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A couple of nice primetime games last night.

#8 Louisville hung around for a while, but the combo of  Loyd (2opts) and Reimer (8-8 & game changing blocks) plus poor shooting (33%) doomed the Cardinals against #4 Notre Dame. (Great crowd for TV.)

As usual, junior shooting guard Jewell Loyd led the way for Notre Dame, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds, but this performance was more about guts than flash.

“I think everybody’s going to try to be physical with us,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “That seems to be the game plan. It was a really physical game. That was something you could see we needed to get better at.”

#2 South Carolina v. #6 Tennessee was mighty entertaining – and heartening for the Vols. When South Carolina remember that Izzy was out, they scored. When they didn’t, Tennessee kept it close. It came down to the wire – or, should I say, the endline. Dozier sealed the deal and the Gamecocks, who hadn’t beaten the Lady Vols at home since 1980 and stand 4-47 all-time against them, got the win. (Another great crowd.) Writes Mechelle: 

You hear all kinds of crazy things coming from the stands when you sit on media row. But sometimes, you also hear the absolute truth.

In Monday’s intense, riveting, entertaining, “March-is-right-around-the-corner” game between South Carolina and Tennessee, the Gamecock fans were doing all they could to emotionally power their team to firmly gain the upper hand on the Lady Vols.

Then a fan said, “This is Tennessee. They don’t go away.”

Indeed, even against the No. 2 team in the country, even without their top scorer and rebounder, even with a rotation that realistically went no deeper than six, the Lady Vols pushed South Carolina right to the wire.

But that made the Gamecocks’ 71-66 victory even a little more special. This was a high-level game with a lot on the line: the SEC’s two best teams, both unbeaten in league play, battling it out.

The SEC gave us one upset for the night, as a tight game eventually went to Mississippi, beating #13 Kentucky for the first time in six tries.

“It is a very special victory. It is a program victory,” coach Matt Insell told reporters. “I can’t put into words how satisfying it is to beat a ranked-team like Kentucky. They have had unbelievable wins all year and we beat them by eight. Our team just really went out there and took control.”

Samford gave us the second, as they took down #2 in the Southern Conference, East Tennessee State, 69-46.

“I was really pleased with our preparation,” Samford head coach Mike Morris said. “We have really good young women with good character. And when you have that, you can really challenge them in different ways and their character comes out in their work ethic and how they work through different things. I thought we did a great job of just taking care of the ball tonight. And then, when they made a run, we didn’t fold, and I thought that was big at end of the first half.”

Speaking of the Southern, the conference’s top team, #20 Chattanooga, had its second loosy-goosy game in a row, having to fight off the Mercer Bears, 56-51. The Mocs, who won their 19th SoCo title,  face ETSU next.

#5 Maryland squashed Penn State like a bug, 65-34, and got a nice, shiny Big 10 trophy for their efforts.

I’m really, really proud of this group,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Going into this season there were a lot of unknowns — young team, new conference. To be able to come out and play the way they have in these first 16 games is not easy.”

The NEC got nice and tight as Robert Morris couldn’t shake off its 3-point loss to Bryant and fell to Sacred Heart, 69-60. Bryant and Central Connecticut St. continued their winning ways.

The Central women’s basketball team took control of Monday night’s home game against St. Francis Brooklyn the way it has taken control of most games.

Trailing 16-10 and facing the second-best defense in the Northeast Conference – only Central’s own defense is better – the Blue Devils outscored the Terriers 17-2 over the final 10 minutes of the first half and cruised to a relatively easy victory, 61-43 at Detrick Gymnasium.

Graham offers up a little somethin’ somethin’ on Iowa:

“I feel we have beaten teams that are more talented than we are,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “But because we do those little things better, we have come out on top.”

This is far from the first place wherein it is suggested that what we call chemistry when it comes to sports is much closer to alchemy. It is more magic than science. It can’t be measured. It can’t be quantified. It can’t be tested. Its existence might not be a matter of faith — almost all of us have been part of a workplace, athletic team or club where people got along and have likely experienced the same when such harmony was absent. But its place in the equation of success, whether it resides closer to cause or effect, is entirely a matter of belief. The basic conundrum remains.

Do teams win because they have good chemistry?

Or do teams have good chemistry because they win?

Did you catch this piece on The real Diamond DeShields

The world might never know why Diamond DeShields left the University of North Carolina, but we do know she is ready for a new start at Tennessee.

