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It’s almost as hot as L.A. and Minnesota are… yup, counting down to June 21st.

Meanwhile, folks in Chicago and Phoenix are scratching their heads.

Excelle: What’s wrong with the Phoenix Mercury?

Prior to the season, the Phoenix Mercury were favorites to take home the 2016 WNBA Championship. The majority of the league’s general managers picked Phoenix to win it all in their annual survey. Multiple Associated Press voters and some betting sites also favored the Mercury. But not two weeks later, the team is 0-4 and playing the worst defense in the WNBA. So, what happened?

It’s important to note that we’re just four games into the season, so hitting the panic button would be premature. Two of Phoenix’s losses were at the hands of the Minnesota Lynx, the defending champions. The other two were tight games against solid teams. Things could turn around quickly, but not without addressing some red flags.

Meanwhile…

SlamOnline: Q+A: Imani Boyette – With patience and hard work, Chicago’s rookie center is staying ready for when her number is called.

One record-setter salutes another – Pro from Don Lugo congratulates athlete who took her place in book

“My dad sent me this article and the photo and it said you broke my record,” Ms. Taurasi told Ana during their meeting on the court. “That’s good, records are meant to be broken.”

Their meeting was video taped, and was part of a 90-second video shown to the 10,000-plus fans in attendance that night during a time out.

Star Tribune: Lynx aim to stay undefeated vs. familiar foe

Moving on up: Unbeaten Sparks 2nd in AP WNBA power poll and WNBA: The Los Angeles Sparks Will Fly

Jeff Jacobs: Chiney And Nneka Ogwumike Foes On Court, Sisters Off

They went to dinner together Wednesday night. And when this game had ended, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike walked off the court together, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder.

After the 77-72 loss to the unbeaten Los Angeles Sparks, a heartened rookie Sun coach Curt Miller would say he felt his team had “grown up” Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The coming schedule, of course, will prove Miller correct or not.

This much is certain. Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike have grown up together and will never grow apart. Sisters forever.

Rolling Stone: Elena Delle Donne’s Silent Supremacy

Amsterdam Times: Liberty drop two overtime games (Yah, we know. Sigh)

Billboard: Ballin’ Out Podcast: Fat Joe & the WNBA’s Breanna Stewart on How They Came ‘All the Way Up’

ESPN: WNBA veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones wants to go out on own terms

After another “Year of Women’s Sports” is it any surprise we get this from the Times? Pro Basketball|After Two Decades, WNBA Still Struggling for Relevance or AJC’s Is WNBA’s expectation for success just a dream?

Then there’s MSR: Youngsters inspired by WNBA trailblazers

These are the post-1997 players. These women hoopsters saw first-hand America’s longest running and most successful women’s pro basketball league as it moved from the drawing board to reality. As youngsters they could finally join their male counterparts and dream about something that many pre-WNBA generation players could only do abroad — one day playing pro ball in the States.

“The first time I thought about it, I was in fourth grade,” said Morgan Tuck, a rookie with Connecticut.

Dallas rookie Aerial Powers noted, “I can’t remember a specific moment [when she thought about playing professionally], but I do remember the Lisa Leslie dunk and her putting her hands up to the crowd.”

NCAA

Welp: Ole Miss self-imposes postseason ban for women’s basketball; reduced scholarships in football

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie battles on and off the court

This was planned as the story of a 50-year-old coach who uses her celebrity to help raise awareness and funds to combat a deadly disease that haunts her life and scarred her body. The fact her 2016 team failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in her nine-year tenure, the first time at Duke since 1994, only made it a more compelling tale of struggle and challenge.

But things have a way of turning out differently than we expect.

Hello: Hartford Hires Kim McNeill As Women’s Basketball Coach

Not too surprising, considering her record: Alabama A&M University: Head coach Semeka Randall resigns

Bye/Hello: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: Florida Guard Isis Young to Transfer to Orange

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So, yeah, there’s this thing going on: Players saying their coaches are so mean they’re either leaving their programs or suing them.

Chicago/Swoopes: Ex-Loyola players say Sheryl Swoopes’ coaching methods behind mass transfers

ISU/Fennelly: FENNELLY WOULD CHANGE “NOTHING” IN HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MOODY

Illinois/BollantBollant speaks for the first time since allegations

Nebraska/YoriNatalie Romeo denies Yori allegations, gets permission to transfer; another Husker looking at schools

Duke/McCallie: Duke investigating McCallie’s basketball program

Kentucky/Mitchell: The Kentucky women’s basketball crisis and the battle over culture

College of Charleston/Jackson: Former women’s basketball player sues College of Charleston

SFA/Kellogg: SFA officials investigating complaint made by Ladyjack basketball player

 

First, I’m not quite sure I’m loving some of this “kids these days” reactions. Not only did we raise these kids, but we created the environment they’re playing in: travel teams, *fillintheblanksportscompany*  gear, pretty locker rooms, rating systems and a society that seems to value athletic skill over personal virtue.

Who wouldn’t struggle to keep their head on straight when faced by that wave of privilege?

“Kids these days” is the reality you’re dealing with. It IS a different world – and looking back to the “golden” past (some of it real, some of it mythologized) won’t help you figure out what actions you need to take with the players in front of you.

Second, it smacks of the dismissive “why don’t they just suck it up and get over it” mentality that undermines those who try to speak up against abuse, it whatever form it takes (Summitt/LaTech & Chinn/FIU come to mind). It moves to accepting the phrase “PC” as a pejorative.

For me, “politically correct” is the radical assumption that an individual can recognize that there are power dynamics in the world and that they are manifested in language and behavior. For me, being sensitive to those those dynamics doesn’t make you weak. It challenges me to be thoughtful and intentional in my practice. It asks me to consider the consequences of my actions before and after I take them. It’s hard and annoying and exhilarating and confusing and, sometimes, threatening and humiliating as I recognize behavior and patterns that don’t necessarily fill me with pride.

Coaches are often held up as educators. Now, there are all sorts of educators – with different styles and pedagogy. (And I’m guessing that we can agree that some of what happens in a gym would be unacceptable in a classroom – that, itself, is an interesting discussion). And, as educators, it’s not just what you know. How you share it makes a difference, too, because learning is an emotional, physical and intellectual process.

Coaches know this – you often hear them talking about “what works for this player doesn’t work for that player.” Sometimes it’s called “pushing buttons.”

Well, sometimes the buttons we push are the wrong buttons. And as educators… as the adults in the room, it’s on us to reflect, “What was my role? If I could do it over again, could I have done it differently? How will this impact my decisions and practice moving forward?”

Hey, maybe you wouldn’t change a thing. And please, don’t mistake my intent. I’m not advocating that folks avoid honesty, hard truths, pushing folks, being direct etc. Again, being sensitive and respectful is. not. being. weak. In fact, it requires a certain amount of courage to say, “Huh. By my actions, I made someone feel a certain way. Am I okay with that?”

How you answer that question determines your next steps.

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Honestly, why do you bother? You get a UConn game on your channel, thousands of Husky fans realize you exist and desperately look for you… and then you bring out Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) – someone who 1) Doesn’t do his homework (ummm, have you checked out how many upsets happened in the last week?) 2) Doesn’t know his facts (ummm, have you checked out UConn’s SOS?) 3) and DISRESPECTS the women’s game… *smh, surprised that Swin didn’t smack HIS head*

Doug, honey, if you’re worried about a sport that is diluted, where folks don’t play competitive games and is parity-free, let me quote a wise observer from Miami who suggests you check out college football: “Alabama and their ilk go 13-1 outscoring their opponents 2.3 to 1. They just beat the #3 ranked team 38-0. At least women’s basketball is a little competitive!”

