Women's Hoops Blog: March 2008

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Monday, March 31, 2008

No surprise: Louisville's Jeff Walz has been named the Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year.
"This season we had an outstanding group of fresh faces at the helm on many Division I programs, but Jeff's achievements have truly set him apart," said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. "He has lifted the Louisville program to new heights, and we look forward to seeing his career continue on the ascent."
So with Christine Brennan talking about having the women's and men's Final Four in the same city, and people responding, I'm throwing out a couple of slightly thought out thoughts:

The other Donna says:
"I think it's time," University of Miami president Donna Shalala said in a telephone interview. "We've tried separate but equal, and it just doesn't raise the level of visibility. I'm thinking Friday-Sunday for the women and Saturday-Monday, as it is now, for the men. You'd have the whole press corps there to cover the men, so they could cover the women, too."
I say:
The Final Four is not the problem. That baby is sold out. It's the entire season through the regionals. If you want to raise media awareness/coverage, might I suggest you read and act upon Kim's Tips? And Donna - what kind of job is your Athletics Department doing for your team?
Doris says:
"The passionate basketball fan is locked in for three weeks, and I think you should maximize that attention. The women's game won't be as big as it can be without attracting more of the male audience. If guys see the best players in the biggest games, I think a lot of them will be into it. We're a country of taking the path of least resistance, and if that means having the women at the same Final Four as the men so be it. You've got to make it easy for people."
I say:
The best teams are already visible on ESPN to millions of people. What makes you think having the men's game in the same place as the women's game will make the two groups of fans cross pollinate?

What makes us think that the fans of women's basketball are the same as the fans of men's basketball? Have people read the research done by the Taylor Research and Consulting Group? IIRC, it suggests that while college wbball fans tend to follow both the women's AND the men's teams, it didn't work the other way. It's got some really interesting stuff in there, so download it and put it to good use.
Geno says:
"It's an interesting concept that may have some merit," Auriemma said. "It would expose the game to a different level of journalists. It does have the potential, though, to get completely obliterated by the men's tournament.
I say:
About that "different level of journalists...." Making a bunch of writers who, at best, ignore or, at worst, denigrate the women's game is not going to be helpful. Ask Marie Hardin about her research. Or chew on what Kris Gardner of Houston Roundball Review said recently:

“My colleagues in the media – they make fun of it all the time,” said Gardner. Initially he covered the NBA, but was drawn to women’s basketball by the passion of the Houston Comets’ fans. “You hear the snide comments from people you hang around with – especially the men. ‘Women’s basketball? Who cares about that? Why should we bother even covering it?’”

We need to find and cultivate writers and sports editors who want to be there.
Finally, there's simply a lot of basic, un-sexy, ground level work to be done to promote the women's game and grow it to the next level of fandom. Some first steps?

  • Energetic Coaches who understand building an audience is part of their job
  • Better Quality Sports Information Directors who pro-actively cultivate media coverage and find creative ways to get the word out about their sport
  • Athletic Programs that take advantage of the NCAA Marketing materials that are available. The NCAA has done a lot of the work for you -- but it does you no good if you don't use it. (And kudos to the NCAA for their marketing grant program)
  • As Geno notes, ask/beg/make ESPN do a better job of promoting the game. Yah, yah, they've expanded their coverage to the full tourney. And yah, they had those great Monday match ups -- but promos, highlights, news items and ESPN Classics broadcasts are weak. And I'm not even going to discuss the quality of some of the play-by-play and color commentary people....
  • How about a stronger cross-promotion with the WNBA? Moving the draft to the Final Four weekend was a huge success. What are other (NCAA legal) ways to connect the two worlds/fan bases?
You might not pay attention if some journalist said that grown-up American players considered Euroball (and South Koreaball, and Israel-ball) more important than the WNBA.

This time it's not just some journalist: it's Adrienne Goodson. Goodie quotes Cheryl Ford: "For most players, the WNBA is dessert while overseas is the meat and potatoes -- somewhere they can truly earn a living through basketball."

What prompted Goodie's column? The new WNBA CBA, in part, but also the recent coverage of the megabucks Diana Taurasi-- and others-- are making in Russia (where, however, not many people watch them play).
Some decent news so far regarding attendance-- especially at the OKC regional. Will LSU fans show up in New Orleans tonight?
No upsets or real surprises from Sunday's action.

A Big East showdown in Greensboro will happen tomorrow night, thanks largely to Maya Moore and Brittany Hunter from UConn and Essence Carson from Rutgers.

Talking about the Huskies after her team lost, ODU coach Wendy Larry had this to say:

"This is like playing the perfect storm. UConn is so deep. Their transition game is just so good. You have to play the perfect game to compete against them, to beat them. You have to get all the hustle points, the loose balls. You have to make all of your shots. We played with a great deal of passion, but we didn't play with the energy needed."

If you missed the game, you may want to check out the live updates from UConn's student paper.

For Rutgers, they are happy to still be alive but were not happy with their performance (except for what Carson did).

"Essence looked like she wasn't willing to go home and call it a day," said C. Vivian Stringer. "She probably realized that not many people were on. In fact, nobody else was on."

In Oklahoma City, Texas A&M continued their magical run by taking care of Duke 77-63. With Danielle Gant out for the second half from dehydration, Patrice Reado took her coach's halftime challenge to heart and scored 17 points to help her team advance. But she was not alone as the "Little General" also did most of her scoring damage in the second half.

"I felt I had to step up along with all my teammates to pick the slack without her,” Takia Starks said. "But the bottom line is we're a team, first thing first.”

In the last game of the round, Candace Parker tied her career high and made sure that Notre Dame remained winless against the Lady Vols. Once again it was a half time speech from the coach that fired up the players.

"At halftime, Coach was just real with us," senior Nicky Anosike said. "There was no more sugar coating. She just told us we win or we go home and none of us wanted to go home.
The D-II finalists come home.

Champions Northern Kentucky enjoyed the glory:

Family, friends and young athletes swarmed around the team long after the pep rally ended, as fans collected autographs, had photos taken with players and the team gave interviews for television. [Coach] Winstel said her team had so much fun that some other teams probably considered them unfocused. After all, the Norse visited fifth-graders at nearby Glenwood Elementary School, and had the students dancing and learning cheers.

But when the team took the court, "We were one," she said.

South Dakota fans showed love to their heroes:

[Coach] Lavin thanked the crowd for their support during the school-record season that saw the Coyotes finish 33-2 and win 30 straight games."Last night, I don't think I could find the words for that atmosphere," said Lavin, who coached his final game Saturday. "I know as a team and as coaches, we feel like we let everybody down.

"Quite frankly, these young ladies, took all of us for one hell of a ride and probably the most fun we've had around here in a while."

In Spokane, too, one lopsided win, and one serious contest: the lopsided win came first.

1. The Terps made the Commodores look simply out of their depth: you pretty much had to be a Maryland fan to stay tuned for the entire game. The high-octane team from the East Coast even played defense.

Brenda says this team reminds her of the Terps who won it all two years ago. (It should: it's got almost everybody, except Shay Doron, who saw big minutes in that big win.)

2. Pitt had the power, and the one-on-one players, but Stanford had the patience, and the Cardinal's stars had more help. Appel and Pederson worked together to control the paint; the Pac-10 champions doubled up the Panthers in assists and rebounds, though the Cardinal needed most of the second half before it could pull away.