The 2014 national freshman of the year sat down with espnW recently to discuss her decision to transfer, her relationships with Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell and the Lady Vols’ Pat Summitt and Holly Warlick, and explains why she initially committed to North Carolina.

More than anything, DeShields is eager to bring closure to her decision to transfer to Knoxville. Speculation ran rampant when DeShields left the Tar Heels after her freshman season. 

Oregon State’s gain wasn’t George Fox’s loss:

Kylie Dummer was in tears following her freshman basketball season at Southridge High School in 2010, where the Skyhawks had won their fifth state title in six years.

That was when coach Michael Meek announced to the team he was leaving for a college coaching opportunity at Division III George Fox University in Newberg. The team’s previous coach, Scott Rueck, had left to take the same position at Oregon State – giving Meek an opportunity to bring his success to the collegiate level.

Now in his fifth season leading the Beavers, Rueck has taken that program to new heights. In the same time span, Meek has maintained and built upon the legacy Rueck first created at George Fox.

And in the “no, you really don’t get the idea of ethics”: Riverdale, Smyrna girls basketball teams removed from postseason

The TSSAA removed Riverdale and Smyrna from the high school girls basketball postseason on Monday following a report from a high school referee in charge of their District 7-AAA consolation game held Saturday where he said that both schools “played to lose the game.”

Both Rutherford County schools were placed on restrictive probation by the high school association for the rest of the school year and probation for the 2015-16 school year.

Both schools were fined a total of $1,500 apiece.

In the “we let our play do the talking” news: Neumann-Goretti tops Archbishop Wood for PCL title

FWIW, I’m tossing this out with a h/t to Slam: Filmmakers Seek Crowdfunding for Doc Series on Evolution of Women’s Basketball.

A feature­length documentary, Concrete Rose will use stylized interview portraits of the men and women who are the games trailblazers to tell a universal story about women’s basketball. Thematically organized around on the court play that reflect a wide range of human emotion and experience, the film seeks to reveal a larger more complex portrait of our shared love for basketball.

To be honest, the description is a little fru-fru for me.

In other history news, Ray is Catching up with Carol Blazejowski: Youth basketball, the WNBA, and reflecting on women’s basketball history

The moment stood frozen in time.

“Hi, I’m Carol glad to meet you.”

Over the years I frequently met a new officiating partner in this manner, but this was one of those situations in which I met a former player whose games I covered – a player of legendary proportions whom I virtually idolized for her achievements both on the floor and off of it in the women’s game.

“Hi, I’m Ray nice to meet you,” was the simple response.

Where do you even start when discussing the career of Carol Blazejowski?

On the Aussie front: Canberra Capitals skipper Abby Bishop signs with WNBA side Seattle Storm and

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“No injuries while I’m away!”

Isabelle Harrison has torn ACL, will be out for remainder of season

Some better news to balance that out:

From Graham: Mid-majors making major news

These are good times for mid-majors. Five teams that qualify for the rankings below were part of the most recent Associated Press Top 25, led by Princeton at No. 16. Not since the 2011-12 season, when Delaware and Green Bay hovered around the AP top 10 and four mid-majors were ranked, has the landscape looked as good at this time of year. So with only one more edition of the mid-major top 10 to come before the teams (hopefully) get a chance to prove themselves on the court in the NCAA tournament, here we go.

Hello, Palestra, here I come!

A quick survey of some of the past week’s games:

Eastern Michigan is a team you kinda wanna give a big hug to. They got a strong win against Central Michigan, 85-64.

Semi-upset: CSU Bakersfield takes town New Mexico State, giving the Aggies their first WAC loss, 82-78.

Classic WCC – Saint Mary’s edges San Diego by two, 68-66. Pacific over BYU, 86-82.

Sacramento State is learning to win the shootouts. They take down the Vandals, 92-84.

The Q got all they could handle from Canisius, 88-85, in OT.

And the change of culture at Rhode Island continues – they defeat Fordham, 71-56, and earn their first winning season in 11 years.

Huge win/upset for Marquette as they take down Seton Hall, 73-70.

Another win/upset as St. Francis (PA) overwhelms Central Connecticut State, 61-48.

We’ve mentioned her a couple of times these past few months – now Zahui B has everyone’s attention.

Speaking of attention – gotta get back to the boat, weather is clearing!

