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Congrats to St. Francis – Brooklyn, who defeated Robert Morris on their way to their first NEC title and their first trip to the Dance. They did it with three wins on the road and dead-eye shooting.

Sarah Benedetti led the Terriers with 29 points, including five 3-pointers. Jaymee Veney and Eilidh Simpson added 14 points each.

The fifth-seeded Terriers defeated No. 4 seed Sacred Heart then top-seeded Central Connecticut in double-overtime of the semifinal game before finishing off No. 3 seed Robert Morris.

“I’ve always loved the underdog story and I think this is the definition of a pure underdog,” Benedetti said. “It just feels awesome.”

Houston Baptist couldn’t pull off the next huge upset, so Northwestern State is in the Tournament again.

“I don’t know if we can put that into words,” Northwestern State co-coach Brooke Stoehr said of going to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. “I know how I felt last year, and it was pure elation. I’m not stunned by what this group has done but just amazed. Their character and resiliency has been unbelievable.”

It took overtime, but Green Bay finally subdued the Wright State Raiders to make it to the NCAA – and get a smidge of revenge for last year’s loss to WSU.

A year after watching Wright State have the celebration honors on the same Kress Events Center court, UWGB gained sweet revenge in a thriller of a Horizon League tournament championship.

The top-seeded Phoenix overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half and secured a spot in the NCAA tournament by outlasting the Raiders 86-77 in overtime before a boisterous crowd of 2,214.

“It’s almost a relief, but I think our kids really wanted it badly,” said Borseth, his newly issued hat snug on his head.

Wichita State earned their third straight Missouri Valley conference title by defeating Missouri State 60-43.

Michaela Dapprich is at it again.

The Wichita State forward continued her usual late-season surge with 24 points as the Shockers beat Missouri State 85-71 on Sunday for their third straight Missouri Valley title and another trip to the NCAA tournament.

Alex Harden led top-seeded Wichita State (29-4) with 27 points. Jamillah Bonner added 18 points, Kelsey Jacobs had 10 to help the Shockers win their 12th straight game.

“I’ve just been feeling strong,” she said. “I’d like to say I wait until the end of every season to play my best, but it just happens that way. Everything falls into place toward the end.”

Florida Gulf Coast built a nice lead in the first half, then kept Northern Kentucky at bay on their way to the A-Sun Conference title.

“The most exciting part of coaching, for a coach, is to see their team celebrate,” Smesko said, after his Eagles (30-2) won their 25th consecutive game. “So when the buzzer sounds, and to see them all go to midcourt and have the type of enthusiasm for their accomplishment, that’s definitely the highlight of coaching.”

Every tape session at FGCU the past several weeks has star

A mid-game blackout couldn’t distract James Madison – and they needed their total focus to defeat the upset-minded Pride.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that we did it with a different cast of characters,” coach Kenny Brooks said. “It’s not like we had one superstar come through who just really sparked our program over a short period of time. We’ve had five different Players of the Year.”

The latest is Precious Hall, the 2015 CAA Player of the Year who entered the title game with a 20.9 scoring average and was coming off two straight 19-point performances.

In this one, the junior guard made one basket and scored nine points with six turnovers in 33 minutes.

“Precious will admit she didn’t play as well as usual, but the other kids stepped up,” Brooks said.

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in California: “Berkeley’s girls basketball coach Cheryl Draper took her team off the court with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in a game in a loss to Miramonte-Orinda, claiming she and her players heard racial slurs.”

And now we have this in Pennsylvania: Smear campaign against nation’s top girls basketball team – Philly’s Neumann-Goretti – traced to rival coach (nice job by write Joseph Santoliquito)

It attempted to discredit the NG program, alleging that the African players on the Saints, here legally, are older than their actual age and are in the United States illegally. Contents of the email were posted on comment forums of media websites (since removed) alleging institutional misconduct, and stating that the “FBI” is looking into the matter.

What PhillyVoice has uncovered is that the email Aston received was not just from anyone. It emanated from an email address that is registered to the name and home address of another Philadelphia Catholic League coach, Archbishop Wood girls basketball coach John Gallagher, who through an attorney neither confirms nor denies sending the email to Aston “and others.”

Additionally, Archbishop Wood has known about this — and has taken no action to date. 

