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.
By Mike Siroky
The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball has one team left and it's not the one the big money was betting to be there.
Mississippi State fell to one of two No. 1 seeds remaining. ESPN missed the No. 7s being worthy of a Seeding Committee review. Also alive are two No.2s and two No. 4s.
The Pac 12 is assured of a Final Four team as two of them square off in Regional Final Sunday. A third team takes on the best of the Big 12 and a fourth matches No. 4 seeds with the ACC. No one saw half of he Elite Eight coming from the Pac 12.
The SEC/ACC matchup today could eliminate the SEC. The Big Ten is already done. The Big 12 is favored to be represented by its top seed but has the next one to be fed to UConn.
The American, of course, is there again as the tourney favorite.
Seemingly predestined (we called it as soon as the previous National Championship was played) maybe all the gibberish spewed by the NCAA matters not a whit.
Still, it’s a cool job when you can mismanage seedings and then claim upsets when your mismanagement plays out.
Here is the latest SEC elimination (numbers associated with team reflect NCAA seeds):
*No. 1 UConn 98, No. 5 Mississippi State 38.
The best team in America just strangled the secong-best team in the Southeastern Conference,
UConn put up three single-digit quarters on defense.
Never has a team from the SEC been so dominated. Victoria Vivians, on a 17 plus points per game average, scored eight.
Another Tennessee record is likely to be eclipsed next.
UConn will win its 29th straight NCA game.
"Crazy things happen in March," Stewart said. "We wanted to make sure when we came out today that wasn't going to happen with us."
The 72nd win was no more remarkable than the first 71. The score is the biggest margin for UConn ever in the tournament. The previous best UConn margin was 51. Last season. At the same point in the tournament. It is the NCAA Sweet 16 and beyond standard again.
“It was an awakening for our players and everyone else,” Auriemma said. “If you show up in March and don't bring your ‘A’ game and your guys aren’t focused and locked in and playing their best basketball, that this can happen.”
Even Auriemma is impressed.
"I told them during one timeout, and I never do this, I said, ‘Man you guys are really good’," Auriemma admitted. "I was just caught up in it all. The timeouts on Monday might be completely different."
Stewart, the two-time AP player of the year, got the game started with a 3 and UConn was never caught again. The Huskies scored the game's first 13, including 11 by Stewart and Morgan Tuck.
UConn scored 18 of the final 21 points of the quarter, including Moriah Jefferson's basket that beat the buzzer.
UConn kept it going in the second quarter, converting turnovers and missed shots into easy baskets.
The Huskies shredded the Mississippi State defense, which entered giving up just 54.7 points a game.
UConn was past that with 1:40 left in the first half. The halftime was 61-12 and, at last, a record for which UConn can still aspire.
The halftime points for a Regional or later is 62. The defensive effort was one more than the NCAA futility record.
Stewart had 18 points and 13 rebounds, UConn shot 65 percent from the field. It never let up. With 3:52 to go in the third quarter, Auriemma pulled the playmakers. They led by 68.
They had drawn a tournament best 9,000. They roared at history.
Vivians had never seen anything like it.
“They are really, really good. They're well-coached,” she said.
“Defensively, they should get a lot more credit for how good they are defensively, because they are really, really tough in that area. I thought we got some good looks early. And what happens against them is if you don't make those shots early, you get a little dejected, and then it affects you on the defensive end and the next thing you know it's getting away from you.”
Dominique Dillingham said UConn simply plays at a faster tempo. She said it affects offense and defense. “Things can get out of hand quickly,” she said. “Their transition game does not get enough credit.”
‘So, now, we have this in the back of our minds and we don’t want to feel this again.”
"Today it felt like I was playing a WNBA team," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. "That team right there probably . . . I don't know what team in the league they can't compete with. They got all the pieces. Well, obviously, we didn't play very well, and I think you got to give, obviously, you got to give Connecticut all the credit for that.
"They played extremely well today, and I'm disappointed that we didn't play better. I'll take full responsibility for that. At the end of the day, it is my job to have our team ready and, obviously, we probably weren't ready.
"So, as a head coach, I'll wear that responsibility and make sure that we do better the next time. But I'm proud of my team. I've got a really good team. We just didn't show the country or you today really how good we are. And, again, that's my responsibility, and I'm disappointed in that.
“They are really, really good. They're well-coached. As I told you all yesterday, defensively, they should get a lot more credit for how good they are defensively, because they are really, really tough in that area. I thought we got some good looks early. And what happens against them is if you don't make those shots early, you get a little dejected, and then it affects you on the defensive end and the next thing you know it's getting away from you.
“They're a very mature basketball team. Obviously, now where they are right now. And I think they realize their numbers are dwindling as far as their opportunities, this is it. And, obviously, they're highly motivated to do what hasn't been done and that's win four back- to-back–to-back-to-back. In all four years that they have played. So, they don't need any more motivation.. I think they got plenty in that locker room.
“But, my team, you know what, I will not trade them. And we’ll be back.”