Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pac-12 preview: the University of California, Berkeley

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

Since program-changers Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray graduated in 2015, Cal has been in a sort of rebuilding mode. Last season they returned to form about halfway, and this year they are looking to make even more progress forward, with their 2013 Final Four appearance still on their minds.

The Bears began 2016-2017 well, finished 20-14 overall and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the second round. But in between those two ends they got beat up in Pac-12 play and ended with a 6-12 record, tied for seventh place. They won only two conference road games.

This season Cal has been picked to finish fifth in league, as they lost only one starter and return ten players. Key in the lineup will be star junior forward Kristine Anigwe (21 points, 9.3 rebounds per game); junior guard Asha Thomas (8.9 points, 3.32 assists per game); and senior forward Mikayla Cowling (8.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists per game). For Anigwe and Thomas in particular, the leap to upperclasswoman has come with greater expectation and responsibility. Anigwe said coach Lindsay Gottlieb approaches them differently now.

"I think her demeanor has changed as a coach because she expects us to just know what we're doing," Anigwe said. "She doesn't give us the leeway of, oh, you're learning. It's like, you know this, do it. So I feel like that's our motto going into the season. Like we're older, we're better."

Gottlieb said she is excited to see the growth of her players.

"I don't think we need to lose two or three games in a row to say we can be better," Gottlieb said. "I think they're able to self-assess in the moment, and that's maturity."

Part of the struggles of the Bears in 2015-2016 came from having no seniors. This year starting senior forward Penina Davidson (6.5 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) will help the other older players lead a still-young team. Thomas said they have all grown both on and off the court.

"We see different sides of our past, and we don't want to go through that again," Thomas said. "We don't want our younger players to go through that. We want to lead them to a better view of where we want to go."

Sophomore guard and key reserve Mi'Cole Cayton (5.6 points per game) returns, as does sophomore forwards Jaelyn Brown (4.8 points per game) and CJ West (3.3 points per game). Freshmen include guard/forward Alaysia Styles and guard Kianna Smith, both from Southern California, and guard Archer Olson, from the Bay Area.

Gottlieb said the desire of the Bears to improve has resulted in a short adjustment period and good cohesion.

"I feel very confident it's the best team chemistry we've had since our Final Four team," she said. "I can see it, I can feel it. Team chemistry doesn't always mean the rah-rah, like each other. They do. But I think the team chemistry's now there where they can hold each other accountable. They can raise their standards. They can get on someone to do better, but still be good off the court."

"Our chemistry and cohesion is really good. That partly comes from returning most of our players, but it also comes from a concerted effort by the people in the program to say: we want more. We want to do better. I credit the upperclassmen with that. The freshmen have been great. They've been seamless personalities to integrate, and from a basketball standpoint, they're very high IQ basketball."

Anigwe can't wait to begin playing.

"I'm just really excited for the season," she said.

Predictions, previews and extensions

College team news:

Sports Illustrated predicts a big drop for South Carolina. But they don't even cover the sport, so who cares what they think.

Ohio State is aiming for the Final Four in their own backyard.

Stanford preview: the newcomers.

Notre Dame could play up to a dozen ranked opponents this year.

NC State aims for an NCAA Tournament return amid roster turnover.

A changed Arizona State looks to a new season.

Who will start for Syracuse?

Amid a grueling schedule, Louisville will focus on guard play for success.

Towson has created a Hoops 'N Heels Club.

College Insider preseason mid-major poll: Quinnipiac, Gonzaga, Drake, Green Bay and South Dakota State.

College player news:

Ashley Jones is developing into West Virginia's future point guard.

UConn's freshmen are ready to make their debuts.

Iowa State reserve guard Sofija Zivaljevic to transfer in search of more playing time.

Detroit Mercy basketball is a family affair for the Ristovski sisters.

Numerous Australians are playing in the college ranks this season.

College coach news:

Rutgers and C. Vivian Stringer have agreed to a four-year contract extension.

UConn's exhibition opener will show coach Geno Auriemma plenty.

Ball State coach Brady Sallee has signed a contract extension through 2022.

WNBA news:

Sue Bird, Lindsay Whalen and Cynthia Cooper will join Kevin Garnett on his "Area 21" show.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Breanna Stewart discloses childhood sexual abuse

In a powerful essay, "MeToo," Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart discussed the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.

I do know that I’m doing something completely outside of myself by writing this. In fact, this is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and will ever do. But I was recently reading McKayla Maroney’s personal account of sexual abuse — one of many powerful stories the #metoo campaign has inspired — and I felt … less alone.

Maybe that’s the point. Our experiences are different. How we cope is different. But our voices matter.

I also thought about what my dad has said to me more than once:

“It’s not a dirty little secret. When you’re comfortable with it, and when you’re comfortable being open about it, you could save someone’s life.”

That’s why I’m writing this. This is bigger than me.


Such powerful words. What courage it took to write them. Like many others, I felt a lot of love towards Stewart when I read the piece this morning.

Her parents are proud of her for telling her story.

The sports world rallied around her today.

I've known many women who have been victims of sexual abuse, and it can really take a toll on a life. Stewart's dad is right that in her telling her story, she will show someone out there that she isn't alone. That's worth everything.

