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Man, do I love the Elite Eight. The last four in made it via

Rout. There are moments in sports when the individual or team are just in a zone, and there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do about it. Such was a moment yesterday, when even Auriemma just shook his head at what was happening on the court against Texas. From the Albany Times Union: Connecticut women’s basketball blasts Texas to reach Elite Eight

“Today was a lot of fun,” Stewart said. “Right from the start, shots were going in, and we were being aggressive. We knew Texas had big post players. We thought if we could get them moving a little bit, we could get any shot we wanted.”

Connecticut shot 55.7 percent for the game, a figure lowered only because of the final nine minutes when Auriemma cleared the bench. Stewart, after starting 2-for-7, made her final nine field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers.

That being said, it’s exciting to see the return of high quality basketball in Austin. Looking forward to next year and the Texas-UConn series to see what happens when both teams are at full strength.

Upset: The feisty Flyers may have flown under the radar this season, but no more.

Jabir’s A-10 upstarts, who’ve become this tournament’s Cinderellas with consecutive upsets over second-seed Kentucky and third-seeded Louisville, for the first time this March betrayed some jitters. The normally smooth ball handlers turned it over 14 times in the first half against the Cardinals. A series of uncharacteristically wild Flyer passes included an outlet from Ally Malott to Jabir on the sidelines, and two others to an empty space in the corner near where Louisville’s large red costumed mascot stood.

In the locker room at halftime, Jabir addressed the gaffes with his crimson-clad squad. “I said, Look, I know the bird is red, but he’s got a yellow beak, and the only person in the building with a bigger beak than that bird was me, and I wasn’t playing.”

Wondering how many P5 programs are adding them to their “No Play” list (along with Green Bay, Princeton, Gonzaga, Arkansas-Little Rock…) after Dayton toppled Louisville.

Comeback: Down 17, Holly’s crew clawed their way back and used OT to secure the win.

It’s called the “persistence drill.”

The Lady Vols divide their roster into three teams at practice, and one team goes out to play defense with a 45-second shot clock. And they can’t leave the court until the clock gets to 0:00.

If that team fouls or gives up a basket, it resets to 0:45. If the group gives up an offensive rebound, it resets as well. And if the team gets a stop, the clock stops where it is — and a new team comes in.

“It’s taxing and they don’t like it. We’ve done it for 40 minutes with one team on defense the whole time,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “You just put their backs against the wall and see if they fold or if they are going to step up and get it done.”

The Lady Vols ran that drill five or six times this season.

And they ran it again on Saturday evening in Spokane Arena.

Nice work, though, by Fortier, a potential Maggie Dixon Coach of the Year (though, that award has not always been a signal for future success…)

Workmanlike: Maryland and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, made sure their former ACC rivals kept their distance, and eased into the E8.

“I think we just love being able to beat Duke in the NCAA tournament,” Frese said. “Just so many classic matchups with both teams. I think we make each other better. Just tremendously proud of our fight today. It wasn’t an easy game. I thought Duke kind of controlled some things in terms of kind of putting us into a half-court [game], but we did a phenomenal job in the second half.”

It’s Super Sunday, so sit down!

It’s the battle of the Green and Gold.

From Graham: Notre Dame, Baylor have wow factors – All-Americans Jewell Loyd and Nina Davis make Sunday’s matchup must-see TV

The word that matters this time of year is win. But all the better if there are some wows along the way.

And with Loyd and Baylor’s Nina Davis around for Sunday’s regional final (8:30 ET, ESPN), two teams that do a lot of the former are led by players who excel at the latter.

It’s not that they are definitively better or more talented than their peers, not when you see a display like the one Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart put on in the Sweet 16, but you can’t take your eyes off how they do what they do.

“I sit there just like you guys do,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of Davis. “And I go, ‘How did she just do that?'”

Similar themed stories from the AP Baylor women haven’t forgotten loss to Notre Dame and ND Insider: History with Notre Dame on Baylor’s mind

Memories of Notre Dame’s 88-69 victory in the South Bend Regional of the 2014 NCAA women’s basketball tournament still sit in the collective craw of head coach Kim Mulkey and her Baylor basketball team.

On the eve of Sunday’s 8:30 p.m. regional championship rematch between second-ranked Notre Dame (34-2) and fifth-ranked Baylor (33-3) in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Bears admitted the porridge Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and her team prepared last March 31 hasn’t sat well during the 363-day hibernation in the series that Baylor still leads, 4-1.

It’s the Battle of Maroon.

From Mechelle: Modest Mitchell worth talking about – Junior All-American has South Carolina one win away from first Final Four

They’ll be tough moments during a practice at South Carolina, and that’s when she does it. Tiffany Mitchell will let loose the wisecrack or dry remark that seems completely inappropriate for everyone’s tense mood right at that instant.

Except, it’s actually pretty much exactly what everybody needs.

“It comes naturally from her personality; she’s a fun person,” said her good pal, Gamecocks forward Aleighsa Welch. “She takes basketball very seriously, but she values her teammates, and she’s one of the most selfless people you’ll meet. She makes everything a fun situation. Even sometimes when it probably shouldn’t be. She’ll find a way.

“I think she gets a lot of it from her mom, because they’re both definitely characters.”

The ESPN crew makes their picks, and there’s only one unanimous choice.

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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#4 Duke v. #5 Mississippi State

Well, we know ONE official (or set of officials) that won’t be moving on. ’cause that was a clear offensive foul. But, Vic – remember what the Caterpillar said to Alice: “Keep. Your. Temper.” ’cause that T just hamstrung any comeback MSU had in its tank. The Escaping Devils say, “Next!” Writes Mechelle: 

She was also the only player on either side to play all 40 minutes — the first time this season that Stevens has done that — and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie joked about it afterward.

“I guess I forgot that I never took her out,” McCallie said, “but she was absolutely fantastic. If you saw Azura play in December, she couldn’t play 20 straight minutes. She would have been just dying to come out.”

Sunday, the only people who were dying for Stevens to leave the game were on the Mississippi State side, to get some relief from having to guard her. Stevens — whose first name is pronounced AZ-er-ray — acknowledged she was “very nervous” before Friday’s NCAA opener, and thinks that showed in her play. However, it’s not as if she didn’t help Duke a lot in a 54-52 victory in which every point and rebound counted. She had 11 points and nine rebounds against the Great Danes.

#11 Miami v. #3 Iowa

Everything was flowing for the Hawkeyes. Hard to believe this is Iowa’s first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 1996. 

#2 Baylor v. #10 Arkansas

Great crowd came out to support Baylor. Not much of a game... unless, of course, you were a Bears fan. 

#2 Kentucky v. #7 Dayton

What. A. Fun. Game. Were you yelling at your tv as much as I was? Flyers swoop into the 16 for the first time, Wildcats go off to practice free throws.

#1 South Carolina v. #8 Syracuse

Another great crowd. This is what folks are talking about when they say athletes want a “championship feel.” They don’t care that it’s the opposition’s fans… they just don’t want to play in an arena where they can hear their sneakers squeak. The Gamecocks move into the Sweet Sixteen looking ready for bear. From Mechelle: Depth, Dozier lead Gameocks

South Carolina guard Asia Dozier recalls attending Gamecock women’s games when she was in junior high school, and not having any problem getting a good seat. Dozier, a Columbia native whose father and uncle are twins who played basketball at South Carolina in the 1980s, realized she had a chance to help improve the atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena.

“I probably came to my first women’s game here in seventh grade,” Dozier said. “At halftime, they used to announce to everybody who was in the upper deck to come down and fill in the empty seats close to the court. Now to see the fans rush in when the doors open, it’s a complete turnaround. It’s an amazing feeling to know we played a role in changing the fan support here.”

#3 Oregon State v. #11 Gonzaga

Gonzaga handled the pressure, handled the OSU home crowd, handled their business and, behind the great game by freshman Wolfram, another “mid-major” makes the Sweet Sixteen.

#1 Notre Dame v. #9 DePaul

No surprise, the Blue Demons made the Irish uncomfortable for a bit — but Notre Dame recovered and dumped DePaul, advancing to the next round.

#4 Cal v. #5 Texas

After a strong start got derailed by injuries, Texas was dismissed by some. They’re out to prove folks wrong. They faced Cal on Hess Court and triumphing, 73-70, reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 11 years. From Michelle:

McGee-Stafford was the centerpiece of a dominate-the-paint strategy on both ends of the floor that propelled fifth-seeded Texas to a 73-70 win over No. 4 seed Cal at Haas Pavilion on Sunday and into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.

“This is how we start our legacy,” McGee-Stafford said. “We were able to do something that hasn’t been done in over a decade and it just goes to show that hard work eventually pays off.”

From Graham: Five Observations From Sunday

Half of the Sweet 16 is set. Here are five takeaways from Day 3 of the women’s NCAA tournament.

1. You come at the king …: You probably know how the rest of the famous line from “The Wire” goes. No. 11 Gonzaga wasn’t whistling “The Farmer in the Dell” or anything else in the final seconds of its second-round game against No. 3 seed Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon — although Gill Coliseum was probably about as quiet as a deserted street at night — but the basic premise is the same.

The Pacific Northwest is still property of the team from Spokane. Changing that goes through the Bulldogs.

Take a breath, ’cause up next:

#7 FCGU v. #2 Florida State

From the Cape Coral Breeze: FSU next for streaking FGCU women

From the News-Press: Notes: FGCU knows task gets tougher against FSU

#8 Princeton v. #1 Maryland

From Graham: Key classes fuel Terps, Tigers – Maryland, Princeton power on after losing stars Alyssa Thomas, Niveen Rasheed

Arguably the loudest ovation of the day inside the Xfinity Center on Saturday was not the one that greeted the man who works in the Oval Office. That had nothing to do with politics or partisanship on a day that saw President Barack Obama take in his niece’s game. Abraham Lincoln could have walked in during the opening game between Princeton and Green Bay, when the stands were still more empty than full save for concentrated patches of orange and green, and the reception would have paled in comparison to that a few hours later when Alyssa Thomas appeared on the video board during the game between Maryland and New Mexico State.

A year removed from her final college game, the best player in Maryland women’s basketball history is a hard act to follow.

So, too, is Niveen Rasheed, still perhaps the best player in Princeton history two years after she last played college ball.

#10 Pittsburgh v. #2 Tennessee

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pitt women’s basketball team hopes to reach ‘Summitt’ of dreams at Tennessee

From the Knoxville Sentinel: Mike Strange: Pitt women’s improbable story leads to Knoxville

Also from KSN: Tennessee coach Holly Warlick makes impression on Pittsburgh coach

From the Chattanooga: John Shearer: Remembering Meeting The Pittsburgh Women’s Coach

#5 Oklahoma v. #4 Stanford

From the Oklahoma Daily: Women’s basketball to battle Stanford in second round

From the Stanford Daily: Card to play Oklahoma for Sweet 16 Berth

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Stanford women to face physical Oklahoma in NCAA Tournament on Monday

#5 Ohio State v. #4 North Carolina

From the Columbus Dispatch: Buckeyes, Tar Heels like to run

The NCAA tournament mountaintop that the Ohio State women’s basketball team intends to reach will take on a slightly steeper grade at 6:30  Monday night when the Buckeyes face North Carolina on its Carmichael Arena home court.

