Women's Hoops Blog: March 2007

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Saturday, March 31, 2007

On the eve of the Final Four, Cleveland's paper of record covers the pros: what does the league need?

Stacey Dales says it: "We need a longer season."

Sue Bird: "The WNBA still has the most talent... If the WNBA paid [as well as] European teams do, [the length of the season] wouldn't even be a question," because all the American players, and half the best foreign ones, would turn down overseas gigs to play here.

Also in Cleveland: draft camp. Wurst has been watching the camp teams' pickup games, coached by Teresa Edwards and Sandy Brondello: Vandy PG Dee Davis, Wurst writes, "was the best player on the floor." (She even took some shots.)

Also in Cleveland: Billie Jean King.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mechelle mulls the offensive and defensive possibilities of the semi-finals.
"We have great games with Tennessee," Hatchell said. "We both have great athletes, play good defense, and go up and down the floor. And I'm hoping we can have that kind of game on Sunday."

We're right there hoping that with you, Coach. After seeing snoozers in three of the four regional finals, something with both Tennessee and North Carolina in the 80s would really be a blast.

As for LSU-Rutgers, both might get to the 80s -- if they play six overtimes.
Maya! Maya! Maya! UConn fans a psyched. And know how to use YouTube.
Graham Hays asks and answers four questions on the Final Four.
As Gail mulls over her decision, Mechelle reminds us what a tough choice this really is.
Elizabeth Merrill explores the mystery of the Pokey Chatman story on ESPN.com
Marcy Weston, one of the refs from the first Final Four in 1982, looks back on her experience.

Weston is now a senior associate AD at Central Michigan.
If you want to check out the next wave of college talent, ESPN is (re) broadcasting the 2007 McDonald's All-American game on the Deuce at 1pmEST.
Mechelle writes about RU's Matee Ajavon's journey from Liberia to the Final Four.
Kathy Orton discusses the tournament's attendance problems. ESPN, for one, doesn't like showing empty arenas on TV.

"With the amount of competition we have in the market for people to browse through all the channels, it's important that it's a welcoming environment, an exciting environment," says programming director Carol Stiff. "We sometimes have to shoot the arena in a different way than we would like to."

Coach Summitt, who supported the move to neutral sites, says it might be time to go back to the old system.

She might be right. But even under the old system, we had predetermined sites for the regionals. We still need to figure out something to do about that.
Jere Longman on Big Syl:
Fowles has reached a moment of luminous athletic grace. It is suddenly clear to her, and others, that she can prevail among the nation’s centers, unique and perhaps better than most or any who came before her. In this springtime, her career has come into full bloom.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Staley re-ups for six more years at Temple.

That doesn't mean she's guaranteed to stay there for six more years, of course, but it does suggest that she wouldn't mind staying...

...and that she's not headed for Penn State, where we can expect to see Suzie McC a new head coach soon. Some Lion recruits are already backing out. (Yes, that does mean that they wanted to play for Rene.)

In other reactions, Penn State student activists are glad to see her go, and New England commmentator Judy Van Handle contrasts the Portland mess, which lingered for over a decade, with Pokeygate, where LSU acted right away.
So you say you want to watch the NCAA title game from five angles at once?

You're in luck! ESPN is rolling out its Full Circle coverage for Tuesday's game. The game will be shown on three channels, in three formats, at once.

It is not without risk, however...
So you say you want to go to the Wyoming/Wisconsin WNIT Finals? Too late! The 15,000 tickets for Arena-Auditorium are gone.
You've heard a lot about Kay Yow in the last few weeks. Maybe you've become inured to the story.

Don't let it stop you from reading this.
Gail: gone.

UPDATE: hold your horses. A good source says she might stay. "It's 50-50."
The two of us are underwhelmed. Of course we're both planning to watch the Final Four, and we'll certainly follow the draft (though Passover travel may prevent us from watching the latter live). Of course we expect to see some hard-fought games, and some highlights from Parker, Fowles, White, Latta, Larkins, Vaughn, and the 55 press. And yet... compared to recent Final Fours, we're underwhelmed. Why? Well...

1. No newcomers. Tennessee and, now, LSU are perennials, and UNC, now a repeater, won it all on Smith's famous last-second shot in '94. Rutgers surprised the unwary this year, but they made the Final Four in 2000, and coach Stringer, as you will hear many times this weekend, has been to the Final Four with three schools.

By contrast, two newcomers met in 2005 for the championship game. 2004 had our Gophers, '02 the Sooners, '01 Jackie Stiles (though Southwest Missouri State had been there in '92), '00 both Rutgers and Penn State, and 1998 ninth-seeded Arkansas.

(On the other hand, rematches can be fun: UT met UNC last December and in last year's regional final. UNC won both times.)

2. Lame-o regionals. We're not talking about the attendance, though some people are; nor are we talking about effort from the athletes, 95% of whom played their hearts out. We're talking about the games that resulted; half were blowouts, and most were decided with four minutes still on the clock.

Worse yet, among the twelve games which cut last week's Sweet Sixteen down to four, the two closest, most dramatic weren't exactly designed to create happy memories. In one, the lasting moment will be Lindsay Harding's choke. In the other, the Huskies outplayed the Wolfpack, but the circumstances of Kay Yow's career made the outcome hard to celebrate even for those of us who wanted to see UConn win it all.

Yes, there were two more fine games, but unless you're an Ole Miss fan, they weren't as memorable.

This year's first two rounds had wonderful surprises, buzzer-beaters, rewards for hard work, and all sorts of inspiring games. The last two... not so much.

3. Defense-first teams. Though you might not have seen it on Monday, both Rutgers (always) and LSU (this year) often show better defense than offense: Rutgers can score, but they're known for their press, they've never been known for their passing, and big wins in past years have kept both teams under 60.

