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Some coaching gigs filled:

Hartford’s Jen Rizzotti moves up into the George Washington job. She did a fine job at Hartford, but it seems that she’s hit some recent roadblocks. Clearly the Colonials have returned to paying attention to women’s basketball, and previous coach Tsipsis had everything to do with that. Time will tell if Rizzotti can keep the momentum going.

Hello, Ravens coaching tree! Heather Jacobs Named Wagner Women’s Basketball Coach

Jacobs is a 2006 graduate of Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH, where she earned magna cum laude honors with a Sports and Recreation Management major, and a minor in Marketing. 

Interesting side note. Is Adelphi the new Maine?  Jacobs is leaving Division II Adelphi…which is the same institution Kim Barnes-Arico left to move to St. John’s…

Great Dane! UAlbany hires Joanna Bernabei-McNamee as women’s basketball coach

McNamee, from Weirton, W.Va., led Pikeville to the NAIA Final Four in what was her third season. It was the team’s second consecutive National Tournament berth. She also has Division I experience as an assistant at Maryland and West Virginia.

Santa Clara hires Bill Carr as new women’s basketball coach…and he has no women’s basketball experience. Cool.

More on UMass’ Tory Verdi

“The culture that surrounds this program will change. Expectations will be on the rise. Accountability will be apparent and a winning attitude will be instilled,” he added. “Our team’s image will be unselfish, tough, hard-nosed, disciplined, prepared, composed and lastly, relentless. It’s time to gain respect from the Atlantic 10 Conference and the rest of the country. It’s time to win and win big.”

Ouch: Luke Decock @ the News Observer: Women’s basketball in the Triangle bottoms out

From the trendsetting tenure of Kay Yow at N.C. State to North Carolina’s three Final Fours and national title under Sylvia Hatchell to Duke’s late-’90s ascendance under Gail Goestenkors, these three programs sat at or near the epicenter of the sport for a long, long time. Decades.

And now? Women’s basketball in the Triangle has reached maximum irrelevancy.

Opposite: Women’s basketball back on the rise in the Northwest

Mark it down. The months of March and April of 2016 are when the sport of women’s basketball regained a position of prominence in the Puget Sound Region.

When, at 4:11 p.m. PDT Thursday afternoon, WNBA president Lisa Borders announced Breanna Stewart as the Seattle Storm’s selection with the first-overall pick of the WNBA draft, it was the final incantation in the resurrection of a sport that not so long ago found itself forgotten on a dusty shelf in the back of the local sports closet.

But like a family heirloom that was rediscovered while packing up for a move, women’s hoops will once again find its place on the living room mantle.

 

From Ann Killion: USF’s Azzi, basketball’s lone out LGBT head coach, draws support

Blair Hardiek was taking a picture. Through the camera lens, she saw University of San Francisco women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi standing on stage and taking a deep breath. Hardiek sensed something big was coming. 

She was right. As she watched, Azzi told a crowded ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel that she and Hardiek — her associate head coach — are married. With that statement on March 31, Azzi became the only publicly out LBGT head coach working in Division I college basketball.

The moment wasn’t planned. It wasn’t intended to make history.

“You just get to the point where it’s so stupid to not be honest,” Azzi said recently at the Mill Valley home she and Hardiek share with their bulldogs, Izzy and Ella. “When you’re with someone who gives you so much courage there’s no reason to be afraid.”

WNBA:

MavsMoneyball: The new Dallas Wings should get you excited about the WNBA

So I know we’re all focused on the NBA Playoffs, but before long the Warriors will be back-to-back champs and the NBA season will be finished. And at that point, we’ll all need something fun to do. Luckily, there’s a new basketball team in town: the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.

Thursday night was the WNBA draft, and I went to the draft party at UT Arlington’s College Park Center, which is the new home of the Wings. First confession: I do not love having to drive out to Arlington, even though the arena is plenty nice. I would’ve much preferred SMU’s Moody Arena as the home of the Wings, but I guess not everything can be perfect. Speaking of which, everything else about the Wings is perfect.

The first event on the schedule tonight was the unveiling of the new team’s new uniforms. Check out this majesty:

NBPA: Q&A with Top Pick Breanna Stewart: ‘It’s a New Challenge and New Chapter’

It will likely be a while until we see another women’s player like Breanna Stewart. Standing at 6’4″, the Syracuse native is coming off six straight championships—two in high school and four at the University of Connecticut—and on Thursday, the Seattle Storm selected her with the No. 1 overall pick.

The NBPA’s Michael Goldsholl caught up with the UConn legend at the WNBA draft as she prepared for the next step in her already storied career. Their conversation touched on draft week highlights, memories with the Huskies, preparation for the WNBA, how the ladies’ game is changing, Kobe’s Bryant legacy and her off-the-court interests.