Fifth-seeded Ohio State (24-10) stopped 12th-seeded James Madison 90-80 in a fast-paced first-round game on Saturday to get a shot at the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8), a traditional power out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

From OSU The Lantern: Alston, Mitchell fueling Ohio State women’s basketball in NCAA Tournament

From the Daily Tar Heel: UNC women’s basketball wins for ‘mama bear’

From the New York Times: A New Start for Sylvia Hatchell, a Veteran Tar Heel

In this season of many returns — to health, to basketball, to the N.C.A.A. tournament — Sylvia Hatchell has embraced a saying.

“I tell people, ‘This is my 40th year,’ but in a lot of ways, it feels like my first,” Hatchell, the 63-year-old coach of the North Carolina women’s basketball team for the past 29 years, said of her coaching career after her fourth-seeded Tar Heels survived No. 13 Liberty, 71-65, in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament on Saturday at Carmichael Arena.

#8 Rutgers v. #1 Connecticut

From NJ.com:  Some reward: Rutgers now faces Geno Auriemma and UConn, his basketball machine | Politi

From Keith Sergeant: Rutgers women’s basketball team to President Obama: ‘We busted your bracket!’

From UConn: Top-Seeded UConn Set to Face Eighth-Seeded Rutgers in NCAA Second Round on Monday

From the Courant: Effort, Unselfishness Are The Keys To UConn’s Success and Rutgers Works To Return To UConn’s Level, Courant

From the Register: UConn women well aware of what Rutgers brings to the table, Register

The Knicks lost *again*, so from the NY Times: Rutgers’s Coach Is Used to Winning, but Not When She Faces UConn, NY Times

From NJ.com: NCAA Tournament 2015: Can the mighty UConn women’s basketball team be beat?

From NorthJersey.com: Tall task in Storrs for Rutgers women,

#6 South Florida v. #3 Louisville

From the Courier-Journal: USF a familiar foe for U of L women

Also from the C-J: USF’s Courtney Williams to test U of L women

From the Oracle: Bulls charge to second round

From the AP’s Mark Didtler: Louisville and USF look to advance to Sweet 16

”The one thing that we take great pride here at Louisville is the ability to play different ways for different opponents,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said. ”We’re quite aware we’re not going to be able to play that same way defensively, so we’ll have to figure out a new game plan and move on from there.”

#11 Arkansas-Little Rock v. #3 Arizona State

 From the Merced Sun-Star: Sun Devils in for tough test against Trojans

From FoxSports: UALR-Arizona St. Preview

Waiting for their turn in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona State’s players sat in the stands and watched Arkansas-Little Rock get knocked around by Texas A&M.

The bigger Aggies pushed the Trojans, bumped them, fouled them when they tried to get off shots.

What caught the Sun Devils‘ attention was the reaction of UALR’s players: Nothing.

”You can tell that nothing really bothers them,” Arizona State forward Sophie Brunner said. ”They just make things work.”

From the Examiner.com: Women’s NCAA second round matches ASU and UALR in Tempe Monday night

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What’s exciting about the first round is not so much the winners/losers but the margins of victory. Upsets – or upsets avoided – often come on last second shots. Margin of victory often comes down to size & physical fitness or skill level/coaching. So much fun to see teams go head-to-head for the first time.

Squeak!

The Great Danes may be kicking themselves over this during the off season – #4 Duke by 2 over #13 Albany, courtesy of a last second Greenwell three.

The Duke women’s basketball team was staring at the abyss. Which is pretty much what an NCAA tournament first-round loss at home at Cameron Indoor Stadium would have felt like for the Blue Devils: a bottomless gulf.

Fortunately for Duke, though, Rebecca Greenwell was there to fill up the bucket.

“Kudos to her,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of the redshirt freshman’s 20 points, six coming on 3-pointers. “I mean, she killed us. That’s the game: It’s her.”

The #12 Toppers couldn’t top #5 Texas, as the Longhorns escaped with a 2-point win, 66-64.

“I told the players after the game this was a hard-fought win and there’s no shame it went down to the wire,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.

Imani McGee-Stafford had 24 points and 14 rebounds as sloppy Texas overcame 19 turnovers — including one that could have cost the Longhorns the game — and erased a late seven-point deficit.

Missing key players for extended parts of the season has toughed up both #9 Nebraska and #8 Syracuse. Only the Orange move on, though, by a slim three-point margin.

Timber!

#9 Depaul came back from a big deficit to get the win over #8 Minnesota. Bruno is a damn good coach. And Stollings is going one SO happy to add a healthy B to Zahui B. ZB notched a mere 21/22 in this game.

After making only two of 20 three-point attempts in the first half, DePaul started to connect as the Gophers faltered. They made six of 14 in the final 20 minutes, including three during their rally.

“I actually didn’t think our defense was particularly good in the first half and at the beginning of the second half,’’ Bruno said. “Maybe the 15-point deficit was the best thing that could have happened to us, because it really showed [his players] that our backs were going to be up against the wall, and they were going to have to fight to have a chance to win.”

#11 Miami built a nice first-half lead over #6 Washington, and rode Motley’s 30 to the upset win, 86-80.

Motley — who had 32 points in Miami’s biggest win, a 78-63 win over Notre Dame that likely sealed a tournament bid — hit a jumper in the lane to give Miami a 73-71 lead. Four free throws put the Hurricanes up six with a minute left.

“Her pull-up, when she goes to shoot it, the person on the bench keeping score is already writing two,” Miami coach Katie Meier said about Motley. “She’s just so consistent.”

#10-why-did-they-get-a-bid Arkansas was down 13, but came back to tripped up #7 Northwestern by 2, 57-55.

“Big boost of confidence in our first year to be in the NCAA and then to win a game like we had to win,” said Dykes, the former Razorbacks player and ESPN analyst. “We just kept saying this is a fight more than a basketball game. Our guys love that. They love that theme.”

I warned ya the WCC was tough. #11 Gonzaga took down #6 George Washington, 82-69.

With George Washington storming back within six points and the shot clock winding down Friday night, Gonzaga forward Sunny Greinacher didn’t think. She let it fly.

The ball went through net with 3:15 left to play and the 3-pointer turned to be the game-winner as No. 11 seed Gonzaga upset No. 6 seed George Washington 82-69 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

“I loved the way we battled,” Zags coach Lisa Fortier said. “I’m very happy with our performance.”

Phew!

The #14 ‘wabbits had a 2-pt lead over the #3 Beavers at the half, but Oregon State pulled away the second for the 74-62 win.

#5 Mississippi State had just enough to keep the #12 Green Wave of Tulane at bay, 57-47.

As it should be in 10 v. 7 games, the higher-seed Dayton kept Iowa State at arms length for the 11pt win.

Nice showing by #14 American in their first tourney, as they gave #3 Iowa quite the tussle, finally falling 75-67.

#13 Wichita State proved it was no slouch as they kept within striking distance of #4 Cal for most of the game with Harden matching Gray’s 22/9 output. But the Bears had too much team support, and ended up with the 12-point win, 78-66.

Just sayin’….

Yah, #1 South Carolina stomped #16 Savannah State, 81-48 – but just think: The upset MEAC champs scored 30 first-half points on the SEC champs…

Yah. #2 Baylor stomped Northwestern State but… hmmm… No buts. NWSt got stomped.

Same thing happened to #15 Tennesseee State when they faced #2 Kentucky, 97-52.

None of the Irish starters played more than 29 minutes as #1 Notre Dame cruised past #16 Montana, 77-43.

In WNIT news, Round 1 is done. Round 2 starts Sunday.

Wednesday, March 18
Michigan 72, Cleveland State 50
East Carolina 74, Radford 52
Ole Miss 80, UT Martin 70
Arkansas State 61, Western Michigan 49
Eastern Washington 67, Washington State 65

Thursday, March 19
Old Dominion 69, Virginia 62
St. John’s 64, Army 56
Fordham 70, Central Connecticut State 67
Penn 65, Hofstra 58
Temple 67, Marist 54
NC State 73, ETSU 58
West Virginia 84, Buffalo 61
Hampton 45, Drexel 42
Duquesne 72, Youngstown State 54
Georgia Tech 69, Elon 47
Middle Tennessee 69, Ball State 58
Southern Miss 79, Texas Southern 69
TCU 85, Stephen F. Austin 80
Kansas State 86, Akron 68
Missouri 69, Northern Iowa 61
South Dakota 68, Creighton 58
Northern Colorado 53, Colorado State 48
San Diego 63, Long Beach State 56
UCLA 70, CSU Bakersfield 54
Sacramento State 87, Pacific 79
Fresno State 79, San Francisco 73

Friday, March 20
Toledo 72, Wright State 64
Villanova 71, Maine 60
Richmond 67, Stetson 66
Tulsa 78, Missouri State 72
Eastern Michigan 80, Drake 70
Saint Mary’s 92, Hawaii 88 OT

ROUND 2

Sunday, March 22 (all times ET)
Temple at Penn, 2 p.m.
Fordham at St. John’s, 2 p.m.
Old Dominion at Villanova, 2 p.m.
TCU at Southern Miss, 3 p.m.
Missouri at Kansas State, 3 p.m.
Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee, 3 p.m.
NC State at ECU, 4 p.m.
UCLA at San Diego, 5 p.m.
Eastern Michigan at Tulsa, 6 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
South Dakota at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.

Monday, March 23
Michigan at Toledo, 7 p.m.
Eastern Wash. at Sacramento St, 10 p.m.
Fresno State at Saint Mary’s, 10 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24
Hampton at West Virginia, 7 p.m.
Richmond at Duquesne, 7 p.m.

In NCAA Division III, the finals are set. It’ll be Thomas More going to their first championship game, courtesy of their 62-52 win over Tufts.

Friday night’s victory (30-2) helped the Saints (32-0) forget a rather difficult anniversary. A year ago Friday, Thomas More’s 2014 season ended in the quarterfinals — and Moss tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. “I had surgery and I was ready to come back when we started practice in October,” said Moss, who bears a black brace on that knee. “I’m not 100 percent though, I’d say more about 85. I’m still a little slow,” she said with a sly grin. “It’s still hard to move side to side sometimes; I have to slide my feet.”

They’ll face off against George Fox, who returned to the title match with their 70-58 win over Montclair State.

“We are just elated to be going to the national championship game,” head coach Michael Meek said. “We have had nothing but fantastic support from our community back home and we use that as motivation when we play. This is just an awesome experience for these women and I can’t wait for us to play tomorrow night.”

From the good folks at D3Hoops: Title game is two perfect

Thomas More defeated Tufts on another record breaking night for Sydney Moss while  George Fox’s full court press wore down Montclair State, setting up an national title game between two undefeated teams.

You can catch the game here at 7:30pm.

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Had to follow it on twitter (thanks, Gonzagawbb – loved the video commentary and this morning’s GAME HIGHLIGHTS) but what a game between the Bulldogs and the Dons. Through three overtimes, neither team would let the other win… until finally, in the fourth,  10-time defending conference champion Gonzaga prevailed, 91-84. The game featured 21 lead changes, 14 ties and lasted two hours and 50 minutes, becoming the longest game in West Coast Conference women’s basketball history.

“I’ve never been involved in a four overtime game,” head coach Jennifer Azzi noted after the marathon on the court. “Never. This is the first one ever – playing, coaching. I don’t even know if I’ve ever been involved in a three overtime, so this was pretty crazy. This team is really special. They get along very, very well, and they’re very supportive of one another. I’m just so proud of our team.”

I know coach Azzi must be sick and tired of my (and anyone else’s)  “signs of program progress” commentary, and her players must be pissed and exhausted, but consider what was happening in San Fransisco when she assumed the head coaching duties in 2010: The program hasn’t had a winning record since 2001-02, and only one since 1996-97. They now stand at  and are a young team (3 seniors) with some height. Things could get very interesting out west….