"We knew it was going to be a 40-minute game," said Candice Wiggins, who didn't get going till late. "We stayed together."

Maryland and Stanford play the late game tonight. Spokane's daily paper note that both teams still wince at the way their '07 tourneys ended: both teams spent the rest of the weekend meeting Hollywood actors who ended up in Spokane.

ESPN's Miller talks up the bicoastal matchup. Expect the old-school Cardinal to favor a half-court game; expect Brenda's team to run as much as they can. If there's a consistent tempo-- and there may not be-- that will determine the game.
Rosemary Faya Prola played basketball for Maryland in 1967-1968, at Mount de Sales Academy and in the Baltimore CYO league in the 1960s. She's written an Op-Ed piece for the Baltimore Sun about attending the first rounds of the tournament "Thrilled by new view of women's sports."

The last paragraph reads:
Most exciting for an older player like me is the respect and recognition accorded today's women athletes. It shouldn't have taken four decades for the 25-foot shot that a girl on my Catholic Youth Organization team constantly took to become a staple of competitive players everywhere. But now, for women athletes, the sky's the limit.
Ah, the life of the five seed, the four seed, the three seed: you may beat all the teams that show your talent level or less, you get yourself into position to face the team somebody picked as a national champion, you practice and learn, you get to the Sweet Sixteen (as the bracket predicts), you roll out a game plan, your coach tells you just what to do-- and then you get knocked down anyway.

That's not the life of each five, four and three, every time-- but it's the story of most of their lives, this year, when the Elite Eight will consist entirely of the teams the committee expected (that is, entirely of one and two seeds). That's happened three times already, in 2003, 1987, and 1988; ideally the lack of surprises will be more than made up by the high level of play.

To get there, though, the ones and twos had to win games. New Orleans saw one real contest, and one that was over before its allotted time:

1. One of the reasons I sometimes hate watching the Tar Heels (though not so much this year as in the recent past): they're overconfident. They sometimes seem careless, or even bored, through the first half-- content, even, to fall behind-- secure in the knowledge that their out-of-the-world athleticism, their ability to play fast and create turnovers (both of which add possessions to the game), can bring them back any time in the second half, whenever Larkins, McCants and company decide to hit that "Turbo" button and turn the jets on.

That wouldn't be so annoying if the Heels were not, almost every time, right. Sylvia Hatchell's team fell behind to 18 to a Louisville squad that (hey, we told you) seemed able to keep up with them: then they stopped turning the ball over, hit "Turbo," and pulled ahead.

The Cardinals stuck around for all 40 minutes: Candice Bingham hit two late threes to keep us watching, but her team had to foul, and UNC sank just enough freebies to get the W.

As you'd expect, there were eye-popping numbers on both sides-- Larkins had a lousy game (she called it "god-awful"), but Pringle a great one. Bingham, meanwhile, had the game of her life: 17 points, 20 boards, and those two late threes, from a player who barely made an outside shot this year.

Later that day the UNC guys played the Louisville guys, with the same result: it's apparently the first time the same schools have played in the men's and the women's Dance on the same day.

2. LSU took a while to get going-- they have their slow starts, and their soft spots-- but in the end they had very little trouble defeating Oklahoma State. Andrea Riley gave her usual virtuoso performance, but no other Cowgirl scored a field goal for something like the first eighteen the first twenty-five minutes.

Riley scored 26; sharp-eyed LSU PG Erica White led her team with 18. White and Riley nearly started a fight; late in the game, Riley seemed to hit White on the head. Voepel says: ow.

LSU will face UNC tonight at the relatively early hour of 6:30pm. 7:30pm Eastern. Voepel also says the Heels are the toughest Elite Eight match LSU has seen in five years.

Erica White describes the contest of styles: "as we have to worry about how much they put out on offense, they have to worry about how much we hold people on defense. It’s going to be interesting." Sure will.
While those of us with real jobs begin to try and catch up with this weekend's games, check out Karen's blogging (which IS part of her real job).

She ponders Hell Freezing Over (Pat voted for Geno?) and she has a Spoon v. the Tasmanian Devil flashback as she reflects on Ms. Riley going postal.
And y'all thought I was kidding when I said I sucked at Brackets. Congrats to the 30+ who registered over at the NYTimes and are graciously kickin' my butt.

Big shout out to group leader, Lady7. If you win, just know that half that iPod is mine....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thanks to eyevolley4 for pointing me in the direction of Pitt coach Agnus Berenato's post-Stanford remarks. I've already outed myself as a fan -- this simply reconfirmed my feelings:

COACH BERENATO: I'm just going to say before we leave. I probably have another minute, right.

THE MODERATOR: You got four or five.

COACH BERENATO: Damn. All right.


COACH BERENATO: I just want to say to the NCAA and to the people of Spokane, you guys have done a tremendous job just in hosting and you have embraced us. And to my host family, John and Karen, you guys are awesome and I'm sure you're in the audience somewhere.

And Ray and Kevin, coming out here from Pittsburgh and to the other writers, if you guys don't write about our story, our story never grows. And as the NCAA says-- we're the NCAA. We represent them. And women's basketball is the greatest story in the world. And they're great student athletes. And they're kind and they're gentle women and they care and they're great volunteers and they're just hard working kids. So I just want to say to everybody that's here, the auxiliary people that have helped with this, with facilities and travel and security and catering and I know all about it, because when I was at Georgia tech I hosted two Final Fours and at Pitt we hosted a regional last year.

And then just a special shout out to our Chancellor and Steve Petersen and my staff, you know, who has really changed the face of women's basketball at the University of Pittsburgh. I feel like that is team now, it's a team that people will recognize and they have worked hard for it and they brought great pride to the university as well as to the community. But we could have never done it if my staff and the community and the administration didn't jump on board.

So to all of you that are here tonight, it's late somewhere, in the world, and I just want to say it's like the saying it's five o'clock somewhere. Well, I just want to say on behalf of my team, thank you all very much because by you being here our sport will grow and grow and grow and all these NCAA events will be sold out in the future. So thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Coach thank you
Yes, coach. Thank you.
WNIT semi's are set:

Marquette squeezed out a win over Kentucky, 69-64. The Golden Eagle's Krystal Ellis had a bit of an off night -- only scored 40.

They'll next face Colorado, which won a defensive battle against TCU -- 96-90 in OT.

Michigan State survived against Michigan, but you gotta wonder about the fans. It took'em overtime to get the 45-40 win.

Next up for the Spartans? NC State, which got past St. John's, 63-61.

Games are on Wednesday, April 2
NC State @ Michigan State,7 pm ET
Marquette @ Colorado,9 pm ET

And ask, and you'll be answered. Yes ESPN does have the WNIT scores. They're listed in the upper right corner as NIT.
So, how come the boys NIT games get put on the Yahoo and ESPN scoreboard and the Women's NIT doesn't?

Luckily the WNIT updates their scores.
There's Alberta Hunter song that opens - Come on by some my night, my castle's rockin'!

That was true up in Kearney, Nebraska as a crowd of 3,067 watched the unranked Norse (28-8), from Highland Heights, Kentucky, end the 3rd-ranked Coyotes' (33-2) 31-game win streak and earn the Division II Championship, 63-58.

A ton of those fans were dressed in SD red, but even with the loss, said one,
"It was absolutely worth it," Mike Pollman of Wakonda said of making a five-hour drive to Kearney to watch the Coyotes chase history and come so close to catching it.

