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Projecting a starring role for Bria Hartley in the WNBA is difficult statistically, but her combination of distributing and scoring efficiency could make her a big contributor as a combo guard in the right situation.
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.
Despite a (painfully) lopsided outcome, Tuesday night's NCAA women's basketball championship game between UConn and Notre Dame drew the largest viewership in a decade.
Senior Kayla McBride broke down in tears after Notre Dame's 79-58 loss to UConn (via WNDU.com).
alstein of SB Nation's Notre Dame site One Foot Down summarized Notre Dame's 79-58 loss to UConn with justifiably harsh words for the Fighting Irish after an almost undefeated season.
...after halftime, it was all Connecticut, as the Irish went ice cold from the field and assembled a collection of some of the worst turnovers they have committed all season. They had too few options to turn to offensively and remained uncharacteristically flat-footed throughout. The lack of energy was surprising and brutally evident with defensive possession after defensive possession featuring a slow rotation leading to an easy Husky bucket. There are only so many ways to describe how thoroughly Connecticut dominated this game...But make no mistake about it, with or without Achonwa, this final effort was a major disappointment on the big stage.
Most disappointing - or impressive, if you're a Huskies fan - was that "Jewell Loyd was largely invisible", save for a few plays in the first half where she was able to use her considerable athletic ability to get to the rim. But UConn shut off even that bright spot in the second half, holding the entire Notre Dame team to six free throw attempts.
Notre Dame players Michaela Mabrey and Kayla McBride as well as coach Muffet McGraw react to their 79-58 loss to UConn in the national championship (via ACC Digital Network).
Undefeated UConn blew out Notre Dame, 79-58.
So proud of this senior class! Kayla, Ariel, and Natalie have done so much for our program!!!! Way to go ladies!— Skylar Diggins (@SkyDigg4) April 9, 2014
All tourney: Loyd and McBride from ND; KML, Dolson and @bre_stewart30— John Altavilla (@jaltavilla) April 9, 2014
UConn won the 2014 title and earned three All-Tournament selections in the process with Breanna Stewart being named Most Outstanding Player.
Talk about it here.
Brian Grindrod of SB Nation's The UConn Blog posted an interview with Lisa Leslie today that included her thoughts on a wide range of subjects, including Stefanie Dolson's WNBA potential.
TUCB: Moving onto the professional game, what type of professional career in the WNBA will Stefanie Dolson have?
LL: Dolson can have a good career or not. It all depends on what team she plays with. Teams that can use her size are Connecticut, San Antonio, and Washington because they play half-court sets. It really depends on where she plays.
While Connecticut is obviously unlikely to spend the top pick overall on Dolson, San Antonio has the third pick, and Washington - a spot where many of us assume Dolson will go - has the sixth pick. Connecticut does have the 11th pick as well, but it's extremely unlikely that Dolson falls that far.
Undefeated Notre Dame is certainly best equipped to beat UConn with all of their offensive weapons, but even they can't afford a lapse in execution on either end if they want emerge as the champs.
UConn has established an impressive track record over the past few years, but Kayla McBride and Notre Dame have that same mindset of perfection.
The UConn Huskies are now one game away from sweeping both basketball titles. The men completed their end of the deal tonight, winning 60 to 54 over the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship Game in Dallas.
The two unbeaten programs make no attempt to hide their disdain for each other before they face off in Tuesday's national championship game.
The 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Game is tonight, Monday, April 7 at 9:10 p.m. between the #7 seed UConn Huskies and the #8 seed Kentucky Wildcats. You can watch it on CBS. If the Huskies win tonight, they will have a chance to sweep both basketball championships as the UConn women's basketball team plays against Notre Dame on Tuesday, April 8 at 8:30 p.m.
Although rebounding was unquestionably the story of Maryland's 87-61 loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four last night, perhaps the bigger narrative from the tournament as a whole was their turnover problem - last night, the combination of a a surprising rebounding disadvantage and a standard turnover problem conspired to end their season, as described by John Langley of SB Nation's Testudo Times.
