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So, no, James Madison may not have the Dawn Evans star-power that brings them national attention – but they’re still serious about winning the CAA. They dispatched the Pride with ease, 71-54. BTW, keep an eye on the growth of conference-mate Elon.

Iona moved to 11-2 in the MAAC. Nipping at their heels: Quinnipiac, Siena and, of course, Marist (11-2).

As expected, it was a battle – one that went to OT. Missouri State defeated Northern Iowa, 78-75, to tie for the top spot in the MVC.

Penn looks to rule the Ivy this season… Princeton will have a chance to say something about that on March 8th.

The undercards made it interesting, but the higher ranked teams prevailed in each of the match ups.

#5 Maryland by 9.

#8 Arizona State by 4.

#9 Oregon State by 8.

#15 Stanford by 5.

Games you might want to pay attention to this weekend:

Bucknell, at 9-1 in the Patriot, faces Holy Cross.

Jacksonville will try and rebound from their loss to FGCU as they face Stetson. The Hatters aren’t strong this year, but they have a history in the conference.

Abilene Christian looks to bounce back from their first in-conference loss when they go up against Southeastern Louisiana.

(Current) top dogs in the WCC will battle: Saint Mary’s will face BYU.

Who want the top spot in the OVC? Tennessee-Martin (8-1) battles SIU-Edwardsville (9-1).

How about in the C-USA? UTEP (9-1), coming off their first conference loss, goes up against the Hilltoppers (9-1).

Big Sky conference leaders Montana State will go up against conference scorer, Sacramento State.

Sunday

#13 Louisville is on a hot streak going into their game against #3 Notre Dame. A win sure would help distract folks from the mess their men’s program is in.

Duke is no longer ranked, but maybe they’ll get riled up v. #16 Miami.

In the Big East, St. John’s v. Seton Hall go after each other in a good local rivalry.

#21 Missouri may be fighting to continue to be ranked as they go up against #11 Mississippi State. 

Can Missouri State continue their winning ways against Drake (8-2)?

A little right-the-ship time for #23 Tennessee, as they travel to College Station and face the #12 Aggies?

Interesting: Girls basketball team at Pike receives visitor from NCAA following season-ending brawl

A major player for women’s basketball in the NCAA gave the Girls’ Basketball team from Pike High School a lesson they’ll likely never forget following a season they don’t want to remember.

It was going to be a promising season for the Pike Girls’ Basketball team. Two of the players had already committed to play basketball at D-1 schools. That is until January 15th, the girls’ big game against Ben Davis. Sportsmanship was noticeably absent from the court. The girls’ basketball teams from Ben Davis and Pike High Schools erupted in a mid-game brawl, with all of it caught on camera.

Looking at the future? WNBA star Tamika Catchings interns at NBA offices

WNBA’s Angel McCoughtry dispels same-sex stereotypes

Angel McCoughtry, the star forward for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and Olympic gold medalist, came out as gay with fiancée Brande Elise last year after an alleged dispute with her overseas team during the U.S. off-season. “With all the energy I felt this was something I had to do and I wasn’t thinking about the effects it would have on my career,” she said.

Since coming out, she has lost friendships and disappointed family members, but despite the ongoing chaos, McCoughtry has continued to push forward with her life. 

In anticipation of Monday’s South Carolina game…

Charlie offers: Childhood home is where it all started for Breanna Stewart

The sound of leather on pavement was all too familiar to the residents on an otherwise quiet street marked with brick houses and finely groomed landscape in this town just north of Syracuse. One by one, neighbors popped their heads out of front doors as the noise instantly took them back in time.

And sure enough, Breanna Stewart was dribbling a basketball on a nearby driveway.

From the Garnet and Black: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. UConn Huskies: The UConn Blog’s Aman Kidwai gives his take

From The State: Dawn Staley on upcoming game against UConn

Also from The State: Now we can talk about it

ABC Columbia goes One-on-One with Dawn Staley

From Mechelle: South Carolina seniors Mitchell, Sessions savoring the moment

Sessions and Mitchell are trying to absorb it all and then file it into that vivid section of long-term memory … while also attempting not to be overwhelmed by the emotions and difficult tasks ahead. There already have been plenty, with more to come. The Gamecocks have an SEC matchup with visiting Kentucky on Thursday (SEC Network, 7 p.m. ET), and then their long-anticipated showdown with No. 1 UConn on Big Monday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) at Colonial Life Arena.

The game against the Huskies will be the most spotlighted women’s basketball game — and perhaps women’s sports event of any kind — ever in the Palmetto state. This is the vision coach Dawn Staley had when she took the job eight years ago, and it’s what she sold to incoming recruits: “Come be a part of building this. I have the blueprint.”

Also from Mechelle: How UConn senior Breanna Stewart makes it all look so easy

Breanna Stewart has got it all down now. In a way that’s both friendly and business-like, she anticipates the media’s questions before they’re asked, and then answers in complete and polished sentences. She wears the cloak of “best player in women’s college basketball” not just comfortably, but even effortlessly.

