Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bring 'em in

NCAA tournament first and second round sites are set -- for 2011. The link is below but the short version is this. Albuquerque, Auburn, Charlottesville, Cincinnati, College Park, Columbus, Durham, Knoxville, Salt Lake City, Spokane, Shreveport, Palo Alto, Storrs, University Park (Pa.) and Waco will be the hosts.

It's great to grow the game as the commercial says, but some of these are curious choices. Utah averaged 1,801 last year for a 23-10 team. Xavier had a stellar year with a 25-7 record but averaged 1,487.

I would love to see the schools market the first and second rounds starting now. Last year the site of the empty seats in too many arenas during tournament time overshadowed the basketball. Not everybody has the fan base of Tennessee (13,999 average), UConn (10,529) or upstart New Mexico (7,808). Let's be honest. Women's basketball is a niche sport and probably always will be. It needs to be marketed with dollar nights during the regular season. Giveaways bring people in the door. I recently saw my son lured to a religious ceremony with the promise of pizza and $500 cash.

If you're a women's basketball purist, you don't need anything but the game entice you to come. But most of us aren't purists. You get folks in the door and they might just come back. Market to high schools, appeal to high school coaches and as vile as it might sound to the diehards, toss in plenty of freebies as incentives.

As insane as it sounds, if I marketed the sport, I would simply go out and start talking to the people in my community one on one. Do you go to women's basketball games? What would get you to come? I'd want my building full during the national tournament. If I have to stand outside and give away tickets with free hotdog coupons -- or gas cards -- that's what I'd do. The game needs fans and fans come with exposure.

Growing the game is great. Growing your fan base is better.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few minutes with the Lady Monarchs

A year ago it was a season without precedent for the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs. The last glimpse fans who made the trek to Harrisonburg got was the Lady Monarch offering little resistance to Drexal – ODU’s first loss in 18 years of CAA tournament play. No bells sounded. There wasn’t a gasp. The game played out like a microcosm of a season that turned sour during conference play.

Some of it had to do with injuries, and the inability of ODU able to establish the chemistry that led the Lady Monarchs to nearly upset Tennessee. Some of was general malaise on the players’ parts. This team never came together the way all of its predecessors had for nearly two decades before in the league. Coach Wendy Larry will tell you there’s no reason to bring up last year as everybody remembers. Larry has always been able to take each year as essentially a separate entity, much to the chagrin of media that constantly besieges her with questions of “What’s it like to win 14, 15, 16 in a row?” Larry doesn’t count. It is more of a motivational tool during recruiting time. Sophomore Pryncess Tate Dublin was dazzled by enough conference championship rings to fill all the fingers and most of the toes that Larry toted with her during a visit.

This team needs to find its own place. It will bear little resemblance to last year’s Lady Monarchs given the crop of newcomers and five departures. Tiffany Green, Jazzmin Walters and Jen Nuzzo are lost to graduation. All three played significant starting roles. Sierra Little and Margaret Harvey have departed. Harvey had minimal impact last year, battling foot injuries throughout the season. Little showed promise at times, struggled at others. But she had experience in the post, something ODU lacks this season.

Jessica Canady is the team’s lone senior and a first-team selection but she continues to rehab her knee after surgery. Jo Guilford is also rehabbing the ACL she tore minutes into ODU’s first practice last year. ODU needs them both, particularly Canady.

If you’ve seen Tia Lewis run the floor, you see the potential. Great speed and touch. She practiced all year with ODU last season after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Lewis was Conference USA’s freshman of the year before leaving Central Florida. If she stays injury free, she could be a Player of the Year in the CAA.

Who’s ODU’s point guard? Jasmine Parker can do it but serves ODU better in the two spot. Larry likes what she sees out of Canadian freshman Carolann Cloutier, who at 5-9, gives ODU quite a presence at that spot. The difference maker at guard could be Kquanice Byrd, third nationally in scoring last year at Miami-Dade Junior College. Byrd and Cloutier are excellent prospects for the starting lineup.

It’s the typical schedule, but what a coup it would be for ODU to steal a win at Maryland on Nov. 19. ODU opens at home against Stanford, which will surely be the second ranked team in the nation behind UConn. Next comes Maryland, an ACC powerhouse since winning the national title in 2006. The Terps have good looking freshmen, but are really hurting in experience. Last year’s core, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman are now in the WNBA. Starter Marah Strickland transferred to South Carolina and reserve Drey Mingo left the program. Earlier this month Maryland announced that senior forward Dee Liles (10.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 52 percent FG) will also no longer be with the team. Maryland has nine – count ’em nine – freshmen and sophomores on its roster (think Kim Rodgers can get more than 10 seconds this time vs. the Lady Monarchs?). This is a great opportunity for ODU.

