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Thank goodness.

An ugly, cranky start by the Merc gave Maya Moore the Lynx a nice lead. And then then Penny Taylor in the fourth quarter happened. And then… Bonner missed a FT, Maya didn’t, Diana missed a three and Big Syl grabbed the rebound. Lynx go to 4-0, Mercury fall to 0-4.

From Richard at WNBAlien: WNBA and the Pick+Roll, and introducing the W Dozen

Eleven days into the WNBA season, it’s a little early to be drawing any real conclusions (although the ‘Minnesota good’, ‘San Antonio bad’, and ‘What the hell is going on in Phoenix?’ hot-takes are already emerging). So we’re going to take a look at one of the key building-blocks of virtually every modern offense in professional basketball. The pick-and-roll – or even just the pick – is an incredibly simple concept. You put a teammate in the way of your defender, and then force the defense to deal with the problems that creates.

From Excelle: How New York Liberty are remaking their small forward position

The New York Liberty play a throwback style of basketball. Defense and rebounding are priorities 1A and 1B. While other teams move towards smaller fours that can spread the floor, head coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad often plays two traditional bigs together. The Lib will bog teams down to a crawl and punish them in the low post. It’s been a fun and successful brand of ball, and it hasn’t taken away from the more modern aspects of New York’s game. 

This season, the Liberty have scoffed at playing traditional small forwards, opting instead for smaller players who perform despite not fitting the mold.

Connecticut: Slow Start, Too Many Fouls, Mar Beginning Of Miller’s First Season With Sun

Because of the monthlong Olympic break in August, the WNBA season lasts into September so a few missteps in May aren’t going to make a team panic.

Still, the start of season is a critical time for the Connecticut Sun. New coach Curt Miller is trying to install his system and bring a new culture to the franchise. It would be better for all concerned if some positive reinforcement was available early to help the process.

SlamOnline.com: Q+A: Nneka Ogwumike – The fifth-year Sparks forward dishes on L.A.’s hot start.

From Paul Doyle at the Hartford Courant: Dolson Spreads Word On Her Identity, And WNBA’s

About 90 minutes before the Connecticut Sun‘s home opener, Morgan Tuck walked past a cluster of reporters surrounding Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson.

“Oh my God, Stefanie Dolson!” Tuck yelled.

Without missing a beat, Dolson replied.

“Oh my God, Morgan Tuck!” she said.

Then it was back answering questions, seamlessly and smiling. Dolson, who left UConn for the WNBA two years ago, is still the same quick-witted, breezy personality who became a fan favorite during her time in Storrs.

From Cosmopolitan: How WNBA Player Imani Boyette Beat the Odds — and Her Depression

From the Fever: Wheelin’ Around: Erica Wheeler’s Journey to the WNBA

NCAA

From the Tennessean’s: Joe Rexrode: Vanderbilt’s Stephanie White — worth the wait

White is the head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and will remain so through a season that could realistically end in the Finals in mid-October (she led the Fever to the Finals a year ago as a rookie head coach). She might take full command of her first Vandy team less than a month before it starts the 2016-17 season.

That’s not ideal. But if White is what Vanderbilt thinks she is, what her resume and command of a room suggest she is, it’s meaningless. It’s the delayed flight to start a vacation that you’re already laughing about at the end of the vacation.

More on White from the AP’s Teresa Walker: Stephanie White ready to speed up Vanderbilt as new coach

And more on the ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: Meeting expectations

On the latest edition of “Around The Rim,” 2005 WNBA champion Ticha Penicheiro joins women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson as special guest host.

The two discuss the Sparks’ dominant win over the Sky, why the Mercury continue to struggle, whether or not teams are exceeding or falling below expectations and which players that usually fly under the radar are playing surprisingly well.

Plus, Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn stops in to discuss Stephanie White’s end-of-the-season departure to coach at Vanderbilt, her decision to exit retirement and return to coaching at Kentucky and much more.

Speaking of Dunn: Kentucky’s new assistant coaches have strong bonds, common goal

It’s a word rolled out with regularity by head coaches to describe their team and coaching staff: family.

The three new assistant coaches hired by embattled Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell certainly gave off that familial vibe when they met with the media for the first time Wednesday.

The newest hire, Hall of Famer Lin Dunn, said she thinks of her new boss “almost like a son” before giving a sideways glance and a smirk.

“Not a grandson, but a son,” quipped the 69-year-old, who has won more than 500 games at the college, professional and international levels.

International

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Dishin’ and Swishin’ podcast: ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel shares early WNBA thoughts

Doug Robinson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Dream’s two vets not giving up on title

Breanna Stewart’s Debut Ranks Among Best in WNBA History

Rookie Report: First WNBA Memories and As Former UConn Teammates Become Opponents, Friendship Remains Strong

Aussies in WNBA: Phillips and Taylor find form

Ah, the life of a rookie post: Imani Boyette

D-N-P. Three letters no baller can ever ignore. Ever.

For those of you who don’t know what DNP means. It’s “did not play”. Now, for the record, “did not play” is different from INJ, which would mean I was injured. No shame in not playing because you’re injured.

But I’M HEALTHY, PEOPLE!

Phoenix Mercury kicks off 20th season, works to draw young fans

If you need an “assist” keeping the kids busy this summer, the Phoenix Mercury is ready to help.

The WNBA team’s lineup, with a home opener on Friday, May 20, will include lots of things for the youngest fans to do both on and off the court.

Vince Kozar, the team’s vice president of business operations, says a Mercury game makes for a great family outing. “I think a two-hour basketball game with entertainment during time-outs, music all the time and other options is ideal,” he says.

Percy Allen at the Seattle Times: Jenny Boucek says Storm’s identity ‘still unfolding’

“It wouldn’t necessarily surprise me to hear some differing opinions about our identity, because we haven’t talked a lot about that,” second-year coach Jenny Boucek said. “I don’t want to determine their identity. They have to grow up into it. I’m not trying to change people or this team. It’s still unfolding before us.

“It’s like a baby. You don’t know how exactly they’re going to look like, how tall they’re going to be and what their exact gifts are going to be. You start to get a sense when they’re young, but it’s still part of the growth process.”

WNBA now has the best Wings in Dallas

Games:

It was in their grasp, then Jewell Loyd’s Game Winner, Career-High 30 Points Lifted Storm Over Mercury. Also, Breanna Stewart earns first WNBA win with double double in Phoenix

Mystics are a mess and got mauled by Toliver and the Sparks.

It’s tough to find things to praise after a game like this, but guard Bria Hartley deserves some. Starting in place of Natasha Cloud (illness), Hartley put together one of her better performances as a facilitator, dishing seven assists to just one turnover in 25 minutes of play. Historically more of a scoring combo guard, Mystics fans should be excited to see Hartley’s development as a playmaker for others.

Indiana ignored the excitement around Stephanie maybe going to Vanderbilt, came out focused and topped the Dream.

NCAA

Ron Higgins, Nola.com: Sagging LSU women’s basketball program gets a positive injection hiring assistant Mickie DeMoss

Well, hello! Abi Olajuwon named EMU women’s basketball assistant coach

And welcome: Cheryl Miller to coach women’s basketball at Cal State LA

The handover: Buscaglias become synonymous with Robert Morris women’s basketball program

Susie Gardner looks ahead to key summer for Mercer women’s basketball

WATN? Former WNBA first round pick Ta’Shia Phillips added to Indianapolis women’s basketball staff

You say Hello, we say goodbye? Stephanie White Over the Years

High School

DOH! Lakewood Ranch cited for rules violations by girls basketball coach Tina Hadley

Lakewood Ranch High School has been cited for conducting illegal practices with its highly successful girls basketball program, putting the school on probation for a year. It also could be fined more than $30,000.

International:

Optimism Abound as Canada Preps for Training Camp and Thornhill resident plays key supporting role in Canadian women’s basketball success

USA Basketball:

The game times for the Olympic basketball competition were released today. The entire schedule can be found via this link. The USA women’s team game schedule is as follows (note the times below are listed EDT/local). All the games will be televised and/or streamed live on one of the NBC platforms. Specific network information will come at a later date.

Sunday, Aug. 7 

11 am/12 pm vs. Senegal

 

Monday, Aug. 8 

11 am/12 pm vs. Olympic Qualifying Tournament 4th-ranked team

 

Wednesday, Aug. 10 

2:30 pm/3:30 pm vs. Serbia

 

Friday, Aug. 12 

2:30 pm/3:30 pm vs. Canada

 

Sunday. Aug. 14 

11:15 am/12:15 pm vs. Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2nd-ranked team

 

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Some coaching gigs filled:

Hartford’s Jen Rizzotti moves up into the George Washington job. She did a fine job at Hartford, but it seems that she’s hit some recent roadblocks. Clearly the Colonials have returned to paying attention to women’s basketball, and previous coach Tsipsis had everything to do with that. Time will tell if Rizzotti can keep the momentum going.

Hello, Ravens coaching tree! Heather Jacobs Named Wagner Women’s Basketball Coach

Jacobs is a 2006 graduate of Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH, where she earned magna cum laude honors with a Sports and Recreation Management major, and a minor in Marketing. 

Interesting side note. Is Adelphi the new Maine?  Jacobs is leaving Division II Adelphi…which is the same institution Kim Barnes-Arico left to move to St. John’s…

Great Dane! UAlbany hires Joanna Bernabei-McNamee as women’s basketball coach

McNamee, from Weirton, W.Va., led Pikeville to the NAIA Final Four in what was her third season. It was the team’s second consecutive National Tournament berth. She also has Division I experience as an assistant at Maryland and West Virginia.

Santa Clara hires Bill Carr as new women’s basketball coach…and he has no women’s basketball experience. Cool.

More on UMass’ Tory Verdi

“The culture that surrounds this program will change. Expectations will be on the rise. Accountability will be apparent and a winning attitude will be instilled,” he added. “Our team’s image will be unselfish, tough, hard-nosed, disciplined, prepared, composed and lastly, relentless. It’s time to gain respect from the Atlantic 10 Conference and the rest of the country. It’s time to win and win big.”

Ouch: Luke Decock @ the News Observer: Women’s basketball in the Triangle bottoms out

From the trendsetting tenure of Kay Yow at N.C. State to North Carolina’s three Final Fours and national title under Sylvia Hatchell to Duke’s late-’90s ascendance under Gail Goestenkors, these three programs sat at or near the epicenter of the sport for a long, long time. Decades.

And now? Women’s basketball in the Triangle has reached maximum irrelevancy.

Opposite: Women’s basketball back on the rise in the Northwest

Mark it down. The months of March and April of 2016 are when the sport of women’s basketball regained a position of prominence in the Puget Sound Region.

When, at 4:11 p.m. PDT Thursday afternoon, WNBA president Lisa Borders announced Breanna Stewart as the Seattle Storm’s selection with the first-overall pick of the WNBA draft, it was the final incantation in the resurrection of a sport that not so long ago found itself forgotten on a dusty shelf in the back of the local sports closet.

But like a family heirloom that was rediscovered while packing up for a move, women’s hoops will once again find its place on the living room mantle.

 

From Ann Killion: USF’s Azzi, basketball’s lone out LGBT head coach, draws support

Blair Hardiek was taking a picture. Through the camera lens, she saw University of San Francisco women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi standing on stage and taking a deep breath. Hardiek sensed something big was coming. 

She was right. As she watched, Azzi told a crowded ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel that she and Hardiek — her associate head coach — are married. With that statement on March 31, Azzi became the only publicly out LBGT head coach working in Division I college basketball.

The moment wasn’t planned. It wasn’t intended to make history.

“You just get to the point where it’s so stupid to not be honest,” Azzi said recently at the Mill Valley home she and Hardiek share with their bulldogs, Izzy and Ella. “When you’re with someone who gives you so much courage there’s no reason to be afraid.”

WNBA:

MavsMoneyball: The new Dallas Wings should get you excited about the WNBA

So I know we’re all focused on the NBA Playoffs, but before long the Warriors will be back-to-back champs and the NBA season will be finished. And at that point, we’ll all need something fun to do. Luckily, there’s a new basketball team in town: the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.

Thursday night was the WNBA draft, and I went to the draft party at UT Arlington’s College Park Center, which is the new home of the Wings. First confession: I do not love having to drive out to Arlington, even though the arena is plenty nice. I would’ve much preferred SMU’s Moody Arena as the home of the Wings, but I guess not everything can be perfect. Speaking of which, everything else about the Wings is perfect.

The first event on the schedule tonight was the unveiling of the new team’s new uniforms. Check out this majesty:

NBPA: Q&A with Top Pick Breanna Stewart: ‘It’s a New Challenge and New Chapter’

It will likely be a while until we see another women’s player like Breanna Stewart. Standing at 6’4″, the Syracuse native is coming off six straight championships—two in high school and four at the University of Connecticut—and on Thursday, the Seattle Storm selected her with the No. 1 overall pick.

The NBPA’s Michael Goldsholl caught up with the UConn legend at the WNBA draft as she prepared for the next step in her already storied career. Their conversation touched on draft week highlights, memories with the Huskies, preparation for the WNBA, how the ladies’ game is changing, Kobe’s Bryant legacy and her off-the-court interests.

Tuck Realizes Her WNBA Dream, Drafted By The Sun At No. 3

“This day means so much,’’ Tuck said. “The first time I thought about it I was in fourth grade. I loved Lisa Leslie. She was my favorite. I did a project on her in school. And since then I knew that I wanted to play in the WNBA. And then to now to get drafted into it it’s kind of surreal that it’s actually happened just because at such a young age of wanting to do it and now I’m able to. So it’s great.’’

Thank you: Saxony Lutheran girls basketball coach Sam Sides reflects on 38-year Hall of Fame career

It was March 8, 2014, and the Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team had just walked off the floor following a Class 3 quarterfinal victory over Lutheran St. Charles. The result sealed a first trip to state for the program, which had only been in existence since 2006. It was a good feeling; the Crusaders were feeling good. Into the locker room they headed.

“So we were going to state and making history,” recalls Brianna Mueller, now a senior, “and we go down into the locker room and Coach Sides starts to dance. He did the worm. He got down on the ground and did the worm, and we’re all like, ‘What is happening right now?'”

On Saturday, Saxony girls basketball coach Sam Sides will be one of an 11-coach class inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame following the 38th year of his coaching career. His basketball coaching resume has earned respect and accolades. His dancing?

“I’m not a very good dancer, but I get emotional,” Sides says. “I get a lot more emotional as I get older. I get fired up on occasion, but I try not to do that in public.

