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There’s a vocal constituency that’s mighty cranky about coach McCallie’s coaching and post-game style. One can only imagine what they’ll say now that #16 Duke has lost three in a row. This time Georgia Tech was the topple-er, beating Duke for the first time since February,  1994.

For what it’s worth, if Duke can’t handle #15 North Carolina at home on March 1, they will match the four-loss streak that ended the ’93-94 season. Perhaps the Blue Devils can take some comfort in the fact that UNC barely escaped Virginia – needing a last-second putback to avoid overtime.

Speaking of upsets – HUGE win for St. Peter’s. Patty Coyle’s team took down Marist, 66-58.

Yes, I’m calling this an upset: Wake Forest got its second ACC win by defeating Miami, 60-59 on freshman Amber Campbell‘s second buzzer-beater of the season.

#19 Stanford traipsed into Corvallis and said, “No, #7 Beavers, thou shalt not take down this Tree and use it as a torch. Cardinal win, 69-58, handing Oregon State their first home loss this season. BTW, missed this tidbit: OSU’s current total of 25 wins in the most in school history.

Just when you think Gary Blair’s got his team figured outMizzou’s Maddie Stock nails a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 70-69 win over #12 Texas A&M.

Georgia showed a little more fight, but Tennessee prevailed, 70-59. The loss of Izzy seems to have made the Ledger’s Dave Link a little anxious: Lady Vols seem to be slipping off national stage

Speaking of fight: let’s talk Richmond battling back to take #22 Georgetown into OT. The Spiders ran out of steam, though, and were outscored 14-2 in the extra five. Colonials win, 81-69.

And still speaking of fight – ya, Wisconsin is 8-19, but these last few games they’ve proven to be a tough out. #17 Iowa escapes, 78-74. That’s the 300th career win for coach Bluder.

Glad Debbie wasn’t on hand to call this one:#13 Kentucky was just able to keep ahead of Arkansas, 56-51. 

I’m guessing Maryland got a bit more of a fight than expected from Indiana, but the Terps prevailed, 83-72, earning their 20th straight win as Laurin Mincy scored 28pts, a career high.

Florida State made sure North Carolina State wouldn’t repeat their upset ways. In front of the largest home crowd in four years, it was the Seminoles over the Wolfpack, by 20. Their 26 regular season wins ties the school record. One more game to break it: season finale at Miami.

Both coach Frese and Semrau are on the latest Dishin and Swishin podcast.

In the Sun Belt, Arkansas Little-Rock, Arkansas State and Troy kept rollin’.

So did #2 South Carolina.

So did #4 Notre Dame, who shot a breathtaking 62% against Pittsburgh. Mechelle has a little something on The Jewell:

In our best Marlon Brando voice, we’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Settle into your seats, indulge in some popcorn … and read about the Jewell Loyd movie marathon experience. Hope you don’t mind if the line between film hero and villain is sometimes a little ambiguous.

“‘The Godfather’ is kinda our family movie,” Loyd, the Notre Dame junior guard, said of her parents, older brother and herself. “I like the concept of family, loyalty and getting the job done.”

Then Loyd laughed and added, “Obviously, we’re not going to be beating anyone up or anything.”

Loyd took part in a bit of “reel talk” recently at espnW’s request, as she’s a film, television and theater major at Notre Dame.

Jewell’s coach talks about Fighting Through February.

“February is a grind,” McGraw said before a recent home game at Purcell Pavilion. “You’re ready for the tournaments to begin, you want to see where you’re going to finish and what the seeds are going to look like, but you know you have to get through February to get to March.”

#20 Rutgers’ return to anemic offense and inability to defend doomed them against #25 Northwestern, 80-60. Kinda makes ya wonder, can ya justify C. Vivian Stringer making $1.6M in 2014?

Of note: the Knights’ loss, combined with Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska on Tuesday, means that Ohio State’s 88-70 win over Penn State moves the Buckeyes up into fourth place in the B10 standings. Seems like the Ohio State is not interested in waiting till next year to be good.

