Thursday Cardinal Couple
- Can anyone beat Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Tournament?
-It's strictly business, Kim
-Busy weekend for Softball
-CARDINAL COUPLE Pick 'Em.
Friday noon starts the 30th. BIG EAST Tournament. 16 teams converge upon the XL Center in Hartford, CT. to play 15 games over five days to determine who will be the 2012 champion. Coming into the five days of BIG EAST March Madness, the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets on Tuesday night is Notre Dame. The Irish have done little wrong this year in compiling a 28-2 record -- 16-1 in conference play -- with losses to only #1 ranked Baylor in the pre-season WNIT and West Virginia.
Along the way, they've conquered some pretty impressive foes. Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke and Connecticut twice. They rank #1 in scoring offense, field goal percentage, steals, and turnover margin in the BIG EAST. The Irish are second in scoring margin, scoring defense, free throw percentage, rebounding margin, rebounding defense, assists and defensive rebounds.
Before we automatically send the trophy to South Bend, though and hand Muffet McGraw and her team the scissors to cut the nets down...we pose the question -- can anyone defeat them in the tournament?
It'll be tough to stop the swifty Skylar Diggins, hard knocking Natalie Novosel, rebounding machine Devereaux Peters and role players Kayla McBride, Brittany Mallory, Natalie Achonwa, Kaila Turner and Fredrica Miller.
Hard to keep them from putting points on the board and even harder to score against them. Only one team (Baylor) has scored over ninety points on them. One team has managed eighty points plus (Kentucky). DePaul got to 70 in a 20-point loss. Four teams have hit the 60 point plateau. Meanwhile, the Irish average 81.4 a game.
Here's six teams that may have a chance to down the Irish and we'll look at their bids for the upset in the tournament.
1) DePaul. The Blue Demons should be able to get past the winner of the USF-Pittsburgh game and will be the first team to face Notre Dame...at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The two faced each other about a month ago in South Bend and N.D. sent the Blue Demons home 20 point losers. It would take Anna Martin's best game of the year, strong rebounding from Katherine Harry and three point bombing from Brittany Hrynko and Deanna Ortiz...plus a big all-around game from Jasmine Penny. We rate DePaul's chances for the upset at 20%. And, based on the way DePaul played against Louisville last Saturday...that may be a generous percentage.
2) West Virginia. They put the only conference defeat on Notre Dame on an evening where it seemed only Skylar Diggins came to play for the Irish. She had 32 of the Irish 63 points. West Virginia has scorers in Bussie, Dunning and Caldwell. They can keep the game in the 50-60 point range, which means they're slowing down the Irish transition attack...but if the two meet on Monday at 6 p.m. in the semi-finals...you can bet that Notre Dame will be looking for payback for the regular season loss. We rate their chances at 25% to knock the Irish out of the tournament.
3) Georgetown. If the Hoyas get to the semifinal match-up instead of West Virginia and face the Irish...it'll be on Sugar Rodgers to lead them to the victory. The Irish held her to 13 points in the 80-60 Notre Dame win back on January 10th. They'll also need a perfect game out of Tia Magee and strong defensive play. Notre Dame and Connecticut were the only two teams to score 80 points on Georgetown this season. If the Irish can do it again, they win. We give Georgetown a 15% chance of success.
4) Louisville. The Cards have to get by the winner of the Seton Hall vs. Villanova game and then defeat #2 seed St. John's to earn the right to face the Irish. Louisville lost to Notre Dame by 16 in the President's Day afternoon match-up in the KFC YUM Center. It'll take a effort from Shoni Schimmel that equals her game last year against Xavier, long range bombing from Becky Burke and Nita Slaughter...plus excellent play from freshman Bria Smith on the defensive end. The Cards proved they could slug it out in the paint with the Irish last time. They still haven't proven they can stop Skylar Diggins. Louisville's chances to defeat Notre Dame we rate at 10%.
5) St. John's. We like the way that the Red Storm have been playing since they shook the injury bug and they've won 10 out of their last 11 games. They have wins over UConn, Rutgers twice, West Virginia and Georgetown in that run. It was Notre Dame who provided the loss, though. A 15-point defeat in South Bend. Stevens, Smith, McPherson, McKenith and a strong bench can't hurt the Red Storm's chances on a neutral court. If the match-up occurs, it'd be in the Tuesday night finals. We give St. John's a 30% chance of taking the crown.
