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HUGE upset in the MEAC as perennial top dog Hampton (18-12, 14-2) falls to MD-Eastern Shore (12-16, 8-8) in the quarterfinals courtesy of a game winner by Jessica Long with one second left.

Troy (20-10, 15-5) couldn’t keep its winning ways rolling, and got upset in the quarters of the Sun Belt by LA-Lafayette (19-11, 10-10).

Cal State Fullerton continued with its upsetting ways, this time defeating Cal Poly (15-14, 10-6) for the chance to play in the Big West semi-finals.

“I’m so proud of what these young ladies have accomplished in the last 48 hours,” Fullerton coach Daron Park said. “We challenged them at the beginning of the week to really believe, we challenged them to play for each other, we challenged them to defend, rebound, and play hard.

“We’re not a deep team, and we came through with an amazing performance yesterday (defeating No. 6 seed UCR in Tuesday’s opener). Today was the opposite. The win was a grind, it was hard-fought, it was a slugfest. We challenged them to get one more stop, one more rebound, and (Iwuoha and Butler) did an amazing job.”

WhaddoIknow? Nothin’ about the NEC, obviously. Top seed Central Connecticut State (19-12, 14-4) falls to perennial underdog – who seems to be changing its tune – St. FrancisnolongerNYbutBrooklyn in double OT, 71-63. In the other half of the bracket, Robert Morris (17-14,13-5) got a lead on Bryant (22-9, 14-4), and then held on by its fingernails to secure the 68-62 win. The Terriers will meet the Colonials in the finals to see who gets an NCAA bid. FYI, a second championship would be a nice way to end a coaching career:

 Robert Morris University women’s basketball head coach Sal Buscaglia announced Saturday that 2015-16 will be his final season at the helm of the Colonials program. Currently in his 12th season at Robert Morris, Coach Sal, as he is respectfully called, led the women’s basketball program through a rebirth and into a golden age.

“After last year’s championship season, I started to have serious thoughts about retirement,” said Buscaglia. “And when you have thoughts about it, it’s time to do it. It’s been a great run of nearly 40 years and I look forward to this year’s playoffs and next year as well.

#24 FGCU is going dancing, even though they only won the A-Sun semi versus Jacksonville. Why? ’cause the feisty Norse of Northern Kentucky upset Stetson, 53-52… but NKU can’t dance until next year due to their transition from D2 to D1. But don’t think pride won’t come into play. Florida Gulf Coast wants to finish undefeated in-conferece, and NKU would love to repeat the upset they pulled last season.

Of note: Eastern Michigan thumped Toledo, 74-57, adding evidence to my argument that they’re on a mission and the rest of the MAC better watch out.

Also of note: Tyler Summitt’s LaTech team won their first conference tournament game over Florida Atlantic, 84-74. MSTU is next.

Just ’cause I’ve been taking note: New Mexico gets by Fresno State and now find themselves  in the Mountain West finals.

Of course, there are a lot of bragging rights on the line at noon Friday in the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack Center, but there also is a hung carrot dangling at the end of that championship net-cutting – a berth in the 2015 NCAA field.

“One thing that got us here was our confidence in each other,” said UNM’s Bryce Owens. “Once we built that throughout the year, that’s what got us here.

“I think this is a really great game to go into the championship game. I think once we get this day’s (Thursday) rest, once we get our minds collected, get back together, we’ll be fine. I think as a team we’re doing great.”

They’ll play against Boise State, who survived upset-minded San Jose State.

The foundation to get to this point was laid this summer when the team took a retreat to McCall, and there it came up with a pyramid of goals.

“It said ‘finish’ at the top,” sophomore guard Brooke Pahukoa said. “… We knew the final goal was to make it to the championship here, and then hopefully make the NCAA. It feels great knowing that No. 1 goal, we accomplished.”

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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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keeps the skeptics at bay.

On Wednesday, #12 Nebraska stepped up, taking down the still Williams-less #9 Blue Devils, 60-54. Since coming to my attention, it seems that Coach Yori gets the most out of a bunch of players who are high quality, but not necessarily highly ranked.

Did ya notice that Akron and Ohio are undefeated? No? Was it because you got distracted by the fact that Clemson only managed 28 total points against Middle Tennessee?

You SHOULDA been distracted by Cal’s Brittany Boyd who notched her second triple-double in three games during the Debbie Antonelli Special – Cal 107, Sacramento 94.

St. John’s got defensive in the second half, limiting Xavier to 17 points and powering themselves to a 6-0 record, 65-42.

Yes, it’s a nice  espnW feature on Tyler Summitt, but LaTech is still a work in progress: LSU 73, LaTech 59.

Man, it’s tough being a Catamount fan since Courtnay and May left.

Wow, talk about a conference upside down cake: In the SWAC, Texas Southern is 1-6, Southern is 1-4 and  and Mississippi Valley State is 0-6.

Remember that team that put a scare into Stanford? #4 Texas didn’t even let them think about any word starting with a “u”: Longhorns over New Mexico, 86-37.

#2 Notre Dame made quick turtle soup out of #15 Maryland. No word on Brianna Turner’s shoulder, though.

On Thursday, the #25 Razorbacks forgot to ‘ware the Wabbit, and South Dakota State fwapped’em in OT, 80-75.

