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they must play the rest of their games with their shoes tied together…

@NDsidMasters: During pregame radio interview, Coach McGraw announced Taya Reimer has left @ndwbbfor balance of 2015-16 season for personal reasons.

But never fear, Muffet is here:

It’s been almost 15 years since the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team won its first — and so far only — national championship, and began a journey that has cemented the Irish as one of the most respected programs in the country. The number of All-Americans who don the blue and gold jersey has become constant. Loyal fans still pack into Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to cheer on their favorite squad. The wins continue to accumulate.

And leading the way is Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw, who still paces the sideline and stomps her high heels to get her team’s attention during games. But plenty has changed — and some hasn’t — in that decade and a half. Universal changes to women’s basketball itself and personal changes for McGraw that have molded her ability to coach on and off the court.

“I think overall there have been a lot of great changes to women’s basketball, and we’re heading in a really good direction,” McGraw says. “At least here we’re heading in a good direction.”

Of course, she probably felt a little different near the end of the #18 DePaul game, having watched her team squander a huge lead. Yes, they won, but this will not be a comfortable season… though it might be one of her best coaching jobs.

#1 UConn rolled through Colgate, and then used a series of runs to take down #11 Florida State. “Under-appreciated” will become an overused word when it comes to UConn’s Tuck – but I can’t imagine opposition coaches feel that way about her. Certainly, Auriemma doesn’t: ‘She’s pretty special’

Gotta love in-state games: Cyclone Comeback Topples No. 23 Iowa, 69-66

Speaking of in-state games, weird: Analyst: ‘Quite unusual’ for UK defectors to be behind bench

Perhaps television analyst Brenda VanLengen summed up best what many fans were thinking as they watched Kentucky top Louisville on Thursday night.

“This is quite a surprise honestly,” the ESPN play-by-play announcer said just before halftime as the cameras zoomed in on two specific fans among the 14,425 at Rupp Arena.

Didn’t distract the Wildcats, though, as they took it to struggling (Walz: Cards women have talent, not work ethic) Louisville, 72-54. Graham says that With big win over Louisville, Kentucky quiets any talk of a crisis in Lexington. I say, it’s still early in the season…

Speaking of the “defectors,” the Hilltoppers get a nice pickup: Former Kentucky guard Kyvin Goodin-Rogers transferring to Western Kentucky

Texas Tech is continuing its rise from the ashes, defeating the not-to-be-triffled-with Vandals, 78-62.

Sigh. BU is still 0-fer.

Ummm… things are NOT good in the land of the Hartford Hawks. BC humbled them, 62-28.

Good: Texas ramps up efforts to sell women’s team to fans

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How much does San Diego State miss Beth Burns.

You know, UNC Asheville has been pretty awful for a while… and I don’t want to jinx them, but…. they were 6-1 for the first time in 31 years. And now they’re 7-1. AND they have a junior named Knuckles. What’s not to love?

Winning is important, but so is handling the expectations of the coaching staff and not getting too caught up in the early season success.

“The thing I’m most proud of with this team is their commitment to the process,” Kirkpatrick said. “I really think they’ve bought into treating each game separately and getting better with every opportunity.”

Super congrats to Army’s Kelsey Minato. In their win over NJIT, she became the first Army women’s player to reach the 2,000-point milestone. The 8-1 Black Knights look particularly fierce this season – might they return to the Big Dance for the third time since that fateful 2005-06 season? (watch this space for more on that team.)

Speaking of Army….#5 Maryland is 10-0, but Syracuse is the only ranked team they’ve faced. Looking forward to see how they hold up against UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden Monday, December 28th. (This year, I have 189 folks joining me! Come visit sections 10, 11, 12 if you want to say hi. I’ll be the shy, quiet, demure one… not!)

“Ruff!” says Gonzaga to Dayton, “we should be the top-dog in the mid-majors.”

Banham gets some love from the Star Tribune: 

Banham was 107 points shy of the record when she collapsed at the end of a fast-break layup on Dec. 10, 2014, in Grand Forks, N.D. She had torn her ACL and suffered a partial tear of her MCL, forcing her to spend the next three months watching from the bench as the Gophers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

That gave her plenty of incentive for a rehabilitation period she described as the hardest thing she ever has done. Her doctors followed a strict, cautious timetable, prohibiting her from jogging until three months post-surgery and forbidding any basketball activities for seven months. As she healed, she worked with the Gophers’ new strength coach, Ralph Petrella, and began reshaping her diet.

Good to hear: Texas A&M’s Jordan Jones rebounding well after injury

Gary Blair’s plan early in the season was to lighten the load for senior point guard Jordan Jones, who was coming off knee surgery. But when the Texas A&M women’s basketball team played at 14th-ranked Duke in the second week of the season, the Aggie head coach leaned on Jones for 41 minutes to pull out a 72-66 overtime victory.

“She had played 15 minutes in her first game, 22 in her second game, and she just came in [at Duke] and kept going,” Blair said. “I did not want to play her that many minutes just coming off of that ACL, but she is the heart and soul of our team.”

BTW: That’s 700 for Mr. Blair.

Dishin & Swishin 12/10/15 Podcast: Miami leads group of upstarts changing the guard in the ACC

Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville are the teams we expect to be at the top of the ACC every year. In the last couple of years Florida State became a regular to the discussion too. This year? It is early, but Miami at 10-0, Virginia Tech at 8-1, and Boston College at 7-1 are crashing the party.

One of the reasons Missouri is 9-0: they generating more steals, fast-break chances

If the Lady Vols seeking to reverse tailspin on the road, their performance against a short-handed, shadow-of-its-former-self Wichita State can’t be seen as a good sign. Next up: Stanford (who must deal with Texas) followed by Oregon State. Seatbelt time, y’all.

Speaking of the Beavers: Weisner in a groove offensively

Jamie Weisner entered last Thursday’s game at Marquette hitting 60 percent of her 3-point attempts through the season’s first five games.

But Weisner, No. 7 Oregon State’s senior sharpshooter and leading scorer, for some reason couldn’t find the range against the quick and aggressive Golden Eagles.

She missed all seven of her attempts.

Earlier in her career, that may have led to a bit of frustration for Weisner.

But last Thursday, she wasn’t fazed.

The New York Times: A Life on the Move Molds a U.C.L.A. Basketball Star

Home for Nirra Fields these days is a room in a five-bedroom suite on the U.C.L.A. campus. It is not luxurious: Fields has decorated it with basketball and family pictures, and she shares a common space and a single bathroom with four other students. But the space is clean, and it is organized, and — this is most important — it is all hers.

After the route Fields took to get to it, that is enough.

Ah, high school:

Louisiana: Mothers of Salmen High School girls basketball players who were kicked off team make emotional appeal to School Board

Pittsburgh: West Jefferson Hills school board retains controversial girls basketball coach

Mississippi: Parent puts girls basketball coach in hospital

Seattle: Review of Bishop Blanchet football, girls basketball confirms recruiting violations, self-imposed penalties

Not high school:

Hello, Nancy Lieberman: Sacramento Kings assistant coach nails backward one-handed half-court shot

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… a hard working, fast-paced, everyone plays kinda of team (and no Isiah Thomas in the house), but i know better than to trust early W returns. Yes, the win vs. the Dream was against a team with its full compliment of players, but the same cannot be said for the W’s v. Phoenix and Indy.

That being said, Tina is playing like she gives a hoot about basketball, Essence is playing like her body is 100%, and Boyd is bringing a Becky-esque energy to the floor. And we’re undefeated at home. Can’t ask or much more than that…except, maybe, Piph returning early and healthy.

The Dream – everyone’s “with caveats” anointed Eastern champ stumbled badly out of the gate. They seemed to have regained their footing, coming away with a tough win over the Mystics, who had been galloping out of the gates.

Speaking of galloping, how about the Connecticut Sun? Most folks didn’t think they even had a horse in the race!

Storm warnings in Seattle, as Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis discover just how hard it is to adjust to the WNBA’s skill level and pace.

Catch and Shavonte are working herself back into both sides of the lineup and Indiana is happy.

It’s not easy being Cardinal: Former Stanford players get WNBA season off to rough start

For an overview on the season so far, check out Jeff House in da house. 

Scatter shooting around the W, after the opening weekend of games, and there were a few games that catch the eye and make me say, “Hmmmm.”

Pitt’s McConnell-Serio embraces new rules for women’s basketballGary Blair Reacts To NCAA Women’s Basketball Rule Changes  and Mike Strange: Men’s basketball should be watching women’srule changes

If there’s a wall, build around it: Muslim Girls Design Their Own Culturally Appropriate Basketball Uniforms

WBHOF: 

When Door Opened For Women’s League, Lisa Leslie Walked Through It

Lisa Leslie, former OSU coach Kurt Budke among inductees into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

On the day before the Fever honor Lauren, she’s Honored By Indiana Basketball Hall Of Fame

A woman who never even met the late Lauren Hill was so touched by her story that she donated an engraved brick in her name to the the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The brick reads: “Lauren Hill: Hero.”

Swoop, there it goes: Nike (NKE) Becomes Exclusive Oncourt Apparel Provider for the NBA, WNBA

Long-term NCAA planning: 

The pre-season WNIT field is set.

Not yet set is the Maggie Dixon Classic at MSG… but rumors include Kentucky and UConn. Maybe we can break 180 WHB tixs??

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There’s a vocal constituency that’s mighty cranky about coach McCallie’s coaching and post-game style. One can only imagine what they’ll say now that #16 Duke has lost three in a row. This time Georgia Tech was the topple-er, beating Duke for the first time since February,  1994.

For what it’s worth, if Duke can’t handle #15 North Carolina at home on March 1, they will match the four-loss streak that ended the ’93-94 season. Perhaps the Blue Devils can take some comfort in the fact that UNC barely escaped Virginia – needing a last-second putback to avoid overtime.

