Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mike Siroky's NCAA Tourney Report: SEC Continues Its Sweet Run

By Mike Siroky

As we said last week, the AP’s Top 16 pretty much foreshadowed the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

And the Southeastern Conference’s last qualifiers proved they can handle the champs of other leagues across the nation, which is why the SEC is the top league overall.

Through two rounds of elimination in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the Southeastern Conference has a quarter of the Sweet 16.

The Big 12 has three in, Oklahoma and Kansas crashing the party with Baylor. The Big East also has three, the big two of Notre Dame and UConn joined by Louisville, which won its way in at home at the expense of Penn State and the Big Ten.

The ACC and Pac 12 have two each. The Big Ten is left with surprising Nebraska, which eliminated a possible fifth SEC team.

If you are keeping count, that means the major conferences have 15 of the 16, leaving, well, Delaware, for the rest of the world.

The Sweet 16 has 12 of its members from the AP Top 16. Only the No. 3 seeds fell out. When the SEC advanced all seven to the round of 32, that meant the conference was 22 percent of the national field.

That will all change this week, of course.

The top four national seeds are all alive. So Kentucky would have to overcome UConn, Tennessee would have to overcome Baylor and Georgia would have to overcome Stanford, which is their next assignment. LSU draws No. 2 seed California in its next game, with the Stanford-Georgia winner next, so that eliminates the possibility of an all-conference Final Four.

The opening sites without a home team (Gonzaga, Colorado and Texas Tech also forfeited those opportunities on opening night) saw some decent basketball.

Oklahoma and UCLA accepted troublesome travel across time zones to compete at Ohio State’s venue. Oklahoma took it easily, a No. 6 seed besting an unwarranted No. 3. UK won once as St. John’s went home early.

Georgia won at Spokane, Wash., California took the opportunity at Lubbock, Texas. And Kansas took the opportunity at Boulder, Colo., eliminating South Carolina.

The Columbus, Ohio, turnout was an announced 2,256, most of those pre-sold during the season when Ohio State had a fighting chance to be there.

Oklahoma took advantage of the truly neutral court to upset UCLA, That was only slightly less (about 500) than St. John’s at home.


•Tennessee, at home, led the SEC playoff teams. They were the first into the Sweet 16.

Had Holly Warlick coached her initial leadership challenge to wins in both the regular season and post-season conference tournament, she’d be a shoo-in for national coach of the year. Rattling out in the conference semis cost her that.

But, in the big tourney, she has kept her Lady Vols on track with the return of their tallest player, 6-3 center Isabelle Harrison. They were 1-2 without her.

She had missed nine of the past 11 games because of knee injuries.

With her, they trounced both Oral Roberts and Creighton, sending them to Oklahoma City, where mighty Baylor likely awaits in the Elite Eight. They drew 6,833, then 500 less in the sub-Regional final.

The Oral Roberts win was the first in a tournament without Pat Head Summitt in the director’s chair, though Warlick was the game coach all of last season as an assistant and heir to the throne.

It was a 21-point walkover.

It was not much different against Creighton, a 16-point win that was more of a blowout than that. UT, a little less than 10 points under its league-best season scoring average, held Creighton to 11 points less than UT usually allows.

Harrison’s presence was felt as Creighton seemed reluctant to drive inside. “Izzy” as her teammates call her, had a game-high five rebounds and three blocks in 17 minutes, rounding back into shape.

Kamiko Williams led a well-balanced attack (four of five starters in double-figures) with 15. She was 3-of-4 in the closing minutes as Creighton fouled to try and get the ball back. As one of two seniors in a last home game ever, she earned praise from her coach for stepping up.

And Warlick had designed a lock-down defense, allowing just one basket from 7:56 until 10 seconds were left.

It is obviously Warlick’s first Sweet 16 as the head coach.

“I thought it was a great team effort,” she said.

“I keep talking about our team and how great we are and how important everybody is to this basketball team. I thought we got better tonight on the defensive end, and we have to keep doing that. You have to continue to get better.

“There’s so much more we can do and get better at. I think Izzy is getting back into the flow of things. It's all about combinations and who we play and their style. If we just keep learning and being disciplined. I thought tonight, for the most part, we were so disciplined on the defensive end, and we haven't been in the past. If we do those things, and we're disciplined on the offensive end, we're a very good basketball team.”

Creighton, like Tennessee, had won their regular-season conference title and then lost in the finals of the Missouri Valley.

To make the Elite Eight, she needs to get past Oklahoma, with a wise and veteran coach in Sherri Coale and a team its home state. They won neither the regular season or Big 12 Conference titles.

The Lady Vols are 52-0 at home in NCAA play. They will have been in 31 of 32 Sweet 16s.

•LSU, also at home, made the most of their No. 6 seed for the 3,000 fans who came to the closing party.

In the opener, Danielle Ballard and Theresa Plaisance capped 16-point performances by hitting clutch free throws in the final 15 seconds of a four-point win over a challenging Green Bay team.

The Phoenix had won 24 straight (only two losses all season) and were a Top 20 team, champions of the Horizon League regular season and conference tournament. LSU had won seven straight before losing to Georgia in the SEC quarterfinals.

A potential crucial injury occurred when LSU’s spiritual leader, reserve junior guard Jeanne Kenney, left with a concussion. It is so severe she was not at the Sweet 16 game.

That set up the staggers in the sub-Regional final.

Senior Adrienne Webb scored a career-high 29 points (10-of-16 from the field), including two crucial free throws with 22 seconds left in a five-point win over No. 3 seed Penn State. The Bengals’ only other senior, Bianca Lutley, overcame foul trouble and capped an 18-point effort with the jumper that put them ahead with 40 seconds left and game-sealing free throws in the final 18 seconds.

She had four fouls with 12 minutes left. Another player also had four fouls.

That allowed them to survive a seven-point halftime deficit and a six-minute scoreless drought in the second half. As if she needed to do more, Webb was called to face guard Penn State’s best player and the Big Ten Player of the Year, Maggie Lucas, and her 20-point scoring average. Lucas scored but nine.

The foul situation was magnified as LSU only had seven players available with Kenney out.

This win continues the theme of a sixth-place SEC team erasing the Big Ten’s runaway conference winner after having done so to the Horizon champs.

LSU has been in the Sweet 16 a dozen times before and, of course, played for the National Championship in 2008. LSU is 16-3 at home in the NCAAs.

But this major rebuilding by second-year coach Nikki Caldwell, a Tennessee All-America as a player, is evident in what she gets from her players. Penn State eliminated LSU at home last season.

Danielle Ballard, for instance, has the school record for steals in a season, with 99. Webb has 1,365 points, 17th all-time at the school.

“When you think about what this team did tonight without one of our true leaders, Jeanne Kenney, this was just a courageous effort in these seven players’ part,” Caldwell said. “That was a great win against a very, very tough Penn State.”

She said she was so very proud of her two seniors. “Because of them, we have some more basketball to be played.”

“I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to do,” Lutley said. “I was just thinking about what I needed to do to make the game end the way coach wanted it to end, the way everyone in the gym wanted it to end.”

Classmate Webb agrees. “What was in our minds was this was the last game (at home). And we have to take care of our house, really. We just had to buckle down and give our all, really. We had to do that and everyone just stepped up.”

•Kentucky had a Night 2 debut, at St. John's, against Navy, yet another example of the No. 2 team in the SEC besting the champ and conference tournament champ, this time of the Patriot League, by 20. The 28th win in a season tied last year’s school record.

DeNesha Stallworth scored 18. The Wildcats played without backup center Samantha Drake who was suspended for this sub-Regional by coach Matt Mitchell.

“We have a standard we want to uphold as Kentucky basketball players and she hasn't been doing that,” he said. “It’s not one particular thing, it’s a series of things. We want her to try to strive to do her best and that’s not happening right now.”

Despite St. John’s, a lame duck member of the current Big East before the impending breakup, granted an absolute gift of playing at home, the attendance was only 2,717. There were hardly 1,000 in attendance for the final.

In the sub-Regional final, The ’Cats stayed in form and won by 14, outscoring Dayton in both halves, exceeding their own team scoring average by eight.

Senior A’dia Mathies was the showcase special, with a career-high 34 points, a career high 6-of-7 on 3s. She scored 10 in a 16-3 run early in the second half that decided it. The points total is twice her season average. The number of field goals (10) is another career mark. And she had the flu.

Junior forward Samarie Walker also battled through the flu to get a team-high seven rebounds and 14 points.

“We have the goal of becoming the best program in the country,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are making a lot of progress.”
Mitchell was ecstatic at the way his team fought the stomach bug. Even Mathies. "She looked really ill before the game," Mitchell said. "She just felt terrible. She really felt bad.

"Maybe gutsy, gutsy effort is what it should be," he said. Three of his starters had the bug. “Very low energy,” Mitchell said. “I was very, very concerned about the team.

"We were in close quarters; it was just a bad, bad deal, an unfortunate thing at this point in time," Mitchell said. Several players missed the morning shootaround ibecause they simply couldn’t go.

As might be expected, UK utilized its bench depth, including a dozen points from onetime starter Bria Goss.

“I was just out there playing,” Mathies said. “I knew they’d cut it pretty close. I was just out there trying to play hard. I don’t know when my buckets came or how they came, I’m just glad they did.”

Walker was briefly sidelined after regurgitating on the sideline. She had tried to hold it in, she said, but simply could not running for the sidelines and a trash can as the game was in progress.

She ruined her game uniform and the staff came up with a retro 1990s jersey (though in a different number) and she came back in.

“We've been passing around this bug and I told everybody I wasn’t going to get sick: ‘I’m not going to get it; I'm not going to get it.’ Lord behold, as soon as I got in I started feeling queasy,” she said.

As usual, Kentucky’s superior athletes on defense impressed the opponent.
“We're not used to seeing that athleticism, that pressure, that attack constantly,” said Dayton coach Jim Jabir. His team had 23 turnovers. “It’s a cumulative effect and it just wears you down.”

Sounds a bit redundant, but yet again a team that didn’t win either the SEC conference tournament or the regular-season title eliminated the champ of the Atlantic 10.

Kentucky was in the Sweet 16 last season. As the No. 2 seed, they safely move on to face the phenom that is Elena Della Donne and Delaware’s only Sweet 16 appearance. The ’Cats are one win shy of 30. But 29 is already a school record, as is a seventh win against a ranked team in one season.

•Georgia, starting a potential four-game stay in Spokane, Wash., (first round and Regional site) smoothly manhandled Montana by 20 to open it. Jasmine Hassell scored 16. They drew 5,674.