And this from Maine: Witnesses: Calais girls basketball teammates exchanged obscenities, one pushed coach during game

An altercation between two Calais High School girls basketball players during a recent game is believed to have sparked a controversy that prompted the superintendent of schools to tender his resignation, after the school board reduced his disciplinary action against the players.

On the flip side: From the Deseret News: Copper Hills reaping the rewards of years of building program

“To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said Morley, who spent nine years coaching boys basketball, as well as football. “There was no tradition, no anything. They basically handed me a bunch of deflated balls and old uniforms and said, ‘Hey, turn the program around.’ I knew there would be work, but to be honest, I didn’t quite know how much.” Morley quickly diagnosed a number of issues. First, he was new to girls basketball so he wasn’t even sure if his experience would translate.

Yes, you can call Kansas State over #20 Texas an upset, but a bigger upset was Oakland (10-11, 4-4) over Green Bay (17-4, 7-1)), 70-67. And it was on the Phoenix’s home court.

By ending UWGB’s season-high winning streak of eight games, Oakland became the first team to knock off the Phoenix in Horizon play at the midway point of the league schedule. What’s more, the feisty Grizzlies handed UWGB (17-4 overall, 7-1 conference) its first home loss.

“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a little bit of a surprise,” said an elated Jeff Tungate, Oakland’s second-year coach. “But, we’ve had a really good week of practice, and our players have been really determined. I knew we were going to play well coming in. I just didn’t know, is ‘playing well’ going to be enough? Thankfully tonight, it was.”

You may recall that Tungate inherited a program that was a hot mess.

Another big upset: San Jose State (10-11, 4-6 MW) stunned Fresno State (17-4, 9-1), 56-51.

I’m have a funny feeling this group of Mountaineers maybe driving coach Carey bonkers. They take down TCU, 76-71.

Ouch. Albany took out its frustration on New Hampshire, 74-48.

It’s not quite Monday, but it’s never too early to start throwing down gauntlets: Editorial: Greatness awaits USC women’s basketball team

 AS WE WATCHED the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team evolve under the leadership of coach Dawn Staley over the past few years, it was evident that it was on a trajectory toward elite status.

We believe it has crossed that threshold this season, having spent 11 straight weeks at the top of the national rankings. A showdown with No. 2 Connecticut on the road presents a grand opportunity for the Gamecocks to step into rarified air and send a message that not only can it run with the big programs, it can defeat them.

Last season, Kansas State enticed fans to attend a women’s basketball game by offering free bacon.

This season, Georgetown is one-upping those Wildcats with something even better: free kale.

Congrats: Brittany Boyd breaks Cal women’s basketball all-time assist record

Congrats, (but I think the Harvard English professors might want to chat with the headline writer): Fagbenle Reaches Century Mark in Women’s Basketball’s Loss to Penn

Though the Harvard women’s basketball team may have been on the losing end of a back and forth contest against Penn (11-6, 2-1 Ivy) Saturday evening at Lavietes Pavilion, the game was one for the record books.

As the first half came to a close, senior forward Temi Fagbenle sunk a free throw to become the 19th player in Crimson history to score 1,000 points. Fagbenle was Harvard’s leading scorer in the game, earning 19 points to bring her career total to 1,010.

Intersting: Pepperdine Students to Protest Alleged Discrimination Against Lesbian Basketball Players – The women claim their coach told them, ‘Lesbianism isn’t tolerated here.’ 

Some great stuff by Sue on Diana’s decision to sit out the WNBA season:

A Washington Post columnist says Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out this year’s WNBA season for $1.5 million to play for her Russian team next winter is “a sobering message for the WNBA.”

Nope. It’s business as usual.

It’s a sad situation for Taurasi, the WNBA’s highest-paid player at just less than $107,000 a year, and a problem for the WNBA.

No, this is a sad situation, as is any player who is so worn down after year-round playing that they look tired in WNBA press conferences. And there are lots of those. Taurasi is taking advantage of her skills and her popularity and accepting a great offer that will take care of her financially when she’s older. She’s doing it on her terms, her way. As my source who first told me this news Friday night said, taking the money was “a no-brainer” for Taurasi.

It’s curious that Russian teams will pay big bucks to American players, but U.S. teams will not.

