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

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

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

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

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedetti did well.

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

Said coach Thurston post-game:

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

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

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

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

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

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

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

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

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

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More proof that the “There are no upsets in women’s basketball” narrative is wicked false….

In a *notreallyastunningupset* #14 Florida State got a big lead on #4 Louisville, and then held on for a 5-point win.

The real stunner was Boston College over #15 Duke, 60-56. The Eagles are 9-10 on the season and 1-5 in the ACC.

Duke once again failed to gain its first road win of the year, and the previously 0-5 in the ACC Eagles represented one of Duke’s best chances to do so. The Eagles confidently executed their game plan, played to their strengths, minimized their weaknesses and got contributions across the board from their entire roster. Duke adjusted slowly to BC’s strategies, committed sloppy turnovers, missed easy shots and gave a struggling opponent just enough daylight to dig out a big win. The Devils will need to rethink strategies and hope that they can get Oderah Chidom back from injury before they play UNC in Chapel Hill.

#22 Georgia over #10 Texas A&M in a barn burner, 54-51.

Purdue took down #21 Minnesota in OT, 90-88.

Tussles:

Pittsburgh gave #23 Syracuse a run for their money, but the Orange prevailed 68-60.

#12 North Carolina had to come back to secure a win against NC State, 67-63.

Michigan kept it close, but #20 Iowa prevailed in the end, 76-70.

Squeak!

#18 Mississippi State escaped in-state rival Ole Miss, 64-62.

#24 Western Kentucky topped UTEP, 80-74.

Green Bay over Cleveland State, 65-61

Its head-to-head dominance notwithstanding, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team faced an opponent Thursday night that doesn’t make winning come easy.

“Cleveland State plays us tough every time we play them, whether it’s here or there,” said UWGB coach Kevin Borseth, taking a sigh of relief after another close call.

Takin’ care of business:

#7 Maryland over Michigan State, 85-56.

#5 Tennessee over LSU, 75-58. Ballard scored 15, but the Vols shot over 55%.

Nebraska over Wisconsin, 89-72.

#6 Notre Dame over Georgia Tech, 89-76.

Play a clunker and still win by a baker’s dozen.

That’s the mark of a good basketball team.

The Notre Dame women’s 89-76 win over Georgia Tech Thursday night was the start of a six-game stretch in which the Irish will have to challenge themselves, to likely make up for what they won’t see from their opponent.

Quinnipiac over Marist, 73-55.

James Madison over William & Mary, 92-50.

It was kinda ugly, but Gonzaga moved to 8-0 in the WCC with a 10-point win over Saint Mary’s.

Reversal of fortunes: Vermont goes down to Maine, 74-46. The Catamounts are now 0-6 in the American East – the Black Bears are 5-1. Has Stephen King noticed yet?

Arkansas Little-Rock – the folks who beat LSU and lost to Tulane – are now 8-0 in the Sun Belt.

The Kennesaw State Owls started strong, but the A-Sun is tough sailing. They go down to Stetson, 75-64. And yes, the Eagles are still 4-0 in-conference and guess who they face next: Da Owls.

Phew: Penn State got its first conference win, 79-75 over Indiana.

The Debbie Antonelli special comes to us via double overtime: McNeese State over Incarnate Word, 104-101.

Just plain stupidAlabama and Auburn women’s basketball players brawl

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Don’t let Rebecca Lobo say anything nice about your team… Tennessee visits Jim Foster’s Mocs in Chattanooga and boom, down goes the #4 team in the country. Coach Warlick must have been having deja vu all over again.

Other than that, it’s sorta been a quiet week in Lake Womensbasketball, though New Mexico DID try and steal Texas’ thunder by taking down Stanford. Cardinal escaped, though, with a five-point win.

LSU is still having a really, really tough season. They fell to Santa Clara, 69-67.

Ditto with Penn State, who lost to the Bonnies, 56-54.

Notre Dame is just stomping everybody. And, btw, shame on you, South Bend Tribune. The Irish football team ain’t ranked. The Irish men’s basketball team ain’t ranked. But the Irish women’s basketball team is ranked #2 in the country with an amazing player in Loyd and an up-and-coming star in Turner… and you drop the fabulous and respected Curt Rallo. I guess you figure fans would rather read about a bunch of men losing than read about a bunch of women winning. That’s just sad.

Yes, they defeated the Hilltoppers to win the pre-season WNIT. Yes, they’re 5-0. And yes, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, I understand “Why you need to be paying attention to Mississippi State women’s basketball this year.” But the #24 Bulldogs had a hot start last year, too…let’s talk  after the Jan 2 game v. #22 Georgia.

Speaking of Western Kentucky, they kept even with Louisville in the second half. It was the first half that did them in. And Bria Smith’s triple-double. Cardinals win, 89-67.

Duke is 4-0. True, they haven’t really faced anyone significant, and perhaps they enjoy “flying below the radar,” but they have a nice set of games coming up: TAMU, Nebraska, South Carolina. I’d suggest they not overlook an improving Stony Brook, even though it is at Cameron.

Ouch. Don’t count the Gauchos amongst the UC teams having a good year. They’re 0-5.

Wow. Hampton AND Howard are both 0-fer?

Not to get ahead of myself, but #21 Rutgers DID score 81 points in their win. Over Wagner.

Penguins win!!

That was win number 600 for coach McKeown.

Penn might not be as strong as they were last season, but the still smacked New Hampshire, giving the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

While San Diego State is not having much fun this year, San Diego is. With their defeat of Montana State, the Torreros move to 4-0 atop the WAC. And yes, that’s San Francisco lurking behind them at 4-1.

Little bit of a reality check for the Wolf Pack, as the Green Wave of Tulane dealt them their first loss of the season, 60-51.

Yes, that’s Marist starting the season 0-3. And St. John’s starting 3-0.

Elon is 4-0 for the first time in 17 years.

Haven’t seen much talk about the #10 Terps, mostly ’cause they haven’t been challenged early in their schedule. Fun game opening game for them in San Juan – James Madison. (Notre Dame’s up on December 3rd). Graham has Green Bay ahead of the Dukes in his Mid-Majors poll.

Streaking the Lawn is happy – Virginia has started off well.

Michelle and Mechelle talk South Carolina, Stanford and Texas.