Surely, though, it’s not that easy. Coach Geno Auriemma’s UConn “system” has produced 10 NCAA championships and a group of elite players whose personal accomplishments have become a part of basketball lore.

But this, too, is one of the program’s hallmarks: The superstars shine very brightly without seeming to bask in their own limelight. (Or at least not too much. Diana Taurasi might have done a little basking, but not at the expense of her team’s goals or her own growth.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michaela Dapprich is at it again.

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

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

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

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

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

Every tape session at FGCU the past several weeks has star

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Geaux Tigers. Courtesy of their comeback/upset win over #2 West Virginia, #7 LSU will face off against the Cardinals, ’cause #3 Louisville rolled over #6 Iowa. The Tigers will be without Raigyne Moncrief and Jeanne Kenney is day-to-day with a concussion.

#5 Texas gave #4 Maryland all they could handle, but the Terps escaped with a win. Newt up, it’s #1 Tennessee.

Unlike the ESPN/AP headline, #4 North Carolina didn’t “run away” with the win over #5 Michigan State. They DID managed to keep the Spartans at bay, so the Tar Heels will battle #1 South Carolina.

Speaking of North Carolina – An equally inaccurate ESPN/AP headline: South Carolina did not “overwhelm” Oregon State. The Gamecocks chipped out a 9-pt. lead at the half and held serve throughout the second.

Maggie and #3 Penn State got their groove on in the first half against #11 Florida, and then kept dancing in the second. Lions v. #2 Stanford, at Maples.

After a tight first half, #3 TAMU pulled away from #11 James Madison to earn a date with DePaul.

She’s baaaaaaaack – with only the third triple-double in UConn history, Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis and the #1 Huskies rolled over St. Joseph’s. Next on their dance card: #12 BYU.

Rounding out the 16, it will be #2 Baylor against #3 Kentucky and #1 Notre Dame against  #5 Oklahoma State.

Charlie offers up Five observations from Tuesday’s games

• 5. Burkholder goes out with a bang: James Madison’s season might be over after Tuesday’s 85-69 loss to Texas A&M, but it won’t be forgotten for a long time in Harrisonburg. The greatest memory of a school record-tying 29 wins and first NCAA tournament win since 1991 might be the play of senior Kirby Buckholder, especially her free-throw shooting.

The CAA Player of the Year kept getting to the line and kept connecting against both Gonzaga and A&M. After going 17-of-18 in the first round, Burkholder made all nine of her free throws on Tuesday. She was the 10th most accurate shooter from the charity stripe all season at 88.7 percent, which was nothing compared to her 96.2 percent performance in the NCAA tournament. The 6-foot guard averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds in JMU’s two games.

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A last look at the biggest questions – NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled on ESPN/WatchESPN at 7 ET Monday

Not a lot of “questions” coming out of yesterday’s fun final day for the 2014 regulars season.

OPA! Young (international) players brought it from both teams, but  senior Spanou really “filled it uuup”  against St. Francis (PA) to help lead Robert Morris to the NEC championship.

“It’s the perfect ending for our senior year,” Spanou said after being chosen the tournament MVP. “We wanted this since we came here as freshmen … I’m just really happy and really proud of the team. We overcome some tough stuff. We got the ring.”

Saddled with three fouls in the first half, Wright State’s Kim Demmings came out in the second half like a fearless house-afire. Teamed with Tay’ler Mingo, and a defense that forced steal after steal after steal (the Raiders forced 24) and did what they’d never done before: Win on Green Bay’s home court. Which also meant the go to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

“It feels good, it’s obviously a feeling we’ve never had, so I don’t know how the ride back’s going to after a win,” said Wright State coach Mike Bradbury. “Probably better than the loss.”

James Madison made quick work of the Blue Hens on their way to the CAA championship. Lady Swish called this coach Kenny Brooks’ best JMU team – even better than the Dawn Evans era. Looking forward to seeing what they can do in the tournament.

“Their rebounding and our turnovers killed us,” Delaware head coach Martin said. “We rushed a lot on offense, and that’s because we were anxious and in a hurry. But even more important than that were their second-chance opportunities. They rebound the ball so well. They always have. They’ve got a tremendously athletic team and they get to the boards quicker than anybody in the CAA, and we didn’t put a body on them like we were going to have to.”

Fierce defense (they held the Lumberjacks to 32% shooting) and an unusual partnership produced great results for the Demons:

Two years ago, Northwestern State was 6-23 and brought in co-head coaches Brooke and Scott Stoehr to try to turn around the program.

The husband and wife team needed just two years to see results.

Chelsea Rogers scored 16 points Sunday and Northwestern State pulled away in the second half for a 62-44 victory over Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference championship, earning the Demons’ first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2004.

 Their dominant win over Drake means Wichita State is goin’ dancin’ – and so is their coach, Jody Adams:

Her slick disco-like gyrations brought a scream of delight from the players. “I only do it after championships,” Adams said. “It’s got to be for something special.”

