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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Guru'a WNBA Report: Washiington Looks to Build on Last Season's Playoff Return

By Mel Greenberg

Optimism and caution mixed with some poignancy over the Sunday night passing of basketball coaching great Dr. Jack Ramsay were the converging themes of the WNBA Washington Mystics Monday as the organization held its annual preseason confab at the Verizon Center.

In a few weeks season number two under veteran Mike Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, will get tip off at home against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx following his decade-long stint coaching the Connecticut Sun before management up north decided to change direction prior to the last go-round.

The Mystics pounced on Thibault's unforeseen availability and the result was his leading Washington out of the wilderness into the playoffs for a first-round appearance after going 17-17 during the regular season.

"Now we have to get better because everybody in the league is better -- there's not a lot of separation from top to bottom between the best team and the worst team," Thibault said. "We're one of the youngest teams in the league.

"The next step in becoming an elite team is a lot harder."

It's also a group that has just veteran and former Duke star Monique Currie as the last Mystic in the house following a major overhaul of the Mystics roster after his arrival.

The last to go was former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J., in the Philadelphia suburbs, who was a focal point of one of the draft day mega-deals earlier this month when she was swapped to the Seattle Storm for another former Maryland standout in Tianna Hawkins and Seattle's first round pick - guard Bria Hartley.

That move created an instant reunion of the two seniors off the unbeaten NCAA Connecticut champions because the Mystics had already taken sixth in the first round Huskies center Stefanie Dolson, star of a recent short dance-off with late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon on NBC's Tonight Show.

It's not the only reunion because Thibault was able to acquire Kara Lawson, whom he coached on the Sun and who had not been happy over his ouster.

Lawson, a former Tennessee standout who spends the winter as a studio host on ESPN's collegiate women's basketball coverage on the network's various platforms, also returns to her native city.

Going to a new WNBA team for the third time is less daunting in her career following being drafted and part of the former Sacramento Monarchs that won a league championship and then going with the Sun after the demise of the Monarchs is not daunting this time around.

"If you want to have currency in the lockerroom," Lawson said about arriving as one of the leaders, "you have to be a consistent practice player. You have to be productive on the court -- it's very hard to give players advice when you're sitting on the bench.

"You have to be able to produce. There's little tips you can enlighten the younger players with -- having played in this league I know the tendencies of certain players," Lawson continued.

"So there's a lot of first and second year players and they may not know what Seimone Augustus (of Minnesota) likes to do, what Diana Taurasi (former UConn great with the Phoenix Mercury) does -- having played against them I might not have necessarily guarded them over the years but I kind of know what spots they like to get to, I know how they like to play.

"That's more where your experience can help a team that doesn't have the same experience playing against those players."

As for the abundance of new faces in the same building that is also the home to the NBA playoff Washington Wizards, Lawson noted, "There's a lot of teams in this league that have continuity -- we're not one of them but that's okay.

"You want to be playing well at the end of the year so these three weeks are so important in figuring out (what each player adds) and I need to help get those players in those positions at the offensive and defensive ends."

Lawson has a second reunion because she has returned to her native city in the nation's capital.

"I didn't think I would ever come here to play so the first reaction was to cry because I was excited because a lot of times when you get traded to a new team you have a lot of uncertainty.

"I didn't have any of those fears because I know my way around everywhere. I know all the good spots to eat and those that are not good," she jested.

"I'm fans of the (other major league) teams here. And having played three years in Connecticut, I know all the plays (of Thibault) even if they might be calling them something else. I also know the expectation from him every day."

Currie talked a bit about now being the longest tenured roster player and the departure of Langhorne, her former collegiate rival in the Atlantic Coast Conference who became a longtime teammate and friend.

"It's been interesting," she said. "I'm excited, though, and seeing how things turn out.

"It's part of game," Currie said. "There'll be an adjustment. Will it be a big adjustment. I don't think so. Basketball is basketball but it's important to learn each other as quickly as possible.

"I was very surprised (Langhorne's trade). It was dissapointing to me. I played with Crystal six years. She's a good friend of mine but I understand it is a business and the business of basketball," Currie said.

"I think Dolson will be a big presence here. I don't know a lot about Bria but they come from a good program, they have a winning mentality and work ethic you need at this level to be successful."

For Dolson and Hartley, the events of draft day had each of them hit the trifecta. Not only do they stay together but they get to play in the Eastern Conference near their New York homes and also get to play for a coach whose team they watched in the summer in Connecticut.

"It's something that me and Bria aren't taking for granted," Dolson said. "We get to play together. We get to play for coach Thibault who we watched and it definitely adds to a comfort a level."

Thibault noted the success of UConn has a downside for Dolson and Hartley.

"They haven't played in many close games," he said. "It seems like every night games go down to the wire. That's going to be their biggest adjustment.

"I remember when I coached Tina Charles in Connecticut -- her biggest adjustment was in a two or three-point game night after night because they (UComm) were always blowing everybody out."

One of the additions last year who brought talent and personality to the Mystics was former North Carolina star Ivory Latta, who had been with Tulsa.

"I'm not worried about chemistry," Thibault said. "There are going to be a lot of people to quote in the locker room -- a lot of personalities."

Latta echoed his remarks.

"Great additions," Latta said. "With a team like this -- somewhat young, everybody needs the energies and smiles and we need to bring it every day at practice.

"When you add great additions, great things happen. We're going to feed off the Wizards' energy and carry it into the WNBA season."

Latta coached at her alma mater this season on a staff that had former Saint Joseph's star Katie Kuester as a video coordinator.

"We loved her," Latta aaid. "She's our girl."

Remembering Dr. Jack

Speaking of Saint Joseph's, it was on Hawk Hill that Jack Ramsay became a national figure and went on to more success in the NBA before spending his later years as an analyst for ESPN.

His passing Sunday night at age 89 came after a long battle against cancer.

Thibault knew Ramsay off his own earlier life in the NBA.

"I knew Dr. Ramsay pretty well. When I was a young coach he was a great person for me to observe and watch -- I stole things in particular from him at the offensive end of the court.

"But as a young person he was also a great person to go and talk about things so he'll be missed in his game."

Assistant coach Marianne Stanley, a former Immaculata star, grew up watching Ramsay's Saint Joseph's teams.

"I've been a bit upset over the news," Stanley said. "He was great not just as a coach but also as a person and he was involved in all types of basketball, including the women.

"I know growing up in Philadelphia, I always wanted to be Billy Oaks," Stanley aaid of a star guard who played for Ramsay.

Stanley is also looking forward to Washington's last preseason game, which will be May 13 against defending regular season Eastern champion Chicago at the University of Delaware.

The game will serve as a homecoming for former Blue Hens sensation Elena Delle Donne, who was rookie of the year last season in leading the Sky to their first playoff appearance.

As of last week only 400 seats remain in the 5,000-seat Bob Carpenter Center.

"Thanka for reminding me because I have to buy a block of seats," Stanley said.

Many of her Immaculata teammates, including Theresa Grentz, will attend. The group was recently announced as a team inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in August.

"It's going to be a lot of fun (at Delaware) and I think it's good exposure for people in the Philly area to see a league game."

Washington, whose largest crowds of the season here were when Chicago and Delle Donne visited, plans to bring its own fan bus to the game.

Next up for the Guru is Connecticut Sun media day on Tuesday afternoon.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guru Special Report: Bullying Charges Lead to Kelly Greenberg's Exit at Boston Universtiy

By Mel Greenberg

Kelly Greenberg, a former La Salle women's basketball star who went on to coach Penn to the Quakers' two previous Ivy titles prior to this past season, is out at Boston U., following an investigation by school officials into charges of bullying by four Terriers, two sources familiar with the Boston U. ouster confirmed Tuesday night.

The sources informed the Guru at a time he was off the grid from technology so the information became more concrete while he was playing catch-up.

ESPN's Kate Fagan also reported Greenberg's exit, citing multiple sources which the Guru is sure were not duplicates of his, prior to her updated report later in the evening.

The Boston Globe also reported Greenberg's departure saying four scholarship players quit the team last year because Greenberg emotionally abused them.

The Globe also reported Greenberg began telling supporters Tuesday night while the Guru received a short text from the Boston U. coach, who is not related, referring to the situation as "a sad time" and then followed by declining to make any further comment on the record or off..

Eventually, a statement of resignation by Greenberg was issued through a school spokesperson, though a source familiar with the decision said Greenberg's move was requested by school officials, which she seems to indicate in her statement that the move was not her choice.

"I have determined that it is in the best interest of the university, the women's basketball program and myself for me to resign my position as head women's basketball coach," Greenberg said. "I do not agree with some of the findings of the review panel regarding my coaching style, which was intended to produce well-rounded athletes and a winning team. However, given all that has transpired, I do not believe it will be possible for me to continue as an effective coach at Boston University."

Greenberg had been with the Terriers for a decade through this past season, building them into a contender in the America East for the first nine seasons before the school switched conference affiliations to the Patriot League this past season.

A member of the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame, Greenberg, 46, also worked similar magic at Penn after taking the job in the spring of 1999 and guided the Quakers to titles in 2001 and 2004 before making the move to Boston.

Her record at BU was 186-127 in that span.

On March 8 near the end of what had been a rebuilding season at 13-20 on a current contract through 2017, the accusations became public and they followed two previous player charges made in 2007-08.

Officials, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, immediately formed a panel last month to look into the recent allegations when they were made public.

In launching the investigation, Todd Kipp, the Terriers' senior vice president, senior counsel and Board of Trustees secretary, promised in a statement on the school website findings would be sought "... promptly, thoroughly, and in an unbiased manner."

Klipp, in a statement on the school website at BU Today, said Tuesday night in announcing the resignation combined with the Bu Today report:

Although the review panel found that many of the complaints raised by the four players could not be substantiated, “a compelling case was made, based on interviews with the team as a whole, that the manner in which Coach Greenberg interacted with many of her players was incompatible with the expectations and standards for University employees, including our coaches.”

