Hello from Durham, where we're about three hours away from the night's big game between Duke and Texas A&M (although I hear there's some sort of big football game tonight, too). What's on your mind?
What do you think of Bowling Green's win over Vanderbilt? Do they have any chance at an at-large bid?
I just hung up the phone after talking with Lauren Prochaska (BG making a big jump in our new mid-major top 10 this week), so this seems like a good place to start. It's a big win for them, not so much because it's a huge surprise to win it at home (and credit to Melanie Balcomb for going there), but because it's their highest-profile game, along with the neutral-site win against UALR out in Seattle. To me, they're unquestionably an NCAA tournament team, probably one of the best 30 teams in the country. That said, unless they run the table and lose in a fluke situation in the conference tournament title game, they may not have the at-large credentials. But hopefully for the sake of good postseason basketball, we won't have to find out.
It's early in season, but considering how down the SEC seems, might Xavier be in position to grab the one of the #1 seeds? (And what's up with the SEC?)
Seems like Xavier will at least be able to control its own destiny on that count, based on what it does in the games against Duke and Stanford around Christmas. If XU wins one of those and does what it should in the A-10 (which could include a loss in what shapes up as a good A-10), the No. 1 should be there for the taking. I sure hope so, at least. Kevin McGuff deserves a lot of credit for the way he schedules. When you look at programs like Syracuse, that won't go anywhere and beat up on teams 87-17 at home for the first month and a half, and then look at the way Xavier schedules, you hope the NCAA would reward the right model.
As for the SEC, I'm honestly not sure. Conference are always cyclical, I guess, but if there was a league that seemed immune from hitting as low a note as looks possible this season, it's the SEC. Just not sure where the depth comes from this season.
Wake Forest returns the top six scorers from a team that won 18 games and finished 7-7 in the ACC (ahead of UNC, BC, and Maryland). Shouldn't they be closer than 33 points against Michigan?
Short answer: Yes. And Mike Petersen was the first to agree when I was over there Saturday for their game against Georgetown. He made it clear he thought it was largely a matter of effort against Michigan, whereas the mistakes that cost them against the Hoyas were execution things they could fix. Not sure if they get over the NCAA tournament hurdle this season, but I did come away really impressed with Lakevia Boykin. Still think they could be a bit of an ACC sleeper. .
What are your thoughts on tonight's game between the Aggies and Blue Devils? Also, Gary Blair is the best coach not named Geno. Thanks.
He definitely ranks as one of the most entertaining postgame press conferences this side of Geno. And you're right, he can coach a little bit. I'm fascinated to see what happens tonight, to see if either of these teams steps up against this caliber of competition and looks like it can play on the same level as Connecticut, Stanford and Baylor. Duke has been owning the boards, as usual, but can their bigs really control a game like this? And for A&M, can they get the backcourt play out of Sydney Carter and others to handle the pressure a team like Duke applies?
The way they stepped up late and drew the fouls against a tough Oklahoma team do you think this is the year that finds it's Backbone (and her name is Samantha ;)) and becomes the National Title Contender everyone expected them to be for years?
We're just not going to know until March with Ohio State. We can talk all we want about how they're different, and they may well be, but it's the postseason that has been the bugaboo. Of course, beat Connecticut in MSG and we might have an inkling, but the regular season hasn't been the issue. That said, I do think winning some challenging road games without Prahalis early, and then getting her back eager to just play basketball again, could end up being the best thing that happened to the Buckeyes.
The Big Ten was a Purdue meltdown from winning the women's ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Is the Big 10 back to their level of the early 2000s, or is the ACC on its way down?
Following on the Ohio State theme, I find myself surprisingly bullish on the Big Ten this season. Not that it's the best league out there, but you're seeing the top teams really step up out of conference (Michigan State and Ohio State, in particular). Even Iowa, to me, acquitted itself extremely well after a lousy first five minutes at North Carolina. The difference between the Iowa program I saw play at Duke a couple of seasons ago and the one in Chapel Hill last week is night and day. Throw in some good mid-table performances from Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue, etc., and yeah, I think the Big Ten is very much on the rise.
Thanks for your comments. Duke needs to worry about our pressure D and Danielle Adams. Also, we're not too worried about Baylor.
