Women's Hoops Blog: March 2010

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And now for a little backstory: Seth Pollack of Swish Appeal brings us "Candice Dupree and Cappie Pondexter Wanted Trades But For Very Different Reason"
From the LA Times' Fabulous Forum blog: As draft approaches, Epiphanny Prince's long road to WNBA nears its end and the Scarlet Scuttlebutt talks weighs in.
Former Rutgers women’s basketball star Epiphanny Prince – who made national headlines last June by opting to skip her senior season to play professionally overseas — is back in the news as one of the top prospects heading into the WNBA draft.

After an unremarkable stint in Russia, the 5-foot-9 guard is playing for Botas Spor of the Turkey League. She is projected as a Top 5 pick in the guard-heavy draft.

Here is a look at what Prince said during a teleconference with the media Wednesday afternoon as well as what other experts had to say about her.

The Pirates' new coach was introduced to the media and she is looking to make them a power in the Big East conference.
The AP talks to Tara about Stanford about returning to the Final Four and reminds us that Oklahoma PG Danielle Robinson has a history with Jayne Appel and Jeanette Pohlen.
Mechelle writes: Women's Final Four has familiar feel
Certainly, no one would have questioned the idea that two of the quartet from last season's Final Four would make a return trip to this year's event. But three of the same teams?
Did I mention that Sherri has done a helluva a coaching job this year?
Amber Harris will return to Xavier for another season.
Ben York says, "Blockbuster Trade Changes WNBA Landscape - Pondexter to NY, Dupree to PHX, Christon to CHI"
Jere' from the NY Times on Tina Charles: Past Failure a Lesson in Success
What Tulsa players will be sporting this summer.
Chicago has a new deal with Comcast Cable: 28 of their 34 games will be on Comcast-run TV (in addition to the one, two or three we can expect to see on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC).
It took the Sooners about five minutes to figure out how to play at Kentucky's fast pace; after that, the game was no contest.

I was frankly surprised at how well OU handled the pressure, even after Danielle Robinson fouled out. Nyeshia Stevenson, the hero of Sunday night, scored 31 and shot 12-17. (So much for my silly idea about the Big Twelve.)

Next up for OU: Stanford. Was Monday's struggle a sign that they can be beat? Or was it the "one bad game" that all tournament teams simply have to get out of their system?
A couple of "in preparation for the WNIT semis" stories:

From Manny Navarro at the Miami Herald: Miami Hurricanes women's basketball team takes a breath before taking on Michigan: The Miami women are set on beating Michigan to keep their season alive, but that doesn't mean they can't also take time to reflect on how far they've come.

University of Miami women's basketball coaches don't usually deliver big-game speeches this late in March.

So, instead of talking more strategy after her team practiced Tuesday night, Katie Meier took a moment to reflect on just how far the Canes' journey in the Women's NIT has taken them.

"I said to them, 'Do you realize that after tonight, there will only be eight women's basketball teams still playing, and you guys are one of them?'" Meier said. "It's such a big honor. There's really nothing to say. It's been a great run."

And from Andrew Reid at AnnArbor.com: Home court kind to Michigan women's basketball team in the WNIT
Ouch: USC women's basketball star leaving the team
Kelsey Bone, star center for the University of South Carolina women's basketball team, will not return for her sophomore season, head coach Dawn Staley announced Wednesday.
Maya Moore spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, but it didn't matter: the Huskies led by 14 at the break and won by 40 at the end, destroying Florida State on the way to UConn's eighth Final Four.

The margin of victory was apparently the largest ever in an Elite Eight game; UConn's defense was especially fun to watch (unless you're a Seminoles fan), as all five players cooperated in forcing the Seminoles to take bad shots. ESPN's Wojchieowski watched the FSU squad prepare valiantly for what turned out to be a one-sided game.

"We still have some things we need to improve. We're not perfect," Moore commented: we'll see how the Huskies improve, and what they decide to do, against Griner Baylor Sunday night.

No doubt bummed by the absence of local teams, the Dayton daily paper nonetheless found a cool local angle on Tuesday night's game.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's officially official.

Fans say goodbye to Cappie and Shameka.
'cause hindsight is always 20/20, did you catch Clay's Sweet Sixteen prognostications?
The Associated Press women's All-America basketball team has been released.
In tonight's second game, Kentucky face Oklahoma. Are both teams underdogs?

Coach Coale says sorta what we've been saying: the closest team on her previous schedule to the scrambling Wildcats has to be Texas A&M.
Jacinta Monroe says her team can get ready for UConn: "we're the three seed and they're the one seed," she says. "There's not a big drop."
From the WBCA:

The State Farm Coaches' All-America Team and The State Farm Wade Trophy announcement will be streamed live from the Alamodome on Saturday, April 3, at 1:05 p.m. CT. The announcement can be seen online by clicking here. This event honors the 10 best collegiate women's basketball players and serves as the official announcement of The State Farm Wade Trophy winner, the best women's basketball player for NCAA Division I. The announcement will be made between open practices as a part of the NCAA’s Super Saturday events.

Click here to view the finalists for the State Farm Coaches' All-America Team, and click here to view the finalists for The State Farm Wade Trophy.

The WBCA High School All-America Game presented by Nike will also be streamed live from the Alamodome on Saturday, April 3, at 4:30 p.m. CT, with Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli serving as the live streaming analysts. The game can be seen online by clicking here. The college-style regulation game is free to the public and features the nation's top 20 high school girls' basketball players.

Click here to viewthe players that will be featured in the WBCA High School All-America Game presented by Nike.

This should be interesting to follow - espnW Focuses On Women's Sports.
We (as in, those of us who follow women's basketball) all know this, but as a "teaching moment" for those who don't, it never gets old: Oklahoma once tried to drop women's basketball

From a public relations standpoint, it was just about the most boneheaded move in the history of the sport.

Twenty years ago this week, the University of Oklahoma declared that it was dropping women's basketball. As if that weren't enough to create dismay, the Sooners made their announcement during the Final Four - the one week out of the year when the women's game commands a media spotlight - and just eight years after the NCAA started sponsoring the tournament.

And, of course, the story of Sherri Coale rebuilding the program should never get old for any young coach interested in growing the women's game, neither.

Last year, Oklahoma ranked 4th in Division I attendance, averaging 10,437 fans a game. But, when Sherri Coale arrived in 1996, she inherited 200 a game. “It was a dual problem, in all honesty,” said Coale. “The product we had wasn’t very good and there wasn’t a lot of publicity regarding it. The very first thing that we did was to try and recruit great kids and get them to play really, really hard and be something that people on our campus could be really proud of.”

“Then I said ‘yes’ to every single speaking engagement. Rotary Club, Lions Club, seven o’clock in the morning, at the noon hour, dinner at the Chamber of Commerce. If they would give me the floor, I would talk. I just tried to get the word out that ‘this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re trying to build, this is our mission, this is our vision.’ Tried to sell people on that, get them excited about that and to maybe think about sharing ownership in that with us.”