Next was Iowa State, a 5 seed to Georgia’s 4. Georgia made the most of the final 78 seconds. Down by one, under rated senior forward Anne Marie Armstrong made a reverse layup. A freshman from the state of Tennessee,
Shacobia Barbee, scored 20, including three free throws in the final 27 seconds.

It is coach Andy Landers’ 20th Sweet 16 in his 31 tournaments.

“You know, we didn’t get as much as we would like to have gotten out of ourselves offensively or out of our sets,” he said. “But our players really did a nice job of making plays throughout the game, and particularly at the end of the game when we had lost the lead.

“It (was) the kind of game that we thought it would be. I thought Iowa State defensively was very good. I thought that Georgia defensively was extraordinary.”

They drew 4,976 without a home team present. Another NCAA site which lost attendance by not finishing on a weekend.

Iowa State had come second to Baylor in the Big 12 and lost to them again in the conference tournament.

•Texas A&M, which won the conference tournament, was the kaboom! game for the conference, a No. 3 seed losing at home to a No. 6 in the only instance of a home team losing a sub-Regional.

The Aggies beat Wichita State by 16 in the opener, as Kristi Bellock tied a career high with 18 points. Kelsey Bone, the best player overall in the SEC, is content to draw double-teams if a teammate can do that. They drew 7,215.

Then came the flop. Nebraska, enjoying life in the Big Ten for a second straight season, won the first half by nine and just needed to play A&M even in the second for the win.

The usual suspects led them: The aptly named Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore.

Hooper scored 21 and senior Moore did more, with a season-high 10 assists and 20 points. Hooper said she wanted more games with her teammate.

As junior forward Bone observed, they handled A&M on its own floor.

Including the 11-2 sprint to end the first half which basically decided the game.

"They made the stops that they needed to," Bone said. "Every time we got a little life they did a good job of hitting the big shot."

Bone did hit the final two field goals – maybe of her career – for A&M.

But Tech scored on two assists by Moore then two free throws by her and two more from Hooper to keep them at bay.

Coach Gary Blair agrees with Bone’s game assessment.

“I’m not sure Nebraska could play any better than they did," Blair said. "They were magnificent.”

Texas A&M (25-10), which won the national title in 2011, was led by Adrienne Pratcher's 17 points. The loss keeps the Aggies from making the round of 16 for the first time since 2010.

But more immediately on everyone’s mind in Aggieland is whether Bone will return. Her parents were both college athletes so they know the drill. She is a junior in eligibility yet has been out of high school four seasons (she sat out a transfer year). There have been hints she may take advantage of her position now as a high WNBA draft pick, with millions to be made in Europe or Asia.

She said her parents and Blair will be in the discussion and she ponders her decision.

A&M drew 5,886 for the final, like Tennessee another surprising falloff from opening night. They finish 25-10. They had lost three straight to close the season before the SEC tournament.

•Vanderbilt, the last SEC team in, was fed into UConn’s bracket at home. That’s how long the Lady Commodores lasted; until they played UConn at home.

First, they beat St. Joseph’s by winning the first half by six and then playing even in the second segment. St. Joe’s had won the Atlantic 10 conference tournament and was the official entrant of the league. So the last SEC team in beat the best of another conference.

UConn won its game by 69 as opening night drew 4,657.

Against UConn, Vandy looked like any other seed against a No. 1. It was a 33-point blowout.

“The consistency of our program, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out is something that we can take great pride in,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

“I don't know who else has done it 20 years in a row (no one has such an active streak), but it’s really hard to do. Sometimes we make it look easy, but it’s really hard to do.”

He did start a senior, Caroline Doty, in place of a regular starter, Bria Hartley.

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said it was not smoke and mirrors.

She observed the Commodores obviously play a lot of teams in the Southeastern Conference that are great on offense or have an outstanding defense. But none, she said, have the complete game the Huskies can showcase.

“If you ask the players, they (would say) Connecticut is excellent at both ends of the floor,” Balcomb said. “And that's what our team saw tonight and that’s why you saw the big difference in scoring compared to the Texas A&Ms, the Kentuckys and the Tennessees that we stayed with better.”

They finish at 21-12, having split their final six games. Tiffany Clarke finished her splendid career with 16 points, which had been her season average, but no other Commodore starter scored more than three.

•South Carolina, granted the gift of Colorado losing at home to open the site, ran down the South Dakota State Jackrabbits by 22. SD State is another example of a conference champ being wasted by the fifth-best team in the SEC. SD State won the regular-season and conference tournament in the Summit League.

Guard Ieasia Walker, the SEC defensive player of the year, finished with 15 points. She also helped hold South Dakota State to 33 percent shooting in the first half as the Gamecocks raced to a 44-26 halftime lead on the strength of 61 percent shooting and 10 forced turnovers.

Then came Kansas, the 12 seed which eliminated No. 4 Colorado at home. The Jayhawks had lost five of seven coming into the tournament and desperately wanted one more for a 20-win season.

They got it.

South Carolina slipped out a game worse than the year before and the No. 12 seed beat the No. 4. The Kansas starters scored 69 of the 75 points. SC had made its salad all season by allowing an average of 52.8. The difference was more than enough in a six-point game.

Despite three players with double-doubles and a school-record 26 rebounds on offense, the failures on defense did them in.

Kansas was very much an at-large team, seventh in the Big 12 and not even a winning record in conference.

Senior Monica Engelman scored a career-high 27 and said thanks to the Gamecocks. Another senior, Angel Goodrich, added 20 points and eight assists for Kansas.

"It was a hard-fought, physical game," South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch said. "It was really an up-and-down tempo.”

"I told our team at the half, ‘We give up 32 points in entire games’,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “The pace of the game was not our pace.

They made us play a little quicker. I thought we were pretty efficient on the floor offensively, but in order for us to stay in basketball games we have to control games from a defensive standpoint, and we didn't do that.”

As is her usual spin, Staley had a slew of explanations, including the fact she started two rookies.

A lowly crowd of barely 2,000 showed up to witness it. Kansas, happy anyway, moves on to No. 1 seed Notre Dame at the Norfolk Regional.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guru's Musings Takes A One Day Detour

By Mel Greenberg

Combo coverage in Thursday's post is over on the local channel of http://philahoopsw.com talking about Penn hosting WBI game against Howard while Drexel hosts Iona same time a few blocks away in a WNIT contest.

Also discussion how the split and re-pasted Big East wil impact the principlies and procedures used by the committee to put together next year's NCAA tournament.

Also an item on Quinnipiac having local connections in going to No. 4 Maryland as the NEC champ before moving to the MAAC next season.

Little correction to Wednesday's blog -- accicdentally left off Final Four late night sunrise dining companion Joe Haigh, who became the Saint Francis, Pa,, and has the Red Flashes in the WBI.

As mentioned, coverage of both games will be here in the morning and since the Guru not involved in Inquirer coverage for either game no threat for someone to take his copy and change the dateline to Philadelphia, Miss.

If you don't know, someone didn't know the difference the other night between the two Newarks -- the short answer is Bill Laimbeer will be coaching WNBA games in one place while maybe Vice President Joe Biden could show up to watch Delaware in the the NCAA tournament in the other location.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Guru's Musings: Old Guard Takes Another Hit With Jim Foster's Exit From Ohio State

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru will comment sometime further in the next 24 hours about the departure of Jim Foster from Ohio State, but will point out that here in Philadelphia he was there at the very beginning when the Guru started what became the Associated Press women’s basketball.

Though it may be a while before getting reaction and doing a further writing on the topic, here is a comment from Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw that was emailed from Chris Masters, her sports information director, upon the Guru’s request.

McGraw replaced Geno Auriemma as an assistant at Saint Joseph’s to Foster in the early 1980s.

“Jim is a hall of fame coach with a tremendous record for developing talent and having long-term success at several schools. Personally, he has been a mentor and friend for more than 30 years and I’m grateful for the guidance and support he’s shown throughout my career.

“The women’s basketball community and the coaching profession are losing a great role model and advocate, someone who has given everything to this sport for more than three decades. I wish nothing but the best for both he and Donna.”

At the close of business in the 37th edition of the AP poll for 2012-13 on Monday Foster was one of nine coaches to lead three different teams in the poll, making him second behind Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer in terms of total rankings combined (407-370) and ahead of Gary Blair, who is third with 282.

On the all-time list for everyone who has had teams in the AP Poll, Foster was 7th and ahead of North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (344). On the active list, unless he lands somewhere else, Foster’s departure moves Hatchell up to fifth behind Auriemma.

Sometimes it is forgotten as time moves on but Foster is the latest notable in recent years to be out of the profession.

Here’s is a list, their placement on the all-time list, and total rankings of notable people not active on the sidelines for all the various reasons.

Pat Summitt, Tennessee, 1, 618 – missed only 14 rankings at the time of her resignation.
Jody Conradt, Texas, 6, 395.
Rene Portland, Penn State/Saint Joseph’s,9, 336
Debbie Ryan, Virginia, 10, 328
*-Kay Yow, North Carolina State, 11, 326
Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech, 12, 325 including 51 share with Sonja Hogg
Gail Goestenkors, Duke, Texas, 13, 295
Joe Ciampi, Auburn, 14, 290 – Currently an assistant in the WNBA
*-Sue Gunter, LSU/Stephen F. Austin, 16, 270
Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech, 18, 264
Van Chancellor, LSU/Mississippi, 19, 261 – Also coached in WNBA
Chris Weller, Maryland, 21, 227
Theresa Grentz, Rutgers, Illinois, 22, 225
Marianne Stanley, Old Dominion/Southern Cal/Stanford-1996, 26, 183

Rankings and Conference Changes

The math won’t be done until the shifts go into place but here are schools that have been ranked in the AP Poll and will be taking their numbers with them in terms of current conference affilation – conference at time of ranking is a separate category.

The conference called unnamed is the Big East football surviving group that has to form under a new moniker.

