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

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

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

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

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

Social Reaction: Swin Cash’s Retirement

Film Room: Running Down a Dream

Candace Parker Provides Perfect Spark

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

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

NCAA

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

High/Middle School

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

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

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

WBHOF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HOT

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

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

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

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

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

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

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

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

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

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

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

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

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

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

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

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

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

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

HOT MESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

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

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

NCAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

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

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

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

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

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

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

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

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

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

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

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

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

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

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

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

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

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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but I’m a little worried about the Lib’s tall folks.

Tina looks fantabulous, but where is Kiah? Sugar is already making a bid for the “Most Improved” as Old Big Easters will recognize the form they’re seeing on the court (and, do you remember her Player’s Tribune piece?). Intrigued to see how our elder guards contribute – really want an announcer to get the chance to say Z-to-Z for the nice give-and go. The Dallas visitors say Skylar is day-to-day, but even without her, the Wings are proving that they’re not going to be a pushover this year. Looking forward to see what happens for the newly-transfered franchise. Home wins, I hope.

Swish Appeal: ‘Pinch of Sugar’ goes a long way in Liberty victory

Queenie:

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don’t have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she’d had to play, and I don’t think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn’t help their rotation.)

On the West Coast, Los Angeles picked up where it left off last year… as did, unfortunately,  Seattle. Behind Parker’s 34, the Sparks easily handled the Storm. L.A. Times … dabnabbit! You use the AP report!!?!?! And oh, snap, the Sparks aren’t in your header or your dropdown menu. So. Not. Cool. At least Mechelle wrote somethin’

There were five No. 1 picks on the floor at Staples Center on Sunday, all of whom could tell you their own stories of what it means to them to be in that club.

When the game was over, 2008’s top pick — the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker — had the biggest day and her team got exactly the start it wanted: a dominant, 96-66 victory over the Seattle Storm.

There actually were some positives for the Storm, particularly regarding two of their No. 1 picks who look to be the foundation of a bright future: 2016 top pick Breanna Stewart, in her pro debut, had 23 points, while 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd, last season’s rookie of the year, had 20.

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

Sue: Parker, Stewart both shine in Sparks dominating opening win

Hoopfeed: Candace Parker spoils debut of Breanna Stewart with 34-point explosion as Sparks beat Storm 96-66

The local paper hasn’t stopped paying attention: Breanna Stewart makes WNBA debut, experiences something new: Losing

Did you catch this from Stewie? Day One, Again.

Downtime? I have none. Just the way I like it.

Last week I was in Seattle trying to figure out if I could pull off the trip back to Connecticut for graduation. My new teammates asking, “What time do you have to be there?” Meanwhile I’m thinking, What if I get there and they forget to call my name? But being able to graduate in person from an institution like UConn, in front of a community that gave you so much, is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I made it, and squeezed in a visit to the White House with my UConn teammates; it was worth it.

Swin back in?

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry

Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:

“We gotta make the damn playoffs,” she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.

Diana Taurasi learned a lot by watching her Phoenix Mercury teammates, at least when she wasn’t yelling at her monitor.

“I turned into that fan. ‘Why aren’t we rebounding? Why aren’t we executing down the stretch?,’ ” she told Excelle Sports Saturday at shootaround, prior to the Mercury’s season-opener 95-76 loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

Watching was the only thing Taurasi could do following her choice to skip the 2015 season, a move that reverberated fiercely within the WNBA community; Taurasi had won her third championship with Phoenix and her second Finals MVP award the year before.

On Saturday night, Taurasi could call herself a player again, competing against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, a venue where fans generally love to hate anything that has to do with purple and orange, especially the player wearing the No. 3 jersey. In Minnesota’s lean years,

If you haven’t purchased ESPN the Magazine, might recommend you get out and do so. WNBA oral history: Moving the ball forward

DAVID STERN WALKED down the hallway of the NBA offices in Manhattan and paused as he approached Val Ackerman’s office.

The then-NBA commissioner poked his head in the doorway.

“This would be a summer league, right?” Stern asked.

“Yeah,” Ackerman recalls saying, “that’s the plan.”

THE WNBA WASN’T launched by one landmark meeting. Rather, it evolved from a series of brainstorms, serendipitous circumstances and casual conversations: It was the right people working together at the right time. The NBA had reached a zenith of popularity and marketability in the early 1990s thanks to megastars such as Michael Jordan and collaborations with other organizations, such as USA Basketball. All of that delivered the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics.

 Great job by Delle Donne (and, I’m assuming, a little assist from the Sky PR folks) – she’s been all.over.Chicago.In Chicago Magazine: The New Superstar in Town

In the glittering heart of Gotham, at a swank TriBeCa gala fit for a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne, a newly minted superhero soars toward an unseen basketball hoop, a flaring silk of blond hair trailing like a cape.

A few feet away, in heels and a form-hugging gown, a very tall blond woman who more than passingly resembles the leaping figure mulls the Marvel poster like a patron at a gallery, examining the main image of the subject cradling a basketball like a deity palming a planet, her hair swept back like Athena.

A small grin, then a full-on smile blossoms as she reads the character’s name.

“I hadn’t seen this,” she says to a friend. “Pretty cool, huh? Full-Court Goddess. I’ll take that.”

Speaking of which, fingers crossed: Sky’s Elena Delle Donne practices, expected to play Wednesday

About friggin’ time. From Excelle: WNBA.com dramatically expands stat, historical video offerings

This doesn’t suck: ESPN posts highest WNBA overnight rating for a regular-season game since 2011

A little college:  

With rumors circling about an extension, On the Banks writes: C. Vivian Stringer’s Impact Upon Women’s Basketball is Legendary

From the Sentinel: Next recruiting class crucial to Lady Vols’ future

Bye: Nebraska sharpshooter Natalie Romeo to transfer to UW women’s basketball team

Romeo leaves Nebraska after the abrupt resignation last month of Huskers coach Connie Yori over allegations that the coach mistreated players. Romeo has denied those claims.

“It was pretty difficult there,” she said. “I just think it’s the best thing for me to move on.”

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Silly me. I think it’s safe to unplug, catch up with family, friends and that thing we call work ’cause its “Down time in women’s basketball!”

But, nooooooooooo……

So, in order of loudness: Parker and the Olympics

Obviously, there’s a there’s a ton of stuff that we don’t know… and will never now. What makes the story even more fraught is that, like an onion, there are layers and layers of people around the story.

Seems to me there are a couple of narratives swirling around:

  1. The Selection Committee of USA Basketball (Carol Callan (USA Basketball), Reneé Brown (WNBA), Dan Hughes (WNBA), Chris Sienko (WNBA), Katie Smith (Athlete Representative)) made a decision on who should or shouldn’t be on the team based on several factors. In one of the most challenging decision years ever, they made a choice that several people have opinions on. For instance: 

Doug: Candace Parker disappointed, will not be on US hoops roster
Mechelle: Omitting Parker is a bad call by USA Basketball and USA Basketball’s failure to offer answers fuels speculation around Candace Parker’s exclusion
Sporting News: Candace Parker’s Olympic snub ushers in new era of women’s hoops

2. USA head coach Geno Auriemma has a grudge against Tennessee and Pat Summitt, so  he demanded that Parker not be on the team.

For instance: All for Tennessee: Was Candace Parker Railroaded from Team USA by Geno Auriemma?

This narrative makes the most sense to me. Yes, USA Basketball has stated ad nauseam that “the Committee makes the decisions,” but they’re lying. Contrary to what Tara wrote, it’s the USA basketball head coach who decides who wears the red, white and blue – which is why Parker is not on the team.

Sure, it’s been since January 7, 2007 that the Huskies faced the Vols, but Candace Parker was on. that. team. And they beat UConn, 70-62. And Parker scored 30. AND she dunked. And you know what is it they say: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Auriemma couldn’t keep Parker off the 2008 team (he wasn’t the coach), and couldn’t keep her off the London team (probably didn’t have the power yet). Worse, when in London, he couldn’t stop her from taking over during the gold medal game against France. That must have been what set him off on his plotting. Now, four years later, he’s gotten exactly what he knows will make his career worthwhile: no Parker on the Olympic team.

Sure, he’s just coming off winning his 11th National Championship.
Sure, he’s just won four Final Fours in a row.
Sure, he just had his seniors be pick 1-2-3 in the WNBA Draft.
Sure, he’s so fried he ended up in the hospital.
Sure, he knew there would be a fan and player and coach and media firestorm that would pull the attention from the team he was going to coach in Rio….

But it’s all worth it. That kid who graduated from Tennessee in 2008 is not going to Rio. NOW his coaching resume is complete.

Just in case: sarchasm. the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’ t get it. 

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’cause it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear… Take a deep breath, y’all, shut the door and pull up a chair ’cause you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

First things first: WNIT!!
Saturday, April 2  |  3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT
CBS Sports Network – Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Chiney Ogwumike (analyst)

The finals are set and it pits two programs who’ve got something to prove (to the selection committee): South Dakota v. Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Coyotes earned a birth by throughly handling Oregon, 88-54.

DakotaDome’s long goodbye as a basketball facility will now officially be talked about for a very long time. The old gal just doesn’t want to give up on roundball just yet. USD will now play the winner of Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday accompanied by a crowd expected to be bigger than Wednesday’s.

“Even when we were just warming up at 60 minutes (before the game), the people were filling in,” said Kelly Stewart, who was one of six Coyotes who hit double-figures. “Then every time we came out of the locker room there was more people. And finally, when we were about to do the starting lineups, I looked up and I got a huge smile on my face. Everyone was smiling.”

The Eagles took on Michigan in from of a record crowd, and came away with the 71-61 win.

“It was a great defensive effort against a great offensive team,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Now we’re excited to get to play for the WNIT Championship. The crowd was exceptional tonight. It was a huge advantage for us to have it here with that type of atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the type of game that these players will remember for a long time.”

FYI: WNIT NOTES

-Minnesota’s Rachel Banham scored 48 points on March 16 to lead the Gophers to an 87-80 win over Milwaukee in Round 1. That set a Postseason WNIT record for most points in a game, surpassing Tamika Whitmore of Memphis (45 against Arkansas State, 1999). 

-Sharnae Lamar of Northern Iowa dished out 15 assists to set a single-game WNIT record in the team’s 64-58 victory over Drake, 64-58. 

-The 2016 title game between South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast is the second time since 1998 that two mid-major programs have played for the Postseason crown. In 2004, Creighton beat UNLV for the title.

-Before 2016, there have been 13 mid-major teams to reach the Postseason WNIT championship game. The six mid-major champions are Creighton (2004), Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), South Florida (2009), Toledo (2011) and Drexel (2013).

About that stuff happening in Indianapolis: FREE Women’s Final Four Activities

General:

Indianapolis set to be center of women’s basketball world

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Indianapolis this weekend in a celebration of the sport.

For the first time in NCAA history the Division I, II and III women’s titles will be decided on the same court.

“We can’t wait for the 2016 championship games in Indianapolis,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said.

Celebrating 35 Years of NCAA Women’s Basketball

Beth Mowins to replace Dave O’Brien as announcer in Final Four, first-time all-female crew for ESPN at event

Women’s basketball | Final Four: Three first-timers crash party with UConn

Meet the Women’s Final Four

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Final Four preview

Audio: Kara Lawson with SI’s Richard Deitsch

Audio: Sue Bird talks about the low pay for women’s professional basketball in the United States on this edition of our Keeping Score with Rick Horrow audio podcast

Audio: HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is joined by Diana Taurasi to discuss her WNBA return from Russia, UConn’s dominance (6:00), the stupidity of lowering the rims (13:00), GSW’s selflessness (16:30), playing pickup with Westbrook and Draymond (21:00), and the struggling Lakers and D’Angelo Russell (30:00).

Audio: Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: “Ambassador” Tamika Catchings welcomes the WBB world to Indy

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 3/31/16 Podcast: Doug Bruno is back to break down the 2016 Final Four

Women’s NCAA tournament: Four keys to the Final Four

Women’s Final Four: Can Anyone Stop UConn?

At Women’s Final Four, male-coached teams not a bad thing

These Are The Last Three Teams That Have A Chance To Beat UConn

SNYDER: UConn overshadows parity among other women’s basketball teams

VanDerveer: UConn’s rule isn’t bad for the sport — but next year it could be

Jeff Jacobs: In Women’s Final Four, It’s The Men Who Beat The Odds

Jeff Jacobs: Think UConn’s Geno Auriemma Is A Rock? You Should Meet His Wife

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

My turn: JUST CATCH UP

Washington:

How UW’s and OSU’s Final Four run is a breakthrough for Pac-12 women’s basketball

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

7 things to know about Washington Huskies (Syracuse women’s basketball Final Four foe)

Meet the Final Four-bound UW Huskies women’s basketball team

Washington’s jump shooter doesn’t jump

HUSKIES WOMEN: Masters of the Unexpected

Four knee surgeries later, UW’s Walton unfazed by doubts

Mike Neighbors: From Blockbuster To The Final Four

Oregon State

Five questions for Beavers-Huskies

Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

New to following Oregon State women’s basketball? Here’s a crash course on the Beavers

Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball blending intensity, playfulness during Final Four run

Final Four newcomer Oregon State scrappy on defense

Watch: Gary Andersen and Pat Casey on Oregon State

OSU dreams big, embraces Final Four berth

Watch: Oregon State women’s basketball Final Four appearance called ‘incredibly miraculous’

Can Oregon State Shock The World?

Rueck’s Beavers have big fans in OSU’s 1963 Final Four team

OSU has unfinished business in Final Four

Aki Hill and the bliss of the Final Four

Open tryouts to the Final Four: Oregon State’s dramatic rise

Syracuse:

Syracuse’s Hillsman, Read preparing carefully for Washington

Syracuse women’s basketball guard Alexis Peterson brims with confidence

Keep shooting: Syracuse women’s basketball senior Brianna Butler does what she’s told

Turning point for Syracuse women’s basketball this season began with a loss

Kayla Alexander: Syracuse Orange Nation on Cloud Nine

Syracuse women’s basketball center Briana Day: Bigger foes aren’t going to push me around

Go Orange! Syracuse men’s, women’s basketball teams head to Final Four

Connecticut:

Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?

UConn may be the greatest college basketball dynasty ever

Geno Auriemma: Having to defend success ‘makes no sense’

Geno: Ignore UConn Women If You Want, ‘But Don’t Demean Those Who Appreciate It’ –

Why the dominance of the U-Conn. women’s team should be embraced

UConn’s opponents need to step up their game

Jeff Otterbein: UConn Women Simply The Best, Just Watch And Learn To Live With It

Here are a few additional assignments for sports columnist

Fans appreciate greatness, even when the games aren’t close

Fans don’t agree with columnist who says Huskies are killing the game

UConn Women’s Basketball Team Confronts Consequences Of Being ‘Too Good’

UConn too good? Quit the whining, beat ’em!

Respect the Women!

Be Great. Don’t Apologize.

UConn women don’t find winning boring

UConn women should be respected

UConn can join a pair of 4-peat pioneers in women’s basketball

Connecticut poised to make history again

UConn making something hard look easy

Huskies closer to place no team has ever been

Freshmen provide Huskies with needed backup help

UConn freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament

Samuelson’s family is UConn women’s basketball’s family, too

Women’s basketball: Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart leads a star-studded Final Four

Other basketball news:

Rachel for threeeeee: Banham edges Smith in 3-point championship

Brava: Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay, announces marriage to her USF assistant coach

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kinda of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things.

