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

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

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

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

Folks are already discussing next year’s top 10.

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

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

The unknown is great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unless …

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

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

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

She said they’ll use that as motivation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was Syracuse University coach Quentin Hillsman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And, if you’re one of the folks running around in it, “Please be safe, please be safe, please be safe!” Or, perhaps a better warning: “Don’t be THAT idiot.”

For instance, those involved with the MSU/Maryland game which was postponed because of snowstorm

YEAH!!! Graham is writing about Kelsey!!! Minato is hoops’ best senior who won’t play professionally

That career continues when Army and Navy play in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. As the 10-year anniversaries of both Army’s first NCAA tournament appearance and former Army coach Maggie Dixon’s death at 28 years old approach this spring — two events inexorably bonded by the respective joy and sorrow they engendered and the brief time that separated them — what Minato has accomplished is a new chapter in the story.

What Dixon envisioned, Minato embodies.

The only team in the Patriot League to beat Army this season, Bucknell did so at home earlier this month only after enduring Minato’s 35 points on 16-of-26 shooting. After that game, the team’s second win in seven tries against Minato, Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell listened to people offer congratulations for a strategy as bold and daring as to allow Minato her shots and instead focus defensive attention on stopping her mortal teammates.

Jinx? Mechelle writes about Coach Vic Schaefer builds Bulldogs into national contender (and then, Barbee helps Georgia upset No. 10 Mississippi State 47-43)

When Schaefer got the Bulldogs job, the player who would turn out to score more points than any girl in Mississippi state high school history — 5,745 — was a prep sophomore: Victoria Vivians, a 6-foot-1 guard from Carthage.

“The first call I made was to her high school coach,” Schaefer said. “We worked our tails off in recruiting her because we knew the importance of keeping her here. Obviously, it’s been big for us. It’s a special time to have a kid like her on our basketball team.”

What the Bulldogs are still trying to establish this season, though, is that they are a consistently solid offensive team around Vivians too. In her second collegiate season, she is averaging a team-best 17.6 points per game for No. 10 Mississippi State.

Speaking of offense: Fast-Paced Offense Leads OSU Women’s Basketball Team Resurgence

SB: As Thomas said, you have played the four Final Four teams from last year. You lost to three of them. Is there a worry that you’re a good program but not an elite program at this point?

KM: Well. I’m at first I think you’ve got to play those teams to see where you are. And when I came here I knew we had a lot of work to to go to build the program and part of that wanted to be aggressive scheduling. And so you know, I like the fact that we kind of measured ourselves against the best we know where we have to to get better.

They got off to a fast start – and Cheryl takes note: 

Like many teams on the rise, Santa Clara continues to be a major work in progress, even during midseason. The Broncos have not had a winning season in seven years. They earned less than 12 wins in five of those years.

This season, the team added seven new players including junior forward Lori Parkinson, a transfer from Southern Utah and the team’s top rebounder, freshman guard Savanna Hanson who leads the Broncos in assists and made three-pointers, and senior forward Devin Hudson who led the team in scoring vs. Stanford.

“Honestly we’re just trying to get better every day, so we’re excited about the fact that we’re actually getting better as a ball club. We have seven new players, it has just taken a while to get everybody on the same page, but we’re excited about where we are.”

More reading: Tamika Catchings on a Lifetime of Hoops, and the Legacy She’ll Leave

When Tamika Catchings was a little girl, she was sitting with her dad and noticed the scar on his leg. So she asked him, “Well, what happened to you?”

Harvey Catchings, a former NBA player, told her that he walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Jackson, Mississippi, as a young teenager. Harvey had grown up in that southern city, and here were his neighbors gathered by the thousands to march with King. He was injured when the large throng of marchers swelled and he passed a parked car that had a broken piece of chrome sticking out. His own father wasn’t far behind and helped him move to the sidewalk and clean the wound.

It was a day that forever made a mark, inside and out.

“That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced,” Harvey said.

Graham rights about Three new teams who entered mid-major rankings

Believe it or not, we are running out of mid-major rankings. Only two more check-ins remain before conference tournaments will end the subjective portion of the season and settle which teams will get a chance to play David, or occasionally under-seeded Goliath, in the NCAA tournament.

And we haven’t even had a chance yet to talk about Albany’s perennially underrated Shereesha Richards, St. Bonaventure again punching above its weight (or at least its enrollment) and the pipeline apparently linking Colorado State to basketball courts across Scandinavia.

There are so many stories left to tell as the final month of the regular season approaches.

By the way, Doug asked, “Where have the great mid-major teams gone?

Coach Aaron Johnston’s team’s only other losses came to then-No. 6 Maryland, by seven points, and Green Bay by one.

“The margin of error for mid-majors is so small,” Johnston said. “We played Maryland and Notre Dame close this year, beat DePaul who’s ranked and lose by one to Green Bay. Unfortunately one loss gets us out of people’s minds.”

