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Under an enormous amount of scrutiny – both by the Secret Service and by grumpy Committee bashers – the #8 Tigers and #9 Phoenix put together a nice game. Princeton dominated the boards and nailed their free throws to secure their first NCAA tourney win.

Courtney Banghart had seen it once too often. It was not much more than a year ago and one more time than she could stomach watching Annie Tarakchian, then a sophomore, catch the ball in good position near the basket, hold the ball over her head and look to pass without ever showing the slightest inclination to propel a strong frame to the basket.

“Annie is about the most gentle soul on this earth, and she’s really kind,” Banghart said. “Those two, gentle and kind, are not great inside the lines. Inside the lines for the first year and a half at Princeton she was gentle and kind.”

So when Tarakchian was passive one too many times in practice before a key road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth a season ago, Princeton already in a hole in the Ivy League race by then, Banghart whistled proceedings to a halt and delivered a simple rebuke. 

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

If you recall, Susie McConnell-Serio’s team opened the season rather inauspiciously. That’s all forgotten as #10 Pitt Panthers produced a HUGE win for the program as they upset #7 Chattanooga, 51-40.

“Walking up to hal court at the end of the game I said to him, ‘This is bittersweet,’ because I have so much respect for him,” she said. “I think he is one of the best coaches in the game, and I’m so happy that he’s still coaching because he just has so much to offer to his players.

“So as happy as I am for our team and our program, it was hard to look at him as I was shaking his hand.”

It’s fly like an Eagle time, as #7 FGCU defeats #10 Oklahoma State, 75-67. They move into the second round for the first time in program history.

Smesko said the men’s team’s run two years ago has been “fantastic” bringing recognition for the school, located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, in southwest Florida.

“We’ve been right on the precipice for a long time,” Smesko said. “We know our next game is going to be against one of the very best teams in the country.”

#13 Liberty has been a hard-nosed program for a while – as #4 North Carolina quickly re-discovered – but the Tar Heels pulled out the win.

 Latifah Coleman and Allisha Gray weren’t going to let Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the NCAA Tournament end so soon.

Gray scored 17 points and Coleman had 15 to lead North Carolina past Liberty 71-65 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) shot 49 percent, led by 14 and withstood the Flames’ late push to give their Hall of Fame coach a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to fight leukemia.

“This whole week, I have been so stressed out,” Hatchell said. “It’s a good stressed because I’m so excited about the tournament.”

Taking lessons from their football team, #15 Boise State was not intimidated by #2 Tennessee – even on their home court. In the end, the Vols escaped the Broncos.

The Lady Vols were clinging to a 63-58 lead after Boise State’s Camille Redmon made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:51 remaining. But Redmon missed her second free throw, and Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale sank a 3-pointer 13 seconds later to spark a game-clinching 8-0 run.

“I’m satisfied we got the W, but we could do much better,” Graves said. “Our one-on-one defense has got to be tight right now. This is crunch time.”

Coach Trakh can be proud of the effort of his #16 New Mexico State team against host, and #1 seed, Maryland. The Terps ruled the Aggies, 75-57.

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

“Like PT boats attacking a battleship,” New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said in describing the destruction the 6-foot-3 Jones inflicted on his shorter, slighter players as top-seeded Maryland won its NCAA tournament opener Saturday.

All season, the Terps have won by continually switching guises. As if to prove that versatility, they beat New Mexico State with a bruising inside attack in the first half and a barrage of jumpers in the second.

#12 James Madison and #5 Ohio State gave us the Debbie Antonelli Special, with the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 90-80.

The Buckeyes — who started three freshmen and bring sophomore Shayla Cooper off the bench — shot 58 percent in the second half and scored on seven consecutive possessions down the stretch.

“Obviously, when you get to this time of the year (and) you have kids who have experienced it, that can be beneficial,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But I also think for kids who haven’t, then have that youthful energy and that passion to be a part of it. … That can take you a long way.”

#12 Quinnipiac and #5 Oklahoma gave us the second DAS, combining for 97 points in the first half and 99 in the second. Sooners scored more, so they win and move into the next round.

