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Lombard headed to women’s basketball HOF

Lombard will start his 38th year coaching girls high school basketball this fall owning a record of 1,165-109 [Holy CARP!!! WHB]. He reached his 1,000th win before losing 100 games.

Lombard spent seven years at Nazareth and the remaining 30 years at Canyon High. He has won 17 Texas high school state girls basketball championships. The latest title was won last year.

“I’m very much looking forward to the trip to Tennessee,” Lombard said. “But no much more than looking forward to our next basketball season. The year-to-year seasons still excite me. I know it sounds crazy but I still even enjoy preparing for practice.”

Cool! Basketball star Kia Nurse to carry Canadian flag at Pan Am closing

“I’m super ecstatic, and I wish (my whole team) could be here,” Nurse said. “All 12 of us would definitely attempt to hold the flag together and wave. But I’m so pumped for this and really excited and fortunate to have the opportunity.”

Not really a surprise: Analysis finds ties between wealth, winning in NC high school sports

Okay, a little less cranky about there not being an opponent set for UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic, but I would appreciate the SEC schedulers FIXING THIS

Auriemma said UConn’s hope to play in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden is in jeopardy. An SEC scheduling modification has apparently taken Kentucky out of the mix and the Huskies may now be looking at just another nonconference game away from the Dixon format. 

As we head into the second half of the season, Michelle has a team-by-team midseason report card.

The second half of the WNBA has arrived, and while Minnesota appears to be the front-runner, the list of potential title contenders appears longer — or at least perhaps less obvious — than it has in the past few seasons.

Remember the preseason picks? Ouch:

Atlanta Record: 7-10
Grade: C-minus

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Awfulness: UNT women’s basketball player found dead in dorm

“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the passing of Eboniey Jeter,” said Rick Villarreal, UNT athletic director. “She was a great young lady and a tremendous competitor, but most of all she was a trusted teammate on the women’s basketball team and a respected member of the Mean Green family.

Relieved-ness: WNBA MVP Moore re-signs with Lynx

Stupid-ness: UK women’s basketball notes: Epps suspended following alcohol incident

Adjusting-ness: Jody Adams, Wichita State introduce changes to women’s basketball program

“I’ve dedicated my life to building a successful program that not only wins basketball games, but prepares young women for the rest of their lives,” Adams said in the release. “I regret if my efforts to build winning teams were ever seen as disrespectful of any person. I’ll continue to look for ways that I can improve both my coaching style and technique to help us win games and improve the lives of our players every day.”

As a result of Monday’s meeting, women’s basketball players and coaches will work with a consultant in sports psychology. The release also said that players will have “enhanced open lines of communication” to athletic administrators, although specific steps were not described.

“They are starting to become like every other league,” U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma said at training camp on Wednesday. “Players are starting to do what they think is in their best interest. Starting to think about their future. Sometimes that’s not always popular. … The league is strong and viable. It’s proven itself. New stars will pop up.”
I agree with Auriemma. I’m betting other players are just salivating at the chance to make a name for themselves and steal a roster spot. Notes Mechelle: WNBA IN GOOD HANDS AS YOUNG TALENT TAKES REINS

Right after you were allowed in to watch the last half-hour of the U.S. women’s national basketball team minicamp workout at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center this week, you were handed a yellow sheet with the players’ names on it.

NO, NAME, POS, HGT, WGT, DOB, TEAM, COLLEGE, HOMETOWN.

It was surprising that weight was listed among the headings, because you never see weight listed in an NCAA women’s basketball souvenir game program. When I asked a Team USA official about it, she said these are world-class athletes, and they should be treated as such. Amen to that.

One night nearly nine years ago still fuels members of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, because it’s the one that got away.

Over the last 20 years the various players that have earned roster spots have compiled a ridiculous 86-1 record in major international competitions, including gold medals in the last five Olympics, a 2007 title in the FIBA Americas Championship and gold in four of the last five FIBA World Championships. That one blemish, a 75-68 loss to Russia, came in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and by the organization’s own absurdly high standards the game still stands out.

“That’s what USA Basketball is at this point,” said guard Sue Bird, who just completed mini-camp in pursuit of her fourth Olympic gold medal. “It’s not a story if we win, it’s a story if we lose.”

Q: Quick observations on the posts at this camp?

Taurasi: BG [Brittney Griner] and Tina [Charles] aren’t here, and they started every game of the world championship last year. They are a huge part of what we do. But the one player I just love is Nneka [Ogwumike]. I love playing with her; I love watching her play. She gives you energy.

Bird: She’s definitely gotten better.

Taurasi: And Sylvia [Fowles] had a good three days, which I’m sure felt good to her.

Bird: Yes, she hasn’t been fully healthy for a while.

Taurasi: I was telling Coach that Syl was our best player in Beijing [the 2008 Olympics] when she was just out of college. And when you look at the teams we will have to beat to win gold, they’re the biggest in the world. There is a place for Syl, and this has been a good three days for her to get back on that track.

This week the highly-decorated girls basketball coach announced she will be retiring from Monarch as a teacher as well as a coach, leaving a giant void from a Coyotes program that has evolved into one of Class 5A’s most consistent winners under Hook’s guidance.

“I think you always come to a point in your life where you wonder if there is something else out there,” Hook said. “I’m in a good position to retire from teaching, and teaching and coaching are both full-time jobs. I asked myself if I’ve done everything in the coaching profession that I set out to do. And I feel like I have. I feel like it’s a good time for change for both me and the program.”

Joel Beck at USA Today give C.O. a shoutout: 30 Years of Honoring The Future: Former POY Chiney Ogwumike using social media to make a difference

Spend a few minutes watching Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumikes ongoing video blog series, and you’ll come away with a strong realization about the 2014 WNBA All-Star: She just gets it.

Given the ubiquitous nature of social media in the world we live in, it certainly isn’t unusual for professional athletes to turn to the likes of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for a little shameless self-promotion. What is unique, however, is seeing an athlete using his or her viral star power or magnetic personality to try to make an actual difference in the lives of others—unless, of course, you’re Ogwumike. Then it just seems to be second nature.

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Watching #17 UNC v. #7 Florida State I had Old Big East flashbacks. “Physical” was an understatement. Sylvia and Gray got fired up, and FSU got flummoxed, falling (once again) on the road.

Bet Debbie Antonelli wishes she had been calling this DAS: Double OT, last second shots, Epps scoring 41… and Kentucky topping Mississippi State, 92-90 . This one’s worth re-watching.

Quinnipiac continues Quishin’ the MAAC competition – Bobcats over Red Foxes, 80-62.

JMU rules the CAA.

Arkansas-LR making a case for being the ruler of Sunbelt… but that will have to wait until their rematch against Arkansas State on Feb 19th.

New Mexico State is ruling the WAC.

#11 Duke dismissed the Cavaliers, 71-45, as Rebecca Greenwell set a freshman record for three pointers.

Miami and #23 Syracuse continued their up and down seasons. This time the Hurricanes were up, and the Orange was down, 85-71.

When you play out-of-conference cupcakes, you have to be careful of calling an in-conference loss an upset: #24 Georgia (17-8, 5-7) falls to Florida (12-12, 4-7) 51-49

Before they can face each other, Tennessee has to get through #10 Kentucky & Alabama and South Carolina has to get through Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Feb 23rd, y’all. Mark it on your calendars.

Woot! Talk all you want about the “Majors” and their “Conference Tournament.” Pay attention to the WCC – St. Mary’s takes down BYU (in OT), 76-71. San Diego takes down Pacific (and the Tigers may have lost Unique Coleman), 63-53. Gonzaga steamrolls Loyola Mary, 82-59. That’s the 9th straight season of 20 wins for the Bulldogs.

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DCCCXCIX was against former assistant Tonya Cardoza. CM was against former assistant Jamelle Elliot. If all goes as one might assume, Auriemma could be going for CMII against another former assistant (USA Basketball) Dawn Staley. 

Other interesting games:

Yowza! The Black Bears are Back?!?! Maine goes into New York and beats Albany, 52-44. Not only do they snap a 10-game losing streak against the Great Danes, but they move into a first-place tie with Albany. Of course, writes Peter Warner, the UMaine women plan to keep breakthrough win over UAlbany in perspective

Saturday’s victory over the University at Albany was a breakthrough accomplishment for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

The Black Bears’ resurgence during the last two seasons has been unmistakable but, until now, their legitimacy as an America East championship contender has never been so apparent.

Um, hello? Donde esta Sr. Stephen King?

Glad they listened to me (ya, right, Helen). George Washington wins and look what happens: GW earns 1st ranking in nearly 7 years in women’s basketball. Almost as nice, they’re the NCAA’s Team of the Week.

Head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ team has a conference-best scoring margin of 16.4 points per game, limiting opponents to an average of 57.8 points per game this season, while averaging 74.2. The top individual contributors for George Washington are 6-foot-4 junior forward Jonquel Jones, who averages a double-double at 15.8 points per game and an Atlantic 10-leading 11.9 rebounds per outing. She is backed by 6-foot-2 sophomore Caira Washington, who averages 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds.

 Yes it’s an “upset,” and yes, I said don’t sleep on the Horned Frogs, and yes, Pebley is a great hire, but when I look at TCU over #14 Texas I have to remind folks that the Longhorns have lost a major starter (something I wish the ESPN halftime commentators would remember to mention.).
Injuries also figured in #10 Kentucky’s win over #21 Georgia, since the Bulldogs have lost their leading scorer, Barbee.
Nice win over Miami for Pittsburgh, whose season continues to get better after a rough start.
It was tight, but Seton Hall topped St. John’s, 78-73, and moved to 9-1 in the New Big East.
Surprise! West Virginia upsets #24 Oklahoma, 78-69.
Surprise! An injury decimated Utah (1-9) gives Pac-12 #2 Arizona State a battle, 58-48. Perhaps the #10 Sun Devils were looking ahead to their next game? #12 Stanford.
Surprise! Kansas (12-10) keeps it close against #3 Baylor (20-1), but the Bears win their 19th in a row, 66-58.
Now, I don’t want to jinx them, but William & Mary is winning some games. Usually they don’t, but now they have Ed Swanson.
The Battle of the Missouri Valley Conference Leaders went to Drake as the Bulldogs take down Wichita State, 64-61. The win gives Daniel Finney offers Reasons to cheer for Bulldog women hoops
5. And finally, there’s senior Liza Heap, who has started all 20 games for the Bulldogs and is a triple major in biology, neuroscience and psychology. Anybody who can keep all that straight deserves a standing ovation.
Tennessee stayed unbeaten in the SEC, but it wasn’t easy: Vols 79, Mississippi State 67.
Staying unbeaten was even tougher for the Terps, as #5 Maryland and #20 Iowa State turned in the Debbie Antonelli Special, 93-88.
Maryland Eastern Shore and Howard teamed up for a second D.A.S., with the Bison emerging victorious, 92-90.
Maybe someone messed with Minnesota’s mojo, while Northwestern regained their’s.
Galdeira (29pts)  is amazing. Imagine if she had more support? Call over Washington State, 57-54.

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It’s the Billikens again! This time Sadie Stipanovich hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds to play to give them a win over Saint Joseph’s, 52-51.

It’s the Peahens again! This time over Niagara, 65-58, for the second win of their season. In their previous matchup, Niagara routed Saint Peter’s by 33 points.

Yes, in-state battles are awesome: Arkansas State (9-2 in the Sun Belt) gives Arkansas-Little Rock their first Sun Belt loss (9-1), 70-69.

It took double overtime, but #14 Texas gave #24 Oklahoma their first Big 12 loss, 84-81.

Tough battle by shorthanded #10 Kentucky (though Goss is back), but two key end-of-game blocks helped the #6 Vols prevail in Lexington, 73-72.

A game of back-and-forth runs, momentum swings, floor burns and all-out effort came down to the final possession.

Down 73-72, UK got the ball back with 46 seconds left after Jelleah Sidney blocked Cierra Burdick’s shot.

Before a roaring Memorial Coliseum crowd of 7,407, the Wildcats were one field goal from their fourth victory over Tennessee in the past six games.

What the Cats found instead was stomach-churning frustration.

Their efficiency from the floor helped the Terps, who entered the contest with the fourth-best field-goal percentage in the country, shoot 54.3 percent in the first half before finishing the game shooting 52.5 percent.

“One of our biggest jobs to do was to run them off the court,” Walker-Kimbrough said.

The Debbie Antonelli Special (#1) comes courtesy of Wright State v. Oakland: It was the Raiders over the Golden Grizzlies, 108-89. Nice story out of Oakland:

A basketball player who averages 21 points per game as a junior and 19.1 as a senior, along with showing an ability to rebound, block shots and steal, is likely to end up on an NCAA Division I roster somewhere.

And that is exactly what happened for Troy Athens graduate Sinclair Russell, who is currently in her redshirt sophomore season with Oakland University

DAS (#2) was #20 Iowa over Northwestern, 102-99. Melissa Dixon hit 9-10 on three’s as the Hawkeyes made a B10 record 19 during the game.

“You’re going to hear me ro-oar!” In a game that featured sister v. sister, Maine mauled New Hampshire, 87-56. Albany is up next, Feb 1st.

FGCU is flyin’ through the A-Sun, but the Eagles remember last year’s game against Northern Kentucky:

Since becoming eligible for the Atlantic Sun tournament, the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team is 59-1 against conference teams in the regular season.

The one loss came last year at Northern Kentucky. And it was ugly.

With a 63-43 loss, FGCU suffered its worst A-Sun defeat and tied for the fewest points scored in a game in program history. 

It’s looking like the fight for C-USA top spot will be between Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Going to have to wait until Feb. 21st for that game, though.

Auburn stays winless in the SEC, going down to Arkansas, 52-47.

Speaking of the SEC, Nell Fortner offers her top five by position.

Well, oops! Down goes Long Beach State for a second time, this time of courtesy of the Wahine, 72-64.

Kansas State stole Oklahoma State’s fan belt. They defeat the Cowgirls, 52-51, in OT.

Colorado State is now 7-1 in the Mountain West. Next up: Fresno State (8-0 in the conference).

Coming up, Todd McMahon writes: Road challenges await UW-Green Bay

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team had its hands full with Ruvanna Campbell three times last season.

Horizon League-leading UWGB is bracing for its first encounter this season with Illinois-Chicago’s imposing 6-foot-3 junior forward.

“She’s in a league of her own in the conference,” Phoenix sophomore Mehryn Kraker said.

From Palo Alto: Stanford women’s basketball tops busy home weekend slate

Orrange and Samuelson are close to milestones. Orrange needs three assists to become the seventh player in Stanford history to reach 500. 

Samuelson is five 3-pointers shy of matching Nicole Powell (201) for sixth on the Cardinal’s all-time list.

Stanford faces the top three scorers in the conference this weekend and four of the top eight. Washington State’s Lia Galdeira (19.6) and Tia Presley (18.9) are second and third.

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Geno Auriemma: By the numbers – UConn coach nears 900th career win; milestone could come as early as Tuesday. Mechelle adds: 10 defining moments – UConn coach, in his 30th season, is on verge of 900th career victory

My goodness: Girls basketball coach returns to team after losing arm

Well ouch: Buchholz girls basketball team forfeits 2014-15 season

Two years after winning the school’s first state basketball title, the Buchholz girls basketball team has forfeited its 2014-15 season.

Bobcats athletic director Jay Godwin asked for and got permission from the Florida High School Athletic Association on Monday to do so, three days after finding out the team had been using an ineligible player the entire season.

and then Buchholz fires girls basketball coach after forfeited season

Buchholz High School principal Vince Perez met Friday morning with the girls basketball team and coach Rebecca Williams. By the end of the meeting, he told the team they had to go in a different direction.

That meant, Williams, a Buchholz alum, is no longer the coach after eight years.

Mechelle writes about Drake sophomore Lizzy Wendell.

Kids in really large families sometimes look for ways to build their individual identities. But rarely do they look to the laundry room to establish such a distinction.

