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So, yah, you (and the rest of the world) didn’t have this Final Four penciled in ANYwhere. (OK, maybe EIGHT of you did. Showoffs.) How. Cool. Is. That?

FWIW: Interesting a game at Bridgeport – the UConn fans were more nervous than the two teams. It was a fine, rough-and-tumble game… and a far cry from the rout of last year. Kudos to Aston/Texas for learning and growing from that not-so-fun experience. That being said, every time the Longhorns inched closer, the Huskies nailed a three, and so punched their ticket to Indy.

Favorite moment of the Bridgeport regional (in two parts): 1) Seeing Holly Rowe on the sidelines again 2) watching the camera guy assigned to her taking a selfie with her.

Was on the train home tracking the Oregon State/Baylor game. Can we get a measurement on the distance Kim’s jacket traveled? Can we get a temperature on the ice in Sydney Wiese’s veins?

Movin’ on

Tim Booth, AP: Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

For three decades, any chatter about women’s basketball on the West Coast has usually started and ended with Stanford.

While the Cardinal are still among the elite programs in the country – as evidenced by their run to the Elite Eight – it’s Oregon State and Washington that are headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis and providing validation that women’s basketball out West is more than just what is happening at Stanford.

”We’re all seeing how good the Pac-12 is. It surprises me a bit how surprised I think people are across the country,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said over the weekend. ”You listen to just the general narrative of the Pac-12 and people are surprised, surprised Washington could beat Maryland. We’re not. We’ve played against them.”

Graham: Trio of Final Four debutants face tallest of tasks

Goliath is coming to a place so steeped in the legend of David that someone made a movie about it.

Even so, it will take more than running the picket fence of “Hoosiers” fame, Hollywood’s version of slinging a stone, to stop this Connecticut women’s basketball team in its pursuit of perfection — yet again.

Mechelle: UConn is advancing women’s basketball — not killing it

Town crier on the state of collegiate women’s basketball, based on reading a few headlines, in …

2016: “UConn is dominant! There’s no parity! Is the sport growing?

2006: “Finally, a Women’s Final Four without UConn or Tennessee! Just the second time that’s happened in 12 years! Is the sport growing?”

1996: “The exact same teams — Tennessee, UConn, Stanford and Georgia — are in Women’s Final Four as last year! Is the sport growing?”

1986: “Texas is dominant! The Longhorns go undefeated to win the NCAA title. Is the sport growing?

1976: “Delta State is dominant! Two AIAW titles in a row, and they’ll probably win next year too. Is the sport growing?”

1966: “Nashville Business College is dominant! Five AAU titles in a row, with no signs of stopping. Is the sport growing?

And with that, we wrap up 50 years of a sport. Pretty much tells the whole story, right? Yeah … not exactly. 

Mechelle: Rueck builds Beavers into national contender

She stood on the line with seven seconds left in the game, and a chance to give Oregon State a three-point lead against Baylor. Beavers junior guard Sydney Wiese wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’d missed one of two free throws 26 seconds earlier. Nor was she saying to herself, “This is for the Final Four. You absolutely MUST make these.”

Instead, the word that went through Wiese’s mind was this: driveway.

In case you missed it: Collier is UW women’s basketball team’s inspiration

Katie Collier loves her long blonde hair. Of course, when Collier learned she had contracted a form of cancer, the first question she posed to doctors had nothing to do with the possibility of losing her hair during chemotherapy.

“That was my second question!” Collier recalled with one of her frequent laughs.

Collier’s first question was a tad more serious: “Am I going to die?”

Five years after doctors told she would never play basketball again because of leukemia, and four years after her first season of college basketball was delayed a year by major knee surgery, Collier is the starting center for the Washington Huskies.

