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HOT

Even in first gear, 1. Minnesota and 2. Los Angeles look inevitable. Shifting the WNBA Playoff format may have been one of the best decisions the league has made in the last 10 years.

Can the Lynx be the Warriors of the WNBA this season? Should they try?

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

3. Yesterday’s game against Washington notwithstanding, Atlanta seems to have finally all its talent together. Can Angel continue to “trust” and can her teammates continue to show up…

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

Sitting in the parking lot of Austell’s Riverside EPICenter, where his team practices, Dream coach Michael Cooper said there are two reasons why the WNBA squad is 5-1 and atop the Eastern Conference after finishing fifth and missing the playoffs last year.

The first is an upgrade at center and at point guard.

The second reason given by Cooper was chemistry. Leading scorer Angel McCoughtry referred to it as positivity after Sunday’s win over Chicago.

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

4. New York: Interesting comment from last night’s Seattle/NY broadcast – when leading by 7 last year, the Lib did. not. lose. That’s been an issue this year – the Storm’s comeback attempt is a case in point. Charles is on fire, and Sugar is smokin’, but the rest of the team is a question mark – do the show up (hello, Indiana game) or not? Much of the Lib’s future will depend on Prince’s ability to return (post Olympics?) to create a more consistent inside/outside balance.

5. Indiana: The team that defeated Atlanta on opening day was not the team that showed up at the Garden on Friday. Dunno how much Maggie Lucas’s injury will impact the team as a whole (or knowing they’ll be working for a new coach next year), but, the good news is…

Rookie Report: Tiffany Mitchell Shining For The Indiana Fever and Fever’s January still working back from knee injury

6. Chicago: Now that Sloot is back, perhaps we’ll see their real potential

The Sky’s not the limit: DePaul alum Allie Quigley an integral part of the Chicago Sky

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

After a rough start to their season, the Chicago Sky are getting back on track. Last season, they compensated for a lackluster defense by outrunning and outgunning the competition, playing plenty of three-guard lineups with Elena Delle Donne at the 4.

This year, things are a little different. With their center position log-jammed, coach Pokey Chatman has had to figure out minutes distributions for her post players, which has led to larger lineups and a lack of continuity at the 5.

Despite this, the Sky have retained their success on offense, and after starting 1-4, they’ve won their last three games to vault them back into playoff contention. 

And: Wrigley’s World: Sky star Elena Delle Donne’s four-legged fan

7. Dallas: Young and Gun. This early in their Texas career it’s important to win on their home court. Or, if they’re going to lose, lose with high scoring enthusiasm. Eventually, though, the word “defense” will have to enter their play.. ditto health.

8. Seattle: Not sure what to make of them, but the Stewie/Loyd pairing is sure sweet (sometimes). How quickly can Boucek mold old and new?

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

Q and A: Breanna Stewart On Transition to Storm And Going Back To Connecticut

On Friday, Breanna Stewart returns to Connecticut for the first time since leaving UConn just a few months ago. Ahead of the Storm’s meeting with the Sun (7 PM ET, WNBA League Pass), Breanna Stewart talked to reporters about adjusting to the WNBA, her partnership with Jewell Loyd, and what it will be like to return to Connecticut.

9. Washington: Bill’s early advice was to “get healthy.” They’re getting there (as their win over Atlanta showed). Will it hold?

HOT MESS

10. San Antonio: I love Dan Hughes, but what on earth has he wrought? GM Ruth will have some reorganizing to do. Are Peters and Jefferson strong enough building blocks?

11. Phoenix – They look at sixes and sevens, with not-good rumors floating… NOT what the fans (or the GMs) expected, no?

.com: Petrovich Molds All-World Talent into Reserve Role for Mercury

Scottsdale Health; Diana Taurasi: Back, and Better Than Ever

12. Connecticut: Would love to talk to coach about his learning curve.

The message on Friday from Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was pretty simple.

If his players don’t want to put out the effort that he wants in the game plan that he has devised, than they just aren’t going to play for him.

“Everyone in this league wants to play and you have to reward people when they are playing hard and when they are playing efficiently,” Miller said following the loss to Atlanta on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

To the fans, please be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In other news:

SlamOnline: Go Ahead and Respect It How going to a WNBA game changed one man’s outlook on the women’s game.

I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t a fan of the WNBA growing up.

I didn’t pay much attention to their games, even though I knew a few of their stars (Lisa Lesile, Sue Bird and Becky Hammon). Heck, I didn’t even watch those dominant, title-winning women teams at UConn. All because I thought watching women’s basketball, wasn’t a “cool” thing to do.

Who, as a male sports fan, watches that stuff? (Insert sarcasm and misogyny.)

Unfortunately, our counterparts receive a bad reputation for their game. You’ll hear offensive comments regarding their skills, looks and even sexuality. Despite having backing from the NBA and an aggressive public relations plan, the WNBA can often struggle to catch America’s attention.

But something changed for me last Tuesday, as I covered the New York Liberty vs Atlanta Dream game at Madison Square Garden.

LaChina: ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: All about chemistry

On this week’s “Around The Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson and this week’s special guest host former WNBA All-Star Chasity Melvin delve into the discussion of team chemistry.

The two highlight how the Mercury are finally showing signs of gelling together, how the Lynx haven’t missed a beat this season, which rookies are shining in the first weeks and give their take on the first-ever WNBA AP rankings. Plus, they share their picks for the NBA Finals.

Think the WNBA is in Trouble? Let’s Talk Some NBA History

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

Early on, no player more important to WNBA than Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

For those interested in expansion: Women’s hoops league to put team in Nashville

NCAA

Excelle Sports feature on ESPN’s Holly Rowe details workload covering women’s basketball

As Breanna Stewart walks to center court for the tip-off at the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a murmured buzz runs through the crowd that’s seated courtside. But it’s not for Stewart, the most recognizable name in the women’s college game, or even for UConn, the mecca of women’s college basketball.

“It’s Holly Rowe,” someone says over my shoulder, pointing toward the court. Sure enough, Rowe glides past in a navy blue dress and heels, smiling to the fans who shout her name and stopping to shake hands or hug those who extend a greeting.

Throughout the game, Rowe, a longtime ESPN sideline reporter, hustles from one bench to the next and works her way up and down the sideline, stopping only briefly to review notes or chat with the occasional fellow member of press row before dashing off to cover the next on-air moment.

Flashback to the Old Big East days: Bulger sisters sparked WVU women’s hoops success

Re: Duke Transfer: UConn Fans Are Going To Like Azura Stevens, Says ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli

As Azura Stevens was emerging as a college prospect at Cary High in North Carolina, analyst Debbie Antonelli took special interest.

Stevens, after all, was playing for Antonelli’s alma mater. Before playing for Kay Yow at North Carolina State, Antonelli — then Debbie Mulligan — played basketball at Cary High.

So Antonelli has a history with Stevens, who recently transferred from Duke to UConn. And as an analyst for many ACC games, Antonelli has watched Stevens develop during her first two years of college.

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

Speaking of transfers: McDonald’s All American Lindsey Corsaro commits to UCLA after getting release from Kentucky

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

Scott Rueck’s ‘vision of what elite is is even more clear’ after Final Four run

In this wide-ranging conversation with The Oregonian/OregonLive, Rueck reflects on the memorable season and looks ahead to what’s next for the Beavers. 

It’s officially June. Have you finally had a chance to really step back and reflect on everything that happened this past season?

From time to time, because it comes up so much with people. There’s obviously been a lot of conversation about it. I don’t know if you step back and look at the whole picture, really. I don’t know when that will happen, necessarily. But just the specific moments that come up have been fun to go back and look at. I’ve watched our highlight video a few times. That was really well-done and that brings back vivid memories. There’s a lot of reliving the Baylor game with all of us. That’s the one that tends to come up the most. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Women’s Basketball: Ohio set to dominate the MAC again

Dumping high expectations on a team certainly doesn’t make playing any less stressful.

That was the reality Ohio struggled with all last season, a year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, with a returning roster that could produce the best result in program history.

Yes, there was pressure. At times, that led to visible stress.

Embrace the Challenge: Courtney Banghart and the Tasks Ahead for Women’s Basketball

On the right wall in Courtney Banghart’s office is a framed article: Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders from 2015. There, her name and accomplishments are listed alongside people such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Banghart’s lead of the Princeton women’s basketball team to a 30-0 regular season, and the first NCAA win in the program’s history, earned her a continuous spotlight all season long.