But Drake sophomore forward Lizzy Wendell, one of the nation’s top scorers this season, was once as a teenager the voluntary head laundry washer for her family, which includes her parents and eight siblings.

“She took over the laundry for about eight months,” said her father, Mike Wendell. “We have a washer and dryer upstairs and downstairs. She just wanted to do it; she’s pretty organized.”

Lizzy explained it this way: “My oldest sister, when she came back home from college, started paying me to do her laundry for her. And I said, ‘Oh, this is easy,’ and I did it for everyone for a while.”

Eventually, “Busy Lizzy,” as her family calls her, decided to give up the chore.

“But we all liked it while it lasted,” Mike said, grinning. “That’s a lot of laundry.”

Nowadays, Wendell focuses on taking opposing defenses to the cleaners. Her 22.6 points per game leads the Missouri Valley Conference and is tied for eighth in Division I.

Good to hear: Craft says young players hungry to get better

The skinned knee is a rite of passage for the young. Finding a bandage and the will to return to the playground tag game is the best way to address the pain.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team took a tumble midway through the second half Sunday at Purdue, falling behind the Boilermakers by 12 points before rising to win a 79-71 overtime decision.

“I think us really pushing through that was a big step for our team,” junior guard Cait Craft said. “In the past, we haven’t been able to do that. We just came together, had each other’s back and pushed through it.”

Check out Swish Appeal’s mid-season COY candidates.

In W news:

John Altavilla is Catching Up With Kelly Faris

Storm trade 2 players to Sun for No. 3 pick in WNBA draft

The Seattle Storm are continuing their rebuilding project.

The Storm traded Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen to the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday for the third and 15th picks in the upcoming WNBA draft and Renee Montgomery. The Storm already have the No. 1 pick.

“As we get into the draft and look at the players coming out, we’re excited about having 1 and 3,” Seattle Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “For us a key objective is to add youth to the roster, and this gives us an opportunity through the draft.”

Pat Friday grades the trade.

More on an Aussie: Abby Bishop shoulders Canberra’s final hopes, but don’t compare her to Lauren Jackson

Catch is in India: Journey on a difficult terrain

Finally, Emotional Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team starts healing process by playing first game since tragedy  and from Graham: ‘I want everybody to know who Shannise was’ Eastern Michigan’s 21-year-old junior forward died Sunday in a car accident

The first time Bud Schimmelpfenneg, a longtime Eastern Michigan fan and booster, met one of the new additions to the women’s basketball team he reached out to shake her hand.

Shannise Heady wanted none of it.

“Oh no, I’m not shaking hands,” he recalled her telling him. “I’m a hugger.”

There weren’t any handshakes after the final buzzer brought an end to Wednesday’s game between Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, either. Just as players, coaches and staff from both teams locked arms for a moment of silence before the game and remained that way through the national anthem, jerseys alternating in a semi-circle that stretched almost all the way around the court, they eschewed handshakes for hugs when it was over. It wasn’t a normal night. It won’t be normal for Eastern Michigan for a long time. For these players, maybe ever.

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After their nice piece on Kansas powerhouse Emporia State, boom, they drop to #3 in the DII polls after a one-point loss against Central Missouri. It’s especially painful ’cause they were outscored 9-1 in the closing minutes of the game.

Lewis University (Ill) moves into first, Pittsburg State University (Kan) second. The Pitt State Gorillas. How can you not cheer for a team like that!?!?!

Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to indulge in some DII scanning (ain’t doing laundry grand!), but it’s interesting to see that all but two teams have one loss.

BTW, here’s a story that might explain the sudden surge of women’s basketball coverage from the Gray Lady:

Before last Tuesday night, I had never heard the name Scott Cacciola. 

Twenty-four hours later, I’m not certain that I could have been any more excited at the notion of meeting him. Cacciola is in his second year of covering the New York Knicks basketball franchise for the New York Times.

Due to the Knicks’ dismal start (OK, with a 5-35 record at the moment and having won only once in their past 26 games, perhaps atrocious would be more appropriate), the NYT sports editors decided to have mercy on their beat writer and send him around the country to view winning basketball. They fielded hundreds of suggestions from readers and, through a collaboration of sorts, are picking each trip one game at a time.

So, for the next couple of months, he’s become a modern sports version of “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt.

And he started with the nation’s top-ranked program in NCAA Division II.

Lose, Knicks, lose! (Can you tell I moved from Boston to NYC?)

In the DIII poll, last year’s champeens, Farleigh Dickinson U – Florham (N.J) are going strong at 13-0. Wonder if their governor knows they exist? Perennial top-position teams lurk below: Thomas More College (KY) (love their headline, “Tomas Uses Big Second Half Run to Veto Presidents.” And forcing 43 turnovers against Thief college? Love it.), Amherst College, Washington University – St. Louis and University of St. Thomas, (MN). Lots and lots of familiar names fill out the ranks.

The Jeffs better be careful, though… the NY Times just wrote about them, though this time it’s Jere’, so maybe they’re safe: At Amherst, Division III Team With No. 1 Ambition

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(Sunday and the season.)

The ESPN/AP headline says #22 West Virginia “rolled” past Fairfield, and if you’re Mike Carey you gotta love that the Stags only scored 11 in the first half. But when your Mountaineers are outscored 42-35 in the second by a 1-5 team? Not so happy.

June is bustin’ out all over – and so is Galdeira (33pts). As a result, Washington State knocked off #10 Maryland, 70-64.

In what seems the umpteenth double overtime game of this young season, the battle of Chicago went to Northwestern as the Wildcats took down the #18 Blue Demons, 97-91.

As expected, the Bulls gave those other Wildcats everything they could handle. Not a beautiful shooting night for either team, but Thompson and Goss’ free throws sealed the game for #9 Kentucky.

#5 Stanford started out slowly… and I mean slowly, against Hawai’i, but Thompson heated up and the Cardinal breathed a sigh of relief after their 86-73 win.

No sighing involved:

#25 Mississippi almost doubled up UNO (the Privateers, not the Mavericks.).

#22 Georgia caged the Golden Eagles, giving coach Landers his 850th win with the Bulldogs. Landers joins Pat Summitt (1,098 wins at Tennessee), Jim Boeheim (953 wins at Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (916 wins at Duke), Geno Auriemma (882 wins at Connecticut), Dean Smith (879 wins at North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (876 wins at Kentucky) in reaching 850 wins at one Division I school.

#20 Oklahoma State dismissed Texas State.

#19 Beavers escaped the Cougars.

#14 California over Creighton.

#13 Baylor tipped the Hatters.

#11 North Carolina pounded Prairie View.

#3 Connecticut just threw fastballs at Vanderbilt.

Upcoming:

#8 Duke v. #7 Texas A&M. The Blue Devils handled Stony Brook, but it might have cost them Williams (yup) and Stevens. Not sure we’ve figured out who the Aggies are yet. (WatchESPN @ 1pm)

#4 Tennessee v. #6 Texas. Yup, it’s early in the season, but this feels like two “statement” games for the individual head coaches. Can Aston’s team stand up to the limelight. Can Warlick’s team recover from a stunning setback. (FOXS1 @ 6pm)

I’m intrigued by #2 Notre Dame v. Kansas, mostly ’cause the Jayhawks are 5-1 and it’ll be nice to get a inkling if they’re “legit” this year.

It’s a battle of the undefeateds as Lehigh faces off against Sacred Heart.

In another battle of the undefeateds, #15 Nebraska meets 4-0 Northern Colorado.

It’s a battle of the defeateds, as 0-3 Canisius goes up against 0-3 St. Francis (PA)

Fun IN-state rivalry game: 5-0 Indiana v. 4-1 Indiana State.

Marist got its first win of the season, (Yah!) Now they get to go up against Baylor. (Gulp)

5-1 Green Bay will get a good sense of themselves when they go up against #3 UConn.

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Something that might be said to the Kentucky-Baylor teams (43 Turnovers! ) and all those who have already conceded the 2015 championship to UConn (Hello, Tree!)

Let’s just spit it out before either of these Hall of Fame coaches can say it first: “It’s only November.”

While real statements aren’t made until April, Stanford still said something rather important in its wholly unexpected 88-86 upset of top-ranked Connecticut in overtime at Maples Pavilion on Monday.

Stanford opened the season with a new offense and a new identity. But different can be very good, both for the sixth-ranked Cardinal and maybe for the landscape of an entire sport.

*no pressure*

Other things that caught my eye…

LSU barely surviving Jackson State. (62 total turnovers! 52pts in OT!)

University of Texas Pan American scaring the you-know-what off of (too highly ranked) Texas A&M.

Gonzaga spotted (too highly ranked) Dayton an 11-point halftime lead, and then exploded in the second half for the 75-65 win (new head coach Lisa Fortier‘s first).

Did I not tell you? Albany over Penn State, 54-53.

Ok, Central Michigan – are you going to have a tougher year than folks predicted or is the UMass team going to surprise some folks?

Eastern Michigan kept #14 Michigan State  honest.

Eyes on Seton Hall, as they keep Carey’s Mountaineers honest – #17 West Virginia escapes with an 89-87 win and moves into the semifinals of the WNIT against Mississippi State.

So, Middle Tennessee loses to Arizona State and then defeats Miami. Interesting.

FWIW, the Roadrunners took down Arizona. Look out, WAC.

No, it’s not time to start OT tracking… yet… but Vandy did need OT to take down Green Bay…

…and the Toppers used OT to defeat Colorado 79-78. Is this season about the continued rebirth of the Western Kentucky program? They’re playing in the WNIT and Albany is next up.

Richmond defeats Georgetown and moves to 2-0.

Hello, Sacred Heart! (Down go the Gaels!)

Hello, Delaware! – though Bell is gone. (Down go the Red Foxes!)

Debbie is happy: Ohio State 113, St. Francis (PA) 97.

Princeton laying waste to Pennsylvanian teams.

Hmmm…. watch out for Long Beach this year – they take down San Diego State.

I’m noticing Winthrop and High Point have early season losses… and the Fightin’ Camels do not.

North Carolina tarred the (too highly ranked) UCLA Bruins.

Yah, USA Today/Coaches poll gets the benefit of a day… but why on earth was JMU not ranked in the AP poll?

What do Dallas, Columbus, New Orleans and Tampa Bay have in common?

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Yes, I’ll admit it — I woke up, had a cup of coffee, and “Basketball Jones!” popped into my head.

Nate has 2014 his NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 predictions: DePaul, North Carolina, Texas A&M are teams to watch

While I previewed the Sweet 16 by looking at a few of the top WNBA prospects still playing, I threw out a few questions to other bloggers around SB Nation who cover women’s basketball. Today we begin with a set of questions I asked the writers who have been covering the tournament for Swish Appeal.

From Mechelle: Storylines abound in Sweet 16 – Regional semifinals tip off on ESPN at noon ET Saturday in the Notre Dame region

Graham is Previewing a very Sweet 16

Welcome to the tournament within the tournament, the roped-off section of the postseason club that is the Sweet 16.

Getting to the tournament in the first place is a big deal. Just as it’s not easy to get to base camp on Mount Everest, it’s not easy to get to the starting line of the NCAA tournament. And once there, it only gets more difficult with each step.

Reaching the second week, when the basketball summit really starts to come clearly into view, is a big deal.

Look at the math.

Wondering who the experts pick? Click here.

Lincoln Bracket: Mechelle’s got the Lincoln Regional breakdown

Yup. Hosting is a crap shoot – just ask Nebraska (or Chattanooga). They’re not playing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to bring it. Connie Yori went all Jody Conradt on us.

In 1985, when the Longhorns were hosting the Final Four, they were huge favorites. But, they were upset (even though that doesn’t happen in women’s basketball) on the way to the Championship. Down, but not out, Jody put all her efforts into getting folks out to the games — and notched the first F4 sell out.

Now it’s the Huskers’ turn: For good of NU, Yori hopes UConn draws big crowds and Why Connie Yori Wants NU Fans to Pack PBA

“Because UConn doesn’t play in the Midwest very often, so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to see perhaps the best women’s program of all time,” Yori said before adding: “This UConn team also might be one of the best, if not the best, college women’s team of all-time. They’re phenomenal. Nebraska fans wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like this when they can see one of the greatest teams of all time playing in their own backyard. You don’t have to go to the Final Four in Nashville. All you have to do is buy a ticket and head straight down to the Haymarket.”

So… About those games:

Huskies v. Cougars

Game day: No. 1 seed UConn women vs. No. 12 BYU,
BYU women at a glance
BYU looks to N.C. State men’s championship team for motivation vs. UConn
Cougars, 6-7 Jennifer Hamson Defy Odds Advancing To Meet Huskies
Cinderella story inspires Bailey, BYU

There are players who have to search the nation and scour the Internet to find the inspiration needed to lead their teams to improbable March Madness upsets.

Brigham Young junior forward Morgan Bailey did not have any such issues.

As luck would have it, her uncle is Thurl Bailey, one of the stars of a North Carolina State team which recorded perhaps the most improbable national championship run in college basketball history. While Thurl Bailey was not part of the Brigham Young traveling party to Lincoln for Saturday’s regional semifinals, he did reach out to his beloved niece.

Will BYU, Hamson block Huskies’ path?
Mike DiMauro: BYU’s approach against UConn women … on any given night
BYU women’s basketball team enjoying sudden attention in Sweet 16
Cougars embracing, relishing underdog role vs. top seed UConn

NCAA would change sked for BYU and BYU will attend Sunday press conferences, but not play or practice

Stewie is coming of age

She came bounding out of practice Friday, down the tunnel and through the curtain at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This is Stewie. Happy. Giddy. Dare we even suggest innocent?

This is Stewie. The same kid who exited the court for the final time this season at Gampel Pavilion earlier this week alongside Stefanie Dolson, saluting the crowd with the royal wave, the Queen of England in Nikes, the slight hand twist accompanied by the 50,000-watt smile.

This is Stewie.

Could this be the same kid her coach was yelling at earlier this season for being stubborn? Stubborn. Stewie? C’mon. This is Ms. Sunny Disposition. Stubborn?

Steven M. Sipple: Auriemma proves a master at his calling, Lincoln Journal Star

Oh, he retains plenty of fire. But he doesn’t allow a subpar game, or a subpar half, to send him off the rails like he might have done when he took over a foundering UConn program in 1985.

“You tend to view things more big-picture as opposed to reacting to what’s going on in front of you right now,” he said. “I think that helps the players, too, if you’re kind of like, ‘We’ll be all right. …'”

He also noted the importance of celebrating great plays and great games, but moving forward quickly.

Never too high, never too low.

He paused for a few seconds.

“That’s just the long way of saying I’m too old to give a damn about what’s going on, and I have no control over it,” he said with a chuckle.

Slideshow: Pursuit of Perfection, ESPN

Aggies v Blue Demons:

Texas A&M women prepare for DePaul sharpshooters

Texas A&M’s Gary Blair sounded more like a carnival barker than coach as he discussed his team’s matchup with DePaul on Saturday in the NCAA women’s regional semifinals.

“Our game against DePaul will be one of the most entertaining games you’ve ever seen,” Blair said, adding that it would be like a “ping-pong match.”

Aggies back in ‘flow,’ strive for Elite Eight

Texas A&M women’s basketball team feeling elite going into Sweet 16 matchup against DePaul

Texas A&M women’s basketball team learning from watching other teams

DePaul women’s basketball playing their ‘best ball of the season’ going into Sweet Sixteen

Going into their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2011, DePaul women’s basketball continues to feed off of the momentum from their upset win against Duke while preparing to play Texas A&M.

“The win (over Duke) was huge for our program…definitely a momentum-builder,” sophomore Chanise Jenkins said. “It gives us tons of confidence going into the next game.”

Senior Jasmine Penny said the win meant a lot to her. With no plans to play after graduation, Penny has no idea when she will play her final game as a Blue Demon.

“It seems like we’re always the underdog and it was so amazing to see us come out and fight the way we did,” Penny said.

