Women's Hoops Blog: February 2007

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oh, my EYES!!! The New York Times lets Jere Longman write about women's basketball again. This time, his focus is Duke. (and since when did he have an accent on the last e?)
JimmyK reminds us that the WNBA makes public its list of sponsors: if you have dealings with one of these mega-corporations, consider letting them know that you've chosen their products, rather than purchasing their competitors', in part because they support women's pro ball.
Need new material when you yell at a ref? How about what ex-Celtic Cedric Maxwell used about Violet Palmer (the NBA's only female ref) during a recent broadcast: "Get back in the kitchen! Get back in the kitchen and fix me some bacon and eggs!"

Sports, Media and Society blogger Marie Hardin commented on recent gaffes by sports broadcasters back in December:
I think these incidents demonstrate the need for sports broadcasters to get far more than training in how to call play-by-play or in the fine art of trying to convince viewers that a lopsided game is still worth watching. They need an education in critical thinking about their own (unspoken unless under pressure) stereotypes color their thinking about race, ethnicity and gender, among other things.
What started out in the blogosphere has now hit the "legit" media. A couple of days ago the SLOG, a blog of The Stranger, reported that some of the new Storm owners did some serious bankrolling of an anti-gay marriage group. Quite the connudrum for a league who's parent recently fired a representative for his anti-gay comments.

Yesterday the Post-Intelligencer picked up the story in two articles. The first, entitled "2 Sonics owners: No gay marriage" opens
The millionaires who've turned to this state's left-leaning Legislature to authorize a $300 million tax subsidy for a new basketball arena have been playing right-wing politics.
While the PI's second article asks, "Will their views fit in Olympia?"seattlest, a website about seattle, ain't so subtle. Their entry headline: "Howard Schultz Sold the Sonics to Bigots. David Postman over at the Seattle Times blogs briefly on the subject noting
...the Oklahoma group's decidedly conservative political bent is likely to be of concern to many more in liberal Seattle than just Storm fans. And that could matter at a time when the team is looking to the Legislature to approve a taxpayer subsidy for a new arena.
Kevin Pelton has an "everybody calm down" article about this up on the Storm' website. Seems Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant met with new owner Clay Bennett. Said Bryant in a statement
In just four short months Clay has proven to be a committed owner and genuinely respectful of our rich tradition. Political contributions made by two of our owners have no bearing on how we operate and manage the Storm. I’m proud to say that our Storm fan base represents the diversity of our community.
I wonder if fans will feel the same way.

On a "Conicidence? I wonder?" note, seattlest points out that "A few days of awful publicity later, the website of Americans United to Preserve Marriage, the anti-gay-marriage organization bankrolled by Sonics owners, is now 'under construction.'" (thanks to bluewolfvii)

UPDATE from the News Tribune and SportsBusiness Daily: Apparently the NBA does not "consider the anti-gay activities of [Sonics and Storm investors Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward] the same as the anti-gay comments uttered by Tim Hardaway before the All-Star break.
Pat Summitt: Cheerleader.
Carter Strickland at the AJC discusses the growth of the women's game. Central to the story: ESPN.

In a related vein... Florida is rolling in millions of dollars of excess cash from recent success in football and men's basketball. To its credit, it is planning to throw some of that money into women's basketball. Which means that we might see a big name coach (Mulkey? McCallie? Frese? Staley?) lured to Gainesville. Fans discuss rumors here and here.
While Comet STHs had a chance to gather at an event hosted by team owner Hilton Koch, they may have also learned some news on the free agency front (PeeWee to Detroit?; Kayte to Chicago?) and who will be on Karleen Thompson's coaching staff.

One person who definitely looks to be joining the staff is Thompson's former colleauge on the Sparks, Ryan Weisenberg .
The Illinois women's wheelchair basketball team prepared for the 33rd Annual National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (starting March 1 at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute, GA) by beating the seventh, eighth and ninth ranked men's teams in the nation.

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since there are specific rules that address the height of the wheelchair that actually even out some of the physical differences between men and women. The rules also address the various player classifications which means, as the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation website explains, an athlete is classified
based on their functional capacity to complete the skills neccessary to play -- pushing, pivoting, shooting, rebounding, dribbling, passing and catching. In particular, the trunk movement and stability observed during these actual basketball situations forms the basis for the assignment of a player to a particular class.

Players are then assigned points depending on their class and there is a cap on how many "points" you can have on the court.

While organized men's basketball traces its roots back to the end of World War II, the women's side seems to have made its first signifcant appearance back in the 70's. On February 24th, 1974 the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign "Ms. Kids" defeated the Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) Squids 34-14. Since then the game has grown to include international competition, including the paralympics. It should come as no surprise that the USOC has announced an expanded military program to support physicaly disabled veterans.

While some may have caught the men's wheelchair all-stars at the NBA All-Star Jam session, fans attending the Women's 2003 Final Four will remember the exhibition game the women played during the WBCA high school and college seniors game.

If you're interested in more information, you can check out the National Wheelchair Basketball Association's (slightly frustrating) website here.
More thoughts on neutral sites: Helen celebrates the MVC's decision to move its '08 women's hoops tournament to St. Louis, which the MVC calls a neutral site.

Neutral sites have been topic A in February for the past several years. The NCAA advertised its last format change as a move toward neutral sites. Commentators and coaches-- especially coaches of higher seeds placed on lower seeds' home courts-- have been complaining, protesting and asking for years on behalf of entirely neutral sites-- and wondering how much such a move would hurt gate revenue.

Can conference tournaments show the way? Probably not. Everyone who's thought about it knows that truly neutral sites-- say, Duke vs. UConn in Albuquerque; Georgia vs. Maryland in Ames-- would provide the best, fairest test for both teams.

But conference tournament sites aren't neutral that way. The ACC tournament takes place in Greensboro, and this week it may draw 60,000 fans: it's a neutral site when NC State plays UNC, but probably not if the winner faces Maryland.

The Big Ten tournament takes place in Indianapolis, neutral (or nearly so) if Purdue plays Indiana, but not this week when Indiana plays Iowa. The Big XII's tourney in Oklahoma CIty-- whose ticket packages have sold out, by the way-- isn't neutral when Sooners play Longhorns, nor could it be.

These arenas are fairer than true home sites-- because the "home team" doesn't have familiar sightlines for three-point shooters, for example, and because both teams must travel to the game-- but they still give in-state competitor an advantage no coach and no athlete can erase.

