renew contract of coach Paul Westhead)

Sure, Navy took the conference title (first outright Patriot League regular season title in school history), but Army and American have taken their measure ain’t they ain’t afraid. Bring on the conference tournament!

The Mocs are unblemished in the Southern. The danger is looking ahead to the NCAA brackets. Take care of business, and then see what the Foster-led team can do against non-conference folks.

Honestly, the Southland is a bit of a hot mess. That last game between Central Arkansas v. Stephen F. Austin could set the tone for their conference tourney.

Speaking of hot messes — look no further than the Blue Raider-less Sun Belt.

It’s Gonzaga (10th straight conference title) or whoever can put together a great game in the WCC.

It looks like the WAC will give the NCAA tourney a Road Runner, a Vandal (first regular season title!) or an Antelope. It’s like choosing your favorite child!

ESPN gets into the swing of Conference Tourney Time:

SLIDESHOW: CONFERENCE FROSH OF THE YEAR

SLIDESHOW: LEAGUE COACHES OF THE YEAR

Full Court starts with their Bubble Wrap 2014: Who’s headed to the Big Dance? (Week 1)

They also offer up a 2014 SEC Tournament preview: More competitive than ever

The days of at least a semi-predictable SEC Tournament are long gone, and perhaps no more so than this season. This year, the conference was so competitive — not only at the very top, but all the way from top to bottom — that when the regular season finally wrapped up on Sunday, conference administrators were likely whipping out their sliderules to compute all the tie breakers.

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fans are going to need a lot of antacid, what with teams losing leads and making big comebacks.

First is was the Lib against the Mystics. (Why does Kara mock us fans with her potential?) Oh, and Bill ‘splains himself in a Letter From Laimbeer

With the All-Star break behind us and the second half of the season in front of us, I wanted to take this time to thank you for your support and patience through the first half of the 2013 season. Although our record may not be what we anticipated entering the year, I’m confident that we are headed in the right direction towards bringing a Championship to the New York Liberty. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on our progress directly.

Then it was the Sun against the Catch-lesFever. (Hope  her family is okay) (Hey, how did I miss this? Dramatic growth in male fans helps WNBA’s Fever score profit for first time) (Oh, and Mike does a little pot stirring for Tina: Will she stay, or will she go now?)

Seattle, not to be outdone, took it to Phoenix. (Will Taurasi with the WNBA Community Service Underwriter award, what with all the funds she’s donating via fines?) (And, anyone need a center? Reserve Nakia Sanford leaves Storm)

Wheeeeee!!!!

Meanwhile, Michelle offers up Five (other?) things to look forward to

Folks who didn’t have to worry too much about rallying — unless it was around the flag — were the USA Basketball women. Dave chats with their coaches: Celebrating USA Gold with coaches Sherri Coale and Katie Meier; Monique Currie and the Mystics, Camille Little and the Storm look to hold on

Over at A Daily Dose of Hoops, Brian Giorgis Discusses Marist Women’s Basketball And Team USA

Nate offers some links that ponder the Upcoming collective bargaining and the impact of Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Brittney Griner which led me to this: 

Sports fans have an exciting new avenue for enjoying the top news around the sports world thanks to the iPad app Beyond the Box. The app systematically ranks and analyzes the best sources related to each sports team and league in an effort to bring relevant and interesting content to the fans.

Beyond the Box founder and CEO Shailo Rao took some time to speak with FanSided about what in to making the app and what we can expect from the company in the future. You can check out what Shailo had to say below.

At the .com, Diggins is Looking Back, Looking Ahead. (I wonder if coach McGraw has tried All-Access again…)

Rachel explains the obvious: Why Elena Delle Donne is top rookie

Doug reconnects with Sheryl: Back on the court, Sheryl Swoopes is happy again

This new opportunity has provided a high from what Swoopes concedes was the lowest point in her life four years ago. She had just been cut by the Seattle Storm and was having financial problems, which came to light when she failed to pay rent on a West Texas storage unit. Swoopes lost years of memorabilia from her celebrated basketball career, including awards, jerseys, fan mail and her college diploma.

“I was just mad at everyone,” Swoopes said. “Mad at the WNBA, mad at life. I’d say a lot of it was my immaturity, my stubbornness — my mom says my hardheadedness. I wasn’t responsible in taking care of my things.

