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FIRST, it’s the WNIT

Great crowd came out to support (CUSA) UTEP and the Miners did not disappoint. Their 79-71, over (Big 12) TCU sets up a quarterfinal game against Oregon.

For 11 scary minutes Thursday night, a red-hot TCU team looked as though it might run the UTEP women’s basketball team right out of the Don Haskins Center in the third round of the WNIT.

There were two groups of people who had no intention of letting that happen: the Miner players and 7,024 screaming fans.

The Owls (American) topped the Bobcats (MAC), 75-61. Michigan is up next for Temple.

It was a bitter taste, once again for the Bobcats. 

Ohio didn’t anticipate the outcome of its postseason. It didn’t expect to lose to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. It didn’t expect to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). It didn’t expect to make it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the WNIT. 

And going into today, Ohio didn’t expect to lose to Temple, 75-61. But Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Bobcats did.

Northern Iowa (MVC) and South Dakota (Summit)  battled quarter to quarter. It was the Coyotes who grabbed the 1-point win, 51-50. They await the winners of the Hilltoppers/Billikens game.

The theory being thrown around in the University of South Dakota locker room on Thursday night was that the DakotaDome does not want to see these ladies leave the house just yet.

On Sunday night the Coyote women’s basketball team will play what is technically the fourth last basketball game in DakotaDome history this season. It is so because USD defeated Northern Iowa 51-50 to move into the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

The Coyotes added UNI to a list that included Creighton and Minnesota with a victory that had 14 lead changes. The increasingly rare movements on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter were fueled almost exclusively by scrappiness and a fully engaged home crowd.

NCAA: Wow, those blowouts on the men’s side really hurt the game…

SI Richard’s picks: Women’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 preview & picks

We have reached the Sweet 16 stage of the women’s tournament, and predictably, all of the No. 1 seeds remain alive. But the opening rounds did see a pair of No. 2s—Maryland and Arizona State—get knocked off on their home courts by plucky No. 7 seeds (Washington and Tennessee). The conferences expected to do well have been successful: The Pac-12, the No. 1 RPI conference all season, has four teams (Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington) in the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history. The SEC, the No. 2 RPI conference, also has four teams alive, including Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee. Three teams (Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse) represent the ACC (No. 4 RPI). The pre-tournament prediction of all four No. 1 seeds landing in Indianapolis stands, but let’s take a look at the upcoming games.

UConn Isn’t The Only Storyline; Assessing The Women’s Bracket And Sweet 16

Bad timing: You’ve got to give Texas A&M coach Gary Blair credit. He could have taken the easy way out and not suspended senior forward Courtney Williams, A&M’s second-leading scorer, and reserve guard Shlonte Allen for an undisclosed violation of team rules the day of the Aggies’ first-round game against Missouri State. They remained suspended and the Aggies lost 74-56 on Monday to Florida State.

Syracuse v. South Carolina

SU must prepare for South Carolina’s Dawn Staley effect

She’s very much aware of life’s little blessings, but there is a huge one out there … and Tammi Reiss is only too happy to acknowledge it.

“I’m just going to say this now because our kids have no idea,” she declared earlier this week. “But as far as Dawn goes, thank God she won’t be on the court. Thank God she’s not playing.”Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies By Rich Elliott

Reiss, the Syracuse University assistant — the one with the hair and the wardrobe, which makes her distinguishable from her boss, Quentin Hillsman, who only has the wardrobe — was speaking of Dawn Staley.

Or, as Reiss describes her, “The greatest point guard of all time. Period.”

Dawn Staley credits Syracuse women’s basketball coach for ‘staying the course’

Staley, an all-time great player at Virginia, credited him for taking a more long-lasting approach toward improvement instead of looking for quick fixes.

“I think for anyone that’s playing this game the sky is the limit. When you do things the right way, you open up doors that historically were closed to the upper echelon of programs,” said Staley, in her eighth season at South Carolina. “I think Q’s done a great job at staying the course. And that’s what you must do.

Syracuse women’s basketball writing own story, but what ending awaits?

Unflappable South Carolina will feel the heat of Syracuse women’s basketball press

2. Washington v. Kentucky

Kentucky will have its hands full with Washington’s Kelsey Plum

Not once this season has Kelsey Plum been held to single digits.

It’s rare that the nation’s third-leading scorer has even been held in the teens.

Opponent after opponent has tried — and failed — to stop Washington’s 5-foot-8 junior scoring dynamo.

3. Stanford v. Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Stanford women facing off in Sweet 16 again

Notre Dame and Stanford aren’t looking at Friday’s game as a rematch, even though they’re meeting in an NCAA women’s regional semifinal for the second straight season.

 Both teams say their rosters have changed since their last matchup, making it hard to read too much into Notre Dame’s 81-60 victory in the 2015 Oklahoma City Regional semifinal. They’ll meet again Friday in the Lexington Regional semifinal. 

“I think we’re both kind of two different teams,” Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen said.

Numbers tell story of Notre Dame’s hoops journey

Numbers can portray a telling — even compelling story.

And looking at the numbers, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team should be considered a heavy favorite to win this weekend’s NCAA regional at Lexington, Ky.

 Notre Dame presents major obstacle for Stanford women in Sweet 16

If UConn didn’t exist, maybe the women’s college basketball world would be wondering: Can anybody stop Notre Dame?

The past two seasons, the Irish lost in the NCAA final to the Huskies, and most observers expect the same matchup in this year’s championship game in Indianapolis. The Irish, who won the national title in 2001, also reached the final in 2011 and ’12, losing to Texas A&M and Baylor, respectively.

 Fourth-seeded Stanford would love to throw a wrench into the works for the top-seeded Irish when they meet Friday night in the Lexington, Ky., Regional semifinals.

 Australian basketballer Alanna Smith out for NCAA Tournament success with Stanford

Pac-12 living up to its billing in NCAA women’s tournament

Throughout the season, the metrics kept saying the Pac-12 Conference was the best in the country.

When it came time to back it up in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 delivered. 

Pac-12 teams will make up 25 percent of the Sweet 16 when the women’s regional semifinals get started Friday. No. 2 seed Oregon State, No. 3 seed UCLA, No. 4 seed Stanford and No. 7 seed Washington all advanced through the first weekend of the tournament, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the final 16 for the first time in conference history. The league had never advanced more than three teams beyond the first weekend.

4. Tennessee v. Ohio State

AP: Tennessee-Ohio St. Preview

The Lady Vols plan to throw different defensive looks at Mitchell and guard her ”by committee,” coach Holly Warlick said.

”If she gets close to the bench, I’m going to maybe trip her, I’m not sure,” she said, smiling. ”No, I watched her in high school. She’s got a great gift. She knows the game. The ball is a part of her hand. I haven’t seen too many, male or female, come around like her.”

Women’s basketball | Cait Craft’s injury forces Buckeyes to adjust

Another body blow took the breath away from the Ohio State women’s basketball team on the eve of their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup tonight against Tennessee.

Senior guard Cait Craft suffered a broken left hand in practice this week, which ended her career with the third-seeded and already short-handed Buckeyes.