“It was better the way she did it last year,” Alex Harden said. “But at least we made her do it again this time.”

I called it, if I do say so myself. Great game between two fierce rivals and, as it should be, it took overtime to separate the two: FGCU edged Stetson by two to with the Atlantic Sun title and an automatic bid to the tourney:

We’re there,” Smesko said. “And we’re going to prepare to win. We’re not going there being happy with the fact that we got there. We plan on representing the A-Sun and FGCU really well.”

Both have the same record, and it would be nice if the Committee could find a way to honor the Hatters’ season instead of offering a token tip o’ the hat to some “Big” conference team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for those Dancers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The biggest surprise: What happened in the Ivy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika Evans laughs when asked the question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Road-warrior Florida escaped James Madison, 85-80.

[Freshman] Moss scored a game-high 27 points as Florida survived another close contest, topping James Madison 85-80 in the Elite Eight of the WNIT in the JMU Convocation Center on Saturday.

“Sydney has played her best basketball in these past four ballgames,” coach Amanda Butler said. “That’s what great players do. … You see great players raise their level of play.”

They’ll travel again to face Drexel, which took down Auburn, 56-43.

In the other semi, it will be Kansas State, which defeated Illinois, 66-48. Said Head Coach Deb Patterson:

“That was a real exciting win for our team and our program against a very dangerous and high quality Illinois basketball team. They brought a lot of different components to the floor, and we felt like every possession up the floor you were having to be very intelligent. On the offensive end of the floor, they are a very talented team to run offense against. They are very good at what they do. I am extremely pleased with our overall effort, quite frankly on both ends of the floor. We competed very well. It felt good to put a total game together as a basketball team, at a time where anything else would not have got you to this place.”

They’ll face Utah, which escaped St. Mary’s, 58-55.

“We played an incredibly gritty game today, completely different than the last game we played,” Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. “We shot the basketball incredibly well early in the game and then defended unbelievably well down the stretch to finish it out. I couldn’t be prouder and happier for our kids.”

The semis will be played Wednesday, April 2. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, April 6, 3pm EST.

Congrats to the Detroit Mercy Titans, which won the WBI — and their first women’s basketball post-season title — by virtue of their win over McNeese State.

Calihan Hall was electric for the championship game. The Titans faced the McNeeseState Cowgirls. McNeese State had a down year compared to where they had been the last two seasons (consecutive conference championships and NCAA tournament bids).

The first half of the game was highly competitive. McNeese State stayed close with the Titans and went on a run midway through the first half to take the lead. By the end of the half, the Cowgirls held a two-point lead.

The Titans came out hot in the second half and went on a huge 10-2 run, which changed the entire dynamics of the game. The Titans would not let up and their constant effort led to their first championship, winning 73-62.

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WNIT: OSU women end tragic season with championship

Oklahoma State won the WNIT Championship Saturday afternoon with a 75-68 victory over James Madison. But the moments that really matter happened after the Cowgirls clinched the win.

A season that will forever be linked to the tragedy of the November plane crash that killed coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and program supporters Olin and Paula Branstetter culminated nearly five months later with celebration.

With hugs. With tears of joy. With smiles.

“It was like that fairy-tale ending for us,” Young said.

Also from Gina: Morning After Blog: Breaking down Oklahoma State’s WNIT run

Yesterday’s WNIT championship win for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team was about so much more than basketball, and I wrote it as such in my story in Sunday’s Oklahoman.

But understandably lost in the shuffle of such an emotional win–and journey–was just how well the Cowgirls played during the WNIT. So let’s look purely at basketball for a bit and break down this postseason run for the Cowgirls.

From John Klein at the Tulsa World: Cowgirls’ emotional season has a happy ending

Littell said he couldn’t keep thinking about his friends and family throughout Saturday’s game.

“It’s been a long, tough year,” said Littell.

Budke’s wife Shelley continued to sit in her regular seats up behind OSU’s bench the entire season.

She got to help cut down the nets after the WNIT Championship Game.

“That was really special,” said Littell. “She’s a special lady.

“She’s been a rock for us all season.”

From the AP: Oklahoma State ends tragic season with WNIT title

From Chase Glorfeld at the Idaho State Journal: Oklahoma State women get Hollywood ending

Stories of “tragedy to triumph” are maniacally over-used in Hollywood and mainstream media and frankly have lessened the impact and importance of tragic occasions that occur in our own lives.

 But on Saturday, something that transcends while at the same time defines that cliché took place in Stillwater, Okla.
I really don’t know if such a terrible story when it started in November could have had much better of an ending than what happened in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon. The wife of late head coach Kurt Budke, Shelley, provided the final snip of the WNIT nets and the Cowgirls reigned victorious.

From Mechelle: From tragedy to triumph – Oklahoma State beats James Madison for the WNIT championship

At Big 12 media day last October, Kurt Budke sounded like he almost couldn’t wait to be at the same event a year in the future. He was excited about the young talent on his Oklahoma State team and felt sure that the players’ growth potential was very, very strong.

