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Welcome: Former Mercury exec Parry joins WNBA as COO

.com: Face of the Franchise: How Number One Picks Have Defined WNBA History

Fox: Storm analyst Elise Woodward breaks down WNBA Draft on “Q It Up Sports”

.com: Déjà Vu In Seattle: 14 Years Later, Storm Poised for Another Rapid Rebuild

Countdown to WNBA Draft 2016: Rachel Banham

St. John’s: Grant and Handford Gear Up for WNBA Draft

BulletsForever: 2016 WNBA Draft Preview Part 1: The Mystics’ current needs heading to Draft Day

Sue at SlamOnline: WNBA Draft Index, Vol. 3

UConn’s Big Three Seniors Looking Ahead To WNBA Draft

Howard Megdal: WNBA Mock Draft 10.0: Pencils down

The posturing is over. The scouting, the evaluating, the pre-draft meetings and workouts—all the information is in front of the 12 teams who will gather Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena and pick the next 36 potential players in the WNBA.

Notice potential—there’s no guarantee that draft picks can make their teams, with a source at one WNBA team expressing skepticism that even a first-round pick could make that team’s roster.

However, this deep draft offers an array of players with virtually every skill imaginable. So much comes down to fit, to small gradations of difference. And the moment it’s all over, the fun starts—figuring out how and the way 36 new players integrate with their new teams.

College

Syracuse.com: Being Breanna’s parents: Skittles, Santa, shoes and the basketball journey of a lifetime

The two-day respite between the NCAA Regional and Final Four offers a fleeting moment to breathe. There is, however, no rest. Heather and Brian Stewart squeeze in a couple of days of work at Upstate University Hospital jobs, then returned to their home in North Syracuse for a blur of errands. That is, until basketball breaks out.

On a spectacular early evening when temperatures climb into the 70s, Conor Stewart is working on a two-handed reverse jam on the basketball goal in his family driveway. The goal is lowered several feet to allow Conor access above the rim. The opportunity is too alluring for Brian, who finishes a job sweeping the garage and is soon dunking way with his 14-year-old son. Heather asks if anyone needs her alley-oop feeds from the front porch. The family moment is filled with joy and routine, all worked into the window of March Madness.

The next day, the Stewarts are off to Indianapolis for the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

Siroky’s Musings: A Return to the Women’s Final Four After a Long Absence

For the first time in a long while I took a trip by myself.

When the women’s NCAA basketball tournament started 35 seasons ago, I was one of 37 accredited media. 

Two of my best friends were also there as broadcasters, I had a photographer and knew three other national writers. That’s seven of the 37. It was a small group then.

I thought of many of them, the departed and the living, coaches, players and media I had shared a time with. 

There are not a lot of us left. In fact, there are but two media.

You may remember that the Seawolves had some “issues” a while back. Now? A shift in culture: Coach McCarthy transforms women’s basketball program

At 38-3, the UAA women’s basketball team just completed their best season in school history, and were arguably the greatest team Seawolf Athletics has ever assembled. From placing as the runner-up in the national championship game, to shattering 32 school records, to breaking five NCAA Division II records (including the 38 wins), the Seawolves had what one might call a dream season.

However, the team was living more of a nightmare just four years ago, when the program was slammed with several sanctions by the NCAA.

Hartford Courant: With Big 3 Gone, What Are The UConn Women Left With Next Season?

“With these three leaving, the rest of the players coming back are in for a rude awakening. But you can’t disregard what the impact [this season] has on the players coming back. And it will last for a while. But then obviously it will [fade] and they’ll have to earn it like these other guys.

“But we don’t have anybody in the program right now that’s a Stewie or a Tuck or Moriah coming back. So it’s going to be really, really one of the more difficult adjustments that we’ve had in the time that I’ve been here. But it’s OK. I’m kind of looking forward to it. I really am. There’s a lot of new stories to be written by our group.”

Here’s a look at what the Huskies might look like next season:

Courant: Program Foundation Geno And CD Laid At UConn In 1985 Is Holding Up Just Fine

Kerith Burke, SNY: A behind the scenes look at UConn’s fourth straight NCAA championship

Forbes: 3 Ways to Convert Losses Into Wins From A ‘Defeated’ Basketball Coach

Buff Zone: CU women’s basketball: Buffs buy in to Payne’s positive message

Whenever Kennedy Leonard encounters one of her new basketball coaches — and that’s been happening a lot lately — she’s asked how her family is doing, or how she’s doing in school.