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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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How about Notre Dame-shocker Miami at #16 Duke? Tough news for the Hurricanes, though, as they learned starter Laura Quevedo has returned home to Spain.

This could be UConn’s biggest in-conference challenge: Hosting USF.

Epps scored 20 to help #10 Kentucky to a victory in their first game after losing Thompson. Now they go into the Pete Maravich center and face an LSU team boosted by the return of Ballard.

#11 Texas A&M has had a wiggly season and Ole Miss has had a growing season. What will happen when they meet?

Monday gives us #21 Oklahoma State trying to recover from being stuffed by West Virginia. They go up against Oklahoma, who’s basking in their upset of Texas.

Who doesn’t love a good in-state rivalry? #4 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

The top of the PAC 12 is a feisty bunch (witness Washington State pushing #9 Oregon State). Wonder what we’ll find out about #14 Arizona State when they face #13 Stanford.

ESPN gives us a chance to watch Turner v. Harrison (otherwise know as #7 Notre Dame v. #6 Tennessee) at 7PM EST.

Did the arrival of a new year reveal what Notre Dame is not? Or what it is not yet?

If the second Thursday of the calendar year inspired doubts as to the former, Brianna Turner swatted at least some of them away on the third Thursday.

After a week lived out of character, defeat on the court entangled with drama and a potential departure off it, the Fighting Irish played the roles in which we have grown accustomed to seeing them Thursday night. On the road against a quality opponent that played with passion if not always precision, No. 7 Notre Dame beat No. 12 North Carolina 89-79. Down by double digits early, up by double digits in the middle and in a one-possession game late, the defending ACC champions avoided a second conference loss.

With a renewal of its rivalry against Tennessee awaiting on Big Monday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), Notre Dame perhaps also lowered eyebrows across the country that had been raised by its travails.

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Around the games:

The Tennessee-Missouri game was tight. And then it got feisty. The Vols prevailed, but you’ve gotta wonder what kind of suspensions might be in their future.

An Old Big East matchup produces an upset: St. John’s vs. Seton Hall: Red Storm stands firm against #24 Pirates.

One team cracked under the pressure. It wasn’t the team I was expecting. One phenomenal backcourt got into foul trouble and was never quite the same. It wasn’t the backcourt I was expecting.

OT produces another upset. Villanova (6-7) takes down prohibitive New Big East favorite, #25 DePaul, 79-76. Why? The Blue Demons went ice cold at the end of the game and in OT, but they also shot 4-19 on threes and the Wildcats shot 7-13.

#17 Mississippi State held serve against #19 Georgia, 64-56. The Bulldogs are still undefeated, and the locals are noticing: While MSU men’s hoops struggle, women’s team surges

Two programs under third-year coaches host big-name opponents today at Humphrey Coliseum.

The similarities end there. They are two programs heading in opposite directions.

Mississippi State’s men’s basketball squad is 1-5 in its last six games. Meanwhile, the women’s team, led by coach Vic Schaefer, is 15-0, marking the best start and longest winning streak in school history.

Yup, Florida State is legit. Notre Dame turned a one-point halftime deficit (and a 9-point second half deficit) into a six-point win.

Losing senior Aleighsa Welch to a neck sprain (she’s okay) didn’t derail South Carolina’s dismantling of Auburn, 77-58.

Around the Conferences:

Penn Quakers: Women’s Basketball Eyes Big 5 Title vs Temple

 Penn will start 2015 with possibly the biggest Big 5 matchup in school history. The Quakers can clinch a share of their first-ever Big 5 title with a win over Temple at The Palestra on Monday night. The Red and Blue haven’t beaten the Owls at home in more than 15 years, but snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series last season at McGonigle Hall. Tip off is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Pac-12 women’s basketball primer: Is Stanford still the favorite?

Scott Rueck isn’t sure if the Pac-12 is the most competitive conference in women’s basketball. 

But the Oregon State coach believes his league belongs in the discussion.

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers ready for competitive Pac-12 campaign

There’s no doubt the No. 13 Oregon State women’s basketball team is prepared for the upcoming rigors of a Pac-12 schedule that features numerous deep and talented teams.

So are several other teams thanks to some solid nonconference battles against ranked teams.

The conference showed well over the first part of the season with three Pac-12 teams knocking off top-6 opponents.