I'm sure that will be duly noted in Waco!
What's your take on the FGCU AD's "No Release" policy, and how accurate were his claims on the impact transfers had on schools?
It's a complicated issue, obviously, and I'm not sure I'm versed enough in the details. I'm just not sure an athletic director, or an athletic department, should be the one with final say on things for an 18-year-old freshman. Are 18-year-olds prone to make rash decisions and leave when it might be in their best interest to stick things out? Sure, that's a reasonable point. But it just seems like an AD shouldn't be the person with the last word if they do make that decision. If you offer them all the options of people to talk to and discuss things with, and parents or guardians sign off on the decision, my gut feeling is it's in the best interest of the kid to let them move on and start fresh. But again, I can see both sides of the argument.
Surprises to date? Disappointments?
I'd count Michigan State as a mild surprise, just because it's really tough to go through Dayton, Florida State and Texas with three wins. The Spartans looked like a good team coming in, but they've looked even better than that. And Oklahoma State is up there. I don't care who they've played; winning without Riley and Cunningham is impressive. Probably too early to call anyone a disappointment, but I'm surprised San Diego State has a losing record. They lost some vital pieces, so maybe I shouldn't be.
How do you see TCU women's BB fitting into the BIG east? Will the move improve TCU's ability to recruit against traditional BIG12 powers in Texas?
Good question and one worthy of further study. I'm afraid don't know enough about the recruiting scene, particularly in Texas, to offer much insight. But if you tell me you can get Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, etc. coming through town, and you're playing some of those teams on national television, it sure seems like it would help grab the attention of a few kids.
Graham, I've gotta ask it: Will the streak reach 117 games? They beat what appeared to be their toughest test of the season in Baylor, and no one player will have close to the game changing capability Brittany Griner will have.
I don't think so. Connecticut would presumably be favored in all of its remaining games (although maybe it would be a pick 'em at Maples), but I still feel like a bad night for Connecticut is a bigger deal than it was the last two seasons. In those cases, they could play poorly against a good team and win by 15. Now, if they throw out a stinker at the wrong time, you might be talking about a game that comes down to one or two possessions (or as we saw against Baylor, they don't even have to play that poorly against a couple of teams). I don't know who it will be, and I wouldn't necessarily pick against the Huskies on a case-by-case basis, but somewhere along the line I think someone gets them.
Do you think Louisville is a sleeper in the Beast or did the sold out Chicken Bucket create the upset over Kentucky
Not sure the two are mutually exclusive. They presumably won't get quite the same crowd for Seton Hall that they did for Tennessee or Kentucky, but a good home court is a good home court. Jeff Walz proved himself pretty nifty at building a team around a unifying presence with Angel. If you believe Schimmel is that kind of talent, and that's admittedly a heck of a lot to ask of a freshman, you have to look at them as a sleeper. They've still got some really good complementary parts to put around her.
Maryland has been often been criticized for their lack of defense, but this season it appears the Terps have employed a stronger defensive emphasis. Do you think the Terps can use this defensive approach to return to the upper echelon of women's hoops?
I need to see more of them. They've played a perfectly reasonable schedule, but they also haven't played a lot of elite offensive talent yet. What always gave me pause with Maryland was how much they gave the ball away, and they still do that a little bit, only without the proven offensive talent of Langhorne, Toliver, Coleman, etc. Looking at their roster, I like what's there and what you're talking about with the defense. I just want to reserve judgment.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, without an impact post to replace charles, Uconn will lose this year...even Geno said so...I'd say Stanford, but don't count out OSU...I also say someone in the BEAST will have their number, that's what the lack of a power post does.
Tennessee has a very tough stretch of games coming up (at Texas, at Baylor and then at home against Stanford.) How do you think the team will respond during these tough games and how many of these three games do you think they'll win?
Two of three would be impressive, three of three would be fantastic and even one of three wouldn't be the end of the world. There's nothing wrong with a wakeup call, and that may be what the Georgetown game was. Honestly, forget the scores, if they can beat two of those three teams on the board, I think you're talking about a team in very good shape to make a March/April run.
All right, I've got to head out. I appreciate all the questions!