Thank you, Breanna Stewart, for your unselfish bravery. We owe you a debt.

Ready to get going

College team news:

Meet the Arizona Wildcats.

Vanderbilt is preparing for their second year under coach Stephanie White.

Half of the Commodores knelt during the National Anthem before their exhibition game yesterday.

South Dakota State is eager to get back on top in the Summit League.

How South Carolina women's basketball inspires the school's football team.

Central Michigan has talent, depth, experience and focus.

A Division II school knocked off Penn State in an exhibition yesterday.

Young Western Kentucky has a tough schedule.

College player news:

Senior forward Chelsea Nelson has evolved into a leader for NC State.

The Boilermaker's lone senior, Andreona Keys, is eager to lead the young team.

A freshman guard's journey to playing at Purdue.

College coach news:

Oregon coach Kelly Graves has a delightful Halloween haunted house tradition.

The Coach's Chair is back, and Chattanooga's Jim Foster is in it.

Lisa Fortier is a great Gonzaga coach.

Iowa associate head coach Jan Jensen joins the Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

A source says Beth Burns will be added to Louisville's staff this week.

Bonus:

NCAA's Mark Emmert: 79% in survey believe big schools value money more than athletes.

WNBA coach news:

Sun assistant coach Nicki Collen has been named head coach of the Atlanta Dream.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pac-12 preview: the University of Washington

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

The season hasn’t yet started, but the Washington Huskies are already in a world of hurt.

Two of the program’s all-time greats – Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor – graduated. Then, following the departure of coach Mike Neighbors, who built the program into national contenders, star freshman Aarion McDonald announced her transfer. Brianna Ruiz and Kelli Kingma medically retired at the end of the summer. Then this fall, the Huskies have been decimated by injuries.

Natalie Romeo, Washington’s lone returning starter, is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical issue. Redshirt freshman GiGi Garcia will miss a second consecutive season after tearing her ACL. Three of the team’s five returners have missed significant practice time with injuries: Hannah Johnson, who has two broken fingers, Deja Strother, with a lower-body extremity issue, and Mai-Loni Henson, who has a back injury.

The Huskies are playing only six in practices, and first-year coach Jody Wynn has been going hard in practices to keep momentum up, especially with five freshmen on the roster.

Last year Washington was picked in the preseason to win the Pac-12. This year they have been tabbed 12th. Wynn, who built a winning program at Long Beach State before coming north, said she and her team will not let up in their efforts.

“Our job is to embrace what was before us, learn lessons of how to work extremely hard and to achieve great things,” Wynn said.

Henson and Strother are expected to be back before the season opener Nov. 12. Johnson said she and her teammates aren’t concerned about preseason prognostications.

“We don’t really care. We just are focused on improving game to game, practice to practice,” Johnson said, “And it’s not something we’re going to go cry about. I think it’s something we look at and: You know what? Let’s embrace it. We’re the underdogs.

- Candice Evans

Stars previewing potential?

College team news:

Oregon State ushers in a new era this season.

Who will lead the Beavers?

College player news:

Michigan's Katelynn Flaherty and Hallie Thome are giving their best to the best.

Sophie Cunningham is Missouri's alpha dog in basketball.

Florida State's AJ Alix: the missing piece.

UConn sophomores Kyla Irwin and Molly Bent are preparing for year two.

Junior college transfer Christalah Lyons showed her potential for Kansas in their exhibition.

Lehigh's Ann-Marie Jacobs and Hailey Pascoe tore their ACLs within five minutes of each other in practice.

College coach news:

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck and his players are committed to the program.

Former West Virginia star Christal Caldwell has returned as an assistant coach.

Broadcasting news:

Snubbed by Sacramento, Kara Lawson is getting the last word with the Wizards.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pac-12 preview: the University of California, Los Angeles

Preview with photo gallery.

There's no predicting in preseason

College team news:

Will Rutgers go from worst to the NCAA Tournament?

After offseason turnover, Penn State hopes for contributions from their star recruits.

Injuries might leave Ohio State short-handed in their exhibition game.

No. 2 South Carolina and No. 5 Notre Dame will be featured in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament Thanksgiving week.

DePaul's new arena could be a game-changer for the program.

Spending the day with NC State.

Wright State boasts improved depth.

UALR faces a punishing schedule.

College player news:

Seniors Jamie Nared and Mercedes Russell are embracing leadership roles for Tennessee.

Holly Warlick's honesty is the best policy for Anastasia Hayes.

The Sun Devils are ready to hand the reins to Reili Richardson.

Crystal Dangerfield is set to be the "bully smurf" for UConn.

Peyton Carter has changed the plan for Colorado.

College coach news:

Big Ten coaches teleconference.

Coach Adia Barnes' recruiting prowess poised Arizona for a breakthrough.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma's first podcast featured Sue Bird and NBA player Kyrie Irving.

Tennessee Tech coach Kim Rosamond is pleased with preseason predictions.

College athletic director news:

New Virginia athletic director Carla Williams brings determination and imagination to her new job.

Pedal for Pat:

Cyclists completed their 1,098-mile ride today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pac-12 preview: Oregon State University

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

For a team that was supposed to be rebuilding last season, the Oregon State Beavers overachieved.

