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, March 31, 2006

Beantown Doings -- Day One -- Sort Of

Mel Note: One uses his hands to write an epic Women's Final Four 25th anniversary review for the Saturday Inquirer and, hopefully, on to Philly.Com, and then spends the rest of the energy being the official pilot to get us on the scene.

The other uses her hands to give you the first night of local and semi-social action that I no longer have the energy to provide.

So, Kate, the blog is all yours.

BOSTON — Hello all. This is Kate Burkholder coming to you from Boston. I’m here with Mel at the Final Four and WNBA festivities, and as our first day is nearing a close it has already provided us with a few worthy stories.

Upon check-in the media hotel here, we immediately had a Pat Summitt sighting.

I haven’t seen her in, oh, about a week since the press conference after the Rutgers-Tennessee game when she told us how much she loves Vivian Stringer.

Which reminds me to introduce myself more formally: I’m the associate sports editor at the independent Rutgers student newspaper (The Daily Targum) and have covered the Scarlet Knights women for the past two years — a.k.a., since I’ve been a college student.

After we checked in we were off to the NCAA Women’s Basketball 25th Anniversary Salute Dinner, and as we were waiting for the shuttle to take us we spotted Stacy Dales-Shuman outside.

What I know about her is that on Selection Monday she picked all of the No. 1 seeds to make it here to Boston, and while I didn’t think that was very gutsy of her, wouldn’t you know she was 75-percent right.

When we got to the dinner I immediately learned one important fact: Mel knows everybody, and everybody knows Mel.

And now I know more than I ever did about Mel because I got the whole history, all five hours, all 325 miles on the odometer, between Piscataway, N.J., and here.

But don't think it was such a bad thing because the hours flew by. Mel's original plan to kill the trip was to program driving music from among the 8,000 or songs in his I-Pod.

Instead, I endured the first New Jersey-Boston podcast covering 25 years of women's basketball, but it was a good thing, really.

I finally found a way to create a break in the action when we made a brief snack stop and discovered my chex mix kept hm under control for at least 15 minutes.

Seriously, though, Mel was a gracious host to get me connected.

He introduced me to a handful of famous basketball personalities, the most fun to me being Diana Taurasi, who stopped eating her chocolate mousse long enough to ask me about what it has been like to cover Cappie Pondexter and what I think of college so far.

That made my night.

(I also found out that she and Mel have a line-topper competition. She asked who let him in the house and Mel responded that the only reason she was invited to the dinner was he punched the wrong entry on his committee ballot when he was really trying to enter Dawn Staley.
Why are we not surprised. :) )

Then there were the two older women at our table from Iowa, who literally worshiped Coach Stringer and asked all about my trip out there earlier in this Rutgers season when she made her historic homecoming for the Hawkeye Challenge.

Watching the 25th Anniversary tribute videos was also a lot of fun.

They talked with Maryland player Crystal Langhorne who played high school ball at Willingboro, which is about 20 minutes from my house in South Jersey.

Then hosts Debbie Antonelli and Beth Mowins took a tape measure to North Carolina’s star point guard Ivory Latta — announcing she was 5-foot-7, only an inch taller than me! (I think they were being generous, though).

But I would say that probably the most important thing I’ve learned so far is how much that women’s basketball means to the people here.

The celebration of 25 years is impressive to me, especially considering that most of these people have seen all 25 of the tournaments and have seen the tremendous growth in the women’s game, which is one of the main reasons for celebration this weekend.

I think that is a great thing.

Ok, so it’s probably the end of Day 1 for us, unless Mel decides there’s still enough time in the day for us to go out and be social. (His phone has been ringing since he got here, although he claims it's his editors in the office.)

Saturday is going to be jam-packed with an early ESPN event, the preview press conferences, Player of the Year Announcements, and the Night of the Stars (senior all-star game and high school All-America game) at which I’ll get to see the past and future of Rutgers women’s hoops come together in the form of Cappie and Epiphany Prince.

So on that note, goodnight! Or as you know from reading him if Mel has anything to do with it, Good morning!

-- Kate

Travel Day Kids - On To Boston

By Mel Greenberg

Go directly to your next stop on to blog tour.

Since we're driving up to the WFF, and yours truly is taking care of a zillion little details, nothing intelligent can be found in this space today. :)

We'll be on the scene again in the next 24 hours.

-- Mel

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Beware of the Turtle -- Getting it Done With Coach B

By Mel Greenberg

COLLEGE PARK, Md. _ It was the night before the championship game between Connecticut and Oklahoma four years ago in San Antonio.

Of the two coaches who were going to go against each other hours later, one of those individuals was among the zillion of personal friends to attend what used to be an annual party thrown by the other coach.

We won't name who was who except to say the host was feeling quite confident that night with good reason that was proven out the following night.

We mention this because during the festivities in the local establishment, there were two circles of people engaged in conversation.

In one area, many of the so-called Connecticut horde media contingent was being entertained by one Jennifer Rizzotti, whose Hartford team had won its first America East title. Oh how the years fly by as the song goes.

In the other, Brenda Frese was seeking advice from a larger group of colleagues in the profession.

Having successfully turned around the Ball State program, Frese was at the end of the first year of the new Minnesota era, where she introduced the Gophers to a long-forgotten art: winning.

Frese was holding an offer from Maryland, whose longtime coach Chris Weller had just retired.

What to do?

Some in the crowd suggested staying put. Others said to make the move, implying she might win at Minnesota but never have the resources to get to a Final Four.

Ironically, that's what Minnesota did two seasons later without her, and she was thrilled for her former squad to achieve that success.

"San Antonio, I didn't enjoy that Final Four," Frese said Wednesday as the Terrapins began preparing for the program's first trip to the big stage since 1989. "The fact that Maryland had made an offer. Minnesota was trying to renegotiate. Ohio State came to the mix.
"Yeah, that was a very stressful time in my life."

Frese said her first contact came from a head hunter just before Minnesota went to play North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. "Just to find out if there was an interest (in Maryland).
"They called the next day after we lost to North Carolina just to try to fly me in and do an interview."

Ironically, Frese's squad will meet Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina, Sunday, in one of the national semifinals in Boston at the TBD Banknorth Arena.

LSU will meet Duke in the other game.

Once looking at the resources -- the new Comcast Center was about to open -- Frese decided to make the move.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, a former women's coach from a pedigree family of basketball that includes sister Kay Yow at North Carolina State and sister Susan Yow, a former all-American and coach, had already seen one NCAA title in recent seasons in College Park when the men's team won. The women's field hockey team added another NCAA crown in the fall.

Yow talked Wednesday about her search for Weller's successor.

"I knew about Brenda before Chris decided to retire because of her reputation at Ball State and Minnesota," Yow said. "But in addition to that, my sister-in-law and her husband are members of a support group for women's basketball at Minnesota. So I knew a lot more about her, which was to reinforce my original opinions that she was a winner and a worker.