‘We’re playing to win the conference’: UMaine women’s basketball opens America East slate against Albany

There was a time not too long ago that facing the University at Albany might have been a daunting prospect for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

And while the Black Bears have the utmost respect for the three-time defending America East champions, they are beginning to feel as though they’re very much in the same league as the Great Danes.

Well, carp:

Bowling Green State University women’s basketball student-athletes  Erica Donovan Lauren Webb  are expected to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season due to injury, head coach  Jennifer Roos has announced. Both Donovan, a redshirt junior, and Webb, a freshman, were injured during the Falcons’ win at Illinois State University on Dec. 19.

Additionally, redshirt freshman  Leah Bolton will apply for a medical retirement with the NCAA due to recurring injuries, ending her BGSU playing career.

That’s one, by one: St. Peter’s over Rider, 50-49.

Also in the MAAC, looks like it might be a dog fight between Quinnipiac, Marist and… Canisius?

FGCU had to come back strong in the second half to defeat Harvard, 68-58. BTW, the Eagles will pick up Georgia transfer Sydnei McCaskill.

Clemson has not been good for a long, long time. But under first-year coach Audra Smith, they did come back from 11 down to take down Virginia Tech in OT. Keep an eye on the Tigers’ senior Nikki Dixon.

Well, well, well. The Cornell Bears stun the Penguins, 75-63.

Whoops! Looks like the WHB curse is in effect: Wichita St. over Indiana State, 63-52, as Alex Harden tied a WSU record with 11 (!) steals.

Worth a read and look: Sarah Kadazi from CBS Sports offers a lovely piece as she follows up with the Richmond Spiders: Healing in the Game:

The story begins here, where the glaring overhead lights bounce off the giant red spider down at center court. The Richmond Spiders women’s basketball team trots out, a mélange of braids, ponytails and curls bobbing in unison in front of 7,200 empty seats. It’s a late-October preseason practice at the Robins Center arena, and this is where the healing happens.

Here, a scolding about a missed defensive assignment is a reminder of the right now, a fixture in the normal. Five months ago, this tight-knit family’s fabric was torn, when two of its core members — associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis — embarked on a hot-air balloon ride and never came home. The wounds are fresh. The upcoming basketball season is long. Every second spent on the court is an act of resilience.

Around the country: Babcock McGraw: Top women’s sports stories

6. Magic moment: In January, shock waves hit the WNBA when the Los Angeles Sparks laid off their front office staff and suspended operations. A marquee cornerstone of the league, the Sparks had lost $12 million since 2007, including $1.4 million in 2013.

In February, Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter partnered to buy the Sparks, saving the franchise, from relocation or contraction.

From Nate: The Best of Swish Appeal: The top 10 most popular women’s basketball stories of 2014

Most popular story overall: Becky Hammon makes her NBA coaching debut (Albert Lee)

 Most popular NCAA story: Daisha Simmons’ roommate Brittany Jack sharing her own experience at Alabama (Mike Robinson/Brittany Jack)

Atlanta Dream team executives eyes stake in Hawks

Two of Atlanta’s top business leaders and their wives — Kelly Loeffler and Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange Inc.; and Mary and John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. — are exploring an ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks.

Their main interest, however, is the Atlanta Dream — the local WNBA team — which is owned by Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock.

From Swish Appeal: WNBA collective bargaining agreement posted at player website

Time-off bonus: These bonuses are granted to players who decide to spend some amount of time playing overseas which is less than or equal to 90 days.  (And remember, zero days is less than 90 days.)  This bonus is $50,000 for players and can be split among more than one players.  Teams can decide to increase or decrease these bonuses in subsequent seasons, but by no more than two percent of the time off bonus for the first year ($1,000).  They can also decide how many days they wish to limit the players receiving the bonus in spending time playing overseas – and that limit can be set at zero.

League minimums and salary caps:  With the 12 player rosters, league minimums and salary caps get a little hairy.

Finally: I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Muffet McGraw, but never on this topic: Not My Job: Coach Muffet McGraw Gets Quizzed On Tuffets

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It’s been a season where being ranked means people wanna knock you off.

Northwestern proved its record is no fluke, taking down #20 (flu-smitten) MSU, 61-57.

The Flyers stumbled at the start of the season, but they seem to have found their footing, taking down the #24 Phoenix,  72-66.

Huge, I mean HUGE win for Seton Hall: they take down #14 Georgia (though I had my suspicions about the Bulldogs) with authority, 70-51.

Northeastern (3-6) surprised the Great Danes, 70-67.

