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Speaking of the Final Four, from the NCAA (who can borrow my copy editor any time they want): Final Four rousing success – Title-game ratings highest since UConn, Tennesee (sic) in 2004

’cause it’s never too early to start talking about next season: Baylor planning for another perfect run

’cause there are still basketball tournaments goin’ on: Bianca Cuevas of Nazareth Regional HS and Exodus AAU team serves as face of the Rose Classic basketball tournament – Tournament officially begins next week

Following in the footsteps of such players as Prince — now playing overseas — and Prahalis — likely on her way to the WNBA — Cuevas, a sophomore at Nazareth Regional HS, has taken over as the torchbearer for the Classic, one of the most popular tournaments in the country for high school and AAU teams.

Riquna “BayBay” Williams shut down all her social media accounts for the time being and is not checking any women’s basketball sites on the Internet. The WNBA Draft is April 16, and Williams, the University of Miami senior guard, would rather not know what people are saying.

She realizes there might be questions out there after the school suspended her from the first two games of the NCAA Tournament for “behavior detrimental to the team.” Neither she nor coach Katie Meier have elaborated on what happened. Williams said it doesn’t help to think or talk about the past.

She’s a WNBA champion, but did you know this: : How I Found DonorsChoose

It was 2011 and it was the lowest point in my career; I was a WNBA All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist, but ACL surgery had stolen my body. In the midst of trying to get it back, I was forced to have an emergency hysterectomy. I didn’t make the world championship team. My father was diagnosed with MS. We missed the playoffs (again). Mentally and physically, I was struggling.

It was in my exit meeting that my Minnesota Lynx coach, Cheryl Reeves, challenged me: “What do you want your legacy to be?”

Speaking of the WNBA, Nate’s letting no moss grow anywhere as he has his 2012 WNBA Draft Prospects: Natalie Novosel & Evaluating Shooting Guard Statistics <

Hoopfeed has a new podcast that might offer insight into prospects: Dishin & Swishin 4/05/12 : WNBA coaches Agler, Kloppenburg & House break down the NCAA championship game.

This headline over at Swish Appeal made me laugh: Kim Mulkey, 2012 National Champions: “Well, you know at Baylor, they used to not let the Baptists dance. I bet they’re dancing now!”  At the Final Four, I sat in front of a newbie to basketball Baylor fan. She was very cute and wonderfully enthusiastic. She was joined by a friend on Tues, who then made the comment of the tourney during a timeout when the Bayor band/cheerleaders/dance team were performing: “I never thought I’d see Baylor girls dancing like that!”

Speaking of winning and Griner and the Olympics: Lisa Leslie says Brittney Griner deserves to be on the Olympic Roster

Speaking of the Olympics, regular readers of the blog will be pleased to know this: Jo Leedham from Little Sutton gets call for Olympic training

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on the Baylor win. Some of it fabulous, some of it not so.

The fabulous:

John Henderson at the Denver Post: Baylor beats Notre Dame to win title with 40-0 season

Debates will rage in women’s college basketball circles about the greatest women’s team in history. The 2012 Baylor edition will definitely be in the discussion. But there’s no debate over the winningest college team, period, men’s or women’s.

Woody Paige, also at the Post: Baylor Lady Bears do their best work in triplicate

Odyssey, Destiny and Brittney — seems like the title of an epic Greek poem by Homer, or the main characters in a classic French novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Odyssey, Destiny and Brittney, in reality, are the Three Bears who led Baylor on an extraordinary, unparalleled fairy-tale adventure in college basketball.

From Jerome Solomon at the Houston Chronicle: Baylor’s title win a perfect ending

Her face drooping uncontrollably, ears ringing uncomfortably and eyes blood-red from the Bell’s palsy she has battled the last week, Kim Mulkeywas as animated as ever on the Baylor bench. Or rather near it.

The Baylor women’s basketball coach never sat down. She never does. Not while is she is working.

Her team plays like she coaches.

From Christopher Dempsey at the Denver Post: Foul trouble, lack of size doomed Notre Dame in loss to Baylor

Notre Dame’s breaking point came eerily — and excruciatingly for the Fighting Irish — at nearly the same time that it did a year ago.

