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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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So semi-shouted the gentleman Ohio State fan (now from Florida) with a big grin on his face as the fans at Madison Square Garden roared and groaned their way through a double-overtime playoff loss.

True dat.

Three of the four playoff games have been tight tests as teams shored up their defense, tighten up their offense, and tried to ride through small mistakes that were suddenly magnified to game changers. There simply is no favorite this yearexcept for the team you’re cheering for – and that, Mr. Silver, is something you should be shouting from the rooftops.

In case you were a classroom teacher-parent-admnistrator-scheduler trying to negotiation the silliness that is this September’s school schedule, here’s what you missed:

Phoenix-Tulsa

Tulsa fought hard to get to the playoffs, but Game One was all swatty-swat-swat-swat-swat… well, you know the rest. Defensive Player of the Year made sure the game was all about her.

Brittney Griner literally rolled into the pregame news conference to announce that she had been named the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row.

She arrived at the platform on a hoverboard, one of those two-wheeled contraptions that looks like a Segway without the handles.

The first time Phoenix Mercury general manager Jim Pitman saw his star center riding around on her new toy, he admitted it made him “very nervous.”

“But I’ve seen other people ride it and she is, by far, the best at it,” Pitman said. “So I feel a little better about that.”

Even in the face of the most publicly tumultuous year of her basketball career, it’s really difficult not to feel good about Griner in any context.

Chicago-Indiana

What’s lovely and brilliant about Elena earning the MVP is this simple truth: She’s an extraordinary basketball talent, and we just had no idea if she (and we) would get an opportunity to delight in her skills. For this year, at least, it was a resounding, “Yes!” (Oh, and the Times like one of her skills a lot: Elena Delle Donne’s M.V.P. Year Includes Mastery of Free Throws)

Of course, you’d be foolish to count Indy out. And speaking of counting, Mr. Silver: Indiana Fever among league leaders in sponsorship sales, profitability

New York-Washington – Prince was magnificent, Tina was ferocious, Latta was timely and Lawson modeled the resilience that defined the Mystics. Neither team gave an inch. What. a. game. In the end, as the Times wrote, Once Again, Mystics Have Liberty’s Number

In their first playoff game at Madison Square Garden since 2010, the Liberty treated their fans to a thrilling 50 minutes of basketball, but they now stand one game away from elimination after an 86-83 double-overtime loss on Friday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

In a game that had 23 lead changes, the Mystics had an 82-80 lead and were on the precipice of closing out the Liberty when Mystics guard Tayler Hill was fouled with 62 seconds remaining.

William Rhoden wrote: Liberty Relying on Epiphanny Prince to Return to Her Old Ways – but first, they need to hit their free throws.

Leading up to the game, Gene at WaPo wrote: Mystics count on balance in WNBA playoffs, without a star to guide them

Charged with rebuilding the Washington Mystics, Coach-General Manager Mike Thibault arrived in December 2012 at a considerable disadvantage because of some horrible luck. In the WNBA draft lottery three months earlier, the Mystics, with the league’s worst record, had drawn the fourth pick and eventually missed out on Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins.

Without a franchise player, Thibault began assembling a team in which every member of the roster would be asked to contribute. The result has been three straight playoff appearances, including this year as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

WTOP offered: Mystics bring local flavor to WNBA playoff run

As we wind toward October, many Washington sports fans may feel disillusioned about the “P” word. But there’s a playoff-bound team here in the District, one with a chance to break a title drought with a pair of area natives guiding the way.

That team, if you haven’t been paying attention, is the Washington Mystics, who begin their quest for a first-ever WNBA title Friday in New York. And while they received big news this week about their new future home across the Anacostia, they have a chance right now to ensure they have a banner to hang when they open that building in 2018.

If the Mystics can win this year, they’ll do so with two Alexandria, Virginia, natives in the backcourt, rising defensive star Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and one of the league’s icons, Kara Lawson.

