Monday, April 28, 2008

Who's better?

A reader (Shammgod) asked who I thought to be the better player between Candace Parker and Maya Moore. Here's my answer:

t's hard to compare the two players for a few reasons. First, they play different positions. Secondly, they are at different stages of development. Candace just graduated and has some experience playing against/with the top players in the world. Maya just completed her freshman year and is starting to get the kind of experiences Parker has had.

Parker dominates in the post, has a decent jump shot, which can force good post defenders outside where she will dominate them, she runs the court and can alter shots with her length.

Moore is a little more versatile right now, because she can match up with smaller fours, plays the two or three with no problem and has an inside, outside game that's rarely seen. She has a three-point shot that is flawless (I don't recall anyone in the college ranks peaking the way she does with her shot) and can attack the basket. She's a much better defender than Parker only because she can do more to utilize her speed and has quick hands.

I think three years from now, Moore will be seen as the best player in the world. Right now, it is Parker. I think Moore helps her teammates better, but Parker is more likely to take over a game.

If I'm calling a final play, the ball goes to Parker. If I'm on the line, I want Moore shooting. Again, that's today. The next decade will bring some change to that for Parker and Moore.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thanks

I want to thank everyone -- the roughly 17,000 visitors -- for stopping by over the last two weeks and those who made this little corner of the internet.

Also, many thanks to the folks at Blogger.com for finding what I do here interesting enough to have named this a "Blog of Note."

Stop by anytime and be sure to check out my other seasonal blogs (Connecticut Defenders baseball and UConn football).

Houston picked by Lynx

Charde Houston was selected with the second pick of the third round by Minnesota.

Swanier a Sun

With their second first-round pick, the Connecticut Sun selected UConn's Ketia Swanier. Swanier, who had a breakthrough season for the Huskies, will serve as the back-up point guard to Lindsey Whalen.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Congratulations

Good job by the Tennessee Lady Vols, winning their eighth national championship.

When good pubicity goes bad

My time in Tampa is coming to and end. I'll be up, up and away shortly and there's still so much to touch on about this year's Final Four. Most notable is tonight's championship game.

Walking through Tampa International Airport this morning I noticed a few more signs welcoming fans into the airport's shops. What stood out was a conversation I had with a Tampa resident.

He mentioned a story in Tampa Tribune on Saturday, I believe, that called the Final Four the "Lesbian Super Bowl." Maybe this is a topic too hot for certain readers of this blog, and I understand this. That said, I'm going to touch on the subject.

The local I spoke to mentioned how the airport has had a "different feel" these last few days, he added that it felt like a convention. Well, any major sporting event does have that convention feel. Any time thousands converge upon a location for a singular purpose, there tends to be the same atmosphere. He also suggested the games be promoted as such so that others can know what to expect.

I can tell you what to expect: people who love basketball.

In the story mentioned, the NCAA refused to comment on the notion that the Final Four is the "Lesbian Super Bowl." I can't say I blame them, but not for the reason some of you might think.

By going along with the reporter's premise, the NCAA would be saying its women's basketball Final Four is a gay event and runs the risk of making its non gay fans feel like outsiders. You also have difficulty marketing the event in places where there is less tolerance.

Imagine playing the Final Four in Charlotte, N.C., and instead of focusing on the basketball the NCAA decides it wants to treat the weekend as a gay getaway? How many non gay fans atend? You can't do that to either the gay fans or the non gay fans. That's not fair. Nor can you do that to your games and suddenly make the FInal Four about the people attending and not about the basketball.

Sure, there were lesbians at the games. I'm sure there were some at the Super Bowl. That doesn't alter the validity or appeal of the event. At least it shouldn't.

I can't imagine the lesbian community in Tampa or elsewhere want the Final Four logo to be changed to a basketball set to a rainbow flag. Nor do they want an arrow or sign over their heads saying "LESBIAN" in big, bold letters.

The point is, fans are fans. It doesn't matter if the person next to you is of the same color, size, shape, gender or orientation as you. They probably don't like the same team as you. Or maybe they do. Who cares? It's been a weekend of some great basketball and basketball-themed events. That's what matters.

