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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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WHO LET THE DOGS OUT!”

Okay. I’m done. But wow. Something the Prez and I have in common!

Upsets

#12 Albany stuns #5 Florida in comeback NCAA tourney win

The mini-dynasty being built by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson at University of Albany was missing just one thing: a NCAA tournament victory.

No longer.

Times Union:

Down by as many as 16 points and with their star player fouling out with 6:18 remaining, UAlbany rallied to stun Florida 61-59 Friday afternoon in an NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament first-round game at the Carrier Dome.

Portland Press Herald: Carter helps Albany secure upset

Imani Tate and the Albany Great Danes weren’t going to have senior Shereesha Richards’ record-setting career end while sitting on the bench.

And not even an official’s scoring error that gave Florida an extra point was going to stop them.

#10 St. Bonaventure over #7 Oklahoma State, 65-54.

Tulsa World: OSU falls to plucky St. Bonaventure

Time and time again Friday night, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team made a run at St. Bonaventure in their first-round Women’s NCAA Tournament game at Gill Coliseum.

Each time, the Bonnies had an answer.

The State/AP:

St. Bonaventure didn’t know whether it would be invited to the NCAA Tournament when the field was announced, and chances seemed slim.

On Friday, the Bonnies showed they belonged.

#9 Auburn over #8 St. John’s, 68-57.

Al.com: Freshman Janiah McKay guides Auburn into 2nd round of NCAA Tournament

Behind a career night from Janiah McKay, Auburn advanced to the Round of 32 at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Friday with a 68-57 win over St. John’s in Waco, Texas.

McKay, a freshman point guard, poured in a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and dished out three assists for the Tigers in the win.

Defense leads Auburn women to NCAA Tournament win over St. John’s

A fantastic defensive start for the Auburn women held up for the remainder of the evening, and it has them bound for the second round.

The ninth-seeded Tigers gave up just six points in the first quarter and Auburn’s patent defensive press forced 25 turnovers to frustrate No. 8 seed St. John’s, ultimately to the tune of a 68-57 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday at the Ferrell Center.

#9 Kansas State over #8 George Washington, 56-51.

The State/AP

Kansas State second-year coach Jeff Mittie entered the year hoping to move the program forward. He and the Wildcats took a big step in that direction Friday with their first NCAA Tournament in four years.

Close: 

#7 Tennessee over #10 Green Bay, 59-53. It took a second half surge to secure the win.

#6 West Virginia over #11 Princeton, 74-65.

#5 Mississippi State over #12 Chattanooga, 60-50.

A good showing

#4 Michigan State over Belmont, 74-60.

Not so close

A horrible first quarter doomed the Black Knights. #4 Syracuse over #13 Army, 73-56.

Not close

Raining threes, #6 Depaul floated over #11 JMU by 30.

Did they play the full fourth? #2 Arizona State over #15 New Mexico State by 22.

Nice first quarter…#3 Ohio State over #14 Buffalo by 19.

At least for a game, life without injured senior guard Ameryst Alston worked out well for Ohio State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Friday at St. John Arena.

The third-seeded Buckeyes ended the first quarter with a 22-1 run and powered past 14th-seeded Buffalo 88-69 to advance to a second round matchup Sunday against sixth-seeded West Virginia.

#3 Louisville over #14 Central Arkansas, 87-60. Great first quarter for the Sugar Bears, not so good second.

Really not close:

#2 Oregon State over #15 Troy by 42.

#1 Baylor over #16 Idaho State by 3o.

#1 South Carolina over #16 Jacksonville by 36.

Charlie’s Quick Dish: Five observations from opening day

Games I’ve got my eye on tomorrow:

Duquesne/Seton Hall
Purdue/Oklahoma
South Dakota State/Miami
Colorado State/South Florida

WNIT

Utah (Pac12) runs over Montana State (Big Sky), 95-61.

FGCU (A-Sun) soars over Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), 78-51.

Temple (American) snufs out Drexel (A-10), 74-66.

Quinnipiac (MAAC) mauls Maine, 90-44, for their first post-season win in program history.

Fresno State (MW) over Santa Clara (WCC), 59-53.

Some fun games tomorrow:

TCU v. Eastern Michigan, 8pm EST
Drake v. Northern Iowa, 8pm EST
IUPUI v. San Diego, 7pm EST
Villanova v. Hofstra, 6pm EST
Michigan v. Bucknell, 2pm EST

UCLA women’s basketball Coach Cori Close learned from a legend, John Wooden

Cori Close played basketball for UC Santa Barbara and was an assistant coach for 18 years at three different universities before taking over as UCLA‘s coach in 2011.

But her roots at UCLA run deep and are personal.

UCLA was her first stop as an assistant, and it was there she met John Wooden, who became a mentor and confidant.

Awful Announcing: ESPN BROADCASTING GAMES REMOTELY SENDS A BAD MESSAGE FOR NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT COVERAGE

ESPN (and other sports networks) have been broadcasting more and more sporting contests from the studio rather than sending announcers to game sites.  This has become an increasingly popular trend for the networks to save every penny they can while the price of poker goes up, up, and up thanks to soaring rights fees.  While this has traditionally been done with international soccer over the years, we’ve seen it happen with much more frequency for college basketball and college football recently.