“Freak thing,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I really feel badly for her. She is such a great kid, and as a senior, she has put so much into getting us to this point it’s really disappointing for her that she can’t play. It’s a tough break, but it’s ‘next-person-up.’ ”

Ohio State is last Big Ten team standing

Guarding Mitchell will be a full-time, full-team job

Tennessee didn’t need a detailed scouting report to reveal the biggest problem Ohio State will present in Friday night’s Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It’s as obvious as Kelsey Mitchell’s stat line.

The Buckeyes 5-foot-8 sophomore guard is averaging 26.3 points per game, has made 40.3 percent of her 308 3-point attempts and has hit 84.6 percent of her free throws.

The stat line becomes even more troublesome for Tennessee when it checks the rearview mirror. As well as its defense has played overall this season, it has been victimized by outstanding individual performances in a number of its losses.

5. Texas v. UCLA

No. 3 UCLA Faces No. 2 Texas

Imani Boyette, Tina Thompson have helped each other blossom this year

Tina Thompson considers Imani Boyette one of the most complex basketball players she has ever met.

Thompson, the former WNBA star who’s in her first season as a Texas assistant coach, casts a large shadow, even over Boyette, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-7 center. In turn, Boyette admits she challenges any coach aspiring to teach her the game. Yet their bond is sealed with mutual respect.

Pac-12 Postseason Storylines: Teams in Sweet 16 mindset

6. Florida State v. Baylor

 Florida State women look to make good on president’s pick

FSU women’s basketball heads to Dallas for Sweet 16 date with Baylor

There’s a different vibe surrounding Florida State’s women’s basketball team.

Head coach Sue Semrau knows it.

The Seminoles (25-7) went into College Station, Texas, and – after shaking off some rust against Middle Tennessee – dominated host Texas A&M in a 74-56 second-round victory. Semrau said she saw a new fire in the eyes of her players when the Seminoles hammered the Aggies.

Baylor knows it won’t be easy, but Bears have motto to motivate getting past Elite Eight

The green wristbands have become a standard wardrobe accessory for the Baylor women’s basketball team.

“Eight is Not Enough” reads the team motto selected by coach Kim Mulkey, a pointed, painful reminder of consecutive NCAA tournament losses in the regional finals, a.k.a. the Elite Eight.

Lady Bears’ success against ranked rivals helps pursuit of championship

7. DePaul v. Oregon State

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers turn attention to DePaul

Sneak peek at DePaul, Oregon State’s Sweet 16 opponent

DePaul travels to Dallas to face Oregon State in Sweet Sixteen

DePaul takes aim at elusive Elite Eight berth

If his career ended today, Doug Bruno would still go down as one of the greatest women’s basketball coaches of all time.

Since he was named head coach at his alma mater in 1976, Bruno has led DePaul to 21 NCAA tournament appearances, including 14 in a row.

On Sunday, the Blue Demons earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for just the fourth time in program history after upsetting Louisville 73-72 on their home court.

It’s an enormous feat, but one more win would mark an historic occasion – DePaul’s first ever berth in the Elite Eight.

8. Connecticut v. Mississippi State

MSU next in line to challenge UConn’s 71-game streak

COLUMN: Mississippi State women face unstoppable UConn

Basketball Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor drawls on and on in superlatives when asked about Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut women’s basketball juggernaut.

Hey, Van, is UConn the most dominant team in sports today?

“Ain’t no question about it,” Chancellor says, by telephone from his Houston home. “There’s nobody else today to compare ’em to. I’d have to go back to the 1927 New York Yankees or John Wooden’s great men’s team at UCLA. That’s how good they are. They are so much better than everyone else in the sport.

The Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State will take on three time defending champion UCONN in the round of sixteen.

Bulldogs to Face Juggernaut Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen

Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies

Sophomore guard Kia Nurse underwent her own battle last month. Her focus was not in the right place in a team-first system. It was on scoring. And when she suffered through a scoreless outing at Tulane Feb. 3, her reaction was unexpected for a player wearing a UConn uniform.

“We’re trying to teach our players to kind of act your age,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Like when you’re 15 don’t walk around and act like you’re 20. And when you’re 20 don’t act like you’re 15. So in that Tulane game she acted like a junior high kid. It was embarrassing. Because she shot the ball poorly she became a mess on the bench and everybody saw it. It’s not how you act at Connecticut. And I think it hit her pretty good.’’

Why UCONN Is Most Underappreciated Team In Sports 

The best thing going in basketball isn’t North Carolina or Kansas or Virginia or Michigan State. It’s not even Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, at least for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? You’re thinking this must be a joke. Or maybe it’s a trick question.

What could possibly be better than all of that?

How about this: A team that’s too good for its own good. A team so untouchable that we take its success for granted.  A team that has no peer or rival, which ends up making it less interesting to the masses.

The Women’s Beat with Bob Joyce: Sweet 16 To Bridgeport

WNBA: Skylar Diggins talks recovery from injury, move to Dallas in Twitter Q&A

Women’s Basketball History! Denver producing documentary on Wayland Baptist’s women’s basketball team

The legendary women’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, is the focus of a documentary film being produced in Denver. And the Flying Queens are candidates for team induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with voting Friday and an announcement to be made at the Final Four next week.

Alice “Cookie” Barron and Kaye Garms, teammates with the Flying Queens at a time when they were on their way to a 131-game winning streak, are ecstatic over learning their place as pioneers in women’s basketball hasn’t been forgotten.

“It’s wonderful that they are looking back into the history of women’s college basketball,” Barron said.

Not off topic: The NBA Needs to Move the 2017 All-Star Game From Charlotte. Now. Commissioner Adam Silver has a chance to lead on challenging an ugly piece of discriminatory legislation. Judging by his own words, it’s past time for him to do so.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is due to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Silver should announce as soon as possible that this game needs to be moved unless the state legislature overturns its new law set to go in effect April 1 “blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people.”

The law was passed as a direct response to the City of Charlotte for passing an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses. Outrageously, the North Carolina legislature scheduled an extraordinary special session—the first time they have done so in 35 years—to annul the Charlotte ordinance before it went into effect. It’s remarkable how quickly lawmakers leap to actually do their jobs when the work involves stripping people of their rights. It is also stunning how all of the Dixie paeans to local control and states’ rights go out the window when it comes to issues such as these.

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Honestly, why do you bother? You get a UConn game on your channel, thousands of Husky fans realize you exist and desperately look for you… and then you bring out Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) – someone who 1) Doesn’t do his homework (ummm, have you checked out how many upsets happened in the last week?) 2) Doesn’t know his facts (ummm, have you checked out UConn’s SOS?) 3) and DISRESPECTS the women’s game… *smh, surprised that Swin didn’t smack HIS head*

Doug, honey, if you’re worried about a sport that is diluted, where folks don’t play competitive games and is parity-free, let me quote a wise observer from Miami who suggests you check out college football: “Alabama and their ilk go 13-1 outscoring their opponents 2.3 to 1. They just beat the #3 ranked team 38-0. At least women’s basketball is a little competitive!”