LadySwish responded

Mid-major implies there’s a second tier of teams, an “everybody else” of women’s basketball lumped together outside of the Power 5 conference. They are the Power 5 because of football; nobody grouped them as such having to do with anything related to women’s basketball.

All the teams in the sport are playing the same sport, vying for the same trophy. But the NCAA committee and the media who vote in the poll rarely treat them as such.

Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, Illinois — are these teams better than, say, South Dakota State, James Madison, Duquesne, George Washington, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast or Gonzaga?

More stuff: Washington’s Chantel Osahor makes her Husky women’s basketball teammates better

From Seton Hall to the WNBA

What are some of your most memorable experiences as an athletic trainer working in the WNBA?

Laura London: As a female athlete growing up in the ’90s, I remember when the WNBA was formed. Being able to work with the New York Liberty absolutely has been an all-around memorable experience. Walking out of the tunnel and stepping onto the court for my first time at Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” was a wonderful moment as a sports fan. As a newly certified athletic trainer (ATC), being able to join an efficient and effective professional sports medicine team was a major milestone for me. Having that team be led by Laura Ramus, PT, ATC, a female athletic trainer and physical therapist, was an added bonus that has been career-shaping and inspirational.

Curt Miller Seeks to “Establish a Culture” with Young Connecticut Sun

Curt Miller may not have set out to be a pioneer, but when he accepted the job as the Connecticut Sun’s new head coach, that’s just what he became. By virtue of the move, Miller is now the first publicly gay man to be the head coach of an American professional sports team.

It’s just the latest step in an impressive coaching journey that has spanned 20-plus years in both the collegiate and professional ranks. In 13 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, Miller compiled a 290-124 record, won five MAC regular season and conference tournament championships with Bowling Green, and also lead the Falcons to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. Last year he joined Brian Agler’s staff as an assistant coach out in Los Angeles with the Sparks. Now, after being hired in December, he’s the head coach of the Connecticut Sun.

Sky player Allie Quigley’s close call with Turkish bombing shows risks of playing overseas

Two blocks away was too close for Allie Quigley.

When a suicide bomber attacked Istanbul’s main tourist district last week, killing 10 Germans and wounding 15 others, the explosion rattled the Sky guard like nothing she had ever experienced.

Yah, they stopped that: IHSAA cancels seasons for Pike, Ben Davis varsity girls basketball teams after fight

Podcast: Dishin & Swishin 1/09/16 Podcast: Channeling John Wooden? Cori Close has UCLA climbing the polls

For the first podcast of the year, Dishin & Swishin looks out West where the Pac-12 currently has the best RPI of any conference in the country. This week’s polls rankings, with Stanford ( No. 9/13), Oregon State (No. 11/12), Arizona State (No. 14/14), UCLA (No. 15/21), and California (No. 21/RV), show the respect the conference is getting nationally.

One of the most interesting of those teams is UCLA, where Cori Close’s Bruins are 11-3. The three losses are a three-point loss to second-ranked South Carolina, an overtime loss to third-ranked Notre Dame, and a thrilling double overtime loss to California.

Reviewing…the situation…

Tough sledding for Cal in the Pac-12. Ditto for Colorado.

Hofstra and James Madison are 5-1 in the CAA

George Washington has moved to 7-0 in the A-10. Keep an eye on Jones’ shoulder….

It’s been a tough year. Wichita State got its first win in the MVC.

Makin’ Debbie happy: #7 Ohio State over Michigan, 97-93.

The SEC is South Carolina... and everyone else, as #9 Kentucky gets upset by Ole Miss.

Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-1 in the Sun Belt.

Yah, UTEP is diggin’ in the C-USA.

Hello, Teddy Bears! They take down Chattanooga and move to 4-0 in the Southern.  “The loss was the Mocs’ first in league play since January 2012 at Elon, snapping a 52-game conference win streak.”

Ruff! Albany is now 6-0 in the American East.

Strong start to stumbling in the ACC: Virginia Tech (2-3) and BC (1-4)… BTW, North Carolina (2-4) lost to Wake Forest (1-4). Speaking of which: Transfers leave ACC women’s basketball feeling growing pains

“We’re a young league right now,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “When you look at this senior class, you’re not looking at a lot of WNBA draft picks in the senior class. When you look at the freshmen and sophomores, you’ve got loads of talent in the conference.”

The ACC arguably has been hit harder by transfers than any major conference.

Abilene Christian is still rolling through the Southland.

San Diego and BYU are lookin’ like the top dogs in the ever-interesting WCC. St. Mary’s one-point win over Gonzaga (3 Ls in a row) keeps everyone nice and tight.

The South Dakota teams are headed for a showdown – both are 5-1 in the Summit… as is Oral Roberts.

Hey! That snuck up on me: UT Rio Grand is 5-0 in the WAC. This didn’t sneak up on me: New Mexico State has the same conference record.

This could be fun: Eastern Washington (6-0) gives Montana State (6-1) their first loss in the Big Sky.