Just for kicks, check out the video on
Sister Sledge would have been proud.

That’s all for now. Are you up for some state rankings????

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One person's preseason Top 25

Everybody loves rankings, largely so they can pick them apart. It’s hard to believe anything you read about any team in the preseason because college media days are full of rhetoric. Coaches and players talk about how tough the conference is from top to bottom, even if they’re part of the lowest rated conference in the RPI. You hear clich├ęs about how conference games are dogfights every night and the race is wide open.

But there are only a few dozen really good teams. Here’s my early stab at selecting the first 25 of this college women’s season.

1. UConn: How hard is that? Even without Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore and Tina Charles should lead the Huskies to yet another NCAA title.
2. Stanford: It’s not just that Jayne Appel is a senior. The Cardinal has its point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude back along with Nnemukade Ogwumike, who’s as good as her name. Kayla Pederson isn’t too shabby either. Stanford opens with Old Dominion on Nov. 13.
3. Ohio State: Oh, how I loved Sam Prahalis in the NCAA tournament. Two-time Big 10 Player of the Year Jantel Lavender is back, too.
4. Notre Dame: A veteran-laden bunch that landed super frosh Skylar Diggens. Geno pick ’em to win the Big East (he can’t vote for his own team, you see), but there’s lots to like, including two top 10 freshmen.
5. Baylor: Kim Mulkey says don’t expect Brittney Griner to dominate as a freshman. But she’s 6-8. And she can dunk. Can she stay out of foul trouble? The Bears open against Tennessee on Nov. 15.
6. Duke: Jasmine Thomas leads a program that’s always a stalwart. I’m not in love with any one of their players. But I’d expect Duke to be where it usually is – in the mix.
7. North Carolina: Get a betting pool going on how many turnovers they’ll average. But it’s the score that counts and the youthful Tar Heels will put up plenty of points.
8. Tennessee: You can bet the Lady Vols won’t have a second straight disappointing year.
9. Texas: With their top two scorers back, you gotta think this is the year Coach G makes some noise in Austin.
10. Oklahoma: They don’t have Paris anymore. But they do have Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hand.

Anybody picking 11 through 25 is simply guessing. Here are my guesses.
11. Michigan State
12. LSU
13. Virginia
14. California
15. San Diego State
16. Louisville
17. Georgia Tech
18. Middle Tennessee State
19. Iowa State
20. Xavier
21. DePaul
22. Oklahoma State
23. Florida State
24. Kansas State
25. Kansas

A few thoughts. Bonnie Henrickson was considered a genius at Virginia Tech. This is her sixth year at Kansas, the runner-up in last year’s WNIT, and it will be fun to see if the Jayhawks can emerge in a trying conference. Kansas State always surprises me, and I like Ashley Sweat.

Virginia has plenty of potential and should be a top 10 team, but something seems to trip up the Cavaliers every year. If Monica Wright has her head together, the Cavaliers could be a threat in the ACC.

To start the season, I don’t like Maryland. Ditto for Rutgers. That’s not to say they won’t be good during the season. But the Terrapins don’t have Marissa Coleman anymore and Marah Strickland transferred to South Carolina. And Epiphanny Prince is skipping her senior year for international ball.

I love San Diego State. The Aztecs had their best season in 14 years last season, which included beating Texas. They return four starters. They beat DePaul in the NCAA tournament. What’s not to like?

And what about Oklahoma State? They had Andrea Riley but no chemistry last year. Coach Kurt Budke says Riley has put in great summer. She can score, but can she lead? If she can, the Cowgirls can be a force in the Big 12.

Stay tuned. We can probably toss this out once the games start.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Welcome to LadySwish

Simply put women’s basketball is our game and we love it. We want to share its storylines, its quirkiness and the sheer fun of it with you through LadySwish. We’re not looking to break big news here. The idea is to give more exposure to a game that is undiscovered by some and a passion for others. Maybe we’ll grab a few folks in between.

Tell us what you’d like to see, too. We’re Virginia-based, but anything is fair game. (We’re even trying our hand at a preseason Top 25). We’d love to hear from you. And we hope you’ll like hearing from us.