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FIRST, it’s the WNIT

Great crowd came out to support (CUSA) UTEP and the Miners did not disappoint. Their 79-71, over (Big 12) TCU sets up a quarterfinal game against Oregon.

For 11 scary minutes Thursday night, a red-hot TCU team looked as though it might run the UTEP women’s basketball team right out of the Don Haskins Center in the third round of the WNIT.

There were two groups of people who had no intention of letting that happen: the Miner players and 7,024 screaming fans.

The Owls (American) topped the Bobcats (MAC), 75-61. Michigan is up next for Temple.

It was a bitter taste, once again for the Bobcats. 

Ohio didn’t anticipate the outcome of its postseason. It didn’t expect to lose to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. It didn’t expect to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). It didn’t expect to make it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the WNIT. 

And going into today, Ohio didn’t expect to lose to Temple, 75-61. But Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Bobcats did.

Northern Iowa (MVC) and South Dakota (Summit)  battled quarter to quarter. It was the Coyotes who grabbed the 1-point win, 51-50. They await the winners of the Hilltoppers/Billikens game.

The theory being thrown around in the University of South Dakota locker room on Thursday night was that the DakotaDome does not want to see these ladies leave the house just yet.

On Sunday night the Coyote women’s basketball team will play what is technically the fourth last basketball game in DakotaDome history this season. It is so because USD defeated Northern Iowa 51-50 to move into the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

The Coyotes added UNI to a list that included Creighton and Minnesota with a victory that had 14 lead changes. The increasingly rare movements on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter were fueled almost exclusively by scrappiness and a fully engaged home crowd.

NCAA: Wow, those blowouts on the men’s side really hurt the game…

SI Richard’s picks: Women’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 preview & picks

We have reached the Sweet 16 stage of the women’s tournament, and predictably, all of the No. 1 seeds remain alive. But the opening rounds did see a pair of No. 2s—Maryland and Arizona State—get knocked off on their home courts by plucky No. 7 seeds (Washington and Tennessee). The conferences expected to do well have been successful: The Pac-12, the No. 1 RPI conference all season, has four teams (Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington) in the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history. The SEC, the No. 2 RPI conference, also has four teams alive, including Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee. Three teams (Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse) represent the ACC (No. 4 RPI). The pre-tournament prediction of all four No. 1 seeds landing in Indianapolis stands, but let’s take a look at the upcoming games.

UConn Isn’t The Only Storyline; Assessing The Women’s Bracket And Sweet 16

Bad timing: You’ve got to give Texas A&M coach Gary Blair credit. He could have taken the easy way out and not suspended senior forward Courtney Williams, A&M’s second-leading scorer, and reserve guard Shlonte Allen for an undisclosed violation of team rules the day of the Aggies’ first-round game against Missouri State. They remained suspended and the Aggies lost 74-56 on Monday to Florida State.

Syracuse v. South Carolina

SU must prepare for South Carolina’s Dawn Staley effect

She’s very much aware of life’s little blessings, but there is a huge one out there … and Tammi Reiss is only too happy to acknowledge it.

“I’m just going to say this now because our kids have no idea,” she declared earlier this week. “But as far as Dawn goes, thank God she won’t be on the court. Thank God she’s not playing.”Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies By Rich Elliott

Reiss, the Syracuse University assistant — the one with the hair and the wardrobe, which makes her distinguishable from her boss, Quentin Hillsman, who only has the wardrobe — was speaking of Dawn Staley.

Or, as Reiss describes her, “The greatest point guard of all time. Period.”

Dawn Staley credits Syracuse women’s basketball coach for ‘staying the course’

Staley, an all-time great player at Virginia, credited him for taking a more long-lasting approach toward improvement instead of looking for quick fixes.

“I think for anyone that’s playing this game the sky is the limit. When you do things the right way, you open up doors that historically were closed to the upper echelon of programs,” said Staley, in her eighth season at South Carolina. “I think Q’s done a great job at staying the course. And that’s what you must do.

Syracuse women’s basketball writing own story, but what ending awaits?

Unflappable South Carolina will feel the heat of Syracuse women’s basketball press

2. Washington v. Kentucky

Kentucky will have its hands full with Washington’s Kelsey Plum

Not once this season has Kelsey Plum been held to single digits.

It’s rare that the nation’s third-leading scorer has even been held in the teens.

Opponent after opponent has tried — and failed — to stop Washington’s 5-foot-8 junior scoring dynamo.

3. Stanford v. Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Stanford women facing off in Sweet 16 again

Notre Dame and Stanford aren’t looking at Friday’s game as a rematch, even though they’re meeting in an NCAA women’s regional semifinal for the second straight season.

 Both teams say their rosters have changed since their last matchup, making it hard to read too much into Notre Dame’s 81-60 victory in the 2015 Oklahoma City Regional semifinal. They’ll meet again Friday in the Lexington Regional semifinal. 

“I think we’re both kind of two different teams,” Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen said.

Numbers tell story of Notre Dame’s hoops journey

Numbers can portray a telling — even compelling story.

And looking at the numbers, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team should be considered a heavy favorite to win this weekend’s NCAA regional at Lexington, Ky.

 Notre Dame presents major obstacle for Stanford women in Sweet 16

If UConn didn’t exist, maybe the women’s college basketball world would be wondering: Can anybody stop Notre Dame?

The past two seasons, the Irish lost in the NCAA final to the Huskies, and most observers expect the same matchup in this year’s championship game in Indianapolis. The Irish, who won the national title in 2001, also reached the final in 2011 and ’12, losing to Texas A&M and Baylor, respectively.

 Fourth-seeded Stanford would love to throw a wrench into the works for the top-seeded Irish when they meet Friday night in the Lexington, Ky., Regional semifinals.

 Australian basketballer Alanna Smith out for NCAA Tournament success with Stanford

Pac-12 living up to its billing in NCAA women’s tournament

Throughout the season, the metrics kept saying the Pac-12 Conference was the best in the country.

When it came time to back it up in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 delivered. 

Pac-12 teams will make up 25 percent of the Sweet 16 when the women’s regional semifinals get started Friday. No. 2 seed Oregon State, No. 3 seed UCLA, No. 4 seed Stanford and No. 7 seed Washington all advanced through the first weekend of the tournament, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the final 16 for the first time in conference history. The league had never advanced more than three teams beyond the first weekend.

4. Tennessee v. Ohio State

AP: Tennessee-Ohio St. Preview

The Lady Vols plan to throw different defensive looks at Mitchell and guard her ”by committee,” coach Holly Warlick said.

”If she gets close to the bench, I’m going to maybe trip her, I’m not sure,” she said, smiling. ”No, I watched her in high school. She’s got a great gift. She knows the game. The ball is a part of her hand. I haven’t seen too many, male or female, come around like her.”

Women’s basketball | Cait Craft’s injury forces Buckeyes to adjust

Another body blow took the breath away from the Ohio State women’s basketball team on the eve of their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup tonight against Tennessee.

Senior guard Cait Craft suffered a broken left hand in practice this week, which ended her career with the third-seeded and already short-handed Buckeyes.

“Freak thing,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I really feel badly for her. She is such a great kid, and as a senior, she has put so much into getting us to this point it’s really disappointing for her that she can’t play. It’s a tough break, but it’s ‘next-person-up.’ ”

Ohio State is last Big Ten team standing

Guarding Mitchell will be a full-time, full-team job

Tennessee didn’t need a detailed scouting report to reveal the biggest problem Ohio State will present in Friday night’s Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It’s as obvious as Kelsey Mitchell’s stat line.

The Buckeyes 5-foot-8 sophomore guard is averaging 26.3 points per game, has made 40.3 percent of her 308 3-point attempts and has hit 84.6 percent of her free throws.

The stat line becomes even more troublesome for Tennessee when it checks the rearview mirror. As well as its defense has played overall this season, it has been victimized by outstanding individual performances in a number of its losses.

5. Texas v. UCLA

No. 3 UCLA Faces No. 2 Texas

Imani Boyette, Tina Thompson have helped each other blossom this year

Tina Thompson considers Imani Boyette one of the most complex basketball players she has ever met.

Thompson, the former WNBA star who’s in her first season as a Texas assistant coach, casts a large shadow, even over Boyette, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-7 center. In turn, Boyette admits she challenges any coach aspiring to teach her the game. Yet their bond is sealed with mutual respect.

Pac-12 Postseason Storylines: Teams in Sweet 16 mindset

6. Florida State v. Baylor

 Florida State women look to make good on president’s pick

FSU women’s basketball heads to Dallas for Sweet 16 date with Baylor

There’s a different vibe surrounding Florida State’s women’s basketball team.

Head coach Sue Semrau knows it.

The Seminoles (25-7) went into College Station, Texas, and – after shaking off some rust against Middle Tennessee – dominated host Texas A&M in a 74-56 second-round victory. Semrau said she saw a new fire in the eyes of her players when the Seminoles hammered the Aggies.

Baylor knows it won’t be easy, but Bears have motto to motivate getting past Elite Eight

The green wristbands have become a standard wardrobe accessory for the Baylor women’s basketball team.

“Eight is Not Enough” reads the team motto selected by coach Kim Mulkey, a pointed, painful reminder of consecutive NCAA tournament losses in the regional finals, a.k.a. the Elite Eight.

Lady Bears’ success against ranked rivals helps pursuit of championship

7. DePaul v. Oregon State

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers turn attention to DePaul

Sneak peek at DePaul, Oregon State’s Sweet 16 opponent

DePaul travels to Dallas to face Oregon State in Sweet Sixteen

DePaul takes aim at elusive Elite Eight berth

If his career ended today, Doug Bruno would still go down as one of the greatest women’s basketball coaches of all time.

Since he was named head coach at his alma mater in 1976, Bruno has led DePaul to 21 NCAA tournament appearances, including 14 in a row.

On Sunday, the Blue Demons earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for just the fourth time in program history after upsetting Louisville 73-72 on their home court.

It’s an enormous feat, but one more win would mark an historic occasion – DePaul’s first ever berth in the Elite Eight.

8. Connecticut v. Mississippi State

MSU next in line to challenge UConn’s 71-game streak

COLUMN: Mississippi State women face unstoppable UConn

Basketball Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor drawls on and on in superlatives when asked about Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut women’s basketball juggernaut.

Hey, Van, is UConn the most dominant team in sports today?

“Ain’t no question about it,” Chancellor says, by telephone from his Houston home. “There’s nobody else today to compare ’em to. I’d have to go back to the 1927 New York Yankees or John Wooden’s great men’s team at UCLA. That’s how good they are. They are so much better than everyone else in the sport.

The Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State will take on three time defending champion UCONN in the round of sixteen.

Bulldogs to Face Juggernaut Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen

Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies

Sophomore guard Kia Nurse underwent her own battle last month. Her focus was not in the right place in a team-first system. It was on scoring. And when she suffered through a scoreless outing at Tulane Feb. 3, her reaction was unexpected for a player wearing a UConn uniform.

“We’re trying to teach our players to kind of act your age,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Like when you’re 15 don’t walk around and act like you’re 20. And when you’re 20 don’t act like you’re 15. So in that Tulane game she acted like a junior high kid. It was embarrassing. Because she shot the ball poorly she became a mess on the bench and everybody saw it. It’s not how you act at Connecticut. And I think it hit her pretty good.’’

Why UCONN Is Most Underappreciated Team In Sports 

The best thing going in basketball isn’t North Carolina or Kansas or Virginia or Michigan State. It’s not even Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, at least for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? You’re thinking this must be a joke. Or maybe it’s a trick question.

What could possibly be better than all of that?

How about this: A team that’s too good for its own good. A team so untouchable that we take its success for granted.  A team that has no peer or rival, which ends up making it less interesting to the masses.

The Women’s Beat with Bob Joyce: Sweet 16 To Bridgeport

WNBA: Skylar Diggins talks recovery from injury, move to Dallas in Twitter Q&A

Women’s Basketball History! Denver producing documentary on Wayland Baptist’s women’s basketball team

The legendary women’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, is the focus of a documentary film being produced in Denver. And the Flying Queens are candidates for team induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with voting Friday and an announcement to be made at the Final Four next week.

Alice “Cookie” Barron and Kaye Garms, teammates with the Flying Queens at a time when they were on their way to a 131-game winning streak, are ecstatic over learning their place as pioneers in women’s basketball hasn’t been forgotten.

“It’s wonderful that they are looking back into the history of women’s college basketball,” Barron said.

Not off topic: The NBA Needs to Move the 2017 All-Star Game From Charlotte. Now. Commissioner Adam Silver has a chance to lead on challenging an ugly piece of discriminatory legislation. Judging by his own words, it’s past time for him to do so.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is due to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Silver should announce as soon as possible that this game needs to be moved unless the state legislature overturns its new law set to go in effect April 1 “blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people.”

The law was passed as a direct response to the City of Charlotte for passing an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses. Outrageously, the North Carolina legislature scheduled an extraordinary special session—the first time they have done so in 35 years—to annul the Charlotte ordinance before it went into effect. It’s remarkable how quickly lawmakers leap to actually do their jobs when the work involves stripping people of their rights. It is also stunning how all of the Dixie paeans to local control and states’ rights go out the window when it comes to issues such as these.

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Upset 1: #7 Washington over #2 Maryland

The Terrapins started slowly, caught up in the second, then stumbled badly in the third. Washington, behind the super (will she leave for the W?) Plum held off the Maryland in the fourth… Though, when Brene Moseley nailed that three with 32 seconds left… gulp. But, the Huskies free throw shooting held steady. They claimed the upset and a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001.

UW women stun Maryland, reach Sweet 16 of NCAA tournament

Of all of her key plays Monday night, none sent Washington women’s basketball guard Kelsey Plum into the same life-affirming giddiness as her game-sealing pass to Talia Walton.

Mechelle: Voepel: How Plum and UW stunned Maryland

Sweet Plum: UW astonishes Terps, marches to Sweet 16

Washington’s success plan comes with Plum benefits

Maryland women’s basketball loses to Washington, 74-65

Maryland women’s basketball saw its season screech to a halt against Washington

Gene: Maryland women stunned by Washington in NCAA tournament round of 32

Maryland women ‘numb’ after upset loss to Washington means early exit from NCAA tourney

Upset 2: #5 Florida State over #4 Texas A&M

Honestly, you’ll never really know… but you’ve got to believe that having the second leading scorer on the court would have made a difference for Texas A&M. No do-overs, as Florida State used a dominant first quarter to demoralize the Aggies and glide to a 18 point win.

Florida State overpowers A&M, ends Aggies’ season

FSU Women Dominate Aggies 74-56, Advance to Sweet 16

A&M women fall behind early, lose to Florida St.

Florida State saw the epic comeback of the Texas A&M’s men over Northern Iowa on Sunday night, and the Seminoles were not about to let the Aggies do the same thing to them on Monday night.
With a 21-point lead down to just 10 points with two minutes remaining, senior Adut Bulgak implored her teammates not to let up.
“I was like, ‘Yo, they’re creeping up on us. Get to work,’ ” she said.

Almost an upset: Stanford over South Dakota State

‘Ware the Wabbits indeed. Lili Thompson came to Stanford’s rescue with a last second and-1 to get the win. Coach Tara will look at the box score (10 of 22 from line) and just shake her head. South Dakota State will probably kick a wall.

How Stanford rallied past South Dakota State and into the Sweet 16

Gritty Stanford ekes way to Sweet 16

Thompson’s 3-point play with 8.2 seconds left lifts Stanford

NCAA women’s tournament: Stanford punches ticket to Sweet 16

Women’s basketball survives scare to advance to ninth straight Sweet 16

Cardinal’s grit just enough to eke past upset-minded Jackrabbits

Heartbreak in Cali: Stanford rallies to stun Jacks

South Dakota State’s upset bid over Stanford falls short in NCAA women’s basketballtournament

Boever, South Dakota State lose heartbreaker

Almost an Upset: UCLA over South Florida

UCLA had a Jordin-free early run to put them up over South Florida… and then it became the Canada v. Williams extravaganza. Their hug at the end of the game said it all… the Bruins hold off Bulls’ upset dreams.

UCLA battles past South Florida to reach Sweet 16 for first time since 1999

UCLA Women’s Basketball Are Heading To The Sweet Sixteen!

Women’s basketball handles USF in second round, advances to the Sweet 16

USF rally comes up short against UCLA at NCAA women’s tournament

Not an upset: Notre Dame over Indiana

What a great effort by Teri Moren’s Indiana team. They went toe-to-toe with in-state behemoth and kept the Irish honest. Plenty for the Hoosiers to be proud of and build on (they only have ONE senior) Plenty for coach McGraw to work on.

Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Gets By Indiana, Advances to Sweet 16

If Monday night’s second-round match-up against ninth-seeded Indiana is any indication, it will not be an easy road to the Final Four for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. But in the end, the Irish did what they usually do, which is to say they prevailed, 87-70.

Notre Dame women earn Sweet Sixteen berth with victory over Indiana

Notre Dame gets by pesky Hoosiers

Indiana gives Notre Dame plenty to think about

Buss, IU Bow Out of NCAA Tournament

Not an upset: Kentucky over Oklahoma

An 8-point second quarter doomed the Sooners against the Wildcats. Yes, Kentucky came away with the win, but they’ve got to be concerned about Epps and her (sprained?) shoulder.

Hays: How Kentucky ousted Oklahoma

UK women advance with win over Oklahoma

Any hope of a Sooners comeback ended when they missed 11 of their final 12 shots in the game.

“If we play defense like that and we continue to get better, we’re hard to beat,” senior guard Janee Thompson said.

Kentucky pulls away from Oklahoma 79-58 in NCAA second round

Cats’ lone senior comes up big in final game at Memorial Coliseum

Epps’ return inspires Kentucky to Sweet 16

Lady Sooners Fall to Kentucky in NCAA Second Round

OU women’s basketball: Kentucky finishes OU’s season

 

Not an upset: Texas over Missouri

#2 Texas started strong and rebuffed any and all of Missouri’s attempts to make it a game.

Interior game lifts Texas women into Sweet 16

As a reward for its best regular season in 12 years, the Texas women’s basketball team was allowed to spend the first week of the NCAA Tournament using its home baskets.

But that didn’t mean the Longhorns had to let their visitors near them.

Atkins and Texas overpowers Missouri 73-55 to Sweet 16

Missouri women’s basketball ends season with second-round NCAA loss to Texas

Not an upset: UConn over Duquesne

UConn started slow, but then blew it open in the second half. Stewart had some fun, too.

Charlie: UConn’s seniors go out on top in Gampel farewell

UConn’s Second-Quarter Wave Swamps Duquesne

Record-setting season for Duquesne women’s basketball ends against mighty UConn

I’m wicked excited about the next round…

Voepel previews each matchup of the Sweet 16

Charlie: Quick Dish: Welcome to the Sweet 16

Richard D: Six thoughts heading into the Sweet 16

1. Washington blows up the Lexington region

The tournament’s most impressive win came on Monday when No. 7 Washington knocked off No. 2 Maryland on the Terps’ home court. This wasn’t just a No. 7 seed upsetting a No. 2 seed, though: Maryland was a top-5 team all season and plenty of people believed it would end up Indianapolis for a third consecutive Final Four.

WNIT:

Tulane (American) over Georgia Tech (ACC)
Tulane started slowly but surged in the second to snatch the lead away from Georgia Tech. The Green Wave held on for the 64-61 win.

Florida Gulf Coast University (A-Sun) over Wake Forest (ACC)
FGCU did their best to put the game away in the first quarter and kept Wake Forest at arms’ length through the rest of the game. Eagle’s win, 67-48.

St. Louis (A-10) over Ball State (MAC)
Up one at the half of a low scoring game, the Billikens and Cardinals went neck and neck through the second half. In the end, St. Louis had just enough to win, 59-55.

Western Kentucky (C-USA) over Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley)
A monster second quarter gave Tennessee-Martin a 9-point halftime lead over Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers roared back with a 25pt third and held off the Skyhawks to earn a 64-57 win. WKU’s Tashia Brown scored an efficient 32 pts (11-22).

UTEP (C-USA) over Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
It was a battle (is it me, or can you describe a LOT of the WNIT games like that?) but the Miners dug deep and got the win.

Monday night’s game was a battle of two talented mid-major teams who deserved NCAA Tournament bids, but instead they took their frustrations out on each other in a hard fought, 74-68 UTEP win in the second round of the WNIT Tournament.

Utah (Pac12) over Gonzaga (WCC)
Four quarters of 20+ scoring (on the Gonzaga’s home court!) guaranteed the Utes moved in to the next round. Yup, something good is happening in the program under coach Roberts.

Oregon (Pac12) over Fresno State (MW)
The Ducks overwhelmed the Bulldogs, 84-59. Makes you say, “If not for those @&$^%@! ACLs.”

You can have football’s power play of three yards and a cloud of dust, or baseball’s power standard of the three-run homer.

When it comes to his power game in basketball, Oregon coach Kelly Graves will take three-pointers and a blur named Maite Cazorla any day of the week.

Hoping fans have notice the quality of the play and coaching across these Tourney Teams. I’m so encouraged… am I evil, peeking ahead at next year and thinking “Wide. Open.”? Am I hopeful, thinking the NCAA committees will meet to not just discuss the rules of the game but the rules of the selection process? It’s a conundrum, I know, on how to give the mid-majors the respect that they deserve. BUT, it’s worth some serious, creative thought, dontcha think?

 

 

 

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DANCE!!!”

h/t do AP’s Doug Feinberg (and to his colleague Will Graves for doing the leg work and tabulating – ’cause this has been a GOOD trend this tourney): Duquesne, Buffalo Among First-Timers in NCAA Women’s Tourney

In a flash, anxiety became joy. Belief morphed into reality. The slow steady rise from obscurity to respectability validated in an instant. The free T-shirts that read “Duquesne’s Going Dancing” transformed from wishful thinking to truth in advertising.

Welcome to the madness, Dukes. You too, Central Arkansas, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Iona. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament isn’t just for the blue bloods anymore.

All five programs will make their NCAA debuts this weekend after earning their first-ever tournament berths, a watershed moment for schools who have spent the last three decades relegated to watching the madness play out on TV without them.

Speaking of Blue Bloods: Duke women’s basketball not in NCAA Tournament for 1st time in 21 years

Joseph Zucker at Bleacher Report has NCAA Women’s Basketball Bracket 2016: Results, Seeds, Reaction and Analysis

Jay Drew at the Salt Lake Tribune: No. 7 seed BYU draws Missouri in NCAA Tournament

Missouri (21-9) is making its first trip to the tournament in 10 years, while BYU (26-6) is in March Madness for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons. The Tigers lost their final two regular season games before falling 47-45 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament on March 3.