And that's how it has to be, at least for now. Truly neutral sites are by definition sites so far from any of the potential competitors' regional fan bases that nobody's going to have a home-crowd advantage; such sites, in the women's tournament, unfortunately still have trouble filling their seats (unless it's the FInal Four). The current system tries to give such quasi-home sites to the higher seed, while keeping true home games for true hosts (even lower seeds) as long as the hosts make the tournament: it's an awkward compromise, but it may be the best the national tournament can do.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Beth Mowins visits the Falcons in Bowling Green.
Newark's Shabazz High School won't be allowed in the New Jersey state tournament, where the school might well have won.

Apparently the school, which won the state title last year, has played too many regular season games. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association handed down the ban last week.
Jessie predicted it, and I should never have doubted her: UConn didn't just defeat Rutgers-- rather, UConn made Rutgers disappear, turning a 15-0 first-half run into a second-half annihilation.

Each side shut down the other's low post game, but UConn's guards responded: Montgomery 7-11 overall, and Thomas-- whom one might think Rutgers' athletes would shut down-- 4-5 from three-point range.

RU, on the other hand, shot 29%. "There was nothing we could do," admitted coach Stringer.

Before the match, Geno called Rutgers fans "miserable": if they weren't yesterday, they might be now-- many left before game's end.

Montgomery herself was surprised by the ease of the win: "I thought this was going to go down to the buzzer," she said.

UPDATE: UConn had already clinched first place in the Big East; Rutgers' loss, along with the other seven scores from last night's Big East games, fixes the bracket for the conference tournament, which begins play Saturday in Hartford.

Of special note among the seven: bubble team West Virginia surprised ranked Louisville in OT; South Florida took out Seton Hall in Tampa.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Pat Summitt, cheerleader?
Warning: snark alert.

Next time someone uses a low-scoring final to diss women's basketball just say "Ohio State vs. Wisconsin." On Sunday, the two top men's teams met, the Buckeyes emerging victorious, 49-48.

A game like that on the women's side seems to call in to question the sport's right to exist. On the men's side? Words like "stirring" and "tense, gritty" and "physical and fiercely defended are used.

Things that make you go hmmm.....
Officiating seems to be in the news.... Hmmmm... do I smell NCAA tournament and lots of television coverage?

The News-Record has an article chronicling a former player's transformation in to a referee.
She'd like to work bigger conferences -- such as the ACC, which starts its women's basketball tournament in Greensboro on Thursday -- but for now, Fletcher is willing to gut it out in dimly lit gyms where siblings scurry along the baseline; where they play "Disco Duck" during timeouts; and where she and other referees might cool their heels in an equipment closet at halftime.
"You have to start somewhere," she says.
Sports Illustrated has a Q&A with some officials and a piece that shines a spotlight on the day to day working life of an official.
The approximately 1,900 referees who work NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball games dress in locker rooms the size of a closet, endure jeers from fans when they make the right call, catch a few hours of sleep at a hotel, then rise long before the sun does and head for the next packed arena.
Brackets! Get your brackets here (pdf version)!!! Division III brackets, that is....

Before the brackets were released, D3Hoops played "make up your own bracket" using the same criteria the NCAA national committee uses. Fun reading, especially if you want to start preparing for D-I's Selection Monday (14 days and counting.)

The D-III Championship Finals will be in Springfield, MA March 16-17.
The LA Times tells the story of Lisa Leslie's big night in 1990 -- when she scored 101 points in a high school game -- from the other team's point of view.
Old Dominion upset James Madison in Norfolk. The win puts the Monarchs on top of the CAA, at least for now. Sherida Triggs led the Monarchs with 16; Shantel Wilson had nine, including a clutch free throw.

Ranked last week, JMU have now lost two in a row. The close game made a stunning contrast with the teams' last meeting, in Harrisonburg, when JMU won by 29.

ODU's Triggs: ""You can't count us out. You never know what we're going to come up with."
George Washington just barely got past Temple in a well-matched game that won the Colonials the A-Ten title (and made me wish I'd seen more A-Ten ball).

Temple looked more athletic, and controlled the boards. "It just seemed like every time the shot went up all five of them were already in the paint," said GW scorer Sarah Jo Lawrence.

GW, though, took better care of the ball, contained Owls shooter Kamesha Hairston throughout, and executed better towards the end. "They always kept the defender there," Hairston said.

GW also got good minutes from both Adair sisters, and smart work at the end from Kimberly Beck.

Greenberg thinks the close match should give his home team Temple an at-large NCAA bid-- and GW a three or four seed, should they win the A-Ten tournament too.

The only bad news for Colonials fans: Lawrence may have hurt her arm at the end. We'll see if the injury is serious after the conference tourney begins: GW's title gives them a first-round bye.
New Mexico destroyed TCU on Senior Night in the Pit. Four starters reached double figures; Julie Briody had 19.

The win gives the Lobos second place in the Mountain West, behind BYU, and with the same overall record (20-7). Maybe Mark was right: is the MWC a two-bid conference after all?
The Big 10 regular season ended yesterday and several of the middle tier teams went in with a chance to make a statement. Yet only one, Penn State, actually won their game. And yes, it was in Happy Valley where the Lady Lions only lost to Ohio State during the conference season.

The bracket is now set for the conference tourney, which begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Will someone other than the top three teams win it all? That is likely the only way for a fourth Big 10 team to make the NCAA field.
A win in either Berkeley or Palo Alto might have gotten USC into the tournament. The Trojans came maddeningly close both games, but still came away with two losses.

On Thurday, the Trojans blew a late lead and then fell to Cal in overtime. After the game, coach Trakh said, with his usual honesty, "We've got to beat Stanford and get one in the tournament, or we've got to get two in the tournament."

Yesterday, USC again held late leads over Stanford, but again couldn't hold on. They finish with a middling resume... no huge wins, no terrible losses. Will the Committee take note of the early season injuries? (I hope so.)

For the Cardinal, Wiggins sat out to rest her hamstring. She might not play much in the Pac-10 tourney either. "The real key for us is for her to be playing in the NCAA Tournament," TV said.
In the SEC, Tennessee crushed Vandy and finished the conference season undefeated. "Obviously, it wasn't our night," said coach Balcomb. The Vols are #1 in both RPI and SOS. Barring disaster in the SEC tourney, they get a 1 seed.

LSU and Georgia both beat up on league bottom-dwellers. Sylvia Fowles became the first player to get a double-double in every conference game. Asked by Coach Chatman if she knew what she had done, Fowles responded "No, ma'am."

In bubble land... South Carolina beat Mississippi State. Both teams held their own in the uber-tough SEC, but both (especially SC) have dubious nonconference resumes. They need another win (or two?).