LSU-- well, Fowles' opponents don't make layups, and when the Tigers' outside shots don't fall, both teams risk ending up under 50. LSU lost the SEC final 51-45; one observer described the game as water torture.

The Rutgers-LSU semi could be exciting and close. It could also be close and unwatchably ugly, with both teams shooting under 30%. Last time these teams met, Cappie wore scarlet, Seimone wore purple, and RU upset LSU in overtime... 51 to 49.

4. Few links to this year's WNBA. Parker and Fowles are juniors, and aren't coming out. Larkins and Ajavon are juniors, too. Vaughn is a frosh soph. Rutgers and LSU don't even suit up a senior. Latta's a first-round draft pick, but after that, will anyone playing this weekend alter the balance of power for, or even see significant minutes in, the WNBA? Maybe Camille Little. Perhaps Sidney Spencer, whom I didn't realize listed herself as 6'3". This Final Four isn't likely to change the draft (though Spencer could move up), and this year's draft isn't likely to change the league.

Next year's draft, however, will change absolutely everything. If interest in Parker or Fowles can hold for a year, the WNBA will benefit from this year's Final Four, and with luck, the press can help that happen. (That's "press" as in "freedom of the press," not "55 press.")

So what else can journalists do? Same as always: find cool storylines and new ways to get people excited. By "new" I mean: no Pokeygate unless you've done original reporting, and no new Parker stories unless you've read the old ones first.

There is Bob Starkey, maybe the nation's best assistant coach or maybe just the one who coaches Fowles. There's Fowles: is she as famous as she should be?

There's coach Stringer, who has quite a life story. And there's still Erlana Larkins, the best reason UNC beats good teams.

And if you're going to Cleveland... feel free to write us and tell us what excites you. Maybe we'll end up overwhelmed after all.
Looking for help on filling out your mock draft?

Check out the transcript from the Pre-Draft camp Media Call with Paul Westhead, Anne Donovan, Dan Hughes and Mike Thibault.

Prospects Jessica Davenport, Shay Doron, Chrissy Givens and Bernice Mosby also participated in a Media Call.
It's going to be an all "W" final in the Women's NIT.

Wisconsin overcame Western Kentucky on the strength of their guard play. A hot first half by Janese Banks was complimented by Jolene Anderson's equally strong second half. The two combined for 49 points in the Badger's win over the Hilltoppers. Wisconsin was also an impressive 20-for-20 from the freethrow line.

The WNIT can be an important stepping stone for a program, and Banks is eager for the championship game.
"It means all of our hard work and all our team effort -- not accomplished yet until we win this next game -- but you can see we're building on it," said Banks, who also had eight rebounds and five assists. "I think this team is staying together at the right time. We're jelling, having fun and we feed off each other. We have to keep playing together to get this victory on Saturday."

The challenge will be that Wiscsonin will have to travel to Wyoming to face the Cowgirls, victors over Kansas State in a three-OT game. For the third game in a row, Wyoming broke attendance records: over 12,000 show up to witness what's being called the best game in Wyoming women's basketball history. It included a banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime, a driving layup to force a second overtime and a free throw to force a third.

"I've never been involved in (a game) of this magnitude, this many people, the game going back and forth," said Wyoming coach Joe Legerski.

Eventually Wyoming emerged victorious, 89-79. That earned them the right to host the WNIT finals this Saturday at 3pmEST. Check here for the TV broadcast schedule.
At USA Today, Mike Lopresti lauds the Vols: "Trying to pick Pat Summitt's greatest feat is like trying to choose something off a dessert tray."

At the Times, Bill Finley looks back over Marianne Stanley's career.

At SI.com, Tracy Schultz discusses defense.

In Cleveland, the Plain Dealer gives locals an intro to all four teams.
Unlike Stacey Dales, ESPN.com's panel is sticking with Lindsey Harding as POY.

Voepel explains her decision.

Their first team (Harding, Paris, Parker, Fowles and Price) is a little different than the AP's choices.
Christine Brennan on Bob Starkey:

We could call Starkey the token male among the head coaches in the Women's Final Four, which he is, but that would be severely understating the part being played by one of the more refreshingly confident role players to come along in sports in quite a while.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Duke's AD more or less pushed Coach G out the door last week.

Looks like she's walking.

Student paper columnist: bummed.
Starkey: no means no.

How 'bout this then: (a) tell the new head coach to keep him as an assistant, and (b) give him a raise.
Katie Gearlds and Purdue made it the most competitive of the Elite 8 games, but it was not enough to stop Erlana Larkins and North Carolina from making their second consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Gearlds hit two three pointers and assisted on a Jodi Howell basket that had the Boilers within four with 6:48 left in the game. But the Tar Heels answered with a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach. "I left it all out there, but I didn't do enough for my team to win," Gearlds said.

Larkins did do enough for the Tar Heels to win, in a dominating performance with a career high 29 points. According to teammate Rashanda McCants, "That's Erlana. That's Erlana at her best. She could even play better. I'm just glad she's on my team. I really am, because she has the heart of a champion."

And Larkins just proved to be too much for Purdue to deal with.
Tennessee throttled Mississippi. Same story we've seen before: it takes Parker about 5-10 minutes to secure victory; Vols cruise to the finish line on autopilot.

In addition to her scoring and rebounding, Candace demoralized Ole Miss with several highlight-reel blocks. (If you missed them, check SportsCenter Top Plays this morning.)

"I felt like this was our best game of the tournament without any doubt," Summitt said. "The thing that we talked about after we played Marist was that we played great for the first 20 minutes and we had a lot of lapses in the second half."

"It's been very special," said coach Ross. "But the little train just couldn't get up the mountain and the big train just kept motoring up. It seemed like everything we did they did it better."

Price deserves credit for fighting hard, and her draft stock rose considerably over the last four games, but against Parker and the Vols, her effort wasn't nearly enough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Prior to the tournament, Bob Starkey indicated that he had no interest in remaining as LSU's permanent head coach.

