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but first, the WNIT kicks us off with a fun story: Double Duty In Des Moines: Kansas Band Gets The Assist For Drake Women’s Basketball

A college basketball game without a band present … it’s just not the same, is it? Drake’s women’s team was facing that, though, for its WNIT opener Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa. The school is on spring break, and the Drake band members aren’t on campus.

However, Drake got a capable substitute: The Kansas band was in Des Moines for the Jayhawks’ NCAA men’s tournament game Thursday afternoon.

As for the games:

The band helped! Drake (MVC) over Sacred Heart (NEC), 95-59.

Road-weary UT Rio Grande (WAC) got swept away by TCU (Big12), 97-73.

Arkansas State (Sun Belt) chomped on Southern (SWAC), 68-45.

It was a tight one, as short-handed Nebraska (Big10) fell to Northern Iowa (MVC), 64-62.

Ball State (MAC) went on the road and topped Iowa (Big Ten), 77-72.

Arkansas Little-Rock (Sun Belt) and St. Louis (A-10) went down to the wire, but… Billikens win! 70-69.

And I swoop! Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley) came back to defeat Memphis (American), 79-73. It’s the programs first post-season win since 1999.

Dayton (A-10) fell to Western Kentucky (C-USA), 89-72.

San Diego (WCC) escapes Northwestern (Big 10), 69-65. The Wildcats scored 8 in the first and 35 in the fourth. Coach must be banging his head against the wall.

No, really, remember when they stunk? IUPUI (Summit) over Central Michigan (MAC), a tough program, 63-55.

Bucknell (Patriot) over Akron (MAC), 74-70. The Bison are the first team from the Patriot League to ever win a game in the WNIT, while also posting the program’s first victory in a national postseason tournament.

“We have had a lot of great things happen this year, but to get a postseason win is pretty sweet,” said Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “It’s a great accomplishment for our program and our league, and a huge feather in the cap for this gritty team. I am incredibly proud of them.”

Gonzaga (WCC) chewed up undermanned UC Riverside (Big West), 88-54.

Oregon (Pac12) over Long Beach State (Big West) by 8.

After all the waiting and working and wondering, Oregon coach Kelly Graves finally got the glimpse of his team’s future that he’d been looking for the past two weeks.

And he liked it so much that Graves told his rejuvenated Ducks to go play couch potatoes for a day like the rest of America as their reward.

 Welcome to March Madness, ladies. WNIT style.

Nice showing against a program that in no joke: Marshall (C-USA) falls to Ohio (MAC), 76-68.

Eastern Michigan (MAC) led wire to wire, and eked out an away win over Saint Mary’s (WCC), by one, 74-73.

Graduate transfer Chanise Baldwin’s ffensive rebound and put back with 1.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team to a 74-73 victory over Saint Mary’s College in the opening round of the WNIT Thursday, March 17. The Eagles led by as many as nine, but needed Baldwin’s late game heroics to propel the Green and White into the second round of the tournament. 

In a back-and-forth battle, it was Abilene Christian (Southland) who blinked first. UTEP (C-USA) won, 66-62.

Virginia Tech (ACC) over Elon (CAA), 68-59.

Villanova (Big East) ousted Liberty (Big South), 67-51.

Hofstra (CAA) over Harvard (Ivy), 76-50.

Even with the loss of top-scorer Mikayla Venson, Virginia (ACC) managed a two-point win over VCU (A10).

Georgia Tech (ACC) stung Mercer (Southern), 73-56.

Rutgers (Big East Big 10) last-second-shot-ed a win over Georgetown (Old Big East), 57-55.

An improving Wake Forest (ACC) held off Charlotte (C-USA), 72-69.

First round NCAA games I’m keeping my eye on:

Albany/Florida
JMU/DePaul
Chattanooga/Mississippi State
Green Bay/Tennessee
St. Bonaventure/Oklahoma State

Michelle Smith: Tara VanDerveer vs. Jennifer Azzi

Asked to remember the last time they talked on the phone before they found out they would be matched up in the NCAA tournament, both Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and University of San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi came up with the same answer.