Auburn finished its season with a big win over Ole Miss. Armintie Price, on Senior Day, had just 6 points on 2 for 7. The Tigers' RPI is far higher than the league's other bubble teams... but do they really deserve it, or is this just another example of the RPI going haywire?
The final score was closer than the first time the two teams met. And North Carolina shot the ball a little better and played better than in the first match-up. But the end result was the same as it's been all season long for Duke as they downed UNC 67-62. The Blue Devils finish the regular season 29-0, a first in ACC women's basketball history.

It was Senior Day in Durham and Alison Bales and Lindsey Harding led a solid team effort. They were the top scorers with 16 and 15 points, but Abby Waner added 13 and some key steals down the stretch and Joy Cheek did a nice job on the boards, collecting 14 rebounds.

Going in many were interested in the re-match at the point guard position. After the game, it was the Bales-Larkins match-up that had people talking. "Erlana's a great player," Bales said. "I think that our game plan worked pretty good against her -- she still had 19 rebounds and 18 points. That just shows how good of a player she is, because we were really focused on her."

While the game was officially a sell-out, Voepel was not among the Cameron Crazies. Weather kept her in D.C. and watching the game on TV. That did not stop her from writing a great report on the game.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's high school tournament time in many states; in Louisiana, observers say the game is improving.

High school coach Steve McDowell, whose proteges include Morenike Atunrase: "Even before I started coaching, you'd hear young kids talking about wanting to play for the Lady Techsters. There are certainly a lot more opportunities available now, with Division I, II, III and NAIA schools offering teams. That has had an impact."
The Sun Devils now have twenty-six wins, their most ever-- but they didn't look so good as they got there: the pressure-driven, defensive-minded team had a hard time scoring against not-so-good in-state rival Arizona, and settled for a shockingly close win.

ASU led by one with 15 seconds to go. Sun Devils coach Turner Thorne: ""It's not very smart to run an offense with four people staring at the ball.That's basically what these fans had to watch today.... We weren't distorting [Arizona's] zone and creating gaps for ourselves."
Other developments in midmajor land: Green Bay are looking good again, having secured a Horizon League reg-season title by defeating Butler on Senior Night. Three seniors scored 19, 18 and 16.

Middle Tennessee canned Florida Atlantic for another Senior Night home win: WNBA prospect Givens scored 31 (but took 25 shots); Krystle Horton scored 27 (and took 14).

Middle-- unlike this year's other noted midmajors-- has a recent history of winning NCAA tournament games; Nashville's City Paper takes up the Blue Raiders' cause.

As for George Washington-- is the A-Ten even considered a mid-major in these parity-rich days?-- the Colonials contend with Temple at 2pm Eastern today; the winner takes the A-Ten reg-season title. You can get ready for the Duke-UNC showdown, if you so choose, by watching the A-Ten matchup on CSTV.
Bad day in Bowling Green: the ranked Falcons lost, 67-70, to Ohio University (not to be confused with Ohio State). The visiting Bobcats pulled ahead in the final minutes and shot 13-14 from the line.

The loss snaps multi-year winning streaks at home and against MAC opponents, and may kick the Falcons right out of the polls. BGSU's season is probably good enough to land an at-large bid (best wins: Delaware, Temple, Indiana) but given what happened to Gonzaga two years ago, the Falcons have a much better reason to win the MAC tourney now.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

For years Duke students have camped out ("tented") in order to get student-section tickets to men's games. In advance of Sunday's showdown against UNC, the Dukies have formed a tent city for their women's team. ESPN's Lauren Reynolds picked up the story Friday; today it hit NPR.

Dukie Ben Cohen explores Goestenkorsopolis before Sunday's game, shown on ESPN (not ESPN2) at 4pm Eastern.

A win tomorrow would give Duke an undefeated reg-season-- and, barring true oddities in the ACC tournament, an overall number one seed, which could let the Blue Devils stay in their home state until the Final Four. Voepel previews the ACC's biggest game.
At SI.com, Richard Deitsch puts Mowins and Antonelli in his media power rankings: "a pair of announcers who do their homework."
When the selection, seeding and bracketing of this year's Division I Championships come out, you can bet a significant discussion will center on "neutral sites," the lack of them and how the tournament is moving (slowly) towards them, the unfair advantage certain teams gets, etc. The main argument against neutral sites is that the women's fan base won't support them. Yet.

Which begs the question -- if the tournament is about matching up the best teams, do we care if there are fans in the stands? Why? For the look on TV? For the revenue they generate? For the energy (and witness) they offer the players?

Consider last week's decision by the Missouri Valley Conference: they'll be moving their post-season tournament to a neutral site in 2008. Conference schools have hosted the tournament, often guaranteeing good attendance and a nice bit of change.
Patty Viverito, senior associate commissioner for the Valley, admitted while making Tuesday's announcement that it will take years to build the tournament in the St. Louis area, much like it did with the men's when it started at Kiel Auditorium in 1991.

But in the interest of legitimizing the postseason tournament —and the conference —a move was necessary.
The Associated Press follows up on Thursday's night 5OT match between Drexel and Northeastern, the longest DI women's hoops game ever. Just 250 people saw the game: how many will later claim they were there?

Northeastern forward Shaleyse Smallwood, who led her team in minutes and in scoring: "I didn't have class today, thank God."

Drexel guard Gabriela Marginean, who led her team to the win: "I thought I was going to be really tired. But I wasn't -- I was so excited we won."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Miki Turner interviews Mystics owner Sheila Johnson in a Black History Month tribute. Johnson on the W:
It's probably the hardest business out there. And the reason why it's so hard is trying to convince corporate sponsors and fans that we've got to support women in sports. It's a very difficult task because for some reason people, and even fans, don't believe in the product. They say they do, but when it comes to putting their money where their heart is, it's not there.
Via Paul: the longest game in the history of NCAA women's hoops took place last night in Philly, where homestanding Drexel needed five overtimes to beat lowly Northeastern.

The Dragons got the eventual W behind Gabriela Marginean's 47 points; the first-year fouled out in the fourth OT. The CAA game also included eight lead changes, 46 three-point attempts, and very few fast breaks.

The Dragons' reward? A trip to dangerous Delaware.
Just because your formal basketball is over doesn't mean you should stop playing. And just because you never had the chance to play formal basketball doesn't mean you can't play now.

Adult rec leagues might be the fastest growing segment of women's basketball right now. And here is a website set up to help folks find a league and a team.
Just when Michigan State appeared to be on a roll with recent wins over Purdue and Ohio State, they lose on the road to Illinois 56-46. Alyssa DeHaan could not repeat her dominating performance in Columbus and finished with 8 points on 3-8 shooting.