Tuck Realizes Her WNBA Dream, Drafted By The Sun At No. 3

“This day means so much,’’ Tuck said. “The first time I thought about it I was in fourth grade. I loved Lisa Leslie. She was my favorite. I did a project on her in school. And since then I knew that I wanted to play in the WNBA. And then to now to get drafted into it it’s kind of surreal that it’s actually happened just because at such a young age of wanting to do it and now I’m able to. So it’s great.’’

Thank you: Saxony Lutheran girls basketball coach Sam Sides reflects on 38-year Hall of Fame career

It was March 8, 2014, and the Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team had just walked off the floor following a Class 3 quarterfinal victory over Lutheran St. Charles. The result sealed a first trip to state for the program, which had only been in existence since 2006. It was a good feeling; the Crusaders were feeling good. Into the locker room they headed.

“So we were going to state and making history,” recalls Brianna Mueller, now a senior, “and we go down into the locker room and Coach Sides starts to dance. He did the worm. He got down on the ground and did the worm, and we’re all like, ‘What is happening right now?'”

On Saturday, Saxony girls basketball coach Sam Sides will be one of an 11-coach class inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame following the 38th year of his coaching career. His basketball coaching resume has earned respect and accolades. His dancing?

“I’m not a very good dancer, but I get emotional,” Sides says. “I get a lot more emotional as I get older. I get fired up on occasion, but I try not to do that in public.

Thank you, Pt. 2: Burleigh retires after 42 years

Girls basketball has certainly gone through changes over the last four decades.  However, at South Burlington High school, one thing has remained constant, head coach Sheila Burleigh.

“The girls are great athletes,” Burleigh said.  “They’re bigger, faster, stronger, because they’re understanding that you really need to lift. You need to train year round. You don’t just pick it up in November and expect you’re going to do well.”

After 42 seasons, nearly 600 wins and five state titles, Burleigh announced her retirement on Thursday.

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’cause it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear… Take a deep breath, y’all, shut the door and pull up a chair ’cause you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

First things first: WNIT!!
Saturday, April 2  |  3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT
CBS Sports Network – Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Chiney Ogwumike (analyst)

The finals are set and it pits two programs who’ve got something to prove (to the selection committee): South Dakota v. Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Coyotes earned a birth by throughly handling Oregon, 88-54.

DakotaDome’s long goodbye as a basketball facility will now officially be talked about for a very long time. The old gal just doesn’t want to give up on roundball just yet. USD will now play the winner of Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday accompanied by a crowd expected to be bigger than Wednesday’s.

“Even when we were just warming up at 60 minutes (before the game), the people were filling in,” said Kelly Stewart, who was one of six Coyotes who hit double-figures. “Then every time we came out of the locker room there was more people. And finally, when we were about to do the starting lineups, I looked up and I got a huge smile on my face. Everyone was smiling.”

The Eagles took on Michigan in from of a record crowd, and came away with the 71-61 win.

“It was a great defensive effort against a great offensive team,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Now we’re excited to get to play for the WNIT Championship. The crowd was exceptional tonight. It was a huge advantage for us to have it here with that type of atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the type of game that these players will remember for a long time.”

FYI: WNIT NOTES

-Minnesota’s Rachel Banham scored 48 points on March 16 to lead the Gophers to an 87-80 win over Milwaukee in Round 1. That set a Postseason WNIT record for most points in a game, surpassing Tamika Whitmore of Memphis (45 against Arkansas State, 1999). 

-Sharnae Lamar of Northern Iowa dished out 15 assists to set a single-game WNIT record in the team’s 64-58 victory over Drake, 64-58. 

-The 2016 title game between South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast is the second time since 1998 that two mid-major programs have played for the Postseason crown. In 2004, Creighton beat UNLV for the title.

-Before 2016, there have been 13 mid-major teams to reach the Postseason WNIT championship game. The six mid-major champions are Creighton (2004), Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), South Florida (2009), Toledo (2011) and Drexel (2013).

About that stuff happening in Indianapolis: FREE Women’s Final Four Activities

General:

Indianapolis set to be center of women’s basketball world

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Indianapolis this weekend in a celebration of the sport.

For the first time in NCAA history the Division I, II and III women’s titles will be decided on the same court.

“We can’t wait for the 2016 championship games in Indianapolis,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said.