After Trader Bill earned COY honors (though, as my seatmate suggested, not coach of the last 20 seconds of the game) honors, Mechelle reflected: Laimbeer really was the best option for New York to succeed

The day the Liberty announced they were not bringing him back, I spoke with Laimbeer, and he didn’t have anything negative to say about the organization. He didn’t sound upset or angry.

He explained how the former Detroit Shock organization was different from New York. In Detroit, Laimbeer felt that as coach and general manager, he had a lot of autonomy and answered to only one person: the president and CEO of the Pistons and Shock.

With Madison Square Garden, which owns the Liberty, Laimbeer thought there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Although, that’s my phrase for it. The phrase he used was, “They’ve got a lot of moving pieces.”

My biggest frustration with the Liberty, who are an original WNBA franchise, had always been that there were people who had power — at least in name — with the organization but were not entirely engaged with the Liberty.

The AP’s Melissa Murphy offered this: Liberty Shot-Blocker Stokes Contender for Rookie of Year

Stokes has transitioned from defensive role player for the three-time defending champion Huskies to multifaceted spark plug off the bench for the resurgent Liberty, who face the Washington Mystics on Friday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

“She came in and played like a veteran from the start,” said New York coach Bill Laimbeer. “I think that’s a UConn upbringing, they’ve played so many big games. Her defense has been spectacular for us all season long.”

Minnesota-Los Angeles

Yes, Maya was Maya-esque, but that almost wasn’t enough – even with Augustus and Whalen back.

“This team has great leaders that know how to respond,” Moore said. “Everybody had great focus going into the locker room. People were speaking up, talking about what was going on and everybody was saying things that were great – very helpful – so going into the second half with the right mindset, knowing what we want to focus on as well as our energy – it worked out for us.”

Pregame, Pat Borzi wrote: The Lynx’s title hopes confront a much-improved WNBA

Look closely at the royal blue sneakers the Lynx will be wearing for their Western Conference semifinal series against the Los Angeles Sparks. Seimone Augustus’s number 33 appears on the back of most. Augustus swears up and down this was a mistake, which is interesting, considering Augustus ordered the shoes from Nike herself.

“Nike sent over the ID and told me to ID them,” Augustus said, laughing after this detail was pointed out to her. “I figured I’d ID mine and they would kind of put everyone else’s on. They decided to put 33 on the back of everybody’s.”

In one of the WNBA’s cooler traditions, Lynx players break out identical brightly-colored sneakers for the playoffs. The color choice falls to Augustus, a nod to her seniority (she’s been with the Lynx longer than anyone, since 2006) and impeccable fashion sense. For a team beset by injuries and the general upheaval from two major trades, having even a sneaker order go wrong seemed so apropos to an off-kilter season that Augustus and her teammates laughed it off.

L.A. needs to stop the turnovers, or else….

In other news:

Australia: Carrie Graf: ‘Barefoot with a basketball and a smile, that’s all that mattered’

It’s 35 degrees, the humidity is overwhelming and chooks are scurrying across the court as Carrie Graf coaches village kids in Micronesia.

For the veteran Canberra Capitals mentor, this is well outside her comfort zone.

With seven WNBL championships and an Olympic bronze medal to her name, Graf is used to ordering the likes of Lauren Jackson about. But a chance to give back to a sport which has given her so much convinced Graf to take her young family on an adventure into the unknown.

Cool! (Though I think the headline should read “against”) FSU Women’s Basketball Shooting 24-Hours of Free Throws for Cancer

Take a Minute: Virginia women’s basketball team works with Special Olympics athletes

Good news for the Red Foxes: Marist’s Jarosz to return to women’s basketball team

Loss in Florida: Palm Beach State College sophomore Benetria Robinson was killed in a shooting

From Florida: 

Even before an important step Tuesday toward the start of the college basketball season in two months, FGCU women’s basketball coach Karl Smesko already has been encouraged by fall workouts…he’s already seen enough to feel good about FGCU’s chances to expand on its perennial success and last season’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory.

