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and what a great trip. The landing, though, was a tad tough, what with having to jump deep back into work. What is it about taking a break seems to make work want to take it out on you…

So, about that championship game. Yah, it was a while ago, and ya, the final score says comfortable blowout, but it was a fun game, with Notre Dame showing a lot of heart (after a lot of nerves). I sure hope the ridiculousness between the two coaches/programs fades like so many family blowups.

Some of the good news: ratings.

Now, for those who are moaning, “oh, here we go again, UConn is “bad” for women’s basketball,” I simply say: don’t ignore what happened with the REST of the teams this past season. Lots of parity. Lots of young coaches. Next step: demand excellence from them. Raise expectations. Identify best practices. Stop complacency. Push for Title IX compliance. And hope for a little bit of luck and courage in the recruiting wars.

Case in point: From Mechelle –  A’JaWilson decision a big win for Staley – Nation’s top prospect averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as senior

....even though South Carolina was regarded as the favorite to land Wilson — a 6-foot-5 forward from the Gamecocks’ own backyard in Columbia, S.C. — the fact that she really did stay put is a big victory for coach Dawn Staley’s program.

It matters from a national perspective, as does the fact that UCLA has signed what’s considered the top-ranked recruiting class for 2014. The Bruins are also underdogs in women’s hoops that fans of the sport in general will root for to provide more diversity at the elite level of Division I.

I keep using terms like “fans of women’s basketball in general,” which might sound nebulous. But after so many years of following the sport, I think I have a pretty good handle on who they are.

Intriguing case in point: Diamond DeShields’ decision to transfer from North Carolina. Clearly, the actually reasons behind her move is still to be revealed, but it’s hard not to speculate (homesickness? looming NCAA sanctions?). Mechelle reflects on her interviews with Deshields this past season.

Remember when the news broke in May 2012 that four blue-chip juniors all decided to commit to North Carolina’s women’s basketball team?

Diamond DeShields was the point person in bringing them together, and it appeared to be a lottery-jackpot day for the Tar Heels. DeShields, Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington — ranked third, eighth, 15th and 17th, respectively, in their 2013 recruiting class — were all headed to Chapel Hill, N.C.

What could go wrong?

Well, it might have crossed your mind that day — it did mine — that when a group of teens makes long-range plans to do something complicated together, it might go awry. Not being ageist; it’s just that kids are kids. We’ve all been there.

Good news for Purdue: Hamby, Bays on the mend.

Interesting news for a CSU team that had a resurgent season: Four women’s basketball players are transferring

I was saddened to hear the news of coach Joe Curl’s passing. Most within the basketball world knew of his health struggles. They forced him to step away from his position as Houston Cougars’ coach. He came into national prominence during the 2003-04 season, where he and three-time C-USA Player of the Year, Chandi Jones, led  the Cougars to the second round in the NCAA tourney and earned AP National Coach of the Year honors. I remember him smiling as he picked up the award, almost embarrassed at being surrounded by press and the “elite” of basketball — Alana Beard was the AP’s NPOY. 

I was not surprised by Terri Mitchell’s dismissal from Marquette — she never quite seemed to be able to break through within the recruiting ranks.  I wonder if she’ll thrive better on different soil. We shall see if the Anonymous Eagles’ impression (Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.) is correct.

The Bulldogs didn’t look far to find their new coach, appointing longtime assistant Lisa Fortier as Gonzaga’s next leader. She’s going to have to find some new assistants, though.  I don’t know about you, but if Kelly Graves can do in Oregon what Scott Rueck has done at Oregon State, the west coast will be wicked fun to watch. (Interesting that associate head coach Mark Campbell left the Beavers to join the Ducks.)

Congrats to Natasha Adair, who’s moved from the College of Charleston back to Georgetown. Here’s hoping she can grow a program that seems to have lost the ground that Terri Williams-Flournoy seemed to have gained. Does the athletic department triply give a hoot about women’s basketball?

I remember Maren Walseth from the first Final Four I attended (2000 in Philly). She’s now the head coach at North Dakota State University. Interesting tidbit: Walseth’s sister, Annika, played for NDSU during the 2007-08 season.    

Nice to see Yolanda Moore move up the ranks. She’s now head coach at  Southeastern Louisiana University. “Moore spent the 2013-14 season as the head coach at LSU Eunice. Taking over a program that had won 17 games combined in the previous two seasons, Moore led the Lady Bengals to a 26-3 overall record and the program’s first-ever Miss-Lou Conference championship.”

Keep Fresno State on your “watch list,” as they plucked Jaime White from Northern Colorado.

More on the “WTF list:: Women’s basketball player appeals K-State transfer denial

 Leticia Romero has known she wanted to transfer for several weeks, but she will have to wait a little longer to find out if Kansas State will grant her a release from its women’s basketball program.

Romero, a rising freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, decided she wanted to leave K-State after the Wildcats fired Deb Patterson, the coach she signed on to play for, but the athletic department denied her initial transfer request. On Wednesday afternoon, she took her case to an appeals committee led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco. As of Wednesday night, the committee had not informed Romero of its decision.

Fashion Week in Illinois: Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

In WNBA news, Nate ranks has his 2014 Draft recap: The big winners and great value drafts (Spoiler alert: Connecticut, New York and Seattle do well).

