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In Minnesota, New York roared back, the Lynx lost the handle on the ball over and over.. and over again. End result: NY secures home court advantage in the East… and Minny ponders how to regroup down two starters.

This was where the Lynx really missed Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

Sunday’s game with New York matched the two teams with the best records in the WNBA, it was an intense game, with both teams playing very hard.

And the Lynx, within two points with 2 ½ minutes left, had chance after chance to take this game. Instead, they gave it away, turning the ball over four times in their final five possessions.

That means they still either have to win one more game or have Phoenix lose one to clinch the Western Conference title.

Chicago’s win over the Storm keeps them closer to the second seed in the East. And it wasn’t just the starters.

Shoo fly!

Shoo Jamierra Faulkner!

Same difference, at least so says Faulkner, the Chicago Sky’s speedy reserve point guard.

“I’ve always been like a little fly, getting on people’s nerves,” Faulkner said with a laugh. “Whenever we guard the ball, every person on this team is always trying to get a deflection, get a hand on the ball.”

Faulkner got her hands on the basketball multiple times while on defense Sunday night at the Allstate Arena. In fact, she set a career high in steals with 6 as she helped lead the Sky to a 93-65 victory over the Seattle Storm.

L.A. takes down Tulsa to lock that fourth spot in the West. Writes Michelle: 

It didn’t take a math whiz to figure out that Los Angeles — with Candace Parker returning to the lineup after sitting out the first half of the season to rest — was going to need an impressive run down the stretch to return to the postseason for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last eight years. But the Sparks pulled it off, and the locker room was suffused with an unmistakable vibe of satisfaction after Sunday’s game.

“I sat everybody down right after the All-Star break and told them I thought we needed to get to 15 wins,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We got to 14, and that was enough, but [we] knew it was going to be tough. I’m extremely proud of this team. I feel like this team can accomplish anything.”

Atlanta plays stubborn and keeps Washington from clinching that final spot.

The Washington Mystics have gone through the agony of defeat twice this season against the Dream. And today was no different. Atlanta, who has no room for error as they fight for the No. 4 seed playoff spot, again defeated the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Phillips Arena.

Tiffany Hayes did not play the last time Atlanta met with Washington, but tonight she made her presence tonight known as she attacked the Mystics on defense and led her team with 19 points.

McCoughtry, who followed Tiffany’s lead with 18 points, was not included in the starting lineup tonight. She came off the bench for the fifth time this season and the third consecutive game overall.

Worth the trip: Ramu Tokashiki was named MVP of FIBA Asia Women’s Championship and Japan is going to the Olympics.

More on Fever coach White — but, one has to wonder if Indy liked playing in the shadows. It’s been a tough run, last few games.

It’s not just coaches: Former CP sports editor, Phils scorer, Kenney dies, 80

With his white dress shirt, black tie and glasses, Bob Kenney looked like the quintessential newspaperman.

For South Jersey athletes, writers (including this one) and fans, he was so much more.

“He was a legend,” said Phil Anastasia, who was hired by Mr. Kenney at the Courier-Post in 1980. “His revolutionary thinking about high school sports was way ahead of his time. You look at the way high school sports are covered these days and it’s because of him, especially with girls’ sports.

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Our good friend Jon Krawczynski at the AP has Five things to know about the WNBA Finals

Dream’s motivation: If the Dream can’t defeat the Lynx, it would be their third finals loss in four seasons. They were swept by Seattle in 2010. The New York Liberty is the only team to accomplish that dubious feat (Ow. Thanks for the reminder), losing three of the first four championships. “We learned from our failures,” McCoughtry said.

Hopefully a sixth thing to know is that some WNBA franchises are (or should be!) holding viewing parties. Dunno if they are, but the Lynx are ready for game three at the Gwinnett.

From Mechelle: Lynx have edge over Dream in Finals

Minnesota is the favorite to prevail in the WNBA Finals, which begin Sunday at Minneapolis’ Target Center (ESPN and WatchESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

In 2011, the Lynx swept the Dream to win Minnesota’s first WNBA title. The Lynx were upset on the way to a repeat last year, falling in four games to Indiana. Which is probably the worst thing that could have happened from the Dream’s perspective.

Atlanta knows that the Lynx are still unhappy about the title getting away from them last year, and that Minnesota’s concentration will be very keen this year to keep that from happening again.

But Minnesota also has — at least on paper — a talent edge overall against the Dream. That said, the teams split their regular-season meetings this year, both winning on their home court.