“Probably just a few weeks ago,” Azzi said.

“Not that long ago,” VanDerveer confirmed. “We talked about some things she was dealing with.”

There will be no talking this week.

Katie Barnes: UConn freshman Samuelson finds her footing

Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson, both of whom played at Stanford, are as responsible as anyone for making Lou the player she is.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be just like them, so that’s where it all started,” Samuelson said. “But once I got older, all I wanted to do was to be better than them.”

When will DePaul Women get their due as NCAA contenders?

Every year, I hear the same thing. “There are no Illinois teams in the NCAA tournament.”

And for the past 14 years, all those who have said that have been wrong.

Why, oh, why, do Illinois residents overlook the DePaul Blue Demons (25-8), who’ve achieved a berth in the NCAA Women’s Tournament for 14 CONSECUTIVE YEARS… also, their 21st overall appearance since 1990?

Jonathan Lintner: Cards’ Hines-Allen hitting high gear in March

Recently named the ACC Player of the Year, Hines-Allen registered a pair of double-doubles to open the postseason and hit 19 of her 33 shots.

“I want to prove to people it’s not a fluke and just give my all every single day,” the sophomore forward said. “That’s how I got the award.”

BTW: Division II has reached the Elite Eight.

4 Florida Southern v. 1 Lubbock Christian (March 22, 1pm)
2 Anchorage-Alaska v. 7 Francis Marion (March 22, 7pm)
1 Virginia Union v. 1 Bentley (March 22, 3:3o)
2 Grand Valley State v. 7 Pittsburgh State (9:30)

The big shockers were seeing #1 Union, #1 Azusa Pacific and #1 Limestone go down in the first round. #1 Ashland feel in the second round. #1 Emporia State lost in the 3rd round.

Division III’s Final Four is scheduled for March 19th, Capitol University, Columbus Ohio.

Tufts (27-3) v. Wartburg (23-7), 5pm.
Wartburg’s Final Four run stranger than fiction

 Amsberry’s Nine will do for a working title. Wartburg College’s surprise run into the NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four has the makings of a green-lit sports movie.

The plot is a season salvaged off life support by a group of athletes that had moved on before reuniting to accomplish an ambitious goal.

The script has more than final credits left to be written.

Jumbos book trip to NCAA tournament semifinals for third year in a row

For the past two years, Tufts had gotten it done at home in the postseason. The Jumbos had qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning the NESCAC championship, earned home court advantage and fought their way through dominant first-round wins and overtime thrillers alike to reach the NCAA Div. III championship semifinals, the Final Four.

This year was different. Tufts fell by one point in a heartbreaking loss to Amherst in the NESCAC championship but still earned an at-large bid. 

Amherst (30-1) v. Thomas More (31-0), 7:30PM

Saints on a different kind of mission

You already know what’s the same about the defending champs, so let’s look at what’s different about Thomas More this season.

It all starts with a change in hashtag philosophy.

Sister act adds to Amherst’s legacy

If Amherst head women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki hadn’t been persistent when reaching out to junior twins Ali and Meredith Doswell during the recruiting process, no telling what he would be doing this weekend.

 

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in the WNIT: 

Semifinals
Wednesday, April 1
Temple at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
UCLA at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

How they got there:

West Virginia 75, Villanova 70 OT
Michigan 69, Southern Miss 60
Temple 69, Middle Tennessee 57
UCLA 82, Saint Mary’s 66

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Tonight, the resilient Eastern Michigan folks are going up against a tough Southern Miss team.