In other games, Gonzaga’s WCC rival St. Mary’s got smacked by their other WCC rival, Pacific, 61-48.

Kendall Kenyon had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half for her 45th career double-double, which broke the program record amassed by Julie Szukalski from 1986-90. Kenyon finished with 12 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, including eight on offense, to go with two blocks, two assists, one steal and only one turnover in 28 minutes.

“It’s pretty awesome to hit that milestone,” Kenyon said. “It really tops off my senior year. But I’m just trying to keep moving forward and keep improving. Coach Roberts always says consistency in key in great teams and great players.”

It was a great game between the top two teams in the OVC, Tennessee-Martin and SIU-Edwardsville, but the conference leading Skyhawks emerged victorious, 69-68.

The OVC produced the second Debbie Antonelli Special of the night, as Murray State upset Austin Peay, 98-84.

No, #18 Princeton wasn’t upset, but fellow Ivy League undefeated Yale was – by Harvard, 65-55.

The Big West seems to be slipping out of Long Beach State’s hands and into the Wahine’s. 

Yes, the Billikens seem to be improving, but they couldn’t get past Richmond.

Since getting smacked by Maine, New Hampshire has lost four straight. Magarity’s young coaching staff has got to get their team’s head back into the season.

That sigh of relief was the Catamounts breaking their 12-game skid. Their next opponent? The struggling Wildcats.

Yah, it’s looking like the MEAC is going to be between Norfolk State and Hampton. Circle March 5th on your calendar.

Texas Southern is lurking right behind Southern in the SWAC. They’ll meet each other for the second time this season on March 7th.

New Mexico State moves to 8-0 in the WAC.

That “other” team from New Mexico is making noise again. Sure, their out of conference record is for carp, but in-conference is not so bad. Let’s see what happens when the Lobos host Colorado State at the Pit this Wednesday.

Central Connecticut sits atop the NEC at 10-1. They’ll face their nearest challenger, Robert Morris, two games from now. The Colonials eeked out a win against Farleigh Dickinson, 69-68.

As anticipated, it was a battle between the Michigans, but Western staked out a lead and Central could never quite catch up.

It was an unanticipated battle between Western Carolina (1-7, Southern) and East Tennessee State (7-1 Southern), as the Catamounts gave the Buccaneers all they could handle. In the end, ETSU emerged victorious. Six games from now, they’ll have their second showdown against conference-leading Chattanooga.

The Hattiesburg American gives a shout out to Southern Miss head coach: McNelis outdoing herself this year

Here’s the deal: last season, Southern Miss did not beat perennial powerhouse Middle Tennessee more than once. It has defeated MTSU twice this year as well as Western Kentucky once, both of which have either been ranked in the Top 25 poll or received votes. Last season, Lee-McNelis never had to deal with quitters as she has this time around (senior Markia Nix and freshman Shakoa Edwards bailed on her early in the year). Last season, she had Jamierra Faulkner running things on the floor when things got dicey. No disrespect to Tamara Jones, Jerontay Clemons or any other players on the team this season, but none of them are Faulkner.

We know what’s coming up tomorrow…so what does one make of Geno getting so cranky with the play of his starters that he sits Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart four minutes into the game against Memphis? And they stay there all game. And UConn still wins by 50.

On the upcoming Connecticut-South Carolina game from David Cloninger:

This is the one we’ve all been waiting on.

Connecticut.

“It’s UConn,” Tiffany Mitchell shrugged after a pasting of Georgia on Thursday. “Now, finally, we’re ready to play them.”

It’s been circled since the idea was approached. Dawn Staley was working on the deal last year, one because it was getting increasingly harder to schedule good competition and two because she knew that this year would be an outstanding year, and what better litmus test could there be?

More from David: Gamecocks’ depth overwhelms foes

This is getting silly.

Alaina Coates, South Carolina’s best inside player and the key to establishing everything the Gamecocks try to do on offense, was suspended. USC was on the road, in a gym where it’s hardly ever played well. Players had already been talking about the next game, not this one.

And it still didn’t matter.

Why? Bianca Cuevas, this time.

Coach Staley is familiar with may of the UConn players because of her time with USA Basketball. From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: South Carolina’s Staley dishes on UConn’s Stewart and future Husky Collier

Scott Anderson at The State:

But on Monday, when UConn hosts USC at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, it’ll be the visitors ranked No. 1 and the Huskies No. 2.

Wrap your head around that for a moment.

The Gamecocks, unbeaten at 22-0, are considered the best team in the country as they prepare to take on the best program in the country.

That’s really amazing.

David Caraviello at the Post & Courier: Anticipation runs high for both No. 2 UConn, No. 1 USC

Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma earned his 900th career victory Tuesday, but there was little drama in what quickly become another rout of another overmatched conference opponent. The real anticipation bubbled through the crowd whenever the video boards at Hartford’s XL Center promoted Monday’s game in Storrs against No. 1 South Carolina — even though it’s been sold-out for weeks.

Lori Riley at the Courant: Dawn Staley Says South Carolina Playing UConn, Not ‘What’s In Rafters’

“You can’t come into a basketball game and play the nine basketball championship [banners] hanging from the rafters,” Staley said Friday on a conference call. “You can’t think that way, because you’ve already lost the game. We play in one of the toughest conferences in the country, we have to think that way. It’ll overwhelm you if you try to play what’s up in the rafters.”

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Key stats: South Carolina at UConn

The two best teams in the nation square off Monday (ESPN/WatchESPN, 8 p.m. ET) when top-ranked South Carolina takes on second-ranked Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion. For the undefeated Gamecocks, it’s an opportunity to keep their perfect season alive and earn the program’s first win against UConn. But the Huskies, who have been nothing short of unstoppable since their loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, have their eyes set to a return to No. 1 and on a third consecutive national title.

From Scott Michaux: Top-ranked South Carolina women face toughest test yet in No. 2 UConn

John Altavilla: Underestimate South Carolina? Not A Chance

Among the phenomenon Geno Auriemma has adapted to during the last 20 of his 30 years at UConn has been weathering the possible impact of approaching storms.

As it relates to Monday at Gampel Pavilion, it’s not about how much snow may fall, but how  much importance is being attached to the Huskies game with unbeaten and top-ranked South Carolina.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many times we’ve been in this situation, 1 vs. 2, but it’s been frequent,” Auriemma said. “And it’s occurred over many years, with many different teams, sometimes on the road, other times at home, with many different teams and coaches.

Game preview by DoggyDaddy:

South Carolina come into this game undefeated at 22-0. Their OOC schedule was pretty weak with only two games against ranked teams, defeating No. 22 (at the time) Syracuse 67-63 and No. 9 Duke 51-50. They also had a tough outing against the real USC winning 69-61. They have met a few ranked teams in their conference schedule, beating No. 10 Kentucky 68-60, No.12 Texas A&M 79-61, and now No. 22 Georgia 58-35 in their last game.

UConn comes into this game on a 21 game winning streak after beating Memphis. UConn played (and lost) to No. 6 Stanford, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 25 DePaul, and No.10 Duke. While the conference is weak, South Florida is a top 25 RPI team.    

Both Geno and Dawn are doing their best to motivate their players. Dawn sat one of her stars for breaking what was probably a nothing team rule. She used it to show she will sit you so “don’t screw up”. And she wants Coates to play angry.  

Jere’ from the Times looks ahead (waaaaay ahead?): After Geno Auriemma’s Reign, UConn Could Lose Clout

South Carolina travels to Connecticut on Monday night for a meeting of the top two N.C.A.A. women’s basketball teams. The matchup will tell us something about the present and raise a thorny question about the future.

In this turbulent, uncertain period of college sports, how long can UConn sustain its dominance as one of the few women’s basketball powers not affiliated with a Power 5 football conference? The reflexive answer for many is: for as long as Geno Auriemma remains head coach.

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The PAC 12 is the most interesting power conference (ya, the B12 is kinda fun, and the SEC sure was — before all of those devastating injuries.)

Arizona State stakes a claim to “we’re better than the competition we’ve plowed through on our way to a #10 ranking” by taking down #12 Stanford, 53-52. It wasn’t a particularly elegant game, but it did give the Sun Devils their first sweep of the Cardinal since 1984.

“Beating Stanford is just such a mental hurdle for our team,” Moos said. “When you can finally overcome beating Stanford, that’s when you know your team has reached mental toughness.”

Washington, who’s been on the edge of upsetting folks, did it against #7 Oregon State, 76-67.

“It’ll hit us tomorrow how big of a deal it was,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “Right now it’s just good we bounced back from a tough two-game road swing.”

The Beavers were down a player, Gabby Hanson.

“Gabby’s our best perimeter defender and if you had to miss one game in the conference, this was not the one I would choose,” Rueck said. “Washington’s strength is their perimeter so we certainly missed her. I thought we played with a lot of heart tonight. We competed, it just wasn’t our night.”

Speaking of upsets, Cornell does it again: Penn loses first game at Palestra in over a year

Penn (11-7, 2-2 Ivy) struggled once again on offense, and Cornell (13-6, 4-1 Ivy) took great care of the ball to keep the Quakers from making up for it defensively. Penn turned it over 14 times and was only able to force the visitors into five miscues. 

“It just goes to show you how much they had control of this game,” coach Mike McLaughlin said of Cornell’s ball control. “We have to cause a little more havoc on defense. We gave up too many shots at the basket, there were too many breakdowns – mental breakdowns.”

Next up for Cornell: undefeated Princeton.

Minus their leading scorer (ankle), #19 Nebraska couldn’t overcome #21 Rutgers. It was old school Scarlet Knights, winning ugly, 46-43. While it won’t win any style points, it was the 177th win in the B1G Ten for coach C. Vivian Stringer, making her the winningest in the conference.

“I was shocked when they talked about it,” Stringer said after the game. “I didn’t even know anything about that…I was just trying to get through this game.”

Finally got that “mini-signature win, though it was also pretty style-free:” #25 Syracuse over #13 North Carolina, 61-56.

The two teams combined to go 13-for-55 from the 3-point line and Syracuse pulled out the win after only shooting 27 percent from the field.

Shhh… that’s New Mexico State at 7-0 in the WAC. There’s a familiar name coaching the Aggies: Mark Trakh is in his fourth year.

Okay, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but it’s nice the getting back into the rankings didn’t freak the Colonials out: George Washington wins 52-35 over Davidson. Didja see the article in the Times about the University?

OUCH: Wright State stomped all over the Penguins, 92-55 to earn a little revenge. Nice news on senior Courtney Boyd:

Boyd has faced tragedy, injuries and adversity over the last few years at Wright State. On Thursday, she showed signs of a comeback. 

WOWZA: It took three overtimes, but we got a Debbie Antonelli Special: New Orleans with the upset over McNeese State, 90-86. When the two teams played each other on the 31st, the Cowgirls won 82-58.

“We made a few adjustments in practice and many people did not understand the first time why we played zone. When we played McNeese the first time we forgot our rotations. We were ready tonight. Their words coming were We can and we will,” said Coach Keeshawn Davenport.

Well, lookee here: like the Pac-12, C-USA has got some competition at the top. Southern Miss takes down Middle Tennessee State in OT, 70-65.

Southern Miss enjoys the underdog label.

Especially against MTSU. The Lady Eagles knocked off the Lady Raiders for the second time this season — and the third time since MTSU joined Conference USA last season — with a 70-65 overtime win Thursday at Reed Green Coliseum.

