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So, yah, you (and the rest of the world) didn’t have this Final Four penciled in ANYwhere. (OK, maybe EIGHT of you did. Showoffs.) How. Cool. Is. That?

FWIW: Interesting a game at Bridgeport – the UConn fans were more nervous than the two teams. It was a fine, rough-and-tumble game… and a far cry from the rout of last year. Kudos to Aston/Texas for learning and growing from that not-so-fun experience. That being said, every time the Longhorns inched closer, the Huskies nailed a three, and so punched their ticket to Indy.

Favorite moment of the Bridgeport regional (in two parts): 1) Seeing Holly Rowe on the sidelines again 2) watching the camera guy assigned to her taking a selfie with her.

Was on the train home tracking the Oregon State/Baylor game. Can we get a measurement on the distance Kim’s jacket traveled? Can we get a temperature on the ice in Sydney Wiese’s veins?

Movin’ on

Tim Booth, AP: Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

For three decades, any chatter about women’s basketball on the West Coast has usually started and ended with Stanford.

While the Cardinal are still among the elite programs in the country – as evidenced by their run to the Elite Eight – it’s Oregon State and Washington that are headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis and providing validation that women’s basketball out West is more than just what is happening at Stanford.

”We’re all seeing how good the Pac-12 is. It surprises me a bit how surprised I think people are across the country,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said over the weekend. ”You listen to just the general narrative of the Pac-12 and people are surprised, surprised Washington could beat Maryland. We’re not. We’ve played against them.”

Graham: Trio of Final Four debutants face tallest of tasks

Goliath is coming to a place so steeped in the legend of David that someone made a movie about it.

Even so, it will take more than running the picket fence of “Hoosiers” fame, Hollywood’s version of slinging a stone, to stop this Connecticut women’s basketball team in its pursuit of perfection — yet again.

Mechelle: UConn is advancing women’s basketball — not killing it

Town crier on the state of collegiate women’s basketball, based on reading a few headlines, in …

2016: “UConn is dominant! There’s no parity! Is the sport growing?

2006: “Finally, a Women’s Final Four without UConn or Tennessee! Just the second time that’s happened in 12 years! Is the sport growing?”

1996: “The exact same teams — Tennessee, UConn, Stanford and Georgia — are in Women’s Final Four as last year! Is the sport growing?”

1986: “Texas is dominant! The Longhorns go undefeated to win the NCAA title. Is the sport growing?

1976: “Delta State is dominant! Two AIAW titles in a row, and they’ll probably win next year too. Is the sport growing?”

1966: “Nashville Business College is dominant! Five AAU titles in a row, with no signs of stopping. Is the sport growing?

And with that, we wrap up 50 years of a sport. Pretty much tells the whole story, right? Yeah … not exactly. 

Mechelle: Rueck builds Beavers into national contender

She stood on the line with seven seconds left in the game, and a chance to give Oregon State a three-point lead against Baylor. Beavers junior guard Sydney Wiese wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’d missed one of two free throws 26 seconds earlier. Nor was she saying to herself, “This is for the Final Four. You absolutely MUST make these.”

Instead, the word that went through Wiese’s mind was this: driveway.

In case you missed it: Collier is UW women’s basketball team’s inspiration

Katie Collier loves her long blonde hair. Of course, when Collier learned she had contracted a form of cancer, the first question she posed to doctors had nothing to do with the possibility of losing her hair during chemotherapy.

“That was my second question!” Collier recalled with one of her frequent laughs.

Collier’s first question was a tad more serious: “Am I going to die?”

Five years after doctors told she would never play basketball again because of leukemia, and four years after her first season of college basketball was delayed a year by major knee surgery, Collier is the starting center for the Washington Huskies.

Shaq cheers for ‘niece’ on Syracuse women’s basketball team heading to Final Four

Lee Michaelson has a longform piece on the Beavers: Oregon State’s first-ever trip to the Final Four is “pinch me stuff,” Beavers top Baylor in Elite Eight and head to Indy

 “This is pinch me stuff; there are no other words for it,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck as his second-seeded Beavers advanced to the first Final Four in school history after upsetting top-seeded Baylor, 60-57, to win the Elite Eight in the Dallas Regional on Monday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Someone had better notify the Indianapolis Newcomers Club:  The Beavers now head to Indiana, where they will join two other Final Four debutantes, fourth-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Washington, along with the overwhelming favorite and overall top seed in the tournament, reigning champion University of Connecticut, in the national semifinals on Sunday, April 3.

Elizabeth Merrill has a longform piece on Stewart: Being Breanna Stewart

Maybe Stewart is too close to fully appreciate it right now. On the surface, she is perfect. She is so good and does things so effortlessly that sometimes it looks as if she’s not trying hard enough.

Auriemma, in fact, believes she’s not trying hard enough. He’s always on her about her defense. It’s been that way for four years. If she were an infant learning to speak, she’d swear that “Stewie, Get In Your Stance” was her name.

That’s what actually led to her recent icy spell with Auriemma. Around midseason, she gave up three straight baskets to a player who Auriemma claims was at least 4 inches shorter than Stewart. The game, mind you, was a blowout.

That doesn’t matter, he says. “You can either go through life now and say, ‘Well, we won by 40,’ or you can say every night, ‘I owe it to myself and to all these people who are coming here and my teammates and everybody to live up to my expectations.’