It quickly became a grassroots effort. “People would say to the people they sat by at church, ‘Hey, have you been to an Oklahoma women’s basketball game? We went last week and we had the most fun! Why don’t you come with us?’ I meet so many young people who say, ‘I had never, ever watched a women’s basketball game in my life. We went and we’ve been season ticket holders ever since.’”

One of the first promotions was an “Elementary School Day.” The school that had the greatest percentage of attendees won a computer, earning the Sooners a loyal following of both students and principals. Seeking to involve women business and community leaders, 2003 saw the charter of the “Sooner Stilettos.” Its members “recognize the quality and the discipline and the work ethic that these players possess,” noted Coale, “and the ability to be part of a team. Which is, by the way, the number one sought-after skill in corporate America right now. They realize all that, and they want these kids [as post-college employees].

Not to mention their ability to relate because those professional women have fought and scratched and clawed on their own court to get where they are.”

It's official: Colorado announced Monday it will not retain Kathy McConnell-Miller as head women's basketball coach.

And there's another opening: Air Force head women's basketball coach Ardie McInelly will not return next season.
And now, the game that has Stanford fans jubilant, unless it has them very, very scared.

Few observers gave Xavier much of a chance against Stanford: XU needed OT to beat Temple in the A-10 tournament, and they beat Vanderbilt last week by just one point.

Stanford, on the other hand, hadn't been challenged since January in L.A.: the Cardinal beat Pac-10 teams by 20+ points routinely, and they made Georgia look like a high school team.

So who would have thought that Xavier could come within half a second of beating Stanford and winning a trip to the Final Four?

But that's just what the Musketeers did in Sacto. XU played the Cardinal even almost all night, getting Appel in foul trouble and keeping the score super-low. Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips, together, have to be the best posts Stanford has faced since their visit to Hartford last year.

Coach McGuff praised Stanford's offensive sets before the game, then watched those sets collapse: so did Michelle Smith, who liveblogged it. Stanford shot 25% for the first half.

With a few minutes to go, Appel fouled out. XU took a series of one-possession leads as Stanford's usual suspects couldn't make shots. Honestly, there were minutes at a time when it seemed like both teams had simply forgotten how to put the ball in the hoop.

But rarely-used frosh Joselyn Tinkle completed a jump shot. XU's guards missed layups, got O-boards, missed layups again. The Cardinal took a time out with 4.4 (coach TV made sure of that) seconds still on the clock. And then Jeanette Pohlen ran the length of the court for a lay-in, sending her team to their tenth Final Four.

Kayla Pedersen tried to credit "divine intervention." Coach TV, lovably, dissents: "Personally, I think God has better things to be doing," she said.

For Xavier, it's a heartbreaker. Ohio fans figure out what went right and wrong.

For Stanford, it's great, yet disturbing. "Someone asked the other day, 'Do we need a close game?' and I said no," coach VanDerveer recollected. "But now that we've won a close one, I'd say this can really help us."
If you wanted grace, efficiency, well-run offensive sets, and high-scoring games, you picked the wrong night to watch tournament basketball.

If you wanted suspense and surprises, on the other hand, last night had 'em. First, the less remarkable of the two games:

Duke led for most of the game, but the Blue Devils' poor outside shooting, and worse shot selection, spelled doom in the end: Krystal Thomas fouled out, and Griner wheeled past her interior replacements to lay in the winning field goal.

The pre-Final Four publicity is going to gather and gather around Griner: without her unusual skill set, the Bears would be an entirely different team.

But coach Mulkey's young guards deserve some credit, too: their aggression got them in foul trouble, but no one on the Baylor side fouled out, and their defense prevented the Dukies from finding good looks.

On the other hand, Duke had more rebounds, and more steals, and came within one possession of a W even though they shot twenty-three percent from the floor. Baylor looked a lot better against Tennessee than they did last night: it's easy to see how the young Bears might be very vulnerable to a running team, one that can get down the floor in advance of Griner, or just make a few outside shots.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another opening: Davidson coach Annette Watts has stepped down after nine seasons.
So, does the interminable Rebkellian Cappie-trade thread finally come to an end?

Report: Mercury trade Pondexter to N.Y.
Jere': Tournament Time: The Time to Let Moore Be Moore
When Connecticut’s Maya Moore committed early defensive lapses against Iowa State, Coach Geno Auriemma said nothing. When she committed a clumsy offensive foul, he stood with his arms folded, mute.
This must have required enormous restraint. Auriemma is one of college basketball’s inveterate talkers. Every time he opens his mouth, a banquet speech tumbles out. On Sunday, he was a statue.
This is the way he coaches Moore in the N.C.A.A. tournament. She is the reigning national player of the year, but like her defense, her confidence can sometimes lag. She needs frequent reassurance. And she sometimes thinks too much instead of playing freely. Paralysis by analysis.
The ESPN experts wipe out their early brackets and pick their Elite Eight winners.
WATN? Muriel Page. (Though I'm not sure where she is....)
With their 74-71 victory over a stubborn, feisty Mississippi State, Florida State not only set a school record with their 29th win, they moved into their first Elite Eight. They celebrated by dousing their coach with water.
"Actually, the whole team got Coach," Courtney Ward said with a guilty grin.

"We're trying to establish something that is stronger than any one year," coach Sue Semrau said, her hair and clothes still drenched from a water-bottle soaking she absorbed in the post-game locker room. "This win — this appearance in the Elite Eight — helps us to establish what we want to continue and that is to be a national contender in women's basketball."
Graham credits senior Angel Gray with shutting down Mississippi State's star, Alexis Rack.

There are plenty of reasons No. 3 seed Florida State overcame a second-half deficit and survived a late scare to beat No. 7 Mississippi State 74-71 and advance to the first regional final in program history. There's Alysha Harvin, the senior scorer who carried the Seminoles early, late and often on the scoreboard with clutch shots and added big plays on defense. There's point guard Courtney Ward, who overcame early foul trouble to make big play after big play in the second half, and star post Jacinta Monroe, who blocked five shots. There are unsung role players like Alexa Deluzio and Cierra Bravard coming through with some of their best performances at the most opportune times.

But you might as well start with Gray. After all, she does wear No. 1.