You know what’s notable about Tom Keegan’s column, End nearing for Bonnie Henrickson? The thoughtful, informed comments.

Ah, the joys of Senior Night and a reviving program: Making her first start of the season, senior Teneka Whittaker set career highs with 16 points and eight rebounds to help Rhode Island to a 68-53 win over St. Louis. With the victory, Rhode Island has clinched at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2003-04.

Speaking of reviving: Hello, Hawai’i! Big West champs. First time in 21 years. Nice job, third-year coach Beeman.

Not only has #24 Cal inched its way back in to the rankings, but their 74-59 victory over Oregon gave coach Lindsay Gottlieb her 100th win at Cal. She’s the quickest to the milestone in program history.

This is nice news to read on a cold February day: Lauren Hill makes it through full season despite tumor

The Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team held its postseason banquet in a hospital room warmed by Lauren Hill’s smile.

The 19-year-old freshman made it through a full season while raising more than $1.3 million for research into the type of brain tumor that will likely end her life. She’s occasionally hospitalized for treatment now, but still holding to each day as tightly as she can and urging others to appreciate their time together.

A little W news from Lois Elfman: Epiphanny Prince returning to her Brooklyn roots

“To be able to come home and try to win the championship with my home team and do it in front of my family and friends is very exciting for me,” said Prince, 27, who made her Madison Square Garden debut at age 12, playing a halftime exhibition at a Knicks game, and won four PSAL titles with the Murry Bergtraum Lady Blazers. She’s played five seasons with the Chicago Sky, which went to the WNBA Finals last year.

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what might be…

Top 25 celebrates 20th anniversary as writers poll

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

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

AP Division I Poll

USA Today Coaches Division I Poll

…and what might have been.

From Tennessee: Lady Vols’ DeShields discusses transfer from UNC

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

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

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

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

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

From Iowa: Iowa State guard Nikki Moody suspended indefinitely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That should suit her four-year players just fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue has been previewing the Pac 12:

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

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

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

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

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

A little WNBA stuff…

Out of Minnesota: Taylor Does Little Things Needed To Win

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

Until she was. 

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

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

Pierson used career crisis as springboard to success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBA rallies around Lauren Hill

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

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

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

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

The game will be streamed:

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

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

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

Lauren Hill’s college basketball debut is here.

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

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

Lauren Hill fundraiser invites schools to donate basketball jerseys for auction

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

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

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

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Wicked early flight meant getting up wicked-er early, so I’m looking forward to a nap soon.

It’s chilly-greening-spring here in Tennessee – 40 or so when we landed, but the Final Four greeter promised us 64 by noon. When you’re in the sun, yes….when you’re not? Brrrrrr!

Easy car pick up, then headed to East Nashville for some breakfast at Marche Artisan Foods. Great service, yummy food…

With time to kill before the hotel opened up, drove into, through and around downtown Nashville. Small and bustling at the center. Different, more concentrated vibe than when I was in Knoxville for the WBHOF induction ceremony a while back. Strong mix of old and new architecture.

Continued our wandering exploration and end up driving past Vanderbilt (yes, as we researched, started by THAT Vanderbilt – hence the “Commodores” nickname.) Did you know the campus was also an arboretum? Did a quick drive through – really, really lovely. Also stopped by Centennial Park to visit the Parthenon and did some walking. Yup, it’s big. Nearby lake is being dredged/cleaned, so that wasn’t so scenic.

It’s early for birds – but there is a list: RobinsBlue Jays, a lone Turkey Vulture, cackling Grackles, some beautiful Bank Swallows, noisy Northern Mockingbird, a gregarious Carolina Wren, and an early Hermit Thrush.

Next on the agenda, the aforementioned nap, then a return to East Nashville to partake of the fare at the Eastland Cafe. Then, we’re off to the Grand Ole Opry!

Phew!

