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So, THAT’s not how the Sparks and Lynx wanted to get out of the post-Olympics gate….

LA went up to Seattle and got squeezed by the Storm, 79-72. Stewie struggled, but Bird picked up the slack, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc.

“It’s surprising because we didn’t have the best offensive night. It was all about defense for us,” said guard Jewell Loyd, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and five steals with just one turnover.

Nneka continued her hot play, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.

Maybe Excelle should play the lotto (Connecticut Sun: a team on the rise, playoffs in sight) ’cause the Lynx got stymied by the Sun (and Moore’s foul trouble)  in Connecticut, 84-80.

“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don’t out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren’t going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”

No one on the Lynx is pointing to the Olympics as an excuse:

“In the end, it’s probably a wash,” said Reeve, when asked before the Lynx’s 84-80 loss to the Sun if fatigue or lack of sharpness would prevail. “Any advantage they may have from being off, full-rested, maybe honing some skills, the group that was over in Rio is in game shape and has that rhythm of playing a game. That’s something you can’t simulate when you’re off.

In San Antonio, the Liberty kept their focus and dispatched the Stars, 84-77, thanks to the sweetness that is (MIP) Sugar. Hello, playoffs!

Elena Delle Donne brought the 34-point boom to Chicago as the Sky took down Atlanta, 90-82.

“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight. 

“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”

Speaking of Dallas, the eternal Pierson’s 23 (and 4000th) couldn’t help the Wings against Penny “sore throat” Taylor and the rest of the Merc.

Phoenix Mercury players won a combined four medals at the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, may have found the defense and chemistry that was missing before the Olympic break.

Despite falling behind by 11 early against Dallas on Friday night, the Mercury hammered the Wings 98-72 before 11,396 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix’s most one-sided win of the season came against a team it went 0-3 against pre-Rio, including a triple overtime loss June 18 after leading 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Washington Post: Mystics and WNBA are back from Olympic break, but LaToya Sanders got no rest

Aussie, Aussie, ello! Mystics Sign Leilani Mitchell as Bria Hartley starts planning for a munchkin.

Slam Online: WATCH: WNBA Super20

The historic 20th WNBA season has been one for the record books. The Lynx and Sparks got off to a blazing hot start, the W has faced controversy for trying to police its players and the basketball has never been better.

With all the talent and storylines around the League, the final part of the regular season and the playoffs provide a guaranteed storybook ending.

Get hype for the rest of the 2016 campaign, picking up again tonight, with the video above, featuring highlights from the first part of the summer.

Also: Nike & WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Donate Sneakers To Delaware Newborns

Meanwhile:

Doug Bruno savors experience with USA women’s basketball team

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey donates to Louisiana hometown in wake of flooding

Vermont women’s basketball cancels game at UNC over transgender bathroom law

“The decision to cancel to our Dec. 28 women’s basketball game at North Carolina was made as a result of concerns over the HB2 law, which prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms based on their gender identity,” University of Vermont athletic director Jeff Schulman said Wednesday. “We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued. It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

WATN? Rodrigo is new grad assistant for Georgia basketball

WATN? Mo’ne Davis shifts her drive to the basketball court: The Little League World Series pioneer two years later

Davis, 15, is heading into her sophomore year of high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She dreams of a career in the WNBA, and she knows the journey begins with the process of college recruitment. That’s why Davis has made the decision to forgo high school basketball this season – after representing her school as an eighth-grader and a freshman – and exclusively play AAU with the Philly Triple Threat team, where she can go head to head with the best talent in the nation.

“I made the decision because it was time to start getting out there in front of college coaches and showing my improvement over the next two years,” Davis said.

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But, until the US’s next game (What To Watch For: USA vs. Serbia (Wednesday, 2:30 PM ET), we have this….

CNN: The best team [some of] you’ve never heard of plays basketball for the U.S.

In truth, women’s soccer had already entered America’s collective consciousness in 1999 — when Brandi Chastain donned a Sports Illustrated cover celebrating in a sports bra after defeating China in the World Cup — and never left. 
A recent Sports Illustrated Olympic preview cover features women’s footie star Alex Morgan, alongside prominent Americans Kevin Durant, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky.
But of the seven athletes featured on the SI cover, none of them represent the country’s most dominating — yet largely anonymous — team over the past three decades, one whose eye-popping statistic was buried in a one liner under its medals picks: The U.S. women’s basketball team has a 41-game Olympic winning streak.

Fans and critics use labels to define athletes, and Sylvia Fowles understands that.

But the former LSU star refuses to be tied to one.

“If you asked me two years ago how long I’d play, I probably would have said two years,” Fowles said. “My health is good, and I still love playing basketball. I’m not ready to put an expiration date on my career — not yet.”

 

An emphatic statement from the typically soft-spoken Fowles is a little surprising. It should be a plus for a U.S. women’s national team seeking its sixth straight gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore mix hoops and help for the less fortunate

.com: Sue Bird Continuing Stellar WNBA Play In Rio

Jeff Eisenberg: How Elena Delle Donne spurned Geno Auriemma only to reunite with him in the Olympics

On the night she fled the nation’s premier women’s basketball program without warning, Elena Delle Donne was certain of only one thing.

She believed Geno Auriemma would never forgive her.

Swish Appeal: How Breanna Stewart is changing the landscape of basketball

A little antidote to the sexism in the coverage of women Olympians: 50 Photos That Show The Raw Power Of This Year’s Olympic Women

About those covering the games: Bus shooting in Rio: First-hand account from Hoopfeed correspondent Lee Michaelson

An Olympic media transport bus came under gunfire on Tuesday night, as it made the trip from the venue cluster at Deodoro Olympic Park to the Main Press Center (MPC) and International Broadcast Center, located across town at the main Olympic Park in Barra, carrying approximately 10 passengers. Two windows on the side of the bus were blown out by the impact. A reporter from Belarus, as well as an Olympic volunteer from Turkey, sustained minor wounds from the broken glass, but no one was hit by the shots or seriously injured.

Hoopfeed.com correspondent Lee Michaelson, a retired Air Force captain, was on the bus at the time of the incident, and gave us a first-hand account.

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Screwing with the constant “WEEEEEE’RE DOOOOOOOMED” narrative: WNBA’s 20th season produces strong numbers and ratings

NY Times: Quiet Protest Helped Tina Charles Find the Voice of Her Conscience

“Of course, as an individual, I do have goals to be one of the best players in the W.N.B.A.,” Charles said Thursday. “But when you reach a goal, nothing compares to the person you become along the way.”

Hartford Courant: Breanna Stewart: Transition From UConn Sheds Light On Gender Discrepancies In Athletics

Okay: Harry Potter and the WNBA Power Rankings cast

Aussie! Aussie! Don’t! Go! Phoenix Mercury guard Penny Taylor to retire at season’s end

One part elaborate marketing promotion, one part performance art and all parts exhausting, the season-long athlete retirement tour has seen a rebirth in recent years.

Derek Jeter earned half a year’s worth of #RE2PECT at ballparks across the country. Nike gave Kobe Bryant his own holiday. Forty-year-old David Ortiz is currently making his long trek around league, picking up plenty of interesting parting gifts along the way.

Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings didn’t want anything of the sort. No elaborate branding campaign, no pregame ceremony celebrating her many accomplishments, no odd presents from opposing teams. Instead, Catchings, a league champion, MVP, 10-time All-Star and five-time Defensive Player of the Year who is going for her fourth Olympic gold medal, is flipping the script.

Like Jeter before her, Catchings is doing it her way, and her way means instead of honoring herself, she’s using her 15th and final go-around the league to give back. league’s 12 cities.

The argument for or against professional athletes being role models to the youth of today’s society has many different viewpoints, but when talking about Laney High School alum Tamera Young, she’s been able to utilize her platform as a veteran in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to make an impact in the two communities she calls home.
The Sparks haven’t wanted for star power since Candace Parker arrived in 2008, but the team has struggled to capitalize on her greatness, topping out in the playoffs with a trio of conference final losses. That could change this year, however, thanks to an out-of-this-world breakout season by 26-year-old forward Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike has always been good, but she’s currently putting on one of the greatest single-season performances in WNBA history, and it has the Sparks finally playing like champions.
Yea! (but I would have been campaigning for a visit with Audra McDonald – swoon!) After a long social media campaign, WNBA rookie Imani Boyette finally met 50 Cent

NCAA:

Carp: Tennessee loses Carter, Cooper for upcoming season

Nice: West Virginia’s women’s basketball team exhibition to benefit flood victims

WATN? Former Hawkeye women’s basketball player Sam Logic hosts Camp 22 in Davenport

Did you catch this? Miami Women’s Basketball Coach Blasts Texas A&M

Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier was not happy with the sexist slides from the Texas A&M football women’s clinic, which have gotten the Aggies criticized nationally and led to the suspension of two staff members.

Last night, Meier blasted A&M on Twitter for the slides. She also expressed disapproval for only punishing offensive line coach Jim Turner and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks with two-week suspensions.

Keeping an eye on this: 3 black players file discrimination suit against Cottey College

NCAA & WNBA: Olympics: Double the coaching, double the threat

“Playing for both Coach Auriemma and Coach Reeve has been a blast,” said Moore. “They’re both very competitive, both very detailed oriented, but both enjoy the game, enjoy their teams, so I’m just getting double the coaching trouble here with having them both here.”

Bob Kravitz – WTHR/NBC: Fever’s Tamika Catchings prepares to say farewell to the Olympic world stage

“What are you doing?’’ I asked Tamika Catchings.

She was alone, sitting on the edge of a press-conference room stage, having previously done interviews with Indianapolis-area media members like your humble correspondent.

After a short round of interviews – and Tamika is the only Indy athlete who insists on hugging all members of the local media – she was alone. No national media talking to her. No international media talking to her. In fact, the press-conference room, which was filled for the U.S. men’s basketball team just one day earlier, was maybe one-sixth filled.

“Just hanging,’’ she said. “Waiting to go back (to the boat where the basketball teams are staying).’’

This is nuts. And this is wrong. And this is completely expected. 

USA Today: Serial survivor Seimone Augustus key for US women’s basketball team

Geno Auriemma’s team will be a prohibitive favorite in Brazil, befitting a group that has a 41-game Olympic winning streak and has won the last five gold medals. It is a roster overstuffed with big names and world-class stars, none of whom has a story quite like Seimone Augustus. Her basketball resume includes two national player of the year awards at LSU and a WNBA Finals MVP trophy with the Minnesota Lynx, and her health resume qualifies as a medical horror story.

“With all the stuff she’s been through, she has always stayed the same person,” said longtime teammate Diana Taurasi. “She’s has this even keel about her. That’s impressive. She’s (been) one of the biggest pieces of this team for a long time.”

Also: Seimone Augustus proud of WNBA player activism

USA Today: Elena Delle Donne outgrew gymnastics dream, targets basketball gold

Elena Delle Donne — who at 6-5 is a guard in a pivot player’s body and the pride of Delaware — brings her unique gifts to Rio, a 26-year-old Olympic rookie whose first five-ring dream, alas, never quite materialized. It was hatched in Atlanta 20 years ago, when young Elena watched from home in Wilmington as 4-foot-8 Kerri Strug stuck a vault with an injured ankle to help the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win gold.

“I wanted to be a gymnast,” Delle Donne told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. “It was all about (Strug.) I should’ve known there was no chance.”

Yakima Herald: Bird, Stewart bring exuberance to US women’s Olympic basketball team

Breanna Stewart can tell you where she was, what she did, and how she felt when she got the call notifying her she made the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.

“You’re supposed to keep it under wraps, but the first thing I did was call my parents,” said the first-time Olympian of sharing the news while standing in the lobby of her Seattle apartment building. “My dad started crying on the phone.”

The Summer Olympics begin this week, and tales of poop-filled water, human body remains on the shore, petty crime, serious crime, terrorism with a topping of the Zika virus have beset the Rio Games.

Sign me up.

Star-Telegram staffer Charean Williams will be covering this event, Erin Phillips of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings will be playing for her Team Australia … and I am green with envy.

EVEN as Marianna Tolo fell to the floor in agony last August her mind started the mental mathematics.

She had just torn her ACL in her first season of WNBA basketball and yet the only thing that really mattered was the 2016 Rio Olympics.

One of the last two players cut from the London 2012 squad, Tolo has made a remarkable recovery to get back to the court in the nick of time.

“My first Olympics, we had players like Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes,” Bird said. “They showed us what it meant to be a part of USA basketball. How to carry yourself. How to play. How to play within the team. How to put the gold medal before anything else.

“… When you get older, you want to pass that on to the new crop coming in. Not only are you honored to be a part of the tradition, you want to make sure you’re keeping it up.”

Forty years ago this summer, a team of 12 women laid the foundation for the future of women’s basketball in the United States, competing as part of Team USA in the first-ever Olympic women’s basketball tournament at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

There was no WNBA at the time, nor any professional women’s league in the U.S. at all. But for most of the group, this wasn’t their first high-stakes basketball tournament, as nine of the 12 women on the team had also played for Team USA at the Pan American Games the year before. Given the strength of the international competition, however, Team USA wasn’t expected to even qualify for the 1976 Olympics, let alone win a medal. But, led by coach Billie Jean Moore and co-captains Juliene Simpson and Pat Summitt (then known as Pat Head), they ended up going very far, eventually taking home the silver medal. 

For an inside look at the 1976 team’s historic run, The Huffington Post spoke with head coach Billie Jean Moore, players Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Juliene Simpson, who all played for the 1975 team, too, and Gail Marquis and Trish Roberts, who were newcomers in 1976. 

Along with athletes getting to know their counterparts from other nations, CISM also provides opportunities for officials to engage at the highest levels, Dinote said. “These can lead to training engagements down the road,” he added.

This week’s championship is the culmination of a “long process of trying to get women’s basketball on the map,” said Dinote, who also serves as secretariat of U.S. Armed Forces Sports.

Phelps was diagnosed with ALS in April 2015. Within six months he lost his ability to speak. In January, he was forced to eat and drink using a feeding tube.

But he continued officiating games around the state, using an orange hand-held whistle and LCD board to convey his thoughts if needed at the scorer’s table.

Players even took notice.

“It was a blast tonight, but being able to see Carl was even more amazing,” said Cache star Jamie Bonnarens, who delivered a personal letter to Phelps between games. “I got emotional before my game.”

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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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but I’m a little worried about the Lib’s tall folks.

Tina looks fantabulous, but where is Kiah? Sugar is already making a bid for the “Most Improved” as Old Big Easters will recognize the form they’re seeing on the court (and, do you remember her Player’s Tribune piece?). Intrigued to see how our elder guards contribute – really want an announcer to get the chance to say Z-to-Z for the nice give-and go. The Dallas visitors say Skylar is day-to-day, but even without her, the Wings are proving that they’re not going to be a pushover this year. Looking forward to see what happens for the newly-transfered franchise. Home wins, I hope.

Swish Appeal: ‘Pinch of Sugar’ goes a long way in Liberty victory

Queenie:

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don’t have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she’d had to play, and I don’t think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn’t help their rotation.)

On the West Coast, Los Angeles picked up where it left off last year… as did, unfortunately,  Seattle. Behind Parker’s 34, the Sparks easily handled the Storm. L.A. Times … dabnabbit! You use the AP report!!?!?! And oh, snap, the Sparks aren’t in your header or your dropdown menu. So. Not. Cool. At least Mechelle wrote somethin’

There were five No. 1 picks on the floor at Staples Center on Sunday, all of whom could tell you their own stories of what it means to them to be in that club.

