Women's Hoops Blog: March 2006

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, March 31, 2006

Coach Auriemma will be inducted into the real men's Naismith Hall of Fame.

More importantly: the Day scoops the Courant.
From Angela, this hilarious Wonkette WTF on the Maryland send-off.

Bonus points for anyone who can identify the reporter.
On the LSU front, Pokey explains the Ashley Thomas Mentality (ATM) and Sylvia Fowles prepares to face someone taller than her (Duke's Alison Bales).

Also, do you know all of the history of the Lady Tigers in the post season? This article provides some great information.

The success of the men's and women's teams has Shaq wearing purple and gold again. But the Lady Tigers had a smaller and more low-key Final Four send off than the men's team.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has an impressive special section on both teams here.
Maryland's student newspaper reports that the pre-Boston press conference for the Terrapins was crowded; the players are enjoying the attention on campus and Laura Harper really likes wearing her Final Four shirt.

The team should have a good fan base supporting them in Boston as they have sold all of their allotment of tickets.

Also, Iowa native Coach Frese gets a nice write up in the Des Moines Register.

The Baltimore Sun has done a good job reporting on the Terps run, but do not seem to have anything new today.
Ivory Latta has been named Player of the Year by ESPN.com.

She is joined on their First Team All-American list by: Seimone Augustus; Courtney Paris; Cappie Pondexter and Candice Wiggins.

Second team: Monique Currie; Jessica Davenport; Tasha Humphrey; Candace Parker and Sophia Young.
When the Tar Heels left Chapel Hill in 1994 for their first Final Four, they didn't get much of a sendoff. (Charlotte Smith, now Smith-Taylor, would lead her team to the win.)

This time? Big sendoff. A few hundred people in Tar Heel blue cheered Hatchell, Smith-Taylor (now an assistant coach), Latta and the rest as they boarded their buses.

Smith-Taylor calls the experience "Wonderful. Totally different." UNC guard Jessica Sell: "When I... saw the TV trucks and media I thought, 'Wow, all this is for us?'"

Down the highway in Durham, Duke frosh Abby Waner-- whose treys helped her team beat UConn Tuesday-- says she's finally having fun.

Coach G on Waner: "Every time she was in a big game before, it was her first time. It was the first time before a sold-out crowd, or the first TV game, or the first 1 versus 2... And now, she's playing the way we knew she could play -- with great confidence and an air about her that gives her teammates confidence."
A Cleveland sportswriter says watching Tennessee, UNC and Purdue in the Cleveland regional made him a fan of the women's game: "the games were fast paced, and the women's shot selection was better than the men's." (Via Mike Detcher.)
In case you missed it, you can catch the press conference introducing Kristy Curry as the new Texas Tech coach here.

Curry signed a five-year contract worth at least $425,000 the first year. The deal will grow to a guarantee in the final year of $600,000, similar to what Marsha Sharp was making when she retired after 24 years. Curry had been making $300,000 at Purdue. In comparison, the top two paid coaches in the women's game (Geno and Pat) have salaries around $825,000 a year. Aside from the boost in salary, Curry said Lubbock is a perfect fit for her family. And Tech fans are already embracing their new coach.

As for the team she left, the current Boilers are sad to see Curry go but determined to stick together. What will happen with the stellar recruiting class that Curry brought in for next season? While Amber Harris is still set on Purdue, Dee Dee Jernigan's plans may be in limbo. But Purdue's Athletic Department says Harris, Jernigan and Fahkara Malone are still coming.

Possible names being mentioned as Curry's replacement at Purdue, include MN Lynx coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, Louisville's Tom Collen, UWGB's Kevin Borseth and former Boiler great Stephanie White.
Kathy Orton on Maryland's other two posts, Laura Harper and Jade Perry:
Because their production comes more often on the defensive rather than offensive end, these two sophomore forwards tend to be overshadowed by Langhorne's scoring. Yet their presence in the front court has helped propel Maryland to its first Final Four in 17 years.
Joshua Partlow on apathy in College Park. It's sad, but some of the quotes are hilarious.

At the USA Today, Dick Patrick on Erlana Larkins, Andy Gardiner on Alison Bales, and Glenn Guilbeau on non-apathy in Baton Rouge.

At the New York Times... nothing today. Again. (Dear Tom Jolly: you suck.)

At the Globe, Stan Grossfeld on LSU's last-minute preparations, including those relating to Seimone's hair. Mike Patrick also tells why he like calling women's games. Patrick will be joined this year for the first time by Doris Burke.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Final Four isn't the only major women's sporting event going on this weekend. Today at Mission Hills, the Kraft Nabisco got underway.

Annika starts this season with a renewed goal: win all four majors. But the quest is in doubt already. She shot an opening-round 71, nine behind Lorena Ochoa's scorching 62.

Wie is in second at -6.
Wurst hints at a trade involving the #2 pick.

UPDATE: the link has gone dead. Did someone complain?
In Durham, the happy story about the Duke women's team in the Final Four has been overshadowed by the lacrosse team controversy rocking the campus. Greg Garber explains. More from deadspin.

"It's incredibly ironic that women's basketball should be in the spotlight right now," said Duke employee Kelly Jarrett. "But they've been eclipsed by the boorish behavior of this team."
WNBA.com has released the complete list of participants in Monday's Pre-Draft Camp.
Mel Greenberg has more on when Brenda Frese decided to leave Minnesota for Maryland, as well as a suggestion for a possible replacement for Kristy Curry at Purdue in his latest blog entry.
After this note from Maryland SID Natalia Ciccone, I emailed her back to ask some more specific questions -- namely, whether she could provide any more specifics on what's going on, and whether it's really "routine" for the NCAA to interview players about their recruitment for non-investigatory purposes.

She emailed back yesterday:
I've given you the official response. The only thing I can add is that inquiries happen in all sports every year -- including soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, etc. Because you haven't heard of it happening in women's basketball, doesn't mean anything. There's a lot of things that happen in collegiate athletics that goes on, but because it's not football or men's basketball, no one cares.
I've tried asking other sources whether such interviews are indeed "routine," but I haven't gotten a clear response yet. One SID at a big school told me that he's never heard of it happening. An assistant AD at another small school, however, said he's heard that it's "fairly common."

Putting that specific question aside... there is something curious going on, and it keeps getting curiouser.

The rumors about Maryland and Coach Frese are bouncing all over the women's basketball world, and we can expect the reverberation to accelerate this weekend when everyone gathers in Boston.

