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UConn center Stefanie Dolson gained national recognition for her defensive ability in winning the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year award. Yet it might be her passing ability that really sets her apart from other centers as a 2014 WNBA draft prospect.
Jim Hu of SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting summarized Texas A&M's final game of the season against UConn in the Elite Eight, highlighting an outstanding defensive effort from the Huskies.
UConn's top D was stellar for most of the game. A&M only shot 35.3% for the game and there were several scoring droughts that just made it hard to stay in striking distance...The variety of defenses was interesting given both coaches pregame pressers where they talked about how they had to just do what they usually do. Geno joked that after that he expected Blair to play 2-3 zone for 40 minutes. Coach Blair did talk about how he intended to try zone vs UConn, but didn't find the right time in the game to try it. In some ways seeing UConn go into a zone on the second or third possession of the game was surprising; in other ways it was what worked for everyone else and showed that Geno is more concerned with what works than playing a specific way.
Even after UConn's Breanna Stewart took a seat after picking up two fouls in the first half, the defense never really wavered with the team's zone simply not allowing TAMU to leverage strengths.
There are a lot of great individual players at UConn, but their ability to completely shut down opposing offenses is a large part of what makes them so hard to beat.
Natasha Cloud's junior season ended when St. Joseph's fell to UConn by a score of 91-52 in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Although they lost by a wide margin to the nation's top team, Cloud has nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Credit Texas A&M: Their 69-54 loss to UConn was both actually closer than the final score suggests for most of the way and really not that bad in the context of the Huskies season.
But UConn just had too many weapons to defend and their defense forced TAMU to play to their weakness of hitting perimeter shots. It will be the Huskies' seventh straight Final Four appearance.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was named MOP of the region while Hartley and Dolson joined her on the team.
Texas A&M might not have enough to pull of an upset against UConn, but BYU did show that UConn isn't entirely invincible.
The Ags and Huskies meet the press in Lincoln.
Jim Hu of SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting summarized the key points from Texas A&M's rout of DePaul in the Sweet 16, including three very simple words of wisdom from the always-entertaining Gary Blair.
This was pretty clearly one of the teams' best overall offensive performances. The Ags 60% FG% was the best ever for A&M in an NCAA tournament game. Courtney Walker's 25 points led all scorers. Williams scored 14 of her 15 in the second half. All 5 starters were in double figures as Karla and Jones finished with 11 points and Tori ended with 10. The bench contributed 10 points with Knox going 2-2 and Jennings 3-3. Jennings has struggled with her jumper and finding it in the tourney allows Blair to get her athleticism onto the court for more minutes.
In the post-game, Coach Blair was asked what the Ags did that OU and Duke weren't able to do. His answer: "Don't zone 'em".
With the Aggies' ability to stay in front of the Blue Demons' guards man-to-man, that might have been an easier proposition for them than past opponents.
Most interesting for Texas A&M moving forward is that they got that 60% field goal shooting without making a three: if we learned anything from UConn's game against BYU, it's that threes might be an important factor to beating them.
Texas A&M was pretty much in complete control of this game from start to finish and DePaul never really found an answer for Courtney Walker, who had 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
Defensively, TAMU held a high-powered, fast-paced DePaul offense to just 4-for-20 shooting.
As dominant as that score looks, it's almost fair to say that it was a more dominant win than the final score suggests.
For more on the region, check out our Lincoln region storystream.
Two tweets really summed up how UConn beat BYU today despite falling behind by their biggest deficit of the season (5) in the first half.
Take UConn' 13 free throws out of the mix and BYU is trailing by 1. The Cougars are 0-for-3 from the line today #UConnWomen— John Altavilla (@jaltavilla) March 29, 2014
As much of a defensive presence as 6-foot-7 center Jennifer Hamson has been in the tournament, it's really oversimplifying things to suggest that her presence alone is what allowed BYU to establish a lead: they did an outstanding job of moving the ball, hitting shots and closing out on UConn's three point shooters in the first half. In the second half, they just couldn't hit shots over UConn's defense.