Not quite yet: #6 Baylor rumbled in to Longhorn territory, grabbed an early lead an never let go, sending #4 Texas to its first loss of the season.

The Texas women’s basketball team lost on Sunday.

On the court. In the press conference. Inside their minds. Everywhere it counts.

Except in the Erwin Center stands, where 8,996 fans — the largest crowd of the season — convened to watch the fourth-ranked Longhorns’ breakthrough moment this season.

But that moment didn’t come.

ACK! #15 TAMU had overtime against #2 South Carolina in its sight, courtesy of a spectacular pass/lay in and then… brain freeze: foul the inbounder and Sessions seals a one-point win for the Gamecocks. Staley speaks.

Too muchToo much firepower: #5 Ohio State gave Purdue its first in-conference loss, 90-70.

“We started the game with a much better sense of urgency,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We talked about it. We were going to need it. Purdue is a really good team. If we didn’t show up today, it wasn’t going to go our way.”

Not this game: #8 Maryland poured it on in the first half against Northwestern and never looked back.

Not pretty, but we’ll take it: #9 Kentucky over Auburn, 54-47.

Perhaps Kentucky fans should start sending Sonya Murray some residential listings in the Lexington area.

With her mom in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Taylor Murray had career highs in points and steals and helped lead the No. 9 Cats to a 54-47 victory over Auburn.

“She has next-level speed that is unlike most people on the floor,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the freshman guard. “That’s a great weapon for us.

12 straight: #10 Arizona State used strong first and third quarters to show Utah the door, 80-60. Nice piece on Utes coach Lynne Roberts.

As much as Lynne Roberts loved sports as a youngster, Don Roberts never expected his only daughter to make a living in athletics.

“She was always a very strong person, had a lot of personality and a lot of drive,” he said. “But she was always going into science. There was never an idea of being a coach. It was never talked about.”

A lot of local women’s basketball fans are grateful that somewhere in her college basketball career, her passion to compete and her ability to teach persuaded the history major to pursue a career in a much misunderstood and often maligned profession.

Those most grateful for her choice are likely the Utah players who are exceeding the expectations of almost everyone — except their first-year coach.

0-29 no more: Beavers over Trees. #12 Oregon State got the win over #11 Stanford on the merits of a comeback. Feels like OSU is learning from its games… and if Sydney Wiese can return….

#16 Florida State kept the Panthers defeated in the ACC, 66-55.

So, yah, this Pac12 is a thing: #17 UCLA escapes Washington State, 75-73.

See above, as #25 USC didn’t escape Kelsey Plum and her 32 points. Washington wins, 69-60.

There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop this second-half comeback.

After an abysmal first half, which preceded a “crazy” halftime outburst from typically mellow coach Mike Neighbors, the Washington women’s basketball team rallied to beat No. 25 USC, 69-60, Sunday afternoon to complete a weekend sweep of the ranked L.A. schools at home.

 The Huskies (14-4) have won three in a row and sit in third place in the Pac-12 at 5-2. This week, they could also find themselves ranked in The Associated Press poll for the first time since 2003. 

It was close early, but then the #19 Bulls pulled away from the Pirates, 75-54.

Is the SEC allergic to scoring? #20 Florida had to rally with 20 in the 4th to defeat LSU, 53-45.

Make that 200: Katie Meier and #21 Miami get the win over UNC, 76-61, to reach the win milestone. Rats: Xylina McDaniel, a four-year starter for North Carolina, will miss the rest of the season because of an ACL.

Bounce back: #22 Duke made sure they didn’t lose two games in a row, and BC stays winless in the ACC, 71-51.

“I think that the team is beginning to understand what it takes to prepare and to really get themselves in a good space in which to play. The team was very fun to coach today because there was activity everywhere,” McCallie said. “You love it if you have to turn down instead of turn up. If anything today, I was turning down things and that makes for a really good team performance.”

Moore, Moore, Moore: Mariya, that is. It took all of Moore’s 31 points to help #23 #23 Louisville escape the Wolf Pack, 92-90.

“It’s a win. Now, am I pleased? No,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz. “We got extremely lucky. In my opinion, we got out-played. NC State deserved to win that game, but unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, we had a few bounces at the end that went our way.”

Hog Heaven: That’s three wins over Top 25 teams in 10 days for Arkansas.

Albany and Stony Brook still share the America East top spot (1/21, y’all). Speaking of Albany: Shereesha Richards’ next stop likely to be WNBA

The Bonnies.

“You see what our players have been doing on the floor, but what most didn’t see is all the time they put in during the spring, summer and fall,” Crowley said of his team. “Now they’re being rewarded for it. There’s a long way to go and we try to stay focused on what’s next. If you don’t do that in this league, things can go away quickly.”

GW over the Dukes: 

George Washington 6-foot-4 forward Jonquel Jones led all players with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks, giving the Dukes fits down low.

“In my 19 years of Division I, she’s got to be one of the 10 or 12 best players,” Burt said.

Farleigh Dickinson (2-3) went on a tear in the second half, giving Robert Morris (4-1) their first NEC defeat.

“It certainly was a disappointing effort on our part,” Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. “All the credit has to go to Fairleigh Dickinson. They played harder over the 40 minutes, and when we tied the game in the second half, they responded and we didn’t.

In a Big South show down, it was Gardner-Webb squeaking out a 2-point win over UNC Asheville, 58-56. Of note: the Bulldogs were missing two starters (center K.J. Weaver and point guard Ja’Da Brayboy)

Chattanooga is feeling right at home in the Southern.

It was, no surprise, a tough one, but Ohio managed to squeak out a 2-pt OT win over Central Michigan, 86-84, thanks to Kiyanna Black’s career high 39.

Troy is looking strong in the Sun Belt. Congrats to senior guard Ashley Beverly Kelley, whose current career total (1,621) is the most by a player in Troy’s 23-year Division I history. I might mention that coach Chanda Rigby seems poachable…. The program won just two games in 2011-12, the season prior to Rigby’s arrival, and has most recently won 20 games in 2014-15.

No jinx, please, but that is three wins in the Big West for Santa Barbara.

Congrats! EKU to honor women’s basketball great Lisa Goodin and first NCAA tournament team. Goodin is in the Indiana Basketball HOF. At EKU

Goodin, who played for Eastern from 1980 to 1984, is the all-time leading scorer in EKU women’s basketball history with 1,920 career points. The guard from Austin, Indiana is second in program history in field goals made, free throws made and free throw percentage (87.4 percent).  She is fifth in assists (374) and 10th in steals (182).

A sharpshooter with consistent accuracy, she led the NCAA in free throw percentage as both a freshman (.897) and junior (.910).

Stop this: Fight involving players and fans halts girls basketball game in Indiana

It’s been a while since it felt like a coach’s job was in the balance before a game. Elzy tries to calm fans:

“The fans were disappointed that we lost (to Arkansas),” Elzy said. “We were disappointed as well. We have a responsibility to uphold the legacy and play the Lady Vol way, which we did not against Arkansas. I know for the fans, right now, it seems like it’s over. It’s not over. It’s a long year.”

