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Welp – I guess the cream of the West showed the Challengers of the East, huh?

Fare-the-well:  Inside The W with Michelle Smith

Swin Cash was on a conference call for the WNBA on Monday morning, talking with reporters in conjunction with Tuesday night’s nationally televised game between the Sparks and Liberty, which is an anniversary rematch of the first-ever WNBA game back in 1997.

She was, as always, a passionate, eloquent advocate for the league, a veteran spokeswoman for her team, and as it turns out, a soon-to-be-retiree.

Cash announced Tuesday morning via a personal essay for The Players Tribune that she will be ending her decorated WNBA career at the end of the 2016 season.

Social Reaction: Swin Cash’s Retirement

Film Room: Running Down a Dream

Candace Parker Provides Perfect Spark

Crap: Chicago Sky loses guard Laney to season-ending knee injury –

WATN? WNBA star Nicole (Ohlde) Johnson: Never give up

NCAA

“In the recent months, there have been accusations and false attacks made of my character and coaching,” Swoopes said in a statement released by a public relations firm. “I stand proudly in my values, actions and intent of representing the best interests for students — as athletes, but more importantly as individuals.

High/Middle School

Thank you : Master at his Craft: Longtime Collinsville Middle School girls basketball coach retires

After 30 years and more than 600 victories as a girls basketball coach at Collinsville Middle School, formerly North Junior High, Greg Craft is calling it a career.

Craft, 55, retired in May as a science teacher and coach. More than anything, he will miss the relationships he’s built with players during the last three decades, and it’s that aspect of retirement that has Craft not ready to completely say good-bye.

WBHOF

June Courteau first heard an official’s whistle while growing up in Minnesota, specifically when she exceeded the three-dribble limit during a high school physical education class. Her reaction was swift and pointed.

“I told the teacher ‘that’s stupid,’ ” she said.

Courteau undoubtedly has been on the other side of such a comment. She has 45 years worth of experience in officiating. She worked for decades on the court in the heat of the moment. She now oversees such work as the NCAA coordinator of officials.

It’s hard to separate Natalie Williams the basketball star from her volleyball alter ego. This weekend’s festivities in Knoxville will constitute a supreme effort in that regard.
Since she was on a basketball scholarship at UCLA, Williams considered herself to be a volleyball walk-on. She was a four-time All-American walk-on (1989-1992) who helped lead the Bruins to volleyball national championships in 1990 and 1991. She was the first woman to receive All-American honors in both sports in the same school year (1992-93).

Sherri Coale, in her own words
Summitt’s stand re-launched OU women’s basketball, and ignited a Hall of Fame coaching career
Friends and Foes: Conradt, Sharp Reflect on Coale
Sherri Coale has been model of consistency at Oklahoma

The AAU girls basketball tournaments that span age groups and take place throughout the country serve to promote the sport. They also honor and preserve the legacy of Bill Tipps.Eddie Clinton is involved with the AAU program in West Tennessee and benefitted from Tipps’ assistance as the organization’s national chair. Clinton saw firsthand Tipps’ people skills and diligence in action. “It was a labor of love for Bill,” Clinton said. “Whatever it took to build girls basketball, he wanted to do. Girls basketball would not be what it is today without Bill Tipps.

“We’re girls and we just want to have fun,” said 90-year-old Mary Wersells, the first girls’ basketball coach at Simeon High School as she reflected on the history of the sport.

Nearly four decades ago, Title IX was enforced which prohibited discrimination against female athletes. This opened the doors for pioneers in Chicago like Wersells and 81-year-old Narcissa Roberts, who became the first girls’ basketball coach at Corliss High School in 1973.

INTERNATIONAL
Library Additions: 
Rise and Fire by Shawn Fury. Writes Shawn:
The book basically traces the jump shot’s influence on the game from the time of its introduction to today’s dominance of the 3-pointer. But along the way I take a lot of detours and one chapter focuses on the 1968 Iowa girls title game. It featured the shooting exploits of Jeanette Olson and Denise Long. I write about both players and that famous game and then of course about Denise being drafted by the Warriors. It was my editor’s favorite chapter in the book and several reviews have noted it, including the Washington Post’s.
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So, yeah, there’s this thing going on: Players saying their coaches are so mean they’re either leaving their programs or suing them.