Thank you, Pt. 2: Burleigh retires after 42 years

Girls basketball has certainly gone through changes over the last four decades.  However, at South Burlington High school, one thing has remained constant, head coach Sheila Burleigh.

“The girls are great athletes,” Burleigh said.  “They’re bigger, faster, stronger, because they’re understanding that you really need to lift. You need to train year round. You don’t just pick it up in November and expect you’re going to do well.”

After 42 seasons, nearly 600 wins and five state titles, Burleigh announced her retirement on Thursday.

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Do you like the things that life is showin’ you? Where are you goin’ to? Do you know?”

(Sing it, Diana!)

Wondering if the tune is running through some young folks’ heads this morning. Some surprises, switches and a little history in yesterday’s draft. Of course, everyone knows that getting selected it one thing. Snagging a roster spot is totally different. I’m really excited to see how this crop shows up.

Mechelle writes: Storm, Sun, Wings dominate the WNBA draft

The 2016 WNBA draft is in the books, and there wasn’t any enormous or surprising drama. The first round featured the most expected picks, and those players are the ones who have the best chances of making an impact as rookies.

Here are five takeaways from the draft. (Editor’s note: For draft day interviews, please click on each player’s name below.)

Mel: UConn Senior Trio Picked 1-2-3 to Bring Their Rewrite of History to the WNBA Draft

University of Connecticut superstar senior Breanna Stewart was just getting started to respond to questions in the media area here Thursday night as the newly-minted overall No. 1 pick of the WNBA Seattle Storm.
Suddenly a big roar arose from the Mohegan Sun’s actual arena venue where the picks were being announced to the hopefuls, their families and coaches, and to the general public seated in the stands.
It was already known that Moriah Jefferson, one of Stewart’s two Huskies classmates, had quickly followed as the No. 2 pick of the San Antonio Silver Stars, sending the all-American point guard back to her native of Texas.
But the roar could mean only one thing, the confirmation that all-American Morgan Tuck, the third of the specially talented UConn trio involved in the draft, had gone overall No. 3 to the local WNBA Connecticut Sun.

More: WNBA DraftCast: Pick-by-pick analysis and draft board

Swish Appeal: 2016 WNBA Draft takeaways: diversity and promise

Seattle Times: Seattle Storm selects UConn star Breanna Stewart with top pick in WNBA draft

For the Win/USA Today has the Inside Story on the Draft Day Fist Bump

BTW: WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Swedish Medical Center Ink Largest Partnership Deal In Team History

Also, from Fortune: Meet the Former Coca-Cola Exec Now Leading the WNBA

TICHA!! (Podcast) FIT015: WNBA legend Ticha Penicheiro about life as a pro athlete abroad

BASKETBALL: WNBA All-Star, WNBA Champion, EuroLeague and EuroCup Champion, WNBA Top 15 players of all time….the list of Ticha Penicheiro’s successes is endless.  But when you ask her about the highlights of her professional basketball career, she looks back at all the international memories and friendships she has created and maintained over the years. For her, this is what will last way beyond her professional athlete life.

Was just talking about the greatness of this woman: Women’s basketball pioneer Nera White dies at 80

A pioneer of women’s basketball, White was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

“Nera White was a true pioneer and trailblazer of the women’s game,” said John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “Her skill and athleticism was undoubtedly ahead of her time, and she paved the way for the generations of tremendous female athletes that have followed in her footsteps.”

White also entered the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 as part of its inaugural induction class.

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Welcome: Former Mercury exec Parry joins WNBA as COO

.com: Face of the Franchise: How Number One Picks Have Defined WNBA History

Fox: Storm analyst Elise Woodward breaks down WNBA Draft on “Q It Up Sports”

.com: Déjà Vu In Seattle: 14 Years Later, Storm Poised for Another Rapid Rebuild

Countdown to WNBA Draft 2016: Rachel Banham

St. John’s: Grant and Handford Gear Up for WNBA Draft

BulletsForever: 2016 WNBA Draft Preview Part 1: The Mystics’ current needs heading to Draft Day

Sue at SlamOnline: WNBA Draft Index, Vol. 3

UConn’s Big Three Seniors Looking Ahead To WNBA Draft

Howard Megdal: WNBA Mock Draft 10.0: Pencils down

The posturing is over. The scouting, the evaluating, the pre-draft meetings and workouts—all the information is in front of the 12 teams who will gather Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena and pick the next 36 potential players in the WNBA.

Notice potential—there’s no guarantee that draft picks can make their teams, with a source at one WNBA team expressing skepticism that even a first-round pick could make that team’s roster.

However, this deep draft offers an array of players with virtually every skill imaginable. So much comes down to fit, to small gradations of difference. And the moment it’s all over, the fun starts—figuring out how and the way 36 new players integrate with their new teams.

College

Syracuse.com: Being Breanna’s parents: Skittles, Santa, shoes and the basketball journey of a lifetime

The two-day respite between the NCAA Regional and Final Four offers a fleeting moment to breathe. There is, however, no rest. Heather and Brian Stewart squeeze in a couple of days of work at Upstate University Hospital jobs, then returned to their home in North Syracuse for a blur of errands. That is, until basketball breaks out.

On a spectacular early evening when temperatures climb into the 70s, Conor Stewart is working on a two-handed reverse jam on the basketball goal in his family driveway. The goal is lowered several feet to allow Conor access above the rim. The opportunity is too alluring for Brian, who finishes a job sweeping the garage and is soon dunking way with his 14-year-old son. Heather asks if anyone needs her alley-oop feeds from the front porch. The family moment is filled with joy and routine, all worked into the window of March Madness.

The next day, the Stewarts are off to Indianapolis for the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

Siroky’s Musings: A Return to the Women’s Final Four After a Long Absence

For the first time in a long while I took a trip by myself.

When the women’s NCAA basketball tournament started 35 seasons ago, I was one of 37 accredited media. 

Two of my best friends were also there as broadcasters, I had a photographer and knew three other national writers. That’s seven of the 37. It was a small group then.

I thought of many of them, the departed and the living, coaches, players and media I had shared a time with. 

There are not a lot of us left. In fact, there are but two media.

You may remember that the Seawolves had some “issues” a while back. Now? A shift in culture: Coach McCarthy transforms women’s basketball program

At 38-3, the UAA women’s basketball team just completed their best season in school history, and were arguably the greatest team Seawolf Athletics has ever assembled. From placing as the runner-up in the national championship game, to shattering 32 school records, to breaking five NCAA Division II records (including the 38 wins), the Seawolves had what one might call a dream season.

However, the team was living more of a nightmare just four years ago, when the program was slammed with several sanctions by the NCAA.

Hartford Courant: With Big 3 Gone, What Are The UConn Women Left With Next Season?

“With these three leaving, the rest of the players coming back are in for a rude awakening. But you can’t disregard what the impact [this season] has on the players coming back. And it will last for a while. But then obviously it will [fade] and they’ll have to earn it like these other guys.

“But we don’t have anybody in the program right now that’s a Stewie or a Tuck or Moriah coming back. So it’s going to be really, really one of the more difficult adjustments that we’ve had in the time that I’ve been here. But it’s OK. I’m kind of looking forward to it. I really am. There’s a lot of new stories to be written by our group.”

Here’s a look at what the Huskies might look like next season:

Courant: Program Foundation Geno And CD Laid At UConn In 1985 Is Holding Up Just Fine

Kerith Burke, SNY: A behind the scenes look at UConn’s fourth straight NCAA championship

Forbes: 3 Ways to Convert Losses Into Wins From A ‘Defeated’ Basketball Coach

Buff Zone: CU women’s basketball: Buffs buy in to Payne’s positive message

Whenever Kennedy Leonard encounters one of her new basketball coaches — and that’s been happening a lot lately — she’s asked how her family is doing, or how she’s doing in school.

“You can tell she really cares about us — all of them do,” said Leonard, who recently completed her freshman season with the Colorado women’s basketball team. “It’s a different kind of feel, a positive feel.”

NC State: Moore looks to take team to next level

Chris Crowder: Wolverines’ WNIT streak ends next year

After four seasons at the helm, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico has made the NCAA Tournament only once — her first season when she took over the head coaching job in the 2012-13 season. However, over the past three seasons, the Wolverines have failed to make the Big Dance, instead settling for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Now in Barnes Arico’s fifth season, she’ll finally have a team consisting solely of players she has recruited. And in the 2016-17 season, Barnes Arico will have the right pieces to lead Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

Hello: Justice named head women’s coach at Prairie View A&M

Bye: UWGB junior Latesha Buck granted release

Well, carp: Players’ Departures Bring Swoopes’ Demeanor Into Question

Betting Runner’s SportsChat asked me a few questions and I typed the answers.

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that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Connecticut routs Syracuse, wins historic fourth straight NCAA title

From the moment she arrived to play basketball for Connecticut four years ago, Breanna Stewart aimed to set herself apart from anyone in the history of the sport. At the top of her list of goals was playing for the first women’s team to win four national championships in as many years. 

Following a masterful performance in Tuesday night’s 82-51 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA tournament final, Stewart not only made good on her unprecedented aspirations but elevated the top-seeded Huskies into exclusive company. 

Syracuse.com: Connecticut smothers Syracuse to win 4th straight NCAA women’s basketball title

Syracuse women’s basketball coach Quentin Hillsman: We’ll get the next Breanna Stewart

Hillsman may have lost an NCAA championship game to Connecticut on Tuesday, but he clearly retained all his confidence.

And that’s probably warranted.

His success in recruiting great players was on full display in the Orange’s run to the title game.

While he missed on Stewart coming out of Cicero-North Syracuse four years ago, heading into this offseason the spotlight of the program’s first-ever Final Four should give Hillsman an even easier time getting an audience with the handful of difference-makers coming out of high school basketball every year.

Bud Poliquin: Syracuse women’s basketball may have been outplayed and outclassed, but it wasn’t out-fought

Before this one had even begun, Quentin Hillsman was working it, and working it hard.

“Some of our players have played against them and I’ve coached against them numerous times,” he’d announced … and the “them” in the equation were the Connecticut Huskies. “I’ve been on every possible end of the spectrum of a UConn game — a regular-season game, a Big East Tournament game, on Senior Night at their place. I’ve been in every possible situation against them.”

Well, not exactly. At least not going into Tuesday evening. Because it wasn’t until then that Hillsman and his Syracuse women’s basketball team walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and entered a whole ‘nother realm

More Lindsay: Proud Syracuse women’s basketball bows to Connecticut, envisions path to its own title

“I thought in spurts we played pretty good,” Hillsman said. “We just had some troubles (in execution). But the troubles come from UConn.. They’re just a great basketball team. I’m not shocked by how good they are. I’m not shocked about the things they did in the game. We competed. We definitely didn’t play scared. It was a very tough basketball game and I thought our kids left it all on the floor.”

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: UConn women win fourth straight national championship, 11th overall

“There are three key ingredients that go into this kind of success,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said as he pointed to Tuck, Stewart and Jefferson. “When you have players like these three and the kind of individuals that they are, the kind of character that they have, the way they conduct themselves every day, I have never been around a better group of great players that love the game, appreciate the game, love their teammates. They have done something that obviously never has been done better so it means they are really good.”

Graham: UConn’s trio of seniors goes out with class

It was the day before her class would attempt to make history by winning a fourth consecutive national championship, and Connecticut senior Moriah Jefferson was trying to explain why perceptions of her and her classmates are drawn from incomplete information.

Morgan Tuck may look calm and composed on the court, a model of subtle efficiency juxtaposed against Jefferson’s perpetual motion or Breanna Stewart’s long-limbed canter. But that, Jefferson noted, obscures an inner wild child loud enough behind closed doors to carry through the walls.

Jefferson acknowledged, too, that despite the speed with which she plays, she is known as “Grandma” to her teammates for reasons that have more to do with demeanor than age. The hummingbird activity slows to a Texas amble when the sneakers come off.

Howard Megdal at Vice: THE UCONN WOMEN TAKE THEIR HISTORIC, INEVITABLE CROWN

After answering questions at the postgame podium, Sykes took a long, slow walk down the corridors of Bankers Life Arena, eventually ending up in the visitors’ locker room. Weary from a full season of drives and spills, she asked, “You mind if I sit down?” No one did, and she wearily settled into a chair in front of her locker, one leg extended. Her team had been routed, but she had started to find perspective on it before the game even ended, while standing on the sideline. The realization came as the confetti began to fall and both pep bands began to play.

“I was just taking in those last few seconds on the clock to realize what we’ve accomplished this year,” Sykes said. “You see the clock winding down, and you realize that you lost the game, but at the same time you think in a positive mindset, too—that gives you ammunition to get back to that spot. And we’re going to forever remember this feeling. And next season we want to get back here so we can change that feeling and know how it feels to win a national championship.” Sykes, it should be said, was the exception. It’s really hard to take the long view as a player who is used to winning, and has just lost by so much, so quickly.

WaPo’s Des Bieier: Breanna Stewart’s U-Conn. career was about as close to perfect as it gets

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a uniquely successful college basketball career, one that ended in a remarkably appropriate way. With her Connecticut Huskies winning the NCAA title Tuesday, Breanna Stewart completed a near-perfect run, and her final act came against an unlikely opponent that just happened to be her hometown team.

Mechelle: With fourth title in hand, Stewart delivers

“When you feel the most satisfied, when you’ve done all that you can do,” Stewart said, “when you’re working this hard and performing at that level, there’s nothing else that can be asked of you. No matter, win or lose or anything, you’re putting it all out there. That’s what you want.”

Maybe the most remarkable part of this is that Stewart has made it look … well, almost mundane. Stewart, her teammates and UConn Nation were excited Tuesday, but for many sports fans, the conclusion of another perfect season — UConn’s sixth — was practically ho-hum.

Okay, so what was with that sword? USA Today’s Laken Litman explains Why the UConn seniors knighted each other after winning national championship

USA Today’s Luke Kerr-Dineen: Let’s appreciate UConn women’s basketball for what it is: A dynasty

The role parity plays in the NFL is hardly a taboo subject when people discuss the league’s popularity, and it’s not as if the New York Yankees escaped criticism when they were winning everything and paying its players handsomely for the pleasure.

The difference here is that not only did people linger on the negative side of that question, many never made it to the eventual conclusion that almost always follows: That dynasties should be celebrated because they offer casual fans an avenue into the sport that didn’t exist before.

Not a golf fan? That’s fine, but I bet you know who Tiger Woods is. You may not follow horse racing but I’d be shocked if you didn’t know what American Pharoah accomplished last year. You don’t have to be a UFC follower to know who Ronda Rousey is, or a boxing fan to understand that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a very big deal.