That’s the image I will always keep in my mind of Budke: smiling and looking ahead.

Saturday, on the same Gallagher-Iba court where Budke and his assistant, Miranda Serna, were eulogized last November after their deaths in a plane crash, those left behind had as happy an ending to the season as they could have hoped for after their devastating loss.

It couldn’t have been an easy game for either team to play, so I don’t want James Madison’s effort in the WNIT, and during the season as a whole, get lost in the shuffle. Said coach Kenny Brooks post-game:

I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought both teams played hard. I thought (OSU) played better than we did for longer stretches, therefore, when you come to a venue like this and a situation a like this, you can’t have lulls. We had some lulls, and I thought that was the big difference, but give them credit. (Toni) Young is probably the best center we’ve played against all year. She was tremendous inside and athletic, and (Tiffany) Bias was probably the best point guard we’ve played against all year. Those two I thought were the biggest factors, and we just couldn’t contain them when we needed to. That group, they’ve done a very special thing for this program at Oklahoma State and we tip our hat to them. We just didn’t have our best game.”

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FIRST SPOILER ALERT:

Just about to hop on a plane and go far away. VERY far away. (Again). (But for a short time, lucky cat sitter.)

Rumor has it that there’s internet, but the whole “work” thing combined with the “time change” thing may make me wicked cranky. So that may spoil some viewing and coverage.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: WNIT First Round Picks.

Friend of the Blog (and fan of giraffes) Michelle mentioned she might be interested in challenging each other’s WNIT chops. So, if you wanna show off, read no further (unless you want to know who NOT to pick) and email me with your picks (womenshoopsblog @ gmail. com.

Here’s the picks I sent her:

Thursday, March 15
Drexel @ Fairfield, 7 p.m. ET
UC Davis @ Oregon State, 10 p.m. ET
UNLV @ Saint Mary�s, 10 p.m. ET
Utah State @ Utah, 9 p.m. ET
Eastern Illinois @ Texas Tech, 8 p.m. ET
Mississippi Valley State @ Tulane, 8 p.m. ET
Central Michigan @ Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. ET
American @ Villanova, 7 p.m. ET
Drake @ South Dakota, 8 p.m. ET
UMKC @ Missouri State, 8 p.m. ET
Chattanooga @ Memphis, 8 p.m. ET
Quinnipiac @ Temple, 7 p.m. ET
Harvard @ Hofstra, 7 p.m. ET
VCU @ Bowling Green, 7 p.m. ET
Boston University @ Saint Joseph�s, 7 p.m. ET
High Point @ NC State, 7 p.m. ET
Appalachian State @ UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m. ET
Miami-Ohio @ Richmond, 6 p.m. ET
Howard @ Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Davidson @ James Madison, 7 p.m. ET
Wake Forest @ Charlotte, 7 p.m. ET
Stetson @ Florida International, 7 p.m. ET
Florida Atlantic @ South Florida, 7 p.m. ET

Friday, March 16
Arizona State @ Pacific, 10 p.m. ET
CS Northridge @ San Diego, 10 p.m. ET
Oral Roberts @ Wichita State, 8:05 p.m. ET
Central Arkansas @ Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET
Syracuse @ Hartford, 7 p.m. ET
Detroit @ Toledo, 7 p.m. ET
Duquesne @ Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET

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you ask….

Marist is kickin’ some Iona butt on ESPN3 — updated to say “not as much as earlier on.”

Hofstra v. James Madison ought to be a good game. On the 3 at 7pm.

Sorry none of the ESPNs are carrying the South Carolina/Kentucky game.

Now that people have pointed a finger at’em, how will Towson (7-8, CAA) handle going up against UNC-Wilmington (9-6, CAA)?

Minnesota plays Ohio State — will the Gophers continue their role as upsetters?

Come on, Houston Baptist — see if you can win one in the Big West.

The Shockers (11-3, MVC) v. Redbirds (10-4, MVC) could be fun.

Alabama (2-12, SEC) v. Auburn (3-11) could be ugly.

LSU (19-8, 9-5) v. Vandy (20-7, 8-6) could be significant.

Which Vol team shows up tonight?

I am not saying nothin’ about UTEPs chances against S. Methodist (5-8, C-USA)

Don’t envy Colorado (5-9, Pac-12) going up against Stanford.

Time for some separation by Arizona State (9-6) as they go against UCLA (7-7).

The Dons (3-11, WCC) have a chance at win #6 when they face Portland (3-11).

So, anyone taking bets on Fresno State v. Hawai’i?

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you know, blogging, so it took me a while to get to the big upset of yesterday… which, when you look at the box is quite easy to explain: Free throws and fouls.

Great, great back-and-forth game between #8 Maryland and #6 Miami, and it wasn’t Williams or Johnson who pushed the Hurricanes to victory, but Yderstrom.

Vandy couldn’t take advantage of their big win over TN and got handled by the Bulldogs.