Elzy urged Tennessee fans not to panic despite the disappointing loss to the Razorbacks.

OT: Listening to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey spin discs on Radio Deluxe is musical heaven.

 

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Still noticing the Tribe’s record. Sure, we’ll learn a lot when they face VCU Monday and then leap into conference play…. BUT, they’re 8-1 under third-year coach Ed Swanson, equalling the best start in program history.

The same commentary goes for the Thundering Herd.  Their only loss is to West Virginia, by 6. I’m looking at their game against Western Kentucky as a good test.

Rinse, repeat and insert the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. They have been SO bad… Now look at what folks are writing about 4th year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick’s team: 

Last season, the ninth win for the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team didn’t come until the 30th game.

What a difference a season makes.

On Friday before an Education Day crowd of 1,705, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1, matching the 1984-’85 Asheville team for the best start in school history with an 84-71 victory over a solid Furman team.

How nice to be able to ask, “Might they challenge Stanford-slayer Gardner-Webb for the Big South?

I see you, no longer undefeated UTEP. Looks like the Miners have regained their moxie.

And I see you, too, Santa Clara: coach JR Payne has them on their longest winning streak since 2005-06, folks. (Dani California, flashback.)

Yes, USC-West is undefeated. Let’s see what happens when they play Albany on the 20th and UCLA on the 30th, shall we??? (Not to mention Oregon State on January 2nd.)

Speaking of the Beavers: OSU women’s basketball: No. 7 Beavers expect best shot from No. 14 Tennessee and Oregon State Beavers ready for clash with traditional power Tennessee

“We will learn exactly where we’re at on Saturday and where we need to go as we continue to prepare for conference,” coach Scott Rueck said. “So from that standpoint, it’s the biggest test that we’ve had so far.”

Too much offense: Princeton got rolled by the Buckeyes, 90-70.

Ohio State married a wicked pace to a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting night and ran laps around the stunned Princeton Tigers, winning 90-70 in Value City Arena on Friday night.

“That’s probably as good a game as we’ve played in a while,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought our kids did a great job of executing the game plan. On offense, we played with a great pace and really shared the ball to get great shots.

Yes, we noticed: Anigwe off to impressive start for Cal women’s basketball

“After she committed to us, she improved leaps and bounds,” Gottlieb said. “She’s gone from a post player we wanted with a lot of potential to the clear cut best freshman in the country. I knew she’d contribute right away, but her ability to score at this level consistently is beyond what I expected.”

A little something from Graham: Duke’s Azurá Stevens becoming a big riddle for opponents

Few basketball players see the court quite like Azurá Stevens, but many younger siblings can identify with her lifelong plight in games of one-on-one against an older sibling. No matter how much she grew or her skills developed, her older sister stayed one step ahead of her with that maddening back-you-down, pump-fake craftiness that seems a birthright of those born first.

Hello, Hurricanes: 

Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.

The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

 

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedetti did well.

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

Said coach Thurston post-game:

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

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

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

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

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

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

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

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

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

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what might be…

Top 25 celebrates 20th anniversary as writers poll

This season marks the 20th anniversary of the AP women’s basketball Top 25 poll’s shift to voting by writers and broadcasters.

Before the 1994-95 season, the poll was determined by coaches and compiled by Mel Greenberg, who started it in 1976. Here’s a look at some of the highlights over the past 20 years

AP Division I Poll

USA Today Coaches Division I Poll

…and what might have been.

From Tennessee: Lady Vols’ DeShields discusses transfer from UNC

From Cincinnati: Senior guard Alyesha Lovett, the team’s best returning player, injured her Achilles tendon and will miss the season.

From Ohio: And then there were seven: Injury knocks Chelsea Mitchell out for season

“It stinks,” McGuff said before adding. “It stinks. It stinks. It stinks. It stinks.”

Freshman forward Makayla Waterman already had knee surgery to repair meniscus and ACL injuries that she suffered during the first official practice of the season. Chelsea Mitchell will join Waterman as a redshirt freshman next season.

That puts 40 percent of McGuff’s highly regarded recruiting class from last November on the shelf before the team has played a game. Nearly two months will have to pass before transfers Shayla Cooper or Kianna Holland are eligible to play per NCAA rules

From Iowa: Iowa State guard Nikki Moody suspended indefinitely

“Nikki’s attitude in the team setting has become a distraction to our learning environment,” Fennelly said in the release “We have high behavioral standards to allow us to develop our team in a way that we can have success on and off the court and her behavior has been inconsistent with those values. Nikki can return to team activities if/when improvement is seen.”

Nearby, Ryan Murken says the Iowa women’s basketball team has depth to match talent

“I think this is the deepest we have been in a long time, if not maybe since I’ve been here,” Bluder said Thursday at Iowa’s annual media day. “We have 14 women on scholarship right now — which that alone is going to give you more depth — but it’s really the quality of the depth.”

From Arizona: ASU women’s basketball returns enough to contend

I’m fine about being the only one of 35 voters to include Arizona State women’s basketball in the Associated Press preseason top 25.

It’s not a homer pick because I believe ASU returns enough to build on last year’s surprising 23-10, NCAA second round season. The Pac-12 is good, that’s why the Sun Devils are picked to finish sixth by the media and seventh by the coaches. But they have more offense that stats suggest given the loss of leading scorers Deja Mann and Adrianne Thomas and more size than their starting lineup will indicate.

An editing note: I’d love to give credit to the author, but I can’t seem to find a name attached to the article.

Go Behind the Scenes during the 2014-15 BGSU Women’s Basketball Media Day

From the land of the Cavaliers: UVa women’s basketball team’s freshman trio making quick adjustment

UVa is into its fourth week of practice as it prepares for its Nov. 14 opener with Ohio State at John Paul Jones Arena.

Come that Friday, everybody will still be more than a tad raw on the defensive end of the floor.

“When you teach it for the first time,” Boyle said, “it’s a two-year process.”

That should suit her four-year players just fine.

Down the road, Lexie Brown takes on leadership role for Maryland women’s basketball

…the season-ending loss soon became a learning experience, one that Brown is taking with her as the Terps enter their first season of Big Ten play. And after logging big minutes in the 2014 NCAA tournament — including a team-high 38 against Notre Dame — the sophomore guard has emerged as what teammates call “a natural leader.”

“She just understands what things to say when we’re going through adversity, and how to get out of it,” center Malina Howard said.

Across the thruway: New Lady Lion players have high expectations and Penn State women’s basketball: 5 takeaways from media day

The expectation of the Lady Lions—to win—doesn’t change with the lineup, Coach Coquese Washington said. The standards are still set as high, even with the graduation of all but one starter from last year’s  24-8 squad that won a third consecutive Big Ten title and made it to the Sweet 16.

“How we do those things, what it looks like on the court may change depending on our personality from year to year, but the expectations certainly don’t change,” she said. She got that advice from women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose.

