icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

"Every Rep Every Drill Every Day": Reflections on Women's Basketball's Breakthrough Season

The sports world is abuzz with the soaring popularity of women's basketball. Iowa's remarkable Caitlin Clark has developed a national following. She led the Hawkeyes this past weekend to victory in the Big Ten's post-season tourney at Minneapolis in front of a sold-out arena. By contrast, there are still plenty of seats left for the men's tourney in the same venue starting Wed Mar 13. 


Another example of the growing interest in the women's game came when Steph Curry eagerly engaged in a three-point shot competition with Sabrina Ionescu during the NBA AllStar Game festivities last month.  The WNBA's New York Liberty star held her own against the Golden State Warriors superstar who needed a bevy of late shots to narrowly win the contest.    


Women's college basketball in the New York metro area is also having a banner season. With identical Ivy League records of 13-1, Columbia and Princeton seem destined for a Sat aft Mar 16 5P rubber match for the right to earn the qualifying bid to the NCAA tourney.  (The Ivy League as a whole hasn't yet earned the respect of the tourney selection committee to get a second bid in addition to the league champion.)


The Ivy League tourney this year will take place at Columbia's cozy Levien Gym on 120th Street just east of Broadway.  On Fri Mar 15 at 430P Princeton will have to dispatch 4th place Penn and then Columbia will try to beat Harvard for the third time this season at 730P.  These games will be televised on ESPN+ with the Sat Mar 16 5P final being broadcast on ESPNNEWS.


Based on past record, Harvard is a more formidable opponent than Penn, but if the dream final matchup happens, it will mark the final appearance of Abbey Hsu in her home gym. The great thing about following women's basketball is that you can see the growth of a player from "the kid" - what coach Megan Griffith affectionately called Abbey early in her career - to the polished all-around veteran and candidate for national awards. 


Hsu gets plenty of help from the Henderson sisters from Australia, junior Kitty and first-year Fliss; the versatile junior transfer from Bucknell Cece Collins; and the emerging sophomore front court threats of sophomores Perri Page and Susie Rafiu. Heralded first-year Riley Weiss is also showing signs of becoming an important contributor off the bench. 


Perennial champion Princeton, coached by former UConn star Carla Berube, is led by the formidable powerful rebounder and passer Ellie Mitchell and sharp-shooting guard Kaitlyn Chen. Both, from the standpoint of this Columbia partisan, are fortunately seniors.  Madison St. Rose is another dangerous guard and she is only a sophomore.  


(ESPN2 is televising all the Ivy League men's games from Levien.  Sa Mar 16 at 11A, top-seeded defending champion Princeton plays the refreshing new blood from Brown, and at 2P Yale and Cornell tangle. The final will be on Su Mar 17 at noon.)   


Division III basketball, neither men's nor women's, gets very little press or TV coverage, but coming up this Thursday Mar 14 at 730p is a titanic matchup of undefeated teams, the NYU Violets (29-0) versus the defending D-III champion Transylvania Pioneers (31-0) from Lexington, Kentucky. The Pioneers are carrying a 64-game winning streak into a game that will streamed on NCAA.com/game/6285164.  (Smith from Northampton MA and Wartburg from

Waverly, Iowa, meet in the 5P semi-final but it seems likely that the true championship game will pit the Violets against the Pioneers.)  


The last time NYU lost a game was to Transylvania in last year's Elite Eight, 73-69. It is a testimony to NYU's perseverance that they have remained a constant title contender even though they were without a home gym near campus for almost eight years - the new Paulson Center on Bleecker and Mercer Streets was finally opened for this season on the site of the demolished Coles Field House.


I had the pleasure last weekend of seeing the Violets ease into the Final Four with convincing victories over the Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls from Abilene, Texas and the University of Scranton Lady Royals. Before the first game of the Friday doubleheader, a Brass Quintet from the NYU music school gave a no-frills but stirring rendition of the National Anthem.  They went two better before the Saturday final by delivering a septet version of the Anthem.  


If you are wondering where I got the title for this blog, it came from the saying on Scranton's warm-up T-shirts:  "Every Rep Every Drill Every Time". 