The WBCA decides to do some organized talking: WBCA board establishes working groups
to explore changes in women’s basketball:

Semrau assigned board members to three working groups, each co-chaired by two members of the association’s Executive Committee, to focus on a particular topic and develop recommendations for consideration by the entire board. Each group met briefly to begin their discussions and will continue them by teleconference in the coming weeks. The groups are:

  • Legislation and Governance — Penn State head coach Coquese Washington, the association’s vice president, and Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw co-chair this group, which will focus on how the WBCA might be better represented in a revised NCAA governance structure, how the WBCA can more effectively participate in the NCAA legislative process, and how the WBCA’s own governance structure might be improved in order to have a more efficient organization. Members include Claudette Charney, Hillsdale College; Diane Dickman, NCAA; Danielle O’Banion, Kent State; Martha Putallaz, faculty athletic representatives; Jennifer Rizzotti, Hartford; Christy Thomaskutty, Emory; and Rich Ensor, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
  • Playing Rules and Officiating — Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell, the association’s secretary, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, and West Coast Conference deputy commissioner Connie Hurlbut co-chair this group, which will focus on whether or not we have the right rules going forward and how the game is officiated. The goal is to improve the quality of the game so that it is more attractive to spectators. Members include Anucha Browne, NCAA; Nikki Caldwell, LSU; Brandan Harrell, Georgia Highlands College; Patricia Manning, Williams College; Joanne McCallie, Duke; Melissa McFerrin, Memphis; and Dawn Staley, South Carolina.
  • Professional and Grass Roots Development — Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson, the association’s treasurer, and Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the immediate past president, co-chair this group, which will focus on educational programming that will provide WBCA members with opportunities to become better coaches as well as explore the feasibility of establishing a certification service for coaches of women’s basketball. Members include Amanda Butler, Florida; Tricia Cullop, Toledo; Lisa Mispley Fortier, Gonzaga; Kirsten Moore, Westmont College; Mary Beth Spirk, Moravian College; Carol Callan, USA Basketball; and Todd Starkey, Lenoir-Rhyne.

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from Graham: Youngstown State returns to winning ways

In his short time as a head coach, Bob Boldon has already done something few of his peers would dare attempt.

And we’re not talking about keeping a straight face while selling the virtues of calling oneself a Cotton Blossom or Penguin.

With the regular season still winding to its conclusion, Youngstown State has safely clinched a winning season, its first since 1999-2000. That is an impressive enough achievement for a coach in his third season at the school and who was himself only three years out of college when the Penguins last had more wins than losses. But that alone is hardly unique. Plenty of coaches turn around programs that didn’t win many games.

Not so many turn around programs that didn’t win any games.

The Penguins were not fazed by the press: they won last night, 73 -69 over Cleveland State.

So did Fordham, btw, Graham… hint, hint.

So did Hawai’i, btw, Graham…hint, hint.

In the rematch of the big dogs, Albany came out on top again – and by the same margin: Danes 79, Terriers 70.

The MVC is shaping up to be quite the battle between the Blue Jays and the Shockers.

Interesting that Dayton got such a tussle from the Bonnies (could be Dayton’s youth). Might be an interesting end of the regular season. Did miss this, though: Local quartet part of No. 17 Flyers’ success

There was a time, not so long ago, when local recruits wouldn’t just quietly dismiss Dayton women’s basketball coach Jim Jabir — they’d all but tell him to get lost.

“When I first got here, kids literally wouldn’t talk to me, or would say quietly, ‘I’ve watched you play and I wouldn’t want to go there,” Jabir says.

But as the old sports saying goes, winning cures all. Nowadays Jabir, who’s brought a middling UD program into the national spotlight after three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, rarely gets the bill collector treatment from the Dayton area’s best high school players.

Speaking of conference races: Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Championship Race Still Undecided

Jayda says Kristi Kingma, UW women’s basketball team on cusp of NCAA berth

Kristi Kingma’s big blue eyes widened even more.

She sat in the media room at Alaska Airlines Arena before the regular season, looking far ahead to the last four games of her women’s basketball college career. On the schedule sat perennial foes Stanford and California at home and tough Pac-12 newcomers Utah and Colorado on the road.

Kingma circled the games. Benchmarks, she thought.

Now on the eve of the crucial stretch, Kingma is no longer daunted.

Meanwhile, Looking to gain separation in Ivy League, Princeton to host Cornell and Columbia

Lady Swish is Breaking down NCAA/WNIT prospects

For some teams, it’s may only be the wildest of dreams of a magical March run. Still, as February winds down every one of Virginia’s 13 Division I teams still has something to play for.