Last year, as Notre Dame famously emphasized in recent days, it collapsed starting at the 15:52 mark in the second half against Texas A&M. It cost the Fighting Irish the national title.

This season, the erosion began at 15:27 on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

From Curt at the South Bend Tribune: Griner, Baylor too much for Irish

It was never a question of heart.

Notre Dame‘s women’s basketball team had that throughout Tuesday night’s national championship game against Baylor.

But the Fighting Irish didn’t have an answer for Baylor’s 6-foot-8 consensus player of the year, Brittney Griner.

Al Lesar adds: Hard not to hurt for Novosel

Frustration, thy name is Natalie Novosel.

Great career. Amazing season. Nightmare finish.

From K Pritle at the Lariat & New York Times: For Baylor, Business Is Finished

The Baylor Lady Bears took care of what they referred to as “unfinished business” when they defeated Notre Dame, 80-61, on Tuesday night.

“Now you can see we did something,” sophomore Odyssey Sims said.

Baylor is the first team in N.C.A.A. Division I history to finish the season with 40 victories, doing it with the top R.P.I. in the nation.

Jere’ at the Times has Griner Joins the Greats of the Game

On Tuesday, Griner delivered 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, hitting 8 of her 9 shots in the decisive second half. With a title came a Rushmorean legitimacy, confirmation that Griner in her junior season had joined Nancy Lieberman, Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker as the college game’s greats.

Certainly, Griner is the most disruptive player ever at the defensive end, with a wingspan that stretches to 7-4.

The unfabulous can be read in the unmonitored comments and anonymous tweets that follow Griner, full of stupidity, small-mindedness and the special kind of cruelty that’s called bullying. I find myself calling people out and confronting their meanspiritedness, however useless that sometimes seems.

But the silence of the crowd is what a bully counts on. By being silent, I, the WBCA, the NCAA, college coaches and their institutions and ESPN (for their non-monitored message board) are complicit.

So, I guess the question is, “What next?” Do we ask universities and colleges to adopt an anti-bullying Bill of Rights?

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So get out the popcorn (or those lime flavored chips I’m suddenly addicted to…).

Graham preps viewers for the Louisville/ND game at 2pmEST (ESPN/espn3) (have the Irish recovered? It was a long lay off. And a return to the area for Novosel.) as Hoops Across America: They’re crazy about the Cardinals

The player the home fans came to see sprints downs the court, ball in hand, during the opening minute of Louisville’s game against Big East rival Connecticut. Calmly, almost casually, the point guard freezes retreating defenders with a no-look pass that lands in the hands of a teammate waiting open at the basket.

Energized by the same showmanship that left the defense on its heels, most of the 16,483 fans rise to their feet. Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson is standing by his front-row seat and leading the cheers.

It’s a scene that has played out in one form or another hundreds of times in this city, a place that ranks near the top of any list of the most basketball-mad major American cities without an NBA team.

The guard in this case was Shoni Schimmel, the newest star of the Louisville women’s basketball team, but it hardly seems to matter. Cardinals are Cardinals.

(Thanks for the accurate history lesson, Graham. You know how I love reminding folks that women’s basketball was played (and popular) moments after the men started playing in 1891.)

Graham also takes time to note (oh, and the fab shot of the Johnnies is back on the front page): Upsets prove anything is possible

St. John’s puts the exclamation point on a wild week

Doubt is a dangerous thing for an athlete. It’s a great thing for fans of a sport.

And doubt is suddenly easier to find than discounted Valentine’s chocolate.

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about the one that got away courtesy of a furious Notre Dame comeback capped off by a buzz-beating (?) shot by Natalie Novosel.

Sugar sighting as #21 Georgetown took down #10 Georgia for the first time in program history.

Speaking of program wins, #800 for #4 TAMU was against Iowa, 74-58.

#13 Rutgers squeezed out a win over Arizona, 59-52.

It was an even squeezier win for #22 Texas over an intriguing Cal team, 61-6o.

Vandy enjoyed Thanksgiving at home and got a win to boot — 78-66 over #12 Oklahoma.