Celebrating 35 Years of NCAA Women’s Basketball

Beth Mowins to replace Dave O’Brien as announcer in Final Four, first-time all-female crew for ESPN at event

Women’s basketball | Final Four: Three first-timers crash party with UConn

Meet the Women’s Final Four

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Final Four preview

Audio: Kara Lawson with SI’s Richard Deitsch

Audio: Sue Bird talks about the low pay for women’s professional basketball in the United States on this edition of our Keeping Score with Rick Horrow audio podcast

Audio: HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is joined by Diana Taurasi to discuss her WNBA return from Russia, UConn’s dominance (6:00), the stupidity of lowering the rims (13:00), GSW’s selflessness (16:30), playing pickup with Westbrook and Draymond (21:00), and the struggling Lakers and D’Angelo Russell (30:00).

Audio: Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: “Ambassador” Tamika Catchings welcomes the WBB world to Indy

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 3/31/16 Podcast: Doug Bruno is back to break down the 2016 Final Four

Women’s NCAA tournament: Four keys to the Final Four

Women’s Final Four: Can Anyone Stop UConn?

At Women’s Final Four, male-coached teams not a bad thing

These Are The Last Three Teams That Have A Chance To Beat UConn

SNYDER: UConn overshadows parity among other women’s basketball teams

VanDerveer: UConn’s rule isn’t bad for the sport — but next year it could be

Jeff Jacobs: In Women’s Final Four, It’s The Men Who Beat The Odds

Jeff Jacobs: Think UConn’s Geno Auriemma Is A Rock? You Should Meet His Wife

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

My turn: JUST CATCH UP

Washington:

How UW’s and OSU’s Final Four run is a breakthrough for Pac-12 women’s basketball

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

7 things to know about Washington Huskies (Syracuse women’s basketball Final Four foe)

Meet the Final Four-bound UW Huskies women’s basketball team

Washington’s jump shooter doesn’t jump

HUSKIES WOMEN: Masters of the Unexpected

Four knee surgeries later, UW’s Walton unfazed by doubts

Mike Neighbors: From Blockbuster To The Final Four

Oregon State

Five questions for Beavers-Huskies

Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

New to following Oregon State women’s basketball? Here’s a crash course on the Beavers

Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball blending intensity, playfulness during Final Four run

Final Four newcomer Oregon State scrappy on defense

Watch: Gary Andersen and Pat Casey on Oregon State

OSU dreams big, embraces Final Four berth

Watch: Oregon State women’s basketball Final Four appearance called ‘incredibly miraculous’

Can Oregon State Shock The World?

Rueck’s Beavers have big fans in OSU’s 1963 Final Four team

OSU has unfinished business in Final Four

Aki Hill and the bliss of the Final Four

Open tryouts to the Final Four: Oregon State’s dramatic rise

Syracuse:

Syracuse’s Hillsman, Read preparing carefully for Washington

Syracuse women’s basketball guard Alexis Peterson brims with confidence

Keep shooting: Syracuse women’s basketball senior Brianna Butler does what she’s told

Turning point for Syracuse women’s basketball this season began with a loss

Kayla Alexander: Syracuse Orange Nation on Cloud Nine

Syracuse women’s basketball center Briana Day: Bigger foes aren’t going to push me around

Go Orange! Syracuse men’s, women’s basketball teams head to Final Four

Connecticut:

Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?

UConn may be the greatest college basketball dynasty ever

Geno Auriemma: Having to defend success ‘makes no sense’

Geno: Ignore UConn Women If You Want, ‘But Don’t Demean Those Who Appreciate It’ –

Why the dominance of the U-Conn. women’s team should be embraced

UConn’s opponents need to step up their game

Jeff Otterbein: UConn Women Simply The Best, Just Watch And Learn To Live With It

Here are a few additional assignments for sports columnist

Fans appreciate greatness, even when the games aren’t close

Fans don’t agree with columnist who says Huskies are killing the game

UConn Women’s Basketball Team Confronts Consequences Of Being ‘Too Good’

UConn too good? Quit the whining, beat ’em!

Respect the Women!

Be Great. Don’t Apologize.

UConn women don’t find winning boring

UConn women should be respected

UConn can join a pair of 4-peat pioneers in women’s basketball

Connecticut poised to make history again

UConn making something hard look easy

Huskies closer to place no team has ever been

Freshmen provide Huskies with needed backup help

UConn freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament

Samuelson’s family is UConn women’s basketball’s family, too

Women’s basketball: Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart leads a star-studded Final Four

Other basketball news:

Rachel for threeeeee: Banham edges Smith in 3-point championship

Brava: Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay, announces marriage to her USF assistant coach

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kinda of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things.

