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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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“Now, That’s More Like It”

So this was the game we were waiting for between Phoenix and Minnesota. The one that felt like a collection of future Hall of Famers trying to out-do each other. The one that had the fans on their feet, screaming their heads off, while the folks watching on television probably felt like they were right there in the thick of it, too.

This is what we thought these Western Conference finals — between the two best teams in the WNBA — would be like. That Friday’s game really wasn’t like that is a tribute to the Mercury. That Sunday’s game did live up to that billing was a tribute to both teams.

Writes Tim Leighton of Twin Cities:

There it sat Sunday, in the middle of the Minnesota Lynx locker-room floor. No player, coach or member of team management got too close for fear of disturbing its aura. The Lynx’s WNBA championship trophy, with its three silver spires holding a basketball, stood as a simple reminder that the Lynx aren’t ready yet to call it a season.

Tom Powers offers this nice turn of phrase:

Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus joined Moore in forming a deadly Game 2 Bermuda Triangle. The trio combined for 72 of the 82 Lynx points. As Reeve often notes, it’s mostly about the stars come playoff time. And the Lynx had all three of theirs shining brightly.

“We always say great players make great plays,” said Augustus. “And you saw that through the night. Great players made great plays for us.”

Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune:

Sunday, midday, the Lynx players were in the locker room for a film session. Coach Cheryl Reeve walked in clutching the 2013 WNBA championship trophy.

She walked over and had Janel McCarville pull on the trophy. Reeve let go, easily. “We can do that,” she said. Then Monica Wright gave it a tug. Reeve held on a little longer, let go. “We can do that,” she said. Then she went to Rebekkah Brunson. Only this time, Reeve took hold with two hands and tore it away.

“It’s ours,” she said. “And we’re not letting it out of here.’’

And then Reeve put the trophy on the floor in the middle of the room and walked out.

Message received.

From Nate Sandell, “special” for the AZ Central folks: 

“Their defense picked up and we stood around,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. “We’re a team built on ball movement, but somebody would get the ball and everybody would stand and just have a look at that person trying to make the play.”

It was a dramatic reversal for the Mercury, whio had proved to be better team for the first seven quarters of the series.

 

From the other Nate: Seimone Augustus caps off Minnesota comeback to win Game 2, 82-77

All-Stars Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen made big plays throughout Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, but fellow Olympian Seimone Augustus was ultimately the hero of the Minnesota Lynx’s 82-77 win over the Phoenix Mercury.

With the game tied at 75 apiece, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called an out-of-bounds play that had Augustus follow Moore around a screen to clear space for a mid-range jumper and Augustus not only converted the shot but also drew a foul for a three point play that put the Lynx up for good.

 

But the Lynx wouldn’t even have been in position to win had it not been for the play of Moore and Whalen prior to that moment.

From Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer: 

Midway through the third quarter, Maya Moore had a look on her face that said it all. Not today, Phoenix. Not today.

Moore scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 second half points, to help keep the Lynx title hopes alive this afternoon at the Target Center. The Lynx struggled earlier on – shooting 14.3 percent in the first quarter (2-for-14) – and faced an uphill climb trailing 22-9 entering the second quarter. But there was no quit in this squad.

Awwwwww….Little League star Mo’Ne Davis adds Game 2 visit to dream summer

In the “other” series, Indiana Fever rookie Maggie Lucas isn’t easing off throttle now

It was mere minutes after the Indiana Fever had beaten the Chicago Sky 77-70 to open the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. Maggie Lucas could have been reflecting on the moment, considering how necessary her eight points turned out to be for the Fever.

Instead, she was in the locker room afterward, lifting weights. She is a “gym rat,” coach Lin Dunn said. First one to arrive, last one to leave.

Michelle writes: Sky’s fate rests with shooting stars – Chicago needs to solve Indiana Fever defense in Game 2

Indiana, led by the defensive stalwart Tamika Catchings, made it tough for Delle Donne to get in any offensive flow. The 12 shots she took were the fewest she had taken in a postseason game.

“The first thing is trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of her hands,” Catchings said. “Not just me, individually, but as a team. We tried to take the ball out of her hands, make it difficult for her to catch it, and when she did, we brought different people out.

“We can do a lot better too.”

Delle Donne and the Sky are thinking in the same terms.

From Brian Sandalow at the Sun-Times: Sky still trying to figure out Fever

While the Sky aren’t fixating on their history with the Fever, they’re aware of it.

“I think everybody kind of thinks about it,” guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It’s not something that we really talk about a lot, but it’s something that I’m sure we all think about. We know who we’ve lost to in the past.