“I am happy [with the seeding],” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “I think we got what we deserved. I think if we had won the [WCC] tournament, we would have been a little bit higher, but I feel really good about playing Missouri. I have seen them play a little bit and it will be a good matchup for us.”

Adrian Szkola from Lo(wer) Hud(son): Iona draws Maryland in NCAA tournament

In the days leading up to Selection Monday, Iona women’s basketball head coach Billi Godsley made it a point to not pay any attention to the bracket predictions.

Seeing how her players reacted to when Kentucky’s opponent was revealed on ESPN’s selection show, it’s pretty obvious they didn’t do the same.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme had projected Kentucky to face off against Iona in his last bracketology update.  Iona’s players let out an “oohh” when it was revealed that No. 3 Kentucky would play No. 14 UNC-Asheville at Lexington, Kentucky.

Ken Klimek from the Notre Dame Insider: Notre Dame women get a pleasant geographical surprise

“It’s exciting to go to Lexington, but we have to focus on the first two games and do our job on those,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We have to be all business and I am sure the seniors will take care of that. Being a No. 1 seed takes a lot of work. This team makes it look easy, but they put in a lot of work all season. So does the staff.”

Mitch Blomert from the Waco Tribune: 

All year long, the Baylor women have worn green bracelets with the inscription of a message that has carried them this season: “eight is not enough,” referring to the team’s back-to-back Elite Eight exits in the 2014 and ’15 NCAA tournaments.

The Lady Bears are back in the big dance, and the path to their goal of a Final Four appearance has been paved. Now they just have to stay alive to get there.

Dave Cloninger at The State: Gamecocks earn third straight No. 1 seed

It hasn’t been a great two days for South Carolina basketball and the NCAA Tournament selection committees.

A day after the Gamecocks’ men’s team was snubbed by the tournament, USC’s women’s team was placed in the Sioux Falls Regional. While the Gamecocks earned their third straight No. 1 seed and open the NCAA Tournament at home, they would have to play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds in South Dakota, should they advance.

“It’s pretty surprising, but at the same time, we’re not on the committee. We weren’t in a room, so we don’t know what was behind it,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “But we got to do our job. Our job is to open up on Friday night and take care of our business.”

Richard Deitsch and Lindsay Schnell from Sports Illustrated ask  Can South Carolina escape Sioux Falls? and  Can No. 1 Baylor survive Dallas region? and say NCAA women’s tournament: UConn is the team to beat again

Evan McCullers from The Plainsman: Women’s basketball makes NCAA Tournament field

A year after winning only three SEC games, the Auburn women’s basketball team is going to play on the sport’s biggest stage for the first time since 2009.

NEC: Robert Morris

“Playing UConn defines the word challenge. In the history of all sports, one could really give a good argument that UConn women’s basketball team is the most dominant ever in the history of sports,” said RMU head coach Sal Buscaglia. “You’re not talking about one or two titles, you’re talking about 10 national titles.
 
“We’re really happy for the opportunity and the challenge. This is an exciting moment in these young women’s lives no matter what happens in the game. We’re just going to take this one possession at a time, prepare the same way we always do, but obviously this is a major David vs. Goliath scenario. I know our players will give everything they have on that court. It’s about the process and the journey and going to play Connecticut is something they’ll be able to tell their kids and grandkids that they did.”

More on Morris: Colonials relish opportunity to play undefeated UConn

Sean Star from the Reporter Herald: Colorado State women’s basketball headed West for NCAA Tournament

Finally, the Rams got to sit back, relax and enjoy everything they’ve accomplished all season.

Because up until now, they’ve been too busy keeping their heads down and focused on the next task.

Not this time.

This time the Colorado State women’s basketball team soaked it all in during its NCAA Tournament selection show watch party on Monday.

Michael Epps from the Detroit News : Spartans women’s NCAA vision comes to fruition

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant had her team watch the selection show together last year and see their team not make the NCAA Tournament.

A chip on their shoulder? That’s an understatement.

“I was on the team last year, and I know how disappointing it was to watch a selection show and know that we weren’t going to come up,” junior guard Tori Jankoska said. “Coach Merchant told us that this wasn’t to punish us, but to show us where we should be and we need to see ourselves next year.”

Jonathan Lintner from the Courier-Journal: Some drama with U of L women’s NCAA draw

“I would have loved it for our fans,” Walz said of the regional assignment in a phone interview after the selection, “but we have to win the first two games first. I’m not really big on getting ahead of myself. We have to come out and get ready to play the 2:30 game Friday. Hopefully a lot of businesses downtown can just do a half day of work and let their employees come to the game.

“It’s one of those things we knew could happen. I completely understand. If the committee wanted to put Kentucky in Lexington, it makes sense. Unfortunately for our fans, it’s not as easy of a drive — or a flight — trying to get to Dallas.

Lindsay Kramaer from Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball planning NCAA Tournament trip well beyond Carrier Dome

“Obviously, it’s good to be home,” said Orange coach Quentin Hillsman, who is taking his team to its fourth straight NCAA party. “That’s all we wanted to do is have our opportunity to play home. We didn’t really care who it was. We just wanted to have a home game and be able to play in the Dome in front of our fans. We’re just excited that we’re not packing our bags and going in the road.”

If Syracuse wins two games it will gladly break out the luggage. Success in the Dome means advancement to the Sweet 16 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a possible showdown against No. 1 seed South Carolina. Syracuse has never reached the Sweet 16.

Joey Knight from the Tampa Bay Times : USF women happy about seed, puzzled by placement in NCAA Tournament

From Dan Wolken over at USA Today: South Carolina’s Dawn Staley emerging as new face of women’s basketball

It is just past 10 a.m. the morning after another big victory, but things are not going well for one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Dawn Staley’s regular pickup game with a collection of managers, graduate assistants and South Carolina compliance officials has suddenly become less friendly than just a few minutes earlier when she was gathering everyone for a group selfie and joyfully screaming to hype herself up.

Nobody is running harder at both ends of the floor than Staley, the fireball point guard for three Olympic gold medal teams, three Final Four teams at Virginia and six WNBA All-Star games. But at 45, she relies less these days on her quickness and passing than making sure the background music in the gym is right.

“We need Beyonce!” she yells as a manager goes scurrying to his iPod with Staley’s team suddenly behind 15-6.

Find USAToday’s tournament coverage here.

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And, if you’re one of the folks running around in it, “Please be safe, please be safe, please be safe!” Or, perhaps a better warning: “Don’t be THAT idiot.”

For instance, those involved with the MSU/Maryland game which was postponed because of snowstorm

YEAH!!! Graham is writing about Kelsey!!! Minato is hoops’ best senior who won’t play professionally

That career continues when Army and Navy play in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. As the 10-year anniversaries of both Army’s first NCAA tournament appearance and former Army coach Maggie Dixon’s death at 28 years old approach this spring — two events inexorably bonded by the respective joy and sorrow they engendered and the brief time that separated them — what Minato has accomplished is a new chapter in the story.

What Dixon envisioned, Minato embodies.

The only team in the Patriot League to beat Army this season, Bucknell did so at home earlier this month only after enduring Minato’s 35 points on 16-of-26 shooting. After that game, the team’s second win in seven tries against Minato, Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell listened to people offer congratulations for a strategy as bold and daring as to allow Minato her shots and instead focus defensive attention on stopping her mortal teammates.

Jinx? Mechelle writes about Coach Vic Schaefer builds Bulldogs into national contender (and then, Barbee helps Georgia upset No. 10 Mississippi State 47-43)

When Schaefer got the Bulldogs job, the player who would turn out to score more points than any girl in Mississippi state high school history — 5,745 — was a prep sophomore: Victoria Vivians, a 6-foot-1 guard from Carthage.

“The first call I made was to her high school coach,” Schaefer said. “We worked our tails off in recruiting her because we knew the importance of keeping her here. Obviously, it’s been big for us. It’s a special time to have a kid like her on our basketball team.”

What the Bulldogs are still trying to establish this season, though, is that they are a consistently solid offensive team around Vivians too. In her second collegiate season, she is averaging a team-best 17.6 points per game for No. 10 Mississippi State.

Speaking of offense: Fast-Paced Offense Leads OSU Women’s Basketball Team Resurgence

SB: As Thomas said, you have played the four Final Four teams from last year. You lost to three of them. Is there a worry that you’re a good program but not an elite program at this point?

KM: Well. I’m at first I think you’ve got to play those teams to see where you are. And when I came here I knew we had a lot of work to to go to build the program and part of that wanted to be aggressive scheduling. And so you know, I like the fact that we kind of measured ourselves against the best we know where we have to to get better.

They got off to a fast start – and Cheryl takes note: 

Like many teams on the rise, Santa Clara continues to be a major work in progress, even during midseason. The Broncos have not had a winning season in seven years. They earned less than 12 wins in five of those years.

This season, the team added seven new players including junior forward Lori Parkinson, a transfer from Southern Utah and the team’s top rebounder, freshman guard Savanna Hanson who leads the Broncos in assists and made three-pointers, and senior forward Devin Hudson who led the team in scoring vs. Stanford.

“Honestly we’re just trying to get better every day, so we’re excited about the fact that we’re actually getting better as a ball club. We have seven new players, it has just taken a while to get everybody on the same page, but we’re excited about where we are.”

More reading: Tamika Catchings on a Lifetime of Hoops, and the Legacy She’ll Leave

When Tamika Catchings was a little girl, she was sitting with her dad and noticed the scar on his leg. So she asked him, “Well, what happened to you?”

Harvey Catchings, a former NBA player, told her that he walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Jackson, Mississippi, as a young teenager. Harvey had grown up in that southern city, and here were his neighbors gathered by the thousands to march with King. He was injured when the large throng of marchers swelled and he passed a parked car that had a broken piece of chrome sticking out. His own father wasn’t far behind and helped him move to the sidewalk and clean the wound.

It was a day that forever made a mark, inside and out.

“That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced,” Harvey said.

Graham rights about Three new teams who entered mid-major rankings

Believe it or not, we are running out of mid-major rankings. Only two more check-ins remain before conference tournaments will end the subjective portion of the season and settle which teams will get a chance to play David, or occasionally under-seeded Goliath, in the NCAA tournament.

And we haven’t even had a chance yet to talk about Albany’s perennially underrated Shereesha Richards, St. Bonaventure again punching above its weight (or at least its enrollment) and the pipeline apparently linking Colorado State to basketball courts across Scandinavia.

There are so many stories left to tell as the final month of the regular season approaches.

By the way, Doug asked, “Where have the great mid-major teams gone?

Coach Aaron Johnston’s team’s only other losses came to then-No. 6 Maryland, by seven points, and Green Bay by one.

“The margin of error for mid-majors is so small,” Johnston said. “We played Maryland and Notre Dame close this year, beat DePaul who’s ranked and lose by one to Green Bay. Unfortunately one loss gets us out of people’s minds.”

LadySwish responded

Mid-major implies there’s a second tier of teams, an “everybody else” of women’s basketball lumped together outside of the Power 5 conference. They are the Power 5 because of football; nobody grouped them as such having to do with anything related to women’s basketball.

All the teams in the sport are playing the same sport, vying for the same trophy. But the NCAA committee and the media who vote in the poll rarely treat them as such.

Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, Illinois — are these teams better than, say, South Dakota State, James Madison, Duquesne, George Washington, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast or Gonzaga?

More stuff: Washington’s Chantel Osahor makes her Husky women’s basketball teammates better

From Seton Hall to the WNBA

What are some of your most memorable experiences as an athletic trainer working in the WNBA?

Laura London: As a female athlete growing up in the ’90s, I remember when the WNBA was formed. Being able to work with the New York Liberty absolutely has been an all-around memorable experience. Walking out of the tunnel and stepping onto the court for my first time at Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” was a wonderful moment as a sports fan. As a newly certified athletic trainer (ATC), being able to join an efficient and effective professional sports medicine team was a major milestone for me. Having that team be led by Laura Ramus, PT, ATC, a female athletic trainer and physical therapist, was an added bonus that has been career-shaping and inspirational.

Curt Miller Seeks to “Establish a Culture” with Young Connecticut Sun

Curt Miller may not have set out to be a pioneer, but when he accepted the job as the Connecticut Sun’s new head coach, that’s just what he became. By virtue of the move, Miller is now the first publicly gay man to be the head coach of an American professional sports team.

It’s just the latest step in an impressive coaching journey that has spanned 20-plus years in both the collegiate and professional ranks. In 13 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, Miller compiled a 290-124 record, won five MAC regular season and conference tournament championships with Bowling Green, and also lead the Falcons to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. Last year he joined Brian Agler’s staff as an assistant coach out in Los Angeles with the Sparks. Now, after being hired in December, he’s the head coach of the Connecticut Sun.

Sky player Allie Quigley’s close call with Turkish bombing shows risks of playing overseas

Two blocks away was too close for Allie Quigley.

When a suicide bomber attacked Istanbul’s main tourist district last week, killing 10 Germans and wounding 15 others, the explosion rattled the Sky guard like nothing she had ever experienced.

Yah, they stopped that: IHSAA cancels seasons for Pike, Ben Davis varsity girls basketball teams after fight

Podcast: Dishin & Swishin 1/09/16 Podcast: Channeling John Wooden? Cori Close has UCLA climbing the polls

For the first podcast of the year, Dishin & Swishin looks out West where the Pac-12 currently has the best RPI of any conference in the country. This week’s polls rankings, with Stanford ( No. 9/13), Oregon State (No. 11/12), Arizona State (No. 14/14), UCLA (No. 15/21), and California (No. 21/RV), show the respect the conference is getting nationally.

One of the most interesting of those teams is UCLA, where Cori Close’s Bruins are 11-3. The three losses are a three-point loss to second-ranked South Carolina, an overtime loss to third-ranked Notre Dame, and a thrilling double overtime loss to California.

Reviewing…the situation…

Tough sledding for Cal in the Pac-12. Ditto for Colorado.

Hofstra and James Madison are 5-1 in the CAA

George Washington has moved to 7-0 in the A-10. Keep an eye on Jones’ shoulder….

It’s been a tough year. Wichita State got its first win in the MVC.

Makin’ Debbie happy: #7 Ohio State over Michigan, 97-93.

The SEC is South Carolina... and everyone else, as #9 Kentucky gets upset by Ole Miss.

Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-1 in the Sun Belt.

Yah, UTEP is diggin’ in the C-USA.

Hello, Teddy Bears! They take down Chattanooga and move to 4-0 in the Southern.  “The loss was the Mocs’ first in league play since January 2012 at Elon, snapping a 52-game conference win streak.”

Ruff! Albany is now 6-0 in the American East.

Strong start to stumbling in the ACC: Virginia Tech (2-3) and BC (1-4)… BTW, North Carolina (2-4) lost to Wake Forest (1-4). Speaking of which: Transfers leave ACC women’s basketball feeling growing pains

“We’re a young league right now,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “When you look at this senior class, you’re not looking at a lot of WNBA draft picks in the senior class. When you look at the freshmen and sophomores, you’ve got loads of talent in the conference.”

The ACC arguably has been hit harder by transfers than any major conference.

Abilene Christian is still rolling through the Southland.

San Diego and BYU are lookin’ like the top dogs in the ever-interesting WCC. St. Mary’s one-point win over Gonzaga (3 Ls in a row) keeps everyone nice and tight.

The South Dakota teams are headed for a showdown – both are 5-1 in the Summit… as is Oral Roberts.

Hey! That snuck up on me: UT Rio Grand is 5-0 in the WAC. This didn’t sneak up on me: New Mexico State has the same conference record.

This could be fun: Eastern Washington (6-0) gives Montana State (6-1) their first loss in the Big Sky.

Don’t wanna jinx’em, but the Gauchos handed UC-Davis their first conference loss, and are now 4-1 in the Big West.

Games to keep you entertained if you’re snowbound:

Oklahoma v. Texas – how do these teams play the game after a “recovery win”?

ESPN 3: The Zips face the Chippewas at 1PM EST

FS1: Interesting test? Baylor v. Iowa, 1:30 EST

The Bonnies (6-2) v. the Dukes (7-1), 2PM EST

EPSN3: Horizon bragging rights: Green Bay v. Wright State, 2PM. (BTW: Congrats to Raider Kim Demmings, who set the all-time career scoring record in Horizon League women’s basketball history

Montana State visits the Vandals, 5PM EST.

The Battle of the Washingtons, 5PM EST.

UC Riverside v. UC Santa Barbara, 10PM EST.

SUNDAY

ESPN 3: The Battle of the Floridas – Miami v. Florida State, 1PM EST

SECN: Florida v. Missouri, 2PM EST

This one feels like it could be fun: Michigan v. Nebraska, 2pm EST.

ESPN3: It doesn’t have the usual national draw, but it’s always a fun rivalry: Duke v. UNC, 3PM EST.

Despite everything, the Heels were giving virtually everyone a tough game, and they came from behind to upset Syracuse. However, that was when they had McDaniel in the frontcourt. Even though she wasn’t close to being in shape, her sheer talent and size made a big difference for UNC. When she went down, the Heels lost by double digits to Miami (understandable) and Wake Forest (far less so — this was Wake’s first league win). Not only is McDaniel’s talent irreplaceable, it means the Heels have only six scholarship players available. Right now, they are desperate for any kind of wins.

It’s odd to set up this game with so little at stake in terms of national or even league ramifications for both teams. If Duke had lost to Clemson or Wake Forest prior to this game, it would have been the first time ever that the two teams met with losing league records. As it stands, this is the first time since 1993 that neither team has been ranked going into their rivalry showdown. That said, this game should be fiercely contested, though not necessarily a thing of beauty.

ESPN2: Will South Carolina give Mississippi State their first home loss? 5PM.

Indiana v. Northwestern. One team is trying to make its mark, the other team is trying to make up its mind. 5pm EST.

Stanford v. UCLA. This. Is. Not. Even. Streamed? 9PM EST.

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“So what’d I miss?

A little Fresno, Frisco, Flooding and Fever threw me off my game this week. Wheeee!

Some interesting, interesting stuff happening on the boards. Obviously, the folks who say there are no upsets in women’s basketball are looking more and more like the uniformed idjits they are. That being said, if some of the upsets aren’t setting of alarm bells in the Athletic Director’s offices, I’d be disappointed… but not surprised.

Let us count the upsets – and note how many unranked teams were involved:

Indiana over #18 Michigan State, 81-65. Lesson: It would be nice if local papers paid attention to Moren’s team:

“As I expressed to our players tonight, I hope this win gives them a dose of confidence,” head coach Teri Moren said. “And they believe when they communicate, when they stay connected defensively, when they hit shots—they’re going to be in the game and win a lot of ball games. That’s my hope that this win gives our kids a shot in the arm that they can play with the best teams in the Big Ten…I’m just really, really proud.”

Northwestern over #5 Ohio State, 86-82. Lesson: You’ve got to play four quarter, youngsters.

Northwestern brought Ohio State back to earth on Thursday night in Evanston, Ill., with a thud that sent ripples around Lake Michigan.

The Wildcats jumped to a 48-30 halftime lead and withstood a late comeback by the fifth-ranked Buckeyes to hand them an 86-82 defeat at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Buckeyes (12-4, 4-1) and knocked them out of a tie with Purdue for the Big Ten lead.

Arkansas over #13 Tennessee, 64-59. Lesson:  Whatever the upheavals outlined by Mechelle, it’s fair to point a finger at Holly.

Let’s be clear…this was a bad team at 7-10.

And with the No. 146 ranked defense, No. 155 in field goal percentage defense, Tennessee responded with another atrocious shooting night.

The Vols shot worse than 35 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc. In general women’s basketball, that’s okay.

But it’s not okay when you’re Tennessee and you have the talent. While there’s only one senior starter, there are two three-year players and another four-year player in the lineup. So the excuses are running thin, and Warlick’s misuse of her team’s strengths is evident.

Georgia over #20 Florida, 71-61. Lesson: Nice time to get your first SEC win, coach Taylor. (Gotta fix the Georgia page, though. A.nnoy.ing!

NC State over #22 Duke, 65-62. Lesson: There may be some changes in the ACC: The win improved the Wolfpack to 13-5 and more importantly 4-1 in ACC play, while Duke fell to 12-6 and 1-3.

2015-16 has been a record-setting season to date for Duke Women’s Basketball, in all the worst possible ways. Duke lost to an unranked opponent at home for the first time since 2002 (when an Iciss Tillis flub at the end of the Duke Classic championship game led to an overtime loss to South Carolina). Tonight the Blue Devils lost to the Wolfpack Women in Cameron for the first time since 1996, when Chasity Melvin led her team to a win. In this contest, NC State rode a 30-11 edge in points off turnovers to edge Duke, 65-62. This loss will no doubt drop #22 Duke (12-6, 1-3 ACC) out of the rankings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Washington over #17 UCLA, 64-56. Lesson: The Pac12 teams are like the Old Big East teams: Not to be dismissed.

[Talia] Walton’s performance Friday night — 22 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes — went a long way toward helping legitimize the Huskies’ hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. The win was the first for UW (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) against a ranked opponent this season.

“When she plays like this,” Plum said, “we can beat anyone.”

Washington State over #25 USC, 73-61. Lesson: Pac12 means No. games. off.

“We just lost our focus,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “We didn’t come out ready to play and they outplayed us. They hustled more and just played better than us.”

Oklahoma State over #14 Oklahoma, 73-42. Lesson: Who knows WHAT is going on in Stillwater? The Cowgirls just came off a 47-44 loss to Kansas. Perhaps all games should be listed as “Bedlam” games?

#24 Missouri over #7 Mississippi State, 88-54. Lesson: Get out fast.

Missouri’s hot start was a stark contrast compared to its two other games this season against ranked opponents. The Tigers trailed Tennessee 24-11 less than 10 minutes into a 71-55 loss on Jan. 4 and trailed South Carolina 25-10 just more than 13 minutes into Sunday’s 83-58 loss.

Thursday’s result could prove to be a big one for a Missouri team seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.

With conference play in full swing, here are some teams deserving of your attention:

Albany (45-0) sits atop the America East and Shereesha Richards broke the 2,000-point milestone. They play Stony Brook (4-0) on the 21st. When is someone going to poach coach Abrahamson-Henderson?

Bucknell is making a run at the Patriot League title. With their win over Colgate, the Bison start 6-0 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, remain all alone in first place in the Patriot League, win its sixth straight game, the longest streak of the Roussell era and the program’s longest streak since 2006-07 and Improve to 61-47 in Aaron Roussell’s four years as head coach. I’ve got my eyes looking forward to their game against Army, Jan 30th.