When I had more time, readers knew all about the fabulously strong program at Amherst. Now more know about it: Amherst women break UConn’s record

A little W off season stuff:

Chillin’ in Chile with Candice Wiggins.

Delaware 87ers hire Elena Delle Donne as spokeswoman

On a completely different note, an offering for this Thanksgiving weekend:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That part might be tricky to replicate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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coach Hatchell and player/coach Staley: Naismith Hall of Famers.

Congrats to McGraw, Griner and Warlick: Award winners.

About that basketball game tonight:

Sally’s here! Louisville women’s basketball might have one more stone for its slingshot

Louisville women’s basketball Coach Jeff Walz babbles with a rapid-fire stutter and promises to blaze away from the three-point line. His star player, Shoni Schimmel, is a round cherry bomb of a kid, with her bright red uniform and explosive, shredding play. Do the Cardinals have no sense of gravity nor decorum at this women’s NCAA Final Four? Apparently not. “Why not go out with a bang?” Schimmel said.

Rachel Whittaker at the Times-Picayune: Three keys to victory in Tuesday’s women’s basketball national championship

Swish Appeal offers Louisville help Finding the ‘perfect’ gameplan to beat UConn in the 2013 National Championship

And a ton of other stuff (thanks Nan!)

UConn one step from eighth national title, Post
UConn women’s game day: Tuesday vs. Louisville, Post
UConn vs. Louisville: Who has the edge?, Post
ESPN analyst Lobo breaks down UConn-Louisville, Post
Auriemma, Huskies, See UConn’s Eighth Title Ready For The Taking, Courant
National Championship Game: Louisville Vs. UConn, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Auriemma And Walz? Wiseguys, But Good Fellows, Courant
Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame, Register
UConn vs. Louisville gameday capsule, Register
Huskies want title for senior trio, Hour
NCAA Women’s Championship Game Preview Capsule, Hour

Dolson playing through pain in UConn’s quest for the title, Daily Campus
The different worlds of Walz and Auriemma, Daily Campus
Louisville’s Jeff Walz on how to beat UConn, Daily Campus
Louisville squads bond over dual title opportunity, Daily Campus

Hartley, UConn Head To The Finals, Deer Park-North Babylon Patch
Full Interview: Breanna Stewart’s high school coach talks about former player’s success at UConn, CNY Central
Greg Stokes’ daughter Kiah reaches NCAA title game for UConn, Des Moines Register
Better than the sum of the parts, NCAA.com

Overheard in New Orleans, ESPN

Who will hoist the NCAA trophy?, ESPN
Admiration, comedy between rival women’s title game coaches, New Orleans Times Picayune
2013 Women’s Final Four championship breakdown, Louisville vs. UConn, New Orleans Times Picayune
Expectations not fully met in Women’s Final Four semifinals, New Orleans Times Picayune

Once again, Louisville is the underdog, Full Court
Louisville women plan to pour cold water on UConn’s latest title run, Louisville Courier Journal
UConn’s Auriemma says Huskies didn’t sneak into tournament despite not winning Big East, Louisville Courier Journal

Got this one right — unfortunately, Providence Journal
John Adams: UConn one big victory shy of Lady Vols, Knoxville News Sentinel

About those teams already getting ready for next year: 

It’s official: Clemson hires UAB’s Audra Smith as its new women’s basketball coach 

Audra Smith knows how to succeed as a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She’s eager to do it again as Clemson’s new women’s basketball coach.

Smith, the former Virginia player who spent the past nine years as UAB’s head coach, was hired to take over the Tigers’ struggling program Monday and make an impact in the already tough and soon-to-be beefed up ACC.

It’s optimistic: Moore’s arrival at NC State offers link to successful women’s basketball era under Kay Yow

No one has to tell new coach Wes Moore how important it is for North Carolina State to have a successful women’s basketball program.

Moore spent two years here in the 1990s as an assistant to late Hall of Famer Kay Yow, giving him roots in a tradition-rich program that has fallen off in recent years. It’s his job to build the Wolfpack back up again to a team that routinely finishes in the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference and makes the NCAA tournament.

It’s prophetic?: Cal on map, recognition should follow

It’s historical (and starts out with a huge error, but….) Remembering All American Red Heads, traveling women’s basketball team

 

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From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: Interesting memories of 2009 title game for Monique Reid
and former Husky recruit Hammond has no regrets
and Caroline Doty, Louisville’s Monique Reid brace for national title game

As they prepare to play their final collegiate basketball games when UConn and Louisville square off Tuesday in the national title game at New Orleans Arena, it could quite possibly be the last elite-level basketball contests of their lives.

It won’t be hard to spot the duo. Just keep an eye on the bulky knee braces.

The stories of Doty and Reid are more studies in perseverance or cases of what might have been.

They are both members of a select club where there is no membership fee, and the ability to keep an eye on the prize in the wake of persistent pain is the requirement for inclusion.

and Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame

 

From Kelly at USA Today: Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for Connecticut

From Michael grant at the Courier-Journal: UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women

From John Altavilla, Hartford Courant: When All Is Said And Done, They Are Just Kids and UConn Almost Had Louisville’s Sara Hammond

From Rich Elliot a the Connecticut Post: Dolson Not Looking At Surgery After The Season

From NPR: Leading Ladies: Connecticut, Louisville Set For Championship (I looked, but couldn’t find their article Gracious Gentlemen: Louisville, Michigan Set For Championship.)

From the Times Picayune: UConn a huge hurdle for Louisville to overcome in women’s basketball championship

Mechelle gets Auriemma in one:

Having a team with such outstanding underclass players as freshman Breanna Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suggests that if No. 8 does come Tuesday for UConn, there’s good reason to think Nos. 9 and 10 might follow immediately after.

That kind of thinking is both what Auriemma sort of craves, and what drives him crazy. He’s irritated if he ever perceives the Huskies are being counted out as title contenders or somehow short-changed in national prestige. But it also bugs him when people think UConn should just be expected to be in this position year after year, as if it’s automatic and easy to stay great just because you’ve been great. 

In other words, Auriemma might just kind of thrive on being irritated. It’s a motivation, a needle that keeps sticking at him from two different sides.

Michelle Smith: Cardinals’ Slaughter finds confidence – Junior guard has 17 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament, nears record

 Louisville coach Jeff Walz will tell you that there were moments during Antonita Slaughter’s freshman year with the Cardinals  when he thought she’d be better suited to fill the teams’ water cups than play.