Don’t wanna jinx’em, but the Gauchos handed UC-Davis their first conference loss, and are now 4-1 in the Big West.

Games to keep you entertained if you’re snowbound:

Oklahoma v. Texas – how do these teams play the game after a “recovery win”?

ESPN 3: The Zips face the Chippewas at 1PM EST

FS1: Interesting test? Baylor v. Iowa, 1:30 EST

The Bonnies (6-2) v. the Dukes (7-1), 2PM EST

EPSN3: Horizon bragging rights: Green Bay v. Wright State, 2PM. (BTW: Congrats to Raider Kim Demmings, who set the all-time career scoring record in Horizon League women’s basketball history

Montana State visits the Vandals, 5PM EST.

The Battle of the Washingtons, 5PM EST.

UC Riverside v. UC Santa Barbara, 10PM EST.

SUNDAY

ESPN 3: The Battle of the Floridas – Miami v. Florida State, 1PM EST

SECN: Florida v. Missouri, 2PM EST

This one feels like it could be fun: Michigan v. Nebraska, 2pm EST.

ESPN3: It doesn’t have the usual national draw, but it’s always a fun rivalry: Duke v. UNC, 3PM EST.

Despite everything, the Heels were giving virtually everyone a tough game, and they came from behind to upset Syracuse. However, that was when they had McDaniel in the frontcourt. Even though she wasn’t close to being in shape, her sheer talent and size made a big difference for UNC. When she went down, the Heels lost by double digits to Miami (understandable) and Wake Forest (far less so — this was Wake’s first league win). Not only is McDaniel’s talent irreplaceable, it means the Heels have only six scholarship players available. Right now, they are desperate for any kind of wins.

It’s odd to set up this game with so little at stake in terms of national or even league ramifications for both teams. If Duke had lost to Clemson or Wake Forest prior to this game, it would have been the first time ever that the two teams met with losing league records. As it stands, this is the first time since 1993 that neither team has been ranked going into their rivalry showdown. That said, this game should be fiercely contested, though not necessarily a thing of beauty.

ESPN2: Will South Carolina give Mississippi State their first home loss? 5PM.

Indiana v. Northwestern. One team is trying to make its mark, the other team is trying to make up its mind. 5pm EST.

Stanford v. UCLA. This. Is. Not. Even. Streamed? 9PM EST.

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the WHB curse is alive and well and kicking. Sorry Texas Tech – you encountered a Santa Clara team (Remember them? The folks that beat Stanford?) that is reaping the benefits of hiring JR Payne away from Southern Utah. The former point guard at St. Mary’s is in her second year.

Two horrific quarters doomed the Vandals against #7 Oregon State, 69-44.

A spectacular third quarter lifted the #18 Blue Demons over #15 Texas A&M, 80-66.

Burn the tape of the fourth quarter for both teams, okay? The Wildcats down the Blue Raiders, 68-52.

Welcome back, Ms. Moos! #24 Arizona State eked out a win over #18 Syracuse, 61-54.

It took OT, but Cal escaped the Huskers, 87-80. Yup, learn to spell it: Kristine Anigwe.

Baylor’s Niya Johnson was delightfully generous during the Bear’s romp over McNeese State, 105-46.

Alaina Coates triples herself up as South Carolina smooshed Winthrop, 86-37. A little concerned that Wilson was sitting because of being dinged up….

Penguins bounce back and win!

Hello, Bonnies! They take down struggling Penn State, 70-60, for their eighth win.

Hartford v. Dartmouth... yikes. Just look away, folks, nothin’ to see.

Princeton’s monster first quarter propelled them to a 61-47 win over Pittsburgh.

Rachel Banham made sure her “award day” was a good one.

Pushing through the legal distractions,  Bollant has his team at 7-1.

In a back and forth game, it was St. Mary’s over Washington State, 75-71.

With their 72-68 win over Fresno State, San Diego is now at 9-1.

Seton Hall moved to 9-1 with a solid thumping of Liberty, 92-56.

Ahhh, in-state battles: Southern Miss topped Ole Miss, 57-38.

FGCU is still winning – perhaps not with the dominance we (and they) are used to… but Kaneisha Atwater scored her 1000th point.

Everyone has a different story about what his or her life was like at 18 years old. For Kaneisha Atwater, her story continues to follow her.

Last week, in a Monday evening away game against FIU, single mother and star point guard Atwater scored her 1,000th career point. With Whitney Knight out with an injury, Atwater has stepped up to lead the team in all aspects.

A not insignificant win for #5 Texas, as the hosted and then, behind Empress Davenport’s 23, handled the #14 Cardinal, 77-69.

Michigan gave #20 UCLA a battle, but the Bruins pushed through for a 86-77 win.

IUPUI had Louisville down 18… and couldn’t hold on.

Sheryl Swoopes’ Ramblers gave undefeated #12 Northwestern all they could handle in the first three quarters, but ran out of gas in the fourth. Wildcats stay undefeated, 81-72.

