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FIRST, it’s the WNIT

Great crowd came out to support (CUSA) UTEP and the Miners did not disappoint. Their 79-71, over (Big 12) TCU sets up a quarterfinal game against Oregon.

For 11 scary minutes Thursday night, a red-hot TCU team looked as though it might run the UTEP women’s basketball team right out of the Don Haskins Center in the third round of the WNIT.

There were two groups of people who had no intention of letting that happen: the Miner players and 7,024 screaming fans.

The Owls (American) topped the Bobcats (MAC), 75-61. Michigan is up next for Temple.

It was a bitter taste, once again for the Bobcats. 

Ohio didn’t anticipate the outcome of its postseason. It didn’t expect to lose to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. It didn’t expect to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). It didn’t expect to make it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the WNIT. 

And going into today, Ohio didn’t expect to lose to Temple, 75-61. But Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Bobcats did.

Northern Iowa (MVC) and South Dakota (Summit)  battled quarter to quarter. It was the Coyotes who grabbed the 1-point win, 51-50. They await the winners of the Hilltoppers/Billikens game.

The theory being thrown around in the University of South Dakota locker room on Thursday night was that the DakotaDome does not want to see these ladies leave the house just yet.

On Sunday night the Coyote women’s basketball team will play what is technically the fourth last basketball game in DakotaDome history this season. It is so because USD defeated Northern Iowa 51-50 to move into the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

The Coyotes added UNI to a list that included Creighton and Minnesota with a victory that had 14 lead changes. The increasingly rare movements on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter were fueled almost exclusively by scrappiness and a fully engaged home crowd.

NCAA: Wow, those blowouts on the men’s side really hurt the game…

SI Richard’s picks: Women’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 preview & picks

We have reached the Sweet 16 stage of the women’s tournament, and predictably, all of the No. 1 seeds remain alive. But the opening rounds did see a pair of No. 2s—Maryland and Arizona State—get knocked off on their home courts by plucky No. 7 seeds (Washington and Tennessee). The conferences expected to do well have been successful: The Pac-12, the No. 1 RPI conference all season, has four teams (Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington) in the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history. The SEC, the No. 2 RPI conference, also has four teams alive, including Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee. Three teams (Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse) represent the ACC (No. 4 RPI). The pre-tournament prediction of all four No. 1 seeds landing in Indianapolis stands, but let’s take a look at the upcoming games.

UConn Isn’t The Only Storyline; Assessing The Women’s Bracket And Sweet 16

Bad timing: You’ve got to give Texas A&M coach Gary Blair credit. He could have taken the easy way out and not suspended senior forward Courtney Williams, A&M’s second-leading scorer, and reserve guard Shlonte Allen for an undisclosed violation of team rules the day of the Aggies’ first-round game against Missouri State. They remained suspended and the Aggies lost 74-56 on Monday to Florida State.

Syracuse v. South Carolina

SU must prepare for South Carolina’s Dawn Staley effect

She’s very much aware of life’s little blessings, but there is a huge one out there … and Tammi Reiss is only too happy to acknowledge it.

“I’m just going to say this now because our kids have no idea,” she declared earlier this week. “But as far as Dawn goes, thank God she won’t be on the court. Thank God she’s not playing.”Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies By Rich Elliott

Reiss, the Syracuse University assistant — the one with the hair and the wardrobe, which makes her distinguishable from her boss, Quentin Hillsman, who only has the wardrobe — was speaking of Dawn Staley.

Or, as Reiss describes her, “The greatest point guard of all time. Period.”

Dawn Staley credits Syracuse women’s basketball coach for ‘staying the course’

Staley, an all-time great player at Virginia, credited him for taking a more long-lasting approach toward improvement instead of looking for quick fixes.

“I think for anyone that’s playing this game the sky is the limit. When you do things the right way, you open up doors that historically were closed to the upper echelon of programs,” said Staley, in her eighth season at South Carolina. “I think Q’s done a great job at staying the course. And that’s what you must do.

Syracuse women’s basketball writing own story, but what ending awaits?

Unflappable South Carolina will feel the heat of Syracuse women’s basketball press

2. Washington v. Kentucky

Kentucky will have its hands full with Washington’s Kelsey Plum

Not once this season has Kelsey Plum been held to single digits.

It’s rare that the nation’s third-leading scorer has even been held in the teens.

Opponent after opponent has tried — and failed — to stop Washington’s 5-foot-8 junior scoring dynamo.

3. Stanford v. Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Stanford women facing off in Sweet 16 again

Notre Dame and Stanford aren’t looking at Friday’s game as a rematch, even though they’re meeting in an NCAA women’s regional semifinal for the second straight season.

 Both teams say their rosters have changed since their last matchup, making it hard to read too much into Notre Dame’s 81-60 victory in the 2015 Oklahoma City Regional semifinal. They’ll meet again Friday in the Lexington Regional semifinal. 

“I think we’re both kind of two different teams,” Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen said.

Numbers tell story of Notre Dame’s hoops journey

Numbers can portray a telling — even compelling story.

And looking at the numbers, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team should be considered a heavy favorite to win this weekend’s NCAA regional at Lexington, Ky.