As a leader in the national spotlight, her abilities to guide her team are tested night in and night out. But this upcoming season could be one of the most unpredictable for her in many seasons. She is forced to handle not just a drastically changing roster but also a league continuously growing and evolving.

Hello! UCF WBB adds 8-time WNBA All-Star Nykesha Sales to coaching staff

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

Stay put: Purdue’s Versyp Granted 6-Year Contract Extension

Bye: Purdue’s Komara to join White’s staff at Vanderbilt

Shoo: Alabama women’s basketball program moving games out of Foster Auditorium

After four years playing in a refurbished Foster Auditorium, Alabama women’s basketball is moving back a few blocks to Coleman Coliseum.

The school announced the move Tuesday morning as coach Kristi Curry expressed her desire to create an electric game-day atmosphere. Foster Auditorium holds 3,800 while Coleman Coliseum seats more than 15,000.

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

The second person Nancy Lieberman called after she got the assistant coaching job with the Sacramento Kings was Muhammad Ali.

She shared her first memory of seeing ‘The Greatest’ at the age of 10.

“Late 60’s early 70’s, you know, people were telling me, you know, I’m stupid, I’m dumb, I’m never going to make anything of myself, girls don’t play sports and I saw this man on T.V. you know, defying the odds and saying he was the greatest of all time,” said Lieberman.

It wasn’t until she was 19 or 20 years old when she met him.

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

The Australian women’s basketball team have received a taste of what to expect at the Rio Olympics in a 58-55 loss to Spain before Spanish fans.

After smashing Argentina by 42 points in the first game of their European tour a day earlier, the world No.2 Opals had a much tougher task against world No.3 Spain in San Fernando on Tuesday morning (AEST).

Team Canada’s Tatham promoting women’s basketball to next generation

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

A top U.S. coach is in the Gaza Strip to help set up the territory’s first female wheelchair basketball team.

“I think for Gaza this is a very unique thing,” said the trainer, Jess Markt. “I think there are not so many opportunities for women to play sports here, and particularly for disabled women.”

Markt, 40, was a track athlete until 21 years ago when he suffered a severed spinal cord in a car accident. Three years later, he began playing basketball and in recent years he has coached wheelchair teams in Afghanistan, India and Cambodia.

POLITICS

Women’s Sports Foundation Report:
Coaches of Women’s College Sports Face Widespread Gender Bias; Many Fear Speaking Out

80% of female coaches believe it is easier for male coaches to secure high-level jobs  

Today the Women’s Sports Foundation released, “Beyond X’s & O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College sports,” the first study to measure the issue of gender bias in coaching of women’s college sports on a systemic basis.

The findings confirm that there is a systemic gender bias directed at female coaches of women’s sports; it is not sporadic or limited to a few institutions. As a result, women face limitations in pay and professional advancement in the coaching workplace. And it’s a trend showing no signs of improvement. 

(Yes, this is politics) Naomi Jackson at espnW: On loving broken women and Brittney Griner

Everything in my life has prepared me to love damaged women, women who drag their broken wings behind them “like a decoy,” as poet R. Erica Doyle writes in her collection, “Proxy.”

“You hold back enough to keep them curious. Women like that. Wounded enough to be salvageable. Women like that, too. Fixing broken things. Take in the broken wing you drag like a decoy.”

It begins, as everything does, with my mother. Schizophrenic and eventually unable to care for her children, my mother vacillated wildly between affection, praise, bouts of intense creativity and joy and seemingly infinite rounds of melancholy, listlessness and abuse. Living with a mother whose mental illness made her behavior erratic and her presence unreliable made me an expert at reading other women, at shaping my needs, desires, and self to fit their moods.

As I move into grown womanhood, I’m shedding this tendency toward accommodation and emotional acrobatics that put other people’s (lovers, friends, colleagues) needs before my own. I get it wrong sometimes, as humans do, but we make the road by walking.

Jane McManus: It’s time to lift the ‘veil of ignorance’ when it comes to campus assault

Baylor’s former president and chancellor Ken Starr sat with ESPN’s Joe Schad for a televised interview after a Pepper Hamilton report alleged systematic disenfranchisement of students who reported being sexually assaulted by other students, including some players on the football team.

Starr called for transparency and simultaneously hid behind his “veil of ignorance,” a garment that can be found next to the cloaks of deniability in Aisle 5. It’s a gutsy move, calling for others to be forthright when you can’t lead by example.

Starr was evasive throughout the interview, even on a question about how Baylor handled the assault claims.

SO….. what do you think the folks who gave the video below a thumbs down were thinking?

Maybe they like this Onion report: College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed

 

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’cause work’s been busy… and I got to see Michael Feinstein at Carnegie Hall last night. <BLISS>

Interesting WNIT games on tap tonight!!

Ohio v. Temple

At some point, be it next week, next month or next season, Bob Boldon said everyone is going to finally realize how special a player Kiyanna Black has been for the Ohio University women’s basketball program.

Black, meanwhile, is hoping for one more special performance to keep Ohio’s season alive.

Northern Iowa v. South Dakota

Amy Williams jokingly admits to ‘torturing’ herself on the bus ride home from last Sunday’s win at Minnesota.

She re-watched film from a game back in mid-November.

Her University of South Dakota women’s basketball team had suffered a 21-point loss at Northern Iowa that day, but Williams needed a refresher. Her Coyotes, after all, will host Northern Iowa tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in the third round of the WNIT.

TCU v. UTEP

TCU is still in this thing.

The Horned Frogs (18-14) will visit UT El Paso at 8 p.m. Thursday in the WNIT’s Round of 16. UTEP (28-4 and 18-0 at home), the Conference USA regular-season champs, spent much of the season hoping for a long run in another postseason tournament before being upended by Old Dominion in the CUSA tourney.

TCU made a first-round exit in the Big 12 tournament but is now one win away from the longest postseason run in program history, in just coach Raegan Pebley’s second year.

WNIT happened:

Michigan (Big Ten) romped over San Diego (WCC), 78-51.

Hofstra (CAA) ended Virginia’s (ACC) post-season, 65-57.

The Hofstra women’s basketball team slayed another power-conference giant Tuesday night in its run through the WNIT, knocking off the University of Virginia 65-57 at the Mack Sports Complex to advance to the team’s first WNIT quarterfinal since 2007.

“What a phenomenal win, not just for Hofstra but for the CAA,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the game. “It’s a proud moment to be coaching these women here.”

Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun) over Tulane, 73-61.

Motivated by being left out of the NCAA tournament, the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team continues to make the most of its postseason appearance.

For the third game in a row, FGCU’s offense looked unstoppable at times Wednesday in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Eagles used 11 3-pointers and a 27-point third quarter to ease past Tulane, 73-61.

Oregon (Pac12) took down Utah (Pac12), 73-63.

Crap: Cait Craft broke her left hand in practice. Out of NCAA tournament game for

PhewOhio State women’s basketball | Alston back in nick of time

Help: Tennessee’s mission: Slow down OSU’s Mitchell

Growth: Wilson right on track at South Carolina

Height: To post upset, Syracuse women’s basketball needs to cut South Carolina down to size

Jump: Jewell Loyd: Fighting Irish Trying to Clear Their Biggest Hurdle

Audio‘Around the Rim’ podcast: How Sweet 16 it is

Picks: Experts’ picks: Chalk will rule Sweet 16

Conversation: Dishin & Swishin 3/24/16 Podcast: Stephanie White breaks down the Sweet 16

Discuss: NCAA WBB first- and second-round attendance should not be what the postseason is about

Bye: Freshman Taja Cole says she’s leaving Louisville

Bye, too: Virginia Tech fires women’s basketball coach Dennis Wolff

Bye, Bye: Two USU Women’s Basketball Players Leaving Program

Stay: Illinois women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant to return next season

Nebraska: Analyzing why a disappointing season happened and what might change

Read: Olympian and WNBA Star Tamika Catchings Shares Stories of Triumph in New Book

Yup: Djokovic’s jokes about female players’ hormones as damaging to the sport as Moore’s comments

Good: WNBA condemns Raymond Moore’s sexist WTA comments

Cool: The Schimmel sisters visit Fairbanks and the NABT, Nates win title

Sweet: Watch Emma Meesseman practice with a Belgian girls basketball team in her hometown

Forward: UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards prepares for WNBA draft

Forward, too: Jonquel Jones sets stage for high WNBA selection

Hmmm: Rio Olympics 2016: Opals legend Lauren Jackson still under cloud as Belinda Snell cut from squad

Leadership: American Airlines, NCAA, PayPal speak out on NC law restricting LGBT protections

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but first, the WNIT kicks us off with a fun story: Double Duty In Des Moines: Kansas Band Gets The Assist For Drake Women’s Basketball

A college basketball game without a band present … it’s just not the same, is it? Drake’s women’s team was facing that, though, for its WNIT opener Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa. The school is on spring break, and the Drake band members aren’t on campus.