Chicago/Swoopes: Ex-Loyola players say Sheryl Swoopes’ coaching methods behind mass transfers

ISU/Fennelly: FENNELLY WOULD CHANGE “NOTHING” IN HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MOODY

Illinois/BollantBollant speaks for the first time since allegations

Nebraska/YoriNatalie Romeo denies Yori allegations, gets permission to transfer; another Husker looking at schools

Duke/McCallie: Duke investigating McCallie’s basketball program

Kentucky/Mitchell: The Kentucky women’s basketball crisis and the battle over culture

College of Charleston/Jackson: Former women’s basketball player sues College of Charleston

SFA/Kellogg: SFA officials investigating complaint made by Ladyjack basketball player

 

First, I’m not quite sure I’m loving some of this “kids these days” reactions. Not only did we raise these kids, but we created the environment they’re playing in: travel teams, *fillintheblanksportscompany*  gear, pretty locker rooms, rating systems and a society that seems to value athletic skill over personal virtue.

Who wouldn’t struggle to keep their head on straight when faced by that wave of privilege?

“Kids these days” is the reality you’re dealing with. It IS a different world – and looking back to the “golden” past (some of it real, some of it mythologized) won’t help you figure out what actions you need to take with the players in front of you.

Second, it smacks of the dismissive “why don’t they just suck it up and get over it” mentality that undermines those who try to speak up against abuse, it whatever form it takes (Summitt/LaTech & Chinn/FIU come to mind). It moves to accepting the phrase “PC” as a pejorative.

For me, “politically correct” is the radical assumption that an individual can recognize that there are power dynamics in the world and that they are manifested in language and behavior. For me, being sensitive to those those dynamics doesn’t make you weak. It challenges me to be thoughtful and intentional in my practice. It asks me to consider the consequences of my actions before and after I take them. It’s hard and annoying and exhilarating and confusing and, sometimes, threatening and humiliating as I recognize behavior and patterns that don’t necessarily fill me with pride.

Coaches are often held up as educators. Now, there are all sorts of educators – with different styles and pedagogy. (And I’m guessing that we can agree that some of what happens in a gym would be unacceptable in a classroom – that, itself, is an interesting discussion). And, as educators, it’s not just what you know. How you share it makes a difference, too, because learning is an emotional, physical and intellectual process.

Coaches know this – you often hear them talking about “what works for this player doesn’t work for that player.” Sometimes it’s called “pushing buttons.”

Well, sometimes the buttons we push are the wrong buttons. And as educators… as the adults in the room, it’s on us to reflect, “What was my role? If I could do it over again, could I have done it differently? How will this impact my decisions and practice moving forward?”

Hey, maybe you wouldn’t change a thing. And please, don’t mistake my intent. I’m not advocating that folks avoid honesty, hard truths, pushing folks, being direct etc. Again, being sensitive and respectful is. not. being. weak. In fact, it requires a certain amount of courage to say, “Huh. By my actions, I made someone feel a certain way. Am I okay with that?”

How you answer that question determines your next steps.

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nevermore” quoth the Ravens.

As mentioned earlier on this blog, Franklin Pierce women’s basketball coach Jennifer Leedham was in danger of losing her job because of her immigration status.

Well, now it’s official – she’s out.

Leedham posted a 67-47 record and helped the Ravens to two NCAA Division II tournament bids. As a player, she played point guard for the FPU team that reach the 2009 NCAA championship game.

FPU hopes to have a new coach in place by April 22. Kirsh interviewed 11 candidates during the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Indianapolis and talked to three more Wednesday in Springfield, Mass.

FPU, which went 14-13 last season, is losing five seniors and four starters to graduation.

Kirsh said immigration status hasn’t been a major issue in the past with FPU coaches from other countries, like Craig Stewart, the former men’s soccer coach. Like Leedham, he is from England.

“When they go smoothly I don’t even get involved,” Kirsh said. “It’s never been an issue before.”

UConn women’s Coach Geno Auriemma, himself a foreign-born coach who became a U.S. citizen in 1994, and Bentley veteran coach Barbara Stevens wrote letters to U.S. officials on Leedham’s behalf.

 

Yup: Hill: Tyler Summitt has tarnished family name

And WTF: Louisiana Tech puts recruit Jaida Roper’s release request on hold
Shoes dropping: 2017 Guard Madison Washington has reopened her recruitment.
Congrats? Mickie DeMoss named interim Lady Techsters head coach

Nebraska fallout? Sophomore Guard Jasmine Cincore  also gets permission to transfer
More Nebraska fallout: Natalie Romeo denies Yori allegations, gets permission to transfer; another Husker looking at schools
And more: Griffin, former players offer support for Yori
And more: Former women’s hoops staffer says she filed discrimination complaint

A former Nebraska women’s basketball staff member confirmed to the Journal Star on Wednesday that she had filed a complaint against the University of Nebraska alleging discrimination.

Jan Bethea, who was the program’s director of basketball operations for five seasons before leaving in 2015, said she filed the complaint this year. At NU, she coordinated the Huskers’ scheduling and team travel, among other duties, and also was on the bench during games.

