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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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So, I’d posit that upsets in the Sweet Sixteen are less likely, especially if you’ve had upsets in the 32, simply because the disparity in talent (on the court – height and speed in particular) is still wonky in the women’s game. But, that didn’t stop Maryland and North Carolina. And BYU sure gave it a shot.

BYU was composed and confident and UConn was out of sorts in the first half but, eventually, the Huskies got their act together and dismissed the Cougars, 70-51.

The Terps looked as if they belonged and Alyssa was dominant. Tennessee was unimaginative on defense and single-minded on offense. The result? The #1 Vols go down, 73-62, and Maryland moves on.

The Carolinas engaged in a messy, physical game. The Gamecocks couldn’t pull it together in the last few minutes, and so the most questioned #1 seed goes home, and North Caroline keeps on dancin’.

While the Tar Heels battled, Stanford breezed. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas was stifled by a Cardinal team that was hitting on all cylinders. Chiney is the engine that’s making Stanford roar. Lions go down, 82-57.

Speaking of engines, Shoni demonstrated her growth over the last four years, playing with what Graham called “poise and efficiency.” (My friend Jeff LOVED being court side for the game, listening to Walz coach.) It also guaranteed her one more home game as Louisville overwhelmed a short-handed, but game, LSU, 73-47.

Live by the three, die by the three” met “We don’t take no stinkin’ threes” — but it was the Aggies defense that won them the game. DePaul’s high power offense never got going, and TAMU cruised, 84-65.

BTW: Kudos the the Nebraska faithful. They’ve turned out to support women’s basketball.

Saturday’s announced attendance for the two Sweet 16 games was 9,585, highest in this year’s NCAA women’s tournament. It obviously helps to have top-ranked Connecticut in town. Folks no doubt were curious to get a close look at the Huskies (A bit underwhelming Saturday, were they not?)

The strong attendance, though, also is a reflection of how well this state supports women’s basketball and women’s athletics in general, as Darnell Dickson points out in his Sunday column.

Baylor was not interested in making the game interesting and neither, it seemed, was Kentucky. Bears over the Wildcats, 90-72, and we get more chances to admire Sims in action.

Notre Dame put the pedal to the metal in the first half, and kept the Cowgirls corralled in the second, winning 89-72. The Irish are looking balanced and fierce.

Mechelle writes: Regional finalists truly elite group – Field includes ACC trio; seven of eight teams have won an NCAA title

Monday on ESPN (Elite Eight coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET), unbeaten Notre Dame and Connecticut will try to secure their tickets to Nashville. The Irish are seeking their fourth consecutive Final Four berth, UConn its seventh in a row.

Their challengers are both recent champions. At Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish take on No. 2 seed Baylor (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) in the only regional where the top two seeds made it to the final. The Lady Bears won the 2012 national championship, and were a good pick to repeat last year before being upset by Louisville.

The Huskies meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) in Lincoln, Neb. The Aggies won the 2011 title, but like Baylor the subsequent year, they did not beat UConn in the Final Four. In both 2011 and ’12, Notre Dame took out the Huskies in the national semifinals before falling in the final.

From Charlie:

Getting ahead: Previewing Baylor vs. Notre Dame

Only two teams with worse seeds won games in the Notre Dame Regional to this point, so it no surprise that No. 1 seed Notre Dame and second-seeded Baylor meet Monday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) with a trip to Nashville and the Final Four at stake.

The game features two great offenses, three of the best players in the country in Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd, and programs that have combined for five Final Fours appearances since 2010, including a meeting in the 2012 national championship game.

Here are five observations heading into what could be the most explosive of all the Elite Eight games:

More on the battle of the Gold and Green:

From the AP: Odyssey Sims tries to reach one last Final Four with Baylor Lady Bears

Chris Goff, Journal Gazette: Irish will test ways to control Baylor’s superstar and Irish fans will bid adieu to 3 seniors

Curt Rallo continues a theme: Notre Dame women’s team targets Baylor point guard

I think that (Sims) creates so many problems for you because when she attacks and gets in the lane, you focus on her, which is what a lot of people did last year with Skylar (Diggins),” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the problem is that you focus on her and you forget about the other people and they put themselves in great positions to score.”

Curt also mentions that Payback is low on Notre Dame’s priorities

Notre Dame is 0-4 all-time against Baylor, the team standing between the Irish and a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Bears, featuring 6-foot-8 national Player of the Year Brittney Griner, beat Notre Dame 80-61 in the 2012 national championship game. Then on Dec. 5, 2012, Baylor beat the Irish, 73-61, the last time Notre Dame has walked off its home court on the short side of the scoreboard.

Reaching the Final Four is the main task on Monday night, but the Irish are trying to channel the energy that a payback game provides into the right direction.

As UConn prepares for Texas A&M, Mechelle writes: Discipline key to UConn’s success

… this year isn’t the first time that a great Huskies team didn’t have all that much depth. It’s been the case before, and the hope of forcing UConn starters to the bench with foul trouble has been floated in the past. It’s a wish by opponents that almost never gets fulfilled.

The Huskies are trained very rigorously not to foul. That takes good athleticism, yes. But it’s just as much about playing smart and — you guessed it — being disciplined.

“The minute you smack somebody, all of your hard work is negated,” Auriemma said in regard to playing solid defense, only to end up sending a foe to the line with a mistake out of bad judgment or frustration. “After a while, they understand that, ‘If I want to stay in the game, I can’t foul.’

TAMU is hoping for for one magic night against undefeated UConn

“They’ve got five future WNBA first-round choices in their starting lineup. That’s how good they are,” Blair said Sunday. “But for 40 minutes Monday night, why not? Why not? … I like my team, I like our chances.”

There’s more (thanks Nan!):

Low anxiety: UConn women don’t feel Final Four pressure, Post
UConn women’s game day: Monday night vs. Texas A&M, Post
UConn Offers Glimpse Of Future As It Contemplates Present Vs. A&M, Courant
UConn vs. Texas A&M, Courant
Chris Dailey, Quizmaster, Keeps Team Engaged, Courant
UConn’s Jefferson, Texas A&M’s Jones excited to face off in Elite 8, Register
Texas A&M assistant Bob Starkey helped hand UConn its last loss in Elite 8, Register
UConn women face Texas A&M in Elite Eight tonight, Day
KML is keeping the art of shooting alive, Day
UConn to play A&M for a shot at the Final Four, Daily Campus
Perfect UConn looms in Elite 8, Texas A&M The Battalion
A&M looks to play the role of spoiler against 37-0 UConn, AggieSports.com
They’ve been known to do the impossible, but beating UConn will be tougher, AggieSports.com

Charlie is Looking ahead: Louisville vs. Maryland preview

Many felt Louisville was underseeded at No. 3 and now the Cardinals, after easily disposing of LSU on Sunday, have reached the precipice of a second straight Final Four anyway. On Tuesday, they get that chance at home at the KFC Yum! Center against No. 4 seed Maryland (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

The Terps, who haven’t been to the Final Four since winning a national championship in 2006, had little trouble with No. 1 seed Tennessee in their regional semifinal.

Here are five observations of the two teams in what sets up to be an evenly matched Elite Eight contest:

Check out espnW’s Elite Eight picks.

 

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ESPN has your region breakdown:

Mechelle has 10 first-round storylines to follow

The women’s version of March Madness tips off at 11 a.m. ET Saturday at 16 sites around the country, with early rounds concluding Monday and Tuesday. Here are 10 things to look for/ponder/debate during the opening steps of the Big Dance:

1. Leagues of legends?

 Who said this: “I think we have the toughest conference in the country. We beat each other up. On any given night, anybody can win. You have to bring your A-game.”

Answer: Almost every coach, although some do add the qualifier “one of the toughest conferences” because they know that saying the toughest is over the top.

UConn’s Geno Auriemma of the new American (“We have no real geographic link, but we’re all in the United States!”) Athletic Conference isn’t going to say this about that amalgamation of orphans, castoffs, left-behinds and biding-their-times. But he doesn’t need to. He can just say, We got Breanna, and you don’t. (Hmmm … rings a bell, doesn’t it?)

So which league really was the toughest to play in this season? Hah, as if there could be a consensus on that. But the conferences that received the most NCAA bids were the SEC and ACC, with eight each. We’ll see how many live on to the Sweet 16.

She’s also thinking the Vols have jelled at the right time.

The NCAA selection committee has gone away from making the previous 10 games of a team’s season such a huge priority in regard to tournament selection/placement. That used to be something that was consistently brought up as being very important. Now, supposedly, it’s just another factor to consider, but the whole “body of work” thing is bigger.

Still, this season, it seems clear that Tennessee’s No. 1 seed was secured by the Lady Vols winning the SEC tournament. And if you are going to focus on the “last 10,” that stretch looks quite good for the Lady Vols.

Yes, I’m sure the Lady Vols are eager to end their Final Four drought (even without Massengale for the first two games), but did you know that they’re putting a 52-game streak on line vs Northwestern State?

