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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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Dragons v. Utes (no longer).

Behind Hollie Mershon’s double-double (26/10), Drexel took down Florida, 67-57.

“When you look at the SEC and where it stands and you look at what we have done this year, absolutely this is the biggest win,” said Dragons coach Denise Dillon, the product of Cardinal O’Hara and Villanova. “Auburn was the last biggest win. So, yeah, this is certainly the biggest win for our program. I’ve been here 10 years so I would certainly say this is it.”

In what sounds like an unlovely game, Utah overcame Kansas State, 54-46. In OT.

“We made just enough plays down the stretch to get the win,” said head coach Anthony Levrets. “I thought we had a really great game plan tonight. I’m really proud of our team.”

Utah travels to Drexel for the Finals, Saturday, April 6, 3pmEST.

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WNIT: OSU women end tragic season with championship

Oklahoma State won the WNIT Championship Saturday afternoon with a 75-68 victory over James Madison. But the moments that really matter happened after the Cowgirls clinched the win.

A season that will forever be linked to the tragedy of the November plane crash that killed coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and program supporters Olin and Paula Branstetter culminated nearly five months later with celebration.

With hugs. With tears of joy. With smiles.

“It was like that fairy-tale ending for us,” Young said.

Also from Gina: Morning After Blog: Breaking down Oklahoma State’s WNIT run

Yesterday’s WNIT championship win for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team was about so much more than basketball, and I wrote it as such in my story in Sunday’s Oklahoman.

But understandably lost in the shuffle of such an emotional win–and journey–was just how well the Cowgirls played during the WNIT. So let’s look purely at basketball for a bit and break down this postseason run for the Cowgirls.

From John Klein at the Tulsa World: Cowgirls’ emotional season has a happy ending

Littell said he couldn’t keep thinking about his friends and family throughout Saturday’s game.

“It’s been a long, tough year,” said Littell.

Budke’s wife Shelley continued to sit in her regular seats up behind OSU’s bench the entire season.

She got to help cut down the nets after the WNIT Championship Game.

“That was really special,” said Littell. “She’s a special lady.

“She’s been a rock for us all season.”

From the AP: Oklahoma State ends tragic season with WNIT title

From Chase Glorfeld at the Idaho State Journal: Oklahoma State women get Hollywood ending

Stories of “tragedy to triumph” are maniacally over-used in Hollywood and mainstream media and frankly have lessened the impact and importance of tragic occasions that occur in our own lives.

 But on Saturday, something that transcends while at the same time defines that cliché took place in Stillwater, Okla.
I really don’t know if such a terrible story when it started in November could have had much better of an ending than what happened in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon. The wife of late head coach Kurt Budke, Shelley, provided the final snip of the WNIT nets and the Cowgirls reigned victorious.

From Mechelle: From tragedy to triumph – Oklahoma State beats James Madison for the WNIT championship

At Big 12 media day last October, Kurt Budke sounded like he almost couldn’t wait to be at the same event a year in the future. He was excited about the young talent on his Oklahoma State team and felt sure that the players’ growth potential was very, very strong.

That’s the image I will always keep in my mind of Budke: smiling and looking ahead.

Saturday, on the same Gallagher-Iba court where Budke and his assistant, Miranda Serna, were eulogized last November after their deaths in a plane crash, those left behind had as happy an ending to the season as they could have hoped for after their devastating loss.

It couldn’t have been an easy game for either team to play, so I don’t want James Madison’s effort in the WNIT, and during the season as a whole, get lost in the shuffle. Said coach Kenny Brooks post-game:

I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought both teams played hard. I thought (OSU) played better than we did for longer stretches, therefore, when you come to a venue like this and a situation a like this, you can’t have lulls. We had some lulls, and I thought that was the big difference, but give them credit. (Toni) Young is probably the best center we’ve played against all year. She was tremendous inside and athletic, and (Tiffany) Bias was probably the best point guard we’ve played against all year. Those two I thought were the biggest factors, and we just couldn’t contain them when we needed to. That group, they’ve done a very special thing for this program at Oklahoma State and we tip our hat to them. We just didn’t have our best game.”