Off court: New York Liberty star Tina Charles determined to help her community

From the Huffington Post: Here’s Why You Should Be Paying Attention To The WNBA – “How is it a great time to be a female athlete if you pick and choose who you leave out?” (A Player’s Tribune recap) and How Reshanda Gray Went From South Central LA To The WNBA – “If it wasn’t for where I come from, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

When the WNBA playoffs tip off on Thursday, the Atlanta Dream will be absent in the hunt for a championship. Yet while her team may not have notched a playoff berth, this season caps an unlikely journey from South Central Los Angeles to professional basketball for rookie forward Reshanda Gray.

Raised in the rough LA neighborhood, Gray, 22, shared a one-bedroom apartment with seven other brothers and sisters as well as a difficult upbringing.

“My life as girl growing up, it wasn’t always pretty. I didn’t get the chance to live a normal, happy childhood. There were always challenges,” Gray, choking up, told The Huffington Post in a recent interview.

“Where I’m from, not many people make it out. So it was hard to find that one little push to see something outside of South Central LA,” she said. 

Killing time before the games? Ponder: WHO IS THE BEST [U.S.] [“Modern-era”] WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF ALL TIME?

espnW recently crowned the best female athlete ever. Which got us thinking: Who are the best women’s basketball players in history? Mechelle Voepel and Michelle Smith of espnW, and ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck each ranked their players. We counted the votes and seeded the players accordingly. Now it’s up to you to determine who advances and who is eliminated. Click through the matchups, read Voepel’s take on each player, and be sure to vote in the poll at the bottom of each page — or hit Twitter and vote for your favorite players with the hashtag #WBest(player’s last name). Voting for the first round will run through Monday, Sept. 21.

Might I suggest some write-in votes? From Teresa Edwards.

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(And no, I’m not talking about me watching a record number of games yesterday…)

Catch and the Fever (not related to KC and the Sunshine Band… or Peter and the Starcatcher) arrived in Phoenix and gave the Merc a good rap on the head. In the process, Tamika moved into 2nd place on the all-time rebounding list and Phoenix went 0-13 on threes.

Yah, you didn’t picture that coming: Mystics topple WNBA-best Lynx behind Latta’s offense, Ruffin-Pratt’s defense

Washington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault had challenged his club’s moxie entering Sunday’s showdown with an opponent widely considered the favorite to win a third WNBA title in five years.

Later in the week, players talked about how a victory over the Minnesota Lynx could alert the rest of the league that perhaps the Mystics belong in the championship conversation as well.

And: How the Mystics beat the WNBA’s best team: Latta and Lawson

Both the Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics came into Sunday afternoon’s game with a lot on the line. With the best record in the WNBA, the Lynx would look for a win to help them secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and Washington would look for a critical win to help them stand out in a packed Eastern Conference. Ultimately, Washington would come out on top. 77-69

And: Stefanie Dolson finds her comfort level, and Mystics benefit

Washington center Stefanie Dolson came to training camp in May looking a little nervous. It wasn’t that she hadn’t prepared well for her second season in the WNBA, because she definitely had. It wasn’t that she didn’t have confidence in herself, because that’s steadily been building since her days at UConn.

Dolson simply wanted to show she was ready to be an integral part of the Mystics, but she was almost getting in her own way in her early practices.

The Sparks took down Chicago behind Parker’s monster game… making me think that Minnesota is saying, “Lose, Tulsa, LOSE (so L.A. gets the 3rd or 2nd seed.)

BTW: Girls Rule, Boys Drool, Elena Delle Donne and Michelle Beadle style.

In Seattle, the Storm hosted Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took a break from training camp on Sunday to attend the Seattle Storm’s 72-63 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Wilson attended the game with his girlfriend, singer Ciara, his mother and his sister, Anna, who is a point guard entering her senior season in high school. She has committed to play at Stanford.

