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So, yah, you (and the rest of the world) didn’t have this Final Four penciled in ANYwhere. (OK, maybe EIGHT of you did. Showoffs.) How. Cool. Is. That?

FWIW: Interesting a game at Bridgeport – the UConn fans were more nervous than the two teams. It was a fine, rough-and-tumble game… and a far cry from the rout of last year. Kudos to Aston/Texas for learning and growing from that not-so-fun experience. That being said, every time the Longhorns inched closer, the Huskies nailed a three, and so punched their ticket to Indy.

Favorite moment of the Bridgeport regional (in two parts): 1) Seeing Holly Rowe on the sidelines again 2) watching the camera guy assigned to her taking a selfie with her.

Was on the train home tracking the Oregon State/Baylor game. Can we get a measurement on the distance Kim’s jacket traveled? Can we get a temperature on the ice in Sydney Wiese’s veins?

Movin’ on

Tim Booth, AP: Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

For three decades, any chatter about women’s basketball on the West Coast has usually started and ended with Stanford.

While the Cardinal are still among the elite programs in the country – as evidenced by their run to the Elite Eight – it’s Oregon State and Washington that are headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis and providing validation that women’s basketball out West is more than just what is happening at Stanford.

”We’re all seeing how good the Pac-12 is. It surprises me a bit how surprised I think people are across the country,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said over the weekend. ”You listen to just the general narrative of the Pac-12 and people are surprised, surprised Washington could beat Maryland. We’re not. We’ve played against them.”

Graham: Trio of Final Four debutants face tallest of tasks

Goliath is coming to a place so steeped in the legend of David that someone made a movie about it.

Even so, it will take more than running the picket fence of “Hoosiers” fame, Hollywood’s version of slinging a stone, to stop this Connecticut women’s basketball team in its pursuit of perfection — yet again.

Mechelle: UConn is advancing women’s basketball — not killing it

Town crier on the state of collegiate women’s basketball, based on reading a few headlines, in …

2016: “UConn is dominant! There’s no parity! Is the sport growing?

2006: “Finally, a Women’s Final Four without UConn or Tennessee! Just the second time that’s happened in 12 years! Is the sport growing?”

1996: “The exact same teams — Tennessee, UConn, Stanford and Georgia — are in Women’s Final Four as last year! Is the sport growing?”

1986: “Texas is dominant! The Longhorns go undefeated to win the NCAA title. Is the sport growing?

1976: “Delta State is dominant! Two AIAW titles in a row, and they’ll probably win next year too. Is the sport growing?”

1966: “Nashville Business College is dominant! Five AAU titles in a row, with no signs of stopping. Is the sport growing?

And with that, we wrap up 50 years of a sport. Pretty much tells the whole story, right? Yeah … not exactly. 

Mechelle: Rueck builds Beavers into national contender

She stood on the line with seven seconds left in the game, and a chance to give Oregon State a three-point lead against Baylor. Beavers junior guard Sydney Wiese wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’d missed one of two free throws 26 seconds earlier. Nor was she saying to herself, “This is for the Final Four. You absolutely MUST make these.”

Instead, the word that went through Wiese’s mind was this: driveway.

In case you missed it: Collier is UW women’s basketball team’s inspiration

Katie Collier loves her long blonde hair. Of course, when Collier learned she had contracted a form of cancer, the first question she posed to doctors had nothing to do with the possibility of losing her hair during chemotherapy.

“That was my second question!” Collier recalled with one of her frequent laughs.

Collier’s first question was a tad more serious: “Am I going to die?”

Five years after doctors told she would never play basketball again because of leukemia, and four years after her first season of college basketball was delayed a year by major knee surgery, Collier is the starting center for the Washington Huskies.

Shaq cheers for ‘niece’ on Syracuse women’s basketball team heading to Final Four

Lee Michaelson has a longform piece on the Beavers: Oregon State’s first-ever trip to the Final Four is “pinch me stuff,” Beavers top Baylor in Elite Eight and head to Indy

 “This is pinch me stuff; there are no other words for it,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck as his second-seeded Beavers advanced to the first Final Four in school history after upsetting top-seeded Baylor, 60-57, to win the Elite Eight in the Dallas Regional on Monday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Someone had better notify the Indianapolis Newcomers Club:  The Beavers now head to Indiana, where they will join two other Final Four debutantes, fourth-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Washington, along with the overwhelming favorite and overall top seed in the tournament, reigning champion University of Connecticut, in the national semifinals on Sunday, April 3.

Elizabeth Merrill has a longform piece on Stewart: Being Breanna Stewart

Maybe Stewart is too close to fully appreciate it right now. On the surface, she is perfect. She is so good and does things so effortlessly that sometimes it looks as if she’s not trying hard enough.