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Scores.

Next!

First we have a “Big 6 v mid-major” story: Syracuse at JMU at 7 p.m. ET

Then we’ve got a “feel good story” v a “nobody’s noticed story“: San Diego at Oklahoma State at 8 p.m. ET

In a related story, congrats to NJCAA Champs Trinity Valley College, who won a battle between two undefeated teams.

How is it related? From the Hutchinson (KS) News: Court ceremony hits home for Trinity

The emotions were high for the Trinity Valley, Texas, women Saturday evening, especially for sophomore Keuna Flax and co-coach Kenya Landers.

Minutes before Trinity Valley embarked on its 69-55 win against Hutchinson Community College in the NJCAA national championship game at the Bicentennial Center, the basketball court was dedicated for Kurt Budke, a former Trinity Valley and Oklahoma State coach who was killed in a November plane crash.

More from the Salina Journal: Winning Tribute: Trinity Valley comes through on night Kurt Budke Court in named

Trinity Valley co-head coach Kenya Landers descended from the ladder and handed the scissors to Shelley Budke.

Budke climbed the ladder, snipped the last strand of net that had hung from the basketball goal at the west end of the Bicentennial Center, climbed down, placed the net around Landers and embraced her in a lengthy and emotional hug as they stood on the newly renamed Kurt Budke Court, dedicated to the memory of Shelley’s late husband.

Mission accomplished for Landers and her Trinity Valley women’s basketball team.

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From the Tulsa World: OSU women’s coaches take on extra work in wake of tragedy

The Oklahoma State women’s basketball team has rebounded from tragedy to win 18 games and reach the Sweet Sixteen of the WNIT.

The Cowgirls, who host Missouri Valley Conference champion Missouri State at 7 p.m. Thursday, were shepherded to this point by Jim Littell, who was promoted from assistant coach to head coach after former head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna died in a Nov. 17 plane crash.

But the unsung heroes of OSU’s forge-ahead season have been members of Littell’s staff.

From CBS-Philly: Temple, Villanova Ready For WNIT Battles

Just two Division I teams in the city are still playing basketball.  Both the Temple and Villanova women’s squads are into the Sweet 16 of the WNIT with both look to advance tonight.

Temple will be home at McGonigle Hall to host Syracuse out of the Big East while Villanova is on the road tonight to run with Colorado out of the Pac 12.

From the Daily Toreador: Tech hopes to extend WNIT run, hosts San Diego

We’re just excited to be able to continue to play,” she said. “We’ve got a chance to go to an Elite Eight. There’s another Elite Eight about to happen and when you look across this tournament, there are very worthy NCAA Tournament teams, so, again, it’s just trying to turn it into the most positive experience we can. That’s what life’s about.”

From the Richmond Times: U.Va., VCU set for WNIT third-round games

University of Virginia women’s basketball coach Joanne Boyle doesn’t believe in the status quo. After 34 games and nearly five months, Boyle is still tweaking her club’s on-court personality.

U.Va., which will play host to Appalachian State tonight at 7 in the third round of the WNIT, has thrived throughout the season on an inside-oriented zone defense. But in Monday’s second-round victory over the University of Richmond, a dangerous perimeter-shooting team, Boyle’s Cavaliers played an uncharacteristic amount of man-to-man.

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WNIT results.

Third Round Schedule
Tuesday, March 20
Washington at Oregon State, 10 p.m. ET
Thursday, March 22
Appalachian State at Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Syracuse at Temple, 7 p.m. ET
VCU at Toledo, 7 p.m. ET
San Diego at Texas Tech, 8 p.m. ET
Missouri State at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET
Villanova at Colorado, 9 p.m. ET
Friday, March 23
South Florida at JMU, 7 p.m. ET

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Check out the final results of the first round of the WNIT. BTW, congrats! “San Diego won its first postseason game in history, holding off Cal State Northridge 60-58 to advance to Round 2, where they will host Pacific at 7 p.m. ET Sunday.”