Not quite yet: #6 Baylor rumbled in to Longhorn territory, grabbed an early lead an never let go, sending #4 Texas to its first loss of the season.

The Texas women’s basketball team lost on Sunday.

On the court. In the press conference. Inside their minds. Everywhere it counts.

Except in the Erwin Center stands, where 8,996 fans — the largest crowd of the season — convened to watch the fourth-ranked Longhorns’ breakthrough moment this season.

But that moment didn’t come.

ACK! #15 TAMU had overtime against #2 South Carolina in its sight, courtesy of a spectacular pass/lay in and then… brain freeze: foul the inbounder and Sessions seals a one-point win for the Gamecocks. Staley speaks.

Too muchToo much firepower: #5 Ohio State gave Purdue its first in-conference loss, 90-70.

“We started the game with a much better sense of urgency,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We talked about it. We were going to need it. Purdue is a really good team. If we didn’t show up today, it wasn’t going to go our way.”

Not this game: #8 Maryland poured it on in the first half against Northwestern and never looked back.

Not pretty, but we’ll take it: #9 Kentucky over Auburn, 54-47.

Perhaps Kentucky fans should start sending Sonya Murray some residential listings in the Lexington area.

With her mom in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Taylor Murray had career highs in points and steals and helped lead the No. 9 Cats to a 54-47 victory over Auburn.

“She has next-level speed that is unlike most people on the floor,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the freshman guard. “That’s a great weapon for us.

12 straight: #10 Arizona State used strong first and third quarters to show Utah the door, 80-60. Nice piece on Utes coach Lynne Roberts.

As much as Lynne Roberts loved sports as a youngster, Don Roberts never expected his only daughter to make a living in athletics.

“She was always a very strong person, had a lot of personality and a lot of drive,” he said. “But she was always going into science. There was never an idea of being a coach. It was never talked about.”

A lot of local women’s basketball fans are grateful that somewhere in her college basketball career, her passion to compete and her ability to teach persuaded the history major to pursue a career in a much misunderstood and often maligned profession.

Those most grateful for her choice are likely the Utah players who are exceeding the expectations of almost everyone — except their first-year coach.

0-29 no more: Beavers over Trees. #12 Oregon State got the win over #11 Stanford on the merits of a comeback. Feels like OSU is learning from its games… and if Sydney Wiese can return….

#16 Florida State kept the Panthers defeated in the ACC, 66-55.

So, yah, this Pac12 is a thing: #17 UCLA escapes Washington State, 75-73.

See above, as #25 USC didn’t escape Kelsey Plum and her 32 points. Washington wins, 69-60.

There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop this second-half comeback.

After an abysmal first half, which preceded a “crazy” halftime outburst from typically mellow coach Mike Neighbors, the Washington women’s basketball team rallied to beat No. 25 USC, 69-60, Sunday afternoon to complete a weekend sweep of the ranked L.A. schools at home.

 The Huskies (14-4) have won three in a row and sit in third place in the Pac-12 at 5-2. This week, they could also find themselves ranked in The Associated Press poll for the first time since 2003. 

It was close early, but then the #19 Bulls pulled away from the Pirates, 75-54.

Is the SEC allergic to scoring? #20 Florida had to rally with 20 in the 4th to defeat LSU, 53-45.

Make that 200: Katie Meier and #21 Miami get the win over UNC, 76-61, to reach the win milestone. Rats: Xylina McDaniel, a four-year starter for North Carolina, will miss the rest of the season because of an ACL.

Bounce back: #22 Duke made sure they didn’t lose two games in a row, and BC stays winless in the ACC, 71-51.

“I think that the team is beginning to understand what it takes to prepare and to really get themselves in a good space in which to play. The team was very fun to coach today because there was activity everywhere,” McCallie said. “You love it if you have to turn down instead of turn up. If anything today, I was turning down things and that makes for a really good team performance.”

Moore, Moore, Moore: Mariya, that is. It took all of Moore’s 31 points to help #23 #23 Louisville escape the Wolf Pack, 92-90.

“It’s a win. Now, am I pleased? No,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz. “We got extremely lucky. In my opinion, we got out-played. NC State deserved to win that game, but unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, we had a few bounces at the end that went our way.”

Hog Heaven: That’s three wins over Top 25 teams in 10 days for Arkansas.

Albany and Stony Brook still share the America East top spot (1/21, y’all). Speaking of Albany: Shereesha Richards’ next stop likely to be WNBA

The Bonnies.

“You see what our players have been doing on the floor, but what most didn’t see is all the time they put in during the spring, summer and fall,” Crowley said of his team. “Now they’re being rewarded for it. There’s a long way to go and we try to stay focused on what’s next. If you don’t do that in this league, things can go away quickly.”

GW over the Dukes: 

George Washington 6-foot-4 forward Jonquel Jones led all players with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks, giving the Dukes fits down low.

“In my 19 years of Division I, she’s got to be one of the 10 or 12 best players,” Burt said.

Farleigh Dickinson (2-3) went on a tear in the second half, giving Robert Morris (4-1) their first NEC defeat.

“It certainly was a disappointing effort on our part,” Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. “All the credit has to go to Fairleigh Dickinson. They played harder over the 40 minutes, and when we tied the game in the second half, they responded and we didn’t.

In a Big South show down, it was Gardner-Webb squeaking out a 2-point win over UNC Asheville, 58-56. Of note: the Bulldogs were missing two starters (center K.J. Weaver and point guard Ja’Da Brayboy)

Chattanooga is feeling right at home in the Southern.

It was, no surprise, a tough one, but Ohio managed to squeak out a 2-pt OT win over Central Michigan, 86-84, thanks to Kiyanna Black’s career high 39.

Troy is looking strong in the Sun Belt. Congrats to senior guard Ashley Beverly Kelley, whose current career total (1,621) is the most by a player in Troy’s 23-year Division I history. I might mention that coach Chanda Rigby seems poachable…. The program won just two games in 2011-12, the season prior to Rigby’s arrival, and has most recently won 20 games in 2014-15.

No jinx, please, but that is three wins in the Big West for Santa Barbara.

Congrats! EKU to honor women’s basketball great Lisa Goodin and first NCAA tournament team. Goodin is in the Indiana Basketball HOF. At EKU

Goodin, who played for Eastern from 1980 to 1984, is the all-time leading scorer in EKU women’s basketball history with 1,920 career points. The guard from Austin, Indiana is second in program history in field goals made, free throws made and free throw percentage (87.4 percent).  She is fifth in assists (374) and 10th in steals (182).

A sharpshooter with consistent accuracy, she led the NCAA in free throw percentage as both a freshman (.897) and junior (.910).

Stop this: Fight involving players and fans halts girls basketball game in Indiana

It’s been a while since it felt like a coach’s job was in the balance before a game. Elzy tries to calm fans:

“The fans were disappointed that we lost (to Arkansas),” Elzy said. “We were disappointed as well. We have a responsibility to uphold the legacy and play the Lady Vol way, which we did not against Arkansas. I know for the fans, right now, it seems like it’s over. It’s not over. It’s a long year.”

Elzy urged Tennessee fans not to panic despite the disappointing loss to the Razorbacks.

OT: Listening to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey spin discs on Radio Deluxe is musical heaven.

 

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Still noticing the Tribe’s record. Sure, we’ll learn a lot when they face VCU Monday and then leap into conference play…. BUT, they’re 8-1 under third-year coach Ed Swanson, equalling the best start in program history.

The same commentary goes for the Thundering Herd.  Their only loss is to West Virginia, by 6. I’m looking at their game against Western Kentucky as a good test.

Rinse, repeat and insert the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. They have been SO bad… Now look at what folks are writing about 4th year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick’s team: 

Last season, the ninth win for the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team didn’t come until the 30th game.

What a difference a season makes.