#18 Rutgers had every chance to upset #6 UNC but couldn’t close the deal, losing in two overtimes,

Georgia Tech almost upset #16 Michigan State, 79-73 (in OT, of course).

Squeak! That was Lehigh (7-0) escaping from St. Joesph’s (2-5), 73-71.

Northwestern is still undefeated.

On Friday, no ranked teams played, but we can still call Hampton over Penn an upset.

Saturday has some upset opportunities:

#2 Notre Dame v. #3 Connecticut. In anticipation, Graham offers: The secret behind UConn-ND rivalry

If disliking Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma made a rivalry matter, there would be a great many more meaningful rivalries in women’s college basketball. That meaningful, in this era, is mostly defined by the ability to beat his teams explains their scarcity.

And it explains why the state of what has been the best rivalry in recent years turns not on anything the coaches say before it is renewed Saturday afternoon in South Bend, or anything we say about the two of them before No. 2 Notre Dame hosts No. 3 Connecticut (ESPN/WatchESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET), but what the scoreboard says with 10 minutes remaining.

That’s what the rivalry has been. That’s what it has to be if it’s going to continue to matter.

Charlie weighs in: UConn-Notre Dame Rivalry Burning Bright.

Rich Elliot counters: Time apparently has healed McGraw’s animosity toward Auriemma

Additional prep for the game:

Five Things To Know About Notre Dame, Courant
Capsule: No. 3 UConn Women at No. 2 Notre Dame, Courant
UConn seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Kiah Stokes ready for redemption against Notre Dame, Register
No. 3 UConn meets No. 2 Notre Dame in title rematch, Daily Campus
Rivals set to collide, Notre Dame Observer
Game’s Greatest Rivalry Resumes: UConn Women At Notre Dame, Courant
Notre Dame women’s basketball set for bout with old rival UConn, ND Insider
Irish and Huskies meet in women’s hoops showdown, Doug @AP

Yah, Sacramento State is only 1-5, but they’ve been scoring like it’s going out of style (their love of the three is FGCU-esque). What will happen when they encounter #17 Oregon State (6-0).

Another games to keep an eye on:

Tulane (6-1) v. AR-Little Rock (5-0).

Green Bay (5-2) v. Western Michigan (4-1).

Northern Colorado (5-1) v. South Dakota State (5-2).

Florida Gulf Coast (5-2) v. Southern Miss (6-1).

East Carolina (6-2) v Ohio (6-0). Remember the job Bob Boldon did at Youngstown State? He seems to be doing similar work with the Bobcats.

From Dishin & Swishin, the 12/04/14 Podcast: With five Sweet Sixteen visits in seven years, Louisville Jeff Walz will settle for nothing less than a championship

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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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In the Southern, Chattanooga has returned to it traditional conference dominance.

Speaking of Southern, they’re atop the SWAC, but Texas Southern is lurking. Their first matchup went to OT and was a 2pt win for the Jaguars. Southern will host T.S. for their final conference game of the season. The Jags will have a chance to avenge their only in-confernce loss (Alcorn State) March 1st.

Hampton rules the MEAC and, though Coppin State put up a better fight the second time around, it doesn’t appear that anyone will threaten the Pirates. That being said, never underestimate the power of a rivalry (Hello, Howard?).

Yes, it’s slow climb to relevancy, and it is the NEC, but St. Francis (NY) took down traditional powerhouse St. Francis (PA), 90-76, to equal the program’s record for victories. The NEC leaders are the Robert Morris Colonials (which SF/NY took to double-overtime) with a multi-national team: Greece, France, Italy, Spain and the Democratic Republic of Congo are all represented on their roster.

The race to the finish in the MAC’s going to be fun: Central Michigan is 11-0 and Bowling Green is 10-1. The Chippewas gave the Falcons their only loss (at CMU, in OT, 82-79). They meet again Feb 19th.

Ditto with the MAAC. Iona is 13-1 (Rider!!?? – in OT) and Marist is 13-2 (losses to Iona and, rather surprisingly, Fairfield). They’ll close out conference play against each other on March 2nd.

How much is the ACC enjoying the addition of Notre Dame? The Irish are making mincemeat of their opponents and are perched confidently atop the conference. Coach McGraw’s win against Syracuse tied her with North Carolina State Kay Yow for 11th place in career wins (737-258).

Vroom! That’s the sound of James Madison racing to the top of the CAA. Don’t know that anyone else can put up with the Dukes.

Zap! That’s the sound of the Wichita State Shockers (11-0) taking control of the MVC. The Sycamores are in second place (still wonder what happened at Indiana State way back when) at 7-3.

The Danes rule the America East, but hello! Congrats to coach Magarity, who’s got New Hampshire in second.

I’m not sayin’ nuthin’ about the A10, ’cause it’s a hot mess: Flyers, Bonnies, Rams, Dukes…. sort it out folks!

Ditto with the Horizon!

Who knows what’s true in the Atlantic Sun. It’s the Hatters and the Eagles both with one conference loss, but Stetson’s was courtesy of FGCU (72-56). The Eagles lost to Northern Kentucky (8-3), 63-43.

The Eagles of Winthrop (12-3) are having a nice season, the result being they’re perched at #1 in the Big South.  They’ll meet High Point (11-3) again Feb. 27th, where the Panthers will try and exact some measure of revenge for their earlier 79-72  loss.

