Women's Hoops Blog: April 2004

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, April 30, 2004

Freshman center Reicina Russell is leaving Penn State. Russell led the Lions in rebounding and was one of the country's best shot-blockers.

Apparently Russell wants to do more -- she wants to score some points. Coach Portland tried to explain that with so many great (and experienced) scoring guards on the team, perimeter play had to be their focus.

Russell's dad, however, wished Rene would have told them that in advance. "It's definitely frustrating to her because that wasn't a part of her recruitment conversation," Michael Russell said. "She probably would have chosen a different school had she been told that it basically was going to be a guard offense."

Reicina made the same point: "When you go on a visit, the coach is going to tell you what you want to hear. It doesn't matter if it's here or anywhere else, I know that's what happens. I wasn't very aware that it was going to be a guard oriented offense. ... It's just a different story when you get here."

This all seems as bit strange to me. As you know, I'm no fan of Coach Portland. But Russell, while a good player, isn't exactly some superstar who merited 15 shots per game as a freshman.

Stranger still: Mazzante and Brungo accounted for almost half of PSU's shots last year. Now they're gone, so the rest of the team will get many more -- and Reicina stood to benefit as much as anyone. Why not just be patient? It was guaranteed that she'd get way more touches next year.

I suppose the frustration with Rene and her system just built up over the year, and at some point it just went past the point of no return.
The MVP is back.

Things didn't go quite as planned in Russia. LJ's team lost, and after spending 200 grand to bring her over, the team barely played her.

"Losing is always hard, and I didn't play much," said Jackson. "I didn't spend enough time with them, and I don't think I'll do that again. I'd definitely go over there a lot earlier. But I think it was more to build a relationship for the future."

Coach Donovan was slightly miffed. "I hate to talk about coaches losing their jobs, but how do you bring in a player for that kind of money?" she said. "You bring the best player in the world over and you don't use her. It was a big mistake."

The Storm are just happy to have her home. As Donovan said, "Everything changed when she walked in the gym (Wednesday) night."
Correction --

Cindy from Women's Sports Net writes in to say (contrary to what I said yesterday) that they do not plan to charge a subscription fee. She also says that more original content is coming.

Sounds great -- hope it works out.
Alana Beard, hot pants.
Former Huskie Maria Conlon is out in LA trying out for the Sparks. It is going to be tough to make the team, but Conlon seems to have the right attitude. She said, "There are still 24 of us here (Coach Michael Cooper) is only keeping 11 people," Conlon said. "With eight left over from last year, that leaves 17 of us competing for the other three spots. I am out here with some of the best players in the country so it is going to be really hard, but I am just going to try to give it my all so I have no regrets."

Thursday, April 29, 2004

There's a new for-profit website devoted to women's sports called Women's Sports Net.

It's not a great site yet -- too many ads, not much original content (most stories are AP pickups), and it sounds like they plan to charge a subscription fee.

Still, it's nice to see someone try to make a business out of this. Imagine something like ESPN.com just for women's sports -- it would be great, and maybe these folks can get there eventually.

(Also, they picked up my favorite story from the news yesterday: this one about the fentanyl lollipops. Quoth the police: "You don't want drugs to taste good." Um... yeah we do.)
ESPN is hosting a voting contest to determine the world's best female athlete.

Contenders include Catchings, Taurasi, Candace, Serena, Wie, Henin, Hamm, and Marion Jones.

Beard, Teasley, LJ, and Annika were already knocked out in the first round.

Predicted winner: Serena.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Mike Dodd at USA Today talks up Candace Parker.

Scouts compare her to LeBron, or perhaps more aptly, to KG.

Candace takes it all in stride. "It's an honor," she says, "but hopefully if I do what I'm supposed to do, I won't have to be nicknamed after (anyone). I'll have my own identity."
Strangest ebay item ever.
At the WNBA Player Orientation, the rookies got important advice like this:

"When it’s late in the game and you are bent over with your hands on your knees, looking down the other end of the court that you’re about to start running back towards, you’ll be thinking ‘I probably should not have had that doughnut.’ And you’ll be right. You should not have had that doughnut."

I, for one, am tired of the league's anti-doughnut agenda. Join me in the fight. Visit bringdoughnutsback.com and find out what you can do to help.
Coach Gunter is stepping down. She had hoped to coach for another couple years, but the persistent health problems would have made it impossible for her to keep up with the demanding schedule.

"This is one of those things that, at some point in time, was bound to happen," said Gunter. "Unfortunately, I guess, the good Lord decided we were going to do it two years early."

But finishing with a trip to the Final Four in a sold-out New Orleans Arean wasn't a bad way to go out. "I can't think of a better way to go out, as far as what this team did this year, the things they accomplished and a staff that just doesn't get any better. I'm happy in a lot of ways."

Pokey will take over.
We've gotten more emails about the Bring Lindsay Back website than we've ever gotten about a single topic before.

Yes, it's silly. Yes, these people are silly if they think this will help anything. Yes, we are mildly ashamed to be Minnesotans at times like these...

In actual news, Whalen is doing well in Connecticut. Her talent is obvious. The coaches and the vets are just trying to teach her to keep it simple.
I thought Nikki McCray might be done, but she's heading to Phoenix.
LJ's shin splints in Russia: "OK, they flared up a bit, but once I get to the WNBA I'll have the best treatment."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Storm players are back in camp, telling stories about the off-season. Not much word yet from Sue Bird about what it was like dating Jesse Palmer... and no word whether there was a jealous love triangle with Hollywood bad-girl Tara Reid (aka Bunny Lebowski, aka Bunny La Jolla), Palmer's other recent girlfriend.

LJ isn't back yet. She's still completing her mercenary time in Russia. Not going too well -- UMMC is down 2-0.
DeLisha Milton-Jones did some nontraditional, non-surgical treatment on her torn ACL. It seems to have been a success -- Milton-Jones says she'll be ready to play next week, barely two months after the injury.
Mystics coach Adams is ready to hit the floor and work with his team. One of his biggest concerns is fixing their terrible perimeter defense. Alana and Tamicha will help tremendously on that front.

Mique thinks this is the year. "I'm probably one of the most laid-back people, and I'm not like a real big trash-talker, but it's now or never. That's just the way I feel. If we don't get it done this year, then hey..."
Many have speculated that the Lynx are quickly heading the way of the Rockers. I think not. The reason: Glen Taylor is a great owner.

Taylor has done great work with the Wolves -- he put up money to keep KG around, brought in new stars, and gave the franchise its first real chance to contend. From everything I've heard, he remains strongly committed to the Lynx as well.

Taylor says the Lynx lost between a half-million and a million dollars last year. He says that he is willing to sustain those kinds of losses for awhile. Ultimately, of course, he needs the community's support.

"It will be up to our fans in the long run if they want a women's franchise here," Taylor said. "Like most companies I've had, it usually costs you to get an organization started. But at some point, the NBA will have to make a business decision. Within three to five years, we'll have to get this sorted out."

While Taylor apparently wanted the Whalen deal more than coach McConnell Serio, he agreed that Connecticut was just asking too much.

"You can't break your team up just for a local favorite and then lose," Taylor said. "I don't think the fans were saying bring Whalen in and have a poor team. The fans won't stay with you in the long run if the team is no good."

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Starbird, trying to fight her way back into the league: "Indiana is going to finish strong if the players catch on to what (coach Winters is) trying to teach. . . . I hope I'm a part of it.".
Is Minnesota ready to move on and talk about something other than the non-trade? Pam Schmid tries to lead us; she writes about the Lynx's prospects for this year. The article notes that Svet probably won't play this year, so the Lynx have lost 3 of their top 5 scorers from last year.
Bizarre column today in the Seattle Times -- David Martin goes off on the league and the Storm for not drafting Mendiola.

There's a lot of weird statements or implications here: that Mendiola is better than Taurasi, that Mendiola is a victim of bigotry akin to discrimination against minorities, that the league set Giuli up to embarass her...

But the basic premise is that everyone passed on Mendiola because of her family. "Many have told me that Giuliana Mendiola was blacklisted because of her family."