Second Round Picks
Saturday, March 17
Appalachian State at NC State, 5 p.m. ET
Harvard at Temple, 6 p.m. ET
Florida International at South Florida, 7 p.m. ET
Memphis at Missouri State, 8 p.m. ET
Saint Mary�s at Oregon State, 10 p.m. ET

Sunday, March 18
Wake Forest at JMU, 2 p.m. ET
VCU at St. Joseph�s, 2 p.m. ET
Tulane at Texas Tech, 3 p.m. ET
Utah at Washington, 3 p.m. ET
Wichita State at Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. ET
Villanova at Illinois State, 3:05 p.m. ET
Pacific at San Diego, 7 p.m. ET

Monday, March 19
Syracuse at Drexel, 7 p.m. ET
Cincinnati at Toledo, 7 p.m. ET
Richmond at Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Colorado at South Dakota, 8 p.m. ET

Next, in the better late than never world, check out the other basketball that’s going on:

The NCAA Division II brackets have hit the semis and three of the four #1 seeds are playing: Wayne State v, Bentley and Rollin v. Cinderella Lander, the #4 seed responsible for the missing #1 seed. The teams are playing in San Antonio (lucky devils) on March 21st.

The NCAA Division III brackets finish up on St. Patrick’s Day in Holland, Michigan. George Fox, who stopped the Amherst winning streak at 50, will fact off against  Illinois Wesleyan, who earned a shot at the title by virtue of their 67-53 win over St. Thomas.

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FIRST SPOILER ALERT:

Just about to hop on a plane and go far away. VERY far away. (Again). (But for a short time, lucky cat sitter.)

Rumor has it that there’s internet, but the whole “work” thing combined with the “time change” thing may make me wicked cranky. So that may spoil some viewing and coverage.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: WNIT First Round Picks.

Friend of the Blog (and fan of giraffes) Michelle mentioned she might be interested in challenging each other’s WNIT chops. So, if you wanna show off, read no further (unless you want to know who NOT to pick) and email me with your picks (womenshoopsblog @ gmail. com.

Here’s the picks I sent her:

Thursday, March 15
Drexel @ Fairfield, 7 p.m. ET
UC Davis @ Oregon State, 10 p.m. ET
UNLV @ Saint Mary�s, 10 p.m. ET
Utah State @ Utah, 9 p.m. ET
Eastern Illinois @ Texas Tech, 8 p.m. ET
Mississippi Valley State @ Tulane, 8 p.m. ET
Central Michigan @ Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. ET
American @ Villanova, 7 p.m. ET
Drake @ South Dakota, 8 p.m. ET
UMKC @ Missouri State, 8 p.m. ET
Chattanooga @ Memphis, 8 p.m. ET
Quinnipiac @ Temple, 7 p.m. ET
Harvard @ Hofstra, 7 p.m. ET
VCU @ Bowling Green, 7 p.m. ET
Boston University @ Saint Joseph�s, 7 p.m. ET
High Point @ NC State, 7 p.m. ET
Appalachian State @ UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m. ET
Miami-Ohio @ Richmond, 6 p.m. ET
Howard @ Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Davidson @ James Madison, 7 p.m. ET
Wake Forest @ Charlotte, 7 p.m. ET
Stetson @ Florida International, 7 p.m. ET
Florida Atlantic @ South Florida, 7 p.m. ET

Friday, March 16
Arizona State @ Pacific, 10 p.m. ET
CS Northridge @ San Diego, 10 p.m. ET
Oral Roberts @ Wichita State, 8:05 p.m. ET
Central Arkansas @ Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET
Syracuse @ Hartford, 7 p.m. ET
Detroit @ Toledo, 7 p.m. ET
Duquesne @ Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET

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64-team field announced for Postseason WNIT

There are some intriguing early round matches — made so by regular season mid-majors not winning their tournament. It’ll give folks a chance assess conference v. conference strength.

The ones that pop out to me right away”
Eastern Illinois – Texas Tech
Mississippi Valley State v. Tulane
American v. Villanova
Chattanooga v. Memphis
Davidson v. JMU
Florida Atlantic v. South Florida
Central Arkansas Oklahoma State
Detroit v. Toledo
Duquese v. Cincinnati

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with an impressive display by Della Donne and the Blue Hens.

