ROSEMONT, Ill. — Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, whose team beat Tennessee-Martin 72-49 in Saturday's first game, has received a lot of attention this week at the NCAA Tournament and deservedly so. She is a women's basketball icon, the John Wooden of college women's hoops.
She stopped to autograph basketballs and programs for fans after her team's victory and was praised extensively by her fellow coaches.
BYU coach Jeff Judkins has known Summitt ever since his Cougars were beaten by Tennessee in 2002 in the NCAA Tournament.
"She is a legend," Judkins said. "I think that every coach respects what she has done and the way that she runs her program. We were fortunate enough to play them in 2002 in the Sweet Sixteen. We learned a lot, that we had ways to go and had to do some things better."
DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who says he's lost 19 or 20 straight games against Tennessee, and will get another chance Monday night, calls Summitt, "the greatest coach in the history of our sport."
"Not just the greatest women's coach," he said. "This is a thousand wins. She doesn't get recognized without it being qualified — she's won a thousand women's games. She's won a thousand college games. She is the winningest coach in the sport of college basketball and she helped bring this sport, which is still a work in progress."
NO CHANCE: When a reporter asked Tennessee-Martin coach Kevin McMillan if he could ever see a mid-major women's team winning the NCAA Tournament some day, she wasn't expecting his frank response.
"No," he said, referring to the difference in scholarships (15 for women, 13 for men) as the main reason why.
"The higher teams in the power conferences have the better players. Then men don't want to do that. They want to spread it around. Something is going to have to be done concerning the scholarships. But we have already voted it down, which is interesting."
COMPETITION IN TOWN: Not only is Chicago hosting the NCAA women's tournament, it has also been a hotbed for presidential politics this weekend.
The top three presidential candidates, President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, were all in town Friday. The Republican primary is set for Tuesday.
In fact, on Friday, Romney wasn't far from where the BYU basketball team is staying as he spoke at the Pancakes Eggscetera restaurant in Rosemont to 100 or so supporters. Santorum spoke at a gathering a few miles away at a school in Arlington Heights, while Obama spoke at a fundraising luncheon in downtown Chicago.
Then there were the St. Patrick's Day festivities in downtown Chicago Saturday, which attracted thousands who saw the green-dyed Chicago River and watched the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
NCAA NOTES: BYU had a nice contingent of fans among the 4,161 in attendance, including President Cecil Samuelson and athletics director Tom Holmoe. ... This was BYU's ninth NCAA appearance and first since 2007. The Cougars are now 3-9 all-time in NCAA games. ... BYU only played seven players for the first time all year Saturday as Stephanie Vermunt and Jennifer Hamson were the only players to join starters Kristen Riley, Lexi Eaton, Kim Parker, Haley Steed and Dani Peterson.
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