The Pac-10's Best....Ever

By Jeff Lippman - March 11, 2008

West Coast women's basketball, it can be accurately stated, has simply lacked entertainment value over the past several years, while teams on the other side of the country - UConn, UNC, Duke, Maryland, Tennessee, etc. - ruled the game.

Lacking or not, the West Coast belongs to Candice Wiggins, and for four years she has always been worth the price of admission.

It's a sad realization for the Pac-10, however, that Wiggins has played her final conference game - an absolute beauty in the conference championship against Bay Area-rival Cal.

The Bears and Cardinal had been the conference's best all season, with many opinions - including that of CSTV analyst Debbie Antonelli - saying Cal might be the better team.

Wiggins and her pals played the Bears three times now this season, once in Palo Alto, once in Berkeley and now in San Jose and the outcomes have been the same. Stanford won them all, won the regular season title and now the tourney title as well. Wiggins averaged 24 points in the three wins.

And on Monday night, when the Cardinal needed the biggest win of its season, Wiggins gave them one of her biggest performances. The senior torched the Bears, scoring 30 of her team's 56 points and almost outscoring the Bears (35 total points) by herself.

She's the all-time leading Pac-10 scorer, she was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year for the third time in four seasons and thanks to her, Stanford has won eight straight Pac-10 titles. The Cardinal, however, have not been to the Final Four since 1997, well before Wiggins hit Palo Alto.

With all her accolades and all her distinctions, Wiggins herself won't consider her career complete unless she helps her Cardinal end that streak.

Big East Championship
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 7 Louisville (7 p.m.)

The story here is Louisville, because by the end of the day the Cardinals will be nothing but a fond memory.

It was hard to ignore Louisville this season because of who their best player for the past two seasons has been. Junior Angel McCoughtry is one of the best all-around basketball players in the country. She consistently is among the NCAA leaders in scoring and steals.

Her team, however, largely underachieved this season. With her talents so great, one wondered how the Cardinals lost at Western Carolina and Minnesota, at Syracuse and at home to Notre Dame. These were games the Cardinals could have won, but didn't. And although McCoughtry averaged almost 24 points per game this year, Louisville could only muster a seven seed in the Big East Tournament.

Well, it's time to pay attention to the Cardinals once again after they beat St. John's in the first round and then proceeded to upset AP No. 4 Rutgers and No. 14 West Virginia to make the tourney final with three big wins in three days.

Will they make it a fourth big win in four days? Not likely. Standing in their way is No. 1 Connecticut, and their story is a little different.

The Huskies need no introduction. They are the best. Since beating Rutgers by 20 on March 3, UConn has been an unstoppable force and I'm sorry to say Louisville will be devoured next. And hard.

Sun Belt Championship
No. 1 Western Kentucky vs. No. 3 Middle Tennessee (3 p.m.)

If Western Kentucky should lose, at 25-8 the NCAA committee will have a decision on their hands as to whether they deserve an at-large bid.

For me, if the Hilltoppers lose, they are out. And I like Middle Tennessee State today. I think coach Rick Insell will have his team ready to go and star senior Amber Holt will do the rest.

Summit Championship
No. 3 IUPUI vs. No. 4 Oral Roberts (3 p.m.)

The winner of this game will be one of the worst teams in the field of 64. Prediction for NCAA first round: No. 1 Connecticut 88, No. 16 Oral Roberts 21

Big 12 First Round
No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Colorado (noon)
Game 2: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 Missouri (2:30 p.m.)
Game 3: No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Texas Tech (6 p.m.)
Game 4: No. 6 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Kansas (8:30 p.m.)

The Big 12 was perhaps the most interesting league this regular season. With five ranked teams and eight teams with at least 18 wins, this was a very deep conference where it seemed, at times, that anything could and would happen.

That's why, in the Big 12 Tournament, I expect there to be numerous upsets and I think it is going to be difficult to predict the ultimate champion.

The league's highest ranked team AP-wise, No. 9 Baylor, is the two seed, while No. 15 Kansas State grabbed the one. No. 13 Oklahoma didn't even get a first-round bye and is the No. 5 seed. They play Missouri at 2:30 p.m. today.

If Courtney Paris can pick up her teammates, I think we could still see the Sooners in the winners circle. But one thing is certain, nothing is certain in the Big 12.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2008

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