Despite losing program leaders Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin, the Beavers racked up a 31-5 overall and 16-2 Pac-12 record to claim the regular-season conference title in a tie-breaker game over Stanford in late February. The Cardinal then topped Oregon State in the conference tournament championship game. The Beavers’ season ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Florida State.

But to define their season as a Sweet 16 run would not do them any justice. Their win total was the second-highest in school history, and in earning them their third consecutive Pac-12 regular-season title, they are the only program besides Stanford to accomplish that feat.

Oregon State’s 34.5 percent field-goal mark ranked seventh nationally, while their points allowed per game (54.4) ranked sixth nationally. The were fifth nationally in rebounding margins, with a plus 10.9, outreboundeding 32 of their 36 opponents. Last season also marked the third consecutive year where a Beaver earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Beavers were led by a stellar senior class in scoring machine Sydney Wiese, defensive player of the year Gabriella Hanson, guard Breanna Brown, and forward Kolbie Orum. Together they recorded a four-year record of 114-26. That group also became the first in school history to make the NCAA Tournament all four years of their careers.

Wiese, in particular, stood out, as she notched a Pac-12 record for three-point shots made, with 373, and she ranked 16th nationally in three-point field-goal percentage. Wiese was drafted by the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

Seventh-year coach Scott Rueck acknowledged that filling Wiese’s shoes will be a tall order.

“She meant a lot not only on the court, but off the court in our community,” he said. “She was a standard-bearer on how we conduct business in many ways and go about things. She had a joy about her that made every day fun. That is hard to replace. But she’s no longer here.”

“So what has happened with her is the same thing that’s happened with our program. The culture is in place, the standard is in place, and now you have that incredible model. So not one person can do that, just like nobody’s going to control the ball like Sydney did for 35 out of 40 minutes. Which was the way that we played. It’s going to be a collective thing. We have incredible students in this. I think this team has the ability to have the best culture to this point.”

Oregon State definitely has the squad capable of continuing the progam’s recent legacy of success. Returnees include sophomore guards MiKayla Pivec and Kat Tudor, sophomore forwards Madison Washington and Janessa Thropay, junior guards Katie Williams and Taylor Kalmer, and junior center Joanna Grymek.

Marie G├╝lich also returns. Last year the senior averaged 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and made the All-Pac-12 team.

Newcomers include freshmen guards Aleah Goodman and Taya Corosdale, and Maryland transfer Destiny Slocum, who will sit out the year as per NCAA transfer rules. While at Maryland, Slocum earned multiple honors including Big Ten Freshman of the Year and WBCA Freshman of the Year.

Rueck said he is confident in his returners and newcomers, and believes that his team’s defense will allow for them to figure offense out later if they focus on defense now. And if there is any coach who knows something about up a program, it is Rueck. His overall record at his alma mater so far 153-81, making him the second most winning coach in school history.

“We’re excited about our team,” he said. “This is a team that just a year ago lost some really important people and found a way. This group has that same opportunity this year. We lost a few really important people to our program, and now it’s their turn to step into those roles.”

“I love this team. They’re tight-knit, they’re tough. They realize they’ve got to adapt to a new environment, a new demand, and they’re ready for it.”

- Candice Evans

Plot lines taking shape

College conference news:

The Missouri Valley Conference is lacking diversity in athletes.

Greenville will host the SEC Tournament for three years, beginning in 2019.

AAC power play needs more than UConn.

College team news:

South Carolina will receive their championship rings at a home football game Saturday.

For the rebuilding Terps, a trip to Taiwan reminded them of who they are.

Will Notre Dame face resistance in the ACC this year?

Penn is the preseason favorite in the Ivy League.

Takeaways from Ball State media day.

Lofty expectations continue for Mercer.

Ohio is motivated to prove youth will not be a hindrance.

South Dakota State plans to return to the NCAA Tournament.

MAAC coaches expect Marist to bounce back this year.

Buffalo is picked to win the MAC East.

College player news:

Notre Dame senior point guard Mychal Johnson will miss the season with a torn ACL.

Syracuse newcomer Jasmine Nwajei is so good she night make coach Quentin Hillsman change his game plan.

Jasmine Brunson is the queen of the Gopher's court.

South Dakota State's Macy Miller prepares a comeback after a second knee injury.

College coach news:

The contract of Louisiana Tech coach Brooke Stoehr has been extended for one year.

Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren stresses patience with her youthful squad.

Catching up with Mercer coach Susie Gardner.

The transition is over for UAlbany coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee.

WNBA player news:

Elena Delle Donne hopes her upcoming wedding can help others.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Extra, extra

College conference news:

The Big 12 Tournament will return to Kansas City in 2020.

College team news:

Bottle service: Coca-Cola is offering commemorative bottles celebrating South Carolina’s title.

Rebuild mode for Oregon State? Maybe.

Auburn is young with experience, not age.

St. John's could be a surprise in the Big East.

Iowa is small in numbers but mighty in spirit.

Montana State will lean on their veterans and new shooters.

Appalachian State has high hopes for their newcomers.

There's nowhere to go but up for Winthrop.

