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April 9, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, April 9th, 2003

by Michael Ermitage

It is quite remarkable that the Connecticut women’s team was able to repeat as national champions despite losing four starters from a year ago. But I guess if the one returning starter is Diana Taurasi, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Taurasi dominated Tennessee, scoring 28 points en route to leading her team to a 73-68 victory.

While last year’s Huskies dominated inside with Swin Cash, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones, this year’s Huskies depended on solid perimeter play. Tennessee hammered Connecticut inside, outrebounding the Huskies 40-22. But it didn’t matter. Taurasi was helped by teammates Ann Storther, who scored 17 points, and Barb Turner, who added 10.

Beyond Taurasi, much of the fanfare should be aimed at Geno Auriemma, the Huskies’ head coach. He took a relatively young team that few expected to contend and turned them into a powerhouse.

“Won’t everyone be surprised when we make it to the Final Four?” he said before the season started, when most of his team didn’t even know his triangle offense.

Now that Auriemma has proven that he can take this young team all the way to the title, there is nothing left for him to accomplish, except to add more rings. And the Huskies will be favored to do exactly that next year.

Side Dishes

Prosser rumored to replace Howland: Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser is expected to replace Ben Howland as the head coach at Pitt, according to ESPN. The two parties are very close to an agreement that will bring Prosser to Pittsburgh just two years after he accepted the job at Wake. Prosser has taken three teams to the NCAA tournament and leaves Wake in good position after earning a No. 2 seed with a fairly young team. Prosser is originally from the Steel City.

Felton to Georgia?: More coaching rumors placed Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton as the favorite for the vacant Georgia position. Whoever takes the Bulldog job will have quite a challenge as the NCAA is sure to levy some penalties on the program after the Jim Harrick disaster.

Villanova Stays Clean: The NCAA announced no action would be taken against Villanova over alleged benefits paid to current Milwaukee Buck Tim Thomas, a Wildcat during the 1996-97 school year. The benefits, which included cash, clothing, home electronics and durable goods (including a refrigerator), were bestowed upon Thomas from a New Jersey man that wanted to be his agent. The case came to light when the benefactor, Ahmad Matari, filed suit in federal court that Thomas had violated their “agreement” shortly before signing an NBA deal. Thomas denies the allegations, and Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro indicated that the school will monitor the case, and will retain the option of disciplining itself if the allegations are proven. As you’ll recall, just a month ago Villanova disciplined 12 of its players for illegal use of a long-distance access code during the past year.

Golden Gopher Gone: Minnesota’s Rick Rickert has announced that he’s bailing on his two years of remaining eligibility to enter the NBA Draft. Rickert, who led the Gophers with 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, is a potential first-round pick. Rickert has indicated that he won’t be hiring an agent, thus allowing him to pull out of the draft by June 19th – a week before the festivities commence in New York.

Coaching News:

• Brian Gregory becomes the new Dayton coach, a few days after Oliver Purnell left to take the helm at Clemson. Gregory, the associate head coach for Michigan State known for his recruiting touch, gets his first head coaching job after experience with Michigan State, Toledo, and Northwestern. Gregory joins other Tom Izzo disciples Stan Joplin (Toledo), Tom Crean (Marquette), and Stan Heath (Kent State, Arkansas) in the show.

• Winthrop basketball coach Gregg Marshall had his contract extended through 2009. Marshall finished the season 20-10 and was voted Big South Conference Coach of the Year for the second time, and is 99-53 overall.

• John Calipari, rumored for several coaching openings at larger schools, announced that he’s staying at Memphis. The Tigers are 71-31 in Calipari’s three seasons at the school, and went to their first NCAA Tournament since 1996.

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