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Under an enormous amount of scrutiny – both by the Secret Service and by grumpy Committee bashers – the #8 Tigers and #9 Phoenix put together a nice game. Princeton dominated the boards and nailed their free throws to secure their first NCAA tourney win.

Courtney Banghart had seen it once too often. It was not much more than a year ago and one more time than she could stomach watching Annie Tarakchian, then a sophomore, catch the ball in good position near the basket, hold the ball over her head and look to pass without ever showing the slightest inclination to propel a strong frame to the basket.

“Annie is about the most gentle soul on this earth, and she’s really kind,” Banghart said. “Those two, gentle and kind, are not great inside the lines. Inside the lines for the first year and a half at Princeton she was gentle and kind.”

So when Tarakchian was passive one too many times in practice before a key road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth a season ago, Princeton already in a hole in the Ivy League race by then, Banghart whistled proceedings to a halt and delivered a simple rebuke. 

It wasn’t just the Tigers who were roaring.

If you recall, Susie McConnell-Serio’s team opened the season rather inauspiciously. That’s all forgotten as #10 Pitt Panthers produced a HUGE win for the program as they upset #7 Chattanooga, 51-40.

“Walking up to hal court at the end of the game I said to him, ‘This is bittersweet,’ because I have so much respect for him,” she said. “I think he is one of the best coaches in the game, and I’m so happy that he’s still coaching because he just has so much to offer to his players.

“So as happy as I am for our team and our program, it was hard to look at him as I was shaking his hand.”

It’s fly like an Eagle time, as #7 FGCU defeats #10 Oklahoma State, 75-67. They move into the second round for the first time in program history.

Smesko said the men’s team’s run two years ago has been “fantastic” bringing recognition for the school, located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, in southwest Florida.

“We’ve been right on the precipice for a long time,” Smesko said. “We know our next game is going to be against one of the very best teams in the country.”

#13 Liberty has been a hard-nosed program for a while – as #4 North Carolina quickly re-discovered – but the Tar Heels pulled out the win.

 Latifah Coleman and Allisha Gray weren’t going to let Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the NCAA Tournament end so soon.

Gray scored 17 points and Coleman had 15 to lead North Carolina past Liberty 71-65 on Saturday in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) shot 49 percent, led by 14 and withstood the Flames’ late push to give their Hall of Fame coach a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to fight leukemia.

“This whole week, I have been so stressed out,” Hatchell said. “It’s a good stressed because I’m so excited about the tournament.”

Taking lessons from their football team, #15 Boise State was not intimidated by #2 Tennessee – even on their home court. In the end, the Vols escaped the Broncos.

The Lady Vols were clinging to a 63-58 lead after Boise State’s Camille Redmon made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:51 remaining. But Redmon missed her second free throw, and Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale sank a 3-pointer 13 seconds later to spark a game-clinching 8-0 run.

“I’m satisfied we got the W, but we could do much better,” Graves said. “Our one-on-one defense has got to be tight right now. This is crunch time.”

Coach Trakh can be proud of the effort of his #16 New Mexico State team against host, and #1 seed, Maryland. The Terps ruled the Aggies, 75-57.

Maryland center Brionna Jones could only giggle at the comparison.

“Like PT boats attacking a battleship,” New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said in describing the destruction the 6-foot-3 Jones inflicted on his shorter, slighter players as top-seeded Maryland won its NCAA tournament opener Saturday.

All season, the Terps have won by continually switching guises. As if to prove that versatility, they beat New Mexico State with a bruising inside attack in the first half and a barrage of jumpers in the second.

#12 James Madison and #5 Ohio State gave us the Debbie Antonelli Special, with the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 90-80.

The Buckeyes — who started three freshmen and bring sophomore Shayla Cooper off the bench — shot 58 percent in the second half and scored on seven consecutive possessions down the stretch.

“Obviously, when you get to this time of the year (and) you have kids who have experienced it, that can be beneficial,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But I also think for kids who haven’t, then have that youthful energy and that passion to be a part of it. … That can take you a long way.”

#12 Quinnipiac and #5 Oklahoma gave us the second DAS, combining for 97 points in the first half and 99 in the second. Sooners scored more, so they win and move into the next round.

When the Sooners were 5-5 in non-conference play earlier this season, it was tough imagining them making the NCAA Tourament, much less imagining them winning a game in it. But after finishing in second place in the Big 12, Oklahoma came ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their 111 points against Quinnipiac showed that despite their lack of experience you should never count out a Sherri Coale coached basketball team.

Sun Belt champ Arkansas-Little Rock battled #6 Texas A&M wire-to-wire, then the #11 seed made good on the upset, 69-60, earning coach Joe Foley his 700th win.

“Tops right now,” he said. “Top game. It’s unbelievable, playing against a friend, playing in the NCAA tournament. It was fun. And to play as well as we did. We played great, and we deserved it.”

Taylor Gault scored a season-high 25 points, Kiera Clark added a career-best 22 and 11th-seed UALR beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M in an opening-round game Saturday.

“The thought I had was to shoot and drive and do whatever I knew I could do best for my team,” Gault said.

#3 Louisville tamed #14 BYU, but the game may be remembered for this action by the Cardinals’ Mariya Moore than the actual score.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s inside presence out-muscled the Cougars from the opening tip. The Cardinals outscored BYU 44-30 in the paint, and added 11 second-chance points on 33 rebounds to net the win.

Barely two minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Mariya Moore drew a technical foul — and the ire of both coaches — leveling BYU’s Morrison with a hard push off a screen.

BYU leading scorer Lexi Eaton responded to the physical play of the game with an elbow of her own two minutes later, a move that went uncalled by the officials — though she did receive a foul on a push on the same play.

#2 Florida State was in their comfort zone, and easily handled #15 Alabama State, 91-49.

“This experience is huge for our program,” Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. “It’s been a while since we have actually had an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We only have one true senior that actually played (Saturday). We’re extremely young.”

Alabama State was composed early but wore out, committing 32 turnovers against a stifling Seminoles defense.

#14 Ohio spotted #3 Arizona State 16 points in the first half, but the MAC played the PAC even in the second. Nice re-focuser for the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Elisha Davis increased the lead on the next possession, getting a steal and making the layup. In a 54-second span, ASU had gone on a 7-0 run.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the spurt was a result of ASU’s defense.

“When our defense is turning people over and we’re getting easy buckets in transition, that’s when we’re at our best,” she said.

Ohio coach Bob Boldon gave credit to that aspect of ASU’s game.

“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “That really contributed to us getting frustrated on the offensive side.”

Speaking of “re-focusers” #16 Cal State Northridge sure as heck provided that for Stanford as what seemed like a blowout-in-the-making turned into a dogfight. Cardinal escaped, 73-60.

How many hard lessons is this year’s Stanford women’s basketball team going to have to learn?

The Cardinal have already learned that beating Connecticut doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Chattanooga, that knocking off Oregon State doesn’t mean you can beat Oregon, that winning Pac-12 titles isn’t a default status, that changing your entire offense and turning it into a well-oiled machine isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that hosting an NCAA tournament game isn’t the same as winning it. At least not if you don’t play well.

Stanford figured that last one out just in time Saturday.

Courtney Williams did what she does, as host #6 USF dispatched #11 LSU:

South Florida made the most of its first home NCAA postseason game.

Courtney Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Alisia Jenkins added 15 points and No. 6 seed South Florida beat 11th-seed LSU 73-64 in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday night.

The announced crowd of 5,560 erupted as the final seconds ticked off.

“I took a moment and went out there (on the court) and was like `wow,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “This is what we’ve wanted and worked for.”

The Old Big East fans were having serious flashbacks in Storrs as they watched #8 Rutgers and #9 Seton Hall go after it in OBE style. 

“What a great game,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We played hard. I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well and just played extremely hard. We’re glad to have gotten that game under our belts.”

One year after staging a double-overtime thriller in the third round of the WNIT, Rutgers and Seton Hall turned in another memorable affair. For the second straight year in the postseason — and for the 34th time in 41 meetings all-time — the Scarlet Knights prevailed.

The #16 Terriers knew what they were getting into when they drew the #1 Huskies for their first-round match. But the game, did prompt a nice story in the NY Times about St. Francis guard Sarah Benedetti :For a St. Francis Player, UConn, Long an Inspiration, Turns Rival

When Sarah Benedetti moved to Canton, Conn., as a fifth grader in 2004, she almost immediately started rooting for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. That year, UConn became the first Division I university to win the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball.

Benedetti began attending Huskies games with her family and teammates. She idolized the UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was so obsessed with the sport that she arrived at Canton High School at 6 a.m. each day to shoot for an hour before classes started. Her father, Sergio, rebounded the ball for her.

Now a senior at St. Francis of Brooklyn, Benedetti competed Saturday night against her former favorite team.

Benedetti did well.

They were smiling from the moment they took the floor, especially when UConn’s starters were being introduced. This was their moment. And Benedetti, with a large cheering section on the day that her old high school lost its bid for a Class S state championship, did her best, making three three-pointers in a first half in which the team’s hole progressively grew deeper. She scored 13 points.

Said coach Thurston post-game:

“This was an incredible experience for our program. This team is the first time that St. Francis has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament on either the men’s or women’s side. Coach Auriemma is a gentlemen. He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending National Champions to knock us out.”

On the Saturday games: Charlie:

1. ACC flies high: In two days, the ACC went from filling one eighth of the field to representing one quarter of it. While other teams are disappearing, everyone from the ACC remains present and accounted for. No one in the conference has lost, and the league is 8-0 after another four-win day Saturday. Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville all cruised into the second round. The Tar Heels had to withstand a late push by Liberty, but otherwise, the games were not only wins but also comfortable ones.

Even Pittsburgh, a No. 10 seed, thoroughly controlled Chattanooga from start to finish in handing the Lady Mocs their eighth straight tournament loss. For the second straight year, Chattanooga had a 25-game win streak snapped in the first round of the tournament. Panthers freshman Stasha Carey’s 16 points and 13 rebounds were just the second double-double in Pittsburgh NCAA tournament history.

Now hurry up and turn on the TV!

12:00 #4 Duke vs #5 Mississippi State, ESPN 2
12:00 #3 Iowa vs #11 Miami, ESPN 2

2:30 #2 Kentucky vs #7 Dayton, ESPN 2
2:30 #2 Baylor vs #10 Arkansas, ESPN 2

7:00 #3 Oregon State vs #11 Gonzaga, ESPN 2
7:00 #1 South Carolina vs #8 Syracuse, ESPN

9:00 #4 Cal vs #5 Texas, ESPN 2
9:00 #1 Notre Dame vs #9 DePaul, ESPN

Oh, and thanks, pilight, for keeping official track of this:

Note that this does not include the men’s play-in games. This is round of 64 vs round of 64. 

UPSET is any lower seed winning 

BIG UPSET happens when an upset involves teams more than four seeds apart 

CLOSE means a game was decided by single digits or in overtime 

BLOWOUT means a game was decided by 20 or more points 

80-90-100 is the number of teams scoring that many points

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Had a wonderful time working with some amazing educators, eating yummy food and seeing new birds! (Black Rosy Finch)

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In the Pac12, no new birds this year: #19 Stanford was down early to Cal, but put just enough distance between them (1pt.) to escape with a win and earn their 11th Conference Championship.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

 Even the ending was a little weird. Cal’s Mercedes Jefflo buried a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, and there was an odd pause in KeyArena, as if, for a moment, no one knew quite how to react.

