Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two meaty stories

Though this story about Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick seems to have been written before Mercedes Russell's announcement of her commitment yesterday, it's got lots of good stuff:

HOLLY WARLICK stands behind a large mahogany desk, her gray-blue eyes scanning the office in front of her. Autographed photos and lifetime achievement awards dot the walls around her; every imaginable kind of orange Tennessee memorabilia, from Lady Vols Russian nesting dolls to a Pat Summitt bobblehead, fill the massive bookcase at her back. "What am I supposed to do with all this?" Warlick asks to no one in particular. "It's too big; it's too empty. It's just -- it's Pat's."

After 27 years as an assistant coach for the Lady Vols, Warlick always envisioned herself as the heir apparent to the legendary Summitt. Only it wasn't supposed to happen this way. "I'd often joke I would be pushing her out of here to games in her wheelchair," recalls the 54-year-old, her voice perma-hoarse from years of coaching. "Pat and I discussed it in this very room, and I was really, genuinely happy with that." Instead, Summitt's diagnosis of early-onset dementia in 2011 and subsequent retirement at the end of last season destroyed any dreams of a celebratory passing of the torch. Now, premature or not, the future of Tennessee women's basketball rests squarely on Warlick's shoulders.
.......

Warlick, for one, seems to be ready to tackle her tasks head-on. During her first team meeting, Warlick gave out track-style relay batons to each player. White with orange letters, the tubes read: "New team, new staff, new goals ... Same heart, same pride, same fight." And while the gesture suggests that Warlick intends to share this historic passing of the baton with her team, the responsibility of the program's legacy is largely hers to bear alone. Make no mistake: Boosters, other D1 coaches and a media hungry to render a verdict will scrutinize every loss. If the Lady Vols struggle early, all that scrutiny will be directed at Warlick. But if the pressure is rattling her, she isn't letting it show. "I'm not panicked," she says with a laugh while fidgeting on the couch in her office. "If I'm not ready after 30 years, I'm not going to be ready."


And swishappeal is thinking waaaay ahead about what will make a good prospect in the WNBA's 2013 draft. They use Pac-12 examples, so I give them props.

Senior class award candidates announced

The community, classroom, character and competition list is out, and at the end of the year, one of these candidates will win the Senior Class Award:

DI Women’s Basketball 2012-13 Candidates

Kayla Alexander, Center, Syracuse
Anne Marie Armstrong, Guard/Forward, Georgia
Alex Bentley, Guard, Penn State
Brittany Chambers, Guard, Kansas State
Layshia Clarendon, Guard, California
Tiffany Clarke, Forward, Vanderbilt
Elena Delle Donne, Guard/Forward, Delaware
Skylar Diggins, Guard, Notre Dame
Caroline Durbin, Guard, New Mexico
Shante Evans, Forward, Hofstra
Jennifer George, Forward, Florida
Angel Goodrich, Guard, Kansas
Lily Grenci, Forward, Siena College
Brittney Griner, Center, Baylor
Whitney Hand, Guard, Oklahoma
Tayler Hill, Guard, Ohio State
Jacqui Kalin, Guard, Northern Iowa
Marissa Kastanek, Guard, North Carolina State
Kevi Luper, Guard, Oral Roberts
Anna Martin, Guard, DePaul
A’dia Mathies, Guard, Kentucky
Victoria McGowan, Guard, Stetson
Drey Mingo, Forward, Purdue
Ta’Kenya Nixon, Guard, Eastern Illinois
Kaela Oakes, Guard, Idaho State
Chelsea Poppens, Forward, Iowa State
Jaime Printy, Guard, Iowa
Sugar Rodgers, Guard, Georgetown
Rachel Semansky, Forward, Montana State
Naama Shafir, Guard, Toledo

USA Today Top 25 preseason poll

Link:

1. Baylor
2. Connecticut
3. Duke
4. Stanford
5. Maryland
6. Notre Dame
7. Kentucky
8. Penn State
9. Louisville
10. Delaware
11. Georgia
12. Texas A&M
13. St. John's
14. Oklahoma
15. California
16. Tennessee
17. Vanderbilt
18. Purdue
19. Nebraska
20. Georgia Tech
21. Ohio State
22. West Virginia
23. Miami
24. Oklahoma State
25. (tie) Kansas and Wisconsin-Green Bay

NCAA stiffens sanctions, holds coaches more accountable

New rules passed yesterday are tougher on rule-breakers:

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA is demanding everyone in college sports play by the same book.

Those who deviate from it and flout the rules will soon be paying a steeper price.

On Tuesday, the NCAA's board of directors passed a package of sweeping changes that will hold coaches more accountable for rule-breaking offenses and threaten rogue programs with longer postseason bans and fines that could cost millions of dollars.

Coaches say it's about time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

West Coast Conference: Loyola Marymount University

Word is out that the LMU team is having fun in practices and has an enthusiasm for their new season that they haven't had in years.

And word is that it's because of new Coach Charity Elliott and her staff.

Elliott took over last spring when longtime coach Julie Wilhoit was let go. She brought in coaches that she'd worked with before: Tracey Wolff, Alexis Mezzetta and former basketball great Jackie Stiles. They set about to create what Elliott characterized as a family atmosphere. It was needed.

Since a West Coast Conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004, the LMU program steadily declined. Last year they went 8-22 overall and 3-13 in conference. It didn't add up, however, because there were so many talented players on the roster.

Watching them on the court told the story: they were downtrodden, energy-less, uninspired.

This season should be different, according to sources. The Lions are ready for their first exhibition game Saturday, and they return most of their roster. They have also added four promising freshmen.

Senior guard/forward Alex Cowling (22.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg); junior guard Hazel Ramirez (10.2 ppg); and sophomore guard Danielle Pruitt (3.4 ppg) are returning starters. Seven reserves are back as well, which has maintained the chemistry and bonds that the team had developed.

The freshmen are all from California, and include guard/forward Chelsea Barnes, who was all all-league/state/CIF selection; Deanna Johnson, ranked 50th for point guards by Hoopgurlz; Sophie Taylor, ranked 119th for forwards; and Brianna Kennedy, and #59 forward.

LMU faces The Masters Saturday, and open regular season play at UTEP the following weekend. Other pre-conference opponents include Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Iowa State, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Oregon State.

Fever COO promoted to President/General Manager

Kelly Krauskopf has been named President and General Manger of the Indiana Fever. She has been Chief Operating Officer since the founding of the franchise 13 years ago.

College bonus:

Quotes and sound bites from Lady Vols on media day.

Holly Warlick still leans on Pat Summitt.

Summitt's departure has created uncertainty in the SEC.

The Lady Vols have grabbed the baton under Warlick.

Mercedes Russell commits to Tennessee

Class of 2013 #1 prospect Mercedes Russell has just announced she will attend the University of Tennessee. The 6-foot-5 center made her decision known moments ago at Springfield High School in Oregon, where she has lead her team to two consecutive state championships.

Russell, who averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks last year, narrowed her school choices to Tennessee and the University of Louisville earlier this fall. She made official visits to each school this month, and then spoke with her mother, Tammy Hill, before making what Hill called a difficult decision.

"Mercedes was true to what she believed, which is that Tennessee is the best place for her," Hill said. "She said it felt right the minute she got there - more so than any of the other schools she visited."

Russell called Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick last night to tell her the news. She then called Louisville Coach Jeff Walz. Now that the pressure is off, Russell can contemplate the future.

"We're very excited," Hill said.

Russell's stock started rising in the spring of 2011, and by the end of the summer, she was the nation's top prospect. Each of the last two years, she has won gold medals with USA Basketball.