Next up for the Seminoles, a rematch with the UConn. The AP says the "Huskies rolled to a 78-59 win when they met earlier in the season," but UConn fans remember differently. Said Semrau:
“I haven’t been around for all time, so I can’t tell you if they’re the greatest team of all time,’’ Semrau said. “If I put myself in the heads of 18- to 22-year-olds who have watched Connecticut annihilate people, I think there’d be trepidation. We haven’t just watched it; we’ve been there in a game with UConn. And that will help us in our approach.’’
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sherri Coale has coached the hell out of her team this season.
At The Nation, Dave Zirin writes about Brittney Griner: Your March Madness MVP
A 6' 8" freshman is changing the way we understand hoops in the 2010 NCAA tournament and unless you're paying full attention to all the glories of March Madness, you'd never know it. Maybe it's because the player in question is not a fresh-MAN at all. Her name is Brittney Griner, and despite the incredible buzzer beaters and upsets in the men's draw, she is the individual story of this year's "Big Dance." Griner, with her agility, quick hops, and size 17 men's shoes, is more than just evolution in action. That would imply that there are more Brittney Griner's in the high school pipeline. There aren't. She is simply a player apart.
By the way, Appalachian State defeated Memphis in the WBI.

This marks the Mountaineers' first post-season championship since winning the Southern Conference Tournament crown in 1999. Also, there's a cool "connect the dots if you read the WHB and remember coach Swasey's move from Franklin Pierce to California."
Darcie Vincent met a number of skeptics two years ago when she left the powerhouse she built at California (Pa.) for Appalachian State.

"They asked, 'Why would you leave such a great program? Why would you do that when you're winning 30 games a season?'" said Vincent, who won the Division II national title in 2004. "Well, that got kind of complacent."

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, when a smiling Vincent celebrated the Mountaineers' comeback from a 19-point deficit to beat Memphis 79-71 to win the first Women's Basketball Invitational.

"Now the fun is back in me," Vincent said. "You get excited when you wake up. You get excited when you go to bed at night."
Saturday’s WNIT Championship will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports, and the game will begin at 2 p.m. EST April 3.

The four teams playing in the semifinals are Cal, Miami, Michigan, and Illinois State.

7 p.m. EST Wednesday, March 31
Miami - Shenise Johnson had a career-high 33 points and 10 rebounds to lead the University of Miami women's basketball team to a 73-65 victory over host Providence. It's the deepest postseason run in Hurricanes women's basketball history.

at Michigan - The Wolverines blew out Syracuse, 78-52: “I hope we’re building a fanbase with these wins,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “There’s nothing going on Wednesday, nothing on TV. I hope we get a lot of people here, 13 grand, just pack the house. I’d love to see that.”

Thursday, April 1 8:05 p.m. EST
Cal - The Bears trounced BYU, 76-50.


Illinois State, - the Redbirds defeated Illinois in front of 4,459, second largest in program history.
That put a lump in the throat of seventh-year Redbird coach Robin Pingeton as she emerged from the locker room shortly before game time.

“It made me emotional walking out and seeing so many fans in that upper bowl and the lower bowl as full as it was,” Pingeton said. “The energy that they brought to our team today was really something special.
“It only took us seven years to finally get to the point we had that kind of atmosphere. But trust me, I’m not complaining. I’m very appreciative of the fans who came out.”
2 p.m. EST Saturday, April 3 at location TBA
Well, at least the Liberty have a little more time to find a new head coach.
Mel gets historical: Guru's Elite Eight Musings

Kentucky's move to the Elite Eight over Nebraska and a matchup with another Big 12 power Tuesday night in Oklahoma at the Kansas City Regional immediately forced the Guru to head to memory lane.

This Wildcats group has come out of nowhere considering its preseason pick in the Southeastern Conference.

Then again, considering where Matthew Mitchell was drawing a paycheck before moving to Lexington, maybe there's been some cosmic transformation in Hollywood style and Tennessee's Pat Summitt, his former boss, is really in Mitchell's body, while he really is still back in Knoxville.

To help Blaze make better GM decisions, Q has a Swish Appeal Top 45 WNBA Draft Prospects

If you've followed any professional sport closely, you're keenly aware of the fact that collegiate player drafts are anything but scientific.

My favorite NBA draft story will always be Michael Redd.

Coming out of Ohio State University, it was pretty much an objective fact that Redd was an inconsistent perimeter shooter when he was drafted, at best. After getting drafted in the second round and making the Milwaukee Bucks roster, he has not only become an all-star and member of Team USA, but also one of the best shooters in the NBA.

What I love about his story is that it's a pleasant reminder that a good draft pick is not necessarily determined by college performance, pedigree, or even tournament wins. So a lot of it can come down to a player's dedication to the craft, how well a player fits with the team who drafts them, and -- perhaps unfairly -- a team's patience with the player.

Ultimately, no matter what we speculate about the draft, we're destined to be wrong.

Nevertheless, it's fun to speculate, especially for true fans who care about nothing more than their team getting the best player possible.

Did ya catch this Stanford tidbit from Mechelle:

Wrote about Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen for today on ESPN.com and mentioned the Stanford short-video series, “The Super Hoopsters: Super Heroes with Ineffective Powers.”

They totally crack me up: The idea, the execution, the music, the whole deal. Here’s a link to all six – they’re very short, between 1 and 2 minutes each.

If you're in San Antone on Friday pre-Final Four....

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) is pleased to announce its partnership with Werner Ladder, Corporate Teammate of the WBCA. For the second consecutive year, Werner Ladder will be the presenting sponsor of the live show of ”Shootaround with Beth and Debbie®” which will take place in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday, April 2, 2010, in conjunction with the 2010 NCAA® Women’s Final Four®.

“Shootaround with Beth and Debbie” is a ground-breaking podcast committed to talking about women’s basketball every week on the national level at www.wbca.org. ; The live event, hosted by the highly-respected announcing tandem Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli, will be an entertaining gathering for coaches and fans of women’s basketball. The show, which will take place in the Marriott Rivercenter Salon E at 9:30 p.m. CT, will feature insightful commentary, news, interviews, and most definitely a few laughs.

“We are ecstatic to have Werner Ladder return to present our ‘Shootaround with Beth and Debbie’ live show,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. “This show has become a favorite at our National Convention, and our membership and fans truly appreciate Werner Ladder helping to make the event possible.”

Meet PARADE's All-America High School Girls Basketball Team

If the names Chelsea Gray and Chiney Ogwumike sound familiar, it’s because both have been chosen as PARADE All-Americans twice before. This year, they have the added distinction of sharing Player of the Year honors on our 34th annual All-America High School Girls Basketball Team.
Catching up with the Paris twins: Courtney Paris playing in Turkey, Ashley Paris in Ukraine during WNBA offseason
Seats are gettin' filled: Former Clemson star Itoro Umoh has been hired to revive the Lady Tigers' basketball program.
Why tournaments like the WNIT and WBI are important:

Women's Basketball Invitational: Isles senior class paved the way

It definitely wasn’t the way the five seniors on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi envisioned the end of their college basketball careers.

One game away from playing for a Women’s Basketball Invitational championship. Swarmed and plagued by a quick Memphis team. All the confidence in the world and, in less than two hours, it’s completely over.