Shaq cheers for ‘niece’ on Syracuse women’s basketball team heading to Final Four

Lee Michaelson has a longform piece on the Beavers: Oregon State’s first-ever trip to the Final Four is “pinch me stuff,” Beavers top Baylor in Elite Eight and head to Indy

 “This is pinch me stuff; there are no other words for it,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck as his second-seeded Beavers advanced to the first Final Four in school history after upsetting top-seeded Baylor, 60-57, to win the Elite Eight in the Dallas Regional on Monday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Someone had better notify the Indianapolis Newcomers Club:  The Beavers now head to Indiana, where they will join two other Final Four debutantes, fourth-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Washington, along with the overwhelming favorite and overall top seed in the tournament, reigning champion University of Connecticut, in the national semifinals on Sunday, April 3.

Elizabeth Merrill has a longform piece on Stewart: Being Breanna Stewart

Maybe Stewart is too close to fully appreciate it right now. On the surface, she is perfect. She is so good and does things so effortlessly that sometimes it looks as if she’s not trying hard enough.

Auriemma, in fact, believes she’s not trying hard enough. He’s always on her about her defense. It’s been that way for four years. If she were an infant learning to speak, she’d swear that “Stewie, Get In Your Stance” was her name.

That’s what actually led to her recent icy spell with Auriemma. Around midseason, she gave up three straight baskets to a player who Auriemma claims was at least 4 inches shorter than Stewart. The game, mind you, was a blowout.

That doesn’t matter, he says. “You can either go through life now and say, ‘Well, we won by 40,’ or you can say every night, ‘I owe it to myself and to all these people who are coming here and my teammates and everybody to live up to my expectations.’

Check out Lessons From Layshia: Tournament Time Double Standard

Now, I get it. UConn has been dominant. Historically, women’s basketball has lacked parity. But this was a #1 vs #16 seed matchup. This is exactly what is supposed to happen, which is why we care about upsets, it strays from the norm.

I looked but I couldn’t find anyone saying the same after #1 Kansas beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 or #1 Oregon beat #16 Holy Cross 91-52. It wasn’t a story. It was predictable. Everyone moved on.

But maybe the most upsetting about this narrative being pushed is that there’s been a ton of upsets for the women this year. In the same way it started out as the year of the 12 seeds on the men’s side, it mirrored that on the women’s side.

WNIT!

Semis are set, and they oughta be doozies

Wednesday, 8pm, ESPN3: Oregon v. South Dakota IN Vermillion

 A ‘unique opportunity.’

That was the main theme for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team on Tuesday, a day after the Coyotes learned they would be hosting a high-major team in the WNIT.

That’s right, Oregon will be playing at the DakotaDome tonight (Wednesday) in the 7 p.m. semifinals.

It’s certainly not the first high-major team to play in Vermillion, but it’s one of the most notable.

Thursday, 8om, ESPN2: Michigan v. FGCU IN Fort Meyers

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball has made no secret about its motivation this postseason.

FGCU felt spurned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. As a result, the Eagles are taking their frustration out on the rest of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

In other news:

Bye: UK women’s basketball’s Ivana Jakubcova decides to transfer

Bye: Joan Bonvicini resigns as coach of Seattle

Hello: Kansas top scorer Lauren Aldridge transfers to Missouri

Hello: Alabama lands transfer from UT Martin, three-time OVC Freshman of the Week DaiJia Ruffin

Hello: South Dakota State lands transfer from Iowa, forward Tagyn Larson

Congrats: Georgia’s Joni Taylor named 2016 Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year

Congrats: Columbia University Hires Megan Griffith ’07CC As Head Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Badgers sports: Board of Regents set to approve contracts for Tony Granato, Jonathan Tsipis

Congrats: Payne Named Colorado Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Kenny Brooks Will Lead Tech’s Women’s Basketball Program

Congrats: Colgate Athletics has named Bill Cleary to its head women’s basketball coaching position.

Dicey: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb faces ‘evaluation process’

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to the start of the 2015-16 season.

Utah: Under Lynne Roberts, Utes are pursuing new fans

Some people sketch out their vision on a napkin, or a whiteboard, or store it in the files of their mind.

As of Friday, Lynne Roberts has a website.

Utah women’s basketball rolled out a website dedicated to its players, coaches, tradition and home. The website, utahwomenshoops.com, features video interviews of everyone in the program, and images touting past success — implying success to come.