Typical C-USA, even with newcomer MTSU: It’s the Blue Raiders, East Carolina, UTEP and Tulane beating each other up.

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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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From Jeff Jacobs at CT Now/Hartford Courant: Quinnipiac: Becoming A Giant: AD Jack McDonald’s Vision Is Turning Into Reality

“I’m the luckiest AD on the planet. Our programs, the medical school, the law school, Now, people use the words ‘up and coming.’ It is one of the hottest schools, athletically, academically, career-wise in the region. And today, today is a great step.”

St. Patrick’s Day would be a great Sunday for McDonald. After the “Irish Eyes are Miling” run in Cheshire, he would watch the fans storm Lender Court in celebration. Three hours later, the fans went crazy as the Bobcats pulled the goalie in the closing moments, tied the final game of ECAC quarterfinal series against Cornell at 2 and won it 3-2 with 5:52 left in double overtime on a goal by Kevin Bui.

Also out of Connecticut: Carl Adamec says, “Planting NCAA seeds takes some guesswork

You don’t need a degree from ESPNU to be a bracketologist.

Some knowledge is required, yes, but it’s the love of the game that qualifies you. So please join us. It’s time to stand up and be counted. Your guess is as good as anyone’s, including ESPN’s.

The 64 women’s basketball teams that will take part in the NCAA tournament will be announced Monday at 7 p.m. There are a lot of things we know and a lot of things we don’t. But trying to figure it out is where all the fun comes in.

Charlie discusses Things to look for Monday night – ESPN’s NCAA Selection Special is at 7 ET; coverage continues on ESPNU at 8 ET

Even as the final bracket projection was put together this weekend, some of the questions that popped up throughout the season still lingered. How the selection committee answers them will go a long way toward determining what the NCAA tournament bracket looks like when it’s unveiled on Selection Monday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET, with continued coverage on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET).

Here are the questions I’m most anxious to see answered Monday night.

The Rebkellian beknighted takes a shot at the Dancers using RPI

Full Court has a question (that might upset Bridgeport, CT folks): Will principles or profit guide NCAA bracketing?

it would be a surprise to nearly everyone involved in women’s basketball if the top four seeds are not Baylor, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Stanford in pretty much that order, as they have been the consensus top four for most, if not all, of the season.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be a very big question mark surrounding the bracketing of the four heavyweights. Because while most assume that UConn will be holding court in the Bridgeport, Conn., Regional, just as they have played at or near their home floor in the early and regional rounds for the past several years, it will take a major piece of legerdemain for the Selection Committee to get them there this year.

Also at Full Court, Paul White: Mid-Majors hold to script, for the most part

Players on NCAA Tournament bubble teams can breathe a bit easier after this week’s conclusion of the mid-major postseason tournaments.

Losses by St. Joseph’s (Atlantic 10), Green Bay (Horizon) and Delaware (Colonial Athletic) – as well as perhaps even Quinnipiac (Northeast) – in conference tournament finals would have provided NCAA Tournament bids to teams that would not have gotten in otherwise. All favorites prevailed, though, so bubble team supporters don’t have to chew on those fingernails quite so viciously in advance of Monday’s Selection Show.

Speaking of Mid-Majors, Lady Swish gives Hampton their due: Four–ward progress – Hampton does it again

David Six keeps insisting that when the 2012-13 Hampton Lady Pirates first assembled last fall, they weren’t very good.

Sure didn’t take ’em long to catch on. Or catch fire. Or leave the rest of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in their wake once again.

In a never-in-doubt MEAC title game, the Lady Pirates smoked Howard 59-38 Saturday at the Norfolk Scope to complete a perfect conference schedule – 16-0 regular season; 3-0 tournament – claim their fourth straight conference crown and book yet another ticket to the NCAA Tournament. 

“I’m not going to say where we should be seeded, but I don’t think we’re a 15 or 16 seed,” said Six, who along with many others felt Hampton was underseeded at 16 last season. “I haven’t seen all the other teams play, but we’ve got some quality wins. I certainly don’t think we’re a 15, 16. I think 13 is fair.

Matt Sussman at Hustle Belt says,“Watch out for Central Michigan”:

CMU always had potential. They had a litany of good nonconference wins, perhaps the best collection in all of the MAC. They just had one too many conference losses which forced them into the quarterfinals instead of the semis. Then they got to work; a 33-point victory over Bowling Green, a second win against Toledo and now this masterpiece over the Zips.

Richard Kent at Swish Appeal has Five teams to watch in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

As we ponder and wonder what’s going to happen tonight and consider the future of the tournament, a little flashback:

2007: The NCAA Selection Committee: Opening the Vault and Looking Inside

Every year the (now) “Tuesday Night Quarterbacking” that follows Division I’s “Selection Monday” becomes a passionate exercise in “what ifs” and “how comes.” Depending on a coach’s relationship to those fortunate 64 teams, discussions can be fraught with emotion or wrapped in an almost scientific detachment. Most years one can guarantee the focus of people’s dissatisfaction will either be on the teams selected or on the make up of the brackets.

But last year, in a sort of basketball “perfect storm,” the ire was aimed at both. What followed was a firestorm (and some mocking) in the press and barbed comments from coaches about who got in, who got left out, why so many tops seeds were put in one region, why a top seed should play on a lower seed’s de facto home court, and on and on.

