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that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Connecticut routs Syracuse, wins historic fourth straight NCAA title

From the moment she arrived to play basketball for Connecticut four years ago, Breanna Stewart aimed to set herself apart from anyone in the history of the sport. At the top of her list of goals was playing for the first women’s team to win four national championships in as many years. 

Following a masterful performance in Tuesday night’s 82-51 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA tournament final, Stewart not only made good on her unprecedented aspirations but elevated the top-seeded Huskies into exclusive company. 

Syracuse.com: Connecticut smothers Syracuse to win 4th straight NCAA women’s basketball title

Syracuse women’s basketball coach Quentin Hillsman: We’ll get the next Breanna Stewart

Hillsman may have lost an NCAA championship game to Connecticut on Tuesday, but he clearly retained all his confidence.

And that’s probably warranted.

His success in recruiting great players was on full display in the Orange’s run to the title game.

While he missed on Stewart coming out of Cicero-North Syracuse four years ago, heading into this offseason the spotlight of the program’s first-ever Final Four should give Hillsman an even easier time getting an audience with the handful of difference-makers coming out of high school basketball every year.

Bud Poliquin: Syracuse women’s basketball may have been outplayed and outclassed, but it wasn’t out-fought

Before this one had even begun, Quentin Hillsman was working it, and working it hard.

“Some of our players have played against them and I’ve coached against them numerous times,” he’d announced … and the “them” in the equation were the Connecticut Huskies. “I’ve been on every possible end of the spectrum of a UConn game — a regular-season game, a Big East Tournament game, on Senior Night at their place. I’ve been in every possible situation against them.”

Well, not exactly. At least not going into Tuesday evening. Because it wasn’t until then that Hillsman and his Syracuse women’s basketball team walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and entered a whole ‘nother realm

More Lindsay: Proud Syracuse women’s basketball bows to Connecticut, envisions path to its own title

“I thought in spurts we played pretty good,” Hillsman said. “We just had some troubles (in execution). But the troubles come from UConn.. They’re just a great basketball team. I’m not shocked by how good they are. I’m not shocked about the things they did in the game. We competed. We definitely didn’t play scared. It was a very tough basketball game and I thought our kids left it all on the floor.”

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: UConn women win fourth straight national championship, 11th overall

“There are three key ingredients that go into this kind of success,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said as he pointed to Tuck, Stewart and Jefferson. “When you have players like these three and the kind of individuals that they are, the kind of character that they have, the way they conduct themselves every day, I have never been around a better group of great players that love the game, appreciate the game, love their teammates. They have done something that obviously never has been done better so it means they are really good.”

Graham: UConn’s trio of seniors goes out with class

It was the day before her class would attempt to make history by winning a fourth consecutive national championship, and Connecticut senior Moriah Jefferson was trying to explain why perceptions of her and her classmates are drawn from incomplete information.

Morgan Tuck may look calm and composed on the court, a model of subtle efficiency juxtaposed against Jefferson’s perpetual motion or Breanna Stewart’s long-limbed canter. But that, Jefferson noted, obscures an inner wild child loud enough behind closed doors to carry through the walls.

Jefferson acknowledged, too, that despite the speed with which she plays, she is known as “Grandma” to her teammates for reasons that have more to do with demeanor than age. The hummingbird activity slows to a Texas amble when the sneakers come off.

Howard Megdal at Vice: THE UCONN WOMEN TAKE THEIR HISTORIC, INEVITABLE CROWN

After answering questions at the postgame podium, Sykes took a long, slow walk down the corridors of Bankers Life Arena, eventually ending up in the visitors’ locker room. Weary from a full season of drives and spills, she asked, “You mind if I sit down?” No one did, and she wearily settled into a chair in front of her locker, one leg extended. Her team had been routed, but she had started to find perspective on it before the game even ended, while standing on the sideline. The realization came as the confetti began to fall and both pep bands began to play.

“I was just taking in those last few seconds on the clock to realize what we’ve accomplished this year,” Sykes said. “You see the clock winding down, and you realize that you lost the game, but at the same time you think in a positive mindset, too—that gives you ammunition to get back to that spot. And we’re going to forever remember this feeling. And next season we want to get back here so we can change that feeling and know how it feels to win a national championship.” Sykes, it should be said, was the exception. It’s really hard to take the long view as a player who is used to winning, and has just lost by so much, so quickly.

WaPo’s Des Bieier: Breanna Stewart’s U-Conn. career was about as close to perfect as it gets

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a uniquely successful college basketball career, one that ended in a remarkably appropriate way. With her Connecticut Huskies winning the NCAA title Tuesday, Breanna Stewart completed a near-perfect run, and her final act came against an unlikely opponent that just happened to be her hometown team.

