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Just ask Jeff Walz.

He offered Tuesday to email or call the boss of anyone who wanted to come to the game but couldn’t because of work. He’s already had 100 or so fans take him up on that, including someone in the mayor’s office.

”Whoever sends me a note on Twitter or on Facebook – if they give me their boss’ email – I’m writing them a note asking if they can make the ballgame,” Walz said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Check out Aneela’s “Top 25 Players To Watch in NCAA Tournament

Washington: ‘Sharp’ Huskies Head To NCAA Tournament

The Huskies are sharp, because they share a common goal and have rallied around each other. They are in sync. They are focused.

“The difference between last year and this year, last year we were happy to be there,” junior Kelsey Plum said. “It was a cool accomplishment after having not been in the NCAA tournament for a long time.

“We were just so excited about the whole thing, we lost focus in the game. This year, we’re not just happy to be here. We’re trying to do something with it.

Connecticut: Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson looking to make history

UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokes that when the trio now known as ”The Big Three” first arrived on campus, he wasn’t sure they should play as freshmen either.

Stewart, he said, had unbelievable talent, but was often lackadaisical, because things were too easy for her. Jefferson, he said, had no grasp of running an offense. Her idea of playing point guard, he said, was to run at full speed until she ran into something.

Tuck was the best of the three in practice, but that didn’t always translate to games.

Little by little, he said, they began to gel.

Connecticut: Former Huskies break down UConn’s winning ways

Utah: Jeff Judkins keeps Cougars steadily successful

As BYU’s women’s basketball players, assistant coaches and supporters reacted excitedly when the Cougars received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last Monday, head coach Jeff Judkins stared stoically at the large screen, realizing the task that lies ahead.

It was almost LaVell Edwards-like, which is fitting, because Judkins is having the kind of success that the legendary football coach had in Provo in the 1980s and ’90s, albeit in a sport mostly out of the national spotlight.

“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” BYU guard Makenzi Pulsipher said. “He’s such a good, nice person, but he’s also a really, really good coach.”

California: Jordin Canada leads UCLA back to the Big Dance

During a recent practice at UCLA, one of the Bruins players commented out loud about point guard Jordin Canada, “She’s our all-conference player, let’s just get it to her.”

And Canada cringed.

“Her shoulders went in, and she looked uncomfortable,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “She didn’t like it. But at the same time, when the lights brighten, she’s at her best.”

California: USF coach Azzi welcomes chance to return to Stanford for NCAAs

Jennifer Azzi’s expression — an ear-to-ear grin — didn’t change when she saw that her USF team was matched against her alma mater Stanford, during Monday’s NCAA selection show.

Azzi knows how these things work — Azzi against her mentor Tara VanDerveer is the kind of story line selection committees love. She knows how often basketball can bring one full circle — such as when the Tennessee kid won a national championship with Stanford back home in Knoxville in 1990. 

“These things happen,” she said.

Florida: NCAA women’s bracket has distinct Florida flavor

It has been a season of firsts for women’s college basketball teams Florida, and the roll will continue in the NCAA Tournament.

When the field of 64 was announced on Monday, it marked the first time that five teams from the Sunshine State were selected.

Georgia: Georgia back in tournament under 1st-year coach

New York: Syracuse women’s basketball team a victim of bad timing

What’s the old cliche, if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all?

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is living proof of that. The Orange have had their best regular season in program history. Syracuse went to the ACC championship game and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, again, its best ever.

The high seed means the Orange are rewarded with one — possibly two — home games for the first two rounds of the tournament. And when does the NCAA Tournament committee (with help from ESPN) have Syracuse playing.

Friday at 2:30 p.m. Right after the Syracuse men’s game. A weekday afternoon when the majority of local people are working or in school.

New York: With Two Bids, Iona Savors ‘Incredible Accomplishment’

For Cluess and Godsey, that made last Monday twice as sweet. They understand better than most the challenges midmajor programs face in facilities, recruiting and financing when competing against major conferences for players as well as victories.

“It’s so hard for one team to make it, let alone two, especially in a conference our size,” Cluess said.

Missouri: The three steps the women’s basketball team is taking in preparation for the big dance.

This time last season, the Missouri women’s basketball team was sitting around coach Robin Pingeton’s house, eyes glued to the television during Selection Monday. They were on the outside looking in. 

While watching other teams celebrate their success, the overall mindset of the team was, “That’s going to be us next year,” according to senior Morgan Stock.