Heading south to the home of the Blue Devils: Duke women’s basketball ready for new faces to step up

Today’s scrimmage showed the Blue Devil faithful that though they lost familiar faces, change can be a good thing.

At the Blue-White Scrimmage at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday, Duke’s highly touted second-ranked incoming class—along with redshirt Rebecca Greenwell and transfer Mercedes Riggs—made their first public appearance. Combining for 63 points, more than half of all points scored all afternoon, the Blue Devil newcomers are ready to make their presence felt in the ACC and beyond.

From the west coast, the Cal Bears’ blog previews The supporting cast

Previous WBB season preview installments: Part 1: Boyd and Gray, the best duo in the west. ; Part 2: Predicting the Pac-12 standings + previews with Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

Before we get into the preview content, some important pieces news:

David speaks with the Bears’ coach: Lindsay Gottlieb & Cal look to take the next step

Sue has been previewing the Pac 12:

The good news for Oregon State is the bad news for everyone else: the team that roared to a 24-11 record, tied for second place in the Pac-12, played for the conference tournament championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s second round last season is the only team in the Pac that returns all five starters this year.

Sophomore guard Sydney Wiese (14.3 points, 4 assists per game), junior guard Jamie Wiesner (12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds per game), junior center Ruth Hamblin (9.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 blocks per game), senior guard Ali Gibson (9 points per game) and junior forward Deven Hunter (8.8 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) are all back, as are four reserves. Three promising newcomers round out a solid roster that already has both players and coaches chomping at the bit to begin play.

About that elephant in the room… “I know no-think!” (Yes, I’m a tad cynical): Hatchell says she was unaware of academic fraud, lauds Boxill

The report indicated that women’s basketball players were steered to the classes by Boxill, the academic counselor for more than 20 years beginning in 1988 and the faculty chair from 2011-14. Boxill acknowledged editing some athletes’ papers, and a review of her e-mails disclosed several instances where she made specific grade suggestions so that women’s basketball players could stay on track academically.

In one exchange, Deborah Crowder – the AFAM secretary who issued grades for the illegitimate classes – wrote Boxill to ask if a D would be okay for a specific player, since her final paper had no sources and had “absolutely nothing to with” the class.

A little WNBA stuff…

Out of Minnesota: Taylor Does Little Things Needed To Win

Asia Taylor certainly wasn’t the flashiest player on the Lynx last season. She was last pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and while she saw tons of collegiate success as with Louisville, she was by no means a lock to make the team at the start of Training Camp last season. 

Until she was. 

Taylor showcased her skills as a versatile swingman throughout Training Camp and caught the attention of coach Cheryl Reeve. Reeve saw a lot of value in some of the things Taylor brought to the team and ultimately decided to keep her on the roster. 

“I knew I was an underdog coming in,” Taylor said at the start of last season. “They basically say third-round picks are just here until the veterans get back and … wanted to prove differently.” 

Pierson used career crisis as springboard to success

In the early part of the 2001-2002 basketball season, Plenette Pierson wasn’t thinking about her legacy at Texas Tech. She was thinking about whether she wanted to finish her Texas Tech basketball career at all.

A star player who was suspended for most of her junior year, Pierson sandwiched a pair second- and third-team all-America seasons around that one and wound up one of the leading scorers in Lady Raiders history. The center from Kingwood was inducted Friday night into the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.

From the Nigerian Tribune: Nigerian-American basketball star sisters celebrated in US

Nneka and Chiney are award-winning basketballers based in the United States of America (USA). Not forgetting their roots, they have decided to give back to their country of descent, Nigeria, by raising funds for girls, who are either denied or lack access to qualitative education. 

Looking to the future, Swish Appeal’s Albert has 3 key differences between two of the WNBA’s and NBA’s oldest teams

Last week, Conor Dirks of Truth About It wrote about the transformation of the Washington Wizards NBA team from one of the league’s youngest teams in 2010-11, to the oldest team based on average age at one point during the 2014-15 preseason.

This caught me off-guard at first, as I recently criticized the Seattle Storm and their team building strategy. Like the Wizards at that point (they are now second oldest per RealGM), the Storm was the league’s oldest team based on average age during the 2014 WNBA season. While it’s easy to just look at average age and simply say that the Storm and the Wizards are old teams in their leagues, they don’t share that much in common based on how they are currently constructed.

Speaking of the WNBA & NBA: NBA, WNBA legends with Olympic ties to run New York City Marathon relay

WNBA rallies around Lauren Hill

Elena Delle Donne had chills when she first heard about Lauren Hill.

The WNBA star was brought to tears the more she read about the Mount St. Joseph freshman, who has inoperable brain cancer.

Delle Donne will attend Hill’s game on Sunday as a fan, moving a speaking engagement to make sure she could be there.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing for her and I want to be there to support her,” Delle Donne said.

The game will be streamed:

The matchup with Hiram College at Xavier’s 10,000-seat arena will be available for free on FOX Sports Go online and through the app, even for users who usually can’t access the service. FOX announced Friday the game will also air on FOX Sports Regional Networks, including in Ohio, and FOX College Sports.

The Big East is producing the game, which starts at 2 p.m. EST.

Says Cincinnati.com: Lauren Hill’s game now the nation’s

Lauren Hill’s college basketball debut is here.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Hill and the Mount St. Joseph women’s basketball team will tip off against Hiram College at Xavier’s Cintas Center. The sellout crowd of 10,250 will be there to see Hill realize her dream of playing for the Lions.

Hill’s story, by now, is everywhere. Nearly 60 media members from local, regional and national outlets will continue documenting the aspirations of No. 22, the forward with an inoperable form of brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Tickets were snapped up in 30 minutes for the player with a positive outlook and a terminal diagnosis.

Lauren Hill fundraiser invites schools to donate basketball jerseys for auction

From across the ocean: Basketball more than just a game for Saudi women

Women’s basketball is gaining in popularity in a kingdom rife with public restrictions on female movement and activity. With the help of some U.S.-trained coaches, female enthusiasts are using basketball to push for greater rights for women on and off the courts in Saudi Arabia.

“We are an activist team,” said Lina Almaeena, who started the first women’s basketball team here 11 years ago. That led to the creation of Jiddah United in 2006, the first sports club in Saudi Arabia to include women. “We took it upon ourselves to really promote the sport at a time when it was a big time taboo … when there was a self-imposed censorship on women’s sports.”

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Upset City!

I’m sure there were mixed feelings on the Tiger bench. # 16 LSU ruined Candace Parker’s return for her jersey retirement ceremony… and gave Coach Caldwell the biggest win of her young coaching career – though they almost let it slip away: They had a nice double-digit lead with under five minutes left and lost their composure, resulting in a ton of turnovers. #5 Tennessee took advantage, cutting it closer and closer… until they lost their composure – two technicals later, and the Tigers get the three-point win. Glad I’m not a coach.

Speaking of big wins: If you thought Indiana’s game against #22 Iowa would mean the Hoosiers would soon exit the ranks of the undefeated, you were wrong. Important win for “drama free” coach Miller.

