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than the dang NCAA tourney:

On the “Rolled’em” side it was:

…Baylor winning its third straight B12 Title by stomping all over Iowa State in the first half (Actually, Griner did most of the stomping) and cruising through the second half to a 75-47 win. BG shot 14-17, showing, says Mechelle, that Baylor’s ready for the Big Dance

Of course, the worst thing that could have happened to Iowa State was Oklahoma State giving Baylor a scare in the Big 12 women’s tournament semifinals.

In these past two seasons of dominance in their league, the Lady Bears just haven’t faced many challenges. That can sometimes cause motivation problems, even for very talented teams.

But this is a mature, senior-led group that understands Baylor is seeking a place in the pantheon of “greatest teams in women’s college history.” So being the defending NCAA champion and running through the league undefeated for a second year in a row hasn’t led to much lackadaisical, passionless play by Baylor.

…Marist winning its eighth straight MAAC title by tromping over the Gaels, 72-48. Writes Sean T. McMann of the Poughkeepsie Journal: Selflessness a source of pride with Marist

Throughout the course of a season, the Marist College women’s basketball team lends its support to local causes like the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation and the Friend of Jaclyn organization.

Monday, the Red Foxes helped each other out.

Marist’s first 17 field goals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament title game came off an assist — that spanned from the opening tip until 7:34 into the second half — and the Red Foxes earned an assist on 24 of their 26 buckets in the game.

On the, “Dang, I wish I could have been there!” side:

It was a fun game to watch (thank you, U), though when I tuned in my mystical WHB powers sent both teams on scoring drought. Ooops! In the end, Middle Tennessee overcame their nemesis, Arkansas-Little Rock, 53-48. (Great crowd!)

“It feels a lot better to know you’re going to watch and you’re name’s going to get called, without a doubt,” Middle Tennessee guard Kortni Jones said. “Last year, we were on pins and needles.”… This year, we know our name will pop up.”

It’s too easy to forget that many of the players on this Blue Raiders team suffered the loss of teammate Tina Stewart.

The 1 v 2 match up between Davidson and Chattanooga lived up to it’s billing:

Kayla Christopher had one bit of advice for her Chattanooga teammates coming out of the huddle in the final frantic seconds — crash the boards.The Lady Mocs had 21 offensive rebounds, but none bigger than Christopher’s putback with 8.2 seconds remaining that lifted Chattanooga to a 64-63 victory over Davidson in the Southern Conference championship Monday.”I’ve been dreaming about this day for a month now and imagining what it would be like,” Christopher said. “For it to actually come true is just awesome.”

It was the Mocs’s ninth conference championship in 13 years under Wes Moore.

San Diego hung tough, but in the end, Gonzaga, and a key player, made sure their NCAA destiny was in their own hands:

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves expected to play the West Coast Conference championship game without Taelor Karr after the senior guard hurt her back in the semifinals.

After testing it out during warm-ups, Karr announced to her coach that she was ready to go, giving the Bulldogs just the lift they needed to make another trip to the NCAA tournament.Fighting through pain and a rough start, Karr had 14 points, six assists and five rebounds to help lift Gonzaga to a 62-50 win over San Diego in the WCC final Monday, earning the Bulldogs an NCAA berth for the fifth straight season.

The Summit was an all-South Dakota event: To get to the finals, the Jackrabbits easily dispatched the Mastodons (No, I’m not kidding) and the Coyotes came back from a halftime deficit to defeat the IUPUI Jaguars, 82-72. This was South Dakota’s first ever finals. It was a close fought game, with the newcomers holding the lead for most of the game. But, in front of record crowd of 6,153, the Jackrabbits prevailed,

Still TBD: From Gene Wang at WaPo:Navy women’s basketball advances to Patriot League tournament final

The second-seeded Navy women’s basketball team kept its bid to win a third consecutive Patriot League tournament title intact by blunting a second-half rally and nearly getting a triple-double from Alix Membreno to complete a 60-48 semifinal victory over Bucknell in front of 579 at Alumni Hall on Monday night.

They’ll go up against Holy Cross, where coach Gibbons did a nice job righting the ship after a tough start to the season.

Michigan State’s Senior Jasmine Thomas is capping ‘unbelievable’ final year

Jasmine Thomas shrugged it off after learning she earned all-tournament honors Sunday.

The pain and frustration from a 62-47 loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament championship game was still fresh on the Michigan State senior guard’s mind.

But without Thomas, the Spartan women’s basketball team wouldn’t have reached the championship game for the second time ever. And without her, there’s no telling where MSU would be right now.