Speaking of upsets – HUGE win for St. Peter’s. Patty Coyle’s team took down Marist, 66-58.

Yes, I’m calling this an upset: Wake Forest got its second ACC win by defeating Miami, 60-59 on freshman Amber Campbell‘s second buzzer-beater of the season.

#19 Stanford traipsed into Corvallis and said, “No, #7 Beavers, thou shalt not take down this Tree and use it as a torch. Cardinal win, 69-58, handing Oregon State their first home loss this season. BTW, missed this tidbit: OSU’s current total of 25 wins in the most in school history.

Just when you think Gary Blair’s got his team figured outMizzou’s Maddie Stock nails a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 70-69 win over #12 Texas A&M.

Georgia showed a little more fight, but Tennessee prevailed, 70-59. The loss of Izzy seems to have made the Ledger’s Dave Link a little anxious: Lady Vols seem to be slipping off national stage

Speaking of fight: let’s talk Richmond battling back to take #22 Georgetown into OT. The Spiders ran out of steam, though, and were outscored 14-2 in the extra five. Colonials win, 81-69.

And still speaking of fight – ya, Wisconsin is 8-19, but these last few games they’ve proven to be a tough out. #17 Iowa escapes, 78-74. That’s the 300th career win for coach Bluder.

Glad Debbie wasn’t on hand to call this one:#13 Kentucky was just able to keep ahead of Arkansas, 56-51. 

I’m guessing Maryland got a bit more of a fight than expected from Indiana, but the Terps prevailed, 83-72, earning their 20th straight win as Laurin Mincy scored 28pts, a career high.

Florida State made sure North Carolina State wouldn’t repeat their upset ways. In front of the largest home crowd in four years, it was the Seminoles over the Wolfpack, by 20. Their 26 regular season wins ties the school record. One more game to break it: season finale at Miami.

Both coach Frese and Semrau are on the latest Dishin and Swishin podcast.

In the Sun Belt, Arkansas Little-Rock, Arkansas State and Troy kept rollin’.

So did #2 South Carolina.

So did #4 Notre Dame, who shot a breathtaking 62% against Pittsburgh. Mechelle has a little something on The Jewell:

In our best Marlon Brando voice, we’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Settle into your seats, indulge in some popcorn … and read about the Jewell Loyd movie marathon experience. Hope you don’t mind if the line between film hero and villain is sometimes a little ambiguous.

“‘The Godfather’ is kinda our family movie,” Loyd, the Notre Dame junior guard, said of her parents, older brother and herself. “I like the concept of family, loyalty and getting the job done.”

Then Loyd laughed and added, “Obviously, we’re not going to be beating anyone up or anything.”

Loyd took part in a bit of “reel talk” recently at espnW’s request, as she’s a film, television and theater major at Notre Dame.

Jewell’s coach talks about Fighting Through February.

“February is a grind,” McGraw said before a recent home game at Purcell Pavilion. “You’re ready for the tournaments to begin, you want to see where you’re going to finish and what the seeds are going to look like, but you know you have to get through February to get to March.”

#20 Rutgers’ return to anemic offense and inability to defend doomed them against #25 Northwestern, 80-60. Kinda makes ya wonder, can ya justify C. Vivian Stringer making $1.6M in 2014?

Of note: the Knights’ loss, combined with Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska on Tuesday, means that Ohio State’s 88-70 win over Penn State moves the Buckeyes up into fourth place in the B10 standings. Seems like the Ohio State is not interested in waiting till next year to be good.

You know what’s notable about Tom Keegan’s column, End nearing for Bonnie Henrickson? The thoughtful, informed comments.

Ah, the joys of Senior Night and a reviving program: Making her first start of the season, senior Teneka Whittaker set career highs with 16 points and eight rebounds to help Rhode Island to a 68-53 win over St. Louis. With the victory, Rhode Island has clinched at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2003-04.

Speaking of reviving: Hello, Hawai’i! Big West champs. First time in 21 years. Nice job, third-year coach Beeman.

Not only has #24 Cal inched its way back in to the rankings, but their 74-59 victory over Oregon gave coach Lindsay Gottlieb her 100th win at Cal. She’s the quickest to the milestone in program history.

This is nice news to read on a cold February day: Lauren Hill makes it through full season despite tumor

The Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team held its postseason banquet in a hospital room warmed by Lauren Hill’s smile.

The 19-year-old freshman made it through a full season while raising more than $1.3 million for research into the type of brain tumor that will likely end her life. She’s occasionally hospitalized for treatment now, but still holding to each day as tightly as she can and urging others to appreciate their time together.

A little W news from Lois Elfman: Epiphanny Prince returning to her Brooklyn roots

“To be able to come home and try to win the championship with my home team and do it in front of my family and friends is very exciting for me,” said Prince, 27, who made her Madison Square Garden debut at age 12, playing a halftime exhibition at a Knicks game, and won four PSAL titles with the Murry Bergtraum Lady Blazers. She’s played five seasons with the Chicago Sky, which went to the WNBA Finals last year.

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So, I’d posit that upsets in the Sweet Sixteen are less likely, especially if you’ve had upsets in the 32, simply because the disparity in talent (on the court – height and speed in particular) is still wonky in the women’s game. But, that didn’t stop Maryland and North Carolina. And BYU sure gave it a shot.

BYU was composed and confident and UConn was out of sorts in the first half but, eventually, the Huskies got their act together and dismissed the Cougars, 70-51.

The Terps looked as if they belonged and Alyssa was dominant. Tennessee was unimaginative on defense and single-minded on offense. The result? The #1 Vols go down, 73-62, and Maryland moves on.

The Carolinas engaged in a messy, physical game. The Gamecocks couldn’t pull it together in the last few minutes, and so the most questioned #1 seed goes home, and North Caroline keeps on dancin’.

While the Tar Heels battled, Stanford breezed. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas was stifled by a Cardinal team that was hitting on all cylinders. Chiney is the engine that’s making Stanford roar. Lions go down, 82-57.

Speaking of engines, Shoni demonstrated her growth over the last four years, playing with what Graham called “poise and efficiency.” (My friend Jeff LOVED being court side for the game, listening to Walz coach.) It also guaranteed her one more home game as Louisville overwhelmed a short-handed, but game, LSU, 73-47.

Live by the three, die by the three” met “We don’t take no stinkin’ threes” — but it was the Aggies defense that won them the game. DePaul’s high power offense never got going, and TAMU cruised, 84-65.

BTW: Kudos the the Nebraska faithful. They’ve turned out to support women’s basketball.

Saturday’s announced attendance for the two Sweet 16 games was 9,585, highest in this year’s NCAA women’s tournament. It obviously helps to have top-ranked Connecticut in town. Folks no doubt were curious to get a close look at the Huskies (A bit underwhelming Saturday, were they not?)

The strong attendance, though, also is a reflection of how well this state supports women’s basketball and women’s athletics in general, as Darnell Dickson points out in his Sunday column.

Baylor was not interested in making the game interesting and neither, it seemed, was Kentucky. Bears over the Wildcats, 90-72, and we get more chances to admire Sims in action.

Notre Dame put the pedal to the metal in the first half, and kept the Cowgirls corralled in the second, winning 89-72. The Irish are looking balanced and fierce.

Mechelle writes: Regional finalists truly elite group – Field includes ACC trio; seven of eight teams have won an NCAA title

Monday on ESPN (Elite Eight coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET), unbeaten Notre Dame and Connecticut will try to secure their tickets to Nashville. The Irish are seeking their fourth consecutive Final Four berth, UConn its seventh in a row.

Their challengers are both recent champions. At Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish take on No. 2 seed Baylor (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) in the only regional where the top two seeds made it to the final. The Lady Bears won the 2012 national championship, and were a good pick to repeat last year before being upset by Louisville.

The Huskies meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) in Lincoln, Neb. The Aggies won the 2011 title, but like Baylor the subsequent year, they did not beat UConn in the Final Four. In both 2011 and ’12, Notre Dame took out the Huskies in the national semifinals before falling in the final.

From Charlie:

Getting ahead: Previewing Baylor vs. Notre Dame

Only two teams with worse seeds won games in the Notre Dame Regional to this point, so it no surprise that No. 1 seed Notre Dame and second-seeded Baylor meet Monday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) with a trip to Nashville and the Final Four at stake.

The game features two great offenses, three of the best players in the country in Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd, and programs that have combined for five Final Fours appearances since 2010, including a meeting in the 2012 national championship game.

Here are five observations heading into what could be the most explosive of all the Elite Eight games:

More on the battle of the Gold and Green:

From the AP: Odyssey Sims tries to reach one last Final Four with Baylor Lady Bears

Chris Goff, Journal Gazette: Irish will test ways to control Baylor’s superstar and Irish fans will bid adieu to 3 seniors

Curt Rallo continues a theme: Notre Dame women’s team targets Baylor point guard

I think that (Sims) creates so many problems for you because when she attacks and gets in the lane, you focus on her, which is what a lot of people did last year with Skylar (Diggins),” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the problem is that you focus on her and you forget about the other people and they put themselves in great positions to score.”

Curt also mentions that Payback is low on Notre Dame’s priorities

Notre Dame is 0-4 all-time against Baylor, the team standing between the Irish and a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Bears, featuring 6-foot-8 national Player of the Year Brittney Griner, beat Notre Dame 80-61 in the 2012 national championship game. Then on Dec. 5, 2012, Baylor beat the Irish, 73-61, the last time Notre Dame has walked off its home court on the short side of the scoreboard.

Reaching the Final Four is the main task on Monday night, but the Irish are trying to channel the energy that a payback game provides into the right direction.

As UConn prepares for Texas A&M, Mechelle writes: Discipline key to UConn’s success

… this year isn’t the first time that a great Huskies team didn’t have all that much depth. It’s been the case before, and the hope of forcing UConn starters to the bench with foul trouble has been floated in the past. It’s a wish by opponents that almost never gets fulfilled.