DePaul women ride fast-paced offense into Sweet 16 – Doug Bruno’s run-and-gun style carries risk but has high reward

Bruno’s Blue Demons not just a run-and-gun team

With Rogowski’s shooting, DePaul aiming high

‘(Texas A&M) is a business trip’ said Coach Doug Bruno of DePaul women’s basketball

DePaul and Texas A&M Tangle on Saturday in the Sweet 16

CESSNA: With UConn at this regional, second place not so bad

It’s un-American to strive to be second best, but when the 64-team bracket for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament was unveiled, it was a given Connecticut would advance to the Final Flour from the Lincoln Regional.
The only thing left to settle was who would be second. It’s not a defeatist outlook — it’s reality.

Notre Dame Regional breakdown

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw can’t stand the idea of having regionals at home sites. It doesn’t make for a truly fair tournament, she says. She’s right.

But the way the Irish have played this season, the fact that Notre Dame is hosting a regional is hardly the reason they are favored to go to the Women’s Final Four again. Rather, it’s that this Irish team — despite the loss of Skylar Diggins — is an undefeated powerhouse no matter where it is playing.

Admittedly, so is that other former Big East giant on the other side of the bracket. While UConn travels to Lincoln, Neb., for what appears a not-very-challenging regional, Notre Dame is home, where the Irish have lost just two games over the past three seasons.

Irish v. Cowgirls:

Irish’s McGraw: Notre Dame has unfair advantage or  is it that Notre Dame enjoys “comfort zone” of home court advantage in NCAA tournament. Either way, Berry Tramel is grumpy about it.

Players know their roles for unbeaten Notre Dame women’s basketball team

Irish won’t settle; want to improve

Notre Dame excited to play Oklahoma State at home

Martin leads Cowgirls into Sweet 16

Oklahoma State’s Brittney Martin and her teammates are in the NCAA Sweet 16 but will have to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame on the Irish’s home court. Pretty tough assignment for the No. 5 seed, right?

Sure. But, hey, Martin is a pretty tough kid. She was only about a month into her first college basketball season when she got a tooth knocked out.

She dove for a loose ball against Stephen F. Austin in early December 2012. One of the SFA players lost her balance and fell on Martin, whose face went into the floor.

“The initial hit was not painful; it kind of felt like if you bend a piece of licorice, maybe,” Martin said. “Then I felt my mouth, and my teeth were in my hand. So …”

Martin then smiled and pointed to her mouth.

Expect Tiffany Bias back in Cowgirls’ lineup vs. Notre Dame – OSU arrived in Stillwater about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 8, Bias was in the training room getting treatment on an injured ankle.

Cowgirls have something to lose against Notre Dame

Bears v. Wildcats:

Five things to know about Baylor vs. Kentucky

Kentucky, Baylor set for rematch of 4-OT thriller

The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball.

Neither coach expects another four-overtime thriller today in the Sweet 16. Still, both are looking forward to another entertaining matchup with a berth in the regional finals on the line.

Kentucky, Baylor women on edge for rematch of December’s ‘instant classic’

Kentucky’s Goss’ quest for perfection paying off

Kentucky not sure it can slow Baylor scoring machine Sims

Homer’s The Odyssey was an epic adventure filled with twists and turns.

So is any attempt to guard Baylor’s Odyssey.

In the epic adventure that was Kentucky’s four-overtime victory over the Bears in December, the Cats threw four different defenders at Odyssey Sims.

Kentucky could have used about six more. In the losing effort, Baylor’s senior guard scored 47 points.

Another sweet season for Sims and Baylor women

Odyssey Sims and Baylor are having another sweet season.

The Lady Bears have made it to the third round of the NCAA women’s tournament for the sixth year in a row. But there are still surely plenty of people surprised to see them back in the Sweet 16 this year.

Baylor women’s basketball team tops list of No. 1s

Looking ahead?

Graham has the Louisville Regional breakdown

Michelle Smith has the Stanford Regional breakdown South Carolina is the top seed, but will Stanford rediscover its Maples magic?

She adds: Ruef used to juggling multiple roles – Stanford senior has started 33 of 34 games and worked as an engineering intern

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After upsetting the Cardinal, USC looked like they had nothing left as they faced Oregon State. But, Coop helped them “raise the roof” and earn a trip to the dance.

If there was a title to the story of the Southern California women’s basketball team over the past decade, it might be: “Promise Lost.”

The talent, the potential, the parade of All-Americans that should have made this one of the premier programs on the West Coast, seemed to dissolve into a smoldering heap every single year.

There was the cruel succession of ACL injuries that cut short the careers of Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, who were among the most elite recruits in the country when they committed to USC. There were inexplicable late-season losses to lower-division conference teams that would leave the Trojans’ résumé lacking when it came in front of the NCAA committee. There were coaching changes and personality conflicts and, to be very honest, a whole lot of underachievement.

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

Scott Rueck will await the Committee to see if he’s managed to shift the Pac12 paradigm. As the Oregonian asks: If Scott Rueck leads Oregon State women to NCAA Tournament, how big of an accomplishment is it?

Speaking of the Committee, Charlie tries to work through their headache predict AND explain the brackets.

Fordham took any mystery out of the Committee’s hands by upsetting Dayton to claim the A-10 crown. This accomplishment is six years removed from their 0-for season and gives New Zealander Rooney what she missed by a sliver last year: An NCAA berth.

We’ve been watching this unfold over the season: High Point v. Winthrop. In the end, Dequesha McClanahan leads Winthrop to first-ever Big South title

“What a game and what a tournament. I’m very proud of our players, this program and very thankful to our administration and all of our loyal fans and supporters that were here and suffered without a championship for over 30 years,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “That’s what really makes it meaningful for them and our team.”

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

After an up and down season on and off the court, Nebraskan sophomore Rachel Theriot took control of the Huskers future and guided them to their first Big 10 conference title.

“It was a game where we couldn’t make a shot, but we found a way to win,” Husker coach Connie Yori said. “That says a lot about our mental toughness. We did a great job on the offensive glass. Every game doesn’t come down to playing pretty, but you find a way to win.”

No surprise, the Irish claimed their first AAC title – but were you a little surprised by how close the game was (at first)?

When is two points more than two points? When it’s a basket that sends a figurative bolt of electricity through a team and its fans. And that was exactly what Jewell Loyd’s alley-oop did in the second half of the ACC tournament title game.

The Fighting Irish are champions of their new league, and they will go into the NCAA tournament undefeated at 32-0. They execute offensively, are patient even when things aren’t clicking as well (which is rare, but happens), and are very dependable on defense.

But … they are also just really darn fun to watch.

Yes, a bit of a surprise, because of the upset of South Carolina, but Kentucky falling apart at the end? Not so surprising this season. Tennessee’s SEC title might give them a #1 seed, which would be (be honest) a surprise.

Tennessee adopted the motto of “Grind for Nine” at the beginning of this season, referencing the team’s blue-collar mentality as it pursues the program’s ninth national championship. The Lady Vols haven’t been to the Final Four since 2008, which is also the last year they won a national title. Back then, Pat Summitt coached the Lady Vols, before resigning in 2012 because of health reasons. Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant, became the team’s head coach.

The conference tournament title won Sunday was the first for Warlick as a head coach. As she accepted the trophy afterward, she said hello to her longtime mentor, who did not make the trip. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt,” Warlick said to the crowd. “I know she is watching this broadcast.”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Yes, most of us had Marist v. Iona penciled in to the MAAC finals. Quinnipiac decided to erase that prediction.

“(Quinnipiac) did a great job executing,” first-year Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t do a terribly wonderful job of stopping them in the defensive end.”

BTW, there was news in the MAAC quarters as the Rider team scored its biggest win in years — maybe ever — with a 63-56 upset of Fairfield.

Interesting games coming up:

BYU women’s basketball: Cougars will meet “scary” Pacific in WCC semifinals Monday. Of course, the other WCC semi is classic rematch: Gonzaga v. St. Mary’s.

America East: Stony Brook continues to surge under coach Beth O’Boyle — and gets a second shot at Albany for their efforts. Can they pull off the upset – again?

Quakers v. Tigers: Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2 Ivy) are both tied atop the Ivy standings and face each other in the season finale at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.). The winner earns the outright Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The loser has already clinched second place and therefore, an automatic berth in the WNIT.

Davidson will try and stop Chattanooga‘s quest for the Southern Conference title.

Same old, same old in the Patriot semis: Navy v Holy Cross, Army v. American, with a little extra oomph:

However, Gibbons readily admits the greatest motivation comes from preserving history as Holy Cross wants to prevent Navy from equaling its feat of capturing four consecutive Patriot League Tournament championships. The Crusaders set that standard from 1998 through 2001 under the direction of Gibbons.

“We certainly would like to stop them from tying our record,” Gibbons said. “We’re playing for a lot of alumni who were part of that great run.”

Yup, it’s UConn (with Stewart’s block earning a SportsCenter nod) agains the Cardinals. In the classic, “Careful what you wish for,” the New York Times notes that “Louisville Confronts Elephant in Its Room”

For all the strides the Louisville women have made in becoming a perennial basketball power, the climb to the top remains daunting. Connecticut, the Cardinals’ opponent in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, has won 14 straight against them.

Speaking of former Big East teams: It’s the Mountaineers hunting Bears in the Big 12 title game. Remember Sims’ 48 against West Virginia in January? And the rematch in March? (TV: Fox Sports 1?)

From the Boston Globe, some nice coverage of Barb Stevens at Bentley: Barbara Stevens has Bentley women’s basketball program point toward perfection

This is where it all happens, in Barbara Stevens’s warm and inviting office on the second floor of Bentley University’s Dana Center. A large bookshelf behind her neatly arranged desk in the far left corner of the room is adorned with trophies and nets cut down from Northeast-10 title games and framed photos of the teams she has coached in 28 seasons as the head coach of Bentley’s wildly successful women’s basketball program.

“I keep telling my players if they keep winning them, then I’ll keep putting them up,’’ Stevens jokingly remarked to an office visitor Thursday afternoon.

But this is where Bentley’s unrelenting pursuit of perfection is mapped out on a daily basis. It is where Stevens doggedly prepares through exhaustive film study and advanced scouting. And, as anyone will tell you, Stevens, 58, is nothing if not a evangelical minister of the coaching gospel, “Practice makes perfect.’’

Also from the Globe, there are a couple of back-and-forth stories: Bullying accusations continue against BU coach Kelly Greenberg.

I think we may have heard this coming a few years back: K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson fired after 18 seasons

Happier news out of the Sunflower state: They stumbled, but didn’t fall: Wichita State’s women’s basketball wins second consecutive MVC title. The conference tourney looms.

Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. Lot of money for the coach of an 18-13 basketball team that enters the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in the league’s lower division.

But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. She’s paid for her ambassador skills. She’s paid for her promotional and PR skills. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university, be it talking to engineering alumni or youth groups or coaches all across the country or all of America itself, courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.

When Coale talks about the importance of sport in young girls’ lives, or the importance of education, or the importance of hard work to fulfill dreams, people listen. Some of those people are impressionable. Others are influential. Coale reaches them all. I’ve said it before; Coale’s next job won’t be coaching a basketball team, it will be vice president of the university.

A little W news:

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With conference play just around the corner…

Jan. 27: Notre Dame at Maryland, ESPN2
Feb. 2: Notre Dame at Duke, ESPN 
Feb. 2: Stanford at Cal, ESPN2
Feb. 9: Louisville at UConn, ESPN 
Feb. 10: North Carolina at Duke, ESPN2
Feb. 16: Kentucky at Tennessee, ESPN 
Feb. 23: Duke at Notre Dame, ESPN

…it’s intriguing to reflect how the top teams fared in their pre-Christmas games.

After watching South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia fall, Mike at Mel’s blog is still bullish on the SEC: Best Conference Race Ever Looms Ahead

As 2013 closes, one thing is sure in women’s college basketball: The mighty Southeastern Conference will chew up some teams and reward others. So here’s our best guess preview.

We have said all along Kentucky is the best team here. One loss to a higher-ranked team does not discount that. In fact, it gives them something to work on.

But it is Tennessee who is the defending regular-season champ. That’s a
”Yeah, But” thing. Someone else wins, yeah, but it’s because Tennessee stumbled in this or that game.

Meanwhile, Doug writes: UConn women have looked nearly unbeatable

The women’s basketball season is almost two months old and one thing is clear, the UConn Huskies are by far the best team in the country.

While some already see a record ninth title for Connecticut as a foregone conclusion, the rest of the nation can take some solace that Brittney Griner and Baylor looked just as unbeatable last season. That’s until Louisville stunned the Lady Bears with one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

Picking up on their earlier tweet exchange, Rebecca Lobo and Lin Dunn join David for a nice chat on “The UConn dilemma: Is dominance good for the game?”

From Logan Lowery at the Daily Journal: MSU women relishing their 12-1 start

Mississippi State is off to the second-best start in school history for women’s basketball.

After winning just 13 games during his initial season with the Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer has started his second year 12-1 before the Christmas break.

“We’re 12-1 at Christmas, that’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment for our group,” Schaefer said. “I’m excited for them.”

Learn a little about the 12-2 Missouri Tigers: Senior forward Kulas took circuitous route to MU

In a perfect world, Williams said it wouldn’t have taken Kulas three college stops to find the right destination. That said, Williams wouldn’t change her daughter’s journey if she could.

“She ended up where she needed to be. Finding a home at Mizzou has been a great, great thing for her,” Williams said. “Her journey has made her grow into a better person, a better ballplayer.

“The journey that she took, I’m not sure that’s how I would’ve wanted … but I feel like it did happen for a reason.”

Williams said her daughter’s year at Johnson County was “tremendous for her.” It proved to be a launch pad for Kulas’ basketball career.

How about that team in Indiana? Gerardot speaks to IU basketball success

 Today Tabitha Gerardot is, well, Brigitte, and not Indiana women’s basketball’s third-leading scorer. Tomorrow she could be Sophia or Carmela or Aisha.

It’s all about perspective, you see. It’s role playing with a linguistic purpose.

This matters to Gerardot, who is working on her masters in linguistics with visions of become an interpreter or a translator when the former Canterbury standout is done with helping the Hoosiers’ basketball resurrection.

Arizona is 3-7, so in honor of the holidays,  Zack Rosenblatt decided to put his own twist on “Festivus,” with a focus on the Wildcats and their season thus far.

Just replace the pole with a 10-foot basketball hoop (with “a great strength-to-weight ratio.”)

AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES

What’s been disappointing, or overlooked, for the Wildcats this season.

Bad start: For the first time in Butts’ six years at the helm, Arizona won’t have a winning record through non-conference play. Before 2013, she’d won about 75 percent of non-conference games. Entering Sunday’s non-conference finale with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Wildcats are 3-7, which included a recent five-game skid.

Getting in to the holiday spirit, Mark Carmin offered Purdue women’s basketball 10 Stocking stuffers

Graham offers up “10 players who have risen to the occasion” and his mid-major musings: Gonzaga remains No. 1

‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists. And while the end of the basketball year technically comes not with a ball dropping in Times Square but confetti on a court in Nashville, starting a new calendar signals a shift of sorts in the start of conference play across much of the country. So to match the reflective spirit of the week, and before we get to the top 10, what would an all-mid-major team for the first half of the season look like?

Shereesha Richards, F, Albany: She put up 20 points and seven rebounds against Duke — in the first half. No wonder Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said the 6-foot-1 forward was better than her league (and as a former America East coach, McCallie ought to know). Richards is averaging 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage but has taken nearly 50 more shots than those ahead of her.

Injury note: Maryland women’s basketball: Forward A’lexus Harrison to redshirt

Encouraging news: Hatchell eyeing return

Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible.

The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy with more ahead as she holds out hope of getting back by conference tournament time.

“You don’t realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don’t have it,” Hatchell said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“It was like a tsunami hit me and all of a sudden it’s taken away. But that’s my motivation, to get back out there.”

