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

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

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

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

What a difference a season makes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Hurricanes: 

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

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

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

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

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

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

 

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Don’t be fooled by the final score — ’cause you know coach McCallie can’t be pleased that the Great Danes were UP on Duke during a hunk of the first half.

Syracuse’s Sykes likes to score. Let’s see how the Orange handle St. Joe’s, ASU and NC State.

Speaking of NC State (Moore’s Wolfpack best kept secret in Triangle) : Down goes #12 LSU.

N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

UNLV over Clemson. That’s got to be a frustrating loss for the Tigers.

Almost. Readers of this blog are familiar with the Winthrop Eagles. #10 South Carolina is REALLY familiar, having had to fight tooth and nail to escape with a 8-point win. Perhaps they had a Tar Heel hangover?

Oh, those in-state rivalries! Missouri State (3-6) took down Missouri (10-2), 67-53.

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Ole Miss this season, mostly because of their new head coach, Matt Insell. Their game against Sims… I mean, Baylor, has made me put both eyes on the team.

Speaking of  coaches — how much does 0-9 Prairie View miss Cynthia Cooper.

Speaking of Coop, it ain’t all wine and roses in USC land. The Trojans fall to the buzz-saw that is Saint Mary’s second half, 71-55.

Loss numero uno for UTEP, as their trip to Puerto Rico pitted them against Georgia Tech.

More baby steps for San Francisco – a nice away win over traditionally strong Fresno State.

Yes, they have a gaudy 10-1 record, but 4-5 Pacific kept within 7 of Florida State.

Today, Mechelle and Michelle recognized that #3 Tennessee To Be Tested by #6 Stanford  – as will a series of undefeated folks. Ellitot Almond has some more on the game and Steve Megargee adds:

After playing just one ranked opponent in their first 10 games, the Lady Vols will face their toughest test of the season thus far Saturday when they travel to No. 6 Stanford (9-1). Tennessee has lost its last two games in this series by double digits and hasn’t won at Stanford since 2005.

“It would be great to get a ‘W’ to break that drought, but also just to show the rest of the country that we mean business,” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tom FitzGerald at the SFGate thinks the Stanford women have tall task against Vols

When your goal is the national championship, any slipup hurts. The sixth-ranked Stanford women’s basketball team has already flunked one big test, losing at No. 1 UConn by 19 points. Now it faces another.

The Cardinal (9-1) play No. 3 Tennessee at Maples Pavilion Saturday, and the battle on the boards should be ferocious.

A player who expects to be featured in that battle finds time to blog: A lot to celebrate for Nerd Nation 

Last week I was either living in the library or hibernating in my room. The short time I did sleep, I dreamt about school. Four long papers and three tests later, my brain is officially fried … I have survived finals week!

It is always a challenge for us student-athletes to balance sports and school. But it is a challenge we readily accept. Nonetheless, I am glad it’s over. While most students go home for Christmas break, we prepare for (as Coach Tara says) our basketball final.

#11 Colorado (9-0) v. #7 Louisville: UofL women’s basketball players talk Slaughter, Buffalo revenge and Louisville women’s next test is unbeaten No. 11 Colorado

Because any suspense over the outcomes was cast aside not long after tipoff, there’s only been one question for observers of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team the past four games: Can the Cardinals reach 100 points?

U of L has been batting .500 in that regard, posting totals of 91, 99, 108 and 105 points and averaging a 49-point margin of victory over four midmajor opponents.

#13 Oklahoma State (9-0) v. Georgia Tech.

When Rutgers goes up against 11-0 Georgia, they are  seeking a “quality victory.”

Heading into the highlight of its nonconference schedule this afternoon against 11-0 and 16th-ranked Georgia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is 8-2 against a schedule that some have labeled soft.

There is some plausibility to that statement, what with lopsided wins over Northeastern, Howard, Davidson and Wagner on the resume, but the schedule Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer has embarked on has largely been by design in an effort to get this young team some confidence and momentum.

With the schedule it has played, is Rutgers prepared to step up in class against the Bulldogs?

Rick Nixon at the NCAA.com wonders: Good scheduling or for real? How will surprising unbeatens fare in conference play?

Being an undefeated team in late December sometimes comes with a footnote. While an 11-0 start for Connecticut is expected, others like Arkansas, Indiana, UTEP, Colorado and San Diego standing undefeated at this point of the season merits attention, and also speculation on how these teams will fare once conference play tips.

