Watching the Ohio State-Virginia Tech women’s basketball regional final, where the halftime score is 48-45, and remembering LSU’s 54-42 victory over Miami the night before.
Didn’t watch Iowa’s 97-83 regional championship win Sunday night over Louisville, but our lunch bunch women’s basketball expert, Steve Graf, reported Monday that Hawkeyes’ guard Caitlin Clark is the best college player in America, male or female. Her 41-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist performance supports Graf’s assessment, which was drawn from his eyeballs, not analytics.
Tuned in last night at the end of South Carolina’s 86-75 cruise past Maryland, only to get the final score. We all knew the Gamecocks would roll, because Kim Mulkey told us so in LSU’s postgame press conference Sunday night.
You gonna argue with Kim? I’m not gonna argue with Kim. NCAA Tournament officials don’t. They endure her histrionics and don’t dare to hit her with a technical foul, when any other coach grimacing and grousing at that level would be served an unsweet T. She’s earned the right with her resume’.
I am gonna disagree with Kim, while I praise her (and her wardrobe). She’s shrewdly developed her second Tiger team – that nobody, nowhere thought would still be playing this week – and a vital part of that was patience. Patience was possible because Mulkey made it so.
Referring you back to the Nov. 16 Journal:
While she fits new pieces together with her second Tigers’ team, and awaits the arrival next season of Parkway’s extraordinary student-athlete Mikaylah Williams, Mulkey’s non-conference schedule is softer than your pillow. Her team will face tougher tests during fall semester final exams.
Sunday night, Mulkey made reference to critics of the pliable part of the 2022-23 slate. Obviously the attention paid to the layup drill schedule prior to Southeastern Conference competition is a burr in the Tigers’ saddle.
LSU’s strength of schedule in the NCAA’s ratings? Try 315, of roughly 350 Division I teams. Question that? Bellarmine, Mississippi Valley, Western Carolina, Houston Christian, Northwestern State, all at home to begin. George Mason and UAB in the Bahamas, then back to the PMAC for Southeastern Louisiana, down to Tulane (the toughest test before SEC play), home for Lamar, then to Hawaii for Montana State and Oregon State. The only NCAA Tournament team: the Lady Lions of Southeastern.
So what did LSU get out of that cakewalk? There were points of contention. SLU remarkably played LSU to 63-55 on Nov. 29, making former Lady Lion star Robin Roberts (who played with a ponytail, compared to Mulkey’s pigtails) proud. In the next outing, just off St. Charles Avenue in cozy Fogelman Arena, Tulane stayed competitive at 85-73.
Here’s what that competitive cruise through November and December did for LSU. There was steady development without any crisis of confidence in an unproven group. Of course the toughest times were in practice with the masterful Mulkey bringing along her refurbished roster to prepare for the SEC, and March.
All of this makes me wonder if LSU can keep up Friday night in Dallas at the Women’s Final Four.
Doesn’t look like the Tigers can score with Virginia Tech, who hung 87 on Ohio State.
Until you mention one of Mulkey’s favorite words: defense. None of the three other Final Four teams D-up as well. South Carolina, with Philly street-tough coach Dawn Staley, is the only one comparable.
LSU will have a decided homecourt advantage with DFW-area alumni.
I’ll take the Tigers in the semis, to gobble up VaTech. Bet the under.
It’s hard to forecast a South Carolina loss, especially glancing back at the Gamecocks’ 88-64 victory over LSU Feb. 12 – at Columbia, S.C. However, it was not a 40-minute mangling – the spread was just five late in the third quarter.
If the two square off Sunday night for the natty, I’d take LSU and the points. If there are not too many points on the scoreboard, Mulkey might just pull off the biggest surprise in Women’s Final Four history.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org