 Notre Dame presents major obstacle for Stanford women in Sweet 16

If UConn didn’t exist, maybe the women’s college basketball world would be wondering: Can anybody stop Notre Dame?

The past two seasons, the Irish lost in the NCAA final to the Huskies, and most observers expect the same matchup in this year’s championship game in Indianapolis. The Irish, who won the national title in 2001, also reached the final in 2011 and ’12, losing to Texas A&M and Baylor, respectively.

 Fourth-seeded Stanford would love to throw a wrench into the works for the top-seeded Irish when they meet Friday night in the Lexington, Ky., Regional semifinals.

 Australian basketballer Alanna Smith out for NCAA Tournament success with Stanford

Pac-12 living up to its billing in NCAA women’s tournament

Throughout the season, the metrics kept saying the Pac-12 Conference was the best in the country.

When it came time to back it up in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 delivered. 

Pac-12 teams will make up 25 percent of the Sweet 16 when the women’s regional semifinals get started Friday. No. 2 seed Oregon State, No. 3 seed UCLA, No. 4 seed Stanford and No. 7 seed Washington all advanced through the first weekend of the tournament, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the final 16 for the first time in conference history. The league had never advanced more than three teams beyond the first weekend.

4. Tennessee v. Ohio State

AP: Tennessee-Ohio St. Preview

The Lady Vols plan to throw different defensive looks at Mitchell and guard her ”by committee,” coach Holly Warlick said.

”If she gets close to the bench, I’m going to maybe trip her, I’m not sure,” she said, smiling. ”No, I watched her in high school. She’s got a great gift. She knows the game. The ball is a part of her hand. I haven’t seen too many, male or female, come around like her.”

Women’s basketball | Cait Craft’s injury forces Buckeyes to adjust

Another body blow took the breath away from the Ohio State women’s basketball team on the eve of their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup tonight against Tennessee.

Senior guard Cait Craft suffered a broken left hand in practice this week, which ended her career with the third-seeded and already short-handed Buckeyes.

“Freak thing,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I really feel badly for her. She is such a great kid, and as a senior, she has put so much into getting us to this point it’s really disappointing for her that she can’t play. It’s a tough break, but it’s ‘next-person-up.’ ”

Ohio State is last Big Ten team standing

Guarding Mitchell will be a full-time, full-team job

Tennessee didn’t need a detailed scouting report to reveal the biggest problem Ohio State will present in Friday night’s Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It’s as obvious as Kelsey Mitchell’s stat line.

The Buckeyes 5-foot-8 sophomore guard is averaging 26.3 points per game, has made 40.3 percent of her 308 3-point attempts and has hit 84.6 percent of her free throws.

The stat line becomes even more troublesome for Tennessee when it checks the rearview mirror. As well as its defense has played overall this season, it has been victimized by outstanding individual performances in a number of its losses.

5. Texas v. UCLA

No. 3 UCLA Faces No. 2 Texas

Imani Boyette, Tina Thompson have helped each other blossom this year

Tina Thompson considers Imani Boyette one of the most complex basketball players she has ever met.

Thompson, the former WNBA star who’s in her first season as a Texas assistant coach, casts a large shadow, even over Boyette, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-7 center. In turn, Boyette admits she challenges any coach aspiring to teach her the game. Yet their bond is sealed with mutual respect.

Pac-12 Postseason Storylines: Teams in Sweet 16 mindset

6. Florida State v. Baylor

 Florida State women look to make good on president’s pick

FSU women’s basketball heads to Dallas for Sweet 16 date with Baylor

There’s a different vibe surrounding Florida State’s women’s basketball team.

Head coach Sue Semrau knows it.

The Seminoles (25-7) went into College Station, Texas, and – after shaking off some rust against Middle Tennessee – dominated host Texas A&M in a 74-56 second-round victory. Semrau said she saw a new fire in the eyes of her players when the Seminoles hammered the Aggies.

Baylor knows it won’t be easy, but Bears have motto to motivate getting past Elite Eight

The green wristbands have become a standard wardrobe accessory for the Baylor women’s basketball team.

“Eight is Not Enough” reads the team motto selected by coach Kim Mulkey, a pointed, painful reminder of consecutive NCAA tournament losses in the regional finals, a.k.a. the Elite Eight.

Lady Bears’ success against ranked rivals helps pursuit of championship

7. DePaul v. Oregon State

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers turn attention to DePaul

Sneak peek at DePaul, Oregon State’s Sweet 16 opponent

DePaul travels to Dallas to face Oregon State in Sweet Sixteen

DePaul takes aim at elusive Elite Eight berth

If his career ended today, Doug Bruno would still go down as one of the greatest women’s basketball coaches of all time.

Since he was named head coach at his alma mater in 1976, Bruno has led DePaul to 21 NCAA tournament appearances, including 14 in a row.

On Sunday, the Blue Demons earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for just the fourth time in program history after upsetting Louisville 73-72 on their home court.

It’s an enormous feat, but one more win would mark an historic occasion – DePaul’s first ever berth in the Elite Eight.

8. Connecticut v. Mississippi State

MSU next in line to challenge UConn’s 71-game streak

COLUMN: Mississippi State women face unstoppable UConn

Basketball Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor drawls on and on in superlatives when asked about Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut women’s basketball juggernaut.