Theresa Grentz used her college-age son in practice to help her team prepare for DeHaan and the Illini relied on balanced scoring and a key 15-0 in the first half to take control of the game. Illinois earned its first win over a ranked opponent this season and clinched at least a tie for fourth place in the conference.

In other Big 10 games, it was the final home game for some notable seniors. Jessica Davenport scored 26 and underclassmen Ashley Trebilcock and Star Allen both had career highs as the Buckeyes downed Penn State 78-61. While the Lady Lions were winless on the road in the Big 10 this season, it was a nice ending on the home court for the Buckeye seniors. OSU clinched at least a share of the Big 10 title with the win.

Senior Sarah McKay led five players with double figures as Indiana cruised to a 83-59 win over Northwestern in their final home game. The Wildcats outscored the Hoosiers by three in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome a 49-22 halftime deficit.

Katie Gearlds and Erin Lawless also closed their home careers in style with a dominating 76-52 win over Iowa. Gearlds finished with 28 points and 4 steals and Lawless had 18 points and a career high 13 boards for the Boilers. "That was the perfect ending," Gearlds said.

It was not as perfect for Kelly Roysland in her final regular season appearance at the Barn. The senior spent most of the second half on the bench with an ice pack on her shoulder after a collision with Stephanie Skrba from Michigan. Luckily for Gopher fans, the injury does not seem to be serious and the Gophers got solid games from Leslie Knight, Brittany McCoy and Emily Fox in Roysland's absence and a 66-53 win.

Confused about who will emerge from the crowded middle of the conference? Paul breaks down the many different scenarios for the seedings in the Big 10 tourney depending on the outcomes of Sunday's games.
You want upsets? We got upsets, upsets here...

In the CAA, Delaware upset ranked James Madison by preserving an early lead: senior Tyresa Smith scored 32-- yes, thirty-two-- and Blue Hen teammate Chrissy Fisher 22.

Delaware coach Tina Martin: "Our kids really came to play and our crowd was incredible... Everything we wanted to do gameplan-wise we did. We executed and we shared the ball. Tyresa is the best guard to ever put on a Delaware uniform."

Delaware's neat record got attention in December: they beat Kentucky, but lost to Boston College (who have since looked bad in the tough ACC) and to now-ranked Bowling Green.

In the SEC, Vandy upset LSU. Vandy gained the home win with a late run; Vandy's Carla Thomas scored 23. Dee Davis, who loves assists, had eight of those.

It was the perpetually good, yet perpetually overshadowed, Commodores' first top-ten triumph in a while. Thomas: "I think we're capable of a lot more."

They need to be: how tough is the SEC? Beating LSU-- the number seven team in the country-- puts Vanderbilt in third behind Georgia and Tennessee. Coach Pokey's team have now lost three of four; that's what happens when you play Connecticut and Tennessee in one eight-day stretch.

Underdogs' Senior Nights are good for upsets, for understandable emotional reasons. What would have been the biggest upset of all didn't quite take place on Senior Night in Fayetteville. Arkansas took Tennessee to overtime, but couldn't hang on.

The Razorbacks' Domnique Washington sank seven threes, one of which forced the extra period. "I thought if I had the chance it was going in," she said.

How tough is the SEC? Arkansas won all their nonconference games except a matchup with North Carolina, but are now 3-11 in SEC play and probably won't make the Big Dance. And yet Tennessee needed OT to beat them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More moves in the WNBA...
Trader Bill found a new home for Ruth Riley in San Antonio. In return, the Shock bring in MI native Katie Feenstra and have the option to trade first round picks with the Silver Stars in 2008.
Lots of action in the Big XII, but only one result you might call an upset: historically-bad Oklahoma State knocked down historically-very-good Texas in Austin. Cowgirls PG Andrea Riley, who shot 8-17, led the come-from-behind win.

OK State coach Budke on Riley: "You're looking at the Big 12 Freshman of the Year right here; it's not even close. I wouldn't trade her for any point guard in this league."

In Voepelland, Mizzou took out K-State behind Eetisha Riddle's double-double. The Tigers led at the half; the Wildcats made it a one-possession game near the end, but couldn't close the deal.

Mizzou coach Cindy Stein: "You have to respect Kansas State’s offense a lot. It takes a lot of experience to defend them."

Elsewhere in the Big XII, all the ranked teams won, though Oklahoma had to work to beat Kansas; the Sooners stayed on track despite 56% free-throw shooting, including Courtney Paris' 8-16.
More details now on the WNBA-in-Atlanta campaign. Backers and boosters want ATL fans to promise they will purchase season tickets; the promise involves no money transaction, just a free show of support.

Fans can follow the campaign at this new site; to pledge online, click here.
A quick round-up of the polls -- Bowdoin is perched at #1 in the Division III poll, and yes, you NYU Violets, we see you there at #4. Florida Gulf Coast held on to the #1 position in Division II, and Duke is the unanimous DI top team.

A thought as March Madness approaches: if the D-I tournament is not in your area, I highly recommend checking out the D-2 and D-3 action. Need information? Check out these sites: D2Basketball.com and D3Hoops.com -- they've got everything you need to become an instant expert.
USA Today's Christine Brennan devotes her latest column to the remarkable Kay Yow.

The coach explains why she is back on the sidelines after her two month absence in her battle against cancer. "Coaching lifts me up. Once the ball is tossed up, I forget pretty much about everything and just focus on the game. If I just do nothing, I feel like I'm giving in to the disease."
Well, it's about bloody time: Wimbeldon agrees to equal prize money.
Coach Thibault says Taj asked for the L.A. trade: why? It could be the weather. It could be the sense of accomplishment: Taj has done everything she can do for the Sun short of actually winning a ring, and she could be looking for new challenges, or for the chance to play alongside the Claw.

It could be time, money, and attention: Taj will finish her career on a team that, without Leslie, can pay Taj top dollar, and could ask her to start every game.

Or it could be Taj's college-age daughter, who lives in Arizona for most of the year. Mother and daughter could be much closer this way.

Sun fans ask: who is Erika da Souza? The Brazilian post is currently tearing things up in Spain. She didn't do much in her summer with the Sparks-- but at the time she was only 20 years old.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In the first big transaction of the off-season, Taj McWilliams-Franklin is headed to L.A. The Sun get the Sparks first round pick (#12) and Erika De Souza.

The Sun also announced they signed free agent Kristen Rasmussen to a three year deal.