Stanford won its 11th Pac-12 tournament title Sunday night by defeating Cal 61-60, and the moment seemed a little hesitant — much like the Cardinal have a lot of the season.

Stanford didn’t come flying off the bench in a raucous celebration. Rather, it felt more like a reserved, happy relief.

Maryland also struggled against the feisty Mitchell, but a late travel by the Buckeyes helped the #4 Terps secure a three-point win and the B-10 Championship, 77-74.

The Maryland women’s basketball team didn’t make life easy for itself or the fans. After building a 15-point lead just four minutes into the second half, the Terps saw the Ohio State Buckeyes chip away several times, cutting the lead to a single point. Through the tense final minutes, the Terrapins’ shells never cracked and the Buckeyes could never quite get over the hump as the the Terps held on for a thrilling 77-74 win to capture the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Eastern Tennessee State was down 24 in the second but roared back. #17 Chattanooga had to go to overtime against the up-and-coming Bucs to earn the Southern Conference title with a 61-56 victory.

Sunday they nearly kept Chattanooga from winning its 57th consecutive game against a SoCon opponent, a streak that includes 48 regular-season wins and nine in tournament games.

“There’s not a combination of 26 letters in the alphabet to tell you how proud I am of these kids,” said ETSU coach Brittney Ezell, who is in her second season with the program.

“To play with those kind of guts and to fight back the way that they did, that’s all them and I’m just honored to sit in that first chair for them and I’m really proud of that group.”

#2 Notre Dame had no such issues as they dealt with #7 Florida State with aplomb, 71-58, and snared the ACC title.

“I’m really proud of this team for where we came from to win this,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “To go through the league with just one loss was a remarkable accomplishment. We had so many new pieces to fit together, and I think with Jewell’s leadership we were able to get a little bit better in every game. This was the best game we’ve played all year.”

#3 South Carolina struggled against #5 Tennessee the last time they met. Not so much this time, when the SEC Conference Championship was on the line. Gamecocks win, 62-46.

There’s really only one time when South Carolina’s Elem Ibiam doesn’t fully appreciate the megawatt power source that is fellow senior Aleighsa Welch.

“I’m not her roommate, but we’re always in each other’s rooms,” Ibiam said. “And there are some nights when I’m like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep,’ and she wants to talk all night.

“She always has energy — always. It’s not just on the court. It’s when she’s in her room, when she’s driving to the gas station — it doesn’t matter. And when you’re having a bad day, you know she will pick you up.”

#21 George Washington picked up their fifth Atlantic 10 tournament title (first since 2003) by grounding the Flyers, 75-62.

Jonquel Jones stood tall and played taller at the defining moment of her career as a Division I basketball player.

George Washington’s 6-foot-4 junior forward did everything other than sell programs and sweep the floor during the Colonials’ 75-62 victory over Dayton in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 women’s tournament title game at the Coliseum.

She scored 21 points, sank four 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds, blocked a pair of shots and helped GW play lockdown defense on the perimeter – yes, the perimeter – in the second half.

Liberty earned their 16th Big South title, defeating High Point, 74-64 and returning to the NCAA tourney.

The offseason is usually a relaxing time for Liberty women’s basketball coach Carey Green. An avid outdoorsman, the longtime Flames mentor likes to take advantage of all of Central Virginia’s natural offerings.

The time between the end of the 2014 Big South tournament and the start of the 2014-15 season was anything but calming, however. When you’re the head coach of a program in which the baseline expectation is to qualify for the NCAA Tournament on a yearly basis, anything less is hard to swallow.

A huge win for Hartford means huge heartbreak for (now WNIT bound) Maine Bears. The Hawks upset the top-seed in the American, 65-54.

Top-seeded UMaine’s NCAA season came to an unceremonious end in the America East semifinals, where the fifth-seeded Hawks rode a dominating post performance by Cherelle Moore to earn a 65-54 victory at Binghamton University’s Events Center.

“Cherelle Moore played like one of the best players in the league, and she is,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron.

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“No injuries while I’m away!”

Isabelle Harrison has torn ACL, will be out for remainder of season

Some better news to balance that out:

From Graham: Mid-majors making major news

These are good times for mid-majors. Five teams that qualify for the rankings below were part of the most recent Associated Press Top 25, led by Princeton at No. 16. Not since the 2011-12 season, when Delaware and Green Bay hovered around the AP top 10 and four mid-majors were ranked, has the landscape looked as good at this time of year. So with only one more edition of the mid-major top 10 to come before the teams (hopefully) get a chance to prove themselves on the court in the NCAA tournament, here we go.

Hello, Palestra, here I come!

A quick survey of some of the past week’s games:

Eastern Michigan is a team you kinda wanna give a big hug to. They got a strong win against Central Michigan, 85-64.

Semi-upset: CSU Bakersfield takes town New Mexico State, giving the Aggies their first WAC loss, 82-78.

Classic WCC – Saint Mary’s edges San Diego by two, 68-66. Pacific over BYU, 86-82.

Sacramento State is learning to win the shootouts. They take down the Vandals, 92-84.

The Q got all they could handle from Canisius, 88-85, in OT.

And the change of culture at Rhode Island continues – they defeat Fordham, 71-56, and earn their first winning season in 11 years.

Huge win/upset for Marquette as they take down Seton Hall, 73-70.

Another win/upset as St. Francis (PA) overwhelms Central Connecticut State, 61-48.

We’ve mentioned her a couple of times these past few months – now Zahui B has everyone’s attention.

Speaking of attention – gotta get back to the boat, weather is clearing!

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How about Notre Dame-shocker Miami at #16 Duke? Tough news for the Hurricanes, though, as they learned starter Laura Quevedo has returned home to Spain.

This could be UConn’s biggest in-conference challenge: Hosting USF.

Epps scored 20 to help #10 Kentucky to a victory in their first game after losing Thompson. Now they go into the Pete Maravich center and face an LSU team boosted by the return of Ballard.

#11 Texas A&M has had a wiggly season and Ole Miss has had a growing season. What will happen when they meet?

Monday gives us #21 Oklahoma State trying to recover from being stuffed by West Virginia. They go up against Oklahoma, who’s basking in their upset of Texas.

Who doesn’t love a good in-state rivalry? #4 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

The top of the PAC 12 is a feisty bunch (witness Washington State pushing #9 Oregon State). Wonder what we’ll find out about #14 Arizona State when they face #13 Stanford.

ESPN gives us a chance to watch Turner v. Harrison (otherwise know as #7 Notre Dame v. #6 Tennessee) at 7PM EST.

Did the arrival of a new year reveal what Notre Dame is not? Or what it is not yet?

If the second Thursday of the calendar year inspired doubts as to the former, Brianna Turner swatted at least some of them away on the third Thursday.

After a week lived out of character, defeat on the court entangled with drama and a potential departure off it, the Fighting Irish played the roles in which we have grown accustomed to seeing them Thursday night. On the road against a quality opponent that played with passion if not always precision, No. 7 Notre Dame beat No. 12 North Carolina 89-79. Down by double digits early, up by double digits in the middle and in a one-possession game late, the defending ACC champions avoided a second conference loss.

With a renewal of its rivalry against Tennessee awaiting on Big Monday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), Notre Dame perhaps also lowered eyebrows across the country that had been raised by its travails.

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It’s been a season where being ranked means people wanna knock you off.

Northwestern proved its record is no fluke, taking down #20 (flu-smitten) MSU, 61-57.

The Flyers stumbled at the start of the season, but they seem to have found their footing, taking down the #24 Phoenix,  72-66.

Huge, I mean HUGE win for Seton Hall: they take down #14 Georgia (though I had my suspicions about the Bulldogs) with authority, 70-51.

Northeastern (3-6) surprised the Great Danes, 70-67.

Davidson (4-8)came back in the second half to upset Virginia (9-3), 67-57.

The 5-6 Badgers added to their win total by surprising Michigan, 63-53.

Good news: Rutgers got Betnijah Laney back, and she notched her usual double-double (20 points/10 rebounds) The Scarlet Knights hold off Indiana, 66-51.

After an even first half, a nightmarish second half meant #10 Oregon State dropped their first game of the season to the #8 Vols, 74-63. Hello, Ms. Harrison!

The Irish handled the Bruins, 82-67, behind a stellar game from Allen. But boy, UCLA, learn to make your free throws! (14-27).

BAD news: UNC’s McDaniel may be out, torn calf muscle.

Good news: Leticia Romero ruled eligible for FSU women’s basketball

From around:

UND focused on repeat title

A season ago, UND was projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball race.

UND, however, was the surprise of the league last season, earning a share of the regular-season title and powering its way to the Big Sky postseason title. UND advanced to the NCAA Tournament and turned in a solid effort at Texas A&M, which went on to the Sweet 16.

From the Indy Star (and AP?): Breaking down Big Ten women’s basketball

From the Ames Tribune: Laid-back freshman Fernstrom adjusting to college basketball 

Bryanna Fernstrom wants to make one fact clear – she has feelings like a normal human being.

The 6-foot-5 center for the Iowa State women’s basketball team may not always contort her face the way her more excitable teammates do. She may not yell after a good play or pout after a bad one. As coach Bill Fennelly puts it, “her personal demeanor is so low-key, to the point where it’s like, ‘Is she breathing?,’ sometimes.”

From Washington State: EWU, WSU women’s basketball squads off to successful starts

The Eastern Washington women’s basketball team went into the Sunshine State this week as apparent alligator bait for Florida, which had a four-year run of claiming its own Gator Holiday Classic.

But the Eagles ended up securing their first victory over a Southeast Conference opponent, something a Big Sky school hadn’t done since Montana beat Mississippi in 2007.

“Everybody stepped up and took care of the things we needed,” coach Wendy Schuller said of 67-56 win. “It was a fun week.”

A little something on the Maggie Dixon Classic on Sunday, Jan 4th: WNBA Commemorative Rematch Coming To MSG

Nearly 40 years after the first-ever women’s basketball game pitted Queens College against Immaculata, these teams will see each other in court – at worldfamous Madison Square Garden. Their commemorative rematch will take place on Jan. 4, 2015, at 10:30 a.m., in the opening round of the annual Maggie Dixon Classic.

Trailblazing members of the 1974-75 team will attend the game.QC’s 1974–75 squad featured Gail Marquis and Donna Orender, and was coached by Lucille Kyvallos. Marquis earned a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics as a member of the US team and Orender would later become commissioner of the WNBA; Kyvallos was inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. All three were named to the inaugural class of the Queens College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

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With conference play just around the corner…

Jan. 27: Notre Dame at Maryland, ESPN2
Feb. 2: Notre Dame at Duke, ESPN 
Feb. 2: Stanford at Cal, ESPN2
Feb. 9: Louisville at UConn, ESPN 
Feb. 10: North Carolina at Duke, ESPN2
Feb. 16: Kentucky at Tennessee, ESPN 
Feb. 23: Duke at Notre Dame, ESPN

…it’s intriguing to reflect how the top teams fared in their pre-Christmas games.

After watching South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia fall, Mike at Mel’s blog is still bullish on the SEC: Best Conference Race Ever Looms Ahead

As 2013 closes, one thing is sure in women’s college basketball: The mighty Southeastern Conference will chew up some teams and reward others. So here’s our best guess preview.