Monday, April 07, 2008

At the Summitt

Leave it to Pat to say something while saying nothing at all. With the Huskies done and en route to Connecticut, Tennessee's Pat Summitt was asked about the rift between the two schools. She paid a backhanded compliment to Geno Auriemma, which may have seemed harmless in its own right, but I think tells you more about the cause of this split.

“I have tremendous respect for Geno’s coaching skills and abilities,” she said. “I think he made us better. They beat us enough that it made us better. The fact that we’re both not here today is not going to change what I want to say or talk or what it takes to mend it. I haven’t even gone there.”

What she means is that she blames this on Geno for his recruiting -- or his sense of humor. If its that latter Pat needs a night at a comedy club and less time swatting furry bandits on her back porch.

The hall of fame coach blamed the media for fueling the feud, which has been filled by repeated complaints filed against UConn by Tennessee for recruiting violations. All but one has been dismissed as having no merit by the NCAA The one transgression was deemed a secondary infraction and resulted in a warning.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Safe full of sorrow

It's hard to gauge what hurts the Huskies more right now. Is it that their season came to its end without the national championship they seemed preordained to bring home?

What about losing to a team they had already beaten?

Or that this team's current composition will not be what takes the court in the fall as four seniors leave?

Never had I seen so much anguish from a team before. Last year's loss to LSU seemed to be a new low. The tears, red eyes and noses. The choking speech pattern. None of thst came close to the magnitude of emotion displayed after the loss.

In some ways, each of the players emoted in a way similiar to their playing style.

Renee Montgomery, eyes welling up with tears, held her head up high with the confidence of a player certain of her return to this scene. Yet, she who is known for caring for everyone, cried her heart out for her team.

Tina Charles,the player coach Geno Auriemma wants to see a more forcefull and aggressive side from, blended into a corner as she cried.

Jacquie Fernandes, the rarely used sophomore was as red as a Tampa enduced sunburn. Her pulse always in time with her teammates.

Maya Moore, voice trembling but unaffraid. Much like the unknown that freshmen face, Moore went forward with the confidence of a senior.

Mel Thomas, who's heart overcame what she lacked in some basketball areas, could not be comforted as she let go of all the pain of not playing and the official end of a dream.

Brittany Hunter, fought her tears back with the determination she's shown througjout her career battling knee injuries.

Ketia Swanier, often described as a spark plug, held her own on the dais, but sat in her locker praying the pain would subside.

Charde Houston, cool in chais, was no different tonight. Calm, collected and introspective.

This was a team that had greatness in its plans but injuries and Stanford re-wrote the story. This, by no means, detracts from what they accomplished. The Huskies grew by leaps and bounds. And that makes every tear valuable.

This is nuts

Lorin Dixon picked up a loose ball, was plowed into and knocked out of bounds. Ball goes to Stanford. The Cardinal then get a three-point play from Candice Wiggins.

Not for nothing

Candice Wiggins has proven to be the best player, but that doesn't mean to let her get every call. She just knocked over Renee Montgomery and was allowed to drive to the hoop for a basket. You cannot touch this woman or be touched by her for risk of having the whistle blown on you.

Case in point, Montgomery was just hip checked and no foul was called. Why? Wiggins is who laid out the hit.

Tick-tock, tick-tock

That's the clock slowly winding down on the Huskies' season. They are down eight, 59-51, with 7:59 to play. But they have taken to many bad shots and have coughed up the ball too many times.

Has the dam broken?

UConn had been flirting with disaster the entire game and it has seemed to have caught up with it. After pulling to within one, Candice Wiggins showed why she won the Wade Trophy. She mayb n ot score 40 against the Huskies, as she's done in the last two games her team played, but she hit back-to-back threes to spark a 8-0 Cardinal run. Stanford leads 55-46 with 11:45 left in the game.

Five minutes in

and the Huskies have barely made a dent. UConn came out with greater instensity, scored five straight points and Stanford responded in kind. Right now, all calls are going to the more aggressive, more lively Cardinal team.

