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….aaaaand dance by the light of the moon!”

It took a buzzer beater by Stephanie Reid, but for the first time in Buffalo history, the program has won a MAC championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

UB Women’s Basketball wasn’t supposed to here, at least not with this group of women.

After going from one of the deepest frontcourts in the conference in January 2015 to one of the youngest teams in the country by October 2016, the Bulls weren’t supposed to advance to the MAC Semifinal for the second straight year and third time in school history.

Even after upsetting them twice in the regular season, the eighth-seeded UB wasn’t supposed to beat frontrunner Ohio, sitting on a bye in the quarterfinal.

In today’s 88-87 win over fifth-seeded Akron, who beat Buffalo twice in the regular season, the Bulls weren’t supposed to hang with the Zips’ desired pace and outside shooting. They weren’t supposed to hit the half within two – or the final quarter within a single – possessions after Akron came out blazing from three. (The Zips would finish with 15 made threes). And they certainly weren’t supposed to survive losing sophomore point guard Stephanie Reid to her fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

But the Bulls hit plenty of shots…

Others singing, “Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance?”

Hawai’i, representing the Big West. The last time the Wahine went dancin’ it was 1998 and they were “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and Will Smith. Senior Ashleigh Karaitiana was four.

“It was all part of the process,” Karaitiana said. “Not just for this year, but the last four years. This is what we worked for, and I’m really proud of the outcome.”

Karaitiana was named tournament MVP after averaging 15 points per game. She shot 6 of 13 from the field to help second-seeded Hawaii earn a measure of redemption after losing the Big West title game last year.

“We were in this game last year and got the result we didn’t want,” she said. “We came into this game more prepared and knowing what we need to do and took care of it on the floor tonight.”

Alabama State, representing the SWAC. No surprise, for a conference that had a three-way tie in the regular season, the final game was edgy affair.
“We knew it was going to be a war,” said Lady Hornets coach Freda Freeman-Jackson, who became the first SWAC coach to lead a team to consecutive tournament titles. “Southern is always a championship-caliber team. We knew we had our work cut out.
Idaho, representing the Big Sky. In the first “all-Idaho” finals, the Vandals got a battle from upstart Idaho State, then dug deep.

Before the hugs, before the smiles and cries, and before the trophy-hoisting, picture-posing and net-cutting, the Idaho women’s basketball team had to come to a realization: This could be the end. 

Trailing Idaho State by three at halftime Saturday in the Big Sky Conference tournament title game, the Vandals understood they were 20 minutes away from falling short of their season-long championship aspirations.

The seniors didn’t want their collegiate careers to end. The freshmen didn’t want their magical debut season to conclude with heartbreak. The coaches didn’t want the work their players put in all year to not pay dividends the way it had in the past.

North Carolina A&T, representing the MEAC. The Aggies handled Coppin State to earn their first championship in seven years, the first for fourth-year coach Tarrell Robinson.

Aprill McRae and Christina decided to transfer from VCU because they believed head coach Tarrell Robinson’s vision for winning a championship at North Carolina A&T State University. Dana Brown had the same aspirations when she transferred from UNC Wilmington.

Courtney Powell decided to play one more season of college basketball as a graduate transfer for the same reason. Perhaps the most inspiring story comes from fifth=year guard Adriana Nazario’s decision to play one more year – despite having graduated and despite having knee problems – in an effort to give this whole winning a championship thing one more try. Their decisions paid off.

James Madison, representing the Colonial. For the third-straight year, the Dukes earned the conference championship (and name collectors, here’s one for ya: Jazmon Gwathmey)

JMU (27-5) will bring a 20-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The run includes three wins over the Dragons (19-13), who were looking for their first league title since 2009.

Gwathmey, the CAA Player of the Year, made half of her 18 shots, collected four rebounds and, at the end, absorbed a meaningful hug from her appreciative coach.

“A very special moment,” Brooks said.
“It meant a lot because this is what we work for,” Gwathmey said. “It’s definitely the way you want to go out your senior year, especially winning three in a row.”
New Mexico State, representing the WAC. Payback was on the mind of the Aggies as they routed Rio Grande Valley, 80-53.

It’s the program’s first ever back-to-back conference tournament titles, fourth NCAA Tournament bid and the first consecutive NCAA Tournament bids since 1987 and 1988.

“Going into this game, they kind of ruined our Senior Night,” said senior Sasha Weber, who was named tournament MVP. “Personally, that was a little bit of fuel for me. I know Shanice (Davis) and Abby (Scott) too being seniors. And they snapped our undefeated streak. Especially getting down at 20 at home, we knew coming into this game, a championship game, we had to start off strong and keep up the intensity up.”

Army, representing the Patriot. MVP Kelsey Minato‘s 25  helped propel the Black Knights to win number 29 and send the team back to the NCAA tourney.

“This group of young ladies has just accomplished so much with 99 wins over four years at this level is incredible and they just continue to do what it takes,” Magarity said. “Janae McNeal and the junior class with Aliyah Murray and the Morris twins [Destinee and Daizjah], as well, and I consider my coaching staff the best in America. It’s the best coaching staff I’ve ever had and I’ve had some pretty good coaches.”

He also couldn’t have had many better players than Mina1q. The senior guard – Army’s all-time leading scorer – served in her customary role of scoring when the team needed it most. She scored half of her team’s 20 first-quarter points, including a jumper to conclude the period. By game’s end, she had scored a game-high 25 points, including 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.

Middle Tennessee State, representing the C-USA. The Blue Raiders ended ODU’s great run with a confident 70-54 win.

“Sometimes I get caught up in watching them play, instead of coaching them,” Insell said. “They are such a joy to watch, and a lot of people didn’t give us the credit we deserved.”

The second-seeded Blue Raiders (24-8) have won six straight and 15 of their last 16 games, and the conference championship in two of the last three seasons.