The Green Wave took down the Geaux Tigers.

The Sooners enjoyed a helping Hand.

Georgetown won, but still seem Sugar-free.

Kizer is back, and helped the Terps to a win.

Yup, Louisville still has that injury bug.

Don’t let the “Stanford-UConn on Monday” hype distract you from the hard to find on tv match up in the WNIT finals between Baylor and Notre Dame. Graham says this 1-2 showdown to be defensive battle.

It’s a game with star power and style to spare, both on the sideline from Kim Mulkey and Muffet McGraw, and on the court, where Baylor center Brittney Griner, the consensus national preseason player of the year, and Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins might be the two most recognizable names in the college game at the moment.

We can’t know if it’s a preview of any game in April, but it doesn’t need to be. Pitting those individual stars against two defensive riddles is as compelling as November can get.

If the folks at CBS Sports Network wanted a game to remind women’s basketball fans that the channel still exists, they couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Unless, of course, you’re a fan who doesn’t get CBSSN. Sigh.

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for the WNIT Pre-Season Bracket!

Top 10 teams Baylor, Notre Dame, and UCLA headline the field that features nine teams that played in the postseason last year. The Preseason WNIT field includes Akron, Chattanooga, Detroit, Drexel, ETSU, Hartford, Howard, Indiana State, Long Island, Manhattan, McNeese State, Tennessee Tech, and UAB.

Click here for the first-round schedule.

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From the folks at the WNIT

– Host teams won an average of 64 percent of home games. The best round for the visiting teams was Round 2, in which visitors claimed wins in 9 of the 16 games. The unusual numbers reflect an ongoing trend showing the parity of play in the WNIT. In the 2010 WNIT, home teams won 70 percent of the games. In 2009, it was 75 percent. In 2008, home teams won 81 percent of the games. In 2007, it was 87 percent.

– Two schools sold out their arenas in 2011 for the first time in school history: Toledo did it with its 7,300-seat arena in the semifinal and final games; and Florida Gulf Coast hit the milestone in its Round 2 game against the University of Florida, when it packed a record 4,543 fans at Alico Arena.

– Nevada drew its largest crowd in school history when it hosted Southern Cal in Round 2 in front of 3,361 fans.

– Illinois State advanced to the WNIT semifinals for the third straight year.

– Wyoming’s fans continued to turn out in record numbers. The Cowgirls averaged 5,178 fans in the first three rounds, a 49 percent increase from their regular-season average.

From Toledo: WNIT profitable venture for UT – Rockets’ books in black after 6-game run

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Check out this YouTube video.

And what about to their fans? Writes one:

Television can’t come close to describing the electricity and excitement generated in the arena by the fans for this championship game.

I saw my first basketball game at Toledo as a junior high youngster back in 1954 and have been hooked since then.

Nothing – and I really mean nothing – that I’ve witnessed over the years comes remotely close to having watched and participated in the happenings taking place at Savage Arena on Saturday, and that would include the 1976 Savage Hall dedication game win over reigning NCAA champ Indiana, the 1998 win over Ohio State, the women’s 2001 win over Duke, and the 2008 men’s Savage Arena rededication win over UMASS. Even our normally-passive chronologically-challenged fans stood, cheered, and bounced in place throughout the game.

Additionally, I’m so proud of our fans for being so very gracious to the USC team and small contingent of fans they brought to the game. I know it’s easy to be gracious when you’re the winner, but the visitors I spoke with said they appreciated the hospitality.

As a fan of the MAC I hope that all of you can some day have the same “Toledo” experience in your arenas.

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Don’t miss today’s WNIT final on CBS College Sports at 3pm EST.

A little pregame news:

From the LA Times: Women’s basketball: USC preparing to play Toledo for WNIT title

USC (24-12) will attempt to win its fifth consecutive road game. The Trojans, who opened the tournament at home against UC Santa Barbara, advanced to the final with victories at Nevada, Brigham Young, Colorado and Illinois State.

