Games On. Day one at the NCAA Women's Final Four.
TAMPA: And so it begins.
The Final Four weekend, which was always a month or a couple of weeks away, is here.
After a day and a half of enjoying temperatures somewhere above the freezing mark that we left in Connecticut on Thursday (it was 23 degrees when we got on the plane at 5:45) it was time to head to the Amalie Arena for Media Day.
The day when the considerably large media horde swoops in, looking for anything and everything to talk about in the world of NCAA women’s basketball.
A two page schedule awaits those venture into the action, which for those of us fortunate enough to be in the mix, is not something we have a problem with.
Come on, we are talking and writing about the largest women’s basketball of the year. The mid-season 50-point blowouts are behind us with what promises to be two quality semi-final games on Sunday evening.
All four number one seeds are in the building (Cinderella was forced to keep her residence in Orlando this year) with UConn, South Carolina, Maryland and Notre Dame all looking to grab the ultimate prize.
Game one on Sunday night will feature one team that’s a regular (the Irish) and the other a newcomer to the dance (South Carolina). They are scheduled to tip off at 6:30.
In game two, the top ranked Huskies will do battle with a Maryland team that posted a 34-2 regular season mark and will be making their third appearance in the Final Four. The Terrapins are riding a 28-game winning streak.
Game two is set to kick off at approximately 9 p.m.
Here’s and early recap on what’s gone on as of about 11 a.m. when the Media Buffet is due to open. We expect a large crush to the food any moment now, I’ll hang back and pace myself. its brutal in those trenches.
ESPN took center stage as scribes rolled in around 9 a.m. with Rebecca Lobo, Kara Lawson and Kevin Negandhi all holding court in an informal setting at three different round tables.
The trio works the television end of the broadcast and brings with them a boat load of stories and memories, especially Lobo, a star UConn during the early days of the programs development.
Lobo has stories that entertain to the maximum, Rick Wilson has a story on some of the gems and will have it for us later today.
Lawson, a WNBA standout who attended Tennessee and played on the USA Olympic team in 2008, spoke of what makes the Huskies such a hard out in any tournament.
“The matchup dilemma, not just for the Maryland Terrapins, but for the entire country all year has been UConn’s Breanna Stewart. How do you match up with her?” Lawson said, “Can Maryland find a way to keep her at bay and not let her go off on the offensive side of the floor? I also like the point guard matchup in this game when you have Maryland’s Lexie Brown, who has made clutch-play after clutch play and UConn’s Moriah Jefferson, who has emerged as an elite two-way player.”
Negandhi spoke of the state of the women’s game from his seat.
“I think it’s healthy,” Negandhi said, “In one sense that we’re having more competition. I do agree with Geno (after the head coach of the Huskies spoke of the state of both the men and women’s games during the week) in certain where players have too many fouls to give. Geno has radically said that they should lower the rims, I don’t think that will ever happen. What you are seeing now, is a bunch of talent around the country go to a variety of different programs. Now just going to three or four. Not just going to Tennessee, not just going to UConn. You’re starting to see players go to South Carolina. I think it’s a very good trend. We need to continue that.”
At times in the past it’s been lamented that the Huskies get all the good players. That’s starting to change some, but don’t look for a huge let down from the Huskies and time soon.
“Geno is going to get his players, regardless,” Negandhi said, “To have a newcomer like Dawn (Staley of South Carolina) establish herself quickly in just a few years and establish a fan base that spoils the program, kids notice that. They want to be a part of that.”
On what makes the Huskies so good and has for so long?
“When I look at a bunch of teams, you’ll see a variety of teams that have a ton of talent, I’m not saying they have as much talent as UConn” Negandhi said, “But where are they mentally? If you can survive a practice with Geno you can survive an onslaught that we saw from Dayton where it was a one point game at halftime.”
More to come as the day moves on…..Stay tuned!