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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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but the folks battling it out for the WNIT post-season championship are hanging out at the Charleston Civic Center, WV.

How they got there:

 West Virginia over Temple, 66-58 (OT).

The story book post-season run for the Temple women’s basketball team came to an end in the WNIT semifinals on Wednesday, as the Owls fell to West Virginia, 66-58, in overtime. Temple closes the 2014-15 campaign with a 20-17 overall mark. 

“I’m proud of my team, I’m proud of the way they fought tonight in a hostile environment,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza following the game. “We have some young guys and we let the game slip away, but I know this whole experience will help this program in the future.”

It’s not been an easy ride for the Mountaineers.

a month ago Carey refused to let the team practice in West Virginia gear because he was so upset with their effort and passion for the game.
 
“We had people who didn’t care if we won or lost. We had people that weren’t playing hard and we had people, in my opinion, that didn’t care about the state of West Virginia or West Virginia University,” said Carey.
 
“Sometimes you have to challenge people and as a lot of you know, I’m not afraid to challenge people because I’m very passionate about this state and this university,” he continued. “And if somebody’s not, I’m going to go at them.”

The West Virginia will host UCLA, who defeated Michigan, 69-64, in Michigan.

The entire second frame was a tense, back-and-forth affair. Trading baskets, neither team was able to find separation for the bulk of the half.

But with UCLA just one step quicker, Michigan couldn’t extend its season.

“They hit big shots down the stretch, and that’s definitely a credit to them,” Smith said. “They would hold the ball for 28 seconds then hit the last shot with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. … It’s frustrating but you’ve gotta continue to play.”

From the WNIT folks:

When UCLA and West Virginia square off Saturday for the WNIT Championship (3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), each team has already banked the kind of insight that can only come from games played under pressure. For the Bruins (18-18) and their roster of 10 new players, the tournament has been almost reassuring – the stress and hard days of learning how to survive a Division-I campaign are more in the background, and now the team plays with confidence and a real sense of purpose about the future.

“Our non-conference schedule might have been a little ambitious for a young team like this, and we’ve learned a lot about the mental side of building a team,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, whose team won a tight semifinal game at Michigan on Wednesday to reach the finals. “It takes longer to rebuild confidence than it does to just keep it. But we have a confidence now that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Now, we want to take advantage of every opportunity, and capture these pieces of the foundation to build the program.”

About that thing going on in Florida…

A list of Final Four events in Tampa.

After savoring the moment, women’s teams become all business, Tampa Tribune
That lasting memory: 2008 Final Four proved to be Summitt’s last, Tampa Tribune
Final Four teams in familiar territory in women’s tournament, ND Insider
UConn-Maryland primer, ESPN
Notre Dame-South Carolina primer, ESPN
Dishin & Swishin 04/02/15 Podcast: Doug Bruno helps break down the NCAA tournament and Final Four

Maryland:
Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience, Baltimore Sun
Did Brenda Frese push her way into the discussion of D.C.’s best coaches?, Washington Post
Frese Admits Maryland Will Have Its Hands Full With UConn, Courant
Testudo Times: Maryland women’s basketball: Final Four vs. Connecticut preview
CBSLocal: Maryland Women’s Basketball Team Creating A Buzz On Campus

Jon Meoli at the Baltimore Sun: Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience

By the time they’re through at Maryland, they all emerge into their own players.

But on a team loaded with players whose parents competed in sports either professionally or collegiately, the Maryland women’s basketball team benefits plenty from its cadre of second-generation stars, led by point guard Lexie Brown, daughter of former NBA star Dee Brown.

Diamondback Online: Maryland women’s basketball readies to play Connecticut
Stephanie White: How Maryland can pull off the upset over UConn, Big 10 Network
Baltimore Wire: Maryland Women’s Basketball: These Sophomores are the Real Deal
Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Laurin Mincy savors Final Four sendoff for Maryland basketball

Laurin Mincy’s final practice in College Park as a member of the Marylandwomen’s basketball team took place at Xfinity Center’s auxiliary gym rather than the main court. Not exactly an ideal way for the redshirt senior to bid farewell to the arena where she spent five seasons forging a career notable for perseverance and revival.

A high school robotics convention had forced the Final Four-bound Terrapins to their secondary practice facility Thursday afternoon, but for Mincy, the minor inconvenience wasn’t about to spoil another opportunity to be with her teammates.

More from Gene: Maryland relies on Brown’s big shots
Former NBA Star Dee Brown Joins Daughter Lexie at Final Four

UConn:

Geno Auriemma on Moriah Jefferson: ‘I haven’t seen anybody better’, Register
A Quick Point Guard’s Unconventional Path to UConn, NY Times

“I’m so glad I was home-schooled,” Moriah Jefferson said. “I loved it. It gave me a good competitive edge.”

At 5-foot-7, the skinny and well-mannered Jefferson does not look like a typical star athlete. Still, she is one of the nation’s quickest players and one of the most valuable members on a team filled with former high school all-Americans.

A junior, she averages 12.3 points a game, leads UConn with 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals a game and shoots 59.5 percent from the floor and 50.5 percent on 3-pointers. She was named a second-team Associated Press all-American this week.

Even at eight straight, Final Fours don’t get old for UConn, Channel 8
Final Four flashback: Auriemma coaches beyond buzzer, Tampa Bay Times

They’re all still chasing UConn at Women’s Final Four
, USA Today
Virtuoso Geno Playing Everyone Like A Violin, Boneyard Blog
UConn women used to tough competition…in practice, Register
If It’s April, UConn And Mosqueda-Lewis Must Be In Final Four, Courant
UConn players trying to live up to program’s legacy, Tampa Tribune

UConn’s Stewart Halfway to Her Goal of 4 National Titles
Mighty UConn women not looking ahead of themselves, Marietta Daily
Paul Doyle: Auriemma: UConn Women are ‘Not invincible, Not unbeatable’

Notre Dame:

Taya Reimer a calming voice for Notre Dame women’s basketball
Philly Flavor At Women’s Final Four: Cheesesteaks, Anyone?, Allentown Morning Call
Notre Dame, SC basketball coaches share Philly background
AP: Notre Dame takes different attitude into women’s Final Four

Notre Dame isn’t planning business as usual this Final Four.

Coach Muffet McGraw realized after the Fighting Irish clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title for a second straight season that the team didn’t seem to celebrate much. Then it happened again when they won the ACC tournament.

”They were excited, but then I watch other teams and they’re jumping all over the place,” she said.

ND Insider: Does Notre Dame have the size to win it all?
Notre Dame Press Conference Quotes
Irish Illustrated: Notre Dame preps for another Final Four

South Carolina:

South Carolina, In First Final Four, To Face Notre Dame, Courant
The evolution of Dawn Staley, ESPN
WLTX: Coach Staley: Final Four is a Business Trip
Notre Dame offensive ‘machine’ awaits Gamecocks in Final FourCharleston Post Courier
David Cloninger: The men behind the USC women – Gamecocks’ practice squad contributes to Final Four run 

They won’t get rings.

They do get pink sneakers.

“I got these last year, but I never busted them out,” South Carolina senior Kevin Clancy said. “This week, I was like, ‘OK, gotta wear them.’”

More David: USC women’s team finds different heroes on different nights – Deep bench lets Gamecocks count on production from many players

“We’re not fazed as much by Tiffany Mitchell not having a great night because of the depth we have on our basketball team,” coach Dawn Staley said during the SEC tournament. “This particular year, (our bench) has been in situations where they had an impact on the game. They can draw on those experiences if Tiffany Mitchell had a night like tonight.”

Staley was speaking of the Gamecocks’ semifinal win against LSU, where Mitchell was 1-of-6 for four points and had five turnovers. Yet, USC won by 20.