The speculation over where Russell would go to college these past few months has verged on the ridiculous - especially after she cut the list to the Vols and the Cardinals. The 17-year-old has received dozens of pitches on Twitter every day from fans wanting her to come to their school. She doesn't respond; she simply retweets the message.

Hill said that though her daughter considered all options, her final decision didn't surprise her.

"One day when she was in third grade, she told me she wanted to play for Tennessee someday," Hill said. "I liked that idea."

Russell will officially sign with Tennessee on Nov. 14, which is National Letter of Intent Day.


Mercedes Russell prepares to receive a pass during the Michael T White tournament in Los Angeles last April.

AP preseason All-American team has six players

A tie in votes for the final spot makes it:

Brittney Griner
Elena Delle Donne
Skylar Diggins
Chiney Ogwumike
Alyssa Thomas
Odyssey Sims

Other college news:

Virginia faces challenges to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Dara Taylor is ready to run for Penn State. Maggie Lucas blogs.

Missouri is eager to start the season.

Michigan State freshman Aerial Powers will miss the season after tearing her Achilles tendon.

Florida is depending on young players this year.

Louisville has landed top recruit Emmonnie Henderson.

Pro news:

WNBA Finals MVP Tamika Catchings has big plans now that she's won Olympic gold and a championship in the same year.

The return of the league's "bad guy," Bill Laimbeer.

Lauren Jackson's return to the WNBL in Australia has been delayed by injury.

Rutgers-turned-Spark April Sykes is playing for the Sydney Flames.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pac-12 preview: UCLA

This is the twelfth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

What a ride it's been the last five years at UCLA.

The Bruins went from longtime conference bottom feeder to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, lead by rising coaching star Nikki Caldwell. But before the Big Dance was even over last year, the coach who lit fire in their eyes was gone to LSU to take a lucrative offer there.

Enter Coach Cori Close, with a long, successful resume from Florida State and UC Santa Barbara. But practices hadn't even begun when star forward and top rebounder Jasmine Dixon tore her Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.

In December another starter, Antonye Nyingifa, tore her ACL. Freshman Moriah Faulk sustained the same injury a short time later, and UCLA played most of their conference schedule with seven or eight suited players.

To their credit, the Bruins fought hard with what they had. They notched wins over hotshots Cal, Arizona State and Oregon State, as well as Utah, Colorado, both Washington schools and Arizona. But by the end of the season they ran out of gas, and they made an early exit out of the Pac-12 Tournament.

This year, Close may get a chance to prove herself.

Dixon is back and Alyssia Brewer, a 6-foot-3 transfer forward from Tennessee, finished her year of sitting out, and is ready to go. Both are seniors, and both will be huge - physically and otherwise - for UCLA under the basket.

Nyingifa (14.7 ppg) is still a junior, and she returns, as does senior forward Markel Walker (14.9 ppg, 11 rpg), junior guard Thea Lemberger (12 ppg) and senior point guard Mariah Williams (4.6 ppg).

The Bruins also have three talented freshman guards: Nirra Fields, who was ranked twelfth in her class last year; Lauren Holiday, ranked 66th; and Kari Korver, ranked 100th.

Junior forward/center Corinne Costa (4.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and sophomore forward Kacy Swain (3 ppg, 2.1 rpg) have been tall underachievers, and with Dixon and Brewer returning, it will be interesting to see where they fall in the rotation. Junior forward/guard Rhema Gardner (3.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), the sister of last year's leading scorer, the graduated Rebekkah Gardner, would also do well to step up.

Some of the rest of the roster is a mystery.

Faulk apparently left the team, as her name is no longer on the roster. Guard Alexis Perry, known for her injuries at Brea Olinda High School, didn't play a minute last year, but is on the list this season as a sophomore. UCLA Sports Information said they won't comment on the injury status of players for this year.

Something else the Bruins get back this year is Pauley Pavilion, which had been closed for over a year for extensive remodeling. There will be an open house this coming Sunday, and the women's team will officially reopen the arena with their first counting game, against San Diego State, Saturday, Nov. 10.

Other major preconference opponents include Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Princeton and Texas.

Former Sparks owner suing former attorney

Link:

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The former owner of the WNBA team Los Angeles Sparks accused its former attorney of legal malpractice, claiming in court that he helped the team's current owners squeeze it out of the franchise.

Gemini Basketball Holdings sued attorney Marc Samotny and law firm Patzik, Frank & Samotny, in Superior Court, over its handling of negotiations to avoid default on two loans totaling $4 million.

Gemini alleges legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

High school ball in the news

Former Christ the King assistant coach Joe DeLuca was arrested on drug charges earlier this month.

An Indiana high school will have to stop playing their games on Saturday afternoons (Saturday afternoons??) due to a court ruling.

One Kentucky high school is considering scrapping its girls basketball team.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:

Coach Connie Yori's team is still building chemistry.

The Huskers hope for a successful season, despite injuries. Their first exhibition is tonight.

WNBA:

Chicago Sky forward Swin Cash is hitting the trail for her Cash for Kids organization.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just a touch

Ten ways UConn looks strong going into the season.

Nevada is eager to bury memories of last season.

New Colorado basketball staff members have made a seamless transition.

Point guard Linnae Harper, ranked fifth in the class of 2013, has committed to Kentucky.

The 1990s was a golden decade for the Lady Vols.

WNBA:

Tamika Catchings was honored last night in Indianapolis on "Tamika Catchings day."

Indiana Fever owner Herb Simon is savoring the moment.

USC open scrimmage today

The USC Trojans will host a "Salute to Troy" event today, beginning at noon, that includes a scrimmage.

If you can't make it, there's a live stream on the above link.

Pac-12 preview: University of Oregon

This is the eleventh in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Paul Westhead has been known as a "fast break" coach who prefers the running game. During his three years as the Oregon Ducks head coach, however, he has developed a reputation for producing "fast skid" teams.

In his second season, Oregon began 9-2 and fell apart once they began conference play. Last year the Ducks started 6-0 and then went 9-16 the rest of the way, for tenth in the Pac-12. The last two years, they've exited the conference tournament so fast that I wasn't able to get to the arena in time to see them play.

It's a sad situation for fans and season ticket holders, and for those like myself who grew up watching the Ducks. A program that built momentum in the 1980s and 1990s has stalled, with no apparent end in sight.

Oregon's first, second and fourth-leading scorers - Amanda Johnson (18 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Jasmin Holliday (13.2 ppg) and Nia Jackson (8.6 ppg) - have graduated, leaving a gaping hole at the top of the roster.

Junior guard Ariel Thomas (8.9 ppg), junior guard/forward Deanna Weaver (6.7 ppg), junior forward Danielle Love (6.6 ppg), sophomore guard Jordan Loera (5.8 ppg), sophomore forward Liz Brenner (5.8 ppg) and sophomore guard/forward Lexi Petersen (4.2 ppg) are back. The question is, of course, will they step up this season?

A bright spot for the Ducks is the entry of redshirt freshman center Janitah Iamaleava, who had to sit out last year with a knee injury. The athletic center from California has a versatile game and can contribute on both ends of the floor, and Oregon needs a good under-the-bucket woman.

Other freshmen include 6-foot-3 forward Jillian Alleyne, from California and Devyn Galland, a 5-foot-8 guard from Washington state.

Westhead, who doesn't exude much energy from the bench, and the University are doing good things. The Ducks traveled to Spain at the end of the summer and went 4-0 on their tour. Both team and coaches seem very comfortable in almost-two-year-old Matt Knight Arena - a state-of-the-art arena with all the amenities.

The fans inside MKA are discontent, however. When I went to Eugene last year and accompanied friends to a game, season ticket holders gave me many earfuls of complaints. They would like to see a full-time coach (Westhead only lives in Eugene during the season), and one who can truly develop the talent on the team.