Arkansas, now 11-0, has won 20 consecutive non-conference games during the past two seasons. In fact, Razorbacks head coach Tom Collen has built a 90-21 all-time record in non-conference play in seven seasons. Since 1982, Arkansas is 199-14 in non-conference games. The Razorbacks, which will play 10 of the 13 non-conference games at home, have two non-conference games remaining this season withTennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State both visiting Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. A home win against Middle Tennessee State and a road victory at Kansas rate as Arkansas’ top wins over the first month-plus. On Jan. 2, South Carolina will pay a visit to Fayetteville to signal the start of Southeastern Conference play.

Congrats to coach McGraw, who will be inducted into Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m sure she’s not looking ahead as her Notre Dame crew will face the always stubborn Chippewas, though CMU is not as strong as they have been the past few years.

Cool news for when #5 Kentucky (11-0) goes up against #2 Duke: Rupp Arena sold out. Which leads Mark Story to ask: If Kentucky-Duke women fill Rupp, is it time for UK Hoops to play more games there?

On the other side of the spectrum: BYU women’s basketball: The magical, but unseen season

Lying in the shadows of a nationally recognized football program and the high octane offense of an exciting men’s basketball team, the BYU women’s basketball team is quietly making their way into the years’ best BYU team with an extremely impressive start. Through ten games the Lady Cougars have lost only one game and yet continue to play to crowds that are closer to 500 than 1000. With a little more support from the fans, could this special season turn magical?

From the Miami Herald: UM’s Krystal Saunders stays strong for women’s basketball team despite family tragedy

It has not been the senior season University of Miami guard Krystal Saunders envisioned, and the past five months certainly have tested her mettle.

Saunders’ troubles began before the season started. In July, she was involved in a serious car accident while riding with three teammates to visit her mother’s Broward home in West Park. Saunders sustained a concussion and injuries to her neck and back.

It looks at first glance like one of college basketball’s more unlikely friendships, so of course it has improbable origins.

The connection between Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale and Marist’s Brian Giorgis brings together programs from different parts of the basketball strata Saturday in Poughkeepsie. It is a partnership that ought to be a model for moving the game forward, one of the sport’s biggest programs willing to go on the road to play one of the most successful small programs. Even if in this particular case, the roots of the series stretch all the way back to a field goal missed nearly five decades ago.

That part might be tricky to replicate.

Somewhat related, the APs John Marshall offers this: Arizona State to retire Becenti’s number

In the sacred Navajo hoop dance, performers bounce and hop as they whirl hoops around their arms and bodies, a ritual honoring the circle of life.

For Ryneldi Becenti, a smaller hoop within that greater circle helped guide her life.

Whether it was a rusted rim tacked to a tree or iron attached to glass under the bright lights of a WNBA arena, watching a ball go through an 18-inch hoop held sway over Becenti, bringing her closer to her deceased mother, making her a role model for her people, taking her from the reservation around the world and back again.

“It is in my blood,” Becenti said. “I slept, ate and drank basketball. It was all I had.” 

A little WNBA news from Doug: Delle Donne stays in Chicago for winter

Whether working basketball clinics, meeting with business leaders or just showing her face around town, Delle Donne is making the most of her time in the Windy City.

“It definitely has been a huge chance to help get the word out about the team and the league,” Delle Donne said. “They see me and being 6-foot-5, they are like who’s this athletic tall girl at these business meetings. They want to follow us next year. It’s important to have our faces out there so they can get excited about it.”

Michelle Smith straddles the W and the NCAA with her piece on Nicole Powell: WNBA veteran, former Stanford star finding her niche on Gonzaga sideline

Nicole Powell stood on the court in front of the visitors’ bench in Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the screen above center court and smiled widely as the strains of the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme boomed through the speakers.

The video highlights showed a young Powell, wearing her trademark headband, etching her spot in the Stanford women’s basketball record books as a three-time All-American.

When it was done, and the Stanford fans stood and applauded, it was time to get down to business. For Powell, that meant coaching the opposing team.

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(thank you Graham!), so it’s cool when Nate pays attention: Making sense of mid-major WNBA draft prospects’ statistics: How can we project success?

So, our list of consensus 2013 WNBA Draft prospects should’ve been posted months ago, probably in October some time.

But, among other things in life, I got obsessed with sidetracked by the challenge of figuring out what to do with mid-major statistics, due in part to two players that our statistical indicators might have overvalued last season, based on the outcomes: VCU’s Courtney Hurt and Wisconsin – Green Bay’s Julie Wojta.