“We’ve been playing in situations all year long where we were in the driver’s seat,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “I think that’s no longer the case. In the Final Four, we’ll go back, probably, to being the underdogs because we’re the new kids on the block.

“But we won’t act like the new kids on the block. We will definitely (prepare) to take advantage of the moment, because we never know when we’ll get back to the Final Four.”

From the AP’s Pete Iacobelli: Tiffany Mitchell, her WNBA idol Dawn Staley lead South Carolina to Final Four

Cheryl Mitchell wasn’t sure what project her third-grade daughter was working on when she asked to go to the store to pick up poster board. Tiffany Mitchell created a collage of WNBA star Dawn Staley, beginning a trek that’s landed the South Carolina coach and the Gamecocks’ standout in the school’s first Final Four.

She scored the go-ahead basket to beat North Carolina, 67-65, in the Sweet 16, then followed that with seven consecutive points to put the Gamecocks ahead for good in an 80-74 victory over Florida State in the Elite Eight.

Now the All-American and the rest of the Gamecocks (34-2) will square off against Notre Dame (35-2) in the national semifinals Sunday night in Tampa, Florida. 

Akilah Imani Nelson: Proud high school coaches following journey of USC women’s basketball stars -Long, O’Cain are their former players’ biggest fans

Getting behind the hysterical reaction to the headline: UConn’s Geno Auriemma says men’s game is ‘a joke’ to Geno Auriemma is totally right to call men’s college basketball ‘a joke’

He isn’t talking about playing basketball the “right” way or whatever, he’s talking purely about entertainment. He’s right: college basketball this year hasn’t been entertaining to watch. It hasn’t. Scoring is down, and like it or not, most Americans like sports where people can score.

He continues:

Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve moved in the fences in baseball, they lowered the mound. They made the strike zone so you need a straw to put through it. And in the NFL you touch a guy it’s a penalty. You hit the quarterback, you’re out for life. You know, in the NBA, you touch somebody in the perimeter, you whack guys like they used to do when scores were 90 to 75, they changed the rules.

Again, Auriemma is right. Every other American league has worked to improve scoring, and to make the game more enjoyable for fans.

Who ya got? Bleecher report and ESPN

In important stuff: Auriemma Hopes Indiana Lawmakers Come To Their Senses

“I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always been fascinated by people who care so much about what other people are and what they do in their personal lives,” he said. “Like, how small-minded do you have to be to care that much about what other people are doing? Life is hard enough trying to live your own life. What do you care about what other people are doing if it doesn’t affect you.

“And hiding behind this religious crap? That’s just the most cowardly thing that I’ve ever heard.

Dick Weiss, NY Daily News: NCAA, NFL, NBA and WNBA should raise their voices, condemning Indiana’s religious freedom law  

What are we doing here?

The NCAA Final Four is scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend in this state capital. But college basketball’s biggest celebration likely will be disturbed by a series of protests over a new Indiana religious freedom restoration law that critics say could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom and open the door for legalized discrimination.

Bigotry is apparently alive and well here in the heartland. I thought this ship had sailed with the passing of the civil rights laws in 1965.

Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana

THE drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called “religious freedom” laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.

They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.

That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.

But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice.

Big Business’s Critical Role on Anti-Gay Laws

Big corporations like Walmart, Apple, Salesforce.com and General Electric and their executives have done the right thing by calling on officials in Indiana and Arkansas to reject “religious freedom” laws designed to give businesses and religious groups legal cover should they deny service to gay couples.

But the business response to these laws raises a larger issue about the role companies play in the political process. If corporate leaders are serious in opposing discrimination, they should refuse to finance the campaigns of lawmakers who want to deny civil rights to gays and other minority groups.

Will Indiana law force 2016 women’s Final Four to relocate? (short answer: Yes.)

The men’s Final Four is in Indianapolis this weekend and could not have been moved on short notice. But officials have made it clear there is enough time to consider relocating future events, and that they want an environment welcoming to all athletes and fans.

”What’s going on in Indiana is troubling,” NCAA vice president of women’s basketball championships Anucha Browne said Wednesday.

”We will assess all our championships in the state of Indiana. We do anyway. We want to ensure that student athletes have a positive experience wherever we take them and our fans to. It’s the right thing to do.”

In that vein, Mazel Tov! WNBA’s Angel McCoughtry Comes Out, Is Engaged

Angel McCoughtry, the star forward for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and an Olympic Gold medalist, came out as gay through her Instagram account on Tuesday after an apparent dispute with the Turkish team she played for during the U.S. off-season..

Other NCAA teams are thinkin’ and pondering’ and changin’:

UF searching for success in women’s basketball

Few doubt Butler’s work ethic, or her passion for Gator basketball that dates back to when she was a point guard at UF under Carol Ross from 1990-94. But her eight-year tenure at Florida has produced mixed results. Butler’s 153 wins are second-most in school history, and she’s averaged 19 wins per season at UF. She’s led the Gators to three NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons, but never past the second round, and her career NCAA Tournament record is 3-3. Her career SEC record is 56-68.

Nebraska: Husker women’s basketball final grades

The 2014-15 season had its share of highs and lows for the Nebraska women’s basketball team. When the team capped off a 7-0 start to the season with a home victory against No. 9 Duke before a raucous Husker crowd on Dec. 3, it seemed to be the sort of tone-setting win that would carry over to the rest of the season. Instead, the win didn’t even carry over to the next game, as the Huskers fell on the road to a sub-par Alabama team that would go on to post a 2-14 conference record in the SEC. This wild swing of performance and fortune seemed to define the rest of the season for a Nebraska team that struggled with injuries from start to finish.

Indiana: A Look Back: Indiana State Women’s Basketball –  Meghan McKeown sat down with head coach Joey Wells to talk about the season.

Princeton: Women’s basketball completes season for the ages

Senior guard Blake Dietrick, however, commented on a different side of the team: a group of women hungry to win after not qualifying for the tournament last season.

“Last year, losing the Ivy [League title] was a reality check for us, since we had won it the past four years, then to be the team that broke the streak and let everyone down,” Dietrick said. “We were so intent on that not being the legacy that was left from this season.”

Even with this extra motivation, the level of success this team achieved was surreal even to them.

Stanford: Was this a rebuilding year for women’s basketball?

Despite the Cardinal losing winnable games this year and not playing like one of the best teams in the nation at times, this was not a rebuilding year. The Cardinal lost one elite player last year in Ogwumike and another key player in Mikaela Ruef. Losing only two starters didn’t mean that the team needed to be rebuilt — reshaped a bit, perhaps, but not rebuilt. The Cardinal made it just as far this year as they did two years ago despite the absence of Ogwumike, muffling the gossip swirling that the team wasn’t living up to the Stanford women’s basketball brand of recent years.

Purdue: Banquet recap

Coming off the program’s worst season in 31 years and a fan base which has become restless, Daniels voiced his full support for coach Sharon Versyp and the coaching staff.

“We have, in my opinion, the finest coach we could have for Purdue women’s basketball,” Daniels said. “Sharon, you and your outstanding staff that you have assembled, just set a terrific standard. We know more such years are coming. Not every season can be a national championship season but you’ve given us plenty; you’re going to give us more. This program has such a proud history and it has a proud future. I can’t wait for next year to get here and I know everybody in this room feels the same.”

Marist: Marist women ‘shocked’ by exodus; team faces ‘biggest challenge’

One by one, they came to Brian Giorgis.

“You’re in shock with each one,” the Marist College women’s basketball coach said, after the school announced four Red Foxes, including all-league forward Madeline Blais, would be transferring following the spring semester.