NCAA.com echo: UConn women’s basketball: How to appreciate the true dynasty of the Huskies

They are the Celtics in pony tails, and the Yankees in pink. They are the Canadiens without a penalty box, the Steelers without shoulder pads. They are UCLA, with two X chromosomes.

Their coach is John Wooden in a coed world. Except now, he has one more national championship.

And now that Breanna Stewart has crunched her last opponent and cut down her last net, what to think about the Connecticut Dynasty?

And more: UConn’s legacy cemented in history with 11th national championship

Swish Appeal: UConn’s Big 3: 4 years, 4 National Championships

Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs: Senior Sweep — Savor The Huskies’ Big Moment

Basketball is Marcus Paige hitting an impossible shot with 4.6 seconds left and Kris Jenkins answering with a buzzer-beater for the ages.

Yet basketball, too, is John Wooden’s UCLA men of a half-century ago and Auriemma’s UConn women of Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

There is a memorable scene in the movie “Hoosiers” where Coach Dale has the boys measure the distance from under the backboard to the free-throw line and then again from the floor to the rim. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. “The exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale said.

The message, of course, was no matter how big the moment or how colossal the challenge, the game is constant. The game is the same for everyone. For David. For Goliath. For Paige. For Jenkins. For Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. For Diana TaurasiMaya Moore and Breanna Stewart.

Sue: Connecticut’s dominance leaves no doubt in 11th title win

Auriemma, who was emotional in a press conference before semifinals, said the three players left a legacy not only for the school, but for players who follow them.

“They’ve left an imprint on this game that’s going to last a really long time,” he said. “And I think it’s a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love. And I’m really, really proud of them.”

Richard Deitsch at SI: Perfection: UConn’s Stewart leaves legacy as unparalleled winner

There were no Kris Jenkins or Marcus Paige moments tonight, no Ryan Arcidiacono hearing “Arch! Arch! Arch!” and flipping the ball back to his trail shooter for the shining moments of all shining moments. No, this was a clinical Connecticut victory, a cold-blooded dissection of Syracuse, which had a remarkable run to the final before getting eaten by a basketball Godzilla.

UConn is the champion of women’s basketball again in an 82–51 rout, but this one came with plenty of notables: The win vaulted the UConn senior class of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck to 151 career wins (and just five losses), the most victories for any class in the history of women’s basketball. The trio also ran the table in the NCAA tournament with 24 consecutive wins, a record that can only be matched but never topped. Oh, yes, there was also this: UConn coach Geno Auriemma won his 11th career national title, eclipsing legendary UCLA men’s coach John Wooden by one.

If you want to have an argument about women’s basketball…Taurasi, not Stewart, largely considered best UConn player ever

 You have to like a question with three choices and no wrong answers. But which one is the most right?

NCAA.com: UConn women’s basketball: Breanna Stewart makes case she’s the greatest ever with fourth title

If you saw the UConn bench go wild when that last shot went in, you may want to (see) read Lindsay Schnell’s piece: UCONN RESERVES BRIANA PULIDO & TIERNEY LAWLOR ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WALK ON WITH A DYNASTY

Briana “Polly” Pulido was about five minutes into her first walk-on workout with Connecticut assistant women’s basketball coach Shea Ralph in the fall of 2013 when she had a thought she couldn’t shake 

What the hell did I get myself into? 

It’s a question she still battles, she says, though not as much anymore. As one of two walk-ons for the Huskies, who go for an unprecedented four-peat tonight in the women’s national title game, Pulido knew what she had gotten herself into, and why. It’s cliché, but true, she says, that she wanted to be part of something special.

Harvey, NY Times “On Basketball”: A Team Sets a High Bar, and Then Surpasses It Yet Again

Did you catch the audio of Mechelle on WNYC: What UConn’s Success Means for Women’s Basketball

How about NPR’s Frank Deford: It’s Time To Celebrate The UConn Women’s Basketball Team

Mechelle: Auriemma passes Wooden with 11th title

Why has Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma won so many national championships? There are multiple intersecting specific reasons that have helped in the construction of the Huskies’ women’s basketball dynasty that claimed its 11th NCAA title, all under Auriemma, on Tuesday. But there is also one overriding factor.

Which is this: Some people are exceptionally great at what they do.

Why is Mark Zuckerberg a gazillionaire? Why has Meryl Streep earned 19 Academy Award nominations? Why do the Beatles remain the best-selling musical artists of all time, even 46 years after they broke up?

The big “why” for the extreme end of greatness is always an extreme talent. Then there are other variables: opportunity, geography, timeliness, an ability to seize the moment.

From the Indy Star: and UConn’s dominance continues to be worthy of our celebration and KRAVITZ: Step aside, John Wooden and UCLA; make room for UConn and Auriemma

“The first thing I thought about (Monday) night, when you told me you would ask me that question if we won, was last night, there were something like 20-some of my former players, and we were all in one room and I just remember taking a step back and looking at all of them and thinking, ‘This is just an unbelievable scene’,” Auriemma said. “And they’re all here today. And what those 11 titles mean to me is how many great players I’ve had a chance to coach and how many great people have come through the program. 
 
“It doesn’t matter whose name I’m above, whose name I’m under or next to, as long as I have those names and those players in my memory, I’m good.”

More audio on Dan Patrick: Geno Auriemma says he hates John Wooden comparison

ESPN’s Front Row offers BTS of ESPN at NCAA Women’s National Championship

American Athletic Conference offers: UConn Women’s Basketball Captures Perfect 38-0 Season

In their own words: NCAA post-game:

Other Indy stuff:

This past weekend, senior Mercedes Riggs headed to Indianapolis, Ind., for the NCAA Final Four.  Riggs was a part of the “So You Wanna Be A Coach” program put on by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).  A product of Lindon, Utah, Riggs stopped by to talk about her experience and what lies ahead in her career.

Yeah! NCAA to mull playing 3 women’s finals in same city again

“It really was a special moment for women’s basketball,” Auriemma said. “I hope it was a moment that everyone took in and appreciated and wants to do again. I talked to some of the coaches and players on those teams and they said they never experienced anything like this. And you know what? They deserve to. Those kids play just as hard, put in as much time and effort as our kids.”

The NCAA added a nice touch, having the players from Division II champion Lubbock Christian and Division III winner Thomas More hold the flag during the Division I title game. A moment they won’t forget anytime soon.

Something you might have missed: ‘Loudest ovation’ at NCAA game for Lauren Hill.

NICE! From the Seattle Times: A LOOK BACK – Huskies’ 2016 Final Four run

It was a season of firsts for the Washington women’s basketball team — a season in which UW finished just fifth in the Pac-12. But once the Huskies found their footing in the postseason, coach Mike Neighbors’ squad went on an improbable NCAA tournament run that culminated in a Final Four appearance. Here’s a look back at the Dawgs’ 2015-16 season and their journey to the Final Four.

Well deserved: Jacksonville Women’s hoops team to be recognized before Friday baseball game

Hofstra had a nice WNIT run: W.B. Mason Coaches Report With Krista Kilburn-Steveskey

WNBA news:

With Morgan Tuck declaring for the draft, follow excelle’s WNBA draft board here. Did I mention that Powers is doing the same? Aerial Powers on WNBA: ‘It’s the right opportunity’

On that draft list: Banham Reflects On Career, Looks Ahead To WNBA Draft

Didja read: WNBA President, Lisa M. Borders, Says NBA And WNBA Are Joined At The Hip and the Q&A: New WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders ’79 on her goals for the league

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WNITCoyotes over Eagles, 71-65

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team relied on its seniors, shooting and swagger during its energetic postseason run.

But in the WNIT championship game, FGCU ran into a team just as experienced, just as offensively gifted and with just as big a chip on its shoulders. And this time it was the Eagles’ opponent that was spurred by a wild home crowd.

Coyotes claim WNIT championship

Saturday was a special day for the University of South Dakota.

In front of a capacity crowd of 7,415 at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota women’s basketball team closed out its final game in the 37-year old facility in historic fashion.

Daily Republic Editorial Board: OUR VIEW: SD’s success in women’s basketball tough to ignore

Collectively, the accomplishments of South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and the successful hosting of major postseason games are all really impressive for our state.

Nationwide, there is a lot of room to help the popularity of women’s basketball grow. But we hope NCAA officials realize that our state can make a strong influence on that.

The successes this year are just too hard to ignore.

A little south of them, more folks are playing basketball…

Gene Wang, Washington Post: Look past U-Conn., and women’s Final Four is full of surprises

With the Syracuse women’s basketball team having reached uncharted territory in the Final Four, Coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but recall how his early years contributed to his professional development.

He grew up in suburban Washington, where his high school coach, Aaron Holder, showed how to build a champion from scratch at Forestville. In 1985, Hillsman’s freshman year, the Knights won the Maryland Class B title three years after the school opened its doors for the first time.

“Forestville High School was a special, special place, and Aaron Holder really instilled in me doing things the right way, being a hard worker, and was responsible for me becoming a basketball player and becoming a good coach,” said Hillsman, 45, the first African American male head coach to the reach the women’s Final Four. “What he’s done for me has been so big. That’s where it started with me.”

John Kekis, AP: Syracuse women reach for new heights

Charlie: Alexis Peterson’s confidence, competitiveness drive Syracuse

When Syracuse point guard Alexis Peterson talks about filling the lane, she might not be talking about basketball.

“I love to bowl,” Peterson said Saturday. “I have my own ball, my own bag, my own shoes, my own towel. I am a great bowler.”

Paul Shepherd, Newsday: Syracuse women looking to get takeaways from Washington

The Syracuse and Washington women’s basketball teams have faced each other just one time.

Who knew in November that the 66-62 Syracuse win in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas would be a preview of their second matchup in the same season?

 

Paul Doyle, : For Morgan Valley, Long Trip From UConn Back To Final Four

Early in her coaching career, Morgan Valley faced a dilemma.

The Vermont native and UConn graduate had coached at Holy Cross and New Hampshire. She had an opportunity to pursue a job at Towson University in Maryland, but it would be far from her New England roots.

She sought the advice of UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, a mentor.

“CD said you can’t be afraid to move around if this is what you want to do,” said Valley, now in her first year at the University of Washington. “That’s kind of been my attitude.”

Nice to be in Indy so we can get some of David Woods’ writing: What do Chantel Osahor and Steph Curry have in common?

In summer basketball, Kelsey Plum’s team once played against Chantel Osahor, her future Washington Huskies teammate. Plum’s coach told the team to drop into the paint against Osahor, a 6-2 post player who surely would not shoot from outside.

Osahor stayed out there and never left her feet. Her left-handed set shot is a throwback to the 1930s.

“Whack, whack, whack. First three shots of the game. Nailed them,” Plum recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, we should get up on her, right?’ We lost by like 30, and she kicked my butt. Definitely made an impression.”

And more David: The remarkable parallels between UConn and Oregon State

Graham: Jefferson as key to UConn’s success as anyone

In one sense, Moriah Jefferson is a curious candidate to embody why the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team continues to make and accumulate history at a pace unlike almost anything else in sports.

As a recruit, readying to speak in person with Geno Auriemma for the first time, Jefferson listened as friends asked if she was nervous about the encounter. It struck her as an odd question. She was just going to be talking to someone about basketball, a sport she had played her whole waking life, minus perhaps two weeks many years earlier when she quit in protest after her dad told her she couldn’t play in leagues against boys any longer. 

These folks are good: WBCA All-Americans: UConn’s Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck; South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson; South Florida’s Courtney Williams; Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner; Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell; Baylor’s Nina Davis; Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner; Washington’s Kelsey Plum.

Wade Trophy: Breanna Stewart (also AP Player of the Year.)

WBCA Defensive Player of the Year: Moriah Jefferson

AP Coach of the Year: Geno Auriemma

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Emotional day as UConn players, coaches are honored

A little more than three hours after exuberantly cheering as three of their teammates walked onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s All-American team, the Huskies sat in stunned silence as their wise-cracking quote machine of a head coach ran out of one-liners to deliver and words to utter.

Graham: Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

The weekend might prove Connecticut is invincible in the moment, but the coach who built the dynasty seems painfully aware that there is no such thing as immortality in sports.

“The longer I’m at this, the more I’m starting to understand it might not happen again,” Auriemma said. “And you really need to appreciate what these people do every day, to make it work.”

Kevin Baxter, LA Times: Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma keeps making a case to be considered the greatest basketball coach

VIDEO: Previewing Oregon State-Connecticut with Doris Burke of ESPN

From Excelle Sports: The Canadian guide to defeating Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson

You’ve heard it countless times by now—Connecticut hasn’t lost since November 18, 2014, an 88-86 defeat to Stanford.

But Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, the two best players for the Huskies, did suffer a loss this past summer while playing for the United States in the Pan Am Games, an 81-73 defeat to Canada.

The parallels and overlaps from that game to this one are nearly endless. The two best players for Oregon State, center Ruth Hamblin and guard Jamie Weisner, are both Canadian national team players (though neither played in that game). And Oregon State coach Scott Rueck served as an assistant for the U.S. during the Pan Am tournament.

Blue Star Media: Women’s Final Four upstarts relish unlikely journeys

Jamie Weisner had no good reason to hear out to first-year Oregon State coach Scott Rueck when he made his first recruiting visit to her home on Valentine’s Day, 2011, when she was a junior in high school.

Most of the other Pac 12 schools were already interested in the fine-shooting guard with plenty of swagger. So where some local schools near her home in Clarkston, Wash., and a few more in the Midwest.

Oregon State was mired in the depths of the Pac 12. After inheriting two scholarship players following a wave of defections and the firing of his predecessor, Rueck held tryouts to fill a roster, adding soccer and volleyball players to get to 11.

The Beavers were in the midst of what would become a 9-21 season, with only two wins in conference play.

Yet Weisner not only listened to Rueck, she followed him to Corvallis.

Take 2: UW Huskies’ astonishing run helps editor rediscover his love for women’s hoops

Michelle Smith: Kelsey Plum learned to lead, and wins followed

Mechelle: Right place, right time for Washington coach Mike Neighbors

At the center of it is a man who lives with heart issues that, before he turned 30, made him take stock of everything he knew about life. “I was not a very independent thinker,” Neighbors said. “I had a heart attack at 29. It was an eye-opening moment that your life’s really, really short.”

He evaluated himself and everything around him. He recognized he wasn’t a very fast or comprehensive reader, and immediately set about changing that. He left teaching and coaching at the high school level to go into college coaching, despite it initially being a drastic pay cut. He began to write down his philosophies on living and working, then passed them around for people to read.

Seattle Times: How UW’s Talia Walton draws strength from mother’s battle with liver cancer.