Up next:

Thursday, March 26
St. John’s at Villanova, 7 p.m. ET – Aaliyah Lewis leads St. John’s women’s basketball team into WNIT’s Round of 16
NC State at Temple, 7 p.m. ET
Missouri at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET
Duquesne at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Ole Miss at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m. ET – Poppa against son.
Northern Colorado at UCLA, 10 p.m. ET
Saint Mary’s at Sacramento State, 10 p.m. ET

How everybody got here: 

Sunday, March 22
Temple 61, Penn 56
St. John’s 77, Fordham 63
Villanova 71, Old Dominion 66
Southern Miss 77, TCU 73
Missouri 67, Kansas State 48
Middle Tennessee 70, Arkansas State 60
NC State 69, ECU 65
UCLA 63, San Diego 58
Eastern Michigan 69, Tulsa 59
Ole Miss 63, Georgia Tech 48
Northern Colorado 59, South Dakota 58

Monday, March 23
Michigan 74, Toledo 58
Sacramento St 84, Eastern Washington 49
Saint Mary’s 83, Fresno State 64

Tuesday, March 24
West Virginia 57, Hampton 39
Duquesne 48, Richmond 47

Congrats to *undefeated* Thomas MoreNCAA Division III Champions.

The national championship trophy arrived in Crestview Hills shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday. Students, families, and fans lined the sidewalks outside of the Connor Convocation Center.

When the women’s basketball team bus arrived behind a police and fire truck escort, coach Jeff Hans was riding shotgun with the newest member of the Thomas More family: the 2015 NCAA Division III national championship trophy.

“It was a little more realistic when I woke up this morning and the trophy was in my room,” said Hans. “I knew that it wasn’t a dream.”

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First Green Bay goes into West Lafayette and takes advantage of a missed free throw in the first overtime to push the game to a second overtime and the upset win over #24 Purdue.

Then, after an interesting first half that saw the #10 Texans stake themselves to a 6-pt lead over the Cardinal at Maples, it looks like Stanford was going to eek out a win. But NO! It goes to overtime! And this time — for the first time in thirty-three years — the Longhorns take down the temporarily #1 Tree. (That’s also Texas’ first takedown of a ranked team in 6 years.) What are pollsters going to do with their votes next week? It’s  so much easier when there  are no upsets in women’s basketball….

So, what is up with the California State schools? Northridge takes down BYU, 63-54. (Could be a tough year for the Cougars) and UC Riverside rolls over San Jose State, 100-80.

Keepin’ the ranked teams honest — #11 North Carolina edged #21 Oklahoma State by 2, 79-77.

The Hatters are off to a 2-0 start, with Marist in their future and Baylor looming. They don’t play conference rival FGCU until January 10th. The Eagles fell to Auburn, 72-69, in spite of Haas’ 30.

Debbie’s game of the night: George Mason over Delaware State, 110-91.

Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner was still mighty efficient (5-10 in 23 minutes), but she has to be careful of fouls. Lucky for the Irish, Jewell Loyd knows nows how to fill up a stat sheet (and shoot free throws). #3 Notre Dame over #15 Michigan State, 71-63.

Susie’s Panthers righted the ship with a school record 13 3-pointers against Michigan, but JMU’s up next.

That being said, JMU had a tough time against American, escaping with a 69-65 win.

A strong second half helped propel #24 Georgia over Ohio State, 67-59.

After scoring 50 points in the first, #8 Maryland eased up in the second, ’cause it could have been wicked ugly final score. Instead it’s just Terps 85, South Florida 67.

Even at home, Princeton continues to pound Pennsylvania.

Well, yes, LSU, it’s going to be that kind of season. The Tigers get rolled by the Green Wave.

After wins over Dayton and Idaho State, Washington State got handled (in the second half) by #16 Nebraska, 82-61.

Well, hello there, Mississippi State, you’re going to the preseason WNIT finals! They take down #17 West Virginia, 74-61 in a game full of ugly shooting. The Bulldogs will face off against the Hilltoppers because, after jumping to the #3 spot in the College Insider mid-major poll, Albany encountered the “Red Wave” of Western Kentucky… and fell,

#2 South Carolina got to iron out some of the kinks out while stomping all over Clemson, 99-41.

Speaking of stomping, there go the Cardinals.

That was Ka’lia Johnson tallying the seventh triple-double in Duke history as the # Blue Devils overcame Old Dominion, 82-66.