We have said all along Kentucky is the best team here. One loss to a higher-ranked team does not discount that. In fact, it gives them something to work on.

But it is Tennessee who is the defending regular-season champ. That’s a
”Yeah, But” thing. Someone else wins, yeah, but it’s because Tennessee stumbled in this or that game.

Meanwhile, Doug writes: UConn women have looked nearly unbeatable

The women’s basketball season is almost two months old and one thing is clear, the UConn Huskies are by far the best team in the country.

While some already see a record ninth title for Connecticut as a foregone conclusion, the rest of the nation can take some solace that Brittney Griner and Baylor looked just as unbeatable last season. That’s until Louisville stunned the Lady Bears with one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

Picking up on their earlier tweet exchange, Rebecca Lobo and Lin Dunn join David for a nice chat on “The UConn dilemma: Is dominance good for the game?”

From Logan Lowery at the Daily Journal: MSU women relishing their 12-1 start

Mississippi State is off to the second-best start in school history for women’s basketball.

After winning just 13 games during his initial season with the Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer has started his second year 12-1 before the Christmas break.

“We’re 12-1 at Christmas, that’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment for our group,” Schaefer said. “I’m excited for them.”

Learn a little about the 12-2 Missouri Tigers: Senior forward Kulas took circuitous route to MU

In a perfect world, Williams said it wouldn’t have taken Kulas three college stops to find the right destination. That said, Williams wouldn’t change her daughter’s journey if she could.

“She ended up where she needed to be. Finding a home at Mizzou has been a great, great thing for her,” Williams said. “Her journey has made her grow into a better person, a better ballplayer.

“The journey that she took, I’m not sure that’s how I would’ve wanted … but I feel like it did happen for a reason.”

Williams said her daughter’s year at Johnson County was “tremendous for her.” It proved to be a launch pad for Kulas’ basketball career.

How about that team in Indiana? Gerardot speaks to IU basketball success

 Today Tabitha Gerardot is, well, Brigitte, and not Indiana women’s basketball’s third-leading scorer. Tomorrow she could be Sophia or Carmela or Aisha.

It’s all about perspective, you see. It’s role playing with a linguistic purpose.

This matters to Gerardot, who is working on her masters in linguistics with visions of become an interpreter or a translator when the former Canterbury standout is done with helping the Hoosiers’ basketball resurrection.

Arizona is 3-7, so in honor of the holidays,  Zack Rosenblatt decided to put his own twist on “Festivus,” with a focus on the Wildcats and their season thus far.

Just replace the pole with a 10-foot basketball hoop (with “a great strength-to-weight ratio.”)

AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES

What’s been disappointing, or overlooked, for the Wildcats this season.

Bad start: For the first time in Butts’ six years at the helm, Arizona won’t have a winning record through non-conference play. Before 2013, she’d won about 75 percent of non-conference games. Entering Sunday’s non-conference finale with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Wildcats are 3-7, which included a recent five-game skid.

Getting in to the holiday spirit, Mark Carmin offered Purdue women’s basketball 10 Stocking stuffers

Graham offers up “10 players who have risen to the occasion” and his mid-major musings: Gonzaga remains No. 1

‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists. And while the end of the basketball year technically comes not with a ball dropping in Times Square but confetti on a court in Nashville, starting a new calendar signals a shift of sorts in the start of conference play across much of the country. So to match the reflective spirit of the week, and before we get to the top 10, what would an all-mid-major team for the first half of the season look like?

Shereesha Richards, F, Albany: She put up 20 points and seven rebounds against Duke — in the first half. No wonder Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said the 6-foot-1 forward was better than her league (and as a former America East coach, McCallie ought to know). Richards is averaging 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage but has taken nearly 50 more shots than those ahead of her.

Injury note: Maryland women’s basketball: Forward A’lexus Harrison to redshirt

Encouraging news: Hatchell eyeing return

Sylvia Hatchell is fighting to get back to her North Carolina women’s basketball program as quickly as possible.

The recently inducted Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been away from sideline duties since October while receiving treatment for leukemia. She spent a month in the hospital for the first round of chemotherapy with more ahead as she holds out hope of getting back by conference tournament time.

“You don’t realize, especially after all this time, how much something means to you until you don’t have it,” Hatchell said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“It was like a tsunami hit me and all of a sudden it’s taken away. But that’s my motivation, to get back out there.”

Equally encouraging news:  “Coach Holly Warlick said that freshman guard Jannah Tucker, who will be enrolling for the spring semester, is expected to join the team when it reconvenes after Christmas break.”

WATN? Ashley Battle: 2 local girls basketball coaches share Connecticut connection

While watching UConn and Duke on national television, Quaker Valley junior Karen Pugh felt a bond with the top team in women’s basketball.

“Our offense is very similar (to UConn),” she said, “as far as transition and passing and finding the open shot.”

How does a Western Pennsylvania high school team share traits with the most dominant women’s program in college basketball?

It’s no coincidence.

Speaking of the W, from India: Swin against the tide

The 6’1” tall frame of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend Swin Cash stands out from the group of U-16 basketball enthusiasts assembled at the St. Dominic Savio School’s court. The three-time WNBA champion’s role on the occasion is to serve as mentor for the students from 164 schools around Mumbai during what was the Reliance Foundation 3X3 Junior NBA Championship in the city. Yet as she spoke and advised the aspiring athletes, both boys and girls, she maintains that she was a tad biased towards the girls.

“You talk about the NBA, and all you think of are male athletes. So it’s good for them to see people like me to serve as role models,” she says, laughing.

Al Lee at Swish Appeal asks, What are the Big Three Rookies doing during their first offseason as pros?

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Jannah Tucker, women’s basketball standout, says she was a victim of abuse

When Jannah Tucker, a women’s basketball signee at the University of Tennessee, failed to show up in July for summer classes ahead of her freshman year, the school announced the Randallstown, Md., product had “chosen not to enroll due to personal reasons.”

Nearly three months later, those personal reasons came into sobering focus, when Tucker, 18, released a statement Friday calling herself a victim of domestic violence.

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catch up on last night:

Louisville took care of Tennessee in an eerily similar manner to their take down of Baylor — race out to a lead, then tire (or do dumb stuff) in the middle of the second, then win.

Dan writes: Louisville stops Lady Vols’ run to Final Four, 86-78

Tennessee’s problems began on offense. Louisville used multiple defensive alignments to thwart the player and ball movement that was so prevalent in the Lady Vols’ regional semifinal victory over Oklahoma.

Tennessee had just one point to show for its first seven possessions.

“It may have rattled us some,” UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. “But that’s where you respond at the other end of the floor and we couldn’t do that.”

In the end, there was too much Jude and Shoni. Says Mechelle: Schimmels lead Cards to Final Four

Louisville’s Schimmel sisters, Shoni and Jude, recall watching a movie called “Double Teamed” when they were in middle school. It was about identical twins Heather and Heidi Burge, who went to the Women’s Final Four three times while playing at Virginia in the early 1990s.

The film is hokey, but it’s still a sweet, triumphant story of the sisterhood and athletic success of real people.

“When we were younger, the movie seemed very realistic to us,” Jude Schimmel said. “What they did was our dream, too.”

Shoni added, “Yeah, that was us.”

Duke tried copy Louisville, but couldn’t hold on in the second.

It was an angry glare that could have melted steel.

It certainly melted No. 2 seed Duke’s hopes of pulling off an upset against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the Norfolk Regional final of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Just a quick glance at the daggers beaming out of Skylar Diggins’ eyes early in the second half let Duke know it was in trouble.

Adds Graham: Sky’s the limit for Notre Dame

The dances in the middle of the court were complete. Those members of the crowd not clad in green already had begun to drift off into the Norfolk night. But there was one last bit of official business to take care of before Notre Dame left the court for the final time.

By unanimous decision, the announcer intoned, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Skylar Diggins.

Close, but not quite. There wasn’t any need to go to the judges on this one. Diggins won by knockout. 

From the News Observer: 

Just getting to a regional final was probably accomplishment enough for a Duke women’s basketball team that endured much adversity this season.

That did little to salve the pain the Blue Devils felt as Notre Dame cut down the nets at Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Convocation Center on Tuesday night.

From the Chronicle:

“Our first half was pretty good,” Liston said. “We held them to 31 points and we were right on pace for the [defensive] goal that we wanted to keep them at for the game. I thought we did a great job and we had great focus on the shooters and the go-tos that we wanted to shut down, [but I] wish we could have had that same focus in the second half on defense.”

At the Rockdale Citizen (GA), Darrell Huckaby says hes A fan of women’s basketball and Andy Landers

I was a fan of women’s basketball long before it was cool. I coached girls’ basketball in high school for about 25 years. It made sense to follow the college game. Besides, I liked it. It was a game of strategy and shooting and defense.

In 1985, my Woodward Academy team won its way to the state tournament for the first time in school history. I decided to reward my team with a trip to the women’s Final Four in Austin, Texas. In those days the women’s tournament was played on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, so on the last Thursday in March, we piled into two school vans and headed west.

Yes. We drove to Austin, Texas, for the games.

Tom Goldman at NPR says, Baylor’s Departure From Women’s Basketball Tournament Leaves Huge Hole

Also at NPR: Notre Dame, Louisville Triumph To Round Off Final Four

From Kate Fagan: Big East trio finds way to Big Easy

The right side of the Women’s Final Four bracket looks just like you’d expect it to. But if you shift your glance to the other side, you see one of the most unexpected matchups in recent memory.

Michelle says: They’ve got next

Of this year’s 3 To See, only one remains standing. Notre Dame’s title-craving Skylar Diggins carries the torch for this year’s crop of extraordinary women’s basketball talent into the Final Four in New Orleans.

But if this year’s unpredictable, thrilling tournament has taught us something, it’s that there are other players worthy of our time, attention and admiration all over the top ranks of the game.

And with the Final Four set — Notre Dame and Louisville joined the party on Tuesday after Cal and Connecticut earned their spots on Monday night — this next group of young players already has reached star status as they make their Final Four debuts.

From the experts, Picks (Now that we’re in New Orleans …)

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You know I was being sarcastic, right?

’cause if you didn’t watch the late game last night: SPOILER ALERT!!!

Might I suggest you stop reading, find yourself a couple of hours, and go watch the game?

For those of us who did watch the game: Holy Carp, no?

Some random thoughts on the game before I link to those who know a whole heckuvalot more than I do:

  • Officiating: They let Louisville get away with murder at the beginning of the game. Thought it was amusing that Jeff was all het up about his players getting called for so many fouls. They deserved every one of them — and once they DID get called, the game settled down a bit.
  • I don’t remember a TEAM shooting so friggin’ lights out from three — yes, a player. But the whole team?
  • I don’t mind jawin’ on the court. Talk is talk, but Shoni could have gotten a T for in the face action she pulled on Griner. (Couldn’t tell if she got a warning. She should have.) Loved Griner look to the ref: “Really, ref? I need to put up with this $ht?”
  • Shoni’s jawin’ earned her a T/foul. And then she fouled out with that foolish left arm. That coulda cost her team big time.
  • Geno called himself a dumba$$ after the Maryland for getting T’d up. It cost his team 4 points. But that was at the half, with UConn up. Jeff cost his team four points with is T at 2 minutes. Perhaps it wasn’t a charge, but he needs to be smarter.
  • Perhaps there wasn’t a charge on the other end, neither, but how on earth does Kim not get a T for pulling a Cheryl Reeve?
  • For long time Big East fans who know how hard injuries have cut into a promising career, it was painful to watch Monique miss the front end of that of that one-and-one. (Great call by Kim to foul). But, it set up her game winning FTs beautifully. (Great call by Jeff not to call a timeout — and what happened to Baylor’s D that Griner wasn’t back in the paint?)

