Sunday, November 30, 2014

Make it last forever

It's hard to believe the season is only 16 days old with the number of upsets, overtimes and close games that have gone down so far. It's feeling more like February than November at the moment. Right now I'm wondering:

Will this madness continue?

What will tomorrow's top 25 poll look like in view of the upsets that have taken place this week?

We shall see.


#6 Texas remains on fire - and unbeaten. They upended #4 Tennessee, 72-59.

Close games:

#7 Texas A&M rallied to beat #8 Duke, 63-59.

Indiana State held on to defeat Indiana in overtime, 65-61. It was the Hoosiers' first loss.

Minnesota edged Georgia Tech, 72-69.

Arizona State outlasted Vanderbilt
, 72-67.

#15 Nebraska had to hold off Northern Colorado, 63-56.

#11 North Carolina topped Hawaii, 74-65.


#2 Notre Dame, #3 UConn, #5 Stanford, #12 Louisville, #13 Baylor, #16 Michigan State and #21 Rutgers crushed their respective opponents.

Full scoreboard.

More news:

Chattanooga freshman Keiana Gilbert is ESPNW's player of the week.

Lin Dunn talks UConn basketball.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Almost-upsets and first losses

It continues to be a great season so far:

#1 South Carolina avoided an upset by rallying past #22 Syracuse, 67-63.

#9 Kentucky needed an overtime to get by Oklahoma, 92-88.

#10 Maryland handed James Madison their first loss, 80-64.

One day after upsetting Kentucky, Illinois was upset themselves. South Florida served up their first loss, 67-61.

American gave Gonzaga their first loss as well, slipping by 59-56.

Vanderbilt's 71-54 win over Minnesota is the Gopher's first defeat.

A last-second three-pointer gave Toledo the 64-62 win over Virginia. It was the Cav's first season loss.

Western Kentucky topped previously unbeaten Tulane, 69-64.

Purdue downed Texas Tech, 69-53, for their first loss.

St. John's is undefeated after blowing by Binghamton, 67-51.

CSUN is also unbeaten after powering past Montana State, 78-66.

The University of Washington took down Hartford, 81-70.

USC continues its hot start with an 88-67 rout of San Houston State.

#14 Cal were the high-scorers of the day, with a 100-87 thumping of San Jose State.

Full scoreboard.

Department of yikes:

Not only did Ohio State lose to Wichita State, but they might have lost third-year sophomore Kalpana Beach, who sustained a right leg injury. Beach has missed the last two seasons with a torn ACL, and the Buckeyes are short on personnel at the moment.

Holiday weekend brings surprises

Catching up:

Chattanooga stunned #4 Tennessee, 67-63, on Wednesday. The Lady Vols must now deal with some issues.

Then yesterday Illinois gave #9 Kentucky their first loss of the season, while remaining unbeaten themselves.

LSU's game at a Mexico tournament was cancelled the same day due to a "facility conflict." They were to play UTEP. THEN, the rest of the tournament was cancelled. (Sheesh!)

TODAY's upsets, and other results:

#11 North Carolina upended #5 Stanford, 70-54.

Arkansas upset #17 Iowa, 77-67. The Razorbacks are 5-0.

#15 Nebraska had to rally to beat UCLA, 71-66.

More in a bit, after games wrap up........

More news:

West Virginia forward Kayla Montgomery has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

Ka-Deidre Simmons, Daisha Simmons provide the backbone for Seton Hall.

Gonzaga junior Elle Tinkle is continuing the family hoops tradition.

Equality news:

We have a 12-year-old girl to thank for this new Dick's Sporting Goods ad.

The Schimmel sisters have brought higher education awareness to Native Americans.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey ball

Thirty-six games on tap today.

Those not playing today are likely on their way to a holiday tournament, or getting ready for one. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Player news:

Utah fifth-year senior Taryn Wicijowski is making the most of her playing time.

Iowa freshman Claire Ricketts is out 2-3 months with a fractured wrist.

Georgia Tech's Rodreeka Rogers is refining her interior game.

Team/coach news:

Notre Dame is learning it's a marathon, not a sprint. (That was an Ice Cube lyric some years ago)

Jacksonville coach Yolett McCuin talks motherhood, risky business and being Bahamian.

Louisiana Tech will be featured on a CBS-produced show called 60 Minutes Sports.

International news:

FIBA has suspended Japan from International and Olympic team competition for their failure to merge two professional men's leagues. The decision damages the women's team more.

This week's mid-major poll

The top 15, according to ESPN:

1. Green Bay
2. James Madison
3. Western Kentucky
4. Gonzaga
5. Florida Gulf Coast
6. Princeton
7. George Washington
8. Albany
10. Dayton
11. Middle Tennessee
12.Wichita State
13. Cal State Northridge
14. Pacific
15. Eastern Washington

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

USA Today top 25 coaches poll

This week:

1. Notre Dame
2. South Carolina
3. Connecticut
4. Stanford
5. Tennessee
6. Texas A&M
7. Duke
8. Maryland
9. Texas
10. Kentucky
11. Louisville
12. North Carolina
13. Baylor
14. California
15. Nebraska
16. Iowa
17. Michigan State
18. DePaul
19. Oklahoma State
20. Oregon State
21. West Virginia
22. Syracuse
23. James Madison
24. Rutgers
25. Georgia

Wade watch candidates announced

The candidates:

Jillian Alleyne, Oregon

Rachel Banham, Minnesota

Brittany Boyd, California

Crystal Bradford, Central Michigan

Nina Davis, Baylor

Nneka Enemkpali, Texas

Bashaara Graves, Tennessee

Allisha Gray, North Carolina

Reshanda Gray, California

Dearica Hamby, Wake Forest

Sara Hammond, Louisville

Isabelle Harrison, Tennessee

Bria Holmes, West Virginia'

Brittany Hrynko, DePaul

Samantha Logic, Iowa

Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame

Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut

Amber Orrange, Stanford

Kelsey Plum, Washington

Breanna Stewart, Connecticut

Rachel Theriot, Nebraska

Courtney Walker, Texas A&M

Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina

Elizabeth Williams, Duke

USC Trojans lose two; roster down to 11

Destinie Gibbs and Chyanne Butler are no longer with USC. The roster is now at 11 players.

Monday, November 24, 2014

John R. Wooden Award preseason list released

The Wooden Award preseason list was released today:

Name School Conference Ht. Yr. Pos.

Jillian Alleyne Oregon Pac-12 6-3 Jr. F
Rachel Banham Minnesota Big Ten 5-9 Sr. G
Brittany Boyd California Pac-12 5-9 Sr. G
Crystal Bradford Central Michigan MAC 6-0 Sr. G
Lexie Brown Maryland Big Ten 5-9 So. G
Nina Davis Baylor Big 12 5-11 So. F
Kaela Davis Georgia Tech ACC 6-2 So. G
Nneka Enemkpali Texas Big 12 6-1 Sr. F
Bashaara Graves Tennessee SEC 6-2 Jr. F
Reshanda Gray California Pac-12 6-3 Sr. F
Allisha Gray North Carolina ACC 6-0 So. G
Dearica Hamby Wake Forest ACC 6-3 Sr. F
Sara Hammond Louisville ACC 6-2 Sr. F
Isabelle Harrison Tennessee SEC 6-3 Sr. C
Bria Holmes West Virginia Big 12 6-1 Jr. G
Brittany Hrynko DePaul Big East 5-8 Sr. G
Moriah Jefferson UConn The American 5-7 Jr. G
Samantha Logic Iowa Big Ten 5-9 Sr. G
Jewell Loyd Notre Dame ACC 5-10 Jr. G
Tiffany Mitchell South Carolina SEC 5-9 Jr. G
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis UConn The American 5-11 Sr. F
Amber Orrange Stanford Pac-12 5-7 Sr. G
Kelsey Plum Washington Pac-12 5-8 So. G
Aerial Powers Michigan State Big Ten 6-0 So. F
Breanna Stewart* UConn The American 6-4 Jr. F
Rachel Theriot Nebraska Big Ten 6-0 Jr. G
Courtney Walker Texas A&M SEC 5-8 Jr. G
Aleighsa Welch South Carolina SEC 6-0 Sr. F
Elizabeth Williams Duke ACC 6-3 Sr. C/F
Courtney Williams USF The American 5-8 Jr. G

What an amazing list.

Another almost-upset

Today's results:

#5 Stanford held off New Mexico, 70-65. (I predict the Cardinal and Cal will tie for first in the Pac-12 this season)

St. John's edged Marist, 49-48. What has happened to the Red Foxes? They're 0-3.

Tulane used defense to prevail over North Carolina State, 61-50.

The Gilbert sisters lead Chattanooga over Austin Peay, 76-65.

#4 Tennessee stuffed Tennessee State, 97-46.

All scores.

More news:

Texas is the NCAA team of the week. After seeing them in person yesterday, I must agree.

San Francisco forward Taylor Proctor is on a mission to lead her team to the big dance.

Junior guard Hannah Huffman is finding her role at Notre Dame.

Wisconsin coach Bobbie Kelsey reflects on last week's tough losses.

Pro news:

The Atlanta Dream have signed Danita Knight as a strategic consultant to help increase team visibility.

AP poll: South Carolina is the new #1

The Gamecocks are #1 in this week's AP top 25 poll, for the first time:

1. South Carolina
2. Notre Dame
3. Connecticut
4. Tennessee
5. Stanford
6. Texas
7. Texas A&M
8. Duke
9. Kentucky
10. Maryland
11. North Carolina
12. Louisville
13. Baylor
14. California
15. Nebraska
16. Michigan State
17. Iowa
18. DePaul
19. Oregon State
20. Oklahoma State
21. Rutgers
22. Georgia
23. Syracuse
24. West Virginia
25. Mississippi State

Look at all the other changes,'s going to be an interesting season!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jody Conradt, Billie Moore grace the Texas-UCLA game with their presence

Two coaching legends took in today's Texas-UCLA game: Jody Conradt and Billie Moore. I interviewed Conradt for this piece, and then met them both at the game (my media seat was right next to them).

Such nice people. And I hope I'm looking half as good as they do when I'm in my 70s.

I was a bit star struck. Still am.

An eye-opening day

Today's most compelling games weren't necessarily those of ranked teams:

Amherst won their 100th straight home game, breaking UConn's record of 99.

Rick Insell guided his Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders past son Matt Insell's Ole Miss team, 71-65. It was the first time in NCAA history that a father and son coached against each other.

More results:

Reshanda Gray lead #14 Cal over Missouri, 82-70, to take the Wahine Classic in Hawaii. Gray had 28 points.

