No longer the understudy, it's Quinn city at UCLA
18 Pat Summitt might have left North Carolina with Tennessee's first loss of the season, but the Lady Vols' longtime coach didn't go home empty-handed.
Summitt has six NCAA titles on her résumé, and when compared to most of her peers, she's at the top of the list. That is, except when she's rubbing elbows with UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance.
Summitt, known as a tireless learner, asked to sit in on Dorrance's locker room pregame speech as the Tar Heels prepared to take the field in the women's soccer national championship game Sunday in Cary, N.C. In town to face the UNC women's hoops team later that night in nearby Chapel Hill, N.C., Summitt -- dressed head-to-toe in an orange Tennessee sweat suit -- listened in as Dorrance addressed his team just moments before the Tar Heels kicked off the title game against Notre Dame.
During a pregame interview Sunday night at Carmichael Auditorium, Summitt told ESPN's Rebecca Lobo she asked to listen in because Summitt "wants to learn from the best." And that just might be Dorrance. On Sunday, his Tar Heels collected their 18th NCAA title. In 28 seasons, Dorrance's teams are 629-28-18.
So what did Summitt, who said she has known Dorrance for some time and just finished reading his second book, take away from the locker room talk?
"His speech was serious with the right amount of humor," Summitt told Lobo. "Even before a national championship game, his humor struck me because he had the right balance."
The adoration appears to be mutual.
"For our kids, a lot of them when they were kids were basketball players as well," Dorrance told Lobo. "So it was a thrill for all of us to have her in there and we loved it." -- ESPN.com
Oklahoma State, which was 6-22 last season, is now 8-0 after Monday's victory over Prairie View A&M. Have the Cowgirls left the state of Oklahoma yet to play? No. Seven games have been in Stillwater, the other in Tulsa. Do we know for sure how much progress they've actually made? It wouldn't be the first time a team wracked up nonconference wins and then took a plunge when the league battles began. (See Kansas last season, for example.)
For Oklahoma State fans -- yeah, some incredibly loyal folks really have stuck it out through many miserable years with the Cowgirls -- 8-0 is worth hollerin' about.
Oklahoma State is the only one of the Big 12's schools that has not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since the league formed for the 1996-97 season. The Cowgirls' last appearance was that previous season.
In fact, while women's basketball has been a big success for the league, Oklahoma State has been the program that has suffered the most from the expansion of the Big 8 to the Big 12. In the last eight years of that league, Oklahoma State made the NCAA Tournament seven times. But other than two WNIT appearances, it has been a postseason desert since.
It's fair to say three big things have hurt Oklahoma State:
• Sherri Coale was hired at Oklahoma in 1996 and turned her program into a national championship contender. This is not to say the Sooners and Cowgirls can't both be good at the same time. It has just made it harder on Oklahoma State.
• The schedule matrix in the Big 12 means the South teams play each other twice and the North teams just once. And vice versa. The South teams in recent years have been better overall. The three Big 12 teams that have made the Final Four since the league started (Oklahoma in 2002, Texas in 2003 and Baylor, which won it all, in 2005) are from the South. So climbing up from the bottom is even harder when you're in the South.
• Oklahoma State made a mistake with the hiring of Division III coach Julie Goodenough to replace the chased-out Dick Halterman in 2002. She just wasn't the right choice for such a formidable challenge.
Coach Kurt Budke, with a long track record of success, took over last season and endured a 0-16 mark in league play. By mid-February, though, the Cowgirls were starting to get "scary" for visitors; they lost to Missouri by just four and to Texas by five at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
This season, Budke brought in 10 newcomers and is at least closer to the kind of speed he needs to coach the way he wants. At Big 12 media day in October, he said of rookie guard Andrea Riley, "She is as quick as any player I have ever had in my 20-plus years. She is going to bring a whole lot of excitement to the gym."
Monday afternoon, Riley won the Big 12 Rookie of the Week award for getting 11 points and 11 assists over UMKC and 20 points and 10 assists vs. Oral Roberts. Then Monday evening, she hit two attempts from the line to set a school mark for consecutive free throws made with 31. She passed Jennifer Crow's mark of 30, set in 1999.
Having the majority of nonconference games at home was by design, of course, as Budke hoped to build confidence. So far, so good. The Cowgirls have their first "true" road game Saturday at Arkansas State. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
Make no mistake about it. Noelle Quinn's scoring average has decreased a little more than three points per game this season, but she remains UCLA's go-to player.
Quinn has the talent to put up Kobe Bryant-like numbers every game. One look at her tells you she's big and strong. And it doesn't take long to figure out she can shoot and handle the ball well, too. But her biggest strength is what a smart player she is fundamentally. Quinn truly understands how to play the game and how to make her teammates better. She has excellent vision and is a great passer, as well as a strong rebounder. Really, she has no glaring weaknesses.
Next April, Quinn could emerge as a Kodak All-American -- and will absolutely be a first-round pick in the WNBA draft. In discussions with WNBA personnel, UCLA's staff members have even heard that Quinn could be considered a top-three pick. -- ESPN's Nancy Lieberman