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….aaaaand dance by the light of the moon!”

It took a buzzer beater by Stephanie Reid, but for the first time in Buffalo history, the program has won a MAC championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

UB Women’s Basketball wasn’t supposed to here, at least not with this group of women.

After going from one of the deepest frontcourts in the conference in January 2015 to one of the youngest teams in the country by October 2016, the Bulls weren’t supposed to advance to the MAC Semifinal for the second straight year and third time in school history.

Even after upsetting them twice in the regular season, the eighth-seeded UB wasn’t supposed to beat frontrunner Ohio, sitting on a bye in the quarterfinal.

In today’s 88-87 win over fifth-seeded Akron, who beat Buffalo twice in the regular season, the Bulls weren’t supposed to hang with the Zips’ desired pace and outside shooting. They weren’t supposed to hit the half within two – or the final quarter within a single – possessions after Akron came out blazing from three. (The Zips would finish with 15 made threes). And they certainly weren’t supposed to survive losing sophomore point guard Stephanie Reid to her fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

But the Bulls hit plenty of shots…

Others singing, “Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance?”

Hawai’i, representing the Big West. The last time the Wahine went dancin’ it was 1998 and they were “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and Will Smith. Senior Ashleigh Karaitiana was four.

“It was all part of the process,” Karaitiana said. “Not just for this year, but the last four years. This is what we worked for, and I’m really proud of the outcome.”

Karaitiana was named tournament MVP after averaging 15 points per game. She shot 6 of 13 from the field to help second-seeded Hawaii earn a measure of redemption after losing the Big West title game last year.

“We were in this game last year and got the result we didn’t want,” she said. “We came into this game more prepared and knowing what we need to do and took care of it on the floor tonight.”

Alabama State, representing the SWAC. No surprise, for a conference that had a three-way tie in the regular season, the final game was edgy affair.
“We knew it was going to be a war,” said Lady Hornets coach Freda Freeman-Jackson, who became the first SWAC coach to lead a team to consecutive tournament titles. “Southern is always a championship-caliber team. We knew we had our work cut out.
Idaho, representing the Big Sky. In the first “all-Idaho” finals, the Vandals got a battle from upstart Idaho State, then dug deep.

Before the hugs, before the smiles and cries, and before the trophy-hoisting, picture-posing and net-cutting, the Idaho women’s basketball team had to come to a realization: This could be the end. 

Trailing Idaho State by three at halftime Saturday in the Big Sky Conference tournament title game, the Vandals understood they were 20 minutes away from falling short of their season-long championship aspirations.

The seniors didn’t want their collegiate careers to end. The freshmen didn’t want their magical debut season to conclude with heartbreak. The coaches didn’t want the work their players put in all year to not pay dividends the way it had in the past.

North Carolina A&T, representing the MEAC. The Aggies handled Coppin State to earn their first championship in seven years, the first for fourth-year coach Tarrell Robinson.

Aprill McRae and Christina decided to transfer from VCU because they believed head coach Tarrell Robinson’s vision for winning a championship at North Carolina A&T State University. Dana Brown had the same aspirations when she transferred from UNC Wilmington.

Courtney Powell decided to play one more season of college basketball as a graduate transfer for the same reason. Perhaps the most inspiring story comes from fifth=year guard Adriana Nazario’s decision to play one more year – despite having graduated and despite having knee problems – in an effort to give this whole winning a championship thing one more try. Their decisions paid off.

James Madison, representing the Colonial. For the third-straight year, the Dukes earned the conference championship (and name collectors, here’s one for ya: Jazmon Gwathmey)

JMU (27-5) will bring a 20-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The run includes three wins over the Dragons (19-13), who were looking for their first league title since 2009.

Gwathmey, the CAA Player of the Year, made half of her 18 shots, collected four rebounds and, at the end, absorbed a meaningful hug from her appreciative coach.