Klipp adds that “when we shared these conclusions with Coach Greenberg, she determined that it would not be possible for her to continue coaching at Boston University.”

The school announced the usual nationwide search for a successor to replace Greenberg will begin, a stock sentence that could be found in many other places this time of year when coaches depart for positive or negative reasons.

When the charges, first reported in the Boston Globe, came to light, two factions emerged either backing the charges or backing Greenberg's leadership.

A website in support of Greenberg Therealkellygreenberg.wordpress.com emerged soon after back-to-back reports by the Globe's March 8 edition first raising the charges and then the next day on March 9 informed readers that players and alumni were rallying to support Greenberg.

Greenberg starred at Archbishop Wood in lower Bucks County outside Philadelphia, where she was a teammate in the late 1980s in some of those years with Debbie Black, the former ABL and WNBA All-Star out of Saint Joseph's who just finished her first season as a head coach, hired a year ago at Eastern Illinois.

At La Salle, Greenberg was a teammate of Cheryl Reeve, the WNBA Minnesota Lynx coach out of South Jersey who has guided her squad to two league titles and three straight finals appearances.

Greenberg's senior season in 1989 saw the Explorers go 28-3, get nationally-ranked and appear in the NCAA tournament.

In the opening round, Greenberg's team ousted Geno Auriemma's first Connecticut NCAA squad on the road in the Huskies' gym and moved on to visit Tennessee in Knoxville.

Six years later UConn finally got to play Tennessee, hosting the Lady Vols during the 1995 season where the Huskies won and went to No. 1 in the polls the first time.

The two teams met again in the NCAA title game with the Huskies winning their first national title and finishing the first of what is now five unbeaten seasons.

Greenberg was inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame in 2012 and in joining her previously inducted brother Chip, who starred for the La Salle men, the duo became the Hall's first brother-sister inductees.

Going into coaching, the next season after her graduation, Greenberg was an aide at Northeastern University, also in Boston.

She then became a volunteer assistant the next season in 1990-91 to Father Judge grad Joe McKeown, then at George Washington before his 2008 move to Northwestern. Greenberg then moved on to a season as an aide at Rhode Island.

She was next an aide for seven seasons through 1999 to Bill Gibbons at Holy Cross before taking the Penn job where in her second season she led the Quakers to their first Ivy title with a 22-win season record at Penn.

That performance at Penn was not matched until this year when the Quakers won at Princeton the final night of the regular season to dethrone the defending four-time champion Tigers.

That's it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Guru Report I: Finding the Next Leader of the WBCA Following Beth Bass' Departure

By Mel Greenberg

Besides the nation's top freshman Diamond DeShields departure from North Carolina which is addressed as part of the post under this focusing on Odyssey Sims accepting the Staley Award, there was another departure Thursday, which has a greater effect on the landscape of collegiate women's basketball.

Beth Bass, longtime chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), announced her resignation Thursday and the organization announced action will immediatley be taken to get a search under way for a successor.

With the recent passing of founding CEO Betty F. Jaynes in February and Bass' departure, the WBCA will be heading in a new direction with both individuals gone from the scene running the operation in suburban Atlanta.

Bass was definitely an effective force over the years always looking for new ideas and one who solicited opinions from a wide range of stakeholders in the sport long before Val Ackerman was called upon the NCAA to produce the now famed White Paper released last June.

With the NCAA on the verge of evolving into adjustments to survive the steady attack that has been made on the organization from various sectors and with the ongoing conference upheaval in shifting membership, Bass may have picked the right time to leave.

Bass, a graduate of East Tennessee and a former women's basketball player at the university, was named executive director of the WBCA in 1997 and promoted to chief ecxectuive office in the fall of 2001 succeeding Jaynes, who continued to be inherently active in the organization after holding the CEO title.

Bass was previously in sports marketing at Converse and Nike and the feeling here is she probably won't be on the sidelines for long.

Given her wide range of experience, she could land in positions either in the NCAA, on university executive athletic staffs, a team specific, or something creative maybe either in the Naismith or Women's Basketball Halls of Fame.

Bass could also end up in some print media or broadcast endeavor.

But meanwhile, where does the organization go that she is leaving behind?

Some believe a core group of candidates may already exist on a short list since there is a desire to get a fulltime replacement on board in the next 90 days.

If the Guru were running the search show -- no, not interested, using the phrase for the sake of completing the sentence -- here are people he would be approaching initially to see if there was interest, though some more names could get in the mix.

This group is in no specific ranking order, just a bunch of people he believes would make viable candidates. There might be a few males who could be in the mix but the feeling is an effort will be made to land a female unless someone from the other gender complete knocks the socks off the search committee.

And either way that individual won't appear here but could exist in the business world beyond current athletic affiliations or athletic affilations that may not be collegiate related.

Patti Phillips -- She currently is the executive officer of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA).

In that position, she already has a wide range of contacts to work with from the coaching side, especially in terms of promulgating legislation.

A highlight of her bio at the NACWAA website says:

Earlier in her career, Patti worked for the NCAA as the CHAMPS/Life Skills Program Coordinator, and prior to that, she was the head women’s basketball coach at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas.

Patti is known for her charismatic leadership, her fundraising ability and her tireless commitment to women’s advocacy and leadership development. She was inducted into both the Baker University Athletic Hall of Fame, and O’Hara High School Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Fundraising is an important attribute in light of recent losses of sponsorships, in part due to the national economic situation in recent years, that cost the organization the high school all-star game this season.

There has been different sectors also quietly lobbyng for a senior all-star game involving players not reaching Final Four.

More than a few WNBA coaches have mentioned to the Guru wanting to see that event returned to finals week.

Connie Hurlbut -- A graduate of Penn, Hurbut has worked in operations at the WNBA, servied on the NCAA women's basketball committee, and is currently deputy commissioner and senior women's administrator of the Wetern Athletic Conference.

She is also a member of or was so -- couldn't find expiration term dates -- the WBCA board.

Hurlbut was also one of the four finalists in the search that produced Anucha Browne as the NCAA's vice president of women's basketball.

So, obviously, well connected and definitely well liked in many circles of existing stakeholders.

Nora Lynn Finch -- Currently a deputy commissioner and senior women's administrator at the Atlantic Coast Conference, Finch as seen it all, dating to her days as the top lieutenant to the late great Kay Yow at North Carolina State.

She later moved into administration with the Wolfpack and was also the first chair of the NCAA Division I women's basketball.

It would be tough to coax her out of Greensboro, N.C., the headuqarters town of the ACC, but Finch is a dynamic speaker that when has the floor, people listen.

During the recent Final Four the extremely media accessible Finch was chased by a slew of reporters seeking comment on a myriad of topics needing expert perspective.

Carol Stiff -- Once upon a time the longtime executive at ESPN was a women's basketball coach. Having navigated the television world, she brings strength from the business side and media side.

It is known that Stiff was originally sounded out by NCAA high command if she had interest in the VP position before they assembled the search committee and obviously in working ESPN, the NCAA knows her and she knows the NCAA even as things continue to evolve.

Theresa Grentz -- There are many people out there in the underbelly who think, when her name is mentioned, that Grentz, who has a strong business savy, would be ideal.

Like Finch, Grentz is another one that when she speaks at events, guys walk away impressed by the presentation.

She was a founding member of the WBCA and was a past president. Her coaching background includes success at Saint Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois.

Grentz was the dominate player of her time when Immaculata won the first three national titles and those teams as a group were recently announced to be among the inductees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August.

She is already a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame has just written a book that is making its way to the market place.

Running her own ship, Grentz has been conducting clinics and speaking on the circuit.

She is definitely someone who can span the entire generation range of coaches.

Another past president who was a mover and shaker during her term is Wendy Larry , the former longtime Old Dominion coach who is currently in charge of women's basketball at the Atlantic 10.

As Beth Bass came from a different area, it wouldn't hurt to tap Debbie Antonelli, who besides her extensive broadcasting gigs also holds the title of The Voice of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

It would take much to pry her from her current career -- she also played at North Carolina State under Yow -- but perhaps given an aide or two to delegate day-to-day activities, Antonelli may be able to retain a chunk of her broadcasting life.

Sue Donohoe -- Currently in charge of the Kay Yow fundraising endeavor in the battle against breast cancer, she was the previous top women's basketball honcho at the NCAA.

A former assistant coach to Gary Blair back in the day, obviously Donohoe knows how the plumbing works at the national organization, though the way things keep changing maybe the Guru shouldn't make a snap assumnption.

And if not Donohoe, her former right arm at the NCAA, Michelle Perry ia running her own consulting business in athletics and certainly would be worth sounded out for interest.

If the search wants to go in a different direction perhaps Dana Hart , in charge of the show at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame could be solicited since much of what she does now brings expertise that wouldn't be much of an adjustment at the WBCA.

Speaking of the WBHOF, incoming inductee Mimi Griffin would be excellent, given her work in the golf world but that same work probably makes her an untouchable.

When Betty Jaynes became the first head of the organization, it meant giving up her coaching career at James Madison.

Getting someone to do likewise today without paying a hefty price might be too much to ask.

But one ideal person to think about is Penn State coach Coquese Washington who will be the next WBCA president and has a law degree and was once president of the players association in the WNBA following her playing degree at Notre Dame.

Washington was also the top assistant to Muffet McGraw at her alma mater when Penn State came calling.

Courtney Banghart at Princeton is also someone who could probably excel in the position but also someone who would rather stay on the court sidelines for now since there is an Ivy title to be reclaimed next season.

Anyhow that is that for starters. We'll see where things are after the hunt gets organized.

