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.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Streak Goes On: UConn WBB Tops Louisville And Heads to 12th Straight WF4

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

ALBANY, N.Y. — The statistics, awe-inspiring as they may be, say business as usual after second-seeded Connecticut avenged a regular season loss and topped Louisville 80-73 in the Albany Regional title game in the Times Union Center Sunday afternoon as the Huskies (35-2) advanced to their 20th overall and 12th straight NCAA Women’s Final Four next weekend in Tampa Bay, Fla.

If you want to move the measuring stick back a little further beginning in 2000, Connecticut’s run is 17 out of 20 with a gap between 2005 and 2007 when the season ended short of the goal, though in 2006 the Huskies fell a play or two short at the finish of upsetting Duke.

But to a nationwide TV audience as well as the 9,204 mostly UConn faithful here on the scene, they saw for the third straight game not the traditional outcome decided in favor of Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma’s group well before the final score hit the record books.

Even when it seemed the celebration could begin ahead of the finish several times late in the game, Louisville (32-4) refused to yield until things fell apart in the final moments.

When senior Katie Lou Samuelson was held out of the American Athletic Conference tournament because of back issues, it gave some other players more opportunities to help preserve UConn’s perfect  record against conference foes from the AAC’s creation out of the breakup of the old Big East.

In fact, Samuelson didn’t provide much contribution to the offense in Friday’s win over the Bruins causing Auriemma to marvel over Sunday’s performance.

“You know, 29 points is 29 points, but the way they came,” he said. “They weren’t just stand there, shoot open threes all night. So given where she was Friday and yesterday and some of the things she’s battling off the court, remarkable.” 

“That’s the best thing I could say. Absolutely remarkable.”

Auriemma, with a sixth AAC crown achieved, noted several weeks ago that “we can be a more compete team when she returns for the NCAA tournament.”

That proved out, especially Sunday, when Samuelson, herself, poured a game-high 29 points off 7-for-13 from the field, the total connected shots all three-pointers, shooting 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.

Sophomore Megan Walker, who endured Auriemma’s ire as a freshman, double doubled with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman Christyn Williams, looking more like the next big thing she was at the outset of the season, had 16 points.

“Megan Walker was the difference in the first half,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. 

Junior Crystal Dangerfield, who keyed the fourth-quarter closeout of UCLA here Friday night, had 10 points, and Napheesa Collier, voted the most outstanding player of the regional, hit key moments with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

“You know, at time you’ve got to roll the dice a little bit and I thought we did a really good job on Napheesa. “But we backed off Walker at times to help on Collier, and she knocked down shots,” Walz stated.

Samuelson brought the house down with a looming four-point play, nailing a three-ball with 3 minutes, two seconds left in regulation but she missed the free throw.

Still, the lead got to 11 at 74-63 on two Katie Lou foul shots with 1:47 left.

But Louisville refused to bring out the white flag.

Senior Asia Durr, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year who shook off a 1-for-first half, to score 18 of her 21 points in the next 20 minutes, keyed a rally with six points in an 8-2 run got it down to 75-771 with 36 seconds left.

Arica Carter got it down to a basket at 75-73 with 28 seconds left.

Samuelson made it a four-point advantage with 23 seconds left but Durr was then given a chance to get it back within two when the Louisville part of the crowd saw their money-in-the-bank moment as she stepped to the line.

However, in recall of a near similar situation in 2007 when Duke national player of the year Lindsay Harding went to the line with 0.04 seconds left against Rutgers, which led by one, Durr missed both shots, though Sam Fuehring grabbed the offensive rebound off the second miss only to have her attempted layup blocked by The Huskies’ Walker.

“That’s not the reason we lost the game,” Walz said. “You could over a 40-minute game and find  tons of areas to improve on … 

“Shit happens,” Walz said of his thoughts when the missed free throws occurred. “Then Sam came down with the rebound. So it’s not like we didn’t get the rebound. I thought it was a good block, but we had our chances.”

The Cardinals were  forced to foul with 17 seconds left, thus Collier canned a painn s of freebies, then Williams stole a bad Carter pass and Walker finished it off with a foul shot for the 80-73 final.

Behind Durr’s 21, Fuehring had 15 points and Jazmine Jones scored 10.

Back before the season opened, Auriemma noted at ESPN’s women’s basketball national media day that this season for his team was not going to be a given.

So in looking back over the terrain to now that included losing to Baylor in the other setback and a huge win at Notre Dame, Auriemma spoke of the moods he underwent.

“I have felt everything about this team all year long,” he said. “I’ve loved them. I’ve hated them. I wanted the season to end. I wanted the season to keep going.

“I wanted ten guys to transfer. I only wanted to coach one guy,” he continued.

“I wanted to have them over dinner every night. I wanted to — I wish they’d never eat again the rest of their lives. Every single emotion. We can’t play defense. We can’t run offense. We’re a great defensive team. Man, we run offense great.

“Every single thought you could ever imagine was in my brain all year long, to a point where — you know, I can’t even — I don’t have any more brain space.”

Of course, UConn being UConn in a few days when all this has receded into the pleasant memory file, when the team arrives in Tampa Bay at Thursday’s first press conference in Amalie Arena, the incessant recall will begin, especially if the top-seeded Notre Dame in Chicago prevails over No. 2 Stanford at DePaul’s Wintrust Arena Monday night.

The other streak will enter the discussion, two straight eliminating buzzer-beating shots in the national semifinals, the first in 2017 in overtime by Mississippi State, the Portland Regional top seed which was upset by two-seed Oregon 88-84 in Sunday’s other regional final, and last year, Arike Ogunbowale’s first of two game-winners for defending NCAA championNotre Dame in the same semifinal.   


Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: The Run Is Done

By Mike Siroky

Moments after UConn assured elimination of another Final Four team, it was Mississippi State’s turn to take on the same threat on Final Four Sunday.

Breathing the rare air of three straight Elite Eights, the best team in the best conference in women’s basketball, the Southeastern, had to get ready for the final elimination challenge and a prize of another Final Four.

Mississippi State had lost twice this season. One was to Oregon, in Oregon. In a revenge tour, they played Oregon in Oregon again, in the Portland Regional final, the second of No 1 vs. No. 2 seeds of this tournament.

The ‘Dawgs start with the All-American center, Teaira McCown. The previous game, she had her 222nd rebound of the NCAA tournaments, the all-time record.

Oregon counters with the power of its forward line, All-American Sabrina Ionescu
She scores 20 per game. Two others average 17.

She can declare for the WNBA draft based on age. She has said out loud she’ s considering it. So the next loss could also be her last college effort.

If either star is subdued, it will be up to the supporting cast . . . or defense.

In the other encounter this season, McCowan scored five.

 It is one of three games she did not hit double figures. She was limited by fouls. Ionescu scored 29.

 It is her third straight Elite Eight as well. They average 85 points per game and allow 62. State scores 86 and allows 57. Mirrors.

This was the expected Portland  No. 1 vs. a No. 2, perhaps the first real elimination challenge. Then again, every Regional had a No. 1 vs. a No. 2. The No. 2s won the first pair.
Oregon (33-4) 88, Mississippi State (33-3) 84

Coach Vic Schaefer told his team in pregame preparation to not look around at an arena favoring the home state opponent.

 He told them to be laser-focused on the game itself, to keep their eyes on the prize.

The team with four senior starters could not match the best single player in this game.

 They allowed her 11 points over her average.

But every one of the now three seasons, there had been the one team that figured Mississippi State out.

Neither side could establish itself in the first half. The wiggly stat was the Bulldogs always triumphed when ahead at the break and Oregon led by two.

Ionescu scored 15, 3-of-5 3s. Oregon had eight 3s, twice as many as State and that was the difference. 

Why go inside when you can sniper them from the outside?

 Oregon had yet to shoot a free throw.

Teaira McCowan had 12, 4-of-5 each fields goals and free throws. She had doubled for the 31st time this season, with 10 rebounds. Senior Anriel Howard had nine points.

So each side had a defensive adjustment to make. The offenses were playing to speed.

The Ducks stretched the lead to six but the ‘Dawgs pulled them back in. 

Senior Jordan Danberry emerged with 10 points. Senior Jazzmun Holmes had eight assists. Every Mississippi State player was filling a role.

 Ionescu only added one basket.

 State needed rebounds from Howard. State pulled ahead by one with two and a half minutes left. 

Punch and counter-punch.

It was appropriately 59-all with 10 minutes left in several careers. 

McCowan had picked up three fouls. Ionescu had none. 

Each side had three in double figures. One coach was mentally preparing the “I’m proud” speech for post-game.

Did the fact Oregon had been to this point and lost for the two previous seasons fuel them? Did the confidence of Mississippi State fuel them?

Howard grabbed two rebounds, hit two free throws and got a steal Ionescu stole it right back. 

Mississippi State could not stop her. 

Reserve Breamber Scott hit a 3 for Mississippi State. 

Oregon got the next two rebounds. 

Holmes hit a jumper and a free throw. 

It was 70-69 with  five minutes left. State was seven points past the usual Oregon allowed. The Ducks were 13 ahead of the usual ‘Dawg defense.

Oregon pushed the lead to five with four to go as Ionescu scored off a rebound. State was not showing a wall of defense.

McCowan missed a layup inside of two minutes, remaining three back. 

With a minute to go, Holmes missed a layup. 