The Huskies are trained very rigorously not to foul. That takes good athleticism, yes. But it’s just as much about playing smart and — you guessed it — being disciplined.

“The minute you smack somebody, all of your hard work is negated,” Auriemma said in regard to playing solid defense, only to end up sending a foe to the line with a mistake out of bad judgment or frustration. “After a while, they understand that, ‘If I want to stay in the game, I can’t foul.’

TAMU is hoping for for one magic night against undefeated UConn

“They’ve got five future WNBA first-round choices in their starting lineup. That’s how good they are,” Blair said Sunday. “But for 40 minutes Monday night, why not? Why not? … I like my team, I like our chances.”

There’s more (thanks Nan!):

Low anxiety: UConn women don’t feel Final Four pressure, Post
UConn women’s game day: Monday night vs. Texas A&M, Post
UConn Offers Glimpse Of Future As It Contemplates Present Vs. A&M, Courant
UConn vs. Texas A&M, Courant
Chris Dailey, Quizmaster, Keeps Team Engaged, Courant
UConn’s Jefferson, Texas A&M’s Jones excited to face off in Elite 8, Register
Texas A&M assistant Bob Starkey helped hand UConn its last loss in Elite 8, Register
UConn women face Texas A&M in Elite Eight tonight, Day
KML is keeping the art of shooting alive, Day
UConn to play A&M for a shot at the Final Four, Daily Campus
Perfect UConn looms in Elite 8, Texas A&M The Battalion
A&M looks to play the role of spoiler against 37-0 UConn, AggieSports.com
They’ve been known to do the impossible, but beating UConn will be tougher, AggieSports.com

Charlie is Looking ahead: Louisville vs. Maryland preview

Many felt Louisville was underseeded at No. 3 and now the Cardinals, after easily disposing of LSU on Sunday, have reached the precipice of a second straight Final Four anyway. On Tuesday, they get that chance at home at the KFC Yum! Center against No. 4 seed Maryland (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

The Terps, who haven’t been to the Final Four since winning a national championship in 2006, had little trouble with No. 1 seed Tennessee in their regional semifinal.

Here are five observations of the two teams in what sets up to be an evenly matched Elite Eight contest:

Check out espnW’s Elite Eight picks.

 

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Yes, I’ll admit it — I woke up, had a cup of coffee, and “Basketball Jones!” popped into my head.

Nate has 2014 his NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 predictions: DePaul, North Carolina, Texas A&M are teams to watch

While I previewed the Sweet 16 by looking at a few of the top WNBA prospects still playing, I threw out a few questions to other bloggers around SB Nation who cover women’s basketball. Today we begin with a set of questions I asked the writers who have been covering the tournament for Swish Appeal.

From Mechelle: Storylines abound in Sweet 16 – Regional semifinals tip off on ESPN at noon ET Saturday in the Notre Dame region

Graham is Previewing a very Sweet 16

Welcome to the tournament within the tournament, the roped-off section of the postseason club that is the Sweet 16.

Getting to the tournament in the first place is a big deal. Just as it’s not easy to get to base camp on Mount Everest, it’s not easy to get to the starting line of the NCAA tournament. And once there, it only gets more difficult with each step.

Reaching the second week, when the basketball summit really starts to come clearly into view, is a big deal.

Look at the math.

Wondering who the experts pick? Click here.

Lincoln Bracket: Mechelle’s got the Lincoln Regional breakdown

Yup. Hosting is a crap shoot – just ask Nebraska (or Chattanooga). They’re not playing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to bring it. Connie Yori went all Jody Conradt on us.

In 1985, when the Longhorns were hosting the Final Four, they were huge favorites. But, they were upset (even though that doesn’t happen in women’s basketball) on the way to the Championship. Down, but not out, Jody put all her efforts into getting folks out to the games — and notched the first F4 sell out.

Now it’s the Huskers’ turn: For good of NU, Yori hopes UConn draws big crowds and Why Connie Yori Wants NU Fans to Pack PBA

“Because UConn doesn’t play in the Midwest very often, so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to see perhaps the best women’s program of all time,” Yori said before adding: “This UConn team also might be one of the best, if not the best, college women’s team of all-time. They’re phenomenal. Nebraska fans wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like this when they can see one of the greatest teams of all time playing in their own backyard. You don’t have to go to the Final Four in Nashville. All you have to do is buy a ticket and head straight down to the Haymarket.”

So… About those games:

Huskies v. Cougars

Game day: No. 1 seed UConn women vs. No. 12 BYU,
BYU women at a glance
BYU looks to N.C. State men’s championship team for motivation vs. UConn
Cougars, 6-7 Jennifer Hamson Defy Odds Advancing To Meet Huskies
Cinderella story inspires Bailey, BYU

There are players who have to search the nation and scour the Internet to find the inspiration needed to lead their teams to improbable March Madness upsets.

Brigham Young junior forward Morgan Bailey did not have any such issues.

As luck would have it, her uncle is Thurl Bailey, one of the stars of a North Carolina State team which recorded perhaps the most improbable national championship run in college basketball history. While Thurl Bailey was not part of the Brigham Young traveling party to Lincoln for Saturday’s regional semifinals, he did reach out to his beloved niece.

Will BYU, Hamson block Huskies’ path?
Mike DiMauro: BYU’s approach against UConn women … on any given night
BYU women’s basketball team enjoying sudden attention in Sweet 16
Cougars embracing, relishing underdog role vs. top seed UConn

NCAA would change sked for BYU and BYU will attend Sunday press conferences, but not play or practice

Stewie is coming of age

She came bounding out of practice Friday, down the tunnel and through the curtain at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This is Stewie. Happy. Giddy. Dare we even suggest innocent?

This is Stewie. The same kid who exited the court for the final time this season at Gampel Pavilion earlier this week alongside Stefanie Dolson, saluting the crowd with the royal wave, the Queen of England in Nikes, the slight hand twist accompanied by the 50,000-watt smile.

This is Stewie.

Could this be the same kid her coach was yelling at earlier this season for being stubborn? Stubborn. Stewie? C’mon. This is Ms. Sunny Disposition. Stubborn?

Steven M. Sipple: Auriemma proves a master at his calling, Lincoln Journal Star

Oh, he retains plenty of fire. But he doesn’t allow a subpar game, or a subpar half, to send him off the rails like he might have done when he took over a foundering UConn program in 1985.

“You tend to view things more big-picture as opposed to reacting to what’s going on in front of you right now,” he said. “I think that helps the players, too, if you’re kind of like, ‘We’ll be all right. …'”

He also noted the importance of celebrating great plays and great games, but moving forward quickly.

Never too high, never too low.

He paused for a few seconds.

“That’s just the long way of saying I’m too old to give a damn about what’s going on, and I have no control over it,” he said with a chuckle.

Slideshow: Pursuit of Perfection, ESPN

Aggies v Blue Demons:

Texas A&M women prepare for DePaul sharpshooters

Texas A&M’s Gary Blair sounded more like a carnival barker than coach as he discussed his team’s matchup with DePaul on Saturday in the NCAA women’s regional semifinals.

“Our game against DePaul will be one of the most entertaining games you’ve ever seen,” Blair said, adding that it would be like a “ping-pong match.”

Aggies back in ‘flow,’ strive for Elite Eight

Texas A&M women’s basketball team feeling elite going into Sweet 16 matchup against DePaul

Texas A&M women’s basketball team learning from watching other teams

DePaul women’s basketball playing their ‘best ball of the season’ going into Sweet Sixteen

Going into their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2011, DePaul women’s basketball continues to feed off of the momentum from their upset win against Duke while preparing to play Texas A&M.

“The win (over Duke) was huge for our program…definitely a momentum-builder,” sophomore Chanise Jenkins said. “It gives us tons of confidence going into the next game.”

Senior Jasmine Penny said the win meant a lot to her. With no plans to play after graduation, Penny has no idea when she will play her final game as a Blue Demon.

“It seems like we’re always the underdog and it was so amazing to see us come out and fight the way we did,” Penny said.

DePaul women ride fast-paced offense into Sweet 16 – Doug Bruno’s run-and-gun style carries risk but has high reward

Bruno’s Blue Demons not just a run-and-gun team

With Rogowski’s shooting, DePaul aiming high

‘(Texas A&M) is a business trip’ said Coach Doug Bruno of DePaul women’s basketball

DePaul and Texas A&M Tangle on Saturday in the Sweet 16

CESSNA: With UConn at this regional, second place not so bad

It’s un-American to strive to be second best, but when the 64-team bracket for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament was unveiled, it was a given Connecticut would advance to the Final Flour from the Lincoln Regional.
The only thing left to settle was who would be second. It’s not a defeatist outlook — it’s reality.

Notre Dame Regional breakdown

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw can’t stand the idea of having regionals at home sites. It doesn’t make for a truly fair tournament, she says. She’s right.

But the way the Irish have played this season, the fact that Notre Dame is hosting a regional is hardly the reason they are favored to go to the Women’s Final Four again. Rather, it’s that this Irish team — despite the loss of Skylar Diggins — is an undefeated powerhouse no matter where it is playing.

Admittedly, so is that other former Big East giant on the other side of the bracket. While UConn travels to Lincoln, Neb., for what appears a not-very-challenging regional, Notre Dame is home, where the Irish have lost just two games over the past three seasons.

Irish v. Cowgirls:

Irish’s McGraw: Notre Dame has unfair advantage or  is it that Notre Dame enjoys “comfort zone” of home court advantage in NCAA tournament. Either way, Berry Tramel is grumpy about it.

Players know their roles for unbeaten Notre Dame women’s basketball team

Irish won’t settle; want to improve

Notre Dame excited to play Oklahoma State at home

Martin leads Cowgirls into Sweet 16

Oklahoma State’s Brittney Martin and her teammates are in the NCAA Sweet 16 but will have to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame on the Irish’s home court. Pretty tough assignment for the No. 5 seed, right?