Therein lies the challenge in beating UConn: even if an opponent do come up with a game plan to compete with them, they have so many weapons that something - whether offensively or defensively - will eventually be an opponent's undoing.
For more on UConn's path through the Lincoln region, check out our Lincoln region storystream.
Jim Hu of SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting previewed Texas A&M's path through the Lincoln region in the 2014 NCAA women's basketball tournament, including this nugget about coach Gary Blair comparing DePaul's style of play to that of the style that Paul Westhead has used in both college and pro basketball.
On TexAgs radio, Coach Blair compared DePaul to Paul Westhead's teams, first with the men at Loyola Marymount and more recently with the Oregon women. Like Mizzou, they embrace the 3-pointer. But in rewatching their OU game, they weren't shy about attacking the basket with drives and backdoor cuts. They took open threes, but there was less of the drive and kick play than Mizzou would use. The drive and kick was used more against the zone that Duke used against them. DePaul coach Doug Bruno disagreed with the comparison to Westhead's teams
"this is not a Paul Westhead copy up here, we're not trying to just give up points just to score points."
Regardless of whether they're actually using The System, DePaul does like to spread the court and shoot the three, which makes the defensive keys for Texas A&M quite clear: contain ball handlers off the dribble and close out on shooters in man-to-man defense, which TAMU might play better than either of DePaul's first two tournament opponents.
Jim Hu of SB Nation's Texas A&M site Good Bull Hunting recapped the Aggies 85-69 win over James Madison last night and offered a brief preview of what it will take to beat DePaul in the Sweet 16.
DePaul survived a record-setting track meet with Oklahoma on Saturday and then used a press and 3-point game to knock off the 2 seed (Duke). The lack of a point guard meant 21 turnovers against the DePaul press and may have dictated playing zone… not a great idea against an exceptional 3-point shooting team...DePaul was 14-33 from behind the arc...A&M will play man and has been one of the better 3-point defense teams all year. Another performance like Tuesday's in the paint would go a long way against DePaul.
To his point about the Aggies' three point defense, they had the fifth-lowest opponent three point percentage this season in the nation this season (26.1%), according to WBB State. And in many of their games, opponents didn't get to 10 attempts. That certainly makes for an interesting clash this coming weekend: DePaul has shot 25-for-56 over its past two games.
Most of us considered James Madison's 72-63 win in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament an "upset", but they're not quite thinking of it that way. JMU senior Nikki Newman fills us in on the team's mindset as they head to the first round as well as the importance of cheerleaders, her parents, and making memories with her teammates during this journey.
After a team win against Georgia in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, St. Joseph's junior Natasha Cloud reflects on how the team has mentally prepared to face undefeated UConn in her latest blog for Swish Appeal.
Although 6-foot-7 Jennifer Hamson will likely be the center of attention for the BYU Cougars after an 80-76 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers to advance to the Sweet 16, their tournament success highlights the complementary value of junior forward Morgan Bailey.
Photos courtesy of Photography/JMU Athletics Communications.
Kevin Kennedy of SB Nation's BYU site Vanquish the Foe summarized the key points in the Cougars' 80-76 upset win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a quick breakdown by half, as excerpted below:
Led by Morgan Bailey and her 18 points, BYU knocked off the 4th seed Nebraska Cornhuskers in route to a place in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2002...For the second straight game Jennifer Hamson was held in check on the offensive side of the ball, but for the second straight game she made a difference on the defensive side...The Cougar defense also held the Cornhuskers to 33 percent shooting and only 22 percent from behind the arc... The Cougars allowed the Cornhuskers to hang around as turnovers and missed free-throws provided sparks, but Nebraska couldn't finish their shots and ended up fouling for the last two minutes.
Tl;dr: 6-foot-7 center Jennifer Hamson got plenty of help from her teammates during early offensive struggles, the Cornhuskers became a second consecutive opponent to look absolutely befuddled by BYU's defense, and a desperate comeback at the end fell short as Nebraska looked to be panicked down the stretch.
BYU will now advance to the Sweet 16 where they'll face either UConn or St. Joseph's.