St. Bonaventure (5-0). Couple of years ago they were darlings, then they had a tough year. Now, hello! 

This year’s Atlantic 10 preseason polls didn’t think much of St. Bonaventure University. The guys picked 8th.

“Eighth is the second highest we’ve been picked in my nine years here so we looked at it as a compliment,” said St. Bonaventure Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Schmidt.

The ladies’ team picked 9th.

Senior forward Katie Healy said, “Nobody saw what we put in this summer, all the work, all the hours we put in. Both teams, now in first place and combined, are 25-5 to start the year. That’s never happened before.”

While it might be the guys’ best start in 16 years, for the ladies, it’s their best start ever.

The Bonnies other A-10 compatriots are no slouches. Duquesne who, for the first time in program history, was ranked in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 Poll, will take their 15-game winning to ESPNU (Sue Bird & Melissa Lee on the call) on Sunday. They’ll face George Washington, who has won nine in a row. (Speaking of poachable coaches…Tsipis)

Ohio – the 3-time MAC champs are looking for a fourth title. In a matchup of two poachable coaches (Bolden & Verdi), the Bobcats defeated their 2015 MAC Tournament Championship game opponent, Eastern Michigan, 71-64.

Abilene Christian (4-0) continues to win in the Southland.

Colorado State (4-0) has already defeated San Jose State. Fresno State (4-0) defeated them today. They don’t play each other until March 1st. Who scheduled only one regular season game between these two teams?

Swoopes, there it is: Chicago (Loyola) is 4-0 in the MVC.

Purdue (5-0). We’ve been calling their name. Let’s see what they’ve got: OSU tomorrow.

Green Bay (5-0) faces Wright State (4-0) on the 23rd. Winner stays #1 in the Horizon. Loser may have to wait for the rematch end of February.

Montana State (5-0). Maybe John Stockton is a good assistant coach, huh? They play 4-0 Eastern Washington on the 21st.

Sienna (7-0) in the MAAC and its best start in 14 years. But, don’t get to cocky – and never count the Foxes out. Marist they held on to give Iona its first conference loss, 62-61.

Western Kentucky (5-0) continues its resurgence under coach Michelle Clark-Heard (poachable!).

The WCC!!! 5-1, 5-1, 5-1, 4-2. ’nuff said.

I’m keeping an eye on the NBE.  While it’s been tough times for Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier are on a roll.

Is it too early to suggest Muffet McGraw as COY? Her competition, if the continue to improve, would be Louisville’s Walz. Both are, is sports-speak, “coachin’ their team up.

Did I jinx the Tribe?

Just sayin’ – Utah is 4-1 in the PAC 12.

Upcoming games to keep an eye on:

The aforementioned George Washington v. Duquesne.

The oft mentioned #4 Texas v. #6 Baylor, 3:30 on ESPN2.

South Carolina is 4-0 in the wacky SEC. They’ll face TAMU at 1:30 on ESPN2

Purdue at #5 Ohio State, 2pm.

#23 Louisville v. North Carolina State – who keeps up their momentum?

#24 Missouri v. Arkansas…. see above.

#17 UCLA v. Washington State. Does WSU continue to show how dicey the Pac12 is?

Speaking of: #11 Stanford v. #10 Oregon State. 

#22 Duke v. Boston College. How do the Blue Devils react?

#10 Arizona v. Utah. How legit are the Utes?

MLK Day

#13 Tennessee v. #3 Notre Dame, 7pm ESPN2. Will the Vols’ good game-bad game-good game pattern continue?

In other news:

Florida: UF women’s basketball surging thanks to talent infusion

Snap: Jackie Young breaks Indiana girls basketball scoring record

Through four seasons on the floor, Princeton girls basketball star Jackie Young has attacked the opposition and record books, steadily climbing up the scoring charts.

Now she’s in the record books.

A large crowd gathered Thursday night to see Young make history, including two players from the 1976 undefeated Hoosiers basketball team. 

A free throw late in the fourth quarter of the game against Wood Memorial landed her one point ahead of former record-holder Shanna Zolman.

Aztec girls basketball team aiming for championship, community revival

Most of the awards that decorate the glass cases at Aztec High School’s gymnasium have something to do with football.

The Tigers are best known for being able to push a pigskin ball down a football field but in the last year or so, they’ve had to make room for a new group of athletes that the school just wasn’t used to.

Over the last several years, the Aztec High School girls’ basketball team has emerged from the bottom of the local basketball barrel and into the spotlight.

Their newfound success is something Aztec junior Kairai George isn’t used to.

Congrats! West Bridgewater girls basketball coach notches 600th win

Congrats! DePaul’s Doug Bruno gets 600th win

Former WNBA President Orender gives insight into gender in sports

Candace Parker interview: ‘The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome…’

Hello: Wings Star Skylar Diggins Makes Surprise Appearance at High School in Dallas

GW basketball’s rebounding machine could score big in WNBA draft

Breanna Stewart Watch: Top Prospects Raising Her Game Even Higher as a Senior

Countdown to the WNBA Draft: No. 17 Kahleah Copper

Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide Looking forward to 2016 with relish

 

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Going to be teaching over at Fresno State for a week (of course, the Bulldogs are playing away). I will be in San Francisco the weekend of the 9th/10th and the Dons are playing. Anyone wanna come with?

Now, for the games:

Yikes! Virginia plays defense on #22 Miami and goes wild on offense. Cavaliers roll to a win, 76-56.

Yikes! Syracuse explodes for 30 in the first, and #12 Duke can’t recover. The Orange deliver a smack down, 86-50.

Yikes! Auburn says, “Notice me, I’m 11-1” with a victory over #7 Kentucky, 66-61.

Pittsburgh stuck with #3 Notre Dame through three – but the Irish pulled away in the fourth to give coach McGraw her 800th win.

My favorite story about Muffet McGraw comes from her husband, Matt, in regard to her landscaping. Virtually no plant is safe in the McGraws’ yard, because unless it’s rooted so deeply that it can’t be moved, it probably will be relocated.

The coach in her is always overriding the gardener. Are those flowers really lined up correctly? Shouldn’t that bush be about 10 inches farther to the right? Wouldn’t that fern look better in the backyard?

In other words, she’s always strategizing, constantly evaluating, looking to make everything just right.

#8 Mississippi State had Florida just where they wanted… until the Gators pushed back in the fourth. Wasn’t enough, though, and the Bulldogs earn their 9th straight win.

Keeping an eye on Utah and what coach Lynne Roberts is trying to do. So far, so good. The Utes beat Washington State, 73-71.

#2 South Carolina wins, but lose a point guard to Canada.

Baylor regains its point guard (10 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds),

Yes, it was against Hartford, but watch out – Florida Gulf Coast looks likes they’re getting their groove back.

Hello, William & Mary! They knock off perennial power James Madison in OT,  65-59.

Welp: Virginia Tech trampled all over Boston College, 58-33.

It wasn’t Banham but Wagner who powered the Gophers over Penn State.

Yup, gotta love the WCC: St. Mary’s (11-4) takes down San Diego (12-2), 73-68. Gonzaga (12-4) takes down Santa Clara (12-3), 53-44.

Colorado State got a tussle from Boise State, but the Rams move to 11-1 with a 68-64 win.

Dang, Sacramento State knows how to score.

If I’ve got my eye on you, Abilene Christian, I’m sure the rest of the Southland is. Wildcats over the Sugar Bears, 61-49.

Fresh of their upset win over Baylor, Oklahoma State goes down to Iowa State, 49-42.

WHB Jinx: Western Kentucky stomps Marshall, 81-52.

WHB jinx #2: Bucknell rolls over Army, 79-69.

No WHB Jinx UNC Asheville is 4-0 in the Big South.

#21 UCLA is enjoying playing undefeateds: The Ducks go down, 80-69.

#20 South Florida squeaks a win out over (I repeat myself) the improving East Carolina Pirates, 61-59.

Iona looking good in the MAAC.

Inelegant, but a win: #17 Arizona State over #19 Cal, 57-49.

Equally inelegant, but a win for #11 Stanford over Arizona, 59-34.

Is USC-West’s weak OOC schedule being exposed? #10 Oregon State tops them, 57-49.

#9 Ohio State ruined the Terps’ party, 80-71.

As I told my players, if you legitimately want to compete for a Big Ten championship the road goes through Maryland, with all the success that they’ve had,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.

“We’re excited, but we can’t get too high on this one. Maryland is historically a team that always gets better throughout the year, and that’s why they’ve been in Final Fours.”

That’s 13-0 for the #5 Longhorns. Baylor’s up on the 17th, but they have to get through Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

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brought some interesting games. But first, did you catch ESPN’s Top Basketball Moment of 2015?

And Babcock McGraw: Celebrating 2015’s best women’s sports stories?

Now, about those games…

Looking at the Maryland game tape for ways to beat the Huskies? Might have to burn it. The UConn-Cinncinatti game saw Georgetown transfer/Big East Freshman of the Year Natalie Butler finally make her debut…and it was pretty.

Speaking of Maryland in the paint: Brionna Jones led the initially sluggish Terps over Illinois. Perhaps it was a little UConn hangover plus banner distraction?  Ten years later, Maryland celebrates its 2006 women’s basketball national champions. That was a fun game to be in the arena…

I said it might be interesting: Missing point guard Niya Johnson, #4 Baylor fell apart offensively, and Oklahoma State took advantage. 

It’s great Notre Dame has Turner back – she was the difference against a feisty Georgia Tech team, earning McGraw her 799th win.

#20 USF couldn’t score enough against #8 Mississippi State, but a final quarter drought by the Bulldogs sure made it interesting.

USC-West faced its first real test of the season against #21 UCLA, and kept it close all game. But the Bruins prevailed, handing the Trojans their first loss.

#22 Miami opened the ACC strong – looking forward to their game against #15 FSU on the 24th.

Hello, 12-1 Duquesne.

Hello, 10-1 Army. Army West Point’s Kelsey Minato became “the first women’s basketball player at the academy to reach 2,000 career points and is just one of three women’s players to reach the feat in Patriot League history.”

Because it’s still new: Hello, (8-5, 1-0 in the Summit) Omaha.

Hello, 12-1 Virginia Tech. “No one’s been paying attention to us,” Coach Dennis Wolff said, “so please don’t jinx us.” (Sorry, that’s what we do at the WHB!) B.C., Louisville and Syracuse are up next.

Speaking of Louisville: Boom, they pull it together and take down a suddenly wobbly #15 Florida State, 79-69.

This one sounded like it would have made Debbie happy: A strong final quarter helped #8 Ohio State over #24 Michigan State, 85-80.

Surprise! A young pup and a Connecticut transfer helped (6-6) Penn State roar back to stun #14 Northwestern, 79-72.

Close: North Carolina escaped the Maine Bears by one, courtesy of Watt’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Also close: Purdue escaped Michigan by two, thanks to Morrissette’s three.

See above: Seton Hall escaped Creighton by four. The New Big East is looking interesting…

Speaking of interesting! Luck folks who watch the WCC. It’s going to be another slugfest. BYU dumped St. Mary’s, Gonzaga dumped San Francisco.

I see you, Green Bay, Wright State and Youngstown State…but I’ll pay more attention when you start playing each other.

Yes, Jeff, Pac-12 women’s basketball is loaded with top teams

Sure: U women’s basketball is fashionable choice

For a fan base hungry for a winner while the big two sports have struggled, the mostly homegrown Missouri women’s basketball team has arrived just in time.

“It’s definitely got a different feel. There is a buzz,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got so many local kids on our team that are really talented. We’ve got a pretty darn good group of girls that suit up and put that jersey on. We’ve had some good success in the nonconference — certainly aware of how tough it’s going to get — and I think we play a fun, exciting style and we’re winning.”

Games to keep an eye on:

Today:
Ohio State v. Marylandnoon! I hate noon games.

TCU (9-3) v. Kansas Sate (10-2). Just want folks to pay attention.

Marshall (10-1) v. Western Kentucky (9-2). Just giving the Herd some well-deserved attention as they face the Hilltoppers.

Oklahoma State (11-1) v. Iowa State (9-3). Can the Cowgirls build on a big win?

Abilene Christian (9-2) v. Central Arkansas (10-1). Just paying attention.

Santa Clara (12-2) v. Gonzaga (11-4).St. Mary’s (10-4) v. San Diego (12-1). It’s the WCC. ’nuff said.

Oregon (11-0) v #21 UCLA (9-3). Can the Bruins ding another undefeated?

#19 Cal v. #17 Arizona State. Fun in the sun.

#10 Oregon State v. USC-West. Another test for the Trojans.

Sunday:
#8 Mississippi v. Florida (12-1). What kind of bite do the Gators have?

#12 Duke v. Syracuse. So, what is happening with the Blue Devils?

Boston College (11-1) v. Virginia Tech (12-1). A battle of two under-the-radar teams.

James Madison v. William & Mary. A game that will help the Tribe see how far they’ve come.

Nebraska v. #14 Northwestern. The Wildcats need to bounce back.

#18 Oklahoma v. #4 Baylor. How quickly can the Bears regroup?

Georgia v. #16 Texas A&M. How legit are this year’s Dawgs?

#25 DePaul v. St. John’s. The Red Storm has been quietly rising.

In other news:

Like NDSU football, Ada-Borup girls basketball creates a winning culture:

But quietly—about a 60-minute drive from Fargo-Moorhead in Norman County of Minnesota—the Ada-Borup High School girls basketball program has created its own buzz. That’s why Dave Smart’s Cougars have been named The Forum’s sports story of the year.

Jewell Loyd enjoys success as WNBA rookie, proves critics wrong

“When I made my choice to leave school and go pro, a lot of people had doubts. Some even said I wasn’t ready or strong enough to compete at this level,” Loyd said. “Winning that award validated my choice. I’m really not a big fan of trying to prove people wrong, I just focus on what I need to do, but I was proud to say that I did.”

WNBA star Tamika Catchings gives back along with Allstate’s WBCA Good Works team

With Hall Of Fame Nomination, Sheryl Swoopes’ Unique Career Is Recogized

No, not THAT California: It’s a new year for California women’s basketball

In her fifth season as a head coach in college basketball, Jess Strom knows the final practices before winter break can be tough. Especially after a loss. To your biggest rival. 

But that’s why Strom was pleasantly surprised by the response from her California team after its 78-72 loss Dec. 16 at IUP. Then again, maybe that’s a natural reaction for the the defending NCAA Division II champion Vulcans — not that Strom necessarily wants to make that connection.

Encouraging: Olympics still in Tolo’s grasp after knee reconstruction

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Debbie Antonelli (and everyone else who loves women’s basketball)? In the battle of the West Coast Bears, #18 UCLA and #21 Cal wore out the basketball’s through two overtimes. Eventually it was the Goldens over the Bruins, 108-104.

Arnecia Hawkins gave her #22 Arizona State teammates something nice: a win over #10 Florida State, 68-56.

The senior guard, coming off the bench, scored a career-high 23 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including three 3-pointers. That’s 21 more than against the Seminoles in late March, when she only played 12 minutes compared to 31 this time.

“Extra everything,” Hawkins said of the reason for what is becoming a breakout season. “Extra workouts, extra shooting that we all do every day. It feels good just be relaxed and be able to help the team.”

Swoopes, there it is! Loyola (CHI) stunned #17 DePaul, 88-75.

“Once you give a team the belief that they can win, a well-coached team will absolutely take advantage of that,” head Coach Doug Bruno said. “They might be the best 2-7 team in the country. Their record doesn’t show what kind of team they are. They’ve played a great schedule, just like we’ve played a great schedule.”

The #4 Texas Bears had their hands full with James Madison, but a strong second half propelled them to a 77-63 win (Davis with 15 assists). Baylor’s first trip out of their home state has proved to be no walk in the park: in an earlier game, Miami kept it close.

St. Joe’s kept it close with the Irish through two, and then Notre Dame said, “That’s quite enough of that, thankyouverymuch, it’s coach’s homecoming!” cruising to a 91-55 win.

#8 Mississippi State moved to 11-1, but not without a heck of a battle from SMU. 19 turnovers doomed the Mustangs, and the Bulldogs prevailed, 72-70.

Fellow American Conference member Tulane had better luck against the Billikens, winning 66-58.

Speaking of the American, #20 South Florida made Oklahoma State’s first loss of the season painful, 68-48.

In the Battle of the Blues, it looks like #8 Kentucky may have gotten better by subtraction. The Wildcats got a comfortable lead in the first quarter and held it through to the end, beating #13 Duke 71-61.

WHB jinx strikes again: UNC Asheville loses to Clemson and it was ugly.

Ditto with William & Mary – though they have an excuse: they were playing VCU (10-2).

Nojinxnojinxnojinx: Is anyone noticing Abilene Christian this season? They’re 8-2 and defeated the Vandals, 71-59.

Colorado State looks strong again in the Mountain West. Do they really only play New Mexico State and Wyoming once in the regular season?

Maine v. Purdue? Just avert your eyes.

Penguins lose!

Virginia Tech squeaked out a win over Radford to move to 11-1.

With their win over NC State, Florida is also 11-1.

K State is now 10-1.

Santa Clara is at 10-1 and the WCC fun begins: they meet the Gaels tomorrow. St. Mary’s just took down San Francisco (9-3), 78-68 and, if you recall, upset Cal. Wonder if the two teams will tell “How we played the Pac-12” stories.

Yes, Missouri is 11-0, “atop” the SEC with it’s best start ever, and has entered the Top 25 for the first time since Justin was bringing SexyBack… but here comes Tennessee…and undefeated South Carolina and its zillions fans is lurking.

#5 Texas got the best of their SEC/Big 12 Challenge, defeating Arkansas 61-50. It’s been pretty cool to watch the Longhorns start to rebuild legacy

#18 Texas A&M got conference revenge by beating #17 Oklahoma, 74-68.

Georgia State has not (traditionally) been good and Stetson has… so props to the Panthers for upsetting the Hatters in the Hatters Classic,  80-72.

“I am proud of this team’s fight,” coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said. “They made plays when they had to, they got some key stops when they had to and that is what winning teams do. This is probably one of our better wins recently as Stetson is really tough here at their place and a perennial 20-win program.”

Yes USC-West is still undefeated, but (as warned) they got a scare from the Great Danes.

Oregon State rolled over Cal Poly, but that is small comfort to the Beavers: All-Pac-12 point guard Sydney Wiese is out with a (potentially season-ending) wrist injury.

About OSU v. Tennessee. Again, a wicked ugly game – but this time Tennessee prevailed. So yes, the Volunteers held a 4-hour players-only meeting. Cool. But what’s next? There’s the rub. For the Beavers, they believe Tennessee game could define season

No Stewie? No biggie.

Speaking of the Huskies, they next face Maryland at the Garden. Hard to gauge Frese’s Terpsthey’ve not played a ranked team yet, and the only team of “import” they encountered was d’em famous Wabbits. She says they’re ready, though.

Congrats! Outsports Female Hero of the Year: Layshia Clarendon

And yet the Education of the Bigots still continues: 5 Lesbian Basketball Players Who Could School Pepperdine

Ryan Heisenberg, coach of the Pepperdine University women’s basketball team, [allegedly] believes that lesbians on his team “would cause the team to lose games,” according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

NB: This post is from the 22nd and got stuck in the “draft box.” Someone’s head is going to roll!!!

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they must play the rest of their games with their shoes tied together…

@NDsidMasters: During pregame radio interview, Coach McGraw announced Taya Reimer has left @ndwbbfor balance of 2015-16 season for personal reasons.

But never fear, Muffet is here:

It’s been almost 15 years since the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team won its first — and so far only — national championship, and began a journey that has cemented the Irish as one of the most respected programs in the country. The number of All-Americans who don the blue and gold jersey has become constant. Loyal fans still pack into Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to cheer on their favorite squad. The wins continue to accumulate.

And leading the way is Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw, who still paces the sideline and stomps her high heels to get her team’s attention during games. But plenty has changed — and some hasn’t — in that decade and a half. Universal changes to women’s basketball itself and personal changes for McGraw that have molded her ability to coach on and off the court.

“I think overall there have been a lot of great changes to women’s basketball, and we’re heading in a really good direction,” McGraw says. “At least here we’re heading in a good direction.”

Of course, she probably felt a little different near the end of the #18 DePaul game, having watched her team squander a huge lead. Yes, they won, but this will not be a comfortable season… though it might be one of her best coaching jobs.

#1 UConn rolled through Colgate, and then used a series of runs to take down #11 Florida State. “Under-appreciated” will become an overused word when it comes to UConn’s Tuck – but I can’t imagine opposition coaches feel that way about her. Certainly, Auriemma doesn’t: ‘She’s pretty special’

Gotta love in-state games: Cyclone Comeback Topples No. 23 Iowa, 69-66

Speaking of in-state games, weird: Analyst: ‘Quite unusual’ for UK defectors to be behind bench

Perhaps television analyst Brenda VanLengen summed up best what many fans were thinking as they watched Kentucky top Louisville on Thursday night.

“This is quite a surprise honestly,” the ESPN play-by-play announcer said just before halftime as the cameras zoomed in on two specific fans among the 14,425 at Rupp Arena.

Didn’t distract the Wildcats, though, as they took it to struggling (Walz: Cards women have talent, not work ethic) Louisville, 72-54. Graham says that With big win over Louisville, Kentucky quiets any talk of a crisis in Lexington. I say, it’s still early in the season…

Speaking of the “defectors,” the Hilltoppers get a nice pickup: Former Kentucky guard Kyvin Goodin-Rogers transferring to Western Kentucky

Texas Tech is continuing its rise from the ashes, defeating the not-to-be-triffled-with Vandals, 78-62.

Sigh. BU is still 0-fer.

Ummm… things are NOT good in the land of the Hartford Hawks. BC humbled them, 62-28.

Good: Texas ramps up efforts to sell women’s team to fans

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How much does San Diego State miss Beth Burns.

You know, UNC Asheville has been pretty awful for a while… and I don’t want to jinx them, but…. they were 6-1 for the first time in 31 years. And now they’re 7-1. AND they have a junior named Knuckles. What’s not to love?

Winning is important, but so is handling the expectations of the coaching staff and not getting too caught up in the early season success.

“The thing I’m most proud of with this team is their commitment to the process,” Kirkpatrick said. “I really think they’ve bought into treating each game separately and getting better with every opportunity.”