Check out Lessons From Layshia: Tournament Time Double Standard

Now, I get it. UConn has been dominant. Historically, women’s basketball has lacked parity. But this was a #1 vs #16 seed matchup. This is exactly what is supposed to happen, which is why we care about upsets, it strays from the norm.

I looked but I couldn’t find anyone saying the same after #1 Kansas beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 or #1 Oregon beat #16 Holy Cross 91-52. It wasn’t a story. It was predictable. Everyone moved on.

But maybe the most upsetting about this narrative being pushed is that there’s been a ton of upsets for the women this year. In the same way it started out as the year of the 12 seeds on the men’s side, it mirrored that on the women’s side.

WNIT!

Semis are set, and they oughta be doozies

Wednesday, 8pm, ESPN3: Oregon v. South Dakota IN Vermillion

 A ‘unique opportunity.’

That was the main theme for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team on Tuesday, a day after the Coyotes learned they would be hosting a high-major team in the WNIT.

That’s right, Oregon will be playing at the DakotaDome tonight (Wednesday) in the 7 p.m. semifinals.

It’s certainly not the first high-major team to play in Vermillion, but it’s one of the most notable.

Thursday, 8om, ESPN2: Michigan v. FGCU IN Fort Meyers

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball has made no secret about its motivation this postseason.

FGCU felt spurned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. As a result, the Eagles are taking their frustration out on the rest of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

In other news:

Bye: UK women’s basketball’s Ivana Jakubcova decides to transfer

Bye: Joan Bonvicini resigns as coach of Seattle

Hello: Kansas top scorer Lauren Aldridge transfers to Missouri

Hello: Alabama lands transfer from UT Martin, three-time OVC Freshman of the Week DaiJia Ruffin

Hello: South Dakota State lands transfer from Iowa, forward Tagyn Larson

Congrats: Georgia’s Joni Taylor named 2016 Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year

Congrats: Columbia University Hires Megan Griffith ’07CC As Head Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Badgers sports: Board of Regents set to approve contracts for Tony Granato, Jonathan Tsipis

Congrats: Payne Named Colorado Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Kenny Brooks Will Lead Tech’s Women’s Basketball Program

Congrats: Colgate Athletics has named Bill Cleary to its head women’s basketball coaching position.

Dicey: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb faces ‘evaluation process’

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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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How much fun was THAT?

Upset 1: DePaul over Louisville, 73-72

Graham: Bruno ball does it again as DePaul reaches another Sweet 16 and  How DePaul knocked out third-seeded Louisville

DePaul wasn’t sure where it was going on the first possession of a second-round game against Louisville, confusion on the tip resulting in an over-and-back violation, but the Blue Demons know where they’re going now. The Sweet 16 awaits after a 73-72 win.

The Blue Demons found their bearings and roared to another hot first half in the tournament, then held on for dear life against the Cardinals and most of a crowd of 7,515 in the KFC Yum! Center.

Swish Appeal: 

“We’re not sitting completely engaged in the process, as I always tell them. You can’t cheat it.” Coach Walz discussed his team’s performance, “You cheat the process, you’re going to get beat. It might work for you for a while, but eventually it’s going to catch up with you. And that’s really what took place tonight.”

Jonathan Lintner: ‘50-50 call’ dooms U of L in DePaul defeat and  Cards’ comeback comes up short against DePaul

Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz presented his team two options heading into Sunday: Play better defense and move on to the Sweet 16, or pack up this season and start immediately working for the next.

The No. 3 seed Cardinals received the message too late in the going to salvage their NCAA tournament run…

Josh Abner, AP: DePaul beats Louisville 73-72 behind January’s 25 points

Jessica January’s strong start put her team ahead but it was her last point that sent DePaul to the Sweet 16.

Upset 2: Mississippi State over Michigan State
Michael Bonner, Lansing State Journal: Season ends in agony for MSU women

 A contest that included 51 fouls ended with an official review. Just not the review Michigan State desired.

The officials met at the scorer’s table as Mississippi State’s band played its fight song after a 74-72 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans laid sprawled across the court in the disappointment of defeat.

Tommy Lopez, AP/WCBI.com: Mississippi State Women’s Basketball On To Sweet 16 After Win Over Michigan State

Mississippi State’s Breanna Richardson had made a grand total of two 3-pointers this season before catching a pass and launching a 20-footer in the most important minute of her team’s most important game.

There was never any hesitation. It looked good the entire way.

It went in.

And it was the defining play in fifth-seeded Mississippi State’s victory over No. 4 seed Michigan State.

Lady Bulldogs knock off Michigan State 74-72 in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

“I couldn’t be prouder today,” Mississippi State women’s head basketball coach Vic Schaefer. “We played a heck of a basketball game against an unbelievable opponent, Michigan State. They are a tremendous basketball team, well coached. They are resilient and tough. “I say all of that and our kids were a little bit more. I couldn’t be prouder of the toughness our kids showed today.”

Upset 3: Tennessee over Arizona State. A Phoenix Grows In Arizona?

Or, as Dan Fleser writes:

Tennessee blossomed in the desert Sunday night.

The Lady Vols summoned their best team effort of the season. They looked nothing like a No. 7 seed in a 75-64 NCAA tournament victory over No. 2 seed Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena.

Diamond DeShields scored a game-high 24 points for Tennessee (21-13), which shot 51.8 percent from the floor (29-for-56) and never trailed after the first quarter.

