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Something that might be said to the Kentucky-Baylor teams (43 Turnovers! ) and all those who have already conceded the 2015 championship to UConn (Hello, Tree!)

Let’s just spit it out before either of these Hall of Fame coaches can say it first: “It’s only November.”

While real statements aren’t made until April, Stanford still said something rather important in its wholly unexpected 88-86 upset of top-ranked Connecticut in overtime at Maples Pavilion on Monday.

Stanford opened the season with a new offense and a new identity. But different can be very good, both for the sixth-ranked Cardinal and maybe for the landscape of an entire sport.

*no pressure*

Other things that caught my eye…

LSU barely surviving Jackson State. (62 total turnovers! 52pts in OT!)

University of Texas Pan American scaring the you-know-what off of (too highly ranked) Texas A&M.

Gonzaga spotted (too highly ranked) Dayton an 11-point halftime lead, and then exploded in the second half for the 75-65 win (new head coach Lisa Fortier‘s first).

Did I not tell you? Albany over Penn State, 54-53.

Ok, Central Michigan – are you going to have a tougher year than folks predicted or is the UMass team going to surprise some folks?

Eastern Michigan kept #14 Michigan State  honest.

Eyes on Seton Hall, as they keep Carey’s Mountaineers honest – #17 West Virginia escapes with an 89-87 win and moves into the semifinals of the WNIT against Mississippi State.

So, Middle Tennessee loses to Arizona State and then defeats Miami. Interesting.

FWIW, the Roadrunners took down Arizona. Look out, WAC.

No, it’s not time to start OT tracking… yet… but Vandy did need OT to take down Green Bay…

…and the Toppers used OT to defeat Colorado 79-78. Is this season about the continued rebirth of the Western Kentucky program? They’re playing in the WNIT and Albany is next up.

Richmond defeats Georgetown and moves to 2-0.

Hello, Sacred Heart! (Down go the Gaels!)

Hello, Delaware! – though Bell is gone. (Down go the Red Foxes!)

Debbie is happy: Ohio State 113, St. Francis (PA) 97.

Princeton laying waste to Pennsylvanian teams.

Hmmm…. watch out for Long Beach this year – they take down San Diego State.

I’m noticing Winthrop and High Point have early season losses… and the Fightin’ Camels do not.

North Carolina tarred the (too highly ranked) UCLA Bruins.

Yah, USA Today/Coaches poll gets the benefit of a day… but why on earth was JMU not ranked in the AP poll?

What do Dallas, Columbus, New Orleans and Tampa Bay have in common?

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Irish. NICE call out to Indiana Pacers’s Lance “do you mind if I blow in your ear?” Stephenson.

The ’49ers go under the bucket – and step up with what must be youngest participant so far….And Jay Bilas, you have been called, dude!

OU Softball’s Patty Gasso is in it to win it…. twice! (I pity the fool….)

Check out the other videos on twitter.

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A Saturday of…

Ugly

#1 Tennessee over #16 Northwestern State, 70-46

Urus Iff-iffish

#2 Baylor over #15 Western Kentucky, 87-74

Upset

#9 Arizona State over #8 Vanderbilt, 69-61

#10 Florida State over #7 Iowa State, 55-44.

Unsurprising Upset

#12 BYU over #NC State, 72-57.

Unbelievable!

#7 DePaul over #10 Oklahoma, 104-100.

#8 St. John’s over #9 USC

Under the Gun

#7 California over #10 Fordham, 64-63.

#5 Oklahoma State over #12 FGCU, 61-60 OT

Uno, but Upsetting

#6 Syracuse over #11 Chattanooga, 59-53.

Unconcerned

#4 Purdue over #13 Akron, 84-55

#4 Nebraska over #13 Fresno State, 74-36.

#2 Duke over #14 Winthrop, 87-45.

#2 Stanford over #15 South Dakota, 81-62.

#3 Kentucky over #14 Wright State, 106-60.

#1 Notre Dame over #16 Robert Morris, 93-42.

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but I’d rather there be some facts to back it up (and maybe some action steps?).

Sally Jenkins — who has, in the past, sent over some kind words to the blog (and may now want to retract them) — offers up her piece Women’s basketball needs to work to earn an audience and it’s full of finger pointing, but little substance.

1) Why is Jenkins perpetuating the myth that women’s basketball was “elegant” and suddenly has become physical. Which Lady Vols games was she watching? As Coach Summitt says, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.” Oh, now, I’m not saying the game can’t get overly physical (btw, not a uniquely female issue), BUT let’s not pretend there was a “golden age” of non-physical women’s basketball — unless you REALLY want to go back to the “golden age” of no dribbling.

