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— or perhaps, even expected — but let us not forget the AMAZING run the Louisville Cardinals had this tournament. And yes, as Auriemma said, every program should use that run as inspiration for a “Why not us?” run.

Unfortunately, if the play of Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Tuck is any indication of UConn’s future, the answer to what question may be, “Because UConn is dominating again.”

From the professionals:

Rich Elliott: Championship a dream come true for Huskies, Post
Kevin Duffy: No. 8 for Geno a ‘team title’, Post
Kevin Duffy: 5 quick thoughts on UConn’s rout, Post
UConn’s Final Four Most Outstanding Players, Post
UConn in NCAA championship games, Post
Most points in women’s Final Four, Post

Eight Expectations: Huskies Top Louisville 93-60 For National Championship, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn’s Greatness Arrives Earlier Than Expected, Courant

Each of UConn’s championships has taken on its own characteristics, of course, and this one is unique in the way a young team regathered, recalibrated in the final weeks and closed so fast, so furiously, on brilliance. This was supposed to be Baylor’s season again. Brittney Griner was supposed tower over the game a final time. Thanks to Louisville’s colossal upset in the Sweet Sixteen, it didn’t happen.

And thanks to a magnificent, young group led by Breanna Stewart, the first freshman to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player since Tonya Edwards of Tennessee in 1987, it did happen for UConn.

After Tuesday, It’s All Over For Faris, Doty, Buck, Courant
A Look At UConn’s Eight National Championships, Courant
Our View: Huskies Reach The Summit, Courant
Bob Englehart: CONGRATULATIONS, UCONN … AGAIN!, Courant
Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Louisville For National Championship, Courant

Great Eight, JI
Huskies defeat Louisville to win eighth national title, tying Tennessee for women’s record, Register
Friendly rivals Bria Hartley and Bria Smith square off in title game, Register
Photos: Counting the Crowns – UConn Women’s Basketball, Register
Fans gather in Storrs in anticipation of eighth national title, Register
Huskies cruise to eighth NCAA women’s championship, Day
Mike DiMauro: Annie was looking down on this night, Day

Confetti rained on them from what felt like the heavens Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena, showering the UConn women with trimmings befitting a national champion.

Only this time, a piece just might have actually come from heaven.

It would have come from Ann Miller.

Ann, who made the UConn women one of her passions, died early Monday morning after a long battle with cancer. She fought to stay alive long enough for her Huskies to beat Notre Dame the other night at the Final Four.

“Just an update. Ann is comfortable,” Sandy Brouwer wrote Sunday night on Miller’s Facebook page, awash in tributes now. “She is unable to be awake now but I have the UConn game on for her so maybe she can hear it. I truly believe she has held on until game night. Hopefully peace tonight. Thanks everyone for all the kind thoughts and words. Ann was able to read or hear most of them.”

UConn women defeat Louisville, tie Tennessee for most national titles, Daily Campus
Three-point shooting propels UConn over Louisville, Daily Campus
It’s not about how, but when, Daily Campus
UConn win resonates with fans back home, AP article from SI
Breanna Stewart finds her footing, leads UConn to eighth title, SI
UConn leaves Big East on top but still left behind, USA Today
NCAA women’s basketball championship: Stewart, Connecticut show their title mettle, Washington Post

The University of Connecticut Huskies simply do everything harder. When they hit you, someone winds up flat out on the floor holding their mouth, and when they run, the score gets out of hand fast, and when they get anywhere near a national championship trophy, they just reach out and grab it.

U-Conn. does things different — and better — on a consistent basis than every other team in the country. You could see that in every single detail of their play as they demolished Louisville in the NCAA women’s basketball final at New Orleans Arena, 93-60.

Three keys to UConn’s 93-60 victory over Louisville in national title game, Times-Picayune
UConn’s dominant NCAA Tournament run continues in championship victory against Louisville, Times-Picayune
UConn senior Kelly Faris ends her college career with a national title, Times-Picayune

Louisville coach Jeff Walz cited Faris’ explosiveness as a main reason for UConn putting the dagger in the Cardinals on Tuesday.

She converted two devastating 3-pointers that Walz admired after the game.

“Kelly Faris was great for them,” Walz said. “She might not always be the high scorer, but just how hard she plays … she counters any kind of run we were trying to make with back to back 3s.

Deflating loss won’t diminish the magical run the Louisville Cardinals made to the national championship game, Times-Picayune

They were indeed the giant killers and quintessential Cinderellas of this year’s tournament. The Cardinals knocked off No.1 Baylor in the Sweet 16, No. 2 Tennessee in the regional finals and No.2 Cal in the national semifinals en route to becoming the first fifth seed to make it to the national championship game.

So with that thought Slaughter fought back her tears as she considered what ultimately went wrong Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena.

“Personally I think my teammates fought the hardest but we just came up short tonight,” Slaughter said. “We are not going to hang our heads. We did the unthinkable.”

Mechelle Voepel: UConn once again last team standing, ESPN

To understand just how great eight was for the victorious Connecticut women’s basketball team Tuesday night, let’s go back to how it began here in the Crescent City 22 years ago. Geno Auriemma was still kind of an “upstart” coach then, trying to establish UConn as a factor on the national scene.

Well, at least the Final Four part started in New Orleans. It was Auriemma’s sixth year coaching in Storrs, Conn., and the Huskies had broken through to the season’s last weekend in 1991. They played Virginia, for which Auriemma had previously been an assistant coach, and lost in the semifinals.

“We almost carried ourselves like & we didn’t belong here,” Auriemma said. “When we left and we didn’t win, I thought, ‘What if we never go back?'”

UConn’s Stewart lives up to hype, ESPN
Kelly Faris makes championship exit, ESPN

On this night, after UConn’s historic win, the two guards had only a moment together before the rest of the Huskies found Moore, too. And at one point during the celebration, Moore was surrounded by Faris, sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and assistant coach Shea Ralph, who won an NCAA title with the Huskies in 2000. Freeze-frame that moment, and there are multiple generations of Huskies, a lineage of greatness. And if you zoom in, you’ll see Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, wearing oversized “2013 NCAA champs” T-shirts, sweat dried.

In a way, Moore turned over the team to Faris two years ago. And on Tuesday night, Faris did the same with Mosqueda-Lewis. The two players were standing shoulder to shoulder on the sideline as they waited out the last seconds of the game.

Auriemma, UConn blast into record book, NCAA.com

An 8th National Title, Built on Spirit, Not Stars, New York Times

Faris became the epitome of UConn’s resolve. Given her hustle and resourcefulness, Faris would never have a bad game, Auriemma often said. And she seldom did, always assigned to guard the opponent’s top scorer, succeeding with fundamental brilliance — a rebound, a steal, a defensive stop. Just as she muzzled Skylar Diggins on Sunday, Faris held Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel to 3-of-15 shooting in the championship game. And she hit four 3-pointers of her own.

