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Snagged a surprise seat to the Lib-Dream game and some observations:

  1. Top to bottom, this is the most talented Liberty team we’ve ever had. AND they’re scrappy and hard-nosed. This post-season will go to whichever team is the healthiest.
  2. Wherever Sugar’s game went these past few years, it’s back. I sure hope it sticks around.
  3. As I watched Tina and Sugar and Matee and Essence and Kiah and Piph and Swin and Shoni and Tiffany on the court I thought, “Yah, that Old Big East Conference was pretty damn good.”
  4. I was really excited when the Lib drafted Stokes. I’m even more excited now.
  5. Wow, there’s a lot of talent on that Dream team… what on earth has the front office and coaching done to it…
  6. The physical, chippy play between the two teams reminded me of the old Cleveland Rockers days. On the court, there was absolutely NO love lost between the Lib and Cleveland.

    It was not a pretty game. It was a game with a lot of contact. It was a game with a lot of fouls called and a lot of fouls that could easily have been called. I don’t envy Denise Brooks and Tony Dawkins working with a rookie referee. (I also don’t envy them working with a rookie referee who looked like he had a chip on his shoulder the whole night because he’s shorter than most of the players- dude is about Piph’s height.) 

  7. Note to MSG management: you’re doing better getting folks into the Garden, but some of your security staff could use some “How to treat a fan like they’re a welcomed customer, not a body to pull a power trip on.

In other news:

Indiana:11 straight years in the playoffs. ’nuff said. A lot could be said for Stephanie being COY (nice job, there, coach Dunn!). I think Bill should be in the mix, and ditto with Fred Williams.

Friendly Bounce’s WNBA Podcast: Episode 3: Tulsa joins the playoff party. And yes, Tulsa’s playoff berth is bittersweet for Shock fans

With a minute left in Sunday’s game, Tulsa Shock forward Plenette Pierson motioned to the fans at the BOK Center. They got to their feet and cheered on their Shock to a 76-70 victory over the Indiana Fever and the franchise’s first playoff berth since moving to Oklahoma in 2010.

And I felt like giving the crowd a standing ovation.

Zach Plosia of Newsweek asks: Why Doesn’t the WNBA Have an Official Fantasy League?

Philip Hersh at the Chicago Tribune asks: 2015 a big year for women in sports, but will it carry over?

The question, as always, is whether the passion so many have shown for women’s sports is more than a summer romance, an abiding love more than a one-season stand, a caring for and celebrating the ordinary along with the extraordinary: the United States winning a quadrennial women’s soccer world championship; Serena Williams starting the U.S. Open on Monday as the first player with a chance at sweeping tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments since Germany’s Steffi Graf did it in 1988; fighter Ronda Rousey, in a sport with an appeal once beholden to the prurience of watching women fight each other, now acclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the world’s most dominant athlete, no gender qualifier applied.

“I’d like to think this has been an important year in women’s sports,” said longtime TV commentator Mary Carillo, “and the Serena story going into the U.S. Open is going to be tremendous. Serena has to be considered one of the most dominant and important women athletes of all time.”

It didn’t look good for Lindsay when she went to the locker room, but she’s hoping for a quick recovery

Interesting: Sky’s Delle Donne signs with new marketing agency

Chicago Sky forward and WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne has a new agent for the second time in less than two years.

The 25-year-old face of women’s pro basketball signed last month with McLean, Va.-based sports marketing agency Octagon and agent Erin Kane after cutting ties with Wasserman Media Group of Los Angeles earlier this year.

Wasserman agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who has represented WNBA stars Brittney Griner, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi among others, worked with Delle Donne from November 2013 until the beginning of 2015, when the forward returned to an exclusive agent relationship with her brother Gene.

from the Players’ Tribune: From Somewhere: Diana Taurasi (video and article) and We Are: New York Liberty

The Players’ Tribune presents “We Are: New York Liberty,” an immersive look inside the WNBA powerhouse team in the East. Through documentary video series, first-person narratives, photo diaries and travelogues, we give a voice to each player as the Liberty fight for the No. 1 overall playoff seed, and ultimately, a WNBA championship. ​​

NCAA news:

UH’s Chizer begins tenure on NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee

Q: What do you think it will be like in the room on Selection Monday with the excitement and big decisions you have to make?

A: You said the key words: Exciting and big decisions. I think it’s going to be a long couple of days, because at the end of the day we want to get it right. We’re going to spend a lot of time researching, looking at all the team’s portfolios, games they’ve won, RPIs, games they’ve lost, the top 10 teams they played against. What did they do at the beginning of the season, the middle of the season, the end of the season? You have to look at everything. There are going to be some big decisions and we’re going to do our due diligence to get it right.

Q: You have a college basketball background as a former play at UH and assistant coach. How much will that help you?

A: I do have a little basketball knowledge and was on the coaching staff here. I did a little something here while at the University of Houston. My name is in the record books a little bit (smiles). I tell the student-athletes on the women’s basketball team that if we play half-court, I think I can still get you. I can still shoot it. You start taking me full-court and that’s a different story.

Illinois: Chapter not over

 On more than one occasion Friday Illinois Athletics Director Mike Thomas talked about “turning the page.”

Fire head football coach Tim Beckman, turn the page.

Promote offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to interim head coach, turn the page.

As the “Summer From Hell” continues to play out one bonfire at a time in Champaign, there’s a good chance there are a few more pages to turn. And one of them may have Mike Thomas’ name on it.

Marist: Jarosz back at school, but eligibility unresolved

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in this trade (The Dream’s Erika de Souza to Chicago. They get Damiris Dantas and rookie Reshanda Gray from Minnesota and Lynx’ first-round pick in 2016 WNBA Draft. Chicago sends Sylvia Fowles and the rights to its own 2016 second-round pick to Minnesota – and no, the Lynx won’t play the Sky until (if) the playoffs), take some time to watch the replay of the US-Russia U19 game. Really fun to watch.

A few ASG articles hanging about:

Schimmell Ellectric in 2nd WNBA All-Star Game. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one listening to the ASG play-by-play wondering, “but, does Shoni’s game translate to the pros? It takes flash and fitness, kiddo.

With The All-Star Game On The Line, Maya Moore Found Another Level

At the end of last year’s WNBA All-Star Game — a “shootout” in the desert that the East team won in overtime over the West at Phoenix — Maya Moore appeared a bit irritated.

Not truly mad, mind you. But it was clear that even a so-called meaningless exhibition wasn’t entirely meaningless for Moore. The Minnesota star already has two WNBA titles and a league MVP award, while just in her fifth season as a pro. Bottom line: She always plays to win. Maybe if she was playing some 5-year-old in Candy Land, she might throw the game to the kid. But … don’t necessarily count on that.

Sefko: Why WNBA has never been stronger as league enters Dallas market

Back in the spring of 1996, “We got next” became a reality.

That was the catchphrase when the NBA board of governors approved the concept of the WNBA. The league was a leap of faith that had to be nursed through some tough times, yet has emerged as a legitimate force in the sporting world in less than two decades of existence.

It has become relevant, when many thought it couldn’t.

What is next for Tamika Catchings after an amazing WNBA career?

Doug focuses on what’s next in the WNBA:

The sprint to the playoffs and the WNBA championship will most likely hinge on which team can stay the healthiest. Minnesota is leading the Western Conference right now, but the Lynx are without two of their three All-Stars as Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus are sidelined with injuries.

Whalen, who hurt her eye last week, should be back soon. Augustus is out until mid-August while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

I guess it’s just as well that Liz stayed away from Tulsa: Cambage ruled out of Australia squad after skipping camp

Liz Cambage has been ruled out Australia’s squad for games against Japan and the Oceania Olympic qualifying series against New Zealand after skipping a training camp to attend a music festival.

Cambage had been recalled to national duties last week following nine months on the sidelines after rupturing her Achilles, but Basketball Australia issued a brief statement late Sunday saying the 23-year-old center had ”made herself unavailable” for the games against Japan starting Monday and had been scrubbed from the Oceania championships as a consequence.

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No rest for the weary over at USA Basketball:

USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team Roster Features Five USA Basketball Gold Medalists

The 12-member roster for the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team, which was announced following three days of trials that featured 51 athletes at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, features five USA Basketball gold medalists, including Jordin Canada(UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif.); Diamond DeShields (Tennessee/Norcross, Ga.); Rebecca Greenwell(Duke/Owensboro, Ky.); Erica McCall (Stanford/Bakersfield, Calif.); and Mercedes Russell(Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.).

Playing on their first USA Basketball team will be: Nina Davis (Baylor/Memphis, Tenn.); Chanise Jenkins(DePaul/Chicago, Ill.); Brionna Jones (Maryland/Havre de Grace, Md.); Aerial Powers (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.); Courtney Range (California/Manteca, Calif.); Sydney Wiese (Oregon State/Phoenix, Ariz.); and Courtney Williams (South Florida/Folkston, Ga.).

Northwestern University head coach Joe McKeown will lead the 2015 USA Women’s World University Games Team, and he will be assisted by Holly Warlick from the University of Tennessee and Tanya Warren from the University of Northern Iowa.

Nneka Ogwumike Has Memories And Aspirations From The 2011 World University Games

During the competition, often alongside her sister, Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka observed many other sports, some of which she had never seen before, as a way to support the USA and her alma mater, Stanford University, which had several athletes competing in various events.

“I was lucky in that my sister and I met up with 10 other Stanford athletes. We saw a lot of our classmates. We actually watched them compete in their sporting events, which was really cool. I was really excited to watch our men’s volleyball team, because we had three Stanford athletes on that team. The games were super exciting.”

In addition to meeting up with classmates, Ogwumike made new friends in the village, which is something she advises the participants of the 2015 World University Games to do.

Roster Named For U.S. Pan American Games Women’s Basketball Team

Following three days of trials that featured 51 athletes at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the 12-member roster for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team today was announced and features seven players who have won at least one gold medal with USA Basketball.

The retuning gold medalists include: Linnae Harper (Kentucky/Chicago, Ill.); Moriah Jefferson(Connecticut/Glenn Heights, Texas); Stephanie Mavunga (North Carolina/Brownsburg, Ind.); Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina/Charlotte, N.C.); Kelsey Plum (Washington/Poway, Calif.); Taya Reimer (Notre Dame/Fishers, Ind.);and Breanna Stewart (Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.).

Playing on their first USA Basketball team will be: Sophie Brunner (Arizona State/Freeport, Ill.);Alaina Coates (South Carolina/Irmo, S.C.);Caroline Coyer (Villanova/Oak Hill, Va.); Shatori Walker-Kimbrough(Maryland/Aliquippa, Pa.); and Courtney Williams (Texas A&M/Houston, Texas).

The University of Iowa’s Lisa Bluder will lead the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team, along with assistant coaches Michelle Clark-Heard of Western Kentucky University and Scott Rueck of Oregon State University.

Some nice “Catching up with…videos on their site.

In the crossover world of NCAA and USA sits Doug Bruno, who reflects on 29 years and looks to future

From Georgia: Retirement looks good on Andy Landers. Casual is his color.

Andy Landers, former Georgia women’s basketball coach and current caretaker of cows, announced his retirement in mid-March, leaving Georgia women’s basketball not only in search of a new leader but also a new identity.

“When you have been as good as they have been for so many years, you become synonymous with your school and it’s really hard to differentiate Georgia from Andy,” University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said. “If you were talking about Georgia basketball, the conversation always started with Andy. He was unique. In the women’s basketball circles, there just weren’t many guys like him.”

Landers spent 36 seasons developing a program, players and personal relationships with everyone he encountered. He was the Lady Dogs.

Yikes. This is sounding ugly: Illinois women’s basketball assistant coach leaves program under storm of accusations

The Daily Illini obtained letters addressed to Chancellor Wise that were sent by the families of Jacqui Grant, Taylor Tuck and Taylor Gleason, which detailed verbal and emotional abuse on the part of Bollant and Divilbiss.
**
One of the claims made by the letters, which was echoed by Lydia Tuck and LaKeisha Coleman — Amarah Coleman’s mother — was that Bollant and Divilbiss enforced what was called the “Dog Pound.” The “Dog Pound” was the team’s group of nonstarters, and was required to go to extra practices.

“I told him the dog pound is where strays go,” Lydia Tuck said. “It would be different if Illinois’ mascot was Huskies or Wolves.”

Lydia Tuck’s other daughter, Morgan, was a starter for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, which won the 2015 National Championship. Lydia said Morgan’s time at UConn has been “night and day different” from what Taylor has experienced at Illinois.

The Hartford Courant has All The News You Need To Get Ready For WNBA Season

From Jayda: Jenny Boucek in ‘natural spot’ as Storm’s coach

Jenny Boucek loves redemption stories.

She can relax on the couch with a glass of wine and freely ride the emotions of a favorite flick such as “Dirty Dancing.” But before you characterize Boucek’s return to head coaching in the WNBA as redeeming, know this is not that. (WHB history note: Remember this and this from Mechelle back in ’09?)

 “It’s not about me at all,” she said of being named the Storm’s fourth coach in the franchise’s 15-year history. Boucek was an assistant in Seattle from 2003-05 and the past five seasons under previous coach Brian Agler.
“People are feeling it is right for me to be here right now, and I feel it’s right, so I’m here,” she said.

Mixed news for the W’s Shock: Glory Johnson absent from Shock training camp, but Riquna Williams back from injury

From the Republican American: Being best takes on new meaning for Taurasi

Shortly after her college career ended, she was selected first overall in the WNBA Draft by the Mercury. That first season she not only won Rookie of the Year honors but was also named to the All-WNBA first team, and then she finished up 2004 by winning an Olympic gold medal and an ESPY for being the best female athlete in the world.

Her career hasn’t slowed down since then. She’s won three WNBA championships (2007, 2009, 2014), two more Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012) and five EuroLeague titles (four with Spartak Moscow, 2007-10; one with EMMC Ekaterinburg, 2013).

“It may sound corny, but from the day I graduated I said, ‘I am going to totally give myself to this, and I want to make sure that at home and around the world everyone knows how good I am,'” Taurasi said. “There was no way I was going to be part-time. I am a full-time basketball player and have been the 10-11 years. I always believed that if you are not playing basketball, you are not getting better.”

Ddd you catch Diana on Grantland?

Cool: Schimmels, McCoughtry part of seminar panel

Former University of Louisville women’s basketball players Angel McCoughtry, Shoni Schimmel and Jude Schimmel will be among the speakers at next Thursday’s Inspiring Women ENERGY Seminar Series at the KFC Yum! Center. The event is hosted by the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream – McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel’s team.

The luncheon, scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is being held in advance of the May 23 WNBA preseason doubleheader at the arena. The topic for the luncheon will be “The Future of Women in Sports Leadership”

Not so cool, as the beat(down) goes on, this time from the Boston Globe: Isiah Thomas, WNBA a disturbing match

Now, the WNBA Board of Governors will decide whether Thomas is ownership material. Asked about the approval process, WNBA president Laurel Richie said the league would “collect background information” on Thomas, but she declined to discuss whether that would include a reexamination of the sexual harassment case. Richie emphasized that she had “great respect for the process and great respect for our Board” and anticipated thoughtful discussions.

That’s the restrained and responsible thing to say. But even with the process barely under way, the right and responsible thing to do is clear: Keep Thomas out of the ownership ranks. 

Arizona Central: Boivin: Just say no to Isiah Thomas, WNBA

No. No. No.

Approval would send a horrible message to young girls who look up to a league that has been groundbreaking in terms of giving female athletes opportunities.

Sexual harassment should be punished.

Not rewarded.

Fox Sports says Phil Jackson reportedly ‘not happy’ with Isiah Thomas’ hiring by Liberty (Though I have a funny feeling it’s more about PHIL’s future, not the message the hiring sends)

I wish some of these “non-ESPN folks” articles would mention the elephant in the room. Blocking Dolan’s idiotic wishes will likely cost the league the New York Liberty…

On the opposite side of the spectrum: Thank you: Retirement awaits for longtime girls sports advocate Marie Sugiyama

As a young woman, Marie Sugiyama would take any game.

Pickup softball? Sure. Field hockey? Yup. Even that weird thing they called girls basketball that wasn’t really basketball? That game with 12 players on the court and rules about who could and who could not cross the half-court line?

Sure, Sugiyama said yes to those offers, too, but that version of basketball had to rankle. Sugiyama, 79, never did like people telling her or other women where they can go, what they can do, what line they can cross.

Sugiyama, who next month will retire as the commissioner of the North Bay League after 42 years on the job, started her journey as a tomboy who liked to play whatever sport was out there. But she finished as a local hall of fame coach, athlete, administrator, teacher and champion for all young athletes, but especially female athletes.

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in California: “Berkeley’s girls basketball coach Cheryl Draper took her team off the court with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in a game in a loss to Miramonte-Orinda, claiming she and her players heard racial slurs.”

And now we have this in Pennsylvania: Smear campaign against nation’s top girls basketball team – Philly’s Neumann-Goretti – traced to rival coach (nice job by write Joseph Santoliquito)

It attempted to discredit the NG program, alleging that the African players on the Saints, here legally, are older than their actual age and are in the United States illegally. Contents of the email were posted on comment forums of media websites (since removed) alleging institutional misconduct, and stating that the “FBI” is looking into the matter.

What PhillyVoice has uncovered is that the email Aston received was not just from anyone. It emanated from an email address that is registered to the name and home address of another Philadelphia Catholic League coach, Archbishop Wood girls basketball coach John Gallagher, who through an attorney neither confirms nor denies sending the email to Aston “and others.”

Additionally, Archbishop Wood has known about this — and has taken no action to date. 

And this from Maine: Witnesses: Calais girls basketball teammates exchanged obscenities, one pushed coach during game

An altercation between two Calais High School girls basketball players during a recent game is believed to have sparked a controversy that prompted the superintendent of schools to tender his resignation, after the school board reduced his disciplinary action against the players.

On the flip side: From the Deseret News: Copper Hills reaping the rewards of years of building program

“To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said Morley, who spent nine years coaching boys basketball, as well as football. “There was no tradition, no anything. They basically handed me a bunch of deflated balls and old uniforms and said, ‘Hey, turn the program around.’ I knew there would be work, but to be honest, I didn’t quite know how much.” Morley quickly diagnosed a number of issues. First, he was new to girls basketball so he wasn’t even sure if his experience would translate.

Yes, you can call Kansas State over #20 Texas an upset, but a bigger upset was Oakland (10-11, 4-4) over Green Bay (17-4, 7-1)), 70-67. And it was on the Phoenix’s home court.

By ending UWGB’s season-high winning streak of eight games, Oakland became the first team to knock off the Phoenix in Horizon play at the midway point of the league schedule. What’s more, the feisty Grizzlies handed UWGB (17-4 overall, 7-1 conference) its first home loss.

“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a little bit of a surprise,” said an elated Jeff Tungate, Oakland’s second-year coach. “But, we’ve had a really good week of practice, and our players have been really determined. I knew we were going to play well coming in. I just didn’t know, is ‘playing well’ going to be enough? Thankfully tonight, it was.”

You may recall that Tungate inherited a program that was a hot mess.

Another big upset: San Jose State (10-11, 4-6 MW) stunned Fresno State (17-4, 9-1), 56-51.

I’m have a funny feeling this group of Mountaineers maybe driving coach Carey bonkers. They take down TCU, 76-71.

Ouch. Albany took out its frustration on New Hampshire, 74-48.

It’s not quite Monday, but it’s never too early to start throwing down gauntlets: Editorial: Greatness awaits USC women’s basketball team

 AS WE WATCHED the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team evolve under the leadership of coach Dawn Staley over the past few years, it was evident that it was on a trajectory toward elite status.

We believe it has crossed that threshold this season, having spent 11 straight weeks at the top of the national rankings. A showdown with No. 2 Connecticut on the road presents a grand opportunity for the Gamecocks to step into rarified air and send a message that not only can it run with the big programs, it can defeat them.

Last season, Kansas State enticed fans to attend a women’s basketball game by offering free bacon.

This season, Georgetown is one-upping those Wildcats with something even better: free kale.

Congrats: Brittany Boyd breaks Cal women’s basketball all-time assist record

Congrats, (but I think the Harvard English professors might want to chat with the headline writer): Fagbenle Reaches Century Mark in Women’s Basketball’s Loss to Penn

Though the Harvard women’s basketball team may have been on the losing end of a back and forth contest against Penn (11-6, 2-1 Ivy) Saturday evening at Lavietes Pavilion, the game was one for the record books.

As the first half came to a close, senior forward Temi Fagbenle sunk a free throw to become the 19th player in Crimson history to score 1,000 points. Fagbenle was Harvard’s leading scorer in the game, earning 19 points to bring her career total to 1,010.

Intersting: Pepperdine Students to Protest Alleged Discrimination Against Lesbian Basketball Players – The women claim their coach told them, ‘Lesbianism isn’t tolerated here.’ 