Wowza. What a game. And thanks, Kevin, for showing the players some love.

From the experts:

From ESPN.com’s “news services” (though a ton of the AP report is included) Louisville dashes Baylor’s repeat hopes with shocking upset

Mechelle offers some Instant Analysis.

All things considered, you might call it the biggest upset in women’s NCAA tournament history. Or at least very high on the list. Louisville, the No. 5 seed, took down defending champion Baylor 82-81 in the Sweet 16 after an other-worldly performance from behind the arc. And after surviving a frantic, riveting Baylor comeback.

The Louisville women shocked the world and, in this case, it is not hyperbole. The Cardinals made 16 of 25 3-point shots. Every coach has been asked how to best defeat Baylor, and all have said the same thing: Hit from the perimeter. Louisville did. Wow, did the Cardinals do that.

She follows it up with Game’s biggest upset stuns Baylor – Fifth-seeded Louisville knocks off defending NCAA champ to advance to Elite Eight

In the Baylor locker room, point guard Odyssey Sims, crying, clung to former Bears men’s player Perry Jones III. He’s now with the NBA’s Thunder, so the Chesapeake Energy Arena is his home. But it felt like probably the worst place in the entire world to Sims.

Finally, Sims broke away from Jones and sat disconsolately at her locker. Next to her came the sound of wracking sobs from senior teammate Kimetria “Nae-Nae” Hayden. A Baylor official, trying to comfort both distraught players said, “Take a deep breath. Just breathe.”

Breathing was hard for everyone — players, coaches, media, and fans alike — in the closing minutes of this insane, unpredictable, dramatic, thrill-ride of a basketball game.

John Adams at GoVolsXtra notes: Baylor not the only ones ‘stunned’ by upset

Dean Lockwood could have been speaking for the entire Baylor team Sunday evening.

“I’m stunned,” the Tennessee assistant coach said seconds after Louisville defeated No. 1 Baylor in the Sweet 16 round of the Oklahoma City regional at Chesapeake Energy Arena.”

“I’m just trying to process what I’ve just seen,” he added.

Nate at Swish Appeal talks about The perfect storm that helped Louisville upset Brittney Griner & the Baylor Lady Bears

What those two games had in common with the Louisville Cardinals‘ win today is that both of those teams got hot from the 3-point line to help them score over Baylor’s formidable defense. That part of the strategy to beat Baylor has been obvious for some time now, as written in the preview of the game today. The problem is that those other two teams – arguably inferior to Louisville’s team – just couldn’t sustain the hot shooting that included well-above average individual shooting performances.

Part of what went right for Louisville is that their shots just kept falling.

To that point, Mark C. Moore of SB Nation’s Baylor site Our Daily Bears made the point after the game that claims of Louisville employing a “masterful gameplan” were overstated and to some extent, when you look back at how some other non-elite teams have played Baylor, that’s very true: even if you argue that Louisville won the game for a number of reasons, 64% 3-point shooting by a 31% shooting team – yes, more than twice their season success rate – was a major, major reason that they were able to hang on for a one point win.

Clay at Full Court says, Cardinals stun the Bears – Louisville was just better

Baylor didn’t have a bad game.

The Bears scored 81 points against Louisville Sunday, shooting respectably from the field and the line. They controlled the boards. They forced 20 turnovers. They mounted an amazing comeback, worthy of any champion.

And they even got lucky. Jeff Walz drew an incredibly dumb technical foul with 2:01 left and his team up six. The Cardinals turned the ball over with 15 seconds left to set up two more clutch Odyssey Sims’ throws.

And yet … and yet.

Fagan offers up the Five biggest NCAA tourney upsets.

Check out the post-game comments from Kim, Odyssey and Brittney. You can go here for Jeff, Antonita and Shoni.

As her college career ends, Hays gives us Griner’s most memorable moments

Oh, right… there were other games.

Okay, first, I have to ask: Who forgot to take the highlighter out of their shorts before all the Notre Dame uniforms were washed? *Oh, come on! You know you were thinking the same thing!*

That aside, the Irish made quick work of the Jayhawks behind Diggins’ impressive leadership. Says Graham:

 Key player: Who else? A day before the game against Kansas, Diggins talked about trusting her instincts when it comes to the line any point guard must tread between setting up others and looking for her own shot. So it was only fitting that she put those instincts on display taking over a game in which she became Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer. The scoring established, she picked up assists on three of the team’s first six field goals in the second half and put up seven of her nine assists after halftime.

Al Lesar at the SBT writes: ‘Sky’ just following orders

Curt notes: Diggins gets a record in Irish rout

“… Skylar owned the day,” McGraw said. “I thought she was great from start to finish, both ends of the floor.”

Curt says: Crowd enjoys Loyd’s specialty

Notre Dame freshman Jewell Loyd wowed the crowd at Old Dominion University’s Ted Constant Convocation Center Sunday with three brilliant alley-oops in which she soared out of a sprint, caught a pass while airborne and connected off the glass for a layup.

“Make or miss, they’re definitely momentum plays,” point guard Skylar Diggins said of Loyd’s alley-oops during the 93-63 rout of Kansas that put the Irish in the Elite Eight. “You get the crowd going. When she got fouled, it was like, ‘Ooohhhh. When she made it, the crowd was
‘Ooohhhh’ and ‘Ahhhhhh.’

Next up for Notre Dame: Duke, which had to battle to shake a stubborn Nebraska team (really tough to watch Hooper get hurt).

When a high-scoring team like Duke lays an egg offensively, it usually spells trouble for its tournament chances. But the second-seeded Blue Devils outlasted sixth-seeded Nebraska 53-45 Sunday, relying on stout defense and their stronger interior presence—including seven blocks from Elizabeth Williams—to advance.

From HuskerExtra: Bittersweet: Cold-shooting Huskers dropped by Duke

Two women’s-sized basketballs will fit through a hoop.

Not even one would fit enough times for Nebraska to back up a strong defensive effort against Duke on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 24 Huskers (25-9) hit just 30 percent of their shots, and only 3 of 24 three-pointers, in a 53-45 loss to fifth-ranked Duke in the NCAA round of 16 at the Constant Convocation Center.

There was still some consolation in playing Duke so close.

From Rob Clough: Duke Knocks Off Nebraska, 53-45

Once again, it’s survive and advance for Duke. In a game where the Devils shot just 32%, their aggressive defense held the Nebraska Cornhuskers to just 30%. Husker star Jordan Hooper was just 3-14 from the floor before she rolled her ankle late in the game, while star point guard Lindsay Moore shot only 5-18. Nebraska simply didn’t have the players to generate enough offense in other ways. In some respects, Duke got a berth into the Elite Eight the moment that Nebraska upset Texas A&M, because the Aggies would have matched up much better with Duke than the small and slow Huskers. Whenever Nebraska had a modicum of success in this game, it came because of a Duke turnover or a jumpshot that landed. Considering that Duke only coughed up the ball 9 times and the Huskers were a collective 3-24 from beyond the arc, much of their success was short-lived.

Graham offers some Instant Analysis.

Key player: Alexis Jones. It wasn’t the maestro’s command that Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins displayed in the day’s first game, but Jones more than held up her end of the bargain in a regional loaded with some of the best point guards in the nation, including her injured teammate Chelsea Gray. Jones finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists. The freshman also had seven turnovers, but if her job was to manage the team on the floor, she succeeded.

It was close, for a while, but eventually Tennessee ran away from the short (and more during the game)-handed Sooners.

From Guerin Emig at the Tulsa World: OU women fall to Tennessee in NCAA women’s tourney

Oklahoma’s feel-good season ended this afternoon when the Sooners were knocked from the NCAA Tournament by deeper, more athletic and just better Tennessee 74-59.

Dan Fleser says, Lady Vols feeling at home in regional, advance to play Louisville

First, Tennessee took the pro-Oklahoma crowd out of the game.

Then, the Lady Vols ushered the Sooners out of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

John Adams adds, Kamiko Williams’ value increases as UT advances

Tennessee’s advance to the Elite Eight was distinguished by a changing of the guards Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Senior guard Kamiko Williams, not SEC co-player of the year Meighan Simmons, is starting to look like the Lady Vols’ most valuable player.

It was as obvious as hit-and-miss in a 74-59 victory over Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Mechelle offers some Instant Analysis.

Ever since they saw the NCAA tournament bracket, Tennessee fans have been stewing about being in the same region of the draw as Baylor for the third time in the past four seasons.

After the No. 2 seed Lady Vols’ 74-59 regional semifinal victory over No. 6 seed Oklahoma on Sunday, the Final Four is just a step away. But it could be a very large step. If Baylor beats Louisville in the second semifinal here, once again the Lady Bears will stand in the way of Tennessee’s 19th Final Four appearance.

That’s probably especially galling to the Orange crew because even after Tennessee won the SEC regular-season title, the Lady Vols still got stuck with the defending champion and the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Post game for Oklahoma here. Post game for Tennessee here.

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maybe I’m old fashioned, but I find the Swish Appeal formatting confusing…but there’s lots of good stuff, so check it out.

2013 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament: Preview, predictions, schedule and games to watch for

Joanne P. McCallie’s journal: Preparing for the 2013 ACC Tournament

2013 Pac-12 tournament: Stanford’s path to reclaiming title will be tougher than usual

2013 Atlantic Sun tournament: FGCU looks to repeat as champions

From student-athletes:

Sarah Hansen’s journal: Studying for North Florida, and Sarah Hansen on FGCU’s win in A-Sun tournament

Lindsey Moore’s journal: Huskers ready for Iowa

Brittany Kennedy’s journal: Ready for N. Florida

Brianna Sanders’ journal: Excited for B1G tourney

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Big East Finals? Yes, please, thank you!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of basketball being played, including BG going all “Simple Minds” on us as she drops 50 and a dunk. La-di-dah.

From Lynn Zinser at the Times: In Women’s Basketball, a Season of the Powerhouses

If there was ever a year when men’s and women’s college basketball were more different, well, it’s hard to remember it, and Monday summed it up in one nice little package. The women’s game is all about powerhouses, about Baylor’s Brittney Griner’s being one in and of herself, scoring 50 points and dunking on Kansas State; about Notre Dame elbowing Connecticut out of its usual spot atop the Big East hill; about UConn hyperventilating because it hasn’t won a national title in three whole years. Gasp.

Lots of experts chiming in on what’s going to happen over the next week and a half or so:

Mechelle on the SEC: Tennessee is No. 1 seed in SEC tourney

Tennessee’s seniors had their moment Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn., when the Lady Vols clinched the program’s 17th regular-season SEC title with a win over Texas A&M. Kentucky’s seniors had their moment Sunday, when they defeated Tennessee in front of a packed Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.