Graham: The combination that could crack UConn code

Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese helped lead Oregon State from the bottom of Division I to the top of the mountain, only to find a volcano beneath their feet.

A volcano from the otherwise rolling hills of New England that erupted 120 of the past 121 times it rumbled.

Top shot blockers Breanna Stewart, Ruth Hamblin will square off in semifinals

Harvey, NY Times: UConn’s Seniors Are 2 Wins From a Feat Never Accomplished

Mechelle: Unfazed and focused UConn blocks out the noise

Beware of the bubble! No, not the usual bubble referred to in the NCAA tournament. But the UConn bubble. It is made of some very powerful stuff. No women’s basketball team has more outside “noise” to deal with, yet nobody deals with it better.

Whether it’s praise or criticism — and UConn has been so consistently great, sometimes the praise actually sounds like criticism — it seems to have no effect on the undefeated Huskies, who are seeking to become the first women’s basketball team to win four consecutive NCAA titles.

Breanna Stewart’s teammate: ‘People don’t get to see how fun she is’

BTW: UConn Vs. WNBA Team? Don’t Go There, Say Lobo, Lawson, Burke

Don’t forget, Monday’s games… Meet the Alaska Anchorage Hoosiers

Alaska Anchorage’s Seawolves are about as “Hoosiers” as you can get, considering their campus is more than 3,000 miles from Indiana.

The 33-year-old women’s basketball coach, Ryan McCarthy, loves the movie and fulfilled a lifelong goal Friday — he shot a jumper at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The men’s record-holder for scoring average, the Seawolves’  Jesse Jackson, is from Indianapolis. A former basketball coach and athletic director, Harry Larrabee, is from Shelbyville. Basketball icon Oscar Robertson is the great-great-uncle of Anchorage women’s  guard Kiki Robertson.

And you thought the rural domicile of Hickory’s “Shooter” Flatch was in a remote location?

 

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Just ask Jeff Walz.

He offered Tuesday to email or call the boss of anyone who wanted to come to the game but couldn’t because of work. He’s already had 100 or so fans take him up on that, including someone in the mayor’s office.

”Whoever sends me a note on Twitter or on Facebook – if they give me their boss’ email – I’m writing them a note asking if they can make the ballgame,” Walz said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Check out Aneela’s “Top 25 Players To Watch in NCAA Tournament

Washington: ‘Sharp’ Huskies Head To NCAA Tournament

The Huskies are sharp, because they share a common goal and have rallied around each other. They are in sync. They are focused.

“The difference between last year and this year, last year we were happy to be there,” junior Kelsey Plum said. “It was a cool accomplishment after having not been in the NCAA tournament for a long time.

“We were just so excited about the whole thing, we lost focus in the game. This year, we’re not just happy to be here. We’re trying to do something with it.

Connecticut: Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson looking to make history

UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokes that when the trio now known as ”The Big Three” first arrived on campus, he wasn’t sure they should play as freshmen either.

Stewart, he said, had unbelievable talent, but was often lackadaisical, because things were too easy for her. Jefferson, he said, had no grasp of running an offense. Her idea of playing point guard, he said, was to run at full speed until she ran into something.

Tuck was the best of the three in practice, but that didn’t always translate to games.

Little by little, he said, they began to gel.

Connecticut: Former Huskies break down UConn’s winning ways

Utah: Jeff Judkins keeps Cougars steadily successful

As BYU’s women’s basketball players, assistant coaches and supporters reacted excitedly when the Cougars received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last Monday, head coach Jeff Judkins stared stoically at the large screen, realizing the task that lies ahead.

It was almost LaVell Edwards-like, which is fitting, because Judkins is having the kind of success that the legendary football coach had in Provo in the 1980s and ’90s, albeit in a sport mostly out of the national spotlight.

“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” BYU guard Makenzi Pulsipher said. “He’s such a good, nice person, but he’s also a really, really good coach.”

California: Jordin Canada leads UCLA back to the Big Dance

During a recent practice at UCLA, one of the Bruins players commented out loud about point guard Jordin Canada, “She’s our all-conference player, let’s just get it to her.”

And Canada cringed.

“Her shoulders went in, and she looked uncomfortable,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “She didn’t like it. But at the same time, when the lights brighten, she’s at her best.”

California: USF coach Azzi welcomes chance to return to Stanford for NCAAs

Jennifer Azzi’s expression — an ear-to-ear grin — didn’t change when she saw that her USF team was matched against her alma mater Stanford, during Monday’s NCAA selection show.

Azzi knows how these things work — Azzi against her mentor Tara VanDerveer is the kind of story line selection committees love. She knows how often basketball can bring one full circle — such as when the Tennessee kid won a national championship with Stanford back home in Knoxville in 1990. 

“These things happen,” she said.

Florida: NCAA women’s bracket has distinct Florida flavor

It has been a season of firsts for women’s college basketball teams Florida, and the roll will continue in the NCAA Tournament.

When the field of 64 was announced on Monday, it marked the first time that five teams from the Sunshine State were selected.

Georgia: Georgia back in tournament under 1st-year coach

New York: Syracuse women’s basketball team a victim of bad timing

What’s the old cliche, if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all?

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is living proof of that. The Orange have had their best regular season in program history. Syracuse went to the ACC championship game and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, again, its best ever.

The high seed means the Orange are rewarded with one — possibly two — home games for the first two rounds of the tournament. And when does the NCAA Tournament committee (with help from ESPN) have Syracuse playing.

Friday at 2:30 p.m. Right after the Syracuse men’s game. A weekday afternoon when the majority of local people are working or in school.

New York: With Two Bids, Iona Savors ‘Incredible Accomplishment’

For Cluess and Godsey, that made last Monday twice as sweet. They understand better than most the challenges midmajor programs face in facilities, recruiting and financing when competing against major conferences for players as well as victories.

“It’s so hard for one team to make it, let alone two, especially in a conference our size,” Cluess said.

Missouri: The three steps the women’s basketball team is taking in preparation for the big dance.

This time last season, the Missouri women’s basketball team was sitting around coach Robin Pingeton’s house, eyes glued to the television during Selection Monday. They were on the outside looking in. 

While watching other teams celebrate their success, the overall mindset of the team was, “That’s going to be us next year,” according to senior Morgan Stock.

New Jersey: PU Women’s Hoops Sees Silver Lining in Penn Defeat, Becoming 1st Ivy Team to Earn At-Large Bid to NCAAs

North Carolina: Coaches of Asheville men, women share special bond

Seconds after the UNC Asheville women beat Liberty on Sunday at Kimmel Arena to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, some of the first people on the floor to celebrate with the women were members of the Bulldogs’ men’s team.

It was a scene that didn’t surprise those close to the program.

There is a closeness between the teams and it begins with the coaches.

Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Nick McDevitt can’t help but run into each other several times a day because their offices are separated by a conference room, which they share along with a printer.

They wouldn’t want it any other way. McDevitt is a fan of Kirkpatrick and her staff and Kirkpatrick feels the same way about the men’s coaches.

Tennessee/Michigan: Belmont, Michigan State coaches are friends, now NCAA foes

“Suzy and I got to be good friends back then,” said Newbauer, who was an assistant at Georgia at the time. “My sister almost went to Michigan State and instead went to Indiana, so I’ve known Suzy since my first year in women’s basketball. I’ve just been really good friends with her since then. We were texting each other about, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if we wound up in the same place?’ But I didn’t think we would be playing them.”

Wanna listen while you work? LaChina Robinson and Chiney Ogwumike break down the Sioux Falls Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest L.A. Sparks F Candace Parker. 2) They then break down the Bridgeport Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest Indiana Fever G Briann January.

As a self-identified Conference Generalist, I take great pleasure in tracking programs raising their profiles. Marshall was one such story: A Different `Long Season’ for Daniel’s Herd

Marshall makes its first trip to the Women’s NIT with a visit to longtime rival Ohio on Thursday night, and riding on the bus with the Herd as it heads up the road this evening is an attitude that has carried Coach Matt Daniel’s team all season.

It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.

When Marshall opened the 2015-16 season back on Nov. 13 with an out-of-breath, 104-101 triumph at Morehead State, eight of the 12 healthy players on Daniel’s roster were in their first game in a Herd uniform. Six were freshmen … and Marshall had been picked to finish 10th in the 14-team Conference USA race by Daniel’s sideline peers.

Four months later, the Herd (21-11) has more wins than all but one team (24-5 in 1986-87) in the Herd women’s hoops history dating to 1969-70. Marshall has only its third postseason bid in its major college era, which dates to 1981-82. And while finishing tied for sixth in the C-USA standings, the Herd won a school-best 11 C-USA games (regular season and tournament) in its 11 years in the league.

So were the Jacksonville Dolphins: Mentee vs. Mentor

It happens at the start of every athletic competition. Typically after the national anthem and player introductions, and often overlooked as one of the unwritten rules of the game. It’s the coaches’ handshake, a brief meeting a midcourt that will have a deeper meaning for Yolett McPhee-McCuin Friday.

When the head coach of the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team shakes the hand of Dawn Staley, she will see more than the opposition, she’ll also see a mentor and a friend.

“Dawn Staley is someone that I mirror my program after,” said McCuin. “Not every step but definitely the how and the why. How to build a program and why we do what we do?

And: Though not a surprise, first NCAA bid reason for Duquesne women’s basketball team to celebrate

“I don’t think any of us were expecting this in the beginning of the season, so the fact that we’re even here is so exciting,” senior Emilie Gronas said. “From the preseason, we could feel this was a different team with a lot of new faces. A lot of people didn’t expect us to do as great as we did.” 

But after playing in other postseason tournaments in each of the last seven seasons, Duquesne didn’t have any preseason intentions of receiving another WNIT bid.

The Dukes broke record after record this year, setting program highs for wins (27) and conference wins (13) while earning a share of the Atlantic-10 regular-season title. Now, all of those accolades come second to achieving an ultimate goal.

Damn: A Website Went Offline And Took Most Of Women’s College Basketball Analytics With It

If you’re filling out your bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and want some statistical background to the broader forecasts, you have a slew of options. Start at Sports-Reference.com: powerful search tools; team rankings for anything from pace to point differentials adjusted for strength of schedule; and player pages with stats such as usage percentage, win shares and Box Plus/Minus. Ken Pomeroy’s site offers more detailed and adjusted team rankings and a wide array of individual player metrics. For $100 a year, Shot Analytics delivers detailed spatial analysis of shot selection, including weighted shot charts.

If you’re looking for similar information to help you fill out an NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket, you’re out of luck.

Thank you: Tonya Mirts ends 21-year tenure as Hickman girls basketball head coach

Mirts, who played college basketball for Missouri, appreciated the challenge of not being able to recruit players for high school basketball, instead developing the young women in her district.

“You get what you get and you try to make a masterpiece out of it year in and year out,” she said.

Thank you: Wanda Watkins steps down as Campbell women’s basketball coach after 35 seasons

In addition to her coaching achievements, Watkins holds a special place in Campbell athletics history. She was the school’s first female athletic scholarship recipient after graduating from nearby South Johnston High School in 1975. She was a member of that school’s 1974 North Carolina state championship team.

She served as team captain of the Lady Camels basketball team as a senior and captained the softball team for three years. Despite suffering an injury in her final season, Watkins was named MVP of the 1978-79 team and selected as Campbell’s Outstanding Female Athlete.

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Some more stuff on tonight’s game.

UConn vs. Notre Dame the premier rivalry in women’s basketball, Tampa Bay Times
NCAA women’s basketball final: It’s not your mother’s rivalry, Tampa Bay Times

Tonight, Notre Dame (36-2) and UConn (37-1) meet for the second straight year in the women’s national championship game. UConn is in the title game for the fifth time in the past seven seasons, seeking its 10th overall title.

“It’s super exciting,” said Turner, a Notre Dame freshman from Pearland, Texas, who watched UConn defeat Notre Dame on TV last year. “I grew up seeing the Final Fours. I went to the Final Four in San Antonio a couple of years ago, and I was thinking, ‘Wow this is awesome. I want to be able to do that.’ That’s one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame, to be able to compete in Final Fours. This is what I wanted my whole life.”

For the multiple All-Americans who will take the floor tonight at Amalie Arena, this is the rivalry they’ve grown up with — or helped develop.

This Year, Geno, Muffet Show Admiration On Eve Of Title Game, Courant
NCAA Title Game Capsule: Notre Dame Vs. UConn, Courant

UConn women imagine trading places with coaches, Channel 8
Notre Dame Coach Says Familiarity With UConn Will Help In Title Game, Courant

“This one’s definitely different,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Monday of this national championship game. “We started the season and looked at what we lost, so to say we’ve come a long way is an understatement. I’m proud of where we got to.

On Eve Of Final Game, Mosqueda-Lewis Reflects On A Great Ride, Courant
Sharpshooter Tuck on way to becoming latest UConn superstar, Tampa Tribune
UConn’s Morgan Tuck talented but unheralded, Tampa Bay Times

Moriah Jefferson, ESPN VIdeo w/LaChina
Breanna Stewart, UConn on brink of third title in a row, USA Today
UConn’s Stewart and Notre Dame’s Loyd have emerged as leaders, Register

A year ago it all seemed so simple for sophomore sensations Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

The presence of senior leaders and All-Americans resulted in the resident superstars being the recipients of everything their veteran teammates brought to the floor.

When times got tough, Stewart could look to Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley to do all the heavy lifting. Loyd relied heavily on the experience, counsel and talents of Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.

When they step onto Amalie Arena for tonight’s national-championship rematch (8:44 p.m., ESPN), they will do so as not only the nation’s top two players but a pair of All-Americans who made the transition from productive underclassman to team leader.

Turner could be difference this time for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune

Underdog Notre Dame has chance to be remembered, ND Insider

Four consecutive Final Four tries to win a women’s basketball national championship.

Four straight disappointments — for a variety of reasons.

Why should No. 5 be different for Notre Dame?

Tonight’s challenge against big, bad, bully Connecticut is right in Muffet McGraw’s wheelhouse.

Auriemma, 9-0 In Title Games, Enjoys It While It Lasts, Courant
Geno Auriemma’s legacy stands on its own, Tampa Tribune

Notes: A different kind of Final Four for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune
At UConn, Lessons to Respect the Past, NY Times

Today, none of the current UConn players can remember a time when the program’s expectation was not a national title. Auriemma’s first title, in 1995, actually predates the births of some of his current freshmen.

The UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey makes her current student-athletes learn about the players who have come before them. Dailey, who has sat by Auriemma on the bench since he took the job 30 years ago, speaks of the past generation of Huskies as if they were fallen soldiers who deserve respect, honor and remembrance.