Record breaker: Alisa Jenkins took down USF/WNBAer Wanda Guyton’s rebounding record as USF took down Chattanooga.

The good news is the Buckeyes won. The bad news: Ohio State assistant coach, two players suspended. The good news: Former Kentucky guard Linnae Harper to play for Ohio State.

Boston College has moved to 8-1… keep an eye on their game against Florida State, Jan 7th.

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Had a wonderful time working with some amazing educators, eating yummy food and seeing new birds! (Black Rosy Finch)

Black_Rosy-Finch

In the Pac12, no new birds this year: #19 Stanford was down early to Cal, but put just enough distance between them (1pt.) to escape with a win and earn their 11th Conference Championship.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

Maryland also struggled against the feisty Mitchell, but a late travel by the Buckeyes helped the #4 Terps secure a three-point win and the B-10 Championship, 77-74.

The Maryland women’s basketball team didn’t make life easy for itself or the fans. After building a 15-point lead just four minutes into the second half, the Terps saw the Ohio State Buckeyes chip away several times, cutting the lead to a single point. Through the tense final minutes, the Terrapins’ shells never cracked and the Buckeyes could never quite get over the hump as the the Terps held on for a thrilling 77-74 win to capture the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Eastern Tennessee State was down 24 in the second but roared back. #17 Chattanooga had to go to overtime against the up-and-coming Bucs to earn the Southern Conference title with a 61-56 victory.

Sunday they nearly kept Chattanooga from winning its 57th consecutive game against a SoCon opponent, a streak that includes 48 regular-season wins and nine in tournament games.

“There’s not a combination of 26 letters in the alphabet to tell you how proud I am of these kids,” said ETSU coach Brittney Ezell, who is in her second season with the program.

“To play with those kind of guts and to fight back the way that they did, that’s all them and I’m just honored to sit in that first chair for them and I’m really proud of that group.”

#2 Notre Dame had no such issues as they dealt with #7 Florida State with aplomb, 71-58, and snared the ACC title.

“I’m really proud of this team for where we came from to win this,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “To go through the league with just one loss was a remarkable accomplishment. We had so many new pieces to fit together, and I think with Jewell’s leadership we were able to get a little bit better in every game. This was the best game we’ve played all year.”

#3 South Carolina struggled against #5 Tennessee the last time they met. Not so much this time, when the SEC Conference Championship was on the line. Gamecocks win, 62-46.

There’s really only one time when South Carolina’s Elem Ibiam doesn’t fully appreciate the megawatt power source that is fellow senior Aleighsa Welch.

“I’m not her roommate, but we’re always in each other’s rooms,” Ibiam said. “And there are some nights when I’m like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep,’ and she wants to talk all night.

“She always has energy — always. It’s not just on the court. It’s when she’s in her room, when she’s driving to the gas station — it doesn’t matter. And when you’re having a bad day, you know she will pick you up.”

#21 George Washington picked up their fifth Atlantic 10 tournament title (first since 2003) by grounding the Flyers, 75-62.

Jonquel Jones stood tall and played taller at the defining moment of her career as a Division I basketball player.

George Washington’s 6-foot-4 junior forward did everything other than sell programs and sweep the floor during the Colonials’ 75-62 victory over Dayton in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 women’s tournament title game at the Coliseum.

She scored 21 points, sank four 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds, blocked a pair of shots and helped GW play lockdown defense on the perimeter – yes, the perimeter – in the second half.

Liberty earned their 16th Big South title, defeating High Point, 74-64 and returning to the NCAA tourney.

The offseason is usually a relaxing time for Liberty women’s basketball coach Carey Green. An avid outdoorsman, the longtime Flames mentor likes to take advantage of all of Central Virginia’s natural offerings.

The time between the end of the 2014 Big South tournament and the start of the 2014-15 season was anything but calming, however. When you’re the head coach of a program in which the baseline expectation is to qualify for the NCAA Tournament on a yearly basis, anything less is hard to swallow.

A huge win for Hartford means huge heartbreak for (now WNIT bound) Maine Bears. The Hawks upset the top-seed in the American, 65-54.

Top-seeded UMaine’s NCAA season came to an unceremonious end in the America East semifinals, where the fifth-seeded Hawks rode a dominating post performance by Cherelle Moore to earn a 65-54 victory at Binghamton University’s Events Center.

“Cherelle Moore played like one of the best players in the league, and she is,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron.

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There’s a vocal constituency that’s mighty cranky about coach McCallie’s coaching and post-game style. One can only imagine what they’ll say now that #16 Duke has lost three in a row. This time Georgia Tech was the topple-er, beating Duke for the first time since February,  1994.

For what it’s worth, if Duke can’t handle #15 North Carolina at home on March 1, they will match the four-loss streak that ended the ’93-94 season. Perhaps the Blue Devils can take some comfort in the fact that UNC barely escaped Virginia – needing a last-second putback to avoid overtime.