Davidson (4-8)came back in the second half to upset Virginia (9-3), 67-57.

The 5-6 Badgers added to their win total by surprising Michigan, 63-53.

Good news: Rutgers got Betnijah Laney back, and she notched her usual double-double (20 points/10 rebounds) The Scarlet Knights hold off Indiana, 66-51.

After an even first half, a nightmarish second half meant #10 Oregon State dropped their first game of the season to the #8 Vols, 74-63. Hello, Ms. Harrison!

The Irish handled the Bruins, 82-67, behind a stellar game from Allen. But boy, UCLA, learn to make your free throws! (14-27).

BAD news: UNC’s McDaniel may be out, torn calf muscle.

Good news: Leticia Romero ruled eligible for FSU women’s basketball

From around:

UND focused on repeat title

A season ago, UND was projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball race.

UND, however, was the surprise of the league last season, earning a share of the regular-season title and powering its way to the Big Sky postseason title. UND advanced to the NCAA Tournament and turned in a solid effort at Texas A&M, which went on to the Sweet 16.

From the Indy Star (and AP?): Breaking down Big Ten women’s basketball

From the Ames Tribune: Laid-back freshman Fernstrom adjusting to college basketball 

Bryanna Fernstrom wants to make one fact clear – she has feelings like a normal human being.

The 6-foot-5 center for the Iowa State women’s basketball team may not always contort her face the way her more excitable teammates do. She may not yell after a good play or pout after a bad one. As coach Bill Fennelly puts it, “her personal demeanor is so low-key, to the point where it’s like, ‘Is she breathing?,’ sometimes.”

From Washington State: EWU, WSU women’s basketball squads off to successful starts

The Eastern Washington women’s basketball team went into the Sunshine State this week as apparent alligator bait for Florida, which had a four-year run of claiming its own Gator Holiday Classic.

But the Eagles ended up securing their first victory over a Southeast Conference opponent, something a Big Sky school hadn’t done since Montana beat Mississippi in 2007.

“Everybody stepped up and took care of the things we needed,” coach Wendy Schuller said of 67-56 win. “It was a fun week.”

A little something on the Maggie Dixon Classic on Sunday, Jan 4th: WNBA Commemorative Rematch Coming To MSG

Nearly 40 years after the first-ever women’s basketball game pitted Queens College against Immaculata, these teams will see each other in court – at worldfamous Madison Square Garden. Their commemorative rematch will take place on Jan. 4, 2015, at 10:30 a.m., in the opening round of the annual Maggie Dixon Classic.

Trailblazing members of the 1974-75 team will attend the game.QC’s 1974–75 squad featured Gail Marquis and Donna Orender, and was coached by Lucille Kyvallos. Marquis earned a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics as a member of the US team and Orender would later become commissioner of the WNBA; Kyvallos was inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. All three were named to the inaugural class of the Queens College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

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The Irish are smiling: Notre Dame popular pick at ACC women’s basketball media day

Notre Dame didn’t lose a conference game in its first season in the ACC, and if prognosticators at the conference women’s basketball media day are right, there aren’t going to be many losses this time, either.

For the first time in about six seasons, Duke won’t be picked by many to play in the Final Four in women’s basketball.

And while veteran coach Joanne P. McCallie says she would rather be the ACC’s “top dog,” coaching a team that’s not under such pressure should be a lot of fun.

Duke had its annual preseason media day on Wednesday next to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the most striking thing about it was the dearth of familiar faces.

When it comes to her team this year, four things stand out to Sylvia Hatchell.“We have leadership, we’ve got experience, we’ve got depth, and great chemistry,” the Hall of Fame coach told reporters Wednesday morning at ACC Women’s Basketball Media Day in Greensboro.

Three Pac-12 women’s basketball teams earned first-place votes in the preseason coaches’ poll, but despite some major changes upcoming, the Stanford Cardinal was voted the favorite for the 15th year in a row.
They won’t have to face 6’9″ Golden Bear: Savanna Trapp Out Indefinitely

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s players seem to have an unparalled work ethic. During 2014-15 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, what the USC Trojans head coach said of forward Alexyz Vaioletama’s summer made you believe it.

“I was mad at Alexyz,” Cooper said, half-joking. “She worked too hard over the summer.”

 Never let it be said that Cynthia Cooper-Dyke doesn’t know how to make an entrance into a room.