When the game was over, 2008’s top pick — the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker — had the biggest day and her team got exactly the start it wanted: a dominant, 96-66 victory over the Seattle Storm.

There actually were some positives for the Storm, particularly regarding two of their No. 1 picks who look to be the foundation of a bright future: 2016 top pick Breanna Stewart, in her pro debut, had 23 points, while 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd, last season’s rookie of the year, had 20.

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

Sue: Parker, Stewart both shine in Sparks dominating opening win

Hoopfeed: Candace Parker spoils debut of Breanna Stewart with 34-point explosion as Sparks beat Storm 96-66

The local paper hasn’t stopped paying attention: Breanna Stewart makes WNBA debut, experiences something new: Losing

Did you catch this from Stewie? Day One, Again.

Downtime? I have none. Just the way I like it.

Last week I was in Seattle trying to figure out if I could pull off the trip back to Connecticut for graduation. My new teammates asking, “What time do you have to be there?” Meanwhile I’m thinking, What if I get there and they forget to call my name? But being able to graduate in person from an institution like UConn, in front of a community that gave you so much, is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I made it, and squeezed in a visit to the White House with my UConn teammates; it was worth it.

Swin back in?

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry

Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:

“We gotta make the damn playoffs,” she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.

Diana Taurasi learned a lot by watching her Phoenix Mercury teammates, at least when she wasn’t yelling at her monitor.

“I turned into that fan. ‘Why aren’t we rebounding? Why aren’t we executing down the stretch?,’ ” she told Excelle Sports Saturday at shootaround, prior to the Mercury’s season-opener 95-76 loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

Watching was the only thing Taurasi could do following her choice to skip the 2015 season, a move that reverberated fiercely within the WNBA community; Taurasi had won her third championship with Phoenix and her second Finals MVP award the year before.

On Saturday night, Taurasi could call herself a player again, competing against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, a venue where fans generally love to hate anything that has to do with purple and orange, especially the player wearing the No. 3 jersey. In Minnesota’s lean years,

If you haven’t purchased ESPN the Magazine, might recommend you get out and do so. WNBA oral history: Moving the ball forward

DAVID STERN WALKED down the hallway of the NBA offices in Manhattan and paused as he approached Val Ackerman’s office.

The then-NBA commissioner poked his head in the doorway.

“This would be a summer league, right?” Stern asked.

“Yeah,” Ackerman recalls saying, “that’s the plan.”

THE WNBA WASN’T launched by one landmark meeting. Rather, it evolved from a series of brainstorms, serendipitous circumstances and casual conversations: It was the right people working together at the right time. The NBA had reached a zenith of popularity and marketability in the early 1990s thanks to megastars such as Michael Jordan and collaborations with other organizations, such as USA Basketball. All of that delivered the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics.

 Great job by Delle Donne (and, I’m assuming, a little assist from the Sky PR folks) – she’s been all.over.Chicago.In Chicago Magazine: The New Superstar in Town

In the glittering heart of Gotham, at a swank TriBeCa gala fit for a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne, a newly minted superhero soars toward an unseen basketball hoop, a flaring silk of blond hair trailing like a cape.

A few feet away, in heels and a form-hugging gown, a very tall blond woman who more than passingly resembles the leaping figure mulls the Marvel poster like a patron at a gallery, examining the main image of the subject cradling a basketball like a deity palming a planet, her hair swept back like Athena.

A small grin, then a full-on smile blossoms as she reads the character’s name.

“I hadn’t seen this,” she says to a friend. “Pretty cool, huh? Full-Court Goddess. I’ll take that.”

Speaking of which, fingers crossed: Sky’s Elena Delle Donne practices, expected to play Wednesday

About friggin’ time. From Excelle: WNBA.com dramatically expands stat, historical video offerings

This doesn’t suck: ESPN posts highest WNBA overnight rating for a regular-season game since 2011

A little college:  

With rumors circling about an extension, On the Banks writes: C. Vivian Stringer’s Impact Upon Women’s Basketball is Legendary

From the Sentinel: Next recruiting class crucial to Lady Vols’ future

Bye: Nebraska sharpshooter Natalie Romeo to transfer to UW women’s basketball team

Romeo leaves Nebraska after the abrupt resignation last month of Huskers coach Connie Yori over allegations that the coach mistreated players. Romeo has denied those claims.

“It was pretty difficult there,” she said. “I just think it’s the best thing for me to move on.”

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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

Once I played on the Olympic team that year and we won gold, I was done. No overseas hoops. Nothing. I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models, came up to New York and tried to start modeling — doing some shows, going on auditions … mostly getting rejected for being too tall. But as for basketball? Those days were pretty much over.

I had mostly given up on the game because my dream of playing couldn’t go any further. Past the Olympics, there just wasn’t any real opportunity — in my mind — for me to play for a long time in the U.S. At the same time, there were talks of starting the American Basketball League for women to play professionally, but I opted out because it didn’t have the support of the NBA. And I didn’t want to play in Europe, which was really the only other option.

I needed to put basketball behind me. I felt like I had to make a decision and I couldn’t wait around any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling like I was standing on the sidelines, waiting for my name to be called, only to hear the buzzer go off before I got a chance to play. I moved on.

But then I got a call the following January …

Audio: Brittney Griner and Stefanie Dolson join the Trifecta: What Can The WNBA Do?

Excelle: WNBA CONFIDENTIAL: We are living in the Maya Moore Era

In the days leading up to the 20th WNBA season, there’s been a great deal of talk about Breanna Stewart as the new face of the league. Much of the 2015 narrative centered around Elena Delle Donne and her historic season, and don’t expect her to recede in the public eye as she builds on it while playing for a gold medal in Rio this summer. Brittney Griner, too, always draws attention (and found herself in a recent ESPN SportsCenter ad), while Skyler Diggins is returning from a knee injury with a massive social media following and a new level of play she reachedlast year that she believes is a permanent new state.

All of these stars deserve attention. But any sober, clear-eyed analysis of where the WNBA stands at this moment, an evaluation of the current state of the league, only provides one conclusion.

This is the Maya Moore Era.

Sports Illustrated WNBA’s Maya Moore talks season, Rio Olympics and Jordan Brand

The LA Times notices the Sparks: Sparks begin WNBA season with high hopes, and with Candace Parker back on full-time duty

In 2015, the Los Angeles Sparks made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and for the eighth time in the last decade. But that’s not a realistic portrayal of how things really unfolded: They posted a 14-20 record (their fourth worst ever), and lost to the Minnesota Lynx in three games after sneaking into the postseason.

The Sparks begin their 2016 season Sunday against the Seattle Storm, and they’re counting on finding some consistency — a trait that eluded them for large portions of last season — to drive them back to winning ways.

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

Atlanta 11: Angel McCoughtry and the WNBA are ready for respect

Newsday: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

“I didn’t have that,” said Bird, who is beginning her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. “There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four. 

“The WNBA changed everything,” said Bird who starred at UConn. 

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

As one of six children, including two sets of identical twins, Valavanis developed skills that have carried through her athletic career and professional life.

She has used them on the basketball court to make shots, in the boardroom to make trades and in the community to make fans.

“From very early on, my family was our own little tribe and that helped shape how I value people and how I value connections,” Valavanis, 39, said. “It really shaped my personal journey and is at the center of who I am.”

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve: WNBA has come a long way in 20 years

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve entered the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Sting.

At that point the league was five years old, and at the end of each season for her first three or four years on the job, Reeve said a question presented itself.

“You had this moment where you didn’t know, were we still going to be here?” Reeve said, referring to the league’s fragile existence in its infant stages. “During that time you had teams that were losing millions of dollars.”

Reeve said the WNBA is now far past that point. It’s through the survival stage as the league celebrated the opening of its 20th season Saturday night when the Lynx hosted Phoenix at Target Center.

SlamOnline: Watch Them Work – The WNBA has never had more depth than now. What a great time to tune in.

 

The league’s list of high-profile players has never been short. Somewhere between Lisa Leslie catching her first poster and Maya Moore hitting that game-winner in last year’s finals, however, something changed. The national narrative shifted back to women’s basketball not being worth a man’s time. But there hasn’t been a better time than now to tune in.

“We have a lot of different types of women and players,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson says. “We still have those superstars, like Diana, like Candace, they’re still in the game. Then you have a new generation of players coming in. Brittney Griner, Skylar, Elena. And then my class. In my class, we have some great personalities. We’re very skilled too.”

Damn skippy, Stef.

David Berri at VICE: HOW THE WNBA COMPARES TO OTHER SPORTS LEAGUES AT AGE 20

As the WNBA celebrates the tip off its 20th season this weekend, it’s easy for naysayers to paint a picture of a league that’s stagnant at best, and a NBA charity case at worst. After all, WBNA average per-game attendance last season was only 7,138—the lowest mark in league history, and well below the average per-game NBA draw of 17,849. Women’s professional basketball, this line of thinking goes, has had two decades to build a fan base and establish itself in America’s sporting consciousness. So why can’t it come close to the NBA?

Here’s the answer: that’s the wrong question. Or, more accurately, it’s the wrong comparison, and a misleading one

Yesterday’s games

No Diggins? No problem, the ageless Plenette Pierson is here! If you read the numbers, you’d think Indy won – but their defense was lacking and slow. Dallas shot 36 free throws. Sims shot for carp, but earned her living at the charity stripe. Nice production from Theresa Plaisance, too.

“We were more aggressive,” Pierson said of the last two quarters. “We started making shots, we got fouls called on them. That’s what helped us get the win.”

“I thought we took some early rushed shots,” Coach Fred Williams added. “But luckily tonight they went down for us and it’s not going to go that way ever game. I felt we have to get better at that end, be selective of taking quick shots, kind of work the ball around a little bit.”

No Delle Donne? No problem, the rest of the team (Pokey played 11) made Curt Miller’s W coaching debut miserable. Connecticut shot 33.8%. Yikes. At least Rachel Banham brought a little sunshine.

Well, this is a good sign.

The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.

WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.

Jayne’s last second shot carried the Stars into overtime, but the Dream made sure they secured the win in the extra minutes. McBride looks to have picked up where she left off last year, but there’s not much of a bench presence. For Atlanta, Layshia gave them some nice minutes, and Elizabeth Williams played 36… but I wonder about her 2-6 shooting.

“We fought,” Hughes said. “They were very coachable late, gave us a chance to win the game. We didn’t get it done in overtime. We’re a work in progress, but their spirit was good.”

When Tina and Sugar shoot 50%, Bill is happy – and the Liberty win. No surprise Shoni didn’t get in. Slightly surprised Adut didn’t. Auspicious opening game for Tayler Hill and Bria Hartleynot so much for Stef and Emma.

As the final horn sounded on the Washington Mystics’ 87-76 season-opening loss Saturday night, New York Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer shook hands with his counterpart, Mike Thibault, and offered a few appropriate words of encouragement.

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

Ah, being healthy is an amazing feeling. Stomping your press-anointed competition for the ’17 title is even better. Lynx rolled as the Merc’s defense let them shoot 54%. I do love the twitter conversation the two social media teams have, though. :-)

“It’s a good starting point for us in a really bad way,” Taurasi said. “We know what we have to get better at. The season isn’t made on 40 minutes, but the way we bounce back is going to say a lot about this team going forward.”

Hey – if you just scanned this page, do the game a favor – click on the links and read the full articles. Show the sports editors that people appreciate their coverage…

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’cause it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear… Take a deep breath, y’all, shut the door and pull up a chair ’cause you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

First things first: WNIT!!
Saturday, April 2  |  3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT
CBS Sports Network – Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Chiney Ogwumike (analyst)

The finals are set and it pits two programs who’ve got something to prove (to the selection committee): South Dakota v. Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Coyotes earned a birth by throughly handling Oregon, 88-54.

DakotaDome’s long goodbye as a basketball facility will now officially be talked about for a very long time. The old gal just doesn’t want to give up on roundball just yet. USD will now play the winner of Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday accompanied by a crowd expected to be bigger than Wednesday’s.

“Even when we were just warming up at 60 minutes (before the game), the people were filling in,” said Kelly Stewart, who was one of six Coyotes who hit double-figures. “Then every time we came out of the locker room there was more people. And finally, when we were about to do the starting lineups, I looked up and I got a huge smile on my face. Everyone was smiling.”

The Eagles took on Michigan in from of a record crowd, and came away with the 71-61 win.

“It was a great defensive effort against a great offensive team,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Now we’re excited to get to play for the WNIT Championship. The crowd was exceptional tonight. It was a huge advantage for us to have it here with that type of atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the type of game that these players will remember for a long time.”

FYI: WNIT NOTES

-Minnesota’s Rachel Banham scored 48 points on March 16 to lead the Gophers to an 87-80 win over Milwaukee in Round 1. That set a Postseason WNIT record for most points in a game, surpassing Tamika Whitmore of Memphis (45 against Arkansas State, 1999). 

-Sharnae Lamar of Northern Iowa dished out 15 assists to set a single-game WNIT record in the team’s 64-58 victory over Drake, 64-58. 

-The 2016 title game between South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast is the second time since 1998 that two mid-major programs have played for the Postseason crown. In 2004, Creighton beat UNLV for the title.

-Before 2016, there have been 13 mid-major teams to reach the Postseason WNIT championship game. The six mid-major champions are Creighton (2004), Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), South Florida (2009), Toledo (2011) and Drexel (2013).

About that stuff happening in Indianapolis: FREE Women’s Final Four Activities

General:

Indianapolis set to be center of women’s basketball world

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Indianapolis this weekend in a celebration of the sport.

For the first time in NCAA history the Division I, II and III women’s titles will be decided on the same court.

“We can’t wait for the 2016 championship games in Indianapolis,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said.

Celebrating 35 Years of NCAA Women’s Basketball

Beth Mowins to replace Dave O’Brien as announcer in Final Four, first-time all-female crew for ESPN at event

Women’s basketball | Final Four: Three first-timers crash party with UConn

Meet the Women’s Final Four

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Final Four preview

Audio: Kara Lawson with SI’s Richard Deitsch

Audio: Sue Bird talks about the low pay for women’s professional basketball in the United States on this edition of our Keeping Score with Rick Horrow audio podcast

Audio: HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is joined by Diana Taurasi to discuss her WNBA return from Russia, UConn’s dominance (6:00), the stupidity of lowering the rims (13:00), GSW’s selflessness (16:30), playing pickup with Westbrook and Draymond (21:00), and the struggling Lakers and D’Angelo Russell (30:00).

Audio: Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: “Ambassador” Tamika Catchings welcomes the WBB world to Indy

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 3/31/16 Podcast: Doug Bruno is back to break down the 2016 Final Four

Women’s NCAA tournament: Four keys to the Final Four

Women’s Final Four: Can Anyone Stop UConn?

At Women’s Final Four, male-coached teams not a bad thing

These Are The Last Three Teams That Have A Chance To Beat UConn

SNYDER: UConn overshadows parity among other women’s basketball teams

VanDerveer: UConn’s rule isn’t bad for the sport — but next year it could be

Jeff Jacobs: In Women’s Final Four, It’s The Men Who Beat The Odds

Jeff Jacobs: Think UConn’s Geno Auriemma Is A Rock? You Should Meet His Wife

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

My turn: JUST CATCH UP

Washington:

How UW’s and OSU’s Final Four run is a breakthrough for Pac-12 women’s basketball

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

7 things to know about Washington Huskies (Syracuse women’s basketball Final Four foe)

Meet the Final Four-bound UW Huskies women’s basketball team

Washington’s jump shooter doesn’t jump

HUSKIES WOMEN: Masters of the Unexpected

Four knee surgeries later, UW’s Walton unfazed by doubts

Mike Neighbors: From Blockbuster To The Final Four

Oregon State

Five questions for Beavers-Huskies

Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

New to following Oregon State women’s basketball? Here’s a crash course on the Beavers

Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball blending intensity, playfulness during Final Four run

Final Four newcomer Oregon State scrappy on defense

Watch: Gary Andersen and Pat Casey on Oregon State

OSU dreams big, embraces Final Four berth

Watch: Oregon State women’s basketball Final Four appearance called ‘incredibly miraculous’

Can Oregon State Shock The World?