Again, no. I wrote about the differences between U.S. and European/Asian salaries in 2012:

Women’s professional basketball in Europe and Asia is directly effected by the worldwide recession because teams there are sponsored by businesses and governments. When faced with keeping their enterprises alive, companies cut the extras, like their team sponsorships. Ditto, governments. And as up to 100 percent of a team’s budget can come from sponsors, some franchises are forced to fold……

Nice piece on the NCAA’s Champion Magazine on FGCU’s Kaneisha Atwater:

Ninety-eight percent of teen moms do not graduate college before they turn 30. Kaneisha, though, is on the cusp of being counted among the other 2 percent. She is on pace to receive a degree in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University in May 2016, thanks to a basketball scholarship.

For decades, a birth often marked the death of a college career. News reports told stories of scholarships that weren’t renewed, of free paths to a degree blockaded, of pregnant athletes whose fear of losing their place on a team steered them to abortions. Those accounts spurred culture change: In 2008, Division I adopted legislation preventing athletes from losing their scholarships for medical reasons the year they became pregnant. Seven years later, schools like Florida Gulf Coast are willing to make accommodations so athletes like Kaneisha can juggle diapers and textbooks and basketballs.

Having a flashback to Yolanda Griffith’s experience at Palm Beach Community College under coach Sally Smith.

The door she opened led her to one of the top programs and coaches in the country, Iowa and C. Vivian Stringer. But, not long after enrolling, Griffith discovered she was pregnant. With the father uninterested in raising a child, she left school and returned to Chicago where her family banded around her. The birth of her daughter, Candace, in May of 1989 found Griffith unsure what the future held for her. Realizing she wanted to continue to play basketball, a game plan was laid out: go to a Junior College, graduate, then finish out her career at a four-year college. The first thought was to stay local, but a good friend knew the head coach at Palm Beach Community College, Sally Smith. Interestingly enough, Smith, who had been the first black All-American on the legendary Nashville Business College team, herself had had a daughter when she was 18. “He said,” recalled Griffith, “’This is the best place for you as far as the facilities, getting education, and helping single parents.’”

Wait, isn’t this a recruiting violation for UConn-Notre Dame-Louisville? Mo’ne Davis, Charles, Diggins, Schimmel to Play in Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

 

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Congrats to coach Jim Foster, who’s coached his fourth team into the top 25.

#22 Georgia suffered two losses against #5 Tennessee –  first  leading scorer Shacobia Barbee, then the game.

Tennessee went more than eight minutes without scoring to start the second half Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Vols shot poorly from the floor (34 percent) and committed 18 turnovers.

But they did make free 20 of 21 free throws. Their uncanny performance from the foul line saved a 59-51 SEC women’s basketball victory before a crowd of 13,428 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

#17 Florida State dispatched Wake Forest, 110-80.

Sue Semrau almost always has a good basketball team. That’s nothing new.

But what the Florida State head coach has this year is something entirely different. What she has this year is a team that is quite capable of winning the ACC. What she has this year is a team that is capable of reaching the Final Four.

Simply put: What she has this year is the most talented team in school history.

Again, bad Big Ten Mojo for Northwestern, as they fall to Penn State, 76-75.

The Sycamores have lost their groove in the MVC, falling to Northern Iowa, 57-56. That puts the Panthers at 6-1 in their conference – but they host conference leader Wichita State next.

So, it’s looking like #7 Maryland may toddle through the Big 10 unscathed. Rutgers, #15 Nebraska and  Iowa look to pose the biggest threat.

Along with Jones, sophomore Lexie Brown added 21 points and fellow sophomore Shatori Walker-Kimbrough finished with 18 points. The seventh-ranked Terrapins 11-game winning streak began after losing at then second ranked Notre Dame on Dec. 3.”We thrive off energy, feeding off of each other and celebrating each other,” Brown said. “That’s when we’re at our best, when our bench is energized and coach B is energized and everyone is pumped up. Obviously today we didn’t show (energy). It definitely wasn’t the best that we’ve played, but top to bottom we had a lot of great moments throughout the team.”

OT in D.C. produced a Debbie Antonelli Special: Seton Hall over Georgetown, 99-85.

No OT needed for this DAS: North Dakota over Eastern Washington, 96-82.

Double-OT gives us a third DAS: Eastern Kentucky over Tennessee Tech, 97-93. EKU features sophomore guard Michaela Hunter,  named the National Mid-Major Women’s Basketball Player of the Week by College Sports Madness.