USC’s women’s basketball coach is by nature a noisemaker.

She entered the interview room at the Pac-12 headquarters Wednesday prepared to talk to the media about her Women of Troy and their preparations to start a new season and build on last season’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

But first, Cooper-Dyke had to take a selfie with senior forward Alexyz Vaioletama, trying to line up the media in the background for a group photo-bomb. At another point, she offered to sing a little something.

The other USC has huge expectations: South Carolina picked to repeat as Southeastern Conference women’s basketball champions

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows the work it took to reach the top of the Southeastern Conference. She understands it’ll be an even greater challenge for the defending SEC champs to stay there.

Gone are the days when everyone would pencil in Tennessee to dominate the SEC, win the league title and easily move on to the Final Four. While the Gamecocks were picked to repeat, Staley expects the defending champions to be challenged by a hungry, talented group of teams looking to finish on top.

Meh: Veteran Lady Vols shrug off No. 2 prediction

On a day promoting a big-picture view of women’s basketball, Isabelle Harrison set her sights on the finer details.

“We want to set goals for ourselves,” Tennessee’s senior center said. “We want to keep it small right now, little things that are going to add up in the end.”

Delle (Dunkin’) Donne might be gone, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Hens are down and out: Delaware Women’s Basketball Predicted to Finish Second in CAA.
They’ll have to get through the Dukes, though, if they want to get to the Dance, ’cause James Madison is Voted to Repeat as CAA Women’s Basketball Champions
Even without 6’9″ Craig, the Great Danes are still thought to be the top dog in the America East — but lookee at the #2 Seawolves!

In the Big West, CSUN is the Overwhelming Favorite For Women’s Hoops Crown

After sweeping last season’s regular season and Tournament titles, CSUN is the media favorite to take home the crown in the 2014-15 season. The Matadors gained 13 first place votes and 125 points overall for the first place nod. Hawai’i checked in behind the defending champions with 101 points and the remaining first place vote. Back-to-back Tournament finalist Cal Poly was third with 99 points, while UC Davis wrapped up the top half of the poll with 83 points for fourth place.

In the New Big East, DePaul is the top Demon.

So fun the first time, they’re looking to do it a second: North Dakota Picked First In Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll

North Dakota won its first Big Sky championship and earned its first berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament as a Division I school last season. The Green and White posted a 22-10 mark last season with a 15-5 record in the Big Sky. North Dakota earned the most points in both polls, pulling 115 points and seven first-place votes in the coaches’ poll while earning 147 points and eight-first place votes from the media. 

From the Green Wave: Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton: ‘We want the NCAA Tournament

Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton said expectations are high for a team that has won 20 games or more in five consecutive seasons.

And expectations should be high, especially considering Stockton returns 11 of 13 letter winners from a season ago and 97.9 percent of the team’s points and 98.7 percent of the team’s rebounds.

For the Terps, it looks like the top in the 10: Maryland women’s basketball favored to win Big Ten, which is a bit of A homecoming for Brenda Frese

 …the Terrapins’ debut season in the Big Ten is a homecoming of sorts for Frese, 44, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I know for me personally, being able to come back in the Big Ten, having grown up in Iowa and (knowing) the Big Ten Conference extremely well, having coached at Minnesota for a season, I can’t wait,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to get back and play against the great competition.”

This is interesting, considering the hot water UNC is in (UNC report finds 18 years of academic fraud to keep athletes playing): Tying college coaches’ contracts to academic progress gets mixed reviews

A proposed policy that would require teams to reach academic benchmarks before their coaches and athletic directors can cash in on performance-based bonuses has drawn mixed reviews.

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents is expected to vote on the policy Friday during a meeting at Frostburg State. If passed, any new contracts signed by coaches and athletic directors at the system’s schools would include stipulations that require teams to meet a certain Academic Progress Rate for them to receive bonuses based on other incentive clauses in their contracts.

If you’ve followed the “your students do well or else you lose your job” policies in education, you’ll have read about the cheating scandals. So – does this push folks (should I put “Top 25 folks”?) to focus on academics or focus on finding a way around academics?

Is it too early to say “on the hot seat”? Badgers women’s basketball: Coach Bobbie Kelsey excited entering 4th season

Where others might see pressure, Bobbie Kelsey sees opportunity.

Kelsey, beginning her fourth season as the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball coach, is still in search of her first winning season and first postseason tournament bid.

