Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Just like that, it's over.

I'm in shock, to be honest. I'm not sure what to make of the loss to LSU. My first reaction is sadness for the team. They are a great bunch of kids. You always want to see them happy. To see them crying is a shame.

They will be back, I am sure.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rutgers is slapping around Arizona State and are on course for Cleveland. Provided UConn wins tonight against LSU, the Huskies and Scarlet Knights will meet in the Final Four. They will also face each other for a fourth time, something UConn has never done with any opponent.
Today has been exciting.

First there was no hot water at the hotel.

Then when we arrive at the arena, we are told we can't park in the media lot because we were supposed to have a parking pass that wasn't needed all weekend.

After that, the wireless internet service went kaput.

Fresno, how I love thee.
I forgot to pass along one of my favorite stories of my time in Fresno.

Last night I had dinner with Rich from the Willimantic Chronicle, Tim from the Meriden Record-Journal and Mike and Vickie from The New London Day.

First I need to say that you don't expect to find as much good restaurants in Fresno as you would in a bigger city, but our meal at Livingston's was fantastic. The highlight was the Tortilla Soup. They need to serve it in gallon portions.

Anyhow, as we are about to turn into the hotel parking lot, we pull up to a red light and a car stops next to us blasting a P-Diddy (or whatever his name is now) song. What Mike did next nearly forced Rich to fall over laughing when we exited the car.

Mike looks over at the other car, which was on our right, and turns up his radio to match the volume of the adjacent car. Playing? Herb Alpert.
It's game here in Fresno and I think it's time I make a prediction.

This may be confusing, but I have been more concerned with facing LSU than N.C. State. But I had a bad feeling about the N.C. State game.

The biggest difference is that LSU has the athletic ability to compete with UConn top to bottom. That said, I don't think neither team is going to play as well as they did in February down in Baton Rouge, La. Nor do I think LSU has more than one player who be expected to support Sylvia Fowles. There's just a lot of inconsistant play offensively. They do play solid defense -- something that didn't happen in the prior meeting.

In the end, I am taking the Huskies to advance on to Cleveland and the Final Four with a 73-61 win.
Fresno has been an OK host for the regional portion of the tournament. Aside from the lack of shuttle service to and from the hotel (I walked again before being picked up by Mike and Vickie from The Day), there is a heavy lack of support for women's basketball.

From apathetic fans to indifferent locals, this isn't where the games should be played and the NCAA -- and ESPN -- need to take notice.

Why not Seattle? San Francisco? Los Angeles? San Diego? Las Vegas? Phoenix? Tempe? Salt Lake City? San Antonio? Houston? St. Louis? Minneapolis? Sacramento?

There would have been more that 3-4,000 fans in the arena had the regional been elsewhere.

Shame on the NCAA for not being more particular in a host city's ability to successfully host games.
There was an interesting sense of dullness coming from LSU Sunday. The players and coach Bob Starkey sounded more like they are just happy as clams to be here in Fresno.

Starkey downplayed all the talk of LSU's vaunted defense by saying the last time the Lady Tigers played UConn, LSU played well and still couldn't stop the Huskies.

On the other side of the equation, the Huskies sound very much like a team on a mission. It is as if they just want to win this game to shake all the pressure that resulted in last year's loss to Duke in the same round.

While there may be some relief with a win over LSU, if the Huskies have to play Rutgers in the Final Four, the questions will return after the Scarlet Knights won the Big East Tournament against the Huskies at Hartford.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Back where they were a year ago: the Elite Eight.

Last year, a misses shot by Charde Houston at the buzzer sealed the Huskies' fate as they lost a heartbreaker to Duke. But now the Huskies find themselves faced with LSU, a team they know and played a month ago.

Charde Houston said she doesn't think about that game or that shot much these days. Good for her. She said the focus is on doing what she has to to help her team win the game at hand.

Saying you look only at the current game and not the potential next game is hard to do. Almost impossible. The HUskies have said that's what they do all season. Although when the Tennessee game came around, several players admitted that they had been thinking about the Lady Vols for weeks. Maybe having some sort of obession with an opponent explains the way UConn started out against Tennessee.