Nate gives us the 2013 WNBA Finals X-Factor: Alex Bentley’s defense at the point guard spot key to Atlanta Dream success

For the Dream, the ability to even get back to the Finals with an entirely different point guard rotation in part reflects the quality of the rest of their personnel over the past few years: their frontcourt has helped them remain among the best rebounding teams in the league and of course there’s All-Star Angel McCoughtry on the wing along with defensive standout Armintie Herrington.

Yet the main reason the Dream have almost made the point guard position look irrelevant is their style of play: they’re a team that has always liked to push the pace to score in transition and they have wings who handle the ball efficiently enough to minimize their reliance on point guard play.

Mark Remme at Los Lynx writes. Lynx Key On Slowning Down McCoughtry’s Chaos

If you’re scouting the Atlanta Dream, the word chaos seems to come up regularly. The Dream certainly bring it defensively, and on the offensive end they will their way to victory through a collection of plays that tend to deviate on each and every possession. 

In the middle of that chaos is Angel McCoughtry, the dynamic scorer who essentially can do it all. And she does it in different ways—a noticeable trait for the Lynx guards preparing to try contain her in the 2013 WNBA Finals. On any given possession, McCoughtry might go left, go right, take a certain angle they’ve never seen before or shake her way to the hoop.

The prognosis? She never does the same thing twice.

Hello, old friend: Maya Moore Vs. Tiffany Hayes: UConn Reunion In WNBA Finals

During the three years they played together at UConn, Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes traveled to three Final Fours and won two national championships, usually laughing at each other’s jokes along the way.

But starting Sunday, Moore and Hayes will be on different sides when the Minnesota Lynx andAtlanta Dream begin play in the best-of-five WNBA Finals in Minnesota.

“It’s a little different when you play against a friend like her,” said Hayes, the Dream’s second-year guard. “We have some little conversations, maybe have a laugh on the free throw line, but otherwise things are pretty much the same as playing against anyone else.”

In other news, a little history.

From Iowa: Charging Czech Day in Clutier

Most people in this area are aware of the Clutier girls basketball team’s remarkable history. From 1939 through 1948 the Clutier Charging Czechs dominated Iowa sports headlines. These girls, under the coaching of John Schoenfelder, had a record of 201 wins, 18 losses and 1 tie. They scored 12,295 points versus their opponents 5,660, and went to the state tournament six times, winning in 1942. Two of the Charging Czechs, Verna Mae Vorba and Adella Knoop were later inducted into the Iowa Girls Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Clutier Public Library proudly displays the trophy case and the pictures of the Clutier graduating classes. Also, the Library recently added the book, “From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press” by Janice Beran to the collection.

From Alaska: Sweet – Early team member named honorary captain of Palmer girls squad

[92 year-old] June Liebing’s time in the Valley pre-dates the Matanuska Colony, and her basketball career here came at a time when the Palmer High School girl’s team was shooting through rafters to make a basket.

So, it would seem to most, there’s really no better person to become the PHS girl’s squad’s first honorary captain.

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From the .com: The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

Atlanta’s slogan for the playoffs reads: “Teamwork makes the dream work!” That theme was true in the path to the Finals for both the Dream and Lynx. While both teams have standalone stars, each team wouldn’t be in this place without the supporting cast, specifically the X-factors.

Each team has a spark. That one player behind the stars that really puts the team over the edge in order to win the big games. For Minnesota that energy lies in fourth-year guard Monica Wright and for Atlanta it’s in Angel McCoughtry’s go-to shooter, second-year guard Tiffany Hayes.

Also de le .com: Angel Leads the Way

“She’s been a good leader for us throughout the course of this season,” he said. “That was something we talked about extensively in the offseason. She’s matured a lot as a player, she’s emerged as a full-fledged triple threat player getting us steals, points and passing the basketball.”

Teammate Tiffany Hayes said McCoughtry’s leadership has been the driving force as the Dream prepare for their third WNBA Finals appearance in the past four years.

“I think she motivates us more this year,” she said. “She’s always led by example, but this year she encourages by being more of a vocal leader and I think that’s really been helping us.”

Dave Southorn at the Idaho Statesman notices: Former BSU point guard ‘Fast Freddie’ is running the show in Atlanta

Williams, who played for the Broncos from 1977-79, is in his first full season as head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. He has guided the team to the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, which begin Sunday, and after serving on the staff since the team’s inception since 2008, it is a moment he is savoring.