This season should be telling as to whether Westhead stays or goes, as a coach's fourth year usually is. The Ducks also have a preseason schedule that won't leave much room for error. Most notably, they face Connecticut in a home game New Year's Eve. Other pre-conference opponents include Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois and Fresno State.

We will see.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

College season slowly starting

A lot of schools had scrimmages today, including Oklahoma, who was not satisfied.

Behind senior Kelli Thompson, UNLV looks to reload - not rebuild.

WNBA.........

The Fever shout outs from player's hometown newspapers continues:

Tamika Catchings.

Shavonte Zellous.

Lady Vol coaches:

Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick's jersey was retired at her former high school last night.

Pat Summitt is being fast-tracked into the Lady Vol Hall of Fame.

Summitt recently went back to her hometown of Clarksville, Tenn. for a fundraising dinner.

AP preseason poll

The Associated Press preseason top 25:

Record Pts Prv

1. Baylor (40) 40-0 1,000 1

2. UConn 33-5 951 3

3. Duke 27-6 909 6

4. Stanford 35-2 854 2

5. Maryland 31-5 827 5

6. Kentucky 28-7 767 12

7. Notre Dame 35-4 754 4

8. Penn St. 26-7 676 11

9. Louisville 23-10 657 19

10. Georgia 22-9 599 20

11. Delaware 31-2 545 7

12. Oklahoma 21-13 476 -

13. California 25-10 428 -

14. St. John's 24-10 422 14

15. Texas A&M 24-11 370 22

16. Vanderbilt 23-10 361 -

17. West Virginia 24-10 335 -

18. Nebraska 24-9 297 17

19. Ohio St. 25-7 273 16

20. Tennessee 27-9 256 9

21. Purdue 25-9 223 13

22. Georgia Tech 26-9 140 15

23. Oklahoma St. 22-12 139 -

24. Miami 26-6 110 8

25. DePaul 23-11 104 -

Others receiving votes: Kansas 90, Middle Tennessee 70, Green Bay 57, Texas 52, Iowa St. 51, San Diego St. 48, Rutgers 41, Georgetown 24, LSU 14, UCLA 14, Florida St. 12, North Carolina 12, Virginia 12, Michigan 9, Iowa 6, Princeton 4, UTEP 3, Fresno St. 2, Michigan St. 2, South Carolina 2, Creighton 1, Southern Cal 1.

Ballots Online: http://tinyurl.com/43tz39t


See, this is why I never post the AP weekly polls during season: they don't know what they're talking about.

Mercedes Russell will announce Tuesday; Jannah Tucker recommits to Tennessee

Sounds like things might be looking up for the Lady Vols.

Friday, October 26, 2012

College news explosion

Lotta news today, so dig in:

New Ole Miss Coach Brett Frank has begun damage control.

Chiney Ogwumike blogs.

Rutgers is hoping bigger will be better this season.

Duke will try to win another ACC title this season.

Lousiana Tech outlook.

Big 12 media day notebook from a Texas Tech point of view.

Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder is loving her team's depth.

Michigan notes on Big Ten media day.

With all of Baylor's starters back, the Big 12 looks to be a race for second place. A relaxed Brittney Griner is ready for another championship ring.

UConn guard Bria Hartley is taking the road back from injury slowly. She is 50-50 for the preseason opener.

It's a season of transition for Michigan, Michigan State.

The Spartans are looking to Klarissa Bell to score. Coach Suzy Merchant has set her sights high.

Oklahoma State senior center Lindsey Keller said the Cowgirls need to raise the bar. For her part, Liz Donohoe hopes to repeat her stellar freshman season. And senior forward Toni Young isn't waiting for the postseason this year.

West Virginia Coach Mike Carey says the team's new place in the Big 12 will be a learning experience.

The return of senior guard Tayler Hill is a boost for Ohio State.

Kansas hopes to build on their Sweet 16 finish of last season.

Fresno State is ready for a new era.

Penn State's Alex Bentley was an intern for the Indiana Fever this summer.

WNBA extra:

Q&A with Tulsa's Ivory Latta.

Shock point guard Temeka Johnson blogs from Russia.

The Lynx blueprint for success is still in place.

President Obama calls Indiana Fever with congratulations

Today President Obama called and spoke with Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn, Tamika Catchings and COO/GM Kelly Krauskopf to congratulate them and the entire team on their championship.

What was said.

Video.

Don't forget - tomorrow is Tamika Catchings day in Indianapolis.

Also: Briann January savors the crown.

One for Markham District High School's Tammy Sutton-Brown.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pac-12 preview: University of Utah

This is the tenth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Utah is learning to swim with the bigger fish in the Pac-12 Conference, and last year they had a good start. The Utes were 16-16 overall, 8-10 in conference for a seventh place tie, and they went to the WNIT Tournament.

This season, third-year Coach Anthony Levrets plans to take the team to the next level with four returning starters - including a 2012 Olympian - and four promising newcomers.

Junior forward Michelle Plouffe (14.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) played in the Olympics for Canada this past summer, and helped her nation's team reach the quarterfinals for the first time in history. Other returning starters include junior forward Taryn Wicijowski (13.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg); senior guard Iwalani Rodrigues (10.8 ppg); and senior guard Rachel Messer (5.1 ppg). Notable reserve Cheyenne Wilson, a sophomore guard, is also back.

Utah's four freshmen include two international players: Awa Kalmstrom, from Stockholm, Sweden, and Paige Crozon, from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Both are guards, and each has spent time training with their respective national teams.

Freshman forward Nakia Arquette comes from Spokane, Wash., and guard Danielle Rodriguez hails from Downey, Calif. Arquette was two-time and Rodriguez three-time all league at their schools.

Sophomore guard Ciera Dunbar is back after redshirting last season. She played in 28 games as a freshman.

The Utes lost four players last year. Besides this year's freshmen, they gained forward Krystal Forthan, a transfer from Louisiana State University who will sit out this season as per NCAA transfer rules.

The roster includes no centers, but Plouffe, at 6-foot-4 and Wicijowski, who stands 6-foot-3, seem to make F + F = getting the job done. Utah runs a bit short after that, as the only other players over six feet are Arquette and Crozon, who will have a learning curve.

This Utah squad is guard-heavy (eight in all), with only three that have proven scoring potential. The others will have to learn fast and step up.

Notable preseason opponents are Michigan, Weber State, Hawai'i and BYU.

LA residents: Pauley Pavilion open house coming up

From UCLA:

Pauley Pavilion Alumni & Community Open House

10-a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Nov 4

In May 2010, a groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the renovation for one of college athletics’ most storied venues. Nearly 30 months later, the finishing touches are now going in, and our basketball teams will take the court in just two weeks. But before we open the doors for the first basketball game, we’d like to invite you for a sneak peek to see Pauley Pavilion’s transformation firsthand. Join us on Sunday, November 4 from 10am-3pm for a public Open House.

Fans can stroll the new concourse while taking in Bruin Athletic history, walk through the brand-new Pavilion Club, check out the team training facilities, sneak a peek at the completed locker rooms, and settle into a great seat in the bowl. Season tickets for both basketball teams will also be on sale at the event.

We expect a large crowd on this day, and access into the building will be first-come, first-served. Admission is free. For Pauley Pavilion information and FAQs, visit Pauley Pavilion Central.

Another college preseason poll, and more news

Big Ten preseason poll:

1. Duke
2. Maryland
3. Georgia Tech
4. Virginia
5. North Carolina
6. Miami
7. Florida State
8. North Carolina State
9. Wake Forest
10. Clemson
11. Virginia Tech
12. Boston College

(Wonder if they'll get around to changing the name of the conference)

Holly Warlick embraces the chance to replace iconic Pat Summitt.