Some great stuff by Sue on Diana’s decision to sit out the WNBA season:

A Washington Post columnist says Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out this year’s WNBA season for $1.5 million to play for her Russian team next winter is “a sobering message for the WNBA.”

Nope. It’s business as usual.

It’s a sad situation for Taurasi, the WNBA’s highest-paid player at just less than $107,000 a year, and a problem for the WNBA.

No, this is a sad situation, as is any player who is so worn down after year-round playing that they look tired in WNBA press conferences. And there are lots of those. Taurasi is taking advantage of her skills and her popularity and accepting a great offer that will take care of her financially when she’s older. She’s doing it on her terms, her way. As my source who first told me this news Friday night said, taking the money was “a no-brainer” for Taurasi.

It’s curious that Russian teams will pay big bucks to American players, but U.S. teams will not.

Again, no. I wrote about the differences between U.S. and European/Asian salaries in 2012:

Women’s professional basketball in Europe and Asia is directly effected by the worldwide recession because teams there are sponsored by businesses and governments. When faced with keeping their enterprises alive, companies cut the extras, like their team sponsorships. Ditto, governments. And as up to 100 percent of a team’s budget can come from sponsors, some franchises are forced to fold……

Nice piece on the NCAA’s Champion Magazine on FGCU’s Kaneisha Atwater:

Ninety-eight percent of teen moms do not graduate college before they turn 30. Kaneisha, though, is on the cusp of being counted among the other 2 percent. She is on pace to receive a degree in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University in May 2016, thanks to a basketball scholarship.

For decades, a birth often marked the death of a college career. News reports told stories of scholarships that weren’t renewed, of free paths to a degree blockaded, of pregnant athletes whose fear of losing their place on a team steered them to abortions. Those accounts spurred culture change: In 2008, Division I adopted legislation preventing athletes from losing their scholarships for medical reasons the year they became pregnant. Seven years later, schools like Florida Gulf Coast are willing to make accommodations so athletes like Kaneisha can juggle diapers and textbooks and basketballs.

Having a flashback to Yolanda Griffith’s experience at Palm Beach Community College under coach Sally Smith.

The door she opened led her to one of the top programs and coaches in the country, Iowa and C. Vivian Stringer. But, not long after enrolling, Griffith discovered she was pregnant. With the father uninterested in raising a child, she left school and returned to Chicago where her family banded around her. The birth of her daughter, Candace, in May of 1989 found Griffith unsure what the future held for her. Realizing she wanted to continue to play basketball, a game plan was laid out: go to a Junior College, graduate, then finish out her career at a four-year college. The first thought was to stay local, but a good friend knew the head coach at Palm Beach Community College, Sally Smith. Interestingly enough, Smith, who had been the first black All-American on the legendary Nashville Business College team, herself had had a daughter when she was 18. “He said,” recalled Griffith, “’This is the best place for you as far as the facilities, getting education, and helping single parents.’”

Wait, isn’t this a recruiting violation for UConn-Notre Dame-Louisville? Mo’ne Davis, Charles, Diggins, Schimmel to Play in Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

 

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WAT?:

Hutchinson native Whalen stops by Crossroads

WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel takes in Cherokee game

Sue Bird Storm makes surprise visit to Marysville Pilchuck High School video – “Goosebumps cool.”

WATN?: Tamika Williams Overcomes Divorce, Dad’s Death

From her new office at the University of Kentucky, Tamika Williams was able to see the Wildcats volleyball team practice this season. That must have been therapeutic for someone who as a girl in Ohio played softball and volleyball before picking up a basketball.

Unfortunately, life has become more complicated for Williams, the former UConn starter — with Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi — on the 2001-02 team, perhaps the greatest women’s college basketball team. 

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The Irish are smiling: Notre Dame popular pick at ACC women’s basketball media day

Notre Dame didn’t lose a conference game in its first season in the ACC, and if prognosticators at the conference women’s basketball media day are right, there aren’t going to be many losses this time, either.

For the first time in about six seasons, Duke won’t be picked by many to play in the Final Four in women’s basketball.

And while veteran coach Joanne P. McCallie says she would rather be the ACC’s “top dog,” coaching a team that’s not under such pressure should be a lot of fun.

Duke had its annual preseason media day on Wednesday next to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the most striking thing about it was the dearth of familiar faces.

When it comes to her team this year, four things stand out to Sylvia Hatchell.“We have leadership, we’ve got experience, we’ve got depth, and great chemistry,” the Hall of Fame coach told reporters Wednesday morning at ACC Women’s Basketball Media Day in Greensboro.

Three Pac-12 women’s basketball teams earned first-place votes in the preseason coaches’ poll, but despite some major changes upcoming, the Stanford Cardinal was voted the favorite for the 15th year in a row.
They won’t have to face 6’9″ Golden Bear: Savanna Trapp Out Indefinitely

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s players seem to have an unparalled work ethic. During 2014-15 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, what the USC Trojans head coach said of forward Alexyz Vaioletama’s summer made you believe it.

“I was mad at Alexyz,” Cooper said, half-joking. “She worked too hard over the summer.”

 Never let it be said that Cynthia Cooper-Dyke doesn’t know how to make an entrance into a room.

USC’s women’s basketball coach is by nature a noisemaker.

She entered the interview room at the Pac-12 headquarters Wednesday prepared to talk to the media about her Women of Troy and their preparations to start a new season and build on last season’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

But first, Cooper-Dyke had to take a selfie with senior forward Alexyz Vaioletama, trying to line up the media in the background for a group photo-bomb. At another point, she offered to sing a little something.

The other USC has huge expectations: South Carolina picked to repeat as Southeastern Conference women’s basketball champions

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows the work it took to reach the top of the Southeastern Conference. She understands it’ll be an even greater challenge for the defending SEC champs to stay there.

Gone are the days when everyone would pencil in Tennessee to dominate the SEC, win the league title and easily move on to the Final Four. While the Gamecocks were picked to repeat, Staley expects the defending champions to be challenged by a hungry, talented group of teams looking to finish on top.

Meh: Veteran Lady Vols shrug off No. 2 prediction

On a day promoting a big-picture view of women’s basketball, Isabelle Harrison set her sights on the finer details.

“We want to set goals for ourselves,” Tennessee’s senior center said. “We want to keep it small right now, little things that are going to add up in the end.”

Delle (Dunkin’) Donne might be gone, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Hens are down and out: Delaware Women’s Basketball Predicted to Finish Second in CAA.
They’ll have to get through the Dukes, though, if they want to get to the Dance, ’cause James Madison is Voted to Repeat as CAA Women’s Basketball Champions
Even without 6’9″ Craig, the Great Danes are still thought to be the top dog in the America East — but lookee at the #2 Seawolves!

In the Big West, CSUN is the Overwhelming Favorite For Women’s Hoops Crown

After sweeping last season’s regular season and Tournament titles, CSUN is the media favorite to take home the crown in the 2014-15 season. The Matadors gained 13 first place votes and 125 points overall for the first place nod. Hawai’i checked in behind the defending champions with 101 points and the remaining first place vote. Back-to-back Tournament finalist Cal Poly was third with 99 points, while UC Davis wrapped up the top half of the poll with 83 points for fourth place.

In the New Big East, DePaul is the top Demon.

So fun the first time, they’re looking to do it a second: North Dakota Picked First In Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll

North Dakota won its first Big Sky championship and earned its first berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament as a Division I school last season. The Green and White posted a 22-10 mark last season with a 15-5 record in the Big Sky. North Dakota earned the most points in both polls, pulling 115 points and seven first-place votes in the coaches’ poll while earning 147 points and eight-first place votes from the media. 

From the Green Wave: Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton: ‘We want the NCAA Tournament

Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton said expectations are high for a team that has won 20 games or more in five consecutive seasons.

And expectations should be high, especially considering Stockton returns 11 of 13 letter winners from a season ago and 97.9 percent of the team’s points and 98.7 percent of the team’s rebounds.

For the Terps, it looks like the top in the 10: Maryland women’s basketball favored to win Big Ten, which is a bit of A homecoming for Brenda Frese

 …the Terrapins’ debut season in the Big Ten is a homecoming of sorts for Frese, 44, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I know for me personally, being able to come back in the Big Ten, having grown up in Iowa and (knowing) the Big Ten Conference extremely well, having coached at Minnesota for a season, I can’t wait,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to get back and play against the great competition.”

This is interesting, considering the hot water UNC is in (UNC report finds 18 years of academic fraud to keep athletes playing): Tying college coaches’ contracts to academic progress gets mixed reviews

A proposed policy that would require teams to reach academic benchmarks before their coaches and athletic directors can cash in on performance-based bonuses has drawn mixed reviews.

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents is expected to vote on the policy Friday during a meeting at Frostburg State. If passed, any new contracts signed by coaches and athletic directors at the system’s schools would include stipulations that require teams to meet a certain Academic Progress Rate for them to receive bonuses based on other incentive clauses in their contracts.

If you’ve followed the “your students do well or else you lose your job” policies in education, you’ll have read about the cheating scandals. So – does this push folks (should I put “Top 25 folks”?) to focus on academics or focus on finding a way around academics?

Is it too early to say “on the hot seat”? Badgers women’s basketball: Coach Bobbie Kelsey excited entering 4th season

Where others might see pressure, Bobbie Kelsey sees opportunity.

Kelsey, beginning her fourth season as the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball coach, is still in search of her first winning season and first postseason tournament bid.

And yah, it’s too early, but the rest of the b-ball world has already warmed his seat.. so Ex-ESPN analyst Dykes defends his hire at Arkansas

“I’ve never been a head coach, never pulled the trigger on the sidelines making the decisions with live ammo flying around us,” Dykes said. “But I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a teacher on the air. I’ve tried to teach the game of basketball. I think that’s why I rose up in the profession like I did as an analyst, because I think I was a pretty good communicator and teacher on my nightly broadcast.”

In Colorado, so far, so good:

Two weeks into preseason practice is far from a make-or-break point in any team’s season, but it does provide enough time for a coach to start getting a feel for her team. According to Colorado women’s basketball head coach Linda Lappe, what her team has showed thus far is encouraging.

What do you think?

“We get better every day and we’re progressing on a great path,” Lappe said after practice last Friday. “I’ve been really impressed by our freshmen and how they’ve been able to come in and learn the system, but also our veterans and how they’re leading.”

Oh, oh: Mosqueda-Lewis Working Hard To Prove Skeptics Wrong

…if the draft were held today it is likely the Seattle Storm, which owns the pick, would take her and team her with Sue Bird, the first overall pick of the 2002 draft. 

But there is work to be done. There are WNBA executives who doubt Mosqueda-Lewis has the speed and agility to get to the basket, to create her own shots and, more importantly, guard the swift perimeter players she will be assigned to at the next level.

“People tend to make a lot of general assumptions,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I was probably the skinniest I’d ever been during my freshman year, but we didn’t win and I didn’t have my best season. 

Rebecca Lobo and Kevin Conners discuss the possibility of a 3-peat.

From Dishin & Swishin 10/23/14 Video & Podcast: Geno Auriemma on USA Basketball & coming back to UConn, Carol Callan on all things USA Basketball

NCAA regional tix are up for sale (PROMO CODE: NCAA ) Women’s Preliminary Round Tickets

What, too soon? What people are saying about some of the top 2015 WNBA Draft prospects

Shoni still doin’ the other thing she does so well:Local youth at Montana basketball clinic and  WNBA Shoni Schimmel visits Wagner School

It started in complete silence, and then slowly turned into a low rumble of anticipation and excitement. A highlight was being played on the big screen of the theater of Shoni Schimmel during one of her games as a professional Native American basketball player for the Atlanta Dream team.

Some say you should never meet your heroes because they never turn out to be who you think they are, but Schimmel has remained true to herself and to the people. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications at Louisville, but she doesn’t just communicate with the people she meets, she connects.

From Swish Appeal: Eurobits: Meesseman, Montgomery off to Russia

WNBA players aren’t the only ones who go abroad: WNBA Coach of the Year Sandy Brondello to coach UMMC Yekaterinburg

OOOOO, History Alert! The Lancaster High School girls’ basketball team, 1919-1920

Ummm…we’ll do better next time: Sporting goods stores vow to get women in the game

When 12-year-old McKenna Peterson opened her new Dick’s Sporting Goods basketball catalog recently, the basketball player and superfan was frustrated to find a glaring misstep: The only girl in the catalog’s pages wasn’t playing basketball — she was sitting in the stands.

So McKenna began to type the company a fiery letter, not just praising her favorite female “dunking machines” but also tearing into the annoying imbalance the boy-heavy mailer seemed to represent. “It’s hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is,” she wrote, “without you guys excluding us from your catalog.”

McKenna’s letter didn’t just spark a public outcry and lead the corporate giant’s chief to apologize — it highlighted an unavoidable tension of the sporting goods industry: Girls and young women are one of its fastest-growing markets, and one of its most ignored.

Big shoes now empty: Girls basketball: Shabazz coach Vanessa Watson retires after 31 seasons

Vanessa Watson is truly going out on top.

After 720 career victories and six Tournament of Champions titles, including one in each of the last two seasons, Watson has retired from coaching girls basketball at Shabazz.

Watson finished her career with a 720-107 record, and she trailed only Pascack Valley’s Jeff Jasper 923 wins on the all-time list for New Jersey coaches. Watson led Shabazz to 10 state championships and six Tournament of Champions titles.

After 31 seasons on the bench at the Newark school, a combination of several things went into Watson’s decision to call 2013-14 her last season. 

It’s that amazing combination that can happen in sports: heart-breaking and heartwarming: Dying Mt. St. Joe’s player’s last game sells out

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Appropriate descriptions of the two Conference Championship games played. Home teams staked themselves a big lead, visitors clawed back a bit (or a lot) to make it interesting… but to no avail.

On the games themselves:

From the AP: Mercury humble Lynx, 85-71 (Interesting echo from Bright Side: One year ago today the Phoenix Mercury were humbled by the Minnesota Lynx) and Phoenix Mercury build large lead, hold on to beat Minnesota Lynx in Game 1

Griner, PHX defense key to big Game 1 win over Minnesota

From Tyler Killian: Mercury open Western Conference finals with rout of Minnesota Lynx

Eleven months ago to the day, the Mercury stood on their home court as the Minnesota Lynx celebrated a series victory in the Western Conference finals — the disappointing end of the Mercury’s drama-filled season.

The memory of that game may have faded some by the time the two teams met on the same floor Friday, but watching the Mercury dominate the Lynx and release the pent-up frustration that had been brewing ever since they were eliminated in 2013, the feeling of catharsis inside US Airways Center was unmistakable.

From the Tribune: Phoenix rises up to top Lynx in Game 1 of playoff series

“This is the playoffs,” Moore said. “There’s not really a lot of surprises when you don’t play with the intensity you need to — especially on the road. There’s nothing that they did that was super new. It was just a matter of them executing their offense. We have to be more aggressive.”

From Richard: Mercury outwork, outhustle and outplay Lynx on way to Game 1 win

Story of the Game: The game started as much of it would go on – unfortunately for Minnesota. Buoyed by their noisy home crowd, the Mercury got out in transition early on and scored the first nine points of the game. They were challenging hard on all the jumpers the Lynx were tossing up, leaking out after making those challenges, and beating Minnesota down the floor at the other end. DeWanna Bonner also drilled a three in the opening 90 seconds of the game, which would be another bad sign for the rest of the night for the Lynx.

From Pat Friday: Indiana rains threes on Chicago to steal victory on home floor

From Nate: Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman cites turnovers as a “glaring” problem in Game 1 loss

From Mark Ambrogi the Indy Star: Fever claim Game 1 East Finals victory over Chicago, 77-70

It wasn’t hard for Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to determine the key stat on Saturday night.

The Fever hit 9-of-21 3-pointers compared to 1-of-8 for Chicago.

Fever buckle down, stave off Sky and its partner article: Fever hold off Sky in fourth quarter for 1-0 series lead

The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Sky’s historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta running through their minds.

But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on for a 77-70 victory Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.

From Bright Side of the Sun: WCF Preview: The One Year Journey Of The Mercury

Missed this from David: Delle Donne means the Indiana Fever aren’t facing a normal No. 4 seed

On the upcoming games:

Nate is feeling predictive: ECF/WCF predictions: Mercury, Sky will prevail

Did you catch Richard’s WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky and WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx?

Yup: Lynx need more from Moore against Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury did something in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that no other WNBA team has been able to do all season long.

They stopped Maya Moore.

And yes: Reeve wants to see Lynx more aggressive in Game 2

Two hands.

If there was one thing that really surprised Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s 85-71 loss in Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals, it wasn’t any one statistic or stretch during the game. It was an attitude.

As in, the defending champion Lynx didn’t have enough of it. “Phoenix has had a great season,” Reeve said Saturday, shortly after the team’s flight landed in Minnesota. “Phoenix has a great understanding that, in order to beat us, to go to the finals, they’re going to have to wrestle the trophy away from us. What I was surprised about was we didn’t have the collective effort to have two hands on that trophy.’’

From Mechelle: Lynx target solid start in Game 2 – Minnesota can’t afford another slow start against Phoenix

Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven’t ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and ’13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.

The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn’t end in Minneapolis, either — at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.

Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota’s season alive.

From Tyler: Mercury won’t relax after opening romp in WNBA Western Conference finals

Our frame of mind doesn’t change,” Mercury forward Penny Taylor said. “We know we’re up against a championship team, and we know if we relax for a second, that they’ll be on top of us.

“They’re such a good team, and we expect them to come back at full force.”

Who didn’t see this coming:  Mo’Ne Davis heading to the conference finals

Congrats to all: Chiney Ogwumike wins ROY, heads All-Rookie team (And I know folks are cranky that Shoni wasn’t named – but please don’t bring up her All-Star Game performance as a reason she should have been on the team… That’s just silly.)

This is cool:

Professional basketball player Shoni Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the WNBA All Star Game, and her family will make two appearances this weekend to support the Seneca Nation campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.

More on those who are no longer playing: Lack of star talent remains a top concern in D.C.

From the NY Times: In the W.N.B.A., Women’s Coaching Journey Gets Easier (“Easier”, of course, is a relative term, ’cause the gig reeeeeeally hard)

Seventeen years ago, Lin Dunn was coaching the Portland Power of the short-lived American Basketball League. Dunn believed in sharing her knowledge of the game, so she allowed college coaches to watch her practices.

One of them was Pokey Chatman, then a young assistant coach at Louisiana State. Chatman stayed for a week learning from Dunn, whom she remembered as a volleyball coach at Mississippi in the late 1970s.

On Saturday, Chatman, now coach of the Chicago Sky, faced Dunn’s Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference finals.

Speaking of hard: From the Argus Leader: Daughter inspires coach to stay with basketball team

It’s not all about basketball, says Vermillion, whose 24th year of coaching begins next year. It’s not about the wins and losses. “I can guarantee you I have more losses than wins,” he says. “When I started out, it was all about winning, then I learned it’s not. It’s about developing girls.”

One rule: Family, church and school come first. Vermillion never holds tryouts, and he never names starters. At one point, he required a 3.25 grade point average.

Vermillion encourages players to take the ACT four times. They might not play college ball, he says, but they will come out of there with a degree. He also spends much more time than the typical coach talking with college officials about the girls, doing his best to get them scholarships.

He loves the girls but hates the parents, he says bluntly. The girls, his girls, keep him coming back every season.

Or, maybe it’s just one girl. A dozen years after Tiffany’s death, her father still coaches because, as he says simply, “This is what she left me.”

Sad news out of San Antonio:

In the past two years, Tai Dillard has been an assistant coach in the Pac-12 and SEC, two of women’s college basketball’s top conferences.

As her path has taken her to places such as Palo Alto, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, Dillard reflected on the person instrumental in helping her coaching journey get started: Sam Houston High School girls basketball coach Milyse Lamkin.

Lamkin, 52, died Thursday after battling cancer, Sam Houston Principal Darnell White said.

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Adversity preps Sky for postseason

“THIS IS OUR MOMENT” is splashed across the landing page of the Chicago Sky website, the letters in bright white, glowing as if illuminated on a marquee. Below them is a link to buy tickets for the team’s opening-round playoff series against the Dream, which begins Friday in Atlanta.

The 2013 postseason might have been memorable for its historical significance — the Sky made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season — but the team’s unlikely berth in these playoffs proves it to be a true contender.

From Michelle Smith: Five questions for the postseason

The WNBA playoffs open Thursday after a regular season in which most of the teams in the league struggled merely to finish with a winning record. Two teams — Minnesota and Phoenix — stood head and shoulders above the rest through the entire summer, and the question for the postseason is whether anyone other than the Mercury or the Lynx stand a chance of hoisting the championship trophy.