“A very special moment,” Brooks said.
“It meant a lot because this is what we work for,” Gwathmey said. “It’s definitely the way you want to go out your senior year, especially winning three in a row.”
New Mexico State, representing the WAC. Payback was on the mind of the Aggies as they routed Rio Grande Valley, 80-53.

It’s the program’s first ever back-to-back conference tournament titles, fourth NCAA Tournament bid and the first consecutive NCAA Tournament bids since 1987 and 1988.

“Going into this game, they kind of ruined our Senior Night,” said senior Sasha Weber, who was named tournament MVP. “Personally, that was a little bit of fuel for me. I know Shanice (Davis) and Abby (Scott) too being seniors. And they snapped our undefeated streak. Especially getting down at 20 at home, we knew coming into this game, a championship game, we had to start off strong and keep up the intensity up.”

Army, representing the Patriot. MVP Kelsey Minato‘s 25  helped propel the Black Knights to win number 29 and send the team back to the NCAA tourney.

“This group of young ladies has just accomplished so much with 99 wins over four years at this level is incredible and they just continue to do what it takes,” Magarity said. “Janae McNeal and the junior class with Aliyah Murray and the Morris twins [Destinee and Daizjah], as well, and I consider my coaching staff the best in America. It’s the best coaching staff I’ve ever had and I’ve had some pretty good coaches.”

He also couldn’t have had many better players than Mina1q. The senior guard – Army’s all-time leading scorer – served in her customary role of scoring when the team needed it most. She scored half of her team’s 20 first-quarter points, including a jumper to conclude the period. By game’s end, she had scored a game-high 25 points, including 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.

Middle Tennessee State, representing the C-USA. The Blue Raiders ended ODU’s great run with a confident 70-54 win.

“Sometimes I get caught up in watching them play, instead of coaching them,” Insell said. “They are such a joy to watch, and a lot of people didn’t give us the credit we deserved.”

The second-seeded Blue Raiders (24-8) have won six straight and 15 of their last 16 games, and the conference championship in two of the last three seasons.

 Troy, representing Sun Belt. Known for their offense, Troy’s win came down to… defense. In the last 20 seconds, a score by Ashley Beverly Kelley followed by a win-saving block by Caitlyn Ramirez –  capped the journey of a program’s revival.

Head coach Chanda Rigby inherited a two-win program in 2012, and now just four years later the Troy women’s basketball team is the 2016 Sun Belt Tournament Champions after a 61-60 over Little Rock at Lakefront Arena on Saturday.

Troy will make the second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and its first since 1997.

 “Our overall goal and theme was faith, faith was our motto,” Rigby said.  “I felt more out of sync and more out of the groove in this game than probably any game we’ve played the second half of the year.  It was a bad feeling, but the faith – we just kept saying to keep it close.

 “And of course, what happened at the end was nothing that the coaches called.  I believe it was Ashley Beverly Kelley’s faith in the end that she could get the ball in her hands and pull us ahead, and I think faith is what made Caitlyn go up for the blocked shot that sealed it in the end.

Other results:
I TOLD you the Horizon was going to be interesting. In the semis, Northern Kentucky took Green Bay to two overtimes before falling 80-78.
In the Southland, Sam Houston 14-17, 7-11) upset  Northwestern State (19-11, 13-5), 78-71.
As their similar records might have predicted, the Missouri State and Drake game was a back-and-forth affair. The Bears pulled away in the fourth to secure the 65-61 win.

Sunday games (DID YOU SPRING AHEAD?) that will secure the final guaranteed spots in the Tournament:

Southland: Central Arkansas v. Sam Houston State, 12:30PM. The Sugar Bears are the heavy favorite, but we’ve see what THAT means this tourney season…

A-Sun: Florida Gulf Coast v. Jacksonville, 2PM – ESPN3. Yes, the Eagles are the cream of the conference, but Jacksonville’s been making some noise.