Renee Montgomery simply looks flat, as she has for the last few games. Kaili McLaren already has three fouls and Brittany Hunter has been negated by teh string play of Kayla Pedersena nd Jaybe Appel.

I said this against Rutgers and was proven wrong, but right now the Huskies simply do not have the look of a team that wants the win. Will that change? We'll see in 15 minutes.

FYI

The clock on the end of the court by Stanford's bench is not correct and is off roughly three seconds.

Work to be done

It's nearly the half and the Huskies are trailing and are losing because of poor shooting, poor rebounding and poor interior defense.

These things MUST change if UConn wants to play Tuesday.

Needing a bit of Swanier

Ketia Swanier, who scored UConn's first six points on a pair of threes hasn't played much if the half due to drawing two fouls. Lorin Dixon hasn't hurt the Huskies -- she has two points -- but she doesn't run the offense or serve as great of a defensive presence as the senior from Georgia.

A quarter of the way...

and the Huskies are down by six. They aren't rebounding and are content shooting from the outside without working the clock and trying to run their offense.

Kaili McLaren and Meghan Gardler are entering the game to hopefully give the Huskies some much-needed board work.

Keep an eye on Hunter

Brittany Hunter slid on her surgically repaired right knee on the game's first possession. She limped momentarily and was replaced by Tina Charles two and a half minutes in.

Candice Wiggins has been as advertised, scoring the first two baskets for Stanford on plays she made look easy.

Also worth noting is that at the 15:47 mark, calls have not gone the way UConn would like. Twice already calls that could have easily gone against Stanford have not, including a reversed call just before the timeout.

Mixed reviews

The player introductions were great and done with class and profesionalism. Even better was that all of the fans cheered on these great athletes.

Stanford cach Tara Vanderveer received a warm welcome, but Geno Auriemma was showered with mostly boos. Everyone loves a villian.

A sight to behold

This is special.

I have never seen an arena of this size filled to the brim for a women's college basketball game. Fans from not just the four semifinalists are here. There is a buzz that makes the game special.

But just a guess -- the majority of the fans are anti-UConn because no one wants to face the Huskies, least of all Tennessee should it advance to Tuesday's championship.

Also, a pair of nice touches: Every championship team has a banner hanging above the arena and all 64 teams from this year's tournament has its logo displayed around the arena.

I also like the video montage promoting UConn was set to "The Pretender" by my favorite band, the Foo Fighters.

ESPN and the unaltered presentation of the tournament

During one of ESPN's cuts to a commercial, it showed pictures of fans at and around the arena, including four fans walking side by side with each wearing a T-shirt of one of the four teams in the Final Four.

Do you know how authentic that was? One of the "fans" is an ESPN production assistant.

ESPN: The Worldwide Leader in Staged Storytelling.

Starting lineups

STANFORD
Kayla Pedersen
Jayne Appel
J.J. Hones
Candice Wiggins
Rosalyn Gold-Onwude

UCONN
Maya Moore
Kaili McLaren
Brittany Hunter
Ketia Swanier
Renee Montgomery

Slip and slide update

The hole in ceiling at the St. Pete Times Forum looks to not present a problem. It's a pre0exisiting condition that typically rears its ugly face during Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey games. Since droplets of water aren't a big deal with ice as a playing surface, no harm, no foul has been the approach.

The question is, if the arena and its management knew of the problem, why didn't they fix it?

You have to imagine that the NCAA had no knowledge of that because it could have easily told the folks here to correct the matter or else.

Instead, the word is that a last-minute attempt to stop the leak -- or at least keep water off the court -- is in the works and no delay is expected.

The odd couple

Everyone is more or less waiting with anticipation whether or not this Final Four weekend turns into Geno versus Pat. Truth is, everyone (except Stanford and LSU) probably wants that matchup for all the attention it will draw to the sport.

While neither have publicly spoken about each other and Pat Summitt's cancellation of the series this weekend, it has been an undeniable monster lurking under teh surface here ready to come down upon Tampa much like today's rain.