In other signings today, the Lynx made it official with Svetlana Abrosimova. And Sandora Irvin has been traded to San Antonio for a 2008 second round draft pick.
The Sports Guy Bill Simmons is ESPN.com's flagship columnist. He is probably the world's most influential sports writer. He is also the world's leading WNBA basher. In his recent post-ASG column, he took his usual shots at the league.

Let me concede that the NBA's attempts to market the W at the All-Star Game are ham-handed. Let me also concede that the "Shooting Stars" competition is sorta lame. (Sorry, coach.) Let me also concede the larger point: that the WNBA is open to legitimate criticism on a number of levels.

But with Simmons, something else is going on. You need only read his writing occasionally to see what it is.

In the Sports Guy's world, there are two kinds of women: hot chicks and fat chicks. Women appear in his writing only so that he can continue the eternal process of sorting them into one category or the other.

On women in Vegas: "Remember when Britney and Christina Aguilera ushered in the Let's Dress Like Hookers Era, and attractive women across America stopped wearing bras -- and eventually, underwear -- followed by every married guy over 30 kicking themselves that they sowed their oats in the Let's Wear Baggy Sweaters, Eat & Be Scared of AIDS Era? Well, like with all great eras, there's been a massive backlash. Now women of all shapes and sizes wear clothes they shouldn't be wearing, which means you're about 100,000 times more likely to see saggy butt checks, exposed pot bellies, flabby arms and love handles than you were in 2001. It's legitimately, unequivocally horrifying -- a full-fledged onslaught against every man's libido."

On women at the ASG: "Every ovulating groupie within a 12-hour vicinity will be making the weekend drive to Vegas to hopefully get impregnated by an NBA player -- a list that includes every hooker, stripper and jock-sniffing female between 16 and 40 ... To its credit, the NBA is recommending that all players wear two condoms at once, even during the day and when they're sleeping."

On the Dixie Chicks at the Grammys: "The two pretty ones are wearing black cocktail dresses; the semi-chubby one is wearing a white dress with a fluffy bottom."

On Fergie: "I saw Fergie at the Celebrity Go-Kart Race last week and she was so unimpressive, my friends and I argued about whether she was one of the top 1,000 attractive famous females on the way home."

On post-Superbowl parties: "Maxim's party had less body heat, more booze, more bimbos."

On Kournikova: "There hasn't been anything quite like her before or since: a blonde, bosomy Russian with killer legs and a perpetual pout. She was prettier than most supermodels."

On South Beach: "Beautiful women. Jaw-dropping, even. I used to think that 85 percent of all the beautiful women live in Southern California, but I'm dropping that down to 75 percent because I didn't realize how many of them were here."

These are just a few examples from the last couple weeks. Go back through Simmons's archives. Pick a random column. It's better than 50-50 that you'll find more of the same.

All of this puts his WNBA hatred in context. His criticism of the W has nothing to do with fairness or money or basketball or sports. It is motivated by something much simpler: puerile misogyny.

And he isn't alone.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sara Lipka has an excellent article on the practice player issue. Lipka attended a Maryland practice. She describes how the scout players are used:
At any point, six women are playing and two are on the sidelines. They switch in and out frequently, calling each other's names: "I got you, Aurelie." Several say they like the quick rotations, because subbing out gives them a chance to get a drink.

"You're grateful for those breaks," says Laura Harper, a starting forward. "With the guys, the intensity goes up, so you need more subs."

Players also say practicing with a male scout team lets them play hard enough to improve their game. "When we're playing against each other, we don't want to hurt each other," says Harper. "We're not going to be as aggressive. But when we're playing against the guys, it doesn't matter."
Elsewhere, Weber State coach Carla Taylor supports a ban. “If some [teams] do it and others don't, that's not an even playing field. To me, it takes away from practice opportunities for women, and that's not right.”

Florida players disagree. So do Syracuse players. So do Oregon players. So do Pitt and Penn State players.

What will happen? Duquesne coach Dan Durkin predicts some "compromise" regulation. "It will be determined based on some scientific goulash."

Durkin has a better idea: "I think coaches should ask their teams if they want male practice players. If the players are OK with it, then it should be OK."
Marquette couldn't hold on to a lead in New Jersey; the Golden Whatsits lost to Seton Hall. Krystal Ellis and Christina Quaye combined for 40, but their teammates combined to shoot 8-46.

Seton Hall this year won seven games in a row after dropping five straight: losing to UMass might keep them from Madness this March, but home games could make the Hall a danger in the WNIT.

Marquette could still finish second in the Big East, since their remaining opponents are St. John's and USF; Rutgers, in second now, has a rematch with UConn.

Last night RU doubled up poor Providence; the humble Friars shot under 31%.
The Grannies of basketball go one-on-one with the Old Gray Lady.

What on earth has gotten in to Tom Jolly and the New York Times? Do they realize they're writing about, well, you know, female athletes?
Will this be the second year in a row that Texas does not make the NCAA tourney? They are first and second round hosts and have wins over Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Purdue. But they are also on a four game losing streak and 5-8 in the Big XII. Tonight they play host to Oklahoma State.

And despite the up and down season and the post season uncertainty, Jody Conradt still loves what she is doing and has no plans to retire anytime soon and believes her team is one of the top 64 in the country. But she knows that if her team wants in "we better start playing."
Tina Charles did a number on South Florida in Tampa: Charles had 34 and 17, a new high for her, as the Huskies clinched a Big East title.

USF played fast and smart but couldn't handle UConn in the paint. Houston on Charles: "She was really focused in her warm-ups. You could look in her eyes and tell that she was going to dominate."

Houston herself reached the 1K points milestone by tallying 18 and 10. USF post Malini Miller shot 7-16, almost all after halftime, but UConn held high-profile scorer Jessica Dickson to just two second-half points.
On Senior Night in Ames, Iowa State took apart ranked Nebraska. Seniors Ronhovde and Medders led the attack; guard Medders-- a likely late draft pick or training-camp invite-- nearly had a triple-double.

Iowa State and Nebraska now stand fourth and fifth in the conference: the Cyclones have also defeated Texas A&M. Do they have a Big Dance bid sewn up?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Via Kelli, Fort Wayne journalist Stacy Clardie looks at coaches' intentional technicals.

Purdue's coach Versyp: “I’m not one who needs them too much. But in certain games, if your kids are a little flat and things aren’t going well, that really gets them going."

Officials ask: when shouldn't a ref give a T?
UConn fans celebrate the Huskies' climb in the polls: they're now #3, the highest spot since the Taurasi years, and they can clinch a Big East reg-season title (another post-Taurasi first) by beating South Florida tonight.

USF are 7-5 since the New Year, with their best win a thumping of Louisville; the Bulls will likely set a new attendance record.