Mechelle: With fourth title in hand, Stewart delivers

“When you feel the most satisfied, when you’ve done all that you can do,” Stewart said, “when you’re working this hard and performing at that level, there’s nothing else that can be asked of you. No matter, win or lose or anything, you’re putting it all out there. That’s what you want.”

Maybe the most remarkable part of this is that Stewart has made it look … well, almost mundane. Stewart, her teammates and UConn Nation were excited Tuesday, but for many sports fans, the conclusion of another perfect season — UConn’s sixth — was practically ho-hum.

Okay, so what was with that sword? USA Today’s Laken Litman explains Why the UConn seniors knighted each other after winning national championship

USA Today’s Luke Kerr-Dineen: Let’s appreciate UConn women’s basketball for what it is: A dynasty

The role parity plays in the NFL is hardly a taboo subject when people discuss the league’s popularity, and it’s not as if the New York Yankees escaped criticism when they were winning everything and paying its players handsomely for the pleasure.

The difference here is that not only did people linger on the negative side of that question, many never made it to the eventual conclusion that almost always follows: That dynasties should be celebrated because they offer casual fans an avenue into the sport that didn’t exist before.

Not a golf fan? That’s fine, but I bet you know who Tiger Woods is. You may not follow horse racing but I’d be shocked if you didn’t know what American Pharoah accomplished last year. You don’t have to be a UFC follower to know who Ronda Rousey is, or a boxing fan to understand that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a very big deal.

NCAA.com echo: UConn women’s basketball: How to appreciate the true dynasty of the Huskies

They are the Celtics in pony tails, and the Yankees in pink. They are the Canadiens without a penalty box, the Steelers without shoulder pads. They are UCLA, with two X chromosomes.

Their coach is John Wooden in a coed world. Except now, he has one more national championship.

And now that Breanna Stewart has crunched her last opponent and cut down her last net, what to think about the Connecticut Dynasty?

And more: UConn’s legacy cemented in history with 11th national championship

Swish Appeal: UConn’s Big 3: 4 years, 4 National Championships

Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs: Senior Sweep — Savor The Huskies’ Big Moment

Basketball is Marcus Paige hitting an impossible shot with 4.6 seconds left and Kris Jenkins answering with a buzzer-beater for the ages.

Yet basketball, too, is John Wooden’s UCLA men of a half-century ago and Auriemma’s UConn women of Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

There is a memorable scene in the movie “Hoosiers” where Coach Dale has the boys measure the distance from under the backboard to the free-throw line and then again from the floor to the rim. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. “The exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale said.

The message, of course, was no matter how big the moment or how colossal the challenge, the game is constant. The game is the same for everyone. For David. For Goliath. For Paige. For Jenkins. For Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. For Diana TaurasiMaya Moore and Breanna Stewart.

Sue: Connecticut’s dominance leaves no doubt in 11th title win

Auriemma, who was emotional in a press conference before semifinals, said the three players left a legacy not only for the school, but for players who follow them.

“They’ve left an imprint on this game that’s going to last a really long time,” he said. “And I think it’s a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love. And I’m really, really proud of them.”

Richard Deitsch at SI: Perfection: UConn’s Stewart leaves legacy as unparalleled winner

There were no Kris Jenkins or Marcus Paige moments tonight, no Ryan Arcidiacono hearing “Arch! Arch! Arch!” and flipping the ball back to his trail shooter for the shining moments of all shining moments. No, this was a clinical Connecticut victory, a cold-blooded dissection of Syracuse, which had a remarkable run to the final before getting eaten by a basketball Godzilla.

UConn is the champion of women’s basketball again in an 82–51 rout, but this one came with plenty of notables: The win vaulted the UConn senior class of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck to 151 career wins (and just five losses), the most victories for any class in the history of women’s basketball. The trio also ran the table in the NCAA tournament with 24 consecutive wins, a record that can only be matched but never topped. Oh, yes, there was also this: UConn coach Geno Auriemma won his 11th career national title, eclipsing legendary UCLA men’s coach John Wooden by one.

If you want to have an argument about women’s basketball…Taurasi, not Stewart, largely considered best UConn player ever

 You have to like a question with three choices and no wrong answers. But which one is the most right?

NCAA.com: UConn women’s basketball: Breanna Stewart makes case she’s the greatest ever with fourth title

If you saw the UConn bench go wild when that last shot went in, you may want to (see) read Lindsay Schnell’s piece: UCONN RESERVES BRIANA PULIDO & TIERNEY LAWLOR ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WALK ON WITH A DYNASTY

Briana “Polly” Pulido was about five minutes into her first walk-on workout with Connecticut assistant women’s basketball coach Shea Ralph in the fall of 2013 when she had a thought she couldn’t shake 

What the hell did I get myself into? 

It’s a question she still battles, she says, though not as much anymore. As one of two walk-ons for the Huskies, who go for an unprecedented four-peat tonight in the women’s national title game, Pulido knew what she had gotten herself into, and why. It’s cliché, but true, she says, that she wanted to be part of something special.