Hurt’s challenge to make the WNBA as an undersized forward have already been documented here, but to summarize offensive rebounding percentage transfers from NCAA D-I basketball better than any statistic and she was so dominant at VCU that it seemed as though she could find a way to contribute to a WNBA roster. Alas, she was drafted by the Indiana Fever in the third round of the 2012 draft and failed to last past the first week of training camp.

Oofta: Looks like coaches now how to prepare for Sam Houston the second time around. Oral Roberts took advantage and stomped all over them, 90-40.

I take this as a good sign: mom and I are going birding this weekend and, while we won’t see any penguins, we might see some puffins. The sign? Youngstown State wins again, and is now 7-3 in the Horizon. And yes, I know Green Bay is still undefeated.

Yes, I will say IUPUI has a ways to go, but they’re on the road to recovery. Got themselves a huge win over the Jackrabbits, 70-67. They’d beaten South Dakota State for the first time in program history back in January.

Maybe a hot seat is inspiring? Kellie’s Wolfpack took down #19 Florida State, 76-69.

Yah, they were down, but Liberty has re-established itself as the team to beat in the Big South.

This time the “I” stood for “consistent,” and #24 Iowa State swept the season series with #22 Oklahoma, 72-68.

It ain’t easy being a Cavalier. Virginia got beaten by Boston College courtesy of 21pts (7 3-pts) from senior Kerri Shields.

Hawkins took her frustration out on hapless Clemson.

Penn State needed every on of Maggie’s 21pts. #8 Lions defeat Iowa, 81-69.

Pretty huge win for Marshall, as the Thundering herd got their C-USA victory over perennial powerhouse UTEP.

It’s kind of game that gives coaches and fans heartburn: Dawn’s team had a nice sized lead on Kentucky, then Mitchell’s team clawed back and escaped with the win.

Wichita State recovered nicely from the shock they got from Bradley. They move to 11-1 in the MVC.

Northern Colorado kept pace with Montana in the Big Sky. It’s been a tough three weeks for Tricia’s Montana State.

Texas A&M says, “We’re enjoying the SEC, thankyouverymuch.” With their win over Florida, they move in to a tie for first place. Their co-leader? The Vols, who they meet in the last game of the regular season. Which is why you may want to read  Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Wide Open SEC Race Thunders Into The Home Stretch

Gonzaga is showing the WCC who’s the boss and get a little payback.

Seattle U’s making noise, and Jayda’s listening.

Utah State kept atop the WAC with what looked to have been a fun game: 2OTs, 31 pts from a Denver freshman, and a last second three  by Deven Christensen (now the Aggies’ all-time leading scorer) gives them the 92-89 win.

Griner is tall. Donovan is tall. Let’s talk about that, says John Altavilla:

Do you ever put yourself in Brittney Griner’s place, remember what it was like when you were her age?

“When I look at Brittney, I often think of what my life was like when I was her age. What I think is how comfortable she looks in her skin. That was not me when I was her age, certainly not when I was 18 or 19. I finally embraced my height when I was 20, but off the court I was a very shy and introverted kid. Brittney is not like that. She appears to be so very outgoing. You can see the shyness is some respects, but in general she appears very comfortable with who she is. I admire that about her.”

Oh, apparently the gentlemen are playing an exhibition game: A look at the four WNBA stars participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend (considering there will be no defense, methinks Maya will kick butt).

Speaking of the WNBA, and interesting study: ACL surgery may not shorten WNBA career

Still doesn’t mean we don’t need some serious, women-specific research on the injury. Consider Bob Corwin’s piece at Full Court: Carolyn Davis battles back from a devastating injury

Sad news from Lady Swish: ODU volunteer assistant Sara Jones passes away

Old Dominion volunteer assistant coach Sara Jones lost her heroic battle with cancer Friday at 7:57 a.m. She was 40 years old.

Jones had overcome multiple bouts with the disease and become an inspirational presence at practices and games the past two seasons for Lady Monarchs coach and long-time friend Karen Barefoot, who described Jones as “her hero.”

Old Dominion will release a full story with quotes from Barefoot later today. LadySwish will share some thoughts as well. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Lady Monarchs will host Northeastern in the 11th annual Hoops for the Cure game to raise cancer awareness.

I mutter a lot about homophobia, bias and sexism on the blog. Kate Fagan adds to the conversation: Recent events expose sexism in sports culture

I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot lately, my memory triggered by a slew of recent events that expose, to varying degrees, the unrelenting sexism that exists in our sports culture. Sometimes it’s blatant; more often than not it’s subtle, a never-ending reassertion of power intended to keep men in control and women on guard.