After leaving Lincoln, she returned to school in Florida to complete her doctorate.

Hello: Travis Mays Named Head Women’s Basketball Coach At SMU

Goodbye: Tulane freshman Taylor Emery has announced her plans to transfer.

Bye: LSU: Asst. coach Tony Perotti no longer on staff

Disparities in Coaches’ Academic Incentives Raise Concerns Over Gender Equity

At dozens of colleges, men’s basketball coaches are eligible for bigger academic bonuses than are their counterparts in women’s basketball. Legal experts say the discrepancies could expose colleges to discrimination claims.

Nice: Utica, NY native Brianna Kiesel honored for generosity to community

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’ — Huskies claim No. 4 with LaChina Robinson and Chiney Ogwumike

More Audio: Dishin & Swishin 4/08/16 Podcast: ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi helps put a wrap on the college basketball season

Yeah: Fans help UAA women’s basketball team celebrate historic season

News: ‘Divine Intervention’: Behind new Lauren Hill documentary


WNBA

.com: Catching Up With Cheryl Reeve – Part 1 | The Draft, The Offseason And Whalen’s Decision

WNBA Draft Open To The Public

WNIT to WNBA: USD’s Seekamp preparing for the pros

The storied career of USD G Nicole Seekamp came to an end on April 2nd with a 71-65 win over Florida Gulf Coast which secured the WNIT Championship for the Coyotes and gave the Summit League its first ever postseason team championship.

It may not have been the end of Seekamp’s competitive basketball career, however. The Renmark, South Australia native has seen her name pop up on multiple WNBA draft boards, and she’s not ruling out the possibility of playing in Europe or her homeland.

HOUSTON BORN RUTH HAMBLIN READY TO TAKE ON THE WNBA

WNBA coaches: FGCU’s Whitney Knight has chance in league

A WNBA pre-draft teleconference Friday with league coaches and analysts pointed to the likelihood that outgoing FGCU star Whitney Knight will be selected next week.

Whether she makes it in the league as a rookie remains to be seen.

Today’s Fastbreak: Wings’ Odyssey Sims excited about move to Dallas

When a franchise moves, it can be tough on everyone. Unfortunately, the WNBA is no stranger to moving (or even folding) franchises, and while the league has shown remarkable stability in this area compared to its early years, one of the biggest headlines of this offseason was the Shock moving to Dallas and being re-branded as the Wings. It came at a rough time for the Tulsa fan base, who’d just seen their young squad make the playoffs for the first time since the team moved there from Detroit…and yet, just like that, the team was on the move once again.

One person who’s just fine with this move, though, is Wings guard Odyssey Sims. 

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…’cause it’s never too early to look towards 2017 (yes, I’ve already made hotel reservations – hasn’t everyone?), Marc Tracy at the Times: Mighty UConn Faces a Future of Rising Powers

Take a peek at the 10 all-Americans selected this season by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. UConn’s Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck each made the cut.

But Stewart and Jefferson are seniors, and Tuck, a redshirt junior, announced Wednesday that she will join them in the W.N.B.A. draft (where they may well comprise the top three picks).

By contrast, all-Americans likely to return include Baylor’s Nina Davis, a onetime Big 12 player of the year; the big scorers Kelsey Plum, of Washington, and Kelsey Mitchell, of Ohio State; and South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson, who is just a sophomore.

Folks are already discussing next year’s top 10.

Yes, they made the WNIT finals, but FGCU women’s basketball roster facing big makeover

Four years after replacing a massively sized, massively successful senior class with an even larger group of newcomers, the FGCU women’s basketball team now is repeating the process.

The unknown is great.

Maryland Basketball: Kaila Charles gives hope for Lady Terps’ future

Maryland should have high hopes for the future of the women’s basketball program. 

Next year, the Lady Terps will welcome in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. It’s a class that features three McDonald’s All-Americans and one of the players that has the potential to make a great impact to an already talented Maryland team.

Yes, UConn’s losing three seniors, but don’t count’em out yet. Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register writes: Stewart worked to leave UConn women’s program prepared for future

Knowing the pressure that awaits the returning players with herself and fellow All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck graduation, Stewart has offered some guidance. Whether it was taking Katie Lou Samuelson out for dinner when Stewart thought Samuelson hit the proverbial wall or cracking jokes to Napheesa Collier during the stretching portion of the warmups before the national championship game, Stewart took the responsibility of bringing along the younger Huskies to heart.

Graham offers up: Sophomore Kia Nurse holds the cards for UConn

Four national championships in four seasons. It is one of those feats that can be matched but never bested, Connecticut seniors Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as secure in that legacy as a golfer who wins four majors in a calendar year.