 Troy, representing Sun Belt. Known for their offense, Troy’s win came down to… defense. In the last 20 seconds, a score by Ashley Beverly Kelley followed by a win-saving block by Caitlyn Ramirez –  capped the journey of a program’s revival.

Head coach Chanda Rigby inherited a two-win program in 2012, and now just four years later the Troy women’s basketball team is the 2016 Sun Belt Tournament Champions after a 61-60 over Little Rock at Lakefront Arena on Saturday.

Troy will make the second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and its first since 1997.

 “Our overall goal and theme was faith, faith was our motto,” Rigby said.  “I felt more out of sync and more out of the groove in this game than probably any game we’ve played the second half of the year.  It was a bad feeling, but the faith – we just kept saying to keep it close.

 “And of course, what happened at the end was nothing that the coaches called.  I believe it was Ashley Beverly Kelley’s faith in the end that she could get the ball in her hands and pull us ahead, and I think faith is what made Caitlyn go up for the blocked shot that sealed it in the end.

Other results:
I TOLD you the Horizon was going to be interesting. In the semis, Northern Kentucky took Green Bay to two overtimes before falling 80-78.
In the Southland, Sam Houston 14-17, 7-11) upset  Northwestern State (19-11, 13-5), 78-71.
As their similar records might have predicted, the Missouri State and Drake game was a back-and-forth affair. The Bears pulled away in the fourth to secure the 65-61 win.

Sunday games (DID YOU SPRING AHEAD?) that will secure the final guaranteed spots in the Tournament:

Southland: Central Arkansas v. Sam Houston State, 12:30PM. The Sugar Bears are the heavy favorite, but we’ve see what THAT means this tourney season…

A-Sun: Florida Gulf Coast v. Jacksonville, 2PM – ESPN3. Yes, the Eagles are the cream of the conference, but Jacksonville’s been making some noise.

Big South: Liberty v. UNC Asheville, 2PM. Liberty has been the traditional power in the conference, but the Bulldogs have undergone a huge transformation under coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick (3 years ago = 2 wins).

NEC: Robert Morris v. Sacred Heart, 3PM. Under (retiring) coach Sal Buscaglia, the Colonials have fought their way to the final and, to be honest, I haven’t really noticed how strong the Stags have been in conference play this year.

MVC: Missouri State v. Northern Iowa, 3PM. This ought to be a great match up between teams with similar records. They split their regular season games. (BTW, UNI’s Tanya Warren should be on AD’s “poachable” list… and in case you’ve missed it, “Hello, coach Kellie Harper!”)

Horizon: Green Bay v Milwaukee, 1PM. Year after year, teams come at the Phoenix, and year after year they get turned back. Last time these two teams met, it was a 23-point loss for the Panthers.

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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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A little history from Michelle: Oral history: Harvard stuns Stanford – A look back at the 1998 NCAA tournament, the only time a 16-seed toppled a No. 1

A week before the NCAA tournament opener, Stanford was positioned as one of the best teams in the country, after three straight trips to the Final Four. Seven days later, the Cardinal became the first and only No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, with a 71-67 defeat against Harvard. As with all great sports upsets, there is an intriguing backstory only the people involved can tell. We consulted our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight for some statistical context. Then we spoke with nine prominent people involved in the game and asked them to set the scene in an oral history of that game — starting with a devastating moment at the end of Stanford’s Pac-10 finale against Oregon State.

Vanessa Nygaard, former Stanford forward and longtime WNBA, college and high school coach: “We were ahead comfortably, but then Oregon State started closing the gap, and I went back in.”

Beth Goode, former Stanford sports information director and current senior women’s administrator: “Vanessa’s injury happened right in front of me. It was one of those unmistakable things when she went down. You knew it wasn’t good.”

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach, one of five coaches in NCAA women’s history with 900-plus wins: “The doctor at Oregon State said it was not an ACL, and we would have it looked at when we got back on Sunday, which was selection day.”

From Kate, a little history that’s a tad more modern: The swagger Of UConn – A look at how the Huskies’ dominance came to be — but it’s not for everybody

During last year’s college basketball season, Rebecca Lobo watched in person a number of Connecticut’s practices.

And during one of these afternoons, the former UConn star and current ESPN analyst noticed something strikingly familiar: coach Geno Auriemma running ragged one of the team’s best players.

Lobo also instantly recognized the drill: one-on-one from the wing, the emphasis on defense. The players form a line at each wing. First player in line is the defender; next one has the ball. If the defender gets a stop, she rotates to the back of the opposite line; if she gives up a bucket, she immediately runs to the opposite wing to try again — against a fresh offensive player.

The thing about this drill: Each repetition is exhausting. So if you don’t get a stop within the first two attempts, the likelihood of ever getting one plummets. After successive reps against fresh teammates? Might as well wave the white flag.

Except, of course, a white flag doesn’t exist at UConn.

From Mechelle: Massengale steps up at Tennessee – Senior guard and fellow Chicagoan Nia Moore look to make big impact in tourney

Mechelle’s been busy! Wilson right at home with Gamecocks

The fact that A’ja Wilson didn’t have to look far to find her college destination didn’t mean that she didn’t look hard. She explored different options, and waited until last April to announce her decision.

And when the hometown kid said she was staying with the hometown school, the rest of the country could almost hear the cheers of happiness mixed with relief coming from Columbia, South Carolina.

Some things are meant to be. Like Wilson playing for the Gamecocks. She’s from Hopkins, South Carolina, just outside the state capital city, and went to Heathwood Hall in Columbia. As she prepares for her first NCAA tournament for South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Regional, Wilson knows she’s right where she’s supposed to be.

How about some other youngsters? TOP FRESHMEN READY TO MAKE NCAA TOURNAMENT DEBUT

How about some previews?

Albany Regional breakdown – UConn

Three observations

1. What an interesting road it’s been for Seton Hall senior guard Daisha Simmons. She struggled first to obtain a release from Alabama, and then to get a waiver to play this season at Seton Hall. But it worked out, as the Pirates are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Simmons is averaging 16.9 points, plus has 131 assists and a team-high 80 steals.