So which seniors will be the ones celebrating next Sunday in Duluth, Ga., at the conclusion of the SEC tournament? Those from Tennessee, Kentucky, or another school?

Might that other school, asks Mechelle, be wearing purple? Red-hot LSU heads to SEC tourney

There are a great many things more strenuous for a soon-to-deliver pregnant woman than coaching at the SEC tournament. LSU’s Nikki Caldwell didn’t seem fazed by it last year as her team made it all the way to the championship game.

Still, a couple of us reporters — admittedly nonparents and so a bit squeamish about such things — kept nervously looking over at Caldwell back then in Nashville, Tenn., as if her little one might just suddenly appear on the sideline.

It turned out, though, that this baby knew exactly what she was doing. Justice Simone Fargas was born exactly a year ago — on March 6, 2012 — which was three weeks earlier than her projected arrival time.

Slightly hidden (thanks, ESPN.com) Cara Capuano notices It’s TOURNAMENT TIME for SEC Women’s Basketball!

“Anybody who loves basketball… loves this time of year.”  That, the opening comment from Georgia head coach Andy Landers to the media who participated on Monday in a conference call leading up to the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Kelly at Full Court riffs on a similar theme: Race for SEC tournament title is wide open

One thing is clear heading into this year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament: There is no clear favorite. The conference has six teams ranked in the top 25 — No. 7 Kentucky, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 12 Georgia, No. 17 South Carolina, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 22 LSU — and any one of these squads has a legitimate chance of winning the tourney.

Busy V also has: PSU out to end Big Ten tourney drought

Penn State ran into an emotional senior night last Thursday at Minnesota … and the Gophers handed the Big Ten leader just its second league loss.

Penn State was in a similar situation Sunday in the regular-season finale at Nebraska. It wasn’t just the seniors that the Huskers were bidding a fond farewell to (although they still have the Big Ten and NCAA tourneys to play, of course).

Sharon Crowson at Full Court asks, Can the Big Ten stick to the script in the conference tournament?

Usually, it’s hard to recap a season in less than a long article – but this year’s Big Ten conference play can be summed up in one word: Strange.

All right, maybe three words: Very, very strange.

Maggie Blogs: I bonded with my dad over love of game

At FullCourt, Rob offers up: ACC Tournament has contenders but Duke and Maryland on course for rematch

There are a lot of wild cards in this year’s ACC tournament. Sure, Duke dominated the regular season at 17-1 and finished three games ahead of the nearest competitor, but they did most of that with Chelsea Gray at the helm. Gray is now an unpaid but highly vociferous assistant coach, making it her personal mission to channel her energy and savvy into frosh Alexis Jones. Still, Duke has looked highly shaky at times, especially on the boards. Teams like UNC and Maryland feel like they have a real shot at knocking off Duke, while regular season underachievers Georgia Tech and NC State lurk as potential dark horse teams. For those latter two squads, winning the ACC tournament is the only way they’ll be playing in the NCAA tourney.

Michelle’s on the West Coast, and offers up this: Huskies hope for home turnaround – Washington holds Pac-12 tournament advantage at Seattle’s KeyArena

Washington coach Kevin McGuff insists his team didn’t circle these dates on the calendar, that they stayed focused on what was immediately in front of them, not way ahead on the horizon.

But that horizon is now what’s next, and Washington has a distinct opportunity to disrupt the balance of power in the Pac-12. Summoning the ability to take advantage of that opportunity is the trick.

The Pac-12 tournament is moving to Seattle’s KeyArena, home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and one of women’s basketball’s most dedicated fan bases, this weekend. The Huskies are hoping to take advantage of the hometown crowd.

Sue Favor at Full Court adds: Cal or Stanford? Rivals expected to decide season series in Pac-12 finals

The Pac-12 Tournament is in a brand new city this year, and for the first time in many seasons, there could be a new champion too.

Seattle, with its large women’s basketball fan base, will play host to the 12-year-old tournament March 7-10, and though Stanford has won nine of the previous 11 titles, unlike years past, the Cardinal are not necessarily the favorite this time.

Since conference play began, Stanford and Cal have spent most of it ranked side by side in national polls, as numbers five and six or six and seven. They split the regular-season series, and both teams are surging lately, with loaded benches. In the end, each team ended Pac-12 play Saturday at 17-1, which gives Cal a share of the title for the first time in program history.

The Buffs are eager to begin their postseason

Graham ponders the mid-majors and says, Gonzaga remains as consistent as ever

There were 60 teams from the six major conferences that did not advance as far as Gonzaga in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

There were 62 teams from those same conferences that averaged fewer fans per game than the Bulldogs drew to the Kennel, as the 6,000-capacity McCarthey Athletic Center is affectionately (at least to home fans) known.

We might be a long way from a mid-major No. 1 in women’s college basketball, but there is at least equal distance between many, maybe most, supposedly major programs and the dynasties that rule the rest of the country.

As a freshman newly arrived from Germany a season ago, Gonzaga’s Sunny Greinacher had a rather visceral reaction to one of the best atmospheres in women’s college basketball.

Time for the WBH “WhadoIknow” Conference Champeen Prediction/Thoughts:

America East: Yes, it is hard to beat a team three times in a season, but I think Albany could have. Since BU ain’t invited, it’s the Danes.

Atlantic 10: Play it safe, say Dayton. But the 49’ers have intrigued me all season….

ACC: It feels like Duke has regained its equilibrium. I’m not sure it’s going to help them in the NCAA tournament, but it feels like they’re ready for the ACC. Unless UNC can kick it up a notch or three.

Atlantic Sun: What, you think I’m going to bet against the Eagles? Don’t make me laugh.

Big 12: Baylor is 18-0 in the conference. The #2 Iowa State team is 12-6. ’nuff said.

Big East: So, will three be the charm? Dunno – but Hartley is the key. Gold wins out in the BEast – but don’t know if it’ll happen in the NCAAs.

Big Sky:…is just a hot mess. Common sense would say Montana, but Northern Colorado has this edge about them.

Big South: This was “everybody else’s year,” and then Liberty said, “I don’t think so!.”

Big Ten: Machine Gun Maggie rules, especially if Co can keep the rest of her team present. (Congrats, coach Yori)

Big West: Pacific should win, but Hawai’i has been coming on strong.

Colonial: There are several bubble teams pulling like heck for Delaware. James Madison has proven to be a serious threat, but a healthy EDD is quite a force of basketball.

Conference USA: Will SMU hold up under the pressure of being in the spotlight, or with coach Stockton reclaim her Conference?

Horizon: I know it’s the Phoenix’s to lose, so I’m pullin’ for the Penguins.

Ivy: Yup, it’s the Tigers.

MAAC: “Down” year, my azzz… Marist rules.

Mid-American: Toledo should rule easily, but I’m guessing next year, Ball State will be exacting some revenge.

MEAC: Hampton and their band will be in the Tournament.

Missouri Valley: I’m going for the Blue Jays. It’s a birding thing.

Mountain West: Beth Burns has San Diego State at 13-1 in the conference, but my gut says Fresno.

North East: There are a lot of letters between Quinnipiac and the rest of the teams.]

Ohio Valley: You’d have just as good a chance making the correct guess using research as trying ernie-meenie-mynee-moe. Which is how I chose Tennessee Tech.

Pacific-12: Stanford has lost Kokenis for the tournament. That might just throw them off their stride enough for Cal to win the title.

Patriot League: There’s no doubt it’s going to be either Army or Navy. I refuse to pick, and think both should win.

SEC: Tennessee has had an amazing season, but injuries are the constant theme. That’s why I’m saying Kentucky.

Southern: The Mocs are back on top.

Southland: If they can survive the WHB curse, they (Sam Houston) can win the championship.

SWAC: I didn’t bet against her when she played for Houston, and I won’t bet against her when she’s coaching Texas Southern.

Summit: As in the MAC, the Jackrabbits should win, but next year they better keep an eye on IUPUI.

Sun Belt: There have been some surprising stumbles, but Middle Tennessee has the experience Western Kentucky lacks.

West Coast: The boys are #1 and the women will win the WCC

Western: Don’t yell at me, Jayda, but I’m going with Utah State.

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which turned out to be a whole lotta Skylar.

From Curt: Irish, Diggins hold off late Tennessee surge and  Irish, Diggins rain on Vols’ parade

“I think this was a great win in a hostile environment in front of a great crowd that made for a great game,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “It was an electric atmosphere. They came out with a lot of emotion and got up early. I thought we maintained our composure.”

From Mechelle: Notre Dame notches first win in Knoxville

After viewing the film “The Impossible” (family struggles to survive/reunite after the 2004 tsunami) and a major tearjerker “Downton Abbey” episode (no spoilers for you stragglers who are still in the dark), I figured I did enough blubbering over the weekend.

So I was really hoping for a great, old-fashioned, fun, competitive, down-to-the-wire basketball game on Monday night. Well … we almost got that.

From Daniel Benjamin at the Examiner: No. 2 Notre Dame staves off late challenge from No. 9 Tennessee

From Cory Bernard at The Observer: Rocky Topped – Diggins scores a career-high 33 points as the No. 2 Irish down Lady Vols in Knoxville

At GoVolsXtra, Dan writes: Skylar Diggins scores 33 to lead Notre Dame past Lady Vols – Notre Dame executes as expected

Hard to miss Skylar Diggins Monday night, but Tennessee somehow lost her anyway.

The All-American cut down the lane unimpeded early in the second half, as if she was jogging through a park. She received a pass and scored a layup.

John Adams writes:  Lady Vols could have used a boost from past

The Lady Vols raised a banner in honor of former coach

Pat Summitt in pregame ceremonies as some of their greatest players looked on at courtside. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t script the game.

All-Americans Michelle Marciniak,Chamique Holdsclaw,Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker joined the rest of the crowd in a pregame standing ovation for Summitt, who led the program to eight national championships. But their contributions were limited to cheering.

“I wanted to put them in,” UT coach Holly Warlick said with a smile.

Speaking of folks who wear orange, Mechelle writes about Oklahoma State’s Toni Young.

Basketball most definitely was not Oklahoma State senior Toni Young’s first love. From the time she was a little girl, she was captivated by art and wanted to draw all the time. Hoops wasn’t even in the picture.

Basketball wasn’t her second love, either. That was volleyball, the first sport that she really embraced.

Basketball was something that other people thought Young should pursue, as was track and field. Young initially wasn’t too keen on either one — to say the least — when she finally took them up in high school.

“I didn’t start basketball until my sophomore year,” Young said. “And then I got forced into track when I was a sophomore, too. My coaches and my brother made me do it; I hated it then. But it was something I was good at, so it became a hobby.”

Young grins now as she recounts this, because it sounds preposterous. She was an All-American in the high jump at the NCAA outdoor track meet last summer (placing fifth) and then competed in the U.S. Olympic trials. That’s some hobby.

I haven’t jinxed Texas Southern yet: they took down Alabama State, 74-40.

Belmont is making some noise in the OVC. Their win over Morehead State puts them at 8-2 in the conference.

Okay, yes, they beat up on the Blackbirds, but I just need to say this: St. Francis (NY): 4-4 in the NEC.

I doubt they’re a threat to Quinnipiac, who move to 8-0 in the NEC. They don’t play St. Francis (PA) until Feb. 16th.

Yup, Hampton has set themselves up as the class of the MEAC, taking down rival Hampton handily: 67-45.