Unless …

With two championships in her first two seasons, Kia Nurse is halfway to matching that haul. Granted, halfway is a long way from the whole way, but when it comes to tiebreakers, Nurse earned an unbeatable one almost a year ago on a basketball court in Toronto.

Also: Returning UConn players say they’re ready to take baton

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson said the team has heard the critics say that without the three seniors, the gap will close between UConn — which beat teams by nearly 40 points a game — and programs such as Baylor, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

She said they’ll use that as motivation.

“We kind of want to prove to everyone that we can still do it, and I think all us are going to be ready when that time comes,” she said.

Howard Megdal: How Geno Auriemma still gets excited for next year

…it is through that lens, accomplishment as a subset of personal journey, that leaves Auriemma excited for what comes next. He said that until he and associate head coach Chris Dailey come to the decision that they can’t “get the kids to where they need to go”, he wants to keep coaching. He doesn’t usually get to think much about his championships because there’s always so much to do. He revealed that conversations about next year had already begun—Gabby Williams was in his office discussing how she needed to get better to compensate for the lost greats. Next year, Auriemma said, is never far from their minds. He doesn’t make it sound like such a bad thing.

“These three leaving, the rest of the players coming back are in for a rude awakening,” Auriemma said. “But you can’t disregard what all this, the impact that it has on the players coming back. And it will last for a while. But then obviously it will—they’ll have to earn it like these other guys.

From John Walters, Newsweek: FOUR SPORTSWRITERS HAVE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE WITH UCONN COACH GENO AURIEMMA

To cover UConn on a daily basis affords these writers unfettered access to the John Wooden of women’s basketball without having to combat, for most of the season, the incursions of big-time media outlets (even if ESPN headquarters in Bristol is just 45 miles west). “It doesn’t matter if you’re from The New York Times or from the JI [Adamec’s paper], Geno treats everyone the same,” says Adamec. “The first time I showed up to a practice, he approached me and said, ‘You made it all the way from Vernon [another tiny eastern Connecticut hamlet]?’ As if to congratulate me for finding them.”

The banter, over the years, has led to a rapport that has laid the foundation for a trust and candor between both parties that is rare if not unique in sports. For years Geno would host a Final Four party on the eve of the national championship game—even in the years UConn was playing—to which media were also invited. “At the 2000 Final Four party in Philadelphia, I brought my wife, whom Geno had never met,” says Jacobs. “He gave her a hug and said, ‘Your husband’s an asshole.’ She replied, ‘I know.’”

Hello again, Lindsay Kramer at Syracuse.com: Quentin Hillsman plans on staying in charge of Syracuse women’s basketball

The breakout star of the 2016 NCAA women’s basketball tournament wasn’t a player.

It was Syracuse University coach Quentin Hillsman.

Hillsman has been highly regarded in coaching circles during his decade of running the Orange, as evidenced by the steady stream of compliments from opposing coaches in SU’s streak to the national title game Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

An encouraging word: Bonvicini to Barnes: Go for it.

Winner. That’s the first word that comes to mind for Joan Bonvicini when speaking of her former star Adia Barnes.

“Adia’s the kind of person that you never want to say you can’t do something.” 

Not so encouraging words out of Nebraska: Yori resigns following athletic department investigation | Women’s Basketball

Hmph. I know there are some head coach openings, but….Lady Vols, associate coach Kyra Elzy agree to part ways

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So, yeah, many of the conference tournaments have started, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have to worry about the first rounds…

“DOH!” says the Ohio Valley. Murray State straight up stuns #1 Tennessee-Martin. How big an upset? The Pacers are 11-16 (7-9) and the Skyhawks are 21-8 (14-2). The Skyhawks just played Murray State to close out the season and beat them by 21. SIEU must be thinkin’ “We don’t screw up, we get into the NCAA.” Of course, Belmont might be thinkin’ the exact same thing.

Fly, Eagles, fly: FGCU leads mid-major rankings into the postseason

If mid-major teams often play with the freedom of nothing to lose in the NCAA tournament, perhaps it’s because they already survived the part of the season when there was everything to lose. With NCAA at-large bids rarely a certainty, a season’s worth of good work can vanish within a few bad minutes in a conference tournament. But with automatic bids soon up for grabs, here is a final look at the rankings.

Wow, being a Clemson Tiger these days must be disheartening. 0-for in conference play.

You stay (Boyle), you go (Butts). This could be a busy list.

Oh, this could get ugly right quick: FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Crap: Theriot Will not Return for HuskersTheriot’s career had great moments, but also disappointment

The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, site of one of the great moments in the career of Rachel Theriot.