Supporters laud Jennifer Azzi for her bravery – but you can read the fear…

New women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks raves about recruiting potential at Virginia Tech

Jonathan Tsipis’ plan to grow Badgers women’s basketball attendance starts with being visible –

New UW women’s basketball coach wants to keep state’s best players

Tsipis tasked with turning tide for women’s hoops

Wisconsin Women’s Basketball: Tsipis’ energy stands out during initial meeting with team

Bradbury named UNM women basketball head coach

KSU Women’s Basketball Coach Agnus Berenato

Kim Rosamond named Tennessee Tech women’s basketball head coach

Finally poached: UCF announces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as head coach of women’s basketball

Former UConn players apply Auriemma lessons as coaches

Bye: Jatarie White to transfer from USC women’s basketball program

Bye: Two leave Duke women’s basketball team

WNBA:

Updownup-down… honestly, I think the NBA should raise their rim. It’s ridiculous how easy it is for the giants who play the game to score…

Army brass supports Minato in WNBA bid

Jennifer Gish: The next goal for UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards — the WNBA

Lindsay Whalen Joins Timberwolves’ Broadcast Booth

Deep Diving WNBA Data — Griner’s Paint Defense

WNBA Award Accuracy by Win Shares

Girls Sports Month: Candace Parker on what drives her, dunking and being a mom

WNBA Reveals New Apparel Items Celebrating Landmark 20th Season

The Legend of Lauren Jackson

Cool: Boomers And Fire GMs Head To WNBA Again

Following on from a successful visit last year to work alongside management at the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, the off-court leaders at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and JCU Townsville Fire will again embrace a fact-finding mission in Los Angeles and Phoenix this June, this time taking in eight sporting events in 10 nights.

WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw “hitting game-winning shots” on and off the court

In case you missed it: Blake Griffin’s ‘Broad City’ appearance included a discussion about the WNBA

OT, but not really: Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy

The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.

First, with the women’s jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren’t the same as the widely used industry standard.

Second, with the men’s jerseys, you can’t buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women’s team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis’ reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann’s collection of question marks.

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“So what’d I miss?

A little Fresno, Frisco, Flooding and Fever threw me off my game this week. Wheeee!

Some interesting, interesting stuff happening on the boards. Obviously, the folks who say there are no upsets in women’s basketball are looking more and more like the uniformed idjits they are. That being said, if some of the upsets aren’t setting of alarm bells in the Athletic Director’s offices, I’d be disappointed… but not surprised.

Let us count the upsets – and note how many unranked teams were involved:

Indiana over #18 Michigan State, 81-65. Lesson: It would be nice if local papers paid attention to Moren’s team:

“As I expressed to our players tonight, I hope this win gives them a dose of confidence,” head coach Teri Moren said. “And they believe when they communicate, when they stay connected defensively, when they hit shots—they’re going to be in the game and win a lot of ball games. That’s my hope that this win gives our kids a shot in the arm that they can play with the best teams in the Big Ten…I’m just really, really proud.”

Northwestern over #5 Ohio State, 86-82. Lesson: You’ve got to play four quarter, youngsters.

Northwestern brought Ohio State back to earth on Thursday night in Evanston, Ill., with a thud that sent ripples around Lake Michigan.

The Wildcats jumped to a 48-30 halftime lead and withstood a late comeback by the fifth-ranked Buckeyes to hand them an 86-82 defeat at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Buckeyes (12-4, 4-1) and knocked them out of a tie with Purdue for the Big Ten lead.

Arkansas over #13 Tennessee, 64-59. Lesson:  Whatever the upheavals outlined by Mechelle, it’s fair to point a finger at Holly.

Let’s be clear…this was a bad team at 7-10.

And with the No. 146 ranked defense, No. 155 in field goal percentage defense, Tennessee responded with another atrocious shooting night.

The Vols shot worse than 35 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc. In general women’s basketball, that’s okay.

But it’s not okay when you’re Tennessee and you have the talent. While there’s only one senior starter, there are two three-year players and another four-year player in the lineup. So the excuses are running thin, and Warlick’s misuse of her team’s strengths is evident.

Georgia over #20 Florida, 71-61. Lesson: Nice time to get your first SEC win, coach Taylor. (Gotta fix the Georgia page, though. A.nnoy.ing!

NC State over #22 Duke, 65-62. Lesson: There may be some changes in the ACC: The win improved the Wolfpack to 13-5 and more importantly 4-1 in ACC play, while Duke fell to 12-6 and 1-3.

2015-16 has been a record-setting season to date for Duke Women’s Basketball, in all the worst possible ways. Duke lost to an unranked opponent at home for the first time since 2002 (when an Iciss Tillis flub at the end of the Duke Classic championship game led to an overtime loss to South Carolina). Tonight the Blue Devils lost to the Wolfpack Women in Cameron for the first time since 1996, when Chasity Melvin led her team to a win. In this contest, NC State rode a 30-11 edge in points off turnovers to edge Duke, 65-62. This loss will no doubt drop #22 Duke (12-6, 1-3 ACC) out of the rankings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Washington over #17 UCLA, 64-56. Lesson: The Pac12 teams are like the Old Big East teams: Not to be dismissed.

[Talia] Walton’s performance Friday night — 22 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes — went a long way toward helping legitimize the Huskies’ hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. The win was the first for UW (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) against a ranked opponent this season.

“When she plays like this,” Plum said, “we can beat anyone.”

Washington State over #25 USC, 73-61. Lesson: Pac12 means No. games. off.

“We just lost our focus,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “We didn’t come out ready to play and they outplayed us. They hustled more and just played better than us.”

Oklahoma State over #14 Oklahoma, 73-42. Lesson: Who knows WHAT is going on in Stillwater? The Cowgirls just came off a 47-44 loss to Kansas. Perhaps all games should be listed as “Bedlam” games?

#24 Missouri over #7 Mississippi State, 88-54. Lesson: Get out fast.

Missouri’s hot start was a stark contrast compared to its two other games this season against ranked opponents. The Tigers trailed Tennessee 24-11 less than 10 minutes into a 71-55 loss on Jan. 4 and trailed South Carolina 25-10 just more than 13 minutes into Sunday’s 83-58 loss.

Thursday’s result could prove to be a big one for a Missouri team seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.

With conference play in full swing, here are some teams deserving of your attention:

Albany (45-0) sits atop the America East and Shereesha Richards broke the 2,000-point milestone. They play Stony Brook (4-0) on the 21st. When is someone going to poach coach Abrahamson-Henderson?

Bucknell is making a run at the Patriot League title. With their win over Colgate, the Bison start 6-0 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, remain all alone in first place in the Patriot League, win its sixth straight game, the longest streak of the Roussell era and the program’s longest streak since 2006-07 and Improve to 61-47 in Aaron Roussell’s four years as head coach. I’ve got my eyes looking forward to their game against Army, Jan 30th.

St. Bonaventure (5-0). Couple of years ago they were darlings, then they had a tough year. Now, hello! 

This year’s Atlantic 10 preseason polls didn’t think much of St. Bonaventure University. The guys picked 8th.

“Eighth is the second highest we’ve been picked in my nine years here so we looked at it as a compliment,” said St. Bonaventure Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Schmidt.

The ladies’ team picked 9th.

Senior forward Katie Healy said, “Nobody saw what we put in this summer, all the work, all the hours we put in. Both teams, now in first place and combined, are 25-5 to start the year. That’s never happened before.”

While it might be the guys’ best start in 16 years, for the ladies, it’s their best start ever.

The Bonnies other A-10 compatriots are no slouches. Duquesne who, for the first time in program history, was ranked in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 Poll, will take their 15-game winning to ESPNU (Sue Bird & Melissa Lee on the call) on Sunday. They’ll face George Washington, who has won nine in a row. (Speaking of poachable coaches…Tsipis)

Ohio – the 3-time MAC champs are looking for a fourth title. In a matchup of two poachable coaches (Bolden & Verdi), the Bobcats defeated their 2015 MAC Tournament Championship game opponent, Eastern Michigan, 71-64.

Abilene Christian (4-0) continues to win in the Southland.

Colorado State (4-0) has already defeated San Jose State. Fresno State (4-0) defeated them today. They don’t play each other until March 1st. Who scheduled only one regular season game between these two teams?

Swoopes, there it is: Chicago (Loyola) is 4-0 in the MVC.

Purdue (5-0). We’ve been calling their name. Let’s see what they’ve got: OSU tomorrow.

Green Bay (5-0) faces Wright State (4-0) on the 23rd. Winner stays #1 in the Horizon. Loser may have to wait for the rematch end of February.

Montana State (5-0). Maybe John Stockton is a good assistant coach, huh? They play 4-0 Eastern Washington on the 21st.

Sienna (7-0) in the MAAC and its best start in 14 years. But, don’t get to cocky – and never count the Foxes out. Marist they held on to give Iona its first conference loss, 62-61.

Western Kentucky (5-0) continues its resurgence under coach Michelle Clark-Heard (poachable!).

The WCC!!! 5-1, 5-1, 5-1, 4-2. ’nuff said.

I’m keeping an eye on the NBE.  While it’s been tough times for Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier are on a roll.

Is it too early to suggest Muffet McGraw as COY? Her competition, if the continue to improve, would be Louisville’s Walz. Both are, is sports-speak, “coachin’ their team up.

Did I jinx the Tribe?

Just sayin’ – Utah is 4-1 in the PAC 12.

Upcoming games to keep an eye on:

The aforementioned George Washington v. Duquesne.

The oft mentioned #4 Texas v. #6 Baylor, 3:30 on ESPN2.

South Carolina is 4-0 in the wacky SEC. They’ll face TAMU at 1:30 on ESPN2

Purdue at #5 Ohio State, 2pm.

#23 Louisville v. North Carolina State – who keeps up their momentum?

#24 Missouri v. Arkansas…. see above.

#17 UCLA v. Washington State. Does WSU continue to show how dicey the Pac12 is?

Speaking of: #11 Stanford v. #10 Oregon State. 

#22 Duke v. Boston College. How do the Blue Devils react?

#10 Arizona v. Utah. How legit are the Utes?

MLK Day

#13 Tennessee v. #3 Notre Dame, 7pm ESPN2. Will the Vols’ good game-bad game-good game pattern continue?

In other news:

Florida: UF women’s basketball surging thanks to talent infusion

Snap: Jackie Young breaks Indiana girls basketball scoring record

Through four seasons on the floor, Princeton girls basketball star Jackie Young has attacked the opposition and record books, steadily climbing up the scoring charts.

Now she’s in the record books.

A large crowd gathered Thursday night to see Young make history, including two players from the 1976 undefeated Hoosiers basketball team. 

A free throw late in the fourth quarter of the game against Wood Memorial landed her one point ahead of former record-holder Shanna Zolman.

Aztec girls basketball team aiming for championship, community revival

Most of the awards that decorate the glass cases at Aztec High School’s gymnasium have something to do with football.

The Tigers are best known for being able to push a pigskin ball down a football field but in the last year or so, they’ve had to make room for a new group of athletes that the school just wasn’t used to.

Over the last several years, the Aztec High School girls’ basketball team has emerged from the bottom of the local basketball barrel and into the spotlight.

Their newfound success is something Aztec junior Kairai George isn’t used to.

Congrats! West Bridgewater girls basketball coach notches 600th win

Congrats! DePaul’s Doug Bruno gets 600th win

Former WNBA President Orender gives insight into gender in sports

Candace Parker interview: ‘The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome…’

Hello: Wings Star Skylar Diggins Makes Surprise Appearance at High School in Dallas

GW basketball’s rebounding machine could score big in WNBA draft

Breanna Stewart Watch: Top Prospects Raising Her Game Even Higher as a Senior

Countdown to the WNBA Draft: No. 17 Kahleah Copper

Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide Looking forward to 2016 with relish

 

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A heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to the two teams and the amazing fans in the Garden last night. You put on a helluva a show for Mr. Adam Silver aka Don’t Be A Wet Blanket, sir!

Also thrilled to see Suuuuuuuueeeeee celebrating great post play, T Edwards on the edge of her seat, and Val Ackerman one of the original “Originals” stalking the Garden steps. I even have a little love for the Dolson family – even though you were cheering for the Mystics. I see why she’s such a lovely woman…

The Lib and Mystics put on quite the show and, as many observers have noted, the electricity was back.With all my intellectual understanding of how important a NY win is to the league (no disrespect intended to the Mystics fans – they have been amazing and need to recover from some serious mis-management) I was taken aback by the surge of emotion that went through me when Stokes sealed the win with her block and Sugar super-sealed it with her free throws. It’s been a long time, kids.

By the way, FiveThirtyEight Sports – I know you say that “we don’t need no steeenkeen threes,” but I have to say that last night we sure enjoyed every single one Wiggins nailed.

Of course, as a reward, we get to play back-to-back games as we’ve been doubly evicted from the Garden.(First it was Madonna, then it was the Pope… I’m expecting Julio Iglesisas’ secret twin brother Jesus to announce a surprise concert.)

The conference finals open Wednesday in the East (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) when New York plays its second game at Madison Square Garden in as many days.

No. 1 New York (23-11 in the regular season) vs. No. 3 Indiana (20-14)

No offense to Washington, but from a league visibility standpoint, having New York in the Eastern Conference finals is a boost to the WNBA. But can the Liberty make it to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002? The team trying to stop them has more playoff experience as a franchise — 11 consecutive postseason appearances — and beat the Liberty four of five times during the regular season.

From Swish Appeal: Heavyweight battle: 5 major keys to Eastern Conference Finals

A LATE ADDITION from William: As Liberty Seek Title, Tina Charles Can Now Do More Than Dream

Charles played the full 40 minutes Tuesday and will, in all likelihood, have to play 40 more Wednesday.

No rest? No sweat.

“Being born and raised in New York, nothing is easy,” Charles said Tuesday. “Nothing really goes your way. So it doesn’t surprise me that we have to play tomorrow. It’s New York. Things like this happen. You just got to respond.”

For Charles, who was raised in Jamaica, Queens, and starred at Christ the King High School, Tuesday night brought back memories of the rocking Garden of her youth, cheering for women playing in a new women’s pro league that gave young players new horizons, new hope.

In Minnesota, the Lynx led wire-to-wire as Candace’s Superwoman cape wasn’t quite big enough. More of interest to me is the appearance of Sylvia Fowles. It looked like she was finally interested in taking an active role in this whole “pursuit of a championship” thang.

The Sparks, however, fastened their defense midway through the second half and pulled within one point early in the fourth quarter after a pair of Parker free throws.

But the experienced Lynx dug in, leaned on their veterans and rattled off a 9-0 run.

Augustus knocked down a 14-footer. Sylvia Fowles asserted herself in the paint and muscled through Sparks defenders for a couple of buckets. Superstar Maya Moore hit a step-back jumper and earned several trips to the free-throw line.

“We played on the edge every possession tonight,” Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “A couple lapses here and there, but that’s what it takes to win those games,”

In other news:

Say, what, Texas???!!!

It was a tense game between two third-grade basketball rivals, but it wouldn’t be until two months later that one team’s coach would feel the full effects.

Jessica Curs was coaching a team of 9-year-old girls in Burleson, Texas, when things got so heated that fans started heckling her, her husband and other coaches, she said. But it was when one particular fan, who turned out to be a plainclothes police officer, said he heard the coach fire back with her own comments that things escalated quickly.

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Or, better, “Let’s play one more!”

The Liberty took care of the pesky Mystics with authority borne of lessons learned.

“”Did we play hard Friday? Yes. Did we play focused? Yes. We did not do the little things that win playoff games.

“[The players] knew it. They watched the film; they saw their defensive mistakes. Saw their not-boxing-out mistakes, saw their unforced turnovers and their missed free throws. They knew they had that game and gave it away.”

From Kelyn Soong at the WaPo:

The New York Liberty quickly silenced the Verizon Center crowd that showed up Sunday afternoon to watch the Washington Mystics attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2002. The buzz, palpable before tip-off, was gone by the time the Liberty took a seven-point lead barely two minutes in. Instead of letting the Mystics close out the series, New York showed why it owned the WNBA’s best regular season record with an 86-68 rout.

While Boyd may be missing from the court, that doesn’t mean she’s not still learning. From the Players’ Tribune, “Growing Up.

“Why don’t you talk?”

Swin Cash was at the next locker, staring at me. I was frozen.

It was my first day with the Liberty and my locker was between Swin and Tanisha Wright. It felt like I had stumbled into a class in a grade above me on the first day of school. Playing for the Liberty, it’s pretty hard not to be next to a veteran or two at all times. They didn’t wait long to start in on me.

Tanisha was staring at this quiet girl next to her. “Come here girl, give me a hug.” And so Tanisha gave me a hug. Tanisha’s a hugger.