Like the Guru says at the end of the next post and all posts concerning events still open ended, stay tuned.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Guru Report II: Sims Accepts Staley Award While DeShields Bolts North Carolina

By Mel Greenberg

Though a final buzzer is sounded and champions are declared, the news doesn't seem to take much of a break this days in the world of women's basketball.

Yes, this is the time the coaching carousel continues to do most of its spinning but that has become the norm over the years, though when a big name crops up either by retirement, or move to another vacancy, or by termination, the action becomes the headline of the moment.

On Thursday three major events occurred, one that was previous announced and two others that came out of nowhere.

Two of the three will be addressed in this blog and the third is actually in front of this post directly above.

The day began here with a trip to the Union League in center city -- a first-ever experience for the Guru to one of those places of exclusive membership in town such as one that was portrayed years ago in the Eddie Murphy et al early in the movie Trading Places.

The occasion was the second annual Dawn Staley Award that goes to an outstanding guard in the nation and is sponsored by the Phoenix Club, which was founded by Michael G. Horsey, CPA, in 2008.

The original mission was to honor outstanding male and female high school and collegiate players from the city's Public League.

Staley, the legend out of North Philadelphia who later went on to success coaching Temple and who now is coaching South Carolina, is one of the all-time greats in the city and overall region.

This year's honor went to Baylor senior Odyssey Sims of Irving, Texas, who earlier in the week was drafted second overall by the WNBA Tulsa Shock, which makes her a teammate of last year's Staley winner, Skylar Diggins out of Notre Dame.

Lurleen Jones, the retired legendary girls coach of University High, introduced as the event emcee Vera Jones, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network who also was an assistant at Dayton, Indiana and Florida Atlantic, and has written several books and also graduated from Syracuse.

The first honor given was the legends award to Donald Hunt, longtime sportswriter for the Philadelphia Tribune, who has chronicled African Americans in the city and beyond.

Staley, one day removed from learning South Carolina native A'ja Wilson, the top high school prospect in the nation, had committed to playing with the Gamecocks, introduced Sims, who was then very gracious in her remarks.

In attendance were Sims' mom, Pamela Thompson who said she was going to see as many WNBA games on the Tulsa schedule as possible, and Baylor assistant Toyelle Wilson, who just finished her first season under head coach Kim Mulkey.

Previously, Wilson coached Prarie View to three straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and ensuing NCAA Appearances.

She is a native of Voorhees, across the Delaware River from here in South Jersey.

The La Salle coaching staff also attended. Head coach Jeff Williams is a previous recipient of a legends honor from the Black Women in Sports organization.

The Wilson declaration to South Carolina adds to what already was a top five freshman class harvested by Staley, who can expect to find her program not more than a few notches if that many below two-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut when the preseason polls start showing up in magazines in the late summer before the rankings of the Associated Press media panel and the USAToday/ESPN coaches vote follow in late fall.

When it was noted to Staley the generation she is acquiring is quite different than her day she shot back with a smile, "It works two ways," meaning they will have to deal with her.

Staley already has a busy summer ahead since she will be coaching the U-18 for USA Basketball in the FIBA Americas championships and could still land on Auriemma's staff for the FIBA World Championship in the fall that features the top players on the planet.

Wilson picked South Carolina over Connecticut, Tennessee and North Carolina, making it an extra tough week for the latter when it was learned Thursday while we were lunching that UNC's Diamond DeShields, the nation's top freshman, was leaving the Tar Heels for parts yet to be determined or announced.

DeShields' team upset Staley's Gamecocks, the number one seed in the Stanford regional, before losing to the host Cardinal in the Elite Eight.

Shields, who won nearly every freshman honor, is the first person to leave a program after having won the award from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

However, and ironically, Kelsey Bone, who this week was traded from the WNBA New York Liberty to the Connecticut Sun as part of the mega-deal involving Sun center and former UConn star Tina Charles, was considered minimally a top five pick when she chose South Carolina as a freshman and then left for Texas A&M.

Back in time Michelle Marciniak, the famed "Spinderella" star out of Allentown, Pa., left Notre Dame after one season for Tennessee, where she later led the Lady Vols to a national title.

Rutgers, in recent seasons, has lost highly regarded high school all-Americans after a season.

DeShields could end up at Tennessee, one of her last options at the time of her selection, or she could end up back home at Georgia.

Stay tuned.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guru's Musings: Draft Day Deal Bringing Tina Charles Home to the Liberty Comes Full Circle for New York

By Mel Greenberg

Due to a conflict in scheduling the Guru had to forego being present at the WNBA draft Monday night to attend the first-ever triple combination Philadelphia Big 5 postseason men's and women's awards event as well as the annual Big 5 Hall of Fame selection at The Paleatra.

But he wasn't far from keeping track of the wild proceedings at the WNBA draft, which he will get to shortly.

A year ago the Big 5 combined the men's and women's events, which used to be separate, into a unified event done in a classy presentation in which the men's and women's winners in each individual category were called up together.

Ths time around the Hall of Fame ceremony, which used to be held midseason sometime in January, was added to the back end.

The reception part of the night, instead of the sit-down following appetizers, featured just nibbles, which was fine because they were tasty as always and it allowed more time for mingling prior to the formal events.

Two reasons for the Guru to be in the house, besides a third of being on hand as a past Big Five honoree, were the inductions of former Temple classmate Dick "Dickie Hoops" Weiss, the men's Guru sportswriter, which makes you think how wild journalism classes were back in the Guru's and Dickie Hoops' collegiate days on North Broad Street.

Many came to honor Weiss, including incoming United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) president Dana O'Neil, one of the writing talents at ESPN who was a colleague of Weiss back in the days both were employed at The Philadelphua Daily News.

Dick Jerardi, who also works at the Daily News, presented Weiss, who spoke of growing up in The Palestra.

Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan, another of the top collegiate basketball writers in the nation, was on hand with his wife, as was former Immaculata great Theresa Grentz, who's championship era was just announced as a team inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Most of the specifics of Monday can be found in The Inquirer's Mike Jensen's report, which is also on Philly.com.

Additionally, Weiss and his wife Joan Williamson just co-authored a book with Grentz, Lessons Learned from Playing a Child's Game.

Thw Coyle sisters former Rutgers twin backcourt stars Patty and Mary, were alao in the house.

The post pizza after-party in Upper Darby in the city's immediate western suburb was almost like that show years ago on TV hosted by actor Jon Favreau, Dinner for Five, which featured a rotation of Hollywood celebrity friends.

On hand at the pizza parlor among others were Grentz, who is worthy of her own future individual Hall of Fame accolade; the Ryans, Villanova men's coach Jay Wright, Jensen, Joe Cassidy, the longtime men's coach at Rowan in Glassboro, South Jersey, whose collegiate days featured a two-year stint as the Saint Joseph's mascot The Hawk.

The other inductee involving the Guru wanting to be on hand was former La Salle great Crista Ricketts, who has played internationally and did play in the area's well-attended women's summer league.

When she was recruited, former La Salle coach John Miller predicted Ricketts would be the greatest women's player to wear a La Salle uniform.

The major local news of the day was the announcement that former Penn star Steve Bilsky, the retiring athletic director at his alma mater this June, would remain nearby as executive director of The Big Five, whose headquarters are in The Palestra on Penn's campus.

La Salle, incidentally, is the alma mater of WNBA Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, while Bilsky was once the AD at George Washington when he hired Joe McKeown, now at Northwestern.

As for the awards, unlike past times, the winners are now announced ahead of time so there were no surprises though returning to waiting until awards night would inject drama and suspense into the event.

On the women's side, it was like Oscar night -- Saint Joseph's senior Erin Shields won all the productions awards in the early part of the evening -- scoring, foul shooting, academics, while Penn'a dynamite finish enabled the Quakers to sweep best picture, actor and actress out of the Ivy champions with Mike McLaughlin winning coach of the year; Alyssa Baron taking best player; Syndey Stipanovich taking rookie of the year -- the fourth straight time a Quakers player won the award with a fifth a strong possibility next year coming out of Texas.

And but for a few minutes in the total City Series, Penn might have walked off with its first Big Five championship trophy which was acccepted by Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin after the Hawks went 4-0.

WNBA Draft: Full Circle for New York Liberty

Now that the Guru held you prisoner through all that, in playing catchup on twitter to picks as they approached, rather than reading everything live or watching the proceedings, it was quite humorous to see the famed Media Horde out of Connecticut quoting each other on breaking trades involving Tina Charles, while AP national women's writer Doug Feinberg went head on with his own reporting with the rest of the nation quoting him.

The deal, sending an unhappy Tina Charles -- not over the swap -- back home to New York for Kelsey Bone, first-round pick Alyssa Thomas out of Maryland, and a first-rounder next year, erases the long held unhappiness among the Liberty faithful that allowed Charles to land with the Sun in the first place.

Prior to Charles' arrival out of Connecticut in 2010, a three-team swap had been made involving New York that saw the Liberty first-round pick land in the hands of Minnesota.

At the time, though the value could have been better on the Liberty receiving end, the deal didn't seem that terrible in that most thought New York would be playoff bound that season but when the Liberty didn't make the postseason the pick, which had gone to the hands of Minnesota, went to Connecticut in the deal that sent Lindsay Whalen back home to the Twin Cities.

Monday's deal helps both teams especially since Charles had been unhappy over the previous offseason move a year ago in which Mike Thubault was let go and then picked up by the Washington Mystics, who ironically made the playoffs last season, and Connecticut did not due to a bunch of injuries.

Anne Donovan was hired to replace Thibault.

Last winter Donovan in a private call on another matter gave some indication that a former UConn type might be dealt somewhere and mused how the fan base would react.

Additionally, former Tennessee star and ESPN studio host Kara Lawson is now in Washington.

It was noted to her that the Sun fans, while also blue blooded UConn fans, have more of an emphasis on wanting their pro team to win a title and if a deal would fly with them, there would not be much unhappiness in losing Charles.