New Jersey: PU Women’s Hoops Sees Silver Lining in Penn Defeat, Becoming 1st Ivy Team to Earn At-Large Bid to NCAAs

North Carolina: Coaches of Asheville men, women share special bond

Seconds after the UNC Asheville women beat Liberty on Sunday at Kimmel Arena to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, some of the first people on the floor to celebrate with the women were members of the Bulldogs’ men’s team.

It was a scene that didn’t surprise those close to the program.

There is a closeness between the teams and it begins with the coaches.

Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Nick McDevitt can’t help but run into each other several times a day because their offices are separated by a conference room, which they share along with a printer.

They wouldn’t want it any other way. McDevitt is a fan of Kirkpatrick and her staff and Kirkpatrick feels the same way about the men’s coaches.

Tennessee/Michigan: Belmont, Michigan State coaches are friends, now NCAA foes

“Suzy and I got to be good friends back then,” said Newbauer, who was an assistant at Georgia at the time. “My sister almost went to Michigan State and instead went to Indiana, so I’ve known Suzy since my first year in women’s basketball. I’ve just been really good friends with her since then. We were texting each other about, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if we wound up in the same place?’ But I didn’t think we would be playing them.”

Wanna listen while you work? LaChina Robinson and Chiney Ogwumike break down the Sioux Falls Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest L.A. Sparks F Candace Parker. 2) They then break down the Bridgeport Region of the women’s NCAA Tournament with special guest Indiana Fever G Briann January.

As a self-identified Conference Generalist, I take great pleasure in tracking programs raising their profiles. Marshall was one such story: A Different `Long Season’ for Daniel’s Herd

Marshall makes its first trip to the Women’s NIT with a visit to longtime rival Ohio on Thursday night, and riding on the bus with the Herd as it heads up the road this evening is an attitude that has carried Coach Matt Daniel’s team all season.

It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.

When Marshall opened the 2015-16 season back on Nov. 13 with an out-of-breath, 104-101 triumph at Morehead State, eight of the 12 healthy players on Daniel’s roster were in their first game in a Herd uniform. Six were freshmen … and Marshall had been picked to finish 10th in the 14-team Conference USA race by Daniel’s sideline peers.

Four months later, the Herd (21-11) has more wins than all but one team (24-5 in 1986-87) in the Herd women’s hoops history dating to 1969-70. Marshall has only its third postseason bid in its major college era, which dates to 1981-82. And while finishing tied for sixth in the C-USA standings, the Herd won a school-best 11 C-USA games (regular season and tournament) in its 11 years in the league.

So were the Jacksonville Dolphins: Mentee vs. Mentor

It happens at the start of every athletic competition. Typically after the national anthem and player introductions, and often overlooked as one of the unwritten rules of the game. It’s the coaches’ handshake, a brief meeting a midcourt that will have a deeper meaning for Yolett McPhee-McCuin Friday.

When the head coach of the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team shakes the hand of Dawn Staley, she will see more than the opposition, she’ll also see a mentor and a friend.

“Dawn Staley is someone that I mirror my program after,” said McCuin. “Not every step but definitely the how and the why. How to build a program and why we do what we do?

And: Though not a surprise, first NCAA bid reason for Duquesne women’s basketball team to celebrate

“I don’t think any of us were expecting this in the beginning of the season, so the fact that we’re even here is so exciting,” senior Emilie Gronas said. “From the preseason, we could feel this was a different team with a lot of new faces. A lot of people didn’t expect us to do as great as we did.” 

But after playing in other postseason tournaments in each of the last seven seasons, Duquesne didn’t have any preseason intentions of receiving another WNIT bid.

The Dukes broke record after record this year, setting program highs for wins (27) and conference wins (13) while earning a share of the Atlantic-10 regular-season title. Now, all of those accolades come second to achieving an ultimate goal.

Damn: A Website Went Offline And Took Most Of Women’s College Basketball Analytics With It

If you’re filling out your bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and want some statistical background to the broader forecasts, you have a slew of options. Start at Sports-Reference.com: powerful search tools; team rankings for anything from pace to point differentials adjusted for strength of schedule; and player pages with stats such as usage percentage, win shares and Box Plus/Minus. Ken Pomeroy’s site offers more detailed and adjusted team rankings and a wide array of individual player metrics. For $100 a year, Shot Analytics delivers detailed spatial analysis of shot selection, including weighted shot charts.