“You can tell she really cares about us — all of them do,” said Leonard, who recently completed her freshman season with the Colorado women’s basketball team. “It’s a different kind of feel, a positive feel.”

NC State: Moore looks to take team to next level

Chris Crowder: Wolverines’ WNIT streak ends next year

After four seasons at the helm, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico has made the NCAA Tournament only once — her first season when she took over the head coaching job in the 2012-13 season. However, over the past three seasons, the Wolverines have failed to make the Big Dance, instead settling for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Now in Barnes Arico’s fifth season, she’ll finally have a team consisting solely of players she has recruited. And in the 2016-17 season, Barnes Arico will have the right pieces to lead Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

Hello: Justice named head women’s coach at Prairie View A&M

Bye: UWGB junior Latesha Buck granted release

Well, carp: Players’ Departures Bring Swoopes’ Demeanor Into Question

Betting Runner’s SportsChat asked me a few questions and I typed the answers.

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So, yah, you (and the rest of the world) didn’t have this Final Four penciled in ANYwhere. (OK, maybe EIGHT of you did. Showoffs.) How. Cool. Is. That?

FWIW: Interesting a game at Bridgeport – the UConn fans were more nervous than the two teams. It was a fine, rough-and-tumble game… and a far cry from the rout of last year. Kudos to Aston/Texas for learning and growing from that not-so-fun experience. That being said, every time the Longhorns inched closer, the Huskies nailed a three, and so punched their ticket to Indy.

Favorite moment of the Bridgeport regional (in two parts): 1) Seeing Holly Rowe on the sidelines again 2) watching the camera guy assigned to her taking a selfie with her.

Was on the train home tracking the Oregon State/Baylor game. Can we get a measurement on the distance Kim’s jacket traveled? Can we get a temperature on the ice in Sydney Wiese’s veins?

Movin’ on

Tim Booth, AP: Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

For three decades, any chatter about women’s basketball on the West Coast has usually started and ended with Stanford.

While the Cardinal are still among the elite programs in the country – as evidenced by their run to the Elite Eight – it’s Oregon State and Washington that are headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis and providing validation that women’s basketball out West is more than just what is happening at Stanford.

”We’re all seeing how good the Pac-12 is. It surprises me a bit how surprised I think people are across the country,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said over the weekend. ”You listen to just the general narrative of the Pac-12 and people are surprised, surprised Washington could beat Maryland. We’re not. We’ve played against them.”

Graham: Trio of Final Four debutants face tallest of tasks

Goliath is coming to a place so steeped in the legend of David that someone made a movie about it.

Even so, it will take more than running the picket fence of “Hoosiers” fame, Hollywood’s version of slinging a stone, to stop this Connecticut women’s basketball team in its pursuit of perfection — yet again.

Mechelle: UConn is advancing women’s basketball — not killing it

Town crier on the state of collegiate women’s basketball, based on reading a few headlines, in …

2016: “UConn is dominant! There’s no parity! Is the sport growing?

2006: “Finally, a Women’s Final Four without UConn or Tennessee! Just the second time that’s happened in 12 years! Is the sport growing?”

1996: “The exact same teams — Tennessee, UConn, Stanford and Georgia — are in Women’s Final Four as last year! Is the sport growing?”

1986: “Texas is dominant! The Longhorns go undefeated to win the NCAA title. Is the sport growing?

1976: “Delta State is dominant! Two AIAW titles in a row, and they’ll probably win next year too. Is the sport growing?”

1966: “Nashville Business College is dominant! Five AAU titles in a row, with no signs of stopping. Is the sport growing?

And with that, we wrap up 50 years of a sport. Pretty much tells the whole story, right? Yeah … not exactly. 

Mechelle: Rueck builds Beavers into national contender

She stood on the line with seven seconds left in the game, and a chance to give Oregon State a three-point lead against Baylor. Beavers junior guard Sydney Wiese wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’d missed one of two free throws 26 seconds earlier. Nor was she saying to herself, “This is for the Final Four. You absolutely MUST make these.”

Instead, the word that went through Wiese’s mind was this: driveway.

In case you missed it: Collier is UW women’s basketball team’s inspiration

Katie Collier loves her long blonde hair. Of course, when Collier learned she had contracted a form of cancer, the first question she posed to doctors had nothing to do with the possibility of losing her hair during chemotherapy.