Mechelle: 

A little less than a month after it looked as if Tennessee’s season was going down in infamy — with the possibility of the Lady Vols not making the NCAA tournament for the first time — they are instead headed back to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

Tennessee has experienced a lot of lows in 2015-16, so the Lady Vols had to relish Sunday’s 75-64 upset of No. 2 seed Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ home court at Wells Fargo Arena.

Swish Appeal: Victory is Sweet (16): Deshields, Tennessee knockout ASU

Scott Mammoser, Examiner: Tennessee wins grueling NCAA second round game at Arizona State

For the 34th time in the 35-year history of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the Sweet 16 will include the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Coming in as the underdog, the seventh-seeded Lady Vols (21-13) won at second-seeded Arizona State (26-7) in the second round Sunday, 75-64, behind Diamond DeShields’ 24 points.

“Any time we had any kind of miscue, they took advantage of it in any way,” said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose team fell to Florida State in the Sweet 16 in 2015. “We did not play our best basketball. It was a great challenge and a fun game.”

No upset (but you were thinking it): Ohio State over West Virginia, 88-81

Mechelle: How Kelsey Mitchell went wild to lift Ohio State

Ohio State made it to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in program history, but it took a huge effort from the Buckeyes sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell. No surprise there: She specializes in that.

Mitchell scored 45 points as the No. 3 seed Buckeyes held off No. 6 seed West Virginia 88-81. It was the fourth-highest total in an NCAA tournament women’s game, following Drake’s Lorri Bauman with 50 in the 1982 Elite Eight, Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes with 47 in the 1993 championship game, and Stanford’s Jayne Appel’s 46 in the 2009 regional final.

Eleven Warriors: 

Ohio State has a special basketball player that many are taking for granted. Sophomore Kelsey Mitchell is rewriting the Buckeye record books and somehow flying a bit under the radar on the greater OSU sports landscape.

It would be a lie to say Mitchell is doing it quietly, as she is quite well known by those who follow women’s hoops. But, compared to the big revenue sports, Mitchell’s media footprint isn’t nearly what her talents merit.

The Lantern: Ohio State women’s basketball capitalizes on West Virginia’s mistakes, punches ticket to Sweet 16

The Ohio State women’s basketball team nearly limped into the NCAA tournament following a pair of excruciating end-of-the-season overtime losses, a semifinal exit from the Big Ten tournament and an untimely injury to senior guard Ameryst Alston.

The odds of advancing deep in the NCAA tournament are usually unfavorable to teams that have problems pile up in March, but the Buckeyes have been resilient despite facing adversity. On Sunday afternoon at St. John Arena, the pressure was at its peak with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Despite a back-and-forth struggle with sixth-seeded West Virginia, the Mountaineers eventually fell victim to their plethora of turnovers, with the 27th and final one pounding the nail in their coffin.

Kelsey Mitchell’s 45 points lead Ohio State to first Sweet 16 since 2011

Mitchell’s 45 points lift Buckeyes past error-prone West Virginia

“It’s hard to guard somebody when they keep coming at you,” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “It puts a lot of pressure on the referee because she comes right at you. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do as a defensive player. I don’t know, just stop? Hopefully they charge, but I don’t know what you’re supposed to do.

“We can’t let people go to the line 22 times. I’m not saying they were bad calls, I’m not saying that. It’s just tough to defend when someone comes straight at you off a drive.”

Can’t retire yet Jim Massie.

As seeded: Syracuse over Albany

Lindsay Kramer, Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball beats Albany to earn trip to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is going to its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in program history.

Syracuse (27-7) punched that ticket with a 76-59 win over Albany in a Sioux Falls Regional second-round game in the Carrier Dome.

Brittney Sykes led the way for SU with 24 while Alexis Peterson had 22.

TWC News: UAlbany Women’s Basketball Ends NCAA Tournament Run with Loss to Syracuse

“A lot of people didn’t believe we would make it this far,” senior Shereesha Richards said. “And we have we beat the odds. And it’s sad that we lost but we have accomplished so much this year and there’s more positive to look on then there is negative.”

Albany Times Union: UAlbany women’s season ends with 76-59 NCAA loss at Syracuse

The magical season for the University at Albany women’s basketball team has ended, and with it the careers of seniors Shereesha Richards and Erin Coughlin.

Syracuse overcame a sluggish start and forced UAlbany into 23 turnovers Sunday afternoon en route to a 76-59 victory over the Great Danes in a second-round game of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in front of 3,832 at the Carrier Dome.

As seeded: Oregon State over St. Bonaventure, 69-40 (though the first half was if-ish for the Beavers).

Gina Mizell, Oregoninan: Oregon State cruises past St. Bonaventure 69-40 to advance to Sweet 16

It was over when: The Beavers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to quickly push its lead to 38-21. That only foreshadowed the dominant period to come for OSU, outscoring the Bonnies 21-4 as its advantage grew to as many as 27 points when freshman reserve Taylor Kalmer drilled a three-pointer in the final minute of the period.

Gary Horowitz, Statesman-Journal: OSU seniors secure Sweet 16 berth in final home game and Oregon State women heading to Sweet 16

“What a night,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “We’ve been waiting for this and for the opportunity. I’m so proud of this team. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The memory of a painful second-round loss to Gonzaga at Gill last season was a source of motivation for OSU the entire season.

“It feels better this year for sure,” said senior guard Jamie Weisner, who scored a game-high 23 points. “I think last year at this time I was in the locker room crying. It was over.