“Not many coaches get to see something built from stage one up to this point, so this is definitely a special feeling,’’ Williams, 56, said.

 Nate’s been wicked busy: Erika de Souza’s All-WNBA caliber season

It’s generally difficult to determine what qualifies someone as “underrated”, but there’s definitely evidence to suggest that Atlanta Dream center Erika de Souza has earned the label.

She was a blatant snub from the 2013 All-Star game before being added as an injury replacement for Chicago Sky star Elena Delle Donne. And by almost any statistical standard, she was an equally blatant snub from the 2013 All-WNBA team.

Three keys to the Lynx winning a second title and Monica Wright, versatility & the Sixth Woman award

With 6:23 left in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx’s loss in Atlanta on August 20, coach Cheryl Reeve took a timeout to try to stop the Atlanta Dream’s momentum.

After racing out to a 6-0 lead, the Dream were up 10-4 and nothing seemed to be working well for the Lynx – they were looking disoriented as an active Dream defense applied pressure on the perimeter and they couldn’t seem to stop Dream penetration on the other end.

Richard, too:

2013 WNBA Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream – Part 1, Match-ups and Challenges

Here we go again, everybody. The Minnesota Lynx are in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, looking to regain the title that they lost a year ago. The Atlanta Dream are back in the championship series for the third time in four years. The franchises clashed in the 2011 Finals, with relatively similar rosters – and the Lynx won in a sweep. But that feels like a long time ago, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The 2013 regular season, which saw the Dream finish .500 while the Lynx were their typical dominant selves, is largely irrelevant now. So a series from a couple of years ago definitely can’t be considered particularly important. Everyone starts the Finals 0-0, and the Dream’s confidence should be high after a sweep of Indiana to win the East, where they went some way towards reestablishing their identity. The track record of the Lynx makes them worthy favourites for this series, but they won’t have things all their own way.

2013 WNBA Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream – Part 2, Key Themes and Factors, and the Final Verdict

Now for the topics, trends, decisions and debates that are likely to decide the WNBA Finals, or are at least worth paying attention to as the series goes along. Many of them were touched upon in Part 1, where we took a closer look at the personnel involved, but now we’ll get more in depth. Then, just for fun, I’ll offer up a prediction. Although with the way it’s been going for me with picks this year in the postseason, you might want to go the other way.

Mr. Youngblood at the Star Tribune is not to be outdone: Lynx’ Maya Moore enjoying playoffs more than Lynx’s two opponents so far

For Maya Moore, the anticipation, the excitement had been building. So when the Lynx took the Target Center court last week for the first game in their Western Conference championship series with Phoenix, it was like Moore was being launched from a cannon.

“She’ll tell you the first five minutes of that Phoenix game, she just blacked out,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “because there was so much adrenaline.

“Now, she played like it,” Reeve said, laughing. “That’s why we had to take her out.’’

McCoughtry’s fuming turned Atlanta around late in season

A couple of weeks ago, Angel McCoughtry — seemingly by the force of her personality — changed the course of the Atlanta Dream’s season.

Wildly erratic during the regular season, the Dream stumbled into the playoffs at 17-17, then opened the postseason with a home loss to Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

McCoughtry’s line for the game: 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one meltdown. “If we’re not upset right now and embarrassed on national television, then we might as well go home now and not show up in D.C.,” she fumed after the game. “Right now needs to be the turning point, this very moment.’’

Lynx are looking to ‘finish job’ against Atlanta in WNBA Finals and Lynx can no longer use the ‘no respect’ line

BTW: Elizabeth Dunbar at Minnesota Public Radio has this: Lynx success has turned team into profitable venture

As the Minnesota Lynx prepare for their third straight appearance in the WNBA finals, Glen Taylor finds himself in rare position: owning a WNBA team that’s profitable.

It took a decade to get there, the billionaire says, and it feels good.

John Altavilla at the Hartford Courant: Maya Moore’s Winning Way Continues With Another WNBA Title Shot

Jayda’s still here: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

The Gwinnett Daily Post notices that the Lynx are sweeping through the postseason

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finally pays attention.

More than two weeks ago, after a dispirited loss to Washington, an aggravated Angel McCoughtry sat in her locker and defiantly said she wanted to win a championship with the Dream.