From the Poughkeepsie Journal we learn that Marist is keeping their focus forward

It’s not just the fact his Red Foxes have gone unbeaten in league play that pleases Brian Giorgis, but it’s how they’ve done it.

On the way to its 14-0 record in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Marist College women’s basketball team has steadily progressed, the head coach said, routinely playing better against league opponents the second time around.

Also at the PJ, Mike Benischek reminds folks that Women’s basketball talent runs deeper than just Marist

It’s been almost 10 years since Marist College put the mid-Hudson Valley on the women’s basketball world’s map.

But, when is the last time you checked out the geography of the map?

The Red Foxes aren’t the only ones running around the neighborhood. There are Hawks flying overhead, and Blue Knights patrolling the streets. There are Brewers … brewing, I guess. They’re perfect for a college town.

And while I’m not here to say McCann Arena isn’t home to the biggest show in town, I will simply ask, do you know what other shows are playing?

Congrats to SMU coach Rhonda Rompola on her 400th career win

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No, not the band, and not the description of your post-Thanksgiving regrets…. Take a look at these scores:

Tennessee dropped 90 on Alcorn State.

San Diego dropped 91 on San Jose State.

Alabama dropped 97 on Southeastern Louisiana.

Kentucky dropped 100 on USC Upstate.

UNC dropped 101 on UNC-Asheville

Dayton dropped 105 on Eastern Illinois.

Alabama State dropped 105 on Oakwood.

The Tigers gave the UCLA Bruins a tussle. (How long before someone snatches Coach Banghart away?) Next up for Princeton? Rutgers, who barely escaped Davidson.

D’em Bears (Cal) are 6-0 as Brittany Boyd notched 14 assists. More importantly: BearShare: Tierra Rogers

 How do you measure someone’s strength? Her endurance?

For an athlete, is it how much weight she’s able to lift? Or how many laps she’s able to run?

What about mental and emotional fortitude? Is it in forcing a game-saving turnover or hitting the game-winning jumper?

For Cal’s Tierra Rogers, those used to be the metrics of her life.

D’em Penguins are 4-0. First time since ‘97.

More better for the Illini: 

One year after a San Juan Shootout appearance that included getting blown out by Green Bay and having Karisma Penn’s last-second shot rim out against Arizona State, the Illinois women’s basketball team headed back to the Caribbean for this year’s fall break. Only this time, Illinois was under new leadership.

Injuries aside, is the experiment over? Oregon is 0-5.

A little after the fact, but did you catch Debbie Antonelli’s sweet blog on the Stanford-Baylor game?

Okay — the Big East has gone from the “Big Least” to the “Big Beast” to the “Big Who The Heck Are THEY?” Yes, it’s a hot mess.

From ESPNw: All week long, espnW will take an in-depth look at some of the top mid-major storylines.

Graham has: Brian Giorgis right at home at Marist

It seems incongruous at first that one of the most successful giant slayers in women’s basketball has turned over much of his home to a celebration of some of the most venerated behemoths in sports.

A small city on the Hudson River, Poughkeepsie sits about 75 miles north of Manhattan and an equal distance south of Albany, the state capital. It’s also home to Marist College, but a visitor to Marist coach Brian Giorgis’ abode could be forgiven for thinking he had stumbled off course and ended up a little farther west in the state, in an annex of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. There is so much on the walls, on shelves and on most available surfaces that Giorgis jokes that the only thing absolving him of hoarder status is the level of organization he puts into his extensive collection of sports memorabilia, mostly baseball items.

Michelle has: Gonzaga has a new look this season

Two years have passed since Courtney Vandersloot wore a Gonzaga uniform and transformed Spokane into a women’s basketball destination. For the fans, at least. The talented recruits have been coming to eastern Washington for a while now.

“We had four WNBA draft picks come out of here the last three years; that’s second most of any team in the country,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “But this might be the best freshman class I’ve ever had. I really like this team.”

By the way, “w,” — nice story, but get a copy editor: Ieshia Small celebates adoption

Over at Full Court, Clay writes: The “AP” in “AP poll” doesn’t stand for “Advanced Placement”

Well THAT’S annoying. The NCAA.com site has the TV broadcast schedule in an annoying pdf form. Luckily coach Nell gave us a “this week’s games” link.