Super congrats to Army’s Kelsey Minato. In their win over NJIT, she became the first Army women’s player to reach the 2,000-point milestone. The 8-1 Black Knights look particularly fierce this season – might they return to the Big Dance for the third time since that fateful 2005-06 season? (watch this space for more on that team.)

Speaking of Army….#5 Maryland is 10-0, but Syracuse is the only ranked team they’ve faced. Looking forward to see how they hold up against UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden Monday, December 28th. (This year, I have 189 folks joining me! Come visit sections 10, 11, 12 if you want to say hi. I’ll be the shy, quiet, demure one… not!)

“Ruff!” says Gonzaga to Dayton, “we should be the top-dog in the mid-majors.”

Banham gets some love from the Star Tribune: 

Banham was 107 points shy of the record when she collapsed at the end of a fast-break layup on Dec. 10, 2014, in Grand Forks, N.D. She had torn her ACL and suffered a partial tear of her MCL, forcing her to spend the next three months watching from the bench as the Gophers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

That gave her plenty of incentive for a rehabilitation period she described as the hardest thing she ever has done. Her doctors followed a strict, cautious timetable, prohibiting her from jogging until three months post-surgery and forbidding any basketball activities for seven months. As she healed, she worked with the Gophers’ new strength coach, Ralph Petrella, and began reshaping her diet.

Good to hear: Texas A&M’s Jordan Jones rebounding well after injury

Gary Blair’s plan early in the season was to lighten the load for senior point guard Jordan Jones, who was coming off knee surgery. But when the Texas A&M women’s basketball team played at 14th-ranked Duke in the second week of the season, the Aggie head coach leaned on Jones for 41 minutes to pull out a 72-66 overtime victory.

“She had played 15 minutes in her first game, 22 in her second game, and she just came in [at Duke] and kept going,” Blair said. “I did not want to play her that many minutes just coming off of that ACL, but she is the heart and soul of our team.”

BTW: That’s 700 for Mr. Blair.

Dishin & Swishin 12/10/15 Podcast: Miami leads group of upstarts changing the guard in the ACC

Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville are the teams we expect to be at the top of the ACC every year. In the last couple of years Florida State became a regular to the discussion too. This year? It is early, but Miami at 10-0, Virginia Tech at 8-1, and Boston College at 7-1 are crashing the party.

One of the reasons Missouri is 9-0: they generating more steals, fast-break chances

If the Lady Vols seeking to reverse tailspin on the road, their performance against a short-handed, shadow-of-its-former-self Wichita State can’t be seen as a good sign. Next up: Stanford (who must deal with Texas) followed by Oregon State. Seatbelt time, y’all.

Speaking of the Beavers: Weisner in a groove offensively

Jamie Weisner entered last Thursday’s game at Marquette hitting 60 percent of her 3-point attempts through the season’s first five games.

But Weisner, No. 7 Oregon State’s senior sharpshooter and leading scorer, for some reason couldn’t find the range against the quick and aggressive Golden Eagles.

She missed all seven of her attempts.

Earlier in her career, that may have led to a bit of frustration for Weisner.

But last Thursday, she wasn’t fazed.

The New York Times: A Life on the Move Molds a U.C.L.A. Basketball Star

Home for Nirra Fields these days is a room in a five-bedroom suite on the U.C.L.A. campus. It is not luxurious: Fields has decorated it with basketball and family pictures, and she shares a common space and a single bathroom with four other students. But the space is clean, and it is organized, and — this is most important — it is all hers.

After the route Fields took to get to it, that is enough.

Ah, high school:

Louisiana: Mothers of Salmen High School girls basketball players who were kicked off team make emotional appeal to School Board

Pittsburgh: West Jefferson Hills school board retains controversial girls basketball coach

Mississippi: Parent puts girls basketball coach in hospital

Seattle: Review of Bishop Blanchet football, girls basketball confirms recruiting violations, self-imposed penalties

Not high school:

Hello, Nancy Lieberman: Sacramento Kings assistant coach nails backward one-handed half-court shot

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From the Female Coaching Network: Extra Time With Stephanie White

Doug: Fever-Lynx Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

In college news:

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Coach McGraw at Media Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harumph: Balcomb: Vanderbilt women better after players left

Scott Seeks Strong Finish to Herd Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The Irish:

From Graham: Reimer’s hiatus pays dividends for Irish

Taya Reimer wasn’t on the court the last time Notre Dame lost a game. She wasn’t on the bench. She wasn’t in the arena. She wasn’t even in the state.

It isn’t a coincidence that she is here as the Fighting Irish return to the state of Florida for the first time since that loss in Miami nearly four months ago. And if Notre Dame is to beat South Carolina on Sunday night and return to the national championship game for the fourth time in five seasons, it won’t be a coincidence that she will be on the court.

John Fineran for the Notre Dame Insider: South Carolina next hurdle for Notre Dame women to clear

“I have a lot of concerns about South Carolina,” McGraw said Saturday before sending her team out for the first workout by the four teams. “They’re such a good team and their depth is just probably the best in the game. Actually, I think they have the most depth of any team here.”

Slap the Sign: Notre Dame Basketball: Muffet McGraw’s Most ‘Unlikely’ Final Four Team

More from John at the Notre Dame Insider: Madison Cable brings competitive fire to Notre Dame and from ND’s official site: IRISH EXTRA: Madison Cable Tuned In To Irish Success

Al Lesar at the Notre Dame Insider adds: ND’s Lindsay Allen giving defenses something else to worry about

The burden of responsibility Loyd has carried into the NCAA Tournament has manifested itself with some very un-Jewell-like performances. Combine the DePaul (3-of-15) and Baylor (5-of-18) games and Loyd is shooting a chilly 24 percent, well below the 45 percent clip she carries (along with a 19.9 scoring average) for the season.

A testament to the solid nature of the Irish program was that Notre Dame didn’t crumble when Loyd’s numbers went down the tubes.

Somebody else just stepped up.

In addition to a hot streak by long range artist Michaela Mabrey (12 of 19, 63 percent, in the last three games), 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen (averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 assists) has flipped the switch from starter to finisher; from distributor to scorer.

Denise Maloof at NCAA.com: Superstar, when needed – Irish’s Loyd can dominate or facilitate come Sunday and

David Cloninger at GoGamecocks: Final Four: Jewell Loyd shines brightest for Irish

If there was a way to do it, somebody would have done it by now.

“We do have a game plan in for what to do with a player like Jewell Loyd,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “You have to make her work.”

And make sure Loyd doesn’t work your team to death – which is where she specializes.

The Gamecocks:

From Charlie: Why South Carolina’s bench could trouble Irish

A’ja Wilson could be the national freshman of the year. Alaina Coates was the SEC’s top freshman in 2014 and is the Gamecocks’ leading rebounder this season.

Yet both come off the bench for South Carolina.

And nobody inside that locker room cares. Getting the program to its first Final Four was the only goal that mattered from day one.

From Willie T. Smith III at USA Today: Notre Dame has more than just Loyd, South Carolina knows

An extensive study of film on the Fighting Irish was enough for the Gamecocks’ coach to understand why her No. 2-ranked opponent continually finds itself in the Final Four.

“Notre Dame is like a machine from an offensive standpoint,” Staley said. “They’re like Connecticut in that they find the person that is supposed to shoot it. They make basketball look beautiful and easy because they feed off each other.”

Gene Sapakoff at the Charleston Post and Courier: Lack of women’s parity or not, Gamecocks crash Final Four cartel

That South Carolina hasn’t just reached its first Final Four but crashed an exclusive party enhances a vault from mediocrity. As a parity debate simmers within women’s basketball, the Gamecocks going into Sunday night’s game against Notre Dame are a beacon of fresh hope.

“We’re not here off luck,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said Saturday. “Our team worked to get in this position, and it just goes to show some of those other programs, if you continue to work and you continue to recruit and you continue to do things the right way, I think the basketball gods will put you in this position.”

David Caraviello at the Post and Courier: In Final Four, USC’s Mitchell receives her toughest assignment yet

The women’s Final Four ramped into high gear Saturday, when house music thumped and pep bands blared as each team walked through something resembling practice. The din quieted briefly as the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association introduced its All-American squad — which included South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell and Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, who lined up next to one another for the group photo.

They’ll get quite accustomed to that kind of proximity Sunday night.

William T. Smith, III: For Welch, Ibiam, Dawn Staley’s pitch is coming true

When recruiting South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam, Gamecocks women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley made sure the duo understood her goals for the program .

Staley believed both reaching the Final Four and winning a national title at USC were attainable.

“With both me and El, it was something she definitely pitched to us,” said Welch. “It was something she wanted both of us to really believe in. It was something we talked about on my home visit and I’m sure on El’s home visit.

More from William: Aleighsa Welch helped spark USC’s recent success

Aleighsa Welch has never met a stranger.

Friends are met with hug, acquaintances an arm around the shoulder and newcomers a warm smile.

Welch’s kindness should not be seen as a weakness, however, as beneath that smile beats the heart of a warrior.

Andrew Ramspacher at The Daily Progress: Former Cavalier great Staley returns to Final Four

Watching the game from home last week, Debbie Ryan considered the right time to send a congratulatory text to Dawn Staley.

It wouldn’t be at the final buzzer of South Carolina’s win over Florida State. It wouldn’t be when Staley was cutting the net off a Greensboro Coliseum rim in celebration of a regional championship.

No, Ryan whipped out her phone as soon as Tiffany Mitchell drained a corner 3 with 1:21 remaining to give the Gamecocks a five-point lead.

“You’re going to the Final Four,” Ryan told Staley. “Enjoy it. Have some fun.”

Gamecocks’ Staley dedicates Final Four trip to John Chaney

Vic Dorr for the Richmond Times Dispatch: For Dawn Staley, coaching brings sense of balance, fulfillment

The most stunning crossover of Dawn Staley’s basketball career occurred not on the court but rather during a job interview at Temple University.

Despite having every intention of saying “no,” Staley said “yes” in 2000 to an offer to become the Owls’ women’s coach. To this day, she seems surprised.

“I absolutely did not want to be a coach a day in my life,” Staley said. “Not one ounce of me wanted to be a coach.”

Ron Morris at The State: Building a champ: Staley has made Gamecocks into annual national contenders

Her purpose has been seven seasons in the making, yet Dawn Staley has instilled a mindset that South Carolina women’s basketball is a national championship contender.

Establishing that line of thinking sometimes has been a two-step forward, one-step backward process for Staley and her coaching staff.

Through it all, Staley said she never wavered in her belief that her program would be among the nation’s elite.

“I didn’t have any doubts, but the struggle was very real when you’re not winning as much as you’re working hard. What we put ourselves through as a staff is we had to understand it’s a process.

Amy Farnum-Patronis at NCAA.com: A matter of time

When Dawn Staley added the title “Final Four coach” to her lengthy résumé last week, it really didn’t surprise anyone in the basketball world. It had just been a matter of time.

Staley has succeeded at every level in everything she has done, so when she took over as head coach at South Carolina in May 2008, Gamecock Nation was just biding its time until she turned the program into not just a winner, but a national contender.

The Terrapins

From Kate: ‘Everybody’s rooting’ for young, fearless Terps

The Terrapins were supposed to be too young; they had lost five seniors, including the program’s leading scorer, Alyssa Thomas, from last year’s Final Four squad, and conventional wisdom suggested it would be at least a year before fiery coach Brenda Frese could make her super sophomores — Lexie Brown, Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — believe themselves capable of returning.

From Gene: To beat U-Conn., Maryland women’s basketball must first defeat doubt

Addressing the media the day before the NCAA tournament’s Spokane Region final last week, Maryland women’s basketball Coach Brenda Frese was asked for reaction to comments from her counterpart at Duke, Joanne P. McCallie, about top-ranked Connecticut.

The coach of the Terrapins’ contentious rival had mentioned there was a “monarchy” in the sport, referring to the Huskies’ nine national championships, wildly lopsided victory margins and McDonald’s all-American recruits Coach Geno Auriemma seems to stockpile by the dozen.

“She must not think her team can beat them,” Frese said.

From Diamondback Online: With renewed expectations, Maryland women’s basketball preps for UConn

“Last year, we were really excited to be there,” Mincy said after her last practice in College Park. “We were taking in the whole experience. We are going to do the same thing this year, but our mindset is a little different. We are coming in to the Final Four to win.”

But the odds are stacked against the Terps. They are set to play the tournament’s top seed, Connecticut, which has won its first four games in the Big Dance by an average of 41 points.

From Charles Walker at the Carroll County Times: Having reached elite level, Terps relish shot at ‘Goliath’ of women’s basketball, UConn

As good as Maryland has been, Las Vegas oddsmakers listed the Terps as 23-point underdogs once the match-up was set. And no one thought that particularly strange.

So why did Maryland players carry such big grins this week as they spoke of the task ahead? Well, it’s simple: They want what UConn has. And whipping the existing monarch is the surest path to the throne.

“Who doesn’t want to beat Goliath in the end?” said Maryland’s lone senior, Laurin Mincy.

From Doug: Coach Frese, Maryland hopes to end UConn’s run at Final Four

“Aren’t we tired of it,” Frese said of UConn’s dominance. “Everyone’s rooting for us. Some new stories, our sport needs it to be quite honest. I know there are a lot of people out there cheering and want to see Maryland beat UConn. For us and our sport it would be a great thing.”

Amy Farnum-Patronis at NCAA.com: Maryland’s guard play key in matchup vs. UConn

Anthony Brown at the Baltimore Wire:

What Maryland basketball has been all about the last 28 games is physicality on the boards, driving to the basket with reckless abandoned and pushing the ball in transition. Teams haven’t been able to keep with Maryland’s pace because they rebound the ball so well and their transition game is one of the best in the NCAA. Their sophomore class is a big part of their success  and Brionna Jones in the post spearheads the success of the team offensively as a rebounder and scorer.

While Maryland has their big four of Lexie Brown, Laurin Mincy, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Jones in this Women’s Final Four matchup, the Lady Terps will have to worry about these players on UConn’s squad:

The Huskies

From Mechelle: Breanna Stewart embracing UConn celebrity

 If you’re a great player like Breanna Stewart signing to come to UConn, you must realize you’ll have more on your plate than just trying to keep up the program’s crazy-high standards.

You will be a celebrity in Connecticut. Not just for the time that you’re playing, but forever after, too. Signing autographs, people adoring you, wanting to know your opinion about everything. Sounds cool, right?

“I wasn’t particularly comfortable with it,” said Rebecca Lobo, the signature star of UConn’s first NCAA title team in 1995. “I loved playing at UConn, but I never expected — because I had never experienced it before — all that other stuff that comes with it.

Rich Elliot for The Day: UConn embraces its role as the favorite

There is a sizeable target on the back of every member of the UConn women’s basketball team each time they step on the floor. It has been like that for years now as the top-ranked Huskies are considered the favorite to win every game they play.

It is a role that they have had no choice but to embrace. It is a role that has seen them thrive. And they are looking do so again over the next three days at Amalie Arena.

Greg Auman for Newsday: At UConn, it’s national title or bust

Denise Maloof at NCAA.com: ‘It comes with the territory’ – UConn’s sky-high standards are unique to rest of field

As nine-time national champions can, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma dropped an observational nugget during media sessions ahead of Sunday’s 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four.

“I wish we would lose more,” Auriemma said Saturday, to audible murmurs. “I really do.”

Yeah, right. The quote master’s two-time defending national-champion Huskies meet Maryland in Sunday’s second national semifinal at Tampa’s Amalie Arena. They’re playing in their eighth consecutive Final Four.

Why does losing sound attractive?

Harvey at the NY Times: UConn’s Domination Is Win-Win for Women’s Game, Geno Auriemma Says

“I think the attention that comes from being really good and having a certain standard that we set and a certain level of recognition, I think it has been good in that sense,” he said. “I think coaches around the country and their athletic directors can say, hey, look, look what happened up in a small place like Storrs, Conn.; look what they’ve been able to do. Why can’t we do the same thing?

Tom Jones at the Tampa Bay Times: UConn’s greatness not necessarily a boon for the sport

Patricia Babcock McGraw at the Chicago Daily Herald: Why UConn’s program is good for the women’s game

Brian Koonz at the CT Post: Lobo is right, it’s time for women’s basketball coaches to ‘grow up’

“Grow up,” Lobo snapped, addressing an invisible audience of head coaches Saturday at Amalie Arena. “Watch what they do. Watch what those players do on and off the court.

“Make yourself better. Coaches, make yourself better so that you can compete with Connecticut. Don’t try to make Connecticut worse. They’re nothing but good for the women’s game.”

As long as critics, including head coaches, complain about UConn’s dominance, women’s basketball will remain the game with a burden.

And it’s so much more than that.

You’re not here? Nya, nya: 5 things you’re missing In Tampa Bay

Ann must be pleased: Congrats to UCLA, WNIT champs. Watch out, PAC-12, for that kid Canada

The gap in the middle of West Virginia’s defense was a repeating invitation that UCLA freshman Jordin Canada couldn’t pass up.

Canada drove to the basket often and scored a season-high 31 points to lead UCLA to a 62-60 win over West Virginia for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship Saturday.

Canada was the only double-figure scorer for the Bruins (19-18) and was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

 

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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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but the folks battling it out for the WNIT post-season championship are hanging out at the Charleston Civic Center, WV.

How they got there:

 West Virginia over Temple, 66-58 (OT).

The story book post-season run for the Temple women’s basketball team came to an end in the WNIT semifinals on Wednesday, as the Owls fell to West Virginia, 66-58, in overtime. Temple closes the 2014-15 campaign with a 20-17 overall mark. 

“I’m proud of my team, I’m proud of the way they fought tonight in a hostile environment,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza following the game. “We have some young guys and we let the game slip away, but I know this whole experience will help this program in the future.”

It’s not been an easy ride for the Mountaineers.

a month ago Carey refused to let the team practice in West Virginia gear because he was so upset with their effort and passion for the game.
 
“We had people who didn’t care if we won or lost. We had people that weren’t playing hard and we had people, in my opinion, that didn’t care about the state of West Virginia or West Virginia University,” said Carey.
 
“Sometimes you have to challenge people and as a lot of you know, I’m not afraid to challenge people because I’m very passionate about this state and this university,” he continued. “And if somebody’s not, I’m going to go at them.”

The West Virginia will host UCLA, who defeated Michigan, 69-64, in Michigan.

The entire second frame was a tense, back-and-forth affair. Trading baskets, neither team was able to find separation for the bulk of the half.

But with UCLA just one step quicker, Michigan couldn’t extend its season.

“They hit big shots down the stretch, and that’s definitely a credit to them,” Smith said. “They would hold the ball for 28 seconds then hit the last shot with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. … It’s frustrating but you’ve gotta continue to play.”

From the WNIT folks:

When UCLA and West Virginia square off Saturday for the WNIT Championship (3 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), each team has already banked the kind of insight that can only come from games played under pressure. For the Bruins (18-18) and their roster of 10 new players, the tournament has been almost reassuring – the stress and hard days of learning how to survive a Division-I campaign are more in the background, and now the team plays with confidence and a real sense of purpose about the future.

“Our non-conference schedule might have been a little ambitious for a young team like this, and we’ve learned a lot about the mental side of building a team,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, whose team won a tight semifinal game at Michigan on Wednesday to reach the finals. “It takes longer to rebuild confidence than it does to just keep it. But we have a confidence now that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Now, we want to take advantage of every opportunity, and capture these pieces of the foundation to build the program.”

About that thing going on in Florida…

A list of Final Four events in Tampa.

After savoring the moment, women’s teams become all business, Tampa Tribune
That lasting memory: 2008 Final Four proved to be Summitt’s last, Tampa Tribune
Final Four teams in familiar territory in women’s tournament, ND Insider
UConn-Maryland primer, ESPN
Notre Dame-South Carolina primer, ESPN
Dishin & Swishin 04/02/15 Podcast: Doug Bruno helps break down the NCAA tournament and Final Four

Maryland:
Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience, Baltimore Sun
Did Brenda Frese push her way into the discussion of D.C.’s best coaches?, Washington Post
Frese Admits Maryland Will Have Its Hands Full With UConn, Courant
Testudo Times: Maryland women’s basketball: Final Four vs. Connecticut preview
CBSLocal: Maryland Women’s Basketball Team Creating A Buzz On Campus

Jon Meoli at the Baltimore Sun: Second-generation stars give Maryland women added experience

By the time they’re through at Maryland, they all emerge into their own players.

But on a team loaded with players whose parents competed in sports either professionally or collegiately, the Maryland women’s basketball team benefits plenty from its cadre of second-generation stars, led by point guard Lexie Brown, daughter of former NBA star Dee Brown.

Diamondback Online: Maryland women’s basketball readies to play Connecticut
Stephanie White: How Maryland can pull off the upset over UConn, Big 10 Network
Baltimore Wire: Maryland Women’s Basketball: These Sophomores are the Real Deal
Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Laurin Mincy savors Final Four sendoff for Maryland basketball

Laurin Mincy’s final practice in College Park as a member of the Marylandwomen’s basketball team took place at Xfinity Center’s auxiliary gym rather than the main court. Not exactly an ideal way for the redshirt senior to bid farewell to the arena where she spent five seasons forging a career notable for perseverance and revival.

A high school robotics convention had forced the Final Four-bound Terrapins to their secondary practice facility Thursday afternoon, but for Mincy, the minor inconvenience wasn’t about to spoil another opportunity to be with her teammates.

More from Gene: Maryland relies on Brown’s big shots
Former NBA Star Dee Brown Joins Daughter Lexie at Final Four

UConn:

Geno Auriemma on Moriah Jefferson: ‘I haven’t seen anybody better’, Register
A Quick Point Guard’s Unconventional Path to UConn, NY Times

“I’m so glad I was home-schooled,” Moriah Jefferson said. “I loved it. It gave me a good competitive edge.”

At 5-foot-7, the skinny and well-mannered Jefferson does not look like a typical star athlete. Still, she is one of the nation’s quickest players and one of the most valuable members on a team filled with former high school all-Americans.

A junior, she averages 12.3 points a game, leads UConn with 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals a game and shoots 59.5 percent from the floor and 50.5 percent on 3-pointers. She was named a second-team Associated Press all-American this week.

