Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seminoles deserve an A for effort

Fascinating account by ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski of Florida State's preparation for Tuesday night's Elite Eight showdown (or should we say beatdown) with UConn. Usually we only read this kind of stuff after the underdog pulls off the upset. Obviously this time, despite FSU's best efforts, things didn't quite work out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

JMU's Evans deserving of a Lieberman mention

I have nothing against Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley, Ohio State's Sam Prahalis, Iowa State's Alison Lacey, St. John's Nadirah McKenith, DePaul's Sam Quigley, Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot, Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson and Duke's Jasmine Thomas. Truth be told, I haven't seen everyone on this list play a whole lot (specifically McKenith and Quigley). I have no doubt they are fine point guards -- perhaps the best in the game.

On Wednesday all ballots for the Nancy Lieberman Award are due. The winner will be announced on April 10 at a ceremony in Detroit. The aforementioned are the names on the final ballot.

It bothers us that Dawn Evans is not on the list. In fact, she didn't even make the "buzz list," generated by sportswriters nationwide. She didn't even make the list?

The Lieberman Award, which has gone to Renee Mongomery, Kristi Toliver, Ivory Latta and Sue Bird, three times. The criterion for the award is the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Nancy Lieberman during her career.

The James Madison point guard embodies this award. Did you catch the play she made seconds AFTER the Dukes fell to Temple in the NCAA Tournament's first round at the Constant Center? Evans collected the JMU players for a passionate huddle reminding her teammates of all they had accomplished during a tumultuous season, that included battling her own kidney disorder.

Sounds an awful lot like a player Lieberman would admire.

Been there, seen that - and a lot worse, too

In an earlier post, we likened Xavier's Dee Dee Jernigan missing the two layups at the end of Monday night's Elite Eight game against Stanford to Duke's Lindsey Harding bricking the two free throws at the end of the Blue Devils' one-point loss to Rutgers in the Sweet 16 in 2007. Well, Jernigan knows all about that sequence - as a freshman for the Scarlet Knights, Jernigan watched the entire thing from the Rutgers bench at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Jernigan's backstory is fascinating - and tragic. She was a McDonald's All-American. Her single mother died after a four-year battle with breast cancer when Jernigan was still a senior in high school, leaving Jernigan without a home address for several months. She committed to Purdue, then was granted a release when coach Kristy Curry left for Texas Tech. She endured the whole Don Imus circus and played sparingly at Rutgers, then transferred and spent a season ballin' for Wabash Valley College in Illinois before moving on to Xavier in 2008.

If anyone can put the two missed layups in perspective, it's this kid.

Wright an AP All-American

The honors continue to roll in for Virginia's Monica Wright, who on Tuesday was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press. Wright is the Cavaliers' first player to make the AP's top five; superstar Dawn Staley had already graduated by the time AP began choosing a women's All-America team in 1995.

Delaware's Elena Delle Donne was a third-team choice while James Madison's Dawn Evans received honorable mention (wonder how Kenny Brooks feels about this).

Click here for the complete list.

Hey, it's only (two) missed layups

During Gonzaga's warmups prior to the team's Sweet 16 game against Xavier on Saturday, one of the Zags missed an easy shot. "Gotta make your layups!" a member of the Xavier pep band bellowed.

Here's hoping none of the Zags stuck around Sacramento for Monday's Elite Eight finish.

Plain and simple, Dee Dee Jernigan choked. Twice. That's not me being cruel or insensitive. It's a fact. With the stakes at their highest and the game on the line, Jernigan found herself unable to do something which under normal circumstances she could do 100 times in a row while blindfolded.

Doesn't mean she's a bad kid, and it certainly doesn't mean she's a bad player. She's one heck of a player. But everyone who has played competitive sports has been in a situation where the pressure got to them. Jernigan's misfortune was that her choking moment occurred on national television.

“I was too anxious,” Jernigan said. “It was like a kid in a candy store. I was too open and didn’t think it was coming out.”

Surprisingly, that quote came from the Associated Press account of the game, not from Xavier's paper of record, the Cincinnati Enquirer. I figured the people that covered the Musketeers all season and had a staff reporter in California for the game would have the most poignant, detailed account of Jernigan's struggles. Instead, the writer spent most of his space detailing the game-winning coast-to-coast drive and layup by Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen and Xavier's gritty overall play. Jernigan's misadventures under the basket were briefly summarized in a paragraph two-thirds of the way into the story, and the player herself was never quoted.

Now there are many different ways to cover a game. But I'd bet 95 percent of the people watching that game came away wondering, "How could she have missed those layups!" And there's only one person who can give the answer.

This isn't to suggest it was easy to approach a clearly distraught Jernigan after the game. The last television image we saw was of her in a heap on the court in dismay. But given a chance to explain herself later, the same toughness that got her a full scholarship and a starting spot on one of the nation's best teams came through.

In fact, I'd argue that not approaching Jernigan after the game is making the situation even worse. I mean, she didn't commit a crime out there. The pressure got to her. It happens. Lindsey Harding choked, and is now enjoying a nice career in the WNBA. Chris Webber choked, then went on to become an NBA all-star.

Dee Dee Jernigan choked, and whatever bright future loomed for her Monday morning is still ahead of her Tuesday afternoon.

Just ask her.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Virginia's Wright gets defensive

Congratulations to Virginia's Monica Wright for winning the WBCA's Defensive Player of the Year award. Although certainly not its intent, the four-year-old award has wound up being sort of a consolation prize for its honoree after a bitter NCAA Tournament loss.

In 2007, Duke's Lindsey Harding won the inaugural DPOY trophy a few days after she missed two free throws with 0.1 seconds left in a 53-52 loss to Rutgers in the Sweet 16. (You know, if Harding doesn't miss those free throws, Rutgers never makes it to the final, Don Imus never calls them "nappy-headed hos", Imus doesn't get fired, Kia Vaughn never files and then withdraws her lawsuit....)

In 2008, Slyvia Fowles was selected the WBCA's top defender shortly after Alexis Hornbuckle's tip-in with 0.7 seconds remaining boosted Tennessee past LSU 47-46 and into the national title game. Last season, Vanderbilt's Jennifer Risper captured defensive player of the year honors soon after her Commodores blew an 18-point lead to Marissa Coleman-led Maryland. Coleman scored 42 points and his the go-ahead jumper with 28 seconds left in a 78-74 victory.

Now Wright gets the award a little over a week after her 34-point, 9-rebound, 6-steal effort fell just short in the Cavaliers' 69-67 first-round loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Funny, because everyone keeps telling us that defense wins championships.

The latest lines

Honestly, I've never placed a bet in my life. But I love looking at point spreads and getting a sense of who the smart folks think is supposed to beat who. So with that in mind....

Duke is a 1/2-point choice over Baylor - in essence, this is a pick 'em game.
Stanford is a 17-point favorite over Xavier

So if the lines are correct, tonight we should have one really close game and another verging on a blowout. But now that I think about it, that's pretty much what I thought before I looked at the lines....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We'll get 'em next year!

The 2009-10 season still has a few more dribbles left, but for the programs in Virginia, it's time to begin prepping for next season. Here's an extremely early look at each of the state's Division I teams in order of their final Ladyswish state ranking. We don't have complete data on all the incoming classes - none at all for Hampton, Longwood and Radford - but as we get their signing information, we'll pass it along. We'll also update any late signings/transfers for all the other schools.

The links under "incoming" direct you to the schools' official releases on their signings. Links under individual players provide more information about each one. Finally, if you know of any other signings/recruiting news regarding one or more of the teams, please pass it along.

1. Virginia
Season recap
: 21-10, 9-5 ACC (3rd), lost in quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament (N.C. State), No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round (No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay)
Outgoing: Monica Wright (23.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, ACC Player of the Year)
Incoming: Ataira Franklin, 5-10 G, Riverdale Baptist (Md.); Jazmin Pitts, 6-1 F, Cosby (Va.); Kelsey Wolfe, 5-9 G, Seneca Valley (Md.)
And don't forget about: China Crosby, 5-6 G, played in 13 games (5.9 ppg) before suffering a season-ending ACL injury at Colorado; Erinn Thompson, 6-4 C, appeared in just 3 games (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) before shutting it down with a leg injury
Early prognosis: Loads of good and potentially good players on hand. But someone needs to emerge as a difference-maker. Having two or three difference-makers would be even better.

2. James Madison
Season recap: 26-7, 13-5 CAA (2nd), won CAA Tournament, No. 9 seed in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round (No. 8 Temple)
Outgoing: Sarah Williams (8.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Incoming: Debbie Smith, 5-10, Hampton (Va.); Kirby Burkholder, 5-11 G/F, Turner Ashby.
And don't forget about: Lauren Whitehurst, 6-2 F, Indian River/Boston College (transfer, sat out 2009-10 season); Nichelle Glover, 6-1 forward and junior-college transfer played in 14 games, starting 7 (5.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg), but none after Jan. 10; Brittany Crowell, 5-9 G(1.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg) appeared in 7 games but none after Jan. 3. JMU said both Glover and Crowell were out for "personal reasons".
Early prognosis: Assuming the players take their offseason conditioning seriously, this loaded roster has Sweet 16 potential. But an awful lot rides on the health of star Dawn Evans.