Big South: Liberty v. UNC Asheville, 2PM. Liberty has been the traditional power in the conference, but the Bulldogs have undergone a huge transformation under coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick (3 years ago = 2 wins).

NEC: Robert Morris v. Sacred Heart, 3PM. Under (retiring) coach Sal Buscaglia, the Colonials have fought their way to the final and, to be honest, I haven’t really noticed how strong the Stags have been in conference play this year.

MVC: Missouri State v. Northern Iowa, 3PM. This ought to be a great match up between teams with similar records. They split their regular season games. (BTW, UNI’s Tanya Warren should be on AD’s “poachable” list… and in case you’ve missed it, “Hello, coach Kellie Harper!”)

Horizon: Green Bay v Milwaukee, 1PM. Year after year, teams come at the Phoenix, and year after year they get turned back. Last time these two teams met, it was a 23-point loss for the Panthers.

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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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you should have been watching the Dukes v. the Colonials

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

As for the rest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On tap tomorrow:

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

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead:

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

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

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

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

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

You’re out (Dawley).

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Army’s Kelsey Minato becomes first active cadet to have jersey retired

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On cue, the LIU moves to 4-5 in the NEC with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 65-62.

In their first meeting, Bucknell hosted Army and beat’em by 10. In the West Point rematch, the Black Knights pulled away in the fourth for a 5-point win. With both teams at 8-1 in the conference, there’s no margin for error in the race to the Patriot League title.

Okay, then. With their first victory in 11 tries against Stetson, Jacksonville moves to 6-0 in the A-Sun and is tied with Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun. Guess who the Dolphins get to play on the 4th…in Naples? And host on the 10th…in Jacksonville.

Looking to keep everyone in the Horizon honest, Northern Kentucky takes down the Penguins, 88-77. A little sting to the win: former YSU guard, Shar’Rae Davis who finished the half with a total of 12 points off the bench. She was one of three players who didn’t receive scholarship renewals in 2014,

*no jinx, no jinx* UNC Asheville is now 9-2 in the Big South.

*WHB talked cr@p about us. Let’s show her!* Rutgers starts ugly but finishes strong against Nebraska, earning a 66-55 win.

*continued jinx?* UT Rio Grande lost – but it was to WAC top dog, New Mexico State.

The Miners are still perfect in C-USA play (9-0), but after Marshall, Western Kentucky (8-1) (who lost to MTSU) looms, Feb. 6th. MTSU (7-2), which has had some “stuff” going on this year, lost to UTEP 84-73 earlier this season, but doesn’t get a rematch.

Fresno State (ummm… shout out to the Bee: ““I just feel like we know how to come back,” senior co-captain Toni Smith said in a phone interview after the game.) and Colorado State have unblemished Mountain West records – will that last until March 1st, when they get to face off against each other?

Squeak! Ohio moved to 9-0 in the MAC with a one-point win over Ball State, 68-67.

Hmmmm… the Bulldogs are struggling, yes, but I’m sure San Francisco is enjoying beating Gonzaga.

On a day when USF honored its 1996 Sweet 16 team, the 2015-16 San Francisco women’s basketball team made a place for themselves in program history as well. The Dons scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed to earn a big 71-52 win over the Bulldogs at War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory was their first win over the 11-time WCC defending champions since a West Coast Conference tournament win on March 2, 2006. The 19-point deficit is also the largest loss of the season for Gonzaga, who lost to Stanford 65-48 on Nov. 15 during non-conference action.

Gotta love in-state games: Bobcats knock off Lady Griz

A year ago this month, the Montana State women’s basketball team crumbled and lost its composure in a 62-48 loss to Montana that sent the Bobcats to 1-4 in conference, searching for answers.

A year later, it seems like the Bobcats of head coach Tricia Binford have all the right ones.

Ooooooooh, De-bbie: Eastern Kentucky over Morehead State, 100-93; Eastern Washington over Sacramento State, 100-83.