Don’t blame me, blame Mike Guardabascio (twice: You Should Be Watching Long Beach State Women’s BasketballLong Beach falls to CS Northridge, 67-52.

The CSUN Matadors defeated the current first place Big West team, California State University, Long Beach, 67-52 Saturday night, delivering the first conference defeat to the 49ers this season.

The Matadors battled Long Beach for the lead throughout the two halfs before getting a sufficient lead cushion late in the game and sending the 49ers home with their first loss in two months.

Interesting sequence of games coming up for Maine in the America East: they’ll face the Wildcats (6-1/conf w/ 3-time Rookie of the Week Carlie Pogue) and the Great Danes (7-0/conf. and a rematch of the Bears’ conference opener loss).

George Washington is still rolling through the A-10 (We see you, Jonquel). I’m sure they’re eyeing the Dayton game (Feb. 8th) and the Fordham game (Feb. 22nd).

But, hold on… the Rams lost to the Billikens? Huge win for St. Louis, coming back from 10 down in the first. And congrats to freshman guard Jackie Kemph, who was named the Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball Rookie of the Week

Akron escapes the fire of the Chippewas, 74-72, and now leaps into the pan of Ohio.

A poor second half did in Missouri against #14 Kentucky, 83-69.

Iowa State’s Nikki Moody seems to enjoy slaying Texas, bad ankle or no. The Longhorns Texas lost for the fourth time in five games as Lang couldn’t replace all that the Texans have lost with leading scorer and rebounder Nneka Enemkpali going down to the dreaded ACL.

It took overtime, but #15 Duke upset #12 North Carolina behind Williams’ 33. Is it just me, or did anyone else more from Williams day in and day out?

Not so fast there, you – Army gave American U their first Patriot League loss, 68-60, behind League Player of the Week Kelsey Minato. (Wow. In her freshman year, the Californian was the first in Patriot League history to be voted Player and Rookie of the Year.) Rematch on Feb. 21st.

They may not have impressive out-of-conference records, but once they get into SWAC play, it’s all about Texas Southern and Southern.

Don’t want to put the hex on’em, but New Mexico State is now 5-0 in the WAC.

So the dumping of Beth Burns… how’s that workin’ for ya, San Diego State?

Minnesota didn’t get the win against Rutgers, but 36 points from Amanda Zahui B. gets people’s attention.

Zahui B. grew up playing soccer and tennis, singing in the choir and taking theater lessons. She even learned what her mother called “circus acts,’’ such as juggling. “It was nothing for her to pick up something new, and be good at it,’’ her mother said.

She was taller than most of the boys in her class. She began playing basketball when she was 10. By 13, Sweden had added her to its 16-and-under national team and her father was bringing a drum to her games, becoming a one-man pep band.

“I remember when I was younger, people would say, ‘Wow, you are taller than all of the boys,’ ’’ Zahui B. said. “But I’ve never been insecure about my height. My parents always taught me to walk with my back straight.

“When it came to basketball, pretty much my parents begged me to play. They said, ‘We know this coach, go to practice,’ and I stuck. Every practice, I had two or three coaches working with me. It took me two or three weeks to figure out you could only take two steps on a layup.’’

Yes, Green Bay, the Horizon seems to be yours for the taking.

In the “marquee” matchup of ranked teams, the Beavers’ size and on-court execution made the difference:

No. 9 Oregon State proved that they are the team to beat in the Pac-12, defeating the No 13 ASU women’s basketball team 68-57.

“For some reason we were really struggling to play together today on offense,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We were just… not outwardly focused.”

OSU’s long defenders forced ASU to change its offensive flow.

Snap! goes the Toppers 14-game win streak. It was a heartbreaker, with free throws and a waved off basket, as UTSA comes back to take down #24 Western Kentucky, 64-63. It was the program’s first win in history over a ranked opponent.

Who stole the wheels off Oklahoma State’s wagon? TCU carried off their carburetor, 71-62.

That’s 11-straight for Fresno State.

Practices have gotten a little shorter for the Fresno State women’s basketball team.

That doesn’t mean they’ve gotten easier. If anything, practices have gotten more intense for the winners of 10 in a row and off to a perfect start in Mountain West play.

“We’ve got to replicate the game and replicate the scout and make sure that we are going against it at an even higher level than we’ll see in the game,” coach Jaime White said.

