Women's Hoops Blog: November 2003

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, November 27, 2003

UConn, not #1 any more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

We are heading home for the weekend. Blogging will be spotty till the beginning of next week. Have a great Thanksgiving!
A bunch of big games tonight.

In a significant upset, ODU topped #7 Penn State. Mazzante had a pretty quiet night.

Elsewhere in the Big 10, #9 Minnesota, #11 Purdue, and #14 OSU won. McCarville had 22 and 13, and Shonrock hit 6 3s for the Gophers. (Still think they'll finish third in the conference?)

OSU poured in 12 three-pointers.

The Boilermakers were back on track offensively: 64% from the field.

In a big test for both teams, #18 Arizona played #19 UCSB. The Gauchos ended on top.

UConn killed FSU. Taurasi: 31 points in 30 minutes.

Texas killed UCLA. Freshmen Tiffany Jackson had 19 points and 12 boards off the bench.

Stanford killed USF. Powell had 28.
First of all I must say, YIPEE!!!! Only 2 days until Turkey Day - my favorite holiday! I can't wait to spend the next few days cooking, eating, and watching sports!

Ahh...Now that I got that out of my system, I wanted to write a little about the Alonzo Mourning situation. I was pretty sad when I heard Alonzo Mourning was retiring yesterday because his kidney disease had worsened. It is so sad to see a great athlete have to call it quits early.

Apparently, Mourning's kidney functioning deteriotated rapidly over the last few weeks putting him at risk for a heart attack and he needs to get a transplant in the next 6 months (he is on the national organ donor waiting list). It is just crazy to think that he played a game Saturday night and then just 24 hours later he found out he had to retire (also crazy given his recent altercation with Kenyon Martin ).

After his announcement Mourning said, "There's a disappointment there because I still feel there's an emptiness in my career that just wasn't filled." But he also said, "It's unfortunate, but trust me, things could be a whole lot worse, I want to live 50 more years. I'm 33 years old ... and I want to live to at least be 80 and see my kids grow up and see my grandkids. That's important to me."

ESPN's "Outside The Lines" program had Sean Elliot on last night talking about Mouring's condition. Elliot had the same kidney disease, underwent a kidney transplant in 1999, and then returned to the Spurs for a short ime in 2001.

It was a pretty interesting program. Elliot talked about his feeling on the use of anti-inflammatories and their role in kidney disease -- all of which is still highly debated, but it seems clear that the high doses of anti-inflammatories taken by athletes cannot be good.

I guess none of this is probably news to anyone out there, but I just wanted to express how bummed out I was for Mourning. I guess I am getting into that "be thankful" time of year and his story just kind of struck me.

Well, Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ted and I will be back in MN freezing our tail feathers off!
Still no word about the Rockers. Not even any rumors. Anyone out there know anything?
A new AP top 25 out last night.

LSU and Purdue slipped; Texas Tech, Penn State, and Minnesota moved up.
La Tech survived against a tough Illinois team.

The Lady Techsters nearly blew a big second half lead by not making a single field goal in the last 7:49. But their defense and free thrown shooting were enough.

"I thought we won this game on the defensive end of the floor," said Tech head coach Kurt Budke. "We couldn't hit a shot down the stretch but came up big on the defensive end a number of times. This is a great victory for us."

Illinois ended with 26 turnovers and only 7 assists.
Purdue, in recovery:

"You will see a different Purdue team than what you saw against Duke," said Shereka Wright. "That wasn’t us that day. We embarrassed ourselves on national television."
Bad news and good news at Duke.

Bad news: Brittany Hunter will miss a month with a torn meniscus. She's only a freshman, but losing her is a big blow to the Devils.

Good news: It's not a season-ending ligament injury.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Geno complains about shady recruiting tactics:

"Charde Houston has got a press conference scheduled for [Wednesday] to sign with Connecticut," he said. "On Sunday, her mother gets a phone call from a mysterious source and the press conference is called off. Where did that call come from?"

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Some great games and great individual performances, but it wasn't a good weekend for parity. There were no real upsets (except maybe UVA over Va Tech), and hardly any almost-upsets.

That Duke beat Purdue so easily suggests that 4 Final Four teams from last year are still two or three steps ahead of everyone else. (I should add: it remains to be seen if the Vols are at the same level of the other 3 this year.)

But it's early. Purdue will bounce back. Texas Tech is looking strong. And watch out for Minnesota.
In the biggest game of the weekend, Duke faced Purdue.

This seemed like a potential upset -- Duke has already dropped one, and Purdue has very high hopes for this year.

No upset. It wasn't even close. Purdue had more turnovers than assists, and lost by 30.

Coach Curry, not psyched: "We were awful, really awful. They just flat out give us a good old country kicking. I was extremely embarrassed."

Coach G, psyched: "I am very pleased with our effort. This was an excellent game for us to play because we had an opportunity to play through great adversity with Brittany getting injured [early in the first half], Iciss having three fouls and Alana having four fouls. We showed great chemistry and character, and that makes me feel good about our future."

Beard had 20 points, 10 boards, 5 assists.
UConn had a really easy one against W. Michigan.

Taurasi showed why she's Taurasi. 26 points (on 10-11 shooting), 8 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals. All in only 28 minutes.

And she just ran the whole damn game. "She's the best player because she makes everybody a better player than they are," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She can score whenever she wants and she can pass the ball as easily as anybody I've ever been around."
The Vols had an easy one against Chattanooga. Loree Moore had a nice game -- 12 points, 5 boards, 3 steals, and some great defense.

Chattanooga coach Wes Moore was happy to have the experience. "That's one of the reasons we play this game, as an eye-opener for our players. Now they know how the best players do it.''
#5 Texas Tech improved to 4-0 and won the NIT with an easy win over #15 Rutgers.