But that’s tournament life, as this group discovered during a 80-55 defeat Thursday night in the WBI semifinal at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. The first taste of the postseason ended one game shy of the WBI title game.

For three seasons, the Islanders showed little inclination to move into the postseason beyond the Southland Conference Tournament, with this group of seniors going as a six seed in the event as freshmen and eight seeds the past two seasons.

But this season, the team finally pushed the team to an upper-tier Southland seed — a three — and helped the program to the postseason for the first time since the 2005 WNIT run. The team claimed a program-best 24 victories this season and managed to get three games deep in the WBI before Memphis’ quick and aggressive defense ended things.

Women's basketball at ASU getting noticed

Anna Freeman, a forward from Thomasville, said she has heard people talk more about Appalachian State's women's basketball program in the past week than ever before.

And she likes what she has been hearing.The Mountaineers will play Memphis for the championship of the inaugural Women's Basketball Invitational at 2 p.m. today in Boone.

"This is huge for us," Freeman, a graduate of East Davidson High, said after Thursday's semifinal win over College of Charleston. "It's building so much confidence for us, and we're a young team.... Just this week, people around campus were talking about us and asking about our game -- that hasn't happened all season long. It's nice. People are starting to notice."

You need a stop. Who're you gonna call? Monica Wright!

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) has selected University of Virginia’s Monica Wright as the WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year. The WBCA Defensive Player of the Year award honors the best defensive collegiate NCAA Division I women’s basketball player. All Division I Conference Defensive Player’s of the Year are eligible to be nominated for the award and the selection committee makes the final decision on the winner. If a conference does not select a defensive player of the year, the conference representative can select one player to be considered.

“When asked, I think many coaches would say that ‘defense wins games,’ and with that said I am proud to present Monica Wright with the Defensive Player of the Year award,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. “I enjoy being able to honor student-athletes for their play on the defensive side of the game, which sometimes may get overlooked.”

Congrats to Spoon! (And nice to know the WBCA is as smart as the WHB)
The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) has selected Louisiana Tech University’s Teresa Weatherspoon as the recipient of the 2010 Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award. This distinguished award honors a WBCA Division I head coach who has led their team to a successful season during their first year at the helm.

“One of the WBCA’s core values is to assist in the growth and development of young coaches,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. “I look forward each season to watching these first-time Division I head coaches take the reign of their programs and lead them to success. Teresa Weatherspoon has done just that this season, and we are proud to honor her and Louisiana Tech with this award.”

In her first season at LA Tech, Weatherspoon led the Lady Techsters to a 23-9 mark(11-5 in the Western Athletic Conference) and won the WAC Tournament Championship title. Her team went on to make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006. LA Tech went an impressive 10-3 on the road this year, and of the nine losses the Lady Techsters had on the season, four came by four points or less.
Two great pieces on Tara VanDerveer. Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle compiles some entertaining Tara-isms. Also, lynxbasketball.com talks to Tara about Jayne Appel.

As promised, a follow-up to the crowning of Emporia State as Division II champions, 65-53 victors over Fort Lewis.

It was the first Division II team championship in Emporia State history and broke a string of six straight losses in national finals.

"I'm really proud of this team," coach Brandon Schneider said, "but I feel a lot of satisfaction for all the guys we've coached because they all put so much into our program and we so invested."

Past players such as Aneta Kausaite, Jurgita Kausaite, Tara Holloway, Emily Bloss, Kristie McClain, Michelle Stueve and Ida Edwards were the foundation for this title.

"This team won it but it's a program's championship," Schneider said. "I hope that everybody that ever played for us feels like they have a little part of it."

Fort Lewis forced 25 Emporia State turnovers, but it was the Hornets defense that bailed them out. Emporia held Fort Lewis to its lowest point total of the season, forcing the Skyhawks into an abysmal 28 percent shooting from the field.

“I didn’t think there were very many runs of substance, but there was one and they made it,” Fort Lewis coach Mark Kellogg said. “We could just never recover from it.”

Yah, maybe it was what the home crowd expected (“Isn’t it awesome?” Doug White asked, with the Lady Hornets five points ahead after halftime.), but Joey Berlin of the Emporia Gazzette called the victory, "The best surprise you can get."

At the beginning of the season — or, especially, about three-quarters of the way into it — did you for a single solitary second look at this Emporia State women’s basketball team and think, “This team will be a National champion?”

I didn’t. I don’t think very many people could have. That’s what makes the first NCAA Division II championship team in Emporia State history extra incredible — it’s such a surprise. Not quite completely out of nowhere, but close — sort of like your spouse buying you that car you wanted with money you didn’t know he or she had.

Who knew, back in November, that this ESU team had what it took to make all those hefty monthly payments?

The Hornets arrived home to cheers, car horns and signs:

“We are just immensely excited,” said Student Body President Jonathan Krueger, who was one of many who traveled to St. Joseph to see the game as it unfolded live. “I don’t think there’s anything that could compare right now. And to see as many students and community members that we had there, it really showed that it was something special.”
A "thank you" to Mechelle, who somehow, amidst all the time and energy she's spending covering the D-I tourney, found the space to gives us a fabulous piece on Emporia State and women's basketball history: A true hoops family shares special championship

This was not really supposed to be Emporia State’s year. Gannon, located in Erie, Pa., was the favorite, entering the tournament top-ranked and unbeaten. Emporia wasn’t a bad team, by any means, but came into the Elite Eight in St. Joseph at 27-5. It so happens the Hornets had beaten West Texas in Canyon – where all the Schneider children were born and went to high school – along the way.

Bob and Barbara -- “I never feel my mom gets enough credit in all this; she’s been the rock for everybody,” Brett says -- have had plenty of basketball to keep track of even with Bob retired from coaching.

They followed Emporia State, of course, and also Memphis, where Brett is now an assistant coach. Wednesday, Memphis had a recruit on campus visiting, and Brett couldn’t watch the televised Division II semifinals pitting Emporia State and Gannon.

Sister Brooke sent some text messages about how the game was going, and it wasn’t good. Emporia State was down by 18 points with just over 8 ½ minutes left in the game. How do you come back from that deficit against the top-ranked team in Division II, a team that hadn’t experienced losing this season?

Even by UConn standards, the Huskies' victory over Iowa State was impressive. The Huskies look especially impossible to beat when everybody's outside shots are falling, and yesterday they certainly fell: Maya Moore and Kelly Faris (Kelly Faris!) combined to go 9-11 from three-point-land, the Cyclones (the whole team) 6-25.

"Connecticut are certainly as good as advertised," said coach Fennelly afterwards. "I don't think I've had a whipping like that since I was a little kid and I broke something of my mom's."

Nothing against coach Fennelly's mom, but the one-sided-ness of this result-- combined with the Nebraska loss-- suggests that at least some fine Big XII teams have trouble playing at speed. Iowa State doesn't seem to have scheduled any elite running teams on their non-conference slate: will ISU line a couple of them up next year?