Hoping tomorrow features a visit with a WBHOF inductee, coffee, brunch, barbecue and two fabulous games.

Until them, some more reading (and listening): First, make sure you check out the Tennessean’s coverage:

Fans show love early in Women’s Final Four

Kara Lawson: No favorite between Pat, Geno

Rebecca Lobo: UConn is beatable

Legendary lady Pat Summitt: Pride of Cheatham County

WOOT! WOOT! WBB HISTORY!! Nashville Business College: Champions before their time – LONG BEFORE TENNESSEE AND UCONN, THESE FARM GIRLS DOMINATED WOMEN’S BASKETBALL AND THEIR RECORD IS UNMATCHED TODAY.

Final Four teams have fun at Ryman

UConn’s Dolson, Hartley old hands at Final Four, Post
More Than Anything, Geno Demands Sweat From UConn Women, Courant
More Awards For Stefanie Dolson, Courant
Capsule: No. 1 Seed UConn Women Vs. No. 2 Seed Stanford, Courant
Pictures: Behind The Scenes With UConn Women In Nashville, Courant
It’s a Great Time to be a Husky, Stefanie Dolson

Stanford’s supporting cast stepping up to help Ogwumike, Register
ESPN analyst touts Ogwumike’s pro potential, SFGate
Lawson Says Stanford Has Best Shot At UConn, Hartford Courant

U-Md. abuzz as women’s basketball team heads to Final Four, Washington Post
Nashville already full of Maryland fans, ABC
Majoring in Chemistry, Chloe Pavlech

Before UConn, ND should fear Terps, Observer
Notre Dame Women: Save Your Pity, Blue & Gold
Irish must prove doubters wrong, Kate Fagan
Geno (And USA Basketball) Love Kayla McBride, Hartford Courant

Dishin & Swishin 04/03/14 Podcast: Breaking down the Final Four with coaches Doug Bruno, Lindsay Gottlieb & Coquese Washington, HoopFeed

Duke coach’s analysis of women’s Final Four, Bradenton Herald

In Women’s Final Four, Jousting Before the First Jump Ball, yea! It’s Harvey at the New York Times

Beating UConn rarely leads to title – Most teams that beat UConn in NCAA tourney don’t win NCAA championship, Mechelle Voepel

Rematches story of women’s Final Four, AP Teresa M. Walker

Five minutes with ESPN analyst Kara Lawson, Nashville Business Journal

NCAA hosting women’s hoops summit at Final Four, AP Doug

 

As coach Mitchell cuts to assistant coaches, Sea of Blue is Taking a Moment To Celebrate The Season That Was

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crowds?

Don’t know how it came across on TV, but it seemed the energy and reactions of the fans during the two games mirrored the teams. During the game game between the two young pups, fans were pumped and enthusiastic and energized in a “Wheee! We’re here! We’re a little nervous, but BOY-O, it’s a new experience!”

During the second game between the two old dogs, fans seemed tense and anxious, weighed down by history and expectation. It was as if they were afraid to invest too much in the outcome, since so much seemed already invested. In made for quiet, nervous viewing from both blue and neon-green clad fans.

Anyhoot-and-any, that’s what if felt/looked like from the nosebleeds. Now from the view at court level:

Louisville Women A Step Closer To Goal, Courant
Antonita Slaughter makes it a distance run, Louisville Courier Journal

Louisville women continue to shock college basketball, CardinalSports.com

Analysis: Louisville 64, Cal 57, ESPN

Party crashers? Sorry, Jeff Walz, your team remains the life of this postseason party. 

Louisville’s coach had T-shirts printed up for his traveling party that had “#partycrashers” emblazoned on the back, a reference to his team’s role in denying the Final Four either a final appearance from Brittney Griner or a familiar face in Tennessee. That was the attitude the Cardinals brought with them, an us-against-the-world mentality that invited people to fuel their fire by doubing them. But after a wild second-half comeback and a 64-57 win against California, the Cardinals are going to have to deal with the fact that they’re the life of this party.