It’s a daydream savored by anyone who ever spent so much as an afternoon with a basketball in the driveway. The imaginary clock ticks down and the phantom crowd is on its feet. The game is on the line, the ball is in your hands.

It is your chance to be the hero. You survey the options — and pass the ball to an open teammate for the game-winning assist.

Wait, what?

Interesting: Duke’s depleted lineup, turnover problems give Winthrop hope

And in the “Who would?” department: Duke coach unhappy team in same region with UConn

DePaul women’s head coach Doug Bruno wasn’t nearly as excited as his players after winning the Big East tournament.  Bruno, who is in his 28th year as DePaul’s head coach, said he coaches solely for the NCAA tournament.

The LSU Reveille sounds the call:

LSU does not have another chance to get back on track.

The Lady Tigers have no more media sessions to talk about what they can do to get out of their slump. The only thing left to do is act on their words.

“It’s a time for my team to actually make history or make something happen,” said freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief. “Hopefully we can just pull together and get wins.”

The Bulldog Blitz unpicks Fresno State’s strategy: 

Within minutes of learning who they would play in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, a few Fresno State players anxiously searched their cellphones for statistics and video clips of the Nebraska basketball team.

The Bulldogs received a more detailed breakdown of the Cornhuskers the following day after the coaching staff assembled a video scouting report — with two agendas in mind:

For each clip that coach Raegan Pebley showed of Nebraska excelling, she also showed one of the 13th-ranked Cornhuskers getting exposed. 

No worries: Husker Laudermill is ready to spark Nebraska. Oh, and have you Met the Nebraska women’s basketball starting five

While the Cal women begin tournament in shadow of last season’s team, they are feeling confident as they enter NCAA Tournament play against the Fordham Rams, when we’ll see if the Boyd-Rooney Matchup deserved to be The Talk of Friday’s Media Day

As Akron women’s basketball rides dynamic duo into Mackey Arena to face Purdue, the Boilermakers defense might be the key in NCAA tourney

If the UTC women want better tourney results, they’re going to have to prepare for Syracuse’s zone defense. And 10 other things.

Florida State will look to stop ISU’s Christofferson from extending career at Hilton

Sure, Taylor Greenfield might be the only Stanford player happy about traveling 1,800 miles to the middle of Iowa to open the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, but the Coyotes have no issue with trying to make her and her teammates cranky.

Oh, yeah, USC, Northridge women are living the dream – but Trojans will face St. John’s

As the long wait is finished and Baylor prepares to play the NCAA opener without suspended Mulkey, the Hilltoppers are up to the challenge.

“We’re excited,” WKU sophomore guard Micah Jones said. “They’ve had a lot of success over the past few years, and that’s what we’re trying to get back to with our program. It’s a great opportunity for us to come here and play Baylor.”

Brandon Gurney from the Deseret news says the Cougars feel good about their matchup with the Wolfpack

We match up well and their team is very similar to ours,” observed BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “The way they play and how they do it (is similar).”

The starkest similarity involves the starting centers. BYU features 6-foot-7 senior Jen Hamson while North Carolina presents 6-foot-5 senior Markeisha Gatling. Both players lead their teams from the post, and Judkins believes whoever wins that specific matchup will go a long way in determining the outcome.

News from the WNIT:

Ducks dominate Pacific Tigers 90-63 in WNIT opener

Rutgers women’s basketball defeats Delaware in WNIT

If the Rutgers women’s basketball team is trying to use the WNIT as a platform to show it was worthy of receiving a NCAA Tournament berth, it will have to wait until at least the second round to begin proving its case.

Women’s Basketball Pulls Out Last-Second WNIT Victory

With seven seconds left on the clock and Harvard up by two, Iona guard Aleesha Powell drove to the basket for a hard layup, drawing the foul on captain Christine Clark and making the basket for the three-point play. Powell, an 84.9 percent free-throw shooter, completed the and-one.

One-point Gaels lead, 6.7 seconds on the clock.

But Clark was not about to let her season—and Harvard career—end with that.

Other games:

Colorado 78, TCU 71
Montana 90, Washington State 78
Minnesota 62, Green Bay 60
Villanova 74, Quinnipiac 55
George Washington 86, East Carolina 68

Michigan 86, Stony Brook 48
Duquesne 62, Mount St. Mary’s 52
St. Bonaventure 81, Charlotte 62
South Florida 56, North Carolina A&T 50
Saint Mary’s 75, CSU Bakersfield 68
UTEP 74, Arkansas State 64
Washington 67, Hawaii 50

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

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

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

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

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd erupted in cheers.

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

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

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

Interesting games coming up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little W news:

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“There are no upsets in women’s basketball” are simply out-of-touch neanderthals.

’cause lookee what Graham said! Not only did he name the Penguins the “Team of the week,” he noted it was “a weekend in which nine ranked teams lost to opponents that were either ranked lower or unranked.”

And honestly, looking at some of the records of those unranked teams only makes the upsets even more stunning.

Kansas State took down #13 Iowa State by 6 (making one ponder the Cyclones’ pre-conference schedule.)

Not to be outdone by their in-state rival, Kansas became a Bear-toppler as Baylor left Texas for the first time this season and not only lost back-to-back for the first time since 2010, but they also lost their nation-leading road win streak and their 44 or is it 53-game conference win streak. That earned Kansas’ Gardner is player of week honors. Wrote Mechelle:

Mulkey knew her young players were perhaps too buoyed by their performance against UConn and not ready for potential adversity on the road in the Big 12. She said she saw the “deer in the headlights” look from several of them Sunday.

Baylor senior guard Odyssey Sims had 31 points, but it took her a school-record 37 shot attempts to get that. She made 13 shots from the field and 3 of 5 free throws. Combined with her 4-of-25 night against UConn, Sims has shot 27.4 percent (17-of-62) in her last two games.

#24 Vandy stayed red-hot with its 9-point win over #14 LSU.

“Vanderbilt did a nice job of getting the right players the right shots at the right times,” head coachNikki Caldwell said. “They didn’t force anything, they played within their gameplan and they did a good job of sharing the basketball. We have to be more discipline in our halfcourt defense and not miss assignments. We just weren’t aware and alert, that hurt us. We have to be more serious about our defensive effort.”

Miami’s Saunders went toe-to-toe with #20 NC State’s Gatling, and the Hurricanes earned the upset by 9.

Saunders joked that the rim has never looked that big for her in her career.

“It was pretty huge,” Saunders said. “I was really feeling it, and it was a great feeling. My teammates found me in great places, all of my guards have great vision, and I was just happy they were able to find me and I was able to knock it down.”

Flip-the-coin-and-see-which-team-you-get #22 Purdue eked out the upset over #18 Nebraska by 2. This has sure become a fun B10 rivalry.

In the “almost” vein –

#10 Kentucky escaped Auburn (11-7, 2-3), 73-71… and the Tigers had a chance in the final seconds.

“Besides the fact that we blew it, I don’t know what to really say,” Tigers head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “The opportunity was there, we played hard, sometimes we just didn’t do everything that we needed to do like rebounding the basketball on the defensive end.”

#3 Duke showed it IS missing Gray, but leaned on Liston to escape Virginia Tech, 74-70.

Meanwhile:

“Remember when Geno said, “`I have Diana Taurasi and you don’t’?” Stringer said. “That’s what he means. Breanna’s the No. 1 player in the country, right? She’s the best player in the nation. It doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten but it’s Connecticut and everybody else.”

Said Auriemma of the (almost) “end of an era”:

“It was one of the better games we’ve played here in a very long time,” Auriemma said of the ease with which his team went about its business. “But it didn’t even feel like we were at Rutgers. I don’t know what’s going on. The last two games – maybe the fans are feeling sorry for me now that I am getting older. When I was younger they didn’t treat me like that.”

In other games –

Get mojo back? Check! San Diego handled BYU, 60-45.

Keep improving? Check! St. Francis (NY) wins.

Continue to challenge for the Horizon? Check! Penguins ruuuuule!

Let go of the Horizon? Not so fast! Green Bay took down Cleveland State, 90-72.

Run away with the Big Sky? Not so fast (Pt. 2)! North Dakota stumbles against Montana State, 76-65.

Clear leader in the A-10? Not so fast! Dayton over Fordham, 73-64 and St. Joe’s over La Salle.

An itty bit of revenge? Yup! Drexel over Delaware. Dragons and JMU are 3-0 in the CAA.

Oregon continues to score a lot and lose a lot. And USC is now the first team ever to score 100 points at the Galen Center AND 6-1 in the Pac-12.

Adding to the OT list:

Charlie tries to make sense of the wins and loses in his new Bracketology. (Though I probably would have procrastinated until AFTER tonight’s Tennessee/ND game.)

And, on this MLK day, I invite you to read Kate Fagan’s piece.

Nobody wakes up one morning and understands the experiences of everyone who is “other.The goal is to keep our minds open and be willing to listen — to realize that even when we think we get it, sometimes something happens that makes it clear we have so much more to learn.

And in those moments, the only wrong move is digging in your heels.