Everything worked well. "We have a lot of people who can score, and we're getting shots from everywhere on the court," Jia Perkins said. "I think our defense is getting a lot better. Right now, we're rebounding great. Everything is coming together for us."

The Raiders' defense was impressive -- Rutgers shot only 17-57.
Harvard, incidentally, gave Colorado a good scare. They are a real team.
Great, great weekend for my Gophers.

On Saturday, they easily beat Southern. Whalen had 27 on 10-13 shooting.

Today Minnesota faced its first real test against Colorado. The Gophers won in surprisingly easy fashion.

Whalen had another great game (of course), but the key was the matchup between McCarville and Tera Bjorkland.

McCarville won. 17 points and 14 rebounds versus 12 and 2 for Bjorkland. "Today was a big step for me," McCarville said, "being able to stop Tera like I did."
Shawntinice Polk started her season with a 25 point game, and Arizona got an easy win.

Sanford, Wheeler, and Grzyb added 19 each.
Pepperdine was down by only 2 at half, but Stanford hung on for the win.

Powell: 28 points, 12 boards. Said Coach TV of her star: "She's capable of playing any number of different positions. She has ball-handling ability, can shoot inside, anticipates really well and rebounds."
La Tech entered the post-Ford era with a huge win over Stephen Austin.

Huge as in big margin, not huge as in "a good win over a good team." 5 Techsters in double figures.
K-State bounced back from the Purdue loss and bounced all over W. Illinois.

Wecker had 19, Ohlde 17.

"We saw some sparks of life tonight, and we started to see some good things -- especially in the second half," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "I thought our first half was very good, but our second half was even better."

Sparks of life?
Huge weekend... so many games.

On Friday, #8 Penn State handed #10 LSU its second loss. It wasn't even close.

"We did not have any answers for anything Penn State wanted to do," LSU head coach Sue Gunter said. "Offensively, defensively, on the boards, in transition, they pretty much had their way. Anything we tried to do just was not good enough."

Mazzante had 22 and broke the school scoring record.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Crazy close game tonight: New Mexico barely got past USC, 77-75.

Freshmen Julie Briody led the Lobos with 18.
WCH has it's picks for the weekend games -- Duke over Purdue, Penn St. over LSU, and others.
A party pooper says that blogging is (a) worthless, and (b) dying.

Lots of blogs are abandoned, for understandable reasons. I think if we ever get too tired to keep this up, rather than just quitting, we'll try to hand over it to someone else.

Sadly, you're stuck with us for awhile.
From the Courant, a story about Sherri Brown, a St. Johns baller who has MS.

Says her coach Kim Barnes Arico: "She's definitely a leader for the team, even though she's not out there all the time. She's vocal, she's positive, and she's great for the younger kids. And when she gets out there, she just plays her butt off. In the short spans she can play, she goes hard."
Tech coach Sharp on last night's win over UCSB:

''I thought it was the best game we've played by far. The opponent was much stronger and I thought we really stepped up and matched that. I'm really proud, particularly, of the tone our seniors set.''
THG scandal may be smaller than predicted: very low numbers in IAAF track testing, zero in random NFL testing.
Voepel previews the Jimmy V, and asks a few questions that will be answered over the weekend:

"Will Alana Beard be back in form for Duke? Can Duke establish the inside game Kansas State couldn't? Will the Blue Devils' Monique Currie look more in the flow? Will Erika Valek drive the Purdue train to another big early-season victory?"
Before you get too wacko on Jacko, check this out.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Texas Tech beat UCSB easily, 68-41.

For the second straight game, the Gauchos had trouble scoring. They shot only 13 for 55, and superstar senior Lindsay Taylor had only 12.

Perkins led the Raiders with 22.
If you're looking for a good gossip blog (who isn't!), try Gawker.
Last week, Taurasi (and Okafor) were on the cover of ESPN the Magazine.

This week, Taurasi (and Okafor) are on the cover of SI. Looking tough.
The Gophers used to play before tiny crowds. Whalen has single-handedly built a huge following.

She's now one of the most popular athletes in Minnesota.
Geno to UConn fans: stop cheering for Stacey Merron.

"I wish the fans would get off that Stacey Marron thing, where they all cheer and scream every time she touches the ball," Auriemma said. "That really [ticked] me off to no end. I wish they'd stop it, because they're embarrassing themselves.

"The kid's on scholarship. She's earned the right. This isn't some kid we pulled off Trumbull Street and threw out there, and ooh, wouldn't it be great if she made a basket. Treat her like every other kid. I almost took the poor kid out, because she doesn't need to deal with that. I'm sure they mean well, but enough's enough."
In a great match-up tonight, Texas Tech hosts UCSB. The Raiders are much smaller than the Gauchos, who have five players over 6'2". But Tech is used to being undersized in the Big 12.

The game is apparently on the web, but I'm not sure where.
Rutgers topped Michigan last night. Cappie Pondexter left the game after rolling her ankle, but no one was too concerned. Cappie apparently doesn't have much pain tolerance.

"We'll get her home and make sure she gets some Advil," said coach Stringer, never known for her touchy-feely sympathy. "She may not be 100 percent, but she'll be all right. When she's hurt, everybody knows it. Some athletes are like that -- very afraid of injury."
Kathy Orton at WaPo discusses the state of women's college hoops.

"Since the mid-1990s, women's college basketball has broken down into two divisions: Tennessee and Connecticut, and then everyone else. As the sport continues to grow nationally in scope and vision, more schools are making significant commitments to their programs, financially and otherwise, but that has done little to change the picture at the top."