3. Old Dominion
Season recap: 19-14, 14-4 CAA (1st), lost in CAA Tournament final (James Madison), lost in second round of the WNIT (at Providence)
Outgoing: Jessica Canady (9.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Vicki Collier (2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Incoming: Shakeva Richards, 6-1 F, Spalding High (Ga.); Brittany Campbell, 6-3 C, Brebeuf Jesuit (Ind.)
And don't forget about: Becca Allison, 5-8 freshman G from Scotland who redshirted the 2009-10 season
Early prognosis: If regaining the CAA title is the goal, a whole lot of work needs to be put in between now and Oct. 15

4. Richmond
Season recap: 20-13, 7-7 Atlantic 10 (8th); lost in Atlantic 10 quarterfinals (Xavier), lost in WNIT second round (at Syracuse)
Outgoing: Danielle Bell (6.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Nikita Thomas (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Incoming: Leah Johnson, 6-0 F, Patterson Catholic (N.J.); Kristina King, 5-10 G, Milton High (Ga.); Genevieve Okoro, 6-0 F, Eastern Regional (N.J.); Lauren Shute, 6-2 F, Dana Hills High (Calif.)
And don't forget about: Sam Bilney (medical redshirt, missed the last 12 games of the 08-09 season and all of 09-10 with a knee injury)
Early prognosis: The Spiders appear set for another nice season, but if they want more than that, more toughness, both physical and mental, will be required.

5. VCU
Season recap: 22-13, 12-6 CAA (3rd), lost in CAA Tournament semifinals (JMU), lost in third round of the WNIT (at Syracuse)
Outgoing: D'Andra Moss (17.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1st team All-CAA); Kita Waller (15.8 ppg, CAA Defensive Player of the Year, 2nd-team All-CAA; La'Tavia Rorie (13.8 ppg, played in 15 games before suffering career-ending ACL injury); Stephanie Solomon (1.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Incoming: Andrea Barbour, 5-10 G, Charlottesville High/Virginia Tech (ACC All-Rookie team)/Patrick Henry CC; Jacqueline Brewer, 5-10 G, Martinsburg (W.Va.); Shekina Henry, 6-2 F, Vidalia High (Ga.); Sonia Johnson, Heritage High/Delaware State(MEAC Rookie of the Year in 2009)/Patrick Henry CC; Robyn Parks, 6-0 G/F, North Point High (Md.); Zakia Williams, 5-7 G, Northside High (Ga.)
Early prognosis: Major transition year for the Rams. The good news is Beth Cunningham is bringing in lots of promising newcomers. The trick will be to getting them to gell quickly.

6. Liberty
Season recap
: 27-6, 14-2 Big South (2nd), won Big South Tournament, seeded No. 13 in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round (No. 4 Kentucky)
Outgoing: Amber Mays (8.4 ppg, 3.8 apg)
Incoming: Emily Frazier, 5-7 G, Magnolia, Ga. (homeschooled); Jasmine Gardner, 6-2 F, Mitchell High (Tenn.)
Early prognosis: Mays was an important piece, but with everyone else returning, the Lady Flames should be able to pick up pretty much where they left off.

7. Hampton
Season recap
: 20-12, 12-4 MEAC (2nd), won MEAC Tournament, seeded 15th in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round (No. 2 Duke)
Outgoing: Whitney Hill (7.8 ppg)
Incoming: Unavailable
Early prognosis: Love this group of returners. Like Liberty, the Lady Pirates are in position to build on last year's success right away.

8. Virginia Tech
Season recap: 15-15, 4-10 ACC (tied for 10th), lost in first round of the ACC Tournament (Boston College), declined WNIT bid
Outgoing: Lindsay Biggs (11.2 ppg), Utahya Drye (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, All-ACC honorable mention), Lakeishia Logan (2.1 ppg)
Incoming: Latorri Hines-Allen, 6-1 F, Montclair High (N.J.); Nia Evans, 6-0 F, Cedar Grove High (Ga.); Brittni Montgomery, 6-3 F, Ft. Pierce Central (Fla.); Monet Tellier, 5-11 G, East Mecklenburg High (N.C.) and Kyani White, 5-6 PG, Stonewall Jackson High (Va.)
And don't forget about: Elizabeth Basham, 6-2 Jr. F, who missed the entire 2009-10 season with a left shoulder injury
Early prognosis: A second straight dynamite recruiting class should make it realistic for the Hokies to move into the middle of the ACC pack

9. George Mason
Season recap: 10-20, 3-15 CAA (12th), lost in first round of the CAA Tournament (Delaware)Outgoing: RaShauna Hobbs (3.3 ppg)
Incoming: Ondrea Shaw, 6-4 C, Oak Hill Academy (Va.); Cierra Strickland, 5-10 G, Bishop McNamara (Md.)
And don't forget about: Evelyn Lewis, the 6-4 former Hampton High star who transferred from Penn State, and guard Taleia Moton, a 5-5 transfer from Radford. Both will be eligible to play for the Patriots in 2010-11
Early prognosis: The addition of much-needed size should allow the Patriots to pose many more challenges to opposing teams.

10. William and Mary
Season recap: 12-18, 5-13 CAA (11th), lost in first round of the CAA Tournament (Hofstra)
Outgoing: Tiffany Benson (8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, All-CAA Defensive team), Kelly Heath (2.0 ppg), Robyn Barton (1.5 ppg)
Incoming: Kaitlyn Mathieu, 6-2 C, Worcester Academy (Mass.); Victoria Willems, 6-2 G/F, MacArthur High (Texas)
Early prognosis: Benson was a terrific talent, but we actually expect the Tribe to be a better, more cohesive team next season.

11. Longwood
Season recap: 9-20 (Independent)
Outgoing: Becky Fernandes (6.1 ppg, 3.5 apg)
Incoming: Unavailable
Early prognosis: With so many returners, more improvement is likely from a team that by the end of the season was playing much better than that overall record.

12. Radford
Season recap: 6-22, 5-11 Big South (7th), lost in first round of Big South Tournament (Liberty)
Outgoing: Kymesha Alston (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2nd team All-Big South)
Incoming: Unavailable
And don't forget about: Erica Rivera, 5-8 Jr. G, a transfer from George Washington who will be eligible to play for the Highlanders in 2010-11.
Early prognosis: Honestly, we're not sure. On ability alone the Highlanders should be able to do much better than 6-22, especially in a league like the Big South. But we thought the same thing last year.

13. Norfolk State
Season recap: 4-23, 0-16 MEAC, lost in first round of MEAC Tournament (Bethune-Cookman)
Outgoing: None
Incoming: Carlon Chambers, 6-0 C, Herndon High (Va.), Raeshonn Corbo, 5-6 G, Paramus Catholic (N.J.), Rachel Gordon, 5-11 F, Osbourn Park High (Va.), Destiny Spence, 6-0 F, Massac County High (Ill.)
Early prognosis: Here's hoping the newcomers are ready to go. And is it too late to pick up a junior-college transfer or two?

Anne Donovan to Seton Hall?

That was quick - less than four months after being named the New York Liberty's head coach, former Old Dominion great Anne Donovan will bolt the WNBA and take over at Seton Hall, according to a report. If true this would be quite a coup for Seton Hall as Donovan, a New Jersey native, brings WNBA championship and Olympic gold-medal coaching experience and instant credibility. She'll need all of it, too, as Seton Hall went 1-15 in the Big East last season - and that conference figures to only get tougher in the years ahead.

Bet-cha by golly wow

UConn "only" a 28-point favorite against Iowa State? Seems kind of low to us, but the folks in Vegas usually know what they're doing. As for the other games today (for entertainment purposes only, of course), Florida State is a five-point favorite over Misssissippi State, Nebraska is a 4 1/2-point choice versus Oklahoma and Nebraska is a 7 1/2 point favorite against Kentucky.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Syracuse ends VCU's WNIT run

Thirty good minutes weren't quite enough for VCU, which fell at Syracuse Friday night 74-59 in the third round of the WNIT. The Rams (22-13) led by two at halftime and 51-48 after a D'Andra Moss 3-pointer with 10:55 left. But the Rams didn't score another field goal until the 1:27 mark, and the Orange capitalized on the drought to gradually pull away. That VCU ran out of gas was also evidenced in the rebounding stats. The Rams were just a few rebounds shy of the Orange through the first 30 minutes. But at game's end, Syracuse enjoyed a 54-32 advantage on the boards, including 24 offensive rebounds. Nine of those offensive rebounds came over the final 3:50. Moss closed out her stellar career with 31 points. But Courtney Hurt managed just 12 points (Hurt averaged 28 in VCU's first two WNIT games) and Kita Waller scored only 11 before fouling out late. Syracuse (25-10) will visit Michigan on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the WNIT quarterfinals.

VCU - the last team standing

A little over a week ago, the CAA was crowing about having seven teams involved in postseason play. Then the games started. Most of the league's teams aren't crowing any more:

James Madison - The NCAA-bound Dukes were blessed with a good first-round draw, generous fan support and a familiar setting in which to play. But when they couldn't match Temple's physicality or solve the Owls' defense, none of that mattered.

Drexel - When is an 18-point lead with less than seven minutes to play not enough? When you're the snakebitten Dragons, who still found a way to lose East Carolina in overtime. It was Drexel's sixth straight loss - all but one by two points or less or in overtime.

Delaware - With Elena Delle Donne sick, the rest of the Blue Hens felt her pain against Richmond.

Old Dominion - They got away with more turnovers than Sara Lee at home against American, but their stumblin' and bumblin' caught up to them at Syracuse.

Hofstra - The Pride's 76-68 triumph at Penn State was one of the most impressive by any CAA team all season. But they couldn't follow it up three days later and lost to VCU for the second time in nine days.

Towson - WBI first round: Fairfield 69, Towson 55. The Tigers started four seniors, against a team they probably knew nothing about in a tournament they'd never heard of. Not saying the Tigers didn't give 100-percent effort. But honestly, how geeked up do you think they were for this trip to Connecticut?

So that leaves VCU (22-12), which will visit Syracuse (24-10) tonight at 7 p.m. in the WNIT third round. Unlike with Towson, motivation is no longer in question with these Rams. After all, had they mailed it in during their first round, they would have gotten blown out at St. Joseph's. Instead, they pulled away late. And Hofstra beat VCU during the regular season. And the Pride played well enough to do it again Sunday had the Rams not been willing to dig in.