On Friday before an Education Day crowd of 1,705, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1, matching the 1984-’85 Asheville team for the best start in school history with an 84-71 victory over a solid Furman team.

How nice to be able to ask, “Might they challenge Stanford-slayer Gardner-Webb for the Big South?

I see you, no longer undefeated UTEP. Looks like the Miners have regained their moxie.

And I see you, too, Santa Clara: coach JR Payne has them on their longest winning streak since 2005-06, folks. (Dani California, flashback.)

Yes, USC-West is undefeated. Let’s see what happens when they play Albany on the 20th and UCLA on the 30th, shall we??? (Not to mention Oregon State on January 2nd.)

Speaking of the Beavers: OSU women’s basketball: No. 7 Beavers expect best shot from No. 14 Tennessee and Oregon State Beavers ready for clash with traditional power Tennessee

“We will learn exactly where we’re at on Saturday and where we need to go as we continue to prepare for conference,” coach Scott Rueck said. “So from that standpoint, it’s the biggest test that we’ve had so far.”

Too much offense: Princeton got rolled by the Buckeyes, 90-70.

Ohio State married a wicked pace to a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting night and ran laps around the stunned Princeton Tigers, winning 90-70 in Value City Arena on Friday night.

“That’s probably as good a game as we’ve played in a while,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought our kids did a great job of executing the game plan. On offense, we played with a great pace and really shared the ball to get great shots.

Yes, we noticed: Anigwe off to impressive start for Cal women’s basketball

“After she committed to us, she improved leaps and bounds,” Gottlieb said. “She’s gone from a post player we wanted with a lot of potential to the clear cut best freshman in the country. I knew she’d contribute right away, but her ability to score at this level consistently is beyond what I expected.”

A little something from Graham: Duke’s Azurá Stevens becoming a big riddle for opponents

Few basketball players see the court quite like Azurá Stevens, but many younger siblings can identify with her lifelong plight in games of one-on-one against an older sibling. No matter how much she grew or her skills developed, her older sister stayed one step ahead of her with that maddening back-you-down, pump-fake craftiness that seems a birthright of those born first.

Hello, Hurricanes: 

Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.

The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

 

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No. 2 Duke hasn’t come close to No. 1 UConn, Register
No. 2 Duke Ready To Take Another Swing At No. 1 UConn, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Duke, Courant
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Tuesday at No. 2 Duke, Post
No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke, Post
UConn women in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, Post

No. 2 Duke women set for No. 1 UConn challenge, News & Observer
No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten, Durham Herald Sun

Mechelle Voepel: Can Duke compete with UConn?, ESPN

There are some “big” games you anticipate with confidence … and others with trepidation. In women’s basketball, Connecticut vs. Duke — No. 1 vs. No. 2 Tuesday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET) — is the latter.

For this one, we’re all a bunch of Fox Mulders saying, “I want to believe.” Yes, I’d bet even most UConn fans would like to see this be an exciting game between two 10-0 teams that sit atop the rankings.

Rebecca Lobo: X factors to keep an eye on – Fouls? Free throws? Offensive flow? These elements might impact showdown

The top two teams in the women’s game meet Tuesday night when top-ranked UConn heads to Durham, N.C., to play No. 2 Duke. The Huskies have beaten the Blue Devils six straight times with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. (Duke kept it close for a half last season, down only two points at the break, but UConn blew it open in the second half.)

Does Duke have the talent and experience to beat UConn? Yes, without a doubt. Will the Blue Devils finally be able to play a full 40 minutes in order to get the W? We’ll have to tune in to see (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Here is what I’ll be keeping my eye on while watching the game.

Charlie Creme: The history behind 1-vs.-2 matchups – Blue Devils riding 24-game home winning streak into showdown

Just more than a month into the season, there is little to no debate over which are the two best women’s college basketball teams in the country. With possible apologies to those in Knoxville, South Bend and Lexington, Connecticut and Duke entered the season at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and neither team has done anything up this point to indicate any errors in that assessment.

The real question, as we embark on another 1-versus-2 matchup on Tuesday night (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 ET) in Durham, N.C., is whether the Blue Devils are right there with the Huskies as a true threat to the top spot … or merely closer to the rest of the pack that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame, Kentucky and a few others.

From espnW: Demanding Perfection – Top players for UConn describe what practice is like playing for coach Geno Auriemma.

From Doug: No. 2 Duke ready to meet No. 1 UConn

Today will mark the 52nd meeting between the top two teams in the poll, with the No. 1 team holding a 31-20 edge in the series. UConn has been in that game 17 times, including going 10-1 as the top-ranked team. Duke has played in this game six times, going 3-3. The two teams met once as the top two teams in the nation in 2003, with No. 2 UConn beating top-ranked Duke 77-65.

In other news:

As Rutgers women’s basketball continues to roll, No. 16 Georgia looms

Somewhat surprisingly, little has gone wrong thus far in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season.

After losing four of their top-six scorers from a year ago, the Scarlet Knights, who feature no seniors, have quietly blended youth into balanced offense. Four Knights — three underclassmen — are averaging double figures through 10 games. As a team, Rutgers is actually scoring 12 more points per contest (68.1) than last season (56.0).

Buckeyes try to shake out of slump

The Ohio State women’s basketball team gathered for a film session yesterday that served as a double feature without the box of popcorn.

The Buckeyes (7-6) had to watch the postmortem of their 64-49 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday and follow that with a look at Tennessee Martin (6-3), their opponent tonight at Value City Arena.

Coach Kevin McGuff entered the room knowing that his young, largely inexperienced team is at a crossroads.

From the .com: Sheryl Swoopes Embraces New Role as Head Coach at Loyola Chicago

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

“My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back,” Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call – one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Stinky news for Asjha Jones and the Sun: She’ll Miss WNBA Season

Meanwhile, the Lynx continue their Roster Review: Janel McCarville

 … coming into the season, though, McCarville hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. 

The center quickly answered any and all questions. As she got into shape during Training Camp, her knack for finding open teammates became obvious and it seemed like she was perfect for a team with offensive threats like Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Throughout the season, her role became extremely important for the Lynx and she averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game while helping the Lynx win the 2013 title in her first season with the squad. 

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for for the season to continue:

Clay says: Not much controversy in the brackets — Let’s play the games

Baylor, A&M, Prairie View headed to women’s Big Dance, KHOU, Houston

Graduating women’s basketball players reflect on their time at Cal, Daily Cal
Feet on the Ground: Layshia Clarendon’s unselfish attitude, Daily Cal

Cal Poly women’s basketball team to play Penn State in NCAA tourney opener, San Luis Obispo

CU Buffs women’s basketball team earns No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament, Denver Post
Matt Sparkman writes: Buffaloes Earn A Five Seed, Face Kansas Saturday

Injured wrist won’t stop Carra’s final hurrah for sixth-seeded Delaware, Times-Tribune

Alexis Jones will lead Duke women’s basketball to New Orleans,and
Elizabeth Williams is the centerpiece of Duke women’s basketball, Duke Chronicle
Duke women’s basketball NCAA tournament preview, The Blue Zone

Fresno State to face Cal in NCAA Women’s Tournament, Fresno Bee

Vandal women draw UConn in opener, Idaho Statesman

Resiliency of MSU women rewarded with No. 5 seed in NCAA tourney, Detroit Free Press

Michigan women’s basketball full of cheers after learning of their No. 8 seeding, Detroit Free Press

Lady Griz no strangers to NCAA experience, Missoulian

Huskers receive tough tournament draw, Omaha.com
Nebraska, Creighton nab NCAA Tourney bids, Omaha.com

Notre Dame women’s basketball: No favors from NCAA, Sopth Bend Tribune

Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions seeded third, bound for Baton Rouge, Centre Daily

