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they must play the rest of their games with their shoes tied together…

@NDsidMasters: During pregame radio interview, Coach McGraw announced Taya Reimer has left @ndwbbfor balance of 2015-16 season for personal reasons.

But never fear, Muffet is here:

It’s been almost 15 years since the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team won its first — and so far only — national championship, and began a journey that has cemented the Irish as one of the most respected programs in the country. The number of All-Americans who don the blue and gold jersey has become constant. Loyal fans still pack into Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to cheer on their favorite squad. The wins continue to accumulate.

And leading the way is Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw, who still paces the sideline and stomps her high heels to get her team’s attention during games. But plenty has changed — and some hasn’t — in that decade and a half. Universal changes to women’s basketball itself and personal changes for McGraw that have molded her ability to coach on and off the court.

“I think overall there have been a lot of great changes to women’s basketball, and we’re heading in a really good direction,” McGraw says. “At least here we’re heading in a good direction.”

Of course, she probably felt a little different near the end of the #18 DePaul game, having watched her team squander a huge lead. Yes, they won, but this will not be a comfortable season… though it might be one of her best coaching jobs.

#1 UConn rolled through Colgate, and then used a series of runs to take down #11 Florida State. “Under-appreciated” will become an overused word when it comes to UConn’s Tuck – but I can’t imagine opposition coaches feel that way about her. Certainly, Auriemma doesn’t: ‘She’s pretty special’

Gotta love in-state games: Cyclone Comeback Topples No. 23 Iowa, 69-66

Speaking of in-state games, weird: Analyst: ‘Quite unusual’ for UK defectors to be behind bench

Perhaps television analyst Brenda VanLengen summed up best what many fans were thinking as they watched Kentucky top Louisville on Thursday night.

“This is quite a surprise honestly,” the ESPN play-by-play announcer said just before halftime as the cameras zoomed in on two specific fans among the 14,425 at Rupp Arena.

Didn’t distract the Wildcats, though, as they took it to struggling (Walz: Cards women have talent, not work ethic) Louisville, 72-54. Graham says that With big win over Louisville, Kentucky quiets any talk of a crisis in Lexington. I say, it’s still early in the season…

Speaking of the “defectors,” the Hilltoppers get a nice pickup: Former Kentucky guard Kyvin Goodin-Rogers transferring to Western Kentucky

Texas Tech is continuing its rise from the ashes, defeating the not-to-be-triffled-with Vandals, 78-62.

Sigh. BU is still 0-fer.

Ummm… things are NOT good in the land of the Hartford Hawks. BC humbled them, 62-28.

Good: Texas ramps up efforts to sell women’s team to fans

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How much does San Diego State miss Beth Burns.

You know, UNC Asheville has been pretty awful for a while… and I don’t want to jinx them, but…. they were 6-1 for the first time in 31 years. And now they’re 7-1. AND they have a junior named Knuckles. What’s not to love?

Winning is important, but so is handling the expectations of the coaching staff and not getting too caught up in the early season success.

“The thing I’m most proud of with this team is their commitment to the process,” Kirkpatrick said. “I really think they’ve bought into treating each game separately and getting better with every opportunity.”

Super congrats to Army’s Kelsey Minato. In their win over NJIT, she became the first Army women’s player to reach the 2,000-point milestone. The 8-1 Black Knights look particularly fierce this season – might they return to the Big Dance for the third time since that fateful 2005-06 season? (watch this space for more on that team.)

Speaking of Army….#5 Maryland is 10-0, but Syracuse is the only ranked team they’ve faced. Looking forward to see how they hold up against UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden Monday, December 28th. (This year, I have 189 folks joining me! Come visit sections 10, 11, 12 if you want to say hi. I’ll be the shy, quiet, demure one… not!)

“Ruff!” says Gonzaga to Dayton, “we should be the top-dog in the mid-majors.”

Banham gets some love from the Star Tribune: 

Banham was 107 points shy of the record when she collapsed at the end of a fast-break layup on Dec. 10, 2014, in Grand Forks, N.D. She had torn her ACL and suffered a partial tear of her MCL, forcing her to spend the next three months watching from the bench as the Gophers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

That gave her plenty of incentive for a rehabilitation period she described as the hardest thing she ever has done. Her doctors followed a strict, cautious timetable, prohibiting her from jogging until three months post-surgery and forbidding any basketball activities for seven months. As she healed, she worked with the Gophers’ new strength coach, Ralph Petrella, and began reshaping her diet.