Speaking of upsets – HUGE win for St. Peter’s. Patty Coyle’s team took down Marist, 66-58.

Yes, I’m calling this an upset: Wake Forest got its second ACC win by defeating Miami, 60-59 on freshman Amber Campbell‘s second buzzer-beater of the season.

#19 Stanford traipsed into Corvallis and said, “No, #7 Beavers, thou shalt not take down this Tree and use it as a torch. Cardinal win, 69-58, handing Oregon State their first home loss this season. BTW, missed this tidbit: OSU’s current total of 25 wins in the most in school history.

Just when you think Gary Blair’s got his team figured outMizzou’s Maddie Stock nails a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 70-69 win over #12 Texas A&M.

Georgia showed a little more fight, but Tennessee prevailed, 70-59. The loss of Izzy seems to have made the Ledger’s Dave Link a little anxious: Lady Vols seem to be slipping off national stage

Speaking of fight: let’s talk Richmond battling back to take #22 Georgetown into OT. The Spiders ran out of steam, though, and were outscored 14-2 in the extra five. Colonials win, 81-69.

And still speaking of fight – ya, Wisconsin is 8-19, but these last few games they’ve proven to be a tough out. #17 Iowa escapes, 78-74. That’s the 300th career win for coach Bluder.

Glad Debbie wasn’t on hand to call this one:#13 Kentucky was just able to keep ahead of Arkansas, 56-51. 

I’m guessing Maryland got a bit more of a fight than expected from Indiana, but the Terps prevailed, 83-72, earning their 20th straight win as Laurin Mincy scored 28pts, a career high.

Florida State made sure North Carolina State wouldn’t repeat their upset ways. In front of the largest home crowd in four years, it was the Seminoles over the Wolfpack, by 20. Their 26 regular season wins ties the school record. One more game to break it: season finale at Miami.

Both coach Frese and Semrau are on the latest Dishin and Swishin podcast.

In the Sun Belt, Arkansas Little-Rock, Arkansas State and Troy kept rollin’.

So did #2 South Carolina.

So did #4 Notre Dame, who shot a breathtaking 62% against Pittsburgh. Mechelle has a little something on The Jewell:

In our best Marlon Brando voice, we’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Settle into your seats, indulge in some popcorn … and read about the Jewell Loyd movie marathon experience. Hope you don’t mind if the line between film hero and villain is sometimes a little ambiguous.

“‘The Godfather’ is kinda our family movie,” Loyd, the Notre Dame junior guard, said of her parents, older brother and herself. “I like the concept of family, loyalty and getting the job done.”

Then Loyd laughed and added, “Obviously, we’re not going to be beating anyone up or anything.”

Loyd took part in a bit of “reel talk” recently at espnW’s request, as she’s a film, television and theater major at Notre Dame.

Jewell’s coach talks about Fighting Through February.

“February is a grind,” McGraw said before a recent home game at Purcell Pavilion. “You’re ready for the tournaments to begin, you want to see where you’re going to finish and what the seeds are going to look like, but you know you have to get through February to get to March.”

#20 Rutgers’ return to anemic offense and inability to defend doomed them against #25 Northwestern, 80-60. Kinda makes ya wonder, can ya justify C. Vivian Stringer making $1.6M in 2014?

Of note: the Knights’ loss, combined with Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska on Tuesday, means that Ohio State’s 88-70 win over Penn State moves the Buckeyes up into fourth place in the B10 standings. Seems like the Ohio State is not interested in waiting till next year to be good.

You know what’s notable about Tom Keegan’s column, End nearing for Bonnie Henrickson? The thoughtful, informed comments.

Ah, the joys of Senior Night and a reviving program: Making her first start of the season, senior Teneka Whittaker set career highs with 16 points and eight rebounds to help Rhode Island to a 68-53 win over St. Louis. With the victory, Rhode Island has clinched at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2003-04.

Speaking of reviving: Hello, Hawai’i! Big West champs. First time in 21 years. Nice job, third-year coach Beeman.

Not only has #24 Cal inched its way back in to the rankings, but their 74-59 victory over Oregon gave coach Lindsay Gottlieb her 100th win at Cal. She’s the quickest to the milestone in program history.

This is nice news to read on a cold February day: Lauren Hill makes it through full season despite tumor

The Mount St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team held its postseason banquet in a hospital room warmed by Lauren Hill’s smile.

The 19-year-old freshman made it through a full season while raising more than $1.3 million for research into the type of brain tumor that will likely end her life. She’s occasionally hospitalized for treatment now, but still holding to each day as tightly as she can and urging others to appreciate their time together.

A little W news from Lois Elfman: Epiphanny Prince returning to her Brooklyn roots

“To be able to come home and try to win the championship with my home team and do it in front of my family and friends is very exciting for me,” said Prince, 27, who made her Madison Square Garden debut at age 12, playing a halftime exhibition at a Knicks game, and won four PSAL titles with the Murry Bergtraum Lady Blazers. She’s played five seasons with the Chicago Sky, which went to the WNBA Finals last year.