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I’m sure she won’t mind this: Baylor coach Mulkey given one-game postseason suspension, reprimand

A public reprimand and penalties, including a one-game tournament suspension, have been issued for Baylor University women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey for a violation of tournament policy during the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

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in Kate Fagan’s really fine piece: Owning The Middle: Brittney Griner wears bow ties, dates women and dunks with abandon. Call her names if you like — she is done hiding from haters.

Ray Griner is more blunt. He says his daughter hasn’t heard from Mulkey since Baylor’s shocking loss to Louisville in this year’s NCAA tournament. “It’s about dollar signs,” Ray says. “There’s nothing in it for Kim anymore, so she’s done with Brittney.”

Mulkey was once viewed as a fierce defender of Griner. At a news conference during the 2012 Final Four, a reporter asked the coach about the insults Griner receives on social media, and Mulkey delivered a passionate response. “This is someone’s child,” she said. “This is a human being, people.” Griner says she appreciated the gesture, but she couldn’t help feeling that Mulkey was only defending part of her. “If you’re up here protecting me, then protect all of me,” she says. “We can talk about gender, but we can’t talk about the fact that I’m a lesbian?”

Take the time to read the whole thing.

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pi$$ing match.

Analyzing the stigma lesbian athletes face and how Brittney Griner can be seen as a trailblazer too

Jason Collins put an end to a very long wait last month. Finally, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community had an active, openly gay male athlete in one of the four major American sports they could look up to. In a culture where sports and sports figures dominate and set the tone for the rest of society, it was a noteworthy step forward.

However, while some may have pointed out the courageous active female athletes who have come out over the past 32 years to pave the way for Collins, few would have suggested that any lesbian athlete from the past had as much to lose when they came out as Jason Collins did.

Helen Carroll, the sports project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, summed up what lesbian athletes go through by saying, “it’s not easier for women, because they are dealing with sexism and homophobia at the same time, always.”

Former Baylor players respond to controversy about Brittney Griner’s coming out story (the comments are mighty interesting)

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Griner: No talking sexuality at Baylor

Former Baylor women’s basketball star Brittney Griner says that Kim Mulkey, her college head coach, told players not to be open publicly about their sexuality because it would hurt recruiting and look bad for the program.

“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said during an interview with ESPN The Magazine and espnW. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.”

So, what’s the next thing Mulkey will profess “ignorance” of?

Meanwhile, from the New York Times: ON RELIGION‘Griner Effect’ May Change the Game at Baylor

By dint of her celebrity status, to say nothing of her marketplace value to the Baylor brand, Ms. Griner has instantly altered the relationship between Baylor and its gay students, one that has been awkward at best and contentious at worst. Far from condemning her as a sinner, Baylor offered Ms. Griner “our admiration, appreciation and support,” as the university’s director of media communications, Lori W. Fogleman, wrote in an e-mail this week.

Plenty of caveats should be attached to this tolerance offensive. Baylor continues to omit sexual orientation from its nondiscrimination policy. The university’s official statement on sexual misconduct lists “homosexual acts” — as well as sexual harassment and adultery, among other behaviors — as “misuses of God’s gifts.”

Even so, if it is too soon to know with certainty whether Baylor’s public acceptance of Ms. Griner’s sexuality will extend to the John and Jane Queer of its rank-and-file student body, a more expansive kind of change seems possible thanks to what one might call the Griner Effect.

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Well, before everybody starts complaining about how UConn’s dominance is bad for the game (I’m doing a private countdown), let’s address the fact that, for some folks, we’re already at the “Is this as good as it gets” stage: Women’s college basketball plateaus

Back in 1995, when Connecticut won its first NCAA championship in women’s basketball, the sport seemed ready to explode.

The attention Rebecca Lobo, Jen Rizzotti and the rest of the Huskies received from the adoring media, especially in the New York City area, helped fuel a “Year of the Woman” campaign for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and the birth of the WNBA a year later.

Title IX triumphs!

But as the confetti fell on UConn’s eighth title team Tuesday night in the New Orleans Arena, there was the general feeling that women’s basketball, both on and off the court has plateaued.

I’m always amused by folks who think women’s basketball will grow in an uninterrupted line upwards, or that somehow “social agendas” — read “empowering women,” “fighting sexism,” “fighting homophobia,” “advocating for equal opportunities” — are hindering the game’s growth. (Is there anything that DOESN’T have a “social agenda”?)

That’s why, while I love the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, it also frustrates the hell out of me. Why?  Because it lays out the history of women’s basketball as if it were a natural, fight-free progression. It was not. And is still not.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: imagine if the small-minded, homophobic and sexist folks hadn’t won the battle to ban girls basketball in the mid ’20’s and 30’s. Consider what was happening at the turn of the century:

When Doctor Naismith joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1898 basketball was generally regarded in Kansas college circles as a woman’s sport. This could scarcely have been surprising to its inventor, for girls had begun playing it in the East when it was barely a month old. Coeds on Mount Oread experimented with it as early as 1896, the Kansas University Weekly reporting on November 21 that the girls had organized several teams and that the freshman and sophomore girls hoped to play a match game. There is no record of this contest, if it was played, but if the young women carried out their plan it probably was the first basketball game on a Kansas campus.

In 1897 their athletic facilities were enlarged. A space was reserved to be used as an athletic field for women and facilities were provided for an open-air basketball court. [2] The women of Baker University first played the game in the spring of 1897, when the contest between the Delta Delta Delta team and one picked from the other girls of the university was a feature of the first spring field day, according to The Baker Orange of May 19. Girls pioneered in basketball at Washburn College, Ottawa University and Emporia Normal, as well as at K.U. and Baker. TheWashburn Weekly Review announced on November 3, 1898, that “we may expect our young ladies to issue a challenge to some of the neighboring schools for a basketball game before long,” and reported a week later that they were learning the fine points of the new pastime at the Y.W.C.A. gymnasium in Topeka.

Heck, what might have happened if THIS sentiment had prevailed in the men’s game:

Veteran basketball men say that one factor that prevented basketball from becoming a major sport during the first decade of its existence as a Kansas college game was that men students regarded the game as effeminate.

Where would our game be if it had grown in lock-step with the men’s game? Yes, it probably would look different on the court — sort of how men’s gymnastics is different than women’s gymnastics — BUT off the court?:

  • Perhaps the fan bases would grow at an equal level (’cause, back in the day, they were huge for both girls and boys teams).
  • Perhaps coaches would have been equally paid and respected. For instance, maybe a reporter would be asking, “Would Coach Mike Krzyzewski have been successful coaching in the women’s game?”
  • Perhaps college athletic scholarships, offered to men as early as the 1870’s, would have also been offered women, as opposed to having to be legislated. ‘Cause, as we know, even legislation, most universities are still not in compliance.
  • Perhaps the homophobic bullying tossed at women’s basketball players would be called out/challenged directly by coaches, parents and the media and called out for the hate speech it is. Perhaps, then, Kim Mulkey would not feel the ned to play the ostrich, but be a leader amongst coaches who say “Enough is enough.”

I’m not offering the above “what ifs” as an excuse, but as an example of how things ain’t so simple and/or cut and dried when it comes to women’s athletics. Knowing history is essential to making progress.

So, I look forward to reading Val Ackerman’s “White Paper,” in which, she will present her findings on her “comprehensive assessment of the current state of intercollegiate women’s basketball” and present “her conclusions and recommendations about how best to position and manage the sport.”

  • Revenue generation
  • Marketing and television strategies
  • Image and branding
  • Youth/grass-roots tie-ins
  • Cost structures
  • Scheduling
  • Governance/management
  • Championships

The above points of focus center on topics one might call “hard skills” involving money, tactics and personnel, which is essential to developing strategic plans for growing the game. That is, IF the NCAA actually has the will (and personel) to take action. There have been earlier studies on improving all of the above — with grants given out by the NCAA in 2010 — but for some reason (yes, I can think of some) schools seemed unwilling to adopt identified “Best Practices.” And there was nothing the NCAA could do about making them because universities are independent beings. (Sound familiar, WNBA?)

I’m going to guess that Val’s paper will NOT address “political” issues such as university funding of sports or homophobia within and without the sports. That being said, there does seem to be a sea change happening (and a corresponding backlash – did you see this reaction to the firing of Rice?), primarily led by student-athletes.

Recall this from 2012: Athlete Ally: Hudson Taylor tackles homophobia

The gay jokes. The homophobic slurs, those comments uttered so habitually on the practice mats that no one stops to notice what they actually mean or whom they hurt. They stung Hudson Taylor.

Wear an equal rights sticker on your helmet during a match and we’ll have a hard time cheering for you, some of his Maryland teammates warned. Their words clawed at Taylor, tore at him the way their words tore at so many athletes never bold enough to speak out before. He wondered if by taking this stance he was actually hindering his cause, if his teammates were becoming more homophobic simply because he asked them not to be.

“Sometimes, 18- to 22-year-old young men don’t realize how much an impact their words have,” said Maryland wrestling coach Kerry McCoy. “Hudson brought that issue to the forefront for our team.”