The exodus places a program that has reached the NCAA tournament in 10 of the last 12 seasons in a precarious position, “beating the bushes” to fill out a roster that currently will have eight scholarship players and 10 total next season.

In high school news:

Ohio: New Riegel’s Lucius retires with 542 victories

Steve Lucius always appreciated the little things in life: the closeness of a small town, the grass-roots work ethic of middle America, the competitive intensity of backyard rivalries and some of the best barbecued ribs he ever sank his teeth into.

All of those little things added up to one huge career for Lucius, who announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as New Riegel’s girls basketball coach after 30 years running the program.

“I grew up on those ribs,” said Lucius, a 1970 New Riegel graduate.

And a lot of young girls grew up on New Riegel basketball as Lucius built the Blue Jackets into one of the top small-school programs in the state.

Oklahoma: Carl Albert girls basketball coach Tim Price resigns

One of the state’s most successful girls basketball coaches has decided to make a change.

Carl Albert coach Tim Price officially resigned last week, bringing to end a very successful tenure with the Titans that included 10 state tournament appearances in his 11 seasons.

“It just got to the point to where I really felt like it would be best for me and possibly best for the program for me to go down a different path,” Price told The Oklahoman. “There’s been some building frustrations with some things going on and it just got to the point where I didn’t enjoy this past year as much as a coach should. I just didn’t want to go through it again.”

Pondering the WNBA draft, Swish Appeal Community 2015 WNBA Mock Draft

MSTU’s Cheyenne Parker Seeks Rehab, Sets Sights on WNBA Combine

It has been a little over a month since former MTSU star Cheyenne Parker was dismissed from the Lady Raiders basketball team for multiple failed drug tests.

Despite her removal from the Blue Raiders on Feb. 27, Parker still plans to complete her mission of making a WNBA roster. Parker has been going through an intense workout program with a focus on heavy lifting, cardio and skill training.

The main objective of Parker’s arduous workout regime: impress WNBA coaches and scouts on April 4 at the ProHoops WNBA Combine in Tampa, Florida.

Former WNBAer Ruth Riley was traveling – take a gander at her blog: Shining Light On A Global Misconception

Imagine a woman covered head to toe in a loose fitting black robe (Abaya) with her head covered by a hijab so the only part of her body that you can see is that by which she is looking back at you . . . her eyes. 

It is against the law for her to drive. She cannot travel by herself without the consent of a male relative. Almost every public place is segregated, with one door for women/families and one for men. Marriages are often arranged on her behalf. Her only knowledge of sports is that by which she sees on T.V. or on the internet because there are no opportunities for her to partake as a spectator, let alone as a competitor.

This image is representative of what we know of Saudi Arabian women. While I agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to share with you some of the stories beyond that image that we so often evoke. I want to share stories of the girls and women that I met in my recent Sports and Women’s Empowerment Envoy with the State Department and the NBA/WNBA throughout The Kingdom. Becky Bonner and I went from the conservative capital of Riyadh to Dammam and finished our trip in the more liberal city of Jeddah conducting clinics with elementary to college-age players, as well as meeting with some amazing groups of women.

Good to hear: Feature Doc on Trials & Triumphs of Former WNBA Player Chamique Holdsclaw Nearing Completion

The film, titled “Mind Game,” will also capture Holdsclaw’s recovery as she speaks out openly about the disorder that almost killed her, shedding light on mental illness and helping to open up conversation on the subject.

“It’s been like a mental prison because it was real uncharacteristic of me,” Holdsclaw told ESPN in a June 2013 interview. “It was real uncharacteristic of me and everybody judging me from every different angle.” 

She now runs her own basketball academy with camps nationwide, adding, “I hate that this situation occurred… I feel like I’ve hurt my family and also the victim’s family, but it’s been a great thing in helping me move forward. Now I’m on the right medication. I’ve been able to get the right treatment, and it’s really improved my quality of life night and day.” 

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedetti did well.

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

Said coach Thurston post-game:

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

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

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

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

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

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

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

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

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

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(inspired by this past season, and a brief twitter exchange with @ladyswish) Some names to jot down when you’re pondering your next women’s basketball coach – be it for next year, or in three years. And, as I read some of these bios, it simply reinforces the connection between point guards and coaching.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson – Albany. She’s only been there for 5 years, and accomplished a ton! Four straight league titles, anyone?

Jody Adams – Wichita State. Coach Adams, now  in her 7th year, has transformed the program. When when she took over in 2008, the Shockers had recorded 11 wins in the previous seaon.  WSU just won their third MVC conference title in a row and, with a team so young, it’s hard not to imagine there’s not more success in their future.

Jennifer Azzi – San Francisco. The revival of the Dons has been well chronicled at the WHB. Don’t know if Azzi would be interested in attempting to “rebuild” another program. I’m sure her current gig has been exhausting. But, a program that’s settle and needs a spark? Maybe.

Cedric Baker  – Savannah State. It’s been a long 12 seasons, but they won their first MEAC title this year.

Courtney Banghart – Princeton. She’s young. She’s smart. She just went undefeated and has earned her program a ton of attention. Who knows if she wants to leave the Ivy, but wow, what potential.

Laura Beeman – Hawai’i – The Wahine was a hot mess. Now, after three year’s of Beeman, not so much.

Bob Boldon – Ohio. First the Penguins. Then the Bobcats. Bob is a builder.

Anthony Bozzella – Seton Hall. Wherever he goes – LIU, Iona, Seton Hall – he turns programs around.

Kenny Brooks – James Madison University. In his 13th year, all he does is coach teams that win. They just earned their fourth CAA title in six years.

Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky. The ‘toppers just won the C-USA conference title and this year marked the first time WKU has been ranked in 17 years.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that, in her first year Clark-Heard helped WKU to a 13-win improvement over the 2011-12 season output. It was the largest in Sun Belt Conference history, as WKU turned a 9-21 mark into a 22-11 record.

Brittney Ezell  – East Tennessee State University. In only her second year at the program, ETSU was picked for a bottom finish in a conference preseason poll. Instead, the Lady Bucs finished second to UT-Chattanooga and scared the you-know-what out of Mocs in the So-Con tourney.

Tricia Fabrini – Quinnipiac. Since the Bobcats moved up into the Division I ranks, they’ve shown they belonged – be it in the NEC or the MAAC. It’s been a 20 year journey, but maybe she could be tempted by another position?

Donna Finnie – Houston Baptist – It’s way early in her career with HBU, but consider what the Scotland native has already accomplished:

As Donna Finnie begins her second year as head coach in 2014-15, the HBU women’s basketball program looks to soar to new heights after a record-breaking inaugural season in the Southland Conference. In Finnie’s first year at the helm of the program, the team made huge strides both on and off the court. The Huskies won 12 games, the most since HBU began the transition to NCAA Division I in 2007. The Huskies also boasted the highest RPI in program history (251); a significant improvement from the 2012-13 campaign. Offensively the team exploded to produce one of the most efficient scoring attacks in the nation.

On this year, from WHB: The Huskies (15-17) were the 8th seed in the Southland and yet made it to the finals.

Cindy Fisher – San Diego. In her 10 year tenure, Fisher has moved the Toreros into the “often win” column.

Megan Gebbia – American. In only her second year, Gebbia took her team to their first Patriot League Championship.

Kellie Jolly Harper – Missouri State. Seems to me Harper was the sacrificial “next coach” at North Carolina State. She handled a no-win situation with grace, but couldn’t move the program forward. She’s having better fortunes at Missouri State, where she’s revivng the profile of a program that sailed to the stratosphere behind Jackie Stiles.