"We live in a rich area that has a lot of talent, which was one of the reasons I think she took the job," Yow said. "Then there's the ACC, a great conference in which to play. Also, financially the ability to hire assistants to make this work before we can afford to. We made that commitment up front. Plus a lot of administrative support."

Once Frese was in place, it was time to build again.

"I never had a specific time table in my head," Frese spoke of the long-range game plan. "Obviously seeing the success Kim Mulkey-Robertson had at Baylor and Joanne Palombo McCallie had at Michigan State, to see their timetable was remarkable, to see that quick turnaround was really something.

"Obviously, what happened to us at Minnesota in one year was really special," Frese said.

The first component was to get some quality guards and Frese's first class included Shay Doron and Kalika France. Then came the addition of Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne.

The harvest of all-America high school talent continued and in year four, Maryland is back to prominence.

The Terrapins' appearance in Boston is extra special this weekend as the NCAA celebrates its 25th anniversary because Maryland played in the first Women's Final Four in the organization.

"It just shows the tradition Maryland has had and continues to have," Frese said. "We're able to do it with the support we have all the way to the athletic director's office."

Purdue search

With Kristy Curry set to be introduced at Texas Tech on Thursday, the question quickly becomes along the trail of dominoes, who will succeed her at Purdue.

Given the Boilermakers' past practice of hiring hot assistant coaches for the top job, Purdue might be able to go one better with one of its own.

Evansville coach Tricia Cullop, who has had success with limited resources compared to the big guns, might be someone for Boilermaker officials to consider.

Cullop also was an assistant to Melanie Balcomb at Xavier when the Musketeers first came to prominence.

Our Final Four Team

On Selection Monday, we had some contributions from our Rutgers Daily Targum colleague Kate Burkholder, the associate sports editor.

I mentioned that she would join us down the road, primarily in this space, from the Final Four in Boston in several roles. One will be to act as extended eyes and ears and other body appendages necessary for my print coverage on crazed deadlines for the Inquirer and, hence, Philly.Com.

But, aside from sending reports back to Piscataway, N.J., on Cappie Pondexter's exploits and her Final Four impressions, Kate will be blogging with us in this space, taking you behind the scenes at the parties, etc., and external events, as will as the WNBA draft.

It's the same role Penn's Jonathan Tannenwald so capably helped us with last summer with reports from Washington on Mystics games in the WNBA when I was elsewhere.

Kate is another blue chip talent out of the Rutgers journalism dept. that has produced Kelly Whiteside, now at USA Today, Sports Illustrated's Kelli Anderson, and the Hartford Courant's Lori Riley.

We'll be back in print on Friday with more notes, and later this weekend with our own look back at 25 years of NCAA Final Fours as well as coverage from next week's draft.

And so as the sun comes up through the office windows :) Good morning and good night.

-- Mel

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's An ACC Party

By Mel Greenberg

So who will be the 1985-Villanova of the women's tournament?

That's when three Big East teams made the men's field in the Final Four.

Over the years, I've said the Final Four usually plays out as a reflection of the previous season. Down the stretch, the top of the AP Poll became dominated as a three-team affair in the ACC.

Yeah, I'll be the first to say that if the bracket deck had been shuffled differently, who knows what would have happened. And perhaps, Maryland might have beaten Tennessee, anyway, because that was the way I had projected the seeding to go in a 4-5 role in terms of matchup.

But understand one thing -- the road to the finish line used to be easy for the power hitters because there were so few of them. Now, you gotta through somebody.

Some say Rutgers was unduly punished for its loss to West Virginia. But as close as everyone was, that was deadly enough to drop the Scarlet Knights to line three. Had they gotten to the Big East title game and lost to UConn, they still would have been on line two, which meant they could not have been in the same place as Tennessee, but they still would have had to deal potentially with North Carolina or Duke.

That said, here's something that will go unnoticed except for goofballs like me who stay up late and think of things like this to research.

I looked back at all the brackets in NCAA history as Tuesday night's games came down the stretch and this is the first time in 25 years (at least by judging the scores) that all four region title games came down to the final minute or less.

And the previous round also had at least three games off the top of my head that also went to the wire.

Maybe it was karma that Tennessee and UConn both fell. Geno may get over it by Monday if he is named to the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield.

The double hit reminded me of something that happened a long, long time ago in 1978. At almost the same hour in a Region 3 title game in the old AIAW, a Delta State player missed a foul shot, preventing the ruling Lady Statesmen from advancing to the national finals.

At the same moment in Region IB, Immaculata was losing to Maryland, 80-79, guaranteeing the Terrapins a national tournament appearance where they advanced to the first-ever Final Four format in women's basketball and lost in the title game to Annie Meyers' UCLA team in Pauley Pavilion.

In the regional title game, Montclair State beat Maryland, giving longtime women's afficiando Joe Smith, a Montclair followerer, one of his early thrills. That team, incidentally, had Carol Blazejowski, now the honcho of the WNBA's New York Liberty.

On that note, it's off to College Park today for a scene-setter for the weekend. That's going to be a print story on Philly.com, but we may be back here with some of the action from the events.

On other aside. It seems like yesterday that UConn media nation all jumped off the bandwagon after the second loss to Rutgers. :)

-- Mel

Friday, March 24, 2006

Overnight Musings Before Bolting to Baltimore

By Mel Greenberg

Bet that headline fooled you.

Although a certain airline over the last year or so has shaken up the market here in the City of Brotherly Love, on this particuar weekend it is particularly cheaper to take a short drive to the land of hardshell crabs and the local launch site of that same airline to soar off to the shores of Lake Erie for the Cleveland Regional.

Bridgeport was our original destination, and we could still end up there in the next round, but when a certain local team here failed to advance, local option No. 2 kicked in.

That would be that team on the banks of a certain river running through the heart of central New Jersey.

In fact, within five minutes of that team's victory in Trenton, the media crowd covering that team on a daily basis elected me entertainment chairman for the weekend.
It's amazing what honors a few trips covering the former WNBA Rockers will get you.

Speaking of that team that emerged from a two-week slumber in Trenton against TCU, the well-known coach of that team achieved a rare feat at the postgame press conference.

Mind you, it was 11:30 p.m. in the East when the question-and-answer session got under way.

And so it was that when that team's particular coach, who has choked a TV sound bite or two over the years with lengthy responses, was asked a question at 11:58 p.m., her answer lasted long enough that one could acutally say she joined a rare breed (I know this must have occurred elsewhere) to give an answer that actually ran over two days on the calendar :)

That feat reminds me of a remark I made back in the humble days of a certain coach taking his program up the ladder in the Nutmeg State. I predicted during one particular marathon session that the time will come when one of his postgame conferences will eventually last into a Sunday brunch.