In 2014, Theriot helped lead the Huskers to the Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s first title in their new league. Theriot was tournament MVP.

Theriot won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game against Rutgers. The senior point guard had surgery on her foot on Monday. That ends a career filled with lots of great games, but also disappointment, as her junior and senior seasons were each cut short because of injury.

So, I’m pleased that coach Dave Magarity is part of the WBCA’s “COY Region/Nominee” process. But, I’d like to mention that Army (26-2, 17-1) has had a (rather recent) tradition of winning. Bucknell, now 23-6, (17-1), not so much…

“It feels good to get a piece of a championship,” said fourth-year Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “This team has been through so much, and for it to result in a banner in the rafters is very rewarding. I’ve been told Army is one of the better teams in the history of the Patriot League, so for us to match them at 17-1 is an incredible accomplishment.”

Bucknell’s run through the league schedule started with an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Army West Point. The Bison’s lone loss came to the Black Knights and has been followed by their current nine-game winning streak that they will take into the postseason. The streak is tied for the longest in program history.

Woot! to the NCAA’s “Team of the Week:”

Fresh off of claiming the school’s third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.

Speaking of the Miners: UTEP star Turner overcomes struggle and thrives

Growing up in the hardscrabble parts of Dallas, Turner spent some nights on a floor in an apartment with six of her siblings, some at houses of various coaches looking out for her. Some days she ate better than others. Those days, she didn’t pass out in a gym. Some days she did pass out in the gym. Going to practice hungry was common.

Turner learned the rules of the street.

“I saw shootings, killings,” Turner said. “You hear shots and you get down on the ground, protect yourself. I saw lots of drugs, weed, cocaine, prostitution. Not a lot of girls I went to school with went on to college. I wanted to break that cycle; I didn’t want that to be my story.”

But there’s another part to this: Turner isn’t running from anything.

Speaking of players overcoming:

This year has not been what anyone expects of Iowa State, least of all the Cyclones themselves. This is a proud and distinguished program that’s used to the postseason; Iowa State has gone to the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 19 seasons, including the past nine years in a row.

But the Cyclones finished the regular season Tuesday at 13-16 overall after an 82-57 loss to West Virginia.

So why did it still seem like such an uplifting night in Ames, Iowa?

Because Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson was back on the court, after a very emotionally difficult past 10 days in what’s been a challenging season for the Cyclones. Johnson had missed the previous two games while at home in Minnesota with her family after her father, Curtis Johnson, suffered a stroke on Feb. 20.

Speaking of really good players: Courtney Williams worked hard to become one of game’s top players

You’ve heard the story before, countless times. It’s about the high school standout who comes to college and becomes perplexed and frustrated that what once came pretty easily had become challenging.

Common as the scenario is, it’s still a major hurdle to clear for every player who encounters it. But if she does, it’s a process she never forgets.

South Florida senior guard Courtney Williams can attest to this. She has become one of the top players in college, and is looking forward to a professional career. But she had to go through that “what I am doing wrong?” phase at one point, too.

Ladies, start your engines! UConn ready to raise the bar even higher in postseason

The undefeated Huskies are like a standout Broadway troupe that has been doing the same show for a while. They have all their lines memorized and know every mark they must hit. So how, when you’ve been essentially nailing it again and again, do you still find another gear?

That’s really the “secret” of championship teams, isn’t it? Even when they appear to be at their best, there’s somewhere else to climb.

“Back in the day, we used to say, there’s regular-season Shea Ralph, and there’s tournament Shea,” Auriemma said of the former Huskies star and current UConn assistant coach who was the most outstanding player of the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “And those are two different things. And we like to think that our team is the same way.

Ya-da-UConn “undefeated” Ya-da-UConn “national champions” Ya-da… NOT UConn?      Johnson County women’s basketball team shooting for perfect season: Defending NJCAA Division II champs are 30-0 entering postseason

The Johnson County Community College women’s basketball program earned its bona fides long ago and its second national championship last season. The Cavaliers are accustomed to winning.

So when coach Ben Conrad says: “It is surprising we haven’t gotten beat. That’s not normal,” it’s apparent something is up.

JCCC begins postseason play Tuesday with a 30-0 record, the first time the Cavaliers have finished the regular season undefeated. All but two of those wins have come by double digits. Most of those double-digit wins have been margins rarely seen outside of video games.

Looking ahead, Charlie says: NCAA’s final reveal holds small clues for Selection Monday

Mechelle, who’s been writing up a storm, notes: Bubble teams look to make big noise during Championship Week

In the five major conferences — which accounted for five automatic and 27 at-large NCAA berths last year — there are some bubble guppies and bubble sharks. The guppies don’t have much NCAA tournament history, while the sharks do — but as the “bubble” part of their description suggests, both are in precarious positions in regard to this year’s tournament.