However, Drake got a capable substitute: The Kansas band was in Des Moines for the Jayhawks’ NCAA men’s tournament game Thursday afternoon.

As for the games:

The band helped! Drake (MVC) over Sacred Heart (NEC), 95-59.

Road-weary UT Rio Grande (WAC) got swept away by TCU (Big12), 97-73.

Arkansas State (Sun Belt) chomped on Southern (SWAC), 68-45.

It was a tight one, as short-handed Nebraska (Big10) fell to Northern Iowa (MVC), 64-62.

Ball State (MAC) went on the road and topped Iowa (Big Ten), 77-72.

Arkansas Little-Rock (Sun Belt) and St. Louis (A-10) went down to the wire, but… Billikens win! 70-69.

And I swoop! Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley) came back to defeat Memphis (American), 79-73. It’s the programs first post-season win since 1999.

Dayton (A-10) fell to Western Kentucky (C-USA), 89-72.

San Diego (WCC) escapes Northwestern (Big 10), 69-65. The Wildcats scored 8 in the first and 35 in the fourth. Coach must be banging his head against the wall.

No, really, remember when they stunk? IUPUI (Summit) over Central Michigan (MAC), a tough program, 63-55.

Bucknell (Patriot) over Akron (MAC), 74-70. The Bison are the first team from the Patriot League to ever win a game in the WNIT, while also posting the program’s first victory in a national postseason tournament.

“We have had a lot of great things happen this year, but to get a postseason win is pretty sweet,” said Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “It’s a great accomplishment for our program and our league, and a huge feather in the cap for this gritty team. I am incredibly proud of them.”

Gonzaga (WCC) chewed up undermanned UC Riverside (Big West), 88-54.

Oregon (Pac12) over Long Beach State (Big West) by 8.

After all the waiting and working and wondering, Oregon coach Kelly Graves finally got the glimpse of his team’s future that he’d been looking for the past two weeks.

And he liked it so much that Graves told his rejuvenated Ducks to go play couch potatoes for a day like the rest of America as their reward.

 Welcome to March Madness, ladies. WNIT style.

Nice showing against a program that in no joke: Marshall (C-USA) falls to Ohio (MAC), 76-68.

Eastern Michigan (MAC) led wire to wire, and eked out an away win over Saint Mary’s (WCC), by one, 74-73.

Graduate transfer Chanise Baldwin’s ffensive rebound and put back with 1.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team to a 74-73 victory over Saint Mary’s College in the opening round of the WNIT Thursday, March 17. The Eagles led by as many as nine, but needed Baldwin’s late game heroics to propel the Green and White into the second round of the tournament. 

In a back-and-forth battle, it was Abilene Christian (Southland) who blinked first. UTEP (C-USA) won, 66-62.

Virginia Tech (ACC) over Elon (CAA), 68-59.

Villanova (Big East) ousted Liberty (Big South), 67-51.

Hofstra (CAA) over Harvard (Ivy), 76-50.

Even with the loss of top-scorer Mikayla Venson, Virginia (ACC) managed a two-point win over VCU (A10).

Georgia Tech (ACC) stung Mercer (Southern), 73-56.

Rutgers (Big East Big 10) last-second-shot-ed a win over Georgetown (Old Big East), 57-55.

An improving Wake Forest (ACC) held off Charlotte (C-USA), 72-69.

First round NCAA games I’m keeping my eye on:

Albany/Florida
JMU/DePaul
Chattanooga/Mississippi State
Green Bay/Tennessee
St. Bonaventure/Oklahoma State

Michelle Smith: Tara VanDerveer vs. Jennifer Azzi

Asked to remember the last time they talked on the phone before they found out they would be matched up in the NCAA tournament, both Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and University of San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi came up with the same answer.

“Probably just a few weeks ago,” Azzi said.

“Not that long ago,” VanDerveer confirmed. “We talked about some things she was dealing with.”

There will be no talking this week.

Katie Barnes: UConn freshman Samuelson finds her footing

Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson, both of whom played at Stanford, are as responsible as anyone for making Lou the player she is.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be just like them, so that’s where it all started,” Samuelson said. “But once I got older, all I wanted to do was to be better than them.”

When will DePaul Women get their due as NCAA contenders?

Every year, I hear the same thing. “There are no Illinois teams in the NCAA tournament.”

And for the past 14 years, all those who have said that have been wrong.

Why, oh, why, do Illinois residents overlook the DePaul Blue Demons (25-8), who’ve achieved a berth in the NCAA Women’s Tournament for 14 CONSECUTIVE YEARS… also, their 21st overall appearance since 1990?

Jonathan Lintner: Cards’ Hines-Allen hitting high gear in March

Recently named the ACC Player of the Year, Hines-Allen registered a pair of double-doubles to open the postseason and hit 19 of her 33 shots.

“I want to prove to people it’s not a fluke and just give my all every single day,” the sophomore forward said. “That’s how I got the award.”

BTW: Division II has reached the Elite Eight.

4 Florida Southern v. 1 Lubbock Christian (March 22, 1pm)
2 Anchorage-Alaska v. 7 Francis Marion (March 22, 7pm)
1 Virginia Union v. 1 Bentley (March 22, 3:3o)
2 Grand Valley State v. 7 Pittsburgh State (9:30)

The big shockers were seeing #1 Union, #1 Azusa Pacific and #1 Limestone go down in the first round. #1 Ashland feel in the second round. #1 Emporia State lost in the 3rd round.

Division III’s Final Four is scheduled for March 19th, Capitol University, Columbus Ohio.

Tufts (27-3) v. Wartburg (23-7), 5pm.
Wartburg’s Final Four run stranger than fiction

 Amsberry’s Nine will do for a working title. Wartburg College’s surprise run into the NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four has the makings of a green-lit sports movie.

The plot is a season salvaged off life support by a group of athletes that had moved on before reuniting to accomplish an ambitious goal.

The script has more than final credits left to be written.

Jumbos book trip to NCAA tournament semifinals for third year in a row

For the past two years, Tufts had gotten it done at home in the postseason. The Jumbos had qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning the NESCAC championship, earned home court advantage and fought their way through dominant first-round wins and overtime thrillers alike to reach the NCAA Div. III championship semifinals, the Final Four.

This year was different. Tufts fell by one point in a heartbreaking loss to Amherst in the NESCAC championship but still earned an at-large bid. 

Amherst (30-1) v. Thomas More (31-0), 7:30PM

Saints on a different kind of mission

You already know what’s the same about the defending champs, so let’s look at what’s different about Thomas More this season.

It all starts with a change in hashtag philosophy.

Sister act adds to Amherst’s legacy

If Amherst head women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki hadn’t been persistent when reaching out to junior twins Ali and Meredith Doswell during the recruiting process, no telling what he would be doing this weekend.

 

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On cue, the LIU moves to 4-5 in the NEC with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 65-62.

In their first meeting, Bucknell hosted Army and beat’em by 10. In the West Point rematch, the Black Knights pulled away in the fourth for a 5-point win. With both teams at 8-1 in the conference, there’s no margin for error in the race to the Patriot League title.

Okay, then. With their first victory in 11 tries against Stetson, Jacksonville moves to 6-0 in the A-Sun and is tied with Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun. Guess who the Dolphins get to play on the 4th…in Naples? And host on the 10th…in Jacksonville.