Rueck’s Beavers have big fans in OSU’s 1963 Final Four team

OSU has unfinished business in Final Four

Aki Hill and the bliss of the Final Four

Open tryouts to the Final Four: Oregon State’s dramatic rise

Syracuse:

Syracuse’s Hillsman, Read preparing carefully for Washington

Syracuse women’s basketball guard Alexis Peterson brims with confidence

Keep shooting: Syracuse women’s basketball senior Brianna Butler does what she’s told

Turning point for Syracuse women’s basketball this season began with a loss

Kayla Alexander: Syracuse Orange Nation on Cloud Nine

Syracuse women’s basketball center Briana Day: Bigger foes aren’t going to push me around

Go Orange! Syracuse men’s, women’s basketball teams head to Final Four

Connecticut:

Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?

UConn may be the greatest college basketball dynasty ever

Geno Auriemma: Having to defend success ‘makes no sense’

Geno: Ignore UConn Women If You Want, ‘But Don’t Demean Those Who Appreciate It’ –

Why the dominance of the U-Conn. women’s team should be embraced

UConn’s opponents need to step up their game

Jeff Otterbein: UConn Women Simply The Best, Just Watch And Learn To Live With It

Here are a few additional assignments for sports columnist

Fans appreciate greatness, even when the games aren’t close

Fans don’t agree with columnist who says Huskies are killing the game

UConn Women’s Basketball Team Confronts Consequences Of Being ‘Too Good’

UConn too good? Quit the whining, beat ’em!

Respect the Women!

Be Great. Don’t Apologize.

UConn women don’t find winning boring

UConn women should be respected

UConn can join a pair of 4-peat pioneers in women’s basketball

Connecticut poised to make history again

UConn making something hard look easy

Huskies closer to place no team has ever been

Freshmen provide Huskies with needed backup help

UConn freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament

Samuelson’s family is UConn women’s basketball’s family, too

Women’s basketball: Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart leads a star-studded Final Four

Other basketball news:

Rachel for threeeeee: Banham edges Smith in 3-point championship

Brava: Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay, announces marriage to her USF assistant coach

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kinda of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things.

Supporters laud Jennifer Azzi for her bravery – but you can read the fear…

New women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks raves about recruiting potential at Virginia Tech

Jonathan Tsipis’ plan to grow Badgers women’s basketball attendance starts with being visible –

New UW women’s basketball coach wants to keep state’s best players

Tsipis tasked with turning tide for women’s hoops

Wisconsin Women’s Basketball: Tsipis’ energy stands out during initial meeting with team

Bradbury named UNM women basketball head coach

KSU Women’s Basketball Coach Agnus Berenato

Kim Rosamond named Tennessee Tech women’s basketball head coach

Finally poached: UCF announces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as head coach of women’s basketball

Former UConn players apply Auriemma lessons as coaches

Bye: Jatarie White to transfer from USC women’s basketball program

Bye: Two leave Duke women’s basketball team

WNBA:

Updownup-down… honestly, I think the NBA should raise their rim. It’s ridiculous how easy it is for the giants who play the game to score…

Army brass supports Minato in WNBA bid

Jennifer Gish: The next goal for UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards — the WNBA

Lindsay Whalen Joins Timberwolves’ Broadcast Booth

Deep Diving WNBA Data — Griner’s Paint Defense

WNBA Award Accuracy by Win Shares

Girls Sports Month: Candace Parker on what drives her, dunking and being a mom

WNBA Reveals New Apparel Items Celebrating Landmark 20th Season

The Legend of Lauren Jackson

Cool: Boomers And Fire GMs Head To WNBA Again

Following on from a successful visit last year to work alongside management at the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, the off-court leaders at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and JCU Townsville Fire will again embrace a fact-finding mission in Los Angeles and Phoenix this June, this time taking in eight sporting events in 10 nights.

WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw “hitting game-winning shots” on and off the court

In case you missed it: Blake Griffin’s ‘Broad City’ appearance included a discussion about the WNBA

OT, but not really: Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy

The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.

First, with the women’s jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren’t the same as the widely used industry standard.

Second, with the men’s jerseys, you can’t buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women’s team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis’ reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann’s collection of question marks.

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That’s the phrase that comes to mind as I scan yesterday’s results… so many good teams upset and, suddenly, the season crafted to reach the NCAA’s is done.

ODU (17-16, 10-8) continued its unexpected tun  in the C-USA, surprising UTEP (26-4, 16-2 C-USA) with a strong fourth quarter.

The Lady Monarchs, who began the season 1-6 against a rugged schedule, are a win from returning to the NCAAs for the first time since 2008. They have not made a conference tournament final since they lost to James Madison in the Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2010.

“We knew coming into this game it was going to be tough, and we had to own our identity, which was passion, rebounding and defense,” Barefoot said. “Our offense has been flowing and we’ve been feeling really good about that, too.

In the MAC, Buffalo is still dancing, this time courtesy of their 88-87 win over Akron.

For the first time in school history, the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team will play for a Mid-American Conference championship after upsetting 5th-seeded Akron, 88-87, in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament on Friday afternoon.

“I’m just so proud of this young team,” head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “They’re resilient, I tell you. We’re getting better.  We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to enjoy this moment for sure.”

Troy, who loves to score, withstood a furious comeback in the fourth quarter by Arkansas State took down the top-seed in the Sun Belt, 96-89.

“I thought this was a great women’s basketball game today,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said.  “When I got the opportunity to come to Troy, one of the things I wanted to do was carry on my style of being sold out to try and make women’s basketball more exciting.”

Sam Houston (13-17, 7-11) knocked Stephen F. Austin (18-12, 12-6) out of the Southland, 78-70.

Sam Houston (13-17) was tenacious inside, outrebounding the Ladyjacks, 42-27, led by 13 from Angela Beadle, who was one of four Bearkats in double-digits with 15 points. She also added her 1,000th career rebound and has 1,003. The Kats shot 49 percent from the field, the fourth-best mark of the season.

“I am very excited for Beadle,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “At the end of the game, we leaned in to each other and said, ‘way overdue.’ There are a lot of great things that this game means to us. First of all, it’s a big rivalry, and second of all, we were able to advance to the next round. These ladies work hard and I am ecstatic.”

Idaho State (18-14, 8-10) sent North Dakota (18-13, 13-5) packing, and now has a shot at an NCAA Tourney slot.

“It was a tough game for us,” UND coach Travis Brewster said. “Really have to credit Idaho State. They came out and took it to us right away. From start to finish, they did a good job of pushing the tempo.

“We came out flat and battled back. But they answered every time we had a run.”

A little Big West Heartbreak: UC Davis spoiled UC Riverside’s perfect run in conference play, 81-72.

For the first time in nearly three months, UC Riverside couldn’t find a way to get up. The shorthanded Highlanders have held off bigger and more physical opponents this season, players essentially willing themselves to make it to the buzzer before exhaustion took over.

A little Patriot Heartbreak: We won’t get the Finals we expected. Joe Logan’s Loyola team pulled off a HUGE upset, holding off a furious comeback attempt by Bucknell, 66-53.

“I give great credit to Coach (Joe) Logan, his staff and his players. They played great in all aspects of the game,” Roussell said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they played very well. Marshall and Smith were fantastic and the rest of the team really fed off them.”

Bradley almost joined the list of upset-eers, but Northern Iowa escaped into the MVC semis with a one-point win.

As Lerma drove to the top of the lane, she found the outstretched arms of the Panthers’ Stephanie Davison in front of her.

Lamar slipped in from the left side and knocked the ball free to let the Panthers avoid becoming the first top seed to lose in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley tourney since 2009.

“She is one of the best defensive players in the league and she was on the all-defensive team for a reason. She has such quick hands,’’ Bradley coach Michael Brooks said. “We gave the ball to our player who had been making great plays for us. It was just a great defensive player making a great defensive play.’’

Yes, it was a battle, but the Chippewas overcame Eastern Michigan, and are now one win away from the Big Dance.

“I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but this team, they’re coachable,” Guevara said. “I can’t say that sometimes the best players that we had in the past, you know, were like this and totally bought in.”

Someone new will rule the MEAC: North Carolina A&T over Hampton, 63-54.

The win was vindication for an Aggies (18-11) team who came into the 2016 tournament with three straight losses in the semis. The win also snapped the Aggies’ six-game losing streak to the Pirates. N.C. A&T will make their first championship game appearance in seven years as they face Coppin State approximately at 4 p.m., Saturday at Scope Arena. The Aggies will be after their third MEAC tournament title and their first in seven years. The Aggies are 2-4 in MEAC title games and 0-2 in MEAC titles games versus Coppin State with losses to the Eagles in 1991 and 2008.

“We talked Wednesday about us having advanced to the semifinals three years in a row and we didn’t want to make it a fourth year in a row where we didn’t win and get to the championship game. I thought we found a way to win in the fourth quarter. I’m so excited for our seniors.”

Dancin’: As it should have been – Albany and Maine tussled back-and-forth for the America East title. eventually, the Great Danes came away with the 1-point win and the invitation to Dance.

“Whew!” said Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson who, with her team trailing by five at halftime, made sure the Great Danes knew what they needed to do.

“I just said, ‘We’ve got to get the ball to Shereesha and we’ve got to get the ball to Imani (Tate),’” she said. “That’s what we did and they really went to work.”

On tap today:

MAC Final: Buffalo v. Central Michigan, 1PM

SWAC Final: Southern v. Alabama State, 3PM

WAC Final: UT Rio Grande Valley v. New Mexico State, 4PM

Big Sky Final: Idaho State v. Idaho, 3:05PM

CAA Final: Drexel v. James Madison, 4PM

Horizon Semis: Northern Kentucky v Green Bay, 4PM, Wright State v. Milwaukee, 6:30

Big South: Radford v. Liberty, 4pm, Presbyterian College v. UNC Asheville

Southland Semis: McNeese State v. Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State v. Northwestern State

MVC Semis: Northern Iowa v. Southern Illinois, Missouri State v. Drake

Podcast: ‘Around the Rim’: Tickets Have Been Punched

In coaching news:

FIU fires women’s basketball coach Chinn

Chinn’s dismissal comes after he admitted to university officials that he had violated NCAA bylaws regarding impermissible benefits provided to a student-athlete.

UNF, former women’s basketball coach settle Title IX lawsuit for $1.25 million

The University of North Florida and its former women’s basketball coach Mary Tappmeyer have announced a settlement in Tappmeyer’s sex discrimination and retaliation claims associated with her termination from UNF in March 2015.

UNF will pay Tappmeyer $1.25 million to settle her claims, according to attorneys representing Tappmeyer.

She left the program as the only women’s basketball coach UNF had ever known. 

Player news: Leading scorer Lauren Aldridge leaving Kansas women’s basketball program

Player news: WNBA or the Army? Decision could mean battlefield or hardcourt for former Huntington Beach star

A decision about Kelsey Minato’s future is coming.

She was recently named the Patriot League Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. Last week, Minato broke the league’s all-time scoring record. She has scored more points than any woman, or man, who has ever played in the Patriot League.

In April, the 5-foot-6 guard will try out for the Women’s National Basketball Association. If she is drafted into the league or signs as a free agent, Minato can delay her commitment to serve five years in the U.S. Army. Remember David Robinson, the NBA superstar from the Naval Academy? Robinson served two years of active duty before he was eligible to begin his professional basketball career.

Conference news: Ivy League adds men’s and women’s basketball tournaments beginning 2017

Game news: Women’s basketball format change leads to fewer free throws

Numbers news: Analyze this

The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring. Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game.

Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.

There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league. Think about baseball, for example, or men’s basketball. Fans, players, executives and media value stats and information because it helps to tell a story that many are already invested in. And if they’re not already invested, then it gives them a reason to be. It helps GMs make decisions. It informs contract negotiations. It enables player development.

It sparks barroom debates to last a frigid and barren Russia winter.

More numbers: Why Sue Bird Is Leading The Charge For More Data In WNBA

Video: Watch: Swin Cash Stars in Brawny Ad #StrengthHasNoGender

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…what, too soon? Fine. I’ll wait.

So, the ranked team’s held serve Sunday and Monday…

….except for #12 Kentucky, who got turned-over by Florida. (Speaking of the Wildcats, Mitchell’s Dishin’ and Swishin’)

….and #8 Arizona State who got obliterated by #9 Oregon State. With the return of point guard Sydney Wiese, the Beavers are building their confidence.

…and #16 Miami, who got squeezed in the last minute by the Orange, 57-51.

As expected, #1o TAMU gave #2 South Carolina all they could handle… and then it was Mitchell time.

#14 Louisville has quietly strung together 15-in-a-row.

#15 UCLA beat the Utes, but it took monster fourth quarter.

Deja vu all over again when #16 Stanford met Washington.

That’s 2000 points for Ms. Plum. I wonder if Jackie is hearing footsteps.

Maybe it’s the WHB jinx hangover, but Notre Dame sure was sluggish against Duke.

The Wolf Pack chewed up the Tar Heels.

Yup, George Washington did win… but the Billikens put up a fight. St. Louis is on the rise under coach Stone – and she’s doing it with youth.

And suddenly, Northwestern is 2-8 in the Big Ten.

And Seton Hall is 7-4 in the Big East.

Hmmm… Colorado got its first Pac-12 win against USC, 66-63.

Look! It’s Texas Southern atop the SWAC.

Big South is interesting: UNC Asheville, Liberty and Presbyterian.

Junior Wagner guard Jasmine Nwajei scored more point than Miami did v. Syracuse (52 points).

About d’at UTEP team: Parker brings rebounding back to Miners

There aren’t many areas where the UTEP women’s basketball team has room to improve, as its 18-1 record indicates.

But, one area where the Miners have been rather middling is in the statistic coach Keitha Adams always preaches: rebounding.

The Miners enter this Marshall/Western Kentucky road trip sixth out of 14 Conference USA teams in rebounding margin, but that’s about to get a whole lot better.

Who needs polls, the tops seeds are…

Say what? Renee Montgomery bitten by spider as Canberra Capitals’ season from hell gets worse

Say yes: Sue Bird Is Tired Of The WNBA Being Compared To The Men’s Game

WATN? Kisha Ford-Torres Protects and Serves

Once her basketball career concluded, she earned her master’s degree in healthcare and international business from Baker College in 2001. She spent some time as a forensic accountant for a firm in Atlanta while also working on an MBA in accounting at Baker College, where she completed her degree in 2007.

A year later, Ford-Torres was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

She went from serving up assists to her teammates at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (now McCamish Pavilion) to serving the citizens of DeKalb County (Ga.) as a senior police officer. Today, she serves the people of Brevard County, Florida, in a different capacity – deputy sheriff. Ford-Torres has spent the last 10-plus years in law enforcement and is also a 1st Lieutenant in the Army National Guard, serving five years as 1st Lieutenant – Battalion Staff Officer and 2nd Lieutenant – Platoon Leader.

OT: Yes, I’m obsessed with John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey’s Radio Deluxe. Great music, always, and they sound like they’re having so much fun.