This is NOT just the women’s NCAA tourney. If you haven’t been paying attention to ESPN’s irrational exuberance you’ve missed a big story.

From the NY Times: Changing the Rules of the Women’s Game, With the Hope of Altering the Interest Level

Last spring in Indianapolis, the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball rules committee focused on ways to increase the sport’s appeal.

The major changes approved at the meeting provided a face-lift this season. Notably, the two 20-minute halves were changed to four 10-minute quarters in an attempt to improve the flow and quality of games.

Then in January, the W.N.B.A. revamped its playoff system, eliminating conference alignments and creating single-game eliminations through the first two rounds.

Women’s basketball is entering a pivotal time to entice a national audience.

Nylon Calculus: Visualizing WNBA history

Yesterday, at FiveThirtyEight, I waded into the discussion about a gender gap in basketball analytics with a report on the scarcity and fragility of data in women’s college basketball. I received a lot of comments about how the lack of public data in women’s basketball, both college and the NBA, is a reflection of a lack of demand. The argument was that if there was an audience for the data than leagues and media companies would provide it for their fans and customers.

Frankly, I think that perception is backwards. An increase in data sparks curiosity and drives demand.

BTW – Data fuels the fantasy leagues. (Something the W needs to have, because it fuels interest in the ENTIRE league).

No. Why WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne wants to lower the rims from 10 feet

From the .com: Senior Watch: Top WNBA Draft Prospects in the NCAA Tournament

Hello! LA Sparks hire Flint native Tonya Edwards as assistant coach

Whoa. Sanchez out as UNM Lobos women’s basketball coach

Following up on some high school news: Rutgers Prep has arrived as a true state power

The Rutgers Prep School girls basketball program is no stranger to success, having won 10 state Prep B titles and five Somerset County Tournament championships during head coach Mary Klinger’s 32 years at the helm, a run that’s earned her 519 career victories. But when the decision was made for the Argonauts to join the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association prior to the 2013-14 season, perhaps the biggest draw was the opportunity for the tiny Franklin Township school to show the rest of the state that Rutgers Prep was perfectly capable of running with the big dogs.

Less than three years later, with the program’s first sectional and group titles already in hand, the Argonauts have not only proven that fact, but thanks to a special group of players who have progressed as individual athletes and teammates, Rutgers Prep is well within striking distance of the state’s most prestigious hoops prize.

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The Albany Times Union continues to celebrate the Great Danes: How UAlbany built a women’s basketball dynasty

Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson was the last person up the ladder after UAlbany defeated Maine 59-58 in the championship game. She cut the rest of the net off the hoop and then swung it over her head, motioning for the fans to cheer louder.

She’s the architect of a program that this week will play in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year, an achievement that was all but impossible to imagine when she was hired on April 19, 2010.

Coach Abe, as she’s known, arrived with a surprisingly simple blueprint: Build strong women, she often says, and you can build a winning basketball team.

But the culture change she brought and winning basketball that followed were hardly so simple. There were doubts to overcome off the court and challenges on the court. 

This is how UAlbany became a women’s basketball powerhouse.

Video: These are two SNY specials on UConn. I post them not to celebrate the Husky program, but to remind coaches and athletic directors that building a quality program takes time, thought and attention. You don’t always get to got to the Big Dance (ask Maine)… or the WNIT… or garner a winning season. But there are steps you can take…

Huskies All Access The Season 2015-16

UCONN ’95: BIRTH OF A DYNASTY


About roots: Syracuse’s 1st women’s basketball and field hockey coach Muriel Smith remembered for pioneering women’s sports

The Syracuse women’s basketball team greeted a small woman in a light-brown knitted hat and a blue SU basketball shirt standing behind the bench after a game in the Carrier Dome on Dec. 6. Each player shook her hand as she supported herself with a black cane in her left hand. They all uttered just two words: “Thank you.”

The woman was Muriel Smith, Syracuse’s first women’s basketball and field hockey head coach, who died on March 1. She was 87. Smith led the women’s basketball team to a 57-33 record from 1971-1978 and the field hockey team to a 22-16-7 record from 1972-1977. She was a gold medalist in the National Senior Games — a fierce competitor, yet still kind and gracious. She was a coach, teacher and trailblazer for women’s sports.

About the post-season: BYU men’s and women’s basketball prepare for postseason invites

More about the post-season: What a time to be alive in Middle Tennessee

There are no teams in America right now that believe in themselves more than the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University.

And that belief has worked wonders.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, all but counted out ahead of the Conference USA Championship, proved critics wrong Saturday night in Birmingham securing a rare sweep of the conference tournament.

The men, who were battling through injuries late in the season, fought their way past skeptics and with a pair of Reggie Upshaw free throws as the Blue Raiders took their first C-USA tournament crown in school history.

Though the women closed out the season on a three-game win streak, they were also counted out by pundits when it came to bringing home a championship.

About finding out who goes where: NCAA Women’s Basketball Bracket 2016: Selection Show TV, Live Stream Schedule

About comparing the Committee’s picks v. Charlie’s picks on Dishin & Swishin 3/10/16 Podcast: Bracketologist Charlie Creme goes beyond 140-characters and

About moving from one team to another: Pac-12 Announces New Policy Dealing with Misconduct Issues of Transfer Student-Athletes

Under the new policy, student-athlete transfers who are ineligible to re-enroll at any of their previous colleges or universities will be automatically deemed ineligible to receive athletic aid from a Pac-12 university and cannot join any university team or participate in their activities. 