Even at eight straight, Final Fours don’t get old for UConn, Channel 8
Final Four flashback: Auriemma coaches beyond buzzer, Tampa Bay Times

They’re all still chasing UConn at Women’s Final Four
, USA Today
Virtuoso Geno Playing Everyone Like A Violin, Boneyard Blog
UConn women used to tough competition…in practice, Register
If It’s April, UConn And Mosqueda-Lewis Must Be In Final Four, Courant
UConn players trying to live up to program’s legacy, Tampa Tribune

UConn’s Stewart Halfway to Her Goal of 4 National Titles
Mighty UConn women not looking ahead of themselves, Marietta Daily
Paul Doyle: Auriemma: UConn Women are ‘Not invincible, Not unbeatable’

Notre Dame:

Taya Reimer a calming voice for Notre Dame women’s basketball
Philly Flavor At Women’s Final Four: Cheesesteaks, Anyone?, Allentown Morning Call
Notre Dame, SC basketball coaches share Philly background
AP: Notre Dame takes different attitude into women’s Final Four

Notre Dame isn’t planning business as usual this Final Four.

Coach Muffet McGraw realized after the Fighting Irish clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title for a second straight season that the team didn’t seem to celebrate much. Then it happened again when they won the ACC tournament.

”They were excited, but then I watch other teams and they’re jumping all over the place,” she said.

ND Insider: Does Notre Dame have the size to win it all?
Notre Dame Press Conference Quotes
Irish Illustrated: Notre Dame preps for another Final Four

South Carolina:

South Carolina, In First Final Four, To Face Notre Dame, Courant
The evolution of Dawn Staley, ESPN
WLTX: Coach Staley: Final Four is a Business Trip
Notre Dame offensive ‘machine’ awaits Gamecocks in Final FourCharleston Post Courier
David Cloninger: The men behind the USC women – Gamecocks’ practice squad contributes to Final Four run 

They won’t get rings.

They do get pink sneakers.

“I got these last year, but I never busted them out,” South Carolina senior Kevin Clancy said. “This week, I was like, ‘OK, gotta wear them.’”

More David: USC women’s team finds different heroes on different nights – Deep bench lets Gamecocks count on production from many players

“We’re not fazed as much by Tiffany Mitchell not having a great night because of the depth we have on our basketball team,” coach Dawn Staley said during the SEC tournament. “This particular year, (our bench) has been in situations where they had an impact on the game. They can draw on those experiences if Tiffany Mitchell had a night like tonight.”

Staley was speaking of the Gamecocks’ semifinal win against LSU, where Mitchell was 1-of-6 for four points and had five turnovers. Yet, USC won by 20.

“We’ve been playing in situations all year long where we were in the driver’s seat,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “I think that’s no longer the case. In the Final Four, we’ll go back, probably, to being the underdogs because we’re the new kids on the block.

“But we won’t act like the new kids on the block. We will definitely (prepare) to take advantage of the moment, because we never know when we’ll get back to the Final Four.”

From the AP’s Pete Iacobelli: Tiffany Mitchell, her WNBA idol Dawn Staley lead South Carolina to Final Four

Cheryl Mitchell wasn’t sure what project her third-grade daughter was working on when she asked to go to the store to pick up poster board. Tiffany Mitchell created a collage of WNBA star Dawn Staley, beginning a trek that’s landed the South Carolina coach and the Gamecocks’ standout in the school’s first Final Four.

She scored the go-ahead basket to beat North Carolina, 67-65, in the Sweet 16, then followed that with seven consecutive points to put the Gamecocks ahead for good in an 80-74 victory over Florida State in the Elite Eight.

Now the All-American and the rest of the Gamecocks (34-2) will square off against Notre Dame (35-2) in the national semifinals Sunday night in Tampa, Florida. 

Akilah Imani Nelson: Proud high school coaches following journey of USC women’s basketball stars -Long, O’Cain are their former players’ biggest fans

Getting behind the hysterical reaction to the headline: UConn’s Geno Auriemma says men’s game is ‘a joke’ to Geno Auriemma is totally right to call men’s college basketball ‘a joke’

He isn’t talking about playing basketball the “right” way or whatever, he’s talking purely about entertainment. He’s right: college basketball this year hasn’t been entertaining to watch. It hasn’t. Scoring is down, and like it or not, most Americans like sports where people can score.

He continues:

Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve moved in the fences in baseball, they lowered the mound. They made the strike zone so you need a straw to put through it. And in the NFL you touch a guy it’s a penalty. You hit the quarterback, you’re out for life. You know, in the NBA, you touch somebody in the perimeter, you whack guys like they used to do when scores were 90 to 75, they changed the rules.

Again, Auriemma is right. Every other American league has worked to improve scoring, and to make the game more enjoyable for fans.

Who ya got? Bleecher report and ESPN

In important stuff: Auriemma Hopes Indiana Lawmakers Come To Their Senses

“I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always been fascinated by people who care so much about what other people are and what they do in their personal lives,” he said. “Like, how small-minded do you have to be to care that much about what other people are doing? Life is hard enough trying to live your own life. What do you care about what other people are doing if it doesn’t affect you.

“And hiding behind this religious crap? That’s just the most cowardly thing that I’ve ever heard.

Dick Weiss, NY Daily News: NCAA, NFL, NBA and WNBA should raise their voices, condemning Indiana’s religious freedom law  

What are we doing here?

The NCAA Final Four is scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend in this state capital. But college basketball’s biggest celebration likely will be disturbed by a series of protests over a new Indiana religious freedom restoration law that critics say could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom and open the door for legalized discrimination.

Bigotry is apparently alive and well here in the heartland. I thought this ship had sailed with the passing of the civil rights laws in 1965.

Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana

THE drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called “religious freedom” laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.

They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.

That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.

But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice.

Big Business’s Critical Role on Anti-Gay Laws

Big corporations like Walmart, Apple, Salesforce.com and General Electric and their executives have done the right thing by calling on officials in Indiana and Arkansas to reject “religious freedom” laws designed to give businesses and religious groups legal cover should they deny service to gay couples.

But the business response to these laws raises a larger issue about the role companies play in the political process. If corporate leaders are serious in opposing discrimination, they should refuse to finance the campaigns of lawmakers who want to deny civil rights to gays and other minority groups.

Will Indiana law force 2016 women’s Final Four to relocate? (short answer: Yes.)

The men’s Final Four is in Indianapolis this weekend and could not have been moved on short notice. But officials have made it clear there is enough time to consider relocating future events, and that they want an environment welcoming to all athletes and fans.

”What’s going on in Indiana is troubling,” NCAA vice president of women’s basketball championships Anucha Browne said Wednesday.

”We will assess all our championships in the state of Indiana. We do anyway. We want to ensure that student athletes have a positive experience wherever we take them and our fans to. It’s the right thing to do.”

In that vein, Mazel Tov! WNBA’s Angel McCoughtry Comes Out, Is Engaged

Angel McCoughtry, the star forward for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and an Olympic Gold medalist, came out as gay through her Instagram account on Tuesday after an apparent dispute with the Turkish team she played for during the U.S. off-season..

Other NCAA teams are thinkin’ and pondering’ and changin’:

UF searching for success in women’s basketball

Few doubt Butler’s work ethic, or her passion for Gator basketball that dates back to when she was a point guard at UF under Carol Ross from 1990-94. But her eight-year tenure at Florida has produced mixed results. Butler’s 153 wins are second-most in school history, and she’s averaged 19 wins per season at UF. She’s led the Gators to three NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons, but never past the second round, and her career NCAA Tournament record is 3-3. Her career SEC record is 56-68.

Nebraska: Husker women’s basketball final grades

The 2014-15 season had its share of highs and lows for the Nebraska women’s basketball team. When the team capped off a 7-0 start to the season with a home victory against No. 9 Duke before a raucous Husker crowd on Dec. 3, it seemed to be the sort of tone-setting win that would carry over to the rest of the season. Instead, the win didn’t even carry over to the next game, as the Huskers fell on the road to a sub-par Alabama team that would go on to post a 2-14 conference record in the SEC. This wild swing of performance and fortune seemed to define the rest of the season for a Nebraska team that struggled with injuries from start to finish.

Indiana: A Look Back: Indiana State Women’s Basketball –  Meghan McKeown sat down with head coach Joey Wells to talk about the season.

Princeton: Women’s basketball completes season for the ages

Senior guard Blake Dietrick, however, commented on a different side of the team: a group of women hungry to win after not qualifying for the tournament last season.

“Last year, losing the Ivy [League title] was a reality check for us, since we had won it the past four years, then to be the team that broke the streak and let everyone down,” Dietrick said. “We were so intent on that not being the legacy that was left from this season.”

Even with this extra motivation, the level of success this team achieved was surreal even to them.

Stanford: Was this a rebuilding year for women’s basketball?

Despite the Cardinal losing winnable games this year and not playing like one of the best teams in the nation at times, this was not a rebuilding year. The Cardinal lost one elite player last year in Ogwumike and another key player in Mikaela Ruef. Losing only two starters didn’t mean that the team needed to be rebuilt — reshaped a bit, perhaps, but not rebuilt. The Cardinal made it just as far this year as they did two years ago despite the absence of Ogwumike, muffling the gossip swirling that the team wasn’t living up to the Stanford women’s basketball brand of recent years.

Purdue: Banquet recap

Coming off the program’s worst season in 31 years and a fan base which has become restless, Daniels voiced his full support for coach Sharon Versyp and the coaching staff.

“We have, in my opinion, the finest coach we could have for Purdue women’s basketball,” Daniels said. “Sharon, you and your outstanding staff that you have assembled, just set a terrific standard. We know more such years are coming. Not every season can be a national championship season but you’ve given us plenty; you’re going to give us more. This program has such a proud history and it has a proud future. I can’t wait for next year to get here and I know everybody in this room feels the same.”

Marist: Marist women ‘shocked’ by exodus; team faces ‘biggest challenge’

One by one, they came to Brian Giorgis.

“You’re in shock with each one,” the Marist College women’s basketball coach said, after the school announced four Red Foxes, including all-league forward Madeline Blais, would be transferring following the spring semester.

The exodus places a program that has reached the NCAA tournament in 10 of the last 12 seasons in a precarious position, “beating the bushes” to fill out a roster that currently will have eight scholarship players and 10 total next season.

In high school news:

Ohio: New Riegel’s Lucius retires with 542 victories

Steve Lucius always appreciated the little things in life: the closeness of a small town, the grass-roots work ethic of middle America, the competitive intensity of backyard rivalries and some of the best barbecued ribs he ever sank his teeth into.

All of those little things added up to one huge career for Lucius, who announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as New Riegel’s girls basketball coach after 30 years running the program.

“I grew up on those ribs,” said Lucius, a 1970 New Riegel graduate.

And a lot of young girls grew up on New Riegel basketball as Lucius built the Blue Jackets into one of the top small-school programs in the state.

Oklahoma: Carl Albert girls basketball coach Tim Price resigns

One of the state’s most successful girls basketball coaches has decided to make a change.

Carl Albert coach Tim Price officially resigned last week, bringing to end a very successful tenure with the Titans that included 10 state tournament appearances in his 11 seasons.

“It just got to the point to where I really felt like it would be best for me and possibly best for the program for me to go down a different path,” Price told The Oklahoman. “There’s been some building frustrations with some things going on and it just got to the point where I didn’t enjoy this past year as much as a coach should. I just didn’t want to go through it again.”

Pondering the WNBA draft, Swish Appeal Community 2015 WNBA Mock Draft

MSTU’s Cheyenne Parker Seeks Rehab, Sets Sights on WNBA Combine

It has been a little over a month since former MTSU star Cheyenne Parker was dismissed from the Lady Raiders basketball team for multiple failed drug tests.

Despite her removal from the Blue Raiders on Feb. 27, Parker still plans to complete her mission of making a WNBA roster. Parker has been going through an intense workout program with a focus on heavy lifting, cardio and skill training.

The main objective of Parker’s arduous workout regime: impress WNBA coaches and scouts on April 4 at the ProHoops WNBA Combine in Tampa, Florida.

Former WNBAer Ruth Riley was traveling – take a gander at her blog: Shining Light On A Global Misconception

Imagine a woman covered head to toe in a loose fitting black robe (Abaya) with her head covered by a hijab so the only part of her body that you can see is that by which she is looking back at you . . . her eyes. 

It is against the law for her to drive. She cannot travel by herself without the consent of a male relative. Almost every public place is segregated, with one door for women/families and one for men. Marriages are often arranged on her behalf. Her only knowledge of sports is that by which she sees on T.V. or on the internet because there are no opportunities for her to partake as a spectator, let alone as a competitor.

This image is representative of what we know of Saudi Arabian women. While I agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to share with you some of the stories beyond that image that we so often evoke. I want to share stories of the girls and women that I met in my recent Sports and Women’s Empowerment Envoy with the State Department and the NBA/WNBA throughout The Kingdom. Becky Bonner and I went from the conservative capital of Riyadh to Dammam and finished our trip in the more liberal city of Jeddah conducting clinics with elementary to college-age players, as well as meeting with some amazing groups of women.

Good to hear: Feature Doc on Trials & Triumphs of Former WNBA Player Chamique Holdsclaw Nearing Completion

The film, titled “Mind Game,” will also capture Holdsclaw’s recovery as she speaks out openly about the disorder that almost killed her, shedding light on mental illness and helping to open up conversation on the subject.

“It’s been like a mental prison because it was real uncharacteristic of me,” Holdsclaw told ESPN in a June 2013 interview. “It was real uncharacteristic of me and everybody judging me from every different angle.” 

She now runs her own basketball academy with camps nationwide, adding, “I hate that this situation occurred… I feel like I’ve hurt my family and also the victim’s family, but it’s been a great thing in helping me move forward. Now I’m on the right medication. I’ve been able to get the right treatment, and it’s really improved my quality of life night and day.” 

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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Had a wonderful time working with some amazing educators, eating yummy food and seeing new birds! (Black Rosy Finch)

Black_Rosy-Finch

In the Pac12, no new birds this year: #19 Stanford was down early to Cal, but put just enough distance between them (1pt.) to escape with a win and earn their 11th Conference Championship.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

Maryland also struggled against the feisty Mitchell, but a late travel by the Buckeyes helped the #4 Terps secure a three-point win and the B-10 Championship, 77-74.

The Maryland women’s basketball team didn’t make life easy for itself or the fans. After building a 15-point lead just four minutes into the second half, the Terps saw the Ohio State Buckeyes chip away several times, cutting the lead to a single point. Through the tense final minutes, the Terrapins’ shells never cracked and the Buckeyes could never quite get over the hump as the the Terps held on for a thrilling 77-74 win to capture the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Eastern Tennessee State was down 24 in the second but roared back. #17 Chattanooga had to go to overtime against the up-and-coming Bucs to earn the Southern Conference title with a 61-56 victory.

Sunday they nearly kept Chattanooga from winning its 57th consecutive game against a SoCon opponent, a streak that includes 48 regular-season wins and nine in tournament games.

“There’s not a combination of 26 letters in the alphabet to tell you how proud I am of these kids,” said ETSU coach Brittney Ezell, who is in her second season with the program.

“To play with those kind of guts and to fight back the way that they did, that’s all them and I’m just honored to sit in that first chair for them and I’m really proud of that group.”

#2 Notre Dame had no such issues as they dealt with #7 Florida State with aplomb, 71-58, and snared the ACC title.

“I’m really proud of this team for where we came from to win this,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “To go through the league with just one loss was a remarkable accomplishment. We had so many new pieces to fit together, and I think with Jewell’s leadership we were able to get a little bit better in every game. This was the best game we’ve played all year.”

#3 South Carolina struggled against #5 Tennessee the last time they met. Not so much this time, when the SEC Conference Championship was on the line. Gamecocks win, 62-46.

There’s really only one time when South Carolina’s Elem Ibiam doesn’t fully appreciate the megawatt power source that is fellow senior Aleighsa Welch.

“I’m not her roommate, but we’re always in each other’s rooms,” Ibiam said. “And there are some nights when I’m like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep,’ and she wants to talk all night.

“She always has energy — always. It’s not just on the court. It’s when she’s in her room, when she’s driving to the gas station — it doesn’t matter. And when you’re having a bad day, you know she will pick you up.”

#21 George Washington picked up their fifth Atlantic 10 tournament title (first since 2003) by grounding the Flyers, 75-62.

Jonquel Jones stood tall and played taller at the defining moment of her career as a Division I basketball player.

George Washington’s 6-foot-4 junior forward did everything other than sell programs and sweep the floor during the Colonials’ 75-62 victory over Dayton in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 women’s tournament title game at the Coliseum.

She scored 21 points, sank four 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds, blocked a pair of shots and helped GW play lockdown defense on the perimeter – yes, the perimeter – in the second half.

Liberty earned their 16th Big South title, defeating High Point, 74-64 and returning to the NCAA tourney.

The offseason is usually a relaxing time for Liberty women’s basketball coach Carey Green. An avid outdoorsman, the longtime Flames mentor likes to take advantage of all of Central Virginia’s natural offerings.

The time between the end of the 2014 Big South tournament and the start of the 2014-15 season was anything but calming, however. When you’re the head coach of a program in which the baseline expectation is to qualify for the NCAA Tournament on a yearly basis, anything less is hard to swallow.

A huge win for Hartford means huge heartbreak for (now WNIT bound) Maine Bears. The Hawks upset the top-seed in the American, 65-54.

Top-seeded UMaine’s NCAA season came to an unceremonious end in the America East semifinals, where the fifth-seeded Hawks rode a dominating post performance by Cherelle Moore to earn a 65-54 victory at Binghamton University’s Events Center.

“Cherelle Moore played like one of the best players in the league, and she is,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron.

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There’s a vocal constituency that’s mighty cranky about coach McCallie’s coaching and post-game style. One can only imagine what they’ll say now that #16 Duke has lost three in a row. This time Georgia Tech was the topple-er, beating Duke for the first time since February,  1994.

For what it’s worth, if Duke can’t handle #15 North Carolina at home on March 1, they will match the four-loss streak that ended the ’93-94 season. Perhaps the Blue Devils can take some comfort in the fact that UNC barely escaped Virginia – needing a last-second putback to avoid overtime.

Speaking of upsets – HUGE win for St. Peter’s. Patty Coyle’s team took down Marist, 66-58.

Yes, I’m calling this an upset: Wake Forest got its second ACC win by defeating Miami, 60-59 on freshman Amber Campbell‘s second buzzer-beater of the season.

#19 Stanford traipsed into Corvallis and said, “No, #7 Beavers, thou shalt not take down this Tree and use it as a torch. Cardinal win, 69-58, handing Oregon State their first home loss this season. BTW, missed this tidbit: OSU’s current total of 25 wins in the most in school history.

Just when you think Gary Blair’s got his team figured outMizzou’s Maddie Stock nails a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 70-69 win over #12 Texas A&M.

Georgia showed a little more fight, but Tennessee prevailed, 70-59. The loss of Izzy seems to have made the Ledger’s Dave Link a little anxious: Lady Vols seem to be slipping off national stage

Speaking of fight: let’s talk Richmond battling back to take #22 Georgetown into OT. The Spiders ran out of steam, though, and were outscored 14-2 in the extra five. Colonials win, 81-69.

And still speaking of fight – ya, Wisconsin is 8-19, but these last few games they’ve proven to be a tough out. #17 Iowa escapes, 78-74. That’s the 300th career win for coach Bluder.

Glad Debbie wasn’t on hand to call this one:#13 Kentucky was just able to keep ahead of Arkansas, 56-51. 

I’m guessing Maryland got a bit more of a fight than expected from Indiana, but the Terps prevailed, 83-72, earning their 20th straight win as Laurin Mincy scored 28pts, a career high.

Florida State made sure North Carolina State wouldn’t repeat their upset ways. In front of the largest home crowd in four years, it was the Seminoles over the Wolfpack, by 20. Their 26 regular season wins ties the school record. One more game to break it: season finale at Miami.

Both coach Frese and Semrau are on the latest Dishin and Swishin podcast.

In the Sun Belt, Arkansas Little-Rock, Arkansas State and Troy kept rollin’.

So did #2 South Carolina.

So did #4 Notre Dame, who shot a breathtaking 62% against Pittsburgh. Mechelle has a little something on The Jewell:

In our best Marlon Brando voice, we’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Settle into your seats, indulge in some popcorn … and read about the Jewell Loyd movie marathon experience. Hope you don’t mind if the line between film hero and villain is sometimes a little ambiguous.

“‘The Godfather’ is kinda our family movie,” Loyd, the Notre Dame junior guard, said of her parents, older brother and herself. “I like the concept of family, loyalty and getting the job done.”

Then Loyd laughed and added, “Obviously, we’re not going to be beating anyone up or anything.”

Loyd took part in a bit of “reel talk” recently at espnW’s request, as she’s a film, television and theater major at Notre Dame.

Jewell’s coach talks about Fighting Through February.

“February is a grind,” McGraw said before a recent home game at Purcell Pavilion. “You’re ready for the tournaments to begin, you want to see where you’re going to finish and what the seeds are going to look like, but you know you have to get through February to get to March.”

#20 Rutgers’ return to anemic offense and inability to defend doomed them against #25 Northwestern, 80-60. Kinda makes ya wonder, can ya justify C. Vivian Stringer making $1.6M in 2014?

Of note: the Knights’ loss, combined with Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska on Tuesday, means that Ohio State’s 88-70 win over Penn State moves the Buckeyes up into fourth place in the B10 standings. Seems like the Ohio State is not interested in waiting till next year to be good.

You know what’s notable about Tom Keegan’s column, End nearing for Bonnie Henrickson? The thoughtful, informed comments.

Ah, the joys of Senior Night and a reviving program: Making her first start of the season, senior Teneka Whittaker set career highs with 16 points and eight rebounds to help Rhode Island to a 68-53 win over St. Louis. With the victory, Rhode Island has clinched at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2003-04.

Speaking of reviving: Hello, Hawai’i! Big West champs. First time in 21 years. Nice job, third-year coach Beeman.

Not only has #24 Cal inched its way back in to the rankings, but their 74-59 victory over Oregon gave coach Lindsay Gottlieb her 100th win at Cal. She’s the quickest to the milestone in program history.

This is nice news to read on a cold February day: Lauren Hill makes it through full season despite tumor

The Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team held its postseason banquet in a hospital room warmed by Lauren Hill’s smile.

The 19-year-old freshman made it through a full season while raising more than $1.3 million for research into the type of brain tumor that will likely end her life. She’s occasionally hospitalized for treatment now, but still holding to each day as tightly as she can and urging others to appreciate their time together.

A little W news from Lois Elfman: Epiphanny Prince returning to her Brooklyn roots

“To be able to come home and try to win the championship with my home team and do it in front of my family and friends is very exciting for me,” said Prince, 27, who made her Madison Square Garden debut at age 12, playing a halftime exhibition at a Knicks game, and won four PSAL titles with the Murry Bergtraum Lady Blazers. She’s played five seasons with the Chicago Sky, which went to the WNBA Finals last year.

