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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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I’m no bracket expert, so I’ll defer to Charlie who, in the end, defers to the Selection Committee… but DePaul’s loss popped a couple of bubbles and so, methinks, did the Dons stunning upset of BYU. “No. 6 seed San Francisco rallied from a 15-point first-quarter deficit, took its first lead with 17.2 seconds left and held on to knock off the Cougars, 70-68.

“Wow. What a game. Our team fought so hard tonight,” said USF coach Jennifer Azzi. “BYU’s an incredible program, an amazing team. When you get down 10-0 you go, ‘Oh no.’”

Not that Azzi was necessarily surprised by what her team was able to do.

“You do have to have luck to get to this point,” she said. “This is what we’ve wanted for years. So I don’t think any of us are actually shocked by it because it’s been what we’ve been working towards. But certainly, the stars have to be aligned.”

Longtime readers of the WHB know we’ve been tracking Jennifer Azzi’s effort to rebuild the San Francisco program. Clearly, the Dons have gotten better under her leadership… but the WCC is (as ye longtime readers know) no joke. There’s Gonzaga, then BYU, then Saint Mary’s and now Santa Clara… so breaking into the NCAA is bloody challenging. But, her team met the challenge and are going dancin’ for the first time since 1997.

Remember what was happening in 1997? Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Elton John… and the WNBA. Which means Kurt Kragthorpe can write: an Ex-Utah Starzz guard outwits BYU’s Judkins in WCC final

The former point guard for the Utah Starzz of the WNBA outcoached ex-Utah Jazz forward Jeff Judkins at the end of a game that left Azzi “absolutely, honestly, speechless right now,” she said.

The Dons took down each of the WCC’s top three seeds in reverse order — and less spectacular fashion as they went along, actually. USF’s run began with Taylor Proctor’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against San Diego, then the Dons topped Saint Mary’s and BYU by two points each.

Summit Final: It was a tight battle between the South Dakotas. In the end the Jackrabbits upset the Coyotes, 61-55. That’s SDSU’s 7th trip to the NCAA in the last 8 years. BTW: A total of 8,647 fans packed the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting a record for a women’s Summit League championship.

Ivy: Penn, on Princeton’s home court, claimed their spot in this year’s Big Dance.

The Princeton women’s basketball team has lost seven Ivy League games in the last seven seasons. Penn won its second Ivy title in three seasons Wednesday night at Jadwin Gym, beating the Tigers, 62-60, in a game the Quakers led from late in the first quarter until the final two minutes. Penn gave up the lead for exactly 15 seconds, got it back on a three-point play from Anna Ross, the most skilled player on the court, and held it to the wire.

“As I just told my players you don’t get these opportunities too many times in sports to celebrate something like this,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just talked about some space being at the Palestra for them.”

Big East Final: I know the ESPN blurb says “St. John’s wins Big East title for 1st time since ’88” and it’s great for the Red Storm and New York basketball… but the headline is a bit disingenuous, dontcha think? (Yes, I’m still bitter the Old Big East is gone.) BUT, kudos to Creighton and congrats to St. John’s – ya took down the top dog and then earned a spot at in the Dance.

Big 12 Final: So, how good is Baylor lookin’? Ask Kim.

“Honestly, we’ve been playing pretty good, and I wish we could just keep playing,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You hate to stop and take a break, for fear that you can’t get back to where you just finished these last two or three weeks, because we’ve really played good basketball.”

Alexis Jones, who scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games. Beatrice Mompremier scored 15 points, and Niya Johnson added 11 for Baylor (33-1), which swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.

American Final: Stompity, stomp, stomp by UConn.

“If we play defense the way we played it tonight, we’re always going to have a chance,” Auriemma said. “Then how much we win by depends on how many shots go in for us.”

The shots were going in for Samuelson in the second quarter and she finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman nights like this make UConn fans dream that, yes, Samuelson has what it takes to be the next great player. “Stewy is obviously a lot more gifted, she can do so many more things,” Auriemma said. “But Lou has a different way of doing kind of the same things. The thing I like is if you challenge Lou really, really hard she responds. Those are the ones who usually turn out to be really good players, the ones who early on when you get after them they don’t wilt. They come of stronger.”

Oh, boy, opponents must love reading they have to look forward to.