Maybe the same happened with LSU, only UConn came back and won the game. So does this take pressure off knowing there's a win under your belt? At this stage of the game, I don't think so.
I am sorry to those who stopped by looking for blog updates throught Saturday's game. The internet connection is bad at courtside and I was unable to log on.

Some thoughts from the Huskies' win:

* If the Huskies can play a full 40 minutes, I don't think anyone can beat them. They've yet to put all the pieces together for a whole game, which is a shame.

* The spirit displayed both during and after the game by N.C. State is admirable. Khadijah Whittington walked past the UConn locker and assistant coach Trina Trice tried to console the Wolfpack's best player. Seeing the pain in her eyes, not that her season ended, but that it may have been the last game for Kay Yow, was moving. If UConn was going to lose to someone, I'd want it to be to N.C. State.

* I am more and more impressed by Charde Houston's growth. Just seeing the changes in her from October is impressive.

* After LSU defeated FSU, LSU center Sylvia Fowles was asked about the embrace she shared with members of the Seminoles' coaching staff. Keeping in mind Fowles is from Miami, the big smile on her face said it all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rutgers is on the verge of defeating Duke. It is hard to think of a team playing better than Rutgers right now.

What is even more interesting is if Rutgers defeats Arizona State Monday and UConn wins tonight and Monday, the Huskies and Scarlet Knights will meet in the Final Four.

Rutgers just fouled Duke's Lindsey Harding with 0.01 seconds left and she missed both shots, which would have tied or won the game.
Tim stopped by so we can get lunch. As we were leaving, the good people of the Daily Campus were relaxing poolside.

Kevin, who likes to refer to himself as a Shining Beacon of Light, said that a guy in Starbucks could tell who was from Connecticut. Their white shirts matched their pale skin.

So true.
Somewhere along the way, the writers had been told that there would be a shuttle to and from the hotel and arena. We found out Friday morning that there was not.

After completing my work, Tim from Meriden and I walked back. Tim walked to the arena in the morning. But with added papers/media guides plus about 80 degree weather and our two mile or so journey turned into what felt like a walk in the desert.

Today, we ride with colleagues in their rental cars.
UConn's Sweet 16 history
1991: Defeated N.C State, 82-71
1994: Defeated Southern Miss, 78-64
1995: Defeated Alabama, 87-56
1996: Defeated San Francisco, 72-44
1997: Defeated Illinois, 78-73
1998: Defeated Arizona, 74-57
1999: Lost to Iowa State, 64-58
2000: Defeated LSU, 86-71
2001: Defeated N.C. State, 72-58
2002: Defeated Penn State, 82-64
2003: Defeated Boston College, 70-49
2004: Defeated California-Santa Barbara, 63-55
2005: Lost to Stanford, 76-59
2006: Defeated Georgia, 77-75

Friday, March 23, 2007

You come to Fresno, where it is in the mid-to-upper 70s, from Connecticut and the snow. Then on the first full day in town, we end up confined to the basement of the SaveMart Center.

The atmosphere is a lot less relaxed than the Big East Tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe that's because I'm so used to being in Hartford.

The players seem more relaxed, but then again, the weather will do that to you.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the odd things people say and do. My winner for today was came from one of the first people I saw in Hartford. While taling the shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal, the driver said there was a bear in one of the lots earlier this week. A passenger replied, "Well, bears don't bother people unless they're hungry or something."


What isn't covered in "hungry or something"? Bears usually venture into places where people dwell because they are HUNGRY!!!!
I've finally made it to Fresno -- after 12 hours plus of travel. I went from Hartford to Atlanta to Salt Lake City, back to Salt Lake City and onto Fresno.
Yes, I said back to Salt Lake City. My flight took off and about 20 minutes into the trip, turned around because of electrical issues.

Anyhow, as Kalana Greene told me Tuesday, it's nice to get away from the snow and into the sun.