"I'd do it again tomorrow."
The game was a battle back and forth pitting outside shooting against inside play. But, in the end, it was the play of Cassie Brannen, who scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half, that helped Northern Kentucky rally from deficits of 12 and nine points and claim the victory.
"What an amazing game. We knew once we caught them it was anybody's ball game," said NKU head coach Nancy Winstel. "At halftime, we felt like we were doing a pretty good job but just not making shots. We were also getting the free throwing but shooting only 40 percent. The key was we were getting there. We told our players to keep getting there."

"When we got down 12, and called a time out, we decided that wasn't an astronomical amount. We've been down before," said Winstel. "I thought we were playing good defense and getting good shots but just not knocking them down. This team has so much heart…we kept playing hard and (we knew) someone was going to start making shots."
Said South Dakota Coach Chad Lavin, who finished his coaching career with a 448-301 record, which included a 273-141 mark with the Coyotes:
"We had seven turnovers, we allowed only five offensive rebounds and we can't play much better than that. It was a great game. We had our chances. They play a style of defense that allowed us to shoot where we wanted. Unfortunately, we didn't make them. We can shoot better, but that's just a part of basketball."

"Our kids have nothing to be ashamed of," said Lavin. "Our point guard (Daly) played 125 minutes in the tournament and had only two turnovers. We played our style all the way. The kids understand it doesn't always go their way. Athletics teach you a lot of things. We have great kids who are already great adults and they're going to be great parents."
2008 Elite 8 All-Tournament Team
Angela Healy, Northern Kentucky (MVP)
Cassie Brannen, Northern Kentucky
Jeana Hoffman, South Dakota
Bridget Yoerger, South Dakota
Johannah Leedham, Franklin Pierce

Oh, and I meant to say: PARITY NOTE: The last 3 years has seen 24 DIFFERENT teams reach the Elite Eight. Count'em -- 24. No repeats. Nada. Impressive!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Over at the Sports, Media, & Society blog, Marie Hardin has been paying attention to adapted sports coverage. More than a dozen vets are vying for a spot on the U.S. paralympic team and Hardin hopes that fact will give the games the media attention they deserve.

Which made me want to find out what's up with Notre Dame grad Danielle Green. You'll recall that back in May 2004 she lost her arm while serving in Iraq. From the latest I can find on her she's living in Chicago.

Now Ms. Green is an assistant sports coordinator in the board's department of sports administration and facilities management. She organizes and oversees several sports, including freshman girls' basketball.

She is also working toward a master's degree in school counseling, which she expects to earn in 2008.

She is so busy that she told her husband, Willie Byrd, a retired high school basketball coach and teacher, that he must take on more household responsibilities. "I'm doing more with one hand than most people do with two," she said.

Writing for the KC Star, the headline written for Mechelle's piece reads, "In women’s basketball, more experience means fewer upsets."

Over at Rebkell, pilight and cam are tracking the men's and women's seeds. A sample from round 2:

Men 3
Women 4

Close games
Men 9
Women 6

Men 3
Women 3
Jere's friends write stuff too: Auriemma Shuffles Deck and Still Holds a Winner from Frank Litsky and from Karen Crouse: Toughened From Inside, Big East Fills Bracket.
From Jere avec accent: "Elite Women Prove That A&M No Longer Stands for ‘All Male’"
When Trigg Crawford arrived at Texas A&M to play basketball in 1977, the women’s team finally got its own locker room. It was a converted men’s dressing room and came with curious decorating choices. The walls were bubble-gum pink, as was the shower curtain. And the bathroom?

“They put silk flowers in the urinals,” Crawford said with a laugh.
UConn's student blogger checks in from Greensboro.

Stuff Husky Nation wants to know: Dixon will suit up for Sunday's match, and all the Huskies except Hunter cheered today for Louisville (Hunter is no Tar Heel fan--- she's just busy reading).
In April, 2005 Christine Brennan wrote on the 25 anniversary of the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics. The piece opens:
They are in their 40s now, the age when people tend to start celebrating anniversaries, if only this were one to celebrate. Why would they want to remember this? Why note the anniversary of something they were prevented from doing, the anniversary of the worst moment of their athletic lives?
Current talk of the Olympics and boycotts have raised some old ghosts, as Harvey Araton notes. He speaks with Carol Blazejowski and writes "Boycott Tarnishes Gold Medal Dreams."
“What I remember is that some of the players felt, Well, it’s tough luck, but I have to support my country,” Blazejowski said. “And others felt, I just spent all these years preparing to compete.”

And the high-scoring Jersey girl from little Montclair State, the one they reverently called the Blaze? “My reaction was more reality than apple pie and red, white and blue,” she said. “For me, it was about the years I’d put in. I did feel that we unfortunately were innocent victims.”
The humanist in me aches for their stifled dreams. The historian in me wonders what might have happened to professional basketball in the US if the team had been allowed to play. Consider the roster of the 1979 World Championship team.

Carol Blazejowski F Montclair State Col. Fairview, NJ
Barbara Brown C Stephen F. Austin State Dallas, TX
Denise Curry F 6 UCLA Davis, CA
Tara Heiss G Maryland Bethesda, MD
Kris Kirchner C Maryland New Providence, NJ
Nancy Lieberman F 5-10 Old Dominion Far Rockaway, NY
Ann Meyers G 5-9 UCLA La Habra, CA
Jill Rankin F 6-3 Wayland Baptist Col. Phillips, TX
Jackie Swaim C 6-1 Texas Jacksonville, TX
Jan Trombly F 6-0 Old Dominion Chazy, NY
Rosie Walker C 6-1 Stephen F. Austin State Emerson, AR
Holly Warlick G 5-6 Tennessee Knoxville, TN

Coaches: Pat Head, Betty Jo Crumm

FYI: In case you're wondering why Stephen F. players were included, just ask Jody Conradt about her early years at Texas when the Ladyjacks defeated the Longhorns in four out of five games from February 1980 to May 1981. "They were not 'like' institutions, but at that point in time, the teenie-weenies were better than the state schools," admitted Conradt with a smile.

There's a good article from 2005 "Facing SFA once meant plaing the elite in women's basketball. "When Gunter coached players such as Rosie Walker and Barbara Brown, SFA was ranked as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press poll in 1980."

And, if I can just make a plea: Sports Information Directors? Take a lesson from ODU and write up bios of your past greats. Google is only my friend when you bother to put up information I can access.

Oh, and I still hate the USA Basketball website. Hate. It.
So, it's Friday in Kentucky and your team is 900 miles away. What does a red-blooded wbball fan say? "Road Trip!"
Brad Bolte watched from afar as the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team won its quarterfinal and semifinal games in the NCAA Division II tournament earlier this week.

With his beloved Norse set to play South Dakota in today's championship game, Bolte decided to join a handful of other NKU fans and the school's pep band on a chartered bus that left campus Friday morning bound for faraway Kearney, Neb.

"Spur of the moment," Bolte said. "It doesn't get any better than that."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler is having a hoot interviewing the Spokane bracket's coaches.
Here we are at the Sweet 16, the women's regionals, and we've just passed a few hours discussing breast feeding, Jersey girls and how Cal is going to help Stanford blast its way out of this pop stand and into the Final Four.