A little local coverage from the Blade:

Trojan defense poses difficulty for Rockets

How they got there: Rockets’ WNIT run

From Toledo on the Move:

A lot of eyes on Toledo, more specifically the University of Toledo lady Rockets who are one step away to  winning the WNIT tournament.  This is the first time in the schools history that the Rockets have advanced to the championship game.  On Saturday, the Rockets host USC at home and the winner takes the title.

If the lady rockets can pull off another win, it will be their first postseason tournament crown.  UT administrators say this bodes well for more than just UT athletics.

You want tickets for the game? Sorry – Sold OUT!

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(just ask Miami).

One great thing this year was Toledo fans selling out the arena (7,020 is a Rockets and MAC record) and them all leaving happy.

Another great thing is the opening line to a game report for the semi-final game between USC and Illinois State: “Jacki Gemelos scored 15 points to lead USC.”

Toledo and USC meet in the finals this Saturday at 3pmEST (in Toledo) and will be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network.

Writes Nate at Swish Appeal:

Before haters – like Swish Appeal’s own Holly – relegate the Pac-10 to mid-major status, I would like to suggest that potentially owning the WNIT (in addition to making a Final Four appearance for the past four years) counts for something.

And yes, we’re gonna call two in a row dominant: since Wayland Baptist won the first nine titles, only the Big East (Marquette, 2008: South Florida, 2009) and Big Ten (Wisconsin, 2000; Ohio State, 2001) have claimed consecutive WNIT titles.

As described by Matt Sussman of SBN’s Hustle Belt, the USC Trojans have the opportunity to do just that against the Toledo Rockets for a conference that has widely been considered sub-par over the last few years.

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Ryan, Virginia try to keep it going against BC

The Cavaliers will try to extend the tenure of Ryan, who has announced she will step down after this season, for at least one more game when ACC foe Boston College (20-12) visits John Paul Jones Arena Thursday at 7 p.m. in the third round of the WNIT.

A little over a month ago, these teams also met at JPJ and the Eagles rolled 73-50. We’re not sure what to make of that score, though. Virginia didn’t score a point in the first 9:41 and fell behind 20-0 – against an Eagles team that ranked 11th in the 12-team ACC in scoring defense. We’re not guaranteeing Virginia will win the rematch, but we’re sure Thursday’s game won’t play out like that first meeting.

 

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Third Round
Tuesday, March 22
Toledo 74, Alabama 59

Wednesday, March 23

Arkansas 78, Oral Roberts 59
Southern Cal 62, BYU 50

Up next:

Thursday, March 24
Boston College  at Virginia, 7 p.m. EST
Eastern Michigan at Syracuse, 7 p.m. EST
Florida at Charlotte, 7 p.m. EST
Duquesne at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. EST
Colorado at Wyoming, 9 p.m. EST

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Monday, March 21

Syracuse 63, St. Bonaventure 50
Eastern Michigan 63, UNC Wilmington 54
Florida 73, Florida Gulf Coast 69
Oral Roberts 92, Tulane 86
Colorado 81, California 65
Wyoming 75, Oklahoma State 71

Up next: Third Round

Tuesday, March 22
Alabama at Toledo, 7 p.m. EST

Wednesday, March 23
Arkansas  at Oral Roberts, 8 p.m. EST
Southern Cal at BYU, 9 p.m. EST

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Round 2 Games from Sunday, March 20

Charlotte 69, South Carolina 57
Illinois State 62, Wisconsin 59
Alabama 72, Northwestern 70
Arkansas 65, Missouri State 64
Virginia 71, Loyola 49
Southern Cal 78, Nevada 59

With James Bowman over at Swish Appeal asking, “Does playing in the WNIT help teams?“, Scott Nulph at the Laramie Boomerang offers a possible response: Cowgirls, fans embrace WNIT

It’s not going out on a limb to say that the University of Wyoming women’s basketball team and its fans have embraced the Women’s National Invitation Tournament more than most schools.

It’s not rare to hear UW fans say they would rather see their beloved Cowgirls play at home in the WNIT than be one and done in the NCAA tournament.