If you’re looking for similar information to help you fill out an NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket, you’re out of luck.

Thank you: Tonya Mirts ends 21-year tenure as Hickman girls basketball head coach

Mirts, who played college basketball for Missouri, appreciated the challenge of not being able to recruit players for high school basketball, instead developing the young women in her district.

“You get what you get and you try to make a masterpiece out of it year in and year out,” she said.

Thank you: Wanda Watkins steps down as Campbell women’s basketball coach after 35 seasons

In addition to her coaching achievements, Watkins holds a special place in Campbell athletics history. She was the school’s first female athletic scholarship recipient after graduating from nearby South Johnston High School in 1975. She was a member of that school’s 1974 North Carolina state championship team.

She served as team captain of the Lady Camels basketball team as a senior and captained the softball team for three years. Despite suffering an injury in her final season, Watkins was named MVP of the 1978-79 team and selected as Campbell’s Outstanding Female Athlete.

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you should have been watching the Dukes v. the Colonials

Welcome back JJ!! It’s not quite Willis Reed-esque – she actually made an impact on the court (10 points, 15 rebounds,six blocks) – but what a lift for George Washington to have Jonquel Jones return for the A-10 Championship game. The Colonials brought a smothering defense to the fourth quarter and shut down Duquesne, earning the 63-60 win. Kudos to coach Tsipis and his “other” players for keeping the team on track in Jones’ absence. With a healthy Jones? Hmmm….

As for the rest…

Mercer tried to crawl back in the fourth, but Chattanooga was too much for them. Mocs over the Bears 65-57. It’s their fourth SoCon title in a row. Keep an eye on both these teams next year – especially Mercer –  there was only one senior on the court.

#2 Notre Dame earned its third consecutive ACC championship, getting an early lead on Syracuse and then moving on to a 11pt win. Next!

#3 South Carolina handled #16 Mississippi State, 66-52, to earn their second straight SEC title.

Don’t let the fourth quarter fool ya: The Ruth was on fire… and #8 Oregon State absolutely decimated #12 UCLA and claimed its 1st Pac 12 title.

#5 Maryland won its second connective Big 10 title by 16.

In the Big 12 semis it was #4 Baylor by 27 and #6 Texas by 16.

The AAC semis had #1 UConn by 47 and #20 USF by 18. Note/Flashback: Good to see Jim Clark back in the women’s basketball fold: AAC semifinals sees predictable results as UConn, USF advance

Sheer artistry. UConn in March (& April) over the last four years is just basketball at its best. Play after “Wow!” play. Defensive rotations that are smooth, switching and smothering an opponent. This year the Huskies feature a defense with 6-4 Katie Lou Samuelson at the top of the arc, and 6-5 Breanna Stewart blocking shots in the paint.

The opening minutes of Sunday’s American Athletic Tournament semifinal game were not quite perfect. UConn actually turned the ball over on its first possession. The Huskies followed that with nine buckets on the next nine possessions.

On edit: To be clear, I’m not dismissing the quality of the play by the victors. I just want to highlight that there are a big handful of teams giving it their all – and playing quality ball – outside of ESPN’s view. Take a moment to read about ’em. Or, if you’re in the area, catch a game.

On tap tomorrow:

MAAC final. It’s a Marist-free affair as Quinnipiac goes up against Iona.

WCC semis: If you’re in Las Vegas….  Santa Clara v. BYU and St. Mary’s v. San Francisco. It would be kinda cool if it was coach Payne v. coach Azzi. Talk about program builders!

Summit semis: Congrats, Omaha! In your first conference tourney, you took down the 3rd seed, IUPUI. Lucky you (that’s NY sarcasm), you’ve got the Wabbits next. In the other bracket, it’s South Dakota v. Oral Roberts.

AAC: #UConn v. #20 USF. The Bulls are playing the Huskies for the third time this season. If Kitija Laksa, conference Freshman of the Year, can’t return from her high ankle sprain, it’s tough to see a different result.

Big 12: #4 Baylor v. #6 Texas. Last time, the Bears mauled the Longhorns by 26. The previous time, by 13. Has Texas gotten tougher?

Looking ahead:

Ivy: Tuesday features Princeton v. Penn for a trip to the Big Dance. We’ve had our eye on this game since for.ev.er.