Russell has said in the past that Anna can beat him one-one-one. He also has called her the best athlete in the family.

Oh, and they beat San Antonio, too.

There are two ways Jewell Loyd communicates — playing basketball and barking.

On Sunday, the No. 1 overall draft pick did a lot of postgame wolfing after leading Seattle to a 72-63 win against the San Antonio Stars at KeyArena. Loyd had a team-high 18 points with six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

“We’re trying to find the inner dog within us,” said Loyd of herself, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Markeisha Gatling forming the “Dog Pack.” Loyd began the season asking to not start and has since grown to be named July’s rookie of the month.

Filling out the field: Australia, Canada women’s basketball teams qualify for Rio Olympics

Also: Australia’s Opals off to Rio Olympics after win over New Zealand Tall Ferns

OPALS coach Brendan Joyce expected New Zealand to “grow an arm and a leg” and it did, pushing Australia to the brink in an 80-63 Oceania classic in Tauranga.

Don’t let the blow-out nature of the final score fool you – the Tall Blacks gave Australia as much as it could handle and arguably its toughest game of the past three years, the world championship clash against the US exempted.

But in the end, Joyce’s veterans Laura Hodges and Suzy Batkovic, plus budding playmaker Tessa Lavey ensured the Opals would be heading for another Olympic campaign and medal chase in Rio.

Also: Canadian women’s basketball team wins Olympic spot – Kia Nurse leads host nation with 20 points in final match

Couple of things about the game:

Hey, that’s my sis! Darnell Nurse inspired by sister Kia’s performance in basketball this summer

Darnell Nurse doesn’t know how he can keep up with his younger sister Kia.

Kia helped Canada win the FIBA Americas women’s championship on Sunday night, clinching an Olympic berth at the 2016 Rio Games. She was also instrumental in Canada’s gold-medal performance at the Pan American Games in Toronto earlier this summer.

“I’m not sure what I can do,” said Darnell, a defenceman in the Edmonton Oilers’ organization. “Maybe I’ll have to get out of my comfort zone and challenge her to a one-on-one game on the street before I leave for Edmonton. We’ll see, I’ve got a lot of practising to do.”

Asked if he’d played Kia at basketball recently, Darnell said that discretion had been the better part of valour.

More on the Canadians – and women’s basketball history: Grads’ influence on women’s basketball a dream for Canadian crew – National team did a decent imitation this week at Saville Centre

This isn’t the first time that Edmonton has seen this kind of dominance in the women’s game, but there are very few people still alive who saw it the first time.

With each day they spend in Edmonton, whether training out of the Saville Community Sports Centre or chasing a spot in next year’s Olympic Games, Canada’s women’s basketball team is breathing life into the 100-year-old legacy of the Edmonton Grads — even if that legacy is somewhat under the radar.

Speaking of Canada: Basketball leader recognized

To see Keith Brown coaching at a basketball tournament one would see a quiet reserved gentleman, not your typical coach. However, the passion he has for the sport of basketball is evident.

It’s this passion and dedication to girls’ basketball, and its growth in Grand Falls-Windsor (GFW), that has earned him the award of “Minor Coach of the Year” from the Newfoundland Labrador Basketball Association (NLBA).

During the last basketball season, Keith coached three junior high basketball teams!

Girls’ basketball has grown over the years.  Brown’s passion, knowledge and love of the game has been beneficial to the basketball program in GFW.

Three years ago, it was the East and West Coast teams that were dominating basketball. This past season, Brown brought the sport of basketball to a whole new level with several gold and silver medal wins between his three teams.

Speaking of history (MA): Pioneering Spirit Part I: First a Tiger, then a Friar, Ipswich’s Benirowski Canty ruled the court

The girls athletic programs at Ipswich also blossomed during that period, especially basketball under coach Kiki Papagiotis. She carved out a Hall of Fame career at the school by producing a 209-37 record, including a state championship in 1979-80.

