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Tuesday, 04/08/08

Rocky Top Of The World

TAMPA, Fla. - God's favorite song is "Rocky Top" and He smiled on Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols one more time as they extended their strangle hold on women's basketball with an unprecedented eighth national title in back-to-back fashion.

For all the prognosticators who picked the trendy Cardinal, Tennessee made sure they knew just how wrong they were. The Lady Vols came out determined to show the country just how silly they were to ever doubt them. This one was over early as Tennessee cruised to a 64-48 victory.

Candace Parker was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player as she scored 17 points to lead all scorers and grab nine rebounds. But make no mistake, tonight's game belonged to Nicky "Sticky Fingers" Anosike.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 11:42 PM | Comment

Tuesday, 04/08/08

Nicky Ano-Sticky Fingers

TAMPA, Fla. - Well, if most of the country's prediction that Stanford wins the national title is to come true, it'll have to happen in come-from-behind fashion.

Jillian Harmon sank a jumper as time expired to close the gap, but Tennessee holds a 37-29 halftime advantage. And they're doing it without much help from Candace Parker.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:29 PM | Comment

Tuesday, 04/08/08

Why Do I Think Tennessee Will Win?

TAMPA, Fla. - I really don't understand how Tennessee does it.

Top-seeded and a top-ranked team all year, the owners of seven national titles somehow manage to find ways to fancy themselves underdogs every year.

Last year against Rutgers, the darlings of the postseason, the media tabbed the Scarlet Knights the juicy pick. And now, once again, Tennessee finds themselves up against a very chic Stanford team.

Well, the Lady Vols won last year, proving the truism that trends always fade, and this year, I think they are going to do the exact same thing.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 05:16 PM | Comment

Monday, 04/07/08

Wiggins Isn't Everything

TAMPA, Fla. - Candice Wiggins isn't everything and Stanford knows that's the reason they're one game from winning their first national championship since 1992.

The Cardinal wouldn't be meeting Tennessee on Tuesday had Wiggins not put them on her shoulders at times, scoring 44 points against UTEP in the second round and 41 against Maryland to reach the Final Four, but they also wouldn't be here were it not for the emergence of Wiggins' supporting cast.

And I'm not talking about Stanford's trees, 6-foot-4 freshman and sophomore centers Kayla Pedersen and Jayne Appel. They played great for Stanford all year. Sort of like a triumvirate of talent, that was more than enough to take home regular season and Pac-10 Tournament titles. To win it all, Stanford needed more than that and they've gotten it in a big way.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 02:53 PM | Comment

Monday, 04/07/08

This Goat Has Horns

TAMPA, Fla. - Alexis Hornbuckle played one of the worst games in her four year career yet nobody deserves more credit for sending the Lady Vols to Tuesday's national title game against Stanford.

With 7.1 seconds to play in the game the senior guard's stat line read 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from deep, 0-1 from the free throw line for zero points. Not only that, in the game's waning moments, with the score 45-44 in favor of Tennessee, Hornbuckle missed a shot that would have iced it and then fouled Erica White while she was driving down court. White promptly hit two free throws to give LSU the lead and what looked like the victory.

What happened next nobody could have expected, especially not Hornbuckle.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 12:11 AM | Comment

Sunday, 04/06/08

Slow First Half

TAMPA, Fla. - After the drama that unfolded in Sunday's first national semifinal game between Stanford and Connecticut, the first half of the LSU-Tennessee game was largely anti-climatic.

The score is 22-18 in favor of the Lady Vols, but outside of eight points and nine boards from Candace Parker and 12 points and eight boards from Sylvia Fowles, not much else happened.

Quianna Chaney had four points and freshman Allison Hightower added a deuce for LSU. For Tennessee, Alberta Auguste helped out the Vols cause by scoring six.


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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:20 PM | Comment

Sunday, 04/06/08

Cardinal Dance On

TAMPA, Fla. - Candice Wiggins fell short of another 40-point performance.

Stanford didn't need it.

So much for that Tennessee-Connecticut national title game. The Cardinal crashed that party, 82-73, and was just too much for Connecticut to handle all night.

The Cardinal showed an incredible combination of size, strength and shooting ability as it didn't matter what UConn chose to defend. The Cardinal beat them in every way. And nobody, not Geno Auriemma, not Tara Vanderveer, not Candice Wiggins or the Stanford crowd really thought it was possible until it was over.

And as the clock ticked down to zero it was Wiggins with the ball in her hand ready for the celebration to begin.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 08:58 PM | Comment

Sunday, 04/06/08

UConn Can't See Over The Trees

TAMPA, Fla. - How many people out there thought Stanford would be up 40-33 at halftime? Come on, be honest.