It appears that we either have (1) a top-tier program that has committed some significant recruiting violations, or (2) a top-tier program that has become the target of a nasty smear campaign carried out by other top-tier programs. (Adding to the drama: it may be that one of the accusing/smearing programs is playing the accused program in the Final Four this Sunday.)

Either way, it's a big story, and either way, it's a nasty story.

I really don't know which is true. The only responsible course right now is to reserve judgment (and keep investigating).
Graham Hays looks at this year's ACC semis Final Four in Greensboro Boston and finds lessons for all four teams. They're pretty much the lessons you'd expect: Shay Doron has to do more for Maryland; LSU's slow starts and soft spots are going to catch up to them; Ivory Latta has to stay under control; and the Tar Heels really have Duke's number.

Doron says her Terps know what to expect. "If we have to play Duke in the second game, we’ve done that three times this year," she remembers. “We’ve played North Carolina and Duke back-to-back... We’re just very prepared for this moment.”

BC lost to three of the four teams playing on Sunday; the Eagles even took Maryland to OT. BC coach Inglese: "Playing in the ACC puts us on that level, and people we are recruiting are noticing that as well. Even our younger players are starting to pick up on that."
The postseason WNIT concludes Friday night with Marquette at K-State, who beat Western Kentucky by one point in OT.

It was the 'Cats' first OT win this year in five tries; WKU played without rebounder Porter-Talbert, who had broken a team rule.

K-State have played every WNIT game at home: Voepel says the crowds have helped.
Geno denounces Charde Houston in public.

"She let a lot of people down," he says of her 0-for-5 Tuesday performance. "If she's fragile, then it's time for her either to break or it's time for her to get a little bit tougher. And, to be honest with you, both of those scenarios are OK with me."

Ex-UConn star Kara Wolters is now a UConn broadcaster. "It's really funny to interview Geno now," she says. "He gives me grief, but he's always given me grief. I was always kind of the goofy one on the team... So he'll always make fun of me regardless of what I do."

(Both catches via the inimitable Stever.)
Over at CSTV, Debbie Antonelli says Augustus and Langhorne are good, and the Tar Heels are fast, but Duke will win it all.

Coach Goestenkors says the Blue Devils like to play Pictionary. Hey, whatever works.
LSU folks explain what they expect from Duke. Assistant Bob Starkey will review 14 Duke game tapes.

Dazzled by her first Final Four last year, Sylvia Fowles says her mindset has changed: "Man, I didn't know it would be all that. I didn't know we had free time to go out and see other places and do things." As for 2006, "This is a business trip."

LSU's student newspaper focuses on the men, who have also made their Final Four.
Michelle Smith says the NCAA should stop trying to separate the women's tournament from the men's. Last week, Jason Whitlock said that NCAA should try harder to separate the women's tournament from the men's.

Oh.... I'm so confused....
Jackie MacMullan on UNC:
Coach Sylvia Hatchell has asked her team to adopt one simple philosophy: when in doubt, push it harder. She confessed the other day, ''I lie awake at nights thinking how we can speed up the game a little more." In an ideal Tar Heel world, her team would average 115-120 possessions.
Kathy Orton on Maryland's super-frosh, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman:
Nurtured by fathers who spent countless hours teaching them to dribble, pass and shoot, these two Maryland freshmen have helped transform the Terrapins into a national title contender. Not since 1998, when Tennessee started Semeka Randall and Tamika Catchings on a team that went 39-0 and won a national championship, have two freshmen played such significant roles on a Final Four team.
Dick Patrick on Lindsey Harding:
The Duke junior is writing her own comeback story. After being suspended last season by Duke coach Gail Goestenkors for violation of undisclosed team rules, Harding has returned better than ever, leading her team to the Final Four in Boston.
The New York Times on the women's tournament: uh... nothing today.

Mike Wilbon on a Final Four without Tennessee and Connecticut:
The ratings may decline a bit, but so what? If the goal of women's college basketball is to simply hold onto the audience it has, then the tournament should aspire only to Tennessee vs. Connecticut. But the game ought to be more ambitious than that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Further confirmation: Curry to Texas Tech.
Stacey Dales-[strike]Schuman[/strike]?
Another chapter in the ongoing conflict between the WNBA and international basketball: coach Jan Sterling says that Erin Phillips may lose her spot on the Aussie Olympic team because she signed with the Connecticut Sun.
The IndyStar casts some doubt on the word that Kristy Curry's move to Texas Tech is a done deal... but not much doubt...
Duke is bigger than UConn at almost every position. In the case of 6'7" widebody Alison Bales, intimidatingly, uncontestably bigger.

Last night Bales and Duke used size well. The result: 22 more rebounds. +14 in O-boards. 20 free throws (in 28 tries) to UConn's five (in nine). 15 points, 13 boards, and eight blocks for Bales alone.

With numbers like those, you'd expect an easy Duke win. But Duke's guards shot atrociously, UConn contested everything, and the Huskies held the Blue Devils a few dozen points below their per-game norm. Montgomery, Turner and Crockett scored just enough clutch baskets, and Mel Thomas' short jumper with 12 seconds left meant overtime.

Then the pain came. Turner-- the tourney's best player on Sunday, and UConn's best option for most of last night-- developed bad, then really bad, and then completely debilitating leg cramps. Hobbled or benched for all of the extra frame, she had to come out for UConn's final possession: by then she could hardly stand.

Down by two, the Huskies got the ball instead to Charde Houston, 0-for-5 on the night. Her defender fell down, but her unchallenged six-footer rolled around the rim, then fell out. Duke is going to Boston.

Almost everyone had Duke as a heavy favorite. Geno's defensive coaching looks better than ever. Turner ought to be moving up some draft boards (the same ones Strother has moved down). And yet... Duke is going to Boston.

For Turner, it was a new low after Sunday's new high. "I was just trying to compete as hard as I could," she said. "I tried to go until I couldn't go any more."

For Duke, vindication... of sorts, though their history of tournament chokes still haunts them. Mo Currie: "We stuck together at the end. We didn't fall apart."

Coach G: "It was not pretty... Things did not go well for us, and I give Connecticut credit for that. At the same time, we did what was necessary to win."

Duke student Andrew Yaffe says students-- famously obsessive about the men's game-- will finally pay attention to their women's team.

Jeff Jacobs says the game felt like bad hockey, with long scoreless stretches and everything up to the refs.

For Bales, though, the night was sweet. "I have complete confidence in my defense," she explained. "I've been blocking shots since I can't remember... Now, I know what I can get away with and what I can't."

