Will The Sun Shine On Chiney Ogwumike? Donovan Says “Not So Fast”

by Categorized: 2014 WNBA Draft, Anne Donovan, Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

After finishing in last place overall in the WNBA last season, with a roster depleted with injuries, the Connecticut Sun was faced with a conundrum unlike anything it had seen in many years.
The Sun knew they had to change the look of a team whose smile had turned upside down. And change has come frequently during a offseason delayed for months by the negotiation of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.
But on Monday, the Sun roster will change even more dramatically when it makes the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft at the Mohegan Sun Arena. They also hold the 11th pick, acquired from the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for the talented, but disinterested, Sandrine Gruda, the star French center, who had not played in Connecticut for two years.
“[Gruda] was clear she did not want to come to Connecticut,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “We felt this was our opportunity to get some trade value from her.
And with the first pick, it is expected the Sun will select Stanford’s dynamic, personable All-American Chiney Ogwumike, although Dovonan, perhaps on orders from the league, perhaps to heighten the drama, was decidedly coy about the team’s intentions.
“Odyssey Sims [the Baylor guard] is quite the player,” Donovan said.  Everybody who thinks that it’s a foregone conclusion that Chiney Ogwumike is going to be here with us, well, we’d love to have Chiney Ogwumike and  we’d love to have Odyssey.  It just depends on guard or post, truthfully.”
Truthfully, the Sun need Ogwumike more than Sims. They have no classic power forward to take pressure of Tina Charles, who despite dominating again in rebounding did not have a stellar season following her MVP in 2013.
Ogwumike, the Pac-12 player of the year and a relentless rebounder, seems to snap perfectly into that place.
“She’s very coachable.  She’s shown great improvement every year at Stanford,” Donovan said. “She played internationally for USA.  She’s won gold medals with our national team.  She’s done all the right things to continue to grow her game.  She’s shown a hunger to get better as she does it.”
Although she was raised in Houston, and has a decidedly free-spirited west coach vibe, Ogwumike said she would welcome being selected by Connecticut.
“You know, I don’t like jumping the gun or anything, but you know what, one thing I know about Connecticut is that they’re huge women’s basketball fans,” Ogwumike said at last week’s Final Four in Nashville. “I’m a people person. I think that organization [the Sun] is great. The players on the team are great. The fans; I feel like a place like that, I would thrive. … If it [the draft pick] happens to be in Connecticut, I’ll be a happy girl.”

The idea that Asjha Jones would reclaim her power forward spot, after taking last year off, was dashed when she injured her Achilles in Europe. Her replacement, Mistie Bass, signed as a free agent with Phoenix. And Kelsey Griffin is more of combo forward than classic power post.
“Chiney is  a fantastic player and I think would be a great grab for Connecticut because I think they need that help in the postgame, especially with not having Asjha Jones coming back,” said Carolyn Peck, ESPN’s draft analyst. “She fits the speed, is a post that you need in the WNBA.  She brings great rebounding inside for Connecticut.  I think she would be a great fit.
“Now, for me, you also would have to consider Odyssey Sims because I think that Odyssey is a point guard, the best point guard in the college game, and I think she is so ready.  I think that Coach Donovan would have to consider do you pass up on that.”
But the Sun has already made changes at guard, trading Kara Lawson to Washington in a three-team deal with Atlanta that brought Alex Bentley to the Sun. And they reached back to re-sign Katie Douglas, a lynchpin of two Sun conference champions, who has tortured them for years in Indiana.
“I think, all in all, for what Connecticut needs, I think Chiney would surely suit the Sun,” Peck said.
To help bolster the post, the Sun also offered free-agent deals to Kelley Cain, a 6-6 center who played collegiately at Tennessee, and 6-2 Keisha Hampton, the former DePaul star.
What’s certain is the the Tulsa Shock, who choose second, will take the player the Sun passes on.
“We’re going to do the opposite of what [the Sun] does,” Shock coach Fred Williams said. “Connecticut has the first call on that.  But either player on that end is a good find and good pick.”
San Antonio seems interested in UConn’s Stefanie Dolson with the third pick, leaving Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride, Alyssa Thomas of Maryland and Bria Hartley for the New York Liberty and Fever to choose from at 4 and 5.
“I don’t think we have an Elena Delle Donne or Brittney Griner in this class, who are game changers.  But we have a lot of impact players,” ESPN’s LaChina Robinson said. “You could look across the board, especially at the top five, some of the players we’ve talked about all season; Ogwumike, Sims, McBride and Thomas.  They’re impact players.
“You may not have big stars, but it’s definitely not a letdown at all [from last year] because these are players the fans have become familiar with over time.  I think they will be watching to see how they perform at the next level.  I think there’s tremendous depth in this class.”