Friday is media day, so expect some interesting comments from all four teams in town. Of course, UConn coach Geno Auriemma is always good for a quote.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Like the Huskies have done all year, they have come out witha burst in the second half. UConn is on a 10-2 run.
At the half..UWGB 40, UConn 38.
UConn down four with 26.5 to play, 40-36.
It is a bad sign when Kalana Greene is taking three point attempts. If there is one thing she shouldn't be counted on to do offensively, its shoot the trey.
UWGB takes the lead....33-32 with 2:49 to play.
UWGB is hanging around. I'm impressed how they didn't crumble when UConn turned up the heat.
The Huskies have outscored the Phoenix, 13-2, over the last five minutes plus.
UConn takes its first lead thanks to a Mel Thomas three.
Geno Auriemma subbed in Ketia Swanier for Tina Charles and she paid dividends immediately. On the first Huskies possession, she nailed a jumper from the top of teh key to bring UConn within four points, 10-6, with 15:44 to play.
Tina Charles just blocked a shot, making her the all-time freshman leader in school history in that category.
The Phoenix have come out on fire, making their first four shots.
It's about 45 minutes until the Huskies take the court to face Wisconsin - Green Bay. I like the Phoenix. They ahve a swagger to them and a chip on their shoulder, as well. That seems a bit of a contradiction because teams with swager are confident while teams playing with a chip feel they have something to prove. That said, I see how both a possible. You'd have to be a team on the rise. You know, like the Phoenix.

UWGB has the longest winning streak in the nation. None of their wins came against particularly good teams. They have three common oppoents with UConn: Oakland, Marquette and DePaul. The Huskies went 3-0 with two games coming at home. UWGB lost two, to DePaul (home) and Marquette (away) by a combined five points. They beat Oakland by 22. All of those games came in November. Other opponents of any interest are Minnesota, Kansas State and Iowa. They won all but K-State.

The trouble UConn presents for the Phoenix isn't that UWGB is a bad offensive team. They aren't. They are surprisingly good. Coming out of the Horizon League, I would subtract about 10 points per game as a means of adjusting their production as if they were in a major conference with a tougher schedule. They are 50th in RPI, UConn is 3rd.

The Phoeniz are in the Top 10 in eight team cataegories, including tops in free throw percentage and 3rd in turnovers per game.

Anyway, UWGB averages better than 77 points per game. For the sake of adjustment, I put them at 67, seven points and change behind UConn. But as I was saying, the real challenge comes on defense. UWGB allows 60.6 points per game, but allowed over 70 to Kansas State, DePaul, Loyola, Detroit, UW-Milwaukee (twice) and Butler. I think they are in trouble against the Huskies.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It didn't take long -- 1:14 to be exact -- for UMBC to call a timeout. Coahc Phil Stern didn't like what he was seeing, which was a quick 5-0 start by UConn.
Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that as Renee Montgomery and Charde Houston go, so goes the Huskies. With 7:08 to play, both are in double figures scoring.

UConn leads 29-17, a score that is surprisingly close.
Wisconsin - Green Bay defeated New Mexico, so the Phoenix advance to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. They play either UMBC or UConn. I wonder who that will be?
Day 2 and it is also the first opportunity for UConn to play in almost two weeks. I'm interested to see how much of a quick start -- if any at all -- the Huskies start with. Also if they can sustain a run after the layoff. My hunch is they can because UConn practices are filled with running.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The snow is a big theme today. It shouldn't be hard to figure out why. But with the city of Hartford hosting the events of the weekend, you would think a better job would have been done when it comes to snow removal.

When I exited I-91, the off ramp was clear. But after the first light, it was apparent the last time the city plowed the street was sometime last night. My car got stuck at one light, and then when I turned left towards the Civic Center, I spun out. The streets immediately surrounding the HCC were mostly plowed. Hey Hartford, if you expect people to want to be at the tournament, maybe you should make the conditions they have to travel through safer instead if thinking all that matters are Church and Asylum Streets.
Today is media day for the teams playing in Hartford for the NCAA Tournament. For the most part, its Connecticut media with a smattering of others. It's fairly relaxed, but that's teh calm before the storm.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Its been a semi-hectic past few days. There was Selection Monday and then preparing for this morning's special section in the Bulletin. I hope you find the contents informative.