In Roberts’ profile, she quotes Henry Kissinger: “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have never been.”

It’s what the 40-year-old head coach has in mind for the Utes: making the program a headline attraction.

Nebraska: With a deeper roster, Creighton women’s basketball has a good problem

There have been seasons in which Creighton women’s basketball coach Jim Flanery didn’t have enough healthy bodies to practice.

Not this season. Flanery has 15 players on the roster. He has more depth than he knows what to do with. Although not a big fan of redshirting, he’s going to ask two of his players to sit out this year.

Nebraska, too: Meet the Husker women’s basketball team

Iowa State: Johnson trying to be more vocal, show she’s an all-conference performer

“Her ability to rebound, her ability to get to the basket in situations — her numbers are eerily consistent,” Fennelly said. “But we have to find that solid starter as a sophomore, good player, that bumps to great, all-conference, unquestioned leader kind of thing. I think she’s capable.” 

More Iowa State: Buckley set to takeover at point guard

“This is the first year in a long time where we don’t have an incumbent point guard that you know is really, really good,” Fennelly said. “You look at that wall in there, and it’s full of really good point guards. I honestly believe Jadda Buckley could be the next one. 

Connecticut: UConn Women’s Insider: Gabby Williams Has Put In Extra Work – And It Shows

Last year was a busy one for Gabby Williams, filled with transitional tasks that would easily spin the head of any 18-year-old freshman.

She moved from high school to college, from Nevada to Storrs. She worked on mending after a second season-ending knee injury early in her senior season at Sparks High in Reno. And she accepted the challenge of a shift from guard to forward, presented by the UConn coaching staff during her first summer on campus.

And yet, from just about every imaginable perspective, her freshman season was a great success.

South Dakota: SD fervor for women’s basketball is unique and appreciated

The fervor for women’s basketball is a legend across South Dakota, and now nationally as teams from colleges across the state continue to draw record crowds, surprising the out-of-state spectators and lifting the players with the energy, enthusiasm and support the sport garners here.

“I try to make sure our players take a step back and appreciate it when we’re setting attendance records (in the Premier Center),” said USD coach Amy Williams. “Whether they go on to play (after college) or their careers are over, they probably won’t ever have another experience like that.”

Hoping for further growth in NY: New faces for Stony Brook women’s basketball team have winning pedigrees

New Jersey: Dynamic duo leads Rutgers into second year in Big Ten

New Hampshire: Coaches’ Corner With Maureen Magarity

North Carolina: Brown guides from the bench for Duke women’s basketball

Duke’s roster boasts several electric backcourt players this season, but the guard that may have the biggest impact on the team will never see the floor during a game.

Lexie Brown was a third-team All-American as a sophomore last year at Maryland, leading the Terrapins to back-to-back Final Four appearances before deciding to transfer to Duke in the offseason. She will have to sit out of competition this year due to NCAA transfer regulations, but the Suwanee, Ga., native will still practice with the team and challenge the Blue Devils’ young backcourt in practice all winter.

Kansas: Breaking down the WSU women’s basketball team

What will life after Alex Harden be like for the Wichita State women’s basketball team?

Harden is playing for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA and Wichita State is left with an average of just 5.3 points returning from the team that paired its third straight Missouri Valley championship with its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

It’s just the latest challenge for coach Jody Adams, who has taken on – and conquered – a myriad of them to build Wichita State to its current status atop the MVC.

Florida: 

Last season was the first time the Gators failed to make the postseason in eight years under coach Amanda Butler. A 5-11 SEC record doomed them and led preseason prognosticators to peg UF for a 12th-place finish in the SEC. The Gators have reasons to believe last year was a blip rather than a trend. UF has a strong five-member senior class and only two freshmen, so inexperience should not be a concern. Six players averaged at least 7.1 points per game last season, and five are returning.

Who’s in charge?

California: Mikayla Cowling set to lead Cal women’s basketball in 2015-16

Unlike years past, the Cal women’s basketball team won’t be entering the 2015-16 season as one of the contenders to win the title. While its three-point loss at home to Texas in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year was devastating, the more crushing blow to the future of the program was the loss of its top three scorers.