Consider the words of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who was ejected from a game on Feb. 5 for telling a referee to stop “acting like a f—ing female.”

It’s hard to say what’s more disconcerting: the casual contempt in Cousins’ words or the fact that most writers chose to ignore it, focusing instead on his use of the F-bomb (that is, his cursing) and his reputation for questionable on-court behavior, which has led to 11 technical fouls this season.

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Notre Dame survived a post-big win let down, but it took overtime.

Connecticut failed to lose two games in a row for the zillionth time, but there was some serious butterfingers involved.

In the battle of the Reds, Rutgers gave Louisville a scare, but the Cardinals pulled away in OT.

The Longhorns started the year strong, but Big 12 competition is proving to be another matter. Newcomer to the Conference West Virginia wrangled them good, 53-49.

Seton Hall still doesn’t care their coach is leaving for the W. They take down the Bearcats, 64-56.

Stanford thought about it… and then said, no, we don’t want California to win.

The Buffs got back on track against Utah. The Cowgirls did, too.

Speaking of big cats, the Tigers aren’t going away: Rookie quintet making early contributions

Every season, there are always uncertainties about how the freshmen on a team will adjust to college-level play and the extent to which they will be able to contribute. For the five freshmen on the women’s basketball team, however, these questions have hardly been an issue. Despite the presence of a talented senior class, the freshmen quintet, consisting of guards Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian along with forwards Alex Wheatley and Taylor Williams, has received considerable playing time and provided an offensive boost in scoring and rebounding for the Tigers. The Class of 2016 has combined to score nearly a quarter of the Tigers’ total points so far this season, with each member averaging at least five minutes per game.

A full-strength Baylor continues their demolition of the opposition. This time, Iowa State.

Hmmm… UTEP looks to be strong again this year. We have to wait until Feb 7th for their game against Tulane.

Keeping an eye on Cal-Northridge and Fresno State — both still undefeated in conference play.

Nice check in from the “local paper” on Iowa’s freshman: Ex-Mainstreeter great acclimates to being a Hawkeye

No, it wasn’t the dreaded three letters: Stokes relieved injury not worse

Given the alternative, Ohio State women’s basketball team co-captain Amber Stokes didn’t complain yesterday about needing a pair of crutches to reach the practice gym in Value City Arena.

The fifth-year senior suffered a sprained left knee near the end of the first half on Sunday in a 79-73 loss to Illinois. The possibility that she had suffered a season-ending ligament tear crossed her mind.

Jim Massie at the Dispatch writes about Ohio State’s 0-2 Conference record: Buckeyes’ slow start must end with stops

Tough times for the Catamounts: Overwhelmed by the first-place women’s basketball team in the America East Conference, the University of Vermont suffered a 58-30 defeat to Boston University.

Still tough times for the Black Bears: Hartford hands University of Maine women’s basketball team 11th straight loss

Looks like Williams-Flournoy got outta the Big East when the going was good. Writes Mechelle: Coach Flo has plan for Auburn

Terri Williams-Flournoy had been here in Missouri before, but this was the first time in her new role as Auburn coach. In her 12-year apprenticeship as an assistant, she spent two seasons at Missouri State.

Williams-Flournoy — known as Coach Flo by her Tigers — has paid her dues in the profession she was practically born into. Part of a basketball family in Virginia that includes brother Boo Williams — he’s one of that state’s most influential youth hoops gurus — Williams-Flournoy climbed the coaching ladder with a purpose and a plan.

And now, she’s in her first season in what is a new era for the SEC. Pat Summitt is in an emeritus role at Tennessee, but not head coach of the Lady Vols for the first time since 1973.

Have you noticed? FSU women’s basketball quietly excelling – With recent winning ways, Seminoles may soon cast shadow on other sports

The women’s basketball team has silently tip-toed to a 12-2 record and have placed themselves among the game’s most elite programs. The Seminoles are No. 5 in the nation in scoring, averaging 82.3 points per game and their field goal percentage of 49 percent only trails Baylor and Connecticut, two perennial National Title contenders.

The .com says that Angel McCoughtry wants you to trust and believe.

Speaking of Angel, from Mechelle’s chat:

kevin (macon ga): Angel McCoughtry said on wnba.com that she had “nothing to do with the coaching change”. Should we believe her?