What to look for Sunday:

#12 Kentucky at Florida – will the Wildcats bounce back, or with the Gators camp.

St. John’s at #23 DePaul. The Blue Demons have been up and down… and the Red Storm has been knocking at the door of the polls.

UNC at NC State. A missing coach adds intrigue to the 101st edition of this in-state rivalry.

St. Louis at George Washington. The Billikens (7-1) are SO much better.… but the Colonials are undefeated (8-0) in conference….

Alabama at Tennessee. One would thing the Tide would be just what the doctor ordered for the Vols…. but remember, they gave TAMU a scare.

#13 Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been snacking on ranked teams. How focused will the Bulldogs be after their big win over Tennessee?

#2 South Carolina at Texas A&M (ESPN2). It’s never fun to play against the 12th man.

It’s likely that #14 Louisville will stay hot against Wake Forest... so I can’t help but look ahead to Feb 7th when they face Notre Dame.

BTW, in Division II news:

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham posted his 1,098th career victory Thursday night, matching Pat Summitt’s mark for the most at a four-year school.

Statham is in his 50th season at the Division II college. He guided the Bearcats past Wisconsin-Parkside 92-85 on the court named in his honor.

The 78-year-old Statham has a career record of 1,098-474. He can top Summitt’s record Saturday when McKendree hosts Lewis. (Didn’t)

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And, if you’re one of the folks running around in it, “Please be safe, please be safe, please be safe!” Or, perhaps a better warning: “Don’t be THAT idiot.”

For instance, those involved with the MSU/Maryland game which was postponed because of snowstorm

YEAH!!! Graham is writing about Kelsey!!! Minato is hoops’ best senior who won’t play professionally

That career continues when Army and Navy play in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. As the 10-year anniversaries of both Army’s first NCAA tournament appearance and former Army coach Maggie Dixon’s death at 28 years old approach this spring — two events inexorably bonded by the respective joy and sorrow they engendered and the brief time that separated them — what Minato has accomplished is a new chapter in the story.

What Dixon envisioned, Minato embodies.

The only team in the Patriot League to beat Army this season, Bucknell did so at home earlier this month only after enduring Minato’s 35 points on 16-of-26 shooting. After that game, the team’s second win in seven tries against Minato, Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell listened to people offer congratulations for a strategy as bold and daring as to allow Minato her shots and instead focus defensive attention on stopping her mortal teammates.

Jinx? Mechelle writes about Coach Vic Schaefer builds Bulldogs into national contender (and then, Barbee helps Georgia upset No. 10 Mississippi State 47-43)

When Schaefer got the Bulldogs job, the player who would turn out to score more points than any girl in Mississippi state high school history — 5,745 — was a prep sophomore: Victoria Vivians, a 6-foot-1 guard from Carthage.

“The first call I made was to her high school coach,” Schaefer said. “We worked our tails off in recruiting her because we knew the importance of keeping her here. Obviously, it’s been big for us. It’s a special time to have a kid like her on our basketball team.”

What the Bulldogs are still trying to establish this season, though, is that they are a consistently solid offensive team around Vivians too. In her second collegiate season, she is averaging a team-best 17.6 points per game for No. 10 Mississippi State.

Speaking of offense: Fast-Paced Offense Leads OSU Women’s Basketball Team Resurgence

SB: As Thomas said, you have played the four Final Four teams from last year. You lost to three of them. Is there a worry that you’re a good program but not an elite program at this point?

KM: Well. I’m at first I think you’ve got to play those teams to see where you are. And when I came here I knew we had a lot of work to to go to build the program and part of that wanted to be aggressive scheduling. And so you know, I like the fact that we kind of measured ourselves against the best we know where we have to to get better.

They got off to a fast start – and Cheryl takes note: 

Like many teams on the rise, Santa Clara continues to be a major work in progress, even during midseason. The Broncos have not had a winning season in seven years. They earned less than 12 wins in five of those years.