Yvonne Sanchez – New Mexico. She’s rebuilt a program that fell rather precipitously after coach Flanagan retired. Her first few years were not particularly encouraging, but this year has been different – even after she had to dismiss the team’s captain and center. The Mountain West predicted UNM to finish ninth in the conference, after finishing in ninth place a year ago, but they made it to the conference finals. She has not gotten a contract extension (yet). Folks I spoke to while I was in Albuquerque said the admin wanted more butts in the seats.

Karl Smesko – Florida Gulf Coast. Since joining Division I, all the Eagles have done is terrorize the A-Sun.

Brooke and Scott Stoehr – Northwestern State. Hired in 2012 to revive the Demons’ program that had won just six games the year before, the Stoehrs have done just that. The Demons just won the conference tournament title and earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history.

Jonathan Tsipis – George Washington. – In 2012, Tsipis took over a program that had won 25 wins over three seasons. WHB’s has been tracking the return of the Colonials to the top-25 all season long.

Kevin McMillan – Tennessee Martin – Six years ago, McMillan inheirited a team that went 2-27. Now, the Skyhawks have repeatedly ruled the roost in the OVC.

Amy Williams – South Dakota. Not easy to win in the Summitt, with in-state rival ‘wabbits lurking, but she has.

Ryun Williams – Colorado State. Left South Dakota and, in three years, has turned around a Colorado State program that had a decade of poor results. The #1 seed in the Mountain West was upset in the conference tourney, but I expect they’ll be back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other folks out there, ready to move up, including assistants that I know nothing about…. So, who else would you put on this list? womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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Missed this one from March 5th: Not the Knicks – Success Runs Deeper Than All the 3-Pointers

 About an hour before the start of an afternoon practice last week, Kaneisha Atwater shot dozens of 3-pointers as a wall-mounted computer called the Noah Instant calculated the trajectory of each attempt.

The Noah, as the machine is known around Alico Arena, has become a rudimentary part of life for the women’s basketball team at Florida Gulf Coast University. The Eagles love to shoot 3-pointers — few teams in the country make more — and they spend hours trying to perfect the craft.

And this on the Tigers: Like Kentucky Men, Princeton Women Close In on Perfection

Courtney Banghart, the women’s basketball coach at Princeton, believes one pivotal defeat has put the Tigers on the cusp of a historic regular season.

That loss, 80-64 at home to Penn, came in the regular-season finale last year and denied Princeton a fifth consecutive Ivy League title. Afterward, Banghart acknowledged, “The moment was a little big for my youngsters.”

Still, she thinks the Tigers grew immensely from that setback, which became a rallying point.

Apparently CBSports will be broadcasting the 5pm game. I’ll be taking Amtrak down to Philly for my first trip to the Palestra.

On the opposite side of the coin – really bad decisions have really bad consequences: SWAC suspends 15 over fight

Texas Southern imposed its own penalty on the women’s basketball team, withdrawing from the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament that begins Wednesday.

That move Monday night came hours before the conference handed out suspensions for 15 players involved in the bench-clearing fight between the Lady Tigers and Southern on Saturday night. It’s believed to be one of the biggest number of suspensions in NCAA women’s basketball history.

Job openings at

Kansas: Bonnie Henrickson fired after 11 seasons

Utah: Utah fires women’s basketball coach after two injury-riddled losing seasons

Austin Peay: Austin Peay State University Lady Govs Basketball Coach Carrie Daniels contract not renewed

Cool! N.D. CLASS B GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mother coaches daughter, Minot Ryan to state championship

Kindred came out firing on Saturday night.

Still, it couldn’t be sustained against the well-oiled machine that is the Minot Ryan girls basketball team.

The Lions made their move late in the first half, eventually securing their third consecutive Class B state championship with a 68-52 victory at the Minot State Dome.

Ryan (26-1) joins Bottineau as the only programs to win three straight.

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’cause weather is trying to mess with my flight to Albuquerque (presenting and key-noting at the NMAEYC conference), so I’m reading Mechelle’s piece on FSU’s Romero:

“It’s so exciting to be with this team,” said Romero, who has started 10 of her 17 games and is shooting 51.3 percent from the field. “We know we need to keep getting better, and that’s our mindset. The energy, that feeling of coming to practice every day and if you are down, the team is going to come to you and lift you up — it’s just great for me.”

Last spring, Romero became a cause célèbre in the debate about student-athlete rights, athletic department power and politics, and the NCAA’s role in all of it.

Mechelle and Michelle pick the best players & coaches of the year.

From Doug: Princeton women continue quest for perfection

Princeton (27-0), which is the last undefeated team in Division I women’s basketball can also surpass the Penn men’s team of 1970-71 that won its first 28 games to set the league record for best start to a season. That team made it to the regional final and was ranked as high as third in the poll.

This Princeton team already has the best ranking ever for an Ivy League women’s team. If they do sweep through the weekend, they will face Penn three days later with a chance to cap a 30-0 regular season. (WHB has got her tickets!)

“It’s going to be a busy five days but we’re ready for it,” Banghart said.

ACC Tourney: New ACC women’s basketball tournament has an old Big East feel to it

Pac-12 Tourney: Coaches prepping for wide-open Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament

Interesting: Women’s basketball’s Kacy Swain talks about living, playing with diabetes

Seeing Kacy Swain power up and down the court, yelling to her teammates, clawing for rebounds, or driving for a layup, someone who does not know her story would not realize that her physical burden goes beyond the sweat beading down her forehead and the weight of exhausted legs still trudging deep into the second half.

Swain, a redshirt junior forward on the women’s basketball team, is back to playing every day after missing all of last season with a torn right ACL.

Knee healthy, Kacy Swain has not been timid around the glass and gained more playing time as the season progressed, establishing herself as someone who coach Cori Close considers to be integral to the team.

Thank you: University of Southern Maine coaching legend retires from women’s basketball post

“When I was hired back in February of 1987, I had no idea how successful and rewarding the next 28 years would be,” he said in the release. “Not many people have the opportunity to spend 28 years of their life doing what they truly love to do alongside of great people.”

Fifield is a member of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was named the Russell Athletic/WBCA Division III National Coach of the Year in 2005.

Sister, Sister: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Guest Contributors

Our upbringing as two sibling-future WNBA No. 1 draft picks was about as unconventional as it gets. There were no epic one-on-one battles for sibling supremacy or bragging rights. Instead, our connection through basketball began with us wearing embroidered jorts to a YMCA league when we were 10 and 11 years old. We got in there and these girls are doing two-ball dribbling drills. We didn’t know how to handle a basketball at all. I got embarrassed and ran into the bathroom. I stayed there the entire time. Nneka toughed it out and finished the practice. She’s the protective one. She tries a lot of things — I call her the guinea pig of the family. As we got better and developed our skills in that league, there was always the question from our teammates: Who’s better? When are you guys gonna play each other?

WATN? Kelley Gibson uses WNBA experience to recruit, develop players as Syracuse assistant

Quentin Hillsman said recruiting has gotten harder since he became the head coach at Syracuse.

He used to tell recruits they would get playing time to persuade them to join the Orange. But as his team improved, he could no longer make those guarantees.

Enter Kelley Gibson, a former WNBA champion.

“Just that she’s done it,” Hillsman said, “and her background and her success as a player has been a major reason why we’ve gotten some of the All-Americans, some of the other players we’ve gotten.”

Classy: Lauren Hill recognized by conference

“This award is being presented to Lauren in recognition of her courage and outstanding leadership,” conference commissioner Chris Ragsdale said Wednesday. “Lauren has been a tremendous inspiration and role model for all student-athletes across the country. She has shown through her leadership and dedication how one individual can truly make a difference.”

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and trying to get something in during the 30 minutes of free wifi in Newark airport.