#10 Texas used rebounds to down UCLA, 75-65. (Story and photos by yours truly)

#1 UConn is back to their winning ways with a 96-60 rout of Creighton.

#24 Georgia held on to beat Georgia Tech, 64-57.

All scores.

More news:

First Lady Michelle Obama attended Princeton's home game against American today to watch her niece play for the Tigers. She talked to the team at halftime.

Stanford's Lili Thompson is EWPNW's first national player of the week for the season.

Michigan State is looking for a third scorer.

Ohio State's Amy Scullion is back from injury, and she's trying to adjust.

Sidney Cook is now eligible to play for Virginia Tech.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Six-day old season features more upendings


#10 surprised #6 Stanford in overtime, 87-81.

Mississippi State dropped #17 West Virginia, 74-61.

More results:

Pitt routed Michigan, 85-64, and set a school record in the process: a team-high 13 three-point shots.

Auburn edged FGCU, 72-69.

James Madison survived American, 69-65. They are 3-0.

Arkansas fought off Middle Tennessee State, 58-51. They're 3-0.

St. John's outlasted Florida, 72-66.

Virginia topped Xavier, 71-62, behind Faith Randolph's 26 points.

Ole Miss thumped Southern, 91-68. They are 3-0.

Creighton beat Utah, 64-56.

Toledo took down St. Bonaventure, 64-58.

Full scoreboard.

More news:

The story of Mount St. Joseph's Lauren Hill, suffering from inoperable brain cancer, has impacted the Lady Vols.

Oklahoma will honor Stacey Dales at Friday's home game.

Junior forward Kali Peschel gives Iowa another weapon.

A big decision awaits former BYU star Jennifer Hamson.

Elena Delle Donne will be a goodwill ambassador for an NBA development league team.


Women's basketball figures speak out about inclusion in a powerful new video.

NCAA selects host cities for 2016-2018

The NCAA named its host cities for 2016-2018 regionals, and Lexington, Kent. won big. Stockton, Calif. and South Dakota will host regionals for the first time:


March 25-28 Fairfield and UConn Regional Bridgeport, Conn. Webster Bank Arena
March 25-28 Big 12 Regional Dallas American Airlines Center
March 25-28 Kentucky Regional Lexington, Ky. Rupp Arena
March 25-28 Summit League Regional Sioux Falls, S.D. Denny Sanford Premier Center


March 24-27 Fairfield and UConn Regional Bridgeport, Conn. Webster Bank Arena
March 24-27 Kentucky Regional Lexington, Ky. Rupp Arena
March 24-27 Oklahoma Regional Oklahoma City Chesapeake Energy Arena
March 24-27 Pacific Regional Stockton, Calif. Stockton Center


March 23-26 MAAC Regional Albany, N.Y. Times Union Center
March 23-26 Big 12 Regional Kansas City, Mo. Sprint Center
March 23-26 Kentucky Regional Lexington, Ky. Rupp Arena
March 23-26 Idaho Regional Spokane, Wash. Veterans Memorial Arena

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Some close ones

It took two overtimes, but Green Bay upset #24 Purdue, 81-78.

#11 North Carolina survived #21 Oklahoma State, 79-77.

#23 Syracuse surged past Duquesne, 90-84.

Jewell Loyd lifted #3 Notre Dame past #15 Michigan State, 71-63.

#24 Georgia overtook Ohio State, 67-59.

Tulane held off LSU, 51-45.

#16 Nebraska vs. Washington State begins in five minutes, and it could be interesting, as the Cougars upset a few teams last year.

Full scoreboard.

Niagara team rescued from snow storm

After 24 hours stranded in a snow storm in upstate New York, the Niagara team was rescued today. Ordeal timeline.

Player news:

One season after her freshman "fog," Kentucky's Makayla Epps is starting to shine.

New Mexico has dismissed Ebony Walker following her arrest earlier this month for domestic assault.


Pac-12 associate commissioner Chris Dawson will chair the 2015-2016 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CSUN taking tremendous growth into a new season

The Cal State Northridge Matadors have come a long way under coach Jason Flowers and his staff.

Outside of the game, much going on

Today's results:

#14 Cal took care of Nevada, 76-54.

#22 Rutgers pushed past Northeastern, 74-60.

Texas Tech pulled it out over Texas State, 81-77.

Northwestern stifled Lousiana Tech, 69-57.

Jacksonville State knocked off Alabama, 64-62.

Full scoreboard.

More college news:

The red hot Stanford-UConn rivalry will continue.

Bless their hearts: the Niagara basketball team has been stranded on their bus in a snow storm for the last 24 hours.

Mount St. Joseph freshman Lauren Hill is unlikely to play again, as she continues to battle brain cancer.

Tennessee senior Cierra Burdick's summer of a lifetime prepared her for her last season in orange.

Versatile freshman Andreona Keys is making a quick impact for Purdue.

Iowa senior Kathryn Reynolds and her father have a special bond.

Guard Candice Warthen continues to defy odds for Arizona.

USA Today top 25 weekly poll: there's a new number one in town

Stanford's got the top spot in this week's USA Today top 25 poll, knocking UConn from the perch it's had since April, 2013:

1. Stanford
2. Notre Dame
3. South Carolina
4. Connecticut
5. Tennessee
6. Texas A&M
7. Duke
8. Maryland
9. Kentucky
10. Louisville
11. North Carolina
12. Baylor
13. Texas
14. Cal
15. Nebraska
16. West Virginia
17. Michigan State
18. Iowa
19. Oklahoma State
20. DePaul
21. Oregon State
22. Syracuse
23. James Madison
24. Rutgers
25. South Florida

How long has it been since James Madison, Rutgers and South Florida were ranked?