...turnovers would rear their ugly head again, aiding the Fighting Irish to another lead of 11-9...As it was in every other game in the tournament, the Terps struggled with turnovers early in the game and it was haunting them as the Irish pounced at every opportunity.
Turnovers might not look like a major problem in the final box score, but the Terrapins turned it over five times in the first seven minutes of the game, which prevented them from ever establishing a rhythm offensively and just compounded their rebounding problem.
Connecticut (39-0) beat Stanford (33-4) 75-56 and is now headed to its ninth championship game appearance, but the game was closer than the score indicated, at least early on. The Huskies will face the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish (37-0) in the 2014 NCAA Division I women's basketball championship game this Tuesday, April 8.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (37-0) are now one win away from their second national championship after defeating the Maryland Terrapins (28-7), 87-61.
Remember that point about Notre Dame having multiple players more than capable of replacing Natalie Achonwa's production? Or that matter of Notre Dame performing just fine against Maryland the first time with Achonwa out for an extended period?
Notre Dame took those observations and magnified them beyond what anyone could've expected with a dominant 50-21 rebounding edge in a blowout of Maryland in the Final Four to advance to the championship game.
We have a recap on the game for more, so click here for more.
For more on the Final Four, check out our 2014 Final Four storystream.
Talk about the games here.
John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant reports that UConn coach Geno Auriemma had some high praise for Notre Dame senior Kayla McBide, who he might be facing in the National Championship game after coaching this past summer as part of the USA Basketball program.
"Going into the camp, Kayla McBride was perhaps just another college player invited," Auriemma said. "I don't think a lot of people paid as much attention to her last year because most of it was naturally all on Skylar Diggins.
"But once she got to camp and people began to see what she can do, well, it didn't surprise me, but I think it surprised a lot of others. I would venture to say other than Stewie and Elena Delle Donne, she might have been the most impressive player there, at least for a day or two."
Altavilla mentions that McBride is a lock to be a first round pick in this year's WNBA draft, but you could probably go as far as saying she should be favored to go in the lottery.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle relayed some draft analysis of Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike from ESPN's Kara Lawson in advance of the Final Four.
For a post player like Ogwumike, Lawson said, one of the biggest challenges in adjusting to pro ball will be on defense – handling ball screens, deciding when to switch and doing it quickly, especially in late-game situations.
Because of her length and agility, Lawson said, "Chiney is uniquely qualified to be an amazing defensive post player. She rebounds at a high rate — that’s one skill that almost always translates (to the pro game). Her offensive game has improved. If she continues to improve her shooting, she’ll be an all-star."
Although it's hard to quantify Ogwumike's defensive contributions, her contributions to Stanford aren't limited to that side of the ball: she accounts for more than a third of the team's overall statistical production, including an extremely impressive 15.64% offensive rebounding rate.
Unfortunately, Ogwumike apparently didn't do enough to win the AP's Player of the Year award - she came in a somewhat distant second to UConn's Breanna Stewart - there's no question about her being the top pick in this year's WNBA draft.
The WBCA announced its 10-player All-America team on Saturday, with seven players participating in the 2014 NCAA Final Four taking home honors.
However, UConn's Breanna Stewart was the highlight of the day, taking home both an All-America honor and the AP Player of the Year award. Stewart finished well ahead of fellow All-Americans Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford and Odyssey Sims of Baylor, both of whom UConn coach Geno Auriemma said were deserving of consideration as well, according to Lori Riley of the Hartford Courant.
Stewart became only the third sophomore (joining Maya Moore and Oklahoma's Courtney Paris) to receive the award and the eighth UConn player.
"It's a great reflection of our program and the University of Connecticut," Auriemma said. "Mostly it's the hard work Stewie has put into the game, how much she has improved from last year. You could make a case for Chiney [Ogwumike of Stanford]. You could make a case for [Baylor's] Odyssey Sims.
