Sky Hoops with House
April 2, 2012

... AND THEN THERE WERE TWO!

What GREAT games! Did you watch them? Both of the “underdogs” pushed Notre Dame and Baylor right to the wire. Can anyone ever really consider Stanford and UConn “underdogs?” What an amazing finish to the ND – UConn game!

The craziest thing is that Notre Dame stole the game back from UConn in OT who stole it from ND at the end of regulation!

With just under 2:00 left in OT Diggins lost the ball near the right wing. Tiffany Hayes grabbed it and headed up court. There was nothing ahead of her except Hartley and the basket. Hayes fed Hartley... as soon as Diggins lost the ball, she spun, sprinted back on defense and blocked Hartley's layup attempt! Diggins could have pouted when she lost the ball... she didn’t. She made a great, great hustle play! Diggins wasn't done. She grabbed the rebound took off in transition the other way. She penetrated, found Mallory wide open. Classic “draw and kick”, catch and shoot situation. In a blink of an eye Diggins tremendous hustle gave the Irish a two-possession lead they never gave back. That is leadership, hustle and determination. Sure it is great skill on some level, but the majority of those plays were simply great heart and effort.

That hustle, those plays in under :15 were a game saver! Perhaps a National Championship saver...

Now it’s time for Baylor – Notre Dame.

Arguably the best match-up, the top two overall seeds. The two best teams in the country right now. Both teams have very well defined styles and have been able to handle any type or style of game all season. This game will be an up and down the floor affair. Baylor working inside – out through Griner and the Irish mixing their transition game with their classic high post entries, back cuts, screen and skip opportunities for them to knock down their open 3’s.

No one has had a size answer for Griner all season. That won’t change unless Devereaux Peters and Natalie Achonwa grow a great deal over night. They will both will get their work in vs. her, but Notre Dame will surely utilize multiple looks defensively vs. Griner and Baylor – half court and full court presses and traps, both M-M and zone to keep the Bears thinking and reacting instead of just playing free.

Notre Dame does not want to become only the third team in NCAA women's basketball history to lose in back-to-back title games. Baylor looks to become the first ever 40-0 National Champion. Can’t wait!

You really couldn’t ask for a better match up in a National Championship game!

POINT GUARD SHOWDOWN

This match up is the added bonus to an already great story line. The individual match up of Sims and Diggins in this game is a great side bar to the National Championship run for these two teams. Remember the “tussle” I mentioned from the game in November. Extra drama. You think Coach Mulkey will be in Sims ear a little about that? The game within the game.

This is the game, from a coaching standpoint, that I really look forward to seeing. I love to see what each team will now do now. What adjustments and changes in coverage’s or strategies will be introduced since November? We have a software where I can go back today while I travel back from Denver and watch the November 20th WNIT Championship game (a 94-81 win for Baylor) and look at “what happened.” Look at all the coverage’s, all the different ways in which each team scored or defended certain actions. Pick it a part a little bit.

What changes, adjustments will ND make? How will they contain, control or negate Griner offensively? Can anyone negate Griner? How do they not allow the Sims – Griner combo to score nearly 60 points like they did in the first match-up? What will Baylor do to prevent the Irish transition game? Can they contain Diggins’ drive & kick opportunities for open 3’s for Mallory and Novosel?

There is a great, great game on the horizon...

FREE AGENT SIGHTINGS

The primary reason for me to be in Denver for a few days was not the two fantastic games. It was the three free agent combine camps that were conducted surrounding the Final Four activities and games. There were a few hundred free agent prospects between the three different camps. Each of the camps were exceptionally well run and I know I speak for many WNBA coaches in attendance that we really appreciate the work and effort they put into conducting these events.

Many of the prospects were current NCAA seniors who just completed their eligibility, but there were many other players who have been out for few years, playing overseas, some former WNBA players that have been released. It was a really good chance to get an updated look at where each of these players are now from a playing, fitness and skill standpoint.

Each year it becomes more and more challenging for a player to even get into a WNBA training camp, let alone make a WNBA roster. That situation is more indicative of the strength and quality of the players currently on WNBA teams, rather than the lack of ability of the prospects that have yet to make a team. The overall basketball talent level of the non-WNBA rostered basketball players I have seen this year is at the highest level I have ever seen it.

The reality is this... there are 11 roster spots for each of the 12 WNBA teams. 132 jobs. Period.

Each of the 132 WNBA players are not going to just give up their job. Few players are retiring. Each year, each team may have 2 open roster spots. 24 potential spots for hundreds of college prospects, even more draft eligible international prospects as well as all the players like the ones I watched this weekend who are free agents. The amount of perseverance these women possess to continue to work, to dedicate themselves to their craft is awe-inspiring. The key is to not ever stop working to improve. Don’t focus on making or not making a team or a training camp. Focus on improvement and let the rest take care of itself.

Perhaps the greatest benefit by being at these camps in person instead of simply watching them on video is speaking to the prospects or their agent and others around the prospect. There is no substitute for getting to ask the right questions and being face to face. Seeing body language, watching them interact with other players, seeing them lead or not lead, watching what they do when their team is not playing. In this era of technology, face-to-face communication is a lost art and sometimes all of us use the technology crutch a bit too much.

There were a dozen or so prospects I observed that I have to update Pokey on this week when she returns to Moscow from the Super 8 in Istanbul. Who knows if we don’t find another great piece to the puzzle!

Hey... check out the sweet ride I had in Denver! I love rental car deals...

A 2012 Camaro with 318 miles on it!

$36.00 / day! Can you see me... me, riding around in this baby? LOL.

Catch you next week Sky Fans. Enjoy the game!

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