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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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(inspired by this past season, and a brief twitter exchange with @ladyswish) Some names to jot down when you’re pondering your next women’s basketball coach – be it for next year, or in three years. And, as I read some of these bios, it simply reinforces the connection between point guards and coaching.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson – Albany. She’s only been there for 5 years, and accomplished a ton! Four straight league titles, anyone?

Jody Adams – Wichita State. Coach Adams, now  in her 7th year, has transformed the program. When when she took over in 2008, the Shockers had recorded 11 wins in the previous seaon.  WSU just won their third MVC conference title in a row and, with a team so young, it’s hard not to imagine there’s not more success in their future.

Jennifer Azzi – San Francisco. The revival of the Dons has been well chronicled at the WHB. Don’t know if Azzi would be interested in attempting to “rebuild” another program. I’m sure her current gig has been exhausting. But, a program that’s settle and needs a spark? Maybe.

Cedric Baker  – Savannah State. It’s been a long 12 seasons, but they won their first MEAC title this year.

Courtney Banghart – Princeton. She’s young. She’s smart. She just went undefeated and has earned her program a ton of attention. Who knows if she wants to leave the Ivy, but wow, what potential.

Laura Beeman – Hawai’i – The Wahine was a hot mess. Now, after three year’s of Beeman, not so much.

Bob Boldon – Ohio. First the Penguins. Then the Bobcats. Bob is a builder.

Anthony Bozzella – Seton Hall. Wherever he goes – LIU, Iona, Seton Hall – he turns programs around.

Kenny Brooks – James Madison University. In his 13th year, all he does is coach teams that win. They just earned their fourth CAA title in six years.

Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky. The ‘toppers just won the C-USA conference title and this year marked the first time WKU has been ranked in 17 years.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that, in her first year Clark-Heard helped WKU to a 13-win improvement over the 2011-12 season output. It was the largest in Sun Belt Conference history, as WKU turned a 9-21 mark into a 22-11 record.

Brittney Ezell  – East Tennessee State University. In only her second year at the program, ETSU was picked for a bottom finish in a conference preseason poll. Instead, the Lady Bucs finished second to UT-Chattanooga and scared the you-know-what out of Mocs in the So-Con tourney.

Tricia Fabrini – Quinnipiac. Since the Bobcats moved up into the Division I ranks, they’ve shown they belonged – be it in the NEC or the MAAC. It’s been a 20 year journey, but maybe she could be tempted by another position?

Donna Finnie – Houston Baptist – It’s way early in her career with HBU, but consider what the Scotland native has already accomplished:

As Donna Finnie begins her second year as head coach in 2014-15, the HBU women’s basketball program looks to soar to new heights after a record-breaking inaugural season in the Southland Conference. In Finnie’s first year at the helm of the program, the team made huge strides both on and off the court. The Huskies won 12 games, the most since HBU began the transition to NCAA Division I in 2007. The Huskies also boasted the highest RPI in program history (251); a significant improvement from the 2012-13 campaign. Offensively the team exploded to produce one of the most efficient scoring attacks in the nation.

On this year, from WHB: The Huskies (15-17) were the 8th seed in the Southland and yet made it to the finals.

Cindy Fisher – San Diego. In her 10 year tenure, Fisher has moved the Toreros into the “often win” column.

Megan Gebbia – American. In only her second year, Gebbia took her team to their first Patriot League Championship.

Kellie Jolly Harper – Missouri State. Seems to me Harper was the sacrificial “next coach” at North Carolina State. She handled a no-win situation with grace, but couldn’t move the program forward. She’s having better fortunes at Missouri State, where she’s revivng the profile of a program that sailed to the stratosphere behind Jackie Stiles.

Yvonne Sanchez – New Mexico. She’s rebuilt a program that fell rather precipitously after coach Flanagan retired. Her first few years were not particularly encouraging, but this year has been different – even after she had to dismiss the team’s captain and center. The Mountain West predicted UNM to finish ninth in the conference, after finishing in ninth place a year ago, but they made it to the conference finals. She has not gotten a contract extension (yet). Folks I spoke to while I was in Albuquerque said the admin wanted more butts in the seats.

Karl Smesko – Florida Gulf Coast. Since joining Division I, all the Eagles have done is terrorize the A-Sun.