Papagiotis did it with some extraordinary players, of course. Kathy Paganis, who was a field hockey All-American, was one of the keys for the dominant basketball team along with Ellen Galanis, who was the first Ipswich girl to net a college scholarship, ending up at Division 2 Bentley in Waltham. Both Paganis and Galanis graduated in 1977.

Then along came future Ipswich Hall of Famer Jayne Benirowski, who became Jayne Benirowski Canty after she was married. She was the baby of that group, if you will, a sophomore when Paganis and Galanis were seniors.

In NCAA news: In light of the “new violations” self-reported by UNC, Doc Kennedy of the Tar Heel blog is trying to Sort Through The Silly and the Specious of the Weekend

I readily admit I was among those who had consigned Hatchell to the dustbin, given the weight of the NCAA mess coupled with the mass defections from her program by the outstanding recruiting class of 2013. But other than rampant speculation and the lack of an extension of a contract on which three years still remain, is there any evidence that Hatchell is being scapegoated or sacrificed to save Williams or the men’s team?

An editorial in the News & Observer offers their answer: A double standard at UNC-CH over contracts for Williams and Hatchell

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already facing enough allegations in its academic and athletic fraud scandal to make it one of the broadest sets of charges against an athletic program in NCAA history. Somehow, however, the university’s leadership has found a way to add an entirely new allegation to the mess – sexism.

Encouraging: NYC Vows 500 More High School Teams for Girls

Last spring, administrators at Beacon High School in Manhattan handed out a survey to students.

Rising sophomore Anjali Rao says no explanation or context was given for the questionnaire, which probed her school’s sports offerings and her sports preferences.

The survey didn’t seem like a big deal to Rao. “Beacon is known for its sports,” said the 15 year old in a recent interview at Women’s eNews’ office here. “Girls play the same sports as boys.”

But the information gained from it–due out this fall from the New York Department of Education–may help the country’s largest school system provide girls with more team sports opportunities at its more than 400 high schools.

In February, the U.S. Department of Education determined that many female students in the system did not enjoy equal athletic “opportunities,” a violation of Title IX, the federal law mandating that all schools with public funding provide equitable educational opportunities and benefits; sports included. (A participation opportunity is defined as a roster spot for one athlete on one team in one sport.)

Two shout outs:

  1. To friend, friend of the blog, friend of women’s basketball Phil, who is putting together an amazing “Coaches reaching milestone wins.” HUGE amount of work, but essential so folks across the Divisions and high school get the recognition they deserve
  2. To the folks who have signed up to join me at the Maggie Dixon Classic in the Garden on Monday, December 28th. We’re up to 100. If you want to come with, drop me a line: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com

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in case you missed the Block Party:

No disrespect intended to Seattle, but what on earth is up with Atlanta?

Kara says, “I’ve still got it!”

Injuries stink, but Tulsa Shock players have maintained bond despite adversity – Relocation rumor is the latest distraction for a team fighting for playoffs

As Maya and Elena go toe-to-toe in the race for MVP, Patricia Babcock McGraw offers up this: Maya Moore’s grandparents back her every step of the way

Having just walked through the door for his long-awaited visit, Grandpa Bob from Chicago could barely get his coat off before he was being pulled back outside.

A young Maya Moore, a grade schooler living with her mother in Missouri at the time, had her basketball ready.

“She’d say, ‘Let’s go play some ball, Grandpa,'” recounted Grandma Petrina Moore.

“And she didn’t like to lose,” Bob Moore added with a laugh.

About the game cancelled by flight trauma. Some folks are getting all up in arms about it. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Until they and their arms are emptying their pockets of money and enthusiastically supporting the league (be it it in person by proxy) the business model doesn’t support charters. I am intrigued that John Altavilla is suggesting the league look in to the Fever’s travel….intrigue anyone?