UPDATE: DTS' neat eyewitness account says the refs made bad calls, but the Huskies themselves lost the game.
UNC overcame the tough Cleveland bracket and advanced to Boston.

The Tar Heels took an early lead over Tennessee and never gave it up. "I think we were hitting on all cylinders -- passing the ball, shooting it well and playing team defense," Erlana Larkins said. "As you can see, the pressure made them turn the ball over a lot in the first half."

Ivory Latta led with 20 and made two key plays at the end: a three-pointer, and then a sweet drive and dish to Larkins.

But the most important player of the game may have been La'Tangela Atkinson. Atkinson didn't score much (as usual), but when the Vols went on a 7-0 run in the second half and closed the gap to 5, she hit a three-pointer. (The best part about it was that as soon as the ball left her hand, she ran right around Parker, who made no effort to block out, and crashed the boards.) UT never got that close again.

Atkinson also contributed in a variety of other ways (as usual). She defended Candace Parker as well as anyone can, and she was largely responsible for Parker's 8 turnovers. She drew the charge that sent Parker to the bench in the first half. That play rattled Parker, and according to Summitt, sent the entire team into "panic mode."

On the whole, UT's guards simply couldn't handle UNC's pressure. Hornbuckle added 6 more turnovers, and Zolman 4. "They exposed our backcourt tonight," Summitt said.

This year started with incredibly high hopes in Knoxville.
But... Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood left. Alexis Hornbuckle got hurt. Candace Parker was absolutely splendid as a freshman, and other players did contribute a lot. Plenty of Tennessee kids had contributions at key times. But, ultimately, it wasn't enough.
UPDATE: Thanks to Stacey Geyer for letting me know that it's "Tar Heel," not "Tarheel."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Conference records through the Elite Eight (for conferences with multiple bids):

ACC: 16-4
SEC: 11-5
Big East: 8-7
Pac-10: 7-6
Mountain West: 6-4
Big Ten: 5-5
Big XII: 4-4
Atlantic 10: 1-2
Rumors confirmed: the Purdue Exponent reports that Kristy Curry has accepted the job at Texas Tech.
SI's Aditi Kinkhabwala reports that the NCAA has made some "funky" moves in promoting the tournament this year.

This includes not allowing LeBron James to greet Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer at an open practice and turning down an opportunity to cross market with former WNBA player (and breast cancer survivor) Edna Campbell and an upcoming Race for the Cure.

(via stever)
The AP All-Americans teams have been announced. Seimone Augustus is the only unanimous choice and the only repeat first teamer from last season. Courtney Paris is the first freshman selected for the first team. Joining them on the first team are Ivory Latta, Cappie Pondexter and Sophia Young.

Second team: Candace Parker; Monique Currie; Jessica Davenport; Candice Wiggins and Crystal Langhorne.

Third team: Sylvia Fowles; Tasha Humphrey; Khara Smith; Kim Smith and Candice Dupree.

Fans say the most notable name missing from the list is Erlana Larkins. The sophomore from North Carolina was an honorable mention selection.
A new addition to .com's Draft day coverage is a profile of some of the players you likely have not seen on ESPN2 this season.

One player likely not known much outside of the Big 10, Iowa's Crystal Smith, has been invited to participate in the Pre-Draft Camp in Boston. Other players invited include Iowa State's Brittany Wilkins and Northern Iowa's Cassie Hager and Tasha Williams and Aarica Ray-Boyd of Louisana Tech.

HOF Nancy Lieberman says the camp is important for players like Smith, who likely won't be picked until the second or third round.

And if you have not already done so, start working on your picks for the league's official Draft Pick 'Em contest. Nancy is helping you out. She says the Lynx will take Seimone at #1.
After two days of close and exciting games, tonight brings women's hoops fans two more great match-ups.

Up first is the showdown that has been talked about as a possibility since Selection Monday: North Carolina vs. Tennessee. Voepel says this region reminds her of the 1996 Midwest Region when No. 1 La Tech had to meet No. 2 Georgia in the Elite Eight.

The last time the two teams met in the NCAA tournament was also the last year the Lady Vols won the national title. Shanna Zolman hopes the boxing training she has taken up in college will help her team knock out the Tar Heels. And for the second time in a row, Pat Summitt is going up a close friend. Jack Daly provides some history on the friendship between the two legendary coaches.

The late game tonight will be Duke taking on Connecticut in Bridgeport. While some may not think it's fair for the top seed Blue Devils, the team is relaxed and excited to go up against a partisan crowd. Duke plans to continue to use the large playing rotation that has led them to a 43 point average margin of victory so far.

Geno on Duke: "This Duke team doesn't seem to talk as much about winning a championship. They just play in a manner that leads you to believe they can win one."

Geno's team is trying to win the region final game for the 9th time and use the emotional high of Barbara Turner's last shot to get them past Duke.

The other story that will likely be mentioned a few times tonight during the game is the fact that this is the first time Brittany Hunter will play against her former team. Neither team is talking much about that.

Finally, Graham Hays tells us about the potential ending to the careers for the seniors of both teams.
Refs discuss the Wiggins-Augustus charging call.

In related news, Tracy Schultz at SI.com says Erica White also deserves some credit for her game last night. Stanford did what several other teams have done with success: It left White open in the halfcourt and used that defender to provide more help on Fowles and Augustus. Several times last night, White made Stanford pay for that strategy.
Email of the day:
So I guess Brenda reads the blog. Tell her to come home. All is forgiven.
In memoriam, from Bloom County:
The wind doth taste of bittersweet,
Like jasper wine and sugar.
I bet it's blown through others' feet,
like those of... Caspar Weinberger.
The crowd at the Pit got a barnburner. The Terps' Harper and Toliver got the stomach flu. Utah's Kim Smith got a slow start, then lit up the second half with a double-double. And Smith's teammate Shona Thorburn got a heartbreaking end to her stellar college career.

After building a comfy margin on Toliver's three-balls, the Terrapins went cold, leading by just one with a minute to play. The Terps ran the clock down, then missed.

Thorburn-- playing with a tweaked ankle-- drove on the final possession and got fouled: she missed the first free throw, but made the second, sending her Utes to a crushing overtime in which Maryland scored every field goal.

Maryland coach Frese had the stomach flu too. "I wanted to slow the tempo down," she explained. "I thought it was to our advantage that Utah wanted to do the same. I just felt if we were going to last for 40 minutes that we really needed to slow it down."

The Terrapins get ready for Boston, their first Final Four since 1989: they'll meet UNC or Tennessee, two of the three teams that have beaten them this year. (The third, Duke, occupies the other Elite Eight bracket.)