Supporters laud Jennifer Azzi for her bravery – but you can read the fear…

New women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks raves about recruiting potential at Virginia Tech

Jonathan Tsipis’ plan to grow Badgers women’s basketball attendance starts with being visible –

New UW women’s basketball coach wants to keep state’s best players

Tsipis tasked with turning tide for women’s hoops

Wisconsin Women’s Basketball: Tsipis’ energy stands out during initial meeting with team

Bradbury named UNM women basketball head coach

KSU Women’s Basketball Coach Agnus Berenato

Kim Rosamond named Tennessee Tech women’s basketball head coach

Finally poached: UCF announces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as head coach of women’s basketball

Former UConn players apply Auriemma lessons as coaches

Bye: Jatarie White to transfer from USC women’s basketball program

Bye: Two leave Duke women’s basketball team

WNBA:

Updownup-down… honestly, I think the NBA should raise their rim. It’s ridiculous how easy it is for the giants who play the game to score…

Army brass supports Minato in WNBA bid

Jennifer Gish: The next goal for UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards — the WNBA

Lindsay Whalen Joins Timberwolves’ Broadcast Booth

Deep Diving WNBA Data — Griner’s Paint Defense

WNBA Award Accuracy by Win Shares

Girls Sports Month: Candace Parker on what drives her, dunking and being a mom

WNBA Reveals New Apparel Items Celebrating Landmark 20th Season

The Legend of Lauren Jackson

Cool: Boomers And Fire GMs Head To WNBA Again

Following on from a successful visit last year to work alongside management at the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, the off-court leaders at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and JCU Townsville Fire will again embrace a fact-finding mission in Los Angeles and Phoenix this June, this time taking in eight sporting events in 10 nights.

WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw “hitting game-winning shots” on and off the court

In case you missed it: Blake Griffin’s ‘Broad City’ appearance included a discussion about the WNBA

OT, but not really: Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy

The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.

First, with the women’s jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren’t the same as the widely used industry standard.

Second, with the men’s jerseys, you can’t buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women’s team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis’ reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann’s collection of question marks.

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Oh, yes, ‘ware the rabbits: #12 South Dakota State held on to upset #5 Miami, 74-71.

It is me, or is no one paying attention to the job Moren’s done at Indiana? Maybe the 9-seed taking down #8 Georgia, 62-58, for the program’s first Tourney win in 33 years will get folks to sit up and notice.

And a freshman shall lead them… to an upset win. #10 Missouri toppled #7 BYU behind Sophie Cunningham’s 20pts.

Pirates got Duked. #9 Duquesne earned their program’s first NCAA victory with authority. They take down #8 Seton Hall by 21.

Nice showing by #10 Penn as #7 Washington needed every minute and made shot by Walton, Plum and Atchley to secure the 12-pt win.

Jordin Canada had a tough shooting night, but so did the #14 Wahine. #3 UCLA survived and advanced with a 66-50 win.

No style points will be awarded, as #11 Colorado State gave #6 South Florida fits. The Bulls escape with a 48-45 win.

Movin’ on. #6 Oklahoma dispatches #11 Purdue with ease, if not elegance.

Despite having to suspend two players (dumb, dumb, dumb), #4 Texas A&M handled #13 Missouri State, 74-65, behind Anriel Howard’s NCAA Tournament record 27 rebounds.

For a moment it looked like the #12 Blue Raiders wanted to mess up the Prez’s bracket… but the #5 Florida State’s Romero got the band together and the Seminoles earned a 17pt win.

Getting run over by the Wildcats shouldn’t diminish the season #14 UNC-Asheville has had… but you know they wished for a better showing. #3 Kentucky by 54.

#2 Maryland earned every single bit of their 16-point win over #15 Iona.

Notre Dame was hitting on all cylinders and then eased off the gas a tad as they cruised to a 95-61 win over North Carolina A&T.

No rust for the rested. Yes, UConn had huge first quarter, scoring-wise, against Robert Morris, but did you notice Stewart’s 8 steals? Or Coach Sal Buscaglia’s heartfelt post game press conference?

#2 Texas couldn’t shake #15 Alabama State in the first half. Different story in the second as the Longhorns , 86-42.

Fun/not fun? #4 Tara Vanderveer over #13 Jennifer Azzi, 85-58.

From Graham: Quick Dish: Five observations from Day 2 of the NCAA tourney

With one round down and five to go, what else did we learn from Saturday’s 16 games?

1. Texas A&M and Florida State earn another chance to live up to expectations

Ranked among the top baker’s dozen of teams in the nation in the preseason, Texas A&M and Florida State took the court in November with no worse than Sweet 16 expectations.

They will meet Monday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, which means only one will get to the Sweet 16. For stretches Saturday, it wasn’t clear either would get even that opportunity.