And he would tell her so. That had to hurt, right?

“I didn’t take it personally,” said Slaughter, now a junior, smiling.

Graham: Schimmel embraces leadership role – Junior guard knows she doesn’t have to do it all for Louisville to win

From the moment Shoni Schimmel arrived, Louisville was always going to follow her lead. She was too talented, too much a force of nature on a basketball court for things to unfold any other way.

It just wasn’t clear whether that path would lead the Cardinals to a national championship game or out of the picture, like one of the junior’s high-risk passes sailing past a befuddled teammate on its way toward the fourth row of seats.

How much did you love the sign, “Mrs. Shimmel, Send more daughters!”

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are here.

Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White offer up their Full Court mid-major All-Americans: Much more than Delle Donne

Given the nature of the American sports media, it’s easy to think that the only special players are the ones who play at the biggest schools. But special players can be found throughout the Division I ranks — and not just at Delaware — so the Fullcourt.com Mid-Major All-American team is our way of recognizing some of the talent that often gets overlooked.

Of course, as is the case with our Player of the Year, as every so often there’s a star so incandescent she manages to seize the spotlight no matter where she enrolls.

Mechelle has a nice piece on Griner.

Baylor’s Brittney Griner glanced up at the national championship banners inside the New Orleans Arena and winced a bit Saturday.

“I thought, ‘We should have another one up there. We should be here fighting for one more,'” Griner said. “It definitely makes it hard, but you can’t run from stuff. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

More from Mechelle: Final Four offers good mix – Favorites or underdogs, there is something for eveyone in New Orleans

If you’ve seen “Oz the Great and Powerful,” you know the most emotion-provoking characters in film are not actually humans. China Girl, the doll, and Finley, the helpful winged monkey, are voiced by real people, but they are computer-generated imagery. They steal your heart and steal the show from James Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.

The Louisville and Cal teams are flesh-and-blood folks, but they have a fairy-tale quality that almost makes it seem as if they could have been manufactured in someone’s imagination.

Meanwhile, the box-office big names — No. 1 seeds Connecticut and Notre Dame — are also here, ready to live up to their star power.

She adds another piece: Diggins ready for final shot at title

It’s no easy trick: being focused on an ultimate goal, but not too focused. Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins has been thinking about winning a national championship for the Fighting Irish since she was a little kid and saw her hometown team celebrating the NCAA title in 2001.

That’s a long time to carry a very specific dream that an extremely small amount of Division I players actually get to realize. Diggins has been in the past two NCAA title games, with the Irish losing to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor last season.

Graham says, Jeff Walz keeps Cardinals believing

The old basketball adage about a shooter’s mindset holds that a player misses 100 percent of the shots she doesn’t take. A coach also loses out on the potential rewards of 100 percent of the gambles he or she doesn’t take.

And if you think it’s difficult to play for Walz, the bellicose, sarcastic sideline ranter, try figuring out what college basketball’s mad genius is going to try next. 

More Graham: Reid’s heart makes up for bum knee

Monique Reid might be limping toward the end of her college career, but she’s about to put some distance between herself and any other woman who has played basketball at the University of Louisville.

She grew up going to Louisville games long before her hometown school started playing games in a downtown NBA-style arena. She was the kid who attended all the basketball camps and sat in the front row when the Cardinals played. She was the ball girl who idolized players like Sara Nord. And Sunday, she’ll become the first player in program history to play in two Final Fours.

Michelle writes: There’s no place like home – Berkeley High star Boyd committed to Cal despite coaching change

Brittany Boyd arrived at Cal a year and a half ago knowing how to play at one speed — on your mark, get set, go — every outlet pass turning into a race to the rim on the other end of the floor.

Races, mind you, that she would usually win because she is the fastest player on the floor.

“She gets the ball, and you just have to book it down to the other end,” junior forward Gennifer Brandon said. “I just tried to stay close to her in case she wants to dish it.”

Fagan suggests Players, not past meetings, are key – Stewart, Jefferson could be the key to Huskies finally solving Irish this season

Finally, Fagan gives us Four storylines for the Final Four

The heavyweight matchup Sunday night is UConn-Notre Dame Part IV.

That game has the most buzz because the storylines are endless: the Big East rivalry, the last go-round for Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, the up-and-coming play of UConn freshman Breanna Stewart. And, of course, the million-dollar question: Is it possible for the Fighting Irish to beat the Huskies four times in one season? Considering that between them UConn and Notre Dame have 19 appearance in the Final Four, it makes sense that Sunday’s second semifinal is overshadowing the first, between No. 2 seed California and No. 5 seed Louisville. The Golden Bears are making their first appearance in the Final Four, and the Cardinals are making their second.

But even though the Cal-Louisville game is flying under the radar, there are some interesting subplots to pay attention to when the two teams tip off Sunday (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET). So we start with that game as we break down the key things to watch going into Sunday’s national semifinals.

At Swish Appeal, Richard Kent has some 2013 Final Four tidbits from Louisville’s Jeff Walz: Griner, sideline style, and unexpected scoring

The S.A. Admin says Cal, Louisville a matchup of fun teams looking to take away each others strengths

Jessica Lantz picks up an old story thread: Native American heritage draws support for Schimmels, Louisville in Final Four run

I grew up in Oklahoma – no secret there. And Oklahoma, the literal end of the Trail of Tears means “Red People” in Choctaw. As a native Okie, these are things that you learn about when you take Oklahoma History, a required course in the junior high curriculum. But for other folks in other states, these things might be overlooked – like most of the small native population is.

Despite being in this country well before any of my ancestors, the Native American population is relatively small in the United States. Natives account for 0.8 percent of the population in the 2010 U.S. Census, but in Oklahoma the number is a “whopping” 8.6 percent. That makes the heartland of America (as some call the state) the fourth-most populous when it comes to identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native behind Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

So when I was watching the NCAA women’s basketball tournament regional games in Oklahoma City, where a pair of Umatilla Indians were busy knocking of the No. 1-ranked team in the country en route to the Final Four, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the camera panned to a large contingent of smiling faces rooting for Jude and Shoni Schimmel.

In non-Final Four news, I guess we’ll soon find out if Gail’s at Ohio State, if Courtney or Cynthia is at USC, and what, if any impact, the Rice/Rutgers fiasco has on C Viv.