Sienna stayed even with the Red Foxes in the second half — but not in the first. Marist is now 8-0 in the MAAC.

They took the pedal off the medal in the second half, but that didn’t prevent Green Bay from securing the win over Wright State — and an 6-0 record in the Horizon.

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clash.

Big Monday (7pm ESPN2) brings us Tennessee v. Notre Dame. I’m guessing that many would agree that both teams are doing much better than folks expect. The Irish have adapted to losses from graduation, and the Vols have adapted to a coaching change and a rash of injuries. Here’s hoping it’s a nailbiter.

There’s a little somethin’-somethin’ from Graham, highlight the Diggins and others from this past weekend.

Big numbers are part of the equation with Skylar Diggins. So, too, is a big personality. But in the end, stars are measured by big games as much as anything else. On that count, it’s safe to say Tennessee or Connecticut still qualify.

Currently fourth among Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorers after surpassing 2,000 career points with a big first half against Providence on Saturday, Diggins has scored 12.3 percent of those points against two particular teams, out of more than 60 she has faced in three-plus seasons with the Fighting Irish.

Which two weaklings has she picked on for such a significant portion of her total?

Tennessee and Connecticut.

And that is how you shape a legacy.

We’ve got this from the SBT’s Curt Rallo: Irish hit road for another big matchup

This from Vicky Jacobson at The Observer: ND Women’s Basketball: Sky-high scorer – Diggins scores 2,000th career point as Notre Dame cruises; road test against Tennessee awaits

Dan Fleser at GoVolsXtra chips in: Three new starters for Notre Dame, but Skylar Diggins is the steadying force and Lady Vols stress playing with passion to avoid another top-5 defeat

A detailed scouting report informs Tennessee’s actions Monday night against Notre Dame.

A simple directive, meanwhile, serves as kindling.

One isn’t more important than the other to Lady Vols head coach

Holly Warlick, who has made playing with heart and passion a common theme this season. She might pile on the combustibles for a visit from the second-ranked Fighting Irish (18-1) for a women’s basketball showdown at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.).

Oh, and Fans advised to arrive early for Pat Summitt banner ceremony

At Swish Appeal, Chris Pendley offers up: Top 3, Take 3: Notre Dame vs. Tennessee Lady Vols, 7 PM EST

Notre Dame (#2 AP / #3 coaches) is 2-20 against the Tennessee Lady Vols (#9 / #9) in the history of both programs. The problem? Those pesky 2 are the last two games the two teams have played; a 79-53 loss in 2011 in the Elite Eight and a 72-44 loss in South Bend in 2012 (most notable for Notre Dame making the noble decision to keep their bench fresh for later games in the season and no I’m not still bitter about this why do you ask?). Of the regulars, only Meighan Simmons, Taber Spani, and Kamiko Williams remember the 2011 game, and Ariel Massengale and Isabelle Harrison remember the beatdown in South Bend (and it was a beatdown). If there’s bad blood, there isn’t much of it between most of the current crop of Lady Vol players and the Irish, but you can be pretty sure that the coaching staff remembers.

Rebecca Lobo is in Knoxville for the game, and had the time to post this photo of the dining options at her hotel. Doh!

And, per her tweet,  I wholeheartedly agree with this driver: 65-yr-old Knoxville cabbie : “I bet Kara Lawson could whoop two-thirds of the men around.”

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While the rest of the ranked teams (UCLA-recovering nicely from that Cal-Northridge oops, TAMU, Tennessee, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Cal) were dispatching their overmatched opponents by various ridiculous margins, two “undefeated” and ranked teams were tested: Georgia by the mighty Illini (6-5) and #25 Arkansas by the fierce Coppin State (4-7). One escaped, the other didn’t. What up with your scheduling, Dawgs and Hogs? (And yah, there are no upsets in women’s basketball, just inaccurately ranked teams, right? Which explains what happened to #20 Texas at the hands of Iowa, right?)

Is the Stanford/UConn game on yet? (UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer expect lots of offenseStanford-UConn: More Than A Fairy Tale,

While you’re waiting, check out Mel’s blog on early Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year candidates. (I’ll say, as a Lib fan of “a certain age and longevity, I’ve been following the Hilltoppers since Shea Mahoney. Flashback, much?)

Then wander over to Swish Appeal and check out The state of the WNBA: 2012 edition

Hmmm… maybe the third year’s the charm for Caldwell. Her LSU team goes down to FGCU.

Will Spidey make the Tourney? Bilney! They might!

How tough is it in Sooner-land? The volleyball players are coming to the rescue.

From at Amy Farnum the NCAA.com: Forging the path – Kansas star Goodrich looks to inspire other Native Americans

Kansas senior point guard Angel Goodrich may be known for her vision on the court in women’s basketball circles, but it is her perseverance that may be her greatest strength.

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I just loved this headline: Girls basketball: Bunnies shut down Falcons with defense

Yah, that guy scored a lot of points, but what would he have done against THIS defense? Miami girls basketball team earns 82-0 shutout days before Thanksgiving

From the Denver Post’s Irv Moss: Colorado Classics: Alice Barron, girls basketball pioneer

Don’t be deceived by the nickname. Alice “Cookie” Barron knew her way around on the basketball floor.

As a member of the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens, she played an instrumental role in a national record. A 5-foot-6 guard, Barron played at Wayland Baptist College (now University) from 1954-57, when the Flying Queens went 104-0 and won three national championships. She was named an All-American once.

Maybe more important for high school girls in Colorado, Barron fought for girls sports to be treated equally. As an administrator in the Jefferson County School system, she used the same tenacity that she showed on the basketball court in convincing doubters that sports programs should be available to girls.

From Mark Znider at the Columbus Dispatch: For 32 years, girls basketball has been huge part of life of Ready coach Joe Lang

Julie Lang will walk into the kitchen to make a telephone call and see fresh evidence that her husband, Joe, has been there. The unique fingerprints of a basketball coach in deep thought also can be found in the bedroom, living room, basement and garage.

“I have to laugh because we have a notepad next to the telephone and there will be these X’s and O’s scribbled on it,” Julie said. “I’ll open a magazine and there are more X’s and O’s. The bookmarks in books will have X’s and O’s. There will be paper on the dresser with X’s and O’s. There are these diagrams all over the place.”

His colleague at the paper, Jim Massie, reminds us of the difference between a “game report” and a “report about the game”: Ohio State women’s basketball: Hill leads second-half charge

A women’s basketball game with 44 combined turnovers has the look of a Thanksgiving day kitchen after dinner. Dirty dishes, plates, silverware and whatever is left of the turkey seem spread from here to there.

At least Ohio State, author of 19 turnovers, could say thanks for a 70-54 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) last night in Value City Arena and look to clean things up later.

Jim also adds: Ohio State women’s basketball: Defense anchors Alston’s game

For most young, growing basketball players, defense occupies the broccoli section of the Thanksgiving dinner plate.

Yummy.

This’ll make you grin: Iowa pep band provides clever chants during win over Robert Morris

All is not Bonnie in the land of the ‘ventures: Fairfield Women’s Basketball Knocks Off St. Bonaventure 52-49

Has their get up an Geaux got up and went? LSU women’s basketball team loses a nail-biter to Georgetown, 71-69

Yup, there’s a whole lotta shaking up goin’ on: Latest conference realignment news caught Geno by surprise

From the Washington Post’s Gene Wang: Maryland women’s basketball embraces Big Ten move

While the 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team has strong ties to the ACC as one of two member schools to win a national championship, the announcement on Monday that the Terrapins would be joining the Big Ten in 2014 means a homecoming of sorts for Coach Brenda Frese.

Frese was named national coach of the year at Minnesota in 2001-02, when she directed one of the more dramatic turnarounds in the history of the sport. In Frese’s first season, the Gophers went 22-8 to set what was then a program record record for wins, rose to No. 14 in the rankings (at the time was the highest in school history) and finished 11-5 in the Big Ten, one season after winning all of one conference game.

Speaking of the Terps, the DC BasketCases (Happy Thanksgiving, kids!) are in a better mood.

As the BCs expected they would, the Terps this afternoon bounced back from their upset on Saturday at St. Joe’s, thoroughly drubbing the American University Eagles at Comcast Center, 94-54, thereby giving Terps fans a very happy start to their Thanksgiving holiday.

The Utes are 4-0.

Coach Landers has 800 wins.

Cool! Mechelle says, “Welcome to Tennessee Total Access”

There have been tears shed around the Tennessee women’s basketball program over the past year and a half that have come from sadness and even fear as the great Pat Summitt faced an insidious illness.

But through it all, the program that has been so much a standard-bearer for women’s college athletics has vowed to keep things as upbeat and positive as possible. So when Holly Warlick — Summitt’s longtime assistant who was elevated to head coach this spring — found herself getting watery-eyed in October, she smiled, too. Because in this case, these actually were welcome tears of happiness.

“When that buzzer went off,” Warlick said, “I cried.”

She was referring to the end of Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Oct. 21. Tamika Catchings, the former Tennessee star who is still so closely associated with her alma mater, had just won her first WNBA title with the Indiana Fever.

Yup, the Vols are back on track: ‘Jail time’ is still playing off for Cierra Burdick, Lady Vols  (and yes, I could have wished for a better choice of words, considering recent news)

Speaking of “back on track,” Mel has: Delle Donne’s Return Almost Like Old Times

Haven’t you always wondered if there Are there women’s basketball programs that outdraw men’s basketball?

From Jayda: Gonzaga, Seattle U set for holiday tournaments; WNBA moves and other hoop notes

Gonzaga (4-0) is in the midst of playing five games in seven days. Before you empathize, consider the Zags continue that stretch Tuesday in Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta? Pshaw! I’m eating Turkey (or something resembling it) in St. Thomas, catching my second ever Paradise Jam. Might have a UConn point guard sighting: Bria Hartley Anxious For Thursday’s Return

Dishin & Swishin’s 11/21/12 Podcast is A Special Thanksgiving chat with Kara Lawson

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Unchartered Territory

The feelings most women’s basketball fans experienced at the news of Chamique Holdsclaw’s alleged attack on her former girlfriend Tuesday likely were the same as mine. Sadness, relief, worry.

Sadness because we’ve been aware for many years of the struggle the former Tennessee and WNBA star has waged with depression and her quest to destigmatize it, especially in the athletic world.

Relief because neither the victim of the alleged attack, Tulsa Shock forward Jennifer Lacy, nor Holdsclaw was physically harmed.

And worry because of what faces both women moving forward. Lacy is not physically injured, but her emotional scars may be considerable. And Holdsclaw, who released a book last year detailing her history of depression and has been working as a mental health advocate, is in serious legal trouble.

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make helpful assessments? Whatever your take, it was an interesting open day in women’s ball.

Burnt Orange nation has got to be excited to see Aston get her first win as Texas’ coach — and over a ranked (though new head coached) St. John’s. FYI: Some of the St. John’s coaches were hard hit by Sandy.

Orange Nation has got to be a bit nervous at what happened to their team in Warlick’s debutespecially because it was over an unranked Mocs team Tennessee had stomped last year. (So, Ms. Fagan, I know you don’t watch the WNBA because you don’t like the game. Do you watch the college game? If so, how are you feeling about your rationale for your Final Four prediction?) Next up for the Vols, feisty Georgia Tech.