"But in the end, it's hard to find somebody who's had the type of season Stewie's had all-around. And she's so young. So much pressure on her, given what she did at the Final Four last year. It's not easy for her."
In addition to Ogwumike from Stanford and Stewart, Stefanie Dolson, and Bria Hartley from UConn, Maryland's Alyssa Thomas and Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd and Kayla McBride will also be showcasing their talents in the Final Four. Along with Dolson, Hartley, McBride, Ogwumike, Sims, and Thomas, Jordan Hooper of Nebraska is the other All-America honoree who can probably expect to be selected in the 2014 WNBA draft.
While the focus of Notre Dame's matchup with Maryland in the Final Four has been Natalie Achonwa's absence, that might not be as big a concern as people make it: the Irish have already beaten Maryland once this season with Achonwa essentially out for a half. The bigger issue might be whether Notre Dame can duplicate their hot shooting from the first time and whether Maryland can manage their turnover problem a bit better.
Does Stanford have what it takes to upset UConn? If the Huskies' previous two games are any indication, probably so. But will they get it done? Sure, if they can solve UConn's top-rated defense and shoot the three better than they did when the two teams met in Storrs back in November.
We're now one step closer to seeing both of UConn's basketball teams winning national championships in the same year. After a shaky start, the UConn Huskies outplayed the Florida Gators, big time and won the game 63-53. The score was arguably closer than the game really was. The Huskies will play the winner of the Wisconsin vs. Kentucky game on Monday, April 7.
The women's basketball team will play Sunday, April 6 against Stanford at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET. Unlike the men's team, which made the Final Four as an underdog by being a 7 seed, the women's team is heavily favored to win the national championship and finish with an undefeated 40-0 record.
To follow more on the UConn basketball teams, check out SB Nation's UConn Blog.
Todd Carton of SB Nation's Testudo Times offered a full breakdown of Maryland's Final Four matchup with Notre Dame, concluding that the Terps might not need to be well-versed in the ways of the force to pull off a victory but will definitely need a strong performance from star Alyssa Thomas.
So will Maryland need to appeal to Obi-Wan Kenobi to challenge Notre Dame offensively? Likely not. In terms of scoring, Maryland can match Notre Dame's balance and they are nearly as efficient. Though Thomas is the Terps' leading scorer by a wide margin, the Terps have five other players averaging over six and a half, including Lexie Brown who has joined Thomas as a double figure scorer. However, if Notre Dame can shut down Thomas - something they failed to do in the first match-up - more than one player will have to step up with a big game. As should be clear from the analysis above, even without Achonwa, a team will need to score a lot of points to beat the Irish.
In their first meeting back in January, Thomas had 29 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals - she's not an easy matchup for Notre Dame (or anyone) and figuring out how to stop her will go a long way to helping the Irish advance to the championship game.
The Final Four starts tomorrow. Which team will you root for to win the national title?
This poll has been around long enough for the votes to stabilize and it looks like most of the country is tired of UConn's dominance. The strongest opposition to UConn's run seems to be in the other states with a Final Four school and of course Tennessee.
In all seriousness, Schimmel is one of the most competitive kids I've ever coached. The kid is a winner! @schimmel23 not surprised she won— Samantha Williams (@ULCoachSam) April 4, 2014
Louisville's Shoni Schimmel won both the women's and overall three point championship tonight in Dallas as part of the NCAA men's Final Four kickoff.
Schimmel beat Duke's Tricia Liston 22-16 to win the women's championship. In the overall "Battle of the Sexes" championship, Schimmel beat Baylor's Brady Heslip 22-17.
For those interested in the WNBA draft, the commentators had some interesting observations about each player's shooting form which are in the comments of our open thread for the day. For more on the parts of their games that WNBA scouts might actually look at, check out our 2014 WNBA draft prospect watch storystream.