Yes, I wish coaches would speak out more. But, I do understand the fear factor: did you see this from The Tucker Center?  Examining Online Intercollegiate Head Coaches’ Biographies: Reproducing or Challenging Heteronormativity and Heterosexism? Writes Pat Griffin:

Let’s look at the decision whether or not to include a description of one’s family in a professional bio through the lens of heterosexism.  For a heterosexual married coach or athletic administrator, this decision is relatively minor.  Being heterosexual and married with children is what is expected and accepted. Heterosexuals freely share this information in a million little ways every day: wearing a wedding ring, placing family photos on a desk in the office, having casual conversations with colleagues about family, bringing family to department social and sports events. Why wouldn’t she or he want to include this information in a bio? There is no real down side to providing information about a heterosexual spouse and children. To the contrary, in a sports world where many high school recruits and their parents, athletic directors or the general public still view non-heterosexuals in negative ways, this “evidence” of heterosexuality can be read as a big plus, whether intended as such or not: The coach is not gay! 
Through the same lens of heterosexism, the factors affecting the decision of lesbian, gay or bisexual coaches in same-sex relationships to include their family information in a professional bio are quite different from those of their heterosexual colleagues.  Their decision is a big deal in ways that it is not for heterosexual coaches.  Here is why – Lesbian, bisexual and gay coaches carefully consider this decision because it can open the coach to professional and personal risk in a world where heterosexism is the norm.  Only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. There are no federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Many coaches work in schools that do not even have institutional non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation or gender identity. As a consequence, most lesbian, bisexual and gay coaches have no legal protection against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

So, maybe the tipping point will be led outside of the college arena. How can you not draw hope from this?

NHL, Players Union Launch Initiative To Battle Homophobia

The National Hockey League and its players union launched an initiative today that it hopes will stamp out homophobia from the game.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tells our Newscast unit that the partnership with You Can Play is intended to send a message that everyone is welcome in the NHL as a player or a fan.

“This is really about celebrating diversity, whether or not it’s your national origin, the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, and making you feel comfortable that whoever you are you can have a place you can play,” Bettman said.

And while there is this (NFL More Homophobic Than Ever, Asking Prospects If They’re Gay and The NFL Sets the Standard for Homophobia) there is also this and this Donté Stallworth, Wide Receiver, Joins Group Fighting Homophobia In Sports

“I think it’s important for us as professional athletes not only to set the tone in our own respective fields, but also for the kids who are watching our programs or our sports,” he said. “If you isolate a child and teach them hate, hate, hate, that’s the way they’re going to grow up. … And unfortunately, that’s the environment that I grew up in. There was a lot of disrespect for gays. I unfortunately was a part of that. But as I got older, I became more ashamed of that and more open to rights for all.”

Yes, I see women’s basketball as being more than “just basketball.” I can enjoy the game for the game’s sake — niche sport or not. But I also enjoy the fact that it can have a bigger role: It can challenge our preconceived notions and push us to consider our conscious (and unconscious) biases about the “natural state” of the world around us. Why would anyone want to shy away from do that?

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Saw the mom, birded through a (mini) blizzard, got to see my first King Eider, had my email hacked (so sorry, everyone! fingers crossed you’ve learned not to open goofy stuff like that), and oh, there was some basketball played.

In no apparent order:

Yada-yada-yada, Princeton wins and wins.

Lookee! Penn had a nice win over Harvard, 77-72, and followed it up with a win over Dartmouth.

Neither Arizona nor Arizona State are having much fun this season.

Cal’s having fun. So is Stanford. Too bad the PAC 12 regular season doesn’t end with a match up between these two.

I warned Navy that Army was stalking them, but did they listen? Noooooo.

As it should be, the Michigan/Michigan State rematch was much closer and decided by one point.

Rolling: Marist, Chattanooga, Quinnipiac, Boston U, Green Bay, Toledo, FGCU, Gonzaga, Seattle U, Albany, Charlotte (they’ve beaten Stetson, Davidson (Aleksandravicius  – wheee!), FGCU.. and don’t face Dayton in the regular season?), St. Joe’s (though it wasn’t easy), Delaware, San Diego State, Tennessee, Hampton, Texas Southern (they play Southern Feb 28th), Dayton (by the hair of their chinny chin chin), Baylor.

Baylor wears down turnover-prone UConn, UConn women’s basketball falls short against No. 1 Baylor 76-70, and from Mechelle: Griner gets best of Dolson, UConn

It wasn’t quite the mano-a-mano battle in a tight-spotlight focus that perhaps it could have been. Still, Baylor center Brittney Griner and her UConn counterpart, Stefanie Dolson, were quite an intriguing show Monday.

The No. 1-ranked team and defending NCAA champion solidified its standing as Baylor won 76-70 in the game that women’s basketball fans have been looking forward to all season. For the most part, it lived up to expectations.

Not so fast! Creighton took down Wichita State, NKU took down Stetson, Arkansas Little Rock took down Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State took down Utah State in a Debbie Antonelli special: 106-94.

Hello. That’s Hawai’i winning again. It took overtime, but they beat Pacific, 74-71, to claim a share of top place in the Big West.

Hello, again: St. Francis (NY): winning.

I’m going to add #19 Florida State to the “which one is gonna show up” group of Iowa and Iowa State (what with #24 ISU losing to WVa and Iowa defeating #18 Purdue.). They defeat #14 North Carolina, 80-73.

In a battle of ugly, Clemson over Va. Tech.

It has to be asked: Is head coach Paul Westhead to blame for Oregon women’s basketball’s losing season?

Congrats to Angel, who set the Kansas assist mark during their win over #22 Oklahoma. From Mechelle:

We see these scripts so often, especially in women’s basketball, where the ACL regularly plays the role of dastardly villain. Senior guard Angel Goodrich has been through two ACL injuries at Kansas: one that pre-empted what would have been her freshman season, and another that cut short her actual rookie year.

Yet here she was Sunday playing in her 100th game for the Jayhawks, finishing with 10 assists — the exact number she needed to break the KU women’s career record. Goodrich now has 687 assists, surpassing Lisa Braddy, who was at KU from 1986-90.

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’cause it’s fun, since we know how much Mechelle hates making predicitions.  In anticipation of the Kentucky/South Carolina and UNC/Maryland game, Mechelle Voepel said this:

jbb1985 (ny): Which of the two games tonight between ranked, Conference rivals are you the most interested in: MD vs. UNC or UK vs. S. Carolina?

Mechelle Voepel: Interested in both, but if I have to pick I’ll say Maryland vs North Carolina because it’s a rematch and may indicate how the Tar Heels will go through this tough four-game stretch vs. Terps, Miami, Florida State and Duke. Sylvia Hatchell is 3 wins from 900 in her career, and it could come as early as Jan. 31, I believe. But it could also be delayed awhile, as these are tough games. The interesting thing with Kentucky-South Carolina, of course, is which team sets the pace in that game, since they are so opposite.

MV got it right. Cats’ streak stopped by South Carolina, 55-50

Every shot, every cut, every pass.

Every minute of the game, South Carolina wanted to make Kentucky as uncomfortable as possible.

The No. 18 Gamecocks succeeded and upended the fifth-ranked Cats 55-50 Thursday night, ending UK’s 17-game win streak.

“They played much harder than we did,” Cats Coach Matthew Mitchell explained. “They played much more physical. Their desire was much stronger to win tonight. When that happens, then we get beat.”

Check out what else MV has to say, when she teams up with Michelle as they talk Mechelle & Michelle: Coast to Coast

On their podcast, Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli talk to a pair of head coaches, Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and UNC’s Sylvia Hatchell.

Out west, Oregon breaks into Pac-12 women’s basketball win column at the expense of the Washington State Cougars. 

The Buffaloes got so much deserved attention, and then got close to a huge win, but couldn’t put Cal away. Stanford handled the Utes.

Some good news for Ohio State, Stokes’ knee injury is healing quickly.

Nebraska welcomed Michigan State to the polls by beating them.

The Shockers continued their winning ways in the MVC, and now sit at 6-0 in the conference. The Blue Jays are keeping pace, now at 5-1.

In the Horizon League, Algoma’s Zastrow emerges for UWGB

Speaking of emerging stars, Graham offers up this: Rodriguez emerges as FSU star: Senior guard from Canary Islands has tripled her scoring average from a year ago

It might seem at first glance as if one of the season’s biggest surprises came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best players in the ACC. But for someone who crossed an ocean just to get to Florida State four years ago, a senior season to remember turns out to be one more leg of a long journey.

Rodriguez comes from a place people dream of visiting for a few days’ respite from the real world. Where she grew up, others hope they might someday soak up the sun in retirement. So frankly, it’s a little surprising to sit across from her in a hotel lobby on a wet winter night near Boston and find that there is nowhere she would rather be than where she is, with three years worth of waiting and working behind her to prove her point.

Clearly, Graham has no jinx-ability, as Chelsea Davis helped No. 22 Florida State rally past Georgia Tech.