Harvey, NY Times “On Basketball”: A Team Sets a High Bar, and Then Surpasses It Yet Again

Did you catch the audio of Mechelle on WNYC: What UConn’s Success Means for Women’s Basketball

How about NPR’s Frank Deford: It’s Time To Celebrate The UConn Women’s Basketball Team

Mechelle: Auriemma passes Wooden with 11th title

Why has Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma won so many national championships? There are multiple intersecting specific reasons that have helped in the construction of the Huskies’ women’s basketball dynasty that claimed its 11th NCAA title, all under Auriemma, on Tuesday. But there is also one overriding factor.

Which is this: Some people are exceptionally great at what they do.

Why is Mark Zuckerberg a gazillionaire? Why has Meryl Streep earned 19 Academy Award nominations? Why do the Beatles remain the best-selling musical artists of all time, even 46 years after they broke up?

The big “why” for the extreme end of greatness is always an extreme talent. Then there are other variables: opportunity, geography, timeliness, an ability to seize the moment.

From the Indy Star: and UConn’s dominance continues to be worthy of our celebration and KRAVITZ: Step aside, John Wooden and UCLA; make room for UConn and Auriemma

“The first thing I thought about (Monday) night, when you told me you would ask me that question if we won, was last night, there were something like 20-some of my former players, and we were all in one room and I just remember taking a step back and looking at all of them and thinking, ‘This is just an unbelievable scene’,” Auriemma said. “And they’re all here today. And what those 11 titles mean to me is how many great players I’ve had a chance to coach and how many great people have come through the program. 
 
“It doesn’t matter whose name I’m above, whose name I’m under or next to, as long as I have those names and those players in my memory, I’m good.”

More audio on Dan Patrick: Geno Auriemma says he hates John Wooden comparison

ESPN’s Front Row offers BTS of ESPN at NCAA Women’s National Championship

American Athletic Conference offers: UConn Women’s Basketball Captures Perfect 38-0 Season

In their own words: NCAA post-game:

Other Indy stuff:

This past weekend, senior Mercedes Riggs headed to Indianapolis, Ind., for the NCAA Final Four.  Riggs was a part of the “So You Wanna Be A Coach” program put on by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).  A product of Lindon, Utah, Riggs stopped by to talk about her experience and what lies ahead in her career.

Yeah! NCAA to mull playing 3 women’s finals in same city again

“It really was a special moment for women’s basketball,” Auriemma said. “I hope it was a moment that everyone took in and appreciated and wants to do again. I talked to some of the coaches and players on those teams and they said they never experienced anything like this. And you know what? They deserve to. Those kids play just as hard, put in as much time and effort as our kids.”

The NCAA added a nice touch, having the players from Division II champion Lubbock Christian and Division III winner Thomas More hold the flag during the Division I title game. A moment they won’t forget anytime soon.

Something you might have missed: ‘Loudest ovation’ at NCAA game for Lauren Hill.

NICE! From the Seattle Times: A LOOK BACK – Huskies’ 2016 Final Four run

It was a season of firsts for the Washington women’s basketball team — a season in which UW finished just fifth in the Pac-12. But once the Huskies found their footing in the postseason, coach Mike Neighbors’ squad went on an improbable NCAA tournament run that culminated in a Final Four appearance. Here’s a look back at the Dawgs’ 2015-16 season and their journey to the Final Four.

Well deserved: Jacksonville Women’s hoops team to be recognized before Friday baseball game

Hofstra had a nice WNIT run: W.B. Mason Coaches Report With Krista Kilburn-Steveskey

WNBA news:

With Morgan Tuck declaring for the draft, follow excelle’s WNBA draft board here. Did I mention that Powers is doing the same? Aerial Powers on WNBA: ‘It’s the right opportunity’

On that draft list: Banham Reflects On Career, Looks Ahead To WNBA Draft

Didja read: WNBA President, Lisa M. Borders, Says NBA And WNBA Are Joined At The Hip and the Q&A: New WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders ’79 on her goals for the league

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Just ask Jeff Walz.

He offered Tuesday to email or call the boss of anyone who wanted to come to the game but couldn’t because of work. He’s already had 100 or so fans take him up on that, including someone in the mayor’s office.

”Whoever sends me a note on Twitter or on Facebook – if they give me their boss’ email – I’m writing them a note asking if they can make the ballgame,” Walz said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Check out Aneela’s “Top 25 Players To Watch in NCAA Tournament

Washington: ‘Sharp’ Huskies Head To NCAA Tournament

The Huskies are sharp, because they share a common goal and have rallied around each other. They are in sync. They are focused.

“The difference between last year and this year, last year we were happy to be there,” junior Kelsey Plum said. “It was a cool accomplishment after having not been in the NCAA tournament for a long time.