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Or, in this case, you’d have to say, “An Instagram is.

On a night of upsets and close calls, one would be hard=pressed to rank the “biggest” upset.

In a year of promise thwarted by injuries, it’s hard to vote against NC State taking down #10 Duke with authority, 72-59. From Mechelle:

No offense to Duke, but on this weekend, most of the women’s basketball world becomes part of Wolfpack Nation.

The annual Play 4 Kay weekend, of course, is in tribute to longtime NC State coach Kay Yow, who died in 2009 but lives on in the hearts of all who knew her. And you can be sure that the way the Wolfpack played Sunday in their 72-59 upset of No. 10 Duke would have a big smile on Yow’s face.

Not just because it was a win against one of NC State’s nearby rivals. But also because it showed the resilience of this season’s Wolfpack squad, which lost so much to graduation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Then again, don’t overlook Michigan State’s 10-pt win over #19 Rutgers, 60-50. The Spartans haven’t had a season to write home about, but Rutgers offense has sputtered since its early promise. MSU sophomore Aerial Powers set a single-season marks for points and double-doubles in victory over Scarlet Knights.

But wait, there’s more: Hofstra eked out a one-point win over de facto Conference Queens #23 James Madison. AT JMU.

“I wouldn’t say we had [the game] at hand, but I thought we had a chance to win,” Brooks said. “For that, I’m very proud of the kids. I’m very proud because they fought.”

According to Mickens, this game was far from a “wake-up call.” It was a loss to learn from and an opportunity to get better.

“I don’t believe in wake-up calls personally,” Mickens said. “It’s a humbling loss. It shows that we’re not invincible. But hey, it’s definitely a motivating loss.”

Certainly the Seawolves deserve a shout out for toppling Conference Big Dog Albany, 68-64. 

Last season, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team halted Albany’s conference-record 38-game America East winning streak. 

In front of 1,098 fans Sunday afternoon at Island Federal Credit Union Arena, the streak snappers struck again when Stony Brook took down Albany, 68-64, putting an end to the Great Danes’ 30-game conference road winning streak. Sabre Proctor led all scorers with 21 points, including 17 in the second half, on her Senior Day.

Clearly, defense was optional as the Buckeyes obliterated #13 Iowa, 100-82. Gosh, it’s fun to read Jim Massie’s stuff.  (Why hasn’t he been awarded the WBCA’s Mel Greenberg Media Award?)

Ohio State tied a scarlet ribbon around a signature win for its postseason resume last night in its final regular-season game at Value City Arena.

The Buckeyes scored 55 points in the second half and roared past 13th-ranked Iowa 100-82 in a Big Ten game in front of a crowd of 6,471.

The victory avenged a 73-65 loss in Iowa City on Feb. 5 and kept Ohio State (19-9, 11-5) in a tie for fourth place in the conference with Minnesota with two games remaining in the season.

And then, for sheer inter-state-conference rivalry sake, how about Cal over #18 Stanford, 63-53. On Senior Day. The Bears were just returning the favor the Cardinal gave’em a game ago. And ended the Cardinal 14-year run as Pac 10-12 champs.

Sun Belt upstart, Troy, takes down AR-Little Rock, 65-62.

“We really didn’t play like underdogs today, even when we were down by 10 points,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said.  “At that time my first inclination is to get in that frantic pressing mode, but we stayed back and played our zone defense, kept our gameplan and stayed in control.  The maturity of our team was a big difference in this game.”

Whoopsie! Charlotte knocks off Southern Miss, 83-72.

A “Yah, you won the Conference again, but wait until the conference tournament” win: Pacific over Gonzaga (the Zags first WCC loss), 71-59.

Some near misses:

#17 North Carolina over Miami by one. Make. Your. Free Throws.

Old Dominion over LaTech by one.

New Mexico State over Grand Canyon by one, clinching a share of the WAC title for the first time since 1995.

Ball State over Northern Illinois by one.

#14 Mississippi State over Alabama by two.

Seton Hall over Villanova by two, courtesy of a last second basket by senior Ka-Deidre Simmons From Steve Politi: 

Ka-Deidre Simmons thinks about the moment every day and wonders how she’ll react. Will she leap for joy? Will she start to cry? Will she play it cool like so many athletes do when their school pops up in the bracket during the NCAA Tournament selection show. 

She has no idea. She only knows that this moment — when the words “SETON HALL” finally appear in the field in three weeks — will be even sweeter because of her decision to stick it out in South Orange.

Hawai’i over UC Davis by two. The Wahine’s 19 wins is the most since 2001-02, when they won 23.

#12 Arizona State over USC by three — in TWO OTs.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “When Kelsey was out, it was like ‘Wow.’ Our bench has stepped up and people stepped up. It’s only going to make us better, obviously, for March, because we should be getting Kelsey back, hopefully, maybe this week.”