For the third time in three weeks, Southern Miss’ women’s basketball team beat the league’s first-place team, sandwiching a win over Western Kentucky with the victories over MTSU.

Western Kentucky will face the Blue Raiders on the 21st. After that, it’s a race to the Conference Championship.

The West Coast Conference is still a three way battle between Gonzaga, BYU (win #300 for coach Judkins) and St. Mary’s… with San Diego knocking on the door. Gonzaga faces all three in the last three weeks of the regular season. St. Mary’s next faces feisty Pacific and their equally feisty point guard.

Think she’s too short, isn’t quick enough or can’t shoot.

Kristina Johnson would like nothing more than prove you wrong.

Though often the shortest player on the court, the 5-foot-5 senior point guard has contributed to the Pacific basketball team in ways that sometimes can’t be measured. Johnson brings controled fury and a team-first attitude to the Tigers, who host Saint Mary’s in an important West Coast Conference game at 2 p.m. today at Spanos Center.

See – there is no WBH curse! William & Mary (4-6, CAA) takes Drexel (8-2) into overtime… and comes away with the win, 72-68.

For the second straight game the William and Mary women’s basketball team prevailed in a double-overtime, dropping Drexel 72-68 in two extra sessions in Philadelphia on Friday night. Senior Jazmen Boone led five Tribe players in double-figures with a game-high 16 points. With the win, the Tribe, which won its fourth straight game, moved its record to 11-11, 5-6 in Colonial Athletic Association play, while the Dragons fall to 14-8, 8-3 in league action.

Wait. Maybe there is… the Salukis (5-5, Missouri Valley) take down Drake,  81-76. (They lost to the Bulldogs 81-66 in their previous matchup.)

 It was scene that hasn’t been witnessed at the SIU Arena for a long time — especially where women’s basketball is involved.

Dyana Pierre picked up teammate Rishonda Napier and carried her off the floor (Great photo -WHB) after the Salukis upset Drake 81-76. Napier scored 30 points as the Saluki women handed the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the year.

The victory was the twelfth of the year for the Salukis. SIU won just five games last year.

High Point stumbled against Presbyterian, 78-59, and are now three games behind Liberty in the Big South.

Upcoming games of interest:

SIUE women’s basketball at UT Martin. The Cougars, who earned their 9th straight, are 9-1 in the Ohio Valley. The Skyhawks are 10-0 in the OVC. A win today would make a program record conference start.

Rivalry rematch: FGCU v. Stetson.

The Atlantic Sun Conference believes its two flagship women’s basketball programs – FGCU and Stetson – have their best chance to make the NCAA tournament in the same season for the first time ever.

Both teams, of course, would much prefer to be the automatic qualifier.

In-state rivalry: Western Michigan v. Central Michigan.

Youth has not been a major characteristic of the Central Michigan University women’s basketball team in recent seasons.

Many of the teams that have played in the maroon and gold have featured a class of seniors blazing a trail for the freshmen to follow in the seasons to come. 

For this season’s freshmen, it is a different story.

Service rivalry: Army v. Navy.

Sunday games of interest:

A-10 rivals: Dayton v. #24 George Washington.

In-state rivalry: #20 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

In-state rivalry: Miami v. #9 FSU.

Wednesday marks the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 29th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and Florida State has several reasons to celebrate.

The last two years have seen an unprecedented run of success for FSU’s women’s programs. That includes a national championship for soccer, a best-ever regular season for volleyball, a Women’s College World Series appearance for softball and a current Top-10 ranking for basketball.

CAA rivals: Drexel v. James Madison. Coach Kenny Brooks just won his 300th.

America East old v. new: Hartford v. Maine.

Maine is currently riding its longest winning streak since it strung together 13-straight during the 2004-05 campaign. The Black Bears are coming off their biggest win of the year as they defeated the current #1 team in the conference, UAlbany, by a score of 52-44 back on Feb. 1. UAlbany, who leads the league in scoring (67.4 ppg) were held to its lowest total of the year in the loss to Maine. The win snapped a 10-game losing skid against the Great Danes dating back to 2010. 

SEC rivals: #17 Mississippi State v. #14 Texas A&M.

Big 10 rivals: #5 Maryland v. #19 Nebraska.

Though she’s 13 years retired, Maryland women’s basketball players call her “Coach.” At 70, Chris Weller still attends the games and even some workouts of the team she ran for 27 years.

Once, last year, she addressed the Terps after practice.

“I wanted them to know about the legacy we’ve followed,” said Brenda Frese, her successor.

The players got an earful.

She’s back: Versyp reinstates Moore

Foreign Flashback: Abrosimova Brought Magic To Storrs

Now back in Moscow, busier than ever, Svetlana Abrosimova remains a social media maven. She checks in with the world as often as time allows.

So it did not surprise her to learn that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the precocious three-point shooter from California, was about to knock her off the list of UConn’s Top 10 career scorers. She’d been reading about it and knew it was coming. .

And for those who remember the unique relationship Abrosimova still shares with Geno Auriemma, hearing that her congratulations to Mosqueda-Lewis was accompanied with a customary dig at her former UConn coach does not surprise.

“I could have scored a lot more if coach Auriemma didn’t make me play defense all the time,” Abrosimova tweeted.

Dueling Delphi’s: From Harvey Araton at the NY Times: Diana Taurasi Can Rest Easy, but W.N.B.A. Can’t

Taurasi’s decision was also an unavoidable commentary on the state of the professional game in the United States, just now short of two decades old, not far removed from its developmental cradle. The growth of the W.N.B.A. notwithstanding, its long-term forecast remains partly cloudy and it may never provide a lucrative, full-time living for its talent.

From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Taurasi’s decision to skip season isn’t a WNBA death sentence

When push comes to shove for aging WNBA stars, their overseas careers might get the push, and the WNBA might get the shove.

Doomsayers are predicting, well, doom for the WNBA, a mass exodus of its stars. Especially now that Taurasi has officially opened this can of worms.

But here’s what the WNBA has going for it: Loyalty. History. Location.

In other W news:

Delle Donne feeling good after “crazy” 2014 season

At Wednesday’s launch of their 10th anniversary celebrations, Elena Delle Donne showed why she’s been made the face of the Sky franchise. She was outgoing in her interactions with the 150 or so girls there for a sports expo, mingled easily with media and dignitaries and spoke strongly about the Sky’s present, future and what the franchise means for the Chicago sports landscape.

It was clear that the offseason has been good for Delle Donne after a 2014 season that was memorable for a lot of negative reasons.

Nothing like stoking an inter-city rivalry: 

Shavonte Zellous signed with Turkish basketball team Fenerbahce on Friday.

Zellous played last season for rival Galatasary, leading that team to the championship in both the domestic and Euroleague. She has been embroiled in a salary dispute for the past few months with that club.

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Nerd Chillin’ Kids, Nerd, Nerd Chillin’ Kids….

Zags Lisa and Craig give a new meaning to “Ice Cold from the Field.” (And we have NO problem with Cheatin4Charity)

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and what a great trip. The landing, though, was a tad tough, what with having to jump deep back into work. What is it about taking a break seems to make work want to take it out on you…

So, about that championship game. Yah, it was a while ago, and ya, the final score says comfortable blowout, but it was a fun game, with Notre Dame showing a lot of heart (after a lot of nerves). I sure hope the ridiculousness between the two coaches/programs fades like so many family blowups.

Some of the good news: ratings.

Now, for those who are moaning, “oh, here we go again, UConn is “bad” for women’s basketball,” I simply say: don’t ignore what happened with the REST of the teams this past season. Lots of parity. Lots of young coaches. Next step: demand excellence from them. Raise expectations. Identify best practices. Stop complacency. Push for Title IX compliance. And hope for a little bit of luck and courage in the recruiting wars.

Case in point: From Mechelle –  A’JaWilson decision a big win for Staley – Nation’s top prospect averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as senior

....even though South Carolina was regarded as the favorite to land Wilson — a 6-foot-5 forward from the Gamecocks’ own backyard in Columbia, S.C. — the fact that she really did stay put is a big victory for coach Dawn Staley’s program.

It matters from a national perspective, as does the fact that UCLA has signed what’s considered the top-ranked recruiting class for 2014. The Bruins are also underdogs in women’s hoops that fans of the sport in general will root for to provide more diversity at the elite level of Division I.

I keep using terms like “fans of women’s basketball in general,” which might sound nebulous. But after so many years of following the sport, I think I have a pretty good handle on who they are.

Intriguing case in point: Diamond DeShields’ decision to transfer from North Carolina. Clearly, the actually reasons behind her move is still to be revealed, but it’s hard not to speculate (homesickness? looming NCAA sanctions?). Mechelle reflects on her interviews with Deshields this past season.

Remember when the news broke in May 2012 that four blue-chip juniors all decided to commit to North Carolina’s women’s basketball team?

Diamond DeShields was the point person in bringing them together, and it appeared to be a lottery-jackpot day for the Tar Heels. DeShields, Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington — ranked third, eighth, 15th and 17th, respectively, in their 2013 recruiting class — were all headed to Chapel Hill, N.C.

What could go wrong?

Well, it might have crossed your mind that day — it did mine — that when a group of teens makes long-range plans to do something complicated together, it might go awry. Not being ageist; it’s just that kids are kids. We’ve all been there.

Good news for Purdue: Hamby, Bays on the mend.

Interesting news for a CSU team that had a resurgent season: Four women’s basketball players are transferring

I was saddened to hear the news of coach Joe Curl’s passing. Most within the basketball world knew of his health struggles. They forced him to step away from his position as Houston Cougars’ coach. He came into national prominence during the 2003-04 season, where he and three-time C-USA Player of the Year, Chandi Jones, led  the Cougars to the second round in the NCAA tourney and earned AP National Coach of the Year honors. I remember him smiling as he picked up the award, almost embarrassed at being surrounded by press and the “elite” of basketball — Alana Beard was the AP’s NPOY. 

I was not surprised by Terri Mitchell’s dismissal from Marquette — she never quite seemed to be able to break through within the recruiting ranks.  I wonder if she’ll thrive better on different soil. We shall see if the Anonymous Eagles’ impression (Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.) is correct.

The Bulldogs didn’t look far to find their new coach, appointing longtime assistant Lisa Fortier as Gonzaga’s next leader. She’s going to have to find some new assistants, though.  I don’t know about you, but if Kelly Graves can do in Oregon what Scott Rueck has done at Oregon State, the west coast will be wicked fun to watch. (Interesting that associate head coach Mark Campbell left the Beavers to join the Ducks.)

Congrats to Natasha Adair, who’s moved from the College of Charleston back to Georgetown. Here’s hoping she can grow a program that seems to have lost the ground that Terri Williams-Flournoy seemed to have gained. Does the athletic department triply give a hoot about women’s basketball?

I remember Maren Walseth from the first Final Four I attended (2000 in Philly). She’s now the head coach at North Dakota State University. Interesting tidbit: Walseth’s sister, Annika, played for NDSU during the 2007-08 season.    

Nice to see Yolanda Moore move up the ranks. She’s now head coach at  Southeastern Louisiana University. “Moore spent the 2013-14 season as the head coach at LSU Eunice. Taking over a program that had won 17 games combined in the previous two seasons, Moore led the Lady Bengals to a 26-3 overall record and the program’s first-ever Miss-Lou Conference championship.”

Keep Fresno State on your “watch list,” as they plucked Jaime White from Northern Colorado.