Thorburn and Smith get ready for the WNBA. Will Thorburn be remembered for one mistake? Or as her conference's all-time assist leader, the owner of the only triple-double in MWC history, and the engine behind the Utes' success?

The answer should be clear... to everyone else. For Thorburn herself, it hurts. "You could smell it," she said, in tears. "That's how close we were... I had... the two biggest free throws of my life and you know, I tied the game."
Over at Full Court, Clay walks back the gossip: "Terrapins' representatives... made it clear they are not being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting violations. There was a routine visit made by NCAA officials, but nothing more has transpired. There are still those who say something may happen, but those are nothing more than rumors at this point."
One of these days, LSU's slow starts and soft spots are going to catch up to it. But not yesterday. The Tigers once again overcame a first-half deficit to get the win and the ticket to Boston.

Seimone Augustus put on her usual second-half offensive show. But it was a defensive play down the stretch that clinched the game. Ahead by one with five seconds left and the ball in Candice Wiggins's hands, Augustus left Krista Rappahahn to help on as Wiggins drove. Wiggins dished but plowed into Augustus for a charge.

"It was kind of ironic that somebody who has carried us offensively made a big defensive play," LSU assistant Bob Starkey said. "And it took a little courage for her to make it. It was kind of a calculated gamble, but she got there in plenty of time, got set, and took a good shot."

Calculated gamble indeed. Leaving a 44% three-point shooter wide open — after she had been specifically instructed in the huddle to stay on her — and putting the game in the refs' hands... was it a risk worth taking?

Yes, said Seimone. “It’s about taking risks,” she explained. "Candice came down kind of out of control. I saw an opportunity, and it worked out to my advantage.”

Stanford didn't love the call. "I just think that's a really tough way to lose a game," coach Tara VanDerveer said. It really surprised me that that would be called then. It seems at that point it would be a no-call."

Voepel says it was another frustrating "almost" for Stanford. Still, as Ann Killion says, this ended up being a pretty damn good "in-between" rebuilding year for the Cardinal.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why is SDS always sneering?

The sneer is new this year. I am pretty sure she broke it out for the post season.

Is it the new vibe with Trey? Does she miss Rece?

What's going on?
From Natalia Ciccone, SID at Maryland:
This email is in reference to your March 26 post on Clay Kallam’s article on Maryland. Kallam is wrong in his claim that there’s an “ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting violations.” Maryland is not under investigation by the NCAA. A March 11 article in the Washington Post totally refutes Kallam’s claims that Maryland is under investigation by the NCAA.

Please understand that the NCAA often interviews high profile prospects regarding recruiting. This happens every year in multiple sports, not just women’s basketball.

Maryland has no Letter of Inquiry, which is the formal notice from the NCAA that a school is under investigation.

The Washington Post article has sources and quotes and officials who will go on the record, unlike Kallam’s article where he has not cited any sources... his entire article is based on message board rumors that have no merit or sources willing to stand behind their accusations.
I think the state of affairs right now is this: (1) Maryland says that there is no investigation going on. (2) Lots of other people – and not just random fans on message boards – are running around saying, "Yes, there really is an investigation going on." (3) The NCAA won't say.

The March 11 article in WaPo quotes Maryland officials saying that there's no investigation. But as the more recent Orton article said, "The NCAA does not confirm or deny when a school is being investigated."

I guess maybe it really does depend on what you mean by "investigation." The NCAA governing rules make some distinction between preliminary and formal investigations.
Allegations of rules violations are referred to the Association's investigative staff. A preliminary investigation is initiated to determine if an official inquiry is warranted and whether a secondary or major violation has occurred.
I guess I also don't know whether it's true that interviews with players about their recruitment are "routine." Anyone know?
The W offers its Boston draft week calendar.
Tennessee beat Rutgers and ended Cappie Pondexter's college career.

Candace Parker showed why she's special in ways that have nothing to do with dunking. She scored inside and outside, with back-to-the-basket moves and face-up moves. She played good on-ball defense and great help defense. She had 29 points, 6 blocks, and 5 rebounds.

Coach Stringer described the difficulty of guarding Parker.
Essence Carson was on her, but Essence has to deny her first. There's no way we were going to stop her when she was posted. When Essence has to play her on the perimeter, she has no answer for her in the post. Then we went to (Mariota) Theodoris. As a center, she was a better matchup in the post, but she'd go out to the perimeter and we'd expose more people and pick up fouls.
Cappie was dejected. "It's hard when you've worked so hard to come back, only to be disappointed," she said between sobs. "I hope that I taught Matee Ajavon a lot, and she can move on and help the team. I just have to move on with my life."
With seven minutes and change left in the first half, Georgia led UConn 23 to 10. UConn looked stunned, even corpselike. Husky fans who remembered December thought the game over.

Then Renee Montgomery hit a trey, and another trey, and another trey. Barb Turner made a free throw, and another free throw, and another free throw, and pulled down a couple of boards. UConn pulled off a 20-to-3 run, and took the lead.

The second half was simply the most suspenseful 20 minutes of basketball the tournament has offered. For a while, nobody could miss. The magnificent Tasha Humphrey made ridiculously challenging fall-away midrange shots with almost supernatural accuracy. Georgia's quick guards drew fouls and made free throws, over and over.

Humphrey, though, is the only post in Georgia's injury-depleted rotation. She entered the half with three fouls, and picked up her fourth with ten minutes to go; she chose not to contest UConn's post moves, and Barb Turner made them pay with layup after layup.

Georgia led by one point with one minute to go. Strother drained a three. Then Alexis Kendrick drained another. Georgia led by one again. Twenty seconds remained. Where would UConn go: Strother for three? Montgomery, perhaps? Turner inside, with hopes to get to the line?

The answer, incredibly: Turner, for three. The senior center-- who had made ten of 37 trey tries all year-- got the ball, gave it to Strother, got it back, and sank the game-winning shot from behind the arc, with two defenders approaching, and about one second to go. (One of those defenders hit her elbow; no foul was called.) Humphrey's three-quarter court heave then hit the rim, and UConn had won.

Turner finished with 31 points and 9 boards, her best game ever. UConn's guards finally proved that they could keep up with a running team. UConn fans finally got a signature victory more fun than the low-scoring, defense-first LSU game. And Geno got 48 hours to prepare his team for the Blue Devils.

For Georgia, senior Sherill Baker (11-12 from the line, 9 boards, 3 steals) got to show off her defensive magic one last time on a pre-draft stage. The rest of the Dawgs could only complain about home-court advantage, or about the bad early-season luck that left them with five fine guards and just one, albeit stellar, post.