Princeton women get date with Florida State, Baylor awaits winner, NJ.com

Purdue women’s basketball team draws No. 4 seed, faces Liberty in Louisville, Purdue Exponent

Quinnipiac Women To Open With Maryland, Courant
Long wait is over for Quinnipiac, New Haven Register
Quinnipiac Bobcats eager to step onto the big stage against Maryland, New Haven Register

Syracuse women’s basketball seeks history, first NCAA Tournament win against Creighton, Syracuse.com

No. 2 seed Lady Vols open with Oral Roberts; Baylor is No. 1 seed, GoVolsXtra
Chattanooga’s season-opening upset of Lady Vols turned out good for both teams, GoVolsXtra

Aggie women to face Wichita State in NCAA opener, Aggie Sports

UConn women, in Bridgeport Regional, opens vs. Idaho, Post
UConn’s opponent: About Idaho, Post
UConn Women To Open Against Idaho, Courant
A Look At UConn’s Competition, Courant
Huskies to play host to Idaho in NCAA tournament, Register
Breaking down Idaho, UConn’s first round opponent, Register
Idaho has tough draw: UConn, Idaho Spokesman Review
The Idaho women’s basketball team takes a 16th seed in NCAA Tourney, KREM
UConn looms again for Kentucky, Courier Journal
Huskies look for redemption in NCAA tournament, Sports Illustrated

Wichita State women to meet Texas A&M in NCAA Tournament, Kansas.com

ESPN, MV: Bracket has familiar feeling

ESPN, GH: Irish face tough road to Final Four – Notre Dame could face host Iowa, South Carolina and Duke to get to New Orleans

ESPN, CC: Geography a big theme of the bracket

ESPN, KF: Not an easy start for CU, Delaware

ESPN, MS: Stanford, Cal: Elite company – Pac-12 and Bay Area rivals gain top two seeds in Spokane Regional

ESPN, Who Dey Pick: Breaking down the bracket

ESPN, Who You Pick: NCAAW: 2013 tournament

ESPN, Chat wrap: Selection Monday

Kelly Whiteside asks: Can anybody stop Baylor women’s basketball?

2013 Women’s Final Four could have familiar teams playing in New Orleans, New Orleans Time Picyune

Swish Appeal’s staff predicts Final Four & upsets

Queenie has some details: Maryland, ACC at-largeUConn, Big East at-largeNorth Carolina, ACC at-largeKentucky, SEC at-large

Nate wonders: Should conference rivals be placed in same region?

He also says: 2013 NCAA brackets: Surprises & first impressions

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didn’t get T’d up earlier in the game for her on-the-court wanderings? (I thought that had been a point of emphasis.) When she finally did earn a double T, WaPo thinks the damage was significant: Maryland women’s basketball falls to Duke, 71-56, after Coach Brenda Frese is ejected.

Mechelle seems to echo their headline:

Then Monday, Gray took command against Maryland, not just offensively but as the spark plug of a defensive effort that made things really hard for the Terps. Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins were a combined 7-of-30 from the field, totaling 20 points. The Terps had 24 turnovers.

Yet despite Maryland’s struggles, the Terps were down just 57-50 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds left. It was still a winnable game for Maryland, which was pretty remarkable all things considered.

But then Thomas missed a shot, Gray got a layup, and Frese lost her cool. Actually she seemed on the verge of that all night. Two technicals during a TV timeout sent Frese to the locker room and Gray to the foul line.

It wasn’t a particularly elegant game — unless you were Chelsea Gray — as the Blue Devil press harassed the Terps into a ton of TOs and some poor decision-making on offense.

“Just a great, physical game – an excellent game to help prepare us for the NCAA tournament and the way those games go,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

“So that was important to us – to be physical and play against a physical team.”

The Notre Dame-Louisville was a little more elegant — if you were a member of the Fightin’ Irish. Says Al Lesar: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Message: Get out of ND’s way

Every defensive stop. Every drive and bucket. Every spot-up 3-pointer.

With every Notre Dame possession, the gap between women’s college basketball’s elite and the rest of the pretenders got wider.

The “haves” (Baylor, Notre Dame and Connecticut) really have it. The “have-nots” don’t have a clue.

Louisville came into Purcell Pavilion Monday night ranked No. 10 in the country. The Cardinals left as another overwhelmed victim of the second-ranked Irish after Notre Dame administered a 93-64 spanking.

CARDINAL COUPLE columnist Sandy Walker provides today’s report on the game in South Bend last night.

In other games of interest, yes, Texas Southern kept on winning, but was a squeaker against (5-20) Grambling State, 59-58. Southern couldn’t keep up, getting SWAC’d by Mississippi Valley State, 61-57.

In the Southern, Chattanooga put some distance between themselves and Davidson as they earned a win over UNC Greensboro and the Wildcats got surprised by the College of Charleston, 74-71.

Hampton continued to roll in the MEAC.

Yes, Florida Gulf has the right to say the A-Sun is “Mine, ALL MINE,” but Stetson is determined to make keep it interesting.

An important Big 10 win for Nebraska, on the road against Iowa.  Perhaps it’s because the Unofficial mascot, Basketball Head, brings support to NU women’s basketball. (Is it just me, or do the I’s in Iowa/Iowa St. stand for inconsistent?)

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*fingers crossed it’s not “Blowout Monday Time”

From Zach Ward at Swish Appeal: ACC’s best square off in much-anticipated showdown

The wait is nearly over.

No. 7 Maryland (19-3, 10-1 ACC) and No. 5/4 Duke (21-1, 11-0 ACC), the top two teams in ACC women’s basketball both by ranking and conference record, will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in Durham.

The past two seasons Maryland and Duke have split, with both teams winning on their home floors.

The teams figure to do the same again this year unless one of them can step up on the road. The Terps are a perfect 11-0 at home, but are definitely more vulnerable when they travel away from the friendly confines of College Park.

Did you miss Rebecca’s preview? Terps’ season still full of potential – Game will help decide ACC — and which center is the best in the league

Duke, Maryland’s opponent, was well-acquainted with injuries earlier in the season but is healthy now. If you wrote off Duke after the beatdown at UConn a month ago, you need to give the Blue Devils another look. They are a much-improved team since that 79-49 Jan. 21 loss. 

What has changed? The Blue Devils have inserted Chloe Wells into the starting lineup and she has been solid on offense (shooting 56 percent on 3-pointers) and a spark on defense. The move also allowed coach Joanne P. McCallie the luxury of bringing the country’s third-most-accurate 3-point shooter (46-for-96, 48 percent shooting), Tricia Liston, off the bench. The Blue Devils are still working to become a team that plays well for an entire 40 minutes instead of just 20, but they are getting closer each game.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for in this insideoutside and upside down Big Monday matchup:

Rob at DWHoops has his preview:

The Skinny:

This is the ACC game of the year, part 2. The ramifications are simple: if Duke wins, they will have a death grip on the league standings. If Maryland wins, they will tie Duke at the top of the ACC and get the rematch at home, giving them a tremendous lift down the stretch. The Terps are a makeshift team that are riding superstar forward Alyssa Thomas hard; she’s the reason why this six-woman team keeps winning. She can play so many positions on the floor that if a player gets in foul trouble, the Terps can simply sub in frosh Malina Howard (7 ppg, 4 rpg) and shift Thomas to the frontcourt or backcourt. Thomas’ line is as follows: 17 ppg, 10 rpg, 5 apg, 2 spg. She’s second in the ACC in scoring and leads it in rebounding.

Sam Wiseman at the Herald Sun says, Duke women look to rebound vs. Term

Gene Wang over at the WaPo chimes in: Chloe Pavlech boosts Maryland women’s basketball with clutch play

“I think they call that a show pony,” Pavlech said somewhat mischievously when asked about her knack for playing her best against the highest-caliber opponents.