That appears to be the case beginning with the pick of Chiney Ogwumike out of Stanford at the top of the draft by the Sun and the deal bringing in value for Charles.

There were other offseason deals that brought in former Penn State star Alex Bentley out of Atlanta.

Donovan, in a public event down here last winter, in a speech, made an aside that the Sun locker room had not been a happy place last summer, though the remark in that audience was like a tree falling in the forest with no one from the Connecticut media crowd to hear it.

The only WNBA awareness in that group was former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne who went on to become rookie of the year with the Chicago Sky.

Donovan indicated the chemistry would be changed over the winter, which appearently has been the case.

Meanwhile, in Washington Thibault dealt Willingboro's Crystal Langhorne, the longtime Mystics star out of Maryland, to Seattle to bring in another Terrapin in Tianna Hawkins along with the draft rights to UConn's Bria Hartley, which enables her to reunite with rookie Stefanie Dolson, whom Tibault drafted head on.

Indeed, the Washington locker room could be the most entertaining for post game interviews, especially with the presence of former North Carolina star Ivory Latta, a factor last season in Washington's renaissance.

It also makes the coming preseason game May 13 at Delaware featuring Chicago and Washington that much more fun with Delle Donne home in the Bob Carpenter Center along with Sky teammate Swin Cash, the former UConn star, going opposite Dolson and Hartley.

Tickets are now on sale at the Delaware box office. Eleven -- count them 11 corporate partners are signed on for the event.

Considering that Washington, New York, and Connecticut are the Guru's prime stops on the WNBA summer tour, it will be an intriguing few months ahhead.

If Thibault can harness Hartley and Dolson the way Geno Auriemnma did at UConn, he might have a shot at landing on Auriemma's USA staff unless those picks are made before the season is well under way.

Two locals of interest went in the draft with Vanderbilt's Christina Foggie from South Jersey going to Minnesota, whose coach Reeve is also from the same general area.

And Narberth's Maggie Lucas, who became one of the all-time Penn State scoring sensations, was taken by the Phoenix Mercury, which once had Lady Lions all-timer Kelly Mezzante on the roster.

Return of Staley

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley returns home Thursday to present Baylor's Odyssey Sims the Dawn Staley Guard award at the Union League on Thursday.

If Staley has an extra smile and hop in her step, it could be over what will happen Wednesday before she gets back to town.

The Guru hears from sources outside Gamecock country that the highly coveted A'ja Wilson, who is down to choosing from Connecticut, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, will decide to stay home so Staley can be excused if she doesn't offer her annual Guru birthday greeting on Wednesday, when Wilson's announcement will be carred by ESPNU.

If Staley has already been given a similar indication she is not sharing it but one thing she and the Guru do share is accountants so time to wrap this up to head over and get something done known as taxes.

The Guru has been informed that he can go into overtime with his file.

More to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guru's Musings: Aftermath of Nashville

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru seems obligated to throw a few odds and ends around considering the numbers that have dropped by here while the Guru was helping the alma mater with the Immaculata Hall of Fame coverage and then drafted to handle the championship game between UConn and Notre Dame.

Considering the deadlines and the self-writing storylines, the bulk of what appeared in The Inquirer was written in the hour leading up to the game.

The fact that UConn turned the game into a rout made play by play inserts not all that much necessary.

Since the editing gods actually kept the essence of what was said about the UConn win, here is what might have appeared had Notre Dame won instead.

NASHVILLE -- The long wait is over for the Notre Dame women's basketball team and what a way to win.

In the most anticipated matchup in collegiate women's basketball history featuring two unbeatens in the NCAA title game for the first time, the Irish defeated longtime national rival and defending champion Connecticut xx-xx Tuesday night in the Bridgestone Arena to finish perfect at 38-0.

It's the second NCAA crown for Notre Dame and first since 2001 when the Ruth Riley-led Irish edged Purdue after upsetting Connecticut in the national semifinals.

But this one could be called an upset, also, considering that the Huskies (39-1) were No. 1 all season and a heavy favorite to win in the Bridgestone Arena before a sellout crowd of 17,519.

The game featured two Philly coaches in Connecticut's Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, a Big Five Hall of Famer who played at Saint Joseph's in the mid-1970s.

Furthermore, Notre Dame lost one of its key starters in Natalie Achonwa to a knee injury near the end of the regional final against Baylor in South Bend, Ind., l;ast week.

But that didn't stop McGraw's group from routing Maryland here Sunday night in the semifinals before Connecticut stopped Stanford to set up the battle of unbeatens.

Notre Dame's triumph kept Auriemma tied with Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt at eight and deprived the Huskies of becoming just the second team alongside Baylor (20-12) to go 40-0 in an NCAA season competition.

Auriemma's teams have gone unbeaten four times previously before the finals here.

The Irish win also deprived UConn of pulling a second double in the wake of the Huskies' men beating Kentucky for that NCAA crown on Monday night.

Connecticut's men and women won titles in 2004 and they are the only school to win trophies for both genders in the same season.

Thanks to the football-driven conference shakeup last summer, this game took on an extra magnitude because Notre Dame left the old Big East configuration to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Connecticut became part of the American Athletic Conference.

Thus the Huskies and Irish sidestepped each other during the regular season, though they will launch a two-year nonconference series beginning in South Bend, Ind., next season.

That Connecticut added a fifth unbeaten run to the program's record book, was considered quite possible.

But Notre Dame was not expected to do as well with the graduation of all-American point guard Skylar Diggins and the move to one of the stronger women's rivalries where Duke, North Carolina, and, for this past season, Maryland call home.

However, coach Muffet McGraw got the Irish off to a quick start in November and they bolted to their fifth straight Women's Final Four.

Early in the season Notre Dame moved into the second spot in the weekly polls and that's the way things stayed the rest of the way as the collision course of unbeatens took hold.

Two of the Notre Dame recent Final Fours apearances involved taking down UConn in the national semifinals but last season after beating the Huskies three straight in the old Big East, Auriemma got revenge in New Orleans and then the Huskies beat Louisville, also part of the Big East, to tie Summitt with title No. 8.

Getting the Last Word

So in a few years in 2017 the days of the weeks of the Women's Final Four will shift from Sunday and Tuesday to Friday and Sunday for the purposes on helping attendance and making travel easier for fans who won't be forced to miss Monday and Tuesday work days.

There's no quibble here but the Guru should point this out.

The same as 2004 the last time UConn pulled a gender double to become the only school to have its men's and women's team win the same season, it was the women who got the attention and had the lasting conversation because it was up to them to finish the job after the men won on a Monday night.

The same situation occurred here and with all the extra toppings on hand with the double unbeaten records of the UConn women and Notre Dame, the Philly dustup during Monday's press sessions with Irish coach Muffet McGraw and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the curiosity factor heightened.

As ESPN executive Carol Stiff said to the Guru on Monday afternoon, "This is no longer a game -- it's an event," and the ratings supported that notion when released after the championship.

But if the calendar had already been in reverse, the women would have had their spotlight on Sunday night and into half of Monday but because the men were playing 24 hours later to close out the season for both genders, the focus would have been more on them in the ensuing days then the UConn women.

Before the next topic, if we're all one big happy basketball family trying to react of the Ackerman White Paper to make things better, unless the Guru missed a comment while running around all over the place, how come no one in a high NCAA place through a bone of approval to UTEP for the crowds the Miners drew for the Women's NIT won by Rutgers.???

Backroom Chatter

Though the Big East women's tournament was successful at DePaul in suburban Chicago and won by the Blue Demons, it may not return to the Midwest next time around.

The problem was even though five of the schools are gegraphically East -- St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova and Georgetown -- in terms of regional awareness in its old haunts from the days UConn snd the Hartford XL Arena where the the tournament was an annual event, the distance but the Big East into a mental eclipse in terms of paying large attention to the games from afar.

So, according to some insiders, while on one hand, the Big East could remain in DePaul country, the idea of moving back to the seaboard, or switching the dates to the second weekend, or both, or something creative that might make it easier for the regional media in the East to go back and forth could be on the burner at the annual spring meetings.

Geno's USA Helpers

USA Basketball Women's honcho Carol Callan said there's no rush to name who will serve on the coaching staff under UConn's Geno Auriemma for this fall's World Championship.

The quetion was posed on when the news might come because considering who helped out at the last training session and the names speculated, it could be a strong Philadelphia accent.

Auriemma grew up in nearby Norristown after coming from Italy not long after arriving on the planet.

Some WNBA ingredients are usually required and most everyone believes after guiding the Minnsota Lynx to two titles and three straight finals, Cheryl Reeve, who grew up across the river in South Jersey, and played at La Salle is a strong candidate.

Even though South Carolina coach Dawn Staley will be heading the Under-18 squad this summer, she could still land on the staff, especially given her long affair as a player and coach with USA basketball and is one candidate likely groomed for the post-Auriemma era, whenever that will be.

Other possibilities are Hartford coach Jen Rizzotti, the former UConn star who has already guided younger USA teams to gold medals as the Olynpic stars of the future; DePaul's Doug Bruno, who was an assistant to Auriemma in the triumph at the London Games in 2012; WNBA Washington's Mike Thibault, among others.

Some say what about Bill Laimbeer, coach of the New York Liberty.

When asked last summer, he smiled and replied, the players might like it but I don't know about everyone else.

Liking Mike

Chatting with Miami coach Katie Meier, a Duke grad, at the packed Blue Star Media party at one of Nashville's salooneries, the Hurricanes coach heaped praises on the Penn Quakers, which upset her squad in Coral Gables on New Year's Day to kick start a drive to the Ivy title.

"Not surprised that it happened," Meier said. "I loved the way they played. They should have beaten us. They were the better team. Mike McLaughlin's done a great job with them."