In a battle for second place in the WCC, it was BYU over San Diego, 54-50.

“I am really happy we got the win tonight,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “This game reminded me so much of Saint Mary’s where we had a good lead the first half and played really well defensively but came out a little flat and stood around. I think Xojian’s [Harry] 3-pointer that she hit was a big basket for us to kind of take the lid off the basket and loosen us up.”

Countdown watch: In NAIA D1 news, Vanguard’s Russ Davis is 9 wins away from 500.

With another runaway win against Cincinnati, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis moved into 10th all time in Connecticut scoring. UConn’s Geno Auriemma is on his way to 900 wins.

Bracketology, anyone? Charlie says No. 4 seeds are toughest to identify – One seed line means more in 2015 as tourney shifts back to top 16 teams hosting

As discussed in this space a week ago, the No. 1 seeds in women’s college basketball remain unclear after South Carolina and Connecticut. Notre Dame seems to be gaining a stronger hold, but Baylor replaced Tennessee on the top line in the past seven days.

Despite the change, the same teams remain in the conversation for a top seed: Baylor, Tennessee, Maryland and Oregon State (thanks to its huge win at Arizona State this weekend).

In fact, choosing the top three seeds in each region this week was relatively easy. Though their order was tough to distinguish, teams 1-12 were fairly evident.

However, the picture got a whole lot murkier after that.

In W news, John Klein asks: If wins start coming for Shock, will fans follow?

Entertaining is great. Certainly, the Shock has done everything it can to promote its players and the WNBA in Tulsa. Diggins and Sims are among the best female basketball players on the planet.

Still, to really gauge the impact of the WNBA in Tulsa it will take more than scoring a lot of points (the Shock was second in the league last year).

What the Shock needs most to give Tulsa a chance to really appreciate women’s basketball is victories.

You know, you gotta love when the classics are quoted as part of girls basketball coverage. From Cory Olsen at MiLive:

When victorian-era poet Lord Alfred Tennyson said “Trust me not at all, or all in all,” it’s doubtful he had girls basketball in mind — the game was invented just one year before he died in 1891.

Yet that principle of trust is being instilled into the Wayland girls basketball team by head coach Marty Howard and judging by their double-overtime win over visiting Catholic Central Friday night, they’re taking to it very well.

On the flip side, this sounds unpleasant. From San Francisco: Controversy mars girls tournament

A great day of basketball at the Corner Bakery Showdown in Lafayette took a turn when Berkeley’s girls basketball coach Cheryl Draper took her team off the court with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in a game in a loss to Miramonte-Orinda, claiming she and her players heard racial slurs. 

Miramonte led 68-50 at the time, and a second technical foul in a span of a minute — three in all were called against Berkeley — was called against Berkeley point guard Jaimoni Welch-Coleman (20 points) when Draper called timeout and had her players leave the court.

Finally: Just awful news from Michigan: 2 EMU students, including women’s basketball player, killed in overnight Ypsilanti Township crash

Eastern Michigan University has identified two students as the individuals killed in a head-on crash overnight in Ypsilanti Township

Shannise Heady, 21, from Hazel Crest, Ill., and Jordan Hopkins, 23, of Dexter were killed in a crash shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 25 on Hewitt Road near Midvale, the university said in a press release.

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First Green Bay goes into West Lafayette and takes advantage of a missed free throw in the first overtime to push the game to a second overtime and the upset win over #24 Purdue.

Then, after an interesting first half that saw the #10 Texans stake themselves to a 6-pt lead over the Cardinal at Maples, it looks like Stanford was going to eek out a win. But NO! It goes to overtime! And this time — for the first time in thirty-three years — the Longhorns take down the temporarily #1 Tree. (That’s also Texas’ first takedown of a ranked team in 6 years.) What are pollsters going to do with their votes next week? It’s  so much easier when there  are no upsets in women’s basketball….

So, what is up with the California State schools? Northridge takes down BYU, 63-54. (Could be a tough year for the Cougars) and UC Riverside rolls over San Jose State, 100-80.

Keepin’ the ranked teams honest — #11 North Carolina edged #21 Oklahoma State by 2, 79-77.

The Hatters are off to a 2-0 start, with Marist in their future and Baylor looming. They don’t play conference rival FGCU until January 10th. The Eagles fell to Auburn, 72-69, in spite of Haas’ 30.