Northwestern over Wisconsin by three — in one OT. The win propelled the Wildcats into the polls for the first time in 19 years.

American over Army by three.

 A win against Navy on Wednesday in Annapolis would secure the Patriot League regular season title for the Eagles.

“They’ve always been a tight group. I love their camaraderie and how they really care about one another,” second-year Eagles coach Megan Gebbia said. “But I think it’s been our defense. That’s the biggest change that we’ve made. I think it’s that end of the floor and just shooting with confidence.”

Bryant over Robert Morris by three.

Western Kentucky over Middle State Tennessee by three. The Toppers hadn’t beaten the Blue Raiders in Bowling Green since 2008.

“I know 19 turnovers is the difference in the ballgame,” MTSU coach Rick Insell said. “We didn’t take care of the ball. (We) did a very poor job.

“(Western Kentucky) did a very good job.”

After an incredibly ugly first half, #20 Chattanooga over Samford by 7.

Wichita State over Southern Illinois by eight.

In other games:

How happy is FSU that Romero got to play this year? VERY happy.

In one of the best all-around performances in school history, Florida State sophomore point guard Leticia Romero recorded the program’s second-ever triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as FSU defeated Boston College, 86-68, on Sunday afternoon at the Conte Forum.

What happened to Pittsburgh’s offense in the second half? Up 41-35 in the first, they only scored 13 in the second, losing to #25 Syracuse, 68-54.

Speaking of offensive offense – Debbie Antonelli better shield her eyes: Georgia only scored 28 points. Auburn only scored 44. I think they should be forced to replay that game until they get it right.

And let us not discuss the 36-32 Presbyterian earned. In overtime. Gak!

Debbie would have enjoyed this one: Minnesota over Michigan in double overtime, 91-88 . Zahui B only went for 27 points and 27 rebounds. Slacker.

Amanda Zahui B. should be the last women’s basketball player to wear No. 32 at Minnesota.

Call it insane to say a redshirt sophomore’s number should be retired when her career ends, but in two years, the decision to retire her number won’t even be arguable.

The month of February produced some unbelievable moments for the Swedish export.

Wowza – push-me/pull-you Washingtons: First Washington State pokes Washington in the eye, 83-72 . Then Washington kicks State in the shin, 83-43.

Nobody knows who UMass-Lowell is (and their first-year coach Jenerrie Harris, ex-Navy staff member). Even ESPN doesn’t have a page for them. But the River Hawks DID take down UNH, 70-65, so someone better pay attention soon.

The UMass Lowell women’s basketball team really should start campaigning for more games at the Tsongas Center. 

The River Hawks have certainly looked quite comfortable under the bright lights of the 6,111-seat arena in 2014-15. 

Playing at the Tsongas for the third time this season on Saturday, UMass Lowell delivered an inspired performance and remained poised down the stretch against one of the America East Conference’s upper-echelon teams. 

That’s five conference crowns in a row by Baylor.

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…waiting to go to the airport and return to the “bitterly cold” northeast. Will say that, whatever weather comes to mind when you think “the Bahamas,” it’s not what we’ve had this week. Nothing like scuba diving w/ a 25mph wind and 65 degree weather. Fleece alert! (and no, I’m NOT complaining, ’cause I’m on vacation! :-)

On the hardcourt:

Don’t wanna jinx’em, but the A-10 regular season title is George Washington’s to lose. (They’ve beaten Dayton both times they’ve played). Tough to beat a team three times in a row, though, so keep an eye on the Conference Championship.

With a win over a Bradford-less Central Michigan, Ball State moves to 10-3 in the MAC, easing in to the top spot in the West. Overall MAC leader Ohio was stunned by Eastern Michigan, 73-61.

That was unexpectedly close: Maine Slips Past Vermont in Women’s Basketball, 57-54 And yes, Women’s basketball risen in standings from two years ago

Two years ago, Maine was one of the worst teams in women’s basketball. Now, Maine has won 10 consecutive games and is ranked no. 23 in the Mid-Major poll.

It is amazing what you can accomplish when everybody is working together and when everybody has the same goals and dreams. It almost took us two years to get to the point where we are right now, and we are not even close to reaching our potential.

People keep asking, “What happened? How can you go from winning four games total to having one of the best seasons a Maine basketball team has had in a long time?” I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question.

A Debbie Antonelli Special: Troy needed OT – and every single one of Ashley Beverly-Kelley’s 46 points – to escape Sun Belt cellar-dwellar Georgia Southern, 99-93. BTW, this is Troy’s first winning season since 2008-09.

Boink! WHB Curse in effect: Rhode Island loses a lead, and then the game, to LaSalle, 47-45.

Speaking of losing leads: Miami must be kicking themselves – they were up 18 at the end of the first half, then lost to NC State courtesy of a last-second three by Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin.

Whomp! The up-and-down #15 Aggies were up against #11 Kentucky, 81-69.