Let’s take a quick look around the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as they get set to face off for conference supremacy and automatic tickets to the Big Dance.

Check out the ‘Around the Rim’: Championship Week Preview podcast with Chiney and LaChina

During the first half, the two are joined by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn to discuss if UConn’s recent slow starts should be concerning, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola’s retirement and her comments on “players’ entitlement” and front-runners for the national coach of the year award.

In the second half of the show, the duo chat with espnW’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme who breaks down the significance of the upcoming conference tournaments and sheds light on which teams could make a case for a tournament bid this weekend.

Connecticut’s WNBA Team Is More (and Less) Tied to UConn Than You Might Think

…as UConn continues its skyward trajectory under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Sun look toward the 2016 season — the WNBA’s 20th — facing an uphill climb, and a clear goal to strengthen its place in the state’s women’s basketball market after a run of disappointing seasons.

The best way to do that? Win.

“For us, it’s going to come down to: how do we legitimize ourselves?” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s vice president and general manager. “People know who we are. We’ve done great things. We have to win a championship. I think that’s when people start putting us in the same conversation with UConn.”

Hello, Prez! Atlanta Dream names Theresa Wenzel new president

WATN? Jessica Davenport: A Global Basketball Journey Close To Home

One Last Time: Q&A with WNBA star, Olympian and author Tamika Catchings

In her new book, “Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion,” co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.

Thanks for the story, Sally: Going on offense vs. Down syndrome: Most people saw limits for Frankie Antonelli. Parents Frank and Debbie saw potential.

They had counted with an unthinking confidence on having healthy kids, maybe even a team roster’s worth. She played basketball at North Carolina State before becoming a sportscaster, and he hit .400 for the Columbia University baseball team before making a career in elite sports management, and they hoped to add some quality little strivers to the general population. Their first child was an easy birth, and they were so confident of their second that she played nine holes of golf the day he was born. Then he came out scrunched up with the cord around his neck, and holes in his heart.

The doctors spoke in dead-end terms, even the ones who tried to be positive. Though it was 1997 and not the Victorian Age, one said, “Don’t let anybody tell you to institutionalize him.” Statistics showed most Down syndrome children would not see 50.

He won’t develop properly, they said, or play games like other children. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words can’t and won’t,” Debbie says. Defeatist words. They seemed to apply as much to her, as to him. You can’t have a career with a disabled child. You won’t be able to work.

But the Antonellis were athletes, and athletes don’t deal in can’t and won’t. They deal in can, and will.

Eighteen years later, Frankie Antonelli is a junior in high school with sparkling eyes, and a well-defined V shape from fitness training. “Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m a celebrity,” he says, wise-guy-like as he introduces himself to a reporter. With a motor-speech impediment that doesn’t dull his meaning, he proceeds to argue with some spirit that he’s the best basketball player in the Antonelli Driveway Series.

Video: Coordinator of Pac-12 women’s basketball officiating Violet Palmer reflects on a pioneering career

Congrats to Brenda VanLengen, winner of the 2016 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

On a dabnabbit, but congrats note, WHB fave Jim Massie is closing up shop at the Columbus Dispatch. Hopefully he’s at the top of the Mel list next year.

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(Hello Houston, site of so many Liberty heartbreaks… at least your airport has free wifi! And at least we were able to find a hotel for our unexpected overnight due to bad weather.)

So, to the big news: Blue Devils/Buffalo roots (tinged with a little Hotlanta) bring Lisa Borders to the presidency. Mechelle says, Lisa Borders’ biggest challenge: Proper exposure for WNBA

She’s 58 and a part of the Baby Boomer generation that lived its entire young adulthood before social media. The players in her league are late Generation Xers and Millennials. The oldest of the active WNBA players have no memory of a world before Title IX; the youngest have no recollection of a world without the WNBA.

Even so, the main question WNBA players, coaches and fans of all generations ask is the same: How can the league be better marketed? No one is looking for NBA-type exposure, of course. But can the WNBA, or at the very least a few of its more prominent players, break through to the mainstream?

From the Times: By Hiring Lisa M. Borders, W.N.B.A. Gets a Leader Who Follows the Game

“Sometimes I’m literally screaming at players to box out, move their feet or drive the lane,” she said by telephone. “And I’m asking, ‘Whose man is that?’ ” She added, “I’m the No. 1 fan.”

Borders is essentially looking for more fans like herself as the W.N.B.A. heads into its 20th season in May. Average attendance peaked well above predictions at 10,864 in the league’s second season, but it fell last season to 7,318 a game, a record low. Viewership on ESPN and ESPN2 tumbled 15 percent last season and declined 21 percent during the finals, which were on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

In the other news: Just what you expect from the WCC: 40-foot jumper by Lexi Rydalch secures BYU’s improbable 65-62 win over San Francisco. Then, of course, San Francisco takes down San Diego.