McLaughlin's name was on a lot of lips in Nashville as a prime candidate for BCS jobs or high mid-major positions in the future, though he is quite content to be with the Quakers in the Big Five.

Still, the Guru has seen it before. If someone has the bucks to pay the buyouts, and remember McLaughlin arrived with a history of Division II success at Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, they won't hesitate to raid the coaching cupboard with offers that can't be refused.

So if the Guru were Grace Calhoun, the new AD at Penn who hired former WNBA and Olympic star Sheryl Swoopes at Loyola of Chicago with zero experience, one of the first things he would do is chat McLaughlin up and make him an untouchable so Penn's return to Ivy prominence as well as its newly-found acclaim byond the Ancient Eight becomes secure in the years ahead.

Princeton's Courtney Banghart has already previously landed in the group of next generation star coaches with the way she transformed the Tigers, but the mistakes schools with openings made in their approach in recent seasons is they made offers she could refuse.

In fact, while Princeton is in transition -- the Tigers are also in the AD market with the impending retirement of Gary Walters -- some schools might feel the time is right to grab Banghart.

Speaking of that vacancy, the Guru has in a few places heard the name of Oregon State men's basketball coach Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of President Obama as a person of interest to the headhunters at Princeton.

One school that has moved quickly over the years to keep its women's coach in check is Hartford where everytime Jen Rizzotti's name would be mentioned for jobs, athletic director Pat Meiser, who also was involved in the hire of Auriemma at UConn when she was on the AD staff, would suddenly announce a new deal.

Meiser, incidentally, once coached Penn State.

Grentz the Author

Theresa Grentz, the first superstar center of the modern collegiate era when she played on the Immaculata championship squads that will going into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on August 8, has just penned a book Lessons Learned Playing a Child's Game, as told to Dick Weiss and Joan Williamson.

Weiss, is the famous "Dickie Hoops" Weiss, the acclaimed sportswriter of men's basketball while the Guru remembers Williamson when she was working for Sports Illustrated when he first began covering women's hoops in the mid-1970s.

Here is a link to Grentz's website and info about buying the book.

http://grentzelitecoaching.com/lessons-learned-from-playing-a-childs-game. You're going to have to cut and paste this in the url window on your browsers.

USBWA Women's Awards

As soon as he sees what makes or doesn't make the USBWA's newsletter on rounding up the women's awards from Sunday, he'll post the transcriptions of the acceptances that were made.

Especially poignant were the remarks from retired ESPN executive Rosa Gatti and CoSIDA's Barb Kowal, in charge of external relations, about the creation of the Mary Jo Haverbeck award beginning next season.

With Breanna Stewart about to play in the semifinals, athletic diretors Warde Manuel and Deb Corum accepted the player of the year for her.

Muffet McGraw's husband Matt was handed the coach of the year award. Kirsten Moore, coach of the Westmont 2013 NAIA national champions, received the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.

OK. Now you had a reason to hang around for new material.

More to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Guru's NCAA tourney: Detour for now

Guru got tabbed for alumni duty by The Inquirer so game coverage will soon appear at Philly.com. But here's the link to willbill's photos. http://williamewartphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/2014-NCAA-Division-I-National-Championship-Game-Notre-Dame-Vs-UConn/G0000logNQOSPsSA

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mike Siroky's Final SEC Report: Boom! Goes the Conference

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference, the best league in women’s basketball during the regular season will end with several teams in the Top 15. But not one in the Final Four.

The Elite Eight had one conference team.

But that team, Texas A&M, was then eradicated in the Regional final by UConn, which has beaten everybody else as well.

Included, in what turned out to be an Atlantic Coast Conference rout, were the two No. 1 seeds eliminated by that league alone.

Don’t forget, A&M’s lone league win in the Round of 16 was only because they drew the usual cardboard cutout that is DePaul. Another conference, the AAC, also eliminated two SEC teams.

So, for the final report on this dismal season, here’s where they all folded into dust. May as well start with the one win.

Right before the real important games are played in the Final Four, here’s the (literal) breakdown of the league, plus three conference next-season notes:

•No. 3 Texas A&M, 84 No. 7 DePaul 65: This was the only advancement to the Elite Eight, also known as the Regional finals.

It used to be defeating the best team in the Big East was also a big deal. But with defections from still nationally-ranked Notre Dame, UConn, West Virginia and Rutgers, among others, DePaul is just a shadow representative of that once-mighty conference.

A&M (27-8) earned that mighty challenge of top-seeded UConn in the Lincoln Regional final. Good luck with that. A&M has never beaten UConn.

The 14-point halftime edge was enough to convince A&M to keep on keeping on. A close second half did not matter and A&M won that as well.

Steady sophomore Courtney Walker may be playing herself onto a junior national team. She is definitely building to All-American status. She is the ninth Aggie to score at least 20 in an NCAA tournament.

“The competition goes up,” Walker said, “your play has to go up.”

The Aggies guard continues to lead the program, with 24 in this one. Everyone played and all five starters hit double-figures – including 11 from senior center Karla Gilbert -- so at least the Huskies could not just shut down one player and hope for the best. It is the first time all year A&M had all starters score at least 10.

Even more impressive is the Aggies shot 88 percent from the field once they established a 22-17 lead.

“I’m just trying to find open shots when a lot of teams try to double the post,” Walker said. “Karla gives us some good points in there. When they double her, I have to be ready on the back side.”

A&M played its game, 60 percent from the field – a season best and a program best in the playoffs -- and 67 percent from the line.

The defense tuned up for the Elite Eight game by holding the Blue Demons to 40 percent from the field. A&M used superior positioning to outrebound the taller DePaul lineup by 10. A&M is 8-0 when scoring at least 80; they have won by an impressive 15-point average so fare.

They held DePaul to a season-low output by 19 points under their average.

“Yes, we can score points,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said, “but we can defend, too.”

The 65 is a season low for DePaul.

But it is ever thus with Doug Bruno’s teams. They win enough for the uninitiated to think they are a real team, then they fall apart at certain levels of competitions with defensive deficits and so will always be one of 16, but nowhere near the top of the group. He will get to keep his job while better coaches lose theirs.

Walker also starred on the defensive end, holding leading scorer Brittany Hrynko to three points. Hrynko had a total of 33 against Oklahoma and Duke in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Jones made five of the Aggies’ 10 steals and held Chanise Jenkins, who had 25 points the last two games, to three.

The Aggies are in the Elite Eight for the third time since 2008 and first since they won the national title in 2011. Maybe they came to see UConn at Lincoln, but the 9,585 were happy to be there.

“This is huge. We grew up watching this on TV,” said Walker. “We’re gonna do that for our seniors. We will be prepared.”

Blair is 20-7 in the NCAA post-season gatherings. It is not even unusual anymore to see how many male coaches are at this level.

All four coaches at Lincoln are men; two of the four at Notre Dame, the interim coach at North Carolina in the Stanford Regional and host Louisville had Jeff Walz; that’s half of the 16 with Lincoln guaranteeing one into the Final Four.

At 12-2, the A&M seniors are the second-best of the four-year players this year.

UConn, of course, leads at 17-2, a record not likely to be ever challenged.

“It’s fun, the last time we were in the Elite Eight we went to the Big Dance,” Blair said. “The best we’ve shot all year and great on defense. Our bench was huge in the first half when we had two starters on the bench with two fouls.

“They are feeling great about themselves. It doesn’t come easy. If you’re gonna win the national championship you’ve gotta beat the best team anyway. So why not now?

Everybody in the country will be watching this team to see if we are for real. We embrace that.

“We want them talking about us instead of talking about Connecticut.”

•No. 4 Maryland 73, No. 1 Tennessee 62: Maryland is having a heckuva final run as an ACC team before joining the Big Ten next season.

Coach Brenda Frese has already revived one program there, taking an NCAA infractions-stained Minnesota team for one season and getting them back on track before coming to Maryland 12 years ago.

But that will be then and this is now. She earned a shot at No. 3 Louisville in that Region’s title game, assuring either a 3 or a 4 would be in the Final Four.

UT (29-6) was the first top seed to fall and they fell hard. The school sent each of its basketball teams to the Sweet 16 and no further. Only UConn remained with both basketball programs still playing and the men went all the way to the title.

Meighan Simmons said farewell to the college game as Tennessee’s only senior. She scored 31.

“I’m just sad that that was Meighan’s last game,” her coach, Holly Warlick, said.
“She’s done a hell of a job for our program and I know she’s going to go on and do great things. Got beat by a better basketball team today.”

Temmate Cierra Burdick, next year’s designated team leader, said, “In 10 or 15 years down the road, we’re all going to have the opportunity to say that we played with Meighan Simmons. Probably one of the best scorers to ever play the game, and we’re going to miss her.”

Simmons said, “It’s always been a grind for us. We’ve had a heck of a year, and any game where we were down we found a way to fight back and Maryland just had the extra oomph today.

“They pushed through even harder. We just didn’t have it today.”

Simmons was in her 126th start, fifth on UT’s all-time list. Simmons is also fifth on the all-time program scoring list, with 2,064.

But where was the help? The frontline only combined for 14 while being outrebounded. Holding Maryland to 38 percent form the field sounds great until contrasted by Tennessee’s 35

This was the Terrapins’ game from the start. In fact a 41-27 first half underlined what UT has done all season, which is to start sluggishly and then rely on superior athleticism to make a second-half difference.

And, while UT obviously won the second half in scoring, the Lady Vols had dug themselves in too deeply to make a real comeback at this level of the tournament.

Maryland took a 9-7 lead to 22-9, UT scoring one basket in that 2:45 breakaway. UT got it down to nine with two minutes to go, but free throws kept UT at bay.

All Maryland had to do then was match point-for point, in other words, not mess up, for the entire second half and the upset was won.

The Terrapin defense forced 22 turnovers, scoring 14 points off 14 turnovers in the first half.