Debbie’s game of the night: George Mason over Delaware State, 110-91.

Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner was still mighty efficient (5-10 in 23 minutes), but she has to be careful of fouls. Lucky for the Irish, Jewell Loyd knows nows how to fill up a stat sheet (and shoot free throws). #3 Notre Dame over #15 Michigan State, 71-63.

Susie’s Panthers righted the ship with a school record 13 3-pointers against Michigan, but JMU’s up next.

That being said, JMU had a tough time against American, escaping with a 69-65 win.

A strong second half helped propel #24 Georgia over Ohio State, 67-59.

After scoring 50 points in the first, #8 Maryland eased up in the second, ’cause it could have been wicked ugly final score. Instead it’s just Terps 85, South Florida 67.

Even at home, Princeton continues to pound Pennsylvania.

Well, yes, LSU, it’s going to be that kind of season. The Tigers get rolled by the Green Wave.

After wins over Dayton and Idaho State, Washington State got handled (in the second half) by #16 Nebraska, 82-61.

Well, hello there, Mississippi State, you’re going to the preseason WNIT finals! They take down #17 West Virginia, 74-61 in a game full of ugly shooting. The Bulldogs will face off against the Hilltoppers because, after jumping to the #3 spot in the College Insider mid-major poll, Albany encountered the “Red Wave” of Western Kentucky… and fell,

#2 South Carolina got to iron out some of the kinks out while stomping all over Clemson, 99-41.

Speaking of stomping, there go the Cardinals.

That was Ka’lia Johnson tallying the seventh triple-double in Duke history as the # Blue Devils overcame Old Dominion, 82-66.

Can I ask “what’s happened to Florida” or is that too dismissive of the Red Storm?

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If they want a chance to go dancing, they have to win:

CAA: No surprise James Madison is in the Finals, but their opponent is (somewhat surprising): the Blue Hens.

Discussing UD’s youth, Martin said, “This team has come so far this season. We’re so young and I’m so proud of these kids as they’ve grown so much in the past few months. Nobody thought Delaware would be sitting in this position right now. We’ve climbed the mountain all year long of people not believing in us and now we have a job to finish.”

Southland: Northwestern State (Lady) Demons v. the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks. (Sounds like a CW show) The teams split the regular season, each winning at home by double digits.

Horizon: #1 Green Bay will face off against #2 Wright State.

NEC: Upstart Robert Morris and their star from Greece, Artemis Spanou, will try and overcome St. Francis (PA), who’ve had a less than .500 season, but made the finals after an epic triple-overtime win over Sacred Heart and a tight win over Mount St. Mary’s. Thank goodness there are a couple of days between games.

MVC: The Shockers have righted their ship —  if they sail by 5th seed Drake their season will continue. But don’t take the Bulldogs lightly – they rallied to take down top-seed Indiana State.

A-SUN: This seems to be the game of the day. 26-6, 16-2) Stetson faces off against (25-7, 17-1) FGCU.  Will the Eagles fans show?

As for those Dancers:

Ball State couldn’t sustain the magic, nor stop 5th years senior Rachel Tecca (30-12). So, after 40 years, it’s the Zips who earns their first MAC trip to the NCAAs.

“This group of seniors is very, very special,” said Kest, in her eighth season at the school. “They believed in us when we recruited them. It’s not easy to come into a program that has had some losing seasons and to take a chance on us. It’s easy to go to a school that already has been successful and already has fans.”

The Zips tied the program record for single-season victories, which was set in 2012-2013.

Prairie View A&M DID sustain the magic, upsetting SWAC #2 seed, Texas Southern, earning their fourth consecutive championship title and sending a 14-17 team onto the dance floor. 

Washington added 20 points in the winning effort, which capped a season-long turnaround after the Lady Panthers lost their first 11 games under first-year coach Dawn Brown.

“I just let them know that you can’t let Texas Southern take this moment from you,” Brown said she told her team. “Since 2011, this is what Prairie View A&M University does. You see our best basketball in March.”

The third time was almost the charm for Coppin State, but Hampton prevailed in the MEAC championship game — by three points.

“When I woke up this morning,” Hamilton said, “I said to myself, I had to be a point guard today. We needed everybody in order to win. I actually wanted to play a part in the championship.”