Cincinnati – Big East to unnamed
Connecticut – Big East to unnamed
Louisville --- Big East to unnamed and in 2014-15 to ACC
Maryland – ACC to Big Ten in 2014-15
Rutgers – Big East to unnamed and in 2014=15 to ACC
Tulane – Conference USA to unnamed in 2014-15
Notre Dame – Big East to ACC
DePaul – Big East to neo-Big East
FIU – Sun Belt to Conference USA
Georgetown -- Big East to neo-Big East
Georgia State -- CAA to Sun Belt
Houston -- Conference USA to unnamed
Louisiana Tech – WAC to Conference USA
Marquette – Big East to neo-Big East
Memphis – Conference USA to unnamed
Middle Tennessee – Sun Belt to Conference USA
Old Dominion – CAA to Conference USA
Pittsburgh – Big East to ACC
Providence – Big East to neo-Big East
St. John’s – Big East to neo-Big East
Seton Hall – Big East to neo-Big East
Syracuse – Big East to ACC
Temple – Atlantic 10 to unnamed
Villanova – Big East to neo-Big East
(possibly Xavier – Atlantic 10 to neo-Big East)
(possibly Creighton – Missouri Valley to neo-Big East)

All seven Catholic instutions shiftng from the Big East to the neo-Big East have appeared in the AP Poll.

Rookie Coaches in the Post Season

While doing some lists, how about a look at who made the postseason from the last record carousel of 43 of the 75 first-time head coaches:

Jennifer Roos – Bowling Green (WNIT)
Natasha Adair – Charleston (WBI)
Joe Haigh - St. Francis, Pa. (WBI)
Laura Beeman – Hawaii (WNIT)
Tarrell Robinson – North Carolina AT (WNIT)
Joe Tartamella – St. John’s (NCAA)
Holly Warlick – Tennessee (NCAA)
Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky (WNIT)
Kevin Cook – Winthrop (WNIT)

Old Faces at New Places

Kim Barnes Arico – Michigan (NCAA)
Brady Sallee – Ball State (WNIT)
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke – Texas Southern (WNIT)
Matt Bollant – Illinois (WNIT)
Terry Williams-Flournoy – Auburn (WNIT)
Kevin Borseth -- Wis.-Green Bay (NCAA)

And that’s it for the moment.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AP Poll Notes Wrapping Up Year No. 37

By Mel Greenberg

The Associated Press women’s poll’s 37th season went into the history books with the release of Monday’s final poll and when the curtain goes up next season even before the first vote is taken the database that will be updated this summer will reflect a dramatic shift in categories caused by the membership shuffles that are going to occur – particularly with the breakup of the current Big East Conference.

But besides the alterations caused by conference movement, plenty else happened along the way.

Georgia coach Andy Landers, who became the active leader in poll appearances at the start of the season after Tennessee legend Pat Summitt stepped down as part of her ongoing battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, finished with 499 and with the Lady Bulldogs’ next ranking Landers will join Summitt as the only two coaches to have 500 or more appearances.

Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma finished with 406 appearances and if Rutgers continues to stay out of the rankings when the 2013-14 preseason poll is taken he will tie C. Vivian Stringer for fourth on the alltime list behind Summitt, Landers, and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.

Incidentally, with the change in the conference playoff calendar for the Big 12 and Pac-12 to the first weekend, few games involving teams in the last poll were played and as a result for the first time, ever, the entire list of 25 teams went unchanged, including ranking order, from the previous week.

Baylor, the defending NCAA champion, started out No. 1 and then made it back after Stanford and Connecticut were unable to enjoy life at the top after ascending to overlook the other 24 teams and others receiving votes.

In terms of stats of the poll on the season, Baylor, Duke, Connecticut and Stanford went wire-to-wire the entire 20 weeks in the Top 5 while Maryland was replaced early on by Notre Dame, which then stayed with the elite the rest of the way.

Tennessee is the only team to make the final poll all 37 seasons and the Lady Vols after starting out with the lowest preseason ranking ever at No. 20 and then plunged further to 24 righted themselves to finish in the Top 10 at number 10.

In the top, 10 Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky, and Notre Dame went wire to wire while Penn State dropped out to No. 11 just one week.

Maryland, Louisville and Georgia in the preseason Top 10 at the outset were replaced by California, Texas A&M and Tennessee at the finish.

Some teams in the preseason poll never made it to the finish as Oklahoma, St. John’s, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, and DePaul and Miami were replaced with UCLA, North Carolina, South Carolina, Dayton, Colorado, Wis.-Green Bay, Syracuse, Iowa State, and Florida State.

Over the course of the season one of the higher number of total teams ranked was reached at 43, including the 12-team wire-to-wire group of Baylor, California, Connecticut, Duke, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Penn State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Tennessee.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: The SEC Seven Owns NCAA Selection Monday

By Mike Siroky

Here is how bracketing works in the NCAA.

This is how an SEC team gets in even when it appears to not have earned an entry when compared to regular-season finishes in other conferences.

The Southeastern Conference will follow its own traditions closely. It expects to once again have the most league teams represented.

The NCAA Selection Committee, always stocked with representatives of every major conference who swear they “leave the room” when their own teams are being discussed, meet for several intense days. Before that, they have spent a season watching and assessing.

Unlike coaches who vote in the poll, they actually see other teams. If they are lucky enough to be associated with a major conference, they see several teams several times in the course of their regular jobs at universities.

About the only real requirement to be eligible is a winning record. That rule on the men’s side, for example, has consistently disqualified Northwestern from ever making the tournament.

In the women’s game, crowds count. Yes, a team with a sub-Region (first-round games) has to qualify with the winning record. But the NCAA is in business to make money and somehow must shoehorn in not-so-good teams to their own home games.

There are various other mysterious conjurings in the mix. In the women’s game, tradition counts a lot.

In the 28 seasons the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship has been contested, SEC schools have reached the Final Four 32 times, more than twice as often as any other conference. So, just being competitive in such a league is a starting point.

Once you are viewed as an NCAA team, you get considered for the next several seasons. It is but one tiebreaker in case you are so bad you are nearly eliminated from consideration. That’s how the SEC keeps so many entrants.

Another way tradition plays in is you can pre-select some teams for some Regions.

Stanford will always be West. They have been in the Final Four five straight seasons. They have not won the title in more than two decades.

Tennessee and UConn will generally be East, even if that means South which lately has been more East the South.

UConn does not have to leave the state to qualify for the Final Four and even opens at home. Tennessee has done that and will host a sub-Regional again which basically means they are a Sweet 16 team again, likely in the South, but not a No. 1.

Texas A&M and LSU also host sub-Regionals, three being more than any other conference. The game within the game has begun.

Playing in a major conference helps the mythical strength of schedule argument. A team can be real strong at some point in the season then lose a star player for a few games or even weeks and the schedule hasn’t changed so much as the team has changed.

The three best SEC teams all lost to non-ranked conference opponents. Tennessee, leading the league most of the year, was not even the highest-ranked conference team until the last week of the season and lost that standing before the SEC tournament.

You have all these automatic conference qualifiers, the big happy family of the nationwide sorority. There are 31 of those. Once the conferences decided they, too, were in the business of making money (notice no consideration to the players’ well-being yet) they decided to have the post-season tournaments for the purpose of assigning their automatic bids to the NCAA Selection Committee.

This way, if a team not really on the radar at the end of the season makes a run and wins the conference tournament, they are in. Michigan state of the Big Ten may have done that this year by earning its way to the conference tournament finals.

The SEC men once had a non-tournament team win the SEC tournament and get a bid which only eliminated another schlub team from another conference. Besides, the best teams in that conference had higher seeds as at-large entrants.

In the women’s game, just last year, Purdue (and finalist Nebraska) each elevated their game in the immediate post-season and Purdue had an automatic bid after winning the conference tournament as a lower seed.

It happened again this season when Purdue and Michigan State advanced to the league conference finals over the only ranked teams in the conference.

That guaranteed at least four Big Ten teams in the field of 64.

Last season, Purdue was able to safely host the sub-Regional and sell more tickets, even though they were eliminated in the second game, the Sweet 16 qualifier, by the No. 5 team in the SEC, South Carolina. The tickets had been sold by then and the NCAA was satisfied.

Ohio State never did get hot enough to qualify this season. That’s one low tiebreaking consideration as a host team. They could have been the last team in their overall Regional, but playing at home to start. Instead, we have a truly neutral sub-Regional with no host team.

LSU knows that works for them this year as they have slipped from last season’s effort. They do host a sub-Region, an entry formula established 28 years ago. They have the marquee wins over Texas A&M and then Georgia.

For the record, Georgia finished on an 8-2 run in the final 10, which is an NCAA qualifier. South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky all went 7-3. Texas A&M and Vanderbilt were 6-4.

Another NCAA predictor, RPI, has the league’s best teams in the top 30 nationally (or better than half the NCAA draw), led by Tennessee (seventh), then Kentucky (ninth), South Carolina (12th), Texas A&M (16 th);Georgia (19th) and Vanderbilt (30th). LSU is 34th, but Arkansas (62nd), Florida (69 th) and Auburn (90th) are all in the top 100.

What won’t happen, if you have followed the silly bracketology on another site, is two conference teams playing against each other in the first round.

One such site had that locked in as of mid-February.

Sometimes a Region host team will have a tough entrance exam but with the possibility still of getting home for more games. Tennessee one year hosted the Final Four and lost in the Region to another SEC team. The former coach said the players would be “towel girls” at the Final Four. LSU could have two higher-seeded teams in their gym. They’d need two upsets to get to the Sweet 16.

If you basically come up with 64 teams, more than half of them are designated by winning conference tournaments. If the SEC gets six or seven in, the ACC and Big East five, The Big Ten four – all based on tradition -- then you quickly run out of true at-large teams. LSU and Vanderbilt each won their 20th games in their opening SEC tournament games. They then lost the next one. If both are in, then every SEC team with a winning record within conference is in.

Here’s the real dependable truth: Every year since the NCAA began women’s games, there has been one super team, maybe a close competitor and then all the rest. Baylor this season and last. No one in the SEC approximates that, but that does not mean they cannot win the NCAA.

As there are four Regionals, there will be a Final Four, generally from the other top seeds in the other Regions. You can say the same about Sweet 16 qualifiers: There will be 16 of them. Some of the super schools actually have grown weary of being in the Sweet 16 and no further every year.

Then there’s Stanford, a Final Four team five straight seasons and no title because of that falloff from the super team each season. When coach Tara Vanderveer wins another title, there will be a sigh of relief across the nation.

If this were a men’s program, it would be discussed and celebrated. So far, it is just a footnote for sometimes lazy writers to incorporate in pretournament stories.

Same, to some degree, for the sharing of the national title. There are more one-and-dones than there are championship schools. One national title solidifies a coach’s longevity for as long as she or she wants to stay at the school which won. This is another disconnect from the men’s game.

A National Championship also gets you an invitation to the Women’s College Basketball Hall of Fame. It is not one of that hall’s expressed rules, but it is true all the same, as true as for those who win national honors multiple years as a player.