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the WNIT starts. Check out the teams and the match-ups. Some good ones happening.

Graham says, Sophs could be key to UConn’s season – Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson should help Huskies move on in post-Maya Moore era

But if the juniors and seniors are largely known quantities and there is a limit as to what can be reasonably expected of Mosqueda-Lewis and the rest of a freshman class that includes post presence Kiah Stokes and gifted scoring guard Brianna Banks, the difference between a very good season and one that ends at the Final Four in Denver is whether or not Hartley and Dolson can translate their freshman potential into sophomore success.

At Connecticut’s media day earlier this fall, Auriemma was asked about Hartley playing off the ball in practice after she played mostly point guard as a freshman for a team that was without an injured Doty.

“She played off the ball, all right,” Auriemma quipped of her practice performance. “She played the ball off people’s heads, she played it off the corner pocket, she played it off everywhere.

Graham has more Big East stuff: Twin plays big part of Novosel success – Brother Nathan helped Notre Dame star get through sophomore struggle

Twins Natalie and Nathan Novosel might well finish their senior seasons sharing a unique bond as champions and All-Americans on the basketball court. The more important bond, the one that made it possible, is one familiar the world over.

It’s nice to have someone who knows what you’re going through. It’s sometimes better to have someone who simply knows you.

And for what it’s worth, if you don’t have to share a car with that person, that would be swell.

Mechelle writes about SEC land: Seniors have unfinished business – Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson still seek their first

Johnson, a cerebral type, is a fan of author William Faulkner. She couldn’t have guessed — after staying in town after a prep career at Webb School in Knoxville, Tenn. — that she would experience enough high and lows in college to make for a suitable Faulkner novel.

“On the floor, you know you can only change things you can control,” Johnson said of what she has learned. “If you can’t control it, you have to play through it. Whatever the case, just try to do your best. And that applies off the court, too.

“I’ll take that along with me when I leave here, through my career, when I’m married, when I have a family.”

Over at espnW the Gators look to raise their game and in the Big 10 (are they the Big 10 still? I’ve lost track) the question is Can Prahalis keep OSU on top?

Don’t forget the Stanford stuff: Stanford quartet takes chance with voices

And now that we’re over at the W, a couple of side-topics that you might be interested in: FIFA must stand up for gay rights

Just before the start of the World Cup, a New York Times article exposed Uche’s troubling stance on homosexuality. She told the Times she has used religion to try to rid her team of homosexuality, and in the past she has called the presence of lesbians on her team a “worrisome experience” and labeled homosexuality a “dirty issue.”

“The issue of lesbianism is common,” Uche told the paper in June. “I came to realize it is not a physical battle; we need divine intervention in order to control and curb it. I tell you it worked for us. This is a thing of the past. It is never mentioned.”

Uche’s comments caught the eye of AllOut.org, an international group dedicated to the promotion and protection of LGBT rights. AllOut organized a flash-mob protest during the World Cup semifinal match in Frankfurt on July 13, hoping to encourage FIFA to better enforce its policies on discrimination. There was a great deal of media coverage leading up to the protest, which coincided with FIFA’s annual anti-discrimination day.

For those of us who grew up playing field hockey: Rachel Dawson meditates on stunning win

U.S. field hockey midfielder Rachel Dawson, a 2008 Olympian, is blogging for espnW throughout the Pan Am Games. On Friday, the U.S. team shocked world champion Argentina, winning gold and earning a berth in next year’s Olympic Games.

And, remember the push to put basketball players in skirts because it would bring more fans by making the players “seem more feminine.” Yup, there is more idiocy afoot! Skirting the issue: boxing’s step backward

Last week, the story broke about the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) asking its female competitors to abide by a new dress code. The AIBA called for the women of boxing to drop traditional knee-length shorts and don skirts inside the ring.

The reason? The AIBA believes it will help spectators to distinguish women from men. That, and as Polish coach Leszek Piotrowski, who made the skirt suggestion mandatory for the Polish team, put it: “By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression. Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress.”

Where are Laila Ali and Vonda Ward when ya need’em?

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