She goes on to interview various local coaches who complain about their lack of resources and their difficulty competing in recruiting.

This article seems a little wrong-headed to me. This year it probably won't be UConn and Tennessee at the top. And it looks to me like we'll have more parity than ever this year. Time will tell...

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Another contrarian look at doping from Charles Pierce. I agree with much said there (see earlier posts). For more, check Off Wing's posts.

Yesterday, I was poking around WADA's website to see how they decide what's banned and what isn't. A substance is banned if it meets two of these three criteria: (1) performance-enhancing, (2) dangerous to health, (3) violates the spirit of the sport.

Right off the bat, the third criterion should give us pause. I'm not sure what the phrase "spirit of the sport" even means. Deciding what violates the spirit of a sport is something about which reasonable people might disagree. And that decision has nothing to do with science.

Nor is it clear that WADA should have total, global control over those determinations. Major League Baseball, for example, should be able to decide for itself which substances violate the spirit of baseball.

(WADA has been pushing for one worldwide doping code to govern all sports. Of course, it wants control over that code. It has been highly critical of MLB and other sports for not accepting WADA rule.)

Even when the squishy third criterion isn't involved, there are still problems. Caffeine is performance enhancing, and it can be dangerous to your health. It was banned in 2003, but it won't be in 2004. The rules obviously don't always give clear answers.

Now of course, we must make some determinations about what's banned and what isn't. Given that there's some large amount of grey area, some of the determinations are necessarily arbitrary. The best we can do is make some arbitrary determinations, and then enforce those rules fairly.

But given the inherent arbitrariness, we shouldn't get all freaked out when players use substances that aren't explicitly banned. We should, in other words, tread lightly when applying the "analogue substances" rule to punish something retroactively.

And we shouldn't turn over control of all sports to the hysterics at WADA.
UConn already has by far the best TV coverage in the nation. Now it becomes the first team to have a big broadcast presence on the web.

The game on Sunday is free. After that, it costs money. I'm disappointed it costs so much, but this is still a cool development.
Is there any player in the country who has more pressure on her this year than Lindsay Whalen?

After all she's been through, she can handle it.

She wasn't considered a top recruit. She went to Minnesota because it was close to home. She spent a year under Cheryl Littlejohn, one of the worst coaches in women's hoops.

She was central to the team as the program turned the corner. But just when things finally seemed to be going well, Coach Oldfield left for more money at Maryland.

When it looked like the team would fall apart, she held it all together. Now, after the team went to the Sweet 16 last year, Gopher fans expect even more from Whalen this year.

I don't know if my Gophers really have the talent to compete with the elite teams, but it will be fun to watch them give it a shot.
Last year, Texas Tech knocked upstart UCSB out of the tournament. Tomorrow night, they have a do-over.
Harvard seems a cinch to win the Ivies this year. They won last year, and they have almost everyone back.

With a solid all-around team, the Crimson even have thoughts of putting a dent in the tournament.
Elsewhere in the Big East, Notre Dame is also happy about it's recruiting class, which Blue Star ranks at #13.
As usual, there were about a dozen women's basketball stories in Connecticut's various papers. It's really amazing how much coverage that team gets...

After signing Charde Houston, Geno is happy with the recruiting class. "I think we signed three pretty good players. I feel we signed exactly what we needed. We signed a good guard that can push the ball [Swanier], another guard that can shoot, is a tough kid and knows how to play [Thomas], and the best offensive player to come out of high school in Charde Houston."

Charde picked UConn in part for its criminal justice program. "I'd like to catch bad guys, be an FBI agent."

Geno worries some about the pressure on Taurasi, and part of his solution is to put more pressure on Strother. Ann had an up-and-down year last year, and often seemed to underperform. But she was amazing when it counted most -- the national championship game. She plans to be more aggressive all year.
Two great coaches square off tonight when Michigan faces Rutgers in the preseason NIT.

The last time Stringer and Burnett met in the 2001 NCAA tourney, SMS beat Rutgers.
Can Jackie Stiles come back?

"I've had seven surgeries since Sept. 11, 2001," Stiles said. "Eight if you count lasik eye surgery. It's like I'm the Bionic Woman, all metal. But now I know I'm done with them, knock on wood. Now I'm learning to work with what I have left."

She is rehabbing like crazy. If she doesn't return to the WNBA, it won't be for lack of hard work.
In the NAIA, Harris-Stowe had lost 71 games in a row.

Last night they were able to get a win over St. Louis Pharmacy. Congratulations to the Hornets.
Tennessee had its last exhibition yesterday, beating Athletes in Action 88-64.

Ashley Robinson had a good game, and the Vols will look to her to provide more scoring this year.

"She's had the best practices of her career in terms of consistency day in and day out,'' coach Summitt said. "When you work that hard, you get confidence.''

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Our alma hasn't had a real mascot for years. Indian nixed. Wanted to be the Lorax, but Geisel family wouldn't allow it. When Sara was on the court, cheering "Go Big Green" just wasn't that sweet.

Now comes the latest attempt. Mixed feelings here.
For weeks, the word was that Charde Houston would pick UConn.

Then, last week, she cancelled her press conference and delayed her announcement. Charde had second thoughts -- Texas had worked its way back into the picture.

But after thinking it over for a few extra days, she has decided that Storrs is the right place for her after all. She'll make her official announcement in a few hours.

Houston is grateful for the opportunity. "I never thought I had the skills to go to a top-five college and all of the finalists were top-five programs. I'm going to be the first in my family to go to college. My goal all along has been to earn a scholarship so my mother doesn't have to work three jobs to support me."