Good to hear: Texas A&M’s Jordan Jones rebounding well after injury

Gary Blair’s plan early in the season was to lighten the load for senior point guard Jordan Jones, who was coming off knee surgery. But when the Texas A&M women’s basketball team played at 14th-ranked Duke in the second week of the season, the Aggie head coach leaned on Jones for 41 minutes to pull out a 72-66 overtime victory.

“She had played 15 minutes in her first game, 22 in her second game, and she just came in [at Duke] and kept going,” Blair said. “I did not want to play her that many minutes just coming off of that ACL, but she is the heart and soul of our team.”

BTW: That’s 700 for Mr. Blair.

Dishin & Swishin 12/10/15 Podcast: Miami leads group of upstarts changing the guard in the ACC

Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville are the teams we expect to be at the top of the ACC every year. In the last couple of years Florida State became a regular to the discussion too. This year? It is early, but Miami at 10-0, Virginia Tech at 8-1, and Boston College at 7-1 are crashing the party.

One of the reasons Missouri is 9-0: they generating more steals, fast-break chances

If the Lady Vols seeking to reverse tailspin on the road, their performance against a short-handed, shadow-of-its-former-self Wichita State can’t be seen as a good sign. Next up: Stanford (who must deal with Texas) followed by Oregon State. Seatbelt time, y’all.

Speaking of the Beavers: Weisner in a groove offensively

Jamie Weisner entered last Thursday’s game at Marquette hitting 60 percent of her 3-point attempts through the season’s first five games.

But Weisner, No. 7 Oregon State’s senior sharpshooter and leading scorer, for some reason couldn’t find the range against the quick and aggressive Golden Eagles.

She missed all seven of her attempts.

Earlier in her career, that may have led to a bit of frustration for Weisner.

But last Thursday, she wasn’t fazed.

The New York Times: A Life on the Move Molds a U.C.L.A. Basketball Star

Home for Nirra Fields these days is a room in a five-bedroom suite on the U.C.L.A. campus. It is not luxurious: Fields has decorated it with basketball and family pictures, and she shares a common space and a single bathroom with four other students. But the space is clean, and it is organized, and — this is most important — it is all hers.

After the route Fields took to get to it, that is enough.

Ah, high school:

Louisiana: Mothers of Salmen High School girls basketball players who were kicked off team make emotional appeal to School Board

Pittsburgh: West Jefferson Hills school board retains controversial girls basketball coach

Mississippi: Parent puts girls basketball coach in hospital

Seattle: Review of Bishop Blanchet football, girls basketball confirms recruiting violations, self-imposed penalties

Not high school:

Hello, Nancy Lieberman: Sacramento Kings assistant coach nails backward one-handed half-court shot

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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A little history from Michelle: Oral history: Harvard stuns Stanford – A look back at the 1998 NCAA tournament, the only time a 16-seed toppled a No. 1

A week before the NCAA tournament opener, Stanford was positioned as one of the best teams in the country, after three straight trips to the Final Four. Seven days later, the Cardinal became the first and only No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, with a 71-67 defeat against Harvard. As with all great sports upsets, there is an intriguing backstory only the people involved can tell. We consulted our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight for some statistical context. Then we spoke with nine prominent people involved in the game and asked them to set the scene in an oral history of that game — starting with a devastating moment at the end of Stanford’s Pac-10 finale against Oregon State.

Vanessa Nygaard, former Stanford forward and longtime WNBA, college and high school coach: “We were ahead comfortably, but then Oregon State started closing the gap, and I went back in.”

Beth Goode, former Stanford sports information director and current senior women’s administrator: “Vanessa’s injury happened right in front of me. It was one of those unmistakable things when she went down. You knew it wasn’t good.”

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach, one of five coaches in NCAA women’s history with 900-plus wins: “The doctor at Oregon State said it was not an ACL, and we would have it looked at when we got back on Sunday, which was selection day.”

From Kate, a little history that’s a tad more modern: The swagger Of UConn – A look at how the Huskies’ dominance came to be — but it’s not for everybody

During last year’s college basketball season, Rebecca Lobo watched in person a number of Connecticut’s practices.

And during one of these afternoons, the former UConn star and current ESPN analyst noticed something strikingly familiar: coach Geno Auriemma running ragged one of the team’s best players.

Lobo also instantly recognized the drill: one-on-one from the wing, the emphasis on defense. The players form a line at each wing. First player in line is the defender; next one has the ball. If the defender gets a stop, she rotates to the back of the opposite line; if she gives up a bucket, she immediately runs to the opposite wing to try again — against a fresh offensive player.