When I went to say something, nothing came out. I was just smiling awkwardly and sitting there. It was all really overwhelming. This was my first week in the WNBA.

Parker made some noise, and the Sparks made Maya almost human, so they’re on their way to Minnesota for a deciding game three.

Digging deep is nothing new for the Sparks.

No one in the league dragged themselves out of a bigger hole to end up in this place, fighting and scrapping to stay in contention for a title.

Los Angeles has been dealing all season with obstacles, players in and out of the lineup with injuries, a superstar who didn’t show up until the All-Star break, a nightmarish start that had the Sparks wearing the league’s worst record for a long stretch.

So this little thing on Sunday, the matter of having to play at the Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State, more than an hour away from their home floor, in a gym they hadn’t seen all season — and facing elimination against the West’s top seed to boot — was not the scenario that was going to take out the Sparks.

Next, they need to worry about Nnek’s neck: 

The Los Angeles Sparks have been dealing with adversity throughout the season.

Heading into their biggest game of the year, they’ve been dealt another major blow.

The Sparks are unsure of the status of three-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike for Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx.

Tonight, the Stage Is Set For Winner-Take-All Game 3 Between Chicago And Indiana

Will Tamika Catchings’ laser focus lead to upset over Sky?

“I think tonight we just came out with a lot more focus,” Catchings said. “Not to say we weren’t focused in game one, but definitely down the stretch our focus it seemed like it magnified.”

The focus for Catchings seemed to be everything—with 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, the six-foot-two forward was an unstoppable threat all night.

“We executed offensively and defensively,” Catchings said. “Everybody zoned in.  You could see it in their eyes.”

Sky, Fever to play decisive Game 3

Following a Game 1 victory Thursday at the UIC Pavilion, the Chicago Sky had the advantage and looked to close out the Indiana Fever on Saturday.

But despite a strong offensive effort from the Sky, the defense loomed large as the Fever rallied to win 89-82 and even the series at 1-1. The two teams return to action Monday at 8 p.m. EST for the decisive Game 3.

In other news:

I may have some nits to pick with some of the reasons, but there’s no denying that they have reasons. From Lady Swish: Why it’s hard for us to embrace the WNBA

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After that “instant classic,” the Liberty are in D.C. needing a win over the Mystics to extend their season. From the Suffolk Times: Sugar: An ingredient of success

The mid-season return of veteran guard Epiphanny Prince from overseas has reduced Rodgers’ minutes this year, but the Suffolk standout has been an undeniably significant contributor to the Liberty’s success.

“It’s been great,” Rodgers said. “To be honest, I’ve just been living in the moment. It’s always good to make history at a franchise, because they’ll remember this for a long time. So, like I said, I’ve just been living in the moment, appreciating the fact of just being here, just being thankful.”

From bulletsforever:

1. Knock the Libs out of the gym early 

There’s no need for me to talk about stats on this one. But if the Mystics can overwhelm New York from the start along with hometown support, that could very well be the push needed.

In 2013, the Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of their playoff series on the road. That gave fans a lot of optimism for Game 2 at the Verizon Center for an elimination game on September 21, 2013. But they came out totally flat in the first quarter and shot 25 percent from the field en route to a 63-45 loss.

In Tulsa, the short-handed Shock kept it close early, but Phoenix Griner made sure they ended their residency in Tulsa on a loss.

Watching Saturday’s night’s WNBA playoff doubleheader, I couldn’t help but think of the differing fates of two franchises and their cities.

Indiana beat Chicago 89-82 to extend their series to a deciding third game Monday in the Windy City. Tulsa, however, was not able to do the same against Phoenix. The defending champion Mercury won 91-67 and move on to the Western Conference finals, where they await the Minnesota-Los Angeles winner.

Now next season, the Shock will pack up and go to Dallas, or more specifically, Arlington, Texas. You could tell how much the Shock players deeply appreciated the loyal fans who kept showing up at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this season even after they knew the team would be theirs only a little longer.

Catch and her Collaborators were on point during a delightful back-and-forth game against Chicago.

“One of the things you have to continue to do against a team like Chicago is try to keep them off balance because they are so good,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “They get a bead on you, and they exploit you. I thought our players did a good job of changing defenses and changing schemes, and executing those schemes.”

L.A. will see if they can push Minnesota to a Game Three.

Arena logistics aside, the main challenge for the Sparks will be slowing down Lynx forward Maya Moore, who put up a playoff career-high 33 points to go with five rebounds and four steals in Minnesota’s Game 1 victory. She and guard Seimone Augustus combined to score 50 of the team’s 67 points. Earlier in the week, Ogwumike predicted that the key to the Sparks’ success would be how they responded to Minnesota’s offensive attack.

“Our defense is really what’s going to hold our team together,” she said.

BTW, Mechelle sent out an encouraging tweet:

 16 hours ago:Had good conversation w/ NBA exec re: open letter to Adam Silver. Think we understand where each other is coming from, want best for WNBA.

Conversation! We LIKE conversation! Action is better, though…

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’cause I came up with a couple of good ones last night after the Sky dismantled the (home court-seeking) Lib:

Blond Bombers Barrage
Sloot! There it is!
Liberty (EE)D-Q’d
Lib fall to (Behind the) Arc Nemesis

Any hoot-n-any…. a semi-healthy Chicago (Cappie’s still out with a concussion) made mincemeat of the Lib’s vaunted defense. Couple that with no NY outside threat, and it turned into something ugly. Especially when the team pulled some Atlanta Dream diva-esque moments. Not good. I will say that Sloot’s and Allie’s shooting was a sight to behold. Beautiful and unconscious.

BTW – great Sky fan turnout.

BTW – not great news: Brittany Boyd has wrist surgery, out 5-6 weeks. What did I say about the healthy team winning? NY will have to heavily rely on Tanisha Wright, who is right at home playing for Liberty

New York guard Tanisha Wright has always been like that ingredient that doesn’t stand out, yet without which the recipe just isn’t nearly as good.

Go back even to her Penn State days, and it was like that. Then through her 10 WNBA seasons in Seattle, it was often easy — at least from the outsiders’ point of view — to take her for granted.

Now that she’s in New York, it’s once again possible to overlook Wright when you’re singling out the reasons why the Liberty — despite a loss to Chicago on Thursday — lead the Eastern Conference and will make their first playoff appearance since 2012.

In LA, Nneka was back, which is great to see, and the Sparks-Mystics put on a great show. I’m guessing Minnesota is getting a little anxious about facing L.A in the first round. I know some folks aren’t convinced, but it is Agler at the helm… Tulsa finishes out the season with games against the Sparks, Stars, Sky & Merc. L.A. faces the aforementioned Shock, then Dream & Merc… Dum, dee dum, dum.

Loses in the high school ranks:

From the Freson Bee: Central Valley loses girls prep sports pioneer in Mary Brown

From tiny mountain programs Yosemite and Sierra, to Hanford, Stockdale in Kern County and the standard-bearer of them all, Clovis West, the quality of high school girls basketball in the Central Section has progressively soared for decades.

Not to ignore the other 11 female sports in the region, as well.

And where would they be without Mary Brown? Or the likes of her, if there’s ever been another?

Cynthia Winstead – 45 years after playing for Ms. Brown in three sports at Memorial – puts it this way: “She believed in us long before we believed in ourselves.”

Ms. Brown, known best as the architect of the Panthers’ girls basketball empire in the 1970s and ’80s, and arguably the most influential force in the history of all section prep sports for females, died last Friday of natural causes in her newly built house in Roseburg, Ore.

From the Tulsa World: Legendary Leflore girls basketball coach Nadine Carpenter dies

She taught one year at Addington, then, in 1954, she began a 44-year career at LeFlore. A year later, she was named the head girls basketball coach at LeFlore, where her teams averaged 19 wins per season for 43 years.

Her 1968 squad was the first basketball team from LeFlore to reach the state tournament, and that team made it all the way to the championship game, losing to Covington-Douglas in overtime. Her basketball teams would reach the state tournament four more times, with her final one coming in 1995. That team lost in the quarterfinals in double-overtime to Cherokee.

Carpenter retired with 831 games, the second-most wins in state history behind Byng’s Bertha Frank Teague (1,126 wins and 116 losses in 43 seasons). She also had more than 200 softball wins as a coach.

Laura Edwards lives in Atlanta now, and as a 35-year-old pilot instructor for Delta Airlines, she’s traveled many miles from her North Carolina roots. But Edwards’ thoughts the past few days have been on her teen years at East Rowan High School.

Her high school basketball coach, Gina Talbert, passed away on Thursday at the age of 60. It was a profound shock for Edwards and former Mustangs now scattered across the country. They’ve been communicating, on Facebook mostly, trying to help each other come to grips with the loss. Talbert had been ill, but her death was sudden.

“I keep thinking back to my last season at East (1997) and the night we won the South Piedmont Conference tournament,” Edwards said. “We were all so happy we won, but really we just wanted to win that tournament for Coach Talbert. We’d never won anything for her.”

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Coach Stephanie White is pulling ahead in the Coach of the Year polls. Her Indy team flew into L.A., handed the (rejuvenated, yet Nneka-less) Sparks a nice big lead, only to storm back and get the win. Ouch, playoff run!

Speaking of Indy and Coach White: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

In Phoenix, there was no haunting after this beautifully designed play:

The (Pierson-less-cause-she-has-a-sprained-knee-phew!) Shock had a rebound-a-pa-looza against the Mercury on the way to a convincing 74-59 win. (No, you didn’t call that.)

Tulsa also received 15 points each from Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims, and Courtney Paris added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Included in those totals were the 1,000th career WNBA point by Christmas and the 1,000th career rebound by Paris.

The Shock are 12-14, solidly in third place in the Western Conference.

In other WNBA news:

Ouch: Meesseman to play through finger injury as Mystics fight for playoff spot

The Washington Mystics have managed to remain in the thick of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference playoff hunt despite a litany of injuries, but with 11 games left in the regular season, Coach Mike Thibault was bracing for a stretch run perhaps without one of his best players after Emma Meesseman dislocated her right index finger Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx.

Nylon Calculus offers their 3-2-C (Don’t tell Tina):

(Ed: In our first season, The Nylon Calculus covered almost exclusively the NBA from a statistical standpoint. This is largely due to the fact that with the advent of SportVU technology, the NBA game has the most robust underlying data. However, that isn’t to say new and interesting observations from a statistical standpoint are not available from other basketball leagues such as the NCAA, FIBA play and especially the WNBA. We are thrilled to have Howard Megdal to provide regular coverage of that league and hope you enjoy.)

As the WNBA season enters its final four weeks, the question of just who will win the Most Valuable Player award depends largely on which areas of emphasis you value most.

The candidates still in consideration for me will come as no surprise to you: Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx.

Speaking of Maya: Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, four captains hold 3-hour meeting, skip practice- The Lynx coach huddled with her four leaders in the wake of loss at Washington. 

“I can’t really talk about what we talked about in the meeting, but it was much-needed and I think it’s going to help catapult us to where we need to go,” Augustus said.

Roar: BearShare: Brittany Boyd, WNBA Rookie

Since you don’t actually live in New York City, does that mean that you haven’t had the chance to explore the city?

No, I’ve had opportunities to come into town. Especially on off days, I come. On practice days, I don’t come into the city, because at 2:30, I’m tired so I just want to sleep and just chill and relax my body and prepare for the next day. But if I do want to do something, I can easily come down to the city and look around. On an off day, I’ve walked around Times Square. I’ve been hanging out with Tina Charles, so she took me around to Brooklyn, Queens, and Harlem, so I’ve been getting out a little bit.

From Jayda: Evie Goldstein, director of operations for the WNBA players’ union, wants to explore revenue opportunities and give the players a more powerful voice.

Q:The WNBA and players’ union signed an eight-year collective-bargaining agreement in 2014, which can be terminated after six years. Will top WNBA salaries ever reach NBA minimums ($500,000)?

A: When you negotiate a CBA, the salary part is unlikely to change. But that’s not the only source of revenue for the women. There is a provision in the CBA that gives money back to players after an average team-ticket revenue reaches a certain point. The other source of revenue is licensing. More can be done with that. I’ve only been on the job six months, so I’m talking generally. But in our CBA, revenue share is based solely and singularly on averaged ticket revenue.

10 Years Later: 

As part of an ongoing series of stories centered around the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reflects on the massive storm’s impact, its devastating aftermath, and its enduring legacy for individuals and the sports community today.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, McDonogh 35 was one of the first public schools in Orleans Parish to reopen the doors and begin the next chapter of its story.

Even before that post-storm decision, McDonogh 35 girls basketball coach Danielle Allen-Lewis had begun searching for her team.

She had good reason.

Lot’s of good news for Rio-Bound Canadians:

Canadian women’s basketball team living a perfect storm a year ahead of Rio 2016 Olympics
Women’s basketball team hopes to keep rolling into Rio – Waterloo Record
Canadian women’s basketball charts map to Rio after clinching Olympic berth – Toronto Star

Slightly OT, but related: Sucky news for not-Rio-Bound Brits (say what!). Luckily, they have English Football to offer them some comfort: ‘Our Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today.” Just warms the cockles of my heart… how ’bout you?

“See Ya Soon” news for Seattle: Tokashiki to Miss Four Storm Games for 2015 FIBA Asia Women’s Championship; Rejoins Seattle in September

Congrats: Patriot League Announces Women’s Basketball 25th Anniversary Team

American: Jen Dumiak (2011-15); Lisa Strack (2008-12); Alexis Dobbs (2010-14)
Army West Point: Kelsey Minato (2012-present); Katie Macfarlane (2000-04); Cara Enright (2004-08); Erin Anthony (2007-11); Alex McGuire (2005-09); Lisa Russell (1991-95)
Bucknell: Molly Creamer (1999-03); Desire Almind (2000-04); Hope Foster (2004-08); Vicki Quimby (1998-02)
Colgate: Emily Braseth (2001-05)
Holy Cross: Amy O’Brien (1995-99); Kathy Courtney (1993-97); Lauren Maney (1992-96); Anna Kinne (1996-00); Norinne Powers (1990-93)
Lehigh: Anne Tierney (1999-03); Erica Prosser (2007-11); Jessica DePalo (2001-05)
Navy: Jade Geif (2010-14); Courtney Davidson (2000-04); Becky Dowling (1994-98)

More history: Pioneering Spirit Part III: Salem’s Evie Oquendo overcame the odds as basketball star, role model

For every accomplishment, every moment of greatness, there was an obstacle Evelyn Oquendo had to overcome.

Those obstacles ranged from the small, like the forgotten sneaker on the first day of basketball tryouts at Salem High School, to the prodigious, like a family expectation to join the work force after high school graduation.

One detour off her path and it’s unlikely Oquendo ever would have become the star high school basketball player, the three-time college All-American and national champion at Salem State, or the teacher and role model she is today for the students of Salem’s Collins Middle School.

Oquendo’s story is one of perseverance and destiny. The trail she blazed is a blueprint for how athletics can bring harmony and direction into life.

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Hate starting the day with really unpleasant news: Maryland women’s assistant basketball charged with sexual abuse

Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Bryce McKey has been charged with sexual abuse against a player he coached while serving as an assistant with the Xavier women’s basketball team.

McKey will be arraigned Friday morning in Kenton County (Ky.) District Court on a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse in the third degree, which stems from a May 2 incident involving a Xavier women’s basketball player.

Maryland indefinitely suspended McKey on Thursday evening, according to a school spokesman.

It’s an ugly, ugly situation – the only good thing one can take away, at the moment, is the fact the young woman spoke up.

“A lot of young ladies probably don’t come forward. I was proud of [my daughter] for coming forward,” the accuser’s father said. “Hopefully by reporting them, that it will help protect other girls that are going around coaches and feeling safe and secure, and realize it’s not safe and secure.”

Perhaps things have gotten better since 2004.

Maybe.

Days after Norwood Teague resigned as athletic director at the University of Minnesota amid  allegations of sexually harassment, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported VCU paid former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham $125,000 to settle claims of discrimination under Teague’s watch. Teague served as VCU’s athletic director until 2012, the same year Beth Cunningham left the Rams.