Building the Dam: Oregon State Rolls On To Sweet 16

It was a grind early, as Oregon State shot terribly to start the game, making only 4 of their first 15 shots, including missing 7 in a row at one point, and though the Beavers never trailed, they only opened a 5 point, 13-8 lead when Marie Gulich got a put back basket at the buzzer.

But there were 2 key takeaways from the early going. Oregon State got balance, with points from 4 starters, Ruth Hamblin, Gabriella Hanson, Sidney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner in their first 4 baskets. It was an indication of the balance that would strain St. Bonaventure all evening.

Swish Appeal: Weisner’s ‘enormous presence’ looms large for OSU

Takin’ Care of Business!

Baylor stomped all over Auburn.

Stephen Hawkins, AP: Baylor women rout Auburn to make another Sweet 16

With Nina Davis open in the middle, everything went just as planned for the Baylor women. and they are going to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the eighth year in a row.

Davis scored a season high-matching 30 points, and freshman post Kalani Brown had 16 points as the Lady Bears beat the Auburn press all night while avoiding being trapped in an 84-52 victory Sunday.

WacoTrib: Lady Bears ease by Auburn

Matthew Stevens, Montgomery Advertiser: Unbearable! Baylor dominates Auburn 84-52 in NCAA Tournament

Baylor didn’t waste any time in ending all hope for an Auburn upset Sunday night.

The top seeded Lady Bears scored 19 of the first 21 points as Auburn lost 84-52 in a 2016 NCAA Tournament second round game at the Ferrell Center. The loss represented the largest margin of defeat for Auburn throughout the entire 2015-16 season.

South Carolina stomped all over Kansas State.

David Cloninger, The State: Mitchell super as Gamecocks beat Kansas State, head to Sweet 16

Didn’t think she’d leave that red cape home this time of year, did you? 

As she has throughout her career, South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell saved the Gamecocks’ day in a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. 

The one they call “Superwoman” took over when SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson was on the bench with two quick fouls in the first quarter, scoring 16 first-half points and directing USC once more into the Sweet 16.

One by one, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley took her five seniors out for rim-rattling ovations from a crowd of 10,048.

“Because we’re playing our best basketball,” Staley said Sunday night after a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, “we afforded ourselves the chance to be able to salute and honor our seniors in that manner.”

We knew it was going to be a long shot. South Carolina came into this one with one loss all season, to top-ranked UConn (a game they lost by only 12 points). The Lady Gamecocks are GOOD, talented and well coached. And, thanks to NCAA venue procedure for women’s basketball, they even get to play at home. So the deck was already stacked.

That K-State was only down by five at the end of the first quarter was actually fairly impressive.

WNIT:

Ohio (MAC) over Virginia Tech (ACC), 64-57… reminder, the Bobcats won the regular season title…and this is their second WNIT win. Ever.

Virginia (ACC) over (and at) Rutgers (Big 10), 71-55. Pretty disappointing post-game comment from coach Stringer: “We should’ve just taken a forfeit.” Virginia highlights:

Temple (American) over (and at) Quinnipiac (MAAC), 64-62.

South Dakota (Summit) over (and at)  Banham Minnesota (Big 10), 101-89…reminder, the Coyotes won the regular season title.

 It’s a well-known fact that Rachel Banham has had one of the best careers that you can have, and that she alone can cause problems, but South Dakota wanted to prove that they were a formidable force, too.

They did just that, and now the Coyotes have a chance to get some revenge for an early-season loss against Northern Iowa.

Monday Games:

6:30: Indiana v. Notre Dame – Ready or not, Indiana gets shot at Notre Dame
6:30: Washington v. Maryland – Maryland, Washington: Opposites attract in 2nd round women’s matchup
6:30: Oklahoma v. Kentucky – Previewing the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament game vs. Kentucky
6:30: Florida State v. Texas A&M – Texas A&M’s Howard and FSU’s Thomas key in 2nd round matchup

9:00: UConn v. Duquesne – Duquesne coach Burt says key is not to let UConn ‘dominate your soul’,
9:00: Missouri v. Texas – Texas Aims to Climb Missouri’s Tall Wall
9:00: South Florida v. UCLA – UCLA women must slow down South Florida’s Courtney Williams in second round
9:00: South Dakota State v. Stanford – Michelle: Jackrabbits jump at chance to battle Stanford for Sweet 16 spot

Tulane v. Georgia Tech, 7PM
Wake Forest v. Florida Gulf Coast, 7PM
Ball State v. Saint Louis, 8PM
Tennessee-Martin v. Western Kentucky, 8PM
Arkansas State v. UTEP, 9PM
Utah v. Gonzaga, 9PM
Fresno State v. Oregon, 9PM

In other news:

WATN? Former WNBA Ball Handling Queen Shannon Bobbitt coming to town

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HISTORY

I know about Ora Mae Washington… but too many people do not. Thank you to Steven J. Niven at The Root for doing some much needed research and laying out some of her story. Queen of the Courts: How Ora Washington Helped Philly ‘Forget the Depression’ 

Philadelphians had little to cheer about in the winter of 1932. Over 250,000 people—a quarter of the workforce—were unemployed, many more were working part time, and thousands had lost their savings with the collapse of several banks. For black Philadelphians, the Great Depression was even worse. Only 13 percent enjoyed full-time employment, 45 percent were unemployed and 42 percent worked only part time. More than one-third of black families were on poor relief, and in one African-American neighborhood, two-thirds of the homes had no indoor plumbing and half had no central heating

But that February and March of 1932, amid the economic gloom and real suffering, black Philadelphians were gripped by a basketball tournament to determine the best African-American women’s team in the city, as well as the nation. The local black newspaper perhaps exaggerated in promising the matchup between the Germantown Hornets and the Philadelphia Tribunes would make the city “forget the Depression,” but the same ad was surely correct in describing the series as a battle between “two of the greatest girl players in the world”: Inez Patterson of the Tribunes and Ora Washington of the Hornets.