The thing about this drill: Each repetition is exhausting. So if you don’t get a stop within the first two attempts, the likelihood of ever getting one plummets. After successive reps against fresh teammates? Might as well wave the white flag.

Except, of course, a white flag doesn’t exist at UConn.

From Mechelle: Massengale steps up at Tennessee – Senior guard and fellow Chicagoan Nia Moore look to make big impact in tourney

Mechelle’s been busy! Wilson right at home with Gamecocks

The fact that A’ja Wilson didn’t have to look far to find her college destination didn’t mean that she didn’t look hard. She explored different options, and waited until last April to announce her decision.

And when the hometown kid said she was staying with the hometown school, the rest of the country could almost hear the cheers of happiness mixed with relief coming from Columbia, South Carolina.

Some things are meant to be. Like Wilson playing for the Gamecocks. She’s from Hopkins, South Carolina, just outside the state capital city, and went to Heathwood Hall in Columbia. As she prepares for her first NCAA tournament for South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Regional, Wilson knows she’s right where she’s supposed to be.

How about some other youngsters? TOP FRESHMEN READY TO MAKE NCAA TOURNAMENT DEBUT

How about some previews?

Albany Regional breakdown – UConn

Three observations

1. What an interesting road it’s been for Seton Hall senior guard Daisha Simmons. She struggled first to obtain a release from Alabama, and then to get a waiver to play this season at Seton Hall. But it worked out, as the Pirates are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Simmons is averaging 16.9 points, plus has 131 assists and a team-high 80 steals.

Greensboro Regional breakdown – South Carolina

Three observations

1. It has been a big season for Ohio, which is the No. 14 seed and faces No. 3 Arizona State in the first round.

Oklahoma City Regional breakdown – Notre Dame

Three observations

1. It’s time for the annual Sherri Coale appreciation salute. She took over at Oklahoma for the 1996-97 season, which was also the first year of the Big 12. At that point, the Sooners had made just two NCAA tournament appearances, and the school had infamously shut down the program for roughly a week in 1990 before sanity prevailed.

Spokane Regional breakdown – Maryland

Three observations

1. Kudos to New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh, who has the Aggies in the NCAA field for the first time since 1988. Trakh, in his fourth season in Las Cruces, also has taken Pepperdine and Southern Cal to the Big Dance. His Aggies, the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion, are the No. 16 seed and take on No. 1 Maryland in the opening round.

Michelle says: Savor all 63 games — not just final

We’ve arrived, a little earlier than in previous years, at the start of the NCAA tournament. And while many people might want to jump straight to the ending — one they think they can already write — we refuse to do that.

We are going to soak in the process of reducing a field of 64 teams down to one champion over the course of three weeks.

Because whether conventional wisdom suggests this in an exercise in inevitability, that Connecticut will be cutting down nets like last year, and the year before that, there are still 63 other teams determined to make sure they’re hoisting the championship trophy in Tampa.

Before the first games tip off (ESPN2/WatchESPN, noon ET Friday), let’s take a moment to appreciate the journey. We have plenty of time to focus on the end result, let’s not miss all the great stuff in the middle.

From Cheryl Coward: Cal refocused after the Pac-12 tourney, ready to help showcase women’s basketball in the Bay area as an NCAA early round host

Nearby: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers refocus after Pac-12 tourney loss

Scott Rueck doesn’t ever like, nor does he typically believe a team needs, to lose a game.

But Oregon State’s fifth-year women’s basketball coach was OK with his team’s loss to Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament two weekends ago for one simple reason — it wasn’t the NCAA tournament.

In order to win a tournament, Rueck says, a team has to be hungry enough and know exactly what it is playing for because every other team will bring its best performance.

It’s about doing everything you do as well as you possibly can, he says.

Also nearby: From Marcus Thompson II: Stanford needs Thompson’s ‘A’ game in NCAAs

They say it takes great guards to make noise in the NCAA tournament. That gives hope to Stanford, coming off as uninspiring a season as it has had in years.

Guard Amber Orrange, a battled tested senior who’s as smooth as they come, is a rock on which coach Tara VanDerveer can rely. If Lili Thompson can take her game to another level for the postseason, that gives the Cardinal an advantage to milk.

The recruiting standard has been set high by new coach Marlene Stollings and her staff at Minnesota.

The one-player class of senior forward Shae Kelley has flourished.