Hamilton’s fingerprints were all over the title game, with a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a couple of blocks.

“She was overdue,” HU coach David Six said. “Nikki’s a big-time player — first-team all-conference. She’s been in these situations before. I’m glad she’s on my team and she was able to make some clutch shots for us.”

Sun Belt: A lot has happened to the Hilltopper program since they sent Shea Mahoney to the New York Liberty – and some of it not good. Different story yesterday as Western Kentucky came back from 14 down against Arkansas State to earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. And the video of the coaches celebrating is worth a thousand words.

Middle Tennessee State left no doubt as to who rules the C-USA, rolling over Southern Mississippi. 84-55.

“I feel like Middle Tennessee is one of the top 20 programs in the country,” Blue Raiders coach Rick Insell said. “We’re not the best program in the country, but we’re in the top 20, and we’re there every year.

“We’re real proud of what our program stands for. The basketball gurus know about Middle Tennessee, and they know that Middle Tennessee is a tough, tough team.”

Patriot: Army entered the NCAA tournament on the shoulders of Kelsey Minato, who scored 31 points to lead the Black Knights over a resilient Holy Cross, 68-58.

 “We had the great equalizer,” Magarity said of his sophomore guard. “She’s an incredible player and as special a player as I’ve ever coached in my 32 years as a head coach.

Mountain West: Fresno State knocked off top seed Colorado State, 77-68, and earned its fourth consecutive conference championship.

“I think (tournament experience) does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs,” Farley said. “If you’re not experienced, you can get really frazzled in that type of situation. Us being more experienced, we learned to accept the runs and not freak out, if that makes sense. It definitely did help us today.”

Big West: It’s been 23 years, and this is only the second time the Cal State Northridge team has gone dancing, this time by virtue of their 15-point win over Cal Poly.

“Every day is a championship day for us,” Matadors coach Jason Flowers said. “The intensity never drops off, whether it’s a shootaround or weights or conditioning. These young women have prepared for this moment for the past two or three years. I was interested to see how they would respond to being on the big stage. They woke up this morning in great spirits, they were really relaxed and I just stayed out of their way and they worked their tails off.”

North Dakota left no doubt as to who was going to earn the Big Sky bid to the NCAA, handily beating Robin Selvig’s Montana, 72-55.

The win was historic for UND (22-9). The Green and White will play in the Big Dance for the first time in program history.

“Credit Montana, a very well-coached team that battled,” North Dakota coach Travis Brewster said. “But it’s an exciting experience for these players to get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and to do it in front of our fans was awesome. It’s a pretty unique honor and takes a special group.”

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basketball world is still working hard for their Dancin’ Shoes.

Considering the start of their respective seasons, I would have thought Green Bay would be the one sitting home and Bowling Green would be packing for the tournament. Instead, Ball State stunned the #25 Phoenix with a stomping’ – 73-55. They’ll go up against Akron (another “surprise” winner, this time over Central Michigan, who’d lost POY-DPOY Bradford to a knee injury) for the MAC championship.

Horizon: Green Bay took care of UIC , and so they’ll host the Wright State Raiders, who clubbed the Penguins, 98-70, to decide who gets their ticket punched.

Hampton is rollin’ in the MEAC but they won’t be challenged by North Carolina A&T, because they fell to Coppin State, 57-55.

C-USA comes to Southern Miss v. MTSU. Getting there was harder than one might think for the #1  in conference, who faced upstart Florida International. But the Blue Raiders prevailed, 64-57. Southern Miss rode the hot hand of senior point guard Jamierra Faulkner (C-USA’s all-time leader in assists) to take down U-TEP, 84-70.

In the SWAC, Texas Southern (20-11, 15-3) needed OT (of course) to escape Jackson State (15-15, 12-6), 79-77. They won’t have to go up against their regular season challenger, Southern (20-8, 16-2), ’cause they were wiped out by upstart Prairie View A&M (13-17, 11-7), 72-43.

It took TRIPLE overtime, but Colorado State continued its fabulous Mountain West season by defeating Wyoming, 95-92. They’ll face traditional MW powerhouse Fresno State in the finals.

WAC: Still a chance for a Vandal (or two) in the Tourney for the second year in a row. Idaho, who’s 15-1 in the conference, came back from 6 down at the half over New Mexico State. In the final, they’ll face Seattle U., which has had a balanced season (16-15) which usually doesn’t mean Dancin’ would be an option. BUT, they defeated CSU Bakersfield, 84-79.