While the other six teams — including five with sub.-500 records — try to turn that into a debate, we take a look at five questions facing the WNBA playoffs.

1. Can Phoenix finish what it has started?

From Mechelle: WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

We know who “won” the WNBA regular season: the Phoenix Mercury. Their 29-5 finish set a league record for most victories in a season and sends them into the playoffs as the obvious favorite.

Before the postseason begins Thursday (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET), we take a look at the conference semifinals. Who’s hot and who’s not of the eight teams still playing? Might there be an upset or two brewing? Here’s a series-by-series breakdown:

From Tim Leighton: Lynx open WNBA playoffs in shadow of Phoenix Mercury

“When you look at the team that has been dominant from beginning to end, that would be Phoenix, and I think they are everyone’s favorite,” said WNBA pioneer Rebecca Lobo, an ESPN analyst, in a national conference call this week.

“I would agree that I think Phoenix is the team to beat,” echoed another ESPN analyst, Carolyn Peck.

Not so fast, says Taurasi, who knows the Mercury are likely to meet the Lynx in the Western Conference finals next week.

“They’re the defending champs,” she said. “They’re the best team in this league.”

We’ll see soon enough.

Tim adds: Lynx: 11-year veteran Rebekkah Brunson still going strong. Oh, did you know Brunson is happy to be a Lynx for life

Seimone Augustus knows what she would do if teammate Rebekkah Brunson ever were to leave the Minnesota Lynx.

“I’d go out and buy a Powerball ticket and hope we’d hit the lottery or something,’’ Augustus said after Tuesday’s two-hour practice. “It would be one of those deals where you just hope for the best. That’s about all you can do when it comes to her. She leaves one of those huge holes in your lineup, you know what I’m saying?”

Augustus needn’t worry.

From Pat Borzi at the NY Times: Lynx’s Maya Moore Has Become a Leaner Scoring Machine

The Monster — the nickname the Los Angeles Sparks’ interim coach, Penny Toler, pinned on Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx last week — fits Moore’s play better than it does her personality.

Could a monster make her own ice cream, as Moore does? Could a monster charm a 10-year-old girl seeking an autograph or the president of the United States? Would any team dare to let a monster dance on the court and address the home crowd after victories? Then again, Toler’s description fits the kind of season Moore, a fourth-year professional player, is having.

Mike Peden offers: Minnesota Lynx headed to the playoffs: what’s working, what’s not

The Minnesota Lynx ended their 2014 campaign with a 25-9 record, becoming the first WNBA team to post 25 wins or better for four consecutive years. Reaching that threshold this year was a remarkable achievement, with Minnesota enduring several injuries that could have compromised their overall chemistry.

“For us to do it this season, with the amount of adversity that we’ve faced, I told them I’m very impressed and blessed to share it with them,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Sneak in another few words from Mechelle: Maya Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Add another big honor to Maya Moore’s very full trophy case. The Minnesota Lynx forward has won her first WNBA season MVP award. The league has not officially announced it, but it was reported by the Associated Press, which also said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi finished second in the voting, and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry third.

Moore, who turned 25 in June, is the first Lynx player to win the season MVP award and the third UConn graduate, following Taurasi in 2009 and Tina Charles in 2012.

Moore was the WNBA’s leading scorer this season at 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 12 vs. Atlanta.

Phil Ervin at Fox Sports North: Experienced, healthy Lynx ready for another postseason run

The dial is back at 11.

The stakes are at their highest. The pressures of defending — successfully, this time — the WNBA crown have moved to the forefront of the league-wide consciousness.

You’d have never known it if you sat in on the Lynx’s pre-playoff team gathering Monday night, Cheryl Reeve said. The feisty, accomplished coach isn’t feeling much heat, even with Minnesota’s postseason opener two days away and a late-season slide in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, her sensation is one of relief.

Tyler Killian at AzCentral: Mercury haven’t accomplished anything yet

With the regular season now over, the Mercury maintain that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

That’s the right approach for a team still seven wins away from capturing its third WNBA championship.

But for fans and media, the happenings in Phoenix over the past three months have been nothing short of remarkable. The records set and feats achieved are almost too numerous to list and at times have even surprised the members of the organization responsible for them.

Cory McCartney at Fox Sports South: Dream have ‘Unfinished Business’ heading into WNBA playoffs

Sitting at a bar top table in a downtown restaurant, Michael Cooper motioned to a television on the back wall, where highlights of Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis played.

“Have you seen her this girl yet,” Cooper asked. “She’s incredible.”

Cooper knows a thing or two about phenoms. He was on hand for the start of Magic Johnson’s career when the two were Los Angeles Lakers, and as Atlanta Dream coach he sees a number of similarities between the NBA legend and his rookie guard Shoni Schimmel.

Terrence Thomas from My San Antonio: Stars ‘having fun’ as playoffs loom

Becky Hammon didn’t have to come back, and she didn’t have to toil through months of rehabbing her injured left knee. Hammon’s legacy as one of the WNBA’s greatest players already was secured, so she had little else to prove.

But Hammon wanted to author her own ending — and it wasn’t going to be the image of her being carried off a basketball court last May in Los Angeles by a teammate and a trainer.

“It was worth it,” Hammon said. “Competing makes everything worth it. Being able to put your shoes on and have a chance to play a few more games is very special.”

David Woods at the Indy Star asks: Can the Indiana Fever win the WNBA title after a losing season?

There is no precedent for a team enduring a losing regular season to reach the WNBA Finals.

Take it from Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn: So what?

The No. 2-seeded Fever, coming off a 16-18 season, open the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2) against the No. 3 Washington Mystics (also 16-18) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Dunn said she is thinking only about the first 4 minutes of Game 1, but she isn’t limiting the Fever.

From Gene at WaPo: Balanced Washington Mystics set for WNBA playoff opener vs. Indiana Fever

During the first 10 years of his WNBA coaching career in Connecticut, Mike Thibault almost always had a player he could lean on down the stretch. Nykesha Sales was one of the first. Asjha Jones followed, and in his final season with the Sun, Tina Charles was named league MVP.

The second-year coach and general manager of the Washington Mysticshasn’t had that luxury since arriving in the District to reboot a dysfunctional franchise. But the youthful roster he assembled this season overcame a dearth of star power to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

From Sue at Full Court: Unpredictability is the theme entering WNBA Playoffs

From Indian Country: Tweets, Please! Shoni Schimmel Takes Over the Atlanta Dream’s Twitter Account

From the Swish Appeal crew: Disappointing L.A. Sparks get second chance in postseason

Los Angeles Sparks fans got up close and personal with a tumultuous season, shortly after having to question whether they’d even continue to have a team in LA.

Veteran additions were supposed to push this disappointing Sparks team over the top. A coaching change, lineup shuffling and missed time all played a role but the Sparks still have to feel like they have second life in an otherwise disappointing season.

Atlanta Dream in an unfamiliar position at the top

As strange as it is given the number of times they’ve made it to the WNBA Finals, 2014 marks the first time the Atlanta Dream will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the regular season title.

Yet in keeping with tradition, the Dream haven’t made it easy on themselves.

Chicago Sky are the wild card

The 2014 version of the Chicago Sky is the epitome of a wildcard in the playoffs. You can’t take much from the team’s numbers, record or even it’s performances this season as the Sky only had it’s full roster available for 4 games this season, three of those being the last three games of the season.

The Indiana Fever look to finish the Lin Dunn Era in style

After the Seattle Storm missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Fever now has the longest running playoff streak. Unlike the Storm, which only advanced twice in the two years where the team won the championship (2004, 2010), the Fever has advanced to the Conference Finals in six of those ten years, two Finals Appearances in 2009 and 2012, and the 2012 WNBA championship over a heavily favored Lynx team.

The Fever also made this playoff appearance, largely without the help of their franchise star Tamika Catchings who sat out the first half of the season due to injury. With her back, as well as some big contributions from players like Erlana Larkins and Briann January, could this team be in position to make a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals, and even the WNBA Finals? Let’s see what they need in order to beat the Washington Mystics in their first round series.

The young Washington Mystics look to make some noise

General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault has led the Washington Mystics to the postseason in each of his first two years at the helm. Considering that the Mystics have only made consecutive playoff berths once in franchise history (2009 and 2010 under then-GM Angela Taylor and Coach Julie Plank), this is a sign of progress. A sign that the Mystics are now playing consistently and figure to be a team that is in the picture year in and year out.

In their first round playoff series, the Mystics will play the Indiana Fever, which has made three straight conference finals appearances in a row, and won the WNBA Finals in 2012. Game 1 will be on Thursday, August 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Game 2 will be at Verizon Center. Game 3’s back in Indy on Monday, August 25, if need be.

Given that they are playing a playoff-tested team, the Mystics will be underdogs. This is not unlike how they have been for all of the last two seasons.

San Antonio Stars live by the three to take the third seed

The obvious feel-good story of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs is that Becky Hammon will be making her final post-season appearance before retiring and joining the coaching staff of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

But in a strictly basketball sense, the fact of the San Antonio Stars being in the postseason is a great story on its own.

In case you’re wonderin’: Conference semifinals matchups, seedings, TV times

The also have their 2014 WNBA award picks (Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi are unanimous All-WNBA selections) and their Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year awards

On the “have nots…”

Bill Laimbeer, Cappie Pondexter reflect on a disappointing season for New York

From Jayda: Sue Bird talks about her return to the court this season

BTW: WNBA expects at least six teams to post profit and Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

WATN? Former WNBA president continues to promote female empowerment

FYI: 5 Memorable Moments From The WNBA Season

OOPS!  Griner, Taurasi lead strong Shock team into WNBA 1st round

What did they say? 2014 WNBA Playoffs National Media Conference Call Transcript

Interesting reminder from Minneapolis: Despite new law, parents’ complaints remain an issue for high school coaches

In 2013-14, during the first school year with the new measure in place, calls from coaches seeking help dropped significantly, according to a statewide coaches association.

But heading into a new fall season, coaching advocates say parent complaints remain a significant issue, often contributing to coaches leaving jobs voluntarily before ever having to face the sting of not having their year-to-year contracts renewed.

Tim Sension experienced both.

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does the basketball. And yes, I know I’m a little over an hour away from Colorado Springs and the U18 team practice… but it’s just. not. going. to. happen.

So, whadImiss? (Thanks, Richard)

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the New York Liberty: A Rookie as Feisty as She Is Steady

Carson said that despite Cruz’s size, her speed and on-court relentlessness made for a seamless transition to the league. At 5 feet 9 inches and 155 pounds, Cruz is smaller than other W.N.B.A. guards. But her willingness to draw contact during drives to the basket and her flashy ball-handling have made her a fan favorite, and she often draws some of the largest cheers during pregame introductions, along with Pondexter, a six-time All-Star, and Tina Charles, who grew up in Queens.

On Aug. 8, in part because of Cruz’s rising popularity, the Liberty will hold their first Noche Latina game, which will celebrate Hispanic culture. Her parents will be in New York for the event.

“I didn’t expect it at all, but I appreciate it,” Cruz said of the adulation. “They make me feel like I’m home.”

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the Phoenix Mercury!  A Two-Handed Push Elevates Phoenix Mercury to No. 1

“We didn’t win a championship, and we didn’t lose one tonight,” said Brondello, a former point guard and two-time Olympic silver medalist for Australia who is in her first season with the Mercury. “It’s more about, O.K., let’s learn from it and move on to the next game. That’s been our mentality through this whole streak.”

Taurasi, however, summed up the night’s frustration and physicality in her inimitable style. Both teams complained about the officiating, leading to three technical fouls, the last two on Brondello and Taurasi in the final minute. So what did the Mercury learn from this game?

“We’ve got to get better at football,” Taurasi said. “We will. If we’ve got to put our helmets on, that’s what we’re going to do from here on out.”

Surprise! About that Phx/Minny matchup: Rebounding leads Lynx past Mercury

In a game with such a wealth of riches, talent-wise, it might seem downright boring to focus on something as fundamental as rebounding.

Yet if you wanted to point to one thing that decided the heavyweight bout Thursday between the two best teams in the WNBA, you gotta go with the glass. Maya Moore and her Lynx outrebounded Diana Taurasi and her Mercury by a handy margin in front of a jazzed-up Minnesota crowd of 9,513.

From Nate:

While the Phoenix Mercury were storming through the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx were quietly keeping themselves within striking distance without their full complement of talent.

And in tonight’s nationally televised game on NBA TV, the Lynx showed just how dangerous they can be at full strength by ending the Mercury’s league-high 16-game winning streak with a 75-67 win in Minneapolis. Neither team played particularly well, but in a significant regular season game that got increasingly physical throughout the starters that had been missing for so long loomed large for the Lynx.

From the Bright Side of the Sun: Phoenix Mercury: The war rages with the Lynx, the streak is over, and the season is just getting started

Awesome! (And not really WNBA related, BUT) NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

Equally awesome! Delle Donne savors return to court

Guzzling Pedialyte on the Chicago Sky bench, there was very little that could have sapped the childlike joy from Elena Delle Donne on Thursday night.

“It was amazing,” Delle Donne said after scoring 10 points in 11 minutes in her first game back in a month, an 87-74 Chicago victory over New York that keeps the Sky a half-game behind the Liberty for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “Even when [coach Pokey Chatman] had her little freak-out at one point, it was great. It’s just awesome to be back with the team, competing, being back out on the floor and I’m just enjoying every second of it.”

Nerd City at Work! Chiney Ogwumike records 12th double-double as Sun hold off Stars

Optimism! Shock looks at rebuilt WNBA contenders as assurance in own direction

As the season nears its end and the playoff push continues, the Tulsa Shock appears to have the perfect combination of short-sightedness and perspective.

Finally! (we know) Tulsa Shock’s Riquna Williams to undergo season-ending knee surgery

From Mirin Fader at SlamOnline: Dream Big – Rookie PG Shoni Schimmel has brought Showtime to the WNBA. But her transition hasn’t been easy.

“There are big things in store for Shoni’s future. Everyone can see that,” Thompson continues. “But that would probably be the one thing that I think that Shoni is really taking the time to get better at.”

Schimmel is specifically working on her one-on-one defense. She wants to be able to contain the elite players in the league, not just be able to break them down with a single crossover and get to the basket.

Every day she works on her agility, using ladders to develop more quickness to help with sliding laterally so she can better stay in front of whoever she’s guarding.

This isn’t the first time Schimmel has had to make adjustments.

From Advocate.com: ESPN Short Lifesize: Brittney Griner Highlights Income Disparity for WNBA Stars

In other news:

Tough news for the Quakers: Stephanie Cheney decides to leave Penn women’s basketball

On November 14, Penn women’s basketball will begin the road to its Ivy League title defense. However, that title defense will have to come without one of the team’s young developing forwards.

Rising sophomore Stephanie Cheney, who played in 22 games for the Quakers last season, has left the program, leaving the team without a piece in the post that coach Mike McLaughlin could have utilized.

Roots! Women’s Basketball Adds Clare Berenato to The Coaching Staff

“Clare comes from great basketball bloodlines,” said Gaitley.  “Her mom, Agnus was the head coach at Pitt and her aunt [Bernadette McGlade] is our A-10 Commissioner.  She has great knowledge of the game and is a terrific people person.  We are excited to welcome her to the Fordham family.”

This explains it! I’ve already gotten two inquiries about the Maggie Dixon Classic (for those who don’t know, I’ve been gathering a group of folks to attend. Started with 25. Last year we had 140.) UConn women’s basketball will play St. John’s in Maggie Dixon Classic

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even after my fabulous trip to Omaha (with a drive by workshop with the amazing folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse), visits with various parental units book-ending an intense Summer Professional Development Institute with Early Childhood educators…and then my cable/internet access goes out (Thanks TWC!) …I find that nothing much has changed in the W. Folks are still pounding the heck outta each other and nothing seems guaranteed. Unless you’re Phoenix. (Now if that doesn’t put the kibosh on ’em, NOTHIN’ will…)

Catching up on the games I missed with Richard at WNBAlien.

On the good news side: Catch is back. (No, the pun wasn’t intended, but I’ll take it!)

Faith, fitness and a new pregame routine are allowing Tamika Catchings to perform as if she is 25 again — not 35, which is what she turns on her birthday Monday.

She scored 14 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter Thursday night, leading the Indiana Fever to a rare 82-64 blowout of the Chicago Sky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

On the bad news side: Delisha is out. How is it possible that she is 39? Yes, I know she didn’t start with the league in ’97, but I still group her and Becky as “one of the originals.” Totally sucks. 

And yes, I was surprised when Milton was switched out of Cash. Really? Why? But, Swin Cash is happy to be in New York

On the “huh!” side, just when I thought Cappie and the Lib were on their deathbed, the revive enough to annoy the heck outta the Dream. Still, my eyes aren’t shining with joy when I think about NY.. sigh.

Looking at the standings, it’s a bit shocking to see where Chicago has landed – even with all their injuries. (I point to Indiana and coach Dunn’s effort.) The Sky has a helluva a lot of talent, and yet??? (Oh, and Delle Donne won’t attend WNBA All-Star Game.)

The same could be said for LA – and they don’t really have an injury excuse. Makes me wonder about chemistry and coaching.

It just shows that coaching in the W IS important — and hard to quantify/qualify. Just like Donovan hasn’t been the “disaster” that some folks presumed, Mike hasn’t been the Mystics’ miracle worker (yet?). Albert Lee wonders: Who will be the Washington Mystics’ best player over the next several years?

Lots to look forward in the second half of the season — especially if Augustus and Brunson return. Ditto for EDD. Games I’m looking forward to:

  • July 22: Atlanta @ Minnesota (How does the Dream hold up against the West second time through?)
  • Juy 24: Phoenix @ L.A. (This is the time for LA to make their push)
  • July 29: L.A. @ Phoenix (see above)
  • August 5: Atlanta @ Phoenix (Deja vu West Coast Test)
  • August 7: Chicago @ Minnesota (If they have their full compliment, and they’re making a run at the playoffs, this game could be key)
  • August 8: Connecticut @ New York (This game could be about draft picks and/or a playoff spot.)
  • August 10: Atlanta @ Chicago (Again, health and a run for a playoff spot could be at stake)
  • August 16: LA @ Phoenix (These two teams don’t like each other… the end of the season is approaching… playoffs are at stake…. what’s NOT to like?)

From Mechelle: WNBA first half: The good, the bad

Right now, there is no WNBA team flying higher than Phoenix, which has the best record in the league and is host to the All-Star Game on Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET). Now there’s some serendipity.

When the 2014 season began, defending champion Minnesota appeared to be the favorite, and the Lynx are still a threat to win it all. But they need to get healthier, and they know that the Mercury’s confidence is brimming.

Phoenix and Minnesota also have Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore leading the MVP race, along with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry. The Dream are atop the East but are thinking bigger than that. After coming away empty-handed from three trips to the WNBA Finals, Atlanta — with Michael Cooper now as its coach — wants to get past that ceiling. 

In terms of the schedule, we are actually already past the midway point of the season. Seattle, in fact, has just 10 games left. But it’s still a good time to assess where every team is and  hand out some grades. Considering most of the league is around or below .500, it stands to reason that there’s a pretty big gap between those earning A’s and everyone else.

From Swish Appeal: How is each WNBA team faring at the All-Star break?

Speaking of the All Star Game: Albert is cranky at these decisions: 2014 WNBA All-Star Game: Sue Bird and Ivory Latta named as injury replacements. Which is a little goofy (infuriating?). Mostly, I think, because, even when they DON’T intend to, it always seems folks are blaming the players for the selection process. (Flashback to Sue Wicks’ selection). ‘sides, Sue herself is honest enough to wonder how she got the nod to attend. But, USA Basketball thinks she’s still got enough to do a feature on her: Before They Made It: Sue Bird

Nate points out the “snubs.” (Another word I dislike, ’cause it brings it to the personal, where there are always so many intangibles involved…)

Obviously, folks on Twitter weighed in about the selections almost immediately. Swish Appeal readers have already commented and voted about the matter. And I pre-emptively posted a table of statistics that should make it pretty easy to glean who I think the biggest snubs, er, candidates for replacement spots are.

With some time to think things over, let’s try to bring that together to see who are the players most deserving of a replacement spot.

Oh – and it bloody-well be a sellout so the West Coast franchises will stop ducking the responsibility for hosting the beast. (And West Coast fans can stop whining about it “always being on the East Coast.”) Put your money and your organizational skills where your mouth is, I say….

More on the game:

Can’t avoid it: Diggins an All-Star on, off the court

Not even Drake’s infatuation can throw Skylar Diggins off her game.

From Elliot: Stanford graduates Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike meet again as WNBA all stars

Nneka Ogwumike could afford to play the charitable big sister last weekend when her Los Angeles Sparks demolished Chiney Ogwumike’s Connecticut Sun 90-64 in basketball’s version of Family Feud.

While running down the court in the second half, Nneka told Chiney, “Hey, tie your shoe.”

