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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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but I’m a little worried about the Lib’s tall folks.

Tina looks fantabulous, but where is Kiah? Sugar is already making a bid for the “Most Improved” as Old Big Easters will recognize the form they’re seeing on the court (and, do you remember her Player’s Tribune piece?). Intrigued to see how our elder guards contribute – really want an announcer to get the chance to say Z-to-Z for the nice give-and go. The Dallas visitors say Skylar is day-to-day, but even without her, the Wings are proving that they’re not going to be a pushover this year. Looking forward to see what happens for the newly-transfered franchise. Home wins, I hope.

Swish Appeal: ‘Pinch of Sugar’ goes a long way in Liberty victory

Queenie:

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don’t have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she’d had to play, and I don’t think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn’t help their rotation.)

On the West Coast, Los Angeles picked up where it left off last year… as did, unfortunately,  Seattle. Behind Parker’s 34, the Sparks easily handled the Storm. L.A. Times … dabnabbit! You use the AP report!!?!?! And oh, snap, the Sparks aren’t in your header or your dropdown menu. So. Not. Cool. At least Mechelle wrote somethin’

There were five No. 1 picks on the floor at Staples Center on Sunday, all of whom could tell you their own stories of what it means to them to be in that club.

When the game was over, 2008’s top pick — the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker — had the biggest day and her team got exactly the start it wanted: a dominant, 96-66 victory over the Seattle Storm.

There actually were some positives for the Storm, particularly regarding two of their No. 1 picks who look to be the foundation of a bright future: 2016 top pick Breanna Stewart, in her pro debut, had 23 points, while 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd, last season’s rookie of the year, had 20.

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

Sue: Parker, Stewart both shine in Sparks dominating opening win

Hoopfeed: Candace Parker spoils debut of Breanna Stewart with 34-point explosion as Sparks beat Storm 96-66

The local paper hasn’t stopped paying attention: Breanna Stewart makes WNBA debut, experiences something new: Losing

Did you catch this from Stewie? Day One, Again.

Downtime? I have none. Just the way I like it.

Last week I was in Seattle trying to figure out if I could pull off the trip back to Connecticut for graduation. My new teammates asking, “What time do you have to be there?” Meanwhile I’m thinking, What if I get there and they forget to call my name? But being able to graduate in person from an institution like UConn, in front of a community that gave you so much, is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I made it, and squeezed in a visit to the White House with my UConn teammates; it was worth it.

Swin back in?

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry

Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:

“We gotta make the damn playoffs,” she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.

Diana Taurasi learned a lot by watching her Phoenix Mercury teammates, at least when she wasn’t yelling at her monitor.

“I turned into that fan. ‘Why aren’t we rebounding? Why aren’t we executing down the stretch?,’ ” she told Excelle Sports Saturday at shootaround, prior to the Mercury’s season-opener 95-76 loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

Watching was the only thing Taurasi could do following her choice to skip the 2015 season, a move that reverberated fiercely within the WNBA community; Taurasi had won her third championship with Phoenix and her second Finals MVP award the year before.

On Saturday night, Taurasi could call herself a player again, competing against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, a venue where fans generally love to hate anything that has to do with purple and orange, especially the player wearing the No. 3 jersey. In Minnesota’s lean years,

If you haven’t purchased ESPN the Magazine, might recommend you get out and do so. WNBA oral history: Moving the ball forward

DAVID STERN WALKED down the hallway of the NBA offices in Manhattan and paused as he approached Val Ackerman’s office.

The then-NBA commissioner poked his head in the doorway.

“This would be a summer league, right?” Stern asked.

“Yeah,” Ackerman recalls saying, “that’s the plan.”

THE WNBA WASN’T launched by one landmark meeting. Rather, it evolved from a series of brainstorms, serendipitous circumstances and casual conversations: It was the right people working together at the right time. The NBA had reached a zenith of popularity and marketability in the early 1990s thanks to megastars such as Michael Jordan and collaborations with other organizations, such as USA Basketball. All of that delivered the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics.

 Great job by Delle Donne (and, I’m assuming, a little assist from the Sky PR folks) – she’s been all.over.Chicago.In Chicago Magazine: The New Superstar in Town

In the glittering heart of Gotham, at a swank TriBeCa gala fit for a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne, a newly minted superhero soars toward an unseen basketball hoop, a flaring silk of blond hair trailing like a cape.

A few feet away, in heels and a form-hugging gown, a very tall blond woman who more than passingly resembles the leaping figure mulls the Marvel poster like a patron at a gallery, examining the main image of the subject cradling a basketball like a deity palming a planet, her hair swept back like Athena.

A small grin, then a full-on smile blossoms as she reads the character’s name.

“I hadn’t seen this,” she says to a friend. “Pretty cool, huh? Full-Court Goddess. I’ll take that.”

Speaking of which, fingers crossed: Sky’s Elena Delle Donne practices, expected to play Wednesday

About friggin’ time. From Excelle: WNBA.com dramatically expands stat, historical video offerings

This doesn’t suck: ESPN posts highest WNBA overnight rating for a regular-season game since 2011

A little college:  

With rumors circling about an extension, On the Banks writes: C. Vivian Stringer’s Impact Upon Women’s Basketball is Legendary

From the Sentinel: Next recruiting class crucial to Lady Vols’ future

Bye: Nebraska sharpshooter Natalie Romeo to transfer to UW women’s basketball team

Romeo leaves Nebraska after the abrupt resignation last month of Huskers coach Connie Yori over allegations that the coach mistreated players. Romeo has denied those claims.

“It was pretty difficult there,” she said. “I just think it’s the best thing for me to move on.”

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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

Once I played on the Olympic team that year and we won gold, I was done. No overseas hoops. Nothing. I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models, came up to New York and tried to start modeling — doing some shows, going on auditions … mostly getting rejected for being too tall. But as for basketball? Those days were pretty much over.

I had mostly given up on the game because my dream of playing couldn’t go any further. Past the Olympics, there just wasn’t any real opportunity — in my mind — for me to play for a long time in the U.S. At the same time, there were talks of starting the American Basketball League for women to play professionally, but I opted out because it didn’t have the support of the NBA. And I didn’t want to play in Europe, which was really the only other option.

I needed to put basketball behind me. I felt like I had to make a decision and I couldn’t wait around any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling like I was standing on the sidelines, waiting for my name to be called, only to hear the buzzer go off before I got a chance to play. I moved on.

But then I got a call the following January …

Audio: Brittney Griner and Stefanie Dolson join the Trifecta: What Can The WNBA Do?

Excelle: WNBA CONFIDENTIAL: We are living in the Maya Moore Era

In the days leading up to the 20th WNBA season, there’s been a great deal of talk about Breanna Stewart as the new face of the league. Much of the 2015 narrative centered around Elena Delle Donne and her historic season, and don’t expect her to recede in the public eye as she builds on it while playing for a gold medal in Rio this summer. Brittney Griner, too, always draws attention (and found herself in a recent ESPN SportsCenter ad), while Skyler Diggins is returning from a knee injury with a massive social media following and a new level of play she reachedlast year that she believes is a permanent new state.

All of these stars deserve attention. But any sober, clear-eyed analysis of where the WNBA stands at this moment, an evaluation of the current state of the league, only provides one conclusion.

This is the Maya Moore Era.

Sports Illustrated WNBA’s Maya Moore talks season, Rio Olympics and Jordan Brand

The LA Times notices the Sparks: Sparks begin WNBA season with high hopes, and with Candace Parker back on full-time duty

In 2015, the Los Angeles Sparks made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and for the eighth time in the last decade. But that’s not a realistic portrayal of how things really unfolded: They posted a 14-20 record (their fourth worst ever), and lost to the Minnesota Lynx in three games after sneaking into the postseason.

The Sparks begin their 2016 season Sunday against the Seattle Storm, and they’re counting on finding some consistency — a trait that eluded them for large portions of last season — to drive them back to winning ways.

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

Atlanta 11: Angel McCoughtry and the WNBA are ready for respect

Newsday: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

“I didn’t have that,” said Bird, who is beginning her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. “There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four. 

“The WNBA changed everything,” said Bird who starred at UConn. 

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

As one of six children, including two sets of identical twins, Valavanis developed skills that have carried through her athletic career and professional life.

She has used them on the basketball court to make shots, in the boardroom to make trades and in the community to make fans.

“From very early on, my family was our own little tribe and that helped shape how I value people and how I value connections,” Valavanis, 39, said. “It really shaped my personal journey and is at the center of who I am.”

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve: WNBA has come a long way in 20 years

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve entered the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Sting.

At that point the league was five years old, and at the end of each season for her first three or four years on the job, Reeve said a question presented itself.

“You had this moment where you didn’t know, were we still going to be here?” Reeve said, referring to the league’s fragile existence in its infant stages. “During that time you had teams that were losing millions of dollars.”

Reeve said the WNBA is now far past that point. It’s through the survival stage as the league celebrated the opening of its 20th season Saturday night when the Lynx hosted Phoenix at Target Center.

SlamOnline: Watch Them Work – The WNBA has never had more depth than now. What a great time to tune in.

 

The league’s list of high-profile players has never been short. Somewhere between Lisa Leslie catching her first poster and Maya Moore hitting that game-winner in last year’s finals, however, something changed. The national narrative shifted back to women’s basketball not being worth a man’s time. But there hasn’t been a better time than now to tune in.

“We have a lot of different types of women and players,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson says. “We still have those superstars, like Diana, like Candace, they’re still in the game. Then you have a new generation of players coming in. Brittney Griner, Skylar, Elena. And then my class. In my class, we have some great personalities. We’re very skilled too.”

Damn skippy, Stef.

David Berri at VICE: HOW THE WNBA COMPARES TO OTHER SPORTS LEAGUES AT AGE 20

As the WNBA celebrates the tip off its 20th season this weekend, it’s easy for naysayers to paint a picture of a league that’s stagnant at best, and a NBA charity case at worst. After all, WBNA average per-game attendance last season was only 7,138—the lowest mark in league history, and well below the average per-game NBA draw of 17,849. Women’s professional basketball, this line of thinking goes, has had two decades to build a fan base and establish itself in America’s sporting consciousness. So why can’t it come close to the NBA?

Here’s the answer: that’s the wrong question. Or, more accurately, it’s the wrong comparison, and a misleading one

Yesterday’s games

No Diggins? No problem, the ageless Plenette Pierson is here! If you read the numbers, you’d think Indy won – but their defense was lacking and slow. Dallas shot 36 free throws. Sims shot for carp, but earned her living at the charity stripe. Nice production from Theresa Plaisance, too.

“We were more aggressive,” Pierson said of the last two quarters. “We started making shots, we got fouls called on them. That’s what helped us get the win.”

“I thought we took some early rushed shots,” Coach Fred Williams added. “But luckily tonight they went down for us and it’s not going to go that way ever game. I felt we have to get better at that end, be selective of taking quick shots, kind of work the ball around a little bit.”

No Delle Donne? No problem, the rest of the team (Pokey played 11) made Curt Miller’s W coaching debut miserable. Connecticut shot 33.8%. Yikes. At least Rachel Banham brought a little sunshine.

Well, this is a good sign.

The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.

WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.

Jayne’s last second shot carried the Stars into overtime, but the Dream made sure they secured the win in the extra minutes. McBride looks to have picked up where she left off last year, but there’s not much of a bench presence. For Atlanta, Layshia gave them some nice minutes, and Elizabeth Williams played 36… but I wonder about her 2-6 shooting.

“We fought,” Hughes said. “They were very coachable late, gave us a chance to win the game. We didn’t get it done in overtime. We’re a work in progress, but their spirit was good.”

When Tina and Sugar shoot 50%, Bill is happy – and the Liberty win. No surprise Shoni didn’t get in. Slightly surprised Adut didn’t. Auspicious opening game for Tayler Hill and Bria Hartleynot so much for Stef and Emma.