Sure enough, a year or so later, we found ourselves snowbound in Knoxville (not from the home team's comments) after a particular victory by the team representing the Union as opposed to the Confederacy.

The next morning, some of his associates came by to our hotel, inviting us to their place, a mile away, where we all dined in the sports bar restaurant, making yet another strange prediction valid.

Public Service Message

Gotcha again. You thought here comes another rescued story for the third straight day that failed toland either partially or fully in the print edition of The Inquirer.

The streak is broken. The story I wrote from the Villanova game, a Women's National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal involving Western Kentucky, actually made it into print.

Theoretically, it should be on Philly.com if it is daylight by the time you are reading this in the East.

Yes, They're for Real.

So Mel, what did you think of the Hilltoppers?

As a father of a standing U.S. president once said when he was president: Read my lede.

(That's newspaper talk for first paragraph).

In fact, you may arrive at such a place via link our us famous neighbor web site (Can you say Ted and Sarah) mentioned in Sports Illustrated and it will probably say something like, "Greenberg tells NCAA they made a mistake not taking Western Kentucky."

Villanova coach Harry Perretta called them one of the best teams the Wildcats played all year, and in the Big East, his bunch saw almost all there is to see.

The visit from Western Kentucky called to mind the early days of the program's rise in the mid-1980s when the Hilltoppers arrived here under Paul Sanderford, played Jim Foster's St. Joseph's squad in a tournament at La Salle, and a certain Hawks freshman known as Debbie Black so irritated the opposition that when the game went into overtime, Clemette Haskins, the daughter WK men's coach Clem Haskins, took a swing at Black and got tossed.

The triumph moved a Foster team into the rankings for the first time, so he could go on to a successful career marked by such milestones as another advancement this week by his current Ohio State squad ... (oops, strike this phrase from the record, it was written prior to the second round before he helped destroy by ESPN women's pool.).

Also, people say I got Western started because after Sanderford had invited me to speak at his team's holiday tournament banquet, the Hilltoppers made their first appearance in the AP poll.

But you had to be there to watch Sanderford's face turn red when I commented at the Bowling Green Bank tournament dinner that I thought the place was a one-bank town until I saw three other banks at the same intersection while I was driving around.

More Memory Lane

Hartford's appearance in Trenton last weekend brought about another reunion between yours truly and Hawks overall athletic director Pat Meiser-Knett, who was the Penn State coach back in the day when we had this hair-brained idea 30 years ago about starting a women's poll.

Meiser-Knett, as has been proven, is a better judge of talent than she is of forecasting the weather.

Back when Jen Rizzotti was hired as a coach, I had been in the neighborhood during her first season and stopped by to do a feature as part of our season-long coverage to celebrating the Women's Final Four being held in Philadelphia. Connecticut had just hosted Tennessee the previous night.

Meiser-Knett was there to offer a greeting by beaming, "I've only had to hire two basketball coaches -- Geno Auriemma and Jen Rizzotti.

She had been a women's administrator at UConn when Auriemma, an assistant then at Virginia, got the job.

In fact, since then, we've both shown up in the same place in the NCAA tournament several times. In 2002, we both were at Oklahoma in opposite brackets when I was there with Villanova in the early rounds. (Yes, that's when Perretta made Sherri Coale's career by succumbing to the Sooners, who went on to reach the Final Four).

But way before that in the stone age period of the sport, Meiser-Knett had called me, all excited because the Nits were going to play the powerhouse of the day -- Immaculata.

"You got to be here. We're going to beat them. You can stay at our place."

I backed off at first, saying, I don't want to risk the trip in case I get snowbound.

"There's no snow coming here over the next week."

So, why not? However, as soon as my car took wings past Lewistown up that famous mountain climb on Route 322, you guessed it -- snowing like all get out.

Well the car made it all the way to her driveway where it got stuck turning into her carport.

But you had to be impressed. Here's what life was like in Happy Valley in Pat's household the day of the game.

She ran out in the morning to teach a dance class. Then, she returned to feed breakfast to her young child, who was seated in a high chair, while at the same time held a play book in the other hand to study her plan against Immaculata.

Right then, I thought Pat had the makings of an athletic director.

Anywhow, Penn State did upset Immaculata, earned its first ranking and went on to great overall success. Last weekend's NCAA appearance at home for Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center ... (oops., strike that phrase, also, it was written last summer).

More Memory Lane

So in Rizzotti's senior year at UConn (I did mention she played there didn't I), Geno's bunch is beating teams by 35 points and due to his lapse of compassion for the opposition, he was limiting Rizzotti's minutes down the stretch because of the lop-sided scores.

She was not the happiest of campers.

After one particular game, we're seated in the classroom seats and she comes in not particular pleased about her coach's actions. (And you thought the Taurasi and Geno show was something).

Remember, we're still dealing with college kids here, not the pros.

Bruce Berlet, then the Hartford Courant's beat writer, opens with a question to Rizzotti, "Jen, I guess it played out the way you all expected."

To which Rizzotti responded, "Are you asking a question or making a statement!!!"

Every now and then those of us still around will chide Rizzotti with that line, but no question, last weekend, her team definitely made a statement.

Conspiracy Theory.

Ok, with thoughts of Tennessee and Rutgers matching up Sunday at the Quicken Loans Arena, (no relation to funding for travel during this sector), I offer you this thought before bolting out of here.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer dreads playing Villanova in the Big East tournament because of Perretta's methodical style.

Stringer teams have a history of meeting Tennessee early in the NCAA tournament.

Vols coach Pat Summitt and Villanova's Perretta are buddies. -- You tell me.

And feel free to suggest Cleveland hotspots so I can make my appointment by Bridget (Newark Star-Ledger) and Aditi (Bergen Record) as hospitality guy stand up. Oh yeah, the Targum crew seconded the nomination but is ineligible at certain segments so we don't allow them to pick up wicked habits of veterans journalists. :)

-- Mel

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Here we go again: If you didn't happen to live in South Jersey Thursday, you didn't get this story either at philly.com or in Pennsylvania.

So if you thought I wrote something about Rutgers for print, that is a winning guess. :)

Another public service reprint brought to you by the guru.

By Mel Greenberg

When the Rutgers women’s basketball team quickly fell behind, 8-2, against Texas Christian University Tuesday night at Trenton’s Sovereign Bank Arena, the Scarlet Knights appeared to validate the worst fears of coach C. Vivian Stringer.

“I learned that I do not judge well what they look like coming out of the locker room, because I did not think they looked ready,” Stringer said after Rutgers reversed its slide and grabbed an explosive 82-48 victory.

The win was Stringer’s 750th and it came in her 1,000th game on the sideline.

The Cleveland Regional contest was part of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament’s second round.Rutgers (27-4) is the third seed and TCU (19-12) was the 11th seed.