Besides, at this point the Rams can begin to see the finish line. A victory tonight would put them in the Pretty Good Eight - sorry, but the "Elite" teams are in the NCAAs - and send them to Michigan for a Sunday, 2 p.m. contest. And should they survive that, the Rams would be in the Final Four and on their way to either Providence (ugh) or Miami (hmmm...).

But first things first. Syracuse may not be anything special against Big East foes (9-10) but the Orange is 15-0 against non-conference teams. And the one time we paid attention to them this year, they were embarrassing Old Dominion 65-32 in Cancun. Surely the Rams will put up a better fight than the Lady Monarchs did back in November. But frankly, it's going to take something close to the Rams' best fight for them to keep marching on in this WNIT.

For VCU, this almost certainly means prime-time efforts from D'Andra Moss, Kita Waller and Courtney Hurt. The Rams had two of their Big Three clicking in each of their two previous WNIT wins - Hurt (29 points) and Moss (27) went off against St. Joe's, and Hurt (27) and Waller (27) led the way against Hofstra. But two out of three may not be enough this time.

Syracuse doesn't appear to be taking the Rams for granted, either. At least their coach isn't.

"They are a very tough and well-coached team," Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman said. "They are a team that can play with the middle-of-the-pack type BIG EAST teams which we are right now. It’s going to be a tough game and we’re just happy to be able to be on the floor and compete. They have a great coach so it’s going to be one of those games where I have to hold up my end of the bargain and our kids have to hold up their end.”

Hillsman and VCU's Beth Cunningham no doubt ran into each other often during recruiting last year, as both signed a player from North Point High in Waldorf, Md. for the 2010-11 season. Syracuse will welcome Tiara Butler, a 5-10 guard, while the Rams will add Butler's prep teammate Robyn Parks, a 6-0 wing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Win or lose, VCU should be OK

Wondering how VCU will survive next season without D'Andra Moss, Kita Waller and La'Tavia Rorie? So were we, until we started examining the Rams' incoming class and came across a familiar name.

Andrea Barbour? Why does that ring a bell? Thank God for Google. Oh, yeah, the ex-Charlottesville High star. Former Virginia Group AA State Player of the Year (2007). Thought she went to Virginia Tech.

Yep, did go to Tech. Averaged 15 a game in 2007-08, the eighth-highest total by a freshman in the nation that season. Made the ACC All-Freshman team (beating out, among others, Duke star Jasmine Thomas).

And then she left Blacksburg. Not sure what happened, but there would be no follow-up to that strong freshman year. That is, until the 5-10 shooting guard turned up last fall at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville. PHCC didn't field a team in 2008-09 because of a lack of interest, and the 2009-10 season would be the Lady Patriots' first as an NJCAA member. Furthermore, the head coach, longtime AAU coach Tony Jones, had never run a college program before.

But thanks to his AAU connections, Jones knew how to recruit. And by the time the 2009-10 season rolled around, Jones had assembled a talent-laden 12-player roster, with Barbour as the unquestioned star.

"She's now being recruited by every major school in the country, and we haven't even played a game yet," Jones said last October. "She's being recruited by Rutgers, Louisville, Kentucky, Clemson, you know, it goes on and on and on. She is that talented."

It's not often a player with these kinds of options lands at a mid-major school. But Barbour had already gone the big-school route, and it hadn't worked out. Citing a desire to stay close to home, she chose VCU.

She then commenced absolutely dominating junior-college competition. In the Lady Patriots' ninth game, Barbour recorded a triple-double (32 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). She had 34 and 12 to lead PHCC past Johnson County CC and into the NJCAA Division II Final Four, then dropped 45 on Kankakee CC in a 91-72 victory in the national semifinals.

"She was unreal, honestly," said Kankakee's Kayla Cripe, whose team went into the game with a 31-2 record and ranked fourth nationally. "We haven't really played anyone like that this year."

Patrick Henry's only loss on the season (24-1) came in the national title game, as they fell 72-62 to now four-time champion Kirkwood CC. But Barbour did all she could, as she led all scorers with 25 points. After the tournament, Barbour was presented the Cat Power Player Award for player best exemplifying "quality, reliability and durability."

Barbour will be one of six new Rams next season. Like all recruits, each of VCU's newcomers sounds promising on paper. But Barbour is a proven commodity. And while the CAA is certainly a few steps up from Division II junior college, the fact that Barbour averaged 15 a night as a freshman in the ACC suggests this kid will put it in the hole no matter what level she's at.

Suddenly, we're not nearly as worried about VCU's prospects for the 2010-11 season. But we are beginning to feel some concern for the rest of the CAA.

Looking back at Liberty

Pretty amazing season out in Lynchburg, where the Lady Flames used a retooled roster to win 27 games and scare the daylights out of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. And with just one senior departing, the best should be yet to come.

Head coaching opening at Georgia State

Georgia State is looking for a new coach after Lea Henry resigned earlier this week after 16 seasons. A former Tennessee starting point guard and gold medal-winning Olympian (1984), Henry led the Panthers to four 20-win seasons and three NCAA Tournament berths when the team played in the Atlantic Sun. But in five years in the CAA, the Panthers never won more conference games than they lost (25-65 overall), and last season's 15-15 record tied for their best overall record since joining the Colonial. Judging from some of her farewell remarks - "the time is right for me to pursue a new challenge" and "I am looking forward to my next opportunity in the game that I love" it's clear Henry isn't done coaching. She's simply done coaching at Georgia State.

Still pulling double duty

Thanks to the proliferation of postseason tournaments these days, there are nine schools that still have both men's and women's basketball teams in action as of March 25. And VCU is one of them - the Rams women's team will visit Syracuse Friday in the third round of the WNIT and the VCU men will play St. Louis in a best-of-three final series in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Five of the nine programs have both teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament.

The other two-sport survivors:

Syracuse - WNIT (women), NCAA (men)

Xavier - NCAA (men and women)

Kentucky - NCAA (men and women)

Tennessee - NCAA (men and women)

Baylor - NCAA (men and women)

Duke - NCAA (men and women)

Appalachian State - Tournament (men), Women's Basketball Invitational (women)

Missouri State - Tournament (men), WNIT (women)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NCAA second-round attendance

Attendance figures for the NCAA Tournament's 16 second-round games Monday and Tuesday. Norfolk's 4,832 for UConn-Temple was the sixth-highest figure and the best among the sites where the game didn't involve the host school.

Knoxville - 10,022
Tennessee 92, Dayton 64

Ames, Iowa - 6,498
Iowa State 60, Wisconsin-Green Bay 56

Norman, Okla. - 6,305
Oklahoma 60, Arkansas-Little Rock 44

South Bend, Ind. - 6,085
Notre Dame 84, Vermont 66

Stanford - 5,326
Stanford 96, Iowa 67

Norfolk - 4,832
UConn 90, Temple 36

Durham, N.C. - 4,044
Duke 60, LSU 52

Pittsburgh - 3,966
Mississippi State 87, Ohio State 67

Cincinnati - 3,637
Xavier 63, Vanderbilt 62

Louisville - 3,361
Kentucky 70, Michigan State 52

Seattle - 3,142
Gonzaga 72, Texas A&M 71

Tallahassee, Fla. - 2,510
Florida State 66, St. John's 65 (OT)

Minneapolis - 2,396
Nebraska 83, UCLA 70

Austin, Texas - 2,169
San Diego State 64, West Virginia 55

Berkeley, Calif - 1,497
Baylor 49, Georgetown 33

Tempe, Ariz. - 1,301
Georgia 74, Oklahoma State 71 (OT)

Return to glory? ODU must work at it

A year ago at about this time, mighty Tennessee lost its opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history. The very next day, the Lady Vols were in their gym practicing. And when the team reported for preseason workouts last fall, strength and conditioning coach Heather Mason said the players had worked harder during this offseason than any group in her seven years at UT.

Today, the Lady Vols have a 32-2 record and are two victories away from a return to the Final Four.

At this same point last year, Old Dominion was also reeling, having to watch the NCAAs unfold without them after surrendering the CAA title for the first time in 18 years. Not sure what the Lady Monarchs did the day after their season ended. But when Wendy Larry was asked during the preseason how many of her players paid the offseason price to make sure they didn't come up short again, the coach replied, "Some did, some didn't."

You can talk about injuries, a tough non-conference schedule and a shrinking talent gap among CAA teams all you want. But ever since Larry made that remark, one question has dogged us throughout ODU's less-than-satisfying 19-14, WNIT-bound season.

How badly do these Lady Monarchs want to be great?

Because if the goal truly is recapturing the CAA title and returning to the NCAAs, that process has to start now, when the lights are off and no one is watching. Because if you wait until November to rev things up, you're already months behind the other guys.

UConn, for example, has oodles of talent. But we're convinced it's because they train so hard during the offseason that their games look so easy. After their stunning 90-36 rout of Temple Tuesday night, star Maya Moore called it the result of 6 a.m. workouts back in September, running the same drill over and over, "so in a game in March we can just go out and enjoy it."

By contrast, by the time the Lady Monarchs got to the CAA final, they appeared tired and sluggish.

One group busted it collective tail during the offseason. The other? "Some did, some didn't."

We wish Larry had made her team sit as a group in the stands and watch the UConn machine at work Tuesday night. No one's expecting the Lady Monarchs to play that well. But they need to start training so they can play that hard. Everyone does. See, because the UConns and the Tennessees already enjoy a talent advantage. If they also work harder than everyone else, it's no wonder those two keep lording over the sport.

Of course, a dedicated offseason isn't going to turn ODU into UConn. But the Lady Monarchs aren't even the best team in the CAA any more. And unless they become the hardest-working team in the CAA, it might stay that way for a while.

The journey to becoming the team they used to be - and we assume they want to be again -starts this offseason. And unlike injuries, officiating, quality of opponent or any other theory promoted to explain ODU's struggles, this one is completely within their control.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday's recap (better late than never)

Wasn't feeling writing this, no doubt because the news is pretty depressing. And now with Old Dominion and Providence exiting the WNIT in the second round, we're running out of teams still in action. VCU, it's all on you now.