It was reeeeeally, reaaaally close, but #23 Georgia Tech continued North Carolina’s misery, 56-54.

Loyola (MD) (12-13, 8-6MAAC) surprised the heck out Fairfield (18-7, 11-3), 55-48.

Nice, if not important, win for ODU (9-16, 6-7 CAA) over UNC-Wilmington (15-9, 8-5).

Indiana missed out on their first Big Ten win by one point.

The worst thing about the Border Showdown was not the score (KState 47, K 43), but the injury to Jayhawk Carolyn Davis.

VCU v. James Madison was the expected dogfight: Dukes over Rams, 65-64.

There was a moment during halftime when UCLA had visions of upsets dancing in their heads. Then N.O. said, “No.”

Both UTEP and Middle Tennessee won to stay fer-0 in conference play.

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If you were, once again, scoreboard watching, I’m sure there was a moment when you went, “Whaaaaaa? Is someone messin’ with the ESPN numbers?”

Well, they sure were — ‘cept it was the players on the other teams. Six, count’em, six ranked teams got upset. Some by a bit, some by a ton. Awesome for the game.

Undefeated no more: #9 Green Bay got schooled by the other Mitten, Detroit. At home (the ESPN front page picture contrasting the players and the GB fans is, as they say, worth a thousand words).

WHBlog readers had this game penciled in their calendars: #18 Gonzaga v. BYU in the WCC. Well, it wasn’t much of a game as the Cougars ran roughshod over the Bulldogs, 70-40. Man, the conference tournament ought to be fun!

And how about Arkansas, knocking off #24 South Carolina. By 21. Perhaps the Gamecocks were a little cocky?

In her chat, Mechelle wondered about the Vols emotional state and how much they had in the tank. Well, they had enough to pull even with Vandy in the second half, but then ran outta gas. Glory fouls out, Comodores win pulling away, 93-79.

There had been some talk of #10 Ohio State being leery of going in to Champaign to face Illinois, but it felt more like “don’t look past an opponent, ’cause the Purdue game is coming up” talk (and the Buckeyes had beaten the Illini by 12 two weeks ago). But who thought Illinois, down twelve, would squeak out the 1-pt victory courtesy of an Alexis Burke layup with two seconds left?

The other other Mitten (no, not Central Michigan) went into Lincoln and made first-half life absolutely miserable for the Cornhuskers, holding them to 12 points. Michigan did manage to hold on through Nebraska’s second half surge and come away with the 63-52 win.

Chelsea Gray made sure Duke didn’t become the seventh ranked to fall as Boston College got all feisty at the Forum.

In an off night (27 pts, 15 rebounds, 2 ast, 3 blks), EDD made sure Delaware stayed undefeated in the CAA.

In the CAA under-card, James Madison (9-3) and Drexel (7-5) went to overtime, and it was the Dukes over the Dragons.

In the other CAA under-card, VCU (7-5) took down Hofstra (8-4), 76-60. Man, get your tickets now – that’s going to be a fierce conference tourney.

UTEP still rules all in the C-USA. (There are some off-court distractions, though.)

In a battle of bears, the Golden took down the Bruin.

Has anyone noticed that Eastern Washington is now 10-2 in the Big Sky, quietly leap frogging the Montanas?

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at about half time, most of the numbered world was rather askew. Injuries and unfocused play seemed the norm, and tight games or deficits were everywhere.

But, come the second half, balance was restored and all moved forward as expected for Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Miami and Penn State. (Gotta wonder, though, how bad Glory’s injury is — no fun for TN as they prepare for Notre Dame)

Not many issues for Gonzaga, Stanford, UConn, Ohio State, Delaware, Purdue  and Green Bay.

Vandy didn’t get the memo, though. They started slowly against Arkansas and never recovered, as the Razorbacks got their first win against the Commodores since 2006.

UNC took out its frustrations on (who else) Va Tech and Hatchell got her 600th as a Tar Heel.

Hmmmm, South Carolina isn’t building on their past record — they lost to Auburn, 53-49.

BU is now 6-0 in the America East. (Hello, Graham? Mechelle? Michelle? Some attention please?) Plenty of games still to play, but keep your eye on the Feb 18th home game against Albany.

Oooooo, that was close: In a match up between the top teams in the MAC, it was Bowling Green that escaped still unscathed. They were 61-58 winners over Miami (OH).

Bwahahahaaa, take that! In the “former WNBA-players-now-coaches” rematch, Cynthia Cooper’s UNC-Willmington got their revenge as they eked out a 57-56 win over Beth Cunningham’s VCU.

Bang! There’s now a dent in the Pride’s CAA record: James Madison took them down, 81-63.

Remember when Michigan State was ranked? They’re really shaky this year — Minnesota defeated them 71-65. Rumor has it the Gophers have a nice young point guard.

The Shockers are now 6-0 in the MVC. I guess this means I’m going to have to research the history of their nickname, huh?

Don’t mess with NAIA D-II, #5 Concordia (NEB). They defeated Nebraska Omaha, 68-60.