And yah, it’s too early, but the rest of the b-ball world has already warmed his seat.. so Ex-ESPN analyst Dykes defends his hire at Arkansas

“I’ve never been a head coach, never pulled the trigger on the sidelines making the decisions with live ammo flying around us,” Dykes said. “But I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a teacher on the air. I’ve tried to teach the game of basketball. I think that’s why I rose up in the profession like I did as an analyst, because I think I was a pretty good communicator and teacher on my nightly broadcast.”

In Colorado, so far, so good:

Two weeks into preseason practice is far from a make-or-break point in any team’s season, but it does provide enough time for a coach to start getting a feel for her team. According to Colorado women’s basketball head coach Linda Lappe, what her team has showed thus far is encouraging.

What do you think?

“We get better every day and we’re progressing on a great path,” Lappe said after practice last Friday. “I’ve been really impressed by our freshmen and how they’ve been able to come in and learn the system, but also our veterans and how they’re leading.”

Oh, oh: Mosqueda-Lewis Working Hard To Prove Skeptics Wrong

…if the draft were held today it is likely the Seattle Storm, which owns the pick, would take her and team her with Sue Bird, the first overall pick of the 2002 draft. 

But there is work to be done. There are WNBA executives who doubt Mosqueda-Lewis has the speed and agility to get to the basket, to create her own shots and, more importantly, guard the swift perimeter players she will be assigned to at the next level.

“People tend to make a lot of general assumptions,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I was probably the skinniest I’d ever been during my freshman year, but we didn’t win and I didn’t have my best season. 

Rebecca Lobo and Kevin Conners discuss the possibility of a 3-peat.

From Dishin & Swishin 10/23/14 Video & Podcast: Geno Auriemma on USA Basketball & coming back to UConn, Carol Callan on all things USA Basketball

NCAA regional tix are up for sale (PROMO CODE: NCAA ) Women’s Preliminary Round Tickets

What, too soon? What people are saying about some of the top 2015 WNBA Draft prospects

Shoni still doin’ the other thing she does so well:Local youth at Montana basketball clinic and  WNBA Shoni Schimmel visits Wagner School

It started in complete silence, and then slowly turned into a low rumble of anticipation and excitement. A highlight was being played on the big screen of the theater of Shoni Schimmel during one of her games as a professional Native American basketball player for the Atlanta Dream team.

Some say you should never meet your heroes because they never turn out to be who you think they are, but Schimmel has remained true to herself and to the people. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications at Louisville, but she doesn’t just communicate with the people she meets, she connects.

From Swish Appeal: Eurobits: Meesseman, Montgomery off to Russia

WNBA players aren’t the only ones who go abroad: WNBA Coach of the Year Sandy Brondello to coach UMMC Yekaterinburg

OOOOO, History Alert! The Lancaster High School girls’ basketball team, 1919-1920

Ummm…we’ll do better next time: Sporting goods stores vow to get women in the game

When 12-year-old McKenna Peterson opened her new Dick’s Sporting Goods basketball catalog recently, the basketball player and superfan was frustrated to find a glaring misstep: The only girl in the catalog’s pages wasn’t playing basketball — she was sitting in the stands.

So McKenna began to type the company a fiery letter, not just praising her favorite female “dunking machines” but also tearing into the annoying imbalance the boy-heavy mailer seemed to represent. “It’s hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is,” she wrote, “without you guys excluding us from your catalog.”

McKenna’s letter didn’t just spark a public outcry and lead the corporate giant’s chief to apologize — it highlighted an unavoidable tension of the sporting goods industry: Girls and young women are one of its fastest-growing markets, and one of its most ignored.

Big shoes now empty: Girls basketball: Shabazz coach Vanessa Watson retires after 31 seasons

Vanessa Watson is truly going out on top.

After 720 career victories and six Tournament of Champions titles, including one in each of the last two seasons, Watson has retired from coaching girls basketball at Shabazz.

Watson finished her career with a 720-107 record, and she trailed only Pascack Valley’s Jeff Jasper 923 wins on the all-time list for New Jersey coaches. Watson led Shabazz to 10 state championships and six Tournament of Champions titles.

After 31 seasons on the bench at the Newark school, a combination of several things went into Watson’s decision to call 2013-14 her last season. 

It’s that amazing combination that can happen in sports: heart-breaking and heartwarming: Dying Mt. St. Joe’s player’s last game sells out

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