This season, the team added seven new players including junior forward Lori Parkinson, a transfer from Southern Utah and the team’s top rebounder, freshman guard Savanna Hanson who leads the Broncos in assists and made three-pointers, and senior forward Devin Hudson who led the team in scoring vs. Stanford.

“Honestly we’re just trying to get better every day, so we’re excited about the fact that we’re actually getting better as a ball club. We have seven new players, it has just taken a while to get everybody on the same page, but we’re excited about where we are.”

More reading: Tamika Catchings on a Lifetime of Hoops, and the Legacy She’ll Leave

When Tamika Catchings was a little girl, she was sitting with her dad and noticed the scar on his leg. So she asked him, “Well, what happened to you?”

Harvey Catchings, a former NBA player, told her that he walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Jackson, Mississippi, as a young teenager. Harvey had grown up in that southern city, and here were his neighbors gathered by the thousands to march with King. He was injured when the large throng of marchers swelled and he passed a parked car that had a broken piece of chrome sticking out. His own father wasn’t far behind and helped him move to the sidewalk and clean the wound.

It was a day that forever made a mark, inside and out.

“That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced,” Harvey said.

Graham rights about Three new teams who entered mid-major rankings

Believe it or not, we are running out of mid-major rankings. Only two more check-ins remain before conference tournaments will end the subjective portion of the season and settle which teams will get a chance to play David, or occasionally under-seeded Goliath, in the NCAA tournament.

And we haven’t even had a chance yet to talk about Albany’s perennially underrated Shereesha Richards, St. Bonaventure again punching above its weight (or at least its enrollment) and the pipeline apparently linking Colorado State to basketball courts across Scandinavia.

There are so many stories left to tell as the final month of the regular season approaches.

By the way, Doug asked, “Where have the great mid-major teams gone?

Coach Aaron Johnston’s team’s only other losses came to then-No. 6 Maryland, by seven points, and Green Bay by one.

“The margin of error for mid-majors is so small,” Johnston said. “We played Maryland and Notre Dame close this year, beat DePaul who’s ranked and lose by one to Green Bay. Unfortunately one loss gets us out of people’s minds.”

LadySwish responded

Mid-major implies there’s a second tier of teams, an “everybody else” of women’s basketball lumped together outside of the Power 5 conference. They are the Power 5 because of football; nobody grouped them as such having to do with anything related to women’s basketball.

All the teams in the sport are playing the same sport, vying for the same trophy. But the NCAA committee and the media who vote in the poll rarely treat them as such.

Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, Illinois — are these teams better than, say, South Dakota State, James Madison, Duquesne, George Washington, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast or Gonzaga?

More stuff: Washington’s Chantel Osahor makes her Husky women’s basketball teammates better

From Seton Hall to the WNBA

What are some of your most memorable experiences as an athletic trainer working in the WNBA?

Laura London: As a female athlete growing up in the ’90s, I remember when the WNBA was formed. Being able to work with the New York Liberty absolutely has been an all-around memorable experience. Walking out of the tunnel and stepping onto the court for my first time at Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” was a wonderful moment as a sports fan. As a newly certified athletic trainer (ATC), being able to join an efficient and effective professional sports medicine team was a major milestone for me. Having that team be led by Laura Ramus, PT, ATC, a female athletic trainer and physical therapist, was an added bonus that has been career-shaping and inspirational.

Curt Miller Seeks to “Establish a Culture” with Young Connecticut Sun

Curt Miller may not have set out to be a pioneer, but when he accepted the job as the Connecticut Sun’s new head coach, that’s just what he became. By virtue of the move, Miller is now the first publicly gay man to be the head coach of an American professional sports team.

It’s just the latest step in an impressive coaching journey that has spanned 20-plus years in both the collegiate and professional ranks. In 13 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, Miller compiled a 290-124 record, won five MAC regular season and conference tournament championships with Bowling Green, and also lead the Falcons to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. Last year he joined Brian Agler’s staff as an assistant coach out in Los Angeles with the Sparks. Now, after being hired in December, he’s the head coach of the Connecticut Sun.