Oregon will play an exhibition game for charity Saturday.

Akron hopes to return to the top of the MAC.

Quinnipiac tops the preseason MAAC poll.

College player news:

Missouri's Jordan Frericks is back from an ACL tear and ready for her fifth year.

Utah grad transfer Malia Nawahine is ready to make a difference at BYU.

Oklahoma's Maddie Manning looks to be more offensively assertive.

Tania Davis' return to Iowa from injury is a welcome sight.

New name, same expectations for Northern Iowa's Ellie Howell.

After an early NCAA exit, Drake’s Becca Hittner is primed for a big sophomore season.

Vanderbilt basketball sophomore Kayla Overbeck could be the next big thing.

Heralded freshman Sidney Cooks is ready to make a big impact at Michigan State.

College coach news:

UConn coach Geno Auriemma says dividing the minutes between his talented players will be dicey.

New Mexico State looks to make a seamless transition in coach Brooke Atkinson's first year.

Recruiting news:

No. 15 Queen Egbo has committed to Baylor.

WNBA news:

Pro sports is helping Las Vegas recover from tragedy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pac-12 preview: the University of Utah

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

The Utah Utes completed their second season with head coach Lynne Roberts in 2016-2017 by earning a second consecutive trip to the WNIT. They opened their season strong, winning their first 11 games to head into Pac-12 action undefeated. But in entering the conference with the toughest RPI in the nation, the Utes finished with a 5-13 league and 16-15 overall record.

They outrebounded opponents in 16 games last season, ranking fourth in the conference with 41.26 rebounds per game. The trend can be attributed to wing Emily Potter, who ended the year seventh in the Pac-12 with 7.3 rebounds per game.

Potter, a redshirt senior this year, is not the only starter that returns, as senior wing Tanaeya Boclair (10.1 points per game) and junior point guard Erika Bean (5.6 assists per game, third in the conference) are also back.

Utah also returns sophomore guard Kianna Moore, sophomore wing Megan Jacobs, redshirt junior forward Megan Huff, junior wing Daneesha Provo, senior forward Wendy Anae, and senior guard Tilar Clark.

Freshmen newcomers include guard Jordan Cruz, guard Tori Williams, forward Elli Koskinen, guard Dru Gylten, forward Arianna LaLonde, and forward Maurane Corbin.

Roberts is hopeful about the class.

“We're going to need them," she said. “Tori Williams, a guard out of Idaho, a freshman, she was the big Idaho State Player of the Year, very highly-recruited. She can score. She's got a good feel for the game. We're going to need her to play."

"Then Corbin, we were talking about Mo Corbin, I think she's going to be an impact player for us too. She's a freshman, but she just plays so dang hard. She's still learning.....she has nose to the ball and plays her tail off. So she's going to make plays regardless. So she's a little ahead of the game, farther than I thought she'd be."

Roberts said the mixture of veterans and newcomers bode well for the season.

"So we're a little deeper than we've been, we can shoot the ball better, and I'm cautiously optimistic,” she said.

The Utes last year graduated top scorer Paige Crozon, and lost second-leading scorer Malia Nawahine to transfer.

With the number of new players, Roberts was faced with the task of joining everyone together as one. She and her coaches took the team to Italy, where they worked vigorously on and off the court.

“I think the Italy trip helped us bond and get that much closer as a team," Potter said. "It's only October, but we've been together so long already it feels like we're mid-season team-wise. We're all definitely really close."

Roberts said she is excited to hit the court.

“This feels like my program,” Roberts said, “So looking forward to the year. I think at this point in October, every program is full of enthusiasm and optimism and all of that. We're no different in that. So we're looking forward to getting going.”

- Candice Evans

Big Ten, Big 12 in the conversation

College team news:

Ohio State tops the Big Ten preseason rankings.

Will Baylor or Texas prove to be the best team in the Big 12?

The AAC is UConn's world, and we're all living in it.

The Atlantic-10 could be wide open.

UConn is using last season as motivation.

Takeaways from Northwestern's open practice.

MTSU's press conference signals the start of hoops season.

Texas A&M will lean on increased depth for a production boost.

Utah is gearing for another season.

Richmond and VCU are projected to finish in the middle of their conference.

SEC preview: South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and more.

College player news:

Back for her sixth season, Branndais Agee ready to chase dreams at Michigan State.

Agee buoys the Spartan's hope for success after losing Tori Jankoska.

Tania Davis' return fuels optimism for Iowa.

Paula Valino Ramos' first role at Iowa: Watch and learn.

A strong offseason could be a starting point for UConn's Crystal Dangerfield.

BYU will lean heavily on Cassie Devashrayee this season.

College coach news:

For Jeff Walz, his team offers relief from the Louisville recruiting scandal.

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck will make $4 million as part of his five-year contract extension.

Bonus:

Kayla McBride is the next Notre Dame alumni inductee into the Ring of Honor.

Recruiting news:

No. 13 prospect Zarielle Green, who decommitted from Kansas last week, as verballed to Tennessee.

No. 40 Valencia Myers has committed to Florida State.

WNBA coach news:

Erin Phillips is the Dallas Wings' new assistant coach, replacing the retiring Bridget Pettis.