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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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catch up on last night:

Louisville took care of Tennessee in an eerily similar manner to their take down of Baylor — race out to a lead, then tire (or do dumb stuff) in the middle of the second, then win.

Dan writes: Louisville stops Lady Vols’ run to Final Four, 86-78

Tennessee’s problems began on offense. Louisville used multiple defensive alignments to thwart the player and ball movement that was so prevalent in the Lady Vols’ regional semifinal victory over Oklahoma.

Tennessee had just one point to show for its first seven possessions.

“It may have rattled us some,” UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. “But that’s where you respond at the other end of the floor and we couldn’t do that.”

In the end, there was too much Jude and Shoni. Says Mechelle: Schimmels lead Cards to Final Four

Louisville’s Schimmel sisters, Shoni and Jude, recall watching a movie called “Double Teamed” when they were in middle school. It was about identical twins Heather and Heidi Burge, who went to the Women’s Final Four three times while playing at Virginia in the early 1990s.

The film is hokey, but it’s still a sweet, triumphant story of the sisterhood and athletic success of real people.

“When we were younger, the movie seemed very realistic to us,” Jude Schimmel said. “What they did was our dream, too.”

Shoni added, “Yeah, that was us.”

Duke tried copy Louisville, but couldn’t hold on in the second.

It was an angry glare that could have melted steel.

It certainly melted No. 2 seed Duke’s hopes of pulling off an upset against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the Norfolk Regional final of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Just a quick glance at the daggers beaming out of Skylar Diggins’ eyes early in the second half let Duke know it was in trouble.

Adds Graham: Sky’s the limit for Notre Dame

The dances in the middle of the court were complete. Those members of the crowd not clad in green already had begun to drift off into the Norfolk night. But there was one last bit of official business to take care of before Notre Dame left the court for the final time.

By unanimous decision, the announcer intoned, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Skylar Diggins.

Close, but not quite. There wasn’t any need to go to the judges on this one. Diggins won by knockout. 

From the News Observer: 

Just getting to a regional final was probably accomplishment enough for a Duke women’s basketball team that endured much adversity this season.

That did little to salve the pain the Blue Devils felt as Notre Dame cut down the nets at Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Convocation Center on Tuesday night.

From the Chronicle:

“Our first half was pretty good,” Liston said. “We held them to 31 points and we were right on pace for the [defensive] goal that we wanted to keep them at for the game. I thought we did a great job and we had great focus on the shooters and the go-tos that we wanted to shut down, [but I] wish we could have had that same focus in the second half on defense.”

At the Rockdale Citizen (GA), Darrell Huckaby says hes A fan of women’s basketball and Andy Landers

I was a fan of women’s basketball long before it was cool. I coached girls’ basketball in high school for about 25 years. It made sense to follow the college game. Besides, I liked it. It was a game of strategy and shooting and defense.

In 1985, my Woodward Academy team won its way to the state tournament for the first time in school history. I decided to reward my team with a trip to the women’s Final Four in Austin, Texas. In those days the women’s tournament was played on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, so on the last Thursday in March, we piled into two school vans and headed west.

Yes. We drove to Austin, Texas, for the games.

Tom Goldman at NPR says, Baylor’s Departure From Women’s Basketball Tournament Leaves Huge Hole

Also at NPR: Notre Dame, Louisville Triumph To Round Off Final Four

From Kate Fagan: Big East trio finds way to Big Easy

The right side of the Women’s Final Four bracket looks just like you’d expect it to. But if you shift your glance to the other side, you see one of the most unexpected matchups in recent memory.

Michelle says: They’ve got next

Of this year’s 3 To See, only one remains standing. Notre Dame’s title-craving Skylar Diggins carries the torch for this year’s crop of extraordinary women’s basketball talent into the Final Four in New Orleans.

But if this year’s unpredictable, thrilling tournament has taught us something, it’s that there are other players worthy of our time, attention and admiration all over the top ranks of the game.

And with the Final Four set — Notre Dame and Louisville joined the party on Tuesday after Cal and Connecticut earned their spots on Monday night — this next group of young players already has reached star status as they make their Final Four debuts.

From the experts, Picks (Now that we’re in New Orleans …)

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From Full Court: Norfolk welcomes home Elizabeth Williams and Duke Blue Devils

Elizabeth Williams’ McDonald’s All-American uniform never looked so baggy.

On the 5-foot-6 Jenna Frush, the jersey hung like a queen-size bed sheet, the brilliant red shorts hung down to her ankles, and the No. 15 jersey resembled a nightgown.

It was just one of the treasures the Duke Blue Devils found while rummaging through their sophomore teammate’s bedroom, all thanks to the NCAA Tournament coming to Williams’ hometown.

Rob Glough has a preview of the Norfolk games.

And here’s a preview of the Duke-Nebraska game.

Nebraska has won 13 of 15 and believes it can play with anybody, especially after Monday’s 74-63 win over Texas A&M on the Aggies’ home court.

One key for the Cornhuskers, Moore said, is not getting psyched out by Duke’s resume.

“We understand that they’re a big name, but we have been playing successfully and having a good run,” she said. “So we just need to make sure we stay focused on the things that we’ve done up to this point and not necessarily psych ourselves out against a big name like that. Just play Nebraska basketball.”

Her coach, like all the others in the regional, trusts that her point guard can make it happen.

From KHAS-TV: Huskers anticipate Easter Sunday game with Duke

Meanwhile,  the Winston-Salem Journal says the Duke women intent on changing a trend while the Herald Sun says the Road beckons for Final Four-minded Blue Devil women

Curt at the SBT has: Clash features two of nation’s best guards

I think, when you look at (Notre Dame), again, my reference is back to when I was in the Big East, they pass as well as UConn,” Henrickson said. “If you look at the stats, 65 percent of their field goals are assisted. If you pass that well, that leads to a lot of uncontested shots.”

Notre Dame’s passing revolves around All-American point guard Skylar Diggins, but Kansas also has a stellar point guard in Angel Goodrich, and the Jayhawks have an assist on 61 percent of their field goals.

There’s a similar focus at the Lawrence Journal: Guards take center stage for KU-Notre Dame women’s showdown

Basketball?

This is more of a match-up of socio-cultural phenomena.

“Angel Goodrich was a rock star over in Tahlequah (Okla.),” Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said Saturday on the eve of the 12th-seeded Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame, top-seeded in the Norfolk bracket. “Literally a rock star. Thousands of people went to her home games and followed her around.”