Not at all OT: News on Holly Rowe’s Health

“I wanted to share some personal news as I face a new challenge ahead. In May, I had a tumor in my chest removed and I have recently learned that there is a new tumor, which needs to be removed via surgery today. In the coming days, I will know more about what potential additional steps I may take to address this situation.

“I am very grateful for the support of my bosses at ESPN, who are fully behind me as I take the time to beat this, as well as the incredible connections to The V Foundation. I also sincerely appreciate the guidance of colleague Shelley Smith, who battled cancer so courageously last year.

Hugs and health to Holly. The Final Four wouldn’t be the same without you.

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#2 team scores 7 in ten minutes. 57 in forty.
#10 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 51 in forty.

#8 team scores 62 in forty.

#11 team scores 61 in forty.

#12 team scores 4 in ten minutes. 36 in forty.
#20 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 56 in forty.

Thank you Notre Dame, DePaul, UConn, South Florida, West Virginia… and, as always, Sacramento State (25 threes, anyone?).

Honestly! I thought the rule changes were supposed to HELP the scoring. Instead, I’m having Nike commercial flashbacks. “Momma can’t help your jump shot.”

In other games:

Army keeps pace with Bucknell. *Graham? Michelle? Someone take notice of the Bison!

Bryant (6-0) claims the top spot in the NEC.

UTEP (6-0) still perfect in C-USA. So’s Western Kentucky (7-0), which got the program’s first triple-double from Kendall Noble. Speaking of poachable coaches (Michelle Clark-Heard), have you been following Sue’s interviews with coaches?

And repeat: In the MAC, it was the Ohio Bobcats (7-0) over Northern Illinois. Ball State is now 6-1 in conference play.

It was tough, but Green Bay’s in-conference record stayed unblemished, courtesy of a  63-58 win over Wright State.

“They have the best payers — that always helps. The year we beat them, we had the best players. I think this year, it’s really, really close. Time will tell,” [WSU coach Mike] Bradbury said.

Arkansas State moves to 8-0 in the Sun Belt (a program best).

“It is a really good road win and this just caps off a really good stretch of four games in eight days,” A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. “I just told the players that they played really well during this stretch and they have just saved the best performance for last.”

Abilene Christian is now 7-0 in the Southland as junior guard Alexis Mason is tearin’ it up.

New Mexico State continues to roll in the WAC, taking down Bakersfield in front of a record-breaking 5,034 fans.

After an ugly third quarter, Washington roared back to take down Washington State, 69-63.

Perfect no more: The Teddy Bears lose to East Tennessee State.

WHB jinx anyone? UT Rio Grand Valley falls to Seattle, 74-71 and UC Santa Barbara falls to UC Riverside, 92-81.

Called the fun: Nebraska over Michigan, 93 – 81.

Michigan women’s basketball had no answer for Jessica Shepard on Sunday as Nebraska’s standout freshman beat up on the Wolverines. 

The 6-foot-4 Shepard scored 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead the Cornhuskers past Michigan, 93-81, at Crisler Center.

Asked the questions and the teams responded: Indiana over Northwestern, 91-84.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Teri Moren said a Big Ten road win would help further change the culture of Indiana women’s basketball.

The Hoosiers came away with their moment, a 91-84 win at No. 20 Northwestern. Ahead by five at the half, but falling behind by seven going into the fourth, IU (12-8, 4-4 Big Ten) outscored the Wildcats 33-19 in the fourth quarter.

In the battle of the A10 bigs, it was Duquesne snapped St. Bonaventure‘s 16-game winning streak, 74-62.

Here’s hoping tonight’s game have us singing, “Score, score, score! How do you like it? How do you like it?

Welcome to the neighborhood, Coach Neighbors: Washington enters Top 25 for 1st time since ’03

In other news:

Cool: Missouri’s average home attendance surges into top half of SEC.

Yes: Ohio State winning despite lack of size

“Our chemistry is pretty great,” senior guard Ameryst Alston said. “Like I’ve said before, that’s how it should be. We’ve got a lot of different players that can score. So it makes us hard to guard.”

The Buckeyes (14-4, 6-1) have used their versatility to forge a first-place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten standings. They lead the conference and are third in the nation in scoring at 87 points per game. They do this efficiently despite having only one starter taller than the 5-foot-9 Alston.

The lack of size often shows up in rebounding statistics, but Ohio State has won 10 of its past 11 games against mostly bigger teams.

Charlie’s got his latest bracket and is Trying to make sense of topsy-turvy SEC

Thank goodness for South Carolina. Otherwise there would be no figuring out the SEC.

The Gamecocks moved to 7-0 with Sunday’s slugfest of a road victory over Mississippi State. After that, the conference is a cluster of teams virtually indistinguishable by record and performance. After the Gamecocks, each of the SEC’s other 13 teams has at least two conference wins. No one has more than four. Everyone has at least two losses but no more than five. Georgia is tied for last place, yet is a mere 2½ games out of second place, and the Lady Dogs are included in this week’s projected NCAA tournament field.

Cleanse your palate with a little USA Basketball news: Familiar faces dot U.S. women’s basketball finalists

The pursuit of a sixth consecutive gold medal for the United States women’s basketball team will be in familiar hands come August at the Rio Olympics. On Monday, the list of the 25 finalists for the 12-member squad was released by USA Basketball.

There were no surprises; the group has both longtime veterans of international play and the top college senior in the country, UConn’s Breanna Stewart. Ten players in the finalist pool have previously won Olympic gold, including three-time Olympic champions Diana TaurasiTamika Catchings (1st women to receive National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award) and Sue Bird (Role Model of the Year)

New York Values: Madison Square Garden Company partnership with Resorts World Casino includes deal to make casino sponsor of Liberty Pride Month

One cost of bigotry? Survey: Religious objections law cost millions

Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due at least in part to the controversy surrounding the state’s religious objections law.

A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.

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Still noticing the Tribe’s record. Sure, we’ll learn a lot when they face VCU Monday and then leap into conference play…. BUT, they’re 8-1 under third-year coach Ed Swanson, equalling the best start in program history.

The same commentary goes for the Thundering Herd.  Their only loss is to West Virginia, by 6. I’m looking at their game against Western Kentucky as a good test.

Rinse, repeat and insert the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. They have been SO bad… Now look at what folks are writing about 4th year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick’s team: 

Last season, the ninth win for the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team didn’t come until the 30th game.

What a difference a season makes.

On Friday before an Education Day crowd of 1,705, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1, matching the 1984-’85 Asheville team for the best start in school history with an 84-71 victory over a solid Furman team.

How nice to be able to ask, “Might they challenge Stanford-slayer Gardner-Webb for the Big South?

I see you, no longer undefeated UTEP. Looks like the Miners have regained their moxie.

And I see you, too, Santa Clara: coach JR Payne has them on their longest winning streak since 2005-06, folks. (Dani California, flashback.)

Yes, USC-West is undefeated. Let’s see what happens when they play Albany on the 20th and UCLA on the 30th, shall we??? (Not to mention Oregon State on January 2nd.)

Speaking of the Beavers: OSU women’s basketball: No. 7 Beavers expect best shot from No. 14 Tennessee and Oregon State Beavers ready for clash with traditional power Tennessee

“We will learn exactly where we’re at on Saturday and where we need to go as we continue to prepare for conference,” coach Scott Rueck said. “So from that standpoint, it’s the biggest test that we’ve had so far.”

Too much offense: Princeton got rolled by the Buckeyes, 90-70.

Ohio State married a wicked pace to a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting night and ran laps around the stunned Princeton Tigers, winning 90-70 in Value City Arena on Friday night.

“That’s probably as good a game as we’ve played in a while,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought our kids did a great job of executing the game plan. On offense, we played with a great pace and really shared the ball to get great shots.

Yes, we noticed: Anigwe off to impressive start for Cal women’s basketball

“After she committed to us, she improved leaps and bounds,” Gottlieb said. “She’s gone from a post player we wanted with a lot of potential to the clear cut best freshman in the country. I knew she’d contribute right away, but her ability to score at this level consistently is beyond what I expected.”

A little something from Graham: Duke’s Azurá Stevens becoming a big riddle for opponents

Few basketball players see the court quite like Azurá Stevens, but many younger siblings can identify with her lifelong plight in games of one-on-one against an older sibling. No matter how much she grew or her skills developed, her older sister stayed one step ahead of her with that maddening back-you-down, pump-fake craftiness that seems a birthright of those born first.

Hello, Hurricanes: 

Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.

The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

 

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Hate starting the day with really unpleasant news: Maryland women’s assistant basketball charged with sexual abuse

Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Bryce McKey has been charged with sexual abuse against a player he coached while serving as an assistant with the Xavier women’s basketball team.

McKey will be arraigned Friday morning in Kenton County (Ky.) District Court on a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse in the third degree, which stems from a May 2 incident involving a Xavier women’s basketball player.

Maryland indefinitely suspended McKey on Thursday evening, according to a school spokesman.

It’s an ugly, ugly situation – the only good thing one can take away, at the moment, is the fact the young woman spoke up.

“A lot of young ladies probably don’t come forward. I was proud of [my daughter] for coming forward,” the accuser’s father said. “Hopefully by reporting them, that it will help protect other girls that are going around coaches and feeling safe and secure, and realize it’s not safe and secure.”

Perhaps things have gotten better since 2004.

Maybe.

Days after Norwood Teague resigned as athletic director at the University of Minnesota amid  allegations of sexually harassment, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported VCU paid former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham $125,000 to settle claims of discrimination under Teague’s watch. Teague served as VCU’s athletic director until 2012, the same year Beth Cunningham left the Rams.

“VCU paid athletic Beth Cunningham received $125,000 when she left VCU,” VCU spokesman Mike Porter confirmed. “There was an agreement reached between the university and Beth Cunningham. However, the nature of the agreement cannot be discussed due to the language of the agreement.”

Then there’s the Tar Heel Trouble: UNC-Chapel Hill reports new information to NCAA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has notified the NCAA’s enforcement staff that, in the course of responding to the NCAA’s notice of allegations of May 20, 2015, it identified two new pieces of information potentially requiring further review. The University is fully cooperating with the NCAA and working within the NCAA’s processes to bring closure to the investigation as soon as possible.

First, while preparing for public release of a series of emails from the independent investigation conducted by Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, the University found additional examples of possible instances of improper academic assistance provided to a few former women’s basketball players, directly related to allegation number two in the May 20, 2015, notice of allegations.

Moving on.

Uncertainty builds for Marist with Jossart out for season

The Marist College women’s basketball team’s rocky offseason has hit another bump.

Incoming freshman point guard Jordyn Jossart underwent surgery on her right knee on Wednesday and is expected to miss the entire 2015-16 season, the school announced Thursday.

Jossart’s absence adds uncertainty to a program that has just five returning scholarship players on its roster and still, Marist coach Brian Giorgis said, doesn’t know if it will have starting center Tori Jarosz back for another season. The point guard position in particular is an unknown, with Jossart thought to be one of several candidates for the role.

Analysis: How will Iowa mesh together this season?

With three multi-year starters gone from last year’s team and eight underclassmen dotting its roster, Iowa is going to have a significantly different look this season.

Exactly how different? Longtime coach Lisa Bluder isn’t quite sure right now.

Cool! BTW girls basketball player Megan Jackson wins spot in Kevin Durant camp

If you were to become an NBA superstar, how would you use your money to impact the lives of young people in the community where you grew up?

Megan Jackson thought about the question. Then, the Booker T. Washington junior basketball player sat down and wrote an essay.

It turned out to be one of the winning efforts in the Kevin Durant ProCamp Essay Contest, organized by Oklahoma Toyota dealers.

More cool! Young women using basketball to help overcome divisions and forge new way of life in wake of 1990s Balkan war

 More than 100 young women playing in a Bosnia and Herzegovina basketball club are overcoming the ethnic divisions and conflict that plunged the Balkan region into war during the 1990s.

The Livno Girls Basketball Club, based in the town in southwest Bosnia and Herzegovina, competes throughout the region and in other European countries. Sterling Global Operations (SGO), an international stability operations company, is a club sponsor.

The entire region was for years embroiled in the fighting between rival military forces. Programs such as the Livno Girls Basketball Club are helping to forge a new way of life, and a better future, for girls and young women, said Mike Aramanda, SGO project manager for the company’s work in the region.

More cool! Basketball at breakneck pace a way of life on Navajo reservation

At 5:15 a.m., sunrise is only a thin pale highlight over red rock mesas in the east as Alicia Hale steps out of her house for her daily run. Even in June, the morning is so chilly at an altitude of almost 7,000 feet that she needs several layers to stay warm.

The Window Rock High School senior lines up next to her mother and younger sister in the dirt yard of their house in the capital of the Navajo Nation. They spread Navajo white corn powder on the ground in a quiet ceremony meant to offer thanks to the Creator for the blessings of life.

They exit the yard through a chain link gate and set out at an easy jog.

Also cool! Kymora Johnson And Her Cavs Are Going To Play A Game At Madison Square Garden – The Cavs weren’t allowed to play in their tournament for having a girl on their team. This will have to do instead. side note: Really impressed *insert sarcasm emoticon* with the many of the comments after this article on the “issue.” Quite revealing of some folks’ buttons.

LA’s optimism: Brian Agler, Sparks keep pushing toward playoffs

The Sparks started the season 3-14 and in last place in the West and still are one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, averaging 72.8 points per game, which ranks 10th. But now, even at 7-16, Los Angeles is in fourth place in the West, a half-game ahead of San Antonio.

“It’s been tough,” Agler said earlier this week. “But we have a chance to get into the playoffs and we are playing better.”

Minnesota’s crossed fingers: Seimone Augustus could return to Lynx lineup soon

Speakin’ of tough: Storm GM, president Alisha Valavanis reflects on first year on job

Question: You’ve made a mark your first season, which has included a revamped ticket program, a new Storm app and quirky in-game features, such as the “Between Two Birds” segments with Sue Bird. How do you view the past year?

Answer: We went into this year really committed to the experience as we build on the court. We wanted engagement opportunities and to try to create relevance. It’s been exciting for me, because people see the vision and are buying in. They’re showing up to games and having a good time. We had three consecutive games where the building (KeyArena’s lower bowl) was full. It’s too early to really tell, but there are a lot of indicators that we’re trending in the right direction.

Things are gettin’ fun in the East: New York Liberty remain thorn in Chicago Sky’s side amid playoff hunt (get better quick, EDD!)

Last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference champions, the Chicago Sky, are in essentially a five-way race for the conference’s four playoff spots.

But the defending East champs seem to face their most serious competition for supremacy from the New York Liberty. The two sides have faced off twice in five days with the Liberty winning both games convincingly, including an 84-63 win on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

What makes the Liberty and Sky such an intriguing matchup is they represent the polar extremes of the league. The Sky lead the league in offensive efficiency, with 104.8 points per 100 possessions. A primary reason for this is Elena Delle Donne, the versatile forward posting the third-best season in WNBA history so far, as measured by Player Efficiency Rating.

Speaking of the Sky: Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne hopes to break Seattle ‘curse’

Some think coffee when Seattle is mentioned. Elena Delle Donne has a different word association.

“It’s like the curse,” she said. 

Since being drafted by Chicago with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, KeyArena is the one court in the league where Delle Donne has yet to play.

Speaking of the stubborn Sun: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith. 

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

How about a little one-on-one?

Chicago Tribune talks with the fabulous Catch.

Q: This was the first Sports Humanitarian Award, meaning the selection committee had the entire athletic world to draw from. Yet they picked you. How did it feel?