Warlick is ready for her next challenge.

Lady Vol report: eight days out.

The woman suing UConn Coach Geno Auriemma for sexual harassment has requested a jury trial.

The NCAA disagrees with Auriemma's advocacy of lowing the rims for women's basketball.

Illinis senior Karisma Penn has aligned with new coach Matt Bollant.

Hawaii has added a new player to the roster - from the softball team.

Cat Wells, previously suspended at Toledo, is off the team.

TCU is determined to rise together.

Under new coach Vic Schaefer, Mississippi State will make changes on defense.

Bill Laimbeer is new GM/Coach of the New York Liberty

The official release came a few hours ago, that the new boss calling the shots at New York Liberty headquarters will be Bill Laimbeer. The former Detroit Shock coach replaces John Whisenant, who held the same position for the last two seasons.

Laimbeer talks to ESPN.

I understand that Laimbeer also interviewed for at least one other league coach/GM position.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pac-12 preview: Cal

This is the ninth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Cal had a unique situation last year: they had no seniors. This has turned into an equally original situation this season: they have no eligible newcomers. Translation? The Bears are poised to be dangerous.

Second-year Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said the team's continuity has allowed an already-tight group to marinate together even more fully.

"First off, our chemistry is amazing. These players value and respect one another, and they genuinely like each other," Gottlieb said. "There is a built-in trust, and a commitment to want to play for the person next to you."

"Secondly, it's allowed us to push forward at a fast pace this fall. Not having to get freshmen 'up to speed' has meant that this group can work to take steps forward from where we finished last season."

Gottlieb took a team last year, which included three freshmen and four sophomores, to the Pac-12 title game and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual semifinalist Notre Dame. Both Gottlieb and her passionate players made quite an impression, and Cal is picked to go second again in the conference this year. She said their tournament experience last year was a true confidence-builder.

"I've told several people that the experience we had in South Bend last year in the NCAA tourney was about as positive an end to the season as you can have without actually winning your last game," Gottlieb said.

"What I mean is that we battled a great team in Notre Dame, on their home floor. We hung with them, we gave them some problems. Ultimately we lost, but it left our players with a sense that we can achieve that next level, that we can become one of the nation's elite teams IF we are willing to work. Our players used that experience as positive motivation, and that's why it was such a good experience."

And indeed, that is Cal's next goal: to become an elite program. Gottlieb has set the standard.

"We want to reach the next level, we want to be 'elite,'" she said. "The goal is to win a championship this year. I don't take that statement lightly: we know how hard it is to win a championship, and we know how strong Stanford is, and how good the rest of the conference is this year. But the goals have changed from last year, as they should."

"Last year we wanted to re-establish Cal Basketball. We wanted to earn a bye in the Pac12 Tourney and get back to the NCAA Tourney. We did both of those things, so we've raised the bar. This team doesn't want to be 'close' anymore, they want to be 'elite.' They want to be champions."

Returning Bear starters are senior guard Layshia Clarendon (12.8 ppg); sophomore forward Reshanda Gray (10.5 ppg, 6 rpg); sophomore guard Brittany Boyd (10.2 ppg); junior forward Gennifer Brandon (8.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg); senior center Talia Caldwell (8.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

Key returning reserves are junior guard Afure Jemerigbe (5 ppg); senior guard Eliza Pierre (4.1 ppg); and sophomore forward Justine Hartman (3 ppg).

Cal did lose one sometimes-starter - forward Lindsay Sherbert (5.2 ppg) - who transferred at the end of last season. In her place they gained guard Brittany Shine, a transfer from Florida who will sit out this year as per NCAA transfer rules.

Gottlieb has a new assistant coach this season in former WNBA forward Katy Steding. Assistant coach Charmin Smith was promoted to associate head coach, and Kai Felton rounds out the returning staff.

The Bears worked hard over the summer to get better, according to Gottlieb, and she has seen improvement in each athlete. She has a feeling about two players in particular.

"The person who maybe has surprised me the most is Gen Brandon," Gottlieb said. "Remember, she was out for 16 months prior to last year (with an injury). She looks more comfortable now than ever before. I also think Afure will go from role player to serious piece of the puzzle."

Cal will see some tough competition in preseason, as they take on Old Dominion, Duke, Northwestern, Kansas and George Washington University. Gottlieb said the Bears have to stay focused.

"We are excited for the opportunities this year, but at the same time I appreciate how tenuous it is to build a successful season," she said. "We need to stay healthy, we need to keep getting better, we need to play like there's something out there that we want but we don't have yet. If those things come together, it could be special."

Ole Miss names assistant coach the acting head for the season

Brett Frank will be the Rebels acting head coach this year, Ole Miss announced today. The former assistant takes the reins four days after the head coach and two other assistants were fired.

Other NCAA news:

It appears Jannah Tucker, who decommitted to Tennessee yesterday, could be headed back there after her father plans to "fix things." He implied he was behind the decision by saying he'd overreacted to misinformation.

Despite the fact that their point guard is out for the season, Maryland is expected to remain in the title mix.

Remember USC guard Ashley Corral? Her lil sister Heather now plays for the University of Washington.

Georgia Tech has special events planned for their home opener Nov. 11, against Tennessee.

Western Kentucky hopes to rise this season.

Pacific guard Gena Johnson is ready to step up.

One response to UConn Coach Geno Auriemma's suggestion to lower the rim: change our culture's approach to female athletes instead.

A bit of WNBA:

Tamika Catchings is transitioning from the WNBA title and finals MVP award to the next step: playing in China this winter.

The Fever's title came about largely because of the "commendable expendables." (Believe in yourself, people. It's the key to success)

More preseason prediction polls

Big 12:

2012-13 Big 12 Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Poll

1. Baylor (9) 81
2. Oklahoma 65
West Virginia (1) 65
4. Kansas 58
5. Texas 46
6. Iowa State 42
7. Oklahoma State 39
8. Texas Tech 25
9. Kansas State 20
10. TCU 9

Big 12 media day.

Big West:

Media Poll Results
1. Cal State Northridge (6) - 161
2. Pacific (5) - 159
3. UC Santa Barbara (3) - 153
4. Cal Poly (1) - 127
5. Long Beach State (1) - 116
6. Hawai’i - 81
7. UC Davis - 80
8. UC Riverside - 74
9. UC Irvine - 65
10. Cal State Fullerton - 29

(I voted in the Big West poll)

Atlantic 10:

2012-13 PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
TEAM (1st-place votes) POINTS 11-12 RECORD (FINISH)
1. Dayton (7) 239 23-7/12-2 (3rd)
2. Richmond (1) 207 23-9/9-5 (T4th)
3. Charlotte (1) 206 16-14/8-6 (6th)
4. Duquesne (3) 204 20-12/7-7 (T7th)
5. Temple (1) 201 23-10/13-1 (2nd)
6. Saint Joseph's 195 22-11/9-5 (T4th)
7. St. Bonaventure (3) 172 31-4/14-0 (1st)
8. George Washington 139 11-18/4-10 (T10th)
9. La Salle 114 14-17/7-7 (T7th)
10. Xavier 111 8-20/5-9 (9th)
11. Fordham 96 12-18/3-11 (T12th)
12. Butler 80 13-17/9-9 Horizon
13. VCU 71 19-15/9-9 CAA)
14. Saint Louis 64 11-20/4-10 (T10th)
15. Massachusetts 56 8-21/3-11 (T12th)
16. Rhode Island 21 1-28/0-14 (14th)

Western Athletic Conference:

Coaches poll.

Media poll.