Top Dogs: UAlbany women’s basketball defeats New Hampshire in front of 3,016 fans

Not so fast: The Q overcomes deficit, tops MAAC-leading Iona

Post-game unpicking: Maryland women’s basketball learning hard lessons from turnovers. Still learning, as they had 24 in their win over Northwestern.

Resurgence: Multi-threat Utes aiming for surprise postseason berth

Anyone else impressed with the noise Oklahoma State is making late this season?

And what about their in-state rivals, #21 Oklahoma taking down #6 Texas, 74-56.

#16 Florida can’t make up its mind who it wants to be, falling to Auburn 80-58.

Coaches across sports consistently preach about the importance of a renewed focus in games following losses.

Florida, however, did a poor job of taking that wisdom to heart on Sunday.

In their worst loss of the season, the No. 16 Gators were defeated 80-58 on the road to unranked Auburn.

The same might might be said for #17 Michigan State, who got schooled by Nebraska, 73-66.

Sunday provided another example of the ever-changing emotions of a college basketball season.

On Thursday, Nebraska got drilled 110-73 at Minnesota in one of the worst losses in program history. Nebraska coach Connie Yori said in that game the Huskers looked like they didn’t want to be there.

Three days later, Nebraska got its best win of the season, defeating No. 17 Michigan State 73-66 in front of a season-best crowd of 8,338 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Told you about this game: Maine tipped Albany, 65-53.

There was a distinct postseason atmosphere at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday afternoon.

And the University of Maine women’s basketball team gave a playoff-caliber performance for a crowd of 3,231 at the Cross Insurance Center. 

Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears played suffocating interior defense, limiting two-time conference player of the year Shereesha Richards to eight points while grinding out a 65-53 America East victory.

Huge win for UNC-Asheville as they win their re-match with Liberty, 56-51, claiming sole possession of first place in the Big South and clinching its first 20-win season since 2006-07.

Huge upset, as UMass earned its first A-10 victory by taking down the Bonnies, 69-60.

Almost as big: Though senior forward Nathalie Fontaine became only the second Cardinal in program history to reach the 2000th career point after scoring 28 points,  Ball State stumbled in the MAC, falling to Kent State, 59-50. Meanwhile, Ohio and Central Michigan look to be on a collision course.

Okay, so I’ve been keeping my eye on Wake Forest, and what do they go and do? Beat Duke, 64-58.

In what was the worst loss of the entire McCallie era, Duke had its 44-game win streak against Wake Forest snapped, 64-58. Pick a Duke problem and it showed up in this game. Being outrebounded by a smaller team? Check. Giving up easy looks on the perimeter? Check. Inexplicable scoring droughts? Check. Missed free throws? Yup. The fact that it came against a team that has been an ACC doormat for a long time, one that Duke beat handily earlier in the year, is an indicator that the program is very much at a tipping point this year.

Boink! Canisius took advantage of a nightmare 3rd quarter by Marist to squeak out a 2-point win, 71-69.

Nice: Greenland has built storied girls basketball program

Sporting a black Greenland Lady Pirates pullover, greatness encircles him. High on the gymnasium walls, Kelly green and white banners detail the school’s dominance in girls basketball for the past 15 years. Hardware from the program’s six state championships since 1999 stuff the trophy cases in the foyer.

Barton said while the winning is nice, that’s not his ultimate goal as a coach and leader of one of Northwest Arkansas’ most successful girls basketball programs. Success to him goes beyond the hardwood court.

“Winning, developing habits, being a strong personality, that’s all part of it,” Barton said. “But for them to tell me I’ve made a difference in their lives, man, that’s everything.”

Nice: Miami’s Octavia Blue to have her jersey retired

North of the Border: Canada’s women’s basketball team ready for high Olympic expectations

And South of the Border I’m seeing this:

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And this!
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#2 team scores 7 in ten minutes. 57 in forty.
#10 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 51 in forty.

#8 team scores 62 in forty.

#11 team scores 61 in forty.

#12 team scores 4 in ten minutes. 36 in forty.
#20 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 56 in forty.

Thank you Notre Dame, DePaul, UConn, South Florida, West Virginia… and, as always, Sacramento State (25 threes, anyone?).

Honestly! I thought the rule changes were supposed to HELP the scoring. Instead, I’m having Nike commercial flashbacks. “Momma can’t help your jump shot.”

In other games:

Army keeps pace with Bucknell. *Graham? Michelle? Someone take notice of the Bison!