That remark got Thomas laughing so much that the normally placid junior all-American forward had to bow her head in order to regain her composure and finish answering questions from reporters. Soon enough Frese and Hawkins also were smiling broadly, much like the rest of the team often does when Pavlech provides witty observations that keep the atmosphere light.

Happy to know the DC Basketcases are back in town, having taken what looks to have been a glorious trip to see penguins, petrels and albatrosses. (Can’t believe they didn’t take me!)

The Louisville/ND game isn’t getting a ton of prep press (Beth and Debbie did podcast on it.) I’m betting beat writers are terrified they’ll try and copy the men’s 5OT game….

At the SBT, Curt points out that Braker’s offense is a bonus point

The Journal-Courier pieces together this: Louisville women’s basketball will meet No. 2 Notre Dame tonight

The University of Louisville women’s basketball team, coming off a 78-45 whipping of Pittsburgh on Saturday, will be expecting a much bigger challenge tonight.

In Graham’s week in review, he notes that Michigan and LSU got much-needed wins

We might be in the midst of the shortest month, but February has a knack for setting up long summers.

There is always another game and another opportunity at this point in the season, which is one reason why it can feel a little like these weeks are the equivalent of running in wet sand. The real drama of the postseason is visible on the horizon, but still far enough away that staring at it can mean running smack into what’s more immediately proximal. Immediacy is still hard to find.

On the other hand, if there is no such thing as a must-win game in early February, there are wins that make it considerably more likely a team will have a chance to play some real must-win games a month or so from now.

And for Michigan and LSU, Sunday was the biggest day of the season.

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From Blue Devil land: Williams’ frustrating foot injury lingers for Duke women’s basketball

After being decimated by injuries late last season, this year was supposed to be different for Duke. But with the season just beginning, the Blue Devils already face a daunting obstacle as preseason All-American Elizabeth Williams has not yet recovered from a stress fracture suffered last March.

Dabnabbit! UTEP women’s basketball guard Jenzel Nash out for the year due to injury

From Bear land: Women’s basketball season begins with simple question: Can anyone stop Griner and Baylor?

Graham offers a possible answer: Breanna Stewart preps for debut – All eyes on the freshman expected to be the next great thing in Huskies history

Detroit has its auto show. Women’s basketball has media day at the University of Connecticut.

Come, crowd around to see the latest innovation, the new design that will set a standard and capture the public imagination in years to come.

Same time, same place every year.

But even at a school for which the annual unveiling of the next highly anticipated star seems as much a part of the autumn calendar as hot cider and pumpkin carving, this year feels different. Breanna Stewart has yet to play a game for Connecticut. She has yet to score her first point, grab her first rebound, block her first shot or draw her first regular-season rebuke from Geno Auriemma. And still people in Storrs sound a little like they’re talking about the flying car of tomorrow come to life when discussing the unassuming 6-foot-4 forward from upstate New York and consensus next great thing in women’s basketball.

Baylor’s women’s basketball team offered spectators plenty during a perfect season in 2011-12. There was the consensus national player of the year in center Brittney Griner. An exceptionally quick point guard, Odyssey Sims, with both great scoring potential and a natural zest for defense.

Destiny Williams, an eloquent team spokeswoman who also works the boards ferociously. The shouldn’t-be-overlooked tandem of Jordan Madden and Kimetria “Nae-Nae” Hayden, who hurt foes on both ends of the court.

And the maestro of it all was coach Kim Mulkey, who set the tone for a group of players who never seemed the least bit rattled by not just the hope, but the expectation that they would win it all. Even a flare-up of Bell’s palsy during the NCAA tournament didn’t seem to rattle Mulkey in the least. She downplayed it, even cracking jokes at her own expense.

Michelle gives us the A-to-Z rundown of what to expect
A: Arizona State. Coach Charli Turner Thorne took a year off to recharge and spend time with her family, a rare opportunity in the coaching universe. But she’s back on the floor with the Sun Devils and it’s time to rebuild a program that fell to the middle of the Pac-12 in her absence.
Z: Zero. Is Baylor ready for another zero-loss season? It could happen.
Charlie give us a Big 10 preview, and busy Mechelle gives us her Big 12 preview.

For decades it seemed as though Michigan regarded women’s basketball as a part of the athletic department it didn’t want anyone to see.

It was as if U-M fielded a team because it had to, not because it wanted to, and it was reflected in thousands of empty seats in Crisler Arena. A perennial nonfactor when it came to contending for Big Ten championships and NCAA tournament bids, the program suffered its biggest embarrassment last spring when coach Kevin Borseth resigned to return to Green Bay, the program he left to take the U-M job.

From their in-state rival: Michigan State women’s basketball putting puzzle together

From Terp land: Maryland women’s basketball: It’s Final Four or bust for the Terrapins (no pressure) and 2012 ACC women’s basketball preview: Can Alyssa Thomas carry the Maryland Terrapins to the top again?

Also, “YAY! The BasketCases are back!” : Early Late Returns

From the land of the Bluejays: 2012-13 Creighton Women’s Basketball Profiles: Sarah Nelson

From Bluegrass land: Kentuckiana women’s basketball at a glance and Western Kentucky women’s basketball | Young Toppers hope speed offsets height

More from the land of Bluegrass: (no pressure) SEC coaches pick UK women’s basketball as favorites to win 2012-13 conference title

From the Land o’ Bisons: (a really short)  Howard women’s basketball preview

From the Land o’ (Washington) Huskies: Washington women’s basketball: Five things to watch

From more of the West Coast folks: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers excited to play a better schedule

There are still some games that could be considered cupcakes, but the Beavers will get to face two NCAA tournament teams, with the possibility of another, and two teams that made the Women’s National Invitation Tournament before opening the Pac-12 season

“I think we’re in a position where we need that,” Rueck said. “This year we open Pac-12 play with the L.A. schools coming in. We need to know who we are and where we need to go before that weekend happens.”

From the land of the Commodores: Holzer out for season Center suffered injury in exhibition game versus Alabama-Huntsville.

From the Land o’ Swish Appeal, Nate says: Tennessee Lady Vols built to run after losing stars to the WNBA draft

Speaking of the W, thewiz09 asks: Does Regionalization and “Our Girls Syndrome” Adversely Affect The WNBA?

…to take a page out of the words of a former Washington Mystics head coach, the WNBA is a league that is building its identity, so teams often look for quick ways to get more fans to sit in. The largest overlapping fanbasewith women’s professional basketball is Division I women’s college basketball power program fanbases. A very quick way to attract fans from the local college power team is to draft or acquire players from that team. That leads to the regionalizationof a team.

One reason why a team may regionalize is also because there is a fear that fans of the WNBA team may not even want to watch the team at all unless some players are from the local college power or are from the area. This leads to a term called “Our Girls Syndrome (OGS).” This term, to the best of my knowledge, was introduced by Clay Kallam of Full Court. Kallam laid it out and showed applications of it really well in a piece for Scout.com back in 2003 (and it was updated in 2005). The concepts he lays out in that piece will be reapplied to today’s league.

From the Land of the Bun: Corey Gaines keeps his nose to Phoenix Suns’ grindstone

From the Times-Picayune: Temeka Johnson blogs: Russian team builds toward EuroCup game Thursday

WANT? Vicky Bullett? Winning: Women’s Basketball: HCC opens season with a Bullett

Speaking of the Washington Mystics, delve deep down in to Mel’s post to find out some stuff about the hot mess they’re in and the Rebkellians have some coaching suggestions.

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I saw no fight. I saw feistiness, mouthiness and a profound lack of good sense.