More on the “WTF list:: Women’s basketball player appeals K-State transfer denial

 Leticia Romero has known she wanted to transfer for several weeks, but she will have to wait a little longer to find out if Kansas State will grant her a release from its women’s basketball program.

Romero, a rising freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, decided she wanted to leave K-State after the Wildcats fired Deb Patterson, the coach she signed on to play for, but the athletic department denied her initial transfer request. On Wednesday afternoon, she took her case to an appeals committee led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco. As of Wednesday night, the committee had not informed Romero of its decision.

Fashion Week in Illinois: Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

In WNBA news, Nate ranks has his 2014 Draft recap: The big winners and great value drafts (Spoiler alert: Connecticut, New York and Seattle do well).

Don’t miss Swish Appeal’s other musings:

Take a listen to Dishin & Swishin’s 04/17/14 Podcast: Anne Donovan & Fred Williams discuss Connecticut and Tulsa’s draft picks and offseason moves

Have you read Griner’s book “In My Skin” yet? Did you read Kate Fagan’s piece on Griner: Held Up n Customs: Live in China Gave Brittney More Than She Bargained For. 

THE NUMBER OF moving obstacles at a busy intersection in China can feel paralyzing for a pedestrian. None of the cars, mopeds or bikes appears to be following the traffic laws, which makes stepping off the curb a game of chance, like real-life Frogger.

And Brittney Griner is about to step off the curb.

“I’ve been hit once,” she says, seemingly unfazed at a busy corner in Zhejiang. “A moped ran into me from behind, but it wasn’t going that fast. It was my fault. I was trying to avoid traffic.”

Wait … what? Trying to avoid traffic is bad? “Totally wrong here,” Griner says. “You can’t stop walking. If you’re in motion, they’ll flow around you. It’s when you stop, when you freeze, that it becomes dangerous.”

Brittney Griner talks about her experience in China to ESPN’s Kate Fagan

In other news, Pokey is optimistic surgery won’t stop Fowles (as in, back mid-season?)

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It’s been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year’s blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

As a counter to the seemingly never ending “Will the W fail” articles: For The WNBA, Jersey Sponsorships Signal Corporate And Community Support

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Patriot: Army did what it had to against American, and, Inspired by Maggie’s spirit, Knights refused to lose

Sometimes things just happen the way they are supposed to in sports. There is not always an easy explanation for why, or how, but rather some other phenomenon — happenstance, fate, whatever.

So it was early in the week that Holy Cross women’s basketball coach Bill Gibbons texted his Army counterpart Dave Magarity. The words floated off Gibbons’ phone, like a butterfly. “Maggie will be smiling if we both get to West Point,” it said.

Holy Cross then did what it had to do to join Army, keeping their program record of  conference tourneys by stopping (and stomping) Navy. Pretty impressive of the Crusaders and coach Gibson, considering the upheaval that launched their season.

Summit: Nothing like an in-state rivalry to stir things up. The Jackrabbits got stunned by South Dakota ( first tournament loss after 15 consecutive victories.). The Coyotes then built on their success by defeating Denver (who’d ended IUPUI’s season of resurgence — in OT, of course.), earning their first NCAA bid.

America East: Albany’s Great Danes made quick work of the Sea Wolves – getting revenge for that blemish on their conference record, and earning a trip to the Dance.

MAAC: The first half, Quinnipiac had the Red Foxes on the ropes. Second half, Marist recovered to win their 9th straight conference tourney championship:

“The thing is that they persevered,” Marist coach Brian Giorgis said. “We broke the game down into where we wanted to be. We didn’t panic. We took it at them and made big shots down the stretch, made great decisions down the stretch.”

WCC: Saint Mary’s fought in the semis, but there was no doubt as Gonzaga roared over BYU to another WCC title – their sixth in seven years.

During that 20-minute shooting slump, the Cougars were unable to get the ball inside to Hamson, the WCC Player of the Year.

“We couldn’t get the ball to her because of (Gonzaga’s) pressure,” Judkins said. “Jen had a great tournament. I wish we could have gotten her the ball more. I think we would have been a lot better off. … We kind of got on our heels and we didn’t attack like we should have.”

It’s streaky!! Sims got a little banged up, and the Mountaineers got a little stubborn, but Baylor managed to snag their fourth consecutive Big 12 title.

Next! Chattanooga wiped out Davidson to earn the Southern crown. Said coach Foster: “We’re a good team,” Foster said. “It’s about time we start showing folks just how good.”

Huge win for the Penn State Quakers. They handily defeated the Princeton Tigers to earn a seat in the NCAA tournament. The Ivy League is the only conference in the country that doesn’t have a postseason tournament to decide its champion.

“I’m not a fan of an Ivy tournament. The reason is we need to send our best teams,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “Imagine if Penn had lost to Dartmouth and we had lost to Brown and we’re not sending our best team. I feel confident Penn has earned it. They beat us on our home floor later in the season.”

Oh, and UConn won the inaugural American Conference title.

So, what about those pesky seedings?

From John Altavilla: Favorites Falling Adds Some Mystery To Seeding

However, ESPN‘s bracketologist, Charlie Creme, has been sticking by his guns, continuing to place UConn as the No. 1 to Louisville’s No. 2 in Kentucky.

For that to happen, however, the committee would essentially need to rank the Cardinals last among the No. 2 seeds, setting up a 1-8 scenario with UConn.

“How do I answer that question [about seeding] without being reprimanded,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I’d lose my shirt, my per diem, everything.”

From Kevin Duffy: Fair or not, UConn may have to play regional at Louisville

The UConn women gashed their seventh top 10 opponent Monday night at The Sun, and in a week they very well could be named the No. 1 seed in the Louisville regional. As in, at the Yum! Center. As in, the reward for the group that just completed perhaps the best regular season ever could be a straight-up away game versus second-seeded Louisville in a hostile environment in the Elite Eight.

Tell me how that’s fair.

From Charlie: Louisville isn’t for UConn after all – Lincoln Regional makes much more sense for top-seeded Huskies

Connecticut has been an obvious No. 1 seed for some time. So the biggest question concerning the Huskies has been at which regional they will play their games.

Louisville or Lincoln? In the same region with rival Louisville, or farther away in Nebraska? Louisville has been my answer all season.

Until now.

What has prompted me to change my mind?

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The biggest surprise: What happened in the Ivy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika Evans laughs when asked the question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…and Graham having to count to 10 several times…. (Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga and gains 5 points in AP voting. Arkansas beats Miss. Valley St. and gains 3 points. Sure, that makes sense.) I know I don’t get all het up about them because it’s such a pain to be one of the people who votes in these polls….if you take that position seriously. Which means you should be watching a LOT of games and/or reading a lot of game reports. Which, honestly, in many cases ain’t gonna happen ’cause you’re too busy coaching or writing.

But, even if I don’t get all het up about it, others do and some argue “polls mean nothing until after the season is over,” there’s no doubt that being ranked can be a huge benchmark for a program and a measure of validation for the coaches and players.

So, I understand why Graham is cranky.

In a week where St. Mary’s Danielle Mauldin is ESPN’s player of week (teammate  Jackie Nared was also nominated) , Graham writes: West Coast Conference flexes its muscle

It took Gonzaga winning for a lot of people in women’s basketball to notice the West Coast Conference. A Gonzaga loss should help people see how much the league has grown.

If you aren’t keeping an eye on the WCC, you’re missing a good show.

He also adds: Undefeated teams? Unanswered questions (Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma St.)

The AP Top 25 offers an interesting check this week on the value of scheduling. After its win against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s should be a strong contender to break into the rankings, likely at the expense of the team it beat. On the other hand, the Gaels didn’t attract a single vote a week ago. Arizona State and Arkansas, the unranked teams with the most votes in the most recent poll, didn’t hurt their cases in the abbreviated week, so will one of those two replace Gonzaga instead?

Sweet win for Kelsey’s Badgers: Missed chances, UW sink Phoenix

This one might hurt for a while.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team appeared headed for a big win over in-state rival Wisconsin on Monday night, only to watch Badgers guard Nicole Bauman hit a 35-foot bank shot with 0.4 seconds left to tie the game.

Wisconsin put the finishing touches on its dramatic comeback in overtime, escaping with an improbable 65-61 win in front of 4,931 fans at the Kohl Center.

Ditto for ASU:

No. 24 Arizona State women’s basketball validated its return to the national rankings for the first time in four years with a hard-fought 63-60 win Monday night over No. 20 Syracuse.

Says Jeff Metcalfe: ASU women’s basketball looking good in unproven Pac-12

The good news locally is that No. 25 Arizona State is the revelation of Pac-12 women’s basketball so far.

The Pac-12 as a whole, though, still has somewhat of an unproven feel with the full start of conference play beginning Friday. Wins such as No. 4 Stanford over No. 5 Tennessee, ASU over No. 10 North Carolina and unranked Washington State over No. 18 Nebraska and the scare Oregon State threw into No. 2 Notre Dame before losing 70-58 Sunday make statement. But a combined 8-23 record vs. Sagarin top-50 teams sends the opposite message.

VCU’s having a nice start to the season.

So, keep an eye on Jan 2 – that’s when 13-0 San Diego takes on 12-1 Saint Mary’s.

And keep an eye on Jan 5 and Jan 9th – that’s when 13-1 NC State takes on Syracuse and North Carolina.

And keep an eye on January 16th – that’s when 13-1 Mississippi State takes on Tennessee.

So, who’s been eating cupcakes? Mechelle & Michelle: Conference Play Begins (BTW, American Conf. play has already started.)

Michelle also asks: Have They Met Expectations?

Did you catch espnW’s Photos of the Year?

BTW, not only was she good for the league, but Griner was good for writers. She ranks high on Swish Appeal’s list. And, congrats to Kate Fagan, whose piece on BG, “Owning the Middle,” earned her a place on some “Best of 2013″ lists. You might want to check out Fagan’s “Bo’13” list.

For my own year-end list, though, I’m sharing some of the best sports pieces written by women (at least the ones I’ve read and enjoyed), along with a few non-sports stories, too. I’m singling out female writers because not enough female writers get singled out. Part of this is because, statistically speaking, there are so many more men writing about sports. But I also believe there tends to be more showmanship — morelook at me, I’m writing — on the part of the male writers who frequently tout each other’s work on social media. The lopsided nature of most of these lists is because sports media is still a boy’s club. Very few women work in executive, decision-making roles on the editorial side, so cultivating and growing female voices is still less of a priority than it should be, as is attaching female writers to impactful, meaningful topics — and not just stories about women or subjects that need a “softer” touch.

All “best of” lists should be taken with a grain of salt, obviously, because one person’s great read is another person’s snoozefest. The problem is, the paucity of women on these lists, year in and year out, delivers a specific message to young female sportswriters: Yes, the door is open to you, but just barely.

Oh, yeah – and here’s  New Year’s Resolution for the Three to See: Be seen on court, not by tweet.

WATN? Mazzante set to announce her retirement

Kelly Mazzante has traveled the world playing basketball. The Montoursville legend became the Big 10’s all-time leading scorer for men and women at Penn State before winning two WNBA world championships and playing well throughout Europe.

Wherever she has been, Mazzante has never forgotten her home. She has worn uniforms in the WNBA, Slovakia, Russia, Hungary and Italy, but Mazzante always has been, and always will, be a Montoursville girl.

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Wisconsin hung with Gonzaga through the first, and then the Bulldogs ran away with the win.

Speakin’ of dogs, the Danes are still undefeated.

Wow – BU has not had a fun first year in the Patriot League.