The transfer policy will apply only to student misconduct issues such as assault, harassment, academic fraud, and other violations of campus behavior conduct policies. It will not apply to academic performance reasons unrelated to misconduct.

Thank you: Barrier-breaker official Melanie Davis calls last SWAC Tournament

About the DIII Road to Indy, you should always check out D3Hoops:

Win Over Scranton Punches 3rd Consecutive Final Four Ticket for Women’s Basketball

Forward Melissa Baptista poured in a game high 23 points to lead the way, as Tufts held off a comeback attempt by the University of Scranton in the fourth quarter to collect a hard fought 57-48 victory in the Quarterfinals of the 2016 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament on Saturday in the John Long Center.
 
With the victory, the Jumbos (now 27-3 on the year) advance to their third consecutive Final Four, which will be played next Saturday in Columbus, Ohio on the campus of Capital University. Scranton ends the season with a 30-1 record with the defeat.”It was a really fun game for me to be a part of and coach,” said Tufts head coach Carla Berube after the win. “Scranton brought it. When they tied the game up in the second half, I knew our team was going to have to dig deep and find ways to get stops and keep composed, and we were able to do that.”

Thomas More

Make it 31-0.

In its most closely contested game since December, the Thomas More women’s basketball team kept its unbeaten season alive and advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four with an 88-72 victory over visiting Washington (Mo.) on Saturday.

The Saints’ average margin of victory this season is 39.3 points, but they led by just six going to the fourth quarter Saturday.

Amherst

For the first time in three years, the Amherst College women’s basketball team is back in the NCAA Division III Final Four.

Amherst earned a trip to Columbus, Ohio, Saturday following a 78-50 triumph over Rochester in an Elite Eight game at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst outscored Rochester 26-10 in the third quarter to pull away.

“What an outstanding pace – I’m tired and I didn’t even play,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “I am proud of them.”

Wartburg is in courtesy of Kailey Kladivo (who could have been competing in the Division III indoor track and field championships). This is the Knights’ first trip to the Final Four.

Division II is in the Sweet Sixteen stage.

About prepping for the W’s “Year 20.”

Countdown to the 2016 WNBA Draft: No. 4 Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne

Duncanville’s Tamika Catchings wants to end career on winning note

And, just in case you missed this, Amber Brown returns to Norfolk State:

Six weeks ago, it looked as if Norfolk State forward Amber Brown might die after suffering a diabetes-related stroke and three cardiac arrests.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old from Atlanta sat courtside at Echols Hall watching her Spartan teammates rally from 14 back only to fall four points shy against Morgan State. She snapped pictures with her iPhone, texted at a furious pace, ate a hot dog from the concession stand, giggled with her best friend and accepted handshakes, hugs and even flowers from fans who repeatedly told her how much they prayed for her during the 40-day ordeal when she was hospitalized.

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That’s the phrase that comes to mind as I scan yesterday’s results… so many good teams upset and, suddenly, the season crafted to reach the NCAA’s is done.

ODU (17-16, 10-8) continued its unexpected tun  in the C-USA, surprising UTEP (26-4, 16-2 C-USA) with a strong fourth quarter.

The Lady Monarchs, who began the season 1-6 against a rugged schedule, are a win from returning to the NCAAs for the first time since 2008. They have not made a conference tournament final since they lost to James Madison in the Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2010.

“We knew coming into this game it was going to be tough, and we had to own our identity, which was passion, rebounding and defense,” Barefoot said. “Our offense has been flowing and we’ve been feeling really good about that, too.

In the MAC, Buffalo is still dancing, this time courtesy of their 88-87 win over Akron.

For the first time in school history, the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team will play for a Mid-American Conference championship after upsetting 5th-seeded Akron, 88-87, in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament on Friday afternoon.

“I’m just so proud of this young team,” head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “They’re resilient, I tell you. We’re getting better.  We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to enjoy this moment for sure.”

Troy, who loves to score, withstood a furious comeback in the fourth quarter by Arkansas State took down the top-seed in the Sun Belt, 96-89.

“I thought this was a great women’s basketball game today,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said.  “When I got the opportunity to come to Troy, one of the things I wanted to do was carry on my style of being sold out to try and make women’s basketball more exciting.”

Sam Houston (13-17, 7-11) knocked Stephen F. Austin (18-12, 12-6) out of the Southland, 78-70.

Sam Houston (13-17) was tenacious inside, outrebounding the Ladyjacks, 42-27, led by 13 from Angela Beadle, who was one of four Bearkats in double-digits with 15 points. She also added her 1,000th career rebound and has 1,003. The Kats shot 49 percent from the field, the fourth-best mark of the season.

“I am very excited for Beadle,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “At the end of the game, we leaned in to each other and said, ‘way overdue.’ There are a lot of great things that this game means to us. First of all, it’s a big rivalry, and second of all, we were able to advance to the next round. These ladies work hard and I am ecstatic.”

Idaho State (18-14, 8-10) sent North Dakota (18-13, 13-5) packing, and now has a shot at an NCAA Tourney slot.