UConn aims for 10th national title, Boston Globe
The UConn standard, NCAA.com
The Huskies Are Better Than The Wildcats Ever Hoped To Be, FiveThirtyEight.com

Women’s NCAA championship: Who has the edge?, Columbia Daily Herald
Five questions before UConn – Notre Dame: Can the Irish stop the Huskies?, SI

4. How does UConn stop Notre Dame?

UConn is not a great defensive team and at times they have to hide average defenders such as Mosqueda-Lewis and reserve guard Saniya Chong. Some of their guards get beat off the dribble but they have shot blockers such as Stewart to bail them out.  

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph is in charge of the scouting Notre Dame, an assignment she’s had since she joined the staff in 2008. She knows that Notre Dame will get off a lot of shots but where the game will be won for UConn is how tough the Huskies make those shots. “It’s fun to watch them play, I must tell you,” Ralph said of the Irish. “They are smart, well coached, and I see tons of similarities with us. We both have Princeton-style type of offensives and the kids who make reads and come off screens as opposed to running plays whereas other teams you are scouting a play.”

For Inspiration, Notre Dame Can Look to 2001 and Niele Ivey, NY Times

Ball in the air. Game on the line. Season on the brink.

Strangely enough, Niele Ivey did not have a Katie Douglas flashback to 2001, did not feel that old, familiar dread of a championship dream floating toward the rim, a balloon still with the possibility of being burst.

Notre Dame gets another crack at dethroning the UConn dynasty, Notre Dame Insider

When Auriemma and his Huskies talk women’s teams, Notre Dame is generally at the head of the discussion. Indeed, you can make a good argument that the rivalry between the two schools has become the No. 1 in the game.

There’s mutual respect among the players, starting with first team All-Americans Breanna Stewart of UConn and Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame.

And, of course, there’s mutual respect between the coaches, Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw.

If anyone can beat mighty UConn, it may be Notre Dame, NY Newsday

“They’re a lot like us, and I think that’s why they have had success against us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday night. “So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t, and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t. So Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me. I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it’s not going to be any fun.”

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Game 1: If you want a win, send a Cable

It was ugly, then it was maddening, and ultimately it was heartbreaking – unless, of course, you’re an Irish fan. Wrote Jonathan Czupryn of the NY Times (thanks again, Knicks, for losing. Keep it up!)

South Carolina, which entered Sunday’s national semifinals with the 11th-ranked scoring defense in Division I, forced Notre Dame to play in the mud, slowing the game with gritty defense and stifling ball pressure.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Coach Muffet McGraw and the Fighting Irish adapted to Coach Dawn Staley’s game plan as effectively as they conformed to Florida’s 80-degree weather.

Women’s Final Four: Notre Dame edges South Carolina in thriller, Tampa Tribune

On Sunday, senior Madison Cable, who had yet to score and attempted only four shots, scored the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left after rebounding a missed shot by Jewell Loyd under the basket and putting back up nearly uncontested.

“I think it was a good time to get my two points for the game,” Cable said.

David Cloninger: 

There was no panic.

When Aleighsa Welch put back Tiffany Mitchell’s missed 3-pointer with 72 seconds remaining in Sunday’s national semifinal, South Carolina led for the first time all night. The Gamecocks were going to do it again – snatch victory from defeat – and they were going to Tuesday’s national championship game. It was scripted.

Notre Dame changed the ending.

Irish eyes smiling after this victory, Tampa Tribune

Think it didn’t matter? South Carolina players dropped to their knees or lay on the court when it was done. And the tears came. The Gamecocks were in the first Final Four in school history. It mattered. Dawn Staley’s team kept fighting back all night and grabbed its first lead, 65-64, with a little more than a minute left. The dream lived.

And now it had died.

Maloof: ND’s Loyd comes up big in crunch time, NCAA.com
Young frontcourt leads Irish back to title game, Michelle Smith, ESPN

“I think a lot of people coming in said we couldn’t handle their frontcourt and I think we did a really good job of it,” Turner said. “We just tried to battle the whole game and not let up.”

Turner and Reimer fueled Notre Dame’s offense in the first half, going a combined 8-for-11 from the floor for 20 points and eight rebounds. 

Notre Dame Shatters South Carolina’s Title Dreams, Courant
Cable’s putback puts Irish back into title game, ESPN
College women’s basketball: Unlikely hero lifts Notre Dame to national final, Duluth News Tribune
Notre Dame squeaks by South Carolina to secure spot in NCAA title game, ND Insider

Thanks to one of the most improbable finishes in program history Sunday night, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team gets a shot at powerful No. 1 Connecticut in Tuesday’s NCAA Championship Game.

With freshman forward Brianna Turner, the team’s best shot-blocker and rebounder, fouling out with 3:11 remaining in regulation, with point guard Lindsay Allen – the MVP of the Oklahoma City Regional with a 25.5 scoring average – held scoreless and fouling out with 1:39 remaining, and with the team trailing for the first time with 1:12 left while in the midst of a 7:35 scoreless string, things couldn’t have looked bleaker for No. 2 Notre Dame against third-ranked South Carolina in Sunday’s first semifinal at Amalie Arena.

Or brighter, if you consider Notre Dame’s point of view.

Notre Dame Defeats South Carolina In NCAA Women’s Final Four, NPR
Farnum-Patronis: Gamecocks’ rally comes up just short
Notre Dame survives South Carolina rally to advance to title game, FullCourt.com
Gamecocks use loss as learning experience, ESPN
Cloninger Soundoff: Staley’s program built to endure, Go Gamecocks

For Gamecock fans, team still the ‘One’, Go Gamecocks
Video: Emotional Tiffany Mitchell on USC seniors’ impact, Go Gamecocks
Garnett and Black Attack

The South Carolina women went to Tampa looking to make history. They came up a bit short, but it wasn’t for lack of talent, or effort. Rather, an excellent Notre Dame team went toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks, and the Irish caught one extra break to grab a 66-65 win and eliminate South Carolina from the NCAA Tournament.

In-depth recap of Notre Dame’s victory over South Carolina, Swish Appeal

USC dribbled to the frontcourt and called timeout, but it seemed everyone in the building knew what would happen.

“We thought that Mitchell would get the ball and there would probably be a ball screen,” McGraw said postgame. Brian McCormick (also writing for Swish Appeal) sat next to me and said before the play that USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart. Steve Spurrier, Darius Rucker, and the rest of Hootie & The Blowfish knew USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart.

But ND hedged hard and beautifully, got a deflection, and forced an off-balance heave from near the hash mark by Stewart that wasn’t close when the buzzer sounded.

Game 2: Speed kills Turtles

Folks who follow the game know how devastating the cool and composed Morgan Tuck can be. The red-shirt sophomore seems to thrive on the big stage. Yesterday, when UConn’s A-game was not on tap, Tuck brought her All-American-To-Be into play to power the Huskies to a spirit crushing victory. Wrote Harvey Araton in the NYT:

Already trailing by 47-33, the Terrapins found a rare open shooter, guard Laurin Mincy, in the left corner. As Mincy set her feet and was about to launch from behind the 3-point line, the 6-foot-4 junior forward Breanna Stewart lunged with her long arms from what had seemed to be a safe distance away.

Stewart, recently named the Associated Press player of the year, deflected the shot. The freshman Kia Nurse caught the air ball, dribbled out of the pack and found a streaking Morgan Tuck filling the left lane. Tuck, a bruising 6-2 forward who missed last season with a knee injury, handled Nurse’s pass in stride, then made a gorgeous touch pass to Stewart, hustling back into the play, for a layup.

There was still 17 minutes 50 seconds left in the game, but it was all over except for the shouting, and the tabulating.

More on the game:

Maloof: Secret weapon Tuck leads UConn rout of Terps
UConn’s Tuck making most of return to court, ESPN
UConn Beats Maryland, Plays Notre Dame In National Title Game, Courant
UConn’s Kia Nurse Doesn’t Let Big Stage Rattle Her, Courant

Huskies Happy With Same Old Story, Courant
Huskies roll over Maryland, reach title game, Register
UConn easily dispatches Maryland, vies for third straight title, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four: UConn rolls into another title game, Tampa Tribune

When it was still a competitive game Sunday night, the Amalie Arena videoboard showed the familiar grin of actor Tom Cruise, who purchased a suite so his kids could watch the Women’s Final Four.

Appropriately, this was Mission: Impossible.

It was Maryland’s turn to take a crack at the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. The Terrapins tried to run with UConn. It worked for a while.

And then …

This basketball game will self-destruct in five minutes.

Story just beginning for Maryland sophomores, ESPN

You heard it here first: at the Final Four two years from now, in 2017, the Terrapins could walk away with the title. That’s how good this team’s trio of sophomores — Brionna Jones, Lexie Brown and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — are. (Also relevant: UConn star Breanna Stewart, who scored 25 points on Sunday and is going for her third title in three years, graduates the year before.)

Photos: Final Four: UConn Women Vs. Maryland, Courant

And prepping for the Finals:

UConn Vs. N.D. Perfect Ending For Tournament, Jeff Jacobs, Courant

Notre Dame is the only team in the nation that can score enough points to have any chance to beat UConn on Tuesday night. So for those outside the borders of a tiny New England state, getting Notre Dame into the national championship game is needed. Badly needed.

Yet inside the Connecticut border, there is a need, too. Or maybe a “want” is a better word. Look, South Carolina, with Dawn Staley and her program, is on an unmistakable rise. Although the Gamecocks’ first appearance in a national title game would have made for something new, something different, they proved unready when it mattered most Sunday night against the Irish in the Final Four to take that final step.

NCAA women: UConn to face Notre Dame in final, Tampa Tribune
Auriemma and McGraw’s rivalry, ESPN
Huskies, Irish set up title game rematch, Mechelle, ESPN

In a season in which there really were some unexpected thrills and surprises, the last chapter will be written again by two old reliables: UConn and Notre Dame.

It won’t be a meeting of two undefeated teams like last year’s NCAA title game, which was won by the Huskies 79-58 over the Irish. But it will be oh-so-familiar to women’s basketball fans, who’ve definitely seen this movie before. And its sequel. And the sequel to the sequel, etc.

UConn and Notre Dame to meet again for women’s national title, SI

And in the more future: Women’s issues could take center stage at future Final Fours

 When the NCAA Women’s Final Four returns here in 2019, the Tampa Bay area could find itself the epicenter of a wide-ranging forum on the most compelling issues that affect women.

If Anucha Browne sees her dream become reality, the annual championship event in women’s college basketball will also serve as a dynamic force to empower student-athletes and lure national women’s groups into the host city for networking and discussion.

“That has been my vision,’’ said Browne, a former standout basketball player at Northwestern who currently serves as the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball championships. “This is the premier women’s athletic event in the world, a celebration of women at the top of their sport. The next step is: how do you use this event as a platform to bring women together to discuss women’s issues?’’

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so, of course, I’m procrastinating!

Field’s simple aim: Toppling UConn’s dynasty, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four preview: Can any challenger end UConn’s dynasty?, Sports Illustrated
Among four No. 1 seeds, UConn the one, Boston Globe
Familiar faces, star players, veteran coaches in Final Four, AP

Born to a Star and Becoming One for Maryland, NY Times

 Maryland’s Lexie Brown was cradled in the hands of a slam dunk champion. She had her diapers changed by Pervis Ellison, a former N.C.A.A. tournament most valuable player and a No. 1 N.B.A. draft pick. She was raised in N.B.A. arenas.

So no, a matchup with Connecticut, the No. 1 overall seed in the women’s bracket, does not scare her.

“No fear,” Brown said.

Lexie Brown drives Maryland’s offense, Tampa Bay Times

For the past two seasons, Maryland has become one the country’s talked-about teams thanks to a plethora of playmakers. Lexie Brown, though, is the one who makes the Terrapins’ go-go offense go.

Maryland’s Brown proving to famous father she made right choice, Tampa Tribune

UConn Knows About Final Four Pressure, Distractions, Courant
UConn Women: A Team That Jelled, And Kept Getting Better, Courant

Morgan Tuck back to normal, and that’s abnormally good for Connecticut, Chicago Tribune

It had become painfully easy to forget how good Morgan Tuck was.

That’s because during two pain-filled years at Connecticut, knee problems either limited or completely prevented Tuck from showing the skills that made her Ms. Basketball of Illinois as both a freshman and a senior at Bolingbrook High School.

Only this season has the college basketball world begun to see how good Morgan Tuck is.

Turns out, the 3-point line is only one of the spots from where Connecticut sharpshooter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is known to be unconscious.

Few Huskies value their sleep more than the second-oldest on the roster, the one affectionately nicknamed “Grandma.”

“If she stays up past 10 that’s a pretty good night,” forward Morgan Tuck said.

UConn’s Stewart ready to test the best, Register
UConn star Breanna Stewart named AP Player of the Year, Register
UConn Junior Breanna Stewart Wins Wade Trophy As WBCA National Player Of The Year, Courant
Her sights set on a grand slam, Stewart is the ultimate winner, Tampa Tribune

It was just another day in Stewie World at the Final Four, Breanna Stewart and UConn’s home away from home.

Around lunch time Saturday at Amalie Arena, Stewart was presented with the Wade Trophy for best women’s college player.

Then there was one hour of work, a frolicking Huskies practice.

After, Stewart wore a protective boot of her left foot because of an “inflammation of the sesamoid bone,” Stewart said. It might be the only hope for everyone else as Stewart and her teammates go for their third consecutive national championship, beginning with tonight’s semifinal against Maryland.

Women’s basketball Final Four preview capsule: UConn vs. Maryland, Register
USF’s Jose Fernandez breaks down UConn vs. Maryland, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four Game 2: Two-time champ UConn faces upstart Maryland, Tampa Tribune

“Everybody probably thinks they don’t have the inside game that they used to have,’’ Auriemma said. “But at this time of the year, I don’t care how many big guys you have, your guards are going to win your games in March. You have to have great guards who play great. Their guards have played great the whole tournament — that’s the biggest worry that we have.’’

Coach Frese, Maryland Hopes To End UConn’s Run At Final Four, NBC Local

Gamecocks’ first Final Four team bringing more attention to women’s basketball, SCNOW
ESPN analyst Kara Lawson breaks down Notre Dame vs. South Carolina, Tampa Bay Times
Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd the voice of experience, Tampa Bay Times

Jewell Loyd was just a freshman when she made her first trip to the Final Four three years ago. During that April weekend in New Orleans, Loyd admits she was overwhelmed by the grand scale of everything and the media attention that followed.