Big West: Cal Poly v. CS Northridge.

Sometimes the team that is supposed to win can still be the underdog. Sometimes Goliath is the better story.

It won’t qualify as a surprise if Cal State Northridge earns a place in the NCAA tournament bracket. The Matadors won the regular-season championship in the Big West, their first, and are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament that concludes this weekend in Anaheim. They enter Friday’s semifinal against the lowest remaining seed (ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET) with Big West Player of the Year Ashlee Guay on their side, as well as the conference’s top defender, Camille Mahlknecht, and two more all-conference selections, Janae Sharpe and Cinnamon Lister.

They aren’t overwhelming favorites, not after edging a crowded field by a game in the regular season, but they are first in line to earn the one and only NCAA bid the league will get.

Patriot: Holy Cross v. Army.

Say what you want about history repeating itself but Saturday’s Patriot League championship matchup between Army and Holy Cross is about 2014 and not about the epic 2006 matchup that made late coach Maggie Dixon famous.

Dave Magarity was Army’s associate head coach that season. Magarity and the current Army team watched video of the 2006 title game this week in an idea that was part motivation, part history lesson. Members of that championship team have sent messages of support to the current players, and some will be on hand for the 6 p.m. contest.

Big Sky: Could there be a team from North Dakota in the Tournament? UND will go for their first shot at a D-I spot (UND appeared in 19 NCAA Division II national tournaments.). In their way: Montana, who came back from 13 down to defeat Southern Utah, 73-69. Last match-up tween these two teams, went Montana’s way, 52-49.

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…that was the theme for most top seeds. But it was a little more interesting for some than others.

UNC had to fight like heck to defeat the under-appreciated Great Danes of Albany.

Dayton, too, had to fight — through St. John’s and two overtimes.

#6 LSU escaped a stubborn #11 Green Bay, 75-71.

#8 Michigan moved on after a nice battle with #9 Villanova, 60-52.

#9 Iowa took advantage of the home court and sent #8 Miami packing, 69-53.

Florida State took a nice lead over Princeton and maintained it to a 60-44 win.

The #6 Blue Hens gave the #11 Mountaineers a first half head start, and then Delle Donne carried Delaware to victory.

#2 Kentucky and #15 Navy were all but tied at the half, then the Wildcats got in gear to secure the victory.

#1 Stanford and #16 Tulsa were exactly tied at the half. Cardinal woke up, though, in the second half (and still, Tulsa did not fold), and moved on into the next round.

#5 Louisville followed Schimmel’s points and Smith’s assists to victory over #12 Middle Tennessee State, 74-49.

#7 Oklahoma State didn’t have much trouble against #10 DePaul: Cowgirls (and Young) move on, 73-56.

#4 Purdue handled #13 Liberty, 77-43.

The ESPN/AP headline says “Duke pulls away in the second half to beat Hampton,” ’cause the #15 Pirates pulled within 6 in the second half. Yes, the #2 Blue Devils won, but maybe Hampton did deserve a higher seed.

#3 Penn State made Cal Poly’s first trip to the NCAA an unpleasant one: 85-55.

#Baylor dismissed Prairie View A&M, 82-40.

#1 Notre Dame did the same to UT-Martin, 97-64.

Some quick “Up Next” from Mechelle: Just like old times for A&M, Nebraska

 Nebraska coach Connie Yori smiled and noted that she has “some great Gary Blair stories.” Well, who doesn’t, right?

As for Blair, women’s basketball’s Mr. Congeniality, he reminded reporters that he’s old enough to remember when Yori was playing at Creighton. Scrappy devil of a player, she was.

The coaching colleagues will commence pleasantries before Monday’s NCAA second-round game here at Texas A&M. And then, it will be a battle to see who heads to Norfolk, Va., for the Sweet 16.

“It’s like a Big 12 reunion, really,” Yori said after her No. 6 seed Cornhuskers beat Chattanooga 73-59 to set up their meeting with No. 3 seed Texas A&M. “That seems like it’s fitting. Gary Blair, he’s one of the great coaches and great characters in our game. It will be interesting to go head-to-head.”

Speaking of Nebraska: I saw pintails, common mergansers and harris sparrows today. And it is cooooold!

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