Sky player Allie Quigley’s close call with Turkish bombing shows risks of playing overseas

Two blocks away was too close for Allie Quigley.

When a suicide bomber attacked Istanbul’s main tourist district last week, killing 10 Germans and wounding 15 others, the explosion rattled the Sky guard like nothing she had ever experienced.

Yah, they stopped that: IHSAA cancels seasons for Pike, Ben Davis varsity girls basketball teams after fight

Podcast: Dishin & Swishin 1/09/16 Podcast: Channeling John Wooden? Cori Close has UCLA climbing the polls

For the first podcast of the year, Dishin & Swishin looks out West where the Pac-12 currently has the best RPI of any conference in the country. This week’s polls rankings, with Stanford ( No. 9/13), Oregon State (No. 11/12), Arizona State (No. 14/14), UCLA (No. 15/21), and California (No. 21/RV), show the respect the conference is getting nationally.

One of the most interesting of those teams is UCLA, where Cori Close’s Bruins are 11-3. The three losses are a three-point loss to second-ranked South Carolina, an overtime loss to third-ranked Notre Dame, and a thrilling double overtime loss to California.

Reviewing…the situation…

Tough sledding for Cal in the Pac-12. Ditto for Colorado.

Hofstra and James Madison are 5-1 in the CAA

George Washington has moved to 7-0 in the A-10. Keep an eye on Jones’ shoulder….

It’s been a tough year. Wichita State got its first win in the MVC.

Makin’ Debbie happy: #7 Ohio State over Michigan, 97-93.

The SEC is South Carolina... and everyone else, as #9 Kentucky gets upset by Ole Miss.

Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-1 in the Sun Belt.

Yah, UTEP is diggin’ in the C-USA.

Hello, Teddy Bears! They take down Chattanooga and move to 4-0 in the Southern.  “The loss was the Mocs’ first in league play since January 2012 at Elon, snapping a 52-game conference win streak.”

Ruff! Albany is now 6-0 in the American East.

Strong start to stumbling in the ACC: Virginia Tech (2-3) and BC (1-4)… BTW, North Carolina (2-4) lost to Wake Forest (1-4). Speaking of which: Transfers leave ACC women’s basketball feeling growing pains

“We’re a young league right now,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “When you look at this senior class, you’re not looking at a lot of WNBA draft picks in the senior class. When you look at the freshmen and sophomores, you’ve got loads of talent in the conference.”

The ACC arguably has been hit harder by transfers than any major conference.

Abilene Christian is still rolling through the Southland.

San Diego and BYU are lookin’ like the top dogs in the ever-interesting WCC. St. Mary’s one-point win over Gonzaga (3 Ls in a row) keeps everyone nice and tight.

The South Dakota teams are headed for a showdown – both are 5-1 in the Summit… as is Oral Roberts.

Hey! That snuck up on me: UT Rio Grand is 5-0 in the WAC. This didn’t sneak up on me: New Mexico State has the same conference record.

This could be fun: Eastern Washington (6-0) gives Montana State (6-1) their first loss in the Big Sky.

Don’t wanna jinx’em, but the Gauchos handed UC-Davis their first conference loss, and are now 4-1 in the Big West.

Games to keep you entertained if you’re snowbound:

Oklahoma v. Texas – how do these teams play the game after a “recovery win”?

ESPN 3: The Zips face the Chippewas at 1PM EST

FS1: Interesting test? Baylor v. Iowa, 1:30 EST

The Bonnies (6-2) v. the Dukes (7-1), 2PM EST

EPSN3: Horizon bragging rights: Green Bay v. Wright State, 2PM. (BTW: Congrats to Raider Kim Demmings, who set the all-time career scoring record in Horizon League women’s basketball history

Montana State visits the Vandals, 5PM EST.