Selection Monday Process

The committee picks four No. 1 seeds, then a No. 1 of all No. 1s (for some reason; again mostly for newsy notes in stories).

Then they pick four No. 2s, No. 3s and all the way down to the scrawniest puppy in the litter.

Starting at the top, they then assign the No. 1s based on Regional preferences and the No. 2s the same. Which is how Tennessee, UConn and Stanford always end up nearer their fan base.

It is only when they assign 2-4 to Regions that they really pay attention to location (fans base/ticket sales) but moreso to not having a rematch of conference foes before Region finals.

Sometimes, teams want to avoid a super team that has already waxed them and thus they get to go West (the better teams are still mostly East of the Mississippi) or this year and last East (generally, the weakest of the other three Regions) to avoid Baylor for as long as possible.

Yes, they have to beat them if they want to win the title. But UConn and Tennessee each made a Final Four and then stumbled as two top players had been injured in the tournament.

This season, Duke lost its point guard in the final week of February when it was undefeated in the league and won the conference outright the next game.

Tennessee lost its center for the final game at Kentucky and the SEC tournament so she may be done. They are 1-2 without her.

UConn lost its backup point guard to a torn ACL to start February which matters only in those games wherein there is foul trouble to the starter or in the triple-overtime loss at Notre Dame that decided the Big East tournament seed. But all these situations figure in the seasonal finish.

Stanford once had a player with a blown ACL which they did not certify until the day of the first-round game and thus were “upset” in the first round for the only time because most of the points were in street clothes on the bench.

So you seed the 1-4 to Regions and that is basically going to be the Sweet 16.

The sub-Regions have been bought and paid for by host schools. If a Big does not host or have a game within one tank of gas, they might be a marquee team for a site within their Region to bolster ticket sales.

The sub-Regions thus play out as for assignments. It is difficult to argue anything about who is left out. There simply are not 64 worthy teams in America.

So you use unwritten qualifiers like an aged coach who deserves another line in the resume. Or a star player from say, Delaware, that the knowledgeable fan wants to see once at a Regional.

Delaware hosts a sub-Region as it honors its all-time best player so they are likely going to the Sweet 16.

Stanford is also hosting, also on its way to another Sweet 16, as are nationally ranked – all season --- Maryland, Duke and Louisville.

Maybe you have a name school as far the men’s game (Big Ten, SEC) that a casual fan can recognize to gin up ticket sales as well.

Most of the questions used to fill out preview stories after Selection Monday will be of the uninitiated (or those pandering to a fan base) who ask about travel. The student/athlete is generally not a factor and, really, welcomes a short trip to anywhere they have never been before.

The Selection Committee head will use her one moment in the spotlight to go over the idea of avoiding too many conference teams in one Region, avoiding regular-season rematches as often as possible (the same thing). All the while, everyone knows there is the one super team, a couple of other pretenders and this argument about travel is not really anything.

Sometimes, the NCAA has teams not expected to last more than one game check out of the NCAA hotels on game day with a reserved night flight home already booked. If the upset happens, then the team really has no worries as there will be a place to stay (formerly saved for whomever they eliminated) after the celebration.

It even has happened at the Final Four, where the majority of the university traveling party from the semifinal losers is on the bus to the airport as quickly as possible, save the potential all-tournament player of a losing side.

You can bet no NCAA team has ever paid for an extra day’s stay for an entire team. Suddenly, getting “back to class” is important after all. You can be just as sure school presidents, athletic directors and even coaches can stay through the Final Four experience on the university ticket even if they never played the game.

The women’s coaching association has its annual gathering at the Final Four, which is another perk for coaches already eliminated.

But that’s the endgame. Here, at the start, the unknowing of early-round matchups is the thing. The discovery or who is on the starting five of that team with one good player is to be had. Some writers even grouse about travel, not recognizing they have the best job in the world and sound so selfish.

In past years, we would have been through two games by now, but the NCAA works in mysterious ways, its wonder to perform.

Let the games begin. Half of the teams are one-and-done, then half again.

That’s when we’ll know which teams are truly Sweet 16 this year. Chances are you can name the majority of them right now:

The top two SEC hosts and one or more other league teams, then Baylor, Stanford, Delaware, Duke, Maryland, Louisville, Notre Dame and UConn. That’s 14 right there.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: May the Best Man Win

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament produced no real upsets as the top four seeds made the semifinals. Texas A&M eventually outlasted everyone else.

Texas A&M crashed the finals in its first year in conference. Both are coached by males, which once upon a time was important. In winning, A&M is ahead of Kentucky and six other league teams in tournament titles. That says as much of the dominance by Tennessee as anything else, but still.
After all, it is only a tuneup for the national competition.

The Aggies strung together three good games, probably earning a No. 2 NCAA seed in the NCAA field of 64 as the league’s endorsed bid. But they will not go alone.

The SEC had five teams – the ranked ones – already preparing for the NCAA and the draw is not until March 11. All those teams need to do is wash the uniforms and let the NCAA make arrangements. Three of them do not even need travel plans.

There will be another No. 2 and maybe a No. 3. The others – and there could be as many as seven league teams in – will be scattered across America.

LSU, likely to be a low seed at home for a sub-Regional having attained its 20-win season by winning seven straight. Vanderbilt also won its 20th and would be the last SEC team in.

If the Commodores do get placed, it means all teams with conference winning percentages get invited. LSU, at home for the sub-Regional will see one or more higher seeds in Baton Rouge.

But seven teams would reflect the obvious RPI of the league.

The league’s select six are in the top 30 RPI nationally (or better than half the NCAA draw), led by Tennessee (seventh), then Kentucky (ninth), South Carolina (12th), Texas A&M (16 th);Georgia (19th) and Vanderbilt (30th). LSU is 34th, then Arkansas (62nd), Florida (69 th) and Auburn (90th) are all in the top 100.

Another NCAA predictor, the final 10 games of a season, had Georgia on an 8-2 run. South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky all went 7-3. Texas A&M and Vanderbilt were 6-4. A&M obviously has the best active streak in conference at three.

This league is so strong it stays off-campus for the conference tournament.

Duluth, Ga., has also hosted in 2007 and 2010. Tennessee had already won more than half of these sorority gatherings, 16 of 31. Georgia has seven.

Texas A&M and Tennessee are both ranked below Kentucky’s No. 7, yet they are the regular season and tournament titlists.

A&M can step on the gas now as it will host host two games before the Sweet 16, as will LSU and Tennessee, A&M and UT likely the highest seed at their home gyms.

No one wants to be in Baylor’s bracket, so a chance to go West is realistic and the usual suspect for the weakest Regional. UConn and Notre Dame are likely No. 1 seeds – with UConn not leaving the state before the final Four --

in the East and South. Someone from the Big Three of the conference will have to take them on before the Final Four as well.

But, if you earn a No. 2 seed now, there is the chance another team can at least rough them up if not eliminate them before the Final Four qualifier.

Here are the tournament results:

Opening Round

•Alabama 66, Mississippi State 36.

Two teams going nowhere, except perhaps to peruse resumes for new coaches. The winner got a grand exit prize of meeting South Carolina in Round 2. The Crimson Tide (13-17) won its first SEC tournament game since 2005.

Meghan Perkins scored 17, Daisha Simmons 13 and no one on State hit double figures.

Second Round

•Florida 64, Arkansas 59

The opener was two teams either of which could be the answer to: “Whatever happened to . . .” this season.

Jaterra Bonds scored 17, including a jumper with 51 seconds remaining that gave Florida the lead. The Gators had trailed by as many as 11.

Bonds' jumper gave Florida a 60-59 lead. She added two free throws with 30 seconds remaining as the Gators scored the final six points. Bonds made 10 of 12 free throws.

January Miller had 14 points and Sydney Moss had 13 for Florida. The winners were awarded another exit prize: A date with No. 1 seed and angry, Tennessee. Arkansas finishes 18-12, a likely NWIT entrant.

Lady Vol fans, loyal as ever, arrived early and made made up about half of the crowd even without their team present.

•South Carolina 77, Alabama 35

The No. 5 seed Gamecocks were a bit miffed at playing an extra game because they stumbled late against Mississippi State and worked themselves out of an extra day off.

They were the only guaranteed NCAA celebrant in this round. The reserves had their day, especially in the 49-17 second half.

Elem Ibiam scored 19 and All-SEC Second Team Ashley Bruner pulled down 14 rebounds. The defense matched the record low for the tournament. It is their eighth straight over Alabama under fifth-year coach Dawn Staley.

Alabama (13-18) ends the season by losing 11 of its last 12 games.

• Vanderbilt 52, Missouri 40.

No. 10 seed Missouri can post the win over Tennessee as the highlight of the home season. But No. 7 seed Vanderbilt was playing for a 20th win and to qualify as that elusive No. 7 team in the NCAAs from the conference.

With sevens wild, Vanderbilt moved into the quarterfinals. Tiffany Clarke, Vanderbilt’s All-SEC First Teamer, scored 14.

Missouri ends its first SEC season 17-14.

• LSU 65, Auburn 62

Sixth-seeded LSU also won its 20th and barely kept its seven-game win streak intact.

Adrienne Webb, LSU¸ All-SEC Second Team, scored 18 and Theresa Plaisance, All-SEC First Team, scored 15, with 14 rebounds.

Auburn won the second half by 12, but obviously failed at the start.

No. 11 seed Auburn (16-14) ended a dismal first season in conference for coach Terri Williams-Flournoy.


The thing about quarterfinals in good conferences is if there are no upsets, you have done as well as you can as a league and everything else is just extra. All the top four seeds slipped right into the Semifinals

• Arkansas vs. Tennessee

The lights came on for top-seeded Tennessee. They had already beaten Arkansas in the regular season and were in the right frame of mind.

Coach Holly Warlick has them believing they have been dissed by other top-flight conference members, starting with a pre-season pick as the fifth-best team, All season (save for one week), though leading the league, they somehow have been ranked lower than another team in conference. They still are, after folding in the semifinals.

With Warlick as Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year Bashaara Graves joining one of the co-Players of the Year, Meighan Simmons, on the First team all-SEC, they were angry and motivated.

Warlick was not at all satisfied with this effort. She ran the Gators to distraction, breaking out on every play and the result was a lot of sloppy fouls by a young chasing team.

Tennessee had a 24-6 free throws made advantage.

They took the Gators apart on the first half, winning by 11, then exhaled and coasted into their reserved spot in the semifinals. Simmons was reinserted for the final minute as a precaution. Warlick only used two reserves and one of them, Cierra Burdick, scored 14 with eight rebounds. Simmons scored 20 and Graves 10 with six rebounds.

