Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

April 4, 2013

OH GOOD GRIEF: It is Final Four time

By Ed Greif
Sports editor

CROSSVILLE — It is Final Four weekend for both the NCAA men's and women's tournaments.

On the men's side, three periennal powers — Louisville (33-5), Michigan (30-7) and Syracuse (30-9) and Wichita State (30-8) — are in Atlanta Saturday and Monday.

Wichita State was beaten by Tennessee early in the year in Knoxville, which was a good win for the Vols, who were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Louisville and Syracuse represent the "old" Big East, while Michigan is from the Big-10 and Wichita State is from the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the mid-major conference. The Big East and Big 10 are one of the power conferences.

This is Michigan's first trip to the Final Four, since losing back-to-back title games with "fabulous five," while Louisville will be playing without Kevin Ware, who suffered a broken leg in the region title game Sunday against Duke.

The emotion of losing Ware is going spark the Cardinals on this weekend.

Syracuse won the 1993 championship.

One of these four schools —Louisville, California, UConn and Notre Dame — are in the final four seeking seeking to become queens of women's collegiate basketball, since Louisville dispatched defending champion Baylor and senior Brittany Griner during the opening round of regional play.

California eliminated SEC power Georgia, while Louisville defeated the Lady Vols Tuesday night and Notre Dame defeated Duke. UConn earned their sixth sraight berth in the final four with their win over Kentucky.

The Lady Vols dug themselves a hole, trailing by 20 points due to the poor shooting and turnovers, among other things, but sliced the deficit to three points late in the game. Senior Taber Spani missed a game-tying three-pointer with 4:06 left, sending the Cardinals on to the 86-78 victory.

Tennessee (27-8) still had an outstanding season under Holly Warlick, whose team was one win shy of their 19th appearance in the final four. This was the third straight Elite 8 loss for the Lady Vol seniors.

Sunday's final four match-ups are Louisville (28-8) vs. California (32-3) and UConn (33-4) vs. Notre Dame (35-1). Notre Dame has UConn's number — three wins over the Huskies this season and third straight meeting in the final four.

Louisville, UConn and Notre Dame will be representing the Big East for the final time in the final four, while California is from the Pac-12.

Should both Louisville teams win championships, this would be the first time two teams from the same school won titles in the same year since UConn did it several years ago.

Speaking of Brittany Griner, I read online where Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban would like to draft the Baylor senior in the upcoming NBA or put her on the team's summer roster.

I don't see that happening, as Griner, Elena Delle Donne (Delaware), Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame) and Shoni Schimmeil (Louisville) will be among the top picks in the WNBA draft.

Lady Moc senior Kayla Christopher's rebound and put back basketball against Davidson in the SoCon Tournament is a "Scrappy Award" nominee for Play of the Year at Chattanooga.

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USC hired Florida Gulf Coast Coach Andy Enfield, who was 41-28 in his two seasons at the Ft. Myers, FL, school  The Eagles defeated Georgetown and San Diego State, before losing to Florida in the region semi-final. The Gators lost to Michigan, sending the Wolverines to the final four.

Also, former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith was named head basketball coach at Texas Tech, while FIU Coach Richard Pitino, son of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, was hired as Smith's replacement in Minnesota.

Former Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer has been hired as a consultant and special assistant to athletic director Richard Sander to help restart the football program which was dropped in 2003 due to financial reasons. ETSU could start playing in 2015.

ETSU would have to add three women's sports to satisfy Title IX needs.

Finally, I read online where several "old" Big East teams have named their new league, American Athletic Conference. Team members include Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple and Tampa.

Their former league counterparts — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. Johns and Villanova — will remain in the old Big East, and welcome Butler, Creghton and Xavier.

There are a lot of heavyweights in those two new leagues.

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(Ed Greif is the Chronicle sports editor and his column appears periodically.)