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I’m no bracket expert, so I’ll defer to Charlie who, in the end, defers to the Selection Committee… but DePaul’s loss popped a couple of bubbles and so, methinks, did the Dons stunning upset of BYU. “No. 6 seed San Francisco rallied from a 15-point first-quarter deficit, took its first lead with 17.2 seconds left and held on to knock off the Cougars, 70-68.

“Wow. What a game. Our team fought so hard tonight,” said USF coach Jennifer Azzi. “BYU’s an incredible program, an amazing team. When you get down 10-0 you go, ‘Oh no.’”

Not that Azzi was necessarily surprised by what her team was able to do.

“You do have to have luck to get to this point,” she said. “This is what we’ve wanted for years. So I don’t think any of us are actually shocked by it because it’s been what we’ve been working towards. But certainly, the stars have to be aligned.”

Longtime readers of the WHB know we’ve been tracking Jennifer Azzi’s effort to rebuild the San Francisco program. Clearly, the Dons have gotten better under her leadership… but the WCC is (as ye longtime readers know) no joke. There’s Gonzaga, then BYU, then Saint Mary’s and now Santa Clara… so breaking into the NCAA is bloody challenging. But, her team met the challenge and are going dancin’ for the first time since 1997.

Remember what was happening in 1997? Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Elton John… and the WNBA. Which means Kurt Kragthorpe can write: an Ex-Utah Starzz guard outwits BYU’s Judkins in WCC final

The former point guard for the Utah Starzz of the WNBA outcoached ex-Utah Jazz forward Jeff Judkins at the end of a game that left Azzi “absolutely, honestly, speechless right now,” she said.

The Dons took down each of the WCC’s top three seeds in reverse order — and less spectacular fashion as they went along, actually. USF’s run began with Taylor Proctor’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against San Diego, then the Dons topped Saint Mary’s and BYU by two points each.

Summit Final: It was a tight battle between the South Dakotas. In the end the Jackrabbits upset the Coyotes, 61-55. That’s SDSU’s 7th trip to the NCAA in the last 8 years. BTW: A total of 8,647 fans packed the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting a record for a women’s Summit League championship.

Ivy: Penn, on Princeton’s home court, claimed their spot in this year’s Big Dance.

The Princeton women’s basketball team has lost seven Ivy League games in the last seven seasons. Penn won its second Ivy title in three seasons Wednesday night at Jadwin Gym, beating the Tigers, 62-60, in a game the Quakers led from late in the first quarter until the final two minutes. Penn gave up the lead for exactly 15 seconds, got it back on a three-point play from Anna Ross, the most skilled player on the court, and held it to the wire.

“As I just told my players you don’t get these opportunities too many times in sports to celebrate something like this,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just talked about some space being at the Palestra for them.”

Big East Final: I know the ESPN blurb says “St. John’s wins Big East title for 1st time since ’88” and it’s great for the Red Storm and New York basketball… but the headline is a bit disingenuous, dontcha think? (Yes, I’m still bitter the Old Big East is gone.) BUT, kudos to Creighton and congrats to St. John’s – ya took down the top dog and then earned a spot at in the Dance.

Big 12 Final: So, how good is Baylor lookin’? Ask Kim.

“Honestly, we’ve been playing pretty good, and I wish we could just keep playing,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You hate to stop and take a break, for fear that you can’t get back to where you just finished these last two or three weeks, because we’ve really played good basketball.”

Alexis Jones, who scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games. Beatrice Mompremier scored 15 points, and Niya Johnson added 11 for Baylor (33-1), which swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.

American Final: Stompity, stomp, stomp by UConn.

“If we play defense the way we played it tonight, we’re always going to have a chance,” Auriemma said. “Then how much we win by depends on how many shots go in for us.”

The shots were going in for Samuelson in the second quarter and she finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman nights like this make UConn fans dream that, yes, Samuelson has what it takes to be the next great player. “Stewy is obviously a lot more gifted, she can do so many more things,” Auriemma said. “But Lou has a different way of doing kind of the same things. The thing I like is if you challenge Lou really, really hard she responds. Those are the ones who usually turn out to be really good players, the ones who early on when you get after them they don’t wilt. They come of stronger.”

