The fun is about to begin. Selection Sunday is just one week
Who's in? Who's out? Who's on the proverbial bubble? Sometimes
the best part is the speculation over who'll finally make the
64-team NCAA Tournament field.
Only two schools have made the women's tournament every year
since it started in 1982. No. 5 Tennessee is certain to get in for
the 24th straight time to continue its streak. Louisiana Tech also
has made it every year and should get in again, although the Lady
Techsters' credentials aren't what they've been in recent seasons.
They were 18-7 after an 83-69 loss at Rice on Thursday and
they've been out of the AP poll for the last 13 weeks -- the first
time in 13 years they haven't been ranked.
And while La. Tech has an RPI in the mid-20s, which will measure
up well when the selection committee goes to work, the team's most
significant victory was over Mississippi in the season opener.
The Lady Techsters would get in automatically if they win the
Western Athletic Conference tournament in Reno. But if they lost
early in the tournament, the committee might be faced with a tough
Another perennial NCAA entrant, Old Dominion, also is having a
season that's not up to the program's usual standards. The Lady
Monarchs have to beat Drexel on Sunday to gain a share of their
14th straight Colonial Athletic Association title. If ODU loses,
Delaware wins the championship outright.
Old Dominion has played in 21 of the 23 NCAA Tournaments,
including the last 13. The Lady Monarchs have an RPI in the mid-30s
and have lost to Delaware twice this season. But they played a
decent nonconference schedule and beat Rutgers in December.
Others who'll be looking to extend long NCAA Tournament streaks
include Connecticut (16 straight), Texas Tech (15), Purdue (11),
Duke (10) and Georgia (10). Purdue might require some discussion,
however. The Boilermakers finished fifth in the Big Ten (9-7) and
were only 15-11 overall against Division I opponents in the regular
By late afternoon on March 13, it will all be sorted out, though
probably not to everyone's liking.
Honoring the Huskies
The players were bright and articulate
and captured the nation's fancy by going unbeaten. Their coach was
-- and still is - witty one moment, acerbic the next, but always
Ten years ago, Connecticut won its first NCAA championship and
helped usher in a new era of respectability and national attention
for women's basketball. The Big East Conference will honor that
team Sunday during the quarterfinals of the conference tournament
at the Hartford Civic Center.
All 13 players and the four coaches from that team are expected
to attend the ceremony. The team included Rebecca Lobo, Jennifer
Rizzotti and Kara Wolters, all of whom became All-Americans and
earned The Associated Press national player of the year award in
consecutive seasons -- Lobo in 1995, Rizzotti in 1996 and Wolters in
The team's coach, Geno Auriemma, is still at UConn and has
guided the Huskies to four national titles since, including the
UConn beat Tennessee 70-64 in Minneapolis to win the 1995
championship and finish 35-0, at the time the most victories for
any Division I program, men's or women's.
Tennessee's Loree Moore is nothing if not
In a span of little more than 12 months, the Lady Vols' point
guard blew out a knee, had her tonsils out and suffered a broken nose. The
knee injury cost her the last half of the 2003-04 season and she
missed six games after her tonsillectomy in December.
But the broken nose? No problem. Moore underwent surgery to have
it fixed and played the next day.
``If I had the surgery and I couldn't play, I'd rather just tape
my nose, get a mask or something and play and then fix it after the
season, because I didn't want to miss any more games,'' Moore said.
Two years after his surprising move from a
successful program at Arkansas to a struggling team at Texas A&M,
Gary Blair is making progress.
The folksy coach has a good group of freshmen and another strong
class coming in next season. The Aggies tied for ninth in the Big
12 at 4-12 and are 14-13 overall after marks of 2-14 and 9-19 last
"It was hard,'' Blair said. "I sort of made the same move Jim
Foster made from Vanderbilt to Ohio State. But the difference was,
he went into an underachieving team that had all the talent and had
a recruiting base where he could own the state of Ohio.
"I've got to share the state of Texas, where last year we had
five teams finish in the top 20 -- (Texas) Tech, Texas, Baylor, TCU
and Houston. Now that's tough.''
Blair said he wants to build with freshmen. He'll go the junior
college route only if he can find an impact player.
"This my last gig. I'm not in a hurry,'' Blair said. "When
they tell me it's time for somebody else, I've got an 8-handicap
that I'll get down to a 2 in a hurry. So I'm going to do it the
right way and I'm going to do it primarily with freshmen.''
Speaking of Foster, his Ohio State team shared
the Big Ten title with Michigan State and has the league's player
of the year in sophomore center Jessica Davenport.
How good is Davenport? Listen to Iowa coach Lisa Bluder on that
"We're considering putting together a highlight film of her
just to teach our posts,'' Bluder said. "You talk about old school
and I love it. Jess uses the backboard all the time.
"Some kids want to look fancier. To me, let's just have the
same old boring shot every time and get the job done and that's
what Jess does. We think she's just fabulous."