Somehow I missed this headline two weeks ago: anyone up for two-on-two hoops involving the President of the United States, Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, and Maya Moore?
Nyeshia Stevenson's last-play three-ball sent Oklahoma past Notre Dame in overtime and into the Elite Eight.

The shot was especially sweet to a player who blamed herself for last season's Final Four loss.

"They beat us from the three-point line," Coach McGraw said afterwards, illustrating the danger posed by monocausal explanations of almost anything: OU sure hit some big threes, but take a look at the numbers on rebounds.
Nebraska really couldn't handle Kentucky's quick hands and quick feet: the Huskers seemed to function, or malfunction, in slow motion as their magical season came to a shocking close. UK won every category except for free throws in a game that wasn't even as close as the box score makes it look.

Kelsey Griffin had something to say. "The thing that hurt so much about losing this game isn't the game," she explained, "it's the fact that I'm not going to get to go back and practice with these underclassmen and the rest of my seniors."

Announcers and fans tried to figure out what happened: how could a team with just one loss all year collapse in front of a very friendly crowd, before a UK team that lost to South Carolina, Auburn and Vanderbilt?

The answer seems to be that nobody on the Big Red schedule plays like that. Texas A&M, who enjoy pressure defense, come the closest, and Nebraska lost to TAMU a few weeks back. But the Aggies don't run the full length of the court, the whole game: as far as I know, no Big Twelve team does that, and TAMU, you'll remember, got sent home by a run-and-gun Gonzaga team.

I hadn't seen the Wildcats before, and I was impressed: they remind me of Latta-era North Carolina, in high gear all the time. Like those UNC teams, they consider turnovers and fouls fine prices to pay for games played at their exhausting pace, and sure enough their most surprising loss involved foul trouble and a big free throw disparity. In their other suprising loss, they got beat on the boards, and this extremely short Wildcat team is certainly vulnerable to posts who have more experience handling their kind of pressure.

UK's student paper calls it the biggest win ever for a program long overshadowed by UK's men's team. "It's not time for us to attach meaning... to this win," coach Mitchell said. "We will be working hard to advance."
The Lynx have a kind of great promotion involving Whalen's first game in a green-and-white uniform.
Rebkellians ponder the trainwreck that is the New York Liberty, now that Anne Donovan has decided to coach at Seton Hall. I'm betting Queenie's comment reflects the feelings of many season ticket holders *WARNING: Underage children should advert their eyes*:
If Seton Hall- a team that laid SUCH an egg against UConn that Geno damn near called out the administration for negligence, lost to Morgan State, got bitchslapped by Colorado, and was absolutely shredded by one of its alumnae- is a better gig than the Liberty, then what does that say about the Liberty?

If Anne Donovan would rather fix this than the Liberty, the Liberty have really, REALLY big problems.

This is getting fucking ridiculous. The FFO already has my money, but if they don't manage to turn everything they touch into piss by the end of the season, that'll be the last time they get it.

If this isn't the time for a league-led intervention, I don't know when is -- and if it doesn't happen, the New York franchise will be the next to fold.

And, for all those writers so concerned about the state of women's basketball, why aren't you asking, "Is Blaze's incompetence bad for the game."

Dare ya.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are the Liberty going to need a new head coach?
WNIT update: Quarterfinals/Round of 8

Saturday, March 27
Cal 76, BYU 50

Sunday, March 28
Miami at Providence, 2 p.m. ET
Syracuse at Michigan, 2 p.m. ET
Illinois at Illinois State, 3:05 p.m.
Rumor -- so TOTALLY a rumor: Christon traded? Check her facebook account.
The Zags' fast guards, and the favorites' malfunctioning offense, let Gonzaga keep up with Xavier till halftime; after that, the Musketeers took control.

Both teams played the first half at Gonzaga's favored, fast pace; in the second, XU's big, skillful posts couldn't miss, so the Zags couldn't get out and run, and the West Coast team's clutch long-range shooting failed them-- GU shot under 36%.

The game was a rematch of last year's first-round game, in which the Zags won (and in which Harris could not play).

Phillips, Harris and also three-point ace Katie Rutan gave XU more than enough offense against the Zags-- who really just ran out of gas.

But it's hard to imagine what the Muskies can do against Stanford: even if Phillips and Harris had the skills to neutralize Appel, Ogwunike and Pedersen (and we're talking about two against three here), a guard-vs.-guard game might be lopsided indeed.
The Aztecs' fast guards, and the favorites' malfunctioning offense, let San Diego State keep up with Duke till halftime: after that, the Blue Devils took control.

Both teams shot poorly, on paper, after the break, but Duke-- who held SDSU scoreless for six minutes-- found enough points to put the game away.

Baylor meet Duke on Monday, in a rematch of coaches from 2005's championship game.

Jasmine Thomas gave Duke all the offense her defense-first team needed to get the lopsided win.

But it's hard to imagine what they'll do against Baylor: they don't have the posts you'd need to go up against Griner, and they don't seem to have (this year) the ability to score from the outside, in big bunches, that they had with the Waners in town.
Tennessee couldn't handle the Brittney Griner show. The Summitteers traded leads with the Bears for 30 minutes or so, then fell apart: Griner ended up with 27 points and ten blocks; her teammate Morgan Medlock had 12 and 11 (boards, not blocks).

"They, by far, were better on the defensive end," said Pat; the very orange Memphis crowd had little to cheer. It's Tennessee's second earlier-than-expected exit in a row, and though less shocking than their first-round loss to Ball State, it might be a more remarkable defeat: Pat can't simply blame it on lack of experience.

Baylor looked good: Griner looked exceptional on both ends, altering shots and precluding drives to the basket even when she didn't get the block-- and her teammates seemed to have her back.

Tennessee defeated Baylor to open the year, in Griner's first collegiate game.
You'd have to be a serious Cardinal fan to watch all of yesterday's first semifinal in Sacto: Georgia was toast before halftime. Appel, Pedersen and company more than doubled the Bulldogs' score, nearly doubled them up in the tally of rebounds, and generally seemed to win each frame. (In other words: they're good.)

The Bee's Voisin-- who must have some unwanted free time without her Monarchs around-- profiled coach Landers before the lopsided game.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We have questions, and Pilight has answers: the last time a BCS conference other than the Big Ten had no teams in the Sweet Sixteen (he writes) was in 2003, when our Gophers upset Stanford at Stanford.
Say huh?
Pitt announced on Friday that sophomore center Pepper Wilson and sophomore guard Sarah Ogoke have left the program.