As the final horn sounded on the Washington Mystics’ 87-76 season-opening loss Saturday night, New York Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer shook hands with his counterpart, Mike Thibault, and offered a few appropriate words of encouragement.

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

Ah, being healthy is an amazing feeling. Stomping your press-anointed competition for the ’17 title is even better. Lynx rolled as the Merc’s defense let them shoot 54%. I do love the twitter conversation the two social media teams have, though. :-)

“It’s a good starting point for us in a really bad way,” Taurasi said. “We know what we have to get better at. The season isn’t made on 40 minutes, but the way we bounce back is going to say a lot about this team going forward.”

Hey – if you just scanned this page, do the game a favor – click on the links and read the full articles. Show the sports editors that people appreciate their coverage…

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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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Huge blow for the Terps as starting point guard and soon-to-be-junior Lexie Brown decides to transfer. I always wonder about that “play closer to home” line…

Not as surprising, Jannah Tucker to transfer from Lady Vols.

Blick:

llinois hires firm to further investigate claims against basketball coaches

Ilinois has hired a Chicago law firm to further investigate claims by women’s basketball players that coaches mistreated them.

An internal review by the university’s office of diversity, equity and access initially found no violation of “applicable law, NCAA rules or university policy,” but athletic director Mike Thomas and Chancellor Phyllis Wise “have decided to contract with an external firm to continue and finalize that preliminary review,” a university spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Hutchinson women’s basketball team under investigation

The Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team is under investigation for alleged improper benefits to players.

The National Junior College Athletic Association confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the program. Assistant executive director Mark Krug says an issue was brought to the organization’s attention last week. He declined to comment further.

Hutchinson coach John Ontjes says the school has until June 5 to respond to the NJCAA.

In eight seasons under Ontjes, the Blue Dragons are 257-26 and have won five consecutive Jayhawk West titles.

This season, Hutchinson’s only loss was in the NJCAA national championship game to Chipola, Florida.

In other news: Alabama women’s basketball making progress in rebuilding efforts, Kristy Curry says

The results have been modest through Kristy Curry’s first two seasons as Alabama’s women’s basketball coach. However, the groundwork is being laid for a better future, Curry said during the Tide’s recent Crimson Caravan event in Atlanta.

Alabama finished last season 13-19, including 2-14 in the SEC, after posting a 14-16 record during Curry’s first season as coach in 2013-14.

In W news: 

From Rebkell, an enumeration of the horror(s) that is know as WNBA.com.

One thing I don’t like when web pages get re-vamped by new companies is that they will move things around and not put redirects to the new pages, breaking search results and inbound links (like Wikipedia references). The people doing the WNBA site changed the locations of the playerfile pages without putting re-directs to the new page. Google should catch up, if they do keep playerfiles for retired players, but for now, if I search for “Becky Hammon playerfile” it gives me: 

http://www.wnba.com/playerfile/becky_hammon/ 

That page no longer exists. 

The new player pages have been moved under the “player” directory and a dash used instead of an underscore: 

http://www.wnba.com/player/sue-bird/ 

But as of now, there is no page for 

http://www.wnba.com/player/becky-hammon 

If they decide to not keep any playerfile data for players who were retired as of 2015, then that will be a bigger complaint.

From Tulsa: Glory finally arrived in town and says she didn’t expect arrest, WNBA suspension after domestic fight with Griner, now her spouse. Also, the Shock has a terrific backcourt trio in Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams

T he Tulsa Shock is cornering the market on young, dynamic backcourt talent.

Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams give the WNBA franchise a terrific trio rotating at point guard and shooting guard.

“There are great combinations all over the league,” Shock president Steve Swetoha said. “But for young players with potential, we’ll put our guard set against any in the league.”

Speaking of that suspension: Brittney Griner says other players want her to appeal suspension

Also from Phoenix: So you say: Mercury ready for title defense on FOX Sports Arizona

From Seattle/Australia:

Abby Bishop played one season for the Seattle Storm, in 2010, before returning to play professionally in her native Australia. She is back in the WNBA this year, but she did not return alone — Bishop has brought along 2-year-old Zala, a niece whom the 6-3 forward has taken care of since shortly after her birth.

Bishop’s sister gave birth to the child in August 2013, but unconfirmed medical issues meant that she would be unable to take of the baby. Rather than see Zala go to foster homes, Bishop stepped up and became her legal guardian, even though that meant juggling motherhood duties and a hectic schedule in Australia’s WNBL.

The AP offers: Seattle’s Bird ready for rebuilding, mentoring ahead

When Seattle opens its season next week at home against Los Angeles, Bird will begin her 13th season with the franchise. She has experienced the highs of winning two WNBA titles and is now facing the challenge of helping lead a massive rebuilding project after Seattle’s worst record of her tenure with the club.

She’s still Sue Bird, the starting point guard idolized by a younger generation. But more than any other time in her professional career, with Seattle’s selection of guards Jewell Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis with two of the first three picks in the WNBA draft, Bird is adding the title of mentor.

From Indy: Stephanie White up for any and all challenges with Fever

“I’m a firm believer that you surround yourself with people who have more wisdom and see different things,” White said. “Not just people who agree with you all the time. I’m not going to get better as a coach, and neither is our team, if I’m not open to being challenged.

“Lin is the first person I worked with who was open for debate on everything; she always wanted to hear other people’s thoughts. It really helped me in terms of who I wanted to coach with me.”

Also from Indy: 2015 Indiana Fever Preview: Fever Plan To Open Up Offense This Year

Deja vu from Minnesota as Pioneer Press asks:  For Lynx and WNBA players, how much hoops is too much?

Time off is a rare commodity for Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus.

Her free days are few and far between. So when Augustus had a short stretch of off days available in early May, she took full advantage.

Augustus traveled to Hawaii to marry LaTaya Varner.

“It was, like, ‘We’ve got to squeeze (the wedding) in right here,’ ” Augustus said.

The Sun will rely on leadership of newcomer

Almost as soon as Katie Douglas announced her retirement from the WNBA and the Connecticut Sun, the question was popped.

Who will lead this team?

Connecticut coach Anne Donovan had an answer.

Camille Little.

Is Louisville lusting after the Liberty?

Is there any news on Angel’s knee?

And finally, flashing back to May 5, 1995, a little USA Basketball news:

Twenty years ago today, on the morning of May 25, 1995, 18 of the best women’s basketball players in the country were sitting in their respective dorm rooms at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, anxiously awaiting word on their fate. 

“I cannot believe that it has been 20 years,” said eventual two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton, who celebrated her 28th birthday on that day. “It was such a special moment for me. To be able to get ready to do something that would make history was a special moment. I felt like we were embarking on something special. I was nervous, but excited. It was something that I was extremely happy to be a part of, to be among a group of players that would change women’s basketball.”

If you want the real scoop on USA Basketball and the start of the W and ABL, two must reads for you this summer are Sara Corbett’s wonderful “Venus to the Hoop” and Tara VanDerveer’s “Shooting from the Outside.

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Congrats to coach Jim Foster, who’s coached his fourth team into the top 25.

#22 Georgia suffered two losses against #5 Tennessee –  first  leading scorer Shacobia Barbee, then the game.

Tennessee went more than eight minutes without scoring to start the second half Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Vols shot poorly from the floor (34 percent) and committed 18 turnovers.

But they did make free 20 of 21 free throws. Their uncanny performance from the foul line saved a 59-51 SEC women’s basketball victory before a crowd of 13,428 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

#17 Florida State dispatched Wake Forest, 110-80.

Sue Semrau almost always has a good basketball team. That’s nothing new.

But what the Florida State head coach has this year is something entirely different. What she has this year is a team that is quite capable of winning the ACC. What she has this year is a team that is capable of reaching the Final Four.

Simply put: What she has this year is the most talented team in school history.

Again, bad Big Ten Mojo for Northwestern, as they fall to Penn State, 76-75.

The Sycamores have lost their groove in the MVC, falling to Northern Iowa, 57-56. That puts the Panthers at 6-1 in their conference – but they host conference leader Wichita State next.

So, it’s looking like #7 Maryland may toddle through the Big 10 unscathed. Rutgers, #15 Nebraska and  Iowa look to pose the biggest threat.

Along with Jones, sophomore Lexie Brown added 21 points and fellow sophomore Shatori Walker-Kimbrough finished with 18 points. The seventh-ranked Terrapins 11-game winning streak began after losing at then second ranked Notre Dame on Dec. 3.”We thrive off energy, feeding off of each other and celebrating each other,” Brown said. “That’s when we’re at our best, when our bench is energized and coach B is energized and everyone is pumped up. Obviously today we didn’t show (energy). It definitely wasn’t the best that we’ve played, but top to bottom we had a lot of great moments throughout the team.”

OT in D.C. produced a Debbie Antonelli Special: Seton Hall over Georgetown, 99-85.

No OT needed for this DAS: North Dakota over Eastern Washington, 96-82.

Double-OT gives us a third DAS: Eastern Kentucky over Tennessee Tech, 97-93. EKU features sophomore guard Michaela Hunter,  named the National Mid-Major Women’s Basketball Player of the Week by College Sports Madness.

Don’t blame me, blame Mike Guardabascio (twice: You Should Be Watching Long Beach State Women’s BasketballLong Beach falls to CS Northridge, 67-52.

The CSUN Matadors defeated the current first place Big West team, California State University, Long Beach, 67-52 Saturday night, delivering the first conference defeat to the 49ers this season.

The Matadors battled Long Beach for the lead throughout the two halfs before getting a sufficient lead cushion late in the game and sending the 49ers home with their first loss in two months.

Interesting sequence of games coming up for Maine in the America East: they’ll face the Wildcats (6-1/conf w/ 3-time Rookie of the Week Carlie Pogue) and the Great Danes (7-0/conf. and a rematch of the Bears’ conference opener loss).

George Washington is still rolling through the A-10 (We see you, Jonquel). I’m sure they’re eyeing the Dayton game (Feb. 8th) and the Fordham game (Feb. 22nd).

But, hold on… the Rams lost to the Billikens? Huge win for St. Louis, coming back from 10 down in the first. And congrats to freshman guard Jackie Kemph, who was named the Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball Rookie of the Week

Akron escapes the fire of the Chippewas, 74-72, and now leaps into the pan of Ohio.

A poor second half did in Missouri against #14 Kentucky, 83-69.

Iowa State’s Nikki Moody seems to enjoy slaying Texas, bad ankle or no. The Longhorns Texas lost for the fourth time in five games as Lang couldn’t replace all that the Texans have lost with leading scorer and rebounder Nneka Enemkpali going down to the dreaded ACL.

It took overtime, but #15 Duke upset #12 North Carolina behind Williams’ 33. Is it just me, or did anyone else more from Williams day in and day out?

Not so fast there, you – Army gave American U their first Patriot League loss, 68-60, behind League Player of the Week Kelsey Minato. (Wow. In her freshman year, the Californian was the first in Patriot League history to be voted Player and Rookie of the Year.) Rematch on Feb. 21st.

They may not have impressive out-of-conference records, but once they get into SWAC play, it’s all about Texas Southern and Southern.

Don’t want to put the hex on’em, but New Mexico State is now 5-0 in the WAC.

So the dumping of Beth Burns… how’s that workin’ for ya, San Diego State?

Minnesota didn’t get the win against Rutgers, but 36 points from Amanda Zahui B. gets people’s attention.

Zahui B. grew up playing soccer and tennis, singing in the choir and taking theater lessons. She even learned what her mother called “circus acts,’’ such as juggling. “It was nothing for her to pick up something new, and be good at it,’’ her mother said.

She was taller than most of the boys in her class. She began playing basketball when she was 10. By 13, Sweden had added her to its 16-and-under national team and her father was bringing a drum to her games, becoming a one-man pep band.