Don’t think I caught this from Graham: Diggins, Goodrich take center stage

It’s a point guard’s responsibility to make sure a team gets where it’s going. None in the college game do that any better than the two who will square off Sunday when No. 1 seed Notre Dame plays No. 12 Kansas.

It might not be a coincidence that both Skylar Diggins and Angel Goodrich are conscious of where they came from.

 The Norfolk Regional features four of the seven finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, the honor given annually to the nation’s best point guard and named after the star who played her college basketball in this city (although only three of this season’s finalists will be on the court, with Duke’s Chelsea Gray sidelined by injury). But even in that kind of company, Diggins is in a league of her own. She’s the one with back-to-back trips to the national championship game, who mastered Connecticut and awaits a likely place among the top three picks in the upcoming WNBA draft. And, yes, the one with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and headband aficionados.

Mechelle says: No. 6 seed Sooners steal spotlight: Oklahoma, not top-seeded Baylor, will have home-crowd advantage

Defending NCAA champion Baylor — the overall No. 1 seed with the superstar who tweets about “needing” to throw down a couple of dunks and then does just that — is used to being the main attraction.

But while the Lady Bears certainly will not lack for attention here in the Sweet 16, they are kind of second-billed this weekend in Oklahoma’s capital city.

Oklahoma, with its campus just 20 miles down Interstate 35, is the star attraction for the locals. The No. 6 seed Sooners will meet No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Center (4:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2), followed by Baylor vs. No. 5 Louisville (6:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2).

“It is fun to be in front of a home crowd in Oklahoma City,” Oklahoma senior Joanna McFarland said, “because it is a really good base for women’s basketball.”

From NewsOk: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale reflects on last meeting with Tennessee

Guerin Emig at the Tulsa World thinks  OU must overcome Vols’ image

They don’t have Pat Summitt on the bench or Candace Parker or Chamique Holdsclaw in the lineup. Still, Tennessee, Oklahoma’s opponent in Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup, can buckle your knees.

“You always will think, at least my generation will think, of Tennessee and UConn as those big teams, the best in the country,” OU forward Joanna McFarland said. “You’re like, `Whoa, stars in your eyes.’ “

Dan Fleser says Lady Vols will find out how well their game travels and adds: SEC good regional preparation for Lady Vols

Tennessee’s SEC opponents won’t lift a hand this weekend to help the Lady Vols at the Oklahoma City regional.

Still, they’ve received credit for helping during the season with the preparation.

“I think it’s faster-paced, more talent, teams are bigger this year,” said senior Kamiko Williams, who lauded the addition of Texas A&M. “I think that has helped us out.

From NPR: Defending Women’s Champs Baylor To Battle Cardinals’ Tough Defense

From the LA Times (ish): Brittney Griner: Baylor Legend Will Key Lady Bears to Dominant Win

From the NY Times: Brittney Griner, Me, and Four Amazing Years at Baylor

Covering the team that was the reason I chose my soon-to-be alma mater hasn’t hurt.

With my press pass, recorder and laptop, I have had a front-row seat to women’s basketball history these past four years, but being on campus to experience it all has made it even more memorable.

When you watch the Lady Bears on the court, you see that they are great role models and serious about the game they play. But when you walk around Baylor’s lush campus, you see another side of them.

Mike Grant of the Courier Journal says: One small obstacle in Louisville women’s basketball tournament road: Mount Griner

How do you stop a woman who dunked three times in her last game, an 85-47 rout of Florida State? How do stop a woman who has powered the Lady Bears to 74 victories in their past 75 games?

“I’m trying to put six on the floor,” U of L coach Jeff Walz said Saturday. “I’m hoping our officials are bad at math tomorrow night and we just get them real confused.”

BTW: Something to keep an eye out for:

Rebecca Lobo ‏@RebeccaLobo: We asked Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel what she would do if Griner tried to dunk on them tomorrow. She replied : “Pants her.

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*fingers crossed it’s not “Blowout Monday Time”

From Zach Ward at Swish Appeal: ACC’s best square off in much-anticipated showdown

The wait is nearly over.

No. 7 Maryland (19-3, 10-1 ACC) and No. 5/4 Duke (21-1, 11-0 ACC), the top two teams in ACC women’s basketball both by ranking and conference record, will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in Durham.

The past two seasons Maryland and Duke have split, with both teams winning on their home floors.

The teams figure to do the same again this year unless one of them can step up on the road. The Terps are a perfect 11-0 at home, but are definitely more vulnerable when they travel away from the friendly confines of College Park.

Did you miss Rebecca’s preview? Terps’ season still full of potential – Game will help decide ACC — and which center is the best in the league

Duke, Maryland’s opponent, was well-acquainted with injuries earlier in the season but is healthy now. If you wrote off Duke after the beatdown at UConn a month ago, you need to give the Blue Devils another look. They are a much-improved team since that 79-49 Jan. 21 loss. 

What has changed? The Blue Devils have inserted Chloe Wells into the starting lineup and she has been solid on offense (shooting 56 percent on 3-pointers) and a spark on defense. The move also allowed coach Joanne P. McCallie the luxury of bringing the country’s third-most-accurate 3-point shooter (46-for-96, 48 percent shooting), Tricia Liston, off the bench. The Blue Devils are still working to become a team that plays well for an entire 40 minutes instead of just 20, but they are getting closer each game.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for in this insideoutside and upside down Big Monday matchup:

Rob at DWHoops has his preview:

The Skinny:

This is the ACC game of the year, part 2. The ramifications are simple: if Duke wins, they will have a death grip on the league standings. If Maryland wins, they will tie Duke at the top of the ACC and get the rematch at home, giving them a tremendous lift down the stretch. The Terps are a makeshift team that are riding superstar forward Alyssa Thomas hard; she’s the reason why this six-woman team keeps winning. She can play so many positions on the floor that if a player gets in foul trouble, the Terps can simply sub in frosh Malina Howard (7 ppg, 4 rpg) and shift Thomas to the frontcourt or backcourt. Thomas’ line is as follows: 17 ppg, 10 rpg, 5 apg, 2 spg. She’s second in the ACC in scoring and leads it in rebounding.

