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basketball world is still working hard for their Dancin’ Shoes.

Considering the start of their respective seasons, I would have thought Green Bay would be the one sitting home and Bowling Green would be packing for the tournament. Instead, Ball State stunned the #25 Phoenix with a stomping’ – 73-55. They’ll go up against Akron (another “surprise” winner, this time over Central Michigan, who’d lost POY-DPOY Bradford to a knee injury) for the MAC championship.

Horizon: Green Bay took care of UIC , and so they’ll host the Wright State Raiders, who clubbed the Penguins, 98-70, to decide who gets their ticket punched.

Hampton is rollin’ in the MEAC but they won’t be challenged by North Carolina A&T, because they fell to Coppin State, 57-55.

C-USA comes to Southern Miss v. MTSU. Getting there was harder than one might think for the #1  in conference, who faced upstart Florida International. But the Blue Raiders prevailed, 64-57. Southern Miss rode the hot hand of senior point guard Jamierra Faulkner (C-USA’s all-time leader in assists) to take down U-TEP, 84-70.

In the SWAC, Texas Southern (20-11, 15-3) needed OT (of course) to escape Jackson State (15-15, 12-6), 79-77. They won’t have to go up against their regular season challenger, Southern (20-8, 16-2), ’cause they were wiped out by upstart Prairie View A&M (13-17, 11-7), 72-43.

It took TRIPLE overtime, but Colorado State continued its fabulous Mountain West season by defeating Wyoming, 95-92. They’ll face traditional MW powerhouse Fresno State in the finals.

WAC: Still a chance for a Vandal (or two) in the Tourney for the second year in a row. Idaho, who’s 15-1 in the conference, came back from 6 down at the half over New Mexico State. In the final, they’ll face Seattle U., which has had a balanced season (16-15) which usually doesn’t mean Dancin’ would be an option. BUT, they defeated CSU Bakersfield, 84-79.

Big West: Cal Poly v. CS Northridge.

Sometimes the team that is supposed to win can still be the underdog. Sometimes Goliath is the better story.

It won’t qualify as a surprise if Cal State Northridge earns a place in the NCAA tournament bracket. The Matadors won the regular-season championship in the Big West, their first, and are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament that concludes this weekend in Anaheim. They enter Friday’s semifinal against the lowest remaining seed (ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET) with Big West Player of the Year Ashlee Guay on their side, as well as the conference’s top defender, Camille Mahlknecht, and two more all-conference selections, Janae Sharpe and Cinnamon Lister.

They aren’t overwhelming favorites, not after edging a crowded field by a game in the regular season, but they are first in line to earn the one and only NCAA bid the league will get.

Patriot: Holy Cross v. Army.

Say what you want about history repeating itself but Saturday’s Patriot League championship matchup between Army and Holy Cross is about 2014 and not about the epic 2006 matchup that made late coach Maggie Dixon famous.

Dave Magarity was Army’s associate head coach that season. Magarity and the current Army team watched video of the 2006 title game this week in an idea that was part motivation, part history lesson. Members of that championship team have sent messages of support to the current players, and some will be on hand for the 6 p.m. contest.

Big Sky: Could there be a team from North Dakota in the Tournament? UND will go for their first shot at a D-I spot (UND appeared in 19 NCAA Division II national tournaments.). In their way: Montana, who came back from 13 down to defeat Southern Utah, 73-69. Last match-up tween these two teams, went Montana’s way, 52-49.

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UConn’s Morgan Tuck To Have Surgery, out for season, leaving the Huskies with 8 scholarship players for the rest of the season. (7 for their next game: Banks is out with an ankle sprain.)

You can hear coaches game planning: “What we need to do is get them into foul trouble.” True, but not as easy as it sounds. UConn has adjusted nicely to the new rules, especially considering the fierce defense they play. Things could get interesting in the paint!

Speaking of interesting:

Gaels are now 9-0 in the MAAC. Their biggest threats the rest of the (conference) season lurks at the end of their schedule: Quinnipiac and Marist.

As mentioned, big win for Cynthia Cooper as USC takes down #19 California. (Somebody stop Ariya Crook, writes Nick Kranz) With some nice recruits coming in next year, things are looking good for the Trojan program.

Staying with the Pac 12, Oregon surprised Washington State and earned their first conference win.

The #14 Sun Devils needed free throws to escape the Utes and, in the battle of great names (Nyingifa v Ogwumike), it was close in the first half but #4 Stanford pulled away in the second for a 17pt win over UCLA.