Take a deep breath, Indy, ’cause #17 Purdue is up next… and they might be ticked after being blown out in the second half by (I told ya!) tough out Ohio State.

“Every night, you’re going to play a well-prepared team and it’s going to be a challenge,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “It’s a great league for women’s basketball and hopefully we continue to be better, so we meet these challenges head on. I thought our defense was good, but more importantly, we took turnovers and turned them into points.”

Coach Landers got a T, but coach Balcomb and Vandy got the win.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we ever really looked that good,” head coach Andy Landers said. “The scoreboard looked good when we were up seven, but we turned the ball over 24 times. We started it off turning it over and we were turning it over the last five minutes. You really don’t have to go any further than that. You’re playing on the road against a quality basketball team.”

James Madison almost joined the upset wave, but the Diamond Deshields-less #10 Tar Heels escaped with a three-point win. Next game ought to be fun – in-state rival NC State (13-1).

Speaking of  “almosts” – #18 Nebraska clawed back from a deficit in the first half, then squeaked out a one-point win over Northwestern.

It’s looking like Aston will be a nice hire by Texas. The Longhorns fought Oklahoma State tooth and nail throughout the game, finally falling to the #11 Cowgirls by 6.

Speaking of tooth and nail — South Carolina dealt Arkansas their first loss of the season, but Dawn and crew are lucky the game ended when it did. In the second half, the Razorbacks roared back from a 12-point deficit, but fell short by 4.

Speaking of a Conference that would be wicked fun to watch:

  • St. Mary’s couldn’t slay undefeated San Diego. “With the win, the Toreros remain perfect on the season at 14-0, mark the best start for any sport at USD in the Division I era, extend the program’s longest winning streak, and are now one of six undefeated schools left in Division I.” (Who’ going to be knocking on Cindy Fisher’s door next year?)
  • Pacific (6-7) took down perennial powerhouse BYU (12-2) for their first WCC win, 75-62.
  • Azzi’s Dons took down Loyola Mary for their sixth win of the season. (Baby steps, pt. 1)
  • Pepperdine and St. Clara went to double overtime and made Debbie happy: The Waves prevailed, 100-93. (Baby steps, pt. 2: Pepperdine’s five wins already matches its total from last season.)

Not interested in being part of the news frenzy:

# 6 Kentucky took care of Alabama, 85-63.

#2 Notre Dame got some dead-eyed shooting from Kayla McBride as they went huntin’ wabbits, 94-51.

#3 Duke dominated Old Dominion, 87-63.

#25 Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech, 68-38.

Simms… I mean, #9 Baylor was 29 points better than the Wildcats.

#14 Iowa State took care of TCU, 71-49.

Considering the state of Pittsburgh basketball, I consider Suzie’s loss to #21 Florida State by 9 impressive.

Mississippi State didn’t survive their encounter with the Gators.

Not sayin’ nothin’ about Fordham ’cause I don’t wanna jinx’em.

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No. 2 Duke hasn’t come close to No. 1 UConn, Register
No. 2 Duke Ready To Take Another Swing At No. 1 UConn, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Duke, Courant
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Tuesday at No. 2 Duke, Post
No. 1 UConn, expected to be at full strength, set for No. 2 Duke, Post
UConn women in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, Post

No. 2 Duke women set for No. 1 UConn challenge, News & Observer
No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten, Durham Herald Sun

Mechelle Voepel: Can Duke compete with UConn?, ESPN

There are some “big” games you anticipate with confidence … and others with trepidation. In women’s basketball, Connecticut vs. Duke — No. 1 vs. No. 2 Tuesday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET) — is the latter.

For this one, we’re all a bunch of Fox Mulders saying, “I want to believe.” Yes, I’d bet even most UConn fans would like to see this be an exciting game between two 10-0 teams that sit atop the rankings.

Rebecca Lobo: X factors to keep an eye on – Fouls? Free throws? Offensive flow? These elements might impact showdown

The top two teams in the women’s game meet Tuesday night when top-ranked UConn heads to Durham, N.C., to play No. 2 Duke. The Huskies have beaten the Blue Devils six straight times with an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. (Duke kept it close for a half last season, down only two points at the break, but UConn blew it open in the second half.)

Does Duke have the talent and experience to beat UConn? Yes, without a doubt. Will the Blue Devils finally be able to play a full 40 minutes in order to get the W? We’ll have to tune in to see (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Here is what I’ll be keeping my eye on while watching the game.

Charlie Creme: The history behind 1-vs.-2 matchups – Blue Devils riding 24-game home winning streak into showdown

Just more than a month into the season, there is little to no debate over which are the two best women’s college basketball teams in the country. With possible apologies to those in Knoxville, South Bend and Lexington, Connecticut and Duke entered the season at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and neither team has done anything up this point to indicate any errors in that assessment.

The real question, as we embark on another 1-versus-2 matchup on Tuesday night (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 ET) in Durham, N.C., is whether the Blue Devils are right there with the Huskies as a true threat to the top spot … or merely closer to the rest of the pack that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame, Kentucky and a few others.

From espnW: Demanding Perfection – Top players for UConn describe what practice is like playing for coach Geno Auriemma.

From Doug: No. 2 Duke ready to meet No. 1 UConn

Today will mark the 52nd meeting between the top two teams in the poll, with the No. 1 team holding a 31-20 edge in the series. UConn has been in that game 17 times, including going 10-1 as the top-ranked team. Duke has played in this game six times, going 3-3. The two teams met once as the top two teams in the nation in 2003, with No. 2 UConn beating top-ranked Duke 77-65.

In other news:

As Rutgers women’s basketball continues to roll, No. 16 Georgia looms

Somewhat surprisingly, little has gone wrong thus far in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season.

After losing four of their top-six scorers from a year ago, the Scarlet Knights, who feature no seniors, have quietly blended youth into balanced offense. Four Knights — three underclassmen — are averaging double figures through 10 games. As a team, Rutgers is actually scoring 12 more points per contest (68.1) than last season (56.0).

Buckeyes try to shake out of slump

The Ohio State women’s basketball team gathered for a film session yesterday that served as a double feature without the box of popcorn.

The Buckeyes (7-6) had to watch the postmortem of their 64-49 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday and follow that with a look at Tennessee Martin (6-3), their opponent tonight at Value City Arena.

Coach Kevin McGuff entered the room knowing that his young, largely inexperienced team is at a crossroads.

From the .com: Sheryl Swoopes Embraces New Role as Head Coach at Loyola Chicago

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

“My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back,” Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call – one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Stinky news for Asjha Jones and the Sun: She’ll Miss WNBA Season

Meanwhile, the Lynx continue their Roster Review: Janel McCarville

 … coming into the season, though, McCarville hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. 

The center quickly answered any and all questions. As she got into shape during Training Camp, her knack for finding open teammates became obvious and it seemed like she was perfect for a team with offensive threats like Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Throughout the season, her role became extremely important for the Lynx and she averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game while helping the Lynx win the 2013 title in her first season with the squad. 

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the first time this has happened on the recruiting trail. But “should” it?