Equally encouraging news:  “Coach Holly Warlick said that freshman guard Jannah Tucker, who will be enrolling for the spring semester, is expected to join the team when it reconvenes after Christmas break.”

WATN? Ashley Battle: 2 local girls basketball coaches share Connecticut connection

While watching UConn and Duke on national television, Quaker Valley junior Karen Pugh felt a bond with the top team in women’s basketball.

“Our offense is very similar (to UConn),” she said, “as far as transition and passing and finding the open shot.”

How does a Western Pennsylvania high school team share traits with the most dominant women’s program in college basketball?

It’s no coincidence.

Speaking of the W, from India: Swin against the tide

The 6’1” tall frame of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend Swin Cash stands out from the group of U-16 basketball enthusiasts assembled at the St. Dominic Savio School’s court. The three-time WNBA champion’s role on the occasion is to serve as mentor for the students from 164 schools around Mumbai during what was the Reliance Foundation 3X3 Junior NBA Championship in the city. Yet as she spoke and advised the aspiring athletes, both boys and girls, she maintains that she was a tad biased towards the girls.

“You talk about the NBA, and all you think of are male athletes. So it’s good for them to see people like me to serve as role models,” she says, laughing.

Al Lee at Swish Appeal asks, What are the Big Three Rookies doing during their first offseason as pros?

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Don’t be fooled by the final score — ’cause you know coach McCallie can’t be pleased that the Great Danes were UP on Duke during a hunk of the first half.

Syracuse’s Sykes likes to score. Let’s see how the Orange handle St. Joe’s, ASU and NC State.

Speaking of NC State (Moore’s Wolfpack best kept secret in Triangle) : Down goes #12 LSU.

N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

UNLV over Clemson. That’s got to be a frustrating loss for the Tigers.

Almost. Readers of this blog are familiar with the Winthrop Eagles. #10 South Carolina is REALLY familiar, having had to fight tooth and nail to escape with a 8-point win. Perhaps they had a Tar Heel hangover?

Oh, those in-state rivalries! Missouri State (3-6) took down Missouri (10-2), 67-53.

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Ole Miss this season, mostly because of their new head coach, Matt Insell. Their game against Sims… I mean, Baylor, has made me put both eyes on the team.

Speaking of  coaches — how much does 0-9 Prairie View miss Cynthia Cooper.

Speaking of Coop, it ain’t all wine and roses in USC land. The Trojans fall to the buzz-saw that is Saint Mary’s second half, 71-55.

Loss numero uno for UTEP, as their trip to Puerto Rico pitted them against Georgia Tech.

More baby steps for San Francisco – a nice away win over traditionally strong Fresno State.

Yes, they have a gaudy 10-1 record, but 4-5 Pacific kept within 7 of Florida State.

Today, Mechelle and Michelle recognized that #3 Tennessee To Be Tested by #6 Stanford  – as will a series of undefeated folks. Ellitot Almond has some more on the game and Steve Megargee adds:

After playing just one ranked opponent in their first 10 games, the Lady Vols will face their toughest test of the season thus far Saturday when they travel to No. 6 Stanford (9-1). Tennessee has lost its last two games in this series by double digits and hasn’t won at Stanford since 2005.

“It would be great to get a ‘W’ to break that drought, but also just to show the rest of the country that we mean business,” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tom FitzGerald at the SFGate thinks the Stanford women have tall task against Vols

When your goal is the national championship, any slipup hurts. The sixth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team has already flunked one big test, losing at No. 1 UConn by 19 points. Now it faces another.

The Cardinal (9-1) play No. 3 Tennessee at Maples Pavilion Saturday, and the battle on the boards should be ferocious.

A player who expects to be featured in that battle finds time to blog: A lot to celebrate for Nerd Nation 

Last week I was either living in the library or hibernating in my room. The short time I did sleep, I dreamt about school. Four long papers and three tests later, my brain is officially fried … I have survived finals week!

It is always a challenge for us student-athletes to balance sports and school. But it is a challenge we readily accept. Nonetheless, I am glad it’s over. While most students go home for Christmas break, we prepare for (as Coach Tara says) our basketball final.

#11 Colorado (9-0) v. #7 Louisville: UofL women’s basketball players talk Slaughter, Buffalo revenge and Louisville women’s next test is unbeaten No. 11 Colorado

Because any suspense over the outcomes was cast aside not long after tipoff, there’s only been one question for observers of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team the past four games: Can the Cardinals reach 100 points?

U of L has been batting .500 in that regard, posting totals of 91, 99, 108 and 105 points and averaging a 49-point margin of victory over four midmajor opponents.

#13 Oklahoma State (9-0) v. Georgia Tech.

When Rutgers goes up against 11-0 Georgia, they are  seeking a “quality victory.”

Heading into the highlight of its nonconference schedule this afternoon against 11-0 and 16th-ranked Georgia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is 8-2 against a schedule that some have labeled soft.

There is some plausibility to that statement, what with lopsided wins over Northeastern, Howard, Davidson and Wagner on the resume, but the schedule Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer has embarked on has largely been by design in an effort to get this young team some confidence and momentum.

With the schedule it has played, is Rutgers prepared to step up in class against the Bulldogs?

Rick Nixon at the NCAA.com wonders: Good scheduling or for real? How will surprising unbeatens fare in conference play?

Being an undefeated team in late December sometimes comes with a footnote. While an 11-0 start for Connecticut is expected, others like Arkansas, Indiana, UTEP, Colorado and San Diego standing undefeated at this point of the season merits attention, and also speculation on how these teams will fare once conference play tips.

Arkansas, now 11-0, has won 20 consecutive non-conference games during the past two seasons. In fact, Razorbacks head coach Tom Collen has built a 90-21 all-time record in non-conference play in seven seasons. Since 1982, Arkansas is 199-14 in non-conference games. The Razorbacks, which will play 10 of the 13 non-conference games at home, have two non-conference games remaining this season withTennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State both visiting Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. A home win against Middle Tennessee State and a road victory at Kansas rate as Arkansas’ top wins over the first month-plus. On Jan. 2, South Carolina will pay a visit to Fayetteville to signal the start of Southeastern Conference play.

Congrats to coach McGraw, who will be inducted into Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m sure she’s not looking ahead as her Notre Dame crew will face the always stubborn Chippewas, though CMU is not as strong as they have been the past few years.

Cool news for when #5 Kentucky (11-0) goes up against #2 Duke: Rupp Arena sold out. Which leads Mark Story to ask: If Kentucky-Duke women fill Rupp, is it time for UK Hoops to play more games there?

On the other side of the spectrum: BYU women’s basketball: The magical, but unseen season

Lying in the shadows of a nationally recognized football program and the high octane offense of an exciting men’s basketball team, the BYU women’s basketball team is quietly making their way into the years’ best BYU team with an extremely impressive start. Through ten games the Lady Cougars have lost only one game and yet continue to play to crowds that are closer to 500 than 1000. With a little more support from the fans, could this special season turn magical?

From the Miami Herald: UM’s Krystal Saunders stays strong for women’s basketball team despite family tragedy

It has not been the senior season University of Miami guard Krystal Saunders envisioned, and the past five months certainly have tested her mettle.

Saunders’ troubles began before the season started. In July, she was involved in a serious car accident while riding with three teammates to visit her mother’s Broward home in West Park. Saunders sustained a concussion and injuries to her neck and back.

It looks at first glance like one of college basketball’s more unlikely friendships, so of course it has improbable origins.

The connection between Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale and Marist’s Brian Giorgis brings together programs from different parts of the basketball strata Saturday in Poughkeepsie. It is a partnership that ought to be a model for moving the game forward, one of the sport’s biggest programs willing to go on the road to play one of the most successful small programs. Even if in this particular case, the roots of the series stretch all the way back to a field goal missed nearly five decades ago.

That part might be tricky to replicate.

Somewhat related, the APs John Marshall offers this: Arizona State to retire Becenti’s number

In the sacred Navajo hoop dance, performers bounce and hop as they whirl hoops around their arms and bodies, a ritual honoring the circle of life.

For Ryneldi Becenti, a smaller hoop within that greater circle helped guide her life.

Whether it was a rusted rim tacked to a tree or iron attached to glass under the bright lights of a WNBA arena, watching a ball go through an 18-inch hoop held sway over Becenti, bringing her closer to her deceased mother, making her a role model for her people, taking her from the reservation around the world and back again.

“It is in my blood,” Becenti said. “I slept, ate and drank basketball. It was all I had.” 

A little WNBA news from Doug: Delle Donne stays in Chicago for winter

Whether working basketball clinics, meeting with business leaders or just showing her face around town, Delle Donne is making the most of her time in the Windy City.

“It definitely has been a huge chance to help get the word out about the team and the league,” Delle Donne said. “They see me and being 6-foot-5, they are like who’s this athletic tall girl at these business meetings. They want to follow us next year. It’s important to have our faces out there so they can get excited about it.”

Michelle Smith straddles the W and the NCAA with her piece on Nicole Powell: WNBA veteran, former Stanford star finding her niche on Gonzaga sideline

Nicole Powell stood on the court in front of the visitors’ bench in Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the screen above center court and smiled widely as the strains of the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme boomed through the speakers.

The video highlights showed a young Powell, wearing her trademark headband, etching her spot in the Stanford women’s basketball record books as a three-time All-American.

When it was done, and the Stanford fans stood and applauded, it was time to get down to business. For Powell, that meant coaching the opposing team.

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why. Every time I thought, “well, that’s the game,” the players said, “Nope!”

I certainly enjoyed watching the Kentucky/Baylor game on my ‘puter as I cooked up some serious chili. Not sure the men’s teams waiting for the game to conclude were too thrilled. But really, it was Calipari’s fault. And, as Mechelle noted

So what happened? A “Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files” kind of game. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn’t going to get enough money.

Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, “Holy (blank)!” That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women’s hoops game.

This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.

There were other games this past weekend, and don’t let the final scores fool ya — some were nice and close through the first half. Which doesn’t mean a lot to the losing team, but it does suggest the winners need to not be let off the “so, how good are you?” hook.

Cal over Pacific.

Texas A&M over Washington.

Gonzaga over Ohio State (I TOLD you the Buckeyes were a tough out.)

Tennessee over Texas.

Purdue over IPFW.

South Carolina over Charlotte.

Penn State over Georgetown – and they needed all of Maggie’s 2000th point.s.

Iowa State over CS Fullerton (thanks, Hallie.)

Nice win for Auburn over St. John’s.

Eastern Michigan is still loss-free.

Ditto for San Diego.

Ditto with Notre Dame, who stomped all over UCLA.

Duke is still undefeated (#500 for McCallie) as the Blue Devils sorta handled Oklahoma in a game that saw defense prohibited in the second half (and some gimpiness).

They’re not as strong as they usually are, but it’s still important to ‘ware the ‘wabbits – as the Phoenix discovered. BTW, nice story: UWGB freshman Buck’s drive inspires Native Americans

There are not a lot of players like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Tesha Buck playing basketball at the NCAA Division I level.

A little more than a decade ago, there were none.

Buck is a Native American who already has overcome long odds to reach this point in her career.

In the most recent NCAA race and ethnicity report from the 2011-12 season, there were 10,151 male and female basketball players in Division I. Just 25 of them — 21 women and four men — were Native American/Alaskan Native.

In 2000, there were no Native American/Alaskan Native female basketball players. In 2008, there was one.

Not my fault – Fordham deals Holy Cross their first loss of the season.

So, I’m not saying ‘ware the Sun Devils yet — though that win over UNC was nice — but it did take them an OT to take down Long Beach State. I guess we’ll get a better sense of who they are after they work through Syracuse-Cal-Stanford-Colorado.

126 points!

Okay, is Michigan State down or is it Virginia Tech that is up?

Yes, it was against UMass-Lowell, but when was the last time Seton Hall scored 97pts?

Not my fault, neither: ‘nova earns its first loss at the hand of St. Joseph’s.

Phew! (Or I would have had to deny blame again): BYU squeaked by Creighton, 52-51.

No squeaking involved, as UTEP continued to roll.

Yah, they’re still undefeated, but let’s see what happens when Arkansas meets South Carolina four games from now.

Yup, Wisconsin’s improved.

So, how glad are the 1-8 Seahawks that they let Cynthia Cooper go?

Yes, there have been some major injuries, but boy is Hartford not enjoying their season so far.

*all sing* “What a difference a coach makes….” The Penguins are 1-6.

From Michelle Smith: Cards move on without Slaughter- Jeff Walz, Louisville making adjustments after losing senior guard for the season

Slaughter collapsed on the bench last Tuesday during the Cardinals’ game against Missouri State. The clot was discovered in follow-up examinations. Walz said Monday that doctors believe the clot was not related to her collapse, but was discovered during the subsequent evaluation. The collapse, doctors believe, was caused by a “cardiac event” and Slaughter is still being evaluated. In the meantime, Slaughter has begun to take blood thinners, the treatment expected to last six or seven months.

“They don’t know if the clot was there before or after,” Walz said. “But they are two separate incidents. They are still trying to determined what caused the cardiac event.”

Writes Graham of this past week’s events: Cats, Cards cap strange week in Commonwealth

Expressing that magnanimity that perhaps comes with a second-half comeback in front of a full house in your arena, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell heaped praise on Louisville counterpart Jeff Walz after last Sunday’s rivalry game, and then offered what surely seemed a benediction without any hint of foreboding.

 “It’s a good time for basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Mitchell said.

Little did he know he was also about to play his part in what proved to be the strangest of weeks for women’s basketball in the Bluegrass State, one that turned the basketball court into something of a refuge for Louisville in the aftermath of Antonita Slaughter’s collapse and subsequent season-ending diagnosis of blood clots, and a labyrinth impossible to escape for Kentucky in a four-overtime game against Baylor.

So where does basketball in the Commonwealth stand a week later?

A little W info, as James over at Swish Appeal is talking to the Dream’s new head coach Michael Cooper on the hiring process, what makes a championship team, and Running With The Dream

Full Court has a nice coaching/coast bookend: Team turnarounds are Carol Ross’s coaching calling card

The plain-spoken Southerner is popular with players, fans and the press alike. Her coaching philosphy is built around heavy doses of the basics — hard work, discpline and defense, defense, defense. “I would hope that any team that I have the opportunity to influence – and that will be the Sparks now – that they are going to play very hard, they’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion,” Ross told Full Court when she took over the reins in LA. “I can tell you that whoever is … wearing the Sparks uniform, they will play hard, and they will play with great passion and they’re going to compete very hard every night.”

Surprise! WNBA’s No. 4 pick in 2013 draft, Tayler Hill, expecting first child

Who’s got next (from Nate): Five seniors off to strong starts

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Feds Creek Girls basketball team inspiring many as they redefine winning

For girls at Feds Creek Elementary being a part of their team means much more than winning ball games.

Coach Shannon Keene says, “They would all stand up for each other at the drop of a hat, especially for Aimee and Lacy.”

5th-grader, Lacy, and 8th-grader, Aimee, are not your typical ball players.

Coach Keene says, “Lacy loves basketball, she understands when I show her something, she pays excellent attention, and that is how we communicate.”

Lacy is deaf and Aimee has Down syndrome, something many say you would never know from the outside looking in.

Beth Taylor, has a daughter on the team and says, “These girls don’t see the disabilities these other two have, they are accepting. Too often in our society kids with disabilities are overlooked.”

Chris Hagy, also has a daughter on the team, “Aimee and Lacy are making a statement when they step foot on the court saying, ‘this is something I want to do like everyone else’ and they are doing it.”

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Why, yes, it is, and I believe it’s the Cal Bears who are singing it! (Or, maybe it’s “Started From the Bottom”)

From Elliott: Cal women’s basketball team reaches its first Final Four

These Cal Bears just don’t quit.

Cal reached its first Final Four in history Monday night with another overtime victory — this time a 65-62 thriller over Georgia in front of a crowd of 5,863 at Spokane Arena.