The first and only player Stollings signed since taking over the Gophers, Kelley has entered the NCAA Tournament with the fifth-best scoring average in the Big Ten at 17.5 points per game. She’s seventh in the conference with 9.4 rebounds per game. Her leadership was relied on even more after the loss of star guard Rachel Banham to a season-ending injury.

Pat Eaton-Rob from notices that “other” team from Connecticut:

Quinnipiac has quietly put together a 31-3 season, joining UConn and Notre Dame as the only teams in the tournament with more than 30 wins. They swept through an undefeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season in just their second year in the league and then dethroned 9-time conference champion Marist, 72-61, in the conference title game.

The Bobcats are 104-29 since the 2011-12 season, with the second-highest winning percentage (.782) of all New England Division I schools during that span. They trail only UConn (.933).

Tim May at the Columbus Dispatch notices that “other” team from Ohio:

As Kiyanna Black recalled, coach Bob Boldon had a grand plan for Ohio University women’s basketball when he was named the 10th coach in school history two years ago.

“When he first got here, his first words were ‘MAC championships,’” said Black, a junior from Africentric. “And I’m just sitting there looking at him, ‘We’ve got to win a few games, first.’

“At first it felt so far away. But we just kept working and kept grinding, and believing in him and his staff. And we’re here.”

Speaking of coaches: Sue Semrau still building legacy at Florida State

And more coaches: Seton Hall’s Tony Bozzella set to enjoy father-daughter dance at NCAA Tournament

And more coaches: From Sue Favor: New Mexico State, coach Mark Trakh moving on up

New Mexico State has vaulted back on to the national basketball stage this spring, in a big way.

They won the Western Athletic Conference Championship earlier this month, for the first time in program history, after going 13-1 in league play and 22-7 overall. That put them into the NCAA Tournament, after a 27-year absence.

And MORE coaches: A first for American, and its coach

 To many Easterners, Iowa is a “flyover state.” Count Megan Gebbia among them.

“My initial reaction (after the NCAA women’s basketball selections were made Monday) was, ‘Wow, Iowa, I’ve never been there,’” said Gebbia, second-year coach at American University.

She’ll be here sometime today, when the Eagles arrive for preparations for their NCAA debut.

Hey! It’s time for the Mascot Bracket!

Don’t wanna read? Then take a listen to Dishin’ and Swishin’s NCAA Tourney Roundtable featuring Doug Feinberg, LaChina Robinson, Debbie Antonelli and Lin Dunn

Don’t wanna listen? How about dance?

In non-tourney news:

Ouch: Three players leave Vanderbilt women’s basketball team

Vanderbilt women’s basketball has announced its third departing player in the past week following the program’s first losing season in 16 years.

Freshman guard Paris Kea will transfer, per a Vanderbilt news release. Last week, the program lost freshman twin sisters Audrey-Ann and Khalèann Caron-Goudreau, who will also transfer.

Echo ouch: Brooks to leave Indiana University, third to depart program in last 3 days

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It’s the Billikens again! This time Sadie Stipanovich hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds to play to give them a win over Saint Joseph’s, 52-51.

It’s the Peahens again! This time over Niagara, 65-58, for the second win of their season. In their previous matchup, Niagara routed Saint Peter’s by 33 points.

Yes, in-state battles are awesome: Arkansas State (9-2 in the Sun Belt) gives Arkansas-Little Rock their first Sun Belt loss (9-1), 70-69.

It took double overtime, but #14 Texas gave #24 Oklahoma their first Big 12 loss, 84-81.

Tough battle by shorthanded #10 Kentucky (though Goss is back), but two key end-of-game blocks helped the #6 Vols prevail in Lexington, 73-72.

A game of back-and-forth runs, momentum swings, floor burns and all-out effort came down to the final possession.

Down 73-72, UK got the ball back with 46 seconds left after Jelleah Sidney blocked Cierra Burdick’s shot.

Before a roaring Memorial Coliseum crowd of 7,407, the Wildcats were one field goal from their fourth victory over Tennessee in the past six games.

What the Cats found instead was stomach-churning frustration.

Their efficiency from the floor helped the Terps, who entered the contest with the fourth-best field-goal percentage in the country, shoot 54.3 percent in the first half before finishing the game shooting 52.5 percent.

“One of our biggest jobs to do was to run them off the court,” Walker-Kimbrough said.

The Debbie Antonelli Special (#1) comes courtesy of Wright State v. Oakland: It was the Raiders over the Golden Grizzlies, 108-89. Nice story out of Oakland:

A basketball player who averages 21 points per game as a junior and 19.1 as a senior, along with showing an ability to rebound, block shots and steal, is likely to end up on an NCAA Division I roster somewhere.

