A PROGRAM ON THERISE
Here's an unusualBluegrass tune: This season the Kentucky women's team had as many wins as theschool's heralded men's squad. Women's coach Mickie DeMoss, 50, who went to 13Final Fours and was a part of six national champions at Tennessee as anassistant under Pat Summitt, has built a Top 25 program in just three years inLexington. The Wildcats went 22-9--their best record since 1989-90--and earneda tournament berth for the first time in seven years. (Michigan Stateeliminated Kentucky 67-63 in the second round.)
Look for theWildcats to take another step forward next season. Six of their top sevenscorers are back, including 6'6" sophomore center Sarah Elliott, who had 22points and 11 rebounds against Chattanooga in the first round, and point guardCarly Ormerod, Kentucky's 2005 Miss Basketball, who averaged 9.4 points as afreshman. Joining them this fall will be 6'1" forward Arnika Brown, thefront-runner for Kentucky's 2006 Miss Basketball award.
ALISON BALES, C,Duke
You want efficiency in the paint? The 6'7" junior shot 76.2% from the field(16 of 21) in the Blue Devils' first three tournament games and also averaged8.0 rebounds and 4.3 blocks.
BROOKE SMITH, C,Stanford
The 6'3" junior renowned for her hook shot--she's called Brooke theHook--scored a career-high 35 points (14 of 16 shooting) in a Sweet 16 win overCourtney Paris and Oklahoma.
SHONA THORBURN, G,Utah
The 5'10" senior averaged 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in theUtes' run to the Elite Eight. In a second-round win over Arizona State shenearly had a triple double (24 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists).
KRISTI TOLIVER, G,Maryland
Teammate Crystal Langhorne, a sophomore forward, may be the tournament'sbreakout star, but Toliver has handled the point like a pro in leading theTerps to the Final Four. The 5'7" freshman had 12 assists in Maryland'sopener and then scored a career-high 28 points in the elite Eight win overUtah.
LINDSAYWISDOM-HYLTON (left), F, Purdue
The 6'2" sophomore averaged 15.3 points--5.6 above her average entering thetournament--and 4.0 steals in leading the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16 and anear upset of top-ranked North Carolina.
1. Keep an eye onHartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti. Just 31, she led the Hawks to a 27-4 recordthis year, including an upset of sixth-seeded Temple--the school's first NCAAtournament win--before a second-round loss to Georgia. Earlier this month theformer UConn star, who is 119-89 in seven seasons at Hartford, signed acontract extension through 2009-10. Rizzotti has repeatedly said she's happywith her job, but here's something to file away: UConn coach Geno Auriemma'sdeal expires in '09.
2. Move over,Candace Parker, and make way for Tina Charles, a 6'4" center from Queens,N.Y., who dunked in a high school game when she was a junior. Last Saturday shehad 16 points and 17 boards in leading Christ the King High to the state ClassAA title. Charles, considered the nation's top post prospect, has signed withUConn.
3. BaylorAll-America forward Sophia Young ended her career with Big 12 records forpoints (2,480), rebounds (1,316) and double doubles (61). With 26 points in theBears' loss to Maryland, she hit double figures for the 79th straight game (and130th overall). The 6'1" Young is expected to be among the top four picksin the WNBA draft on April 5.