When the Sooners were 5-5 in non-conference play earlier this season, it was tough imagining them making the NCAA Tourament, much less imagining them winning a game in it. But after finishing in second place in the Big 12, Oklahoma came ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their 111 points against Quinnipiac showed that despite their lack of experience you should never count out a Sherri Coale coached basketball team.

Sun Belt champ Arkansas-Little Rock battled #6 Texas A&M wire-to-wire, then the #11 seed made good on the upset, 69-60, earning coach Joe Foley his 700th win.

“Tops right now,” he said. “Top game. It’s unbelievable, playing against a friend, playing in the NCAA tournament. It was fun. And to play as well as we did. We played great, and we deserved it.”

Taylor Gault scored a season-high 25 points, Kiera Clark added a career-best 22 and 11th-seed UALR beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M in an opening-round game Saturday.

“The thought I had was to shoot and drive and do whatever I knew I could do best for my team,” Gault said.

#3 Louisville tamed #14 BYU, but the game may be remembered for this action by the Cardinals’ Mariya Moore than the actual score.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s inside presence out-muscled the Cougars from the opening tip. The Cardinals outscored BYU 44-30 in the paint, and added 11 second-chance points on 33 rebounds to net the win.

Barely two minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Mariya Moore drew a technical foul — and the ire of both coaches — leveling BYU’s Morrison with a hard push off a screen.

BYU leading scorer Lexi Eaton responded to the physical play of the game with an elbow of her own two minutes later, a move that went uncalled by the officials — though she did receive a foul on a push on the same play.

#2 Florida State was in their comfort zone, and easily handled #15 Alabama State, 91-49.

“This experience is huge for our program,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “It’s been a while since we have actually had an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We only have one true senior that actually played (Saturday). We’re extremely young.”

Alabama State was composed early but wore out, committing 32 turnovers against a stifling Seminoles defense.

#14 Ohio spotted #3 Arizona State 16 points in the first half, but the MAC played the PAC even in the second. Nice re-focuser for the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Elisha Davis increased the lead on the next possession, getting a steal and making the layup. In a 54-second span, ASU had gone on a 7-0 run.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the spurt was a result of ASU’s defense.

“When our defense is turning people over and we’re getting easy buckets in transition, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said.

Ohio coach Bob Boldon gave credit to that aspect of ASU’s game.

“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “That really contributed to us getting frustrated on the offensive side.”

Speaking of “re-focusers” #16 Cal State Northridge sure as heck provided that for Stanford as what seemed like a blowout-in-the-making turned into a dogfight. Cardinal escaped, 73-60.

How many hard lessons is this year’s Stanford women’s basketball team going to have to learn?

The Cardinal have already learned that beating Connecticut doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Chattanooga, that knocking off Oregon State doesn’t mean you can beat Oregon, that winning Pac-12 titles isn’t a default status, that changing your entire offense and turning it into a well-oiled machine isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that hosting an NCAA tournament game isn’t the same as winning it. At least not if you don’t play well.

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

Courtney Williams did what she does, as host #6 USF dispatched #11 LSU:

South Florida made the most of its first home NCAA postseason game.

Courtney Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alisia Jenkins added 15 points and No. 6 seed South Florida beat 11th-seed LSU 73-64 in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday night.

The announced crowd of 5,560 erupted as the final seconds ticked off.

“I took a moment and went out there (on the court) and was like `wow,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “This is what we’ve wanted and worked for.”

The Old Big East fans were having serious flashbacks in Storrs as they watched #8 Rutgers and #9 Seton Hall go after it in OBE style. 

“What a great game,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We played hard. I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well and just played extremely hard. We’re glad to have gotten that game under our belts.”

One year after staging a double-overtime thriller in the third round of the WNIT, Rutgers and Seton Hall turned in another memorable affair. For the second straight year in the postseason — and for the 34th time in 41 meetings all-time — the Scarlet Knights prevailed.