Ionescu hit a 3.

 State needed a 6-0 finish to continue. 

McCowan missed another layup. She was done scoring. State had muffed all of its chances.

Oregon was dancing on the sideline. 

Had Schaefer been outcoached? 

The answer favors the winning team. 

He will not be the consensus National Coach of the Year.

Scott, the emerging leader for next season, made a layup. 

Oregon hit its 13th  3, more than twice as many as Mississippi State at that point. 

Holmes sped into a layup. But the deficit was five with 26 seconds left.

State fouled four times to force a free throw. 

Oregon hit both. 

The seven-point edge looked gaudy. 

Audra Espinoza Hunter, too little too late, hit a 3.

 Of course, they fouled Ionescu. 

Of course she hit two, for 31 total points, five 3s. Another Espinoza Hunter 3 was irrelevant after the inside game collapsed. 

This is why McCowan will not be National Player of the Year, even if she is the top draft pick in the WNBA.

Careers laid shattered so far from home. 

Oregon gladly takes the cross-country trip to its destiny. 

State only lost three times, but twice to the Ducks. Each side Has 33 wins. Oregon outscored the defensive State average by 33.

McCowan scored but 19, with 15 rebounds and the NCAA tournament record  237 rebounds. She scored seven in the second half.  Howard scored 18, Holmes 15, Danberry 12.

This game was never about offense.  

They allowed Oregon to hit 52 percent from the field and gave them 14 free throw chances in the second half.

 They could not contest the rainbows.

 Oregon surpassed the average points allowed  by 31. 

Schaefer had the long walk to the locker room with the wrong color confetti trailing him once again.

He started with the “proud” statement.
“For us, man, I just can’t be prouder of my team today,” he said. “You talk about competitive, tough.

“ I just thought my team just fought tooth and nail today in a really hostile environment. Credit to the community, for the people that came out supporting women’s basketball. A great crowd out there today. It’s great for our game.

“My team was just phenomenal. I mean, I couldn’t be prouder of them for how hard they played, how hard they fought against a really good team. I’ve watched a ton of film.

“ I’ve not seen them make that many 3s in a while. They made shots today. When you make shots in a big game like that, you got to tip your hat to them.

“For us, really thankful for Anriel and Jordan, who transferred to us. Could have gone anywhere.

“Believed in our program. Wanted to be a part of it. Trusted us. Their families entrusted us with them. 

“Of course, Jazz and T have been with us, along with Zion, all four years. Jazzmun 13 assists, no turnovers today, 13 points. 

“It’s what she’s doing now. I mean, she has just continued to develop and develop and develop. I’ve never seen a point guard in four years develop as much as she has.

“Of course, Teaira, I can say the same thing about her. I told her when I walked in there, four years ago up in Connecticut, we got beat in the Sweet 16. 

“That’s the last time we’ve ever come in from a post-season and not be headed to the Final Four. That was not a good day.

“But I walked in that day, Teaira McCowan might have been the only one that competed that day when we got beat by UConn. 

“To see her growth and development over the past four years, even into today, I mean, you can see it. I see it. Man, she’s going to be an unbelievable pro and have a tremendous career. I’m just so proud of her.

“She made this whole team, all four of them, they’ve impacted my life in an unbelievable way. Made me a better coach, husband, better father. I’m just so thankful for them.

“When Jordan came to us, just how humble she was. She was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. 

“She just wanted to be somewhere, she said, I just want to be part of a team and a family. Nothing about minutes. Nothing about starting. Just want to be part of a family.

“Anriel, very similar. But wanted to win championships. ‘Coach, I’ve never won a championship. I want to win championships. I want you to develop my game, help get me to where I want to go to.’

“For us, my staff, that team in there is hurting. I am just really proud of them. I told them, they’ve impacted a community and a university unlike anything I’ve ever seen. 

“We could all go through life and not have the opportunity nor the impact that these kids have had on a place like Mississippi State. It is a very special place. The impact that these kids have had, like I said, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen.

"Yeah, I mean, 13 out of 26 from the three-point line. You turn those into twos, you know, you win the game. We were trying. We made notes at halftime. They made eight, I think, at half. We knocked that down to five in the second half.

“First thing that jumps off is (Holmes) 13 assists, no turnovers in an Elite 8 game. I’m never getting off my soapbox about that kid. What an injustice to have an award and she’s not one of the top five in the country. That’s a joke.

“They shot it really well. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a game where we turned it over six times and we didn’t win. I’ve never had that happen in 34 years in coaching. But we only forced them into eight.

“I got six kids that shot 47 percent or better. But, you know, at the end of the day, y’all, it’s on me because we got to guard better. Obviously I didn’t have them in the right position to do that. I pride myself on being a pretty good defensive coach. I gave up 88 points tonight. You’re not supposed to win those, quite frankly.

“I’m disappointed in myself that it didn’t happen for us. I’ll go back, I’ll watch the film, and I’ll get better. 

“I’ll learn. But these kids, they did everything they could do. I mean, I couldn’t be prouder of them. They fought their guts out today in a really difficult arena against a really good team.

“The game seemed to be called differently in the third quarter. 

“I don’t know. Obviously it was one quarter. In the fourth quarter, we had four fouls before we got into the bonus with 50-some seconds left.

“I don’t know. I’m all into the game, so at that moment I’m just trying to coach my kids. That was part of my notes, in our first game, we got into a little bit of a foul situation with them. 

“That was part of my message today. I read them part of my notes going into the game. One of them was, Hey, got to play harder defensively, got to do a better job in help, and we got to clean it up, we got to be clean.

“I’m going to be clean, and I’m done.

“ We can talk all we want about home-court advantage, but we’re not on the floor making decisions. 

Was there anything you can remember about the game that you feel might have gone a different way if this were a true neutral site?

“You know, I just think -- I know where our game is, to answer your question. I get it. It was a great environment. Our kids, we’ve been in that environment a bunch.

“ We played on the road in the Southeastern Conference. I just thought a great environment. I was proud to be a coach in that game today, be a part of an industry, women’s basketball.

“Here is the thing. We probably could have played it somewhere else and been on a completely neutral floor and played in front of a thousand people. Do we want that or do we want to play in that environment today?

“You know what, I liked playing out there today. I think my kids liked playing out there today. It was a great environment. 

“You know what, I have no clue what the outcome would have been playing in front of a thousand. But I know what it was today.

“ And again, I’m aware of that. That’s my responsibility, I’m the head coach.

“My kids fought their guts out. I could not be prouder of a team to play the way they played today.

“ We talked about it (the 3s) at halftime. We got to chase them off the line. So you start chasing them off the line, now you take your help out of there on the roll, on the pick-n-roll stuff.

“So, again, I think Sabrina made some really tough shots tonight. Obviously she’s a heck of a player. But I thought she made some really tough shots at the shot clock. That’s what great players do. They’re going to make shots when your team needs it. I thought she was really, really hard to guard.

“I’m just telling you, we got two pretty good defensive players, by the way, at Mississippi State. They guard. They did a heck of a job, did the best they could.

 Sometimes you got to pat them on the back and move to the other end, say, ‘Hey, great shot.’ I think that’s where you were today.

“That kid made some great shots today. When they make shots like that, y’all, and we were very similar to that way last year with our four shooters around the perimeter, T inside, we were hard to guard.

“ They’re hard to guard when you do that.

“Again, I watched I can’t tell you how many films. They’ve been a little bit -- haven’t shot it as well lately, up until today.

“I know y’all haven’t seen us a lot up here, but we really pride ourselves on ball pressure, denying one pass away, not letting somebody run their pretty offense, making one-handed passes, things like that.

“I don’t think that we did that a lot today. But they’re really good. They’re really good. When you’re involved in pick-n-roll all night long, I mean, you really got to do a good job. It’s not just the two people. 

“When we work on pick-n-roll defense, it’s not a two-man game. You got three people in help. That’s what people don’t get.

“I go to clinics, they’re talking about pick-n-roll, you want to jam them, you want to ice them, you want to edge. When I work on pick-n-roll defense, I’m working on my help, too. It’s not just two people. 

“You got to have a third person locked in and running help, locked in on that roll and locked in on your shooter.

“Again, give them credit. They’re really good at what they do. They made shots. We contested a bunch of ‘em.

“ Some of ’em not so much, but we were high end on a lot of ’em. Sabrina made a couple of them, I don’t know how she got it off. They ain’t touching anything, so you pat them on the back, move to the other end because they made a tough shot.

“ I mean, we scored 84 points. If I’d have known that coming into tonight, I’d have said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I think our offense was adequate tonight. We just didn’t guard. 

“That’s what I walk out of here -- again as a defensive coach, I’ll kick myself still I’m standing back up here a year from now.

“T got some good looks. She got 10 shots off. She was seven out of eight at the free-throw line. When you’re doubled and tripled and they’re laying on you, where you can’t literally move, and when you do, it could possibly be an offensive foul, that’s difficult. 

“Then you got to play through her. That’s where the kid has grown and matured so much. We play through her a lot.

“She had two assists. Just did a good job. We missed some shots where she passed it to us first half. I think we got it to her quite a bit. She finished a lot. Again, you’re right, it’s hard down there when you got a campfire built around you.”

“Going back to Anriel. I’ve been doing this 34 years y’all. Every day, smile. Every day, motor is 120 percent. Every day, competing. What she brought to our program  . .  could have gone anywhere in the country.