Mechelle writes about those top four seeds: 

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue — if not downright doubt — about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn’t happen.

In progress conference tourneys had a couple of early upsets:

C-USA– First Round: North Texas (11-18, 5-13), who got our attention early in the season, faltered down the home stretch. That stop them from taking down Florida Atlantic (14-16, 6-12), 79-74. It’s the program’s first post-season win since 2011-12.

“I’m ecstatic to get a good team win,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it’s pretty balanced and everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance. Everything that we did helped us to get to this point”

C-USA – First Round: There’s lots of really upsetting news swirling around Florida International (5-25, 2-16). But, under interim head coach Tiara Malcom, the managed to pull it together and surprise Texas San Antonio (10-19, 6-12), 61-56.

Tomorrow games:

NEC Semis: Hello, old friend! Bryant v. Robert Morris; Sacred Heart v. St. Francis (PA)

Mountain West Semi: New Mexico v. #22 Colorado State

A-Sun Semis: FGCU v. old rival Stetson; upstart Jacksonville State v. South Carolina Upstate

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(Hello Houston, site of so many Liberty heartbreaks… at least your airport has free wifi! And at least we were able to find a hotel for our unexpected overnight due to bad weather.)

So, to the big news: Blue Devils/Buffalo roots (tinged with a little Hotlanta) bring Lisa Borders to the presidency. Mechelle says, Lisa Borders’ biggest challenge: Proper exposure for WNBA

She’s 58 and a part of the Baby Boomer generation that lived its entire young adulthood before social media. The players in her league are late Generation Xers and Millennials. The oldest of the active WNBA players have no memory of a world before Title IX; the youngest have no recollection of a world without the WNBA.

Even so, the main question WNBA players, coaches and fans of all generations ask is the same: How can the league be better marketed? No one is looking for NBA-type exposure, of course. But can the WNBA, or at the very least a few of its more prominent players, break through to the mainstream?

From the Times: By Hiring Lisa M. Borders, W.N.B.A. Gets a Leader Who Follows the Game

“Sometimes I’m literally screaming at players to box out, move their feet or drive the lane,” she said by telephone. “And I’m asking, ‘Whose man is that?’ ” She added, “I’m the No. 1 fan.”

Borders is essentially looking for more fans like herself as the W.N.B.A. heads into its 20th season in May. Average attendance peaked well above predictions at 10,864 in the league’s second season, but it fell last season to 7,318 a game, a record low. Viewership on ESPN and ESPN2 tumbled 15 percent last season and declined 21 percent during the finals, which were on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

In the other news: Just what you expect from the WCC: 40-foot jumper by Lexi Rydalch secures BYU’s improbable 65-62 win over San Francisco. Then, of course, San Francisco takes down San Diego.

Top Dogs: UAlbany women’s basketball defeats New Hampshire in front of 3,016 fans

Not so fast: The Q overcomes deficit, tops MAAC-leading Iona

Post-game unpicking: Maryland women’s basketball learning hard lessons from turnovers. Still learning, as they had 24 in their win over Northwestern.

Resurgence: Multi-threat Utes aiming for surprise postseason berth

Anyone else impressed with the noise Oklahoma State is making late this season?

And what about their in-state rivals, #21 Oklahoma taking down #6 Texas, 74-56.

#16 Florida can’t make up its mind who it wants to be, falling to Auburn 80-58.

Coaches across sports consistently preach about the importance of a renewed focus in games following losses.

Florida, however, did a poor job of taking that wisdom to heart on Sunday.

In their worst loss of the season, the No. 16 Gators were defeated 80-58 on the road to unranked Auburn.

The same might might be said for #17 Michigan State, who got schooled by Nebraska, 73-66.

Sunday provided another example of the ever-changing emotions of a college basketball season.

On Thursday, Nebraska got drilled 110-73 at Minnesota in one of the worst losses in program history. Nebraska coach Connie Yori said in that game the Huskers looked like they didn’t want to be there.

Three days later, Nebraska got its best win of the season, defeating No. 17 Michigan State 73-66 in front of a season-best crowd of 8,338 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Told you about this game: Maine tipped Albany, 65-53.

There was a distinct postseason atmosphere at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday afternoon.

And the University of Maine women’s basketball team gave a playoff-caliber performance for a crowd of 3,231 at the Cross Insurance Center. 

Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears played suffocating interior defense, limiting two-time conference player of the year Shereesha Richards to eight points while grinding out a 65-53 America East victory.

Huge win for UNC-Asheville as they win their re-match with Liberty, 56-51, claiming sole possession of first place in the Big South and clinching its first 20-win season since 2006-07.

Huge upset, as UMass earned its first A-10 victory by taking down the Bonnies, 69-60.

Almost as big: Though senior forward Nathalie Fontaine became only the second Cardinal in program history to reach the 2000th career point after scoring 28 points,  Ball State stumbled in the MAC, falling to Kent State, 59-50. Meanwhile, Ohio and Central Michigan look to be on a collision course.

Okay, so I’ve been keeping my eye on Wake Forest, and what do they go and do? Beat Duke, 64-58.

In what was the worst loss of the entire McCallie era, Duke had its 44-game win streak against Wake Forest snapped, 64-58. Pick a Duke problem and it showed up in this game. Being outrebounded by a smaller team? Check. Giving up easy looks on the perimeter? Check. Inexplicable scoring droughts? Check. Missed free throws? Yup. The fact that it came against a team that has been an ACC doormat for a long time, one that Duke beat handily earlier in the year, is an indicator that the program is very much at a tipping point this year.

Boink! Canisius took advantage of a nightmare 3rd quarter by Marist to squeak out a 2-point win, 71-69.

Nice: Greenland has built storied girls basketball program

Sporting a black Greenland Lady Pirates pullover, greatness encircles him. High on the gymnasium walls, Kelly green and white banners detail the school’s dominance in girls basketball for the past 15 years. Hardware from the program’s six state championships since 1999 stuff the trophy cases in the foyer.

Barton said while the winning is nice, that’s not his ultimate goal as a coach and leader of one of Northwest Arkansas’ most successful girls basketball programs. Success to him goes beyond the hardwood court.

“Winning, developing habits, being a strong personality, that’s all part of it,” Barton said. “But for them to tell me I’ve made a difference in their lives, man, that’s everything.”

Nice: Miami’s Octavia Blue to have her jersey retired

North of the Border: Canada’s women’s basketball team ready for high Olympic expectations

And South of the Border I’m seeing this:

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And this!
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Under an enormous amount of scrutiny – both by the Secret Service and by grumpy Committee bashers – the #8 Tigers and #9 Phoenix put together a nice game. Princeton dominated the boards and nailed their free throws to secure their first NCAA tourney win.

Courtney Banghart had seen it once too often. It was not much more than a year ago and one more time than she could stomach watching Annie Tarakchian, then a sophomore, catch the ball in good position near the basket, hold the ball over her head and look to pass without ever showing the slightest inclination to propel a strong frame to the basket.

“Annie is about the most gentle soul on this earth, and she’s really kind,” Banghart said. “Those two, gentle and kind, are not great inside the lines. Inside the lines for the first year and a half at Princeton she was gentle and kind.”

So when Tarakchian was passive one too many times in practice before a key road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth a season ago, Princeton already in a hole in the Ivy League race by then, Banghart whistled proceedings to a halt and delivered a simple rebuke. 

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

If you recall, Susie McConnell-Serio’s team opened the season rather inauspiciously. That’s all forgotten as #10 Pitt Panthers produced a HUGE win for the program as they upset #7 Chattanooga, 51-40.

“Walking up to hal court at the end of the game I said to him, ‘This is bittersweet,’ because I have so much respect for him,” she said. “I think he is one of the best coaches in the game, and I’m so happy that he’s still coaching because he just has so much to offer to his players.

“So as happy as I am for our team and our program, it was hard to look at him as I was shaking his hand.”

It’s fly like an Eagle time, as #7 FGCU defeats #10 Oklahoma State, 75-67. They move into the second round for the first time in program history.

Smesko said the men’s team’s run two years ago has been “fantastic” bringing recognition for the school, located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, in southwest Florida.

“We’ve been right on the precipice for a long time,” Smesko said. “We know our next game is going to be against one of the very best teams in the country.”

#13 Liberty has been a hard-nosed program for a while – as #4 North Carolina quickly re-discovered – but the Tar Heels pulled out the win.

