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Under an enormous amount of scrutiny – both by the Secret Service and by grumpy Committee bashers – the #8 Tigers and #9 Phoenix put together a nice game. Princeton dominated the boards and nailed their free throws to secure their first NCAA tourney win.

Courtney Banghart had seen it once too often. It was not much more than a year ago and one more time than she could stomach watching Annie Tarakchian, then a sophomore, catch the ball in good position near the basket, hold the ball over her head and look to pass without ever showing the slightest inclination to propel a strong frame to the basket.

“Annie is about the most gentle soul on this earth, and she’s really kind,” Banghart said. “Those two, gentle and kind, are not great inside the lines. Inside the lines for the first year and a half at Princeton she was gentle and kind.”

So when Tarakchian was passive one too many times in practice before a key road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth a season ago, Princeton already in a hole in the Ivy League race by then, Banghart whistled proceedings to a halt and delivered a simple rebuke. 

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

If you recall, Susie McConnell-Serio’s team opened the season rather inauspiciously. That’s all forgotten as #10 Pitt Panthers produced a HUGE win for the program as they upset #7 Chattanooga, 51-40.

“Walking up to hal court at the end of the game I said to him, ‘This is bittersweet,’ because I have so much respect for him,” she said. “I think he is one of the best coaches in the game, and I’m so happy that he’s still coaching because he just has so much to offer to his players.

“So as happy as I am for our team and our program, it was hard to look at him as I was shaking his hand.”

It’s fly like an Eagle time, as #7 FGCU defeats #10 Oklahoma State, 75-67. They move into the second round for the first time in program history.

Smesko said the men’s team’s run two years ago has been “fantastic” bringing recognition for the school, located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, in southwest Florida.

“We’ve been right on the precipice for a long time,” Smesko said. “We know our next game is going to be against one of the very best teams in the country.”

#13 Liberty has been a hard-nosed program for a while – as #4 North Carolina quickly re-discovered – but the Tar Heels pulled out the win.

 Latifah Coleman and Allisha Gray weren’t going to let Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the NCAA Tournament end so soon.

Gray scored 17 points and Coleman had 15 to lead North Carolina past Liberty 71-65 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) shot 49 percent, led by 14 and withstood the Flames’ late push to give their Hall of Fame coach a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to fight leukemia.

“This whole week, I have been so stressed out,” Hatchell said. “It’s a good stressed because I’m so excited about the tournament.”

Taking lessons from their football team, #15 Boise State was not intimidated by #2 Tennessee – even on their home court. In the end, the Vols escaped the Broncos.

The Lady Vols were clinging to a 63-58 lead after Boise State’s Camille Redmon made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:51 remaining. But Redmon missed her second free throw, and Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale sank a 3-pointer 13 seconds later to spark a game-clinching 8-0 run.

“I’m satisfied we got the W, but we could do much better,” Graves said. “Our one-on-one defense has got to be tight right now. This is crunch time.”

Coach Trakh can be proud of the effort of his #16 New Mexico State team against host, and #1 seed, Maryland. The Terps ruled the Aggies, 75-57.

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

“Like PT boats attacking a battleship,” New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said in describing the destruction the 6-foot-3 Jones inflicted on his shorter, slighter players as top-seeded Maryland won its NCAA tournament opener Saturday.

All season, the Terps have won by continually switching guises. As if to prove that versatility, they beat New Mexico State with a bruising inside attack in the first half and a barrage of jumpers in the second.

#12 James Madison and #5 Ohio State gave us the Debbie Antonelli Special, with the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 90-80.

The Buckeyes — who started three freshmen and bring sophomore Shayla Cooper off the bench — shot 58 percent in the second half and scored on seven consecutive possessions down the stretch.

“Obviously, when you get to this time of the year (and) you have kids who have experienced it, that can be beneficial,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But I also think for kids who haven’t, then have that youthful energy and that passion to be a part of it. … That can take you a long way.”

#12 Quinnipiac and #5 Oklahoma gave us the second DAS, combining for 97 points in the first half and 99 in the second. Sooners scored more, so they win and move into the next round.

