DENVER – In one of the all-time semifinal thrillers at the Women’s Final Four, Notre Dame rallied twice Sunday night with the game on the line to oust its Big East rival national heavyweight Connecticut 83-75 in overtime for the second straight year and move on to Tuesday night’s NCAA championship.
Will the Big East be big again with two teams in the Women’s Final Four?
Top-seeded Connecticut gets the first shot at answering in the affirmative on Tuesday night when the Huskies (32-4) meet second-seeded Kentucky (28-6) at 7 p.m. to battle for the Kingston (R.I.) title and a fifth-straight trip to the Women’s Final Four, which will be held this weekend in Denver at the Pepsi Center.
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No 8 Kansas State: March 18, 7:05 p.m.
Three of the four teams who will land in the NCAA Sweet 16 at the Kingston Regional at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center this weekend will be determined Monday night.
In the Bridgeport subregional, top-seeded Connecticut (30-4) will host eighth-seeded Kansas State (20-13), which will play the Huskies for the first time ever though the team has made three previous appearances in Connecticut in the NCAA field.
Turns out that in Big East Women’s basketball revenge is a dish best served on the occasion of the conference tournament semifinals, as West Virginia (No. 5) and St. John’s (No. 2) discovered tonight at the XL Center.
West Virginia lost to top-seeded Notre Dame in a 73-45 routing. St. John’s fell to third-seeded Connecticut 74-43.
The two games shared similar backgrounds, followed similar cadences. Even the final scores were eerily similar.
The seeds have held through the first two rounds of the Big East tournament at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., and now the schools at the top of the bracket move from their double-byes into action on the court.
Form is expected to hold again on Sunday when four quarterfinals games are played .
Some urgency is removed in terms of the impact of the outcomes on NCAA Tournament selections, because most of the survivors still here are already likely to land in the 64-team field with at-large bids except, of course, the one that becomes the champion and gets automatic entry.
HARTFORD, Conn. – The clock struck midnight about an hour earlier than real time Monday night on the East Coast in lower New England for powerful Connecticut’s run of five regular-season Big East titles when No. 3 Notre Dame topped the host No. 4 Huskies, 72-59, in the XL Center, the site of next week’s conference tournament.
Did you miss me? Sometimes the rigors of everyday living can interfere with a person's enjoyment of a good basketball game. During most of the month of February, I was traveling, and unable To report on the final eight games of the Connecticut season. The results, of course, were the same as they have been all year: The Huskies are now 30-0, and have one 69 straight games by double figures.
So, very quickly, what's worth remembering about these final eight games of the Connecticut regular season?
Take another look at that score. It wasn't an upset, but for the first time this season, someone actually gave UConn a game.
It's really encouraging to see St.John's ranked (Full Court No. 25; AP No. 25; USA Today/ESPN No. 24) for the first time since 2005-06. The young Red Storm start two freshmen, and one each from the other classes. Senior Joy McCorvey, one of Full Court's "Lunch Bucket" players from last season, is now a starter, providing leadership, stability, and 7.9 rebounds per game for Coach Kim Barnes-Arico. D'Shena Stevens, last season's Big East Rookie of the Year, has proven herself again this year, scoring nearly 14 points per game. How much better that number would be if she had not missed 70 (yes, seventy) free throws this year! Stevens is 70-140 or .500 from the charity stripe. She partially makes up for this flaw by grabbing 7.5 boards a game. Freshman Nadirah McKenith has been a crucial addition to the St. John's roster, as the freshman point guard has dished out assists (4.6/game), protected the ball (1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio), and still scored 7.1 points a game.
As it turned out, McKenith was the star of this game.
My point guard was just outstanding today, Coach Barnes-Arico observed. She was the one who said she was scared [of playing in front of the big crowd and against the No. 1 team in the country], and then she comes out and has 11 rebounds and 15 points.
The freshman, in fact, outplayed Maya Moore, shooting 6-15 (to Moore's 4-13), outscoring the All-American by two, and matching her on the boards. Although McKenith had just three assists, she did not turn the ball over even once. (Moore had 7 assists, 3 turnovers).
Paradoxically, St.John's was the more impressive team despite a 14-point loss.
Fresh off a 95-56 victory over struggling Pittsburgh, the Huskies face a Mountaineers team that is suddenly ranked 9th in the nation by Full Court Press, 11th by the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, and 16th by Associated Press. Remarkable numbers for a team picked preseason to finish 9th in the Big East! But at 20-2 on the year, West Virginia is for real, and Coach Mike Carey has again proven himself one of the best in the game.
West Virginia also matches up better than most teams with UConn. They feature four guards, three of them at around six feet, and a 6'4 center, freshman Asya Bussie. They are athletic, and Carey's teams are always aggressive. Liz Rapella has shown herself to be an outstanding leader and will do so again tonight.