“I remember when I was younger, people would say, ‘Wow, you are taller than all of the boys,’ ’’ Zahui B. said. “But I’ve never been insecure about my height. My parents always taught me to walk with my back straight.

“When it came to basketball, pretty much my parents begged me to play. They said, ‘We know this coach, go to practice,’ and I stuck. Every practice, I had two or three coaches working with me. It took me two or three weeks to figure out you could only take two steps on a layup.’’

Yes, Green Bay, the Horizon seems to be yours for the taking.

In the “marquee” matchup of ranked teams, the Beavers’ size and on-court execution made the difference:

No. 9 Oregon State proved that they are the team to beat in the Pac-12, defeating the No 13 ASU women’s basketball team 68-57.

“For some reason we were really struggling to play together today on offense,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We were just… not outwardly focused.”

OSU’s long defenders forced ASU to change its offensive flow.

Snap! goes the Toppers 14-game win streak. It was a heartbreaker, with free throws and a waved off basket, as UTSA comes back to take down #24 Western Kentucky, 64-63. It was the program’s first win in history over a ranked opponent.

Who stole the wheels off Oklahoma State’s wagon? TCU carried off their carburetor, 71-62.

That’s 11-straight for Fresno State.

Practices have gotten a little shorter for the Fresno State women’s basketball team.

That doesn’t mean they’ve gotten easier. If anything, practices have gotten more intense for the winners of 10 in a row and off to a perfect start in Mountain West play.

“We’ve got to replicate the game and replicate the scout and make sure that we are going against it at an even higher level than we’ll see in the game,” coach Jaime White said.

In a battle for second place in the WCC, it was BYU over San Diego, 54-50.

“I am really happy we got the win tonight,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “This game reminded me so much of Saint Mary’s where we had a good lead the first half and played really well defensively but came out a little flat and stood around. I think Xojian’s [Harry] 3-pointer that she hit was a big basket for us to kind of take the lid off the basket and loosen us up.”

Countdown watch: In NAIA D1 news, Vanguard’s Russ Davis is 9 wins away from 500.

With another runaway win against Cincinnati, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis moved into 10th all time in Connecticut scoring. UConn’s Geno Auriemma is on his way to 900 wins.

Bracketology, anyone? Charlie says No. 4 seeds are toughest to identify – One seed line means more in 2015 as tourney shifts back to top 16 teams hosting

As discussed in this space a week ago, the No. 1 seeds in women’s college basketball remain unclear after South Carolina and Connecticut. Notre Dame seems to be gaining a stronger hold, but Baylor replaced Tennessee on the top line in the past seven days.

Despite the change, the same teams remain in the conversation for a top seed: Baylor, Tennessee, Maryland and Oregon State (thanks to its huge win at Arizona State this weekend).

In fact, choosing the top three seeds in each region this week was relatively easy. Though their order was tough to distinguish, teams 1-12 were fairly evident.

However, the picture got a whole lot murkier after that.

In W news, John Klein asks: If wins start coming for Shock, will fans follow?

Entertaining is great. Certainly, the Shock has done everything it can to promote its players and the WNBA in Tulsa. Diggins and Sims are among the best female basketball players on the planet.

Still, to really gauge the impact of the WNBA in Tulsa it will take more than scoring a lot of points (the Shock was second in the league last year).

What the Shock needs most to give Tulsa a chance to really appreciate women’s basketball is victories.

You know, you gotta love when the classics are quoted as part of girls basketball coverage. From Cory Olsen at MiLive:

When victorian-era poet Lord Alfred Tennyson said “Trust me not at all, or all in all,” it’s doubtful he had girls basketball in mind — the game was invented just one year before he died in 1891.

Yet that principle of trust is being instilled into the Wayland girls basketball team by head coach Marty Howard and judging by their double-overtime win over visiting Catholic Central Friday night, they’re taking to it very well.

On the flip side, this sounds unpleasant. From San Francisco: Controversy mars girls tournament

A great day of basketball at the Corner Bakery Showdown in Lafayette took a turn when Berkeley’s girls basketball coach Cheryl Draper took her team off the court with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in a game in a loss to Miramonte-Orinda, claiming she and her players heard racial slurs. 

Miramonte led 68-50 at the time, and a second technical foul in a span of a minute — three in all were called against Berkeley — was called against Berkeley point guard Jaimoni Welch-Coleman (20 points) when Draper called timeout and had her players leave the court.

Finally: Just awful news from Michigan: 2 EMU students, including women’s basketball player, killed in overnight Ypsilanti Township crash

Eastern Michigan University has identified two students as the individuals killed in a head-on crash overnight in Ypsilanti Township

Shannise Heady, 21, from Hazel Crest, Ill., and Jordan Hopkins, 23, of Dexter were killed in a crash shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 25 on Hewitt Road near Midvale, the university said in a press release.

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So, today is coach Lin Dunn’s last regular season WNBA game. She and her team worked their butts off to make sure it was not her LAST game in the W. Congrats to her, her staff, the players that stepped up, the rehab folks that kept Catch on the right track, and Tamika Catchings, for making the best of a short season.

Speaking of “on the right track”: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper

Rest up, y’all. Those left standing are about ready to rumble.

Yes, C.O is the favorite for ROY, but what about O.S? Examining the case for Odyssey Sims as Rookie of the Year

As you’re waiting, have you caught up on all the 9 for IX films?

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“Ohmygodmyeeeeyeeees!”

The Liberty lost to the Mystics 46-79. 46 points. In an entire game. Ugh.

Chiney-less (tooth issue) Sun put up a fight, but MIP candiate Allie Quigley did her part (17pts) to help the Sky stay within reach — and then EP came alive to lift the Sky to a 16pt.

The teams shot 39.7% and 36.9%, so of course it would be a layup that would decide the game. Minny’s just lucky that hand belonged to Augustus and not Indy’s Larkins.

Soooo… a friend tried to say that Phoenix “spanked” the Dream. I countered, saying that an 8-point comeback win over de Souza-less Dream was no “spanking.” Now, surely, BG smacked’em around a bit (9 blocks), but DT had to lead the Merc on a comeback to get the win over Atlanta.

30 from Sims (a clear ROY candidate) helped Tulsa get a nice win over Los Angeles.

If you’re looking for some basketball tonight, check out the live feed from Colorado  – US U18 v Mexico.

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in the MOOOOOOORRRRNing!

At least when I get up Friday AM, it will be to catch a 6am flight to Omaha to present at a conference and work with some of the fine folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse. But 50% of the players who got up bright and early yesterday morning for afternoon Kid Camp days got a loss for their trouble.

The Mystics ended a four-game skid by taking down San Antonio AT San Antonio, 81-70. Nice to see Dolson fight through a knee sprain and Meesseman and McBride back filling up their stat lines.

Tired Storm legs meant tired Storm shooting. LA managed to defend home court against Seattle, though they almost let their third quarter doom’em again. Sue over at Full Court says the Sparks are collectively dealing with chemistry, line up issues

“I loved how we won,” Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. “We were resilient, tough, and battled through fatigue. We finished all the way to the end and kept a positive attitude until the end. We never doubted we would win it.”

The Sparks demonstrated the same play last week in defeating the visiting Tulsa Shock. It was a noticeable difference for a team that has been known to lose momentum during games, and have lackluster showings on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

“This game we were able to correct our problems, and make plays down the stretch and do what works for us,” All-Star forward Candace Parker said.

She’s baaaaack: Minnesota Lynx today announced the team has signed guard Nadirah McKenith

She’s also baaaaack: The New York Liberty signed free agent forward Charde Houston

Deborah Fleck asks: So how’s Irving MacArthur and Baylor graduate Odyssey Sims doing in the WNBA?

Jayda’s got some stuff to say about WNBA Pride & TV. Meanwhile, Rose Scott at NPR says, The WNBA Televises Its Pride With LGBT Campaign

Ned Griffen says the Sun continue to follow Douglas’ lead

Katie Douglas wanted to talk to Connecticut Sun public and community relations manager Bill Tavares at a recent practice, so she walked over and lowered her shoulder into him.

Laughter ensued.

Douglas was asked about her back, which caused her to miss most of last WNBA season. She had lumbar microdiscectomy surgery last October to correct it.

“The back is good,” Douglas said. “How does it look?”

More laughter.

Honestly, ESPN, that’s the best photo you could find?

BTW: Vote early, vote often:WNBA releases first tally for All-Star game, voting ends July 2

In college news:

UNCW women’s basketball team ready to reap rewards of patience

Adell Harris tried not to take it personally when a parade of UNCW women’s basketball players invaded her office in May 2012looking to leave.

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She’s baaaaaa-ack: Cheryl Miller to Coach Langston Women

Local girl makes good: From the Lancaster Online: Elizabethtown grad Sarah Fairbanks is stepping up her game at St. Joseph’s

St. Joe’s coach Cindy Griffin wanted Fairbanks. In fact, Griffin said last week, “We knew we needed her.’’

Fairbanks wasn’t entirely sure why.

She wasn’t an all-state high-school player. At 6-1, she was a bit undersized for a major-college post player. Her prep stats, 15 points per game as a junior, 19 as a senior, were very good but not spectacular.

E-town is not a traditional girls’ basketball power, and in Fairbanks’ senior year lost in the first round of both the Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three playoffs.

“I was hesitant at first,’’ she said last week. “They were the highest (level) school that recruited me.’’

A well-deserved “You stay put, please:” UNH Announces Contract Extension for Women’s Basketball Head Coach Maureen Magarity

The WNBA to host first preseason tourney at Disney

The WNBA is bringing its first preseason tournament to Florida.

The defending league champion Minnesota Lynx, Chicago Sky, Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury are set to tip off the four-game tournament May 9 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.

Winners from the opening games will meet May 11, with the other two teams playing in a consolation game. 

Out of Minny: Though they’ll open training camp short-handed, the Lynx hope to copy Sparks, repeat as WNBA champions

Tulsa is, again, a Liz-Free zone. Guess I’ll have to wait until October/Istanbul to see her: Cambage gives priority to Opals. Meanwhile, Shock first-round pick Odyssey Sims introduced to Tulsa and the Tulsa World offers up Who to watch, roster, schedule and more

Love me a little flashback history: Central High girls won first state basketball title

The Blackman High girls’ basketball team made history in March 2014 winning the school’s first state team championship. This convincing display of athletic dominance came exactly 90 years after the girls of Central High School (CHS) brought Rutherford County its first state basketball title.

As a precursor to the state championship, the CHS 1923 team won the Middle Tennessee Athletic Association championship. The coach was W. R. Romine, who doubled as the CHS manual training instructor. The team was captained by Ida Lee Byrn; India Gannaway served as the team manager.

Mabuhay, Tina: WNBA legend Thompson to help select jr cage All-Stars

WNBA Legend Tina Thompson arrived in Manila yesterday to lead the Jr.NBA/Jr.WNBA Presented by Alaska National Training Camp.

She will help coach participants from all over the country vying to become Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA All-Stars.

Finally, as BU and Butler try and “move on,” they should remember it’s not simply about hiring a new coach. They should read this from Beverly Breton Carroll, the mother of an athlete: Rutgers athletics: When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Watching your son and his Rutgers basketball teammates in a headline-making video shown on ESPN is akin to the moments before a car crash. The coach is hurling balls at the players, shoving them hard enough to send them sprawling on the court and spewing vile insults. Time crawls as you view a reality too disturbing to process.

You’ve been operating on high alert for several months now, muscles tensed, anticipating the next upsetting chapter in this saga. All the Rutgers basketball games you watched, your gut twisting at the dynamics between coach and players, one of whom is your son. All the times you wanted to spew about a horribly wrong situation when friends asked, “How’s Austin doing at Rutgers?”