“We were just so excited about the whole thing, we lost focus in the game. This year, we’re not just happy to be here. We’re trying to do something with it.

Connecticut: Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson looking to make history

UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokes that when the trio now known as ”The Big Three” first arrived on campus, he wasn’t sure they should play as freshmen either.

Stewart, he said, had unbelievable talent, but was often lackadaisical, because things were too easy for her. Jefferson, he said, had no grasp of running an offense. Her idea of playing point guard, he said, was to run at full speed until she ran into something.

Tuck was the best of the three in practice, but that didn’t always translate to games.

Little by little, he said, they began to gel.

Connecticut: Former Huskies break down UConn’s winning ways

Utah: Jeff Judkins keeps Cougars steadily successful

As BYU’s women’s basketball players, assistant coaches and supporters reacted excitedly when the Cougars received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last Monday, head coach Jeff Judkins stared stoically at the large screen, realizing the task that lies ahead.

It was almost LaVell Edwards-like, which is fitting, because Judkins is having the kind of success that the legendary football coach had in Provo in the 1980s and ’90s, albeit in a sport mostly out of the national spotlight.

“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” BYU guard Makenzi Pulsipher said. “He’s such a good, nice person, but he’s also a really, really good coach.”

California: Jordin Canada leads UCLA back to the Big Dance

During a recent practice at UCLA, one of the Bruins players commented out loud about point guard Jordin Canada, “She’s our all-conference player, let’s just get it to her.”

And Canada cringed.

“Her shoulders went in, and she looked uncomfortable,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “She didn’t like it. But at the same time, when the lights brighten, she’s at her best.”

California: USF coach Azzi welcomes chance to return to Stanford for NCAAs

Jennifer Azzi’s expression — an ear-to-ear grin — didn’t change when she saw that her USF team was matched against her alma mater Stanford, during Monday’s NCAA selection show.

Azzi knows how these things work — Azzi against her mentor Tara VanDerveer is the kind of story line selection committees love. She knows how often basketball can bring one full circle — such as when the Tennessee kid won a national championship with Stanford back home in Knoxville in 1990. 

“These things happen,” she said.

Florida: NCAA women’s bracket has distinct Florida flavor

It has been a season of firsts for women’s college basketball teams Florida, and the roll will continue in the NCAA Tournament.

When the field of 64 was announced on Monday, it marked the first time that five teams from the Sunshine State were selected.

Georgia: Georgia back in tournament under 1st-year coach

New York: Syracuse women’s basketball team a victim of bad timing

What’s the old cliche, if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all?

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is living proof of that. The Orange have had their best regular season in program history. Syracuse went to the ACC championship game and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, again, its best ever.

The high seed means the Orange are rewarded with one — possibly two — home games for the first two rounds of the tournament. And when does the NCAA Tournament committee (with help from ESPN) have Syracuse playing.

Friday at 2:30 p.m. Right after the Syracuse men’s game. A weekday afternoon when the majority of local people are working or in school.

New York: With Two Bids, Iona Savors ‘Incredible Accomplishment’

For Cluess and Godsey, that made last Monday twice as sweet. They understand better than most the challenges midmajor programs face in facilities, recruiting and financing when competing against major conferences for players as well as victories.

“It’s so hard for one team to make it, let alone two, especially in a conference our size,” Cluess said.

Missouri: The three steps the women’s basketball team is taking in preparation for the big dance.

This time last season, the Missouri women’s basketball team was sitting around coach Robin Pingeton’s house, eyes glued to the television during Selection Monday. They were on the outside looking in. 

While watching other teams celebrate their success, the overall mindset of the team was, “That’s going to be us next year,” according to senior Morgan Stock.

New Jersey: PU Women’s Hoops Sees Silver Lining in Penn Defeat, Becoming 1st Ivy Team to Earn At-Large Bid to NCAAs

North Carolina: Coaches of Asheville men, women share special bond

Seconds after the UNC Asheville women beat Liberty on Sunday at Kimmel Arena to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, some of the first people on the floor to celebrate with the women were members of the Bulldogs’ men’s team.

It was a scene that didn’t surprise those close to the program.

There is a closeness between the teams and it begins with the coaches.

Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Nick McDevitt can’t help but run into each other several times a day because their offices are separated by a conference room, which they share along with a printer.

They wouldn’t want it any other way. McDevitt is a fan of Kirkpatrick and her staff and Kirkpatrick feels the same way about the men’s coaches.

Tennessee/Michigan: Belmont, Michigan State coaches are friends, now NCAA foes

“Suzy and I got to be good friends back then,” said Newbauer, who was an assistant at Georgia at the time. “My sister almost went to Michigan State and instead went to Indiana, so I’ve known Suzy since my first year in women’s basketball. I’ve just been really good friends with her since then. We were texting each other about, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if we wound up in the same place?’ But I didn’t think we would be playing them.”