Hey, Van, is UConn the most dominant team in sports today?

“Ain’t no question about it,” Chancellor says, by telephone from his Houston home. “There’s nobody else today to compare ’em to. I’d have to go back to the 1927 New York Yankees or John Wooden’s great men’s team at UCLA. That’s how good they are. They are so much better than everyone else in the sport.

The Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State will take on three time defending champion UCONN in the round of sixteen.

Bulldogs to Face Juggernaut Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen

Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies

Sophomore guard Kia Nurse underwent her own battle last month. Her focus was not in the right place in a team-first system. It was on scoring. And when she suffered through a scoreless outing at Tulane Feb. 3, her reaction was unexpected for a player wearing a UConn uniform.

“We’re trying to teach our players to kind of act your age,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Like when you’re 15 don’t walk around and act like you’re 20. And when you’re 20 don’t act like you’re 15. So in that Tulane game she acted like a junior high kid. It was embarrassing. Because she shot the ball poorly she became a mess on the bench and everybody saw it. It’s not how you act at Connecticut. And I think it hit her pretty good.’’

Why UCONN Is Most Underappreciated Team In Sports 

The best thing going in basketball isn’t North Carolina or Kansas or Virginia or Michigan State. It’s not even Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, at least for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? You’re thinking this must be a joke. Or maybe it’s a trick question.

What could possibly be better than all of that?

How about this: A team that’s too good for its own good. A team so untouchable that we take its success for granted.  A team that has no peer or rival, which ends up making it less interesting to the masses.

The Women’s Beat with Bob Joyce: Sweet 16 To Bridgeport

WNBA: Skylar Diggins talks recovery from injury, move to Dallas in Twitter Q&A

Women’s Basketball History! Denver producing documentary on Wayland Baptist’s women’s basketball team

The legendary women’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, is the focus of a documentary film being produced in Denver. And the Flying Queens are candidates for team induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with voting Friday and an announcement to be made at the Final Four next week.

Alice “Cookie” Barron and Kaye Garms, teammates with the Flying Queens at a time when they were on their way to a 131-game winning streak, are ecstatic over learning their place as pioneers in women’s basketball hasn’t been forgotten.

“It’s wonderful that they are looking back into the history of women’s college basketball,” Barron said.

Not off topic: The NBA Needs to Move the 2017 All-Star Game From Charlotte. Now. Commissioner Adam Silver has a chance to lead on challenging an ugly piece of discriminatory legislation. Judging by his own words, it’s past time for him to do so.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is due to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Silver should announce as soon as possible that this game needs to be moved unless the state legislature overturns its new law set to go in effect April 1 “blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people.”

The law was passed as a direct response to the City of Charlotte for passing an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses. Outrageously, the North Carolina legislature scheduled an extraordinary special session—the first time they have done so in 35 years—to annul the Charlotte ordinance before it went into effect. It’s remarkable how quickly lawmakers leap to actually do their jobs when the work involves stripping people of their rights. It is also stunning how all of the Dixie paeans to local control and states’ rights go out the window when it comes to issues such as these.

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Upset 1: #7 Washington over #2 Maryland

The Terrapins started slowly, caught up in the second, then stumbled badly in the third. Washington, behind the super (will she leave for the W?) Plum held off the Maryland in the fourth… Though, when Brene Moseley nailed that three with 32 seconds left… gulp. But, the Huskies free throw shooting held steady. They claimed the upset and a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001.

UW women stun Maryland, reach Sweet 16 of NCAA tournament

Of all of her key plays Monday night, none sent Washington women’s basketball guard Kelsey Plum into the same life-affirming giddiness as her game-sealing pass to Talia Walton.

Mechelle: Voepel: How Plum and UW stunned Maryland

Sweet Plum: UW astonishes Terps, marches to Sweet 16

Washington’s success plan comes with Plum benefits

Maryland women’s basketball loses to Washington, 74-65

Maryland women’s basketball saw its season screech to a halt against Washington

Gene: Maryland women stunned by Washington in NCAA tournament round of 32

Maryland women ‘numb’ after upset loss to Washington means early exit from NCAA tourney

Upset 2: #5 Florida State over #4 Texas A&M

Honestly, you’ll never really know… but you’ve got to believe that having the second leading scorer on the court would have made a difference for Texas A&M. No do-overs, as Florida State used a dominant first quarter to demoralize the Aggies and glide to a 18 point win.

Florida State overpowers A&M, ends Aggies’ season

FSU Women Dominate Aggies 74-56, Advance to Sweet 16

A&M women fall behind early, lose to Florida St.

Florida State saw the epic comeback of the Texas A&M’s men over Northern Iowa on Sunday night, and the Seminoles were not about to let the Aggies do the same thing to them on Monday night.
With a 21-point lead down to just 10 points with two minutes remaining, senior Adut Bulgak implored her teammates not to let up.
“I was like, ‘Yo, they’re creeping up on us. Get to work,’ ” she said.