 Latifah Coleman and Allisha Gray weren’t going to let Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the NCAA Tournament end so soon.

Gray scored 17 points and Coleman had 15 to lead North Carolina past Liberty 71-65 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) shot 49 percent, led by 14 and withstood the Flames’ late push to give their Hall of Fame coach a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to fight leukemia.

“This whole week, I have been so stressed out,” Hatchell said. “It’s a good stressed because I’m so excited about the tournament.”

Taking lessons from their football team, #15 Boise State was not intimidated by #2 Tennessee – even on their home court. In the end, the Vols escaped the Broncos.

The Lady Vols were clinging to a 63-58 lead after Boise State’s Camille Redmon made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:51 remaining. But Redmon missed her second free throw, and Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale sank a 3-pointer 13 seconds later to spark a game-clinching 8-0 run.

“I’m satisfied we got the W, but we could do much better,” Graves said. “Our one-on-one defense has got to be tight right now. This is crunch time.”

Coach Trakh can be proud of the effort of his #16 New Mexico State team against host, and #1 seed, Maryland. The Terps ruled the Aggies, 75-57.

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

“Like PT boats attacking a battleship,” New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said in describing the destruction the 6-foot-3 Jones inflicted on his shorter, slighter players as top-seeded Maryland won its NCAA tournament opener Saturday.

All season, the Terps have won by continually switching guises. As if to prove that versatility, they beat New Mexico State with a bruising inside attack in the first half and a barrage of jumpers in the second.

#12 James Madison and #5 Ohio State gave us the Debbie Antonelli Special, with the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 90-80.

The Buckeyes — who started three freshmen and bring sophomore Shayla Cooper off the bench — shot 58 percent in the second half and scored on seven consecutive possessions down the stretch.

“Obviously, when you get to this time of the year (and) you have kids who have experienced it, that can be beneficial,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But I also think for kids who haven’t, then have that youthful energy and that passion to be a part of it. … That can take you a long way.”

#12 Quinnipiac and #5 Oklahoma gave us the second DAS, combining for 97 points in the first half and 99 in the second. Sooners scored more, so they win and move into the next round.

When the Sooners were 5-5 in non-conference play earlier this season, it was tough imagining them making the NCAA Tourament, much less imagining them winning a game in it. But after finishing in second place in the Big 12, Oklahoma came ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their 111 points against Quinnipiac showed that despite their lack of experience you should never count out a Sherri Coale coached basketball team.

Sun Belt champ Arkansas-Little Rock battled #6 Texas A&M wire-to-wire, then the #11 seed made good on the upset, 69-60, earning coach Joe Foley his 700th win.

“Tops right now,” he said. “Top game. It’s unbelievable, playing against a friend, playing in the NCAA tournament. It was fun. And to play as well as we did. We played great, and we deserved it.”

Taylor Gault scored a season-high 25 points, Kiera Clark added a career-best 22 and 11th-seed UALR beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M in an opening-round game Saturday.

“The thought I had was to shoot and drive and do whatever I knew I could do best for my team,” Gault said.

#3 Louisville tamed #14 BYU, but the game may be remembered for this action by the Cardinals’ Mariya Moore than the actual score.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s inside presence out-muscled the Cougars from the opening tip. The Cardinals outscored BYU 44-30 in the paint, and added 11 second-chance points on 33 rebounds to net the win.

Barely two minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Mariya Moore drew a technical foul — and the ire of both coaches — leveling BYU’s Morrison with a hard push off a screen.

BYU leading scorer Lexi Eaton responded to the physical play of the game with an elbow of her own two minutes later, a move that went uncalled by the officials — though she did receive a foul on a push on the same play.

#2 Florida State was in their comfort zone, and easily handled #15 Alabama State, 91-49.

“This experience is huge for our program,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “It’s been a while since we have actually had an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We only have one true senior that actually played (Saturday). We’re extremely young.”

Alabama State was composed early but wore out, committing 32 turnovers against a stifling Seminoles defense.

#14 Ohio spotted #3 Arizona State 16 points in the first half, but the MAC played the PAC even in the second. Nice re-focuser for the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Elisha Davis increased the lead on the next possession, getting a steal and making the layup. In a 54-second span, ASU had gone on a 7-0 run.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the spurt was a result of ASU’s defense.