Greensboro Regional breakdown – South Carolina

Three observations

1. It has been a big season for Ohio, which is the No. 14 seed and faces No. 3 Arizona State in the first round.

Oklahoma City Regional breakdown – Notre Dame

Three observations

1. It’s time for the annual Sherri Coale appreciation salute. She took over at Oklahoma for the 1996-97 season, which was also the first year of the Big 12. At that point, the Sooners had made just two NCAA tournament appearances, and the school had infamously shut down the program for roughly a week in 1990 before sanity prevailed.

Spokane Regional breakdown – Maryland

Three observations

1. Kudos to New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh, who has the Aggies in the NCAA field for the first time since 1988. Trakh, in his fourth season in Las Cruces, also has taken Pepperdine and Southern Cal to the Big Dance. His Aggies, the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion, are the No. 16 seed and take on No. 1 Maryland in the opening round.

Michelle says: Savor all 63 games — not just final

We’ve arrived, a little earlier than in previous years, at the start of the NCAA tournament. And while many people might want to jump straight to the ending — one they think they can already write — we refuse to do that.

We are going to soak in the process of reducing a field of 64 teams down to one champion over the course of three weeks.

Because whether conventional wisdom suggests this in an exercise in inevitability, that Connecticut will be cutting down nets like last year, and the year before that, there are still 63 other teams determined to make sure they’re hoisting the championship trophy in Tampa.

Before the first games tip off (ESPN2/WatchESPN, noon ET Friday), let’s take a moment to appreciate the journey. We have plenty of time to focus on the end result, let’s not miss all the great stuff in the middle.

From Cheryl Coward: Cal refocused after the Pac-12 tourney, ready to help showcase women’s basketball in the Bay area as an NCAA early round host

Nearby: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers refocus after Pac-12 tourney loss

Scott Rueck doesn’t ever like, nor does he typically believe a team needs, to lose a game.

But Oregon State’s fifth-year women’s basketball coach was OK with his team’s loss to Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament two weekends ago for one simple reason — it wasn’t the NCAA tournament.

In order to win a tournament, Rueck says, a team has to be hungry enough and know exactly what it is playing for because every other team will bring its best performance.

It’s about doing everything you do as well as you possibly can, he says.

Also nearby: From Marcus Thompson II: Stanford needs Thompson’s ‘A’ game in NCAAs

They say it takes great guards to make noise in the NCAA tournament. That gives hope to Stanford, coming off as uninspiring a season as it has had in years.

Guard Amber Orrange, a battled tested senior who’s as smooth as they come, is a rock on which coach Tara VanDerveer can rely. If Lili Thompson can take her game to another level for the postseason, that gives the Cardinal an advantage to milk.

The recruiting standard has been set high by new coach Marlene Stollings and her staff at Minnesota.

The one-player class of senior forward Shae Kelley has flourished.

The first and only player Stollings signed since taking over the Gophers, Kelley has entered the NCAA Tournament with the fifth-best scoring average in the Big Ten at 17.5 points per game. She’s seventh in the conference with 9.4 rebounds per game. Her leadership was relied on even more after the loss of star guard Rachel Banham to a season-ending injury.

Pat Eaton-Rob from notices that “other” team from Connecticut:

Quinnipiac has quietly put together a 31-3 season, joining UConn and Notre Dame as the only teams in the tournament with more than 30 wins. They swept through an undefeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season in just their second year in the league and then dethroned 9-time conference champion Marist, 72-61, in the conference title game.

The Bobcats are 104-29 since the 2011-12 season, with the second-highest winning percentage (.782) of all New England Division I schools during that span. They trail only UConn (.933).

Tim May at the Columbus Dispatch notices that “other” team from Ohio:

As Kiyanna Black recalled, coach Bob Boldon had a grand plan for Ohio University women’s basketball when he was named the 10th coach in school history two years ago.

“When he first got here, his first words were ‘MAC championships,’” said Black, a junior from Africentric. “And I’m just sitting there looking at him, ‘We’ve got to win a few games, first.’

“At first it felt so far away. But we just kept working and kept grinding, and believing in him and his staff. And we’re here.”

Speaking of coaches: Sue Semrau still building legacy at Florida State

And more coaches: Seton Hall’s Tony Bozzella set to enjoy father-daughter dance at NCAA Tournament

And more coaches: From Sue Favor: New Mexico State, coach Mark Trakh moving on up

New Mexico State has vaulted back on to the national basketball stage this spring, in a big way.

They won the Western Athletic Conference Championship earlier this month, for the first time in program history, after going 13-1 in league play and 22-7 overall. That put them into the NCAA Tournament, after a 27-year absence.

And MORE coaches: A first for American, and its coach

 To many Easterners, Iowa is a “flyover state.” Count Megan Gebbia among them.

“My initial reaction (after the NCAA women’s basketball selections were made Monday) was, ‘Wow, Iowa, I’ve never been there,’” said Gebbia, second-year coach at American University.

She’ll be here sometime today, when the Eagles arrive for preparations for their NCAA debut.

Hey! It’s time for the Mascot Bracket!

Don’t wanna read? Then take a listen to Dishin’ and Swishin’s NCAA Tourney Roundtable featuring Doug Feinberg, LaChina Robinson, Debbie Antonelli and Lin Dunn

Don’t wanna listen? How about dance?

In non-tourney news:

Ouch: Three players leave Vanderbilt women’s basketball team

Vanderbilt women’s basketball has announced its third departing player in the past week following the program’s first losing season in 16 years.

Freshman guard Paris Kea will transfer, per a Vanderbilt news release. Last week, the program lost freshman twin sisters Audrey-Ann and Khalèann Caron-Goudreau, who will also transfer.