Why don’t people listen when I say “‘Ware the Wabbits”? In the first half, the Lions got kicked but good by South Dakota State. Penn State then got their rabbit’s foot working and it looked like they were going to recover from a 20pt. deficit to escape with a win. But no, the Jackrabbits pull a huge win upset out of their hat.

Yes, I see you, undefeated Indiana — but Iowa looms on January 2nd.

Eastern Michigan goes up against Big Blue — and earns its first loss of the season, 89-75.

Graham puts the spotlight on some deserving teams and coaches: WCC offers some of nation’s best basketball

What college soccer fans have known for years looks increasingly a fact of life in basketball. Teams that treat the West Coast Conference as a little guy put themselves at risk of a big surprise. 

Gonzaga’s win at Wisconsin on Tuesday night finished a Midwestern sweep that began with a win at Ohio State and cemented the Bulldogs as the team atop the rankings. But this isn’t just about the WCC’s flagship program, the one with three Sweet 16 appearances and a regional final since coach Kelly Graves arrived. Four teams from the conference appear in this week’s rankings, teams with a combined 33-2 overall record and 9-1 record against major conferences this season. 

What used to be the six power conferences, including the old Big East, were the only leagues a season ago that ranked ahead of the WCC in RPI. Two seasons ago, the WCC ranked eighth among all conferences. That is in contrast to the previous decade, when the league finished better than 12th on just two occasions. Credit the arrival of a proven program like BYU with some of the improvement, but it’s also about growth from programs like Saint Mary’s and San Diego, which advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT two seasons ago, finished second in the league for the second season in a row last season and now finds a home in the mid-major rankings for the first time.

Let’s get this hype started: Duke v. UConn, December 17th.

John Altavilla – Duke-UConn: It’s More Than A Game and Another 1 vs. 2 Just A Week Away For UConn

Mechelle & Michelle: Top Teams Face Off

Ouch: Kentucky’s Stallworth sidelined after knee surgery

Good news: Maryland’s Frese celebrates son’s success in beating leukemia

So, just how happy are the Sun? 

Asked how he was doing after his Liberty ended up fourth in the WNBA draft lottery Tuesday, New York coach/general manager Bill Laimbeer joked, “Oh, I’m just destroyed and heartbroken.”

He was totally kidding, of course. Last year, with the “3 to See” lottery, coming in fourth left Mystics’ president/managing partner Sheila Johnson visibly stricken and disappointed.

But this year, while No. 1 is coveted as always — Connecticut has the top selection, followed by Tulsa, San Antonio, and New York — the talent available for the top four picks is not perceived to have a precipitous fall-off between selections.

Speaking of the W: Michael Cooper interview, Part II: The Atlanta Dream’s offseason, the 2014 WNBA Draft, and Pat Riley’s influence

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From Rich Elliot:

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

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

The hashtag for questions and comments is #APHoopchat.

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than the dang NCAA tourney:

On the “Rolled’em” side it was:

…Baylor winning its third straight B12 Title by stomping all over Iowa State in the first half (Actually, Griner did most of the stomping) and cruising through the second half to a 75-47 win. BG shot 14-17, showing, says Mechelle, that Baylor’s ready for the Big Dance

Of course, the worst thing that could have happened to Iowa State was Oklahoma State giving Baylor a scare in the Big 12 women’s tournament semifinals.

In these past two seasons of dominance in their league, the Lady Bears just haven’t faced many challenges. That can sometimes cause motivation problems, even for very talented teams.

But this is a mature, senior-led group that understands Baylor is seeking a place in the pantheon of “greatest teams in women’s college history.” So being the defending NCAA champion and running through the league undefeated for a second year in a row hasn’t led to much lackadaisical, passionless play by Baylor.

…Marist winning its eighth straight MAAC title by tromping over the Gaels, 72-48. Writes Sean T. McMann of the Poughkeepsie Journal: Selflessness a source of pride with Marist

Throughout the course of a season, the Marist College women’s basketball team lends its support to local causes like the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation and the Friend of Jaclyn organization.

Monday, the Red Foxes helped each other out.

Marist’s first 17 field goals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament title game came off an assist — that spanned from the opening tip until 7:34 into the second half — and the Red Foxes earned an assist on 24 of their 26 buckets in the game.

On the, “Dang, I wish I could have been there!” side:

It was a fun game to watch (thank you, U), though when I tuned in my mystical WHB powers sent both teams on scoring drought. Ooops! In the end, Middle Tennessee overcame their nemesis, Arkansas-Little Rock, 53-48. (Great crowd!)

“It feels a lot better to know you’re going to watch and you’re name’s going to get called, without a doubt,” Middle Tennessee guard Kortni Jones said. “Last year, we were on pins and needles.”… This year, we know our name will pop up.”

It’s too easy to forget that many of the players on this Blue Raiders team suffered the loss of teammate Tina Stewart.

The 1 v 2 match up between Davidson and Chattanooga lived up to it’s billing:

Kayla Christopher had one bit of advice for her Chattanooga teammates coming out of the huddle in the final frantic seconds — crash the boards.The Lady Mocs had 21 offensive rebounds, but none bigger than Christopher’s putback with 8.2 seconds remaining that lifted Chattanooga to a 64-63 victory over Davidson in the Southern Conference championship Monday.”I’ve been dreaming about this day for a month now and imagining what it would be like,” Christopher said. “For it to actually come true is just awesome.”

It was the Mocs’s ninth conference championship in 13 years under Wes Moore.

San Diego hung tough, but in the end, Gonzaga, and a key player, made sure their NCAA destiny was in their own hands:

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves expected to play the West Coast Conference championship game without Taelor Karr after the senior guard hurt her back in the semifinals.

After testing it out during warm-ups, Karr announced to her coach that she was ready to go, giving the Bulldogs just the lift they needed to make another trip to the NCAA tournament.Fighting through pain and a rough start, Karr had 14 points, six assists and five rebounds to help lift Gonzaga to a 62-50 win over San Diego in the WCC final Monday, earning the Bulldogs an NCAA berth for the fifth straight season.

The Summit was an all-South Dakota event: To get to the finals, the Jackrabbits easily dispatched the Mastodons (No, I’m not kidding) and the Coyotes came back from a halftime deficit to defeat the IUPUI Jaguars, 82-72. This was South Dakota’s first ever finals. It was a close fought game, with the newcomers holding the lead for most of the game. But, in front of record crowd of 6,153, the Jackrabbits prevailed,

Still TBD: From Gene Wang at WaPo:Navy women’s basketball advances to Patriot League tournament final

The second-seeded Navy women’s basketball team kept its bid to win a third consecutive Patriot League tournament title intact by blunting a second-half rally and nearly getting a triple-double from Alix Membreno to complete a 60-48 semifinal victory over Bucknell in front of 579 at Alumni Hall on Monday night.

They’ll go up against Holy Cross, where coach Gibbons did a nice job righting the ship after a tough start to the season.

Michigan State’s Senior Jasmine Thomas is capping ‘unbelievable’ final year

Jasmine Thomas shrugged it off after learning she earned all-tournament honors Sunday.

The pain and frustration from a 62-47 loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament championship game was still fresh on the Michigan State senior guard’s mind.

But without Thomas, the Spartan women’s basketball team wouldn’t have reached the championship game for the second time ever. And without her, there’s no telling where MSU would be right now.

In Nebraska, Sam McKewon writes about the Long Wait

Now the Nebraska women’s basketball team gets to sit tight, get healthy and try to keep some semblance of on-court chemistry. For almost two weeks.

The Huskers bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday in their 77-64 loss to Purdue. Though football kept me in Lincoln, I watched both the rout over Iowa and the loss to the Boilermakers, and neither result particularly surprised me. The margins did. But not the results.

Okay, this is just disappointing: Suspension of 19 Jackson Community College women’s basketball players, assistant coach after bench-clearing fight is just, league official says

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(thank you Graham!), so it’s cool when Nate pays attention: Making sense of mid-major WNBA draft prospects’ statistics: How can we project success?

So, our list of consensus 2013 WNBA Draft prospects should’ve been posted months ago, probably in October some time.

But, among other things in life, I got obsessed with sidetracked by the challenge of figuring out what to do with mid-major statistics, due in part to two players that our statistical indicators might have overvalued last season, based on the outcomes: VCU’s Courtney Hurt and Wisconsin – Green Bay’s Julie Wojta.

Hurt’s challenge to make the WNBA as an undersized forward have already been documented here, but to summarize offensive rebounding percentage transfers from NCAA D-I basketball better than any statistic and she was so dominant at VCU that it seemed as though she could find a way to contribute to a WNBA roster. Alas, she was drafted by the Indiana Fever in the third round of the 2012 draft and failed to last past the first week of training camp.

Oofta: Looks like coaches now how to prepare for Sam Houston the second time around. Oral Roberts took advantage and stomped all over them, 90-40.

I take this as a good sign: mom and I are going birding this weekend and, while we won’t see any penguins, we might see some puffins. The sign? Youngstown State wins again, and is now 7-3 in the Horizon. And yes, I know Green Bay is still undefeated.

Yes, I will say IUPUI has a ways to go, but they’re on the road to recovery. Got themselves a huge win over the Jackrabbits, 70-67. They’d beaten South Dakota State for the first time in program history back in January.

Maybe a hot seat is inspiring? Kellie’s Wolfpack took down #19 Florida State, 76-69.

Yah, they were down, but Liberty has re-established itself as the team to beat in the Big South.

This time the “I” stood for “consistent,” and #24 Iowa State swept the season series with #22 Oklahoma, 72-68.

It ain’t easy being a Cavalier. Virginia got beaten by Boston College courtesy of 21pts (7 3-pts) from senior Kerri Shields.

Hawkins took her frustration out on hapless Clemson.

Penn State needed every on of Maggie’s 21pts. #8 Lions defeat Iowa, 81-69.

Pretty huge win for Marshall, as the Thundering herd got their C-USA victory over perennial powerhouse UTEP.

It’s kind of game that gives coaches and fans heartburn: Dawn’s team had a nice sized lead on Kentucky, then Mitchell’s team clawed back and escaped with the win.

Wichita State recovered nicely from the shock they got from Bradley. They move to 11-1 in the MVC.

Northern Colorado kept pace with Montana in the Big Sky. It’s been a tough three weeks for Tricia’s Montana State.

Texas A&M says, “We’re enjoying the SEC, thankyouverymuch.” With their win over Florida, they move in to a tie for first place. Their co-leader? The Vols, who they meet in the last game of the regular season. Which is why you may want to read  Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Wide Open SEC Race Thunders Into The Home Stretch

Gonzaga is showing the WCC who’s the boss and get a little payback.

Seattle U’s making noise, and Jayda’s listening.

Utah State kept atop the WAC with what looked to have been a fun game: 2OTs, 31 pts from a Denver freshman, and a last second three  by Deven Christensen (now the Aggies’ all-time leading scorer) gives them the 92-89 win.

Griner is tall. Donovan is tall. Let’s talk about that, says John Altavilla:

Do you ever put yourself in Brittney Griner’s place, remember what it was like when you were her age?

“When I look at Brittney, I often think of what my life was like when I was her age. What I think is how comfortable she looks in her skin. That was not me when I was her age, certainly not when I was 18 or 19. I finally embraced my height when I was 20, but off the court I was a very shy and introverted kid. Brittney is not like that. She appears to be so very outgoing. You can see the shyness is some respects, but in general she appears very comfortable with who she is. I admire that about her.”

Oh, apparently the gentlemen are playing an exhibition game: A look at the four WNBA stars participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend (considering there will be no defense, methinks Maya will kick butt).