Mechelle Voepel: Maybe that means she actually wasn’t the one to call Marynell Meadors to tell her she was fired? :) Of course she had something to do with it. But, anyway, it’s water under the bridge now. Fred Williams is the Dream’s coach, and Angel will be back as his star player. These things happen in pro sports … look at the NBA and coach firings and players saying, “Oh, I had nothing to do with it!” Meadors, I believe, would still like to return in some capacity to the league, but if not, she’s had a long career in the sport with a lot of accomplishments. I feel bad for her that things ended in Atlanta as they did, though. She deserved better. Now Angel and Fred will have a revamped East – at least in terms of the new coaching hires – to deal with.

Congrats are in order: U.S. Men’s, Women’s Olympic Teams Honored By USA Basketball and Taurasi Is Named USA Basketball’s Top Female Athlete (sorry anti-tank-Merc fans)

Oops! WNBA’s Maya Moore’s Olympic Ring Stolen, Sold to Gold Buying Store and Phew! Man charged with selling ring stolen from WNBA player Maya Moore

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Tournament Has a Different Feel for Lady Vols

Another women’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament approaches and Tennessee is seeking to hang a ninth championship banner in the rafters. But the usual postseason excitement is tinged with somber uncertainty, given that this year’s tournament might be more about departure than arrival.

Don’t forget to check out Kim’s Daily News page for tons of links. Some that stood out for me:

Albany: Coach Abe has a winning way
BYU: Knee failed 3 times, but Haley Steed had heart
Eastern Michigan: Eagles head toward NCAA tournament
Florida Gulf Coast, St. Bonaventure: Three will be key for Eagles, Bonnies in NCAA Tournament game
Fresno State: Bulldogs women’s basketball team can hear ghost of Michael Jordan
Middle Tennessee State: Lady Raiders unfazed by stage
Navy: Latest Navy Women’s Basketball NCAA Tournament Diary
Penn State: Washington Hasn’t Lost Sight of Portland’s Success on Court
St. Bonaventure: St. Bonaventure living the good life as FGCU awaits
UTEP: ‘Hard work pays off’: UTEP assistant draws on experience
UW Green Bay: Green Bay Way makes mid-major one of country’s top women’s programs

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sent two teams to the Dance.

In what could easily be dubbed an “instant classic,” Eastern Michigan kept trying to put away Central Michigan, but they would not stay gone. It came down to a missed free throw and a last second layup, and EMU wins the MAC. Heartbreak, obviously, for the Chippewas, but yikes — look at all the players they get back next year. Bowling Green’s gotta be hearing footsteps.

In the battle of the H’s, Howard couldn’t get over the hump that is Hampton. Again, a hard-fought game decided by a last second layup sends the Pirates to their third straight MEAC championship.

It’s not that I forgot about them (though I kinda did): Congrats to North Dakota, which proved the third time is the charm by finally winning the Big West Conference title. They’ll play in the WBI, and the Big Sky next year.

Look, up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Fresno State threeeee! A tournament record 15, to be precise. There wasn’t a lot of fight in LaTech, and the Bulldogs roared to the WAC title, 89-61.

In a battle of the unexpected finalists, the Midshipmen of Navy fitted themselves with dancing shoes courtesy of a 57-49 win over Holy Cross (their first win over the Crusaders in seven tries).

It was a dogfight in the Am.East Finals, but eventually the Great Danes of Albany overcame the Retrievers of UMB, 69-61,  earning their first trip to the NCAA tournament.

The victory, of course, means UAlbany women’s basketball has arrived as a bona fide Division I program, and that’s great for the school.

But just as important, there was excitement for women’s basketball Saturday night, and it’s been a long time since you could say that around here. That’s great for the sport.

Alcorn State had the lead at the half, but they could hold on against Prairie View. The 63-50 win gives Toyelle Wilson’s Panthers their second consecutive Southwestern Conference tournament championship.

It wasn’t particularly elegant, but Mountain West COY Beth Burns will take it: San Diego State takes down New Mexico and wins the conference championship, 57-43.

It wasn’t particularly pretty, but never underestimate the power of your home court: Idaho State took the Big Sky final with a 49-46 win over Northern Colorado.

Here’s a game Debbie and Beth would have liked: Down 11 with 5:30 left, CS Bakersfield fought back until Lauren Carter’s three pointer with just over a minute left gave them the lead over Seattle University. They held on and secured a 89-87 win – and, oddly enough, completes their worst season ever.