The news comes within the same week that sophomore forward Kate Popovec asked for and was given a release from her scholarship, and assistant Jeff Williams left to become head coach at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
There's a brand-new D-II champion today! We'll get you details as soon as we can.
Zags-Xavier preview, along with dozens of other previews'n'features, in advance of today's games at ESPN's main tournament site. DI action starts today with Baylor-Tennessee at noon.

Voepel has something new on Stanford's Poehlen, a fine guard sometimes overshadowed this year by the Cardinal's presence inside

Friday, March 26, 2010

Paul reminds me-- alas-- that two years ago, the Big Ten also had no teams in the Sweet Sixteen (and only one team, Purdue, in the second round).

When was the last time another BCS conference (other than the Big Ten) got shut out of the Sweet Sixteen?
Time for arithmetic! DI Sweet Sixteen breakdown by conference, BCS and otherwise:

ACC: two teams (no teams seeded lower than fourth)
Big East: two teams (no teams seeded lower than fourth)
Big Ten: no teams in the Sweet Sixteen! (When was the last time this happened?) (See update, above.)
Big Twelve: four teams (no team seeded lower than fourth)

Pac-10: one team (no teams seeded lower than fourth)
SEC: four teams (two teams seeded lower than fourth)
So-called mid-majors, including the MWC: three teams (two teams seeded lower than fourth): Xavier (#3, A-Ten), Gonzaga (#7, WCC), San Diego State (#11, Mountain West)

Conference records so far (assuming my math is correct):

ACC: 4-4
America East: 1-2
A-Ten: 4-2
Big East: 7-4

Big Ten: 3-4
Big XII: 10-3
Horizon: 1-2
MWC: 2-1

Pac-10: 3-1
SEC: 10-2
Iowa State will play UConn in Dayton on Sunday.

Last time these teams met in the postseason, the Cyclones won, sending the Huskies home in one of the big upsets of 1999.

This time? Bill Fennelly, who loves his Twitter, tweeted this week: "Probably shouldn't have watched so much UConn on video... Great team."

Fennelly speaks articulately, and at unusual length, to Voepel about team history, team preparation, and the not-so-great health of his fine point guard, Alison Lacey, who is still recovering from pneumonia. "Her timing and her shot are both a little off," he says, but "her at 50% is still really good."

ISU will have a plan, Voepel says, just as they did in some Big XII games where the Cyclones came in as underdogs. The mystery in the plan will be on defense: everyone in the country who has ever watched Iowa State knows what they do on offense. They shoot threes.
USA Today picks up the heroic story of Gonzaga, Vandersloot and Vivian Frieson; Q, writing three days ago, has much more.
A chair is about to be open in Colorado.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

There have been some on-again/off-again grumblings about "ethics" and recruiting in the women's game --- and often there's grumpiness associated with the lack of -- or perceived lack of -- action by the NCAA.

A little info from the NCAA's Michelle Brutlag Hosick: Many NCAA infractions cases move quickly, but complications can slow the process
The public often accuses the NCAA of being a slow-moving bureaucracy, but in the high-profile world of enforcement, that image is not altogether accurate.

Lengthy cases are a rarity. In fact, the average length of time a case is under the control of the enforcement staff is shorter than 12 months, a goal set by late NCAA President Myles Brand and reinforced with additional staff, revised procedures and new business practices.

An enforcement staff member carries several cases at a time, often in various stages of completion. Many cases never reach the stage of official allegations filed with the Committee on Infractions and others are resolved quickly, especially if all parties agree with the facts. The staff is committed to being fair and thorough, but expediency is also a goal.
You can also check out an Illustration of an extended infractions case
NPR's Talk of the Nation speaks with Hartford coach, and ex-Husky, Jen Rizzotti, as well as some callers: "The Unstoppable UConn Huskies"
The D-II Finals are set, and surprise, surprise, #1 and #2 ain't involved.

#6 Fort Lewis (first time to the Finals) will face off with Emporia State (second time to the Finals).

To get there, the team from Colorado just ran over the Franklin Pierce Ravens, 79-64.
“I think we definitely thought (playing for a title) was a possibility, and now that it's actually panned out that way, it's unbelievable," FLC guard Laura Haugen said.

“We've been looking forward to this since Day 1 … working so hard in preseason for four years, all those crappy practices and tough losses, it's paid off," Haugen said.
Emporia State has completed an improbable run to the title game: They'd lost two of their last three regular season games, then an exited in the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament. Once in the tourney, the #15 Hornets (29-5) had to beat three top 10 teams to get to the semis, where the faced #1 (and undefeated) Gannon, who'd set a Division II record for consecutive victories. .

The Lady Hornets then found themselves down 18 points with with 8:48 left in the second half, only pull out a 97-94 win.

Check out the title game at 6 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.
From Joanne Gerstner at the NY Times: These Zags Are a Tournament Threat Too
Mention the words Gonzaga basketball and most will think of the recent sustained success of the men’s team.

But there is room more than one successful basketball team on the Spokane, Wash., campus.

The Bulldog women, seeded third, are having the best season in school history (29-4) and are making their first appearance in the round of 16. The rise of the women’s program has been swift: it was only last year Gonzaga earned its first tournament win.

Chiney & Nneka Ogwumike Become First Siblings to Win Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year
Another opening: The University of San Francisco has fired women’s basketball coach Tanya Haave after four disappointing seasons.
Some post-weekend reflection:

The March 21 article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was headlined: Ohio State star Samantha Prahalis silences opponents. From the piece:

The NCAA moderator asks if either she or Ohio State teammate Jantel Lavender can open with a comment on St. Francis (Pa.), their first round opponent today, and Prahalis' head drops, her gaze fixed on the floor. It's almost as if she's the kid hiding in the back of the classroom, hoping if she avoids eye contact the teacher won't call on her.

That's when you start to wonder: Is this really the flashy player with eight tattoos, the one people call anything from fiery and competitive to cocky and out of control?

Then there was Mechelle's blog entry from March 22 (Riley much more than her reputation) and I began to wonder: considering the very public meltdown Sam Prahalis had in the second half of the Ohio State loss v. Mississippi State, will Mechelle be writing a similar article about S.P. sometime during her senior year?

Throwing the ball at a player is not throwing a punch -- but it is in the same catergory. And, it got Prahalis a T and removed her from court -- crippling any chance (however slim) the Buckeyes had at a comeback.

It's seems to me that coach Foster and Prahalis' mentor, Debbie Black, have some serious work to do with this young point guard in the realm of "managing your emotions" and not letting the game (or other players) get to you.

And, no, I don't miss the wonderful irony of Debbie -- the queen of getting into other player's heads (just ask T-Spoon) -- as a mentor.

Flashback time from the NYTimes:

Miami's Debbie Black added to the Liberty's troubles by harassing everyone, especially point guard Teresa Weatherspoon. Black gave her no breathing room and forced five turnovers. ''

Debbie Black disrupted our offense,'' Adubato said.