A: It was amazing, even to get nominated. I was beside myself, just really ecstatic. I love working with kids. We’ve continued to grow and grow, and get better and better. Not once did I ever say “Hey, I might win this,” it was just cool to be recognized. When I got the phone call that I won, at first I was like “OK y’all, stop playing.”

Other athletes have their foundations, but they have people who run it for them, and it’s more of an appearance thing for them. From start to finish, I’m engaged and involved in every aspect of it. That’s something they were very impressed with.

SIKids talks with the fierce, yet friendly, Tina.

You got your first recruiting letter at age 12 from Stony Brook University. Did you receive more shortly after or not until you were a bit older?

More after — I actually framed that one. To be 12 years old and to receive a collegiate letter gave me a lot of confidence to keep playing the sport of basketball.

David pods with Kelsey Bone:

Last night, the Sun trailed by double figures before pouring it on in the second half to defeat the Tulsa, Shock 80-74. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 25 points, but the driving force in the second half push was the other All-Star on the Sun, center Kelsey Bone. She finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds.

The 6-4 center is a true low post, back-to-the-basket center, who patrols the paint on both ends of the court. The Sun disc jockey plays “Bad to the Bone” when appropriate, which is frequently, and the crowd roars. This is a year where the Sun was expected to contend for last place, not the playoffs, due to injuries and retirement. On a team loaded with youth, and short on vocal leaders, Bone is more than just another piece of the puzzle, she is a focal point both on and off the court for the team.

Elena goes solo here: Delle Donne writes about her sister, Lizzie.

We often read about stories of momentary greatness — a time when a human being persevered despite insurmountable odds. But what’s a moment of triumph for one person is a lifetime of perseverance for my sister, Lizzie.

Lizzie is my older sister — also the older sister to my brother Gene — but often times it feels like she’s my younger sister. She was born deaf and blind, with cerebral palsy and autism. She doesn’t speak. The only real interaction or communication I, or anyone, has with her is in person, with hand over hand sign language. She hugs. She smiles. She kisses.

Gone way too early: Former Virginia Tech basketball great Renee Dennis dies at 49

Former Virginia Tech women’s basketball standout Renee Dennis, whose No. 44 jersey hangs from the Cassell Coliseum rafters, has died at the age of 49.

Dennis died of ovarian cancer Aug. 4 at a nursing home in Trumbull, Connecticut, according to her mother, Mary Dennis. Virginia Tech announced her death Monday.

“I’m so saddened and shocked,” former Hokies coach Carol Alfano said in a phone interview upon learning the news. “That’s way, way too young.”

Dennis is the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program’s career scoring leader, having tallied 1,791 points from 1983-87.

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Episode 1

Episode 2

BTW, considering my hobby, I’m guessing longtime readers will recognize that Sue and I are birds of a feather….

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The FIBA19 semi finals are up at 1:30pm EST. After making a tasty goose pate of the Canadians, the US will face Spain. Dawn and company seem to have the team cooking on all cylinders. Will they be feasting on tapas tonight?

After that game, tune in to ABC (what! rabbit ears television channel?) at 3:30EST for the All-Star Game. Nice mix of “old” and new talent this year… looking forward to some fun. And, no pressure, I hope the players put on a show that builds on the nice summer of success (and attention) female athletes have had…

Speaking of fun, Back as a WNBA All-Star, ex-UConn star lets her hair down and Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson the life of the party

Always animated and always colorful – “Look at her, her hair’s purple,” Connecticut center Kelsey Bone said with a laugh – Dolson stole the show when she won what has become tradition to end a WNBA practice: the halfcourt shooting contest.

Lots of other stories floating around the game:

From the – Elkhart Truth: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale 

The .com has tons of backstage stuff. Check out an appearance by Betty Lou in the middle of Nneka and Maya’s interview.

About the crew covering the game: Entering third straight WNBA All-Star assignment, ESPN’s trio appreciates chemistry

Saturday, Ryan RuoccoRebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe will call their third straight WNBA All-Star game together (ABC, 3:30 p.m.ET). The 2015 edition will feature some of the biggest stars in the league including Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne and Shoni Schimmel. Ruocco and Rowe chatted with Front Row about working together and their thoughts on the midseason showcase.

How has it been working together over the last three seasons?
RR: I absolutely love working with Rebecca and Holly. It’s one of my favorite activities in life, never mind work. They’re both terrific at what they do and so much fun. The great part about an All-Star Game is it lends itself to a fun atmosphere, which plays right into our wheelhouse. Holly really bounces all over the place in All-Star Games, bringing the fans truly unique access, and Rebecca and I love teeing her up for those opportunities.

HR: We have so much fun together it hardly feels like working. Rebecca and Ryan are so supportive and include me in the broadcast so much. It is a joy to work with them!

Mechelle writes about one of the bestest we’ve had the pleasure of watching: All-Star Tamika Catchings preparing for life after hoops

A little girl is battling her jump rope — she accidentally hit herself with it — and appears close to meltdown mode. Uh oh, her shoulders are slumping, her eyes are watering, her face is scrunching up …

Time for Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, the WNBA standout so famed for her scoring, defense and rebounding, to come in with the assist.

So does Doug: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale

Tamika Catchings didn’t want to get sentimental thinking about her final All-Star Game.

Catchings, who announced last fall that 2016 would be her final season, will be playing in a record 10th game Saturday. The WNBA usually skips the All-Star Game during Olympic years.

“I’m excited,” Catchings said. “I think everybody thought I’d be sad about this coming to the end, the last this, the last that. I’m really not. It’s time. The young players are playing so well.”

NY Times: Elena Delle Donne Emerges as Face of the WNBA

With the league’s best players gathered at Mohegan Sun Arena for Saturday’s W.N.B.A. All-Star Game, Delle Donne’s colleagues, including Brittney Griner — the player selected No. 1 in 2013 — and the league president are acknowledging that she has arrived at that moment.

“She’s doing what everybody expected,” Griner said. “Elena, she’s a dominant player. It’s good for the league, how everybody always is talking about Delle Donne.”

Chicago Daily Herald: Elena Delle Donne top hit for Sky

School’s out, but there are progress reports to write up.

It’s mid-term time for the WNBA, which plays its All-Star Game in Connecticut today (2:30 p.m., ABC 7). The Chicago Sky has logged 17 of its 34 games and is one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-6 record.

Not a bad showing so far. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the first-half hits and misses for the Sky:

Hit: Elena Delle Donne. Duh.

Swish Appeal: Delle Donne happy, healthy and confident

USAToday: Behind Elena Delle Donne’s touching gesture at the WNBA All-Star game

When Elena Delle Donne heard about Nike’s new shoes designed for people with disabilities and the college student behind them, she thought immediately about her sister, Lizzie.

Hartford Courant: Griner Puts Past Behind, Focuses On Mercury’s WNBA Title Hopes

The past few months have been anything but simple for Brittney Griner.

A household name for any follower of women’s basketball, Griner’s WNBA career — which includes the league record for most dunks in a game with two — has been eclipsed by events in her personal life.

USAToday: Brittney Griner faces promising future as she moves on from off-court issues

Late Friday afternoon, the WNBA fans assembled for All-Star Weekend gathered in the Mohegan Sun Arena to watch the East and West teams conduct an open practice.

The star power is immense for both teams. Transcendent Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, legendary Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and the East will be remarkable to watch together when the teams take the floor at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC. The West features defending league MVP Maya Moore and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird.

And yet, there is something magnetic about the combination of Brittney Griner and a basketball court that kept all eyes on her from the moment she stepped out of the Mohegan Sun Arena tunnel Friday, and every time she goes anywhere, on and off the court.

Hartford Courant: Changing Of Guard: New Faces Join Stalwarts At WNBA All-Star Game

Before the season, the conversation about the WNBA mostly centered on what the league wouldn’t have. You likely heard that Diana Taurasi wouldn’t play at all, Candace Parker wouldn’t play for a while, Sylvia Fowles wanted a new contract to play and Brittney Griner couldn’t play for the first seven games. Four stars, four voids to fill, four issues.

But as always, time and progress never stand still. The WNBA has managed to plow through the cloud of uncertainty and adopt a new identity based on a number of fresh-faced stars. On Saturday, it will play its All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena with its familiar core surrounded by many first-time participants.

New Haven Register: New wave of young stars taking over WNBA All-Star Game

“I think for a while you saw the same people, and that speaks to those players’ consistency and their ability to get into the all-star games, but now there is definitely a fresh crop,” said former UConn star and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, who will start for the Western Conference. “There are some people who aren’t playing in the WNBA this year, there are others who came late and some pretty talented players. But everybody in this game deserves to be here.”

USAToday: WNBA President Laurel Richie aims to take league to new heights

Newly-minted all star Alex Bentley of the Connecticut Sun made a beeline for WNBA President Laurel Richie as she sat for an interview Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the Mohegan Sun, days before the league’s All-Star Game there on Saturday, and gave Richie a warm embrace.

It’s the kind of reception Richie receives virtually everywhere she goes lately. Two off-court challenges this past offseason — Isiah Thomas’ bid to become part-owner of the Liberty and a domestic violence incident between two WNBA players — are thought to be handled in a way that upheld the values of the league and drew near-universal acclaim.

Sporting News: WNBA All-Star Game shows league’s best — and players’ difficult reality

Shanxi is on a plateau surrounded by North China’s mountains, a province smaller in area than Wisconsin with more people than Canada. It served as a major economic center thousands of years ago and is bound by its rich culture and history. And by Maya Moore.

SlamOnline: NBA and WNBA Photos Of The Week

Not at the game, but an All-Star in her own right: Dishin & Swishin 7/24/15 Podcast: Perseverance rewarded, Jacki Gemelos joins the Chicago Sky

Mechelle writes about the fabulous WBHOF class:

UCLA‘s Natalie Williams played at a superstar level in basketball and volleyball and is one of the most accomplished athletes in Pac-12 history.

An avalanche of injuries took Missouri State‘s Jackie Stiles away from playing basketball long before she was ready. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could have packed in more points scored in a relatively short college and pro career than Stiles did.

Both former players lead the way for the 2016 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee. The class — which includes coaches Sherri Coale and Joe Lombard, referee June Courteau and administrator Bill Tipps — will be formally announced at Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, a source confirmed to espnW.

Speaking of history: Thank you: Bishop Grimes girls basketball coach leaves lasting legacy, retires after 46 years

Pfefferle started coaching at Bishop Grimes in 1969, three years before Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The girls basketball program had no uniforms, outdated equipment and unusual practice times due of lack of access to the gymnasium.

“It was a different time,” Pfefferle said. “We pushed to get everything we needed.”

Pfefferle’s coaching style was also different from how the girls were used to being instructed. She yelled, she made them run, she yelled some more and she made them run a lot more.

“I didn’t treat them like girls,” she said. “I treated them like athletes.

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Huge blow for the Terps as starting point guard and soon-to-be-junior Lexie Brown decides to transfer. I always wonder about that “play closer to home” line…

Not as surprising, Jannah Tucker to transfer from Lady Vols.

Blick:

llinois hires firm to further investigate claims against basketball coaches

Ilinois has hired a Chicago law firm to further investigate claims by women’s basketball players that coaches mistreated them.

An internal review by the university’s office of diversity, equity and access initially found no violation of “applicable law, NCAA rules or university policy,” but athletic director Mike Thomas and Chancellor Phyllis Wise “have decided to contract with an external firm to continue and finalize that preliminary review,” a university spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Hutchinson women’s basketball team under investigation

The Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team is under investigation for alleged improper benefits to players.

The National Junior College Athletic Association confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the program. Assistant executive director Mark Krug says an issue was brought to the organization’s attention last week. He declined to comment further.

Hutchinson coach John Ontjes says the school has until June 5 to respond to the NJCAA.

In eight seasons under Ontjes, the Blue Dragons are 257-26 and have won five consecutive Jayhawk West titles.

This season, Hutchinson’s only loss was in the NJCAA national championship game to Chipola, Florida.

In other news: Alabama women’s basketball making progress in rebuilding efforts, Kristy Curry says

The results have been modest through Kristy Curry’s first two seasons as Alabama’s women’s basketball coach. However, the groundwork is being laid for a better future, Curry said during the Tide’s recent Crimson Caravan event in Atlanta.

Alabama finished last season 13-19, including 2-14 in the SEC, after posting a 14-16 record during Curry’s first season as coach in 2013-14.

In W news: 

From Rebkell, an enumeration of the horror(s) that is know as WNBA.com.

One thing I don’t like when web pages get re-vamped by new companies is that they will move things around and not put redirects to the new pages, breaking search results and inbound links (like Wikipedia references). The people doing the WNBA site changed the locations of the playerfile pages without putting re-directs to the new page. Google should catch up, if they do keep playerfiles for retired players, but for now, if I search for “Becky Hammon playerfile” it gives me: 

http://www.wnba.com/playerfile/becky_hammon/ 

That page no longer exists. 

The new player pages have been moved under the “player” directory and a dash used instead of an underscore: 

http://www.wnba.com/player/sue-bird/ 

But as of now, there is no page for 

http://www.wnba.com/player/becky-hammon 

If they decide to not keep any playerfile data for players who were retired as of 2015, then that will be a bigger complaint.

From Tulsa: Glory finally arrived in town and says she didn’t expect arrest, WNBA suspension after domestic fight with Griner, now her spouse. Also, the Shock has a terrific backcourt trio in Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams

T he Tulsa Shock is cornering the market on young, dynamic backcourt talent.

Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams give the WNBA franchise a terrific trio rotating at point guard and shooting guard.

“There are great combinations all over the league,” Shock president Steve Swetoha said. “But for young players with potential, we’ll put our guard set against any in the league.”

Speaking of that suspension: Brittney Griner says other players want her to appeal suspension

Also from Phoenix: So you say: Mercury ready for title defense on FOX Sports Arizona

From Seattle/Australia:

Abby Bishop played one season for the Seattle Storm, in 2010, before returning to play professionally in her native Australia. She is back in the WNBA this year, but she did not return alone — Bishop has brought along 2-year-old Zala, a niece whom the 6-3 forward has taken care of since shortly after her birth.

Bishop’s sister gave birth to the child in August 2013, but unconfirmed medical issues meant that she would be unable to take of the baby. Rather than see Zala go to foster homes, Bishop stepped up and became her legal guardian, even though that meant juggling motherhood duties and a hectic schedule in Australia’s WNBL.

The AP offers: Seattle’s Bird ready for rebuilding, mentoring ahead

When Seattle opens its season next week at home against Los Angeles, Bird will begin her 13th season with the franchise. She has experienced the highs of winning two WNBA titles and is now facing the challenge of helping lead a massive rebuilding project after Seattle’s worst record of her tenure with the club.

She’s still Sue Bird, the starting point guard idolized by a younger generation. But more than any other time in her professional career, with Seattle’s selection of guards Jewell Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis with two of the first three picks in the WNBA draft, Bird is adding the title of mentor.

From Indy: Stephanie White up for any and all challenges with Fever

“I’m a firm believer that you surround yourself with people who have more wisdom and see different things,” White said. “Not just people who agree with you all the time. I’m not going to get better as a coach, and neither is our team, if I’m not open to being challenged.

“Lin is the first person I worked with who was open for debate on everything; she always wanted to hear other people’s thoughts. It really helped me in terms of who I wanted to coach with me.”

Also from Indy: 2015 Indiana Fever Preview: Fever Plan To Open Up Offense This Year

Deja vu from Minnesota as Pioneer Press asks:  For Lynx and WNBA players, how much hoops is too much?