Geno: "I told the kids in the locker room that if you're lucky in life, sometimes fate taps you on the shoulder. You want to be ready and we were ready."

Georgia's coach Landers: "It was the kind of game we expected, with the exception of that last shot."
Duke rolled over Michigan State. Bales blocked shots, Foley hit open threes, and Harding ran the Spartans into the ground: the Blue Devils showed their entire arsenal, finishing with six players in double figures.

State's Aisha Jefferson and Victoria Lucas-Perry scored, but Shimek and Bowen didn't. With neither size inside, nor sharp ball movement outside, the Spartans simply couldn't keep up.

Lindsay Bowen: "Obviously, we didn't want to go out this way but Duke is just a great team. They had great balance and we didn't take care of possessions well."
Unpleasant rumor of the day: the Maryland Terrapins have a bad stomach bug.

If you're not already following it, check out the all-Terps blog.
There is a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. UNC often looks like the toughest, fastest, jumpiest team in the country. They play at a frenetic pace that makes opponents look addled and slow. But sometimes, against the right team, the UNC system breaks down. Sometimes Tarheel basketball just looks unstructured and undisciplined.

That's what we saw yesterday. UNC and its leader were sloppy.

Purdue took the nation's best team to the mat, and it took a last-second drive by Ivory Latta to save the Heels' season. "I'd say it's one of the biggest shots I've made, yes sir," Latta said.

Overshadowed by Latta's end-game heroics was the brilliant play of Erlana Larkins. Without her solid post game down the stretch, UNC wouldn't have stayed close. Larkins finished with 23 and 7.

“I am very proud of myself and my teammates on how we played today,” said Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, who led the Boilers with 21. “If we’d had a couple more minutes, we could have pulled it out. But the clock was ticking and they had the ball.”

Purdue certainly had reason to take pride in its performance. And yet, as coach Curry said: "There are no moral victories." With their season over, Purdue and Curry must now face big questions about the future.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Andy Landers isn't thrilled about playing in Bridgeport.

Geno responds that it's not too late to play somewhere else, that home court doesn't matter, and that the earth is flat.
Coaches Hatchell, Summitt, and Stringer are going to take their complaints about the Cleveland bracket to the WBCA.

Coach Curry says they should pipe down:
There has been too much complaining and criticizing of the committee. The bottom line is, if you sit around and complain and criticize, you're missing a dad-gum good tournament. Stop complaining and play.
(Hat tip, DTS.) Curry's Boilers take on the best team in the country in just a few hours.
Maryland knocked out the defending champs.

Crystal Langhorne was a woman among girls. Abiola Wabara couldn't guard her. Sophia Young couldn't guard her. Rachel Allison really couldn't guard her. Langhorn ended with 34 points on 14 for 18 shooting. With more touches, she might have scored 50 or 60.

"We fed off her energy," Marissa Coleman said. "We tried to keep pounding it in to her, and they couldn't stop her. She's been doing that all season for us. We have so much confidence in her."

“Langhorne dominated the game from start to finish,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson. “We had no post player that could guard her.”

Maryland is probably headed for Boston. But what storm clouds loom? Clay Kallam says Terp fans should enjoy it while it lasts.
Despite the fact that the only two seniors for the Terrapins play hardly at all, there is still a definite sense of urgency in College Park -- and the reason is an ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting violations that could be serious enough to bounce Maryland out of any postseason play next year.
The Canadian national junior team Utah Utes got past Boston College.

Kim Smith had an off night, but Shona Thorburn and unheralded frosh post Joh-Teena Felipe made up for it, countering BC's physicality with patience and passing.

Neither team shot well: with four minutes left, BC trailed by just three, but nobody scored after that. Superb from long range against Ohio State, the Eagles finished this one 0-for-7 from downtown.

Altitude and fatigue were factors: BC had to fly from Tucson to Boston, then to ABQ, in the space of four days. Brooke Queenan led BC with 21 points and 9 boards.

UNM fans ordinarily hate Utah, but many supported the Mountain West last night. Thorburn, before the game: "You don't always like to play in The Pit. But you respect what the Lobos have there... I'm doing a shout-out now to say, `Please, Lobos, cheer for us or at least don't boo us.' "
Bob Hohler at the Boston Globe has a lengthy examination of the Portland case and homophobia in women's basketball.
As the women's basketball community converges on Boston this week for the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, the Portland case looms as a watershed chapter in a decades-long struggle to eradicate prejudice that has long festered in the sport against homosexual players and coaches. Numerous athletes and coaches said in interviews that nearly every facet of women's college basketball, from recruiting to hiring practices, has been affected by discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In the article, coach Debbie Ryan responds to Jen Harris's allegation that Portland used anti-gay recruiting tactics directed at Virginia.

"I can't imagine Rene Portland doing that to me," Ryan said. "I just can't. I'm just going on how I feel about our friendship." But, she continued, "If she did it, then she did it, and we will have to address it on a personal level."

Also in the Globe, Amalie Benjamin examines the reaction among students at Penn State.
Are Stanford underrated? Not anymore: the Cardinal took out Courtney Paris' Sooners behind early three-pointers, a superb defensive plan, and the game of a lifetime from Brooke Smith.

Undaunted by the bigger, wider Paris, Smith tallied 35 points on 14-for-16 shooting-- layups, hook shots, pump fakes, midrange jumpers, the works.

Playing from behind for the whole contest, OU's guards couldn't move the ball well enough to counter Stanford's heads-up defense: Stanford's coach TV perhaps watched this tape. OU's best three-point threat, Britney Brown, fouled out.

The Cardinal led 9-0, then 17-4; OU came within six in the second half, but soon trailed by double digits again. OU coach Coale: "We took a little bit of a knockout punch in the first five minutes, and we were never able to steady ourselves."

Lost in the (justified, overdue) hoopla for Smith: Kristen Newlin, the 6'5" junior who double-teamed Paris along with Smith, and who used her height to deny Paris layups and boards.

Stanford's Wiggins on Smith: "There is no other post player in the country I would want on my team. Now the whole nation will get to see how great she is."
One of these days, LSU's slow starts and soft spots are going to catch up to it. But not yesterday. The Tigers were once again able to build a big early second half lead and coast to victory.

"It's like a bulb goes off in our head when they tell us we only got 20 more minutes," Scholanda Hoston said. "I don't know if that's a good or bad thing. I think we can get ourselves in some trouble if we continue to do that. But we're grateful to be moving on.