“She’s a great kid. Her mom, her family have done an unbelievable job with her. Just an unbelievable competitor. She’s not done playing, trust me.

“What she brings, the energy and the effort she brings, y’all, I promise y’all never seen anything like it on a consistent basis every day.

“Again, she came to a place where she was a great rebounder. She came to a place that had the best rebounder in the country, who has the best rebounder in the history of the NCAA tournament.

“That’s the confidence that this kid has. That’s the giver that she is. She knew that number may suffer, that’s not about me. Let me see if I can help her with those numbers and see if we can win a championship together.

“That’s what needs to be said about Anriel Howard. She is a tremendous young lady and an unbelievable competitor. I mean, motor is off the chart.”

 “We’ll move on.  We know what that feels like. We’ll go back to work.”

“We just knew they were going to sag on T.” 

Holmes said “Whenever I got an open look, I took it. Coach told me, ‘Whenever you get the open look, take it,’ so I did.

“Same as what Jazz said,” Danberry said. “We just knew we had to knock down those shots, play through Teaira, just make ‘em.”

McCowan said, “A loss is a loss, you know. It doesn’t feel good. But I’m proud of my team, my coaching staff we got this far. We had a great season. Nothing to hang our heads on. Yeah, it hurts, but we’ll be OK.”

Howard said, “I believe that the first game they hurt us a lot on the pick-n-roll. I think that we adjusted, we did good. We defended the pick-n-roll much better this time. They found another option, which were the open shooters, and they were knocking down shots.”

“ I mean, it’s not easy. We lost both times. But I do think that we played harder the second time.

“ The first time was on their court. They had that advantage. But this time they still had a lot of their fans here.

“Like coach said, they shot the ball great. They had great ball movement. Whenever we took away one thing, they were kicking out to shooters. They weren’t recovering. That was the challenge. We didn’t guard the line.

Howard said, “Everything that coach said is all accurate. I came here to win championships. I got two. It’s a wonderful feeling. I never had a championship in basketball, not at any level.

“Just to be able to get a feeling of that with these group of girls and this coaching staff and the community and the fans, all of that, is something that is indescribable. 

“It’s definitely a blessing. I’m just really grateful for the opportunity that the coaches gave me and the girls for welcoming me and the community, like I said. It’s just been awesome.

“I just want to say thank you to everybody. So thank you.”

Breakdown of Seniors a Must to Avoid as Connecticut Faces Louisville

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

ALBANY, N.Y. — The year was 1999. 

The place was Greensboro Coliseum in the Elite Eight round of the Eastern Regional in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in North Carolina.

The top seed of the regional, Tennessee, the three-time defending national champion and overwhelmingly favored to make its fifth straight Women’s Final Four, to be played in San Jose, Calif., entered the game against upstart Duke, within an hour of the Blue Devils’ campus in nearby Durham, with a 31-2 record.

The star of the Lady Vols on her way to her final appearances as a collegiate player, was senior Chamique Holdslcaw, who had been a one-woman wrecking crew in her previous three games in the tourney, scoring 23, 37, and 29 points, respectively.

Back when newspaper coverage was still plentiful, all the host Final Four Bay Area publications were on the scene with columnists and beat writers to gather as much on the Lady Vols for their special sections the following weekend back out West.

In a friendly pre-game  conversation with a Durham writer, Knoxville Sentinel columnist John Adams was heard to be betting his house, car and everything else on the outcome in favor of Tennessee.

As it turned out, a day earlier, the Guru was pining to rather be somewhere else where the then-massive Connecticut media were partying as they were known to do after turning in their offerings for their editions.

In response, a New York columnist on the scene to chronicle hometown Holdsclaw’s final run said in what seemed pure fantasy at the moment, “But what if they lose?The story of the tournament will be right here, right?”

Sure enough, as the game got under way, Holdsclaw suddenly was missing shots that had been automatic makes her whole career. By halftime she was  0-for-10 and Tennessee trailed 35-24.

When it ended, she was a mere 2-for 18 and a 28-5 Duke team prevailed 69-63.

“We felt all the pressure was on them,” Blue Devils coach Gail Goestenkors said afterwards.

In one corner of the media work room, from among the Bay Area contingent,  seen with their heads buried in the wake of a weekend’s work gone up un smoke, a cry was heard, “Who knows anything about Duke?”

The Guru brings this tale of yesteryear up because though the dynamics are a bit different with the Elite Eight matchup Sunday at noon here in the Times Union Center of second-seed Connecticut, looking to advance to its 12th straight Women’s Final Four, playing No. 1 seeded Louisville, a winner over the Huskies back home in Kentucky last January, each team contains Holdsclaw-like seniors in Asia Durr along with three other Cardinals classmates while UConn has Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Sampson.

Thus, the question was put to both coaches, are there concerns that the upper class women with a potential farewell appearance looming through a potential loss might suddenly also experience the same disappointment Holdsclaw had undergone.

“I don’t even worry about,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz, whose team ousted No. 4 Oregon State 61-44 Friday night to improve to 32-3, including the 78-69 first-ever win over UConn at home in Kentucky on January 31. 

The three losses were all in the Atlantic Coast Conference to Miami and twice to defending national champion Notre Dame, including one in the ACC championship.

“We don’t even talk about that,” Walz continued. “Our team has known since we started this tournament – well, actually the start of the ACC tournament – we talked, it’s one-and-done now guys.

“The ‘my bads,’ the ‘Hey, I’m sorry,’ it’s not good enough.

“I tell them right now if I’ve got to spend any energy trying to get you excited, I’m just going to take you out,” Walz explained.

“Your teammates should not have to spend any energy on trying to get you focused because your head is down because you missed a shot or you’re frustrated. Everybody on that floor has got to spend the energy on on the opponent, on themselves.

“Guys, this is the best time of the year, it’s the most exciting part of college basketball. So I truly believe our seniors are dialed in. They’re looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow. And I don’t worry about that at all.”

Auriemma, though, had a different take to the question at Saturday’s press session following the Huskies’ fourth-quarter surge in Friday’s opener to complete a rally to down sixth-seed Cinderella UCLA 69-61 and move on to the Elite Eight, where they are 23-0 on games leading to an unbelievable 11 straight Final Four appearance streak.

UConn is now 34-2, the losses being to overall No. 1 Baylor and the Louisville game.

Collier, with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and junior Crystal Dangerfield, with 11 fourth-quarter points and all 15 in the second half, were two main keys to UConn staying alive.

“It happens,” he said about senior stars potentially coming up empty as the margin for error grows greater with no recourse possible for another day. “You always worry about seniors, their whole senior year, especially in the NCAA tournament.

“Some kids just take off and they have incredible finishing acts to their careers. And other kids do get worried, they do get a little bit apprehensive about what if, what if, what if. They start to think that way,” Auriemma continued.

“As a coach, I don’t know if you can do anything to prevent that.

“ I’ve been in both situations, you know, where I’ve had seniors that they played their best basketball during the NCAA Tournament, and I’ve had some older kids who were a little bit gun-shy,” he said.

“You just hope, cross your fingers that you’ve got kids that they’ve been waiting for this moment, and they know this is their last time, and they’re determined to make the most of it.”


Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Two Are Through

By Mike Siroky

The best conference in women’s basketball, the Southeastern, saw two of their three Sweet 16 teams end about as expected, against the two top seeds in the eliminations

The efforts were dramatically different. Texas A&M represented the conference and itself well. South Carolina not so much.

Both are young teams bringing back most of their talent. The one SEC All-American playing this day did herself proud.
 Notre Dame (33-4) 87, Texas A&M (26-7) 80

The Aggies ran into a top seed, in Chicago. 

They lost to the Irish in the exact same position last season as well. 

Anriel Howard, now at Mississippi State, said farewell with career highs of 12 field goals for 26 points with 14 rebounds.

The trip from the plains of Texas to the steel skyscrapers of the big city was exhilarating. It was about as far as a team with five sophomore starters could be expected to go.

For once, Chennedy Carter was not the only All-American on the court. 

But she did get a second foul, offensive, when it was just 7-4 and less than five minutes in. 

Replays showed a quick whistle. 

That could’ve ended  any chance. 

But no. A true leader, she scored 16 by the 42-42 half. Notre Dame had three in double figures.

She finished with 35 points. Cierra Johnson doubled, 12 each. Kayla Wells scored 15. N’dea Jones scored 11. They were outrebounded, 30-19.

“This is what women’s basketball needed.” Blair said. “You just saw six games that were all double-digit wins that were a little bit of a runaways. 

“We just played arguably maybe the best team right down to the wire. We don’t ever give up. We find ways to get the job done. It was a tremendous ball game.

“ I had to call time-out two minutes into the second half. They made a couple of good plays. We made mistakes. We had our chances.

“That’s all you can want. But folks, this is what women’s basketball needs right now. They don’t need the double-digit wins and all of that. 

“We lost the ball game probably because of the paint points that they got, whether it was posting up or their two bigs inside, and this is why they are better this year than they were last year.

“But the heck with them. I want to talk about these three (his pLayers) right here, OK?

“ I’m going to tell you one thing, all you people that are out there listening, if she doesn’t make State Farm All-American this year, something is doggone wrong. 

“Now, think about it; why does she have to wait until she becomes a junior or a senior just because there’s very quality at the top?