The Battle of the Washingtons, 5PM EST.

UC Riverside v. UC Santa Barbara, 10PM EST.

SUNDAY

ESPN 3: The Battle of the Floridas – Miami v. Florida State, 1PM EST

SECN: Florida v. Missouri, 2PM EST

This one feels like it could be fun: Michigan v. Nebraska, 2pm EST.

ESPN3: It doesn’t have the usual national draw, but it’s always a fun rivalry: Duke v. UNC, 3PM EST.

Despite everything, the Heels were giving virtually everyone a tough game, and they came from behind to upset Syracuse. However, that was when they had McDaniel in the frontcourt. Even though she wasn’t close to being in shape, her sheer talent and size made a big difference for UNC. When she went down, the Heels lost by double digits to Miami (understandable) and Wake Forest (far less so — this was Wake’s first league win). Not only is McDaniel’s talent irreplaceable, it means the Heels have only six scholarship players available. Right now, they are desperate for any kind of wins.

It’s odd to set up this game with so little at stake in terms of national or even league ramifications for both teams. If Duke had lost to Clemson or Wake Forest prior to this game, it would have been the first time ever that the two teams met with losing league records. As it stands, this is the first time since 1993 that neither team has been ranked going into their rivalry showdown. That said, this game should be fiercely contested, though not necessarily a thing of beauty.

ESPN2: Will South Carolina give Mississippi State their first home loss? 5PM.

Indiana v. Northwestern. One team is trying to make its mark, the other team is trying to make up its mind. 5pm EST.

Stanford v. UCLA. This. Is. Not. Even. Streamed? 9PM EST.

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brought some interesting games. But first, did you catch ESPN’s Top Basketball Moment of 2015?

And Babcock McGraw: Celebrating 2015’s best women’s sports stories?

Now, about those games…

Looking at the Maryland game tape for ways to beat the Huskies? Might have to burn it. The UConn-Cinncinatti game saw Georgetown transfer/Big East Freshman of the Year Natalie Butler finally make her debut…and it was pretty.

Speaking of Maryland in the paint: Brionna Jones led the initially sluggish Terps over Illinois. Perhaps it was a little UConn hangover plus banner distraction?  Ten years later, Maryland celebrates its 2006 women’s basketball national champions. That was a fun game to be in the arena…

I said it might be interesting: Missing point guard Niya Johnson, #4 Baylor fell apart offensively, and Oklahoma State took advantage. 

It’s great Notre Dame has Turner back – she was the difference against a feisty Georgia Tech team, earning McGraw her 799th win.

#20 USF couldn’t score enough against #8 Mississippi State, but a final quarter drought by the Bulldogs sure made it interesting.

USC-West faced its first real test of the season against #21 UCLA, and kept it close all game. But the Bruins prevailed, handing the Trojans their first loss.

#22 Miami opened the ACC strong – looking forward to their game against #15 FSU on the 24th.

Hello, 12-1 Duquesne.

Hello, 10-1 Army. Army West Point’s Kelsey Minato became “the first women’s basketball player at the academy to reach 2,000 career points and is just one of three women’s players to reach the feat in Patriot League history.”

Because it’s still new: Hello, (8-5, 1-0 in the Summit) Omaha.

Hello, 12-1 Virginia Tech. “No one’s been paying attention to us,” Coach Dennis Wolff said, “so please don’t jinx us.” (Sorry, that’s what we do at the WHB!) B.C., Louisville and Syracuse are up next.

Speaking of Louisville: Boom, they pull it together and take down a suddenly wobbly #15 Florida State, 79-69.

This one sounded like it would have made Debbie happy: A strong final quarter helped #8 Ohio State over #24 Michigan State, 85-80.

Surprise! A young pup and a Connecticut transfer helped (6-6) Penn State roar back to stun #14 Northwestern, 79-72.

Close: North Carolina escaped the Maine Bears by one, courtesy of Watt’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Also close: Purdue escaped Michigan by two, thanks to Morrissette’s three.