Time off is a rare commodity for Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus.

Her free days are few and far between. So when Augustus had a short stretch of off days available in early May, she took full advantage.

Augustus traveled to Hawaii to marry LaTaya Varner.

“It was, like, ‘We’ve got to squeeze (the wedding) in right here,’ ” Augustus said.

The Sun will rely on leadership of newcomer

Almost as soon as Katie Douglas announced her retirement from the WNBA and the Connecticut Sun, the question was popped.

Who will lead this team?

Connecticut coach Anne Donovan had an answer.

Camille Little.

Is Louisville lusting after the Liberty?

Is there any news on Angel’s knee?

And finally, flashing back to May 5, 1995, a little USA Basketball news:

Twenty years ago today, on the morning of May 25, 1995, 18 of the best women’s basketball players in the country were sitting in their respective dorm rooms at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, anxiously awaiting word on their fate. 

“I cannot believe that it has been 20 years,” said eventual two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton, who celebrated her 28th birthday on that day. “It was such a special moment for me. To be able to get ready to do something that would make history was a special moment. I felt like we were embarking on something special. I was nervous, but excited. It was something that I was extremely happy to be a part of, to be among a group of players that would change women’s basketball.”

If you want the real scoop on USA Basketball and the start of the W and ABL, two must reads for you this summer are Sara Corbett’s wonderful “Venus to the Hoop” and Tara VanDerveer’s “Shooting from the Outside.

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a fool’s errand… BUT, I do want to take a moment to point out this:

Jacki Gemelos’ Chicago Sky WNBA box score: 16 minutes, 4-7, +24. Honestly, who would have ever thunk that?

Nike announces signings of the top four WNBA draft picks (photos)

More love and respect for Katie Douglas: Retiring Douglas set example for area girls basketball players

Katie Douglas was a 6-foot-1 girls high school basketball player running the point long before such God-given backcourt leverage was fashionable.

The 1997 Perry Meridian graduate helped usher out single-class hoops while at the same time forcing observers of the girls game to think differently.

“With Katie there was no good way to defend her,” said longtime Franklin Community High School girls basketball coach Walt Raines, whose Grizzly Cubs have long staged battles against the Falcons.

Storm star Sue Bird presented with Moyer Foundation award

A little follow up from NPR: What Anti-Domestic Violence Advocates Are Saying About The WNBA Suspensions

More not-so-happy-news for the Lib: Prince to miss beginning of WNBA season to play for Russia

Speaking of the Lib – where’s Taj? Post hires former WNBA All-Star as head coach

From Swish Appeal: Key questions each WNBA Western Conference team faces heading into the 2015 season and Key questions for each WNBA Eastern Conference team faces in the 2015 season

From the Daily Courier: Kobritz Column: What the WNBA needs to learn from the NFL: “While the NFL is trying to ban one of its marque players over a tempest in a teapot, the WNBA is about to embrace a sleaze ball. Go figure.”

From the Huffington Post: Should Those Who Spoke Out Against Donald Sterling do the Same With Isiah Thomas?

In NCAA news:

Oklahoma women’s basketball: Sherri Coale talks potential rule changes, playing four quarters

Seven families protest handling of Illinois women’s basketball probe: report

The letter the newspaper obtained said the families “most strongly object to the manner in which the ‘internal investigation’ of mistreatment and abuses by the coaching staff was handled and is currently being handled by your office. We find this protocol unacceptable as well as completely disrespectful to the student athletes and their families affected by the coaches and coaching staff involved in these patterns of abuse.”

The seven families are writing in behalf of former players Taylor Tuck, Sarah Livingston, Amarah Coleman, Taylor Gleason, Alexis Smith, Nia Oden and Jacqui Grant.

David Teel at the Daily Press: Removing graduate transfer rule would be height of hypocrisy for NCAA

“If you’re transferring to be in a graduate program, the NCAA wants you to be working in earnest toward that degree rather than just using up your last year of eligibility,” Kevin Lennon, the association’s vice president of Division I governance, told the Associated Press.

Really? The NCAA wants Utopia? Well, then let’s have Mark Emmert solve the budget deficit, immigration reform and Middle East conflicts.

Were the 14 freshmen who declared for next month’s NBA draft “working in earnest” toward an undergraduate degree? The 15 sophomores?

The NCAA has no business attempting to police or discern an athlete’s motives. No one should care if a graduate transfer cares about getting a master’s.

Something for the twit who hate-tweeted me about this Liberty/Thomas fiasco from the New York Times: Any Publicity Is Good? Isiah Thomas and WNBA to Find Out

The Liberty will kick off a new W.N.B.A. season with their annual media day Thursday. This year’s event will probably be the best-attended one in franchise history. The reason? Isiah Thomas, the team’s new president, will be on hand alongside the players to face reporters.

From the Daily News’ Linda Stasi: It’s not just Isiah Thomas! There’s plenty of jobs available for all the other pervy, misogynistic male celebs out there

It’s about damned time that we all stopped harassing sexual harasser Isiah Thomas for becoming president and part owner of the New York Liberty women’s basketball team, pending board approval.

So listen up, disgruntled female hoopsters! Let us not think of the sexist pig’s rise to the heights of your sport as the height of absurdity/insanity/disrespect. Let us instead think of it as the height of female liberation!

After all, we women have finally reached true equality. If the man who cost Madison Square Garden $11.5 million in a sexual harassment suit can still get the top gig in women’s sports, just think of the possibilities. No, not for you. For them.

Add this: Adam Silver Needs to Step in on the Isiah Thomas Hiring

And (fingers crossed) WNBA BOG Reportedly Could Reject Effort To Make Isiah Part-Owner Of Liberty

At the other end of the spectrum: Flat Rock basketball team honored for record breaking success

Success came in leaps and bounds for the Flat Rock Rams this year.

Both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams won District championships, with the girls adding in a Regional championship.

The regional crown was the first in school history.

For their efforts the girls were honored at a recent City Council meeting.

“They had a great season this year,” Recreation Director Rodney Wade said. “They were Huron League champions, District champions and Regional champions.”

The girls that are seniors on this team are the first group to have went through the Flat Rock Recreation League program from first grade through High School.

Shawnee basketball’s Freeman to be inducted into OGBCA Hall of Fame

For a man who didn’t even play basketball in high school, let alone college, Steve Freeman has had a one-of-a-kind career coaching the sport.

The long-time coach, who has been an assistant with the girls basketball team at Shawnee High School, will be honored for a storied career when he is inducted into the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame on May 30.

“It’s a really nice honor, very exciting,” Freeman said. “It’s also very humbling, because so much about winning is being in the right place at the right time with the right kids. I’ve been fortunate that I have, a lot of the time, been in the right place at the right time. There are a bunch of very good coaches who have never were lucky enough to be in that right situation. I feel really privileged, really blessed.”

From Billy Watkins at the Clarion Ledger: Who was first? ‘Reportedly’ Sue Dabbs

“Football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track and field, tennis. Oh … and I love volleyball,” she said. “I try not to miss anything. This is a dream come true for me. My mama told me I became an Ole Miss fan at the age of 6. I don’t remember it. But I can’t remember not being one, so it had to be early.”

Dabbs said she enjoyed the column about Beth, who lives in North Carolina and is an ordained Episcopal priest and a cancer survivor.

“Beth deserved having a story written about her,” Dabbs said. “She’s done a lot with her life and did a lot for females in the sports writing business.”

And that is true. She did.

From Virginia: What Cosby girls basketball team does for classmate with autism will warm your heart

From L.A.: Japanese American basketball leagues help girls progress at prep level

Standing just 5 feet 3, Lauren Saiki was sometimes the smallest player on the basketball court. But her signature thread-the-needle passes and heady ball-handling propelled the point guard and her teams from Alhambra Mark Keppel High to four consecutive playoff appearances, capped by last season’s run to the Division II state championship game, a first for the school.

Saiki, 18, has earned a basketball scholarship to West Virginia.

For all this, she can credit the fundamentals she learned while playing for more than a decade in a Japanese American basketball league.

“That helped build my foundation,” Saiki said. “. . . I really fell in love with basketball.”

What’s cool is this continues the long history of women’s Japanese-American basketball on the West Coast.

Before, during, and after World War II, Nisei youth clubs offered hundreds of city girls like Ide a place of camaraderie and belonging where they could play basketball and baseball, socialize with boys, develop leadership skills, participate in community service, and forge lifelong friendships. In an era when Japanese-Americans faced racial barriers to social acceptance, these clubs enabled urban teenagers to claim American identity and enjoy the pleasures of popular culture.

Which connects to this from Jayda: Ramu Tokashiki looking to catch on with Storm

A half-dozen journalists attended the second day of Storm training camp Monday. All were interested in one player: Ramu Tokashiki.

A 6-foot-3 forward, Tokashiki stands out in the basketball world in Japan. Nicknamed “Taku” (pronounced TOCK), Japanese slang for strong, she signed with the Storm to be challenged by WNBA players.

“I understand she has no competition, per se, within the Japanese basketball system,” said journalist Misa Seely of American Sports Access. “There’s nobody as tall as she is and nobody as quick as she is. Her size and strength and ability to score is what makes her a superstar.”
Tokashiki is expected to make Seattle’s regular-season roster. It would make her the third Japanese player to compete in the WNBA.

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First we have DT taking the season off.

Then we have Z.B. leaving early to enter the draft.

Then we have Ms. Loyd leaving early to enter the draft (and coach McGraw being not so happy) Is it a bad idea? Good Idea?

Then we have CP3 absenting herself for a hunk of games. (Will Big Syl be next?)

Then we have a HUNK of transfers (as Blue Star Media notes:College players on the move, but not many coaches ):

Minnesota

Virginia

Wichita State: Returning starters Michaela Dapprich and Alie Decker are among four players leaving the Wichita State women’s basketball program

Indiana

Vanderbilt

Oklahoma State: Four players transfer and top recruit decommits amid departure of assistant coach Richard Henderson

USC: Women’s Basketball Loses Two Key Freshmen Players

Boston College

Texas: Nekia Jones.

Kansas State: Jones prepares to transfer while Meeks eyes graduate degree

Some who benefitted from transfers:

Mississippi State got Oklahoma State’s Roshunda Johnson

Oakland got Illinois’ Taylor Gleason.

Oregon got BC’s Kat Cooper.

Minnesota got Marquette’s Kenisha Bell.

DePaul got Illinois’ Jacqui Grant

So you’re looking to find gem in the European basketball mines? Check out this from Blue Star: I wish these stories weren’t true 

There are success stories. Check out this list of international newcomers to the NCAA (Spain is represented quite well).

The NCAA spins a happy tune: Women’s basketball championship a success across multiple platforms

The 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and Women’s Final Four hosted in Tampa Bay resulted in successes across multiple platforms.

The Women’s Final Four attendance totaled 39,540, marking the highest attendance for the Women’s Final Four in the last five years. The national championship game attendance reached 19,810 fans in Amalie Arena.

In addition, the first and second rounds of the championship, taking place at the top 16 hosting sites under the new Division I women’s basketball format, recorded the second-highest total attendance since 2004. The overall 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship also recorded the third-highest number of fans since 2004, with a total of 239,746 going through the turnstiles.

Coaching News:

Utah looks to Pacific for their new coach, Lynne Roberts.

UALR says “Stay Put Please” to Joe Foley.

So does Syracuse to Q.

Lafayette brings back a classic: Theresa Grentz

Interesting… Kansas says “Yes” to Brandon Schneider. After Jody Adams said “No.” 

Georgia stayed local… and generous when they hired Joni Crenshaw. Writes Jordan James: Crenshaw follows Landers’ lead, but will put own stamp on program

Western Carolina lured back a two-time assistant when they signed Stephanie McCormick as head coach.

North Florida looks to Miami for their new head coach, Darrick Gibbs.

Air Force tags Chris Gobrecht.

Portland State got Lynn Kennedy from NAIA’s Southern Oregon.

Southeast Missouri State University snagged Rekha Patterson from Ball State.

Some post-draft news:

ESPN – Draft Grades (Yah, I’m kinda excited about the Lib this year)

Bleacher Report has 2015 WNBA Draft Results: Full List of Selections and Top Takeaways

Atlanta: Logic a promising work-in-progress for Dream

Atlanta: Hrynko of DePaul to fight for roster spot

Chicago: Sky’s top pick Parker puts troubles behind her

Chicago: Parker in ‘disbelief’ over WNBA draft selection

It didn’t take long for Cheyenne Parker to hear her name called during the 2015 WNBA draft Thursday night.

Less than 30 minutes to be exact.

“It was crazy, I just dropped to my knees,” Parker said about being selected. “I was just lost for words. My initial thought was, ‘Is this real? Did this just happen?’ I am just so blessed.”

Los Angeles: Sparks draft Central Michigan’s Crystal Bradford with No. 7 pick in 2015 WNBA Draft

Minnesota: Lynx trade for guard, draft Cal forward and U’s Shae Kelley

New York: Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer Eager To Work With Kiah Stokes

New York: How 2 prize rookies will fit in with new-look Liberty

Phoenix: Wichita State’s Alex Harden surprised by WNBA Draft

Seattle: Storm’s rebuilding nearly complete after 2 top draft picks

Seattle: Storm got the cream of the crop in drafting Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd

Tulsa: Shock selects Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B. with No. 2 pick in WNBA draft

Washington: Punch Shots: Cloud deserves her shot at the WNBA

Washington: How will Ally Malott and Natasha Cloud fit with the Washington Mystics in 2015 and beyond?

Semi-drafted: Princeton’s Dietrick earns spot on Washington Mystics training camp roster

Not drafted: Jude Schimmel Talks of Managing Her Sister Shoni’s Career. BTW, did you catch her new book: ‘You Don’t Have to Leave the Reservation to be Successful’

Speaking of the W:

Did ya catch the video, Sue Bird: Revealed?

You can never get enough Chiney. First she’s Dishin’ and Swishin’ (CO reflects on the Draft Experience & first year in the WNBA) and then she’s video-ing.

The Power of Drake, Scandal And The Upcoming WNBA Draft (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #1)

The Way Female Athletes Are Shown In The Media Needs To Change (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #2)

 
 

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After their nice piece on Kansas powerhouse Emporia State, boom, they drop to #3 in the DII polls after a one-point loss against Central Missouri. It’s especially painful ’cause they were outscored 9-1 in the closing minutes of the game.

Lewis University (Ill) moves into first, Pittsburg State University (Kan) second. The Pitt State Gorillas. How can you not cheer for a team like that!?!?!

Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to indulge in some DII scanning (ain’t doing laundry grand!), but it’s interesting to see that all but two teams have one loss.

BTW, here’s a story that might explain the sudden surge of women’s basketball coverage from the Gray Lady:

Before last Tuesday night, I had never heard the name Scott Cacciola. 

Twenty-four hours later, I’m not certain that I could have been any more excited at the notion of meeting him. Cacciola is in his second year of covering the New York Knicks basketball franchise for the New York Times.

Due to the Knicks’ dismal start (OK, with a 5-35 record at the moment and having won only once in their past 26 games, perhaps atrocious would be more appropriate), the NYT sports editors decided to have mercy on their beat writer and send him around the country to view winning basketball. They fielded hundreds of suggestions from readers and, through a collaboration of sorts, are picking each trip one game at a time.

So, for the next couple of months, he’s become a modern sports version of “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt.

And he started with the nation’s top-ranked program in NCAA Division II.

Lose, Knicks, lose! (Can you tell I moved from Boston to NYC?)