Always the protector, Chiney recounted this week as she and her sister prepared for round two Saturday in the WNBA all-star game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

More on the sisters from Doug: Ogwumike sisters headline WNBA All-Star reserves

Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike became the first pair of sisters to be chosen to participate in the WNBA All-Star game when the league announced the reserves on Tuesday night.

“It means the world to me because, honestly, I didn’t expect to come to the league and be able to feel like a confident player,” Chiney Ogwumike said of the honor. “You expect rookie struggles, and I have struggled at times, but I have great teammates who lift me up, and I have an organization that gives me so much confidence. And to be there alongside my sister. … I think it’s just awesome and I feel blessed.”

The sisters are amazing enough for the NY Times to have given them some space: Rivalry Begins for Sisters With Ambition – Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Sisters and No. 1 Picks, Face Off

Shortly after she was selected in April as the No. 1 overall pick in the W.N.B.A. draft by the Connecticut Sun, Chiney Ogwumike moved into her own apartment. During her first visit, Ify Ogwumike, Chiney’s mother, presented her second-oldest daughter with a housewarming gift that carried a not-so-subtle message, a study guide for the Graduate Record Examination.

“She put it purposely on my night stand,” Chiney Ogwumike said this month. “It’s ominous, watching me all the time.”

Brittney Griner set for 1st healthy WNBA All-Star Game

Around this time a year ago, Brittney Griner wasn’t in a good place. The Mercury center was struggling to recover from a sprained left knee and brooding over the realization that she would have to miss the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game.

Sitting out any game is no fun for an athlete. Sitting out your first All-Star Game after being voted in by the fans in your rookie season — that takes disappointment to another level.

“It sucked,” Griner said. “It definitely sucked, not being able to play and having to sit there and watch everybody else. It was horrible.”

And yes, we noticed: Griner blossoming in WNBA after rough first year

Which is why Swish Appeal has a Q&A with Diana Taurasi: Phoenix Mercury’s hot start, Brittney Griner’s improvement, the WNBA title chase

What about those Merc? Deflecting Brondello leads Mercury rise

Right, the players make the plays and it’s wise for a coach to keep everyone aware of it.

“Obviously, the organization and detailed work that Sandy’s put in every day has kind of made us really focus going into games,” Taurasi said of Brondello, a former world-class guard from Australia whom she played for in Russia the past two winters. “Knowing what we’re doing on both sides of the ball … that’s really helped.”

VIDEO: From Ben and the .com: Taurasi and Catchings (Please, please, pleeeease let them both be in Turkey!!!)

From Jayda: The Storm’s Brian Agler talks about his team and its struggles

Q: The roster has suffered a few setbacks. How do you think the team has handled adversity headed into the All-Star break?

Agler: There’s been a lot of inconsistencies with our team this year. Like a lot of teams, we haven’t had a lot of time to practice because the season is 2½ weeks shorter. … I don’t think our defense has been up to par with the (Storm) teams in the past. I see that as a lack of court time because there are some things that need practice repetition. But we talk about it and understand the importance. So, that’s our focus, to become consistent on the quality of our play.

Shoni rules the World of Jersey. (The jersey that you wear, silly!)

Speaking of Shoni, from the Journal-Courier: Schimmel, McCoughtry stick with U of L roots

Shoni Schimmel and Angel McCoughtry are enjoying their first season as teammates on the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and the partnership of the two greatest alumnae in University of Louisville women’s basketball history will reach new heights on Saturday when they both start in the league’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

From USA Today, David Woods asks: Who is the greatest women’s basketball player ever?

It’s easy to ignite discussion in a bar or chat room on who’s the greatest male basketball player of all time. M.J. or Kareem? Wilt or Russell? What about LeBron?

What about the female players?

That might be a more difficult conversation. Not because there aren’t candidates, but because it’s a list that can’t easily be pared.

“It’s just like the NBA or the NFL. You can’t say there’s one player because that’s how good the game is, and that’s how much it’s evolved over the years,” said Kelly Krauskopf, president and general manager of the Indiana Fever. “That’s the way it should be.”

In other news:

Catching up with Texas Tech’s “no tolerance” policy: Texas Tech reinstates Nigel Bethel II and Video of Nigel Bethel Punching Amber Battle During Texas Tech Pickup Basketball Game Emerges After Grand Jury Dismisses Charges

Cool: Sugden makes history at the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships

From Paul (who I hope to cross paths with in Istanbul): Waiting for the youth scene to catch fire in 2014

Having written last week about the various shortcomings on court at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, I have to confess my spirit was barely lifted by the U20 European Championship Women.

The play seemed to me at least, to be of an inferior quality to many previous editions. The Final itself, between eventual winners France and their opponents Spain, was exciting in terms of its conclusion due to the fact it went to overtime.

But, whichever way you dress it up and even taking into account the mitigation of some excellent defense – which was highlighted by Spanish senior team boss Lucas Mondelo – it was not the spectacle you would expect and epitomised much of the tournament.

From Connecticut: KML ready for senior moment

For three years, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has talked about looking up to the likes of Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, and Stefanie Dolson on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

But the tables have now turned on the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native. She and Kiah Stokes are the only seniors on the Huskies’ 2014-15 roster.

“There is definitely a lot more pressure, and a lot more responsibility,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “But the people on this team, they take care of themselves.”

Oops and ouch: Naje Gibson, a talented women’s basketball recruit, will not attend Pitt this year as she is academically ineligible.

From the Ames Tribune: “Fab Five” freshmen add versatility, depth to ISU

Rare has been the year in Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly’s tenure that he could call upon nine or 10 players in a given game or even play a proper five-on-five scrimmage without one team blowing out the other.

That may change this season.

More from Iowa: Polish team takes a chance on injured Poppen

Chelsea Poppens knew that her stock was down after rupturing her ACL in January during her stint in Australia and that any overseas professional team picking her up for the upcoming winter season would be taking a chance.

Lublin of the Polish league took that chance on the 6-foot-2 former Iowa State forward this week, signing Poppens for the upcoming season that starts in September, about one month after she is tentatively projected to fully recover from her injury.

More international basketball news: For Fort Gibson ex, this move requires a passport

Slowly, over the course of time, Carissa Crutchfield has drifted away from home.

That current joins with a tidal wave in a few weeks.

From Fort Gibson to Oklahoma State to the University of Arizona, Crutchfield will head to Krasnoyarsky Russia, to begin a pro basketball career. It’s Russia, but smack-dab in the middle of Siberia, 2,500 miles or a five-hour flight from the capital city of Moscow.

From the Daily Californian: Cal women’s basketball must develop role players

Depth was a major issue for the Bears last season, and it was evident in their lack of a second-string point guard to back up Boyd. When Boyd left the floor to rest or because of foul trouble, Gottlieb was forced to play Afure Jemerigbe at point guard. The Bears also had little depth behind Gray and hit lulls in scoring whenever she left the floor.

Despite losing a major cog in Brandon, Cal projects to bounce back, improving its role players as well as its main stars. Gottlieb’s quick-paced tempo complements Boyd and Gray with the Bears running up and down the court every chance they get. Gottlieb plays to the team’s strengths, allowing Boyd and other wings to gamble and trap around the perimeter to force turnovers, leading to easy buckets in transition.

Tough news from down the road:

Former Campbell Hall girls’ basketball standout Lauren Holiday has taken a medical retirement from basketball at UCLA.

She will remain with the team as an undergraduate assistant.

Holiday suffered from multiple concussions and was the subject of a Times’ story last February looking at head injuries among women athletes.

Fun stuff: Central Kitsap’s new girls basketball coach Nikki Nelson a dribbling phenom

Nelson, a Chewelah native (that’s about an hour north of Spokane if you didn’t know) was a ball-handling wunderkind and can probably still get it done today.Check out this video of Nelson performing at halftimeat a Seattle SuperSoncis game (remember them?) on April 4, 2014

More from the Courier-Journal crew: Walz ready to replace U of L women’s vets (and congrats on the munchkin, Jeff!)

On Tuesday, U of L coach Jeff Walz said his program is on task and headed in the right direction, despite the challenges presented by the departures of WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel, standout forward Asia Taylor and two other key seniors.

Having five freshmen ready to play is a big factor in that transition, Walz said.

“I’m really excited about where they are now and even more excited about where they’ll be in two or three months,” Walz said.

The freshman class is built around wing Mariya Moore, a McDonald’s All-American who will play for the USA under-18 team this summer. Walz is an assistant coach for that team.

A little more from Louisville: Jeff Walz summer Q&A, WNBA, newcomers, more

All right, I’m going to admit something. University of Louisville coach Jeff Walz held a news conference to update some news with his women’s basketball program today, but I got distracted by his 13-month-old daughter, Lola, during the news conference and only caught about half of what he said.

So here’s a transcript of a portion his news conference from today — with the obligatory Lola photo gallery attached

Good news in Nashville: Vanderbilt’s Rebekah Dahlman back after health scare

“I stepped off the court and I was like, ‘Something is wrong,'<TH>” Dahlman said. “I took off my arm sleeve and I just noticed that my arm was completely black and blue and very swollen. Like double the size of my left arm.”

What happened next is a blur in Dahlman’s memory. Trainers rushed her to the emergency room at the university’s medical center.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” Dahlman said. “I didn’t know what to think and didn’t know what to do.”

From Georgia’s Telegraph: Lady Vols’ Massengale eager for comeback

Tennessee is preparing to welcome back a senior point guard while monitoring the status of an ailing post player.

Ariel Massengale is looking forward to returning for her senior season after missing the final 16 games of the 2013-14 season with a head injury. Massengale, who also underwent offseason surgery on her right knee, says she’s hoping to be 100 percent by the start of the school year next month.

While Massengale awaits her return, sophomore center Mercedes Russell is recovering from offseason surgery to her right foot. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Russell is out kind of indefinitely right now” and was uncertain whether the injury would affect the 6-foot-6 center’s status for the start of the season.

Sports Illustrated on a former Vol: Where are they now: Catching up with Chamique Holdsclaw

She turned herself in to the police two days later and spent a night in jail, where heckling inmates challenged her to  games of one-on-one. Holdsclaw finally decided to deal with her depression. “This wasn’t the court saying that I had to do therapy or anything of that sort,” she strains to note. “This was all me trying to get things right in my life.”

On her lawyer’s recommendation, she hired a forensic psychologist to audit her medical records; he referred her to another psychologist who, after a 15-minute review, revealed that she didn’t just have clinical depression she also had bipolar II disorder. “And I’m like, Man, you got all that in 15 minutes?”

The news was upsetting but also came as a relief. Now there was and explanation for the the emotional swings she had experienced. Furthermore, the psychologist noted, Holdsclaw was not only taking the wrong drugs to treat the wrong ailment, but also taking them at the wrong times. After switching to a new drug, Depakote, a mild mood stabilizer, and a new therapist with whom she meets with once a week, she has noticed a major difference. “Looking back,” she says, “I really should’ve been in therapy more. It’s changed my life. It’s like you come in one person and leave another.”

The fabulous Nancy Fahey and her amazing Washington U (St. Louis) program goes dunlin‘.

Dicky V is all wet:

And are the stripped shirts!

Signing off! Thank you, oh Coffee Shoppe, for your internet access….

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Well, not so much if you’re a Sparks fan, but HEY, what a great game to have on ESPN, no? Debbie must have been thrilled: the Sparks shot 48% and the Dream 53%.  Atlanta had a RIDICULOUS 68 pts. in the paint (and Shoni added 7 assists).

Langhorne is still gettin’ her groove on, but Bird’s cold night against the balanced Mercury doomed Seattle. 

In wise news: Fordham held on to coach Gaitley.

In sad news: Texas A&M-Commerce players Aubree Butts and Devin Oliver died in a Tuesday car crash.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy and a loss that is felt by the entire university community,” A&M-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones said in a release. “It is made more grievous by the dreams that will not be fulfilled. Our prayers go out to the loved ones of those we have lost.”

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like a bunch of clueless, self-delusional, profoundly tone-deaf  dingbats.

The university changed its stance, granting Romero a release as a result of a newly modified policy that allows athletic director John Currie the freedom to release student-athletes if new information or circumstances warrant the release.

When we see one person standing in opposition to a large entity, passions can be easily inflamed as people empathize. It’s the mini versus the monolith.

But that’s even more the case when, no matter how hard you look, you can’t figure out what the monolith stands to gain by exercising its power. Ultimately, that’s why so many people were baffled and angered by Kansas State’s treatment of women’s basketball player Leticia Romero.

“I’m thrilled for Leticia — this is what she deserved all along,” Romero’s attorney Donald Jackson said Tuesday morning. “I think Kansas State made the right decision and we’re thrilled about it. Sometimes things like this take a little time, but I congratulate the athletic director and the board at K-State on the decision they made.
Dang, but don’t I love a little sarcastic, subtle gloating….
Moving to a happier place: Rookie Alert!!!
BOOM! McBride drops 30 and the winner.
Story of the Game: Both teams were insanely hot from outside in the first half, combining to hit the first 11 three-point shots attempted. There were under four minutes left in the half when Shameka Christon tossed up the first missed three of the evening. The star of the show amongst the floor-wide bombing was a former Notre Dame guard – but not the one who tends to get all the press. Kayla McBride was smoking hot from the perimeter, not afraid to put the ball on the floor to create easier looks, and even made a couple of nice passes along the way as well. This is why Dan Hughes took her #3 in the recent draft, ahead of players like Alyssa Thomas and Natasha Howard who might’ve filled a more obvious hole on his roster.

Moments after becoming the first WNBA player to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games, holding a bag of ice on the five stitches over her right eye, Lynx forward Maya Moore was making the point that it’s not all her.

“Of course they are going to see I scored 30, looking at the points,” said Moore, who had 30 points in just under 31 minutes in Saturday’s victory over the New York Liberty. “But my teammates do so much for me. It’s all a team aggression; I just try to set the tone in the beginning.’’

(how cranky am I? I’ll be in Minny for a conference and the Lynx are on the road. Who’s in charge of scheduling!)
In the “it’s about time” category: Braxton waived. So much talent, so determined to squander it….
If you wanna catch up on WNBA games, check out Richard at WNBAlien.
Connecticut’s Carl Ademac catches up with old OLD Big East foe Barnes Arico: Ex-Red Storm coach is all ‘Go Blue’ at Michigan
“The Midwest is terrific,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and the people in Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan have been so welcoming. The people in Michigan are all about the Block M and all about Michigan. I put on a Michigan t-shirt and go anywhere from California to Paris, France, somebody sees me and goes, ‘Go Blue.’ So it’s just the tradition and the pride, and to be able to work at a University that has all that is incredible. I’m loving it and enjoying it.
From the Sports Business Education Network: Muffet McGraw’s Keynote Address, “Women in Leadership
Speaking of leadership: Congrats to St. Francis’ third year head coach John Thurston as St. Francis Brooklyn women’s basketball team has been invited to the pre-season WNIT for the first time in program history.
In USA Basketball news, the U-18 team was announced. Check out Clay Kallam’s notes from the 17s and 18s tryouts.
Speaking of USA Basketball, from Anna Wilson: Red White and Dream Come True
Last year I was invited to participate in the USA U16 national team trials. Unfortunately, I was not selected to be a part of the team and missed out on the FIBA Americas U16 championship in Cancun, Mexico. This year I was invited back to Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for the USA U17 world championship team, and this time I had more experience and more confidence. And I made the team.
Q: Team USA, coached by Geno Auriemma, will look to retain the gold medal at the FIBA world championship for women Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. What is the process of reducing the current pool of players down to 12?
Interesting flashback from Emily Nkosi: Basketball, Jesus and young lesbian identity in Waco, Texas

“I will always worry about Emily.”

That is what coach Kim Mulkey said about me in her book, Won’t Back Down. Though this is not a flattering line to have your basketball coach write about you, I actually appreciate it. I have been worried about me too, and with good reason.

Things have not been easy for me over the past decade. I don’t think my struggle is particularly unique. We all have struggles. The clearer I get on my own pain, the more compassion and authenticity I have in relating to the world around me. I hope I can share parts of my story and my pain in a way that others can relate to and learn from. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s not about setting the record straight or telling my side of the story in my own words, but rather trying to excavate the hard earned nuggets of wisdom that, if shared, could help someone else avoid the same mistakes or feel less alone.

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I don’t really pay the WNBA pre-season much mind since folks are still abroad and the games are full of names we won’t hear come opening night.

But, this totally stinks: Jeanette Pohlen to Miss 2014 WNBA Season with Torn Achilles Tendon

Hope springs eternal: Revamped Sun, Hoping to Put 2013 Behind, Prepare For Liberty Exhibition

Video: Beyond the Beat – Donovan and Chiney

Noise maker: Follow the leader: Lynx’s Moore becoming more vocal

Video: Old Friends, Together Again (Hartley/Dolson)

The Bun is back in the Land of the Sun and  Training Camp: The “Most Aggressive Thing”

Every team constantly works on their defense throughout the year.

The difference, however, is how they do so.

In Sandy Brondello’s system, working on defense begins with the absolute smallest of details. From the angle the players have their feet planted to how to properly work around pick-and-rolls from various locations on the floor, Brondello wants the Mercury to be aggressive (but smart) on the defensive end.

In Atlanta, it’s Shoni time!

Soon after the Atlanta Dream selected Shoni Schimmel with the No. 8 overall pick in the WNBA draft, coach

Michael Cooper had a conversation with his new guard.

“This is where you’re going to be ‘Showtime’ Schimmel,” Cooper said.

In college news, Kelly’s back! Purdue Women’s Basketball Adds Komara to Women’s Basketball Staff

Good news: UNC women’s basketball coach Hatchell completes treatment

History on display: Beaded dress from Fort Shaw Indian women’s basketball team unveiled at UM

The blue-beaded ceremonial dress has spent the past century in Beverly Braig’s home, reminding her of the woman who wore it during halftime fundraisers at the turn of the 20th century.

While Braig never met her basketball-playing grandmother, Emma Sansaver, her beaded dress has become something of a legend, remembering one of Montana’s greatest athletic achievements and moments of human triumph.

“She was on the world championship Indian women’s basketball team at Fort Shaw that played in the St. Louis World’s Fair,” Braig said. “My hope is that Emma’s dress will cause a conversation that will be a positive influence on Native students, especially women.

And, what! You’ve not read Full Court Quest. For shaaaaaame!

Clay Evans at the Daily Camera writes: What it’s like to be a gay athlete in Boulder

Read literally, some well-known passages in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament condemn homosexuality (though the Gospel accounts ignore the issue entirely and, curiously, female homosexuality goes unmentioned.) And certainly, homosexuals have been persecuted throughout history (with exceptions; men and boys had sexual relationships in ancient Greece, for example).

But in proportion to other admonitions and calls to action — think, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself” — the issue doesn’t seem have the scaffolding to bear the hefty political and religious weight it has assumed in America. That is, no doubt, partly a continuing conservative reaction against changes wrought in the libertine 1960s, and as any minority presses forward, opposition will always rise.

It’s difficult not to think about that larger picture when reading former CU women’s basketball player Kate Fagan’s fast-paced new memoir, “The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians.”

What? You’ve not read “The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians.” Look deep into my disapproving eyes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Charlie:

Getting ahead: Previewing Baylor vs. Notre Dame

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

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

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

More on the battle of the Gold and Green:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAMU is hoping for for one magic night against undefeated UConn

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

There’s more (thanks Nan!):

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

Charlie is Looking ahead: Louisville vs. Maryland preview

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

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

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

Check out espnW’s Elite Eight picks.

 

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It’s basketball time!

TN/MD:

From the WaPo’s Gene Wagn: Terps see a ‘pretty even matchup’ with top-seeded Lady Vols

From the Diamondback: Women’s basketball looks forward to playing powerhouse Tennessee in Sweet 16

From the Baltimore Sun: After ‘limping’ to Sweet 16 in 2013, Terps women now healthy enough to charge ahead

The AP has: Lady Vols’ Simmons eyes elusive Final Four berth

Dan Fleser adds: Lady Vols hit the NCAA road as experienced travelers

While the Daily Beacon writes: ‘Battle-tested’ Lady Vols look to advance against Maryland

LSU/LOU:

From the AP: Seventh-seeded LSU faces No. 3 seed Louisville

Louisville knows that LSU will be a different team than the one it routed in November.

Not only do the seventh-seeded Tigers (21-12) enter Sunday’s regional semifinal confident following their second-round upset of No. 2 seed West Virginia, they’re unfazed by losing Jeanne Kenney and Raigyne Moncrief to injury in each of their NCAA tournament victories.

Louisville coach Jeff Walz quickly notes how LSU has overcome that adversity, an important fact he hopes his third-seeded Cardinals (32-4) remember because the Lady Tigers are hungry to prove they can play through their obstacles.