Long Beach didn’t have one last upset in them, and so it’s the UCSB Gauchos who win the Big West Championship and get the chance to dance in the Tournament.

UTEP won the program’s first C-USA title, but it wasn’t easy. They were down 12 with 15 minutes to go in the second, but rallied back to take the 69-65 win. Tulane is going to kick themselves all the way home: The missed 10 of 25 free throws.

The Battle of the Bays, redux, wasn’t all wet, but it was pretty damp. The Nerd City Kids made sure the Cal Bears didn’t get any ideas, and Stanford won its “first” Pac-12 Championship. Writes Michelle:

Less than a minute into Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game against Cal at Staples Center, Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike took an elbow to the face.

She bent over at the waist under the basket in obvious pain.

Nneka Ogwumike went straight to her younger sister, lifted her face in her hands, wiped her tears and gave her a talk. She got Chiney straightened out and headed to the bench before the trainer could even get there.

Maybe it’s not a stretch to say that Nneka Ogwumike really does do everything for Stanford.

Baylor said fare-the-well to Texas A&M with a mauling, 73-50, and it wasn’t all Big BG. Writes Mechelle:

Wherever it’s played in the future, though, it’s hard to imagine there will be a more dominant performance in the title game than the one Baylor had Saturday. The No. 1 seed, after an 18-0 regular-season record in Big 12 play, won its three league tournament games by an average of 22.7 points. The Bears’ 23-point margin of victory over Texas A&M was the largest in a Big 12 title game, surpassing Oklahoma’s 19-point win over Texas in 2004.

Superstar Griner — the Big 12 Player of the Year and favorite for that honor nationally, too — had season lows in points (11) and rebounds (three) in her 26 minutes Saturday. But it didn’t even matter.

Check out Charlie’s latest bracketology and see what you think about the College Sports Madness bracket.

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(What, are you crazy?) but, did I not mention Central Michigan was on a (freshmen) roll?

They take down Bowling Green, setting up an all-Michigan MAC final (first time for CMU since 1991) when they go up against Eastern Michigan, who took down Toledo, 59-57. This means you can catch a glimpse of Tavelyn James, a 5-foot-7 guard for the Eagles (and winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award).

I’m thinking coach Cullop sticks around for the return of Shafir — but I wonder what happens after graduation. As for Bowling Green’s chance at the Dance? Lemme just say you couldn’t pay me enough to be on this year’s Selection Committee.

Oh, this could get ugly. The Mountain West finals pit San Diego State (24-6, 12-2) against New Mexico (11-19, 2-11), the first No. 7 seed to advance to the title game.

The #2 teams in the Southland went up against each others, and it was last year’s “darlings”, the McNeese State Cowgirls, earning their second strating invite to the Dance with their 60-56 win over Stephen F. Austin.

Cynthia Cooper’s old team, and Toyelle Wilson’s 2nd-year team, Prairie View A&M (16-15, 11-7 SWAC) upset Mississippi Valley State, 58-55, to earn a trip to the SWAC finals. They’ll face Alcorn State, who sorta upset Grambling State, 67-41.

Baylor is on a tear. Griner is, too. Loved this tweet from Mechelle: “Watching guards, especially, try to drive on Griner is like watching the unfortunate contestants on “Wipeout:” You know they’re doomed.” And this one after BG broke Andrea Riley’s  scoring record: “Griner new Big 12 tourney single-game scoring record with 45. She’s exited game. Rumor: Andrea Riley seeks game of HORSE, no dunks. :)”  In the Big 12 finals, the  Bears get to go up against a familiar, soon to be former, foe: Texas A&M. (With or without Tyra White.)

Oh, and here’s a little local commentary on Texas: Longhorns’ loss to Texas Tech dims future for team, coach.

You know, even if you took away EDD’s 21 points, they would have beaten Old Dominion. Not sure the Blue Hens would have survived without her 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.

The Pac 12 semis got all Big East-ish, with Stanford surviving Arizona State and Cal eventually pulling away from Washington State.

Whoops. Tulane washed away Memphis’ home court advantage, and now it’s the Green Wave sweeping in to the C-USA finals against UTEP, who buried the UAB Blazers.

Debbie and Beth would have liked this game: UNC Wilmington 94, Hofstra 87. Seahawks play the Hens next.

Long Beach (7-9, Big West) is getting upset-happy: this time they took down Cal Poly (12-4), 51-48. And lookee who they get to face! Gauchos, we have missed ye: UCSB (8-8). They’ve split the season games: 46-34 and 47-35. That’s what happens when the top five teams in the Big West tournament go flop.