The slogan worked well on Friday when they eliminated the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays from Baltimore.


The Royals needed more than a slogan on Saturday when they tangled with NYU.  After a tight first period, NYU pulled away to a 14-point half-time lead and eased their way to a 73-55 victory.


Confident coach Meg Barber, a 2002 NYU graduate now in her 6th at the helm, is proud of her squad's versatility on offense and defense.  Don't blame her when she can send out such potent front court players as shot-blocking whiz senior Natalie Bruns; graduate transfers point guard Megan Bauman and forward Morgan Morrison; and sharpshooting junior guard from Mendham NJ Belle Pellecchia.  


Once again you can stream the game Th Mar 14 at 730P on ncaa.com/game/6285164.  And here's one more shout-out to NY metro area teams having great seasons:  The Fairfield Stags (yes, a women's team named Stags!) went 20-0 in MAAC conference play as they head to their conference tourney and beyond. The Sacred Heart Pioneers, winners of the Northeast Conference, are also heading to playoffs with dreams of more March Madness and beyond. 


And here's an idea to broaden women's basketball interest.  How about all you teams with Pioneers nicknames start a contest to come up with more original and livelier names.  Say you heard the idea here. 


More on baseball and movies and music next time.  But I wanted to give women's hoops deserved love.  Here's to good health for every team and some great competition ahead.   And as always, stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it.





Post a comment

Fun Galore In 24, My Motto for the Coming Year + Reports on My Favorite College Basketball Teams + TCM Tips

There is so much negativity in today's world that this blog tries to accentuate the positive. Fun Galore In 24 is my new motto (while being aware that there is an election in November in the USA that we should participate in.) 


As I await the arrival of pitchers and catchers to spring training in just a little over a month, I can report that my two favorite college basketball teams, Columbia women's basketball and Wisconsin's men's basketball, are on winning streaks. They offer genuine hope that league championships and post-season appearances are absolutely achievable goals. 


Both teams played tough non-league schedules which is always a good idea. "To be the best you have to beat the best" and Christy Mathewson's adage, "I've learned nothing from winning and everything from losing," may be cliches, but they are truer than most. 


In the fascinating landscape of rapidly growing women's basketball, Columbia is starting five guards, led by nationally acclaimed senior Abby Hsu from Parkland, Florida. In high school, she was in an adjoining building when the horrible Feb 2018 school massacre occurred.  The following year her father was the first medical professional in the state of Florida to die from covid. 


The resilient Hsu has overcome these tragedies to become a co-captain and all-around contributor to Columbia's hard-driving, good-passing team. Her rebounding, assist-making, and all-around court awareness make her a complete player. 


Youthful Lions coach Megan Griffith, a 1000-point scorer in her years at Columbia, has recruited far and wide in building the program. Joining Hsu in the starting lineup are two athletic Australians, junior co-captain Kitty Henderson and her first-year sister Fliss Henderson.  With Kitty and Abby, Cece Collins, a junior transfer from Bucknell, has become another consistent scoring threat.


And let's not forget senior Nicole Stephens, finally healthy who is often playing key moments at the end of the game.  Only 5' 7", the Pickering, Ohio (near Columbus) sparkplug always seems to get key rebounds and even blocks at crunch time. 


As a lifelong sports fan, there is a special joy in watching players develop over their college careers. l know that the stubborness of the NCAA - it stood for Never Compromise Anything Anytime - has led to NIL opportunities (Name, Image, Likeness) for the most promising players.  There is also the transfer portal available for every player after every season, but there is something to be said for players and teams growing patiently. 


"The grass is not always greener on the other side" is another old cliche that still should be considered.  


Whether Columbia can finally beat Megan Griffith's former employer Princeton and win the outright title and automatic NCAA bid remains to be seen, of course.  As long as the Lions don't look too far ahead to the matchups with the Tigers - Sa Jan 20 at 4P at Princeton, Sa Feb 24 at 2P last regular season home game - there should be exciting times at Morningside Heights gym on Broadway and 120th Street. 