“VCU paid athletic Beth Cunningham received $125,000 when she left VCU,” VCU spokesman Mike Porter confirmed. “There was an agreement reached between the university and Beth Cunningham. However, the nature of the agreement cannot be discussed due to the language of the agreement.”

Then there’s the Tar Heel Trouble: UNC-Chapel Hill reports new information to NCAA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has notified the NCAA’s enforcement staff that, in the course of responding to the NCAA’s notice of allegations of May 20, 2015, it identified two new pieces of information potentially requiring further review. The University is fully cooperating with the NCAA and working within the NCAA’s processes to bring closure to the investigation as soon as possible.

First, while preparing for public release of a series of emails from the independent investigation conducted by Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, the University found additional examples of possible instances of improper academic assistance provided to a few former women’s basketball players, directly related to allegation number two in the May 20, 2015, notice of allegations.

Moving on.

Uncertainty builds for Marist with Jossart out for season

The Marist College women’s basketball team’s rocky offseason has hit another bump.

Incoming freshman point guard Jordyn Jossart underwent surgery on her right knee on Wednesday and is expected to miss the entire 2015-16 season, the school announced Thursday.

Jossart’s absence adds uncertainty to a program that has just five returning scholarship players on its roster and still, Marist coach Brian Giorgis said, doesn’t know if it will have starting center Tori Jarosz back for another season. The point guard position in particular is an unknown, with Jossart thought to be one of several candidates for the role.

Analysis: How will Iowa mesh together this season?

With three multi-year starters gone from last year’s team and eight underclassmen dotting its roster, Iowa is going to have a significantly different look this season.

Exactly how different? Longtime coach Lisa Bluder isn’t quite sure right now.

Cool! BTW girls basketball player Megan Jackson wins spot in Kevin Durant camp

If you were to become an NBA superstar, how would you use your money to impact the lives of young people in the community where you grew up?

Megan Jackson thought about the question. Then, the Booker T. Washington junior basketball player sat down and wrote an essay.

It turned out to be one of the winning efforts in the Kevin Durant ProCamp Essay Contest, organized by Oklahoma Toyota dealers.

More cool! Young women using basketball to help overcome divisions and forge new way of life in wake of 1990s Balkan war

 More than 100 young women playing in a Bosnia and Herzegovina basketball club are overcoming the ethnic divisions and conflict that plunged the Balkan region into war during the 1990s.

The Livno Girls Basketball Club, based in the town in southwest Bosnia and Herzegovina, competes throughout the region and in other European countries. Sterling Global Operations (SGO), an international stability operations company, is a club sponsor.

The entire region was for years embroiled in the fighting between rival military forces. Programs such as the Livno Girls Basketball Club are helping to forge a new way of life, and a better future, for girls and young women, said Mike Aramanda, SGO project manager for the company’s work in the region.

More cool! Basketball at breakneck pace a way of life on Navajo reservation

At 5:15 a.m., sunrise is only a thin pale highlight over red rock mesas in the east as Alicia Hale steps out of her house for her daily run. Even in June, the morning is so chilly at an altitude of almost 7,000 feet that she needs several layers to stay warm.

The Window Rock High School senior lines up next to her mother and younger sister in the dirt yard of their house in the capital of the Navajo Nation. They spread Navajo white corn powder on the ground in a quiet ceremony meant to offer thanks to the Creator for the blessings of life.

They exit the yard through a chain link gate and set out at an easy jog.

Also cool! Kymora Johnson And Her Cavs Are Going To Play A Game At Madison Square Garden – The Cavs weren’t allowed to play in their tournament for having a girl on their team. This will have to do instead. side note: Really impressed *insert sarcasm emoticon* with the many of the comments after this article on the “issue.” Quite revealing of some folks’ buttons.

LA’s optimism: Brian Agler, Sparks keep pushing toward playoffs

The Sparks started the season 3-14 and in last place in the West and still are one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, averaging 72.8 points per game, which ranks 10th. But now, even at 7-16, Los Angeles is in fourth place in the West, a half-game ahead of San Antonio.

“It’s been tough,” Agler said earlier this week. “But we have a chance to get into the playoffs and we are playing better.”

Minnesota’s crossed fingers: Seimone Augustus could return to Lynx lineup soon

Speakin’ of tough: Storm GM, president Alisha Valavanis reflects on first year on job

Question: You’ve made a mark your first season, which has included a revamped ticket program, a new Storm app and quirky in-game features, such as the “Between Two Birds” segments with Sue Bird. How do you view the past year?

Answer: We went into this year really committed to the experience as we build on the court. We wanted engagement opportunities and to try to create relevance. It’s been exciting for me, because people see the vision and are buying in. They’re showing up to games and having a good time. We had three consecutive games where the building (KeyArena’s lower bowl) was full. It’s too early to really tell, but there are a lot of indicators that we’re trending in the right direction.

Things are gettin’ fun in the East: New York Liberty remain thorn in Chicago Sky’s side amid playoff hunt (get better quick, EDD!)

Last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference champions, the Chicago Sky, are in essentially a five-way race for the conference’s four playoff spots.

But the defending East champs seem to face their most serious competition for supremacy from the New York Liberty. The two sides have faced off twice in five days with the Liberty winning both games convincingly, including an 84-63 win on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

What makes the Liberty and Sky such an intriguing matchup is they represent the polar extremes of the league. The Sky lead the league in offensive efficiency, with 104.8 points per 100 possessions. A primary reason for this is Elena Delle Donne, the versatile forward posting the third-best season in WNBA history so far, as measured by Player Efficiency Rating.

Speaking of the Sky: Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne hopes to break Seattle ‘curse’

Some think coffee when Seattle is mentioned. Elena Delle Donne has a different word association.

“It’s like the curse,” she said. 

Since being drafted by Chicago with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, KeyArena is the one court in the league where Delle Donne has yet to play.

Speaking of the stubborn Sun: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith. 

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

How about a little one-on-one?

Chicago Tribune talks with the fabulous Catch.

Q: This was the first Sports Humanitarian Award, meaning the selection committee had the entire athletic world to draw from. Yet they picked you. How did it feel?

A: It was amazing, even to get nominated. I was beside myself, just really ecstatic. I love working with kids. We’ve continued to grow and grow, and get better and better. Not once did I ever say “Hey, I might win this,” it was just cool to be recognized. When I got the phone call that I won, at first I was like “OK y’all, stop playing.”

Other athletes have their foundations, but they have people who run it for them, and it’s more of an appearance thing for them. From start to finish, I’m engaged and involved in every aspect of it. That’s something they were very impressed with.

SIKids talks with the fierce, yet friendly, Tina.

You got your first recruiting letter at age 12 from Stony Brook University. Did you receive more shortly after or not until you were a bit older?

More after — I actually framed that one. To be 12 years old and to receive a collegiate letter gave me a lot of confidence to keep playing the sport of basketball.

David pods with Kelsey Bone:

Last night, the Sun trailed by double figures before pouring it on in the second half to defeat the Tulsa, Shock 80-74. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 25 points, but the driving force in the second half push was the other All-Star on the Sun, center Kelsey Bone. She finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds.

The 6-4 center is a true low post, back-to-the-basket center, who patrols the paint on both ends of the court. The Sun disc jockey plays “Bad to the Bone” when appropriate, which is frequently, and the crowd roars. This is a year where the Sun was expected to contend for last place, not the playoffs, due to injuries and retirement. On a team loaded with youth, and short on vocal leaders, Bone is more than just another piece of the puzzle, she is a focal point both on and off the court for the team.

Elena goes solo here: Delle Donne writes about her sister, Lizzie.

We often read about stories of momentary greatness — a time when a human being persevered despite insurmountable odds. But what’s a moment of triumph for one person is a lifetime of perseverance for my sister, Lizzie.

Lizzie is my older sister — also the older sister to my brother Gene — but often times it feels like she’s my younger sister. She was born deaf and blind, with cerebral palsy and autism. She doesn’t speak. The only real interaction or communication I, or anyone, has with her is in person, with hand over hand sign language. She hugs. She smiles. She kisses.

Gone way too early: Former Virginia Tech basketball great Renee Dennis dies at 49

Former Virginia Tech women’s basketball standout Renee Dennis, whose No. 44 jersey hangs from the Cassell Coliseum rafters, has died at the age of 49.

Dennis died of ovarian cancer Aug. 4 at a nursing home in Trumbull, Connecticut, according to her mother, Mary Dennis. Virginia Tech announced her death Monday.

“I’m so saddened and shocked,” former Hokies coach Carol Alfano said in a phone interview upon learning the news. “That’s way, way too young.”

Dennis is the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program’s career scoring leader, having tallied 1,791 points from 1983-87.

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said Aussie head coach Brendon Joyce: Liz Cambage omitted from Australian Opals team for Olympics basketball qualifiers against New Zealand

Meanwhile, in other international news, the Russians get a reprieve of sorts from FIBA.

Canadian Kia Nurse’s “How I spent my summer” essay is going to be wicked long: Canadian women open with a win over Puerto Rico at FIBA Americas. (Check out tonight’s stream of Canada/Chile – 8:30pm)

Brazil is chillin‘ ’cause they’re in.

USA Basketball marks One Year To Rio: USA Basketball Looks Back on Every U.S. Olympic Basketball Team Since 1936. Of course, you need to scroll down to ’76 to see the women’s team. I’ve always wondered: If WWII hadn’t happened, was there enough momentum to get the women into the Olympics in ’40?

As Nancy follows Becky, Local coaches weigh in on the recent hiring of Welter and Hammon in the NFL, NBA

Kate, who played at California Lutheran University before working as an assistant coach at the school for three years, is curious if the same applies in reverse situations. If a female coach walks into a gym full of male athletes, will they garner the same respect and attentiveness?

That’s one of the many questions raised, especially in recent weeks, since three women joined the professional coaching ranks in the NFL and NBA.

A little more on the topic:

Daily Camera: Women knock down barriers of ‘men’s’ sports

These hirings are important nods to Welter’s, Lieberman’s and Hammon’s very real qualifications — Lieberman is a member of both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, for example — and to the value of considering women for nontraditional roles in any walk of life.

When sports franchises break racial, sexual or gender barriers, they don’t do it to be politically correct. They do it because the players or coaches in question are right for the positions. Think of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson.

Filip Bondy, NY Daily News: With women like Becky Hammon & Nancy Lieberman beginning to coach the men, it’s time to make some room at the table  

If players on the Sacramento Kings ever distrust the credentials of their new assistant coach, they can always Google “Nancy Lieberman” and discover an impressive resumé more than worthy of the position.

“I’m like a puppy,” Lieberman says. “I come with papers. I have pedigree. I’m not a mutt. And I’ve never been in a situation where I thought people didn’t respect me.”

Let’s just hope we can keep the door wedged open.

The Sparks are singing, “Just in time, I found you just in time…” with the return of Beard and Parker.

Candace Parker knew it was time to come back to the WNBA when her daughter Lailaa asked why she wasn’t playing with the Sparks any more.

”She didn’t understand that I was taking some time off,” Parker said. ”She said she wanted me to play for them.”

So Parker, who sat out the first half of the season to rest mentally and physically, returned to Los Angeles after the All-Star break. The Sparks have won four of six since the two-time league MVP came back.

After getting blown out in their first matchup, the semi-stumbling Lynx told the Sparks, “Wait a minute, Ms. Postman” and used home court advantage to get the win.

Always good to read about a return: After injuries nearly derailed career, Chelsea Gray flourishing with Sun

Chelsea Gray’s first season in the WNBA is a dramatic reversal of fortune. The 22-year-old rookie point guard is now one of the top subs off the bench for the Connecticut Sun, and is averaging 7.4 points in 16.4 minutes per game just past the halfway point of the WNBA regular season. Gray ranked ninth in the league and first among rookies in three-point field goal percentage (38.9) through her first 15 games, and is one of the WNBA’s most promising offensive weapons.

But the trajectory of Gray’s basketball career was drastically altered 18 months ago.

The news is less happy in the land of the Shock. 

Let’s avoid talking about the Storm or San Antonio, shall we? Well, maybe just a smidgen about the Storm: Loyd starting to feel more comfortable in the WNBA

Loyd’s development hasn’t been lost on teammate Sue Bird.

“I think early on she was getting adjusted, a little tentative, trying to feel her game out,” Bird said. “Now she’s starting to see where she can be successful. Almost a 180 in terms of her aggressiveness.”

And KML slowly adjusting to life in the WNBA

After a remarkable collegiate career during which Mosqueda-Lewis made a record 398 3-pointers, scored 2,178 points, became a two-time All-American and won three national championships, she’s struggled to make the transition to the professional game after getting picked third overall in the WNBA draft.

The level of competition, athleticism and defensive intensity are all drastically better in the pro game.

“The biggest eye-opening thing has been that it is going to be a process,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s not something that’s going to come quickly. It’s something I’m going to have to work harder at and go with day-by-day.”

And Ramu Tokashiki, a Japanese Rookie, Blossoms in the W.N.B.A.

The first English word the Japanese forward Ramu Tokashiki learned from her Seattle Storm teammates is unprintable here. Used in jest, it has become Tokashiki’s favorite saying. But another favorite English word is “confidence,” something she has built during her first W.N.B.A.season. Tokashiki has become one of the league’s best rookies and a blooming fan favorite, while hoping to change the perception of women’s basketball in Japan.

Sitting in the Milwaukee airport yesterday, I caught the tail end of the Mercury/Chicago game. (Kinda cool, no?)

“A win against a good team at home, you get on a roll and get momentum,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “And to be able to come in here and talk about a defensive assignment that you carried out against a hot team … that’s a crucial thing.”

I’ll get to see them in action (again) against the Lib. Can they eeek out a revenge game and stay in the chase for the top seed? And, of course, there’s nothing like winning to catch the NY Times’ attention: Rebuilding Around Tina Charles Puts Liberty in Playoff Hunt

A Liberty season that began with an off-court to-do over the hiring of Isiah Thomas as team president has turned into a great one on the basketball court. The Liberty sit on top of the W.N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference at 13-6. If the team maintains that .684 winning percentage over its final 15 games, it will finish with the best record in franchise history.

It is quite a contrast from last year, when the Liberty finished 15-19 and missed the playoffs. So what has changed?

NCAA:

So, the investigators hired by Illinois found nothing amiss when it came to the women’s program… but this is an interesting turn: Chancellor’s resignation could impact Illini athletics

The ground beneath the University of Illinois’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics trembled this week.

It didn’t send plates crashing to the floor, but it moved, and just as it would with the arrival of a minor earthquake, those standing in the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building felt their stomachs jump.

If the release of findings from an external investigation into the school’s women’s basketball program didn’t create enough commotion, the stunning resignation of Chancellor Phyllis Wise grabbed everyone’s attention.

Simply put, Wise’s exit could be a game-changer for Illini athletics.

Speaking of game-changers: Ouch. South Carolina’s Mitchell Undergoes Surgery for Foot Injury

You stay put: Pitt signs McConnell-Serio through 2020-2021 season

Montana Grizzly: Family means everything to Lady Griz coach Selvig

Robin Selvig was a bit startled when one of his Lady Griz basketball players, McCalle Feller, openly revealed to her coaches and teammates during a team barbecue her freshman year that she was adopted.

“Everybody sits around and says something interesting about themselves,” Selvig said Monday before serving as the guest celebrity for the annual “A Waiting Child” golf tournament at Yellowstone Country Club. “That was the first thing that came out of her mouth.”

It’s not that adoption is a touchy or sensitive subject. American families adopted more than 7,000 children in 2012, according to the U.S. State Department. But Feller’s openness and honesty is what surprised Selvig.

Awesome: Muslim Basketball Players Design Own Outfits And You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

A community basketball team in Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis, consisting of young Somali girls, made the news recently. These players did not gain attention from media outlets for bashing stereotypes or fighting against the Islamic oppressive patriarchy. They were lauded and positively represented for creating a solution to challenges they faced with their basketball uniforms. Their long skirts and flowy hijabs were not optimal for the courts.

So, the girls partnered with the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and created uniforms that would suit their personal and religious preferences.  This successful collaboration was widely covered and the majority of the reports were pleasantly surprising and unlike any I had ever seen before; nuancedpositive and accurate.

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to Russian basketball. 

