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After upsetting the Cardinal, USC looked like they had nothing left as they faced Oregon State. But, Coop helped them “raise the roof” and earn a trip to the dance.

If there was a title to the story of the Southern California women’s basketball team over the past decade, it might be: “Promise Lost.”

The talent, the potential, the parade of All-Americans that should have made this one of the premier programs on the West Coast, seemed to dissolve into a smoldering heap every single year.

There was the cruel succession of ACL injuries that cut short the careers of Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, who were among the most elite recruits in the country when they committed to USC. There were inexplicable late-season losses to lower-division conference teams that would leave the Trojans’ résumé lacking when it came in front of the NCAA committee. There were coaching changes and personality conflicts and, to be very honest, a whole lot of underachievement.

But USC changed the narrative on Sunday night at KeyArena.

Scott Rueck will await the Committee to see if he’s managed to shift the Pac12 paradigm. As the Oregonian asks: If Scott Rueck leads Oregon State women to NCAA Tournament, how big of an accomplishment is it?

Speaking of the Committee, Charlie tries to work through their headache predict AND explain the brackets.

Fordham took any mystery out of the Committee’s hands by upsetting Dayton to claim the A-10 crown. This accomplishment is six years removed from their 0-for season and gives New Zealander Rooney what she missed by a sliver last year: An NCAA berth.

We’ve been watching this unfold over the season: High Point v. Winthrop. In the end, Dequesha McClanahan leads Winthrop to first-ever Big South title

“What a game and what a tournament. I’m very proud of our players, this program and very thankful to our administration and all of our loyal fans and supporters that were here and suffered without a championship for over 30 years,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “That’s what really makes it meaningful for them and our team.”

Yes, THAT Kevin Cook.

After an up and down season on and off the court, Nebraskan sophomore Rachel Theriot took control of the Huskers future and guided them to their first Big 10 conference title.

“It was a game where we couldn’t make a shot, but we found a way to win,” Husker coach Connie Yori said. “That says a lot about our mental toughness. We did a great job on the offensive glass. Every game doesn’t come down to playing pretty, but you find a way to win.”

No surprise, the Irish claimed their first AAC title – but were you a little surprised by how close the game was (at first)?

When is two points more than two points? When it’s a basket that sends a figurative bolt of electricity through a team and its fans. And that was exactly what Jewell Loyd’s alley-oop did in the second half of the ACC tournament title game.

The Fighting Irish are champions of their new league, and they will go into the NCAA tournament undefeated at 32-0. They execute offensively, are patient even when things aren’t clicking as well (which is rare, but happens), and are very dependable on defense.

But … they are also just really darn fun to watch.

Yes, a bit of a surprise, because of the upset of South Carolina, but Kentucky falling apart at the end? Not so surprising this season. Tennessee’s SEC title might give them a #1 seed, which would be (be honest) a surprise.

Tennessee adopted the motto of “Grind for Nine” at the beginning of this season, referencing the team’s blue-collar mentality as it pursues the program’s ninth national championship. The Lady Vols haven’t been to the Final Four since 2008, which is also the last year they won a national title. Back then, Pat Summitt coached the Lady Vols, before resigning in 2012 because of health reasons. Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant, became the team’s head coach.

The conference tournament title won Sunday was the first for Warlick as a head coach. As she accepted the trophy afterward, she said hello to her longtime mentor, who did not make the trip. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt,” Warlick said to the crowd. “I know she is watching this broadcast.”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Yes, most of us had Marist v. Iona penciled in to the MAAC finals. Quinnipiac decided to erase that prediction.

“(Quinnipiac) did a great job executing,” first-year Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t do a terribly wonderful job of stopping them in the defensive end.”

BTW, there was news in the MAAC quarters as the Rider team scored its biggest win in years — maybe ever — with a 63-56 upset of Fairfield.

Interesting games coming up:

BYU women’s basketball: Cougars will meet “scary” Pacific in WCC semifinals Monday. Of course, the other WCC semi is classic rematch: Gonzaga v. St. Mary’s.

America East: Stony Brook continues to surge under coach Beth O’Boyle — and gets a second shot at Albany for their efforts. Can they pull off the upset – again?

Quakers v. Tigers: Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2 Ivy) are both tied atop the Ivy standings and face each other in the season finale at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.). The winner earns the outright Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The loser has already clinched second place and therefore, an automatic berth in the WNIT.

Davidson will try and stop Chattanooga‘s quest for the Southern Conference title.

Same old, same old in the Patriot semis: Navy v Holy Cross, Army v. American, with a little extra oomph:

However, Gibbons readily admits the greatest motivation comes from preserving history as Holy Cross wants to prevent Navy from equaling its feat of capturing four consecutive Patriot League Tournament championships. The Crusaders set that standard from 1998 through 2001 under the direction of Gibbons.

“We certainly would like to stop them from tying our record,” Gibbons said. “We’re playing for a lot of alumni who were part of that great run.”