California, too: UCLA women’s basketball looks to bolster teamwork efforts

Sue has a preview of all the Pac 12 teams.

Fingers crossed in Minnesota: Banham’s return buoys Gophers’ lineup revisions – Guard back from knee injury nears scoring record. 

The thing that’s most exciting to me is the way the fan base has embraced us and what we’re trying to do,” Stollings said. “People have said, ‘You know, you’ve electrified the fan base again. You’ve instilled pride back into the program.’ For me, it’s been awesome being embraced by our fans.

In DIII hoops: No surprise, Thomas More is picked to repeat.

For most of our Top 25 voters, the easiest decision was the first one: putting Thomas More No. 1. The defending champions return four starters and seven players from their regular rotation, including D3hoops.com Player of the Year Sydney Moss, and were a unanimous No. 1 selection in the D3hoops.com preseason women’s basketball Top 25 poll.

Wisconsin: Johnson forgoes WNBA for one last chance with UW

For Michala Johnson, the training room became the place she resided during games almost as much as the bench. Thanks to two ACL injuries, the sixth-year senior has become as versed in the anatomy of a knee as the Wisconsin playbook. Twice, she has watched her team suffer on the floor knowing full well she could do very little to affect the outcomes of their games.

“The hardest part is just having to go through it again. Always being in the training room, when I want to be out, watching practice or being a part of the team,” Johnson said of her latest ACL injury, which kept her out of most of the 2014-’15 season. 

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 11/05/15 Podcast: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb on the transfer epidemic, returning to prominence in the SEC and more

Video: Auriemma on First Take

Video: Super Vol Fan Margo has her preview,

Like Margo, we’re wondering: Can Diamond DeShields lead Tennessee back to the Final Four?

Oooo – Reporter Flashback parallels WNBA fashback: Ailene Voisin: Monarchs join party for Women in Sports festivities

While the Kings limp through the opening weeks of 2015-16, their final season inside the soon-to-be archived Sleep Train Arena, the trip down memory lane continues.

Everyone has a personal favorite. Opening night against the Los Angeles Clippers in the temporary facility in 1985. Mike Bibby’s side jumper against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5. The sobfest finale in 2011 that gave NBA owners pause about relocating the franchise. The Oct. 28 regular-season opener against the Clippers, suggesting it was time to start prepping for the move into Golden 1 Center.

But there is no forgetting the Monarchs.

Never, ever, ever, ever.

Staying on the West Coast: Rhea finds home with Seattle Storm 

Talisa Rhea has always had a head and passion for the game of basketball.

Whether competing on the court or sitting on the sidelines, she was a student of the game, the 94-by-50-foot court serving as a classroom of sorts.

That classroom now includes a promotion to the position of manager of basketball operations for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, the next best thing to playing, according to Rhea, a 2007 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate.

Texas: Dallas’ new WNBA team look to be ‘market disrupters’

From the video series “The Makers”: The WNBA’s Candace Parker On Winning at Work (Plus, Her Must-Try “24-Hour Rule”)

Adam Silver confident in WNBA, plans to be more involved. (Okay… how about asking Lin Dunn, “What’re you up to these days….”?) Writes Mechelle:

The league must look for someone who can build on what’s been accomplished, and remedy (or at least start to) some of the things that haven’t. I believe someone with both strong basketball and business backgrounds is the best target.

Wednesday night, I spoke at length with NBA commissioner Adam Silver about where the WNBA goes from here. And although you don’t typically see the word “passionate” used in regard to Silver, he genuinely sounded that way about his commitment to the WNBA. And frankly, that was very good to hear.

Following up on the post below: From David: Black Mizzou Football Players Are Going on Strike Over Campus Racism – In a game changer that could bring down a university president, the Missouri football players are showing just how powerful their labor is.