“That was my second question!” Collier recalled with one of her frequent laughs.

Collier’s first question was a tad more serious: “Am I going to die?”

Five years after doctors told she would never play basketball again because of leukemia, and four years after her first season of college basketball was delayed a year by major knee surgery, Collier is the starting center for the Washington Huskies.

Shaq cheers for ‘niece’ on Syracuse women’s basketball team heading to Final Four

Lee Michaelson has a longform piece on the Beavers: Oregon State’s first-ever trip to the Final Four is “pinch me stuff,” Beavers top Baylor in Elite Eight and head to Indy

 “This is pinch me stuff; there are no other words for it,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck as his second-seeded Beavers advanced to the first Final Four in school history after upsetting top-seeded Baylor, 60-57, to win the Elite Eight in the Dallas Regional on Monday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Someone had better notify the Indianapolis Newcomers Club:  The Beavers now head to Indiana, where they will join two other Final Four debutantes, fourth-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Washington, along with the overwhelming favorite and overall top seed in the tournament, reigning champion University of Connecticut, in the national semifinals on Sunday, April 3.

Elizabeth Merrill has a longform piece on Stewart: Being Breanna Stewart

Maybe Stewart is too close to fully appreciate it right now. On the surface, she is perfect. She is so good and does things so effortlessly that sometimes it looks as if she’s not trying hard enough.

Auriemma, in fact, believes she’s not trying hard enough. He’s always on her about her defense. It’s been that way for four years. If she were an infant learning to speak, she’d swear that “Stewie, Get In Your Stance” was her name.

That’s what actually led to her recent icy spell with Auriemma. Around midseason, she gave up three straight baskets to a player who Auriemma claims was at least 4 inches shorter than Stewart. The game, mind you, was a blowout.

That doesn’t matter, he says. “You can either go through life now and say, ‘Well, we won by 40,’ or you can say every night, ‘I owe it to myself and to all these people who are coming here and my teammates and everybody to live up to my expectations.’

Check out Lessons From Layshia: Tournament Time Double Standard

Now, I get it. UConn has been dominant. Historically, women’s basketball has lacked parity. But this was a #1 vs #16 seed matchup. This is exactly what is supposed to happen, which is why we care about upsets, it strays from the norm.

I looked but I couldn’t find anyone saying the same after #1 Kansas beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 or #1 Oregon beat #16 Holy Cross 91-52. It wasn’t a story. It was predictable. Everyone moved on.

But maybe the most upsetting about this narrative being pushed is that there’s been a ton of upsets for the women this year. In the same way it started out as the year of the 12 seeds on the men’s side, it mirrored that on the women’s side.

WNIT!

Semis are set, and they oughta be doozies

Wednesday, 8pm, ESPN3: Oregon v. South Dakota IN Vermillion

 A ‘unique opportunity.’

That was the main theme for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team on Tuesday, a day after the Coyotes learned they would be hosting a high-major team in the WNIT.

That’s right, Oregon will be playing at the DakotaDome tonight (Wednesday) in the 7 p.m. semifinals.

It’s certainly not the first high-major team to play in Vermillion, but it’s one of the most notable.

Thursday, 8om, ESPN2: Michigan v. FGCU IN Fort Meyers

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball has made no secret about its motivation this postseason.

FGCU felt spurned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. As a result, the Eagles are taking their frustration out on the rest of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

In other news:

Bye: UK women’s basketball’s Ivana Jakubcova decides to transfer

Bye: Joan Bonvicini resigns as coach of Seattle

Hello: Kansas top scorer Lauren Aldridge transfers to Missouri

Hello: Alabama lands transfer from UT Martin, three-time OVC Freshman of the Week DaiJia Ruffin

Hello: South Dakota State lands transfer from Iowa, forward Tagyn Larson

Congrats: Georgia’s Joni Taylor named 2016 Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year

Congrats: Columbia University Hires Megan Griffith ’07CC As Head Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Badgers sports: Board of Regents set to approve contracts for Tony Granato, Jonathan Tsipis

Congrats: Payne Named Colorado Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Kenny Brooks Will Lead Tech’s Women’s Basketball Program

Congrats: Colgate Athletics has named Bill Cleary to its head women’s basketball coaching position.

Dicey: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb faces ‘evaluation process’

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