Auriemma, in fact, believes she’s not trying hard enough. He’s always on her about her defense. It’s been that way for four years. If she were an infant learning to speak, she’d swear that “Stewie, Get In Your Stance” was her name.

That’s what actually led to her recent icy spell with Auriemma. Around midseason, she gave up three straight baskets to a player who Auriemma claims was at least 4 inches shorter than Stewart. The game, mind you, was a blowout.

That doesn’t matter, he says. “You can either go through life now and say, ‘Well, we won by 40,’ or you can say every night, ‘I owe it to myself and to all these people who are coming here and my teammates and everybody to live up to my expectations.’

Check out Lessons From Layshia: Tournament Time Double Standard

Now, I get it. UConn has been dominant. Historically, women’s basketball has lacked parity. But this was a #1 vs #16 seed matchup. This is exactly what is supposed to happen, which is why we care about upsets, it strays from the norm.

I looked but I couldn’t find anyone saying the same after #1 Kansas beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 or #1 Oregon beat #16 Holy Cross 91-52. It wasn’t a story. It was predictable. Everyone moved on.

But maybe the most upsetting about this narrative being pushed is that there’s been a ton of upsets for the women this year. In the same way it started out as the year of the 12 seeds on the men’s side, it mirrored that on the women’s side.

WNIT!

Semis are set, and they oughta be doozies

Wednesday, 8pm, ESPN3: Oregon v. South Dakota IN Vermillion

 A ‘unique opportunity.’

That was the main theme for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team on Tuesday, a day after the Coyotes learned they would be hosting a high-major team in the WNIT.

That’s right, Oregon will be playing at the DakotaDome tonight (Wednesday) in the 7 p.m. semifinals.

It’s certainly not the first high-major team to play in Vermillion, but it’s one of the most notable.

Thursday, 8om, ESPN2: Michigan v. FGCU IN Fort Meyers

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball has made no secret about its motivation this postseason.

FGCU felt spurned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. As a result, the Eagles are taking their frustration out on the rest of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

In other news:

Bye: UK women’s basketball’s Ivana Jakubcova decides to transfer

Bye: Joan Bonvicini resigns as coach of Seattle

Hello: Kansas top scorer Lauren Aldridge transfers to Missouri

Hello: Alabama lands transfer from UT Martin, three-time OVC Freshman of the Week DaiJia Ruffin

Hello: South Dakota State lands transfer from Iowa, forward Tagyn Larson

Congrats: Georgia’s Joni Taylor named 2016 Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year

Congrats: Columbia University Hires Megan Griffith ’07CC As Head Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Badgers sports: Board of Regents set to approve contracts for Tony Granato, Jonathan Tsipis

Congrats: Payne Named Colorado Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Kenny Brooks Will Lead Tech’s Women’s Basketball Program

Congrats: Colgate Athletics has named Bill Cleary to its head women’s basketball coaching position.

Dicey: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb faces ‘evaluation process’

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brought some interesting games. But first, did you catch ESPN’s Top Basketball Moment of 2015?

And Babcock McGraw: Celebrating 2015’s best women’s sports stories?

Now, about those games…

Looking at the Maryland game tape for ways to beat the Huskies? Might have to burn it. The UConn-Cinncinatti game saw Georgetown transfer/Big East Freshman of the Year Natalie Butler finally make her debut…and it was pretty.

Speaking of Maryland in the paint: Brionna Jones led the initially sluggish Terps over Illinois. Perhaps it was a little UConn hangover plus banner distraction?  Ten years later, Maryland celebrates its 2006 women’s basketball national champions. That was a fun game to be in the arena…

I said it might be interesting: Missing point guard Niya Johnson, #4 Baylor fell apart offensively, and Oklahoma State took advantage. 

It’s great Notre Dame has Turner back – she was the difference against a feisty Georgia Tech team, earning McGraw her 799th win.

#20 USF couldn’t score enough against #8 Mississippi State, but a final quarter drought by the Bulldogs sure made it interesting.

USC-West faced its first real test of the season against #21 UCLA, and kept it close all game. But the Bruins prevailed, handing the Trojans their first loss.

#22 Miami opened the ACC strong – looking forward to their game against #15 FSU on the 24th.

Hello, 12-1 Duquesne.

Hello, 10-1 Army. Army West Point’s Kelsey Minato became “the first women’s basketball player at the academy to reach 2,000 career points and is just one of three women’s players to reach the feat in Patriot League history.”

Because it’s still new: Hello, (8-5, 1-0 in the Summit) Omaha.

Hello, 12-1 Virginia Tech. “No one’s been paying attention to us,” Coach Dennis Wolff said, “so please don’t jinx us.” (Sorry, that’s what we do at the WHB!) B.C., Louisville and Syracuse are up next.