Still missing in action – and under a cloud of no mention by UT – is the tallest player on the team, 6-3 center Isabelle Harrison, who looks to be through with a banged-up knee. They were 1-1 without her at this point in the starting lineup.

Florida closes 18-14, but four games under in the league, never quite living up to expectations despite being ranked for part of the season. Freshman Sydney Moss, a star to be, scored 22. Another rookie, Carlie Needles, hit four 3s.

• Texas A&M 61, South Carolina 52

South Carolina had lost to No. 4 seed Texas A&M in the regular season and that’s why they had to play before the quarterfinals in the first matchup of two teams already headed to the NCAAs,

A&M won again to reserve a rematch with Tennessee. UT had beaten them in Knoxville just a week earlier. In fact, this ended a three-game end-of-season losing streak.

Senior forward Kris Bellock scored 17 -- 6-of-8 from the field -- for A&M’s opening conference playoff game. A&M won both halves, the second by 16.

Ashley Bruner of SC scored 19 with 11 rebounds. The Gamecocks (22-9) await a middling seed in the NCAAs, fifth best in conference coming in, fifth best in conference going out.

• Kentucky 76, Vanderbilt 65

No. 2 seed Kentucky, off a disappointing non-defense of its league title seeks solace here and welcomed Vanderbilt in the second matchup of two likely NCAA qualifiers. UK had won at Vanderbilt by plenty in the regular season.

The Wildcats forced 23 turnovers, the 146th consecutive game UK has forced double-digit turnovers

A’dia Mathies, Kentucky and DeNesha Stallworth, Kentucky, all-SEC First Team. Mathies, also co-Player of the Year, led them. Mathies scored 16 and Stallworth 14. The ’Cats are in the semifinals for the fourth straight season, an indicator of the superlative senior class.

Vanderbilt finishes 20-11. Senior forward Tiffany Clarke recorded her 10th double-double of the season and 22nd of her career with a team-leading 24 points and 12 rebounds in her SEC finale.

• Georgia 71, LSU 53

No. 3 seed Georgia showed why they are a usual suspect for the Sweet 16 against LSU, the third matchup of two NCAA qualifiers. Coach Andy Landers has now coached in more SEC tournaments than any other coach.

Jasmine Hassell, All-SEC First Team, led the five Bulldogs in double-figures, Jasmine James, All-SEC Second Team, scored 10 with four assists

Georgia lost by eight to LSU during the Bengals’ league-best stretch run.
LSU (20-11) was led by Adrienne Webb’s team-high 16 points one of three Bengals in double-digits.

Saturday Semifinals

Guaranteed: No other conference has such highly-ranked national teams in semifinals. No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Georgia and No. 9 Tennessee vs. No. 19 Texas A&M.

• Texas A&M 66, Tennessee 62

The lack of size did show up as A&M rattled the Lady Vols. Uncharacteristically, the league’s top-scoring team simply stopped scoring in the second half.

A pair of Courtney freshmen, Walker and Williams, led the surge, overcoming a 10-point deficit as A&M eventually won both halves by two.

“How about those young Aggies?” declared Texas A&M coach Gary Blair. “We keep finding a way.”

Usual leader Kelsey Bone had a quiet 15. Walker led with 18.

Taber Spani had a career-high 33 for top-seeded Tennessee (24-7), the SEC's regular-season champion. The defense of reserve Tori Scott haunted her the most.

Spani’s season scoring average was 10. She hit 11-of-13 in this one from the field, including 5-of-6 3s. Co-Player of the year Meighan Simmons scored but 10. Dead is the 10-game conference tournament winning streak.

Their true center, 6-3 rookie Isabelle Harrison, was again not mentioned. She has an “issue” with her medial collateral ligament in her right knee. She had surgery on her left knee meniscus in February. They are 1-2 without her in the starting lineup. A&M had 18 offensive rebounds.

• Kentucky 60, Georgia 38

What A&M’s win assured was a team coached by a male would win conference. UK UK and Georgia are both coached by men.

The Bulldogs playing their usual “don’t count on us” card, big time. Jasmine Hassell scored 17 and that was about it for 25-6 Georgia.

Given the opening to win the conference tournament by Tennessee’s loss, the Wildcats romped in search of more Big Blue History

Trailing by five, the Wildcats took the lead with a 15-0 run early in the second half and closed with 13 unanswered points.

Jennifer O'Neill sank 3-pointers on each end of the big run and DeNesha Stallworth had 18 points for Kentucky, who lost to Tennessee in the 2010 and 2011 championship games, winning their only tournament championship in 1982.

This more than made up for the four-point loss late in the season to Georgia, which cost the ’Cats a tie (they would have owned the tiebreaker) for the regular-season title. Kentucky was 1-2 in SEC tournament finals, all previous games against Tennessee.

Sunday Final

• Texas A&M 75, Kentucky 67

Maybe Kelsey Bone, Texas A&M’s All-SEC First Teamer, was just playing possum.

The league scoring leader all season at better than 17 per game and second-best rebounder (almost 10), scored but seven in the quarterfinal and did not lead the team in the semifinal.

She had just four at the break if this one, called for her second foul and banished to the bench the final 8:54 of the half. So, naturally, she exploded with a dominant second half and has now bested the co-players of the year in back-to-back games.

She finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds.

After No. 7 Kentucky led only 36-34 at halftime, Bone said she saw an opportunity to make up for two regular-season losses to the Wildcats.

“It was a two-fold thing for me,” Bone said. “Both times we've played Kentucky previously I've had terrible cramps going into the second half. I'm sitting on the bench and played only eight minutes in the first half. I’ve still got 20 minutes in my tank. It was probably a blessing in disguise.

“We were only down two points. I felt like we had taken their best shot and we had not thrown our best punch yet.”

She is the tournament MVP and gladly helped cut down the nets. She tied a string from the net to the back of her white SEC Champions cap.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said one of his pregame challenges was directed to Bone, who played in the SEC as a freshman with South Carolina before transferring to Texas A&M.

“I said give me 15 boards, give me 10 defensive ones, five offensive ones, give me five assists and play great defense,” Blair said. “Look at what their post players did. She and (Kristi) Bellock shut them down.

“She got me 10 defensive rebounds and five offensive rebounds. She owes me an assist and I'll ask for it next time because she only got four.”

Kentucky center DeNesh Stallworth made only four of 12 shots for 10 points. Power forward Samarie Walker made only one of five shots.

Bellock had 15 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Courtney Walker, in a second straight strong game, scored 14 for the Aggies.

Texas A&M took the lead with an 11-0 run early in the second half and then stretched the advantage to 11 with an 8-0 run midway through the half.

The Aggies took their big lead of 15 points at 63-48 when Kentucky tried to rally. Bria Goss sank a 3-pointer and Jennifer O'Neill followed with a three-point play, pulling the Wildcats to within nine points.

A basket by Mathies with 3:12 remaining cut the Aggies' lead to 70-63, but Bone answered by scoring for the Aggies.

Kentucky swept two regular-season games against Texas A&M, but the combined margin of victory in the two games was only seven points.

“It’s hard to beat us three times,” Blair said.

Even with Bone sitting out most of the half, the Wildcats' biggest lead was two points. Kentucky, which trailed by six at 23-17 midway through the half, led 36-34 at halftime as O'Neill closed the half with two straight baskets.

Stallworth scored to open the second half, stretching Kentucky's lead to four points. The No. 19 Aggies scored the next 11 to take a 45-38 lead they would not lose.

Classy as always, UK coach Matt Mitchell said all the right things.

“We were very disappointed that we lost, but we were beaten by a very good basketball team, a very hungry basketball team,” he said. “Texas A&M had a very strong desire to be the champions and that's why they're cutting down the nets.”

Something had to give and it was for once the not-so-exuberant Wildcats.
A&M was allowing 57.4 points per game, while scoring an average 70.3; UK was allowing 56.9 while scoring 77.3.

UK has made an almost mythological statement on defense most of the season, but then they hit four of the first 23 in the second half, meaning A&M (24-9) held them to Kentucky to 17.4 percent then.

“That is coaching,” Mitchell said. “There’s no other way around it. We could not get a bucket. "Our post players are not at a point where they can get on the post and score.

"That is a credit to Texas A&M’s defense, but I should have done a better job at this point in the season of being better able to manufacture some offense. I feel really bad about that.”

A’dia Mathies led Kentucky (27-5) with 19 points. O’Neill had 17. The Wildcats shot 35.5 percent from the field for the game.

Now comes the big draw. See you after Selection Monday.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Mike Siroky's Big Ten Report: The Big Ten Just Needs A Leader

By Mike Siroky

When the Big Ten Conference women’s basketball tournament started, Lin Dunn was at Purdue, C. Vivian Stringer was at Iowa, Nancy Darsch was at Ohio State and Renee Portland was at Penn State. All those fashioned a Big Ten team which made a Final Four.

Sure, that was 19 years ago and even the site – legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the finals for Hoosiers was filmed – was unique, but the point is no coach now affiliated with the conference (whose marketers use simply Big as the name) gives the conference a Wow Factor identity.

Coquese Washington, the Penn state coach, won conference again but was only 4-5 in the league tournament as this year’s edition started in a Chicago suburb. Penn State last won it in 1996, when Portland was still there. They did not win it again and are 5-6 in her run.

Since Joann P. McCallie fled Michigan State for Duke after the 2007 season, there has not been a real name coach with success. She was the last conference coach to make a Final Four. And she had even been a conference player, at Northwestern.

Purdue has the top three coaches in the tournament by percentage. Sharon Versyp is as good as it gets right now for name coaches in conference. She also was a player in conference, at Purdue. And she coached one year at arch-rival Indiana, losing to Purdue in the semifinals. She also won the post-season tournament again.

The Big Ten is trying to establish a presence. The league itself is Chicago-centric, yet Indianapolis has seemed more geographically acceptable for fans coming to the games. They even tried Grand Rapids, Mich., once.

That’s the last time it was not in Indianapolis. Since 2004, the year they attracted better than 9,000 to the finals, they draw about 6,000 per session.

In 2004, the draw was Purdue vs. top seed Penn State and Purdue won.

Last year, lower seeds Purdue (4) and newcomer Nebraska (6) edged their way into the championship game and NCAA tournament bids. This year it was unranked Purdue (3) and Michigan State (4).