She is also no doubt grateful that the process is over. She, like many others, has said that the recruiting process is very stressful.
After a few days on the court with college players, Nancy Lieberman identifies the "glaring weakness" in women's hoops: passing.

"Not many people ever take the time to work on their passing. And that has hurt our game."

She says that the best individual passers in the game today are Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Ticha Penicheiro, and Dawn Staley. She says that UConn is the best passing team in college, and that's what makes them #1.
And in last night's other WNIT quarterfinal game, #18 UCSB topped #19 Utah.

It was a low-scoring, poor-shooting affair, focused on defense. Willett and Mann led the Gauchos with 11 each.

Said Utes Coach Elaine Elliott: "We defended well, rebounded well and took care of the ball, which is what kept us in the game. We didn't convert enough to get a lead and stay in there. Our execution wasn't what it needs to be."
The Cheryl Burnett era in Ann Arbor is going well so far. Last night, Michigan beat Cincinnati in a close game.

Coach Burnett again relied on the crowd, her "sixth man," to push the Wolverines to victory.
A few big reports on the THG doping scandal today.

In the Times, Jere Longman frets about why fans don't seem to care. According to Jere, fans just want to see bigger and faster athletes and more records broken. If that happens, we don't care whether the athletes are on drugs.

WaPo is less worried. This article notes that leagues face a dilemma when deciding whether to retroactively re-test urine samples. And Mike Wilbon's column notes the difficulty of punishing players for using a substance that wasn't banned when they used it.

Wilbon concludes that we will probably be left with a battle of the chemists -- cheating chemists trying to invent new substances and testing chemists trying to discover them.

I think he's probably right about that. It's not a great solution, but it might be the best possible.
mmmm.... let the culture wars resume...

Monday, November 17, 2003

New top 25 out.

For obvious reasons, Texas moves in front of Duke. For reasons unclear, Tennessee also moves in front of Duke.

Purdue up to #5, K-State down to #8. Oregon also jumps in to the rankings at #24.
Public service announcement -- we've been using the Google Toolbar for about a month to block pop-ups, and it's great.

It's especially useful for our purposes, because ESPN's website has a million pop-ups, and many local papers we use for our stories also have lots of them.

So if pop-up ads are annoying you, give the Toolbar a try.
Back home, the Gophers had a weak game against Duluth and won by a surprisingly small margin.

“We got too comfortable,” coach Pam Borton said. “The first half, we played extremely well. Then in the second, we played very undisciplined defense — we just need to play smarter.”
According to the Courant, the national media is beginning to demand more and more time of Diana.

"[The] New Yorker magazine, which rarely devotes space to basketball, has sent a writer to follow Taurasi all the way to next month's games in her home state of California. Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated has requested interview time - twice. Even the British Press Association has interest in the 6-foot guard from Chino."

All of the attention adds another level of off-court pressure to UConn's superstar. But pressure has never really bothered Diana (... except that once, against Notre Dame...)

Look for the media coverage to intensify as the year progresses. By March, it could be the sort of story that really pushes beyond the game's traditional fan base.
Oregon's victory over LSU was its first win over a top ten team in three years.

"We played good defense and got back in transition,” Oregon coach Bev Smith said. “This gives us a great foundation to build on the rest of the year."

LSU was stunned. "Congratulations to Oregon and coach Bev Smith," coach Gunter said. "They had a terrific game plan and they took us out of the things we wanted to do. They played with more intensity in the first half and it showed in the score. We need to learn from this game and move on from here."

They'll have to move on fast, because their next game is at #8 Penn State on Friday.
Ohlde did break K-State's all-time scoring mark yesterday, but it was a disappointing day in all other respects, and the record was not much comfort to Nicole.

"Its not really on my mind at this moment," Ohlde said. "I'm just thinking of this game and needing to get better before the next game."

The Cats just couldn't get their post game going. "Certainly our expectation every time we play is that we will establish a post game first and always, and we never really did that tonight," coach Patterson said. "Credit Purdue's defense, but also credit the fact that we did not do a good job at all either on the perimeter or in the paint to do that."

Purdue did a great job in every aspect of the game. The Boilers' tough denial defense stymied K-State, and Purdue's offense was in sync all day: 22 assists on 30 field goals.

I’m very, very proud of our team," said coach Curry. "I think they accepted a challenge today that they thought they could accomplish."
The Longhorns did a great job defending Beard. "We wanted to make her work hard and make her take tough shots," Coach Conradt said. "She wasn't the one with the open shots."

The result for Alana was frustration. "I had a horrible game," she said. "I tried to make up for it by getting in there and crashing the boards, but basically it was just all bad."

But Coach G was disappointed with the whole team and its 24 turnovers. "It was a pretty disappointing way to start. I was very disappointed with our effort, with our decision making and our crucial turnovers. I think we learned a great deal from this experience and we'll get smarter and just go from there."
Starting off, Voepel has a run-down of the State Farm Classic.

She talks about the troubles that Beard and Ohlde had yesterday; each had one of the worst games of their careers.

Emily Heikes, on the other hand, outperformed expectations and was a key to Purdue's victory.
It was a great opening weekend to what promises to be a classic year for women's college hoops.

Now that the season is underway, there's gonna be more going on than we can possibly keep track of. We'll do our best... but if there are conferences, teams, or players that you think we're neglecting, please let us know.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Player of the weekend: Cathrine Kraayeveld.

She missed most of last year because of a staph infection. Now she's back as a senior forward for the Oregon Ducks, and she led them to the biggest upset of the weekend over #10 LSU.

Kraayeveld had 26 points, 5 three-pointers, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. That's a great game.
And another mild upset in the State Farm Classic: Purdue beat K-State by 10.