The Maryland seniors, Alicia DeVaughn, Katie Rutan and two of the best names in the tournament, Essence Townsend and Sequoia Austin, won another game.

It was classmate Alyssa Thomas who did most of the damage and far overshadowed Simmons, with a career-best 33 points with 13 rebounds.

So Tennessee has now sent away an entire college generation without a Final Four appearance. Used to be, everyone on the team had at least one. Used to be.

As magnificent as Warlick has been maintaining the legend, she still has work to do.

“I thought we had a good game plan,” Warlick said. “We wanted to mix it up. We were going zone, going man, and we just didn’t have the togetherness on the defensive end, whether it was trust, we gave too many layups. We understood that they score in the transition. We couldn’t stop that.

“We understood that they were great rebounders, we worked on that quite a bit, and we couldn’t stop that. You know, I don’t know. Looking back maybe play more zone, but I thought we had a good game plan, we just didn’t stick to it.

“All we can do is prepare them for what we need to do in the game and put them in situations where they know what they’re defending and where we need to attack offensively. I don’t know, the last two times we’ve been in the tournament, we didn’t get it done. We lost to a very good basketball team today, very good. Maybe we’ll address that for the next season.”

Brenda Frese, the Maryland coach, has won a national championship already. Here’s the strange statistic: Only six coaches ever have both been parents and won a national title. At 35 in 2006, she is the fifth-youngest coach to win a title.

“You know, this game was everything we thought it was going to be, just a phenomenal game by both teams,” she said. “It was intense, obviously we felt like it was going to come down to the rebounding and being able to own the glass. Going into this game we knew it was going to be a game of runs and we had to maintain our confidence.

“I have the utmost respect for Holly and her staff and the tradition that Tennessee has, that’s where we all want to be.

“But I’m really proud of the fact our kids played for Maryland and played with a lot of confidence, were never intimidated and really played for each other. I thought you saw us really get after it defensively, dominated, being aggressive on the boards and really being able to get out in transition. We want to continue to be under the radar, make sure nobody writes about us, talks about us, but really proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish today.”

Thomas was naturally pumped about earning another game.

“I went for my opportuntiy and looked to the rim,” she said.

She said there really were no surprises here.

“We knew we could get out on them in transition and just get easy baskets, and then once we got ball reversals we were able to attack the rim and get easy layups,” she said.

“Our post players did a phenomenal job of just limiting them, getting them in foul trouble really early and just trying to keep them off the boards from getting second opportunities.

“I just feel like this year we have so much more-- last year we didn’t really have any subs, and now this year we can send so many waves at them, it makes it so much easier.”

Going against Louisville next, Frese was taking on a former five-year assistant in Jeff Walz. But she also was going for another Final Four and that proved more important.

With the win, Maryland joins Georgia and Louisville (2013), Baylor (2010), Kentucky (2010), Rutgers (2007) and LSU (2004) as teams to defeat a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 in the past decade.

• No. 4 North Carolina 65, No. 1 South Carolina 58: Now that the regular-season champ and the conference champ determined by the post-season conference each lost at the same point in the tournament, anyone that cares to argue which is better or which coach is really the best in conference can just get to the chat rooms where the madness never ends.

North was not even with its real coach, using an interim. And they had already beaten South, in December.

There was an “uh-oh” feeling early on. By halftime, when North led by nine in the last Sweet 16 game of the tournament, the bad smell of SEC road kill from the Stanford Regional was wafting southeastward.

At intermission, phenomenal freshman guard Diamond DeShields already had a dozen Tar Heel points and had shaken off a knee bruise. Asia Dozer had seven and Aliana Coates six off the bench for the Gamecocks.

In other words, nobody was doing much of anything. North led the entire half, once by as many as 11. Stanford had already eliminated Penn State, so the winner knew the home team awaited. An angry home team. Knocked down to a No. 2 seed in the Regional in which they seemingly used to invite other teams to come and get beaten.
It never got better.

A strong second half was not enough for the Gamecocks (29-5). All the superlatives ended. The maximum number of wins in a season is set. The No. 1 seed idea is just a nice trinket without a Final Four.

Freshman Alaina Coates established the freshman program record with a 10th double-double, a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.

With no senior of merit, the Gamecocks will add McDonald All-Americans and others and take on a strengthened conference again for national notice.

North scored the first five points of the contest and looked to take control of the physical game. The Tar Heels made their move midway through the first half, going on a 9-2 run to build a 10-point lead at 20-10.

The Gamecocks scored the next five points, making the score 20-15 with 6:42 left, but did not find the basket for the next four minutes. While South was able to feed the post at will, the shots just were not falling.

Latifah Coleman gave the Tar Heels their largest lead of the half at 27-15 with three minutes remaining, draining a 3 from straight away as the shot clock was expiring. A minute later, Elem Ibiam halted the Gamecock drought with a layup and was fouled. A free throw later, the Gamecocks were back within single digits at 27-18.

With 24 seconds to go, Tiffany Davis hit a 3 from the right side to pull South to an eight-point deficit.

On defense, Asia Dozier got a steal and gave the Gamecocks one more chance before the break. Didn’t happen.

Three minutes into the second half, Coates had to be sent back in.

She drew a foul and sank two free throws, then blocked a shot.

After a putback by Aleighsa Welch, Coates scored on the next three possessions to draw the Gamecocks to 32-35 with 14:45 to play. It was the closest since the Gamecocks had been since the 12-minute mark in the first half.

The Tar Heels forced the Gamecocks away from Coates on the next few possessions, and DeShields – the national freshman player of the ear -- asserted herself.

After scoring just two points in the first half, Sec Player-of-the-YearTiffany Mitchell sank back-to-back 3s to keep South Carolina close at 41-38 with 12 minutes to go.

Welch intercepted a lob on a North backdoor attempt and Coates converted on consecutive baskets

With 8:43 left, the top-seeded Gamecocks had hope.

But North would have none of that. Back-to-back 3s from Jessica Washington and DeShields put the Tar Heels up 49-44 with 7:08 remaining.

It was Mitchell again and then Coates and it was 53-51 with five minutes left.

Back came the Tar Heels, six unanswered points to stretch the lead out to 59-51 with 2:40 to go.

Welch and Coates combined for five straight points, limiting the Tar Heels to one tough shot on the other end in between, but the Gamecocks could get no closer.

North Carolina hit free throws down the stretch to seal it.

Brittany Rountree converted a pair of free throws with 1:14 left and two more at the 36.4-second mark. SC had never had the lead in the game. They had 13 turnovers and shot 27.7 percent from the field.

“I think we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations outside of our locker room,” junior forward Welch said.

“We definitely weren’t surprised to get to this point, we wanted to go further, but a lot of people didn’t expect us to be the team we were this year with what we lost last year. We have almost everybody coming back, plus a good recruiting class, so the sky’s the limit for us next year.”

Coach Dawn Staley, facing a summer as the coach of the national Junior team for USA Basketball, said her own young junior team has potential for years to come.

Like so many other coaches who know they will be involved for as long as they win, she took the familiar tact of disappointment over accepting failure.

“They put us back on our heels and forced us into some foul trouble you don’t want to anticipate coming into a game like this,” Staley said.

“I’m just disappointed our season ends tonight. I am proud of the team we put on the floor,” Staley said. “Our players did what most people thought they couldn't do. This won't be the last time you see this South Carolina team here this late in the season.
I'm looking forward to the future.

“Now, it's back to the gym and film room.”

• No. 2 Louisville 73, No. 7 LSU 47: The Ben-Gals’ starting backcourt did not play due to injuries. And that summarizes the end of LSU’s (21-13) surprising run this far.

In their first playoff game away from home, they were bamboozled by a Louisville team trying to reclaim its image after being ranked in the top four nationally but seeded in the second four by the NCAA geniuses.

Of course, hosting a Regional has its perks, among them allowing UConn to go a little further West instead of the easternmost Regional to avoid a fourth straight loss to them this season.
Louisville, the city and the Yum! Center, can still host Regionals in the future (as can UConn’s county arena and Lexington’s Rupp Arena, among others).

One of the highlights of the Yum! Center (think Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell ownership for the company name) is it is the only arenas in America which hosts college games regularly that has a built-in bar at one end of the arena. Just sayin’ if the LSU and Tennessee coaches needed a drink after this one, the sports bar was open.

There wasn’t much to this game. LSU had eight available players. Louisville used the opportunity to practice 3s; they hit a season-best 12 to the delight of the 11,037 crowd, best of the Sweet 16.

LSU hit 23 percent from the field.

Senior Shoni Schimmel scored 19, celebrating once again on her home court.

“In the back of your mind you know they’re short and lost two important players that they needed,” Schimmel said.

“It wasn’t what we strived (for), but we understood that they don’t have these two players but we still have to play. It definitely helped us because we could have definitely overlooked somebody, but we didn’t do that.”

Cardinals’ reserves outscored LSU’s bench, 28-0, while also dominating in assists, 21-2. Louisville had also routed LSU in the pre-season NIT, 88-67, when LSU had al of its players.

“They did all that they could considering; they came in and they tried their best,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. said “I’m proud of them for that. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to, but it wasn’t that they were fearful.”

“I think we’re playing really good basketball right now, Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “Did we look to me exceptionally sharp in the first half in the halfcourt? No. ... But I thought we really did a nice job of just attacking out of transition.”

•No. 2 Baylor 90, No. 3 Kentucky 62: UK’s house of cards folded abruptly once they met a quality team, one that they had taken to four overtimes at their place earlier this season.

It marks the end of nice careers for seniors DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker and some lesser lights. Both are transfers in, so Stallworth had 812 of 1,720 career points at UK; Walker, who famously chose this after UConn, had 777 rebounds of her career 877 at UK.

“Defensively we didn’t do a great job,” said Stallworth. “We weren’t together as a team. We dug ourselves a big hole and we fought in the second half that’s what matters.”