America East: We’ll have to wait until Friday for the 1/2 matchup between Albany and Maine. The Black Bears got a battle from Stony Brook, while Shareesha Richards led the Great Danes to a 36pt wins. Richards’ 33-point performance helped break her own Albany single-season scoring record of 694 points set last season. Richards is averaging 23.5 points per game.

Podcast alert: Army’s Kelsey Minato and West Viriginia’s Bria Holmes are two seniors leading the way to postseason success

First, Minato returns for her second appearance on the podcast; her first was a freshman when she left the California sun for upstate New York, following a family history of military experience. Fast forward four years, and Minato is now the leading scorer in the history of the Patriot League, breaking Molly Creamer’s record last night. On senior night, Minato became the first active player in Army West Point women’s basketball history to have her number retired and raised to the rafters.

The Black Knights finished the regular season 26-2, tied with Bucknell for top spot in the Patriot League and the top seed in the conference tournament due to tie-breakers. That means they will host all of their tournament games, where they are 14-0 for the season. They are a senior heavy team, and have been to either the WNIT or NCAA tournament each year of their careers.

You’re out (Dawley).

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Well, crap: Knee injury ends season, collge career for Jillian Alleyne, Oregon Ducks star forward

Remember when IUPUI was really awful. Thursday, they took down the Wabbits. They get to play the Coyotes today….

For the first time in 25 games, Siena beat Marist.

SNICK. The C-USA got tight as Western Kentucky took care of Middle Tennessee, 62-51.

The WCC continues to be interesting: San Diego over Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s over Santa Clara.

#13 Stanford knocked the teeth outta the #7 Beavers, 76-54.

Princeton is licking their Ivy League championships chops: Cornell pulled off the stunner, topping Penn, 51-46.

Looking ahead to Saturday: 

#5 Ohio State v. #20 Michigan State. Can the Buckeyes recover their moxie? Can the Spartans get folks to believe in them?

Temple v. #21 USF. An Owl win could make the the NCAAs a realistic goal – which makes this news intriguing: Two players exit women’s basketball program

2nd place in the Horizon: Wright State v. Milwaukee

Always pay attention to the WCC: San Francisco will battle Saint Mary’s, BYU v. Gonzaga.

Big Sky is up for grabs: Idaho (12-3) v. Eastern Washington (12-3).

#22 Oklahoma State v. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have made enough noise to get the attention of the Selection Committee. Both teams are 10-6 in the Big 12. An upset would really seal the deal.

It’s a home game, so I don’t thing UTEP will be looking a head… ’cause the 49ers sure deserve their attention.

Senior Day at UConn prompts ESPN’s MC Barrett to ask: Is Breanna Stewart the best UConn player in history?

Harvey is back! (And writing long form) Breanna Stewart, UConn’s Wow Factor, Always Had a Sweep in Mind

With Auriemma’s standard roster of multipositional excellence beside her, Stewart has, in her time at Connecticut, indisputably qualified as one of those rare raise-the-bar talents. She has occasionally been heralded by pundits as potentially the best female player ever.

“And if you want to be considered that good, you’ve got to have those wow moments — in games, in practices,” Auriemma said. “Every day, Michael Jordan did something that made you say, What?”

That is what Auriemma believes Stewart is capable of on the women’s scale of athletic enhancement. And while he does not deal in ranking individuals across playing eras, given Connecticut’s parade of elite alumnae, he did offer contextual elaboration by recounting another of Stewart’s wow moments, from this season, one with a better result, if not a perfect one.

Sunday: 

Georgia Tennessee. A battle of unranked SEC teams will garner a lot of attention.

An interesting A-10 battle: Duquesne (13-2) v. St. Bonaventure (11-4)

Equally interesting battle between two 16-3 teams in MAAC: Quinnipiac v. Iona.

Duke v. UNC: Two blue teams – literally and psychically.

Minnesota v. #6 Maryland. Obviously, the Gophers have to play a better out-of-conference schedule… but Rachel they are sure are doing their best to get noticed. Will the Terps have gotten the message?