Ivy League:

1. Princeton (13) 132
2. Harvard (4) 120
3. Yale 96
4. Penn 76
5. Brown 61
6. Cornell 58
7. Dartmouth 46
8. Columbia 23

MIAA:

2012-13 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Washburn (8) 189
2. Pittsburg State (6) 178
3. Emporia State (1) 171
4. Northeastern State 154
5. Fort Hays State 139
6. Central Missouri 135
7. Truman 112
8. Central Oklahoma 110
T9. Lincoln 65
T9. Missouri Southern 65
11. Missouri Western 64
T12. Lindenwood 62
T12. Southwest Baptist 62
14. Northwest Missouri 51
15. Nebraska-Kearney 18

2012-13 MIAA Preseason Media Poll
1. Washburn (8) 257
2. Pittsburg State (8) 254
3. Emporia State (2) 235
4. Northeastern State 204
5. Fort Hays State 193
6. Central Missouri 183
7. Central Oklahoma 156
8. Truman 152
9. Lindenwood 117
10. Southwest Baptist 93
11. Lincoln 87
12. Missouri Western 69
13. Missouri Southern 65
14. Northwest Missouri 60
15. Nebraska-Kearney 35

McDonald's All-American game to remain in Chicago

CHICAGO TO HOST McDONALD’S ALL AMERICAN® BASKETBALL GAMES THROUGH 2015

McDonald’s®, United Center ink deal to keep prestigious high school all-star games in Windy City for five consecutive years

OAK BROOK, Ill. (Oct. 24, 2012) – The McDonald’s All American Games will stay in Chicago through 2015. After Windy City fans shattered the event’s attendance record in 2011, and returned in-force for the 2012 Games, McDonald’s and the United Center agreed to a two-year contract extension, including an option to renew in 2016.

“This is a historic day for the McDonald’s All American Games,” said Douglas Freeland, director of the McDonald’s All American Games. “Fans throughout the U.S. can now make Chicago their ‘destination’ to see the greatest high school basketball players participate in this annual rite of passage.”

The 2013 McDonald’s All American Games will tip-off on Wed., April 3 at the United Center. Game times and ticket information will be available by early 2013, and will be shared on www.mcdaag.com.

“An invitation to the McDonald’s All American Games is what every prep basketball player dreams about,” said Jay Williams, 1999 McDonald’s All American and current ESPN analyst. “I’ve had the pleasure to both play in this game and call it on ESPN. There simply isn’t another all-star event like the McDonald’s All American Games, and there isn’t a better city for it than Chicago.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®). The 2012 McDonald’s All American Games raised $650,000, the third-highest total in the event’s 35-year history. Funds from the 2011 and 2012 McDonald’s All American Games helped build the nation’s largest Ronald McDonald House® in downtown Chicago, which opened its doors in June 2012.

“I am delighted the McDonald’s All American Games will continue to call Chicago home,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “These games have been a springboard for countless young men and women to outstanding athletic careers, while raising money for charity and instilling a spirit of scholarship, character and citizenship both on and off the court.”

Chicago, Illinois McDonald’s All American Stats

· Illinois has produced 74 McDonald’s All Americans (60 boys, 14 girls), ranking third behind only California (123) and New York (84).

· Among repeat McDonald’s All American host cities, Chicago ranks first in average attendance with 17,388 (years included: ’82, ’11, ‘12), followed by Philadelphia with 11,610 (’78, ‘87), Atlanta with 11,293 (’83, ’92), and New York with 11,257 (’94, ’02).

· Illinois has produced three former number one NBA draft picks, and one number one WNBA draft pick, who participated in the McDonald’s All American Games, including: Mark Aguirre (1978 McDonald’s All American), Candace Parker (2004), Derrick Rose (2007) and Anthony Davis (2011).

RMHC by the Numbers

· The Games have helped raise more than $10 million for RMHC Chapters in the U.S. since the Games inception in 1978.

· Over the past two years, the Chicago Games generated nearly $1.3 million in proceeds for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI).

· The nation’s largest Ronald McDonald House® in Chicago boasts 14 stories and 86 guest rooms, and will provide over 31,000 family nights, saving families more than $7 million in hotel costs.

· Every year, through its family-centered programs, like the Ronald McDonald House, RMHC provides stability and vital resources to more than 4.5 million children and families around the world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

This is the eighth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

One of the surprises at last year's Pac-12 tournament was Washington State University upsetting USC in the quarterfinals to reach the semis. After the Cougars lost in that round the next night, Coach June Daugherty sat in the post-game press conference talking a mile a minute. She was glad that her seniors had faith in the program all four years; the team was so excited the previous night that they'd all jumped in the pool at the hotel.

As if that made up for a 13-20 record, which included going 5-13 in conference, for eleventh place in the Pac-12.

As if that made up for going 8-23 the year before, and for Daugherty being 38-86 in five years at WSU.

Of course the team was excited. If you hadn't eaten in 21 years (1991 was the one and only time the Cougars were in the NCAA tournament), a plate of food would look good to you too, wouldn't it?

I wondered aloud why Daugherty was still there to a Division I coach after this event. He said, "Oh, it's hard to get people to coach out there."

Is it? Is Kelly Graves really that much of an anomaly?

I still say WSU has become too comfortable with mediocrity. And this year's roster may not have the personnel to change that.

The Cougar's second, fifth and sixth-leading scorers - Jazmine Perkins, April Cook and Rosetta Adzasu, respectively - graduated. Perkins and Cook have been Daugherty's highest-ranked recruits. They also stayed with the program their entire careers instead of transferring, which has plagued WSU since the Daugherty era began. Even more so than their points, the energy of Perkins and Cook in particular will be seriously missed on the WSU offense.

The good news for WSU is that nine players return, including top point-getter Ireti Amojo, a junior (9 ppg); junior Sage Romberg (7.3 ppg); senior Carly Noyes (7 ppg); sophomore Tia Presley (5.8 ppg); and junior Brandi Thomas (5.6 ppg).

There are six freshmen guards: Alexas Williamson of Chino Hills, Calif.; Lia Galdeira of Kemuela, Hawaii; Dawnyelle Awa of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; and Taylor Edmondson of Carlsbad, N.M. Freshman forwards are Whitney Tinjum of Stacy, Minn. and Mariah Cooks of Santa Maria, Calif.

Williamson went to Mater Dei High School, where she was a reserve player. The high schools of the other freshmen do not look familiar.

Noyes, at 6-foot-5, is WSU's center. Though she was honorable mention for the conference's all-defensive team last year, she averaged only three rebounds per game. She will have to step it up this year, as will the Cougar's two forward/centers, sophomore Shalie Dheenshaw (2.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and junior Hana Potter (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg). Right now, it looks like WSU could be a fast team that gets killed on the boards.

One interesting coaching note: Mo Hines, who has been an assistant coach for Daugherty all five years prior to this, is switching places with last year's new video coordinator Ashley Grover. Now Grover is the assistant coach, and Hines has her old job.

The Cougars have an ambitious preseason schedule, as they'll face Wisconsin, BYU, Ohio State, Louisville, Syracuse and Gonzaga before beginning conference play at home.

Fever's amazing journey gets a rally

Lots of great photos from today's Indiana Fever championship rally today.

Also here.

If you're the finals MVP, you can do what you want.

The Indystar has some great videos from today:

Katie Douglas thanks fans.

Tamika Catchings thanks fans.

Coach Lin Dunn addresses the crowd.

And there's the amazing, improbable story of the Fever's title run.

It's the kind of grit that makes all Hoosiers proud.