Looking to keep everyone in the Horizon honest, Northern Kentucky takes down the Penguins, 88-77. A little sting to the win: former YSU guard, Shar’Rae Davis who finished the half with a total of 12 points off the bench. She was one of three players who didn’t receive scholarship renewals in 2014,

*no jinx, no jinx* UNC Asheville is now 9-2 in the Big South.

*WHB talked cr@p about us. Let’s show her!* Rutgers starts ugly but finishes strong against Nebraska, earning a 66-55 win.

*continued jinx?* UT Rio Grande lost – but it was to WAC top dog, New Mexico State.

The Miners are still perfect in C-USA play (9-0), but after Marshall, Western Kentucky (8-1) (who lost to MTSU) looms, Feb. 6th. MTSU (7-2), which has had some “stuff” going on this year, lost to UTEP 84-73 earlier this season, but doesn’t get a rematch.

Fresno State (ummm… shout out to the Bee: ““I just feel like we know how to come back,” senior co-captain Toni Smith said in a phone interview after the game.) and Colorado State have unblemished Mountain West records – will that last until March 1st, when they get to face off against each other?

Squeak! Ohio moved to 9-0 in the MAC with a one-point win over Ball State, 68-67.

Hmmmm… the Bulldogs are struggling, yes, but I’m sure San Francisco is enjoying beating Gonzaga.

On a day when USF honored its 1996 Sweet 16 team, the 2015-16 San Francisco women’s basketball team made a place for themselves in program history as well. The Dons scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed to earn a big 71-52 win over the Bulldogs at War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory was their first win over the 11-time WCC defending champions since a West Coast Conference tournament win on March 2, 2006. The 19-point deficit is also the largest loss of the season for Gonzaga, who lost to Stanford 65-48 on Nov. 15 during non-conference action.

Gotta love in-state games: Bobcats knock off Lady Griz

A year ago this month, the Montana State women’s basketball team crumbled and lost its composure in a 62-48 loss to Montana that sent the Bobcats to 1-4 in conference, searching for answers.

A year later, it seems like the Bobcats of head coach Tricia Binford have all the right ones.

Ooooooooh, De-bbie: Eastern Kentucky over Morehead State, 100-93; Eastern Washington over Sacramento State, 100-83.

What to look for Sunday:

#12 Kentucky at Florida – will the Wildcats bounce back, or with the Gators camp.

St. John’s at #23 DePaul. The Blue Demons have been up and down… and the Red Storm has been knocking at the door of the polls.

UNC at NC State. A missing coach adds intrigue to the 101st edition of this in-state rivalry.

St. Louis at George Washington. The Billikens (7-1) are SO much better.… but the Colonials are undefeated (8-0) in conference….

Alabama at Tennessee. One would thing the Tide would be just what the doctor ordered for the Vols…. but remember, they gave TAMU a scare.

#13 Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been snacking on ranked teams. How focused will the Bulldogs be after their big win over Tennessee?

#2 South Carolina at Texas A&M (ESPN2). It’s never fun to play against the 12th man.

It’s likely that #14 Louisville will stay hot against Wake Forest... so I can’t help but look ahead to Feb 7th when they face Notre Dame.

BTW, in Division II news:

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham posted his 1,098th career victory Thursday night, matching Pat Summitt’s mark for the most at a four-year school.

Statham is in his 50th season at the Division II college. He guided the Bearcats past Wisconsin-Parkside 92-85 on the court named in his honor.

The 78-year-old Statham has a career record of 1,098-474. He can top Summitt’s record Saturday when McKendree hosts Lewis. (Didn’t)

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

#8 team scores 62 in forty.

#11 team scores 61 in forty.

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

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

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

In other games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

Yes: Ohio State winning despite lack of size

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honestly, why do you bother? You get a UConn game on your channel, thousands of Husky fans realize you exist and desperately look for you… and then you bring out Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) – someone who 1) Doesn’t do his homework (ummm, have you checked out how many upsets happened in the last week?) 2) Doesn’t know his facts (ummm, have you checked out UConn’s SOS?) 3) and DISRESPECTS the women’s game… *smh, surprised that Swin didn’t smack HIS head*

Doug, honey, if you’re worried about a sport that is diluted, where folks don’t play competitive games and is parity-free, let me quote a wise observer from Miami who suggests you check out college football: “Alabama and their ilk go 13-1 outscoring their opponents 2.3 to 1. They just beat the #3 ranked team 38-0. At least women’s basketball is a little competitive!”

Not quite yet: #6 Baylor rumbled in to Longhorn territory, grabbed an early lead an never let go, sending #4 Texas to its first loss of the season.

The Texas women’s basketball team lost on Sunday.

On the court. In the press conference. Inside their minds. Everywhere it counts.

Except in the Erwin Center stands, where 8,996 fans — the largest crowd of the season — convened to watch the fourth-ranked Longhorns’ breakthrough moment this season.

But that moment didn’t come.

ACK! #15 TAMU had overtime against #2 South Carolina in its sight, courtesy of a spectacular pass/lay in and then… brain freeze: foul the inbounder and Sessions seals a one-point win for the Gamecocks. Staley speaks.

Too muchToo much firepower: #5 Ohio State gave Purdue its first in-conference loss, 90-70.

“We started the game with a much better sense of urgency,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We talked about it. We were going to need it. Purdue is a really good team. If we didn’t show up today, it wasn’t going to go our way.”

Not this game: #8 Maryland poured it on in the first half against Northwestern and never looked back.

Not pretty, but we’ll take it: #9 Kentucky over Auburn, 54-47.

Perhaps Kentucky fans should start sending Sonya Murray some residential listings in the Lexington area.

With her mom in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Taylor Murray had career highs in points and steals and helped lead the No. 9 Cats to a 54-47 victory over Auburn.

“She has next-level speed that is unlike most people on the floor,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the freshman guard. “That’s a great weapon for us.

12 straight: #10 Arizona State used strong first and third quarters to show Utah the door, 80-60. Nice piece on Utes coach Lynne Roberts.

As much as Lynne Roberts loved sports as a youngster, Don Roberts never expected his only daughter to make a living in athletics.

“She was always a very strong person, had a lot of personality and a lot of drive,” he said. “But she was always going into science. There was never an idea of being a coach. It was never talked about.”

A lot of local women’s basketball fans are grateful that somewhere in her college basketball career, her passion to compete and her ability to teach persuaded the history major to pursue a career in a much misunderstood and often maligned profession.

Those most grateful for her choice are likely the Utah players who are exceeding the expectations of almost everyone — except their first-year coach.

0-29 no more: Beavers over Trees. #12 Oregon State got the win over #11 Stanford on the merits of a comeback. Feels like OSU is learning from its games… and if Sydney Wiese can return….

#16 Florida State kept the Panthers defeated in the ACC, 66-55.

So, yah, this Pac12 is a thing: #17 UCLA escapes Washington State, 75-73.

See above, as #25 USC didn’t escape Kelsey Plum and her 32 points. Washington wins, 69-60.

There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop this second-half comeback.

After an abysmal first half, which preceded a “crazy” halftime outburst from typically mellow coach Mike Neighbors, the Washington women’s basketball team rallied to beat No. 25 USC, 69-60, Sunday afternoon to complete a weekend sweep of the ranked L.A. schools at home.

 The Huskies (14-4) have won three in a row and sit in third place in the Pac-12 at 5-2. This week, they could also find themselves ranked in The Associated Press poll for the first time since 2003. 

It was close early, but then the #19 Bulls pulled away from the Pirates, 75-54.

Is the SEC allergic to scoring? #20 Florida had to rally with 20 in the 4th to defeat LSU, 53-45.

Make that 200: Katie Meier and #21 Miami get the win over UNC, 76-61, to reach the win milestone. Rats: Xylina McDaniel, a four-year starter for North Carolina, will miss the rest of the season because of an ACL.

Bounce back: #22 Duke made sure they didn’t lose two games in a row, and BC stays winless in the ACC, 71-51.

“I think that the team is beginning to understand what it takes to prepare and to really get themselves in a good space in which to play. The team was very fun to coach today because there was activity everywhere,” McCallie said. “You love it if you have to turn down instead of turn up. If anything today, I was turning down things and that makes for a really good team performance.”

Moore, Moore, Moore: Mariya, that is. It took all of Moore’s 31 points to help #23 #23 Louisville escape the Wolf Pack, 92-90.