Great game between Seton Hall and Depaul, the top spot in the New Big East was at stake. It’s not just that the Pirates managed to escape with a one-point win (Ka-Deidre Simmons going coast-to-coast and hitting a game-winning layup), it’s that Depaul is a well coached, disciplined team. Which reflects well on Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella. Stunning to realize he’s only in his second year…and then you remember he was the coach at Iona.

Princeton is now 22-0.

The No. 16 Tigers have won 21 straight games to start the season and are 5-0 in Ivy League play heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at Brown on Friday and at Yale on Saturday. Princeton needs just one more win to set a new school record for consecutive victories and has absolutely dominated opponents this year, winning by an average of 27 points and 33 points in conference play. 

We continue to give thanks to the sad sack Knicks: Tom Pedulla offers Averaging 3.5 in Classroom and 10.4 on the Court

Young people often talk about changing the world. Alex Wheatley, a starting forward for the 16th-ranked Princeton women’s basketball team, is intent on it.

“I want to leave the world better than I found it, which is huge and broad and kind of strange to say,” she said. “But it’s true.”

Wheatley, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in global health and health policy. She served an eight-week internship in Kenya last summer and is one of five Princeton juniors accepted into the university’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative, a program designed to groom top students for careers in government.

Glad to be making plans to travel to the Palestra (my first visit ever) and watch them battle Penn.

Drake and Wichita State are still neck-in-neck in the MVC. They meet on Feb 27th. About one of those Shockers: Consistency key for WSU’s Martin

It’s no secret looking at Brittany Martin that the 6-foot-3 sophomore is a player the Wichita State women’s basketball team has never had under coach Jody Adams.

Wichita State has never had a true center, someone who makes the opposition think twice about driving the lane. Adams has always found a way around its lack of size in the post, but Martin’s presence gives WSU a new future to look forward to.

The rankings held true as Oregon State defeated Arizona State, 64-57.

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck thought the game felt like a prize fight at times, and not just for the physical play.

“Couldn’t shake them, couldn’t get away from them, but made the plays down the stretch,” he said.

Games I’m gonna miss, but you should see:

St. Mary’s v. San Diego.

BYU v. Pacific (though the Tigers are down a player.)

Kentucky v. Tennessee.

North Carolina v. Louisville.

Duke v. Notre Dame.

 

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St. Louis v. Dayton. ’cause I like to say, “Billikens!

Green Bay v. UIC. ’cause the Phoenix are facing the Horizon’s POY front-runnerRuvanna Campbell.

The fifth oldest of seven siblings currently between the ages of 18 and 26, Campbell at one point lived with them and 11 other people at the housing project home of her great aunt and legal guardian, Mary Eason.

The Near West Side native, who said she never officially graduated from eighth grade, said she will be the first person in her family to earn a college degree — in criminal law and justice — when she finishes at UIC.

In the meantime, Campbell hopes to lead UIC to its first-ever NCAA tournament and become the Flames‘ first WNBA draft pick — both distinct possibilities.

FGCU v. Northern Kentucky. ’cause the Eagles are lookin’ for some revenge.

Princeton v. Dartmouth. ’cause the Tigers are still undefeated and Courtney is facing her alma mater.

Oregon State v. USC, Cal v. Washington, Stanford v. Washington State. ’cause the Pac-12 is the most interesting conference in Division I basketball.

UC Davis v. UC Santa Barbara. ’cause no team should go through the season without a win.

Colorado State v. Fresno State. ’cause if the Bulldogs win, I’m wondering if there’s a chance they can break into the top 25 this season.

San Diego v. San Francisco. ’cause it’s interesting to watch the slow process of a program’s revival.

Montana v. Sacramento State. ’cause the Hornets are high scoring and make Debbie Antonelli happy. And they just got upset by Montana State, so they may be cranky.

Marist v. Iona. ’cause who doesn’t love a fierce, inter-conference rivalry?

New Mexico State v. UT Pan American. ’cause, hello, it means first place in the WAC.

Liberty v. High Point.’cause it’s a fierce, inter-conference game with first place in the Big South at stake. (The Flames stomped out the Panthers in their first match-up.)

George Washington v. George Mason. ’cause, unlike Fresno State, I think the Colonials have a better resume and more wins should get them some attention from the voters.

Ohio v. Central Michigan. ’cause even though the Bobcats look to be the team to beat in the MAC, one shouldn’t overlook a team with Crystal Bradford on it.

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The story: “There’s no parity in women’s basketball.”

The truth:

Illinois over #17 Iowa, 73-61.

Pittsburgh over #5 North Carolina, 84-59.

Miami over #4 Notre Dame, 78-63.

I’m trying to decide which upset is most surprising.

Yes, Notre Dame was on the road, but lordy, they were down 20 at the half to a team whose “best” win of the season to date was… heck, it’ s hard to point to a “good” Miami win – they’ve lost to MTU, ASU and Tulane.

“You never like to lose, but we’re just so darn young sometimes that we needed maybe a kick in the pants to kind of say we need to come out ready,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I don’t know mentally what they were thinking before the game but we were uncharacteristically bad in the first half. Credit their defense, that really set us back on our heels.”

That being said, one has to consider the impact (and back story) of the news that starting sophomore forward Taya Reimer, who did not travel with the team to Miami, is considering her future at the university.

Even without Xylina McDaniel, North Carolina’s loss to Pittsburgh makes me shake my head. It’s not just that it’s Pitt. (Blog followers know that they struggled early this season, losing to Duquesne, James Madison and Princeton, but they played #7 Louisville tough.) It’s the score. This wasn’t a close game.

Michigan was a big win for the Pitt women. 

Ohio State was a big win, too. 

Neither of those earlier victories — nor very many wins in the history of the program, for that matter — compare to Thursday’s 84-59 victory over No. 8 North Carolina at Petersen Events Center

The win was Pitt’s first against a ranked opponent in almost four years and was their third over a top-10 opponent. 

No, we haven’t been talking about Iowa a lot, but we have mentioned Illinois more than a few times, so perhaps you weren’t too surprised by the news that the Hawkeyes got taken down by Matt Bollant’s Illini.

Illinois finished the game on a 26-8 run and held No. 17 Iowa to only three field goals over the final 10 minutes of the game as the Fighting Illini pulled away for a 73-61 win at State Farm Center on Thursday. It marked the Orange and Blue’s second win over a ranked opponent this season and Illinois held Iowa to its second-lowest point total of the season. Illinois improves to 11-4 on the campaign, its best start in seven years, and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Let’s start a new story: There’s no parity in men’s college basketball.

So, speaking of close games, I see that Duke escaped Syracuse by two. Is there something askew with the ACC traditional powers? (And, soon, ‘Cuse, sooon you’ve got to come out of these close losses with a win!)

Okay, I’m paying attention: MSU women make another piece of history

Stat stuffers don’t care how their lines in the final boxscore look. 

After all, if players who fill numerous columns with crooked numbers are doing their jobs, their team’s total in bold at the bottom of the page is going to be bigger than the opponent’s.

Dominique Dillingham’s numbers Thursday were far from the biggest on the final statistics for the No. 14 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 72-57 victory against Arkansas. But none of the 3,556 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum would deny Dillingham had perhaps the biggest impact in helping MSU push its season-opening winning streak to 18. In the process, MSU made another piece of history in opening Southeastern Conference play 3-0 for the first time. 

Hey! Look who’s ranked! Western Kentucky! First time since the 1997-98 season.

‘‘It’s an awesome day for our program,’’ WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. ‘‘It gives me chills when you say that we’re ranked. It’s a great day for everyone that’s ever tied their shoe here or had to do with WKU in the past.’’

Anyone think that Ohio State is going to be scary good next year?