My apologies to Utah State — I promise I’ll never mention you again. The Aggies (11-3, WAC) got upset by La Tech, 73-69. And boy, were they upset! Postgame handshakes turn to punches. (Was Debbie Black in the house?) Spoon’s crew will face Fresno State, who chewed right through the Vandals.

As expected, the MEAC finals will be a battle of the H’s: Hampton v. Howard.

Lucky Detroit gets to go up against Green Bay IN Green Bay in the Horizon finals.

Equally fun? Northern Colorado (11-5) taking on the the Idaho State Bengals (15-2) on THEIR home court in the Big Sky finals.

Patriot League finals are tomorrow: Navy v. Holy Cross playing for the right to face UConn (according to Charlie).

Check in with Charlie’s latest bracketology.

Oh, and I have another question for ESPN. Why, when I check out the Men’s Scores during Conference Championship Time, does the board default to “All,” but on the women’s side it defaults to “Top 25?”

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attention from Graham for their long, steady evolution into an A-Sun power: FGCU eyes first NCAA tournament – Eagles a 3-point launching, turnover-forcing group just on the outskirts of the Top 25

For a guy who hasn’t gone anywhere, Karl Smesko has come a long way.

As a result, Florida Gulf Coast is going places.

A decade ago, Smesko was the coach of what he thought would be an NAIA program, one that had yet to play its first game. He worked out of a makeshift office in a trailer he shared with other members of the fledgling athletic department. His first individual workouts took place on the asphalt of an outdoor court, constructing a team even as the school in Fort Myers, Fla., constructed a building in which it could play.

Yet his team won by 17 points the first time it took the court. The next night, it won by 46 points. It lost just once that first season, rolling to a 30-1 record against the likes of Indiana Tech, Cardinal Stritch University and Flagler College.

Like a lot of coaches winning in the most distant reaches of college basketball, Smesko moved on to bigger and better things. Unlike almost any of his peers, he didn’t actually move to do so, save for relocating to a better office.

Longtime readers of the WHB are familiar with the Eagles’ story, but it’s great to have them get wider exposure. Focusing on the non-big six conferences is an essential part of building the game from the bottom, middle and top.  I’m looking forward to ESPN’s stories of program redemption (Fresno State, 10-0 WAC), program (re?) emergence (Boston University, 13-1, Am. East), program building (UTEP, 13-0 C-USA), and program fortitude (Middle Tennessee 14-0, Sun Belt).

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team a fighting chance — but a 28 point lead at the half? That’s generous, even for a Wildcat team battling the post-beatdown blues.

In fact, it proved too dang generous, and Alabama, the worst team (and THAT’s a whole ‘nother issue) in the SEC held on for the win, putting itself in contention for the “Upset of the Year” award. And can someone please explain to me the concepts behind Kentucky’s defense? ‘bama shot 70% in the first. (Wonder if Graham wants to revisit his article from Feb 5th: Kentucky loses but has no reason to panic?)

It’s not quite as “sexy,” but I’m also putting Jen Azzi’s San Francisco team up for the “UoY” award as they took down #23 BYU. Yah, we mentioned their nice win a while back, the it’s exciting to see the Dons do more than just threaten to change their ways.

Nebraska suffered its own post-loss discombobulation, letting Northwestern (13-12, 3-9 Big 10) stick close all game. And then watched as the Wildcats ran away with the win.

A tip of the hat to the Pride as they played Delaware:

The Pride wore pink warm-up shirts that said “Crush Clare’s Cancer”. The school had to get a waiver to wear them since Droesch is a high school coach in New York. Droesch talked to the team before the game.

“It was really emotional,” Pride coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said.

Looks like it was a fun game out in Hempstead, but in the end, Hofstra was overwhelmed by the Donne (42 points, 12rebs – now at 2000pts for her Delaware career ). Yah, yah, yah, I understand all the naysayers, but come on, do you REALLY want your team to meet the Blue Hens in the tournament?

I’m going to bet Tennessee fans (and coaches) are shaking their heads at the Vols’ Jekyll and Hyde like performances. There was little fire and less offense in their 57-41 win over Mississippi State.

Yawn. Another double-double for Wojta. Yawn.

Whoa! The Thundering Herd of Marshall (14-11, 5-7 surprised Memphis (19-6, 9-3), 65-54.