Sure. But, hey, Martin is a pretty tough kid. She was only about a month into her first college basketball season when she got a tooth knocked out.

She dove for a loose ball against Stephen F. Austin in early December 2012. One of the SFA players lost her balance and fell on Martin, whose face went into the floor.

“The initial hit was not painful; it kind of felt like if you bend a piece of licorice, maybe,” Martin said. “Then I felt my mouth, and my teeth were in my hand. So …”

Martin then smiled and pointed to her mouth.

Expect Tiffany Bias back in Cowgirls’ lineup vs. Notre Dame – OSU arrived in Stillwater about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 8, Bias was in the training room getting treatment on an injured ankle.

Cowgirls have something to lose against Notre Dame

Bears v. Wildcats:

Five things to know about Baylor vs. Kentucky

Kentucky, Baylor set for rematch of 4-OT thriller

The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball.

Neither coach expects another four-overtime thriller today in the Sweet 16. Still, both are looking forward to another entertaining matchup with a berth in the regional finals on the line.

Kentucky, Baylor women on edge for rematch of December’s ‘instant classic’

Kentucky’s Goss’ quest for perfection paying off

Kentucky not sure it can slow Baylor scoring machine Sims

Homer’s The Odyssey was an epic adventure filled with twists and turns.

So is any attempt to guard Baylor’s Odyssey.

In the epic adventure that was Kentucky’s four-overtime victory over the Bears in December, the Cats threw four different defenders at Odyssey Sims.

Kentucky could have used about six more. In the losing effort, Baylor’s senior guard scored 47 points.

Another sweet season for Sims and Baylor women

Odyssey Sims and Baylor are having another sweet season.

The Lady Bears have made it to the third round of the NCAA women’s tournament for the sixth year in a row. But there are still surely plenty of people surprised to see them back in the Sweet 16 this year.

Baylor women’s basketball team tops list of No. 1s

Looking ahead?

Graham has the Louisville Regional breakdown

Michelle Smith has the Stanford Regional breakdown South Carolina is the top seed, but will Stanford rediscover its Maples magic?

She adds: Ruef used to juggling multiple roles – Stanford senior has started 33 of 34 games and worked as an engineering intern

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UConn’s Morgan Tuck To Have Surgery, out for season, leaving the Huskies with 8 scholarship players for the rest of the season. (7 for their next game: Banks is out with an ankle sprain.)

You can hear coaches game planning: “What we need to do is get them into foul trouble.” True, but not as easy as it sounds. UConn has adjusted nicely to the new rules, especially considering the fierce defense they play. Things could get interesting in the paint!

Speaking of interesting:

Gaels are now 9-0 in the MAAC. Their biggest threats the rest of the (conference) season lurks at the end of their schedule: Quinnipiac and Marist.

As mentioned, big win for Cynthia Cooper as USC takes down #19 California. (Somebody stop Ariya Crook, writes Nick Kranz) With some nice recruits coming in next year, things are looking good for the Trojan program.

Staying with the Pac 12, Oregon surprised Washington State and earned their first conference win.

The #14 Sun Devils needed free throws to escape the Utes and, in the battle of great names (Nyingifa v Ogwumike), it was close in the first half but #4 Stanford pulled away in the second for a 17pt win over UCLA.

In the Battle of CAA Unbeatens, JMU returns to the Beast of the CAA role with 74-47 win over Drexel.

Upcoming games of interest:

Sunday brings us a little SEC “legit” road test: #10 South Carolina v. #16 Vanderbilt (2pm ESPN2) followed by #11 Tennessee v. #17 Texas A&M at 4pm. BTW, Dave’s podcast asks: #WhyNotVandy? Melanie Balcomb & Vanderbilt host South Carolina in a battle of SEC upstarts.

“Big Monday” means USC v. Stanford for the top spot in the Pac 12. Which means  Tina Thompson and Candice Wiggins will do a little Twitter ‘Smack Talk’

From Todd Carton: Can the Terps stop the Irish Invasion?

Glenn Logan worries about Kentucky:

I hate to say it, but right now, the women’s Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is just not very good. They are shooting the ball extremely poorly, and the object of the game of basketball, or at least one of the two main ones, is to put the ball into the basket. Kentucky is defending well enough to win, but when they simply cannot score.

Better, but a lot of ground to be made up: Texas women’s basketball still struggling to reinvigorate fan base – Over past decade, average home attendance has declined by half

Spotlight #1: Dunbar’s Rowe poised to become Middle Tennessee’s all-time scoring leader

Also the school’s all-time rebound leader, Rowe is averaging 22.2 points and 11.7 rebounds this season. She has 16 double-doubles, including 10 in a row, and a school-record 69 in her career.

“I’m not the fanciest, I can’t do the best moves, not the quickest, can’t jump the highest. But I’m just in a system that all five people on the court know what to do, and we work so well together.”

Spotlight #2: UNC’s Diamond DeShields dares to dream

UNC’s leading scorer can splice two defenders, perform pirouettes on her way to the basket, make passes that some point guards would never dare try to make. When she makes a routine play by her standards, a highlight reel, “did-you-see-that?!” play by layman’s standards, DeShields, 18, simply smiles, a cheek-to-cheek glow that lifts her 6-foot-1-inch body off the hard court.

“It can make me very happy,” DeShields said of basketball, “but it can also make me really mad.”

Spotlight #3: Jersey girl Mabrey boosts Irish

In WNBA land, Nate has: 2013 Tulsa Shock season review: What kind of talent did Fred Williams inherit?

In the “Please Buy The Sparks” vein, it’s James Bowman with Sparks Watch Day 24: The Vetting Process

SPOILER ALERT!!! That’s 900 wins for Bentley’s Barb Stevens. BTW, the Falcons are undefeated this season, and sit atop the DII poll.

Up next, Jim Foster going for #800.

Don’t have Netflix? Check this out! “Off The Rez,” the documentary about Louisville’s Shoni and Jude Schimmel from the Umatilla reservation, will finally be available for download TODAY, Jan 24, on iTunes and VOD platforms.

Great excuse to remind you of more good stuff (though it’s old): Eight Native Basketball Players You Need to Know Better: Cliff Johns the first Native American to play for legendary NCAA coach Lute Olsen at the University of Arizona; Kenny Dobbs, the all-universe dunking star; University of Kansas and WNBA star guard Angel Goodrich; Hall-of-Famer Reyneldi Becenti who was the first Native American to play in the WNBA; Two-time Continental Basketball Association champion with the Yakama Sun Kings Richard Dionne; GinaMarie Scarpa, cofounder of the Native American Basketball Invitational basketball tournament.

And did you catch this piece from Graham? Green Bay’s Tesha Buck embraces heritage

To understand her is to understand the universality of a father’s influence on a daughter. Her struggles with separation from what was familiar are the same as those of freshmen across the country. So, too, her ability to eventually adapt and thrive in that new setting. It is a story of someone who aspires to live up to the words tattooed above an ink basketball on her torso: Strong Hearted Woman.

To understand why that is only part of the story is to understand that “Strong Hearted Woman” is merely a translation of the words inscribed permanently on her skin. The words themselves are written in the Dakota language. The language of those who came before her. Of where she comes from. A language and a history rarely represented on Division I basketball courts.

Back in November, Brent Cahwe’s 10 Native American Basketball Players to watch this College Basketball season included Tesha and also named Lakota Beatty, Oklahoma State; Keli Warrior, Kansas; Abby Scott, New Mexico State; and Shauna Long, Lamar University.

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basketball “stuff,” but it is cool how basketball can distract you from “stuff.”

So, I did manage to catch my first live Lib game of the season last Sunday. Thoughts:

  • Shout out to Hasim, the Lib’s media person, for being so welcoming. (RU! RU!)
  • It’s REEEEALLY easy to get lost in the bowels of the Rock.
  • Yes, back in the day there WAS a lot of media at Lib games. Not so much now. But it still was heartening to see some familiar (stubborn) faces doing what they want to do – and love to do – in service of the game and players.
  • Speaking of someone who loves to do what she does: lovely chatting with coach Coyle. She knows next year will be a challenge, but is excited to be in the MAAC.
  • The best part of going to the game was seeing the “regulars” in the stands. And shouting “REEEEFFFFFFFF SCHOOOOOOOL!”
  • The game: The ESPN headline credits Cappie with the win over the Dream, but really it was Mini Mi and the Old Lady. Watching the 39-year-old Katie Smith dog Angel all game was a lesson in ferocity and stubbornness. Yes, Angel got her points, but on 4-16 shooting.
  • What about Mini Mi? Well, in the season preview, coach Bill stated he wanted “strong-minded women that want to be themselves, but want to play within the structure, and want to know where they stand every minute of every day.” Leilani Mitchell sure as heck knew where she stood at camp: “In front of everyone he said, ‘I don’t like small guards.'” Mitchell is generously listed as 5’5″. “It’s hard when your coach doesn’t have confidence in you.” Her response? Play with a sense of freedom and abandon. She made the team (to the surprise of some) and, while she only made one basket Sunday (a key 3), it was everything else she did that made an impression: 7 rebounds, 3 steals and +13. Which earned her praise from her not-short coach. And the fans.
  • Cappie looked outta sorts in the first half, her shots all coming up short, as if she had no legs. And then something clicked in the second half. After the game coach Laimbeer spoke about her leading by being part of the offense, “not just jacking up shots.” So I started wondering about her transition to working under a Laimbeer-esque coaching style and how that will impact her attitude and game-sense.
  • The rooks did good. Honestly, was there EVER a time when you could say, “The Lib have three rookies on the floor” and not have it because the game was outta reach? Favorite moment: Angel and Bone arm wrasslin’ each other for the ball. Bone does not let go, and Angel gets in to her face a bit, as if she believes a rookie should release control to an All-Star. Yap, yap, yap like my miniature Dachshund used to do at our bigger Kerry Blue. Bone just stood there, patiently, until her teammates stepped between the twosome.
  • Yes, it’s fun to watch the Dream get all emotional. But, while it’s tempting to draw a conclusion about their “chemistry,” don’t get fooled. It works for them. “That’s how they’ve always been,” said Smith post-game. The only thing “bad” I can see about Atlanta folks barking at each other or the refs is when they use their barking as an excuse not to get back on defense.