Wanna listen while you work? LaChina Robinson and Chiney Ogwumike break down the Sioux Falls Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest L.A. Sparks F Candace Parker. 2) They then break down the Bridgeport Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest Indiana Fever G Briann January.

As a self-identified Conference Generalist, I take great pleasure in tracking programs raising their profiles. Marshall was one such story: A Different `Long Season’ for Daniel’s Herd

Marshall makes its first trip to the Women’s NIT with a visit to longtime rival Ohio on Thursday night, and riding on the bus with the Herd as it heads up the road this evening is an attitude that has carried Coach Matt Daniel’s team all season.

It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.

When Marshall opened the 2015-16 season back on Nov. 13 with an out-of-breath, 104-101 triumph at Morehead State, eight of the 12 healthy players on Daniel’s roster were in their first game in a Herd uniform. Six were freshmen … and Marshall had been picked to finish 10th in the 14-team Conference USA race by Daniel’s sideline peers.

Four months later, the Herd (21-11) has more wins than all but one team (24-5 in 1986-87) in the Herd women’s hoops history dating to 1969-70. Marshall has only its third postseason bid in its major college era, which dates to 1981-82. And while finishing tied for sixth in the C-USA standings, the Herd won a school-best 11 C-USA games (regular season and tournament) in its 11 years in the league.

So were the Jacksonville Dolphins: Mentee vs. Mentor

It happens at the start of every athletic competition. Typically after the national anthem and player introductions, and often overlooked as one of the unwritten rules of the game. It’s the coaches’ handshake, a brief meeting a midcourt that will have a deeper meaning for Yolett McPhee-McCuin Friday.

When the head coach of the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team shakes the hand of Dawn Staley, she will see more than the opposition, she’ll also see a mentor and a friend.

“Dawn Staley is someone that I mirror my program after,” said McCuin. “Not every step but definitely the how and the why. How to build a program and why we do what we do?

And: Though not a surprise, first NCAA bid reason for Duquesne women’s basketball team to celebrate

“I don’t think any of us were expecting this in the beginning of the season, so the fact that we’re even here is so exciting,” senior Emilie Gronas said. “From the preseason, we could feel this was a different team with a lot of new faces. A lot of people didn’t expect us to do as great as we did.” 

But after playing in other postseason tournaments in each of the last seven seasons, Duquesne didn’t have any preseason intentions of receiving another WNIT bid.

The Dukes broke record after record this year, setting program highs for wins (27) and conference wins (13) while earning a share of the Atlantic-10 regular-season title. Now, all of those accolades come second to achieving an ultimate goal.

Damn: A Website Went Offline And Took Most Of Women’s College Basketball Analytics With It

If you’re filling out your bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and want some statistical background to the broader forecasts, you have a slew of options. Start at Sports-Reference.com: powerful search tools; team rankings for anything from pace to point differentials adjusted for strength of schedule; and player pages with stats such as usage percentage, win shares and Box Plus/Minus. Ken Pomeroy’s site offers more detailed and adjusted team rankings and a wide array of individual player metrics. For $100 a year, Shot Analytics delivers detailed spatial analysis of shot selection, including weighted shot charts.

If you’re looking for similar information to help you fill out an NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket, you’re out of luck.

Thank you: Tonya Mirts ends 21-year tenure as Hickman girls basketball head coach

Mirts, who played college basketball for Missouri, appreciated the challenge of not being able to recruit players for high school basketball, instead developing the young women in her district.

“You get what you get and you try to make a masterpiece out of it year in and year out,” she said.

Thank you: Wanda Watkins steps down as Campbell women’s basketball coach after 35 seasons

In addition to her coaching achievements, Watkins holds a special place in Campbell athletics history. She was the school’s first female athletic scholarship recipient after graduating from nearby South Johnston High School in 1975. She was a member of that school’s 1974 North Carolina state championship team.

She served as team captain of the Lady Camels basketball team as a senior and captained the softball team for three years. Despite suffering an injury in her final season, Watkins was named MVP of the 1978-79 team and selected as Campbell’s Outstanding Female Athlete.

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DANCE!!!”

h/t do AP’s Doug Feinberg (and to his colleague Will Graves for doing the leg work and tabulating – ’cause this has been a GOOD trend this tourney): Duquesne, Buffalo Among First-Timers in NCAA Women’s Tourney

In a flash, anxiety became joy. Belief morphed into reality. The slow steady rise from obscurity to respectability validated in an instant. The free T-shirts that read “Duquesne’s Going Dancing” transformed from wishful thinking to truth in advertising.

Welcome to the madness, Dukes. You too, Central Arkansas, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Iona. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament isn’t just for the blue bloods anymore.

All five programs will make their NCAA debuts this weekend after earning their first-ever tournament berths, a watershed moment for schools who have spent the last three decades relegated to watching the madness play out on TV without them.