Really? Who?

I think it's possible that the off-the-court stuff had some minor relevance. If a team was deciding between Giuli and a comparably talented player, they might have said: "I'm not sure I want to deal with the extra risk, the extra publicity, the mother Alicia, the possibility of another ASU incident... so I'll go with the other player."

That might have happened. It's possible. But from everything I've heard from scouting reports and WNBA team officials, the reason Giuli wasn't draft was just that she wasn't good enough. The primary concern is her conditioning -- she needs to drop a little weight, get faster, get stronger.

Giuli was a great player at UW. But successful college players don't always make successful pro players. Matching up against players in the Pac-10 is really nothing like matching up against WNBA ballers. Pro scouts have doubts about Giuli for the same reason that half of them have doubts about Whalen.

Giuli can (and will, I think) make it in the league eventually, maybe even this year. With the salary and contract structures, getting drafted is a mixed blessing anyway. She can go give it a good shot during camp over the next few weeks, and if she doesn't make it, she can keep working, hit the gym, and get picked up later this year or next.

She can prove the doubters wrong. But it doesn't do any good for her or her supporters to go around trashing the Storm and the league, making loose accusations of bigotry and discrimination. That will only hurt her chances.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

NBA.com has added Ruth Riley to its "Blog Squad." Glad to see them adding more women's hoops contents, and excited to hear Riley's voice. She deserves more attention than she's gotten.

(I do wish that they'd make these more like real blogs -- add permalinks, add a way to interact with the writers, have more frequent posts, etc. But they have their reasons.)

In her first entry, Ruth tells about her trip overseas.
Roman Augustoviz writes another column ripping the Lynx for not giving away the whole team for Whalen. He says Ohlde and Hayden aren't much good, Katie Smith is getting old, and the Lynx should lose this year anyway so that they can get McCarville next year.

The Strib and the Pioneer Press have been publishing these opinions for the last week. Today, for the first time, the Strib actually lets someone make a counterargument.

Jeff Rivers speaks what I think is the truth about the results of trading 4 starters for Whalen:

"Once the inevitable losing began, Gophers fans sampling the Lynx would have left the building because the magic they felt at Williams Arena wouldn't exist at a half-full Target Center. And casual fans would stop coming because Whalenmania would be only a memory. The Lynx would have been left with the same 7,000 fans they had before and a weaker team."

(thanks to Holly for the pointer.)
Not much blogging lately. Partly because there's not much going on (and there won't be till teams start making cuts). Partly because we've had a rough few days.

Some folks at the University of Minnesota are giving us a really hard time. A matter of beauracratic indifference, not malice, but the results have been utterly disastrous for us. If anyone knows anyone at the school who might be willing to do a favor for some desperate young bloggers, let us know...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rece and Stacey jilted, Nell heads to Auburn.

"I am extremely excited about the opportunity to coach at Auburn," said Fortner. "I thank the Auburn family for entrusting me with their program. Joe (Ciampi) had a tremendous career at Auburn and I am honored to follow in his footsteps. I can't wait to get started."
Syracuse seniors hated their season under coach Keith Cieplicki.

They say he was generally a bad buy, and most seriously, they accuse him of racial insensitivity.

The only example made public, however, is that Cieplicki used to say "What up dog" when talking to black players. That sounds more like a lame attempt to be hip than anything like racism, but perhaps there's more to the story.
During the tournament, Rene Portland stayed relatively quiet about the site selection system. Now she has let loose.

She trashed Cheryl Marra, calling her explanations "absurd." She said "I'd rather stay in a goddamn trailer park than where we stayed in those first four rounds." She says that the members of the selection committee need to be replaced.

Coach Portland herself took some heat after her team failed to show up against UConn. Some PSU fans think it's time for a new coach and a new direction. Asked yesterday how many more years she plans to coach, Portland responded: "Is that a message?"
Surprised that she went so high in the draft, Ebony Hoffman credits her performance at draft camp.

"I did the little things that everybody else didn't want to do. Everybody wanted to score, and a lot of coaches weren't looking for that. I think I did it all. I showed that I could score, I showed that I could rebound and I showed that I can defend. I don't think anybody else at that camp showed all aspects of their game - a lot of people were one-dimensional and had a little bit of tunnel vision."
A win with 20, 22, and 10 for KG, our hero, the best basketball player in the world.

If you're looking for your hoops fix till the WNBA gets rolling, check out the Wolves in the NBA playoffs.
The WNBA has kicked off the 2004 incarnation of the "This Is Who I Am" marketing campaign. I've seen the TV ad a couple times, and I think it's pretty good. (But who the hell is Fefe Dobson? And what the hell sort of name is "Fefe"?)

Most importantly, it looks like a big improvement over last year's campaign.

The stated goal of the campaign is to show that the WNBA stars are more than just basketball players. We're supposed to see what the players are "really like" off the court. But last year, all we got were a handful of stars in tight clothes and Sue Bird in do-me poses.

It failed on a number of levels. To begin with, it didn't show us anything about the players' off-the-court true selves. Does Ticha really spend her time in skin-tight leather slinking around hotrod cars?

As Rebecca Lobo said in response to Bird's I'm not as sweet as you think I am line: "I'm 100 percent certain that was a line that Sue was told to say. So is that who she is? No, it's not. When I saw the commercial my reaction was, 'No, Sue is as sweet as you think she is.'"

Consequently, the ads seemed less like an honest attempt to let us get to know the players than a cheap attempt to use sex to generate some interest.

I didn't like that. It seemed, you know, contrary to all that MacKinnonite leftist propaganda they pounded into my head at law school Plus, the ads weren't sexy anyway.

Faced with widespread criticism, some of the players essentially responded that the ads were successful precisely because of the controversy -- that anything that generates interest in the league is good. Of course, by that logic, you might as well pose in Playboy or play topless. Plus, the ads weren't exactly remarkably successful in filling seats last year.

This year seems quite a bit better. Yes, there's still enough midriff to fill a state fair midway. But it's an improvement for several reasons.

First, there's a bunch of new faces. My girl Katie Smith, eg, finally gets some love.

Second, we actually see some athletic shots mixed in. We get some sweat. We get some weightlifting and punching bag shots mixed in with the glam shots. We get some actual basketballs.

And third, they've done away with the cheesy soft porn mag rip offs. (Hammon's shots are the only ones that really approach the line: lots of makeup, almost-cleavage, fingers tugging down the waistline slightly...)

So, I think we're moving in the right direction. I still don't think the ads probably bring a lot of people to the game. They have no sense of humor, they don't have much edge, and as the kids have told us, they just aren't cool. But at least they're no longer embarrassing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A couple new websites recently --

Frequent board poster pilight has set up a WNBA site.

And there's yet another women's basketball blog: WNBA Brasil. Melissa has some draft analysis up: "O Minnesota Lynx bem que tentou, mas não conseguiu realizar a tão sonhada troca com Connecticut que lhe possibilitaria escolher a heroína local Lindsay Whalen. Sendo assim, Whalen foi para o Sun e o Lynx teve que se contentar em reforçar o garrafão com as boas pivôs Vanessa Hayden e Nicole Ohlde."
Slow news day today. Maybe everyone's hung over from 4/20.

The local Boulder press has been digging around to figure out why CU players are leaving. Metoyer and Waner aren't talking.

USC student paper gets fired up about new coach Mike Trakh.

Nebraska student paper gets fired up about the WNBA.

Some business news: the Fever signed a sponsorship deal with Galyan's, and the Mercury signed a new TV deal.

In Korea, Deanna Jackson led the Kuhmo Falcons to the WKBL title with 28 points, 14 boards, and 5 steals. Kim Ji-yoon won the series MVP award but apologized afterward because she said that Jackson had outplayed her and deserved the award.

Said Falcons Coach Kim Tae-il: "I owe today's glory to the executives of the team." (Something lost in translation, no doubt.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Last week I asked Barry Uhrman why Phoenix gave up Chandi. Today he writes in and responds, and he throws in some anaylsis of the Whalen non-deal too:

The entire deal involving Phoenix and the 8th pick would not have happened had LA not backed out of the deal that would have sent Tamecka Dixon to Phoenix for the 8th pick. Phoenix was left scrambling when the deal fell through.