Providence 76, Old Dominion 61: Old Dominion turnovers - 22. Providence points off those turnovers -32. Any more questions? Didn't see this game, but we suspect that several of the turnovers were the kind of sloppy, unforced, can't-believe-they-did-that mistakes that have bedeviled ODU (19-14) all season. This Lady Monarchs team was guilty of this stuff even on its best days. It's hardly surprising that the turnover problem was front and central as to why their season came to an end.

Syracuse 69, Richmond 55: The Spiders (20-13) were an above-average team in just one area - forcing turnovers (they would have loved to match up with Old Dominion). When they Spiders turned teams over, they could compete with just about anyone. When they couldn't, they struggled. Monday night's game illustrated this perfectly. In the first half, the Spiders had six steals, forced 15 turnovers and led 29-23. In the second half, they had one steal, forced four turnovers and were outscored 46-26.

VCU (22-12), which is in the WNIT third round for the first time in program histoy, will take its shot at Syracuse (24-10) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Manley Field House in Syracuse, N.Y.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Just win, baby

Time and place are set for the third round of the WNIT, now all Old Dominion has to do is beat Providence in the second round of the tournament on Monday night in Mullaney Gym. The winner of Monday's game in Providence will travel to Maryland for a Thursday game at 7 p.m. ODU has already endured one trip to College Park this season, falling to the Terps 84-67 on Nov. 19.

Virginia Commonwealth is also in the third round of the WNIT and will play on the road against the winner of Monday's Richmond/Syracuse matchup.

ODU a winner in NCAA Tournament

Sunday's big winner at the Constant Center wasn't Temple and it wasn't even UConn. It was Norfolk, which had the moxie to put 6,325 fans in the seats despite the disappointment of the host team, Old Dominion, not being on the floor. Point the finger to the Huskies if you will, but if you were sitting in that arena, it was obvious UConn fans weren't making all the noise. As loud as the Southern band was, it appeared nobody made the trip from Baton Rouge, either. CAA neighbor James Madison added heavily to the turnstile count, but the terrific turnout relied heavily on these three letters: O-D-U.

Old Dominion fans filled plenty of those seats despite no rooting interest on the floor. These weren't fans of the Huskies or the Jaguars or the Owls or the Dukes -- they were women's basketball fans who took advantage of the national stage coming to their back yard. How envious must the folks in Durham be considering the 3,812 attendance for their pair of games that included Duke? And consider Stanford, make that No. 1 seed Stanford playing at home in Palo Alto, bringing in 5,645. That's not a shabby number by any stretch, but 680 more bodies made it to Norfolk.

The six other sites without host teams didn't fare nearly as well, specifically Tempe, Ariz. (1,455). Tallahassee had Florida State, but only brought in 2,357 and Austin was lucky to have Texas, yet just 3,178 showed up.

Credit ODU for doing the kind of job that makes us think back to the 2004 region featuring Minnesota vs. Duke in a REGION final that sold out the Constant Center.

So fear not, ODU fan. Given a turnout like Sunday's, the Constant Center will be hosting the first and second rounds of this tournament for years and years to come. And we have no doubt that next time, the Lady Monarchs will be part of the party on the floor.

Sunday scorecard

Highs and lows from a busy Sunday in women's basketball:


- The Temple defense: Long, physical and athletic, the Owls held James Madison to a season-low 53 points in a 12-point victory in the NCAA first round at ODU's Constant Center.

- Southern - for the first 39 seconds against UConn: OK, so it was only 2-0. But how many teams can even say they had a lead against the Huskies?

- The NCAA: A crowd of 6,325 at a subregional that didn't feature the host school? They couldn't have asked for a better turnout.

- Fans that came to see UConn's greatness: Huskies coach Geno Auriemma called the first five minutes of the second half of Sunday's 95-39 victory over Southern "about as good as I've seen us play all year." Said UConn star Maya Moore: "We weren't happy with our first-half play. We, as competitors, just wanted to respond."

- Virginia's Monica Wright: 34 points, 9 rebounds and 6 steals in the Cavaliers' 69-67 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay (When was the last time you saw a Top-25 team force 30 turnovers and still lose?). Boy, are the Cavaliers going to miss her. And not just for what she did on the floor. While Cavaliers fans are no doubt still screaming for a foul call on Wright's last-gasp tip-in attempt, "It shouldn't have come down to that situation," Wright said.

- Temple guard LaKeisha Eaddy, the primary defender responsible for Dawn Evans' 6-for-20, 18-point, 7 turnover performance. "I've guarded some of the top players in the I knew I could minimize her impact," Eddy said. "I wasn't really worried about it because I knew it wasn't just my responsibility but the whole team's responsibility. Added Temple coach Tonya Cardoza: "Our guys did a hell of a job shutting down one of the top scorers in the country."

- Fans of a teacher-vs.-pupil coaching matchup: "This is the story everybody wanted," said Cardoza, who spent 14 years as an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma before taking over at the Atlantic-10 school. "Our guys are excited because you have made it such a big story. And if we win, it'll be an even bigger story."

Kita Waller and Courtney Hurt: VCU stars scored 27 points apiece to lead the Rams past Hofstra 84-65 in a WNIT second-round game.


- Fans of the Commonwealth's hoops teams: Three days ago, we had Virginia, James Madison, Hampton and Liberty to root for in the NCAA Tournament. Now there are none.

- The Ladyswish first-round bracket: We got eight wrong, which is clearly nothing to brag about in this tournament. Marist over Georgetown? Ugh.

- Southern's post-game comments: Coach Sandy Pugh couldn't seem to understand why her players struggled so much (maybe UConn had something to do with it, huh, coach?). And the players appeared to believe the officiating was their biggest problem.

- Virginia's supporting cast: Guys, you're on your own now.

- JMU's Lauren Jimenez' free-throw shooting touch: Normally a sure-shooter at the line, Jimenez went 0-for-6 Sunday against Temple. Dukes coach Kenny Brooks acknowledged that this affected JMU's desire to pound the ball inside and put more pressure on the Dukes' perimeter game.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

They're packin' em in!

This just in - Norfolk is a GREAT women's basketball town. Must be, because there have to be at least 6,000 fans here at the Constant Center for a subregional that doesn't involve Old Dominion.

Of the eight subregional first-round sites on Saturday, only Knoxville (10,922) had in excess of 6,000. All but two (Stanford, 5,645) were at 4,000 or less. And both Stanford and Knoxville (Tennessee) featured the host school. The Lady Vols averaged well over 13,000 per game this season to lead the nation in attendance.

James Madison purple is out in full force throughout the Constant Center, and the UConn mystique is a powerful attraction. But it's not as though there's a ton of people here from Connecticut. No, the bulk of this crowd appears to be South Hampton Roads' folks that simply have women's basketball on the brain.

The NCAA needs to keep bringing its tournament here. The numbers don't lie - with or without Old Dominion.

By the way, UConn leads Southern by 46 with a little under 10 minutes left. The line is 49.

Would you take Southern and 49 points?

For entertainment purposes only....

UConn is a 49-point favorite over Southern today according to one sportsbook line. By the way, Southern was a 45-point underdog to No. 1 Duke the last time they played in the NCAA Tournament, in 2006 at this same Constant Center. The Jaguars lost by 67.

Temple is a one-point favorite against James Madison in the second game of today's Norfolk doubleheader.

The sounds of Southern

Southern has UConn beat in at least one category here at the Constant Center. The Huskies have a very good pep band. Southern's group is jammin'. Too bad this isn't "American Idol."

Saturday's media darling

In case you haven't seen them, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot weighed in on the remarkable Dawn Evans.

Norfolk subregional - Who's coming?

We're here at Old Dominion's Constant Center, but Old Dominion isn't. At least the Lady Monarchs aren't; they're on their way to Providence for Monday's night's WNIT second-rounder. So it'll be up to UConn, James Madison, Temple and Southern to sell the tickets for this NCAA subregional today and Tuesday.

Much has been made about how UConn fans travel well, and JMU's supporters are within relatively easy driving distance. But who's actually going to show up? Saturday's open practices were, to put it mildly, sparsely attended. Temperatures in the mid-70s will no doubt tempt many into looking for something to do outdoors. And the NCAA men's tournament is a powerful draw.

We know the ODU folks have been working on getting the word out for months, and by now even casual sports fans have some idea that this UConn team is a historic juggernaut. Also, we've heard a lot of chatter from JMU fans who say they're really looking forward to this. But when the ball's actually tipped off this afternoon, how many folks will actually be here to see them?

Here are the attendance figures for the eight subregionals that began play Saturday:

Tallahassee, Fla - 2,357
Louisiana Tech vs. Florida State
St. John's vs. Princeton

Knoxville, Tenn - 10,922
Austin Peay vs. Tennessee
Dayton vs. TCU

Durham, N.C. - 3,812
Hampton vs. Duke
LSU vs. Hartford

Stanford, Calif. - 5,645
UC Riverside-Stanford
Iowa vs. Rutgers

Tempe, Ariz - 1,455
Tulane vs. Georgia
Chattanooga vs. Oklahoma State

Seattle, Wash. - 3,656
Gonzaga-North Carolina
Texas A&M vs. Portland State

Berkeley, Calif. - 2,572
Georgetown vs. Marist
Baylor vs. Fresno State

Louisville - 3,560
Kentucky vs. Liberty
Michigan State vs. Bowling Green

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Liberty, Hampton fall in NCAAs

Liberty put up one heck of an effort; Hampton did all it could at a place where their superior foe virtually never loses. And while both teams were eliminated in Saturday's NCAA Tournament first round, the makeup of both rosters sets up some exciting possibilities for 2010-11.