A bruise under the 5-foot-3-inch Black's right eye is fading. She said she did not remember when it happened, only that it might have been two games ago. It is surprising Black did not get another black eye, or a split lip, yesterday. Shoulders and elbows made constant contact with Black's face. But she was a defensive menace.

''That's how I play everybody,'' said Black, who was booed every time she came on the court. ''I play this way every night. I have to or I won't be in this league.''

With the Liberty trailing by 16 points late in the first half, Weatherspoon pulled up for a 37-foot last-second shot. Black, who went down, said she was pushed by Weatherspoon after the shot.

Black said she followed Weatherspoon off the court to tell her that the push was unnecessary. A crowd formed behind the Liberty bench as players from both teams were holding each other back.

''It was nothing,'' said Black, who finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.

''It's just a friendly rivalry.''Weatherspoon, who was held to 4 points and 4 assists, said: ''It was just a confrontation. This is a game of basketball.''

Which leads to another thought -- when can we see a team coached by Teresa Weatherspoon go up against a team coached by Debbie Black?

Heh. heh. heh.....
Both Kevin Pelton and Q have excellent analysis on draft prospects. Q focuses on Pac-10 players. The 2010 Storm Draft HQ has a mock draft and a look at point guard prospects, with more to be released soon.
The Chicago Tribune looks at two Big Ten players who are in action tonight in the WNIT and the adversity they have overcome - Lacey Simpson from Illinois and Northwestern's Beth Marshall.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One more Round of 32 game worth its own note: Xavier beat Vanderbilt in Cincinnati... by one point.

Amber Harris scored a game-high 21, including the deciding layup; the teams were tied at the half.

"We were in a world of trouble," said her teammate Dee Dee Jernigan, but Vandy's last attempt missed. Swish Appeal's Kaci was there (you may have to click the "play" arrow to read the liveblog).

XU's mascot appears not to be a Musketeer: instead, it's a blob on YouTube, looking for tickets to the Sweet Sixteen.
WNIT update:

Round 2
Tuesday, March 23

Wyoming 68, Texas Tech 57, OT
BYU 61, Arizona State 53
California 64, Utah 54
Oregon 93, New Mexico 67

Round 3/Round of 16

Thursday, March 25
Providence at Maryland, 7 p.m. ET
North Carolina A&T at Miami, 7 p.m. ET
Northwestern at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET
Kansas at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. ET
Illinois at Missouri State, 8:05 p.m. ET
BYU at Wyoming, 9 p.m. ET
Cal at Oregon, 10 p.m. ET

Friday, March 26
VCU at Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET
TV ALERT: It's Final Four time!

Feed your basketball withdrawl by checking out the battle of the D-II birds: The Fort Lewis Skyhawks face off against the Ravens of Franklin Pierce and Jo Leedham.

Later on at 9:30PMEST, it will be undefeated Gannon (37-0) v. Emporia State.
Though the Buckeyes went as far as expected in 2009, Ohio State underperformed its tournament seeding for at least four years in a row before that.

Last night the Buckeyes underperformed again, losing badly to Mississippi State (a school OSU beat in the tourney last year).

"Once again we fell apart. We're labeled as soft, and we just played soft," said Sam Prahalis. "I didn't think we could lose that game."

They did, by twenty: MSU's Rack scored thirty in an otherwise balanced game.

Coach Fanning-Otis had a closing message to her Bulldogs: "Stay humble-- and stay hungry." They will play Florida State (in what might be a nearly empty Ohio arena) next.
Iowa State edged Green Bay in Ames, though the Cyclones trailed early: the longer, stronger team won out in the end.

Among UWGB's major threats, Testschlag had a terrific game, though Hoewisch had a poor one. "I've never been more proud of a group," coach Bollant said.

ISU and UWGB have historically played similar styles on offense, with half-court sets and long-range shots: this year's Phoenix looked more interested in driving to the hoop, less excited about three-point shots, than the inspiring UWGB teams of years past.

But they were just as inspiring, for a while: the Phoenix players looked faster, and connected with one another much more efficiently, than their rivals, and UWGB seemed unfazed by the loud home crowd.

But ISU has lost only once at home this year: sooner or later, it seems, the fans get their team going, and Kelsey Bolte got hot at the end: her late field goal, on a bad night for star Alison Lacey, let Iowa State escape the upset this time.

"That was one of the best teams we've ever faced in this building," said coach Fennelly of his Wisconsinite opponents. ISU will meet UConn in Dayton next: the crowd there will have fewer Cyclones, and more Huskies fans.
Beth Burns, Jene Morris and San Diego State stuck a fork in West Virginia. Morris and Quenese Davis combined for 46 points.

The speedy guards surprised their second BCS-conference team in a row, sending their team ahead for good with five minutes to go; the MWC champs will head to Memphis for the Sweet Sixteen. "They have two guards as good as any guard I've seen in the Big East," said WVU's coach Carey.

The Aztecs scored their upset in a mostly empty arena: SDSU took out the home team in the first round.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Sean McMann at the Poughkeepsie Journal: Marist's Fitz surprised by WNBA talk
LaSalle has a new head coach: Jeff Williams.
No surprise, but disappointing anyways: Joe Curl has stepped down as the Houston coach.

I like coach Curl. He seemed a generous man and surely loved the game in all its iterations. And he had no issue with sharing credit.
University of Houston coach Joe Curl is a big believer in the junior college players, and not just because he coached at Trinity Valley for three years. He just point to Sancho Lyttle as an example of what JUCO’s can do for international and developing players. Lyttle came to the States from St. Vincent, in the British West Indies, “a great athlete who had incredible potential,” noted Curl. But, she had only played netball, never “American” basketball. “I give her junior college coach (Wade Scott, Clarendon) all the credit in the world for her development.”

“The junior colleges are worth their weight in gold. I’ve always believed that. In Sancho’s case, to get over the hurdles she needed to be able to be successful at the D-1 level junior college was absolutely priceless. Small town. Small classes. A coach that could drill her on the fundamentals of the rim, the backboard, her footwork. And she had the heart, the brain to do whatever she was asked.”

Houston weathered a few SEC and Big 12 storms before they signed her in 2003 “and the rest,” said Curl, “is history. She came in here and took us to a #3 seed in the NCAA tourney, a #8 seed, I believe, in her senior year and was a #5 pick in the WNBA draft. I think she improved a lot while she was here, but I really felt her real basis of who she is right now as player and a person…I give a lot of credit to Wade Scott and the program he had there.”
Oh, oh -- I think Graham just outed himself as a women's basketball intelligentsia "fellow traveler...."

Upsets? Talkin' about an evolution

What began with No. 7 seed Gonzaga's win as the favored seed against 10th-seeded North Carolina on Friday night continued Saturday as 10-seed Vermont beat 7-seed Wisconsin, 12-seed Green Bay beat 5-seed Virginia, 11-seed Arkansas-Little Rock beat 6-seed Georgia Tech and 11-seed San Diego State beat 6-seed Texas.