Phoenix was not sold on Chandi Jones' ability to contribute in the short term. There are questions about her ability to play when she is not the focus of the team, as well as her on-ball defense. Phoenix thought Shereka Wright was the safer pick of the two, and manged to get a backup point guard in the process (whoever sticks, Valek or Lambert...my guess is Lambert). Shereka does provide some versatility, as she is a slasher in a backcourt of perimeter shooters (Diana Taurasi and Anna DeForge). While those two can do other things, their bread and butter is their shooting. Shereka Brings a new dimension. The bigger issues are Shereka's ability to go left and whether or not she will get to the line like she did in college. If she cannot get to the line, Detroit got the better of Phoenix in yet another deal.

What I don't understand is why Phoenix did not take a post player. Hayden was not available, but Brunson was. It does not matter if Shereka or Chandi is in the backcourt, because Phoenix' frontline is still far behind the rest of the league.

I would have kept Chandi Jones. Chandi will be an All-Star in this league, while Shereka Wright will not be. Wright will be better in the short term, but Chandi will be better in the long term.

As for Whalen, Minnesota made an incredible offer to Connecticut for Whalen. The deal included three players (a combination of draft picks and current players), but the Sun wanted more. If Connecticut wanted Whalen, they got her. The Sun turned down a deal that could have strengthened three positions on its team. But they also turned down an incredible deal that I think Minnesota should not have made in the first place. Whalen sitting on the bench and not playing will not sell tickets. And if Minnesota won't go see a playoff team with Katie Smith, Teresa Edwards, and Tamika Williams that plays an incredibly high level of basketball, then the state should not have a WNBA franchise.

Back to the Sun. Mike Thibault has essentially traded the Olympic starting point guard (Shannon Johnson) and Chandi Jones (the 8th pick) for Ashja Jones, Lindsay Whalen, and Jess Brungo. If Whalen steps in and puts up 10 points and 6 assists per game, the Sun will be fine. If Whalen is a bust, this will go down as the worst trade in the history of the WNBA...and that is saying something when you consider that Linda Hargrove traded Tari Phillips to the Liberty for Carolyn Jones-Young.

My gut feeling is that Thibault will have plenty of time to talk about the deal next summer...after he picks up his unemployment check.

Thanks as always to Barry for the expert analysis.
Coaching moves --

Fred Applin is likely leaving Texas to head back to Wake.

Wendy Larry interviewed at Auburn. Larry, however, may just be using the visit as a way to get more money at ODU. Her contract expires after next year, and they're working on negotiating a new one.
Bad news in Boulder -- Emily Waner and Amber Metoyer are both leaving.

Waner wants to transfer so she can play with her sister Abby, who is expected to choose among UConn, Duke, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Minnesota. Metoyer hasn't said why she wants out.
Sun GM Chris Sienko explains why he's happy to have Whalen instead of Pee Wee: "With Pee Wee, she likes to run and move and really make things happen. But sometimes the best thing to make happen is to get your teammates involved. I think that sometimes - no disrespect to Pee Wee - that just wasn't the case on the floor. I think for Lindsay, it's, 'Let's find my players first and then make it happen [on her own] as a last option.'"

The Whalens have been getting to know Connecticut. Lindsay's mom says Connecticut is "a lot like Minnesota out here. It's real hilly and lot of trees. She's very fortunate that she can come out and live on the east coast and come home for a few months to Minnesota in the fall."
Jia Perkins confirms the rumors: she's expecting a child in June. But she is hoping to return to the court, and she's thrilled that Charlotte picked her up in the draft.

"I feel like I'm blessed with all that's going on," Jia said. "I did hear that I could get drafted but I thought they'd want somebody who could play this year. It's a compliment that they're willing to wait."

Monday, April 19, 2004

WNBA.com really really loves this article. They posted it last week and then posted it again today under a new name.
Shameka Christon has really been the best story of the past few days. She had the whole "best player you've never heard of" thing going perfectly.

Christon is from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and she stayed at UA for college ball. Although she's racked up some good numbers in her four years there, she remained in relative obscurity. She was probably the least-known of all the first-round picks.

She was apparently the best player at draft camp, and she quickly moved up the ranks from a borderline first-rounder to a top pick.

(I have a theory -- totally unsubstantiated -- that she scuttled the Whalen deal. Charlotte planned to trade #3 to MN for #6 and #7; they were willing to give up Powell for Christon and Hayden. When it became clear that Shameka had moved to #5, the Sting decided it wasn't worth it.)

Shameka seemed sincerely thrilled to be picked so high and to be headed off the the Big City.

Her eyes couldn't have been wider as she made these greatunderstated quotes: "Oh, man, New York is big." "There was a lot of stuff going on in Times Square." (Plus, incidentally, Christon gets my vote for best-dressed at the draft. She looked fabulous and perfectly athletic.)

She has a chance to be a big star in the league, and the Lib look like a good fit. It will be fun to watch.
Happy 29th birthday, Sara. The jumper doesn't fall quite like it used to, but you get more beautiful every day.
I like this idea.
Bjorklund is heading to LA for a tryout. She may join several other undrafted players there, including Mendiola and Courtney Willis.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I'm not really sure whom to be most mad at today.

Mike Thibault, obviously, can go to hell. With Marianne Stanley fired, Thibault is now easily the least likeable coach in the league. I'm not sad that Whalen has to go to Connecticut, but I do feel bad that she has to go play for an asshole like Thibault.

Everyone knows that the Lynx are a marginal franchise. Even though Glen Taylor is a totally un-Gund owner, the team may not survive. Lindsay could make the difference between surviving and folding, and that would be good for the league as a whole.

But I don't fault the Sun for keeping Whalen. Thibault and Connecticuit have no "good citizen" obligation to give us Whalen anymore than Phoenix had an obligation to sent Taurasi to the Sun.

Thibault bargained hard, and I don't even fault him for that. He had a strong hand. Whalen isn't really worth that much to the Sun, but Thibault knows what she's worth to the Lynx, and he wanted to squeeze every bit of value out of the trade. He went for the pound of flesh and more.

But that's his right. He had the higher pick. If he wants to keep her, so be it.

What does bother me is his public statements. He has said to the Minnesota press that the Lynx haven't made anything close to a good offer. He has said the Lynx didn't step up. He has implied that they weren't serious about making a deal.

This is where he crosses the line from hard bargaining to just being a dick. Apparently, his strategy is to trash the Lynx management in hopes that Minnesota fans will get angry and put more pressure on the team, forcing it to fold. But now we stand without a trade, and all Thibault has done is seriously hurt an already borderline franchise.

Charlotte, by contrast, acted with class. When asked why their trade with the Lynx didn't happen, they simply replied "no comment."

Trade talks should stay behind closed doors, and Thibault should have kept his mouth shut. But I shouldn't be surprised -- he's never kept his mouth shut in the past. Partly because he likes to fight his battles in the press. But mostly because he just likes hearing himself talk. In the last two days, he has lived up to his reputation for arrogance and self-importance.

Thibault's public claims that Minnesota wouldn't offer a fair deal are, in any event, absurd. Connecticut's demands were totally unreasonable. Much as I wanted Lindsay, I'm happy that the Lynx told Thibault to piss off.

But among Minnesotans, I may be alone in that sentiment. PP columnist Bob Sansevere now plans to ignore the Lynx. He says they should have made the trade, even if it meant giving up Ohlde, Hayden, Tamika Williams, and Katie Smith.

That's bloody brilliant, Bob. If we made a trade like that, we would be cellar dwellers for years. Even with Lindsay on the team, the fans aren't going to show up to watch the Lynx lose by 30 points every game.

To Sansevere and all of the other Minnesota "fans" who refuse to support the team because they wouldn't give in to Thibault's extortionate demands: you can go to hell too.

Whalen will end up in Minnesota eventually, but it might take awhile, even a couple years. In the interim, the Lynx need to keep improving, adding quality players, as they did yesterday.