“And you saw one out there tonight. But if she’s earned it, and she has, and she’s done it for two straight years, this is a kid that needs to be All-American this year, and I’ll go to bat for her and what she’s doing, and I’m proud of her. This one right here, she controls the boards, controls the rebound, does a great job. She’s our captain and our leader.

“And the one down there, she doesn’t know who Jamaal Wilkes is. Maybe you young ones don’t, either. 

“But he was called "Silk" back then when he played for the Lakers, and this is our version of Jamaal Wilkes and "Silk" because she’s so smooth. She’s so smooth.

“But give credit to this team. 

“Notre Dame is probably the best team we’ve played this year, them and Mississippi State. So give them all kudos. Muffet made some great calls. Their high-low game was hurting us. That’s why they’re defending national champions.”

He said just ask his kids. Carter said it emanates from him.

“Just stay calm. My coach kept me out there. Keep my head up.” 

Blair interrupted her.

“You can give a little bit better than that. Go ahead, expound a little on that one. Come on down.”

Carter said, “I mean, it’s simple. You get two fouls early, you’re not going to complain or quit. Keep playing. Keep your head together. It’s fine. Stay within the system. Keep playing defense.

“ It’s not a big deal. Stay within the system. Keep playing defense. It’s not a big deal. My teammates believed in me. I didn’t pick up a third one after that.”

Blair again. “If it would have been any other team we were playing, she’d have been brought to the bench. I have to trust my bench. But when you’re playing Notre Dame, it could have been over in the first quarter, and she comes and sits by me, and that’s why we trust her.”

“I’m really proud of them,” Carter said. “We’re a group of sophomores going against seniors, potential draft picks. I was so proud of the way we fought tonight. We fought for four quarters  and we left it all out there on the court.

“Some of them were disappointed, but I was proud of my teammates. We competed. We’re young and we’re growing, and I just told them, hey, we’re going to be better next year. We’ll be back, and we’ll make a statement again.”

Cierra Porter said, “Their transition is very good, and also they were able to spread the floor because they can pretty much all shoot it, all the guards can pretty much shoot, so they’re able to spread the floor, break you down. 

“And then the plays they run, they run so many screens, and it’s just hard to defend. They’re a very good offensive team, and they have some good sets and some good plays that they run.”

Carterr said, “Our maturity, I would say it just came from the hard work and hard practices and just preparation. We’re a team that knows good we are and how good we can be. I feel like we stay within our system and stay together.

“These are my sisters, and we are go through everything off the court, on the court, but when it’s time to play, we lock in and we play together. And that’s where our maturity comes in, and games like this prepare us to take on better challenges. Games and coaching.”

Johnson said, “Obviously our maturity has grown over the year. Considering we had a loss to Lamar, a lot of people probably thought we couldn’t make it to the Sweet 16 let alone maybe even make the tournament.

“So I think that through each game, each game we’re continuing to play with each other more, getting a feel for the game and understanding. We’re becoming smarter, we’re becoming better and we’re getting older. We have to credit that to the coaches, as well, but also to us playing as a team and just sticking together.”

Blair said Carter’s image impacts other teams.

“I’ve seen it happen for two straight years. The last game we played last year against Notre Dame, correct me if I’m wrong, did she have 37 whacks in that game? 31. So I guess I coached her up this one.

“The ability to score off of the bounce, I mean, nobody does it better than her, OK?

“It was hard getting -- they were walling up, getting her thing, and she missed a couple of the drives, and she didn’t get any reputation calls, OK?

“That we didn’t get. We had to earn everything we got in there. And it was a well-called ball game. But she averages about nine free throws a ball game and that’s when the jump shot goes down and they’re making her shoot a 25-footer,

“I want her to drive the ball. She couldn’t drive it so much in the first half because she already had two fouls, and so sometimes she tries to make the home run call.

“But folks, there’s nobody in the game like her doing what she can. She plays the point and the two guard. How about this: She’s not even in the top 5 in the WBCA for point guards this year. She didn’t even make the list. How’s that? Unbelievable.

“But I’m proud of her. She is very good with her teammates.

“That’s the hardest thing. Last year when she was a freshman, it was hard to embrace a freshman as your best player if you had a veteran team, okay. It would have been like a stud freshman coming to Notre Dame and taking over. It was very difficult for me last year to coach that.

“But they love her now. We love her. She loves us. She’s very good.

“ This is the first team, correct me, that has shot over 50 percent on us all year. Who are you going to stop?

“But the role, the transition baskets, I think they hit four points in a row and I had to use another time-out, I thought that was the key right there. We just couldn’t stop them from scoring.”

So he let Carter loose to shoot as a shooter must shoot.

“That’s what a scorer has to do. That’s what Kobe Bryant had to do all his life. He could go 7-for-24 and the Lakers would win. Michael Jordan had a lot of those games, too. Throw the stats out the window because we were getting some of the boards and putbacks and everything what she was creating. She was triple-teamed in there a lot, as well.

“So stats, throw out the window. The ability to create your shot and put a team on your shoulders and be able to handle a miss. 

“There’s a lot of kids that can’t handle a miss. She can handle a miss as well as anybody and step back up, think about the next shot she’s going to make. 17 boards, that’s the difference in the ball game.

“But here’s another thing that you never see in a women’s basketball game: Seven turnovers for us, nine for them. That’s damned good basketball. That’s what people are going to tune in to watch in the women’s game.

“That’s what we’ve got to get to. Great games like that, was well played and well-coached, and I have a very, very good staff that was working with me, and you look down at her staff, and her staff is as veteran as ours, even probably even more veteran.

“We grew up sort of by accident when we lost our second leading scorer in Carter-Riverside game. 

“Nobody saw, and then all of a sudden we were playing Oregon State, it was played so late over in Maui, we went out there and controlled the whole game. And I looked back at my assistants and said: ‘Maybe we’re better than what we thought.’

“You lose that player and you put a junior college in, you move Chennedy to the two, who hadn’t played it in a year and a half, that’s when we grew up. We just said, what the heck. People didn’t expect much. 

“Our goal this year was to simply get to the NCAA Tournament for the 14th year in a row.

“That will not be our goal next year.
“We can play with the big girls. We just showed it. And Notre Dame did not play bad, they played damned good. We played almost damned good.

“Appreciate the coverage. Write, build our game up. We need y’all as much as y’all need us. And hopefully all of you are here because you want to be here.

“ You weren’t assigned to this and you had to cover it. You’re here because you want to be in the women’s game or covering it. That’s what we need. There’s a lot of great stories that are out there. Y’all have fun.”

Senior Aja Elllison, a two-year transfer from Maryland, and junior college transfer Caylinne Martin are finished.

 Expect Blair to partially restock with another JC player. He also needs bench depth. All starters return as juniors. Carter will be the conference player of the year.

Notre Dame played as close to home campus as possible, enjoying eight busloads of fans among the 7,715 there in DePaul’s Wintrust Arena.

Arike Ogunbowale, the heroine of last season’s national championship with the two game-winners at the finish,  poured in a career high 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting. 

The senior tallied 24 points in the second half, including 12 in the final quarter. 

Jessica Shepard added to her postseason double-double colkection,this time with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
Jackie Young just missed a double-double with 14 points and eight boards. 

She scored 10 crucial points in the fourth. 

Furthermore, Brianna Turner also was among the double-digit scorers with 12 points and four blocks.
"I thought Gary Blair did a phenomenal job getting his team back to the Sweet 16,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. 

“They had a whole new team built around Carter, who is just a phenomenal player. We struggled to guard her. 

“Thought it was a really entertaining game to watch with a lot of big shots. Jessica Shepard was unstoppable down low with a double-double. Arike hit big shot, after big shot.

“ I thought the steal and the layup late in the game sealed it."
Baylor (34-1) 93, South Carolina (22-10) 68

Except for her own fans, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is not easy to like.

Once dismissive  of accused football rapists on her campus, she is nonetheless a Louisiana Tech champion as a player and was on Pat Head’s 1976 Olympic team.

She has the most consistent team in America.

The Gamecocks’ wired-together No. 4 seed had no chance.  

What a bust.

 Baylor was seeded the easiest draw coming in.

 A one vs. a four is supposed to happen here. 

Baylor lost in the Sweet 16 last season. They lost, in overtime, to Mississippi State in an Elite Game the year before that. So they had been frustratingly close.

The Bears have four in double figures, led by All-American Kalani Brown.

They destroyed South Carolina in Columbia, 94-69 starting with a 32-13 first quarter, spinning SC to 4-4 at the time. 

Brown scored 22, and the other three double-figure scorers stayed on point.  Te’a Cooper led the Gamecocks with 16.

Past was prelude. Each team scored one more point.

Baylor established itself early, a 23-11 first and 25-12 second. By the time four minutes were left in the third, it was a 22-point hole. 

Te’a Cooper proved everything she was supposed to prove in her first transfer season from Tennessee. 

She has a year left. Sher had 17. 

 Mikiah Herbert Harrigan is next season’s forward leaders. 

She is the scoring forward line leader from here on out. She had 16 but had already fouled out as Dawn Staley let everyone in to the NCAA participation book, 13 deep.

Senior Bianca Cuevas-Moore needed 17 Points to reach 1,000 in her career. She got 13.

All five Baylor starters had at least 12 each.

Staley said, “Well, the rivalry is lopsided. We’re 0-2.