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DANCE!!!”

h/t do AP’s Doug Feinberg (and to his colleague Will Graves for doing the leg work and tabulating – ’cause this has been a GOOD trend this tourney): Duquesne, Buffalo Among First-Timers in NCAA Women’s Tourney

In a flash, anxiety became joy. Belief morphed into reality. The slow steady rise from obscurity to respectability validated in an instant. The free T-shirts that read “Duquesne’s Going Dancing” transformed from wishful thinking to truth in advertising.

Welcome to the madness, Dukes. You too, Central Arkansas, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Iona. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament isn’t just for the blue bloods anymore.

All five programs will make their NCAA debuts this weekend after earning their first-ever tournament berths, a watershed moment for schools who have spent the last three decades relegated to watching the madness play out on TV without them.

Speaking of Blue Bloods: Duke women’s basketball not in NCAA Tournament for 1st time in 21 years

Joseph Zucker at Bleacher Report has NCAA Women’s Basketball Bracket 2016: Results, Seeds, Reaction and Analysis

Jay Drew at the Salt Lake Tribune: No. 7 seed BYU draws Missouri in NCAA Tournament

Missouri (21-9) is making its first trip to the tournament in 10 years, while BYU (26-6) is in March Madness for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons. The Tigers lost their final two regular season games before falling 47-45 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament on March 3.

“I am happy [with the seeding],” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “I think we got what we deserved. I think if we had won the [WCC] tournament, we would have been a little bit higher, but I feel really good about playing Missouri. I have seen them play a little bit and it will be a good matchup for us.”

Adrian Szkola from Lo(wer) Hud(son): Iona draws Maryland in NCAA tournament

In the days leading up to Selection Monday, Iona women’s basketball head coach Billi Godsley made it a point to not pay any attention to the bracket predictions.

Seeing how her players reacted to when Kentucky’s opponent was revealed on ESPN’s selection show, it’s pretty obvious they didn’t do the same.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme had projected Kentucky to face off against Iona in his last bracketology update.  Iona’s players let out an “oohh” when it was revealed that No. 3 Kentucky would play No. 14 UNC-Asheville at Lexington, Kentucky.

Ken Klimek from the Notre Dame Insider: Notre Dame women get a pleasant geographical surprise

“It’s exciting to go to Lexington, but we have to focus on the first two games and do our job on those,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We have to be all business and I am sure the seniors will take care of that. Being a No. 1 seed takes a lot of work. This team makes it look easy, but they put in a lot of work all season. So does the staff.”

Mitch Blomert from the Waco Tribune: 

All year long, the Baylor women have worn green bracelets with the inscription of a message that has carried them this season: “eight is not enough,” referring to the team’s back-to-back Elite Eight exits in the 2014 and ’15 NCAA tournaments.

The Lady Bears are back in the big dance, and the path to their goal of a Final Four appearance has been paved. Now they just have to stay alive to get there.

Dave Cloninger at The State: Gamecocks earn third straight No. 1 seed

It hasn’t been a great two days for South Carolina basketball and the NCAA Tournament selection committees.

A day after the Gamecocks’ men’s team was snubbed by the tournament, USC’s women’s team was placed in the Sioux Falls Regional. While the Gamecocks earned their third straight No. 1 seed and open the NCAA Tournament at home, they would have to play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds in South Dakota, should they advance.

“It’s pretty surprising, but at the same time, we’re not on the committee. We weren’t in a room, so we don’t know what was behind it,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “But we got to do our job. Our job is to open up on Friday night and take care of our business.”

Richard Deitsch and Lindsay Schnell from Sports Illustrated ask  Can South Carolina escape Sioux Falls? and  Can No. 1 Baylor survive Dallas region? and say NCAA women’s tournament: UConn is the team to beat again

Evan McCullers from The Plainsman: Women’s basketball makes NCAA Tournament field

A year after winning only three SEC games, the Auburn women’s basketball team is going to play on the sport’s biggest stage for the first time since 2009.

NEC: Robert Morris

“Playing UConn defines the word challenge. In the history of all sports, one could really give a good argument that UConn women’s basketball team is the most dominant ever in the history of sports,” said RMU head coach Sal Buscaglia. “You’re not talking about one or two titles, you’re talking about 10 national titles.
 
“We’re really happy for the opportunity and the challenge. This is an exciting moment in these young women’s lives no matter what happens in the game. We’re just going to take this one possession at a time, prepare the same way we always do, but obviously this is a major David vs. Goliath scenario. I know our players will give everything they have on that court. It’s about the process and the journey and going to play Connecticut is something they’ll be able to tell their kids and grandkids that they did.”

More on Morris: Colonials relish opportunity to play undefeated UConn

Sean Star from the Reporter Herald: Colorado State women’s basketball headed West for NCAA Tournament

Finally, the Rams got to sit back, relax and enjoy everything they’ve accomplished all season.

Because up until now, they’ve been too busy keeping their heads down and focused on the next task.