“It was a tough game for us,” UND coach Travis Brewster said. “Really have to credit Idaho State. They came out and took it to us right away. From start to finish, they did a good job of pushing the tempo.

“We came out flat and battled back. But they answered every time we had a run.”

A little Big West Heartbreak: UC Davis spoiled UC Riverside’s perfect run in conference play, 81-72.

For the first time in nearly three months, UC Riverside couldn’t find a way to get up. The shorthanded Highlanders have held off bigger and more physical opponents this season, players essentially willing themselves to make it to the buzzer before exhaustion took over.

A little Patriot Heartbreak: We won’t get the Finals we expected. Joe Logan’s Loyola team pulled off a HUGE upset, holding off a furious comeback attempt by Bucknell, 66-53.

“I give great credit to Coach (Joe) Logan, his staff and his players. They played great in all aspects of the game,” Roussell said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they played very well. Marshall and Smith were fantastic and the rest of the team really fed off them.”

Bradley almost joined the list of upset-eers, but Northern Iowa escaped into the MVC semis with a one-point win.

As Lerma drove to the top of the lane, she found the outstretched arms of the Panthers’ Stephanie Davison in front of her.

Lamar slipped in from the left side and knocked the ball free to let the Panthers avoid becoming the first top seed to lose in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley tourney since 2009.

“She is one of the best defensive players in the league and she was on the all-defensive team for a reason. She has such quick hands,’’ Bradley coach Michael Brooks said. “We gave the ball to our player who had been making great plays for us. It was just a great defensive player making a great defensive play.’’

Yes, it was a battle, but the Chippewas overcame Eastern Michigan, and are now one win away from the Big Dance.

“I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but this team, they’re coachable,” Guevara said. “I can’t say that sometimes the best players that we had in the past, you know, were like this and totally bought in.”

Someone new will rule the MEAC: North Carolina A&T over Hampton, 63-54.

The win was vindication for an Aggies (18-11) team who came into the 2016 tournament with three straight losses in the semis. The win also snapped the Aggies’ six-game losing streak to the Pirates. N.C. A&T will make their first championship game appearance in seven years as they face Coppin State approximately at 4 p.m., Saturday at Scope Arena. The Aggies will be after their third MEAC tournament title and their first in seven years. The Aggies are 2-4 in MEAC title games and 0-2 in MEAC titles games versus Coppin State with losses to the Eagles in 1991 and 2008.

“We talked Wednesday about us having advanced to the semifinals three years in a row and we didn’t want to make it a fourth year in a row where we didn’t win and get to the championship game. I thought we found a way to win in the fourth quarter. I’m so excited for our seniors.”

Dancin’: As it should have been – Albany and Maine tussled back-and-forth for the America East title. eventually, the Great Danes came away with the 1-point win and the invitation to Dance.

“Whew!” said Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson who, with her team trailing by five at halftime, made sure the Great Danes knew what they needed to do.

“I just said, ‘We’ve got to get the ball to Shereesha and we’ve got to get the ball to Imani (Tate),’” she said. “That’s what we did and they really went to work.”

On tap today:

MAC Final: Buffalo v. Central Michigan, 1PM

SWAC Final: Southern v. Alabama State, 3PM

WAC Final: UT Rio Grande Valley v. New Mexico State, 4PM

Big Sky Final: Idaho State v. Idaho, 3:05PM

CAA Final: Drexel v. James Madison, 4PM

Horizon Semis: Northern Kentucky v Green Bay, 4PM, Wright State v. Milwaukee, 6:30

Big South: Radford v. Liberty, 4pm, Presbyterian College v. UNC Asheville

Southland Semis: McNeese State v. Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State v. Northwestern State

MVC Semis: Northern Iowa v. Southern Illinois, Missouri State v. Drake

Podcast: ‘Around the Rim’: Tickets Have Been Punched

In coaching news:

FIU fires women’s basketball coach Chinn

Chinn’s dismissal comes after he admitted to university officials that he had violated NCAA bylaws regarding impermissible benefits provided to a student-athlete.

UNF, former women’s basketball coach settle Title IX lawsuit for $1.25 million

The University of North Florida and its former women’s basketball coach Mary Tappmeyer have announced a settlement in Tappmeyer’s sex discrimination and retaliation claims associated with her termination from UNF in March 2015.

UNF will pay Tappmeyer $1.25 million to settle her claims, according to attorneys representing Tappmeyer.

She left the program as the only women’s basketball coach UNF had ever known. 

Player news: Leading scorer Lauren Aldridge leaving Kansas women’s basketball program

Player news: WNBA or the Army? Decision could mean battlefield or hardcourt for former Huntington Beach star

A decision about Kelsey Minato’s future is coming.

She was recently named the Patriot League Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. Last week, Minato broke the league’s all-time scoring record. She has scored more points than any woman, or man, who has ever played in the Patriot League.

In April, the 5-foot-6 guard will try out for the Women’s National Basketball Association. If she is drafted into the league or signs as a free agent, Minato can delay her commitment to serve five years in the U.S. Army. Remember David Robinson, the NBA superstar from the Naval Academy? Robinson served two years of active duty before he was eligible to begin his professional basketball career.