What happened in the last 24 hours is not record breaking, or even bordering on unique beyond the fact that 12 different conferences have wins, the most since 2003. Just last season, five "mid-majors" -- for our purposes, any team outside the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC -- won first-round games, including a bigger upset from Ball State beating Tennessee than anything witnessed so far this season. And all of the winners thus far this season still have a lot of work to do to become the first mid-major to reach the Sweet 16 since 2008, when George Washington and Old Dominion (a special case, given its history as a one-time national power in women's basketball) both advanced to the Greensboro Regional.

From Jere': Upperclassmen Steady the Boat for Baylor Women
Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey has a saying that she drills into her players: keep a cool head and a hot game.

Melissa Jones, a junior guard, embodied this calm approach Monday night in a 49-33 victory over Georgetown as Baylor’s 6-foot-8 freshman center Brittney Griner quickly fell into foul trouble, struggled to catch the ball with uncertain hands and seemed to lack upper body strength as she was pushed and shoved under the basket.
From the WBCA:

The State Farm Wade Trophy Finalists are as follows:

Player Name Institution
Jayne Appel Stanford University
Tina Charles University of Connecticut
Alysha Clark Middle Tennessee State Univ.
Kelsey Griffin University of Nebraska
Jantel Lavender Ohio State University
Maya Moore University of Connecticut
Nnemkadi Ogwumike Stanford University
Samantha Prahalis Ohio State University
Danielle Robinson University of Oklahoma
Jasmine Thomas Duke University
Courtney Vandersloot Gonzaga University
Monica Wright University of Virginia
Now for the good stuff: last night's second-round game in Seattle between Texas A&M and Gonzaga was the most exciting game I've seen all year: for the level of play (high, though not UConn/ Stanford high), for the intensity of the fan attention (respectful, enthusiastic, and loud, in favor of the home-state Zags), for the neat contrast in kinds of talent and styles of play, and for the jostling storylines, almost too many to count.

Texas A&M, you'll remember, is the only team that has beaten Nebraska this year. They're known for their hustle, and for their defense; last night they stood out first of all for Danielle Adams, the big, strong center who did almost whatever she wanted down low for the second half.

The West Coast Conference champions had no player nearly as strong; they also had no answer for whatever TAMU did to Courtney Vandersloot, the point guard who (as the announcers just kept pointing out) leads America in assists, but couldn't get her mojo on last night: she finished with 6 A's and 11 TO's.

What the Zags had was a style of play designed to get past stronger, bigger opponents-- literally get past them, and over their heads: they play a bit like the Mercury (or the Suns), zipping the ball down the floor, making one or two passes (but not many solo fast breaks), and putting themselves in rhythm to make outside shots.

That's what they did for the first half: the Zags racked up a double-digit lead. And then they lost it, and got it back, and lost it, and got it back, and lost it again. Tiffanie Shives, as she did on Saturday, kept her Zags in the game by sinking treys; the Aggies kept up the pressure, and stayed on the glass, but Gonzaga kept up the pace.

Adams and Vandersloot collected four fouls; then Vandersloot, diving at midcourt, collected a fifth with 1:30 remaining and her team up by a point. Then TAMU scored. And then Gonzaga's Vivian Frieson made her swift, off-balance, midrange jump shot into the game's final goal: Gonzaga won, 72-71.

Both teams showed remarkable teamwork (A&M more on the defensive end), but the winners deserve to celebrate: nobody more than Frieson. "Vivian never wavered," coach Kelly Graves said.

The Seattle event was the only second-round game with a same-season rematch: in December 2009, the Aggies won. Both teams used their memories as motivators last night.

Want more storylines? Coach Blair got what looked like a very intentional technical foul to start the second half, the apparent spark to TAMU's comeback. (In the locker room, he told his team that Frieson was "kicking [their] butt.") The game was juco transfer Adams's first start all year.

Afterwards, Blair could have sounded bitter-- he had to travel a long distance to play a lower seed on their de facto home floor. Instead, he got things right: ""It's a shame one of us had to go home," he said. "By far this is the hardest second-round game that we've had to play since I've been in the NCAAs."

You can relive the action almost minute by minute: Jayda liveblogged the game.

UPDATE: Q liveblogged it too.
Voepel says Williams Arena looks much smaller than it used to look, back in the day. the Whalen-McCarville era.

Yeah, me too.
Happy birthday to Geno, whose team takes on Temple tonight; Owls coach Tonya Cardoza played for Geno, then served for fourteen years as a UConn assistant.

Geno has surely been prepping his team for tonight's game, but he also found time yesterday to go off on university administrators who don't respect the women's game (or who respect it, but don't want to give it more cash).

How can the game, at the DI level, improve? "Athletic directors and university presidents need to make more of a commitment to the women's game so they will put more pressure on their coaches to coach better," Geno said.

"They don't put enough money into the programs to demand from their coaches that they play at that level. All they are doing is fulfilling their obligation by having a women's program and making sure the kids graduate."

Coach Auriemma also found a way to poke fun at Cardoza. (Click the link to see how.)

UPDATE AND CORRECTION, from reader BL: "While Geno was extremely involved in recruiting Tonya to Virginia when he was Debbie Ryan’s assistant, Tonya never actually played for him. After her recruitment, he left Virginia to come to Connecticut as its head coach. Subsequent to her graduation from Virginia, he then recruited her to be one of his assistant coaches at Connecticut."
Lots of effort and lots of frustration in Tallahassee, as a very undersized St. John's squad lost in overtime to the home team, Florida State.

The game was close throughout, as FSU used its length well on the defensive end but couldn't always make plays (or layups).

It was also full of pain-- literal, physical pain-- for the Red Storm: Sheinneka Smith left with a hurt knee, but then returned, and Da'Shena Stevens, whose free throws and rebounds were keys to the game at the end, kept coming and going, and grimacing, with leg cramps.

Stevens ended with a heroic, even scary, 14 and 10; FSU's Jacinta Monroe led everybody with 16, including the field goals that won the game.
Andrea Riley returned after her suspension, but she couldn't quite get her Cowgirls past Georgia. "I couldn't ask for a better four years," the Oklahoma State senior said.

OSU took the Dawgs to overtime, but Cowgirls three-point ace Tegan Cunningham fouled out; UGA's Jasmine James, despite poor shooting overall, hit the two deciding three-pointers in overtime. Georgia face Stanford in Sacramento when the Sweet Sixteen begins.
The Sooners play their second-round game at home against Arkansas-Little Rock tonight, and coach Coale wants to see more fans in the stands: only 5K showed up for Sunday's game.

"We're so accustomed to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000," she said, "that 5,000 just seemed empty.