Speaking of Louisville: Boom, they pull it together and take down a suddenly wobbly #15 Florida State, 79-69.

This one sounded like it would have made Debbie happy: A strong final quarter helped #8 Ohio State over #24 Michigan State, 85-80.

Surprise! A young pup and a Connecticut transfer helped (6-6) Penn State roar back to stun #14 Northwestern, 79-72.

Close: North Carolina escaped the Maine Bears by one, courtesy of Watt’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Also close: Purdue escaped Michigan by two, thanks to Morrissette’s three.

See above: Seton Hall escaped Creighton by four. The New Big East is looking interesting…

Speaking of interesting! Luck folks who watch the WCC. It’s going to be another slugfest. BYU dumped St. Mary’s, Gonzaga dumped San Francisco.

I see you, Green Bay, Wright State and Youngstown State…but I’ll pay more attention when you start playing each other.

Yes, Jeff, Pac-12 women’s basketball is loaded with top teams

Sure: U women’s basketball is fashionable choice

For a fan base hungry for a winner while the big two sports have struggled, the mostly homegrown Missouri women’s basketball team has arrived just in time.

“It’s definitely got a different feel. There is a buzz,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got so many local kids on our team that are really talented. We’ve got a pretty darn good group of girls that suit up and put that jersey on. We’ve had some good success in the nonconference — certainly aware of how tough it’s going to get — and I think we play a fun, exciting style and we’re winning.”

Games to keep an eye on:

Today:
Ohio State v. Marylandnoon! I hate noon games.

TCU (9-3) v. Kansas Sate (10-2). Just want folks to pay attention.

Marshall (10-1) v. Western Kentucky (9-2). Just giving the Herd some well-deserved attention as they face the Hilltoppers.

Oklahoma State (11-1) v. Iowa State (9-3). Can the Cowgirls build on a big win?

Abilene Christian (9-2) v. Central Arkansas (10-1). Just paying attention.

Santa Clara (12-2) v. Gonzaga (11-4).St. Mary’s (10-4) v. San Diego (12-1). It’s the WCC. ’nuff said.

Oregon (11-0) v #21 UCLA (9-3). Can the Bruins ding another undefeated?

#19 Cal v. #17 Arizona State. Fun in the sun.

#10 Oregon State v. USC-West. Another test for the Trojans.

Sunday:
#8 Mississippi v. Florida (12-1). What kind of bite do the Gators have?

#12 Duke v. Syracuse. So, what is happening with the Blue Devils?

Boston College (11-1) v. Virginia Tech (12-1). A battle of two under-the-radar teams.

James Madison v. William & Mary. A game that will help the Tribe see how far they’ve come.

Nebraska v. #14 Northwestern. The Wildcats need to bounce back.

#18 Oklahoma v. #4 Baylor. How quickly can the Bears regroup?

Georgia v. #16 Texas A&M. How legit are this year’s Dawgs?

#25 DePaul v. St. John’s. The Red Storm has been quietly rising.

In other news:

Like NDSU football, Ada-Borup girls basketball creates a winning culture:

But quietly—about a 60-minute drive from Fargo-Moorhead in Norman County of Minnesota—the Ada-Borup High School girls basketball program has created its own buzz. That’s why Dave Smart’s Cougars have been named The Forum’s sports story of the year.

Jewell Loyd enjoys success as WNBA rookie, proves critics wrong

“When I made my choice to leave school and go pro, a lot of people had doubts. Some even said I wasn’t ready or strong enough to compete at this level,” Loyd said. “Winning that award validated my choice. I’m really not a big fan of trying to prove people wrong, I just focus on what I need to do, but I was proud to say that I did.”

WNBA star Tamika Catchings gives back along with Allstate’s WBCA Good Works team

With Hall Of Fame Nomination, Sheryl Swoopes’ Unique Career Is Recogized

No, not THAT California: It’s a new year for California women’s basketball

In her fifth season as a head coach in college basketball, Jess Strom knows the final practices before winter break can be tough. Especially after a loss. To your biggest rival. 

But that’s why Strom was pleasantly surprised by the response from her California team after its 78-72 loss Dec. 16 at IUP. Then again, maybe that’s a natural reaction for the the defending NCAA Division II champion Vulcans — not that Strom necessarily wants to make that connection.

Encouraging: Olympics still in Tolo’s grasp after knee reconstruction

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Bad news for Liberty fans: Epiphanny Prince has surgery for torn ACL

Hmmmm…. Goldstein resigns from WNBA players union

“I’m very passionate about player rights and, having worked at the MLBPA, was excited to see how I could advance the causes of this union,” Goldstein said. “I think we’ve made some good strides. But as things transpired during my tenure, it seemed there might not be a shared vision of how to continue moving this union forward. So I decided to step aside.