Not this time.

This time the Colorado State women’s basketball team soaked it all in during its NCAA Tournament selection show watch party on Monday.

Michael Epps from the Detroit News : Spartans women’s NCAA vision comes to fruition

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant had her team watch the selection show together last year and see their team not make the NCAA Tournament.

A chip on their shoulder? That’s an understatement.

“I was on the team last year, and I know how disappointing it was to watch a selection show and know that we weren’t going to come up,” junior guard Tori Jankoska said. “Coach Merchant told us that this wasn’t to punish us, but to show us where we should be and we need to see ourselves next year.”

Jonathan Lintner from the Courier-Journal: Some drama with U of L women’s NCAA draw

“I would have loved it for our fans,” Walz said of the regional assignment in a phone interview after the selection, “but we have to win the first two games first. I’m not really big on getting ahead of myself. We have to come out and get ready to play the 2:30 game Friday. Hopefully a lot of businesses downtown can just do a half day of work and let their employees come to the game.

“It’s one of those things we knew could happen. I completely understand. If the committee wanted to put Kentucky in Lexington, it makes sense. Unfortunately for our fans, it’s not as easy of a drive — or a flight — trying to get to Dallas.

Lindsay Kramaer from Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball planning NCAA Tournament trip well beyond Carrier Dome

“Obviously, it’s good to be home,” said Orange coach Quentin Hillsman, who is taking his team to its fourth straight NCAA party. “That’s all we wanted to do is have our opportunity to play home. We didn’t really care who it was. We just wanted to have a home game and be able to play in the Dome in front of our fans. We’re just excited that we’re not packing our bags and going in the road.”

If Syracuse wins two games it will gladly break out the luggage. Success in the Dome means advancement to the Sweet 16 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a possible showdown against No. 1 seed South Carolina. Syracuse has never reached the Sweet 16.

Joey Knight from the Tampa Bay Times : USF women happy about seed, puzzled by placement in NCAA Tournament

From Dan Wolken over at USA Today: South Carolina’s Dawn Staley emerging as new face of women’s basketball

It is just past 10 a.m. the morning after another big victory, but things are not going well for one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Dawn Staley’s regular pickup game with a collection of managers, graduate assistants and South Carolina compliance officials has suddenly become less friendly than just a few minutes earlier when she was gathering everyone for a group selfie and joyfully screaming to hype herself up.

Nobody is running harder at both ends of the floor than Staley, the fireball point guard for three Olympic gold medal teams, three Final Four teams at Virginia and six WNBA All-Star games. But at 45, she relies less these days on her quickness and passing than making sure the background music in the gym is right.

“We need Beyonce!” she yells as a manager goes scurrying to his iPod with Staley’s team suddenly behind 15-6.

Find USAToday’s tournament coverage here.

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I’m no bracket expert, so I’ll defer to Charlie who, in the end, defers to the Selection Committee… but DePaul’s loss popped a couple of bubbles and so, methinks, did the Dons stunning upset of BYU. “No. 6 seed San Francisco rallied from a 15-point first-quarter deficit, took its first lead with 17.2 seconds left and held on to knock off the Cougars, 70-68.

“Wow. What a game. Our team fought so hard tonight,” said USF coach Jennifer Azzi. “BYU’s an incredible program, an amazing team. When you get down 10-0 you go, ‘Oh no.’”

Not that Azzi was necessarily surprised by what her team was able to do.

“You do have to have luck to get to this point,” she said. “This is what we’ve wanted for years. So I don’t think any of us are actually shocked by it because it’s been what we’ve been working towards. But certainly, the stars have to be aligned.”

Longtime readers of the WHB know we’ve been tracking Jennifer Azzi’s effort to rebuild the San Francisco program. Clearly, the Dons have gotten better under her leadership… but the WCC is (as ye longtime readers know) no joke. There’s Gonzaga, then BYU, then Saint Mary’s and now Santa Clara… so breaking into the NCAA is bloody challenging. But, her team met the challenge and are going dancin’ for the first time since 1997.

Remember what was happening in 1997? Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Elton John… and the WNBA. Which means Kurt Kragthorpe can write: an Ex-Utah Starzz guard outwits BYU’s Judkins in WCC final

The former point guard for the Utah Starzz of the WNBA outcoached ex-Utah Jazz forward Jeff Judkins at the end of a game that left Azzi “absolutely, honestly, speechless right now,” she said.

The Dons took down each of the WCC’s top three seeds in reverse order — and less spectacular fashion as they went along, actually. USF’s run began with Taylor Proctor’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against San Diego, then the Dons topped Saint Mary’s and BYU by two points each.

Summit Final: It was a tight battle between the South Dakotas. In the end the Jackrabbits upset the Coyotes, 61-55. That’s SDSU’s 7th trip to the NCAA in the last 8 years. BTW: A total of 8,647 fans packed the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting a record for a women’s Summit League championship.

Ivy: Penn, on Princeton’s home court, claimed their spot in this year’s Big Dance.

The Princeton women’s basketball team has lost seven Ivy League games in the last seven seasons. Penn won its second Ivy title in three seasons Wednesday night at Jadwin Gym, beating the Tigers, 62-60, in a game the Quakers led from late in the first quarter until the final two minutes. Penn gave up the lead for exactly 15 seconds, got it back on a three-point play from Anna Ross, the most skilled player on the court, and held it to the wire.

“As I just told my players you don’t get these opportunities too many times in sports to celebrate something like this,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just talked about some space being at the Palestra for them.”

