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and what a great trip. The landing, though, was a tad tough, what with having to jump deep back into work. What is it about taking a break seems to make work want to take it out on you…

So, about that championship game. Yah, it was a while ago, and ya, the final score says comfortable blowout, but it was a fun game, with Notre Dame showing a lot of heart (after a lot of nerves). I sure hope the ridiculousness between the two coaches/programs fades like so many family blowups.

Some of the good news: ratings.

Now, for those who are moaning, “oh, here we go again, UConn is “bad” for women’s basketball,” I simply say: don’t ignore what happened with the REST of the teams this past season. Lots of parity. Lots of young coaches. Next step: demand excellence from them. Raise expectations. Identify best practices. Stop complacency. Push for Title IX compliance. And hope for a little bit of luck and courage in the recruiting wars.

Case in point: From Mechelle –  A’JaWilson decision a big win for Staley – Nation’s top prospect averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as senior

....even though South Carolina was regarded as the favorite to land Wilson — a 6-foot-5 forward from the Gamecocks’ own backyard in Columbia, S.C. — the fact that she really did stay put is a big victory for coach Dawn Staley’s program.

It matters from a national perspective, as does the fact that UCLA has signed what’s considered the top-ranked recruiting class for 2014. The Bruins are also underdogs in women’s hoops that fans of the sport in general will root for to provide more diversity at the elite level of Division I.

I keep using terms like “fans of women’s basketball in general,” which might sound nebulous. But after so many years of following the sport, I think I have a pretty good handle on who they are.

Intriguing case in point: Diamond DeShields’ decision to transfer from North Carolina. Clearly, the actually reasons behind her move is still to be revealed, but it’s hard not to speculate (homesickness? looming NCAA sanctions?). Mechelle reflects on her interviews with Deshields this past season.

Remember when the news broke in May 2012 that four blue-chip juniors all decided to commit to North Carolina’s women’s basketball team?

Diamond DeShields was the point person in bringing them together, and it appeared to be a lottery-jackpot day for the Tar Heels. DeShields, Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington — ranked third, eighth, 15th and 17th, respectively, in their 2013 recruiting class — were all headed to Chapel Hill, N.C.

What could go wrong?

Well, it might have crossed your mind that day — it did mine — that when a group of teens makes long-range plans to do something complicated together, it might go awry. Not being ageist; it’s just that kids are kids. We’ve all been there.

Good news for Purdue: Hamby, Bays on the mend.

Interesting news for a CSU team that had a resurgent season: Four women’s basketball players are transferring

I was saddened to hear the news of coach Joe Curl’s passing. Most within the basketball world knew of his health struggles. They forced him to step away from his position as Houston Cougars’ coach. He came into national prominence during the 2003-04 season, where he and three-time C-USA Player of the Year, Chandi Jones, led  the Cougars to the second round in the NCAA tourney and earned AP National Coach of the Year honors. I remember him smiling as he picked up the award, almost embarrassed at being surrounded by press and the “elite” of basketball — Alana Beard was the AP’s NPOY. 

I was not surprised by Terri Mitchell’s dismissal from Marquette — she never quite seemed to be able to break through within the recruiting ranks.  I wonder if she’ll thrive better on different soil. We shall see if the Anonymous Eagles’ impression (Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.) is correct.

The Bulldogs didn’t look far to find their new coach, appointing longtime assistant Lisa Fortier as Gonzaga’s next leader. She’s going to have to find some new assistants, though.  I don’t know about you, but if Kelly Graves can do in Oregon what Scott Rueck has done at Oregon State, the west coast will be wicked fun to watch. (Interesting that associate head coach Mark Campbell left the Beavers to join the Ducks.)

Congrats to Natasha Adair, who’s moved from the College of Charleston back to Georgetown. Here’s hoping she can grow a program that seems to have lost the ground that Terri Williams-Flournoy seemed to have gained. Does the athletic department triply give a hoot about women’s basketball?

I remember Maren Walseth from the first Final Four I attended (2000 in Philly). She’s now the head coach at North Dakota State University. Interesting tidbit: Walseth’s sister, Annika, played for NDSU during the 2007-08 season.    