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The story: “There’s no parity in women’s basketball.”

The truth:

Illinois over #17 Iowa, 73-61.

Pittsburgh over #5 North Carolina, 84-59.

Miami over #4 Notre Dame, 78-63.

I’m trying to decide which upset is most surprising.

Yes, Notre Dame was on the road, but lordy, they were down 20 at the half to a team whose “best” win of the season to date was… heck, it’ s hard to point to a “good” Miami win – they’ve lost to MTU, ASU and Tulane.

“You never like to lose, but we’re just so darn young sometimes that we needed maybe a kick in the pants to kind of say we need to come out ready,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I don’t know mentally what they were thinking before the game but we were uncharacteristically bad in the first half. Credit their defense, that really set us back on our heels.”

That being said, one has to consider the impact (and back story) of the news that starting sophomore forward Taya Reimer, who did not travel with the team to Miami, is considering her future at the university.

Even without Xylina McDaniel, North Carolina’s loss to Pittsburgh makes me shake my head. It’s not just that it’s Pitt. (Blog followers know that they struggled early this season, losing to Duquesne, James Madison and Princeton, but they played #7 Louisville tough.) It’s the score. This wasn’t a close game.

Michigan was a big win for the Pitt women. 

Ohio State was a big win, too. 

Neither of those earlier victories — nor very many wins in the history of the program, for that matter — compare to Thursday’s 84-59 victory over No. 8 North Carolina at Petersen Events Center

The win was Pitt’s first against a ranked opponent in almost four years and was their third over a top-10 opponent. 

No, we haven’t been talking about Iowa a lot, but we have mentioned Illinois more than a few times, so perhaps you weren’t too surprised by the news that the Hawkeyes got taken down by Matt Bollant’s Illini.

Illinois finished the game on a 26-8 run and held No. 17 Iowa to only three field goals over the final 10 minutes of the game as the Fighting Illini pulled away for a 73-61 win at State Farm Center on Thursday. It marked the Orange and Blue’s second win over a ranked opponent this season and Illinois held Iowa to its second-lowest point total of the season. Illinois improves to 11-4 on the campaign, its best start in seven years, and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Let’s start a new story: There’s no parity in men’s college basketball.

So, speaking of close games, I see that Duke escaped Syracuse by two. Is there something askew with the ACC traditional powers? (And, soon, ‘Cuse, sooon you’ve got to come out of these close losses with a win!)

Okay, I’m paying attention: MSU women make another piece of history

Stat stuffers don’t care how their lines in the final boxscore look. 

After all, if players who fill numerous columns with crooked numbers are doing their jobs, their team’s total in bold at the bottom of the page is going to be bigger than the opponent’s.

Dominique Dillingham’s numbers Thursday were far from the biggest on the final statistics for the No. 14 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 72-57 victory against Arkansas. But none of the 3,556 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum would deny Dillingham had perhaps the biggest impact in helping MSU push its season-opening winning streak to 18. In the process, MSU made another piece of history in opening Southeastern Conference play 3-0 for the first time. 

Hey! Look who’s ranked! Western Kentucky! First time since the 1997-98 season.

‘‘It’s an awesome day for our program,’’ WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. ‘‘It gives me chills when you say that we’re ranked. It’s a great day for everyone that’s ever tied their shoe here or had to do with WKU in the past.’’

Anyone think that Ohio State is going to be scary good next year?

Yup, that’s #18 Arizona State winning, matching the program’s best start.

The Debbie Antonelli includes, of course, Sacramento State. This time they came out on top, 93-86.

In-conference play is killing San Francisco’s mojo.

It’s kinda feeling like, this year, the A-10 is George Washington’s to lose.

I’m not going to declare the Patriot League Lehigh’s until after they face American. Twice.

The Tigers roar in Graham’s mid-majors poll (and sit in the 22nd spot in the AP poll)

Courtney Banghart developed a standard response when asked about the outlook for her Princeton team this season, the first season the Tigers began coming off anything other than an NCAA tournament appearance since the fall of 2009, when every member of the current roster was in high school or even middle school.

It was a likable group of people, really likable. But she wasn’t sure they knew how hard it is to win.

“I just didn’t know if they actually had enough edge,” Banghart said. “If they hated losing — which is different, whether you hate losing more than you like winning, or you like winning more than you hate losing. I didn’t know if they were able to make the shift. Was this team really going to hate to lose and come with that edge?”

They must really hate losing. Because they can’t stop winning.

Steve Megargee of the AP give “the other majors” some love:

The first half of the women’s basketball season produced plenty of memorable moments for mid-major programs.

Chattanooga beat Tennessee and Stanford for its first two wins over top-10 opponents in school history. Princeton is ranked 22nd and Western Kentucky is 25th. Green Bay (11-3) was in the Top 25 earlier this season.

“I think it’s great for the game, for women’s basketball,” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what we want to have the opportunity to do, to just continue to keep working and building, so … we don’t have to be in a position where we have to win our conference (tournament) to get to the NCAA.”

Michelle writes about those “other” Huskies, and their peach of a player, Plum: Plum paces Washington to 12-2 start – Huskies set to take on No. 15 Stanford on Friday, Cal on Sunday

As a freshman last season, Kelsey Plum confesses, she sometimes felt “dumb,” even if the stat sheet didn’t show it.

“At least in terms of making plays,” the University of Washington sophomore guard said. “I guessed a lot.”

Plum seems to have found the right answers pretty quickly. The nation’s second-leading scorer at 25.0 points a game, Plum is setting the tone for a Huskies team that is about to embark on its most defining weekend in a decade.

“We are finding a quiet confidence,” said Washington second-year coach Mike Neighbors.

He saw it in the days before his team played then-No. 5 Texas A&M before the turn of the new year. Washington won that game 70-49, one of the most unexpected results of the young season.

In W news, Mechelle addresses the “You’re fired!” “You’re hired!”

There are certain sports franchises — and players and coaches, for that matter — who do weird things that at first make you say, “You’re kidding. Seriously, they did that?” But then you say, “Oh, wait a minute. This is (fill in the name) that we’re talking about.”

The New York Liberty are such a franchise. But the re-hiring of Bill Laimbeer as coach less than three months after he was fired by the organization is head-scratching even by Liberty standards.

Oh, wait a minute. Not really. This is the Liberty we’re talking about.

Let me make haste to say, though, I actually don’t think this is a bad decision at all. It’s correcting a bad decision, which was firing Laimbeer back in October without a really strong idea of whom the franchise could get to replace him.

More Liberty news: 7 ON YOUR SIDE: HOOPS PRIZE WINNER NEEDS ASSIST

A little history: Former Wayland Baptist Flying Queen Cherri Rapp has been named for induction into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

Rapp played for the Flying Queens from 1968-72 under coach Harley Redin, winning two AAU championships along with third- and fourth-place finishes as those teams combined for a 107-13 win-loss record.
 
A three-time NWIT and AAU All-American, Rapp scored 1,348 points to rank third at the time on the Flying Queens’ career scoring list; today, she’s 14th.
 
She was a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that competed in the 1976 Montreal Games. She played in the Pan American Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Colombia), serving as captain of the team that won the 1975 gold medal, and also played in the World Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Mexico).

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Around the games:

The Tennessee-Missouri game was tight. And then it got feisty. The Vols prevailed, but you’ve gotta wonder what kind of suspensions might be in their future.

An Old Big East matchup produces an upset: St. John’s vs. Seton Hall: Red Storm stands firm against #24 Pirates.

One team cracked under the pressure. It wasn’t the team I was expecting. One phenomenal backcourt got into foul trouble and was never quite the same. It wasn’t the backcourt I was expecting.

OT produces another upset. Villanova (6-7) takes down prohibitive New Big East favorite, #25 DePaul, 79-76. Why? The Blue Demons went ice cold at the end of the game and in OT, but they also shot 4-19 on threes and the Wildcats shot 7-13.

#17 Mississippi State held serve against #19 Georgia, 64-56. The Bulldogs are still undefeated, and the locals are noticing: While MSU men’s hoops struggle, women’s team surges

Two programs under third-year coaches host big-name opponents today at Humphrey Coliseum.

The similarities end there. They are two programs heading in opposite directions.

Mississippi State’s men’s basketball squad is 1-5 in its last six games. Meanwhile, the women’s team, led by coach Vic Schaefer, is 15-0, marking the best start and longest winning streak in school history.

Yup, Florida State is legit. Notre Dame turned a one-point halftime deficit (and a 9-point second half deficit) into a six-point win.

Losing senior Aleighsa Welch to a neck sprain (she’s okay) didn’t derail South Carolina’s dismantling of Auburn, 77-58.

Around the Conferences:

Penn Quakers: Women’s Basketball Eyes Big 5 Title vs Temple

 Penn will start 2015 with possibly the biggest Big 5 matchup in school history. The Quakers can clinch a share of their first-ever Big 5 title with a win over Temple at The Palestra on Monday night. The Red and Blue haven’t beaten the Owls at home in more than 15 years, but snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series last season at McGonigle Hall. Tip off is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Pac-12 women’s basketball primer: Is Stanford still the favorite?

Scott Rueck isn’t sure if the Pac-12 is the most competitive conference in women’s basketball. 

But the Oregon State coach believes his league belongs in the discussion.

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers ready for competitive Pac-12 campaign

There’s no doubt the No. 13 Oregon State women’s basketball team is prepared for the upcoming rigors of a Pac-12 schedule that features numerous deep and talented teams.

So are several other teams thanks to some solid nonconference battles against ranked teams.

The conference showed well over the first part of the season with three Pac-12 teams knocking off top-6 opponents.

‘We’re playing to win the conference’: UMaine women’s basketball opens America East slate against Albany

There was a time not too long ago that facing the University at Albany might have been a daunting prospect for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

And while the Black Bears have the utmost respect for the three-time defending America East champions, they are beginning to feel as though they’re very much in the same league as the Great Danes.

Well, carp:

Bowling Green State University women’s basketball student-athletes  Erica Donovan Lauren Webb  are expected to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season due to injury, head coach  Jennifer Roos has announced. Both Donovan, a redshirt junior, and Webb, a freshman, were injured during the Falcons’ win at Illinois State University on Dec. 19.

Additionally, redshirt freshman  Leah Bolton will apply for a medical retirement with the NCAA due to recurring injuries, ending her BGSU playing career.

That’s one, by one: St. Peter’s over Rider, 50-49.

Also in the MAAC, looks like it might be a dog fight between Quinnipiac, Marist and… Canisius?

FGCU had to come back strong in the second half to defeat Harvard, 68-58. BTW, the Eagles will pick up Georgia transfer Sydnei McCaskill.

Clemson has not been good for a long, long time. But under first-year coach Audra Smith, they did come back from 11 down to take down Virginia Tech in OT. Keep an eye on the Tigers’ senior Nikki Dixon.

Well, well, well. The Cornell Bears stun the Penguins, 75-63.

Whoops! Looks like the WHB curse is in effect: Wichita St. over Indiana State, 63-52, as Alex Harden tied a WSU record with 11 (!) steals.

Worth a read and look: Sarah Kadazi from CBS Sports offers a lovely piece as she follows up with the Richmond Spiders: Healing in the Game:

The story begins here, where the glaring overhead lights bounce off the giant red spider down at center court. The Richmond Spiders women’s basketball team trots out, a mélange of braids, ponytails and curls bobbing in unison in front of 7,200 empty seats. It’s a late-October preseason practice at the Robins Center arena, and this is where the healing happens.

Here, a scolding about a missed defensive assignment is a reminder of the right now, a fixture in the normal. Five months ago, this tight-knit family’s fabric was torn, when two of its core members — associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis — embarked on a hot-air balloon ride and never came home. The wounds are fresh. The upcoming basketball season is long. Every second spent on the court is an act of resilience.

Around the country: Babcock McGraw: Top women’s sports stories

6. Magic moment: In January, shock waves hit the WNBA when the Los Angeles Sparks laid off their front office staff and suspended operations. A marquee cornerstone of the league, the Sparks had lost $12 million since 2007, including $1.4 million in 2013.

In February, Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter partnered to buy the Sparks, saving the franchise, from relocation or contraction.

From Nate: The Best of Swish Appeal: The top 10 most popular women’s basketball stories of 2014

Most popular story overall: Becky Hammon makes her NBA coaching debut (Albert Lee)

 Most popular NCAA story: Daisha Simmons’ roommate Brittany Jack sharing her own experience at Alabama (Mike Robinson/Brittany Jack)

Atlanta Dream team executives eyes stake in Hawks

Two of Atlanta’s top business leaders and their wives — Kelly Loeffler and Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange Inc.; and Mary and John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. — are exploring an ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks.

Their main interest, however, is the Atlanta Dream — the local WNBA team — which is owned by Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock.

From Swish Appeal: WNBA collective bargaining agreement posted at player website

Time-off bonus: These bonuses are granted to players who decide to spend some amount of time playing overseas which is less than or equal to 90 days.  (And remember, zero days is less than 90 days.)  This bonus is $50,000 for players and can be split among more than one players.  Teams can decide to increase or decrease these bonuses in subsequent seasons, but by no more than two percent of the time off bonus for the first year ($1,000).  They can also decide how many days they wish to limit the players receiving the bonus in spending time playing overseas – and that limit can be set at zero.

League minimums and salary caps:  With the 12 player rosters, league minimums and salary caps get a little hairy.

Finally: I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Muffet McGraw, but never on this topic: Not My Job: Coach Muffet McGraw Gets Quizzed On Tuffets

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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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we remember those who will not join us.

Vic Dorr Jr. from the. Richmond Times-Dispatch: University of Richmond women’s basketball team moves forward with heartache as constant companion

The pain they felt when it happened — shock, anguish, suffocating grief — was largely visceral. Temporary remedies were abundant: tears, hugs, the snug harbor offered by family and friends.

The pain they feel today is to a great extent cerebral. There are few, if any, effective remedies.

Lauren Sage Reinlie at the Daily News: Spirit lives on: Community gathers to remember beloved basketball coach

With hundreds of people gathered in the auditorium, Coach Patrick Harrington’s voice rang out again.

In a video playing on a large screen, the man stood on the sidelines of the basketball court, talking about his players and how he wanted to give them a chance to know what great opportunities they have to grow and change their lives.

From South Bend: Expectations still high for youthful Irish women’s basketball team

It’s been a few years since Muffet McGraw first put a whistle around her neck and stepped on a court in a dimly-lit gymnasium not far from the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia, to begin her first practice as a basketball coach.

And while it’s true Archbishop Carroll High School is a far cry from the bright lights of the University of Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion and college basketball’s biggest stage at the NCAA Final Four, don’t think for one second that the Fighting Irish Hall of Fame head coach isn’t excited about the start of another season.

Nice turn around in Austin: Women’s Basketball picked as preseason favorite to win the Big 12

From Spokane: Gonzaga women’s basketball rookie coach Lisa Fortier ushers in new era

The Gonzaga women’s basketball team opened practice Tuesday with a new head coach for the first time in 14 years and without a clear picture of the guard rotation for at least three years.

Out of Columbia: For USC women’s basketball, a national championship is the only goal

It was only the first day of practice, but the members of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team were already thinking of the ultimate goal.

“Our goal is definitely nothing short of a national championship,” said senior forward Aleighsa Welch, a Goose Creek native. “I think we have to put that in our minds and keep repeating to ourselves that we don’t want to settle for anything less than that. So that’s the main goal. That’s what we know we can accomplish this year. But it all starts right here.”

From their competition down the road: Lady Vols say they’re heeding Warlick’s message

Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale says the Lady Vols are listening more closely to coach Holly Warlick this season.

 The Lady Vols are hoping that extra attention helps them earn the Final Four bid that has eluded them since their 2008 national championship season. Tennessee opened practice Monday with most of the nucleus back from a team that went 29-6 and reached a regional semifinal last season.

From Notre Dame: Irish Women’s Basketball Tips Off 2014-15 Preseason,

It’s been a few years since Muffet McGraw first put a whistle around her neck and stepped on a court in a dimly-lit gymnasium not far from the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia, to begin her first practice as a basketball coach. And while it’s true Archbishop Carroll High School is a far cry from the bright lights of the University of Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion and college basketball’s biggest stage at the NCAA Final Four, don’t think for one second that the Fighting Irish Hall of Fame head coach isn’t excited about the start of another season.

From Jim Fuller at the Citizen Register: UConn’s Moriah Jefferson has chance to step into leadership role

The casual onlooker may wonder how the UConn women’s basketball team plans to replace the production of graduated All-Americans Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.

While it will be no easy task replacing what Dolson and Hartley brought on the court, the bigger issue facing the two-time defending national champions could be who fills the rather sizeable hole in the leadership department.

Big things are expected from seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, but the reality is that they are more of the lead-by-example types. Certainly reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart will be a leader just based on her incredible skill set and list of accomplishments. But junior point guard Moriah Jefferson could be the most likely candidate to become the Huskies’ unquestioned leader.

UConn’s Dailey thankful for World Championship experience

Two days ago Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey were in Istanbul, Turkey as the United States team, featuring five current or former UConn players, won the FIBA World Championship for Women.

After a long day of travel, the UConn head coach and associate head coach were back on campus and back at work. Auriemma looked absolutely spent and considering how he graciously gave me more than 15 minutes of his time when I was up at UConn for a football press conference before diving head long into his national team responsibilities, I resisted the temptation to corner him for an interview. However, when Dailey walked by me earlier today, I was able to spend a couple of minutes with her so she could reflect on her time as an advance scout for the gold-medal winning U.S. team.

Lady Raiders search for Rowe’s replacement

It’s been only a week of practice for the MTSU women’s basketball team, so it’s no surprise coach Rick Insell has more of his own questions than he has answers.

At this point, the 10th-year coach is simply emphasizing “repetition, repetition, repetition.”

“We gotta keep doing what we’re doing right here in practice,” he said. “Make them work harder.”

He added, “We’re not too bad. I’m not happy with where we’re at, but I don’t need to be happy right now. I need to be happy, in January.

“We’ll get there.”

Out of Lincoln: NU women’s basketball notebook: Huskers begin to try to replace Hooper

“Right now the elephant — the big things — are a little scary,” Yori said Wednesday. “Can we score on a consistent basis, and can we get defensive rebounds? Those are scary, because you think, who did we lose? We lost one of the best scorers of all time in the history of this program, and one of the best defensive rebounders of all time. Those are big things. Those are areas right now where we’re not very good.”

From Oregon: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers focused as practice begins

Over the first three days of practice, there was a focus unlike anything previously seen for Scott Rueck’s Oregon State women’s basketball program.

It makes sense as the Beavers return a plethora of talent that contributed immensely to one of the best seasons in program history.

Tough news for the Buckeyes: Ohio State women’s basketball: Makayla Waterman out indefinitely, facing knee surgery

Similar bad news in Colorado: CU women’s basketball: Buffs kick off practices without Roberson

Throughout the offseason, Arielle Roberson felt as healthy as ever and went through workouts determined to lead the Colorado women’s basketball to a great season.

On Tuesday afternoon, she sat in the Coors Events Center seats with crutches nearby as she watched her teammates go through their first official practice of the 2014-15 campaign.

“It just really sucks,” the junior forward said.

Cappie’s off to Australia: WNBA star signed to replace import Monica Wright, who is also injured

The loss of star recruit Elizabeth Cambage to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury and the failure of import Monica Wright to recover from what was seemingly minor knee surgery forced Dandenong to send out an SOS less than two weeks before the start of the 2014/15 WNBL season.

And it was answered on Thursday by WNBA superstar Cappie Pondexter, who signed a one-year deal to join the Rangers. The 31-year-old American guard is expected to be in uniform for the season-opener on October 18.

From Jonothan Lintner at USA Today: Native American community recognizes Shoni Schimmel

Shoni Schimmel often recognizes her Native American following, signing autographs and taking pictures after games with those who travel to see the University of Louisville graduate who grew up on an Umatilla reservation in Oregon.

This week, it was Schimmel who was recognized for her prominence as a 2014 Native American “40 under 40” award recipient.

From  at The Wrap:  WNBA Star Brittney Griner Talks About Becoming First Openly Gay Athlete Endorsed by Nike

Suivez-la Swoopes: Sheryl Swoopes’ son commits to Texas Tech

From Stephanie Kowalsky at the starsnews.com, timely but tough news: Ruthie Bolton: Ex-WNBA Star Victim of Domestic Violence; “It’s a Very Lonely Place to Be”

Breaking down in tears in front of a packed room, Bolton admitted in public for the first time that her ex-husband was abusive and that she used to live every day in fear of what he may do to her.

“I was living in an abusive marriage,” Bolton said, according to ESPN. “I could do whatever I wanted on the basketball court, I could defend an opponent, or hit a big shot, but I couldn’t get a grasp on my personal life.”

Out of Chicago: She didn’t play a minute, but Jersey City college student a star for WNBA team

“I was just scared to talk to people,” said Ortega, 21, who was born in Hoboken, but lived all her life in Jersey City with her family. “I thought my thoughts were either stupid or weren’t worth saying, so I just kept most of it to myself.”

Fast-forward to her final year at Centenary College in Hackettstown, and Ortega is the president of its Sports Management Association, is a mentor to freshmen students, and most of all, had finished a summer internship with the WNBA team Chicago Sky, where she was ranked No. 1 out of 8 interns in sales.

From Fast Company: Will the Future of Sports Reporting Include Sports Reporters? 

Dano first approached the men’s major leagues, but didn’t get anywhere. “There was interest, but the bigger leagues are a bit more cautious and guarded with how they adopt things,” he says. So he decided to focus on the WNBA, a league that could benefit more from the publicity. “The WNBA was really receptive,” says Dano. “Once we broke that ice, that validated things. We had one good partner, and they talked to their colleagues in the other leagues.” There are now about 40 WNBA players using the service, the most from any league. “Just about every player idea that we’ve gone to SportsBlog with, they’ve accepted and helped out with,” says WNBA Players Association director of operations, Pam Wheeler.

Out of the NCAA: June Courteau named coordinator of women’s basketball officiating

June Courteau has been named the NCAA’s national coordinator of women’s basketball officiating, bringing more than 45 years of officiating experience to the position.

“I have had the unique opportunity to work closely and learn from the last three national coordinators and am thrilled to be provided this great opportunity,” said Courteau. “Maintaining the momentum created by Anucha Browne at the national office on both the rules and officiating fronts is job one. The stakeholders in our game, including the rules committee, coaches, coordinators of officials and the officials themselves must continue to be heard and have buy-in towards these decisions. We continue to strive for a free flowing and up-tempo game.”