It’s early, but with their win over Utah State, Fresno State in now 2-0 in the WAC.

USC moved to 5-1 in the Pac-12, taking down the Ducks, 92-73.

Don’t know that Spoon is having much fun this season: the Techsters lost to Hawaii. No disrespect intended, but Hawaii!

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a Clint Eastwood western, Nate looks at The Undrafted

At the beginning of the NCAA season when we first looked at WNBA Draft prospects, James Madison guard Dawn Evans was a name that was hard not to consider as one of the top early prospects.

Although we had questions about her chances of being successful in the league as a 5’7″ volume shooter, it would have been far fetched to suggest that she wouldn’t be drafted at all.

But of course, nothing is a given on draft day and while it’s hard to know what exactly led to Evans not being drafted at all, one thing for sure is that her inefficiency as a distributor and scorer probably didn’t help her cause. Nevertheless, when looking at players drafted ahead of her it might be hard to think that she just doesn’t belong among the ranks of the drafted as someone who most people considered one of the top guards in the nation coming into the season.

So she has to be among the most surprising undrafted players.

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There were lots of the Standard Stompings:

#1 Connecticut v. #16 Hartford

#4 Maryland v. St. Francis (PA)

#7 Louisville v. #10 Vanderbilt

#2 Xavier v. #15 South Dakota State

#3 Florida State v. #14 Samford

#2 Texas A&M v. #15 McNeese State

#1 Baylor v. #16 Prairie View A&M

#6 Georgia v. #11 Middle Tennessee

#7 Rutgers v. #10 Louisiana Tech

It looks like More of a Stomp than it was

#3 Miami v. #14 Gardner-Webb

#6 Oklahoma v. #11 James Madison

#5 Georgetown v. #12 Princeton

Almost a stumble

#5 Green Bay v. #12 AR-Little Rock

#4 Michigan State v. #13 Northern Iowa

And the Trip Ups

#9 Purdue v. #8 Kansas State

#9 West Virginia v. #8 Houston

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but there’s a lot more slots to assign.

Anyone who’s followed Dawn Evan’s story can’t help but smile at the fact that the James Madison senior (24pts) and her Dukes get a chance to play in the Dance. A stubborn Delaware team tried to derail them (EDD – 23pts), but in the end the better team won. (And don’t talk to coach Brooks about the Virginia opening.)

Green Bay jumped all over the Butler  Bulldogs early and then held on for a 73-64 victory to clinch on their 10th Horizon title and a chance in the Big Dance (though, Butler’s senior Brittany Bowen did everything she could to stop’em.)

Northern Iowa romped to the Missouri Valley title with a 69-41 victory over Missouri State. That’s 19 wins in a row for the Panthers.

“What a joy it has been from start to finish this year,” Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said. “And we were so locked in today.”

The Red Flash (PA) won their 11th title in 15 years with a 15-pt win over Monmouth and earned a measure of revenge (and a trip to the NCAA tourney).

“We didn’t harp on it, but we did lose to them twice this year and that was fuel to our fire,” junior point guard Brittany Lilley said. “We weren’t going to let it happen again.”

The Hawks are young, though, so expect them to be around next year.

There’s a first time Dancer from the Big South, but the coach is no stranger the tournament. Rick Reeves helped build  the powerhouse that is Liberty. On his third try in his new job, his team knocked out the proverbial champs. Gardner-Webb finally won the close one, escaping with a 67-66 win.

“For me, I was like, this is our last chance,” said Monique Hudaon, who led the Bulldogs with 23 points. “Even before the game, one of our teammates’ mom came in and prayed a prayer that was so powerful that everyone in the locker room was in tears. I don’t know. Before she even prayed, I was thinking, this is my last game, this is our last chance. … We all wanted it so bad. We deserved it. Liberty’s a great team, and they fought hard. I’m just soaking up the moment.”

There’s news from those awaiting news:

The Falcons clinched the MAC tourney title and John Wagner at the Toledo Blade writes: BG’s Mr. Not-so-nice weighs in

While the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team celebrated its Mid-American Conference tournament title Saturday, coach Curt Miller went to confession.

“I have never pushed a team this hard,” Miller admitted after the Falcons’ 51-46 victory over Eastern Michigan at Quicken Loans Arena. “I frankly was not the nicest person to them.”

John Evans from Central Michigan Life writes: CMU women’s basketball awaits postseason fate, knows future is bright

The Chippewas will return three starters in 2011, but the biggest story about the future of the team is the recruiting class brought in by Guevara, ranked No. 43 nationally according to ESPN.com’s recruiting site, HoopGurlz.

“With what we have coming in it is a step. We are building,” Guevara said. “We have been making strides every year. I am very happy with the 2011 class that is coming in. I like where we are going.”

More from Michigan as the Spartans get set to hear their fate

John Cummings at the Dayton Daily News writes: Flyers find out NCAA tourney fate tonight

Count University of Dayton women’s basketball coach Jim Jabir among those unsure what he will see tonight when the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament is announced.