Khara Smith couldn't score inside against Sylvia Fowles, so DePaul mostly sat outside and bombed away. But they shot only 8 for 26 from beyond the arc, and only 32% overall.

Still, Coach Bruno walked away happy. "The kids learned what this level is about," he said. "And they saw how much more they are capable of from a get-back point of view."

Everyone in Louisiana (and everyone in Minnesota) had a moment of panic when Augustus went down late in the game grabbing her Achilles -- "I was sick," said Pokey. But it was just a cramp.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pitt beat Virginia in Pittsburgh to advance to the WNIT's (lowercase) final four. Pitt's Mallorie Winn and Mercedes Walker scored 20 and 16.

In other WNIT action, Western Kentucky killed Villanova. 'Nova coach Perretta, known for his slow-it-down style: "We were never in it... They had 50 against us at the half. When was the last time that happened?"

K-State got past Nebraska in Manhattan (Kansas). Voepel says traveling to Laramie, and then right back, just tuckered the 'Huskers out.

WKU will play K-State. Pitt will face Marquette, who nipped Indiana in Bloomington. IU's Valentin tallied 21 points in her last collegiate game.
Get your couch warm and your beer cold: Sweet Sixteen starts now.
Kathy Orton at WaPo has been investigating the recruiting rumors about Brenda Frese. She couldn't get anyone to talk on the record, but a few coaches told her that Frese "pushes the limits set by the NCAA on how often and when recruits can be contacted."

Said one anonymous coach: "She operates in the gray area."

Maryland AD Debbie Yow says she won't respond until someone goes on the record. Maryland maintains that there is no NCAA investigation being conducted (though it probably depends on what the meaning of "investigation" is).

Voepel also has a must-read article on Maryland, Frese, rumors, and jealousy. Says Bill Fennelly, Frese's former mentor:
Brenda isn't going to back down from anyone. She's not afraid to stick her nose into the fight. I'm sure some coaches think she hasn't waited her turn long enough. And it probably bothers them, too, that if people don't like her, she really doesn't care.
Sophomores Brittney Davis and Lauren Lacey are leaving Minnesota. Lacey's father told the Strib that she was unhappy with her playing time.

Earlier this week, Gopher coach Pam Borton had said that she expected Davis to start at point next year. Now that she can't, maybe the best player on the team will finally get some playing time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

WNBA.com's new 2006 draft central page is up and running. Check it out. Nice work, as always, by Matt Wurst.
Headed to Cleveland this weekend? The Plain Dealer presents the city and the teams. (Via Mike Detcher.)
The Baltimore Sun has an extensive profile on Terps coach Brenda Frese.

As far as their game against Baylor, the New York Times reports Coach Frese and her team feel like they are forgotten since BC upset Ohio State and they are playing the defending national champs. According to Frese, "everyone is penciling in Baylor for the Final Four run to Boston."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post looks at the quick turnaround for the Terps, who traveled a longer distance and had one less day of rest compared to their next opponent.

As for Baylor, they have found they need star Sophia Young to lead by more than just her play on the court.

The Dallas Morning News looks at how Young's team will try to get past the Terps with only 10 players on their roster. One of the most important is senior role player Chameka Scott.
Via pilight, Seattle Times writer Jayda Evans has a book coming out in May on the Seattle Storm.
Before Stanford and Oklahoma take the court in San Antonio, LSU and DePaul will face off to determine who will play the winner of the Sooners-Cardinal game.

While LSU is trying to reach the Elite 8 for the fourth year in a row, DePaul is in the Sweet 16 for the first time and relishing the role as the underdog.

The Blue Demons are fully aware of the Seimone factor and a certain 6-6 sophomore who makes up the other part of a dynamic duo. But DePaul will see if their superstar, Khara Smith, can continue her brilliant second half of play in the team's last outing against Tulsa.

Meanwhile, LSU will depend not only on their two superstars, but also PG Erica White, who is starting in her first NCAA tournament.
Oklahoma has had an incredible season, in part, because of freshman Courtney Paris. But their next opponent, Stanford, also is benefiting from first year starters Jillian Harmon and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

As for Paris, more and more people are falling in love with not only her game but also her personality. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer recognizes the challenge her team faces going up against Paris.

No current Sooner has been to the Sweet 16 before, but that does not take away from the team's confidence going into the game.

Standing in their way is a Cardinal team led by sophomore sensation Candice Wiggins, who shot her way out of a recent slump in her team's big win over Florida State.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jason Whitlock has a long, rambling, incoherent column about Candace's dunks. It is, in a word, retarded.

Extraordinarily lazy. Spectacularly uninformed. Marvelously unedited.

You might call it Baylessian. Or you might just call it par for the course at Page 2.
SportsProf nominates Angie Soriaga for President.
In the midst of a column about embattled Minnesota men's coach Dan Monson, Strib columnist Pat Reusse takes another shot at Pam Borton. One factor in Monson's favor, according to Reusse: "never did he give in to the urge to bench his best player for the final 18 minutes of a postseason game."
Wurst ranks the prospects. Blue and Strother rising, Fluker and Atkinson falling.
Oklahoma coach Coale on CP3 vs. CP3: "They're both really, really good, but they aren't going to guard each other."
Purdue keeps winning in spite of recent distractions. Boiler guard Katie Gearlds: "It's not like we're stupid. We've heard everything too. It's a mark of how good a coach that she is. You just hope and pray that [athletic director] Morgan [Burke] and the administration can do everything in their powers to keep her here.

"She's the reason why I'm here. I would love to play one more year for her but at the same time, it's her decision."

This weekend Purdue face North Carolina. Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell has taken advice from men's-side coaching giants, among them Roy Williams, P. J. Carlesimo, Memphis' John Calipari, and Hubie Brown, who flew her out for a visit. Hatchell: "Men's coaches will tell me a lot, because I don't play against them."

From the same Winston-Salem paper comes a must-read profile of Ivory Latta. Coach Hatchell says Latta "wants to be 5-6, so we list her at 5-6 but she's not 5-6. But you can't measure the size of her heart and that's what Ivory is all about." (Actually, coach, you can, but we know what you mean.)
From Sally Jenkins, in response to Rebecca's post yesterday on running up the score:
To me, any discussion about "embarassing" the other team is mostly fallacy. It's not the job of your opponent to spare you from embarassment -- it's the job of a team not to embarass ITSELF.

I didn't think any of the teams you mentioned got embarassed by the final scores. I thought that they played with fight and dignity to the end. Most particularly Army. I really admired that team, thought they were well coached and never showed a moment of quit or demoralization.

