END OF A GREAT RUN
Top-ranked Stanford's 76--59 victory over Connecticut on Sunday ended the Huskies' 20-game NCAA tournament winning streak, their run of five straight Final Fours and their three-year reign as national champions. The Cardinal exposed weaknesses that coach Geno Auriemma (above, right) and UConn had masked in winning their previous six games: an inexperienced backcourt and a shaky offense that relied heavily on the Huskies' pressure defense to generate points. "In fairness to Connecticut, they're not a national championship team without [two-time national player of the year] Diana Taurasi," says Stanford coach Tara Van Derveer. Given the wide distribution of talent in the college game nowadays, there's not likely to be another stretch of dominance like Connecticut's.--Kelli Anderson
PAINTING THE TOWN
Post players have dominated this year's tournament. Here are five who have made the biggest impact:
April 3, 2005
JESSICA DAVENPORT, C, OHIO STATE (right) The 6'5" sophomore, who was the Big Ten Player of the Year, averaged 20.0 points and 11.3 rebounds before the Buckeyes were eliminated by Rutgers in the Sweet 16.
KATIE FEENSTRA, C, LIBERTY The Lady Flames' 6'8" senior burned Penn State for 22 points and 11 rebounds, and then DePaul for 29 and 13 before the No. 13 seed's Cinderella run ended abruptly against LSU.
TASHA HUMPHREY, F, GEORGIA The 6'4" freshman averaged 18.0 points and 10.3 rebounds, including a 26-point effort against Texas All-America Tiffany Jackson, before the Lady Dawgs fell to Duke in the Sweet 16.
BROOKE SMITH, C, STANFORD The 6'3" sophomore, a transfer from Duke, has a signature shot that thrills fans (they chant "Brooke with the hook!") and chills opponents. She had averaged 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds through Sunday's win over UConn.
SOPHIA YOUNG, F, BAYLOR The best player in the postseason, the 6'1" junior was averaging 22.8 points and 8.0 rebounds through Monday. She just missed a fourth straight 20-point game in the Bears' impressive win over North Carolina. --Richard Deitsch
1Welcome back, USC. In its first trip to the tournament since 1997, the school that ruled the hoops universe in the 1980s (Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, Pam and Paula McGee) nearly picked off top-seeded Michigan State in the second round. With four of its top five scorers back next season, look for the Women of Troy to return to glory.
2In leaving perennial power Louisiana Tech, where he had an 80--16 record with three NCAA tournament appearances in three seasons, for woebegone Oklahoma State, coach KURT BUDKE made a smart move. The Kansas native likes the benefits of playing in the Big 12 (including multiple NCAA at-large bids) and avoids having to recruit for a WAC program against SEC schools.
3PARITY in the women's game is a coaches' myth. In the first two rounds 34 of the 48 games were decided by 10 or more points; the average margin of victory in opening-round games was 20.7. --R.D.