From Salt Lake: Alta product Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher exceeding expectations at BYU

About that great Dane: Albany’s Caribbean-born Shereesha Richards an aspiring pro

About that Grand Bahamian: Despite Injury, Jonquel On Pace To Be Wnba Draft Lottery Pick

Speaking of the draft: Countdown to the 2016 WNBA Draft: No. 8 South Florida’s Courtney Williams

Looking ahead: Diana Taurasi refreshed for Phoenix Mercury return, 4th Olympics

Interesting: Her Love Of Basketball Knows No Boundaries, But U.S. Law Says Otherwise

Jo had 26 points and 10 rebounds that March night in 2009 in San Antonio, and those numbers don’t begin to tell half of her story. The New England prep school player of the year in 2005, she would go on to be a two-time Division II player of the year and the all-time D-II leading scorer. Drafted by the Connecticut Sun in 2010, Jo played for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics and tied Erika de Souza of Brazil as leading scorer. Jo Leedham, who played in a few exhibition games in 2013 with the Sun, plays for Bourges in France. She scored 28 points Thursday for Great Britain in a stirring comeback over Montenegro in a Eurobasket qualifier.

Kirsty, meanwhile, starred at Cheshire Academy and at Caldwell (N.J.) College before becoming a graduate assistant while getting her MBA in sports management at New Haven. She returned to coach Cheshire Academy for two years before becoming coordinator of player development at Binghamton this season.

No family has given any more to New England small college basketball, to New England basketball, in the past decade. That’s worth remembering today as Jen Leedham fights to remain in this country.

A little audio: Swin Cash On Internet Trolls, Life After Basketball

Even though it’s 2016, Cash has still dealt with the less-than-desirable underbelly of the internet. You know, the ones who are dumbfounded that a black woman would be able to talk about professional sports from merit and experience. No mind that the WNBA star is one of the most decorated athletes with her pair of NCAA National Titles, treble of WNBA Championships as well as two Olympic gold medals, of course.

Cash brushes off the ignorant, baseless criticism.

“You have to have a sharp mind to have discernment of what’s coming in and what you’re actually putting out,” said Cash.

Have you listened to the new audio source: ‘Around the Rim’: Talking Women’s College Hoops

Speakin’ of audio: Dishin & Swishin 2/25/16 Podcast: Moriah Jefferson ready to join the Huskies of Honor, but what comes next?

Lady Swish asks: Is your team going to the NCAA tournament?

In theory, each of the state’s 13 teams could qualify for the NCAAs by winning their conference tournaments. Barring that, we feel that only four Virginia schools have even an outside chance of nabbing an at-large bid. Virginia schools have gone five years without receiving an at-large bid. Based on what our teams have done so far, that streak is likely to continue in 2016.

Here’s our thinking on what’s going to happen as we approach postseason:

Mike Siroky’s SEC Notebook: The Upperclasswomen Lead the Way

The Ben-Gals won their third SEC game this season by one. The Orange lightning is crashing over the once-proud UT program that hit its bottom. Doesn’t matter how they lost. 
 
It’s that they lost.
 
The Lady Vols proved once again they have no clue this season. This should be the death knell for the assistant coaches because that’s the only way an embattled coach makes a perception she is willing to accept blame and make changes.
 
The urban legend that former Pat Head Summitt players make good coaches is dead. D-E-A-D dead. 
 
Not Holly Warlick, not anyone else. 
 
The campus is embroiled in too many other coming lawsuits and other distractions in the important campus sports to make a direct move on Warlick.
 
It is over. As in so many other things.

A little history: 40 years later: Judi Warren stole the show at first girls basketball state finals

“Judi Warren,” Brown said. “Anybody who was  there would tell you they were impressed with Judi Warren. She pretty much dominated play and she was such an exciting personality. If it was just ho-hum, who knows how it would have gone. But she was so fun to watch.”

The girls basketball finals will be played on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 40 years after Warsaw’s 5-1 Warren captured the hearts of Hoosiers. She played with the exuberance of a first-grader allowed 20 minutes extra at recess. For Warren and her Warsaw teammates, the 1976 state finals marked the culmination of four years of playing mostly in front of family and close friends.

If Warren had graduated one year earlier, she would have never had the opportunity.

USA Basketball: Geno Auriemma pleased with camp, but questions linger for Team USA and Geno Auriemma, USA Basketball Face Tough Decisions With A Luxury Of Riches

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and trying to get something in during the 30 minutes of free wifi in Newark airport.

Great game between Seton Hall and Depaul, the top spot in the New Big East was at stake. It’s not just that the Pirates managed to escape with a one-point win (Ka-Deidre Simmons going coast-to-coast and hitting a game-winning layup), it’s that Depaul is a well coached, disciplined team. Which reflects well on Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella. Stunning to realize he’s only in his second year…and then you remember he was the coach at Iona.