“Will she leave as one of my favorite players?” Auriemma said. “Absolutely. They’re never going to introduce her as, ‘That was Kelly Faris, she was a great passer or a great shooter or a great ball-handler.’ Kelly is great at putting you in position to win. That’s what she’s great at.”

An Appreciation of Perseverance, New York Times

As often is the case in the separate but parallel worlds of the men’s and women’s Final Fours, the female experience is demonstrably understated. A lasting memory of the men’s tournament will surely be Kevin Ware cutting down the final threads Monday night for the Louisville players he inspired after sustaining a gruesome leg injury against Duke.

After three operations on her left knee, Doty knows what Ware has experienced and then some, just not as graphically or publicly.

From Swish Appeal: UConn’s eighth national championship could be dawn of a new era of dominance
Stewart guides Huskies to 8th National Championship, Full Court

Louisville women’s basketball falls to UConn 93-60 in National Championship game, Louisville Courier Journal
Tim Sullivan | Success is nice, but Louisville women’s basketball still has work to do, Louisville Courier Journal

There’s a scene in “Independence Day,” in which Will Smith finds himself at the controls of an alien spacecraft.

Its power and maneuverability are so advanced that the veteran pilot carries on like a child on a theme park thrill ride.

“I have GOT to get me one of these,” he says.

Jeff Walz must have had that same sensation Tuesday night.

UConn 93, Louisville 60 | Huskies snuff out the Schimmel spark, Louisville Courier Journal
Cards’ run still great, even in defeat, ESPN

After the United States men’s hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice,” it still had to beat Finland for the gold medal. It did not, however, have to turn around and beat the Soviets a second time.

One giant too many left Louisville one win short of the greatest run in the history of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

Or maybe Louisville’s 93-60 loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night simply ended that run without damaging it so very much. Maybe even the most lopsided result in championship game history can’t dull the shine on what preceded it.

Nate talks about 2013 WNBA Draft prospects at the Final Four: Layshia Clarendon, Kelly Faris, and Skylar Diggins

Cal’s Layshia Clarendon, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, and UConn’s Kelly Faris are not the guaranteed, immediate WNBA superstars that Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne project to be, but there is a reason all three played in the Final Four, and each should be a 1st Round pick in the up-coming WNBA Draft.

Is it November yet? Mechelle offers up the Top five contenders for 2013-14

• Don’t think Notre Dame and Baylor, despite big senior losses, are just going away. Although they have to replace Skylar Diggins at point guard, the Irish bring back four starters. Baylor loses four starters, but the Lady Bears do have their All-American point guard back in Sims.

• The ACC should be mighty interesting next season, with Notre Dame joining the mix and a freshman class at North Carolina that’s projected to be the nation’s best.

• Who’s the favorite in the Big 12 after two seasons of Baylor running the table in the conference? Probably Oklahoma, led by Aaryn Ellenberg.

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crowds?

Don’t know how it came across on TV, but it seemed the energy and reactions of the fans during the two games mirrored the teams. During the game game between the two young pups, fans were pumped and enthusiastic and energized in a “Wheee! We’re here! We’re a little nervous, but BOY-O, it’s a new experience!”

During the second game between the two old dogs, fans seemed tense and anxious, weighed down by history and expectation. It was as if they were afraid to invest too much in the outcome, since so much seemed already invested. In made for quiet, nervous viewing from both blue and neon-green clad fans.

Anyhoot-and-any, that’s what if felt/looked like from the nosebleeds. Now from the view at court level:

Louisville Women A Step Closer To Goal, Courant
Antonita Slaughter makes it a distance run, Louisville Courier Journal

Louisville women continue to shock college basketball, CardinalSports.com

Analysis: Louisville 64, Cal 57, ESPN

Party crashers? Sorry, Jeff Walz, your team remains the life of this postseason party. 

Louisville’s coach had T-shirts printed up for his traveling party that had “#partycrashers” emblazoned on the back, a reference to his team’s role in denying the Final Four either a final appearance from Brittney Griner or a familiar face in Tennessee. That was the attitude the Cardinals brought with them, an us-against-the-world mentality that invited people to fuel their fire by doubing them. But after a wild second-half comeback and a 64-57 win against California, the Cardinals are going to have to deal with the fact that they’re the life of this party.

At Full Court: Cinderella season continues for Cardinals, ends for Cal

Cal Bears women’s basketball team falls to Louisville in the NCAA semifinals, Mercury News

With Cal stinging from defeat in the semifinals of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, senior Layshia Clarendon immediately offered her teammates positive words to put the 64-57 loss to Louisville in perspective.

“Don’t hang your heads, we’ve come too far,” was the message Clarendon said she delivered to her teammates. “I just can’t help but smile because what we’ve done is beyond amazing.”

Cal comes up just short, San Francisco Gate

Cal disappointed, but not devastated, ESPN

UConn defeats Notre Dame to advance to national title game, Register
Fourth time’s the charm, Day
UConn breaks curse of the Irish, Day
Dolson has become a media star, Day

Dolson is a budding media star, answering questions with corresponding facial expressions and voice intonations that match her wit. When NBC Connecticut’s Dianna Russini asked Dolson about her expectations for New Orleans last week, Dolson shot back, “wait til you see my dress.”

Dolson unloaded a few four-letter words after collapsing to the deck in the regionals last week, fearing her aching legs and feet might have finally endured the big one. She grinned when asked about it later and in a high pitched voice, said, “awkward.”

Stewart has entered rare air, Day
Rich Elliott: New, improved Huskies get better of Irish this time, Post
Kevin Duffy: Freshman Stewart rises to occasion, Post

Twenty nine points later, after an all-time great individual effort, Breanna Stewart was the hero, swarmed by her teammates. It looked, though, that she didn’t want any part in the celebration.

“That’s Stewie,” joked Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. “She’s very emotionless.”

Outwardly, yes. But on the inside, Auriemma suggests that Stewart — who hit the inevitable freshman wall a few months ago — is hardly “emotionless.”

Huskies Break Notre Dame’s Spell, Winning 83-65, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Behold The Metamorphosis Of Breanna Stewart, Courant

As she put her hands about two inches from Auriemma’s hair, fake massaging the most famous coiffure in women’s basketball at the postgame news conference, Stewie, the simultaneously intense and goofball freshman, had shown America this was no joke at all.