"I'm an assistant coach," he said. "I've been an assistant coach my entire life. It's what I do; it's what I enjoy. The stature of this program is such that it needs someone with head coaching experience."

LSU also indicated (understandably) that it planned to "clean house."

Now that the Tigers have made an improbable Final Four run under Starkey's guidance, isn't it time for both parties to reconsider?

Glenn Guilbeau says yes. Starkey still says no.

(But what if they win two more games?)
You heard it here first: Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey wins the inaugural Dixon Award.
More from Geno on Big Syl.
One of the most recent coaching openings looks to be filled as Jeff Walz is expected to be named the new head coach at Louisville today.

The Kentucky native has been on Brenda Frese's staff since she coached at Minnesota.
If you missed SportsCenter this morning...
Maybe it was not supposed to happen this year, but it is. Rutgers is going to the Final Four after dismantling Arizona State 64-45.

While ASU stayed with RU through halftime, the outcome never really seemed in doubt. The Scarlet Knights led for all but three minutes of the game and the Sun Devils did not have an answer for Kia Vaughn, Matee Ajavon or the defense of RU.

When Rutgers started the season 5-5, a trip to Cleveland may have seemed improbable. But as Essence Carson pointed out, "The coaches told us it doesn't matter where we came from, it's where we're going."

The Big East Tournament Championship may have been the turning point for RU, but Carson tells Voepel that "In my heart, I really did believe in us. I used to tell the freshmen all the time, if we get it together, we're going to be very dangerous. Once everyone started to accept our defense -- and understand as long as we play defense, we'll win -- that's when it started becoming a reality."
In the email inbox this morning:
Not sure how many times I've watched someone so thoroughly dominate a good opponent in the manner Fowles did tonight, but it hasn't been more than a couple. Her technique and quickness to the ball on defense were breathtaking. Somebody's coached her well, whoever it is. Team USA wins gold with her.
Yes, Sylvia Fowles was incredible last night, putting on one of the great performances in tournament history. She and the Tigers whipped UConn, whom many (including me) expected to waltz into the Final Four.

She scored, occasionally with a smooth jump hook. (Where did that come from?) She rebounded. She blocked 6 shots, altered many more. She stole entry passes.

As Geno said, she forced UConn to become a jump-shooting team... except they aren't. And the Huskies looked terrible as a result.

Tina Charles and Charde Houston, both excellent players, combined to average 25 and 15 for the year, both shooting well over 50%. Last night, they had 5 points on 2 for 12 shooting, 7 boards, and 9 turnovers. Scoring in the paint was simply impossible.

“I said before I thought she was probably the most unique player in the country in terms what she can do,” Geno said. “I don’t know anybody we played against in a long, long time that poses those kind of problems.”

She was also relentless. She played smart, staying out of foul trouble, so she played 39 minutes. "It's really hard when you have such a dominant post player," Renee Montgomery said. "It was hard when we needed to stop her, she was ready to get the ball on every possession."

It wasn't just Fowles either. The Tigers played great defense, and on offense, the LSU perimeter players (for once) took advantage of the open shots created by the need to sag on big Syl.

UConn was left frustrated, even confused.

And LSU is headed to its fourth straight Final Four.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Where would you have found 11,000 fans screaming their heads off at a women's basketball game yesterday? Not in Dallas (3,875). Not in Dayton (9,023). Give up? Try Wyoming.

The Cowgirls have hosted three WNIT games. On Thursday, a record crowd of 7,362 saw Wyoming's 64-62 win over Oregon. That total was easily topped by the 11,253 who watched the team topple South Dakota St. and move into the WNIT Final Four. Said WNIT assistant director Renee Carlson, "I think it was the loudest crowd I have ever heard for a basketball game. Truly a great atmosphere for women’s basketball!"

Interestingly enough, through the first three rounds of the WNIT, South Dakota State and Wyoming accounted for 36.8 percent of the entire tournament attendance of 68,990. While it would have been nice to have both teams on opposite sides of the draw, the WNIT tries to pair teams regionally in order to keep costs down.

Fortunately, the WNIT will get a chance to continue to reap the benefits of the Wyoming fanbase -- the Cowgirls will face off against Kansas State (last year's Postseason champs) on Wednesday at 7pm MT. K-State advanced to the semi-finals by defeating Auburn 67-54.

The other semi-final will feature Western Kentucky and Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Virginia 84-78, overcoming a 14-point second-half deficit, and setting a record for wins in a season. Western Kentucky defeated Hofstra on the strength of Crystal Kelly's 28-point effort. The semi-final game will be broadcast in the Kentucky area on WKYU-PBS.

The WNIT championship is set for Saturday, 3pm ET, and will be televised. Look for it on: Fox College Sports, Fox New England, Fox Rocky Mountain, Turner South FSN, Comcast Sports West, Comcast Michigan, MediaCom and Metro Sports.
Some nice "day after" coverage of the Division II championship game. The Florida Gulf Coast team gets some love from naplesnews -- and their fans. Two of whom greeted the returning players with roses as they stepped of the bus.
"We wanted to make sure," Judy Emens said, "they understood they're winners."
In the Nutmeg State, Gov. M. Jodi Rell joined the crowd at Moore Field House Sunday to welcome home Southern Connecticut's NCAA Division II women's basketball champions. Writes Joe Palladio:
The Southern girls became the first Connecticut women's basketball team to claim an NCAA title this spring. The celebration was not as intense in New Haven as the ones we have come to expect in Storrs, but it may be far more appreciated because, well, you don't really go to Southern with the expectation of winning a national title, do you?
But, considering their coach, perhaps you should. Keep an eye on Southern's Joe Frager, as his name has been tossed around as a possible candidate for some of the open D-I coaching positions. Frager was an incredibly successful Connecticut high school coach at Seymour, wining three state championships while amassing a 208-58 record over 11 years.