Moving on to the important stuff: the Vols played the Bears tough but, honestly, if Sims is doin’ her thing like she was Baylor looks to be unbeatable. Writes Mechelle:

Some games are decided by heart and hustle being a little greater on one side than the other. But other games aren’t really about that at all. They’re about a team just being so talented, so efficient, and so down-to-business that the squad seems almost machine-like.

That’s how No. 1 seed Baylor looked Monday in a 77-58 NCAA tournament regional final win over second-seeded Tennessee. It was as if Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears were a group of basketball “terminators,” relentlessly pursuing a victory with nothing able to stop them.

Mechelle adds: Amid uncertainty, honor the success – In August, Pat Summitt said she intended to coach three more seasons

We don’t know if we just saw the last game on the sidelines for Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. We are unsure of how to write or talk about this — it has been that way the past few months — but now the 2011-12 Lady Vols have finished this season with their legendary mentor.

This particular journey ended with a 77-58 loss to top-seeded Baylor on Monday in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight in Iowa’s capital city, a place that has had a girls’ high school state basketball tournament that dates back all the way to 1925. And that somehow seems appropriate, as this felt like a historical game for many reasons.

From Jere’ at the Times: Sticking to Business as Others Celebrate Her Career (Wowza, that orange suit deserves to hang next to Sonja’s white mink!)

From Eric Adelson at Yahoo: Pat Summitt remains the ultimate winner even though her Lady Vols were eliminated by Baylor

If you ever met Pat Summitt, even for a moment, you know.

If she ever spoke a single word to you, it’s understood.

If you met her steely glance at any point in her unparalleled career, you get it.

Although it is immensely sad that Summitt, 59, may not coach another basketball game, it is as crystal clear as her icy blue stare that she does not need to walk onto a basketball court to continue as a coach for the rest of her life and beyond.

Because once Pat Summitt coaches you, you stay coached.

Duke couldn’t use their off-court brains to support their basketball IQ, and going away from their successful offensive plan spelled their doom. The other doom-bringer was spelled N.n.e.k.a. And yes, says Michelle, Stanford really is that good

What else does a team have to do to show that it is really, really good?

Stanford would like to think that Monday night’s 81-69 win over second-seeded Duke in the Fresno Regional final would have banished any lingering doubts about the Cardinal.

But the questions about whether Stanford has what it takes are only just beginning.

Post-game, the Nerd City Kid seemed beyond thrilled to go up against her USA Basketball teammate. “Seems everyone else has played her.” Yup, they have, and now it’s Stanford’s turn. Scott at the San Francisco Chronicle writes: Ogwumikes, Griner make Stanford-Baylor must-see

Women’s basketball not your cup of grog?

That’s fine. This will not be a screed against the haters, or ignorers.

I’m no missionary. I merely offer a suggestion that you put aside your prejudices and preferences so you can enjoy a classic.

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Specifically, the injuries and suspensions that might have spelled disaster. Yet, writes Mechelle, this season, when other teams are using injuries as an explanation for their poor season, Duke keeps overcoming setbacks

Friday morning, I listed some of the candidates for the coach of the year … but, of course, there are always others who deserve mentioning. One, in fact, got a big victory Friday night.

Duke maintained its mastery over Miami, and in the process earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of the league’s regular-season championship.

The No. 7 Blue Devils’ 74-64 victory over the No. 5 Hurricanes moved Duke’s all-time record over Miami to 9-0. And Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie did it with a team that doesn’t really look like what she was hoping/expecting it to when the school year began.

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Encouraging, but still a slow process: Maryland’s Brenda Frese stays positive as 4-year-old son battles leukemia

There’s a problem with little Tyler tonight, and Mommy is just about beside herself. Tyler just turned 4. He has leukemia — but this has nothing to do with that. Tyler is extroverted and lovey-dovey, a world-class hugger, a chatterbox. And until this very day, he loved the Maryland Terrapins, especially the women’s basketball team, unconditionally. He was red, black and yellow, through and through. Attended every game his illness allowed. Wouldn’t even think of wearing blue — because blue is Duke. And Duke, as everyone knows, is bad.

But Tyler met a new playmate the other day, and the other boy was a few years older — which meant he knew everything — and the older boy loved Duke. And so now, here is Tyler, standing in the middle of his family’s basement rec room in Laurel, wearing a Maryland T-shirt, surrounded by Terrapins memorabilia, declaring to all present that Duke is not only cool — but is also about to beat Maryland in this game of two-on-two basketball on the five-foot toy hoop set up in a corner of the room.

Relief in Cali: Long Beach State player hospitalized in Cal Poly women’s basketball team’s victory – 49ers’ Bianka Balthazar is reported in ‘good condition’ at Sierra Vista Medical Center after she collapsed during the second half

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Amber Henson will miss the remainder of the season and now Chloe Wells is to Miss Remainder of the 2011-12 Season

I believe that leaves the Blue Devils with 9 scholarship players and one walk on.

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— as in the four teams are ready for the Final Four. Which explains why my reaction to the games last night is a tad musical.

Killing the Blues is just what UConn did.

First Georgetown, and then Duke. The Blue Devils kept it close in the first, but then Maya did her Roadrunner impression (beep! beep!), and the Huskies were off to the races. Duke’s offense suffered from bad decisions and Connecticut’s found its groove: 24 assists on 32 baskets. The end result? A deju vu-esque 35pt win. Write Rob at DWHoops:

Duke kept it interesting for a half, but they once again were blown out by the UConn Huskies. The Blue Devils didn’t accomplish any of the pregame goals I outlined in our DWHoops game preview, and they paid for it with the worst NCAA Tournament loss in Duke history. Rebounds? UConn led, 40-27. Tempo? UConn ran the ball down Duke’s throat, with a 12-4 edge in fast break points. Shot-making? Duke shot an excruciating 25% from the floor. The Devils hustled and scrapped to stay within 3-6 points for most of the first half, thanks to some timely shooting by Shay Selby and the usual hustle by Jasmine Thomas. Duke was within 3 points with under four minutes to go, and one could see UConn start to wear down a bit. Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes both picked up 2 first-half fouls that were silly. The Devils not only were unable to capitalize, they inexplicably didn’t hold the ball for the final possession of the half. They missed 2 late cracks at the basket and gave Moore enough time to hit a shot at the buzzer, giving UConn the double-digit halftime lead they wanted so badly. Then the Huskies shot an absurd 72% in the second half against a Duke defense that had completely broken down.

Graham on Maya:

As the story goes, at some point during the team’s stay in Philadelphia, sophomore Kelly Faris’ mom gave her daughter a paddleball, partly in jest for a team that finds a way to compete at anything and everything, if also as a way to kill the tedious hours of hotel time that come during the postseason. Faris, Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln promptly spent a good portion of an evening passing the paddleball, and the corresponding record for consecutive hits, back and forth. Welcome to Connecticut basketball.

But when the new toy made its way into wider circulation on the bus soon thereafter, Moore wanted to know why she hadn’t been included in the initial record chase.

“We said that we didn’t want to invite her the first night because she probably would have been up until 5 in the morning trying to break it,” Faris said. “But she told us it wouldn’t have taken her that long.”

For Texas A&M, it Feels Like the First Time, as their third time against Baylor proved the charm. The Aggies took an early lead, survived foul trouble, got a lot of help from Sydney 1 and Sydney 2, and now are going to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Writes Joanne Gerstner at the New York Times:

In most ways, it’s hard to make 6-foot-8 Baylor sophomore star Brittney Griner disappear. But Texas A&M found the magic wand Tuesday, reducing Griner’s normally game-changing play at center into a non-factor.

Mechelle on coach Blair and the Aggies:

It all began in this city for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, literally. He was born and raised in Dallas, graduating from high school in 1963, the year JFK was assassinated here.