The Russian Basketball Federation was suspended Wednesday by FIBA, meaning it could miss the European Championship that doubles as an Olympic qualifier.

The suspension comes after two years of infighting at the federation, which culminated last month when a Russian court ordered new elections for all senior federation posts.

An earlier court ruling overturned the federation’s 2013 presidential election result, in which Yulia Anikeeva defeated former WNBA player Svetlana Abrosimova, who alleged there were many breaches of election rules.

It doesn’t impact the women, since they’d already failed to qualify for Rio, but it does put a damper on any momentum the U19 team may have generated. Wonder if Putin thinks FIBA deserves a Nobel?

Canada says, “Heck yes!” Creating buzz for FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship should be a slam dunk

Katherine and Michelle Plouffe shot a little hoops in Sir Winston Churchill Square on Wednesday to help drum up interest in the FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship which runs from Aug. 9-16.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

What’s not to like about Canada’s national women’s basketball team, two local stars in the mix, gunning for a 2016 Olympic berth at the Saville Centre?

San Antonio says, “Awwwwww, maaaaaan!” WNBA suspends Stars’ Adams for three games) and then cruised over the Dream.

Phoenix says, “This is a tank-free zone,” as the Sky and Merc kicked off the second half of the season with an OT doozy pitting Delle Donne against Bonner. A Griner block helped seal the win. The Guardian asks: Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne: the Magic and Bird of the WNBA?

Thirty-four years after Bird and Magic debuted in the NBA, a pair of paradigm-changing young standouts, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, joined the WNBA in 2013. Now each in their third season, the two stand poised to define their league through a rivalry that could elevate the league in much the same way Bird and Magic did for the men.

“Rivalries are good in every league,” the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings said of Griner and Delle Donne. “Something to build a story around. Something compelling. Both of them have had success, and Elena has had the best year of her WNBA career. So that’s exciting to watch and be a part of.

Indiana says, “Snap!” and “We LOVE traveling between back-to-backs” as they earned an OT victory (Thank you, Catch) in Connecticut and then returned to Indiana to defeat the Liberty, ending New York’s five-game winning streak.

Minnesota says “Welcome back! (not)” to Candace Parker as Moore and Whalen as “The Professorpowered the Lynx to a win over L.A.

Seattle says, “You have much to learn, grasshopper.” Learning curve: Storm’s rookies figuring out WNBA

Dallas-Fort Worth says, “Think of the children!” A welcome Shock: WNBA team likely to inspire Dallas-area girls

The WNBA’s arrival in Arlington next year could do more for local girls than just offer them another affordable entertainment option. Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman compared the Shock’s relocation from Tulsa to a historic moment she witnessed 40 years ago in New York City.

In 1975, the teenage Lieberman was at Madison Square Garden for the first women’s college basketball game at that legendary venue. The matchup between Queens College and Immaculata University was played just a few years after Title IX legislation targeted gender discrimination in education and as women’s sports was gaining momentum.

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Just in case you missed it: Basketball – Semi Final and Final Medal Matches | Full Replay | Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

USA Semi-Final game against Hungary starts at the 5 minute mark.
Gold Medal Game against Netherlands starts at the 3 Hour 04 minute mark.

Speaking of USA basketball, the pool of candidates for the National Team is an embarrassment of riches: 

The old saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing is, in fact, true. But it doesn’t always make things easy.

Consider the talent pool for the U.S. women’s national team in basketball. There’s not just a lot of “good” there, but a lot of “great.”

One of the dilemmas that USA Basketball faces is how to fine-tune the makeup of the squad going into major international competitions such as the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

No matter which 12 women are picked for the final roster, the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal in Turkey. But how does USA Basketball make tough calls about potentially adding younger players to the team?

From Kate: Why Dolan Shouldn’t Fire Laimbeer.

Laimbeer was not hired to guide a mediocre roster. He was hired to first help shape, then eventually motivate (his strength) a roster equipped to win a title. Truth is, that previous version of the Liberty was built for playoff appearances and early playoff exits — not championships, not even close. Everyone within the franchise knew the truth, and everyone around the league knew it too. Since the moment Laimbeer walked in the door, the Liberty have been plotting for future domination. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better, which is exactly the space in which New York finds itself right now.

Well, right there — that’s your first mistake: assuming Dolan gives a flying hoot about the Liberty.

Second: You mention Essence as a floor balancer who, truly, wasn’t 100%, (but will she ever be) but who is she “balancing” against. You don’t mention Cappie? Has she been traded?

Third: “..a couple of smooth-shooting guards” playing for NY in 2016? Any idea how we’re going to get them, what with no draft picks and to trade bait? (Yes, maybe there’s interest in an east coast/west coast exchange… but how likely that?)

Fourth: You need a “conductor to harness the power.” So this means Cruz is not our point guard in two years? Who is?

Fifth: “gather complementary pieces — the rebounder, the lockdown defender, the banger — en route.” Anyone you have in mind? And again, we get them how?

Sixth: “This means one of the first pieces New York must secure is a center who can bang, who can take the defensive pressure off Charles.” Am I repeating myself? Name me any candidates that are available?

Finally – no, I don’t think Laimbeer should go. But projecting the Lib turnaround by 2016 is goofy. Yes, it’s hard to build a team around a center (power forward, if you’d like), but NY is currently made up of “old” and serviceable. There ain’t no Ford, Smith, or Nolan in the wings to rescue us. The team needs a complete overhaul…and that’s going to take a little longer than we’re going to like….

From Nate: After the Phoenix Mercury ended the L.A. Sparks’ season in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year – this time handing the Sparks a blowout loss at home – it’s painfully obvious that they need to make changes this offseason.

Back before the 2012 draft, I wrote that Nneka Ogwumike was the obvious pick for the L.A. Sparks but that maybe they’d consider a trade because she wouldn’t fit that roster as long as Candace Parker was there too. But ultimately, as I would later write before the 2013 season, that’s just the kind of situation where you take the best player available and figure everything out later.

Well, it’s now “later”. And the Sparks are well past the somewhat benign point of being at a “crossroads”.

A little belated, but congrats to Skylar, Sandy and Brittney.

And speaking of congrats: From Scot Gleeson at USA Today: Newly engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life

Brittney Griner blushes and lets out an infectious smile when asked about her recent proposal to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

“Yes, I put a ring on it,” Griner says.

The 6-8 women’s basketball star is used to the spotlight for her uncanny athleticism with the Phoenix Mercury on the court and her candid personality off it. Now, Griner says, it’s all “falling into place.”

As Phoenix and Minnesota get ready to rumble, Mechelle has 5 questions for West finals

Now we have a marquee matchup of two teams that each have won two WNBA titles. And between the Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Janel McCarville) and the Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), there are five former No. 1 overall draft picks.

There also are two players who’ve been the WNBA’s MVP: Moore, who won the award this year, and Taurasi, who did so in 2009. Taurasi was runner-up to Moore this season.

Kent Youngblood says Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

Also from Kent: Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing matchups

The formula is basic, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. When it comes to winning in the playoffs — no matter the opponent — the Lynx have to be efficient on offense and defend well.

Of course that’s easier said than done when it comes to playing the Phoenix Mercury. The two teams will begin their best-of-three Western Conference finals Friday in Phoenix. They are the top two teams in the league in wins, points scored, point differential, field-goal percentage and offensive efficiency.

From Ryan Scott at Insight News: The hard road to a Lynx dynasty

The Lynx and Phoenix Mercury are on a collision course for the WNBA ages. And to put it concisely, Mercury stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, “ain’t nothin’ nice.” At 6’8″ and boasting the leagues’ first highlight reel of dunks, Griner is a basketball nightmare similar to Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal in the men’s game. And though the adjectives and statistics for Griner can be rattled on for several pages, it is the cold-blooded Taurasi that should strike the greater fears in the Lynx.

Mechelle also had a little something to say about Delle Donne.

For most of June and July, she was forced to watch the Sky struggle without her. She played just four games during those two months. She missed the WNBA All-Star Game. She couldn’t be sure when she would be able to return to action.

All that backstory makes what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta even more remarkable. We didn’t just see one of the more clutch climbs out of a deep hole in WNBA playoff history. We saw it done by a player and a team whose season has been the very definition of resilience.

About that game… Kris Willis notes: The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead slip away in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss to the Chicago Sky 

And yes, it was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

“It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays, my big-time player [Delle Donne] stepped up.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Delle Donne’s basket with 8.2 seconds left wins series for Sky

I think we were playing to win,” Lyttle said. “We just stopped executing, and all of a sudden it was a one-point lead and we wondered, ‘How did that happen?'”

From Jayda: VIDEO: Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot advance to conference Finals

You knew it was going to happen. Elena Delle Donne is too incredible of a talent to not wash over a game like a tidal wave in attempt to lead her Chicago to a win. But, as Atlanta coachMichael Cooper said afterward, she could do her damage — which she did Tuesday — and the Dream could’ve still won.

Instead, Atlanta PG Jasmine Thomas missed two free-throws with 17.3 seconds left in a decisive Game 3 playoff matchup against Chicago.

Also from Jayda: Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression

And, yep! WNBA star Swin Cash part of historic all-female sports show

In college news:

Cal adds some coaches: Devanei Hampton and Sweets Underwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Well, that was a lovely, tight start to the playoffs!”

Ageless wonder Catch rules.

There are so many things you can point to that have made Indiana’s Tamika Catchings such a great player for so long. But two of the so-called “fundamentals” of basketball have been huge keys to Catchings’ success and have frustrated the heck out of her opponents.

Catchings is a very good free throw shooter during the regular season, and she has been even a little bit better during the playoffs. Also, she’s a rebounder who just never quits.

For a player who is typically at her best when aggressively going to the rim, the ability to come up big at the line is such a valuable skill. That proved to be the case once again Thursday as the WNBA playoffs got under way with Indiana’s 78-73 victory over Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Indianapolis.

And rules again.

A smidge younger wonder Dee rules.

Predicting that the Phoenix Mercury would sweep the L.A. Sparks in the first round of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs actually had little to do with a significant “talent” differential – team composition, maybe, but the Sparks are hardly lacking talent.

This matchup has always been about intangibles – for the entirety of the regular season and during last year’s meeting in the first round. And it’s ultimately what tonight’s 75-72 loss to the Mercury came down to, just as predicted by Sparks coach Penny Toler in a preview of tonight’s game by L.A. Times reporter Samantha Zuba:

And that youngest wonder, Maya rules, too. (But let’s not forget Augustus, shall we?)

Damn, if EDD at half-strength isn’t twice the player most are.

Friday, the Chicago Sky got the franchise’s first WNBA playoff victory. It took nine seasons to happen, and none of the Sky players have waited for this as long as Sylvia Fowles and Tamera Young have.

And on a night when Chicago had to do the same thing this team has done virtually all season — overcome the loss of a player — the two “senior” Sky players were critical factors.

And… Annie, if your play-by-play guy can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of the players on the court, I give you permission to slap him upside the head.

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Adversity preps Sky for postseason

“THIS IS OUR MOMENT” is splashed across the landing page of the Chicago Sky website, the letters in bright white, glowing as if illuminated on a marquee. Below them is a link to buy tickets for the team’s opening-round playoff series against the Dream, which begins Friday in Atlanta.

The 2013 postseason might have been memorable for its historical significance — the Sky made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season — but the team’s unlikely berth in these playoffs proves it to be a true contender.

From Michelle Smith: Five questions for the postseason

The WNBA playoffs open Thursday after a regular season in which most of the teams in the league struggled merely to finish with a winning record. Two teams — Minnesota and Phoenix — stood head and shoulders above the rest through the entire summer, and the question for the postseason is whether anyone other than the Mercury or the Lynx stand a chance of hoisting the championship trophy.

While the other six teams — including five with sub.-500 records — try to turn that into a debate, we take a look at five questions facing the WNBA playoffs.

1. Can Phoenix finish what it has started?

From Mechelle: WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

We know who “won” the WNBA regular season: the Phoenix Mercury. Their 29-5 finish set a league record for most victories in a season and sends them into the playoffs as the obvious favorite.

Before the postseason begins Thursday (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET), we take a look at the conference semifinals. Who’s hot and who’s not of the eight teams still playing? Might there be an upset or two brewing? Here’s a series-by-series breakdown:

From Tim Leighton: Lynx open WNBA playoffs in shadow of Phoenix Mercury

“When you look at the team that has been dominant from beginning to end, that would be Phoenix, and I think they are everyone’s favorite,” said WNBA pioneer Rebecca Lobo, an ESPN analyst, in a national conference call this week.

“I would agree that I think Phoenix is the team to beat,” echoed another ESPN analyst, Carolyn Peck.

Not so fast, says Taurasi, who knows the Mercury are likely to meet the Lynx in the Western Conference finals next week.

“They’re the defending champs,” she said. “They’re the best team in this league.”

We’ll see soon enough.

Tim adds: Lynx: 11-year veteran Rebekkah Brunson still going strong. Oh, did you know Brunson is happy to be a Lynx for life

Seimone Augustus knows what she would do if teammate Rebekkah Brunson ever were to leave the Minnesota Lynx.

“I’d go out and buy a Powerball ticket and hope we’d hit the lottery or something,’’ Augustus said after Tuesday’s two-hour practice. “It would be one of those deals where you just hope for the best. That’s about all you can do when it comes to her. She leaves one of those huge holes in your lineup, you know what I’m saying?”

Augustus needn’t worry.

From Pat Borzi at the NY Times: Lynx’s Maya Moore Has Become a Leaner Scoring Machine

The Monster — the nickname the Los Angeles Sparks’ interim coach, Penny Toler, pinned on Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx last week — fits Moore’s play better than it does her personality.

Could a monster make her own ice cream, as Moore does? Could a monster charm a 10-year-old girl seeking an autograph or the president of the United States? Would any team dare to let a monster dance on the court and address the home crowd after victories? Then again, Toler’s description fits the kind of season Moore, a fourth-year professional player, is having.

Mike Peden offers: Minnesota Lynx headed to the playoffs: what’s working, what’s not

The Minnesota Lynx ended their 2014 campaign with a 25-9 record, becoming the first WNBA team to post 25 wins or better for four consecutive years. Reaching that threshold this year was a remarkable achievement, with Minnesota enduring several injuries that could have compromised their overall chemistry.

“For us to do it this season, with the amount of adversity that we’ve faced, I told them I’m very impressed and blessed to share it with them,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Sneak in another few words from Mechelle: Maya Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Add another big honor to Maya Moore’s very full trophy case. The Minnesota Lynx forward has won her first WNBA season MVP award. The league has not officially announced it, but it was reported by the Associated Press, which also said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi finished second in the voting, and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry third.

Moore, who turned 25 in June, is the first Lynx player to win the season MVP award and the third UConn graduate, following Taurasi in 2009 and Tina Charles in 2012.

Moore was the WNBA’s leading scorer this season at 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 12 vs. Atlanta.

Phil Ervin at Fox Sports North: Experienced, healthy Lynx ready for another postseason run

The dial is back at 11.

The stakes are at their highest. The pressures of defending — successfully, this time — the WNBA crown have moved to the forefront of the league-wide consciousness.

You’d have never known it if you sat in on the Lynx’s pre-playoff team gathering Monday night, Cheryl Reeve said. The feisty, accomplished coach isn’t feeling much heat, even with Minnesota’s postseason opener two days away and a late-season slide in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, her sensation is one of relief.

Tyler Killian at AzCentral: Mercury haven’t accomplished anything yet

With the regular season now over, the Mercury maintain that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

That’s the right approach for a team still seven wins away from capturing its third WNBA championship.

But for fans and media, the happenings in Phoenix over the past three months have been nothing short of remarkable. The records set and feats achieved are almost too numerous to list and at times have even surprised the members of the organization responsible for them.

Cory McCartney at Fox Sports South: Dream have ‘Unfinished Business’ heading into WNBA playoffs

Sitting at a bar top table in a downtown restaurant, Michael Cooper motioned to a television on the back wall, where highlights of Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis played.

“Have you seen her this girl yet,” Cooper asked. “She’s incredible.”