Stringer’s evaluation afterward was much different than her earlier concerns.

“I thought it was the most complete game we played all year,” she said with a smile. “We didn’t lose our intensity. [The Scarlet Knights] were playing with an attitude, being stingy on defense and executing on offense. There is no question that this was our most complete game all year.”

Rutgers also surprised with a seldom-used zone defense.Fifth-year senior Cappie Pondexter, an all-American who likely will be the first or second overall pick in next month’s WNBA draft, led a balanced attack with 24 points.

Sophomore Matee Ajavon had an impressive floor game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and freshman center Kia Vaughn had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Next comes a matchup Sunday in Cleveland that Stringer thought would happen before the Women’s Final Four in Boston.Rutgers will meet a powerful Tennessee bunch (30-4) that needed anger management after coach Pat Summitt learned on Selection Monday that the Vols had been given the lowest No. 2 seed in the overall 64-team field.

North Carolina (31-1), the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA, and also the top team in the final Associated Press women’s poll, will meet fourth-seeded Purdue (26-6) in the other semifinal game in Cleveland.

A year ago, Tennessee eliminated Rutgers in the Philadelphia Regional title game at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

The NCAA slight aside, the Vols have been a happy bunch with the return of point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, who had suffered a broken wrist last month and was expected to be out for the rest of the season.

Tennessee then tossed its weapon of mass destruction at Army in the tournament opener.

That would be freshman sensation Candace Parker, who delivered the first dunk in tournament history, followed by a second one.

“Somehow, I’ve known for a long time we’d meet [before the Final Four],” Stringer said of facing Tennessee.

Pondexter shrugged it off, saying, “I guess that’s the way the basketball gods want it to be.”

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bean Counting and Other Mentions

By Mel Greenberg

Now we know the whole story of how the seeds went down when the NCAA women's basketball tournament committee made its deliberations that set off a wave of controversy.

True, the Rutgers loss to West Virginia, a 12th seed in the Big East Conference tournament, began to toss things out of alignment as the Scarlet Knights fell from a projected No. 2 seed, possibly a No. 1, to a No. 3.

But it appears someone looked at the calendar wrong.

Next year, you see, the Women's Final Four is in Cleveland.

So all those high powered teams that will be going at it near the shores of Lake Erie this weekend are there because the committee accidentally set the heavy hitters of the 64-team field as No. 1 seeds for Cleveland.

Maybe that's why Ohio State got a No. 1 seed -- Local identity, you know.

Boston College is out to correct that mistake and the first thing the Eagles have done is re-focus the local excitment back to the place where the Women's Final Four will actually be held.

That would be about a half-hour (traffic conditions) from Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts.

There is a recent history of locally-known teams making an impact.

In 2000, here in Philadelphia, our Women's Final Four had Connecticut, coached by local guy Geno Auriemma; Tennessee, with local star Ace Clement; and two schools that happened to be Rutgers and Penn State, which have been covered heavily over the years here as the state powers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, at least until Temple turned it around.

In 2001, Missouri State, known then as Southwest Missouri, made it to the Final Four in St. Louis as did nearby Purdue and Notre Dame.

In 2002, Oklahoma, a school in Big 12 country, made it to San Antonio.

In 2003, Tennessee was a bus-ride away from Atlanta.

In 2004, LSU took a short trip to New Orleans.

And last year, Michigan State had to be in Indianapolis because its male counterparts were not far away in St. Louis.

So maybe that's why Boston College, a team everyone questioned as to their at-large selection, sent Ohio State packing on Tuesday night. The Eagles still have some work to do, but hey, like we said, history is on their side.

It Ain't All Glamorous

When I began this blog a year ago, I tried to give you some behind-the-scenes stuff in this business along about things less thrilling than looking at Stephen A. Smith's unoccupied desk in the office.

Prospect buyers of The Inquirer take note, the first thing you have to do is get a handle on the technology here.

At about 10:35 p.m. on Tuesday, I was exceptionally thrilled to finish a half-decent account of the Georgia-Hartford game.

All that was needed to do was file.

The Sovereign Bank Arena, which was ok except we didn't have wireless connections, was the scene.

I had been connected to the home office for quite some time by a phone line.

When it came time to file, I accidentally hit our email access page off the favorites list and was suddenly greeted with one of those famous "server not found" pages.

Then I hit the gateway page in which we drop our stories to the sports department. A similar message appeared.

So, I went to an alternative email account page, which came up fine and tried to email the backfield, but got a rejection notice saying the domain didn't exist.

An ensuing phone call brought the information that all runways were closed. In otherwise, if you were an airport, it would have been a heck of a mess.

However, yours truly ran a jury-rigged rout that involved sending the story into my blackberry and then to an alternative email account of colleague Don McKee, from which they were able to copy the file into the publishing system specs.

So, obviously, getting the Rutgers story shipped 30 miles away became a lost cause because no one was left to post it to Phillynews.com, which is why you see that story down below.

If you can't get to the WNIT ....

Villanova women's coach Harry Perretta gets a thrill out of making things miserable for the opposition with his unique style of offense.

At the moment, he's making life extra hectic for his school administration.

A certain other Wildcats squad, you see, has the town all agog because it has become a favorite to win the men's tournament.

Meanwhile, the Villanova women, whom many believed should have been in the NCAA, continue to hang around the WNIT, winning two straight home games.

Now comes the aside. A week ago I had a conversation with several prominent coaches about the merit of Western Kentucky being in the NCAA tournament.

I did not see the Hilltoppers all year. I could only go by data the way the committee does many times. They did not seem to fit the profile compared to those Big Dog conference reps, most of whom have been dispatched.

However, each coach, either through personal observation, or watching tape because of scouting other teams on the schedule, told me what a quality squad Western Kentucky was.

My response was, "What we are having here is a basketball discussion and if I was in a room and you were telling me this, I would accept your impression over mine."

Well, life is strange, sometimes. Villanova has gotten another home game in the quarterfinals and guess which WNIT team is going to visit Thursday night?

You got it, Western Kentucky. So I guess in the end, we will see for ourselves.

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

-- Mel

Rutgers Makes and Takes in Trenton

Rutgers was successful everywhere Tuesday night but as a subject of a story that due to deadline time, major techological errors inside the Inquirer, and other misadventures, did not make it into print or to Philly.com, as far as I can tell.

So here is the raw sushi version of what you would have read. (Details to follow in next blog.).

-- Mel

By Mel Greenberg
TRENTON _ The old Rutgers women’s basketball team with its explosive offense showed up last night at the Sovereign Bank Arena and also brought along a new defensive look.

That combination was potent enough to give the third-seeded Scarlet Knights a lop-sided 82-48 victory over 11th-seeded Texas Christian University in a second-round NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament game.

When it was over, there was so much joy among the Rutgers contingent that even coach C. Vivian Stringer was high-five slapping hands with her assistants after gaining her 750th victory in what also her 1,000th game on the sidelines.