2) It’s “scandalous” that scoring has dropped by 8pts and shooting percentages have dropped? What’s scandalous is there’s no attempt to identify the WHY of that. Maybe women just can’t shoot. Maybe it’s AAU’s fault. Or High School coaches’ fault. Or maybe women are now coached to play both sides of the ball….you know, it’s called DEFENSE? (BTW, if you do some research, you’ll see there are similar issues on the men’s side.)

3) Oooo, this is an oldie but goodie: It’s the OFFICIALS’ fault! What is new is that Jenkins is upset they DON’T call enough fouls. Instead of the usual old saw — blaming the referees for turning the game into a “whistle fest embarrassment” — she blames the officials for not calling physical play enough.  (Hmmm.. who MAKES the rules that the officials have to enforce? And who coaches AROUND the rules the officials have to enforce?) Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, huh, Patty, Dee and Maj? (And if anyone thinks every other league is totally satisfied with their officiating, they obviously haven’t been paying attention.)

I’ve written extensively about NCAA officiating (and even offered some action steps) — speaking with the officials, coordinators, coaches and such — for Women’s Basketball Magazine and the WBCA’s Coaching Women’s Basketball. I’ve had long, thoughtful conversations with the folks at the center of the issues and, if I may say so, produced long, thoughtful and informative pieces about the profession and its challenges. But I don’t really think “non-officals” care.

My overall takeaway? It’s easier to point fingers than actually DO something. There was a push a while back on the NCAA side — led on the women’s side by the since departed Mary Struckhoff. But it’s really up to the Conferences (meaning athletic directors and coaches). But, they like their fiefdoms and don’t want anyone telling them how they should or shouldn’t spend their money. So, what’s the path of least resistance for fans, coaches, players and writers? Blame the officials — ’cause they’re not allowed to talk back.

4) New math alert: apparently the women’s game has “healthy ratings and rights fees” and plays in “sold out arenas of close to 20,000” and the only reason it’s not raking in the moola like the men’s tournament is “mismanagement.” I know it’s too much to ask for some facts to back those statements up like, you know: what were the ratings v. the men’s, what are the fees, how much does it cost to run the tournament, fly and house and feed the teams and such….

But “sold out arenas”? What tournament is she watching? ’cause this is what Trey wrote post-2013 FF: “When Connecticut and Louisville met for the women’s crown Tuesday night in the New Orleans Arena, there were 17,500 fans, short of capacity.” So, let’s say a total of 35,000 fans. In comparison, the attendance at the 2013 men’s final in Georgia was 74,326. Which comes to a total of  148,652.

As for the overall tournament, it’s kind of a challenge to find any page listing the total attendance numbers (wonder why), but: here’s the women’s Round 1&2 attendance. And here’s the NCAA’s spin: “Attendance at the men’s basketball tournament reached nearly 430,000 fans and the women’s tournament has seen a significant increase over last year.”

Which means: The per session average of 4,850 fans was also a 20 percent increase from last year’s per session attendance average during the first- and second-rounds.” Last year, the total attendance was (I think, if I’m reading this right) 203,788. The average attendance, 4852. It would appear the the “golden years” of women’s basketball attendance were 1999-2004. I’m guessing there was SOMEthing about those years that made them good for women’s basketball, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. (Yes, that was the sarcasm plane flying by.)

So, when Sally throws around the term “mismanagement,” what I want to know is: Who’s mismanaging what? And why? What has caused attendance to drop, not build? Is it the economy? Is the fan base aging? Disenchanted? Is it because the media world is shrinking and that has snuffed out coverage? Is it athletic directors and the choices the have to/want to make?

The NCAA offered grants to schools and conferences to support their efforts to build their audiences. Some took them up on the offers — many did not. And I’m going to lay even money that most programs couldn’t be bothered to look at the “best practices” those grants produced. WHY they wouldn’t learn from others is for you to ponder.

The NCAA has altered it’s bidding process for hosting tournament games, and still schools/conferences don’t want to host — guess why.

So, if Val is laying out the following “next steps”  (according to Jenkins – h/t FOWHB Joan)…

  • Upgrading officiating
  • Bring business mind-set to ticket sales and television
  • Exploring (“dramatic”) rule changes to make the game more exciting and faster-paced (no mention of what those are)
  • Explore putting the men’s and women’s FF in the same city at different arenas

…let’s talk turkey, and not fling mud. Let’s please start with some facts. And a whole heap of will. And money. The research is out there — but who is going to make the changes happen?