Echo ouch: Brooks to leave Indiana University, third to depart program in last 3 days

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Mark Trakh – New Mexico State. Hired in 2011, his first year with the Aggies his record was 6-24. His second, 15-16. Last year, 11-20. This year…well, if you’ve been reading the WHB, you know about what’s been happening: they’re going’ dancin’!  FOB Dave was glad I left my mitts off him, mostly because he wants Trakh to stick around. (I claim it was because the folks in N.M. were so kind to me, I didn’t want to give away both their coaches.) It’ll be interesting to see where the Aggies go from here — and it’s hard not to wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t “resigned” from USC in ’09.

Mike McLaughlin – Penn. Back when I had enough time to follow/scan all the different divisions of women’s basketball, I noticed McLaughlin’s success at Division II Holy Family. So, when he was named Penn’s new head coach in April of ’09, I wasn’t totally taken off guard. But, did anyone really expect him to raise the quality of Quaker basketball so quickly?

McLaughlin has revitalized the Penn women’s basketball program. The Quakers have improved their win total every year under his guidance and the climb from the bottom to the top of the Ivy League culminated on the final day of the regular season in 2013-14 when the Quakers clinched their first Ivy League title and NCAA Tournament berth in 10 years. 

Tory Verdi – Eastern Michigan. FOB coach T suggested I take a deeper look at coach Verdi. The MAC has given us some great basketball these past few years, but in 2012, things unravelled quickly for EMU. Verdi stepped into a program in disarray and quickly established a new winning tradition: EMU finished 18-14 in the 2013-14 season with an increase of 10 wins and a nine-game improvement in overall record. But what coach Verdi and his team did after junior Shannise Heady was killed in a car crash was extraordinary. Looking forward to see what EMU does in the WNIT.

 

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games left in the first round of post-season play. Saturday’s ticket-punchers included:

Their legs may have given out, but not their hearts. Eastern Michigan stayed even with Ohio through the first half for the MAC championship game, but the Bobcats proved too much for them in the second. Coach Boldon continues to make a name for himself as a transformative winner.

After finishing 9-21 and 6-23 in the previous two seasons, Ohio completely flipped the narrative in 2014-15. Its 27th win surpasses a program record set almost three decades ago.

“It’s fantastic,” Boldon said. “There’s a bunch of cliches for this moment because it’s just hard to put it into words. You work when school starts and, in the fall, these kids show up and you’re selling them on a vision and you hope they’ll buy into what you’re selling.

“This team has truly bought into what we’re doing.”

Savannah State ended MD-E Shore’s run of upsets and claimed their first MEAC title, 65-47.

“It means the world, especially to me,” said Ezinne Kalu. “Well, I’m pretty sure it means the world to all of us, but it’s been a long journey. … We came from being the last seed to being the second seed to being MEAC champions.

“It’s definitely a feeling we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”

Lots of oddness in the SWAC this year, but Alabama State could care less.

Alabama State wrapped up an NCAA tournament berth Friday with its semifinal victory in the SWAC because Southern was ineligible after failing to meet minimum APR requirements

That wasn’t enough. The Lady Hornets wanted a ring and the prestige that comes with winning the conference tournament.

They got it.

Jasmine Peeples had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Britney Wright added 17 points to help Alabama State beat Southern 73-55 on Saturday.

“I told my girls, ‘We want the hats. We want the T-shirts, we want the trophy and we want the ring.’ And they bought into it and thought the same thing,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “When I mentioned to these ladies they said they want to win.”

The Rainbow wasn’t enough, as Hawai’i was upset by Cal-State Northridge, 67-60.

The best thing to do against shot-blockers? Make them block shots.

To do otherwise, to retreat to safe perimeters and hoist 3-pointers out of fear, is to surrender before you start.

Hawaii returned 11 shots to their senders on Saturday at Honda Center.

That is one reason CSUN is the repeat winner of the Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament.

“It’s the old Bill Russell thing,” coach Jason Flowers said, after the 67-60 victory.

“They were blocking them out of bounds. We kept possession. Just because it might not work the first time, it doesn’t mean you stop doing it. It’s the character of the group. They kept their head down and they kept attacking.”

Montana spotted Northern Colorado a 13-point lead, and then roared back to claim the Big Sky title, 60-49.

“Unbelievably good win and it was an unbelievable game,” said Montana coach Robin Selvig, whose team trailed 29-16 at halftime. “They I thought were pretty dominant the first half. We were having a hard time. They’re really good right now, really well-coached.

“… I was really wondering how we were going to turn it around second half. Somehow these guys just put together maybe the best run of basketball we’ve had in a long time for about 10 minutes.”

New Mexico State survived all the WHB attention and claimed their first WAC title…and their first NCAA bid since 1988. For reference, and perhaps appropriately enough, George Michael’s Faith topped the charts.

“We recruited them, we went to their homes, we sold New Mexico State as hope,” NMSU coach Mark Trakh said. “We told them what could happen. Now we can sell a program because we have built a program.”

This year’s team was also the program’s first team to win a conference tournament.

As expected, Southern Miss gave Western Kentucky all it could handle, and then some. But the Toppers prevailed.

Alexis Govan did it all with the game on the line: making free throws, taking a charge and grabbing a rebound.

Govan scored 22 points and made two free throws with 23 seconds left and Western Kentucky held on for a 60-57 win over Southern Mississippi Saturday night in the Conference USA tournament championship game.

“I looked at her and said, `Alexis, that ball’s going to you,'” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “When she went to the free throw line, I don’t look at her because I don’t want to make her nervous.”

That in-state rivalry delivered, as Arkansas-Little Rock escaped Arkansas State, 78-72.

After allowing a season-high 38 points in the first half and continuing to give up easy baskets for most of the second half, Little Rock, the nation’s third-stingiest defense, turned up the intensity when it mattered most.

“If we couldn’t play defense like we did and count on it, we wouldn’t have won that ball game,” coach Joe Foley said. “Our kids always knew in the back of their minds that we could get some stops at the end of the game if we kept it close.”

American claimed their first Patriot title, pulling away from Lehigh in the second for the 66-50 win.