“Kim’s done a great job at making a huge transition, and I know she’s been doing this for a very long time, from being a great point guard to a great coach, a National Championship coach.

“We give hope to some other, current players, and other former players; that it can get done, as far as being successful in the coaching ranks, and impacting young people’s lives on a daily basis is something that I guess we have been impacted by the coaches and the mentors that have been in our lives at a young age; that it allows us to have some success, while returning a favor to some young people.

“Obviously we didn’t execute what we needed to execute, and that was because of, you know, the challenge that Baylor posed for our team. I’m proud to participate in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. We look forward to a brighter future.”

Jennings was disconsolate. She was the only player to comment and did not say much.

“ It was pretty difficult,” she said. “You know, we’re giving up a lot of height advantage with them, but I feel like we did the best that we could. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

“Their guards are solid,” Staley said. “Obviously, if given the opportunity, you know, they take advantage of the opportunities that they have. I thought we just got our defense off-balance a little bit, especially when we took some shots and it allowed some transition buckets that were uncontested.

“ Baylor has all the key ingredients to be a national champion. They have size, they have athleticism. They have an ability to beat you at a lot of difference places. You definitely have to game plan for them and you have to adjust to their style of play.

“Here’s the bottom line that we didn’t really harp on as a staff, and you don’t want to put that much pressure on your young team in that only maybe three players have experience being in the Sweet 16.

“Actually being in the Sweet 16, three or four players, and the roles that some of the ones that didn’t -- wasn’t a part of those Sweet 16s, and those Elite 8s and those Final Fours, this is their first time to ask them to perform at a high level against a National Championship contender team, you know, was a bit much. 

“But we didn’t want to mention that, but when you actually have to decompress and look at it, it’s hard for them to have to be able to do that at this level.

“I think we achieved the potential of this team. I don’t think we lacked the potential. I thought getting to the second weekend of this tournament would be, you know, a real goal for us. I didn’t say that out loud, obviously, but I thought it was a real goal, attainable goal, to reach for.

“Obviously we wanted to end it somewhere else, like Tampa, but we just didn’t have enough. When you look at, you know, what was on our roster, you look at the inexperience of players who had to make an impact for us consistently, the depth of our rosters, the injuries at the beginning of the season, it was just hard to build that chemistry.”

South Carolina advanced a game further last season before running into UConn.

Alexis Jennings also played the career-ending game. She scored five free throws, but then 22 SC points came at the line. Baylor had 20 more field goals. Maybe SC was not a true four seed.  Ty Harris comes back as point guard for one more season, her fourth as a starter.

They drew 6,544

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: State in Elite Eight

By Mike Siroky

The best conference in women’s basketball, the Southeastern, started the Sweet 16 with three of the field. 

The Pac 12 had four. The ACC had three. The Big 12 had one and UConn’s conference one. 

There are two games until the Final Four. 

All of the previous tournament’s Final Four are still playing. 

Thirteen of the top 16 in the final poll are still playing, including one through eight, or half the field.

 Portland has seeds 1-4 left. Chicago and Albany have 1-2-4. Greensboro has 1-2-3-4. 

Another way to spin it is only four of the 16 seeded teams lost at home.

Cremeology does not seem so difficult now, does it?

The expected showdown between Louisville and UConn in Albany  is still on track, which eliminates one recent  Final Four team. 

UConn had to stop defending national champ South Carolina last season to alter the Final Four then as well.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was honored by the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association with inclusion in its Victory Club for his 300th win.

When Tennessee parted ways after decades with coach Holy Warlick it was not unexpected. 

At different times this year, she confided in friends she even considered taking a break.m

The university took away that option by dismissing her. 

The timing was in question, unless it was simply to arrange the buyout, which exceed $600,000.

The lack of enthusiasm by players has been a multi-year experience. She lost teams at the end of last season and this.

Besides the school record six-game SEC losing string, many public statements came from within the bunker. A former player, now ESPN an analyst, cited the lack of effort, on the air.

Then team cornerstone Evina Westbrook had a disillusioned final game of her sophomore season at Tennessee and had enough guts to mention a need for a coaching adjustment. 

This coming  from a teenager, a cry for help to the adults at her school. 

She has not given up on basketball. 

In fact, she led the team in scoring and carried them many times. She is dating a current star of the men’s team and has found a nice life in Knoxville.

Holly Warlick has publicly said she intends to continue coaching. Those statements are  not mutually exclusive.

It is hard to follow a legend.

In the men’s game, the immediate replacements for Bob Knight, John Wooden and even Dean SmIth did not work out. 

We mentioned dominant multi-year champions of the women’s game last week, each of which fell off the map when the famous coach left.

It is not about institutional support or even  tradition.

When Warlick started a new three-year extension this season, we mentioned it also gave her a nice buyout should one be needed. 

Actually, the three-year extension included a less of a buyout. UT let her hang herself and saved money.

 This is two straight seasons to end in flops.

Every coach in America has praised the stockpile of talent from two straight excellent recruiting classes and another of commitments.

A new coach would inherit all of that, a great fan base and institutional support. 

Tennessee lists the 8,000-plus tickets sold as attendance, one of the best in America. In fact, sometimes 6,000 were no-shows. 

We have always reported loss of income is the first thing an AD notices and needs to correct.

A new coach inherits a fan base nonetheless.

Two of the most-discussed incomers still coached this weekend, a good thing. 

If UT wants to go within family, Missouri State coach Kellie Harper won three national championships as a point guard under Pat Head at Tennessee and has done more than Warlick for three straight seasons with less talent.

The national wild card is at Louisville, another proven straight shooter. 

Do not expect the sycophants at Knoxville to report any of this. 

 A big hire at the Final Four would renew interest in the program and may stop the next group of commitments from leaving.

By the way, three of the four teams to eliminate SEC teams made the Sweet 16.

The Elite Eight has begun to form.

Mississippi State (32-2) 76, Arizona State (22-11) 53

The best representative of the conference took down a Pac 12 entrant. 

The Bulldogs are the only SEC team with a chance to win it all. They have to get past Oregon, the only non-conference team to beat them this season, to do it.

The Sun Devils hung around quite awhile. 

The trick for the lesser team is to do just that. Teaira McCowan started off a bit. She had as many personal fouls as points, two in the first half.

They were up by eight at intermission. It increased by one at the end of the third, allowing the Sun Devils to not collapse when down by 13 inside of a minute. 

McCowan, concentrating on defense, had nine rebounds, but only six points. But the storm was gathering.

Senior Anriel Howard had 10 points heading towards her first Elite Eight. 

Senior Jazzmun Holmes, in her first season as a starter, had six assists and 10 points. 

Sophomore Audra Espinoza Hunter had two 3s and a dozen points.

They only had six turnovers, while causing 13.

So the ’Dawgs seemed headed toward a defensive win.

Arizona State came in allowing 66 points per game. State averages 20 more than that.

It had not trended positively for the fifth seed.

Arizona State assigned three bigs to McCowan. Each had four fouls by the end of the third.

“I couldn't be prouder of my team,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “Defensively, that may be as good as we’ve been in a while. I am extremely proud of my team. You win a game in the NCAA Tournament, you know you are doing some things right.”

They did enough things right to win a third straight Elite 8 appearance.

McCowan edged into another double/double, 10 of each. She was already 5-of-7 from the line. The defense did not allow a threatening run.

Mississippi State’s conditioning pride allows the starters to play as many minutes as needed. 

With four minutes to go, each team was hobbled with 16 fouls, eight apiece inside the paint. 

Mississippi State pushed the lead to 20, on the way to a school NCAA record 25-of-35 from the line. 

They had bypassed the Sun Devils’ points allowed. 

Arizona State hit 37 percent from the floor. 

They scored eight in the final quarter of their season as they said farewell to four seniors.

“It’s kinda what we do,” Schaefer said. “You lull them to sleep with defense, then you hit them with T.”

McCowan had 20 second-half points and 13 rebounds, her 30th double/double. 

She was 10-of-11 from the line. She had three blocked shots. 

She is the all-time NCAA tournament rebounds leader. McCowan is one of four Wade Trophy finalists.
 She is not the favorite.

Holmes added seven to the program single season assist record, 189. She had 13 points. 

She had no turnovers. 

“She brought a team with two players who weren’t even in the system eight months ago to the Elite Eight,” Schaefer said. “If there is a better point guard in America, tell me who it is.”

Words were exchanged by an Arizona State player in the handshake line. The coach apologized for her.

Schaefer said: “Want to congratulate Arizona State. I just have so much respect for Charli and her staff, her program. I've had some real knock-down, drag-outs with them over my career. I love how they play.

“ I love their toughness and their competitive spirit. Her team embodies her.

“We’re both very similar. We love our teams to be the way they are. I told my kids tonight the tougher team was going to win. 

“It was going to be about toughness and resilience tonight. I thought we were really tough and showed a lot of resilience. When they would make a run, we answered it.

“Teaira was Teaira today, especially in the second half. It doesn’t take much when you come in at halftime and see she shot it one time.

“ I’m pretty sure I wrote down on offense what we needed to do to maybe fix a little bit of what we were doing.

“That’s kind of my plan, to be honest with you. But nonetheless, I just thought our team was really tough and resilient today. 

“I thought our execution was outstanding. Only seven turnovers, which we wrote on the board, ‘We don’t need to be turning the ball over.’ 