Looks Like Dolson May Get Her Tonight Show Wish

by Categorized: Jimmy Fallon, Stefanie Dolson, The Tonight Show Date:

Stefanie Dolson has come to understand that most everything she said and did at UConn during her career was seen or heard by someone.
Like the time she slapped a pair of playful bunny ears and the POTUS at last year’s White House reception. That got a lot of people talking.
On Tuesday night, Dolson she said she was hoping for a call-out from The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon in the moments following UConn’s national championship game win over Notre Dame. What  she wasn’t expecting was that  Fallon would walk on stage on Wednesday and open his monologue talking about what the UConn senior said.
“Yes, it was definitely surprising,” Dolson said. “Especially after last year, when Ellen [DeGeneres] never got back to me. The fact that Jimmy Fallon actually said something about our team, and called me out to play [basketball and Xbox] with him was really cool. I was really excited last night when I saw it.
“We are trying to see if I can get there [to The Tonight Show, which is now taped in New York City]. I’m hoping we can bring the entire team. I’d rather all the guys get to be there and not just me.
“Can I take him in basketball? Uh, yeah. But in video games? I am terrible at Xbox.”
A spokesman in the UConn sports information office confirmed that the university and Fallon’s staff have been in touch about setting up an appearance.
Dolson will be a first-round selection in Monday’s WNBA Draft, held at Mohegan Sun Arena. And she will likely fly immediately to the team that drafts her to meet with the coaches and ownership, take a physical and hold press conferences before returning to school.  But it looks like this is going to happen once his people talk to her people

UConn Won, You Watched

by Categorized: ESPN, UConn women's basketball Date:

UConn’s win over Notre Dame in the NCAA Women’s National Championship earned a 2.8 US rating, the highest for any ESPN women’s college basketball game in a decade.  The rating is the highest for the sport since Connecticut’s victory over Tennessee for the 2004 title earned a 3.5. 


The match-up averaged 3.21 million households and 4.27 viewers (P2+) – fourth and sixth best, respectively, since ESPN began televising the women’s championship in 1996. In addition, the 2.8 rating represents an increase of 40 percent over a 2.0 a year ago for UConn over Louisville.

  In addition, nearly 100,000 fans turned to WatchESPN for the traditional telecast and the special ESPN3 Surround production of the match-up.  Those 100,000 thousand fans generated 3,800,000 minutes on the game, both all-time highs for a women’s college basketball game.  Additionally, the game generated the most minutes viewed for an ESPN3 Surround production to date. 



Among the metered markets, Hartford/New Haven led the way with a 29.3 rating, making it the market’s highest overnight for a program on cable in 2014. Nashville was the second highest-rated market with a 6.8 followed by Knoxville (6.0), Louisville (5.5), Indianapolis (4.8), Raleigh-Durham (4.7), Providence (4.6), New York (4.6), Memphis (4.5) and Greenville (4.5).



Another Great Year For The Coach And His Program

by Categorized: Geno Auriemma Date:

Playing for Geno Auriemma is not easy. And it shouldn’t be, or so say those who fully subscribe to the risk-reward theory of finding success.
But that’s not really the point now, while the state celebrates his record ninth women’s basketball championship.
“It means we’ve done something that no one else has ever done,” Auriemma said. “So you’re flattered and you’re grateful and you’re all the things that come with this kind of accomplishment.  Of course.  That’s not the driving force.  That’s not what motivates us at Connecticut.”
The point is playing for him seems more than worth it to the players who migrate from cities and suburbs to run through walls, metaphorical and otherwise, for him.
You could see that in the UConn locker room after Tuesday’s 79-58 win over the Notre Dame in the national championship game in Nashville.

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Arrival Info For UConn Women

by Categorized: 2014 NCAA women's tournament Date:

   The team is expected to return to Bradley International Airport about  3 p.m. Wednesday. There will be no public event at the airport. It will then return to campus for a victory lap through campus about 4 p.m., where the Huskies will ride in an open-air double decker bus and will be accompanied by the UConn pep band and cheerleaders. Upon conclusion of the victory lap will be a brief speaking program at the Fairfield Way Plaza – in between the Student Union and the school of business. The lap will start at the Storrs Congregational Church.