And we've been noticing that women's basketball is different from men's basketball.
So you're planing your summer and you've noticed that big gap in August in the W's schedule when stuff is happening in China and you're thinking, "What to do, what to do?"

How about go to Houston for Lynette's Woodward's "Legend's All-Star Charity Weekend Classic" happening August 8-10. Some names? Val, Ruthie, Lynette, Bridget, Kym, Chamique, Nykesha, Monica, Tracy, Rushia, Teresa.
One of the things that's a joy about Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato (other than the fact that in five years she's turned the Panther program around) is her delight in the game. Watch her enter an arena, and shaking hands with everyone she can reach -- fans, security guards, press -- thanking them for being there.

That's someone who loves the game and knows what it takes to grow it. From today's AP article:
Berenato’s personality and attitude has rubbed off on many of her players, although they sometimes think their coach is a little over the top.

“She’s crazy,” Marcedes Walker said with a smile.

“Right now, she’s uppity up because we’re in the Sweet 16. But we all love her for that,” Shavonte Zellous said.

Added Mallorie Winn, “She does drink a lot of coffee in the morning.”
Via our peeps over at the Title IX blog: ESPN2 Airs Title IX Special This Weekend
"License to Thrive: Title IX at 35" is an independently-produced, one-hour special that "examines the unique history and impact of the Title IX legislation and celebrates the achievements, in numerous areas, of women and girls over the past 35 years. "

This Sunday, March 30, it will air on ESPN2 at 1PM EST.
Yahoo Blogs: (via Maxine) College stars Essence Carson of Rutgers, Abby Waner of Duke, Crystal Langhorne of Maryland and Erlana Larkins of North Carolina will provide periodic updates on their NCAA tournament experiences.

From Erlana in New Orleans—We have arrived in New Orleans. The trip was long, but it was also pretty powerful. The drive from the airport gave us a first hand look at some of the damage from Hurricane Katrina and it really had an impact.

We get caught up complaining about little things sometimes and then you see these people who have lost everything - their jobs, their houses, all their possessions. It really puts everything in perspective, because it could have happened to any of us.
Rather than linking, article by article, to the stack of content that will follow the Terps to Spokane, we're just going to link to the Basket Cases' coverage. Turns out the twins aren't making the trip to Spokane; Marissa Coleman, on the other hand, has family already there.
For fans in Spokane, a quick history lesson: the local paper chats (perhaps via teleconference) with Andy Landers, Sylvia Hatchell and Pat Summitt about the growth in the women's game.
LSU's hometown paper goes all out with a bevy of previews for today's games.

Coach Van tells fans what to expect: "We thought to win a national championship we would have to beat a good zone defensive team. We would have to beat a team that was going to try and take the ball away from Sylvia. Now let’s see if we’re ready" for Oklahoma State.

Columnist Scott Rabalais reminds us that LSU's pack of seniors have been here before.

As for the UNC-Louisville match, expect athleticism. Says Angel McCoughtry, "We can run too."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Saturday North Carolina face Louisville. Then, later that same day, North Carolina face Louisville-- the men's and the women's brackets contain the same matchup, on the same day. (How many times has that happened before? Anyone know?)

UNC's coach Hatchell on handling Angel McCoughtry: "We've got three or four lined up to guard her and if we have to keep rotating them, we will. Hopefully, we can do a decent job defensively on her."
From the Women's Sports Foundation: "Get In The Game: Women Lawyers Hoop It Up!"
In just over two years of existence the Get in the Game Lady Lawyers League (GITG) has transformed from a couple of friends playing pick-up basketball to an official not-for-profit with more than 550 members nationwide.
Props to yahoo.com's wbball page, which has some D-II coverage. The design is rather elegant, too.

Anti-props for not having a separate tab for women's hoops.

EPSN.com made note of Vanguard's NAIA championship.
Voepel on Vandy: "OK, I'm not going to blow you away with anything I do. I'm just going to be solid at everything."

Coach Walz at Louisville: "Everybody concentrates on Angel [McCoughtry], which they should. But Candyce [Bingham], she's the X factor."

Clay on the New Orleans region: LSU will Geaux to their fifth Final Four in a row.
Not sure what it's doing on the Sports Economist blog, but an interesting entry on physical play, low scores, and officiating (in the men's college game, but it doesn't take much imagination to apply it to the women's game). Worth a click to read the entire entry, but a highlight:
Physical defensive play rather than offensive tactics now accounts for the low scoring. The development of physical play can be attributed to savvy strategy itself. If a team fouls almost continuously, they place the referees in a dilemma much like overwhelmed police during a riot.

Calling all or many of the fouls ejects a lot of players, creating a broo-ha-ha as it did at Clemson in a game when Rick Barnes coached game and a Duke game this season. Or, officials can selectively call fouls, keeping the total below a "normal" maximum (25-30). However, this selectivity not only allows more fouls to go unpunished but it encourages more strategizing and fouling, especially for teams that can spread their fouls among 9-10 players.
I'd welcome the input of any officials out there....
Via Stever, some sweet ratings news from ESPN:
Leading into the “Sweet Sixteen” this weekend, ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament has garnered double-digit increases in both viewership and ratings on ESPN2 and ESPN during the first two rounds, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The WNIT has reached the quarterfinals:

TCU finally beat Texas Tech, 81-74 (first time in 37 tries). The Horned Frogs will meet up with Colorado, which defeated Villanova.

Kentucky’s Samantha Mahoney led all scorers with 30 points to help the Wildcats advance over James Madison, 84-76. James Madison was led by Colonial Player of the Year Tamera Young, who had 28 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

Next up for the Kentucky will be Marquette, who upended Illinois, 72-64.

St. John's defeated ex-Big East buddy Boston College,65-56, and will now face NC State, who behind Shayla Field's 30, made easy work of Florida, 80-55.

The last quarterfinal match up will be an all-Big Ten affair. Michigan overcame Southern Miss., 59-45 and Michigan State squeaked by Kansas, 58-54.

The schedule of games is as follows:

Sunday, March 30
Marquette @ Kentucky,2 pm ET
St. John's @ NC State,2 pm ET
Michigan @ Michigan State,2 pm ET
TCU @ Colorado,4 pm ET
Graham writes about Louisville coach Walz:

Inspiration can be a tough word to say when you stutter.

Trust me, I've got about 30 years of experience, so I don't stammer that sentiment lightly in talking about the man who is making his words count for Louisville this season.

"Where I used to be compared to where I am now, you know, it's twofold," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said over the phone. "If you would have told me 20 years ago, when I was even a freshman in college, that I would be coaching and having to get up in front of people and talk and do a press conference, I would have told you you were crazy."

How glad am I that my local cable conglomerate has added ESPNU, 'cause there's nothin' like staying up late watching women's basketball.

Last night it was the D-II semi-finals. Fun to be able to watch the people I've been blogging about in action. Also, a shout out to the announcers for the game -- good play-by-play work, thoughtful analysis and lots of good background information for us newbies.

The first semi-final featured the Seawolves v. the Norse (or, UAlaska-Anchorage v. Northern Kentucky). Both teams reflected the adage (well, my adage) that there are times when basketball is a beautiful game to watch -- and then there are times when it's just plain ornery.

The teams seemed tight, with none of the offensive flow displayed in their Elite Eight games. UAA was only 16 of 55 (29.1 percent) from the floor with star center Rebecca Kielpinski having a 1 of 12 shooting night. It was no prettier for the the Norse: At one time early in the second half, NKU had seven straight possessions end in turnovers and were unable to score in the first 6:20 of the period.