Bryant (6-0) claims the top spot in the NEC.

UTEP (6-0) still perfect in C-USA. So’s Western Kentucky (7-0), which got the program’s first triple-double from Kendall Noble. Speaking of poachable coaches (Michelle Clark-Heard), have you been following Sue’s interviews with coaches?

And repeat: In the MAC, it was the Ohio Bobcats (7-0) over Northern Illinois. Ball State is now 6-1 in conference play.

It was tough, but Green Bay’s in-conference record stayed unblemished, courtesy of a  63-58 win over Wright State.

“They have the best payers — that always helps. The year we beat them, we had the best players. I think this year, it’s really, really close. Time will tell,” [WSU coach Mike] Bradbury said.

Arkansas State moves to 8-0 in the Sun Belt (a program best).

“It is a really good road win and this just caps off a really good stretch of four games in eight days,” A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. “I just told the players that they played really well during this stretch and they have just saved the best performance for last.”

Abilene Christian is now 7-0 in the Southland as junior guard Alexis Mason is tearin’ it up.

New Mexico State continues to roll in the WAC, taking down Bakersfield in front of a record-breaking 5,034 fans.

After an ugly third quarter, Washington roared back to take down Washington State, 69-63.

Perfect no more: The Teddy Bears lose to East Tennessee State.

WHB jinx anyone? UT Rio Grand Valley falls to Seattle, 74-71 and UC Santa Barbara falls to UC Riverside, 92-81.

Called the fun: Nebraska over Michigan, 93 – 81.

Michigan women’s basketball had no answer for Jessica Shepard on Sunday as Nebraska’s standout freshman beat up on the Wolverines. 

The 6-foot-4 Shepard scored 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead the Cornhuskers past Michigan, 93-81, at Crisler Center.

Asked the questions and the teams responded: Indiana over Northwestern, 91-84.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Teri Moren said a Big Ten road win would help further change the culture of Indiana women’s basketball.

The Hoosiers came away with their moment, a 91-84 win at No. 20 Northwestern. Ahead by five at the half, but falling behind by seven going into the fourth, IU (12-8, 4-4 Big Ten) outscored the Wildcats 33-19 in the fourth quarter.

In the battle of the A10 bigs, it was Duquesne snapped St. Bonaventure‘s 16-game winning streak, 74-62.

Here’s hoping tonight’s game have us singing, “Score, score, score! How do you like it? How do you like it?

Welcome to the neighborhood, Coach Neighbors: Washington enters Top 25 for 1st time since ’03

In other news:

Cool: Missouri’s average home attendance surges into top half of SEC.

Yes: Ohio State winning despite lack of size

“Our chemistry is pretty great,” senior guard Ameryst Alston said. “Like I’ve said before, that’s how it should be. We’ve got a lot of different players that can score. So it makes us hard to guard.”

The Buckeyes (14-4, 6-1) have used their versatility to forge a first-place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten standings. They lead the conference and are third in the nation in scoring at 87 points per game. They do this efficiently despite having only one starter taller than the 5-foot-9 Alston.

The lack of size often shows up in rebounding statistics, but Ohio State has won 10 of its past 11 games against mostly bigger teams.

Charlie’s got his latest bracket and is Trying to make sense of topsy-turvy SEC

Thank goodness for South Carolina. Otherwise there would be no figuring out the SEC.

The Gamecocks moved to 7-0 with Sunday’s slugfest of a road victory over Mississippi State. After that, the conference is a cluster of teams virtually indistinguishable by record and performance. After the Gamecocks, each of the SEC’s other 13 teams has at least two conference wins. No one has more than four. Everyone has at least two losses but no more than five. Georgia is tied for last place, yet is a mere 2½ games out of second place, and the Lady Dogs are included in this week’s projected NCAA tournament field.

Cleanse your palate with a little USA Basketball news: Familiar faces dot U.S. women’s basketball finalists

The pursuit of a sixth consecutive gold medal for the United States women’s basketball team will be in familiar hands come August at the Rio Olympics. On Monday, the list of the 25 finalists for the 12-member squad was released by USA Basketball.

There were no surprises; the group has both longtime veterans of international play and the top college senior in the country, UConn’s Breanna Stewart. Ten players in the finalist pool have previously won Olympic gold, including three-time Olympic champions Diana TaurasiTamika Catchings (1st women to receive National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award) and Sue Bird (Role Model of the Year)

New York Values: Madison Square Garden Company partnership with Resorts World Casino includes deal to make casino sponsor of Liberty Pride Month

One cost of bigotry? Survey: Religious objections law cost millions

Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due at least in part to the controversy surrounding the state’s religious objections law.

A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.

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