“It got a lot of attention,” reflected Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson, in perhaps the understatement of the season.

2009: NCAA TOURNAMENT HOSTING: Hidden Hurdles and Helpful Hints

As college basketball moves into its season of review and reflection, doubtless there will be many discussions about the 2009  Division Itournament and the logistics of seeding, the needs of hosting, the restrictions of television and the current economic reality.

But as the women’s game seeks to strike the balance between a competitively balanced tournament and a well-attended one, we would be remiss to not examine the successes and challenges faced by the host institutions themselves. What lessons were learned and how might they be applied to games and tournaments across the Divisions?

Full Court’s John McGraw and Trevor Goodson are in Frankfort, Kentucky where Defense gets it done in NAIA Elite 8

Most of the time when teams fail to put points on the board in basketball, the outcome is considered ugly.  This was not the case as the top eight teams in the NAIA squared off for a chance to go the prestigious “Fab Four”, the NAIA version of the Final Four.  No team managed more than 63 points which happened when Cumberland (TN) barely edged Lubbock Christian (TX) 63-61.   Earlier in the day Westminster (UT) and Westmont (CA) combined for 75 (39-36) points in what was the lowest scoring game in NAIA tournament history.  These were great games though, games that any basketball junkie would have enjoyed because the defense on display was a close to perfect as possible. 

In other W news, Jayda talk with Sue Bird about her knee surgery

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all that’s left is to prepare for the second guessing of the committee. Until then, argue with Charlie.

Amongst those who are in, but awaiting word on where they are going:

Four, count’em FOUR overtimes. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  In the end, Prairie View A&M had the legs and the points to secure the victory over Mississippi Valley State. That’s the third SWAC title in a row for coach Wilson’s Panthers.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know how many overtimes we played,” Prairie View A&M coach Toyelle Wilson said. “I credit our girls; relentless. They said they could go five more (overtimes).”

Hampton did what it’s been doing all season. Rollin’ over opponents. That’s four straight conference tournament championships for the Pirates.

Cal Poly did what it’s never done: Punch their ticket to the Big Dance. And they did it in style, upsetting top-seed Pacific, 63-49.

Cal Poly overcame the loss of star forward Kayla Griffin on Saturday to upset top-seeded Pacific, 63-49, in the Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament final at Honda Center.

The win earned the second-seeded Mustangs their first trip to the NCAA tournament.

Griffin tore knee ligaments early in the second half, but Cal Poly was able to maintain the 11-point lead it built in the first half. Griffin had four points in her 24 minutes.

“We wouldn’t be in this position without Kayla, there’s no question,” Cal Poly Coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “I hated that she couldn’t be on the court at the end of the game.”

That’s the way to make an impression: Change coaches, join the Southland, win the Conference Championship. Sam Houston couldn’t make up the five point first half difference, and so Oral Roberts has a ticket to ride. Obviously, the Bearkats are disappointed, but consider this: the program hasn’t  had a winning season since 1996 before going 17-14 last year.

Central Michigan proved that finishing strong in the regular season can pay dividends in the conference tournament. They carried their momentum through the tournament and earned their first trip to the Dance since 1984. (Lordy, I was a year out of college and “When Doves Cry” was the #1 song). You’ll recall the heartbreak last year.

“I wanted to put 1.5 seconds on T-shirts,” coach Sue Guevara said. “This was the goal. To get to this tournament and win because it was such a heartbreaking loss last year.”

I’ve got to believe that for Guevara, it was both heartbreaking and galling, considered the post-tourney revelations.

Speaking of 1984, 1985 was the last time Idaho went to the tourney. (I know you’re wondering: Wham, “Careless Whisper.”) They’re going back by virtue of their win over Seattle U.

“Survive and advance has certainly been our motto in this tournament and we did it all the way till the end, and it’s a great feeling,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “I’m so happy for my players and I’m so happy for my staff. I feel that I have the greatest staff in America and our players have just worked their tails off to get to this moment and it’s fantastic, it’s a great feeling.”

Montana grabbed a lead over Northern Colorado, and the Bears couldn’t recover. Grizz go Danzin. From Bill Speltz:

After 35 years of coaching the same team, you figure a guy is bound to develop some hard bark on his personality.

Not Montana women’s basketball skipper Robin Selvig. His heart was so filled with happiness Saturday he couldn’t help shedding a few tears after the Lady Griz beat Northern Colorado 56-43 for the Big Sky Conference tournament championship.

His emotional postgame news conference prompted the senior sitting to his left, UM standout forward Katie Baker, to get a little misty herself. Then the Lady Griz beat writer in the front row, who thinks the world of Selvig and doesn’t care who knows it, started getting a little teary-eyed.

Navy left no doubt about who rules the Patriot League: 72-53 winners over Holy Cross, the senior-free Midshipmen have won three consecutive conference championships. How long will Pemper stay in Annapolis?

I’ve been told I need to look at the end of this game to check out a game-changing technical. That aside, sounds like it was a rockin’ environment in upstate New York as Hartford refused to roll over for the Great Danes. A back-and-forth game, it was tied at 52, and then Albany reeled off 9-straight points to secure the win and an NCAA berth.

UCF’s magical run in the C-USA conference tournament ended at the hands of Tulsa, who was making a nice run of their own. 

Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman sounded as stunned as anyone when she let the realization dawn that a season that began 0-5 was going to culminate with the school’s second berth in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m just so excited, a chill went through my body when I said we’re going to the tournament,” said the second-year coach after Tulsa defeated Central Florida 75-66 in the championship game of the Conference USA tournament Saturday. “We’ve been talking about it, but now it’s real.”

Writes Joel Klein at the Tulsa World:

Tulsa’s Taleya Mayberry, one of the best players in school history, took over the tournament and is taking the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA Tournament.

“She was great for us and she had to be for us to win,” said Mossman.

Mayberry, fantastic for four days, was at her best in a 75-66 victory over UCF in the Conference USA Women’s Basketball Tournament final on Saturday night at the BOK Center.

Mayberry scored 25 points in the final and averaged 25 in the four games.

The Sooners tweet: OU Women’s Hoops ‏@Congrats to our friends @TUWBasketball on their C-USA title! For 1st time, all 4 D1 teams in Oklahoma playing in NCAA Tourney.

San Diego State was on a roll, but clearly Wiggins didn’t leave the Fresno State cupboard bare.

The Aztecs had their 17-game winning streak snapped as they fell behind by 22 points and couldn’t come all the way back in a 76-70 loss to Fresno State in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Saturday.

“We picked a bad time to have a bad time,” San Diego State coach Beth Burns said. “I think Fresno State had an awful lot to do with that.

The result: Dawgs go Dawncin’.

Doug Feinberg didn’t get his wish granted by Quinnipiac (another game coming down to the final shot). Instead, the Bobcats blew away St. Francis (PA) to get their first invite to the NCAA Tournament.

‘‘We are kind of waking people up a little bit,’’ said forward Brittany McQuain, a junior from Independence, Mo., who acknowledges she had never heard of Quinnipiac before an assistant coach came to recruit her. ‘‘It’s good to be a part of this, and great that people are starting to recognize who we are.’’

The Blue Hens are doing their own version Chicken Dance, as Delaware escaped a stubborn Drexel, 59-56. Great for fans and the team that they’re hosting the first two rounds. Says Graham:

Elena Delle Donne scored the final points in her final Colonial Athletic Association game.

But the coach who ended up face down on the court doing water angels Sunday afternoon had a point of her own about Delaware.

Delaware is more than a one-woman team, as coach Tina Martin preached all weekend. It is more than the greatest player the program will ever have. And the one woman who proved it Sunday was Trumae Lucas, whose drive to the basket and two subsequent free throws in the final minute gave the Blue Hens their final lead in a 59-56 win against Drexel that nearly went the other way.

There really was no doubt, even with a stunningly ugly opening to the second half, Green Bay managed to rout Loyola (IL), 54-38 and earn their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Kevin Borseth’s goal when he returned to coach UWGB this season was to not screw up the success he helped build before he left for Michigan and continued when Matt Bollant roamed the sideline here for five years.

He didn’t.

Their regular season game went to overtime. Their rematch in the A-10 finals came down to the last possession: Fordham with the ball, a chance to shoot for the win, but an offensive foul ended the game. St. Joseph’s goes to their first NCAA tournament in 12 years.

One the game: Four thousand plus came to the game — primarily Fordham fans. Had a lovely pre-game chat with the mom of their point guard and, as always, enjoyed WFUV’s play-by-play folks. College kids who are serious about the product, their professionalism… and the future of their team. “Coach is very excited by her incoming class.”

It was wonderful having some women’s hoops happening in NYC during conference tournament time. Very much enjoyed my Barclay experience. Staff was helpful, friendly and on point. Lighting focused ON the court, not the arena (like The Rock does in NJ). Seems to me, if the gentlemen continue to use the Garden for the NIT, there’s no reason Brooklyn shouldn’t look to host the women’s Final Four.

About that waiting game:

From the Naples News: ‘Deserving’ FGCU hoping against hope for NCAA at-large bid

It’s a strange feeling for Karl Smesko, being unable to control his team’s destiny.

Smesko has orchestrated the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team’s rapid rise in Division I the past six seasons. He’s turned the Eagles into a dominant lower-major program, yet he’s done all he can do for his team this season.

From Louisiana, Lady Tigers eye NCAA berth

Around the LSU women’s basketball program, it’s become known as the Tim Tebow speech.

Her team reeling after back-to-back losses in early February dropped the Lady Tigers to 13-10 and out of any reasonable hope of making the NCAA tournament, Jeanne Kenney gathered the Lady Tigers around her in the locker room after their heartbreaking 64-62 loss to Tennessee and told them they couldn’t let seniors Bianca Lutley and Adrienne Webb go out on such a low note.

From the Washington Post: Maryland, Navy women’s basketball await NCAA tournament seedings

Meanwhile, the Army women are turning their focus to the WNIT

From Jerry Brewer: Seattle U women fall short of NCAA bid, but hope to refuel for WNIT

Sylvia Shephard walked to the Seattle University bench and bent over as her tears began. Her coach, Joan Bonvicini, patted her on the back, whispered that she was proud of her and tried to minimize the pain.

There was no relief, however.

In college basketball, nothing hurts like March.

She knows she’s going, but Purdue’s Mingo knows how to pay it forward

School? Yikes, we still have school? Marist begins preparation for NCAA tournament

After a week of midterms, Emma O’Connor and Kristina Danella walked through the doors at McCann Arena Friday morning ready to get back to work.