Penn State was ranked No. 8 in the nation. Nebraska was No. 21. If, as some savants have predicted elsewhere, more Big teams were to join the NCAA invitational, something Big had to happen in Chicago. Michigan State may have made that statement

Here’s what happened, numbers reflecting seeds :

First Round

•No. 7 Iowa 60, No. 10 Northwestern 55

May as well eliminate “Chicago’s’ Big Ten team” early.

The Hawkeyes need no wake up call for the matinee starter. Iowa had started the week winning by 17 over the Wildcats to close the regular season.

Morgan Johnson and Jamie Printy scored 18 apiece as Iowa never trailed and led by 15 three minutes left before losing interest.

Northwestern closes 13-17. Coach Joe McKeown was coming off two winning seasons, so this was a flop in his fourth season. Prior to Northwestern, he had taken George Washington to 15 NCAA appearances, including the Sweet 16 before fleeing to the Chicago area.

•No. 11 Wisconsin 58, No. 6 Illinois 57

The best game of the night. Morgan Paige scored 18, including two free throws with three seconds remaining. Illinois had trailed by 10 with six minutes left.

The Illini finish 16-13 in Matt Bollants’ first season as coach. He had coached Green Bay to five straight Horizon League titles and four straight NCAA appearances. The Illini last had a winning conference record in 2003, when Theresa Grentz coached there.

•No. 9 Ohio State 58, No. 8 Minnesota 47

This was as good of a result for the Buckeyes yet in a season of disappointments.

Tayler Hill scored a game-high 25. She was 11-of-14 from the line. A 27-4 run straddling the end of the first half and the start of the second decided it.

The Buckeyes earned a shot at top-seed Penn State in a quarterfinal elimination game. It was the fourth straight win as OSU desperately tried to salvage the season with 20 wins.

The Buckeyes do host a sub-Regional, which means the NCAA would like to see them included in. But they still have a losing record (8-9) in conference, including a 15-point debacle vs. Penn State in the regular season.

•No. 5 Michigan 57, No. 12 Indiana 40

The expected result for Hoosiers. There is, apparently, only room for one good basketball team on campus. A 12-0 run by the Wolverines set the pace.

Michigan’s Nicole Elmblad had a double-double, 14 points and 10 boards.
IU finishes 11-19 for coach Curt Miller, another newbie. He came from Bowling Green where he had won the Mid-American seven of eight seasons and had been coach of the year a record six times.


The thing about quarterfinals in good conferences is if there are no upsets, you have done as well as you can as a league and everything else is just extra. All the top four seeds slipped right into the Semifinals

•Nebraska 76, Iowa 61

Last season’s tournament finalists, seeded second this time, began another run with emphasis, winning both halves. Jordan Hooper, a playoff star last season, scored 21. Lindsey Moore scored 13 with six assists. Unfortunately for the draw, the next up is last year’s champ, Purdue.

Thierra Taylor scored 22 to lead Iowa (20-12), but Iowa lost all three chances against natural rival Nebraska, which finished second in the league. Lisa Bluder, in her 13th season as Iowa’s coach has had them in the NCAAs for five straight years. They may luck in again as they were even in conference play.

• Purdue 74, Wisconsin 62

The defending tournament champs find themselves unranked at the moment and the No. 3 seed. A very workmanlike dispatch of lackluster Wisconsin moved them into yet another semifinal. The lost the first half by a point and smoothly won the second half.

KK Houser reminded all there is a very point guard in this league with 15 points.

Jacki Gulczynski led the 11th-seeded Badgers (12-19) with 21 points. Tessa Cichy scored 14 as the Badgers, who made all 21 of their free-throw tries in their opening tournament game, made 13-of-14 against Purdue.

Wisconsin has not had a winning record since 2011, and then it was only 16-15. There were two seniors on the roster, but coach Bobbie Kelsey was brought in to do better than this, a second straight losing effort. She came in as a strong assistant from Stanford.

• Penn State 76, Ohio State 66

Last season, this was the projected No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed. This year, not so much. The Nittany Lions, as the top seed, got 20 points from Alex Bentley and 18 from Maggie Lucas, the conference Player of The Year.

Tayler Hill, one of three seniors, scored 23 for Ohio State and became the fifth Buckeyes player to hit 2,000 career points. She scored more than 1,000 just since December of 2011. She was All Big Ten first team last season and this. Her team may be through in the NCAAs.

Ohio State is 18-13 after a four-game win streak to close the season, but had a dismal 7-9 conference run, which oughta disqualify itself from appearing even in its own sub-Regional. The NCAA has made that mistake before, however, and would have to leapfrog them past more deserving teams even in conference. They have not earned their way.

•Michigan State 62, Michigan 46

It’s always good to have at least one in-state rivalry mean something. State is the No. 4 seed and showed the difference in its fourth staright win, taking the season series 2-1 and avenging a one-point loss at Ann Arbor.

Junior guard Klarissa Bell scored 20 in 38 minutes.

Michigan finishes 21-10, with five seniors and is the kind of sneaky team that could get an NCAA bid. Coach Kim Barnes Arico did swell in her first season, coming from the Big East and legendary St. John’s.


The only two ranked teams in conference were available. The next two best would be the obvious extra NCAA choices if the league gets such a gift. Penn State is No. 8. Nebraska is No. 21.

•Purdue 77, Nebraska 64

So, naturally, unranked Purdue replicated the final of last season and eliminated Nebraska, assuring the Big of three in the NCAAs.

KK Houser maintained her dominance for a second straight game. She scored 13 with eight rebounds from the point guard position, six steals, and five assists and teammate Sam Ostarello 18. This makes three straight for Purdue over the Cornhuskers, including a three-point OT win in January.

Lindsey Moore scored 22 for the second-seeded Cornhuskers (23-8), who had won 11 of 12. They now await their NCAA fate.

• Michigan State 54, Penn State 46

Upset Saturday continued with the Spartans smothering Penn State. For the second straight season, the Nittany Lions have fallen to a lesser-seeded team in the semifinals.

The Spartans outscored them by 12 in the second segment. Jasmine Thomas scored 14 of 19 after intermission. Penn State had more turnovers (14) than field goals (11) in the opening half.

Penn State star Maggie Lucas, the conference Player of the Year, had 23 points and nine rebounds but had no help. Penn State (25-9) awaits its fate in the NCAAs and may have blown both a No. 2 NCAA seed and the chance everyone wants, to be the highest seed at Ohio State, a truly neutral sub-Regional.

Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant has produced seven winning seasons and has the second-best winning percentage in the league, 69.5 percent.

They had been in the past four NCAA tournaments. She is making her bones in the Big Ten, having started at smaller schools in state. The Spartans have earned the chance to be the last Big team invited to the NCAAs.

The finalists split the regular season, each winning on the road.


• Purdue 62, Michigan State 47

Purdue coach Sharyn Versyp does not worry much about ther regular season because her school has the tradition of qualifying by winning the automatic bid. They did it again, the school’s ninth.



Drey Mingo scored 24, winning the tournament MVP in the process and the Boilermakers made it look easy. Each team finished 24-8.

She was paying back all the love Purdue had shown her when she transferred in after two seasons at Maryland. She was the second-leading scorer and top rebounder on campus when she retained her eligibility. Then she tore her right anterior cruciate ligament.

The school had to fight for the extra season. They did and the result was this payback. She was in street clothes last season when her team won without her.

“I’ll never forget Coach V looked me in my face after we won last year and said ‘We will get back,’ ” she said. “I’m so happy that we did. I’m elated.”

Versyp’s version has her telling Mingo that Purdue would be back, that Mingo would be playing and that she'd lead the Boilermakers to the conference championship.

“She's a walking miracle,” Versyp said. “She's an inspiration. I’m just so happy that things worked out the way it did for her and our team.”

Jasmine Thomas led Michigan State with 15 points and seven rebounds. Kiana Johnson scored 11, but the Spartans shot just under 33 percent.
State just couldn't stay with Mingo in the early going.

“We knew going in she was a hardworking post player, probably one of the hardest workers in the Big Ten,” Thomas said. “She just doesn’t stop. If she’s not open in one area, she’ll fight until she is. That's what makes her tough because she never quits.”

Spartans coach Suzy Merchant is hopeful her team earned its way into the NCAAs again.

“I did like our fight in the second half,” she said. “I thought we did some pretty good things to make it interesting and to hear the crowd trying to get back into it.

I guess the No. 1 thing is we're not going to make an excuse. We played badly.”

The conference quartet – the ranked teams plus the two finalists -- sit back and wait a week for Selection Monday. There is no No1. and probably not even a No. 2 in the group. They may have no one in the final Top 10. But they can each be sent to separate Regionals and get a chance to represent that way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Welcome to the Fun Tournament

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament is fun.

Fun to watch. Fun to play in. Sometimes fun to coach.

The SEC has five teams – the ranked ones – already doing laundry for the NCAA and the draw is not until March 11.

Sure, the champ gets the official conference bid. There are no No. 1 national bids for the SEC this time. But there will be two No. 2s and maybe a No. 3.

The others – and there could be as many as seven league teams in – will be scattered across America.

LSU seems likely to be a high seed at home for a sub-Regional. That means they will have higher-ranked team visiting. How many and how much higher will be decided by the Tigers in the SEC tournament. So it counts more for them than for the ranked teams. They do have the league’s hottest win streak – at six – included in their regular-season finish. If Vanderbilt gets to the next tournament that means all the SEC teams with winning conference records get in. Such is the RPI of the league.

This league is so strong it can go off-campus for the conference tournament. Duluth, Ga., has also hosted in 2007 and 2010.

Tennessee has already won more than half of these sorority gatherings, 16 of 31. Georgia has seven. Of course the SEC being the SEC means the league champ is once again nationally ranked below the runnerup. That can be validated or changed this week as the SEC plays early enough to change the final regular-season rankings.

Of the contenders, this is A&M’s first chance (which puts it on the same number as seven other league teams) and UK has won it twice. In the NCAAs, the Lady Vols will host two games before the Sweet 16, as will Texas A&M, each likely the highest seed at their own places.

For the record, Georgia finished on an 8-2 run in the final 10, which is an NCAA qualifier. South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky all went 7-3. Texas A&M and Vanderbilt were 6-4.

If UK, UT and A&M all do as well as expected, what they are angling for is good NCAA positioning. No one wants to be in Baylor’s bracket, so a chance to go West is realistic and the usual suspect for the weakest Regional.

UConn and Notre Dame are likely No. 1 seeds – with UConn not leaving the state before the final Four -- in the East and South. Someone from the Big Three of the conference will have to take them on before the Final Four as well. But, if you earn a No. 2 seed now, there is the chance another team can at least rough them up if not eliminate them before the Final Four qualifier.