6) Connecticut. Sure, they've lost twice already this year to Notre Dame. Sure, the weaknesses have been exposed on how to beat the Huskies. But, it's being played in UConn's back yard and Tiffany Hayes, Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris aren't ready to concede the title just yet. It's hard to beat a team three times in a row in one season. They'd meet in the final Tuesday night, if they can both get there. We give the Huskies a 35% chance of turning the tables.
Fun days ahead. It's a great time of year for the college basketball fan and don't be surprised if an upset or two occur in the BIG EAST Tournament. It is March Madness, after all.
WE'RE not sure if Kim Mulkey, head basketball coach of the Baylor women's basketball team is still suffering from pre-separation anxiety from Gary Blair, the Texas A&M head women's coach...but her anger and sorrow is misguided.
Mulkey recently talked about the departure of A&M to the SEC in terms of betrayal, likened it to a divorce and insisted she'd never schedule a game with the Aggies once they were gone.
|Kim would find Knoxville challenging. Hope she|
likes barbecue and the color Orange. Go for it, girl!
I'm sorry that the Baylor football program wasn't wanted enough (despite RG III) to get a look for the SEC addition. But, football Saturdays in Knoxville are still wild and wonderful affairs...where over 100,000 show up, even if the Vols are having a sub-par season. And, they lead the nation in women's basketball attendance this year. Not a bad gig.
Dust off that resume and wait for the call. Or, if Matthew Mitchell gets the nod...hey, Lexington isn't that bad a....OK. Laughing too hard to finish this...Good luck, Kim. You'll always have the upcoming BIG 12 Tournament to fondly remember the departing Aggies by. Or last year's NCAA Dallas Regional finals game.
Oops, never mind.
Sandy Pearsall's 12-0 Louisville softball team travels to Knoxville this weekend to play in the Tennessee Classic, hosted by the University of Tennessee. It'll be five games again in three days for the Cardinal squad, starting with a Friday 12:30 p.m. battle against the Blue Raiders (3-5) from Middle Tennessee. Louisville faces the Dutch National Team at 5:30 p.m. WE don't know much about them...hoping that they don't wear wooden cletes or carry wooden gloves.
Saturday sees Louisville grab the bats against Memphis (4-12) at 12:30 and a highly anticipated game against host Tennessee (10-3) at 3 p.m. Better save Tori Collins for this one, Coach P...
Louisville plays Boston University (3-2) supposedly at 11 a.m. Sunday. The Terriers official softball site shows that this one is cancelled, though. Keystroke error or are the Yorkies going to take their chew toys and go home early?
You can follow the Lady Cards action in Knoxville on GameTracker, which is accessible on the UofL Sports official site. Or, hop in the car and make the 4 1/2 drive from Louisville to catch the action.
With Trimble, Fowler, Wolny, Keller, Kiyohara and crew knocking the cover off the ball and Collins, Leonard and Connell ruling the pitching circle...we're boldly predicting that Sandy's sluggers and shut-out artists return to the Derby City 17-0. Make it happen, ladies!
If you haven't got your picks in for the BIG EAST Pick 'Em...just a reminder, you have until noon Friday to e-mail them or post them in the comments section. 30 players so far. Winner, winner gets a $25 gift card for PANERA. Or Wal Mart. As promised, another writer's picks today are featured below.
From the lovely Sonja (who offers no explanation for these) She's last year's champ. She don't need no stinkin' badge...
Friday...I like SYRACUSE to handle Providence, USF to demolish a demoralized Pitt squad, VILLANOVA to squeak by Seton Hall and CINCINNATI over Marquette.
Saturday...I see WEST VIRGINIA sending Syracuse home, USF catching DePaul flat-footed, LOUISVILLE getting past Villanova and RUTGERS winning over Cincinnati.
Sunday...I give WEST VIRGINIA the edge in a close one with Georgetown, NOTRE DAME ending USF's bid, LOUISVILLE upsetting St John's and CONNECTICUT outlasting Rutgers.
Monday...I figure NOTRE DAME will knock off West Virginia in a great re-match and CONNECTICUT will put the Cards out of the running.
Tuesday...I take CONNECTICUT to win it all, narrowly defeating Notre Dame in a classic.
Good luck everyone. Beat me if you can.