Category archive: Texas Longhorns
Connecticut at North Carolina (ESPN2/ESPN3.com, 7 p.m. ET): The Huskies picked apart the Tar Heels the past two seasons, showing what happens when a team that relies on size, speed and forcing mistakes meets a team with equal size and speed that doesn't get flustered.
The Tar Heels still aren't going to run away from the Huskies, and Geno Auriemma's young team has shown it isn't easily flustered, but the size could be a factor with Tina Charles out of the mix -- assuming the ACC side holds onto the ball long enough to get it into the post or get shots up to allow for offensive rebounding opportunities. One positive for North Carolina is that these Tar Heels value possession far better than recent vintages. Led by point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid, who has just 24 turnovers in 466 minutes, North Carolina is averaging only 16 turnovers per game. No Tar Heels team has averaged fewer than 19 turnovers per game since the 2005-06 season. The bad news is that as the competition level has increased, so have the Tar Heels' turnovers in the past three games -- 18 against Georgia Tech in a loss, 20 against Boston College in a win and 22 in Friday's win against NC State. That's music to Connecticut's transition-minded ears.
North Carolina A&T at Hampton: It's a showdown for first place in the MEAC, although North Carolina A&T's loss at Howard on Saturday means it's not a meeting of conference unbeatens. WIth a road win at James Madison and a win at home against Florida already to its credit, Hampton has shown it can play at a high level. The Pirates have also won all four of their MEAC games by at least 16 points, including the last three by more than 20 points. As a team, they don't value the ball particularly well (260 turnovers in 16 games), but point guard Jericka Jenkins ranks among national leaders with a 3.12 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Georgetown at Notre Dame: Sugar Rodgers scored at least 19 points in each of Georgetown's first three Big East games and at least 24 points in each of the team's past three games against Clemson, Syracuse and Marquette, but those streaks came to crashing halts Saturday in the Hoyas' 49-45 win at Providence. Rodgers hit 1-of-8 shots in 27 minutes, just the second time in her career she has finished with a single field goal. For its part, Notre Dame showed no ill effects from a tough loss against Connecticut, routing Louisville by 20 points and Pitt by 32 points last week. The Fighting Irish have been outrebounded just three times this season, so it's difficult to imagine Georgetown duplicating that feat it accomplished in beating the Irish last season.
Texas at Texas A&M: Was Sunday's memorable game against Oklahoma that included a lost lead, a frantic comeback and an eventual overtime loss a step in the right direction, another disappointment, or both for Texas? We can debate that; the Longhorns have to turn around and play another rival in Texas A&M. The bad news is the Longhorns are 0-3 in the Big 12 this season, 7-16 against Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas A&M under Gail Goestenkors and shot 30 percent with 23 turnovers against the Sooners. The good news is despite all of that, they didn't quit and got big shot after big shot from Chassidy Fussell down the stretch to force overtime.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma: The other half of one of the past weekend's most exciting games heads home to play the only one-loss unranked team in a BCS conference. That's the price the Lady Raiders play for a soft schedule and three modest victories to open Big 12 play, but win in Norman and everything changes. Chynna Brown has been a key to the team's early conference success, averaging 14.3 points and 29 minutes in Big 12 play, compared to 5.4 points and 14.9 minutes out of conference (although she really began to heat up after the Christmas break).
Danielle Robinson, Whitney Hand and Aaryn Ellenberg combined to take 62 of Oklahoma's 77 shots against Texas and took 70 percent of the team's shots in Hand's first four games back. By way of comparison, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh account for 62 percent of the Miami Heat's field goal attempts.
Saint Joseph's at Temple: After a strong start this season, Saint Joseph's dropped back-to-back home games against Xavier and Charlotte last week to fall to 1-2 in the Atlantic 10. Rebounding is unlikely to become a statistic the Hawks dominate, but double-digit deficits like the ones against the Musketeers and 49ers are tough to overcome. For Temple, unbeaten in its first three A-10 games, Kristen McCarthy sizzles. She opened with 22 points and nine rebounds in a win at Charlotte and is shooting 51 percent, including 43 percent from the 3-point line, in A-10 play.
BYU at TCU: It's a clash of unbeatens atop the Mountain West standings in Fort Worth. Stuck in neutral at 6-6 after a home loss against Georgia just before Christmas, TCU is now 12-6 overall and 4-0 in conference play, including a big 68-47 road win at Wyoming last Wednesday. Helena Sverrisdottir had just six more assists than turnovers in 14 games out of conference but is already nine ahead in four MWC games. BYU's only true road win this season came against BYU-Hawaii, Utah Valley and Air Force, leaving plenty for the Cougars to prove in Texas.
UCLA at Stanford: In UCLA's only loss, LSU got to the free-throw line 22 times and beat the Bruins on the boards in Westwood. In 15 wins, the Bruins averaged 21.5 free-throw attempts to 14.8 for their opponents, and 38.5 rebounds to 30.1 for their opponents, including edges in both categories in wins against Notre Dame and Temple. For all its ample size and toughness, Stanford gets to the free-throw line surprisingly infrequently -- it's one of just two top-10 teams, along with Michigan State, that has more 3-point attempts than free-throw attempts.