“When our defense is turning people over and we’re getting easy buckets in transition, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said.

Ohio coach Bob Boldon gave credit to that aspect of ASU’s game.

“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “That really contributed to us getting frustrated on the offensive side.”

Speaking of “re-focusers” #16 Cal State Northridge sure as heck provided that for Stanford as what seemed like a blowout-in-the-making turned into a dogfight. Cardinal escaped, 73-60.

How many hard lessons is this year’s Stanford women’s basketball team going to have to learn?

The Cardinal have already learned that beating Connecticut doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Chattanooga, that knocking off Oregon State doesn’t mean you can beat Oregon, that winning Pac-12 titles isn’t a default status, that changing your entire offense and turning it into a well-oiled machine isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that hosting an NCAA tournament game isn’t the same as winning it. At least not if you don’t play well.

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

Courtney Williams did what she does, as host #6 USF dispatched #11 LSU:

South Florida made the most of its first home NCAA postseason game.

Courtney Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alisia Jenkins added 15 points and No. 6 seed South Florida beat 11th-seed LSU 73-64 in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday night.

The announced crowd of 5,560 erupted as the final seconds ticked off.

“I took a moment and went out there (on the court) and was like `wow,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “This is what we’ve wanted and worked for.”

The Old Big East fans were having serious flashbacks in Storrs as they watched #8 Rutgers and #9 Seton Hall go after it in OBE style. 

“What a great game,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We played hard. I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well and just played extremely hard. We’re glad to have gotten that game under our belts.”

One year after staging a double-overtime thriller in the third round of the WNIT, Rutgers and Seton Hall turned in another memorable affair. For the second straight year in the postseason — and for the 34th time in 41 meetings all-time — the Scarlet Knights prevailed.

The #16 Terriers knew what they were getting into when they drew the #1 Huskies for their first-round match. But the game, did prompt a nice story in the NY Times about St. Francis guard Sarah Benedetti :For a St. Francis Player, UConn, Long an Inspiration, Turns Rival

When Sarah Benedetti moved to Canton, Conn., as a fifth grader in 2004, she almost immediately started rooting for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. That year, UConn became the first Division I university to win the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball.

Benedetti began attending Huskies games with her family and teammates. She idolized the UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was so obsessed with the sport that she arrived at Canton High School at 6 a.m. each day to shoot for an hour before classes started. Her father, Sergio, rebounded the ball for her.

Now a senior at St. Francis of Brooklyn, Benedetti competed Saturday night against her former favorite team.

Benedetti did well.

They were smiling from the moment they took the floor, especially when UConn’s starters were being introduced. This was their moment. And Benedetti, with a large cheering section on the day that her old high school lost its bid for a Class S state championship, did her best, making three three-pointers in a first half in which the team’s hole progressively grew deeper. She scored 13 points.

Said coach Thurston post-game:

“This was an incredible experience for our program. This team is the first time that St. Francis has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament on either the men’s or women’s side. Coach Auriemma is a gentlemen. He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending National Champions to knock us out.”

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

1. ACC flies high: In two days, the ACC went from filling one eighth of the field to representing one quarter of it. While other teams are disappearing, everyone from the ACC remains present and accounted for. No one in the conference has lost, and the league is 8-0 after another four-win day Saturday. Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville all cruised into the second round. The Tar Heels had to withstand a late push by Liberty, but otherwise, the games were not only wins but also comfortable ones.

Even Pittsburgh, a No. 10 seed, thoroughly controlled Chattanooga from start to finish in handing the Lady Mocs their eighth straight tournament loss. For the second straight year, Chattanooga had a 25-game win streak snapped in the first round of the tournament. Panthers freshman Stasha Carey’s 16 points and 13 rebounds were just the second double-double in Pittsburgh NCAA tournament history.

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

12:00 #4 Duke vs #5 Mississippi State, ESPN 2
12:00 #3 Iowa vs #11 Miami, ESPN 2

2:30 #2 Kentucky vs #7 Dayton, ESPN 2
2:30 #2 Baylor vs #10 Arkansas, ESPN 2

7:00 #3 Oregon State vs #11 Gonzaga, ESPN 2
7:00 #1 South Carolina vs #8 Syracuse, ESPN

9:00 #4 Cal vs #5 Texas, ESPN 2
9:00 #1 Notre Dame vs #9 DePaul, ESPN

Oh, and thanks, pilight, for keeping official track of this:

Note that this does not include the men’s play-in games. This is round of 64 vs round of 64. 