This is going to be a fun season.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stanford takes down UConn in overtime, 88-86

What a stunner:

#6 Stanford upset #1 UConn in overtime, 88-86. The Cardinal ended the Huskies' 47-game winning streak. They ended their 90-game winning streak on Dec. 30, 2010.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer post-game interview.

Chiney Ogwumike called it.

Stanford appears to be UConn's kryptonite.

The sign of a great coach is her ability to make the most out of what she has, no matter what. Tara VanDerveer deserves to be called one of the greatest coaches ever.

Upset #2:

The day's other major upset came as #13 Kentucky rallied from 14 down to upset #8 Baylor, 74-64.

More results...and several more overtimes:

Western Kentucky edged Colorado in overtime, 79-78.

Vanderbilt slipped past Green Bay in overtime, 68-64.

LSU beat Jackson State in overtime, 52-44.

#17 West Virginia held off Seton Hall, 89-87.

Middle Tennessee got past Miami, 53-48.

Boston University squeaked by Harvard, 63-62.

#4 Tennessee ran past Oral Roberts, 91-39.

Full scoreboard.

More news:

Coaching lessons from Michigan's Kim Barnes Arico.

Ohio State's shortened roster is bringing challenges.

It's a new season and a new era for Boston University.

Wisconsin's Dakota Whyte is hoping her time with Team Canada this past summer pays off.

Final Four sites chosen through 2020

Final Four cities have been chosen from 2017-2020. What it's looking like for the next six years:

2015 - Tampa, Fla.
2016 - Indianapolis, Ind.
2017 - Dallas, Tex.
2018 - Columbus, Ohio
2019 - Tampa, Fla.
2020 - New Orleans, La.

Predictable changes in AP top 25 poll

Predictably, UCLA and Dayton fell out of this week's AP top 25 poll. Georgia, Gonazaga and Purdue enter:

1. Connecticut
2. South Carolina
3. Notre Dame
4. Tennessee
5. Texas A&M
6. Stanford
7. Duke
8. Baylor
9. Maryland
10. Texas
11. North Carolina
12. Louisville
13. Kentucky
14. Cal
15. Michigan State
16. Nebraska
17. West Virginia
18. DePaul
19. Iowa
20. Oregon State
21. Oklahoma State
22. Rutgers
23. Syracuse
24. Georgia
24. Gonzaga
25. Purdue

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tyler Summitt wins coaching debut

Louisiana Tech pulled out a hard-fought one over SF Austin, 76-69:

He's now only 1,097 behind his mom, Hall of Famer Pat Summitt.

Ah, jokes.

No surprises on day two

Today's results:

#2 South Carolina had to turn it on in the final five minutes to beat USC, 70-61.

#5 Texas A&M, #9 Texas, #16 Nebraska, #17 West Virginia and #18 DePaul all won handily.

South Florida edged Villanova, 57-56.

LSU wiped away the memory of their loss last night with a 71-45 romp over Sam Houston.

Louisiana Tech is currently battling SF Austin as I write.

Full scoreboard.

More college news:

Minnesota's new fast-paced offense is producing immediate results.

Ogwumike news:

Stanford had Nneka and Chiney, and now Pepperdine has Olivia and Erica, who signed with the Waves earlier this week.

Chiney talks about the Cardinal experience.

More on last night

One more upset:

Washington State took down #22 Dayton, 76-60.

Team news:

Jasmine Jones and Isabelle Harrison were hurt last night in the Lady Vols' season opener.

Richmond honored fallen coaches Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis at halftime of their opener last night.

Nebraska's four seniors are aiming for a fourth Tournament trip.

Ten points of interest for UConn fans.

South Florida is aiming for the Final Four.

Player news:

Megan Lukan is the heart of Green Bay.

Thirty-nine games on tap today. Have fun!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tyler Summitt steps out of his mother's shadow

Thorough and amazing story:

Perhaps it was meant to be. A son trying to forge his identity in the shadow of his mother's legacy needed to face his first battle alone. He knows he will never escape being compared with her. And he's fine with that.

"I don't dislike the comparisons to my mom," he says. "I just have the ultimate respect for my mom."

Of course, he would prefer she be here, and she would like to be here, too. "I love him unconditionally," she says......

Over the next 40 minutes, he never sits. Not once. He stands, arms folded. He paces. He puts his hands on his hips. He calls to various players and stabs his right index finger into the air.

First day starts with intensity

Performances of the day:

Oklahoma beat the University of Washington, 90-80. But the real stories were that Sooner coach Sherri Coale got her 400th career win, and Husky sophomore Kelsey Plum broke the school record by putting up 45 points.

Rachel Banham scored her 2000th career point in Minnesota's win over Southeastern Louisiana, 109-60.


James Madison edged #23 UCLA, 91-87.

More results:

#3 Notre Dame thrashed UMass Lowell, 105-51.

#4 Tennessee vaulted by Penn, 97-52.

#5 Texas A&M shot past #18 DePaul, 76-68.

#6 Stanford pounded Boston College, 96-63.