Yup, that’s #18 Arizona State winning, matching the program’s best start.

The Debbie Antonelli includes, of course, Sacramento State. This time they came out on top, 93-86.

In-conference play is killing San Francisco’s mojo.

It’s kinda feeling like, this year, the A-10 is George Washington’s to lose.

I’m not going to declare the Patriot League Lehigh’s until after they face American. Twice.

The Tigers roar in Graham’s mid-majors poll (and sit in the 22nd spot in the AP poll)

Courtney Banghart developed a standard response when asked about the outlook for her Princeton team this season, the first season the Tigers began coming off anything other than an NCAA tournament appearance since the fall of 2009, when every member of the current roster was in high school or even middle school.

It was a likable group of people, really likable. But she wasn’t sure they knew how hard it is to win.

“I just didn’t know if they actually had enough edge,” Banghart said. “If they hated losing — which is different, whether you hate losing more than you like winning, or you like winning more than you hate losing. I didn’t know if they were able to make the shift. Was this team really going to hate to lose and come with that edge?”

They must really hate losing. Because they can’t stop winning.

Steve Megargee of the AP give “the other majors” some love:

The first half of the women’s basketball season produced plenty of memorable moments for mid-major programs.

Chattanooga beat Tennessee and Stanford for its first two wins over top-10 opponents in school history. Princeton is ranked 22nd and Western Kentucky is 25th. Green Bay (11-3) was in the Top 25 earlier this season.

“I think it’s great for the game, for women’s basketball,” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what we want to have the opportunity to do, to just continue to keep working and building, so … we don’t have to be in a position where we have to win our conference (tournament) to get to the NCAA.”

Michelle writes about those “other” Huskies, and their peach of a player, Plum: Plum paces Washington to 12-2 start – Huskies set to take on No. 15 Stanford on Friday, Cal on Sunday

As a freshman last season, Kelsey Plum confesses, she sometimes felt “dumb,” even if the stat sheet didn’t show it.

“At least in terms of making plays,” the University of Washington sophomore guard said. “I guessed a lot.”

Plum seems to have found the right answers pretty quickly. The nation’s second-leading scorer at 25.0 points a game, Plum is setting the tone for a Huskies team that is about to embark on its most defining weekend in a decade.

“We are finding a quiet confidence,” said Washington second-year coach Mike Neighbors.

He saw it in the days before his team played then-No. 5 Texas A&M before the turn of the new year. Washington won that game 70-49, one of the most unexpected results of the young season.

In W news, Mechelle addresses the “You’re fired!” “You’re hired!”

There are certain sports franchises — and players and coaches, for that matter — who do weird things that at first make you say, “You’re kidding. Seriously, they did that?” But then you say, “Oh, wait a minute. This is (fill in the name) that we’re talking about.”

The New York Liberty are such a franchise. But the re-hiring of Bill Laimbeer as coach less than three months after he was fired by the organization is head-scratching even by Liberty standards.

Oh, wait a minute. Not really. This is the Liberty we’re talking about.

Let me make haste to say, though, I actually don’t think this is a bad decision at all. It’s correcting a bad decision, which was firing Laimbeer back in October without a really strong idea of whom the franchise could get to replace him.

More Liberty news: 7 ON YOUR SIDE: HOOPS PRIZE WINNER NEEDS ASSIST

A little history: Former Wayland Baptist Flying Queen Cherri Rapp has been named for induction into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

Rapp played for the Flying Queens from 1968-72 under coach Harley Redin, winning two AAU championships along with third- and fourth-place finishes as those teams combined for a 107-13 win-loss record.
 
A three-time NWIT and AAU All-American, Rapp scored 1,348 points to rank third at the time on the Flying Queens’ career scoring list; today, she’s 14th.
 
She was a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that competed in the 1976 Montreal Games. She played in the Pan American Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Colombia), serving as captain of the team that won the 1975 gold medal, and also played in the World Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Mexico).

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So, we had a nice game going between Notre Dame and Connecticut, didn’t we? Crowd was rockin’, Irish were rollin’, and then coach Auriemma called that timeout. And before you knew it, UConn was going on one of its patented “Patented Runs” and cleaning up the glass. Game over.

Ya, Brianna was on the bench (meh, says Muffet), but when you consider the line the “superstars & expected leaders” of the Huskies had, it’s pretty disconcerting that Notre Dame lost by 18. And the announcers sure were disappointed, weren’t they?

Following up on some of the other “games of interest”:

Tulane gave Arkansas-Little Rock their first loss of the season. The Green Wave is now 7-1 with a less-than-fearsome schedule ahead.

Yup, that’s Princeton at 8-0. Looking forward to their next game: @ Michigan.

Is it time to pay attention to George Washington again? Their two losses: First game of the season v. FGCU (by 13) and then Maryland (by 10).

Penguins win!

Illinois moves to 6-2. Seton Hall, which has been making some noise, is next.

Oregon State scored 109 points. Sacramento didn’t.

Undefeated no more: Ohio lost to East Carolina, 76-68.

The Debbie Antonelli Game of the Day was rooted in an in-state rivalry. AND an OT. North Dakota, 90. North Dakota State, 87.

Since their opening day lost to BC, Saint Mary’s has been on a roll. They just took down Cynthia Cooper’s USC, 64-58.

Set ’em  up Sunday!

1pm: #1 South Carolina v. #9 Duke – ESPN2

2pm: #13 Kentucky v. #7 Louisville – ESPN3

2pm: St. John’s v. South Florida

3pm: Colorado (6-1)  v. #22 Iowa – BTNPlus

3pm: #18 Rutgers v. #25 Arkansas –  SECN+

3pm: #12 Nebraska v. Alabama (7-3) – SECN+

3pm: #11 Baylor v. Ole Miss (6-2) – SECN+

4pm: #16 Michigan State v. #19 Georgia – SECN/ESPN3

5pm: San Francisco v. Long Beach State

6pm: #10 Cal v. Kansas – Fox Sports 1

 

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The biggest surprise: What happened in the Ivy?

I leave, and Harvard looks poised to take the crown…. I come back, and Courtney (with lots of help from red-hot Blake Dietrick) is working on a 7-game win streak and now has the Tigers on top. And the Quakers are lurking (after suffering a “what the heck!” loss to Dartmouth)!

Kudos to Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin, who’s in his fifth season at Division I. You may recall, McLaughlin came over from the very successful program at Holy Family. How good in he? From his bio:  “The fastest coach in the history of women’s college basketball to reach 400 victories.”

The Danes still rule the America East, but Magarity’s UNH team continues to improve. Albany will meet the Wildcats tomorrow.

Take your eye off the A-10 for a moment, and boom, someone else is in charge. This week, it’s Dayton. The tourney ought to be great, what with six teams clustered together hoping to regain the upper hand.

It’s Hatters v. Eagles in the Atlantic Sun.

Not quite a power shift in the Big South, but both Winthrop and High Point (14-4) are ahead of Liberty (13-5), even with the Flames win over the Eagles.

So, maybe Lady Swish was NOT kidding and this is James Madison’s best team. They’re running away with the CAA. Even better, you can Meet the woman who’s going to make Dawn Evans healthy again

Erika Evans laughs when asked the question.

Did you ever think you’d be donating a kidney to someone?

“It wasn’t exactly on my bucket list,” she says.

Evans’ recipient is another Evans — that would be James Madison’s Dawn Evans, her first cousin. Dawn, suffering from focal segmental glomerular sclerosis since December 2009, will receive the new kidney in Nashville in the next two to three weeks. Evans learned her kidney condition had deteriorated when she returned home to Clarksville, Tenn., over Christmas from Arras, France, where she had been playing basketball.