“Execute. I thought our transition defense was really good, which is what we were really worried about.

“ That was the number one concern with them because their posts really get out and run. I thought we were really good in that aspect, as well.

“That’s a great team that we beat today. I’m tickled to death that our kids played the way they did. It took a great effort from us to win that game tonight. So now we move on.”

McCowan said the physical defense, in which she took shots to the back, has become a routine approach.

“I know that I have to keep a cool head a little bit for my teammates, as well as my coaching staff,” she said.

 “ I know I can’t go out there and do something crazy and get a technical and be sitting on the bench because that'’s not what my team needs.

“At some point my teammates are going to knock down shots. (The defenders) start fading off, from three it will be two, then one-on-one. I just got to play it smart.

“ I fight for those rebounds as well as anyone else. I’m just congratulating myself on just going in and scoring on every board.

“Every game is physical. I mean, that’s a physical team right there. But the SEC is a physical conference, as well. It was kind of the same. Physical is physical (smiling).

Holmes is grateful for the fan support so far from home.

“Well, our Bulldogs travel,” she said, “and they made it feel like home. We were able to give them something that they wanted to see.

“I really don’t look at numbers. But, I mean, credit to my teammates. I know he doesn’t want me to turn the ball over, and that’s a big thing for him. I come out and focus on not turning the ball over, giving my teammates the ball at certain times. Just scoring when I need to …. “

Schaefer backs McCowan on the physical pay at center.

“ You know, it's hard to deal with T one-on-one. You got to bring help from somewhere. A lot of times there were three people around her tonight.

“T has really gotten smart. I give the kid a lot of credit. She’s developed mentally in understanding what she can and can't do, whereas, hey, let's just say a month and a half ago, she was a bull in a china cabinet that night we played in Missouri and got beat. She’s learned from that night.

“Not many seniors in the middle of their senior year humble themselves and go, ‘You know what, I got to change.’ She has. So you got to give that kid credit.

“ So I think for her, you know, it is physical. She's a big girl, and it’s hard to deal with her. So there were times out there early she was down on all fours, didn’t get up right away.

“The thing for her, she’s had all the shots she can take in her back. She can’t have any more. She’s been pushed around, beat on for four years. Our trainer, Julie, she really has to do a great job with the other stuff, and Julie does.

“Again, it’s nothing that we’re not used to. I think for me, as I told her tonight, I called her in and I said, ‘Hey, I'm going to coach you until we're done, you can't get emotionally involved or get in some kind of mouthing with your opponent. 

“You’ve got to keep your cool because, again, you get an unsporting foul, a technical foul, that counts as a personal foul. We just can’t do that.

“T knows that. She knows that. But it’s a challenge sometimes, you know.”

As for what was exchanged in the handshake line, Schaefer said, “ I think one of her kids and T might have said some things to each other going through the line. 

“I corrected T as soon as we went in the locker room. Before I said anything to my team, I called T in, we met. 

“Again, I’m not mad, I’m just trying to teach her, trying to coach her, just like Charli is coaching and teaching her kid. That’s who we are. We try to run a classy program.

“Those kids, they’re in the moment. Those kids are competing against each other. It’s two great kids. You get in the moment, again, my job is to coach my kids and my team and teach ‘em, Hey, you can’t go there. You can’t.

"My message to Teaira and my team is that people -- the real life lesson here is that people know what your stats say, they know you can play, they know you’re a student-athlete, they got that. 

“People in the real world at the professional level, whether it’s basketball or being in the professional workplace, they want to know what kind of person you are, what’s your character like.

“You don't ever want anybody to question that. Maybe somebody in the arena sees that, they might get a bad opinion, which isn’t true. 

“So we're both – (the other coach) and I talked before I came in here. We both agree, we’re coaching our kids, we’ve already corrected them, and we move on.

“I’m just so proud of her. Again, the growth, the maturity of her, the course of her career at Mississippi State, really special. It’s tough. It’s hard. Y’all saw. It’s like that most nights in our league, too."

Friday, March 29, 2019

Tennessee WBB Coaching Vacancy Overshadows Sweet 16

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

ALBANY, N.Y. — Tennessee, as represented by the contingent of eligible players in the original 64-team field of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, may have been knocked out in the first round 89-77 by sixth-seeded UCLA, which has since advanced to the regional here as part of the Sweet 16, which begins Friday continuing later in the weekend as  the Elight Eight. 

But Tennessee, the Lady Vol brand that won eight national titles under the late Pat Summitt, has taken over the landscape as the tournament’s No. 1 conversation piece and may even grow stronger into next weekend’s Women’s Final Four in Tampa Bay, Fla.

How large?

Ahead of the list of players to be speculated for the looming WNBA draft April 10 downstate from here in Manhattan.

Ahead of all the individuals announced and soon to be announced for the annual list of postseason awards.

Ahead of anything else you might name, including ongoing list of remarks made by Hall of Fame Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, whose powerful  Huskies will be the No. 2 seed Friday night, breaking a long run as a No. 1, when they take on UCLA, an upset winner at No. 3 Maryland Monday night.

They will tip the doubleheader here in the Times Union Center at 7 p.m. followed at 9:30 p.m. by No. 1 Louisville meeting No. 4 Oregon State.

On Wednesday, four days of speculation came to an end when Tennessee announced that former Lady Vol all-American Holly Warlick, who was promoted in 2012 to succeed the legendary Summitt, would no longer coach after seven years at the helm.

Warlick had the dubious task of following Summitt, also her life-long friend, who had stepped down while battling Alzheimer’s disease whose effects she succumbed June 28, 2016.

Though it had been a while during the end of the Summitt era since Tennessee had been to a Final Four, winning the national title with Candice Parker in 2008, that drought continued, though Warlick steered the program to three Elite Eight appearances and was able to continue to attract quality recruiting classes.

Her record was 172-67, though several years ago  Tennessee fell from the AP Women’s Poll for the first time since the mid-1980s ending the longest appearance streak in the history of the rankings, begun for the 1976-77 season.

Additionally, other low points were hit this season, falling to win at least 20 games for the first time in the NCAA era, enduring a six-game losing streak, and barely avoiding missing the NCAA field for the first time in the 38-year history of the tournament.

Tennessee was made an 11th seed and fell in the first round for only the second time in the history of the program, though truth be told, if one measured the talent alone on the Bruins and Lady Vols, in another configuration the teams could have met further down the road instead of the opening round.

The other time, when Summitt was still coaching, the Lady Vols were the higher seeded team losing to an unranked mid-major that had made the field as an upset winner in its conference tournament.

As one who has been around the program from the early years of the Summitt era, Saturday was the first time your Guru was actually at a Tennessee game that Warlick was guiding from the sidelines.

And things were different, for sure, in that a larger Tennessee media contingent that traveled is no more — longtime beat writer Dan Fleser was laid off at midseason and with the Tennessee men also playing,  the Knoxville the paper used a quite competent freelancer from the District to staff the game at College Park.

(An aside: Tennessee’s original beat writer Mike Siroky, writes all things Southeastern Conference women’s basketball in the Guru’s blog).

Some of the media organizations that did make the trip have newer staffers.

Despite all of the hardships encountered in recent months, no one believed a change at Tennessee was about to occur.

With a recent contract extension, the 60-year-old Warlick, who was making $690,000 annually, had a deal running through April 30, 2022, with a buyout entitlement in being let go without cause of $710,000, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

So with all of the athletic department’s issues at hand and the fact that this past season’s roster contained a youthful assortment of  seven freshmen and sophomores out of the 11 players, given the money it would take to relieve Warlick and then chase after a replacement with the funding involved in that pursuit, few believed that the game with the Bruins could be her last as a decades-long integral part of the program.

But postgame was surreal at the Xfinity Center with an emotional Warlick not sounding like a coach who felt secure in returning next season.

Asked if she wanted to continue coaching, Warlick said, “It is not my call.”

That led to an extended line of questioning about her legacy if let go.

"I was part of this program. I played here," she said.

"I obviously coached with Pat Summitt and (became) head coach, and just (remember) my passion for the program and passion for the game. I think it's a great game. If I had a daughter, I'd send my daughter — whether I'm coaching or not — I'd send her to the University of Tennessee."

She went on to say about how Tennessee stood behind women.

Given the fact that many of the room were not the pure locals, the Guru did muse, things have so changed that if this was a coaching profession funeral service, much of the burial detail was being handled by rental undertakers. 

Never the less, a few minutes later the Guru was in the hallway when Warlick was coming down from the locker room and she gave the usual greeting, chided him for complaining about the marathon weekend he was enduring in three different cities, and there was a brief discussion about plans to make the USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award presentation into an even greater event in addition to the annual presentation at the Women’s Final Four.

“Well, keep me informed,” she said and we went our separate ways.

But many viewing the postgame presser on TV wondered if she knew something no one else did and  several days later a comment on social media claimed Louisville was planning to deal with the departure of Jeff Walz, who has led the Cardinals to three Final Fours.

The speculation all turned to reality early Wednesday afternoon when first an internet alert saying Warlick was let go was soon followed by an official university release in which athletic director Phillip Fulmer talked about the hardship of making the move, but also alluding to the recent decline from a one-time program of dominance, saying, “ It's important to all of us that Lady Vols basketball maintains its status among the elite."

Several hours later, though, Tennessee’s official internet site had a video tribute, causing the Guru reaction when asked about the oddity, “Yeah, it’s one thing if she had retired. 

