Women’s Basketball, September 17: NCAA Hoops to start Nov. 25

NCAA women’s basketball hoops will (really!) return

The NCAA DI council agreed to a November 25 start date for the women’s and men’s college basketball seasons. We were in the dark for while, curious if the season would face cancellations in a pandemic. But the decision to start seemed more and more realistic as the NCAA football season started getting into full swing.

Because most DI schools will have concluded their semesters by the Nov. 25 point, the idea is that most college campuses and student-athletes will be safe to play.

This is huge news for college hoops fans, but we cannot forget the reality of the pandemic: student-athletes may still get sick with absolutely zero compensation from their university. So while nearly everyone wants college basketball back (most notably the players), the top priority has to be the safety of the students. Colleges will say that is their top priority. They will have to prove it.

The Phoenix Mercury stunned the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night thanks to Shey Peddy’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. But lost in the glory fo her shot was the phenomenal play of Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Diggins-Smith was not just the reason the Mercury were in this game, but the reason they were in the playoffs at all, with stellar play down the stretch after Brittney Griner and Bria Hartley went down. While she started to falter in the fourth quarter, she eventually made the game-winning crosscourt pass to Peddy, who hit the 3-pointer.

As for Peddy, I mean, wow. What a story. Peddy began her career in 2012 but was quickly cut by the Chicago Sky. She spent years toiling overseas, finally earning a call in 2019 for the Mystics. After 15 games, she was moved to the coaching staff as a video assistant.

The Mystics brought her back this year. Then, they cut her again. She got the ultimate revenge, knocking Washington out of the playoffs with one of the most clutch shots in recent WNBA history. Stay petty, Shey Peddy.

The Connecticut Sun also won their opening-round single-elimination game against the Chicago Sky. The Sky started the season with title hopes while the Sun looked lottery-bound. But none of that mattered in the Sun’s win on Tuesday. The Sky were the victim of poor injury luck and a terrible third quarter these playoffs, but next year, if healthy, they’ll be a title threat.

Alyssa Thomas, meanwhile, took over for Connecticut in the game. The Sky were favored to win the game, but there was no doubt in Thomas’s mind that the outcome would look different.

“It’s win or go home and I’m coming at you hard for 40 minutes,” Thomas said. “I mean, it’s playoff time. I know I’m about to be out there for 40 minutes. I think Curt knows I’m a competitor, I want to win. And I know he’s not gonna take me out. And my job is to do whatever it is out there, whether that’s rebounding, scoring, playing defense. I just pride myself in doing everything and I think it’s my job just to get the team going.”

The season is over for the Atlanta Dream, but they’re headed out with their heads high. There are plenty of positive takeaways from the year. The birth of a star in Chennedy Carter. The emergence of Betnijah Laney as a Most Improved Player candidate and serious rotation piece. The leadership of Blake Dietrick and Elizabeth Williams. With a top 4-pick headed their way in this draft, the Dream could be at the start of something special.

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