Geno, perhaps with a bit of sarcasm somewhere: ""The juniors deserve [a Big East reg-season title] because they've been through a lot here. Two years, they've had to suffer through 25 wins and 32 wins and just feel miserable. Who would have thought they'd go to college and only win 25 and only win 32 in their first two years and win two Big East tournament championships? Nobody deserves a fate like that."
More on the group interested in bringing the WNBA to Atlanta.

City Council President Lisa Borders says this is the right time for the city to pursue this despite the low attendance for the Hawks and the fact that the ABL's Atlanta Glory did not survive.
20 Questions with Ivory Latta:

#19. What else do people not know about you?
Pretty much everything is out there. The way I am on court is the way I am off court. Wait, how about this? I love to ride dirt bikes.
If Western Kentucky still had a chance yesterday at an at-large bid, they don't have one now. WKU lost to North Texas in Denton. Crystal Kelly scored 25, but the Hilltoppers allowed UNT to shoot 52% from the floor.

WKU are unlikely to win the Sun Belt conference-- they'd have to get past Middle Tennessee; if that happens, though, the Sun Belt becomes a two-bid conference, and WKU could surprise somebody in March.
Tennessee contained Fowles, LSU couldn't quite contain Parker, and the Vols clinched an SEC title in a well-played defense-first contest in Baton Rouge.

Candace finished with 27 and 13, Fowles with 18 and 16; LSU trailed at the half, tied it up twice late, but couldn't pull ahead.

Tennessee's usual second options (Spencer from outside, for example) struggled, but the Vols found offense in odd places: Dominique Redding, for example, scored late.

LSU, on the other hand, kept trying to get the ball to Fowles; their comeback came mostly in transitions, and they didn't find quite enough.

Coach Pokey: "“You work so hard to force a shot, get a body on somebody, grab the rebound and block out. We gave up two offensive boards late in the game that we are in position to have an advantage and one cost us a three. You cannot have those type efforts and expect to be in the ball game with Tennessee."
Nebraska is on a two game losing streak after briefly holding a tie for first place in the Big XII.

But the work that Connie Yori and players like Kiera Hardy and Kelsey Griffin have done to turn the program around will likely lead to the first NCAA tourney berth for the Huskers since 1999.

Nebraska will look to rebound in an important match-up tonight in Ames against ISU. For the Cyclones, it's Senior Night for Lyndsey Medders, Megan Ronhovde and Abby Reinert.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Michigan State upset Ohio State, breaking the Buckeyes' thirty-game conference win streak and likely denying OSU a number one overall seed.

The game remained in doubt until the end, when MSU's DeHaan put back an Aisha Jefferson miss, and OSU's Packer missed a final jump shot. The frosh DeHaan (25 points, 5 blocks) outplayed the senior Davenport (16 points, one block): I'd pick the Spartans over the Buckeyes next year.

State's Rene Haynes: "My whole team, we wanted it so bad. You always have to fight to the end."
More on the Mountain West: Utah got killed in Fort Worth: TCU scored 17 of the first 18 points. TCU's Adrianne Ross scored 22.

The Horned Frogs leap into second place in the conference; they're also undefeated at home.

Reader Mark E. says we need to stop dissing New Mexico, who-- like TCU-- could make a case for an at-large bid, even though Creme and others project the MWC with just one team.

He has a point. UNM's nonconference record isn't that bad-- three losses, all to ranked or later-to-be-ranked teams-- and the win over Texas looks better now than it did then: we'll see what the committee thinks of losses to Wyoming and to Utah, and, of course, how the Lobos do from now on.
Nothing unexpected in SEC play yesterday.

Led by 20 off the bench from Hardrick, Georgia beat Auburn. Auburn fell to 4-8 in conference play. "I don't feel like teams in the SEC are better than us," said Tigers guard Whitney Boddie. "We just don't finish games. I don't know if it's a poise or composure thing." With two losses this week, Auburn's NCAA hopes may have flamed out, RPI nothwithstanding.

Vandy had no trouble with South Carolina. "Vanderbilt's execution is the best I think I've seen in college women's basketball," said Gamecocks coach Susan Walvius. Caroline Williams had a career-high 26 points, mostly from outside.

In the race for the cellar, Alabama won by losing to Florida.

Ole Miss beat Miss State in OT. Alexis Rack and Armintie Price had a nasty, bloody, head-to-head collision in the second half. Both ended up ok; Price won the game with a catch-and-shoot in OT.

She also became just the fifth player to amass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 300 assists, and 300 steals. (Others: Miller, Holdsclaw, Catchings, and Young.)
ASU knocked off UCLA at Pauley to complete the SoCal sweep. Briann January has a career game with 22 points, 9 assists, and 6 steals.

UCLA was already out of postseason contention. Yesterday's loss simply added insult. "It's been a tough season," said coach Olivier. "We're just up and down, and we've been very inconsistent. We did a great job on the boards, yet you can't turn the ball over 24 times and expect to win."

It was likely a depressing Senior Day for Noelle Quinn. Another loss, small crowd, her team far out of contention... not what she expected when she chose to play for the Bruins.

ASU sits a half game (one in the loss column) behind Stanford, but the two won't play again in the regular season.
Duke lost Monique Currie, Mistie Williams, and Jessica Foley from last season's team. Chante Black has not been able to play due to an injury. They have the toughest conference schedule of the projected top three in the ACC. Yet, the Blue Devils are still undefeated after visiting Maryland and nearly 18,000 fans at the Comcast Center and downing the Terps 69-57.

A major reason for the win yesterday and the 28-0 record is Lindsey Harding. The senior reached a new career high with 29 and had Terps coach Brenda Frese declaring post-game, "If Lindsey Harding isn't the Player of the Year, I don't know who is." Maryland had prepared to defend Harding's drives to the basket, but did not have an answer for her seemingly endless supply of mid-range pull up jumpers.

Crystal Langhorne led the Terps with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but senior Shay Doron did not have the last game at the Comcast she would have liked, with four points and four fouls. The DC BasketCases have some photos of the game and the Senior Day ceremony for Doron and a nice tribute for Doron and Aurelie Noirez.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The LA Times has an interesting article that calls in to question "one of the great American axioms: Sports builds character, instilling the values of teamwork and good sportsmanship."
The latest two-year study of high school athletes by the Josephson Institute found a higher rate of cheating in school among student-athletes than among their classmates. It also found a growing acceptance of cheating to gain advantages in competition.