The real business at hand is the tournament, which begins Saturday. But I want to tuch on a different topic.

Geno Auriemma, the long time coach of the Huskies, was named as one of the finalists for National Coach of the Year. That shouldn't be surprising considering the success he's had and, when you look at the factors involved this year, it makes his performance all the more impressive.

It should be noted that no other Big East coach is under consideration. So that makes me wonder: how was he not named Big East Coach of the Year? You can possibly be the national coach of the year, but not in your conference. Riiight.

Well, I've got it figured out. The National Coach of the Year qualifies for the Big East honor....next year.

This means one of two things: either the voters for coach of the year must have missed a bunch of games and just don't know what they are talking about or the coaches in the Big East will vote for the Kool-Aid Man as long as Auriemma doesn't win.

Friday, March 09, 2007

This isn't so much related to UConn as it is to college basketball. In light of the alleged behavior of former LSU coach Pokey Chatman, I think we -- fans, media -- forget that there are college-aged kids involved. That's right, kids. They may be 20, 21 years old, but they are still kids.

Our craving to know what goes on in every moment of their lives sometimes crosses the line. We push and push and push to the point where we go beyond decency and let rumor and speculation rule the day. Now I'm not saying what may or may not have happened at LSU. I simply don't know. But in general, we forget these are kids. And sometimes the ones who put the most pressure on them are the people they don't know.

At LSU, is the story why Chatman resigned or is it WHY she resigned? If she had inappropriate relatons with a player, how important is it that we know the identity of the player or players?

Of course, if I am covering this story and it becomes known who the parties involved are, do I include this in my coverage? Yes, that's my job. But I also think its important that as a member of the public, all of us have a responsibility to respect people's privacy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Big East Tournament is over. Honestly, it came and went too quickly. To my peers, they are probably thinking I am nuts. Hard to argue against them.

It all started with the banquet Friday night. To have 12 teams in town, all together to celebrate the season and then play in the tournament is great. I likened it to when I attended the 1996 men's NCAA Tournament in Charlotte. I got to know all the teams a little better. Found reasons to not root for Duke and reasons to cheer on Austin Croshere and the Providence Friars when they played the Blue Devils.

I can't forget Murray State. My friends and I were all but converted into Racers fans.

That's what the past five days were to me. It made me appreciate Kia Vaughn and Krystal Ellis more than I did. It made me wonder what Jessica Dickson might do if she had more talent around her.

With game after game after game, I never wanted the action to stop. I hoped that there would be consolation games added at the last minute and the other teams would suddenly appear rather than have gone home.

Then I get excited.

The NCAA Tournament is just around the corner. And it will be here, in Hartford. And collectively, maybe the teams seeded here won't be as good as the teams of the Big East. But if you love this game, like I do, then wouldn't you want to see a team like Oklahoma or George Washington? Maybe this year's Cinderella of the women's tournament tries on its slippers here. Wouldn't that be exciting?

Maybe there's a Murray State in there. Not for me. But for you.
UConn went 7:38 without scoring. That's the game folks.

55-47 Rutgers
UConn hasn't scored in nearly six minutes. And unless they start doing so in teh final 2:09, they will lose the tournament.
Renee Montgomery has not played like the calm floor leader that she is over the past couple of minutes. Poor decisions on her part have led to UConn turnovers and more importantly, Rutgers baskets. Rutgers is at the line with a chance to extend its lead to five. Right now it is 49-45 with 3:15 to play.
Tina Charles had no points, a rebound an a turnover at the half. She has eight points, several key rebounds and not to mention a blocked shot. She has been the best player on the floor the seond half. Coming out of the locker room with two fouls, she has managed to pick up just one more and play smart ball.

