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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about some previews?

Albany Regional breakdown – UConn

Three observations

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

Greensboro Regional breakdown – South Carolina

Three observations

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

Oklahoma City Regional breakdown – Notre Dame

Three observations

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

Spokane Regional breakdown – Maryland

Three observations

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

Michelle says: Savor all 63 games — not just final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey! It’s time for the Mascot Bracket!

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

Don’t wanna listen? How about dance?

In non-tourney news:

Ouch: Three players leave Vanderbilt women’s basketball team

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

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

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

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who goes to the Dance… but at least Seton Hall was ranked when DePaul upset them in the (New) Big East final. Both will go dancin‘, and the Pirates will learn from this experience.

DePaul is one of the nation’s highest-scoring teams. However, its defense took over Tuesday night.

The Blue Demons held No. 24 Seton Hall to 42 percent shooting in a 78-68 victory over the top-seeded Pirates for DePaul’s second consecutive Big East tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“They defended better than I’ve seen them play in all the games I’ve watched, and their experience showed,” Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella said.

Ummm… I’ve got a bone to pick with the ESPN/AP headline writer. BYU did NOT “dominate” San Francisco on its way to the WCC championship. They punched their card effectively, 76-65.

“Our defensive energy wasn’t what it probably should have been, especially in the first half,” San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi said. “We turned it up but just fell short.”BYU shot 61 percent in the first half and were 13 for 18 on 3-pointers in the game, primarily against a zone. The Cougars had success inside with Bailey, who was 9 for 17 and had eight rebounds, and outside with Eaton and Morrison.

On the other hand, the ‘rabbits DID dominate (and upset-ish) the Coyotes. South Dakota State earned their 6th Summit League conference championship in seven years.

South Dakota State (24-8) got off to a strong start, leading by 22 points in the first half before taking a 37-19 advantage into the break while limiting the Coyotes to 13 percent shooting from the field. The Jackrabbits were never really challenged in the second half.

“Definitely, I thought we played really well defensively,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. “But USD missed some shots that they’re accustomed to making. When those things happen to a team, it’s hard to dig yourself out of it.”

It was an “upset-State” kinda day.

Coppin State (7-21. 5-11) surprised Morgan State, 71-56, and moves in the next round of the MEAC.

San Jose State (15-16, 7-11) got a nice lead on Colorado State (23-7, 15-3) in the first, then held them in check through the second to pull the upset of the top-seed and reach the semis of the Mountain West.

Cal State Fullerton (12-18, 5-11) pulled away in the second half to upset UC Riverside (17-14, 8-8), 71-59 , and will continue in the Big West tournament.

Squeak! New Mexico moved into the Mountain West semi’s by virtue of a one-point win over San Diego State.

We got this: After a tied first half, Fresno State pulled away for the win over Wyoming, 74-66.The Lobos (see above) are next.

Princeton finished the season undefeated, weathering cold shooting and a stubborn Penn team. It wasn’t a particularly elegant game at the ” cozy, cacophonous Palestra,” and it Tigers’ play may not strike fear into the heart of future opponents heart, but there’s no diminishing their accomplishment. From the NY Times

“Thirty and 0 hasn’t hit me yet,” said the junior forward Alex Wheatley. “Thirty and 0 doesn’t compute.”

It seemed so far-fetched that Blake Dietrick, the team’s point guard and its only senior starter, asked Annie Tarakchian, a junior, if she would be willing to bleach her hair if the team went undefeated. It was early in the schedule and Tarakchian, knowing the long odds, shrugged her shoulders and agreed.

“Annie will have her hair bleached for the tournament,” Dietrick said.

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and trying to get something in during the 30 minutes of free wifi in Newark airport.

Great game between Seton Hall and Depaul, the top spot in the New Big East was at stake. It’s not just that the Pirates managed to escape with a one-point win (Ka-Deidre Simmons going coast-to-coast and hitting a game-winning layup), it’s that Depaul is a well coached, disciplined team. Which reflects well on Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella. Stunning to realize he’s only in his second year…and then you remember he was the coach at Iona.

Princeton is now 22-0.

The No. 16 Tigers have won 21 straight games to start the season and are 5-0 in Ivy League play heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at Brown on Friday and at Yale on Saturday. Princeton needs just one more win to set a new school record for consecutive victories and has absolutely dominated opponents this year, winning by an average of 27 points and 33 points in conference play. 

We continue to give thanks to the sad sack Knicks: Tom Pedulla offers Averaging 3.5 in Classroom and 10.4 on the Court

Young people often talk about changing the world. Alex Wheatley, a starting forward for the 16th-ranked Princeton women’s basketball team, is intent on it.

“I want to leave the world better than I found it, which is huge and broad and kind of strange to say,” she said. “But it’s true.”

Wheatley, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in global health and health policy. She served an eight-week internship in Kenya last summer and is one of five Princeton juniors accepted into the university’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative, a program designed to groom top students for careers in government.

Glad to be making plans to travel to the Palestra (my first visit ever) and watch them battle Penn.

Drake and Wichita State are still neck-in-neck in the MVC. They meet on Feb 27th. About one of those Shockers: Consistency key for WSU’s Martin

It’s no secret looking at Brittany Martin that the 6-foot-3 sophomore is a player the Wichita State women’s basketball team has never had under coach Jody Adams.

Wichita State has never had a true center, someone who makes the opposition think twice about driving the lane. Adams has always found a way around its lack of size in the post, but Martin’s presence gives WSU a new future to look forward to.

The rankings held true as Oregon State defeated Arizona State, 64-57.

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck thought the game felt like a prize fight at times, and not just for the physical play.

“Couldn’t shake them, couldn’t get away from them, but made the plays down the stretch,” he said.

Games I’m gonna miss, but you should see:

St. Mary’s v. San Diego.

BYU v. Pacific (though the Tigers are down a player.)

Kentucky v. Tennessee.

North Carolina v. Louisville.

Duke v. Notre Dame.

 

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