Dishin & Swishin 3/08/12 Podcast: Putting a wrap on a Big East and MAAC championship weekend
If you followed my tweets and writing on Hoopfeed, you know that I covered the Big East and the MAAC postseason tournaments this past weekend.
It started at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the first of two semifinal games of the MAAC tournament in Springfield, Massachusetts. I went to two second-round games in the Big East tournament in Hartford, Connecticut on Saturday evening, four quarterfinal games in the Big East on Sunday, the MAAC final and two Big East semifinals on Monday, and the Big East final Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I rested.
I saw a couple of overtimes, a few close games, a whole bunch of blow outs, and a lot or really questionable refereeing. I also got to hang and talk with some of the best commentators, journalists, coaches and players in the business today.
And that all feeds into the podcast I have for you today. We have a few interviews for you that I know you are going to like!
The Big East tournament was phenomenal. It was a fan friendly event, that featured a red-carpeted area with signed basketball from all the teams when you walked into the building. There was a wonderful display celebrating Naismith Hall of Fame finalists the All-American Red Heads barnstorming team, including some of their players (these ladies are in their sixties and seventies) doing tricks, conversing and entertaining. On Monday there was a “Championship Chalk Talk” hosted by Dishin & Swishin friend LaChina Robinson, and featuring luminaries such as Val Ackerman, Renee Brown, Rebecca Lobo and Mike Thibault. By far the best Big East tournament I have attended as either as a fan or as media.
The person in charge of all of this is Danielle Donehew, the Associate Commissioner for Women’s Basketball for the Big East Conference. Donehew played for Georgia Tech, and graduated cum laude, before becoming a student assistant coach there under Agnus Berenato. She then moved over to Tennessee where she did a myriad of different jobs, including director for basketball operations, working directly with Pat Summitt. Donehew joined the WNBA, when she became executive vice president of the Atlanta Dream. In 2009 the lure of the college game brought her to the Big East conference, where she had been ever since, molding and improving the women’s basketball part of the conference, especially the tournament,
During one of the games, we sat down and discussed the conference, the game, the tournament itself and many things Big East including future tournament locations.
After struggling in the semifinals versus Niagara, Brian Giorgis’ Marist Red Foxes came out on Monday afternoon and just buried second-seeded Fairfield in the MAAC championship game. Marist clicked on all cylinders, scoring, defending, and never giving Fairfield a chance to get in the game. This is the seventh consecutive year Marist will be going to the NCAA tournament as MAAC conference champions.
He did it with great teams, and he did it with good teams. He had the Conference player of the year five straight years (including this year’s, Corielle Yarde) and been named coach of the year three of the last five years (including this year). He has a system that works, he recruits toward that system, gets the right players, and coaches the heck out of them. I have gone on record as saying that Giorgis is one of, if not the best, coach in the country. We talked about his success at Marist, his championship team and the upcoming NCAA tournament.
On Tuesday night, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, breaking a three game losing streak to the Irish, to win the automatic bid of the Big East conference for the NCAA tournament. It was nice for UConn, tough to swallow for Notre Dame, but in the end leaves the two teams headed into the NCAA exactly where they would have been if the outcome was reversed. Connecticut will be a number one seed in the Kingston, Rhode Island regional. Notre Dame will be the number one seed in the Raleigh, North Carolina regional.
Both teams played well enough to please their coaches, and both had enough flaws to give their coaches teaching points for the two weeks until it starts.
The tournament was a bit of a coming out party for Notre Dame sophomore Kayla McBride, who loved the XL Center baskets, shooting well and earning all tournament honors, along with post Devereaux Peters. The offensive forces for the Irish, Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel struggled in the same game for the first time all season and in the end the Huskies managed to win this one.
Connecticut, on the other hand really needed the confidence that came with the victory, and came out psychologically ahead. Defensively, the team played great, which they have done for most of the season. They have been somewhat inconsistent throughout the season on the offensive end.
No one has taken more heat for that then forward Kelly Faris. Faris is known for doing the little things on the court, setting screens, rebounding and defending, but she has struggled offensively for sure. One of the most popular players amongst the fans because of her willingness to do what she does, Faris has realized that she needs to produce more on offense. However, I do not think anyone expected Faris to hit the two three-points shots that Notre Dame coach Muffit McGraw called daggers.
After the celebrating, I talked to Faris one-on-one, about her season, her role, and their championship.
So let us wrap up the weekend that was with this week’s podcast, and let us look ahead to the next hurdle coming up, the NCAA tournament.