Speaking of the WNBA, and interesting study: ACL surgery may not shorten WNBA career

Still doesn’t mean we don’t need some serious, women-specific research on the injury. Consider Bob Corwin’s piece at Full Court: Carolyn Davis battles back from a devastating injury

Sad news from Lady Swish: ODU volunteer assistant Sara Jones passes away

Old Dominion volunteer assistant coach Sara Jones lost her heroic battle with cancer Friday at 7:57 a.m. She was 40 years old.

Jones had overcome multiple bouts with the disease and become an inspirational presence at practices and games the past two seasons for Lady Monarchs coach and long-time friend Karen Barefoot, who described Jones as “her hero.”

Old Dominion will release a full story with quotes from Barefoot later today. LadySwish will share some thoughts as well. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Lady Monarchs will host Northeastern in the 11th annual Hoops for the Cure game to raise cancer awareness.

I mutter a lot about homophobia, bias and sexism on the blog. Kate Fagan adds to the conversation: Recent events expose sexism in sports culture

I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot lately, my memory triggered by a slew of recent events that expose, to varying degrees, the unrelenting sexism that exists in our sports culture. Sometimes it’s blatant; more often than not it’s subtle, a never-ending reassertion of power intended to keep men in control and women on guard.

Consider the words of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who was ejected from a game on Feb. 5 for telling a referee to stop “acting like a f—ing female.”

It’s hard to say what’s more disconcerting: the casual contempt in Cousins’ words or the fact that most writers chose to ignore it, focusing instead on his use of the F-bomb (that is, his cursing) and his reputation for questionable on-court behavior, which has led to 11 technical fouls this season.

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UNC got coach Hatchell her 900th win with a healthy stomping of Boston College.

North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell never misses an opportunity to market her team, whether it’s printing shirts in her kitchen, buying ads in the student newspaper or driving a car that’s fully wrapped with promotional material.

When it came time to celebrate Hatchell’s own accomplishment Thursday, her players returned the favor. Sophomore guard Erika Johnson designed hats with the words “Sylvia Hatchell 900 wins,” which everyone on the team wore proudly after the Tar Heels defeated Boston College 80-52.

“I am so excited for her,” Johnson said. “It’s just cool to be in the presence of someone who has accomplished so much.”

Mechelle has Hatchell’s milestone moments.

Three ranked SEC teams had surprising battles on their hands, but prevailed.

In OT, it was Kentucky over Arkansas, 80-74.

Auburn served notice, pushing Georgia until the Bulldogs prevails, 61-58.

Graves continues to impress. Her steal and last bucket secured Tennessee’s two-point win over LSU.

Marist is rollin’, rollin’, rollin‘.

Woot! Woot! Da Penguins are at 6-2 in the Horizon.

Hello, Sam Houston — with their win over McNeese St., they get a little revenge (the Cowgirls gave them their only conference loss) and are now 9-1 in the Southland.

That sigh of relief may have come out of Michigan: the Wolverines get back on the winning side with their 72-69 win over Illinois.

Whoa! Lookee here! Ball State took down Central Michigan, 68-61! That puts them in a tie for the best record in the (entire) MAC.

Another upset: North Dakota (5-8 Big Sky) defeats Montana St (8-5).

Montana (10-3) kept pace, though, losing to Northern Colorado (9-3), 54-41.

A near upset: Green Bay(8-0, Horizon) squeaked by Loyola (IL) (2-5), 65-62.

The wheels seem to have come off the Presbyterian (8-4 Big South) bus: they lost to Gardner-Webb (4-7, Big South), 55-38. It was coach Reeves 400th win.

In a key C-USA match up, it was an undermanned Tulane (6-2) over UTEP (5-3). (Contrary to what the ESPN scoreboard said earlier.)

Ouch. Pacific  (8-2, Big West) got some national attention, but couldn’t take down Cal Poly (7-3).

Hawai’i is 7-2 in the Big West. I’m just sayin’.

Jen Azzi’s Dons still have a ways to go: Gonzaga (9-1) dismissed them, 84-46.

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

Tennessee dropped 90 on Alcorn State.

San Diego dropped 91 on San Jose State.

Alabama dropped 97 on Southeastern Louisiana.

Kentucky dropped 100 on USC Upstate.

UNC dropped 101 on UNC-Asheville

Dayton dropped 105 on Eastern Illinois.

Alabama State dropped 105 on Oakwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More better for the Illini: 

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

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

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

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

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

Graham has: Brian Giorgis right at home at Marist

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

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

Michelle has: Gonzaga has a new look this season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I really want to meet Reggie Miller.”

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

Also: Sutton-Brown brings the world to kids

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

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

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and what happens?

KState forgets how to score.

The Terrapins tip toe past the Cardinals.

TAMU squeaks by the Razorbacks.

Kentucky eased by Green Bay.

The Cardinal roll and the Volunteers rock.

Dawn gets her team to the sweet 16. (upset)

Gonzaga took down Miami (upset) and you’ve got to believe the game would have looked different if Riquna Williams had been on the court. You’ve got to admire coach Meier’s principals and courage.

The ESPN folk weigh in:

Fagan: Terps survive Cardinals, advance

Mechelle: Depth carries Tennessee past DePaul

Michelle: Stanford beats WVU at own game

Graham: Half of Sweet 16 set — and Gonzaga’s in again

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like Annie Meyers?

That means she (and the other 100%-ers) id’d the one upset of the day/night: Gonzaga v. RU in Spokane. (Is the seat getting warm in New Jersey?)

The results of the rest of the games, ESPN-link-free:

As anticipated, Texas was one and done.

Dawn had no trouble with James and the Eagles.

No reason Navy shouldn’t be proud of their effort against Maryland.

Close, but not quite for Princeton against K-State. Tweet of the night from Coach B: And our #32 takes a mid-term on the way back to Princeton. Tough day. http://yfrog.com/esf17pnj

It Fresno, Purdue was singing “It’s rainin’ threes!

Louisville kept Michigan State at a safe distance throughout the game.

Stanford (by 22) and UConn (by 36) move on.

A tale of two halves for Dayton, as Arkansas pulled away in the second.

There was a moment when the “other” Tennessee was led “that” Tennessee, but then the Vols said “enough.”

If Kentucky fans weren’t already concerned about their team, the fact that they “escaped” McNeese State, a 15-seed, should start them worrying.

Nice battle between DePaul and BYU, but Ms. Martin & Co. made sure the Blue Devils advanced.

Texas A&M kept the Great Danes at bay.

Even down a star, Miami had little trouble with the Bengals.

Green Bay ripped through the Cyclones.

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I was listening in to Debbie and Beth’s podcast from last week (love their State of the (Basketball) Union addresses) so I could pick up the names of five “under the radar” players (though I wouldn’t call Julie UTR) and give them a little shout out:

At Florida International, it was sophomore guard Jerica Coley. She’s had 5 30+ games and her 24ppg sits her right behind EDD in the scoring race.

At Hofstra, it was junior forward Shante Evans. She entered her junior season with 1,024 career points and 665 career rebounds (putting her at eighth all-time in program history.

At VCU, it was senior forward Courtney Hurt. “Hurt turned in perhaps the greatest season in VCU history in 2010-11, leading the nation in rebounding (12.4 rpg) and double-doubles (25), while ranking second in the NCAA in scoring (23.2 ppg).”

At Green Bay, it was senior forward Julie Wojta. Shooting 52% from the field this season, she averages 18.7 ppg, is an 82% FT shooter, and has snagged 77 steals.

At Gonzaga it was senior forward Kayla Standish. She averages 15 ppg and 7.5 rebs. Last year she scored double-figure points in all but five games; including 12 20-plus point contests and two 30-plus point contest.

A player they might want to holler at: junior forward Central ArkansasMegan Herbert. When the Sugarbears took down McNeese State, Herbert had a season-high 32 points and 15 rebounds for her 56th career double-double and became the eighth player in Sugar Bear history to eclipse the 1,500-point mark. Howee says Van says: she’d exceeded Fowles’ double-double count, and was second only to Courtney Paris in consecutive dd games.

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for the Stanford/Cal and Gonzaga/St. Mary’s games — didn’t dare call the winners, but they were sure very, very, interesting.

Some really good games in other arenas, as top teams in conferences met or (in one case) as struggling teams came up big against conference top dogs.

Iowa stopped #17 Purdue’s 11-game win streak while Hayes’ second 30+ game helped UConn continue their 97-game home court winning streak.

I’m still paying attention to New Hampshire, who defeated UMBC, 75-68.

One year ago, head coach Maureen Magarity (Marist grad and daughter of Army’s Dave) and her staff started a new chapter in the history of the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball program. Despite being picked last by the league coaches, the Wildcats bested preseason poll predictions and raced toward a trip to the conference tournament. This season, with Magarity back at the helm for her second campaign, the Blue and White will look to take the next step and not only return to postseason play but make a run for the America East Conference Championship.

Still undefeated in conference play: St. Bonaventure, San Diego State, Green Bay, High Point, Notre Dame, American, Eastern Illinois, Idaho State, FGCU, Baylor, Fresno State and Bowling Green (who got all it could handle from Eastern Michigan.)

It took double-overtime, but the Sugar Bears (aka Central Arkansas) took took down McNeese State, 71-70, and now both are at 6-1 in the Southland.

It only took one overtime, but it was enough for Coppin State to give Hampton their first loss in the MEAC, 69-66. (BTW, the Pirates will be on ESPNU Monday, Jan 30th at 4:30pmEST)

Important win for Eastern Washington in the Big Sky as the Eagles (7-2) dominated Montana State, 66-52.

Arizona State moved to 6-3 in the Pac-12 as they squeaked by Washington, 57-53.

You can’t make this stuff up: The Fighting Camels over the Blue Hose, 53-44.

Oklahoma made sure Missouri was still miserable in the Big 12.

Oregon State beat Oregon, 67-60. Wonder how the Ducks are feeling about the Paul Westhead hire these days?

Duquesne isn’t enjoying A-10 play much: their loss to St. Joeseph’s sent them to 3-3.

Considering what a mess the Cincinnati program was when Elliot took over (heck, they didn’t know the difference between reins and reigns!), I’m calling their 55-54 win over Syracuse important.

Hartford surprised Albany, 65-57.

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The rematch between St. Mary’s (7-2 in the WCC) and #20 Gonzaga (5pmEST) and the game between #4 Stanford, who’s been quietly running their record to 17-1 (8-0), and feisty Cal (5pmEST).

C&R get busy on the Cardinal/Bears tussle over at Swish Appeal.

And now, in honor of the Big Game, C and R present the 158th annual Q & A with Nick from SB Nation’s California Golden Blogs.

He asks the Q’s, C and R answer them. (Secretly, we think he just wants our Stanford blog to mention his Cal blog, hoping for bad karma or ju-ju or what have you, but I digress). Our questions to him are at the bottom, and we will publish tomorrow or whenever we get around to it.

One note, usually his questions are funny and silly, so that’s how we wrote ours. Then he writes these scholarly and insightful questions, like he’s been studying basketball or something. Ours look stupid by comparison. Oh well, when have we ever let that stop us! Enjoy.

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got upset. And yes, we know that they had the lead 99.999% of the game. And yes we know that it took a last second three to get Gonzaga the win.

But the ‘dogs went on a 22-4 run to end the game. So look at Georgia’s schedule/record. Were they really the #12 in the country?

Ohio State, DePaul and Delaware (ouch, upward curve no longer in play in Providence?) rolled. Louisville snuck by, helped by Daugherty having the misfortune of pulling a Chris Webber.

