The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, January 16, 2019

Where The IX is going, how you can help

Your Curated Guide to Women’s Sports

Mondays: Soccer

By: Annie Peterson, AP Women's Soccer

Twitter: @AnnieMPeterson 

Tuesdays: Tennis

By Lindsay Gibbs, ThinkProgress

Twitter: @Linzsports

Wednesdays: Basketball

By: Howard Megdal, High Post Hoops

Twitter: @HowardMegdal  

Thursdays: Golf

By Carly Grenfell, PGA.com

Twitter: @Carlygren

Fridays: Hockey

By: Erica Ayala, NWHL Broadcaster

Twitter: @ELindsay08

Creating sustainable infrastructure for women's sports journalism

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you — for reading us, for believing in this project, for making the growth and expansion I’m telling you about today possible.

I want to talk to you today about changes coming to The IX. These are shifts I believe will put The IX on a faster, more sustainable path. This matters to me, and it should to you, for reasons beyond just the enjoyment of a newsletter.

First of all: we’re expanding! You’ve come to know and love our three-times-a-week format, I know: Annie Peterson with Soccer Mondays, my own Basketball Wednesdays and Erica Ayala’s Hockey Fridays. We are thrilled to add to that mix Lindsay Gibbs, of Think Progress, Burn It All Down and many other outlets, with Tennis Tuesdays, and Carly Grenfell, of PGA.com, with Golf Thursdays. That all starts the week of January 28.

The new schedule will give you five windows into women’s sports, Monday through Friday, every week. What I have long believed, and the response to The IX has only reinforced, is that not only do each of these sports need and deserve a place for collecting all the disparate, excellent work being done all over, but that there needs to be a place for crossover fans of women’s sports to gather — for the plugged-in women’s basketball fan to stay on top of the latest in women’s golf, for the women’s hockey fan to find out what matters most in women’s soccer.

Having work from five reporters who give you all access to those stories, to insights from their own work, and talk to the people shaping each sport’s works in our Five at The IX interviews will continue to give you insight into a cross-pollinated world of women’s sports that you simply cannot get anywhere else. We know this, because it is the very reason we started The IX.

Every bit of the work, and the people whose stories we cover, needs and deserves more of a spotlight. The current sports landscape simply doesn’t provide it. It is up to all of us to build it ourselves.

What we ask in return is simple: we need your financial support. This is work we are all doing above and beyond everything we already do to pay the bills. And for everyone who has been with us until now, you’ll find that there’s a free three-month trial attached to your subscription. Everyone who signs up by January 28 qualifies for that free three-month trial, so urge all your friends to do so as well.

But we hope you’ll find this work necessary enough, compelling enough and entertaining enough to subscribe, to tell your friends to subscribe as well: $5 a month, or $50 a year. Is it worth $5 a month to you to make sure you don’t miss the vital stories, the ideas and moments direct from the biggest names in women’s sports, and insider looks at covering it all? If so, we’d urge you to sign up for a paid subscription right away.

Here in 2019, media has been decimated in many ways, but it has also been democratized. So we are turning to you, the reader, who we are certain sees the same inequalities we do, the same tilted playing field we are all dedicating our professional lives to altering. We are thankful you have been on this journey with us, and always reach out with questions, comments or concerns to TheIXMail@gmail.com. Let’s build this together.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Jenn Hatfield breaks down why Megan Gustafson’s senior season is even better than her standout junior campaign.

P.J. Brown looks at how Arizona is arriving ahead of schedule.

Here’s Amber Dodd on Chloe Bibby, breakout star for Mississippi State.

Mark Singelais tells the story of Ali Jacques, Siena head coach, and Mark Rybczyk, her fiance and assistant with Niagara. Bring tissues.

Lindsay Gibbs goes big on Brenda Frese’s 500th win.

Barbara Barker talks to Sue Bird about the emerging women on NBA staffs.

Jenn Hatfield also discusses California Baptist, the newest addition to Division I.

Don’t miss Ben Dull on the Pac-12.

I break down what the WNBA coring decisions mean for all 12 teams.

I cannot get enough Mabrey sister content, and I’m betting you can’t, either.

I’ve had the privilege of watching Bri Smith in person. Take a read on how she got to where she has for Pascack Valley High School.

Speaking of tissues, here’s D’Arcy Maine on Maori Davenport’s triumphant return to the court.

Tweet of the Week!

Five at The IX: Nancy Fahey, Illinois head coach

I spoke to Fahey last week after Illinois’ big win over Minnesota.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You've drawn national attention for the win at Minnesota, complete with a huge comeback. What did you learn about your team from that victory?

NANCY FAHEY: The team has been working hard for a very long time and I can see the progress they have been making. There’s not a coach or a team in the country that wants to see that progress show on a scoreboard more than we do. I was happy for our team; making that turn is part of the process and I’m happy they were able to see some results. We’re not going to stop there, though, we take everything one game at a time and it’s important to work hard and go get that next one.

HOWARD MEGDAL: This year you've seen a huge jump in offensive efficiency—68th in offensive points per possession. What do you see as the biggest drivers of that leap forward?

NANCY FAHEY: At the end of last year we sat down as coaches and looked at a lot of our stat lines to see where we needed to make improvements. That was obviously a place we needed to get better; winning ball games scoring the amount of points we did last year is really difficult. We evaluated what we needed to do, we tried to pick up our pace and get a better identity with our defense. Great defense lends itself to more transition baskets. This year, I know the team better and I know our personnel, so we’ve taken better advantage of playing to those strengths.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You now rank in the top 20 in the country in block rate as a team, the primary improvement over last year's defensive performance. But you aren't some oversized roster—what are your points of emphasis to produce this?

NANCY FAHEY: Again, we have been developing a better identity with our defense this year, but we can also attribute this improvement to Alex Wittinger’s play. Alex is a great athlete, and she has a keen sense of her timing and the angles she uses. She does a great job of being that stopper at the basket. She’s had a great year doing that so far. 

HOWARD MEGDAL: Alex Wittinger has done it all for this program. What do you think her pro prospects are?

NANCY FAHEY: We are excited for her. I think right now she’s focused in on the current season and working towards a strong finish to her great career at Illinois. I think her versatility and her ability to play with her back to the basket is going to be wanted and needed at the next level, and we’re excited for her.

HOWARD MEGDAL: What does success look like for Illinois in 2018-19? And what does the 3-5 year arc look like in your mind?

NANCY FAHEY: Everyone talks about the process and building a winning culture. I think we’ve established, and are continuing to establish, our culture here at Illinois, and we strive to maintain a competitive and winning environment. Our players are believers in our goals and we are excited about recruiting future Fighting Illini who share that passion for making Illinois the special place that it is. Our foundation will be recruiting student-athletes with character and integrity and a skillset at the Big Ten level and to do it the right way. If you try to make changes quickly and put a bandaid on things, it won’t last. I’m not a patient person, but I think it’s important to have patience and a vision.