“Stewie probably puts as much pressure on herself as any kid I’ve ever coached,” Auriemma said to ESPN after the game. “My God, she was amazing tonight.”

Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Notre Dame In Final Four, Courant
Video: UConn Women At The Final Four, Courant

From Mel: UConn snaps the Notre Dame spell — and gets Louisville’s wizardry next

Huskies Conquer Demons, and Irish, NY Times
UConn’s next star steps to the fore, NCAA.com
Stewart finds stride at right time, ESPN
Huskies turnaround keys: Stewart, defense, ESPN
Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for UConn, USA Today

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish dream denied, South Bend Tribune

“It’s been a dream come true, just having the opportunity to play for my hometown school and right in my backyard for coach (Muffet) McGraw, and just being able to learn from her every day,” Diggins said. “The experiences I’ve gone through, I’ll never forget. The people that I’ve met, I’ll never forget. It was just such a great time, and I had a great time going through it. I wouldn’t want a different group of girls in the locker room, I wouldn’t want a different group of coaches. “Just the people I’ve met … I know they will be a part of my circle of life. That’s just a blessing in itself.”

Notre Dame women’s basketball: Tough way to end a stellar career, South Bend Tribune

Bitter end for Notre Dame, Diggins: Irish’s season, star’s career finished at the hands of rival UConn, Chicago Tribune

Diggins denied, but still a winner, ESPN

Diggins ends legendary collegiate career, The Observer

Skylar Diggins exits stage as UConn advances to title game, Sports Illustrated

“We were a Sweet Sixteen team before she came here, and suddenly, we became a Final Four team,” said McGraw, teary-eyed in the Notre Dame locker room. “That changes the perspective nationally. Certainly, she is the main focus behind that. I hope there’s another one out there, but I think she’s one in a million.”

UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women, Louisville Courier Journal

Five thoughts for Tuesday’s final, ESPN

Queenie has some Notes, observations, and random things from New Orleans.

And in shocking news: BREAKING: Jeff Walz To Resign After Title Game To Work For Geno

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

Things that happened in New Orleans:

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

From those folks actually working:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the SBT:

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

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

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

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

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

The Louisville Courier Journal makes up for lost time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the Louisville-California women’s matchup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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for the first time since 2004.

Graham reflects: Since the last time we were in New Orleans …

Let’s see, the last time the women’s basketball world gathered in New Orleans for a Final Four, Andy Landers and Georgia lost a regional final played in the state of Washington; Duke lost a regional final in Norfolk, Va; Tennessee lost a regional final against a program that wore a lot of yellow and had never reached a Final Four; and Connecticut extended a long streak of semifinal appearances without having to leave the Nutmeg State in the first four rounds.

 Oh, and the Phoenix Mercury were expected to use the No. 1 pick on a player with both uncommon ability and mass name recognition. 

So, um, clearly a great deal has changed since 2004.

But if some things stay the same, there are at least a few ways in which women’s basketball looks different on this visit to New Orleans.

Graham sings Kayla’s praises: Irish in good hands with McBride

One of college basketball’s more perplexing puzzles involves finding a shot Kayla McBride can’t hit.

Hand in her face? Please, you’re going to have to do better than that. Off-balance jumper from a tough angle? Child’s play for the Notre Dame junior. On the move, in traffic — with the shot clock winding down? Been there and done that.

But while opposing defenders and coaches have largely come up empty this season, freshman Jewell Loyd long ago discovered her teammate’s shot-making kryptonite.

Congrats to Sky: Diggins Named the 2013 Nancy Lieberman Award: Top Point Guard

From Curt: Big East goes out in style

Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. West Virginia already left for the Big 12.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova split away from the Big East, but took the name with them.

Rutgers, in another season, is heading for the Big Ten. Louisville, in another season, is going to the ACC.

Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida are staying in the league, welcoming in, among others, Southern Methodist, Memphis and Tulane. The league will have a new name, the American Athletic Conference.

But the last hurrah for the current Big East Conference in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament promises to be remarkable.

A little number counting from Norfolk: Notre Dame, Duke helped Norfolk Regional draw animated crowd

Jim Fuller writes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has become much more than just a shooter

There was no questioning that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ majestic jump shot was going to be her calling card the moment she arrived on UConn’s campus.

However, even after a brilliant debut season where she set the program record for most points by a freshman, the sweet-shooting Mosqueda-Lewis was clamoring for so much more.

In case you need it, John Altavilla has a Short Refresher On The UConn Vs. Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Rivalry

Clay at Full Court thinks that, UConn-Notre Dame: Just this once, tactics may trump talent

From the Cal Bear blog: 

Observing Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her players this afternoon was a good illustration of just how far women’s basketball has come.

Gottlieb and her five starters spent two hours at New Orleans Arena today going through a series of interviews and photo shoots to promote the Final Four. It was attention fit for royalty, and the Bears appeared to have a lot of fun doing it.

Elliott says, Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb knew destination early

The Mama Bear has used a gentle touch to get her players to believe in each other like a family. It has helped the Cal women survive two overtime games to reach their first Final Four in history — and 53 years after the last appearance by the men’s team.

“She’s always been a people person,” older sister Chris Gottlieb said. “Since she was a kid bouncing around with a ponytail, it was ‘everybody loves Lindsay.’ “

Elliott and Stephanie Hammon add, Confidence is soaring for Cal women’s team

Clay also is busy Breaking down Cal and Louisville

As for the Louisville articles: *crickets* Nice Job, Kentucky papers.

Looking to the future:

A Moc is now a Wolfpack: NC State hires Wes Moore as coach

Sooners return three starting guards next season

And, from FOB Ellyn, this cool news:

‘Throwing open the door’ for female athletes

Lincoln Presidential Library explores the growth of women’s basketball in Illinois through oral histories

SPRINGFIELD – With basketball fever in the air, it’s easy to forget that the thrill of the game was denied to many Illinois girls less than 40 years ago. A new oral history project by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum chronicles the early struggles for girls and young women who wanted to play basketball.

Illinois didn’t host its first state high school basketball tournament for girls until 1977, five years after Congress passed Title IX. That landmark education law succeeded in “throwing open the door” to growth in girls’ and women’s sports, dramatically changing American culture.

The oral history project – entitled “What About the Character of the Girls?: Girls’ and Women’s Basketball in Illinois, 1968-1977” – includes 18 interviews, with many more to come. Participants include Sue Strong, whose Sterling team won the state’s first girls’ basketball tournament; Jill Hutchison, the winningest basketball coach in Illinois State University history; Linda Gollan, the first girls’ basketball coach at Hinsdale South High School, and Lorene Ramsey, former head coach at Illinois Central College.