Brooke and Scott Stoehr – Northwestern State. Hired in 2012 to revive the Demons’ program that had won just six games the year before, the Stoehrs have done just that. The Demons just won the conference tournament title and earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history.

Jonathan Tsipis – George Washington. – In 2012, Tsipis took over a program that had won 25 wins over three seasons. WHB’s has been tracking the return of the Colonials to the top-25 all season long.

Kevin McMillan – Tennessee Martin – Six years ago, McMillan inheirited a team that went 2-27. Now, the Skyhawks have repeatedly ruled the roost in the OVC.

Amy Williams – South Dakota. Not easy to win in the Summitt, with in-state rival ‘wabbits lurking, but she has.

Ryun Williams – Colorado State. Left South Dakota and, in three years, has turned around a Colorado State program that had a decade of poor results. The #1 seed in the Mountain West was upset in the conference tourney, but I expect they’ll be back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other folks out there, ready to move up, including assistants that I know nothing about…. So, who else would you put on this list? womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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Or, in this case, you’d have to say, “An Instagram is.

On a night of upsets and close calls, one would be hard=pressed to rank the “biggest” upset.

In a year of promise thwarted by injuries, it’s hard to vote against NC State taking down #10 Duke with authority, 72-59. From Mechelle:

No offense to Duke, but on this weekend, most of the women’s basketball world becomes part of Wolfpack Nation.

The annual Play 4 Kay weekend, of course, is in tribute to longtime NC State coach Kay Yow, who died in 2009 but lives on in the hearts of all who knew her. And you can be sure that the way the Wolfpack played Sunday in their 72-59 upset of No. 10 Duke would have a big smile on Yow’s face.

Not just because it was a win against one of NC State’s nearby rivals. But also because it showed the resilience of this season’s Wolfpack squad, which lost so much to graduation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Then again, don’t overlook Michigan State’s 10-pt win over #19 Rutgers, 60-50. The Spartans haven’t had a season to write home about, but Rutgers offense has sputtered since its early promise. MSU sophomore Aerial Powers set a single-season marks for points and double-doubles in victory over Scarlet Knights.

But wait, there’s more: Hofstra eked out a one-point win over de facto Conference Queens #23 James Madison. AT JMU.

“I wouldn’t say we had [the game] at hand, but I thought we had a chance to win,” Brooks said. “For that, I’m very proud of the kids. I’m very proud because they fought.”

According to Mickens, this game was far from a “wake-up call.” It was a loss to learn from and an opportunity to get better.

“I don’t believe in wake-up calls personally,” Mickens said. “It’s a humbling loss. It shows that we’re not invincible. But hey, it’s definitely a motivating loss.”

Certainly the Seawolves deserve a shout out for toppling Conference Big Dog Albany, 68-64. 

Last season, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team halted Albany’s conference-record 38-game America East winning streak. 

In front of 1,098 fans Sunday afternoon at Island Federal Credit Union Arena, the streak snappers struck again when Stony Brook took down Albany, 68-64, putting an end to the Great Danes’ 30-game conference road winning streak. Sabre Proctor led all scorers with 21 points, including 17 in the second half, on her Senior Day.

Clearly, defense was optional as the Buckeyes obliterated #13 Iowa, 100-82. Gosh, it’s fun to read Jim Massie’s stuff.  (Why hasn’t he been awarded the WBCA’s Mel Greenberg Media Award?)

Ohio State tied a scarlet ribbon around a signature win for its postseason resume last night in its final regular-season game at Value City Arena.

The Buckeyes scored 55 points in the second half and roared past 13th-ranked Iowa 100-82 in a Big Ten game in front of a crowd of 6,471.

The victory avenged a 73-65 loss in Iowa City on Feb. 5 and kept Ohio State (19-9, 11-5) in a tie for fourth place in the conference with Minnesota with two games remaining in the season.

And then, for sheer inter-state-conference rivalry sake, how about Cal over #18 Stanford, 63-53. On Senior Day. The Bears were just returning the favor the Cardinal gave’em a game ago. And ended the Cardinal 14-year run as Pac 10-12 champs.

Sun Belt upstart, Troy, takes down AR-Little Rock, 65-62.

“We really didn’t play like underdogs today, even when we were down by 10 points,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said.  “At that time my first inclination is to get in that frantic pressing mode, but we stayed back and played our zone defense, kept our gameplan and stayed in control.  The maturity of our team was a big difference in this game.”