"Circle of Life" basketball moment? Frager played basketball (correction: baskeball) at UConn. As a high school coach, one of the players he coached (and won state championships with) was Maria Conlon. Conlon then went to UConn, where she won three D-1 championships. Where is Conlon now serving as an assistant coach? Southern Connecticut.
UNC beat GW fairly easily. The Heels didn't shoot well, but they dominated the boards, forced lots of turnovers, and controlled the pace.

"We felt like we had the right people in the right spots -- it's just that they get their hands on almost everything," coach McKeown said. "I was more disappointed than anything else."

McKeown also suggested that his team deserved a better seed so that they wouldn't have had to play a team like UNC till the next round. My view: Maybe they deserved a 4, but not a 3, so it really wouldn't have made any difference.

The UNC men fell in an OT thriller last night. Jack Daly says Tarheel nation should turn its eyes to the women. Camille Little won't hold her breath.
It's Chapel Hill -- unless it's men basketball, they really don't care. I'm just going to be honest. Nobody really watches it. Maybe we'll grab some fans if we get to the Final Four.
Purdue settled down and beat Georgia despite the Dawgs' hot start. Gearlds and Wisdom-Hylton were magnificent (54 points combined on 18-28 shooting), the Boilers' perimeter D was solid, and Tasha Humphrey's second-half foul trouble put the brakes on any late comeback.

The win gives the Boilers revenge for their 2004 tournament loss, decided on a missed layup at the buzzer.

Purdue's win also sets up another rematch: North Carolina beat Purdue by a whisker last year on their way t o the Final Four. PU are better now. Are North Carolina?

More good news for Boiler fans: frosh PG Malone, with three early fouls and a history of impulsive play, kept things under control for the second half.

Bad news for Boiler fans: Jody Howell hurt her shoulder (two UGA players fell on top of her) and did not return to the court. Coach Versyp brought length off the bench to compensate, which worked against guard-heavy Georgia: will it work against Carolina?
Sometimes you have a beautiful dream. Like maybe you're dating Scarlett Johansson. After you wake up, and you're still trying to dream, you wonder whether it could ever really happen.

Waking reality quickly crushes the idea. You aren't attractive enough. You aren't rich enough. You aren't stylish enough. You live in Minnesota. You are a no-name schlub, and you're always going to be a no-name schlub.

Marist was living a dream. The reality is Candace Parker.

The reality is that it's one thing to stop Jess Davenport or Chrissy Givens, and it's quite another to stop Parker. She doesn't care about Cinderella cliches or made-for-March storylines. She just wants to win. The reality is that a team like Marist isn't going to stop her.

Parker and Tennessee won with brutal efficiency. They opened a big early lead and coasted for 30 minutes. Marist made a brief second-half comeback, but the game was never in doubt.

"It's tough to lose," Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said, "but to lose to that team, it's really not that tough."

And through it all, the players kept smiling. "I think it's a big deal for us," Nikki Flores said. "I think it put us on the map. It predicts good things to come in the future."

It's not such a bad reality after all.
Ole Miss continued their impressive performance in the tournament with a 90-82 win over Oklahoma on Sunday in a very hot UD Arena.

The Rebels unleashed their style of basketball on a Sooner team that has not handled trapping, pressure defense well this year. But not even playing Texas A&M twice in the Big XII season could prepare OU for the attack by Ole Miss. "There are no clones, no other Armintie Prices in this world,” Ashley Awkward said. "So no, there's no team like us. And that's what we thrive on. We thrive on what we do and who we are.”

The Sooners eventually adjusted better to the Rebels style of play and got Courtney Paris going and were within two points with 6:40 remaining in the game. But the Rebels answered each Sooner run, often with a key offensive rebound.

Paris continued her amazing double double streak with 31 points and 20 rebounds, but the star of the day was Armintie Price. The senior topped her great performances of the first two rounds with her best game of the tournament - 31 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. She joins Cheryl Miller as only the second player in NCAA history to tally 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals in her career.

Next up for the Rebels is a Tennessee team that they have lost to 13 times straight. But they may have a plan. "I hope they turn it up 5 more degrees," Awkward said. "So that we're sweating puddles (Tuesday)."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kay Yow is one of the greats of the game, and she deserves all the praise she's lately received. But she didn't sign up for sympathy narratives when she began coaching at NC State 32 years ago: she signed up to coach basketball.

Last night her Wolfpack made a game of it against a UConn team with superior speed and, most of the time, superior execution. Yow got a standing O at the end of the game, and a running tribute from ESPN's announcers.

UConn got the win. The Huskies erased an early deficit by collapsing on State's posts; Hunter played, Charles avoided foul trouble, Houston scored, and Connecticut fans can cheer on Monday without quite so many mixed feelings.

Not all last night's storylines favored the Wolfpack: Houston's dad finally saw her play a college game. "I know he has tried really hard to come out to Connecticut to see me play. But every single time he makes plans, he even has a flight ready, something will happen," she said. "Just having him at every single high school game when he would bring me juice, any juice that I wanted, I miss that stuff."

State's Marquetta Dickens sank two treys in the final minute, which was one more than she made in the rest of the season. She led NCSU's scoring; Houston, Charles and the versatile, underrated Greene scored 18, 17 and 17.

Will Yow try to coach next year? That's a question for later. Of this year's squad, she says, "I couldn't be prouder."
Over three thousand people watched undefeated Florida Gulf Coast play their last game at the Division II level. But a dream season for the Seagulls ended as the Southern Connecticut Owls used a smothering defense to power themselves to a 61-45 win and the Division II championship.

SCC's point guard LaShauna Jones scored a career high 19 points, 12 in the second half. She made 8 of 10 shots had three 3-pointers, all at crucial times. All-American and Tournament MVP Kate Lynch had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Shamika Jackson scored 13.