“We were like, ‘We feel like we haven’t been here forever,’ ” said Danella, a fifth-year senior forward on the Marist College women’s basketball team.

From Brian Howard at the Daily Camera: CU Buffs’ Chucky Jeffery closing out storied career

Chucky Jeffery looks at the waiter.

“Can I have the …”

“Teriyaki chicken, no vegetables,” the waiter said, smiling as he finishes the sentence.

“Yes, absolutely!” Jeffery replied with a laugh.

She’s clearly been here before.

While Jeffery’s dinner choice may lack originality, very little else about Colorado’s senior point guard is that predictable.

This is, after all, a girl who grew up preferring to participate in football and karate to basketball and dance classes. She’s a student who admits, “I’m not big on school,” yet has the desire to pursue a graduate degree. And, she’s a player who was once a challenge to coach, but looks forward to coaching in the future.

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and still generating surprises.

The entire C-USA tourney has been a surprise (or hot mess, depending on your view): The championship game will feature the #6 seed (Tulsa) v. the #8 seed (UCF). UCF, straight of their upset of top-seed SMU, continued their hot play by taking down UTEP, 89-77. Tulsa used a stubborn defense to hold off #2 seed East Carolina, 72-59.

The MAC finals will feature a surprise team: Central Michigan earned a (fair) shot at the title by holding off top-seed Toledo. Tough for fans of Naama who’d hoped she’d get a chance at the Dance. The Chippewas will go up against Akron’s Zips, who defeated Ball State.

The Southland finals will feature top-seed Oral Roberts against #2-seed Sam Houston (who seem to have survived their brief bout with the WHB curse.)

No surprise, Hampton has rolled into the MEAC finals. No surprise, their opponent will be Howard.

Big Sky Finals: Montana v. Northern Colorado.

In the Big West, Cal State Fullerton couldn’t overcome top-seed Pacific (though it took a last-second three to do it). In the finals, the Tigers will go against Cal Poly (another team that seems to have survived the WHB curse).

The Vandals ruined my WAC brack(et). The finals feature Idaho and Seattle U.

D’em Penguins didn’t make it into the Horizon finals. Instead, it will be Loyola (IL) taking on Green Bay.

Revenge of the former team? #4 Prairie View upset Coop’s new team, Texas Southern, 58-62. That mean’s they’re in the SWAC finals against Mississippi Valley State.

San Diego State rolled over New Mexico, which means they’ll face Fresno State, which just escaped Wyoming, in the MWC finals.

It’s Delaware v. Hofstra and Drexel v. James Madison in today’s CAA semis.

The MVC has held serve through their semis: #1 Wichita State v. #4 Northern Iowa and #2 Creighton v. #3 Illinois State.

When Holy Cross takes on Navy, the Middies will be looking to three-peat as Patriot League champs

The biggest surprise of the day would probably be up Albany, if somehow Hartford could take down conference big dog, the Great Danes.

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which turned out to be a whole lotta Skylar.

From Curt: Irish, Diggins hold off late Tennessee surge and  Irish, Diggins rain on Vols’ parade

“I think this was a great win in a hostile environment in front of a great crowd that made for a great game,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “It was an electric atmosphere. They came out with a lot of emotion and got up early. I thought we maintained our composure.”

From Mechelle: Notre Dame notches first win in Knoxville

After viewing the film “The Impossible” (family struggles to survive/reunite after the 2004 tsunami) and a major tearjerker “Downton Abbey” episode (no spoilers for you stragglers who are still in the dark), I figured I did enough blubbering over the weekend.

So I was really hoping for a great, old-fashioned, fun, competitive, down-to-the-wire basketball game on Monday night. Well … we almost got that.

From Daniel Benjamin at the Examiner: No. 2 Notre Dame staves off late challenge from No. 9 Tennessee

From Cory Bernard at The Observer: Rocky Topped – Diggins scores a career-high 33 points as the No. 2 Irish down Lady Vols in Knoxville

At GoVolsXtra, Dan writes: Skylar Diggins scores 33 to lead Notre Dame past Lady Vols – Notre Dame executes as expected

Hard to miss Skylar Diggins Monday night, but Tennessee somehow lost her anyway.

The All-American cut down the lane unimpeded early in the second half, as if she was jogging through a park. She received a pass and scored a layup.

John Adams writes:  Lady Vols could have used a boost from past

The Lady Vols raised a banner in honor of former coach

Pat Summitt in pregame ceremonies as some of their greatest players looked on at courtside. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t script the game.

All-Americans Michelle Marciniak,Chamique Holdsclaw,Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker joined the rest of the crowd in a pregame standing ovation for Summitt, who led the program to eight national championships. But their contributions were limited to cheering.

“I wanted to put them in,” UT coach Holly Warlick said with a smile.

Speaking of folks who wear orange, Mechelle writes about Oklahoma State’s Toni Young.

Basketball most definitely was not Oklahoma State senior Toni Young’s first love. From the time she was a little girl, she was captivated by art and wanted to draw all the time. Hoops wasn’t even in the picture.

Basketball wasn’t her second love, either. That was volleyball, the first sport that she really embraced.

Basketball was something that other people thought Young should pursue, as was track and field. Young initially wasn’t too keen on either one — to say the least — when she finally took them up in high school.