He served time in the Marines, then went to Texas Tech and played baseball. In 1973, he started coaching the South Oak Cliff High girls’ team in Dallas. It was a job not many would have wanted, but Blair saw something in the sport that captured his imagination as a certified sports junkie. He recognized what was beautiful about a sport with such growth potential.

Michelle Smith has Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Tim Newcomb at Time magazine says the Final Four is A Lesson in Staying Power

Ann Killon at Sports Illustrated Breaks Down the Final Four.

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from DWHoops: Devils Must Win to Stay Atop ACC

Unfortunately for the Hoos, they got spanked at home by the team they were tied with in league standings, Boston College. The Eagles are now in position to snag an 8th NCAA bid, leaving the Hoos in dire straits. Essentially, they have to beat Duke to even be considered for consideration, and then need to beat Virginia Tech and win a game in the ACC tournament. It’s important that Duke should be well aware of this, because this is a do-or-die, season-saving scenario for their opponent. Anything less than Duke’s best effort could result in another embarrassing road loss for the Devils.

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they don’t think Pat Summitt has a sense of humor. Clearly, they haven’t been paying attention.

This gem from last night’s game against Kentucky: “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were throwing the game.”

Well, it wasn’t so much “throwing” as it was “throwing away,” as the Vols had a serious case of turnover-itis. They got it together for the second half, but their performance did raise some questions for Q: Lady Vols Beat Wildcats, 73-67, but how far can they go?

Tennessee Lady Vols point guard Meighan Simmons drives me nuts and I don’t even have a strong rooting interest in the team. She has got to be among the most maddeningly fascinating freshman talents in the country because it’s almost impossible to know whether you want someone to rein her in or just show her the ways of the Force because it’s so strong within her.

In the undercard, UNC and Duke see-sawed their way across the court until Waltiea Rolle secured the 62-60 Tarheel victory with a swat. The game shouldn’t have been that close, but I’m guessing the two teams set a combined low for free throw shooting percentage.

Check out DWHoops’ report on the game.

FWIW, I liked the ESPN broadcasting team a lot.

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is Graham:

Monday

Duke at North Carolina (ESPN2/ESPN3.com, 7 p.m. ET): The Blue Devils have won just once in their past six trips to Chapel Hill, so home-court advantage isn’t without meaning. In terms of trends that have more to do with the players currently on hand, we might know how things are going to go by the second television break. In North Carolina’s three losses, its opponents averaged 52.3 percent in the first half. Only Georgia Tech didn’t eclipse 50 percent en route to victory, and it got to the free throw line 20 times before halftime. As for Duke, the less said the better about its first half at Connecticut last week. The Blue Devils attempted just five 3-pointers in Thursday’s 82-58 victory against Miami, their fewest all season and the first time in single digits.

Tennessee at Kentucky: It’s a road game for Tennessee against perhaps its closest challenger, and it’s a game in which Pat Summitt’s team is likely to still be without Angie Bjkorklund. In other words, SEC supremacy might not be on the line for Kentucky, but as a representative of the 11 teams chasing Tennessee, SEC self-respect is at stake. Kentucky wins games by dominating the turnover battle and surviving on the boards. That’s not a great matchup against a team that can survive a few turnovers, in part by winning the rebounding battle. Kentucky is 10th in the SEC against the 3-pointer. Can the Lady Vols’ Taber Spani, coming off back-to-back 18-point performances and a 10-of-17 effort on 3-pointers in the past four games, stay hot?

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C&R watched the Huskies/Blue Devils game and wondered: How Did Duke Get to Be Number 3?

Mel was there, and writes: UConn Buries Duke With Opening Salvo

If one covers sports, no matter which types, and deals with coaches long enough, sooner rather than later they will tell you two things they don’t like to do is put an outcome of a closely fought contest in the hands of officials or place parts of their NCAA destiny in the hands of a committee.

No. 2 Connecticut inherently took care of both matters Monday night, blasting No. 3 Duke 87-51 in a nonconference matchup in the Huskies’ Gampel Pavilion before a near sellout crowd of 10,031 fans.

On the West Coast, Jayda notes: Washington guard Kristi Kingma wins Pac-10 weekly award

As good as Washington SG Kristi Kingma is, it’s hard to believe Monday’s announcement that she’s Pac-10 Player of the Week is a first in her career. But it is, the junior getting the nod after scoring a game-high 29 points in UW’s 64-52 win against cross-state rival Washington State on Sunday.

Sue at They’re Playing Basketball has news of the Riley trade to Tulsa.

Speaking of Cowgirls, at Swish Appeal, freelantz writes Bedlam – Oklahoma’s experience trumps youthful Cowgirls 82-77 and Q explains UConn’s Blowout Of Duke: Why McCallie’s Boxing Metaphor Is Perfect

I know very little about boxing.

And to some extent, I realize it’s odd – and someone once even told me stupid – for a writer to explain one sport with another sport.

But in searching for explanations for what happened in UConn’s 87-51 blowout of Duke last night, the boxing metaphor of how to roll with a punch and respond to it seems to work as well as any explanation I’ve seen anywhere.

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Yes, there was the build up — the mutterings about Duke being disrespected or overlooked, the discussions of their depth and size — but in the aftermath of being totally dismantled by the not-so-swagger-free UConn Huskies, Duke is going to have to gather themselves like that Fred and Ginger tune says, and start all over again.

Writes Graham: UConn plays near-perfect game – Previously unbeaten and third-ranked Duke no match for No. 2 Huskies

“We just play,” Moore said. “You don’t get tired. We don’t talk about that at Connecticut. There’s plenty of reasons or opportunities where you could say, ‘I’m tired,’ but you find a way to get over it. You find a way every day in practice. … We have to, obviously, do certain things to make sure that we are able to compete at the highest level we can — taking care of our bodies, getting a lot of rest, doing all the little things that we probably have to do more so than any other year since I’ve been here.”

In the process, the Huskies exposed the Blue Devils as a team with a wealth of talent on defense and stll too few proven answers on offense. Duke’s pressure is a legitimate championship-caliber weapon, and at times flustered a Connecticut team that turned the ball over 20 times, its first game of at least 20 turnovers since a nailbiter at Notre Dame on Jan. 8. But the Blue Devils converted those turnovers into just 14 points, and 19 offensive rebounds into just 12 second-chance points. Without those tools that, to put it bluntly, amount to two of its three best offensive plays — the third being give the ball to Jasmine Thomas and let her go — Duke floundered on offense.

Rob Clough at DWhoops echoes Graham’s theme as he reviews the carnage: UConn Crushes Duke, 87-51

This game was Duke’s opportunity to prove itself as a true elite power this season. Instead, the Devils will have to fight to get a #1 seed. Duke hadn’t overpowered many good foes this year, but their ability to to find a way to win no matter what was judged and found wanting by UConn. This certainly offers hope to their ACC opponents. What this loss can do for Duke is give them a chance to work on bad habits. The first bad habit is an inability to lock in as a team, where all five players complement each other. Part of that is the nature of Duke’s very basic offense, which involves more read-and-react/one-on-one stuff than the sort of sharing the ball instincts that come so naturally for UConn. In other words, Duke’s offense sometimes gets into “I need to make a play” territory instead of “We need to make a play.”

Other highlights:

At the start of the game, Graham tweeting: Good crowd in Gampel for Duke-UConn, especially given the newest storm means people shorter than 5 feet are forbidden from going outside.

1st half: Duke team, 15 points, 11 boards, 1 assist
Maya Moore, 16 points, 6 boards, 3 assists

Kara Lawson speaking her mind (how refreshing!), ’cause she wants the last 45 minutes of her life back.

Carolyn Peck understanding Kara’s “perplexsiveness???””””

Rebecca Lobo being perplexed by Carolyn’s English.