From Mechelle: Once again, it’s Maya versus Angel – Former Big East rivals, U.S. teammates face off in WNBA Finals

Matchups between contrasting stars are always intriguing. And Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Olympians whose teams meet in the WNBA Finals starting Sunday (ESPN and WatchESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), certainly have their distinct differences.

Moore seemed like she was in her 30s even when she was an 18-year-old. She carries herself with almost a regal dignity, her emotions generally hidden behind the “Maya mask” that somehow successfully mixes implacability and humility. She will not let up until she defeats you, but she’s not going to rub your face in it.

As much as Moore’s countenance rarely gives anything away, McCoughtry’s expressions say all kinds of things. Everything, actually. Over the years during games, you might see her look elated, irritated, amused, bemused, furious, frustrated, determined, resolved. In interviews, McCoughtry could be charming, funny and insightful — or she could be borderline morose. Or somewhere in the range in between.

From Michelle: Reeve shows the way for Lynx

And so we return to the WNBA Finals, the occasion of Cheryl Reeve’s seminal moment as a WNBA coach. The day she threw her jacket.

Upset over a non-foul call in Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals, Reeve lost her cool and one article of clothing, tearing off her blazer and tossing it while yelling at the officials.

But if Reeve earned national airplay with her revealing outburst, it is only a colorful distraction from a coaching career that is starting to build momentum in the legacy of the league. An illuminating moment, but still only a moment.

From SlamOnline: SLAM Radio: WNBA Finals Preview, Draft and Stash, Isaiah Whitehead

Mechelle and Brenda do the podcast thang.

HoopFeed’s podcasting, too: Lin Dunn and Brian Agler break down the WNBA finals

Watch out! WNBA Bringing Back Ref Cams for Finals

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ever since Thursday, I’ve had Tom Jones/Art of Noise running through my head

Anyhoo, games today. We’ll see if the Merc can recover from getting M(oore)A(ugustus)W(halen)led again and if Indy can head off Hayes and clip Angel.

Meanwhile: WNBA Captures Fans, Ends Regular Season With Record Growth and Viva, Las Vegas!

BTW – I got 139 folks to join me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. Who’s coming with me to Istanbul?

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Things are getting clearer in the run to the playoffs.

Yes, the Storm are one win away from clinching playoff berth as Tina Thompson continues to go out with a bang, not a whimper.

Thompson, a 17-year league veteran, has willed the Storm into playoff contention. She’s averaging a team-leading 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in August. In a crucial regular-season series clincher against San Antonio on Tuesday, Thompson scored 27 points in the 72-71 road win.

The performance isn’t surprising to Thompson, 38. She recently said she had one of her better offseason training regimens in order to retire this season on a high. Thompson also made it clear when she signed with Seattle in 2012 her intention was to win a fifth WNBA championship.

BUT: If they do make it, they ain’t playing at Key. Next up: Minnesota.

Seattle is chasing Phoenix, but the Merc are twice lucky: they get to play Connecticut, and Candice Dupree has picked up the pace after Russ Pennell’s arrival as coach

Dupree said for her, the current scoring binge is about a “mind-set.”

“In order for me to help make this team better, I have to be aggressive and assert myself against these other teams,” she said. “I just can’t wait for shots to come within our system. When I catch the ball, I look to drive or shoot. If it’s not there, then pass the ball and play out of that.”

Interim coach Russ Pennell has made sure Dupree is featured in more offensive sets.

They almost let it get away, but Catch and Zellous made sure the Fever stayed ahead of the Liberty in the race for 4th. Or 3rd. Or 2nd, if Atlanta doesn’t right their injured ship. (They get a chance against Chicago today)

Chicago gets some love:

David Haugh – Delle Donne doing her (substantial) part to grow WNBA – League’s top rookie and legit MVP candidate will promote game after Sky season

Eric Zorn – Excuse me while I kiss the Sky

Contrasting opinions:

From SlamOnline: Standard Bearer – Ten years into her WNBA career, Diana Taurasi is having one of her best seasons yet.

Coming off of a hip flexor injury that limited her to just eight games last season, she’s come back with a vengeance, currently ranking second in the WNBA in scoring with 21.4 points per game. Ten times this season, she’s scored 26 points or more.

Though she receives less credit for other aspects of her game, she’s also averaging a career-high 6 assists a night, ranking second in the WNBA. That’s up from her average of 3.6 in 2011 (her last full season). She had double-digit assists three times: 10 vs Tulsa (August 20) and New York (July 2) and 11 vs Indiana (August 14). She’s also grabbing 4 rebounds per game.