The title of the project comes from Ramsey, who was only allowed access to the gym one day a week when she was coaching in Pekin decades ago. Her request for more gym time was turned down by administrators who said sports helped develop the character of boys. Ramsey responded by writing “What about the character of the girls?” in red letters across the rejection memo and sending it back to the school’s athletic director.

The oral histories can be heard at http://tinyurl.com/GirlsBasketballHistory. Additional oral histories are featured at www.OralHistory.illinois.gov.

The interviews were conducted by Ellyn Bartges, who knows firsthand about the difficulties facing female athletes. Bartges played in Illinois’ very first girls’ high school basketball tournament. She later coached basketball and softball at the collegiate and high school levels. Her own memories are part of the project, thanks to an interview conducted by Mark DePue, head of the oral history project at the Lincoln Presidential Library.

“These interviews capture an extraordinary time in the history of Illinois and the nation,” Bartges said. “Women, joined by some forward-thinking men, were working hard to give girls something that is taken for granted today – the same athletic opportunities that boys routinely enjoy.”

Bartges began conducting the interviews while working on her master’s degree at Western Illinois University. The project originally focused on the Illinois scene but expanded to incorporate stories from throughout the country while Bartges pursued her Ph.D. in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Illinois. The interviews now include people who influenced or impacted players and coaches in Illinois.

Bartges is now an affirmative action administrator at St. Cloud State University. She is available for interviews at320-308-5123 or via email at elbartges@stcloudstate.edu.

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before I send mom to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and hop on the train to Bridgeport.

From Mel at Full Court: Delle Donne back in Husky territory for Sweet 16

The word “irony” is being tossed around a lot this week considering the impending close of the collegiate career of Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne.

Soon after the sixth-seeded Blue Hens rallied from an early 10-point deficit in the second half Tuesday night to finish their 78-69 upset of third-seeded North Carolina (29-7), Delle Donne was asked if it was ironic that Delaware (32-3), in moving on to its first-ever Sweet 16 in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this weekend, would be heading to the state of Connecticut.

Clay says All eyes on the Sweet 16 this Saturday and asks: Which top seed will stumble on Sunday

Sooner or later, one of the top seeds has to lose, right? Maybe two?

We’ve got another one for you here, but Baylor haters should stand down — the Bears are on their way to New Orleans.

Bloggin’ at espnW:

Baylor players Destiny Williams and Mariah Chandler look back at teammate Brittney Griner’s three dunks and ahead to the Sweet 16 and Louisville.

Delle Donne: Taking our fans on the road

What are the Top 10 Plays (so far)?

Did you see this? Seton Hall tabs Iona’s Bozzella as women’s hoops coach

How about this rumor: UAB’s Audra Smith to be Lady Tigers’ new head coach

Congrats! Robin Roberts to get ESPYS award (Pssst. Robin! The Final Four is in New Orleans. How ’bout “y’all come back, now”?)

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go hand in hand. It gets louder during tournament time, and gets even louder when your team loses.

I’m not saying officials don’t make mistakes. That would be like saying players or coaches or announcers or reporters don’t make mistakes. But, remember the old saying: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Folks complain, but rarely have any sense of the reality of the officiating training process. Nor do they seem to be interested in actually learning about the job — the art, the science, the actual rules.

So, I invite folks to not just whine, but learn and offer actionable solutions. First step, some (slightly ancient) articles to peruse:

Making the Calls: The World of the Referees

There’s little doubt Title IX and the evolution of the female athlete have changed how women’s basketball is played, coached and marketed. But the impact on those who officiate the games is rarely acknowledged. While coaches, players and fans often rail against the officiating, there often is a lack of understanding and appreciation of not only the basics but, as it were, of the art of reffing.

“What’s expected of officials now has increased exponentially,” says Dee Kantner, a Division I ref for 19 years and currently Director of Referee Development for the WNBA. “You used to just show up, stretch out a little, go out on the floor, and boom, you’re done,” she recalls. “Not anymore. These athletes are quicker and stronger. They’re doing things that a lot of people aren’t used to seeing. You just don’t show up at the game and expect to be sharp and work the games to the top level it needs.”

Earning Their Stripes: Officials In Training – October 2007

Currently Supervisor of Officials for the WNBA, Dee Kantner began officiating in 1982 and is acknowledged as one of the top Division I referees. A few years ago Kantner said this about being a women’s basketball official:

“It’s not a vocation or an avocation that a lot of people innately say, ‘That’s what I want to be,’ because there’s so much negativity surrounding it. Everyone’s always focusing on the bad things about it: people yell at you, you wear bad polyester…. But those are far outweighed by the positives.”

And what are those positives? You get to stay close to the game you love; you stay in shape; you earn a little extra pocket money. And if you’re patient and good – and I mean really good – you might become one of the handful of Division I officials who do the job full-time and earn a six-figure income.

So where do these “positive” people start and how do they learn the craft? Well, if one imagines the officiating pool as a pyramid built on experience and shaped by geography and opportunity with Division 1 at its peak, its base – it’s foundation – is the high school official.

Coaches and Officials: Reaching Across the Divide – July 2006

Gamesmanship.

For some, it’s as much a part of the game as the squeak of basketball shoes. Getting that intangible advantage can be reflected in how a coach works the media, a player, the other coach or, for the purpose of this discussion, an official.

Consider this recent example: Watching a nationally televised game between the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and Detroit Shock, the Shock were making a furious comeback. On an inbound play, Detroit center Ruth Riley was called for a foul – probably her fourth, maybe her fifth. Immediately Detroit head coach Bill Laimbeer, all 6’11”, 260 pounds of him, loomed over official Lisa Mattingly (who’s got to be 5’8” or so on a good day), saying “Oh, that’s a terrible call. A terrible call! And millions of people are watching on television and seeing what a bad call that is. That’s a horrible call,” he continued, “and it’s all out there on national T.V. for everyone to see.”

Never mind the fact that the replay clearly showed the television audience the correct call was made, it was obvious he was using his physical size, his recognition of the media exposure (both coaches were miked), and the pressure of a close game, (imagine if it had been at Detroit!) to try and influence how the game was being called -– though it is hard to imagine how that might work on such an experienced official as Mattingly.

OFFICIATING UNDER REVIEW: Coaches, Conferences and the NCAA Working to Collaborate

It goes without saying that any coach interested in how officials are evaluated by the NCAA regional advisors or during the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship should read the very clear “2008-09 NCAA Women’s Basketball “Officials’ Performance Evaluation Form.”

While doing so, though, they should also pay particular attention to following section of the introduction:

 Please note that this performance instrument was not created with the intent of replacing those used by individual conferences; rather, the NCAA women’s officiating program is interested in creating a systematic approach to selecting and advancing the best officials for its tournament. 