Green and Gold Nation (IN) might be a little queasy after their squeaker on the sea over Ohio State.

Green and Gold Nation (TX) might be a little hungry after the Bears feasted on Lamar.

The Cardinal were happy to walk away with a win over the (new coached) Fresno State Bulldogs.

It’s not “impressive” as much as it is “indicative:” The Penguins beat the Panthers. Any ADs paying attention to coach Boldon?

Central Michigan started the season with a nice win over Bradley.

Hampton rocked and rolled over Southern Miss.

Remember when VaTech was respectable? Coach Barefoot and her ODU Monarchs toasted them. Check out Lady Swish’s essential rundown of the stars of opening day/night.

In Chicago’s Maggie Dixon Classic, Dayton put a hurtin’ on Mississippi Valley State.

It’s weird to think of North Carolina as being unranked. They did take down Davidson in the first round of the preseason WNIT.

Gotta be a relief for coach Donovan: Seton Hall stormed back in the second to overcome NJIT.

The Major Mid-Majors win: Marist, Middle Tennessee and Delaware (are they still allowed in the MMM club?).

Kim Arico Barnes‘ new team, Michigan, got a nice win in their opener over Detroit.

Indiana’s new coach, Curt Miller, wasn’t as successful, as Valpo downed the Hoosiers, 64-52.

Some good news for Ole Miss after their self-imposed post-season ban: the were winners over SE Louisiana, 95-85.

Terps win, Huskers win.

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Girls basketball coach Pat Diulus dies at age 67

Pat Diulus, who rose to national prominence as a girls high school basketball coach during a career punctuated by run-ins with the OHSAA, died Tuesday after a brief illness.

Diulus coached Trinity and Regina to a total of nine state championships and nearly 600 victories in a career that spanned 25 years. Both programs became national powers.

Coaching legend Pat Diulus dies

“I’ve been thinking back on everything he’s done,” said Riley McCormick, who played on Regina’s 2009 Division III state championship team. “There have been a lot of things going on in the past year or two that may not have given him a great name.

“But I hope everyone can remember all the lives he did change. He truly was there for each and every player that crossed his path. I have nothing but love and support for him and his family. He has made an impact without question on the player I am today and the person I am today.”

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Speaking of Tennessee

From Debbie’s Blog: My Favorite Pat Summitt off the court experiences:

With the announcement that Pat Summitt is stepping aside at Tennessee, media attention has been focused on her legacy as an icon in the game and in women’s sports.  Coach Summitt had a profound effect on many that have a role in the game. I’ve been broadcasting women’s basketball games on TV for 24 years and had the pleasure of covering Pat Summitt most of those years. I would like to share some stories about Pat that are examples about her lighter side.  It is fun to be an associate of Pat’s.  I have many behind the scenes stories but these are a few of the highlights for me:

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From Mechelle:

Debby Jennings, women’s hoops SID for 35 years at Tennessee, retires. Many longtime employees gone since Dave Hart took over as AD.

It’s reasonable to say that fans should keep an eye on the impact that merging athletic departments has on women’s athletics at Tennessee.

If Dave Hart and Tennessee athletics think people are not noticing what’s been transpiring there, they are wrong.

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unless, of course, you’re the Chinese National team.

US women’s basketball team routs China 100-62 in an exhibition game and Starters, subs shine for U.S. women

“We gave up too many points in the first half,” he said. “But we talked about this in the locker room — not one player on this team was picked because they’re a great defensive player. We have all these good offensive players that are going to moan when we make them play defense. Defense is going to be the last thing that we get right, but as the weeks go on, we’re going to get it right.”

Speaking of which : For women’s basketball stars, representing their country is worth its weight in gold – In men’s basketball, the NBA ring is the thing, and a gold medal is cool if it happens. But in women’s basketball, the pursuit of Olympic gold remains a priority.

Four years ago, a flight attendant recognized Sue Bird on her trip home from the Beijing Olympics. It didn’t take long before everyone on the airplane was applauding the world champion and asking the question.

Can we see your gold medal?

Bird pulled the precious item — the second Olympic gold of her career — out of her carry-on bag, and the next thing she knew, the medal was being passed around the plane. Even the pilot begged to see it.

“Nothing compares to that,” Bird said, explaining the importance and the joy of playing on the United States women’s basketball team.

Mechelle’s been busy:

Little looks for big impact in Seattle

If you called Seattle’s Camille Little a successful scavenger in the WNBA, she’d rightfully take it as a compliment. She specializes in picking up the loose ball here, the missed shot there, and trying to turn them into something valuable for the Storm.

“I’m not the first, second or even third option,” Little said. “I get my shots where they fit in. I get rebounds and putbacks and steals. I don’t get my number called a lot, but I get things done in a different way.”

However, during this past winter, Little played in China. As the only American on the team, she had a very different role than she has in Seattle.

M did a little chatting:

Jan (Kentucky): How did UNC land such a haul in Women’s college basketball recruiting? Who does Tennessee need to get them back to the Final Four?

Mechelle Voepel: Yeah, that’s something isn’t it? Clearly assistant Trisha Stafford-Odom has been a boost to UNC, having come over last summer from Duke. (What intrigue *that* is!) Carolina has usually recruited well over the years, but this is quite a haul. The questions remain, though: How exactly to they find spots for all those currently on the team, the 2012 signees, and those from the class of 2013 who’ve given verbal commitments? Aren’t we sure to see a few transfers from Carolina over the next 1-3 years? And will this talent actually develop well enough and play well together?

As for Tennessee, I know a lot of Orange fans were – and maybe still are – apoplectic over the UNC windfall, and worried that they are really falling behind in recruiting. But the new-look Tennessee staff is only now really just in place … they are going to have to hit the trail -figuratvely speaking – hard now and try to catch up, if you will. Tennessee has good recruiting coaches in place.

She also did a little podding: WSC Radio Show: May 11, 2012: Brenda and Mechelle talk about the WNBA, Brittney Griner’s injury, NCAA softball and more

Oh, ain’t this… funny: NJ kicks NY out of NJ so NJ can play NY so the Liberty Open Season at MSG

You know, those coaching changes are still happening.

Ditto with those WNBA transactions.

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The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to White House.

“Pat’s gift has always been her ability to push those around her to new heights, and over the last 38 years, her unique approach has resulted in both unparalleled success on the court and unrivaled loyalty from those who know her and those whose lives she has touched,” Obama said. “Pat’s coaching career may be over, but I’m confident that her work is far from finished. I look forward to awarding her this honor.”

More:

USA Today: Pat Summitt officially passes the whistle to Holly Warlick

Elliot Almond, Boston Herald: Coach Pat Summitt’s legacy is everlasting

The story reminded me of my first interaction with Summitt at the 2008 Final Four in Tampa, Fla. After a news conference with national media, Longman and I corralled Summitt for a few extra minutes.

Summitt didn’t mind. Always the raconteur, she regaled us with stories as homespun as honey. While Summitt knew Longman well, she and I had never been introduced.

Yet when I asked her about playing Stanford for the national championship, she turned to me and said, “Well, Elliott, it’s going to be a tough one.”

So sharp-minded, Summitt had remembered my name from a question I posed during the news conference. As I recount that story, the impact of her disease hits hard.

Lynn Zinser, New York Times: Pat Summitt’s Signature: Success and Dignity

It was at once a moment expected and inevitable and yet one with no way to prepare. As Tennessee’s women’s basketball season marched on, it became clear Pat Summitt could not sustain her role as head coach much longer as she battled early onset Alzheimer’s and it became one long goodbye party, but one no one could acknowledge. And when the goodbye was finally uttered on Wednesday, with Summitt abdicating the throne she occupied for 38 years, the reality washed over everyone who is in some degree in her debt. And that would be everyone in the sport.

Jason Witten: Pat Summitt a legend

Coach Bechler blogs: Why Pat Summitt is the Best

1.  She Humbly Understands Her Importance–In meeting a new woman in the movie Anchorman, Ron Burgundy, proudly proclaims “I am what you call a big deal around here.  People know me!”  I have seen Coach Summitt on multiple occasions working intensely trying to run a camp or evaluate a prospect at an event when somebody approaches her for an autograph or picture.  Not only does she grant the request, she does it with a pep in her step, a smile, and a genuinely positive attitude.  She didn’t become the first millionaire women’s coach just because she won.  She was also worth that money because she is a brand.  She is a larger than life figure that provides hope and an example to thousands of people per year (plus she is not afraid to don a cheerleader outfit on occasion).

Dan Wolken, Fox: Summitt goes out the right way

“I feel really good about my decision,” Summitt told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “I think it’s going to be a win-win situation for everybody.”

Including us.

Because for as much as we will miss Summitt’s presence in a sport she revolutionized, watching her decline would have been worse. Seeing her lose her independence, her competitiveness, her competence on the sidelines would have been worse. Questioning whether her disease was to blame if Tennessee lost a basketball game would have been worse.

Tennessean: Pat Summitt gives seat to Holly Warlick – Transitional year set stage for new roles and Pat Summitt, a true class act, did what was best for UT

GoVolsXtra: Mark Wiedmer: ‘Emeritus’ intent — respect, protect and Court Adjourned: Pat Summitt steps down after illustrious career and John Adams: Coaching trumped other opportunities for Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt Retirement Press Conference Transcript

AP: Summitt: It Was ‘Privilege’ To Coach At Tennessee

David Hyde Pierce: I see hope in Pat Summitt

Pierce’s father and his grandfather suffered from the disease. Pierce said no one knew anything about it when his father was diagnosed.

“We didn’t talk about it,” Pierce said. “There was a stigma. In many parts of this country there still is. When somebody like Pat steps forward, as she does in coaching the basketball, this is the opponent, we’re going to face them head on. That’s what families need to do. That’s what the country needs to do. I find that very encouraging.”

WaPo: Pat Summitt: A fan pays touching tribute to a legend

I’m nobody significant. I have almost no Twitter followers. I don’t blog. I’m just a guy raised by good parents who believed in and appreciated the good that people do. My Dad died when I was a kid and my Mom was never a basketball fan, but at some point in my life I learned about Pat Summit. I followed her on ESPN. I read the articles about her and her teams, and I’ve developed a long appreciation for what she has accomplished. I never hung her poster on my wall as a kid, but I was a fan. I am a fan. I have been blown away by the way she has built remarkable teams and helped produce even more remarkable women.

I’m going to be a father in 3 months. We’re having a girl. And like many parents, I’ve allowed myself to dream about my little girl one day becoming a great scholar, or athlete or contributor to society. But as I watch Coach Summit leave (and I completely understand why), I can’t help but think that all I really want is for my daughter to one day learn from a woman like her. A woman who won against odds, lost gracefully and made being great and being modest at the same time seem not only possible but reasonable.

I know Coach Summit will go on. This is not a eulogy. This is a thank you note. And a promise that even the young girls who grow up miles away from her legacy will always know her name, and more importantly, her story.

Good luck, Coach

A fan.

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Pat Summitt’s career remembered by C. Vivian Stringer and Anne Donovan

“For such a long time, Pat Summitt has been the gatekeeper for women’s basketball,” said Rutgers coach C.Vivian Stringer, a longtime friend of Summit’s. Her contributions to the game go far beyond the 1,098 victories and eight National Championships. It’s about impact she has had on every Lady Vol that has come through that program to the countless others across the globe whose lives she has touched – those are things that make Pat special. She represents a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration for all of us.