Kentucky picked to win SEC; Tennessee loses a recruit

A media poll puts Kentucky as winning the SEC this year:

Preseason Media Poll
(First-Place Votes in Parentheses)

SEC Champion: Kentucky (20)

Player of the Year: A’dia Mathis (20); Christina Foggie (4); Anne Marie Armstrong (1); Jennifer George (1)

Order of Finish

1. Kentucky (20) 376
2. Georgia (1) 352
3. Vanderbilt (2) 336
4. Tennessee (2) 316
5. Texas A&M (1) 284
6. LSU 251
7. South Carolina 194
8. Arkansas 168
9. Florida 144
10. Auburn 124
11. Mississippi State 116
12. Ole Miss 47
13. Missouri 39
14. Alabama 36

Top recruit Jannah Tucker has rescinded her verbal commitment to Tennessee and re-opened her recruitment.

Rain cancels Fever parade

Jeez, no parade for the champs, but there will be a rally instead.

Can Indiana do it again next year?

Tamika Catchings and Indiana unleash a new era in the WNBA.

Erin Phillips is ready to just kick it for a bit. Reggie Miller's message to Phillips before the Finals lifted her.

Courts full of women.

The Lynx are already scattered around the world.

NCAA news:

Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork addressed the firing of new head coach Adrian Wiggins and two assistants with media yesterday.

The Sooners have the ability to return to the big-time days.

The sky is the limit for Purdue. The team is trying to loosen up their shooting arms.

UConn's Bria Hartley will miss another week of practice.

Georgia seniors are trying to make good on a freshman pact to restore the program.

Oklahoma State aims to go to the NCAA Tournament this season.

Breaking down Illini basketball.

Mercer is ready to take on challenges.

LMU basketball is part of the NCAA's concussion research.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pac-12 preview: University of Arizona

This is the seventh in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Just when the Arizona program looked to be ascending in 2010-2011 with a winning record, the Wildcats tumbled last year. Losing All-Pac-10 forward Ify Ibekwe proved to be an adjustment, and last season the team went 15-17, including 3-15 in conference play, for twelfth place.

This year might be just as much of a challenge for fifth-year Coach Niya Butts, as three of five of last year's starters are gone, including the squad's center. There are nine newcomers, which are a mixture of freshmen and transfers.

Shanita Arnold, last year's assists leader, and Reiko Thomas graduated. Junior guard Lindsey Fearing transferred to Black Hills State University, and freshman guard Erin Butler transferred to University of the Pacific. Aley Rohde, a 6-foot-5 freshman last season, transferred to UNLV, leaving the Wildcats with no center.

Half of the players on the 14-woman roster are six feet tall and over, but none are over 6-foot-2.

The good news for the Wildcats is their top three scorers - senior guard Davellyn Whyte (17 ppg). junior guard Candice Warthen (11.7 ppg) and junior forward Erica Barnes (10.8 ppg) - are back. Other returnees include reserves Layana White and Cheylene Harper.

Perhaps the most notable transfer is junior guard/forward Lynette Holmes, who comes from Xavier, where she averaged 12 points per game. Alli Gloyd is a junior forward from Mesa Community College, where she was the state's junior college player of the year last season.

Other transfers include Carissa Crutchfield, a junior from Oklahoma State; Kama Griffitts, a junior from North Idaho College; and Cheshi Poston, a senior forward from Logan College.

The freshmen are forward Shereen Sutherland, from Corona, Calif.; guard Nyre Harris, of Stockton, Calif.; guard Keyahndra Cannon, of San Diego, Calif.; and guard Simone Westbrook of Mesa, Ariz.

Butts says this year's team is more athletic, and that they'll be faster and will use pressure defense. Without a center, she and her assistant coaches will have to be very creative.

The Wildcats face UNLV, Cal State Northridge, BYU, UTEP and Texas State, among others, in preseason. They kick off conference play Jan. 4, at Washington State.

Ole Miss facing possible self-imposed penalties

Following the firing of their new head coach and two assistants, Ole Miss may face self-imposed NCAA penalties.

Other college news:

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma may or may not be a sports columnist now, but he thinks the rim should be lowered in college women's basketball.

Maryland point guard Brene Moseley is out for the season with an ACL tear.

San Diego State has been picked to win the Mountain West title this season.

Kent State assistant coach Geoff Lanier talks preseason.

Oregon State wants to duplicate last season's success.

Former WNBA great Vicky Bullett is now coaching at Hagerstown Community College.

Top class of 2012 prospect Oderah Chidom, of Oakland, has verbally committed to Duke University.

Pac-12 media day

Pac-12 media day was today at the new conference office in San Francisco.

Media day central.

Photos.....love the one of Chiney Ogwumike leaning on Markel Walker.

Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike diversified her game this summer playing for USA Basketball's 3X3 team.

UCLA's Markel Walker's IQ is a key to her success.

Getting rebounds will be the key for Arizona.

Cal basketball is more than just style.

Washington's Kristi Kingma will take an analytical approach this year.

Arizona State is finding old reliables in newness.

Oregon State coach and player reunited in Corvallis.

Oregon Coach Paul Westhead's request: play in Spain.

Coaches poll:

2011-12 PAC-12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACHES’ POLL

Team (First Place) Points

1. Stanford (11) 121
2. California (1) 109
3. UCLA 100
4. USC 91
5. Arizona State 67
Oregon State 67
7. Utah 56
8. Washington 54
9. Colorado 49
10. Washington State 40
11. Oregon 20
12. Arizona 18

Full TV schedule.

More more more on the WNBA Champion Fever

What it was like at the end of the game:

INDIANAPOLIS -- With 3.2 seconds left, 15,213 red-clad fans stood in unison, danced in the aisles and produced ear-splitting cheers.

On the Indiana Fever bench, players gleefully hugged, high-fived and waved to the crowd.


Tamika Catchings is now complete. Priceless:

INDIANAPOLIS, IND -- As the final seconds of the Indiana Fever's historic season ticked away, the outcome of the 2012 WNBA Finals no longer in doubt, Tamika Catchings was still playing defense.

As Minnesota’s Maya Moore was set to hoist a meaningless 3-pointer on the game’s last possession, Catchings, who’s made a career out of playing harder than everyone else, actually guarded Moore and put a hand in her face.

“I had to, I couldn’t just let her end the game like that,” Catchings said. “If she would have made it I still would’ve gotten yelled at, right? So I had to finish it off.”


It was a true team effort.

First half photo gallery.

Full game photo gallery.

Even more photos.

Trophy presentation photo gallery.

Portraits.

Video highlights.

Trophy presentation video.

Finals MVP video.

Catchings video.

Fever fans are beyond excited at the historic win.

The Fever learned from 2009, when they lost the series to Phoenix.

Erin Phillips turned disappointment into a title. She came through a difficult year.

Briann January gets a shout out from her alma mater.

ACC alumnae were part of the championship.

Indianapolis will hold a celebration parade tomorrow.

On the Lynx side, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore are disappointed by the loss.

Charting Seimone Augustus' backslide.

Candice Wiggins is her father's daughter.

Star Tribune photo gallery.

Thoughts:

1. It's hard to think of another athlete who's been more universally supported and loved than Tamika Catchings. Sure, she's paid her dues and then some. Sure, she's come back from several injuries that have ended the careers of other athletes, including a torn ACL and Achilles tendon. But an equally big part of the admiration for her is because she's an evolved individual. She works hard on both ends of the court, on every possession. She takes personal responsibility - sometimes too much. She doesn't complain or make excuses. She helps elevate her teammates. Her spare time? She runs a foundation to help children, and hangs out with her sister and nephews. The world would be a better place if it had more Tamika Catchings in it.

2. It's nice to see Coach Lin Dunn get a title. She's been coaching for 42 years. I was living in Seattle in 1999 when Dunn dribbled all around downtown trying to sell season tickets so the city could start a WNBA team. The next year, the Seattle Storm was born. She works hard, yes, but she doesn't give up, either. A good example to have as a coach.