In the Battle of CAA Unbeatens, JMU returns to the Beast of the CAA role with 74-47 win over Drexel.

Upcoming games of interest:

Sunday brings us a little SEC “legit” road test: #10 South Carolina v. #16 Vanderbilt (2pm ESPN2) followed by #11 Tennessee v. #17 Texas A&M at 4pm. BTW, Dave’s podcast asks: #WhyNotVandy? Melanie Balcomb & Vanderbilt host South Carolina in a battle of SEC upstarts.

“Big Monday” means USC v. Stanford for the top spot in the Pac 12. Which means  Tina Thompson and Candice Wiggins will do a little Twitter ‘Smack Talk’

From Todd Carton: Can the Terps stop the Irish Invasion?

Glenn Logan worries about Kentucky:

I hate to say it, but right now, the women’s Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is just not very good. They are shooting the ball extremely poorly, and the object of the game of basketball, or at least one of the two main ones, is to put the ball into the basket. Kentucky is defending well enough to win, but when they simply cannot score.

Better, but a lot of ground to be made up: Texas women’s basketball still struggling to reinvigorate fan base – Over past decade, average home attendance has declined by half

Spotlight #1: Dunbar’s Rowe poised to become Middle Tennessee’s all-time scoring leader

Also the school’s all-time rebound leader, Rowe is averaging 22.2 points and 11.7 rebounds this season. She has 16 double-doubles, including 10 in a row, and a school-record 69 in her career.

“I’m not the fanciest, I can’t do the best moves, not the quickest, can’t jump the highest. But I’m just in a system that all five people on the court know what to do, and we work so well together.”

Spotlight #2: UNC’s Diamond DeShields dares to dream

UNC’s leading scorer can splice two defenders, perform pirouettes on her way to the basket, make passes that some point guards would never dare try to make. When she makes a routine play by her standards, a highlight reel, “did-you-see-that?!” play by layman’s standards, DeShields, 18, simply smiles, a cheek-to-cheek glow that lifts her 6-foot-1-inch body off the hard court.

“It can make me very happy,” DeShields said of basketball, “but it can also make me really mad.”

Spotlight #3: Jersey girl Mabrey boosts Irish

In WNBA land, Nate has: 2013 Tulsa Shock season review: What kind of talent did Fred Williams inherit?

In the “Please Buy The Sparks” vein, it’s James Bowman with Sparks Watch Day 24: The Vetting Process

SPOILER ALERT!!! That’s 900 wins for Bentley’s Barb Stevens. BTW, the Falcons are undefeated this season, and sit atop the DII poll.

Up next, Jim Foster going for #800.

Don’t have Netflix? Check this out! “Off The Rez,” the documentary about Louisville’s Shoni and Jude Schimmel from the Umatilla reservation, will finally be available for download TODAY, Jan 24, on iTunes and VOD platforms.

Great excuse to remind you of more good stuff (though it’s old): Eight Native Basketball Players You Need to Know Better: Cliff Johns the first Native American to play for legendary NCAA coach Lute Olsen at the University of Arizona; Kenny Dobbs, the all-universe dunking star; University of Kansas and WNBA star guard Angel Goodrich; Hall-of-Famer Reyneldi Becenti who was the first Native American to play in the WNBA; Two-time Continental Basketball Association champion with the Yakama Sun Kings Richard Dionne; GinaMarie Scarpa, cofounder of the Native American Basketball Invitational basketball tournament.

And did you catch this piece from Graham? Green Bay’s Tesha Buck embraces heritage

To understand her is to understand the universality of a father’s influence on a daughter. Her struggles with separation from what was familiar are the same as those of freshmen across the country. So, too, her ability to eventually adapt and thrive in that new setting. It is a story of someone who aspires to live up to the words tattooed above an ink basketball on her torso: Strong Hearted Woman.

To understand why that is only part of the story is to understand that “Strong Hearted Woman” is merely a translation of the words inscribed permanently on her skin. The words themselves are written in the Dakota language. The language of those who came before her. Of where she comes from. A language and a history rarely represented on Division I basketball courts.

Back in November, Brent Cahwe’s 10 Native American Basketball Players to watch this College Basketball season included Tesha and also named Lakota Beatty, Oklahoma State; Keli Warrior, Kansas; Abby Scott, New Mexico State; and Shauna Long, Lamar University.

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with Jackie Stiles: Coaching. (So, when’s that book coming out, Mechelle?)