Natalie Achonwa has never been so busy.

The Canadian forward is a promising newcomer for Dike Basket Napoli in Italy’s Serie A1, latest stop in a roundabout basketball career that’s yielded two gold medals and brought her within one game of the WNBA title. It’s Achonwa’s first season of overseas basketball and the start of a brand new, round-the-clock cycle in her pro career – WNBA and international duty with Canada in the summer, Euroleague in the winter.

“That is reality for us. Playing overseas is how we make a living,” says Achonwa. “Whether we are going into a qualifier summer, a World Championship summer, or an Olympic summer, it is what we have to do.

When she gets back home, she better study the rule book: New rules changes for the 2016 WNBA season announced

NCAA:

From Graham: Dayton rules the Mid-Majors (but will they stay there after the loss of Kelley Austria?), followed by the Wabbits and Tigers and…lookee! The Army Knights.

Army probably isn’t a program that can compete at this level on a regular basis, but this shapes up as a once-in-a-long-time kind of season. The three most important players are seniors who have started most or all of their time in the program: Kelsey Minato, Aimee Oertner and Jean Parker. And Minato can play on any court against anyone. In going to Duke and closing within four late in the fourth quarter or beating an Albany team on the cusp of these rankings, Army played the kind of defining games it simply didn’t have on the schedule en route to 23 wins a season ago.

The Women’s Mid-Major poll has a different top three: Gonzaga, Princeton, Green Bay.

LadySwish has Gimme Five (or six): the state’s top teams (Dec. 8)

Resounding road victories at Penn State and at Tennessee sent an emphatic message, particularly from a Tech team that had stumbled badly at Georgetown (73-56 losers) in its only previous road contest. While the win over the Lady Vols generated the headlines – and understandably so – in some ways we were even more impressed with what happened in State College, Pa. Tech seized control early, held it together during a Nittany Lions’ second-half run then used back-to-back 3-pointers from Hannah Young and Vanessa Panousis to snap a 44-44 tie and re-assert command. Tough stuff, particularly in the other team’s building. Of course, they don’t hand out trophies for what teams do in December, and the Hokies still have some things to clean up (23 turnovers vs. Penn State; 10-20 FT shooting at Tennessee). But as we sit here today, this looks like a team that can compete for a spot in the top half of the powerful ACC.

Penguins…lose!

Hello, Washington State – they take down Gonzaga, 55-48. The 8-1 Cougars are off to their best start since (fakers) Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it On the Rain” was atop the charts. Next up: The Gaels.

Nice win for San Francisco over Long Beach, 66-52. Take a moment to check in with coach Azzi.

Speaking of coaches trying to turn a program around, I’m noticing that Erik Johnson has Boston College off to a 7-1 start.

So far so good for Georgia, who stand a 8-1, having passed their first test. Speaking of tests: Point guard Marjorie Butler is redefining “student-athlete”

The Georgia Bulldogs came home last week from a Thanksgiving tournament in Southern California on an overnight flight that got them there early Monday morning. After landing, everyone headed home or to class except senior point guard Marjorie Butler.

She stayed at the airport to catch another flight – to Virginia, to interview for medical school. After that, she flew to Tennessee for another interview with a school the following day.

Wednesday night, Butler put in 7 points, dished 5 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds in Georgia’s home win over Mercer.

Extra air miles aside, it was a pretty typical week for the 22-year-old starter, who will graduate next spring with two degrees before beginning her quest to be an orthopedic doctor.

Oregon’s rising: Mark Campbell’s tireless approach helping Oregon women’s basketball turn corner

Louisville’s recovering: Psychology keeps Cards women ‘above the line’

Cortnee Walton acknowledges that not everyone believes in the benefits of sports psychology, but the Louisville women’s basketball veteran does, and she credits it for the Cardinals’ recent bounce back from a 1-4 start.

U of L topped then-No. 19 Michigan State last week before routing Valparaiso on Saturday, victories that set up Walton and company with some momentum heading into Thursday’s game at No. 8 Kentucky.

Break my record? I’ll come to your party: Banham to be Honored.

Prior to tipoff against Memphis on Saturday, the Gopher women’s basketball program will recognize Rachel Banham for breaking the Minnesota career scoring record. Former record holder Lindsay Whalen will be part of the ceremony. The game will begin at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.

Banham passed Whalen’s total of 2,285 points during the Gophers’ game against Auburn in Puerto Rico. She has tallied 2,349 points entering the matchup with the Tigers.