Sam Wiseman at the Herald Sun says, Duke women look to rebound vs. Term

Gene Wang over at the WaPo chimes in: Chloe Pavlech boosts Maryland women’s basketball with clutch play

“I think they call that a show pony,” Pavlech said somewhat mischievously when asked about her knack for playing her best against the highest-caliber opponents.

That remark got Thomas laughing so much that the normally placid junior all-American forward had to bow her head in order to regain her composure and finish answering questions from reporters. Soon enough Frese and Hawkins also were smiling broadly, much like the rest of the team often does when Pavlech provides witty observations that keep the atmosphere light.

Happy to know the DC Basketcases are back in town, having taken what looks to have been a glorious trip to see penguins, petrels and albatrosses. (Can’t believe they didn’t take me!)

The Louisville/ND game isn’t getting a ton of prep press (Beth and Debbie did podcast on it.) I’m betting beat writers are terrified they’ll try and copy the men’s 5OT game….

At the SBT, Curt points out that Braker’s offense is a bonus point

The Journal-Courier pieces together this: Louisville women’s basketball will meet No. 2 Notre Dame tonight

The University of Louisville women’s basketball team, coming off a 78-45 whipping of Pittsburgh on Saturday, will be expecting a much bigger challenge tonight.

In Graham’s week in review, he notes that Michigan and LSU got much-needed wins

We might be in the midst of the shortest month, but February has a knack for setting up long summers.

There is always another game and another opportunity at this point in the season, which is one reason why it can feel a little like these weeks are the equivalent of running in wet sand. The real drama of the postseason is visible on the horizon, but still far enough away that staring at it can mean running smack into what’s more immediately proximal. Immediacy is still hard to find.

On the other hand, if there is no such thing as a must-win game in early February, there are wins that make it considerably more likely a team will have a chance to play some real must-win games a month or so from now.

And for Michigan and LSU, Sunday was the biggest day of the season.

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Baylor: Kidnap Odyssey Sims

UConn: Take Olivia’s advice and “Get Physical”

Stanford: Smother Chiney.

Cal learned from their home court lost to Stanford, went in to Maples and broke a couple of impressive Cardinal streaks as they stifled Stanford and got coach Gottlieb a sweet win. (Doesn’t she look like she’s just out of college?)

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb has tapped Tara VanDerveer’s basketball brain on more than one occasion.

One question she has asked the Hall of Famer, for example, is how VanDerveer has always been so good at making opposing teams uncomfortable, taking away the things they do best?

And then on Sunday, Gottlieb’s Bears used that advice against the No. 5 Cardinal.

BTW, that puts UCLA in the top spot in the PAC12.

Florida made Tennessee reeeeeeally uncomfortable, but the Vols used OT free throws to escape with a win.

I’m not going to think about the South Carolina – Georgia game and you can’t make me.

A little reality for Auburn, as they were rolled by TAMU.

Oklahoma State kept Texas 0-fer in the Big 12.

Dayton showed Butler the door, 82-39.

Kansas was no match for Baylor, as Griner went for 33.

Hmmmm… Quinnipiac is 3-0 in the NEC.

That’s BU at 4-0 in the Am. East.

FGCU sure loves their three’s!

In the battle of the H‘s, Hampton squeaked by Howard to stay undefeated in the MEAC.

D’em Jackwabbits are undefeated in the Summit.

D’em Hatters are undefeated in the A-Sun.

D’em Sugar Bears are undefeated in the Southland.

D’em Hilltoppers are now at 6-1 in the Sun Belt.

That “squeak” was Cal Poly escaping Pacific in triple OT, 96-95. That game photo says it all.

Yes, Beth is no longer there, but it’s still VCU, and it’s still a nice win for the Billikens: Saint Louis won its A-10 opener for the first time since defeating Fordham in the 2007-08 season

Louisville had to work far too hard to beat Providence. Next up for them: UConn, who soared over the Eagles.

How important is Ellenberg to Oklahoma? Wicked important.

Speaking of wicked important, Graham catches up with Toledo’s Naama Shafir

Amidst more humble, if quintessentially Midwestern, surroundings, Toledo beat Bowling Green 48-38 in a game far more entertaining than the final score suggested. A redshirt senior from Israel who wasn’t about to lose what might be her last appearance in that big game led the Rockets with 23 points.

Ranked No. 27 in the first official RPI release and receiving votes in one of the major polls when the week began (in addition, pardon the plug, to sitting eighth in espnW’s mid-major poll), Toledo came into Sunday’s game on the heels of a loss at home against Central Michigan that will likely cost them dearly in those measures of national recognition. A potential 0-2 conference record after a 12-1 start to the season hung heavy over their heads, all the more considering Bowling Green was 60-5 at home in MAC play over the past eight-plus seasons prior to Sunday.

Shafir was supposed to be playing professionally by now, but an ACL injury last season delayed her departure. It also saved the Rockets on Sunday. In a game that was exactly as physical, without being dirty, as could be expected in an Ohio derby, Shafir hit long jumpers and short pull-ups, finished drives and sought contact to get to the free throw line.

The Terps’ Thomas is espnW’s player of week and Michelle and Mechelle do the video thing.

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Notre Dame survived a post-big win let down, but it took overtime.

Connecticut failed to lose two games in a row for the zillionth time, but there was some serious butterfingers involved.

In the battle of the Reds, Rutgers gave Louisville a scare, but the Cardinals pulled away in OT.

The Longhorns started the year strong, but Big 12 competition is proving to be another matter. Newcomer to the Conference West Virginia wrangled them good, 53-49.

Seton Hall still doesn’t care their coach is leaving for the W. They take down the Bearcats, 64-56.

Stanford thought about it… and then said, no, we don’t want California to win.

The Buffs got back on track against Utah. The Cowgirls did, too.

Speaking of big cats, the Tigers aren’t going away: Rookie quintet making early contributions

Every season, there are always uncertainties about how the freshmen on a team will adjust to college-level play and the extent to which they will be able to contribute. For the five freshmen on the women’s basketball team, however, these questions have hardly been an issue. Despite the presence of a talented senior class, the freshmen quintet, consisting of guards Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian along with forwards Alex Wheatley and Taylor Williams, has received considerable playing time and provided an offensive boost in scoring and rebounding for the Tigers. The Class of 2016 has combined to score nearly a quarter of the Tigers’ total points so far this season, with each member averaging at least five minutes per game.

A full-strength Baylor continues their demolition of the opposition. This time, Iowa State.