Conference news: Ivy League adds men’s and women’s basketball tournaments beginning 2017

Game news: Women’s basketball format change leads to fewer free throws

Numbers news: Analyze this

The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring. Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game.

Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.

There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league. Think about baseball, for example, or men’s basketball. Fans, players, executives and media value stats and information because it helps to tell a story that many are already invested in. And if they’re not already invested, then it gives them a reason to be. It helps GMs make decisions. It informs contract negotiations. It enables player development.

It sparks barroom debates to last a frigid and barren Russia winter.

More numbers: Why Sue Bird Is Leading The Charge For More Data In WNBA

Video: Watch: Swin Cash Stars in Brawny Ad #StrengthHasNoGender

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“So what’d I miss?

A little Fresno, Frisco, Flooding and Fever threw me off my game this week. Wheeee!

Some interesting, interesting stuff happening on the boards. Obviously, the folks who say there are no upsets in women’s basketball are looking more and more like the uniformed idjits they are. That being said, if some of the upsets aren’t setting of alarm bells in the Athletic Director’s offices, I’d be disappointed… but not surprised.

Let us count the upsets – and note how many unranked teams were involved:

Indiana over #18 Michigan State, 81-65. Lesson: It would be nice if local papers paid attention to Moren’s team:

“As I expressed to our players tonight, I hope this win gives them a dose of confidence,” head coach Teri Moren said. “And they believe when they communicate, when they stay connected defensively, when they hit shots—they’re going to be in the game and win a lot of ball games. That’s my hope that this win gives our kids a shot in the arm that they can play with the best teams in the Big Ten…I’m just really, really proud.”

Northwestern over #5 Ohio State, 86-82. Lesson: You’ve got to play four quarter, youngsters.

Northwestern brought Ohio State back to earth on Thursday night in Evanston, Ill., with a thud that sent ripples around Lake Michigan.

The Wildcats jumped to a 48-30 halftime lead and withstood a late comeback by the fifth-ranked Buckeyes to hand them an 86-82 defeat at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Buckeyes (12-4, 4-1) and knocked them out of a tie with Purdue for the Big Ten lead.

Arkansas over #13 Tennessee, 64-59. Lesson:  Whatever the upheavals outlined by Mechelle, it’s fair to point a finger at Holly.

Let’s be clear…this was a bad team at 7-10.

And with the No. 146 ranked defense, No. 155 in field goal percentage defense, Tennessee responded with another atrocious shooting night.

The Vols shot worse than 35 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc. In general women’s basketball, that’s okay.

But it’s not okay when you’re Tennessee and you have the talent. While there’s only one senior starter, there are two three-year players and another four-year player in the lineup. So the excuses are running thin, and Warlick’s misuse of her team’s strengths is evident.

Georgia over #20 Florida, 71-61. Lesson: Nice time to get your first SEC win, coach Taylor. (Gotta fix the Georgia page, though. A.nnoy.ing!

NC State over #22 Duke, 65-62. Lesson: There may be some changes in the ACC: The win improved the Wolfpack to 13-5 and more importantly 4-1 in ACC play, while Duke fell to 12-6 and 1-3.

2015-16 has been a record-setting season to date for Duke Women’s Basketball, in all the worst possible ways. Duke lost to an unranked opponent at home for the first time since 2002 (when an Iciss Tillis flub at the end of the Duke Classic championship game led to an overtime loss to South Carolina). Tonight the Blue Devils lost to the Wolfpack Women in Cameron for the first time since 1996, when Chasity Melvin led her team to a win. In this contest, NC State rode a 30-11 edge in points off turnovers to edge Duke, 65-62. This loss will no doubt drop #22 Duke (12-6, 1-3 ACC) out of the rankings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Washington over #17 UCLA, 64-56. Lesson: The Pac12 teams are like the Old Big East teams: Not to be dismissed.

[Talia] Walton’s performance Friday night — 22 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes — went a long way toward helping legitimize the Huskies’ hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. The win was the first for UW (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) against a ranked opponent this season.

“When she plays like this,” Plum said, “we can beat anyone.”

Washington State over #25 USC, 73-61. Lesson: Pac12 means No. games. off.

“We just lost our focus,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “We didn’t come out ready to play and they outplayed us. They hustled more and just played better than us.”

Oklahoma State over #14 Oklahoma, 73-42. Lesson: Who knows WHAT is going on in Stillwater? The Cowgirls just came off a 47-44 loss to Kansas. Perhaps all games should be listed as “Bedlam” games?

#24 Missouri over #7 Mississippi State, 88-54. Lesson: Get out fast.

Missouri’s hot start was a stark contrast compared to its two other games this season against ranked opponents. The Tigers trailed Tennessee 24-11 less than 10 minutes into a 71-55 loss on Jan. 4 and trailed South Carolina 25-10 just more than 13 minutes into Sunday’s 83-58 loss.

Thursday’s result could prove to be a big one for a Missouri team seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.

With conference play in full swing, here are some teams deserving of your attention:

Albany (45-0) sits atop the America East and Shereesha Richards broke the 2,000-point milestone. They play Stony Brook (4-0) on the 21st. When is someone going to poach coach Abrahamson-Henderson?