Irish must solve S.C.’s depth
McGraw having more fun than ever at this year’s Final Four

“I don’t think there’s pressure on us that has been in the past,” McGraw says. “We came in last year undefeated, we did some things the year before. My expectations at the beginning of the year was ‘I think we’ll be there in February but I don’t know how we’re going to get there’ and we got there a lot quicker than I thought we would.”

And McGraw admits it’s important for her to stay loose for her team.

South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell refuses to be intimidated, Tampa Bay Times

The SEC I feel like is the toughest conference in college basketball, so it definitely prepares me — and the team — for a game like this. I’m used to everybody playing us tough. They (Notre Dame) are a little more experienced being on this type of stage, but we’ve just go to settle in and play basketball. “

It’s that mentality — on and off the court — that has made Mitchell such a leader for the Gamecocks, who are playing in their first Final Four, and endeared by teammates, particularly freshman A’ja Wilson.

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wait for me…”

 

In_the_sink

 

Waiting on the trip to the plane…how smart was I to not do a 6am flight! Means I get to do some early morning reading.

Sally Jenkins: Notre Dame has lost in the women’s Final Four, but never lost heart

The age-old question in any sport is, do you learn more from winning or from losing? Maybe the reason we have such a hard time answering it is because we look at the experiences as separate instead of related. Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame are in their fifth straight women’s NCAA Final Four, and on four previous occasions they’ve suffered defeat. But here’s the thing about finishing second: It means you could have been first.

Each loss is its own brand of pain and has its own cause. McGraw and the Irish have become connoisseurs of heartbreak. 

Tim Casey, New York Times: Notre Dame Doubles Down on the Mabrey Family From New Jersey

This fall, Mabrey will be joined by a familiar face on campus and on the court: Her sister Marina has signed with Notre Dame. On Wednesday night, Michaela Mabrey drove to Chicago and watched Marina share most valuable player honors in the McDonald’s All-American Game after recording 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in 17 minutes.

Marina Mabrey is also a guard, but she is more aggressive and competitive than Michaela, who led Notre Dame with 71 3-pointers this season and is known for her outside shooting. The sisters honed their skills by playing one-on-one against each other at home in Belmar, N.J. They also competed with their older brother, Roy, who averaged 17 points a game this season as a senior for St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

Garnet and Black: South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s Basketball Final Four Preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Scouting Report

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post: South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley has cooled her fire and forged a contender

Dawn Staley could be a frustrating chess opponent for Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer. The two would often play when VanDerveer was Staley’s coach on the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, and after VanDerveer had clearly won and declared checkmate, Staley would stubbornly refuse to accept it.

That competitive fire pushed Staley to take her first head coaching job at Temple in 2000, even though VanDerveer and Debbie Ryan, Staley’s college coach at Virginia, advised her against it. Staley was still in the middle of a professional playing career, and her two mentors told her coaching would consume her. It was that sliver of doubt that convinced Staley to do it. She would go on to lead the Owls to six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years while playing in the WNBA for all but the past two.

Antonya English, Tampa Bay Times: Dawn Staley: Turnaround artist at South Carolina

“I was at N.C. State (as baseball coach) when Kay Yow was the coach,” Tanner said. “I had a chance to watch Dawn up close and personal, and I sat near the court. And I remember to this day when she would come in as a point guard for the Cavaliers, she ran it. She was in charge. And it was tenacious. It was fun. It was fun to watch. And of course, she was great as well. 

“But there was no question who was directing traffic. And she’s still directing traffic.”

Final Four is USC’s party, but women’s hoops still UConn’s world, Charleston Post and Courier

It’s an irresistible story — the head coach who reached basketball’s promised land three times as a player, now leading her up-and-coming program into its first Final Four. Dawn Staley and South Carolina are the darlings of Tampa Bay this weekend, but they also fall under the long shadow of the team everyone expects to cut down the nets Tuesday.

The days leading up to this Final Four may be South Carolina’s party, but women’s college basketball remains Connecticut’s world. The nine-time and twice-defending national champions are back again, their supremacy burnished by blowout victories over two of the other three teams that reached Amalie Arena, their head coach pursuing a 10th title which would tie John Wooden for most in major college basketball history.

Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun: Maryland coach Brenda Frese gets creative when motivating her players

Two weeks ago, just days before the top-seeded Marylandwomen’s basketball team would play undefeated Princeton in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Brenda Freseshowed up to a team meeting with a can of salt-and-vinegar Pringles. The flavor was important, considered. Like so many of the flourishes in her motivational mosaic, it was no accident.

Around the room the Terps coach went, talking about disrespect and rankings. Then she reached into her tube of stackable snacks, took out a single Pringle and stood before a player, like a priest offering host during Communion.

“We were just kind of like: ‘What’s going on?'” redshirt junior guard Brene Moseley recalled thinking Thursday.

Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Maryland women’s basketball is in Final Four with a new formula

For years, the winning blueprint for Maryland women’s basketball Coach Brenda Frese has been to assemble her roster from the inside out. Front-court stalwarts Alyssa Thomas, Alicia DeVaughn and Tianna Hawkins were the most important parts when the Terrapins consistently punished opponents in rebounding, points in the paint and interior defense.

With those foundational players gone, Frese had to adjust how Maryland would operate this season with a youthful roster comprising mostly guards and wings. 

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Maryland’s Brenda Frese got to the top much quicker than Auriemma

On the surface it would seem the coaching journeys of Geno Auriemma and Brenda Frese have almost nothing in common.

Auriemma was bitten by the basketball bug growing up in Norristown. Pennsylvania, a mere 20 miles from hoops-crazy Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Frese cut her teeth in the Mid-American Conference coaching circles, first as an assistant at Kent State and then a two-year run as the Ball State head coach.

However, a timeline of their rise to national prominence displays a much faster trajectory than either one could have possibly imagined.

Roger Cleaveland, Republican-American: Coach Frese likes Maryland’s title chances

From Matthew Zemek at Full Court: Final Four preview: Can Maryland surprise Connecticut?

It is a rite of spring – Sunday night at the NCAA Women’s Final Four, with the Connecticut Huskies playing the second national semifinal to give ESPN a ratings bump when going up against the season premiere of Mad Men and the other shows that make their way onto the airwaves at this time of year.

Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame – they get the late semifinal only if they play the current colossus of women’s college basketball, the program that has taken the baton from Tennessee to give the Final Four its most central box-office attraction. Maryland gains the honor of sharing the stage with Connecticut in the second semifinal this year.

These Huskies Rank With The Best … But There’s Work To Do, Courant
Capsule: UConn Vs. Maryland, Courant
Don’t Ask Me If The Women Are Playing Too, Courant

I grew up in Connecticut where college basketball reigns over our dark New England winters, and, having hit 5 feet 11 by sixth grade, found my way onto a basketball court, where I stayed until I left for college.

The guy then asked if the women’s tournament was going on now, too. Bracing, I smiled and said, “Yeah. Yeah, it is,” the Connecticutian’s equivalent to a public diatribe. The conversation was over.

The kid didn’t deserve my anger — for all I know he was only along for a beer — but he received a dose of my larger unease, which has been approaching its boiling point since the start of this year’s March Madness.

“Beastly” Morgan Tuck gets new nickname as UConn women prepare for Final Four, Channel 8

Undesized for her position, Tuck has connected on the majority of her shots this year,  shooting 61 percent.

“The only thing wrong with Morgan is she’s not 6-4,” said head coach Geno Auriemma.

What she make lack in post-size, the 6-2 forward makes up for in poise, hand eye coordination,  and footwork. She has enough back-to-the-basket moves to make her head coach gush.

“All those little up and unders, that’s old time basketball, she’s got that,” Auriemma said. “She doesnt score on you because she jumps over you and overwhelms you with her athletic ability. She’s smart.”

So where does the poise and footwork come from?

“I guess I’ll credit my dad,” Tuck said. “He’s a pretty laid-back guy, he’s the one who got me interested in basketball.”

UConn Won’t Apologize for Success, NBC Connecticut
Hamilton native Kia Nurse charges way to the top as a UConn freshman, Hamilton Globe and Mail
Pressure to be best is unrelenting at UConn, Tampa Tribune

The AP gives us Coach McCallie’s analysis of women’s Final Four

Also from the AP: 3 women’s Final Four teams from 2014 return

The women’s Final Four will have a familiar feel to it with three of last year’s teams back in the national semifinals.

UConn, Notre Dame and Maryland all return to the Final Four while South Carolina is making its first appearance.

It’s the third time in the history of the Final Four that all four of the top seeds made it this far.

“That’s the way it is in women’s basketball,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “The absolute best teams get to the Final Four. I’m not one bit surprised Notre Dame and South Carolina are there. That’s the way it is in our game. The best teams go to the Final Four every year.”

ESPN’s Front Row: Crew members reflect on working 20 years of ESPN’s Women’s Final Four coverage

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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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I was kind thinking that was what was going to happen. A tad disappointing, sure, for those who hoped for a better match. But damn, there was some beautiful basketball on display, wasn’t there? The game was worth that jab step-drive by by MoJeff.

From Graham:

“We weren’t settling,” Stewart said. “We were really attacking them. We knew that we could drive past some of their bigs. We got the shots that we wanted. And we knocked them down.”

And the biggest presence on the court was the player who ran that offense, the smallest player on a court of giants.

With the first half winding to a close, Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson dribbled at the top of the key, calm but balanced on the balls of her feet. In front of her stood South Carolina’s Tina Roy and, more distant, two tiers of Connecticut students in the stands of Gampel Pavilion. The rumble of voices started to build even before Jefferson completed the crossover that left her defender helpless. It crescendoed into a roar as she exploded to the basket and finished.

UConn Women Make A No. 1 Statement Against South Carolina, Courant

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies (23-1) with 23 points. She drained five more three-pointers. Breanna Stewart added 22. She had eight rebounds. And Morgan Tuck scored 17 points.

Still it was Moriah Jefferson, with 16 points, six assists and two steals, who brought the blowtorch on this cold and snowy night. With the exhilaration and creativity that has come to define her career, she slipped her tiny body into every seemingly inaccessible crevice South Carolina left open.

Auriemma Likes These Competitive Matchups, Courant

“People are afraid to play these games in February because what happens if we lose? They are afraid of the aftermath. I look forward to the aftermath. I am going to be a lot happier Tuesday morning than I was Monday night. … That’s what coaching is, to help your players understand the significance of everything. That’s how we treat it here.”

Photos: No. 1 South Carolina At No. 2 UConn Women, Courant
UConn women hand top-ranked South Carolina first loss, Register

“We had something to prove to ourselves more than anything to show that despite all the teams that we were playing and blowing out, people saying we didn’t have the competition,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a game-high 23 points to go with four steals as UConn improved to 17-3 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups. “We just wanted to show that we could stand up for and (rise) to the occasion.”

UConn women’s basketball up for this ‘challenge’, Boston Globe

Generally one play doesn’t summarize a game, yet it did Monday night at Gampel Pavilion when the UConn women’s basketball team apparently was supposed to be threatened by undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina.

With just over 11 minutes remaining and the No. 2 Huskies on a fast break, All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis received a trailing pass from point guard Moriah Jefferson and found tiny point guard Tiffany Mitchell defending her.

Mosqueda-Lewis used her bulk, flicked Mitchell to the floor like a mosquito and then drained a 3-pointer.

Women’s showdown: No. 2 UConn humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Philadelphia Inquirer

The final score was 87-62. Afterward, answering the first question, Staley used the word “efficient” a couple of times to best describe UConn. 

“They think about who should shoot the ball and who should have the ball in their hands, and they’re patient enough to wait for it,” Staley said. “It makes basketball a beautiful thing to see.”

UConn Sends Message With a Rout of No. 1 South Carolina, NY Times

As the lead grew, South Carolina’s bigger players started to look winded. UConn’s, spurred on by an announced crowd of 10,167 that braved a New England snowstorm to watch the show, seemed to get fresher.

Stewart called it a statement game, a chance to show the rest of the country that the Huskies — who play in the lightly regarded, and sometimes derided, American Athletic Conference — can contend with the best teams that power leagues like the Gamecocks’ Southeastern Conference have to offer. Mosqueda-Lewis said plainly, “We’re as good as people think we are.”

UConn proves it is clear-cut No. 1 team in demolition of South Carolina, SI

“When you compare UConn to some other programs, they are sharp, efficient and there is no fat to what they do,” Staley said. “We have a 24-hour rule. We will be dejected for 24 hours and then we have to move on.”

Unbeaten no more: No. 2 UConn women’s team humbles No. 1 South Carolina, Sporting News
UConn women hand South Carolina its first loss of the season, CBS Sports
It’s UConn and everyone else – again, AggieSports.com, The Eagle

I thought South Carolina would give UConn a game, maybe even win. UConn was impressive, so impressive it was bad for the women’s game. It looks like another year where everyone is else playing for second. South Carolina seemingly had proven to be a worthy challenger. But, UConn won by 25 points, 25 points? Can anyone beat UConn?

1 Done: Huskies maul Gamecocks, The State

“We’re tied for first in our conference, and we don’t want to lose sight of being a really good basketball team,” Staley said. “That’s what we are.”

The loss stung, as it should have. It was their worst since 2011.

But there’s a lot of basketball to be played. Asked if they’d like to play UConn again, Staley and her players interrupted each other.

“Absolutely. Of course.”

Fans turn out for Gamecocks at Vista bar, The State
Video: A’ja Wilson quizzes Geno Auriemma, The State
Video: Mechelle & Michelle on the game, ESPN
Sapakoff: Gamecocks will benefit from Rivalry 101 lesson at UConn, Charleston Post and Courier

The only thing better than No. 1 vs. No. 2 pitting the established power with nine NCAA championships against new kids on the title contender block is a long, loud series.

Round Two is tentatively scheduled for the Final Four in Tampa.

A certain meeting will happen next season in Columbia.

“This is absolutely part of our journey,” Staley said. “In order to accomplish some milestones that we have this particular year, this is part of our journey. I think each and every time we need to learn a lesson.

“This isn’t a destination game for us. We have a lot of basketball left to play.”

There’s an interesting question for those with better basketball brains in their heads than mine: Is UConn in the American the next LaTech, or is UConn in the American the next UConn? The Huskies pretty much stomped all over their Big East opponents, minus a couple of hiccups (Rutgers, Villanova) and the Dearly Departed Diggins-led Irish. And, despite not playing against “challenging” competition, UConn still managed to rack up the Championships.

Fast-forward to last night: Connecticut beat the (current) best team in the SEC. How do folks think they would fare against South Carolina’s fellow conference-mates?