Cooper knows a thing or two about phenoms. He was on hand for the start of Magic Johnson’s career when the two were Los Angeles Lakers, and as Atlanta Dream coach he sees a number of similarities between the NBA legend and his rookie guard Shoni Schimmel.

Terrence Thomas from My San Antonio: Stars ‘having fun’ as playoffs loom

Becky Hammon didn’t have to come back, and she didn’t have to toil through months of rehabbing her injured left knee. Hammon’s legacy as one of the WNBA’s greatest players already was secured, so she had little else to prove.

But Hammon wanted to author her own ending — and it wasn’t going to be the image of her being carried off a basketball court last May in Los Angeles by a teammate and a trainer.

“It was worth it,” Hammon said. “Competing makes everything worth it. Being able to put your shoes on and have a chance to play a few more games is very special.”

David Woods at the Indy Star asks: Can the Indiana Fever win the WNBA title after a losing season?

There is no precedent for a team enduring a losing regular season to reach the WNBA Finals.

Take it from Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn: So what?

The No. 2-seeded Fever, coming off a 16-18 season, open the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2) against the No. 3 Washington Mystics (also 16-18) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Dunn said she is thinking only about the first 4 minutes of Game 1, but she isn’t limiting the Fever.

From Gene at WaPo: Balanced Washington Mystics set for WNBA playoff opener vs. Indiana Fever

During the first 10 years of his WNBA coaching career in Connecticut, Mike Thibault almost always had a player he could lean on down the stretch. Nykesha Sales was one of the first. Asjha Jones followed, and in his final season with the Sun, Tina Charles was named league MVP.

The second-year coach and general manager of the Washington Mysticshasn’t had that luxury since arriving in the District to reboot a dysfunctional franchise. But the youthful roster he assembled this season overcame a dearth of star power to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

From Sue at Full Court: Unpredictability is the theme entering WNBA Playoffs

From Indian Country: Tweets, Please! Shoni Schimmel Takes Over the Atlanta Dream’s Twitter Account

From the Swish Appeal crew: Disappointing L.A. Sparks get second chance in postseason

Los Angeles Sparks fans got up close and personal with a tumultuous season, shortly after having to question whether they’d even continue to have a team in LA.

Veteran additions were supposed to push this disappointing Sparks team over the top. A coaching change, lineup shuffling and missed time all played a role but the Sparks still have to feel like they have second life in an otherwise disappointing season.

Atlanta Dream in an unfamiliar position at the top

As strange as it is given the number of times they’ve made it to the WNBA Finals, 2014 marks the first time the Atlanta Dream will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the regular season title.

Yet in keeping with tradition, the Dream haven’t made it easy on themselves.

Chicago Sky are the wild card

The 2014 version of the Chicago Sky is the epitome of a wildcard in the playoffs. You can’t take much from the team’s numbers, record or even it’s performances this season as the Sky only had it’s full roster available for 4 games this season, three of those being the last three games of the season.

The Indiana Fever look to finish the Lin Dunn Era in style

After the Seattle Storm missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Fever now has the longest running playoff streak. Unlike the Storm, which only advanced twice in the two years where the team won the championship (2004, 2010), the Fever has advanced to the Conference Finals in six of those ten years, two Finals Appearances in 2009 and 2012, and the 2012 WNBA championship over a heavily favored Lynx team.

The Fever also made this playoff appearance, largely without the help of their franchise star Tamika Catchings who sat out the first half of the season due to injury. With her back, as well as some big contributions from players like Erlana Larkins and Briann January, could this team be in position to make a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals, and even the WNBA Finals? Let’s see what they need in order to beat the Washington Mystics in their first round series.

The young Washington Mystics look to make some noise

General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault has led the Washington Mystics to the postseason in each of his first two years at the helm. Considering that the Mystics have only made consecutive playoff berths once in franchise history (2009 and 2010 under then-GM Angela Taylor and Coach Julie Plank), this is a sign of progress. A sign that the Mystics are now playing consistently and figure to be a team that is in the picture year in and year out.

In their first round playoff series, the Mystics will play the Indiana Fever, which has made three straight conference finals appearances in a row, and won the WNBA Finals in 2012. Game 1 will be on Thursday, August 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Game 2 will be at Verizon Center. Game 3’s back in Indy on Monday, August 25, if need be.

Given that they are playing a playoff-tested team, the Mystics will be underdogs. This is not unlike how they have been for all of the last two seasons.

San Antonio Stars live by the three to take the third seed

The obvious feel-good story of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs is that Becky Hammon will be making her final post-season appearance before retiring and joining the coaching staff of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

But in a strictly basketball sense, the fact of the San Antonio Stars being in the postseason is a great story on its own.

In case you’re wonderin’: Conference semifinals matchups, seedings, TV times

The also have their 2014 WNBA award picks (Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi are unanimous All-WNBA selections) and their Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year awards

On the “have nots…”

Bill Laimbeer, Cappie Pondexter reflect on a disappointing season for New York

From Jayda: Sue Bird talks about her return to the court this season

BTW: WNBA expects at least six teams to post profit and Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

WATN? Former WNBA president continues to promote female empowerment

FYI: 5 Memorable Moments From The WNBA Season

OOPS!  Griner, Taurasi lead strong Shock team into WNBA 1st round

What did they say? 2014 WNBA Playoffs National Media Conference Call Transcript

Interesting reminder from Minneapolis: Despite new law, parents’ complaints remain an issue for high school coaches

In 2013-14, during the first school year with the new measure in place, calls from coaches seeking help dropped significantly, according to a statewide coaches association.

But heading into a new fall season, coaching advocates say parent complaints remain a significant issue, often contributing to coaches leaving jobs voluntarily before ever having to face the sting of not having their year-to-year contracts renewed.

Tim Sension experienced both.

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in the MOOOOOOORRRRNing!

At least when I get up Friday AM, it will be to catch a 6am flight to Omaha to present at a conference and work with some of the fine folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse. But 50% of the players who got up bright and early yesterday morning for afternoon Kid Camp days got a loss for their trouble.

The Mystics ended a four-game skid by taking down San Antonio AT San Antonio, 81-70. Nice to see Dolson fight through a knee sprain and Meesseman and McBride back filling up their stat lines.

Tired Storm legs meant tired Storm shooting. LA managed to defend home court against Seattle, though they almost let their third quarter doom’em again. Sue over at Full Court says the Sparks are collectively dealing with chemistry, line up issues

“I loved how we won,” Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. “We were resilient, tough, and battled through fatigue. We finished all the way to the end and kept a positive attitude until the end. We never doubted we would win it.”

The Sparks demonstrated the same play last week in defeating the visiting Tulsa Shock. It was a noticeable difference for a team that has been known to lose momentum during games, and have lackluster showings on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

“This game we were able to correct our problems, and make plays down the stretch and do what works for us,” All-Star forward Candace Parker said.

She’s baaaaack: Minnesota Lynx today announced the team has signed guard Nadirah McKenith

She’s also baaaaack: The New York Liberty signed free agent forward Charde Houston

Deborah Fleck asks: So how’s Irving MacArthur and Baylor graduate Odyssey Sims doing in the WNBA?

Jayda’s got some stuff to say about WNBA Pride & TV. Meanwhile, Rose Scott at NPR says, The WNBA Televises Its Pride With LGBT Campaign

Ned Griffen says the Sun continue to follow Douglas’ lead

Katie Douglas wanted to talk to Connecticut Sun public and community relations manager Bill Tavares at a recent practice, so she walked over and lowered her shoulder into him.

Laughter ensued.

Douglas was asked about her back, which caused her to miss most of last WNBA season. She had lumbar microdiscectomy surgery last October to correct it.

“The back is good,” Douglas said. “How does it look?”

More laughter.

Honestly, ESPN, that’s the best photo you could find?

BTW: Vote early, vote often:WNBA releases first tally for All-Star game, voting ends July 2

In college news:

UNCW women’s basketball team ready to reap rewards of patience

Adell Harris tried not to take it personally when a parade of UNCW women’s basketball players invaded her office in May 2012looking to leave.

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lovely few days in Minneapolis. Got to hang with family friends, see an overflowing Minnehaha Falls, re-connect with one of the original WHB bloggers, finish the second to last of my WBHOF articles, present a kick-butt conference session with some amazing educators and researchers, and chill with three fabulous munchkins: Theo, Jonah and Mae.

Now I need a nap.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has contented spinning:

Exciting visit to the White House for Stef… I mean, the UConn’s women’s team. (Oh, dear: UConn women’s basketball in good shape for next title run)

The Lynx aren’t far behind.

New jobs for Megan Duffy and Jocelyn Wyatt and Katy Steding.

Speaking of jobs: Jenny Boucek talks about career, NBA coaching aspirations

FSU lands K-State (finally) transfer Leticia Romero.

I like when this happens: NOLA is tracking LSU alum in the W.

Ray at Swish Appeal has an Interview with San Antonio Stars rookie Kayla McBride: Adjusting to the WNBA

Ben York is talking The Evolution of Diana Taurasi

As her illustrious career continues, Taurasi has adapted to various styles of play that best suits that particular roster and team – something that is infinitely easier said than done, especially when many consider you to be the best player in the world.

In the run-and-gun years, Phoenix needed her to put the ball in the basket as much as humanly possible (not that it would be frowned upon now).

In the past few years, as the league has progressed, they’ve needed her ability to create and get the entire team involved (which is a direct correlation with being amongst the league-leaders in assists).

Nevertheless, it’s one thing to have an evolving game but another thing entirely to be effective at it – and finish amongst the league-leaders in the process.

Are the stars returning to the stands? First, NY gets Billie Jean King, now Ludacris And Others Attend WNBA Atlanta Dream’s “Dads & Daughters Night”

Medic! Lauren Jackson gets more knee surgery. EDD continues to be plagued by Lyme Disease.

From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Struggling Prince trying to find answers

During the Los Angles game, Prince was in uniform for the first time this season. But she did not see the floor.

In Atlanta, Prince made her season debut, but played only 9 minutes. She did, however, score 7 points.

She had been out until that point for personal reasons and joined the team only two weeks ago, battling what seems to be a severe case of mental exhaustion.

As for the games since I departed NY and returned…. can anyone figure this season out? I mean, except for Minnesota, who has got their you-know-what-together?

From David: Dishin & Swishin 06/12/14 Podcast: Underrated as a player and team, Danielle Robinson and San Antonio surprising in the West

Cappie remembers how to score, and the Lib stomp Washington.  (surprise! btw. ESPN still has the Lib in Newark.)

Parker scores a lot and rebounds a lot… but the rest of the team? Not so much. Minnesota dispatched the Sparks at the Staples Center.

Cappie forgets how to score, Diggins does not: Tulsa wipes the floor with New York. And hellooooo Courtney Paris! Welcome to the defense-free Liberty front court. (So much for that “heart-to-heart” meeting, Libs.)

More thumping of the Mystics, this time by Brittney.

Delle Donne-less Sky fall to the Storm. I wonder how much her extended minutes has played into the reoccurrence of the Lyme disease.

The Catch-less Fever rallied to take down Seattle and make Lin Dunn’s big night in Indianapolis extra special.

Steve Lebron at Policymic writes: How Much Women’s Basketball Players Make in the U.S. vs. China

While NBA players secure financial stability the minute they enter the league as first-round picks, the most talented female players are — while adequately compensated relative to other occupations — very low on the financial totem pole for athletes.

Fun times for USA Basketball at the 3×3 tournament.

Speaking of USA Basketball:

U of L’s Hammond calls gold medal experience ‘humbling’

Sara Hammond said Sunday, after representing the United States and earning a gold medal doing so, that her FIBA World Championship experience was tough to put into words.

The University of Louisville basketball player managed nonetheless after her USA Basketball 3×3 women’s team took gold in Moscow.

 

Three sisters, one out-of-sight dad

Jon Samuelson, father of one of the most successful sister acts in women’s basketball, is ever-present in the lives of his three talented daughters — he’s just hard to find during their games.

Samuelson, who played college basketball at Cal State Fullerton and pro ball in Europe, has taught the game to Bonnie, who will be a senior at Stanford this fall; Karlie, a rising sophomore at Stanford; and Katie Lou, a 6-foot-3 wing at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), a Connecticut recruit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class.

From Amanda Hess at Slate.com: The WNBA Finally Recognizes Its Lesbian Fans

This month, the WNBA became the first American pro sports league to openly recruit LGBTQ fans by launching a dedicated marketing platformselling rainbow basketball pride T-shirts, and sponsoring pride games across the country. On June 22, ESPN2 will air the first-ever nationally televised pride game. WNBA President Laurel Richie frames the strategy as a smart business decision: Recent market research has revealed that 21 percent of lesbians have attended a WNBA game, and 25 percent have watched one on TV. For a league that’s had serious difficulties getting anyone to fill its seats, those stats are astonishing.

The New York Times’ Julie Macur writes: Coast Cleared by Others, W.N.B.A. Finally Finds Its Gay Pride

When Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 W.N.B.A. draft, heard about her league’s new campaign to market games to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, she said, “What are we going to have, T-shirts, shoes?”

It was about time, Griner said she thought, and then wondered what she could do to help.

I find the comments interesting and insightful (something unusual, we know, when folks comment on articles about women’s athletics.  While I, too, have been frustrated at the far-too underground recognition of the lesbian fan base, I’m finding some of the finger pointing and shoulda-coulda rather tone-deaf.

Simple question: who has more security? The NCAA or the WNBA? Who has more players, more fans, more “institutions?” NCAA, WBCA? I’m lookin’ and YOU.

Doug gives Chiney and Nneka some focus: WNBA’s Ogwumike sisters raise funds for education in Nigeria

WATN? UConn and CT Sun standout Nykesha Sales visits CBC

Oh, the drama: Diamond DeShields to join Vols

More good news for the Vols: Te’a Cooper gives verbal to Tennessee

Speaking of Knoxville: Dunn led way for today’s generation – Lin Dunn to be inducted into Women’s Basketball HOF on Saturday (ESPN3, 7 ET)

There are two kinds of vision, of course. The kind that lets you see what’s in front of you, and the kind that lets you imagine what you hope will one day be there.

Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn always has had both, going back to her youth in Tennessee in the 1950s and ’60s. Even then, Dunn had a passion for sports and could see strategy and tactics as a natural-born coach. But she also saw what wasn’t there: enough opportunities and support for girls and women in athletics.

When Dunn is inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, as part of a class of six, the honor will be a testament to Dunn’s determination to make the real world line up better with the possibilities she always imagined.

Lin gets around the “only five minutes to speak at the induction ceremony” rule by writing for ESPN: Five decades of fighting for equality – Lin Dunn to be inducted into Women’s Basketball HOF on Saturday

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Upset City!

I’m sure there were mixed feelings on the Tiger bench. # 16 LSU ruined Candace Parker’s return for her jersey retirement ceremony… and gave Coach Caldwell the biggest win of her young coaching career – though they almost let it slip away: They had a nice double-digit lead with under five minutes left and lost their composure, resulting in a ton of turnovers. #5 Tennessee took advantage, cutting it closer and closer… until they lost their composure – two technicals later, and the Tigers get the three-point win. Glad I’m not a coach.

Speaking of big wins: If you thought Indiana’s game against #22 Iowa would mean the Hoosiers would soon exit the ranks of the undefeated, you were wrong. Important win for “drama free” coach Miller.

Take a deep breath, Indy, ’cause #17 Purdue is up next… and they might be ticked after being blown out in the second half by (I told ya!) tough out Ohio State.

“Every night, you’re going to play a well-prepared team and it’s going to be a challenge,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “It’s a great league for women’s basketball and hopefully we continue to be better, so we meet these challenges head on. I thought our defense was good, but more importantly, we took turnovers and turned them into points.”

Coach Landers got a T, but coach Balcomb and Vandy got the win.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we ever really looked that good,” head coach Andy Landers said. “The scoreboard looked good when we were up seven, but we turned the ball over 24 times. We started it off turning it over and we were turning it over the last five minutes. You really don’t have to go any further than that. You’re playing on the road against a quality basketball team.”

James Madison almost joined the upset wave, but the Diamond Deshields-less #10 Tar Heels escaped with a three-point win. Next game ought to be fun – in-state rival NC State (13-1).