“It’s a win. Now, am I pleased? No,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz. “We got extremely lucky. In my opinion, we got out-played. NC State deserved to win that game, but unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, we had a few bounces at the end that went our way.”

Hog Heaven: That’s three wins over Top 25 teams in 10 days for Arkansas.

Albany and Stony Brook still share the America East top spot (1/21, y’all). Speaking of Albany: Shereesha Richards’ next stop likely to be WNBA

The Bonnies.

“You see what our players have been doing on the floor, but what most didn’t see is all the time they put in during the spring, summer and fall,” Crowley said of his team. “Now they’re being rewarded for it. There’s a long way to go and we try to stay focused on what’s next. If you don’t do that in this league, things can go away quickly.”

GW over the Dukes: 

George Washington 6-foot-4 forward Jonquel Jones led all players with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks, giving the Dukes fits down low.

“In my 19 years of Division I, she’s got to be one of the 10 or 12 best players,” Burt said.

Farleigh Dickinson (2-3) went on a tear in the second half, giving Robert Morris (4-1) their first NEC defeat.

“It certainly was a disappointing effort on our part,” Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. “All the credit has to go to Fairleigh Dickinson. They played harder over the 40 minutes, and when we tied the game in the second half, they responded and we didn’t.

In a Big South show down, it was Gardner-Webb squeaking out a 2-point win over UNC Asheville, 58-56. Of note: the Bulldogs were missing two starters (center K.J. Weaver and point guard Ja’Da Brayboy)

Chattanooga is feeling right at home in the Southern.

It was, no surprise, a tough one, but Ohio managed to squeak out a 2-pt OT win over Central Michigan, 86-84, thanks to Kiyanna Black’s career high 39.

Troy is looking strong in the Sun Belt. Congrats to senior guard Ashley Beverly Kelley, whose current career total (1,621) is the most by a player in Troy’s 23-year Division I history. I might mention that coach Chanda Rigby seems poachable…. The program won just two games in 2011-12, the season prior to Rigby’s arrival, and has most recently won 20 games in 2014-15.

No jinx, please, but that is three wins in the Big West for Santa Barbara.

Congrats! EKU to honor women’s basketball great Lisa Goodin and first NCAA tournament team. Goodin is in the Indiana Basketball HOF. At EKU

Goodin, who played for Eastern from 1980 to 1984, is the all-time leading scorer in EKU women’s basketball history with 1,920 career points. The guard from Austin, Indiana is second in program history in field goals made, free throws made and free throw percentage (87.4 percent).  She is fifth in assists (374) and 10th in steals (182).

A sharpshooter with consistent accuracy, she led the NCAA in free throw percentage as both a freshman (.897) and junior (.910).

Stop this: Fight involving players and fans halts girls basketball game in Indiana

It’s been a while since it felt like a coach’s job was in the balance before a game. Elzy tries to calm fans:

“The fans were disappointed that we lost (to Arkansas),” Elzy said. “We were disappointed as well. We have a responsibility to uphold the legacy and play the Lady Vol way, which we did not against Arkansas. I know for the fans, right now, it seems like it’s over. It’s not over. It’s a long year.”

Elzy urged Tennessee fans not to panic despite the disappointing loss to the Razorbacks.

OT: Listening to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey spin discs on Radio Deluxe is musical heaven.

 

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So, the board is discussing whether having a sexual harasser as an owner is a good thing, and Lin Dunn steps to the plate: 

“I’m waiting for Laurel Richie to take a leadership role in this,” Dunn said. “I’m concerned that anyone who had been found guilty of sexual harassment would be back in a position working with women. I’m counting on Richie to do her due diligence and get the Board of Governors to make a decision that continues to show that the WNBA empowers girls and women and will be a role model when it comes to that.”

Honestly, I don’t envy Richie and the BoG. The stakes are pretty high, whichever way they vote.

Meanwhile, from Mel’s blog: Rob Knox’s WNBA Notebook: Liberty Focusing on Basketball Unhampered by the Thomas Hiring

But back in Newark at the preseason game on May 22, while the swirl of media attention was tough, it ultimately could be a positive for the Liberty and the WNBA.

That’s why Laimbeer appeared at ease as he sat on the bench laughing while members of the Liberty participated in pregame drills.

“Everybody knows who the Liberty are now,” Laimbeer said. “During media day, we told them very clearly to write whatever stories they’re going to write.

“However, we also told them, don’t go away. Come back in five weeks, look at the product, write about how we play and how the ladies are.”

From Mechelle: What everyone will be talking about when the WNBA’s 19th season begins

After an offseason of mostly negative WNBA news, thank goodness the league’s 19th season is beginning soon. It’s time to play ball again.

The WNBA starts with five games Friday, including last year’s champion, Phoenix, at home against San Antonio. Can the Mercury become the first team to repeat as champions since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002? That will be a challenge.

Contenders for the crown
Phoenix will be without Diana Taurasi all season, and it appears Penny Taylor also is not going to play in the WNBA in 2015. Brittney Griner will be on the sideline most of June as she serves a seven-game, league-mandated suspension for her April arrest after a fight with her then-fiance, Glory Johnson of Tulsa. Griner and Johnson were married in May.

From the other Michelle: New-look Mercury gunning for repeat

It became apparent a few weeks ago that the phrase “It is what it is” was going to be a mantra around the Phoenix Mercury’s camp.

The phrase is less about resignation than an acknowledgement of reality for the defending WNBA champions, who will begin the 2015 season not at all resembling the players who finished a remarkable run with confetti raining down on their heads.

No Diana Taurasi … no Penny Taylor … no Brittney Griner for the first seven games of the season … breathe and reboot ahead of Friday’s season opener at home against San Antonio. “At this point, I think that more than defending a championship, it’s just about trying to win a championship,” said veteran guard DeWanna Bonner. “We just want to get to the point where we can win another title. Really, we have so many different faces, this team hasn’t won a title.”

Speaking of which, now that I think about it…Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner having second thoughts, may appeal suspension

Surprisingly, a number of the comments in reaction to this totally wrong-headed opinion piece are thoughtful and nuanced: The W.N.B.A. Should Bring the Basket Down, and Fandom Up

Longtime readers of this blog know I disagree with this premise… for so many reasons. And it’s not because I’m against dunking. It’s just that, when you do the math, you realize that dunking is about 50 seconds total of the men’s game. If that’s why you watch the NBA, why not save yourself the 47 minutes and watch SportsCenter?

From Swish Appeal: 5 Players Due for Breakout Seasons in 2015

In college news:

CU women’s basketball: New-look Buffs get to work

Every year, college coaches deal with a certain level of roster turnover.

This summer, Colorado women’s basketball coach Linda Lappe is dealing with more turnover than ever before.

Heading into her sixth season as CU’s head coach, Lappe’s roster will look much different in the 2015-16 season.

“I think it makes it really fun and exciting,” she said.

Allison Guth excited to return to Yale as women’s basketball coach

Happiness is being an Ohio fan:

The women’s basketball program will be back in the NCAA Tournament … soon
Bob Boldon talks upcoming season of women’s basketball
Sports Column: There’s never been a better time to be a new Bobcat fan

Hmmmm…UMD coach resigns, cites unhealthy work environment

Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles resigned Monday morning after seven seasons with the Bulldogs, citing an unhealthy work environment at the university.

She is the third female head coach to leave the UMD athletic department this year, following Shannon Miller, the former women’s hockey coach, and Jen Banford, who served as women’s hockey director of operations and head softball coach.

As did Miller and Banford, Wiles is expected to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The United States Department of Justice is investigating those earlier complaints.

The Indy Star’s offers up a little history: Ann Meyers took her best shot at making the Pacers

“Annie was one of the best basketball players ever. I didn’t say male or female. I said ever.” – Bill Russell, Boston Celtics legend

So here she was. One of the best players ever. No matter that she was a woman. Gender was just that, an easy label the sports world clung to that meant nothing to her.

Here she was, Ann Meyers, one of the best basketball players ever and she was about to prove it.

Inside Hinkle Fieldhouse in September of 1979, with Indiana Pacers coach Slick Leonard watching. With so many news cameras pointed her way, clicking nonstop, that she started feeling “uncomfortable.”