Meanwhile, FGC shot a miserable 30.5 from the field. "Southern Connecticut is a great team," FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. "They just beat us today. They were the better team and they out-executed us. Give them all the credit.

This is Southern's first national championship, and SCSU is the first Northeast Region team to win the national title since cross town rival U. of New Haven in 1987.
Lindsey Harding choked.

She's a great player. She's had a great year, deserving of POY consideration. She's got a great pro career ahead of her.

But yesterday, in the biggest moment of her college career, she choked. Down 1 with 0.1 seconds left, she went to the free throw line (Rutgers players screaming at her) and folded under the pressure. She missed both shots — badly — and lost the game.

“I’ve had a lot of ups in my career," she said. "Two Final Fours, played in the championship game. That’s a lot more than a lot of people have. I just keep reminding myself of that.”

And so another Duke season ended in disappointment. Harding and Bales are on their way out. Maybe coach too.
In the late night game, LSU toughed out a win over Florida State.

Complimenting Fowles nicely, Quianna Chaney had 22 points. "Q's the one player other than Sylvia that we have that we feel can consistently be a good scorer for us," coach Starkey said.

"I think they tried to double down on Sylvia and hoped that we would struggle from the outside," Chaney said. "We've been struggling shooting from the outside for a couple of games, so I guess they figured we were going to miss a couple of shots. But we were able to knock down open shots." (A couple, anyway.)

Next question for LSU: do you have enough offense to keep up with UConn?

Next question for FSU: is Semrau staying?
Bowling Green couldn't keep up with Arizona State: the Sun Devils shut down the three-point shooting for which the Falcons are known, then rode their own inside-out game to an easy win.

Danielle Orsillo, starting by surprise in place of the injured Briann January, led the scoring.

We don't think of Pac-10 teams as especially fast or athletic, but we don't think of the MAC that way either: the difference was glaring-- BGSU's guards couldn't get clean shots, and couldn't get out on ASU's shooters. BGSU's only point guard, Kate Achter-- who looked splendid against Vanderbilt-- just looked tired.

ASU looked ready for their first-ever Elite Eight. How will their guards handle Rutgers' scrambles and traps?
While we've been watching the college game, some WNBA players have changed uniforms:

Tammy Sutton-Brown officially heads to the Fever. Chelsea Newton returns to Sacramento; La'Tangela Atkinson is headed there too. And several good college players who never quite made it in the W-- Queenan, Shereka Wright, Aya Traore and others-- will get tryouts in Seattle.

Also in Seattle, radio guy Alan Horton is blogging the Big Dance while Pelton blogs the men's side, as he'll do all spring.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

UConn match up well, position by position, with NC State-- but the Wolfpack have the storyline: coach Kay Yow's battle with cancer.

UConn assistant Tonya Cardoza: "We have to come out and play 40 minutes of basketball and not take into account the emotions."

Geno: "There's only one team that beat Duke and North Carolina this year. You don't do that on emotion and intangibles."

The News-Observer explains how the ailing coach Yow made the trip to Fresno. Yow: "I feel very well taken care of."
Marist isn't the only neat small-conference team this weekend (just the only one nobody expected to see). At noon Eastern time Bowling Green take on the Sun Devils.

Coach Miller on ASU: "They play more players than we have in uniform... We're really going to have to handle that pressure." (True, but they're also prone to scoring droughts: this game could end in the low 50s-- and BGSU could win.)

Miller's players are having fun. Ali Mann: "We have all the confidence in the world."
More Marist fever: fans give coach Giorgis cookies and slippers. Cinderella slippers.

Marist officials adapt to new popularity: "The entire world is supporting our place," says one.

Marist's "scout team" had fun impersonating OSU; surprisingly, at a 4,000-student school, the Red Foxes appear not to use male practice players-- "scout team" means the Red Fox reserves (Duff, Kolesar and others) who come off the bench in games, but impersonate opponents in practice. (You can "impersonate" Davenport by standing at the low post all the time-- but how do you impersonate Candace Parker?)

Up the road from Poughkeepsie, in West Point, Army coach Dave Magarity remembers when his team-- that is, the late and much-missed Maggie Dixon's team-- played Tennessee.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Looking for more basketball? The WNIT is in to the quarterfinals. Sunday, March 25 games include:
Beth Mowins previews the LSU/FSU game.
The New York Times AP previews Rutgers vs. Duke: in December, the latter beat the former by forty.

The Scarlet Knights are much, much better now, but they haven't forgotten. Kia Vaughn: "Everybody says it’s in the back of their mind, but it’s in the front of my mind."
LZ Granderson wonders why sports culture has such trouble with big girls like Courtney Paris.
The teams for the Divison II championship game have been set: Undefeated Florida Gulf Coast will meet Southern Connecticut College.

FGC defeated Clayton State 61-57, almost blowing a big lead in the process. Their finals opponent, SCC, used a 16-2 run in the second half to pull away from UC San Diego.

Finals are scheduled for 6pmEST on ESPN2.
Dorman High School's head coach Joy Couch has earned National Coach of the Year honors. Since being at Dorman (S.C.), she has an overall record of 214-34, which includes 6 region championships and three consecutive state championships.

Eight other District Coach of the Year were named.

Bill Riley, Westwood High School, Westwood, Mass.
Lurline Jones, University City High School, Philadelphia, Pa.
Pat Diulis, Regina High School, Regina, Ohio
Terry English, Bishop Miege High School, Shawnee Mission, Kan.
Jill McDill, Rockwall High School, Rockwall, Texas
Caryn Jarocki, Highlands Ranch High School, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Ellis Barfield, Lynwood High School, Lynwood, Calif.
Tracey Tipton, Collins Hill High School, Suwanee, Ga.
Laimbeer responds publicly to Nancy Lieberman's GM survey.