Speaking of Smith, the fabulous Jim Massie catches up: Former Buckeye Smith, 39, still climbing upward

Check in with L’Alien for more info on this past week’s games, like:  Charles dominates ice cold Fever

Check this week’s Top Plays. (Mark, you’d a very poor inspirational speaker…)

Other stuff:

Ah, yes, INJURIES!!! John Altavilla writes: Short WNBA Rosters Are A Problem For Sun, Other Teams. On a related note, Pilight wonders: Is there enough talent for WNBA expansion? The Rebkellians discuss.

Kwai Chan at the Meniscus: WNBA 2013: One year, big difference for the Washington Mystics

There is no jumping or shouting in the Verizon Center…yet.  But what a difference a year makes for the Washington Mystics, who defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 85-80.

Mike Thibault, who has the most wins of any active coach with 209-135 (.608) record in the last 10 years, is the new head coach of the Mystics.  Eight of the 12 players on the 2012 roster are gone, and have been replaced by four rookies and three veterans.  With these changes, one would think that just getting a team on the floor would be an accomplishment in itself.

Not so much fun being in Indiana these days: Fever not feeling, looking like champions – Defending WNBA titlists are off to 1-4 start, worst 5-game start since 2001

Michelle says: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

It’s more than two hours before tipoff at U.S. Airways Center on Memorial Day, and a Phoenix Mercury staff member is erecting a banner of Brittney Griner that shows the exact physical dimensions of her height and wingspan and the size of her hands and feet.

Immediately after he is done, a group of kids rush over and put their hands and feet up against the banner to compare.

The big girl is a big deal here.

From Media Planet:  WOMEN IN SPORTS: NO LONGER ON THE SIDELINES: Title IX opened the gates for female athletes—a halo effect empowered women to own, manage and work in the once male-dominated industry.

Case in point: Laura Gentile, espnW vice president, launched the digital initiative as a voice for women who love sports. “One of the best parts of starting this business was connecting women in sports to discuss issues and work together. Women have made a lot of strides,” she adds, ticking off names including WNBA’s president Laurel Richie and USA Today’s Christine Brennan. 

No Sancho? Williams is going to change things up a bit.

Prince leaves Chicago. Again.

No Ice, Ice Baby Tonight: From Odeen Domingo:#WNBA suspends @phoenixmercury Candice Dupree 1 game for making contact w/ game official Sat. Will not play tonight vs @LA_Sparks cc: @WNBA

All Star Voting Time! Who do YOU think deserves a $5000 bonus?

So what did you think of the Complaint Cam… I mean Borg Cam … I mean I Need my Dramamine Cam… I mean Ref Cam? WNBA debuts live high-definition ‘Ref Cam’. A ref speaks. And this: WNBA successfully debuts ref cam in Indy.

Nate keeps his promise: 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year watch list: Weighing scoring & value added in the post-Bonner era

After a three year run of Sixth Woman dominance (it’s difficult to argue that anyone was snubbed in the three years she won the award), Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the award last season in familiar fashion in the world of basketball awards: she had among the highest scoring averages of any reserve in the league on a team that won its conference.

However in a year in which Bonner is starting (for now?) and Montgomery will miss significant time due to injury (WNBA voters tend not to give awards to players who missed significant time, which is fair in 34-game season), there is a chance the award will go to someone who isn’t quite a dynamic scorer.

In college news:

Swish has Gary Blair, Jim Foster reflecting on their careers at induction ceremony and some Hall of Fame interviews: Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jennifer Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks:

Who had the greatest influence on Wicks?

“When I was a professional in Europe, players I would see, the way they held themselves, the pride that they had, the way that they played in total obscurity most of the time, I modeled myself after them. Along the way I would find someone who had a quality I really admired and I would try and emulate them.”

Coming back from an ouch: CU Buffs’ Rachel Hargis healing after MCL tear

Bye: Beckie Francis out as Oakland women’s basketball coach and Mines, women’s basketball coach Felderman part ways

Ooops: NCAA bans UNO men’s and women’s basketball from 2013-14 postseason

Yikes: Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team loses four players – Starter Abdul-Qaadir off to Indiana State as grad transfer

Wow! Congrats! Meia Daniels named new HPU women’s basketball coach

“We are pleased to be able to promote Meia Daniels to our head coaching position as well as our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA),” said Howard Payne Director of Athletics Mike Jones. “She has been mentored by two outstanding coaches in Chris Kielsmeier and Josh Prock and was a great collegiate player. She knows how to win and how hard you have to work to be successful at this level. These experiences will serve her well as she enters this new phase of her career.”

As a player, Daniels was 109-12 over four seasons leading the Lady Jackets to three American Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA III national tournament appearances and a NCAA III National Championship in 2008. A 2008 graduate of Howard Payne, Daniels holds numerous HPU and ASC records and is second in career scoring at Howard Payne with 2,118 points.

Some of you may remember Howard Payne’s run to perfection in 2008 because of the WHB or from this piece.

From Storming the Floor:

“After the incredible, unprecedented run through the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Umatilla, led the Louisville Cardinals on, ICTMN reached out to some of the most amazing and historically important Native hoops players to get their thoughts on the state of Native basketball, how to succeed in life and where they’re headed next—including from the Sisters themselves. “Let’s give them something to talk about!,” we promised. And so we kicked off a Conversations With Champions series, sitting down with eight basketball trailblazers, champions and builders for some one-on-ones. Here is a recap of the series, in case you missed any of the engaging discussions. These are men and women you need to know.”

Thank you: Iconic Elba coach Nowak retires and  Elba girls basketball coach Tom Nowak retires – Popular basketball coach compiled a 457-133 record

“It was really very rewarding to have gone through generations of family,” said Nowak. “To see the dads play football for me and then their daughters playing basketball — maybe both parents and children winning sectional titles.”

In the 2011-2012 season, Nowak coached his girls to their first state championship in the program’s history. Fittingly, the Lancers earned a perfect 25-0 season in their quest for the Class D title in Nowak’s 25th year as coach.

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More WBHOF stuff:

From Mechelle: Wicks reflects on satisfying career – Former Liberty, Rutgers star part of Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2013 class

For Wicks, the feeling was at its peak when she played in Madison Square Garden with teammates like Teresa Weatherspoon and Vickie Johnson, and against foes like Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson.

She knows they all felt it. In those early years of the WNBA, so much seemed groundbreaking and even breathtaking.

“I think you just experience it, and you don’t know how to really talk about it,” Wicks said. “But even now, if I see Spoon or Vickie — they know exactly what it is, and we don’t say anything. Or even Cynthia or Tina. There’s a great deal of love there, and respect, even between fierce competitors. Because it brought something out of each one of us.”

From KBTX: Blair to be Inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

“I have had the great opportunity to interact with the other inductees having either coached or coached against them and it will be an honor to stand beside them as we are inducted this weekend,” Blair said. “When you begin your career you do not even think of the Hall of Fame, you dream of NCAA Tournament appearances, Final Fours or the ultimate dream of a National Championship. The Hall of Fame is never one of your goals, because nobody can make the Hall without great teammates or assistant coaches. The honor is mind-boggling because of who is already in the Hall of Fame and to think that some of my former players or assistants will hopefully be able to join me in Knoxville really makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have had their support throughout my career.”

From Dan Fleser: Signature moment epitomized Jennifer Rizzotti’s play – Fame is another move for Rizzotti and Mike Anthony from the Hartford Courant adds: Rizzotti Touched By Warm Reception At Pre-Hall Of Fame Gala

“A number of years ago, we took our basketball team to Italy,” said Sullivan, who will escort Rizzotti to the stage for her induction. “I ran [every morning] by this building in Rome. I didn’t even notice it the first two days. The third day, I stopped. The statues, the window work, the details. Because Rome is so saturated with all these iconic things, I hadn’t even noticed the building. Sometimes I feel like that’s what life with Jen is like. She’s gotten so much done and accomplished so many things, that if you’re not constantly looking at it you’ll miss some things.

“When the things you’re really great at transcend basketball, then you know you’re going to be a hall of fame daughter, a hall of fame sister, a hall of fame mother, a hall of fame wife. That’s why, wherever she goes, she’s been able to do whatever she’s done. Although I run by that building a little too often, I assure you, I promise you, that I know how beautiful it is.”

Dan also notes, Peggy Gillom-Granderson surprised to be Women’s Hall inductee

Peggie Gillom-Granderson’s accomplishments speak volumes on her behalf.

Just as well, since she still struggles to grasp the sum of her women’s basketball career at Ole Miss. The 2,486 points and 1,271 rebounds she amassed added up to phone call last summer from long-time acquaintance Eddie Clinton, informing Gillom-Granderson that she will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She called him back the next day just to make sure it was true.

From the Times Free Press: UTC’s Foster ready for Women’s College Basketball Hall of Fame induction

“I’m sure it will hit me when I’m there,” Foster said. “But I’m not going to predetermine what my feelings are. I have to experience things. I’ve been asked about a lot of things, but I have to experience them.”

From the Daily Progress: Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame to honor Wayland Baptist Flying Queens

The Flying Queens are only the fourth “Trailblazer of the Game” to be recognized, joining the All-American Red Heads, Edmonton Grads and the Former Helms/Citizens Savings/Founders Bank. Each group has a display at the Hall of Fame.

The five teams, then known as the Hutcherson Flying Queens – carrying the name of their sponsor, Claude Hutcherson, a local fixed-base operator who flew the teams to their games in his fleet of Bonanza aircraft – also won four consecutive AAU championships during the streak. Texas Monthly magazine did a feature on the streak in March and a company in Denver is planning a documentary on the same subject.