Princeton is now 22-0.

The No. 16 Tigers have won 21 straight games to start the season and are 5-0 in Ivy League play heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at Brown on Friday and at Yale on Saturday. Princeton needs just one more win to set a new school record for consecutive victories and has absolutely dominated opponents this year, winning by an average of 27 points and 33 points in conference play. 

We continue to give thanks to the sad sack Knicks: Tom Pedulla offers Averaging 3.5 in Classroom and 10.4 on the Court

Young people often talk about changing the world. Alex Wheatley, a starting forward for the 16th-ranked Princeton women’s basketball team, is intent on it.

“I want to leave the world better than I found it, which is huge and broad and kind of strange to say,” she said. “But it’s true.”

Wheatley, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in global health and health policy. She served an eight-week internship in Kenya last summer and is one of five Princeton juniors accepted into the university’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative, a program designed to groom top students for careers in government.

Glad to be making plans to travel to the Palestra (my first visit ever) and watch them battle Penn.

Drake and Wichita State are still neck-in-neck in the MVC. They meet on Feb 27th. About one of those Shockers: Consistency key for WSU’s Martin

It’s no secret looking at Brittany Martin that the 6-foot-3 sophomore is a player the Wichita State women’s basketball team has never had under coach Jody Adams.

Wichita State has never had a true center, someone who makes the opposition think twice about driving the lane. Adams has always found a way around its lack of size in the post, but Martin’s presence gives WSU a new future to look forward to.

The rankings held true as Oregon State defeated Arizona State, 64-57.

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck thought the game felt like a prize fight at times, and not just for the physical play.

“Couldn’t shake them, couldn’t get away from them, but made the plays down the stretch,” he said.

Games I’m gonna miss, but you should see:

St. Mary’s v. San Diego.

BYU v. Pacific (though the Tigers are down a player.)

Kentucky v. Tennessee.

North Carolina v. Louisville.

Duke v. Notre Dame.

 

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The story: “There’s no parity in women’s basketball.”

The truth:

Illinois over #17 Iowa, 73-61.

Pittsburgh over #5 North Carolina, 84-59.

Miami over #4 Notre Dame, 78-63.

I’m trying to decide which upset is most surprising.

Yes, Notre Dame was on the road, but lordy, they were down 20 at the half to a team whose “best” win of the season to date was… heck, it’ s hard to point to a “good” Miami win – they’ve lost to MTU, ASU and Tulane.

“You never like to lose, but we’re just so darn young sometimes that we needed maybe a kick in the pants to kind of say we need to come out ready,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I don’t know mentally what they were thinking before the game but we were uncharacteristically bad in the first half. Credit their defense, that really set us back on our heels.”

That being said, one has to consider the impact (and back story) of the news that starting sophomore forward Taya Reimer, who did not travel with the team to Miami, is considering her future at the university.

Even without Xylina McDaniel, North Carolina’s loss to Pittsburgh makes me shake my head. It’s not just that it’s Pitt. (Blog followers know that they struggled early this season, losing to Duquesne, James Madison and Princeton, but they played #7 Louisville tough.) It’s the score. This wasn’t a close game.

Michigan was a big win for the Pitt women. 

Ohio State was a big win, too. 

Neither of those earlier victories — nor very many wins in the history of the program, for that matter — compare to Thursday’s 84-59 victory over No. 8 North Carolina at Petersen Events Center

The win was Pitt’s first against a ranked opponent in almost four years and was their third over a top-10 opponent. 

No, we haven’t been talking about Iowa a lot, but we have mentioned Illinois more than a few times, so perhaps you weren’t too surprised by the news that the Hawkeyes got taken down by Matt Bollant’s Illini.

Illinois finished the game on a 26-8 run and held No. 17 Iowa to only three field goals over the final 10 minutes of the game as the Fighting Illini pulled away for a 73-61 win at State Farm Center on Thursday. It marked the Orange and Blue’s second win over a ranked opponent this season and Illinois held Iowa to its second-lowest point total of the season. Illinois improves to 11-4 on the campaign, its best start in seven years, and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Let’s start a new story: There’s no parity in men’s college basketball.

So, speaking of close games, I see that Duke escaped Syracuse by two. Is there something askew with the ACC traditional powers? (And, soon, ‘Cuse, sooon you’ve got to come out of these close losses with a win!)

Okay, I’m paying attention: MSU women make another piece of history

Stat stuffers don’t care how their lines in the final boxscore look. 