Times-Picayune: LSU women’s basketball draws on its past NCAA Tournament experience against Louisville

From the Monroe Star: LSU women limp to Louisville as we hear that a Concussion ends Jeanne Kenney’s career at LSU

From the Courier-Journal: Louisville coach Walz: Early win over LSU means nothing

Oh, and no surprise, a Big crowd is expected

PSU/STAN

From Walt Moody at the Centre Daily Times: Lady Lions take on Stanford in NCAA regional semifinal

To look at the numbers, the task would seem tall for the Penn State women’s — like Mount Everest tall.

Beating Stanford on its home court in the NCAA Tournament rarely happens.

The Pittsburg-Post Gazette’s Mark Dent writes: Familiar situation yet again for Penn State women

 

The AP’s Jane McCauley notes: Stanford’s VanDerveer offers tips to Penn State

For each of the past two summers, Penn State coach Coquese Washington has visited Tara VanDerveer at the Stanford coach’s New York home to talk basketball and, specifically, gather tips on the triangle offense.

“It’s almost like going to graduate school of coaching in six hours,” Washington said with a smile.

Rick Eymer from Palo Alto Online writes: Stanford, Penn State prepare for their Sweet 16 meeting

No surprise, Chiney is Excited to Be Back at Stanford

From Eliot Allmond: Stanford freshman Thompson hits the court running

A year ago, guard Lili Thompson was filling out NCAA brackets and watching games on television like many women’s basketball fans.

Sunday, Stanford is counting on the freshman when the second-seeded Cardinal (31-3) faces No. 3 Penn State in the Sweet 16 at Maples Pavilion.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Thompson said Saturday.

Elliot also notes, it’s a Bittersweet 16 for Stanford women: Ogwumike era winding down

With Ogwumike expected to follow her sister as a No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft next month, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said, “Don’t worry about Chiney. Worry about us.”

Chiney, a 6-foot-4-inch forward with a personality as big as her game, will leave atop Stanford’s Mt. Rushmore of women’s basketball as the Pac-12 Conference’s career-scoring and -rebounding leader. With 2,673 points and 1,532 rebounds, and counting, she passed former Stanford stars Candice Wiggins and Kayla Pedersen in those categories, respectively.

Marcus Thompson II writes: 

For a program that’s been to five of the last six Final Fours, there’s a sense of urgency present among the Stanford women.

Star forward Chiney Ogwumike is closing her stellar career. And unlike in past years, the Cardinal doesn’t have a clear candidate to carry the torch for the storied program. The string of elite players Stanford has enjoyed looks to be on the brink of disruption.

So might Stanford’s tradition of dominance.

UNC/USC

Yup, Gamecocks Take on North Carolina Tar Heels in Sweet 16

Since UNC handed South Carolina its first loss early in the season, both teams have improved. The Gamecocks have gelled offensively after making an increased commitment to taking advantage of the athleticism in the post provided by Aleighsa Welch, Alaina Coates, and Elem Ibiam. The Tar Heels, like many young teams, have begun showing flashes of greatness late in the season, although the ugly first half against Tennessee-Martin suggests they still have streaks of bad basketball in them.

Tara’s not just mentoring Co. Writes Ann Killion at the SF Gate: VanDerveer passed on coaching’s golden rules to Staley

The Stanford women’s basketball team is back in the familiar comfort of Maples Pavilion. But one thing about this postseason isn’t so comfortable: The Cardinal are not the top seed in their own regional.

That distinction belongs to South Carolina, which has the first No. 1 seed in the history of its program. If the top two seeds meet in the regional final Tuesday night, it will be a matchup of old friends. Of mentor and protege.

Grace Raynor at the Daily Tar Heel: UNC women’s basketball team will face South Carolina in California

It hurts, North Carolina forward Xylina McDaniel said.

To see the emotion on her face, to feel the hurt in the undertones of her voice when she speaks, to know that after months of leukemia treatments and weeks in the hospital, Sylvia Hatchell is so close — yet still so far away.

With each day that passes, with each game that is played with Hatchell still sidelined, the only thing the North Carolina women’s basketball team has known to do is play in her honor. To hope — and to keep winning.

Speaking of coach, from Mike Potter at the Charlotte Observer: UNC women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell gives Tar Heels Final Four motivation

Ryan Wood says USC is ready for Payback against UNC

Michelle Smith writes: Carolinas are ready to battle it out

The Gamecocks now find themselves in a position to alter their own world in an impactful way, coming into the Stanford Regional as a No. 1 seed with a chance to earn a trip to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history.

So the question is, can the Gamecocks tap into their mantra of change on the court as well and defeat fourth-seeded North Carolina Sunday to advance to their first regional final?

And, yes, the Buzzing Tar Heels rely on DeShields in Sweet 16 round and USC knows Stopping UNC rookie DeShields a tough task

“You can take away something but then I’m pretty well-rounded,” DeShields said. “I feel like once you take one thing, I’ll just go do something else. If you put a short guard on me, a quick guard, then I’ll just go post up. If you put a long wing on me, and I’ll go by them.

“You know, certain players are just going to do what they do. You can only hope to contain them – and I’m blessed to have people say that about me.”

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#2 Notre Dame is rollin’, rollin’, rollin‘ the ACC. regular and, most likely, post-season. And yes, it was nice for UNC to defeat Duke, but let’s remember who the Blue Devils had riding the bench. That being said, congrats to Coach Hatchell, presented the 2014 Kay Yow Champion Award (h/t Sheila).

#7 West Virginia is upsettin’, upsettin’, upsettin’ the Big 12 (as most of the teams are free-falling). From Nate:

Just a week ago, SB Nation’s West Virginia site The Smoking Musket had a post updescribing why the Mountaineers women’s basketball team wasn’t getting the respect they deserve in the national polls.

Well, the team handled business on the court on Sunday to fix that.

With a win over Baylor in Waco on Sunday, they’re now ranked #7/8 in the polls and right on pace for a #2 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament (barring something crazy like Duke winning theACC tournament happening). And the narrative of what makes this team a potential sleeper in the hunt for a final four spot has taken hold: veteran experience (sorry, Albert).

#1 UConn is stompin’, stompin’, stompin’ the AAC, with #3 Louisville hoverin’, hoverin‘ hoverin’ right behind. And, as always, “Thanks, Graham.” Cardinals, community embrace Shoni – Fans come from all corners for senior night, Native American Appreciation Night

Schimmel finished with nine points, again unable to crack the code against one of the only teams left to beat. Four times she tried in the past 14 months. Four times the shots didn’t fall.

What was remarkable was that 22,163 people cleared off their cars or waited out airlines after yet another blast of winter overnight in the Louisville area and then trudged over uncleared downtown sidewalks because they believe in her.

Native American fans. Louisville fans. Basketball fans.

Anyone who appreciates a good story, really.

“I know a lot of people were traveling, and a lot of people were coming here,” Schimmel said. “And so, you know, it’s great for them to travel across the country to watch a game that’s on TV. It’s very special to me because they are Native American, and they’re coming out to just watch us. For them to do that, it’s pretty cool.”

Boink! Stony Brook shocked the heck outta the Danes, 66-56. The Seawolves earned the second seed in the conference tourney, because UNH lost to Maine (I warned ya about ’em).

The Flyers are atop the A-10, but the conference tourney championship is no guarantee.

Wow, what a traffic jam in the Big 10!! But the story of the week was (thanks, Swish Appeal) Purdue’s senior day win over Nebraska includes surprise return of KK Houser.

Most assumed KK Houser had played her last game on Keady Court after she tore her ACL in East Lansing against Michigan State a month ago. Fortunately for KK she would play for the fans in Mackey one more time. KK came out and went through warm-ups and started the game Sunday alongside April Wilson, Liza Clemons and fellow seniors Dee Dee Williams and Courtney Moses. KK played the first 2:34. While KK was a bit of a defensive liability Purdue had a 2-0 lead when she checked out…KK Houser entered the game briefly at end before returning to the bench amid a standing ovation. In those last minutes she was able to pull down two rebounds.

JMU recovered from its “WTH?” loss to the College of Charleston, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll get much of a threat from the rest of the CAA folks.

Phoenix and Penguins and Raiders, “Oh, my!” That’s the Horizon.

Ah, the “don’t pigeon hole me” Ivy. It’s the Quakers, Tigers and Crimson. (Coach Delaney-Smith has tied the record for most wins by Ivy League coach.) From Mel:

The victory for Penn (19-6, 9-2 Ivy League) put this edition of the Quakers to second all-time in program history behind the 22 in 2000-01 that belonged to the first of two contingents that became Ivy champs.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s bunch have stayed the course while losing critical parts of the roster, the most recent this past week when Katy Allen was lost the rest of the way after suffering a foot injury.

But Kathleen Roche, a 5-11 junior guard, stepped up big time, knocking down six three-pointers, one short of a Penn record, on the way to 20 points.

“It’s incredible how people step up and Keen works extra hard, she’s in the gym before all of us and it really showed tonight,” Baron said. “Even with Katy out, it really hurts us, but it just shows that other people like (freshman) Stephanie Cheyney (seven points off the bench) or others are willing to step up.”

Penn goes up against Princeton March 11th. Will a NCAA bid be on the line?

This is why I’m glad I’m not on the Selection Committee: Marist gets its revenge on Iona, and the MAAC is now all tied up. Let’s say they meet a third time, this time in the conference championship. What do you do with the loser? Oh, and from Kevin Armstrong at the NY Daily News: Hoosiers on the Hudson: How Brian Giorgis transformed little Marist into monster mid-major women’s basketball program.

Giorgis laughed; glasses clinked. A teetotaler known to down Diet Cokes as early as 5 a.m., Giorgis looked at the crowd. He outlined the demands of maintaining a top midmajor program, accruing a .778 winning percentage over the last 11 winters, winning 10 consecutive conference titles, collecting five NCAA Tournament victories and outdrawing 7 of 10 men’s teams in the MAAC. He spared the supporters the specifics of his side obsession, declining to mention the memorabilia shrine dedicated to Derek Jeter in his bedroom or the emails from eBay that ping on his phone when he gets outbid by a competitor. Balance, to Giorgis, is keeping a photo of himself holding a T-206 Honus Wagner card on the same office shelf with a glass slipper that a fan gifted him to celebrate a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in 2007. He daydreams about claiming another.

“It’s been a nice fairy tale,” he said. 

The Mid-American is equally vexing, with Central Michigan and Bowling Green looking like the cream of the crop. The Chippewas overall record likely excludes them from the NCAAs, but what do you do with the Falcons if CMU wins? Oh, did you catch this at SlamOnline? Chip Shot – Crystal Bradford is creating a legacy at Central Michigan.

Crystal Bradford’s mother had a vision that her daughter would go to Central Michigan, a program that before last season hadn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1984.

“My mom really wanted me to go here,” the Detroit native recalls. “I really didn’t want to. But she kept saying, ‘I had a vision,’ and ‘God’s got a plan for you.’” A bit dubious, but ready to create a legacy, CB turned down the likes of Louisville and Michigan State and traveled northwest to put Mt. Pleasant, MI, on the map.

After leading the Chippewas in points, rebounds, blocks and steals as a soph in 2012-13, she exploded onto the national scene in March when she hung 36 points, 14 rebounds and 7 steals on 2-seeded Oklahoma in the Tourney.

Hampton is top dog in the MEAC, but their final game is against second place North Carolina A&T. Can the Bulldogs sink the Pirates?

I take my eye off Wichita, get swamped by work, and what happens? They lose three straight. Suddenly the Missouri Valley crown is up for grabs, and the Sycamores are interested.

Hello? Colorado State rules the Mountain West? They got their revenge (at home) v. Fresno State. Can they end the season (at home) and get even with Wyoming? From the Mountain West Connection: 

A team that was picked to finish seventh in the preseason polls had completed a stunning one-year turnaround filled with record breaking performances en route to their first title in twelve years. The numerous records they set read much better in list form…

  • Most three pointers in a game (19)
  • First triple-double in Colorado State history (Ellen Nystrom)
  • Largest margin of victory since 2001 (60 points vs Air Force)
  • Second fewest points allowed (28 vs. Air Force)
  • First victory at The Pit in 16 years
  • First season with two 100-point games since 2001
  • Most Mountain West victories ever (14 and counting)
  • Third most free throws made (34)
  • Three players with double-doubles in one game in 35 years
  • Second-most assists in CSU history (14, Gritt Ryder)
  • Fourth longest home winning streak (12 and counting)

… I think you get the point. All of these accolades are even more astounding when you think of where this team was just a year ago. After a disappointing tenure under Coach Kristen Holt, Ryun Williams and an all-star cast of former head coaches were brought in to restore the Rams to their former glory days.

Doesn’t look like UT Martin will get much of a challenge in Ohio Valley (throwing salt over her shoulder).

Yah, Stanford is still the boss of the Pac-12, but anyone else detecting some fault lines in their throne? (Oh, and anyone want a job? Oregon won’t renew contract of coach Paul Westhead)

Sure, Navy took the conference title (first outright Patriot League regular season title in school history), but Army and American have taken their measure ain’t they ain’t afraid. Bring on the conference tournament!

The Mocs are unblemished in the Southern. The danger is looking ahead to the NCAA brackets. Take care of business, and then see what the Foster-led team can do against non-conference folks.

Honestly, the Southland is a bit of a hot mess. That last game between Central Arkansas v. Stephen F. Austin could set the tone for their conference tourney.

Speaking of hot messes — look no further than the Blue Raider-less Sun Belt.

It’s Gonzaga (10th straight conference title) or whoever can put together a great game in the WCC.

It looks like the WAC will give the NCAA tourney a Road Runner, a Vandal (first regular season title!) or an Antelope. It’s like choosing your favorite child!

ESPN gets into the swing of Conference Tourney Time:

SLIDESHOW: CONFERENCE FROSH OF THE YEAR

SLIDESHOW: LEAGUE COACHES OF THE YEAR

Full Court starts with their Bubble Wrap 2014: Who’s headed to the Big Dance? (Week 1)

They also offer up a 2014 SEC Tournament preview: More competitive than ever

The days of at least a semi-predictable SEC Tournament are long gone, and perhaps no more so than this season. This year, the conference was so competitive — not only at the very top, but all the way from top to bottom — that when the regular season finally wrapped up on Sunday, conference administrators were likely whipping out their sliderules to compute all the tie breakers.

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and again, I don’t blame the pollsters, I simply think it underscores how much talent is spread across multiple teams. As someone who is not on the inside, I wonder if it’s a year when certain coaches are being exposed  – both in a good and bad way.

It the last few days #21 Nebraska went down to Northwestern (a team that seems to always be a threat, but hasn’t gotten over the hump to be a consistent power).

#12 Baylor (not Sims)  took down #8 Oklahoma State (was highest ranking ever for the Cowgirls) in OT, of course, 69-66.

#18 North Carolina State over #8 Maryland, 72-63, the Terps third straight loss.

Georgia (!) over #13 Kentucky (who was missing Bernisha Pinkett), 58-56, which has Mitchell “fighting the worry bug.

After being down by 18, it was Syracuse over #6 North Carolina, 78-73.

Missouri (‘s bench) over #16 Vanderbilt, 59-54.

And yes I noticed the escapees:

#2 Notre Dame-Lloyd over #8 Maryland, 87-83.

#10 South Carolina over #16 Vanderbilt, 61-57 (live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three).

#14 Arizona State over Colorado, 68-66.

#11 Oklahoma State over TCU, 49-48.

#12 Penn State over #19 Purdue, 75-72.

#10 Tennessee over Arkansas, 70-60.

#3 Duke over Miami, 76-75.

#4 Stanford over a very stubborn #21 Cal, 70-64. (And watch out, ’cause yes, Harberts has USC surpassing expectations)

#15 Arizona State over Oregon State, 64-62.

#5 Louisville (where life is Schimmel-iscious) over (ambitions) Rutgers, 80-71.

In other games of interest:

Iona over the MAAC.

JMU over the CAA.

Hampton over the MEAC.

Wichita State over the MVC.

UT Martin over the OVC.

With at least seven weeks left in her college basketball career, Heather Butler is working to get the UT Martin women’s basketball team back into the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, the senior guard from Medina broke an individual record Saturday that had stood since before she was born.

Butler is now the all-time leading scorer in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Albany over the America East because 1) Shereesha Richards: Albany soph shoots lights out of America East and

The University at Albany women’s basketball coaching staff has tried to get senior Tammy Phillip to shoot the ball, but it’s a hard sell for the 5-foot-11 guard who spent a lot of her time growing up in the British Virgin Islands as a track athlete specializing in, among other things, the long jump and high jump.

Today, she uses perfectly timed leaps to come away with an eye-popping number of rebounds. And that’s on a team that includes 6-foot-9 center Megan Craig and forward Shereesha Richards, who leads the America East in rebounds this season.

Navy over the Patriot and…cool! Dowling becomes first Navy women’s basketball player to have jersey retired

Becky Dowling Calder made history by becoming the first female pilot to graduate from the United States Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, an elite program commonly known as Top Gun. The 1998 Naval Academy graduate went on to fly F/A-18 Hornet jets with distinction.

***
“I’m extremely humbled to be the first player in program history to have my jersey retired. I’m proud, but what makes me most happy is knowing that I won’t be the last,” she said. “There are so many women who are just as deserving and it makes me feel good that what happened today will lead to others receiving the same honor.”

The Penguins over the Horizon.

Central Arkansas over the Southland.

FGCU over the A-Sun.

Central Michigan over the MAC.

South Dakota State over the Summit.

New Hampshire is now 5-1 in the America East.

Arizona is now 0-9 in the Pac-12. This seat is hot! hot! hot!

George Mason is 0-8 in the A10.

Nice win for St. Louis over St. Joseph’s, 69-65.

Important win for St. Mary’s over BYU in the very entertaining WCC. With San Diego losing to Pacific, it does seem that #22 Gonzaga is the conference’s top dog.

Huge win for High Point‘ over Liberty – and it was in DOUBLE OT.

It wasn’t a matter of if High Point University women’s coach DeUnna Hendrix thought a trio of freshmen would mesh together and become a key piece of the puzzle for the Panthers this season.

As far as the when, she didn’t expect it to come quite as early as a unit of guard Kaylah Keys, wing Teddy Vincent and center DeAnneisha Jackson have helped HPU win eight of its past 10 games, improve to 13-8 and climb into first place in the Big South at 9-3 with Thursday’s double-overtime win at perennial power Liberty.

Clemson and Georgia Tech added to our OT list as it was the Tigers over the Yellow Jackets by 1.

In anticipation: Sunday, ESPN2 @ 2pm: #2 Notre Dame at #3 Duke

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UConn’s Morgan Tuck To Have Surgery, out for season, leaving the Huskies with 8 scholarship players for the rest of the season. (7 for their next game: Banks is out with an ankle sprain.)

You can hear coaches game planning: “What we need to do is get them into foul trouble.” True, but not as easy as it sounds. UConn has adjusted nicely to the new rules, especially considering the fierce defense they play. Things could get interesting in the paint!

Speaking of interesting:

Gaels are now 9-0 in the MAAC. Their biggest threats the rest of the (conference) season lurks at the end of their schedule: Quinnipiac and Marist.

As mentioned, big win for Cynthia Cooper as USC takes down #19 California. (Somebody stop Ariya Crook, writes Nick Kranz) With some nice recruits coming in next year, things are looking good for the Trojan program.

Staying with the Pac 12, Oregon surprised Washington State and earned their first conference win.

The #14 Sun Devils needed free throws to escape the Utes and, in the battle of great names (Nyingifa v Ogwumike), it was close in the first half but #4 Stanford pulled away in the second for a 17pt win over UCLA.

In the Battle of CAA Unbeatens, JMU returns to the Beast of the CAA role with 74-47 win over Drexel.

Upcoming games of interest:

Sunday brings us a little SEC “legit” road test: #10 South Carolina v. #16 Vanderbilt (2pm ESPN2) followed by #11 Tennessee v. #17 Texas A&M at 4pm. BTW, Dave’s podcast asks: #WhyNotVandy? Melanie Balcomb & Vanderbilt host South Carolina in a battle of SEC upstarts.

“Big Monday” means USC v. Stanford for the top spot in the Pac 12. Which means  Tina Thompson and Candice Wiggins will do a little Twitter ‘Smack Talk’

From Todd Carton: Can the Terps stop the Irish Invasion?

Glenn Logan worries about Kentucky:

I hate to say it, but right now, the women’s Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is just not very good. They are shooting the ball extremely poorly, and the object of the game of basketball, or at least one of the two main ones, is to put the ball into the basket. Kentucky is defending well enough to win, but when they simply cannot score.