From TexasSports.com: Smith-Knight to be inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Texas’ all-time leading scorer becomes the fifth member of the Women’s Basketball family to earn Hall of Fame induction.

“In the most simple words, we built the Texas Women’s Basketball program on the back of Annette,” UT Women’s Athletics Director Chris Plonsky said. “We have probably never had a more humble, yet effusive, superstar. In her prime, Annette was great because of her sheer-natural talent. Her competitiveness and her zest for playing were unmatched. Every great player that came to play at Texas came because of Annette.”

Smith-Knight was a first-team All-American (1984) and a two-time Southwest Conference Player of the Year (1983, 1984) as a sophomore and junior who also won a gold medal for USA Basketball at the 1983 World University Games. She paced Conradt’s squad to a runner-up finish at the 1982 AIAW Championship in addition to a pair of NCAA “Elite Eight” showings (in 1983 and 1984).

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Gary Blair, Texas A&M
From the Dallas Morning News: Texas A&M’s Gary Blair part of women’s basketball Hall of Fame class

“The honor is humbling, and I feel I should be thanking players, assistant coaches and administrators for their belief in me instead of receiving accolades for what I consider a team award,” Blair said. “The roll call of the people that are in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling. So many of them have helped shape my life in coaching as mentors, role models, and players I have had an opportunity to coach or compete against.”

Jim Foster, Ohio State
From Mel: Foster entering Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

“It’s hard to get a grasp on the magnitude of the honor when you’ve still only recently gotten the news,” said Foster, who was informed three weeks ago by Carol Callan, the president of the Hall’s board of directors.

Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Mississippi

Jennifer Rizzotti, UConn
From Lori Riley at the Hartford Courant: Jen Rizzotti Going Into Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame

“Jen has done more to create interest in playing basketball among girls than any other person I know,” Auriemma said. “She deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. She deserves to be in every Hall of Fame. I know she’s in mine.”

Annette Smith-Knight, Texas
From the Statesman:

“This is a privilege that comes with a lot of surprise, too. At my age, you start to think that all of the awards and honors are in the past,” Smith-Knight said. “This announcement brings such a smile to my face and brings a flood of emotions and wonderful memories of my career at Texas.”

Sue Wicks, Rutgers
From the Star-Ledger: Rutgers great Sue Wicks elected to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and an old Q&A:

WB: Have you considered how Rebecca’s injury impacted your career?

SW: Rebecca was playing 35 minutes the year before, so those minutes just came to me. I think I still played a “role” for the team. But you never know what would have happened. Maybe (new coach) Richie Adubato wouldn’t have like Rebecca’s game. That’s sports — you never can say, “Well what if this happened, what if that happened.” You’d lose so much sleep. (Laughs)

It’s a lot of luck in sports — to land on the right team, and to be there and at the right moment. You have to work hard every day until your luck arrives. Because luck does come, it’s just that sometimes we’re not prepared for it.

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last night’s game in Jersey was either gutty or gut-wrenching.

Depleted DePaul rode the hot hand of Anna Martin to a nice lead over Rutgers. Then turnovers, a missed field goal and Khadijah Rushdan’s end of game scoring streak spelled disaster for the Blue Demons: the Scarlet Knights win.

Hard to cheer against Gary Blair. Harder to cheer against Oklahoma State. Cowgirls pull off the 57-53 upset of # 14 Texas A&M.

Mechelle says the Big 12 about more than just Baylor, but I’m not sure of the overall (NCAA-level) quality of the teams.

Graham has his mid-majors poll and, picking up on Doug “The APWBall King”‘s theme, notes: Zags, BYU give WCC two entries

Speaking of the Zags: from the Spokesman-Review: Gonzaga’s Redmon proves her dedication

Ooops. Will this undermine the Miners? 2 UTEP guards suspended indefinitely

So, has there been some shaky play this season, or do we get to pull out the p-word? LSU had to go to overtime to escape with a 71-68 win over East Tennessee State.

From the Observer: ND’s Peters comfortable in her role and I missed this Hoops Across America entry from espnW: Love of the Irish drives volunteers

Xavier’s misery continues: Temple 64, Musketeers 38.

About those Idaho State Bengals: Ashleigh Vella: the wonder from “down under”

Ouch: BG coach Miller’s health ‘not 100 percent’

San Diego State remains undefeated in the MWC, and Nick Canepa writes: SDSU women’s basketball deserves show of support

What Beth Burns needs is a show to call her own. To be square, not necessarily The Show, the roaring, cunning group of San Diego State’s men’s basketball wackos, but maybe something along the lines of The Showups.

Speaking of San Diego — a little WATN? with Charity Shira of then-Southwest Missouri State’s Final Four team of 1992: Elliott has her NCAA Division II California-San Diego Tritons ranked No. 1 in the country

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Proving there’s no deja vu in basketball, Baylor went in to Lubbock and escaped a stubborn Texas Tech team, 72-64.

It was close early on, but eventually Duke pulled away from the Yellow Jackets (another double-double for Williams).

Mizzou couldn’t hang with Texas A&M, and Gary Blair got his 200th win with the Aggies.

Louisville returned home and enjoyed every minute of it, taking down Providence 64-48.

In an important match up in the A-10, Charlotte (now 4-0 in conference play) defeated La Salle, 77-66. The Bonnies are next on their schedule.

Also in the A-10, Temple squeaked by Duquesne, 67-64.

Patriot League’s American ran its conference record to 4-0 (12-6).

Others undefeated in conference play: UTEP (5-0, C-USA), St. Bonaventure (4-0, A-10), Chattanooga (8-0, Southern), Marist (MAAC, 7-0), Middle Tennessee (7-0, Sun Belt), McNeese St. (4-0,Southland), San Diego State (3-0, MWC).

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(I do believe they rhyme) Aggies Coach Has Another Story to Tell

At South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, Blair won three Texas state championships, coaching Debra and Kim Rodman when their brother Dennis “used to play Ping-Pong with me because he was only 5-11 and couldn’t play a lick” of basketball.

Three decades later, Dennis Rodman has just been voted into the Hall of Fame and Blair, 65 and gray, has won an N.C.A.A. championship at Texas A&M, guiding its women’s team to a gripping 76-70 victory over Notre Dame on Tuesday. Funny how lives crisscross likes strands of a net.

 

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In anticipation of Tuesday

Mechelle writes: Loss is perfect primer for Aggies – Falling to Purdue on Sunday will remind Texas A&M what it must avoid against UConn

Some might think the bloom is off the rose a bit for Tuesday’s UConn-Texas A&M game because the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season Sunday, 60-51 at Purdue. But that defeat just might have been what Texas A&M needed to be more prepared for what it’ll face in Connecticut.

Chat with The Gary at 3pmEST.

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From Brennan at

USA Today:’Greatest Feminist’ at women’s Final Four … Texas A&M’s Gary Blair

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Texas A&M, Notre Dame crash NCAA women’s final

“Everything is happening for a reason,” Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair said. “It’s because we don’t quit. While you all were writing, I guarantee you a lot of you already had your stories three-quarters of the way done, and now you’re having to change it.”

From Indiana U’s Student News Bureau: Notre Dame drawing on experience from last title team

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw doesn’t want to call it destiny, but it is hard not to think that something special is happening for Notre Dame women’s basketball.

“We certainly didn’t have anything handed to us,” McGraw said. “So I would say not as much fate as hard work.”

Over at Swish Appeal, James Bowman has Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M : The Simulated Version

It’s NCAA championship game time again, and I’m returning to a post I wrote in July of 2010, where I attempted to model the NCAA championship game played between Connecticut and Stanford that same year.  The title of that post was “Connecticut vs. Stanford – Again and Again and Again….” and you couldn’t blame anyone for thinking that this title could be recycled for the 2011 championship.

No such luck.  Not only was Stanford upset by gritty Texas A&M, but the fourth time proved to be the charm for Notre Dame as they bounced Connecticut out of a threepeat.  If the Fighting Irish win it will be their second championship.  If Texas A&M wins it will not only be their first championship but will also serve as the disproof of the Prodigy Theory of Coaching in NCAA women’s basketball.

From Mechelle: Pieces falling into place for McGraw

“She’s been a puzzle-solver her whole life,” Matt said. “She does jigsaw puzzles, and those number puzzles. And I’ve always thought the success that her teams have had are because she never looks and says, ‘Who’s the best player out there?’ She says, ‘Who fits in the puzzle?’

“If we get together with her family, they will bring boxes and boxes of puzzles. And she has what I don’t — the incredible patience, the focus to get the damn thing together. She wants to fit more pieces in than anybody else.”

The pieces on this squad took a little while to integrate, as Notre Dame lost three of its first eight games. In the Big East season, the Irish fell those three times to UConn and also lost to DePaul. Yet the whole time, McGraw was solving the puzzle.

From Graham: Colson, Carter look to contain Diggins

There are times when it seems no two humans on the planet communicate quite so close to telepathically as Texas A&M’s Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter. Certainly no two people who share a backcourt.

Carter and Colson don’t need words to orchestrate the kind of defensive effort that has frustrated a long list of the best guards in college basketball and helped land Texas A&M in its first national championship game. That is not, however, to suggest the duo is completely immune to the power of verbal communication.

Also from Graham: Mallory, Novosel put fight in Irish

There’s also some Charlie:Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M-Stanford and some group analysis: Defense leads Aggies to title game

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Let’s get it started right here with Title Game Previews:

X factors and the picks from the ESPN crew: Irish appear to have edge over Aggies – Guard matchup, defense and 3-point shooting all should be big keys Tuesday

Charlie offers: Guard play, Diggins to determine champ

For just the second time in women’s NCAA tournament history, the championship game will be played without a No. 1 seed, but after Sunday night no one should question that Notre Dame and Texas A&M deserve to be there. It’s a game between teams that play quite differently but advanced in similar fashion. Each had to beat a team that it had lost to three times already this season, and because of those losses the Aggies and Irish were each conference runners-up in the regular season and in their league tournaments. Neither squad has allowed an opponent to score 70 points in the tournament. And Texas A&M and Notre Dame knocked off a No. 1 seed in each the last two games they played. A closer look at Tuesday’s title game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET; coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET):

They’re also posting lots of video interviews with players.