After coming up short in four previous trips to the Patriot League finals, American (24-8) won its final eight regular season games plus three in the postseason and will represent the Patriot League as the automatic qualifier for the first time. The Eagles now await an announcement of their destination for the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament which gets under way at 16 sites on March 21-22. The tournament field and matchups will be unveiled at 7 p.m. on Monday evening.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said American senior forward Arron Zimmerman. “I was just saying, I was standing there in the corner when the shot clock was running down there and it was just a moment from my dreams. I’ve dreamed of this and it was awesome.”

Sunday games:

NEC, 1pm: St. Francis (Brooklyn) looks to pull the major upset against last year’s conference champ, Robert Morris.

This marks the first time a No. 1 seed has not played in the NEC title game and the first time a No. 5 seed has reached the final since 2010, when No. 5 St. Francis (Pa.) defeated No. 2 Long Island. 

It is the Terriers’ first appearance in the championship game. In addition to upsetting top-seeded Central Connecticut State in double overtime, they also defeated Sacred Heart on the road in the quarterfinals. 

Those wins followed end-of-season victories at Bryant and rival LIU Brooklyn.

CAA, 1PM – COMCAST Sports Net: James Madison has rolled through the regular season conference schedule… except for that one-point loss at home against Hofstra. And they just escaped Elon by three. What kind of motivation with that inspire as they face the Pride, who are in their first ever title match?A-SUN, 2:30: Florida Gulf Coast is already packing their bags for the NCAA. But that doesn’t mean that Northern Kentucky doesn’t want snatch the conference crown out of their hands.

Southland, 1PM: An incredible run for the 9th seed Houston Baptist. They took down McNeese State by 1, Corpus Christi by 2, and then knocked off top-seed Stephen F. Austin by 7. How much will they have left in the tank wen they go up against Northwestern State? The Demons overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to knock off second-seeded Lamar, 70-64, in overtime and reach their second straight SLC Tournament championship game.

Horizon, 3PM – ESPNU/3: Wright State has lost twice this season to Green Bay, both times by double digits. Let’s see if they have better luck this time. I doubt the Phoenix will take them for granted, especially after the battle they had with the Penguins.

MVC, 3PM – ESPN3: Since coach Adams arrived, the Valley has belonged to Wichita State.The Shockers will go for the conference title against Wright State, who they’ve beaten twice this season. Oh, and someone is wondering if Kansas might be looking at WSU’s Jody Adams.

Wichita State head coach Jody Adams, the first potential candidate in this, the latest KU coaching-search blog, has done a remarkable job in building a winner and bringing positive attention to the Shockers’ women’s program.

Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference records in seven seasons before Adams took over: 8-10, 7-10, 7-11, 2-16, 8-10, 4-14, 3-15. That’s 17-55 in the four seasons leading up to Admas’ first.

Under Adams: 4-14, 8-10, 10-8, 12-6, 15-3, 14-4, 17-1. That’s 46-8 in Adams’ past three seasons. Phenomenal. Adams has taken the Shockers from worst in the Missouri Valley to first.

 

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Yes, we got in our big grant renewal proposal before the 5pm deadline. Thanks, Chris!!! Now, all you readers you, think positive, funding thoughts!

In other news…

Most folks held serve on Thursday, but some eyebrow raisers on Friday.

In the Southland, Houston Baptist (14-17, 6-12) toppled Texas A&M Corpus Christi (16-16. 12-6), 49-48.

It was the Blue Hens upsetting the Dragons, 55-48.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “I think they stepped up and followed the game plan beautifully. We were able to knock down some shots, but I thought it was a tremendous effort defensively for us. Our communication on the floor was much better.’’

I wouldn’t call this outrageously surprising, but Southern Miss floored it in the second half to take down in-conference C-USA rival, Middle Tennessee, 65-53.

“I’m very proud of our team,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Our locker room was not very nice at halftime, nor were many timeouts very nice. This kid [Tamara Jones] sitting next to me – if you ask her at about the 8 minute mark if your coach cared for you at all, she’d probably say ‘heck no.’ I really challenged her extremely hard. I said some things to really, really challenge her and to make her really mad with me so that she would respond. What an unbelievable response.”

USM will face Western Kentucky, which withstoodfurious comeback from Barefoot’s ODU team. Hmmm… maybe the Monarchs will rise again.

“This one’s a hard one,” coach Karen Barefoot said, her voice breaking. “I’ve never felt so proud of being their coach. They played very hard, with a lot of heart, toughness.”

Indeed, the Lady Monarchs proved that Barefoot’s oft-stated belief that they are never out of a game was more than just talk. Down 18 at halftime, ODU pulled even with 9:34 left and actually led by five with 7:53 to play.

Their season totals are similar, but their Southland conference records make this an upset: Northwestern State over Nicholls State with authority, 84-67.

It was Friday the 13th and the Northwestern State women’s basketball bus had broken down, leaving the Lady Demons scrambling to get to the Leonard C. Merrell Center for their Southland Conference Tournament quarterfinal against third-seeded Nicholls.

Bad omens? Not quite. Once Northwestern State reached the Merrell Center – its home away from home – all was right with the Lady Demons’ world.

Super-scoring Sacramento State couldn’t stop Northern Colorado in OT, so it’s the Bears moving into the Big Sky finals. Cool note: John Stockton took in some games.

Maryland-Eastern Shore continued its upset ways, taking down the pretender to the MEAC throne Norfolk State, 69-64 in OT. They’re into the tournament finals for the first time.

In the Missouri Valley, top bulldog Drake (20-9, 15-3) was pushed into overtime by Evansville (12-18, 6-12), where it fell to the seventh-seed, 84-79.

“We had a good conference season, but none of that matters come tournament time,” freshman guard Maddy Dean said. “We expected better out of our team, and we didn’t pull it out tonight.

“That’s tough. It hurts.”

I said it once, and I’ll say it again – Eastern Michigan is on a mission and you don’t wanna get in their way. Ball State was their latest conquest, 75-65.