When the Sooners were 5-5 in non-conference play earlier this season, it was tough imagining them making the NCAA Tourament, much less imagining them winning a game in it. But after finishing in second place in the Big 12, Oklahoma came ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their 111 points against Quinnipiac showed that despite their lack of experience you should never count out a Sherri Coale coached basketball team.

Sun Belt champ Arkansas-Little Rock battled #6 Texas A&M wire-to-wire, then the #11 seed made good on the upset, 69-60, earning coach Joe Foley his 700th win.

“Tops right now,” he said. “Top game. It’s unbelievable, playing against a friend, playing in the NCAA tournament. It was fun. And to play as well as we did. We played great, and we deserved it.”

Taylor Gault scored a season-high 25 points, Kiera Clark added a career-best 22 and 11th-seed UALR beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M in an opening-round game Saturday.

“The thought I had was to shoot and drive and do whatever I knew I could do best for my team,” Gault said.

#3 Louisville tamed #14 BYU, but the game may be remembered for this action by the Cardinals’ Mariya Moore than the actual score.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s inside presence out-muscled the Cougars from the opening tip. The Cardinals outscored BYU 44-30 in the paint, and added 11 second-chance points on 33 rebounds to net the win.

Barely two minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Mariya Moore drew a technical foul — and the ire of both coaches — leveling BYU’s Morrison with a hard push off a screen.

BYU leading scorer Lexi Eaton responded to the physical play of the game with an elbow of her own two minutes later, a move that went uncalled by the officials — though she did receive a foul on a push on the same play.

#2 Florida State was in their comfort zone, and easily handled #15 Alabama State, 91-49.

“This experience is huge for our program,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “It’s been a while since we have actually had an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We only have one true senior that actually played (Saturday). We’re extremely young.”

Alabama State was composed early but wore out, committing 32 turnovers against a stifling Seminoles defense.

#14 Ohio spotted #3 Arizona State 16 points in the first half, but the MAC played the PAC even in the second. Nice re-focuser for the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Elisha Davis increased the lead on the next possession, getting a steal and making the layup. In a 54-second span, ASU had gone on a 7-0 run.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the spurt was a result of ASU’s defense.

“When our defense is turning people over and we’re getting easy buckets in transition, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said.

Ohio coach Bob Boldon gave credit to that aspect of ASU’s game.

“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “That really contributed to us getting frustrated on the offensive side.”

Speaking of “re-focusers” #16 Cal State Northridge sure as heck provided that for Stanford as what seemed like a blowout-in-the-making turned into a dogfight. Cardinal escaped, 73-60.

How many hard lessons is this year’s Stanford women’s basketball team going to have to learn?

The Cardinal have already learned that beating Connecticut doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Chattanooga, that knocking off Oregon State doesn’t mean you can beat Oregon, that winning Pac-12 titles isn’t a default status, that changing your entire offense and turning it into a well-oiled machine isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that hosting an NCAA tournament game isn’t the same as winning it. At least not if you don’t play well.

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

Courtney Williams did what she does, as host #6 USF dispatched #11 LSU:

South Florida made the most of its first home NCAA postseason game.

Courtney Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alisia Jenkins added 15 points and No. 6 seed South Florida beat 11th-seed LSU 73-64 in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday night.

The announced crowd of 5,560 erupted as the final seconds ticked off.

“I took a moment and went out there (on the court) and was like `wow,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “This is what we’ve wanted and worked for.”

The Old Big East fans were having serious flashbacks in Storrs as they watched #8 Rutgers and #9 Seton Hall go after it in OBE style. 

“What a great game,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We played hard. I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well and just played extremely hard. We’re glad to have gotten that game under our belts.”

One year after staging a double-overtime thriller in the third round of the WNIT, Rutgers and Seton Hall turned in another memorable affair. For the second straight year in the postseason — and for the 34th time in 41 meetings all-time — the Scarlet Knights prevailed.