Just why is that?

Certainly, winning has played a big part. The Cowgirls are 10-2 in the WNIT since coach Joe Legerski took over in 2003, including winning the title in 2007.

More than that, it’s also about who the Cowgirls have played and beaten.

Getting teams to come to Laramie has always been a difficult task. Now throw in the fact that UW has won nearly 75 percent of its homes games since Legerski took over, and getting anybody to play in the Arena-Auditorium these days is a challenge.

Long time readers will remember the exciting 2007 title run.

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Thursday, March 17

St. Bonaventure 77, Lehigh 43
Syracuse 77, Monmouth 53
Eastern Michigan 67, Michigan 59
UNC Wilmington 63, Richmond 54
Boston College 85, Yale 61
St. Joseph’s 72, VCU 66
Virginia 69, Morgan State 56
Duquesne 64, Kent State 56
Utah State 103, Arizona 95
Oral Roberts 78, TCU 74
Arkansas 91, Lamar 65
Tulane 61, Southern 31
Northwestern 89, Creighton 63
Auburn 68, Tennessee Tech 54
Illinois State 72, Central Michigan 59
Missouri State 76, Rice 65
Alabama 80, Memphis 69
Colorado 71, UC Riverside 62
BYU 75, Denver 60
Southern Cal 67, UC Santa Barbara 64
Nevada 65, St. Mary’s CA 62
California 74, Cal Poly 60

Friday, March 18

Florida 59, UMBC 47
FGCU 73, Drexel 67

Saturday you have

Auburn at Toledo, 12 p.m. EST
St. Joseph’s at Boston College, 1:30 p.m. EST
Utah State at BYU, 5 p.m. EST
Duquesne at Kansas, 8 p.m. EST

Sunday it’s

Illinois State at Wisconsin, 2 p.m. EST
Charlotte at South Carolina, 2 p.m. EST
Arkansas at Missouri, 3 p.m. EST
Alabama at Northwestern, 3 p.m. EST
Virginia at Loyola, 4 p.m. EST
Southern Cal at Nevada, 5 p.m. EST

Monday’s schedule is

St. Bonaventure at Syracuse, 7 p.m. EST
Eastern Michigan at UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m. EST
Florida at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:05 p.m. EST
Tulane at Oral Roberts, 8 p.m. EST
California at Colorado, 9 p.m. EST
Oklahoma State at Wyoming, 9 p.m. EST

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in the WNIT Round One Pt. 1.

Check out Lady Swish for the Liberty and ODU breakdown.

Here’s what’s on tap for tonight:

Thursday, March 17
Lehigh at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. EST

Monmouth at Syracuse, 7 p.m. EST
Michigan at Eastern Michigan, 7 p.m. EST
UNC Wilmington at Richmond, 7 p.m. EST
Boston College at Yale, 7 p.m. EST
VCU at St. Joseph’s, 7 p.m. EST
Morgan State at Virginia, 7 p.m. EST
Kent State at Duquesne, 7 p.m. EST
Arizona at Utah State, 7:30 p.m. EST
Oral Roberts at TCU, 7:30 p.m. EST
Lamar at Arkansas, 8 p.m. EST
Southern at Tulane, 8 p.m. EST
Creighton at Northwestern, 8 p.m. EST
Auburn at Tennessee Tech, 8 p.m. EST
Central Michigan at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. EST
Rice at Missouri State, 8:05 p.m. EST
Alabama at Memphis, 8:05 p.m. EST
UC Riverside at Colorado, 9 p.m. EST
Denver at BYU, 9:30 p.m. EST
UC Santa Barbara at Southern Cal, 10 p.m. EST
Nevada at St. Mary’s CA, 10 p.m. EST
California at Cal Poly, 10:05 p.m. EST
Friday, March 18
UMBC at Florida, 7 p.m. EST

Drexel at FGCU, 7:05 p.m. EST

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has some WNIT thoughts: ODU, Liberty in WNIT: Who wants to play?