And that is exactly what happened for Troy Athens graduate Sinclair Russell, who is currently in her redshirt sophomore season with Oakland University

DAS (#2) was #20 Iowa over Northwestern, 102-99. Melissa Dixon hit 9-10 on three’s as the Hawkeyes made a B10 record 19 during the game.

“You’re going to hear me ro-oar!” In a game that featured sister v. sister, Maine mauled New Hampshire, 87-56. Albany is up next, Feb 1st.

FGCU is flyin’ through the A-Sun, but the Eagles remember last year’s game against Northern Kentucky:

Since becoming eligible for the Atlantic Sun tournament, the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team is 59-1 against conference teams in the regular season.

The one loss came last year at Northern Kentucky. And it was ugly.

With a 63-43 loss, FGCU suffered its worst A-Sun defeat and tied for the fewest points scored in a game in program history. 

It’s looking like the fight for C-USA top spot will be between Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Going to have to wait until Feb. 21st for that game, though.

Auburn stays winless in the SEC, going down to Arkansas, 52-47.

Speaking of the SEC, Nell Fortner offers her top five by position.

Well, oops! Down goes Long Beach State for a second time, this time of courtesy of the Wahine, 72-64.

Kansas State stole Oklahoma State’s fan belt. They defeat the Cowgirls, 52-51, in OT.

Colorado State is now 7-1 in the Mountain West. Next up: Fresno State (8-0 in the conference).

Coming up, Todd McMahon writes: Road challenges await UW-Green Bay

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team had its hands full with Ruvanna Campbell three times last season.

Horizon League-leading UWGB is bracing for its first encounter this season with Illinois-Chicago’s imposing 6-foot-3 junior forward.

“She’s in a league of her own in the conference,” Phoenix sophomore Mehryn Kraker said.

From Palo Alto: Stanford women’s basketball tops busy home weekend slate

Orrange and Samuelson are close to milestones. Orrange needs three assists to become the seventh player in Stanford history to reach 500. 

Samuelson is five 3-pointers shy of matching Nicole Powell (201) for sixth on the Cardinal’s all-time list.

Stanford faces the top three scorers in the conference this weekend and four of the top eight. Washington State’s Lia Galdeira (19.6) and Tia Presley (18.9) are second and third.

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Geno Auriemma: By the numbers – UConn coach nears 900th career win; milestone could come as early as Tuesday. Mechelle adds: 10 defining moments – UConn coach, in his 30th season, is on verge of 900th career victory

My goodness: Girls basketball coach returns to team after losing arm

Well ouch: Buchholz girls basketball team forfeits 2014-15 season

Two years after winning the school’s first state basketball title, the Buchholz girls basketball team has forfeited its 2014-15 season.

Bobcats athletic director Jay Godwin asked for and got permission from the Florida High School Athletic Association on Monday to do so, three days after finding out the team had been using an ineligible player the entire season.

and then Buchholz fires girls basketball coach after forfeited season

Buchholz High School principal Vince Perez met Friday morning with the girls basketball team and coach Rebecca Williams. By the end of the meeting, he told the team they had to go in a different direction.

That meant, Williams, a Buchholz alum, is no longer the coach after eight years.

Mechelle writes about Drake sophomore Lizzy Wendell.

Kids in really large families sometimes look for ways to build their individual identities. But rarely do they look to the laundry room to establish such a distinction.

But Drake sophomore forward Lizzy Wendell, one of the nation’s top scorers this season, was once as a teenager the voluntary head laundry washer for her family, which includes her parents and eight siblings.

“She took over the laundry for about eight months,” said her father, Mike Wendell. “We have a washer and dryer upstairs and downstairs. She just wanted to do it; she’s pretty organized.”

Lizzy explained it this way: “My oldest sister, when she came back home from college, started paying me to do her laundry for her. And I said, ‘Oh, this is easy,’ and I did it for everyone for a while.”

Eventually, “Busy Lizzy,” as her family calls her, decided to give up the chore.

“But we all liked it while it lasted,” Mike said, grinning. “That’s a lot of laundry.”

Nowadays, Wendell focuses on taking opposing defenses to the cleaners. Her 22.6 points per game leads the Missouri Valley Conference and is tied for eighth in Division I.

Good to hear: Craft says young players hungry to get better

The skinned knee is a rite of passage for the young. Finding a bandage and the will to return to the playground tag game is the best way to address the pain.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team took a tumble midway through the second half Sunday at Purdue, falling behind the Boilermakers by 12 points before rising to win a 79-71 overtime decision.