After a rough start, the Techsters are trying to make a run in the WAC.

Okay, the Eagles are on a roll: the take down Clemson (2-11, ACC) for their second conference win.

Well, it wasn’t exactly 28 points, but the Hawkeyes were down 14 at the half and managed to come back for the 1pt win over Michigan.

Erf: the Wildcats put a hurt on Washington State, 90-51.

UTEP is still digging its way through the C-USA schedule and now are 12-0 in conference play. In a similar vein, Fresno State is mauling the WAC competition and they’re 9-0 in the conference. (Why aren’t these teams ranked, especially in a year where the “bottom” 24 are such a hot mess?)

Yesterday’s “game Debbie and Beth would have loved”? Wright State 91, Detroit 82. Haven’t I mentioned that Wright State has stunk? Here’s a little on their second-year coach, Mike Bradbury:

Mike Bradbury was named as the sixth Raider women’s basketball coach at Wright State on April 21, 2010 and he hasn’t stopped.

Last year was a year of firsts for the WSU women’s basketball program as it played in its first post-season tournament as a division I school when it hosted two round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. The team also recorded the most wins in division I with a 20-13 record. Three Raiders received Horizon League honors–LaShawna Thomas first team, Molly Fox second team and Shaunda Sandifer Newcomer Team.

Don’t ignore what the Toreros are up to in the WCC: 19-6, 10-3. (Check out their blog.)

The Cal Bears moved to 19-7, 10-4 with their 83-71 win over the Ducks. Who’s impressed with the job Lindsay Gottlieb has done in taking over?

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Play 4Kay games

start early and end late. Check’em out!

Of the ranked teams, I’m particularly interested in the Miami/MD game (2pmEST ESPN2) and the Ohio State/Purdue game (5pmEST ESPN2).

I’m hoping James Madison v. VCU is  a good’un, ditto with Tulane/UTEP.

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amid all the hullaballoo in Indy….

Say, what? This was not the season the Dukes were expecting, but then this happens: St. Louis’ Jenna Mueller hit’s a jumper with 1.1 seconds left, and boom, the Billikens (I kid you not) take down Duquesne. This puts St. Louis at 8-15 (2-8) and the Dukes at 15-8 (3-5).

Another last second lay-up, and the Pride took one on the nose from the Monarchs. ODU traveled to Hempstead and, behind Mairi Buchan’s career high 20pts, beat Hofstra 81-79. Jackie Cook scored with 2.7 left to secure the win.

It was a tight one in the battle of the mittens: Michigan State 65, Michigan 63. Poole hit the winning basket with four seconds left.

UTEP squeaked out a win over Rice, 45-41, preserving their undefeated conference record.

Sweet story about the power of people to make a difference in a young person’s life: Oregon State women’s basketball: Anna Marchbanks rises from the ashes

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Yes, they were missing Thomas, but still…Maryland losing to Va Tech? At home? Gotta be the upset of the season. (Hmmm, maybe there’s an anti-WHB curse goin’ on — I poke Kansas, I poke Va Tech… and look what happens!) DC BasketCases keep their reaction short and (not so) sweet.

If you though the Terps’ 19 TOs were bad, look at Auburn: 30 against Kentucky, and the loss.

Vandy regrets dropping out of the polls and took it out on #15 Georgia, 68-48.

No problems for Baylor as they took care of Oklahoma and (oh, oh) Griner hit a… three!?! (That’s just not fair.) Oh, and how cool is this? At the New York Times Krista Pirtle of The Lariat at Baylor University will file reports about the top-ranked Baylor Lady Bears throughout the season for The Quad.

Hofstra put up a great fight in the first half, and was tied with Delaware going into the break. Then EDD took over: 41pts, 15 rebs, 5 assists, and the Pride fell, 84-66.

It took overtime, but the Illini got their first Big 10 win: 71-62 over Michigan State.

The Tribe finally win a close one: William & Mary 83, ODU 80. Oh, and it’s their first win against ODU in 53 tries. (Great photo.)

Whoa! The Penguins (3-5 Horizon) took down Detroit (5-3 Horizon), 80-67.

FGCU beat up on the Mercer Bears, 92-55.

Bookends in the C-USA: UTEP goes to 7-0 in conference play (and coach Adams gets her 300th win) and sends Southern Miss to 0-7.

Looks like this isn’t the Vikings’ year — perhaps it’s the Bobcats’? Montana State 70, Portland State 50.

Six of Arizona’s seven losses are in the PAC-12.

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