The Bears (32-3) will play either Tennessee or Louisville in the national semifinals Sunday at New Orleans Arena.

Don’t count out Cal to reach the finale April 9. Not with a senior-led roster buoyed by gritty guard Layshia Clarendon, who had 25 points, including five in overtime, against the Lady Bulldogs.

From the AP:

 California coach Lindsay Gottlieb was in elementary school the last time a West Coast women’s basketball program not named Stanford reached the Final Four.

Gottlieb understood the drought and the difficulty in getting to the national semifinals. That’s partly why the grin on her face was so wide Monday night when Cal finally snapped that 25-year streak, sending the Golden Bears to New Orleans for the Final Four.

“These kids are brought in,” Gottlieb said. “So many things go into it and then you have to get a little lucky and then things have to go right, so I’m really conscious of this is special.”

From the Daily Californian:

All year long, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb wanted the Cal women’s basketball team to be recognized as an elite team. On Monday night at Spokane, Wash., the team took one step further in solidifying its rising recognition.

Seung Lee adds: A new era begins for California basketball

Breathe it in. Soak it up. Because, possibly, you’ll never see anything quite like this.

For the first 36 minutes against Georgia Monday night, the Cal women’s basketball team did not play Cal basketball. Star forward Gennifer Brandon couldn’t make a single shot. The offense was stuffed by Georgia’s zone defense.

Then it all just clicked at the most pivotal time.

From the Spokesman Review: Gritty Bears in Final Four

The University of California women’s basketball team didn’t expect anything less than a tug-of-war Monday night.

Earning its first trip to an NCAA Final Four couldn’t have been more difficult. And, in the end, more rewarding.

From David Lassen at the Alumni Report: Clarendon, Cal reach Final Four

Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino Cajon) scored a game-high 25 points and Cal survived its second overtime game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, beating Georgia 65-62 in Spokane, Wash., on Monday to advance to the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.

Writes Michelle:

There might not be a cooler customer left in this NCAA tournament than the Cal senior with the sweet jumper. She is a patch of still water, an island of poise and surety.

Even her coach follows her lead.

“That kid is something special,” Lindsay Gottlieb said. “To have a guard like Layshia, who can look at her teammates and say, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ who handles the pressure she handles … there’s no question, you don’t get this far without a player like that.”

How far exactly? To New Orleans.

More praise from the AP: Cal senior Layshia Clarendon comes up clutch in leading Golden Bears to Final Four

Layshia Clarendon was smiling when California was trailing, was smiling when leading the Golden Bears rally, and couldn’t wipe the smile from her face after leading her team to its first Final Four.

“This is why you play basketball, for these big moments. Really enjoy them and just relish them,” Clarendon said.

What’s the Bear’s Winning Formula?, asks Cathy Cockrell, Aim high, don’t forget to dance

Gottlieb: I see it as my mission to take Cal basketball to the next level, and make this one of the premier programs in the country. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Obviously you have to put great players on the floor, and run great plays.

But I feel like there’s a shift going on in women’s basketball, where many of the pioneers of the game are getting close to retiring. So there’s an opportunity to help shape what this program looks like going forward.

But, there’s also the other side of winning:

Georgia seniors Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James arrived at the interview room of the Spokane Arena with reddened, tear-filled eyes that told the story of their final college basketball game more than any stats sheet ever could.

Only minutes removed from a 65-62 overtime loss to California, Hassell and James tried to explain their emotions after the Lady Bulldogs blew a 10-point lead in the second half and fell one win short of the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

Said coach Landers:

“I think, for the most part, this was a game that played out somewhat the way we thought it would,” UGA coach Andy Landers said. “We felt it was very important to get back in transition, that it was very important to keep the ball out of the lane, and to rebound the ball defensively, and when we were doing those things well, we were in a good position. When we broke down defensively and allowed that penetration and allowed them to rebound the ball on offense, we got in trouble. They’re a very good basketball team and have a lot of nice pieces. They made more plays than we did, and they deserve to win the game.”

There was another game last night and someone is singing “Aerosmith” (for the sixth time in row), ’cause what happened to the Wildcats was simple: A dreadful 9 minutes:

Connecticut whipped us in every way imaginable,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was a rough 40 minutes for us tonight and they had a lot to do with that. They’re a very good team and I thought their players played extremely hard. We congratulate them.

Kevin Duffy: UConn fulfills obligation 6 years running, Post
Rich Elliott: Freshman Stewart earning raves, Post

UConn Puts The Hammer Down, Earns Sixth Straight Trip To Final Four, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Baylor’s Loss Could Be UConn’s Gain, Courant

Huskies reach record sixth straight Final Four with rout of Kentucky, Register
Mike DiMauro: UConn women headed to Final Four for record sixth straight time, Register

Narratives change in sports much like cabbies in Manhattan: quickly, sometimes astonishingly and occasionally without much warning.

And so we present the UConn women, the belles of wouldas, shouldas and couldas all season, the owners of all the forlorn looks three weeks ago after another brutal loss to Notre Dame.

Could this have been the same group awash in utter joy Monday night?

Huskies advance to Final Four, Daily Campus

UConn 83, Kentucky 53, ESPN

“It definitely doesn’t get old,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “Each year is different, special in its own way. This is our last go-around, we want to go out with a bang. I’m fortunate to be part of this program where we make it every year. We never are satisfied until we get to that final game.”

Stewart leads way for UConn, ESPN

In one corner of Connecticut’s locker room, senior Heather Buck played a game of UNO with three teammates. The players were still wearing their uniforms, legs crossed, each holding a handful of cards, occupying themselves as they’ve learned to do.

Across the room, a ring of media encircled freshman Breanna Stewart, the reporters peppering her with questions about her 21-point performance, about how it feels to help the Huskies advance to the Final Four — their sixth consecutive — next weekend in New Orleans.

Between these two groups wandered some familiar faces — guard Caroline Doty, forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, center Stefanie Dolson — who were eating chicken fingers and teasing Stewart, happily distracting their younger teammate by occasionally calling out things such as, “Breanna is the best player ever!” and “We’re no good! We can’t talk!

Connecticut women roll to 83-53 win over Kentucky in Elite Eight, Lexington Herald Leader
UConn ends Kentucky’s bid once again, Lexington Herald Leader

Last season, Connecticut’s big run came midway through the second half, but this season it came early and often, including a 26-3 spree to end the first half and any hope of a Kentucky comeback at Webster Bank Arena in front of 8,594.

In that span, Kentucky managed just one basket, a banked in three-pointer by little-used reserve Jelleah Sidney, in the final 10 minutes of the first half. UK missed 13 shots in that second part of the second half.

Mark Story: UK women hit a class ceiling in effort to make Final Four, Lexington Herald Leader

So, now the questions start.

Any talk that Mitchell “can’t win the big one” is wildly premature. In its now three Elite Eight losses on his watch, Kentucky has faced opponents that were seeded higher and had more talent than the Cats.

However, it is hard not to wonder if the style of play that has turned UK into a consistent NCAA round of eight team might need to be tweaked a bit for Kentucky to take the proverbial next step. Can a team as reliant on full-court defensive pressure and points off turnovers as Kentucky break through against teams as skilled as UConn?

Finally (and Diggins can blame GH if things don’t go the way she wants tonight), Graham has: Five who got the last laugh

He or she who laughs last, gets closer to New Orleans. Maybe that’s not exactly how the phrase goes, but the second week of the NCAA tournament served as an opportunity for players, coaches and even conferences to make a point.

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Now that Baylor is gone and everybody’s brackets have gone boom! (except for Mom and Dad Cardinals), Fagan has Elite Eight: Five points to ponder

She also says Kentucky ready for UConn rematch

Kentucky says it isn’t scared of Connecticut — not at all.

On Monday night, we’ll discover whether that’s empty rhetoric or reality, but the Wildcats were emphatic Sunday afternoon about how unafraid they are to face top-seeded UConn, arguably the greatest program in women’s college basketball history. In this way, Kentucky is borrowing a page from Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, who told reporters earlier this year, “I think a lot of people are afraid of the name on the front of the jersey, and I don’t think we are anymore.”

From Full Court, A’Dia Mathies and Kentucky are “focusing on what we need to do”

Doug at the AP has a UConn/KY preview

Matthew Mitchell is trying to build Kentucky into a women’s basketball power. Getting to the Final Four for the first time will be a huge step in reaching that goal.

Mitchell’s team is one victory away, and Connecticut stands in the way for the second straight season. The two teams played last year and UConn came away with a 15-point victory. They’ll meet again Monday night in the Bridgeport regional final.

UK women: ‘We beat ourselves’ vs. UConn last year, Lexington Herald Leader
Mark Story: ‘Bigs’ will determine Kentucky’s fate versus UConn, Lexington Herald Leader
Auriemma heaps praise on UK’s Mitchell, Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky worked to put time on their side, Louisville Courier Journal
The clock is ticking for Kentucky, Post

The biggest theme in the UConn Horde coverage is injuries — especially to Dolson, who is very hobbled.

Dolson is laughing in the face of pain, Hour
Despite injuries, UConn one win from Final Four goal, Post
UConn In A Good Spot, But It Hasn’t Come Without Pain, Courant

Huskies can make record sixth straight Final Four appearance with win over Kentucky, Register
Bria Hartley will square off against good friend Jennifer O’Neill of Kentucky, Register

One last test for Huskies, Day
Huskies set to battle Wildcats for another Final Four berth, Hour

Out west, Michelle has Georgia, Cal seniors still being tested

Ask Andy Landers about his senior class and then get ready. He’s about to start telling the story about a program that wasn’t what it once was and how one of the game’s legendary coaches planned to get it back.

“Let’s set the stage,” Landers says, as he begins the tale of a senior class, five kids who came into his program four years ago and needed a history lesson. So Landers gave it to them.

“High school kids don’t really know a lot about what they are signing up for,” Landers said. “They don’t understand that it’s a big-time commitment if you are going to win, if you are going to be the best you can be. So the first thing we wanted to do was educate them.”

At the Advocate, Scott Rabalais says

Andy Landers pulled no punches. The Georgia coach never does.

Georgia women’s basketball, in his estimation, was broken. Not shattered — the Lady Bulldogs were still reaching the NCAA tournament every year and occasionally making a run.

But nothing as deep as Georgia’s five Women’s Final Fours, the most recent one in 1999, or its previous trip to the Elite Eight against LSU in 2004.

That began to change when his current seniors were freshmen. And that team will square off with California in Monday’s Spokane Regional final.

The APs Tim Booth offers up Georgia women’s basketball to take on California in tonight’s Spokane Regional final

Thanks for sharing Killion’s piece: Cal women’s bond forged from tragedies

The summer after her sophomore year, Eliza Pierre was full of information from her African American studies classes at Cal. Then 20, she came home to Southern California for a visit and shared the sobering facts she had learned about young black men in America – statistics about the homicide rate, gun violence and incarceration.

She warned her 22-year old brother, Wilson, to be careful and joked with her mother that they needed to keep an eye on him.

That was the last time Pierre saw Wilson. He was gunned down at a party a few weeks later and died at the hospital.

Pierre is one of three members of Cal’s basketball team whose lives have been changed by homicide. Gennifer Brandon’s father was shot and killed by police when she was 6 – mistaken for an armed-robbery suspect. Tierra Rogers’ father was shot to death on a San Francisco street corner during halftime of one of her high school games.

One basketball team. Three players. Three tragedies.

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so I guess that means #1 Stanford didn’t go down to #4 Georgia, 61-59.

Chiney did everything she was supposed-expected to, but the rest of her teammates couldn’t make shots. It also hurt that Greenfield went to the bench with a sprained finger, but honestly, the loss wasn’t a HUGE surprise:

Somehow the shock of seeing Stanford’s run of five straight trips to the Final Four come to a premature end, didn’t carry the same sting.

Along with the sense of disappointment came perspective for what the top-seeded Cardinal accomplished.

“I think the reason that I’m not going ballistic right now is like we’re 33-3,” Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike said. “That was a huge achievement for our program.”

Still, it’s surprising that for the first time since 2007, Stanford won’t be playing for a spot in the Final Four.

That’s because Andy’s team did what it needed to do to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2004.

“The senior class … this is our fourth NCAA tournament, and we have been to three Sweet 16s,” guard Jasmine James said. “So to finally make the next step and go to the Elite Eight and now to be going into another game to try to compete to go to the Final Four is definitely back to where Georgia basketball needs to be – trying to compete for a national champion

Smith also offered up some quick analysis of the game.

From Full Court: Jasmine James guides Bulldogs to upset of No. 1 seed Stanford

With her team clinging to a two-point lead with just 23 seconds to play, Georgia senior point guard Jasmine James headed to the foul line for two crucial free throws. Well, almost.

James cast a look to her left, toward the first rows of the stands, mere feet beyond the sideline.

There sat her parents — Greg and Janine — who’d flown almost six hours and endured a lengthy layover to watch their daughter in the regional semifinal against No. 1-seeded Stanford.

They will face the Cal Bears, who find themselves in their first Elite 8 after defeating the upstart Tigers.

The sum of LSU coach Nikki Caldwell’s fears about the Golden Bears came true in the game’s final 20 minutes. And as quick as you could say “transition basket,” the Lady Tigers’ season was over.

“We really tried to establish an inside attack and put the ball inside quite a bit,” Caldwell said. “I thought (Cal guard Brittany) Boyd really took it upon herself to push the tempo, which really got their transition game going. And that gave them some easier looks.”

Writes Elliott Almond:

This time Cal made its free throws, and the Golden Bears are headed into uncharted territory.

Second-seeded Cal broke open a close game in the final six minutes Saturday night in a 73-63 victory over Louisiana State to reach its first Elite Eight in school history in front of a crowd of 6,146 at Spokane Arena.

That Bay Area showdown local women’s basketball fans wanted? Not happening.

The Bears (31-3) will face Georgia on Monday after the Lady Bulldogs upset top-seeded Stanford in the other regional semifinal.

“We’re kind of in awe of this whole thing,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We were us in the second half. I’m excited more people are seeing what I already know.”

Michelle Smith adds:

As Georgia celebrated its 61-59 upset of top-seeded Stanford, the chant began from the corner with the Georgia pep band.

“S-E-C, S-E-C.” Pretty soon, the LSU band, seated in the opposite corner of the gym, joined in.

But Cal spoiled the sing-a-long.

The Bears, willing to play as aggressively and as physically as any team in the SEC, completed the power shift in the Pac-12 on Saturday by defeating LSU 73-63 in the Spokane Regional nightcap, punching their ticket to their first Elite Eight.

So while Stanford, the team that has always stood in line in front of Cal, takes an early flight home Sunday morning, the Bears play on. How’s that for a changing of the guard?

I’m not quite buying the implications of the phrase “changing of the guard,” but the Pac12 sure has gotten more interesting.

Michelle offered up some instant analysis of the Stanford-Georiga game and the Cal-LSU game.

BTW, if you can get behind the pay wall, you  can read Ann Killion’s lovely piece:  Why Lindsay Gottlieb has Cal women’s hoops in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight 

Elena Delle Donne was magnificent against the Wildcats, and Martin’s adjustments in the second half — daring to go man-to-man, urging her players to crash the boards — almost got her Hens an enormous upset. But Delaware could quite get out of the hole they dug. Writes the News Journal’s Kevin Tresolini:

Down 14 at halftime Saturday, Delaware drew considerable confidence from what had become its not-so-secret weapon in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – the second-half comeback.

Delaware had rallied from seven down at halftime against West Virginia and eight behind after 20 minutes against North Carolina at the Carpenter Center to win in the first two rounds.

“We wanted to go down with a fight if we were going to go down,” Elena Delle Donne said. “Even at half, we didn’t think we were going down.”