Better, but a lot of ground to be made up: Texas women’s basketball still struggling to reinvigorate fan base – Over past decade, average home attendance has declined by half

Spotlight #1: Dunbar’s Rowe poised to become Middle Tennessee’s all-time scoring leader

Also the school’s all-time rebound leader, Rowe is averaging 22.2 points and 11.7 rebounds this season. She has 16 double-doubles, including 10 in a row, and a school-record 69 in her career.

“I’m not the fanciest, I can’t do the best moves, not the quickest, can’t jump the highest. But I’m just in a system that all five people on the court know what to do, and we work so well together.”

Spotlight #2: UNC’s Diamond DeShields dares to dream

UNC’s leading scorer can splice two defenders, perform pirouettes on her way to the basket, make passes that some point guards would never dare try to make. When she makes a routine play by her standards, a highlight reel, “did-you-see-that?!” play by layman’s standards, DeShields, 18, simply smiles, a cheek-to-cheek glow that lifts her 6-foot-1-inch body off the hard court.

“It can make me very happy,” DeShields said of basketball, “but it can also make me really mad.”

Spotlight #3: Jersey girl Mabrey boosts Irish

In WNBA land, Nate has: 2013 Tulsa Shock season review: What kind of talent did Fred Williams inherit?

In the “Please Buy The Sparks” vein, it’s James Bowman with Sparks Watch Day 24: The Vetting Process

SPOILER ALERT!!! That’s 900 wins for Bentley’s Barb Stevens. BTW, the Falcons are undefeated this season, and sit atop the DII poll.

Up next, Jim Foster going for #800.

Don’t have Netflix? Check this out! “Off The Rez,” the documentary about Louisville’s Shoni and Jude Schimmel from the Umatilla reservation, will finally be available for download TODAY, Jan 24, on iTunes and VOD platforms.

Great excuse to remind you of more good stuff (though it’s old): Eight Native Basketball Players You Need to Know Better: Cliff Johns the first Native American to play for legendary NCAA coach Lute Olsen at the University of Arizona; Kenny Dobbs, the all-universe dunking star; University of Kansas and WNBA star guard Angel Goodrich; Hall-of-Famer Reyneldi Becenti who was the first Native American to play in the WNBA; Two-time Continental Basketball Association champion with the Yakama Sun Kings Richard Dionne; GinaMarie Scarpa, cofounder of the Native American Basketball Invitational basketball tournament.

And did you catch this piece from Graham? Green Bay’s Tesha Buck embraces heritage

To understand her is to understand the universality of a father’s influence on a daughter. Her struggles with separation from what was familiar are the same as those of freshmen across the country. So, too, her ability to eventually adapt and thrive in that new setting. It is a story of someone who aspires to live up to the words tattooed above an ink basketball on her torso: Strong Hearted Woman.

To understand why that is only part of the story is to understand that “Strong Hearted Woman” is merely a translation of the words inscribed permanently on her skin. The words themselves are written in the Dakota language. The language of those who came before her. Of where she comes from. A language and a history rarely represented on Division I basketball courts.

Back in November, Brent Cahwe’s 10 Native American Basketball Players to watch this College Basketball season included Tesha and also named Lakota Beatty, Oklahoma State; Keli Warrior, Kansas; Abby Scott, New Mexico State; and Shauna Long, Lamar University.

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Vol fans are hoping the next game is out of state.

Mechelle says “It’s time for Tennessee to just play

If there’s any team that needs to just play this season — and not feel the pressure to play for something — it’s Tennessee.

Sure, the Women’s Final Four will be in Nashville, Tenn., three hours west of Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville. And by the time the national semifinals tip off in Bridgestone Arena on April 6, 2014, it will have been six years since Tennessee last played in the final games of the season. The Candace Parker-led squad brought Tennessee its eighth national championship in April 2008.

Ever since, it’s fair to say the subsequent Lady Vols teams felt a sometimes-debilitating weight of having something to prove, or the need to honor their legendary coach, or the responsibility to support their new coach … or all of the above.

Turtle fans are hoping that their next game doesn’t involve horns (and that Thomas becomes visible).

Oklahoma is hoping their next game doesn’t involve hats.

Penn State is hoping Maggie stays hot.

Cynthia Cooper got her first win of her USC coaching career.

Susie McConnell-Serio got the first win of her Pitt coaching career.

Delaware got its first victory of its post-EDD career.

Fordham was unimpressed with San Francisco.

Iona took down Arizona in OT.

It took St. John’s OT to survive Sacred Heart.

Yes, they lost to AR-Pine Bluff, but every time I see the name Philander Smith, I think of Missouri Arledge (Morris), the first black AAU All American. (And assistant principal

Illinois learned they should beware of Bradley.

Kristy Curry and Alabama learned they should beware of the Mocs.

Texas Southern shows it’s still strong, taking down Tulsa.

Pepperdine surged in the second half to defeat Seattle U.

Injury plagued UCLA falls to #17 Nebraska.

Bowling Green was unfazed by Michigan.

No surprise, Mechelle says Duke remains favorite in ACC as the Blue Devils’ Gray is ready to move on from injury

From Fagan: DePaul takes center stage in Big East

The Big East still exists, except it looks nothing like the Big East we remember.

Gone are the top four teams — Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse — from last season’s final standings. Gone are many of the marquee names that have made Big East women’s basketball arguably the most competitive league in the country over the past decade, including three of last season’s Final Four teams. A number of the old stalwarts (the Catholic 7) remain, but the 2013-14 season will introduce to the country a very different league as Xavier, Creighton and Butler join the fray and try to help keep the league on the map.

Lordy, I hate the loss of the (real) Big East: Huskies heavy favorite in American.

Graham adds: Schimmel back for final act – Equal parts skillful and impetuous, senior is game’s most fascinating character. Fagan offers The five faces of Shoni Schimmel

Previewing the Big 12: Youth will dominate; can OU, too?

Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself asking “Who is that?” while watching games involving Big 12 teams this year. There are a lot of new or unfamiliar faces, with a ton of freshmen and little-known reserves who will try to take more prominent roles.

We’ll start with the obvious: Baylor lost four starters — Brittney Griner, Kimetria Hayden, Jordan Madden and Brooklyn Pope — plus the equivalent of a starter in Destiny Williams. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: They had a nightmare ending to their Baylor careers, with an upset loss to Louisville in the Sweet 16.

That ended Baylor’s attempt to repeat its national championship, and it turned a page on one of the most successful chapters of any Big 12 women’s basketball program.

Charlie says Huskers should set pace in Big Ten, the Lady Vols, Wildcats on top in SEC. Injuries aside, Michelle writes League closing gap with Stanford.

When espnW offered up their  top five at each position, I was intrigued that KML was not #1. Time will tell if I’m sellin’ smoke.

Preseason POY? Rebecca says Nerd City. Mechelle says Gumby. (Or, better, this.)

Cranky about all the conference shifts? Next time you’re reading your favorite sports message board, consider this: 

So it turns out that person you don’t actually know using an alias on that message board may not be who you thought they were. It could just be somebody from a public relations firm who is being paid to try to change your opinion.

That’s what Maryland tried to do following its move to the Big Ten. As you’d expect, a lot of Maryland fans weren’t happy that the school was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and they did what any logical fan would do: they turned to the internet to voice their displeasure.

And according to the emails the Baltimore Sun got its hands on, Maryland hired a public relations form to try to stem the tide of negativity.

So, ya wanna learn more about basketball? This year’s “All Access” is taking on the Triangle for 2013-14: Season-long series will focus on Triangle region’s Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Wolfpack

Nerd City lives…on the football field.

As an educator who uses theatre to address social issues, I’m following the Miami Martin/Incognito story with interest. Thanks to Nate for pointing this out: Man Up –Declaring a war on warrior culture in the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal

I am here to start a fight, because I’m a man and that’s how I solve problems. I’m not here to help you. I am here to fucking hurt you. That’s what I’ve learned in my years as an NFL fan. You have an issue with somebody? You see somebody being stupid? You don’t look the other way. You don’t back down. You strap on your man boots and you shove it through their teeth.

Let me tell you how I know this. I know it because the NFL told me. Take the Dolphins. They suck, but they’re still in the NFL. I’m telling it like it is; that’s what men do.

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(Is that the laziest, over-used, faux adjective of the 20-teens or what!?!?!), it’s just that when I look at the Dream’s 10-1 record, I’m not impressed. Yes, Angel IS On Fire, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s July 9th (ESPN2, 8pm and, Hello .com, the link to Ticketscalper doesn’t work) that I have circled on my schedule. ’cause until then, I still have Chicago (they who stomped the Sparks without a dinged up Syl) and Minnesota (they who also stomped the Sparks, but tomorrow ought to be interesting)  in a very entertaining Finals.

San Antonio reeeeeeally needs to get their team healthy. As do the Fever.

Seattle reeeeeally has to think about who they want to take with the first pick. Though I would agree with this: KeyArena: the WNBA’s best venue

Okay, so maybe Corey’s seat is not so toasty any more. Ah, the taste of victory. And the arrival on court of an Aussie. And the help of NBA friends saying “What the frack are you running?” CT Post’s Kevin Duffy writes: Griner’s time coming, but Saturday belonged to Taurasi

In 2006, Taurasi averaged 25.3 points per contest, the first of her five scoring titles. The following year, she made her playoff debut, guiding the Mercury to the WNBA title. In doing so, she became the seventh player in history to capture championships at the collegiate, professional and Olympic level.

At the time, Griner was in her second year of organized basketball. And she was already the subject of her first Sports Illustrated article.

“(Taurasi) has seen and done it all,” Griner said before Saturday night’s game at Mohegan Sun. “It just makes it easier when you come in and have a leader like that on the court.”

It does, especially when the leader shoots fadeaways off one foot, hits cutters with no-look passes and dominates a pro game with a casual offensive flair you’d expect to see in pick-up.

Hey, Van and Mike are now tied!

Speaking of the (almost) past: From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Thompson’s long ride about to end

Daily vitamins have helped.

So has a healthy diet and a relentless fitness regimen.

But the seemingly ageless Tina Thompson is still 38, no matter how many times she denies herself fast-food French fries. In WNBA time, or by any standards for a professional athlete, that’s pretty old.

What hasn’t gotten old is Thompson’s game, which is why the announcement of her retirement at the end of this season is sad for the WNBA, even though, at the same time, it is completely understandable and somewhat expected.

Speaking of the immediate future, I’m sure tired of the “Three to See,” aren’t you? I mean, what GOOD is it doing? Fan Interest In Rookies Leads The WNBA To Unprecedented Viewership Numbers.

Oh. Never mind!

Speaking of “Oh, never mind,” John at the Courant mines familiar territory: WNBA Roster Size A Problem For Connecticut Sun and Opponents.

Yes, I realize it’s a money issue. (Do the math: 12 teams. $100,000 per team. Approx $1 million from ESPN. It doesn’t add up) And I guess you can’t find players on the road to help you (I mean, ’cause why would you organize this across the league? ’cause it would make too much sense?). But I’ve said this before and I’ve said it again: are you looking for bodies or for actual talent? ’cause there’s a reason the starters +1/2 play all the minutes: the pool of talent isn’t that deep.

If young (or medium young) players want to play in the W and get cut.. do they deserve to be dragged across the country, not playing, maybe not working on their game.. just because you need a body to practice against? Or, because the players want 24 more people to get jobs (therefore not putting the pressure on THEM to perform and survive?)? Or should they, just like officials do, pay for their own professional development and earn a place on the roster?

This is cool!” Staten Island Ballers girls shoot to donate 10,000 basketballs

“We’re hearing the average player doesn’t have a basketball,” said Pete Lisi Jr., owner of Staten Island Paramount, the league’s biggest sponsor. “They can’t play on their own. They can’t practice on their own. One of the missions of the organization is to distribute basketballs to the youth of Staten Island.”

Looking forward to next “$20 if you can name all the teams in the Conference” college basketball season? Notre Dame is: Balanced powers await Irish women

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw has enjoyed the view of the Atlantic Coast Conference the past two seasons.
 
That view has been from the top of a ladder as McGraw was cutting down nets to celebrate the Irish advancing to the Final Four.
Seung Lee tries to stir up a little outrage, and then seems to agree with the number: Power Rankings: No. 5 women’s basketball

The fact that the Cal women’s basketball team, fresh off its first Final Four appearance, is only No. 5 in the power ranking is, personally, hogwash.

Upon further introspection, however, I do think the Bears landing No. 5 is fairer than it seems at face value for two reasons. First, it is just a testament to how successful 2013 was to Cal athletics as a whole. Second, the graduation of the seniors leaves the team thinner and more unknown, making it hard to gauge its potential.

Some coaching spots filled:

Katarski Named Seton Hill Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Packard Chosen to Lead TU Women’s Basketball Program (Those of us who follow coach Packard know she suffered a horrible loss recently. Hopefully this will be a healthy outlet for her and her family.)

Jessica Mannetti named Sacred Heart Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Another secured: Stewart shows faith in Heard with proposed raise

A little WATN? (Even though they added an “s” to her name, Yo can’t hide from us!) Lafayette hired ex-WNBA star Griffiths

Laura Keeley at the News Observer thinks Collegiate women’s basketball is at a crossroads

There was another notable conclusion from Ackerman’s work: there is a tremendous appetite for change.

And that thought was echoed locally.

“What’s happening, it’s really a welcome thing,” said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie. “I don’t want it to stall in any way.”

The NCAA began to act on the Ackerman report this week. The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee announced it will immediately allow regional host institutions to play on their home courts, which was among the suggestions contained in the report.

BTW: For Women’s Coaches, Time No Longer Freezes in Summer

Suzie McConnell-Serio, the new women’s basketball coach at Pittsburgh, was excited to get a jump on the season.

Because of a new N.C.A.A. rule, she does not have to wait until the fall to get a chance to work with her team. Coaches are now allowed to work out with their players for eight hours a week — including two on the court — if the athletes are enrolled in summer school or have met certain academic benchmarks.

The rule took effect for men last summer. In the past, teams could work out with coaches in the summer only if the team was taking a foreign trip.

In International news, ‘ware the Turks! Turkey’s ‘basket fairies’ clinch bronze medal at Eurobasket

Turkish women’s basketball confirmed expectations, as the national team won the bronze medal at the FIBA European Championships held in France, dominating Serbia 92-71 in yesterday’s game.

Go Guam! Guam finishes strong to win gold medal

Happy Trails To You? WNBA star open to visit Manila

WNBA guard Kara Lawson said the other day she’s agreeable to visit Manila someday and encourage girls to play basketball in showing by example how it can lead to a career.

From USA Basketball: ‘ware, World, the US Hoop(eristsa)s are coming! (USA vs Mali  – July 8, 2013 @ 12:30 pm ET) A little Shoni. A little Hooper. And some more: Hooper overcomes anxiety, set to play on World Games team

“She kind of just blended in with everybody else at the beginning,” Coale said. “That happens a lot of the time due to nerves. Kids just aren’t comfortable with the situation. But Jordan did assert herself more and more, and she had a really good last day. She was very aggressive and has been ever since.

“We knew she could really shoot it and she was versatile. At Oklahoma, we refer to her kind of player as a ‘long, tall shooter.’ She’s just been fantastic for us.”

Next up in Colorado? The U19ers.

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but the rest of the world sure did.

Here’s hoping you and yours are safe and hugged.

As for the basketball world, here’s what I missed:

It’s never too early: The early NCAA women’s basketball preseason top 10

Job filled: Pepperdine promotes assistant Ryan Weisenberg to job as women’s basketball coach. I guess only folks near the program can say whether this is a good or lazy hire.

Another job filled: New women’s basketball coach Randy Norton’s UAB connections go way back

Another job filled: Wright leaves Gannon to coach Miami (Ohio) women’s basketball

You stay put: Duke extends women’s basketball coach McCallie’s contract through 2018-19 season

It’s about time: Alabama reassigns women’s basketball coach Wendell Hudson to administrative role

And well they should: Special year treasured by Irish fans

 They came with basketballs to be signed, and cameras to snap photos.

They formed a line that snaked down the north dome of the Joyce Center, around the concourse, and past the basketball office in the south dome, to get autographs.

They showed up more than 1,200 strong, forcing a move from Purcell Pavilion to the north dome.

Notre Dame women’s basketball fans showed up in record numbers to celebrate a remarkable season, and bid farewell to seniors Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner at the Fighting Irish women’s basketball banquet on Tuesday night.

From Sean Farrell: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: A Season In Review

With the selection of Kayla Alexander in the WNBA Draft last week, the women’s basketball season officially came to a close. Between a 24-8 record, an appearance in the Big East semifinals and the NCAA Tournament, it was arguably the most successful season in Quentin Hillsman’s seven years at Syracuse.

From jords: Kentucky Women’s Basketball 2012-13: Year In Review

Congrats: Schimmel Sisters, Angel Goodrich Win Prestigious NABI Honor

Angel Goodrich, Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) alumnus who recently was selected by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, only the second Native player to be drafted into the league, and Shoni and Jude Schimmel, the first Native Americans to play in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament championship game, were named the recipients of the 2013 Phil Homeratha Leadership Award. The award, named after the late Haskell Indian Nations University women’s basketball coach, Phil Homeratha, will be presented during the NABI Championship games taking place at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday, July 21.

Cool: Roonie Scovel Talks About Seeing Former Player Drafted by WNBA

Podcast: Brenda & Mechelle:  WSC Radio Show: April 19, 2013: The end of the NCAA basketball season, the WNBA Draft and more

A blog entry from Elena: A little girl’s dreams realized

My days leading up to the draft were spent with 11 other rookies going to meetings to help ease the transition into the professional sports world. Rookie orientation was only three days long and as you can imagine, there is a lot of information that can be helpful in preparing to enter the WNBA. So, because of the short time period, we had to fit a lot of meetings into those three days. Because I was so busy focusing on the tips and information I was being presented with, I barely had time to focus on the fact that I was just days away from one I had dreamt of for as long as I could remember. Playing professional basketball was a lifelong dream and I was lucky enough that, due to the fact that the league existed for most of my life, this was a realistic dream.

From Full Court: Making sense of the Mystics’ Meesseman mystery pick

From the Pittsburgh Courier: Brittney Griner is Gay — Can the WNBA finally move on?

Last Wednesday during a press conference the #1 Draft pick in the WNBA, Brittney Griner did the unspeakable. She casually, matter of factly and openly came out as gay in her first press conference as a professional basketball player.

Griner enters the WNBA as one of the most successful college basketball players (male or female) ever, and she will do wonders for the Phoenix Mercury as a low post defensive stopper. However, what is more important than her play on the court is that her openness about her sexuality shows that as a league and a business the WNBA has finally grown up. Griner’s admission shows that the WNBA is no longer obsessed with finding that “crossover” star to “save” the league and might actually get back to the business of promoting good basketball.

More: Brittney Griner discusses being gay

From Kate Fagan: What does it mean to be an openly gay athlete?

From Jemelle Hill: Brittney Griner’s inspiring message

From LZ Granderson: No perfect time- Society’s not waiting for NFL to be fully prepared for an out player

From AZ Central: WNBA is fine with gay athletes such as Brittney Griner; why can’t men’s major pro sports seem to handle it?

From Fox Sports Arizona: Mercury embrace Griner as player, person

From Outsports: Podcast: Brittney Griner comes out to little fanfare

From HoopFeed: Before Brittney: Emily Nkosi talks about Griner and life since leaving Baylor after coming out

Will her play translate into the W season? WNBL grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin has re-signed with the Bendigo Bank Spirit for next season.

Movie time! Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt’s life, career chronicled

Pat Summitt smiled, laughed and shook her head at times.

The Hall of Fame coach, who has early onset dementia, was part of the audience watching a screening of a documentary about her career. “Pat XO.”

“It’s a wonderful film and they did a great job with it,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “It was really incredible to see all those people share their stories.”

Four losses:

Hall of Fame Clemson women’s basketball coach Tribble dies at age 80

Hall of Fame coach Sheridan dies: Shadle Park great won five state volleyball titles, two state girls basketball titles with Highlanders

Crash kills former Orange Park women’s basketball star, Alicia Gladden

Godwin Heights mourns girls basketball player who collapsed, died during practice

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— or perhaps, even expected — but let us not forget the AMAZING run the Louisville Cardinals had this tournament. And yes, as Auriemma said, every program should use that run as inspiration for a “Why not us?” run.

Unfortunately, if the play of Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Tuck is any indication of UConn’s future, the answer to what question may be, “Because UConn is dominating again.”

From the professionals:

Rich Elliott: Championship a dream come true for Huskies, Post
Kevin Duffy: No. 8 for Geno a ‘team title’, Post
Kevin Duffy: 5 quick thoughts on UConn’s rout, Post
UConn’s Final Four Most Outstanding Players, Post
UConn in NCAA championship games, Post
Most points in women’s Final Four, Post

Eight Expectations: Huskies Top Louisville 93-60 For National Championship, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn’s Greatness Arrives Earlier Than Expected, Courant

Each of UConn’s championships has taken on its own characteristics, of course, and this one is unique in the way a young team regathered, recalibrated in the final weeks and closed so fast, so furiously, on brilliance. This was supposed to be Baylor’s season again. Brittney Griner was supposed tower over the game a final time. Thanks to Louisville’s colossal upset in the Sweet Sixteen, it didn’t happen.