Speaking of  “almosts” – #18 Nebraska clawed back from a deficit in the first half, then squeaked out a one-point win over Northwestern.

It’s looking like Aston will be a nice hire by Texas. The Longhorns fought Oklahoma State tooth and nail throughout the game, finally falling to the #11 Cowgirls by 6.

Speaking of tooth and nail — South Carolina dealt Arkansas their first loss of the season, but Dawn and crew are lucky the game ended when it did. In the second half, the Razorbacks roared back from a 12-point deficit, but fell short by 4.

Speaking of a Conference that would be wicked fun to watch:

  • St. Mary’s couldn’t slay undefeated San Diego. “With the win, the Toreros remain perfect on the season at 14-0, mark the best start for any sport at USD in the Division I era, extend the program’s longest winning streak, and are now one of six undefeated schools left in Division I.” (Who’ going to be knocking on Cindy Fisher’s door next year?)
  • Pacific (6-7) took down perennial powerhouse BYU (12-2) for their first WCC win, 75-62.
  • Azzi’s Dons took down Loyola Mary for their sixth win of the season. (Baby steps, pt. 1)
  • Pepperdine and St. Clara went to double overtime and made Debbie happy: The Waves prevailed, 100-93. (Baby steps, pt. 2: Pepperdine’s five wins already matches its total from last season.)

Not interested in being part of the news frenzy:

# 6 Kentucky took care of Alabama, 85-63.

#2 Notre Dame got some dead-eyed shooting from Kayla McBride as they went huntin’ wabbits, 94-51.

#3 Duke dominated Old Dominion, 87-63.

#25 Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech, 68-38.

Simms… I mean, #9 Baylor was 29 points better than the Wildcats.

#14 Iowa State took care of TCU, 71-49.

Considering the state of Pittsburgh basketball, I consider Suzie’s loss to #21 Florida State by 9 impressive.

Mississippi State didn’t survive their encounter with the Gators.

Not sayin’ nothin’ about Fordham ’cause I don’t wanna jinx’em.

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Well, crap….

Tough day for Candace. And the League: Sparks owner ends involvement with team; WNBA looking for new owner

Asked if the Sparks would field a team for the 2014 season, or if the franchise would fold, Richie repeatedly said that several entities have expressed an interest in owning a WNBA team and the league is exploring those options regarding the Sparks.

The Sparks’ front-office staff, including General Manager Penny Toler and President Vincent Malcolm, have been laid off. Sparks Coach Carol Ross and her staff have also lost their jobs.

The Times obtained a copy of an email that was sent by Malcolm to team employees on Tuesday: “… we regret to inform you that effective December 31, 2013 you no longer will be employed by the Los Angeles Sparks.”

 

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In this case, it’s women’s basketball players and blood clots:

Antonita Slaughter from Louisville.

Kyvin Goodin-Rogers from Kentucky.

Rebekah Dahlman from Vandy.

Other injury news: Washington freshman Chantel Osahor out indefinitely with stress fracture

Returning from injury news: Marist visits rivals with Casey Dulin set to debut

The last time Casey Dulin played in a game she scored 13 points to lead the Marist College women’s basketball team in its NCAA tournament opener in March.

Today, 266 days since that loss to Michigan State, the senior guard returns to action, making her 2013-14 debut against host Boston University after breaking her right foot in late October

Speaking of Marist: Marist hurdled obstacles to find success again

In transfer news: She moved in high school, and it looks like she’s moving in college: Breanna Hayden to leave Baylor.

Friday the 13th brought no bad luck for East Carolina, which made mincemeat of Alcorn State and kept their record unblemished.

San Diego resisted the WHB curse and moved to 10-0 with their win over Long Beach State.

In the battle of the W’s (Williams and Wetmore v. Wurtz and Whyte) it was Washington over Wisconsin.

Army played Ohio State tough, but the Buckeyes squeezed out a win.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team got a do-over with the clock ticking toward zero last night at Value City Arena and left smiling this time.

The Buckeyes, who lost to Gonzaga on a buzzer-beater on Sunday, rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 2:23 to reel in Army 59-56 in front of a crowd of 4,183.

Wow — tough to got through two overtimes and lose by 13. Welcome to UCF’s fate against the Owls of Florida Atlantic.

Mechelle adds her voice to the good wishes sent to the Frese family: Frese’s son wraps up chemotherapy- Tyler Thomas, 5, will get his blood checked regularly for the next year and a half

...the image you immediately see in your head when the Maryland women’s basketball coach is mentioned is her standing on the sideline, nodding, clapping and sending out good vibes to her players.

Likewise, with every public mention of her son, Tyler Thomas, and his battle with leukemia, Frese has been similarly upbeat. One can imagine that in private, she and husband Mark Thomas have shed tears and had their low points of fear and worry. There is no worse emotional pain than that felt by a parent or guardian of a sick/injured child.

But Frese has always talked about Tyler winning against the disease and about how he received terrific medical care at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg Children’s Center. You can surmise that 5-year-old Tyler both inherited and was inspired by his mom’s buoyant attitude.

Speaking of Mechelle’s voice, check her out as she (and Coach McCallie) talk Duke v. UConn with David at Dishin’ & Swishin’: Is #2 Duke ready for #1 UConn?

More on the upcoming game from John Altavilla: Coach McCallie On A Number Of UConn-Duke Topics

On the current condition of senior guard Chelsea Gray, who is back after a dislocated knee cap ended her junior season on Nov. 17, 2012:
“It’s been extraordinary; I have never been a part of that kind of story [recovering from knee dislocation]. She’s worked hard, preserved, put herself into position to be in tip-top shape. … We’re not there yet. It’s December, but we are at a good stage with her. I’m proud of her. It’s a hard injury.”

And: Jay Bilas Offers A Fresh Insight Into Duke-UConn and Gray And Jones A Potent Duke Guard Combination

Over at Mel’s blog, Mike Siroky toots the SEC horn: Kentucky Plays Another Masterpiece Game

The Southeastern Conference women’s college basketball teams retain their mastery of the rest of the world.

Those AP-ranked teams are now 47-3 (and there is another undefeated league team and two with one loss each, which makes the top nine 73-5).

Déjà vu all over again: For the second straight week, the biggest win was by the team we have dubbed the best in the league, the national Game Of The Season (so far).

From Lady Swish: JMU preps for St. John’s tourney

For JMU, the next five days are filled with opportunity and possibilities.

The Dukes (6-2) will play three games over this span, with two of them coming against resume-enhancing opponents. If successful, JMU can brand itself as not just a team good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but one capable of making some noise once they get there. And trust us, perception is important when it comes to the NCAA selection committee.

Some players making an impact:

From Carl Adamec: UConn’s Chong reports for freshman duties

“Sometimes it’s hard being the only freshman. A lot of times I’m doing things on my own,” Chong said. “I’m the only freshman and I know they have their eyes on me. I have to give them my 100 percent every time and let them know I’m working hard.

“My roommate (Jade Strawberry) is a volleyball player so I didn’t always see her during her season. She’s out practicing or I’m out practicing so I have to do a lot of things on my own. I’ll go to class by myself. I’ll interact with other people on my own. But when things get tough I just ask the older girls on the team and they’ll help me.”

From Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White Shae Kelley doing it all for ODU

Through eight games, Shae Kelley leads Old Dominion in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, minutes played, yards after the catch, goals-against average….

OK, we made a couple of those up. But only a couple.

From Aggie Sports: Gilbert making an impact on and off court in her hometown

Gilbert does her student teaching in the area and enjoys when she is recognized for her on-the-court work, but she also takes great pride when fans recognize what she hopes to do in the classroom.

“It defines me as not only a basketball player, I’m also someone who desired to teach and help out younger kids and be a big part of the community,” she said.

From Mike Esse at Penn State Athletics:

Two words: patience and dedication. Put those two together and you get Lady Lion senior Talia East.

The 6-foot-3 forward from Philadelphia wasn’t seeing the playing time she wanted in her first two years due to injuries and veterans in front of her. In 2012-13, East began to show flashes of the player she could be and now in her final year in Happy Valley, she is a dominating force inside for the Lady Lions.

From Ken Sickenger at the Albuquerque Journal: Lobo women’s hoops: Alexa Chavez goes from walk-on to key performer

“Honestly, I told her what I tell all our walk-ons,” Sanchez said. “‘You probably won’t play much, you probably won’t travel, and your main job will be to work hard at practice and help the team get better.’”

Chavez was undeterred by the high-work, low-reward prospects.

“Alexa came in and just never stopped working and never stopped improving,” Sanchez said. “Now she’s in a position to help us win basketball games and she’s skilled enough to do it.”

So, where are you traveling to in 2015?

In W news: Use Of Instant Replay Headlines WNBA Rule Changes

In Arizona, the New Phoenix Mercury GM is Phoenix Suns exec

From the Daily Nebraskan: Former Husker basketball player Kelsey Griffin finds happiness playing abroad

Kelsey Griffin left Nebraska as a 2010 First-Team All-American, a three-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection, the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and the No. 3 player on Nebraska’s career scoring list with 2,033 points.

Yet somehow, when she entered the WNBA after being drafted as the No. 3 overall pick by the Minnesota Lynx and subsequently traded to the Connecticut Sun, she felt as if she was on her own.

Jim Massie writes about what we already know, but it’s always fun to read his work: Katie Smith returning to WNBA — as a coach

Next spring will find Katie Smith feeling a familiar itch that time finally has persuaded her to scratch in some other way.

Smith, the most-decorated player in Ohio State women’s basketball history, ended her long playing career at the end of the 2013 WNBA season. The 39-year-old returned to her home in Upper Arlington to finish her graduate work for a degree in dietetics and to serve as a grad assistant mentor to the current OSU women’s team.

Several basketball players on espnW’s “Impact 10

NO. 2 BRITTNEY GRINER

NO. 6 ELENA DELLE DONNE

NO. 7 MAYA MOORE

NO. 9 CANDACE PARKER

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Vol fans are hoping the next game is out of state.

Mechelle says “It’s time for Tennessee to just play

If there’s any team that needs to just play this season — and not feel the pressure to play for something — it’s Tennessee.

Sure, the Women’s Final Four will be in Nashville, Tenn., three hours west of Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville. And by the time the national semifinals tip off in Bridgestone Arena on April 6, 2014, it will have been six years since Tennessee last played in the final games of the season. The Candace Parker-led squad brought Tennessee its eighth national championship in April 2008.

Ever since, it’s fair to say the subsequent Lady Vols teams felt a sometimes-debilitating weight of having something to prove, or the need to honor their legendary coach, or the responsibility to support their new coach … or all of the above.

Turtle fans are hoping that their next game doesn’t involve horns (and that Thomas becomes visible).

Oklahoma is hoping their next game doesn’t involve hats.

Penn State is hoping Maggie stays hot.

Cynthia Cooper got her first win of her USC coaching career.

Susie McConnell-Serio got the first win of her Pitt coaching career.

Delaware got its first victory of its post-EDD career.

Fordham was unimpressed with San Francisco.

Iona took down Arizona in OT.

It took St. John’s OT to survive Sacred Heart.

Yes, they lost to AR-Pine Bluff, but every time I see the name Philander Smith, I think of Missouri Arledge (Morris), the first black AAU All American. (And assistant principal

Illinois learned they should beware of Bradley.

Kristy Curry and Alabama learned they should beware of the Mocs.

Texas Southern shows it’s still strong, taking down Tulsa.

Pepperdine surged in the second half to defeat Seattle U.

Injury plagued UCLA falls to #17 Nebraska.

Bowling Green was unfazed by Michigan.

No surprise, Mechelle says Duke remains favorite in ACC as the Blue Devils’ Gray is ready to move on from injury

From Fagan: DePaul takes center stage in Big East

The Big East still exists, except it looks nothing like the Big East we remember.

Gone are the top four teams — Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse — from last season’s final standings. Gone are many of the marquee names that have made Big East women’s basketball arguably the most competitive league in the country over the past decade, including three of last season’s Final Four teams. A number of the old stalwarts (the Catholic 7) remain, but the 2013-14 season will introduce to the country a very different league as Xavier, Creighton and Butler join the fray and try to help keep the league on the map.

Lordy, I hate the loss of the (real) Big East: Huskies heavy favorite in American.

Graham adds: Schimmel back for final act – Equal parts skillful and impetuous, senior is game’s most fascinating character. Fagan offers The five faces of Shoni Schimmel

Previewing the Big 12: Youth will dominate; can OU, too?

Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself asking “Who is that?” while watching games involving Big 12 teams this year. There are a lot of new or unfamiliar faces, with a ton of freshmen and little-known reserves who will try to take more prominent roles.

We’ll start with the obvious: Baylor lost four starters — Brittney Griner, Kimetria Hayden, Jordan Madden and Brooklyn Pope — plus the equivalent of a starter in Destiny Williams. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: They had a nightmare ending to their Baylor careers, with an upset loss to Louisville in the Sweet 16.

That ended Baylor’s attempt to repeat its national championship, and it turned a page on one of the most successful chapters of any Big 12 women’s basketball program.

Charlie says Huskers should set pace in Big Ten, the Lady Vols, Wildcats on top in SEC. Injuries aside, Michelle writes League closing gap with Stanford.

When espnW offered up their  top five at each position, I was intrigued that KML was not #1. Time will tell if I’m sellin’ smoke.

Preseason POY? Rebecca says Nerd City. Mechelle says Gumby. (Or, better, this.)

Cranky about all the conference shifts? Next time you’re reading your favorite sports message board, consider this: 

So it turns out that person you don’t actually know using an alias on that message board may not be who you thought they were. It could just be somebody from a public relations firm who is being paid to try to change your opinion.

That’s what Maryland tried to do following its move to the Big Ten. As you’d expect, a lot of Maryland fans weren’t happy that the school was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and they did what any logical fan would do: they turned to the internet to voice their displeasure.

And according to the emails the Baltimore Sun got its hands on, Maryland hired a public relations form to try to stem the tide of negativity.

So, ya wanna learn more about basketball? This year’s “All Access” is taking on the Triangle for 2013-14: Season-long series will focus on Triangle region’s Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Wolfpack

Nerd City lives…on the football field.

As an educator who uses theatre to address social issues, I’m following the Miami Martin/Incognito story with interest. Thanks to Nate for pointing this out: Man Up –Declaring a war on warrior culture in the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal

I am here to start a fight, because I’m a man and that’s how I solve problems. I’m not here to help you. I am here to fucking hurt you. That’s what I’ve learned in my years as an NFL fan. You have an issue with somebody? You see somebody being stupid? You don’t look the other way. You don’t back down. You strap on your man boots and you shove it through their teeth.

Let me tell you how I know this. I know it because the NFL told me. Take the Dolphins. They suck, but they’re still in the NFL. I’m telling it like it is; that’s what men do.

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’cause that’s what game threes should be!

Atlanta v. Mystics @ 8pm. Sparks v. Mercury @ 10pm.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered. (Probably recovering from the Falcons’ meltdown.)

From Roman at the WaPo: Washington Mystics must rebound in Game 3 of WNBA Eastern Conference semifnals (sic)

Small pockets of boos could be heard circulating through Verizon Center during the third quarter of the Washington Mystics’ 63-45 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Saturday night. The jeers began when the Dream, leading by 16, pulled down four offensive rebounds on one possession, the last leading to an Erika de Souza layup that gave Atlanta its largest lead.

That possession was a microcosm of the Mystics’ problems during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Dream had more second-chance opportunities (18 offensive boards) than Washington and made 11 more field goals to send the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 3 on Monday night. The quick turnaround affords the Mystics little time for self-reflection — and even less time to rediscover the offensive identity they need to keep the season alive.

Melissa writes: Sparks, Phoenix brace for deciding game of series

Parker said that after Thursday’s 86-75 Game 1 loss at home, the Sparks made some major adjustments. They didn’t have much to do with basketball though.

“We just changed our mind-set more than we changed our play,” Parker said.

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury focus on execution for decisive Game 3 against Los Angeles Sparks

“I thought the ball wound up in one person’s hands too long,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said after Saturday’s loss. “The shot clock is so short. If you hang on to it too long, you are going to wind up taking a marginal shot. And I think (Saturday night), we took a lot of marginal shots, and we need to get that corrected before (Monday night), for sure.