Some good news from the WATN? files; Val Ackerman hired as strategic consultant for NCAA women’s basketball – Longtime hoops expert plans a white paper by spring

Val Ackerman, the founding president of the WNBA and the first woman to serve as president of USA Basketball, has been hired as a consultant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current state of intercollegiate women’s basketball. Ackerman is expected to deliver a strategic “white paper” by this spring with her conclusions and recommendations about how best to position and manage the sport.

From Doug: NCAA Hires Ackerman to look at Women’s Basketball

“The purpose of having me involved is to bring outside perspective,” Ackerman said. “I’ve had the chance to see women’s basketball at the pro, international and college levels and can help them assess where women’s college basketball is today. What could stand to be changed or improved and what shouldn’t be messed with. Try to figure out how best to maintain the student-athlete experience.”

I wonder if she’ll read this article: How Maryland Went Broke — Inside the Athletic Department’s Decline.

Speaking of the W: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Erin Phillips’ title fever pays off    

Erin Phillips is a world champion, an Olympian, a WNBL and now WNBA champion, and soon she will shake hands with President Obama at the White House.

The 27-year-old daughter of football icon Greg has been feted through the streets of Indianapolis, dealt with fan marriage proposals and baked items sent by ardent admirers in Indiana, home of the Hoosiers and the hotbed of American basketball.

But there’s one thing left she is desperate to do.

“I really want to meet Reggie Miller.”

Speaking of Aussies: Basketball star Lauren Jackson says 2012 has been the hardest of her playing career

Also: Sutton-Brown brings the world to kids

WNBA champion Tammy Sutton-Brown got to see the world outside her living room as a girl growing up in Ontario, Canada. A descendant of Jamaicans, she would sometimes travel back home to the island. Then there were always the memorable trips to Disney World in Florida.

Unfortunately, it’s not like that for all kids. After talking to children at a community-service event, Sutton-Brown realized how out of the ordinary traveling and, in some cases, knowledge about the world are for many kids.

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people pay more attention to your first game.

#8 Ohio State got silenced by #9 Florida, 70-65 (even though the Gators did try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.) Enjoy it while you can, Florida: Baylor is up next.

The bigger upset was #13 Marist taking down #4 Georgia, 76-70. Kudos to the Red Foxes for not folding after losing the lead late in the second half. Even more kudos to coach Giorgis for getting the win (his third 13 over 4) with a team many thought was vulnerable. Writes Graham: Brian Giorgis makes Marist magic happen

#6 Nebraska gave #11 Kansas the early 8-point lead and never could catch up. Jayhawk Angel Goodrich notched 20pts and 5 rebounds.

San Diego kept it close, but in the end, Nikki Caldwell and LSU earned a 64-56 win – mostly in part to the return of LaSondra Barrett.

There were some serious near misses for the higher ranked teams: Dem #14 Creighton Blue Jays gave #3 St. John’s all they could handle, and then some (even the ESPN headline writer thought they’d pulled off the upset: Creighton wins at buzzer  (Dated line Sunday, 7:40pm, EST). But no, it was a coast-to-coast layup by (who else) Jeanette Pohlen… I mean, Nadirah McKenith that rescued the Johnnies, 69-67.

#12 Fresno State shot poorly, and yet still had a chance to take down #5 Georgetown. The Hoyas pulled it out, 61-56, but you’ve got to wonder how far they can go without more Sugar.

A last second layup got #12 FGCU into overtime, but the #5 Bonnies regrouped and gutted out a 72-65 win.

Put it in the books: the first Tourney win for the #3 Delaware program, and the player people were waiting to see didn’t disappoint: 39pts, 11 rebounds against # 14 UALR. Oh, and she took some time to do some writing: Expect a large Delle Donne contingent.

Nice, solid effort by #8 Cal’s “newbies to the Tourney”, as they took down a stubborn #9 Iowa, 84-74. Writes Matt Fortuna: Brittany Boyd delivers for Bears

#10 Middle Tennessee didn’t have enough in the tank to deal with #7 Vanderbilt: ‘dores win, 60-46.

#4 Georgia Tech freshman Wallace left nothing to chance, and her Yellow Jackets stung #13 Sacred Heart, 76-50.

#6 Oklahoma enjoyed every inch of home court, tattooing Michigan, 88-67.

#4 Penn State outscored a stubborn #13 UTEP team in the second by 8 — and that was the margin of victory.

The #1s took similar paths: crush their opponents in the first half, cruise in the second half. Side note: Sims did not start and Kim says “She knows why.” Ummm, hello folks, it’s the TOURNAMENT. Keep yourselves together.