And just ’cause I can, let me offer my  “BAD IDEA” feedback to “same city, different arenas” so it can be tabled and energy can be spent on things we CAN control:

A) It will reduce the number of writers covering the game, because media outlets will cut costs. I’m sure ESPN will say, “Mechelle, you have to cover the men’s tournament as well.” And you know what happens when women’s writers are forced to cover the men’s game….

B) It’s not the same fan base. I, as a women’s fan, have no desire to tromp the same streets as a bunk of over-imbibed Louisville or Kentucky fans who can’t have an intelligent discussion about the similarities and differences between Chiney and Kaleena’s games.

C) Let’s limit the numbers of host cities, much? How many have 20,000+ arenas? And, am I remembering correctly that CBS covers the men’s tournament? So, does that mean they’ll have to fight with ESPN for the good broadcasting spots, or will they share equipment (hah)?

It’s interesting to review my earlier (flashback, 2008) suggestions:

Finally, there’s simply a lot of basic, un-sexy, ground level work to be done to promote the women’s game and grow it to the next level of fandom. Some first steps?

  • Energetic Coaches who understand building an audience is part of their job
  • Better Quality Sports Information Directors who pro-actively cultivate media coverage and find creative ways to get the word out about their sport
  • Athletic Programs that take advantage of the NCAA Marketing materials that are available. The NCAA has done a lot of the work for you — but it does you no good if you don’t use it. (And kudos to the NCAA for their marketing grant program)
  • As Geno notes, ask/beg/make ESPN do a better job of promoting the game. Yah, yah, they’ve expanded their coverage to the full tourney. And yah, they had those great Monday match ups — but promos, highlights, news items and ESPN Classics broadcasts are weak. And I’m not even going to discuss the quality of some of the play-by-play and color commentary people….
  • How about a stronger cross-promotion with the WNBA? Moving the draft to the Final Four weekend was a huge success. What are other (NCAA legal) ways to connect the two worlds/fan bases?

The “Three to Watch” campaign is exactly what I meant about cross-promotion. And the draft was broadcast! The other stuff — what do you think? Have we made any progress? (Gottlieb anyone?)

Finally, a followup on the courage of Griner and Augustus and Tully: If you don’t think homophobia – internalized and external – hinders the growth of our game, you’re a fool. Simply put – haters and homophobes are gonna hate. They think everyone involved with women’s basketball is gay – coaches, players, fans – so what’s the big dealio?

Stand up and say, “So the F*CK what! I will not tolerate hate speech. I will not tolerate bigots. I will be an ally. I will speak up. I will speak out. I will challenge my fan base, my administration, my team, myself to build a more inclusive world.”

Heck, even if that doesn’t grow the women’s basketball game, it’ll make the world a better place.

And isn’t that what we want?

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on the draft lottery (Minnesota Hits The Maya Moore Draft Lottery Jackpot) and Maryland’s game against Gaulladet (Freshman Cloud Brings Sunshine to Maryland Preseason Win).

You may remember Wayne Coffey’s book, Winning Sounds Like This: A Season with the Women’s Basketball Team at Gallaudet, the World’s Only University for the Deaf.

No word from Mel on how Kevin’s health is doing.

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From Lady Swish

Women’s basketball Top 10: We can’t wait

The list made me think about how some people kvetch about the W being “relegated” to the summer months… as if that’s a BAD thing.

One: I have no wish for the W to compete with men’s and women’s college ball, much less the NBA.

Two: Frankly, it’s PERFECT. Women’s fans get basketball year-round… with just enough of a pause between the college and pro season for us to keep us hungry and appreciative (and for those of us who are birders to enjoy spring migration).

And every two years, we get the extra indulgence of the Worlds or Olympics! What more could a bball junkie ask for?

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Clay ponders College

Preseason Meanderings – Happy Halloween: Everyone’s unbeaten.

In many ways, this is the best part of the season–at least for coaches and players.

Everyone’s unbeaten, and the only thing to worry about is injuries. Though practice might not be a lot of fun for players, coaches love it, and it’s easy to be optimistic. That junior point guard is going to finally learn not to force the ball through three defenders, and the shooter who was automatic in high school will finally get her three-point percentage above 30. It’s possible to believe that everything will fall into place, and the ugly little facts that will inevitably assert themselves once the games start are still hidden by theoretical dreams of a great leap forward.