Because it’s not clear where the players’ heads are – and also due to the short preparation time teams have for opponents they often know little about – home teams have historically had an even greater-than-normal edge in WNIT games. Doesn’t mean Liberty can’t win at Charlotte tonight, and it doesn’t guarantee Old Dominion will take down Loyola (Md.). But in the WNIT in particular, there really is no place like home.

For Central Michigan, their WNIT game against Illinois State on Thursday will be their first postseason bid since 1984.

Other teams playing:

Florida: Tickets for UF Women’s Basketball WNIT First Round Game on Sale

Arizona: For Cats, win in WNIT might mean trip back home

Nevada: Pack takes to road for WNIT opener

Yale: Women’s basketball to face BC in WNIT first round

Oklahoma State: Cowgirls to host Pepperdine in WNIT

Check out the rest of the schedule.

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Some great games yesterday mean wicked tough decisions for the Committee (check out Charlie’s latest brackets) and heartbreak for bubble and near-bubble teams. (And I’m thinking the WNIT won’t be disappointed at their choices.)

It’s been a pretty horrible season by Jen Rizzotti standards (16-15 overall), but her team pulled together a superb tourney run. They beat Boston University, 65-53, in front of a raucous Boston crowd to steal a bid to the NCAAs.

Their 18-16 record made Utah the obvious underdogs against the Horned Frogs (22-10), but that didn’t phase freshman Michelle Plouffe. She scored 8 of her 24 points in OT, and the Utes grabbed the Mountain West championship and an automatic bid.

The Midshipmen are dancing, courtesy of their comeback against American. What a win for the home crowd to witness: they were down 12 at the half and won by 7 to earn their first Patriot League championship.

“Obviously all the girls on the team have been dreaming of this since they were little, from kindergarten all the way up to this moment,” Geif said. “To walk up the ladder and cut down the net was the greatest feeling, just knowing we had all done it together. It was really incredible.”

It’s (pretty) certain LaTech is dancing, but they’re getting in because of their record, not because they won the WAC title. That honor goes to Fresno State, who used a buzzer-beater to avoid (yet another) OT and snag a 78-76 win and punch their dance card.

It wasn’t quite a buzzer-beater, but Robin Jones’ first basket of the game was enough to help Prairie View take down Southern, 48-44 and claim the SWAC title.

Bowling Green’s day went as expected (though it may have been a little tighter than fans would have liked) and they won their 2nd straight MAC championship (and the auto bid) with a 51-46 win over Eastern Michigan.

Their in-conference record (10-6) would suggest that UC Davis’ 66-49 victory over Cal Poly to win the Big West championship was an upset, but their out-of-conference record (24-8) suggests otherwise. Either way, the results mean they are going to the NCAAs and coach Sandy Simpson has to wait a little longer his to start his retirement.

Hope MEAC champs Hampton will bring their fabulous band with them when the play in the NCAA tourney. They earned the right after easily handling Howard, 61-42.

Congrats to Chicago State who grabbed the lead and held on for a 74-66 win over North Dakota. The Great West championship is theirs.

Tulane battled, but they couldn’t keep up with Joi William’s UCF Knights. Central Florida’s 85-73 win means they’re the C-USA champs and on their way to the Big Dance.

Doesn’t it feel like a lot of the conference championship games have featured teams playing each other for the third time? Stanford survived UCLA, Baylor survived Texas A&M, but Portland State was not so lucky. Montana defeated the Vikings 62-58 to clinch the Big West championship and their third trip to the NCAAs in the last four years.

The TBAs are playing tomorrow (DON’T FORGET TO SPRING FORWARD!!):

Horizon: ESPNU has the Butler v. Green Bay game at 1pmEST.

NEC: You’ll find the St. Francis (PA) v. Monmouth game on the U at 3pm. (D’ya think the chair of the D-1 committee might be watching?)

MVC: Is TV-free, but features Northern Iowa against Missouri State.

CAA: The Elena v. Dawn match up is on ESPN3 at 1pmEST. Delle Donne’s offense (29pts) and defense (7 blocks, 10 rebs), helped power Delaware to a 62-47 win over UNC-Wilmington. Meanwhile, James Madison was down by 5 at the half, but roared back to drop VCU by 10. (Dawn dropped 20.)