After all, if players who fill numerous columns with crooked numbers are doing their jobs, their team’s total in bold at the bottom of the page is going to be bigger than the opponent’s.

Dominique Dillingham’s numbers Thursday were far from the biggest on the final statistics for the No. 14 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 72-57 victory against Arkansas. But none of the 3,556 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum would deny Dillingham had perhaps the biggest impact in helping MSU push its season-opening winning streak to 18. In the process, MSU made another piece of history in opening Southeastern Conference play 3-0 for the first time. 

Hey! Look who’s ranked! Western Kentucky! First time since the 1997-98 season.

‘‘It’s an awesome day for our program,’’ WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. ‘‘It gives me chills when you say that we’re ranked. It’s a great day for everyone that’s ever tied their shoe here or had to do with WKU in the past.’’

Anyone think that Ohio State is going to be scary good next year?

Yup, that’s #18 Arizona State winning, matching the program’s best start.

The Debbie Antonelli includes, of course, Sacramento State. This time they came out on top, 93-86.

In-conference play is killing San Francisco’s mojo.

It’s kinda feeling like, this year, the A-10 is George Washington’s to lose.

I’m not going to declare the Patriot League Lehigh’s until after they face American. Twice.

The Tigers roar in Graham’s mid-majors poll (and sit in the 22nd spot in the AP poll)

Courtney Banghart developed a standard response when asked about the outlook for her Princeton team this season, the first season the Tigers began coming off anything other than an NCAA tournament appearance since the fall of 2009, when every member of the current roster was in high school or even middle school.

It was a likable group of people, really likable. But she wasn’t sure they knew how hard it is to win.

“I just didn’t know if they actually had enough edge,” Banghart said. “If they hated losing — which is different, whether you hate losing more than you like winning, or you like winning more than you hate losing. I didn’t know if they were able to make the shift. Was this team really going to hate to lose and come with that edge?”

They must really hate losing. Because they can’t stop winning.

Steve Megargee of the AP give “the other majors” some love:

The first half of the women’s basketball season produced plenty of memorable moments for mid-major programs.

Chattanooga beat Tennessee and Stanford for its first two wins over top-10 opponents in school history. Princeton is ranked 22nd and Western Kentucky is 25th. Green Bay (11-3) was in the Top 25 earlier this season.

“I think it’s great for the game, for women’s basketball,” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what we want to have the opportunity to do, to just continue to keep working and building, so … we don’t have to be in a position where we have to win our conference (tournament) to get to the NCAA.”

Michelle writes about those “other” Huskies, and their peach of a player, Plum: Plum paces Washington to 12-2 start – Huskies set to take on No. 15 Stanford on Friday, Cal on Sunday

As a freshman last season, Kelsey Plum confesses, she sometimes felt “dumb,” even if the stat sheet didn’t show it.

“At least in terms of making plays,” the University of Washington sophomore guard said. “I guessed a lot.”

Plum seems to have found the right answers pretty quickly. The nation’s second-leading scorer at 25.0 points a game, Plum is setting the tone for a Huskies team that is about to embark on its most defining weekend in a decade.

“We are finding a quiet confidence,” said Washington second-year coach Mike Neighbors.

He saw it in the days before his team played then-No. 5 Texas A&M before the turn of the new year. Washington won that game 70-49, one of the most unexpected results of the young season.

In W news, Mechelle addresses the “You’re fired!” “You’re hired!”

There are certain sports franchises — and players and coaches, for that matter — who do weird things that at first make you say, “You’re kidding. Seriously, they did that?” But then you say, “Oh, wait a minute. This is (fill in the name) that we’re talking about.”

The New York Liberty are such a franchise. But the re-hiring of Bill Laimbeer as coach less than three months after he was fired by the organization is head-scratching even by Liberty standards.

Oh, wait a minute. Not really. This is the Liberty we’re talking about.

Let me make haste to say, though, I actually don’t think this is a bad decision at all. It’s correcting a bad decision, which was firing Laimbeer back in October without a really strong idea of whom the franchise could get to replace him.

More Liberty news: 7 ON YOUR SIDE: HOOPS PRIZE WINNER NEEDS ASSIST

A little history: Former Wayland Baptist Flying Queen Cherri Rapp has been named for induction into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

Rapp played for the Flying Queens from 1968-72 under coach Harley Redin, winning two AAU championships along with third- and fourth-place finishes as those teams combined for a 107-13 win-loss record.
 