Your son imparts only the barest of information. You do not have a full picture of the environment these kids are being subjected to every day, but you’ve heard disturbing stories about what happens at practice and you know a lot of players are depressed — a common symptom of emotional abuse. Yet you feel helpless. Speaking up will only make you sound like a whiny, entitled mother complaining about the coach’s treatment of her son. Ditto for the other families. Triple ditto for the players.

But here, finally, is justification for your emotions. This video confirms your fears. The car crash is real.

And they should also read the comments…..

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So, I’d posit that upsets in the Sweet Sixteen are less likely, especially if you’ve had upsets in the 32, simply because the disparity in talent (on the court – height and speed in particular) is still wonky in the women’s game. But, that didn’t stop Maryland and North Carolina. And BYU sure gave it a shot.

BYU was composed and confident and UConn was out of sorts in the first half but, eventually, the Huskies got their act together and dismissed the Cougars, 70-51.

The Terps looked as if they belonged and Alyssa was dominant. Tennessee was unimaginative on defense and single-minded on offense. The result? The #1 Vols go down, 73-62, and Maryland moves on.

The Carolinas engaged in a messy, physical game. The Gamecocks couldn’t pull it together in the last few minutes, and so the most questioned #1 seed goes home, and North Caroline keeps on dancin’.

While the Tar Heels battled, Stanford breezed. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas was stifled by a Cardinal team that was hitting on all cylinders. Chiney is the engine that’s making Stanford roar. Lions go down, 82-57.

Speaking of engines, Shoni demonstrated her growth over the last four years, playing with what Graham called “poise and efficiency.” (My friend Jeff LOVED being court side for the game, listening to Walz coach.) It also guaranteed her one more home game as Louisville overwhelmed a short-handed, but game, LSU, 73-47.

Live by the three, die by the three” met “We don’t take no stinkin’ threes” — but it was the Aggies defense that won them the game. DePaul’s high power offense never got going, and TAMU cruised, 84-65.

BTW: Kudos the the Nebraska faithful. They’ve turned out to support women’s basketball.

Saturday’s announced attendance for the two Sweet 16 games was 9,585, highest in this year’s NCAA women’s tournament. It obviously helps to have top-ranked Connecticut in town. Folks no doubt were curious to get a close look at the Huskies (A bit underwhelming Saturday, were they not?)

The strong attendance, though, also is a reflection of how well this state supports women’s basketball and women’s athletics in general, as Darnell Dickson points out in his Sunday column.

Baylor was not interested in making the game interesting and neither, it seemed, was Kentucky. Bears over the Wildcats, 90-72, and we get more chances to admire Sims in action.

Notre Dame put the pedal to the metal in the first half, and kept the Cowgirls corralled in the second, winning 89-72. The Irish are looking balanced and fierce.

Mechelle writes: Regional finalists truly elite group – Field includes ACC trio; seven of eight teams have won an NCAA title

Monday on ESPN (Elite Eight coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET), unbeaten Notre Dame and Connecticut will try to secure their tickets to Nashville. The Irish are seeking their fourth consecutive Final Four berth, UConn its seventh in a row.

Their challengers are both recent champions. At Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish take on No. 2 seed Baylor (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) in the only regional where the top two seeds made it to the final. The Lady Bears won the 2012 national championship, and were a good pick to repeat last year before being upset by Louisville.

The Huskies meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) in Lincoln, Neb. The Aggies won the 2011 title, but like Baylor the subsequent year, they did not beat UConn in the Final Four. In both 2011 and ’12, Notre Dame took out the Huskies in the national semifinals before falling in the final.

From Charlie:

Getting ahead: Previewing Baylor vs. Notre Dame

Only two teams with worse seeds won games in the Notre Dame Regional to this point, so it no surprise that No. 1 seed Notre Dame and second-seeded Baylor meet Monday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) with a trip to Nashville and the Final Four at stake.

The game features two great offenses, three of the best players in the country in Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd, and programs that have combined for five Final Fours appearances since 2010, including a meeting in the 2012 national championship game.

Here are five observations heading into what could be the most explosive of all the Elite Eight games:

More on the battle of the Gold and Green:

From the AP: Odyssey Sims tries to reach one last Final Four with Baylor Lady Bears

Chris Goff, Journal Gazette: Irish will test ways to control Baylor’s superstar and Irish fans will bid adieu to 3 seniors

Curt Rallo continues a theme: Notre Dame women’s team targets Baylor point guard

I think that (Sims) creates so many problems for you because when she attacks and gets in the lane, you focus on her, which is what a lot of people did last year with Skylar (Diggins),” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the problem is that you focus on her and you forget about the other people and they put themselves in great positions to score.”

Curt also mentions that Payback is low on Notre Dame’s priorities

Notre Dame is 0-4 all-time against Baylor, the team standing between the Irish and a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Bears, featuring 6-foot-8 national Player of the Year Brittney Griner, beat Notre Dame 80-61 in the 2012 national championship game. Then on Dec. 5, 2012, Baylor beat the Irish, 73-61, the last time Notre Dame has walked off its home court on the short side of the scoreboard.

Reaching the Final Four is the main task on Monday night, but the Irish are trying to channel the energy that a payback game provides into the right direction.

As UConn prepares for Texas A&M, Mechelle writes: Discipline key to UConn’s success

… this year isn’t the first time that a great Huskies team didn’t have all that much depth. It’s been the case before, and the hope of forcing UConn starters to the bench with foul trouble has been floated in the past. It’s a wish by opponents that almost never gets fulfilled.

The Huskies are trained very rigorously not to foul. That takes good athleticism, yes. But it’s just as much about playing smart and — you guessed it — being disciplined.

“The minute you smack somebody, all of your hard work is negated,” Auriemma said in regard to playing solid defense, only to end up sending a foe to the line with a mistake out of bad judgment or frustration. “After a while, they understand that, ‘If I want to stay in the game, I can’t foul.’

TAMU is hoping for for one magic night against undefeated UConn

“They’ve got five future WNBA first-round choices in their starting lineup. That’s how good they are,” Blair said Sunday. “But for 40 minutes Monday night, why not? Why not? … I like my team, I like our chances.”

There’s more (thanks Nan!):

Low anxiety: UConn women don’t feel Final Four pressure, Post
UConn women’s game day: Monday night vs. Texas A&M, Post
UConn Offers Glimpse Of Future As It Contemplates Present Vs. A&M, Courant
UConn vs. Texas A&M, Courant
Chris Dailey, Quizmaster, Keeps Team Engaged, Courant
UConn’s Jefferson, Texas A&M’s Jones excited to face off in Elite 8, Register
Texas A&M assistant Bob Starkey helped hand UConn its last loss in Elite 8, Register
UConn women face Texas A&M in Elite Eight tonight, Day
KML is keeping the art of shooting alive, Day
UConn to play A&M for a shot at the Final Four, Daily Campus
Perfect UConn looms in Elite 8, Texas A&M The Battalion
A&M looks to play the role of spoiler against 37-0 UConn, AggieSports.com
They’ve been known to do the impossible, but beating UConn will be tougher, AggieSports.com

Charlie is Looking ahead: Louisville vs. Maryland preview

Many felt Louisville was underseeded at No. 3 and now the Cardinals, after easily disposing of LSU on Sunday, have reached the precipice of a second straight Final Four anyway. On Tuesday, they get that chance at home at the KFC Yum! Center against No. 4 seed Maryland (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

The Terps, who haven’t been to the Final Four since winning a national championship in 2006, had little trouble with No. 1 seed Tennessee in their regional semifinal.

Here are five observations of the two teams in what sets up to be an evenly matched Elite Eight contest:

Check out espnW’s Elite Eight picks.

 

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Yes, I’ll admit it — I woke up, had a cup of coffee, and “Basketball Jones!” popped into my head.

Nate has 2014 his NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 predictions: DePaul, North Carolina, Texas A&M are teams to watch

While I previewed the Sweet 16 by looking at a few of the top WNBA prospects still playing, I threw out a few questions to other bloggers around SB Nation who cover women’s basketball. Today we begin with a set of questions I asked the writers who have been covering the tournament for Swish Appeal.

From Mechelle: Storylines abound in Sweet 16 – Regional semifinals tip off on ESPN at noon ET Saturday in the Notre Dame region

Graham is Previewing a very Sweet 16

Welcome to the tournament within the tournament, the roped-off section of the postseason club that is the Sweet 16.

Getting to the tournament in the first place is a big deal. Just as it’s not easy to get to base camp on Mount Everest, it’s not easy to get to the starting line of the NCAA tournament. And once there, it only gets more difficult with each step.

Reaching the second week, when the basketball summit really starts to come clearly into view, is a big deal.

Look at the math.

Wondering who the experts pick? Click here.

Lincoln Bracket: Mechelle’s got the Lincoln Regional breakdown

Yup. Hosting is a crap shoot – just ask Nebraska (or Chattanooga). They’re not playing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to bring it. Connie Yori went all Jody Conradt on us.

In 1985, when the Longhorns were hosting the Final Four, they were huge favorites. But, they were upset (even though that doesn’t happen in women’s basketball) on the way to the Championship. Down, but not out, Jody put all her efforts into getting folks out to the games — and notched the first F4 sell out.

Now it’s the Huskers’ turn: For good of NU, Yori hopes UConn draws big crowds and Why Connie Yori Wants NU Fans to Pack PBA

“Because UConn doesn’t play in the Midwest very often, so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to see perhaps the best women’s program of all time,” Yori said before adding: “This UConn team also might be one of the best, if not the best, college women’s team of all-time. They’re phenomenal. Nebraska fans wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like this when they can see one of the greatest teams of all time playing in their own backyard. You don’t have to go to the Final Four in Nashville. All you have to do is buy a ticket and head straight down to the Haymarket.”

So… About those games:

Huskies v. Cougars

Game day: No. 1 seed UConn women vs. No. 12 BYU,
BYU women at a glance
BYU looks to N.C. State men’s championship team for motivation vs. UConn
Cougars, 6-7 Jennifer Hamson Defy Odds Advancing To Meet Huskies
Cinderella story inspires Bailey, BYU

There are players who have to search the nation and scour the Internet to find the inspiration needed to lead their teams to improbable March Madness upsets.

Brigham Young junior forward Morgan Bailey did not have any such issues.

As luck would have it, her uncle is Thurl Bailey, one of the stars of a North Carolina State team which recorded perhaps the most improbable national championship run in college basketball history. While Thurl Bailey was not part of the Brigham Young traveling party to Lincoln for Saturday’s regional semifinals, he did reach out to his beloved niece.

Will BYU, Hamson block Huskies’ path?
Mike DiMauro: BYU’s approach against UConn women … on any given night
BYU women’s basketball team enjoying sudden attention in Sweet 16
Cougars embracing, relishing underdog role vs. top seed UConn

NCAA would change sked for BYU and BYU will attend Sunday press conferences, but not play or practice

Stewie is coming of age

She came bounding out of practice Friday, down the tunnel and through the curtain at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This is Stewie. Happy. Giddy. Dare we even suggest innocent?

This is Stewie. The same kid who exited the court for the final time this season at Gampel Pavilion earlier this week alongside Stefanie Dolson, saluting the crowd with the royal wave, the Queen of England in Nikes, the slight hand twist accompanied by the 50,000-watt smile.

This is Stewie.

Could this be the same kid her coach was yelling at earlier this season for being stubborn? Stubborn. Stewie? C’mon. This is Ms. Sunny Disposition. Stubborn?

Steven M. Sipple: Auriemma proves a master at his calling, Lincoln Journal Star

Oh, he retains plenty of fire. But he doesn’t allow a subpar game, or a subpar half, to send him off the rails like he might have done when he took over a foundering UConn program in 1985.

“You tend to view things more big-picture as opposed to reacting to what’s going on in front of you right now,” he said. “I think that helps the players, too, if you’re kind of like, ‘We’ll be all right. …'”

He also noted the importance of celebrating great plays and great games, but moving forward quickly.