WATN? Lafayette women’s basketball staff adds Hall of Famer Theresa Grentz, former U.S. Olympic coach

“Passion, charisma, expertise and integrity are just a few adjectives describing coach Grentz,” Leopards head coach Dianne Nolan said in a news release. “I am very excited for our players, staff and the Lafayette community to interact with coach Grentz, as she shares her wealth of knowledge and experience.”

BTW: NBA Announces Major 9-Year TV Deal With ESPN, ABC, TNT: WNBA And NBA D-League Get New Contracts

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like a bunch of clueless, self-delusional, profoundly tone-deaf  dingbats.

The university changed its stance, granting Romero a release as a result of a newly modified policy that allows athletic director John Currie the freedom to release student-athletes if new information or circumstances warrant the release.

When we see one person standing in opposition to a large entity, passions can be easily inflamed as people empathize. It’s the mini versus the monolith.

But that’s even more the case when, no matter how hard you look, you can’t figure out what the monolith stands to gain by exercising its power. Ultimately, that’s why so many people were baffled and angered by Kansas State’s treatment of women’s basketball player Leticia Romero.

“I’m thrilled for Leticia — this is what she deserved all along,” Romero’s attorney Donald Jackson said Tuesday morning. “I think Kansas State made the right decision and we’re thrilled about it. Sometimes things like this take a little time, but I congratulate the athletic director and the board at K-State on the decision they made.
Dang, but don’t I love a little sarcastic, subtle gloating….
Moving to a happier place: Rookie Alert!!!
BOOM! McBride drops 30 and the winner.
Story of the Game: Both teams were insanely hot from outside in the first half, combining to hit the first 11 three-point shots attempted. There were under four minutes left in the half when Shameka Christon tossed up the first missed three of the evening. The star of the show amongst the floor-wide bombing was a former Notre Dame guard – but not the one who tends to get all the press. Kayla McBride was smoking hot from the perimeter, not afraid to put the ball on the floor to create easier looks, and even made a couple of nice passes along the way as well. This is why Dan Hughes took her #3 in the recent draft, ahead of players like Alyssa Thomas and Natasha Howard who might’ve filled a more obvious hole on his roster.

Moments after becoming the first WNBA player to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games, holding a bag of ice on the five stitches over her right eye, Lynx forward Maya Moore was making the point that it’s not all her.

“Of course they are going to see I scored 30, looking at the points,” said Moore, who had 30 points in just under 31 minutes in Saturday’s victory over the New York Liberty. “But my teammates do so much for me. It’s all a team aggression; I just try to set the tone in the beginning.’’

(how cranky am I? I’ll be in Minny for a conference and the Lynx are on the road. Who’s in charge of scheduling!)
In the “it’s about time” category: Braxton waived. So much talent, so determined to squander it….
If you wanna catch up on WNBA games, check out Richard at WNBAlien.
Connecticut’s Carl Ademac catches up with old OLD Big East foe Barnes Arico: Ex-Red Storm coach is all ‘Go Blue’ at Michigan
“The Midwest is terrific,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and the people in Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan have been so welcoming. The people in Michigan are all about the Block M and all about Michigan. I put on a Michigan t-shirt and go anywhere from California to Paris, France, somebody sees me and goes, ‘Go Blue.’ So it’s just the tradition and the pride, and to be able to work at a University that has all that is incredible. I’m loving it and enjoying it.
From the Sports Business Education Network: Muffet McGraw’s Keynote Address, “Women in Leadership
Speaking of leadership: Congrats to St. Francis’ third year head coach John Thurston as St. Francis Brooklyn women’s basketball team has been invited to the pre-season WNIT for the first time in program history.
In USA Basketball news, the U-18 team was announced. Check out Clay Kallam’s notes from the 17s and 18s tryouts.
Speaking of USA Basketball, from Anna Wilson: Red White and Dream Come True
Last year I was invited to participate in the USA U16 national team trials. Unfortunately, I was not selected to be a part of the team and missed out on the FIBA Americas U16 championship in Cancun, Mexico. This year I was invited back to Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for the USA U17 world championship team, and this time I had more experience and more confidence. And I made the team.
Q: Team USA, coached by Geno Auriemma, will look to retain the gold medal at the FIBA world championship for women Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. What is the process of reducing the current pool of players down to 12?
Interesting flashback from Emily Nkosi: Basketball, Jesus and young lesbian identity in Waco, Texas

“I will always worry about Emily.”

That is what coach Kim Mulkey said about me in her book, Won’t Back Down. Though this is not a flattering line to have your basketball coach write about you, I actually appreciate it. I have been worried about me too, and with good reason.

Things have not been easy for me over the past decade. I don’t think my struggle is particularly unique. We all have struggles. The clearer I get on my own pain, the more compassion and authenticity I have in relating to the world around me. I hope I can share parts of my story and my pain in a way that others can relate to and learn from. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s not about setting the record straight or telling my side of the story in my own words, but rather trying to excavate the hard earned nuggets of wisdom that, if shared, could help someone else avoid the same mistakes or feel less alone.

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And may I be this first (WHB blogger) to put in a request that Nashville host again… SOON! There’s just too much to see and do and I only have two feet and 24 hours in a day.

So, after a Holiday Inn breakfast that included bacon (!) and scrambled eggs (!) and biscuits (!), the rest of Monday morning was spent plotting and planning with two fellow basketball nuts. The brainstorming and opinionating was fast and furious (is there any better kind?) and we even managed to extract a couple of doable action steps. Watch this space for future actions in support of building women’s basketball attendance.

I then joined a small cohort of friends from the midwest and we *tried* to take in the Country Music Hall of Fame. There’s just too much stuff (and, said my Nashville friend, I didn’t push enough of the buttons). I’m not sure why I didn’t know about Bakersfield and the music business, nor why I didn’t connect the impact of the Dust Bowl on west coast music and filmmaking, but I’m glad that significant gap was filled.

Lunch/Dinner time followed at Jack’s barbecue (FOB Sue can now rest easy) ’cause that’s required dinning in Nashvegas. Love their potato salad…

Then came the games.

As always, it’s fun to see women’s basketball history walking the hallways of the (lovely) Bridgestone arena. Jody Conradt, Tina Charles, Lisa Leslie, Pokey Chatman, Lin Dunn, Andy Landers…. the list goes on. We watched the game next to the Best Uncle Ever – he brought his niece to the game as a present (she’d played basketball against TN’s Harrison, but softball is her love). A landscaper by trade, soccer coach by avocation, BUE had a great eye for spotting former players as they wandered by…

As for the games: I don’t know if it came across on TV, but there was a golden, glowing ball surrounding McBride. What a sight to see. It was not so fun watching Maryland’s matador defense in action nor their stationary offense. Que paso?

In the second game, Stanford came out confident and with a clear plan to slow the game down. And it worked beautifully, as Connecticut’s offense continued to stutter and start. But then that three rimmed out, and there was a missed layup, and before you knew it, I’m sure the phrase “patented Connecticut run” was being used by the game announcers. Unfortunately, having slowed down the game, the Cardinal couldn’t speed it up when they needed to catch up.

Highlights: The Firecrackers, a fabulous group of jump ropers, the marching band from local TSU, and Kiah Stokes – who was my “player on which the game turned” nominee. McBride’s performance was THE highlight, though.

We exited the arena into a drizzling rain (boo!) and hustled our way to the fancy, shmancy Omni for a post-game beverage and game dissection – only to find there were no late-night beverages available. Luckily, the staff was susceptible to my subtle NY charm and hangdog puppy face. Five minutes later we were sipping lovely martinis and leaning up next to a fireplace de-damping. Ahhhh….

Monday morning I put on my “yah, I’m on vacation, but I can do a little of my ‘real’ work if ya want.” Met friend Lattie to lead a session on questions and questioning with some fabulous teaching artists who work under the auspices of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Far too little time — and SO much fun to be with them — but Lattie did treat me to some yummy Asian fusion and a walk through the extraordinary Nashville Public Library. And I do mean extraordinary. A new building that fits it seamlessly with the surrounding architecture — it reads 1930s — it manages to be “classical” without dominating or overwhelming. Best of all, it has a PUPPET THEATRE!!!! The library has a tradition of puppetry – initiated by a gentleman to loved to use puppets to engage young children. The new library honored that tradition is a delightful way. I had a chance to meet the amazing puppeteers and see their exquisite puppets. Oh, to have seen their show String City: Nashville’s Tradition of Music and Puppetry.

Squeezed in another meeting of mind — this time “women’s basketball history” nuts. What a delight to meet FOB Ellyn and talk history and research and ethnography and Susan Cahn and oral history and… well, just talk history. What more could you ask? So, if anyone reading is a good grant writer – or just has some extra cash they’ve been wanting to invest in a great cause – this is what we want: $50,000 to help capture the oral histories of women’s basketball. (Sort of a “StoryCorps of Women’s Basketball.)” We want to take advantage of reporters or educators and their love of stories and say, “Here’s $250 – go spend a couple of hours with this person (perhaps an area/neighborhood person) and get them to talk about what it was like to play, organize, officiate, manage, advocate and legislate for women’s basketball.” We’d then have them upload it and have the interview magically transcribed and catalogued.” (About $250 an interview). Simple, no?

Oh – and all this plotting and planning happen in the exquisite Hermitage Hotel. A kind staff member  gave us a thirty-second tour, that turned in to a discussion of NCAA, unions, the women’s suffragette movement with, of course, a little women’s basketball history tossed in for good measure. Wheee!

The day continued with delicious food (are you noticing a recurring theme on this trip?) at City House in Germantown. Knowledgable and friendly staff, intriguing beverages, too much food (meaning, there was no room for desert! *sad face*) Since friend Lattie was our guide, we got to make another too-quick pass through another part of the oh, so impressive Centennial Park — I really liked the timeline.

We capped off the evening with a Nashville tradition: the Time Jumpers at Third and Lindsley. Wow. Just wow. And the verse they added to Henry Strzelecki’s Long Tall Texan? Priceless… Thanks Vince and company!

A quick look at the basketball news before turning out the lights made my head spin and my eyes go wide. When I randomly wondered if some reporter would be ridiculous enough to ask Geno and Muffet the “If you were driving and saw the other coach on the side of the road with a flat tire would you stop question” I was KIDDING. What on earth happened in the bowels of the Bridgestone during the off-day media circus?

Honestly, coach McGraw – hush, now. It’s about the players. Because What’s Happening Tonight in the Women’s NCAA Final Has Never Happened In Any Other Sport

 

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So, I’d posit that upsets in the Sweet Sixteen are less likely, especially if you’ve had upsets in the 32, simply because the disparity in talent (on the court – height and speed in particular) is still wonky in the women’s game. But, that didn’t stop Maryland and North Carolina. And BYU sure gave it a shot.

BYU was composed and confident and UConn was out of sorts in the first half but, eventually, the Huskies got their act together and dismissed the Cougars, 70-51.

The Terps looked as if they belonged and Alyssa was dominant. Tennessee was unimaginative on defense and single-minded on offense. The result? The #1 Vols go down, 73-62, and Maryland moves on.

The Carolinas engaged in a messy, physical game. The Gamecocks couldn’t pull it together in the last few minutes, and so the most questioned #1 seed goes home, and North Caroline keeps on dancin’.

While the Tar Heels battled, Stanford breezed. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas was stifled by a Cardinal team that was hitting on all cylinders. Chiney is the engine that’s making Stanford roar. Lions go down, 82-57.

Speaking of engines, Shoni demonstrated her growth over the last four years, playing with what Graham called “poise and efficiency.” (My friend Jeff LOVED being court side for the game, listening to Walz coach.) It also guaranteed her one more home game as Louisville overwhelmed a short-handed, but game, LSU, 73-47.

Live by the three, die by the three” met “We don’t take no stinkin’ threes” — but it was the Aggies defense that won them the game. DePaul’s high power offense never got going, and TAMU cruised, 84-65.

BTW: Kudos the the Nebraska faithful. They’ve turned out to support women’s basketball.

Saturday’s announced attendance for the two Sweet 16 games was 9,585, highest in this year’s NCAA women’s tournament. It obviously helps to have top-ranked Connecticut in town. Folks no doubt were curious to get a close look at the Huskies (A bit underwhelming Saturday, were they not?)

The strong attendance, though, also is a reflection of how well this state supports women’s basketball and women’s athletics in general, as Darnell Dickson points out in his Sunday column.

Baylor was not interested in making the game interesting and neither, it seemed, was Kentucky. Bears over the Wildcats, 90-72, and we get more chances to admire Sims in action.

Notre Dame put the pedal to the metal in the first half, and kept the Cowgirls corralled in the second, winning 89-72. The Irish are looking balanced and fierce.

Mechelle writes: Regional finalists truly elite group – Field includes ACC trio; seven of eight teams have won an NCAA title

Monday on ESPN (Elite Eight coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET), unbeaten Notre Dame and Connecticut will try to secure their tickets to Nashville. The Irish are seeking their fourth consecutive Final Four berth, UConn its seventh in a row.

Their challengers are both recent champions. At Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish take on No. 2 seed Baylor (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) in the only regional where the top two seeds made it to the final. The Lady Bears won the 2012 national championship, and were a good pick to repeat last year before being upset by Louisville.

The Huskies meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) in Lincoln, Neb. The Aggies won the 2011 title, but like Baylor the subsequent year, they did not beat UConn in the Final Four. In both 2011 and ’12, Notre Dame took out the Huskies in the national semifinals before falling in the final.

From Charlie:

Getting ahead: Previewing Baylor vs. Notre Dame

Only two teams with worse seeds won games in the Notre Dame Regional to this point, so it no surprise that No. 1 seed Notre Dame and second-seeded Baylor meet Monday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) with a trip to Nashville and the Final Four at stake.

The game features two great offenses, three of the best players in the country in Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd, and programs that have combined for five Final Fours appearances since 2010, including a meeting in the 2012 national championship game.

Here are five observations heading into what could be the most explosive of all the Elite Eight games:

More on the battle of the Gold and Green:

From the AP: Odyssey Sims tries to reach one last Final Four with Baylor Lady Bears

Chris Goff, Journal Gazette: Irish will test ways to control Baylor’s superstar and Irish fans will bid adieu to 3 seniors

Curt Rallo continues a theme: Notre Dame women’s team targets Baylor point guard

I think that (Sims) creates so many problems for you because when she attacks and gets in the lane, you focus on her, which is what a lot of people did last year with Skylar (Diggins),” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the problem is that you focus on her and you forget about the other people and they put themselves in great positions to score.”

Curt also mentions that Payback is low on Notre Dame’s priorities

Notre Dame is 0-4 all-time against Baylor, the team standing between the Irish and a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Bears, featuring 6-foot-8 national Player of the Year Brittney Griner, beat Notre Dame 80-61 in the 2012 national championship game. Then on Dec. 5, 2012, Baylor beat the Irish, 73-61, the last time Notre Dame has walked off its home court on the short side of the scoreboard.

Reaching the Final Four is the main task on Monday night, but the Irish are trying to channel the energy that a payback game provides into the right direction.

As UConn prepares for Texas A&M, Mechelle writes: Discipline key to UConn’s success

… this year isn’t the first time that a great Huskies team didn’t have all that much depth. It’s been the case before, and the hope of forcing UConn starters to the bench with foul trouble has been floated in the past. It’s a wish by opponents that almost never gets fulfilled.

The Huskies are trained very rigorously not to foul. That takes good athleticism, yes. But it’s just as much about playing smart and — you guessed it — being disciplined.

“The minute you smack somebody, all of your hard work is negated,” Auriemma said in regard to playing solid defense, only to end up sending a foe to the line with a mistake out of bad judgment or frustration. “After a while, they understand that, ‘If I want to stay in the game, I can’t foul.’

TAMU is hoping for for one magic night against undefeated UConn

“They’ve got five future WNBA first-round choices in their starting lineup. That’s how good they are,” Blair said Sunday. “But for 40 minutes Monday night, why not? Why not? … I like my team, I like our chances.”

There’s more (thanks Nan!):

Low anxiety: UConn women don’t feel Final Four pressure, Post
UConn women’s game day: Monday night vs. Texas A&M, Post
UConn Offers Glimpse Of Future As It Contemplates Present Vs. A&M, Courant
UConn vs. Texas A&M, Courant
Chris Dailey, Quizmaster, Keeps Team Engaged, Courant
UConn’s Jefferson, Texas A&M’s Jones excited to face off in Elite 8, Register
Texas A&M assistant Bob Starkey helped hand UConn its last loss in Elite 8, Register
UConn women face Texas A&M in Elite Eight tonight, Day
KML is keeping the art of shooting alive, Day
UConn to play A&M for a shot at the Final Four, Daily Campus
Perfect UConn looms in Elite 8, Texas A&M The Battalion
A&M looks to play the role of spoiler against 37-0 UConn, AggieSports.com
They’ve been known to do the impossible, but beating UConn will be tougher, AggieSports.com

Charlie is Looking ahead: Louisville vs. Maryland preview

Many felt Louisville was underseeded at No. 3 and now the Cardinals, after easily disposing of LSU on Sunday, have reached the precipice of a second straight Final Four anyway. On Tuesday, they get that chance at home at the KFC Yum! Center against No. 4 seed Maryland (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

The Terps, who haven’t been to the Final Four since winning a national championship in 2006, had little trouble with No. 1 seed Tennessee in their regional semifinal.

Here are five observations of the two teams in what sets up to be an evenly matched Elite Eight contest:

Check out espnW’s Elite Eight picks.

 

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Yes, I’ll admit it — I woke up, had a cup of coffee, and “Basketball Jones!” popped into my head.

Nate has 2014 his NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 predictions: DePaul, North Carolina, Texas A&M are teams to watch

While I previewed the Sweet 16 by looking at a few of the top WNBA prospects still playing, I threw out a few questions to other bloggers around SB Nation who cover women’s basketball. Today we begin with a set of questions I asked the writers who have been covering the tournament for Swish Appeal.

From Mechelle: Storylines abound in Sweet 16 – Regional semifinals tip off on ESPN at noon ET Saturday in the Notre Dame region

Graham is Previewing a very Sweet 16

Welcome to the tournament within the tournament, the roped-off section of the postseason club that is the Sweet 16.

Getting to the tournament in the first place is a big deal. Just as it’s not easy to get to base camp on Mount Everest, it’s not easy to get to the starting line of the NCAA tournament. And once there, it only gets more difficult with each step.

Reaching the second week, when the basketball summit really starts to come clearly into view, is a big deal.

Look at the math.

Wondering who the experts pick? Click here.

Lincoln Bracket: Mechelle’s got the Lincoln Regional breakdown

Yup. Hosting is a crap shoot – just ask Nebraska (or Chattanooga). They’re not playing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to bring it. Connie Yori went all Jody Conradt on us.

In 1985, when the Longhorns were hosting the Final Four, they were huge favorites. But, they were upset (even though that doesn’t happen in women’s basketball) on the way to the Championship. Down, but not out, Jody put all her efforts into getting folks out to the games — and notched the first F4 sell out.

Now it’s the Huskers’ turn: For good of NU, Yori hopes UConn draws big crowds and Why Connie Yori Wants NU Fans to Pack PBA

“Because UConn doesn’t play in the Midwest very often, so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to see perhaps the best women’s program of all time,” Yori said before adding: “This UConn team also might be one of the best, if not the best, college women’s team of all-time. They’re phenomenal. Nebraska fans wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like this when they can see one of the greatest teams of all time playing in their own backyard. You don’t have to go to the Final Four in Nashville. All you have to do is buy a ticket and head straight down to the Haymarket.”

So… About those games:

Huskies v. Cougars

Game day: No. 1 seed UConn women vs. No. 12 BYU,
BYU women at a glance
BYU looks to N.C. State men’s championship team for motivation vs. UConn
Cougars, 6-7 Jennifer Hamson Defy Odds Advancing To Meet Huskies
Cinderella story inspires Bailey, BYU

There are players who have to search the nation and scour the Internet to find the inspiration needed to lead their teams to improbable March Madness upsets.

Brigham Young junior forward Morgan Bailey did not have any such issues.

As luck would have it, her uncle is Thurl Bailey, one of the stars of a North Carolina State team which recorded perhaps the most improbable national championship run in college basketball history. While Thurl Bailey was not part of the Brigham Young traveling party to Lincoln for Saturday’s regional semifinals, he did reach out to his beloved niece.

Will BYU, Hamson block Huskies’ path?
Mike DiMauro: BYU’s approach against UConn women … on any given night
BYU women’s basketball team enjoying sudden attention in Sweet 16
Cougars embracing, relishing underdog role vs. top seed UConn

NCAA would change sked for BYU and BYU will attend Sunday press conferences, but not play or practice

Stewie is coming of age

She came bounding out of practice Friday, down the tunnel and through the curtain at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This is Stewie. Happy. Giddy. Dare we even suggest innocent?

This is Stewie. The same kid who exited the court for the final time this season at Gampel Pavilion earlier this week alongside Stefanie Dolson, saluting the crowd with the royal wave, the Queen of England in Nikes, the slight hand twist accompanied by the 50,000-watt smile.

This is Stewie.

Could this be the same kid her coach was yelling at earlier this season for being stubborn? Stubborn. Stewie? C’mon. This is Ms. Sunny Disposition. Stubborn?

Steven M. Sipple: Auriemma proves a master at his calling, Lincoln Journal Star

Oh, he retains plenty of fire. But he doesn’t allow a subpar game, or a subpar half, to send him off the rails like he might have done when he took over a foundering UConn program in 1985.

“You tend to view things more big-picture as opposed to reacting to what’s going on in front of you right now,” he said. “I think that helps the players, too, if you’re kind of like, ‘We’ll be all right. …'”

He also noted the importance of celebrating great plays and great games, but moving forward quickly.

Never too high, never too low.

He paused for a few seconds.

“That’s just the long way of saying I’m too old to give a damn about what’s going on, and I have no control over it,” he said with a chuckle.

Slideshow: Pursuit of Perfection, ESPN

Aggies v Blue Demons:

Texas A&M women prepare for DePaul sharpshooters

Texas A&M’s Gary Blair sounded more like a carnival barker than coach as he discussed his team’s matchup with DePaul on Saturday in the NCAA women’s regional semifinals.

“Our game against DePaul will be one of the most entertaining games you’ve ever seen,” Blair said, adding that it would be like a “ping-pong match.”