#8 Baylor routed Oral Roberts, 101-60.

#11 Kentucky stifled Appalachian State, 111-74.

#12 Louisville downed IUPUI, 89-69.

#20 Oregon State beat Portland, 87-65.

Arizona State put away Middle Tennessee State, 81-67.

Oregon soared past Utah State, 100-77.

George Mason defeated Virginia Tech, 77-69. It was the first time George Mason had beaten Tech in 25 years.

Arkansas-Little Rock dominated LSU, 70-54.

Purdue got by Ball State, 66-60.

Bucknell slipped past Bowling Green, 53-52.

Michigan topped Detroit, 76-57.

Arkansas beat Nicholls State, 63-52.

Georgia rolled past Morgan State, 68-36.

Virginia squeaked by Ohio State, 87-82.

CSUN dropped Idaho, 67-50.

Penn State held off Towson, 71-64.

Georgia Tech annihilated Loyola Chicago, 92-57.

San Diego State outlasted Sacramento State, 99-91.

Northeastern survived Boston University, 75-74.

Auburn whooped Troy, 74-51.

(UConn is pummeling UC Davis as I publish this)

Full scoreboard.

Delta State dedicates Margaret Wade statue

Delta State honored former coach Margaret Wade today with a dedication of a statue on the campus:

“No single individual has had a larger impact on women’s athletics, especially in Mississippi, than coach Margaret Wade,” said Ronnie Mayers, director of athletics. “Her legacy lives on today through the countless young women who have the opportunity to participate and enjoy competitive sports.”

Video of the ceremony.

And we're off!

Some teams have already played and won/lost, but we'll get to that later. In the meantime.....


The Final Four could see some surprise teams.

Team news:

Oregon State preview.

Georgetown loses and gains.

Notre Dame is set to lift off.

Kentucky is hoping that smaller goals lead to bigger results.

Texas A&M is ready to prove it's an elite program.

St. Bonaventure is again out to prove critics wrong.

Coach Katy Steding is helping Boston University regroup.

Maryland is used to high expectations.

Ohio State will rely on its guards. New players must catch on fast.

LSU looks to replace their lost veterans.

Coach Bobbie Kelsey hasn't got Wisconsin out of its funk.

Promise promotes urgency for Minnesota. Five Gopher story lines.

Player news:

Central Michigan guard Crystal Bradford is working to get back to 100 percent.

Kiah Stokes will be vital for UConn. Teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has renewed focus in her senior season.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'Twas the night before season openers......

So nice to see this ready to go again with some games on tap.

Every year, it's Christmas in November for me.

Team news:

In her third year, coach Holly Warlick has adjusted into her own styles at Tennessee.

Behind the expectations of new coach Kelly Graves, Oregon opens the season tomorrow.

Gonzaga is testing their new point guards.

DePaul is out to build on their Sweet 16 success from last season.

Will North Carolina be even better this year?

Sights and sounds of Duke Blue Devil practice.

Richmond presses on as they remember their deceased coaches.

For Delaware, balanced scoring is vital.

James Madison looks to go farther this season.

East Carolina is set for unfamiliar territory.

Florida practice update.

Arizona is determined and ready to sacrifice for a breakthrough year.

Ohio State has a thin roster and lots of newcomers.

The Miami (Ohio) Redhawks are ready for the season.

Player/coach news:

A driven Jimmy Dykes is enjoying his coaching return at Arkansas.

Brittany Boyd is set to lead Cal.

Torrie Thornton is finally healthy for Purdue.

TV personalities:

Sue Bird will join ESPN calling games.

Tennessee Lady Vols 2014-2015: more joy, more smiles

Senior Ariel Massengale, above, will lead the Lady Vols along with fellow seniors Isabelle Harrison and Cierra Burdick. Photo by Maria Cornelius

Each year, I check in with longtime Tennessee Lady Vols beat reporter Maria M. Cornelius for her insight on the team, and for her outlook on the pending season. As always, she provides excellent perspective.

Sue Favor: How have the Lady Vols looked in practice these first few weeks?

Maria Cornelius: The coaches repeatedly have talked about how vocal the point guards are – Ariel Massengale, Andraya Carter and Jordan Reynolds. That sets the tone for practice because their voices have to be heard. The three of them will have the ball in their hands a lot this season with clear instructions from the staff – get it up court in a hurry. Reynolds showed in the exhibition game that she doesn’t need to be told twice. The sophomore guard pushed tempo throughout the game and always had her eyes looking up court to find a basket in transition.

The post game looks different with the absence of 6-6 center Mercedes Russell, who will use a redshirt year to fully recover from surgery on both feet and get into Division I basketball shape after months of being sidelined.

The good news is Bashaara Graves is back in beast mode form. Nia Moore also is getting a lot of practice reps with Russell out – the Lady Vols rotate in and out – and with one less true big, there are just three of them to rotate into drills.

Izzy Harrison should be an SEC Player of the Year candidate. She does deal with some tendinitis in her knee – Harrison has missed games at Tennessee because of knee injuries – and sometimes needs a little rest at practice, but she is consistent inside and also has been cited for being much more vocal this season.

Sue Favor: This is Holly Warlick’s third year as head coach. How is she flowing and growing into the role?