Duke didn’t need Williams (24 minutes, 4/10, 3rebounds) to defeat Samford 82-47, but I’m sure they will soon.

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Podcast Alert

Dishin & Swishin 3/08/12 Podcast: Putting a wrap on a Big East and MAAC championship weekend: Brian Giorgis, Kelly Faris, BEast’s Danielle Donehoew

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From Mechelle: Tennessee ready to tip off tourney – Lady Vols help open the games at 11 a.m. ET Saturday (ESPN2/ESPN3.com)

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt got a laugh as ESPN dug up old photos of her playing days at Tennessee-Martin in the 1970s to use during the NCAA tournament selection show. The Skyhawks are in the NCAA field for the first time this year, and their most famous women’s basketball alum is very happy for them.

She doesn’t have to be concerned with making their stay a very short one; UT-Martin is the No. 15 seed in the Philadelphia Regional and faces No. 2 seed Duke in the first round.

Mechelle’s Spokane preview is up.

This year’s NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds established themselves well before Selection Monday. In fact, if you’d been asked to predict them just days after last season’s Final Four, you likely would have come up with this quartet.

Some might have thought UConn would struggle a bit more than the Huskies have in their one-loss season. But certainly no one is surprised that the Huskies, Baylor, Tennessee and Stanford are the top four teams in the NCAA tournament. Although …

Graham has Players to watch

Five who could catch lighting in a bottle

Seedings suggest these players won’t be around for more than one game, but each could make that game one to remember or even prolong her team’s stay.

Also from Graham: Vandersloot stands strong for Zags: Point guard needs 44 points to become first D-I player with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists

For all of her statistical milestones, national accolades and basketball skills, Courtney Vandersloot’s greatest strength as a point guard remains nothing more complicated than her ability to make everyone around her that much better.

But after piloting Gonzaga to the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history last season, she reflected on the postseason run and realized there was one player on the court whose limitations she felt might hold the team back at a time of year when championships are decided. So it was that the best point guard in the country decided there was one more player she could make better.

And even MORE Graham: Green Bay’s season to remember – Phoenix join UConn, Tennessee as teams to enter NCAA tourney with at least 32 wins

It’s the morning of the Horizon League championship game, and the staff and players who comprise one of the most successful programs in women’s basketball are gathered around waffles and eggs at a local restaurant, their blank (and insufficiently caffeinated) expressions serving as placeholders for the emotions the day will bring. It’s quiet enough, in fact, to hear the background music, and Green Bay associate coach Mike Divilbiss perks up when Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” starts to play.

Across from him, junior starter Julie Wojta is unimpressed, or more precisely, unaware of Morrison. Divilbiss tries to give her a hint, offering up “Brown Eyed Girl” as the clue that will unlock the mystery identity.

“Yeah, that doesn’t help,” Wojta responds.

Scott Powers has Long road for DePaul’s Naughton nears end

Deirdre Naughton was laying poolside when her cell phone rang on a Friday in early August. It was the NCAA calling to tell her she had been granted a sixth year of eligibility to play for DePaul women’s basketball team.
Naughton immediately sprung to her feet and jumped around in celebration.

The catch was she couldn’t tell any of her teammates until it was finalized on Monday. Naughton promised she would keep her mouth shut for the weekend.

Not long after she hung up, she called her teammate and close friend Sam Quigley.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but she told me on Friday,” Quigley said, laughing. “I remember her calling me, and I was screaming hysterically. I was probably more excited than she was.”

Skyler Diggins writes: Communication key to handling NCAA hype

Life is all about growth. When you experience things, sometimes you may make mistakes or do some things well, or both. Regardless, there will be an outcome. Whether that outcome is negative or positive, you will have an opportunity to reflect. Take note of the positive things or things that you did well. Then reflect on your mistakes. If you learn from these mistakes and do not make the same ones, you have grown.

I had to learn this in my freshman year of college.

Over at espnW, Angelique Chengelis writes Samford’s stock on the rise

Mike Morris knows the routine.

He calls a recruit and identifies himself as the head coach at Samford, and occasionally there’s a pause.

“They get all excited when they think it’s Stanford,” Morris said, laughing. “I kid around and I’ve said I always wanted to ask [Stanford coach] Tara VanDerveer, ‘Do y’all get that, are you Stanford or Samford?’ just to see if I get a grin out of that.”