The Columbia men are showing improvement too and may have an outside chance of making the four-team post-season tournament that Columbia will host this year, over the Mar 15 thru Mar 17 weekend.   For more info on both teams, go to gocolumbialions.com


The Wisconsin Badgers and The Big Ten - becoming the Big 18 next season with the addition of four West Coast teams - are another story, of course. That is big time college sports these days and it is not likely you will watch teams grow patiently.  Gotta enjoy every season moment by moment because players can leave quickly. And not necessarily wisely. 


See under Davis, Johnny, who had one breakout 2021-22 season in Madison and left after his sophomore year.  The #10 first round pick of Washington Wizards has not established himself as a pro and may even be back in the G league.  The money obviously was too good to turn down, but there is something to be said for more experience in college ball before you enter the NBA which stands for No Boys Allowed.  


This year's Badgers are exuding hope. Veteran coach Greg Gard has brought back the entire starting lineup from last season's disappointing team that failed to make the Big Dance for first time in 20 years. They did show improvement in the NIT losing in the semis to eventual champion North Texas State. 


Seven foot center Steven Crowl and versatile forward Tyler Wahl are providing good front court work and even making more foul shots than last year.  Point guard Chucky Hepburn has improved his all around play and backup Kamari McGee has really stepped up his game.  And AJ Storr, a transfer from St. Johns, has done it all and is coach Gard's dream because he accepts the challenge to improve each day.  


The Big Ten is a 20-game mosh pit + a league tournament before the Big Dance.  This is the part of college basketball I've grown to loathe.  The extra games just for TV money.  To me, league titles should mean something.  No need to bay into the wind.  I must remember Fun Galore in 24. 


More next time about the arrival of the true hot stove season with the 57th Annual New York Pro Scouts Association banquet on F Jan 19 at Leonard's of Great Neck.  Tickets available through F Jan 12 via Billy Blitzer at BBSCOUT1@aol.com  


Can't resist this Memo to owners of LA Dodgers and their superficial supporters.  You can have too many All-Stars and you still have to win on the field.  

Staying positive, here's a tip of the cap to the classy retirement statement of Astros outfielder Mickey Brantley, 36, who applauded Larry Pardo, the area scout who originally signed him for Cleveland.


Kudos also to Adam Jones, now a podcaster in Baltimore, for his longtime tribute to area scout Tim Reynolds who signed him for Mariners with the

wise counsel, "You're only a number one draft choice for one day." 


Before I leave, here are some TCM tips for January. The sports themed films are few in January but here are a few:

Tu Jan 9 215P "Three Little Words" (1950) the story of the musical and personal friendship of Bert Kalmar and baseball-loving Harry Ruby

   with Fred Astaire and Red Skelton as Kalmar and Ruby and Keenan Wynn in a rare benign (and boring) role as their manager. 


Sa Jan 13 415P "Knute Rockne, All-American" (1940) with Pat O'Brien in title role and Ronald Reagan as the Gipper -

   dir. by workmanlike pro Lloyd Bacon


Tu Jan 23 1130A "You Said A Mouthful" (1932)  Joe E Brown as a swimmer with young Ginger Rogers/Preston Foster


Every Tuesday and sometimes spilling into Wednesday is Robert Mitchum Night. Check tcm.com/schedule although there are sometimes

    annoying gaps in the schedule and at times two films listed for virtually same time slot. 

Two classics are back to back on Tu Jan 23:  8P "Night of the Hunter" (1955) dir. by Charles Laughton

945p "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957) dir by John Huston with Deborah Kerr


Eddie Muller's Noir Alley is back Sa midnight or sometimes a little later and repeated at 10A Sundays. 

Jan 14 "I Died A Thousand Times" (1955) remake of "High Sierra with the interesting duo of Jack Palance and Shelley Winters


Jan 21 Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" (1950) with Jane Wyman/Marlene Dietrich/Michael Wilding


Jan 28 "Woman in Hiding" (1950) with Ida Lupino/Howard Duff (soon to be Ida's husband)/Stephen McNally who epitomized evil in "Johnny



That's all for now.  Remember to take it easy but take it, and stay positive and test negative.  





Post a comment