From Aman Ali at the .com: Race to the MVP: Week Twelve

“Taurasi is one of the fiercest competitors in the league and a perennial favorite for the MVP award. But this season she hasn’t been able to shed her reputation of being an alpha-dog player that likes to shoot way more than she likes to pass. She has so much talent on her team, but how many of them are playing better as a result of Taurasi on the floor? McCoughtry suffered from the same reputation in years past and shed it this season – just ask her teammates Tiffany Hayes and All-Star Erika DeSouza who are playing some of the best basketball of their careers alongside her.”

Rebkellians clear up Ali’s lack of stat comprehension.

Also from SlamOnline: WNBA MVP Rankings – Candace Parker delivers in the clutch, fills the box score.

This past week, #CandaceCan became a mantra, as Candace Parker led the Sparks to a double-overtime comeback victory against Tulsa on Sunday. Slyvia “Big Syl” Fowles continues to spit out double-doubles and rise up the MVP rankings. Third year wing Maya Moore seems to be heating up at the right time as the Lynx look to make a trip back to the finals.

and Unsung Hero- Courtney Vandersloot is thriving at point guard for the Chicago Sky.

Quietly running the point is Courtney Vandersloot. The third-year guard is having her best season as a pro, averaging career highs in points (9) assists (5.5) and rebounds (3.3). Vandersloot is also averaging a career low in turnovers per game (2.5) while ranking fourth overall in the WNBA in assists.

Katie Konsiders Koaching: Katie Smith set to retire from WNBA.

Powell is going to Gonzaga.

Now to some off-court stuff via Nate:

RJ Aguiar of Towleroad has a pretty evenhanded account of the demonstration outside of the San Antonio City Hall yesterday that injured San Antonio Silver Stars forward Sophia Young attended yesterday, including links to local news coverage describing why the black and Latino protesters are opposed to an addition to the city’s existing nondiscrimination ordinance (click here from a video of the event from KENS 5). Andy Towle makes a good point in his associated post about Young’s tweets: “Given what she tweeted, however, she seemed to think that the anti-discrimination bill, to be voted on by the San Antonio City Council in early September, would also somehow legalize same-sex marriage.” (Hint: it won’t). (Read more)

I love that Coach Dunn has tweeted her support of Tully and Clarendon… And that Coach Boyle retweeted it. BUT: Where is every single other NCAA and WNBA coach?

Speaking of Coaches: Hall of Fame Inductee Dawn Staley Reflects on her WNBA Career and Community Outreach

Now to the important stuff: WNBA TEAM LOGOS: A VERY IMPORTANT CRITIQUE

Did you catch this from Fagan: SEX SELLS? TREND MAY BE CHANGING

In the Nine for IX film “Branded,” premiering Tuesday on ESPN (8 p.m. ET), filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady tackle the age-old question in women’s sports: Will sex appeal always supersede achievement?

But before we try to answer that, we need to ask ourselves a few more: Does sex really sell now? How do we know for sure? What if I told you it doesn’t?

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The players:

WNBA Draft: Remembering the Day My Life Changed (Tina Thompson)

Miami Hurricanes women ready for WNBA Draft — The Hurricanes’ Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams are expected to go early in the WNBA Draft, which will be held Monday.

Wojta could be first Green Bay player drafted by WNBA and UWGB’s Wojta attending WNBA draft

Nneka Ogwumike prepares for WNBA draft

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: Draft Prospects (Hayes, Ogwumike, Peters, Prahalis)

The coaches:

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: WNBA Coaches (Reeve, Agler, Kloppenburg)

The talking heads:

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: ESPN Analysts (Lobo, Peck)

2012 WNBA Mock Draft: Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Early Picks Sure to Become Stars

This Year’s WNBA Draft Lacking In High-Impact Players

After Nneka, draft full of questions

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UConn gave their fans palpitations, and then revved up their defense in the second half to handcuff the Wildcats and move in to their fifth Final Four in a row. Writes Graham: Hayes answers call for Huskies – With teammates in foul trouble, senior guard steps up, leads UConn to Final Four

Forget about Maya Moore, Tina Charles or Renee Montgomery coming to the rescue. For a good stretch of Tuesday’s regional final between Connecticut and Kentucky, as whistles blew and fouls piled up, it didn’t look like Tiffany Hayes was going to be able to count on much help from even those teammates with eligibility remaining.