UConn Women Roll To Ninth Title

by Categorized: 2014 NCAA women's tournament, UConn women's basketball Date:

Shortly after defeating Tennessee for its first national championship in 1995, Chris Dailey saw Tennessee assistant Mickie DeMoss at an AAU tournament. They had an enlightening chat.
“She was very gracious,” said Dailey, UConn’s associate head coach. “And then she said, ‘We need to change the way we play to beat you.
“I remember calling Geno [Auriemma] saying, “Oh my god, Tennessee is going to change the way they play because of us! Can you believe it? It was disbelief and awe that little old Connecticut would have that kind of impact on Tennessee.’”
Imagine that.
Well, on Tuesday night at the Bridgestone Arena, smack in the middle of Tennessee, the program that currently defines sustained greatness in collegiate athletics surpassed the one it aspired to emulate.
UConn put the punctuation on its fifth undefeated season by blasting Notre Dame, 79-58.
The national championship is the second straight for UConn.  For Auriemma and Dailey, the game’s first couple, it is their ninth, eclipsing the mark set by Pat Summitt’s mighty program.
The victory extended UConn’s winning streak to 46, ended Notre Dame’s at 37. But more importantly, most historically, it secured, for just the second time in NCAA history, a dual national championship for the men’s and women’s programs operating out of the castle in the Storrs cornfield.
Senior Stefanie Dolson, whose zest for life and seriousness for the game turned her into one of the program’s most beloved players, said goodbye with 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, whose regular season was wrecked by injury and illness, completed a star run through the regionals and Final Four with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Breanna Stewart, the sensational sophomore, the national player of the year, the game’s new prodigy, added 21 points and nine rebounds.
And All-American Bria Hartley ended her career with 13 points, finishing six shy of 2,000.
The Irish was led by Kayla McBride, its All-American guard, who ended her fabulous career with 21 points.
This wasn’t the game everyone hoped for; you know, a scrum between two essentially level powerhouses with their own strengths and few perceptible weaknesses.
Nope, with the exception of the first four minutes, when the Irish took an 8-6 lead, this game went to the dogs.
Consider the second half: Down 45-38 at the half, Notre Dame scored just nine points in the first 16 minutes of the second half. The word stifled comes to mind.
UConn rolled over Notre Dame’s post, which has played so well against Maryland in the semifinals. It shut down Notre Dame’s guards who had made five threes in the first half.
UConn was everywhere Notre Dame was and everywhere Notre Dame couldn’t get to. And that is why UConn still has never lost a national championship game.
The Irish came in having defeated UConn in seven of their last nine meetings, although one of the losses was last year’s national semifinal in New Orleans. Times change, rosters along with it. But it all contributed to an added sense of urgency for programs with everything to lose with just one loss.
And as if the game needed any more edge, the byplay on Tuesday between Auriemma and Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, so reminiscent of past forays between he and Summitt had, added the spurs to the fence that now separates the programs.
The Huskies took a quick 4-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game, but soon found themselves down 8-6 on a McBride basket.
Then game had the transforming moment of the half.
The Huskies attacked Notre Dame’s backline, now without senior Natalie Achonwa. They used Dolson and Stewart primarily to go on a 16-0 run that lasted for 4:48 and pushed the Huskies into a 22-8 lead with 11:02 to play.
But the Irish refused to relent and used their backcourt strength to cut into the lead. Jewell Loyd, their WBCA All-American, and Michaela Mabrey, one of the best pure shooters in the nation, shot the Irish back into the game.
With two three-pointers from each, and another from McBride (13 first-half points), they slowly moved back, cutting the lead to 29-23 before baskets by Stewart and Moriah Jefferson re-established a 10-point lead for UConn (33-23) with 5:09 to play in the half.
The Huskies held Notre Dame to 15 of 35 shooting in the first half to build a 45-38 lead. Five of those field goals were the threes from their guards when all seemed lost.
But the bigger problem, the one that put this game in danger from the start, was the way UConn’s frontline was taking care of business. Stewart and Dolson were a combined 12-for-16 in the first half and the Huskies outscored the Irish, 32-10, in the paint.
Mosqueda-Lewis (14), Stewart (14) and Dolson (10) all had double-figures by the end of half. The Huskies also assisted on 16 of their 21 field goals with five blocked shots.
Loyd (11 points) and Mabrey (10) were 7-for-16 from the field.

What Do I Think About UConn-Notre Dame?

by Categorized: UConn football, UConn men's basketball, UConn women's basketball Date:

Glad you asked:

* This dust up between Geno and Muffet is not surprising to me at all. In fact, its quite normal in the human condition. Do you have a rival, professional or personal? Do you say things behind their back or suspect they are doing so about you? Are there people you simply are tired of seeing or dealing with? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you likely already understand why these two have grown apart.