SEC teams can also enjoy the intensity of good basketball in four days.

Some unexpected player will make the all-tournament team even if her team is the championship one. The big dogs don’t even bark until quarterfinals on Friday.

Here are the games this week (seeds in parentheses) and league record this season:


Mississippi State (12) 5-11 vs. Alabama (13) 2-14.


Arkansas (8) 6-10 vs. Florida (9) 6-10; Game 1 Winner vs. South Carolina (5) 11-5; Missouri (10) 6-10 vs. Vanderbilt (7) 9-7; Auburn (11) 5-11 vs. LSU (6) 10-6.


Arkansas-Florida winner vs. Tennessee (1) 14-2; Game 1-South Carolina winner vs. Texas A&M (4) 11-5; Missouri-Vanderbilt winner vs. Kentucky (2) 13-3; Auburn - LSU winner Vs. Georgia 12-4.

Saturday semifinals, Sunday final.

These are preordained by the league finish. What Tennessee did by winning the league was earn an interesting semifinal. Georgia would face the surging LSU team, if all higher seeds win. Then Georgia would get UT. But A&M and UK would have a mighty semifinal battle, a bit tougher than the one the Lady Vols project to face.

In the pretournament teleconference, the usual mumbo-jumbo from all the coaches had some blinks of reality.

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said her team would certainly loved to have only one SEC loss (as the second came on the last day of the season) but that they had to refocus now.

“As you play hard, good things will happen,” she said. “I like our energy and how hard we play.”

She did not confirm anything about her injured center.

“We’ve had a toughness about us,” she said. “After all of our losses, we’ve gone back to work and gone back extremely hard.”

Gary Blair of Texas A&M is still playing the newcomer card in his school’s initial league run, especially with the tough finish, three straight and four of five.

“You can go from the top 10 two weeks ago to No. 19 now. There’s nothing wrong with us. We have got to play harder, play smarter and sometime give s credit to your opponents.

“We are going to our first SEC tournament and we’re gonna have a good time. The team that wins the SEC regular season doesn’t always win the conference tournament. That’s what happened in the Big 12 when we didn’t win the regular season but won the conference tournament.

“We are going in to have fun. We just need some Band-Aids and some confidence. I am playing three kids in the top nine who are freshmen.

Leadership has to come from within and it starts with the head coach.

“I have got to do a better job. We know we are gonna be in the NCAAs but we are going in to win this. The first one to get to 51 (points) in the first game will win.”

Andy Landers, long the best man in the conference, said, “We have better teams and better players in the SEC. Not only the veteran players, but the younger players. The talent in the league is higher and very well-distributed throughout the league.”

Matt Mitchell of Kentucky might be one of those who did not win the regular season but turns it around in the first playoff round, the league tournament.

“We were very disappointed to not reach our goal (of winning the regular season) so we have another goal,” he said.

Dawn Staley will take South Carolina to the NCAAs for consecutive seasons, the first time that has happened in more than a decade.

“It seems every team entered the season thinking they could win it,” she observed.

“I don’t know a more competitive conference in the country. The best in the conference turns out to be the best in the country.”

In the preseason, league coaches picked Kentucky to win, followed by Georgia and Texas A&M, then Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The media at least had Tennessee fourth. Now do you see why this is fun? No one knows nothing until the games are actually played.

Ole Miss has opted out already. Alabama, which didn’t care enough to fire a woeful coach last season may do so after this tournament. Other coaches likely in their last SEC appearances are at either Mississippi.

We’ll wrap it up for you Sunday night. And then comes the big draw.

Special Mission

The SEC is participating in the “Time Out in the Community” initiative during the conference tournament.

The program helps the women’s basketball student-athletes and coaches give back to the community which hosts the SEC basketball championships.

The SEC office worked in conjunction with The Arena at Gwinnett Center staff in Duluth, Ga., establish the outreach opportunities.

Prior to the start of the tournament, student-athletes and coaches will visit local children’s hospitals, elementary schools, and Boys and Girls Clubs. Each institution is assigned an outreach project based on seed order.

This venture is also being supported by the SEC’s corporate sponsors as a replacement for the conference’s longstanding Youth Clinic program.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 04, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Tennessee Claims Regular Season Title

<.b> By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference women’s basketball champ is . . . Tennessee.

New coach Holly Warlick, maintaining tradition while in transition throttled the conference and eliminated everyone else with one game yet to be played.

Had the Lady Vols lost, the delicious anticipation of needing to win at Kentucky with the ’Cats holding the tiebreaker if they had won, was gone.

As is tradition, it didn’t happen. UT won the league for the 17th time, with its sixth straight win, a big deal in the NCAA seeding process. Warlick has been there, as a player, assistant coach and now coach, for 16 of the 17 titles. She was the captain and point guard on the very first one, in 1980.

Warlick leaps up to the prime contender for league coach of the year in this, her rookie season. UK fails to defend the crown, which would have been historic for that program after winning only its second regular-season title.

Texas A&M fails to win in its inaugural voyage in the league. Warlick will stay classy and not gloat, even though her fellow coaches voted her team fifth in the pre-season league poll.

A&M or UK could still win the conference tournament and gain some semblance of bragging rights plus the automatic NCAA bid and momentum.

But is says here the Lady Vols are a definite No. 2 in the NCAAs and will open with a sub-Regional at home, so the ride continues even as the record book will reflect another title.

In the second-to-last game of the season, even as UK was positioning itself for the final showdown and Georgia was still hanging around, Tennessee took out A&M in person, on Senior Night in Knoxville.

Keeping with tradition, they won on defense and by exploiting A&M for five-point margins in each half. Senior Kamiko Williams scored a career-high 18.

The first half decided it. Tennessee went on an 8-2 run to close it. An absolute dagger was a 3-pointer by Williams with five seconds left.
They held A&M scoreless for mire than 3:50 as the game closed.

The Lady Vols overcame injuries to point guard Ariel Massengale and center Isabelle Harrison, who each appeared to hurt their right knees in the second half.

"Holly deserves all the credit," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "She's got the hardest job in America. Remember how many people tried to replace John Wooden? They're still trying to replace him. You've got the right person in Holly. She's doing a great job, because Pat Summitt is our John Wooden."

Not that the title affects the NCAA tournament, as there are already five guaranteed invites to the field of 64.

The best SEC teams will be seeded right into the Sweet 16, starting with Tennessee and Texas A&M at home in sub-Regionals.

The SEC has five 20-game winners, all ranked in the top 25 of the nation. LSU, with six straight wins at the end, is angling for the sixth invite and will get it as they also host a sub-Regional. Winning a game in this week’s SEC tournament won’t hurt and would give them 20 wins, as would a win give Vanderbilt 20.

The SEC gets multiple entrants in the field of 64, more than other conferences, based on the league’s NCAA history. They may get seven again.


•No. 8 Tennessee finally became the highest-ranked team in the league. And then put an exclamation point on that with the win over A&M. Playing a relaxed game at Kentucky was next. Each team had already earned passes into the quarterfinals of the league tournament.

Against Kentucky, the injured point guard Ariel Massengale returned but center Isabelle Harrison did not. Each team finishes 7-3 in the closing 10 games.

Tennessee had the longest winning streak, seven games, ended and a weird six-game final game win by seasons also ended. A sold-out Kentucky home crowd got coach Matt Mitchell the most wins by a Kentucky coach in one fewer season than the previous record-holder.

Seniors A’dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson have only lost three home games in their four-year careers, with 64 wins,

Junior guard Meighan Simmons who averages a league-high 17.8 points per game, including 19.4 ppg in conference play, leads Tennessee. She won the SEC scoring title.

UT’s leading rebounder is freshman forward/center Bashaara Graves with 8.6 rpg. Graves is the player Warlick calls most consistent. She led the halftime scoring with 10. Simmons had five as the UK defense locked on her. On the other Side, Mathies had three and Jennifer O’Neill nine at the break. UK led by as many as nine and by four at the break.

Mathies finished with 16. She was already the second all-time scorer at UK. Simmons had15.

The 13th conference win ties the school record for Kentucky.

•No. 10 Kentucky won at Ole Miss and then waited for Tennessee’s visit in the only meeting between the two this season.

In the final road trip of the season, they bamboozled Ole Miss, a team sure to miss the NCAAs. The blowout included winning the 24th game of the season, tying the school record

•No. 11 Georgia allowed Mississippi State to knock them a tie for third place, at Starkville, which is very Georgia-like at this point every season lately.
Georgia shot .182 (that is not a typo) against a team with a losing record.

They closed against Vanderbilt at home on Senior Night. Georgia again built a first-half lead, lost the second half and survived by five. Georgia closed the season 8-2.

The State game is what cost them a tie for second.

•No. 13 Texas A&M played at Tennessee and ended the season with a sluggish loss at home to surging LSU. They can rekindle themselves in the league tournament. The Bengals proved themselves NCAA worthy with a marquee road win, their 19th of the season.

A&M had a haltime lead which went away in a hurry. LSU’s Daneile Ballard made a three-point play with 18 minutes left and took a one-point lead. Slowly, they built as A&M folded at home. Theresa Plaisance made back-to-back 3s.

It was but a two-point difference with eight minutes left. A minute later it was eight when Ballard hit two free throws. No one seemed to working for A&M except Kelsey Bone. Two more free throws, by Adrienne Webb, made the difference nine at the six-minute mark and the crowd began to murmur.

Bianca Lutley hit two free throws and the difference was double-digits.

Bone did not score for the final 4:51 and with her went the offense. A&M closed 6-4, LSU 7-3 in those crucial final 10 games. A&M is tied for fourth – and the final SEC bye in the season-ending tournament – in its inaugural SEC run.

Bone may yet be the player of the year in conference but also faces the tough dilemma of was this her final home game. A junior in eligibility, but a player four years out of high school (she sat out a transfer season), she is eligible for the WNBA draft and – more importantly – the big money payoff in Europe or Asia as a pro.

•No. 14 South Carolina continued to ride the roller coaster by losing at Missouri, the only SEC team to have beaten Tennessee at that point. This how you play your way to not being a top four seed in the NCAAs or even in the SEC.

The loss to A&M in the regular season breaks the tie and gives A&M an extra day off.

The Tigers outscored the Gamecocks, 34-14, on points inside.
SC finished at home with woeful Florida. A dominant second half, 542-31, let the Gamecocks close the season 7-3. Sydney Moss scored 16.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 01, 2013

Guru Musings: Big East Demise Ends Business as Usual in Women's Basketball

(Guru’s note: Because suddenly there is a bunch of things to cover locally and nationally and the Guru returned late from a trip to Hofstra for the Delaware game, he is combing both the national and philahoopsW coverage over here because he does not have time to do the coherent displays with photos to get everything done.