The power of this action cannot be overstated. These football players have forced people to educate themselves about a campus environment that has been on fire for months, if not years. (Here is a timeline.) This year activists on campus have protested over the rights of adjunct professors, the cutting of health care benefits, the rolling back reproductive rights for women, and a hostile climate for students of color. And a recent series of ugly racist incidents led the football players to take collective action. For a team that two years ago stood in solidarity with teammate Michael Sam when he told the world he was gay, they again made the lionhearted decision to rise to the moment.

I spoke with Dr. Rebecca Martinez, an assistant professor in women’s and gender Studies. She said, “The football program here at Mizzou is a central part of the university culture.  The collective athletes of color who made the decision to go on strike do so with conviction for social justice for marginalized students on our campus. Given the importance of football here, they are taking a significant stand. They are not thinking of themselves, their play, and their careers at this moment. It is not an easy thing to do on a football-centered campus like ours, especially around the issue of racism. There will likely be no shortage of those who put football above humanity and who are convinced that racism doesn’t live here. And they are wrong.”

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From the Female Coaching Network: Extra Time With Stephanie White

Doug: Fever-Lynx Preview

 It’s only fitting these WNBA Finals are going the distance.

”It’s absolutely been a great series,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ”Four really, really hard fought games. Why not go to a Game 5? It’s been that good of a series. It’s one of those things that people like to see.

Mechelle: Game 5 is a fitting end for a WNBA Finals full of good basketball

Six years have passed since the last Game 5 in a WNBA Finals. And it seems like both quite a while ago and not quite so distant to Indiana point guard Briann January.

“Since then, I’ve gained a lot of experience,” said January, whose Indiana Fever lost that game 94-86 to Phoenix on Oct. 9, 2009. “That still burns me. I was a rookie, and they won Game 4 here [in Indianapolis] and then won in Phoenix. To end the season like that, it sits with you.”

In Game 5 on Wednesday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) in Minneapolis, the Fever and the Minnesota Lynx will battle one last time this year. One team will celebrate a championship, and the other will be left, as January said, with a bad feeling that lingers.

In college news:

Back to work: USC women’s basketball team reloads for new season and As practice tips off, USC women’s basketball once again sets sights on national title and Gamecocks women’s team putting last year’s success behind

Key veterans return for Notre Dame women’s basketball  and Ali Patberg ready to run point for Notre Dame women’s basketball

Anyone who knows Muffet McGraw is well aware that she wouldn’t hand the keys to her offense over to just anybody.

That, by itself, is proof positive that Ali Patberg is something special.

The 5-foot-10 freshman point guard from Columbus, Ind., is one of the key components of the next wave of talent — along with classmates Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale — that should keep Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team among the nation’s elite for years to come.

Video: Coach McGraw at Media Day

Georgia women’s basketball: new head coach Joni Taylor comfortable in command

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers look to build off 2014-15 successes

“It’s season time now,” senior Jamie Weisner said Monday afternoon. “We’re playing for keeps. I wouldn’t say the Italy practices weren’t intense but we’re just building off that. Each day you want to progress and that’s what we’re doing.”

Those August practices helped get the three freshman integrated to the way the Beavers practice and allowed them to form cohesion on and off the court with the returners.

“When we got back in here on Wednesday we already had that base level so we just took it from there,” Weisner said. “I would say they put us ahead of the game.”

UConn’s Stewart learns a lot from time with USA Basketball

Harumph: Balcomb: Vanderbilt women better after players left

Scott Seeks Strong Finish to Herd Career

In the 46-year history of women’s basketball at Marshall, only seven players have scored more points in a season than Leah Scott did in 2014-15.

In her upcoming senior season, Scott intends to do even better – but not just at the offensive end of the floor.

Nebraska: Women’s basketball notebook: Yori excited about young players in program

Finally, a h/t to Joanna for the Storify: The WNBA, Women Sports Writers and Personal Responsiblity

During Game 4 of Monday night’s 2015 WNBA Finals, @hoopfeed sent out a tweet regarding the lack of women sports writers talking about the Finals. This sparked a reply by Kate Fagan (@katefagan3) on Monday morning. Thus began an interesting conversation about the responsibility of women sports writers when it comes women’s sports.