“I didn’t start basketball until my sophomore year,” Young said. “And then I got forced into track when I was a sophomore, too. My coaches and my brother made me do it; I hated it then. But it was something I was good at, so it became a hobby.”

Young grins now as she recounts this, because it sounds preposterous. She was an All-American in the high jump at the NCAA outdoor track meet last summer (placing fifth) and then competed in the U.S. Olympic trials. That’s some hobby.

I haven’t jinxed Texas Southern yet: they took down Alabama State, 74-40.

Belmont is making some noise in the OVC. Their win over Morehead State puts them at 8-2 in the conference.

Okay, yes, they beat up on the Blackbirds, but I just need to say this: St. Francis (NY): 4-4 in the NEC.

I doubt they’re a threat to Quinnipiac, who move to 8-0 in the NEC. They don’t play St. Francis (PA) until Feb. 16th.

Yup, Hampton has set themselves up as the class of the MEAC, taking down rival Hampton handily: 67-45.

Sienna stayed even with the Red Foxes in the second half — but not in the first. Marist is now 8-0 in the MAAC.

They took the pedal off the medal in the second half, but that didn’t prevent Green Bay from securing the win over Wright State — and an 6-0 record in the Horizon.

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sent two teams to the Dance.

In what could easily be dubbed an “instant classic,” Eastern Michigan kept trying to put away Central Michigan, but they would not stay gone. It came down to a missed free throw and a last second layup, and EMU wins the MAC. Heartbreak, obviously, for the Chippewas, but yikes — look at all the players they get back next year. Bowling Green’s gotta be hearing footsteps.

In the battle of the H’s, Howard couldn’t get over the hump that is Hampton. Again, a hard-fought game decided by a last second layup sends the Pirates to their third straight MEAC championship.

It’s not that I forgot about them (though I kinda did): Congrats to North Dakota, which proved the third time is the charm by finally winning the Big West Conference title. They’ll play in the WBI, and the Big Sky next year.

Look, up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Fresno State threeeee! A tournament record 15, to be precise. There wasn’t a lot of fight in LaTech, and the Bulldogs roared to the WAC title, 89-61.

In a battle of the unexpected finalists, the Midshipmen of Navy fitted themselves with dancing shoes courtesy of a 57-49 win over Holy Cross (their first win over the Crusaders in seven tries).

It was a dogfight in the Am.East Finals, but eventually the Great Danes of Albany overcame the Retrievers of UMB, 69-61,  earning their first trip to the NCAA tournament.

The victory, of course, means UAlbany women’s basketball has arrived as a bona fide Division I program, and that’s great for the school.

But just as important, there was excitement for women’s basketball Saturday night, and it’s been a long time since you could say that around here. That’s great for the sport.

Alcorn State had the lead at the half, but they could hold on against Prairie View. The 63-50 win gives Toyelle Wilson’s Panthers their second consecutive Southwestern Conference tournament championship.

It wasn’t particularly elegant, but Mountain West COY Beth Burns will take it: San Diego State takes down New Mexico and wins the conference championship, 57-43.

It wasn’t particularly pretty, but never underestimate the power of your home court: Idaho State took the Big Sky final with a 49-46 win over Northern Colorado.

Here’s a game Debbie and Beth would have liked: Down 11 with 5:30 left, CS Bakersfield fought back until Lauren Carter’s three pointer with just over a minute left gave them the lead over Seattle University. They held on and secured a 89-87 win – and, oddly enough, completes their worst season ever.

Long Beach didn’t have one last upset in them, and so it’s the UCSB Gauchos who win the Big West Championship and get the chance to dance in the Tournament.

UTEP won the program’s first C-USA title, but it wasn’t easy. They were down 12 with 15 minutes to go in the second, but rallied back to take the 69-65 win. Tulane is going to kick themselves all the way home: The missed 10 of 25 free throws.

The Battle of the Bays, redux, wasn’t all wet, but it was pretty damp. The Nerd City Kids made sure the Cal Bears didn’t get any ideas, and Stanford won its “first” Pac-12 Championship. Writes Michelle:

Less than a minute into Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game against Cal at Staples Center, Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike took an elbow to the face.

She bent over at the waist under the basket in obvious pain.

Nneka Ogwumike went straight to her younger sister, lifted her face in her hands, wiped her tears and gave her a talk. She got Chiney straightened out and headed to the bench before the trainer could even get there.

Maybe it’s not a stretch to say that Nneka Ogwumike really does do everything for Stanford.

Baylor said fare-the-well to Texas A&M with a mauling, 73-50, and it wasn’t all Big BG. Writes Mechelle:

Wherever it’s played in the future, though, it’s hard to imagine there will be a more dominant performance in the title game than the one Baylor had Saturday. The No. 1 seed, after an 18-0 regular-season record in Big 12 play, won its three league tournament games by an average of 22.7 points. The Bears’ 23-point margin of victory over Texas A&M was the largest in a Big 12 title game, surpassing Oklahoma’s 19-point win over Texas in 2004.

Superstar Griner — the Big 12 Player of the Year and favorite for that honor nationally, too — had season lows in points (11) and rebounds (three) in her 26 minutes Saturday. But it didn’t even matter.

Check out Charlie’s latest bracketology and see what you think about the College Sports Madness bracket.

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and gives the Buckeye’s the blues.