“I have no expectations,” Jabir said. “I am happy we had a 21-win season and I think we played a tough schedule. But, we have some couldas and shouldas in there that has made it speculation instead of a sure thing.

“We are going to play again, we just don’t know where.”

More from Ohio as Jim Foster says the Buckeyes deserve a 3-seed.

If the Southern AD does reject a WNIT bid, it will simply add heartache to a team that coach Sandy Pugh says is “one of my best teams ever.”

On a happier note, the coach of the Hatters is enjoying herself: Former Charleston Catholic star Lynn Bria enjoying the moment as Stetson women’s coach

“I really don’t care who we play,” said Bria, who is 34-58 in three seasons at Stetson. “Regardless of what happens, we are one of only 64 teams left. We were picked 10th in our league, which is next to last. We have a great group of players. They are very tight. They go in and give us their best shot every night.

Writes Mechelle: Maya Moore, UConn chase three-peat – Huskies aren’t overwhelming favorite as in ’08-10, but no one would be surprised

A&M coach Gary Blair said. “But I think there’s almost 20 teams that could get to the Final Four. You gotta have breaks. You gotta have upsets.”

Check out Charlie’s latest Bracketology (and his explanation) and then tune in tonight at 7pmEST to see how on point he was.

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For those lobbying for Texas A&M getting a fair shot at a #1 spot, last night’s 71-67 loss to Kansas State was demoralizing.

Speaking of demoralizing, I bet Oklahoma enjoyed beating in-state rival Oklahoma State by 15. (And congrats to Coach Coale, who was named the Lemons/Hanson Award winner)

Jones-less Baylor stomped all over Missouri to clinch their second Big 12 conference title.

Oh, yah, the CAA tourney ought to be fun: UNC Wilmington lost to James Madison by 2, 79-77 and Old Dominion got beaten by Drexel, 65-51.

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considering the mess (on SO many levels) he inherited, I’m naming Scott Rueck Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

Women’s basketball blows 20-point lead, falls to Oregon State – Despite leading 36-16 at the half, Ducks are now 3-11 in conference play

Oregon State women’s basketball head coach Scott Rueck doesn’t like to convey excess emotion at the end of games.

But following the Beavers’ upset victory over Oregon in the Civil War on Saturday, how couldn’t he?

Earlysia Marchbanks clutched the ball in her hands. The buzzer sounded, the red lights flashed, and the Oregon State Beavers, now 9-16 overall (2-12 Pacific-10 Conference) rushed to center court in a show of joy. They had emerged from a 20-point halftime deficit to win, 61-59, and energize 3,130 fans, the majority of them Beaver believers.

In a game between two teams struggling against different forms of adversity, a last-second shot by Ohio State’s Brittany Johnson secured the Buckyeye’s 2-pt win over Purdue.

“She took her time, she got her feet set and she hit the shot,” said Lavender, who felt the shot was good as soon as it left Johnson’s hands. “I just saw the way she shot it. She stepped into it like she normally does. I had the utmost confidence in her.”

Johnson, however, seemingly had come from nowhere over the final 20 minutes to help the Buckeyes (17-9, 8-6 Big Ten) rise from what looked like a tough loss.

One Ogwumike was enough (say C&R) as #3 Stanford took care of business against #9 UCLA, 67-53. Writes Graham:

Like a lot of big events that take place in the shadow of Hollywood, Sunday’s game between No. 3 Stanford and No. 9 UCLA arrived with ample talk as to what one of the famous invitees would wear. And while they weren’t the work of Versace or Vera Wang, the warm-up pants, shirt and protective boot sported by Cardinal All-American Nnemkadi Ogwumike threatened to overshadow the show that followed.

But there’s a reason Stanford has more staying power than the latest movie or music icon, a reason the Cardinal have won 19 of 24 Pac-10 regular-season championships. And a reason they appear headed for championship No. 20 after beating the second-place Bruins 67-53 in Pauley Pavilion.

It was a back-and-forth game, but it was #13 Florida State who got the win over #17 Maryland. Is the ACC title going to the Seminoles?

The America East might come down to a tiebreaker or a dogfight: With their win over Hartford, the UMBC Retrievers are now 12-3 in conference while the BU Terriers’ victory over Stony Brook puts them at 11-3.

The dogfight continues in the CAA. No style points were given to UNC-Wilmington’s win over Northeastern, but they’re now 12-3. So’s ODU, who got a 2-pt win over Hofstra. James Madison escaped the Blue Hens (writes Mel – On Delaware’s day to Think Pink for breast cancer awareness, coach Tina Martin was internally seeing red over her Blue Hens’ inability to think at all at the finish.), and now is 14-1 in-conference.

The Blue Raider is dead, long live the Trojans? That might be the chant, as AR-Little Rock moved to 12-1 in the Sun Belt after defeating Middle Tennessee State 69-61.

Michigan State clinched a share of the Big 10 title, their first since 2005.