Maria Cornelius: She seems more confident overall. I think it gets lost sometimes that Warlick dealt with the heavy emotional burden of her coach, mentor and mother-figure being diagnosed with early onset dementia. She never had time to adjust – she had to handle so much more responsibility and continue to recruit elite athletes. Tennessee’s recruiting in the post-Summitt era has been outstanding, and that is a reflection of the effort put in by Warlick and her staff.

I also think it helps that half of the roster committed to play for Warlick. Those players chose Tennessee knowing Summitt would not be the head coach. The loss of Summitt on the sideline was crushing for the players who signed with her and has weighed heavy on them. That weight has started to finally lift for them. Add to that a roster of players in the classes of 2013 and 2014 who said yes to Warlick, and it creates a better situation.

Sue Favor: Have the offensive and/or defensive strategies changed much this year?

Maria Cornelius: Help-side defense – and making sure the freshmen learn it early – has been emphasized. Also, movement on offense and getting shooters open are major points of emphasis. With less interior size this season but athletic and mobile players, the Lady Vols are likely to line up in more four-out, one-in looks.

Tennessee played its first exhibition last Sunday, and the Carson-Newman coach was asked how the Lady Vols are different this season. Coach Mike Mincey mentioned size. He didn’t mean inside. Tennessee added 6-2 wings in Jaime Nared and Kortney Dunbar. The 6-2 Jasmine Jones also plays on the perimeter, though she will get to the paint, as will Nared. Dunbar is a long ball specialist but has the size to get inside and is an outstanding free throw shooter.

Sue Favor: How are Cierra Burdick, Ariel Massengale and Isabelle Harrison going to lead this team? Who else is a leader?

Maria Cornelius: Carter and Reynolds immediately come to mind as other leaders. Both attended Point Guard College – Carter in Atlanta, Reynolds in Portland – over the summer. It shows in their confidence and willingness to use their voices. Po int guards are natural leaders so Massengale is a natural fit for that role. Harrison should provide steady guidance for the youngsters, and Burdick has the urgency of a senior. They know the clock is ticking.

Sue Favor: How will the absence of Mercedes Russell impact the Lady Vols this year?

Maria Cornelius: Huge loss of personnel, no pun intended. If Harrison or Graves get in foul trouble, Nia Moore is the lone true post on the bench. Moore, as Warlick noted, has been the team’s biggest cheerleader for two years. She now has the chance to step up and provide effective minutes in the paint. She has a fluid release and is a fundamentally sound free throw shooter. She scored 29 points in the exhibition opener, though it’s hard to get a good gauge on any post player against an overmatched team. But Moore can help Tennessee, and she should get an opportunity to do so this season.

Russell, while playing on two bad feet, was a defensive presence around the basket with soft hands on offense. She will be missed, but a year to work on strength and conditioning means a dominant player should emerge.

Sue Favor: What is the best attribute of each of the freshmen: Jamie Nared, Kortney Dunbar and Alexa Middleton?

Maria Cornelius: Kortney Dunbar can shoot the basketball. She is adjusting to the pace of college basketball – and that can take time – but with more game reps, she will get more comfortable. She was making one-handed threes in a recent practice without leaving her feet – just lining them up and hitting net. She has a fluid stroke and the size to post up smaller guards and not just rely on her long ball. She will have to get stronger to compete inside, but she has a solid frame.

Alexa Middleton is fearless. She broke her nose in practice in October and returned to the court to finish the session. She will shoot the ball without hesitation, and she is unselfish. She is always looking to get the ball inside and can make pinpoint passes to the post. She also is adjusting to the pace of the game, especially on defense.

A made basket by Tennessee means get back on defense, and all three freshmen slipped in the exhibition game. Middleton is a glue-type player, as close to former Lady Vol Kellie Jolly as I have ever seen – steady, dependable and will slice you up on the court, figuratively speaking, to win. She is the quintessential Pat Summitt player.

Jaime Nared has quiet confidence and is not the least bit homesick, even though home is across the country in Oregon. She has finesse around the basket – a good thing – but also a grit about her. She also can hit the three ball. Her attitude is one of a competitor, and she is always smiling, too.

Tennessee will have multiple threats from the arc. All three freshmen need to get up to speed as quickly as possible on defense, because they can help the Lady Vols on offense.

Sue Favor: How far will Tennessee go in the NCAA Tournament this year? What are reasonable expectations for fans?

Maria Cornelius: This is a great question!

I said all summer the team had question marks, with the first being health. The loss of Russell is a major blow to interior depth. Also, Massengale, who has looked very good in preseason, is coming back after missing the final two months of the season under the concussion protocol and then had clean-up knee surgery in the off-season. Will she be healthy all season?

Meighan Simmons was a proven scorer willing to take shots in big-time situations – that is very much a mind-set – and she has departed. Who will fill that void? The freshmen have tremendous potential, but they are freshmen, and a college season – especially the rugged SEC – can wear down a newcomer.

Tennessee lost last season in the Sweet 16. They return essentially the same team, minus Simmons and now Russell, too, with three freshmen who are unproven on the college level. A fourth newcomer, Jannah Tucker, is tremendously talented, but she had off-season microfracture surgery on the same knee (ACL) that she injured before her senior year of high school. She hasn’t played basketball in two years and is not yet cleared for contact.

So, how angry are the returning players about that loss? How much are they seeking redemption? If healthy, I think Tennessee can make the Elite Eight. Can the Lady Vols make that next leap to the Final Four? The potential is there, but a lot has to line up as far as health, attitude and leadership.