Now, just add the pressure of championship and recruiting competition, the insecurity of having your university’s academic standing discounted and insulted [UConn], the feeling you are being bullied and your players ignored [Notre Dame] and you are left with a script TLC would look at.

* I believe UConn is going to win tonight, but I would not be surprised if it was by less than six points. I love Notre Dame’s team, particularly Kayla McBride, one of my favorite college players in the last two seasons. She is a warrior and the WNBA team that gets her Monday will be one lucky bunch. But I think UConn will win because of its fabulous starting five and its front court experience and brawn.

* I am happy for UConn because of how terribly stupid and short-sided its success makes the Big Ten and ACC look. Can you imagine how dumb the Big Ten, in particular, must feel now about courting Rutgers and Maryland, as if their football programs and footprint in major media markets is so vastly superior to UConn’s.

Thanks to its new AD, who continues to talk and act her way into a contract buyout, the Scarlet Knights don’t compare in any athletic measurable to UConn, particularly in the New York market. Really, Rutgers over UConn? And really, can someone tell me what is so special about Maryland?

Not only did the UConn men kick some NCAA butt on Monday, they helped to humiliate the major conferences who chose to ignore the power of basketball.

But I will say this one more time: The most important man in Connecticut right now is not Geno or Kevin Ollie. It is Bob Diaco, gulp, a Notre Dame guy.

Once UConn wins some football games, the Huskies will be the ones calling the shots.

Big Moments In Women’s College Basketball History Always Involve UConn

by Categorized: 2014 NCAA women's tournament Date:

For the last two decades, every significant event in women’s college basketball history has seemingly involved UConn, either as a starting, middle or end point.
The Huskies and Geno Auriemma; everywhere, every place, every year.
So it will be again tonight in the first championship game battle of unbeatens in the history of college basketball at the Bridgestone Arena.
“I think it was kind of inevitable, wasn’t it?  I think you guys [the media] probably had that one on your calendars probably by February 1,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
“I think the whole country was so distracted and enamored with the matchup that it’s kind of nice to be in that moment.  We really tried to block it all out and I thought did a really good job of that during the year.
“But now it’s great to have the two best teams in the country playing each other for a national championship.”
In one corner is the challenger, Notre Dame (37-0), feisty and confident in its capability of staggering UConn.
In the other are the Huskies (39-0), the defending national champion, who rolled through the season with an uninterrupted string of double-digit victories.

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Stewart Wins Naismith, Dolson WBCA Defender; Sims Gets Wade

by Categorized: 2014 NCAA women's tournament Date:

In case you didn’t hear last night – with all this UConn men’s basketball championship stuff going on  - Breanna Stewart became the sixth Husky to be named the winner of the Naismith Trophy. She become just the seventh player to win the Naismith Trophy in both high school and college. Maya Moore was the last, winning the Naismith twice in high school (2006, 2007) and college (2009, 2011).

Baylor’s Odyssey Sims won the Wade Trophy.

Also, Stefanie Dolson beat out Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims of Baylor to earn WBCA Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Dolson has 90 blocked shots as a senior and is one of four UConn players with 250 career blocked shots.

McGraw Wins Naismith As Coach Of The Year

by Categorized: Muffet McGraw Date:

Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw was named winner of the 2014 Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today.  McGraw is only the third women’s college basketball coach in history to win the award three or more times (she also won in 2001 and 2013).

McGraw was chosen from a group of finalists that included Geno Auriemma, University of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and North Carolina State University coach Wes Moore.  She was selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, which based its criteria on the coaches’ performances throughout the 2013-14 women’s college basketball season.

McGraw led the Irish to their best start and longest winning streak in program history. The Irish are 37-0 and set to play UConn (39-0) for the championship on Tuesday, April 8 – the first title matchup featuring two undefeated teams in NCAA history.

Notre Dame went 16-0 in the ACC, and won both the conference regular season and tournament titles, becoming the first ACC school ever to win the league title in its first season in the conference.

Notre Dame defeated Baylor to earn their fourth straight Final Four berth.  The victory over Baylor was their first in five meetings.

The Irish have made the NCAA Tournament 24 of the 27 years of McGraw’s tenure with Notre Dame.

Named unanimous choice as ACC Coach of the Year, the sixth time in her career she’s been a conference Coach of the Year and second year in a row (also BIG EAST in 2013).