Why the caveat?

“This is often an area that is misunderstood by coaches as well as the general public” said Mary Struckhoff, the NCAA’s coordinator of women’s basketball officiating, “I think it is natural for people to assume that because the NCAA writes and establishes the playing rules, that it also oversees regular season officiating.

Wrong.

“It is important for people to understand that each conference oversees its respective officiating program, while the NCAA championship falls under the purview of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee,” explained Struckhoff.

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Hell yes!

The 2011 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship game on ESPN was seen by an average of 3,831,000 viewers (P2+), up eight percent from last year’s average of 3,531,000, according to Nielsen. The game which featured two No. 2 seeds and saw Texas A&M capturing its first-ever title in the sport with a 76-70 victory over Notre Dame earned a 2.8 rating, a four percent increase from the 2010 rating of 2.7. A year ago, Connecticut won its seventh title with a 53-47 victory over Stanford.

Overall, the tournament viewership on ESPN increased 16 percent to 1,878,000 people from 1,629,000 in 2010. The rating was also up eight percent with a total of 12 games earning a 1.4 compared to 2010’s 1.3 rating.

It’s interesting that the men’s Finals viewership was down.

I wonder how many watched the women’s to see if they could get the bad taste of the men’s game out of their mouth. Sorta like a lemon sorbet to clean the palate. I mean, who wants to go into the spring with 18.4% on their mind?

That being said, the women’s viewership is still only a fraction of the men’s.

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Let’s get it started right here with Title Game Previews:

X factors and the picks from the ESPN crew: Irish appear to have edge over Aggies – Guard matchup, defense and 3-point shooting all should be big keys Tuesday

Charlie offers: Guard play, Diggins to determine champ

For just the second time in women’s NCAA tournament history, the championship game will be played without a No. 1 seed, but after Sunday night no one should question that Notre Dame and Texas A&M deserve to be there. It’s a game between teams that play quite differently but advanced in similar fashion. Each had to beat a team that it had lost to three times already this season, and because of those losses the Aggies and Irish were each conference runners-up in the regular season and in their league tournaments. Neither squad has allowed an opponent to score 70 points in the tournament. And Texas A&M and Notre Dame knocked off a No. 1 seed in each the last two games they played. A closer look at Tuesday’s title game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET; coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET):

They’re also posting lots of video interviews with players.

Don’t forget to check in with the South Bend Tribune, the Indy Star and the San Antonio Express (It this the best Paper of Record for the Aggies?) for coverage.

NPR says, ‘March Madness’ Isn’t Just About Men (well, kids, it is, if you talk about the Tournament and don’t use the adjective qualifier.) and offer a preview.

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I guess if you’ve not been watching women’s basketball this season, you might use that word to describe the Notre Dame win over Connecticut, but I wasn’t particularly surprised. Four times WAS the time for the Irish as their growth as a unit over the second half of the season paid huge dividends. UConn, on the other hand, finally fell victim to the reality that was their six-person team: fouls and a player going MIA.

That being said, there was a moment there when you could see Maya pick up on the Husky puppies, throw’em in a knapsack, toss’em over the shoulder and start up Mt. Everest with a determined look in her eye. She simply couldn’t overcome the ferocity and passion of those wearin’ the green.

Now stunning IS what I’d call the Texas A&M win — emotionally stunning, though, more than “how on earth did they do that?” stunning. Watching the Sidneys and company give up 6-8″ inches on the Standford trees, it was stunning that they could out-Georgetown Georgetown’s defensive style and hassle Stanford into 22 TOs (when was the last time you saw 4 charges called and a five second call?). It was a hard, physical game, and people will talk about “tourney play” and how Conference play does or does not prepare you for it. They’ll also talk about that 50-50 call on the dive for the ball. But it was Chiney who was on the bench, it was her teammates who didn’t get back on defense after her sister willed her way to the basket that gave Stanford the lead, and it was somewhat inexplicable end of the game play beautifully defended that ultimately made the difference.

No, ESPN may not like the match up. BUT, that probably means they haven’t been paying attention to the game. Big 12 country is roused. Midwest country is roused. I’m expecting good ratings and a filled house.

Now, for the games.

If you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, check out the words of the players and coaches during the post-game conferences.

If you want to hear the professionals’ interpretations of the words and game, check out these articles:

Stanford

Indy Star: Stanford alum Rice had her own plan
San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer gets help at half
USA Today/Brennan: Title drought continues for Stanford, coach VanDerveer

It’s a statistic that brings a spring chill to Palo Alto. When Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer last won a national title, UConn had none.

In one frantic final minute in the first game of the 2011 NCAA Women’s Final Four, all that frustration played out not in years but seconds, with a frenetic back-and-forth that ended with a rugged underdog, Texas A&M, upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford 63-62.

“My team worked as hard as they could,” a chagrined VanDerveer said after it was over. “You know, we just — we had it. And then we just really needed one more stop.”

Mercury News: Texas A&M stuns Stanford women
San Francisco Chronicle: Texas A&M stuns Stanford in nip-and-tuck affair

Texas A&M

Indy Star: Texas A&M gets last shot on Stanford
Indy Star: Texas A&M’s Tyra White sprints into the final
USAToday: Texas A&M ‘D’ dismisses Stanford in Final Four

The Cardinal had won 27 in a row and were the only team to beat Connecticut this season. But it could not handle the harassment delivered by the Aggies’ Sydneys, backcourt teammates Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter.

“We’re a team that doesn’t give up; we’re never out of a game,” Carter said. “We make sure we’re doing the right thing at the right time.”

Houston Chronicle: A&M women edge Stanford to reach NCAA title game
Houston Chronicle: These Texas Aggies represent everything that’s wonderful about sports, and they’re one game from a national championship

UCONN

The Day: Has this been Geno’s best coaching job?
The Day: End of an era in Indy
The Day: Thank you, Maya, for much more than two national championships

“When I think of Maya Moore,” he said, “I’ll think about the greatest player in the history of the Big East, maybe the best student-athlete in the history of college basketball. I’m not going to let it be defined by what happened tonight.”

And one last thing for Maya Moore: Thank you.

SportsPage Magazine: Mayan Dynasty Ends as UConn, Stanford are Ousted from Tourney
CT Post: Notre Dame upsets UConn in semifinals
Greenwich Time: UConn women’s basketball notebook
USA Today/Brennan: Mighty UConn beatable after all
USA Today: UConn’s tournament streak halts in Indy
Hartford Courant: Notre Dame Ends UConn’s Bid For Third Straight National Title

Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune: Irish dethrone Connecticut
The Observer: Sky high

When sophomore point guard Skylar Diggins sank consecutive free throws with 28 seconds left to give the Irish a nine-point lead, fantasy became reality and hope became result in a 72-63 Notre Dame victory over Connecticut in the national semifinals.