See above: Seton Hall escaped Creighton by four. The New Big East is looking interesting…

Speaking of interesting! Luck folks who watch the WCC. It’s going to be another slugfest. BYU dumped St. Mary’s, Gonzaga dumped San Francisco.

I see you, Green Bay, Wright State and Youngstown State…but I’ll pay more attention when you start playing each other.

Yes, Jeff, Pac-12 women’s basketball is loaded with top teams

Sure: U women’s basketball is fashionable choice

For a fan base hungry for a winner while the big two sports have struggled, the mostly homegrown Missouri women’s basketball team has arrived just in time.

“It’s definitely got a different feel. There is a buzz,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got so many local kids on our team that are really talented. We’ve got a pretty darn good group of girls that suit up and put that jersey on. We’ve had some good success in the nonconference — certainly aware of how tough it’s going to get — and I think we play a fun, exciting style and we’re winning.”

Games to keep an eye on:

Today:
Ohio State v. Marylandnoon! I hate noon games.

TCU (9-3) v. Kansas Sate (10-2). Just want folks to pay attention.

Marshall (10-1) v. Western Kentucky (9-2). Just giving the Herd some well-deserved attention as they face the Hilltoppers.

Oklahoma State (11-1) v. Iowa State (9-3). Can the Cowgirls build on a big win?

Abilene Christian (9-2) v. Central Arkansas (10-1). Just paying attention.

Santa Clara (12-2) v. Gonzaga (11-4).St. Mary’s (10-4) v. San Diego (12-1). It’s the WCC. ’nuff said.

Oregon (11-0) v #21 UCLA (9-3). Can the Bruins ding another undefeated?

#19 Cal v. #17 Arizona State. Fun in the sun.

#10 Oregon State v. USC-West. Another test for the Trojans.

Sunday:
#8 Mississippi v. Florida (12-1). What kind of bite do the Gators have?

#12 Duke v. Syracuse. So, what is happening with the Blue Devils?

Boston College (11-1) v. Virginia Tech (12-1). A battle of two under-the-radar teams.

James Madison v. William & Mary. A game that will help the Tribe see how far they’ve come.

Nebraska v. #14 Northwestern. The Wildcats need to bounce back.

#18 Oklahoma v. #4 Baylor. How quickly can the Bears regroup?

Georgia v. #16 Texas A&M. How legit are this year’s Dawgs?

#25 DePaul v. St. John’s. The Red Storm has been quietly rising.

In other news:

Like NDSU football, Ada-Borup girls basketball creates a winning culture:

But quietly—about a 60-minute drive from Fargo-Moorhead in Norman County of Minnesota—the Ada-Borup High School girls basketball program has created its own buzz. That’s why Dave Smart’s Cougars have been named The Forum’s sports story of the year.

Jewell Loyd enjoys success as WNBA rookie, proves critics wrong

“When I made my choice to leave school and go pro, a lot of people had doubts. Some even said I wasn’t ready or strong enough to compete at this level,” Loyd said. “Winning that award validated my choice. I’m really not a big fan of trying to prove people wrong, I just focus on what I need to do, but I was proud to say that I did.”

WNBA star Tamika Catchings gives back along with Allstate’s WBCA Good Works team

With Hall Of Fame Nomination, Sheryl Swoopes’ Unique Career Is Recogized

No, not THAT California: It’s a new year for California women’s basketball

In her fifth season as a head coach in college basketball, Jess Strom knows the final practices before winter break can be tough. Especially after a loss. To your biggest rival. 

But that’s why Strom was pleasantly surprised by the response from her California team after its 78-72 loss Dec. 16 at IUP. Then again, maybe that’s a natural reaction for the the defending NCAA Division II champion Vulcans — not that Strom necessarily wants to make that connection.

Encouraging: Olympics still in Tolo’s grasp after knee reconstruction

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