Of course, there’s really not much that qualifies as news, so there’s time for some speculation about the bigger picture, which will get lost in the shuffle of game results in just a few weeks.

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From Milton Kent: ‘Super Six’ Conferences Announce Women’s Basketball Series

The six Bowl Championship Series conferences, which happen to be the dominant leagues in women’s basketball, announced Wednesday a two year challenge series of games pitting 12 teams against each other.

The “Super Six” series begins this year and continues next year with two teams each from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference and the Pac-10 competing during next month. One team from each league will host a game while the other league team will travel, with the matchups to be determined on the basis of perceived competitive balance.

Depending on the quality of the teams, could be a great way to develop twixt-conference rivalries.

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are as stumped as I was about this article on the NCAA’s LLC news.

I’m not saying the Ref’s Forum is the be all and end all to measure the pulse of NCAA women’s basketball officials, but isn’t it odd that they seem so out of the loop?

Sorta like planning ESPNw without talking to fans of women’s sports.

Or moving the Liberty to Newark without chatting up the Lib fans.

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Killing time

as practices start (or don’t), the rebkellians have an interesting list of coaches how might be feeling their seats are a little hot.

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Seton Hall women’s basketball coach Anne Donovan shaken after off-campus shooting, injuring F Nicosia Henry

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Well, sh*t

Women’s basketball player was third student wounded in off-campus shooting incident

Stupid angry people getting their hands on stupid guns and hurting innocent people and their families.

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Beth Burns Signs Five-Year Extension at San Diego State.

This past year, she led the Aztecs to new heights, as the team advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams. SDSU notched victories over a pair of top 25 foes in No. 10 West Virginia and No. 17 Texas on the Longhorns’ home floor. The 11th-seeded Aztecs were the lowest seed to advance to the Round of 16 in 2010 and lowest overall since 2007.

In the, “Bears are patient and optimistic, but should they be?” category: Cindy Blodgett’s contract extended

The Black Bears are 20-69 under Blodgett, and finished 8-21 and 4-12 in the America East Conference in 2009-2010.

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by James Bowman at SPM: Ten Future WNBA Prospects to Keep an Eye On: 2010-11

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South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley announced today that senior guard Valerie Nainima (Suva, Fiji) has undergone successful surgery to repair an ACL injury in her right knee.

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Virginia!

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The (college) ties that bind and the WNBA

As the first weekend of college football kicks off and millions of people get all fired up about the schools they attended and/or have longed rooted for, I was thinking about the college ties that bind and how that relates to the WNBA.

I don’t ever watch or write about a WNBA player who went to college here in the United States and not have her college association my mind. By that, I mean it never fades away as just something about her past. It remains a constant part of her identity.

Thus, she is not just New York’s Cappie Pondexter … she’s the Liberty’s star from Rutgers. Same, of course, for her teammates Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn. They are Scarlet Knights for life.

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OU’s Whitney Hand Sidelined Again

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With a h/t to suebabe — and a little bit of a follow up to the question as to why a student-athlete has to sit a season when she transfers, but a coach can skeedaddle without having to pause — this little tidbit from an article about the Purdue’s men’s basketball coach:

Buyouts are common in contracts, more to protect the university from a coach abruptly leaving for another job. Burke has received a buyout payment from a departing coach before.

When then-women’s basketball coach Kristy Curry left following the 2005-06 season with two years remaining, she paid Purdue about $400,000.

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From the St. Augustine Record, Danny Klein writes: All-Decade girls basketball: Steffi Sorensen has proven herself everywhere

So what if Steffi Sorensen doesn’t have a plane ticket?

Or any idea where she will be living, or even what language she will be speaking come September?

Who cares that the WNBA didn’t draft her? Forget the Atlanta Dream, who let her work out, left her without a contract.

If you think Sorensen is worried, then you don’t know her. You’ve forgotten all about the girl whose career started out as a stubborn 4-year-old and has since majored in the business of proving people wrong.

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Former player Lynn McCurdy amazed by OU women’s basketball crowds

Lynn McCurdy marvels when she attends Oklahoma women’s basketball games.

It’s not the talent or the action that makes her jaw drop but rather the crowd.

“We were lucky if we got 300 people there,” she said.

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Saturday in the Park with Stanford Players

Well, by miracles of miracles, both C and R were available and able to get away from our shabby lives and puny responsibilities and make the pilgrimage to San Francisco to see the baby Stanford players and… Chiney Ogwumnike.

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