Bucknell is making a run at the Patriot League title. With their win over Colgate, the Bison start 6-0 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, remain all alone in first place in the Patriot League, win its sixth straight game, the longest streak of the Roussell era and the program’s longest streak since 2006-07 and Improve to 61-47 in Aaron Roussell’s four years as head coach. I’ve got my eyes looking forward to their game against Army, Jan 30th.

St. Bonaventure (5-0). Couple of years ago they were darlings, then they had a tough year. Now, hello! 

This year’s Atlantic 10 preseason polls didn’t think much of St. Bonaventure University. The guys picked 8th.

“Eighth is the second highest we’ve been picked in my nine years here so we looked at it as a compliment,” said St. Bonaventure Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Schmidt.

The ladies’ team picked 9th.

Senior forward Katie Healy said, “Nobody saw what we put in this summer, all the work, all the hours we put in. Both teams, now in first place and combined, are 25-5 to start the year. That’s never happened before.”

While it might be the guys’ best start in 16 years, for the ladies, it’s their best start ever.

The Bonnies other A-10 compatriots are no slouches. Duquesne who, for the first time in program history, was ranked in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 Poll, will take their 15-game winning to ESPNU (Sue Bird & Melissa Lee on the call) on Sunday. They’ll face George Washington, who has won nine in a row. (Speaking of poachable coaches…Tsipis)

Ohio – the 3-time MAC champs are looking for a fourth title. In a matchup of two poachable coaches (Bolden & Verdi), the Bobcats defeated their 2015 MAC Tournament Championship game opponent, Eastern Michigan, 71-64.

Abilene Christian (4-0) continues to win in the Southland.

Colorado State (4-0) has already defeated San Jose State. Fresno State (4-0) defeated them today. They don’t play each other until March 1st. Who scheduled only one regular season game between these two teams?

Swoopes, there it is: Chicago (Loyola) is 4-0 in the MVC.

Purdue (5-0). We’ve been calling their name. Let’s see what they’ve got: OSU tomorrow.

Green Bay (5-0) faces Wright State (4-0) on the 23rd. Winner stays #1 in the Horizon. Loser may have to wait for the rematch end of February.

Montana State (5-0). Maybe John Stockton is a good assistant coach, huh? They play 4-0 Eastern Washington on the 21st.

Sienna (7-0) in the MAAC and its best start in 14 years. But, don’t get to cocky – and never count the Foxes out. Marist they held on to give Iona its first conference loss, 62-61.

Western Kentucky (5-0) continues its resurgence under coach Michelle Clark-Heard (poachable!).

The WCC!!! 5-1, 5-1, 5-1, 4-2. ’nuff said.

I’m keeping an eye on the NBE.  While it’s been tough times for Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier are on a roll.

Is it too early to suggest Muffet McGraw as COY? Her competition, if the continue to improve, would be Louisville’s Walz. Both are, is sports-speak, “coachin’ their team up.

Did I jinx the Tribe?

Just sayin’ – Utah is 4-1 in the PAC 12.

Upcoming games to keep an eye on:

The aforementioned George Washington v. Duquesne.

The oft mentioned #4 Texas v. #6 Baylor, 3:30 on ESPN2.

South Carolina is 4-0 in the wacky SEC. They’ll face TAMU at 1:30 on ESPN2

Purdue at #5 Ohio State, 2pm.

#23 Louisville v. North Carolina State – who keeps up their momentum?

#24 Missouri v. Arkansas…. see above.

#17 UCLA v. Washington State. Does WSU continue to show how dicey the Pac12 is?

Speaking of: #11 Stanford v. #10 Oregon State. 

#22 Duke v. Boston College. How do the Blue Devils react?

#10 Arizona v. Utah. How legit are the Utes?

MLK Day

#13 Tennessee v. #3 Notre Dame, 7pm ESPN2. Will the Vols’ good game-bad game-good game pattern continue?

In other news:

Florida: UF women’s basketball surging thanks to talent infusion

Snap: Jackie Young breaks Indiana girls basketball scoring record

Through four seasons on the floor, Princeton girls basketball star Jackie Young has attacked the opposition and record books, steadily climbing up the scoring charts.

Now she’s in the record books.

A large crowd gathered Thursday night to see Young make history, including two players from the 1976 undefeated Hoosiers basketball team. 

A free throw late in the fourth quarter of the game against Wood Memorial landed her one point ahead of former record-holder Shanna Zolman.

Aztec girls basketball team aiming for championship, community revival

Most of the awards that decorate the glass cases at Aztec High School’s gymnasium have something to do with football.

The Tigers are best known for being able to push a pigskin ball down a football field but in the last year or so, they’ve had to make room for a new group of athletes that the school just wasn’t used to.

Over the last several years, the Aztec High School girls’ basketball team has emerged from the bottom of the local basketball barrel and into the spotlight.

Their newfound success is something Aztec junior Kairai George isn’t used to.

Congrats! West Bridgewater girls basketball coach notches 600th win

Congrats! DePaul’s Doug Bruno gets 600th win

Former WNBA President Orender gives insight into gender in sports

Candace Parker interview: ‘The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome…’

Hello: Wings Star Skylar Diggins Makes Surprise Appearance at High School in Dallas

GW basketball’s rebounding machine could score big in WNBA draft

Breanna Stewart Watch: Top Prospects Raising Her Game Even Higher as a Senior

Countdown to the WNBA Draft: No. 17 Kahleah Copper

Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide Looking forward to 2016 with relish

 

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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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Yes, we got in our big grant renewal proposal before the 5pm deadline. Thanks, Chris!!! Now, all you readers you, think positive, funding thoughts!