Big East Final: I know the ESPN blurb says “St. John’s wins Big East title for 1st time since ’88” and it’s great for the Red Storm and New York basketball… but the headline is a bit disingenuous, dontcha think? (Yes, I’m still bitter the Old Big East is gone.) BUT, kudos to Creighton and congrats to St. John’s – ya took down the top dog and then earned a spot at in the Dance.

Big 12 Final: So, how good is Baylor lookin’? Ask Kim.

“Honestly, we’ve been playing pretty good, and I wish we could just keep playing,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You hate to stop and take a break, for fear that you can’t get back to where you just finished these last two or three weeks, because we’ve really played good basketball.”

Alexis Jones, who scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games. Beatrice Mompremier scored 15 points, and Niya Johnson added 11 for Baylor (33-1), which swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.

American Final: Stompity, stomp, stomp by UConn.

“If we play defense the way we played it tonight, we’re always going to have a chance,” Auriemma said. “Then how much we win by depends on how many shots go in for us.”

The shots were going in for Samuelson in the second quarter and she finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman nights like this make UConn fans dream that, yes, Samuelson has what it takes to be the next great player. “Stewy is obviously a lot more gifted, she can do so many more things,” Auriemma said. “But Lou has a different way of doing kind of the same things. The thing I like is if you challenge Lou really, really hard she responds. Those are the ones who usually turn out to be really good players, the ones who early on when you get after them they don’t wilt. They come of stronger.”

Oh, boy, opponents must love reading they have to look forward to.

Mechelle writes about those top four seeds: 

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue — if not downright doubt — about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn’t happen.

In progress conference tourneys had a couple of early upsets:

C-USA– First Round: North Texas (11-18, 5-13), who got our attention early in the season, faltered down the home stretch. That stop them from taking down Florida Atlantic (14-16, 6-12), 79-74. It’s the program’s first post-season win since 2011-12.

“I’m ecstatic to get a good team win,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it’s pretty balanced and everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance. Everything that we did helped us to get to this point”

C-USA – First Round: There’s lots of really upsetting news swirling around Florida International (5-25, 2-16). But, under interim head coach Tiara Malcom, the managed to pull it together and surprise Texas San Antonio (10-19, 6-12), 61-56.

Tomorrow games:

NEC Semis: Hello, old friend! Bryant v. Robert Morris; Sacred Heart v. St. Francis (PA)

Mountain West Semi: New Mexico v. #22 Colorado State

A-Sun Semis: FGCU v. old rival Stetson; upstart Jacksonville State v. South Carolina Upstate

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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I was kind thinking that was what was going to happen. A tad disappointing, sure, for those who hoped for a better match. But damn, there was some beautiful basketball on display, wasn’t there? The game was worth that jab step-drive by by MoJeff.

From Graham:

“We weren’t settling,” Stewart said. “We were really attacking them. We knew that we could drive past some of their bigs. We got the shots that we wanted. And we knocked them down.”

And the biggest presence on the court was the player who ran that offense, the smallest player on a court of giants.

With the first half winding to a close, Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson dribbled at the top of the key, calm but balanced on the balls of her feet. In front of her stood South Carolina’s Tina Roy and, more distant, two tiers of Connecticut students in the stands of Gampel Pavilion. The rumble of voices started to build even before Jefferson completed the crossover that left her defender helpless. It crescendoed into a roar as she exploded to the basket and finished.

UConn Women Make A No. 1 Statement Against South Carolina, Courant

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies (23-1) with 23 points. She drained five more three-pointers. Breanna Stewart added 22. She had eight rebounds. And Morgan Tuck scored 17 points.

Still it was Moriah Jefferson, with 16 points, six assists and two steals, who brought the blowtorch on this cold and snowy night. With the exhilaration and creativity that has come to define her career, she slipped her tiny body into every seemingly inaccessible crevice South Carolina left open.

Auriemma Likes These Competitive Matchups, Courant

“People are afraid to play these games in February because what happens if we lose? They are afraid of the aftermath. I look forward to the aftermath. I am going to be a lot happier Tuesday morning than I was Monday night. … That’s what coaching is, to help your players understand the significance of everything. That’s how we treat it here.”

Photos: No. 1 South Carolina At No. 2 UConn Women, Courant
UConn women hand top-ranked South Carolina first loss, Register

“We had something to prove to ourselves more than anything to show that despite all the teams that we were playing and blowing out, people saying we didn’t have the competition,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a game-high 23 points to go with four steals as UConn improved to 17-3 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups. “We just wanted to show that we could stand up for and (rise) to the occasion.”

UConn women’s basketball up for this ‘challenge’, Boston Globe

Generally one play doesn’t summarize a game, yet it did Monday night at Gampel Pavilion when the UConn women’s basketball team apparently was supposed to be threatened by undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina.

With just over 11 minutes remaining and the No. 2 Huskies on a fast break, All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis received a trailing pass from point guard Moriah Jefferson and found tiny point guard Tiffany Mitchell defending her.

Mosqueda-Lewis used her bulk, flicked Mitchell to the floor like a mosquito and then drained a 3-pointer.

Women’s showdown: No. 2 UConn humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Philadelphia Inquirer

The final score was 87-62. Afterward, answering the first question, Staley used the word “efficient” a couple of times to best describe UConn. 