“It was great to see our team execute, really move the ball, take great shots, to find each other,” Stringer said with a grin after her team improved to 27-4 on the season. “It was nice to see them find a rhythm and play so free.”

A surprise zone defense kept Texas Christian (19-12) under control, while all-American Cappie Pondexter led a balanced attack by scoring 24 points.

Pondexter is expected to be taken as the first or second overall selection in next month’s WNBA draft.

The Chicago native was joined in the scoring parade by Matee Ajavon (18 points), Essence Carson (14 points), Michelle Campbell (12 points), and freshman center sensation Kia Vaughn (10 points, 11 rebounds). Ajavon also dished 13 assists.

Vanessa Clementino, Adrianne Ross, and Ashley Davis each scored 10 points for TCU, whose top scorer Natasha Lacy had remained in Fort Worth for personal reasons.

“It was one of the better games I have seen in a long time and it comes at no better time than now,” Stringer said.

She better be right about that.

Rutgers’ next opponent will be none other than second-seeded Tennessee and dunking queen Candace Parker in the region semifinals.

Top-seeded North Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, which also finished first in the final Associated Press poll, will meet fourth-seeded Purdue in Cleveland on Sunday.

The Scarlet Knights and Tennessee last met in Philadelphia a year ago when the Volunteers captured the regional title game at Temple’s Liacouras Center to move on to the Women’s Final Four.

“Somehow I knew a long time ago we’d meet them,” Stringer said of Tennessee. “(Coach) Pat (Summitt) and I have usually had a cup of tea in the tournament dating back to win I was coaching Iowa.”

Rutgers sizzled in the first half from the field last night, shooting 65.4 percent, and dominated the boards overall with a 46-28 rebounding advantage.

“That’s the best I’ve seen anyone play in the first half this year,” TCU coach Jeff Mitte spoke of Rutgers’ 41-22 lead at the break.

“Anyone who’s seen our schedule knows we’ve played some pretty good teams.”

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Friday, March 17, 2006

AP Polls -- Top 5 Appearances - decade/all-time

By Mel Greenberg

Here are the total Top 5 appearances in the AP poll in this decade.

2000's (to present)
Tennessee 110
Duke 93
Connecticut 90
LSU 54
Stanford 31
Texas 29
Notre Dame 28
Georgia 26
North Caro. 21
Oklahoma 18
Ohio St. 16
Kansas St. 15
Baylor 14
Louisiana Tech 13
Purdue 10
Iowa St. 9
Texas Tech 9
Vanderbilt 9
Penn St. 8
Maryland 5
Rutgers 3
North Caro. St. 2
Wisconsin 2
Auburn 1

Here are the all-time appearance rankings in the Top 5 in AP's 30-year history

Tennessee 373
Louisiana Tech 279
Connecticut 190
Texas 157
Georgia 145
Old Dominion 131
Stanford 129
Duke 94
Southern Cal 74
LSU 68
Auburn 66
Long Beach St. 60
North Caro. 58
Virginia 57
Iowa 54
Maryland 48
Vanderbilt 45
Penn St. 43
Steph. F. Austin 42
Purdue 38
Rutgers 37
North Caro. St. 34
Notre Dame 28
Cheyney 25
Wayland Baptist 23
Colorado 22
Delta St. 22
Texas Tech 22
Ohio St. 20
Mississippi U. 19
Oklahoma 18
La.-Monroe 16
Kansas St. 15
Baylor 14
South Carolina 12
Kansas 11
Western Ky. 10
Immaculata 10
Iowa St. 9
Alabama 8
Cal-St. Fullerton 7
Washington 5
Kentucky 5
Colorado St. 5
Montclair St. 3
Wisconsin 2
Illinois 1
Florida 1
St. Joseph's 1
Tennessee Tech 1

Going to Trenton ?

By Mel Greenberg

As a public service message this morning, if you're heading to Trenton to watch practices Saturday or games Sunday, here's a few tips.

The Sovereign Bank Arena has its own web site at sovereignbankarena.com with directions, etc.

From my own knowledge, if you're coming down from the North on Amtrak or New Jersey transit or from the south on Amtrak (why would you ??) or SEPTA, you can catch a cheap cab, which you should, for a five-minute ride to the arena.

If you're only interested in Temple or other teams in the afternoon twin bill and you're coming from Philadelphia or environs, you can catch the River Link on the Jersey side in Camden or connect via PATCO and then spend the $1 or whatever and go directly to a stop a block from the arena before the train terminates at the Amtrak train station. I say this because the line doesn't run at nights after 9 p.m.

There's several good restaurants in the Chambersburg area, especially of the Italian variety.

The Sovereign web site has specific driving directions, but on the short, I would say if you're heading up Route 1, cross the Delaware, take the train station exit, make a right off the ramp, go over the railroad, and instead of making a left to the back of the station, go straight one block to Hamilton (there will be arena signs), make a right on Hamilton and the arena will appear two blocks later on your left across Route 129.

If you're coming from New Jersey, go up I-295, swing over to I-195/Route 129 north and head straight into Trenton and the arena will be on your left. You turn left on Hamilton Ave. and you'll see the parking lots.

-- Enjoy, Mel

Thursday, March 16, 2006

AP Polls -- Coaching Performances

By Mel Greenberg
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Quick hits on AP poll (final) for coaches thru week No. 18 of the 2005-06 poll

(This is 517th poll after week 18). (Records on pages through Monday, 3/13/06)

Coaches With Three Ranked Teams

C. Vivian Stringer (Cheyney-85), (Iowa-155), (Rutgers-104), 344
Jim Foster (St. Joe-35), (Vanderbilt-164), Ohio St.-56), 255
Marianne Stanley (Old Dominion-141), (Southern Cal-24), (Stanford*-18), 183
Gary Blair (Stephen F. Austin-79), (Arkansas-67), (Texas A&M-6), 152
Lin Dunn (Miami-2), (Mississippi-1), (Purdue-130), 133
Don Perrelli (Northwestern-52), (S. Conn.-20), (St. John’s-1), 73
Sharon Fanning (Kentucky-4), (Miss. St.-46), (Tenn.-Chattannoga-4), 54
Debbie Yow (Florida-2), (Kentucky-21), (Oral Roberts-1), 24

Kittie Blakemore, Scott Harrelson – West Virginia 8
Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 51
Jill Hutchison, Linda Fischer – Illinois St. 3
Jim Jarrett, Joyce Patterson – Georgia St. 1
Marianne Stanley, Amy Tucker – Stanford 18
Jim Bolla, Sheila Strike – UNLV 18