And even if we don't get to watch Lindsay this year, we can have fun watching Thibault get fired after the Sun miss the playoffs.

Even strong hands can be overplayed. Thibault got greedy and lost a chance at a deal that not only would have strengthened the Lynx and the WNBA -- it would have helped his team. He will reap what he sowed. And he won't be missed after he's gone from the league.
Jess Brungo, picked before Mazzante: "I can't put into words how I am feeling right now. I'm so excited. I just never expected this to happen and I'm just looking forward to this amazing opportunity. I can't say how excited and thrilled I am right now."
Lieberman grades the teams -- she says Detroit, Phoenix, and Minnesota did the best; Indiana and Sacramento did the worst.

Voepel had a lot of fun watching draft day, but she sends a cautionary reminder to the rookie class: "With 13 teams in the league, the competition for jobs is even tougher than Saturday's draftees probably realize."

Check out last year's draft board. A lot of those players didn't make the cut, and few had a real impact. This year's class is stronger, but the competition will be tougher with one fewer team in the league.
Mendiola, feeling disrespected, isn't eager to try out with Seattle.

"I don't really feel like talking about (the Storm). If they wanted me, they could have drafted me. I'm not too interested, but I'm keeping my options open."

You need to swallow your pride a little, Giuli. If Seattle would have had a third-round pick, they probably would have taken you. But they didn't, and you weren't a viable pick at #19.

You might have a future in the league, but making statements like that to the press won't help you get picked up anywhere.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Laimbeer was really hot on Chandi Jones, and ended up getting her. The Shock sent Sheila Lambert, Shereka Wright, and Erica Valek to Phoenix for Chandi.

I'm slightly puzzled as to why Phoenix would do this. I know they didn't exactly need Chandi, but still... Barry, what's the deal?

Detroit thus came away with Chandi and Iciss Tillis. Both players have huge potential. It may take them awhile to develop, but Detroit obviously needs less immediate help than most teams. Seems like a hugely successful day for Laimbeer and his organization.
Draft surprises:

Mazzante -- All-American, Big Ten POY, all-time leading scorer in the conference -- didn't go till #18. It's true she's a one-dimensional players... but spot-up three-point shooters are always valuable off the bench, if nothing else.

Stacy Stephens had a good draft camp. She is strong. True, she's short (listed at 6'4", gimme a break), but she has a skill for out-rebounding bigger players. Most people had her going early second round... and instead she almost slipped out of the draft.

Bjorklund and Mendiola didn't go at all. Both could end up finding a place in the league, but it will take work. Tera needs to get stronger and gain weight. Giuli needs to get stronger and lose wait. It will take some commitment -- I think Giuli will work hard to try to make it happen. Tera might not.

It wouldn't be surprising for Mendiola to end up with the Storm. She would put some more fans in the seats there.
Well, we're as disappointed as everyone else that Connecticut took Whalen and refused to trade. If the Lynx don't survive, we can all blame Mike Thibault. He seems like a real bastard anyway.

Lindsay herself looked about as happy as if she got drafted to Siberia.

Maybe there's still time for a trade. Svet, Darling, and Ohlde for Whalen. Talent-wise, that would be a huge win for Connecticut. I'm not sure what exactly they're holding out for -- maybe they want both Svet and Tamika. That just ain't gonna happen.
Still waiting. Been waiting for two days for the Lynx to finish the deal. But now it looks like it won't happen.

Charlotte decided that it really wanted Powell. It wasn't willing to give her up for the 6 and 7 picks. (Seems silly to me -- Powell is great, trading her for both Christon and Hayden seems like a good deal.)

And Connecticut has been playing hardball. "So far they haven't made anything that resembles a good trade offer," coach Thibault. "For a team to say they've done everything they could do to try to land her would not be an accurate statement."


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Taurasi: "I'm single and ready to mingle."

Online "moderated" chats with players and coaches (and Val) tend to be boring and cloying crap. Despite the limitations of the genre, DT even manages to have some fun, throwing out some good one-liners. Her personality may be as important to the league as her play.
Breaking news --

Lynx trade Sam and Burse to Seattle for #6 pick and Lassiter. Minnesota now has the #6 and #7 picks.

Nancy Lieberman reported earlier this week that this was essentially one half of a three-way deal, so Minnesota might now send both the #6 and #7 picks to Charlotte for #3 (Whalen). We'll see if they get that part done later today.

Word is that there is at least one other big trade imminent. Will keep you informed.
Connecticut isn't sure what to do with the fourth pick.

Most people have them taking Whalen, but they are also still thinking about Hayden, Ohlde, and Christon.
LJ has some nagging injuries, and her conditioning is generally a problem anyway... but she's heading to Russia anyway because she wants the money.

"That is pretty much the only reason I am doing it," she said. "I wouldn't do it for nothing. I wouldn't give up two weeks of my very important time off for nothing. But I am a female athlete and I can't expect offers like this to come around every day. I'm a bit sad about leaving but you don't get a lifetime in my sport, so I need to do what I can do now."

It's not really good news for Seattle, but coach Donovan isn't upset.

"I really believe players need to make money while they can," Anne said. "I think it's OK. There's enough time before camp, and if she hasn't recovered enough we can bring her along slowly like we did last season. From talking to her, her injuries aren't anything serious."
Not Cheryl Miller, not Nell Fortner, not Cynthia Cooper... USC ends up with Pepperdine coach Mark Trakh.

Do you think they still would have fired coach Gobrecht if they had known they couldn't get their top choices?
Lobo has her mock draft here; Lieberman has hers here.

Lieberman doesn't have Chandi Jones going in the first round. Sure, she had a bad draft camp... but it couldn't have been that bad.

Lobo has Hayden at #5, and Lieberman has her at #6. I'll be a little surprised if she goes that high. Hayden is generally considered to be the best post in the class, but her foot injury means she'll miss a good chunk of this season. The teams early in the draft will want immediate help, and they might not want to wait for Vanessa's healing. Seattle, eg, seems much more likely to take Chandi or Shameka over Hayden.

Full Court has its All-America team up, as picked by Barry Uhrman.

Barry boots Mazzante off the first team in favor of Shereka Wright. Graham Hays will be pleased.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

As expected, the Mercury have hired Carrie Graf as their head coach.

Things are looking very good in Phoenix -- a solid and well-liked coach taking over, several good new players on the team, and above all, Taurasi. I'm not sure if Phoenix quite has the weapons to complete a one-year Detroit-like turnaround, but we can certainly expect a huge improvment.
At Full Court, on the subscribers' portion of the site, Clay Callum has an analysis of the top draft prospects, and Barry Uhrman discusses what each team needs.
Team USA crushed Japan 118-66. Swoopes had 19 points on 8-for-8 shooting. Leslie and Catchings both had double doubles.

Taurasi's tryout continued to go well, and Coach Chancellor seems to want her on the team.

"If you were the coach would you put her on this team? I think so," he said. "I think she has a pretty good shot after tonight. I don't make that decision though, we have a (USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team) Committee, but I'm going to strongly recommend that we need to take a look at her. I thought she was pretty special tonight. I didn't play her, I didn't bring her in. I was testing her a little bit, I put her in last twice and she responded and played. Her passing tonight was as good as I've ever seen her pass."
Tough news in Storrs: the Middletown Press reports that Jessica Moore has a torn ACL. If all goes well, Moore could return to the Huskies for the bulk of next season.
Coach Burnett on her first season rebuilding Michigan: "[O]n Selection Sunday I was mad. I'm not used to sitting around watching everybody else play. I hated it. I don't like being a fan."

No mention in this interview of the transfers, but she does say that she's hoping to bring in the personnel who can run in transition and play some full-court defense.

Monday, April 12, 2004

LJ is headed to Russia to play as a ringer. Jackson will join the UMMC club for the Russian league finals. She'll get $100,000 for the best-of-five series, more than she'll make the entire year for the Storm.
Beard won the inaugeral women's Wooden award on Friday.

"It's John Wooden, he's such an incredible person, he's a legend in our game," Beard said. "To be mentioned in the same breath as this man, I can't even put into words. To be the first woman to receive this award is so special to me."