Michigan at Northwestern: It might not have looked like a big game when the schedules came out, but there is potentially a lot riding on Thursday's contest in Evanston. Michigan is 3-1 against ranked teams in the past month and could conceivably move into a tie atop the Big Ten with a win. Northwestern got its first win against Ohio State since 1999 last week but is 1-2 on the road in conference play after Sunday's loss at Purdue. The program's NCAA tournament hopes (it hasn't been since 1997) might ride on defending their home turf.
Georgia Tech at Duke: For Georgia Tech, the best ACC start in program history hinges on Monday's game at Wake Forest, but Friday's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium will tell a lot about whether this is a Yellow Jackets team with any chance to produce the best ending in program history. Georgia Tech hasn't come within 10 points of Duke since the 2006-07 season and hasn't beaten Duke since the 1993-94 season. Brilliant but not always economical in her shooting, Jasmine Thomas hit 14-of-23 shots in a pair of wins last season.
Over a span of 24 hours when mid-major programs from Burlington, Vt., to Spokane, Wash., emphatically staked their claim to a place at the table in women's basketball, it was left to the coach of one of the programs that fell just short to sum things up.
A No. 14 seed out of the lightly regarded Atlantic Sun, East Tennessee State pushed third-seeded Xavier (itself so much a model of success outside a BCS conference that it's fairly lumped in with the sport's heavyweights) to the wire on the favorite's home court before falling in an up-and-down, fan-friendly 94-82 first-round game.
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiKim Sitzmann's season-high 21 points paced UALR past 6-seed Georgia Tech for its first NCAA tourney win.
After 16 years on the job, Lady Bucs coach Karen Kemp sees a landscape changing.
"I won't say it's getting easier, but it's getting less difficult," Kemp said.
What we're talking here isn't revolution but instead evolution.
What began with No. 7 seed Gonzaga's win as the favored seed against 10th-seeded North Carolina on Friday night continued Saturday as 10-seed Vermont beat 7-seed Wisconsin, 12-seed Green Bay beat 5-seed Virginia, 11-seed Arkansas-Little Rock beat 6-seed Georgia Tech and 11-seed San Diego State beat 6-seed Texas.
What happened in the last 24 hours is not record breaking, or even bordering on unique beyond the fact that 12 different conferences have wins, the most since 2003. Just last season, five "mid-majors" -- for our purposes, any team outside the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC -- won first-round games, including a bigger upset from Ball State beating Tennessee than anything witnessed so far this season. And all of the winners thus far this season still have a lot of work to do to become the first mid-major to reach the Sweet 16 since 2008, when George Washington and Old Dominion (a special case, given its history as a one-time national power in women's basketball) both advanced to the Greensboro Regional.
But while upsets have happened in the past, even in quantities more measurable than a trickle, what's happening this season does feel different. Maybe it feels different because the actual upsets have been accompanied by a host of close calls -- Bowling Green against Michigan State, Liberty against Kentucky, Louisiana Tech against Florida State and East Tennessee State against Xavier, among them.
But where upsets have happened in the past, even in quantities more measurable than a trickle, what's happening this season does feel different. Maybe it feels different because the actual upsets have been accompanied by a host of close calls And maybe because, to some extent, they don't feel much like upsets at all.
And maybe because, to some extent, they don't feel much like upsets at all. Green Bay went more than 12 minutes without a field goal to close out its 69-67 win against Virginia. It didn't have two of its three best players, Celeste Hoewisch and Kayla Tetschlag, on the court at the end of the game after they fouled out. The Phoenix hardly played a perfect game. But they were still good enough to beat the Cavaliers, imperfections and all, just as they beat NCAA tournament teams Wisconsin and DePaul during the regular season.
Nobody expects Green Bay or San Diego State to give Connecticut or Stanford a game. Then again, few expect Rutgers or UCLA to give those teams much of a run, either. The best team might be as far ahead of the pack as it ever has been, and Tennessee and Stanford might still be protected from the masses by a buffer zone.
But as the overall talent pool increases, the difference between team No. 4 and team No. 50 grows increasingly more minuscule, even if all the attention given Connecticut, Brittney Griner and the top of the heap makes it tough for anyone to take notice.
Even Nebraska, the fourth No. 1 seed, is evidence of that. The Huskers might have just one loss, but the Big 12 preseason poll, in which they were picked sixth, is evidence they're here not by birthright.
"You look at the closeness of all of the low seed games so far, outside of the bottom versus the top, the middle has certainly got closer --- the last three years," said Xavier assistant Mike Neighbors, who has seen all sides on staffs at Arkansas, Colorado and Tulsa. "I think it's been three years. And I don't know why, but it's been that way."
And there's no reason to think it's temporary.
Green Bay's and Arkansas-Little Rock's wins are perhaps the most significant of all the mid-major successes this year. Both were earned by teams that received at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, the first ever awarded to a team from the Horizon League in Green Bay's case.
The selection committee isn't going to say a league's past performance has weight in considering the merits of a bubble team in any particular year, but it's difficult to come up with an argument that following up at-large bids with wins hurts a league's chances in the future. Perception is inescapable, whether it operates at the conscious or subconscious level.
What happened in the last 24 hours isn't revolutionary, which is exactly why it's part of a permanent change in the landscape of women's basketball.