The game remained fairly even until the midway point of the second half when a 9-0 Northern Kentucky run gave them the biggest lead of the game. Down 50-41 with about four minutes left, the Seawolves closed on a 13-7 run, but it wasn't enough. A potential game tying three rimmed out, giving NKU the win, 57-54.

"What a great game. Goodness gracious, it was a classic. It'll probably be on ESPN Classic in about 3 hours,," said NKU head coach Nancy Winstel (Do I detect a hint of tongue in cheek in her comment?) "We're not a perfect team. We're going to throw the ball away some, but we are also going to make plays. It was a great win for our program and for our young ladies."
"I'm really proud of our kids," said UAA head coach Tim Moser. "I took this job two years ago and this group has done a tremendous job getting here. We were in a pursuit of a championship but fell short.It stinks because we were close. We had our chances to win. That's what hurts the most."
In the other semi-final between undefeated Delta State and South Dakota the first half was a barnburner, with both teams going on scoring runs followed by droughts. No team was able to pull ahead by more than three points in the final 10 minutes of the half. USD took a one-point advantage, 39-38, into the half thanks to a Jeana Hoffman three with two seconds left.

In the second half, the defenses made themselves felt. The Lady Statesmen had dominated the shorter Coyotes on the offensive boards, but USD made adjustments and played great team defense. Incrediably active hands, good help defense and several timely threes allowed them to pull ahead. Stellar free throw shooting kept them ahead for good, earing the 68-58 upset win.

The loss snapped the Lady Statesmen’s 33-game winning streak, dropping them to 33-1 on a record-breaking season,

“We played a well coached and talented team tonight,” stated head coach Sandra Rushing. “I am proud of my ladies for their many accomplishments this season. It is a huge success to make it to the Final Four. I have a great group of young ladies and am extremely proud of them,” concluded Rushing.
For South Dakota, which won for the 31st consecutive time, the Championship game will be its final Division II game (they're moving up to Division I next season). It will also be head coach Chad Lavin's final game.

“It was an amazing defensive performance to hold a team like Delta State to 20 points in the second half,” said Lavin. “I am very pleased with the effort that this team put forward tonight,” he said. "I am also proud of the fan support. They have made a big difference in this tournament," he said. (Many made the four-hour trip from Vermillion to give the game a "home court" feel.)

Northern Kentucky and South Dakota will meet up for the Championship game Saturday, 7pm EST on ESPN2.
Going to the Final Four?

If so, you may want to check out the Women in College Sports Forum on April 6 (before the games).

Dr. Mary Jo Kane from the U of MN's Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport is on a panel for "Portrayal of Female Athletes in the Media."
Michelle Smith profiles the talented and energetic Candice Wiggins.

"She is, in a way, too good to be true, like a Cinderella story," Tara VanDerveer said. "She's been everything advertised and more. She cares about winning, she cares about the team and she'll do whatever we ask her to do."
With Latta now in Atlanta, coach Laimbeer says that the Shock really need a young guard: Ajavon, Hornbuckle or Wiggins, if she's available. Detroit pick fourth.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

She's not the first '96er I had in mind; Katy Steding joins the Dream's coaching staff.
Pitt's hometown paper examines the home team's coming bout with Stanford. Coach TV says her Cardinal has the mental strength recent versions have lacked: "What I like about this team," she says, "is what I liked about the national championship teams" she coached in the early 1990s.

Stanford come in on a twenty-game win streak-- and they beat Rutgers way back in November. After two months on Pacific time, though, are they ready for the physicality of a pretty good Big East team?

Stanford's Jayne Appel: "I think it will actually be easier playing in Washington [State] than at home... We are flying under the radar right now. I don't feel any outside pressure. Maybe it does have to do with us being a two seed instead of a one."
Karen blogs about big things in small packages: aka ODU's Jazzmin Walters.

So far Jazz has my favorite post-game comment:

Interviewer (post game-winning three): So, you're listed as 5'2" -- what's your real height?

Jazz (with a huge grin and not missing a beat): 5'-10."
Catching up on the Junior College tourney.

Congrats go out to Gulf Coast, FL, Division I National Champions. The Commodores returned home after their victory over Central Arizona, 62-61, to an impromptu celebration.

A crowd of about 75 ardent Gulf Coast fans was waiting with signs, and one fan led cheers with a megaphone. As bus driver Ronnie Thompson circled the driveway in front of the field house twice, livening the crowd to a yell, the team cheered and pounded on the windows inside. From her seat in the front row of the bus, head coach Ronnie Scovel smiled the whole time.

“To be able to have it here,” Scovel said. “These people are so

Gulf Coast President James Kerley who was in Salina for the tournament, "said the Lady Commodores kept churning out gutsy efforts en route to the crown. In his first year at the school, Kerley said he was impressed with the turnout on Sunday.

“That was amazing to see,” he said. “I think they needed to hear that.”

As for the championship game, the game pitted two good friends - and two of the best D-I coaches - against each other: Florida's Scovel and Central Arizona's Lin Laursen.

The Lady Commodores battled back to win three times during the tournament heading into the finals against the top-seeded Vaqueras and needed a fourth comeback, 10-4 run late in the second half, to secure the school’s second national championship.

Flordia's Dee Liles, who last Friday was named the State Farm/Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association junior college player of the year, was named the tournament MVP. Liles, who will attend Maryland next year, was the only junior college player invited to the U-19 USA national team tryouts last summer.

“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” Gulf Coast coach Roonie Scovel said. “Probably the top athlete in this country. She’s got a great game. She can guard the post, run the perimeter, take you outside, take you inside.”
One final note: The end of the game, which was not without some controversy, signalled the end of Lin Laursen's coaching career. Retiring after 34 seasons, Laursen has amassed a staggering 971 victories. That's 971 wins with a team that every season is made up of freshmen and sophomores.

Perhaps more impressive, though, are the 138 players she can name who’ve moved on to major universities because of the time and energy she's put in to build both the the student's academic and basketball portfolio Did you notice the JUCO player for Virginia who made the bucket-and-one to tie the game v. ODU? A Central Arizona product.

Laursen is legendary for her passion, energy and humor. People call her voice mail just to hear her latest one-liner. She is pondering the opening to her Hall of Fame induction speech in Knoxville, and it goes something like this: “I’d like to thank my shoe sponsor, Payless…”

But do not, ever, understimate the job she and her fellow JUCO colleges are called to do. Explained Laursen in a recent article:

“We’re paid to teach at this college. Coaching is a side stipend. But that’s why the coaches are here. Everybody always says, ‘Well, how many full rides do you have?’ No -- we have money and I have to divide it up. I have to be an accountant and banker. That’s why we’re perpetually having fundraisers.

Coaches come in and say, ‘What’s your per diem?’ I don’t even know what that means,” she deadpanned.

As for her players? “They get it all here – free tutoring. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday night they’re in study hall. They’ve already run this morning at 6am, and lifted. And I will see them on the floor at 3pm. And that’s the way it is.”

Of course, her team will have enormous turnover every season because, well, junior colleges are two year institutions.

“I brought back two players this year,” Laursen explained. “I have ten freshmen. We’re turning the team over 60-70% every year. Every year you’re rebuilding, reloading, re-, re- re-. But I guess that the fun and excitement of it.