“Wow, what a game,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m just really, really proud of our kids. Tremendous effort. There were times where we faced adversity, where we were on our own and things didn’t go our way; where we didn’t fold, but we just fight right back.”

It’s been an emotional two months for EMU as its dealt with the loss of a teammate during the season. Junior forward Shannise Heady passed away in a car accident on Jan. 25.

Squeak! WHB still hasn’t managed to curse’em, but it was close. New Mexico State survives OT v. Seattle U, 79-75 and moves into the WAC finals.

“Give Seattle all the credit in the world, they played really really hard and executed well,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said, “Having said that, I’m really proud of our young student-athletes, they did a great job out there.  They’ve been handling pressure all year and they always felt they could win that game.”

Might have cursed their in-state rivals, though. New Mexico falls in the Mountain west finals to Boise State. The Broncos rode Spaniard Yaiza Rodriguez’s 18 points to win their first MW title and earn the NCAA tourney bid (first time since 2007).

“To be able to be with everyone you love, representing a university who you have so much passion for, it was awesome,” Pahukoa said.

Hello, Hawai’i! They move into the Big West finals with their 73-64, win over CS Fullerton.

The Big Dogs are back – though Hartford did NOT make it easy, even though they were down two starters. Albany wins a chance to dance.

“A lot of credit to Hartford — they played with a lot of passion, a lot of guts, everything,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They played really, really hard. But at the end, we just turned it up defensively and a couple timeouts, I said, ‘We better be getting that ball to No. 25 [Richards].’ And she stepped up and did what she does.”

Jennifer Gish writes: UAlbany women’s basketball worthy of more fans

Games to watch today: 

MAC Final – Eastern Michigan v. Ohio. It out to be a fierce battle of green uniforms. 1pm, TWCS, BCSN, Comcast Michigan, ESPN Full Court, ESPN3. EMU’s resliancy is amazing (and EMU becomes the first six-seed to make the MAC women’s title game). Kudos to coach Verdi (his dance moves) and his staff. Ditto with former Penguin coach “Bob the Builder Boldon” and his work with the Bobcats.

This is the third time Ohio and Eastern Michigan have faced each other this season.  The two teams split the season series, 1-1. Last time, the Bobcats fell to the Eagles, 73-61 in Athens.  That loss snapped the Bobcats 10-game winning streak.

MEAC FinalMD-E Shore v. Savannah State. Someone new will be dancin’ from the MEAC. Will the upset-minded Hawks take down their third upper-seed, or with the Tigers prevail? 3:30 EST, ESPN3.

Big Sky: Northern Colorado v. Montana. 4PM EST. Two championship game vets battle (Griz, 20th time. Bears 2nd time in three years).

WAC: New Mexico State v. UT-Pan American. No basketball team representing the University in Edinburg, whether called Pan American University or UT-Pan American, has ever reached the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The last game between these two teams was an Aggies win by 20. But when they hosted NMSt, the Broncos only lost by 3. 4PM, ESPNU, ESPN3.

American: Lehigh v. American. No doubt American is the favorite, but after losing their last four in the regular season, the Mountain Hawks seem to have found their second wind. 6PM EST, CBS Sports Network.

Playing American provides extra motivation for O’Reilly. One of the Eagles’ starters, senior forward Arron Zimmerman, was a high school teammate of O’Reilly’s.

Zimmerman is one of several players capable of a big night for American. Senior point guard Jen Dumiak will draw the most attention from Lehigh’s defense.

Big West: Cal State Northridge v. Hawai’i, 6PM, EST, streaming through Fox Sports. The return of the Wahine has been a fun story. How will it end?

C-USA: Western Kentucky v. Southern Miss. 8PM EST, CBS Sports Network. This could be a doozy. The Toppers have been on my radar all season, and Southern Miss has been determine to knock over their hatrack (see what I did there?).

Sun Belt: Arkansas State v. Arkansas – Little Rock. 8pm EST, ESPN3. In-state rivalry. What more needs to be said?

The two best women’s basketball teams in the Sun Belt Conference, led by its two most successful coaches, will finally collide in the conference tournament final. The third meeting of the season between UALR and Arkansas State was realized Friday when both teams won tournament semifinal games. Now the top-seeded Trojans and No. 2 Red Wolves will play with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line at 7 p.m. today.

Some other stuff:

From Mechelle – Nina Davis always in right place

 There’s a quality that exists among certain basketball players that really can’t quite be attributed to their size, or quickness, or even skill level. And that is their magnetism to the basketball. Or vice versa.

It seems almost freakish sometimes, doesn’t it? In a good way, of course, for the people who have it. Although even they often can’t explain it.

“I guess from playing for so long,” Baylor forward Nina Davis said, “I just know where the ball is going next.”

Well, that’s not exactly it. She’s only a sophomore, so we’re not talking about a grizzled veteran. The bottom line is that Davis has a knack for being where the ball is, and we’re probably never going to be completely sure how she does it.

But it’s something that Baylor assistant coach Bill Brock noticed when he was recruiting the 5-foot-11 Davis.

Espnw honors Jewell Loyd as their POY, Mitchell as their FOY, and Semrau as their COY.

FiveThirtyEight says: Princeton Enters Women’s Tournament As An Unusual Sort Of Undefeated Team

Unlike UConn and Notre Dame last season, which were the clear top-two teams entering the tournament, Princeton won’t even be favored to advance from its region. None of its wins came against teams now ranked in the Top 25. Its conference schedule was a breeze: Penn was the only other Ivy League team with a winning conference record, and just Cornell joined Princeton and Penn with a winning overall record.

Princeton’s nonconference schedule wasn’t all that hard, either. After Tuesday’s regular-season finale, senior guard Blake Dietrick said she started thinking 30-0 was possible when the Tigers beat Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor.

Check out this nice video on the Ivy Tigers: Perfect Princeton Is Ready To Dance

The AP’s writes Steve Megargee writes: Women’s mid-majors could be poised for breakthrough tourney

Mid-major women’s basketball programs historically have much less success in the NCAA Tournament than their counterparts on the men’s side.