The #16 Terriers knew what they were getting into when they drew the #1 Huskies for their first-round match. But the game, did prompt a nice story in the NY Times about St. Francis guard Sarah Benedetti :For a St. Francis Player, UConn, Long an Inspiration, Turns Rival

When Sarah Benedetti moved to Canton, Conn., as a fifth grader in 2004, she almost immediately started rooting for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. That year, UConn became the first Division I university to win the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball.

Benedetti began attending Huskies games with her family and teammates. She idolized the UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was so obsessed with the sport that she arrived at Canton High School at 6 a.m. each day to shoot for an hour before classes started. Her father, Sergio, rebounded the ball for her.

Now a senior at St. Francis of Brooklyn, Benedetti competed Saturday night against her former favorite team.

Benedetti did well.

They were smiling from the moment they took the floor, especially when UConn’s starters were being introduced. This was their moment. And Benedetti, with a large cheering section on the day that her old high school lost its bid for a Class S state championship, did her best, making three three-pointers in a first half in which the team’s hole progressively grew deeper. She scored 13 points.

Said coach Thurston post-game:

“This was an incredible experience for our program. This team is the first time that St. Francis has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament on either the men’s or women’s side. Coach Auriemma is a gentlemen. He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending National Champions to knock us out.”

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

1. ACC flies high: In two days, the ACC went from filling one eighth of the field to representing one quarter of it. While other teams are disappearing, everyone from the ACC remains present and accounted for. No one in the conference has lost, and the league is 8-0 after another four-win day Saturday. Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville all cruised into the second round. The Tar Heels had to withstand a late push by Liberty, but otherwise, the games were not only wins but also comfortable ones.

Even Pittsburgh, a No. 10 seed, thoroughly controlled Chattanooga from start to finish in handing the Lady Mocs their eighth straight tournament loss. For the second straight year, Chattanooga had a 25-game win streak snapped in the first round of the tournament. Panthers freshman Stasha Carey’s 16 points and 13 rebounds were just the second double-double in Pittsburgh NCAA tournament history.

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

12:00 #4 Duke vs #5 Mississippi State, ESPN 2
12:00 #3 Iowa vs #11 Miami, ESPN 2

2:30 #2 Kentucky vs #7 Dayton, ESPN 2
2:30 #2 Baylor vs #10 Arkansas, ESPN 2

7:00 #3 Oregon State vs #11 Gonzaga, ESPN 2
7:00 #1 South Carolina vs #8 Syracuse, ESPN

9:00 #4 Cal vs #5 Texas, ESPN 2
9:00 #1 Notre Dame vs #9 DePaul, ESPN

Oh, and thanks, pilight, for keeping official track of this:

Note that this does not include the men’s play-in games. This is round of 64 vs round of 64. 

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

BIG UPSET happens when an upset involves teams more than four seeds apart 

CLOSE means a game was decided by single digits or in overtime 

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

80-90-100 is the number of teams scoring that many points

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falls on Arkansas Pine Bluff

Over five academic years, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff failed to monitor and control the administration of its athletics program, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. The university wrongly certified 124 student-athletes for competition, including nine student-athletes that competed before the NCAA Eligibility Center certified their amateur status. The university learned of deficiencies in its eligibility certification process in 2009, but failed to correct the deficiencies, which allowed ineligible student-athletes to continue to compete until 2012.

Penalties include five years of probation; a postseason ban for the football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball teams; a vacation of all wins in which ineligible student-athletes participated; and scholarship reductions for 11 of the university’s teams.

Meanwhile, in the land of Chapel Hill, crickets are chirping….

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Yup.

Thanks to Nan for doing some of my work:

UConn women face early test in No. 3 Stanford, Post
Dolson, UConn frontcourt deliver strong message, Post
No. 1 UConn women’s game day: Monday vs. No. 3 Stanford, Post
UConn Women Ready For Visit From No. 3 Stanford, Courant
Preview Capsule: No.3 Stanford At No. 1 UConn, Courant
UConn hosts Stanford in a banner matchup, Register
Younger Ogwumike sister carving out her own legacy at Stanford, Register
Stanford comes to Gampel tonight looking for some revenge, Day
No. 1 Huskies top Rizzotti, Hartford, face No. 3 Stanford Monday night, Daily Campus
Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer on the doorstep of elite coaching club, San Francisco Chronicle

From ESPN:

Michelle writes, “Cardinal must be more than Chiney”

Mechelle’s piece I linked previously is her “preview” for the UNC/Tennessee game: Time for Tennessee to just play

From Melanie Jackson: Doubleheader to introduce new faces

If you are a women’s basketball fan, there are some names you’ve likely heard a lot, but you might not have seen the players yet. Monday, you’ll have the chance.