People say, ‘Lin, you’ve won three national titles, you’ve been in four final fours, why do you climb the mountain?’ Well, some people will say, ‘Because it’s there.’

My answer is, ‘No, because WE’RE here. The 2007 crew is here, and it’s a whole new climb.’”

Basketball's loss is the golf course's gain.
Don't forget to check out the PodSquad: Beth and Debbie. This week they talk about Angel, Terrapins, and a possible Husky-Knight rematch.

"The PodSquad" Hmmmm. Whaddya think, should I copyright it?
The D-II semifinals are set.

In yesterday's Elite Eight games, the Seawolves were taken to overtime by Franklin Pierce, but Alaska-Anchorage survived with a 71 -65 victory.

UA-A used its height to great advantage pulling down 50 rebounds, including 26 offensive, and got double doubles from center Rebecca Kieplinski and guard Kalhie Quinones. Quinones, who scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds to help UAA to a 50-36 rebounding advantage. The senior from Loveland, Colo., snagged nine offensive rebounds, equaling the entire Franklin Pierce team total.
“Rebounding is really a key stat for us and there is a toughness there that we are going to take pride in,” said UAA head coach Tim Moser. “We understand that being from Alaska that we travel more than anyone else and we have to be tougher than everyone else.”

Franklin Pierce sophomore, and DII Player of the Year, Johannah Leedham finished with 31 points, going 8 of 20 from the field and 14 of 15 at the line. She also pulled down 18 of the Ravens’ 36 rebounds.
“She is the player of the year in the country for a reason. Particularly in the playoff games, if we need somebody to step up, Jo is the one that can step up. She is really a special person with her talents on the court and off the court in the classroom,” said Franklin Pierce head coach Mark Swasey.

Northern Kentucky overwhelmed Wingate 78-65. Northern Kentucky shot 51.7 as three players reached double figures for the Norse.
“I thought we came out a little flat, but I think Wingate might have also. We started to get some momentum and took the lead, but they came back and played well, but Rachel Lantry really stepped up to hit a couple of big threes,” said NKU head coach Nancy Winstel.

Delta State stayed perfect and defeated a stubborn California (Pa.) team, 75-64. The top-ranked Lady Statesmen had three starters score in double figures and used two second half runs to seal the victory.
“They just kept coming at us and coming at us. We didn’t have an answer for 11 (Williams), but we knew going into the ballgame that they were a great rebounding team and they were never going to let up,” said Delta head coach Sandra Rushing. “We beat a very good basketball team tonight. They are very well coach and we are very, very fortunate to come out with a win.”
"The last national quarter final game of the day proved to be one of the best," writes Peter Yazvac, the Media Relations Director of the U of Nebraska-Kearney, who's been very busy providing coverage of the tournament.

The University of South Dakota Coyotes won a double-overtime thriller against the Washburn University Lady Blues, 85-80. In a game that featured 15 ties and eight lead changes, free throws proved to be the difference down the stretch as the Coyotes made six free shots in the second overtime and finished the game 22-of-30 from the line.

But it was the long range shooting of the squads that was the one of the most impressive stats of the game. The teams combined for 19 made triples, 12 at the hands of the Lady Blues. For Washburn, Corkey Stiger made a game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation, and Jessica Mainz made a game-tying trey with 32 seconds left in the first overtime.
"We got down, we got up, we got down ... we always seemed to be coming from behind," Washburn coach Ron McHenry said. "I don't know if we ran out of gas, but it was a tough battle."Both teams made big plays. They made a couple more plays, and that's why they won in double overtime."
Said USD head coach Chad Lavin, who keeps trying to start his retirement, but his team won't let him:
“In my 30 years of men’s and women’s basketball and I have never been in a game like that. It was absolutely incredible. It was two teams that didn’t want to lose," said USD head coach Chad Lavin. "I’ve always said to our team that if we lose, they will have to take it from us and I would have felt that they took it from us tonight instead of them giving it to them. Those shots they hit down the stretch were incredible.”
The semi-finals games, scheduled for Thursday, March 27, are as follows:

7 p.m. (CDT) - Alaska-Anchorage v. Northern Kentucky
9:30 p.m. - Delta State v. South Dakota

The games will be broadcast on ESPNU. The championship game will be Saturday, March 29th, 5pm (CDT), can be seen on ESPN2.
With the Diana, and others, from Russia, with money.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From the NY Times, a real profile of... some devoted Rutgers fans.
At ESPN, a history lesson from Immaculata, who won a string of pre-NCAA championships in the 1970s.

Looking a bit harder into the Wayback Machine, we find more on the Mighty Macs from an expert here, from Salon here, and also some coverage of the forthcoming film.

Also at ESPN, Elizabeth Merrill catches up with Texas A&M, by far the least famous among one- and two-seeded teams.
We heard from a very knowledgeable Nebraska fan recently that the Huskers were pretty good-- good enough to give a scare to the nation's very best teams, if not to beat them on their own home floor.

That fan got it right: Terps fans got an entertaining game, and-- by the end-- a comfortable win. The BasketCases saw it all, stayed up late, and found time today to collect (and to mock) further coverage.
Last night's other overtime attraction kept me watching way too late: Notre Dame, who never looked great in the regular season, made a gazillion free throws, Charel Allen scored 35, and OU couldn't manage to get the orange thing into the paint enough late in the game.

Result: Notre Dame will play Tennessee in New Orleans in the Sweet Sixteen. ND's win made the Big East sweep all five second-round matches against the Big XII: even Voepel, who loves her home region, says she's not surprised.
The other 4-5 games last night had the close, competitive, feel of conference championships-- the best one involved longtime in-state rivals, playing in their home state, and former national powers too. You might see this one on some highlight reels...

Old Dominion led early, and kept their lead for almost the whole second half; Virginia scorer Monica Wright fouled out.

But Lyndra Littles kept her Cavs in the game, and UVA's stronger, taller players wore the Monarchs down: ODU led by three, with time almost up, when the Cavaliers fed the post... and missed, and got the O-board, and missed again... and again.. by my count, six offensive rebounds took place in the closing seconds before Aisha Mohammed made the layup and got the and-one.

Why did ODU contest so hard? Instinct, perhaps. Would Mohammed, a 60% free throw shooter, make the one point that would send her team to OT? She did.

Five minutes later, though, the rivals tied things up again: 85-85 with a few seconds left, and a fierce defensive possession on UVA's part that left ODU entirely frustrated in their attempts to penetrate.

Instead, there was Jazzmin Walters, a 5'2" guard who's not even the team's major three-point threat: she got the ball several feet past the arc, shot fast, and canned it. "Once I got the ball, I just let it fly," she said. And the arena-- well, over half the arena (it looked full)-- rejoiced: her Monarchs are headed to the Sweet Sixteen.
UConn's one-sided win was fun for UConn fans, and Tennessee's one-sided win was great fun for the folks in orange: Hornbuckle had eight steals, and the Boilermakers-- though they were playing at home-- had no chance. "They're a great rebounding team," said FahKara Malone, "and we couldn't keep them off the boards."

Almost as non-competitive, even though it was a 4-5 game: Louisville's huge win over Kansas State. UL stayed way ahead for most of the match, and tallied 37 boards to K-State's 22.