The Boilermakers had 5 players in double figures and held Ohlde to just 9 point.
In the first really big game of the year, Texas beat Duke 85-77. It was a sloppy game -- lots of fouls, lots of turnovers.

Beard had a tough game, with some sloppy passing and poor shooting. Nina Norman, Tiffany Jackson, and Heather Schreiber led the Horns with 15 each.

Box score here.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Canberra Capitals in trouble -- LJ has a stress fracture.
Both UConn teams start the season at #1. Diana may be the best women's player in the country, and Emeka Okafor may be the best men's player.

(For those of you who don't know Okafor, you should try to see him play this year. He's awesome to watch. He's also a great person -- smart, well-spoken, and mature -- who has stuck around rather than leaving early for the NBA's money.)

Okafor and Taurasi are now on the cover of ESPN the magazine. It's a funny photo -- check it out here.
And back home tonight there's another in-state match-up between the U of M and UMD.
Tonight in Lubbock there's a nice in-state game between UTSA, last year's regular season Southland Conference champ, and #10 Texas Tech.

UTSA coach Rae Rippetoe-Blair is excited for the challenge. "We need to see what we are all about. When you play a team like Texas Tech, you have to give it all you've got. We have nothing to lose."
The first great match-up of the season comes Sunday when #2 Duke squares off against #3 Texas.

"This game is really exciting because it gives us a chance to see where we stack up," said Iciss Tillis. "We're number two, so we want to see how we compare to number three. Playing one of the top-five teams in your first game will show you what you need to work on, because the better teams expose all of that."

Watch for the battle inside as top senior Stacy Stephens squares off against highly-touted freshman Brittany Hunter.
Folks in Tennessee are still celebrating their recruiting class, which some are calling the best ever.

Coach Summit explains how they did it: "I'm not suggesting we outworked anyone, but we worked hard as a staff. We were out there as much as the rules allowed. We communicated as much as the rules allowed.''

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Tons of recruiting news today, too much to keep up with.

But one nice story -- Mickie DeMoss has put together a great recruiting class. DeMoss deserves great things, and it looks like she might be able to turn Kentucky into a powerhouse before we know it.
Crossing over -- Michelle Wie has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Sony Open in January.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Several US track and field athletes have tested positive for THG.

The names of the athletes have not been disclosed, so it's unclear if Marion Jones (who had been named previously in relation to this scandal) is on the list.
Nancy Lieberman hit the floor last night with the Wisconsin Viking AAU team in a exhibition game against the University of Wisconsin. The Viking team lost 84-58, but Lieberman played pretty well. She scored 10 points on 3-of-19 shooting, had eight rebounds, and seven assists in 35 minutes. Not bad considering she is 45 and hasn't played competitively since 1997.

"I hope that it shows first and foremost that I love this game," said Lieberman. "I think it's hard because people know your reputation. To put your reputation on the line, it takes a lot of confidence and self-assurance."

Lieberman says playing competitively gives her a unique perspective that her other TV colleagues don't have. "Just think, can (Dick) Vitale and (Jay) Bilas do this? Who else can say when they were on the court against Stephanie Rich, she shot lights out?" said Lieberman.

I am 28 and I can barely walk the day after my league games. I can't imagine how Nancy felt this morning.
Charde Houston has cancelled her press conference, and she hasn't said when she'll announce her decision. This is bad news for UConn, which was her rumored choice.
Here is a shocker...

Alana Beard and Diana Taurasi were unanimous choices for pre-season all-american. This is the 3rd time Beard has been voted to the pre-season team and the 2nd time for Taurasi. Both were unanimous post-season all-americans last year.

Also joining Taurasi and Beard are Nicole Ohlde, Kelly Mazzante, and Nicole Powell.

I like this quote from Taurasi about being a pre-season top pick. "It's nice to be considered among the top players in the country,” Taurasi said. “But nothing counts until the season is over. I'm psyched. You don't get another senior year."
Crystal Langhorne's hometown paper describes the recruiting process and the factors that led her to choose Maryland over UConn, Tennessee, and others.

The article shows the incredible pressure that is put on 17-year-old recruits. The only good thing about the process is that it ends.
Candace apparently didn't want to do the ESPN thing yesterday.

"We really had to persuade her that this is not just an opportunity for her, but an opportunity to elevate the women's game a little bit and draw some attention to what I think is one of the purest forms of basketball," said her father, Larry Parker, a former college basketball player.
Charde Houston will announce her decision today. She's choosing between UConn, Texas, and UCLA. All indications are that she's heading to Storrs.

Wanisha Smith is excited to be heading to Durham. "I felt like I fit right in at Duke," she said. "I just loved the people and the coaches. The academics, of course, also stood out."
Parker rounds out an incredible recruiting class for the Vols.

"The six players comprise the best haul from this season's class, which was previewed this summer as the best and deepest in high school history. Therefore, it could be the best haul in UT's storied history."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In tomorrow's Times, this long article analyzing the pressures of youth sports.

Increasingly, both boys' and girls' sports are becoming dominated by the pressure to excel, to play a single sport all year, and to join traveling club teams.

Some parents are rebelling and seeking ways to take off the pressure, but it's an uphill battle.
Parker to Tennessee, as rumored.
In other, less hyped recruiting news, Wanisha Smith has chosen Duke.
Voepel makes an effort to deflate some of the Parker hype.

She wonders why Parker waited so long, and suggests that some people might have encouraged the delay to maximize the drama.

She also suggests that this LeBron-style hype isn't what the women's game needs: no one wants "the self-centered, look-at-me mindset that's polluted other sports to gain a foothold in women's hoops."