Katie Smith podcast.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pac-12 preview: the University of Arizona

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

Last year the work began in earnest for first-year coach Adia Barnes, as she took the reins of a program that won a combined seven conference games in the previous three seasons; had last been to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, and whose most recent postseason action was the 2011 WNIT.

The 2016-2017 Wildcats played with more energy and inspiration than they had in years, but they ended with a 14-16 overall record and were 5-13 in Pac-12 play, for an eleventh-place finish. Now the real work begins, as seven new players will hit the court this season and try to create the chemistry that Barnes has been laying the groundwork for with culture-building.

Only three athletes return: senior guard JaLea Bennett (6.9 points per game), junior forward Destiny Graham (3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds per game) and sophomore guard Lucia Alonso (5.3 points, 2.4 assists per game). Five players graduated last year, three left the program and one - Taryn Griffey - retired for medical reasons. Graham and Alonso are the only two returning starters.

The lone senior is forward Kat Wright, a transfer from Florida Atlantic University who sat out last season with injury. She is a three-point specialist that Arizona can use, as they have not been known as a perimeter team. The freshman class includes guards Sammy Fatkin, Marlee Kyles and Alisson Reese and forwards Sam Thomas and Kianna Barkoff. Junior guard Lindsey Malecha also joins the team.

Three transfer players are practicing but not playing this season as per NCAA transfer rules: Tee Tee Starks from Iowa State, Dominique McBryde from Purdue and Aarion McDonald from Washington.

The team's future also looks bright because Barnes has signed what is currently the No. 2 recruiting class. But the Wildcats have to get through this season first, and it will be challenging with so many newcomers. Barnes said this season feels like another year one.

"It does in a lot of ways because you have to teach so many things, like you did in the first year," she said. "The first year is hard for the players. You didn't recruit them and they're adjusting, so I was very sensitive to that."

Barnes said building program and team culture is her most important task.

"I just want to be known as a place with tremendous culture," she said. "We're starting to build a legacy, and I think it started with the culture with us. Having three returning players has been valuable with so many newcomers."

"Culture for me is everything, and it doesn't change in a year. It takes time, but it's really evident this year....it is night and day. It's refreshing and players have really bought in, and it's a really big piece of the process."

Bennett said she has noticed team members have become closer.

"Since I've been here - I've been here for four years - this is the first year where they like to get together and we like to go to the locker room and have a movie night," Bennett said. "We like to go to the movies, we'll go out to eat together as a team."

Barnes also has a new assistant coach in Morgan Valley, a three-time national champion with UConn who was an assistant with her at the University of Washington during their 2016 Final Four run.

Some progress in Virginia

College news:

Virginia is set to be the first Power Five school with an African-American woman as athletic director.

College player news:

A'ja Wilson is easily South Carolina's best player - and her stats may suffer as a result.

Recruiting news:

No. 1 prospect Christyn Williams is down to two schools: South Carolina and UConn.

Young Jane McCauley from New York has star potential.

WNBA business:

Five reasons why the Stars’ Las Vegas move is good WNBA business.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Who's got all the chips?

College TV coverage:

ESPN will deliver extensive TV coverage for the 2017-2018 season.

College team news:

Here are the most important things we've learned about South Carolina and coach Dawn Staley.

Clemson and coach Audra Smith are grinding in the shadow of the Gamecocks and Dawn Staley.

Missouri is seen as the SEC's rising power.

Two Duncanville players have decommitted from Kansas.

College player news:

A healthy Sophie Cunningham is ready to lead Missouri.

Four things to know about Lady Vol freshman Rennia Davis.

Marisa Romeo brings an urgency in her transition from lacrosse star to Syracuse forward.

College coach news:

Clemson coach Audra Smith shares a funny story of cheering for Dawn Staley at the Final Four.

Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White wants less robotic players.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is no stranger to his SEC colleagues.

New Mexico coach Mike Bradbury has high hopes for the season.

WNBA player news:

Candace Parker finally resurfaced last night, appearing on Kevin Garnett's Area 21 show. "I just opened my blinds....."

The Lynx starters will mostly rest this offseason.

UNLV product Sequoia Holmes is ready to return home with the Stars.

WNBA coach news:

Bill Laimbeer is bringing his chips to the table in Las Vegas.

Former WNBA player and coach news:

Kara Lawson was welcomed tonight as the Washington Wizards' new color commentator.

Lawson made history as the first female analyst for the franchise.

The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach for player development.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pac-12 preview: Stanford University

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

Last season was nothing but good for the Stanford Cardinal, as the Pac-12 powerhouse won 30 games for the 14th time, and first since 2014. The Cardinal’s 32 wins tied for eighth in program history, and they set a school record with 212 blocks – one better than the previous year’s 211. Stanford won with a balanced attack featuring six different leading scorers and three players (Erica McCall, Brittany McPhee, Karlie Samuelson) averaging over 12 points per game for the first time since 2010-11. Seniors McCall and Samuelson received WBCA and AP All-America honorable mention recognition at season’s end.