A bit of parallel history: UNC’s Beth Miller was there when women’s sports was a struggle

The arrangement eloquently illustrated the state of women’s college athletics. When the University of North Carolina volleyball season ended in the fall, player uniforms were not placed in storage. Instead they were passed along with travel bags and warm-ups for immediate use by members of the Tar Heel women’s basketball squad.

In today’s world of multimillion dollar contracts between apparel companies and major-college athletic departments, with uniforms carefully tailored to suit the needs and marketing imperatives of each sport, such a cozy cycle of reuse is difficult to imagine. “At that time, I don’t think the kids paid any attention,” Beth Miller, then UNC’s volleyball coach, recalls of the shared clothing in the latter 1970s. “They were just glad to have anything.”

The support at Chapel Hill was actually a marked improvement from conditions at Appalachian State and other major colleges at the dawn of the same decade, when women were limited to participation on the equivalent of glorified club teams. Miller’s highest annual budget as ASU volleyball coach between 1969 and 1972 was $1,500. In contrast, UNC’s current volleyball operating budget is $200,000, not counting scholarships and salaries.

Finally: We’re in the home stretch! Have you supported women’s basketball history yet? 

Now that the goal has been reached, I have decided that I should — and can afford to — publish 1,000 copies of my book. I have narrowed my search down to two local printers. One can print 1,000 copies for about $4,400 (or so). The other one would charge $7,500. The second printer also offers a number of other services, such as providing the ISBN, getting the book up on Amazon, storing up to 100 copies in their warehouse, and placing the book in their twice-yearly catalog distributed to a number of bookstores. The ISBN is worth $150. Their Amazon link means I would get a 60-40 split on sales, as opposed to 45-55 if I signed up with Amazon myself. The warehouse feature means that bookstores will be more likely to stock it. The catalog will help me market to libraries and schools.As you can see, my Kickstarter campaign has made it possible for me to consider the second option. So, once again, I am grateful for everyone who contributed. Please continued to spread the word. I will be taking donations until the Kickstarter ends later today.
Skip that latte for three days and you get an autographed copy of “Finding a Way to Play!” What a bargain!

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedetti did well.

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

Said coach Thurston post-game:

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

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

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

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

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

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

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

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

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

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games left in the first round of post-season play. Saturday’s ticket-punchers included:

Their legs may have given out, but not their hearts. Eastern Michigan stayed even with Ohio through the first half for the MAC championship game, but the Bobcats proved too much for them in the second. Coach Boldon continues to make a name for himself as a transformative winner.

After finishing 9-21 and 6-23 in the previous two seasons, Ohio completely flipped the narrative in 2014-15. Its 27th win surpasses a program record set almost three decades ago.

“It’s fantastic,” Boldon said. “There’s a bunch of cliches for this moment because it’s just hard to put it into words. You work when school starts and, in the fall, these kids show up and you’re selling them on a vision and you hope they’ll buy into what you’re selling.

“This team has truly bought into what we’re doing.”

Savannah State ended MD-E Shore’s run of upsets and claimed their first MEAC title, 65-47.

“It means the world, especially to me,” said Ezinne Kalu. “Well, I’m pretty sure it means the world to all of us, but it’s been a long journey. … We came from being the last seed to being the second seed to being MEAC champions.

“It’s definitely a feeling we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”

Lots of oddness in the SWAC this year, but Alabama State could care less.

Alabama State wrapped up an NCAA tournament berth Friday with its semifinal victory in the SWAC because Southern was ineligible after failing to meet minimum APR requirements

That wasn’t enough. The Lady Hornets wanted a ring and the prestige that comes with winning the conference tournament.

They got it.

Jasmine Peeples had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Britney Wright added 17 points to help Alabama State beat Southern 73-55 on Saturday.

“I told my girls, ‘We want the hats. We want the T-shirts, we want the trophy and we want the ring.’ And they bought into it and thought the same thing,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “When I mentioned to these ladies they said they want to win.”

The Rainbow wasn’t enough, as Hawai’i was upset by Cal-State Northridge, 67-60.

The best thing to do against shot-blockers? Make them block shots.

To do otherwise, to retreat to safe perimeters and hoist 3-pointers out of fear, is to surrender before you start.

Hawaii returned 11 shots to their senders on Saturday at Honda Center.

That is one reason CSUN is the repeat winner of the Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament.

“It’s the old Bill Russell thing,” coach Jason Flowers said, after the 67-60 victory.

“They were blocking them out of bounds. We kept possession. Just because it might not work the first time, it doesn’t mean you stop doing it. It’s the character of the group. They kept their head down and they kept attacking.”

Montana spotted Northern Colorado a 13-point lead, and then roared back to claim the Big Sky title, 60-49.

“Unbelievably good win and it was an unbelievable game,” said Montana coach Robin Selvig, whose team trailed 29-16 at halftime. “They I thought were pretty dominant the first half. We were having a hard time. They’re really good right now, really well-coached.

“… I was really wondering how we were going to turn it around second half. Somehow these guys just put together maybe the best run of basketball we’ve had in a long time for about 10 minutes.”

New Mexico State survived all the WHB attention and claimed their first WAC title…and their first NCAA bid since 1988. For reference, and perhaps appropriately enough, George Michael’s Faith topped the charts.

“We recruited them, we went to their homes, we sold New Mexico State as hope,” NMSU coach Mark Trakh said. “We told them what could happen. Now we can sell a program because we have built a program.”

This year’s team was also the program’s first team to win a conference tournament.

As expected, Southern Miss gave Western Kentucky all it could handle, and then some. But the Toppers prevailed.

Alexis Govan did it all with the game on the line: making free throws, taking a charge and grabbing a rebound.

Govan scored 22 points and made two free throws with 23 seconds left and Western Kentucky held on for a 60-57 win over Southern Mississippi Saturday night in the Conference USA tournament championship game.

“I looked at her and said, `Alexis, that ball’s going to you,'” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “When she went to the free throw line, I don’t look at her because I don’t want to make her nervous.”

That in-state rivalry delivered, as Arkansas-Little Rock escaped Arkansas State, 78-72.

After allowing a season-high 38 points in the first half and continuing to give up easy baskets for most of the second half, Little Rock, the nation’s third-stingiest defense, turned up the intensity when it mattered most.

“If we couldn’t play defense like we did and count on it, we wouldn’t have won that ball game,” coach Joe Foley said. “Our kids always knew in the back of their minds that we could get some stops at the end of the game if we kept it close.”

American claimed their first Patriot title, pulling away from Lehigh in the second for the 66-50 win.

After coming up short in four previous trips to the Patriot League finals, American (24-8) won its final eight regular season games plus three in the postseason and will represent the Patriot League as the automatic qualifier for the first time. The Eagles now await an announcement of their destination for the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament which gets under way at 16 sites on March 21-22. The tournament field and matchups will be unveiled at 7 p.m. on Monday evening.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said American senior forward Arron Zimmerman. “I was just saying, I was standing there in the corner when the shot clock was running down there and it was just a moment from my dreams. I’ve dreamed of this and it was awesome.”

Sunday games:

NEC, 1pm: St. Francis (Brooklyn) looks to pull the major upset against last year’s conference champ, Robert Morris.

This marks the first time a No. 1 seed has not played in the NEC title game and the first time a No. 5 seed has reached the final since 2010, when No. 5 St. Francis (Pa.) defeated No. 2 Long Island. 

It is the Terriers’ first appearance in the championship game. In addition to upsetting top-seeded Central Connecticut State in double overtime, they also defeated Sacred Heart on the road in the quarterfinals. 

Those wins followed end-of-season victories at Bryant and rival LIU Brooklyn.

CAA, 1PM – COMCAST Sports Net: James Madison has rolled through the regular season conference schedule… except for that one-point loss at home against Hofstra. And they just escaped Elon by three. What kind of motivation with that inspire as they face the Pride, who are in their first ever title match?A-SUN, 2:30: Florida Gulf Coast is already packing their bags for the NCAA. But that doesn’t mean that Northern Kentucky doesn’t want snatch the conference crown out of their hands.

Southland, 1PM: An incredible run for the 9th seed Houston Baptist. They took down McNeese State by 1, Corpus Christi by 2, and then knocked off top-seed Stephen F. Austin by 7. How much will they have left in the tank wen they go up against Northwestern State? The Demons overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to knock off second-seeded Lamar, 70-64, in overtime and reach their second straight SLC Tournament championship game.