Don’t forget to check in with the South Bend Tribune, the Indy Star and the San Antonio Express (It this the best Paper of Record for the Aggies?) for coverage.

NPR says, ‘March Madness’ Isn’t Just About Men (well, kids, it is, if you talk about the Tournament and don’t use the adjective qualifier.) and offer a preview.

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I guess if you’ve not been watching women’s basketball this season, you might use that word to describe the Notre Dame win over Connecticut, but I wasn’t particularly surprised. Four times WAS the time for the Irish as their growth as a unit over the second half of the season paid huge dividends. UConn, on the other hand, finally fell victim to the reality that was their six-person team: fouls and a player going MIA.

That being said, there was a moment there when you could see Maya pick up on the Husky puppies, throw’em in a knapsack, toss’em over the shoulder and start up Mt. Everest with a determined look in her eye. She simply couldn’t overcome the ferocity and passion of those wearin’ the green.

Now stunning IS what I’d call the Texas A&M win — emotionally stunning, though, more than “how on earth did they do that?” stunning. Watching the Sidneys and company give up 6-8″ inches on the Standford trees, it was stunning that they could out-Georgetown Georgetown’s defensive style and hassle Stanford into 22 TOs (when was the last time you saw 4 charges called and a five second call?). It was a hard, physical game, and people will talk about “tourney play” and how Conference play does or does not prepare you for it. They’ll also talk about that 50-50 call on the dive for the ball. But it was Chiney who was on the bench, it was her teammates who didn’t get back on defense after her sister willed her way to the basket that gave Stanford the lead, and it was somewhat inexplicable end of the game play beautifully defended that ultimately made the difference.

No, ESPN may not like the match up. BUT, that probably means they haven’t been paying attention to the game. Big 12 country is roused. Midwest country is roused. I’m expecting good ratings and a filled house.

Now, for the games.

If you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, check out the words of the players and coaches during the post-game conferences.

If you want to hear the professionals’ interpretations of the words and game, check out these articles:

Stanford

Indy Star: Stanford alum Rice had her own plan
San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer gets help at half
USA Today/Brennan: Title drought continues for Stanford, coach VanDerveer

It’s a statistic that brings a spring chill to Palo Alto. When Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer last won a national title, UConn had none.

In one frantic final minute in the first game of the 2011 NCAA Women’s Final Four, all that frustration played out not in years but seconds, with a frenetic back-and-forth that ended with a rugged underdog, Texas A&M, upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford 63-62.

“My team worked as hard as they could,” a chagrined VanDerveer said after it was over. “You know, we just — we had it. And then we just really needed one more stop.”

Mercury News: Texas A&M stuns Stanford women
San Francisco Chronicle: Texas A&M stuns Stanford in nip-and-tuck affair

Texas A&M

Indy Star: Texas A&M gets last shot on Stanford
Indy Star: Texas A&M’s Tyra White sprints into the final
USAToday: Texas A&M ‘D’ dismisses Stanford in Final Four

The Cardinal had won 27 in a row and were the only team to beat Connecticut this season. But it could not handle the harassment delivered by the Aggies’ Sydneys, backcourt teammates Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter.

“We’re a team that doesn’t give up; we’re never out of a game,” Carter said. “We make sure we’re doing the right thing at the right time.”

Houston Chronicle: A&M women edge Stanford to reach NCAA title game
Houston Chronicle: These Texas Aggies represent everything that’s wonderful about sports, and they’re one game from a national championship

UCONN

The Day: Has this been Geno’s best coaching job?
The Day: End of an era in Indy
The Day: Thank you, Maya, for much more than two national championships

“When I think of Maya Moore,” he said, “I’ll think about the greatest player in the history of the Big East, maybe the best student-athlete in the history of college basketball. I’m not going to let it be defined by what happened tonight.”

And one last thing for Maya Moore: Thank you.

SportsPage Magazine: Mayan Dynasty Ends as UConn, Stanford are Ousted from Tourney
CT Post: Notre Dame upsets UConn in semifinals
Greenwich Time: UConn women’s basketball notebook
USA Today/Brennan: Mighty UConn beatable after all
USA Today: UConn’s tournament streak halts in Indy
Hartford Courant: Notre Dame Ends UConn’s Bid For Third Straight National Title

Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune: Irish dethrone Connecticut
The Observer: Sky high

When sophomore point guard Skylar Diggins sank consecutive free throws with 28 seconds left to give the Irish a nine-point lead, fantasy became reality and hope became result in a 72-63 Notre Dame victory over Connecticut in the national semifinals.

The team’s emotional leader scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting and turned the second half into a complete team comeback in one of the greatest victories in program history.

“I thought Skylar was just amazing, simply amazing today,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said

South Bend Tribune: Some Final Four fun: Auriemma and McGraw entertain
South Bend Tribune: Notre Dame fearless in big moment
South Bend Tribune: Irish get their one shining moment

Miscellaneous:

Daily News: Maya Moore, UConn women’s basketball upset at Final Four as Notre Dame pulls out 72-63 victory

New York Times/Jere’: Stanford Has Win in Hand, Until It Doesn’t

On basketball recruiting trips from Texas A&M’s campus, Coach Gary Blair frequently drove past the high school in suburban Houston where the Ogwumike sisters honed bounteous athletic and academic skills that would take them to Stanford.

“We recruited them hard,” Blair said. “Lost fair and square.”

On later trips past Cypress-Fairbanks High, Blair convinced himself that Texas A&M’s recruiting cupboard was hardly bare, saying, “Hey, but we’re winning with the kids that chose us.”

Also from the Times/Jere’: Notre Dame Keeps Cool and Topples UConn

Given that the teams were so familiar with each other, Moore predicted that determination would prevail over tactics. “It really does come down to who has the bigger will to win,” she said.

That will belonged most urgently to Diggins, a 5-foot-9 sophomore who grew up near the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind. Kelly Faris is UConn’s top defender, but she could not prevent Diggins from scoring in any way that she wanted, from anywhere on the court.

Christian Science Monitor: Notre Dame, Texas A&M surprise at NCAA women’s Final Four

SBNation: Texas A&M, Notre Dame Win Stunners

SBNation: Notre Dame, UConn Players React To Huge Upset

Boston Globe: Parity coming to fore – Favorites no longer just holding court

Washington Post: Notre Dame knocks off Connecticut to reach national championship game

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team drew exactly the adversary it wanted in the Final Four. Call the Fighting Irish stubborn or just plain silly, but that opponent was none other than powerhouse Connecticut, which had upended Notre Dame three straight times this season and 12 in row overall.

New York Times/Harvey Araton: Upsets Attest to Vitality in Women’s Game

Sports Illustrated/Ann Killion: Texas A&M hands Stanford yet another Final Four disappointment

If women’s basketball wanted new blood, it’s got it now.

Indianapolis turned into Upset City on Sunday night.

Notre Dame knocked off mighty UConn. But the real party-crasher is Texas A&M, a school that didn’t even admit women just half a century ago and has never been to the Final Four until this week. Now it will play for the women’s national championship on Tuesday night, in the 30th anniversary of the NCAA title game.

Sports Illustrated/Richard Deitsch: Diggins, ND outduel Moore, UConn

“In the first half you could see that there was going to be a problem guarding her the whole game,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “But we did a pretty decent job on everybody else. In the second half, we allowed her to get everybody else involved, and then it was not just having to guard Skylar, but it’s the plays that she made for other people. That’s what great players do. They take control of a situation, and she did. “

AP/Doug Feinberg: Notre Dame Upsets UConn 72-63, Heads to Title Game

First Tennessee, now Connecticut — Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are running over the women’s basketball elite.

From the Insomniacs in Indy -aka the ESPN folks

Graham: Diggins puts on show for Indy crowd

“She does watch a lot, a lot of film because she needs to see what we’re talking about all the time,” Ivey said of Diggins. “And she’s like a sponge of it, so she likes to watch a lot of film.”

But in the days before Sunday’s semifinal against Big East rival Connecticut, Diggins passed on a final round of film study for an opponent already burned into her memory after three previous meetings this season.

As Ivey recalled, “She was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, Coach. I’m good.'”

Talk about an understatement. But people will be watching the film of what followed for years to come.

Graham: Lack of depth catches up with UConn

Mechelle: UConn’s Moore leaves incredible legacy

Mechelle: Stanford falls short in semifinals

Mechelle: Inexperienced Aggies clip Cardinal

When Tyra White was a sophomore at Hickman Mills High in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas State really thought it might get her to come play for the Wildcats. But that didn’t work out. LSU eventually won the recruiting battle.

Then Pokey Chatman left/was fired at LSU in March 2007, and White eventually reopened her recruitment. Several schools went after her again. Texas A&M won this time. Then just 4 minutes into the Aggies’ season opener in November 2007, White tore her right ACL.

So it’s been a long trip for White to get to this point: an appearance in the NCAA title game. But that’s where the Aggies are, thanks to the game-winning basket by White in a gut-churner of a national semifinal. The Aggies beat a No. 1 seed for the second game in a row, this time Stanford, 63-62 at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Charlie: Rapid Reaction: Notre Dame-UConn

Charlie, Graham and Mechelle: Depth makes difference in Irish win

Did you follow the Live Play-by-Play?

Mechelle: Second really is best in Indy: Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M marks just second title game without a No. 1 seed

For those who tune in to women’s basketball only occasionally, Sunday’s semifinals results and the impending championship-game matchup might be quite a shock.