Josephson's report, based on interviews across the country with 5,275 high school athletes, concluded that too many coaches are "teaching our kids to cheat and cut corners."
Among the major conferences the Big XII has become the least predictable. Last night Mizzou, which remains below .500 in conference play, took out Nebraska, which had been tied for first. Tiger posts Savant and Riddle led the attack with 17 and 16.

Texas A&M, tied for first last week, needed Takia Starks' buzzer-beater to get past another team below .500 in conference play, Oklahoma State: the Cowgirls have lost twice to A&M, by one possession each time.

The Sooners-- who swept the conference last year-- had problems to solve as of last week: after three losses in four tries, coach Coale replaced her veteran backcourt with underclassfolks.

Result: a blowout victory over Texas, and a hard-fought win yesterday at Texas Tech. Frosh PG Jenna Plumley, who led her Cheyenne-Arapaho team to national titles in Native American tourneys, looked great: 22 points, 6-8 from downtown.

Her Sooners needed every one: TTU tied things up with seconds to go, but Plumley's final trey gave OU the win. Courtney Paris had the usual (18 and 16).

Despite last week's hiccups, OU's success has been inspiring girls in the state: the Big XII conference tournament in Oklahoma City has sold plenty of tickets by now.
No, we haven't been deliberately ignoring the Mountain West. It's just that the team with the best record has six losses, and last year's best team depended on the great seniors who left (some in the pro draft).

Moreover, the MWC team with the most fan support had a less-than-stellar nonconference season, and had to work hard last night to beat Air Force-- though the Lobos have won seven in a row.

In other words-- and with no disrespect to very good coaches like Flanagan and Elliott-- it might be a one-bid conference. If there's a second bid, it might just get decided today, when Utah meets TCU in Fort Worth.

The winner moves into second place in the conference, at least for now. TCU still has to visit New Mexico; both UU and TCU have games remaining against Wyoming and BYU.

UNM, by the way, has an active, articulate fan board: MWC fans should be reading it now.
I might have to stop voting for Green Bay in the fan poll: teams with great W-L records who dominate less powerful conferences-- such as Wisconsin-Green Bay, Middle Tennessee and Bowling Green-- tell you how they're likely to do in March not by whether they beat their conference opponents, but by how decisively they beat them.

UWGB remain unbeaten in the Horizon League, but last night they nearly lost to sub-.500 Cleveland State. Green Bay's Soulis and Porath scored 17 each; Soulis blocked a shot that would have tied it.

Coach Borseth on his team's narrow escape: "We had great looks, but just couldn't make them. Momentum was a lot in this game - they made a bunch of baskets in a row and we missed."

As for Middle Tennessee, they've now won twenty games in a row, most of the Sun Belt games by enormous margins. Thursday, though, they beat FIU, in Tennessee, by just seven; WNBA prospect Givens ended up with 17 and 9.

Bowling Green, on the other hand, continue to flatten their conference opponents: last night they nearly doubled up Buffalo to clinch a share of the MAC title. Guard Megan Thorburn led everyone with 22, including six three-pointers.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

From Voepel, some background on NCSU coach Kay Yow, filed just in time for last night's signature victory.

Voepel: "There was something frontier-style wonderful about women's college basketball in the 1970s. What seems like so little now was so much then. And Yow was right in the thick of it."

Yow herself, on her medical status and her decision to return to the court: "I have Stage 4 cancer. I'm taking major chemo. There is nothing that assures me that next year I could do it any more than I could now."
The Wolfpack brought the house down in Raleigh, crushing UNC during the year's most surprising first half, and then holding on for the win.

Before the game, NCSU renamed the women's hoops court for Kay Yow, the longtime, much-celebrated coach who returned to the hardwood earlier this year after time off to fight recurrent breast cancer. Fans wore pink to support her on Senior Night.

No wonder the Wolfpack started strong; they led by 26 at one point, by 19 at the half, and dug in even though Gillian Goring fouled out. Keisha Brown led NCSU with 16.

Latta had another lousy night: 5-21, 0-8 from downtown. UNC came within one possession late, but never retook the lead. Coach Hatchell: "We just got too far in the hole."

It's the second startling ACC upset this month, and should confuse the polls: is Tennessee everyone's number two now? (Probably.)

In Raleigh, there's no confusion at all. The court dedication "meant a lot," said NCSU's Sasha Reaves, "and I think we came out and showed that by the way we played."
Husky great Shea Ralph will be honored at today's UConn/Pittsburgh game. Now a Panthers assistant coach, she couldn't attend December's "Huskies of Honor" ceremony beause of coaching commitments.

As a player, Ralph battled anorexia and multiple ACL tears through her college career, yet earned 2000 Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors. Her senior year was cut short by a third ACL tear during the Big East Tournament Finals against Notre Dame -- a game famously won on a last-second pull-up by Sue Bird. "I'm on crutches and I have a brace on my knee," recalled Ralph.
They don't have to tell me what's wrong because I already know. I had come out to watch the end of the game on the bench. Sue hits a shot and we beat Notre Dame for the championship. Sue came right over to me, hugged me, and said, 'That was for you.' To me, it was the perfect ending."
Carolyn Peck and the SEC are the focus of Deb Antonelli's Q & A this week.
More from the west coast on male practice players. Surprise! the coaches sound peeved.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Speaking of Oregon: UO's student newspaper has a nifty profile of Eleanor Haring, the quiet Australian Institute of Sport alum who has become the Ducks' team leader, and who gave them what they needed last night.

Is Haring a WNBA prospect? Assistant coach Phil Brown, who also taught her at the AIS: "The talent's there... There's certain things that she'd need to really work on in a concentrated period of time - three, four months to really get herself into a position where she could be effective."

How did Haring end up at UO? Ducks head coach Bev Smith says Brown "sent a tape and we saw a couple moves and we're like, 'Wow'.... We saw her turnaround jumper and we saw some things offensively that it was like, 'OK, this lady needs to be a Duck.'"
Milestone watch: Wittenberg's head coach Pam Smith won her 400th game -- becoming just the 21st active women's basketball coach at the NCAA Division III level to do so. Since taking over in 1986-87, Smith has been named seven-time NCAC Coach of the Year seven times, while guiding the Tigers to twelve 20-win seasons, eight appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament and 11 NCAC regular season championships.
Georgia needed overtime in Kentucky. Tasha Humphrey led everybody with 28; UK's Mahoney had 23, UK center Elliott 17 and 7.

Why do the Wildcats have so many one-possession or overtime games?
In last night's only upset from the Left Coast, Oregon walked all over Cal-Berkeley in Eugene. The blowout gives the Ducks more wins than they had all last year.

Cal's Devanei Hampton scored 27-- more than half her team's points; Eleanor Haring had 17 for the winners.