It's a must-read.
UWGB's Kevin Borseth might be the best coach in the country outside the major conferences. He's turned down BCS jobs before, but he said recently that the rest of the Horizon League is holding his team back.

"Other schools need to take their nonconference games seriously and try to win those games," he said. "They're all building for the conference tournament and trying to play a bunch of players in the nonconference games. We play to win those games."

His three leading scorers are all graduating. Now might be the time to jump.

Yesterday he received permission to interview with Michigan.

"I can't say I expected to be this successful," says Alisa Kresge. "It's really been unreal."

Nikki Flores couldn't hold back the tears the other night. "I had people calling me saying, 'Ah, I just saw you on ESPN,'" she said. "If [the tears were] coming, I was going to let it out."

Coach Brian Giorgis is in awe of Pat Summitt, his next opponent. Speaking with her, he says, is like "having an audience with the pope."

Whatever happens next, they are certainly enjoying this ride.
Penn State AD Tim Curley said yesterday that Rene Portland was not forced to resign. Rene didn't show up at PSU's press conference yesterday. Walt Moody says she should have.

"I'm shocked [shocked!] that this has happened," said Suzie McConnell-Serio. "I never expected it. She is synonymous with Lady Lion basketball. She has been on that sideline all of those years and it is really a shock right now."

NCLR's Karen Doering: "As far as I know, this has nothing to do with the lawsuit."

David Jones reviews her complicated legacy. Homophobia aside, he says she was occasionally a "selfish, self-involved person, enabled by her proximity to power."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Louisville and the Big East Player of the Year need a new coach. Looks like Tom Collen is off to Arkansas.
Mechelle writes about Portland's resignation.
When the school hires a new head coach, it would do well to remember the mistakes of the past as it makes that decision. This is not to say that someone such as Suzie McConnell Serio, one of Portland's former superstars who resigned this past summer from the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, can't be a candidate. I've had good experiences in all my dealings with her. But … the university should seriously consider making a complete break from the Portland era.
Lambuth was crowned NAIA Division I champion with a 63-50 win over Cumberland University. Cumberland couldn't recover from the loss of Kiana Robinson, who tore her achilles in the Lady Bulldogs semi-final win. Without Robinson - who had averaged nearly 16 points in her last four games - Cumberland was held to its lowest point total of the season after shooting only 31 percent, including a 3-of-20 showing from 3-point range.

Of interest, under coach Joe Reints (South Dakota native) Lambuth's program has been rebuilt around Division I transfers: Meghan Fuqua (Tennessee Martin), Dee Preyer (Arkansas-Little Rock) and Clemson transfer Reggie Maddox. A first team All-American and national tournament MVP, Maddox averaged 19 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists during the tournament.

This was Lambuth's first title.
Out in Kearney, Nebraska, the Division II semi-finals are set. Tonight on ESPNU Cal-San Diego will play Southern Connecticut State (8pmEST), after which Clayton State will go up against undefeated Florida Gulf Coast. (You can also follow the games on CSTV's gametracker.)

How did they reach the Final Four? The Connecticut Owls overmatched the Drury Panthers 74-54. UCSD overcame a deficit to defeat Glenville (San Diego Channel 4 will carry tonight's game), Florida Gulf cruised over North Dakota and Clayton squeezed out a 60-55 win over Texas A&M Commerce.
High school and college coaches who've earned landmark wins (200-900th) are recognized by the WBCA.
Duke's Gail Goestenkors has been named the WBCA Division I Coach of the Year.
Graham Hays says UConn has the best starting five and Duke has the best bench.
Mechelle recaps the tourney so far.
Portland resigns.

Mark Brennan reports that Rene "was given an ultimatum by the university last Friday -- step down or be dismissed."

A long, painful chapter in the history of women's basketball comes to a close.
Stanford beat writer Michelle Smith writes about the abrupt end to the college basketball experience. She also shares an amusing story from former Cardinal Vanessa Nygaard and her encounter with Pete Rose in 1997.

The team that ended Stanford's season is living out a vision of shooting guard Shante Williams. "I told Coach Sue after practice the previous day, 'I think we've got to go buy a couple of bottles of cider because we're going to win this thing and throw them up in the air,'" Williams said.

One of the biggest reasons Williams' vision came true was the play of "Big Country," Nikki Anthony. “Rebounding, period, is a key in the NCAA tournament. When the nerves are flying, and when shots aren’t falling, you’ve got to get those second-chance opportunities.”
One of the teams and players we have not heard a lot about in the tourney is Kimberly Beck of George Washington. USA Today's Dick Patrick and the AP's Howard Fendrich change that.
If you've ever clicked on Sports Illustrated's link to their women's hoops coverage, you'll know what a misnomer "coverage" is. Tournament time, though, allows them to bring out such classics as Kelli Anderson and (relatively new to a national audience) Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Aditi writes about -- what else -- Marist's run, with some nice side commentary from Villanova's Harry Perretta. Kelli writes about the UConn bunch.

Ian Thomsen gets a big DOH! 'cause he thinks he's
"stumbled across a far more intriguing draft story which, until today, has gone virtually unnoticed in the NCAA women's tournament."
What might that be? The possibility of Candace Parker leaving the Vols for the WNBA.
"The most amazing thing of all about the Candace Parker scenario is that so very little, as far as I can tell, has been written or said about it.
Guess he missed the endless message board discussions, GM discussions and articles on the subject. For instance, most recently, the Parker profile in USA Today by Dick Patrick where she said she wouldn't jump to the W.

Newbies can give basketball junkies a headache.
Dawn Staley's Owls react to the end of their season.
Mel says Rene might be considering leaving Penn State.
More Marist fever: guard Alisa Kresge gets excited, not intimidated by her next opponent, Tennessee.

