INDIANAPOLIS - Every path to the Final Four is admittedly individual, but the course that Baylor forward Sophia Young has taken began without a backboard.
Young, a native of St. Vincent in the West Indies, grew up playing net ball, a variation of basketball played with seven people to a side and without a backboard.
"Basketball came very easy to me because of my net ball experience." Young said before last night's championship game with Michigan State. "The game helped me to shoot better. When I came to the States, I never used the backboard when I shot."
Considering how the 6-foot-1 junior has landed among the nation's elite players, being named to the prestigious Kodak All- America team after only playing six years of basketball, Young's formula should become standard operating procedure.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey- Robertson said she first heard about Young through an assistant coach, whose father helped teach Young basketball as an AAU coach in Shreveport, La.
After watching her once, Mulkey-Robertson said she told her assistant not to say a word to anyone, that she wanted Young at Baylor before anyone else could hear about her, even if she still needed to work on the basics, like low post moves.
"And to watch her progress the last three years we have had her, she now knows post moves, she can shoot facing the basket, she has tremendous leaping ability." said Mulkey-Robertson.
LSU forward Seimone Augustus completed her sweep of postseason awards yesterday, as she was named Naismith Player of the Year.
Augustus, a 6-foot-1 junior who averaged 20.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game in leading the Lady Tigers to a second consecutive Final Four appearance, finished ahead of Duke's Monique Currie, Ohio State's Jessica Davenport and Texas Christian's Sandora Irvin in voting by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club.
Neutrality on way
Now that the women's tournament has joined the men's tounament in using a pod system for first- and second-round games, where teams from different regions are sent to one of eight different sites, the next step toward moving to make the tournament totally neutral is to take the regionals off home sites.
That will come as early as 2007, according to Lynn Parkes, the outgoing chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, when schools will not be permitted to play in a regional on their home court. This year, Temple and Arizona State advanced to the regionals on their own floors.
Attendance at some of the regional sites was poor. In Kansas City, for instance, the semifinals drew 3,143, while the final game between Michigan State and Stanford attracted just 2,475. The Tempe Regional drew 8,213 for the semifinal, but just 3,213 for the regional final, once the home team, Arizona State, had been eliminated.
Parkes said the committee will consider awarding regional sites on a two-year basis, to allow host cities time to build interest in that area.
The committee also has decided, at ESPN's request, to move the announcement of the 64-team field from Sunday to Monday, starting next year.
"In this particular case, they [ESPN] feel that we have an opportunity and we have come to the point where we agree, in that they"re creating a situation where we will own the night. It will be our show, we have a guaranteed one-hour window." said Parkes, alluding to the fact that the selection show in recent years has been shortened by the Big 12 men's tournament final.