One of the first things I learned as a sportswriter was this: Never bet on sports, because improbability is guaranteed. For example, let’s take Sunday’s women’s basketball results …
We’ll start with Tennessee, which throughout the history of women’s college basketball, has been just about as sure a thing as possible – until this year. Doubters jumped all over the Volunteers after they opened the season with a loss to Chattanooga, so certainly No. 22 North Carolina would be a test.
Well, maybe not. Even though the Tar Heels were giving up just 54.3 ppg coming in, Tennessee put up 102, and gave up just 57. Now if you had UNC and 46, you were OK, but otherwise …
Indiana’s men’s team is No. 1 in the nation, and though the women were 6-24 last season, the Hoosiers were riding a six-game winning streak when they hosted Cleveland State, which hadn’t won a road game and was just 12-19 last year. Of course, the Vikings not only beat the point spread, they won by 11.
Long Beach State, which hasn’t posted a .500 record since the 2005-6 season, upset Arizona coach Niya Butts’ yearly plan to go into Pac-12 play with a glittering record built on no-name victories, by knocking off the Wildcats 71-61. The 49ers aren’t horrible any more, but they did lose to Iona at home, and given their history, should be cannon fodder for any self-respecting Big Six program.
Boston College may be an ACC school, but the Eagles had already lost to powers Boston University and Sacred Heart this season (a combined six losses between them, and not exactly against elite competition), before hosting Rutgers and its collection of high school all-Americans.
Of course, the Scarlet Knights always struggle early in the year, but this looked like a gimme, especially since the Eagles not only had those ugly losses, but were 7-23 last year. The vaunted Rutgers’ defense, though, allowed the Eagles to shoot 47.7 percent from the field, and that was enough to send C. Vivian Stringer’s latest edition down to another puzzling defeat.
And that was just Sunday …
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Who’s No. 4?
It’s early, but the WNBA draft is always fun to think about, and though it’s clear that Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins are the top three (assuming good health), there’s more than a little doubt about the identity of the fourth and final lottery pick.
Prior to the season, speculation centered on Ohio State’s Tayler Hill, Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies and Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins, but it’s very difficult, in many cases, to determine just how much of a college player’s effectiveness will translate to the bigger, badder, more athletic and more physical WNBA – especially on the defensive end.
Everyone likes shooters, and Hill is a tall (5-10) shooter as well. But can she defend at the level necessary to justify that No. 4 pick? She’s also not a great ball handler (23 assists/22 turnovers), but 45.5 percent overall shooting and 434.5 percent from beyond the arc can make up for a lot.
Mathies definitely has the athleticism to defend, and her A/TO is 1.8, but she’s also shooting just 38.9 percent overall, and that isn’t what WNBA general managers are looking for in a smaller guard who has to score consistently to be more than just average.
At 6-3, Hawkins is big enough to play power forward, but despite that gaudy 69.5 percent shooting, there are questions about her range. She’s also not a great shotblocker (just three so far this season, the same number as Skylar Diggins, who’s a guard), so she’s not quite a sure thing.
Other candidates include post Carolyn Davis (6-3, but just 5.3 rpg so far), guard Alex Bentley (but just 22.2 percent from beyond the arc) and Angel Goodrich (generously listed at 5-4), but whoever is drafting in that spot would much prefer a sure thing – and there doesn’t seem to be.
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Now some may wonder why I just didn’t say “the Washington Mystics” when referring to the team picking fourth, as that’s how the lottery went – but the silence from D.C. is deafening.
The organization fired its long-time top executive, who has not been replaced, and does not have a coach or general manager, despite Trudi Lacey losing her job two days after the season ended in September. With every day that passes, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the franchise grows, and the last post (from Jasmine Thomas’s blog) on the web site was Oct. 30. The last “news” was published Oct. 11.
So there’s more than a little reason for concern, and certainly enough to not write down “With the fourth pick in the WNBA draft, the Washington Mystics select …” in anything but easily erasable pencil.
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