Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lady Raiders to play Mississippi State in NCAA first round

The first round of the women’s 29th NCAA tournament is only a few days away and No. 10 seed MTSU is preparing to take on No. 7 Mississippi State for the first time since 1990.

Both teams have met six times over the years, dating back to 1976, but have not met in two decades.

The Lady Raiders are making their 13th appearance in the NCAA tournament and hold an all-times series (4-2) advantage over Mississippi State. The winner of the game will play either No. 2 seed Ohio State or No. 15 seed St. Francis on Tuesday, March 23 in the second round.

This is the sixth NCAA Tournament for the Lady Bulldogs. Last year the team advanced to the second round in the tournament after knocking off Texas in the first round.

Mississippi State is packed with momentum, but MTSU has a secret weapon. Well, she’s not really a secret anymore after scoring 132 points in the Sun Belt Conference.

That’s right. The nation’s leading scorer, Alysha Clark, is a Lady Raider and averages 28.7 points per game. Clark’s presence on the floor will be important, but other players will also have to step up and knock down shots.

After her performance in the Sun Belt Conference, it's apparent that defenders can’t leave Clark open underneath the basket. For this reason, Mississippi State players will most likely have several players on Clark at all times. If the 5-foot-10 senior can’t find an opening in the paint then a win will have to come from outside shooters.

MTSU’s leading shooter and senior guard, Jackie Pickel, will be feeling her share of pressure Sunday if Clark can’t find an opening.

Earlier this month, Pickel was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and selected for the all-conference second team. She also leads the Sun Belt Conference in 3-pointers and steals, averaging 14 points per game.

Other players to watch are junior guard Anne Marie Lanning, senior forward Brandi Brown and junior forward Emily Queen, all average about 7 points per game.

Senior point guard Chelsia Lymon averages 16 points per game but has been playing with a hurt shoulder since earlier on in the season.

Will these players be able to make the necessary shots to win the game? Or will the Lady Raiders fall in the first round?

I guess we’ll find out at 1:30 p.m. central Sunday, March 21. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Image courtesy of ESPN

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Separate Is Not Equal

It's really sad to read the phrase, "I know it's only women's basketball," in 2010. It's also extremely offensive and sexist of sport writers to imply that women's leagues are inferior to men's.

But this exact sentence appeared on the Web site of a news publication Tuesday night.

At first, I thought it might be a misprint so I refreshed the page. When the page reloaded, the statement was still on the screen. I kept reading but couldn't shake my feeling of disappointment.

Why was it necessary for the reporter to make this comment? It was irrelevant to the story and indirectly claims that women's basketball can't measure up to the skills displayed in male leagues.

This is untrue.

In fact, many men's teams have performed poorly this year and women's sports have excelled. A good example of this is the UConn Huskies.

I'm not a fan of UConn, but the women's basketball team have put on an impressive performance this year. The Lady Huskies have been undefeated this season, while the UConn men's basketball team lost its last four games. You do the math.

And when it comes to the NBA, I'll admit that it is the most popular sports league. I will, however, not admit that the WNBA depends on the NBA for its funding. Don't believe me?

Then read Slam Online's article "WNBA Weekly Mailbag – 2/17/10 – On net losses, and a twist on the double standard," where NBA Commissioner David Stern is quoted as saying that the WNBA is more profitable than the NBA.

“The NBA is far less profitable than the WNBA,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of money ($400 million) amongst a large number of teams. We’re budgeting the WNBA to break even this year.”

This is more evidence that the WNBA does have an audience and is growing by itself.

But this post is not about whether men's basketball is more profitable or popular than women's. It's about gender equality–something that still hasn't been reached in the world of sports or outside of the arenas.

Publications should consider equal coverage of women's and men's sports and refrain from interjecting sexist comments into their articles. By doing this, reporters are sending the message to readers that women's basketball is a joke.

When it comes to limited coverage, I understand revenue and Internet traffic is a huge factor for online publications, but I truly believe the WNBA and women's college basketball leagues could be just as successful as male athletics if given equal media coverage.

Click for more blog coverage on gender inequality in women's basketball

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

MARCH MADNESS: Tennessee teams stacked with talent

This is the year of Tennessee women's college basketball! I can feel it.

The UT Lady Vols defeated Kentucky 70-62 Sunday, March 7 in the SEC Championship game, bringing the team's total SEC titles to 14. The team will now compete in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 20.

Pat Summitt currently has eight NCAA Championships and earned her last two titles in 2007 and 2008. She's coached several players that have went on to star in the WNBA such as Candace Parker, Kara Lawson and Tamika Catchings.

But unfortunately, Summitt has a young and inexperienced team this year. The team has won its last 14 games, but can it maintain that consistency in the tournament?

Another Tennessee team to watch in the NCAA tournament is the MTSU Lady Raiders. The team extended its 15-game winning streak to 16 Tuesday, March 9 by defeating UALR for the Sun Belt Championship.

The team is notorious for 3-pointers and the home of the NCAA's leading scorer for the past two consecutive seasons: Amber Holt in 2008 and Alysha Clark in 2009.

As a senior this year, Clark is putting up big numbers and grabbing excessive rebounds. She broke a SBC record on Sunday, March 7 against North Texas when she scored a game-high 40 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

UALR's Chasity Reed retaliated by scoring 41 points against New Orleans Monday, March 8, but Clark set a new record Monday against Western Kentucky Monday with 44 points. She also broke her own record and added 48 points to the Lady Raiders' win over UALR Tuesday, earning another SBC title for MTSU.

Now the Lady Raiders have their sights on an NCAA title, but will they be able to make it past the first round? Tune in March 20-23 for the first and second rounds to find out.

It's obvious that both teams have the skills necessary to play in the NCAA tournament. But only time will tell if the players will be able to endure the stress and perform at a championship level. In the meantime, I'm rooting for both! GO TENNESSEE!