Voepel also notes that the recruiting rankings are sometimes poor predictors of college success. For the class of 2000, "the Blue Star list had Alana Beard 30th, Kelly Mazzante 83rd and Nicole Ohlde not even in the top 100 among high school seniors."

Mechelle says that Parker seems like a great player and a solid person. But she isn't willing to start swooning about the player, the process, or the news conference just yet.

For those of you who are hyped up, you can watch or listen to the announcement at this link at 5 PM Eastern today.
Today is the big day for Candace Parker.

"I'm ecstatic. I cannot wait for it to be over," she said. "These last few weeks have been very stressful. I'm excited to get it over with. It's the biggest (decision), second to who I'm going to marry in my life."

Dan Fleser reports that Parker will choose Tennessee. His source is someone at one of the schools she has already called to turn down.

Parker has been surprised by the reports the last couple days that Tennessee is her choice.

"That's the first time I've ever seen a story published, like a 'probably.' I've never seen that before, like a 'possibility,'" Parker said. "I don't know how they got that. The only inside people are my parents. That's it. My parents and my brothers are the only people."

Monday, November 10, 2003

Duke also had an exhibition yesterday. Brittany Hunter, matched up against DeMya Walker, had a great game. Alana Beard, despite limited minutes, racked up 16 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Box score here -- thanks to Barry for the link.
thanks, babe...

Today is Ted's 29th Birthday! We have already been celebrating for a few days (we believe in the birthday week), but today is real deal.

Happy birthday to my favorite women's hoops afficionado!
Some exhibition results:

The Vols got a pretty good workout, but still won easily. Ely and Butts had 15 each.

Mazzante had a rough start, but ended up with 29 points as Penn State rolled.

K-State destroyed a Czech team 103-47. Megan Mahoney had 20 points in 20 minutes.

A bunch of freshmen, including Cameo Hicks, were key to the UW Huskies' victory over the NWBL team.

Stanford, hobbled by injuries, didn't look too good... but won anyway. Powell didn't play much, but dominated the court when she was on it.

UCLA had the closest call yesterday. Noelle Quinn hit a jumper at the buzzer to give the Bruins the win.

Actually, Drake's win was even closer -- they needed OT for their win.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

If someone you know is sick, plan to share health-related information with others, especially those who may need help understanding the situation and what specific actions to take.
This blog is rated TV 14-D. It may contain intensely suggestive dialogue.
The evil Belgians beat up on America again. At least the French have our back.
Annika had another amazing weekend. Broke some records. Beat her closest competitors by 9 strokes. Clinched the Player of the Year award.

She's a legend.
Among the scores of exhibition games this weekend, UConn had its opener. The Huskies won, but they weren't happy.

"We were lousy," said Taurasi. "I don't think we played well at all. A game like this shows we have a lot of things to work on."

Friday, November 07, 2003

10 days ago, David Stern said the league would decide within 10 days what to do with the Rockers.

Still no word.

This might be a good sign. If there's some delay in the announcement, then it seems that there's at least some chance that the team will survive.
Fleser suggests that maybe the Vols' #4 ranking is too high.

He also notes in the article that Charde Houston appears to be headed elsewhere.
Mo Currie had a chat today at ESPN. She says that she's 100%, she says that she likes Geno, and she says that Alana dressed up as a bumble bee for Halloween.

Read the whole thing.
Candace Parker's annoucement is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 PM eastern, live on ESPNews.

ESPNews has never before televised the oral commitment of an NCAA women's basketball player.
"There's little disagreement that Connecticut's Diana Taurasi is the best college player in the country," says the USA Today.

Duke fans may go ballistic. Certainly there's at least some legitimate disagreement. Beard, after all, is a much better defender.

As always, it'll have to get settled on the court.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I feel like we've been ignoring the Big 12 lately, but there's no denying to conference's power. In the latest ESPN rankings, 3 of the top 6 teams are from the Big 12.

Texas leads the way. It was the only team in the country to have three players among the 30 preseason Naismith candidates. Stephens, Schreiber, and Carey were all on the list.

Texas Tech will also be huge. The team is led by Jia Perkins, and this year will see the addition of Alesha Robertson. In the Raiders' first exhibition game yesterday, Robertson led the team with 20 points.

K State is the Big 12's other powerhouse. The Wildcats also had their exhibition opener last night. Ohlde led the team with 16, and she got help from Wecker and a bunch of new freshman.
When Sara says "Minnesota roots," remember that "root" in Minnesota rhymes with "foot," not "suit."
I must indulge my Minnesota roots once more today...

John Gagliardi, the football coach at of St. John's University in Minnesota, has a chance to break the all-time career win record for NCAA college football coaches this weekend. St. John's is a small DIII school in Minnesota. Gagliardi, 77, has been the head coach there since 1950, and if the Johnies beat Bethel this weekend he will have won 409 games in his long coaching career.

The Times has a nice article on him today. Sounds like a great guy - players call him by his first name, he doesn't yell, and he has never bought into any of the old football withholding water from players in practice and crap like that. Good old MN!
The Minnesota Gopher's won their first pre-season exhibition game last night defeating the Hungarian travel team, Zala Volan, 77-57. Lindsay Whalen (17 points) and Janel McCarville (15 points) led the team in scoring although neither played much in the second half. Coach Pam Borton explained, "I wanted the freshmen and the people in there at the end to get as much time as they could, because our success is going to depend on our bench this year, and that's our bench -- mostly freshmen."

Also, Whalen was mentioned as on of the top 5 off-guards in the ESPN ranking Ted mentioned earlier.
In the offseason, the Seattle Storm has decided to make a few organizational changes. It's a little difficult to tell what it all means, but it sounds like the team has decided to spend some more money in hopes of improving the team.
Rockers fans are still fighting. Last night, they showed up at the much-hyped Cavs game, carrying signs reading "Why can't the girls play?" and "LeBron, please buy our Rockers!"