Also: Poughkeepsie-area T-shirt makers can't keep up with demand for Red Fox gear.
Maryland post-mortems from Milton Kent and Kathy Orton.
The Terrapins were a loose and carefree group last year. They played with a chip on their shoulder, eager to prove they belonged among the nation's elite. But when they finally were accorded the respect they deserved, they didn't know how to handle it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marist's local daily paper is the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal-Courier, and their reporters have flooded the zone.

In today's edition, Marist chief PR guy Tim Massie describes his sudden popularity, and ESPN anchor J. W. Stewart (Marist '93) says he cried.

Commentator Sean McMann compares Marist's run-- favorably-- to a World Series win. (What will he have left to say if the Red Foxes beat Tennessee?) McMann is also blogging the team.

Marist senior Shannon Minter describes her experience so far.

Coach Brian Giorgis describes their flight from California to Poughkeepsie via Long Island: "I've never seen a group of kids so happy, and rightfully so." More on the fans who came to the airport here. Their 4,000-student school has chartered a flight to Dayton.

Do you know a new Marist fan who never cared about college hoops (men's or women's) before? The Journal wants to hear from you.
A month ago or so, a thoughtful gentleman on the flight from New York to Milwaukee asked me what women's basketball's "Hoosiers" would be. I offered up the people of Iowa and John W. Agans and the 1926 Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

The New York Times suggests Marist.
It's the time of year when stories pop up far faster that we can catch and blog them. Greenberg and others have storylines for games ahead:

NC State vs. UConn: did you know that NC State post Gillian Goring would have gone to UConn had she been academically eligible?

Marist vs. Tennessee, Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma: so much for all those complaints about the Region of Death. Ole Miss sports blogger Robbie Neiswanger has more. (For more on Marist, see everyone everywhere.)

Rutgers vs. Duke: the Blue Devils are still favored, but if they win, it won't look like this.

Also, refs praise last night's officiating. Sometimes the beauty lies in the calls not made: could BGSU have been T'd up for the celebration at the non-end of the game, when announcers and players thought the game was over, but Liz Sherwood had fouled Kate Achter with 0.4 seconds to go?

I hope such a call would have been plainly wrong, but I'm afraid it was a matter of judgment: certainly a T in that situation would have landed the ref in the doghouse for all fans not native to Nashville. The Bowling Green men lost this year on an end-of-game technical, but the situations weren't similar at all. Last night coach Miller acted fast to keep his team aware that the game had not ended: good for him.

Speaking of Bowling Green, the closest good daily newspaper to BGSU had a hoops blogger right there. Maureen Fulton reveals, among other things, that Achter and Flynn consider themselves long-lost sisters, and that Achter's final, made free throw-- which closed out the box score at BGSU 59, Vandy 56-- was supposed to be an intentional miss.

Also in the Toledo Blade today: Fulton follows Falcons fans who drove to East Lansing, and columnist Dave Hackenberg profiles ponytailed BGSU star Ali Mann.
As if Terps fans didn't have enough bad news: will Kristi Tolliver leave Maryland?
Mechelle on the Duke win.
CSTV.com is now rivaling ESPN.com for the amount of original content covering the women's game. If you aren't checking in there, you should be.
Graham Hays writes about the Mississippi win
"Coach Ross told us before the game that if this was going to be a pretty game, we were going to lose," Mincy said. "Every pretty game we've had, trying to make everything perfect, we've always lost. As long as it's ugly, it's 'Rebel Ball.' "

With apologies to the team's aesthetic desires, the Rebels went so far to the extreme of ugly during their run that they crossed over into beautiful.
He also Dishes on the upsets
The nasty scratch on Mississippi senior Jada Mincy's right cheek suggested it wasn't a completely bloodless revolution, but the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament were marked by a mostly peaceful uprising of the hoops proletariat.

Mid-majors and major-mids of the world unite.
Some notes about the DII teams/players particpating in the Elite Eight:

- UC San Diego's starting guard Kacie Kostlan will play despite an apparent torn acl.

- Drury State's assistant coach Carly Stubblefield laughs at the difference between herself as a player (Missouri State) vs. a coach.

"The players will tell you that I scream constantly to block out," Stubblefield said. "As a player, I never did it. But now it's the most irking thing to me."

- Florida Gulf Coast Karl Smesko reflects on what it's been like to take a team from (literally) nothing in 2001 to the Elite Eight.

When I first got here, there were less than 2,000 students and few administration buildings and residence halls. And a women's basketball program was just a dream. But the plan was for growth.

"Now, there's more than 10,000 students. We have a fantastic athletic complex. We're adding a football program in the future. We're playing for a national championship."

Steve Harold of Glenville State College has been named the 2007 Russell Athletic/WBCA Division II Coach of the Year. Finishing up his 12th season, Harold has guided the Lady Pioneers to their “first national ranking, first WVIAC tournament championship, first victory over an NCAA Division I opponent and a school record of 30 wins.

St. Cloud State University’s Erika Quigley has been named the State Farm/WBCA Division II Player of the Year. Quigley led the NCAA Division II in scoring and was sixth in rebounding and blocked shots. SHe scored 30+ points in six games this season and tied a school record of 38 points versus MSU-Moorhead. This season Quigley averaged 24.5 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game and tallied 76 blocked shots.

Quigley is joined by nine others as members of the 2007 Division II Kodak/WBCA All-America Team.

Inga Buzoka, Missouri Western State
Leora Juster, University of California, San Diego
Kate Lynch, Southern Connecticut State University
Erika Quigley, St. Cloud State University
Rachel Redick, Glenville State College
Jennifer Rushing, Delta State University
Darcee Schmidt, Lewis University
Kate Schrader, Florida Gulf Coast University
Michelle Stueve, Emporia State University
Celeste Trahan, Elizabeth City State University

Juster, Lynch, Redick and Schrader are still playing: The Division II Elite Eight games start today and continue tomorrow, and are being broadcast on CSTV.