Nice to see Yolanda Moore move up the ranks. She’s now head coach at  Southeastern Louisiana University. “Moore spent the 2013-14 season as the head coach at LSU Eunice. Taking over a program that had won 17 games combined in the previous two seasons, Moore led the Lady Bengals to a 26-3 overall record and the program’s first-ever Miss-Lou Conference championship.”

Keep Fresno State on your “watch list,” as they plucked Jaime White from Northern Colorado.

More on the “WTF list:: Women’s basketball player appeals K-State transfer denial

 Leticia Romero has known she wanted to transfer for several weeks, but she will have to wait a little longer to find out if Kansas State will grant her a release from its women’s basketball program.

Romero, a rising freshman from Las Palmas, Spain, decided she wanted to leave K-State after the Wildcats fired Deb Patterson, the coach she signed on to play for, but the athletic department denied her initial transfer request. On Wednesday afternoon, she took her case to an appeals committee led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco. As of Wednesday night, the committee had not informed Romero of its decision.

Fashion Week in Illinois: Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

In WNBA news, Nate ranks has his 2014 Draft recap: The big winners and great value drafts (Spoiler alert: Connecticut, New York and Seattle do well).

Don’t miss Swish Appeal’s other musings:

Take a listen to Dishin & Swishin’s 04/17/14 Podcast: Anne Donovan & Fred Williams discuss Connecticut and Tulsa’s draft picks and offseason moves

Have you read Griner’s book “In My Skin” yet? Did you read Kate Fagan’s piece on Griner: Held Up n Customs: Live in China Gave Brittney More Than She Bargained For. 

THE NUMBER OF moving obstacles at a busy intersection in China can feel paralyzing for a pedestrian. None of the cars, mopeds or bikes appears to be following the traffic laws, which makes stepping off the curb a game of chance, like real-life Frogger.

And Brittney Griner is about to step off the curb.

“I’ve been hit once,” she says, seemingly unfazed at a busy corner in Zhejiang. “A moped ran into me from behind, but it wasn’t going that fast. It was my fault. I was trying to avoid traffic.”

Wait … what? Trying to avoid traffic is bad? “Totally wrong here,” Griner says. “You can’t stop walking. If you’re in motion, they’ll flow around you. It’s when you stop, when you freeze, that it becomes dangerous.”

Brittney Griner talks about her experience in China to ESPN’s Kate Fagan

In other news, Pokey is optimistic surgery won’t stop Fowles (as in, back mid-season?)

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It’s been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year’s blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

As a counter to the seemingly never ending “Will the W fail” articles: For The WNBA, Jersey Sponsorships Signal Corporate And Community Support

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anger, but how about in hopes to see the #1 play on SportsCenter be a half-court shot from Marquette’s Katie Young?

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put all my channel and websurfing skills to a test!

Wowza!

And, yah, I know Christine (and some) want upsets, but I’ll take heart-breakingly close calls.

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didn’t pass Carolyn’s “one eye test.” They got themselves blown out by Texas A&M as Danielle Adams went off for 30 and 13. Writes Brent Zwemerman at the San Antonio Express-News:

Following yet another Danielle Adams basket — this time from beyond the 3-point line in the second half — Adams turned to play defense, and allowed herself a few skips of delight near midcourt en route to another Texas A&M prance past a Big 12 opponent.

The rest of the ranked teams held form as it was Marquette over Providence, Notre Dame over West Virginia and UConn (ugly) over Seton Hall.

A note about the Seton Hall team. Last year they scored 24 points against UConn. Total. This year they put up 59. What a difference a coach makes? From Anne Donovan:

“I think most of the girls came and watched the New York Liberty [who she coached last season], so their hunger has really helped me. Who I have been able to coach, what my background has been with the Olympics and the WNBA, they are hungry to get whatever they can from me. That has helped me from the credibility standpoint. I have coached a long time so there have been a lot of different situations and different rosters and trying to bring out the best in the rosters that I have had and that has helped me throughout my career.”

Phew! That was the sound of Bowling Green (11-3 in the MAC) escaping with a 2pt win over Akron as Lauren Prochaska hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 0.2 seconds to go in the game.