It’s around the corner: UConn v. Notre Dame. Jim Fuller writes: Huskies need their bench to be the best. Curt Rallo writes: Irish need to keep foot on the gas

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and call attention to your players. (Of course, how people react may depend on who you are)

Baylor Head Coach Kim Mulkey

On Skylar Diggins having a poor game… “It is early in the season. I was a point guard and I have always been very critical of point guards. Odyssey Sims is the best point guard in the country. And you can put that in your notes. What does she have to do to get that kind of recognition? She has played Skylar four times and has won every ball game. She has won a national championship. Odyssey didn’t have one of her better games either, but she never stopped being tough on the floor. She never stops guarding people.”

Basically, I think the ND game proved that Sims must be on the court for Baylor, ’cause even a rusty, out-sorts-Sims can get the job done.

In a 73-61 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday, Sims missed her first five shots, and her passes weren’t as crisp as we’re used to. At one point, she airmailed a ball in the general direction of center Brittney Griner, a target whom Sims rarely misses. Especially not by a mile.

But, hey, even outstanding players need a little time to get their mojo back when they’ve been sidelined. By the time the game was over, Sims had 16 points and six assists (with, admittedly, seven turnovers). And defensively, she had helped thoroughly frustrate her Irish counterpart, Skylar Diggins.

From the Waco Trib: Lady Bears thwart No. 5 Irish, 73-61, in NCAA final rematch

From Curt at the South Bend Trib: Notre Dame women’s basketball: Too tall of a task for ND

From Al Lesar at the SBT: Bad timing for one of those days

Also, from Grantland: Such Great Heights – Maya Moore has already made her mark on the WNBA. That means the next question for the league is, what will Brittney Griner bring?

Maya Moore was late. She ducked into the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first preseason game at the Target Center this October just after tip-off, the brim of her black hat pulled low and her 54-year-old mother in tow. It didn’t take long for the crowd to notice.

Within minutes, an injured Kevin Love had abandoned the Timberwolves bench in favor of a front-row seat along the baseline next to Moore and her mother. At halftime, a line of fans snaked through the aisle; Moore smiled and shook hands and posed for anyone willing to wait.

In other games:

The Blue Jays stopped Hooper and the Huskers.

The Bulldogs almost blew a 25-pt. lead, but managed to escape with the win over USC.

The battle of the Coloradoeans ended up with one team at 7-0: Buffs Women Roll Rams, Remain Unbeaten

Good news for UConn and their new TV gig: UConn women’s basketball TV ratings up on SNY. Tonight they’ll be broadcasting the Connecticut/Penn State game at 7pm EST.

It’s a tough season for FGCU: They go down hard to South Florida (which is now 7-0).

In WNBA news:

You stay put: Lynx Sign Head Coach Cheryl Reeve To Multi-Year Contract Extension

You also stay put: Atlanta Dream Signs Head Coach and GM Fred Williams to New Deal

From the .com: Around the World: Five Things To Know

More leadership from the players: Report urges more positive LGBT stories in Black media

Adair adds that LGBT people of color are more accepted among people of her under-30 age group: “I think with our generation, it is a lot more liberal — ‘Be who you are; be free and be happy,’”says Adair.

“I’ve found that as well,” says Harris.

Religion continues to be a big influence in the Black community regarding LGBT issues. “African Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation,” says the study.

“A lot of African American communities are more on the religious side dealing with homosexuality,” concurs Adair. “My mother is very religious — she’s more open now because I have been out for so long. But initially, she thought it was about sports, drugs, sex, and that was it for all lesbians.

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hurricane. I can’t get “For those in peril on the sea” out of my head.

That being said, I am safe, on high ground and have electricity, so I’m making use of good fortune to do some catching up.

Congrats to Brockton, MA’s Jim Daley:

There is no room left on retired Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls basketball coach Jim Daley’s coaching resume. It’s filled with 510 wins, 15 league championships and 30 tournament appearances just to name the highlights of his 33-year tenure on the Panthers’ sideline.

However, Daley still has one more basketball bow to take because on Nov. 18 at Holy Cross, the longtime Whitman-Hanson icon will be inducted into the Massachusetts High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

More congrats to Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, named the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. She coached the Grand Haven girls basketball team to the Class A state championship last March.

A little high school Title IX news from Columbus, Indiana: Teams aim for equal billing: Schools have four years to comply with court ruling

The Jennings County girls basketball team has played Franklin County the past 11 years, with most of those games taking place on Saturday afternoons.

But if the Panthers are to continue playing the Wildcats after this season, they likely will have to find a “prime-time” spot, meaning a Friday or Saturday night or the night before Thanksgiving.

In WNBA news:

Wanna own a W team? Mebbe not: Sparks’ Former Owner Sues Law Firm

The former owner of the WNBA team Los Angeles Sparks accused its former attorney of legal malpractice, claiming in court that he helped the team’s current owners squeeze it out of the franchise.

Where’s Swin at? Star basketball player, McKeesport native returns to help children ‘Cash’ in

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Swin Cash returned to McKeesport to seek support and new partnerships for her Cash for Kids nonprofit as she strives to help the youth of her hometown.

Inviting community leaders, local organizations and city youth to the Palisades on Saturday, Cash focused on her off-the-court passion of working with children.

From Indianapolis: President Obama calls Catchings, Dunn, Krauskopf to congratulate Fever on WNBA title and  Indiana Fever owner Herb Simon savors ‘special moment’

Herb Simon has owned the 2012 WNBA champion Indiana Fever since the franchise’s inception in 2000. The Fever won their first title last Sunday, defeating the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to claim the best-of-five Finals 3-1.

In the aftermath of their breakthrough triumph, Simon, who has also owned the Indiana Pacers since 1983, answered questions about the meaning of the title to him and a variety of other topics.

Question: Was the Fever’s WNBA championship your most satisfying moment as an owner?

Simon: It ranks right up there. This was a very special moment for all of us. The team, the way they played. I tell you, I got very emotional that last game. It was one of the greatest things that I’ve experienced.

From Chicago, Patricia Babcock McGraw writes: WNBA crown completes Catchings’ glittering resume

We all just want to fit in, even world-class athletes.

Tamika Catchings was feeling a bit left out during a special ceremony at the WNBA All-Star Game in 2011. It was the league’s 15th season and the top 15 players of all-time were being honored.

In an WNBA/College crossover story: Big Ten women’s basketball: Penn State’s Alex Bentley learns as Fever intern

In a “Local Makes Good” story: WNBA title for Markham’s Sutton-Brown

During her professional basketball career, Tammy Sutton-Brown had the good fortune to play for championship teams overseas.

But for the 34-year-old Markham native and Markham District High School grad, the biggest championship came this past weekend as a member of the Indiana Fever who defeated the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 to claim the WNBA crown in four games.

Another one from the West Coast: January savors WNBA crown

Briann January isn’t at Disneyland – and she won’t be any time in the near future.

But who needs the happiest place on Earth when you’ve just made a lifelong dream come true?

Another from Pittsburgh: Just call her, ‘Champion’

Shavonte Zellous’ smile, energy, work ethic, enthusiasm and passion are as infectious as ever, but after Zellous helped the Indiana Fever win its first WNBA championship Sunday, it is clear her game is still as good as ever, too.

More importantly, her penchant for rising to the occasion is intact.

Sure, the Lynx are left to ponder what went wrong and how to fix it, but ne despair pas, Los Lynx fans: Blueprint For Success Still In Place

Our attention may be shifting to the NCAA, but the W folks are abroad: Temeka Johnson blogs: Russian team off to strong start

Hello all, I’m back. I know I told you that I would write about the new additions to our team once they got here, so guess what: THEY ARE HERE. We have Epiphany Prince who played at Rutgers University (WNBA, Chicago Sky), Erin Lawless, who played at Purdue and also on the Slovakian National team, and Shay Murphy who played at USC (WNBA, Chicago Sky). These are the new additions to our team along with myself, Michelle Snow, and a few new talented Russian players as well.

Mechelle writes a really important piece about two big off-season stories: Laimbeer returns, Stern to retire in ’14

On the same day NBA commissioner David Stern announced when he would be saying goodbye to his job, Bill Laimbeer said hello to the WNBA again.

In the grand scheme of things, the WNBA will be considered a small part of Stern’s legacy as one of the pre-eminent sports czars of our time. And Laimbeer always will be known more as one of Detroit’s “bad boys” — a hard-nosed, blue-collar player who relished the fact that opposing fans loved to hate him — than as a WNBA coach.

But to those who follow women’s basketball, the contributions Stern and Laimbeer have made to this sport are quite significant.

College news:

Using appropriately groan producing verbiage, Swish Appeal begins their survey of top Division I women’s basketball programs: Division One women’s college basketball:  #71-100

Speaking of top programs, it means nothing – and it’s not surprise —  but Brittney Griner, Baylor women’s basketball unanimous preseason favorites

Speaking of polls, the fabulous D3Hoops has their pre-season rankings up,  and all eyes are on Calvin.