They've also been notable in their absence of each other. When Geno was named AP Coach of the Year alongside Tennessee's Candace Parker as Player of the Year, Summitt was M.I.A.

Both at least both have had the opportunity to draw laughs.

At the same award announcement, Geno was introduced as "Gene," which didn't sit well with him. He said this is the first COY honor for Gene, but that Geno has many.

Pat, meanwhile, recalled her encounter with a racoon. She went on to say that she hadn't seena racoon since because it probably thought she was the "craziest woman" it had ever seen.

It would only be fitting for these two clash Tuesday. Of couse, the fireworks would start tomorrow when the two would have to discuss each other's teams.

Until then, UConn needs to stop Stanford and Tennessee needs to do the same against LSU, which hs reached five consecutive Final Fours.

Rain, rain go away


Less than two hours before tip off of the UConn-Stanford Final Four game and there is a leak on the court around the three-point line across from the UConn bench.

At the moment, tournament officials are trying to find a solution and when they do, will update the media as to whether there will be any delays, etc.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Auriemma, Moore honored

The United States Basketball Writers Association announced Thursday that UConn's Geno Auriemma and Maya Moore were named the organization's coach and freshman of the year, respectively.

Tennessee's Candace Parker was named player of the year for the second consecutive year.

The awards should give some indication as to who will win the same honors this weekend in Tampa, when the Wade trophy as well as AP coach of the year are announced.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Celebration video

Here's the celebration dance video from after the win over Rutgers.

video

Cutting down the nets I

Tina Charles, Kaili McLaren, Jacquie Fernandes, Meghan Gardler and Maya Moore




Cutting down the nets II

Charde Houston, Tahirah Williams, Kalana Greene, Cassie Kerns and Renee Montgomery





Cutting down the nets III

Maya Moore, Ketia Swanier, Mel Thomas (twice) and Brittany Hunter




Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Huskies win 66-56 and advance to the Final Four.
UConn was able to take a three-point lead, but Rutgers clawed back and now the teams are deadlocked at 49 with 3:37 to play.
Earlier today I spoke to UConn radio announcer Meghan Culmo. She mentioned this UConn team having a heart if a champion. Right now, it is on full display. Down by as much as 14, the Huskies have erased that lead and have pulled even with 18:14 to go.

The catalyst? Renee Montgomery. She has four points including the tying jumper.
UConn needs a time out. Rutgers isn't just beating UConn, it is the dominating team. If you didn't know better who the top seed was, you would believe Rutgers was the best team in the nation. Right now, the Huskies deserve to lose this game. This very well may be the last games for Brittany Hunter, Charde Houston and Ketia Swanier.

Neither team looked comfortable to start the game, with UConn missing a pair of threes and coughing up the ball twice. Rutgers made two of its first three shots and is moving much more fluidly on offense.

Keep this in mid: Rutgers and UConn haave both been here before. Only Rutgers knows what it has to do and what it takes to win this game, which Huskies coach Geno Auriemma has called the hardest game to win in the entire tournament.

UConn's guard play has been poor at best. Ketia Swaner and Renee Montgomery look like they are trying to force the issue against the Scarlet Knights and rarely has it worked.

At the first media timeout, Kaili McLaren has two baskets and Brittany Hunter one. UConn trails, 11-6, with 15:03 on the clock.

Tina Charles has entered, so let;s see if she can change the game.
UConn women's basketball freshman Maya Moore was named to the All-America first team Tuesday, only the second freshmen to ever accomplish that feat.

The announcement was made just hours before Moore and the Huskies were to take on Rutgers in the Elite EIght round of the NCAA Tournament.

Joining Moore were Tenessee's Candace Parker, LSU's Sylvia Fowles, Oklahoma;s Courtney Paris and Standford's Candice Wiggins.

UConn's Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles were named to the All-America third team.
Videos haven't been posted in a while, so here are two to quench your thirst for live action coverage. This one is Ketia Swanier talking at media day before the Elite Eight game against Rutgers.

Maya Moore speaking at the Elite Eight media day