The team’s emotional leader scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting and turned the second half into a complete team comeback in one of the greatest victories in program history.

“I thought Skylar was just amazing, simply amazing today,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said

South Bend Tribune: Some Final Four fun: Auriemma and McGraw entertain
South Bend Tribune: Notre Dame fearless in big moment
South Bend Tribune: Irish get their one shining moment

Miscellaneous:

Daily News: Maya Moore, UConn women’s basketball upset at Final Four as Notre Dame pulls out 72-63 victory

New York Times/Jere’: Stanford Has Win in Hand, Until It Doesn’t

On basketball recruiting trips from Texas A&M’s campus, Coach Gary Blair frequently drove past the high school in suburban Houston where the Ogwumike sisters honed bounteous athletic and academic skills that would take them to Stanford.

“We recruited them hard,” Blair said. “Lost fair and square.”

On later trips past Cypress-Fairbanks High, Blair convinced himself that Texas A&M’s recruiting cupboard was hardly bare, saying, “Hey, but we’re winning with the kids that chose us.”

Also from the Times/Jere’: Notre Dame Keeps Cool and Topples UConn

Given that the teams were so familiar with each other, Moore predicted that determination would prevail over tactics. “It really does come down to who has the bigger will to win,” she said.

That will belonged most urgently to Diggins, a 5-foot-9 sophomore who grew up near the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind. Kelly Faris is UConn’s top defender, but she could not prevent Diggins from scoring in any way that she wanted, from anywhere on the court.

Christian Science Monitor: Notre Dame, Texas A&M surprise at NCAA women’s Final Four

SBNation: Texas A&M, Notre Dame Win Stunners

SBNation: Notre Dame, UConn Players React To Huge Upset

Boston Globe: Parity coming to fore – Favorites no longer just holding court

Washington Post: Notre Dame knocks off Connecticut to reach national championship game

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team drew exactly the adversary it wanted in the Final Four. Call the Fighting Irish stubborn or just plain silly, but that opponent was none other than powerhouse Connecticut, which had upended Notre Dame three straight times this season and 12 in row overall.

New York Times/Harvey Araton: Upsets Attest to Vitality in Women’s Game

Sports Illustrated/Ann Killion: Texas A&M hands Stanford yet another Final Four disappointment

If women’s basketball wanted new blood, it’s got it now.

Indianapolis turned into Upset City on Sunday night.

Notre Dame knocked off mighty UConn. But the real party-crasher is Texas A&M, a school that didn’t even admit women just half a century ago and has never been to the Final Four until this week. Now it will play for the women’s national championship on Tuesday night, in the 30th anniversary of the NCAA title game.

Sports Illustrated/Richard Deitsch: Diggins, ND outduel Moore, UConn

“In the first half you could see that there was going to be a problem guarding her the whole game,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “But we did a pretty decent job on everybody else. In the second half, we allowed her to get everybody else involved, and then it was not just having to guard Skylar, but it’s the plays that she made for other people. That’s what great players do. They take control of a situation, and she did. “

AP/Doug Feinberg: Notre Dame Upsets UConn 72-63, Heads to Title Game

First Tennessee, now Connecticut — Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are running over the women’s basketball elite.

From the Insomniacs in Indy -aka the ESPN folks

Graham: Diggins puts on show for Indy crowd

“She does watch a lot, a lot of film because she needs to see what we’re talking about all the time,” Ivey said of Diggins. “And she’s like a sponge of it, so she likes to watch a lot of film.”

But in the days before Sunday’s semifinal against Big East rival Connecticut, Diggins passed on a final round of film study for an opponent already burned into her memory after three previous meetings this season.

As Ivey recalled, “She was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, Coach. I’m good.'”

Talk about an understatement. But people will be watching the film of what followed for years to come.

Graham: Lack of depth catches up with UConn

Mechelle: UConn’s Moore leaves incredible legacy

Mechelle: Stanford falls short in semifinals

Mechelle: Inexperienced Aggies clip Cardinal

When Tyra White was a sophomore at Hickman Mills High in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas State really thought it might get her to come play for the Wildcats. But that didn’t work out. LSU eventually won the recruiting battle.

Then Pokey Chatman left/was fired at LSU in March 2007, and White eventually reopened her recruitment. Several schools went after her again. Texas A&M won this time. Then just 4 minutes into the Aggies’ season opener in November 2007, White tore her right ACL.

So it’s been a long trip for White to get to this point: an appearance in the NCAA title game. But that’s where the Aggies are, thanks to the game-winning basket by White in a gut-churner of a national semifinal. The Aggies beat a No. 1 seed for the second game in a row, this time Stanford, 63-62 at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Charlie: Rapid Reaction: Notre Dame-UConn

Charlie, Graham and Mechelle: Depth makes difference in Irish win

Did you follow the Live Play-by-Play?

Mechelle: Second really is best in Indy: Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M marks just second title game without a No. 1 seed

For those who tune in to women’s basketball only occasionally, Sunday’s semifinals results and the impending championship-game matchup might be quite a shock.

But to those who follow the sport, the idea that No. 2 seeds Notre Dame and Texas A&M are meeting for the NCAA title (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday) is not so very weird. Even if Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said she was pretty sure “nobody in America” had picked an Irish-Aggies final.

Well, surely, somebody did. After all, the Irish have won a title before — albeit 10 years ago — and they have a history of playing well in the NCAA tournament. And Texas A&M, while in its first Final Four, has been knocking on the door for the last few years. Plus, both have been in the top 10 in the rankings, or near it, for a lot of this season.

Lots of good video:

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Auriemma Cites McGraw’s Common Roots

Because Connecticut and Notre Dame will be meeting a fourth time this season on Sunday night at the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse there may be a tendency to apply a Big East conference label to the second national semifinal game after Stanford and rookie Texas A&M meet in the opener.

But in terms of common backgrounds of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw the meeting between the Huskies and Irish can also be called the Philadelphia semifinal.

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on Kim’s Daily News site.

Also, at ESPN, Graham writes “Lady Vols look to make statement”

The more things change, the more we wait to see whether they stay the same for Tennessee.

