She’s Got Game
by Tracy Granzyk
You Got To Have Heart
As Harry Carey used to say, “HOLY COW!” The Conference Tournament results are going down in the record books, and they are proving rankings account for little if you leave your heart in the locker room. No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 9 Purdue all have fallen this past week, Tennessee and Purdue as early as the semifinal game of the tournament. Though NCAA bids will not be an issue for these three teams, pride is at stake any time they take the floor. And these are conference games, local rivalries that grow stronger with each win or loss. I’d bet Indiana, the newly crowned Big 10 conference champ, will tell you their 55-41 semifinal victory over Purdue was especially sweet. Maybe even as sweet as their 75-72 win over Penn State to capture the Big 10 title.
Bet the Farm, Alice
There is a concept in sport psychology called, “flow”, which is a state of optimal experience. The simplest definition would relate to being “in the zone”. In flow, an athlete’s skills are equal to the challenge at hand, she becomes immersed in the game and time appears to stand still. Movement seems effortless and an overall feeling of well-being occurs. We all may have experienced flow at least once. Maybe during a pick up game, where every shot hit net and you felt so light on your feet driving the key that passing from midair was effortless. Where two hours had passed unnoticed, sweat was glistening from your skin yet fatigue was the furthest thing from your mind. Many athletes find this level of experience hard to sustain, some can pull it off though only fleetingly. Others, like the Lady Huskies, appear to be masters at achieving a flow state – sometimes even while creating challenges for themselves when their opponents fail to test them.
Watching UConn trounce Boston College 96-42 in their conference final, I was awed by how fluidly these athletes move on court. From the flawlessly executed opening tip play resulting in an immediate two point lead to the soft, easy jumpers from anywhere within the key to the rebounds snatched while in mid-air-this team does it all. And they do it with a confidence and calm that is inspiring to watch. It may be the result of their squeaky clean record. Or it may be because this team, player for player, could be one of the best NCAA women’s teams ever. There is no doubt in my mind that UConn should take this year’s NCAA tournament. I can’t think of anything that is more of a sure bet. It’s not just the talent, it’s the attitude and the fact that they come to play ball every time they lace up their high tops.
Conference Tournament Round-Up
What do Indiana, Arizona State and Vanderbilt have in common? Automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, earned through sheer determination and effort. Indiana and Arizona State both beat No. 1 seeds, Purdue and Stanford respectively, to put their names on the NCAA dance card. Vanderbilt stayed consistent and focused, going 3 for 3, beating a “tournament tough” Arkansas team 81-78, and LSU 63-48, who was coming off a high having just ousted the Lady Vols.
Arizona State played No. 1 seed and No. 2 ranked Stanford tough the whole way, their efforts culminating in a 70-63 victory. The Cardinals, playing without scoring leader, Lindsey Yamasaki who was on the bench in street clothes, doing the fast-track recovery from an appendectomy, were never able to pull away from the Sun Devils. ASU’s tenacity will have to continue, as they hit the dance floor next week. Stanford will be back to full strength for the tournament, and looking to avenge their lapse in the Conference Final.
The Big 12 Tournament is shaping up to be almost all that was expected. My Buffs may have lost a 58-56 heartbreaker to Iowa State in the conference quarterfinals, but I still have faith they will redeem themselves at the Big Dance. No. 2 seed Baylor put a stop to Iowa State’s run in a very physical contest, powering past the Cyclones, 91-83. It’s your atypical Conference Tournament 1-2 final, as No. 1 Oklahoma calls on Baylor for the Championship.
In the Mountain West Conference, No. 1 seed Colorado State fell to No. 4 seed UNLV, 72-58. The Rams, having lost to UNLV on Valentine’s Day by an almost identical score, 71-59, should have paid better attention to the game tape. Though the Rebel’s 2001-02 schedule wasn’t filled with Top 25 challengers, they are proving they can win the big games down the stretch. The Rebels face-off against BYU for a 4-3 final.
Over in the WAC, newcomer No. 8 Louisiana Tech is announcing its presence with authority. With a 17-1 conference record, their only loss to Rice late in the season, the Lady Techsters are proving that ‘where and when’ are the only questions they need to ask of their conference opponents. Having lost to Tennessee, Connecticut and Duke early in the season, Tech must step it up as they head into next week’s games. First though, Louisiana has a conference title to win in their new digs. They take on Hawaii in the final.