All of which is to say, I'm not sure a final score is always such a great indication of a team's quality or dignity. And I don't believe for a second that any of those first round opponents wanted teams like Duke, LSU or Tennessee to pull their punches. I wouldn't, if I was a player. I'd want to see their best shot. I'd want to know what to aspire to.

Also, I simply don't believe in instructing bench players, once they're in the game, not to play all out. What's a coach supposed to do, tell a shooter not to shoot? That's anti-competitive. How else are kids going to learn, and get worthwhile game experience?
In a similar vein, BCBG noted yesterday that in some other countries, it's actually considered insulting to pull out your best players when ahead.
USA Basketball continued its second European training tour by defeating a Hungarian All-Star squad 89-67. Nicole Ohlde led the team in scoring for the second time in row with 18 points and four others scored in double figures for Team USA. The last game of this tour will be tomorrow against MiZo Pécsi in Pécs.
Christine Brennan writes in USA Today that these are "are hopeful, disappointing, expectant and sometimes infuriating days for women's college basketball."
Around the web --

Voepel says the Utes aren't happy just being in the Sweet Sixteen.

Matt Shapiro at CSTV praises Georgia's Tasha Humphrey and Sherill Baker. Jessica Garrison reminds us how difficult it is for players in the tourney to keep up with school.

At SI.com, Aditi Kinkhabwala says that Stacey Dales Schuman's hype about dunking is "patently absurd." (See also Milton Kent.)

Also at SI, there is a series of articles on sports on the web, of which the Deitsch article is one part. Included: a long Q&A with Bill Simmons, a list of the best athlete sites, and a ranking of the top internet sports scoops of the last year. Also featured prominently: Minnesota baseball blogger Aaron Gleeman, Mavs owner-blogger Mark Cuban, and of course, deadspin, which has essentially taken over sports on the web.
Boston officials expect the women's Final Four to produce an economic impact of over $20 million for the city. “It will be the biggest sporting event at the Garden ever,” said venue spokesman Jim Delaney.

BC arrived home at about 2 a.m. yesterday morning, and they turn around today and head to New Mexico. The Eagles are sleepy and giddy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The WNBA's three great in-house writers have been active the last two days.

Maxwell analyzes team and player rebounding efficiency stats.

Pelton interviews the Storm's new addition, Wendy Palmer.

Wurst is watching Euroball.
Something's been bothering me over the last few days: keeping starters in. I understand it if it's a close game- the seven-point match between Maryland and St. John's comes to mind.

But in a flat-out blowout, for either side? For the sake of this attempt at analysis, I'll define "flat-out blowout" as a 20+ margin of victory with a 15+ margin at the half.

Rutgers pasted TCU by 34, holding a 19-point lead at the half. Yet no Scarlet Knight starter played less than 34 minutes, and no bench player played more than 8. Writing as a Rutgers fan, I would have given up ten points off that 81 for ten points against Tennessee.

(I had USC here, but Kiriyo informed me that the reason only eight Women of Troy played was that there were only eight Women of Troy in uniform, which seems like a logical reason to play a short roster.)

A subset of these games is the "close at the half, complete obliteration in the second half" type.

LSU trailed Washington by three at the half but came back to win by 23. In that game, Seimone Augustus played 39 minutes and Scholonda Hoston 36 before her ankle injury. (Strangely enough, Coach Chatman managed her bench far more efficiently in her first round game against Florida Atlantic, which ended with a nearly identical final score.)

In the Utah-Arizona State game, the Utes and the Sun Devils were tied at the half before Utah won by 21. Key players Shona Thorburn and Kim Smith both went the full forty for the Utes.

Virginia Tech led Missouri by seven in the first half before blowing it open in a 31-point victory in first-round action. The Tigers kept star LaToya Bond in the game for 38 minutes.

Purdue led Missouri State by five at the half in their first-round game, winning by 21. Missouri State star Kari Koch played 38 minutes. (All due respect to the program at Missouri State, but shouldn't the state of their last star warn them about a player going too hard or too long on the court?)

Now that you've been drowned in examples, on to trying to figure out why.

*A lack of players- Tennessee fans defended Coach Summitt keeping rotation players in the game against Army because they only *had* nine players. Cal was forced to ride their starters in the first round because they were shorthanded.

*Senior privilege, especially in elimination games- for example, the starters who played heavy minutes in blowouts for Virginia Tech were seniors Dawn Chriss and Kerri Gardin; especially without a home crowd to give them an ovation, a coach may prefer to let their seniors finish out their careers on the court instead of on the bench.

*Pride, which would be why losing teams keep their top players in longer- they hope to either pull it out with their starters or to go down fighting as hard as they can in order to maintain an acceptable margin of defeat.

*Accumulation- in a close game in the first half, a player might go 20 minutes, so that even if her coach pulls her halfway through the second half, she has still logged 30 minutes.

What bothers me most about this trend is that it is most often critical players who remain in the game. This makes me wonder if it has to do with the distribution of talent over the last few years. Old habits die hard; coaches may be unused to having a full, solid rotation, instead recalling the times when they had one top-notch player, if that.

Running up the score may also be a reason, but I'd prefer not to think that any coach of a team worthy of being in the NCAA tournament would feel the need to do so. Isn't being in the tournament in the first place reason enough to be respected?
At SI.com, Richard Deitsch has an article about... um... us.

The photo has been electronically altered to obscure my hideous deformities. Sara and Evie really are that cute.
The Big Dance is the biggest March tourney, but it's not the only one.

NCAA Division III has a new national champion, Hope College of Holland, Michigan. The Flying Dutch beat Southern Maine for the title.

Division II quarterfinals take place today.

Back in D-I, you can follow the WNIT here. Twelve teams are still in it, including two midmajors: Western Kentucky and Fresno State.

Helen Wheelock celebrates the NCAA tournament's 25th birthday by recapping 114 years of women's hoops.
The mystery of Chef deepens. My guess: Tom Cruise has extraodinary powers of mind control. It's not like we don't already have some evidence of that.
Conference records through the first two rounds (for conferences with multiple bids):

ACC: 10-3
SEC: 8-3
Big East: 7-4
Pac-10: 6-5
Big Ten: 5-3
Mountain West: 5-3
Big XII: 4-2
Atlantic 10: 1-2

This year, only two teams seeded lower than four reached the Sweet Sixteen. Last year, there were four. In 2004, there were five. In 2003, there were seven.