Never too high, never too low.

He paused for a few seconds.

“That’s just the long way of saying I’m too old to give a damn about what’s going on, and I have no control over it,” he said with a chuckle.

Slideshow: Pursuit of Perfection, ESPN

Aggies v Blue Demons:

Texas A&M women prepare for DePaul sharpshooters

Texas A&M’s Gary Blair sounded more like a carnival barker than coach as he discussed his team’s matchup with DePaul on Saturday in the NCAA women’s regional semifinals.

“Our game against DePaul will be one of the most entertaining games you’ve ever seen,” Blair said, adding that it would be like a “ping-pong match.”

Aggies back in ‘flow,’ strive for Elite Eight

Texas A&M women’s basketball team feeling elite going into Sweet 16 matchup against DePaul

Texas A&M women’s basketball team learning from watching other teams

DePaul women’s basketball playing their ‘best ball of the season’ going into Sweet Sixteen

Going into their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2011, DePaul women’s basketball continues to feed off of the momentum from their upset win against Duke while preparing to play Texas A&M.

“The win (over Duke) was huge for our program…definitely a momentum-builder,” sophomore Chanise Jenkins said. “It gives us tons of confidence going into the next game.”

Senior Jasmine Penny said the win meant a lot to her. With no plans to play after graduation, Penny has no idea when she will play her final game as a Blue Demon.

“It seems like we’re always the underdog and it was so amazing to see us come out and fight the way we did,” Penny said.

DePaul women ride fast-paced offense into Sweet 16 – Doug Bruno’s run-and-gun style carries risk but has high reward

Bruno’s Blue Demons not just a run-and-gun team

With Rogowski’s shooting, DePaul aiming high

‘(Texas A&M) is a business trip’ said Coach Doug Bruno of DePaul women’s basketball

DePaul and Texas A&M Tangle on Saturday in the Sweet 16

CESSNA: With UConn at this regional, second place not so bad

It’s un-American to strive to be second best, but when the 64-team bracket for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament was unveiled, it was a given Connecticut would advance to the Final Flour from the Lincoln Regional.
The only thing left to settle was who would be second. It’s not a defeatist outlook — it’s reality.

Notre Dame Regional breakdown

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw can’t stand the idea of having regionals at home sites. It doesn’t make for a truly fair tournament, she says. She’s right.

But the way the Irish have played this season, the fact that Notre Dame is hosting a regional is hardly the reason they are favored to go to the Women’s Final Four again. Rather, it’s that this Irish team — despite the loss of Skylar Diggins — is an undefeated powerhouse no matter where it is playing.

Admittedly, so is that other former Big East giant on the other side of the bracket. While UConn travels to Lincoln, Neb., for what appears a not-very-challenging regional, Notre Dame is home, where the Irish have lost just two games over the past three seasons.

Irish v. Cowgirls:

Irish’s McGraw: Notre Dame has unfair advantage or  is it that Notre Dame enjoys “comfort zone” of home court advantage in NCAA tournament. Either way, Berry Tramel is grumpy about it.

Players know their roles for unbeaten Notre Dame women’s basketball team

Irish won’t settle; want to improve

Notre Dame excited to play Oklahoma State at home

Martin leads Cowgirls into Sweet 16

Oklahoma State’s Brittney Martin and her teammates are in the NCAA Sweet 16 but will have to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame on the Irish’s home court. Pretty tough assignment for the No. 5 seed, right?

Sure. But, hey, Martin is a pretty tough kid. She was only about a month into her first college basketball season when she got a tooth knocked out.

She dove for a loose ball against Stephen F. Austin in early December 2012. One of the SFA players lost her balance and fell on Martin, whose face went into the floor.

“The initial hit was not painful; it kind of felt like if you bend a piece of licorice, maybe,” Martin said. “Then I felt my mouth, and my teeth were in my hand. So …”

Martin then smiled and pointed to her mouth.

Expect Tiffany Bias back in Cowgirls’ lineup vs. Notre Dame – OSU arrived in Stillwater about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 8, Bias was in the training room getting treatment on an injured ankle.

Cowgirls have something to lose against Notre Dame

Bears v. Wildcats:

Five things to know about Baylor vs. Kentucky

Kentucky, Baylor set for rematch of 4-OT thriller

The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball.

Neither coach expects another four-overtime thriller today in the Sweet 16. Still, both are looking forward to another entertaining matchup with a berth in the regional finals on the line.

Kentucky, Baylor women on edge for rematch of December’s ‘instant classic’

Kentucky’s Goss’ quest for perfection paying off

Kentucky not sure it can slow Baylor scoring machine Sims

Homer’s The Odyssey was an epic adventure filled with twists and turns.

So is any attempt to guard Baylor’s Odyssey.

In the epic adventure that was Kentucky’s four-overtime victory over the Bears in December, the Cats threw four different defenders at Odyssey Sims.

Kentucky could have used about six more. In the losing effort, Baylor’s senior guard scored 47 points.

Another sweet season for Sims and Baylor women

Odyssey Sims and Baylor are having another sweet season.

The Lady Bears have made it to the third round of the NCAA women’s tournament for the sixth year in a row. But there are still surely plenty of people surprised to see them back in the Sweet 16 this year.

Baylor women’s basketball team tops list of No. 1s

Looking ahead?

Graham has the Louisville Regional breakdown

Michelle Smith has the Stanford Regional breakdown South Carolina is the top seed, but will Stanford rediscover its Maples magic?

She adds: Ruef used to juggling multiple roles – Stanford senior has started 33 of 34 games and worked as an engineering intern

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After upsetting the Cardinal, USC looked like they had nothing left as they faced Oregon State. But, Coop helped them “raise the roof” and earn a trip to the dance.

If there was a title to the story of the Southern California women’s basketball team over the past decade, it might be: “Promise Lost.”

The talent, the potential, the parade of All-Americans that should have made this one of the premier programs on the West Coast, seemed to dissolve into a smoldering heap every single year.

There was the cruel succession of ACL injuries that cut short the careers of Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, who were among the most elite recruits in the country when they committed to USC. There were inexplicable late-season losses to lower-division conference teams that would leave the Trojans’ résumé lacking when it came in front of the NCAA committee. There were coaching changes and personality conflicts and, to be very honest, a whole lot of underachievement.

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

Scott Rueck will await the Committee to see if he’s managed to shift the Pac12 paradigm. As the Oregonian asks: If Scott Rueck leads Oregon State women to NCAA Tournament, how big of an accomplishment is it?

Speaking of the Committee, Charlie tries to work through their headache predict AND explain the brackets.

Fordham took any mystery out of the Committee’s hands by upsetting Dayton to claim the A-10 crown. This accomplishment is six years removed from their 0-for season and gives New Zealander Rooney what she missed by a sliver last year: An NCAA berth.

We’ve been watching this unfold over the season: High Point v. Winthrop. In the end, Dequesha McClanahan leads Winthrop to first-ever Big South title

“What a game and what a tournament. I’m very proud of our players, this program and very thankful to our administration and all of our loyal fans and supporters that were here and suffered without a championship for over 30 years,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “That’s what really makes it meaningful for them and our team.”

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

After an up and down season on and off the court, Nebraskan sophomore Rachel Theriot took control of the Huskers future and guided them to their first Big 10 conference title.

“It was a game where we couldn’t make a shot, but we found a way to win,” Husker coach Connie Yori said. “That says a lot about our mental toughness. We did a great job on the offensive glass. Every game doesn’t come down to playing pretty, but you find a way to win.”

No surprise, the Irish claimed their first AAC title – but were you a little surprised by how close the game was (at first)?

When is two points more than two points? When it’s a basket that sends a figurative bolt of electricity through a team and its fans. And that was exactly what Jewell Loyd’s alley-oop did in the second half of the ACC tournament title game.

The Fighting Irish are champions of their new league, and they will go into the NCAA tournament undefeated at 32-0. They execute offensively, are patient even when things aren’t clicking as well (which is rare, but happens), and are very dependable on defense.

But … they are also just really darn fun to watch.

Yes, a bit of a surprise, because of the upset of South Carolina, but Kentucky falling apart at the end? Not so surprising this season. Tennessee’s SEC title might give them a #1 seed, which would be (be honest) a surprise.

Tennessee adopted the motto of “Grind for Nine” at the beginning of this season, referencing the team’s blue-collar mentality as it pursues the program’s ninth national championship. The Lady Vols haven’t been to the Final Four since 2008, which is also the last year they won a national title. Back then, Pat Summitt coached the Lady Vols, before resigning in 2012 because of health reasons. Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant, became the team’s head coach.

The conference tournament title won Sunday was the first for Warlick as a head coach. As she accepted the trophy afterward, she said hello to her longtime mentor, who did not make the trip. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt,” Warlick said to the crowd. “I know she is watching this broadcast.”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Yes, most of us had Marist v. Iona penciled in to the MAAC finals. Quinnipiac decided to erase that prediction.

“(Quinnipiac) did a great job executing,” first-year Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t do a terribly wonderful job of stopping them in the defensive end.”

BTW, there was news in the MAAC quarters as the Rider team scored its biggest win in years — maybe ever — with a 63-56 upset of Fairfield.

Interesting games coming up:

BYU women’s basketball: Cougars will meet “scary” Pacific in WCC semifinals Monday. Of course, the other WCC semi is classic rematch: Gonzaga v. St. Mary’s.

America East: Stony Brook continues to surge under coach Beth O’Boyle — and gets a second shot at Albany for their efforts. Can they pull off the upset – again?

Quakers v. Tigers: Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2 Ivy) are both tied atop the Ivy standings and face each other in the season finale at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.). The winner earns the outright Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The loser has already clinched second place and therefore, an automatic berth in the WNIT.

Davidson will try and stop Chattanooga‘s quest for the Southern Conference title.

Same old, same old in the Patriot semis: Navy v Holy Cross, Army v. American, with a little extra oomph:

However, Gibbons readily admits the greatest motivation comes from preserving history as Holy Cross wants to prevent Navy from equaling its feat of capturing four consecutive Patriot League Tournament championships. The Crusaders set that standard from 1998 through 2001 under the direction of Gibbons.

“We certainly would like to stop them from tying our record,” Gibbons said. “We’re playing for a lot of alumni who were part of that great run.”

Yup, it’s UConn (with Stewart’s block earning a SportsCenter nod) agains the Cardinals. In the classic, “Careful what you wish for,” the New York Times notes that “Louisville Confronts Elephant in Its Room”

For all the strides the Louisville women have made in becoming a perennial basketball power, the climb to the top remains daunting. Connecticut, the Cardinals’ opponent in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, has won 14 straight against them.

Speaking of former Big East teams: It’s the Mountaineers hunting Bears in the Big 12 title game. Remember Sims’ 48 against West Virginia in January? And the rematch in March? (TV: Fox Sports 1?)

From the Boston Globe, some nice coverage of Barb Stevens at Bentley: Barbara Stevens has Bentley women’s basketball program point toward perfection

This is where it all happens, in Barbara Stevens’s warm and inviting office on the second floor of Bentley University’s Dana Center. A large bookshelf behind her neatly arranged desk in the far left corner of the room is adorned with trophies and nets cut down from Northeast-10 title games and framed photos of the teams she has coached in 28 seasons as the head coach of Bentley’s wildly successful women’s basketball program.

“I keep telling my players if they keep winning them, then I’ll keep putting them up,’’ Stevens jokingly remarked to an office visitor Thursday afternoon.

But this is where Bentley’s unrelenting pursuit of perfection is mapped out on a daily basis. It is where Stevens doggedly prepares through exhaustive film study and advanced scouting. And, as anyone will tell you, Stevens, 58, is nothing if not a evangelical minister of the coaching gospel, “Practice makes perfect.’’

Also from the Globe, there are a couple of back-and-forth stories: Bullying accusations continue against BU coach Kelly Greenberg.