FiveThirtyEight:  These Are The Only 4 Teams With Any Chance Of Beating The UConn Women

CNN: 5 reasons why UConn’s women’s hoops dominance is incredible

Upcoming games that have caught my eye:

NY (Syracuse) v. NY (Albany)
Old Big East (DePaul) v Old Big East (Louisville)
Tennessee v. Arizona

From Mechelle: How Lady Vols handle ASU defense could determine matchup

WNIT advancers:

TCU (Big 12) over Eastern Michigan (MAC), 85-81
Michigan (Big 10) over Bucknell (Patriot), 95-72
Hofstra (CAA) over Villanova (Big East), 82-74.
San Diego (WCC) over IUPUI (Summit), 59-48.
Northern Iowa (MVC) over Drake (MVC), 64-58.

In other news: Mystics Great Holdsclaw Discusses her “Unquiet Journey”

Washington Mystics fans know the legacy of Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA great who left her mark on D.C. The former #1 overall pick recently returned to the area to discuss her current work as a mental health advocate. 

A new documentary, “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” chronicles her rise to stardom and struggles with mental disorders, providing a platform to discuss the impact of mental health issues in sports. The film won Best Documentary Film honors at the 2016 DC Independent Film Festival. 

Hayley Milon caught up with Holdsclaw to discuss her journey.

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but first, the WNIT kicks us off with a fun story: Double Duty In Des Moines: Kansas Band Gets The Assist For Drake Women’s Basketball

A college basketball game without a band present … it’s just not the same, is it? Drake’s women’s team was facing that, though, for its WNIT opener Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa. The school is on spring break, and the Drake band members aren’t on campus.

However, Drake got a capable substitute: The Kansas band was in Des Moines for the Jayhawks’ NCAA men’s tournament game Thursday afternoon.

As for the games:

The band helped! Drake (MVC) over Sacred Heart (NEC), 95-59.

Road-weary UT Rio Grande (WAC) got swept away by TCU (Big12), 97-73.

Arkansas State (Sun Belt) chomped on Southern (SWAC), 68-45.

It was a tight one, as short-handed Nebraska (Big10) fell to Northern Iowa (MVC), 64-62.

Ball State (MAC) went on the road and topped Iowa (Big Ten), 77-72.

Arkansas Little-Rock (Sun Belt) and St. Louis (A-10) went down to the wire, but… Billikens win! 70-69.

And I swoop! Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley) came back to defeat Memphis (American), 79-73. It’s the programs first post-season win since 1999.

Dayton (A-10) fell to Western Kentucky (C-USA), 89-72.

San Diego (WCC) escapes Northwestern (Big 10), 69-65. The Wildcats scored 8 in the first and 35 in the fourth. Coach must be banging his head against the wall.

No, really, remember when they stunk? IUPUI (Summit) over Central Michigan (MAC), a tough program, 63-55.

Bucknell (Patriot) over Akron (MAC), 74-70. The Bison are the first team from the Patriot League to ever win a game in the WNIT, while also posting the program’s first victory in a national postseason tournament.

“We have had a lot of great things happen this year, but to get a postseason win is pretty sweet,” said Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “It’s a great accomplishment for our program and our league, and a huge feather in the cap for this gritty team. I am incredibly proud of them.”

Gonzaga (WCC) chewed up undermanned UC Riverside (Big West), 88-54.

Oregon (Pac12) over Long Beach State (Big West) by 8.

After all the waiting and working and wondering, Oregon coach Kelly Graves finally got the glimpse of his team’s future that he’d been looking for the past two weeks.

And he liked it so much that Graves told his rejuvenated Ducks to go play couch potatoes for a day like the rest of America as their reward.

 Welcome to March Madness, ladies. WNIT style.

Nice showing against a program that in no joke: Marshall (C-USA) falls to Ohio (MAC), 76-68.

Eastern Michigan (MAC) led wire to wire, and eked out an away win over Saint Mary’s (WCC), by one, 74-73.

Graduate transfer Chanise Baldwin’s ffensive rebound and put back with 1.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team to a 74-73 victory over Saint Mary’s College in the opening round of the WNIT Thursday, March 17. The Eagles led by as many as nine, but needed Baldwin’s late game heroics to propel the Green and White into the second round of the tournament. 

In a back-and-forth battle, it was Abilene Christian (Southland) who blinked first. UTEP (C-USA) won, 66-62.

Virginia Tech (ACC) over Elon (CAA), 68-59.

Villanova (Big East) ousted Liberty (Big South), 67-51.

Hofstra (CAA) over Harvard (Ivy), 76-50.

Even with the loss of top-scorer Mikayla Venson, Virginia (ACC) managed a two-point win over VCU (A10).

Georgia Tech (ACC) stung Mercer (Southern), 73-56.

Rutgers (Big East Big 10) last-second-shot-ed a win over Georgetown (Old Big East), 57-55.