Almost an upset: Stanford over South Dakota State

‘Ware the Wabbits indeed. Lili Thompson came to Stanford’s rescue with a last second and-1 to get the win. Coach Tara will look at the box score (10 of 22 from line) and just shake her head. South Dakota State will probably kick a wall.

How Stanford rallied past South Dakota State and into the Sweet 16

Gritty Stanford ekes way to Sweet 16

Thompson’s 3-point play with 8.2 seconds left lifts Stanford

NCAA women’s tournament: Stanford punches ticket to Sweet 16

Women’s basketball survives scare to advance to ninth straight Sweet 16

Cardinal’s grit just enough to eke past upset-minded Jackrabbits

Heartbreak in Cali: Stanford rallies to stun Jacks

South Dakota State’s upset bid over Stanford falls short in NCAA women’s basketballtournament

Boever, South Dakota State lose heartbreaker

Almost an Upset: UCLA over South Florida

UCLA had a Jordin-free early run to put them up over South Florida… and then it became the Canada v. Williams extravaganza. Their hug at the end of the game said it all… the Bruins hold off Bulls’ upset dreams.

UCLA battles past South Florida to reach Sweet 16 for first time since 1999

UCLA Women’s Basketball Are Heading To The Sweet Sixteen!

Women’s basketball handles USF in second round, advances to the Sweet 16

USF rally comes up short against UCLA at NCAA women’s tournament

Not an upset: Notre Dame over Indiana

What a great effort by Teri Moren’s Indiana team. They went toe-to-toe with in-state behemoth and kept the Irish honest. Plenty for the Hoosiers to be proud of and build on (they only have ONE senior) Plenty for coach McGraw to work on.

Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Gets By Indiana, Advances to Sweet 16

If Monday night’s second-round match-up against ninth-seeded Indiana is any indication, it will not be an easy road to the Final Four for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. But in the end, the Irish did what they usually do, which is to say they prevailed, 87-70.

Notre Dame women earn Sweet Sixteen berth with victory over Indiana

Notre Dame gets by pesky Hoosiers

Indiana gives Notre Dame plenty to think about

Buss, IU Bow Out of NCAA Tournament

Not an upset: Kentucky over Oklahoma

An 8-point second quarter doomed the Sooners against the Wildcats. Yes, Kentucky came away with the win, but they’ve got to be concerned about Epps and her (sprained?) shoulder.

Hays: How Kentucky ousted Oklahoma

UK women advance with win over Oklahoma

Any hope of a Sooners comeback ended when they missed 11 of their final 12 shots in the game.

“If we play defense like that and we continue to get better, we’re hard to beat,” senior guard Janee Thompson said.

Kentucky pulls away from Oklahoma 79-58 in NCAA second round

Cats’ lone senior comes up big in final game at Memorial Coliseum

Epps’ return inspires Kentucky to Sweet 16

Lady Sooners Fall to Kentucky in NCAA Second Round

OU women’s basketball: Kentucky finishes OU’s season

 

Not an upset: Texas over Missouri

#2 Texas started strong and rebuffed any and all of Missouri’s attempts to make it a game.

Interior game lifts Texas women into Sweet 16

As a reward for its best regular season in 12 years, the Texas women’s basketball team was allowed to spend the first week of the NCAA Tournament using its home baskets.

But that didn’t mean the Longhorns had to let their visitors near them.

Atkins and Texas overpowers Missouri 73-55 to Sweet 16

Missouri women’s basketball ends season with second-round NCAA loss to Texas

Not an upset: UConn over Duquesne

UConn started slow, but then blew it open in the second half. Stewart had some fun, too.

Charlie: UConn’s seniors go out on top in Gampel farewell

UConn’s Second-Quarter Wave Swamps Duquesne

Record-setting season for Duquesne women’s basketball ends against mighty UConn

I’m wicked excited about the next round…

Voepel previews each matchup of the Sweet 16

Charlie: Quick Dish: Welcome to the Sweet 16

Richard D: Six thoughts heading into the Sweet 16

1. Washington blows up the Lexington region

The tournament’s most impressive win came on Monday when No. 7 Washington knocked off No. 2 Maryland on the Terps’ home court. This wasn’t just a No. 7 seed upsetting a No. 2 seed, though: Maryland was a top-5 team all season and plenty of people believed it would end up Indianapolis for a third consecutive Final Four.

WNIT:

Tulane (American) over Georgia Tech (ACC)
Tulane started slowly but surged in the second to snatch the lead away from Georgia Tech. The Green Wave held on for the 64-61 win.

Florida Gulf Coast University (A-Sun) over Wake Forest (ACC)
FGCU did their best to put the game away in the first quarter and kept Wake Forest at arms’ length through the rest of the game. Eagle’s win, 67-48.

St. Louis (A-10) over Ball State (MAC)
Up one at the half of a low scoring game, the Billikens and Cardinals went neck and neck through the second half. In the end, St. Louis had just enough to win, 59-55.

Western Kentucky (C-USA) over Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley)
A monster second quarter gave Tennessee-Martin a 9-point halftime lead over Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers roared back with a 25pt third and held off the Skyhawks to earn a 64-57 win. WKU’s Tashia Brown scored an efficient 32 pts (11-22).

UTEP (C-USA) over Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
It was a battle (is it me, or can you describe a LOT of the WNIT games like that?) but the Miners dug deep and got the win.