Haring: "When we needed to get the intensity going, we got it."
The defending champs won a scrappy, sloppy game on national TV in Tallahassee.

FSU led at the half; foul trouble hurt both teams in the paint. Tolliver's jump shots (6-10, 2-5 from downtown) led the comeback.

'Noles coach Semrau, whose team showed great fan support: "It was a disappointing game... We had been doing such a nice job rebounding and tonight they really took us out of our rhythm on the boards."

Coach Frese: "We needed to play with a lot more energy."

As the Basket Cases point out, last year's Terps also had days of close, grinding wins-- otherwise they wouldn't have been so closely associated with overtime.
Purdue had trouble, believe it or not, at Michigan. The Wolverines, who have been stunningly bad for a couple of years, led with four and change to go, but Katie Gearlds' late scoring saved the day. Gearlds finished with 21, Michigan's Benson with 15.

Earlier, Gearlds and Lawless led a team meeting: their loss to State has made a Big Ten reg-season title near-impossible, but the Boilers want their mojo back by tournament time.

Gearlds: "We've had some individuals playing well but we haven't played well as a unit in a long time."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The reaction to John Amaechi's coming out has been interesting, to say the least, as Marie Hardin over a "Sports, Media & Society" notes.

One little tidbit, though, in Adrian Wojnarowski's piece about Tim Hardaway's "I hate gays" rant caught my eye (thanks Kim):
In the East, there's a college basketball coach who has a reputation for telling recruits that an opposing bachelor coach is gay. He's done it to different coaches, and his warped thinking to the kids is unmistakable: Go play for those guys and run the risk of him trying to get into your shorts.

Of course, there are gay college basketball coaches, and only an idiot would believe that leaves his players vulnerable to some kind of inappropriate advances. Homosexuality doesn't translate into predatory behavior anymore than heterosexuality does. And this coach is supposed to be an educator, a molder of men. As long as there are coaches conducting themselves that way, there promises to be another generation of Hardaways spit up through the system.
Wait, so you mean negative recruiting isn't just a problem in the women's game? Maybe the men should follow the women's lead this time and have the NCAA host a panel to address negative recruiting on the men's side.
The Lynx trade Adrian Williams to the Monarchs.

Sacto get a hardworking post and one-time All-Star; Minnesota get a late second-round pick and, more important, cap room.
The race for the Big XII title got a lot more interesting after some upsets and close games last night. There is now a four way tie for first place in the conference.

In Ames, Iowa State knocked off Texas A&M 61-54. The Cyclones were only 2-12 from 3 point range, but used strong post games from Nicky Wieben and Toccara Ross and solid free throw shooting to earn the win. A 14-1 run by ISU in the second half broke open a tight game. Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said, "We had a plan, and they executed it perfectly."

In Lincoln, Texas Tech survived a rally by Nebraska and pulled out another close win, 70-69. Tech connected on eight 3 pointers and had five players in double figures. The Huskers had three chances to tie or win the game, including two free throw attempts by super soph Kelsey Griffin. “I know I can make free throws. It’s been something I’ve been working on, so it’s just more frustration than blame,” she said.

The conference game on t.v. also went down to the wire as Colorado scored a season sweep of Kansas State with a 60-58 win. Kansas native Jackie McFarland led the Buffs with 18 and 9 and freshman Candice Rucker hit two free throws with 6.1 seconds left to seal the victory.

Voepel missed the game in Manhattan as she was in Lawrence for the KU-MU game. The Tigers topped the Jayhawks for their first conference road win, 67-57. And Baylor stayed in the race for the Big XII title defeating Oklahoma State 75-66. Mosby and Tisdale paced the Lady Bears with 21 and 15.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Recycled: Mary Jo meets Emily Niemann after the '05 title game.
Press conference in Houston today, official Karleen Thompson announcement.
Malcolm Moran has a candid profile of Emily Nkosi, formerly Emily Niemann, who transferred from Baylor after their championship in 2005.

Nkosi is now attending the University of Massachusetts and has not picked up a basketball since last fall. She was married last August to her partner, Angela, a former grad student at Baylor.
USA Today's Dick Patrick and Joanne Whiteside tackle seven hot topics in the college game/

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The USA Today/ESPN Division I poll finds Duke as a unanimous #1. North Carolina, Tenneseee, Connecticut and Ohio State round out the top five.

People have been taking notice of Texas A&M (#16) and Middle Tennessee (#18) but there are some others that definitely deserve a look. For instance, how about George Washington (#9), Bowling Green (#17) and Nebraska (#20)?

The top five shuffled places in the Division II poll: Undefeated Florida Gulf Coast sits atop, followed by North Dakota, Missouri Western State, Washburn and Southern Connecticut State.

An interesting little tidbit recently uncovered. Unlike Division I, the NCAA offers a Regional Rankings that lists the top ten teams in regions across the country. This week's rankings lay out as follows: East: Glenville State. Great Lakes: Lewis. North Central: North Dakotal. Northeast: Southern Connecticut State. South: Florida Gulf Coast. South Atlantic: Clayton State. South Central: Missouri Western State. West: UC San Diego.

It's these regions, not the nationwide poll, that determines who participates in the first two round of the DII championships.

Bowdin stayed at #1 in the Division III poll. Calvin College and Messiah College are #2 and #3, while Payne College University (TX) broke into the top five, landing at #4. Hope College slipped a spot to #5.

Speaking of Division III, talk that's been bubbling around Division III for the last few months -- the possiblity of splitting the Division into two parts -- surfaced in an extensive article in today's New York Times (a great read if you're unfamiliar with DIII).

DIII, mostly made up of small colleges that don't offer athletic scholarships, has seen a huge growth in membership (now at 420). Schools range in enrollment for 400 to 40,000 and on the playing field, and that can create (perceived) mismatches between institutions -- thus the current discussion.
The result could be a new Division IV or a sub-division with a lesser designation. At many Division III institutions, athletics is a leading admissions recruiting tool that has been credited with raising retention rates. Any real or perceived de-emphasis of sports could diminish applicant pools or cause prospective students to decline admission offers — major factors used in the powerful U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Plenty of reprecussions to ponder -- not the least of which might be the impact on NAIA which, notes a parallel Times article, has lost more than 125 members to the NCAA in the 80's and 90's. Don't know much about NAIA? Check out a short history here.

As for this week's top NAIA teams? In Division I, it's undefeated Vanguard (20-0). Division II is still ruled by undefeated Indiana Welsleyan (28-0).

For some high school news, check in with Christopher Lawlor over at USA Today or with Clay at Sports Illustrated and Full Court Press.