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…and 27.5% shooting won. However you slice it, I’m glad I didn’t purchase a ticket for the  #11 Tennessee v. #  17 Rutgers game. To add insult to injury, the Knight’s will have to wait for the doctor’s report on Betnijah Laney’s thumb to see what’s up.

So, what does the fact that the Mercer Bears beat Alabama tell us?

Debbie Antonelli Special: Sacramento State 99, USC 101. One of these days, the Hornets are going to win one of these shootouts.

Ouch 1) Kentucky’s Goss has a broken thumb.

Ouch 2) Missouri women’s basketball team loses forward Kayla McDowell to ACL injury

So long:

Sadie Edwards Leaving UConn Women’s Team

Freshman  Kaylee Page leaves Nebraska.

Freshman Brielle Blaire will leave Virginia Tech.

Dishin & Swishin 12/11/14 Podcast: Looking at the first part of the college basketball season with Debbie Antonelli & Brenda VanLengen

From Graham:  Major finds lead way for Green Bay – Phoenix score fifth win against a team from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or Pac-12

Separated by a little more than 100 miles, after all, the two schools form the points connecting the hypotenuse of a right triangle that has the population center of Milwaukee as its 90 degree angle. One of those points has Big Ten money. The other has the smallest athletic budget in the Horizon League.

How often did his program and the University of Wisconsin go head-to-head on recruits?

“I don’t know that we’re really in that arena for the most part,” Borseth eventually allowed. “We lose a lot of kids to bigger schools, not just Wisconsin but other schools equally, as well.”

And yet the Phoenix rarely lose to those teams on the court. Especially against the Badgers.

Upcoming game of interest:

Nice matinee matchup of undefeateds: #16 Oregon State v. #6 UNC.

Speaking of undefeated: Northwestern Zipped Past Gonzaga, 62-43

The Wildcats, at 8-0, are off to their best start since the 1995-96 season when the squad opened with nine victories.

From Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw: “Stand for something you believe in.”

From Michelle Smith: ‘I wanted to see what it meant to protest’ – All-America candidate Brittany Boyd, coach Charmin Smith join Berkeley protests

They pulled out masking tape and a black permanent marker and began to write names on the strips they pulled from the roll.

The players on the Cal women’s basketball team woke up Saturday morning in Long Beach to the news that back in Berkeley, three cardboard cutouts of African-Americans in nooses had been hanged in effigy on the Cal campus.

While campus officials worked to determine both who was behind the act and their intent, the players gathered after their shootaround. The team’s plan was to wear black shirts with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” Sunday at home before a game against Louisville. But the Bears felt compelled to act immediately.

Forwarded by Sue, a FOB: Goshen basketball player Olivia Love copes with tragedy with help from family

Kimberly Love and her two youngest children — Kristian and Kiana — died in a 2007 fire, leaving Kimberly’s mother Rita Mickles to raise grandchildren, including Goshen basketball player Olivia Love.

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Almost.

My brain moved my flight up 36 hours. Luckily I looked at my reservation and went, “Hey, I’m not leaving until Sunday night!” That’s what comes of purchasing a ticket months ago. It also means I can go in to the office Saturday and finish up some final bits of business instead of staying there deep into the night….

Brittney didn’t miss her flight, and Geno seems wicked happy.

“I was worried,” Griner admitted. “I was worried about my eye, honestly. I had a teammate lose her eyesight playing basketball in college, so that was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure my eye was okay, and also, I wanted to play with USA Basketball. So, it would have sucked bad to get bad news twice. When I heard that I was able to come play, I hopped on a plane, came in and started practicing.”

Speaking of wicked happy, if you can’t fly to Turkey for the FIBA World Championship (notice the singular – thanks CW), you’re in luck: the games are being broadcast and, because the US is the featured game (often 9:3opm) the time difference works in your favor. Tomorrow, for instance, USA faces China at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

All games will be carried by NBA TV and ESPN3/Watch ESPNThe gold medal game, regardless of who advances, will air on ESPN2 at 11am PT on Oct. 5. If you don’t have NBA TV, the Watch ESPN app or ESPN via your computer, you can pay a $10 subscription to watch the full tournament on LiveBasketball.TV. Or/And use the hashtag #Turkey2014 on Twitter to get updates and commentary about the competition.

From Geno: Are you happy to finally get the games started tomorrow?

I am. I think the first one is always the most difficult. You’re not quite sure what you’re going to get. You want to obviously get off to a great start and set the tone for the way the tournament’s going to go. In this case, too, we’re anxious to see how Brittney’s going to fit in. We haven’t played a game with her yet. We’ve had two practices with her. I guess by USA Basketball standards, that’s a long time. But I think that all the players and I’ve noticed in the past two days in practice that there’s a sharper focus. Now that we’re here, it’s right there in front of us. So, we’re pretty excited about it.