But to those who follow the sport, the idea that No. 2 seeds Notre Dame and Texas A&M are meeting for the NCAA title (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday) is not so very weird. Even if Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said she was pretty sure “nobody in America” had picked an Irish-Aggies final.

Well, surely, somebody did. After all, the Irish have won a title before — albeit 10 years ago — and they have a history of playing well in the NCAA tournament. And Texas A&M, while in its first Final Four, has been knocking on the door for the last few years. Plus, both have been in the top 10 in the rankings, or near it, for a lot of this season.

Lots of good video:

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Articles to read to fill the time until tip off:

From Curt Rallo at the South Bend Tribune: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish not afraid to cut loose

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said that she has allowed their team to develop its own identity, and that its looseness is an asset.

“I really have adjusted well to them,” McGraw said. “I just try to stay out of their way. I really try to stay away from them as much as possible game day, pregame. They’re loose, they’re singing, they’re dancing, and I want them to have their own personality. I don’t want to try to impose my will on them. So I’ve really let them pretty much dictate how things are going to be. And if it gets loud, that’s great, because that’s when they’re most comfortable.

Cheryl Coward at Hoop Feed has a little Video: Texas A&M’s Sydney Colson talks about facing the Ogwumike sisters

Happy Birthday, NCAA tournament: Women’s basketball Final Four turns 30 – Women’s basketball had large obstacles on the way to its current stature

I don’t want to say they’re lucky,” said Debbie Oing, who will be watching on ESPN, “but they are.”

Oing played in the 1973 Final Four, conducted by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), and became Indiana University’s first women’s basketball All-American two years later. She played for a graduate assistant coach. She bought her own gym shoes. She paid her own way. Her Hoosiers backcourt mate, Tara VanDerveer, now coach of Stanford, did the same.

IU, like most schools, provided no women’s scholarships.

Stacy Clardie at the Journal Gazette asks: Great, or the greatest? Moore in conversation as best women’s player ever

Yet when Moore was asked what she makes of this conversation and where she ranks among the game’s greats, she responded in typical modest Moore fashion.

“I don’t get to hear it a whole lot,” she said with a glance over at coach Geno Auriemma, which drew laughter from reporters. “So I really don’t have an opinion about it.”

From Aggie Sports: Texas A&M women’s basketball notebook

Texas A&M head women’s basketball coach Gary Blair, feeding off the underdog role, went Hoosiers on the Aggies at the end of practice Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

From Vickie Fulkerson at The Day: Huskies’ point guard guarding against freshman moments

For a good part of the season, UConn coach Geno Auriemma busied himself haranguing his 18-year-old freshman point guard, Bria Hartley. He reminded Hartley on more than one occasion that she was about to become the program’s first point guard since Jen Rizzotti (1993) to commit more turnovers than she had assists.

Now comes the Final Four.

Jere’ at the NY Times has: UConn’s Kelly Faris Has Been There Before

When Faris arrived at UConn last season as a freshman, Auriemma told her, “My goal is to see whether or not kids from Plainfield, Ind., have teeth because I’ve never seen yours and I’ve known you for three years.”

She is as stoic on the court as he is animated, playing with a solemn determination, betraying no more emotion than a Politburo member at a May Day parade.

If this were a team of gymnasts instead of basketball players, Faris would be the spotter, quietly and dutifully making sure that all landings were soft and controlled. She guards the opponent’s best player, leads UConn in minutes played, and ranks second to Maya Moore with 6.7 rebounds per game, 137 assists and 68 steals.

The ESPN crew has:

MV: Contrasting strengths face off in Indy – Stanford’s versatile, experienced offense vs. Texas A&M’s ferocious, physical defense

Top senior point guards clash in semis – ‘Less is more’ for Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen; A&M’s Sydney Colson ‘keeps it simple’ and

A tutorial of Texas A&M traditions

Maybe you’ve never seen the joyous zealotry that goes with Texas A&M athletics. Or maybe you have but weren’t sure exactly what it was you were seeing.

I really didn’t know until the Big 12 began 15 years ago, although I’d been a sports fan all my life. But once the Texas schools merged with those of the conference I had grown up with, the Big Eight, we Midwesterners had to catch up on a lot of Lone Star State traditions.

And no school has more of those than Texas A&M, home of the “12th Man” in football, the Corps of Cadets, yell leaders and the phrase “Gig ’em!” — among other things.

GH: Faris may split time on Diggins, Novosel – Huskies’ defensive specialist likely given task of slowing Irish star guards

Posts Peters, Dolson could deliver big – Notre Dame senior back after multiple knee injuries; UConn frosh coming into her own

Notre Dame forward Devereaux Peters is excited to be on familiar footing as Sunday’s national semifinal against Connecticut approaches. But before anyone starts making space on the bulletin board, it’s neither the fourth meeting with a rival nor Conseco Fieldhouse’s Indiana ZIP code that has the Big East Defensive Player of the Year smiling.

Forget the surroundings. After suffering a torn ACL in her left knee twice in the span of 10 months in 2008 and trekking the long road back to full health, Peters is just happy to once again be familiar with the player inhabiting her own jersey.

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(oops.)

Chat Review! From Mechelle:

Bob (College Station): Mechelle, how about that atmosphere for the A&M-Baylor game in Dallas…they say regional finals are always some of the most tense games because it’s win and you’re into the Final Four…You agree?

Mechelle Voepel: I was trying to think if I’ve ever been at a regional final that was quite like that one in Dallas – where you had a big crowd with a lot of fans from *both* schools from the same state and the regional itself was in the very heart of that state. And considering how fun and passionate the rivalries are between all the Texas schools. And how many of the Baylor and TAMU players are from Texas. AND … that Gary Blair is from Dallas. There was so much about that regional final that was hard to duplicate anywhere else. I feel lucky that I was there. And it was pretty emotional, actually watching the Baylor and TAMU players in the post-game handshake, because they respect each other. Particularly the way the TAMU players all hugged Baylor senior Melissa Jones … that was a pretty moving scene. And yes, regional finals can be among the most pressure-packed and emotional games you’ll ever witness.

Also at ESPN (Which is doing a *sarcasm on* GREAT job of burying their writers’ work *sarcasm off*):

Did you catch Sport Science and Maya?

There’s other video (it’s great to have Nikki on the team, no?):

Mechelle writes: Final Four isn’t what most predicted – But there will be a key rematch, a team chasing a three-peat and a first-timer

Graham writes: Final Four features different makeups

Charlie asks: Is Stanford favorite in wide-open Indy?(And I say, “Umm, yaaaaah!”) – Guard play between Cardinal’s Pohlen and Texas A&M Sydneys tandem is key matchup

He also says, UConn favored, but little margin for error

The crew tries to pick who’s gonna win now that the teams are set. There’s also these picks: Cardinal (not UConn) a unanimous pick.

W0ndering who DID get the picks right? Andrew Feldman has the Final Four brackets by the numbers

With two No. 1 seeds and a pair of 2-seeds in the women’s Final Four, 3,751 brackets (0.01 percent) in the Women’s Tournament Challenge had the correct four teams.

Upsets by No. 2 seeds Notre Dame (beating top-seeded Tennessee in the Dayton Regional final) and Texas A&M (knocking off Baylor and Brittney Griner in the Dallas Regional final) might have accounted for most brackets — 119,976 — getting just two of the Final Four teams.

Michelle Smith is working hard over at espnW: Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Jere’ at the New York Times writes of Notre Dame/UConn: For Winning Team, the Fourth Time Will Be the Charm

Notre Dame will have the Texas A&M upset to draw upon. It also carries momentum from its first victory against Tennessee in the Dayton Regional final, which came after 20 consecutive defeats to the Lady Vols. And the Irish will not be awed by UConn after losing twice this season by fewer than 10 points.

“We will definitely reference Texas A&M, the fourth time’s a charm,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw said on a conference call. “I think it’s going to be a mental hurdle to get over. It’s difficult, I hope, to beat a team four times.”

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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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this might have been you at about the 3-minutes left mark in the second half of the Baylor/TAMU game:

“Are you freakin’ kidding me? I yelled at the television. (And yes, I did really say freakin’ because it’s Sunday. This has nothing to do with the lord but with the fact that the new school week starts tomorrow and I need to clean up my potty mouth before entering a classroom. )
And what did I get to see instead? Another game? Another nail biter? No, my friends, the Celtics pre-game show. A pre-scheduled 30 minute show for a game CSN wasn’t even airing.”

Yup. They cut away. And you missed it. And have you sent a “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!?!” email to your local provider? I hope so, or it’ll keep on happening.

As to the game. It kinda felt like a tight, back and forth mess. Great crowd (well, duh, it’s the Big 12). And, when it came to the end (that some of you didn’t see), I must say I thought it was over when Danielle Adams fouled out with one of the dopier fouls I’ve ever seen. But, credit the Aggies, they found a way to claw close.

And then the Odyssey spoke and the game was Baylor’s. (Can we say Frosh of the Year award is leaning heavily towards her?) Said A&M coach Gary Blair:

“That’s the difference,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said of Sims. “I don’t think there’s a freshman point guard in the country better than her. She’s got the ability to control in mid-air and bump into you and push off and be physical. Most freshman don’t know how to use that arm.”

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From John Altavilla’s blog:

the Garden is apparently on the verge of a sellout for UConn’s game against Ohio State at the Maggie Dixon Classic. A UConn spokesman said Tuesday he’s been told only upper level seats were remaining for the Dixon double-header, which will also feature Rutgers vs. Texas A&M.

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Fool me twice? Shame on me.

Ah, the joys of playing a Division II team in exhibition. Second stunner TWU upsets UNT again in exhibition

Staying with the Texas theme, Gary Blair is sad the Houston Comets folded and the Chronicle’s onto the “Next Big Thing.” Basketball’s latest star earns colleges’ notice — even at 14

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