It's also great to see 12-year veteran Tammy Sutton-Brown get her ring. She's been around since the early days of the league, and her work ethic is impressive.

3. It's amazing to consider the odds Indiana overcame to win this title. They lost one of their leading scorers in the semifinals. They lost a key reserve mid-way through the finals. But they still believed in themselves, and they never gave up. Those two attributes are hard to come by in this day and age, when negativity rules and instant gratification has turned us into a nation of quitters. The Indiana Fever have a lot of strength, and I'm not talking physically. I truly respect that.

4. It was indeed a true team effort, in every sense of the word.

5. It is hard to sustain a championship mindset. I don't look down on the Lynx whatsoever. They admitted to some doubts mid-way through the season, and they might not have truly ever put that behind them. But they have every reason to be proud. They are a deep, talented team that will be back next year to terrorize the Western Conference once again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Indiana Fever: WNBA champions

Here's a formula for a championship:

Twice start off 0-1 in best-of-three series. Lose your hottest scorer. Go on the road for 12 days. Play the defending champion that features three Olympic gold medalists.

The Indiana Fever did it, and they were able to win it. Tamika Catchings scored 25 points and added the only missing element on her distinguished basketball resume: WNBA champion.

The Fever completed an improbable run through the playoffs, beating the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 Sunday night to win the the best-of-five series 3-1 before a crowd of 15,213 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.


Really puts the win in perspective, doesn't it?

Be honest: how many expected the Fever to win after Katie Douglas rolled her ankle?

Photo gallery.

Tamika Catchings is playoffs MVP! Video.

Post-game press conference snippet.

Another great pic with the AP story.

But this is the best one: Coach Pat Summitt made the trip for the game. She and Catchings met up afterward.

The Lynx's road to repeat hit a dead end.

I'm sure ESPN will have a million more stories tomorrow, and I need to let some thoughts marinate too.

Right now I'm just going to enjoy the fact that two hours after the trophy presentation ceremony, Tamika Catchings is still trending on twitter.

Well, well-deserved.

Pac-12 preview: University of Southern California

This is the sixth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

USC fans will have quite an adjustment to make this season, as eight of the 15 players on this year's roster are newcomers. Not to mention that Coach Michael Cooper has three new assistant coaches. There are so many new faces in practice that you could justify the use of name tags.

But that isn't even the big story. More important than having half a squad's worth of new faces is that there is an entire team on the floor at practices. For the first time in years, the injury-plagued Trojans are beginning the season healthy.

"We're finally a healthy team - that's the biggest thing," said Cooper, who enters his fourth year at the helm. "We are 9-10 players deep right now, and that's a nice start."

Even before Cooper was hired, USC has had injury troubles - perhaps most notably in former star guard Jacki Gemelos and former forward Stefanie Gilbreath. Both sustained multiple ACL tears that kept them sidelined, literally for years, including Gemelos' mid-season tear last December. Gemelos had been one of the team's top scorers, and the injury not only ended her college career, but it hurt the Trojans.

USC's bench last season always had five or six players on it. Cooper acknowledged this year's difference at a recent mid-week practice.

"Even in practices, you'd see five or six people on the sidelines, on the bike or shooting because they were injured and couldn't play," he said, and gestured to the floor teaming with athletes. "This is nice."

What else is nice for the Trojans is that they have a lot of quality players.

Two starters are back: junior forward Cassie Harberts (11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior forward Christina Marinacci (8.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg).

Other top returnees are sophomore point guard Ariya Crook and sophomore forward Alexyz Vaioletama. Both began their freshmen season as key reserves, but they had to step up big after Gemelos was injured. The development of the games of both players was apparent by the end of the year.

Junior guard/forward Desiree' Bradley and senior forward Dominique Scott also return for USC.

Newcomers include freshman guard Jordan Adams, who was a McDonald's All-American and helped USA Basketball win a few gold medals during her high school career. Junior Kate Oliver transferred from Marist and sat out last year, as per NCAA regulations.

Sophomore Kiki Alofaituli was a teammate of Vaioletama's and Adams at Mater Dei High School. She had signed to Arizona State, and asked to be released from her Letter of Intent after Coach Charli Turner Thorne announced her sabbatical. They refused, so Alofaituli sat out last year. Now, having three athletes who have played together before could benefit the Trojans.

Brianna Barrett is a celebrated guard from Oaks Christian High School, just outside of Los Angeles. Guard Destinie Gibbs was a spring signee, and comes from Georgia, where she helped guide her team to three straight state championships.

Other freshmen are guards Malia Cravens and Rachel Totten, both of Los Angeles.

Returning from injury are freshman forwards Deanna Calhoun and Thaddesia Southall. Both sat out last year with knee injuries.

Cooper said he's seeing a lot of talent in practice, and an ability to play together.

"A lot of the kids can play multiple positions, and we have good chemistry," he said. "We have a lot more options, and it's making the coaching staff come up with a lot more options for them."

USC hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, which may be why they hired three new assistant coaches for Cooper last spring: Daron Park, who is associate head, Evan Unrau and Tai Dillard. Cooper said each has brought strong, unique contributions to the program that are working.

At a recent practice, players went through a variety of drills before transitioning to scrimmages, where the two teams split the wins. As they did that day, players gather after every practice and can speak if they wish. Cooper said he encourages players to voice their thoughts due to what he learned from Coach Pat Riley.

"He always said that there's things happening out there on the court that (the coaches) can't see," Cooper said. "I want players to feel like they have a voice."

Some of the Trojans' main goals this year will be to have strong defense and be tops on rebounds.

"I want us to be one of the top seven defensive teams in the country." he said.

Cooper is continuing his tradition of having a strong preseason schedule. USC will face Gonzaga, Nebraska, San Diego State, Texas A&M, Duke and Vanderbilt before conference play.

Photo gallery.

Are you ready for game four??

Tonight, 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2.

The Fever could close out the Finals series with a win tonight. Minnesota media, especially, is quick to remind us that Indiana was in this position three years ago.

The title is within reach of the Fever.

The Lynx is in the unusual role of underdog.

Fever forward Katie Douglas practiced with the team, but is unsure whether or not she'll play tonight.

Lynx forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin said their bench will be key. Point guard Lindsay Whalen said they will have to play at a higher level than they did Friday.

A lil college:

Forward Emilee Harmon will determine Ohio State's direction.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New Ole Miss coaches fired

New Ole Miss coach Adrian Wiggins and two of his staff members have been fired:

Former Fresno State women's basketball coach Adrian Wiggins, who was named Ole Miss women's basketball coach in March, has been fired as the team's coach, the university said Saturday.

The University of Mississippi said Wiggins was placed on administrative leave and would no longer serve as head coach "while an investigation continues over impermissible recruiting contacts and academic misconduct committed by members of his staff."

A statement from the university added that "there is no current evidence that Coach Wiggins was complicit in or had direct knowledge of this misconduct, (but) as head coach, he is accountable for the actions of those who report to him."

According to the university, assistant coach Kenya Landers and director of basketball operations Michael Landers were fired. Wiggins hired the Landers couple six months ago shortly after he joined Ole Miss as its head women's basketball coach.

.......

In addition, student-athletes Kay Caples, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, and Brandy Broome, a transfer from Pensacola State College, are ineligible to compete at the University after failing to meet NCAA transfer eligibility standards


Official Ole Miss announcement.

Pac-12 preview: Oregon State University

This is the fifth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

To say Oregon State had a good season last year is an understatement.

They were 9-2 in preseason, went on a six-game winning streak during conference play, snagged 20 wins on the year for first time in 17 seasons, and they advanced to the final 16 in the WNIT. The Beavers also set school records for rebounds, blocks, and scored the second-most points in program history.