Perhaps this is the year that changes.

The latest Top 25 includes four mid-majors ranked 20th or higher: No. 13 Princeton, No. 17 Chattanooga, No. 19 George Washington and No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast. Gonzaga, Green Bay, James Madison and Western Kentucky also have appeared in the Top 25 this season.

“We just want to win and want to prove to people we can compete in March,” said Princeton guard Blake Dietrick.

Dishin’ and Swishin’ is talking da Bears and da Buckeyes.

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Must watch Snappy TV – Fun stuff from the Huskers: WBB Lip Sync-Staff

Nice stuff from Mechelle: Bonded by basketball: Sisters love Big 12 tournament

If you were at the recent Big 12 women’s basketball tournament, you might have seen them on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center. Who was that group of people who were there for every session and seemed like they were having a blast no matter who was playing?

One day, they were wearing matching white T-shirts with the words “Geneva’s Convention” on the back. That might have set some minds stirring. Hmmmm … there aren’t any players or coaches in the Big 12 named Geneva, are there? Nobody is from a town of that name, are they? Does Switzerland have anything to do with it?

No, no, no. Geneva Tuttle was a very big women’s basketball fan, and the Big 12 tournament became her annual bonding event with her three sisters. And after illness took Geneva in 2007 at age 67, the gathering expanded to other family members.

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The PAC 12 is the most interesting power conference (ya, the B12 is kinda fun, and the SEC sure was — before all of those devastating injuries.)

Arizona State stakes a claim to “we’re better than the competition we’ve plowed through on our way to a #10 ranking” by taking down #12 Stanford, 53-52. It wasn’t a particularly elegant game, but it did give the Sun Devils their first sweep of the Cardinal since 1984.

“Beating Stanford is just such a mental hurdle for our team,” Moos said. “When you can finally overcome beating Stanford, that’s when you know your team has reached mental toughness.”

Washington, who’s been on the edge of upsetting folks, did it against #7 Oregon State, 76-67.

“It’ll hit us tomorrow how big of a deal it was,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “Right now it’s just good we bounced back from a tough two-game road swing.”

The Beavers were down a player, Gabby Hanson.

“Gabby’s our best perimeter defender and if you had to miss one game in the conference, this was not the one I would choose,” Rueck said. “Washington’s strength is their perimeter so we certainly missed her. I thought we played with a lot of heart tonight. We competed, it just wasn’t our night.”

Speaking of upsets, Cornell does it again: Penn loses first game at Palestra in over a year

Penn (11-7, 2-2 Ivy) struggled once again on offense, and Cornell (13-6, 4-1 Ivy) took great care of the ball to keep the Quakers from making up for it defensively. Penn turned it over 14 times and was only able to force the visitors into five miscues. 

“It just goes to show you how much they had control of this game,” coach Mike McLaughlin said of Cornell’s ball control. “We have to cause a little more havoc on defense. We gave up too many shots at the basket, there were too many breakdowns – mental breakdowns.”

Next up for Cornell: undefeated Princeton.

Minus their leading scorer (ankle), #19 Nebraska couldn’t overcome #21 Rutgers. It was old school Scarlet Knights, winning ugly, 46-43. While it won’t win any style points, it was the 177th win in the B1G Ten for coach C. Vivian Stringer, making her the winningest in the conference.

“I was shocked when they talked about it,” Stringer said after the game. “I didn’t even know anything about that…I was just trying to get through this game.”

Finally got that “mini-signature win, though it was also pretty style-free:” #25 Syracuse over #13 North Carolina, 61-56.

The two teams combined to go 13-for-55 from the 3-point line and Syracuse pulled out the win after only shooting 27 percent from the field.

Shhh… that’s New Mexico State at 7-0 in the WAC. There’s a familiar name coaching the Aggies: Mark Trakh is in his fourth year.

Okay, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but it’s nice the getting back into the rankings didn’t freak the Colonials out: George Washington wins 52-35 over Davidson. Didja see the article in the Times about the University?

OUCH: Wright State stomped all over the Penguins, 92-55 to earn a little revenge. Nice news on senior Courtney Boyd:

Boyd has faced tragedy, injuries and adversity over the last few years at Wright State. On Thursday, she showed signs of a comeback. 

WOWZA: It took three overtimes, but we got a Debbie Antonelli Special: New Orleans with the upset over McNeese State, 90-86. When the two teams played each other on the 31st, the Cowgirls won 82-58.

“We made a few adjustments in practice and many people did not understand the first time why we played zone. When we played McNeese the first time we forgot our rotations. We were ready tonight. Their words coming were We can and we will,” said Coach Keeshawn Davenport.

Well, lookee here: like the Pac-12, C-USA has got some competition at the top. Southern Miss takes down Middle Tennessee State in OT, 70-65.

Southern Miss enjoys the underdog label.

Especially against MTSU. The Lady Eagles knocked off the Lady Raiders for the second time this season — and the third time since MTSU joined Conference USA last season — with a 70-65 overtime win Thursday at Reed Green Coliseum.

For the third time in three weeks, Southern Miss’ women’s basketball team beat the league’s first-place team, sandwiching a win over Western Kentucky with the victories over MTSU.

Western Kentucky will face the Blue Raiders on the 21st. After that, it’s a race to the Conference Championship.

The West Coast Conference is still a three way battle between Gonzaga, BYU (win #300 for coach Judkins) and St. Mary’s… with San Diego knocking on the door. Gonzaga faces all three in the last three weeks of the regular season. St. Mary’s next faces feisty Pacific and their equally feisty point guard.

Think she’s too short, isn’t quick enough or can’t shoot.

Kristina Johnson would like nothing more than prove you wrong.

Though often the shortest player on the court, the 5-foot-5 senior point guard has contributed to the Pacific basketball team in ways that sometimes can’t be measured. Johnson brings controled fury and a team-first attitude to the Tigers, who host Saint Mary’s in an important West Coast Conference game at 2 p.m. today at Spanos Center.