“I think us really pushing through that was a big step for our team,” junior guard Cait Craft said. “In the past, we haven’t been able to do that. We just came together, had each other’s back and pushed through it.”

Check out Swish Appeal’s mid-season COY candidates.

In W news:

John Altavilla is Catching Up With Kelly Faris

Storm trade 2 players to Sun for No. 3 pick in WNBA draft

The Seattle Storm are continuing their rebuilding project.

The Storm traded Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen to the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday for the third and 15th picks in the upcoming WNBA draft and Renee Montgomery. The Storm already have the No. 1 pick.

“As we get into the draft and look at the players coming out, we’re excited about having 1 and 3,” Seattle Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “For us a key objective is to add youth to the roster, and this gives us an opportunity through the draft.”

Pat Friday grades the trade.

More on an Aussie: Abby Bishop shoulders Canberra’s final hopes, but don’t compare her to Lauren Jackson

Catch is in India: Journey on a difficult terrain

Finally, Emotional Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team starts healing process by playing first game since tragedy  and from Graham: ‘I want everybody to know who Shannise was’ Eastern Michigan’s 21-year-old junior forward died Sunday in a car accident

The first time Bud Schimmelpfenneg, a longtime Eastern Michigan fan and booster, met one of the new additions to the women’s basketball team he reached out to shake her hand.

Shannise Heady wanted none of it.

“Oh no, I’m not shaking hands,” he recalled her telling him. “I’m a hugger.”

There weren’t any handshakes after the final buzzer brought an end to Wednesday’s game between Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, either. Just as players, coaches and staff from both teams locked arms for a moment of silence before the game and remained that way through the national anthem, jerseys alternating in a semi-circle that stretched almost all the way around the court, they eschewed handshakes for hugs when it was over. It wasn’t a normal night. It won’t be normal for Eastern Michigan for a long time. For these players, maybe ever.

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“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

Welcome to Stanford’s world. And it’s not just one thing, but several somethings: #13 ASU went into Maples Pavilion, jumped out to a 17-point first half lead, and then held on for dear life, escaping with a three-point victory. How huge is this for the Sun Devils? (And no, we WHB folks are NOT surprised..)

The Sun Devils (17-1, 6-0 Pac-12) snapped a 16-game losing streak in the rivalry and won at Maples Pavilion for only the second time spanning 33 chances in program history and first since March 3, 1984. Coach Charli Turner Thorne, in her 18th year leading ASU, had never beaten the Cardinal at Stanford — where she played her college ball under Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer.

Guess that leave that CTT took in 2011 really revived her.

It doesn’t get any easier for the #11 Cardinal: The still have to play the Washingtons again (though at home), face ASU in Arizona…. and #9 Oregon State is looming Feb. 26th at OSU.

The Beavers will move on undefeated in Pac-12 play by virtue of their hard-fought victory, 75-67, over Washington.

Sure, Jewell Loyd scored 34 points, but that’s what she does. If I were Holly, I’d be worried that, as a team, #6 Notre Dame shot a sizzling 58.2% on their way to an 11pt victory over #5 Tennessee.

The new Associated Press Top 25 released Monday suggested neither Notre Dame nor Tennessee will be in attendance when the Final Four convenes in Tampa.

If there are four teams that can play better basketball than the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish and fifth-ranked Lady Vols played Monday in South Bend in front of a national television audience, especially for a stretch of scintillating can-you-top-this shot-making in the first half, college basketball is in for a heck of a show in April.

But if Jewell Loyd isn’t part of that show, it will be our loss.

#3 Baylor carved up the #8 Longhorns in Waco, 75-58. Yes, Ariel Atkins is back, but #8 Texas seems to have lost some of its mojo. The fact Nneka Enemkpali left the game with a knee injury has got to make everyone’s gut clench.

UPDATED: Texas forward Enemkpali lost for season with torn ACL

In other weekend scores:

Speaking of lost mojo – Northwestern has stumbled badly, losing three of their last four.

West Virginia righted their ship – at least for one game – and took down #21 Oklahoma State, 61-49. The Cowgirls seem to have thrown a shoe.

Sic’em Sooners: Down go the Horned Frogs and the Cowgirls. Texas Tech is next, followed by Texas. Sherri and company seem to be on their way to rescuing a seemingly lost season.

Many people, some at least, when things are going very well, begin to look for when, where and how everything might fall apart. And things are going very well for coach Sherri Coale’s Oklahoma women’s basketball team.