A little USTYPT (You stay put) in Cincinnati: Elliot Signs Extension

A little, it closes the book, but it doesn’t end the pain: Memphis native gets 29 years in stabbing death of her MTSU roommate, Tina Stewart

A little “congrats” to the Miami Sol fan’s favorite oh, so black-and-blue player: Former Saint Joseph’s Standout Debbie Black To Be Inducted Into Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Have not been able to confirm rumors that Teresa Weatherspoon will introduce her at the ceremony…. *evil grin*

A little Bears and ‘bama at the White House.

A little, “I’m not done yet!” Cheryl Ford continues basketball comeback – Former Lady Techster to give back to Ruston this weekend.

A little, no, I’m not surprised: Pilypaitis emerges as leader on Canadian women’s basketball team and Gloucester’s Courtnay Pilypaitis is reviving Canada’s hoop dreams

An industrious athlete recognized more for her exceptional work ethic and all-around game rather than star power, Pilypaitis, 23, raised her game to an unprecedented level during the FIBA world Olympic women’s qualifying tournament in Ankara, Turkey earlier this summer. In doing so, she orchestrated her team’s return to the Olympic women’s basketball tournament for the first time in 12 years.

But Pilypaitis almost didn’t make it to Turkey to help land Canada a fifth-place finish and the final berth in the 12-country Olympic tournament.

 

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attention from Graham for their long, steady evolution into an A-Sun power: FGCU eyes first NCAA tournament – Eagles a 3-point launching, turnover-forcing group just on the outskirts of the Top 25

For a guy who hasn’t gone anywhere, Karl Smesko has come a long way.

As a result, Florida Gulf Coast is going places.

A decade ago, Smesko was the coach of what he thought would be an NAIA program, one that had yet to play its first game. He worked out of a makeshift office in a trailer he shared with other members of the fledgling athletic department. His first individual workouts took place on the asphalt of an outdoor court, constructing a team even as the school in Fort Myers, Fla., constructed a building in which it could play.

Yet his team won by 17 points the first time it took the court. The next night, it won by 46 points. It lost just once that first season, rolling to a 30-1 record against the likes of Indiana Tech, Cardinal Stritch University and Flagler College.

Like a lot of coaches winning in the most distant reaches of college basketball, Smesko moved on to bigger and better things. Unlike almost any of his peers, he didn’t actually move to do so, save for relocating to a better office.

Longtime readers of the WHB are familiar with the Eagles’ story, but it’s great to have them get wider exposure. Focusing on the non-big six conferences is an essential part of building the game from the bottom, middle and top.  I’m looking forward to ESPN’s stories of program redemption (Fresno State, 10-0 WAC), program (re?) emergence (Boston University, 13-1, Am. East), program building (UTEP, 13-0 C-USA), and program fortitude (Middle Tennessee 14-0, Sun Belt).

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you never want to have to post: Freshman roommate charged in Lady Raiders’ death

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lot of running and clubbing and cruising and romping and mauling and ripping and whipping and season high-ing.

DCBC watched the Tiger Taming and C&R tracked the Cardinal.

Some escaped, in spite of a serious case of fumble fingers (28 TOs!). Some escaped in OT.

Some proved they were Monty Python fans (“I’m not dead yet!”)

As for “other” teams:

Coach Stockon’s Green Wave ran their C-USA record to 4-0 with a 30-pt victory over Marshall. (Did anyone catch Tulane on TV last week? FUN team to watch!)

Wonder if they need to watch out for Houston, who’s also 4-0.

She’s baaaaaak! Drey Mingo goes double-double on Northwestern, securing a (101st for Versyp) Purdue win.

A big win for Penn State (83-62) puts them at 4-1 in the Big 10 (and yes, it’s weird that Illinois’ Penn had a double-double) (And yes, Lucas snapped Mazzante’s record of freshman threes.)

Swish! Drexel uses a last-second three to topple William & Mary 59-58.

Are the Lady Bears (Mo) becoming relevant again? They’re 5-1 in the MVC.

Don’t look now, but Army is 3-0 in Patriot League play (and have won five straight).

Marist rules the MAAC. So what’s new?

Middle Tennessee still rules the Sun Belt — but it was close against Arkansas State.

Old Dominion over Delaware. That’s #599 for Wendy Larry. (Oh, and the ODU SID peeps do a great job keeping up with their alums. Check out Former Lady Monarch’s Pen is as Mighty as Her Jump Shot and Nancy Lieberman’s Historic Debut.)

Coach Boyle is at a loss, and so are her Cal Bears.

Didja catch Coop’s UNC-Wilmington team squeeze out a win over Hofstra? (They’re now 4-1 in the CAA.)

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