Monday night’s game was a battle of two talented mid-major teams who deserved NCAA Tournament bids, but instead they took their frustrations out on each other in a hard fought, 74-68 UTEP win in the second round of the WNIT Tournament.

Utah (Pac12) over Gonzaga (WCC)
Four quarters of 20+ scoring (on the Gonzaga’s home court!) guaranteed the Utes moved in to the next round. Yup, something good is happening in the program under coach Roberts.

Oregon (Pac12) over Fresno State (MW)
The Ducks overwhelmed the Bulldogs, 84-59. Makes you say, “If not for those @&$^%@! ACLs.”

You can have football’s power play of three yards and a cloud of dust, or baseball’s power standard of the three-run homer.

When it comes to his power game in basketball, Oregon coach Kelly Graves will take three-pointers and a blur named Maite Cazorla any day of the week.

Hoping fans have notice the quality of the play and coaching across these Tourney Teams. I’m so encouraged… am I evil, peeking ahead at next year and thinking “Wide. Open.”? Am I hopeful, thinking the NCAA committees will meet to not just discuss the rules of the game but the rules of the selection process? It’s a conundrum, I know, on how to give the mid-majors the respect that they deserve. BUT, it’s worth some serious, creative thought, dontcha think?

 

 

 

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So, yeah, many of the conference tournaments have started, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have to worry about the first rounds…

“DOH!” says the Ohio Valley. Murray State straight up stuns #1 Tennessee-Martin. How big an upset? The Pacers are 11-16 (7-9) and the Skyhawks are 21-8 (14-2). The Skyhawks just played Murray State to close out the season and beat them by 21. SIEU must be thinkin’ “We don’t screw up, we get into the NCAA.” Of course, Belmont might be thinkin’ the exact same thing.

Fly, Eagles, fly: FGCU leads mid-major rankings into the postseason

If mid-major teams often play with the freedom of nothing to lose in the NCAA tournament, perhaps it’s because they already survived the part of the season when there was everything to lose. With NCAA at-large bids rarely a certainty, a season’s worth of good work can vanish within a few bad minutes in a conference tournament. But with automatic bids soon up for grabs, here is a final look at the rankings.

Wow, being a Clemson Tiger these days must be disheartening. 0-for in conference play.

You stay (Boyle), you go (Butts). This could be a busy list.

Oh, this could get ugly right quick: FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Crap: Theriot Will not Return for HuskersTheriot’s career had great moments, but also disappointment

The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, site of one of the great moments in the career of Rachel Theriot.

In 2014, Theriot helped lead the Huskers to the Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s first title in their new league. Theriot was tournament MVP.

Theriot won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game against Rutgers. The senior point guard had surgery on her foot on Monday. That ends a career filled with lots of great games, but also disappointment, as her junior and senior seasons were each cut short because of injury.

So, I’m pleased that coach Dave Magarity is part of the WBCA’s “COY Region/Nominee” process. But, I’d like to mention that Army (26-2, 17-1) has had a (rather recent) tradition of winning. Bucknell, now 23-6, (17-1), not so much…

“It feels good to get a piece of a championship,” said fourth-year Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “This team has been through so much, and for it to result in a banner in the rafters is very rewarding. I’ve been told Army is one of the better teams in the history of the Patriot League, so for us to match them at 17-1 is an incredible accomplishment.”

Bucknell’s run through the league schedule started with an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Army West Point. The Bison’s lone loss came to the Black Knights and has been followed by their current nine-game winning streak that they will take into the postseason. The streak is tied for the longest in program history.

Woot! to the NCAA’s “Team of the Week:”

Fresh off of claiming the school’s third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.

Speaking of the Miners: UTEP star Turner overcomes struggle and thrives

Growing up in the hardscrabble parts of Dallas, Turner spent some nights on a floor in an apartment with six of her siblings, some at houses of various coaches looking out for her. Some days she ate better than others. Those days, she didn’t pass out in a gym. Some days she did pass out in the gym. Going to practice hungry was common.

Turner learned the rules of the street.

“I saw shootings, killings,” Turner said. “You hear shots and you get down on the ground, protect yourself. I saw lots of drugs, weed, cocaine, prostitution. Not a lot of girls I went to school with went on to college. I wanted to break that cycle; I didn’t want that to be my story.”

But there’s another part to this: Turner isn’t running from anything.

Speaking of players overcoming:

This year has not been what anyone expects of Iowa State, least of all the Cyclones themselves. This is a proud and distinguished program that’s used to the postseason; Iowa State has gone to the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 19 seasons, including the past nine years in a row.

But the Cyclones finished the regular season Tuesday at 13-16 overall after an 82-57 loss to West Virginia.

So why did it still seem like such an uplifting night in Ames, Iowa?

Because Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson was back on the court, after a very emotionally difficult past 10 days in what’s been a challenging season for the Cyclones. Johnson had missed the previous two games while at home in Minnesota with her family after her father, Curtis Johnson, suffered a stroke on Feb. 20.

Speaking of really good players: Courtney Williams worked hard to become one of game’s top players

You’ve heard the story before, countless times. It’s about the high school standout who comes to college and becomes perplexed and frustrated that what once came pretty easily had become challenging.