From Clay at Full Court: Ohio State and Kevin McGuff know what matters most

the formula for the success the Ohio State University wants is simple: Win with talent.

So when McGuff hired Kelsey Mitchell’s dad Mark as an assistant coach, he made it clear to all that’s he serious about earning his salary, and that he will push the boundaries to get talent to Ohio State.

Now, Mitchell’s dad is a long-time, and very successful, boys’ high school coach, and he helped out with his twin daughters’ AAU team over the past few years, but there’s no way he was the most qualified person to fill out the Buckeye staff – except for his contribution to the gene pool.

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Kevin McGuff becomes the new women’s basketball coach at Ohio State.

Tell me again why players — who have a year-by-year scholly — have to sit out a year when they transfer and coaches — who often have multi-year contracts — don’t?

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“wearin’ o’ the pink,” but at least we don’t have women dressed as bumble bees, RuPaul rejects and… well, I’m not sure WHAT this is. Athletes as Skittles?

On to the important stuff:

It wasn’t easy, but the CU Buffs slipped past Oregon on road. CU has its longest conference win streak since an eight-game streak from Jan. 12-Feb. 6, 2002.

As for the Ducks, freshman Jillian Alleyne a bright spot for struggling Oregon

The 18-year-old has recorded a team-high 10 double-doubles this season, and is one of just 39 players in NCAA Division-I women’s basketball to be averaging a double-double (13.1 points per game, 12 rebounds per game). She is just 41 rebounds shy of the single-season rebounding record set by former Duck standout — and former Oregon coach — Bev Smith.

All this has led Ducks coach Paul Westhead to say that he thinks Alleyne could be the best player to ever come out of Oregon, a distinction usually given to Smith.

More on the West Cost teams: Cooper, Westhead struggle in Pac-12

From the NBA legacies that defined their careers, to the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1980 championship, to WNBA titles, to Pac-12 women’s basketball, Michael Cooper and Paul Westhead represent a bevy of basketball intersections.

And now one more.

Both find themselves occupying the same awkward space, the subject of disappointment and “evaluation” by their respective athletic directors, who have to be seriously contemplating whether either will still be head coach next season.

At Southern California, the Women of Troy are having the toughest season of Cooper’s four-year tenure.

From Ryan Dunleavy: Rutgers women’s basketball NCAA hopes precarious

When it snapped an ill-timed four-game losing streak Tuesday night by beating South Florida, the Rutgers women’s basketball team added a few believers to a following clinging to hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth. The nation’s leading expert on the subject isn’t part of the crowd, however.

Richard Kent asks: What is C. Vivian Stringer’s future at Rutgers?

Stringer’s team (15-12, 6-8 Big East) boasts 6 McDonald’s All-Americans, many more than no. 1 Baylor and no. 2 Notre Dame, yet they have fallen to 9-18 Seton Hall and 10-17 Boston College and lost by 16 to Princeton of the Ivy League.

Her mentor, John Chaney, former Temple coach says that she doesn’t have top talent and that some of her assistants should be fired. Former Stringer player at Iowa, Nadine Domond, now running HoopGurlz for ESPN called her talent good, but not at a UConn or Baylor level.

One of the top coaches in the game was not bashful in saying that if Geno Auriemma had Stringer’s talent, Rutgers would be a Final Four team and if Stringer had the UConn players, they would struggle in the Sweet 16.

There’s a lot of coaching on Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli’s podcast. They also interview Notre Dame players Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride.

Another team hoping to be inside the bubble: UW women’s basketball team battling odds for NCAA ticket

In the past two weeks of a remarkable regular season, the Washington women’s basketball team played its worst game against Utah, lost consecutive road games and had three players suspended for its biggest game yet, Thursday’s matchup against No. 4 Stanford.

A finish with potential records and awards appears to be spiraling down faster than UW coach Kevin McGuff can put a plug in the drain.

Rob Clough at Full Court says: ACC scramble to the finish is critical for NCAA bids

As the ACC enters its final week, there’s not a lot of mystery regarding the top of the league. The only question left regarding Duke is whether or not they can run the table and finish 18-0. We’ll see how much motivation and emotion they can summon after beating Florida State and Maryland in the span of three days.  For the rest of the league, there’s still a good bit at stake, including jockeying for position in the ACC tournament and the potential for making statement wins to draw the eye of the NCAA selection committee.  I’ll also dole out my ACC awards. RPI information was culled from realtimerpi.com.

Also at FullCourt, Kelly writes: The last week will tell the tale in the SEC, Pac-12 and Big East

The final week of the NCAA regular season is kind of like the final episode of a reality show — a lot of drama is unfolding. Three major conferences (the Southeast, Big East and Pac-12) have yet to crown a regular season champion, which means the pressure will be on all through these final days.

Cal is close to sharing a title  in a tight PAC12 race.

They’ll will the Ivy regular season title, but Harvard made sure Princeton paid attention to the Crimson, giving the Tigers their first in-conference loss.

Yup: The Saint Bonaventure Bonnies: What a difference a year makes

In W news, as Bill rebuilds the Newark Shock, Mechelle says: Laimbeer puts personal touch on Lib – New York coach isn’t optimistic that Deanna Nolan will play this season

One thing you’d never call Bill Laimbeer is a sentimentalist. His Liberty team might have familiar faces from his days as Detroit’s coach. But that’s only because he thinks those players can help New York now. The past is past. He’s thinking of the future.

From Tulsa, Mike Brown has some words from the newest member of the Shock:

“I’m so excited to play in Tulsa,” Candice Wiggins said. “I want to thank the city of Minneapolis for all it’s given me. I want to thank the coaches, the players, the fans and people of Minnesota for their support. Tulsa is a warm place and I have always loved playing in the BOK Center. I’m excited be a part of this organization. I want to thank Tulsa for this golden opportunity for me to bring my talent to this righteous city.”

Nate says Tulsa scores in three team deal with Minnesota, New York

BTW: Sheeeeeee’s baaaaak: Mishicot High School graduate Wojta signs with WNBA’s Silver Stars

Need to keep up on the player movement? Go here.

And yes, it’s been One Nnek Of A Year

“The transitions have been quick and I’ve had to really get used to a different type of lifestyle so quickly,” Ogwumike said. “But it’s been so much fun going from playing my senior year, playing in the Final Four, then going straight to L.A. to play for the Sparks, then going straight from L.A. to Poland.

“It’s been quite a whirlwind.”

Did you know we’re Seven weeks away from WNBA history?

Mark your calendars: We’re exactly seven weeks out from the 2013 WNBA draft. For the first time in the league’s 17-year history, the draft will be carried live on prime time television (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Speaking of history: Bingham coach Ramussen, one of the all-time winningest coaches in state history steps down.

Rand Rasmussen already knows his son won’t understand.

The Bingham girls’ basketball coach is 39 wins away from breaking the state’s all-time record for victories.That’s basically two seasons for the Miners.

Why retire? Why now?