Key game coming up for the Wright State Raiders on Thursday. They’re in 1st place in the Horizon League and host the team that shares the same in-conference record, Green Bay.

Equally important game looming for MAAC-leading Iona on the 2nd, when they face Marist. But, they’ll have to get through Quinnipiac first. Obviously, the Gaels will lean heavily on Damika Martinez, their Nancy Lieberman Award finalist.

Gonna be a great finish/conference tournament in the Mid-American. Bowling Green and Central Michigan sit atop the East & West with similar in-confrence records (they split the regular season games.) The Chippewas have earned a share of  program’s first-ever regular season Mid-American Conference West Division title.

MTSU’s Raiders have done just that to their new C-USA teams. They’re ranked #23, and they look to have a clear path to the conference title.

Deja vu, as always, with Hampton as the top dog in the MEAC. What’s surprising is to see how far Howard has fallen…. and that it’s North Carolina A&T (and their defense) who hopes to challenge the Pirates. They face each other in the last game of the regular season.

The Skyhawks rule the roost in the Ohio Valley (West AND East).

Navy is surging in the Patriot League — even with a loss to Armythanks to their seniors.

“It really is amazing when you think about it. No one could ever have expected this group of women to do what they have done,” Pemper said of her first full recruiting class. “I think the fact they fit together so well position-wise has been a big aspect of it. They each have their own niche. There’s no doubt the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.”

Navy’s five seniors, who collectively have played 14,903 minutes and 560 games during their careers, will be honored prior to Saturday afternoon’s final regular season home game against Holy Cross. It will be an emotional ceremony as always, but particularly because of what this class has meant to Navy women’s basketball.

It’s the Mocs coiled atop the Southern and a battle of the Southern’s (Texas and SU) in the SWAC. Of course, Southern has other issues it’s dealing with.

Their loss to BYU means Gonzaga can’t rest easy as the top dogs in the WCC.

Wow – N.J.I.T is the Last of the Independents. Kinda lonely.

Smokin’ Musket is cranky: West Virginia Women’s Basketball, Lacking the Respect They Deserve.

Crappy news out of NC State: Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and Lakeesa Daniel gone to ACLs.

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From Rich Elliot:

Doug Feinberg, the national women’s basketball writer for The Associated Press, will be conducting a Twitter chat Friday at 3:30 p.m. with UConn coach Geno Auriemma (@genoauriemma), Princeton coach Courtney Banghart (@coachbanghart) and Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves (@KGzag).

California coach Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) is also likely to participate.

The hashtag for questions and comments is #APHoopchat.

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From New Hampshire: Londonderry girls basketball coach Fagula earns 600th win

“It doesn’t feel like 31 years, it really doesn’t,” sais Fagula. “But around Christmas time when I’m getting cards from people I coached in the 70’s and 80’s who already have kids in high school or beyond, that’s when I start to realize I’ve been around for a long time.”

Mechelle chats and gives the Rams some love:

Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.): Fordham was 0-29 in 2008. This year, under Stephanie Gaitley, the Rams are 18-7 and 8-2 in a pretty competitive (at least at the top) Atlantic 10. Fordham has been at the very, very, very bottom of the A10 in both men’s and women’s hoops ever since joining the league. How impressive is this turnaround?

Mechelle Voepel  (2:43 PM): It’s fantastic, because it’s very hard to recruit after a program has hit that kind of rock-bottom. You’ve got to get kids who believe in a quick but real rebuilding process. Gaitley has been able to do that.

Debbie and Beth pod where they recap the Baylor-UConn game. Plus, they’re joined by Duke’s Haley Peters.

Michelle writes: ASU regroups after coach’s absence – One of Pac-12’s most consistent programs is 4-11 in conference play 

Taking a season away from the game didn’t diminish Charli Turner Thorne’s competitive drive. It was meant to reinvigorate it, to recharge the fire that Turner Thorne was afraid was starting to flicker after 20-something years of the coaching grind.

So when she checks the Pac-12 standings and sees her program — which has finished no worse than fifth place in the past decade — sitting at 4-11 and tied for 10th place, it hurts.

A recent seven-game losing streak, the program’s longest since 1996-97, burns, as any baptism by fire would.

Graham talks Flyers and Hens in his mid-major poll, where five of the top ten teams are undefeated in conference play. Creighton is in the tenth spot with their 10-3 record in the MVC.

David’s Dishin & Swishin and Looking at the “Student” part of “Student-Athlete” with UConn’s Heather Buck & Duke’s Haley Peters

Tully is keeping busy: Bevilaqua takes workouts old-school at Gym41

In Cali, Chiney fesses up: It’s hard to say: I’m becoming a California girl

In Ohio, the Buckeyes know where they stand

The marathon metaphor, so popular from the beginning to the middle of most sports seasons, has reached the point for the Ohio State and Minnesota women’s basketball teams where the kick to the finish is all that matters.

In Colorado, Terry Frei notices, CU Buffs shining this season in women’s basketball too

The upswing in men’s college basketball fortunes within the state has captured the attention of Coloradans, and generated party atmospheres among the students in the stands in Boulder and Fort Collins.

Another hoops renaissance in the state has been lesser noticed.

In Michigan, an Unremarkable vibe part of extraordinary feat for MSU’s women’s basketball program

Asking a coach for contemplation during the throes of a season rarely produces any perspective analysis.

But what MSU women’s basketball has become is worthy of pause.

Before 2003-04, the Spartans had produced only four 20-win seasons since the program’s inception in the early 1970s.

A big game — on a warm weekend, against a rival or ranked foe — might draw 1,000 fans, if MSU was lucky.

Now, 5,000 fans and 20 wins is the baseline. Even for a cold night and trying season such as this, one that began with three season-ending injuries and two nine-game suspensions.

In St. Louis, OU coach receives Most Courageous Award

Oakland University women’s basketball coach Beckie Francis was named the winner of the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, presented by the United States Basketball Writers Association on Thursday. A victim of childhood sexual abuse, Francis has achieved a successful coaching career and now serves as an advocate for sexual abuse victims in addition to coaching.

In New Jersey, Megan Bowen’s impact on Princeton women’s basketball will be felt for years to come

After the 6-foot-3 Bowen committed to Princeton early in her senior year at Northampton, she kept track of the Tigers and watched some of their games in person. Bowen saw promise, though the Tigers’€™ 14-14 record and losses to Lehigh and Lafayette (after squandering a 16-point lead) may have indicated otherwise.

“€œThey had had a couple of tough seasons and the team that was there my senior year in high school had some really tough losses,”€ Bowen said. “€œI knew a little bit about the background of the other three (incoming freshmen) and I had seen Niveen’€™s (Rasheed) accomplishments, but I couldn’™t have pictured this. Coach (Courtney) Banghart has done a great job building the program and each year we’ve been getting better.”

In Arizona, WNBA president Laurel Richie talks Mercury, No. 1 pick

In Iowa, they do it old school: Posting Up with Granny Basketball

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that looked at mid-season COY candidates in the Big 6, I used my “waiting for the dryer to finish up” time to put together a list for some of the other conference candidates. Feedback welcome:

Ivy: Courtney Banghart/Princeton — I am surprised no ones has snatched her up.

American East: Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, Albany/Kelly Greenberg, Boston University.ln the three years KAH has been there, the Danes have established something, outpacing Hartford. Ditto with BU — lordy, has Greenberg REALLY been their nine years? It’s a dogfight.

A-10: Dayton’s Jim Jabir gets all the attention, and rightly so, but at Fordham, Stephanie Gaitley has more victories this season than the Rams have complied in a decade of games (or so it seems). I was skeered for her when she left Monmouth, but she seems to thrive when challenged.