Don’t miss Swish Appeal’s other musings:

Take a listen to Dishin & Swishin’s 04/17/14 Podcast: Anne Donovan & Fred Williams discuss Connecticut and Tulsa’s draft picks and offseason moves

Have you read Griner’s book “In My Skin” yet? Did you read Kate Fagan’s piece on Griner: Held Up n Customs: Live in China Gave Brittney More Than She Bargained For. 

THE NUMBER OF moving obstacles at a busy intersection in China can feel paralyzing for a pedestrian. None of the cars, mopeds or bikes appears to be following the traffic laws, which makes stepping off the curb a game of chance, like real-life Frogger.

And Brittney Griner is about to step off the curb.

“I’ve been hit once,” she says, seemingly unfazed at a busy corner in Zhejiang. “A moped ran into me from behind, but it wasn’t going that fast. It was my fault. I was trying to avoid traffic.”

Wait … what? Trying to avoid traffic is bad? “Totally wrong here,” Griner says. “You can’t stop walking. If you’re in motion, they’ll flow around you. It’s when you stop, when you freeze, that it becomes dangerous.”

Brittney Griner talks about her experience in China to ESPN’s Kate Fagan

In other news, Pokey is optimistic surgery won’t stop Fowles (as in, back mid-season?)

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It’s been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year’s blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

As a counter to the seemingly never ending “Will the W fail” articles: For The WNBA, Jersey Sponsorships Signal Corporate And Community Support

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Conference play started about a month ago. Time to see what’s shakin’ where in the D-I Standings.

American East – The Great Danes have been replaced by the Terriers at the top of the Conference. And yes, the standings are upside down: Binghamton, UMBC and Albany.

A-10: Suzie and her Dukes sit in third with one loss. It’s Xavier and Temple who are undefeated.

ACC: Duke solidified their place atop the ACC with their blowout over Miami. Virgina Tech continues its slide into obscurity, sitting at 9-13 (0-8 in the conference).

A-Sun: It’s still Florida Gulf Coast and the other folks.

Big 12: A tough conference where Baylor seems to be class of the lot.

Big East: Two teams are undefeated in the Conference — do you have DePaul or UConn tonight? Oh, and it’s likely someone will go defeated this year — Seton Hall or Villanova?

Big Sky: Idaho State couldn’t carry their out-of-conference momentum into league play, and it so it’s Northern Colorado and Montana State (do you read coach Tricia Binford’s blog?).

Big South: The status quo has reasserted itself — Liberty number 1 at 7-1. But Radford’s also got a 7-1 record.

Big 10: Right. You predicted this. Right. The standings show Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin.

Big West: Cal Poly rules over the UCs with an 8-1 conference record.

Colonial: Coop is having a nice first season — her NC-Wilmington team is in a three-way tie for the top spot with James Madison and Old Dominion.

Conf-USA: Yes, it is a great battle between McFerrin’s Memphis Tigers and Stockton’s Tulane Green Wave. But Todd Buchanan’s first season is giving people Joe Curl flashbacks (and you have to believe Associate Wade Scott has had a huge hand in their success) as Houston rules.

Independents: That would be Cal State Bakersfield and Savannah State above .500.

Great West: Hello, Chicago State at 6-0?

Horizon: Still no surprise, Green Bay is number one. That would be Butler at their heels.

Ivy: Alison Feaster’s old team is undefeated in conference play.

MAAC: The Red Foxes: 11-0 in conference, 20-2 non-conference. Joe Logan’s Loyola (MD) team is 9-2 in conference, but 12-10 overall.

Mid-American: Bowling Green in the East, but hello, Kent State is tied with them. Toledo has overtaken Eastern Michigan in the West – with Central Michigan lurking.

MEAC: Hampton and their band are still #1.

Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa leads the conference at 9-1, but Creighton is 8-2.

Mountain West: Looks like it’s going to be a battle between Brigham Young, Wyoming, and TCU.

Northeast: Things are still all bunched up, but now it’s St. Francis (PA), Robert Morris Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson.

Ohio Valley: Tennessee Tech is 11-1 in the conference, but Morehead is lurking at 10-2.

PAC-10: It’s Stanford and everyone else.

Patriot League: Navy is 6-1. How cool is that? American sits behind’em at 5-2.

SEC: It’s obvious that Tennessee is first in show, followed by a traffic jam of teams.

Southern: Appalachian State has roared into the top position (12-2/18-4). Samford and Elon are in the #2 and #3 spots.

Southland: Teams have totally switched spots: McNeese State (East) and Texas- San Antonio (West).

SWAC: It’s Southern U at 8-1 and the Coop-less-Wilson-led Prairie View tucked in behind them at 7-2.

Summitt: Oral Roberts is undefeated in conference play.

Sunbelt: In the East, it’s Middle Tennessee being chased by Western Kentucky.  The West has undefeated (9-0) Arkansas-Little Rock dominating.

West Coast: Gonzaga still rules with an 8-0 in-conference record.

WAC: Looks like Nevada out-of-conference schedule was rather cupcakey, ’cause it’s LaTech (7-0), Fresno State (6-1) and Idaho (5-3).

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