See – there is no WBH curse! William & Mary (4-6, CAA) takes Drexel (8-2) into overtime… and comes away with the win, 72-68.

For the second straight game the William and Mary women’s basketball team prevailed in a double-overtime, dropping Drexel 72-68 in two extra sessions in Philadelphia on Friday night. Senior Jazmen Boone led five Tribe players in double-figures with a game-high 16 points. With the win, the Tribe, which won its fourth straight game, moved its record to 11-11, 5-6 in Colonial Athletic Association play, while the Dragons fall to 14-8, 8-3 in league action.

Wait. Maybe there is… the Salukis (5-5, Missouri Valley) take down Drake,  81-76. (They lost to the Bulldogs 81-66 in their previous matchup.)

 It was scene that hasn’t been witnessed at the SIU Arena for a long time — especially where women’s basketball is involved.

Dyana Pierre picked up teammate Rishonda Napier and carried her off the floor (Great photo -WHB) after the Salukis upset Drake 81-76. Napier scored 30 points as the Saluki women handed the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the year.

The victory was the twelfth of the year for the Salukis. SIU won just five games last year.

High Point stumbled against Presbyterian, 78-59, and are now three games behind Liberty in the Big South.

Upcoming games of interest:

SIUE women’s basketball at UT Martin. The Cougars, who earned their 9th straight, are 9-1 in the Ohio Valley. The Skyhawks are 10-0 in the OVC. A win today would make a program record conference start.

Rivalry rematch: FGCU v. Stetson.

The Atlantic Sun Conference believes its two flagship women’s basketball programs – FGCU and Stetson – have their best chance to make the NCAA tournament in the same season for the first time ever.

Both teams, of course, would much prefer to be the automatic qualifier.

In-state rivalry: Western Michigan v. Central Michigan.

Youth has not been a major characteristic of the Central Michigan University women’s basketball team in recent seasons.

Many of the teams that have played in the maroon and gold have featured a class of seniors blazing a trail for the freshmen to follow in the seasons to come. 

For this season’s freshmen, it is a different story.

Service rivalry: Army v. Navy.

Sunday games of interest:

A-10 rivals: Dayton v. #24 George Washington.

In-state rivalry: #20 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

In-state rivalry: Miami v. #9 FSU.

Wednesday marks the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 29th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and Florida State has several reasons to celebrate.

The last two years have seen an unprecedented run of success for FSU’s women’s programs. That includes a national championship for soccer, a best-ever regular season for volleyball, a Women’s College World Series appearance for softball and a current Top-10 ranking for basketball.

CAA rivals: Drexel v. James Madison. Coach Kenny Brooks just won his 300th.

America East old v. new: Hartford v. Maine.

Maine is currently riding its longest winning streak since it strung together 13-straight during the 2004-05 campaign. The Black Bears are coming off their biggest win of the year as they defeated the current #1 team in the conference, UAlbany, by a score of 52-44 back on Feb. 1. UAlbany, who leads the league in scoring (67.4 ppg) were held to its lowest total of the year in the loss to Maine. The win snapped a 10-game losing skid against the Great Danes dating back to 2010. 

SEC rivals: #17 Mississippi State v. #14 Texas A&M.

Big 10 rivals: #5 Maryland v. #19 Nebraska.

Though she’s 13 years retired, Maryland women’s basketball players call her “Coach.” At 70, Chris Weller still attends the games and even some workouts of the team she ran for 27 years.

Once, last year, she addressed the Terps after practice.

“I wanted them to know about the legacy we’ve followed,” said Brenda Frese, her successor.

The players got an earful.

She’s back: Versyp reinstates Moore

Foreign Flashback: Abrosimova Brought Magic To Storrs

Now back in Moscow, busier than ever, Svetlana Abrosimova remains a social media maven. She checks in with the world as often as time allows.

So it did not surprise her to learn that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the precocious three-point shooter from California, was about to knock her off the list of UConn’s Top 10 career scorers. She’d been reading about it and knew it was coming. .

And for those who remember the unique relationship Abrosimova still shares with Geno Auriemma, hearing that her congratulations to Mosqueda-Lewis was accompanied with a customary dig at her former UConn coach does not surprise.

“I could have scored a lot more if coach Auriemma didn’t make me play defense all the time,” Abrosimova tweeted.

Dueling Delphi’s: From Harvey Araton at the NY Times: Diana Taurasi Can Rest Easy, but W.N.B.A. Can’t

Taurasi’s decision was also an unavoidable commentary on the state of the professional game in the United States, just now short of two decades old, not far removed from its developmental cradle. The growth of the W.N.B.A. notwithstanding, its long-term forecast remains partly cloudy and it may never provide a lucrative, full-time living for its talent.

From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Taurasi’s decision to skip season isn’t a WNBA death sentence

When push comes to shove for aging WNBA stars, their overseas careers might get the push, and the WNBA might get the shove.

Doomsayers are predicting, well, doom for the WNBA, a mass exodus of its stars. Especially now that Taurasi has officially opened this can of worms.

But here’s what the WNBA has going for it: Loyalty. History. Location.

In other W news:

Delle Donne feeling good after “crazy” 2014 season

At Wednesday’s launch of their 10th anniversary celebrations, Elena Delle Donne showed why she’s been made the face of the Sky franchise. She was outgoing in her interactions with the 150 or so girls there for a sports expo, mingled easily with media and dignitaries and spoke strongly about the Sky’s present, future and what the franchise means for the Chicago sports landscape.

It was clear that the offseason has been good for Delle Donne after a 2014 season that was memorable for a lot of negative reasons.

Nothing like stoking an inter-city rivalry: 

Shavonte Zellous signed with Turkish basketball team Fenerbahce on Friday.

Zellous played last season for rival Galatasary, leading that team to the championship in both the domestic and Euroleague. She has been embroiled in a salary dispute for the past few months with that club.

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