Coaches All Time Ranking Appearances

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 503 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 395
3. Jody Conradt, Texas – 386
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 344
5. Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
6. **-Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech (51-shared with Sonja Hogg) – 325
7. Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 323
8. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 311
9. Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 292
10.**-Joe Ciampi, Auburn – 290
11. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut, 271
12. **-Sue Gunter (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, LSU) – 270
13. Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
14. Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264 (resigned at end of 2006)
15. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 255
16. **-Chris Weller, Maryland - 227
17. Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
18. **-Van Chancellor, Mississippi – 221
18. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 221
20.. Gail Goestenkors, Duke – 210
21..**-Marianne Stanley (3 schools – Old Dominion, Southern Cal, Stanford*) – 183
22. **-Paul Sanderford (2 schools – W. Kentucky, Nebraska) – 182
23. **-Marian Washington, Kansas – 176
24. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 152
25. **-Ceal Barry, Colorado – 142
**-Not in college

Active Coaches-All Time AP Ranking Appearances

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 503 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 395
3. Jody Conradt, Texas – 386
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 344
5. Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
6. Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 323
7. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 311
8. Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 292
9. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 271
10. Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
11. Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264 (resigned at end of 2006)
12. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 255
13. Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
14. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 221
15. Gail Goestenkors, Duke – 210
16. Gary Blair, (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 152
17. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 139
18.Wendy Larry, Old Dominion – 127
19. Kristy Curry, Purdue – 123
20. Carol Ross, (2 schools – Florida, Mississippi) - 112
21. )))-Chris Gobrecht (Washington) - 104
22. Cathy Inglese (2 school - Boston College, Vermont) – 99
23. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma – 97
24. ---Jane Albright (N. Illinois, Wisconsin) _ 96
25. Bill Fennelly, (2 schools – Toledo, Iowa) – 95
26. Joe McKeown, George Washington – 82
27. Melanie Balcomb (2 schools – Xavier, Vanderbilt) – 78
28. Doug Bruno, DePaul – 76
29. &&-Jim Bolla, UNLV* – 75
29. Pam Borton, Minnesota – 75
31. Kim Mulkey-Robertson, Baylor – 73
32. Debbie Patterson, Kansas St. – 67
33. Sharon Fanning (3 schools – Tenn.-Chattanooga, Kentucky, Miss. St.) – 54
33. Mark French, UC Santa Barbara – 54
35. Joanne P. McCallie, Michigan St. – 53
36. @@-Cheryl Burnett, Missouri St., 51
37. Kathy Olivier, UCLA 49
38. Elaine Elliott, Utah – 45
39. Harry Perretta, Villanova – 44
40. Brenda Frese (2 schools, Minnesota, Maryland) – 43
41. ##-Kurt Budke, Louisiana Tech. – 42
42. Pokey Chatman, LSU – 37
43. ++-Bonnie Henrickson, Virginia Tech – 36
44. Lisa Stockton, Tulane – 34
44. !!-Tom Collen, Colorado St. – 34
&&-Active at Hawaii (Shared 18 with Sheila Strike); @@-Active at Michigan; ##-Active at Oklahoma St.; ++-Active at Kansas; !!-Active at Louisville; )))-Active at Yale; ---Active at Wichita St.

Calling It 30: AP Final Poll Performances

By Mel Greenberg

Here's a morsel for this morning: Now that we have a complete 30 years of final AP women's polls, here's how teams ranked in categories, although be forewarned I'm writing this before the cut-and-paste from the data base and it may not be pretty.

Of course, it was that ugly, you wouldn't be reading this because I would have killed the post. :)

Total Final Poll Appearances

Tennessee 30
Louisiana Tech 25
Texas 22
Georgia 20
Penn St. 20
North Caro. St. 19
LSU 17
Old Dominion 17
Stanford 16
Purdue 15
Texas Tech 15
Virginia 15
Connecticut 14
Long Beach St. 14
Mississippi U. 14
North Caro. 14
Rutgers 14
Vanderbilt 14
Auburn 13
Maryland 13
Steph. F. Austin 13
Iowa 12
Ohio St. 12
Duke 11
Southern Cal 11
Colorado 10
Kansas 9
Kansas St. 9
Western Ky. 9
Alabama 8
Clemson 8
Florida 7
South Carolina 7
Washington 7
Baylor 6
Cheyney 6
Iowa St. 6
Minnesota 6
Notre Dame 6
Oklahoma 6
Boston College 5
Michigan St. 5
Oregon 5
Arizona St. 4
Arkansas 4
Florida Intl. 4
Geo. Wash. 4
Kentucky 4
Missouri 4
Northwestern 4
Oregon St. 4
St. Joseph's 4
UC Santa Barb. 4
Villanova 4
Arizona 3
Bowling Green 3
Hawaii 3
James Madison 3
Montclair St. 3
Tulane 3
Wayland Baptist 3
Colorado St. 2
Delta St. 2
DePaul 2
Drake 2
Houston 2
Illinois 2
La Salle 2
La.-Monroe 2
Memphis 2
Miami 2
Mississippi St. 2
Missouri St. 2
Montana 2
Northern Ill. 2
Oklahoma St. 2
Providence 2
San Diego St. 2
Southern Conn. 2
Southern Ill. 2
Southern Miss. 2
Temple 2
Tennessee Tech 2
Texas A&M 2
Utah 2
Valdosta St. 2
Vermont 2
Virginia Tech 2
Wis.-Green Bay 2
Wisconsin 2
Xavier 2
Boise St. 1
Cal-St. Fullerton 1
Central Mo. 1
Cincinnati 1
Creighton 1
Fordham 1
Illinois St. 1
Immaculata 1
Jackson St. 1
Lamar 1
Mercer 1
Michigan 1
Mississippi Coll. 1
Nebraska 1
New Mexico 1
New Mexico St. 1
Queens 1
San Francisco 1
Seton Hall 1
Southeast La. 1
Tenn-Chattanooga 1
Toledo 1
West Virginia 1

Total Top 10 Appearances, Final Polls

Tennessee 27
Louisiana Tech 23
Connecticut 13
Texas 13
Georgia 12
Stanford 12
Old Dominion 11
Penn St. 11
Rutgers 11
Long Beach St. 10
Maryland 10
Duke 9
Auburn 8
Iowa 7
Purdue 7
Texas Tech 7
Virginia 7
Ohio St. 6
Southern Cal 6
Cheyney 5
North Caro. 5
North Caro. St. 5
Steph. F. Austin 5
Colorado 4
Mississippi U. 4
Vanderbilt 4
Baylor 3
Iowa St. 3
Kansas St. 3
Notre Dame 3
Oklahoma 3
Wayland Baptist 3
Western Ky. 3
Alabama 2
Delta St. 2
Montclair St. 2
Arizona 1
Arkansas 1
Cal-St. Fullerton 1
Clemson 1
Colorado St. 1
Florida 1
Houston 1
Immaculata 1
Kansas 1
La.-Monroe 1
Miami 1
Michigan St. 1
Missouri St. 1
Queens 1
South Carolina 1
St. Joseph's 1
Tennessee Tech 1
UC Santa Barb. 1
Valdosta St. 1
Washington 1