The Stanford Daily says: W. BBall: VanDerveer and Cardinal reload as season approaches

There was some drama in Vol land, but now it’s over: Top women’s basketball prospect Jannah Tucker recommits to Tennessee

As for the drama at Ole Miss: Adrian Wiggins Fired From Ole Miss

“The allegations and findings that led the University to this decisive and swift action are now being further examined jointly by the University and the NCAA,” the university said.

In addition, student-athletes Kay Caples, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, and Brandy Broome, a transfer from Pensacola State College, are ineligible to compete at the University after failing to meet NCAA transfer eligibility standards.

There’s some “drama” (as in, something with a storyline) from Cali: Stanford Women’s Basketball’s Six Pack, Episode Four – Summer At Stanford : Greenfield, Payne and Samuelson give viewers an inside look at their summers on The Farm

Not to be outdone, over at the California Golden Blog, they have a Women’s Basketball Season Preview Part 1: Embracing Expectations

From the Hoosier State: IU Women’s Basketball Implements New Practice Routine

So what about those new points of emphasis? They mean MSU women’s basketball to make changes on defense

The “Secretary of Defense” may have to wage his battles a little differently this season. 

Mississippi State University first-year women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer scanned a two-sheet printout of 10 points emphasis Division I officials will be asked to monitor this season. When asked for his opinion about how his new team was going to handle four areas that could make it more difficult for defenders, Schaefer said he has been down this road before and it will be up to him and his coaches to teach their players better.

“Every year, it seems they’re trying to enhance the offensive side of the game,” said Schaefer

Unfortunately, there’s some “Dabnabbit!” drama to report: Brene Moseley out with ACL tear in blow to Maryland women’s basketball team. Moseley offers up a blog entry: “Courage.”

Oklahoma had their own version of “Dabnabbit”: Williams out for season with ruptured Achilles’ tendon

So, did you catch any of the firestorm after UConn Coach Geno Auriemma Says Lower The Rim In Women’s College Game?

“The game hasn’t grown as much as it should in the last 10 years and much of the old guard doesn’t want to hear it,” Auriemma said Monday after taping “Beyond The Beat,” which airs Tuesday on CPTV Sports. “In 2002, we played the Final Four in front of 30,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“Now, 10 years later [2011], we [the women’s Final Four] can’t sell out the Conseco Field House [in Indianapolis]? So how much has the game possibly improved, in terms of how badly people want to see it?”

Auriemma believes one of the ways to increase the game’s appeal is by increasing offensive efficiency.

We know it’s not going to happen because, as Kevin Hoffman (who should learn how to spell Auriemma’s name) of Winning Hoops writes: Lowering Rims In Women’s Hoops A Logistical Nightmare. But there was some interesting (and not interesting) discussion spurred by his comments.

From the Tulsa World: Big 12 women’s basketball notebook: To lower or not to lower

“I really do think his team must be so good that he didn’t have anything to rant about, so he just started talking about lowering the stinkin’ rim,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. ” … You can go to the rec center, and can you go to an elementary gym, a high school gym, you can go to an arena like American Airlines and the goals are 10‑foot tall, and you can shoot on them and get better.

“I don’t think we want to put ourselves in a situation where we have to find a women’s goal so we can get better as players.”

From the New York Times (that can’t be bothered to have a WNBA scoreboard): Idea to Lower Rim for Women’s Basketball Stirs Talk

Other coaches around the country applauded Auriemma’s forward-thinking outspokenness. Most believed an immediate switch would be impractical — considering the number of high school gyms and playgrounds that would need adjusting — but they agreed with his central tenet: more people should be considering ways to improve women’s basketball as an attraction for fans.

“The logistics — I don’t think it’s possible,” Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves said. “But I like the train of thought, I really do.”

From David Whitely at AOLFanhouse: Geno Auriemma’s right: Lowering the rim would help women’s basketball soar higher

Geno Auriemma has coached UConn to seven NCAA women’s basketball titles. He recently guided the U.S. team to a gold medal in the London Olympics.

Now he’s a soldier in the war on women?

From the Connecticut locals: Jeff Jacobs of the Courant talks Raising Rates (Men) Ad Lowering Rims (Women)

Don’t lower the rim of expectations.

We’re not only talking about Geno Auriemma‘s ideas for improving women’s basketball. We’re talking about the academic disaster that was the UConn men’s basketball program in the first decade of the 21st century.

The headlines on UConn athletics have arrived in loud, fascinating national bursts the past few days. Some have painted Auriemma as a visionary for — among several suggestions — arguing that rims should be lowered. Others have painted Auriemma as impractical or even demeaning of women’s abilities.

Mike DiMauro from The Day shoots for another target: Fixing this problem is a layup

Geno Auriemma’s musings from earlier this week, to lower the rim in women’s basketball, has become a cause célèbre within the game. Lots of opinions across the country, again illustrating there is no bigger, better voice for the game anywhere. Never has been, never will be.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to examining whether a lower rim is practical or realistic. An unintended consequence of the debate has been the rise of a peripheral issue which has the game’s intelligentsia in almost lockstep agreement:

Ditch the smaller basketball.

Grumpy Gregg Doyel rants: Lowering rims to boost scoring in women’s hoops? Geno’s math is hideously flawed, basically wasting an entire column of digital ink because he hasn’t the ability to look beyond the surface of the issue that prompts an Auriemma to toss out “lower the rims.”

Kate Fagan, who has admitted she doesn’t watch the women’s game because it’s not like the men’s, chimes in at ESPNw:  Lowering the rims? Um, no, that’s not the answer, mostly because she thinks the game should embrace what it claims to be she doesn’t like, not like the men’s.

On the flip site, Johnette Howard (who needs to learn how to spell coach Summitt’s name) says: Listen to Geno Auriemma; it’s time for change

The irony of any suggestion that Auriemma might be a traitor in women’s basketball’s midst is that his UConn teams are perennially, consistently, and without fail the best example of all the very same traits that women’s game actually loves about itself: selfless passing, constant motion, fundamental soundness, unapologetic competitiveness and an insistence on excellence. It should come as no surprise that Auriemma is a great admirer of Red Holzman’s great Knicks squads, one of the all-time great exemplars of teamwork in sports. And at times, let’s face it, Auriemma has been as neurotic as any female coach about how coaching women rather than men is devalued, and seen as some lesser calling.

But here’s the thing I agree with him on. Women’s basketball has also been rolling out that old John Wooden quote about how much he preferred their game to the men’s for so long it feels older than Wooden was himself. And Auriemma may be the only person in the game with the stones — not just the stature — to look at a troubling aside like the last women’s Final Four in Indianapolis and essentially tell women’s basketball, “Hello? Are you not as concerned about this as I am? It’s time to get over ourselves. This is our wake-up call.

I can get behind that.

Don’t know about you, but I have a feeling of urgency about the future of women’s basketball – both at the college and the pro level. As in, is this it? (You think the non-coverage of the women’s national team was by happenstance?) Yup, Geno was stirring it up again, poking at folks and – admit it – getting women’s college basketball some attention. You don’t like it? Then look to the other coaches in the game and ask them to step up and step out of their comfort zone.

Coach Kim – I dare you to make a statement with your words, not just your clothes (though they’re damn fun). For instance, lead the fight against bullying in women’s basketball – which includes facing down homophobia (and a heavy dose of misogyny) within and without the sport.  Would love to see you face down people like BarefootSerpent who commented: Baylor’s adding a man to their team didn’t boost women’s basketball, so why would lowering the rim?

Coach Coale – I dare you to make a statement with your words (which are beautifully written), not just your shoes. For instance, lead the fight for coverage of the game – both in print, online, on television.

Coach Tara – You may be old school, but you’ve got a program who knows how to rock video world. Tap in to that creativity and dare them to be the “Best Practices” program for all women’s basketball teams – and don’t forget to connect with Mr. Luck in Indy!

Laurel Richie? You better bring it, girl — and I’m not just talking about sponsors (which we appreciate!). Slap some order on your off-the wall franchises and remind the players that it ain’t just about them and a 94′ court. They need to look at the actions of the early WNBAers and say, “I need to match that and more,” ’cause their paycheck is not guaranteed. Just look at what’s happening overseas….they’re not rolling in the dough any more that the W is.

WBCA – I dare you to make a statement and stop being so damn polite. Be an active leader, and don’t worry about whose knickers you put in a twist. Don’t settle for what the NCAA offers, dare to demand more. If you don’t reach for the main course, you’re sure as hell going to be eating table scraps.

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with Jackie Stiles: Coaching. (So, when’s that book coming out, Mechelle?)

A little USTYPT (You stay put) in Cincinnati: Elliot Signs Extension

A little, it closes the book, but it doesn’t end the pain: Memphis native gets 29 years in stabbing death of her MTSU roommate, Tina Stewart

A little “congrats” to the Miami Sol fan’s favorite oh, so black-and-blue player: Former Saint Joseph’s Standout Debbie Black To Be Inducted Into Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Have not been able to confirm rumors that Teresa Weatherspoon will introduce her at the ceremony…. *evil grin*

A little Bears and ‘bama at the White House.

A little, “I’m not done yet!” Cheryl Ford continues basketball comeback – Former Lady Techster to give back to Ruston this weekend.