Kentucky 83, Liberty 77
The 13th-seeded Lady Flames never lose when they shoot 50 percent, and they never lose when they score 70 or more points. That both occurred Saturday and they still lost says all you need to know about what kind of offensive show No. 4 Kentucky put on at Louisville's Freedom Hall.

Led by freshman A'dia Mathies (32 points), the Wildcats shot a ridiculous 72 percent in the second half to hold off Liberty's upset bid. For long stretches after the break it seemed as though several minutes would pass between Kentucky missed shots. It was simply a stunning display of marksmanship, particularly against a team that statistically has reigned as one of the nation's stingiest on defense all season.

Liberty (27-6) took the fight to Kentucky, notching the game's first six points, moved out to a 35-33 lead at halftime and piled up another 42 points after the break. Devon Brown finished with 24 points, Avery Warley added 17 and a game-high 14 rebounds, Kylee Beecher chipped in 16 points and Jelena Antic scored 10, the last three on a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.

And it still wasn't enough.

Liberty did have one offensive Achilles heel - turnovers, way too many of them (22). Kentucky turned those mistakes into 22 points.

Still, the Lady Flames didn't give this game away. Kentucky took it by making shot after shot and answering every Liberty challenge over the final 10 minutes.

Liberty can definitely build on this performance, though. The Lady Flames lose just one senior - point guard Amber Mays. The 6-foot-2 Antic missed several games this past season. Imagine a full year of her services. And Brown could be on the verge of blossoming into a true superstar.

Assuming everyone puts in their work in the offseason, the Lady Flames should be poised to do some real damage in the 2010-11 non-conference season. And that will be a key to making any kind of run in the NCAAs. Piling up wins in the Big South does nothing to prevent Liberty from getting the 13-15 seeds that set them up against elite teams from the jump.

Duke 72, Hampton 37

Let's face it, the Lady Pirates (20-12) were screwed as soon as the pairings came out. Cameron Indoor Stadium, with its raucous fans and intimidating aura, is one of the toughest places to play in the sport. Florida State, a top-10 team most of the year, lost there by 30. N.C. State, an NCAA qualifier, fell by 31. The Blue Devils came in having won 12 straight NCAA Tournament games on their home floor. Hampton could do little to prevent becoming consecutive victim No. 13.

That's why Hampton coach David Six spent little time breaking down the Xs and Os of Saturday's defeat. Instead, he spent his time at the podium driving home one theme - This is only the beginning.

We had a great season," Six said. "We were picked sixth in our conference and still won the MEAC Championship with seven freshmen and four sophomores. What we have to do now is take the blueprint from the Dukes, and the Tennessees and the UConns, and understand that they started somewhere too.”

Like Liberty, Hampton has so many returners they're in position to make a lot of November and December noise against some quality teams. They'll need to if they want to avoid another 15 seed, and Six knows it.

Our goal is to bring this program to the day when Hampton University knows the end before we win the MEAC," the coach said. "We want to play good teams outside of our conference so that we know that we’re in the NCAA’s before we win the MEAC.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Your NCAA Tournament guide

Having trouble filling out you're NCAA women's tournament bracket? Here's a primer on the 32 first-round matchups, with our picks in bold at the end of each one. You're on your own for successive rounds. Have some fun with it - we know we did.

P.S. - A word to the wise: our men's tournament bracket is already shot to pieces. Thanks for nothing, Georgetown.



No. 1 UConn (33-0) vs. No. 16 Southern (23-8)

Don't feel bad for the Jaguars. In addition to an all-expenses-paid trip to beautiful Norfolk, years from now Jamie Floyd and her teammates will be able to tell their children about they time they scored a few points against the most dominant team ever. Uh, Southern's players will score a few points, won't they? UConn

No. 8 Temple (24-8) vs. No. 9 James Madison (26-6)
After scouting this contest, UConn's Geno Auriemma becomes the 73rd head coach from a BCS conference to walk away from a Dawn Evans performance shaking his head and muttering, "Why didn't we recruit that kid?" By the way, there are 73 BCS schools. James Madison

Ames, Iowa
No. 5 Virginia (21-9) vs. No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-4)
The Cavaliers have vowed to make sure Monica Wright doesn't have to carry the whole load. Problem is, they made that same vow before the ACC Tournament, and we all know how that turned out. So while we're rooting for Virginia, we'll believe it when we see it. Wisconsin-Green Bay

No. 4 Iowa State (23-7) vs. No. 13 Lehigh (29-3)
Game will be played at Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum where the Cyclones average attendance is 9,663. A typical Mountain Hawks gate is 834. The entire enrollment of Lehigh University is 6,858. Iowa State

Tallahassee, Fla.
No. 6 St. John's (24-6) vs. No. 11 Princeton (26-2)
The Tigers enter on a 21-game winning streak; the Red Storm lost by "only" 14 at UConn. Advantage: St. John's. But don't sleep on Tigers freshman Niveen Rasheed. Girl can really ball.
Tiger tale: Niveen, the Palestinian-American shooting guard, and Laura Polansky, the Jewish point guard, are the best of friends - and it breaks them up in laughter than anyone would find that strange.

No. 3 Florida State (26-5) vs. No. 14 Louisiana Tech (23-8)
The last time the Lady Techsters were in the NCAA Tournament, in 2006, they were eliminated 80-71 by Florida State. The more things change.... Florida State
Seminole moment: For some reason, there was a lot of back-and-forth during the preseason about the merits of the Seminoles' sexy team website. Then the games started, and the Seminoles started kicking all kinds of butt on the court. And we don't hear much bitching about what kind of dresses they're wearing any more.

No. 7 Mississippi State (19-12) vs. No. 10 Middle Tennessee State (25-5)
MTSU's Alysha Clark, the Elena Delle Donne of the Sun Belt, will be bidding for her fourth straight 40-point game, and the high-scoring Raiders also start three other 1,000-point career scorers. For pure entertainment value, we'd love it if the Lady Bulldogs engaged these guys in a track meet. But we suspect Mississippi State is too smart for that. Mississippi State.
Bulldog bullet: It's now or never for both squads as each team starts four seniors.

No. 2 Ohio State (30-4) vs. No. 15 St. Francis (17-12)
If women's college basketball had more players like flashy point guard Samantha Prahalis, the sport would be a lot more fun to watch. More annoying to opponents and purists, too, but that's part of the fun, right? Anyway, Prahalis will dribble circles around these Terriers. Ohio State
Buckeye buzz: Prahalis' boyfriend is Ohio State men's basketball star Evan Turner, the soon-to-be national player of the year.

Knoxville, Tenn.
No. 1 Tennessee (30-2) vs. No. 16 Austin Peay (15-17)
The few Lady Govs fans sprinkled among the Lady Vols faithful at Thompson-Boling Arena won't need to bother delivering their infamous "Let's Go Peay!" chant. Their players might do it right there on the court once they get a taste of the Lady Vols' pressure. Tennessee
Peay shooters: The Lady Govs are just the eighth team ever to make the NCAA women's field with a losing record.

No. 8 Dayton (24-7) vs. No. 9 TCU (22-8)
The Horned Frogs were embarrassed in last season's NCAA first round as they got routed 90-55 by South Dakota State. We expect them to handle themselves much better this time around against a Dayton club getting its first real taste of life in the NCAAs. TCU
TCU tidbit: The Horned Frogs' best player, Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Helena Sverrisdottir, joined the Iceland National Team at age 14.

Berkeley, Calif.
No. 5 Georgetown (25-6) vs. No. 12 Marist (26-7)
We love what Suffolk's own Sugar Rogers has done for the Hoyas, but Marist is one of the most disciplined and battle-tested teams in this field. The seeding committee did Georgetown no favors with this matchup. Marist

No. 4 Baylor (23-9) vs. No. 13 Fresno State (27-6)
Brittney Griner will bring plenty of punch to the Baylor attack. Sorry about that. We mean, she'll take the fight to Fresno...oops, did it again. How 'bout if Griner gets a dunk, it'll be a real knockout blow to the....Cut it out! Baylor

Austin, Texas
No. 6 Texas (22-10) vs. No. 11 San Diego State (21-10)
The draw sets up nicely for the Longhorns - two games at home and then (most likely) an emotional showdown with Duke - which was formerly led by current Texas coach Gail Goestenkors - in the Sweet 16. The Longhorns should survive Step One - as long as they don't get caught peeking ahead. Texas
Texas toast
: Last season, San Diego State made its national breakthrough with a home triumph over then-No. 4 Texas. "I'll bet you they remember that game, and I know we sure do," SDSU coach Beth Burns said.

No. 3 West Virginia (28-5) vs. No. 14 Lamar (26-7)
Mountaineers coach Mike Carey is none-too-pleased about the second-round prospect of playing lower-seeded Texas on the Longhorns' home court. It's a legitimate beef, if they focus on that too much, Lamar could make it a non-issue. West Virginia
Lamar report: The Cardinals are led by former Oklahoma point guard Jenna Plumley, the Southland Conference Player of the Year who left the Sooners shortly after being arrested for shoplifting. Plumley led Lamar in scoring, 3-point shooting and assists - and no, she did not lead the Cardinals in steals.

Durham, N.C.
No. 7 LSU (20-9) vs. No. 10 Hartford (27-4)
Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks here - Hartford ranks third in the country in scoring defense; LSU checks in at No. 6. But the Hawks' defense will be missing a key component - America East Defensive Player of the Year Erica Beverly tore an ACL during the conference tournament semifinals and is done for the season. LSU
Tiger talk: In 1999, Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor drafted a point guard named Jen Rizzotti. Today Chancellor coaches LSU while Rizzotti coaches Hartford.

No. 2 Duke (27-5) vs. No. 15 Hampton (20-11)
A team from the MEAC has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1983, and if the league's champion keep getting draws like this, that streak won't end any time soon. Duke has won 12 straight NCAA Tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke

Stanford, Calif.
No. 1 Stanford (31-1) vs. No. 16 UC Riverside (17-15)
Sure, the Highlanders are about to be chewed up and spit out by the powerful Cardinal. But if there's any team that's just happy to be here, it's these guys. After all, on Jan. 14, UC Riverside's record was 3-12. Stanford
Cardinal cut
: In its last 53 games, Stanford is 0-2 against UConn and 51-0 against everyone else.