The Hens played better defense in the second half, but writes Fagan:

The pace was, in fact, brutal. Delaware was expending so much energy just getting the ball up the floor and getting a shot off without a turnover that little was left for other crucial things like closing out on outside shooters and boxing out on defense. Because of this, each time the Blue Hens pulled within striking distance — like late in the second half when they cut Kentucky’s lead to two — the Wildcats would fly down court and force a foul or whip the ball around and get an open look. Then they would set up their full-court press and make things difficult for Delaware, often forcing a turnover. (The Blue Hens turned over the ball 19 times.)

The key was that, when the rest of the Hens began to rise to the occasion, so did Kentucky’s “no-names.”  Especially Kastine Evans who nailed a killer 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining to all but seal the game.

“Kastine has no fear,” said Mathies. “She hustles on every play. We ran a play and the play is designed for anyone that gets open. She got open off the stagger screen and she made it. That shows how confident she is in herself and we’re glad she took the three and made it.”

Added coach Mitchell

“We’re extremely excited to win. We beat a very good team in Delaware. I’m so proud of our team, of finding a way to advance to the next round.”

Kentucky will face a familiar foe, and they think they might finally have enough to get past UConn

They will face Connecticut because, while Dolson gamely & gimpily fought to play 26 minutes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scared the you-know-what outta UConn fans by going down with what looked to be an ankle injury (no, that wasn’t responsible for her going 1-6 from 3, her shot was off and rushed. “I guess it would have been worse if they were all air balls, said an honest KML), it was the freshmen (Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points and one turnover) who stepped up to guide the Huskies to a 76-50 win over Maryland:
Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck did not consider themselves to be freshmen. They considered themselves as impact players. Their intentions were to come in and play a definitive role on a team with national championship aspirations.For months their plan did not completely come together. No matter how relentless UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph was with Jefferson or no matter how relentless associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Marisa Moseley were with Stewart and Tuck, there were questions whether they were getting through, whether the players were making any progress.

As it turns out, it was all a part of the process.

While the frosh finally “showed up”, UConn’s defense has been a consistent. Said coach Frese:

“I said the other day Connecticut can make really good teams look really bad, and that was on full display today. Obviously we really struggled against their defense. They made it very difficult. They were quicker to loose balls. I thought they were aggressive with their rebounding, but just disappointed overall in how we played.”

It’s likely the Huskies will have to lean heavily on their youngsters if they want to defeat Kentucky. That might be okay. Writes Mike DiMauro: Watch ‘Stewie’ and you see Elena

It was either fitting, or ironic, that two games ended with two standing ovations for two such similar players. Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart. Except that maybe – probably, even – nobody in women’s basketball has them occupying the same airspace.

Delle Donne’s college career ended Saturday at Webster Bank Arena in the Sweet 16, succumbing to Kentucky and Kastine Evans’ killer three late in the game. When it ended, a UConn crowd gave Delle Donne a standing ovation, prompting a tweet from Elena after the game saluting UConn’s “classy fans.”

Stewart’s college career, meanwhile, accelerated into the passing lane a few hours later, helping the Huskies reach the Elite Eight for the eighth straight season. “Stewie,” as her teammates call her, was magnificent: 17 points, eight rebounds, a 3-pointer and four blocks.

From Mechelle: Win or lose, it really has all worked out

Let’s face it: Not many kids have the chance to play for UConn, which has won seven NCAA titles. Fewer still get that opportunity, then decide to walk away from it. Which Walker did, after appearing in 17 games for the Huskies in the 2010-11 season before transferring to Kentucky, and Delle Donne did after leaving Storrs before ever playing for them. 

But it has all worked out for Delle Donne, for Walker, for UConn and for women’s college hoops.

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I think Kate wins: Her quick hit on the Kentucky/Delaware game.

Doug a close second: His AP report.

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Not really a surprise: Kelly Harper out at North Carolina State.

From the Tulsa World’s Guerin Emig: OU’s Aaryn Ellenberg thrives and succeeds quietly

Aaryn Ellenberg could be the Marshall Henderson of women’s college basketball.

The Oklahoma guard has such a blustery game. It’s all movement, agility and a school record book of 3-pointers, distance-defying torpedoes that often win big games, like the four she buried UCLA with in last week’s NCAA Tournament second-round upset, a result that propelled the Sooners into Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup against fabled Tennessee.

She has a glitzy nickname, “Vegas,” a moniker OU coach Sherri Coale pinned on her around the time she arrived in Norman from Sin City three years ago. Henderson, the Ole Miss star who shoots off his mouth as often as his rapid-fire long-range jumpers, doesn’t even have that going for him.

Elliott Almond at the Mercury News writes: Cal women’s basketball team perseveres through tragedies

Second-seeded Cal has passed some agonizing tests to reach the Sweet 16 where it expects another big challenge Saturday night against Louisiana State. The Golden Bears (30-3) escaped the second round Monday with an 82-78 overtime victory against South Florida after squandering a 10-point lead with a minute left. They also endured four close victories in Pac-12 play.

The perseverance, however, isn’t surprising on a team with three members carrying burdens no one should have to bear. Gennifer Brandon, Eliza Pierre and Tierra Rogers have leaned on each throughout their careers while dealing with the grief of family members suffering violent deaths.

“They don’t just survive, they thrive,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said Friday before the team’s practice at Spokane Arena.

WDEL’s Sean Greene: Delle Donne hopes for WNBA and Olympic future

First, though, writes Kate Fagan: Delle Donne, Delaware face pressure – Kentucky’s defense will test the Blue Hens in their first Sweet 16 appearance

The Delaware Blue Hens don’t appear to be in danger of freezing under the spotlight.

In the minutes before their practice Friday, the players were busy fashioning a headband made out of pre-wrap for assistant coach Jeanine Radice. They were laughing, taking pictures and soaking it all in.

After all, this is Delaware’s first trip to the Sweet 16, and coach Tina Martin has encouraged her players to have fun. Martin even began her news conference by saying, “After I wake up from the dream I’m in …” As in, she can’t believe her little mid-major program — Martin is in her 17th season at Delaware — is making such big waves. “I’m not worried about them being uptight,” Martin said of her players. “If anything, they’re enjoying it and taking in everything they can.”

Charlie gives us Five things to look for in the Sweet 16

5. Which No. 6 seed has the best chance of pulling another upset? An unprecedented four 6-seeds are still playing (along with a No. 12 in Kansas). Oklahoma and LSU have recent tournament pedigree even if that doesn’t include any current players to look to. Nebraska was here in 2010 and that’s it. Delaware is in completely uncharted waters. None of that experience or lack of it probably matters here. It really comes down to matchups.

Nebraska, despite the dynamic duo of point guard Moore and versatile forward Jordan Hooper, might have a difficult time dealing with Duke’s depth and length, not to mention the relative proximity of Durham to Norfolk. Kentucky is even deeper than Duke, and the Wildcats’ athleticism greatly exceeds Delaware’s. The Blue Hens could have some problems dealing with the relentless Kentucky pressure.

Mechelle writes, Landers back in the Sweet 16

Georgia coach Andy Landers stood just outside his team’s locker room at the SEC tournament earlier this month, grinning broadly.

“Listen to them in there,” he said of his players after their quarterfinal victory. “They’re in there high-fiving, chirping, laughing. I still enjoy that so much.”

Landers is the dean of the SEC women’s hoops coaches now that Tennessee’s Pat Summitt has moved into an emeritus role. And he’s one of the longest-tenured, most experienced college basketball mentors, men’s or women’s, in the country.

Michelle writes, Gottlieb carves own path of success

Lindsay Gottlieb jokes that she is the “black sheep in her family.” Except that nobody brags this much about the “black sheep.”

In her father’s courtroom in New York, the court reporters, officers, clerks, they all knew about Judge Stephen Gottlieb’s daughter, the successful basketball coach.

In the hallways of New York University where Chris Gottlieb is a law professor, people always stop to ask how the Bears are doing.

Graham has the Norfolk Sweet 16 breakdown

Fagan has the Bridgeport Sweet 16 breakdown

Mechelle has the Oklahoma City Regional breakdown

Michelle has the Spokane Regional breakdown

And here are espnW’s Sweet 16 picks

John Klein at the Tulsa World says: Draft choice could help Tulsa Shock’s resurgence this season

It could be argued the WNBA Draft has never had three players in the same season capable of changing the fortunes of a franchise.

And, no franchise in recent history of the WNBA has needed a change of fortune more than the Shock.

“We’ve been trying to dig ourselves out of that hole,” said Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg. “We’ve been inching our way up.

Didja hear? WNBA and ESPN Broaden Partnership Through 2022 *if the league has a new logo, why does the article use the old one?*

Shelly DuBois of CNN Money explains Why ESPN thinks the WNBA is worth watching

Speaking of the W, Parker Leads UMMC to EuroLeague Crown

Oh, and Curtis Coach Barbara Farris taking some time off to serve as WNBA assistant

A nine-year WNBA veteran, Farris plans to return to Curtis by mid-October to resume her teaching and coaching responsibilities. The exact date of her return, however, depends on whether the Liberty makes the playoffs.

Farris directed Curtis to a second consecutive Class 2A state championship this year in her third season as coach of the Lady Patriots.

A little DII news: Watterson grad in Division II final

Almost a year ago, Daiva Gerbec sat on the end of the bench and watched Ashland lose in the Division II championship game.

Her season had ended before it could begin when her left Achilles tendon snapped during a running drill in the first workout of the preseason. Not being able to contribute during that 88-82 overtime loss to Shaw was difficult.

Dowling women to play for NCAA Div. II title

The magical ride for the Dowling women’s basketball team continues.

In their first trip to the NCAA Division II Women’s Elite Eight, the Golden Lions will play for their first national title tomorrow night after they powered their way to a 76-54 semifinal victory over Augustana (Ga.) Wednesday at Greehey Arena.

In future news: CU Buffs’ Lappe already looking ahead

Inside the office of Colorado women’s basketball coach Linda Lappe hangs a dry-erase board.

Just a few days after the 2012-13 season concluded, the players on the 2013-14 roster were already written on that board. In the world of college basketball, there is little time to waste. One season ends and it’s on to the next.

“It’s a process to be consistent,” Lappe said. “It starts right after the season.”

From the Daily Wildcat: Whyte looks back on Arizona women’s basketball career with no regrets

Four years go by fast. For women’s basketball senior Davellyn Whyte, it hasn’t quite set in that her career as a Wildcat is over following the team’s 66-48 loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona’s second all-time leading scorer, with 2,059 career points has had a bumpy four years. Being one of the greatest women’s basketball players in school history certainly hasn’t been easy, but she said she reflects on her time in Tucson with no regrets.

The WNIT is at the Elite Eight stage (always interesting to look at the early rounds, since it’s really the only time we get to compare “major” v. “mid-major” conferences). Saturday you’ll see:

Florida at JMU, 4 p.m. ET

Utah at Saint Mary’s, 5 p.m. ET

Illinois at Kansas State, 5 p.m. ET

Drexel at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET

The WBI ended for the Quakers, but Even in loss, Penn women’s basketball shows growth

Mike McLaughlin didn’t know much about losing.

That was the first line of a Daily Pennsylvanian article written on March 24, 2010, after the Quakers finished the season with a program-worst 2-26 record. They set the program record for losses in a single season. They nearly became the first Penn team to lose every single Ivy game, only escaping in the final weekend after a victory at Dartmouth.

“There are times I thought, ‘Am I doing everything within my ability to make them better?’ McLaughlin said in 2010 interview. “They needed a strong leader in adversity.”

Today that feels like a distant memory

In the “this is what scholarships are about” vein: Four Coconut Creek girls basketball players headed to college

For the sixth consecutive year, the Coconut Creek girls basketball is sending a player to college. This year, actually, the Cougars will send four players to the next level. 

Guard Shamari Josey, who averaged 9.3 points per game this season, has signed with St. Augustine in North Carolina, while guard Joelle Patterson, who averaged 6.6 points and and 4.5 assists per game, has signed with Johnson and Wales. Forward Jasmine Watson is headed to Southestern Community College in Iowa. 

Coconut Creek’s other signee was team leader Andrekia Thompson, a first-team All-County selection who averaged 12.3 points per game and reached the 1,000-point career mark, signed with Thomas University, an NAIA program in Georgia. 

In the “what were they thinking!” vein: Missouri high school girls basketball team drinks urine in water cooler prank pulled by rivals

In the “thank you for all your time” vein: St. Peter’s girls basketball coach steps down

Bill Tomsich thought about stepping down last year as the head girls basketball coach at St. Peter’s.

After making another run to the Final Four and being named Division IV Co-Coach of the Year in the state, the stage was set for a grand exit.

“I’m glad I stayed an additional year. I wasn’t ready emotionally to step down,” he said Tuesday afternoon after announcing publicly that he was resigning after 18 years in the program, spending the last nine as head coach.

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Prairie Chicken

Sharp Tailed Grouse

Now I get to read about the other kind of hens.

From Graham: Blue Hens head to first Sweet 16

All right, how much do you really love the game?

That’s the question Elena Delle Donne told her dad she thought some higher power had posed when she was diagnosed with Lyme disease during her second season playing basketball at the University of Delaware.

She was the high school star who became even more famous for walking away from the game than she had been as a 6-foot-5 kid doing things on a basketball court nobody had ever seen someone her size do before.

She was the lost soul who found what she was looking for in the touch of a sister and the embrace of a community. And who found her way back to a game she once swore she would never again play.

From the AP: No regrets for Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne

Whenever Delaware’s NCAA Tournament run ends, Elena Delle Donne will look back on her college career with no regrets.

“Honestly, I think the happy ending has already occurred,” Blue Hens coach Tina Martin said. “The happy ending is that Elena is happy.”

Delaware will now face the Wildcats and the AP’s Garry Graves says Kentucky ready for matchup with Delaware star

“She’s only a part of what they do because they have team chemistry,” Mitchell said of Delle Donne. “You make a big mistake if you put it solely on one player. She’s very important obviously to what they want to do because she’s so talented, but we’ll be really trying to make this more about our team and how we do what we do well. I think that’ll be very important to make our tempo a factor, our defensive pressure a factor.”

Yes, Michigan women’s basketball season ends in blowout 73-40 loss to Stanford, which allows Michelle to offers: Stanford shoots into Sweet 16 – Cardinal’s Tinkle is lights out with career-high five 3-pointers

When Joslyn Tinkle sat in front of the microphone after the game and said “I deserved that game,” it was not a statement of conceit or ego.

It was the result of a bug in her ear by a sage head coach, who had a bit of an epiphany on Monday when she realized that her players might be experiencing more pressure than pleasure.

Looking to the future, Elliott Almond at the Mercury News writes: Stanford anticipates physical matchup with Georgia

The Bulldogs are led by Jasmine Hassell, a 6-foot-2 All-SEC forward, and Jasmine James, a 5-9 senior guard. Georgia has the kind of balanced team that has been difficult on the Cardinal (33-2).

Bring it on, Stanford players said Wednesday.

“I like games that might not be called closely,” said guard Sara James, whose lockdown defense helped the Cardinal defeat Michigan on Tuesday night. “I like to be physical.

Their fellow conference-mates had a tough time against the stubborn Bulls, but the California Golden Bears are heading into Sweet 16

The Cal women’s basketball team nearly imploded against a physical and battle-tested South Florida squad in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32, but regained its composure just in time.

After a nightmarish finish to regulation, the Bears needed overtime before they could finally celebrate an 82-78 win at United Spirit Arena on Monday that advances Cal to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in school history.

Stephanie Hammon chronicles Cal’s Reshanda Gray’s journey from South Central Los Angeles to Sweet 16

Reshanda Gray, the energetic 6-foot-3 forward on Cal’s Sweet Sixteen women’s basketball team, continues to live a Cinderella story.

If she hadn’t discovered basketball in middle school, Gray isn’t sure where life in South Central Los Angeles would have taken her. She’s pretty sure her path wouldn’t have included college.