Said Wooden about finally giving on an award on the women's side: "Better late than never."
Jackie Stiles had another shoulder surgery two weeks ago. Her continuing problems with injuries will force her to miss the start of the season.

"I'm hanging in there," she said. "I've had a rough stretch the past few years. I hadn't had one major injury in college and then I just fell apart all at once."

But Jackie is staying positive -- she plans to be back on the court by mid-summer.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Last week, Jason Whitlock said Candace's dunk sucked. I responded here.

Even better -- Candace's brother Marcus wrote in with his own response

"You ask, 'Why can't we just celebrate Candace Parker's game? But you would have never scrapped your column about Dwight Howard and written a story on Candace if she had not won the dunk contest.... That is why this publicity is good for women's basketball. Hopefully you will stay around, too, and 'celebrate her game' with columns after this dunk hype subsides."

In your face, Whitlock.

Undeterred, this week Whitlock goes after Okafor and Taurasi. He's tired of the Taurasi hype, especially the debate about whether she's the best player ever.

In fact, Whitlock says Taurasi might not even be the best UConn player ever: "we don't know if she's any better than Sue Bird or Nykesha Sales or Rebecca Lobo."

Yes, Jason, we do.

We can put that issue aside and move on to the real debate: who's the worst writer at Page 2? In a place of pseudo-sportswriters, where quantity matters more than quality, where editors never tread, where vacuousness is a virtue, the competition is fierce indeed.

Of course, the debate can never be settled. Just as we'll never be able to decide whether Taurasi is better than Miller, we'll never be able to decide whether Whitlock is stupider than Pressman. There's simply no objective way to measure.

But you must admit that Jason makes a pretty good case.
Nell Fortner: looking for homes in LA.

But who would sit with Rece and Stacey next year? My vote: Doris.
With Marian Washington departing and Bonnie Henrickson coming in at Kansas, Tamara Ransburg might not stick around. Ransburg has received permission to talk to other schools about the possibility of a transfer.

And yet another player is leaving Michigan. After spending much of the year on the bench, point guard Rachel Carney is looking to move to a smaller school where she can play more, balance the rest of her life, and have more fun.
Over at WNBA.com, Ann Meyers has some pretty good analysis of the frontcourt players in the draft.

She says Hayden and Thomas will go first. After that, it opens up. Lots of folks have Ohlde and Brunson going after that, but Shameka Christon could sneak up.

Christon has apparently been turning heads at draft camp, and she may go as high as mid-first round.

Says Meyers: "Shameka Christon was the best player that nobody really knew about in the country. She was the SEC Player of the Year and has the ability and skill that reminds me of a young Sheryl Swoopes. She can shoot the outside shot, put the ball on the floor, rebound and is so tough inside. Christon will be a diamond in the rough and may come in under some people’s radar."

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Lynx say they're still working on a deal for Whalen.

"We are trying to get Lindsay, but more than likely she won't be there at No. 7,'' McConnell Serio said. "We will have to go over all kinds of scenarios to try to get Lindsay. If that doesn't work, then we go to Plan B.''

"This is one of the deepest drafts I've seen in a while,'' she continued. "There should be many great players available.''


"Listen, Minnesotans, we're probably not getting Whalen. Get over it. Charlotte wants our #7 pick plus a starter plus more. That's crazy. We don't need another guard anyway. And let's be honest -- are you really gonna stay home from your lake place so you can come to the crappy Target Center on a beautiful summer evening and watch Lindsay sit on the bench? That's what I thought.

"Y'all are fair-weather fans anyway. If the Gophers were last in the Big Ten this year, Williams would have been empty, Lindsay or no Lindsay. You'll start coming once we start competing for a title. Hayden or Brunson will actually help us do that. Just 'cause they aren't cute local white girls doesn't mean you can't learn to love them."
Having trouble adjusting to your miserable, worthless post-baskeball lives?

Us too...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Women's basketball causes less hooliganism.

The celebration Monday night in Storrs led to 35 arrests. The celebration Tuesday produced only 6. "After the women's game," said Maj. Donald H. Blicher, a university police spokesman, "the celebrations were somewhat subdued."
Finals ratings: up 23% from last year, 4 million households, most-watched basketball game (men or women, pro or college) ever on ESPN.

Maybe ESPN and others will get the message and start showing more games and highlights before March.

The ratings for the men's finals were down over 10% from last year, but still over twice as high as the women's.
I know Ted has already covered most of the post-championship re-cap, but I think I will chime in anyway. ..

I was pretty worried mid-way throught the first half that we were looking at a big, boring blow-out. But, I should have had more faith in Pat. Her Lady Vols came storming back at the end of the half to cut the lead to six.

The game really reminded me a lot of Sunday's Gopher/UConn game. Both games were games of runs. Last night, Tennessee (just like the Gophers) would go on a run and get within 5 or 6, but then they would turn it over or miss a few shots and the next they you know UConn would be back up by 9! Tennessee just couldn't get over the hump. UConn missed a couple free throws in the last 2 minutes leaving the door wide open for Tennessee to pull off another miracle, but the Vols couldn't get a shot to sink.

Ann Meyers and Mike Patrick were both critical of Tennessee's decsion to shoot up tough 3's down the stretch instead of taking the ball to the hole for 2. Of course it is better to get 2pts on a possesion instead of 0, but with Zolman (who was shooting great), Jackson, and Butts on the floor I don't think it was a bad decision. UConn's lead was too big to be trading baskets in the last minutes. Whatever. I guess that is was announcers do.

Well, I think that is my 2 cents for now. I am sad hoops season is over, but I will be glad not to see the Harley commercial or listen to Mike Patrick say "semafinal" for a while.
UConn didn't have an easy regular season. "The journey the first time you go to the beach is fun as a kid," Geno said on Selection Sunday. "The next couple of years, you just want to get to the water. You don't want to deal with the car ride."

But in the end, they proved that they were still be far the best team in the country. They were tested in the tournament by UCSB, Minnesota, and Tennessee, but even in the midst of those tests, they never looked in serious danger of actually losing.

Too many weapons. Taurasi, of course, the best player in college, who spends most of the game setting plays, but who also has the rare ability to create and score herself when needed.

And so much more. Turner has turned into one of the best post players in the country, and she is joined by Moore and Crockett, who would be stars on any other team. Strother creates huge match-up problems for any team. Battle plays great defense. Conlon hits threes.

It's simply too much. No other team has nearly the same arsenal. And so, when it counted, no other team could match the Huskies.
The Vols got great output from several players, especially Zolman, who had 19 points and 9 boards. ''It seemed like she was the only one that was making plays, and you can't have that in the championship game,'' said Tasha Butts.

LaToya Davis made some great hustle plays, Ely did well (considering the injury), and Robinson was solid.

Tasha, however, couldn't do much of anything. She was 1-for-10 and 0-for-6 from outside. "My shot picked a fine time not to fall," she said. "I guess that happens."

Brittany Jackson's 1-for-7 didn't help. Nor did Sidney Spencer's 0 point, 0 assist, 1 rebound performance.

"I really thought that if we could get something from Spencer and Brittany, that would take a little pressure off Tasha, as well as free up Shanna even more," said coach Summitt. "But we didn't score well from those positions. And that's what caused us to really struggle."

Still, Pat wanted her team to go away with positive feelings. "I told them I hope when they reflect on the year they'll know how they grew as a team," Summitt said. "They were one of the grittiest, most tenacious teams I've ever had in a long time. When I think of them this summer, I won't think they've failed. I think that by most people's standards they overachieved. But by my standards they found a way to win and are champions in that regard."
Geno's real feud might not be with Pat, but with coach Calhoun. Storrs is a great hoops town for both men and women, but occasionally there's some jealousy between the two side.

Ah, but it's gotten better this year. Maybe full reconciliation between Geno and Pat is next?

It's starting already. After last night's game, Geno had nothing but nice things to say about Tennessee. "I have so much respect for Pat's program and what she's done. You know they are not going to go away."
A couple people have emailed to note that UConn and Tennessee aren't the only teams to have three-peated.