No. 8 Iowa (19-13) vs. No. 9 Rutgers (19-14)
With Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer pitted against her former school, expect lots of emotion - until the game starts. The players weren't around when Stringer was roaming the sidelines at Iowa, and they'll be out to make their own history. Rutgers

Tempe, Ariz.
No. 5 Georgia (23-8) vs. No. 12 Tulane (26-6)
Georgia's record looks pretty impressive until you realize the Lady Bulldogs started out 16-0. One more reason Georgia won't overlook Tulane - the Lady Bulldogs lost in the first round of this tournament last year, to a No. 11 seed. Georgia
Georgia report: The Lady Bulldogs are making their 16th straight NCAA appearance, and coach Andy Landers has been to the tournament 27 times, second only to Tennessee's Pat Summit (29).

No. 4 Oklahoma State (23-10) vs. No. 13 Chattanooga (24-8)
As Andrea Riley goes, so go the Cowgirls. And for this game at least, Riley will be gone - she's serving a one-game suspension for taking a whack at an LSU player in an NCAA Tournament game two years ago (Oklahoma State didn't make the NCAA field last season). Chattanooga

No. 6 Vanderbilt (22-10) vs. No. 11 DePaul (21-11)
Run-and-gun (DePaul) meets spread-the-floor-and-shoot-3s (Vandy). On a hunch, we're going to lean towards the athleticism. DePaul

No. 3 Xavier (27-3) vs. No. 14 East Tennessee State (23-8)
In Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris, the Musketeers have the most imposing frontcourt this side of Stanford. Of course, you can't win with just bigs alone. That is, unless you're at home against a 14 seed like ETSU. Xavier

No. 7 Gonzaga (27-4) vs. No. 10 North Carolina (19-11)
Sometimes, the records don't tell us much about the matchup. This is one of the times they do. Full credit to the Tar Heels for their stunning upset of Duke a couple of weeks ago. But outside of that, they really haven't been a very good team for about two months now. Gonzaga

No. 2 Texas A&M (25-7) vs. No. 15 Portland State (18-14)
They don't press like A&M in the Big Sky Conference. And the cool thing about this year's A&M team is that it's not just about defense. Coach Gary Blair calls this the best offensive team he's coached. Texas A&M

No. 1 Nebraska (30-1) vs. No. 16 Northern Iowa (17-15)
UNI freshman Mercedees Morgan and Nebraska senior Yvonne Turner both played at Bellevue East High in Omaha, Neb. And that, my friends, is about all these two teams have in common. Nebraska

No. 8 UCLA (24-8) vs. No. 9 North Carolina State (20-13)
In a one-on-one game pitting two ex-Lady Vols players, we'll take UCLA's Nikki Caldwell over N.C. State's Kelly Harper. Since those two are out of eligibility, we'll settle for Caldwell's Bruins over Harper's Wolfpack. UCLA

No. 5 Michigan State (22-9) vs. No. 12 Bowling Green (27-6)
Teams from the Mid-American Conference love to stick it to opponents from the high-and-mighty Big Ten, and the Falcons will get their chance on a neutral court. Bowling Green

No. 4 Kentucky (25-7) vs. No. 13 Liberty (27-5)
That the Lady Flames have 27 wins is remarkable considering the turnover from last season's NCAA Tournament team. But the Lady Flames have been unable to contain the few elite teams on their schedule, and this Kentucky bunch is probably the best one they've played all year. Kentucky.
Liberty leak: Lady Flames coach Carey Green likened Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap, the SEC Player of the Year, to ex-UNC great Marion Jones (the pre-BALCO version). "Dunlap is that type of athlete," Green said. "She's exceptional."

Norman, Okla.
No. 6 Georgia Tech (23-9) vs. No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock (26-6)
Classic NCAA matchup featuring a team that dominated a mid-major conference (UALR won 21 straight before dropping the Sun Belt Conference title in overtime) against a major-conference also-ran. We're rooting for the little guy; wish we had enough guts to pick 'em. Georgia Tech

No. 3 Oklahoma (23-10) vs. No. 14 South Dakota State (22-10)
The Jackrabbits are personal favorites, but that seed is a pretty accurate reflection of where they stand in this tournament's pecking order. Besides, the Sooners could have about 10,000 fans cheering them on at their Noble Center. Oklahoma

South Bend, Ind.
No. 7 Wisconsin (21-10) vs. No. 10 Vermont (26-6)
The Catamounts are 0-5 in NCAA Tournament play but rarely get this good of a look at a competitive matchup - last year they were seeded 16th and opened against UConn. We think they'll capitalize. Vermont

No. 2 Notre Dame (27-5) vs. 15 Cleveland State (19-13)
President Obama believes the Fighting Irish will make it all the way to the Final Four. That pick might cost him a few votes in Cleveland - that is, until this game is over and they see what the prez was getting at. Notre Dame

Talking about Providence

Old Dominion's second-round WNIT schedule is set - the Lady Monarchs will visit Providence on Monday at 7 p.m.

About Providence:

- The Friars have a 17-14 record and an RPI of 81 (ODU's RPI is 57).

- They finished tied with Syracuse for eighth place in the 16-team Big East. In the Big East Tournament second round, No. 9 Syracuse defeated No. 8 Providence 76-71.

- The game will be played at Alumni Hall, a 55-year-old on-campus facility that seats 2,620. Average attendance: 324. Providence is 10-4 in home games this season. ODU is 8-5 on the road.

- Common opponents: Providence split with Syracuse (W 71-69, L 76-71), beat St. Joseph's at home 88-57, lost at Hofstra 72-68 and lost at Louisville 67-48. ODU lost on a neutral floor to Syracuse (65-32) and Louisville (82-75), lost at St. Joseph's 78-62 and won at home against Hofstra 51-46.

- The Friars' top player is Chelsea Marandola, a 5-8 senior guard from Johnston, R.I., who was named to the 11-player All-Big-East first team. Marandola ranked fifth in the Big East in scoring (18.0), led the conference in free-throw percentage (91.2) was fourth in 3-point percentage (44.1) and ninth in steals (2.0). Here's a feature story on Marandola.

- Famous former Friar: ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke, an All-Big East performer during the mid-1980s who left the school as the conference's all-time assists leader (306). Burke also spent two years as a Providence assistant coach.

They said it

Sound bites from Thursday night's WNIT:

Hofstra 76, Penn State 68
“I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for this university. I’m embarrassed for our program that we would come out and give this effort. I think some of it is youth. Some of it is immaturity, but it’s inexcusable to not give the effort at this point in the season that you need to give.” - Penn State coach Coquese Washington. (

Richmond 67, Delaware 49
"The wind was kind of let out of our sails from the get-go." - Delaware coach Tina Martin, who took on Richmond Thursday with all-everything performer Elena Delle Donne battling flu-like symptons. At one point during the first half, Delle Donne excused herself from the bench to head to the locker room and throw up. (Delawareonline)

"It felt good to finally get the win on this floor." Richmond star and Camden, Del. native Brittani Shells, who scored 18 points in a triumphant return to Delaware's Carpenter Center. Shells had lost two state semifinal games in that building her final three years of high school. (Delawareonline)

North Carolina A&T 73, Wake Forest 49
"I thought they were intimidated by us and weren't really ready or well-prepared," North Carolina A&T's Jaleesa Sams. Wake finished fifth in the ACC and had held out hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. (Winston-Salem Journal)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Road no problem for VCU, Richmond in WNIT

A couple of days ago, we made a big deal about how teams rarely win on the road in the WNIT. After what happened Thursday, we're kind of sorry we brought it up.

VCU, Richmond and Hofstra all won in their opponents' gym in WNIT first-round play. Also on Thursday, Old Dominion learned that they will travel to Providence (17-14) for a second-round game on Monday at 7 p.m. The Friars advanced with a 64-58 victory over Boston University. Naturally, Providence was the road team.

VCU 74, St. Joseph's 63: Courtney Hurt established herself early at St. Joe's Hagan Arena, scoring 8 of the Rams' first 10 points and continuing to light the place up en route to a 29-point performance. Meanwhile, D'Andra Moss was doing a little bit of everything - 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. And while those two were handling most of the scoring, everyone chipped in on defense. The Rams (21-12) forced 24 St. Joe's turnovers and conspired to shut down Hawks center Ashley Logue, who scored 15 points in the first half but just two in the second. The result was VCU's second WNIT victory in three years, and it set up an all-CAA second-round showdown with Hofstra at VCU on Sunday at 4 p.m. It'll be the second Hofstra-VCU game in a little over a week - on March 12 the Rams topped the Pride 51-38 in the CAA quarterfinals at JMU. In the teams' other meeting, Hofstra prevailed 74-66 in Hempstead, N.Y. on Feb. 11.

Richmond 67, Delaware 49: Terrific effort by the Spiders (20-12), who shot 54 percent from the field, hit 9 of 16 3-pointers and enjoyed 9-rebound advantage on the boards. Richmond led by as many as 25 in the second half and cruised to a second-round matchup Monday at 7 p.m. at Syracuse, which crushed Harvard 87-68. Abby Oliver and Brittani Shells led Richmond's scoring assault with 18 points apiece. As for Delaware (21-12), the Blue Hens' effort to protect their homecourt took a severe blow well before tipoff as star Elena Delle Donne spent the day battling flu-like symptoms. Delle Donne hit just 1 of her 7 shots during a first half in which she shuttled in and out of the starting lineup and at one point retreated to the locker room. She still finished with 25 points, but much of that came after the Spiders were up by 20-plus. The effects of Delle Donne's injury were most noticeable on the defensive end, as she appeared to be a step slow contesting Richmond's forays to the hoop and wound up corralling only 3 rebounds.