The team finished ninth in the country in field goal percentage defense (.350), third in blocks (212), and third in rebounds (1,562). They were 20-3 in games away from Maples Pavilion, second in the country in wins (road/neutral), and third by percentage (.870). To top it all off, the Cardinal made their 13th overall trip to the Final Four and their seventh in the last 10 years. Last year marked their 31st NCAA Tournament appearance and 30th straight. Their 13 Final Four appearances are the third-most by any school, and their overall appearances rank third behind only Tennessee (36) and Georgia (32).

McPhee, a senior this year, was one of the main catalysts in the Cardinal’s run last season, leading the team in scoring during the tournament with 16.8 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent from behind the arc. She said the postseason energized her and other returnees.

“I think going to the Final Four and getting a taste for it left us returners wanting more,” McPhee said. “We want to go back and we want to go further. I think that’s kind of a drive for us. And I think we’re trying to create that culture for our freshmen, too.”

Coach Tara VanDerveer, entering her 32nd season at Stanford, hopes to fill the void left by McCall and Samuelson with the addition of a stellar freshman class. It includes forwards Alyssa Jerome, Maya Dodson, Estella Moschkau, and guard Kiana Williams.

Returnees include sophomore guards Dijonai Carrington, Mikaela Brewer and Anna Wilson; sophomore forward Nadia Fingall; junior center Shannon Coffee; junior guards Marta Sniezek and Alexa Romana; and senior defensive specialist Kaylee Johnson.

Junior Alanna Smith also returns, coming off a season where she averaged 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. She also made the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team.

VanDerveer said McPhee’s senior year has come quickly.

“It’s hard to believe. Even (conference commissioner) Larry Scott said to me, ‘Brittany’s been playing forever at Stanford,’” VanDerveer said.

With ten returners and five new faces, the focal point for the Cardinal will be their team chemistry. Last season they didn’t have a superstar, and instead banded together to play team basketball. VanDerveer said they were successful because of they way they functioned as a unit on court.

“Chemistry was a big reason why our team was successful,” she said. “People are unselfish, and they’re very hard workers. If they do that, I think that gives us a chance. We’ll have different stars every night.”

“I think we’re going to be a win by committee. It’s going to be different people doing different things. I’m counting on great chemistry and great leadership and the things that helped us be successful last year.”

The players build this their on-court relationships with off-court get-togethers on the weekends.

“We always try to go somewhere on the weekends during the summer,” McPhee said, “We just try to get out and get in a different atmosphere. We went to Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes last weekend. It’s just fun to get to know each other. It’s a lot of time you don’t have any cell service you can’t even listen to the radio. So you really get to learn a lot about each other that you otherwise wouldn’t talk about like on the court. So it’s a lot of fun.”

VanDerveer feels like the season has already started.

“We have a great group. We’re playing a very competitive schedule, and we’re very, very excited,” she said.

- Candice Evans

Conferences, teams, players gearing for the season

College conference news:

The Big Ten is going back to 18 conference games.

The ACC will also go to 18 games.

The Gamecocks' rise, Lady Vols' fall reflect SEC's major changes.

College team news:

Can UCLA and Oregon build on their NCAA Tournament successes?

Can Maryland win a fourth straight Big Ten title?

Tennessee can be great, but it'll come down to chemistry and coach Holly Warlick.

How the Lady Vols plan to solve their consistency issues.

The Gamecocks' title is just part of the new SEC swagger.

South Carolina is moving on from last year, even if no one else will.

More rounds coming in the South Carolina-UConn series?

Five things to know about Michigan after a 28-win season.

Virginia Tech and Virginia seek improvement.

Ball State looks forward to the season.

Getting better is the key for South Dakota.

Experienced UMKC is ready to write its story.

Missouri sets their expectations high.

Expectations for Pitt are low.

College player news:

South Carolina is seeing a waiver to allow Tennessee transfer Te'a Cooper to play right away.

A'ja Wilson's goal is to be national player of the year.

Confidence was a process for West Virginia's Chania Ray.

College coach news:

Gary Blair and Stephanie White say South Carolina's lack of a White House invite is a disgrace.

Other SEC coaches also spoke out.

Mississippi coach Matt Insell's engagement has mellowed his high-strung self.

Bonus:

Columbus schools and the NCAA are partnering for a friendly "Read to the Final Four" competition.

Recruiting news:

Hot New York recruit Emily Engstler has committed to Syracuse.

SEC and ACC media day

SEC media day:

The best of SEC media day.

The Gamecocks are hungry for another title.

Mississippi State hopes to maintain last year's level of excellence.

Consistency is key for the Lady Vols this season.

Georgia coach Joni Taylor expects consistency in her third year.

Excitement surrounds the Crimson Tide's season.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell is ready for a fresh start this year.

Auburn isn't straying from their defensive identity.

Gary Blair said last season was one of the most rewarding.

Mike Neighbors is excited to take the reins at his alma mater.

Missouri is excited for the year.

Ole Miss enters the season with more experience.

Coach Stephanie White wants her Commodores to trust their instincts.

Florida aims to build a legacy in coach Cam Newbauer's first year.

LSU is excited about their improved depth and size.

ACC media day:

Write up on the day's events.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

23 days to go

College team news:

Mississippi State is set for a power struggle in the SEC.