Jonathan Lintner of The Courier-Journal reports that Louisville will have a pair of stars at the men's Final Four in Dallas at Southern Methodist University tonight at 9 p.m. EDT.
Shoni Schimmel and Luke Hancock will represent the Cardinals in the competition, making them one of three schools to have participants in both the men's and women's competition.
The rest of the women's field is as follows:
Buick Women's 3-Point Championship
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman - North Carolina State
Jordan Hooper - Nebraska
Tricia Liston - Duke
Keena Mays - SMU
Courtney Moses - Purdue
Kara Pollinger - Navy
Shoni Schimmel - Louisville
Odyssey Sims - Baylor
Todd Carton of SB Nation's Testudo Times wrote up preview capsules for each team in the 2014 NCAA Final Four with some brief labels for each.
Stanford Cardinal - The best of the west
Connecticut Huskies - The beast of the east
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - An undefeated underdog?
Maryland Terrapins - An unexpected visitor
For more on how each team got to this point, check out our 2014 NCAA Final Four storystream.
People are seizing upon the opportunity to praise Chiney Ogwumike's supporting cast for their Elite Eight win against North Carolina, but let's not go overboard here: as C&R have noted in their summary of the game from Maples, the turning point was Ogwumike's total dominance of the paint in the second half that the Tar Heels simply never found an answer for.
However, that doesn't negate fellow senior Mikaela Ruef's role in getting the win.
Give an assist to older sister Nneka Ogwumike giving Chiney a pep talk at the half, too. Also keeping Stanford in the game was Mikaela Ruef, the fifth year senior who did not want to remember last year’s loss in the Sweet Sixteen. She hit three 3-pointers, a career high. She has never hit more than one in a game before. Before this game, her career total for threes was seven for all five years. She scored a career-high 17 and grabbed nine rebounds...Mikaela Ruef does the things not noticed in the box score. Someone must have noticed, though because she was awarded the regional MVP. A shocker it was not Chiney, but we are sure Chiney does not mind Ruefie picking up some hardware.
For Ruef, that was something of a storybook ending to her five-year career at Maples: after doing all the little things to help Stanford dominate the Pac-12 for years, she finally received some much-deserved recognition to the delight of just about anyone who has followed her tenure with the team.
After highlighting Maryland's defensive effort in their Sweet 16 win against Tennessee, Todd Carton of SB Nation's Testudo Times once again brought attention to a defensive effort that reduced Louisville's normally efficient offense to just 0.78 points per possession.
Part of that effort was forcing Louisville into turnovers on 25.2% of their possessions. part of it was their defense of Cardinals star guard Shoni Schimmel.
As mentioned previously, Katie Rutan was a major part of an effort to bother Schimmel in the first half. In the second half, they shut her down almost entirely.
[Katie Rutan] picked up a steal and drew an early charge on Shoni Schimmel...Sometimes, you simply can't look at the final numbers. When Shoni Schimmel made a jump shot with 15:08 to play in the second half, Louisville had 45 points. The Cardinals reached 47 points with 7:36 to play. That's over seven and a half minutes without a point. Before that Antonita Slaughter basket, Maryland went from a three point deficit to a nine point lead. Before she made three of four ridiculously tough three point jumpers in the game's final 31 seconds, the Terps held Schimmel to 36 percent shooting and 25 percent from behind the arc - both below her season average. (But all credit to her for making huge shots when they counted.)
Although Carton discussed the shots she did take, perhaps more interesting were the shots Maryland prevented her from taking.
The Terrapins trapped Schimmel off screens to force Louisville's offense out of their rhythm and used a mix of taller, longer defenders to make her think twice about shooting and contest shots when she did get looks.
As much as some of the Cardinals' turnovers were due to poor decision-making, Maryland's activity and athleticism all over the court was a primary reason for stopping Louisville.