At Full Court: Cinderella season continues for Cardinals, ends for Cal

Cal Bears women’s basketball team falls to Louisville in the NCAA semifinals, Mercury News

With Cal stinging from defeat in the semifinals of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, senior Layshia Clarendon immediately offered her teammates positive words to put the 64-57 loss to Louisville in perspective.

“Don’t hang your heads, we’ve come too far,” was the message Clarendon said she delivered to her teammates. “I just can’t help but smile because what we’ve done is beyond amazing.”

Cal comes up just short, San Francisco Gate

Cal disappointed, but not devastated, ESPN

UConn defeats Notre Dame to advance to national title game, Register
Fourth time’s the charm, Day
UConn breaks curse of the Irish, Day
Dolson has become a media star, Day

Dolson is a budding media star, answering questions with corresponding facial expressions and voice intonations that match her wit. When NBC Connecticut’s Dianna Russini asked Dolson about her expectations for New Orleans last week, Dolson shot back, “wait til you see my dress.”

Dolson unloaded a few four-letter words after collapsing to the deck in the regionals last week, fearing her aching legs and feet might have finally endured the big one. She grinned when asked about it later and in a high pitched voice, said, “awkward.”

Stewart has entered rare air, Day
Rich Elliott: New, improved Huskies get better of Irish this time, Post
Kevin Duffy: Freshman Stewart rises to occasion, Post

Twenty nine points later, after an all-time great individual effort, Breanna Stewart was the hero, swarmed by her teammates. It looked, though, that she didn’t want any part in the celebration.

“That’s Stewie,” joked Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. “She’s very emotionless.”

Outwardly, yes. But on the inside, Auriemma suggests that Stewart — who hit the inevitable freshman wall a few months ago — is hardly “emotionless.”

Huskies Break Notre Dame’s Spell, Winning 83-65, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Behold The Metamorphosis Of Breanna Stewart, Courant

As she put her hands about two inches from Auriemma’s hair, fake massaging the most famous coiffure in women’s basketball at the postgame news conference, Stewie, the simultaneously intense and goofball freshman, had shown America this was no joke at all.

“Stewie probably puts as much pressure on herself as any kid I’ve ever coached,” Auriemma said to ESPN after the game. “My God, she was amazing tonight.”

Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Notre Dame In Final Four, Courant
Video: UConn Women At The Final Four, Courant

From Mel: UConn snaps the Notre Dame spell — and gets Louisville’s wizardry next

Huskies Conquer Demons, and Irish, NY Times
UConn’s next star steps to the fore, NCAA.com
Stewart finds stride at right time, ESPN
Huskies turnaround keys: Stewart, defense, ESPN
Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for UConn, USA Today

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish dream denied, South Bend Tribune

“It’s been a dream come true, just having the opportunity to play for my hometown school and right in my backyard for coach (Muffet) McGraw, and just being able to learn from her every day,” Diggins said. “The experiences I’ve gone through, I’ll never forget. The people that I’ve met, I’ll never forget. It was just such a great time, and I had a great time going through it. I wouldn’t want a different group of girls in the locker room, I wouldn’t want a different group of coaches. “Just the people I’ve met … I know they will be a part of my circle of life. That’s just a blessing in itself.”

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Tough way to end a stellar career, South Bend Tribune

Bitter end for Notre Dame, Diggins: Irish’s season, star’s career finished at the hands of rival UConn, Chicago Tribune

Diggins denied, but still a winner, ESPN

Diggins ends legendary collegiate career, The Observer

Skylar Diggins exits stage as UConn advances to title game, Sports Illustrated

“We were a Sweet Sixteen team before she came here, and suddenly, we became a Final Four team,” said McGraw, teary-eyed in the Notre Dame locker room. “That changes the perspective nationally. Certainly, she is the main focus behind that. I hope there’s another one out there, but I think she’s one in a million.”

UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women, Louisville Courier Journal

Five thoughts for Tuesday’s final, ESPN

Queenie has some Notes, observations, and random things from New Orleans.

And in shocking news: BREAKING: Jeff Walz To Resign After Title Game To Work For Geno

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for the first time since 2004.

Graham reflects: Since the last time we were in New Orleans …

Let’s see, the last time the women’s basketball world gathered in New Orleans for a Final Four, Andy Landers and Georgia lost a regional final played in the state of Washington; Duke lost a regional final in Norfolk, Va; Tennessee lost a regional final against a program that wore a lot of yellow and had never reached a Final Four; and Connecticut extended a long streak of semifinal appearances without having to leave the Nutmeg State in the first four rounds.

 Oh, and the Phoenix Mercury were expected to use the No. 1 pick on a player with both uncommon ability and mass name recognition. 

So, um, clearly a great deal has changed since 2004.

But if some things stay the same, there are at least a few ways in which women’s basketball looks different on this visit to New Orleans.

Graham sings Kayla’s praises: Irish in good hands with McBride

One of college basketball’s more perplexing puzzles involves finding a shot Kayla McBride can’t hit.

Hand in her face? Please, you’re going to have to do better than that. Off-balance jumper from a tough angle? Child’s play for the Notre Dame junior. On the move, in traffic — with the shot clock winding down? Been there and done that.

But while opposing defenders and coaches have largely come up empty this season, freshman Jewell Loyd long ago discovered her teammate’s shot-making kryptonite.

Congrats to Sky: Diggins Named the 2013 Nancy Lieberman Award: Top Point Guard

From Curt: Big East goes out in style

Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. West Virginia already left for the Big 12.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova split away from the Big East, but took the name with them.

Rutgers, in another season, is heading for the Big Ten. Louisville, in another season, is going to the ACC.

Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida are staying in the league, welcoming in, among others, Southern Methodist, Memphis and Tulane. The league will have a new name, the American Athletic Conference.

But the last hurrah for the current Big East Conference in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament promises to be remarkable.

A little number counting from Norfolk: Notre Dame, Duke helped Norfolk Regional draw animated crowd

Jim Fuller writes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has become much more than just a shooter

There was no questioning that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ majestic jump shot was going to be her calling card the moment she arrived on UConn’s campus.

However, even after a brilliant debut season where she set the program record for most points by a freshman, the sweet-shooting Mosqueda-Lewis was clamoring for so much more.

In case you need it, John Altavilla has a Short Refresher On The UConn Vs. Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Rivalry

Clay at Full Court thinks that, UConn-Notre Dame: Just this once, tactics may trump talent

From the Cal Bear blog: 

Observing Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her players this afternoon was a good illustration of just how far women’s basketball has come.

Gottlieb and her five starters spent two hours at New Orleans Arena today going through a series of interviews and photo shoots to promote the Final Four. It was attention fit for royalty, and the Bears appeared to have a lot of fun doing it.

Elliott says, Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb knew destination early

The Mama Bear has used a gentle touch to get her players to believe in each other like a family. It has helped the Cal women survive two overtime games to reach their first Final Four in history — and 53 years after the last appearance by the men’s team.

“She’s always been a people person,” older sister Chris Gottlieb said. “Since she was a kid bouncing around with a ponytail, it was ‘everybody loves Lindsay.’ “

Elliott and Stephanie Hammon add, Confidence is soaring for Cal women’s team

Clay also is busy Breaking down Cal and Louisville

As for the Louisville articles: *crickets* Nice Job, Kentucky papers.

Looking to the future:

A Moc is now a Wolfpack: NC State hires Wes Moore as coach

Sooners return three starting guards next season

And, from FOB Ellyn, this cool news:

‘Throwing open the door’ for female athletes

Lincoln Presidential Library explores the growth of women’s basketball in Illinois through oral histories

SPRINGFIELD – With basketball fever in the air, it’s easy to forget that the thrill of the game was denied to many Illinois girls less than 40 years ago. A new oral history project by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum chronicles the early struggles for girls and young women who wanted to play basketball.