The game does erase a bad NCAA national memory. When Notre Dame dutifully bid on one of the first Regionals, then called the Mideast, the NCAA was delighted to try to stage a tournament in an area of the Midwest that never drew anything.

That trend continued and ND has since then had the unfortunate all-time record of the worst Regional Final attendance. They drew less than 400 with free admission, There were three Southeastern Conference teams in the four teams there, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Even then the SEC was the powerhouse conference.

Decades later, with the home team a No. 1 seed, although “good tickets are still on sale” ads ran the day before this Regional, the site drew 8,774. UK’s loss allowed a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the Regional final.

It is hard to say whether Baylor just naturally gets better as the seasons progress. Or that Odyssey Sims, once considered a lock for Player of the Year nationally, is in fine form and was the best player on this court by far.

She surpassed 1,000 points on the season with 25 in this one, 18 in the first half. She is only the second woman to ever score more than 1,000 in a season.

Stallworth was 9-of-14 for 19 points in her final game. Junior Bria Goss scored 13 -- including 9-of-10 from the line – but fouled out.

For BU, which won the rebounds by 10, Nina Davis scored 20 and Nia Johnson 11.
Baylor started on a 20-9 run and the game’s tempo was set. UK cut it back to four but expended so much energy doing so that Baylor extended the difference to 17 at the break.

As example of Baylor defining the game, it had 49 at the intermission; Kentucky didn’t get there until 10 minutes were left and the difference was still 13.

It moved to 23 in the next five minutes and about all UK could do was foul. Baylor was so efficient that the UK streak of 186 games forcing at least 10 turnovers also died.

Maybe UK backslid to the plateau they will now claim in the SEC, as the next level after the top teams. This was their only NCAA playoff game this year away from home.

At least UK coach Matthew Mitchell did not diss Sims, as he had called out the best player on the other team in his previous loss. Neither did he praise her.

“We had a really tough time, and it looked like we were ill-prepared and that’s squarely on my shoulders,” he said, taking the blame for a flop yet again.

“We played really good teams and we have dared to develop the program to a point to get them in games like this,” Mitchell said. “It is disappointing to perform like this in this type of atmosphere.”

He had kept leading scorer junior Jennifer O’Neill on the bench all season. That magnificently flopped as she was 0-of-12 from the field.

“Leading scorer goes 0 for 12, not a real good recipe for moving forward in this kind of environment in the tournament,” Mitchell said. “It’s hard to fathom how that kid can go 0 for 12. She didn’t try to do that. I thought she took some bad shots at times, but some were really good they just didn’t go.

“I thought we were doing a good job at some things, wish we could have made some of those layups and the complexion of game would have been different,” he said.


• No. 1 UConn 69, No. 3 Texas A&M 54:
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continued her splendid run through the NCAA tournament with 17 points, and UConn advanced to the women's Final Four for the seventh straight year.

It is the 44th straight win for the defending national champs (38-0).

Stefanie Dolson made her 150th career start to tie the NCAA record. She scored 14 with 10 rebounds and blocked a career-high eight shots. Bria Hartley had 14 points, Breanna Stewart – the National Player of the Year -- added 13 and Moriah Jefferson 11.

The sophomore Courtneys led A&M. Walker scored 14 and Williams 13.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a returning All-American, missed 12 games this season because of injury or illness. Not here or now, however. She is the Lincoln Regional's most outstanding player.

She had a triple-double against Saint Joseph's in the second round and 19 points and 13 rebounds against BYU before this. Against the Aggies in the final she provided the spark after the Huskies found themselves in an early hole.

Her play made up for the slow start of Stewart, who got into early foul trouble and scored two in the first half.

The Aggies had shot 60 percent in their 84-65 win over DePaul, their best mark ever in an NCAA tournament game. They hit 28.9 percent the first half while falling behind 34-23 against UConn and finished at 35.3 percent.

The Aggies had won their first three games in the tournament by 15 points or more, but they ran into a UConn club that was just too powerful, whether in transition or on a normal drive inside.

The Aggies made their first six shots of the second half to cut into UConn's 11-point halftime lead. Jones hit a pair of 3s, and after she drove to the hoop on Jefferson, A&M was within 40-37.

The Huskies cranked up their transition game, went on a 10-0 spurt and outscored the Aggies 27-12 to build their lead to 18 points in the final 3 minutes. No team has played UConn closer than 11 points this season.

The Aggies broke out to an 11-4 lead -- matching the biggest deficit UConn has faced this season -- before Mosqueda-Lewis made her presence known.

Mosqueda-Lewis fed Dolson for an easy basket to start a 26-6 UConn run. Hartley scored twice off Jefferson's long passes, Mosqueda-Lewis hit a couple 3s and showed what she could do inside when she took an inbound pass and drove the baseline for a left-handed layup.

Jefferson slipped a pass to Dolson for a reverse layup and then drove the hoop and hit a 3 of her own to put the Huskies up 30-17.

Courtney Walker ended a five-minute scoring drought with three straight jumpers, but nothing symbolized the night more than Kiah Stokes' block of Achiri Ade's shot just ahead of the halftime buzzer.

“That’s the second-closest game Connecticut has had all year. The score does not indicate how close the game was,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. He pointed out they drew 7,169 for the only Regional final with no host team. The 29,524 that A&M drew to four games were the most for any individual team, including the first two at other home sites.

“This team is still young. We are still gaining experience,” he said.

“This was one of Carla’s best games and she is going against one of the best post player in the game.

“But when we missed things, we came back better. They were really fouling hard.” The 11-3 early lead was the biggest deficit of the season for UConn.

The season wins are the third-most in program history; the senior class finished 12-3 all-time in the NCAAs,

“As a team we got better and better and that’s you can ask,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back. The little things we are doing will make us better. The skill and the competition we have will make us better. When we come back to the Elite Eight, we’ll be able to handle it.”

And a Few More Things

• A Summitt will eventually be coaching against SEC teams.

Following his genetics, Tyler Summitt was picked off the assistant coaching ranks – Marquette -- to lead Louisiana Tech. There is little doubt Tennessee and other SEC programs will be quick to renew contracts with them.

There is a bit of irony here as Tech was once the super team of the elites, in the AIAW days and into the time when the NCAA took in the women’s games. The Lady Techsters twice eliminated Tennessee and coach Pat Summitt in a title game.

The first was in 1981, with the AIAW.

Tech had All-American Janice Lawrence there, a splendid forward still viewed as one of the best ever in the game and a miniature point All-American guard named Kim Mulkey, on her way to a Gold Medal at the L.A. Olympic Games – with Lawrence -- and now more well-known as the Hall of Fame coach of Baylor. She is the only woman to have titles as a player and a coach.

The second of those seasons ended in Los Angeles, on UCLA’s famed home court in 1988. The leader of the Lady Techsters was All-American Debra Rodman, the mammoth older sister of the eventually better-known Dennis.

In fact it was he who was handing out the made-in-advance championship T-shirts as the celebration began.

Tech had the first great male coach in a national championship women’s program, Leon Barmore, an indomitable spirit. So Tech is not afraid to have a man leading the program.

Yes, this hire is as much publicity as reality, but it still offers Tyler a chance to start coaching at age 23, almost unheard of in the modern era.

His father, R.B., and his mom were both there to see him start. His first hire was a former Lady Techster, the mercurial Mickie DeMoss, who is now more remembered for a long-time association with Pat at Tennessee than for her own flops as a head coach in her 58 years, in the SEC at Kentucky and at Florida as well as elsewhere.

“As I grew up as a part of the Tennessee Lady Vols program, everything on and off the floor was geared towards competing against Louisiana Tech,” Tyler said. “The Lady Techsters were the standard in which excellence in women’s basketball was measured for so long. I am proud to be a part of this storied program.”

His dad, R.B., also said he had fond memories of the origination of the rivalry.

But this moment is for his son.

“It is such a humbling but exciting moment,” R.B. said.

“We are proud for Tyler and for Louisiana Tech. I think we can mark down this day as exceptional, a date to be remembered, sort of like your child's birthday: the emotions, the expectations, the hopes of a new beginning.

“Tyler has been praying, planning and building for just such a wonderful opportunity. There aren't enough words to thank Louisiana Tech University and all the loyal fans. I know you have hired a winner and great days are ahead.”

Obviously, Louisiana Tech Athletics Director Tommy McClelland carved his school back into the national record books, as Tech is second all-time in wins (1,043), trailing only Tennessee.

At age 23, he is young enough to have a multi-decade career at Tech and then be ready when Holly Warlick wants to retire at Tennessee.

Tyler’s challenge is to rebuild the storied program back into a conference contender and annual NCAA Tournament participant. Tech’s 27 NCAA Tournament appearances ranks fourth all-time; they have not been in since 2011.

“Tyler represents our philosophy of developing champions in the classroom, on the court and in life,” McClelland said. “He grew up in that championship culture, and it is all he knows. His reputation as a great recruiter, a rising young star in the coaching business and a passionate leader is known throughout the nation. We are fortunate to have him lead our women’s basketball program into the future.”

Tyler is properly low-key about this.

“AnDe (his wife) and I are grateful and humbled for the opportunity to become a part of the Louisiana Tech Family,” Tyler said. “I am honored to lead our women’s basketball team, which is an absolute gem in the women’s game with an incredible tradition.

“To our Lady Techster fans, AnDe and I look forward to getting to know you all very soon. I am excited to help every member of our program be the best that they can be through our five standards: belief, family, character, competition, toughness.”

Family friend and Pat Summit mentor Billie Moore welcomes Tyler to the profession.

She is a former U.S. Olympic coach, and built the UCLA and Cal. State-Fullerton programs into national prominence.