As David Mayo reminds us, Immaculata and Delta State both accomplished the same back in the 70s. Yes, there was life before the NCAA.
Voepel gives an update on where we stand with the site selection system. Eight sites will be better, but probably not perfect. We won't know till the sites are announced in June.
The days pass but the pain lingers for Duke.

"Now, we are just normal students with all this time on our hands," Iciss Tillis said. "It is really strange."
Coach Rene Portland has been taking some shots lately. She's been getting a lot of criticism from fans who say she didn't get her team ready for UConn.

And the specific criticisms seem like a vehicle for something more general -- like maybe some PSU fans just dislike her the same way the lots of the rest of us do. (Is it still the lesbian thing lingering for them? For me it is.)

Walt Moody, however, feels differently -- today he steps in to defend Rene, the team, and their performance this year.
New Orleans columnist criticizes ESPN's coverage.

No, it's not perfect. Rece, Stacey, and Nell still make some missteps. So do Mike and Ann. Yeah, the tarot card lead-in was stupid as hell. And I wish they wouldn't repeat the same segments at half that they already did in pregame.

(Also -- how many times do we have to see that Harley-dinette set ad? Hilarious ad, but only for the first 100 viewings.)

Overall, however, I think ESPN is doing a good job. We should keep in mind that they're still fairly new to this... and they're still improving. My grade: B+.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sweep and three-peat completed.

Tennessee had its chances, but as it has done in each tournament game, UConn made the big plays when needed and held its lead.

Tasha Butts had a rough night and couldn't pull off another miracle finish. "I thought we were going to come back," she said. "But every time we made a defensive mistake, Connecticut capitalized on it. We had too many breakdowns and every time we did, they took advantage of it."

Taurasi goes out in style. "It's been an unbelievable ride, the last four years -- you just don't expect that when you come into a program," she said. "You want to be successful and expect do well, but to win 3 national championships ... it means a lot."

With the win, she further cemented her place in history. She has taken the college game to a new place, and now it's time for her to do the same with the pros.

"I grew up seeing Magic and Michael and I wanted to play like them," said Diana. "I take it as a compliment. But these days, we don't have to use males to hold a high standard anymore. People say, 'You play like Seimone Augustus, like Alana Beard.'"

But can anyone play like Diana Taurasi?
Frequently in college basketball, the coaches are bigger stories than the players. Yesterday and today, much of the media attention has focused on Pat and Geno.

The press has been fixated on the rift between Summitt and Auriemma. At yesterday's news conference, both were asked several questions about it.

When asked about their relationship, Pat said: "We really don't have a relationship. We coach against each other. I don't have his cell number. We don't talk. We speak before and after games. That's it."

She went on to say that this state of affairs has been chosen by Geno. It is, she said, "a situation that Geno worked very hard to create. At one time, I thought we had a pretty good relationship. I don't know why it went south, but it certainly has."

When Geno was asked the same question, he said it's "irrelevant" unless you're writing for People magazine. He said that Pat was initially friendly to him when UConn came on the scene, but things changed as the Huskies kept winning.

I'm not sure what to make of all this. I've waivered between thinking (a) that they're just pretending to generate press, (b) that Geno's mostly at fault, (c) that they're both equally at fault, and (d) that it doesn't really matter. I still can't decide which is true.

Taurasi may have offered the best assessment: "It's silly. At some point they are going to get past this. They are the key to women's basketball and it would be nice to see them get along."
ESPN saw another big increase in ratings for the semis.

Geno's thoughts: "It's been a tough road getting women's basketball on television. When CBS had the tournament, they made us play back-to-back nights for the championship and didn't show any other tournament games before it. Now ESPN has given the nation a chance to learn what Tennessee's had to go through to get here. They know about Lindsay Whalen. They've seen Seimone Augustus. What's going on in the finals now creates a greater sense of excitement because those tuning in actually know who these people are because they've been following them for three weeks."
Both UConn teams began the season at #1, and many predicted that this would be the first year ever to have the same school win both titles. Both teams -- and their stars, Taurasi and Okafor -- struggled at times with injuries and off nights. But both were in top form for March.

Last night, the men completed the first half of the feat by dismantling Georgia Tech in the national championship. Tonight, the women (who the Times says have the flagship program in Storrs) have their shot.

Taurasi will be sad tonight when her storied college career comes to an end. For her, there's only one way to go out.

"After four years, and every year being amazing, and this being our last chance to go out there and put the Connecticut jersey on... it means a lot to us," she said. "When you're playing for a national championship, that's all you can ask for. We have worked hard these five months. Throughout the season, we have had a lot of ups and downs and I think we have handled it really well. And now we're in a position to win a national championship. As a senior, I don't think you can go out any better way."

Voepel writes that Conlon's play could be key tonight, as it was against Minnesota. Conlon has absorbed her share of criticism from Geno and others, but she just keeps winning.

"All I'm worried about is making the stupid little plays that no one else wants to make,'' Maria says. "Some days those plays don't show up in box scores, some days they do.''
Tennessee has dropped five straight to the Huskies.

Coach Summitt must convince her squad to put the history behind them. "A lot of people say there's no way you can compete with Connecticut," she said. "But I believe in this team. If this team will believe in themselves, I think that we'll have us a great basketball game."

Nancy Lieberman agrees that Summitt's most important task is to make the Lady Vols believe they can beat UConn.

Brittany Jackson says she isn't afraid. "I love playing against UConn. Because they're such a great team."

This is the last chance for Tennessee's seniors, who will leave college without a title if they don't win. It might mean the most for Ashley Robinson, who entered college as a top recruit in her class, but has been a disappointment to some, including herself.

Ashley now looks around at the stars of the senior class -- Powell, Beard, Mazzante, Whalen, Taurasi... "And then you have me, who was a big recruit, and now I'm just a role player and really haven't produced like I think I should have,'' Robinson told Voepel yesterday.

Tonight could offer a measure of redemption.
Jackie Stiles might be coming to Kansas as an assistant. No word yet about whether new Hall of Famer Woodard will stay under the new regime.
Consolation game: Minnesota and LSU hope that their Final Four runs will catapult their programs into the elite ranks.

Coach Gunter: "[J]ust think about it. Here's a team with something like the third-ranked recruiting class in the country and only one senior. I think we'll be back there, and we'll be back soon."

Coach Borton says her returning players will have a hunger for another trip. "[I]t's going to help us recruiting, and it will help the overall program with attendance. Anything you can think of -- it's just going to help tenfold of what our program can do in the future."

Minnesota fans, meanwhile, look to the WNBA draft. They hope against hope that Lindsay will end up with the Lynx.

Whalen, even if she didn't start, could immediately transform Minnesota into a profitable franchise. But that just doesn't matter much to Charlotte and Connecticut.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Lynette Woodard may have had a disappointing month after being passed over for the Kansas head coaching job.

But today should help to make up for it -- Lynette was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a star at KU, Woodard won the Wade in 1981. She went on to play for the US Olypmic team that won gold in 1984. She was the first woman to play for the Globetrotters. For the past five years, she's been an assistant coach at Kansas.

"I just started with a love for the game," Woodard said today after learning of the honor. "One thing led to another. It's an awesome experience, probably the most beautiful ever as far as the game is concerned. I'm suspended in the feeling. It's sublime."
Yet another bitter post-mortem from the Penn State press: "It was in Hartford, Conn., when the Lady Lions were run off the floor by a better-coached, more prepared team playing in front of its home crowd, that failure hit."
To everyone who has sent notes of condolence and commiseration: thank you.

To Jennifer McFadden: if you call once more to rub it in, I am coming to Connecticut, firebombing your house, and eating Modern Pizza on the ashes.
I can't believe the Gopher's season is over. I feel like I am walking around in a daze today. Hope this feeling will pass soon. Man, it is hard being a fan!
Araton on Summitt: "She has no one player of national acclaim. She lost her point guard along the way. Devoid of those twin driving forces of the women's college game, Pat Summitt still made it to the final day of the women's college basketball season last night, her unimposing but resourceful team in tow, the crush of Halloween orange that is the Tennessee fan base close behind."