Yet, even with today’s 3:30 p.m. tip coming up against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State, the Sooners appear not at all wrapped up in what might go wrong, nor how they might be affected if something were to go wrong.

Heck, yes, the MAC is going to be a dogfight: Ohio, Central Michigan, Akron and Ball State are pounding on everyone… and each other.

American is busy putting distance between themselves and the rest of the Patriot League.

Keep an eye on this one in the West Coast Conference: Gonzaga (6-0) at St. Mary’s (5-1), January 22nd.

Middle Tennessee State rolled La Tech, but you’ve got to be looking ahead to their rematch against Southern Miss. And then there’s that game v. #24 Western Kentucky

Not only have the Lady Toppers won 13 games in a row, the last 11 games by have come by double digits, all by at least 14 points.

WKU’s 13-game winning streak is tied for the sixth longest streak in the nation entering Sunday’s games. Western will look for its first 14-game or better streak since the 2002-03 season when it returns to the court on Thursday. WKU has just four streaks in program history of 14 consecutive wins or better. The school record is a 21-game streak during the 1990-91 season. The Toppers’ 13 straight wins are tied for the eighth longest streak in Conference USA history.

Fresno State is enjoying it’s status atop the Mountain West. But, they just escaped Wyoming…  and face Colorado State in a couple of weeks.

Nice win for Sacramento State. They score under 80 points, yet give Eastern Washington their first in-conference loss, and move into the top spot in the Big Sky.

Ouchos Gouchos. How far Santa Barbara has fallen. They stay winless on the year as Long Beach stomps all over them, 81-44.

Illinois State is also winless and, unlucky Redbirds, they get to go up against Wichita State next.

Marist dispatched Sienna. Quinnipiac dumped the Jaspers. Thursday, they get to go against each other. 

# 16 Duke handled the Hurricanes, 68-53, behind Williams’ double-double. Miami doesn’t have a lot of time to recover from the loss (of Laura Quevedo): they face Louisville on the 25th.

In a good news, bad news day: Seton Hall overwhelmed Depaul, 107-87. The Pirates then announced they’d dimissed Bra’Shey Ali from the team for multiple violations of team rules. The leading rebounder for the Hall, Ali had similar issues at Kentucky.

Fordham and George Washington are still the cream of the A-10.

No, they’re not setting the basketball world on fire, but I am noticing Rhode Island is a LOT better than they have been in the past few years.

This is an “upset” to the uninformed: Down-two-Kentucky falls to Up-one-LSU, 84-79.

#23 Minnesota was pushed by Indiana, but escaped with a 65-61 win.

It was an ugly offensive game, 32.7% v. 32.8%, but #22 Iowa will take the 2-point win over Michigan State.

#1 South Carolina is marching through the SEC. Next up, #10 Texas A&M.

Not only did Florida get tattooed by the Gamecocks, they then had to dismiss guard Antoinette Bannister after she was charged with credit card theft and fraud.

And more on Kim: Through foundation, Kim Perrot’s spirit is felt on MLK Day

While the nation celebrated the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King this weekend, Loretta Perrot Hunter had another strong person who changed lives on her mind.

The sister of the late University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball great and former Houston Comets star Kim Perrot had tears of joy all weekend long as Kim’s jersey was retired by the Ragin’ Cajuns Saturday.

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(Sunday and the season.)

The ESPN/AP headline says #22 West Virginia “rolled” past Fairfield, and if you’re Mike Carey you gotta love that the Stags only scored 11 in the first half. But when your Mountaineers are outscored 42-35 in the second by a 1-5 team? Not so happy.

June is bustin’ out all over – and so is Galdeira (33pts). As a result, Washington State knocked off #10 Maryland, 70-64.

In what seems the umpteenth double overtime game of this young season, the battle of Chicago went to Northwestern as the Wildcats took down the #18 Blue Demons, 97-91.

As expected, the Bulls gave those other Wildcats everything they could handle. Not a beautiful shooting night for either team, but Thompson and Goss’ free throws sealed the game for #9 Kentucky.

#5 Stanford started out slowly… and I mean slowly, against Hawai’i, but Thompson heated up and the Cardinal breathed a sigh of relief after their 86-73 win.

No sighing involved:

#25 Mississippi almost doubled up UNO (the Privateers, not the Mavericks.).