Speaking of Blue Bloods: Duke women’s basketball not in NCAA Tournament for 1st time in 21 years

Joseph Zucker at Bleacher Report has NCAA Women’s Basketball Bracket 2016: Results, Seeds, Reaction and Analysis

Jay Drew at the Salt Lake Tribune: No. 7 seed BYU draws Missouri in NCAA Tournament

Missouri (21-9) is making its first trip to the tournament in 10 years, while BYU (26-6) is in March Madness for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons. The Tigers lost their final two regular season games before falling 47-45 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament on March 3.

“I am happy [with the seeding],” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “I think we got what we deserved. I think if we had won the [WCC] tournament, we would have been a little bit higher, but I feel really good about playing Missouri. I have seen them play a little bit and it will be a good matchup for us.”

Adrian Szkola from Lo(wer) Hud(son): Iona draws Maryland in NCAA tournament

In the days leading up to Selection Monday, Iona women’s basketball head coach Billi Godsley made it a point to not pay any attention to the bracket predictions.

Seeing how her players reacted to when Kentucky’s opponent was revealed on ESPN’s selection show, it’s pretty obvious they didn’t do the same.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme had projected Kentucky to face off against Iona in his last bracketology update.  Iona’s players let out an “oohh” when it was revealed that No. 3 Kentucky would play No. 14 UNC-Asheville at Lexington, Kentucky.

Ken Klimek from the Notre Dame Insider: Notre Dame women get a pleasant geographical surprise

“It’s exciting to go to Lexington, but we have to focus on the first two games and do our job on those,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We have to be all business and I am sure the seniors will take care of that. Being a No. 1 seed takes a lot of work. This team makes it look easy, but they put in a lot of work all season. So does the staff.”

Mitch Blomert from the Waco Tribune: 

All year long, the Baylor women have worn green bracelets with the inscription of a message that has carried them this season: “eight is not enough,” referring to the team’s back-to-back Elite Eight exits in the 2014 and ’15 NCAA tournaments.

The Lady Bears are back in the big dance, and the path to their goal of a Final Four appearance has been paved. Now they just have to stay alive to get there.

Dave Cloninger at The State: Gamecocks earn third straight No. 1 seed

It hasn’t been a great two days for South Carolina basketball and the NCAA Tournament selection committees.

A day after the Gamecocks’ men’s team was snubbed by the tournament, USC’s women’s team was placed in the Sioux Falls Regional. While the Gamecocks earned their third straight No. 1 seed and open the NCAA Tournament at home, they would have to play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds in South Dakota, should they advance.

“It’s pretty surprising, but at the same time, we’re not on the committee. We weren’t in a room, so we don’t know what was behind it,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “But we got to do our job. Our job is to open up on Friday night and take care of our business.”

Richard Deitsch and Lindsay Schnell from Sports Illustrated ask  Can South Carolina escape Sioux Falls? and  Can No. 1 Baylor survive Dallas region? and say NCAA women’s tournament: UConn is the team to beat again

Evan McCullers from The Plainsman: Women’s basketball makes NCAA Tournament field

A year after winning only three SEC games, the Auburn women’s basketball team is going to play on the sport’s biggest stage for the first time since 2009.

NEC: Robert Morris

“Playing UConn defines the word challenge. In the history of all sports, one could really give a good argument that UConn women’s basketball team is the most dominant ever in the history of sports,” said RMU head coach Sal Buscaglia. “You’re not talking about one or two titles, you’re talking about 10 national titles.
 
“We’re really happy for the opportunity and the challenge. This is an exciting moment in these young women’s lives no matter what happens in the game. We’re just going to take this one possession at a time, prepare the same way we always do, but obviously this is a major David vs. Goliath scenario. I know our players will give everything they have on that court. It’s about the process and the journey and going to play Connecticut is something they’ll be able to tell their kids and grandkids that they did.”

More on Morris: Colonials relish opportunity to play undefeated UConn

Sean Star from the Reporter Herald: Colorado State women’s basketball headed West for NCAA Tournament

Finally, the Rams got to sit back, relax and enjoy everything they’ve accomplished all season.

Because up until now, they’ve been too busy keeping their heads down and focused on the next task.

Not this time.

This time the Colorado State women’s basketball team soaked it all in during its NCAA Tournament selection show watch party on Monday.

Michael Epps from the Detroit News : Spartans women’s NCAA vision comes to fruition

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant had her team watch the selection show together last year and see their team not make the NCAA Tournament.

A chip on their shoulder? That’s an understatement.

“I was on the team last year, and I know how disappointing it was to watch a selection show and know that we weren’t going to come up,” junior guard Tori Jankoska said. “Coach Merchant told us that this wasn’t to punish us, but to show us where we should be and we need to see ourselves next year.”