This year could go down as Pat's most impressive coaching performance. As I said earlier this year after the Vols' win over Duke, what she's done with this team is amazing.

Tomorrow brings the biggest challenge yet. She'll have to figure out how to beat a more talented team, and she'll be against the only coach who can match her brilliance. If she can pull it off, it might have to be considered her greatest win ever.
Voepel understands how Minnesota fans feel after seeing Lindsay's last game. But she says we gotta look to the future: "Whalen now goes to the WNBA, and if there were ever a reason to do everything you possibly can to support the league, she's it."

True that.
Which is more difficult emotionally: losing by a lot or a little?

Minnesota is proud of the way it kept fighting back. At times in the game, it looked like it could be a 30-point UConn win. But the Gophers refused to go away, and they gave themselves chances to win.

"I'm very proud of our team for surviving the punches and coming back and still having a chance to win," coach Pam Borton said.

Yet at the same time, because they had a chance down the stretch, the Gophers will be left wondering about what might have been.

"We were going into the game talking about how we have to box out," Kadidja Andersson said. "But we didn't manage to do that." "I wish we could have gotten a defensive rebound when we needed it,'' said Whalen. "We couldn’t convert some things that we normally do," said Bolden.

As Pam Schmid says, "A key rebound, a made layup, a called foul -- all or any of those might have made it a different game at the end." But none of that happened, in part because the Huskies executed better and hustled more, in part because the ball just bounced the other way.

UConn played its best basketball at the most important moments in the game. Ann Strother made the biggest play at the biggest moment, hitting a three when Minnesota had momentum and was threatening to tie the game.

"[T]hat was the most emotional game I've played in," said Strother. "We jump on them, they come back. It's trading baskets until the last six minutes. Whew. We're emotionally exhausted."

Geno had kind words for Minnesota after the game. "Lindsay Whalen is as good a player as I've had the pleasure of coaching against. And Janel McCarville is just one of the toughest kids in America. To beat them today is as gratifying as anything that we have ever done at the University of Connecticut."

But again, it's cold comfort, the only kind you have after a season-ending loss.
A close game with a heartbreaking finish for LSU. It was a tough game where no one could pull away. Even with several minutes left -- and especially with six seconds left -- it seemed destined for overtime. But then the Vols trapped, the ball got loose, and it was over.

Temeka Johnson: "I just lost the ball I guess. I feel as though I owe (senior) Doneeka (Hodges) an apology for not getting her what we were trying to get. I just lost the ball -- turnover on my part."

Pokey says that play wasn't the game. "Temeka is going to take (the turnover) away from here and I hope use it in a positive light for motivation," Chatman said. "But she needs to forget it. The ballgame was won in the paint in terms of second-chance points. The stats sheet clearly tells that story."

Second-chance points were important, especially in a game where it often seemed no one could hit a shot, even a layup.

"It was one of the ugliest games we've played all year, and we still managed to win," Tasha Butts said. "I think that says a lot about our team."

Tennessee's offense didn't get much done. "I probably should talk about my lack of ability to coach the first 20 minutes," coach Summitt said. "We struggled tonight offensively."

The Vols defense kept them close. They did a particilarly good job containing Seimone Augustus, who finished with only 16 points on 7-for-21 shooting.

Another nailbiter and another victory for Tennessee. Said Ashley Robinson: "It's like the grace of God."
Feeling better this morning?

not really.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Minnesota kept fighting back, but everytime the Gophers got close, Connecticut countered.

Key stat: offensive rebounds. UConn had 12, and several at key times. The Gophers played evenly in every category except rebounding, where they had a deficit of 12. Minnesota's other players seemed to expect McCarville to get it every time, so they didn't bother boxing out. Killed us.

Key stretch: from 6 minutes to 4 minutes in the second half. Down 3, Minnesota had chances, but couldn't convert. Two transition layups missed, a three-pointer missed, Strother hits a three, then Whalen's drive came up empty.

We'll always look back with an incredible amount of pride at what this team has done. And we hope that the comparisons to the 1991 Huskies are apt -- maybe this run will spur our recruiting and send us on the way to more Final Fours.

But that's all cold comfort right now. Losing sucks.
A scrappy game and a gutty win for the Vols. A tragic way to lose for LSU and Temeka Johnson.

Now for game two. As a preventative measure, Sara has secured all of the breakables in our house. I am wearing padded mitts so I don't hurt myself or anyone else. I'm taking Maalox and 20mg of Valium.

Go Gophs.
The best of times...

In women's college basketball (if not yet the pros), everything seems to be headed in the right direction. We have a confluence of favorable trends pushing the game to new heights.

This year we saw the best senior class ever. We saw more upsets, more good teams, and more parity.

All of that led us to a perfect Final Four. We have two famous dynastic programs joined by two exciting newcomers. We have Taurasi, whose name often appears next to the phrase "best ever." We have LSU generating tons of local interest in New Orleans. We have Minnesota as a highlight-reel Cindarella. We have Candace Parker on the way.

The storylines abound. 1991 Huskies compared to 2004 Gophers. The Call. Diana's three-peat. McCarville's mom. Littlejohn, Frese, and Borton. Geno and Pat. Sue and Pokey.

Fan interest is at an all-time high. TV ratings are way up. Tickets for the games are going for hundreds of dollars.

Media coverage is improving. ESPN has done an excellent job with the event, both in terms of coverage and promotion. Papers in Minnesota and New Orleans are now filled with article after article on women's basketball, just like papers in Connecticut and Tennessee.

The coverage, moreover, has come with an overwhelmingly positive slant. Around the country, we see headlines like "Women's basketball comes into its own," "Parity paying off," and "Women's basketball gets bigger and better." The AP's Mary Foster has written two glowing stories in the last two days about the growth in the game, and both have been run by dozens of papers nationwide.

Against this giddy background, Harvey Araton strikes a cautionary note in the Times today. He wonders if the success will eventually afflict women's ball with the same pathologies that have at times sullied the men's game.

Araton's point is worth keeping in mind. Much as the attention and accolades attention are nice, we need to remember that it's not all about hype, ratings, and dollars. Success will bring us those trappings, but we can't let the trappings take over.

We need to keep the real treasures in mind. Fairness and equality. Strong female role models for boys and girls. Sportsmanship and comraderie among fans, built both around specific team loyalty and a more generalized love for the game. And above all, good basketball.

Enjoy the games, folks... this is a wonderful time to be a women's basketball fan.
Voepel on Whalen and McCarville:

"Whalen goes through news conferences almost never changing expression; McCarville often can't stop herself from grinning. Both equally crack me up. I'm convinced they could have played themselves as characters on "Newhart'' or "Northern Exposure'' and successfully ad-libbed all of their scenes."
"This is what you dream about all your life," Seimone Augustus says.

LSU is enjoying the hometown attention at the Final Four. But they must figure out how to turn the local love into some energy on the court. Last time the Tigers faces the Vols, they were listless, and they got spanked.

But even the Vols agree that much has changed since then. "I watched them play their last two games," Brittany Jackson said. "They look like a totally different team."

On the other side, Coach Summitt will be missing her friend Coach Gunter. "It breaks my heart that she cannot be on the bench for this," she said. "Because of all she's meant to so many players and coaches and just people that love this game. Obviously, that doesn't seem fair."
Which player has done the most for her program?

Eric Adelson says Alana.

I say Lindsay, but hey, I'm about as biased as they come. [Insert smiling maroon and gold emoticon here.]
Coach Auriemma doesn't want his kids to underestimate Minnesota. He says the Gophers are "the best seventh-seeded team in the history of college basketball."

Coach Borton, on the other hand, doesn't want her kids to overestimate UConn. "A lot of times I think the biggest mistake that teams make before they play UConn is to think, 'They're UConn,' and they're already beat before they get on the court just because of their name."
Candace, after yesterday's All-Star game, her last as a high schooler: "Now it's time to move on to college.''

Parker has been getting tons of press around the country this weekend.

The SF Chron yesterday on her role in the evolution of the game. The AZ Republic says she could be the Serena or Michelle Wie of hoops. More of the same in other papers elsewhere.