In a moment feared by many fans whose expectations begin and end with championships, a career defined largely by those Hayes played alongside rested squarely on the senior’s shoulders.

And those aren’t big shoulders.

That loud hiss you heard during the first half of the Maryland-Notre Dame game was the sound of some brave bracketeers watching their brackets crashing. Behind Skylar’s triple-double, the Irish made quick work of the Terps.From Kate Fagan: Notre Dame simply dominates Terps – Skylar Diggins notches Irish’s first triple-double since 1990

Skylar Diggins caught the ball at the top of the key.

She faked left, drove quickly right, put a dribble far ahead into the lane, swung the ball to her right hand, absorbed a Maryland defender, and kissed the ball off the glass. The whistle blew at about the same time Diggins turned — face steeled — toward her oncoming teammates. And-1. Dagger delivered. No time on the first-half clock.

Oh, wait, this was in the first half?

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Or perhaps it was the fact that Tech’s best scorer didn’t make the trip? Either way, Kansas stomped their way to a 19pt upset of #23 Texas Tech. (Yah, but K-State lost to Iowa State. How much fun is it for writers to type, “Poppens pops off for 23”?).

It was close at first, and it stayed close. The Bonnies escape the clutches of the Hawks, 68-61.

It was close at first, and it stayed close. The Terriers escape the clutches of the Retrievers, 59-53.

It wasn’t so close in the first, but it got closer. Still, the Falcons escape the clutches of the Cardinals., 63-52.

Indications of a good, well-coached team: Toledo loses their best player a while ago, and still puts together a 5-2 MAC record.

Good one between Richmond and Dayton — Flyers come out on top in OT, 81-78.

American kept Bucknell defeated in the Patriot and themselves undefeated, 71-45.

It was close at first, and then it wasn’t even close to close at the end. You could have taken away Tiffany Hayes’ 35pts and UConn would still have beaten Syracuse by 6.

The Orange are set to join ex-Big East member Boston College in the ACC. Wonder if coach Hatchell will enjoy playing ‘Cuse as much as she enjoys playing BC.

It was a tussle, but Georgia Tech topped Virginia, 63-53.

Sun Belt (and I mean Middle Tennessee) shouldn’t sleep on the Florida Atlantic Owls. They’re now 6-2 in the conference. (Yes, I know, so are the UALR Trojans & the Denver Pioneers, but that’s in the West.)

Okay, I know it’s the WCC v. the ACC, but how come 19-3 (7-1) BYU isn’t ranked (in the ESPN polls) and North Carolina (14-5) is?

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and return to the big freeze, some things to distract you:

From Graham: All hail the Big Ten (finally!)

Best team not enough people are paying attention to (unless, of course, you’re a loyal WHB reader!): St. Bonaventure. More on the Bonnies in the days to come, but a 64-52 win against St. Louis moved them to 3-0 in the Atlantic 10 for the first time in program history, and 16-2 overall. With wins against Marist, Duquesne, St. John’s, Temple and West Virginia, and losses against only Delaware and Villanova (the latter without second-leading scorer Megan Van Tatenhove, because of injury), St. Bonaventure has earned more support in the polls than it’s getting at the moment. Seven days ago, before a midweek win at Temple and the weekend win against St. Louis, it received just one vote in the AP poll and none in the coaches’ poll — in which St. John’s and West Virginia each received votes.

From Mechelle: Kentucky on top of the SEC: After toppling No. 7 Tennessee earlier in week, Wildcats add win over South Carolina

“Once you get into the league, sometimes you aren’t able to impose your will at the same level that you could maybe in the nonconference schedule,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “What I’ve been encouraged about so far this season is that we’ve won a won a couple of up-tempo, high-scoring, and we won a pretty grind-it-out game that was very physical and tough in [Florida]. To be really good in the Southeastern Conference, you have to be able to what’s happening that night.”

The No. 8 Wildcats did that twice in the past week, and it has put them in the driver’s seat of the SEC.

Pod Alert! As soon as espnW updates their site, Beth and Debbie are back. Today they’re speaking with Pam Ward and Duke’s Elizabeth Williams/Haley Peters. They’ll also preview Uconn/UNC.