“Tyler has a special gift. He has a talent for teaching, a unique perspective of seeing and understanding the concepts and strategies of the game.” she said. “Tyler is great with people; he is a tremendous communicator and a natural leader – things that have nothing to do with age. Quite simply, he has ‘it’ and there is absolutely no question in my mind that he will be a successful head coach.”

Louisiana Tech President Les Guice. Is obviously on board.

“Tyler Summitt is an amazingly talented individual with tremendous character and leadership skills that will unquestionably propel him to success in life,” Guice said
“I am absolutely thrilled to have him leading our Lady Techsters basketball program and am confident that he can return our program to national prominence.”

Barmore, who has to be discouraged by what has happened to the program he left behind. Like Pat Summitt, he has never left the university and also keeps a title as basketball coach emeritus.

“I really respect and appreciate the commitment that president Guice and Tommy McClelland have shown to this program with this hire,” he said.

“They have put the Lady Techster program in the forefront. I met with Tyler. What I found out in the 45 minutes we spent together was that he truly respects this program. We certainly respect him and his family. In time he will prove to be an outstanding head coach. I know he is 23 years old, but he has been coaching since he was one. I really like the direction we have gone. I think this is a really good hire. I am fired up about it.”

Tyler also runs his mom’s Pat Summitt Foundation, is a sought-after public speaker and, with his wife, is active in church.

“It is a special day for our family, and especially for Tyler, as he is given the reins to one of the most storied programs in women’s basketball,” said Pat.

“We are excited about the opportunity he has been given and are grateful to Tommy McClelland and Dr. Leslie Guice for having faith in Tyler. He has been preparing for this day since he was a little boy and I can assure you he will work very hard and will represent Louisiana Tech University with class. I’m sure Tyler is ready to get busy, and I know he and AnDe look forward to becoming part of the Louisiana Tech family and the Ruston community.”

He graduated from the University of Tennessee Chancellor's Honors Program where he was a member of the Tennessee men's basketball team for two seasons.

Tyler also served as a student assistant coach for his mother and the Tennessee women's basketball program. He was actively involved in the 2007 through 2009 seasons for the Tennessee women, two of which resulted in national championships.

He was the head coach of numerous AAU teams in Tennessee, including the Tennessee Fury 17U who went on to win the State Championship. He has also been a head coach at Tennessee’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Summer Camps from 2005-2011.

“Tyler told me, ‘There’s only one environment I know. That is a championship environment, and I will bring that to practice, to work and to games every single day,’” said Terri Mitchell, the Marquette coach. “He absolutely delivered on that promise. He’s going to be a star in our profession.”

His hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.

• Two for Tennessee (or the rich get richer): League champ Tennessee has two great McDonald AlllAmerican recruits among its incoming class. In the actual West/East game, Jamie Nared (Portland, Ore.) led the winners with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals. Alexa Middleton (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) won the All-American skills competition.

• Way Out of Reach: The hiring Jimmy Dykes – now there’s a good ol’ boy’s name -- as the eighth coach for Arkansas at least next season is a reach beyond belief.

Not only has he never coached a women’s college team, he has been out of coaching since 1991 (he was an assistant then), instead commenting for low-viewed ESPN events.

It may be a statement all right, a statement that Arkansas is finally out of major-league basketball.

The best man in the game right now, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, tore himself away from making another Final four to say the Dykes' hire is “outside the box” and “a lot of people will be watching pretty closely.”

The flubby-looking athletic director did not apologize for all but handing every other SEC team wins for seasons to come.

Jeff Long said Dykes approached him. Gee. Another shocker for a guy on no one’s radar. Ever.

He claims to have talked to coaches across the country. Musta been a lot of rejections there. He did admit it is a “non-traditional” hire.

So instead of hiring a nifty top assistant, maybe even making a minority hire, they got this. Long even tried to sell the bag of soap that Dykes won out “head and shoulders” above the others he considered. Like to see that list, sometimes.

Oh, he’s a former Arkansas player, a non-recruited one. That’s about the best that can be said. He evidently interviews well.

"No one can sell this program, sell the University of Arkansas, sell the state of Arkansas, better than Jimmy Dykes," Dykes said. "I know that with all my heart."

He whistled bravely past the graveyard in saying the “days are over” when Arkansas is not considered as a tough team.

So what’s the next step down?

Like every other major question about this, that also went unanswered.

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Mike Siroky's Final WNIT Report: Nothing Sweet About It

By Mike Siroky

Even though two teams in the Big Ten recovered their season records enough for next year’s public relations books, they still did not win the NIT.

That tournament is only important if you win it, which a soon-to-be conference competitor, Rutgers, did.

Another league newcomer in the next season, Maryland, made the Final Four of the bigger competition.

This proves the league will keep getting better and, perhaps, the best coaches will be the two newbies, each with former conference coaching experience.

Just as their conference sisters did in the NCAA playdowns, the one remaining team each from the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference went no further than qualifying for the NIT quarterfinals.

The best each team got some more team practices in, showing practicality for next season less than six months away.

So here’s how it ended:

• South Dakota State 76, Indiana 64: Away from home for their first time in the tournament, in Sioux Falls, Indiana (21-13) fell right where conference competitor Minnesota died the week before.

Unlike the Gophers, Indiana is delighted with their coach and he can now build on this experience with a wonderfully young team of seven freshman and three sophomores.

Alexis Gassion led the Hoosiers with a career-high tying 22 points and fellow-freshman Larryn Brooks scored 16 points for Indiana. Brooks is already at 554 on her career.

Early on IU tied it at 13 thanks to a Gassion drive and layup. Taylor Agler found Milika Taufa on a backdoor cut for lay in with 13:28 left in the half. The Jackrabbits then strung together a 6-0 run to take a 19-13 advantage.

South Dakota State closed the half with an 11-3 spurt over the final 4:16 to take a 36-29 lead.

Senior Andrea Newbauer played some big minutes in the second half and drove to the bucket for a layup to cut the lead to four with 12:45 to go.

Gassion hit a three and then two more baskets to cut the deficit to 54-51 with 7:33 remaining.

Indiana ends with a school-record 21 wins, the fifth team in program history to do it.

IU shot 44.4 percent for the game, 8-of-18 3s.

The Hoosiers scored the second-most points ever in a single year in school history (2,369), finished with the second-most field goals (850) and the most 3s (259).

The 259 3-point field goals made rank second all-time in Big Ten history for a single season.

Brooks’ 67 3-pointers made ties for the fourth-highest ever in a season; is third for most assists in a season.

Coach Curt Miller said, “I thought it was great game, with the crowd and the way we competed in it.

”What an honor. That game made us better in the future. The environment will make us better in the long run. The statistics are nearly identical. Both team made big plays when they needed to. I came in saying we needed to be 10 points better to beat them and we were not.”

He pointed out his freshman backcourt scored 45 and so, “The foundation is set with the one recruiting class . . . and yet we continue to build to get better.”

“We always rallied with what we know how to do,” said senior Tabitha Gerardot.
Freshman Taylor Agler said it all is about working hard in practice. “We now know what to do and just have to do it,” she said. “Keep workin’ hard.”

Brooks said she enjoyed her freshman journey and learned a lot about crowds and arenas.

“We didn’t win all our battles and now that is one of our goals,” she said.

“All those different memories,” reflected Gerardot. “The most non-conference wins in school history, getting nationally ranked at one point. I am glad I came.”


•South Florida 60, Mississippi State 58:
The Bulldogs (22-14) as we have been cheerleading these past weeks position themselves to move into the middle range of the southeastern Conference with this NIT run.

And they made it as close as they could.

Rallying from down seven points in the final four minutes of play, MSU grabbed the lead on a basket by all-conference junior center Martha Alwal. Then a 3 as time expired killed them and drained the home crowd of 3,006.

The Bulldogs won three postseason games for the first time in program history and finished with 20-plus wins for the fifth time ever. The 22 victories stand as the fourth-most in school history.

“It was one heck of a basketball game,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “I never have been prouder to watch these young ladies grow. A year ago, we were doing individual workouts on March 5. This year, we were still playing 25 days later. I am proud of these ladies.

“The crowd was outstanding. The atmosphere was great. It needs to be that way every time because these ladies are paying the price to represent this university.”

Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half as the game quickly established itself as a defensive struggle.

South Florida built an 11-6 lead less than eight minutes in. Back-to-back baskets by Kendra Grant, who finished a point shy of her career high with 22, brought the Bulldogs to 11-10.

South Florida scored seven straight to build a 21-14 lead. From there, State tightened up defensively and did not allow a field goal over the final 4:45 of the half.

The Bulldogs scored the half’s final eight; two free throws by Grant with 21 seconds left tied it at 22 at halftime.

In the opening half, each team hit 8-of-30 field goals for 26.7 percent shooting.

“It feels really good to see how far we have come,” Grant said. “Making it to the Elite Eight of the WNIT tells us that we have come a long way. It feels really good to know that we are making a difference and becoming a really good team.”

MSU started the second half with better offensive flow. The Bulldogs held the lead for all but one possession of the first 12 minutes of the second half.

Behind the strong play of Breanna Richardson inside and Grant outside, the Bulldogs led by four points seven different times in the early stages of the half.

Over the stretch of three minutes, South Florida hit a 12-0 run to grab a 48-40 lead with 6:26 left. The Bulldogs were still down seven with 2:40 left before mounting one final threat.

“I don’t want these kids and this staff to feel like this again,” Schaefer said. “They work too hard and they have given their all. This team is on its way. The people who walked out of the arena tonight now have a connection with this team. They know this team is fun to watch.

“There is no one that is going to out-tough us or out-physical us.”

The Bulldogs hit 32 percent from the field and 72 percent from the line with a 46-37 rebounding advantage.

In addition to Grant’s 22 points, Richardson posted her fourth double-double, second of the WNIT, with 14 points and 14 rebounds, a career high.

Alwal had 317 rebounds, the ever in a season by a Bulldog.

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