Philip Hersh at the Tribune writes: 

It’s pretty easy to see why the Fever won Saturday night’s opening game of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals 77-70.

Indiana caught the Sky with their guard(s) down.

Indiana’s starting backcourt of Briann January and Shavonte Zellous was simply too much, with its outside shooting and dribble penetration shredding the Sky’s defense.

The Fever guards utterly outplayed starting guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot, both ineffective for the second game in a row.

In the Dishin & Swishin 08/29/14 Podcast: WNBA Eastern Conference Finals coaches Lin Dunn & Pokey Chatman talk about the playoffs

Nate reflects back: 

You can never force the circumstances that create a classic moment in sports, which is part of the very reason we tune in and watch instead of just ignoring games with long odds or abandoning teams that seemingly have no hope.

The best moments are those that somehow manage to define the odds, whether evolving or preceding the first tip and the 2014 WNBA Playoffs has already produced a classic in the first round.

What might be hard to appreciate in retrospect about the Chicago Sky’s dramatic 81-80 win in Game 3 against the Atlanta Dream is that it really seemed like that game was over long before the fourth quarter began.

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

Ageless wonder Catch rules.

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

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

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

And rules again.

A smidge younger wonder Dee rules.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer’s here and the time is right for Chillin’ in the street!

Chillin’ in Chicago (chillin’ in the street) (Thanks Sasha, Sloot, Big Syl and Q)

Down in New Orleans (chillin’ in the street)

In New York City (Thanks Katie and Barb!)

From USA Today: 

As of July 3, the “Cold Water Challenge” has accumulated more than 35,000 tweets, 142,000 retweets and 92 million twitter reaches, according to the Yow Foundation’s executive director, Sue Donohoe.

“We never knew how this would just take off,” said Donohoe

The challenge’s social media footprint has evolved to include “#coldwaterchallenge” and “#icebucketchallenge” thanks to the involvement of prominent sports figures.

In particular, the challenge has caught on among professional golfers.

Fresh off her win in the U.S. Open, Michelle Wie brought major publicity to the effort when she doused herself on June 30, and then challenged reigning British Open champion Stacy Lewis, who answered the call.

From Mechelle: How #Chillin4Charity caught fire – Arizona coach ignites hoops nation with cause benefiting Kay Yow Cancer Fund

Start with a big vat of “I dare you.” Add a huge helping of “for a great cause.” Sprinkle in “humorous discomfort.” Serve up on social media.

What do you get? #Chillin4Charity, which continues to spread goose bumps and goodwill throughout the nation’s women’s basketball community.

The movement, which is also known as the “Cold Water Challenge” and was started by Arizona coach Niya Butts and her staff in June, is raising money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. But it’s also done something else.

“It’s united a lot of us,” Butts said of her fellow coaches. “We all compete against each other in recruiting and the games, but we also have this big monster that has impacted all of our lives.

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Oh, look. What a surprise. Chicago with another injury: Vandersloot out 6-to-10 weeks with sprained knee

And a different kind of ouch: Alexis Jones is transferring from Duke?

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From Dan: Jenny Moshak retiring from UT over ‘issues of equality’

Jenny Moshak is leaving the trainer’s room at the University of Tennessee, but not without having a final say.

The associate director of sports medicine at UT, who’s a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against UT, issued a statement Friday through her lawyer, Keith D. Stewart, saying that she took an early retirement over issues related to the suit.

“Due to the overall atmosphere since I raised issues of equality at the University of Tennessee and given the university’s unwillingness to address the issues of discrimination and retaliation, I cannot continue my association with the university’s athletic department,” Moshak said in the statement.

In W news, the Spare Parts Storm were doing just fine against the Delle Donne-less Sky, and then… oops! The she is!. Gave Jayda time to reconnect: Courtney Vandersloot is thriving with Chicago Sky

At Slam Online: WNBA MVP Rankings: She’s Back – Candace Parker returns from injury in dominant fashion.

In this week’s MVP rankings, Diana Taurasi has taken steps forward due to interim coach Russ Pennell’s more efficient system. Despite back-to-back 30-plus point outings for Angel McCoughtry, the Dream are riding a cold streak. Tamika Catchings, in the past week, nabbed her 900th steal and sneaks up the MVP ladder. And the “Candace Can” mantra still rings true for the Sparks, as their do-it-all forward reigns once again in the rankings.

Check out the latest:

Chris Morgan offers up WNBA Team Names: A Critique and someone else asks: Is Your WNBA Team Leading in… Injuries?

Why does this:

Iyanla Vanzant will try to work her magic on troubled former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw in the next episode of her OWN series, “Iyanla: Fix My Life.”

make me (and some others on Rebkell) uncomfortable?

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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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