Horizon, 3PM – ESPNU/3: Wright State has lost twice this season to Green Bay, both times by double digits. Let’s see if they have better luck this time. I doubt the Phoenix will take them for granted, especially after the battle they had with the Penguins.

MVC, 3PM – ESPN3: Since coach Adams arrived, the Valley has belonged to Wichita State.The Shockers will go for the conference title against Wright State, who they’ve beaten twice this season. Oh, and someone is wondering if Kansas might be looking at WSU’s Jody Adams.

Wichita State head coach Jody Adams, the first potential candidate in this, the latest KU coaching-search blog, has done a remarkable job in building a winner and bringing positive attention to the Shockers’ women’s program.

Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference records in seven seasons before Adams took over: 8-10, 7-10, 7-11, 2-16, 8-10, 4-14, 3-15. That’s 17-55 in the four seasons leading up to Admas’ first.

Under Adams: 4-14, 8-10, 10-8, 12-6, 15-3, 14-4, 17-1. That’s 46-8 in Adams’ past three seasons. Phenomenal. Adams has taken the Shockers from worst in the Missouri Valley to first.

 

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Yes, we got in our big grant renewal proposal before the 5pm deadline. Thanks, Chris!!! Now, all you readers you, think positive, funding thoughts!

In other news…

Most folks held serve on Thursday, but some eyebrow raisers on Friday.

In the Southland, Houston Baptist (14-17, 6-12) toppled Texas A&M Corpus Christi (16-16. 12-6), 49-48.

It was the Blue Hens upsetting the Dragons, 55-48.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “I think they stepped up and followed the game plan beautifully. We were able to knock down some shots, but I thought it was a tremendous effort defensively for us. Our communication on the floor was much better.’’

I wouldn’t call this outrageously surprising, but Southern Miss floored it in the second half to take down in-conference C-USA rival, Middle Tennessee, 65-53.

“I’m very proud of our team,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Our locker room was not very nice at halftime, nor were many timeouts very nice. This kid [Tamara Jones] sitting next to me – if you ask her at about the 8 minute mark if your coach cared for you at all, she’d probably say ‘heck no.’ I really challenged her extremely hard. I said some things to really, really challenge her and to make her really mad with me so that she would respond. What an unbelievable response.”

USM will face Western Kentucky, which withstoodfurious comeback from Barefoot’s ODU team. Hmmm… maybe the Monarchs will rise again.

“This one’s a hard one,” coach Karen Barefoot said, her voice breaking. “I’ve never felt so proud of being their coach. They played very hard, with a lot of heart, toughness.”

Indeed, the Lady Monarchs proved that Barefoot’s oft-stated belief that they are never out of a game was more than just talk. Down 18 at halftime, ODU pulled even with 9:34 left and actually led by five with 7:53 to play.

Their season totals are similar, but their Southland conference records make this an upset: Northwestern State over Nicholls State with authority, 84-67.

It was Friday the 13th and the Northwestern State women’s basketball bus had broken down, leaving the Lady Demons scrambling to get to the Leonard C. Merrell Center for their Southland Conference Tournament quarterfinal against third-seeded Nicholls.

Bad omens? Not quite. Once Northwestern State reached the Merrell Center – its home away from home – all was right with the Lady Demons’ world.

Super-scoring Sacramento State couldn’t stop Northern Colorado in OT, so it’s the Bears moving into the Big Sky finals. Cool note: John Stockton took in some games.

Maryland-Eastern Shore continued its upset ways, taking down the pretender to the MEAC throne Norfolk State, 69-64 in OT. They’re into the tournament finals for the first time.

In the Missouri Valley, top bulldog Drake (20-9, 15-3) was pushed into overtime by Evansville (12-18, 6-12), where it fell to the seventh-seed, 84-79.

“We had a good conference season, but none of that matters come tournament time,” freshman guard Maddy Dean said. “We expected better out of our team, and we didn’t pull it out tonight.

“That’s tough. It hurts.”

I said it once, and I’ll say it again – Eastern Michigan is on a mission and you don’t wanna get in their way. Ball State was their latest conquest, 75-65.

“Wow, what a game,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m just really, really proud of our kids. Tremendous effort. There were times where we faced adversity, where we were on our own and things didn’t go our way; where we didn’t fold, but we just fight right back.”

It’s been an emotional two months for EMU as its dealt with the loss of a teammate during the season. Junior forward Shannise Heady passed away in a car accident on Jan. 25.

Squeak! WHB still hasn’t managed to curse’em, but it was close. New Mexico State survives OT v. Seattle U, 79-75 and moves into the WAC finals.

“Give Seattle all the credit in the world, they played really really hard and executed well,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said, “Having said that, I’m really proud of our young student-athletes, they did a great job out there.  They’ve been handling pressure all year and they always felt they could win that game.”

Might have cursed their in-state rivals, though. New Mexico falls in the Mountain west finals to Boise State. The Broncos rode Spaniard Yaiza Rodriguez’s 18 points to win their first MW title and earn the NCAA tourney bid (first time since 2007).

“To be able to be with everyone you love, representing a university who you have so much passion for, it was awesome,” Pahukoa said.

Hello, Hawai’i! They move into the Big West finals with their 73-64, win over CS Fullerton.

The Big Dogs are back – though Hartford did NOT make it easy, even though they were down two starters. Albany wins a chance to dance.

“A lot of credit to Hartford — they played with a lot of passion, a lot of guts, everything,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They played really, really hard. But at the end, we just turned it up defensively and a couple timeouts, I said, ‘We better be getting that ball to No. 25 [Richards].’ And she stepped up and did what she does.”

Jennifer Gish writes: UAlbany women’s basketball worthy of more fans

Games to watch today: 

MAC Final – Eastern Michigan v. Ohio. It out to be a fierce battle of green uniforms. 1pm, TWCS, BCSN, Comcast Michigan, ESPN Full Court, ESPN3. EMU’s resliancy is amazing (and EMU becomes the first six-seed to make the MAC women’s title game). Kudos to coach Verdi (his dance moves) and his staff. Ditto with former Penguin coach “Bob the Builder Boldon” and his work with the Bobcats.

This is the third time Ohio and Eastern Michigan have faced each other this season.  The two teams split the season series, 1-1. Last time, the Bobcats fell to the Eagles, 73-61 in Athens.  That loss snapped the Bobcats 10-game winning streak.

MEAC FinalMD-E Shore v. Savannah State. Someone new will be dancin’ from the MEAC. Will the upset-minded Hawks take down their third upper-seed, or with the Tigers prevail? 3:30 EST, ESPN3.

Big Sky: Northern Colorado v. Montana. 4PM EST. Two championship game vets battle (Griz, 20th time. Bears 2nd time in three years).

WAC: New Mexico State v. UT-Pan American. No basketball team representing the University in Edinburg, whether called Pan American University or UT-Pan American, has ever reached the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The last game between these two teams was an Aggies win by 20. But when they hosted NMSt, the Broncos only lost by 3. 4PM, ESPNU, ESPN3.

American: Lehigh v. American. No doubt American is the favorite, but after losing their last four in the regular season, the Mountain Hawks seem to have found their second wind. 6PM EST, CBS Sports Network.

Playing American provides extra motivation for O’Reilly. One of the Eagles’ starters, senior forward Arron Zimmerman, was a high school teammate of O’Reilly’s.

Zimmerman is one of several players capable of a big night for American. Senior point guard Jen Dumiak will draw the most attention from Lehigh’s defense.

Big West: Cal State Northridge v. Hawai’i, 6PM, EST, streaming through Fox Sports. The return of the Wahine has been a fun story. How will it end?

C-USA: Western Kentucky v. Southern Miss. 8PM EST, CBS Sports Network. This could be a doozy. The Toppers have been on my radar all season, and Southern Miss has been determine to knock over their hatrack (see what I did there?).

Sun Belt: Arkansas State v. Arkansas – Little Rock. 8pm EST, ESPN3. In-state rivalry. What more needs to be said?

The two best women’s basketball teams in the Sun Belt Conference, led by its two most successful coaches, will finally collide in the conference tournament final. The third meeting of the season between UALR and Arkansas State was realized Friday when both teams won tournament semifinal games. Now the top-seeded Trojans and No. 2 Red Wolves will play with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line at 7 p.m. today.