USA basketball was involved in some stomp and squeak. I’m sure the Pan-Am kids are wondering who the heck came up with this schedule. They go for gold at 8:45 p.m. EDT tomorrow (live on ESPNU) against Canada.

A little historical shout out: Where are they now? Suzie Snider Eppers redefined basketball at Baylor

Nearly 40 years after she wrapped up her run as a prolific scorer for the Baylor Bearettes women’s basketball team, Suzie Snider Eppers is still scoring points.

Now they’re brownie points. For when Grandma does something sweet to spoil her grandchildren, she scores big-time.

Retirement is suiting Eppers just fine, thank you very much. Arguably Baylor’s most gifted women’s athlete in school history, Eppers is enjoying downshifting life’s gearstick to the slow lane.

Speaking of which, I guess I can (almost) stop wishing the Bears lose every game now: Did Southern Baptist Baylor University Just Sign Off On Gay Sex Among Students?

Gay sex may no longer be explicitly prohibited at Baylor University, as long as the two people are married.

The Southern Baptist school in Waco, Texas, has removed “homosexual acts” from its misconduct policy. However, the policy still states that “physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”

It’s unclear whether the change comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. From The Waco Herald-Tribune:

“These changes were made because we didn’t believe the language reflected the university’s caring community,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman wrote in an email. “The university has a responsibility to articulate clearly and consistently Baylor’s commitment to its values as a Christian university.”

Congrats! 

Stephanie Smiley only had one option to play college basketball.

She made sure to make the most of that lone opportunity.

Smiley went from under the radar following a strong prep career at Holt to one of the best women’s basketball players in program history at Eastern Michigan. And Smiley will be honored for her athletic accomplishments July 30 when she is one of nine individuals and three teams inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame.

The induction will be part of a banner year for Smiley, who is also part of the 2015 class heading into the Eastern Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame this fall.

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From the Daily Tar Heel: 

“It was about how she would be viewed. How would a potential employer view her?” Tuggle said. “Would the employer look at her skill set? Or would they automatically sort of disqualify her in their minds because she played basketball at Carolina?”

The program that benefits from UNC’s huge missteps: South Carolina. No wonder Dawn’s staying put.

Speaking of transfers: Terps women’s basketball confident, despite Lexie Brown’s departure

While the NCAA tries to figure out what it can and can’t do (or will and won’t do) about the Heel’s pit of twisted rules, others at the Buckeye Battle Cry are pondering the changing rules on court. The folks who actually have to make the calls are taking, too.

New Mexico wised up: Sanchez’s 4-year deal is official

About those lawsuits… Illini Chancellor confident in AD

“Yeah,” Wise said fairly emphatically. “I mean, I do not want to rush to judgment. I want to wait until all the investigations are done.”

From the Daily Californian: Brittany Boyd, Reshanda Gray face challenges adapting to new roles in WNBA

From Arizona:Leilani Mitchell shooting her way to success as Mercury’s new point guard

From ESPN: How Connecticut Has Landed In A Surprising Spot — Atop The East

Anne Donovan could have played the disrespect card. She could have used the preseason predictions that had her Connecticut Sun team finishing last in the Eastern Conference as a source of motivation for her team, something that would have stoked the players’ competitive pride.

But the truth is, she can’t really blame people for what they thought.

Coach Donovan can also be heard on the Dishin’ and Swishin’ podcast.

From D.C.: The Conversation: Mystics’ Kara Lawson on being home, broadcasting and the WNBA

Amazing (and thanks, Doug): 5 torn ACLs later, Jacki Gemelos finally makes WNBA roster

The Sky had brought her in as a free agent to training camp before she was the final cut. General manager and coach Pokey Chatman knew she wanted Gemelos in a Chicago uniform and when guard Allie Quigley left to play for Hungary in the Eurobasket tournament this week, a spot opened up on the roster.