A little, no, I’m not surprised: Pilypaitis emerges as leader on Canadian women’s basketball team and Gloucester’s Courtnay Pilypaitis is reviving Canada’s hoop dreams

An industrious athlete recognized more for her exceptional work ethic and all-around game rather than star power, Pilypaitis, 23, raised her game to an unprecedented level during the FIBA world Olympic women’s qualifying tournament in Ankara, Turkey earlier this summer. In doing so, she orchestrated her team’s return to the Olympic women’s basketball tournament for the first time in 12 years.

But Pilypaitis almost didn’t make it to Turkey to help land Canada a fifth-place finish and the final berth in the 12-country Olympic tournament.

 

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(make sure you scroll down for the article – the WaPo header in my browsers looks a hot mess) Baylor’s Kim Mulkey dropped the ball on protecting game’s integrity

Just a week after winning a title, Mulkey accepted penalties for an assortment of recruiting violations, most prominently with her 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner. Make no mistake: Baylor’s 40-0 season was less the result of improprieties than of Mulkey’s tireless work, strategic expertise and a vivid, charismatic personality that her players want to follow.

But that’s why the list of petty abuses she committed is so aggravating. Mulkey is positioned as the new standard bearer and bright coaching star of women’s basketball — a role she clearly wants, judging by her glittering outfits — but she just dipped the flag in the mud.

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Staff should have been more careful: Dual roles tough, but Mulkey needed to avoid any conceivable impermissible contact

Women’s basketball, just like any other sport, has its constantly churning rumor mill. And in regard to Baylor’s recruitment of center Brittney Griner, the fact that coach Kim Mulkey’s daughter, Makenzie Robertson, and Griner were on the same DFW Elite Basketball club team, along with other current Baylor players, was grist for the mill during that process.

Thus, the news broken by ESPN.com’s Jason King on Monday that national champion Baylor is facing possible NCAA sanctions — on top of already self-imposed penalties — for violations that include improper contact with Griner and her father during recruiting didn’t completely shock those who follow women’s hoops.

That said, the rumor mill is so active, it seems like out of every 25 or so rumors you hear, one might actually result in NCAA penalties as a consequence. Does that ratio sound bleak? I guess it does, but it’s partly because there really isn’t merit to all the rumors … and partly because the NCAA simply doesn’t have the investigative force to dig into every one of them.

Who knows how the dust will settle, but Richard Deitsch believes the Baylor Lady Bears lead preseason women’s basketball top 10

In more other coaching news: there were rumors of Cynthia Cooper moving to the west coast — she did didn’t get that far. Following on the news that Coach Wells-Broughton was leaving Texas Southern, comes word that Cooper-Dyke has resigned as UNCW women’s basketball coach, and now she’ll be the new women’s coach at Texas Southern. It’s a move that Dan Spears of the “Cheap Seat” wonders about:

It’ll be a return to familiar territory for Cooper-Dyke, who played professionally for the WNBA Houston Comets and got her first collegiate head coaching job at Prairie View A&M, just outside the city.

The biggest question at this point isn’t, “Why” … but “Why Texas Southern?” … The Southwestern Athletic Conference is a clear step below the CAA as far as level of play, facilities, etc.

In other coaching news, the Hustle Belt is Digging Deep Into Eastern Michigan’s NCAA Violations

As many of you well know, AnnMarie Gilbert — formerly the head women’s basketball coach at Eastern Michigan — resigned recently amid mention that an investigation of the NCAA violations that had been committed last season was still ongoing. Suss himself expressed surprise at this move, given a) the incredible success Gilbert has had as coach (.595 win pct.) and b) the seemingly tame nature of the violations — that the team had regularly gone over the NCAA rule of no more than four hours per day and 20 hours per week of basketball related activities (practice, film, games).

I was initially going to reference a recent espnW article titled “The Glass Wall” about how Title IX has been a boon for women’s athletics everywhere but in the coaching ranks, and how reading that article made me wonder if Gilbert might ever coach again now that she has temporarily stepped away.

I still have that same wonder, and I still strongly urge you to read the article, but my focus is no longer the same — I’m now wondering if Gilbert deserves to coach again.

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From Jason King at ESPN: Baylor faces possible sanctions

The men’s and women’s basketball programs at Baylor University are facing possible NCAA sanctions following an investigation that uncovered more than 1,200 impermissible phone calls and text messages during a 29-month span.

Men’s coach Scott Drew, women’s coach Kim Mulkey and their assistants, were involved in the impermissible phone calls and texts. ESPN.com obtained a copy of the summary disposition, which was produced by the NCAA enforcement committee and Baylor.

 

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Speaking of the Final Four, from the NCAA (who can borrow my copy editor any time they want): Final Four rousing success – Title-game ratings highest since UConn, Tennesee (sic) in 2004

’cause it’s never too early to start talking about next season: Baylor planning for another perfect run

’cause there are still basketball tournaments goin’ on: Bianca Cuevas of Nazareth Regional HS and Exodus AAU team serves as face of the Rose Classic basketball tournament – Tournament officially begins next week

Following in the footsteps of such players as Prince — now playing overseas — and Prahalis — likely on her way to the WNBA — Cuevas, a sophomore at Nazareth Regional HS, has taken over as the torchbearer for the Classic, one of the most popular tournaments in the country for high school and AAU teams.

Riquna “BayBay” Williams shut down all her social media accounts for the time being and is not checking any women’s basketball sites on the Internet. The WNBA Draft is April 16, and Williams, the University of Miami senior guard, would rather not know what people are saying.

She realizes there might be questions out there after the school suspended her from the first two games of the NCAA Tournament for “behavior detrimental to the team.” Neither she nor coach Katie Meier have elaborated on what happened. Williams said it doesn’t help to think or talk about the past.

She’s a WNBA champion, but did you know this: : How I Found DonorsChoose

It was 2011 and it was the lowest point in my career; I was a WNBA All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist, but ACL surgery had stolen my body. In the midst of trying to get it back, I was forced to have an emergency hysterectomy. I didn’t make the world championship team. My father was diagnosed with MS. We missed the playoffs (again). Mentally and physically, I was struggling.

It was in my exit meeting that my Minnesota Lynx coach, Cheryl Reeves, challenged me: “What do you want your legacy to be?”

Speaking of the WNBA, Nate’s letting no moss grow anywhere as he has his 2012 WNBA Draft Prospects: Natalie Novosel & Evaluating Shooting Guard Statistics <

Hoopfeed has a new podcast that might offer insight into prospects: Dishin & Swishin 4/05/12 : WNBA coaches Agler, Kloppenburg & House break down the NCAA championship game.

This headline over at Swish Appeal made me laugh: Kim Mulkey, 2012 National Champions: “Well, you know at Baylor, they used to not let the Baptists dance. I bet they’re dancing now!”  At the Final Four, I sat in front of a newbie to basketball Baylor fan. She was very cute and wonderfully enthusiastic. She was joined by a friend on Tues, who then made the comment of the tourney during a timeout when the Bayor band/cheerleaders/dance team were performing: “I never thought I’d see Baylor girls dancing like that!”

Speaking of winning and Griner and the Olympics: Lisa Leslie says Brittney Griner deserves to be on the Olympic Roster

Speaking of the Olympics, regular readers of the blog will be pleased to know this: Jo Leedham from Little Sutton gets call for Olympic training

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on the Baylor win. Some of it fabulous, some of it not so.

The fabulous:

John Henderson at the Denver Post: Baylor beats Notre Dame to win title with 40-0 season

Debates will rage in women’s college basketball circles about the greatest women’s team in history. The 2012 Baylor edition will definitely be in the discussion. But there’s no debate over the winningest college team, period, men’s or women’s.

Woody Paige, also at the Post: Baylor Lady Bears do their best work in triplicate

Odyssey, Destiny and Brittney — seems like the title of an epic Greek poem by Homer, or the main characters in a classic French novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Odyssey, Destiny and Brittney, in reality, are the Three Bears who led Baylor on an extraordinary, unparalleled fairy-tale adventure in college basketball.

From Jerome Solomon at the Houston Chronicle: Baylor’s title win a perfect ending

Her face drooping uncontrollably, ears ringing uncomfortably and eyes blood-red from the Bell’s palsy she has battled the last week, Kim Mulkeywas as animated as ever on the Baylor bench. Or rather near it.

The Baylor women’s basketball coach never sat down. She never does. Not while is she is working.

Her team plays like she coaches.

From Christopher Dempsey at the Denver Post: Foul trouble, lack of size doomed Notre Dame in loss to Baylor

Notre Dame’s breaking point came eerily — and excruciatingly for the Fighting Irish — at nearly the same time that it did a year ago.

Last year, as Notre Dame famously emphasized in recent days, it collapsed starting at the 15:52 mark in the second half against Texas A&M. It cost the Fighting Irish the national title.

This season, the erosion began at 15:27 on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

From Curt at the South Bend Tribune: Griner, Baylor too much for Irish

It was never a question of heart.