Can I ask “what’s happened to Florida” or is that too dismissive of the Red Storm?

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So, where are they going? Here’s the bracket.

So, what’s the reaction?

Sue at “They’re Playing Basketball,” has some quick thoughts.

Charlie goes “Huh?” at the missing Cardinal: Stanford deserved No. 1 seed – South Carolina’s No. 1 seed is puzzling; Louisville getting a 3 not as surprising

The answer to this year’s biggest burning question is right at the top of the bracket: Connecticut was sent to Lincoln, much to the satisfaction of most of the women’s college basketball world.

But a lot of other questions weren’t so easy to answer:

Michelle’s talking bracket winners and losers.

Graham says Tennessee faces toughest regional

Mechelle tries to spoke some road bumps for the Irish and Huskies:

Connecticut and Notre Dame have a chance to finish this season undefeated. The two former conference rivals are No. 1 seeds in the women’s NCAA tournament and could meet for the championship April 8 in Nashville, Tenn.

Of course, both teams will try to keep the focus on what’s right in front of them, not what’s down the road. Here’s a look at their potential paths before a possible clash of the titans.

She also cranks out Perfect approach for UConn, ND

After winning the ACC tournament, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw dodged discussion of her Irish and Connecticut potentially meeting in the women’s Final Four again.

McGraw drolly noted that she didn’t think the selection committee would have Notre Dame and UConn meeting in the first round; thus, she wasn’t going to focus on the Huskies.

 Of course, the two undefeated teams in this year’s NCAA women’s tournament are in opposite halves of the bracket, with the potential for an epic national championship game April 8 in Nashville, Tenn.

There have been seven undefeated champions in women’s basketball in the NCAA era, which began in the 1981-82 season. Four of them were UConn teams: 1995, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The others were Texas (1986), Tennessee (1998) and Baylor (2012). 

Interestingly enough, though, the only other time there were two unbeaten teams entering NCAA women’s tournament play, they actually did meet in the opening round.

ESPN’s five talking heads are doing some some quick analysis of the bracket.

Photos: It’s amazing… no, humbling, to see all the teams in their uniforms/regalia celebrating during the announcements and then seeing the Army women in their uniforms.

Speaking of Army, from the NY Times’ Zach Schonbrun: In Army’s Second N.C.A.A. Bid, a Bittersweet Connection to the First

At West Point, there was elation just to be included among the 64 best in the country. On Monday morning, Magarity received a text message from Jamie Dixon, the coach at Pittsburgh, congratulating the Black Knights for reaching the N.C.A.A. tournament for the second time. The first was in 2006, when the team was led by the vibrant oung coach Maggie Dixon, Jamie’s sister. Less than a month after losing in the first round to Tennessee, Dixon died from complications of an enlarged heart. She was 28.

Magarity was the associate coach of that 2005-6 team. Dixon’s sudden loss was “absolutely devastating,” Magarity said. It made him question whether coaching was the right path.

From Doug: Huskies, Irish, Lady Vols, Gamecocks earn 1 seeds (poke, poke, Muffet?)

Even though UConn and Notre Dame didn’t play this season, the two teams know plenty about each other having met 12 times over the previous three seasons. Notre Dame isn’t intimidated by Connecticut; the Irish have won seven of the past nine meetings with the Huskies.

”It was very unusual to go through a whole season without playing them, we’re so used to it, three times every year,” McGraw said. ”We’ve gotten pretty good at beating them the last couple of years.”

Have you checked out “Around The Rim” with Nell & Fran?