In Nebraska, Sam McKewon writes about the Long Wait

Now the Nebraska women’s basketball team gets to sit tight, get healthy and try to keep some semblance of on-court chemistry. For almost two weeks.

The Huskers bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday in their 77-64 loss to Purdue. Though football kept me in Lincoln, I watched both the rout over Iowa and the loss to the Boilermakers, and neither result particularly surprised me. The margins did. But not the results.

Okay, this is just disappointing: Suspension of 19 Jackson Community College women’s basketball players, assistant coach after bench-clearing fight is just, league official says

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An update from overseas:

We take a look to Europe in this week’s overseas update, where Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi was named Week 4 MVP of the Euroleague. We also have updates from Seattle’s Ashley Robinson, Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson, a blog from Washington’s Jasmine Thomas and a Connecticut update featuring Tina Charles among others.

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— as in the four teams are ready for the Final Four. Which explains why my reaction to the games last night is a tad musical.

Killing the Blues is just what UConn did.

First Georgetown, and then Duke. The Blue Devils kept it close in the first, but then Maya did her Roadrunner impression (beep! beep!), and the Huskies were off to the races. Duke’s offense suffered from bad decisions and Connecticut’s found its groove: 24 assists on 32 baskets. The end result? A deju vu-esque 35pt win. Write Rob at DWHoops:

Duke kept it interesting for a half, but they once again were blown out by the UConn Huskies. The Blue Devils didn’t accomplish any of the pregame goals I outlined in our DWHoops game preview, and they paid for it with the worst NCAA Tournament loss in Duke history. Rebounds? UConn led, 40-27. Tempo? UConn ran the ball down Duke’s throat, with a 12-4 edge in fast break points. Shot-making? Duke shot an excruciating 25% from the floor. The Devils hustled and scrapped to stay within 3-6 points for most of the first half, thanks to some timely shooting by Shay Selby and the usual hustle by Jasmine Thomas. Duke was within 3 points with under four minutes to go, and one could see UConn start to wear down a bit. Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes both picked up 2 first-half fouls that were silly. The Devils not only were unable to capitalize, they inexplicably didn’t hold the ball for the final possession of the half. They missed 2 late cracks at the basket and gave Moore enough time to hit a shot at the buzzer, giving UConn the double-digit halftime lead they wanted so badly. Then the Huskies shot an absurd 72% in the second half against a Duke defense that had completely broken down.

Graham on Maya:

As the story goes, at some point during the team’s stay in Philadelphia, sophomore Kelly Faris’ mom gave her daughter a paddleball, partly in jest for a team that finds a way to compete at anything and everything, if also as a way to kill the tedious hours of hotel time that come during the postseason. Faris, Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln promptly spent a good portion of an evening passing the paddleball, and the corresponding record for consecutive hits, back and forth. Welcome to Connecticut basketball.

But when the new toy made its way into wider circulation on the bus soon thereafter, Moore wanted to know why she hadn’t been included in the initial record chase.

“We said that we didn’t want to invite her the first night because she probably would have been up until 5 in the morning trying to break it,” Faris said. “But she told us it wouldn’t have taken her that long.”

For Texas A&M, it Feels Like the First Time, as their third time against Baylor proved the charm. The Aggies took an early lead, survived foul trouble, got a lot of help from Sydney 1 and Sydney 2, and now are going to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Writes Joanne Gerstner at the New York Times:

In most ways, it’s hard to make 6-foot-8 Baylor sophomore star Brittney Griner disappear. But Texas A&M found the magic wand Tuesday, reducing Griner’s normally game-changing play at center into a non-factor.

Mechelle on coach Blair and the Aggies:

It all began in this city for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, literally. He was born and raised in Dallas, graduating from high school in 1963, the year JFK was assassinated here.

He served time in the Marines, then went to Texas Tech and played baseball. In 1973, he started coaching the South Oak Cliff High girls’ team in Dallas. It was a job not many would have wanted, but Blair saw something in the sport that captured his imagination as a certified sports junkie. He recognized what was beautiful about a sport with such growth potential.

Michelle Smith has Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Tim Newcomb at Time magazine says the Final Four is A Lesson in Staying Power

Ann Killon at Sports Illustrated Breaks Down the Final Four.

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Point guards lead the way in Sweet 16

We may be living in the year of the quarterback, but March will always be the month of the point guard.