The Final Four is on Thursday (8/10:300 ESPNU) and the Championship game (broadcast on ESPN2) is Saturday, March 24 at 6pmEST.
Despite all of the upsets and great performances last night, people are still talking about Marist. Jimmy Dykes, who covered their upsets for ESPN, commented "I do 55 games a year and I was as impressed with their performance this weekend as any team I've seen all year, and that includes men's and women's teams.''

Not only is the story great for the school, but the MAAC is thrilled with the success of the Red Foxes.

Coach Brian Giorgis and his players are looking forward to their next match-up with top ranked Tennessee. While it will be a the first time Giorgis has coached against Pat Summitt, it is not the first time he has met her.
Last night saw another # 2 seed go down as well -- Vandy fell to Bowling Green. If you were shocked, you shouldn't have been. The Falcons have had a great year. Now they're the first MAC team ever to make the Sweet Sixteen.

"We just didn't back down," said BG's Amber Flynn. "They were bigger, taller and we held our ground."

When asked what happened, coach Balcomb didn't have a good answer. "I don't know," she said, "all I know is what we did. Our spacing was not good; we took too quick a shots.

Kate Achter offered another explanation: "This was the weekend of upsets. Vanderbilt was next in line. Watching Marist and other teams, it's huge motivation."
Like their Big East rival Pitt, Notre Dame put up a good fight against number one seed North Carolina. Like Pitt, it was not enough.

The Fighting Irish controlled the pace of the game and enjoyed a standout game from Pittsburgh native Charel Allen. But their young team went cold for a long stretch in the second half and could not keep the Tar Heels down.

"We did what we had to do to win the game, especially in the last eight minutes," LaToya Pringle said.
Rutgers did not let Michigan State use their home court to their advantage and Kia Vaughn did not let Alyssa DeHaan have a big game and the Scarlet Knights are going to the Sweet 16.

Vaughn led her team with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks; Essence Carson added 15 and their freshmen teammates stepped up while Matee Ajavon fought through foul trouble.

Victoria Lucas-Perry and Rene Haynes finished their college careers with 17 and 14 points respectively. Was it also Joanne McCallie's last with the Spartans?
The defending champs are finished. In an unbelievable game, Ole Miss took down the Terps.

The game was won -- and lost -- in the first half. The Rebs got into passing lanes and ran the floor. The Terps were careless and stupid, throwing the ball away 20 times, allowing the underdog to build a substantial lead.

Maryland staged a furious comeback in the second. Dominance on the offensive glass and timely shooting cut the lead to 6 with two minutes left. But then after getting a stop, Maryland couldn't get the board. Doron committed a dumb foul. The lead was back to 8. Time ran out.

"We just felt like we were so much better than this team," said Doron. "It was just a matter of us playing so bad, and we just had to flip it over. . . . We just dug ourselves in too much a hole."

It's still hard to figure out what went wrong. Maryland is a fabulously talented team. It returned just about everyone from last year. But this year, it never came together the same way.

Too much confidence? Too much pressure? Subtraction by addition?

Maybe it's just that in March, it only takes one bad game to end a season.
UWGB led UConn at half. "That was, without question, without a doubt, the most inspirational half of basketball I've ever witnessed in my life," coach Borseth said. But as he went to the lockerroom, he wondered whether his team could sustain the energy for another 20 minutes.

They couldn't.

The Huskies won the second half by 26. All five starters ended in double figures.

"I was really impressed from what I saw tonight from Wisconsin-Green Bay," Geno said. "The thing that bothered me was they came in here and tried to run it right down our throats. Who the hell do they think they are? I think it really sent kind of an alarm bell for our kids."
Temple played tough against Duke. They got it to within two possessions several times in the second half, but they could never pull closer.

Lady Comfort shut Bales down, but the Devils are deep -- Harding, Gay, and Smith all played well. "Her penetration really hurt us," coach Dawn Staley said of Smith.
Pitt put up a decent fight, but Candace Parker is too good. 30 and 12. "I really like her," said coach Berenato. "I want to get me one of her."

Still, there is reason to hope that Pitt is a rising star. "Tonight's going to be a wake-up call for a lot of people in terms of seeing this Pitt team against our team and seeing how Pitt performed," coach Summitt said.
Other games from last night may make bigger headlines, but N.C. State is going to the Sweet 16.

It took overtime, players overcoming stomach bugs and leg cramps, and continued inspiration from Kay Yow.

Khadijah Whittington battled back from a nervous stomach to lead the Wolfpack with 23 points and 11 boards. Baylor's Bernice Mosby fought through her own personal tragedy and ended her college career with 26 points. While she kept the Lady Bears in the game, she did not have enough at the end to get them the win.

Voepel was there and talked to Wolfpack guard Ashley Key, who like Mosby, fought through leg cramps:

"If you would have seen Coach Yow after the game -- she looked like a little kid in a candy store," Key said. "Just being able to see that huge smile on her face and knowing it's because of the way we played and how hard we played -- the hustle and the heart and everything she talks about that we put into that game. It's huge for us to go to (California) and keep this winning streak going."
Via Jay: Duke's AD all but says that his school won't pay market price for coach Goestenkors next year-- especially not if she doesn't win it all now.

Some people already see her in burnt orange.

Coach G says the right thing: "My focus... is on [her current] team, and I certainly love being the head coach at Duke."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Graham Hays (who has been doing consistently excellent work lately, establishing himself as one of the game's top writers) talks about UWGB's strategy against the UConn Goliath.
In case you're already wondering what you're going to do this week once the NCAA games are done, the WNIT Third Round games are set:

Wednesday, March 21
Hofstra at South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET
Thursday, March 22
Auburn at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. ET
South Florida at Virginia, 7 p.m. ET
Indiana at South Dakota State, 7 p.m. CT
Illinois at Kansas State, 7 p.m. CT
Mississippi State at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. CT
Kentucky at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. CT
Oregon at Wyoming, 7 p.m. MT