Also at espnW, Jane McManus writes: Marist’s Brian Giorgis has the winning formula

Basketball was his first sport. He played as a youth. But after getting a glimpse of his 7-foot counselors at Willis Reed’s basketball camp, Giorgis realized the limits inherent in his 5-foot-9 frame. He decided to coach, but after a difficult season with the baseball team, Giorgis decided he didn’t want to coach boys again. He realized his style just fit better with his girls’ teams.“It wasn’t about style points and who looked better,” Giorgis said. “It was about what they could do to win games.”

Mark Simon does a little research: Stefanie Pemper’s Navy seeks upset  – Mids coach was on Harvard staff when the Crimson knocked off No. 1 Stanford in 1998

Before coming to Navy, Pemper was the coach at Division III Bowdoin College, a liberal arts school in small-town Brunswick, Maine. There she developed a coaching style that emphasized there was more to basketball than what took place on the court. She has brought that to Navy, as well.

At Bowdoin, practices opened with the players talking about the classes they’d been in that day. When the team took an undefeated record into the Division III Final four in 2004, it left campus early so it could spend a day in Colonial Williamsburg on its way to the championship site.

At halftime of one game at Bowdoin, the players got engrossed in conversation and lost track of time and came out of the locker room 30 seconds before the second half was to start. Undaunted, the team suffocated its opponent into 25 percent shooting and won easily.

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you can’t tempt me!

The New York Times’ Brian Heyman writes about Marist: After Building a Power at Marist, Coach Sees No Reason to Leave

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it’s Dishin’ and Swishin’ time. This week’s show features:

Pat Summitt, Head Coach University of Tennessee
The Hall of Fame coach discusses this year’s Lady Vols, including the growth of Stricklen & Johnson, the SEC, and the team’s prospects for the post-season

Maya Moore, University of Connecticut
Preview the WNBA Draft Interview: UConn’s All-American on dealing with snow & drama, giving back after graduation, learning from the USA National team and more

Kara Lawson, Connecticut Sun Guard and ESPN broadcaster
On both the WNBA and NCAA scene! A look at the WNBA free agent experience as well as a review of the NCAA season, the top teams & players, and possible upstarts come tournament time

Brian Giorgis, Head Coach Marist University
#27/#26 Red Foxes coach has 2nd longest winning streak in the country and discusses the success of this team and past, being a mid-major come tourney time, and the prospects for the future

Shimmy Gray-Miller, Head Coach St. Louis University
Billikens coach discusses building a program in the difficult Atlantic 10 conference from scratch, from the facilities improvements needed through the difficulities of keeping players motivated and excited despite difficulties on the court (oh yes, and answers the question What’s a Billiken?)

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From Bob Corwin at Full Court Press: Mid-Majors Worth Watching: Part II—Marist—A Must-See Operation for Any Fan of the Sport

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Giorgis gets 200th win as Marist defeats Boston U.

Out in LA, Bill Plaschke is noticing the Bruins: Nikki Caldwell heats up UCLA women’s basketball (and I’m finding it hard to miss the double entendres)

I am scanning the office shelves of the hottest college basketball coach in Los Angeles.

Nikki Caldwell’s UCLA women are off to their best start in 30 years, and I tell her I’m trying to find things that are indicative of her personality.

I am check out the autographed basketballs, the team photos, the inspirational books, then she notices me staring for the longest time at an unusual pair of shoes.

“So I guess you think those leopard pumps are pretty indicative, huh?” she says with a laugh.

From the Daily Herald: Orender moves on with great memories of WNBA

Speaking of which, Clay chimes in on her exit: WNBA CEO Resigns, Leaving Future in Doubt – The WNBA took another hit this week, raising serious concerns

Yes, Donna Orender had her critics, but she was the model of a professional sports executive. Was she annoyingly upbeat all the time? Of course, but if she wasn’t in all-positive mode, who would be? Did she make the WNBA decision-making process as secret and  impenetrable as China under Mao Ze Dong? Regrettably, yes, but she clearly controlled the message.

But now she’s leaving — or already gone, really — and left behind is a vacuum of unanswered questions and troubling speculation.

Another milestone: 350 high school victories.

“We got a lot of young girls transferring over from high school, [where] you don’t have to defend some of the top players in the nation,” said center Lynetta Kizer, who has emerged as the team’s vocal leader, especially on the defensive end. “We want to be able to beat ACC-caliber teams; that’s why most of our focus today in practice was on defense.”

 

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