Yup, it’s UConn (with Stewart’s block earning a SportsCenter nod) agains the Cardinals. In the classic, “Careful what you wish for,” the New York Times notes that “Louisville Confronts Elephant in Its Room”

For all the strides the Louisville women have made in becoming a perennial basketball power, the climb to the top remains daunting. Connecticut, the Cardinals’ opponent in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, has won 14 straight against them.

Speaking of former Big East teams: It’s the Mountaineers hunting Bears in the Big 12 title game. Remember Sims’ 48 against West Virginia in January? And the rematch in March? (TV: Fox Sports 1?)

From the Boston Globe, some nice coverage of Barb Stevens at Bentley: Barbara Stevens has Bentley women’s basketball program point toward perfection

This is where it all happens, in Barbara Stevens’s warm and inviting office on the second floor of Bentley University’s Dana Center. A large bookshelf behind her neatly arranged desk in the far left corner of the room is adorned with trophies and nets cut down from Northeast-10 title games and framed photos of the teams she has coached in 28 seasons as the head coach of Bentley’s wildly successful women’s basketball program.

“I keep telling my players if they keep winning them, then I’ll keep putting them up,’’ Stevens jokingly remarked to an office visitor Thursday afternoon.

But this is where Bentley’s unrelenting pursuit of perfection is mapped out on a daily basis. It is where Stevens doggedly prepares through exhaustive film study and advanced scouting. And, as anyone will tell you, Stevens, 58, is nothing if not a evangelical minister of the coaching gospel, “Practice makes perfect.’’

Also from the Globe, there are a couple of back-and-forth stories: Bullying accusations continue against BU coach Kelly Greenberg.

I think we may have heard this coming a few years back: K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson fired after 18 seasons

Happier news out of the Sunflower state: They stumbled, but didn’t fall: Wichita State’s women’s basketball wins second consecutive MVC title. The conference tourney looms.

Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. Lot of money for the coach of an 18-13 basketball team that enters the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in the league’s lower division.

But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. She’s paid for her ambassador skills. She’s paid for her promotional and PR skills. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university, be it talking to engineering alumni or youth groups or coaches all across the country or all of America itself, courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.

When Coale talks about the importance of sport in young girls’ lives, or the importance of education, or the importance of hard work to fulfill dreams, people listen. Some of those people are impressionable. Others are influential. Coale reaches them all. I’ve said it before; Coale’s next job won’t be coaching a basketball team, it will be vice president of the university.

A little W news:

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In the Southern, Chattanooga has returned to it traditional conference dominance.

Speaking of Southern, they’re atop the SWAC, but Texas Southern is lurking. Their first matchup went to OT and was a 2pt win for the Jaguars. Southern will host T.S. for their final conference game of the season. The Jags will have a chance to avenge their only in-confernce loss (Alcorn State) March 1st.

Hampton rules the MEAC and, though Coppin State put up a better fight the second time around, it doesn’t appear that anyone will threaten the Pirates. That being said, never underestimate the power of a rivalry (Hello, Howard?).

Yes, it’s slow climb to relevancy, and it is the NEC, but St. Francis (NY) took down traditional powerhouse St. Francis (PA), 90-76, to equal the program’s record for victories. The NEC leaders are the Robert Morris Colonials (which SF/NY took to double-overtime) with a multi-national team: Greece, France, Italy, Spain and the Democratic Republic of Congo are all represented on their roster.

The race to the finish in the MAC’s going to be fun: Central Michigan is 11-0 and Bowling Green is 10-1. The Chippewas gave the Falcons their only loss (at CMU, in OT, 82-79). They meet again Feb 19th.

Ditto with the MAAC. Iona is 13-1 (Rider!!?? – in OT) and Marist is 13-2 (losses to Iona and, rather surprisingly, Fairfield). They’ll close out conference play against each other on March 2nd.

How much is the ACC enjoying the addition of Notre Dame? The Irish are making mincemeat of their opponents and are perched confidently atop the conference. Coach McGraw’s win against Syracuse tied her with North Carolina State Kay Yow for 11th place in career wins (737-258).

Vroom! That’s the sound of James Madison racing to the top of the CAA. Don’t know that anyone else can put up with the Dukes.

Zap! That’s the sound of the Wichita State Shockers (11-0) taking control of the MVC. The Sycamores are in second place (still wonder what happened at Indiana State way back when) at 7-3.

The Danes rule the America East, but hello! Congrats to coach Magarity, who’s got New Hampshire in second.

I’m not sayin’ nuthin’ about the A10, ’cause it’s a hot mess: Flyers, Bonnies, Rams, Dukes…. sort it out folks!

Ditto with the Horizon!

Who knows what’s true in the Atlantic Sun. It’s the Hatters and the Eagles both with one conference loss, but Stetson’s was courtesy of FGCU (72-56). The Eagles lost to Northern Kentucky (8-3), 63-43.

The Eagles of Winthrop (12-3) are having a nice season, the result being they’re perched at #1 in the Big South.  They’ll meet High Point (11-3) again Feb. 27th, where the Panthers will try and exact some measure of revenge for their earlier 79-72  loss.

Typical C-USA, even with newcomer MTSU: It’s the Blue Raiders, East Carolina, UTEP and Tulane beating each other up.

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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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