Longtime readers of the WHB know of my ongoing advocacy for coverage of women’s basketball. It’s a complicated issue, and at its core is love and money. Buy me a beer some day, and we can unravel some of the discussions I’ve had with fans, Sports Information Directors, journalists an sports editors.

The simplest equation is that coverage is directly related to income generated. Income generated is connected to advertisers and their belief that the sport they are underwriting is worth it because of the fanbase. Chicken-Egg anyone?

So, what do we do?

  1. If you are a SID, Conference, or WNBA team aggregate all the articles written about your team/conference/league and offer a “News Digest” to fans. Actively and aggressively find traditional and non-traditional media outlets.
  2. If you are a fan, don’t just click on news articles. Take a moment to leave a comment – even if it’s only to say “thank you.” When you have more than a moment, drop an email to a writer and their sports editor. Twitter is also a great way publicize your advocacy.
  3. If you cover women’s basketball, publicize your writing. Yes, that used to be considered tacky in the good old days, but it’s essential now. If your parent company allows, publicize the writing of others. If you have the time to watch a game, toss out a couple of tweets!

Love, money, chicken, egg – if we work together, get the the word out, more fans will mean more coverage which will mean more writers actually earning a living covering sports – men’s AND women’s. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Speaking of coverage, want a chance to put your money where your heart is? Check this out from Paul: A challenge to the women’s basketball family

It was with a heavy heart last week that I felt the need to pose a challenge to the women’s basketball family.

It came after news that the terrific lovewomensbasktball.com was closing its doors after volunteer editor, contributor and general women’s basketball fanatic Janis Kacens was no longer able to continue.
***
…this site does not happen by accident. The enjoyment attained by those thousands of people from across the basketball community has been brought to you by Janis in what has been a ‘labour of love’. Often controversial, I have not always agreed with him, but the respect I have for the countless hours of work he has put into this project and the knowledge he has could not be higher.

But why do we have to place so much expectation on someone doing on top of a day job and on top of studying?

It is time for the women’s basketball community to respond.

I feel that if we can’t get 250 people to pay $4 or about 3-4 euros per month (basically a cup of coffee or so) to support the cost of running the site and to actually compensate and support those who burn the midnight oil continuously, then this is a damning indictment of women’s basketball.

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#19 Cal took down #17 Colorado by 2.

Not only did Ohio State defeat #22 Indiana rather handily, the win also knocked the Hoosiers out of the “Still Undefeated” club.

#15 Oklahoma State did the same to #11 Iowa State, 69-62.

Gonzaga stomped all over the #24 Toreros, 79-50.

Texas A&M topped #25 (why are they still ranked?) Georgia, 58-44.

#21 Purdue pulled away from #14 Penn State IN Happy Valley, 84-64.

Helping Vandy get a rare win over Tennessee earned 5’4″ Jasmine Lister espnW POW honors. Said coach Balcomb:

…if this were a sequence of one-on-one matchups, the Lady Vols might dominate, based on sheer physical ability. But that’s not how a basketball game works. Vanderbilt sweated the small stuff and refused to back down.

“I was concerned about their height. I was concerned about their athleticism. I was concerned about the talent level,” Balcomb said. “The big thing with us is just to execute our game plan.

“We just showed a lot of discipline, a lot of composure and a lot of toughness.”

Chiney… I mean #4 Stanford handled Utah and #17 Colorado.

It took  #23 Arizona State OT to take down USC (which got a game tying 3 with seconds left in the 2nd), 94-86, and then ASU barely just snuck by UCLA.

#13 North Carolina escaped #18 Florida State, 65-61.

#2 Notre Dame escaped Virginia, 79-72.

#10 South Carolina escaped Auburn, 72-66.

#5 Louisville escaped South Florida, 62-54.

Sims… I mean #7 Baylor handled the Horned Frogs, 80-46.

#12 LSU skinned the Gators, 82-68.

Duke plucked the Eagles, 78-57.

#9 Kentucky managed to overcome Missouri’s Kulas (27-14-4)  and get the 80-69 win.