An improving Wake Forest (ACC) held off Charlotte (C-USA), 72-69.

First round NCAA games I’m keeping my eye on:

Albany/Florida
JMU/DePaul
Chattanooga/Mississippi State
Green Bay/Tennessee
St. Bonaventure/Oklahoma State

Michelle Smith: Tara VanDerveer vs. Jennifer Azzi

Asked to remember the last time they talked on the phone before they found out they would be matched up in the NCAA tournament, both Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and University of San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi came up with the same answer.

“Probably just a few weeks ago,” Azzi said.

“Not that long ago,” VanDerveer confirmed. “We talked about some things she was dealing with.”

There will be no talking this week.

Katie Barnes: UConn freshman Samuelson finds her footing

Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson, both of whom played at Stanford, are as responsible as anyone for making Lou the player she is.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be just like them, so that’s where it all started,” Samuelson said. “But once I got older, all I wanted to do was to be better than them.”

When will DePaul Women get their due as NCAA contenders?

Every year, I hear the same thing. “There are no Illinois teams in the NCAA tournament.”

And for the past 14 years, all those who have said that have been wrong.

Why, oh, why, do Illinois residents overlook the DePaul Blue Demons (25-8), who’ve achieved a berth in the NCAA Women’s Tournament for 14 CONSECUTIVE YEARS… also, their 21st overall appearance since 1990?

Jonathan Lintner: Cards’ Hines-Allen hitting high gear in March

Recently named the ACC Player of the Year, Hines-Allen registered a pair of double-doubles to open the postseason and hit 19 of her 33 shots.

“I want to prove to people it’s not a fluke and just give my all every single day,” the sophomore forward said. “That’s how I got the award.”

BTW: Division II has reached the Elite Eight.

4 Florida Southern v. 1 Lubbock Christian (March 22, 1pm)
2 Anchorage-Alaska v. 7 Francis Marion (March 22, 7pm)
1 Virginia Union v. 1 Bentley (March 22, 3:3o)
2 Grand Valley State v. 7 Pittsburgh State (9:30)

The big shockers were seeing #1 Union, #1 Azusa Pacific and #1 Limestone go down in the first round. #1 Ashland feel in the second round. #1 Emporia State lost in the 3rd round.

Division III’s Final Four is scheduled for March 19th, Capitol University, Columbus Ohio.

Tufts (27-3) v. Wartburg (23-7), 5pm.
Wartburg’s Final Four run stranger than fiction

 Amsberry’s Nine will do for a working title. Wartburg College’s surprise run into the NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four has the makings of a green-lit sports movie.

The plot is a season salvaged off life support by a group of athletes that had moved on before reuniting to accomplish an ambitious goal.

The script has more than final credits left to be written.

Jumbos book trip to NCAA tournament semifinals for third year in a row

For the past two years, Tufts had gotten it done at home in the postseason. The Jumbos had qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning the NESCAC championship, earned home court advantage and fought their way through dominant first-round wins and overtime thrillers alike to reach the NCAA Div. III championship semifinals, the Final Four.

This year was different. Tufts fell by one point in a heartbreaking loss to Amherst in the NESCAC championship but still earned an at-large bid. 

Amherst (30-1) v. Thomas More (31-0), 7:30PM

Saints on a different kind of mission

You already know what’s the same about the defending champs, so let’s look at what’s different about Thomas More this season.

It all starts with a change in hashtag philosophy.

Sister act adds to Amherst’s legacy

If Amherst head women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki hadn’t been persistent when reaching out to junior twins Ali and Meredith Doswell during the recruiting process, no telling what he would be doing this weekend.

 

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Just ask Jeff Walz.

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

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

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

Washington: ‘Sharp’ Huskies Head To NCAA Tournament

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

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

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

Connecticut: Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson looking to make history

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

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

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

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

Connecticut: Former Huskies break down UConn’s winning ways

Utah: Jeff Judkins keeps Cougars steadily successful

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

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

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

California: Jordin Canada leads UCLA back to the Big Dance

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

And Canada cringed.

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

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

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

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

“These things happen,” she said.

Florida: NCAA women’s bracket has distinct Florida flavor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So were the Jacksonville Dolphins: Mentee vs. Mentor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m no bracket expert, so I’ll defer to Charlie who, in the end, defers to the Selection Committee… but DePaul’s loss popped a couple of bubbles and so, methinks, did the Dons stunning upset of BYU. “No. 6 seed San Francisco rallied from a 15-point first-quarter deficit, took its first lead with 17.2 seconds left and held on to knock off the Cougars, 70-68.