In other news…

Most folks held serve on Thursday, but some eyebrow raisers on Friday.

In the Southland, Houston Baptist (14-17, 6-12) toppled Texas A&M Corpus Christi (16-16. 12-6), 49-48.

It was the Blue Hens upsetting the Dragons, 55-48.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “I think they stepped up and followed the game plan beautifully. We were able to knock down some shots, but I thought it was a tremendous effort defensively for us. Our communication on the floor was much better.’’

I wouldn’t call this outrageously surprising, but Southern Miss floored it in the second half to take down in-conference C-USA rival, Middle Tennessee, 65-53.

“I’m very proud of our team,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Our locker room was not very nice at halftime, nor were many timeouts very nice. This kid [Tamara Jones] sitting next to me – if you ask her at about the 8 minute mark if your coach cared for you at all, she’d probably say ‘heck no.’ I really challenged her extremely hard. I said some things to really, really challenge her and to make her really mad with me so that she would respond. What an unbelievable response.”

USM will face Western Kentucky, which withstoodfurious comeback from Barefoot’s ODU team. Hmmm… maybe the Monarchs will rise again.

“This one’s a hard one,” coach Karen Barefoot said, her voice breaking. “I’ve never felt so proud of being their coach. They played very hard, with a lot of heart, toughness.”

Indeed, the Lady Monarchs proved that Barefoot’s oft-stated belief that they are never out of a game was more than just talk. Down 18 at halftime, ODU pulled even with 9:34 left and actually led by five with 7:53 to play.

Their season totals are similar, but their Southland conference records make this an upset: Northwestern State over Nicholls State with authority, 84-67.

It was Friday the 13th and the Northwestern State women’s basketball bus had broken down, leaving the Lady Demons scrambling to get to the Leonard C. Merrell Center for their Southland Conference Tournament quarterfinal against third-seeded Nicholls.

Bad omens? Not quite. Once Northwestern State reached the Merrell Center – its home away from home – all was right with the Lady Demons’ world.

Super-scoring Sacramento State couldn’t stop Northern Colorado in OT, so it’s the Bears moving into the Big Sky finals. Cool note: John Stockton took in some games.

Maryland-Eastern Shore continued its upset ways, taking down the pretender to the MEAC throne Norfolk State, 69-64 in OT. They’re into the tournament finals for the first time.

In the Missouri Valley, top bulldog Drake (20-9, 15-3) was pushed into overtime by Evansville (12-18, 6-12), where it fell to the seventh-seed, 84-79.

“We had a good conference season, but none of that matters come tournament time,” freshman guard Maddy Dean said. “We expected better out of our team, and we didn’t pull it out tonight.

“That’s tough. It hurts.”

I said it once, and I’ll say it again – Eastern Michigan is on a mission and you don’t wanna get in their way. Ball State was their latest conquest, 75-65.

“Wow, what a game,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m just really, really proud of our kids. Tremendous effort. There were times where we faced adversity, where we were on our own and things didn’t go our way; where we didn’t fold, but we just fight right back.”

It’s been an emotional two months for EMU as its dealt with the loss of a teammate during the season. Junior forward Shannise Heady passed away in a car accident on Jan. 25.

Squeak! WHB still hasn’t managed to curse’em, but it was close. New Mexico State survives OT v. Seattle U, 79-75 and moves into the WAC finals.

“Give Seattle all the credit in the world, they played really really hard and executed well,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said, “Having said that, I’m really proud of our young student-athletes, they did a great job out there.  They’ve been handling pressure all year and they always felt they could win that game.”

Might have cursed their in-state rivals, though. New Mexico falls in the Mountain west finals to Boise State. The Broncos rode Spaniard Yaiza Rodriguez’s 18 points to win their first MW title and earn the NCAA tourney bid (first time since 2007).

“To be able to be with everyone you love, representing a university who you have so much passion for, it was awesome,” Pahukoa said.

Hello, Hawai’i! They move into the Big West finals with their 73-64, win over CS Fullerton.

The Big Dogs are back – though Hartford did NOT make it easy, even though they were down two starters. Albany wins a chance to dance.

“A lot of credit to Hartford — they played with a lot of passion, a lot of guts, everything,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They played really, really hard. But at the end, we just turned it up defensively and a couple timeouts, I said, ‘We better be getting that ball to No. 25 [Richards].’ And she stepped up and did what she does.”

Jennifer Gish writes: UAlbany women’s basketball worthy of more fans

Games to watch today: 

MAC Final – Eastern Michigan v. Ohio. It out to be a fierce battle of green uniforms. 1pm, TWCS, BCSN, Comcast Michigan, ESPN Full Court, ESPN3. EMU’s resliancy is amazing (and EMU becomes the first six-seed to make the MAC women’s title game). Kudos to coach Verdi (his dance moves) and his staff. Ditto with former Penguin coach “Bob the Builder Boldon” and his work with the Bobcats.