The fans are doing a great job. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer is also doing a great job covering the story -- it's published several articles recently, giving the movement some press.

It likely won't make a bit of difference. But it's worth the fight anyway.

The best causes are lost causes.
Mike DiMauro gets some oblique comments out of Geno and Chris about this year's recruiting problems. The coaches admit that this year has been tougher than most, but they say it's just because some kids don't have the confidence to handle the pressure of playing in Storrs.

The article also contains a hint or prediction that Charde Houston is heading to UConn.

In other recruiting news, word is that Candace Parker will announce her decision today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Over at ESPN.com, Lieberman and Voepel collaborate in picking the 5 best point guards and the 5 best off guards in the country.
Vicki Krapohl has a diary up at the GoDuke.com site. The links seem a little bit messed up, but check here for posts.
The following ballot measure passed yesterday in Marin County:

"Shall the following language constitute a policy of the Bolinas Community Public Utility District? Vote for Bolinas to be a socially acknowledged nature-loving town because to like to drink the water out of the lakes to like to eat the blueberries to like the bears is not hatred to hotels and motor boats. Dakar. Temporary and way to save life, skunks and foxes (airplanes to go over the ocean) and to make it beautiful."

Yes, I love California...

UPDATE: the woman behind the measure.
One last, somewhat strange note on the Mendiola case: at some point, the prosecutors apparently threatened to indict UW stars Giuliana and Giocanda.

As described here, Giuli and Gio's brother Giovanni received his sentence for second degree murder last week. He claims innocence, but he says that he took the plea deal to protect his family members. Mostly, he did it so that his brothers would get lower sentences for their involvement.

According to this report from a Seattle TV news station, he also took the deal to protect his sisters from prosecution. According to Mendiola's public defender, the plea agreement "removed prosecution threats to indict the sisters."

It's unclear what the threatened charges were. Police and prosecutors have said from the beginning that the sisters did not have any involvement in the murder or the drug dealing.

But at the time of the murder, Giovanni apparently lived with the sisters in Seattle. The murder victim's car was found somewhere in or near Seattle. And the last call from the murder victim's phone was to a phone that was listed in one of the sister's names (and that was being used by Giovanni).

It would seem that if any charges were threatened against the sisters, they probably were something like obstruction, or something to do with the sisters' failure to disclose what they knew.

A general reminder: just because prosecutors threaten charges doesn't mean there's anything to them. Prosecutors do sometimes threaten spurious charges (i.e., charges for which they do not have probable cause) in order to extract a plea deal. It's unethical, but unfortunately it happens.

That's precisely what the Mendiolas say happened in this case. We'll never know. And since the evidence was never presented in court, we'll never even be able to make any sort of educated guess...

(... unless there is some sort of successful appeal...)

UPDATE: Just heard from a local reporter who spoke to someone in the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

The officer reaffirmed that the sisters had no involvement in the drug running or the hired enforcement. The officer also said that no accessory charges were ever considered against Giuli or Gio. He said, however, that the murder victim's car was parked in the sisters' garage for about a month.

I'm not really sure what this means. It might mean that no accessory charges were considered, but other charges were. Or it might mean that the story above was totally wrong. Or it might mean that the sheriff's department didn't think any charges were appropriate, but the DA nonetheless threatened them in order to get a deal.

I'll keep looking around a little, but I figure this is the most we'll ever hear of it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: the PD did say at the sentencing hearing that charges were threatened against the sister. But it sounds like maybe the PD was just saying this as some form of grandstanding.

I'm gonna try to call the DA tomorrow and see what's up.
Duke had its exhibition opener yesterday, and everything looked good. Alana and Iciss were predictably great. Freshman Brittany Hunter was strong inside, and Mo Currie was kickin butt all around: 21 points, 8 boards, 4 assists.
Some injury problems in Storrs: "Willnett Crockett (ankle), Maria Conlon (ankle) and Liz Sherwood (knee) sat out of practice Tuesday, and Kiana Robinson (hamstring) was limited."

Only Crockett's is serious.
From the WashTimes (via Eric McErlain), an article on the worst thing about women's sports -- ACL tears. The article talks about the rehabilition process, and also a bit about prevention. The lesson for all of us: hit the gym!
In case you missed Fleser's column this weekend -- here it is.

The article focuses on the Vol's recruiting class, especially Sa'de Wiley Gatewood. Sa'de is awesome, but has been overlooked in the recent recruiting frenzy since she gave her verbal so long ago.
In case you haven't seen Bend it Like Beckham yet, go rent it tonight. It's great.

The saddest part is that a big part of the story is British girls dreaming about coming to the U.S. to play professional women's soccer. No one can dream that dream anymore.
In case you missed the Rock the Vote debate last night, check out Saletan's review here.
In case you missed it last week, Stanford beat out Duke for Candice Wiggins.

Unclear why the Chron waited till today to print anything... but then again, we haven't said anything till now either.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

If you are a fan of the Minnesota Gophers, check out the season preview on their website. I got so excited just reading it. It could be a great year for the Gophers.

Coach Pam Borton is pretty psyched too! "I've been anticipating this season since the loss to Texas last year," said Borton. "We've tasted that success, playing in the Sweet 16, and we want to go back. We feel we were three possessions from the Elite Eight, that there were three possessions that made the difference in that game. You have to seize the moment because you just never know if you'll get that close again. We will do everything in our power to get back to the Sweet 16 and take it even further."