Illinois didn’t host its first state high school basketball tournament for girls until 1977, five years after Congress passed Title IX. That landmark education law succeeded in “throwing open the door” to growth in girls’ and women’s sports, dramatically changing American culture.

The oral history project – entitled “What About the Character of the Girls?: Girls’ and Women’s Basketball in Illinois, 1968-1977” – includes 18 interviews, with many more to come. Participants include Sue Strong, whose Sterling team won the state’s first girls’ basketball tournament; Jill Hutchison, the winningest basketball coach in Illinois State University history; Linda Gollan, the first girls’ basketball coach at Hinsdale South High School, and Lorene Ramsey, former head coach at Illinois Central College.

The title of the project comes from Ramsey, who was only allowed access to the gym one day a week when she was coaching in Pekin decades ago. Her request for more gym time was turned down by administrators who said sports helped develop the character of boys. Ramsey responded by writing “What about the character of the girls?” in red letters across the rejection memo and sending it back to the school’s athletic director.

The oral histories can be heard at http://tinyurl.com/GirlsBasketballHistory. Additional oral histories are featured at www.OralHistory.illinois.gov.

The interviews were conducted by Ellyn Bartges, who knows firsthand about the difficulties facing female athletes. Bartges played in Illinois’ very first girls’ high school basketball tournament. She later coached basketball and softball at the collegiate and high school levels. Her own memories are part of the project, thanks to an interview conducted by Mark DePue, head of the oral history project at the Lincoln Presidential Library.

“These interviews capture an extraordinary time in the history of Illinois and the nation,” Bartges said. “Women, joined by some forward-thinking men, were working hard to give girls something that is taken for granted today – the same athletic opportunities that boys routinely enjoy.”

Bartges began conducting the interviews while working on her master’s degree at Western Illinois University. The project originally focused on the Illinois scene but expanded to incorporate stories from throughout the country while Bartges pursued her Ph.D. in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Illinois. The interviews now include people who influenced or impacted players and coaches in Illinois.

Bartges is now an affirmative action administrator at St. Cloud State University. She is available for interviews at320-308-5123 or via email at elbartges@stcloudstate.edu.

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In Louisville land: Mayor Declares Friday ‘Cardinal Red Day’

Mayor’s been busy: Louisville mayor bets bourbon on NCAA games

John Roach notes: Final Four ‘party crasher’ Louisville enjoys its run

From the Courier-Journal: Louisville women’s basketball team moving into elite company

Since 2009, six women’s basketball teams have made multiple appearances in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.

The University of Louisville joined that sorority with Tuesday night’s 86-78 victory over Tennessee to capture the Oklahoma City Regional. Connecticut, Notre Dame, Baylor, Stanford and Oklahoma are the only other programs to reach the sport’s premier stage twice in the past five years.

To put that in perspective, U of L (28-8) has enjoyed more recent NCAA Tournament success than Tennessee.

Stefanie Dolson is bloggin’: Off to New Orleans!

So’s Elena Delle Donne: I followed my heart, and it worked out

So’s Layshia Clarendon: We’re ready for beignets — and the Final Four

From the AP’s Janie McCauley (really short piece): Gottlieb’s upbeat approach leads Cal to Final Four

From the SF Examiner: Lindsay Gottlieb making remarkable impact on Cal in just her second year

Consider Barbour’s two big hires: Mike Montgomery and Lindsay Gottlieb. Montgomery’s men’s basketball team has reached the NCAA Tournament four times in his five years at Cal and Gottlieb’s women’s basketball team is getting ready to tip off in the program’s first Final Four appearance against Louisville on Sunday.

Montgomery’s success isn’t exactly surprising, but who other than Barbour believed that this fresh-faced 35-year-old from the East Coast would lead Cal to the Final Four in her second season at the helm?