Some other stuff:

From Mechelle – Nina Davis always in right place

 There’s a quality that exists among certain basketball players that really can’t quite be attributed to their size, or quickness, or even skill level. And that is their magnetism to the basketball. Or vice versa.

It seems almost freakish sometimes, doesn’t it? In a good way, of course, for the people who have it. Although even they often can’t explain it.

“I guess from playing for so long,” Baylor forward Nina Davis said, “I just know where the ball is going next.”

Well, that’s not exactly it. She’s only a sophomore, so we’re not talking about a grizzled veteran. The bottom line is that Davis has a knack for being where the ball is, and we’re probably never going to be completely sure how she does it.

But it’s something that Baylor assistant coach Bill Brock noticed when he was recruiting the 5-foot-11 Davis.

Espnw honors Jewell Loyd as their POY, Mitchell as their FOY, and Semrau as their COY.

FiveThirtyEight says: Princeton Enters Women’s Tournament As An Unusual Sort Of Undefeated Team

Unlike UConn and Notre Dame last season, which were the clear top-two teams entering the tournament, Princeton won’t even be favored to advance from its region. None of its wins came against teams now ranked in the Top 25. Its conference schedule was a breeze: Penn was the only other Ivy League team with a winning conference record, and just Cornell joined Princeton and Penn with a winning overall record.

Princeton’s nonconference schedule wasn’t all that hard, either. After Tuesday’s regular-season finale, senior guard Blake Dietrick said she started thinking 30-0 was possible when the Tigers beat Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor.

Check out this nice video on the Ivy Tigers: Perfect Princeton Is Ready To Dance

The AP’s writes Steve Megargee writes: Women’s mid-majors could be poised for breakthrough tourney

Mid-major women’s basketball programs historically have much less success in the NCAA Tournament than their counterparts on the men’s side.

Perhaps this is the year that changes.

The latest Top 25 includes four mid-majors ranked 20th or higher: No. 13 Princeton, No. 17 Chattanooga, No. 19 George Washington and No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast. Gonzaga, Green Bay, James Madison and Western Kentucky also have appeared in the Top 25 this season.

“We just want to win and want to prove to people we can compete in March,” said Princeton guard Blake Dietrick.

Dishin’ and Swishin’ is talking da Bears and da Buckeyes.

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Must watch Snappy TV – Fun stuff from the Huskers: WBB Lip Sync-Staff

Nice stuff from Mechelle: Bonded by basketball: Sisters love Big 12 tournament

If you were at the recent Big 12 women’s basketball tournament, you might have seen them on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center. Who was that group of people who were there for every session and seemed like they were having a blast no matter who was playing?

One day, they were wearing matching white T-shirts with the words “Geneva’s Convention” on the back. That might have set some minds stirring. Hmmmm … there aren’t any players or coaches in the Big 12 named Geneva, are there? Nobody is from a town of that name, are they? Does Switzerland have anything to do with it?

No, no, no. Geneva Tuttle was a very big women’s basketball fan, and the Big 12 tournament became her annual bonding event with her three sisters. And after illness took Geneva in 2007 at age 67, the gathering expanded to other family members.

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(yes, it’s been that kind of year).

Okay, that’ll learn me to look ahead: Holy Cross (9-14, 5-5) gets a first half lead on American (13-8, 8-2) and holds on for the 67-61 victory. Junior Raquel Scott scored a career-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting. AU is still atop the Patriot, but they’re keeping the door open for the rest of the crew.

Southern Miss in not impressed. They take down C-USA #2, Western Kenducky, 63-61. Next up, conference leader Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders defeated UTEP, 74-53, as Cheyenne Parker, a 6-foot-4 transfer from High Point, recorded the first triple-double in program history.

Called it: Tight game between Ohio and Central Michigan. Bradford’s 29 made her the all-time scoring leader in program history, but there not enough of other folks for the Chippewas, and the Bobcats prevail, 74-66. Reminder: Bob Bolden, former Penguin head coach, is leading Ohio:

The Baby Bobcats — there are six sophomores, one freshman and only one senior on the roster — continued to leave jaws wide open in the Mid-American Conference with a stunning 72-60 victory over the defending champion Zips in the Convocation Center.

What this team really has problems with is talking about what has been a fairytale type season in which a pumpkin has turned into a gilded coach.

Second-year coach Bob Boldon grudgingly — and finally — admitted that Ohio has become a legitimate contender in the MAC. The team is 16-3 overall and 7-1 and two games ahead of Akron in the East Division.

Also called it: Billikens kept it tight in the first, but the Flyers pulled away in the second, 87-72, behind senior Ally Mallott’s career-high 30 points.

Also called: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Keep those (Fresno State) Bulldogs rollin’ – though they had to come back against Colorado State to get the win.

With its back against the wall, the Fresno State women’s basketball team delivered the counterpunches necessary to remain unbeaten atop the Mountain West Conference.

Tough-as-nails defense and consistent free-throw shooting fueled the Bulldogs’ rally from a six-point halftime deficit to a 53-49 win over Colorado State on Saturday afternoon. It marked the first time in conference play this season that Fresno State had trailed at the break.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Keep those (Gonzaga) Bulldogs rollin’.

Same with Stanford and Washington State: close in the first, not so much in the second. Cardinal win, 75-56.

Marist bounced back from its stomping by the Q to win a tough battle with Iona.

Neither the league’s top scorer nor an early deficit was enough to derail the Red Foxes on Saturday.

Despite facing two of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s best players and trailing in the second half, the Marist College women’s basketball team won at Iona, 63-58, in New Rochelle.

The Montanas were unkind to Sacramento: The Griz move to 8-1 in the Big Sky as they take down the Hornets in a Debbie Antonelli Special, 94-86.

The Anti-DebAntSpec: 41-38.

Heather Macy’s young East Carolina program is moving forward – they take down Tulane, 67-63.

Well, hello! Norfolk State reminds Hampton that the MEAC is still up for grabs.

Again, close (and moving in the right direction) but no cigar: San Diego rallied from a 12-points deficit to get the win over San Francisco, 74-69.

Bryant roared back in the second, but still couldn’t overcome Robert Morris. Both teams now sit in second place in the NEC, looking up at Central Connecticut State.

Duquesne with a nice win over Fordham, 56-46, to keep the A-10 tight. Tight, that is, behind conference leader George Washington.

Jillian Alleyne’s 30 helped bring back the Ducks from a 14-point deficit as Oregon stopped the UCLA Bears, 67-65.

No conversation about rebounding and Oregon women’s basketball goes long without bringing up star junior forward Jillian Alleyne.

Alleyne is a double-double machine, practically recording one just by waking up on game day. She does most of her work early, fighting to get superior position against the opposition. The end result is the ball seemingly falling into her hands, deceptively masking all of the work that goes into her boards.

This was uglier than expected: #7 Oregon State over USC, 68-35.

How happy is Tennessee-Martin to be in conference play? With their win over the Racers, their record is 13-9, and they’re 9-0 in the Ohio Valley (West). Sure helped that sophomore Ashia Jones tied the program’s single-game scoring record with 44 points.

Revenge taken: FCGU over Northern Kentucky.

It was a grand occasion Saturday for a pair of newly minted 1,000-point women’s basketball scorers in FGCU’s road game at Northern Kentucky.

But the Eagles had a better time, beating the stubborn Norse, 67-46 at Bank of Kentucky Center.

Ruvanna Campbell got her fourth straight double-double , but Green Bay got the win, 64-45.

Eastern Tennessee State is 6-0 in the Southern, but they host #25 Chattanooga next.

Some headline writer has been reading the blog! Northwestern welcomes Minnesota, looks to regain mojo

Northwestern looks to return to its winning ways of old on Sunday against Minnesota after the team lost a defense-optional game versus Iowa 102-99 on Thursday.

And maybe Gene from the WaPo? Maryland women’s basketball is unbeaten in Big Ten but focused on No. 20 Iowa

It’s been 30 years since a women’s basketball team from the Big Ten went undefeated over 18 conference games. Fifth-ranked Maryland is halfway there in its inaugural season and showing it’s by far the class of the conference after having beaten three of the other four ranked Big Ten schools.

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