In the DIII poll, last year’s champeens, Farleigh Dickinson U – Florham (N.J) are going strong at 13-0. Wonder if their governor knows they exist? Perennial top-position teams lurk below: Thomas More College (KY) (love their headline, “Tomas Uses Big Second Half Run to Veto Presidents.” And forcing 43 turnovers against Thief college? Love it.), Amherst College, Washington University – St. Louis and University of St. Thomas, (MN). Lots and lots of familiar names fill out the ranks.

The Jeffs better be careful, though… the NY Times just wrote about them, though this time it’s Jere’, so maybe they’re safe: At Amherst, Division III Team With No. 1 Ambition

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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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a litte US v. Spain recap via:

Yours truly and Lee: Women’s World Cup: USA sweeps to gold with 77-64 win over Spain 

The United States’ offense was at times elegant – as when Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) bulleted a court-long past to Seimone Augustus for one of her game-high assists – and at times muscular, as when Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) ended the first quarter with a crowd-pleasing drive to the basket.

Women’s World Cup: Australia takes bronze in 74-44 rout of Turkish hosts

It was obvious that the Turkish team was disappointed and emotionally exhausted after their tournament run, but there was pride, too. “I’d like to congratulate the Australians on their win tonight,” said Turkish coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu. “They fought really hard to get this win, and it was a particularly powerful performance coming off their loss to the United States last night. For us it was just the opposite. We weren’t able to bounce back from the game last night (Turkey’s loss to Spain).”

Doug: Maya Moore leads U.S. to gold medal

Sue Bird added another gold medal to her already incredible U.S. basketball resume.

Bird became the most-decorated player in world championship history when the Americans won a second straight gold with a 77-64 victory over Spain on Sunday night.

Last year, Maya Moore “traveled” far into the future. The magic of professional make-up artists transformed her into “Betty Lou,” the old lady who shows she hasn’t lost her basketball mojo in a Pepsi Max commercial with similarly aged NBA players Kyrie Irving and Nate Robinson.

When Moore looked in the mirror and saw herself in artificial elderly form, her competitiveness came out.

“I hope I’m going to look better than that,” she said with a grin during this past WNBA season. “Both of my grandmothers are aging well, and my mom is, too. I’ve got some good genes.”

No one — least of all Team USA’s opponents at the FIBA World Championship for Women — will dispute that. The United States won the gold medal Sunday with a 77-64 victory over Spain, and Moore was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Boti Nagy: Australia captain Penny Taylor named in All-Star Five after excellent World Championship form and Marianna Tolo stars as Opals hammer Turkey to secure third place at World Championships

 Brutal defensive pressure and brilliant offensive teamwork has won Australia a bronze medal at the FIBA Women’s World Championships after a 74-44 win over host nation Turkey.

Marianna Tolo led the assault with an Opals tournament-high of 21 points at 73 per cent, grabbing six rebounds and playing great defence in a complete performance which should secure avid WNBA interest for the France-based centre.

AAP: Opals finish in the medals at world championships

 The Australian women’s basketball team has saved it s best for last to win the bronze medal in style at the world championship.

The Opals, missing their two most influential players, completed an impressive campaign with a 30-point thumping of hosts Turkey in Sunday’s third-place playoff.

Today’s Zaman: Turkey loses bronze medal chance after Australia defeat

It’s been lovely to be in Istanbul and really fun to be in the arena for the World Championships. The praised heaped on the Turkish fans is well deserved.  I wish I could have seen more of the city, but that just means I can come back again. Until then, some final shots of the Blue Mosque.

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at the moment.)

Until then, some of the sights:

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Easy Rider:

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Fresh pressed pomegranate, anyone?

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Yes, I know it’s cliché, but I don’t care. I bought a rug.

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Live and learn: I’m staying in Sultanahmet – the Old City on the European side Istanbul. The World Championship is held on the Asian side of Istanbul. So, to get there yesterday took several steps. Literally and figuratively.

First I walked past the Blue Mosque…

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and the Hagia Sophia…

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and then a beautiful water source…

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Then I took the tram from Cemberlitaş to Eminönü.

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I then crossed the street to the Kadıköy ferry dock.

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I then took the ferry to Karaköy.

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IMG_0201Then I took a taxi to the Ülker Sports Arena, where Angel plays for Fenerbahçe.

3BEE6722-635F-473F-8352-6812B5C3F07Aflexible

I got to watch a little of the U.S. practice – always a joy. Always an education. Then I got a few moments with Angel, Maya and coach Auriemma. Hopefully a piece in anticipation of tonight’s game will be put a Fullcourt (time differences make things intriguing), but a snippet, un-game related:

Though his focus in on the upcoming game, Auriemma took a moment to reflect on sharing this tournament with his former player from Connecticut, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), the only U.S player to compete in four World Championships.

“I don’t want to speak for her, but chances are this is her last World Championship,” said Auriemma. “She’s been incredibly consistent, she’s been a great leader through all this. She’s someone that everyone on the team respects. And when she left college, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Wow, I’m going to get a chance to coach her for another eight-year period.’ That’s just too unrealistic.

But to be put back in that space – to be back in that time – and to see how good she was…. What people sometimes forget about Sue was that she was always great in the absolute biggest games. Like, in her senior year, the whole season she was just moving along, keeping everybody in the right place at the right time, and then, in the NCAA tournament, boom! She has the ability to raise the level of her game to meet the occasion.

 So, whether it’s this year or in the Olympics, I am going to savor the minutes because I think she’s a once in a lifetime kind of player. I’m going to finish my coaching career feeling like the luckiest person because most people only get to coach a person for four years and here I got to coach her for eight years.”

For more about the balancing acts and the upcoming game, here’s Doug:

College players in Turkey focus on hoops, class

UConn star Breanna Stewart and freshman teammate Kia Nurse have had more than basketball to focus on at the women’s world championship. They also have to keep up with school work from nearly 5,000 miles away.

And  US women’s basketball team set to take on France

Maya Moore and her U.S. teammates know what’s at stake now. A loss and their world championship run would be over.

Standing in the way of another trip to the medal round is France, a team that handed the Americans a rare defeat on Sept. 21 in an exhibition game. The teams will meet again in the quarterfinals of the tournament Friday night.

And Mechelle: Why Team USA’s other MVP is key – Tina Charles leads U.S. women into quarters vs. France on Friday (ESPN3, 2:15 ET)

Maya Moore is the reigning WNBA MVP. Diana Taurasi was the WNBA Finals MVP. Sue Bird is playing in her record fourth FIBA World Championship. Breanna Stewart is trying to win a world championship gold medal before starting her quest for a third NCAA title. And then …

There’s that other U.S. national team player with UConn ties. You remember her, right? The 2012 WNBA MVP? Won a couple of NCAA championships in Storrs, Connecticut? Part of a major trade back in April?

We’re kidding, of course. Nobody has forgotten about New York Liberty center Tina Charles. But on a team where there are so many noteworthy stories, Charles can kind of blend into the woodwork, as it were. Or be taken for granted. That might be a better way to put it.

And here’s USA Basketball: USA Enters Medal Round At 2014 FIBA World Championship

After three decisive preliminary-round wins, the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship is on to the must-win medal round at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

Interestingly, the USA, the No. 1 seed out of Group D, will meet at 9:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3/WatchESPN) on Oct. 3 the only team to which it has lost (76-72) thus far in 2014 – albeit in exhibition play – France (3-1), the No. 2 seed out of Group B and the winner of yesterday’s quarterfinal play-in game against Brazil.

About Les Bleus:

France advanced to the quarterfinals after winning its play-in game, 61-48 over Brazil. The team opened prelim- inary play with a narrow 50-48 loss to host Turkey, before closing out pool play with an 89-45 victory over Mozambique and a close 63-59 defeat of Canada.

In France’s four games in Turkey, the team has been led by forward Sandrine Gruda (15.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and guard Celine Dumerc (5.8 ppg., 5.6 apg.), both of whom also suited up for France in the 2012 Olympics.

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between the WNBA and college season.

After defeating Canada by repeating the form that earned the team Olympic Gold in London – an out-of-sorts first half followed by a defensive clamp-down second half – the Senior National team has set its sights on seeing the sights in France. Oh, and yah, there’s some basketball goin’ on.

They’ll play game in France (I believe ESPN3 will carry them)

Sept. 19th v. Australia – 11:30 EST
Sept. 20th v. China- 11:30 EST
Sept. 21st v. France – 10:00 EST

Then to the Czech Republic to play the Czech Republic on the 23rd.

By the way, Big Syl is out, BG (eye) might be out, and EDD (back) might be out…

Speaking of bigs: Moore Has Taken Stewart Under Her Wing

“I see myself in Stewie so much,’’ Moore said. “The things Coach (Geno Auriemma) yells at her for are the same things he yelled at me for. The position she’s in at a young age leading the team and playing so well and being so talented in different areas of the floor, I think we’re very similar in those ways. And her attitude and her unselfishness are all very similar. I’ve definitely enjoyed spending more time with her now than I probably ever have on the court.

From Lisa Altobelli at USA Basketball: Sue Bird Is a Leader On And Off The Court for USA Basketball

Sue Bird is the oldest member of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. Let me just say that again with emphasis. Sue Bird is now the eldest stateswoman on the U.S. squad.

When did this happen? Well chronologically she is 33, of course. But wasn’t it just yesterday that she was youngest? Coming in at age 22 for the 2002 FIBA World Championship with a perfect ponytail flying while she dished rocket passes to Lisa Leslie as Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes took her under their wing?

Check out “Sue Bird – Through the Years.”

The future is now: New Leadership Emerging in Run-Up to World Championship

“In 2010 and 2012, I was soaking in everything I could from some of the vets that had been around,” says Maya Moore, now 25, who was the youngest member of the U.S. teams that won gold at the 2010 FIBA Worlds and the 2012 London Olympics. “And now being one of the more experienced on the national team, it just was kind of just natural to step up, and hop in, and go first and try to lead by example.”

The FIBA tournament will be broadcast on ESPN3

Saturday, 9/27 USA – China 2:30pm ET
Sunday 9/28 USA – Serbia 2:30 ET
Tuesday 9/30 USA – Angola 2:30 ET

Oct. 1 – Quarterfinal Play-In Games
Oct. 3 – Quarterfinals
Oct. 4 – Semifinals
Oct. 5 – Finals

Over at Swish Appeal, James Bowman asks: How does Team USA rank against the other international teams?

You might have been one of those who watched the game between the United States and Canada women’s basketball teams in person at Bridgeport, or saw it on television.  If you’re reading this website you’ve probably read about it.

But did you know anything about the Khalipski Cup?  While the United States was taking care of Canada four national teams — Spain, China, Turkey and host Belarus — had a mini-tournament of their own.  All four of those teams are FIBA tournament teams and they were preparing in the same way that the United States prepared.

Yah, the W season is over, but there’s still time to reminisce.

Here are espnW’s Top 10 moments.

Mechelle has some final thoughts on the season:

The WNBA’s 2014 season is in the books, and you can paint it purple and orange. The Phoenix Mercury moved into the favorite’s position early in the summer, and stayed there right through the end. Here are our final 2014 WNBA power rankings as we evaluate the season and take a very quick look at what 2015 might entail.

Speaking of purple and orange, here’s the Merc’s Championship Run video.

In other news:

I really have no patience for this crap: David Butcher, Pickerington North girls basketball coach, was charged with drunken driving

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And not just because it’s my mom’s 81st.

It’s when Phoenix and Minnesota meet at the Target Center. (And NO, it is not on national TV. Anyone got any pull?). If anyone’s going to derail the Merc’s march to a new WNBA win-streak record, it’ll be the Lynx. Both have leaders drawn from a UConn program that knows records are nice, but it’s winning the final game that earns you the prize.

Maya may be on the road to MVP but, more importantly, she’s gettin’ her posse back. Augustus is back and Brunson is right behind her. Finally, the Lynx *knock wood* are fully healthy for first time all season.

Five of Moore’s WNBA-record 10 30-point outings have come with Augustus out of the lineup.

That’s a double-sided paradigm. Augustus’ absence affords Moore more touches. But it also allows defenses to double-team her more often.

“I think it’s the same for both of them,” Reeve said. “‘Mone can benefit a lot from Maya playing as great as she is. Nothing’s easy for them.”

Brunson’s return offers similar avail in the post. No longer is Janel McCarville primarily responsible for clearing out the lane and tearing down rebounds — both Brunson specialties. Brunson’s post-up abilities also allow Reeve to make full use of her offense, which features a lot of high-motion facilitation from McCarville.

They’ll meet a Merc team that seems to be clicking on multiple cylinders. As the .com’s Kate Bennert notes, Griner is stronger, Diana is leading, and Brondello’s influence is a cypher.

It will be great to see these two teams go at each other, but it’s not just a record on the line, it’s home court and the top seed in the West. I’m not sure if San Antonio or LA should be considered legitimate threats, but both teams have the talent capable of upsetting the favorite. It would be a toss up of who I’d rather face — probably L.A., ’cause Dan Hughes has proven he can coach you right into the loser’s locker room.

Looking at the standings in the East reminds me of the bad old days – 5 of the 6 teams under .500. The East is easily dismissed because it still looks like no one wants the number one spot. The Dream were flying, but have suddenly hit a three-game losing streak (was Coach Cooper that important? Get well fast, sir!)?

No, I’m not counting Seattle out (and hoping Sue Bird is back in), but it’s been a tough season for the Storm – even with triple-doubles.

Will Chicago, with two of it’s big four back healthy (and MIP candidate Quigley) figure out their internal puzzles and be all that they can be? Is the return of Delle Donne on the horizon? Not as optimistic about Vandersloot, though.

Ooooh, look. There are the Mystics – as Stef Dolson, Bria Hartley Continue Smooth Transition To WNBA

Aside from her new swash of purple hair, a look she began to percolate as soon as her UConn career was over, nothing seems particularly different about Stefanie Dolson.

“If you want to know the truth, that [the new hair color] may be the most fun of all this season,” Dolson said. “A conversation starter? Yes.”

Indiana’s keepin’ it together. And Lin’s savoring her “farewell tour.”

Connecticut and New York (not my curse) are fighting not to drown in the basement. The Sun will be cheering against the Lib (whose final games  all East teams, except Phx) because it’ll mean a nice draft pick.

Boy, the off-season coaching carousel ought to be interesting….

Before we get there, Nate has some WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year candidates: Searching for a diamond in the rough

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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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The game is on ESPNU & at livebasketball.tv.

US reached the finals by virtue of their win over Hungary, 91-63 (and Samuelson’s the hot-hand).

“I thought we struggled at times, and credit Hungary for really pushing the tempo offensively,” said USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose Cagers AAU, Calif.). “They really had us back on our heels. I was not very happy with our defensive effort in the first half. We held them to 24 points in the second half, which is more what we are accustomed to.

“When we started to get cold from the perimeter a little bit, we pounded the ball inside,” Phillips added. “We had 50 points in the paint, which is a great number for us. They mixed up man and zone defense, and I think we showed great balance in our ability to score from the free-throw line, the paint, beyond the arc and in transition.”

Spain got there by knocking out the Czech hosts, 73-41.

FIBA has this: Spanish guard Laia Raventos gunning for gold in Final with USA

Check out the team comparison.

Couple of heart-stoppers in the W last night.

Renee Montgomery made up for a misstep on the defensive end with her basket with 5.8 seconds left to help Connecticut snap their losing streak and secure a win against Tulsa.

“It’s no fun losing,” Douglas said. “I felt like we were definitely on a skid. I just implored them to have as much energy as we possibly could. We knew we could get the job done. We went on a six-game winning streak earlier so we knew we could play at a much higher form. We took this like it was our last game.”