James Madison, #5 Maryland and FGCU are sailing through their conferences. So’s Gonzaga (clinching their 11th straight)  but it’s not been a lark.

It’s been a tough one: SMU women’s basketball already with second-most losses in school history; Can team recover?

When your women’s team is playing six freshmen, your point guard bolts and your go-to player is gone for the season, you celebrate small victories, such as getting three male students through the NCAA Clearinghouse to fill vacancies for scrimmages.

Change has been the lone constant for SMU.

For a young team in a rebuilding year, adjustments have become routine. Each game seems to open a new chapter in the crash course.

Speaking of tough ones: The Gauchos are still win-less.

Hawaii seems to be pulling away in the Big West.

Wondering how probation will impact West Virginia.

No surprise, Debbie likes Kelsey (Mitchell).

“Why isn’t Kelsey Mitchell on the @BigTenNetwork promo on great (freshmen) in the @bigtenconf,” Antonelli tweeted Tuesday night. “She leads nation in scoring!”

Mitchell’s resume is quite lengthy. And her scoring numbers has made Antonelli start to consider if Mitchell has an opportunity at all-time career leading scorer Jackie Stiles (3,393 points). Antonelli has been calling women’s basketball games for 27 years and can’t recall another player to cause her to look at Stiles’ numbers.

“If you are a fan of women’s basketball how could you not like that?” Antonelli told Cincinnati.com.

Yup: Injuries wreak havoc on SEC women’s basketball season

Not an unexpected job opening: Portland State fires Sherri Murrell as women’s basketball coach with five games remaining

In W news: One Knight for another: Breaking Down the Epiphanny Prince-for-Cappie Pondexter Blockbuster and The age-old thought process behind Liberty’s WNBA megadeal plus, what’s really cool: Epiphanny Prince to finish Rutgers degree after trade to NY Liberty

When she stunned the basketball world in 2009 with an unprecedented decision to leave Rutgers one year early to start her pro career, Epiphanny Prince vowed that she eventually would return to school.

That time has come following a WNBA trade Monday that sent two former Rutgers stars back to their homes as Prince was dealt to the New York Liberty, while Cappie Pondexter is joining the Chicago Sky.

In high school news: Two high school girls basketball legends combining to make history at Gilmour Academy

It started with a phone call, seemingly out of nowhere.

That’s how a legendary high school girls basketball coach ended up at Gilmour Academy. That was 10 years ago.

And a second totally unexpected phone call led to the daughter of a former Ms. Ohio Girls Basketball Player of the Year playing for that same coach at the Catholic prep school in Gates Mills.

That’s how Bob Beutel, with 644 career victories, ended up coaching Naz Hillmon, one of the top freshman girls basketball players in Northeastern Ohio. Hillmon is already receiving attention from Division I colleges. The 6-foot-2 center is averaging 18 points, 14 rebounds and more than four blocks per game.

How about this: Alden-Hebron makes history with 5-player roster

Alden-Hebron’s “Fab Five” huddled on the bus ride home and talked strategy after winning the school’s first postseason title for any Giants basketball team – boys or girls – since 1957.

Hannah Behrens, Bailey Ogle, Hannah Warren, Tally Lalor and Emily Webber have played exclusively for the past 13 games as the Giants’ roster has dwindled from eight players to five. Kelsey Baker, A-H’s tallest player at 6-foot-2, moved away, and sophomores Brittany Standish and Sam Mendez suffered knee injuries and cannot play until cleared by doctors.

Congrats: Swin Cash earns Chuck Cooper Award for ‘extraordinary’ service

Admittedly, Swin Cash once had no clue who Charles “Chuck” Cooper was or what he represented.

She grew up in the same region and played the same sport, but as someone born nearly 25 years after Cooper played his final professional basketball game, the name of the first African-American player drafted into the NBA didn’t resonate.

So last year, when Cash was told that she was going to be honored with an award named after Cooper, she did some research. What she found was a legacy that she works to this day to strengthen and uphold.

WATN? TV spot highlights Markham basketball star Sutton-Brown

Tammy Sutton-Brown has a true story to tell.

It’s one the 37-year-old Markham native revealed that changed her life — all for the better — when she elected to attend a high school that offered a well established girls’ basketball program rather than go to one closer to home.

Thus began the road for the 6 ft. 4 in. centre in becoming one of the top Canadian basketball players hailing from the Greater Toronto Area that tipped off when she was a Grade 9 student at Markham District High School and then earning a collegiate athletic scholarship south of the border at Rutgers University.

But that’s not where it ended.

A little history: Women’s basketball pioneers honored at UAF

It’s no surprise Nanooks women’s basketball players Victoria Elleby and Stephanie Toumson asked Linda Dolney for her autograph after Saturday’s game.

Forty years ago, Dolney and her teammates paved the way for the current women’s basketball team.

That moment in history and several others were recognized Saturday at a remarkable gathering of women.

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