Hofstra 76, Penn State 68: The Pride (20-13) scored exactly twice as many points Thursday night as they did in their offensively challenge CAA quarterfinal loss to VCU. Shante Evans: 14 points, 17 rebounds. She's a beast.

In one other WNIT result of note, North Carolina A&T ripped Wake Forest 73-49. Embarrassing performance by the Demon Deacons, in their own gym no less. No knock on A&T, but ACC teams shouldn't get slapped silly by anyone from the MEAC.

Finally, the CAA's lone representative in the WBI, Towson, fell at Fairfield Thursday night 69-55.

Delle Donne coming off the bench?

Delaware's Elena Delle Donne spent Thursday experiencing flu-like symptoms and was on the bench at tipoff of the Blue Hens' WNIT opener against Richmond - for all of 21 seconds. According to Delaware's radio announcers Delle Donne was receiving treatment shortly before the game and wasn't on the floor 10 minutes before tipoff. Because of that, had the Blue Hens started Delle Donne the team would have been assessed a technical foul. And while Delaware coach Tina Martin wasted no time in getting her star into the game, it will be interesting to see if whatever illness Delle Donne was dealing with impacts her performance tonight.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thursday's WNIT report

State teams in action

Richmond (19-12) at Delaware (21-11), 7 p.m.
We're expecting a raucous crowd at the Carpenter Center, but a chunk of those fans will be cheering for Richmond star and Camden, Del. native Brittani Shells, who grew up about 30 miles from the UD campus and played against Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne (and point guard Kayla Miller) in high school. Richmond's pressure defense should cause the Blue Hens guards fits, but the Spiders have no answer for Delle Donne. Then again, as we've seen several times this season, a strong team effort can trump the Blue Hens even on nights when Delle Donne gets hers - and sometimes, everyone else's too.

VCU (20-12) at St. Joseph’s (17-14), 7 p.m.
The Rams are led by seniors D'Andra Moss and Kita Waller, and it's always interesting to see how badly seniors want to keep playing in this non-NCAA event. The good news for VCU fans is Moss and Waller seem like ultra-competitive types who wouldn't dog it in a game of checkers, let alone tournament basketball. For what it's worth (not much), St. Joe's is 3-0 against teams from Virginia (George Mason, Old Dominion, Richmond).

Best of the rest

Hofstra at Penn State, 7 p.m. - The Lady Lions will have to adjust on the fly because, since most Hofstra games aren't on TV, coach Coquese Washington said she had trouble finding recent Pride film to break down.

Providence at Boston University, 7 p.m. - The winner will host Old Dominion most likely on Sunday or Monday. Providence looks to be the superior team, but as we've discussed before homecourt advantage is huge in this tournament.

The rest
Eastern Washington at Oregon
Pepperdine at BYU
Houston at Texas Tech
Eastern Illinois at Marquette
Mississippi at Samford
Gardner-Webb at Charlotte
North Carolina A&T at Wake Forest
South Florida at Florida
Florida Gulf Coast at Miami
Robert Morris at St. Bonaventure
Duquesne at Northwestern
Harvard at Syracuse

Wednesday's results

Old Dominion 63, American 55
Purdue 56, Eastern Michigan 50
Kansas 82, Prairie View A&M 70
Illinois State 57, Butler 54
New Mexico 66, SMU 51
Arizona State 84, New Mexico State 61
California 74, UC-Davis 69 (OT)

Old Dominion downs American in WNIT opener

It wasn't pretty, but.... Wait a minute. This is tournament time. Surviving and advancing is all that matters. Old Dominion 63, American 55. We'll take it. Who's next?

A few stray thoughts:

- At times Wednesday - particularly in the first half - ODU (19-13) displayed a lethal fastbreak. Too often this season there have been only three problems with the Lady Monarchs in transition - the pass, the catch and the finish. But during one enjoyable stretch of the first half, ODU handled all three expertly. Tia Lewis was particularly strong on the catch and finish - she speared a couple of passes out of the air as smoothly as a first baseman snagging a throw from shortstop.

- One of these days, Lewis is going to realize she's got all the physical tools to be a truly dominant player - and for a whole game, not just stretches.

- Although Wendy Larry no doubt had a ton of other things on her mind Wednesday, her green blouse signaled she didn't forget it was St. Patrick's Day.

- Nice to see former Princess Anne High star Raven Harris back in the 757. But it didn't take long for ODU's fans to let her know she was wearing the wrong colors. About two minutes into the game, after ODU's Kquanise Byrd rejected a Harris layup, one Lady Monarchs leatherlung bellowed, "Get that weak ---- outta here!

- Twenty-three ODU turnovers? Ugh. And no disrespect to American, but it's not like the Lady Monarchs were facing the Rutgers 55 press. We realize this ODU team is going to cough it up every now and then. But 23 times is way too much against this team. It's the single biggest reason why ODU won by 8 instead of 18-plus.

- Attendance: 790. Granted, most people didn't realize the game would be played until Tuesday. Granted, many ODU fans are in New Orleans preparing for the men's team in the NCAAs. And granted, there's a lot of disappointment over not making the NCAAs. But 790? C'mon, Lady Monarchs Nation.

- Next up for ODU - the winner of Thursday's Providence at Boston University first-round game, most likely either Sunday or Monday. This much is certain - ODU will be traveling somewhere for the contest, as the Constant Center will be booked solid during this time.

Oh no! Not Norfolk again

Said coach Sandy Pugh, whose Southern team will play UConn in the Constant Center on Sunday: "I was a little disappointed we’re going back to Norfolk. We’ve been there before. I was hoping to possibly go to Tennessee."

Southern's memory of Norfolk is losing in the first round of the NCAA tourney to Duke in 2006

Obama likes JMU - at least for one round

UConn over Stanford in the final? Hardly going out on a limb, President Obama. But I'm not mad at you - we're kind of expecting that same final. Besides, at least you did a women's bracket this year. Last year you took some heat for just picking the men's tournament. Served you right, too, especially since you're the father of two daughters. Anyway, thanks for stepping up with a women's bracket this time. And kudos for having the good sense to pick James Madison over Temple in the first round.

Virginia old home for tourney teams in Norfolk

We played the six games of separation game with the four teams headed to Norfolk for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament that start Sunday. Virginia, by the way, subs in for Kevin Bacon.

James Madison: The most obvious connection given JMU is a state school, and has four players from Virginia (Jalissa Taylor, Chesterfield; Courtney Hamner, Manassas; Nikki Newman, Harrisonburg; and home town girl Lauren Whitehurst Chesapeake (Indian River High). The Dukes have won the last two times they have played on the Constant Center floor, both times defeating ODU.

Temple? Consider the coaching staff. Head coach Tonya Cardoza graduated from Virginia in 1991 after leading the Cavaliers to four straight NCAA appearances including one Final Four. A Kodak Honor Mention All-American, she played in 121 games for Virginia.

Her assistant Waynetta Veney, a Hampton High School graduate, was the fiery point guard when East Carolina met ODU in the 2000 CAA tournament in the Constant Center. Veney was also an assistant to W&M coach Debbie Taylor.

Temple center Brittany Lewis, who won't be on the floor, is sitting out this season after transferring from Virginia Tech.

Southern? If you were around on March 20, 2006, you might remember Duke romping past Southern 96-27 (an NCAA record for lowest points scored in a game). They will play UConn on March 20, just so you know.

Southern also fell 67-41 this year to W&M at the Gator Classic consolation game.


A long, long time ago as Don McLean says in "American Pie,", Geno was assistant coach to Debbie Ryan (1981-85). Another less dubious connection, UConn routed Richmond this year on Nov. 27. The Huskies last played in Norfolk on Dec. 21, 2001, defeating the Lady Monarchs 84-70. They have never played in the Constant Center.

No place like home in the WNIT

Wanna win an easy bet? Challenge a friend to a pick-the-games-in-the-WNIT contest. And while they spend hours analyzing the various matchups, take about five minutes and pick every home team.

Then cut us in on your winnings.

The home court has historically been a wildly accurate predictor of final results in the WNIT, which this year will include 63 games and no neutral sites. The trend is particularly striking in the early rounds. Last year, for example, home teams went 14-2 in the first round, 15-1 in the second. Two years ago, host schools were 27-5 through the opening two rounds. In 2007, they went 28-4.

Overall, home teams won 81 percent of all WNIT games in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, home teams prevailed at an 85-percent clip.

This is great news for Old Dominion, which will enjoy the cozy confines of the Constant Center tonight against American. And it points out how the deck is stacked against Richmond, which visits Delaware Thursday, and VCU, which will travel to St. Joseph's the same day.

This isn't to say the Spiders and Rams can't win. But when it comes to having success in the WNIT, if you're playing on your home court, you can pretty much bet on it.

Bizarre JMU-UConn connection

Did James Madison help UConn land Rebecca Lobo? Not exactly. But in his latest blog entry, Mel Greenberg recounts how JMU's historic upset of No. 1 Penn State in the 1991 NCAA Tournament paved the way for a Huskies run that got them in tight with the eventual national player of the year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ODU vs. American in WNIT tipoff

The goal all season has been to open the postseason at home, but this isn't what Old Dominion had in mind - a first-round WNIT encounter with American University Wednesday night at the Constant Center. Meanwhile, the role ODU really wanted, participating hosts of two rounds of NCAA Tournament action at the Ted this weekend, will be assumed by James Madison.

The Lady Monarchs still have plenty to play for, though. And if they can approach WNIT play with the same zeal and mindset they would have brought to an NCAA appearance, they might find themselves still chasing a title long after most of the NCAA-bound teams have finished for the winter.

American (22-9) at Old Dominion (18-13), 7 p.m.

Local connection: Game will provide a homecoming of sorts for American sophomore point guard Raven Harris, a former star at juggernaut Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach.