“I had tears of joy, tears of every emotion that I felt,” Gemelos said about signing her first WNBA contract. “Even when I was putting on the uniform in my first scrimmage, I was tearing up inside. Wearing that jersey and being so close. It was tough when they cut me, but now I’ll be able to play in my first real WNBA game. It’s going to be hard to keep it together.”

Gemelos will get her first chance Friday in Atlanta.

WATN? Ex-WNBA Standout Andrea Stinson Takes Next Coaching Step at National Tryout

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Wicked early flight meant getting up wicked-er early, so I’m looking forward to a nap soon.

It’s chilly-greening-spring here in Tennessee – 40 or so when we landed, but the Final Four greeter promised us 64 by noon. When you’re in the sun, yes….when you’re not? Brrrrrr!

Easy car pick up, then headed to East Nashville for some breakfast at Marche Artisan Foods. Great service, yummy food…

With time to kill before the hotel opened up, drove into, through and around downtown Nashville. Small and bustling at the center. Different, more concentrated vibe than when I was in Knoxville for the WBHOF induction ceremony a while back. Strong mix of old and new architecture.

Continued our wandering exploration and end up driving past Vanderbilt (yes, as we researched, started by THAT Vanderbilt – hence the “Commodores” nickname.) Did you know the campus was also an arboretum? Did a quick drive through – really, really lovely. Also stopped by Centennial Park to visit the Parthenon and did some walking. Yup, it’s big. Nearby lake is being dredged/cleaned, so that wasn’t so scenic.

It’s early for birds – but there is a list: RobinsBlue Jays, a lone Turkey Vulture, cackling Grackles, some beautiful Bank Swallows, noisy Northern Mockingbird, a gregarious Carolina Wren, and an early Hermit Thrush.

Next on the agenda, the aforementioned nap, then a return to East Nashville to partake of the fare at the Eastland Cafe. Then, we’re off to the Grand Ole Opry!

Phew!

Hoping tomorrow features a visit with a WBHOF inductee, coffee, brunch, barbecue and two fabulous games.

Until them, some more reading (and listening): First, make sure you check out the Tennessean’s coverage:

Fans show love early in Women’s Final Four

Kara Lawson: No favorite between Pat, Geno

Rebecca Lobo: UConn is beatable

Legendary lady Pat Summitt: Pride of Cheatham County

WOOT! WOOT! WBB HISTORY!! Nashville Business College: Champions before their time – LONG BEFORE TENNESSEE AND UCONN, THESE FARM GIRLS DOMINATED WOMEN’S BASKETBALL AND THEIR RECORD IS UNMATCHED TODAY.

Final Four teams have fun at Ryman

UConn’s Dolson, Hartley old hands at Final Four, Post
More Than Anything, Geno Demands Sweat From UConn Women, Courant
More Awards For Stefanie Dolson, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 Seed UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Seed Stanford, Courant
Pictures: Behind The Scenes With UConn Women In Nashville, Courant
It’s a Great Time to be a Husky, Stefanie Dolson

Stanford’s supporting cast stepping up to help Ogwumike, Register
ESPN analyst touts Ogwumike’s pro potential, SFGate
Lawson Says Stanford Has Best Shot At UConn, Hartford Courant

U-Md. abuzz as women’s basketball team heads to Final Four, Washington Post
Nashville already full of Maryland fans, ABC
Majoring in Chemistry, Chloe Pavlech

Before UConn, ND should fear Terps, Observer
Notre Dame Women: Save Your Pity, Blue & Gold
Irish must prove doubters wrong, Kate Fagan
Geno (And USA Basketball) Love Kayla McBride, Hartford Courant

Dishin & Swishin 04/03/14 Podcast: Breaking down the Final Four with coaches Doug Bruno, Lindsay Gottlieb & Coquese Washington, HoopFeed

Duke coach’s analysis of women’s Final Four, Bradenton Herald

In Women’s Final Four, Jousting Before the First Jump Ball, yea! It’s Harvey at the New York Times

