By Charles Hallman
If there was an appropriate theme to summarize last week’s announcement that the Minnesota Lynx traded Charde Houston to Phoenix, it should be:
Free at last!
The 6-0 forward, who was a 2009 WNBA All-Star, has been a virtual no-show, making only cameo appearances in Coach Cheryl Reeve’s rotation the last two seasons. Houston barely logged eight minutes a game, and zilch during last year’s playoffs.
Although she never publicly complained, I did — but I never really got my questions about her lack of court time answered. I wondered aloud how a player who wasn’t hurt, and just two years earlier averaged 13 points a game, couldn’t get off the bench except for timeouts. Therefore, I’m happy for her that she’s heading west, closer to her native San Diego.
“We are excited about adding Charde’s unique skill set to our team,” said Phoenix Head Coach and General Manager Corey Gaines in a February 27 press release. The Mercury acquired Houston in a sign-and-trade deal with the Lynx last week. Both teams also exchanged second-round picks for this year’s draft, which appears to be a weak one.
More importantly, Houston — a career nine-point scorer — finally might get a chance at playing time after a two-year absence. She joins former Lynx teammate Alexis Hornbuckle, who the Lynx sent to Phoenix earlier this year in another sign-and-trade deal.
“Her ability to run the floor, score the ball and hit the outside shot will be a perfect fit for our system,” adds Gaines, who loves his players to quickly get down court and shoot quickly, hoping this will wear down their opponents.
Now both Houston and Hornbuckle can show off their championship rings to their new teammates.
Gopher men’s turn at ‘one-and-done’ post-season
The Minnesota men’s basketball team heads to Indianapolis this week for their conference post-season tournament. In order to extend their season, the Gophers must win all four games, including the title game, to earn the Big Ten automatic NCAA bid that goes to the tourney champion.
Otherwise, the best chance for U-M to continue playing past this week is the NIT selection committee, who annually picks the “passed over” squads after the NCAA bids are handed out. This is perhaps the Gophers’ best hope, especially since it has been struggling, winning only once in February in eight tries.
Is ‘needless tournament’ still necessary?
We annually oppose the Big Ten men’s and women’s post-season conference. It is unnecessary and virtually has transformed the regular season as a campaign for seeding purposes.
“I think the regular season prepares you greatly” for post-season play, says Ohio State Coach Jim Foster when asked how much the league tournament helps squads such as his for NCAA play. “I’m not, and never have been, a proponent of a post-season tournament. I’d love to see us back up and just move into the NCAA tournament after the regular season.
The three-or-four-day league tourney “takes you out of your scheme of things,” he continues. “Maybe it helps a little bit for NCAA preparation.”
Foster also complained about the two-week gap between the Big Ten tournament and when the teams learn where they will go when the NCAA begins. “We crack it up in the middle of November, playing games two days a week until March, then you build up to this great crescendo at the end [and] then take two weeks off,” he points out.
“We always are being asked what you can do to make women’s basketball different,” says Foster, adding that he has asked about the necessity of the Big Ten post-season tourney. “It is our job and our task, in my opinion, to…ask questions that need to be asked.”
March Madness, sadness and moaning
Supporters argue that at least seven Big Ten women’s teams should get NCAA bids next week because these teams all are among the top 55 teams in the NCAA RPI report, which is one of the factors used by the selection committee in determining bids and seedings.
Following are the seven teams’ win-loss ART (against ranked teams) records (this is our own devised computations):
Nebraska (5-2), Penn State (4-2), Michigan State (4-3), Ohio State (3-2), Michigan (2-4), Purdue (1-5) and Iowa (1-6).
After (men’s) Selection Sunday, then the (overlooked and underreported) Selection Monday for the women takes place next week. After which, we get “moaning Monday” and “trying Tuesday” for the passed over or poorly seeded men’s and women’s teams, respectively.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.