Sue Favor: How is team chemistry looking?

Maria Cornelius: So far, very good. Players have mentioned a certain joy, more smiles. My theory, as mentioned above, is that the program has carried a crushing emotional weight from the loss of Pat Summitt as head coach. That took a cumulative toll on everyone, coaches, staff and players. It was a brutal ending to such a storied career and seeing Summitt – a coach they worshipped – be sidelined by early onset dementia settled over them and hung like heavy fog. That has started to lift as players have come in knowing Summitt would not be on the sideline. They didn’t have the expectation to be coached by Summitt and the crushing disappointment of not having that happen.

I don’t think Warlick gets enough credit for how she steadied a ship that was rocked by the news of Summitt’s disease, while also being devastated herself. She assembled a great staff, recruited well and she connects very well with the players.

I like this team. They have tremendous potential. I am very curious to see who steps up for Tennessee.

Redshirt sophomore Draya Carter launches a shot in a recent practice. She is expected to take the reins of leadership for the team, too. Photo by Maria Cornelius

Lunch load

Team news:

New faces, same expectations this year in the ACC.

Cal is hungry to live up to its billing

Contrasting styles will mark the Big Ten entrance for Rutgers.

Seminoles success continues, despite the lack of blue chips.

UC Davis tips off an optimistic season against UConn.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said her team is loaded.

Stanford preview.

USC is ready to build off last season.

Player/coach news:

Coach Holly Warlick is comfortable in her role with the #4 Lady Vols.

Kentucky's Makayla Epps is ready to play a big role in her sophomore season.

Laughter can't hide the pain for Purdue captain Liza Clemons.

Gonzaga is living by the Tinkle standard.

New Marquette coach Carolyn Kieger is trying to raise the bar.

Basketball is far from foreign for UMaine point guard Sigi Koizar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Less than 48 hours to go

Team news:

Baylor is strong as coach Kim Mulkey enters her 15th year.

Florida is gritty, and now has depth.

St. Bonaventure has the pieces to compete in the rugged A-10.

Oklahoma's new focus: own today.

South Dakota is hungry for more after last year's NCAA Tournament run.

South Carolina is ready for a Final Four run.

Minnesota enters the season with "more pieces to the puzzle."

Player/coach news:

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico's summer helping coach USA Basketball taught her much.

Coach Karl Smesko is carving out a name at Florida Gulf Coast.

Q&A with Florida State's Leticia Romero.

More on Lady Vols controversy

Lady Vols and fans are pushing back after Monday's announcement that the name would be dropped at Tennessee except for the school's basketball team.

It's making the fan base angry.

There's a petition to reinstate the Lady Vol name in all sports.

The name change is frustrating to some ex-Lady Vols. Some are blogging their concerns.

Pro and con debate.

Pat Summitt/Tyler Summitt:

Awesome piece on Tyler Summitt and Mickie DeMoss "paying it forward" in tribute to Pat Summitt.

Mid-major polls

ESPN's preseason mid-major top ten poll:

1. Dayton
2. Western Kentucky
3. George Washington
4. Green Bay
5. Wichita State
6. Florida Gulf Coast
7. Gonzaga
8. Middle Tennessee State
9. Marist
10. Colorado State

Ten players to watch:

1. Crystal Bradford, Central Michigan
2. Andrea Hoover, Dayton
3. Shereesha Richards, Albany
4. Jonquel Jones, George Washington
5. Natasha Cloud, St. Joseph's
6. Damika Martinez, Iona
7. Kim Demmings, Wright State
8. Alex Harden, Wichita State
9. Kelsey Minato, Army
10. Ashley Luke, Western Illinois

No surprises on signing day

Day one of the fall signing period was today, and the top ten announced their decisions.

UConn's haul has made for "the Geno Auriemma project, part I."

Signing day slideshow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Three days before tip off; signing day tomorrow

Team news:

Will this year's Gamecocks be worth the wait for coach Dawn Staley?

#11 Kentucky is looking to replace three starters.

The focus at Purdue is shifting to the inside. Assistant coach Kelly Komara is impressing the team.

A tough opening stretch awaits Nebraska, with a full away-game slate.

UCLA is reloaded this year.

The post-Jennifer Hamson era is in effect at BYU.

Stanford will be entertaining with their new game plan.

Louisville is moving on without high scorer Shoni Schimmel.

With four seniors, Tulane is eying an NCAA Tournament bid.

New stars are ready to emerge for James Madison.

Alabama A&M features a taller line up this year.

UConn has a new image this year.

Pat Summitt won't comment on Tennessee's brand restructuring.

Coach and player news:

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is not close to retirement.

Minnesota freshman Carlie Wagner has earned a starting spot for the season opener. In the meantime, senior Rachel Banham is poised for her final run.

Gonzaga senior Lindsay Sherbert is embracing her new coach and becoming a leader.

Dearica Hamby is ready for her final season at Wake Forest.

UConn's Morgan Tuck is happy and healthy, but it's a slow learning curve for the freshmen.

Freshman Zoe Correal is hoping to bring excitement to Colorado.

Butler guards Loryn Goodwin and Lexus Murry are suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

High school news:

Tomorrow is signing day, and ESPNW has a preview.

Pro news:

Brazilian Lynx forward Damiris Dantas seems ready for the spotlight.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Uncommon number of suspensions in preseason

So what's up with all the player suspensions the last two weeks? There have been more suspensions than I can remember in perhaps the last two years, and the season hasn't even started yet (!!)