The victory sets the Cardinals (they have an "s," it's Stanford that take the singular) up to play North Carolina in what will be UL's first Sweet Sixteen: among all the teams not predicted as national champions, Angel McCoughtry & company are one of the few whose athletes could give the Heels a hard time.
UConn's student paper has its own sports blog, whose generous blogger namechecked us last weekend (Jessie found the link last night).

The same writer liveblogged the "total destruction" the Huskies inflicted on Texas last night.

Maya Moore rang up 24 points and 12 boards in 32 minutes; Brittany Hunter, who started, looked as good as she has all year, though Charles played her interior game just fine.

The Day's Fulkerson chats with Geno. Has he ever considered going elsewhere, as coach G recently jumped to Texas from Duke? Well, he's considered it... but he'd rather he remain in Storrs, where, he says, his team can win national championships "over and over and over and over."
If you've been following NAIA Division I you'll know that, under head coach Russ Davis, California's Vanguard University has been a top-ranked program for several years. In his twelve years, his teams have earned multiple Golden State Athletic Conference Championships, made nine national tournament appearances, and he has won several GSAC Coach of the Year awards.

As for his players? 36 have made the NAIA Scholar-Athlete list and 20 have been NAIA All-American players. Last year Jessica Richter was named NAIA Player of the Year.

But for all their success, the Lions couldn't quite reach that ultimate goal - a National Championship.

Cross that off the "to do" list.

With a 72-59 victory over Trevecca Nazarene, Vanguard earned the school's first NAIA National Championship, becoming the first-ever champion to hail from the state of California.

"The first thing I thought about when we won tonight was how many phone calls I got today from all of our past players, even the players we brought out for our program’s first national tournament (in 1998),” said coach Russ Davis, the 2008 NAIA Coach of the Year. “This win was special for all the players who had been here before and last year’s seniors, because they built this program up to the point where we could get to this point where we could win a national championship.”

Senior guard Melissa Cook finished with a game-high 25 points, drilling six-of-10 three-pointers and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds for the double-double. Fellow senior, Bridgette Reyes added 14 points, while another senior, guard Jessica Richter, the tournament MVP, added 12 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five steals.

The championship game drew an attendance of 1,764, bringing the week-long tournament’s total attendance to 20,530.
Don't know what the state of women's basketball is in England these days, what with the Olympics right around the corner, but you know they're cheering for a certain member of their Under-20 team playing some D-II basketball today.

New Hampshire's Franklin Pierce University sophomore Johannah Leedham has been named the State Farm/WBCA (NCAA) Division II Player of the Year. Leedham hails from Ellesmere Port, England.

The Northeast 10 Conference Player of the Year, Leedham, ranks third in the nation with 22.7 points per game and 12th nationally with 3.4 steals per game while also leading her team in rebounding. She has set Franklin Pierce single-season records this year in points scored (727), steals (109) and free throws made (166). Leedham already ranks fifth among the Ravens all-time scoring leaders and third in career steals.

In other D-II news, the WBCA recognized the following regional Division II Coaches of the Year:
The 2008 RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA NCAA Division II Coach of the Year is South Dakota's Chad Lavin.

Finishing up his 26th year of coaching, Lavin He currently owns an overall record of 271-139 at South Dakota. Over the past 14 seasons, Lavin has led the Coyotes to six NCC titles, seven national playoff appearances and six 20-win seasons.

This season Lavin directed the Coyotes to a 31-1 record en route to their first ever North Central Regional title and first ever appearance in the Elite Eight in 2008. South Dakota cruised through the conference regular season becoming just the sixth team in NCC history to finish with an unblemished record.

Both Lavin and Leedham are in action (as in honoree coach Cindy Martin) today as part of Division II's Elite Eight. The games start at noon (CT) in Kearney, Nebraska. The schedule is as follows:

12:00 p.m. - Alaska-Anchorage v. Franklin Pierce
2:30 p.m. - Wingate v. Northern Kentucky
6:00 p.m. - Delta State v. California (Pa.)
8:30 p.m. - South Dakota v. Washburn

You can watch the games via CSTV's streaming feed by going here.

The March 27th, the semifinals will be at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. CST and will air live on ESPN U. ESPN 2 will cover the national title game, beginning at 5:00 p.m. CST., March 29th.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Over at Newsday, Karen Bailis takes a peek at this past weekend's "Peak Performers," starting with Candice Wiggins' impressive outing.
'Cause it deserves a separate link:

SI.com's Richard's article pointed readers to "Taking Aim at Bristol," a piece in the Sports Business Journal that looks at ESPN and a powerpoint presentation ("The Emperor’s New Clothes: How ESPN’s Multi-Platform Strategy Hasn’t Improved Ratings") that has been making the rounds.

No surprise, ESPN has put out a grumpy response, " “ESPN Myth and Reality.”

But, says the SBJ article:

...this story is more about the mere existence of the report. It’s telling that a document bashing ESPN has become so well read that some of sports’ top decision-makers quote from it, albeit, none of them will go on the record with SportsBusiness Journal, citing their current relationships with the company.

Still, the popularity of the report illustrates how ESPN, as the
biggest kid on the sports media block, is attracting more criticism these days than it ever has in its 28-year history.

Considering how intertwined women's basketball and ESPN are, it's worth taking a peek at the article (even though women's basketball is never mentioned).
Connecticut play, in effect a home game tonight, while Tennessee (another one seed) play in West Lafayette, on an opponent's home court.

Coach Summitt, however, isn't complaining. "When we struggle is when people are not in the gym," she says. "Whether they're yelling for us or against us, I think having a great environment is best for us. We have been a part of six road sellouts [this year]. We've been in some hostile environments, which I think have prepared us...That's great for women's basketball."

Meanwhile, controversy continues as to whether Oral Roberts fans should blame a major injury to an ORU player on a Tennessee cheerleader's sign.
Neither final score from Baton Rouge was close, but the home school seemed to have the more difficult match up.

In a game that looked to be decided early, Texas A&M downed Hartford 63-39. "Obviously we ran into a defensive buzz-saw tonight," Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. "The pressure that Texas A&M put on us was unlike anything we've seen and I don't think we would have been able to prepare for it even if we had a week."

Danielle Gant made sure her team would advance to her hometown of Oklahoma City by scoring a game high 21 points. It will be the first time since 1994 the Aggies have advanced this far in the tournament.

The hometown team had a tougher time getting through, but LSU eventually was too much for Marist and pulled away with a 68-49 win. Sylvia Fowles had 19 points and 13 rebounds and Erica White went 6-10 from the floor to lead the Tigers.

Marist did not win the game, but won the respect of Van Chancellor. “They were so well coached and so disciplined and did so many great things,” Chancellor said of Marist. “Maybe they didn’t have someone 6-foot-6 (Fowles) and a guard (White) that plays out of her mind like we did. I was amazed at how hard they play, how much heart they have.”
Tonight in Bridgeport, Geno conducts a chemistry experiment: Brittany Hunter might start (in place of Charles), and Lorin Dixon might not show up at all-- she spent Monday on campus taking an exam. (An exam? What is she, a college student?)

"She's a typical freshman," Geno says of Dixon, "who wants everything to be the way it was in high school... During this particular weekend, at least, I'm not inclined to reward Lorin with playing time."

Coach G remembers her last trip to Bridgeport, when her Blue Devils beat UConn two years ago. "I love playing here," she says.