Three preseason questions for the Bulldogs.

Is it national championship or bust? And three other questions facing South Carolina.

UConn's Final Four loss was the best thing that's ever happened to them.

Marquette has too much depth for the Big East to handle. They have been picked to win the Big East.

More than posts, Stanford's system is big on versatility.

Michigan is ready to build on their WNIT title.

Gonzaga are the heavy favorites to repeat as WCC champions.

Florida is sorting out their roster.

UNCW has heightened optimism, hope and expectations under new coach Karen Barefoot.

College player news:

Clemson's top scorer, Nelly Perry, will miss the season after shoulder surgery.

Nearing a scoring record, Michigan's Katelynn Flaherty is ready to take on a new challenge.

Kia Nurse is preparing for her grandma year at UConn.

Southern Illinois' Kylie Giebelhausen has grown into a leadership role.

College coach news:

Pepperdine's new assistant coach is Roland Jones Jr., aka the husband of head coach Delisha Milton-Jones.

Pedal for Pat Summitt:

Six WNBA teams have joined the "Pedal for Pat" initiative via social media: the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm.

WNBA team news:

The New York Liberty have received the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for the season.

WNBA coach news:

A new role in Las Vegas comes at the right time and place for Bill Laimbeer.

Bonus:

Seton Hall alum Brian Stanchak is the founder of the BDS Agency.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

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

Last season for the Washington State Cougars can only be described as hopeful, as the team went through their share of ups and downs, which included several injuries.

They finished the regular season 12-18 overall and 6-12 in Pac-12 Conference play, earning a tie for seventh place after being picked to finish tenth. One of their six wins was against the nationally-ranked UCLA Bruins in January. The 82-73 victory was the biggest upset in program history.

The influx of injuries meant that many of WSU’s losses were decided by two possessions or less, or in overtime. Every time they gained momentum, there would be another injury – and on a catastrophic scale. The Cougars didn’t lose one or two players to injuries last season; they lost four key contributors, in top scorers Lou Brown (10.4 ppg), Bobi Hristova (14.7 ppg), freshmen Cameron Fernan (4.7 ppg) and Chanelle Molina (12.8 ppg). The squad was eventually rolling 11 deep while competing in a conference that does not hold back punches.

“I think one of the unique things is when something bad happens, there is a lot of good that comes out of it, and there was a lot of good that came out of it for our team,” coach June Daugherty said. “I think the mental toughness that this group showed last year, not losing one (or) two, but three starters and then a fourth player for the season like they did, they just bounced back. They did not allow anyone to make excuses for them.”

WSU earned an invitation to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), and they delivered winning the first four rounds before being eliminated by Georgia Tech in the semifinals.

Daugherty said the magical run was a blessing to the team.

“I think it has definitely built a lot of confidence into our players,” she said. “They’re a lot more hungry about continuing to play in postseason.”

The momentum carried into offseason workouts and practices.

“We’ve had the best spring and summer that I’ve witnessed in my 10, 11 years here at Washington State,” Daugherty said.

While the offseason is general focused on player development and recruiting, it also is the time for welcoming new players. The Cougars add three new players this season, but also return with many familiar faces.

Newcomers include power forward Taryn Shelly and guard Celena Molina. Redshirt freshmen Jovana Subasic will also play her first season for the team, after sitting out her first year with injury.

As they have in recent years, WSU has many international players on the roster.

“Basketball is a global game. Because of FIBA TV, now Facebook, the Internet, you know, there is quite a bit of interest from the student-athletes overseas. They can check us out,” Daugherty said. “Pac-12 Networks is in 30-some countries, and they see our games.”

The Cougars return senior guard Krystle McKenzie (Australia), senior guard and co-captain Pinelopi Pavlopoulou (Greece), redshirt junior Louise Brown (Australia), junior center Maria Kosturkova (Portugal), sophomore guard Johanna Muzet (France), and redshirt sophomore forward Borislava Hristova (Bulgaria).

Sophomore guards Kayla Washington, Chanelle Molina, Cameron Fernandez, and junior guard Alexys Swedlund return, as well.

Senior guard and co-captain Caila Hailey returns after receiving recognition last year as one of the conference’s top defenders. Last season she averaged 2.1 steals per game, which ranked third in the Pac-12. Hailey said she was surprised to be named a captain.

“I’m always the one that’s trying to learn,” she said. “I feel like once I started taking outside of basketball more serious, and I felt like that kind of carried over, I’m way more mature than I was my freshman and sophomore year. I know the system inside and out now.”

The Cougars WNIT run sparked a new level expectation among the team.

“We have new goals this year with everybody coming back. There are high expectations, and as it should be,” Hailey said.

Daugherty is excited for the upcoming season.

“We are so very excited about the season,” she said. “We have a great schedule and a great team.”

- Candice Evans

SEC stacked, and Stars have a new home

College conference news:

South Carolina tops the SEC in the preseason poll.

The Big East Conference has signed a multi-year deal to have the conference tournament at Wintrust Arena.

College player news:

Why UConn's Kia Nurse is a matchup nightmare for opponents.

Tania Davis will be the X-factor this year for Iowa.

Ohio State's Makayla Waterman expects a bigger role this year.