“Wow. What a game. Our team fought so hard tonight,” said USF coach Jennifer Azzi. “BYU’s an incredible program, an amazing team. When you get down 10-0 you go, ‘Oh no.’”

Not that Azzi was necessarily surprised by what her team was able to do.

“You do have to have luck to get to this point,” she said. “This is what we’ve wanted for years. So I don’t think any of us are actually shocked by it because it’s been what we’ve been working towards. But certainly, the stars have to be aligned.”

Longtime readers of the WHB know we’ve been tracking Jennifer Azzi’s effort to rebuild the San Francisco program. Clearly, the Dons have gotten better under her leadership… but the WCC is (as ye longtime readers know) no joke. There’s Gonzaga, then BYU, then Saint Mary’s and now Santa Clara… so breaking into the NCAA is bloody challenging. But, her team met the challenge and are going dancin’ for the first time since 1997.

Remember what was happening in 1997? Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Elton John… and the WNBA. Which means Kurt Kragthorpe can write: an Ex-Utah Starzz guard outwits BYU’s Judkins in WCC final

The former point guard for the Utah Starzz of the WNBA outcoached ex-Utah Jazz forward Jeff Judkins at the end of a game that left Azzi “absolutely, honestly, speechless right now,” she said.

The Dons took down each of the WCC’s top three seeds in reverse order — and less spectacular fashion as they went along, actually. USF’s run began with Taylor Proctor’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against San Diego, then the Dons topped Saint Mary’s and BYU by two points each.

Summit Final: It was a tight battle between the South Dakotas. In the end the Jackrabbits upset the Coyotes, 61-55. That’s SDSU’s 7th trip to the NCAA in the last 8 years. BTW: A total of 8,647 fans packed the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting a record for a women’s Summit League championship.

Ivy: Penn, on Princeton’s home court, claimed their spot in this year’s Big Dance.

The Princeton women’s basketball team has lost seven Ivy League games in the last seven seasons. Penn won its second Ivy title in three seasons Wednesday night at Jadwin Gym, beating the Tigers, 62-60, in a game the Quakers led from late in the first quarter until the final two minutes. Penn gave up the lead for exactly 15 seconds, got it back on a three-point play from Anna Ross, the most skilled player on the court, and held it to the wire.

“As I just told my players you don’t get these opportunities too many times in sports to celebrate something like this,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just talked about some space being at the Palestra for them.”

Big East Final: I know the ESPN blurb says “St. John’s wins Big East title for 1st time since ’88” and it’s great for the Red Storm and New York basketball… but the headline is a bit disingenuous, dontcha think? (Yes, I’m still bitter the Old Big East is gone.) BUT, kudos to Creighton and congrats to St. John’s – ya took down the top dog and then earned a spot at in the Dance.

Big 12 Final: So, how good is Baylor lookin’? Ask Kim.

“Honestly, we’ve been playing pretty good, and I wish we could just keep playing,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You hate to stop and take a break, for fear that you can’t get back to where you just finished these last two or three weeks, because we’ve really played good basketball.”

Alexis Jones, who scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games. Beatrice Mompremier scored 15 points, and Niya Johnson added 11 for Baylor (33-1), which swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.

American Final: Stompity, stomp, stomp by UConn.

“If we play defense the way we played it tonight, we’re always going to have a chance,” Auriemma said. “Then how much we win by depends on how many shots go in for us.”

The shots were going in for Samuelson in the second quarter and she finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman nights like this make UConn fans dream that, yes, Samuelson has what it takes to be the next great player. “Stewy is obviously a lot more gifted, she can do so many more things,” Auriemma said. “But Lou has a different way of doing kind of the same things. The thing I like is if you challenge Lou really, really hard she responds. Those are the ones who usually turn out to be really good players, the ones who early on when you get after them they don’t wilt. They come of stronger.”

Oh, boy, opponents must love reading they have to look forward to.

Mechelle writes about those top four seeds: 

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue — if not downright doubt — about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn’t happen.

In progress conference tourneys had a couple of early upsets:

C-USA– First Round: North Texas (11-18, 5-13), who got our attention early in the season, faltered down the home stretch. That stop them from taking down Florida Atlantic (14-16, 6-12), 79-74. It’s the program’s first post-season win since 2011-12.

“I’m ecstatic to get a good team win,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it’s pretty balanced and everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance. Everything that we did helped us to get to this point”

C-USA – First Round: There’s lots of really upsetting news swirling around Florida International (5-25, 2-16). But, under interim head coach Tiara Malcom, the managed to pull it together and surprise Texas San Antonio (10-19, 6-12), 61-56.