By earning a share of their first Big 10 title since 2004, I don’t know that Coquese Washington has quite exorcised the ghost of Rene-past — and she may never win over a certain core group of PSU fans — but for those of us who’ve followed Co’s journey, it is a wonderful moment. Writes Mechelle:

It might be trite to say Penn State needed this, but it’s still true. The school, buried under so much harsh publicity in the last three months, needed it. The program, which hadn’t won a Big Ten championship since 2004, needed it. The players, who this season lost two of their first three league games (both at home), needed it. And coach Coquese Washington, who took over at Penn State in 2007 hoping to give the program a completely fresh outlook and atmosphere, needed it.

You also can say that Washington and the players didn’t just need it, they deserved it and earned it.

“It” is the Big Ten regular-season title, which No. 17 Penn State has at least a share of now after an 84-66 victory over No. 11 Ohio State on Monday.

Kentucky righted the ship after three losses, keeping Vandy at arms length through out the game, and secured the 70-61 win.

The Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana got a win…. but dang, it wasn’t in the Sun Belt, so their still 0-fer in the conference.

Both Hampton and Florida A&M won, keeping the MEAC very, very interesting.

Hmmm… what’s going on with High Point? They started so strong, and now are 9-5 in the Big South.

Say what? The Blackbirds (9-7) of Long Island were all over the Pioneers of Sacred Heart (13-3), 74-68.

Happy Beth and Debbie moment: Double OT and the Red Flash pull out the win over Central Connecticut, 86-83.

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AP Poll Thoughts, CAA Scramble, NCAA Bracket

Quick thoughts while killing time before heading up on post-midnight ride to Yukon, er, UConn territory for the Duke showdown.

Looks like several showdowns are ahead for the Huskies on this stretch.

Incidentally, it seems there could be as many as three vacancies in the AP voters minds as of this writing – caused by Georgia, Ohio State and possibly Georgia Tech depending on value of an overtime loss to Miami – in casting their ballots this week.

Which leads to Charlie’s latest bracketology and bubbles.

Which leads to Lady Swish: ODU, JMU, UNCW remain deadlocked atop CAA and The (Hampton) revolution will be televised

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Temple’s Treys Keep Owls in First Place Tie

Until Saturday afternoon it was easy to believe how Temple coach Tonya Cardoza looked to UConn’s Geno Auriemma, her boss for 14 seasons with the Huskies, for mentoring her into running her own program.

However, judging by the Owls’ heady 84-56 Atlantic 10 victory over visiting Richmond at McGonigle Hall, when it comes to tactical execution she may have been using Villanova’s Harry Perretta as her secret role model.

From Lady Swish: Liberty, Hampton cruise with suffocating defense

There’s no such thing as a perfect defensive effort, but we suspect even Lady Flames coach Carey Green will be hard-pressed to find many flaws with the lockdown his team applied Saturday. Consider that Winthrop’s top three scorers combined to score zero points.

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From Graham on Heather Golden, who’s been forced to finish her career on the bench because of injury: The best 3 minutes of Green Bay’s season

If it wasn’t the kind of effort the coaching staff wanted to see out of its nationally ranked team in January, it certainly wasn’t the vantage point Golden wanted to have for her final season.

But when it would be easy to be bitter about so many lost minutes, Golden instead cherishes the three she found earlier this season — minutes that proved no less meaningful as a farewell than as the beginning of a comeback. And as her hair-tussling on an otherwise forgettable night seemed to suggest, there are worse places to be, even in the most frustrating of moments, than around Dr. James Naismith’s creation.

Also from Graham, his mid-major poll: Top two teams remain the same, which you can compare with the CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25 ranking.

Lady Swish says:

We bow our heads to Hampton, shake our heads about Norfolk State and offer this heads up about Radford: These guys are pretty good!

From the NCAA blog, John Infante asks: What Would Paying Student-Athletes Look Like?

Holy three-ball! FGCU took 55… yes FIFTY FIVE of them. Oh, yah. They also won.

Word has it that over 8000 tickets sold for Sunday’s Civil War and women’s MKA opener.

Q has: How Washington’s Defense Frustrated A ‘Lackadaisical & Unfocused’ Cal Team

Mark your calendar for the post-season WNIT.

There’s a job opening at Stonybrook.

Charlie’s got his latest Bracketology and says an Emphasis on road wins is the key

In a season in which winning away from home has proved to be especially difficult — Stanford lost by 22 at DePaul and then the Blue Demons, just five days later, lost by 13 at Arizona State, a team that the Cardinal would then beat by 47 at home — scoring some occasional success on the road will prove to be a difference maker in seeding or even inclusion in the NCAA tournament. This isn’t groundbreaking news, for sure. The tournament committee has used road/neutral records as one of its chief criterion for years. And why not? There is no better measuring stick for a team’s abilities come March because, at least after the first two rounds, that’s exactly what the tournament is. And for most, the opening rounds are, at best, neutral site games.

The AP says, Meighan Simmons key for Lady Vols

Tennessee point guard Meighan Simmons likes to play fast. Even coach Pat Summitt, who loves to push tempo, has had to warn “Speedy” to slow down.

“There will be times where I can’t even slow myself down,” Simmons said. “There will be times, I admit, where I do jack up shots. I’m rushing into it because I just want to get a feel of the ball and where the basket is. I know after a while, once I get into the flow of the game, I just let the game come to me.”

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