For the men: six this year, eight last year, seven in 2004, and seven in 2003.
In University Park, #2 seed Maryland faced stubborn, undersized St. John's. In a game that was closer than anyone could have imagined, the Red Storm hung around until the very end, bowing out 81-74. Crystal Langhorne was unstoppable in the post, finishing with 30 points and 9 rebounds. Kia Wright, quondam Husky, was again the star for St. John's with 23 points, nine assists, and three steals.

Maryland now looks to get Shay Doron and Kristi Toliver back on track for their Albuquerque game against Baylor. St. John's will rebuild and remain grateful that some guy named Geno called.

The nightcap at Penn State wasn't nearly as dramatic. Ann Strother had 22 points to lead UConn to a 79-56 win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies were in it early, but in the first half, the Huskies had already pulled ahead; the carnage only got worse in the second half. In the losing cause, Dawn Chriss and Kerri Gardin each had 16.

UConn returns to Connecticut to face Georgia in the Sweet Sixteen. Virginia Tech returns to Blacksburg with five seniors and daunting to-do list.
Last night in Trenton, Hartford had Georgia right where they wanted them, tied at 42 with less than sixteen to play. Then Janese Hardrick spurred a 15-0 run to lead Georgia to a 73-54 victory. Tasha Humphrey was unstoppable, finishing with 26 points and 17 rebounds. Sherill Baker added 24 points and 3 of her usual steals. Freshman Erica Beverly led the Hawks with 13; senior Erika Messam finished her career with 11 points.

The second game matched up Rutgers and TCU. Rutgers was looking for several things: Coach Stringer's 750th career victory, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, and redemption after their near-loss to Dartmouth. TCU was looking for their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen and to overcome the departure of their leading scorer, Tasha Lacy. The Lady Frogs had a small lead early on, but Kia Vaughn was unmovable in the post, and the Scarlet Knights started lighting it up from the perimeter to pull away. The final was 82-48; all five Rutgers starters were in double figures, led by Cappie Pondexter's 24, though their bench only contributed four points and seven boards.
The second round was mostly a bummer for those of us who crave upsets, parity, and actual Madness in March. The higher seeds won with depressing ease and regularity. It is always with a twinge of guilt that I flip from the ESPN Family of Networks over to CBS in hopes of finding the owner of the glass slipper.

But lo! Just when all hope was lost, a knight in shining armor appeared: Boston College.

The Eagles used a barrage of three-point shooting to take down Old Man Foster and Old Man Davenport. Kindyll Dorsey had six treys herself. But she wouldn't accept too much credit: "Everyone played so well, and I'm just so happy."

Jen Garrett, BC's biggest blogger fan, says: "Holy fucking shit!"

“This is a tournament that has one winner,” said coach Foster. “Boston College was terrific. I give them all the credit in the world.”

Interviewed by Voepel, Geno reflects on Foster's hard luck:
I think sometimes the NCAA Tournament comes down to one or two individuals who have to make that huge run themselves. I think Jim -- whether he's been at St. Joe's, Vanderbilt or Ohio State -- his style of play, system and philosophy gets them a lot of wins in the regular season. But he just hasn't had the good fortune of having a couple of really big-time players who were able to take it to the next level.
Big winner: the city of Boston, which can use this buzz (at least for the next week, and maybe longer?) to build excitement for the Final Four.

Big loser: Big Ten basketball. No men's teams in the Sweet Sixteen, and only two women's teams. Ouch.
Tennessee took an early lead and coasted to a win over GW. Shanna Zolman hit four three-pointers and in the process, broke Kara Lawson's school record. GW coach Joe McKeown thinks Zolman might be the best player on the Vols.

The Lady Vols have reached the Sweet Sixteen every year of the tournament.

Duke had an even easier time with USC. Alison Bales had 22 points, 9 boards, and 6 blocks. "She's been doing that, and I said, 'I can't wait for Ali's practices to show up in a game,'" coach G said. "She's been practicing like this for a couple of weeks, so it's nice to see it show up in a game."

"Duke has size, speed, quickness … all of the things you need to go deep into this tournament," said the always gracious Mark Trakh. "They are built for this tournament right now. We're kind of pulling for them now so we can say we played the national champions."
UCLA climbed ahead early, but the Boilermakers used depth, length, strength and a loud home crowd to put the Bruins down.

Purdue slowed the game up, moved the ball well, and got to the line. UCLA's Nikki Blue scored 18, but UCLA spent the last seven minutes without a field goal.

Boiler starters praise bench players' defense. Erin Lawless: "Once again Carol [Duncan] comes in and saves the day."

Purdue's coach Curry: "We felt if we kept it the 60s we had a chance to win. We kept it in the 50s and did just that."

Curry adds that rumors about her departure won't matter: “I told my team that my only focus was them, and that we’ll talk about those kind of things after the season. I mean, it’s a typical spring; it’s happened the last four springs. My only focus right now is my team and taking them to the Sweet 16."

Blue's collegiate career is over. "If anybody knows where I come from to where I am right now, this is not a frustrating end," she says. "I am at UCLA, going to get my degree in a couple of months."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Abiola Wabara will not return to Baylor for the '06-07 season. The redshirt junior from Italy, who will earn her undergrad degree this year, plans to go home and play pro ball instead. (Via BBFCT.)
Today's revelation: Bill Laimbeer, aka SFO, is Papa Oovy, aka Sue Bird's dad.

That hurts my mind.
Who will replace Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech? Could it be Purdue's Kristy Curry?

Board Junkies bruit Tech's choice. (Catch via Stever.) Tech paid Sharp last year about twice what Purdue paid Curry; Joe Smith alleged other dissatisfactions a few weeks ago.

Keep track of all this year's coaching changes here.
Snarky headline discussed over beer last night at the end of the coverage: "For the first time ever, DePaul doesn't choke in the second round!"

(Last month, after this post, we got an email from a Demons assistant asking if we have "an issue" with DePaul. Now you know the answer: YES!!!)

But in all seriousness...

Khara Smith and the Demons looked fabulous down the stretch, and they snatched the win back from Tulsa. The team was inspired by the memory of former men's coach Ray Meyer, whose funeral was yesterday. Said Jenna Rubino:
I had a feeling and I think my teammates did, too, that we weren't going to let this game slip. And I just think it was constantly in our head, that there was a greater force. Something was there pushing us, knowing that this game wasn't going to be our last. We all knew we just needed to stick together.
The Demons power ended Tulsa's Cinderella story, but it was still a great year for the Hurricane. If you missed it, check out Kathy Orton's feature on coach Charlene Thomas-Swinson.