This is a truly remarkable accomplishment and the exposure should elevate the program for years to come.

From Michelle: Now introducing … the California Golden Bears: Five things you should know about the upstart Bears

From Stephanie Hammon at the Contra Costa Times: Cal women basketball team prepares for Louisville, Final Four trip

From Curt at the SBT: Teammates get Diggins’ message

“I wear my emotions on my sleeve,” Diggins said. “I’ve always been a player who is very emotional. I think that gets my teammates going. When you have that look, people understand. ‘Oh, you better bring it.’ It gets my team energized, it gets the fans energized. It gets the coaching staff calm, because they know they can trust me. It gets me fired up. I don’t know if I do it for me or my team.”

Mike Lopresti at USA Today says there’s Nothing friendly but coaches in women’s UConn-Irish tilt

Rich Elliott says UConn’s Hartley thrives in new role off UConn bench

“Every decision you make, you make it with your fingers crossed and you hope that it works,” Auriemma said. “This particular decision, it was, `Hey Bria, we need some energy coming off the bench. We need some scoring. We need to change the way the game is played.’ You don’t know whether Bria is going to pout a little bit and feel sorry for herself and not be sure. But she’s come out and done exactly what we want her to do.”

Carl Ademac says Faris is getting what she deserves

Dueling writers:

From the Times-Picayune: 2013 Women’s Final Four features good storylines even without Baylor

From the Connecticut Post: No Griner a serious hit to Final 4 star power

The APs Brett Martel notices that the Old Big East is going out with a bang at women’s Final Four

Three of the four teams — Connecticut, Louisville and Notre Dame — hail from a league that has long thrived in both women’s and men’s college basketball, but which is breaking apart after this season.

“I guess the shout-out should go out to all the (university) presidents for having the foresight to tear apart the greatest basketball conference that ever existed,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma sarcastically said during a women’s Final Four coaches conference call Wednesday, noting that two teams in the men’s Final Four (Louisville and Syracuse) also are from the Big East. “But I guess it’s a great swan song.

Wondering What’s the buzz on Bourbon Street? Ask Charlie.

Mechelle has Five trendy topics for New Orleans

UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw are regulars. Louisville’s Jeff Walz has done this once before. Cal’s Lindsay Gottlieb is the boundlessly enthusiastic rookie.

All four spoke Wednesday during the annual Women’s Final Four coaches’ teleconferences, during which media are always scrambling for nuggets before everyone heads to the city where the national champion will be crowned.

This time around, fortunately, we had only one question about the ridiculous Brittney Griner/NBA nonstory. Auriemma got tossed that grenade, and he smothered it expertly. (Note to Mark Cuban: Here’s something about which we’d actually like to hear a “Why not give it a chance?” answer from you: owning a WNBA team.)

From Mechelle’s chat:

…does anybody else find it a little absurd – if that’s the right word – that we’re talking about whether Louisville’s women’s team – the No. 5 seed – was allowed to be too rough with Griner in the NCAA tournament and that disrupted her … and then supposedly also “debating” whether Griner could make an NBA roster right now?

Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli discuss the road to the Final Four on their podcast.

From Dishin’ and Swishin’: Doug Bruno of DePaul breaks down the three Big East teams, and Kevin McGuff of Washington breaks down Cal. 

Going to join me in New Orleans? Here’s the 2013 Women’s Final Four schedule of events

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

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

These Cal Bears just don’t quit.

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

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

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

From the AP:

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

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

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

From the Daily Californian:

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

Seung Lee adds: A new era begins for California basketball

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

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

Then it all just clicked at the most pivotal time.

From the Spokesman Review: Gritty Bears in Final Four

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

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

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

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

Writes Michelle:

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

Even her coach follows her lead.

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

How far exactly? To New Orleans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Said coach Landers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huskies advance to Final Four, Daily Campus

UConn 83, Kentucky 53, ESPN

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

Stewart leads way for UConn, ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now the questions start.

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

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

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

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

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