Thanks to the AP, Doug is in Turkey to cover the game. Support him and click through and read the full story: US women set to defend hoop title at world tourney

The U.S. has only lost once at the worlds since 1998, but suffered a rare defeat in an exhibition game against France last weekend.

That setback raised a few eyebrows heading into the tournament, which begins Saturday in Istanbul.

“There are a lot of really good teams in the tournament and we’re one of them,” said coach Geno Auriemma “For us or anyone else to think we’re anything more than that is not being really objective about this whole thing.”

I don’t know if anyone from ESPN is in Turkey, but Lee from Full Court is: 2014 Women’s World Championship officially opens in Istanbul

“The country should be very proud of the success achieved by the women’s national team,” added Elphinston. “They performed very well at the 2012 London Olympics, as well as at the European level, and most recently also at the youth level. This is an example of what hard work combined with strong government and commercial support can do to take the sport to the next level.”

In Istanbul or not, Mechelle can still write: Team USA ready to take on the world

Those involved with USA Basketball tend to lament the lack of time that the American team gets to spend together preparing for major events, especially compared to most other nations.

But one of the things that’s interesting about the 2014 version that starts play in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Saturday in Turkey (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET) is how much familiarity actually is a part of this squad — at least pods of familiarity.

NBC OlympicTalk (?!?!)’s Nick Zaccardi is Analyzing the U.S. women’s basketball roster for World Championships

Oh, Canada: Canadian women’s basketball team set for FIBA world championship – At familiar grounds in Turkey, the Canadian women’s basketball team appears poised for success ahead of the biggest stage in the sport.

The vivid recollections washed over them and the wonderful moments became fresh in their minds as members of the Canadian women’s basketball team walked in the Ankara Arena in Turkey for practice Wednesday afternoon.

For the majority of the 12-woman team, recalling the last time they’d played a significant game on the court was enough to buoy their confidence going into the world championship that begins Saturday morning.

More Canada: Special times for the Nurse family

This has to be such an exciting time for the Nurse family.

Not only is UConn freshman Kia Nurse preparing to play for Canada in the FIBA World Championship for Women which starts on Saturday, but her older brother Darnell is making a serious push at making the opening-night roster for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

So who’s the competition? WNBAlien Richard meets Dishin’ & Swishin’ Dave. Richard knows his international basketball players.

You’ll know some of them, too: 35 Current and Former WNBA Players to Compete in 2014 FIBA World Championship

From FIBA: Global celebration of women’s basketball officially open

“This tournament is about a lot more than Turkey. It is about continuing the emergence of basketball across the globe, in all five continents.

“Hosting this Championship is part of a journey that began over 20 years ago, when we set out to become a leading basketball nation and that meant doing so both in men’s and women’s basketball. The great sporting results we have achieved in recent years are a proof of this.”

Also from FIBA: USA the team to beat as 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women set to tip off Saturday

Mechelle and Graham argue about who’s the most important player on the National Team.

Brittney Griner is a presence unlike any other available to Team USA. Or available to the rest of the world, for that matter.

The opportunity in front of her is unlike that in front of any other player on the American roster.

v

I voted for Minnesota’s Maya Moore as the WNBA’s MVP this season, and had no qualms about that. But we saw that the MVP for the playoffs was Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, and I think that status will continue into the upcoming world championship.

I’d say “Ignore Angel at your peril:” Talking Turkey With Olympic Champion Angel McCoughtry

Earlier this month Angel McCoughtry was practicing with her USA Basketball teammates in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from her hometown of Baltimore.

Now she is prepping her teammates for her second home of Istanbul, Turkey. 

McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 forward who helped Team USA to gold medals at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and the London 2012 Olympic Games, plays professionally for Fenerbahҫe in Istanbul. The upcoming FIBA World Championship for Women, set for Sept. 27-Oct. 5, will be played in Turkey with the gold-medal game being held in the same arena where McCoughtry plays with her pro team. 

“The people there love basketball, both for the men and the women,” McCoughtry said. “And I’m so excited to show my teammates around Turkey

Sue says : “The five that start on the bench could be the starters”

LH : What’s the strength of this team ? Your physicality ?

SB : Well, you know, we have a lot of strengths, we are very lucky ! One that is think is huge, and will help us in a tournament like the World Cup where we have 3 games in a row then a little bit of a break before three other games in a row, is our depth. We are not going to rely on 6-7 players, like some countries do. We have a very talented team. The five that start on the bench could be the starters, easily. Like I said, I think that is probably our biggest advantage. Then, yes, of course, we have some very talented players.

Espana: Laia Palau : “Sancho Lyttle represents more than half of this team’s strength”

Ladyhoop : You lost one of your team’s important figures in Amaya Valdemoro, who retired.