Tomorrow games:

NEC Semis: Hello, old friend! Bryant v. Robert Morris; Sacred Heart v. St. Francis (PA)

Mountain West Semi: New Mexico v. #22 Colorado State

A-Sun Semis: FGCU v. old rival Stetson; upstart Jacksonville State v. South Carolina Upstate

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you should have been watching the Dukes v. the Colonials

Welcome back JJ!! It’s not quite Willis Reed-esque – she actually made an impact on the court (10 points, 15 rebounds,six blocks) – but what a lift for George Washington to have Jonquel Jones return for the A-10 Championship game. The Colonials brought a smothering defense to the fourth quarter and shut down Duquesne, earning the 63-60 win. Kudos to coach Tsipis and his “other” players for keeping the team on track in Jones’ absence. With a healthy Jones? Hmmm….

As for the rest…

Mercer tried to crawl back in the fourth, but Chattanooga was too much for them. Mocs over the Bears 65-57. It’s their fourth SoCon title in a row. Keep an eye on both these teams next year – especially Mercer –  there was only one senior on the court.

#2 Notre Dame earned its third consecutive ACC championship, getting an early lead on Syracuse and then moving on to a 11pt win. Next!

#3 South Carolina handled #16 Mississippi State, 66-52, to earn their second straight SEC title.

Don’t let the fourth quarter fool ya: The Ruth was on fire… and #8 Oregon State absolutely decimated #12 UCLA and claimed its 1st Pac 12 title.

#5 Maryland won its second connective Big 10 title by 16.

In the Big 12 semis it was #4 Baylor by 27 and #6 Texas by 16.

The AAC semis had #1 UConn by 47 and #20 USF by 18. Note/Flashback: Good to see Jim Clark back in the women’s basketball fold: AAC semifinals sees predictable results as UConn, USF advance

Sheer artistry. UConn in March (& April) over the last four years is just basketball at its best. Play after “Wow!” play. Defensive rotations that are smooth, switching and smothering an opponent. This year the Huskies feature a defense with 6-4 Katie Lou Samuelson at the top of the arc, and 6-5 Breanna Stewart blocking shots in the paint.

The opening minutes of Sunday’s American Athletic Tournament semifinal game were not quite perfect. UConn actually turned the ball over on its first possession. The Huskies followed that with nine buckets on the next nine possessions.

On edit: To be clear, I’m not dismissing the quality of the play by the victors. I just want to highlight that there are a big handful of teams giving it their all – and playing quality ball – outside of ESPN’s view. Take a moment to read about ’em. Or, if you’re in the area, catch a game.

On tap tomorrow:

MAAC final. It’s a Marist-free affair as Quinnipiac goes up against Iona.

WCC semis: If you’re in Las Vegas….  Santa Clara v. BYU and St. Mary’s v. San Francisco. It would be kinda cool if it was coach Payne v. coach Azzi. Talk about program builders!

Summit semis: Congrats, Omaha! In your first conference tourney, you took down the 3rd seed, IUPUI. Lucky you (that’s NY sarcasm), you’ve got the Wabbits next. In the other bracket, it’s South Dakota v. Oral Roberts.

AAC: #UConn v. #20 USF. The Bulls are playing the Huskies for the third time this season. If Kitija Laksa, conference Freshman of the Year, can’t return from her high ankle sprain, it’s tough to see a different result.

Big 12: #4 Baylor v. #6 Texas. Last time, the Bears mauled the Longhorns by 26. The previous time, by 13. Has Texas gotten tougher?

Looking ahead:

Ivy: Tuesday features Princeton v. Penn for a trip to the Big Dance. We’ve had our eye on this game since for.ev.er.

America East: We’ll have to wait until Friday for the 1/2 matchup between Albany and Maine. The Black Bears got a battle from Stony Brook, while Shareesha Richards led the Great Danes to a 36pt wins. Richards’ 33-point performance helped break her own Albany single-season scoring record of 694 points set last season. Richards is averaging 23.5 points per game.

Podcast alert: Army’s Kelsey Minato and West Viriginia’s Bria Holmes are two seniors leading the way to postseason success

First, Minato returns for her second appearance on the podcast; her first was a freshman when she left the California sun for upstate New York, following a family history of military experience. Fast forward four years, and Minato is now the leading scorer in the history of the Patriot League, breaking Molly Creamer’s record last night. On senior night, Minato became the first active player in Army West Point women’s basketball history to have her number retired and raised to the rafters.

The Black Knights finished the regular season 26-2, tied with Bucknell for top spot in the Patriot League and the top seed in the conference tournament due to tie-breakers. That means they will host all of their tournament games, where they are 14-0 for the season. They are a senior heavy team, and have been to either the WNIT or NCAA tournament each year of their careers.

You’re out (Dawley).

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