“This news saddens me because I have personally shared so many conversations with her as it relates to everything from basketball to family life. I feel like a piece of me has left the game and there is no bigger loss to women’s basketball. Although the world will miss seeing her on the sidelines, I know Pat will continue to be a rock for the Tennessee program in her new role.”

**

“Pat Summitt has been the most significant coach in the women’s game to date,” Donovan said today. “In addition to her unparalleled success in coaching, Pat’s legacy is now about her courage, strength and class in one of life’s biggest challenges. Our game is losing a legendary teacher, mentor and role model. Even though she may not be on the bench, Pat’s impact will continue to be felt in the thousands of women and men whose lives she has touched, mine included. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play for and work under the best, Pat Summitt.”

From Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN: Tennessee’s Summitt changed game

You can make the argument — without apology or hesitation — that Pat Summitt is the greatest college basketball coach of our time. At the very least, she’s in the starting five.

And it’s not because she won more games than any other Division I coach from A (Geno Auriemma) to K (Mike Krzyzewski) to W (John Wooden). Or that she has the same number of national championships as Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp combined. Or that in the 31 years there’s been an NCAA women’s basketball tournament, her team has been in it every year — and won eight times.

Greatness isn’t measured simply by victories. It is measured by the depth and width of a coach’s impact on the sport itself, on the players, on the university they represent. Find me another basketball coach who transformed and legitimized her sport more than Summitt. Find me another basketball coach whose legacy exceeds hers. I can wait.

Graham: Summitt is face of Title IX generation

Everything and nothing changed Wednesday in Knoxville, Tenn.

News that Pat Summitt is stepping aside as head coach at the University of Tennessee to accept the role of head coach emeritus, leaving control of the women’s basketball program to longtime assistant Holly Warlick, comes as little surprise precisely because it is the inverse of the shocking news that came almost a year ago, when Summitt informed the world she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Nobody saw the former coming. Sadly, everybody saw this coming.

Dick Vitale: Pat Summitt leaves incredible legacy

I was sorry to hear that Pat Summitt was retiring as Tennessee women’s basketball head coach.

My friends, she was the best of the best in college basketball, men’s or women’s. In fact, she was one of the greatest coaches of any sport.

Check out the games on ESPN classic: ESPN’s Coverage Plans Surrounding Summitt

And for some needed smiles, check out the hair and clothes “through the ages.”

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The Lady Jaguars, Part 2
Carroll Academy is a day school in Huntingdon, Tenn., operated by the Carroll County Juvenile Court and financed mostly by the state’s Department of Children’s Services. The region is beset by high unemployment, rampant prescription drug abuse and a proliferation of methamphetamine labs.

The Carroll County Juvenile Court judge, who has authority over the school, and Carroll Academy’s director gave The New York Times unrestricted access to explore the school through its girls basketball team, whose players have little experience with organized sports and myriad troubles outside of school. For this five-part series, The Times spoke with the girls, many of their parents and relatives, school administrators and coaches.

The Carroll Academy girls basketball team had just lost by 59 points to Dresden High School, the top team in the conference. Still, Tonya Lutz, Carroll Academy’s coach, lauded her team’s effort. Randy Hatch, Carroll Academy’s day-to-day director and founder of the basketball program, reached into a pocket and slipped $20 to one of the girls, as he usually does after games.

Together, amid giggles, the nine girls on the team bounced to the snack stand in a single-file line. Patrick Steele, the school’s straight-faced security director, followed them. Over the years, Steele has overheard taunts, even racial slurs, directed at Carroll Academy students, boys and girls, from opposing fans. He escorts the players wherever they go — from the bus to the gym, to the locker rooms and bathrooms, and back to the bus.

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From the Swish Appealers:

Tennessee’s Vicki Baugh Looks Forward To A WNBA Future At Full Health

Rocky Top Talk Offers Insight On 2012 WNBA Draft Prospects Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson & Shekinna Stricklen

2012 WNBA Draft Prospects: Top Five Rebounding Power Forwards

2012 WNBA Draft Prospect Interview: Temple’s Versatile Kristen McCarthy Optimistic About Fit In Pro Game

2012 WNBA Draft Prospects: International Intrigue From Damiris Dantas To Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite

2012 WNBA Mock Draft 2.0

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Recipient Of 2012 Nancy Lieberman Award

Speaking of point guards, did you catch this piece from the Washington Post on Kara Lawson? West Springfield and Tennessee grad, shows “smart, thoughtful” side on ESPN broadcasts

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I saw no fight. I saw feistiness, mouthiness and a profound lack of good sense.

Moving on to the important stuff: the Vols played the Bears tough but, honestly, if Sims is doin’ her thing like she was Baylor looks to be unbeatable. Writes Mechelle:

Some games are decided by heart and hustle being a little greater on one side than the other. But other games aren’t really about that at all. They’re about a team just being so talented, so efficient, and so down-to-business that the squad seems almost machine-like.

That’s how No. 1 seed Baylor looked Monday in a 77-58 NCAA tournament regional final win over second-seeded Tennessee. It was as if Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears were a group of basketball “terminators,” relentlessly pursuing a victory with nothing able to stop them.

Mechelle adds: Amid uncertainty, honor the success – In August, Pat Summitt said she intended to coach three more seasons

We don’t know if we just saw the last game on the sidelines for Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. We are unsure of how to write or talk about this — it has been that way the past few months — but now the 2011-12 Lady Vols have finished this season with their legendary mentor.

This particular journey ended with a 77-58 loss to top-seeded Baylor on Monday in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight in Iowa’s capital city, a place that has had a girls’ high school state basketball tournament that dates back all the way to 1925. And that somehow seems appropriate, as this felt like a historical game for many reasons.

From Jere’ at the Times: Sticking to Business as Others Celebrate Her Career (Wowza, that orange suit deserves to hang next to Sonja’s white mink!)

From Eric Adelson at Yahoo: Pat Summitt remains the ultimate winner even though her Lady Vols were eliminated by Baylor

If you ever met Pat Summitt, even for a moment, you know.

If she ever spoke a single word to you, it’s understood.

If you met her steely glance at any point in her unparalleled career, you get it.

Although it is immensely sad that Summitt, 59, may not coach another basketball game, it is as crystal clear as her icy blue stare that she does not need to walk onto a basketball court to continue as a coach for the rest of her life and beyond.

Because once Pat Summitt coaches you, you stay coached.

Duke couldn’t use their off-court brains to support their basketball IQ, and going away from their successful offensive plan spelled their doom. The other doom-bringer was spelled N.n.e.k.a. And yes, says Michelle, Stanford really is that good

What else does a team have to do to show that it is really, really good?

Stanford would like to think that Monday night’s 81-69 win over second-seeded Duke in the Fresno Regional final would have banished any lingering doubts about the Cardinal.

But the questions about whether Stanford has what it takes are only just beginning.

Post-game, the Nerd City Kid seemed beyond thrilled to go up against her USA Basketball teammate. “Seems everyone else has played her.” Yup, they have, and now it’s Stanford’s turn. Scott at the San Francisco Chronicle writes: Ogwumikes, Griner make Stanford-Baylor must-see

Women’s basketball not your cup of grog?

That’s fine. This will not be a screed against the haters, or ignorers.

I’m no missionary. I merely offer a suggestion that you put aside your prejudices and preferences so you can enjoy a classic.

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Summitt Retains Her Essence but Lets Go of the Reins

Inevitably, there have been awkward moments. Yet the Lady Vols (27-8) have reached an accustomed position, playing in a regional final here Monday against top-seeded Baylor (37-0), seeking a chance to play for a ninth national championship in what could be Summitt’s final season as the coach.

“No team has had to deal with something like this,” Alicia Manning, a senior guard, said. “I think at first, it was a little shaky. Everyone was trying to find their role without overstepping people’s boundaries. With anything, it takes time. They’ve developed a lot of chemistry. Things are rolling really well right now.”

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35-10 in 35 minutes, leading her Bears to the 83-68 victory.

But N.O. matched Griner’s output and then some (39/10 in 39min) — basically slinging the Trees onto her back and carrying them past a very game South Carolina team, 76-60.Writes Michelle: Stanford senior caps big day of women’s hoops with equally impressive performance

On a night when the spotlight was supposed to belong to Duke’s Chelsea Gray and her three rows of supporters who made the 75-mile trip from Stockton, Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike took it away.

On a day when Brittney Griner dunked and led Baylor into the Elite Eight, Ogwumike took a little of that limelight, too.

And on a night when Stanford was more uncomfortable than it has been in weeks, Ogwumike simply took over.

Wonder how her legs will feel when she goes up against Duke — who simply obliterated St. John’s, 74-47, and got to distribute the minutes nicely.

Tennessee bumbled about a bit before they got their act together in the second half. Even though they came away with the 84-73 win, if they start like that against Baylor, the game could get out of hand right quick. From Mechelle: Underclassmen lead Tennessee – Lady Vols win for first time this season after trailing at halftime

More Mechelle: Baylor, Tennessee to meet again – Lady Bears beat Lady Vols 76-67 in Knoxville, Tenn., last Nov. 27

“We had heard and read where, I guess in the Big 12 we don’t get pressed like that very often, and that they have guards as good as Sims in the ACC. And that motivates you. We handled their great pressure defense.”

Uh … if that didn’t read as sardonic as it actually sounded, rest assured it was Mulkey’s way of saying she really didn’t care much for the pregame suggestion that Georgia Tech’s defense would disrupt the Lady Bears. Not much gets past Mulkey — actually, make that nothing gets past her — and she tends to be particularly motivated by slights, either real or perceived.

Mechelle also has her Des Moines Elite Eight breakdown

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Beth and Debbie (will) preview the Sweet 16 (as soon as the ESPN site loads the podcast). Wait, now it’s up on the top of the page links, but not updated on the big ole “click here for the podcast.” What up with that?

We got picks! (From the ESPN folks.) And there are some landslides happening.

Oh, and Mechelle chatted.

Levi: After seeing St. John’s in person, I think the President may be spot on picking St. John’s for a final four berth. I was really impressed at the grit of this team. There will be a lot of WNBA prospects off this team. I don’t think Stanford has it too easy as some have claimed out there. This region actually may be the toughest of the four. It seemed every time St. John’s got knocked down in Norman they rose like the Phoenix. The pressure they put on teams is unreal. If a number one seed doesn’t make I would say it would be Stanford.

Mechelle Voepel: I was impressed, too, with St. John’s gumption. Creighton was a very tough test in the first round, which was to be expected because the Bluejays consistently play a tough non-conference schedule. Then beating a gutsy Oklahoma team on the Sooners’ home floor … very impressive. Three of the teams in the Fresno regional – St. John’s, Duke, and South Carolina – all won their second-round games on their opponent’s home floor. And Stanford had to go across the country for its early-round games. So everyone has worked to earn their spot in Fresno.

I’ll fess up — I quoted that q/a ’cause Mechelle threw down the work gumption. Love it.

OT: Nice to be back in Cleveland, albeit for a plane change. Good memories of the Final Four. Also nice that the airport provides free wifi. As I visit Louisville for the day, I’m suddenly wondering how big the YUM! Center is and might it vie for a Final Four hosting gig….

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