College coach news:

Scott Rueck's contract at Oregon State has been extended five years, through the 2026-2027 season.

Towson's Diane Richardson took the long, winding road to her first Division I head coaching job.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors says all his players are starting at the same level.

Recruiting news:

Imani Lewis has committed to Wisconsin.

WNBA franchise news:

Earlier today it was made official: MGM resorts has bought the San Antonio Stars, and they're moving to Las Vegas.

Can the league find a loyal fan base in Sin City?

The move could make the WNBA more visible.

WNBA player news:

Basketball never stops for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

WNBA coach news:

Katie Smith can't wait to challenge Bill Laimbeer.

Pat Summitt:

More on Michelle Marciniak's ride for her former coach.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Before week three of college practice

College team news:

Podcast: UConn is motivated by their loss to Mississippi State last year.

Northern Colorado has been picked to win the Big Sky Conference.

College player news:

Baylor's Kalani Brown and Kristy Wallace enjoyed international play this summer.

Oregon coach Kelly Graves says the sky is the limit for freshman Satou Sabally.

Temple's Alliya Butts is out for the season with an ACL tear.

College coach news:

Bonnie Henrickson is reconstructing Cal State Santa Barbara from the ground up.

WNBA news:

Las Vegas power brokers are unaware of a WNBA team's move there.

Podcast with Nneka Ogwumike on mental strength.

Pac-12 preview: the University of Southern California

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

If the 2017-2018 USC Trojans had a movie title, it might be "Back to the Future."

The program enters the season with a new-but-not-new coaching staff, a sixth-year senior, plenty of upper-class leadership and a bevy of young talent. With experience and a fresh approach, they aim to better the 14-16 overall finish they had last year, which also tied them for last place in the Pac-12, with a 5-13 showing.

One day after USC's conference tournament first-round loss last March, coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was let go. After almost a two-month search, the school re-hired Mark Trakh, who coached the Trojan women from 2005-2009. Senior guard Sadie Edwards said Trakh wasted no time in establishing team goals upon his arrival.

"From day one coach Trakh and our new staff were very clear about their vision for our program moving forward," Edwards said. "I think every single day, we're taking a step towards that goal. The foundation we're building right now is very strong, and it's founded on togetherness and unselfishness. Giving your best effort every day, every second. Being consistent is a big thing for them."

Something else that is major is that senior guard Jordan Adams will be back for a sixth season, after being granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA last spring. Adams tore her ACL after playing - and starting in - only five games last season. Trakh said his return coupled with hers was ironic.

"I'll tell you a story about Jordan," Trakh said. "I started coaching her and she came up to me. She said, 'coach Trakh?....you realize that you recruited me when you were a coach the first time here.' That's how long she's been at SC."

Edwards (9.2 points per game) returns to the starting five, as does senior forward Kristen Simon (14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), and three others who started most games between them after Adams was out. Sophomore guard Minyon Moore (11.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds per game) is poised to electrify fans again with her hustle play. Junior guard Aliyah Mazyck (6.6 points per game) and sophomore guard Ja'Tavia Tapley (5.7 points, 3.2 rebounds per game) will likely pick up where they left off, as well. Moore's sister, senior guard Mariya Moore, transferred to USC from Louisville last spring and will sit out the year due to transfer rules, but she practices with - and helps - the team.

Also returning to the Trojans are sophomore forwards Asiah Jones and Dani Milisic, and junior forward Marguerite Effa. USC has one new international player in junior guard Candela Abajon, from Spain, and one true freshman: guard Shalexxus Aaron.

The team worked all summer and is focusing on consistency. Simon said they should not be underestimated.

"We're ready for this year, we're ready," she said. "I think we'll shock a lot of people."

Friday, October 13, 2017

The wild world of hoops

College conference news:

Five must-see ACC matchups this season.

College program news:

How five persistent women were able to restore the Lady Vol name and logo.

North Carolina escapes NCAA punishment after years-long academic scandal.

The University isn't celebrating - they're ready to move on.

Jan Boxill, a former professor and counselor to the Tarheel women, is relieved with the NCAA result.

College team news:

Notre Dame is looking to transcend their injury woes.

The new pieces are a puzzle for coach Muffet McGraw and the Irish.

The Wynn era has begun at the University of Washington.

Kentucky showed out during Big Blue Madness earlier tonight.

UNCW has a new vibe this year.

College player news:

UConn's Kia Nurse is ready to lead on and off the court.

Kelsey Mitchell's USA Basketball experience this summer broadened her horizons.

Notre Dame will have a steady hand at the point in Lili Thompson.

Kansas senior guard Jessica Washington will miss the season with a torn ACL.

WNBA news:

A source told ESPN that Bill Laimbeer will be the new coach and GM of the WNBA's new Las Vegas franchise. The league and Spurs Sports and Entertainment is still not disclosing information about the buyer.

"Negotiations with a potential buyer of the Stars team are ongoing," WNBA spokesperson Dina Skokos said in a statement Thursday. "Once those discussions are concluded, we will provide additional information."

WNBA franchises go where there's an owner ready to spend the money.

Becky Hammon says the Stars leaving San Antonio sucks.