The #16 Terriers knew what they were getting into when they drew the #1 Huskies for their first-round match. But the game, did prompt a nice story in the NY Times about St. Francis guard Sarah Benedetti :For a St. Francis Player, UConn, Long an Inspiration, Turns Rival

When Sarah Benedetti moved to Canton, Conn., as a fifth grader in 2004, she almost immediately started rooting for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. That year, UConn became the first Division I university to win the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball.

Benedetti began attending Huskies games with her family and teammates. She idolized the UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was so obsessed with the sport that she arrived at Canton High School at 6 a.m. each day to shoot for an hour before classes started. Her father, Sergio, rebounded the ball for her.

Now a senior at St. Francis of Brooklyn, Benedetti competed Saturday night against her former favorite team.

Benedetti did well.

They were smiling from the moment they took the floor, especially when UConn’s starters were being introduced. This was their moment. And Benedetti, with a large cheering section on the day that her old high school lost its bid for a Class S state championship, did her best, making three three-pointers in a first half in which the team’s hole progressively grew deeper. She scored 13 points.

Said coach Thurston post-game:

“This was an incredible experience for our program. This team is the first time that St. Francis has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament on either the men’s or women’s side. Coach Auriemma is a gentlemen. He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending National Champions to knock us out.”

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

1. ACC flies high: In two days, the ACC went from filling one eighth of the field to representing one quarter of it. While other teams are disappearing, everyone from the ACC remains present and accounted for. No one in the conference has lost, and the league is 8-0 after another four-win day Saturday. Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville all cruised into the second round. The Tar Heels had to withstand a late push by Liberty, but otherwise, the games were not only wins but also comfortable ones.

Even Pittsburgh, a No. 10 seed, thoroughly controlled Chattanooga from start to finish in handing the Lady Mocs their eighth straight tournament loss. For the second straight year, Chattanooga had a 25-game win streak snapped in the first round of the tournament. Panthers freshman Stasha Carey’s 16 points and 13 rebounds were just the second double-double in Pittsburgh NCAA tournament history.

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

12:00 #4 Duke vs #5 Mississippi State, ESPN 2
12:00 #3 Iowa vs #11 Miami, ESPN 2

2:30 #2 Kentucky vs #7 Dayton, ESPN 2
2:30 #2 Baylor vs #10 Arkansas, ESPN 2

7:00 #3 Oregon State vs #11 Gonzaga, ESPN 2
7:00 #1 South Carolina vs #8 Syracuse, ESPN

9:00 #4 Cal vs #5 Texas, ESPN 2
9:00 #1 Notre Dame vs #9 DePaul, ESPN

Oh, and thanks, pilight, for keeping official track of this:

Note that this does not include the men’s play-in games. This is round of 64 vs round of 64. 

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

BIG UPSET happens when an upset involves teams more than four seeds apart 

CLOSE means a game was decided by single digits or in overtime 

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

80-90-100 is the number of teams scoring that many points

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(inspired by this past season, and a brief twitter exchange with @ladyswish) Some names to jot down when you’re pondering your next women’s basketball coach – be it for next year, or in three years. And, as I read some of these bios, it simply reinforces the connection between point guards and coaching.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson – Albany. She’s only been there for 5 years, and accomplished a ton! Four straight league titles, anyone?

Jody Adams – Wichita State. Coach Adams, now  in her 7th year, has transformed the program. When when she took over in 2008, the Shockers had recorded 11 wins in the previous seaon.  WSU just won their third MVC conference title in a row and, with a team so young, it’s hard not to imagine there’s not more success in their future.

Jennifer Azzi – San Francisco. The revival of the Dons has been well chronicled at the WHB. Don’t know if Azzi would be interested in attempting to “rebuild” another program. I’m sure her current gig has been exhausting. But, a program that’s settle and needs a spark? Maybe.

Cedric Baker  – Savannah State. It’s been a long 12 seasons, but they won their first MEAC title this year.

Courtney Banghart – Princeton. She’s young. She’s smart. She just went undefeated and has earned her program a ton of attention. Who knows if she wants to leave the Ivy, but wow, what potential.