The game, however, is being played at a pace Rutgers likes. With 6:41 to go, UConn holds a one point lead, 45-44.
A travel call on Charde Houston set off Geno Auriemma. The coach needed to be restrained by asistant Chris Dailey.
Rutgers is on a 8-0 run and has taken the lead, 16-14.
How fitting is it that Rutgers' band plays "Back in Black" by ACDC and the Scarlet Knights wear, uh, SCARLET?
The game has been excatly what a championship game should be. Both teams have gone back and forth. What has been the biggets difference has been Rutgers inability to grab defensive rebounds. UConn leads 10-6 with 15:33 to play.
It is cold in here. I mean, I am blowing on my hands cold.

And another thing, why is the game not sold out.
Last night, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer took some exception to the notion her team is the underdog. Not because of who they are playing, but because she thinks her team is good enough to win the Big East Tournament.

Let's look at it this way: Rutgers has beaten UConn a total of four times EVER. Not in the last four years, EVER. And after getting waxed at home by UConn a week and a day ago, how are you not the underdog?

Rutgers is just the kind of team, though, that can beat UConn. They slow down the game and force you to play a half-court game.

They have strong guards, a good center and underrated forwards. If any of the UConn guards are able to have a good game, then expect this to be a blow out. Who should have a big game is Charde Houston.

I have been nothing short of impressed by Houston, especially in the two UConn tournament wins. She doesn't have the shooter's touch of Mel Thomas or the speed of Kalana Greene, but she dominates. Maybe it is done quietly because of the talent around her.

What I do expect is for UConn to attack Rutgers C Kia Vaughn in hopes of getting her into early foul trouble. If they can get her out of the way, the inside will really open up.

I like UConn tonight. My guess is they win by 15. Make it 30 if Thomas, Greene, Renee Montgomery or Ketia Swanier go off.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Its become so amusing during the tournament to watch the various mascots do their thing. Johnathan the Husky just stopped by and shook, er, paws with me and a couple other writers. Apparently, he is bored.
If I am Marquette or Rutgers, I don't want to watch this game. It would convince me that we couldn't beat UConn.
The best player for Louisville?

The male cheerleader who does backflips from baseline to baseline.

If you are at the game, you know who I'm talking about: the guy who gets an ovation every time he takes the court.
The last time these teams played, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he didn't think his team was 30 points better than the Cardinals, then the second place team. That was after UConn won by 28.

After today, Auriemma was right. His team isn't 30 points better. They may be 40 points better. With 11:46 to play, the Huskies are crushing the Cardinals, 60-28.
The game is out of hand. Uconn has outscored Louisville 10-2 to open the second half and Cards coach Tom Collen is about to remove four of his five starters with 15:49 left.
McCoughtry didn't waste any time, 1:01 to be exact before picking up her third foul.
Renee Montgomery hit a 3 with 3:25 putting the Huskies up 31-17 and forcing Louisville coach Tom Collen to call a timeout.
Renee Montgomery hit a 3 with 3:25 putting the Huskies up 31-17 and forcing Louisville coach Tom Collen to call a timeout.
Kalana Greene is having her first big game in a while. She has 12 points thus far in UConn's 22-13 lead with 6:45 left in the half.
Louisville opened on a 5-0 run, but since then the Huskies have outscored them 14-2. With McCoughtry sitting on the bench with two fouls, the game could escape Louisville's grasp quickly.
Not even 4 minutes into the game and Angel McCoughtry has two fouls. This could haunt the Cardinals. When your best player, who is also the best in the conference is having to play it safe because of foul trouble, you should expect to see Kalana Greene and Charde Houston take advantage of the conservative approach McCoughtry will have to take.

McCoughtry was covering Renee Montgomery, a surprising move, but that goes to show you how talented and versatile McCoughtry is.
UConn has moved up one spot in the Associated Press rankings to No. 2. They are still 32 first-place votes shy of No.1 Duke. North Carolina, who moved to No. 3, is seven points behind the Huskies.