North Carolina hosts Tennessee (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 9 p.m. ET; Stanford plays UConn at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN) in a game that will be an early showcase for some of the top freshmen this season.

The Tar Heels’ Diamond DeShields, Stephanie Mavunga, Allisha Gray and Jessica Washington comprised what was generally ranked the No. 1 recruiting class this year. North Carolina also has two redshirt freshmen, Hillary Fuller (foot) and Hillary Summers (knee), who sat out last season with injury issues.

From Harold Gutmann at the Herald Sun: UNC’s freshmen face early test vs. Lady Vols

From the AP’s Aaron Beard: No. 12 Tar Heels host No. 4 Lady Vols

North Carolina’s youngsters didn’t get much time to prepare for their first major challenge in college.

With No. 4 Tennessee arriving Monday, the No. 12 Tar Heels will have a tough test that comes early in their work to shape a team featuring the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class and reigning Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year Xylina McDaniel.

Freshman Diamond DeShields says Monday means, “America’s basically going to see us and what we have to offer.”

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Hatchell will tackle cancer head-on

There are people who, if you gave them a free pass from work for the rest of their lives, simply wouldn’t take it. Having expectations to face, goals to meet, production to accomplish — it’s just how they are wired.

North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell is that kind of person. Let’s put it this way: Earlier this year, during the build-up to her 900th career victory, she was asked what she might do someday after basketball. And in true Hatchell form, she immediately spoke of the job she’d want after she retired: mowing the giant lawn at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. (she figured it would be a relaxing chore).

That’s Hatchell: She’s thinking ahead to work after work. It’s the way she was raised in the textile-mill town of Gastonia, N.C., outside of Charlotte. It’s how she has operated for the past 40 years as a coach.

And, as everyone who knows her would tell you, it’s how she’ll deal with cancer. She’ll tackle it head-on, with a commitment to a game plan and her trademark relentless optimism.

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It was close, and then it wasn’t:

#7 Cal over Utah.

#8 Penn State over Ohio State.

#5 Kentucky over LSU.

#22 Florida State over Virginia Tech.

Texas Tech over TCU.

NC State over Georgia Tech.

UTEP over Houston.

Butler over VCU.

Delaware over Drexel.

Creighton over Bradley.

Washington over Oregon.

It was close, and stayed close:

#19 UCLA over Arizona State

#13 Louisville over St. John’s.

#11 North Carolina over Miami.

#18 South Carolina over Arkansas.

#15 Purdue over #25 Michigan State.

Seton Hall over Rutgers.

Wichita State over Evansville.

It was never close:

#4 Duke over Boston College

#15 Georgia over Florida.

#17 Dayton over Massachusetts.

#16 TAMU over Missouri

#10 Maryland over Clemson.

Duquesne over Fordham.

MTSU over Western Kentucky.

Fresno State over Colorado State.

It wasn’t close, and then it got close.

Virginia over Wake Forest.

It was so close, it became a loss.

Iowa over #23 Michigan.

Washington State over Oregon State.

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’cause it’s fun, since we know how much Mechelle hates making predicitions.  In anticipation of the Kentucky/South Carolina and UNC/Maryland game, Mechelle Voepel said this:

jbb1985 (ny): Which of the two games tonight between ranked, Conference rivals are you the most interested in: MD vs. UNC or UK vs. S. Carolina?