So, if no other conference poaches UConn, will the women’s basketball program continue to thrive? Or, as Jere’ posits, will the (sometime in the future) departure of Auriemma defeat the program (the way, perhaps, Mulkey’s departure signaled the “end” of the LaTech as a powerhouse program)?

In other news:

Ooops! Did Norfolk State take their eyes off the prize?

Nice to read: Large crowd signals continued resurgence of UMaine women’s basketball team

Fans of the University of Maine women’s basketball program have for several years been yearning for a team in which they can believe.

Finally, the Black Bears and their supporters are enjoying that winning feeling.

The most recent evidence supporting UMaine’s return to prominence was Sunday’s 63-45 victory over Hartford. It came in front of an announced crowd of 3,287 fans at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

“Oh my gosh. There was like 3,000-something. Wow!” UMaine junior Liz Wood said after she increased her career point total to 1,006 with an 11-point effort.

Deja vu in New Jersey: Tony Bozzella, Seton Hall bringing excitement back to Walsh Gymnasium

Equally nice to read: From Jeff Metcalfe, Present, future bright for ASU women’s basketball

“Charli (Turner Thorne) is doing a great job with her team,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I am very impressed with how well they are playing. They are playing with a lot more purpose than I remember them. I think that is a real credit to her and what she’s doing.”

Was wondering who’d be lucky enough to land this Aussie: LA Sparks sign Australian center Marianna Tolo

So you think you can shoot? Or write? From Swish Appeal: A call for new writers and photographers

With a h/t to Sue: Talking about men’s and women’s sports differently

Much of what we see in the plot is not terribly surprising. There are numerous gender specific words dominating the top spaces in the women’s articles and many of the middle positions for the men. It’s nonetheless interesting to consider that gender-specific terms are even more key for the women than for the men. In other words, for female-specific words like she there’s a greater difference between the articles about men’s and women’s basketball than there is for male-specific words like he. This seems to be caused by the fact that men’s basketball is an all men’s zone with not only the players but also the other major actors like the coaches, referees, commentators, etc. being male. Hence, words for women rarely show up. In contrast, many of the coaches and other actors in women’s basketball are men.

The presence of the word girls in the top 20 is also quite striking, especially since the corresponding boys does not appear in the men’s list. We might expect to see the use of the term girls applying to the players, and it does sometimes, usually used in quotations from coaches and the players themselves,

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Had to follow it on twitter (thanks, Gonzagawbb – loved the video commentary and this morning’s GAME HIGHLIGHTS) but what a game between the Bulldogs and the Dons. Through three overtimes, neither team would let the other win… until finally, in the fourth,  10-time defending conference champion Gonzaga prevailed, 91-84. The game featured 21 lead changes, 14 ties and lasted two hours and 50 minutes, becoming the longest game in West Coast Conference women’s basketball history.

“I’ve never been involved in a four overtime game,” head coach Jennifer Azzi noted after the marathon on the court. “Never. This is the first one ever – playing, coaching. I don’t even know if I’ve ever been involved in a three overtime, so this was pretty crazy. This team is really special. They get along very, very well, and they’re very supportive of one another. I’m just so proud of our team.”

I know coach Azzi must be sick and tired of my (and anyone else’s)  “signs of program progress” commentary, and her players must be pissed and exhausted, but consider what was happening in San Fransisco when she assumed the head coaching duties in 2010: The program hasn’t had a winning record since 2001-02, and only one since 1996-97. They now stand at  and are a young team (3 seniors) with some height. Things could get very interesting out west….

In other games, Gonzaga’s WCC rival St. Mary’s got smacked by their other WCC rival, Pacific, 61-48.

Kendall Kenyon had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half for her 45th career double-double, which broke the program record amassed by Julie Szukalski from 1986-90. Kenyon finished with 12 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, including eight on offense, to go with two blocks, two assists, one steal and only one turnover in 28 minutes.

“It’s pretty awesome to hit that milestone,” Kenyon said. “It really tops off my senior year. But I’m just trying to keep moving forward and keep improving. Coach Roberts always says consistency in key in great teams and great players.”

It was a great game between the top two teams in the OVC, Tennessee-Martin and SIU-Edwardsville, but the conference leading Skyhawks emerged victorious, 69-68.

The OVC produced the second Debbie Antonelli Special of the night, as Murray State upset Austin Peay, 98-84.

No, #18 Princeton wasn’t upset, but fellow Ivy League undefeated Yale was – by Harvard, 65-55.

The Big West seems to be slipping out of Long Beach State’s hands and into the Wahine’s. 

Yes, the Billikens seem to be improving, but they couldn’t get past Richmond.

Since getting smacked by Maine, New Hampshire has lost four straight. Magarity’s young coaching staff has got to get their team’s head back into the season.

That sigh of relief was the Catamounts breaking their 12-game skid. Their next opponent? The struggling Wildcats.

Yah, it’s looking like the MEAC is going to be between Norfolk State and Hampton. Circle March 5th on your calendar.

Texas Southern is lurking right behind Southern in the SWAC. They’ll meet each other for the second time this season on March 7th.

New Mexico State moves to 8-0 in the WAC.

That “other” team from New Mexico is making noise again. Sure, their out of conference record is for carp, but in-conference is not so bad. Let’s see what happens when the Lobos host Colorado State at the Pit this Wednesday.

Central Connecticut sits atop the NEC at 10-1. They’ll face their nearest challenger, Robert Morris, two games from now. The Colonials eeked out a win against Farleigh Dickinson, 69-68.

As anticipated, it was a battle between the Michigans, but Western staked out a lead and Central could never quite catch up.

It was an unanticipated battle between Western Carolina (1-7, Southern) and East Tennessee State (7-1 Southern), as the Catamounts gave the Buccaneers all they could handle. In the end, ETSU emerged victorious. Six games from now, they’ll have their second showdown against conference-leading Chattanooga.

The Hattiesburg American gives a shout out to Southern Miss head coach: McNelis outdoing herself this year

Here’s the deal: last season, Southern Miss did not beat perennial powerhouse Middle Tennessee more than once. It has defeated MTSU twice this year as well as Western Kentucky once, both of which have either been ranked in the Top 25 poll or received votes. Last season, Lee-McNelis never had to deal with quitters as she has this time around (senior Markia Nix and freshman Shakoa Edwards bailed on her early in the year). Last season, she had Jamierra Faulkner running things on the floor when things got dicey. No disrespect to Tamara Jones, Jerontay Clemons or any other players on the team this season, but none of them are Faulkner.

We know what’s coming up tomorrow…so what does one make of Geno getting so cranky with the play of his starters that he sits Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart four minutes into the game against Memphis? And they stay there all game. And UConn still wins by 50.

On the upcoming Connecticut-South Carolina game from David Cloninger:

This is the one we’ve all been waiting on.

Connecticut.

“It’s UConn,” Tiffany Mitchell shrugged after a pasting of Georgia on Thursday. “Now, finally, we’re ready to play them.”

It’s been circled since the idea was approached. Dawn Staley was working on the deal last year, one because it was getting increasingly harder to schedule good competition and two because she knew that this year would be an outstanding year, and what better litmus test could there be?

More from David: Gamecocks’ depth overwhelms foes

This is getting silly.

Alaina Coates, South Carolina’s best inside player and the key to establishing everything the Gamecocks try to do on offense, was suspended. USC was on the road, in a gym where it’s hardly ever played well. Players had already been talking about the next game, not this one.

And it still didn’t matter.

Why? Bianca Cuevas, this time.

Coach Staley is familiar with may of the UConn players because of her time with USA Basketball. From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: South Carolina’s Staley dishes on UConn’s Stewart and future Husky Collier

Scott Anderson at The State:

But on Monday, when UConn hosts USC at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, it’ll be the visitors ranked No. 1 and the Huskies No. 2.

Wrap your head around that for a moment.

The Gamecocks, unbeaten at 22-0, are considered the best team in the country as they prepare to take on the best program in the country.

That’s really amazing.

David Caraviello at the Post & Courier: Anticipation runs high for both No. 2 UConn, No. 1 USC

Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma earned his 900th career victory Tuesday, but there was little drama in what quickly become another rout of another overmatched conference opponent. The real anticipation bubbled through the crowd whenever the video boards at Hartford’s XL Center promoted Monday’s game in Storrs against No. 1 South Carolina — even though it’s been sold-out for weeks.

Lori Riley at the Courant: Dawn Staley Says South Carolina Playing UConn, Not ‘What’s In Rafters’

“You can’t come into a basketball game and play the nine basketball championship [banners] hanging from the rafters,” Staley said Friday on a conference call. “You can’t think that way, because you’ve already lost the game. We play in one of the toughest conferences in the country, we have to think that way. It’ll overwhelm you if you try to play what’s up in the rafters.”

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Key stats: South Carolina at UConn

The two best teams in the nation square off Monday (ESPN/WatchESPN, 8 p.m. ET) when top-ranked South Carolina takes on second-ranked Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion. For the undefeated Gamecocks, it’s an opportunity to keep their perfect season alive and earn the program’s first win against UConn. But the Huskies, who have been nothing short of unstoppable since their loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, have their eyes set to a return to No. 1 and on a third consecutive national title.

From Scott Michaux: Top-ranked South Carolina women face toughest test yet in No. 2 UConn

John Altavilla: Underestimate South Carolina? Not A Chance

Among the phenomenon Geno Auriemma has adapted to during the last 20 of his 30 years at UConn has been weathering the possible impact of approaching storms.

As it relates to Monday at Gampel Pavilion, it’s not about how much snow may fall, but how  much importance is being attached to the Huskies game with unbeaten and top-ranked South Carolina.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many times we’ve been in this situation, 1 vs. 2, but it’s been frequent,” Auriemma said. “And it’s occurred over many years, with many different teams, sometimes on the road, other times at home, with many different teams and coaches.

Game preview by DoggyDaddy:

South Carolina come into this game undefeated at 22-0. Their OOC schedule was pretty weak with only two games against ranked teams, defeating No. 22 (at the time) Syracuse 67-63 and No. 9 Duke 51-50. They also had a tough outing against the real USC winning 69-61. They have met a few ranked teams in their conference schedule, beating No. 10 Kentucky 68-60, No.12 Texas A&M 79-61, and now No. 22 Georgia 58-35 in their last game.

UConn comes into this game on a 21 game winning streak after beating Memphis. UConn played (and lost) to No. 6 Stanford, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 25 DePaul, and No.10 Duke. While the conference is weak, South Florida is a top 25 RPI team.    

Both Geno and Dawn are doing their best to motivate their players. Dawn sat one of her stars for breaking what was probably a nothing team rule. She used it to show she will sit you so “don’t screw up”. And she wants Coates to play angry.  

Jere’ from the Times looks ahead (waaaaay ahead?): After Geno Auriemma’s Reign, UConn Could Lose Clout

South Carolina travels to Connecticut on Monday night for a meeting of the top two N.C.A.A. women’s basketball teams. The matchup will tell us something about the present and raise a thorny question about the future.

In this turbulent, uncertain period of college sports, how long can UConn sustain its dominance as one of the few women’s basketball powers not affiliated with a Power 5 football conference? The reflexive answer for many is: for as long as Geno Auriemma remains head coach.

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So, we had a nice game going between Notre Dame and Connecticut, didn’t we? Crowd was rockin’, Irish were rollin’, and then coach Auriemma called that timeout. And before you knew it, UConn was going on one of its patented “Patented Runs” and cleaning up the glass. Game over.

Ya, Brianna was on the bench (meh, says Muffet), but when you consider the line the “superstars & expected leaders” of the Huskies had, it’s pretty disconcerting that Notre Dame lost by 18. And the announcers sure were disappointed, weren’t they?

Following up on some of the other “games of interest”:

Tulane gave Arkansas-Little Rock their first loss of the season. The Green Wave is now 7-1 with a less-than-fearsome schedule ahead.

Yup, that’s Princeton at 8-0. Looking forward to their next game: @ Michigan.

Is it time to pay attention to George Washington again? Their two losses: First game of the season v. FGCU (by 13) and then Maryland (by 10).

Penguins win!

Illinois moves to 6-2. Seton Hall, which has been making some noise, is next.

Oregon State scored 109 points. Sacramento didn’t.

Undefeated no more: Ohio lost to East Carolina, 76-68.

The Debbie Antonelli Game of the Day was rooted in an in-state rivalry. AND an OT. North Dakota, 90. North Dakota State, 87.

Since their opening day lost to BC, Saint Mary’s has been on a roll. They just took down Cynthia Cooper’s USC, 64-58.

Set ’em  up Sunday!

1pm: #1 South Carolina v. #9 Duke – ESPN2

2pm: #13 Kentucky v. #7 Louisville – ESPN3

2pm: St. John’s v. South Florida

3pm: Colorado (6-1)  v. #22 Iowa – BTNPlus

3pm: #18 Rutgers v. #25 Arkansas –  SECN+

3pm: #12 Nebraska v. Alabama (7-3) – SECN+

3pm: #11 Baylor v. Ole Miss (6-2) – SECN+

4pm: #16 Michigan State v. #19 Georgia – SECN/ESPN3

5pm: San Francisco v. Long Beach State

6pm: #10 Cal v. Kansas – Fox Sports 1

 

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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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Busy as all get out, but I got to see the mom for Thanksgiving – so it’s all good.

Speaking of good, it was wicked scary, but it seems better: Antonita Slaughter collapses on bench

At 9:57 Tuesday night, U of L player Tia Gibbs posted a picture on Twitter of a text message Slaughter had sent to her teammates saying she was doing OK and congratulating them on the victory.

“I’m good,” Slaughter wrote. “First thing I (asked) was how many turnovers we had.

Things are getting somewhat clearer in the land of women’s basketball. Certainly the very anticipated game between Duke and UConn (Dec. 17th in Durham) got more interesting with the news that Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are well on the way to mending.

On the topic of “anticipated games,we’ve got the Wildcats v. the Bears looming (Hmm? So much for the Sooner Supplanting?). Whoops!

Speaking of interesting match ups, after some intriguing back-and-forth, it looks like there is a chance Notre Dame will continue to play Connecticut.

Speaking of Notre Dame: nice homecoming for Natalie Achonwa in Toronto.

“She’s done so much for our program and really for all of Canada basketball, being the youngest member of [the 2012 Canadian Olympic women’s basketball team],” McGraw said of Achonwa. “She’s very well known in Toronto, and it was just great that her family, friends, teammates could all come out and see her play. We were just so happy to be able to do that for her.”

In a random survey of things missed, I will say Ohio State is proving a stubborn out.

Putting the lie to the old saw, “There are no upsets in women’s basketball:

Spartans defense stunned by IPFW

(Now ranked) Syracuse over Texas A&M – but, of course, it may be the Aggies don’t like (burnt) orange.