In other matters...
I noticed something last night. Huskies coach Geno Auriemma wore a purple shirt with purple tie. That's what I wore to the Big East Banquet. Coincidence?

Yesterday I wore a gray shirt with a gray tie. Let's see if Mr. Auriemma mimics my fashion sense tonight.

Of course, I don't really think so, but this had been pointed out to me so I figured I should blog about this.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The best part of the tournament?

The writer who leaves the media work room to eat and otherwise watches movies and plays Warcraft. My guess is he is a level five wizard.
The game is over and the Huskies have won, 70-50. Cassie Kerns nearly matched her season-high (5), scoring four.
Everytime USF's Jessica Dickson scores, the Bulls' band chants, "All American."

Right. Because what I'd want is an All American over a national championship. Even a conference championship.
The Huskies put an end to the Bulls' 6-0 run to end the first half. Instead the tables have been turned the tables and outscored the Bulls 11-4 in the second half.

UConn leads 47-28 with 15:07 to play in the half.
The Huskies have decided that there's noting wrong with a little bit of sloppy play. In th eprocess, USF has gone on a 6-0 run and cut the lead to 12, 36-24, with 20 seconds to play.
Charles is been more than the Bulls can handle. I think she may best her 34-point outburst against USF from the previous meeting. She has 12 points with 5 minutes to play in the half.
Far from a sellout at the HCC, but the fans that are here are drowning out the small USF contingent and are making themselves heard.
The game has a similar feel to when the Huskies went down to Tampa a couple weeks ago. It was close and evenly played in the early going. But UConn doesn't look as flat and leads by 9, 19-10.
At the first timeout, the Huskies lead the Bulls by two, 6-4. Tina Charles has four points.
It's Day Two of the Big East Tournament, so let's recap Day One.

No. 5 Louisville did what it was supposed to do and beat No. 12 St. John's. The Cardinals used eight threes and superior bench play to end the Red Storm's season. Louisville outscored St. John's 28-0 off the bench. Louisville plays West Viginia, the tournament's No. 4 seed.

No. 8 USF toopled No. 9 Seton Hall, 79-64, and faces UConn today at 2 p.m. The Bulls never trailed and Jessica Dickson posted 27 points. The win gives USF 20 on teh season, its second-most in school history (21 in 04-05).

No. 10 DePaul upset No. 7 Notre Dame, 76-71. The two teams played in the regular-season finale. At one point, DePaul led by 11, but the Irish battled back, going on a 10-0 and holding the Blue Demons without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. The Blue Demons made all but one of their 23 free throws. Four players scored in double digits. Next up for DePaul is Rutgers.

No. 6 Pitt set a school record for wins (23) by knocking off No. 11 Cincinnati, 76-71. There were 1 ties and 12 lead changes in the game which featured Shavonte Zellous' game-high 28 points. Pitt plays No. 3 Marquette in today's final game.
As the UConn women's basketball team prepares to take the court in a few hours, the trend in women's hoops Saturday doesn't bode well for the Huskies.

Six top seeds were eliminated from their conference tournaments, including the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country Duke and Tennessee.

My guess would be if the Huskies can win out in the Big East Tournament, they should be viewed as the No. 2 team in the country and not have to worry about being placed in the West region for the NCAA Tournament. The catch with Tennessee is what's the differnce between them being in Dallas or Dayton. For the Huskies' sake of travel, Dayton is a better choice.

For the sake of better location/weather, I'd like to see the Huskies land in Dallas.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the Big East awards banquet. The conference posted all of its award winners on its website about 15 minutes before the banquet began. Way to kill the suspense. Maybe they did that so the writers could digest UConn not getting as many awards as it should have. Or how Seton Hall's Monique Blake had zilch. Or better yet dull the attendees with the video montage they played while everyone ate.

It was nice. There was no music. Were they affraid people would start dancing?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Big East Tournament is set to begin Saturday. We have four games Saturday and UConn will Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.).

Most of the teams should be getting into Hartford tonightor first thing tomorrow.

To get the latest on the tournament and UConn check out Friday's Bulletin.