Laura Beeman – Hawai’i – The Wahine was a hot mess. Now, after three year’s of Beeman, not so much.

Bob Boldon – Ohio. First the Penguins. Then the Bobcats. Bob is a builder.

Anthony Bozzella – Seton Hall. Wherever he goes – LIU, Iona, Seton Hall – he turns programs around.

Kenny Brooks – James Madison University. In his 13th year, all he does is coach teams that win. They just earned their fourth CAA title in six years.

Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky. The ‘toppers just won the C-USA conference title and this year marked the first time WKU has been ranked in 17 years.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that, in her first year Clark-Heard helped WKU to a 13-win improvement over the 2011-12 season output. It was the largest in Sun Belt Conference history, as WKU turned a 9-21 mark into a 22-11 record.

Brittney Ezell  – East Tennessee State University. In only her second year at the program, ETSU was picked for a bottom finish in a conference preseason poll. Instead, the Lady Bucs finished second to UT-Chattanooga and scared the you-know-what out of Mocs in the So-Con tourney.

Tricia Fabrini – Quinnipiac. Since the Bobcats moved up into the Division I ranks, they’ve shown they belonged – be it in the NEC or the MAAC. It’s been a 20 year journey, but maybe she could be tempted by another position?

Donna Finnie – Houston Baptist – It’s way early in her career with HBU, but consider what the Scotland native has already accomplished:

As Donna Finnie begins her second year as head coach in 2014-15, the HBU women’s basketball program looks to soar to new heights after a record-breaking inaugural season in the Southland Conference. In Finnie’s first year at the helm of the program, the team made huge strides both on and off the court. The Huskies won 12 games, the most since HBU began the transition to NCAA Division I in 2007. The Huskies also boasted the highest RPI in program history (251); a significant improvement from the 2012-13 campaign. Offensively the team exploded to produce one of the most efficient scoring attacks in the nation.

On this year, from WHB: The Huskies (15-17) were the 8th seed in the Southland and yet made it to the finals.

Cindy Fisher – San Diego. In her 10 year tenure, Fisher has moved the Toreros into the “often win” column.

Megan Gebbia – American. In only her second year, Gebbia took her team to their first Patriot League Championship.

Kellie Jolly Harper – Missouri State. Seems to me Harper was the sacrificial “next coach” at North Carolina State. She handled a no-win situation with grace, but couldn’t move the program forward. She’s having better fortunes at Missouri State, where she’s revivng the profile of a program that sailed to the stratosphere behind Jackie Stiles.

Yvonne Sanchez – New Mexico. She’s rebuilt a program that fell rather precipitously after coach Flanagan retired. Her first few years were not particularly encouraging, but this year has been different – even after she had to dismiss the team’s captain and center. The Mountain West predicted UNM to finish ninth in the conference, after finishing in ninth place a year ago, but they made it to the conference finals. She has not gotten a contract extension (yet). Folks I spoke to while I was in Albuquerque said the admin wanted more butts in the seats.

Karl Smesko – Florida Gulf Coast. Since joining Division I, all the Eagles have done is terrorize the A-Sun.

Brooke and Scott Stoehr – Northwestern State. Hired in 2012 to revive the Demons’ program that had won just six games the year before, the Stoehrs have done just that. The Demons just won the conference tournament title and earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history.

Jonathan Tsipis – George Washington. – In 2012, Tsipis took over a program that had won 25 wins over three seasons. WHB’s has been tracking the return of the Colonials to the top-25 all season long.

Kevin McMillan – Tennessee Martin – Six years ago, McMillan inheirited a team that went 2-27. Now, the Skyhawks have repeatedly ruled the roost in the OVC.

Amy Williams – South Dakota. Not easy to win in the Summitt, with in-state rival ‘wabbits lurking, but she has.

Ryun Williams – Colorado State. Left South Dakota and, in three years, has turned around a Colorado State program that had a decade of poor results. The #1 seed in the Mountain West was upset in the conference tourney, but I expect they’ll be back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other folks out there, ready to move up, including assistants that I know nothing about…. So, who else would you put on this list? womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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