Meaningless stat: ODU is 22-1 lifetime against American, a one-time CAA member now playing out of the Patriot League. But the teams haven't met in nearly a decade, so none of these players have anything to do with it.

Home sweet home?: The Lady Monarchs are just 2-3 in their last five games at the Constant Center.

At stake: The winner will meet Thursday's Providence at Boston University winner in the second round, date and site to be determined.

About the matchup: The biggest thing about American is they don't beat themselves. Led by Patriot League Player of the Year Michelle Kirk, they make their free throws, don't turn the ball over and hold their own on the boards. If a team like this gets comfortable, it'll carve you up. The Eagles aren't a great offensive team, though, and we feel as though Old Dominion's defense, led by guards Jasmine Parker and Kquanise Bryd, can disrupt a lot of what American wants to run. Too often, however, the Lady Monarchs offset their nice work at one end of the floor with a sloppy turnover at the other. At this stage of the season, it seems clear that this ODU team is simply going to have to live with more giveaways than optimal. What they can control is re-asserting themselves on the boards, something they've struggled with of late. If the Lady Monarchs defend with passion and take care the glass, their turnovers probably won't kill them. Oh, and a return to offensive form by Shadasia Green would help, too. Green is pretty central to what ODU wants to do but has seen her shot desert her the last four games.

Key to the game: Who really wants to play? Both teams fell one conference championship loss short of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament - American on Saturday, ODU on Sunday - and apparently the Lady Monarchs went into Monday still holding out faint hopes for an at-large bid. Everyone is saying the right things about laying it on the line Wednesday night, but often teams simply can't - or won't - perform in the WNIT with their usual conviction. We're not saying this will be the case for either of these teams. But given how much both had their hearts set on playing in the NCAAs, it's a fair question.

Postseason patter

Random thoughts as we gear up for the biggest postseason in NCAA women's basketball history:

- With 144 postseason spots to fill (64 NCAA, 64 WNIT and 16 WBI), clearly you don't have to be great, or even very good, to get an invitation somewhere. Basically, if you're in the top 130 of the RPI and have a .500 or better record - and in a couple of cases, even if you don't - you're still playing.

- Besides Virginia Tech, Southern California (RPI: 36) and Boston College (48) are on record as declining WNIT bids. BC senior and former American Idol contestant Ayla Brown used Twitter to voice her disagreement:

"coach declined our invitation to play in the wnit. As a sr it wouldve been nice to kno this earlier that it was my last game. I'm disgusted."

- Hey, Elena, the WNIT record for points in a game is 45 by ex-Memphis star - and cousin of my best friend in college -Tamika Whitmore. I'm just saying....

- Disappointing to see the WBI sacrifice its credibility by inviting Louisville with its 14-17 record and 11th-place finish in the Big East. It's not like the Cardinals finished strong, either, as they dropped three of their last four and ended with a 37-point loss to Notre Dame. And the invitation didn't come because the WBI couldn't find anyone else. Louisville announced it was WBI-bound last week, three days before the rest of the field was unveiled. And worst of all, Louisville will open WBI with a home game.

- The WNIT may start off as a series of off-Broadway productions compared to the glitzy, nationally televised NCAA games, and a lot of people probably still don't even know the WBI exists. But history has shown teams that can make deep runs often find their fans turning the late-round contests into really big deals. Last year, Kansas drew a program-record 16,113 for its title-game loss to South Florida. And three years ago, eventual champion Wyoming drew three crowds in excess of 11,000 for the quarterfinals, semifinals and final, with 15,462 showing up for the championship game.

The magnificent seven

Seven CAA teams involved in postseason play? What is this, the Big 12?

Well not exactly, since only one team (James Madison) is headed to the NCAA Tournament. Five teams (ODU, Drexel, VCU, Hofstra, Delaware) will play in the WNIT. Now Towson has learned it has won a trip to Fairfield (the other Connecticut team) for a WBI game on Thursday. WBI is an upstart tournament relative to the CBI, a third-tier men's tournament (ODU men got to the quarters in that two years ago).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Richmond, VCU to play in WNIT

More WNIT news.....


Richmond at Delaware
VCU at St. Joseph's
Hofstra at Penn State


East Carolina at Drexel

And as we mentioned earlier, American at ODU on Wednesday

ODU gets at least one more

Old Dominion isn't done yet. The Lady Monarchs (18-13) will host Patriot League Tournament runner-up American (22-9) on Wednesday at the Constant Center in the first round of the WNIT. Those old CAA sparring partners used to play twice a year until the Eagles moved to the Patriot league in 2001. ODU holds a 22-1 record in the series. ODU has never played in the WNIT.

We're waiting on the rest of the bracket.

Santa Claus, I mean UConn, headed to Norfolk

Is that the Constant Center folks we hear tap dancing on the tables? No, ODU did not miraculously make it to the NCAA tournament, but it's the next best thing. No. 1 No. 1 seed UConn and its boatload of fans are Norfolk bound for a first-round date with Southern on Sunday. And waiting in the wings, either No. 9 James Madison or No. 8 Temple. (Kenny Brooks said in an earlier Twitter he wanted to play in Norfolk.)

Virginia, a 5 seed, has Green Bay in the first round, but a win means the Cavs would likely go against Iowa State on its home floor. The Cyclones meet Lehigh in the first round.

And lucky Liberty. Even if the 13th-ranked Lady Flames don't beat Kentucky, at least they get to enjoy the beautiful scenery in Berkeley.

No surprises for MEAC champ Hampton. The 15th-seeded Lady Pirates get second-seed Duke in Durham. By the way, major props to Hampton's administration for wasting no time in rewarding coach David Six by removing his interim tag and inking him to a three-year deal.

Check out the full 64-team bracket and stay tuned. We'll have WNIT pairings and WBI info later Monday night.

JMU, Liberty, Hampton, Virginia find out their dancing partners tonight at 7

They might have been seeded No. 2, but they finished No. 1.

The state's three Division I conference champions - JMU (CAA), Liberty (Big South) and Hampton (MEAC) were all seeded No. 2 in their tournaments. Both the Dukes and the Lady Flames beat No. 1 seeds in the title game.- Virginia is a lock to make it four Commonwealth teams when the field is announced tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN).

Take a look at ESPN's final Bracketology if you want an educated guess on how the pairings will line up. Liberty vs. Baylor? Hmmm....And did we speak to soon about the Huskies coming. Charlie Creme has them going to Pitt and projects Oklahoma State (we compare Andrea Riley to Iverson), Michigan, Lehigh and Georgetown (Sugar, sugar would get to play in front of friends and family.

Three other state teams, Old Dominion, Richmond and VCU, should have the opportunity to continue their seasons in either the WNIT (most likely) or the new, 16-team Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). Both of those fields will be announced after the NCAA does its business later tonight.- It will be interesting to see which teams opt for the new WBI. Louisville has already accepted one invitational; the Big East's Cardinals reached the NCAA title game last season but went just 14-17 in 2009-10. We're guessing you couldn't find 10 folks who know what the WBI is.

Looking back at the CAA Tournament

Last December, we asked several players for their New Year's resolutions. The responses included this one from James Madison freshman Tarik Hislop: "My New Year's resolution is to bring the intensity every night for every game, no matter who the opponent. And my team's New Year's resolution is to win the CAA championship." Looks like Hislop went 2-for-2.

- Much of the talk heading into the CAA tournament centered on how anyone could win it. That's good PR for the conference - the more fans believe their team has a chance, the more interest is sustained across the board. As it turned out, though, form most held throughout the championships. Eight of the 11 games were won by the higher seed, and two of those "upsets" - No. 5 Delaware nipping No. 4 Drexel in the teams' third overtime game of the season and No. 2 James Madison defending its home court in the final against No. 1 Old Dominion - weren't terribly surprising. Only No. 10 UNC Wilmington's 50-30 rout of No. 7 Towson falls into the "Huh?" category. But who knew the Tigers would leave their offense in Baltimore?

- Brittany Wilson update: Here's the latest from the Northeastern sports information department on Wilson, the Northeastern star who suffered a seizure after an Old Dominion player landed on top of her during a CAA quarterfinal last Friday: "Brittany suffered a concussion but her CT scans came back negative and she was released from the hospital later in the day. She slept through most of Friday and on the bus Saturday (we had a sleeper bus), but when she was up and about she was her normal self."

- Coaching clinic: With Old Dominion down 13 in Sunday's CAA final and less than a minute to go, Jasmine Parker picked up her fifth foul with a frustration hack at JMU's Jalissa Taylor. Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry calmly called her players to the bench, and in about 15 seconds sternly - but with a hint of compassion - explained to them why they were losing - "The team that works the hardest wins" - and how they were to conduct themselves the rest of the way - "We show class! Show class!" Yet another reason why Lady Monarchs fans should be thankful their team has Larry as a coach - and that Comcast Sportsnet has excellent sideline microphones.

- It was nice of Delaware coach Tina Martin to vow "We will be back!" after the Blue Hens' 50-49 loss to Old Dominion in the CAA semis. But if I was a rival coach, that's exactly what I'd be hoping - that that same Delaware team will be back next season and beyond. This isn't meant to disparage the non-Elena Delle Donne Blue Hens, and we'll take them at their word that they'll buts their tails this offseason to improve. But if Delaware wants to max out with a once-in-a-generation talent like Delle Donne, clearly an infusion of talent is required. So far Delaware has signed just one incoming recruit, and she's an accomplished one - Virginia's own Kelsey Buchanan, a 6-3 center who on Saturday had 24 points and 16 rebounds in leading Freedom High to its second straight Division 4 state title. But aren't there others that want to play with a talent like Delle Donne? Martin said in a News-Journal story that last summer, the high-profile recruits were more interested in playing in the big conferences. But that was when Delle Donne was mostly hype, myth and rumor. Now that she's proven to be everything as advertised - and then some - it'll be interesting to see what happens when Martin hits those same trails again.