Oh, boy, opponents must love reading they have to look forward to.

Mechelle writes about those top four seeds: 

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue — if not downright doubt — about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn’t happen.

In progress conference tourneys had a couple of early upsets:

C-USA– First Round: North Texas (11-18, 5-13), who got our attention early in the season, faltered down the home stretch. That stop them from taking down Florida Atlantic (14-16, 6-12), 79-74. It’s the program’s first post-season win since 2011-12.

“I’m ecstatic to get a good team win,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it’s pretty balanced and everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance. Everything that we did helped us to get to this point”

C-USA – First Round: There’s lots of really upsetting news swirling around Florida International (5-25, 2-16). But, under interim head coach Tiara Malcom, the managed to pull it together and surprise Texas San Antonio (10-19, 6-12), 61-56.

Tomorrow games:

NEC Semis: Hello, old friend! Bryant v. Robert Morris; Sacred Heart v. St. Francis (PA)

Mountain West Semi: New Mexico v. #22 Colorado State

A-Sun Semis: FGCU v. old rival Stetson; upstart Jacksonville State v. South Carolina Upstate

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As most of you know, it’s become an annual thing with me: get as many people as possible to join me at the Garden for the Maggie Dixon game.

We usually get a group rate ($40 each) and the seats have been super. I purchase the tickets, then mail’em out to you — and then you send along a check or hand me the big bucks at the game.

Details:
Sunday, December 9th. First game starts at 11am.
Louisiana Tech vs. Rutgers

Duke vs. St. John’s

If you want tickets, drop me a line at womenshoopsblog@gmail.com. I’m looking to put in an order this Friday.

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which one was the BIGGEST one, asks Nate: Finding The NCAA Women’s Basketball Upset of the Year By Reframing Expectations

Shortly after the San Francisco Dons defeated the BYU Cougars on Thursday night, Matt Olson of Omni Rankings tweeted what many women’s basketball fans were already thinking: Jennifer Azzi’s Dons might’ve pulled off the upset of the year.

Helen of Women’s Hoops Blog reiterated the point on Friday, also suggesting that USF’s feat wasn’t quite as “sexy” as the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 77-75 upset win over the Kentucky Wildcats. Then there was the St. John’s Red Storm’s 57-56 win over the UConn Huskies, which was an upset in part because of the Red Storm interrupted a 99-game home win streak for the Huskies.

But this brings up a fun dilemma for basketball geeks, inspired by the very existence of Omni Rankings’ upset rankings: What constitutes the “Upset of the Year? And how on earth would we go about determining that with all the games that are played during any given season?

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team’s 10-year journey: St. John’s Announces Its Arrival Noisily 

“A couple of years ago, when we were first on the scene nationally, it was a different role for us to fill,” said Barnes Arico, whose 170 wins are more than any other coach in program history. “But these kids have been there. They know what it takes to be successful. They’re not afraid of it. I think winning at UConn showed they’re fearless.”

Seems Kevin Armstrong was on point with his Times’ piece two year’s ago: Coach’s Career Risk Keeps Paying Off at St. John’s

A self-made coach who has had head jobs in Divisions I, II and III, Barnes Arico, 39, has St. John’s off to a 16-3 start going into Wednesday’s game at Syracuse. In her eighth season, she has refashioned the Red Storm from a winless outfit against Big East opponents to a trendy program attracting the nation’s No. 11 recruiting class according to HoopGurlz.com.

“We had a lot of parties in the office last year,” Barnes Arico said of the signings, which were highlighted by Shenneika Smith, a spindly guard from St. Michael Academy in Manhattan.

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gender neutral.

From Mark Viera at the New York Times: It’s Not St. John’s Night in 2 Losses at Garden

In a corridor inside Madison Square Garden, members of the Syracuse men’s basketball team greeted the University of Connecticut women’s players. The Orange stopped to hug and shake hands with the Huskies and to obtain their autographs.

“We’re fans,” Syracuse point guard Scoop Jardine said. “We’re just happy we got to meet them.”

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St. John’s Red Storm Second Half Surge Puts Out Lady Flames and Power Play: Maryland Terrapin Posts Too Much to Handle

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