WBB | BYU becomes just the third 12-seed to advance to the Women's Sweet-16. San Francisco (1996) and Kansas (2013). #WCChoops— WCC Basketball (@WCChoops) March 25, 2014
Fresh off playing in the NCAA Tournament's high scoring regulation game, the DePaul Blue Demons will have their hands full with the 2nd-seeded Duke Blue Devils.
Jim Hu of SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting recapped the first day of tournament action at the College Station sub-regional, offering a short preview of the second round matchup between Texas A&M and James Madison.
From what I saw against Gonzaga, as well as the obvious trend of everyone else doing it, I expect JMU to play a packed in zone against the Ags. A&M is going to have to figure out who is going to slow down Burkholder, but it would be a mistake to think of JMU as a one-woman team. I think Karla presents a more polished post challenge than the Gonzaga bigs, and JMU's Lauren Okafor, who played 17 minutes against Gonzaga, may be needed even more. JMU finished the game with 3 starters having 4 fouls. I expect the Ags to be even more aggressive than the Zags, so JMU's depth may become an issue.
Also of note: Karla Gilbert became A&M's single season blocks leader in yesterday's game against North Dakota.
As reported in The Breeze after the game, JMU's Burkholder was ill on Sunday. She had 28 points and 18 rebounds. It will be interesting to see what she can do when actually healthy.
After being the lowest seed to advance, BYU wants to continue their tournament run a little farther, but first must take on a good Cornhuskers squad.
Another mid-major program scored a first in their 2014 NCAA Tournament opener as James Madison beat Gonzaga 72-63: it was their first tournament win since 1991. And again, it was one that was predictable based on the two teams' performance during the season despite the seeding disparity. The Dukes will advance to face the Texas A&M Aggies in the second round. You can read the full recap of the game at The Breeze. For more on JMU, check out Nikki Newman's guest blog here at Swish Appeal.
St. Joe's star Natasha Cloud blogs about facing a SEC school in the first round, preparing for their game against Georgia, and seizing the moment.
2014 CAA Defensive Player of the Year Nikki Newman blogs about her excitement over getting to the NCAA Tournament and James Madison earning the respect they deserve.
Photos by Photography/JMU Athletics Communications.
BYU didn't look like a mid- anything in a major upset over the fifth-seeded N.C. State Wolfpack on the biggest of stages, representing the growing strength of the WCC with a well-timed team effort.
The photo above shows BYU forward Morgan Bailey, which is appropriate given how this game unfolded: Bailey's defense on N.C. State center Markeisha Gatling was a huge factor in BYU pulling off this upset, the first major one of this tournament. BYU now moves on to face #4 Nebraska. Their reward for another win? A likely Sweet 16 match with UConn.
It would be a shock if anyone other than UConn won emerged from the Lincoln region, but both James Madison and Oklahoma have a chance to make the bracket interesting before the seemingly inevitable happens.
A quick summary of players for WNBA fans to watch in the 2014 NCAA Tournament's Lincoln region.
Two bids for the second time in three years?? WCC's coming up!
There were no guarantees, but everything worked out fine.
Hardly a shoe-in, the Bulldogs look to surprise a few folks in the tournament again.
It was a season that fell short of first place expectations, but resulted in a tournament berth nonetheless.
Still weird to think they're not in the Big XII.
While their place in the field isn't a surprise, their run this season is a bit of one.
The number two seed in UConn's region, again.
St. Joseph's guard Natasha Cloud contributes another guest blog to describe her feelings leading up to and after Selection Monday after worrying that they wouldn't make it in her previous post.
Balance and power, and a team looking to bring glory back to an old stronghold.
A little thunder from Down Under in the Valley.
Everyone, sing along! "I went to the Dance with a team with no name..."
A familiar face in a familiar face, but perhaps at an unexpected time.
Doug Bruno and his team have paid their dues- it's time for them to lift a trophy.
Zags gonna Zag, or possibly zig. (But not Zip, that's an entirely different conference.)
Bring in the new conference, same as the old conference.
This isn't your big sister's Big South anymore. The Flames have died down and the Eagles are rising.
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