#22 Georgia caged the Golden Eagles, giving coach Landers his 850th win with the Bulldogs. Landers joins Pat Summitt (1,098 wins at Tennessee), Jim Boeheim (953 wins at Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (916 wins at Duke), Geno Auriemma (882 wins at Connecticut), Dean Smith (879 wins at North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (876 wins at Kentucky) in reaching 850 wins at one Division I school.

#20 Oklahoma State dismissed Texas State.

#19 Beavers escaped the Cougars.

#14 California over Creighton.

#13 Baylor tipped the Hatters.

#11 North Carolina pounded Prairie View.

#3 Connecticut just threw fastballs at Vanderbilt.

Upcoming:

#8 Duke v. #7 Texas A&M. The Blue Devils handled Stony Brook, but it might have cost them Williams (yup) and Stevens. Not sure we’ve figured out who the Aggies are yet. (WatchESPN @ 1pm)

#4 Tennessee v. #6 Texas. Yup, it’s early in the season, but this feels like two “statement” games for the individual head coaches. Can Aston’s team stand up to the limelight. Can Warlick’s team recover from a stunning setback. (FOXS1 @ 6pm)

I’m intrigued by #2 Notre Dame v. Kansas, mostly ’cause the Jayhawks are 5-1 and it’ll be nice to get a inkling if they’re “legit” this year.

It’s a battle of the undefeateds as Lehigh faces off against Sacred Heart.

In another battle of the undefeateds, #15 Nebraska meets 4-0 Northern Colorado.

It’s a battle of the defeateds, as 0-3 Canisius goes up against 0-3 St. Francis (PA)

Fun IN-state rivalry game: 5-0 Indiana v. 4-1 Indiana State.

Marist got its first win of the season, (Yah!) Now they get to go up against Baylor. (Gulp)

5-1 Green Bay will get a good sense of themselves when they go up against #3 UConn.

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First Green Bay goes into West Lafayette and takes advantage of a missed free throw in the first overtime to push the game to a second overtime and the upset win over #24 Purdue.

Then, after an interesting first half that saw the #10 Texans stake themselves to a 6-pt lead over the Cardinal at Maples, it looks like Stanford was going to eek out a win. But NO! It goes to overtime! And this time — for the first time in thirty-three years — the Longhorns take down the temporarily #1 Tree. (That’s also Texas’ first takedown of a ranked team in 6 years.) What are pollsters going to do with their votes next week? It’s  so much easier when there  are no upsets in women’s basketball….

So, what is up with the California State schools? Northridge takes down BYU, 63-54. (Could be a tough year for the Cougars) and UC Riverside rolls over San Jose State, 100-80.

Keepin’ the ranked teams honest — #11 North Carolina edged #21 Oklahoma State by 2, 79-77.

The Hatters are off to a 2-0 start, with Marist in their future and Baylor looming. They don’t play conference rival FGCU until January 10th. The Eagles fell to Auburn, 72-69, in spite of Haas’ 30.

Debbie’s game of the night: George Mason over Delaware State, 110-91.

Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner was still mighty efficient (5-10 in 23 minutes), but she has to be careful of fouls. Lucky for the Irish, Jewell Loyd knows nows how to fill up a stat sheet (and shoot free throws). #3 Notre Dame over #15 Michigan State, 71-63.

Susie’s Panthers righted the ship with a school record 13 3-pointers against Michigan, but JMU’s up next.

That being said, JMU had a tough time against American, escaping with a 69-65 win.

A strong second half helped propel #24 Georgia over Ohio State, 67-59.

After scoring 50 points in the first, #8 Maryland eased up in the second, ’cause it could have been wicked ugly final score. Instead it’s just Terps 85, South Florida 67.

Even at home, Princeton continues to pound Pennsylvania.

Well, yes, LSU, it’s going to be that kind of season. The Tigers get rolled by the Green Wave.

After wins over Dayton and Idaho State, Washington State got handled (in the second half) by #16 Nebraska, 82-61.

Well, hello there, Mississippi State, you’re going to the preseason WNIT finals! They take down #17 West Virginia, 74-61 in a game full of ugly shooting. The Bulldogs will face off against the Hilltoppers because, after jumping to the #3 spot in the College Insider mid-major poll, Albany encountered the “Red Wave” of Western Kentucky… and fell,

#2 South Carolina got to iron out some of the kinks out while stomping all over Clemson, 99-41.

Speaking of stomping, there go the Cardinals.

That was Ka’lia Johnson tallying the seventh triple-double in Duke history as the # Blue Devils overcame Old Dominion, 82-66.

Can I ask “what’s happened to Florida” or is that too dismissive of the Red Storm?

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