Notre Dame‘s women’s basketball team had that throughout Tuesday night’s national championship game against Baylor.

But the Fighting Irish didn’t have an answer for Baylor’s 6-foot-8 consensus player of the year, Brittney Griner.

Al Lesar adds: Hard not to hurt for Novosel

Frustration, thy name is Natalie Novosel.

Great career. Amazing season. Nightmare finish.

From K Pritle at the Lariat & New York Times: For Baylor, Business Is Finished

The Baylor Lady Bears took care of what they referred to as “unfinished business” when they defeated Notre Dame, 80-61, on Tuesday night.

“Now you can see we did something,” sophomore Odyssey Sims said.

Baylor is the first team in N.C.A.A. Division I history to finish the season with 40 victories, doing it with the top R.P.I. in the nation.

Jere’ at the Times has Griner Joins the Greats of the Game

On Tuesday, Griner delivered 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, hitting 8 of her 9 shots in the decisive second half. With a title came a Rushmorean legitimacy, confirmation that Griner in her junior season had joined Nancy Lieberman, Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker as the college game’s greats.

Certainly, Griner is the most disruptive player ever at the defensive end, with a wingspan that stretches to 7-4.

The unfabulous can be read in the unmonitored comments and anonymous tweets that follow Griner, full of stupidity, small-mindedness and the special kind of cruelty that’s called bullying. I find myself calling people out and confronting their meanspiritedness, however useless that sometimes seems.

But the silence of the crowd is what a bully counts on. By being silent, I, the WBCA, the NCAA, college coaches and their institutions and ESPN (for their non-monitored message board) are complicit.

So, I guess the question is, “What next?” Do we ask universities and colleges to adopt an anti-bullying Bill of Rights?

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Mechelle: Baylor is first to go 40-0 – After falling short last year, Lady Bears make sure to finish their business in 2012

This journey of perfection started in earnest in March 2011 when a furious and frustrated Baylor women’s basketball team made the bus ride home from its Elite Eight loss in Dallas.

“It was horrible,” Baylor star center Brittney Griner said. “But now, this plane ride back tomorrow? It’s going to be jumping. They’re going to have to tell us to sit down in our seats.”

When eventual champion Texas A&M defeated Baylor last year, it stung the Lady Bears like a nest of hornets. Just one thing could make it better: an NCAA title this season. Tuesday, Baylor earned that emphatically, beating Notre Dame 80-61 in the final behind 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots from Griner, the Final Four’s most outstanding player.

From Michelle: Mulkey’s spirit shows in Lady Bears – Coach fought through Bell’s palsy to lead Baylor to second title

Her team’s relentless style, its aggression and toughness — it’s all a reflection of Mulkey, who coached the last part of this NCAA tournament with Bell’s palsy, a neurological condition that has left her with paralysis on the left side of her face.

The truth is, it has made her life more difficult but not her job.

The team she had led this far was plenty capable of taking it to the finish line.

And more from Mechelle: Brittney Griner wins her first title

Tuesday, Griner rose to the occasion the way she has all season. Her 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots capped off Baylor’s 40-0 campaign and put her firmly in the spotlight that undeniably has also had a harsh glare sometimes.

After the game, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said when asked to assess Griner’s impact: “I think she’s one of a kind. I think she’s like a guy playing with women. It’s just that there’s so many things that she can do that I’ve not seen a lot of women … well, really, you know there’s been some guards that had some skill like that. But as a post player, she’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

The “guy” part of that quote caused some controversy, much to McGraw’s chagrin. Some people’s reactions to the 6-foot-8 Griner’s athleticism and her physical/vocal characteristics have created an uncomfortable subtext to her story. Comments on message boards and in social media have questioned Griner’s gender.

And, because nothing is simple in women’s basketball: Muffett McGraw clears up comments

Fagan: Sims conducts Baylor victory – Lady Bears point guard neutralizes Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins

Odyssey Sims walked from the end of the bench, found her coach, and wrapped Kim Mulkey in a hug.

Sims didn’t want to miss the end-of-game love Baylor’s coach was freely distributing. Mulkey had just mass substituted, allowing the green-and-gold fans to rain cheers on Baylor’s starters. As those players walked off the court, Mulkey spent a long time whispering into the ear of star center Brittney Griner and guard Kimetria Williams.

The Lady Bears were just a few seconds from their season-long goal of a national championship, and you got the sense Mulkey was exhaling for the first time in awhile. So what if Sims had already fouled out? She wanted her player-coach moment. After all, she certainly deserved it.

Charlie: Baylor caps perfect 40-0 season (How Baylor beat Notre Dame):

TURNING POINT: Devereaux Peters’ foul trouble killed Notre Dame all night, but nothing turned the game like her fourth foul just five minutes into the second half. The Irish had crept to within 42-39 and had the ball. Peters leaned in to set a screen on Hayden and was whistled for a foul. Peters, who had been back in the game for only 2½ minutes, had to go back to the bench. The 3-pointers Odyssey Sims hit on the ensuing possession ruined the Notre Dame momentum, and the Irish never got closer than four the rest of the way. With Peters out, Baylor outscored Notre Dame 19-11, effectively ending the game.

From Graham: Emotional exit for Irish seniors

“That one actually hurt the most, to see Coach that emotional,” Novosel said later. “She cared about it just as much as we did. I knew that already, but just to see the emotion on her face, it’s so hard to feel like you disappointed her.”

Only these seniors could do everything they had over the past four or five seasons and think one night when so little went right for them could leave McGraw disappointed.

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(check out Kim’s site for stuff) but this particular pair of pieces stands out: Kim Mulkey bothered by tauntsand Mechelle’s follow up: On and off court, Griner rises above – From physical play in the paint to personal attacks on the Internet, junior perseveres

Regularly in practice, Baylor makes a point of ganging up on Brittney Griner. She gets pushed and pulled, double- and triple-teamed. There’s no such thing as a foul on her. She’s just supposed to figure out how to deal with it.

The same thing goes, really, when it comes to comments that range from mocking to horribly hateful that are made about Griner on message boards and other public forums. Her teammates, coaches and family tell her not to look at them.

“They don’t want me to, but I still do,” said Griner, who Monday was named winner of the Wade Trophy, the Naismith Player of the Year and the WBCA’s defensive player of the year. “I go search my name sometimes and see what people say. They’ll tell me not to, because people are kind of mean, but it doesn’t bother me.

“I know things they say aren’t true. They are trying to get into my head and try to stop me. It’s not going to work.”

This is bullying. I’d appreciate coaches and the NCAA and the WBCA stepping up and making their voices heard.

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are announced.

And more:

Brittney Griner is AP Player of Year

Kim Mulkey named top coach

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Baylor will feed off Mulkey’s actions – On-court chemistry and leadership from players more important than ever

Mulkey is getting great care, and she will do everything she can to be on the sidelines against Stanford on Sunday in Denver and keep this from being any distraction for the Lady Bears. But the players are human, and one of them is Mulkey’s own daughter, Makenzie. Still, you can bet Mulkey will tell them very convincingly not to worry about her.

All teams tend to get their emotional compasses from their coaches. And in Baylor’s case, Mulkey provides a great deal of confidence. It radiates off her.

Plus, she’s the one who makes the strategic decisions. Some head coaches hand off elements of offense or defense to assistants, to the point of relying on them to be basically in charge of that. There’s nothing wrong with that system; for some programs, it works very well. But at Baylor, while Mulkey listens to her staff, she is always the one who makes the call.

If you missed Mechelle’s chat, check here for the transcript.

Graham Hays on Dailey and Geno: an incredible team – ‘Longest running odd couple in basketball’ has won seven NCAA titles

University of Connecticut associate coach Chris Dailey is either one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in women’s college basketball or its most frequently rehired.

It kind of depends on how seriously you choose to take head coach Geno Auriemma when he talks about the person who, among many duties, works with the Huskies’ post players.

“With this group that we have right now, and our post players and who they are right now, she’s gotten fired at least once every practice, maybe twice every game and she won’t leave,” Auriemma quipped a day after he and Dailey advanced to their 13th Final Four together. “So I’m kind of thinking that she really likes these kids. I was trying like hell to get rid of her because I didn’t think our post players would ever amount to anything this year.”

Debbie and Beth have their Final Four Preview Podcast. They talk about the year in review, COY, and All-Americans.

Charlie has his UConn-Notre Dame breakdown and his Stanford-Baylor breakdown.

From Hoopfeed: Final Four coaches preview Denver – Coaches of the Final Four teams talked with the media yesterday about the upcoming weekend giving their opinions on everything from their expectations to how to handle the high altitude of Denver.

Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma

On the altitude
I don’t know what you can do about it. It’s not like there’s one team out there that’s waiting for us, and we’re visiting, and they have a huge advantage. I think all four teams are having to go through similar scenarios. But we’ve talked to our team doctor and he’s let us know how to best prepare for it. I suggested turning the oxygen off in the plane on the way over there for about an hour and get them used to sucking for breath, but he advised us not to do that. So I guess we’ll have to deal with it when we get there.

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