Paying attention to “bowl eligible” Florida Gulf Coast, now sitting at 7-1. Their only loss: Seton Hall?

I’m not going to get excited about Arkansas’ 9-1 record until they’re midway through their SEC schedule – but I know friends of the blog Teddy and Candy must be thrilled. Ditto with Mississippi State.

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’cause the Saturday games were worth it.

#1 Tennessee moved into their first Elite Eight since ’08 by holding off a revitalized and feisty #4 Ohio State. After coach Summitt’s…. impressive halftime speech propelled the Vols to victory, Graham wrote: “Ohio may just want to close its southern border at this point.”

#2 Notre Dame had little trouble with #6 Oklahoma, taking down the Sooners 78-53. Said Sherri post-game: “Maybe they don’t get enough credit for their defense because their offense is so salty.”

Did you wanna know “who dat?” for some of the heroines of the ND and TN games? Check out Graham’s: Unheralded players become elite.

Anyone who’s watched #7 Louisville knows that you live by the Shoni and, sometimes, you die by the Shoni. There was no magic for the frosh against #11 Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs’ 76-69 win means I can type “Vandersloot” again, and that makes Steve happy. He ain’t the only one. Writes Mechelle:

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves summed up the effect that his point guard, Courtney Vandersloot, has not just on the outcome of a game, but on those watching it.

“She’s mesmerizing,” Graves said. “It’s hard to take your eyes off her.”

Like Tennessee, #1 Stanford was down to #5 North Carolina and, like the Vols, the Cardinal fought back to claim the victory. “This is one of those classic survive and move on,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. Mechelle says, thank the sisters.

Can’t wait for tonight’s Elite Eight!

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on Kim’s Daily News site.

Also, at ESPN, Graham writes “Lady Vols look to make statement”

The more things change, the more we wait to see whether they stay the same for Tennessee.

The locker room top-seeded Tennessee occupies for Saturday’s Sweet 16 game against No. 4 seed Ohio State (ESPN, noon ET) is the same one it occupied four years ago at University of Dayton Arena, an instance of history repeating itself that allowed longtime team trainer Jenny Moshak to sit in the same spot along one wall Friday morning while the Lady Vols waited for their turn to practice, as she had while players endured similar waits four years ago in the Sweet 16. Pat Summitt is most definitely the same, save for a couple of additional championship rings now in her possession. Even the infamous ramp that leads to and from the locker room is familiarly steep.

Check out the Ohio State v Tennessee and and the Notre Dame v. Oklahoma previews.

Did you catch Graham and Mechelle’s piece Breaking down the Sweet 16.

Mechelle also has Versatility is Pedersen’s calling card

Did you ever face one of those miserable-weather days in the winter when you were chilled to the bone? And maybe you thought to yourself, “Why do I live here? I’m moving somewhere warm.”

Of course, many people think that … but don’t actually do it, right? But Gary and Kelli Pedersen, then living in Flint, Mich., felt that way once and decided to do something about it.

“We had an ice storm, and I couldn’t get either car out of the garage,” Gary remembered. “And I said to my wife, ‘Remember that place we went on vacation? Let’s just pack up and move.'”

At espnW Michelle Smith has Gonzaga’s fairy-tale tournament

At the beginning of the season, Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves told his team a fairy tale. We’re not saying it started with “Once upon a time.” But we’re not saying it didn’t, either.

“I told them the story about how, 10 years ago in Spokane, a little blond-haired girl — the kind of girl who was something special, the kind that people don’t see all the time — led her team to the Final Four.”

That little blond girl was Jackie Stiles, the former Southwest Missouri State star, whose transcendent performance in Spokane a decade ago helped her team become the last non-BCS conference team to reach a women’s Final Four.

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Point guards lead the way in Sweet 16

We may be living in the year of the quarterback, but March will always be the month of the point guard.

When the Sweet 16 gets under way on Saturday afternoon, some of the biggest stars on the court will be the smallest players on the court. From eight standout seniors looking to play at least one more game to four freshmen who appear ready to battle for bragging rights for years to come, the weekend’s most intriguing subplots may come from duels between players who do considerably more than merely bring the ball up the floor.

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of basketball. Tonight’s crew is going to have to pull out the stop to match’em. Mechelle sizes up the games.

Every team except Green Bay that will be playing in the second round of the women’s NCAA tournament Tuesday night has previously been to the Sweet 16. Even though for some of them, it has been a long time.

That includes No. 3 seed Miami, which faces sixth-seeded Oklahoma on Tuesday for a trip to the Dayton Regional semifinals.

About last night:

The Stomp:

#1 Stanford was pushed in the first, but pulled away in the second behind their sister act to take down the #9 Red Storm, 75-49. Writes Michelle Smith:

Connecticut. Tennessee. Duke. Texas. DePaul. Gonzaga. UCLA. Xavier. Rutgers.

All have been to Maples Pavilion in the last four years. None of them have won.

Now add St. John’s to that list.

The Stanford seniors bade farewell to their beloved home court Monday night in impressive style, as the top-seeded Cardinal overcame an early eight-point deficit to blow past ninth-seeded Red Storm, 75-49.

So it’s time for the final tally: 63-0. Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen walked off the floor for the last time in their careers never having experienced the disappointment of a home-court loss.

The Semi-Stomp:

#2 Notre Dame took a lead into the half and maintained it through the second half to defeat the #10 Owls, 77-64.

Notre Dame had the impressive NCAA tourney resume.With a dominating inside game Monday night, the Fighting Irish just padded it some more.Their 77-64 victory over Temple advanced the Irish to the regional semifinals for the ninth time, and second in a row.It wasn’t exactly easy as Temple refused to quit, pulling within five points early in the second half and within nine late thanks to a defense that forced 19 turnovers. But when they needed a play, the Irish got it.

Almost a stumble:

It’s not as if #1 Tennessee was totally out of sorts as much as it was that #8 Marquette simply would not stop. Writes Mechelle:

…for a while, it looked like the Golden Eagles just might be able to pull what would have been one of the bigger upsets ever in the women’s NCAA tournament. Not because Marquette isn’t a strong team; the Golden Eagles proved they were. But because Tennessee has been impossible to beat at home in Thompson-Boling Arena in NCAA tournament games.

That record remained intact, but not until after the Orange Nation probably needed to munch on a Tums or two.

It was a tale of halves: the first one went to #6 Penn State, the second to #3 DePaul, as the Blue Demons survived, 75-73. PA native Keisha Hampton’s free throws were the difference. Writes Graham:

The NCAA tournament isn’t sentimental. It’s thrilling precisely because it’s ruthless, an unfeeling entity that exists not to reward the valiant or the deserving but simply the team that scores more points.

If you want a happy ending, you have to go out and write it yourself. And DePaul junior Keisha Hampton wrote one for her seniors Monday night.

#2 Duke was down, then up, then survived as Marist gave’em all they could handle, even after losing their best player to an ankle injury. From DWHoops.com:

Incredibly, Marist’s resolve hardened even further when their star guard Erica Allenspach when down with an injury and did not return. The Red Foxes pushed the lead to 11 on a couple of occasions and still led by 6 late in the game, but Chelsea “The Closer” Gray led the late charge, along with key baskets from Jasmine & Krystal Thomas. The mantra from the players after the game was simply “Survive and advance”. Duke played poorly for much of the game but their experience, toughness and resolve allowed them to ultimately prevail.

#5 Georgia Tech had a slim halftime lead over #4 Ohio State, but Lavender said, “Nope.” (Um, AP editor? How do you let someone get away with a sentence like this: “MaChelle Joseph said when Lavender got untracked, the game shifted.”

“She is the best post player in the country, and one of the top three players,” Joseph said. “She was aggressive in the second half. In the first half, she was a little passive, setting picks outside away from the basket. But then they started getting the ball to her on the block.”

The Trip Ups

#5 North Carolina was up on #4 Kentucky by 10 at the half and won by 12. I don’t know that I’m surprise the Wildcats fell, but I’m slightly surprised it was the Tar Heels who took’em down.

“We just haven’t had a game like that that our team just wouldn’t go to the boards,” Mitchell said. “We just got caught standing in the middle. So we wouldn’t go rebound, jogging back, it was a real uncharacteristic game for us. That’s why I’m so disappointed I could not get the team motivated to play North Carolina.”I thought it was a very pathetic performance in transition. When you let North Carolina get out and go 3-on-1 and you’re just jogging back; lights out, you’re done. It was one of the most disappointing performances I’ve ever seen from our team here at Kentucky.”

The Bruins were up by three over the Bulldogs, but Standish and Vandersloot put down the hammer and pushed #11 Gonzaga to a 89-75 win over #3 UCLA. (Vandersloot became the first player in Division I history — men or women — to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in her career.) Write Mechelle:

…no one can argue that Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has built a terrific program in Spokane, and Vandersloot has been the centerpiece. The senior guard was sensational Monday: 29 points, 17 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals. During the game, she scored the 2,000th point of her career. Are you watching, WNBA scouts?

And it’s not too often that a player could score 30 points and be overshadowed by her teammate, but Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish was. Not that she minded.

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From Golden Nuggets: Joanne Boyle Wants Her Team to Toughen Up

After her team lost to UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals, Joanne Boyle continually brought up an issue that has plagued the team all season: lack of toughness.

From Jim Massie at the the Columbus Dispatch: Growth of Hill is paying off – Sophomore guard filling several key roles for Buckeyes

As the Buckeyes (22-9) prepare for their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this week, the sophomore Hill has blossomed into perhaps the most versatile player on a versatile team.

From DWHoops: Devils In Detail – This March edition examines the season-to-date accomplishments and postseason roles of Duke’s 11 active players.

From Cheryl Coward at HoopFeed: For Kim Mulkey, Destiny Williams was the key in Baylor’s Big 12 tournament success

How can you explain Destiny Williams is not on the All-Tournament team?,” said Mulkey. “She plays three games and she goes 21 points and eight rebounds, 18 points and seven rebounds, and she has 11 big rebounds today and you’re the champion and you only get the same number that A&M did, the same number of All-Tournament people?”

From the Spokesman Review: Gonzaga and Courtney Vandersloot: Perfect match

One word that mesmerized fans and vanquished foes wouldn’t expect to be associated with Gonzaga’s record-breaking point guard is “shy.”

But when GU coach Kelly Graves suggested Courtney Vandersloot call up the greatest point guard in school history and ask him for help, “It took me a couple of weeks to build up,” she said. “I’m shy.”

Her need to win and her desire to get better finally prevailed.

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and Clay Kallam: Peeking Over the Women’s Basketball Horizon; USA Basketball, WNBA Playoffs and Gonzaga on the come up

Yes, it’s pretty safe to say that Tulsa and L.A. are lottery bound, though the latest in a series of Minnesota injuries (Candice Wiggins this time) may cause the Lynx to sink to fifth.

That seems unlikely, though, as Nolan Richardson, as expected, is clueless in Oklahoma, and Jennifer Gillom, as some feared, can’t seem to get the Sparks all pointed in the same direction.

In the East, Anne Donovan, as expected, has done little to inspire New York fans who have been turned off by years of mismanagement by James Dolan and Carol Blazejowski – so the Liberty will need a late-season hot streak to get in to postseason. Steve Key, also a target for disgruntled fans, hasn’t done much with the Sky, though the absence of Shameka Christon hasn’t helped. Like New York, Chicago will need to catch a fire to avoid a place in the Maya Moore sweepstakes.

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