Whoopsie! Charlotte knocks off Southern Miss, 83-72.

A “Yah, you won the Conference again, but wait until the conference tournament” win: Pacific over Gonzaga (the Zags first WCC loss), 71-59.

Some near misses:

#17 North Carolina over Miami by one. Make. Your. Free Throws.

Old Dominion over LaTech by one.

New Mexico State over Grand Canyon by one, clinching a share of the WAC title for the first time since 1995.

Ball State over Northern Illinois by one.

#14 Mississippi State over Alabama by two.

Seton Hall over Villanova by two, courtesy of a last second basket by senior Ka-Deidre Simmons From Steve Politi: 

Ka-Deidre Simmons thinks about the moment every day and wonders how she’ll react. Will she leap for joy? Will she start to cry? Will she play it cool like so many athletes do when their school pops up in the bracket during the NCAA Tournament selection show. 

She has no idea. She only knows that this moment — when the words “SETON HALL” finally appear in the field in three weeks — will be even sweeter because of her decision to stick it out in South Orange.

Hawai’i over UC Davis by two. The Wahine’s 19 wins is the most since 2001-02, when they won 23.

#12 Arizona State over USC by three — in TWO OTs.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “When Kelsey was out, it was like ‘Wow.’ Our bench has stepped up and people stepped up. It’s only going to make us better, obviously, for March, because we should be getting Kelsey back, hopefully, maybe this week.”

Northwestern over Wisconsin by three — in one OT. The win propelled the Wildcats into the polls for the first time in 19 years.

American over Army by three.

 A win against Navy on Wednesday in Annapolis would secure the Patriot League regular season title for the Eagles.

“They’ve always been a tight group. I love their camaraderie and how they really care about one another,” second-year Eagles coach Megan Gebbia said. “But I think it’s been our defense. That’s the biggest change that we’ve made. I think it’s that end of the floor and just shooting with confidence.”

Bryant over Robert Morris by three.

Western Kentucky over Middle State Tennessee by three. The Toppers hadn’t beaten the Blue Raiders in Bowling Green since 2008.

“I know 19 turnovers is the difference in the ballgame,” MTSU coach Rick Insell said. “We didn’t take care of the ball. (We) did a very poor job.

“(Western Kentucky) did a very good job.”

After an incredibly ugly first half, #20 Chattanooga over Samford by 7.

Wichita State over Southern Illinois by eight.

In other games:

How happy is FSU that Romero got to play this year? VERY happy.

In one of the best all-around performances in school history, Florida State sophomore point guard Leticia Romero recorded the program’s second-ever triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as FSU defeated Boston College, 86-68, on Sunday afternoon at the Conte Forum.

What happened to Pittsburgh’s offense in the second half? Up 41-35 in the first, they only scored 13 in the second, losing to #25 Syracuse, 68-54.

Speaking of offensive offense – Debbie Antonelli better shield her eyes: Georgia only scored 28 points. Auburn only scored 44. I think they should be forced to replay that game until they get it right.

And let us not discuss the 36-32 Presbyterian earned. In overtime. Gak!

Debbie would have enjoyed this one: Minnesota over Michigan in double overtime, 91-88 . Zahui B only went for 27 points and 27 rebounds. Slacker.

Amanda Zahui B. should be the last women’s basketball player to wear No. 32 at Minnesota.

Call it insane to say a redshirt sophomore’s number should be retired when her career ends, but in two years, the decision to retire her number won’t even be arguable.

The month of February produced some unbelievable moments for the Swedish export.

Wowza – push-me/pull-you Washingtons: First Washington State pokes Washington in the eye, 83-72 . Then Washington kicks State in the shin, 83-43.

Nobody knows who UMass-Lowell is (and their first-year coach Jenerrie Harris, ex-Navy staff member). Even ESPN doesn’t have a page for them. But the River Hawks DID take down UNH, 70-65, so someone better pay attention soon.

The UMass Lowell women’s basketball team really should start campaigning for more games at the Tsongas Center. 

The River Hawks have certainly looked quite comfortable under the bright lights of the 6,111-seat arena in 2014-15. 

Playing at the Tsongas for the third time this season on Saturday, UMass Lowell delivered an inspired performance and remained poised down the stretch against one of the America East Conference’s upper-echelon teams. 

That’s five conference crowns in a row by Baylor.

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