Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Parity At Last?

By Mel Greenberg

This has become a week worth noting for future discussion.

In the recent past, when some programs began moving up the ladder and we would get a few upsets in clumps, coaches and fans would immediately take to the campaign trail and proclaim that parity had at last arrived in the women's game.

And then I'd be asked to comment and my conservative response was that more people had arrived at the table and in that regard, the competitive field for an NCAA title was increasing.

But in terms of top to bottom, no, it wasn't yet like the men in which anything might happen anywhere on a given night. True, we've had some of those deals with the women, but maybe the team that got upset, in some situations, was given more credit than it was worthy, and maybe the team that did the sniping was taken less seriously than necessary.

Now, however, in light of the last 48 hours, here's what's worthy and maybe new.

We've had powers get knocked down before, but I cannot remember a 48-hour period in which three of the top five have suffered defeats at home.

First, Rutgers actually managed to find a way to get its collective brains to board the bus for the trip to Connecticut, and, thus, was able to play a game without self-destructing, even if it got a little hairy down the stretch at Gampel.

Coach Stringer had been beside herself much of the season complaining about Matee Ajavon being out of synch at times.

Yet on Tuesday night, Ajavon was certainly looking like the stud recruit coach Viv signed two years ago.

Speaking of Stringer, nice pressure at the beginning of the season calling Cappie Pondexter the best player in America when consensus winner Seimone Augustus of LSU was still in the house.

Guess what?

The masses, especially in the media world, are beginning to swing into Stringer's thought process.

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, LSU won at Tennessee shortly before Maryland took its biggest step under Brenda Frese and shocked North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Of course, whatever reward the Terrapins get from the AP voters when the next poll is announced on Monday, will have to quickly be placed on the shelf until the trip that night to Duke is over.

In fact, you all might want to weigh in on how you would jumble the top eight if the vote was tomorrow.

But, yes, Terrapin fans, you have entered the speculation line, for now, about No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, as has Rutgers, with Connecticut dropping back to the second line, for now.

Geno sets the trend and pays the price

When Connecticut was a rising program, coach Geno Auriemma talked on the side about building a roster to contend with Tennessee, which eventually happened.

So it was interesting after the loss hearing his side comments about the other team making half-baked shots and his troops still had a chance to win.

Understand, it was an analytical comment before you people think it came from the emotion of the rivalry.

Well, guess what?

Rutgers has spent the last several years building a roster that might finally be able to compete in the Big East, as well as the nation, with Geno's trend-setters.

I seem to remember a player with the Huskies, who made a living out of making half-baked shots that bailed Geno's troops out countless times, especially when that particular player was surrounded by younger and inexperienced teammates in 2003.

Apparently, so do some of the Connecticut media crowd.

There was a moment during the game when Cappie made a big play and someone on press row commented, "Rutgers has Cappie Pondexter. And no one else in America does."

Un-Happy Valley?

Thursday night's loss to Indiana by Penn State is close to ensuring the Nittany Lions at 10-13 are about to experience their first losing season in the Rene Portland era.

In fact, the only previously losing season, according to the media guide, was 3-5 in 1973.

Speaking on a basketball-on-the-court-only basis, there is talent, but young, and there are recruits coming in. So, without any examination of effects caused by the harrassment charges by a former player against coach Rene Portland, it might simply be the program's turn to go through "one of those seasons."

A year ago, St. Joseph's here in Philadelphia suffered its first losing season, winning only seven games, but the Hawks had suffered major losses from graduation and were hit with some injuries. It was also known a fine freshman class was coming aboard this season.

Therefore, although there has been some recent stumbling that could cost St. Joe's an NCAA bid, the win total has doubled and the prospects for the future are much brighter.

Worth noting.

On the way back from UConn on Wednesday, we stopped by the Connecticut Sun media luncheon in casino-land (worthwhile just on those merits) and there were a few comments from execs as to the health of the WNBA as it approaches year ten.

They were certainly informative.

Still, and this won't affect future growth, per se, but if the New York Knicks lost two veteran players to free agency as the Liberty did the last two days, there would be a zillion stories in the New York papers.

So somebody point me in the right direction because, just as it happens here at times, maybe those internet sites don't have the total content of the printed sports sections.

And maybe the Olympics have totally eclipsed space for the topic, and maybe something is coming down the pike, but it seems that it's still a newsworthy occasion to note the departures of Crystal Robinson and Vickie Johnson, with more to come if rumors become facts.

On that note, it's time to beat the sun, as in sunrise, home.

-- Mel


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