This was a tremendous game for 39:15, and then it all fell apart for UNC. Bummed that Sylvia Hatchell won't coach this team on Sunday. :-(— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) April 2, 2014
North Carolina gave Stanford just about everything they could, coming out hot from three point range while containing Chiney Ogwumike in the first half, forcing the prospect #1 draft pick into an uncharacteristic five turnovers, and winning the offensive rebounding battle.
But in the second half, Ogwumike's refined post game proved too much for UNC's younger players, UNC's hot three point shooting touch went cold, and mental mistakes down the stretch killed UNC.
The Tar Heels had their chances, but ultimately Stanford's experience (and home court advantage?) overwhelmed UNC in the second half en route to a 74-65 win to advance to their sixth Final Four in seven seasons.
Mikaela Ruef was awarded Most Outstanding Player and appropriately so: for her entire career she's done things that don't necessarily show up in the box score, but tonight she read UNC's defense perfectly and figured out a way to exploit every gap in the D for herself or by setting up others.
I seem to be in the minority about this, but it's really hard to ignore that a game with 46 combined turnovers was a bit sloppy. But it certainly didn't lack for drama, with Shoni Schimmel missing a potentially game-tying three at the buzzer off a great inbounds play.
Schimmel finished with game-highs of 31 points and 7 turnovers while Alyssa Thomas finished with a team-high 13 rebounds to go with a team-high 22 points.
alstein of SB Naiton's Notre Dame site One Foot Down summarized both the Fighting Irish's big win to advance to the Final Four and "the bigger story" that emerged from it (aside from the officiating): Natalie Achonwa's injury.
It is hard to see the Irish winning the title without their major post presence and emotional leader, particularly against Connecticut in a potential final. Achonwa has been outstanding in the NCAA Tournament thus far, averaging over 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, making her a legitimate candidate for Most Outstanding Player...Notre Dame plays their national semifinal against the winner of Tuesday's game between the 3-seed (but should have been 1-seed) Louisville Cardinals and 4-seed Maryland Terrapins, the latter of whom played the toughest game against the Irish all season.
Albert has already posted more on Achonwa's career-ending injury here at Swish Appeal, but the question of how her absence will impact Notre Dame moving forward likely begins with 6-foot-3 freshman forward Taya Reimer. Reimer understandably gets overlooked in favor of her more experienced teammates, but if you look at her tempo free statistics her statistical profile is actually a carbon copy of Achonwa's - she's a less efficient scorer, but they haven't lost much on paper when Reimer enters the game this season. And it's noteworthy that on every occasion when one of Notre Dame's stars has had an off game, someone else has stepped up.
As alstein mentions though, it's the intangibles of not having Achonwa on the court that could make the biggest difference.
The Notre Dame forward's college career is now over, and the injury could impact her WNBA Draft stock. But she definitely left the court with her head held up high.
Natalie Achonwa will undergo MRI on injured knee Tuesday: http://t.co/s0DEOJzfwA— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) April 1, 2014
Here's an update on Achonwa's status in regards to her knee injury during Notre Dame's win over Baylor on Monday, March 31 over Baylor.
It's April 1 on the East Coast right when this FanShot was posted. So for the record, this isn't an April Fools joke.
This is 4th time that Connecticut's Men's and Women's teams have made Final Four in same year. No other school has done it more than once.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 1, 2014
Two of the last three times that UConn's men's and women's teams both made the Final Four were in 2004 and 2011. Both teams won titles in this year.
Not a bad track record there.
For more on both of their basketball teams, check out SB Nation's The UConn Blog.
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.
Sadly, the officiating ended up detracting from the enjoyment of what should've been a marquee matchup between some of the nation's top offensive stars, but Notre Dame is undefeated for a reason and used their balanced lineup to beat Baylor and advance to a fourth straight Final Four.
Jewell Loyd and Odyssey Sims put on a show scoring 30 and 33 points respectively to lead their teams, but Baylor struggled as they had multiple post players in foul trouble.
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