Jonathan Lintner from the Courier-Journal: Some drama with U of L women’s NCAA draw

“I would have loved it for our fans,” Walz said of the regional assignment in a phone interview after the selection, “but we have to win the first two games first. I’m not really big on getting ahead of myself. We have to come out and get ready to play the 2:30 game Friday. Hopefully a lot of businesses downtown can just do a half day of work and let their employees come to the game.

“It’s one of those things we knew could happen. I completely understand. If the committee wanted to put Kentucky in Lexington, it makes sense. Unfortunately for our fans, it’s not as easy of a drive — or a flight — trying to get to Dallas.

Lindsay Kramaer from Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball planning NCAA Tournament trip well beyond Carrier Dome

“Obviously, it’s good to be home,” said Orange coach Quentin Hillsman, who is taking his team to its fourth straight NCAA party. “That’s all we wanted to do is have our opportunity to play home. We didn’t really care who it was. We just wanted to have a home game and be able to play in the Dome in front of our fans. We’re just excited that we’re not packing our bags and going in the road.”

If Syracuse wins two games it will gladly break out the luggage. Success in the Dome means advancement to the Sweet 16 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a possible showdown against No. 1 seed South Carolina. Syracuse has never reached the Sweet 16.

Joey Knight from the Tampa Bay Times : USF women happy about seed, puzzled by placement in NCAA Tournament

From Dan Wolken over at USA Today: South Carolina’s Dawn Staley emerging as new face of women’s basketball

It is just past 10 a.m. the morning after another big victory, but things are not going well for one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Dawn Staley’s regular pickup game with a collection of managers, graduate assistants and South Carolina compliance officials has suddenly become less friendly than just a few minutes earlier when she was gathering everyone for a group selfie and joyfully screaming to hype herself up.

Nobody is running harder at both ends of the floor than Staley, the fireball point guard for three Olympic gold medal teams, three Final Four teams at Virginia and six WNBA All-Star games. But at 45, she relies less these days on her quickness and passing than making sure the background music in the gym is right.

“We need Beyonce!” she yells as a manager goes scurrying to his iPod with Staley’s team suddenly behind 15-6.

Find USAToday’s tournament coverage here.

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It feels like the Sugar Bears have been knocking on the door of the NCAA tourney for a while now ( five straight losses in the Southland Conference Tournament dating back to 2011) Finally, it opened. The Bearkats did. not. make.it. easy. Truly a valiant effort by the #7 seed who was playing its fourth game in as many days. Central Arkansas pulled away in the fourth for a 69-62 win.

“I’m so proud and happy for this team,” said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing, who had 8 NCAA appearances in 10 seasons at Delta State in Division II, but is taking a team to the Division I tournament for the first time. “They have worked extremely hard all year long, refused to lose, and found a way to win.”

Coach Yolett McCuin‘s Jacksonville team had been tugging on the Eagles’ tail feathers all season. They lost by 19 in their first meeting. Their second meeting was a 4pt win for FGCU. The third time? Jacksonville stormed back in the fourth to notch the 2pt win, claim the Atlantic Sun tournament and clinch its first NCAA tournament berth.

“When the game started to get away from us in the third quarter and they started to pull away, my thought was ‘if we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose with the people who got us 21 wins,’” Jacksonville coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We’ve had games this year where I’ve done that to prepare us for this situation.”

Congrats to coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and her players at UNC-Asheville. Longtime WBH readers know of the rebirth of the UNC-A program under this year’s Big South COY. The Bulldogs faced down Liberty through two overtimes to earn the 64-62.

“The legacy is complete,” said Love, the senior who was part of the 2-28 team in Kirkpatrick’s first year. “We beat the beast. But what a game they played. What a hard-fought win by us. I’m so happy for this team.”

Added Khaila Webb, ‘Nobody believed in us except for us. We were picked to finish eighth, but we knew we could do it. I’m just so proud of everyone on this team.”

Well, lookee! Kellie Harper‘s Missouri State Bears became the first 3 seed to win the MVC. Oh, and their going back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. They took down top-seed Northern Iowa with authority, 71-58.

“Every run they made, we had an answer,” Harper said. “We scored right away, usually got a couple of baskets, and put them right back in the same spot. Sometimes we don’t always make it pretty, but we find a way to be successful.”

What a run for Robert Morris and (trying to retire) coach.

Coach Sal Buscaglia has a sign in his office that says simply: “Believe”.

Even when his Robert Morris team was in the midst of a losing streak in January, the Colonials never lost hope. Now they’re headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

“I told them believe in our system and we’ll take you to the promise land,” Buscaglia said after Robert Morris beat Sacred Heart 56-51 on Sunday to win the NEC Conference Tournament championship. “We started winning games toward the end.”

With Sunday’s win, Buscaglia will have one last chance to get a first NCAA Tournament victory.