Graham tweeting while watching the halftime show: A little kid in halftime show just spun a ball on his finger while doing a one-arm push-up. Glad to know I can do at least none of those.

Mechelle tweeting on the game: To blame this all on Duke’s “effort” and not point out the Duke staff’s deficiencies in coaching offense is not fair to the players.

Charlie tweeting on the game: I said 5 teams could win NC in my column today. I may be wrong there. I think it’s just 4. Duke doesn’t look capable.

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from Swish Appeal: UConn Women Get Ready to Battle Duke Without Its Swagger

When the 2nd ranked Connecticut Huskies (20-1) squares off with 3rd ranked Duke Blue Devils (20-0), tonight at 7:00 PM (ESPN 2), UConn will be without the services of Caroline Doty. It’s nothing new as they have been without her all season, with a torn ACL, but there are times when that loss is felt more than others. Monday night might be one of those times.

BTW, ESPN’s Page 2 picks up the Doty trick shots video.

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Mechelle wonders why the 20-0 Duke Blue Devils can’t get no respect: Underestimated Duke heads to UConn

It’s kind of strange. There’s a team from a major conference in women’s basketball that is undefeated at the end of January, and yet … it’s not ranked No. 1. Or even No. 2.

Instead, 20-0 Duke is third in the polls behind Baylor and Connecticut, which each have one loss. The Blue Devils are getting two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll, one in the media rankings. But at least as far as voters are concerned, Baylor and UConn are clearly in front.

All this just might get shaken up by the time the coaches’ poll is released again Tuesday.

Duke’s freshmen, adds Mechelle, are off to a fine start

It wasn’t that Chelsea Gray didn’t look around at schools closer to home in California. She did. But when she traveled across the country to visit Duke, everything just felt right. She walked around the campus and thought, “This is the place. I fit here.”

Still, the Blue Devils freshman knew it was a huge step to take.

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and say, it “Felt Like March . . .”

Watching tonight’s game between #14 Maryland and #3 Duke, you’d never have known it was January; or, that it was opening night of the ACC season. No, this game felt more like March . . . like an ACC final. That’s when we expect intense, hard-fought nailbiters, full of punches and counterpunches by two really good teams. Not so much in early January.

A little south of them, Lady Swish has your Saturday special: HU, NSU, Richmond, Liberty, Radford in action and notes that VCU’s Hurt goes off again; ODU, JMU earn CAA wins

Courtney Hurt is doing for the Rams (7-6, 2-0 CAA) what Elena Delle Donne did for Delaware a year ago during her fabulous freshman season – almost singlehandedly carrying her squad to victories. Hurt’s number were spectacular by themselves – a school record-tying 35 points, 13 rebounds. But 25 of those points – 25 of VCU’s 39 – came in the second half as she rallied her Rams past the dangerous Seahawks (9-4, 1-1 CAA). It was the latest in a string of sensational efforts from Hurt (24.9 ppg, 13.7 rpg), the most potent double-double force in the CAA since, well, Elena Delle Donne. Hey, ESPN, how ’bout some national pub for this kid?

Will you take a little love from the WHB?

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(And I typed that before I read Jim’s headline) Now, to Jim’s headline: Ohio State’s free fall is picking up speed.

Ohio State was schooled by Michigan, who snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Buckeyes. Looks like things got a little cranky during the game. Prahalis (1-13, no assists) got called for an intentional and a double-T was called later.

Speaking of cranky, C Viv is (somewhat confusedly) cranky because Tennessee wouldn’t reschedule last night’s game (Tennessee stomped all over the Knights):

“They never saw a tape [of Tennessee] or anything,” Stringer said of her team. “I tell you we could have had far better representation of ourselves. It could have been worth the money, worth the time to come here if we’d had a little bit more [time].”

If anyone is paying attention, Baylor’s won 10-straight and Duke is still undefeated (though you’ve got to believe that Temple’s pleased to have kept the game to single digits – especially in Durham.)

I’ve said before that I’m glad to be able to cheer for Penn State again (And players nicknamed Zha Zha). It’s said that it can take a new coach five years to rebuild a program. In her fourth year, Coquese Washington has had to battle the Portland-excusers and a program that was struggling with its reputation. So, nice to see Co get a big win for (at home), as the Lions took down #13 Iowa, 68-59.

“We made the big shots when we needed them down the stretch,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “Zha Zha made some huge shots down the stretch. Alex made a really big basket driving to the basket.”

Oh, and there some records you just don’t want.

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That just about  sums up Graham’s Monday.

Check out the archive of his chat and his post-Duke v. Texas A&M work:

Karima Christmas comes through

It was the kind of game you tend to get in the early days of December. It was also the kind of game you need to win if you want to be on the court in the early days of April.

All of the normal arena musical standards play during breaks in the action at Cameron Indoor Stadium, top-40 songs from some year, if not necessarily this one, carefully constructed around smoothed out edges, catchy hooks and consistent beats. A better soundtrack for No. 5 Duke and No. 7 Texas A&M would have been built on discordant sounds, the whine of feedback or the atonal mysteries of some avant-garde composition.

Aggies need Sydney Colson on the court

Sydney Colson played anything but the perfect game Monday night against No. 5 Duke, and there’s no denying Texas A&M suffered without its starting senior point guard on the court for much of the second half because of foul trouble.

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From Graham: Elight Eight losers are back for more  (Is that a typo or a play on words?) – Duke, Florida State, Kentucky and Xavier came so close to Final Four in 2010

Only four of the more than 300 teams that started last November had more successful campaigns a season ago than Duke, Florida State, Kentucky and Xavier, which is precisely why no four teams had longer summers. All four came within a victory of the Final Four — in what would have been the first trip for any of the latter three programs — and all four have to start new ascents back on level ground with everyone else.

The question for all is will last March prove a step in a longer journey or the trip of a lifetime?

From Mechelle: Pat Summitt like what she sees at Tennessee

…there’s no reason to think Tennessee won’t be back in that mix again this season. Starting the season Friday before a sellout crowd at Louisville’s new arena, Tennessee will add to its list of “big events” — remember the outdoor game in Phoenix against Arizona State in December 2000? — and begin what Summitt hopes will be a journey ending with a 19th NCAA Final Four appearance.

Summitt likes what she sees so far. And she knew exactly what she was looking for from this team.

The crew has their (Division I) Preseason All-Americans. You can click here to find out who their preseason Player of the Year is. They also pick some conference champeens. (Not many surprises…except for that Hawkeye hanging out in space.)

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From Graham: Jasmine Thomas is key for Duke – Senior guard and coach McCallie hope to make most of their final season together

Entering her fourth season as Duke’s coach, Joanne P. McCallie for the first time has a roster comprised almost entirely of players she recruited. Yet amid the talent carefully assembled to fit her particular philosophy of basketball, it’s the one who got away who will play the biggest part in attempting to guide the Blue Devils back to the Final Four for the first time since 2006.

(I wonder if the Texas-Duke history/writing link was on purpose. <g>)

 

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A Rarity in Women’s Basketball; Duke Leads the Way

Well, every so often Duke Women’s Basketball releases a question and answer style update on the life of a former player. Most (though not all) of these “Catching Up” pieces ask a question about the alumna’s spouse and kids. It’s a pretty heteronormative question and I always wondered if they only asked it of straight athletes (I sort of figured that they only asked it if they knew that person was in fact married, though I don’t know this for a fact). But what about a player who was in a committed same-sex partnership? Would Duke Women’s Basketball ask former players they knew to have a partner about this aspect of their lives, the same as they ask their straight counterparts? Or would it be a matter of reporting on the relationships of the straight athletes while simply not reporting on the “love lives” of any LGB-identified former players, thereby ignoring any same-sex relationships?

Well, I’m here to applaud Duke Women’s Basketball, GoDuke.com and Nicole Erickson!

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