I think we may have heard this coming a few years back: K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson fired after 18 seasons

Happier news out of the Sunflower state: They stumbled, but didn’t fall: Wichita State’s women’s basketball wins second consecutive MVC title. The conference tourney looms.

Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. Lot of money for the coach of an 18-13 basketball team that enters the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in the league’s lower division.

But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. She’s paid for her ambassador skills. She’s paid for her promotional and PR skills. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university, be it talking to engineering alumni or youth groups or coaches all across the country or all of America itself, courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.

When Coale talks about the importance of sport in young girls’ lives, or the importance of education, or the importance of hard work to fulfill dreams, people listen. Some of those people are impressionable. Others are influential. Coale reaches them all. I’ve said it before; Coale’s next job won’t be coaching a basketball team, it will be vice president of the university.

A little W news:

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“There are no upsets in women’s basketball” are simply out-of-touch neanderthals.

’cause lookee what Graham said! Not only did he name the Penguins the “Team of the week,” he noted it was “a weekend in which nine ranked teams lost to opponents that were either ranked lower or unranked.”

And honestly, looking at some of the records of those unranked teams only makes the upsets even more stunning.

Kansas State took down #13 Iowa State by 6 (making one ponder the Cyclones’ pre-conference schedule.)

Not to be outdone by their in-state rival, Kansas became a Bear-toppler as Baylor left Texas for the first time this season and not only lost back-to-back for the first time since 2010, but they also lost their nation-leading road win streak and their 44 or is it 53-game conference win streak. That earned Kansas’ Gardner is player of week honors. Wrote Mechelle:

Mulkey knew her young players were perhaps too buoyed by their performance against UConn and not ready for potential adversity on the road in the Big 12. She said she saw the “deer in the headlights” look from several of them Sunday.

Baylor senior guard Odyssey Sims had 31 points, but it took her a school-record 37 shot attempts to get that. She made 13 shots from the field and 3 of 5 free throws. Combined with her 4-of-25 night against UConn, Sims has shot 27.4 percent (17-of-62) in her last two games.

#24 Vandy stayed red-hot with its 9-point win over #14 LSU.

“Vanderbilt did a nice job of getting the right players the right shots at the right times,” head coachNikki Caldwell said. “They didn’t force anything, they played within their gameplan and they did a good job of sharing the basketball. We have to be more discipline in our halfcourt defense and not miss assignments. We just weren’t aware and alert, that hurt us. We have to be more serious about our defensive effort.”

Miami’s Saunders went toe-to-toe with #20 NC State’s Gatling, and the Hurricanes earned the upset by 9.

Saunders joked that the rim has never looked that big for her in her career.

“It was pretty huge,” Saunders said. “I was really feeling it, and it was a great feeling. My teammates found me in great places, all of my guards have great vision, and I was just happy they were able to find me and I was able to knock it down.”

Flip-the-coin-and-see-which-team-you-get #22 Purdue eked out the upset over #18 Nebraska by 2. This has sure become a fun B10 rivalry.

In the “almost” vein –

#10 Kentucky escaped Auburn (11-7, 2-3), 73-71… and the Tigers had a chance in the final seconds.

“Besides the fact that we blew it, I don’t know what to really say,” Tigers head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “The opportunity was there, we played hard, sometimes we just didn’t do everything that we needed to do like rebounding the basketball on the defensive end.”

#3 Duke showed it IS missing Gray, but leaned on Liston to escape Virginia Tech, 74-70.

Meanwhile:

“Remember when Geno said, “`I have Diana Taurasi and you don’t’?” Stringer said. “That’s what he means. Breanna’s the No. 1 player in the country, right? She’s the best player in the nation. It doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten but it’s Connecticut and everybody else.”

Said Auriemma of the (almost) “end of an era”:

“It was one of the better games we’ve played here in a very long time,” Auriemma said of the ease with which his team went about its business. “But it didn’t even feel like we were at Rutgers. I don’t know what’s going on. The last two games – maybe the fans are feeling sorry for me now that I am getting older. When I was younger they didn’t treat me like that.”

In other games –

Get mojo back? Check! San Diego handled BYU, 60-45.

Keep improving? Check! St. Francis (NY) wins.

Continue to challenge for the Horizon? Check! Penguins ruuuuule!

Let go of the Horizon? Not so fast! Green Bay took down Cleveland State, 90-72.

Run away with the Big Sky? Not so fast (Pt. 2)! North Dakota stumbles against Montana State, 76-65.

Clear leader in the A-10? Not so fast! Dayton over Fordham, 73-64 and St. Joe’s over La Salle.

An itty bit of revenge? Yup! Drexel over Delaware. Dragons and JMU are 3-0 in the CAA.

Oregon continues to score a lot and lose a lot. And USC is now the first team ever to score 100 points at the Galen Center AND 6-1 in the Pac-12.

Adding to the OT list:

Charlie tries to make sense of the wins and loses in his new Bracketology. (Though I probably would have procrastinated until AFTER tonight’s Tennessee/ND game.)

And, on this MLK day, I invite you to read Kate Fagan’s piece.

Nobody wakes up one morning and understands the experiences of everyone who is “other.The goal is to keep our minds open and be willing to listen — to realize that even when we think we get it, sometimes something happens that makes it clear we have so much more to learn.

And in those moments, the only wrong move is digging in your heels.

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Iona and their first-year coach, Billi Godsey. They went into the Red Foxes’ den and escape with a two point win — thus ending a 29-game losing streak.

“To us, it’s really big,” Martinez, a junior, said after tying teammate Joy Adams for game-high honors with her 18 points. “We’ve been playing them since I’ve been here, for a long time, (and) we haven’t beaten them yet. It feels really good to win at their place because every time we come here, we get blown out.

Is is just me, or do there seem to have been a lot of overtime games this season? Three last night.

No overtime in the UConn-Baylor game. The Bears kept is close, and got closer when Sims trusted her teammates and served a score-attemptor AND distributer. But, honestly, the star of the game was sophomore Moriah Jefferson, who was steady and effective from start to finish. The young point guard played with poise beyond her years, and one could argue she out-played Sims, and helped guide the Huskies to a win in Waco. It wasn’t a particularly elegant or aesthetically pleasing game, but I’m guessing both teams will walk away with much learned.

Read all about it courtesy of friend HuskyNan:

UConn responds late to finish off Baylor, Post
No. 1 UConn survives Baylor upset bid, Post
UConn Fights Off Determined Baylor, 66-55, Courant
UConn Trio Leading The Way In Blocked Shots, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Huskies Pass Composure Test, Courant
Pictures: Undefeated UConn Women at Baylor, Courant
Live Updates: No. 1 UConn Women At No. 7 Baylor, Courant
Huskies work for win over No. 7 Baylor, Register
A game both teams benefited from, ESPN
Lady Bears put up fight, get overrun by top-ranked UConn, 66-55, Waco Tribune
Brice Cherry: Passion mirrored in coaches Mulkey, Auriemma, Waco Tribune

In other news:

Dang: South Carolina assistant McCray diagnosed with breast cancer

What tha…? Gators ban Mercer following robbery charge

Welcome back: Bill Gibbons Returns To Women’s Basketball Team

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Upset City!

I’m sure there were mixed feelings on the Tiger bench. # 16 LSU ruined Candace Parker’s return for her jersey retirement ceremony… and gave Coach Caldwell the biggest win of her young coaching career – though they almost let it slip away: They had a nice double-digit lead with under five minutes left and lost their composure, resulting in a ton of turnovers. #5 Tennessee took advantage, cutting it closer and closer… until they lost their composure – two technicals later, and the Tigers get the three-point win. Glad I’m not a coach.

Speaking of big wins: If you thought Indiana’s game against #22 Iowa would mean the Hoosiers would soon exit the ranks of the undefeated, you were wrong. Important win for “drama free” coach Miller.

Take a deep breath, Indy, ’cause #17 Purdue is up next… and they might be ticked after being blown out in the second half by (I told ya!) tough out Ohio State.

“Every night, you’re going to play a well-prepared team and it’s going to be a challenge,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “It’s a great league for women’s basketball and hopefully we continue to be better, so we meet these challenges head on. I thought our defense was good, but more importantly, we took turnovers and turned them into points.”

Coach Landers got a T, but coach Balcomb and Vandy got the win.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we ever really looked that good,” head coach Andy Landers said. “The scoreboard looked good when we were up seven, but we turned the ball over 24 times. We started it off turning it over and we were turning it over the last five minutes. You really don’t have to go any further than that. You’re playing on the road against a quality basketball team.”

James Madison almost joined the upset wave, but the Diamond Deshields-less #10 Tar Heels escaped with a three-point win. Next game ought to be fun – in-state rival NC State (13-1).

Speaking of  “almosts” – #18 Nebraska clawed back from a deficit in the first half, then squeaked out a one-point win over Northwestern.

It’s looking like Aston will be a nice hire by Texas. The Longhorns fought Oklahoma State tooth and nail throughout the game, finally falling to the #11 Cowgirls by 6.

Speaking of tooth and nail — South Carolina dealt Arkansas their first loss of the season, but Dawn and crew are lucky the game ended when it did. In the second half, the Razorbacks roared back from a 12-point deficit, but fell short by 4.

Speaking of a Conference that would be wicked fun to watch:

  • St. Mary’s couldn’t slay undefeated San Diego. “With the win, the Toreros remain perfect on the season at 14-0, mark the best start for any sport at USD in the Division I era, extend the program’s longest winning streak, and are now one of six undefeated schools left in Division I.” (Who’ going to be knocking on Cindy Fisher’s door next year?)
  • Pacific (6-7) took down perennial powerhouse BYU (12-2) for their first WCC win, 75-62.
  • Azzi’s Dons took down Loyola Mary for their sixth win of the season. (Baby steps, pt. 1)
  • Pepperdine and St. Clara went to double overtime and made Debbie happy: The Waves prevailed, 100-93. (Baby steps, pt. 2: Pepperdine’s five wins already matches its total from last season.)

Not interested in being part of the news frenzy:

# 6 Kentucky took care of Alabama, 85-63.

#2 Notre Dame got some dead-eyed shooting from Kayla McBride as they went huntin’ wabbits, 94-51.

#3 Duke dominated Old Dominion, 87-63.

#25 Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech, 68-38.

Simms… I mean, #9 Baylor was 29 points better than the Wildcats.

#14 Iowa State took care of TCU, 71-49.

Considering the state of Pittsburgh basketball, I consider Suzie’s loss to #21 Florida State by 9 impressive.

Mississippi State didn’t survive their encounter with the Gators.

Not sayin’ nothin’ about Fordham ’cause I don’t wanna jinx’em.

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Don’t be fooled by the final score — ’cause you know coach McCallie can’t be pleased that the Great Danes were UP on Duke during a hunk of the first half.

Syracuse’s Sykes likes to score. Let’s see how the Orange handle St. Joe’s, ASU and NC State.

Speaking of NC State (Moore’s Wolfpack best kept secret in Triangle) : Down goes #12 LSU.

N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

UNLV over Clemson. That’s got to be a frustrating loss for the Tigers.

Almost. Readers of this blog are familiar with the Winthrop Eagles. #10 South Carolina is REALLY familiar, having had to fight tooth and nail to escape with a 8-point win. Perhaps they had a Tar Heel hangover?

Oh, those in-state rivalries! Missouri State (3-6) took down Missouri (10-2), 67-53.

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Ole Miss this season, mostly because of their new head coach, Matt Insell. Their game against Sims… I mean, Baylor, has made me put both eyes on the team.

Speaking of  coaches — how much does 0-9 Prairie View miss Cynthia Cooper.

Speaking of Coop, it ain’t all wine and roses in USC land. The Trojans fall to the buzz-saw that is Saint Mary’s second half, 71-55.

Loss numero uno for UTEP, as their trip to Puerto Rico pitted them against Georgia Tech.

