Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford, expected to be the first overall selection in Monday’s WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun, has won the Wooden Award as college basketball’s female athlete of the year.
She received the award from Wooden’s grandson, Craig Impelman, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Her coach, Tara VanDerveer, and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, were on hand. Nneka was a two-time finalist for the Wooden Award.
Chiney led the Cardinal to the Final Four, where they lost to UConn the semifinals. She was a two-time Pac-12 player of the year and three-time league defensive player of the year. Ogwumike averaged 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds this season and ended her career as the league’s career scoring leader with 2,722 points.
Ogwumike carries a 3.6 grade-point average in international relations, a component of the award that was important to Wooden.
Ogwumike received 774 points in nationwide voting. Odyssey Sims of Baylor finished second with 761. Breanna Stewart was third at 732. Kayla McBride of Notre Dame finished fourth at 562 and Alyssa Thomas of Maryland was fifth at 509.
There has been a certain obviousness associated with this year’s women’s Final Four, almost as if a Notre Dame-UConn national championship game had been etched on a tablet Moses forgot to bring down from Mt. Sinai.
As you might imagine, this does not make Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer very happy.
“I think some people resent it, at least a little bit,” she said Wednesday. “Why have the NCAA Tournament if it [the result] is inevitable. We definitely want to be party-crashers.”
And thanks to the ultimately bracketologist, the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the Cardinal will have its chance Sunday in the first national semifinal game at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Truth is, Geno Auriemma isn’t too crazy about the notion that the Huskies (38-0) and Irish (36-0) are destined to meet in the first battle of unbeatens in a championship game in NCAA Division I history.
“I’ve not bought into any of that,” Auriemma said. “I kind of don’t like when you have a sense of like you’re disrespecting people, and I wouldn’t want either Maryland or Stanford to feel like we’re just there as filler for the Notre Dame-Connecticut big thing, because I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, and I don’t like it.
“So we’re just preparing as if we would anything else. I know it’s a great story, and I know everybody loves story lines, and in today’s day and age God forbid if you don’t have a story line, we’ll just create one.”
“But I caution everybody, there’s two other teams good enough to win a national championship, so let’s not write that story just yet.”.
Some people love to talk about recruiting. I love schedules, mainly because it gives me a chance to anticipate which holidays I am going to be missing each season.
So now, somewhat refreshed, this is what I have heard:
1). UConn will begin a home-and-home series with South Carolina next season. Don’t know where, at this point, and the contract hasn’t been signed yet, so UConn can’t say. But this is such an intriguing arrangement considering how badly each program wants high school senior A’ja Wilson, the No. 1 unsigned prospect, who just happens to live in South Carolina. If she picks one of the two, the other will experience post envy when they play.
Then again, Kelsey Bone picked South Carolina and you will recall how that turned out? Just saying….
Deb Corum, UConn’s senior administrator for women’s basketball, said Sunday night that UConn and Stanford have agreed to extend their home-and-home series for at least two more years through the 2016-17 season. The teams meet next Nov. 14 in Palo Alto, Calif.
“Right now it’s for two years, but we are hoping it will be for four more years,” Corum said.
The Huskies and Cardinal began playing each other annually in 2009.
In addition, the chances are good that UConn and UCLA may begin a two-year series in 2015-16. They were close to an agreement to play next season, but those plans fell through. The programs have not played since 1999 in Connecticut, the end of their last two-game arrangement.
Corum also said the Huskies are planning to participate in an exempt tournament next Thanksgiving in Estero, Fla. – the Gulfcoast Showcase at Germain Arena – that Corum said would attract a high-level of competition.
This year’s event, which concluded Sunday, included included UCLA, NCState, MissSt, Wright State, James Madison, Grand Canyon, Middle Tenn and SE Louisiana.
Geno Auriemma has won 846 games in his career, so unless the restaurant business gets too demanding, and he decides to hang it up at UConn, his 900th win will come at some point next season.
Until then, he can only reflect on what its like when one of his peers, namely Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, reaches that rare milestone.
“It’s like Tara said [after she won her 900th game last week], when you reach a milestone like that, it means your program has been really good for a very long time,” Auriemma said. “And just imagine, she took a year off [to coach the 1996 Olympic team] so you could add another 30 wins.
“Coaches that reach that number, or any number about 500, it’s a lot of wins over a long time and many years. The fact only five people have done [Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, Vivian Stringer, and Jody Conradt] tells you it’s very hard to do.
“I don’t know if anyone sets out to do it, but you wake up one day and there you are. For as long as I’ve coached at Connecticut, she’s been winning a lot of games. She is one of the game’s icons.”
Despite defeating Hartford by 55 points in Saturday’s opener, UConn actually lost a first-place vote to second-ranked Duke in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. Harold Gutmann of the Durham (NC) Herald Sun went voted his home team No. 1. The Blue Devils beat No. 10 California on the road in its opener. Stanford came into Monday’s game against UConn as No. 3. Fourth-ranked Tennessee faced No. 12 North Carolina on Monday night. Louisville was fifth, followed by Notre Dame and Kentucky. Baylor and Cal switched places to round out the top 10.
Here is my story for Monday’s Hartford Courant in advance of that night’s game between No. 1 UConn and No. 3 Stanford at Gampel Pavilion:
Bad things sometimes happen to good programs. It’s the chance you take when you put yourself out there for championships and honor, life’s ultimate jump ball.
Then again, what UConn heaped on Stanford last season in Palo Alto, Calif., broke ground in one of the game’s least discussed areas – depth of destruction.
On the fourth day after Christmas, this is what UConn put on The Tree: an ugly 61-35 ornament that emphatically ended the program’s record 82-game home win streak.
UConn held Stanford to 11 field goals, 13 first-half points and harassed it defensively (19.3 percent from the floor) to the point of despair.
Courtesy of Stanford’s department of athletic communications, here is how the Cardinal opening-game win at Boston College played out numbers-wise…
• Stanford improved to 28-11 all-time in season openers with Saturday’s win. The victory also marked the 13th straight year that the Cardinal opened a campaign with a win. The last loss for Stanford in a season opener was a 75-64 setback at Saint Mary’s on Nov. 17, 2000 (2000-01 season).
NO. 3 STANFORD at NO. 1 UCONN WOMEN
Time: 7 p.m.
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs
TV: ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke)
Radio: WTIC-AM 1080, WILI-AM 1400 (Bob Joyce and Debbie Fisk)
Series history: Tied, 7-7
Last meeting: UConn, 61-35, XL Center, Dec. 29, 2012
Streaks: UConn W1; Stanford, W1