Question: with her sixth 30-pt game, how close is Diggins to securing MIP honors?

Kayla McBride’s play continues to show she’s gunning for rookie of the year: She answered January’s late three with her own game winning shot, pushing San Antonio to a victory and ruining Catch’s return.

It doesn’t bode well for a team in the WNBA – or in any level of basketball – when an opponent’s newbie shows poise and your own veterans do not.

The San Antonio Stars exploited the Indiana Fever’s late blunders, completing an improbable comeback in a 71-70 victory Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Seattle over Chicago as Nate writes:

Bird and Langhorne shared team-high scoring honors with 19 efficient points apiece. Bird shot 7-for-13 from the field, including a big three-point play on a jumper with 1:07 left that put the Storm up 4. Langhorne had her mid-range shot going in addition to finding ways around the Sky’s larger front line to shoot 8-for-10 from the field. The combined 38 points from the Storm’s inside-outside combo is a season-high as both have had their ups and downs this season and haven’t clicked to this extent at the same time.

At home, Atlanta used a dominant second half to earn a 86-73 victory

The Dream beat the Mystics. That’s not a surprise.

But what was a surprise was that the reserves as opposed to the starters were the ones who made a key 11-2 run in the last 3 minutes and 41 seconds to close the third quarter. That was the key run to locking up this game. After Ivory Latta made two free throws to give the Mystics a 56-55 lead, Aneika Henry made a putback layup after an offensive rebound (it was the second in a row).

Finally! The Atlanta Journal Constitution notices their local team is winning: 

“We really were trying to focus on putting 40 minutes together, not to have a big lull and let teams come back,” said Atlanta assistant coach Karleen Thompson, who spoke with the media after the game because coach Michael Cooper wasn’t feeling well. “We played great defense and everyone contributed well.”

Doesn’t prevent a putz from commenting on their piece, though. I guess we’re lucky that sad excuse for a human Coulter has been so distracted by the men’s World Cup.

As the All-Star Game approaches, Swish Appeal assesses:

How well are each of the WNBA teams playing compared with expectations?

Nate offers up some midseason WNBA statistics: The Phoenix Mercury’s dominance, the Minnesota Lynx’s potential

WATN? Jenni Benningfield: U of Colorado.

And, yes! #Chillin4Charity Cold Water Challenge reaches men’s college basketball (VIDEO)

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What a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday and get NO work done: watch a sweet quintology of WNBA games.

Most every team involved put in a fine show – entertaining to watch, tough nosed, and almost making you wish we could pull a  FIFA. No, not accept a bribe. Call a game a tie.

It started early with the Shock finally winning a close one AND an away game. Tough loss for Chicago, who did all they could do with their tall folks sitting on the bench. But, the Diggins Scowl was in the house, and her fierce game got some support from her teammates, and down went the Sky.

I’ll be honest: Totally did not expect the Dream to die in New York. But, with Cappie having a stunningly efficient game and Sugar showing up, the Lib survive so-so-ness from Tina and Alex (and Cruuuuuz survived several abrupt encounters with the floor) to earn the win. Helped that Angel went for high-volume shooting and someone jinxed Tiffany Hayes and Jasmine Thomas.

The Sparks sputtered at home against a balanced San Antonio (though McBride looked human).  It’s not that LA was awful.  But turnovers (22) and miserable shooting from behind the arc (1-11) doomed them. You know,  if Kristi returns from her “personal business” and the Sparks start winning, she’s going to be in-Toliverable.

The still Catch-less Fever kept Minnesota honest through much of the game. They shot for crap (37%), and the Lynx shot for gold (57%) and they still only lost by 6.  Nice offensive balance by the Lynx, but you gotta wonder what will happen if Brunson can’t return. (Yes, Dev, we see you….) Classy move by Lynx to honor Dunn.

The night cap between Seattle and Washington was a high quality classic. Old (UConn) Guard v. New (UConn) Guard as Bird and Hartley went toe to toe, which was wicked fun to watch. The teams combined for a measly 20 turnovers, which was a delight to see. The game went into overtime, as it should. And Seattle won, as the fans deserved.

BTW: Cool, though I’m not a fan: WNBA Pride shirts led sales for all NBA merchandise in its first week

Equally cool: Kate Fagan on Tina Charles: Changing the World, One AED at a Time

Speaking of cool: Seattle U’s Chillin4Charity!

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That Elena and Maya are on fiyah.

That teams are winning, even missing stars (Minny, Chicago).

That teams are losing ’cause they’re missing stars (Seattle, Indy, Atlanta).

That being new is hard: Tulsa World’s Mike Brown writes about transitioning: WNBA’s rookie learning curve tough on many players

That being “old” is hard: Some NOT rookies ponder the future: Becky Hammon eyes the next step

“She wants to coach after she’s done,” Popovich told the Associated Press. “Because she’s not just a good player but a smart player, we gave her a chance to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches’ meetings, argued with us. She did everything. She’s been wonderful.”

Sue Bird On Anne Donovan, Aging And The Big Picture

That the W launched a flawed iPad/iphone app and Live Access continues to be oxymoronic.

That ESPN runs a better scoreboard banner than the .com (the last score they have up is from May 23rd).

That the Minnesota Post is willing to cover the Lynx: Brazilian Damiris Dantas is Minnesota Lynx’s next big thing

That waffles are good for breakfast but tough for coaches and fans: Will she or won’t she in 2015: From Jayda – WNBA Talk: Liz Cambage – Tulsa star Liz Cambage will miss her second full season since being drafted in 2011 to concentrate on her commitment to the Australian National Team.

Mechelle chatted:

glenn (fresh meadows) How important is it for the WNBA’s survival for them to FINALLY be aknowledging and specifically marketing to the LGBT community?

Mechelle Voepel It’s interesting … we’ve had this internal discussion at ESPNW about the league’s announcement of its LGBT-focused marketing campaign. And some people’s thoughts were, “Oh, are they FINALLY doing this? It’s about time. It’s ridiculous. They should have done it long ago.” Really more chastising the league because it took so long, rather than even sounding glad that it was happening. But I have to say … I’m just like, “Look, yes, the league could have done better with this. We know that. But so could all of society.”

We’ve made so much progress in the last 10 years in regard to LGBT awareness and rights and acceptance and inclusion. So my attitude is, “OK, this is terrific. I am really happy they are doing this.” I criticize the league for things they do or don’t do that bug me, but I also understand that marketing and sponsorships and all those things haven’t been easy for women’s sports. I know there have been fans who felt very hurt and left out and not acknowledged by the WNBA. Of course I understand that. But at some point … maybe it’s that I’m almost 50, and I have some perspective that makes me more pleased with the progress than I am mad at what *didn’t* happen for years.

In random college news:

Lots of changes on Co’s Penn State staff. 

Fresno State added staff and lost a center to Oregon. Wait? They’re letting a foreign player transfer? Who do they think they aren’t?!?!

Stringer stays put.

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FINALLY!!! This has been a pretty delightfully ridiculous winter/spring, but worth every hard, exasperating, inspiring moment. And getting a chance to walk up a mountain and see these gentlemen?

8969_Cerulean_Warbler_04-28-2012_6

Cerulean Warbler

 

hooded_warbler_0299

Hooded Warbler

Well, that just puts the cherry on top.

Oh, and the W season is about to start, and the Lib are BACK in the Garden and BACK in black… Let us see what magic Trader Bill has wrought.

The start of the season means it’s preview-pa-looza time.

Over at WNBAlien, Richard is back with a vengeance:

WNBA 2014 Last Minute Awards and Season Predictions

MVP

It seems like a relatively short list of candidates this year, compared to usual. Someone like Tina Charles or Tamika Catchings might be in the fold again if their teams do surprisingly well, but otherwise I see five likely possibilities: Elena Delle Donne in Chicago; Angel McCoughtry in Atlanta; Maya Moore in Minnesota; Candace Parker (again) in LA; and Diana Taurasi in Phoenix.

WNBAlien Special – Grading the Trade Catchup: Charles forces her way to New York, Sun make the best of it

The biggest news of the WNBA’s draft night this year had nothing to do with the players being selected.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Tulsa Shock

The rebuilding – or just ‘building’, if you don’t count the Detroit variant of the franchise – continues for yet another year in Tulsa. They’ll tell you they’re aiming for the playoffs, but it’s going to be hard work achieving that barring some serious collapses elsewhere in the West.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Seattle Storm

I may have been the only person on Earth who predicted the Storm would make the playoffs last season (I kept pointing it out when analysts claimed no one had, because it’s nice to be right once in a blue moon).

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: San Antonio Stars

San Antonio’s season last year was an uphill struggle from the beginning. Sophia Young (now Young-Malcolm after her marriage) tore her ACL before the season even began, and Becky Hammon played a grand total of 12 minutes before suffering the same fate. Any team, shorn of their two veteran leaders and best players, would’ve struggled from that point on. So given that both are now back in the fold, the youngsters have an extra year of experience, and there’s another high draft-pick to add to the mix, they should bounce right back to being the 21-13 team from 2012, right? Well, maybe.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Phoenix Mercury

After being the darlings of many experts and fans in preseason a year ago, the Mercury have been lost in the shuffle a little bit this time around.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Minnesota Lynx

At some point, there’s not much more to say about the Minnesota Lynx. If you’re reading this, you probably watched them play last year, and the year before, and the year before that – you’ve seen how overwhelming they can be. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks were a very good team last year. They had their flaws, and some ugly nights, but based on points per possession over the course of the regular season they were the second-best offensive team in the league, and the second-best defensive team. Of course, with the way American sports works, their season was defined by the disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of Phoenix, rather than any success they’d had before that point. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Washington Mystics

After a couple of embarrassingly terrible years, Mike Thibault took over and made this franchise respectable again last season. He turned over half the roster, created a cohesive and deep team, and just flat-out got them playing again. 

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: New York Liberty

There are lots of positives for the New York Liberty heading into this season….So why does it still feel like this team has a lot more questions than answers circling around it going into 2014?

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Indiana Fever

While there is turmoil everywhere else, the Indiana Fever, Tamika Catchings and Lin Dunn just keep chugging along, showing up and winning games. That said, 2013 was a difficult season for Indiana.

2014 WNBA In-Depth Previews: Connecticut Sun

Well if we thought Chicago’s offseason was messy, welcome to a team where a bomb went off.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Chicago Sky

Last year was meant to be the breakthrough for the Chicago Sky… It’s kind of a shame that the offseason hasn’t managed to carry that positivity through to 2014.

WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: Atlanta Dream

Dream fans were starting to get a little worried early in the 2014 offseason. For a squad that had reached the WNBA Finals in three of the last four years, there was still a clear weakness in perimeter shooting that needed to be addressed, and some question marks around their guard corps.

Not to be outdone, Swish Appeal offers:

2014 WNBA Eastern Conference Predictions and 2014 WNBA Western Conference Predicted Standings

2014 WNBA: Michael Cooper era for Dream begins Friday night against Stars

Phoenix Mercury Media Day: Videos, notes, and how this team more self aware than last years incarnation

WNBA Friday Game Preview and Open Thread: Five games start at 7 p.m., three on NBA TV

The .com has Top Storylines of the 2014 WNBA Season and the always insightful 2014 WNBA.com GM Survey 

And what say the ESPN experts? 2014 WNBA season predictions

New to the scene Andrew Lovell writes: Ogwumike ready to start pro career – No. 1 draft pick helps lead young Sun squad into Friday’s season opener

Chiney Ogwumike stood near the free throw line, hands planted firmly on the hips of her 6-foot-4 frame.

Sweat dripped from her braids down to the already-saturated white WNBA headband as she listened to every word leaving Katie Douglas’ mouth.

It wouldn’t be fair to say Ogwumike was angry. But you better believe she wasn’t pleased.

Mechelle says the Dream are favorite in the East

At some point, we might start wondering if the Atlanta Dream have “Alydar” syndrome. For you youngsters, that’s the horse that finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978.

Alydar was a very talented colt, good enough that he could have won the Triple Crown himself. It was just his bad luck he happened to be 3 years old at the same time as Affirmed.

Michelle says the Lynx are in front of pack in tough West

The WNBA is at its best in the West again in 2014.

There can be little argument that the power in this league continues to lie in the Western Conference, but there might be some argument about which West team reigns supreme.

Minnesota — its star-studded roster largely intact — is coming off another impressive title run, a sweep in the WNBA Finals against Atlanta last fall that sets up the Lynx as the early favorites to repeat.

And yes, brilliant headline writer: Bird’s return should bolster Storm

Sue Bird is a believer in chemistry. To a point.

“Sure, you have teams that might be less talented that can get farther than a team with more talent because they know how to play together,” Bird said. “But there’s definitely a happy medium. We want to have both.”

As the Seattle Storm retool for a new WNBA season and prepare for a brutal opening stretch, a happy medium would probably suit them just fine.

Another newbie, Melissa Isaacson adds: Stronger Delle Donne ready for tipoff- WNBA’s 2013 Rookie of the Year remained in Chicago, bulked up in offseason

At 6 feet, 7 inches and roughly 300 pounds, Miles Bankston was his usual formidable obstacle in Elena Delle Donne’s path, but common sense and team protocol dictated he not flip the franchise player on her head as she drove toward him 10 days before the season opener.

Last year it would not have mattered because Delle Donne would have avoided contact, team scrimmage or otherwise, and settled for her patented fadeaway jumper.

“This time,” Chicago Sky assistant coach Christie Sides said with a satisfied smile, “she turned the corner, hit the big boy and finished over him.”

A little video: Mechelle & Michelle: WNBA Players To Watch

A little audio: Roundtable previews the WNBA (The roundtable consists of theSeattle Times’ Jayda Evans, Bluestar Media’s Wendy Parker, and Fox Sports’ Cindy Brunson. Dishin & Swishin’s David Siegel is the host.)

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Nice piece in the NY Times by William Rhoden on the Rose Classic, an under-19 girls basketball tournament now in it’s eight year.

What is striking is the number of fathers who have been involved with their daughters.

Rich Santiago has two daughters, ages 24 and 12, who play basketball. His older daughter, now a coach at Bloomfield College in New Jersey, was a scholarship athlete at the University of Texas at El Paso but never competed in the Rose Classic.

Santiago said the evolution from the time his older daughter began playing and the increasingly competitive climate that the Rose Classic symbolizes has been incredible. “The skill sets are so much higher at a real early age,” he said. “My youngest daughter is so much better than my oldest daughter was when she was 12. You can find training in fundamentals and skills at a real early age — you didn’t have that before.”

Wasserman adds to their W portfolio:

Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Wasserman vice president, action sports and Olympics, will represent Delle Donne, a guard/forward on the Chicago Sky. Delle Donne previously was represented by her brother, Gene Delle Donne.

With the signing, Colas now represents 14 WNBA players, including Brittney GrinerMaya MooreDiana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

Delle Donna has endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and nutritional supplement company Genesis Today. Colas, who represents basketball players both for playing contract work and marketing deals, said she plans on working to expand Delle Donne’s portfolio of corporate partnerships.

You might remember Kagawa (Colas) from her Stanford volleyball days. In 2008, the Bleecher Report’s Darren Heitner wrote about Kagawa his Agent Spotlight after she made the Contra Costa Times’ Marcus Thompson II drool while writing his piece, Sports agent no devil but wears Prada. Swish Appeal noticed Kagawa (Colas) in December, 2012: WNBA players and their agents: Who represents WNBA players? In April of this year, she was named to Sports Business Journal’s list of women “making their names.”

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