The Gophers will have great senior leadership (not to mention talent) from Janel McCarville and Lindsay Whalen who spent the summer playing in international tourneys. They also have the Minnesota's first McDonald's High School All American, Liz Podominick, joining the team.

The team has also strengthened their non-conference schedule this year. They will host the Subway Tourney in early November and then head to the Bahamas for a Thanksgiving tourney. These tourneys will give the team the opportunity to play teams such as Temple, Virginia, Seton Hall, USC, and Colorado. Then the BIG 10 season kicks off Jan. 1! I will be ready!

And some great news for those of us trying to get more folks interested in women's hoops, the university reports that season-ticket sales are up over 45 percent from a year ago!
New ESPN/USA Today preseason Top 25 poll just released. UConn is the unanimous #1.
The dark times are almost over: Venus and Serena will be back for the Australian in January.
Voepel, meanwhile, loves the senior class.

Is the '04 class (Taurasi, Beard, Tillis, Whalen, Mazzante, Wright, Ohlde, Stephens, Perkins, Bjorkland, Powell) better than the '01 class (Catchings, Riley, Douglas, Svet, Randall, Stiles, Miller, Miller)?

Mechelle says time will tell.

The battle for the top will likely be between Diana and Alana. Ignoring the mutual hatred between Duke and UConn fans, the two actually seem to like each other a lot.

Taurasi talks about their common qualities:

"We hate to lose more than we like to win. Playing with her, knowing how she is every day in practice -- she's one of the hardest-working individuals. And she's one of those players who likes feedback. When we played on the (USA Basketball) team ... I'd say something to her, she'd say something to me and it was that common respect we had for each other. Whether it was, 'You've got to rotate a little quicker on defense,' or 'On offense, look for the post a little longer,' it was that communication that a lot of players don't want to have because they think they know everything. And we know we need that to be better.''
Lieberman has her preseason top 25 up at ESPN.com. No real surprises... but she does put Auburn at #6.

Phil also writes into note that Nancy leaves out Utah, who makes all of the other top 20 lists.
Blaine Newnham discusses the injury problems that are plaguing the UW Huskies.
Mel Thomas: "I think, for the most part, I knew all along where I wanted to go. Once I went on my visit, I knew. The way they work, I just liked the atmosphere up there."

She had a good time in Durham, but it seemed like UConn was home. “There wasn't anything I didn't like about Duke. I liked everything about it. It just seemed like UConn was the right place for me.”

Monday, November 03, 2003

More good news for UConn: Mel Thomas apparently had a press conference a couple hours ago and announced that she's heading to Storrs.
This is pretty amazing -- Zoe Koplowitz, who has diabetes and MS, finished the NYC marathon today after 30 hours on the course. She did the whole thing on crutches.
In recruiting news:

UConn finally has one member in its 2008 class. Guard Ketia Swanier has committed to the Huskies. Swanier is apparently extraordinarily quick -- she averaged more than 8 steals per game last year.

Mel Thomas may announce today where she's headed.

In the Big 10, 6'4" center Danielle Ward chose Wisconsin over Purdue, Minnesota, Kentucky, and others.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Even though the Big East has won the last four national championships, some people still don't think it's very tough. Lots of folks think the SEC and Big 12 are much stronger overall. And last year, when the Big East had 7 teams in the tournament, Nell Fortner and others cried foul.

Big East coaches are sick of it.

Says coach Geno: "When the media people talk, you notice there's a Pac-10, a Big 12, a Big Ten, and what's always referred to as the `always tough' Southeastern Conference. I checked the preseason [polls]. They have three teams in the Top 25. We have four. Maybe this year people will talk about the 'always tough Big East,' because I'm sick of hearing about what's going on around the country. I'd have much more fun talking about the teams and players in our league."

Says coach Vivian: "I spoke personally to Nell at the Final Four. She knew I was upset. I told her, 'I want you to remember what you said, because I expect you to make a public apology next year when you see what kind of damage the Big East does.' I trust that we'll live up to that."
Jodi Howell has committed to Purdue over Texas, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. She is excited to be close to home, and she likes Coach Curry, the "simple country girl."
Two doping articles in today's Times.

Selena Roberts describes how some pro leagues have swept doping issues under the rug.

Jere Longman and Joe Drape tell how scientists isolated and identified the new steroid THG, which lies at the center of the most recent scandal.
Ashley Rowatt, a champion swimmer at Kenyon College, won the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

Kara Lawson was one of the ten finalists.
The Mendiola crime saga is now essentially over.

Washington Huskies stars Gio and Giuli were in court on Friday as their brother Giovanni was sentenced for second degree murder.

Several family members, including the sisters, testified on Giovanni's behalf and asked for leniency. Mendiola's mother begged: "In the name of Jesus Christ, let him go."

But the judge was not fully moved. "I have no doubt you are a kind man, a loving man, a spiritual man. You have a lot of good in you," he said to Mendiola. "I think, through the summer of 2002, you had a lot of evil, too."

The judge sentenced Mendiola to life in prison, with a minimum of 8 years before parole eligibility. The prosecutor had asked for a 12 year minimum.

For the first time on Friday, Giovanni told his version of what happened.

He admits that he killed Brendan Butler, but he says it was an accident. He said that he and Butler were thinking of opening a restaurant together. Mendiola says they had a dispute, Butler pulled a gun, and so he had to defend himself with a knife.

The prosecution had several witnesses who were apparently going to testify that Mendiola and Butler were part of a drug ring, and Mendiola killed Butler after a dispute about payments. Mendiola says those witnesses are lying.

There was some mention of an appeal on Friday. But appeals from plea agreements are very difficult. So this sentencing likely represents the final resolution.