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

BIG UPSET happens when an upset involves teams more than four seeds apart 

CLOSE means a game was decided by single digits or in overtime 

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

80-90-100 is the number of teams scoring that many points

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Tournament Has a Different Feel for Lady Vols

Another women’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament approaches and Tennessee is seeking to hang a ninth championship banner in the rafters. But the usual postseason excitement is tinged with somber uncertainty, given that this year’s tournament might be more about departure than arrival.

Don’t forget to check out Kim’s Daily News page for tons of links. Some that stood out for me:

Albany: Coach Abe has a winning way
BYU: Knee failed 3 times, but Haley Steed had heart
Eastern Michigan: Eagles head toward NCAA tournament
Florida Gulf Coast, St. Bonaventure: Three will be key for Eagles, Bonnies in NCAA Tournament game
Fresno State: Bulldogs women’s basketball team can hear ghost of Michael Jordan
Middle Tennessee State: Lady Raiders unfazed by stage
Navy: Latest Navy Women’s Basketball NCAA Tournament Diary
Penn State: Washington Hasn’t Lost Sight of Portland’s Success on Court
St. Bonaventure: St. Bonaventure living the good life as FGCU awaits
UTEP: ‘Hard work pays off’: UTEP assistant draws on experience
UW Green Bay: Green Bay Way makes mid-major one of country’s top women’s programs

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(And more teams watching their bracketology bubble hopes pop)

Tell me if you notice a pattern. *cue music* “Do ya, do you, do ya wanna dance?”

By virtue of their upset victory over Appalachian State (25-6), Samford (20-12) won the So Con Championship and an automatic bid to the Dance. Clearly, the Bulldogs have the Mountaineers’ number: It was the third straight year Samford has defeated Appalachian State in the tournament.

By virtue of their upset victory over St. Bonaventure (29-3), the Dayton Flyers won the A-10 Championship and earned an automatic bid to the Dance. It’s the Flyer’s first A-10 Championship and it must be incredibly rewarding for coach Jabir, who’s worked tremendously hard to take the program from his first year record of 3-35, to this year’s record of 23-6. It’s amazing what a coach can do with a little institutional support — right Providence?

By virtue of their upset victory over Gonzaga (26-5), BYU (26-6) won the WCC Championship and earned an automatic bid to the Dance. This is the Cougars’ first WCC championship. The two teams split their regular season games, and one can imagine a lovely rivalry developing between these two programs.

By virtue of their upset victory over American (23-7), Holy Cross (18-13) prevented the Eagles from winning the Patriot League Championship and earning an automatic invitation to the Dance. That invite will either go to the Crusaders or the Midshipmen of Navy (17-3).

Marist (25-7) made sure that Fairfield (24-8)  didn’t even get a glimpse of an upset, coming out strong in the first and putting together almost an exact duplicate of their effort in the second. Red Foxes win their 7th straight MAAC title and are goin’ dancin’.

“Revenge as a Rout” was the theme at the Big East as Notre Dame tattooed West Virginia and UConn demolished St. John’s. ND will go for the 3-defeat and UConn will try for redemption in Tuesday’s finals.

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which one was the BIGGEST one, asks Nate: Finding The NCAA Women’s Basketball Upset of the Year By Reframing Expectations

Shortly after the San Francisco Dons defeated the BYU Cougars on Thursday night, Matt Olson of Omni Rankings tweeted what many women’s basketball fans were already thinking: Jennifer Azzi’s Dons might’ve pulled off the upset of the year.

Helen of Women’s Hoops Blog reiterated the point on Friday, also suggesting that USF’s feat wasn’t quite as “sexy” as the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 77-75 upset win over the Kentucky Wildcats. Then there was the St. John’s Red Storm’s 57-56 win over the UConn Huskies, which was an upset in part because of the Red Storm interrupted a 99-game home win streak for the Huskies.

But this brings up a fun dilemma for basketball geeks, inspired by the very existence of Omni Rankings’ upset rankings: What constitutes the “Upset of the Year? And how on earth would we go about determining that with all the games that are played during any given season?

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