And thanks to a magnificent, young group led by Breanna Stewart, the first freshman to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player since Tonya Edwards of Tennessee in 1987, it did happen for UConn.

After Tuesday, It’s All Over For Faris, Doty, Buck, Courant
A Look At UConn’s Eight National Championships, Courant
Our View: Huskies Reach The Summit, Courant
Bob Englehart: CONGRATULATIONS, UCONN … AGAIN!, Courant
Pictures: UConn Women Vs. Louisville For National Championship, Courant

Great Eight, JI
Huskies defeat Louisville to win eighth national title, tying Tennessee for women’s record, Register
Friendly rivals Bria Hartley and Bria Smith square off in title game, Register
Photos: Counting the Crowns – UConn Women’s Basketball, Register
Fans gather in Storrs in anticipation of eighth national title, Register
Huskies cruise to eighth NCAA women’s championship, Day
Mike DiMauro: Annie was looking down on this night, Day

Confetti rained on them from what felt like the heavens Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena, showering the UConn women with trimmings befitting a national champion.

Only this time, a piece just might have actually come from heaven.

It would have come from Ann Miller.

Ann, who made the UConn women one of her passions, died early Monday morning after a long battle with cancer. She fought to stay alive long enough for her Huskies to beat Notre Dame the other night at the Final Four.

“Just an update. Ann is comfortable,” Sandy Brouwer wrote Sunday night on Miller’s Facebook page, awash in tributes now. “She is unable to be awake now but I have the UConn game on for her so maybe she can hear it. I truly believe she has held on until game night. Hopefully peace tonight. Thanks everyone for all the kind thoughts and words. Ann was able to read or hear most of them.”

UConn women defeat Louisville, tie Tennessee for most national titles, Daily Campus
Three-point shooting propels UConn over Louisville, Daily Campus
It’s not about how, but when, Daily Campus
UConn win resonates with fans back home, AP article from SI
Breanna Stewart finds her footing, leads UConn to eighth title, SI
UConn leaves Big East on top but still left behind, USA Today
NCAA women’s basketball championship: Stewart, Connecticut show their title mettle, Washington Post

The University of Connecticut Huskies simply do everything harder. When they hit you, someone winds up flat out on the floor holding their mouth, and when they run, the score gets out of hand fast, and when they get anywhere near a national championship trophy, they just reach out and grab it.

U-Conn. does things different — and better — on a consistent basis than every other team in the country. You could see that in every single detail of their play as they demolished Louisville in the NCAA women’s basketball final at New Orleans Arena, 93-60.

Three keys to UConn’s 93-60 victory over Louisville in national title game, Times-Picayune
UConn’s dominant NCAA Tournament run continues in championship victory against Louisville, Times-Picayune
UConn senior Kelly Faris ends her college career with a national title, Times-Picayune

Louisville coach Jeff Walz cited Faris’ explosiveness as a main reason for UConn putting the dagger in the Cardinals on Tuesday.

She converted two devastating 3-pointers that Walz admired after the game.

“Kelly Faris was great for them,” Walz said. “She might not always be the high scorer, but just how hard she plays … she counters any kind of run we were trying to make with back to back 3s.

Deflating loss won’t diminish the magical run the Louisville Cardinals made to the national championship game, Times-Picayune

They were indeed the giant killers and quintessential Cinderellas of this year’s tournament. The Cardinals knocked off No.1 Baylor in the Sweet 16, No. 2 Tennessee in the regional finals and No.2 Cal in the national semifinals en route to becoming the first fifth seed to make it to the national championship game.

So with that thought Slaughter fought back her tears as she considered what ultimately went wrong Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena.

“Personally I think my teammates fought the hardest but we just came up short tonight,” Slaughter said. “We are not going to hang our heads. We did the unthinkable.”

Mechelle Voepel: UConn once again last team standing, ESPN

To understand just how great eight was for the victorious Connecticut women’s basketball team Tuesday night, let’s go back to how it began here in the Crescent City 22 years ago. Geno Auriemma was still kind of an “upstart” coach then, trying to establish UConn as a factor on the national scene.

Well, at least the Final Four part started in New Orleans. It was Auriemma’s sixth year coaching in Storrs, Conn., and the Huskies had broken through to the season’s last weekend in 1991. They played Virginia, for which Auriemma had previously been an assistant coach, and lost in the semifinals.

“We almost carried ourselves like & we didn’t belong here,” Auriemma said. “When we left and we didn’t win, I thought, ‘What if we never go back?'”

UConn’s Stewart lives up to hype, ESPN
Kelly Faris makes championship exit, ESPN

On this night, after UConn’s historic win, the two guards had only a moment together before the rest of the Huskies found Moore, too. And at one point during the celebration, Moore was surrounded by Faris, sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and assistant coach Shea Ralph, who won an NCAA title with the Huskies in 2000. Freeze-frame that moment, and there are multiple generations of Huskies, a lineage of greatness. And if you zoom in, you’ll see Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, wearing oversized “2013 NCAA champs” T-shirts, sweat dried.

In a way, Moore turned over the team to Faris two years ago. And on Tuesday night, Faris did the same with Mosqueda-Lewis. The two players were standing shoulder to shoulder on the sideline as they waited out the last seconds of the game.

Auriemma, UConn blast into record book, NCAA.com

An 8th National Title, Built on Spirit, Not Stars, New York Times

Faris became the epitome of UConn’s resolve. Given her hustle and resourcefulness, Faris would never have a bad game, Auriemma often said. And she seldom did, always assigned to guard the opponent’s top scorer, succeeding with fundamental brilliance — a rebound, a steal, a defensive stop. Just as she muzzled Skylar Diggins on Sunday, Faris held Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel to 3-of-15 shooting in the championship game. And she hit four 3-pointers of her own.

“Will she leave as one of my favorite players?” Auriemma said. “Absolutely. They’re never going to introduce her as, ‘That was Kelly Faris, she was a great passer or a great shooter or a great ball-handler.’ Kelly is great at putting you in position to win. That’s what she’s great at.”

An Appreciation of Perseverance, New York Times

As often is the case in the separate but parallel worlds of the men’s and women’s Final Fours, the female experience is demonstrably understated. A lasting memory of the men’s tournament will surely be Kevin Ware cutting down the final threads Monday night for the Louisville players he inspired after sustaining a gruesome leg injury against Duke.

After three operations on her left knee, Doty knows what Ware has experienced and then some, just not as graphically or publicly.

From Swish Appeal: UConn’s eighth national championship could be dawn of a new era of dominance
Stewart guides Huskies to 8th National Championship, Full Court

Louisville women’s basketball falls to UConn 93-60 in National Championship game, Louisville Courier Journal
Tim Sullivan | Success is nice, but Louisville women’s basketball still has work to do, Louisville Courier Journal

There’s a scene in “Independence Day,” in which Will Smith finds himself at the controls of an alien spacecraft.

Its power and maneuverability are so advanced that the veteran pilot carries on like a child on a theme park thrill ride.

“I have GOT to get me one of these,” he says.

Jeff Walz must have had that same sensation Tuesday night.

UConn 93, Louisville 60 | Huskies snuff out the Schimmel spark, Louisville Courier Journal
Cards’ run still great, even in defeat, ESPN

After the United States men’s hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice,” it still had to beat Finland for the gold medal. It did not, however, have to turn around and beat the Soviets a second time.

One giant too many left Louisville one win short of the greatest run in the history of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

Or maybe Louisville’s 93-60 loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night simply ended that run without damaging it so very much. Maybe even the most lopsided result in championship game history can’t dull the shine on what preceded it.

Nate talks about 2013 WNBA Draft prospects at the Final Four: Layshia Clarendon, Kelly Faris, and Skylar Diggins

Cal’s Layshia Clarendon, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, and UConn’s Kelly Faris are not the guaranteed, immediate WNBA superstars that Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne project to be, but there is a reason all three played in the Final Four, and each should be a 1st Round pick in the up-coming WNBA Draft.

Is it November yet? Mechelle offers up the Top five contenders for 2013-14

• Don’t think Notre Dame and Baylor, despite big senior losses, are just going away. Although they have to replace Skylar Diggins at point guard, the Irish bring back four starters. Baylor loses four starters, but the Lady Bears do have their All-American point guard back in Sims.

• The ACC should be mighty interesting next season, with Notre Dame joining the mix and a freshman class at North Carolina that’s projected to be the nation’s best.

• Who’s the favorite in the Big 12 after two seasons of Baylor running the table in the conference? Probably Oklahoma, led by Aaryn Ellenberg.

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coach Hatchell and player/coach Staley: Naismith Hall of Famers.

Congrats to McGraw, Griner and Warlick: Award winners.

About that basketball game tonight:

Sally’s here! Louisville women’s basketball might have one more stone for its slingshot

Louisville women’s basketball Coach Jeff Walz babbles with a rapid-fire stutter and promises to blaze away from the three-point line. His star player, Shoni Schimmel, is a round cherry bomb of a kid, with her bright red uniform and explosive, shredding play. Do the Cardinals have no sense of gravity nor decorum at this women’s NCAA Final Four? Apparently not. “Why not go out with a bang?” Schimmel said.

Rachel Whittaker at the Times-Picayune: Three keys to victory in Tuesday’s women’s basketball national championship

Swish Appeal offers Louisville help Finding the ‘perfect’ gameplan to beat UConn in the 2013 National Championship

And a ton of other stuff (thanks Nan!)

UConn one step from eighth national title, Post
UConn women’s game day: Tuesday vs. Louisville, Post
UConn vs. Louisville: Who has the edge?, Post
ESPN analyst Lobo breaks down UConn-Louisville, Post
Auriemma, Huskies, See UConn’s Eighth Title Ready For The Taking, Courant
National Championship Game: Louisville Vs. UConn, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Auriemma And Walz? Wiseguys, But Good Fellows, Courant
Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame, Register
UConn vs. Louisville gameday capsule, Register
Huskies want title for senior trio, Hour
NCAA Women’s Championship Game Preview Capsule, Hour

Dolson playing through pain in UConn’s quest for the title, Daily Campus
The different worlds of Walz and Auriemma, Daily Campus
Louisville’s Jeff Walz on how to beat UConn, Daily Campus
Louisville squads bond over dual title opportunity, Daily Campus

Hartley, UConn Head To The Finals, Deer Park-North Babylon Patch
Full Interview: Breanna Stewart’s high school coach talks about former player’s success at UConn, CNY Central
Greg Stokes’ daughter Kiah reaches NCAA title game for UConn, Des Moines Register
Better than the sum of the parts, NCAA.com

Overheard in New Orleans, ESPN

Who will hoist the NCAA trophy?, ESPN
Admiration, comedy between rival women’s title game coaches, New Orleans Times Picayune
2013 Women’s Final Four championship breakdown, Louisville vs. UConn, New Orleans Times Picayune
Expectations not fully met in Women’s Final Four semifinals, New Orleans Times Picayune

Once again, Louisville is the underdog, Full Court
Louisville women plan to pour cold water on UConn’s latest title run, Louisville Courier Journal
UConn’s Auriemma says Huskies didn’t sneak into tournament despite not winning Big East, Louisville Courier Journal

Got this one right — unfortunately, Providence Journal
John Adams: UConn one big victory shy of Lady Vols, Knoxville News Sentinel

About those teams already getting ready for next year: 

It’s official: Clemson hires UAB’s Audra Smith as its new women’s basketball coach 

Audra Smith knows how to succeed as a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She’s eager to do it again as Clemson’s new women’s basketball coach.

Smith, the former Virginia player who spent the past nine years as UAB’s head coach, was hired to take over the Tigers’ struggling program Monday and make an impact in the already tough and soon-to-be beefed up ACC.

It’s optimistic: Moore’s arrival at NC State offers link to successful women’s basketball era under Kay Yow

No one has to tell new coach Wes Moore how important it is for North Carolina State to have a successful women’s basketball program.

Moore spent two years here in the 1990s as an assistant to late Hall of Famer Kay Yow, giving him roots in a tradition-rich program that has fallen off in recent years. It’s his job to build the Wolfpack back up again to a team that routinely finishes in the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference and makes the NCAA tournament.

It’s prophetic?: Cal on map, recognition should follow

It’s historical (and starts out with a huge error, but….) Remembering All American Red Heads, traveling women’s basketball team

 

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From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: Interesting memories of 2009 title game for Monique Reid
and former Husky recruit Hammond has no regrets
and Caroline Doty, Louisville’s Monique Reid brace for national title game

As they prepare to play their final collegiate basketball games when UConn and Louisville square off Tuesday in the national title game at New Orleans Arena, it could quite possibly be the last elite-level basketball contests of their lives.

It won’t be hard to spot the duo. Just keep an eye on the bulky knee braces.

The stories of Doty and Reid are more studies in perseverance or cases of what might have been.

They are both members of a select club where there is no membership fee, and the ability to keep an eye on the prize in the wake of persistent pain is the requirement for inclusion.

and Huskies turn focus to Louisville after emotional win over Notre Dame

 

From Kelly at USA Today: Freshman Breanna Stewart takes charge for Connecticut

From Michael grant at the Courier-Journal: UConn is familiar foe … and has a 12-1 record against Louiville women

From John Altavilla, Hartford Courant: When All Is Said And Done, They Are Just Kids and UConn Almost Had Louisville’s Sara Hammond

From Rich Elliot a the Connecticut Post: Dolson Not Looking At Surgery After The Season

From NPR: Leading Ladies: Connecticut, Louisville Set For Championship (I looked, but couldn’t find their article Gracious Gentlemen: Louisville, Michigan Set For Championship.)

From the Times Picayune: UConn a huge hurdle for Louisville to overcome in women’s basketball championship

Mechelle gets Auriemma in one:

Having a team with such outstanding underclass players as freshman Breanna Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suggests that if No. 8 does come Tuesday for UConn, there’s good reason to think Nos. 9 and 10 might follow immediately after.

That kind of thinking is both what Auriemma sort of craves, and what drives him crazy. He’s irritated if he ever perceives the Huskies are being counted out as title contenders or somehow short-changed in national prestige. But it also bugs him when people think UConn should just be expected to be in this position year after year, as if it’s automatic and easy to stay great just because you’ve been great. 

In other words, Auriemma might just kind of thrive on being irritated. It’s a motivation, a needle that keeps sticking at him from two different sides.

Michelle Smith: Cardinals’ Slaughter finds confidence – Junior guard has 17 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament, nears record

 Louisville coach Jeff Walz will tell you that there were moments during Antonita Slaughter’s freshman year with the Cardinals  when he thought she’d be better suited to fill the teams’ water cups than play.

And he would tell her so. That had to hurt, right?

“I didn’t take it personally,” said Slaughter, now a junior, smiling.

Graham: Schimmel embraces leadership role – Junior guard knows she doesn’t have to do it all for Louisville to win

From the moment Shoni Schimmel arrived, Louisville was always going to follow her lead. She was too talented, too much a force of nature on a basketball court for things to unfold any other way.

It just wasn’t clear whether that path would lead the Cardinals to a national championship game or out of the picture, like one of the junior’s high-risk passes sailing past a befuddled teammate on its way toward the fourth row of seats.

How much did you love the sign, “Mrs. Shimmel, Send more daughters!”

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my trip last week to Nebraska and my trip this week to New Orleans: Nebraska was freezing, New Orleans is not.

Things that happened in New Orleans:

  • Sitting at the WBCA All-Star game and listening in a couple of SEC folks deconstruct the second half of Kentucky/UConn game.
  • Coming up with a new game to play: Guess which high school player is going to which program based on their style of play.
  • Watching Griner take a moment for a picture with a young fan. Griner standing on the arena floor, fan in the stands: Fan is almost as tall as Griner’s upper body.
  • Yummy, yummy po’ boys at Mothers.
  • Being stalked by friend Renee and her crew. Always good to see familiar faces — even if it’s only once a year.
  • Chatting with deeply-in-the-know-folks about certain coaches who make goofily loud statements about how they’d rather be in a place known for its pasta v. goin’ to New Orleans. Clue-free, much?
  • Walking. Lots of walking. Staying up on St. Charles — a little nearer than I was back in my youth hostel days, but still a walk into the center of the city. Beautiful buildings — brick being the specialty of the house.
  • Pelicans. Brown, that is, are all over the city ’cause, you know, it’s the state bird. And their NBA basketball team is renaming itself the Pelicans. (Guess they got jealous of the Stormy Petrels, huh?).
  • Actually, pelicans are a similarity to my trip to Nebraska, in that we saw a string of 9 migrating white pelicans. And we’re staying nearish to the Blind Pelican.
  • Teasing coach McCallie as you meet her walking the streets ’cause she’s got that “I lost my rental car in the parking lot” look. Liking the fact that she can go with the flow and approve of the sleek silver corvette I point out for her. (BTW, she did find time to provide some F4 analysis.)
  • Knowing my day is brunch, basketball, basketball, dinner. What could be better?

From those folks actually working:

About that Purple, Black and Neon-Green High School Game: Black Team Clinches Win in 2013 WBCA High School All America Game, and no, celebrity coaches Swin and Catch did not throw basketballs at each other. But they got close to throwing on a jersey to secure their team a win.

Sports Illustrated points out that In women’s Final Four, it’s a heated rivalry and two newcomers (even though I know Richard knows Walz has been there before.).

The Times-Picayune’s Trey Iles says, California women’s basketball a Bear of a team when it comes to rebounding, Rachel Whittaker says Connecticut freshmen adjusting to Women’s Final Four stage, hoping to give seniors one more shot,
Cal, Louisville feature tough teams looking to continue Women’s Final Four runs,and Terrance Harris writes, Notre Dame and UConn leaving past in the past as the rivals square off — again– in the Women’s Final Four

The entire state of Connecticut might be in frenzy these days trying to figure out just how deep No.1 Notre Dame has gotten into the heads of its beloved Huskies these past two years.

Arguably the best rivalry in women’s college basketball has become awfully one-sided these last 24 months, with the Fighting Irish winning seven of the last eight games over UConn.

But as far as Notre Dame senior All-American point guard Skylar Diggins is concerned, nothing in the past, not even the three wins over the Huskies this season alone, has meaning as the two powerhouse programs from the Big East get set to square off for a fourth time this year during the national semifinal round of the NCAA Women’s Final Four on Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena.

No surprise, a ton of stuff from the Horde (thanks, Nan):

Huskies believe they’re ready to avert failures vs. Irish, Post
UConn vs. Notre Dame: Who has the edge?, Post
Breaking down the women’s Final Four, Post
Incoming freshman Saniya Chong will get close up look at her future teammates, Post
Auriemma Says Whatever He Can (To Anyone) To Motivate Players, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis Join Exclusive Club Of All-Americans, Courant
UConn Women Face Common Dilemma Vs. Notre Dame – Not Letting Another Team Get Inside Your Head, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn Women Will Win This One, In First 39 Minutes, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis named to WBCA All-America squad, Register
Roads for seniors Skylar Diggins, Kelly Faris lead to the same place, Register
Notre Dame vs. UConn, Register
UConn gets one last chance to beat Irish, Day
This is the one that counts, Hour

Kelly Whiteside at USA Today thinks that For Notre Dame, Connecticut, it comes down to crawfish:

It’s easy to be unnerved by a bowl of crawfish.

“It was looking back at us,” Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins said as she described her team’s experience sampling the local Final Four fare. “Had eyes in it still.”

In a way, the Notre Dame-Connecticut women’s national semifinal on Sunday is little like a bowl of crawfish. We’ve seen it more than once (or twice or thrice) but it’s still transfixing. You don’t want to look away.

From the Chicago Tribune: Loyd and Tuck: A tale of two seasons

Gene Wang, WaPo: Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz basking in Final Four

From the YouTubes, Notre Dame athletics is workin’ it: During the 2nd day of the Final Four, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team practiced at Tulane University, had their head shots taken for the ESPN broadcast, and celebrated at the Final Four Salute dinner.

Congrats – and so well deserved – to AP COY McGraw (Gives me chance to shout out a former Lib player, WATN? COY: Vanessa Nygaard is girls’ basketball coach of the year)

Yup, AP Tom, McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years

From the SBT:

From the Mercury News’ Stephanie Hammon: Brittany Boyd shows maturity in sophomore season for Cal women’s basketball team

“I knew that going with a very exciting, dynamic freshman point guard there were going to be some times where you say, ‘OK, that’s a growth moment,’ but a lot more times that you see the spectacular,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted to give her that rope and that empowerment to be her and she has continued to stay with us and try to get better every step of the way.”

“I grew up in a sense,” Boyd said. “I understand the game more.”