This is the third time Ohio and Eastern Michigan have faced each other this season.  The two teams split the season series, 1-1. Last time, the Bobcats fell to the Eagles, 73-61 in Athens.  That loss snapped the Bobcats 10-game winning streak.

MEAC FinalMD-E Shore v. Savannah State. Someone new will be dancin’ from the MEAC. Will the upset-minded Hawks take down their third upper-seed, or with the Tigers prevail? 3:30 EST, ESPN3.

Big Sky: Northern Colorado v. Montana. 4PM EST. Two championship game vets battle (Griz, 20th time. Bears 2nd time in three years).

WAC: New Mexico State v. UT-Pan American. No basketball team representing the University in Edinburg, whether called Pan American University or UT-Pan American, has ever reached the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The last game between these two teams was an Aggies win by 20. But when they hosted NMSt, the Broncos only lost by 3. 4PM, ESPNU, ESPN3.

American: Lehigh v. American. No doubt American is the favorite, but after losing their last four in the regular season, the Mountain Hawks seem to have found their second wind. 6PM EST, CBS Sports Network.

Playing American provides extra motivation for O’Reilly. One of the Eagles’ starters, senior forward Arron Zimmerman, was a high school teammate of O’Reilly’s.

Zimmerman is one of several players capable of a big night for American. Senior point guard Jen Dumiak will draw the most attention from Lehigh’s defense.

Big West: Cal State Northridge v. Hawai’i, 6PM, EST, streaming through Fox Sports. The return of the Wahine has been a fun story. How will it end?

C-USA: Western Kentucky v. Southern Miss. 8PM EST, CBS Sports Network. This could be a doozy. The Toppers have been on my radar all season, and Southern Miss has been determine to knock over their hatrack (see what I did there?).

Sun Belt: Arkansas State v. Arkansas – Little Rock. 8pm EST, ESPN3. In-state rivalry. What more needs to be said?

The two best women’s basketball teams in the Sun Belt Conference, led by its two most successful coaches, will finally collide in the conference tournament final. The third meeting of the season between UALR and Arkansas State was realized Friday when both teams won tournament semifinal games. Now the top-seeded Trojans and No. 2 Red Wolves will play with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line at 7 p.m. today.

Some other stuff:

From Mechelle – Nina Davis always in right place

 There’s a quality that exists among certain basketball players that really can’t quite be attributed to their size, or quickness, or even skill level. And that is their magnetism to the basketball. Or vice versa.

It seems almost freakish sometimes, doesn’t it? In a good way, of course, for the people who have it. Although even they often can’t explain it.

“I guess from playing for so long,” Baylor forward Nina Davis said, “I just know where the ball is going next.”

Well, that’s not exactly it. She’s only a sophomore, so we’re not talking about a grizzled veteran. The bottom line is that Davis has a knack for being where the ball is, and we’re probably never going to be completely sure how she does it.

But it’s something that Baylor assistant coach Bill Brock noticed when he was recruiting the 5-foot-11 Davis.

Espnw honors Jewell Loyd as their POY, Mitchell as their FOY, and Semrau as their COY.

FiveThirtyEight says: Princeton Enters Women’s Tournament As An Unusual Sort Of Undefeated Team

Unlike UConn and Notre Dame last season, which were the clear top-two teams entering the tournament, Princeton won’t even be favored to advance from its region. None of its wins came against teams now ranked in the Top 25. Its conference schedule was a breeze: Penn was the only other Ivy League team with a winning conference record, and just Cornell joined Princeton and Penn with a winning overall record.

Princeton’s nonconference schedule wasn’t all that hard, either. After Tuesday’s regular-season finale, senior guard Blake Dietrick said she started thinking 30-0 was possible when the Tigers beat Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor.

Check out this nice video on the Ivy Tigers: Perfect Princeton Is Ready To Dance

The AP’s writes Steve Megargee writes: Women’s mid-majors could be poised for breakthrough tourney

Mid-major women’s basketball programs historically have much less success in the NCAA Tournament than their counterparts on the men’s side.

Perhaps this is the year that changes.

The latest Top 25 includes four mid-majors ranked 20th or higher: No. 13 Princeton, No. 17 Chattanooga, No. 19 George Washington and No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast. Gonzaga, Green Bay, James Madison and Western Kentucky also have appeared in the Top 25 this season.

“We just want to win and want to prove to people we can compete in March,” said Princeton guard Blake Dietrick.

Dishin’ and Swishin’ is talking da Bears and da Buckeyes.

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Must watch Snappy TV – Fun stuff from the Huskers: WBB Lip Sync-Staff

Nice stuff from Mechelle: Bonded by basketball: Sisters love Big 12 tournament

If you were at the recent Big 12 women’s basketball tournament, you might have seen them on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center. Who was that group of people who were there for every session and seemed like they were having a blast no matter who was playing?

One day, they were wearing matching white T-shirts with the words “Geneva’s Convention” on the back. That might have set some minds stirring. Hmmmm … there aren’t any players or coaches in the Big 12 named Geneva, are there? Nobody is from a town of that name, are they? Does Switzerland have anything to do with it?

No, no, no. Geneva Tuttle was a very big women’s basketball fan, and the Big 12 tournament became her annual bonding event with her three sisters. And after illness took Geneva in 2007 at age 67, the gathering expanded to other family members.

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