In other news, Iona (12-2)  is having fun in the MAAC. They get to face Marist (11-4) on Monday.

Wichita State is enjoying the Missouri Valley — let’s see how they feel after they meet Northern Iowa.

Wow. Revenge is sweet, huh? JMU exploded — and I mean a 60 point second half explosion — against Delaware, handing the Blue Hens a 36pt. loss.

A decent tussle turned into a serious blowout as #1 UConn took down Temple.

Navy seized the top spot in the Patriot League with their win over Army, 74-64:

 “Huge win,” said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. “To us, this was like a post-season game. So much respective for what Army has done. I think their defense is fantastic; I’m still trying to figure out how we scored 74 points against them.”

Wow, it IS a tough year for Green Bay (8-6) – they lost to Milwaukee (5-9)!

I’m not sayin’ nothin’, but St. Francis (NY) is 12-2.

In that same vein – Rhode Island has six wins and Maine is 8-8. Oh, and Seton Hall is 10-4.

It is mighty crowded atop Conference USA.

Princeton took care of Penn. They’ll go up against Harvard on the 31st in a game that could be significant come NCAA tourney time.

Hmmm… might have to do some rethinking about the A-10. VCU over St. Joe’s, 73-69. Fordham’s up next for the (other) Rams.

Oh, so yeah, so the Baylor Bears put their 69-game home streak on line as they host the UConn Huskies  Monday.

“It will be a good game. They’re pretty big in size. We’re a little undersized this year. But we’ll figure it out,” said Sims, the national scoring leader at 31.8 points a game. “And I’ll just tell you, it won’t be a blowout. It will be a tough game for them and us, so just be ready for it.”

Obviously, writes Jim Fuller, Slowing Baylor’s Odyssey Sims no easy task for Huskies.

“I have watched her on film and she is the best player I have seen this year, no question. Nobody else is even close,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of the nation’s leading scorer who needs 34 points to become the third player in Big 12 history with at least 2,000 points and 500 assists. “She can hit the 3, she gets in the lane, she fouls you out and she makes runners.”

Rich Elliot thinks Sims is a big test for UConn soph Jefferson

“That’s what you sign to play for,” Jefferson said. “You want to play against the best players. When you play big games that’s when big players step up. So I’m going to come out and try to do whatever I can to help my team out.”

Jeff Jacobs pokes at the Bears a bit: Unlike Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, Geno Welcomes The Nonconference Challenge

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humiliation, it’s important to notice the real moments of human kindness and generosity. For instance, Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb gives LSU senior a gift

Prior to last week’s Vanderbilt-LSU game in Baton Rouge, LSU Coach Nikki Caldwell asked Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb for a favor.

Caldwell wanted senior guard Destini Hughes to start the game on senior night with four other seniors. Hughes had not played since suffering a knee injury Jan. 19.

Then, there was this, a few years ago, but coming to light now after St. John’s Smith nailed the 3 that snapped UConn’s 99-game winning streak:

The relationship between Auriemma and Smith originated at Big East Media Day in New York City during her freshman year in 2009-10. Barnes Arico had brought her along and Smith asked her if she could introduce her to Auriemma. “She always looked up to him,’’ Barnes Arico said. “She always idolized him. He’s the greatest coach in the game. I have a good relationship with him so I brought her over to him and they chatted and she was just in awe afterwards.’’

The two talked again at Big East Media Day in 2010. This time the meeting was again set up by Barnes Arico. She felt that Smith needed some guidance. And she felt that Auriemma was the perfect candidate to get Smith on the right path to success.

“She was going through a lot of struggles and she had her little bumps in the road,’’ Barnes Arico said. “People were trying to get in her mind and people were trying to do different things with her. She was struggling. And I said to Coach (Auriemma), `Coach, can you grab Shenneika for a minute? Can you talk to her for a minute?’ He did and that kind of turned the kid around. She’s the greatest kid ever and the commitment she’s made to our program and the strides that she has made are tremendous. He really pumped her up. He gave her a bit of confidence and he really made her feel good. She came back and she was a different player.’’

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