A three-time NWIT and AAU All-American, Rapp scored 1,348 points to rank third at the time on the Flying Queens’ career scoring list; today, she’s 14th.
 
She was a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that competed in the 1976 Montreal Games. She played in the Pan American Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Colombia), serving as captain of the team that won the 1975 gold medal, and also played in the World Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Mexico).

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

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

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

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

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd erupted in cheers.

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

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

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

Interesting games coming up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little W news:

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The biggest surprise: What happened in the Ivy?

I leave, and Harvard looks poised to take the crown…. I come back, and Courtney (with lots of help from red-hot Blake Dietrick) is working on a 7-game win streak and now has the Tigers on top. And the Quakers are lurking (after suffering a “what the heck!” loss to Dartmouth)!

Kudos to Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin, who’s in his fifth season at Division I. You may recall, McLaughlin came over from the very successful program at Holy Family. How good in he? From his bio:  “The fastest coach in the history of women’s college basketball to reach 400 victories.”

The Danes still rule the America East, but Magarity’s UNH team continues to improve. Albany will meet the Wildcats tomorrow.

Take your eye off the A-10 for a moment, and boom, someone else is in charge. This week, it’s Dayton. The tourney ought to be great, what with six teams clustered together hoping to regain the upper hand.

It’s Hatters v. Eagles in the Atlantic Sun.

Not quite a power shift in the Big South, but both Winthrop and High Point (14-4) are ahead of Liberty (13-5), even with the Flames win over the Eagles.

So, maybe Lady Swish was NOT kidding and this is James Madison’s best team. They’re running away with the CAA. Even better, you can Meet the woman who’s going to make Dawn Evans healthy again

Erika Evans laughs when asked the question.

Did you ever think you’d be donating a kidney to someone?

“It wasn’t exactly on my bucket list,” she says.

Evans’ recipient is another Evans — that would be James Madison’s Dawn Evans, her first cousin. Dawn, suffering from focal segmental glomerular sclerosis since December 2009, will receive the new kidney in Nashville in the next two to three weeks. Evans learned her kidney condition had deteriorated when she returned home to Clarksville, Tenn., over Christmas from Arras, France, where she had been playing basketball.

Key game coming up for the Wright State Raiders on Thursday. They’re in 1st place in the Horizon League and host the team that shares the same in-conference record, Green Bay.

Equally important game looming for MAAC-leading Iona on the 2nd, when they face Marist. But, they’ll have to get through Quinnipiac first. Obviously, the Gaels will lean heavily on Damika Martinez, their Nancy Lieberman Award finalist.

Gonna be a great finish/conference tournament in the Mid-American. Bowling Green and Central Michigan sit atop the East & West with similar in-confrence records (they split the regular season games.) The Chippewas have earned a share of  program’s first-ever regular season Mid-American Conference West Division title.

MTSU’s Raiders have done just that to their new C-USA teams. They’re ranked #23, and they look to have a clear path to the conference title.

Deja vu, as always, with Hampton as the top dog in the MEAC. What’s surprising is to see how far Howard has fallen…. and that it’s North Carolina A&T (and their defense) who hopes to challenge the Pirates. They face each other in the last game of the regular season.

The Skyhawks rule the roost in the Ohio Valley (West AND East).

Navy is surging in the Patriot League — even with a loss to Armythanks to their seniors.

“It really is amazing when you think about it. No one could ever have expected this group of women to do what they have done,” Pemper said of her first full recruiting class. “I think the fact they fit together so well position-wise has been a big aspect of it. They each have their own niche. There’s no doubt the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.”

Navy’s five seniors, who collectively have played 14,903 minutes and 560 games during their careers, will be honored prior to Saturday afternoon’s final regular season home game against Holy Cross. It will be an emotional ceremony as always, but particularly because of what this class has meant to Navy women’s basketball.

It’s the Mocs coiled atop the Southern and a battle of the Southern’s (Texas and SU) in the SWAC. Of course, Southern has other issues it’s dealing with.

Their loss to BYU means Gonzaga can’t rest easy as the top dogs in the WCC.

Wow – N.J.I.T is the Last of the Independents. Kinda lonely.

Smokin’ Musket is cranky: West Virginia Women’s Basketball, Lacking the Respect They Deserve.

Crappy news out of NC State: Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and Lakeesa Daniel gone to ACLs.

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