Bottom line, Connecticut is having major trouble with Stanford's size. The front court duo of Kayla Pedersen - who has a game-high 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting - and Jayne Appel has been sensational in stopping Connecticut's power game.

The Huskies have been limited to jumpers and, frankly, aren't hitting them.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 07:52 PM | Comment

Sunday, 04/06/08

Four On The Floor

TAMPA, Fla. - The Final Four is set to get underway with the Huskies of Connecticut, the one seed in the Greensboro Regional, taking on two-seeded Stanford out of Spokane.

The national anthem has been played and the Cardinal are on the court warming up with some layup drills.

And here comes the Huskies, with their little corner of the arena - their designated cheering section - erupting as they form layup lines of their own.

Tonight's first matchup should prove a good one. Vegas thinks the Huskies should be about a nine-point favorite. What do I think?

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 06:55 PM | Comment

Sunday, 04/06/08

Making Assumptions

The entire nation assumes Tuesday national championship game will pit UConn and Tennessee. It's going to be Pat vs. Geno. Maya Moore vs. Candace Parker.

Wait a second...don't they have the semifinals still to play?

As great as the Huskies and Lady Vols are, and as much as they do deserve to meet in the national title game, and as much as that would be the culmination of a great season of women's college basketball, the LSU Lady Tigers would like to think that they have fate and luck on their side.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:29 AM | Comment

Saturday, 04/05/08

Smokey And Summitt's Bandit

Where was Smokey, the Tennessee mascot, when Pat Summitt needed him?

The Blue Tick Coonhound was nowhere to be found when coach Summitt dislocated her shoulder trying to chase one of the rascals off her porch.

The story is definitely worth telling, and nobody tells it better than Summitt herself.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:49 PM | Comment

Saturday, 04/05/08

Much Ado About Losing

Greetings from Tampa, Fla., where the weather is a beautiful 85 degrees and clear.

At last year's Final Four in Cleveland, the media gift was a miniature guitar in tribute to Cleveland being the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This year's media gift...a big bag of oranges.

I kid. I kid.

It's practice Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum and all four teams got a chance to take the court. All four teams got a chance to talk to the press, too. Here's a little sampling of what went down behind the scenes.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:06 PM | Comment

Thursday, 04/03/08

Bionic Lady Vol

Pat Summitt recently dislocated her shoulder while chasing a raccoon so she feels Candace Parker's pain.

Though it was suffered during Tennessee's Elite Eight game against Texas A&M and not chasing varmint off the porch, Parker's shoulder is the most important thing on the minds of Tennessee fans everywhere. And LSU would like to know if they have to prepare for the best women's player alive, too.

Well worry not. Her Airness says she's going to play. Of course she's going to play. She dislocated her shoulder twice against the Aggies and still came back to lead the Lady Vols. Didn't you realize? The Tigers aren't dealing with an average woman.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:47 AM | Comment

Wednesday, 04/02/08

Tampa Bound

I'm going to Tampa!

For the purposes of this blog, I guess I should mention so is LSU, Stanford, Tennessee and Connecticut.

Were the Lady Vols and Huskies so impressive in their regional final matchups? Not really, but that's what is so impressive about it.

It's like fate playing tricks on their opponents. Giving hope when there was none to give.

Everyone knows this is Connecticut and Tennessee's year to shine. The season where two teams who historically meet each year fail to find each other until the ultimate contest. But to say Texas A&M and Rutgers didn't make it interesting would be to disrespect God's design.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:43 AM | Comment

Tuesday, 04/01/08

Couldn't Be Denied

Candace Parker carried Tennessee on her shoulders all night - even after dislocating one.

Tennessee couldn't shake Texas A&M. More of a struggle than they could have hoped - Candace Parker dislocated her shoulder in the process - the Lady Vols couldn't be denied a return trip to the Final Four.

Playing in her last Elite Eight game Parker torched the Aggies for 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including one stretch in the first half where she scored 16 straight points for her team.

She injured her left shoulder with 18 points and proceeded to miss her first two shots following the injury, wincing each time. But like great champions do, she bottled up her pain and pushed on and will her team to Tampa.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:02 PM | Comment

Tuesday, 04/01/08

The Ones Strike Back

With Stanford and LSU doing damage and eliminating their region's top seeds to advance to the Final Four, you can only imagine the ideas running through Texas A&M and Rutgers' heads.

Not so fast, ladies. Maryland and North Carolina are no Tennessee and UConn.

This is the side of the bracket that everyone cares about. We all want to see the best two programs in the history of the sport meet for the national title on April 8.

Before that can happen, though, the other matchup everyone wants to see has to take place. And that matchup is coming tonight at 9 p.m. when two Big East rivals tangle for the third time on the season. Rutgers and UConn's season series is tied at one game apiece, and tonight we find out what kind of nerves they have.

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Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:41 AM | Comment
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