Total Top 5 Appearances in Final Polls

Tennessee 22
Louisiana Tech 17
Connecticut 10
Texas 10
Old Dominion 9
Stanford 9
Georgia 6
Duke 5
North Caro 4
Southern Cal 4
Auburn 3
Cheyney 3
Maryland 3
Penn St. 3
Purdue 3
Steph. F. Austin 3
Colorado 2
Iowa 2
Long Beach St. 2
Notre Dame 2
Ohio St. 2
Texas Tech 2
Vanderbilt 2
Virginia 2
Baylor 1
Cal-St. Fullerton 1
Delta St. 1
Immaculata 1
La.-Monroe 1
Mississippi U. 1
Montclair St. 1
North Caro. St. 1
Oklahoma 1
Rutgers 1
South Carolina 1
St. Joseph's 1
Washington 1
Wayland Baptist 1
Western Ky. 1

Total No. 1 Appearances in Final Polls

Connecticut 6
Louisiana Tech 5
Tennessee 5
Texas 4
Old Dominion 2
Delta St. 1
Duke 1
North Caro. 1
Penn St. 1
Purdue 1
Stanford 1
Vanderbilt 1
Virginia 1

That's it for this post -- Mel

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rutgers Reacts to Its Seed

By Mel Greenberg


Some of what follows will be seen in other coverage of Rutgers, but our colleague Kate Burkholder, the women's beat writer and associate sports editor of the Daily Targum in Piscataway, N.J., who will be helping us (that's an editorial us) through Boston, provided some reaction over Rutgers' draw last night's from the Scarlet Knights selection party.

Rutgers gets the thrill of a 20-mile trip to Trenton and the agony of a bracket that has Tennessee and North Carolina in the Cleveland regional.

But, hey, coach C. Vivian Stringer has it right. You have to play these teams sometime to win a national title and every other route also has a major roadblock.

Stringer reacted to the ESPN announcement, saying, “This is a great bracket, and if you wanna see a championship, that’s where you’re gonna see it.

"I’ve said a thousand times if you wanna be the best you gotta play the best.”

Stringer went on to comment: “If you look at the level of players, Ivory Latta (North Carolina), Candace Parker (Tennessee), and our own Cappie Pondexter, the committee obviously wants to put the best teams and best players in the same bracket.”

She added, Iit’s better to deal with them now, that’s really the way I feel about it. I know how Pat [Summitt] is, she’s really competitive and that’s how I am, so it’s like ‘Bring ‘em on.’ I don’t really care, so if the team takes that attitude, I don’t care who we play and when we play.”

“It’s nice for ours fans to be [in Trenton] and I think they can also get to Ohio (Cleveland). I think it’s better than what have done before, when we were put out on the West Coast.”

In 2000, Rutgers was sent to Oregon, as was yours truly, on the way to the Women's Final Four right here in Philadelphia.

Continuing with Kate's report, quoting Stringer, "If you get knocked off before you get there, you deserved to get knocked off. You get it done and don’t look for excuses. Nothing is really fair, and we’re not looking for breaks.”

A matchup with Tennessee would bring a meeting similar to the Philadelphia regional final at Temple last season.

“Well, It’s true, Pat and I, no matter where I am, whether it’s Iowa, whether it’s Cheyney, or whether I’m here, we always manage to play each other, so we just plan to have tea and coffee.”

The two coaches have had a series of matchups of their teams throughout NCAA history.

Freshman Kia Vaughn talked about opening against Dartmouth on in Trenton: “It’s mostly good for the fans, really. I don’t think it really matters where we play as long as we play our best.

“I am happy that we are in Trenton though, so my mom can come see me.”

Point guard Courtney Locke discussed the draw.

"I totally agree with coach. You wanna play the best and prove that you’re the best, and Trenton is a great site. We’ll have a lot of fan base and get the crowd behind us.”

Pondexter was not too annoyed by the seed, much of which was Rutgers' doing by losing to West Virginia in the Big East semifinals.

“It doesn’t matter, we’re just glad we have the opportunity to be in the field of 64," she said.
"We’re definitely in a great situation coming off a loss just to prove to ourselves what we are capable of doing. We’ll be close to home, so we can’t complain about that. It’s also my last go-around so there’s a lot of emotions going around, but like I said I’m excited and glad we have the opportunity to be there.”

I'll be back later in the afternoon with more commentary on the bracket, Temple here, and other items. The Temple coverage can be found in the print edition posted at Philly.com.

Later this week, we might do our first podcast from here, featuring Temple coach Dawn Staley and senior Candice Dupree.

-- Mel

An Eventful Day -- And Night

By Mel Greenberg

What a day.

Hours after telling you that this newspaper had been sold to the McClatchy organization as part of the Knight-Ridder deal, morning began by learning that McClatchy, in turn, will re-sell us and 11 other newspapers.

Meanwhile, I arrived in the office in the early afternoon to prepare the organization of Selection Monday coverage and then learned that legendary Hall of Famer John Chaney had resigned as the men's coach at Temple, necessitating a quick detour to help the cause with reaction.

Then, everything came together in a crunch with yours truly zipping over to the Temple women's party and then coming back to the office to handle everything. In fact, I still haven't had a chance to really study the bracket.

Incidentally, Temple's and Rutger's placement in Trenton, etc., was not an attempt by the NCAA to help our travel budget through Boston. :)

Anybody out there heading to Trenton with other teams, feel free to email me for directions, etc. I have previously scouted out some places while helping the organizing committee up there with their planning, without regard to where I would end up.

-- Mel

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sold and Buried

By Mel Greenberg

Well, since we last posted 24 hours ago or so several things happened, none of which affected Monday night's announcement of the NCAA field.

Out West, the McClatchy group bought Knight-Ridder, the parent corporation that provides the desk in this building from which this particular blog occurs on many nights.

It's possible we'll be re-sold again if McClathy decides the plate is too full, so ultimately it will be determined if I'm an asset or aging Full Time Equivalency, to use accounting speak. :)

Someone jokingly suggested I might get traded to the Sacramento Bee for future considerations to cover the Monarchs and Stanford.

The second thing is thanks to the move to Selection Monday, some of you might have trouble finding this morning's print preview of the bracket that was un-referenced, unless it appears in a later edition, and placed on the last page of the regular sports section, not the basketball special section where it appeared in the past.

Space limitations also necessitated a cut, but most of what was said has already been spoken to in blogs here the last few days. Locally, Temple could end up anywhere from a 6 to an 11 to make the bracket work and help geography. Villanova is hoping for an at-large bid and since only two wrong losers of any value occurred, the Wildcats have a good shot at an at-large bid.