Their win means the Bears will face the Tigers. Trey Illes at the TImes Picayune thinks the LSU women’s basketball team had magnificent victory against Penn State

Call them LSU’s Magnificent Seven. Lady Tigers senior guards Adrienne Webb and Bianca Lutley played the lead roles in sixth-seeded LSU’s 71-66 NCAA women’s basketball tournament victory against third-seeded Penn State on Tuesday night in LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Webb scored 29 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including three free throws in the final 21.8 seconds. Lutley, playing with four fouls, gave the Tigers the lead for good with 40.8 seconds with a bucket.

The Tigers hope for junior point guard Jeanne Kenney’s return but prep without her

From Kate Fagan: Kentucky’s Mathies guts it out

On Monday afternoon, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell decided to answer a question that wasn’t even directed at him.

The query had been for guard A’dia Mathies, wondering if she was at all concerned after failing to score a basket in Kentucky’s first-round win against Navy. Mathies responded in her usual quiet manner, saying something about not letting one game define her. Then Mitchell leaned into his microphone and said, “I have no doubt that A’dia Mathies will play an outstanding game on Tuesday.”

At Swish Appeal, Queenie has Mathies carries Kentucky to Sweet Sixteen

Kentucky already knows one part of their future: Assistant Matt Insell is the new Ole Miss coach.

From Charlie: Defense leads the way for UConn – Huskies advance to 20th straight Sweet 16, where Maryland awaits

Saturday was about executing the offense and making shots. UConn’s second-round 77-44 victory over Vanderbilt on Monday had a different catalyst: defense.

The Huskies’ ability to win games by different means is the primary reason they’ve been at or near the top of women’s college basketball for six years. Call it dominance by versatility.

The offense wasn’t necessarily lousy Monday, but it wasn’t exactly clicking early. Yet 11 minutes into the game, the Huskies had forced nine turnovers and turned them into 15 points for a 23-13 lead. It didn’t matter that other than Stefanie Dolson, UConn’s passing was shaky. It didn’t matter that some of those 15-footers that fell in Saturday’s 68-point win over Idaho weren’t finding the bottom of the net against the Commodores for much of the first half. The Huskies’ defense was in control.

The UConn players give ESPN their best ‘Geno’ impressions.

UConn will face Maryland ’cause  the Terrapins’ Thomas was tough on Michigan State. From Gene Wang at the Washington Post: 

“I think it speaks volumes to Alyssa when the bigger the game, the bigger the stage and the moment, just how she rises to the occasion,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I’ve said this before: The most competitive player I’ve ever coached. You see her will our team into her mind-set, and you continue to see that time and time again.”

Mark Cardillo says there’s Something About Maryland

Brenda Frese and her Maryland team — a team that lost three players to ACL injuries — is upbeat and isn’t happy to be merely a stepping stone to another UConn victory. Last season in the Sweet Sixteen, Maryland defeated then defending champion Texas A&M.

The schools met on Dec. 3 in Hartford, with the Huskies winning 63-48. Maryland players said they learn a lot from that experience and won’t be intimidated on Saturday

A cross-post, Nate points us to Jordan Esco

…this Oklahoma team has suffered more than maybe any other Sherri Coale team in her tenure and yet here they are, coming back to play in Oklahoma City and in the Sweet Sixteen. The magnitude of that and what this team has accomplished this year really cannot be emphasized enough…I don’t really care whether or not you’re aware they were so desperate for bodies, just to be able to go 5-on-5 in practices, that they had to borrow two players from the volleyball team.

At a certain point, it’s not really about that. At a certain point, it’s about recognizing the accomplishment and giving it the respect it/they deserve.

From the Oklahoma Daily: Women’s basketball looking strong for NCAA Elite Eight.

From the Oklahoman, Stephanie Kuzydym writes: Pat Summitt shaped Sherri Coale, Sooner players

Eyes grow wide, smiles spread and words like “legend” and “model” flow freely.

Tennessee head coach emeritus Pat Summitt shaped Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale and her players such as Whitney Hand, Jasmine Hartman and Joanna McFarland years ago.

On Sunday, Oklahoma will face Tennessee for the first time since a loss in Knoxville in January 2010. This Sweet 16 meeting will be the first time the Sooners will play the Vols without the legendary Summitt at the helm. After 38 years in charge, Summitt is in her first year as Tennessee’s head coach emeritus. She announced August 2011 that she was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

“I don’t know if there are any words,” Coale said of what Summitt did for women’s college basketball. “No one will ever rival what Pat Summitt’s done.”

Speaking of Tennessee, Dan Fleser says Lady Vols must deal with ‘head of the snake’ against Sooners.

And, deservedly so, Warlick finalist for rookie coaching award. After defeating Creighton, Tennessee is not in unfamiliar territory in Oklahoma City regional. The will want more on defense, though.

Down the hall from where Warlick spoke, the Lady Vols weren’t so impressed. They sat in harsher judgement on the stools in their locker room. The consensus opinion was that they shouldn’t be satisfied.

“Not at all; Not at all,” freshman Jasmine Jones said. “We made several mistakes on defense, but we were able to stay in the game. We have to be more consistent on our defense.”

Nate offers up: Louisville coach Jeff Walz proud of his team for overcoming adversity to make Sweet 16

The Louisville Cardinals are yet another team that sustained a few injuries this season in the Oklahoma City region and coach Jeff Walz credited his team for overcoming those after their 76-63 win over the Purdue Boilermakers to advance to the Sweet 16, as described by Mike Rutherford of SB Nation’s Louisville site Card Chronicle.

Lucky Cards get to face Baylor. Kevin Sherrington explains Why Baylor’s dominance is a good thing for women’s basketball. (How can THAT be?)

The AP’s Stephen Hawkins says Baylor is having fun while pursuing 2nd straight women’s title

Brittney Griner stopped at the edge of the podium, pulled out her iPhone and made a goofy face.

Before taking a self-portrait in front of the NCAA tournament backdrop after her final home game for Baylor, when she became the first woman with three dunks in a game, the 6-foot-8 Griner had teammates Brooklyn Pope and Odyssey Sims join her with silly grins of their own.

When coach Kim Mulkey turned and saw what was going on behind her, she started laughing.

Curt Rallo aat the SBT says Sustaining success a big challenge for Notre Dame

After Notre Dame captured the NCAAwomen’s basketball national title in 2001, the Irish reached the Sweet 16 four times in nine seasons, and did not reach the Elite Eight in that stretch.

That changed in 2011, when the Irish stormed to the national championship game. In 2012, the Irish returned to the title game.

This season, the Irish are a No. 1 seed, have beaten Connecticut seven of the last eight meetings, have beaten Tennessee three times in a row and swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles.

The difference is obvious — and simple.

The Fighting Irish will face up start Kansas who, says Curt, owe a lot to their defense.

According to Henrickson, Engelman, Davis and Goodrich have fueled a surge by the Jayhawks’ program. Prior to last season’s NCAA Tournament appearance, the Jayhawks had not earned an NCAA berth since 2000.

“All three of those kids have given a lot to the program,” Henrickson said. “They’ve changed the face of the program. They will leave the program in a lot better hands then when they got here, which is why they came here.

Taking down Texas A&M, at home, was a pretty impressive accomplishment for the Cornhuskers. Gotta love coach Blair’s graciousness in defeat:

“Sorry we were a little short tonight on how we played the game,” Blair said. “I know we could do better, but I don’t know if Nebraska could play any better than they did. They were magnificent.”

Not only are Native Nebraskans all over NCAA Division I hoops, the Huskers’ win was enough for an Iowan to commit sacrilege: Like Nebraska? Even an Iowan can come around

I’m a Hawkeye.

And Hawkeyes don’t like Cornhuskers. And Iowans don’t like Nebraskans, in a moderate Midwest sort of way. It’s not like we would attack Cornhuskers, but we might be prompted to say, “Hawkeyes rule, Cornhuskers drool!” in a confrontation outside the football stadium.

If Nebraska defeats Duke, coach Yori will get a nice bonus.

New Jersey is proud that Peddie School grad Peters has led Duke women into the Sweet 16

Growing up with two older brothers, chances are you’re going to get pushed around a bit. Especially in sports.

While Haley Peters’ basketball skills have improved every year since her days at The Peddie School, what hasn’t changed is her will to win.

Yes, the Duke women are eyeing 1st Final Four since 2006. Sam Mckewon says Duke is expecting a stress test from Nebraska’s offense

Defense is what has her concerned as Duke prepares to play Nebraska, which scored 73 and 74 points in its first two NCAA tourney games. NU has a “terrific” and “durable” point guard in Lindsey Moore, McCallie said, and forwards Jordan Hooper and Emily Cady “can pop 3s quicker than you can say ‘boo.’”

The Huskers’ ability to spread the floor, draw defenders out of the paint and get layups at the basket is the “big challenge” to defend, McCallie said.

“They run a great motion offense,” said McCallie, who’s led her team to three straight Elite Eight berths. “They screen well and they’ll go back door on you.”

Did you catch the espnW blogs?

Michelle Smith writes Five observations (and one tweet) from Tuesday

The field has been pared to 16 teams, and we are a lot wiser than we were when the brackets came out. Here’s what we know now.

• 1. Brittney Griner recognizes a big moment when she sees it: Was it because former President George W. Bush and his wife were in the house? Or was she trying to give the home crowd at the Ferrell Center something to remember? Let’s go with the latter and say Griner’s three dunks in Baylor’s otherwise typically dominant win over Florida State was just the 6-foot-8 superstar making herself a little memory.

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…that was the theme for most top seeds. But it was a little more interesting for some than others.

UNC had to fight like heck to defeat the under-appreciated Great Danes of Albany.

Dayton, too, had to fight — through St. John’s and two overtimes.

#6 LSU escaped a stubborn #11 Green Bay, 75-71.

#8 Michigan moved on after a nice battle with #9 Villanova, 60-52.

#9 Iowa took advantage of the home court and sent #8 Miami packing, 69-53.

Florida State took a nice lead over Princeton and maintained it to a 60-44 win.

The #6 Blue Hens gave the #11 Mountaineers a first half head start, and then Delle Donne carried Delaware to victory.

#2 Kentucky and #15 Navy were all but tied at the half, then the Wildcats got in gear to secure the victory.

#1 Stanford and #16 Tulsa were exactly tied at the half. Cardinal woke up, though, in the second half (and still, Tulsa did not fold), and moved on into the next round.

#5 Louisville followed Schimmel’s points and Smith’s assists to victory over #12 Middle Tennessee State, 74-49.

#7 Oklahoma State didn’t have much trouble against #10 DePaul: Cowgirls (and Young) move on, 73-56.

#4 Purdue handled #13 Liberty, 77-43.

The ESPN/AP headline says “Duke pulls away in the second half to beat Hampton,” ’cause the #15 Pirates pulled within 6 in the second half. Yes, the #2 Blue Devils won, but maybe Hampton did deserve a higher seed.

#3 Penn State made Cal Poly’s first trip to the NCAA an unpleasant one: 85-55.

#Baylor dismissed Prairie View A&M, 82-40.

#1 Notre Dame did the same to UT-Martin, 97-64.

Some quick “Up Next” from Mechelle: Just like old times for A&M, Nebraska

 Nebraska coach Connie Yori smiled and noted that she has “some great Gary Blair stories.” Well, who doesn’t, right?

As for Blair, women’s basketball’s Mr. Congeniality, he reminded reporters that he’s old enough to remember when Yori was playing at Creighton. Scrappy devil of a player, she was.

The coaching colleagues will commence pleasantries before Monday’s NCAA second-round game here at Texas A&M. And then, it will be a battle to see who heads to Norfolk, Va., for the Sweet 16.

“It’s like a Big 12 reunion, really,” Yori said after her No. 6 seed Cornhuskers beat Chattanooga 73-59 to set up their meeting with No. 3 seed Texas A&M. “That seems like it’s fitting. Gary Blair, he’s one of the great coaches and great characters in our game. It will be interesting to go head-to-head.”

Speaking of Nebraska: I saw pintails, common mergansers and harris sparrows today. And it is cooooold!

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(thank you Graham!), so it’s cool when Nate pays attention: Making sense of mid-major WNBA draft prospects’ statistics: How can we project success?

So, our list of consensus 2013 WNBA Draft prospects should’ve been posted months ago, probably in October some time.

But, among other things in life, I got obsessed with sidetracked by the challenge of figuring out what to do with mid-major statistics, due in part to two players that our statistical indicators might have overvalued last season, based on the outcomes: VCU’s Courtney Hurt and Wisconsin – Green Bay’s Julie Wojta.

Hurt’s challenge to make the WNBA as an undersized forward have already been documented here, but to summarize offensive rebounding percentage transfers from NCAA D-I basketball better than any statistic and she was so dominant at VCU that it seemed as though she could find a way to contribute to a WNBA roster. Alas, she was drafted by the Indiana Fever in the third round of the 2012 draft and failed to last past the first week of training camp.

Oofta: Looks like coaches now how to prepare for Sam Houston the second time around. Oral Roberts took advantage and stomped all over them, 90-40.

I take this as a good sign: mom and I are going birding this weekend and, while we won’t see any penguins, we might see some puffins. The sign? Youngstown State wins again, and is now 7-3 in the Horizon. And yes, I know Green Bay is still undefeated.

Yes, I will say IUPUI has a ways to go, but they’re on the road to recovery. Got themselves a huge win over the Jackrabbits, 70-67. They’d beaten South Dakota State for the first time in program history back in January.

Maybe a hot seat is inspiring? Kellie’s Wolfpack took down #19 Florida State, 76-69.

Yah, they were down, but Liberty has re-established itself as the team to beat in the Big South.

This time the “I” stood for “consistent,” and #24 Iowa State swept the season series with #22 Oklahoma, 72-68.

It ain’t easy being a Cavalier. Virginia got beaten by Boston College courtesy of 21pts (7 3-pts) from senior Kerri Shields.

Hawkins took her frustration out on hapless Clemson.

Penn State needed every on of Maggie’s 21pts. #8 Lions defeat Iowa, 81-69.

Pretty huge win for Marshall, as the Thundering herd got their C-USA victory over perennial powerhouse UTEP.

It’s kind of game that gives coaches and fans heartburn: Dawn’s team had a nice sized lead on Kentucky, then Mitchell’s team clawed back and escaped with the win.

Wichita State recovered nicely from the shock they got from Bradley. They move to 11-1 in the MVC.

Northern Colorado kept pace with Montana in the Big Sky. It’s been a tough three weeks for Tricia’s Montana State.

Texas A&M says, “We’re enjoying the SEC, thankyouverymuch.” With their win over Florida, they move in to a tie for first place. Their co-leader? The Vols, who they meet in the last game of the regular season. Which is why you may want to read  Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Wide Open SEC Race Thunders Into The Home Stretch

Gonzaga is showing the WCC who’s the boss and get a little payback.

Seattle U’s making noise, and Jayda’s listening.

Utah State kept atop the WAC with what looked to have been a fun game: 2OTs, 31 pts from a Denver freshman, and a last second three  by Deven Christensen (now the Aggies’ all-time leading scorer) gives them the 92-89 win.

Griner is tall. Donovan is tall. Let’s talk about that, says John Altavilla:

Do you ever put yourself in Brittney Griner’s place, remember what it was like when you were her age?

“When I look at Brittney, I often think of what my life was like when I was her age. What I think is how comfortable she looks in her skin. That was not me when I was her age, certainly not when I was 18 or 19. I finally embraced my height when I was 20, but off the court I was a very shy and introverted kid. Brittney is not like that. She appears to be so very outgoing. You can see the shyness is some respects, but in general she appears very comfortable with who she is. I admire that about her.”

Oh, apparently the gentlemen are playing an exhibition game: A look at the four WNBA stars participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend (considering there will be no defense, methinks Maya will kick butt).

Speaking of the WNBA, and interesting study: ACL surgery may not shorten WNBA career

Still doesn’t mean we don’t need some serious, women-specific research on the injury. Consider Bob Corwin’s piece at Full Court: Carolyn Davis battles back from a devastating injury

Sad news from Lady Swish: ODU volunteer assistant Sara Jones passes away

Old Dominion volunteer assistant coach Sara Jones lost her heroic battle with cancer Friday at 7:57 a.m. She was 40 years old.