Speaking of tonight’s UNC/UConn game, this will help you get caught up:

UConn needs maturity during grueling stretch, Post
UConn women’s game day, Post
Hoping for more from Tiffany Hayes, Courant
No. 22 UNC vs No. 3 UConn, Courant
Hayes leads way, JI
UNC presenting new set of challenges for Huskies, Register
Preview: UConn vs North Carolina, Republican
Injuries take toll on UNC women, News & Observer

An update on Jacki: Gemelos injury is team rallying point, star guard inspires her team even after injury

A little on Bonnie: Henrickson is making her mark with the Jayhawks

A little on the Green Bay team that’s winning: UWGB balances winning big, respect

A little on the bigs in the middle: Irish making strides with inside game

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— as in the four teams are ready for the Final Four. Which explains why my reaction to the games last night is a tad musical.

Killing the Blues is just what UConn did.

First Georgetown, and then Duke. The Blue Devils kept it close in the first, but then Maya did her Roadrunner impression (beep! beep!), and the Huskies were off to the races. Duke’s offense suffered from bad decisions and Connecticut’s found its groove: 24 assists on 32 baskets. The end result? A deju vu-esque 35pt win. Write Rob at DWHoops:

Duke kept it interesting for a half, but they once again were blown out by the UConn Huskies. The Blue Devils didn’t accomplish any of the pregame goals I outlined in our DWHoops game preview, and they paid for it with the worst NCAA Tournament loss in Duke history. Rebounds? UConn led, 40-27. Tempo? UConn ran the ball down Duke’s throat, with a 12-4 edge in fast break points. Shot-making? Duke shot an excruciating 25% from the floor. The Devils hustled and scrapped to stay within 3-6 points for most of the first half, thanks to some timely shooting by Shay Selby and the usual hustle by Jasmine Thomas. Duke was within 3 points with under four minutes to go, and one could see UConn start to wear down a bit. Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes both picked up 2 first-half fouls that were silly. The Devils not only were unable to capitalize, they inexplicably didn’t hold the ball for the final possession of the half. They missed 2 late cracks at the basket and gave Moore enough time to hit a shot at the buzzer, giving UConn the double-digit halftime lead they wanted so badly. Then the Huskies shot an absurd 72% in the second half against a Duke defense that had completely broken down.

Graham on Maya:

As the story goes, at some point during the team’s stay in Philadelphia, sophomore Kelly Faris’ mom gave her daughter a paddleball, partly in jest for a team that finds a way to compete at anything and everything, if also as a way to kill the tedious hours of hotel time that come during the postseason. Faris, Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln promptly spent a good portion of an evening passing the paddleball, and the corresponding record for consecutive hits, back and forth. Welcome to Connecticut basketball.

But when the new toy made its way into wider circulation on the bus soon thereafter, Moore wanted to know why she hadn’t been included in the initial record chase.

“We said that we didn’t want to invite her the first night because she probably would have been up until 5 in the morning trying to break it,” Faris said. “But she told us it wouldn’t have taken her that long.”

For Texas A&M, it Feels Like the First Time, as their third time against Baylor proved the charm. The Aggies took an early lead, survived foul trouble, got a lot of help from Sydney 1 and Sydney 2, and now are going to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Writes Joanne Gerstner at the New York Times:

In most ways, it’s hard to make 6-foot-8 Baylor sophomore star Brittney Griner disappear. But Texas A&M found the magic wand Tuesday, reducing Griner’s normally game-changing play at center into a non-factor.

Mechelle on coach Blair and the Aggies:

It all began in this city for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, literally. He was born and raised in Dallas, graduating from high school in 1963, the year JFK was assassinated here.

He served time in the Marines, then went to Texas Tech and played baseball. In 1973, he started coaching the South Oak Cliff High girls’ team in Dallas. It was a job not many would have wanted, but Blair saw something in the sport that captured his imagination as a certified sports junkie. He recognized what was beautiful about a sport with such growth potential.

Michelle Smith has Five storylines to watch in Final Four

Tim Newcomb at Time magazine says the Final Four is A Lesson in Staying Power

Ann Killon at Sports Illustrated Breaks Down the Final Four.

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New Role Added to UConn Star’s Résumé: Leader

The other day at basketball practice, Maya Moore cut one way, then changed her mind and reversed herself, leading to a turnover. Moore has done a lot of remarkable things in her career at Connecticut, but her coach, Geno Auriemma, was impressed with what she did next.

Although the turnover would not have been credited to her on a scoresheet, Moore made a point of taking the blame. If the best player in women’s college basketball can acknowledge her mistakes, Auriemma said, her teammates can do the same.

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