Common as the scenario is, it’s still a major hurdle to clear for every player who encounters it. But if she does, it’s a process she never forgets.

South Florida senior guard Courtney Williams can attest to this. She has become one of the top players in college, and is looking forward to a professional career. But she had to go through that “what I am doing wrong?” phase at one point, too.

Ladies, start your engines! UConn ready to raise the bar even higher in postseason

The undefeated Huskies are like a standout Broadway troupe that has been doing the same show for a while. They have all their lines memorized and know every mark they must hit. So how, when you’ve been essentially nailing it again and again, do you still find another gear?

That’s really the “secret” of championship teams, isn’t it? Even when they appear to be at their best, there’s somewhere else to climb.

“Back in the day, we used to say, there’s regular-season Shea Ralph, and there’s tournament Shea,” Auriemma said of the former Huskies star and current UConn assistant coach who was the most outstanding player of the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “And those are two different things. And we like to think that our team is the same way.

Ya-da-UConn “undefeated” Ya-da-UConn “national champions” Ya-da… NOT UConn?      Johnson County women’s basketball team shooting for perfect season: Defending NJCAA Division II champs are 30-0 entering postseason

The Johnson County Community College women’s basketball program earned its bona fides long ago and its second national championship last season. The Cavaliers are accustomed to winning.

So when coach Ben Conrad says: “It is surprising we haven’t gotten beat. That’s not normal,” it’s apparent something is up.

JCCC begins postseason play Tuesday with a 30-0 record, the first time the Cavaliers have finished the regular season undefeated. All but two of those wins have come by double digits. Most of those double-digit wins have been margins rarely seen outside of video games.

Looking ahead, Charlie says: NCAA’s final reveal holds small clues for Selection Monday

Mechelle, who’s been writing up a storm, notes: Bubble teams look to make big noise during Championship Week

In the five major conferences — which accounted for five automatic and 27 at-large NCAA berths last year — there are some bubble guppies and bubble sharks. The guppies don’t have much NCAA tournament history, while the sharks do — but as the “bubble” part of their description suggests, both are in precarious positions in regard to this year’s tournament.

Let’s take a quick look around the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as they get set to face off for conference supremacy and automatic tickets to the Big Dance.

Check out the ‘Around the Rim’: Championship Week Preview podcast with Chiney and LaChina

During the first half, the two are joined by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn to discuss if UConn’s recent slow starts should be concerning, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola’s retirement and her comments on “players’ entitlement” and front-runners for the national coach of the year award.

In the second half of the show, the duo chat with espnW’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme who breaks down the significance of the upcoming conference tournaments and sheds light on which teams could make a case for a tournament bid this weekend.

Connecticut’s WNBA Team Is More (and Less) Tied to UConn Than You Might Think

…as UConn continues its skyward trajectory under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Sun look toward the 2016 season — the WNBA’s 20th — facing an uphill climb, and a clear goal to strengthen its place in the state’s women’s basketball market after a run of disappointing seasons.

The best way to do that? Win.

“For us, it’s going to come down to: how do we legitimize ourselves?” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s vice president and general manager. “People know who we are. We’ve done great things. We have to win a championship. I think that’s when people start putting us in the same conversation with UConn.”

Hello, Prez! Atlanta Dream names Theresa Wenzel new president

WATN? Jessica Davenport: A Global Basketball Journey Close To Home

One Last Time: Q&A with WNBA star, Olympian and author Tamika Catchings

In her new book, “Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion,” co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.

Thanks for the story, Sally: Going on offense vs. Down syndrome: Most people saw limits for Frankie Antonelli. Parents Frank and Debbie saw potential.

They had counted with an unthinking confidence on having healthy kids, maybe even a team roster’s worth. She played basketball at North Carolina State before becoming a sportscaster, and he hit .400 for the Columbia University baseball team before making a career in elite sports management, and they hoped to add some quality little strivers to the general population. Their first child was an easy birth, and they were so confident of their second that she played nine holes of golf the day he was born. Then he came out scrunched up with the cord around his neck, and holes in his heart.

The doctors spoke in dead-end terms, even the ones who tried to be positive. Though it was 1997 and not the Victorian Age, one said, “Don’t let anybody tell you to institutionalize him.” Statistics showed most Down syndrome children would not see 50.

He won’t develop properly, they said, or play games like other children. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words can’t and won’t,” Debbie says. Defeatist words. They seemed to apply as much to her, as to him. You can’t have a career with a disabled child. You won’t be able to work.

But the Antonellis were athletes, and athletes don’t deal in can’t and won’t. They deal in can, and will.

Eighteen years later, Frankie Antonelli is a junior in high school with sparkling eyes, and a well-defined V shape from fitness training. “Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m a celebrity,” he says, wise-guy-like as he introduces himself to a reporter. With a motor-speech impediment that doesn’t dull his meaning, he proceeds to argue with some spirit that he’s the best basketball player in the Antonelli Driveway Series.