However, in turn, all NCAA women’s tournament coverage will be done at PhilahoopsW to take advantage of the technology.)

By Mel Greenberg

If you think the headline above this post refers to the number of upsets nationally Thursday night, that would have been right any other time.

But the big story of the day was the imminent launch of the break-off group of seven Catholic Schools from the Big East, though apparently that contingent will continue to be known as the Big East, according to multiple reports.

What this means is the near future in terms of a major impact on women’s basketball is about to become much sooner, though the 2012-13 season and its storylines on the court will finish out.

Those currents did take a big detour Thursday night, but we’ll deal with that in subsequent items in this blog.

It appears next week’s Big East women’s tournament, besides the stellar competition, will become a giant goodbye party as many of the 16 teams head to new destinations.

The news that as early as Friday, the so-nicknamed Catholic 7 nickname group of Villanova, locally; joined by DePaul, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, St. John’s and Providence will announce a launch for next season, with the addition possibly of Atlantic 10 members Xavier and Butler, the latter of which just joined the A-10, is like a loaded grenade in terms of the overall impact to women’s basketball.

Within that group with no more Connecticut, Louisville, and Rutgers to deal with, they become more competitive to themselves.

In fact, one side effect is the soon-to-be-vacant Seton Hall slot caused by Anne Donovan’s move back to the WNBA to coach the Connecticut Sun becomes more desirable.

Based on what has been said on the men’s side of things, the surviving schools plus some new ones to be added, such as Temple’s sports catching up to the football move, from the current Big East, will still have an automatic NCAA basketball tournament bid for their champion as will the so-called Catholic 7 configuration.

One impact is the tournament committee’s makeup will be affected because the change in geographical allocation.

And besides running the tournament, which starts in a few weeks and concludes April 7-9 in New Orleans, the committee must look ahead. Is a small expansion of the field, currently at 64 teams, necessary.

Across the board everyone will have their schedules affected. At this hour, Notre Dame next season could be looking at an earlier participation in the Atlantic Coast Conference or, as one report said, spend one year with the Catholic Seven.

Several referees during the season told the Guru that their assignments will be impacted by the change.

The current Big East headquarters is located in Providence and several athletic directors after the original announcement of the seven to leave told the Guru that someone – either the new or the survivors – will have to maintain that local because of the high price of the extended lease of headquarters.

While several writers are running before-and-after comparisons of what RPI teams would look like, the illustration isn’t totally accurate because scheduling affects the RPIs.

And terminology will have to change because if these moves become effective real soon, as of now pencil in Connecticut as the No. 1 mid-major in the country.

The politics of all this – UConn would stil like to join Louisville in the ACC, -- even affects the conference tournament. What does the XL Center in Hartford get, if anything, after being the host to the current Big East women’s event in recent seasons.

Some ADs thought the Mohegan Sun, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, would be a good place for the women’s conference tournament.

In addition to the seven émigrés, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are bound for the ACC after this season. Rutgers is waiting to make a move to the Big Ten as soon as possible while Louisville will be ACC bound to replace Maryland, which is also heading for the Big Ten.

Holly by Golly

With the win by Tennessee over Texas A&M to capture the regular season Southeastern Conference, perhaps one philosophical debate can end to the liking of everyone when it comes to both national coach of the year and the WBCA’s Maggie Dixon rookie coach of the year award in Division I competition.

The Maggie Dixon award is named for the late Army coach, who went from an assistant coach at DePaul under Doug Bruno to become coach of the Black Knights, whom in her initial season in 2000-06 she guided to their first Patriot League crown and hence NCAA appearance.

Dixon’s brother is the successful Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon.

But several days after the Women’s Final Four back in Boston ended, Dixon died suddenly of an undetected heart defect.

The outpouring included many activities instituted in her name such as the annual Maggie Dixon Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York and the WBCA’s award.

This year there were some 43-45 candidates among the 75 Division I coaching changes who technically are all rookies eligible for the WBCA honor.

At the outset it was talked in some circles as the season got under way that since Holly Warlick, the former associate head coach to Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, who stepped down last spring as an effect of her ongoing battle against early onset dementia, Alzeheimer’s type, was now a first-time head coach of the Lady Vols, she was in fact a rookie and potential front runner if her team exceeded expectations.

But though Warlick is by the letter of the Dixon award a rookie, she served at Summitt’s side for such a long time – besides playing for the Lady Vols – that was she really a true rookie moving up to continue the program loaded by high school all-Americans.

Someone such as Michelle Clark-Heard, the former assistant to Jeff Walz at Louisville, has made a major turnaround in her first season at Western Kentucky, where the Hilltoppers won just a few games last season.

That puts her more in terms of the spirit of the award in making an achievement approaching what Dixon did at Army, though we still have several weeks to see the final impact.

But here’s the thing.

Though some others have done outstanding jobs – Stephanie V. Gaitley at Fordham, Maryland’s Brenda Frese keeping the Terrapins competitive in the face of major roster losses by injuries, at this point in time Warlick, who also had to deal with injuries, has done more.

Understand, though, we still have to go through conference tournaments and early rounds of the NCAA tournament and a darkhorse could come through asd was soon several years ago.

But Warlick is definitely a strong candidate, nationally, though with several coach of the year honors handed out by various organizations, there may not be one consensus winner.

Stay tuned.

The Monopoly is Broken

Until Duke fell to Miami Thursday night, teams currently in the top six of the Associated Press Women’s Poll were heading for a rarity in not losing to any opponents outside themselves.

But with such setbacks as Penn State’s loss, causing the Lady Lions into a must-win game at Nebraska Sunday to avoid sharing the Big Ten regular season title with the Cornhuskers – PSU still has the tiebreak for No. 1 seed – as well as several. In the SEC and also Maryland’s loss to Florida State, are these upsets an omen that perhaps things may get wide open in the race for Sweet 16 and Final Four slots?


PhilahoopsW Action

Meanwhile, of the three PhilahoopsW teams that played – one was Penn State, which lost, as mentioned – the two Colonial Athletic Association frontrunners – Delaware and Drexel -- continued their winning ways.

No. 18 Delaware here shook off a rough start as Elena Delle Donne scored 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Blue Hens over Hofstra 79-50 while Danielle Parker had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Trumae Lucas scored 13 for Delaware (25-3, 16-0), which has won 25-straight CAA games over three seasons and 20 straight overall.

The Blue Hens for the second straight season clinched the CAA regular season title outright and hold the top seed for the CAA tourney later this month again at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Candace Bond had 14 points, while Shante Evans scored 12 for Hofstra (12-15, 8-8).

Delle Donne, adding to her total of all-time CAA records became the conference’s top career holder in blocking shots. She now trails Florida International’s Jerica Coley (26.0) by 0.6 with a 25.4 average in the race for the Division I scoring title Delle Donne won last season.

Drexel, meanwhile, used a 17-0 run to beat host Georgia State 58-49 in Atlanta in what was the final meeting between the two as CAA opponents before Georgia State heads elsewhere.

That move has caused the CAA to bar Georgia State (13-15, 5-12 CAA) as well as departing Old Dominion from appearing in the conference men’s and women’s tournaments.

Drexel (20-7, 13-3), which will be at least the three seed, kept its pace to get to No. 2 as Hollie Mershon scored 23 points, Meghan Creighton scored 12, and Renee Johnson-Allen had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Penn State, which fell 89-81 at Minnesota in Minneapolis, got 23 points from Maggie Lucas, 19 from Alex Bentley, and 15 from Nikki Greene for the Lady Lions (23-4, 13-2 Big Ten), who have been seventh in the AP poll the last several weeks.

Minnesota improved to 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten.

The Lady Lions, as mentioned, move to Nebraska Sunday for the wrap up prior to next weekend’s conference tournament at Hoffman Estates in suburban Chicago.

Though Baskets and Boards aren’t being updated online at PhilahoopsW until Saturday, the file itself has been and all who qualified were mentioned in this area of results from Penn State, Delaware and Drexel.

Temple Backs Into A-10 Tourney Leaving La Salle Scrambling

The Owls did more for themselves doing nothing Thursday night than they have the past several weeks in falling into a four-game losing streak in the Atlantic 10.

Charlotte’s win over Virginia Commonwealth Thurday night dropped the Rams two games behind the Owls, thus ensuring Temple will be one of the 12 teams in the field at the A-10 tournament next weekend, which opens with three rounds at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena.

In the past two teams did not go but with the expansion, which will be short-lived, four teams don’t go this time around.

Temple’s seed will be determined Sunday after hosting Fordham, which is fighting for a bye. It could be the Owls might open with George Washington, which would be an irony since because of the number of teams this season, they did not meet the Colonials of the nation’s capital, with whom they’ve enjoyed a long rivalry.

The Owls after this season will go to the remnants of the current Big East, which will be renamed according to reports Thursday.

The last slot now is now up for grabs between La Salle, which visits St. Bonaveture, Sunday, and VCU, which plays Rhode Island.

La Salle needs either to win or VCU to lose. If the two tie, VCU, a conference newcomer, will get the nod because of a head-to-head win over the

Good Look Rosa Gatti

The news that Rosa Gatti has retired from her top PR position at ESPN brings fond memories to the Guru.

Back in the day when the Guru was about to launch what became the AP women's poll, it was Gatti, then overall SID at Villanova, Penn State's Mary Jo Haverbeck, liason for the Lady Lions, and then-Pittsburgh PR Joyce Aschenbrenner, who went to the SID convention and informed the membership of the Guru's plans.

That of course elicited a longtime relationship between the Guru and the CoSIDA membership, without whom none of what the Guru had achieved would haver been possible.

Looking Ahead

It’s Ivy Night at PhilahoopsW with Princeton at Harvard Friday night while Penn visits Dartmouth before the travelers switch sites Saturday.

Princeton, which is 50-1 over four seasons with a record win streak in the league, is closing in on a fourth straight Ivy crown and can knock Harvard from contention with a win Friday night.

Penn has a chance to finish second and go to the WNIT, even though technically the Quakers right now are still alive in the fight for first.

Friday night, due to the Guru’s inability due to other matters from getting to Boston for the two nights Harvard hosts in nearby Cambridge, he will visit Rider, which hosts Siena in an MAAC game.

At some point soon, while philahoopsw coveraged detoured here, the conference and NCAA coverage may go the other way to take advantage of the technology for a better presentation.


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