Random thoughts from me:

  • W/L: How about Stetson? How do those players and that program not deserve a chance over ASU and/or LSU?
  • Congrats Coach Scott — your friends at George Fox must be beaming.
  • The Old Big East sent seven to the Dance.
  • First round games I have my eye on: Gonzaga/JMU (Yes, LadySwish, Hard not to be in awe of Kenny Brooks and this JMU team), St. Joe’s/Georgia, DePaul/Oklahoma, PSU/Wichita, FGCU/Oklahoma State, Chattanooga/Syracuse

Finally, don’t get all het up about Stanford – Nerd Nation is chillin’

The other Dancin’ is happening at the WNIT. The field:

2014 Postseason
WNIT Teams
a=Automatic Berth

American (Patriot)
a-Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
a-Auburn (SEC)
Ball State (MAC)
a-Belmont (Ohio Valley)
a-Bowling Green (MAC)
Butler (Big East)
a-Cal Poly (Big West)
a-CSU Bakersfield (WAC)
Central Michigan (MAC)
Charlotte (Conference USA)
Colorado (Pac-12)
a-Colorado State (MWC)
a-Creighton (Big East)
a-Delaware (Colonial)
Duquesne (Atlantic 10)
East Carolina (Conference USA)
a-Furman (Southern)
George Washington (Atlantic 10)
a-Green Bay (Horizon)
Harvard (Ivy)
Hawaii (Big West)
a-High Point (Big South)
Indiana (Big Ten)
a-Indiana State (Missouri Valley)
a-Iona (Metro Atlantic)
IUPUI (Summit)
a-Lamar (Southland)
Marquette (Big East)
a-Miami (FL) (ACC)
Michigan (Big Ten)
a-Minnesota (Big Ten)
Mississippi State (SEC)
Missouri (SEC)
Montana (Big Sky)
a-Mount St. Mary’s (NEC)
a-Navy (Patriot)
a-North Carolina A&T (MEAC)
Northwestern (Big Ten)
Old Dominion (Conference USA)
Oregon (Pac-12)
a-Pacific (WCC)
a-Princeton (Ivy)
Quinnipiac (MAAC)
Rutgers (American)
Saint Mary’s (WCC)
San Diego (WCC)
Seton Hall (Big East)
SMU (American)
a-South Dakota State (Summit)
a-South Florida (American)
a-Southern Miss (Conference USA)
a-Southern Utah (Big Sky)
a-St. Bonaventure (Atlantic 10)
a-Stetson (Atlantic Sun)
a-Stony Brook (America East)
a-TCU (Big 12)
a-Texas Southern (SWAC)
Tulane (Conference USA)
UTEP (Conference USA 0
VCU (Atlantic 10)
Villanova (Big East)
a-Washington (Pac-12)
Washington State (Pac-12)

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playing UTEP would be an automatic win for Kansas State? Not so much anymore: Miners 84-39.

Other intriguing early trends:

Looks like it might be a tough year for the Hatters. They were defeated by North Carolina A&T, who became the first HBUC to win consecutive games in the preseason WNIT. (Speaking of the WNIT: The Championship game will feature a lot of red: Louisville v. Oklahoma, 4pm EST, CBSSports.)

Ditto for Western Carolina, who got stomped by the Fightin’ Camels (coach Watkin’s 500th win).

See above for St. Francis (PA), who got brushed off by Colgate.

LaTech is 0-2, which makes me wonder how long it will be before the W calls Spoon. Or vice versa: (Hello, Sandy? Hello, Jenny?)

Not a good sign for BU – the just escaped Rhode Island, 52-49.

UNC-Wilmington can’t get no respect. ESPN’s scoreboard says they beat Northern Kentucky, but won’t register the win in the record.

Yah, yah, it’s early, but…

Maine is 3-0.

Temple is 3-0.

St. John’s is 3-0.

St. Mary’s is 3-0.

NC State is 3-0.

Loyd scored a lot of points for Notre Dame.

Yah, they went to overtime, and Tennessee-Martin’s Jasmine Newsome scored a WNIT record 44tpts, but Quinnipiac is 0-2 on the road.

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the Drexel Dragons, 46-43 over Utah.

“This was the perfect finish for a great team,” Drexel head coach Denise Dillon said. “It was obviously a long season but this team wanted as many games as possible. I wanted to coach this team 100 more games. And this team wanted to play 100 more games. I couldn’t be happier with this outcome and giving the senior class a championship.”

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