Beating UConn rarely leads to title – Most teams that beat UConn in NCAA tourney don’t win NCAA championship, Mechelle Voepel

Rematches story of women’s Final Four, AP Teresa M. Walker

Five minutes with ESPN analyst Kara Lawson, Nashville Business Journal

NCAA hosting women’s hoops summit at Final Four, AP Doug

 

As coach Mitchell cuts to assistant coaches, Sea of Blue is Taking a Moment To Celebrate The Season That Was

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Okay, they get away with the name ONLY because they’re from Chickasha: Former player remembers last Lady Chicks state trip.

The last time a Lady Chicks basketball team went to state, none of the current squad, technically, existed.

It was 1995, the first internet search engine, Yahoo!, had just been invented; in that early spring time no one was aware of the fate facing the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and the WNBA wasn’t even around. The feelings inside the Lady Chicks’ camp then are now being played out once again.

“None of these girls were born yet, I was a freshman in college; that really puts it in perspective,” head coach Christy Edelen said. “It’s an honor that doesn’t come around too often.”

On the move in the W: Sun Acquire Bentley; Lawson Reunited With Thibault In D.C.

The reshaping of the WNBA‘s Connecticut Sun began in a big way Wednesday with the trade of veteran guard Kara Lawson to the Washington Mystics.

The three-way deal with the Atlanta Dream brings Alex Bentley, the former Penn State guard, to the Sun.

The day began with Washington trading guard Matee Ajavon and its second-round pick, the 18th in the draft, to Atlanta for Bentley and a third-round pick (No. 32) in this year’s draft.

Also on the move: Mercury trade for Erin Phillips from the Indiana Fever

The Mercury announced a trade Tuesday, acquiring guard Erin Phillips from the Indiana Fever in exchange for forward Lynetta Kizer and a first-round draft pick.

Phillips, a six-year veteran with the Fever and Connecticut Sun, has averaged 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 152 games (67 starts), and won the 2012 WNBA championship as a member of the Fever.

The trades awaken Richard at WNBAlien: Grading the Trade: Phoenix filch Phillips from Fever for 1st and Grading the Trade: Three-way deal sends Lawson to D.C., Bentley to Connecticut, and confusion to Atlanta (with Matee Ajavon)

It’s Famous Fan Friday – Jackson backs the Swans

If this weekend’s Sydney Derby is a battle for NSW fans, then Australian basketball champion Lauren Jackson has already picked her side.

The Seattle Storm forward, who has been granted a season of leave from her WNBA commitments to recover from knee and ankle surgery, will be back home in Australia this year and will be supporting her beloved ‘Swannies’ throughout the 2014 season.

Speaking of LJ: Jackson, Taylor in Australia training squad

Still speaking of LJ: Australian Basketball Legend Lauren Jackson Joins Athlete Ally

“I respect all of my friends, family and teammates for the people they are. That’s why I feel it’s important to advocate for equality for the LGBT in sports and beyond. Joining Athlete Ally as an Ambassador is a way for me to publicly express this support, and I’m delighted to become a part of such an important cause,” Jackson said.  

Congrats: Katie Smith to Receive OHSAA Ethics and Integrity Award

Congrats: Indy Pride & More Team Up with Indiana Fever for Diversity Night – The trend of professional sports teams aligning with LGBT individuals and groups makes its way to Indianapolis.

WATN? Former WNBA player Edna Campbell headlines Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Survivors’ Day

From the Advertiser’s Al Karré: Former UL athlete deserves place of honor

In February, The Daily Advertiser, in celebration of Black History Month, ran a picture of former Ragin’ Cajun and WNBA basketball star Kim Perrot.

Now, during Women’s History Month, it is equally appropriate to honor her.

It has been a little more than 14 years since her passing, but in the hearts and minds of basketball fans, she continues to live on as a shining example of excellence at the highest level of sports.

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