Previewing the Final Four: Augie relaxed as they prepare for Dowling

Well, needless to say, a pretty big win for the Vikings over No. 1, undefeated Clayton State on Tuesday in Texas.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t really see it coming. At least, not until closer to tipoff, when a few people who know a lot more about basketball than me, started dropping hints that an upset might be forthcoming.
Augie men’s coach Tom Billeter, along to do color commentary for the radio broadcast (wish I could’ve heard it), came right up to me before the game and basically said there was no way Clayton was going to win. At halftime we chatted again and we both agreed the Vikings should’ve been up by more than seven. A few minutes later, they were up 24.
Clayton made a spirited run late, but I still chalk this one up as a blowout. The Vikings were their own worst enemy a lot of the time. 32 turnovers is ridiculous, and Emily Schulte (12) and Shaunteva Ashley (10) were both very embarrassed when they saw the stats after. And while the Lakers defense deserves a lot of the credit, I thought alot of it was also just bad passes when the lanes were there. When Schulte and Ashley (and others) were composed and patient, the offense executed in spite of the press. When they got panicky, the Lakers got what they wanted.
Fortunately for Augie, that didn’t happen enough.

But enough about that game, I wrote a lengthy game story and column on it, both of which you can read in Wednesday’s editions.

The team stopped at an Olive Garden (nothing like sampling the local cuisine!) after the game, and it was nice to see the girls let their hair down a little bit and have fun with each other. It reminded me of my own playing days, and served as a reminder that these are students, kids, with so much going on in their lives already that it’s kind of amazing what they’re doing right now. That goes for all college athletes, really, not just the Viking women.

I’m not normally a fan of amateur iPhone photos, but I quietly snapped this picture during dinner, and I really like it. I think it captures the fun they’re having with each other right now. This is a team that takes itself seriously on the court but doesn’t off it, and I like that about them.

I didn’t have much room (or time) to write up any kind of preview for the Final Four matchup with Dowling College, so here’s a quick primer.

The Golden Lions are out of Oakdale, N.Y. in the East Coast Conference. They’re ranked 10th in the nation and are 29-3 after pulling an upset of their own Tuesday, knocking off No. 4 Colorado Mesa 60-44. Mesa had been 31-1 coming in.

The Lions are in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year and have won 20 or more games in four of the last five seasons. They’re coached by Joe Pellicane, who has over 400 career wins in stints coaching both the Dowling men and women.

The Lions are a different team than the Lakers in that they’ve got a lot of size. 6-3 senior center Danielle Wilson leads them with 17.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. It’s a good thing Andrea Whitney has come on so strong of late to aid Lydia Nelson and Alex Feeney in the post.

The Lions also have 6-2 junior Cache Gamble coming off the bench, as well as 6-1 junior Julia Koppl, who must be a defensive stopper, because she’s a 29 percent shooter yet plays (and shoots) a lot.
Even their guards are big — the starters are 5-9 senior Seja Gamble and 5-10 senior Connie Simmons, who is the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder at 11.2 and 5.8.

The Lions aren’t a great shooting team — they check in at just 40.4 % and are a 27.7% shooting team from outside the arc.
But defensively they get it done, limiting opponents to a staggeringly low 31 percent from the floor for the season.

The Vikings will probably have to be better than they were Tuesday, which sounds weird considering they just beat the No. 1 team in the nation, but it just seems unlikely they’re going to go 10-for-17 from beyond the arc again, or that the Lions will go 12-for-25 from the line as the Lakers did.
Augie has to cut way back on the turnovers and they can’t miss as many bunnies as they did early in the game Tuesday.

But if they do those things, I expect them to win.
The game will be televised on Midco Sports Net (simulcasting the national coverage from CBS College Sports), and Buffalo Wild Wings is hosting another viewing party.
Also, I’ll be hosting a live chat at argusleader.com