More baby steps for San Francisco – a nice away win over traditionally strong Fresno State.

Yes, they have a gaudy 10-1 record, but 4-5 Pacific kept within 7 of Florida State.

Today, Mechelle and Michelle recognized that #3 Tennessee To Be Tested by #6 Stanford  – as will a series of undefeated folks. Ellitot Almond has some more on the game and Steve Megargee adds:

After playing just one ranked opponent in their first 10 games, the Lady Vols will face their toughest test of the season thus far Saturday when they travel to No. 6 Stanford (9-1). Tennessee has lost its last two games in this series by double digits and hasn’t won at Stanford since 2005.

“It would be great to get a ‘W’ to break that drought, but also just to show the rest of the country that we mean business,” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tom FitzGerald at the SFGate thinks the Stanford women have tall task against Vols

When your goal is the national championship, any slipup hurts. The sixth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team has already flunked one big test, losing at No. 1 UConn by 19 points. Now it faces another.

The Cardinal (9-1) play No. 3 Tennessee at Maples Pavilion Saturday, and the battle on the boards should be ferocious.

A player who expects to be featured in that battle finds time to blog: A lot to celebrate for Nerd Nation 

Last week I was either living in the library or hibernating in my room. The short time I did sleep, I dreamt about school. Four long papers and three tests later, my brain is officially fried … I have survived finals week!

It is always a challenge for us student-athletes to balance sports and school. But it is a challenge we readily accept. Nonetheless, I am glad it’s over. While most students go home for Christmas break, we prepare for (as Coach Tara says) our basketball final.

#11 Colorado (9-0) v. #7 Louisville: UofL women’s basketball players talk Slaughter, Buffalo revenge and Louisville women’s next test is unbeaten No. 11 Colorado

Because any suspense over the outcomes was cast aside not long after tipoff, there’s only been one question for observers of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team the past four games: Can the Cardinals reach 100 points?

U of L has been batting .500 in that regard, posting totals of 91, 99, 108 and 105 points and averaging a 49-point margin of victory over four midmajor opponents.

#13 Oklahoma State (9-0) v. Georgia Tech.

When Rutgers goes up against 11-0 Georgia, they are  seeking a “quality victory.”

Heading into the highlight of its nonconference schedule this afternoon against 11-0 and 16th-ranked Georgia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is 8-2 against a schedule that some have labeled soft.

There is some plausibility to that statement, what with lopsided wins over Northeastern, Howard, Davidson and Wagner on the resume, but the schedule Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer has embarked on has largely been by design in an effort to get this young team some confidence and momentum.

With the schedule it has played, is Rutgers prepared to step up in class against the Bulldogs?

Rick Nixon at the NCAA.com wonders: Good scheduling or for real? How will surprising unbeatens fare in conference play?

Being an undefeated team in late December sometimes comes with a footnote. While an 11-0 start for Connecticut is expected, others like Arkansas, Indiana, UTEP, Colorado and San Diego standing undefeated at this point of the season merits attention, and also speculation on how these teams will fare once conference play tips.

Arkansas, now 11-0, has won 20 consecutive non-conference games during the past two seasons. In fact, Razorbacks head coach Tom Collen has built a 90-21 all-time record in non-conference play in seven seasons. Since 1982, Arkansas is 199-14 in non-conference games. The Razorbacks, which will play 10 of the 13 non-conference games at home, have two non-conference games remaining this season withTennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State both visiting Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. A home win against Middle Tennessee State and a road victory at Kansas rate as Arkansas’ top wins over the first month-plus. On Jan. 2, South Carolina will pay a visit to Fayetteville to signal the start of Southeastern Conference play.

Congrats to coach McGraw, who will be inducted into Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m sure she’s not looking ahead as her Notre Dame crew will face the always stubborn Chippewas, though CMU is not as strong as they have been the past few years.

Cool news for when #5 Kentucky (11-0) goes up against #2 Duke: Rupp Arena sold out. Which leads Mark Story to ask: If Kentucky-Duke women fill Rupp, is it time for UK Hoops to play more games there?

On the other side of the spectrum: BYU women’s basketball: The magical, but unseen season

Lying in the shadows of a nationally recognized football program and the high octane offense of an exciting men’s basketball team, the BYU women’s basketball team is quietly making their way into the years’ best BYU team with an extremely impressive start. Through ten games the Lady Cougars have lost only one game and yet continue to play to crowds that are closer to 500 than 1000. With a little more support from the fans, could this special season turn magical?

From the Miami Herald: UM’s Krystal Saunders stays strong for women’s basketball team despite family tragedy

It has not been the senior season University of Miami guard Krystal Saunders envisioned, and the past five months certainly have tested her mettle.

Saunders’ troubles began before the season started. In July, she was involved in a serious car accident while riding with three teammates to visit her mother’s Broward home in West Park. Saunders sustained a concussion and injuries to her neck and back.

It looks at first glance like one of college basketball’s more unlikely friendships, so of course it has improbable origins.

The connection between Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale and Marist’s Brian Giorgis brings together programs from different parts of the basketball strata Saturday in Poughkeepsie. It is a partnership that ought to be a model for moving the game forward, one of the sport’s biggest programs willing to go on the road to play one of the most successful small programs. Even if in this particular case, the roots of the series stretch all the way back to a field goal missed nearly five decades ago.

That part might be tricky to replicate.

Somewhat related, the APs John Marshall offers this: Arizona State to retire Becenti’s number

In the sacred Navajo hoop dance, performers bounce and hop as they whirl hoops around their arms and bodies, a ritual honoring the circle of life.

For Ryneldi Becenti, a smaller hoop within that greater circle helped guide her life.

Whether it was a rusted rim tacked to a tree or iron attached to glass under the bright lights of a WNBA arena, watching a ball go through an 18-inch hoop held sway over Becenti, bringing her closer to her deceased mother, making her a role model for her people, taking her from the reservation around the world and back again.

“It is in my blood,” Becenti said. “I slept, ate and drank basketball. It was all I had.” 

A little WNBA news from Doug: Delle Donne stays in Chicago for winter

Whether working basketball clinics, meeting with business leaders or just showing her face around town, Delle Donne is making the most of her time in the Windy City.

“It definitely has been a huge chance to help get the word out about the team and the league,” Delle Donne said. “They see me and being 6-foot-5, they are like who’s this athletic tall girl at these business meetings. They want to follow us next year. It’s important to have our faces out there so they can get excited about it.”

Michelle Smith straddles the W and the NCAA with her piece on Nicole Powell: WNBA veteran, former Stanford star finding her niche on Gonzaga sideline

Nicole Powell stood on the court in front of the visitors’ bench in Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the screen above center court and smiled widely as the strains of the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme boomed through the speakers.

The video highlights showed a young Powell, wearing her trademark headband, etching her spot in the Stanford women’s basketball record books as a three-time All-American.

When it was done, and the Stanford fans stood and applauded, it was time to get down to business. For Powell, that meant coaching the opposing team.

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why. Every time I thought, “well, that’s the game,” the players said, “Nope!”

I certainly enjoyed watching the Kentucky/Baylor game on my ‘puter as I cooked up some serious chili. Not sure the men’s teams waiting for the game to conclude were too thrilled. But really, it was Calipari’s fault. And, as Mechelle noted

So what happened? A “Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files” kind of game. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn’t going to get enough money.

Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, “Holy (blank)!” That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women’s hoops game.

This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.

There were other games this past weekend, and don’t let the final scores fool ya — some were nice and close through the first half. Which doesn’t mean a lot to the losing team, but it does suggest the winners need to not be let off the “so, how good are you?” hook.

Cal over Pacific.

Texas A&M over Washington.

Gonzaga over Ohio State (I TOLD you the Buckeyes were a tough out.)

Tennessee over Texas.

Purdue over IPFW.

South Carolina over Charlotte.

Penn State over Georgetown – and they needed all of Maggie’s 2000th point.s.

Iowa State over CS Fullerton (thanks, Hallie.)

Nice win for Auburn over St. John’s.

Eastern Michigan is still loss-free.

Ditto for San Diego.

Ditto with Notre Dame, who stomped all over UCLA.

Duke is still undefeated (#500 for McCallie) as the Blue Devils sorta handled Oklahoma in a game that saw defense prohibited in the second half (and some gimpiness).

They’re not as strong as they usually are, but it’s still important to ‘ware the ‘wabbits – as the Phoenix discovered. BTW, nice story: UWGB freshman Buck’s drive inspires Native Americans

There are not a lot of players like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Tesha Buck playing basketball at the NCAA Division I level.

A little more than a decade ago, there were none.

Buck is a Native American who already has overcome long odds to reach this point in her career.

In the most recent NCAA race and ethnicity report from the 2011-12 season, there were 10,151 male and female basketball players in Division I. Just 25 of them — 21 women and four men — were Native American/Alaskan Native.

In 2000, there were no Native American/Alaskan Native female basketball players. In 2008, there was one.

Not my fault – Fordham deals Holy Cross their first loss of the season.

So, I’m not saying ‘ware the Sun Devils yet — though that win over UNC was nice — but it did take them an OT to take down Long Beach State. I guess we’ll get a better sense of who they are after they work through Syracuse-Cal-Stanford-Colorado.

126 points!

Okay, is Michigan State down or is it Virginia Tech that is up?

Yes, it was against UMass-Lowell, but when was the last time Seton Hall scored 97pts?

Not my fault, neither: ‘nova earns its first loss at the hand of St. Joseph’s.

Phew! (Or I would have had to deny blame again): BYU squeaked by Creighton, 52-51.

No squeaking involved, as UTEP continued to roll.

Yah, they’re still undefeated, but let’s see what happens when Arkansas meets South Carolina four games from now.

Yup, Wisconsin’s improved.

So, how glad are the 1-8 Seahawks that they let Cynthia Cooper go?

Yes, there have been some major injuries, but boy is Hartford not enjoying their season so far.

*all sing* “What a difference a coach makes….” The Penguins are 1-6.

From Michelle Smith: Cards move on without Slaughter- Jeff Walz, Louisville making adjustments after losing senior guard for the season

Slaughter collapsed on the bench last Tuesday during the Cardinals’ game against Missouri State. The clot was discovered in follow-up examinations. Walz said Monday that doctors believe the clot was not related to her collapse, but was discovered during the subsequent evaluation. The collapse, doctors believe, was caused by a “cardiac event” and Slaughter is still being evaluated. In the meantime, Slaughter has begun to take blood thinners, the treatment expected to last six or seven months.

“They don’t know if the clot was there before or after,” Walz said. “But they are two separate incidents. They are still trying to determined what caused the cardiac event.”

Writes Graham of this past week’s events: Cats, Cards cap strange week in Commonwealth

Expressing that magnanimity that perhaps comes with a second-half comeback in front of a full house in your arena, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell heaped praise on Louisville counterpart Jeff Walz after last Sunday’s rivalry game, and then offered what surely seemed a benediction without any hint of foreboding.

 “It’s a good time for basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Mitchell said.

Little did he know he was also about to play his part in what proved to be the strangest of weeks for women’s basketball in the Bluegrass State, one that turned the basketball court into something of a refuge for Louisville in the aftermath of Antonita Slaughter’s collapse and subsequent season-ending diagnosis of blood clots, and a labyrinth impossible to escape for Kentucky in a four-overtime game against Baylor.

So where does basketball in the Commonwealth stand a week later?

A little W info, as James over at Swish Appeal is talking to the Dream’s new head coach Michael Cooper on the hiring process, what makes a championship team, and Running With The Dream

Full Court has a nice coaching/coast bookend: Team turnarounds are Carol Ross’s coaching calling card

The plain-spoken Southerner is popular with players, fans and the press alike. Her coaching philosphy is built around heavy doses of the basics — hard work, discpline and defense, defense, defense. “I would hope that any team that I have the opportunity to influence – and that will be the Sparks now – that they are going to play very hard, they’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion,” Ross told Full Court when she took over the reins in LA. “I can tell you that whoever is … wearing the Sparks uniform, they will play hard, and they will play with great passion and they’re going to compete very hard every night.”