Hmmm… UTEP looks to be strong again this year. We have to wait until Feb 7th for their game against Tulane.

Keeping an eye on Cal-Northridge and Fresno State — both still undefeated in conference play.

Nice check in from the “local paper” on Iowa’s freshman: Ex-Mainstreeter great acclimates to being a Hawkeye

No, it wasn’t the dreaded three letters: Stokes relieved injury not worse

Given the alternative, Ohio State women’s basketball team co-captain Amber Stokes didn’t complain yesterday about needing a pair of crutches to reach the practice gym in Value City Arena.

The fifth-year senior suffered a sprained left knee near the end of the first half on Sunday in a 79-73 loss to Illinois. The possibility that she had suffered a season-ending ligament tear crossed her mind.

Jim Massie at the Dispatch writes about Ohio State’s 0-2 Conference record: Buckeyes’ slow start must end with stops

Tough times for the Catamounts: Overwhelmed by the first-place women’s basketball team in the America East Conference, the University of Vermont suffered a 58-30 defeat to Boston University.

Still tough times for the Black Bears: Hartford hands University of Maine women’s basketball team 11th straight loss

Looks like Williams-Flournoy got outta the Big East when the going was good. Writes Mechelle: Coach Flo has plan for Auburn

Terri Williams-Flournoy had been here in Missouri before, but this was the first time in her new role as Auburn coach. In her 12-year apprenticeship as an assistant, she spent two seasons at Missouri State.

Williams-Flournoy — known as Coach Flo by her Tigers — has paid her dues in the profession she was practically born into. Part of a basketball family in Virginia that includes brother Boo Williams — he’s one of that state’s most influential youth hoops gurus — Williams-Flournoy climbed the coaching ladder with a purpose and a plan.

And now, she’s in her first season in what is a new era for the SEC. Pat Summitt is in an emeritus role at Tennessee, but not head coach of the Lady Vols for the first time since 1973.

Have you noticed? FSU women’s basketball quietly excelling – With recent winning ways, Seminoles may soon cast shadow on other sports

The women’s basketball team has silently tip-toed to a 12-2 record and have placed themselves among the game’s most elite programs. The Seminoles are No. 5 in the nation in scoring, averaging 82.3 points per game and their field goal percentage of 49 percent only trails Baylor and Connecticut, two perennial National Title contenders.

The .com says that Angel McCoughtry wants you to trust and believe.

Speaking of Angel, from Mechelle’s chat:

kevin (macon ga): Angel McCoughtry said on wnba.com that she had “nothing to do with the coaching change”. Should we believe her?

Mechelle Voepel: Maybe that means she actually wasn’t the one to call Marynell Meadors to tell her she was fired? :) Of course she had something to do with it. But, anyway, it’s water under the bridge now. Fred Williams is the Dream’s coach, and Angel will be back as his star player. These things happen in pro sports … look at the NBA and coach firings and players saying, “Oh, I had nothing to do with it!” Meadors, I believe, would still like to return in some capacity to the league, but if not, she’s had a long career in the sport with a lot of accomplishments. I feel bad for her that things ended in Atlanta as they did, though. She deserved better. Now Angel and Fred will have a revamped East – at least in terms of the new coaching hires – to deal with.

Congrats are in order: U.S. Men’s, Women’s Olympic Teams Honored By USA Basketball and Taurasi Is Named USA Basketball’s Top Female Athlete (sorry anti-tank-Merc fans)

Oops! WNBA’s Maya Moore’s Olympic Ring Stolen, Sold to Gold Buying Store and Phew! Man charged with selling ring stolen from WNBA player Maya Moore

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Louisville loves her: Angel’s legacy now trimmed in Olympic gold

It wasn’t until I noticed what happens around Angel McCoughtry when she returns to Louisville that I fully appreciated her place in the sports history of this city.

Watch her for very long and the little girls will start to congregate, eyes wide. She signs autographs, poses for pictures, talks to them, asks about their teams, what positions they play.

Even after WNBA road games, where McCoughtry’s fierce on-court demeanor has made her player-most-likely-to-be-booed at many destinations, she’s around for kids after the games.

But here in Louisville, where she played college basketball and transformed the University of Louisville women’s basketball from an up-and-coming program to what now is one of the top attendance programs in the sport at any level, she means something more.

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They’re banged up, they’re tired, they’re “in the groove” in a way that could easily become “going through the motions until the conference tournament injects some excitement” way.

Which may explain why Providence was within 10 of Notre Dame at the half, why Louisville went to OT and why Missouri almost got its first Big 12 win of the season.

As March Madness nears, all sorts of different tests loom:

From the Baylor Lariat: Daunting Stillwater showdown awaits Lady Bears

From the Kansan: Women’s basketball must step up to replace injured Davis

From the Daily Lobo: Recovered bench ups morale

From the State Press: ASU women’s basketball nursing injuries

From the Grand Forks Herald: Roebuck gets win in his final regular-season home game

From the Statesman Journal: Beavers are exceeding expectations with Rueck

From the Yale Daily News: Gobrecht coaches to 500th win

From the Miami Herald: Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team is doing big things by going small

From the Salina Journal: BiCenter court to carry name of former coach Budke

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at the YUM! Center (or was that a drumstick fight?) between UConn and Louisville. 16,000 plus saw some ugly offense, serious defense, and evidence that you can play well on the remnants of a knee.

Debbie is calling for a second monitor so she can watch tonight’s game between Miami and UNC. (Really?) (Oh, UNC-Duke men’s….)

I’m interested in…whoa. That’s what happens when work is busy and you can’t talk about upcoming games before they’re done. I am thinking that Gail really needs to pull out a win, though. Also guessing that American should survive Lehigh, but ya never know! And no, I’m not making a choice between Denver v. Florida Atlantic.

Go north, east, west, south…west Big East! Memphis is in.

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a glass half full or glass half empty kinda person?

I guess tonight it depends on which side of the glass you ended up on.

Texas got its most significant win of the season (so far) by going in to College Station (perhaps for the last time?) and upsetting #10 TA&M, 76-71.

It was touch-and-go there for a while at the YUM! Center, but #15 Louisville survived South Florida, 63-57.

#10 Texas Tech earned their first loss of the season at the Hand(s) of Oklahoma, 71-68.