Tennessee Tech is now 14-3 in the Ohio Valley conference.

I’m not sure Elaine Elliott would have enjoyed coaching this season: The Utes fell to TCU, 71-60, and are now 6-8 in the Mountain West.

I can understand why the Huskers might be cranky this season, but 76-34 over Missouri? Ouch.

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which may explain why Notre Dame got blown out and Baylor got blown over.

In retrospect, we should have been paying more attention to the game at Texas Tech. #1 Baylor hadn’t been playing particularly elegantly and Texas Tech had been rumbling. But really, who expected that yesterday Kristy Curry would get the biggest victory of her tenure with the Red Raiders?

“I don’t think we ever had a doubt that we couldn’t do it from the beginning,” Tech sophomore guard Casey Morris said. “We know we can beat Texas A&M, we know we can beat Baylor, and we know we can beat anybody.

Wrote Mechelle: Pumped up Texas Tech upsets Baylor

…perhaps it’s really not very surprising that Tech’s still-simmering emotions helped result in a big upset.

Texas Tech bottled up Baylor’s offense, while coach Kim Mulkey’s team seemed to have bottled up much of its passion. Which actually was understandable, even if it might have cost Baylor on this particular day.

They got the New York Time’s attention:

The Lady Raiders wore pink jerseys and the arena was blanketed in the color as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. The outside of the arena was blanketed by circulars that spoke to the venom that those involved with the conference rivalry also hoped to see eradicated.

For the first time this season, there were signs posted at every entrance encouraging fans to be loud and “get crazy,” but reminding them that profanity, racist or sexist comments, running onto the court and throwing anything onto the court were grounds for removal from the arena.

At Baylor’s request, there were four state troopers — twice the usual number — behind the visiting bench. Dan Burns, the associate director of the arena, said, “We want to ensure the safety of our guests.”

Meanwhile, #2 UConn spotted Notre Dame a 7-point lead and then took over behind their freshmen Bria Hartley (29pts/5 assts) and Stefanie Dolson (15pts) and rolled to a 19-pt win.

There was some upsey daisys in the Big East: Rutgers stomped #21 Marquette by 21 and Syracuse defeated #22 St. John’s by 11.

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Don’t tell that to #2 UConn and #13 Notre Dame, who put on a helluva a show yesterday. In a back and forth and back and forth game in a packed Joyce Center, it was Indiana native Kelly Faris who gave UConn the 79-76 victory, with Husky freshman Dolson sealing the victory with free throws.

“I just think sometimes it gets lost that this isn’t the team that won 78 in a row,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “This is a team that’s won 14 games. So they took a big step forward today by winning a game on the road where I think Notre Dame, I would bet you, outplayed us in just about every category — more points in the paint, more points in transition, more bench points, more offensive rebounds. Notre Dame outplayed us in every area today, and the last four minutes of the game, we won the game. That’s kind of how basketball goes sometimes.”

It took double overtime, but unranked Marquette took down #15 Georgetown, 75-73.

Missouri came back from 12 down in the final minutes of regulation to send it into OT and then upset No. 22 Texas 85-80.

#16 DePaul defeated #18 St. John’s handily, 69-54. (If Queenie was there she’ll write about it here.)

#21 Iowa sent #20 Ohio St. to their fourth loss in six game, 89-76.

Led by a very strong backcourt performance, Iowa prevailed 89-76 in front of 9,865 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Not all of them spent the entire game booing Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis — she’s not very popular in these parts after last season’s Big Ten tournament title game — but the junior guard certainly got an earful all afternoon.

#1 Baylor handled their new ranking, earning a 70-58 win over #17 Iowa State (even with BG had a little foul trouble).

Green Bay was in a tussle with Cleveland St., but emerged victorious, 64-55.

Of course, there was some stomping going on.

#4 Stanford by…holy kamole…47 over a team that shall remain nameless.

#12 UCLA by 19 over USC.

#19 Oklahoma by 20 over Nebraska.

#6 West Virginia by 28 over Cincinnati.

#7 Texas A&M by 29 over Colorado.

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