“Or if the video came from an extremely loyal part of the fan base.

“But, hey, from what I recall from history in a parallel action, I don’t believe that John Wilkes Booth had his video corporation send out a tribute on the presidential years of Abraham Lincoln 15 minutes after Booth departed Ford’s Theater.” 

And so the successor speculation begins wondering which way Fullmer will go for a replacement, someone with Tennessee ties or someone brand new, first-time male, or remain female?

Auriemma wasted little time alluding to the talk of the day Thursday when asked to first give an opening remark at the Huskies’ preview presser: “Just want to let everybody know that I’m still the coach at UConn, and I intend to be the coach at UConn next year in case anybody had any questions about that.”

Walz, when his turn came, also went right from the top.

“First off, I just want to start off by saying I’m the head coach of the University of Louisville. I think Geno would be a wonderful coach for that position that is open. 

“So before the questions start coming, I’m the head coach at the University of Louisville. I’ve loved it, enjoy it. It’s been great. So now I’ll start talking about our team so we can focus on that.”

With the prime ESPN crew here for the regional telecasts, Holly Rowe on her account noted she had asked each of the coaches about Tennessee, including UCLA’s Cori Close and Oregon State’s Scott Rueck.

After the formal presser, Walz, who has good relations with the Connecticut media throng and a few national types, joked within the group around him, “I think I’m going to announce I’m running in 2020.

“The internet has changed everything.”

If a total outsider is hired, dealing the basketball part and recruiting is one thing. But there is going to have to be a total adaptation both ways with the community, who has had deep ties to the program and rightfully continues to  pay homage to Summitt.

“Getting the right coach is always a huge, huge key and getting someone who knows how to coach, someone whose been in some pressure situations before,” Auriemma said.

“So, I think if they make the right decision and the the right person gets in that job, it won’t take them long for them to be back where they were. I don’t think it’s going to be very difficult at all,” he continued.

“But their fan base is a lot like ours. They’re impatient. They want everything right now. There’s not going to be a lot of patience for whoever the next person is, so they’re going to have to be great right away.” 

With Summitt’s passing, Warlick was like the U.S. presidency when Truman was said to have occupied Roosevelt’s fifth term.

Several years ago Auriemma and Warlick warmly co-hosted a reception prior to induction ceremonies at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.

“I feel terrible for her,” Auriemma said. “Every school is entitled to have their own coach, obviously, and Tennessee is entitled to have whoever they want as a coach,” Auriemma said.

 “I don’t know the details of all that, but I just — any time a coach is in that situation, I feel it because we’re all part of the same community. Holly will land on her feet, for sure.”

Ironically, Tennessee and UConn are set to resume relations on a two-year deal next season, playing for the first time since Summitt shut the series down following their last meeting in 2007.

“I think we have a two-year contract with them. I think we play them twice. I think depending on who the coach is, we may play them ten more times, or we may not play them at all,” Auriemma quipped.

“I’m anxious to see who the coach is because it may only be two years, maybe one. I may try to get out of it next year.”




Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Sweet 16 Set As ‘Kats Exit

By Mike Siroky

There was one more chance for the best conference in women’s basketball, the Southeastern, to add to its Sweet 16 contingent.  

Kentucky, at NC State, was another SEC-ACC showdown.

The other things we found out in qualifying is top seeds Baylor and Notre Dame won at home, meaning Texas A&M will get ND in the Chicago Regional and South Carolina plays Baylor in Greensboro, as we projected earlier.

We also found out that when you sell your game to the Disney corporation, you get lessened.

 None of the Monday games were broadcast by the “exclusive” home, ESPN.  

That included UConn and two No. 1s. 

Imagine if CBS tried to not broadcast Sweet 16 qualifiers in the men’s game. The respect distance widens.

Onto the final SEC qualifier:

 N.C. State (27-5) 72, Kentucky (25-7) 57

It was not food from the start for the Kats, down 13-7 when they needed parity
The Wolfpack had four score, while senior Morris was doing it alone for UK. 

Rookie or the year Rhyne Howard needed to find her game, because 38 percent from the field would not get it done.

 NC State was hitting 60 percent so the defense also had to gear up.

“What we've told our players is we have to try to be the best version of Kentucky that we can possibly be,” coach Matthew Mitchell had said. “So that means we would like for it to be up-tempo. We've won games at different paces this year. And I'm proud of the team for that. We've been able to operate and some low-scoring games and, and um, find a way to win.

“And we've been able to be in some high-scoring games and find a way to win sort of like yesterday was.

“ So we obviously would like to have an up-tempo game, but your opponent dictates a lot of that as well. It's at this time of year you're going to play somebody really good and, m, I think you just have to work so hard to keep the focus on what you do well and try to be the very best of that that you can be. “

His connection with NC. State coach Wes Moore goes all the way back to Moore claiming he paid him to lay sod many years ago.

“Well, I can’t confirm the hundred dollars,” Mitchell said. “I don’t remember a hundred dollars. That's not the way I remember it, but I did lay a yard full of sod of at Moore’s house.

“ That's been 20 years ago this coming fall is when that happened and I was a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee and it’s a long story, but I did end up laying sod at his beautiful home in Chattanooga and we spent that day together.

“That was the beginning of what’s been a really beneficial relationship for me. He’s been a person that I've really looked up to and could learn from and he’s been gracious with his time over the years .

“He’s always has such a well-coached team and a tough competitor and his teams are tough to play against.”

“What we try to focus on is how are we playing now and how are they playing now and go from there.

“ So you just try to gather whatever information you can from any recent games in this compressed period of time.”

Howard said: “Oh, we know that they are very aggressive team and they're going to push in transition and work hard and play very tough defense.

“We've been preparing like we prepared for that by just conditioning hard all the time and we knew it was going to be tough so we just and endured and fought through everything that was going on.

“Oh, it was a great experience. Learning experience. Definitely. It just got me ready for what I will be going through. My teammates helped me. They'd been where I've been. I just look up to them.”

Junior running mate  Jaida Roper said: “Of course, playing at your home is always more exciting. You know, you have the fans on your side, but I feel like we've been playing really well on the road this year and we're ready for the challenge.

“Coach Mitchell talks to us a lot about focusing on Kentucky. We know they like the crash the boards. 

“So we've been working hard on just finding people and rebound it and trying to get it out and push it as hard as we can consecutively so we can kind of wear on their condition a little bit because we have been working really hard with our conditioning.

“ So just trying to focus on Kentucky. That’s our main goal.”

At the end of one quarter, it was N.C. State by eight, with a 2-1 rebounding edge. Roper hit two free throws with a second left. The Wolfpack already had four 3s.

With Howard hitting two 3s among her 11 points, they cut the edge to five in the second quarter which is where it stayed. 

Howard scored 15 but Morris was shut down after scoring five of the first seven N.C. State was still 12 ahead in rebounds.

It was inevitable. Kentucky could not hang with N.C. State.

The Wolfpack broke the game open early in the fourth, scoring seven in a row to take a 60-48 lead. The Kats would cut the deficit to single digits three times, but UK could get no closer.

N.C. State won the rebounding battle 50-31, led in second-chance points 17-5 and outscored Kentucky 22-12 in the paint.

The Wolfpack had four players out with injuries and only two substitutes available. All their starters played at least 33 minutes each, one of them a freshman.

 Yet, at the end, they had enough left to hang a 19-9 closeout quarter on the Kats.

“Just couldn't be prouder of a team and a group of young ladies,” Moore said. “Been through some adversity, and they just keep amazing me.”

"They really  were focused on trying to take away Maci and Rhyne and just make it tough on them to score," Mitchell said, "and we just could not get the ball in the basket.

“Just a tough night when you shoot low 30s from the field to beat an outstanding team, and the reason we shot a low percentage was, credit North Carolina State’s defense,” Mitchell said. “I thought it was difficult to get open all night.”

With the loss, the careers of Morris and fellow senior Taylor Murray came to an end. Morris finished her career in sixth place on the UK career scoring list with 1,692 points.  She scored 18 in her farewell.

 Howard built on her fresh legacy with 21. She has 525 points. She has 74 3s. She has 68 steals. She has 212 rebounds. She is a preseason all-conference player for 2019-2020.

They drew 2,682

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Three Move on to Sweet Sixteen

By Mike Siroky

The best conference in women’s basketball, the Southeastern, knows well the importance of the Round of 32.

This is where the field used to start, one game away from the Sweet 16 and real historical presence.
All the pretenders have been dismissed. 

The Final Four is hidden here, eve if it has been identified as 4.1 this season. They still have to win. A new Final Four was seeded when two of them fell into the Albany bracket.

Teams like Stephen F.Austin, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, Valdosta State made a name for themselves in this round before the NCAA took over.

UConn has certainly dominated as all those teams did in their title years.

 Someone wins every season, and that’s the fun of one-time champs. Notre Dame elevated itself a little last season. And they are back until they are not.

Next weekend is fun, heady wins.

 Starting with this sweet Sunday, the field is cut in half again.

 The  major conferences are represented quite well. Five from the ACC, four from the Big Ten, four from the Big 12, three from the Pac 12; five from the SEC.

The Southeastern started the day with the top five conference finishers. Kentucky plays Monday but everyone else plays now.