When the Sweet 16 gets under way on Saturday afternoon, some of the biggest stars on the court will be the smallest players on the court. From eight standout seniors looking to play at least one more game to four freshmen who appear ready to battle for bragging rights for years to come, the weekend’s most intriguing subplots may come from duels between players who do considerably more than merely bring the ball up the floor.

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Yes, there was the build up — the mutterings about Duke being disrespected or overlooked, the discussions of their depth and size — but in the aftermath of being totally dismantled by the not-so-swagger-free UConn Huskies, Duke is going to have to gather themselves like that Fred and Ginger tune says, and start all over again.

Writes Graham: UConn plays near-perfect game – Previously unbeaten and third-ranked Duke no match for No. 2 Huskies

“We just play,” Moore said. “You don’t get tired. We don’t talk about that at Connecticut. There’s plenty of reasons or opportunities where you could say, ‘I’m tired,’ but you find a way to get over it. You find a way every day in practice. … We have to, obviously, do certain things to make sure that we are able to compete at the highest level we can — taking care of our bodies, getting a lot of rest, doing all the little things that we probably have to do more so than any other year since I’ve been here.”

In the process, the Huskies exposed the Blue Devils as a team with a wealth of talent on defense and stll too few proven answers on offense. Duke’s pressure is a legitimate championship-caliber weapon, and at times flustered a Connecticut team that turned the ball over 20 times, its first game of at least 20 turnovers since a nailbiter at Notre Dame on Jan. 8. But the Blue Devils converted those turnovers into just 14 points, and 19 offensive rebounds into just 12 second-chance points. Without those tools that, to put it bluntly, amount to two of its three best offensive plays — the third being give the ball to Jasmine Thomas and let her go — Duke floundered on offense.

Rob Clough at DWhoops echoes Graham’s theme as he reviews the carnage: UConn Crushes Duke, 87-51

This game was Duke’s opportunity to prove itself as a true elite power this season. Instead, the Devils will have to fight to get a #1 seed. Duke hadn’t overpowered many good foes this year, but their ability to to find a way to win no matter what was judged and found wanting by UConn. This certainly offers hope to their ACC opponents. What this loss can do for Duke is give them a chance to work on bad habits. The first bad habit is an inability to lock in as a team, where all five players complement each other. Part of that is the nature of Duke’s very basic offense, which involves more read-and-react/one-on-one stuff than the sort of sharing the ball instincts that come so naturally for UConn. In other words, Duke’s offense sometimes gets into “I need to make a play” territory instead of “We need to make a play.”

Other highlights:

At the start of the game, Graham tweeting: Good crowd in Gampel for Duke-UConn, especially given the newest storm means people shorter than 5 feet are forbidden from going outside.

1st half: Duke team, 15 points, 11 boards, 1 assist
Maya Moore, 16 points, 6 boards, 3 assists

Kara Lawson speaking her mind (how refreshing!), ’cause she wants the last 45 minutes of her life back.

Carolyn Peck understanding Kara’s “perplexsiveness???””””

Rebecca Lobo being perplexed by Carolyn’s English.

Graham tweeting while watching the halftime show: A little kid in halftime show just spun a ball on his finger while doing a one-arm push-up. Glad to know I can do at least none of those.

Mechelle tweeting on the game: To blame this all on Duke’s “effort” and not point out the Duke staff’s deficiencies in coaching offense is not fair to the players.

Charlie tweeting on the game: I said 5 teams could win NC in my column today. I may be wrong there. I think it’s just 4. Duke doesn’t look capable.

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a little SEC news:

Tennessee beats LSU in SEC opener without making a 3-pointer, first time since
1999

Vanderbilt loses lead and game to Ole Miss in SEC opener

Georgia overpowers South Carolina in SEC opener

Auburn pulls away from Alabama in SEC opener

Kentucky prepares for Duke

From me, on one of tonight’s more intriguing games:  Check out the non-Duke affiliated site DukeReport:

Joanne P. McCallie Previews Kentucky

Jasmine Thomas & Krystal Thomas Preview Kentucky

No. 3 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky Will Tip at 7:00 PM on Tuesday on ESPNU.

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From Graham: Jasmine Thomas is key for Duke – Senior guard and coach McCallie hope to make most of their final season together

Entering her fourth season as Duke’s coach, Joanne P. McCallie for the first time has a roster comprised almost entirely of players she recruited. Yet amid the talent carefully assembled to fit her particular philosophy of basketball, it’s the one who got away who will play the biggest part in attempting to guide the Blue Devils back to the Final Four for the first time since 2006.

(I wonder if the Texas-Duke history/writing link was on purpose. <g>)

 

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