Green Bay made sure the Horizon status quo stayed status quo. The Phoenix used a clampdown defense to stifle Milwaukee and earn a 16th trip the NCAA tourney.

You know what I don’t want to be right now?  An NCAA Selection Committee member. Charlie offers up the Three biggest bracket questions heading into Selection Monday

1. The bubble

So much of the bubble movement took place a week ago as the power-five conferences were playing their conference tournaments, but this Sunday provided that last bit of intrigue and what is now a big question for the committee: Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles, unbeaten in league play and the Atlantic Sun’s No. 1 seed, lost in their tournament final to second-seeded Jacksonville. Most years that would have been it for FGCU. Most years the No. 71 RPI team from the 29th-rated conference would not even be up for discussion.

This isn’t most years.

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On cue, the LIU moves to 4-5 in the NEC with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 65-62.

In their first meeting, Bucknell hosted Army and beat’em by 10. In the West Point rematch, the Black Knights pulled away in the fourth for a 5-point win. With both teams at 8-1 in the conference, there’s no margin for error in the race to the Patriot League title.

Okay, then. With their first victory in 11 tries against Stetson, Jacksonville moves to 6-0 in the A-Sun and is tied with Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun. Guess who the Dolphins get to play on the 4th…in Naples? And host on the 10th…in Jacksonville.

Looking to keep everyone in the Horizon honest, Northern Kentucky takes down the Penguins, 88-77. A little sting to the win: former YSU guard, Shar’Rae Davis who finished the half with a total of 12 points off the bench. She was one of three players who didn’t receive scholarship renewals in 2014,

*no jinx, no jinx* UNC Asheville is now 9-2 in the Big South.

*WHB talked cr@p about us. Let’s show her!* Rutgers starts ugly but finishes strong against Nebraska, earning a 66-55 win.

*continued jinx?* UT Rio Grande lost – but it was to WAC top dog, New Mexico State.

The Miners are still perfect in C-USA play (9-0), but after Marshall, Western Kentucky (8-1) (who lost to MTSU) looms, Feb. 6th. MTSU (7-2), which has had some “stuff” going on this year, lost to UTEP 84-73 earlier this season, but doesn’t get a rematch.

Fresno State (ummm… shout out to the Bee: ““I just feel like we know how to come back,” senior co-captain Toni Smith said in a phone interview after the game.) and Colorado State have unblemished Mountain West records – will that last until March 1st, when they get to face off against each other?

Squeak! Ohio moved to 9-0 in the MAC with a one-point win over Ball State, 68-67.

Hmmmm… the Bulldogs are struggling, yes, but I’m sure San Francisco is enjoying beating Gonzaga.

On a day when USF honored its 1996 Sweet 16 team, the 2015-16 San Francisco women’s basketball team made a place for themselves in program history as well. The Dons scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed to earn a big 71-52 win over the Bulldogs at War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory was their first win over the 11-time WCC defending champions since a West Coast Conference tournament win on March 2, 2006. The 19-point deficit is also the largest loss of the season for Gonzaga, who lost to Stanford 65-48 on Nov. 15 during non-conference action.

Gotta love in-state games: Bobcats knock off Lady Griz

A year ago this month, the Montana State women’s basketball team crumbled and lost its composure in a 62-48 loss to Montana that sent the Bobcats to 1-4 in conference, searching for answers.

A year later, it seems like the Bobcats of head coach Tricia Binford have all the right ones.

Ooooooooh, De-bbie: Eastern Kentucky over Morehead State, 100-93; Eastern Washington over Sacramento State, 100-83.

What to look for Sunday:

#12 Kentucky at Florida – will the Wildcats bounce back, or with the Gators camp.

St. John’s at #23 DePaul. The Blue Demons have been up and down… and the Red Storm has been knocking at the door of the polls.

UNC at NC State. A missing coach adds intrigue to the 101st edition of this in-state rivalry.

St. Louis at George Washington. The Billikens (7-1) are SO much better.… but the Colonials are undefeated (8-0) in conference….

Alabama at Tennessee. One would thing the Tide would be just what the doctor ordered for the Vols…. but remember, they gave TAMU a scare.

#13 Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been snacking on ranked teams. How focused will the Bulldogs be after their big win over Tennessee?

#2 South Carolina at Texas A&M (ESPN2). It’s never fun to play against the 12th man.

It’s likely that #14 Louisville will stay hot against Wake Forest... so I can’t help but look ahead to Feb 7th when they face Notre Dame.

BTW, in Division II news:

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham posted his 1,098th career victory Thursday night, matching Pat Summitt’s mark for the most at a four-year school.

Statham is in his 50th season at the Division II college. He guided the Bearcats past Wisconsin-Parkside 92-85 on the court named in his honor.

The 78-year-old Statham has a career record of 1,098-474. He can top Summitt’s record Saturday when McKendree hosts Lewis. (Didn’t)

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