Surprise! WNBA’s No. 4 pick in 2013 draft, Tayler Hill, expecting first child

Who’s got next (from Nate): Five seniors off to strong starts

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Baylor’s stomping of Grambling State (Sims), Louisville’s smothering of Loyola (Swoopes’ coaching debut) or UConn’s smooshing of Hartford (front court)…except Connecticut does meet up with Stanford on Monday… and, while the Cardinal (Ogwumike) did exit Boston with a victory over Boston College, I’m going to give a stink eye to their defense in the second half.

Not much to say about Notre Dame’s (Loyddismissal of UNC-Wilmington, other than it’s a great opportunity for the “other” players to get experience as they await the return of the injured.

So, Iona, I see we should keep an eye on you.

Debbie would have enjoyed the Ducks/Bakersfield game: 131-91.

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Terrific back-and-forth game between Australia and the US, with both teams having the lead… and both teams losing the lead. Then, a CMU Chippewa came to the rescue, as Crystal Bradford got her own miss for a put-back and a one-point lead. Then, of course, the US had to defend to the end to earn the win.

“I tell you what, that 14 seconds felt like forever,” said USA head coach Sherri Coale (University of Oklahoma). “And then we did everything right, and I thought came up with the rebound, and they called a jump ball and we had to defend them for seven more. We had not been really good in defending their inbound plays. For a split second there, I thought about changing the way we were guarding on the inbound, but I felt like the most important thing for our kids at that point was to be sure, and so we stuck with what we had been doing and got them to take a tough shot and came up with the rebound somehow. We’ve been given a gift.”

Next up for the US: the gold medal game against a much taller Russians (in front of a home court): Monday, July 15, live on ESPNU (1:30 p.m. EDT).

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(And yes, Debbie, we too hate exam schedule.) Coach Frese is on. Nice shout out to d’em Flyers!

Penn State’s sharpshooter Maggie Lucas blogs.

Charlie asks: Are the No. 1 seeds already set? and offers up his early Bracketology.

Graham has his weekly wrap up: Stallworth gives Wildcats a boost  and gives us BYU’s Steed as his Player of the Week.

BYU coach Jeff Judkins described Haley Steed (then Haley Hall) as one of the best high school players to come out of the state of Utah “for a long, long time,” an explosive guard who was quick with the ball and quick to the basket.

The numbers back up his memory; she remains among the top 10 all-time scorers in Utah prep history.

Rebecca has 5 Questions with Ms. Sims.

In October, Sherri Coale wrote

How good is it when the worst thing you can think of to say about your team is that sometimes they try too hard?

We’re in week two of our progression toward “real” practice. Week one was four days of intense defensive focus. This week is total commitment to offensive core concepts. Monday, we’ll let the horses run and see where we are.

And while I can’t really know exactly where that is, I do know it’s in a really good place.

Two months later, the the Oklahoma Daily is writing: Injuries threaten what kind of season the Sooners can have

Slam Online has: Women’s College Basketball Recap: Week 4 – Kentucky and Louisville face off in a nail-biter, and Odyssey Sims gets the better of Skylar Diggins.

Lots of interesting stuff over at Swish Appeal:

I had a great time at the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden (join us next time, wontcha?). Ray has Maggie Dixon Classic: Tempo-free numbers and notes.

Duke defense comes up big in win over St. John’s and Rutgers shoots down cold Louisiana Tech

Shifting into W mode: Who are the top prospects for the 2013 WNBA Draft? – Our look at prospects for the 2013 WNBA Draft and a group of top players to watch.

With an “oiy” to the typo: Bill Laimbeer set to take the reigns of the New York Liberty

New York Liberty head coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer is nothing if not outspoken and in an interview with Ryan Dunleavy at the Scarlett Scuttlebutt blog during this weekend’s Maggie Dixon Classic he was clear that he won’t necessarily be maintaining the status quo in NYC.

From James: Atlanta Dream head coach Fred Williams on the WNBA Draft, goals for 2013, and his nicknames and Which former WNBA players should have their numbers retired?

What’s up with Ticha? Enjoying life after Spalding

Clay at Full Court has: New WNBA rules and other meanderings and Remember: Recruiting (among other things) is different for girls

 

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to visit the mom-ster, so I’ll just ask: If the #1 ranked team in the country loses a key player four minutes into the game, and still is a 15-footer away from sending the game in to overtime against the #4 ranked team in the country…and no one can watch it,  does the game count?

Kim, Tara, their ADs and the head o BOTH their conferences coulda – and shoulda – made all-access streaming happen. Shame on them.

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Mechelle: Baylor is first to go 40-0 – After falling short last year, Lady Bears make sure to finish their business in 2012

This journey of perfection started in earnest in March 2011 when a furious and frustrated Baylor women’s basketball team made the bus ride home from its Elite Eight loss in Dallas.

“It was horrible,” Baylor star center Brittney Griner said. “But now, this plane ride back tomorrow? It’s going to be jumping. They’re going to have to tell us to sit down in our seats.”

When eventual champion Texas A&M defeated Baylor last year, it stung the Lady Bears like a nest of hornets. Just one thing could make it better: an NCAA title this season. Tuesday, Baylor earned that emphatically, beating Notre Dame 80-61 in the final behind 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots from Griner, the Final Four’s most outstanding player.

From Michelle: Mulkey’s spirit shows in Lady Bears – Coach fought through Bell’s palsy to lead Baylor to second title

Her team’s relentless style, its aggression and toughness — it’s all a reflection of Mulkey, who coached the last part of this NCAA tournament with Bell’s palsy, a neurological condition that has left her with paralysis on the left side of her face.

The truth is, it has made her life more difficult but not her job.

The team she had led this far was plenty capable of taking it to the finish line.

And more from Mechelle: Brittney Griner wins her first title

Tuesday, Griner rose to the occasion the way she has all season. Her 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots capped off Baylor’s 40-0 campaign and put her firmly in the spotlight that undeniably has also had a harsh glare sometimes.

After the game, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said when asked to assess Griner’s impact: “I think she’s one of a kind. I think she’s like a guy playing with women. It’s just that there’s so many things that she can do that I’ve not seen a lot of women … well, really, you know there’s been some guards that had some skill like that. But as a post player, she’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

The “guy” part of that quote caused some controversy, much to McGraw’s chagrin. Some people’s reactions to the 6-foot-8 Griner’s athleticism and her physical/vocal characteristics have created an uncomfortable subtext to her story. Comments on message boards and in social media have questioned Griner’s gender.

And, because nothing is simple in women’s basketball: Muffett McGraw clears up comments

Fagan: Sims conducts Baylor victory – Lady Bears point guard neutralizes Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins

Odyssey Sims walked from the end of the bench, found her coach, and wrapped Kim Mulkey in a hug.

Sims didn’t want to miss the end-of-game love Baylor’s coach was freely distributing. Mulkey had just mass substituted, allowing the green-and-gold fans to rain cheers on Baylor’s starters. As those players walked off the court, Mulkey spent a long time whispering into the ear of star center Brittney Griner and guard Kimetria Williams.

The Lady Bears were just a few seconds from their season-long goal of a national championship, and you got the sense Mulkey was exhaling for the first time in awhile. So what if Sims had already fouled out? She wanted her player-coach moment. After all, she certainly deserved it.

Charlie: Baylor caps perfect 40-0 season (How Baylor beat Notre Dame):

TURNING POINT: Devereaux Peters’ foul trouble killed Notre Dame all night, but nothing turned the game like her fourth foul just five minutes into the second half. The Irish had crept to within 42-39 and had the ball. Peters leaned in to set a screen on Hayden and was whistled for a foul. Peters, who had been back in the game for only 2½ minutes, had to go back to the bench. The 3-pointers Odyssey Sims hit on the ensuing possession ruined the Notre Dame momentum, and the Irish never got closer than four the rest of the way. With Peters out, Baylor outscored Notre Dame 19-11, effectively ending the game.

From Graham: Emotional exit for Irish seniors

“That one actually hurt the most, to see Coach that emotional,” Novosel said later. “She cared about it just as much as we did. I knew that already, but just to see the emotion on her face, it’s so hard to feel like you disappointed her.”

Only these seniors could do everything they had over the past four or five seasons and think one night when so little went right for them could leave McGraw disappointed.

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South Carolina took a huge lead in the first, and built on in it the second, stomping their way to a 79-48 win over North Carolina.

NC State took a good lead into the second, and held off a furious Vandy comeback and gave the Commodores their first loss of the season, 66-59.

In a back-and-forth game, a CLUTCH three-pointer by Carter capped a huge comeback by Texas A&M. The Aggies took down USC — but honestly, all eyes are on Jackie Gemelos, who went down with a knee injury.

The Red Foxes go down again and the Bonnies are 10-1.

The Penguins win again!

Fun, fun game between Kentucky and Notre Dame. Not much defense, lots of offensive fouls, some painful missed layups,  a key foul-out  (some extra curricular stuff) and Diggins didn’t disappoint. Result? The Irish come away with the 92-83 win.

With one bold decision to launch the basketball skyward and an afternoon otherwise spent protecting it like it had a Secret Service code name, Skylar Diggins made sure there was one fewer member of the undefeated club by the end of Sunday’s game between No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 Kentucky.

Just how hard she and the Fighting Irish had to fight to do so suggests the club of championship contenders extends to Lexington.

Don’t let the final score (65-61) fool ya — Baylor/UConn was just as fun. A back-and-forth battle, electric atmosphere, and a great showcase for Griner (and not a bad one for Hartley and Simms). Bears win, time to start the “will they go undefeated” chatter!

“You’re not just playing the current UConn team, you’re playing a very proud tradition,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “No matter how good we play, they’re not going to go away.

“I don’t want to keep using the phrase ‘I saw a team grow up’; I think we’re grown now. But we still have lots of things to do. It was the first time we’ve beaten Connecticut; we’ve played them three times now. I’ve never coached a team that’s done that.”

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Point guards lead the way in Sweet 16

We may be living in the year of the quarterback, but March will always be the month of the point guard.

When the Sweet 16 gets under way on Saturday afternoon, some of the biggest stars on the court will be the smallest players on the court. From eight standout seniors looking to play at least one more game to four freshmen who appear ready to battle for bragging rights for years to come, the weekend’s most intriguing subplots may come from duels between players who do considerably more than merely bring the ball up the floor.

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this might have been you at about the 3-minutes left mark in the second half of the Baylor/TAMU game:

“Are you freakin’ kidding me? I yelled at the television. (And yes, I did really say freakin’ because it’s Sunday. This has nothing to do with the lord but with the fact that the new school week starts tomorrow and I need to clean up my potty mouth before entering a classroom. )
And what did I get to see instead? Another game? Another nail biter? No, my friends, the Celtics pre-game show. A pre-scheduled 30 minute show for a game CSN wasn’t even airing.”

Yup. They cut away. And you missed it. And have you sent a “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!?!” email to your local provider? I hope so, or it’ll keep on happening.

As to the game. It kinda felt like a tight, back and forth mess. Great crowd (well, duh, it’s the Big 12). And, when it came to the end (that some of you didn’t see), I must say I thought it was over when Danielle Adams fouled out with one of the dopier fouls I’ve ever seen. But, credit the Aggies, they found a way to claw close.

And then the Odyssey spoke and the game was Baylor’s. (Can we say Frosh of the Year award is leaning heavily towards her?) Said A&M coach Gary Blair:

“That’s the difference,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said of Sims. “I don’t think there’s a freshman point guard in the country better than her. She’s got the ability to control in mid-air and bump into you and push off and be physical. Most freshman don’t know how to use that arm.”

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