The locker room top-seeded Tennessee occupies for Saturday’s Sweet 16 game against No. 4 seed Ohio State (ESPN, noon ET) is the same one it occupied four years ago at University of Dayton Arena, an instance of history repeating itself that allowed longtime team trainer Jenny Moshak to sit in the same spot along one wall Friday morning while the Lady Vols waited for their turn to practice, as she had while players endured similar waits four years ago in the Sweet 16. Pat Summitt is most definitely the same, save for a couple of additional championship rings now in her possession. Even the infamous ramp that leads to and from the locker room is familiarly steep.

Check out the Ohio State v Tennessee and and the Notre Dame v. Oklahoma previews.

Did you catch Graham and Mechelle’s piece Breaking down the Sweet 16.

Mechelle also has Versatility is Pedersen’s calling card

Did you ever face one of those miserable-weather days in the winter when you were chilled to the bone? And maybe you thought to yourself, “Why do I live here? I’m moving somewhere warm.”

Of course, many people think that … but don’t actually do it, right? But Gary and Kelli Pedersen, then living in Flint, Mich., felt that way once and decided to do something about it.

“We had an ice storm, and I couldn’t get either car out of the garage,” Gary remembered. “And I said to my wife, ‘Remember that place we went on vacation? Let’s just pack up and move.'”

At espnW Michelle Smith has Gonzaga’s fairy-tale tournament

At the beginning of the season, Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves told his team a fairy tale. We’re not saying it started with “Once upon a time.” But we’re not saying it didn’t, either.

“I told them the story about how, 10 years ago in Spokane, a little blond-haired girl — the kind of girl who was something special, the kind that people don’t see all the time — led her team to the Final Four.”

That little blond girl was Jackie Stiles, the former Southwest Missouri State star, whose transcendent performance in Spokane a decade ago helped her team become the last non-BCS conference team to reach a women’s Final Four.

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their Sweet Sixteen Preview & Predictions

With three upsets occurring on the last day of sub-regional play, the 2011 NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket looks at least a little bit different than most people assumed it would.

Of course, that probably starts with the absence of the #2 Xavier Musketeers who were ousted by the #7 Louisville Cardinals in the the Cincinnati sub-regional in arguably the most surprising upset of the three that occurred on Tuesday. The implications of that upset for the Spokane region are already covered at SBN Seattle, so now let’s take a closer look at the remaining 3/4 of the Sweet Sixteen.

They also ask: NCAA Women’s Bracket 2011: Which Second Round Upset Was Most Surprising?

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article (yah, it was printed a couple of days ago, but somehow the post stayed a draft) is the accompanying photograph. For some reason, Northern Iowa has become my favorite “team most people don’t know.” A Field of 64 Teams, With 4 Heavy Favorites

These No. 1 seeds, announced Monday, have won a combined 18 national championships, are coached by the nation’s highest-profile coaches and have clearly separated themselves from every other team in the country without being able to dominate one another. During the regular season, UConn beat Baylor, which beat Tennessee, which beat Stanford, which beat UConn.

“I don’t feel there’s a clear No. 1 this year as there was the past two years,” said Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer, who has won two national titles and whose Cardinal halted UConn’s record 90-game winning streak in December. “But I think there’s been clearly a top four.”

Also at the Times, Joanne Gerstner writes: Underdogs Duke, Ohio State Look to Make Waves

Jimmy Watson at the Shreveport Times talks about the risks inherent in hosting: Women’s NCAA event offers special subplots

With the LSU women a perennial tournament participant and the Lady Techsters a resurgent enterprise under Teresa Weatherspoon, landing a Louisiana team with a strong following seemed a foregone conclusion at the beginning. But the Lady Tigers had one of their worst seasons in recent memory and missed the 2011 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship for the first time in 14 seasons. And by losing in the finals of the WAC Tournament, the Techsters had to depend on plucking an at-large bid away from a BCS conference school. Otherwise local organizers would have been left holding an event where nobody came.

Not only did the organizers luck out with the Techsters being given a 10-seed, they landed teams with some great subplots that should attract some local sports enthusiasts a reason to watch on Sunday and Tuesday.

A couple of sidebars to the above:

LSU’s women’s basketball team is stunned they’re not in the NCAA Tournament

Techsters land NCAA bid

Kim has lots and lots of reaction articles on her Daily News page. Looks like Marist and Xavier are a tad cranky and UCLA is puzzled.

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From Mechelle: Tennessee ready to tip off tourney – Lady Vols help open the games at 11 a.m. ET Saturday (ESPN2/ESPN3.com)

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt got a laugh as ESPN dug up old photos of her playing days at Tennessee-Martin in the 1970s to use during the NCAA tournament selection show. The Skyhawks are in the NCAA field for the first time this year, and their most famous women’s basketball alum is very happy for them.

She doesn’t have to be concerned with making their stay a very short one; UT-Martin is the No. 15 seed in the Philadelphia Regional and faces No. 2 seed Duke in the first round.

Mechelle’s Spokane preview is up.

This year’s NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds established themselves well before Selection Monday. In fact, if you’d been asked to predict them just days after last season’s Final Four, you likely would have come up with this quartet.

Some might have thought UConn would struggle a bit more than the Huskies have in their one-loss season. But certainly no one is surprised that the Huskies, Baylor, Tennessee and Stanford are the top four teams in the NCAA tournament. Although …

Graham has Players to watch

Five who could catch lighting in a bottle

Seedings suggest these players won’t be around for more than one game, but each could make that game one to remember or even prolong her team’s stay.

Also from Graham: Vandersloot stands strong for Zags: Point guard needs 44 points to become first D-I player with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists

For all of her statistical milestones, national accolades and basketball skills, Courtney Vandersloot’s greatest strength as a point guard remains nothing more complicated than her ability to make everyone around her that much better.

But after piloting Gonzaga to the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history last season, she reflected on the postseason run and realized there was one player on the court whose limitations she felt might hold the team back at a time of year when championships are decided. So it was that the best point guard in the country decided there was one more player she could make better.

And even MORE Graham: Green Bay’s season to remember – Phoenix join UConn, Tennessee as teams to enter NCAA tourney with at least 32 wins

It’s the morning of the Horizon League championship game, and the staff and players who comprise one of the most successful programs in women’s basketball are gathered around waffles and eggs at a local restaurant, their blank (and insufficiently caffeinated) expressions serving as placeholders for the emotions the day will bring. It’s quiet enough, in fact, to hear the background music, and Green Bay associate coach Mike Divilbiss perks up when Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” starts to play.

Across from him, junior starter Julie Wojta is unimpressed, or more precisely, unaware of Morrison. Divilbiss tries to give her a hint, offering up “Brown Eyed Girl” as the clue that will unlock the mystery identity.

“Yeah, that doesn’t help,” Wojta responds.