Video: Coordinator of Pac-12 women’s basketball officiating Violet Palmer reflects on a pioneering career

Congrats to Brenda VanLengen, winner of the 2016 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

On a dabnabbit, but congrats note, WHB fave Jim Massie is closing up shop at the Columbus Dispatch. Hopefully he’s at the top of the Mel list next year.

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Notre Dame v. Louisville, 2pm ESPN2. Lobo: U of L women ‘absolutely’ could top Irish

“It’s kind of been fun watching them reach what people kind of expected from them on the outside early in the year,” Lobo said of U of L. “They’re just coming together. Young team – Coach Walz, I think it takes some time to learn his system, especially on the defensive end. But they’ve turned into a team that’s really fun to watch.

TAMU v. Tennessee, 4pm ESPN.

Yesterday:

Nice program win for Temple as they upset ranked conference-mate #19 USF with a 24-10 fourth quarter surge.

A put-back from senior Erica Covile with one second on the clock gave the Temple women’s basketball team a 68-66 upset victory over #19/17 USF on Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center. The win was the program’s first over a nationally-ranked opponent since February 25, 2009 when the Owls topped #13 Xavier, 74-65. The Owls move into sole posession of second place in The American with a 9-2 conference mark, 15-7 overall. The Bulls dip to 16-6, 9-3 in conference play.

Green Bay has turned back all comers, but the teams chasing them keep on wackin’ each other on the head: Detroit takes down the Penguins, 69-68, on a(nother) last second shot.

The Patriot looks more and more like it’s going to be a great showdown between Bucknell and Army.

Looking at the America East and seeing the Feb. 14th game between Albany (congrats to Shereesha Richards, the all-time leading scorer in school history) and Maine as a fun day to be a basketball fan.

Gotta love me some inter-conference rivalry. Down 16, Robert Morris made sure that Bryant didn’t sail through the NEC unscathed.

I warned ya! The Hatters take down Jacksonville, 66-61.

Ooooo! Debbie, did you catch this great match up? Montana State outlasted Sacramento State, 116-99. That’s the most points the Bobcats have scored. Speaking of the Bobcats, wonder how the team will be impacted by the firing of the AD.

Doink! BYU says, “Back, you Gaels, BACK!” and sends Saint Mary’s to a 65-44 loss,65-44 loss, securing sole possession of the top spot in the WCC.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “I think this was one of the best games we played all year, and the win is a huge victory for our program. We started the game strong and made a great effort defensively, especially in the first quarter. Our defense really set the tone for the rest of the game. We had incredible play from our guards. Kenzi, Lexi and Kylie all played wonderfully, and really let their shots come to them.”

San Diego lurks at 11-2 in the conference.

Colorado State is now at 10-0 in the Mountain West… and Fresno State is at 9-1.

Honestly, kids, if you’re going to go three overtimes, you really should have accumulated more than 66 points for the win. (Morgan State over Savannah State).

Bowling Green had a great third quarter...but Central Michigan punched back with a better fourth. Chips win at the buzzer, 76-75, and move to 9-2 in the MAC.

C-USA’s going to be fun: the two top teams went at it, and UTEP emerged victorious, outscoring the Hilltoppers by 10 in the final quarter.

So, the Big South is no longer a walk in the park: UNC-Asheville is now 11-2 in conference, Gardner-Webb is finding its sea legs and, of course, there’s Liberty.

It was iffish in the beginning, but Abilene Christian gathered themselves for a final push to earn a win against Southeastern Louisiana.

Yup, I see you, Central Arkansas, now 9-1 in the Southland.

And that’s Arkansas State undefeated in Sunbelt Conference play. The Red Wolves are 12-0 in Sun Belt play for the first time in school history and extended its school-record home winning streak to 22.

Mine! Tennessee-Martin is not going to give the OVC to SIU-Edwardsville (yet?). Skyhawks win, 85-79, with a fourth quarter comeback.

FINALLY! And what a way to do it: Norfolk State earned its first win of the season… in DOUBLE overtime. (Air Force – your turn.)

For a team that has faced more than its share of adversity all year, what was a little more on Saturday?

The Spartan women’s basketball team lost a seven-point lead with three minutes left in regulation and had five players, including a trio of starters, foul out. But none of it was enough to prevent NSU from earning its first victory of the year, a 110-108 marathon win in double overtime over Howard at Burr Gymnasium.

 

Monday

#5 Maryland v. Ohio State, 9pm ESPN2

About that “other game” on Monday, NutsandBolts’ Jeffrey Newholm:

Yes, South Carolina has arrived as a national power in women’s basketball. Monday evening the #1 ranked Huskies, winners of 59 games in a row, will come to Colonial Life Arena in Columbia in the Gamecock’s first ever sold out game at the 18,000 seat venue. It’s the biggest home game in the history of USC, also undefeated and the #2 team in the country. The Super Bowl may be Sunday but die-hard women’s basketball fans may be looking forward to this game even more. As I usually do for big game previews, I’ll look at this game from every angle, then pick a winner.

From Sue/Jim Clark: No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 South Carolina: Geno Auriemma says he just wants a good game

Auriemma was effusive in his praise of the Gamecocks and their ascendance to the top of women’s basketball. His focus, however, was on All-American senior Tiffany Mitchell.