Purdue kept this one on the low: point guard April Wilson was suspended for today's exhibition game. Was it for a "violation of team rules"? I don't get the secrecy.


Team/coach news:

It's a changing of the guards at Duke.

Pepperdine season outlook. (You know that Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike's little sister Olivia is a Wave, don't you??)

Chelsea Dermyer has been promoted to associate head coach at FGCU.

Assistant coach Ivory Latta relishes her role on North Carolina's staff.

Player news:

Stony Brook senior Jessica Ogunnarin has a fighting spirit both on and off the court.

Ole Miss senior Tia Faleru credits basketball for shaping the person she is today.

Texas Tech senior Kelsi Baker rehabs to play once again.

Pro news:

Here's where WNBA players are this winter.


I'm excited to know of one photographer's photo essay on New York City street ballers. I like his answer here, but the question is messed up:

SLAM: What did you learn from the women that were there, or was there anything that really struck you while watching and photographing them?

RN: There’s a lot of things. I really felt like they played the game the right way. They played with pride. They played hard. They competed against each other. But at the end of every game, they shook hands. There was obviously some sisterhood amongst the girls who play. The thing that I would say I learned from it is if you are doing something you love and enjoy, there are other people out there who love it and enjoy it too. These ladies obviously love basketball. Some of them—I overheard conversations of coming all the way from Brooklyn—made a significant effort to get there and come and play. You would not think there’d be a huge group of women streetball basketball players, but they found each other. I think that’s pretty cool…whatever your little niche is, there’s probably other people out there that are into it. We’ve all got our family, so to speak.

Apparently, we need more Becky Hammons.

Six days 'til the season!!

Team news:

#1 UConn is looking for a three-peat.

Everybody knows their names: South Carolina players are the new stars on campus.

Coach Marlene Stollings is set for success with the Gophers.

Husker coach Connie Yori has revived the program and taken it to the next level.

Kansas State is ready to lean on Bre Lewis.

Coach Bill Fennelly's marketing efforts built a fan base at Iowa State.

Depleted Ohio State is circling their wagons.

Player news:

Texas A&M junior guard/forward Courtney Williams has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules and athletic department policy.

Tennessee's Bashaara Graves is working to stop second-guessing herself.

Middle Tennessee senior Shanice Cason is a class of one.

Guard, forward or center - South Carolina's A'ja Wilson can do it all.

Rachel Theriot has broken out for Nebraska. The future is good in her hands.

Iowa State freshman Nakiah Bell adds to the team's deep point guard rotation.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Even top coaches say that dealing with today's athetes is hard

College coaches at all levels have commented, over the last 5-7 years, that coaching today's athletes is much different - and a lot harder - than it used to be. I remember reading a comment from Pat Summitt, before she retired, to that effect. Now UConn coach Geno Auriemma says the same thing, and he nails the problem on the head quite well:

"Most of it is the players who are coming out of high school now, they're not as well-prepared to play college basketball. What you're dealing with is a certain level of expectation that they have vs. the reality of what they can and cannot do."

"Kids get in there and the minute they struggle, which they are supposed to, they want to find somebody who is at fault for it. 'You told me in recruiting this.' Or their AAU coach says you don't know how to use them. Coaches are dealing with the expectations these kids have, that it takes a while to reach those expectations, and we're in a society that everything has to happen quickly or it's somebody's fault."

Yes indeed. I see the same thing at the high school level. It all results in circumstances like this.

A shake up, and more preparation

Player news:

Oregon's leading scorer, Chrishae Rowe, has been kicked off the team for rules violations. The team now has two returning starters.

Iowa's Logic sisters are preparing for the memory of a lifetime.

Saniya Chong is out to reclaim her time in the UConn rotation.

Rebecca Greenwell says Duke is ready to open the season.

Team news:

Youthful Maryland enters the Big Ten without All-American Alyssa Thomas.

Michigan coach Suzy Merchant is hoping for another conference title this season.

Kentucky's goal: to be the fastest in the country.

The freshmen will be the key to Louisville's success.

Texas is readying for the year.

Tulane season outlook.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

'Round the world

Player news:

Senior Ivory Crawford is ready to lead Illinois back to their winning ways.

Avyanna Young has rejoined Wisconsin.

Siena senior forward Kelsey Booth will miss the season with a hip injury.

Deanna Weaver is taking the reins at Boise State.

New Mexico has suspended team captain Ebony Walker indefinitely following a domestic violence incident.

ESPN has named its top 25 players for the year. Agree or disagree?

Coach news:

Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio is making an impact on her hometown basketball scene.

Lauren Hill:

The terminally ill Mount St. Joseph's freshman is on a Wheaties box.

Pro news:

Sparks forward Candace Parker is back to form after knee surgery earlier this fall: yesterday she lead her Russian team to a win with a double-double.

High school news:

Class of 2015 #11 Kalani Brown is the most sought-after recruit in the country at the moment.

So far, the top 20 college recruiting classes look like this:

1. Louisville
2. Connecticut
3. Duke
4. Texas
5. Notre Dame
6. North Carolina
7. Purdue
8. Nebraska
10. Maryland
11. Penn State
12. Tennessee
13. Kentucky
14. Baylor
15. Michigan
16. North Carolina State
17. California
18. Iowa
19. Kansas
20. Virginia Tech