And in the KnoxNews, John Adams says the best thing about Candace is her ball handling, not her dunking.
Team USA to college All-Stars: they say you're the best class ever, but we're still gonna kick your butt.

The vets win 105-68.
Beard was happy to win the Wade, but it doesn't remove the sting of Tuesday's loss.

"I don't think anything can remove the sting because I wanted it so bad," Beard said. "Not just for me, but for my teammates and the program."

Taurasi thinks the award went to the right person. "She deserves it. She's worked hard for four years. She didn't get to come to the Final Four the way she wanted to. There's no one that had a better year than her this year."
Lieberman, Burke, Fortner, Meyers, and SDS on the keys to today's match-ups.
Minneapolis has fallen head over heels in love with the Gopher basketball team. The Star and Trib has an 8-page section called "They have Stolen our Hearts" devoted to the team in today's paper.

The section includes:

Kind of an overview piece about the team and its history. It talks about how Whalen wasn't recruited much out of high school. In 1999, she was a second team All-State pick (Susan Borchadt (nee King) of Stanford and Mauri Horton of Rutgers were 1st team picks). Kadidja Andersson recalls her first 2 summers back in Sweden,""When I went home for the summer, all the people who had followed my season said: 'Why did you go there? Your team is so terrible.' "

Nick Coleman has a good article on what great role models they are for girls in the state. "No one would mistake our good old Midwestern Gophers for fashion plates from the East Coast. In their sweatbands and ponytails, they do not look like fashion models. They look like role models... Unlike most of the sports sideshows that attract our attention, these athletes really come from here. They all look like they could be Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Not just because they are wholesome and hardy and could represent Minnesota's dairy industry with grace. But because they also look like they could toss a hay bale on top of a wagon pretty smartly, too."

There are about 5 or six more articles to check out including one on Senior Kadidja Andersson's mom making the long trip from Sweden for the game today.

Also, the CT paper has an article on Janel McCarville and her mom's battle with cancer.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

WBCA Awards were just announced.

Alana Beard wins the Wade.

Joining Alana on the Kodak All-America team: Seimone Augustus, Shyra Ely, Chandi Jones, Kelly Mazzante, Janel McCarville, Nicole Ohlde, Nicole Powell, Diana Taurasi, and Lindsay Whalen.

Snubs: Sherka Wright, Vanessa Hayden, Stacy Stephens.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Heading into the weekend, a note of thanks to the Women's Basketball Server and the News Page at Women's Basketball Online.

We also use Google News, Lexis, Cup of Coffee, and other resources to find stories for the blog, but we rely especially heavily on those two great websites. Thanks again.
As expected, Wake has announced that it has hired Mike Petersen to run the women's team. Petersen has been associate head coach for the Minnesota men's team.

Many Minnesota basketball fans loved Petersen -- in fact, some of us have been hoping that head coach Monson would leave so Mike could take over. It's a loss for Minnesota, but a gain for women's hoops.
On PTI today, Wilbon picked Minnesota over UConn. Tony's response: "You're an idiot."
Folks on the Big 12 Board (one of the friendlier ones around) have some fun with Whalan, aka Junie B. Jones.
Seats for the Final Four are going for outlandish prices. Fans from all four schools are scrambling to find a way in. Demand for these games exceeds supply by thousands.

And right next door to the 18,000-seat Arena is the 50,000-seat Superdome.

Does the venue committee regret its choice? Yes, in a sense... but what could it do? The decision was made 5 years ago, and no one could have predicted the spike in interest, much less that LSU would make the Final Four in New Orleans.

"When these sites were awarded, women's basketball was a whole different game than it is today," said Sue Donohoe, vice president of NCAA women's basketball.
Jeff Rice is upset that Penn State's best team ever isn't in New Orleans.

Sure, he says, Lions fans could blame the site selection system or the refs. "The truly great teams, however, carve their places in history by overcoming great adversity. Until Monday night, the Lady Lions looked very much the part of one of those teams. Now, all they can do is watch teams with equal or lesser talent carve their names."

(Is this more veiled criticism of coach Portland?)
Mel Greenberg isn't surprised that Minnesota and LSU are in New Orleans.
Well, I think we are giving up the dream of going to New Orleans. Airfare is around $400. Game tickets are going for $300 on Ebay. Who do you take me for, Lorenzo de Medici?

ESPN didn't respond to my plea for a free trip. (Hard to believe, I know.) And my master plan to make a quick buck selling magic colorful candy didn't work out.

We'd love to get reports from anyone luckier than us. If you're going and you have internet access, please email us and let us know how it's going. (Especially you, Mary Jo!) Have fun down there... don't eat too many beignets.
Seimone Augustus, getting some time in the spotlight this weekend, ready for more next year once the seniors are gone.
Mike Wilbon, one of the most famous sports columnists in the country, talks up Candace Parker.

He called Stephanie Ready to ask how significant Parker's impact will be. Ready's response: "You're asking me how significant this is? When is the last time you wrote a column about a high school girl basketball player? It's huge."
Today's Minnesota coverage --

The Gophers get a little love in the national press. The USA Today picks up on the connection between this year's Gophers and the 1991 Huskies. The Times profiles McCarville.

At home, the PP looks at Janel's rebounding -- she's only 5 shy of the tournament record. Sean Jensen talks to Coach Borton's parents. And both papers make the effort, here and here, to educate Gopher fans about Geno, their next adversary.
And one of those greats, Cheryl Miller, might soon be back on the sidelines. We'll now in the next day or two whether Cheryl is returning to USC.
Jeff Goldberg asks Pat Summitt, Doris Burke, Nancy Lieberman, and Mel Greenberg to compare Taurasi to the others -- Lieberman, Burke, Miller, Holdsclaw -- who compete for the title of Best Ever.

"If you don't like Diana Taurasi, you're a moron," Lieberman said. "You might not like UConn because it's not your team, but if you don't like Diana Taurasi, you're an absolute idiot. All she's done is help grow our game."

Does Diana think she's the best ever? No. "To say that about one player I think is a little much, no matter how good they are. Every generation has their own great players. Who's to say that anyone's better than Cheryl Miller or Nancy Lieberman?"

Thursday, April 01, 2004

"At what point do we get some loyalty?"

Part of what makes the Gopher story so special, and part of what has made them so tough, is the terrible time they endured with coaches.

It wasn't just Littlejohn. It was also Brenda Frese (Oldfield), whose departure was undoubtedly harder on the players than any of Cheryl's torment.

Brenda came in as the savior after the Littlejohn horror. She said it was her dream job. She said the team would be like family. She then left after only a year.

Adding insult to the players' injury, Brenda apparently told U officials she was leaving because she didn't believe Minnesota would ever have the talent to compete for a national title. She later denied having said that -- she always implied that she just hated the women's AD. But whatever the reason, leaving after one year is just unfair to players.

(Contrast Cheryl Burnett, who undoubetedly could have had the KU job, but -- class act that she is -- wouldn't have even thought of leaving the Michigan program she committed to fixing.)

The Gophers were devastated. Said Whalen at the time: "You feel like all of her talk about next year wasn't true. You do feel like you didn't know her as well as you thought."

"At what point do we get some loyalty?" she asked. "We had been working so long to get things right again. Sometimes you wonder if there's any loyalty at all."

But after the initial shock, Lindsay just got more determined. "I think we'll be an elite program in the NCAA," she predicted. After all, Lindsay said, it was the players, not Brenda, who had done the hard work. "I don't think she played any minutes this year. We played between 35 and 40 minutes a game. We're the people who got her this contract and we're the ones who got her all the awards."

Now Lindsay has the awards. She has the credit she deserves for creating, almost out of force of will, an elite program.

And she has found loyalty. Not from Brenda Frese, but from thousands of new women's basketball fans in the frozen north, and countless others around the country.
Looks like the Lynx's first attempt to make a deal to get Whalen in the draft has fallen through. The Lynx said, "We were close, but we still have until draft day." They better get on it! Lynx are also concerned about making any deal that would require them to give up a first round pick next year when Janel McCarville will be graduating.