Here’s Day 3:

Mississippi State (32-2) 85, Clemson (20-13) 61

The best representative of the conference took down another ACC entrant.

Clemson was allowing 66 points per game, State averages 20 more than that. Clemson was only averaging 66, three less than the average allowed by State.

So it did not trend positive for the visitors.

Clemson is coached by Amanda Butler, dismissed a few years back by Florida, one of those coaches who are cocky without having reason to be so.

 In successive games this season, she lost to South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.

State closed the showtime season in StarkVegas. Four senior starters in the last home game. The legacy is secure, but not totally defined. They only lost one home game and one road game.

They were rewarded by the Selection Committee with no league opponents in their Regional.

 They won the conference outright and the first conference tournament in program history.

 Teaira McCowan is a legitimate All-American and in the conversation for national Player of the Year. Vic Schaefer was national Coach of the Year last season and may be again this season as he has already won one such designation.

They started off with Jordan Danberry oscillating the scouting report, four points and a block before McCowan even got off. She later made back-to-back layups with two steals.

 McCowan had two  rebounds and a block before she scored. Anriel Howard scored six with a block. It was already a double digit lead and the quarter not yet ended.

 Jazzmun Holmes, the fourth senior starter, closed out the quarter with two scores, 23-10 at the break.

Halftime was 41-22. McCowan had the foundation of a double/double 12 points and eight rebounds, six defensive. Howard had 13 points. 

It was 52-38 with five minutes left in the third. A very workmanlike disassembling of whatever Clemson was trying to do.

For a full minute, State did not score and still led by 20.

They were playing through McCowan as Schaefer has stressed. Let the focus be on her, she’d facilitate the others.

Clemson cut it to 13 in the final minute of the quarter. Howard had 21 points and 10 rebounds. The ’Dawgs had to defend a 16-point lead.

They did. 

McCowan, of course, got a double/double 28 points and 11 rebounds, with five blocks. It ended 85-61.

  Howard had 21 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and an assist. Danberry had 18, with three assists and three steals. They had 10 steals and 17 assists.

McCowan was 14-of-17 from the floor.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Schaefer said. “She’s certainly got plenty of it. You watch film and when you’re watching, you’re not putting an age on those kids out there. You talk about their skill set and what they can and can’t do well.

“Hoo, headed to the Sweet 16 again.”

As the players danced and clapped for their fans, Schaefer said, “I want to once again thank you for what you’ve done for these kids. You’ve gotten us home on many a night. It is what makes Mississippi State so special. These kids have earned it. We’re not done.”
They again sold out with 9,900.

They get No. 5 seed Arizona State, 22-10, in Portland after they won at Miami by two in one of those great 4/5 matchups. The Sun Devils won by three at Arkansas this season.

 South Carolina (22-9) 72, Florida State (24-10) 64

The No. 4 seed in what would be the Greensboro Sweet 16, the Gamecocks faced the challenge of SEC vs. ACC. 

Te’a Cooper carried them early, two 3s among her 4-of-5 and 10 points as the second quarter slipped away. The two suspended players played. One of them, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, had 13 points off the bench.

 SC led by seven at halftime.

Alexis Jennings, playing on a potential career-ending game, had yet to show. As a result, they were six behind in rebounds as coach Dawn Staley went to work in the locker room.

“The familiar name of Florida State brings a lot of memories back for our fans, so hopefully they can bring their energized selves in here and will us to another victory,” Staley said.

Fifth seeds vs. fourth seeds are supposed to be close.

 The Seminoles did not go away. Herbert Harrigan continued to lead from the post with 15. The lead was down to one at the end of three.

But Staley had ignited Jennings. She finished with a strong 17. Another advantage SC had was State was down to eight players, no seniors, half of them freshmen.

So maybe the close was experience over newbies.

It was closer than eight. It was just a one-point lead when one of Staley’s phenomenal freshmen, Victaria Saxton hit  two free throws with 82 seconds left. She had started at crucial times in the season and is unafraid.

It was down to one again when Ty Harris hit a jumper with 27 seconds left. 

She was fouled and made the free throw. Then Cooper hit a free throw. State’s point guard, got overly demonstrative on a foul call not on her.

 Harris hit the technical. Herbert Harrigan finished her 20-point effort with a free throw, one of four Gamecocks in double figures.

State won rebounds by 17, 27 rebounds on offense. But it is the third time in five seasons SC had eliminated State.

State had an impressive 27 second chances, offensive rebounds, which kept them in the game.

Staley felt for them, with that effort.

“They fought, they gave us an incredible effort, but I’m happy that our team was real resilient in getting the win.”

She called the play on Harris’ final drive.

“In the timeout we set a play up for Ty to have the ball and make a decision whether she wants to shoot it or dump it to someone.

“What happened was we wanted to run it whether it was man or zone. I didn’t specify if they were in the zone to continue to run it. I just said you know this is what we are running.

“ More times, that’s a man play for us, but you know Ty had the whereabouts to get the ball and create a play. It happened in the same place it should have happened if we were able to get some screening action in there for her.”

She was happy Herbert Harrigan responded from a suspension to impact the game.

“Kiki is a hard guard, she is someone that can put the ball on the floor, her mid-range is efficient enough to where you have to play her, she is long, she gets blocked shots when she’s on the floor.

“ A lot of things can happen out there on the positive side, so having her ready to go and ready to compete always gives us an extra boost.”

Staley revels in a tight game moving forward.

“At this point of the tournament you are just fighting and clawing. Your next game could be your last game.

“Obviously whoever we will face on Saturday will be a tough opponent. We will have to continue to work in practice. 

“Our team is playing some of its best basketball as far as 40 minutes just grinding it out and giving multiple efforts. We are going to have to grit it out with some of the teams that we will play in the round of 16.

“Alexis Jennings is a big part of what we do. We have to get the ball to her. She is an efficient player. She is a hard guard for any post player.

“The offensive rebounds are academic. We had a time out with two and half minutes left in the game, I told them to forget about what took place the first 37 and half minutes, let’s get every rebound from this point on. 

“We only gave up three but it was enough to win the game. We scrapped and clawed and got to loose balls. I was very proud of our team.

“I am extremely proud. I am super proud. It is about sustaining and keeping your program in place that you are competing for National Championships. You have that in front of you. It feels good for our former, current and future players.

“This is where players are made. If you are fortunate enough to continue playing in the NCAA Tournament, you are going to see great players rise to that challenge. 

“I don’t think any of our players are afraid of it. Do I think they will play perfectly, no. I don’t think they are afraid of it.

“ What we have been able to do all season long is compete in practice and compete in the toughest league in the country. We are prepped to play well on the biggest stage.”

Harris said she’s worked on clutch moments: “I mean I just stay focused and try and hit the free throws.
“I think just being resilient, still scrapping after they got the ball, trying to get our hand on it. Just giving three or four efforts.”

Herbert Harrigan said, “Just being ready when my number is called, and going in and preforming.”
SC is off to its fourth Sweet 16 in five seasons. They will likely play top seed Baylor in Greensboro.  They drew 2,030.

  Texas A&M (25-7) 78, Marquette (27-8) 76

The history of Texas A&M makes them the unsteadiest of the four seeds. Marquette, a five, was obviously next in line and was scuffling to make a first Sweet 16.

Chennedy Carter is the difference maker. She had not found her rhythm in the opening quarter a 2-of-7 start. But a shooter must shoot.

 They started out the second quarter 12-5. 

Carter had nine early in the quarter, 16 by the 37-all half. A&M Has no bench. Where was everyone else.
Coach Gary Blair searched for answers at the break.

He did not find any. 

Marquette won the third by two points. Carter had 24 points. She finished with 30. N’dea Jones doubled with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Shambria Washington had 13 points. Ciera Porter doubled with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Kayla Wells scored 11.

With two minutes left, it was a one-point game. 

Almost another minute rolled off  before Jones made a free throw. But then Marquette tied it and went ahead on free throws.

With the focus on Carter, she kicked it out to Washington for a 3. A&M was ahead by a point with 27 seconds left, Marquette had possession.
With one second left, Carter stole the inbounds under the Marquette basket. She made a free throw to end it.

Washington was brought in be the center from a junior college when Anriel Howard fled Carter and A&M for Mississippi State.

 This is all new for her.

“It doesn’t really bother me that I’m in the shadows,” Washington said. “I kind of like it.”

But before she could finish that thought, Carter broke in to laud her teammate.

“Sham is really the backbone of our team,” she said. “She’s the engine. She really gets us going. Without her defensive stops and her leadership as a point guard, we probably wouldn’t even be this far right now.”

The 73-year-old Blair has been at A&M since 2003 and has led the Aggies to 14 straight tournament appearances, including seven Sweet 16s and a national title in 2011. 

He's been irked this season that he thinks people have not given his team the respect he feels it deserves and it also ticks him off that people have wondered if it’s time for him to retire.

All this made leading the Aggies to the Sweet 16 again even more special.

“It meant a lot,” he said. “I’m tired of people second-guessing this team. I’m tired of people trying to figure out when I’m going to retire. If what I do and my staff does it as well as they do, why not let us keep coaching?”

They likely get Notre Dame in the Chicago Regional. They drew 2,767.
Iowa (29-6) 68, Missouri  (24-11) 52

The seventh seed Tigers did what they always do, win one and be done.

 Farewell to Sophie Cunningham, whose next tryout should be in WWE development, where her style is encouraged.