“Any time you start a program going in the right direction, you can point to why,” Auriemma said. “I think everybody pointed to the A’ja Wilson signing at South Carolina as being a significant milestone, but they wouldn’t be in a position to sign somebody like A’ja Wilson if Tiffany Mitchell hadn’t already been there and done what she’s done and how she’s done it.”

And more:

Auriemma Sees Post Play Edge For South Carolina, Courant

UConn’s next great rival? Maybe South Carolina, if the Gamecocks can topple No. 1, Charleston Post and Courier

Mitchell in, Dozier out for Gamecocks’ clash with top-ranked UConn, Post and Courier

Gamecocks trying to emulate top dogs, The State

Injured South Carolina’s Mitchell Expects to Play vs. UConn, AP article from WLTX

Michaux: South Carolina says it’s ready for UConn, The Augusta Chronicle

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…what, too soon? Fine. I’ll wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wolf Pack chewed up the Tar Heels.

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

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

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

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

Look! It’s Texas Southern atop the SWAC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who needs polls, the tops seeds are…

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

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

WATN? Kisha Ford-Torres Protects and Serves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On cue, the LIU moves to 4-5 in the NEC with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 65-62.

In their first meeting, Bucknell hosted Army and beat’em by 10. In the West Point rematch, the Black Knights pulled away in the fourth for a 5-point win. With both teams at 8-1 in the conference, there’s no margin for error in the race to the Patriot League title.

Okay, then. With their first victory in 11 tries against Stetson, Jacksonville moves to 6-0 in the A-Sun and is tied with Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun. Guess who the Dolphins get to play on the 4th…in Naples? And host on the 10th…in Jacksonville.

Looking to keep everyone in the Horizon honest, Northern Kentucky takes down the Penguins, 88-77. A little sting to the win: former YSU guard, Shar’Rae Davis who finished the half with a total of 12 points off the bench. She was one of three players who didn’t receive scholarship renewals in 2014,

*no jinx, no jinx* UNC Asheville is now 9-2 in the Big South.

*WHB talked cr@p about us. Let’s show her!* Rutgers starts ugly but finishes strong against Nebraska, earning a 66-55 win.

*continued jinx?* UT Rio Grande lost – but it was to WAC top dog, New Mexico State.

The Miners are still perfect in C-USA play (9-0), but after Marshall, Western Kentucky (8-1) (who lost to MTSU) looms, Feb. 6th. MTSU (7-2), which has had some “stuff” going on this year, lost to UTEP 84-73 earlier this season, but doesn’t get a rematch.

Fresno State (ummm… shout out to the Bee: ““I just feel like we know how to come back,” senior co-captain Toni Smith said in a phone interview after the game.) and Colorado State have unblemished Mountain West records – will that last until March 1st, when they get to face off against each other?

Squeak! Ohio moved to 9-0 in the MAC with a one-point win over Ball State, 68-67.

Hmmmm… the Bulldogs are struggling, yes, but I’m sure San Francisco is enjoying beating Gonzaga.

On a day when USF honored its 1996 Sweet 16 team, the 2015-16 San Francisco women’s basketball team made a place for themselves in program history as well. The Dons scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed to earn a big 71-52 win over the Bulldogs at War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory was their first win over the 11-time WCC defending champions since a West Coast Conference tournament win on March 2, 2006. The 19-point deficit is also the largest loss of the season for Gonzaga, who lost to Stanford 65-48 on Nov. 15 during non-conference action.

Gotta love in-state games: Bobcats knock off Lady Griz

A year ago this month, the Montana State women’s basketball team crumbled and lost its composure in a 62-48 loss to Montana that sent the Bobcats to 1-4 in conference, searching for answers.

A year later, it seems like the Bobcats of head coach Tricia Binford have all the right ones.

Ooooooooh, De-bbie: Eastern Kentucky over Morehead State, 100-93; Eastern Washington over Sacramento State, 100-83.

What to look for Sunday:

#12 Kentucky at Florida – will the Wildcats bounce back, or with the Gators camp.

St. John’s at #23 DePaul. The Blue Demons have been up and down… and the Red Storm has been knocking at the door of the polls.

UNC at NC State. A missing coach adds intrigue to the 101st edition of this in-state rivalry.

St. Louis at George Washington. The Billikens (7-1) are SO much better.… but the Colonials are undefeated (8-0) in conference….

Alabama at Tennessee. One would thing the Tide would be just what the doctor ordered for the Vols…. but remember, they gave TAMU a scare.

#13 Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been snacking on ranked teams. How focused will the Bulldogs be after their big win over Tennessee?

#2 South Carolina at Texas A&M (ESPN2). It’s never fun to play against the 12th man.

It’s likely that #14 Louisville will stay hot against Wake Forest... so I can’t help but look ahead to Feb 7th when they face Notre Dame.

BTW, in Division II news:

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham posted his 1,098th career victory Thursday night, matching Pat Summitt’s mark for the most at a four-year school.

Statham is in his 50th season at the Division II college. He guided the Bearcats past Wisconsin-Parkside 92-85 on the court named in his honor.

The 78-year-old Statham has a career record of 1,098-474. He can top Summitt’s record Saturday when McKendree hosts Lewis. (Didn’t)

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