Horizon: Youngstown State/Bob Boldon. The Penguins have been the laughingstock of the league for years, and not just because of their tuxedos. Have you ever tried to play basketball in a tuxedo? They’re still no Green Bay, but they’re much improved under this second year coach.

MAC: Central Michigan/Sue Guevara seems to have found her home at Central Michigan, and she’s done a great job (especially now that the shady dealings at EMU have been exposed).

NEC: Quinnipiac/Longtime coach Tricia Fabbri has the Bobcats on their longest winning streak in program history.

Mountain West: Fresno State/Raegan Pebely: The Bulldogs lost their coach lost their coach (and we know how THAT turned out), replaced late, and are still nipping at last year’s surprise, San Diego State. Shouldn’t actually be a surprise, Pebely has earned COY honors before.

Southern: Wes Moore and Chattanooga have reestablished the “natural” order, but under Charlotte Smith (yes, THAT Charlotte Smith) Elon has surprised the heck outta folks.

SWAC: Cynthia Cooper returned to the SWAC and has made an immediate impact on Texas Southern. Last year they won a total of 2 conference games. This year, they’re second in the Conference (with the only overall winning record — which ain’t sayin’ much, but it is a winning record.)

Sun Belt: Western Kentucky/Michelle Clark-Heard. Mel’s already mentioned this coach as a Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year. (Though, considering the record of honorees post-award, you might wanna miss being tapped.)

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The nigh on unreadable NCAA.com listing is here. Oh, wait, I found this “Week Listing“, but it doesn’t have the Connecticut game on SNY. At ESPN you can get a list of all the games, but not if they’re watchable via TV or streaming (unless it’s ESPN/Watch). Why is this so hard?

Speaking of TV and Connecticut: UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball Continues to Soar on SNY

On the heels of UConn’s victory over Georgetown, SNY, the official television home of the UConn Huskies Women’s basketball program, today announced that the game averaged an 8.52 household rating – the network’s highest rating of the season.  This ratings benchmark also signifies the highest household rating in nearly two years for the program in the Hartford-New Haven DMA (UConn-Syracuse, 9.1 household rating on 2-28-11).  In addition, the game ranked as the #1 program in its time period – beating all competitive sports programming airing in the market – including ESPN’s NBA Double Header.  UConn-Georgetown on SNY also topped all network prime time series last night in the Hartford-New Haven DMA – except ABC’s Modern Family (9.05 household rating)

Some basketball was played yesterday.

In a battle of the birds, the Blue Jays of Creighton took down coach Glance’s Redbirds of Illinois State and now stand at 3-0 in the MVC.

Arizona State got its first win of the PAC-12 season, as did Oregon State.

Washington State kept it close in the first, but UCLApulled away in the second for the 78-52 win.

Sue covered the USC win over UW.

Over at  WSC Radio Show, Brenda and Mechelle are Breaking down the top six women’s basketball conferences

The Dishin & Swishin 1/10/13 Podcast: Matthew Mitchell readies No. 6 Kentucky and “40 minutes of dread” for first ever matchup with Texas A&M

David also has Dishin & Swishin – Philly Style with Princeton head coach Courtney Barnhart (sic). The soon to be moving, I’m sure, coach is garnering a lot of attention: From the Daily Pennsylvanian: Behind Enemy Lines: Princeton’s Courtney Banghart

 In her six seasons as head coach for the Tigers, the program has undergone a complete reversal of fortune. In her first season, the team went 7-23 and won just four Ivy League games. However, in the past three seasons, the Tigers have gone 41-1 in the Ivy League and entered the national rankings, a first for an Ivy League women’s program. Before coming to Princeton, she was an assistant for four years at Dartmouth. She also played at Dartmouth from 1996 to 2000 and won two Ivy League titles.

From NJ.com: Princeton U. women’s basketball coach Banghart a natural leader

She vacations in Bermuda and Hawaii. She has traveled cross-country and heard the howls of wolves in Yellowstone. She has slept in tents in the Great Northwest, hitch-hiked through Alaska where she watched bears snatching salmon swimming upstream, kayaked on the Prince William Sound, and stayed in hostels in France, Switzerland and Amsterdam.

She loves to read, is hooked on the TV series “Dexter,” estimates she watches more than 700 men’s college basketball games a year, plays tennis, likes healthful yogurt that doesn’t necessarily taste good and rarely wakes to an alarm.

Courtney Banghart also is a pretty good coach.

Beth and Debbie have the ESPNW Basketball Podcast focuses on “the first years,” a pair of Big Ten head coaches, Indiana’s Curt Miller and Illinois’ Matt Bollant.

In W news: Lauren Jackson expected to make full recovery after surgery on injured hamstring and Former Boilermaker Katie Douglas recovering after ankle surgery

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

Tennessee dropped 90 on Alcorn State.

San Diego dropped 91 on San Jose State.

Alabama dropped 97 on Southeastern Louisiana.

Kentucky dropped 100 on USC Upstate.

UNC dropped 101 on UNC-Asheville

Dayton dropped 105 on Eastern Illinois.

Alabama State dropped 105 on Oakwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More better for the Illini: 

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

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

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

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

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

Graham has: Brian Giorgis right at home at Marist

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

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

Michelle has: Gonzaga has a new look this season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I really want to meet Reggie Miller.”

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

Also: Sutton-Brown brings the world to kids

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

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

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The USBWA has an interesting list.

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I thinking:

Beth Mowins must be happy: her Lafayette Leopards have won three games.

How much is Nell enjoying coaching in the NCAA since Ms. Sixth Woman left for the W.

The Fordham Rams have won 5 games. Yah, I know, it’s early, but…

Speaking of “it’s still early,” has Vermont gotten its groove back?

Lots of interesting stuff in the Big 12 Standings — conference play ought to be fun.

Brain reset: Cincinnati at 6-0 is going up against Xavier which is 1-4.

Don’t look now, but Michigan is atop the Big 10 standings with a 7-1 record (their only loss is to Maryland). Today’s game v. Iowa State is listed as the “Girl Scout Cookie Tip-Off.” Mmmm…hungry. Lunch time!

It looks like it’s going to be a tough first year in the CAA for ODU coach Barefoot.

Is there any doubt Princeton will rule the Ivy League this year? How long will coach Banghart stay in Jersey?

Remember when the Cowgirls won the 2007 WNIT? They’ve started 2011 1-8.

Ah, the oddities of pre-conference play standings: Arizona sits in the #1 slot in the Pac-12, Stanford is the 6th slot.

Can’t wait to see how good Vandy is. Wonder how much we’ll learn about #10 Kentucky as they go up against #11 Louisville today (1pmEST) in a sold out Mem Hall. Ditto with #22 Texas as they go up against #8 Tennessee (2pmEST).

Last year’s fun story McNeese State (twins, first trip to the NCAAs) has opened this season with a 7-1 record (their loss was to UCLA in the preseason WNIT). Obviously, looking at their schedule, the Cowgirls ain’t afraid of no one no how: between 12/16 and 12/30 they’ve scheduled LSU, Baylor and Texas A&M.

I’m intrigued to see how a Drey-less Purdue (#16) matches up against Texas A&M (#4) today. Good game to prep the Aggies for UConn.

#25 Texas Tech got a nice over #15 Penn State, 70-66. Good to see Jordan Barncastle nail a key three to seal the win.

Yes, I noticed DePaul snuck by Loyola (IL). Don’t know what this means for their game v. Tenn next weekend at the Maggie Dixon Classic. All I DO know is that 52 of my fellow fans are going to join me to yell and scream — and I’m giving a particular shout out to those who are coming up from TN and over from TX. Can’t wait to meet you! (And any other WHB readers — come by Section 11 and say “Hey!” I’ll be the noisy one.)

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