Hammon also adds: Cal women’s basketball team expects the unexpected from Louisville’s defense

“After our Baylor win, we went into the press room, and they’re all asking me how long are you going to enjoy this, and I said, ‘For a lifetime,’ ” Walz said by telephone from New Orleans, site of this year’s Final Four. “I said, ‘We’re going to talk about this the rest of the day, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next year.’ I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and really just come to the conclusion life’s too short. You have to enjoy your moments.”

The Louisville Courier Journal makes up for lost time:

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel is shining bright in the NCAA Tournament

Q&A with U of L’s Monique Reid: Been there, done that, doing it again

Women’s NCAA: Cards’ defense can baffle Cards, too

If you find yourself puzzled as to what kind of defense the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is running, take heart.

Sometimes the U of L coaches and players don’t know, either.

The Cardinals’ shifting schemes have keyed their surprising run to the Final Four. They will switch defenses as many as three times in a single possession, and as you might expect, that occasionally causes confusion on both sides. During the Elite Eight victory over Tennessee, coach Jeff Walz’s assistants asked him what defense the team was in.

“I turned around and said, ‘I don’t know. Shut up,’ ” Walz said. “ ‘Who cares? They’re playing hard.’ They started laughing.

Inside the Louisville-California women’s matchup

Akoy Agau in his words on Louisville basketball in the Final Four

‘If it can happen three times . . .’ Auriemma’s Huskies face an Irish streak

Jere’ from the NY Times adds: Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville

Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.

NBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and folks on “Women’s Basketball as a Model for the NCAA”

Griner says, “Why not, ” Swin says, “Why should she have to?”

Some chick offers The UConn perspective — historical, physical and emotional — on Sunday’s semifinal

From Harvey Araton at the New York Times: At Intersection of Fading Eras in Women’s Game

Donehew, who was a graduate assistant and director of operations for Summitt’s team from 2001 to 2008, was close enough to be inside the circle after the painful diagnosis came in the summer of 2011. She was part of a small group that included Summitt’s son, Tyler, meeting one day to plot a strategy with Summitt on how to proceed publicly.

“We talked about what she wanted to do moving forward: her career, her plans, her legacy,” Donehew said.

But what of the heritage of the Big East, where Donehew has worked for the past four years, joining the conference at a time when its women’s basketball fortunes had become very much the competitive equal of its acclaimed and soon-to-be-mourned big brother?

And, since there are folks on the gentlemen’s side who are all het up about the officiating in the Syracuse/Michigan game, I have an excuse to revive this brilliant April Fool’s from a few years back: 

Cleveland, April 1 (AF) – The NCAA and the Women’s Basketball Officiating Consortium announced new assignments for game officials in Tuesday’s women’s Division I national basketball championship game today, replacing the previously-assigned officials with a new group who had not previously officiated in this year’s NCAA tournament. The original crew, Sally Bell, Dennis DeMayo and Dee Kantner, will be replaced by University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, Maryland coach Brenda Frese and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

Mary Struckhoff, the National Coordinator of Women’s Basketball Officiating for the NCAA, announced the new officiating crew at a press conference last night. “While we realize that many fans will be surprised by this change, we think it will make for a more exciting contest. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing this group try to manage a basketball game. We’re particularly delighted that Brenda was able to take time out from updating her resume to officiate on Tuesday night.”

The reactions of the referees originally scheduled to officiate the game were surprisingly upbeat. “I think this is the finest group of coach/referees they could have assembled,” said DeMayo. “I know that every one of them has corrected my officiating mistakes dozens of times, and made sure I knew exactly how I had missed each call. It’s an honor to give up my spot in the national championship game for these outstanding individuals. I’m looking forward to reviewing the game tape with them so I can learn how someone can call a game so well from 30, 40 or even 70 feet away from the play.” (Click to continue reading)

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are here.

Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White offer up their Full Court mid-major All-Americans: Much more than Delle Donne

Given the nature of the American sports media, it’s easy to think that the only special players are the ones who play at the biggest schools. But special players can be found throughout the Division I ranks — and not just at Delaware — so the Fullcourt.com Mid-Major All-American team is our way of recognizing some of the talent that often gets overlooked.

Of course, as is the case with our Player of the Year, as every so often there’s a star so incandescent she manages to seize the spotlight no matter where she enrolls.

Mechelle has a nice piece on Griner.

Baylor’s Brittney Griner glanced up at the national championship banners inside the New Orleans Arena and winced a bit Saturday.

“I thought, ‘We should have another one up there. We should be here fighting for one more,'” Griner said. “It definitely makes it hard, but you can’t run from stuff. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

More from Mechelle: Final Four offers good mix – Favorites or underdogs, there is something for eveyone in New Orleans

If you’ve seen “Oz the Great and Powerful,” you know the most emotion-provoking characters in film are not actually humans. China Girl, the doll, and Finley, the helpful winged monkey, are voiced by real people, but they are computer-generated imagery. They steal your heart and steal the show from James Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.

The Louisville and Cal teams are flesh-and-blood folks, but they have a fairy-tale quality that almost makes it seem as if they could have been manufactured in someone’s imagination.

Meanwhile, the box-office big names — No. 1 seeds Connecticut and Notre Dame — are also here, ready to live up to their star power.

She adds another piece: Diggins ready for final shot at title

It’s no easy trick: being focused on an ultimate goal, but not too focused. Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins has been thinking about winning a national championship for the Fighting Irish since she was a little kid and saw her hometown team celebrating the NCAA title in 2001.

That’s a long time to carry a very specific dream that an extremely small amount of Division I players actually get to realize. Diggins has been in the past two NCAA title games, with the Irish losing to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor last season.

Graham says, Jeff Walz keeps Cardinals believing

The old basketball adage about a shooter’s mindset holds that a player misses 100 percent of the shots she doesn’t take. A coach also loses out on the potential rewards of 100 percent of the gambles he or she doesn’t take.

And if you think it’s difficult to play for Walz, the bellicose, sarcastic sideline ranter, try figuring out what college basketball’s mad genius is going to try next. 

More Graham: Reid’s heart makes up for bum knee

Monique Reid might be limping toward the end of her college career, but she’s about to put some distance between herself and any other woman who has played basketball at the University of Louisville.

She grew up going to Louisville games long before her hometown school started playing games in a downtown NBA-style arena. She was the kid who attended all the basketball camps and sat in the front row when the Cardinals played. She was the ball girl who idolized players like Sara Nord. And Sunday, she’ll become the first player in program history to play in two Final Fours.

Michelle writes: There’s no place like home – Berkeley High star Boyd committed to Cal despite coaching change

Brittany Boyd arrived at Cal a year and a half ago knowing how to play at one speed — on your mark, get set, go — every outlet pass turning into a race to the rim on the other end of the floor.

Races, mind you, that she would usually win because she is the fastest player on the floor.

“She gets the ball, and you just have to book it down to the other end,” junior forward Gennifer Brandon said. “I just tried to stay close to her in case she wants to dish it.”

Fagan suggests Players, not past meetings, are key – Stewart, Jefferson could be the key to Huskies finally solving Irish this season

Finally, Fagan gives us Four storylines for the Final Four

The heavyweight matchup Sunday night is UConn-Notre Dame Part IV.

That game has the most buzz because the storylines are endless: the Big East rivalry, the last go-round for Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, the up-and-coming play of UConn freshman Breanna Stewart. And, of course, the million-dollar question: Is it possible for the Fighting Irish to beat the Huskies four times in one season? Considering that between them UConn and Notre Dame have 19 appearance in the Final Four, it makes sense that Sunday’s second semifinal is overshadowing the first, between No. 2 seed California and No. 5 seed Louisville. The Golden Bears are making their first appearance in the Final Four, and the Cardinals are making their second.

But even though the Cal-Louisville game is flying under the radar, there are some interesting subplots to pay attention to when the two teams tip off Sunday (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET). So we start with that game as we break down the key things to watch going into Sunday’s national semifinals.

At Swish Appeal, Richard Kent has some 2013 Final Four tidbits from Louisville’s Jeff Walz: Griner, sideline style, and unexpected scoring

The S.A. Admin says Cal, Louisville a matchup of fun teams looking to take away each others strengths

Jessica Lantz picks up an old story thread: Native American heritage draws support for Schimmels, Louisville in Final Four run

I grew up in Oklahoma – no secret there. And Oklahoma, the literal end of the Trail of Tears means “Red People” in Choctaw. As a native Okie, these are things that you learn about when you take Oklahoma History, a required course in the junior high curriculum. But for other folks in other states, these things might be overlooked – like most of the small native population is.

Despite being in this country well before any of my ancestors, the Native American population is relatively small in the United States. Natives account for 0.8 percent of the population in the 2010 U.S. Census, but in Oklahoma the number is a “whopping” 8.6 percent. That makes the heartland of America (as some call the state) the fourth-most populous when it comes to identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native behind Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

So when I was watching the NCAA women’s basketball tournament regional games in Oklahoma City, where a pair of Umatilla Indians were busy knocking of the No. 1-ranked team in the country en route to the Final Four, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the camera panned to a large contingent of smiling faces rooting for Jude and Shoni Schimmel.

In non-Final Four news, I guess we’ll soon find out if Gail’s at Ohio State, if Courtney or Cynthia is at USC, and what, if any impact, the Rice/Rutgers fiasco has on C Viv.

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catch up on last night:

Louisville took care of Tennessee in an eerily similar manner to their take down of Baylor — race out to a lead, then tire (or do dumb stuff) in the middle of the second, then win.

Dan writes: Louisville stops Lady Vols’ run to Final Four, 86-78

Tennessee’s problems began on offense. Louisville used multiple defensive alignments to thwart the player and ball movement that was so prevalent in the Lady Vols’ regional semifinal victory over Oklahoma.

Tennessee had just one point to show for its first seven possessions.

“It may have rattled us some,” UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. “But that’s where you respond at the other end of the floor and we couldn’t do that.”

In the end, there was too much Jude and Shoni. Says Mechelle: Schimmels lead Cards to Final Four

Louisville’s Schimmel sisters, Shoni and Jude, recall watching a movie called “Double Teamed” when they were in middle school. It was about identical twins Heather and Heidi Burge, who went to the Women’s Final Four three times while playing at Virginia in the early 1990s.

The film is hokey, but it’s still a sweet, triumphant story of the sisterhood and athletic success of real people.

“When we were younger, the movie seemed very realistic to us,” Jude Schimmel said. “What they did was our dream, too.”

Shoni added, “Yeah, that was us.”

Duke tried copy Louisville, but couldn’t hold on in the second.

It was an angry glare that could have melted steel.

It certainly melted No. 2 seed Duke’s hopes of pulling off an upset against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the Norfolk Regional final of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Just a quick glance at the daggers beaming out of Skylar Diggins’ eyes early in the second half let Duke know it was in trouble.

Adds Graham: Sky’s the limit for Notre Dame

The dances in the middle of the court were complete. Those members of the crowd not clad in green already had begun to drift off into the Norfolk night. But there was one last bit of official business to take care of before Notre Dame left the court for the final time.

By unanimous decision, the announcer intoned, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Skylar Diggins.

Close, but not quite. There wasn’t any need to go to the judges on this one. Diggins won by knockout. 

From the News Observer: 

Just getting to a regional final was probably accomplishment enough for a Duke women’s basketball team that endured much adversity this season.

That did little to salve the pain the Blue Devils felt as Notre Dame cut down the nets at Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Convocation Center on Tuesday night.

From the Chronicle:

“Our first half was pretty good,” Liston said. “We held them to 31 points and we were right on pace for the [defensive] goal that we wanted to keep them at for the game. I thought we did a great job and we had great focus on the shooters and the go-tos that we wanted to shut down, [but I] wish we could have had that same focus in the second half on defense.”

At the Rockdale Citizen (GA), Darrell Huckaby says hes A fan of women’s basketball and Andy Landers

I was a fan of women’s basketball long before it was cool. I coached girls’ basketball in high school for about 25 years. It made sense to follow the college game. Besides, I liked it. It was a game of strategy and shooting and defense.

In 1985, my Woodward Academy team won its way to the state tournament for the first time in school history. I decided to reward my team with a trip to the women’s Final Four in Austin, Texas. In those days the women’s tournament was played on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, so on the last Thursday in March, we piled into two school vans and headed west.

Yes. We drove to Austin, Texas, for the games.

Tom Goldman at NPR says, Baylor’s Departure From Women’s Basketball Tournament Leaves Huge Hole

Also at NPR: Notre Dame, Louisville Triumph To Round Off Final Four

From Kate Fagan: Big East trio finds way to Big Easy

The right side of the Women’s Final Four bracket looks just like you’d expect it to. But if you shift your glance to the other side, you see one of the most unexpected matchups in recent memory.

Michelle says: They’ve got next

Of this year’s 3 To See, only one remains standing. Notre Dame’s title-craving Skylar Diggins carries the torch for this year’s crop of extraordinary women’s basketball talent into the Final Four in New Orleans.

But if this year’s unpredictable, thrilling tournament has taught us something, it’s that there are other players worthy of our time, attention and admiration all over the top ranks of the game.

And with the Final Four set — Notre Dame and Louisville joined the party on Tuesday after Cal and Connecticut earned their spots on Monday night — this next group of young players already has reached star status as they make their Final Four debuts.

From the experts, Picks (Now that we’re in New Orleans …)

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From Full Court: Norfolk welcomes home Elizabeth Williams and Duke Blue Devils

Elizabeth Williams’ McDonald’s All-American uniform never looked so baggy.

On the 5-foot-6 Jenna Frush, the jersey hung like a queen-size bed sheet, the brilliant red shorts hung down to her ankles, and the No. 15 jersey resembled a nightgown.

It was just one of the treasures the Duke Blue Devils found while rummaging through their sophomore teammate’s bedroom, all thanks to the NCAA Tournament coming to Williams’ hometown.

Rob Glough has a preview of the Norfolk games.

And here’s a preview of the Duke-Nebraska game.

Nebraska has won 13 of 15 and believes it can play with anybody, especially after Monday’s 74-63 win over Texas A&M on the Aggies’ home court.

One key for the Cornhuskers, Moore said, is not getting psyched out by Duke’s resume.

“We understand that they’re a big name, but we have been playing successfully and having a good run,” she said. “So we just need to make sure we stay focused on the things that we’ve done up to this point and not necessarily psych ourselves out against a big name like that. Just play Nebraska basketball.”

Her coach, like all the others in the regional, trusts that her point guard can make it happen.

From KHAS-TV: Huskers anticipate Easter Sunday game with Duke

Meanwhile,  the Winston-Salem Journal says the Duke women intent on changing a trend while the Herald Sun says the Road beckons for Final Four-minded Blue Devil women

Curt at the SBT has: Clash features two of nation’s best guards

I think, when you look at (Notre Dame), again, my reference is back to when I was in the Big East, they pass as well as UConn,” Henrickson said. “If you look at the stats, 65 percent of their field goals are assisted. If you pass that well, that leads to a lot of uncontested shots.”

Notre Dame’s passing revolves around All-American point guard Skylar Diggins, but Kansas also has a stellar point guard in Angel Goodrich, and the Jayhawks have an assist on 61 percent of their field goals.

There’s a similar focus at the Lawrence Journal: Guards take center stage for KU-Notre Dame women’s showdown

Basketball?

This is more of a match-up of socio-cultural phenomena.

“Angel Goodrich was a rock star over in Tahlequah (Okla.),” Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said Saturday on the eve of the 12th-seeded Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame, top-seeded in the Norfolk bracket. “Literally a rock star. Thousands of people went to her home games and followed her around.”

Don’t think I caught this from Graham: Diggins, Goodrich take center stage

It’s a point guard’s responsibility to make sure a team gets where it’s going. None in the college game do that any better than the two who will square off Sunday when No. 1 seed Notre Dame plays No. 12 Kansas.

It might not be a coincidence that both Skylar Diggins and Angel Goodrich are conscious of where they came from.

 The Norfolk Regional features four of the seven finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, the honor given annually to the nation’s best point guard and named after the star who played her college basketball in this city (although only three of this season’s finalists will be on the court, with Duke’s Chelsea Gray sidelined by injury). But even in that kind of company, Diggins is in a league of her own. She’s the one with back-to-back trips to the national championship game, who mastered Connecticut and awaits a likely place among the top three picks in the upcoming WNBA draft. And, yes, the one with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and headband aficionados.

Mechelle says: No. 6 seed Sooners steal spotlight: Oklahoma, not top-seeded Baylor, will have home-crowd advantage

Defending NCAA champion Baylor — the overall No. 1 seed with the superstar who tweets about “needing” to throw down a couple of dunks and then does just that — is used to being the main attraction.

But while the Lady Bears certainly will not lack for attention here in the Sweet 16, they are kind of second-billed this weekend in Oklahoma’s capital city.

Oklahoma, with its campus just 20 miles down Interstate 35, is the star attraction for the locals. The No. 6 seed Sooners will meet No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Center (4:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2), followed by Baylor vs. No. 5 Louisville (6:30 p.m. ET/ESPN2).

“It is fun to be in front of a home crowd in Oklahoma City,” Oklahoma senior Joanna McFarland said, “because it is a really good base for women’s basketball.”

From NewsOk: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale reflects on last meeting with Tennessee

Guerin Emig at the Tulsa World thinks  OU must overcome Vols’ image

They don’t have Pat Summitt on the bench or Candace Parker or Chamique Holdsclaw in the lineup. Still, Tennessee, Oklahoma’s opponent in Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup, can buckle your knees.

“You always will think, at least my generation will think, of Tennessee and UConn as those big teams, the best in the country,” OU forward Joanna McFarland said. “You’re like, `Whoa, stars in your eyes.’ “

Dan Fleser says Lady Vols will find out how well their game travels and adds: SEC good regional preparation for Lady Vols

Tennessee’s SEC opponents won’t lift a hand this weekend to help the Lady Vols at the Oklahoma City regional.

Still, they’ve received credit for helping during the season with the preparation.

“I think it’s faster-paced, more talent, teams are bigger this year,” said senior Kamiko Williams, who lauded the addition of Texas A&M. “I think that has helped us out.

From NPR: Defending Women’s Champs Baylor To Battle Cardinals’ Tough Defense

From the LA Times (ish): Brittney Griner: Baylor Legend Will Key Lady Bears to Dominant Win

From the NY Times: Brittney Griner, Me, and Four Amazing Years at Baylor

Covering the team that was the reason I chose my soon-to-be alma mater hasn’t hurt.

With my press pass, recorder and laptop, I have had a front-row seat to women’s basketball history these past four years, but being on campus to experience it all has made it even more memorable.

When you watch the Lady Bears on the court, you see that they are great role models and serious about the game they play. But when you walk around Baylor’s lush campus, you see another side of them.

Mike Grant of the Courier Journal says: One small obstacle in Louisville women’s basketball tournament road: Mount Griner

How do you stop a woman who dunked three times in her last game, an 85-47 rout of Florida State? How do stop a woman who has powered the Lady Bears to 74 victories in their past 75 games?

“I’m trying to put six on the floor,” U of L coach Jeff Walz said Saturday. “I’m hoping our officials are bad at math tomorrow night and we just get them real confused.”

BTW: Something to keep an eye out for:

Rebecca Lobo ‏@RebeccaLobo: We asked Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel what she would do if Griner tried to dunk on them tomorrow. She replied : “Pants her.

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TV Alert!

Tonight, 9PM EST on TLC: Off the Rez

And another add-on: From NPR – Mother, Daughter Prove Themselves ‘Off The Rez’

Saturday’s TLC documentary, Off the Rez, is a coming-of-age story: a drama about generations, sports, sweat, winning, losing, sacrifice, triumph and love. It’s a lot to get through in 86 minutes.

Add-on: The Miami Herald has a review: Plenty of net gains and personal losses for a budding sports star

A couple of years ago, women’s basketball fans all over the country were perplexed by Shoni Schimmel, the fireball guard who was slashing high-school opponents to ribbons all over Oregon. Practically every recruiting service in the country ranked her among the top 10 players, and dozens of colleges were begging her to join their programs. But Shoni ignored them all. She wouldn’t even take phone calls from coaches. The first date for signing a scholarship letter of intent passed, then the second, and still there was only mysterious silence from Shoni.

If fans could have seen the hours of footage being shot by director Jonathan Hock for his documentary Off the Rez, they might have understood. It’s a soul-searing tale of a teenage girl burdened with the dashed dreams and unfulfilled expectations of an entire people scarred by insults and betrayals committed years, even centuries, before her birth. It’s 120 minutes of anguished brilliance, and if you don’t watch it you’re flat-out nuts.

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is reviewed over at SportsPage Magazine by Tara Polen: “Off the Rez” Inspires, Though Off the Mark

Of note: “Off the Rez” will air on (TLC) on Saturday, May 14th at 9pm.

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