Mechelle Voepel: Interested in both, but if I have to pick I’ll say Maryland vs North Carolina because it’s a rematch and may indicate how the Tar Heels will go through this tough four-game stretch vs. Terps, Miami, Florida State and Duke. Sylvia Hatchell is 3 wins from 900 in her career, and it could come as early as Jan. 31, I believe. But it could also be delayed awhile, as these are tough games. The interesting thing with Kentucky-South Carolina, of course, is which team sets the pace in that game, since they are so opposite.

MV got it right. Cats’ streak stopped by South Carolina, 55-50

Every shot, every cut, every pass.

Every minute of the game, South Carolina wanted to make Kentucky as uncomfortable as possible.

The No. 18 Gamecocks succeeded and upended the fifth-ranked Cats 55-50 Thursday night, ending UK’s 17-game win streak.

“They played much harder than we did,” Cats Coach Matthew Mitchell explained. “They played much more physical. Their desire was much stronger to win tonight. When that happens, then we get beat.”

Check out what else MV has to say, when she teams up with Michelle as they talk Mechelle & Michelle: Coast to Coast

On their podcast, Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli talk to a pair of head coaches, Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and UNC’s Sylvia Hatchell.

Out west, Oregon breaks into Pac-12 women’s basketball win column at the expense of the Washington State Cougars. 

The Buffaloes got so much deserved attention, and then got close to a huge win, but couldn’t put Cal away. Stanford handled the Utes.

Some good news for Ohio State, Stokes’ knee injury is healing quickly.

Nebraska welcomed Michigan State to the polls by beating them.

The Shockers continued their winning ways in the MVC, and now sit at 6-0 in the conference. The Blue Jays are keeping pace, now at 5-1.

In the Horizon League, Algoma’s Zastrow emerges for UWGB

Speaking of emerging stars, Graham offers up this: Rodriguez emerges as FSU star: Senior guard from Canary Islands has tripled her scoring average from a year ago

It might seem at first glance as if one of the season’s biggest surprises came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best players in the ACC. But for someone who crossed an ocean just to get to Florida State four years ago, a senior season to remember turns out to be one more leg of a long journey.

Rodriguez comes from a place people dream of visiting for a few days’ respite from the real world. Where she grew up, others hope they might someday soak up the sun in retirement. So frankly, it’s a little surprising to sit across from her in a hotel lobby on a wet winter night near Boston and find that there is nowhere she would rather be than where she is, with three years worth of waiting and working behind her to prove her point.

Clearly, Graham has no jinx-ability, as Chelsea Davis helped No. 22 Florida State rally past Georgia Tech.

It’s around the corner: UConn v. Notre Dame. Jim Fuller writes: Huskies need their bench to be the best. Curt Rallo writes: Irish need to keep foot on the gas

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While the rest of the ranked teams (UCLA-recovering nicely from that Cal-Northridge oops, TAMU, Tennessee, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Cal) were dispatching their overmatched opponents by various ridiculous margins, two “undefeated” and ranked teams were tested: Georgia by the mighty Illini (6-5) and #25 Arkansas by the fierce Coppin State (4-7). One escaped, the other didn’t. What up with your scheduling, Dawgs and Hogs? (And yah, there are no upsets in women’s basketball, just inaccurately ranked teams, right? Which explains what happened to #20 Texas at the hands of Iowa, right?)

Is the Stanford/UConn game on yet? (UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer expect lots of offenseStanford-UConn: More Than A Fairy Tale,

While you’re waiting, check out Mel’s blog on early Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year candidates. (I’ll say, as a Lib fan of “a certain age and longevity, I’ve been following the Hilltoppers since Shea Mahoney. Flashback, much?)

Then wander over to Swish Appeal and check out The state of the WNBA: 2012 edition

Hmmm… maybe the third year’s the charm for Caldwell. Her LSU team goes down to FGCU.

Will Spidey make the Tourney? Bilney! They might!

How tough is it in Sooner-land? The volleyball players are coming to the rescue.

From at Amy Farnum the NCAA.com: Forging the path – Kansas star Goodrich looks to inspire other Native Americans

Kansas senior point guard Angel Goodrich may be known for her vision on the court in women’s basketball circles, but it is her perseverance that may be her greatest strength.

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