“They think about who should shoot the ball and who should have the ball in their hands, and they’re patient enough to wait for it,” Staley said. “It makes basketball a beautiful thing to see.”

UConn Sends Message With a Rout of No. 1 South Carolina, NY Times

As the lead grew, South Carolina’s bigger players started to look winded. UConn’s, spurred on by an announced crowd of 10,167 that braved a New England snowstorm to watch the show, seemed to get fresher.

Stewart called it a statement game, a chance to show the rest of the country that the Huskies — who play in the lightly regarded, and sometimes derided, American Athletic Conference — can contend with the best teams that power leagues like the Gamecocks’ Southeastern Conference have to offer. Mosqueda-Lewis said plainly, “We’re as good as people think we are.”

UConn proves it is clear-cut No. 1 team in demolition of South Carolina, SI

“When you compare UConn to some other programs, they are sharp, efficient and there is no fat to what they do,” Staley said. “We have a 24-hour rule. We will be dejected for 24 hours and then we have to move on.”

Unbeaten no more: No. 2 UConn women’s team humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Sporting News
UConn women hand South Carolina its first loss of the season, CBS Sports
It’s UConn and everyone else – again, AggieSports.com, The Eagle

I thought South Carolina would give UConn a game, maybe even win. UConn was impressive, so impressive it was bad for the women’s game. It looks like another year where everyone is else playing for second. South Carolina seemingly had proven to be a worthy challenger. But, UConn won by 25 points, 25 points? Can anyone beat UConn?

1 Done: Huskies maul Gamecocks, The State

“We’re tied for first in our conference, and we don’t want to lose sight of being a really good basketball team,” Staley said. “That’s what we are.”

The loss stung, as it should have. It was their worst since 2011.

But there’s a lot of basketball to be played. Asked if they’d like to play UConn again, Staley and her players interrupted each other.

“Absolutely. Of course.”

Fans turn out for Gamecocks at Vista bar, The State
Video: A’ja Wilson quizzes Geno Auriemma, The State
Video: Mechelle & Michelle on the game, ESPN
Sapakoff: Gamecocks will benefit from Rivalry 101 lesson at UConn, Charleston Post and Courier

The only thing better than No. 1 vs. No. 2 pitting the established power with nine NCAA championships against new kids on the title contender block is a long, loud series.

Round Two is tentatively scheduled for the Final Four in Tampa.

A certain meeting will happen next season in Columbia.

“This is absolutely part of our journey,” Staley said. “In order to accomplish some milestones that we have this particular year, this is part of our journey. I think each and every time we need to learn a lesson.

“This isn’t a destination game for us. We have a lot of basketball left to play.”

There’s an interesting question for those with better basketball brains in their heads than mine: Is UConn in the American the next LaTech, or is UConn in the American the next UConn? The Huskies pretty much stomped all over their Big East opponents, minus a couple of hiccups (Rutgers, Villanova) and the Dearly Departed Diggins-led Irish. And, despite not playing against “challenging” competition, UConn still managed to rack up the Championships.

Fast-forward to last night: Connecticut beat the (current) best team in the SEC. How do folks think they would fare against South Carolina’s fellow conference-mates?

So, if no other conference poaches UConn, will the women’s basketball program continue to thrive? Or, as Jere’ posits, will the (sometime in the future) departure of Auriemma defeat the program (the way, perhaps, Mulkey’s departure signaled the “end” of the LaTech as a powerhouse program)?

In other news:

Ooops! Did Norfolk State take their eyes off the prize?

Nice to read: Large crowd signals continued resurgence of UMaine women’s basketball team

Fans of the University of Maine women’s basketball program have for several years been yearning for a team in which they can believe.

Finally, the Black Bears and their supporters are enjoying that winning feeling.

The most recent evidence supporting UMaine’s return to prominence was Sunday’s 63-45 victory over Hartford. It came in front of an announced crowd of 3,287 fans at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

“Oh my gosh. There was like 3,000-something. Wow!” UMaine junior Liz Wood said after she increased her career point total to 1,006 with an 11-point effort.

Deja vu in New Jersey: Tony Bozzella, Seton Hall bringing excitement back to Walsh Gymnasium

Equally nice to read: From Jeff Metcalfe, Present, future bright for ASU women’s basketball

“Charli (Turner Thorne) is doing a great job with her team,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I am very impressed with how well they are playing. They are playing with a lot more purpose than I remember them. I think that is a real credit to her and what she’s doing.”

Was wondering who’d be lucky enough to land this Aussie: LA Sparks sign Australian center Marianna Tolo

So you think you can shoot? Or write? From Swish Appeal: A call for new writers and photographers

With a h/t to Sue: Talking about men’s and women’s sports differently

Much of what we see in the plot is not terribly surprising. There are numerous gender specific words dominating the top spaces in the women’s articles and many of the middle positions for the men. It’s nonetheless interesting to consider that gender-specific terms are even more key for the women than for the men. In other words, for female-specific words like she there’s a greater difference between the articles about men’s and women’s basketball than there is for male-specific words like he. This seems to be caused by the fact that men’s basketball is an all men’s zone with not only the players but also the other major actors like the coaches, referees, commentators, etc. being male. Hence, words for women rarely show up. In contrast, many of the coaches and other actors in women’s basketball are men.

The presence of the word girls in the top 20 is also quite striking, especially since the corresponding boys does not appear in the men’s list. We might expect to see the use of the term girls applying to the players, and it does sometimes, usually used in quotations from coaches and the players themselves,

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