Aggies back in ‘flow,’ strive for Elite Eight

Texas A&M women’s basketball team feeling elite going into Sweet 16 matchup against DePaul

Texas A&M women’s basketball team learning from watching other teams

DePaul women’s basketball playing their ‘best ball of the season’ going into Sweet Sixteen

Going into their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2011, DePaul women’s basketball continues to feed off of the momentum from their upset win against Duke while preparing to play Texas A&M.

“The win (over Duke) was huge for our program…definitely a momentum-builder,” sophomore Chanise Jenkins said. “It gives us tons of confidence going into the next game.”

Senior Jasmine Penny said the win meant a lot to her. With no plans to play after graduation, Penny has no idea when she will play her final game as a Blue Demon.

“It seems like we’re always the underdog and it was so amazing to see us come out and fight the way we did,” Penny said.

DePaul women ride fast-paced offense into Sweet 16 – Doug Bruno’s run-and-gun style carries risk but has high reward

Bruno’s Blue Demons not just a run-and-gun team

With Rogowski’s shooting, DePaul aiming high

‘(Texas A&M) is a business trip’ said Coach Doug Bruno of DePaul women’s basketball

DePaul and Texas A&M Tangle on Saturday in the Sweet 16

CESSNA: With UConn at this regional, second place not so bad

It’s un-American to strive to be second best, but when the 64-team bracket for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament was unveiled, it was a given Connecticut would advance to the Final Flour from the Lincoln Regional.
The only thing left to settle was who would be second. It’s not a defeatist outlook — it’s reality.

Notre Dame Regional breakdown

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw can’t stand the idea of having regionals at home sites. It doesn’t make for a truly fair tournament, she says. She’s right.

But the way the Irish have played this season, the fact that Notre Dame is hosting a regional is hardly the reason they are favored to go to the Women’s Final Four again. Rather, it’s that this Irish team — despite the loss of Skylar Diggins — is an undefeated powerhouse no matter where it is playing.

Admittedly, so is that other former Big East giant on the other side of the bracket. While UConn travels to Lincoln, Neb., for what appears a not-very-challenging regional, Notre Dame is home, where the Irish have lost just two games over the past three seasons.

Irish v. Cowgirls:

Irish’s McGraw: Notre Dame has unfair advantage or  is it that Notre Dame enjoys “comfort zone” of home court advantage in NCAA tournament. Either way, Berry Tramel is grumpy about it.

Players know their roles for unbeaten Notre Dame women’s basketball team

Irish won’t settle; want to improve

Notre Dame excited to play Oklahoma State at home

Martin leads Cowgirls into Sweet 16

Oklahoma State’s Brittney Martin and her teammates are in the NCAA Sweet 16 but will have to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame on the Irish’s home court. Pretty tough assignment for the No. 5 seed, right?

Sure. But, hey, Martin is a pretty tough kid. She was only about a month into her first college basketball season when she got a tooth knocked out.

She dove for a loose ball against Stephen F. Austin in early December 2012. One of the SFA players lost her balance and fell on Martin, whose face went into the floor.

“The initial hit was not painful; it kind of felt like if you bend a piece of licorice, maybe,” Martin said. “Then I felt my mouth, and my teeth were in my hand. So …”

Martin then smiled and pointed to her mouth.

Expect Tiffany Bias back in Cowgirls’ lineup vs. Notre Dame – OSU arrived in Stillwater about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 8, Bias was in the training room getting treatment on an injured ankle.

Cowgirls have something to lose against Notre Dame

Bears v. Wildcats:

Five things to know about Baylor vs. Kentucky

Kentucky, Baylor set for rematch of 4-OT thriller

The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball.

Neither coach expects another four-overtime thriller today in the Sweet 16. Still, both are looking forward to another entertaining matchup with a berth in the regional finals on the line.

Kentucky, Baylor women on edge for rematch of December’s ‘instant classic’

Kentucky’s Goss’ quest for perfection paying off

Kentucky not sure it can slow Baylor scoring machine Sims

Homer’s The Odyssey was an epic adventure filled with twists and turns.

So is any attempt to guard Baylor’s Odyssey.

In the epic adventure that was Kentucky’s four-overtime victory over the Bears in December, the Cats threw four different defenders at Odyssey Sims.

Kentucky could have used about six more. In the losing effort, Baylor’s senior guard scored 47 points.

Another sweet season for Sims and Baylor women

Odyssey Sims and Baylor are having another sweet season.

The Lady Bears have made it to the third round of the NCAA women’s tournament for the sixth year in a row. But there are still surely plenty of people surprised to see them back in the Sweet 16 this year.

Baylor women’s basketball team tops list of No. 1s

Looking ahead?

Graham has the Louisville Regional breakdown

Michelle Smith has the Stanford Regional breakdown South Carolina is the top seed, but will Stanford rediscover its Maples magic?

She adds: Ruef used to juggling multiple roles – Stanford senior has started 33 of 34 games and worked as an engineering intern

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In the Southern, Chattanooga has returned to it traditional conference dominance.

Speaking of Southern, they’re atop the SWAC, but Texas Southern is lurking. Their first matchup went to OT and was a 2pt win for the Jaguars. Southern will host T.S. for their final conference game of the season. The Jags will have a chance to avenge their only in-confernce loss (Alcorn State) March 1st.

Hampton rules the MEAC and, though Coppin State put up a better fight the second time around, it doesn’t appear that anyone will threaten the Pirates. That being said, never underestimate the power of a rivalry (Hello, Howard?).

Yes, it’s slow climb to relevancy, and it is the NEC, but St. Francis (NY) took down traditional powerhouse St. Francis (PA), 90-76, to equal the program’s record for victories. The NEC leaders are the Robert Morris Colonials (which SF/NY took to double-overtime) with a multi-national team: Greece, France, Italy, Spain and the Democratic Republic of Congo are all represented on their roster.

The race to the finish in the MAC’s going to be fun: Central Michigan is 11-0 and Bowling Green is 10-1. The Chippewas gave the Falcons their only loss (at CMU, in OT, 82-79). They meet again Feb 19th.

Ditto with the MAAC. Iona is 13-1 (Rider!!?? – in OT) and Marist is 13-2 (losses to Iona and, rather surprisingly, Fairfield). They’ll close out conference play against each other on March 2nd.

How much is the ACC enjoying the addition of Notre Dame? The Irish are making mincemeat of their opponents and are perched confidently atop the conference. Coach McGraw’s win against Syracuse tied her with North Carolina State Kay Yow for 11th place in career wins (737-258).

Vroom! That’s the sound of James Madison racing to the top of the CAA. Don’t know that anyone else can put up with the Dukes.

Zap! That’s the sound of the Wichita State Shockers (11-0) taking control of the MVC. The Sycamores are in second place (still wonder what happened at Indiana State way back when) at 7-3.

The Danes rule the America East, but hello! Congrats to coach Magarity, who’s got New Hampshire in second.

I’m not sayin’ nuthin’ about the A10, ’cause it’s a hot mess: Flyers, Bonnies, Rams, Dukes…. sort it out folks!

Ditto with the Horizon!

Who knows what’s true in the Atlantic Sun. It’s the Hatters and the Eagles both with one conference loss, but Stetson’s was courtesy of FGCU (72-56). The Eagles lost to Northern Kentucky (8-3), 63-43.

The Eagles of Winthrop (12-3) are having a nice season, the result being they’re perched at #1 in the Big South.  They’ll meet High Point (11-3) again Feb. 27th, where the Panthers will try and exact some measure of revenge for their earlier 79-72  loss.

Typical C-USA, even with newcomer MTSU: It’s the Blue Raiders, East Carolina, UTEP and Tulane beating each other up.

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Don’t be fooled by the final score — ’cause you know coach McCallie can’t be pleased that the Great Danes were UP on Duke during a hunk of the first half.

Syracuse’s Sykes likes to score. Let’s see how the Orange handle St. Joe’s, ASU and NC State.

Speaking of NC State (Moore’s Wolfpack best kept secret in Triangle) : Down goes #12 LSU.

N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

UNLV over Clemson. That’s got to be a frustrating loss for the Tigers.

Almost. Readers of this blog are familiar with the Winthrop Eagles. #10 South Carolina is REALLY familiar, having had to fight tooth and nail to escape with a 8-point win. Perhaps they had a Tar Heel hangover?

Oh, those in-state rivalries! Missouri State (3-6) took down Missouri (10-2), 67-53.

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Ole Miss this season, mostly because of their new head coach, Matt Insell. Their game against Sims… I mean, Baylor, has made me put both eyes on the team.

Speaking of  coaches — how much does 0-9 Prairie View miss Cynthia Cooper.

Speaking of Coop, it ain’t all wine and roses in USC land. The Trojans fall to the buzz-saw that is Saint Mary’s second half, 71-55.

Loss numero uno for UTEP, as their trip to Puerto Rico pitted them against Georgia Tech.

More baby steps for San Francisco – a nice away win over traditionally strong Fresno State.

Yes, they have a gaudy 10-1 record, but 4-5 Pacific kept within 7 of Florida State.

Today, Mechelle and Michelle recognized that #3 Tennessee To Be Tested by #6 Stanford  – as will a series of undefeated folks. Ellitot Almond has some more on the game and Steve Megargee adds:

After playing just one ranked opponent in their first 10 games, the Lady Vols will face their toughest test of the season thus far Saturday when they travel to No. 6 Stanford (9-1). Tennessee has lost its last two games in this series by double digits and hasn’t won at Stanford since 2005.

“It would be great to get a ‘W’ to break that drought, but also just to show the rest of the country that we mean business,” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tom FitzGerald at the SFGate thinks the Stanford women have tall task against Vols

When your goal is the national championship, any slipup hurts. The sixth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team has already flunked one big test, losing at No. 1 UConn by 19 points. Now it faces another.

The Cardinal (9-1) play No. 3 Tennessee at Maples Pavilion Saturday, and the battle on the boards should be ferocious.

A player who expects to be featured in that battle finds time to blog: A lot to celebrate for Nerd Nation 

Last week I was either living in the library or hibernating in my room. The short time I did sleep, I dreamt about school. Four long papers and three tests later, my brain is officially fried … I have survived finals week!

It is always a challenge for us student-athletes to balance sports and school. But it is a challenge we readily accept. Nonetheless, I am glad it’s over. While most students go home for Christmas break, we prepare for (as Coach Tara says) our basketball final.

#11 Colorado (9-0) v. #7 Louisville: UofL women’s basketball players talk Slaughter, Buffalo revenge and Louisville women’s next test is unbeaten No. 11 Colorado

Because any suspense over the outcomes was cast aside not long after tipoff, there’s only been one question for observers of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team the past four games: Can the Cardinals reach 100 points?

U of L has been batting .500 in that regard, posting totals of 91, 99, 108 and 105 points and averaging a 49-point margin of victory over four midmajor opponents.

#13 Oklahoma State (9-0) v. Georgia Tech.

When Rutgers goes up against 11-0 Georgia, they are  seeking a “quality victory.”

Heading into the highlight of its nonconference schedule this afternoon against 11-0 and 16th-ranked Georgia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is 8-2 against a schedule that some have labeled soft.

There is some plausibility to that statement, what with lopsided wins over Northeastern, Howard, Davidson and Wagner on the resume, but the schedule Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer has embarked on has largely been by design in an effort to get this young team some confidence and momentum.

With the schedule it has played, is Rutgers prepared to step up in class against the Bulldogs?

Rick Nixon at the NCAA.com wonders: Good scheduling or for real? How will surprising unbeatens fare in conference play?

Being an undefeated team in late December sometimes comes with a footnote. While an 11-0 start for Connecticut is expected, others like Arkansas, Indiana, UTEP, Colorado and San Diego standing undefeated at this point of the season merits attention, and also speculation on how these teams will fare once conference play tips.

Arkansas, now 11-0, has won 20 consecutive non-conference games during the past two seasons. In fact, Razorbacks head coach Tom Collen has built a 90-21 all-time record in non-conference play in seven seasons. Since 1982, Arkansas is 199-14 in non-conference games. The Razorbacks, which will play 10 of the 13 non-conference games at home, have two non-conference games remaining this season withTennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State both visiting Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. A home win against Middle Tennessee State and a road victory at Kansas rate as Arkansas’ top wins over the first month-plus. On Jan. 2, South Carolina will pay a visit to Fayetteville to signal the start of Southeastern Conference play.

Congrats to coach McGraw, who will be inducted into Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m sure she’s not looking ahead as her Notre Dame crew will face the always stubborn Chippewas, though CMU is not as strong as they have been the past few years.

Cool news for when #5 Kentucky (11-0) goes up against #2 Duke: Rupp Arena sold out. Which leads Mark Story to ask: If Kentucky-Duke women fill Rupp, is it time for UK Hoops to play more games there?

On the other side of the spectrum: BYU women’s basketball: The magical, but unseen season

Lying in the shadows of a nationally recognized football program and the high octane offense of an exciting men’s basketball team, the BYU women’s basketball team is quietly making their way into the years’ best BYU team with an extremely impressive start. Through ten games the Lady Cougars have lost only one game and yet continue to play to crowds that are closer to 500 than 1000. With a little more support from the fans, could this special season turn magical?

From the Miami Herald: UM’s Krystal Saunders stays strong for women’s basketball team despite family tragedy

It has not been the senior season University of Miami guard Krystal Saunders envisioned, and the past five months certainly have tested her mettle.

Saunders’ troubles began before the season started. In July, she was involved in a serious car accident while riding with three teammates to visit her mother’s Broward home in West Park. Saunders sustained a concussion and injuries to her neck and back.

It looks at first glance like one of college basketball’s more unlikely friendships, so of course it has improbable origins.

The connection between Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale and Marist’s Brian Giorgis brings together programs from different parts of the basketball strata Saturday in Poughkeepsie. It is a partnership that ought to be a model for moving the game forward, one of the sport’s biggest programs willing to go on the road to play one of the most successful small programs. Even if in this particular case, the roots of the series stretch all the way back to a field goal missed nearly five decades ago.

That part might be tricky to replicate.

Somewhat related, the APs John Marshall offers this: Arizona State to retire Becenti’s number

In the sacred Navajo hoop dance, performers bounce and hop as they whirl hoops around their arms and bodies, a ritual honoring the circle of life.

For Ryneldi Becenti, a smaller hoop within that greater circle helped guide her life.

Whether it was a rusted rim tacked to a tree or iron attached to glass under the bright lights of a WNBA arena, watching a ball go through an 18-inch hoop held sway over Becenti, bringing her closer to her deceased mother, making her a role model for her people, taking her from the reservation around the world and back again.

“It is in my blood,” Becenti said. “I slept, ate and drank basketball. It was all I had.” 

A little WNBA news from Doug: Delle Donne stays in Chicago for winter

Whether working basketball clinics, meeting with business leaders or just showing her face around town, Delle Donne is making the most of her time in the Windy City.

“It definitely has been a huge chance to help get the word out about the team and the league,” Delle Donne said. “They see me and being 6-foot-5, they are like who’s this athletic tall girl at these business meetings. They want to follow us next year. It’s important to have our faces out there so they can get excited about it.”

Michelle Smith straddles the W and the NCAA with her piece on Nicole Powell: WNBA veteran, former Stanford star finding her niche on Gonzaga sideline

Nicole Powell stood on the court in front of the visitors’ bench in Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the screen above center court and smiled widely as the strains of the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme boomed through the speakers.

The video highlights showed a young Powell, wearing her trademark headband, etching her spot in the Stanford women’s basketball record books as a three-time All-American.

When it was done, and the Stanford fans stood and applauded, it was time to get down to business. For Powell, that meant coaching the opposing team.

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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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(Is that the laziest, over-used, faux adjective of the 20-teens or what!?!?!), it’s just that when I look at the Dream’s 10-1 record, I’m not impressed. Yes, Angel IS On Fire, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s July 9th (ESPN2, 8pm and, Hello .com, the link to Ticketscalper doesn’t work) that I have circled on my schedule. ’cause until then, I still have Chicago (they who stomped the Sparks without a dinged up Syl) and Minnesota (they who also stomped the Sparks, but tomorrow ought to be interesting)  in a very entertaining Finals.

San Antonio reeeeeeally needs to get their team healthy. As do the Fever.

Seattle reeeeeally has to think about who they want to take with the first pick. Though I would agree with this: KeyArena: the WNBA’s best venue

Okay, so maybe Corey’s seat is not so toasty any more. Ah, the taste of victory. And the arrival on court of an Aussie. And the help of NBA friends saying “What the frack are you running?” CT Post’s Kevin Duffy writes: Griner’s time coming, but Saturday belonged to Taurasi

In 2006, Taurasi averaged 25.3 points per contest, the first of her five scoring titles. The following year, she made her playoff debut, guiding the Mercury to the WNBA title. In doing so, she became the seventh player in history to capture championships at the collegiate, professional and Olympic level.

At the time, Griner was in her second year of organized basketball. And she was already the subject of her first Sports Illustrated article.

“(Taurasi) has seen and done it all,” Griner said before Saturday night’s game at Mohegan Sun. “It just makes it easier when you come in and have a leader like that on the court.”

It does, especially when the leader shoots fadeaways off one foot, hits cutters with no-look passes and dominates a pro game with a casual offensive flair you’d expect to see in pick-up.

Hey, Van and Mike are now tied!

Speaking of the (almost) past: From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Thompson’s long ride about to end

Daily vitamins have helped.

So has a healthy diet and a relentless fitness regimen.

But the seemingly ageless Tina Thompson is still 38, no matter how many times she denies herself fast-food French fries. In WNBA time, or by any standards for a professional athlete, that’s pretty old.

What hasn’t gotten old is Thompson’s game, which is why the announcement of her retirement at the end of this season is sad for the WNBA, even though, at the same time, it is completely understandable and somewhat expected.

Speaking of the immediate future, I’m sure tired of the “Three to See,” aren’t you? I mean, what GOOD is it doing? Fan Interest In Rookies Leads The WNBA To Unprecedented Viewership Numbers.

Oh. Never mind!

Speaking of “Oh, never mind,” John at the Courant mines familiar territory: WNBA Roster Size A Problem For Connecticut Sun and Opponents.

Yes, I realize it’s a money issue. (Do the math: 12 teams. $100,000 per team. Approx $1 million from ESPN. It doesn’t add up) And I guess you can’t find players on the road to help you (I mean, ’cause why would you organize this across the league? ’cause it would make too much sense?). But I’ve said this before and I’ve said it again: are you looking for bodies or for actual talent? ’cause there’s a reason the starters +1/2 play all the minutes: the pool of talent isn’t that deep.

If young (or medium young) players want to play in the W and get cut.. do they deserve to be dragged across the country, not playing, maybe not working on their game.. just because you need a body to practice against? Or, because the players want 24 more people to get jobs (therefore not putting the pressure on THEM to perform and survive?)? Or should they, just like officials do, pay for their own professional development and earn a place on the roster?

This is cool!” Staten Island Ballers girls shoot to donate 10,000 basketballs

“We’re hearing the average player doesn’t have a basketball,” said Pete Lisi Jr., owner of Staten Island Paramount, the league’s biggest sponsor. “They can’t play on their own. They can’t practice on their own. One of the missions of the organization is to distribute basketballs to the youth of Staten Island.”

Looking forward to next “$20 if you can name all the teams in the Conference” college basketball season? Notre Dame is: Balanced powers await Irish women

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw has enjoyed the view of the Atlantic Coast Conference the past two seasons.
 
That view has been from the top of a ladder as McGraw was cutting down nets to celebrate the Irish advancing to the Final Four.
Seung Lee tries to stir up a little outrage, and then seems to agree with the number: Power Rankings: No. 5 women’s basketball

The fact that the Cal women’s basketball team, fresh off its first Final Four appearance, is only No. 5 in the power ranking is, personally, hogwash.

Upon further introspection, however, I do think the Bears landing No. 5 is fairer than it seems at face value for two reasons. First, it is just a testament to how successful 2013 was to Cal athletics as a whole. Second, the graduation of the seniors leaves the team thinner and more unknown, making it hard to gauge its potential.

Some coaching spots filled:

Katarski Named Seton Hill Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Packard Chosen to Lead TU Women’s Basketball Program (Those of us who follow coach Packard know she suffered a horrible loss recently. Hopefully this will be a healthy outlet for her and her family.)

Jessica Mannetti named Sacred Heart Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Another secured: Stewart shows faith in Heard with proposed raise

A little WATN? (Even though they added an “s” to her name, Yo can’t hide from us!) Lafayette hired ex-WNBA star Griffiths

Laura Keeley at the News Observer thinks Collegiate women’s basketball is at a crossroads

There was another notable conclusion from Ackerman’s work: there is a tremendous appetite for change.

And that thought was echoed locally.

“What’s happening, it’s really a welcome thing,” said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie. “I don’t want it to stall in any way.”

The NCAA began to act on the Ackerman report this week. The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee announced it will immediately allow regional host institutions to play on their home courts, which was among the suggestions contained in the report.

BTW: For Women’s Coaches, Time No Longer Freezes in Summer

Suzie McConnell-Serio, the new women’s basketball coach at Pittsburgh, was excited to get a jump on the season.

Because of a new N.C.A.A. rule, she does not have to wait until the fall to get a chance to work with her team. Coaches are now allowed to work out with their players for eight hours a week — including two on the court — if the athletes are enrolled in summer school or have met certain academic benchmarks.

The rule took effect for men last summer. In the past, teams could work out with coaches in the summer only if the team was taking a foreign trip.

In International news, ‘ware the Turks! Turkey’s ‘basket fairies’ clinch bronze medal at Eurobasket

Turkish women’s basketball confirmed expectations, as the national team won the bronze medal at the FIBA European Championships held in France, dominating Serbia 92-71 in yesterday’s game.

Go Guam! Guam finishes strong to win gold medal

Happy Trails To You? WNBA star open to visit Manila

WNBA guard Kara Lawson said the other day she’s agreeable to visit Manila someday and encourage girls to play basketball in showing by example how it can lead to a career.

From USA Basketball: ‘ware, World, the US Hoop(eristsa)s are coming! (USA vs Mali  – July 8, 2013 @ 12:30 pm ET) A little Shoni. A little Hooper. And some more: Hooper overcomes anxiety, set to play on World Games team

“She kind of just blended in with everybody else at the beginning,” Coale said. “That happens a lot of the time due to nerves. Kids just aren’t comfortable with the situation. But Jordan did assert herself more and more, and she had a really good last day. She was very aggressive and has been ever since.

“We knew she could really shoot it and she was versatile. At Oklahoma, we refer to her kind of player as a ‘long, tall shooter.’ She’s just been fantastic for us.”

Next up in Colorado? The U19ers.

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