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Miami fans (and their coach) were gettin’ their buzz on because of the team’s play in last year’s WNIT?

Reaching this year’s WNIT finals has given Miami coach Katie Meier an interesting perspective on the expansion discussions. “I understand both sides of the story,” said Meier. “If 96 is going to be out there, then yes, I’m going to want one of those slots. But, at the same time, how many one-and-dones does that make?” she wondered. “We won five games in March and that’s never been done in Miami before.” During the tournament, Meier saw her team raise their shooting, rebounding and scoring percentages across the board. “To me that was a big deal. We brought our A-game in the post-season, and it lasted for a month. That was something we’re really going to build off of.”

Hosting three home games also allowed the Hurricanes to connect with alumni and build fan support, something that has become a trademark of recent WNIT tournaments. “Every year,” noted Carlson, “we have teams who go in and have their program’s best attendance ever. This year Illinois State was poised to sell out for a championship. Even not making it, you see them say, administratively, ‘Okay, we understand what we need to do to move forward with this – to capture this.’”

That buzz has continued. From Linda Robertson at the Miami Herald: A worst-to-first dream is UM women’s reality

If you were waiting for the bottom to fall out on the University of Miami women’s basketball team, it hasn’t happened.

If you were nervous that the team would crash and burn, stop worrying.

If you thought this team’s record was a mirage, you can open your eyes now. Wide.

The best team in South Florida – bar none – is still accelerating, just in time for March Madness.

And this team is certainly mad – mad as in madcap, magnetic, delightfully unusual.

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From Graham on Heather Golden, who’s been forced to finish her career on the bench because of injury: The best 3 minutes of Green Bay’s season

If it wasn’t the kind of effort the coaching staff wanted to see out of its nationally ranked team in January, it certainly wasn’t the vantage point Golden wanted to have for her final season.

But when it would be easy to be bitter about so many lost minutes, Golden instead cherishes the three she found earlier this season — minutes that proved no less meaningful as a farewell than as the beginning of a comeback. And as her hair-tussling on an otherwise forgettable night seemed to suggest, there are worse places to be, even in the most frustrating of moments, than around Dr. James Naismith’s creation.

Also from Graham, his mid-major poll: Top two teams remain the same, which you can compare with the CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25 ranking.

Lady Swish says:

We bow our heads to Hampton, shake our heads about Norfolk State and offer this heads up about Radford: These guys are pretty good!

From the NCAA blog, John Infante asks: What Would Paying Student-Athletes Look Like?

Holy three-ball! FGCU took 55… yes FIFTY FIVE of them. Oh, yah. They also won.

Word has it that over 8000 tickets sold for Sunday’s Civil War and women’s MKA opener.

Q has: How Washington’s Defense Frustrated A ‘Lackadaisical & Unfocused’ Cal Team

Mark your calendar for the post-season WNIT.

There’s a job opening at Stonybrook.

Charlie’s got his latest Bracketology and says an Emphasis on road wins is the key

In a season in which winning away from home has proved to be especially difficult — Stanford lost by 22 at DePaul and then the Blue Demons, just five days later, lost by 13 at Arizona State, a team that the Cardinal would then beat by 47 at home — scoring some occasional success on the road will prove to be a difference maker in seeding or even inclusion in the NCAA tournament. This isn’t groundbreaking news, for sure. The tournament committee has used road/neutral records as one of its chief criterion for years. And why not? There is no better measuring stick for a team’s abilities come March because, at least after the first two rounds, that’s exactly what the tournament is. And for most, the opening rounds are, at best, neutral site games.

The AP says, Meighan Simmons key for Lady Vols

Tennessee point guard Meighan Simmons likes to play fast. Even coach Pat Summitt, who loves to push tempo, has had to warn “Speedy” to slow down.

“There will be times where I can’t even slow myself down,” Simmons said. “There will be times, I admit, where I do jack up shots. I’m rushing into it because I just want to get a feel of the ball and where the basket is. I know after a while, once I get into the flow of the game, I just let the game come to me.”

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