Not bad for a team that had only two players after the 2009-2010 season.

This year could be yet more eventful for OSU, as they lose only one starter and two reserves, and gain five freshmen. Even more so than the team chemistry that is developing as a result of this continuity, and the quality of the new players, is that the numbers speak to the fact that the Beaver program is now finally stable. For OSU fans, that is a welcome circumstance, indeed.

Coach Scott Rueck knew he would have to rebuild when he took the position in June, 2010. He held open tryouts that summer, and filled up a roster. But one player transferred and three quit the team after that first season. Another graduated. The other half of the squad stayed, and Rueck again filled up a roster.

OSU made fans take notice from jump last year, winning nine of their first 10 games. Their mid-conference winning streak was even more impressive, because it included a two-overtime win over USC, and a close victory over Washington.

What was most noticeable last year was the way the Beavers played: aggressively, confidently, and relentlessly. When they fell behind, they didn't get discouraged: they rallied. Players attributed their new attitude to their coaches fostering a positive atmosphere.

Rueck, an OSU alumni who took George Fox University to a Division III championship in 2009, along with several other tournament appearances, knows what he's doing.

The bad news for the Beavers is that leading scorer Earlysia Marchbanks (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg) has graduated. But the other four top scorers/starters return: sophomore guard Ali Gibson (11.7 ppg), senior forward/center Patricia Bright (8.7 ppg), senior guard Sage Indendi (8.4 ppg), and junior guard Alyssa Martin (8 ppg). Four other seniors are back, as is one junior.

The freshmen include two Washington state guards: 5-foot-9 Khadidja Toure and 5-foot-10 Jamie Weisner; two Oregon forwards in 6-foot-3 Samantha Siegner and 6-foot-3 Deven Hunter; and a British Columbia center, 6-foot-6 Ruth Hamblin.

OSU's plan of attack this year, as it has been, is to play stifling zone defense. Rueck has called it his team's foundation; he was known for defense at George Fox. Last season, the Beavers were at the top of the conference in defense.

In preseason, OSU will face Cal Poly, UCSB, Loyola Marymount, Michigan State and Texas Tech. They open Pac-12 play at home the first weekend in January, facing USC and UCLA.

More on game three

Photo gallery.

Playoffs blog.

It was a drubbing.

The Lynx lost in unfathomable fashion. Well, not to me. The July losing streak they went on a few months ago showed me the cracks in the armor.

Shavonte Zellous lead the way. Last night, she was on fiyah.

ESPN sure does analyze the heck out of everything, don't they?

Startling stat: the Lynx had just two assists last night.

On a sad note: it turns out Fever forward Jeanette Pohlen tore her left ACL in game two, and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

On a happy note: Oct. 27 will be Tamika Catchings day in Indianapolis.

On another great note: Indianapolis Colts players have purchased tickets for fans for tomorrow's game. Here's how to get them.

College extra:

Stanford wowed fans at the Friday frenzy last night.

LSU is adapting to a 10-player roster.

Iowa Hawkeyes - the blowout is back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tennessee hosting five top recruits this weekend

Five top class of 2013 recruits are making their official visits to Tennessee this weekend, including first-ranked Mercedes Russell. #2 Kaela Davis, Tyler Scaife, Emmonnie Henderson and Jordan Reynolds are also on hand. Two other players are visiting unofficially: Jatarie White (2014) and Kristian Hudson (2015).

National signing day is Nov. 14.

Other college:

Fairfield University will bid to host next year's 2013 NCAA regionals, after Trenton, N.J. had to be dropped.

What's not to like about DePaul Coach Doug Bruno?

WNBA Finals, game 3: Fever 76, Lynx 59

Don't let the final score fool you: the Fever crushed the Lynx. They were ahead by as many as 37 points in the second half - the largest margin in any WNBA finals, ever.

From C to Z, Indiana was the better team.

If the Fever wins game four Sunday at home, they take the title.

Shavonte Zellous exploded for a career-high 30 points, and Erlana Larkins added 15 rebounds for Indiana. Coach Lin Dunn sat Tamika Catchings, to rest her, and she had 17 points in 23 minutes of play.

Rebekkah Brunson was the only Lynx player to score in double digits, with 12 points. Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore were held to single digits for the first time all season. Minnesota seemed stunned by their own performance.

Box score.

Catchings gave credit to the 18,000 fans who showed up to support them.

Win one for Tamika.

Highlights.

Apparently, the Fever don't need a technical foul from their coach to fire them up.

Game four preview.

Prior to the game, the Fever announced their new sponsor, Finish Line. Go buy stuff from Finish Line.

WNBA fines Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve for game two outburst

Throw your coat? Get fined.

Yesterday Fever Coach Lin Dunn criticized Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve for her technical. Reeve fired back that she doesn't care what Dunn thinks.

Game three is tonight in Indianapolis, 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

The series is getting attention.

The Fever is hobbling after Wednesday's game two, but a big crowd is coming for game three.

College news:

Purdue forward Drey Mingo has received the Giant Steps Courageous Student Athlete Award.

The Big East defectors focused on the present during media day. The future of the Notre Dame-UConn series is uncertain.

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma praised Stefanie Dolson but criticized NCAA referees on Big East media day.

Lipscomb is making strides in practice.

Oklahoma sophomore forward Kaylon Williams has torn her Achilles tendon and will miss the season.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pac-12 preview: Colorado University

This is the fourth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

The first two years of Coach Linda Lappe's tenure at Colorado has been challenging. She has had to deal with lack of depth, lack of quality players, and changing conferences.

In 2010-2011, Lappe's roster was nine. Last year there were 11, but two players logged a combined total of 37 minutes, which means essentially that they had nine again.

Last season - the Buffs first in the Pac-12 - they were 6-12 in conference play and tenth in points scored, with an average of 56.1 per game. They lead the Pac in one category: turnovers. Not surprisingly, Colorado made an early exit in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Another problem has been what Lappe has called the Buffs mid-season lull. They started the season undefeated last year, only to go on losing streaks in January and February. But more depth and quality on this year's roster might change that.

Four starters return, lead by dynamic senior point guard Chucky Jeffery (15.5 ppg, 8 rpg). Junior guard Brittany Wilson (9.1 ppg), senior guard/forward Megan Malcolm-Peck (4.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), and sophomore forward Jen Reese (7.8 ppg, 6 rpg) are also back, as well as five other returnees. The most key returning reserve may be sophomore guard Lexy Kresl (9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), who was named to last year's Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

This year, four freshmen are expected to contribute right away.

Kyleesha Weston is a true point guard, and can back up Jeffery. The Buffs also have high expectations for the other newcomers: forwards Jamee Swan and Arielle Roberson, and guard/forward Lauren Huggins. They may also have a walk-on in Alexus Atchley, if she can get cleared by the NCAA.

The entire team worked hard all summer on their game, and on conditioning. The result is renewed team confidence and optimism. Lappe has made making the NCAA Tournament a goal, but is taking a one-game-at-a-time approach.

Most significantly, Colorado faces Illinois, Louisville and New Mexico in preseason. They make their first appearances in California for Pac-12 conference play, visiting all four of that state's home teams this year, which they did not last season.

Catching up with college hoops

With these intense WNBA playoff games, let us not forget our NCAA news:

NCAA officials will closely monitor the pace of play this year.

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma pitches his plan for new regionals sites.

Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner discuss what they want to work on during their senior years.

Q&A with Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are looking for the right mix.

UConn's Bria Hartley is healing, and eyeing a return to practice.

Tulane media day quotes.

IUPUI preview: the guards.

Former UCLA Bruin Natalie Nakase wants to coach in the NBA.

Janet Holt Baker will be inducted into the Tennessee Tech Hall of Fame Nov. 2.