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Knudsen: Women’s Hoops Programs on the Rise


By Mark Knudsen, The Mtn. Insider
January 10, 2011
No one has cracked the national rankings yet, but there are some good hoops being played on the women’s side of the Mountain West Conference right now.  

Somebody’s going to enter the national picture before too much longer.
Wyoming, BYU, TCU and Utah all jumped out to 2-0 starts in league play, and the Cowgirls sit on top over all with a nice 11-3 record. A couple more performances like they’ve had in their first two Conference games and Wyoming could sneak into the national rankings very soon.
It’s not like this Conference hasn’t seen stellar hoops played on the women’s side in the past. School’s like Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado State have a strong history in women’s basketball.

Wyoming won the 2007 WNIT Championship and has been in the postseason four of the past five years. They’ve set attendance records at the “Double A” for women’s games. That NIT Championship run in 2007 was wrapped around NCAA tournament appearances in 2006 and 2008.
Utah has flexed considerable muscle in women’s hoops. Former coach Elaine Elliott, the winningest coach in MWC history, posted more than 580 wins during her 27 seasons in Salt Lake City, and the Lady Utes have gone to the NCAA tournament 15 times, including reaching the Elite Eight in 2006 under Elliott. That year, they fell to eventual national champion Maryland in overtime to end the season.

Two players off that team, Shona Thorburn and Kim Smith were drafted into the WNBA after the season.
At New Mexico, head coach Don Flanagan has more wins than any basketball coach, regardless of gender, in school history. Flanagan has won more than 325 games in his 15 seasons at UNM. The Lobos have won three conference titles, won the conference tournament six times, and made it to the post season 12 consecutive seasons.
It’s been a bit of a drought for Colorado State, but this is the school that’s produced arguably the finest female basketball player in conference history in WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon. Back in the mid 90’s CSU was a regular in the postseason. BYU made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament in 2002, where they fell to powerhouse Tennessee in the third round.

San Diego State may not have a deep history of success in women’s hoops, but they are the defending MWC tournament champions and will have to be unseated this March.
And since everything purple has turned to gold recently, why not the TCU Women’s basketball squad?

The Lady Frogs just knocked off nationally ranked Oklahoma before starting Conference play with a pair of wins. Who knows, with the hot streak TCU is on at the moment, anything is possible in Fort Worth.
The women’s hoops programs haven’t yet reached the heights of the men’s teams are enjoying nationally, but with a number of the programs on the rise, it looks like it’s just a matter of time.

See all of Mark Knudsen's blog postings HERE.