Jones had overcome multiple bouts with the disease and become an inspirational presence at practices and games the past two seasons for Lady Monarchs coach and long-time friend Karen Barefoot, who described Jones as “her hero.”

Old Dominion will release a full story with quotes from Barefoot later today. LadySwish will share some thoughts as well. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Lady Monarchs will host Northeastern in the 11th annual Hoops for the Cure game to raise cancer awareness.

I mutter a lot about homophobia, bias and sexism on the blog. Kate Fagan adds to the conversation: Recent events expose sexism in sports culture

I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot lately, my memory triggered by a slew of recent events that expose, to varying degrees, the unrelenting sexism that exists in our sports culture. Sometimes it’s blatant; more often than not it’s subtle, a never-ending reassertion of power intended to keep men in control and women on guard.

Consider the words of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who was ejected from a game on Feb. 5 for telling a referee to stop “acting like a f—ing female.”

It’s hard to say what’s more disconcerting: the casual contempt in Cousins’ words or the fact that most writers chose to ignore it, focusing instead on his use of the F-bomb (that is, his cursing) and his reputation for questionable on-court behavior, which has led to 11 technical fouls this season.

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While the rest of the ranked teams (UCLA-recovering nicely from that Cal-Northridge oops, TAMU, Tennessee, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Cal) were dispatching their overmatched opponents by various ridiculous margins, two “undefeated” and ranked teams were tested: Georgia by the mighty Illini (6-5) and #25 Arkansas by the fierce Coppin State (4-7). One escaped, the other didn’t. What up with your scheduling, Dawgs and Hogs? (And yah, there are no upsets in women’s basketball, just inaccurately ranked teams, right? Which explains what happened to #20 Texas at the hands of Iowa, right?)

Is the Stanford/UConn game on yet? (UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer expect lots of offenseStanford-UConn: More Than A Fairy Tale,

While you’re waiting, check out Mel’s blog on early Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year candidates. (I’ll say, as a Lib fan of “a certain age and longevity, I’ve been following the Hilltoppers since Shea Mahoney. Flashback, much?)

Then wander over to Swish Appeal and check out The state of the WNBA: 2012 edition

Hmmm… maybe the third year’s the charm for Caldwell. Her LSU team goes down to FGCU.

Will Spidey make the Tourney? Bilney! They might!

How tough is it in Sooner-land? The volleyball players are coming to the rescue.

From at Amy Farnum the NCAA.com: Forging the path – Kansas star Goodrich looks to inspire other Native Americans

Kansas senior point guard Angel Goodrich may be known for her vision on the court in women’s basketball circles, but it is her perseverance that may be her greatest strength.

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“Is Baylor good for women’s basketball?”

Well, not if you were Kentucky. Take away Griner’s 27, and the Wildcats still lose. Their numbers aren’t pretty: 27% shooting, 61% FT, 22 TOs and, for a team that threatens 40 minutes of you-know-what on defense, they better learn to move their feet or those 29 fouls will become a season through line. Mechelle’s report on the carnage:

You know those dreams in which you keep doing something potentially harmful to yourself, but you just can’t stop?

For instance: You’re driving even though you can’t see the road. You’re walking into a dark corridor even though you suspect some sort of monster lurks there. You’re climbing out on a ledge even though you’re terrified of falling.

The whole time, part of your brain is thinking, “Wake up! Stop! I don’t want to do this!”

Eventually, you do wake up … or the dream shifts away to something else less dire. But if you were the Kentucky women’s basketball team on Tuesday, you were living out this scenario while wide awake.

Kentucky — which has been to the Elite Eight twice in the last three years, is ranked No. 6 and picked to win the mighty SEC this season — couldn’t do much of anything with defending national champion Baylor.

Guess we’ll have a better sense of the Bears’ road to the (Name the Women’s College Basketball Championship Trophy After My Hero, Pat Summitt) Trophy after Baylor and Stanford meet up in Honolulu.

Don’t look now, but d’em Penguins are 2-0. And so are the Zips. (I just like typing, “Zips.”) Sugar Bears (another favorite typing task) are 2-0, giving former Delta State coach Sandra Rushing a nice jump start at her new gig. Better start for coach Barefoot at ODU, too.

Maine is 0-3. Sigh.

That “squeak!” sound was BYU escaping Big Green, 58-57.

That other “squeak!” was #22 Oklahoma State escaping Missouri State, 74-71.

Well, this is interesting: Hartford, which stumbled badly last season, toppled Marist, 64-53.

Yes: Season-Long Women’s College Basketball Content across ESPN Platforms but, tweets Mel: Someone tell espn to get with the program on their scorecenter ipad aps. Says no games scheduled on women’s option for scores. Cranky I have to wait until Dec 7th for “The dynamic duo of Debbie Antonelli and Mowins to team up again for their weekly podcast.”

Lady Swish pulls out their Silent Majority Report:Dedicated to the belief that the term “mid-major” is an insult to the majority of Division I teams.

One of the more interesting, albeit hardly surprisingly, trends of the young season is watching how much more compelling games pitting teams from BCS conferences against their non-BCS counterparts tend to play out when staged somewhere other than the BCS school’s gym.

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at an awkward start time…

6pmEST on ESPN2, Kentucky gets the honor of being the first to test NCAA champ Baylor. Yeah?

Baylor is facing a team Tuesday that reminds Mulkey of Texas A&M. Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Wildcats always want to play a very, very up-tempo style and disrupt opponents with their speed and physicality.

“Kentucky’s fast pace — that is their identity,” Mulkey said. “But Kentucky plays a full-court game. They like to press you and create turnovers. They play a lot of players. …

“Our identity is going to be inside out — we’re always going to have post players. It’s going to be a heck of a basketball game early in the season. I don’t mean it’s going to be pretty … we’re both going to be playing hard.”

A victory — heck, even a stubborn showing — would go a long way to prove that, as Michelle writes, the Wildcats are ready to reach next level

There’s a glass-enclosed trophy case next to the Kentucky women’s basketball office. In the middle, a big blue pedestal with the UK logo on it and a small sign on top mark the unused space that reads “Reserved for the National Championship.”

Downstairs, next to the team locker room, a large banner by the door displays the logo for the 2013 Women’s Final Four in New Orleans. Get the hint? It’s not that subtle.

The AP’s Gary Graves writes:

Kentucky coach Matt Mitchell believes that if his sixth-ranked Wildcats want to be the best team they have to play the best.

Right now that is No. 1 Baylor and senior Brittney Griner.

The Wildcats will get their shot against the Bears on Tuesday on the defending national champions’ home court in Waco, Texas.

From Steve Jones at the Courier-Journal: Kentucky women’s basketball team faces big test against No. 1 Baylor

 

More from other folks:

Fresh off her key performance aboard a big boat, Graham says, “Irish need big season from Achonwa

For those who pay attention to such stuff, interesting things going on in the Land of Louisville recruiting. Which is an excuse to check in with the Cardinal Couple: (Gather around the laptop and join us for another edition of the Sandy Walker 40-yard dash through Cardinal women’s athletics. A guaranteed good time for all…except for UK fans.) It is Tuesday, Sooooooooo It must be Laundry Day

Mel writes: Penn Almost Mightier Than Cavaliers of Virginia

Yes Virginia. There is a Penn.

And on Monday the Quakers nearly pulled one of the all-time upsets in the history of the program as well as the Big Five women when coach Mike McLaughlin’s group took a commanding lead over the Cavaliers at The Palestra only to fall in the final minutes 68-65 in the second game of the season for both schools.

“It’s disappointing because it could have been a signature win for the program,” McLaughlin said afterwards. “They looked Virginia right in the eye, and I thought we were the better team tonight.”

‘Cause it’s never too late: Did you catch the Dishin & Swishin 11/08/12 Podcast: A Roundtable Preview of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Season The roundtable participants are:

  • AP women’s basketball senior writer, Doug Feinberg
  • Television commentator, LaChina Robinson
  • espnW writer, Michelle Smith
  • Coach and commentator, Christy Winters Scott
  • Television commentator Brooke Weisbrod makes her roundtable debut

Old news, but Chris at the Houston Roundball Review tells us Bridgeport, CT was selected as the new regional site for 2013 NCAA tournament

A little WNBA stuff: Maya (undefended) Scores 60Tina Charles wants WNBA title and President Laurel Richie faces some WNBA questions from Kate, who has never been a fan of the League, but doesn’t really give any answers.

Thanks, Laurel, that’s what WNBA fans want — smoke and mirrors.

From Mechelle’s Thursday chat:

Wallace: Should the WNBA league front office encourage Shelia Johnson to sell the Mystics?

Mechelle Voepel: Well, Monumental Sports Group owns the Mystics, with Sheila Johnson as managing partner. And I think we all have our frustrations about the way the Mystics have been run. I don’t know at this point what direction that franchise is headed. There’s been a lot of speculation, of course. What I do think, though, is that the WNBA front office is *not* proactive in providing much guidance to troubled franchises. Laurel Richie was hired because of her expertise in marketing, but I don’t know how much guidance or advice she can give the Mystics on how to make better personnel decisions. I guess she could advise them on how better to deal with and communicate with their own fans. But I don’t think those conversations happen quite the way some of us might wish they did between the league office and franchises.

Jayda offers an ode to a friend lost: A personal goodbye for a longtime Seattle Storm fan and friend

I hope this is appropriate. It’s not exactly the type of thing you call a grieving family to discuss. But because she’s one of my biggest fans, this is the only way I can say goodbye.

Karen Marie Rolstad died at 11:11 am on Sunday. She was originally diagnosed with endometrial cancer in April and due to other complications that diminished her health, she chose to die under the Death with Dignity Law in Washington state at the age of 74. She was surrounded by family and friends and is survived by her partner Jan of 38 years and their retired show dogs Mario and Tomas.

Karen is the reason I advise young journalists to respond to their readers.

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UConn gave their fans palpitations, and then revved up their defense in the second half to handcuff the Wildcats and move in to their fifth Final Four in a row. Writes Graham: Hayes answers call for Huskies – With teammates in foul trouble, senior guard steps up, leads UConn to Final Four

Forget about Maya Moore, Tina Charles or Renee Montgomery coming to the rescue. For a good stretch of Tuesday’s regional final between Connecticut and Kentucky, as whistles blew and fouls piled up, it didn’t look like Tiffany Hayes was going to be able to count on much help from even those teammates with eligibility remaining.

In a moment feared by many fans whose expectations begin and end with championships, a career defined largely by those Hayes played alongside rested squarely on the senior’s shoulders.

And those aren’t big shoulders.

That loud hiss you heard during the first half of the Maryland-Notre Dame game was the sound of some brave bracketeers watching their brackets crashing. Behind Skylar’s triple-double, the Irish made quick work of the Terps.From Kate Fagan: Notre Dame simply dominates Terps – Skylar Diggins notches Irish’s first triple-double since 1990

Skylar Diggins caught the ball at the top of the key.

She faked left, drove quickly right, put a dribble far ahead into the lane, swung the ball to her right hand, absorbed a Maryland defender, and kissed the ball off the glass. The whistle blew at about the same time Diggins turned — face steeled — toward her oncoming teammates. And-1. Dagger delivered. No time on the first-half clock.

Oh, wait, this was in the first half?

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some speed reading:

From the DC Basket Cases: The Raleigh Natty Regional

Whether you’ll be catching all the action in person at the RBC Center PNC Arena on Sunday, or at home (or at a sports bar) glued to your TV . . . if you aren’t excited about tomorrow’s games in Raleigh, the BCs respectfully suggest that you check your pulse.

Nate’s got some 2012 NCAA Women’s Sweet 16 Predictions: Kingston Bracket

Rebecca’s Breaking down Raleigh’s Sweet 16

Fagans says the Terps relaxed, ready for Aggiesand the AP says the Aggies have to keep Terps off the boards in NCAAs

If they do, Viv says Gary is threatening to dance again.

Graham has a couple: Taelor Karr finds home in Spokane – K-State transfer rediscovered love for basketball at Gonzaga and PSU’s Maggie Lucas diversifies game

Curt takes note: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish on way to free throw shooting mark and warns the Irish better beware of the Bonnies

St. Bonaventure knows they’re about to Take On a Women’s Basketball Titan and the Buffalo News’ Amy Moran thinks Irish talent can trump Bona defense

Al Lesar says Time, players have softened McGraw’s approach

The fans offer encouraging sendoff to Gonzaga women‎ but they are losing home-court advantage in regional‎.

Meanwhile, UK Hoops tries to put Gonzaga in the forefront, avoid side stories‎ as they feed off those other Cats.

In Kingston, Jim Fuller says the Huskies, Penn State are ready to run as the Lady Lions hope to continue charmed season against No. 1 seed Connecticut.  Bentley says “I don’t think they’ve played against a real, true scoring team.” and Faris says, “I think any player would take that as a challenge,’’

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Beth and Debbie (will) preview the Sweet 16 (as soon as the ESPN site loads the podcast). Wait, now it’s up on the top of the page links, but not updated on the big ole “click here for the podcast.” What up with that?

We got picks! (From the ESPN folks.) And there are some landslides happening.

Oh, and Mechelle chatted.

Levi: After seeing St. John’s in person, I think the President may be spot on picking St. John’s for a final four berth. I was really impressed at the grit of this team. There will be a lot of WNBA prospects off this team. I don’t think Stanford has it too easy as some have claimed out there. This region actually may be the toughest of the four. It seemed every time St. John’s got knocked down in Norman they rose like the Phoenix. The pressure they put on teams is unreal. If a number one seed doesn’t make I would say it would be Stanford.

Mechelle Voepel: I was impressed, too, with St. John’s gumption. Creighton was a very tough test in the first round, which was to be expected because the Bluejays consistently play a tough non-conference schedule. Then beating a gutsy Oklahoma team on the Sooners’ home floor … very impressive. Three of the teams in the Fresno regional – St. John’s, Duke, and South Carolina – all won their second-round games on their opponent’s home floor. And Stanford had to go across the country for its early-round games. So everyone has worked to earn their spot in Fresno.

I’ll fess up — I quoted that q/a ’cause Mechelle threw down the work gumption. Love it.

OT: Nice to be back in Cleveland, albeit for a plane change. Good memories of the Final Four. Also nice that the airport provides free wifi. As I visit Louisville for the day, I’m suddenly wondering how big the YUM! Center is and might it vie for a Final Four hosting gig….

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Mechelle previews the Des Moines Sweet 16 games:

Florida coach Amanda Butler had a bemused look on her face Tuesday night when someone asked if she was pleased that her Gators seemed to have had Baylor flustered at least a little bit in the first half of their NCAA second-round meeting.

“Really?” Butler said with a wry smile. “OK. If you say so.

Graham Hays previews the Kingston Sweet 16 matchups:

The smallest state in the country could play host to some of the biggest scores of the tournament’s second week.

Top-seeded Connecticut, No. 2 seed Kentucky, No 4 Penn State and No. 11 Gonzaga make for a geographically disparate quartet in Kingston, R.I., but the four teams there still dreaming of Denver share a propensity for scoring points. All rank in the top 20 nationally in points per game. The other three regions feature just six such teams among them.

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and what happens?

KState forgets how to score.

The Terrapins tip toe past the Cardinals.

TAMU squeaks by the Razorbacks.

Kentucky eased by Green Bay.

The Cardinal roll and the Volunteers rock.

Dawn gets her team to the sweet 16. (upset)

Gonzaga took down Miami (upset) and you’ve got to believe the game would have looked different if Riquna Williams had been on the court. You’ve got to admire coach Meier’s principals and courage.

The ESPN folk weigh in:

Fagan: Terps survive Cardinals, advance

Mechelle: Depth carries Tennessee past DePaul

Michelle: Stanford beats WVU at own game

Graham: Half of Sweet 16 set — and Gonzaga’s in again

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