L.P. : Indeed ! She did great things for us and we are going to miss her but we have to look forward. We gave the ball to other players, like Alba or Xargay. The youngsters are playing very well, furthermore. This year, we got Ann Cruz, coming from the WNBA. We have young players with a lot of experience.

The Opals say: “We’re not fazed by loss of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage

While Joyce stressed only a team effort would cover the losses, he singled out veteran Penny Taylor as a figure capable of inspiring the team.

Taylor, 33, will captain the Opals in Turkey after fighting her way back from two injury-plagued seasons.

“Penny has the ability to raise the standard in others and that’s what leadership is from my point of view,” Joyce said of Taylor, who this month won a WNBA title with Phoenix.

“We certainly need that right now with everything that’s happened.”

And let’s not forget they have Mini Mi! Leilani Mitchell : “We played our first three games together here in Paris”

I’m waiting for something new from Paul Nilsen, but until it arrives, you’ll just have to settle for this piece from May pondering, Who will be the center of attention in Turkey?

Kevin Tresolini hits the big time as his piece on EDD lands in USAToday: Elena Delle Donne hopes home cooking will be the cure

A basketball season undermined by illness and injury is over sooner than Elena Delle Donne would have preferred.

The U.S. begins play in the FIBA World Championships on Saturday in Turkey. But Delle Donne is not on its 12-woman roster because of a bulging disk in her lower back.

Still, the former Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware All-American, less than two weeks removed from the Chicago Sky being swept in the WNBA Finals, has already made progress toward recovery.

And 2016, with the Summer Olympics positioned on the August calendar, remains firmly in her sights as well.

In other news:

Nate is keeping busy: 2014 WNBA rookies who deserve All-Rookie honorable mentions

As the 2014-15 NCAA season approaches, we’ll begin breaking down the top prospects for the 2015 WNBA Draft in the next few days. But before moving on completely to next year, it helps to take stock of how the 2014 rookie class performed beyond those who got All-Rookie recognition.

Sorry haters, it doesn’t look like the 18-year-old WNBA is going to collapse just yet: High quality competition boosts WNBA, fans

Across many regions including these Twin Cities, the WNBA is establishing a root that is growing. 

As proof, look no further than the exciting three-game Western Conference Final (WCF) series between the Minnesota Lynx and eventual WNBA champion, Phoenix Mercury. With central young stars Maya Moore and Britney Griner at the root of the rivalry, both the Twin Cities and Phoenix can lean back and look forward to a decade of should-see-TV.

Awesome: 21 ways we love WNBA champ Brittney Griner

It was the summer of Brittney – not the singer with one T but the gay Houston native with two. Hang on tight, because you’re about to love this lesbian WNBA All Star, even if you’ve been living under a sports-free rock.

Brittney Griner’s reign actually goes way beyond this past summer. It’s Griner’s whole year, and we’re just living in it. In a relative flash, the Nimitz High School basketball star has gone from Texas phenom to national treasure. Now everything she touches makes gay Houston proud.

Griner put the LGBT nation on notice in 2013. That’s when the No. 1 draft pick out of Baylor came out as gay matter-of-factly to the roar of lesbian basketball fans. Her star’s rise gained momentum off the court when she stood up to bullies, became a Nike menswear model, wrote a book “In My Skin,” and wowed a star-studded gay crowd.

OK. I admire Becky as much as anyone (thanks, Robin). But can some please break the pencil of the next writer who uses “undrafted” and “Hammon” together with out the qualifier: Because the bloody ABL talent flooded the bloody WNBA pool. I mean, friggin’ Jennifer Rizzotti was drafted 48th!

WATN? Tangela Smith: Western Michigan.

WATN? Le’Coe Willingham: Tennessee State.

Surprise! (NOT): Stephanie White takes over as Fever’s head coach

“I’m so glad that it is happening in this state. I’m so glad that it is happening with this franchise. To play at every level in my home state and now to be the head coach of the pro team is a pretty surreal moment,” White said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I’m just realizing how humbling and special this moment is.”

More on Steph from the Indy Star: New Fever coach Stephanie White altered her career plan from astronaut to WNBA leader

Speaking of coaches, nice to see that hullabaloo was nothing but smoke: Holy Cross, Coach Bill Gibbons Agree To Contract Extension

Old Big East Flashback: Ieva Kublina, whose stellar career helped the women’s basketball program to four consecutive postseason appearances and ended with 95 consecutive starts, is the newest member of the  Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Jayda continues her Storm exit interviews: All-Star Crystal Langhorne filled a void in the paint

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me: Qatar out of women’s basketball over hijab row

The wearing of hijabs has become a hot topic in sport in recent years with Muslim athletes complaining that they are being discriminated against.

Judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani hit the headlines at the 2012 London Olympics when Saudi Arabia demanded she be allowed to compete wearing a hijab.

While international judo federation rules at the time barred her from doing so, Shaherkani was eventually allowed to compete wearing a modified veil.

Human Rights Watch told Reuters it should have been up to FIBA to prove why Qatari players should not wear headscarves.

“We oppose any general ban on wearing of headscarves and onus should be on the regulator to prove why a ban is necessary on the basis of health and safety,” it said.

“In the case of basketball, it’s difficult to see how a ban on the headscarf is anything other than an unnecessary restriction on the players’ rights to religious freedom and personal autonomy.”

We’re not surprised, because we know the history:

You may have heard the story of former Memphis and Indiana State women’s basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: she was the first Muslim woman to play NCAA Division I basketball wearing hijab (after breaking Rebecca Lobo’s high school scoring record in Massachusetts).

Yet since graduating from Indiana State, she has led the fight against FIBA’s rules restricting headwear in international competition.

As with most women’s basketball players, the Massachusetts native aspired to pursue a professional career internationally. However, FIBA’s ban on wearing headgear (that also affects Jewish and Sikh men) has kept her from playing overseas.

It’s been a long, tough day, so we’re going to add (and end on) a positive note: Just put in an order for 170 tickets to the Maggie Dixon Classic on January 4th at the Garden. I had — just HAD to round it up, so I do have three extra tickets in case you’re cranky you missed your chance to join us. Just email me: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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From the Dispatch: Parent coaches don’t go over line at Orange

There might not be a team in the girls or boys tournaments that has more basketball expertise among its parents than Olentangy Orange.

The Pioneers (26-2) will play two-time defending Twinsburg (28-0) in a Division I girls state tournament semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Value City Arena.

Senior guard Taylor Agler is a daughter of Brian Agler, coach of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Senior guard Maddy Joseph’s father, Chris, coaches the Gahanna Christian boys team and her mother, Kelly, was a star at Virginia Tech and coaches the eighth-grade boys team at Orange Middle School.

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The look of the reporter reacting to the VaTech AD’s reason for hiring Wolff is classic.

I wonder why Alabama hired Wendell Hudson  — ’cause he has three daughters?

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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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Virginia Tech!

Saw Chantelle during the Final Four, and she mentioned she was looking for a coaching gig. Congrats to her for landing one.

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Tulsa: Norman High’s Mossman reported to be taking job at University of Tulsa

VaTech: Hokies to name Dennis Wolff head women’s basketball coach

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Beth Dunkenberger resigns as Virginia Tech women’s basketball coach

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PINK OUT!!!

The WaPo writes that Lynetta Kizer is an energizing presence for the #11 Maryland women’s basketball team. Unfortunately, she couldn’t help the Terps avoid losing their second game in a row, this time to Virginia.

A full house at Michigan State (their first) went home happy as the #13 Spartans defeated Michigan, 69-56.

Fellow-state member Central Michigan snagged their fourth game in a row as they took down Kent State. Kaihla Szunko recorded her 16th double-double of the season.

The Ducks were gloomy, as USC skewered’em.

This is not a fun time to be a Hokie.

Oklahoma notched a win before they flew off to Storrs in anticipation of their Monday night game against #2 UConn (who also won).

Brittney… I mean, #1 Baylor stomped all over the Longhorns in anticipation of their Monday night game against the Aggies. Texas A&M got in the mood by stuffing the Jayhawks, 81-58.

With their win over Loyola (IL), #16 Green Bay remains undefeated in the Horizon.

Xavier’s stays undefeated in the A-10 with their win over Fordham.

Kris at was at the game as Houston surged to 11-0 in C-USA.

Hartford surprised Boston U, 66-59.

West Virginia continued to stumble as the Mountaineers lost to Louisville.

Congrats to Jantel Lavender, who overtook Buckeye great Katie Smith as the Ohio State’s scoring leader. I’m guessing the win over Purdue made her happier.

It wasn’t a waltz, but Stanford did take care of Washington, 62-52.

Ten points also was the difference as UCLA slipped by Oregon State.

Yah, it was another win, but who really thinks Pat’s happy with her #4 Vols?

#21 Miami’s on a roll and this time they rolled over UNC.

Duke took care of BC, Penn State survived Indiana (Lucas went 6-10 on 3’s), wobbly Kentucky squeaked by LSU, but #17 Georgetown couldn’t escape St. John’s.

Jayda has the story of a player who’s not in the game: Seattle U.’s Breanna Salley keeps playing, even if she can’t get on the court

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busy watching games (Va Tech over Vandy) and forming an opinion as to who the Sportsman of the Year should be.

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