The Longhorns and Huskies match up in the night's second game: the first will also set the Big East against the Big XII, K-State versus Louisville. So far the Big East is 2-0 in such matchups: there's still another one coming in West Lafayette.
While their Lobos were eliminated in the first round, the fans in Albuquerque came back and were treated to one of the upsets of the night.

Pitt used a strong performance from Shavonte Zellous to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the program's history. Coach Agnes Berenato explained her plan and the reason her team won were simple - "play 40 minutes of tough defense, rebound and play without fear."

Lobo fans also saw the team that eliminated UNM go down as Vandy routed West Virginia 64-46. The Commodores trailed by 2 at half, but outscored the Mountaineers by 20 in the second half. Christina Wirth was 4-7 from beyond the arc and finished with 21 points. This was Vandy's 11th win in the last 12 games.
In Des Moines, Rutgers overcame a stubborn Iowa State team and pro-Cyclone crowd to move on to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year.

Once again, Kia Vaughn had a great first half and opened up things for the guards in the second half. Vaughn finished with 23, while Prince and Ajavon added 17 and 16.

In the other game in Iowa - some may have questioned the selection of Florida State in the tournament. But it took overtime and a last second free throw by Andrea Riley for Oklahoma State to eliminate FSU from the tournament and advance to the Sweet 16. Riley finished with 21 and Danielle Green scored 23 for the Cowgirls.

The win continues a remarkable turnaround for OSU, who went 0-16 in Big 12 play two years ago.
Over at Yardbarker, Miss Gossip interviews DT.
Thanks to a link from SI.com's Richard Deitsch (see Richard, I can spell!), you can read his reflections on March Media Madness. Hit page two to find his thoughs on, amongst other things, ESPN v Geno and Studs and Duds of the women's coverage. A dud:
• ESPN promotes the women's tournament like a major property, which I appreciate as a fan of the sport. But if the network wants viewers and critics to treat it like a major property, ESPN needs to cover the tournament the way CBS covers the men. That means showing viewers (no matter the region) close finishes.
Tonight's NAIA Division I Championship finals features two first-time teams: Vanguard (CA) and Trevecca Nazarene (TN).

#6 seed Trevecca moved in to the finals with a with a 69-59 victory over TranSouth Athletic Conference rival Freed-Hardeman University (TN). (A little historical flashback -- FHU is the alma mater of two of Margaret Wade's AAU teammates: Mary Nelle Brumley Chalk and her sister Dew Drop Rowlett, both members of the FHU Hall of Fame.) T-N was led by K.C. Van Atta with 16 points and Mariska Reed scored 14.

Vanguard earned its trip to the finals by stunning #1 seed, and previously undefeated, Union. Union had vanquished all they had faced this season (including the tornado that wiped out most of their campus) but they couldn't overcome the stubborn Lions.

The Lions led by nine at the 5:58 mark, 71-62. Over the next five minutes and 30 seconds, Union posted a 10-1 run to tie the game at 72-72 following two made free throws from Josephine Owino with 20 seconds remaining. Owino posted 30 points and 10 rebounds in the game.

Vanguard's Melissa Cook recorded the game-winner on a driving lay-up six seconds left to break a 72-72 tie. A potential game tying shot by the Lady Bulldogs went up after the final buzzer sounded.

This marks the third straight season the national championship will not feature any of the tournament's four No. 1 seeds. The eventual 2008 champion will be the fourth straight program that entered the tournament as a non-No. 1 seed.

Tonight's NAIA championship will tip off at 6:30 p.m. (Central time), and the contest will be televised live on College Sports Television (CSTV).

Of note: The semifinals doubleheader drew an attendance of 3,515, bringing the tournament's total attendance to 18,766 after five days and 30 games of action.
Checking in on the WNIT:

The Last of the Second Round:
St. John's 65, Iona 59
Florida 60, Fla. Gulf Coast 55
Boston College 76, Vermont 64
Michigan 75, VCU 57
NC State 72, South Carolina 69
Illinois 48, Drake 44
Kansas 82, Evansville 60
Southern Miss 62, Mississippi State 61
Marquette 69, Creighton 69 OT
Colorado 82, Gonzaga 68

The third round schedule is up:

Wednesday, March 26
James Madison @ Kentucky,7 pm ET
TCU @ Texas Tech,7 pm CT
Illinois @ Marquette,8 pm ET

Thursday, March 27
Boston College @ St. John's,7 pm ET
Southern Miss @ Michigan,7pm ET
Florida @ NC State,7 pm ET
Kansas @ Michigan St.,7pm ET
Villanova @ Colorado,9 pm ET
A little W news: The Mystics have waived Nikki Teasley.
The fans in attendance at Maples Pavilion saw two completely different games last night. For the home fans, the second game will likely be one they remember for a long time. For Pac-10 and Cal fans, the first one may be one they would like to forget.

First up was a battle between George Washington and Cal. The Bears led at halftime and by seven with four minutes left. But a missed free throw by Alexis Gray-Lawson, a travel violation by Natasha Vital and two huge shots by GW's Sarah Jo Lawrence helped the Colonials advance to the Sweet 16 with a 55-53 win.

This heartbreaker for Bay area fans was followed up by a remarkable performance from Candice Wiggins. The senior made sure her team did not have another early exit from the tournament by scoring 44 points in every way imaginable. She nearly had a triple double with 10 rebounds and 8 assists. She also received solid support from Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen and the rest of her team as they cruised to a 88-54 victory over UTEP.

"Candice had just a spectacular game," Tara VanDerveer said. "Her last Pac-10 game she had a great game. Her last game at Maples, she just wanted to top it off. We've been kind of a year waiting for this to happen."
Did you watch the women's hoops themed "Outside the Lines" on Sunday?

The Day's Mike DiMauro did and did not think much of it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Live-ish from Lafayette:

AP5 would be the best post player on most teams in America. On some days, she pushes her sister Courtney to be the best Sooner big; Sunday was such a day as OU outlasted ISU. Ashley Paris stepped up for Oklahoma while Courtney faced multiple Illinois State defenders and foul trouble. The Sooners are the type of team that could be really good (big low block presence and quick guards) or really not-as-good (posts can't run the floor well enough to help cover mistakes of young guards). Redbird junior Kristi Cirone lead all scorers with 22 points.

SMU had a horrible start; they had unforced turnovers and allowed ND countless o-boards. However, the
Mustangs were able to put together a run to wake the Irish. Close to home, Ashley Barlow started big and finished with 20 & 12.

Utah got a
rough seed, but that's life in the Mountain West. For the tough love pep talk- win your conference and guard the three late. If I remember correctly, ShonaThorburn, playing the role of Katie Smith in Detroit, would constantly ask Coach Elliott when Utah was going to get a real point guard. Leilani Mitchell was that pg; she confidently ran the offense and was smart in driving and dishing. In her last collegiate game, Mitchell had 14 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds.

"I'm cheering for the Tulsa school."
"Why, yes."
(Variations of that always crack me up)

Chasing the tip off, ORU's Marianna Camargo
slid on one of Tennessee's cheerleading signs, injuring her knee, and returned to her team's bench on crutches. The Golden Eagles played an inspired first half to keep it respectable but couldn't answer Angie Bjorklund. The second CP3 show of the day was also abridged by foul trouble as Parker had 4 fouls in her 18 minutes. The Lady Vols against the 16 seed is typically ho-hum, so let's mention Geno. According to the Tribune, The issue has become an obsession for one ESPN reporter." According to me, that's a funny quote.