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Because I couldn’t resist sharing this headline: Shorthanded Mules kick off season tonight

In other not so fun news, “Dabnabbit!” Maryland’s Laurin Mincy to miss rest of season

Balance that off with some good news: Xavier’s (HUGE) loss was Washington’s gain: Husky women cruise past Portland for best start in a decade

ESPN Magazine has: Laying down her road – Baylor center Brittney Griner’s game is going to get even better (No idea why they decided to bold the questions — makes them seem more important than the responses.)

BERGERON: There’s also the insinuation that with dunking, with blocks, with playing at a faster speed, that people want the women’s game to look more like the men’s. Is that a fair expectation? Should the WNBA want to look more like the NBA?

GRINER: I’m just glad that we still have a league we can go to. We’re different. You can’t say that we have to play like men because that’s the “right” way to play. I don’t see anything wrong with the way we’re doing it. We’re doing a great job.

Mechelle offers up:  First-year coach, first-time mom – Jennie Baranczyk gave birth to her first son not long after taking over Drake

Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk thought her almost-7-month-old son, Eli, was about to drift off for a morning nap before she went to work. The little guy looked as if he were fading …

 Baranczyk recalled hearing a men’s basketball colleague once say his team reminded him of his infant daughter.

“At the time, I thought, ‘Huh?'” said Baranczyk (pronounced bah-rahn-check), who took over at Drake this spring just before Eli’s birth. “Now, I totally get it. We do something so small, and you just celebrate it like crazy. We take little steps, and you wobble a bit and fall over. But you look at a picture of us from a month or two ago, and we really are different.”

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Well, the NCAA has, too:

Denver (AF) – The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee today announced new rules governing the transfers between Division I women’s basketball programs, taking effect immediately. According to the committee, these changes are intended to improve the level of parity in college women’s basketball.

“We just looked at the results and knew we had to do something,” said Greg Christopher, chair of the committee. “It wasn’t just having all those one seeds in the Final Four, or even all of those 1-2 matchups in the Elite 8, but the scores in those games were almost embarrassing.”

According to Christopher, under the new rules, student athletes who wish to “transfer down” will be subject to liberalized rules intended to foster player movement. Student athletes who wish to “transfer up” will be required to meet current requirements and, in some cases, will be prohibited from transferring at all.

The new rules provide that a student who wishes to transfer from a team that reached the Elite 8 in the preceding national championship tournament may transfer to any team that did not finish in the Elite 8 and begin to play immediately. The same rule will apply to a student who played for a team that won at least one game in the tournament and wishes to transfer to a team that did not win any games in the tournament.

“We were inspired by what Tina Martin has done at Delaware,” explained Carolayne Henry of the Mountain West Conference, who is the incoming chair of the committee. “We saw how she used transfers to take her team from being an also ran in a mediocre conference to a top ten ranking. Not everybody can have an Elena Della Donne fall into their laps, but even a few players like Raven Ferguson could help out a lot of teams. Look what Kevin McGuff did with Dee Dee Jernigan, at least until the end of that game.” (more)

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from Jayda: Washington coach Kevin McGuff debuts radio show

Playing an inherited schedule from former coach Tia Jackson that’s easier than he lined up in his days a Xavier, McGuff’s Huskies are 6-2 for the program’s best start since 2005. UW has an extended break after defeating Portland 61-49 on Friday, hosting Houston on Dec. 18 and Southern on Dec. 20 to conclude nonconference play.

On the East Coast, Mel has an interesting review of possible candidates for the Maggie Dixon Coach of the Year award. Rookie D-I Coaches Not Finding Life Easy As The Boss

Whoever wins the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year Award this season is probably going to have to earn his or her stripes in conference competition.

By the Guru’s count among the musical chairs coaching changes in the offseason 21 have become Division I head coaches for the first time making them eligible though if the award were given today the selection committee might call the whole thing off for a year.

Just as good a time as any to reflect on past winners and their current state:

2006–07 Krista Kilburn-Steveskey at Hofstra: 26–8 — Currently 8-2

2007–08: Jeff Walz at Louisville: 26–10 — Currently 9-2

2008–09: Kelly Packard at Ball State: 26–9 — Currently 5-5

2009–10: Teresa Weatherspoon at Louisiana Tech: 23–9 — Currently 5-6

2010–11: Stephanie Glance at Illinois State: 24–10 — Currently 5-4

Also, odd fact of the review: three out of five of the MDRCOY winners work on teams that feature red birds….

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UCLA Hires Cori Close As Head Coach: An Offensive-Minded Coach For A Defensive Team

UCLA introduced Cori Close as their new women’s basketball coach today to replace Nikki Caldwell, who moved on to LSU on April 4 after a record-breaking season for the Bruins.

As a California native and self-proclaimed fan of UCLA women’s basketball – who got choked up during this afternoon’s press conference – the hire is a natural fit.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Coaching: Why Developing Expertise At Mid-Majors Is Best For The Game

Brian McCormick, author of Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development who writes at Brian McCormick Basketball (developyourbballiq.com), is an experienced coach and development expert whose basketball insights about everything from youth development to point guard play are valuable for any thoughtful basketball fan. He wrote and submitted the following guest post prior to UCLA’s hire of Cori Close today.

At the Final Four, some people wondered whether the fact that the previous four Pac-10 hires have been males – after the recent hiring of Kevin McGuff at the University of Washington – is indicative of a problem. However, rather than looking to blame the athletic directors for a gender bias, I feel that we need to examine the mentality of coaches in the women’s game.

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More on Flanagan’s retirement.

Seems LSU’s Nikki is ready to take on the Vols and the LSU Reveille is expecting an overhaul. Check out Maria’s extensive piece on Caldwell.

New Washington coach McGuff gets some coverage. Jayda offers:Getting to know new Washington coach Kevin McGuff

Don’t ignore the fact that Green Bay’s Bollant is still pondering.

Expect more pressure on coaches to win (hope this doesn’t mean it’ll be okay to lie and cheat): Salaries dramatically rise for top women’s basketball coaches

During the 2006-07 school year, Tennessee and Connecticut made money on women’s basketball, according to reports the schools file annually with the NCAA. In 2009-10, Tennessee lost about $715,000 on the sport and Connecticut lost about $725,000. Oklahoma lost about $1.1 million on the sport in 2006-07 and more than $1.6 million in 2009-10.

Head coaching compensation is not the only expense that has increased for these schools, and all three generated more revenue from women’s basketball in 2009-10 than they did in 2006-07.

Beth Bass, chief executive officer of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, says there are financial pressures throughout higher education. “Everybody’s looking at everything,” she says. “We have to figure out how to be smarter with our business models.”

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Kevin McGuff named Washington coach

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UCLA fans are surprised and “sick.”

Said one, “We were just at a meet and greet to talk about the renovations (to the arena) and she came in to say how important it was to recruiting….”

It’s probably small comfort that the Bruins tried to keep Nikki:Caldwell Heads To LSU Despite ‘A Very Attractive Multi-Year Offer’ From UCLA

Wonder if the PAC 10 will feel happier if McGuff goes to Washington.

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No thank you

McGuff passes on Badgers’ job

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