Scott Powers has Long road for DePaul’s Naughton nears end

Deirdre Naughton was laying poolside when her cell phone rang on a Friday in early August. It was the NCAA calling to tell her she had been granted a sixth year of eligibility to play for DePaul women’s basketball team.
Naughton immediately sprung to her feet and jumped around in celebration.

The catch was she couldn’t tell any of her teammates until it was finalized on Monday. Naughton promised she would keep her mouth shut for the weekend.

Not long after she hung up, she called her teammate and close friend Sam Quigley.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but she told me on Friday,” Quigley said, laughing. “I remember her calling me, and I was screaming hysterically. I was probably more excited than she was.”

Skyler Diggins writes: Communication key to handling NCAA hype

Life is all about growth. When you experience things, sometimes you may make mistakes or do some things well, or both. Regardless, there will be an outcome. Whether that outcome is negative or positive, you will have an opportunity to reflect. Take note of the positive things or things that you did well. Then reflect on your mistakes. If you learn from these mistakes and do not make the same ones, you have grown.

I had to learn this in my freshman year of college.

Over at espnW, Angelique Chengelis writes Samford’s stock on the rise

Mike Morris knows the routine.

He calls a recruit and identifies himself as the head coach at Samford, and occasionally there’s a pause.

“They get all excited when they think it’s Stanford,” Morris said, laughing. “I kid around and I’ve said I always wanted to ask [Stanford coach] Tara VanDerveer, ‘Do y’all get that, are you Stanford or Samford?’ just to see if I get a grin out of that.”

Also at espnW, Jane McManus writes: Marist’s Brian Giorgis has the winning formula

Basketball was his first sport. He played as a youth. But after getting a glimpse of his 7-foot counselors at Willis Reed’s basketball camp, Giorgis realized the limits inherent in his 5-foot-9 frame. He decided to coach, but after a difficult season with the baseball team, Giorgis decided he didn’t want to coach boys again. He realized his style just fit better with his girls’ teams.“It wasn’t about style points and who looked better,” Giorgis said. “It was about what they could do to win games.”

Mark Simon does a little research: Stefanie Pemper’s Navy seeks upset  – Mids coach was on Harvard staff when the Crimson knocked off No. 1 Stanford in 1998

Before coming to Navy, Pemper was the coach at Division III Bowdoin College, a liberal arts school in small-town Brunswick, Maine. There she developed a coaching style that emphasized there was more to basketball than what took place on the court. She has brought that to Navy, as well.

At Bowdoin, practices opened with the players talking about the classes they’d been in that day. When the team took an undefeated record into the Division III Final four in 2004, it left campus early so it could spend a day in Colonial Williamsburg on its way to the championship site.

At halftime of one game at Bowdoin, the players got engrossed in conversation and lost track of time and came out of the locker room 30 seconds before the second half was to start. Undaunted, the team suffocated its opponent into 25 percent shooting and won easily.

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Mechelle has the Dallas Regional primer

Three observations

1. Destination: Big D: For only the second time, Dallas will be host to a women’s NCAA tournament basketball regional. This one, though, could be quite a blockbuster if the seeds hold into the final.

The only other time Dallas had an NCAA women’s regional was in 2007, when North Carolina defeated Purdue to advance to the Final Four. That was in Reunion Arena, which exists now only as a memory, having been demolished in 2009. Reunion was the home of the Southwest Conference tournament for years — Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes once scored 53 points there — and it also hosted the Big 12 women for three tournaments.

Graham has the Philadelphia Regional primer

Three observations

1. Maya Moore is not doing this by herself. Perhaps you’ve heard of Connecticut’s leading scorer, but the presumptive and deserving player of the year (again) has more help than conventional wisdom might suggest.

It was reasonable to expect Moore to shoulder a substantially greater share of the scoring load this season without Tina Charles and Kalana Greene around and with Caroline Doty sidelined by an injury. And in absolute terms, Moore is doing just that, averaging 22.1 points and 16.4 field goal attempts per game this season, up from 18.9 points and 13.9 field goal attempts per game in 2009-10. But the scoring increase is more a function of extra time on the court than her changing the way the Huskies play on offense. A season ago, Moore averaged 19.7 field goal attempts per 40 minutes. That number climbed this season, but only as far as 20.1 field-goal attempts per 40 minutes.

Charlie’s got the Dayton Regional primer

Three observations

1. With Oklahoma’s Danielle Robinson, Marquette’s Angel Robinson, Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis, James Madison’s Dawn Evans, Miami’s Shenise Johnson and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, this part of the bracket could just be renamed the PGA: point guard awesomeness.

Four of the six have tallied at least 145 assists this season and, of course, they’re all multiple threats. Each of them ranks first or second on her team in scoring. Miami has the added bonus of a backcourt with the 1-2 punch of Johnson and Riquna Williams (21.7 ppg, 2.8 apg).

Here’s a closer look at the point guards’ numbers:

Did you catch the Spokane Region video preview?

Yah, Carolyn called her athlic.

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From C&R:

March 18th- Are you Smarter than C and R? (Year 2)

Okay, we said that last year and most of you WERE smarter than C and R when it came to picking the top women’s basketball teams in the country. Well, smarter than C, she bombed the bracket, but R did well.

Let’s just find out how much you know about women’s basketball and the their NCAA tournament. Women Talk Sports is sponsoring a group bracket on ESPN’s website.

Last year Women Talk Sports offered prizes, so not sure if they will this year. But ESPN is offering $2,000 and $1,000 gift cards. Test yourself against C and R (and other Women Talk Sports members).

Join and complete the bracket by SATURDAY, MARCH 19TH. Tell your family and friends to join!

I am listed as “Stanford.C” and R is “Stanford.R” Unoriginal I know, but this way you will know who is crushing you!

Sign up Today!

Important Women’s Basketball Links

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If not, make sure you check out Swish Appeal for some inspiration:

Women’s NCAA Tournament 2011 Predictions: Notre Dame Could Frustrate Tennessee, Win Dayton Bracket

Women’s NCAA Tournament 2011 Predictions: How Can Gonzaga Upset UCLA & Xavier In The Spokane Bracket

Women’s NCAA Tournament 2011: Which 25 teams have the most momentum coming in?

Women’s NCAA Tournament 2011: Printable Bracket, SBN Links & ‘Baffling’ Seedings

Women’s NCAA Tournament 2011: Who are this year’s “Bracket Busters”?

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Celebrating perfection: 1986 Texas Women’s Basketball

This marks the 25th anniversary of UT’s unprecedented run to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. The Longhorns became the first team in history to complete an undefeated season.

“The first thought was perfection. There will be a champion crowned every year, but the undefeated champions will form an elite group.” – Jody Conradt

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