The phrase “a tale of two halves” is  clichéd for a reason: it’s often true. Oklahoma State was within two of #1 Baylor at the end of the first half. And the end of the second half, they were within 25.

St. John’s squished the Orange.

Erfh: It’s going to be a long road back for Maine. They lose to the Terriers, 75-34.

The Bonnies dealt Temple their first A-10 loss, 74-65.

Don’t look now, but the Great Danes are 4-0 in the American East.

Still pretty glum in the land of the Musketeers: the lose to the Dukes, 68-49, and fall to 3-12.

Were Beth and Debbie at this game? Akron over Buffalo, 91-82.

A little wake up and smell the coffee at Missouri? With their 72-46 loss to K-State, they drop to 0-3 in the Big 12.

It took two overtimes, but Kansas got the win over Iowa State.

Ouch, the Monarchs let one get away: they had a nice lead over VCU, but lost in OT, 76-72.

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Yet another, “DABNABBIT!”

And this time it’s not an ACL: Louisville’s Monique Reid Out For the Season

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got upset. And yes, we know that they had the lead 99.999% of the game. And yes we know that it took a last second three to get Gonzaga the win.

But the ‘dogs went on a 22-4 run to end the game. So look at Georgia’s schedule/record. Were they really the #12 in the country?

Ohio State, DePaul and Delaware (ouch, upward curve no longer in play in Providence?) rolled. Louisville snuck by, helped by Daugherty having the misfortune of pulling a Chris Webber.

Paying attention to “bowl eligible” Florida Gulf Coast, now sitting at 7-1. Their only loss: Seton Hall?

I’m not going to get excited about Arkansas’ 9-1 record until they’re midway through their SEC schedule – but I know friends of the blog Teddy and Candy must be thrilled. Ditto with Mississippi State.

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from Jayda: Washington coach Kevin McGuff debuts radio show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Louisville women’s basketball team loses two players

And might BGSU lose Miller to Las Lobas?

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’cause the Saturday games were worth it.

#1 Tennessee moved into their first Elite Eight since ’08 by holding off a revitalized and feisty #4 Ohio State. After coach Summitt’s…. impressive halftime speech propelled the Vols to victory, Graham wrote: “Ohio may just want to close its southern border at this point.”

#2 Notre Dame had little trouble with #6 Oklahoma, taking down the Sooners 78-53. Said Sherri post-game: “Maybe they don’t get enough credit for their defense because their offense is so salty.”

Did you wanna know “who dat?” for some of the heroines of the ND and TN games? Check out Graham’s: Unheralded players become elite.

Anyone who’s watched #7 Louisville knows that you live by the Shoni and, sometimes, you die by the Shoni. There was no magic for the frosh against #11 Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs’ 76-69 win means I can type “Vandersloot” again, and that makes Steve happy. He ain’t the only one. Writes Mechelle:

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves summed up the effect that his point guard, Courtney Vandersloot, has not just on the outcome of a game, but on those watching it.

“She’s mesmerizing,” Graves said. “It’s hard to take your eyes off her.”

Like Tennessee, #1 Stanford was down to #5 North Carolina and, like the Vols, the Cardinal fought back to claim the victory. “This is one of those classic survive and move on,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. Mechelle says, thank the sisters.

Can’t wait for tonight’s Elite Eight!

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Point guards lead the way in Sweet 16

We may be living in the year of the quarterback, but March will always be the month of the point guard.

When the Sweet 16 gets under way on Saturday afternoon, some of the biggest stars on the court will be the smallest players on the court. From eight standout seniors looking to play at least one more game to four freshmen who appear ready to battle for bragging rights for years to come, the weekend’s most intriguing subplots may come from duels between players who do considerably more than merely bring the ball up the floor.

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PINK OUT!!!

The WaPo writes that Lynetta Kizer is an energizing presence for the #11 Maryland women’s basketball team. Unfortunately, she couldn’t help the Terps avoid losing their second game in a row, this time to Virginia.

A full house at Michigan State (their first) went home happy as the #13 Spartans defeated Michigan, 69-56.

Fellow-state member Central Michigan snagged their fourth game in a row as they took down Kent State. Kaihla Szunko recorded her 16th double-double of the season.

The Ducks were gloomy, as USC skewered’em.

This is not a fun time to be a Hokie.

Oklahoma notched a win before they flew off to Storrs in anticipation of their Monday night game against #2 UConn (who also won).

Brittney… I mean, #1 Baylor stomped all over the Longhorns in anticipation of their Monday night game against the Aggies. Texas A&M got in the mood by stuffing the Jayhawks, 81-58.

With their win over Loyola (IL), #16 Green Bay remains undefeated in the Horizon.

Xavier’s stays undefeated in the A-10 with their win over Fordham.

Kris at was at the game as Houston surged to 11-0 in C-USA.

Hartford surprised Boston U, 66-59.

West Virginia continued to stumble as the Mountaineers lost to Louisville.

Congrats to Jantel Lavender, who overtook Buckeye great Katie Smith as the Ohio State’s scoring leader. I’m guessing the win over Purdue made her happier.

It wasn’t a waltz, but Stanford did take care of Washington, 62-52.

Ten points also was the difference as UCLA slipped by Oregon State.

Yah, it was another win, but who really thinks Pat’s happy with her #4 Vols?

#21 Miami’s on a roll and this time they rolled over UNC.

Duke took care of BC, Penn State survived Indiana (Lucas went 6-10 on 3’s), wobbly Kentucky squeaked by LSU, but #17 Georgetown couldn’t escape St. John’s.

Jayda has the story of a player who’s not in the game: Seattle U.’s Breanna Salley keeps playing, even if she can’t get on the court

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Unranked Denver took down #23 Vanderbilt, 70-65.

Equally unranked Louisville took down #9 Kentucky, 78-52.

Being unranked didn’t stop Indiana from defeating#19 Nebraska, 67-61.

Georgia Tech earned state bragging rights by crushing #22 Georgia, 69-53.

#25 Michigan State ran all over Texas, 71-57.

Finally, while Florida’s not ranked, it’s hard not to call their 56-50 defeat by Brown — yes, BROWN UNIVERSITY– an upset.

And that’s a nice win for Co and Penn State over Texas Tech.

Meanwhile Connecticut (with Moore becoming their all-time scoring leader), Baylor, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Xavier (who got all they could handle from the Bearcats), UCLA, Ohio State, Iowa State and Iowa took care of business.

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