In Mexico, ASU took down UNC.

UCLA knocked off Oklahoma on the Sooners’ homecourt.

Washington State got a huge win over Nebraska. And Nebraska also lost to UNC — which might be called an upset.

Too early to know if Kentucky over Louisville was an upset — but when state bragging rights are on the line, it’s all about the emotions.

Speaking about state bragging rights: Northwestern over DePaul.

How much is San Diego State missing Beth Burns?

Yes, I noticed!

Dem Great Danes are sitting pretty at 7-0.

ACC is chock full of undefeateds: Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame.

Ditto in the Big 12: Baylor is joined by Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

Yup, that’s Villanova at 7-0 in what used to be the Big East. And congrats to co-captain Jessica Wamala, who was named a Rhodes Scholar.

Yes, it’s early, but the Big 10’s Indiana is 8-0.

C-USA could be fun: UTEP and East Carolina are both 7-0.

Hello, EMU in the Mid-American. The Eagles are 5-0.

There have been some tests, but Colorado is 7-0 in the Pac-12.

With a 6-0 record, Holy Cross seems to have regained its mojo.

The SEC has several in the ranks of the unblemished: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee. Three one-loss teams lurk behind them, so much will be revealed during conference play.

West Coast looks like it’s going to be fun: San Diego (Congrats, Coach Fisher: best start in school history), BYU and St. Mary’s are spotless.

In a world often full of coulda-shoulda-woulda’s, here’s an interesting story: SDSU coach Johnston has no regrets about UWGB decision

It’s been six years since Aaron Johnston called former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay athletic director Ken Bothof from a Minnesota airport to inform him he was having second thoughts about replacing Kevin Borseth as the women’s basketball coach.

He ended up boarding his flight to Green Bay. But by the time he arrived, he had made the decision to return to South Dakota State University.

It’s not been easy in the land of the upstart Eagles, but coach Smesko is encouraged by last victory

No matter how you cut it, 900 wins is extraordinary. Belated shout out to Tara VanDerveeer who, despite her ridiculous record, seems to fly under the radar.

She believes her style is a reflection of her parents, who were both teachers.

“I think I knew from the beginning that coaching is really teaching,” VanDerveer said. “You have 30 public exams a year. I am a student of the game. I know the more I learn, the more there is to learn. I keep studying players and games and try to learn from everyone I’m around.

“I just try to get better every day. Tomorrow, I hope I do a better job than today.”

“I just try to get better every day. Tomorrow, I hope I do a better job than today.” Now that’s a role model.

Bits and pieces from the W:

In a WATN? moment:Adrienne Johnson – Injured Former WNBA Player Loses Comp Case

The Shock, amongst others, are hoping for top prize as WNBA draft lottery is set for next Tuesday, Dec. 10th, 3:30EST on SportsCenter. So, it makes sense that Nate at Swish Appeal has Five guards to watch

I begin this “watch list” with a look at Hartley because she was one of the hardest prospects on this list to “figure out” after the way she played last season – the harsh reality is that the WNBA’s current 11-player rosters aren’t forgiving enough to assume a player will automatically make a roster based on pedigree. But all those challenges she had during her junior season leave us with questions for her senior season, which frame the purpose of a “watch list”.

It doesn’t really matter what league you look at: in most years, the top 10 prospects for any draft are going to change over the course of a season, even if the top three remains the same from start to finish. In the WNBA in particular, we know that players can’t just leave when their stock is high or the moment they show upside, meaning scouts get the added benefit of watching a player for four years – from a prospect with upside to a finished (college) product.

So this “watch list” is the set of players who showed something statistically in their junior season that put them on pace to possibly make a WNBA roster after they leave the collegiate ranks if they stay on pace or improve.

Speaking of guards, Kate Bennert at the .com says Skylar Diggins  is Working Harder Than Ever in the Off Season

Speaking of hard workers, WNBA Tamika Catchings Talks About Giving Back to Community

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I was going to start off with a snarky comment on how the best part of injuries is watching them over and over and over again (not), but the news out of Connecticut post their Stanford win is pretty glum-ifying: UConn women lose 2 players to injury. Those who stepped up during the game will have a chance to step up again Friday v. the Terps.

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my trip last week to Nebraska and my trip this week to New Orleans: Nebraska was freezing, New Orleans is not.

Things that happened in New Orleans:

  • Sitting at the WBCA All-Star game and listening in a couple of SEC folks deconstruct the second half of Kentucky/UConn game.
  • Coming up with a new game to play: Guess which high school player is going to which program based on their style of play.
  • Watching Griner take a moment for a picture with a young fan. Griner standing on the arena floor, fan in the stands: Fan is almost as tall as Griner’s upper body.
  • Yummy, yummy po’ boys at Mothers.
  • Being stalked by friend Renee and her crew. Always good to see familiar faces — even if it’s only once a year.
  • Chatting with deeply-in-the-know-folks about certain coaches who make goofily loud statements about how they’d rather be in a place known for its pasta v. goin’ to New Orleans. Clue-free, much?
  • Walking. Lots of walking. Staying up on St. Charles — a little nearer than I was back in my youth hostel days, but still a walk into the center of the city. Beautiful buildings — brick being the specialty of the house.
  • Pelicans. Brown, that is, are all over the city ’cause, you know, it’s the state bird. And their NBA basketball team is renaming itself the Pelicans. (Guess they got jealous of the Stormy Petrels, huh?).
  • Actually, pelicans are a similarity to my trip to Nebraska, in that we saw a string of 9 migrating white pelicans. And we’re staying nearish to the Blind Pelican.
  • Teasing coach McCallie as you meet her walking the streets ’cause she’s got that “I lost my rental car in the parking lot” look. Liking the fact that she can go with the flow and approve of the sleek silver corvette I point out for her. (BTW, she did find time to provide some F4 analysis.)
  • Knowing my day is brunch, basketball, basketball, dinner. What could be better?

From those folks actually working:

About that Purple, Black and Neon-Green High School Game: Black Team Clinches Win in 2013 WBCA High School All America Game, and no, celebrity coaches Swin and Catch did not throw basketballs at each other. But they got close to throwing on a jersey to secure their team a win.

Sports Illustrated points out that In women’s Final Four, it’s a heated rivalry and two newcomers (even though I know Richard knows Walz has been there before.).

The Times-Picayune’s Trey Iles says, California women’s basketball a Bear of a team when it comes to rebounding, Rachel Whittaker says Connecticut freshmen adjusting to Women’s Final Four stage, hoping to give seniors one more shot,
Cal, Louisville feature tough teams looking to continue Women’s Final Four runs,and Terrance Harris writes, Notre Dame and UConn leaving past in the past as the rivals square off — again– in the Women’s Final Four

The entire state of Connecticut might be in frenzy these days trying to figure out just how deep No.1 Notre Dame has gotten into the heads of its beloved Huskies these past two years.

Arguably the best rivalry in women’s college basketball has become awfully one-sided these last 24 months, with the Fighting Irish winning seven of the last eight games over UConn.

But as far as Notre Dame senior All-American point guard Skylar Diggins is concerned, nothing in the past, not even the three wins over the Huskies this season alone, has meaning as the two powerhouse programs from the Big East get set to square off for a fourth time this year during the national semifinal round of the NCAA Women’s Final Four on Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena.

No surprise, a ton of stuff from the Horde (thanks, Nan):

Huskies believe they’re ready to avert failures vs. Irish, Post
UConn vs. Notre Dame: Who has the edge?, Post
Breaking down the women’s Final Four, Post
Incoming freshman Saniya Chong will get close up look at her future teammates, Post
Auriemma Says Whatever He Can (To Anyone) To Motivate Players, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis Join Exclusive Club Of All-Americans, Courant
UConn Women Face Common Dilemma Vs. Notre Dame – Not Letting Another Team Get Inside Your Head, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn Women Will Win This One, In First 39 Minutes, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis named to WBCA All-America squad, Register
Roads for seniors Skylar Diggins, Kelly Faris lead to the same place, Register
Notre Dame vs. UConn, Register
UConn gets one last chance to beat Irish, Day
This is the one that counts, Hour

Kelly Whiteside at USA Today thinks that For Notre Dame, Connecticut, it comes down to crawfish:

It’s easy to be unnerved by a bowl of crawfish.

“It was looking back at us,” Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins said as she described her team’s experience sampling the local Final Four fare. “Had eyes in it still.”

In a way, the Notre Dame-Connecticut women’s national semifinal on Sunday is little like a bowl of crawfish. We’ve seen it more than once (or twice or thrice) but it’s still transfixing. You don’t want to look away.

From the Chicago Tribune: Loyd and Tuck: A tale of two seasons

Gene Wang, WaPo: Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz basking in Final Four

From the YouTubes, Notre Dame athletics is workin’ it: During the 2nd day of the Final Four, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team practiced at Tulane University, had their head shots taken for the ESPN broadcast, and celebrated at the Final Four Salute dinner.

Congrats – and so well deserved – to AP COY McGraw (Gives me chance to shout out a former Lib player, WATN? COY: Vanessa Nygaard is girls’ basketball coach of the year)

Yup, AP Tom, McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years

From the SBT:

From the Mercury News’ Stephanie Hammon: Brittany Boyd shows maturity in sophomore season for Cal women’s basketball team

“I knew that going with a very exciting, dynamic freshman point guard there were going to be some times where you say, ‘OK, that’s a growth moment,’ but a lot more times that you see the spectacular,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted to give her that rope and that empowerment to be her and she has continued to stay with us and try to get better every step of the way.”

“I grew up in a sense,” Boyd said. “I understand the game more.”

Hammon also adds: Cal women’s basketball team expects the unexpected from Louisville’s defense

“After our Baylor win, we went into the press room, and they’re all asking me how long are you going to enjoy this, and I said, ‘For a lifetime,’ ” Walz said by telephone from New Orleans, site of this year’s Final Four. “I said, ‘We’re going to talk about this the rest of the day, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next year.’ I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and really just come to the conclusion life’s too short. You have to enjoy your moments.”

The Louisville Courier Journal makes up for lost time:

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel is shining bright in the NCAA Tournament

Q&A with U of L’s Monique Reid: Been there, done that, doing it again

Women’s NCAA: Cards’ defense can baffle Cards, too

If you find yourself puzzled as to what kind of defense the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is running, take heart.

Sometimes the U of L coaches and players don’t know, either.

The Cardinals’ shifting schemes have keyed their surprising run to the Final Four. They will switch defenses as many as three times in a single possession, and as you might expect, that occasionally causes confusion on both sides. During the Elite Eight victory over Tennessee, coach Jeff Walz’s assistants asked him what defense the team was in.

“I turned around and said, ‘I don’t know. Shut up,’ ” Walz said. “ ‘Who cares? They’re playing hard.’ They started laughing.

Inside the Louisville-California women’s matchup

Akoy Agau in his words on Louisville basketball in the Final Four

‘If it can happen three times . . .’ Auriemma’s Huskies face an Irish streak

Jere’ from the NY Times adds: Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville

Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.

NBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and folks on “Women’s Basketball as a Model for the NCAA”

Griner says, “Why not, ” Swin says, “Why should she have to?”

Some chick offers The UConn perspective — historical, physical and emotional — on Sunday’s semifinal

From Harvey Araton at the New York Times: At Intersection of Fading Eras in Women’s Game

Donehew, who was a graduate assistant and director of operations for Summitt’s team from 2001 to 2008, was close enough to be inside the circle after the painful diagnosis came in the summer of 2011. She was part of a small group that included Summitt’s son, Tyler, meeting one day to plot a strategy with Summitt on how to proceed publicly.

“We talked about what she wanted to do moving forward: her career, her plans, her legacy,” Donehew said.

But what of the heritage of the Big East, where Donehew has worked for the past four years, joining the conference at a time when its women’s basketball fortunes had become very much the competitive equal of its acclaimed and soon-to-be-mourned big brother?

And, since there are folks on the gentlemen’s side who are all het up about the officiating in the Syracuse/Michigan game, I have an excuse to revive this brilliant April Fool’s from a few years back: 

Cleveland, April 1 (AF) – The NCAA and the Women’s Basketball Officiating Consortium announced new assignments for game officials in Tuesday’s women’s Division I national basketball championship game today, replacing the previously-assigned officials with a new group who had not previously officiated in this year’s NCAA tournament. The original crew, Sally Bell, Dennis DeMayo and Dee Kantner, will be replaced by University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, Maryland coach Brenda Frese and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

Mary Struckhoff, the National Coordinator of Women’s Basketball Officiating for the NCAA, announced the new officiating crew at a press conference last night. “While we realize that many fans will be surprised by this change, we think it will make for a more exciting contest. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing this group try to manage a basketball game. We’re particularly delighted that Brenda was able to take time out from updating her resume to officiate on Tuesday night.”

The reactions of the referees originally scheduled to officiate the game were surprisingly upbeat. “I think this is the finest group of coach/referees they could have assembled,” said DeMayo. “I know that every one of them has corrected my officiating mistakes dozens of times, and made sure I knew exactly how I had missed each call. It’s an honor to give up my spot in the national championship game for these outstanding individuals. I’m looking forward to reviewing the game tape with them so I can learn how someone can call a game so well from 30, 40 or even 70 feet away from the play.” (Click to continue reading)

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USA Women’s U18 Team Golden After Erasing Double-Digit Deficit To Eclipse Brazil 71-47

“Those three were workhorses down there,” said Katie Meier, USA U18 National Team and University of Miami head coach. “They just battled and battled and battled. When I say it was a physical game, it was an extremely physical game. So every time Bre (Stewart) or B (Bashaara Graves) or Morgan (Tuck) got a touch, it was well earned. They really had to even focus on a catch. They were getting swarmed. That’s what opened up Michaela Mabrey and she just put us on her back there for awhile and brought us back into the game.”

And the U17 is looking to follow suit: USA U17 Women Battle Belgium For 80-50 Win

“I was pleased with our effort,” said USA head coach Jill Rankin Schneider (Monterey H.S., Texas). “It wasn’t a surprise that Belgium came out and played hard, and they played well. Throughout the first half and into the third quarter, we just kept needing some little spark that would give us some energy, and Linnae Harper in particular came out in the third quarter and really dominated things defensively and helped us create some opportunities that we were able to build on. We won by 30 points, but it felt like it was a struggle.”

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From HoopGurlz: Girls’ Basketball Stories of the Year

Both tragedy and triumph resonated through the girls’ basketball world in 2011. Here are 10 stories we’ll remember well beyond the New Year.

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