Houston claimed the C-USA regular season title with their 77-61 win over UTEP. (Todd Buchanan is the only first-year head coach in the country whose team is currently undefeated in conference play.)

Speaking of firsts, that was Kentucky’s first win at Vandy in 25 years.

Reaping the benefits of their red-shirt senior-laden team, #11 DePaul rolled over an inconsistent #18 Georgetown. (Nice to hear Kayte Christensen doing a fine job with the color commentary.)

#7 Duke (by 50) and #6 Xavier (by 26) got comfortable wins.

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they fall down. Again. This time, Kentucky was “out hustled” by Georgia, 69-51.

Speaking of wobbling, Duke fell to Maryland. Hard. The BasketCases had lots of reasons to be happy.

The Hurricanes survived a feisty Boston College team, 90-80 and Florida State escaped Wake Forest with a 3-point win. This all makes it mighty crowded at the top for the ACC.

Ohio State’s title streak is over, but that didn’t stop them from taking down #23 Penn State, 89-67.

From Rocky Talk Talk (say that quickly three times): Lady Vols Earn Share of SEC Crown by Beating South Carolina 82-60

There is much to say about the game but precious little to learn.  With a combined 35 fouls – almost none of which were called in the closing minutes – the game never really had any kind of flow.  Both teams seemingly spent more time preparing for free throws than running offenses and hustling back on defense.  The sputtering nature of the game was significant enough that it must be addressed first.  And boy, it’s a game the refs would like to forget ever happened.

Chris Solari says Michigan State is a win away from history.

With their 19-point victory over Troy, Middle Tennessee is now 13-1 in the Sun Belt.

James Madison and Dawn Evans are now 13-1 in the CAA, courtesy of a win over Towson.

The CAA is a bit of a dogfight this year: ODU (11-3) lost to VCU (10-4) to give coach Beth Cunningham’s team their first sweep of the Monarchs in program history.  Drexel (7-7, CAA) needed overtime to take down William & Mary (1-13, CAA).

Eeeeuw: Hartford moves to 9-4 in the Am. East with a 55-37 win over Binghamton.

The America East top spot holders flipped with UMBC’s victory over Boston University.

“Houston, we have no problems.” The Cougars are now 12-0 in C-USA.

Last year’s Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year T-Spoon has LaTech 11-0 in the WAC.

Ouch. Cal Poly (10-2 in the Big West) stumbled against CS Northridge (4-9, BW), 68-65.

Gonzaga’s win over Santa Barbara clinches them a share of the conference title.

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When you get a chance, make sure you scan Kim’s TV Schedule page. You never know what’s going to sneak on in your area. For instance, on the bill for this weekend (all in Central Time):

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8
Iowa State at Baylor……….11:00am……….Fox Sports Net
Ohio at Akron……….11:00am……….SportsTime Ohio/Comcast/Comcast SportsNet
Tampa at Lynn……….11:00am……….CBS College Sports
UConn at Notre Dame……….1:00……….CBS
Wyoming at New Mexico……….1:00……….CBS College Sports
Albany at Hartford……….2:00……….CTSN
Ohio State at Iowa……….3:00……….CBS
DePaul at St. John’s……….3:00……….Big East Network
Southern California at UCLA……….3:30……….Fox Sports Net
Southern Utah at UMKC……….4:00……….KSMO
Utah at San Diego State……….4:30……….The Mtn.
Texas Tech at Kansas……….7:00……….Metro Sports
Missouri State at Bradley……….7:05……….Ozarks CW
LA Tech at Hawaii……….9:00……….KFVE
SUNDAY, JANUARY 9
Minnesota at Wisconsin……….TBA……….Big Ten Network
Pitt at Louisville……….11:00am……….ESPNU
Ole Miss at Tennessee……….11:00am……….CSS
North Carolina at Boston College……….12:00……….Comcast SportsNet/Fox Sports Net/NESN
James Madison at Old Dominion……….1:00……..CSN+ (Check out Dawn Evans)
Georgia at Kentucky……….1:00……….ESPNU
Oklahoma State at Kansas State……….2:30……….Fox Sports Net
Arkansas at Mississippi State……….3:30……….Fox Sports Net
Tulane at UAB……….4:00……….ESPN2
UTEP at Marshall……….4:00……….CSS/CBS College Sports
James Madison at Old Dominion (tape delay)……….5:00……….Comcast Sports Net/The Comcast Channel PA
Dayton at Xavier……….6:00……….ESPNU
UAB at Central Florida……….6:00……….Bright House Sports Network

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Evans’ inspiration goes beyond basketball

There’s a big-time basketball player fighting a courageous battle that most people probably have never heard of.

In this town, Dawn Evans is well known. Around the country, Evans has built a reputation as one of the nation’s deadliest shooters and a sure-fire WNBA lottery pick. Some may argue the James Madison point guard could be a No. 1 selection depending on the team and that team’s need.The question for Evans isn’t if she belongs, it’s if she can play.

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