“We did some things that were not really characteristic, I think, of this team. Bottom line is, we just didn’t get it done, and we have to try to correct it before we play again.”

Who ya got?

In those other games: Yup: Catchings, Fever overwhelm Sky Indiana advances to Eastern Conference finals to play either Atlanta or Washington

Sometimes, Indiana rookie guard Layshia Clarendon suddenly will remember that her down-to-earth, low-key, friendly teammate is actually a very big deal.

 “I see the way people cheer for her, the way the other team reacts when they announce her name,” Clarendon said. “And I think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s right. This is the Tamika Catchings, three-time gold medalist, awesome community leader.’ They are those ‘oh wow’ moments. But she makes you feel like she’s just another person.”

Of course, Catchings isn’t just another player. She is a future Hall of Famer, someone who is at least in the MVP discussion every WNBA season. And in the Fever’s Eastern Conference first-round series victory over Chicago, Catchings displayed her usual relentlessness. She was the best player on the court.

Nice to have the MIP on your team, too: Zellous’ play helps fill Douglas void – Guard’s offensive improvement paying dividends for Indiana Fever

From Mark Ambrogl: Why the Indiana Fever are on the verge of another title run (or maybe not)

From Philip Hersh

“We know how to play basketball,” said Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who spent several minutes after the game with her head buried under a towel. “We have enough experience and talent and skill in this room to win games in the playoffs.”

It went missing in both playoff games.

“In the end, it always comes down to toughness — rebounds, loose balls, deflections,” Chatman said. “It starts in the fight areas. You’ve just got to have some dog in you. You’ve just got to get it done.”

Nate explains How the Minnesota Lynx swept the Seattle Storm (Though it t’weren’t as easy as they might have thought it would be)

Clay offers Analysis: A tale of two series

From Jayda: Storm ousted from playoffs – Tina Thompson ends her career trying hard to extend Seattle’s season

Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared from the speakers as the announced crowd of 3,457 chanted “Thank You Tina” until she exited the court. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 power forward, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. She announced in May she would retire from the WNBA after this season.

“I can walk away and feel OK with how we finished because we gave as much as we possibly could,” Thompson said Sunday. “I’ve always wanted to retire from the game and not the game retire from me. So, when I leave on my own terms, it’s a lot easier to settle with.”

From Jim Caple: Tina Thompson retires on her terms

After Minnesota beat the Seattle Storm 58-55 Sunday afternoon, the Lynx asked the league’s all-time scoring leader if she would honor them by posing for a team photo with them. This is not the way teams generally celebrate sweeping a first-round playoff series. But then, teams don’t usually end opponent’s careers that are as old as the very league in which they play.

“It was a bigger-than-basketball moment,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “We have so much respect for her, and we just battled it out with her. And we just wanted to get a picture. ‘Hey Tina, can we get a picture?’ It was really kind of childlike and beautiful. And she was great. She said, ‘Go ahead and win the whole thing guys.”’

Yes, I sense the irony: Minnesota Public Radio has a link to some great game shots.

Jayda redux: End of Tina Thompson’s career is end of an era for WNBA

“The WNBA is the best-kept secret in the world in a sense that in every single season that I’ve been a part of, this product has been amazing and the level of competition has been very high,” she said to Storm teammates, Tulsa Shock players and a crowd of 8,978. “You guys are the future of the WNBA. Continue to work and play as hard as you do.”

It’s one of those scary moments to which parents can relate. At some point, you have to let go of your baby in order for it to flourish. Now Thompson, 38, embarks on the final days of her career beginning with a first-round playoff game Friday at Minnesota.

Thank you Tina. May joy follow you the rest of your days.

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So much for “home court advantage,” huh.

Angel started slowly, Erika never got started, and there was a whole lotta Latta. Suddenly, BOOM!, the Mystics are a win away from playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Yup, Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault finds coaching home in WNBA

The league, this team — he’s never envisioned it as a last-ditch stop on the circuit.

“I want to be here,” said Thibault, who became the WNBA’s leader in career coaching wins this past July. “I get up every day and I enjoy coaching here.”

Candace Parker enjoyed the MVP trophy for the first half, but when Nneka went to the bench with foul trouble, it was Taurasi-time. Understandably, Melissa sounds a little peeved – Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury

At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.

The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.

So much for a celebration.

“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Sue and a fellow WNBA addict, have some long Contemplations on the Sparks’ first-round loss to Phoenix

If Griner can figure out how to play without fouling, things could get interesting as the game moves to the Land of the Bun. ’cause hell already froze over: Look who’s liking the W!

We saw the best women’s player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing.

Continuing the day’s theme, Rookie of the Year Delle Donne did all she could, but Defensive Player of the Year Fowles, (Brin January? Really, ESPN Highlight guy?) along with the rest of her team, forgot to bring it. Indiana schooled playoff rooks and now look who’s eyeing the next round? (Nate’s not surprised)

Fowles was asked how it felt to be in the playoffs after five seasons of futility.

Her answer was a prolonged shriek of joy.

“Those five years we struggled are a blur now,” Fowles said.

A Sky season that included first place in the Eastern Conference could look the same way in the future if the team cannot beat fourth-place Indiana, the worst shooting team in the WNBA at 39 percent.

And the Sky are in grave danger of having that happen losing the opener of the best-of-three series 85-72 at Allstate Arena. against a Fever team for which 82 points had been the regular-season high.

I will be really sad for the Sky fans and franchise if Chicago can’t bring a third game home.

It was close through the first quarter, then there were back-to-back steals capped by free throws, and the Lynx were off and running. And then Seattle said, “Not so fast.” And then the Lynx said, “Yes, that fast” and, as Tim’s headline reads, the Minnesota Lynx avert the WNBA’s upset-special trend

“It was a trend that we were focused on bucking,” Reeve said. “I told the team, ‘Big dummies, the home teams.’ It was great fuel for us. It won’t be easy. If you think it is going to be easy, we are going to get beat.

“We had three examples of games that if you don’t come to play (you will get beat). Seattle, quite frankly, played harder than us (at times in the early going). Seattle played with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

And yes, Tom, perhaps the Dominant Lynx make it hard not to look ahead, but you know what they say about eggs and counting…

Adi Nelson at USA Today give the Warrior Princes her due: WNBA’s first ever pick Tina Thompson finishes with style

“I’m not retiring because I can’t play basketball; I’m retiring because I don’t want to play basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m just tired. My approach (was to play) until I stop having the same feelings and passions.”

Ah, memories – Rebkell puts together a great Tina tribute.

Speaking of memories:

In case you hadn’t noticed, the WNBA CBA set to expire on Sept. 30 before playoffs end. Wheeeee!

And lucky us, Mechelle had some extra time: Thinking of Billie Jean and the (ongoing) battle

A headline on The Kansas City Times front page the morning after King’s victory trumpeted: “Male chauvinism stamped out in three sets.”

However, inside the paper, a story on a Carnegie Commission of Higher Education report said more women graduated from high school than men, received better grades in college and applied themselves as diligently to their work – yet did not achieve anything near parity with men in rank and salary. The commission concluded that women were “the largest unused supply of superior intelligence in the United States.”

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*lifts head up from the start of the new school year*

Tonight on the Deuce, we get Washington v. Atlanta (congrats, Coach T!), followed by Phoenix v. L.A.

Discuss:

Mechelle: Mystics ride momentum into playoffs – Washington seeks first playoff win since 2002

It was three years ago — although it might seem like a lifetime to Mystics fans — that Washington and Atlanta met in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics had finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2010, while the Dream were fourth. But Atlanta swept Washington 2-0, Mystics coach Julie Plank and general manager Angela Taylor both departed (with some acrimony) after the season, and Washington won a combined 11 games over the next two seasons under coach/GM Trudi Lacey.

OK, just try to put that all out of your minds, Mystics fans. This season was a fresh start under veteran coach Mike Thibault.

The WaPo brings back Gene: Washington Mystics hope to continue recent strong play in WNBA playoffs

After directing a cultural shift within the organization during the regular season, first-yearWashington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault’s rebuilding project moves into Phase 2 on Thursday night when his club faces the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Mystics (17-17) are the No. 3 seed following a season in which they more than tripled their win total from last year. They are making their first playoff appearance since 2010.

From WNBAlien: 2013 WNBA Playoff Previews: Eastern Conference First Round – Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics

These teams finished tied with .500 records in the Eastern Conference, but arrived there by very different routes. Washington were a ‘win two here, lose three there’ kind of team all season long. They’d fight out a few results, then lose their way for a while, then remember what they needed to do to win games again. Just to make it this far has to be considered a success for Mike Thibault and his squad, considering the disastrous couple of years under Trudi Lacey that preceded this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta started the year 10-1, and then dropped into something resembling freefall. For those of you who can do basic math, you’ll be able to calculate that they went 7-16 over the remainder of the season. Injuries hit them hard, and it was a struggle to overcome them enough to regain real form in the second half of the year – plus not everyone is back. Both these teams are somehow predictably unpredictable, which makes foretelling how their series is going to play out rather tricky.

From Bob Corwin at Full Court: ATL vs. WAS playoff preview: Can the Dream put the pieces back together in postseason?

On paper, this series should be easy to call. Look at the Dream roster: It has more world class players and thus should be expected to win. However, the games are not played on paper and the subplots in this series could make it much more competitive and interesting than a casual fan might anticipate.

In spite of what pundits predict, the WNBA narrative often does not behave according to the script laid out for it.

Michelle: Stars, offenses take center stage – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday

With a pair of high-scoring, star-studded teams, this might be the best first-round matchup of the WNBA postseason. The two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, split the season series after Los Angeles closed the regular season with a 34-point win over the depleted Mercury on Sunday.

And more Michelle: Sparks look to step it up in playoffs

 There’s an edge to the playoff conversation in the Sparks locker room.

Hunger, no doubt about it. But the Sparks don’t necessarily feel like they’ve played their best basketball yet.

And they’re impatient to get to that level.

“There are a lot of areas where we still need to improve,” coach Carol Ross said.

From Clay at Full Court: LA vs. PHX playoff preview: Can the Mercury pull it together for the postseason?

It comes down to this: Did Phoenix have time to put the pieces of the puzzle together despite the injuries and the coaching change?

If so, the Mercury have lots of weapons, and enough firepower to give anyone trouble. The timetable, though, was a little rushed, and if the team hasn’t completely gelled, it could be a rough postseason ride — as was indicated in the 89-55 pounding the Mercury took by the Sparks to close the season on Sunday.

No surprise, the ‘Kellians have some issues with that last observation, so they discuss it with Clay.

From Melissa at the LA Times (finally!) Sparks’ Candace Parker aims to go the distance in postseason this time

During a recent Sparks practice, Candace Parker paused the scrimmage three times to give her teammates instructions on defense.

She wasn’t going to allow the Sparks to make any mistakes before they begin their best-of-three first-round playoff series against Phoenix on Thursday at Staples Center (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2).

“It certainly helps when the face of your franchise is locked in, because it makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in there as well,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said.

The Sparks haven’t won a WNBA championship since winning titles in 2001 and 2002. The drought seems endless to Parker, who was selected by the Sparks as the top overall pick in the 2008 draft.

From Odeen at Arizona Central: Whether shooting or passing, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes her point(s) (take that, .com dude)

No other player in the league affects her team’s scoring output more than the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whether she puts the ball in the basket or helps a teammate do it, Taurasi influences the scoreboard as much as the person who pushes the button to change it.

This season, Taurasi scored 20.3 points and recorded 6.2 assists per game. Both averages were second-highest in the league. The assists average is a career high.

For Taurasi, accumulating a high assist average is simple.

“When you have DB (DeWanna Bonner), Penny (Taylor), (Candice) Dupree, BG (Brittney Griner),” Taurasi said, “if you don’t average six (assists per game), you suck.”

Odeen also offers up: Phoenix Mercury hitting stride as playoffs begin

“As a unit, I definitely think so,” forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ve made adjustments and, obviously, we have everyone healthy. We have had everyone out there for a couple of games. In implementing a lot of things that we’re doing, especially in the defensive end, I feel like everyone is getting it together.”

Ummm…. Yummy? Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner taste test: Bacon

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From Dan: Jenny Moshak retiring from UT over ‘issues of equality’

Jenny Moshak is leaving the trainer’s room at the University of Tennessee, but not without having a final say.

The associate director of sports medicine at UT, who’s a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against UT, issued a statement Friday through her lawyer, Keith D. Stewart, saying that she took an early retirement over issues related to the suit.

“Due to the overall atmosphere since I raised issues of equality at the University of Tennessee and given the university’s unwillingness to address the issues of discrimination and retaliation, I cannot continue my association with the university’s athletic department,” Moshak said in the statement.

In W news, the Spare Parts Storm were doing just fine against the Delle Donne-less Sky, and then… oops! The she is!. Gave Jayda time to reconnect: Courtney Vandersloot is thriving with Chicago Sky

At Slam Online: WNBA MVP Rankings: She’s Back – Candace Parker returns from injury in dominant fashion.

In this week’s MVP rankings, Diana Taurasi has taken steps forward due to interim coach Russ Pennell’s more efficient system. Despite back-to-back 30-plus point outings for Angel McCoughtry, the Dream are riding a cold streak. Tamika Catchings, in the past week, nabbed her 900th steal and sneaks up the MVP ladder. And the “Candace Can” mantra still rings true for the Sparks, as their do-it-all forward reigns once again in the rankings.

Check out the latest:

Chris Morgan offers up WNBA Team Names: A Critique and someone else asks: Is Your WNBA Team Leading in… Injuries?

Why does this:

Iyanla Vanzant will try to work her magic on troubled former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw in the next episode of her OWN series, “Iyanla: Fix My Life.”

make me (and some others on Rebkell) uncomfortable?

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This time it was the .comCurse (Candace Parker’s Road to RedemptionParker is in midst of her prime playing some of the best basketball of her career right now) and Jayda (Welcome to hot seat Candace Parker; your must-win title push starts now.):

The Sparks, starting a season-high five-game road trip, were without All-Star Game MVP Candace Parker due to an injured right wrist. Her status for Los Angeles’ next game, Sunday at Washington, was uncertain.

Parker’s absence shouldn’t diminish the Shock’s win, nor Cambage’s career high 28pts. 

“It’s good to beat a good team,” Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “We really want to push for the playoffs and we know we’ve gotta beat some of these elite teams to get there.”

Guess Diggins got her birthday wish.

The Laurel was in Minny: 

She was asked about a pre-season survey of league general managers, who picked Phoenix to finish first in the Western Conference, followed by Los Angeles and Minnesota. The Lynx have the league’s best record (14-3) at mid-season. “Maybe there were some bright, shiny toys in the window that got people excited,” she said, referring, perhaps, to highly-touted rookies like Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner. “But I can’t imagine anyone affiliated with the WNBA considering the Lynx an afterthought.”

The Lynx confirmed their non-afterthought status by sluggishly starting and then slugging the stubborn Stars, 85-63.

“Everybody says, ‘What do you have to work on?’ ” Reeve said, acting as though the question was preposterous. “There is a ton we have to work on. … We played in spurts. We feel we have to play better, for sure. But in the end, statistically, we had a pretty good game.’’

Guess so.

In Chicago, Big Syl was…well, BIG as her 10-14 (32pt-15rebs) shooting made up for Prince & Cash’s double-double (3-13) carried the Sky over the Mystics.

“You know, she’s a beast,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “I call that her beast mode. … Look at her toenail polish when you go in there (to the locker room). She’s got that Incredible Hulk Green on.”

“Pack Up Your Basketballs In Your Old Kit Bag:” USA Basketball Announces Plan To Relocate Headquarters To Tempe, Arizona

USA Basketball today officially announced that it has agreed to relocate to Tempe, Arizona, as part of a $350 million development project. USA Place, LLC, has been selected to develop a new national headquarters and training center for USA Basketball on a 10.5-acre site located next to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on land owned by ASU at the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive.

I can see the financial lure. Wonder how the staff will feel — and what impact it will have on the athletes (bball and other sports).

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