Indiana State is not likely to be rescued after losing to Missouri State (formerly SW Missouri), and Western Kentucky, which earlier lost to Middle Tennessee is still a 50-50 shot at this hour.

I'll be back early in the afternoon after the final AP poll, completing 30 years, is published.

I know: "Hey, wait, who are your top seeds?"

I ranked teams as follows but fell on my own sword predicting what the committee might do:

1. North Carolina (speaks for itself)

2. Duke (also speaks for itself)

3. Ohio State (I really liked Maryland to be a No. 1 but don't know if an unprecedented lack of conference regular or tournament title will be a hinderance. And this works better for placement).

4. Tennesseee (Redeemed with an SEC tournament win).

5. Maryland (very strong)

6. LSU (was strong all year)

7. Oklahoma (toss-up with Connecticut for this and No. 8. Sooners might even be a No. 6).

8. Connecticut (unless the Huskies are a No. 7).

9. Rutgers (Costly loss to West Virginia).

10. Baylor (Seems strongest from other contenders for upper slots).

11. DePaul (Stay home in Chicago for early rounds).

Other contenders -- To fill the rest, which is a contest, Georgia most likely a third or fourth seed, Utah potentially a fourth seed, Michigan State, UCLA, Purdue, Stanford and North Carolina State. Ones that don't make it, fall to No. 5 seeds.

As for sites by geographical preference -- North Carolina and Duke could both end up in Norfolk, although that might mean a No. 8 or No. 9 seed for Old Dominion.

Oklahoma to Boulder. Ohio State to Chicago or Penn State. Connecticut to Trenton or Penn State. Rutgers to Trenton. Tennessee and/or LSU to Nashville. Maryland to Trenton, Penn State or Norfolk. Purdue to Purdue. Georgia possibly to Nashville or Norfolk. Stanford to Arizona or Denver. UCLA to Arizona or Denver.

OK, talk to you later. -- Mel

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NCAA - The Issues Dwindle

By Mel Greenberg

Sometimes looming complexity becomes simplified at this time of year.

And so it was that in most championships Saturday, if a wrong team won, the result was inconsequential.

A few things have to finish up Sunday in the Ivy League, Missouri Valley, and America East, but discussion points could be reduced to one team if Hartford beats Boston U. in the America East -- a repeat of last season's championship -- Indiana State prevails in the Missouri, and other than seeing the Cowher family win another biggie, the only thing at stake in the Ivies is the folks in Trenton pulling for Princeton with a chance to add some local flavor if the seeds fall right.

Stony Brook got itself into deep trouble in spite of the RPI by not making it to the title game, but will remain on the board for now to see if it holds up against some middle level teams from the power conferences.

There are no critical wrong losers, Western Kentucky remains a semi-critical wrong loser.

Not much has to be eliminated if we correctly projected some to be already out of the running, even though we are keeping them on the board for discussion purposes after the bracket becomes public.

If it gets down to the last couple of teams, the bubbles on the bubbles appear to be Missouri, Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Washington/Southern Cal, possibly Pittsburgh, and that seems about it.

I have moved TCU over to the lock column -- the Mountain West numbers all hold up along with the respective seasons.

We'll be back Sunday night.

-- Mel

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Representative At-Large

By Mel Greenberg

Since it's getting late (or early if you're on the other side of sunrise), here's a quick numbers look and we'll be back tonight when we know how all but three conferences were decided. Missouri Valley, America East, and Ivies finish Sunday.

Anyhow, without the finite numbers, here's my list of locks. There are some on the bubble I could add here but felt they deserved to be compared to others I had in the next category.

Let me note, it's a big year for the Mountain West, which seems heading for four teams. All the numbers are pointing that way. The conference is being helped by external factors - less depth in the Big 12, Big 10, and Conference USA, and favorable numbers unless the committee goes real deep in the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences.

The group (without regard to one already in the automatic bid pile) is as follows.

Atlantic Coast: Duke, Maryland, North Carolina State, and Florida State

Atlantic Ten: George Washington, although you can read numbers anyway you like.

Big 12: Baylor/Oklahoma (whoever loses tonight), and Texas A&M.

Big East: DePaul, Rutgers, and St. John's, which would hold up with rest of conference hopefuls and finished fourth.

Big Ten: Purdue, Michigan State, and Minnesota.

Mountain West: Utah/BYU loser, TCU, and New Mexico. This has already been addressed.

Pac-10: Stanford and Arizona State.

Southeastern: LSU, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt.

That totals 23, meaning 10 more come from a bubble list of 19, without accounting at this hour, wrong losers.

This list is longer than I would at this point, because once the bracket is out, I have to look at the picture to see if an outsider makes it, someone from the bubble crowd makes it when I didn't think so, and vice versa.

Atlantic Coast may get one more, but could get three of these four: Boston College, Miami, (weak RPI), Virginia Tech, and Virginia.

Stony Brook is sort of on the list, but probably couldn't hold up in this group, nor could Hartford.

Charlotte out of the Atlantic Ten had a bad tournament loss and has a high RPI. But keeping them around in case they make it.

Missouri is right on the fence with a weak RPI and weaker SOS. I've eliminated Texas Tech, but keeping them in case someone's emotions get the best of them on the committee. :)

The Big East: Ah, the Big East, what are we going to do. Well, remember, some of these would have worked well in their old C-USA home. But Marquette, Cincinnati, and Louisville probably lost ground on an early tournament exit. If everything breaks right, the rest of the group fares well, although Pittsburgh's high RPI and SOS is a concern. Villanova actually has better numbers than a year ago when we all thought the Wildcats were in. Notre Dame, South Florida are also likely candidates.

The Big Ten: Don't know how Iowa nor Indiana can make it out of the Big Ten, but they're on the list. If you read between the lines here, you can make cuts yourself and see we can get very close to the field, depending on today's games.

Pac-10: Washington and Southern Cal may both get in, unless the USC injury situation works against them.

Seedy Talk.

I'll save this until after the Big 12 title game since Oklahoma is a factor in the discussion. And now, good night and good morning.

-- Mel

Bubbling Along - Avoiding the Upset

By Mel Greenberg

With Western Kentucky having taken a hit by not winning the conference title in the Sun Belt, here's what the Hilltoppers need to watch this weekend.

There's no guarantee that any of the following would be rescued, but for Western Kentucky to have a better shot for redemption, it needs to cheer for Hartford (America East), Old Dominion (CAA), Bowling Green (Mid-American), Indiana State (Missouri Valley), and Louisiana Tech (Western Athletic).

Teams on the bubble will also be cheering likewise to have better chances to gain at-large bids.

Since they're all perceived to be in the so-called "one-team" conferences, here's how they compared at the close of business, Friday night. RPIs come from the CollegeRPI.com page on the internet.

We'll be back late tonight when we know if they took the easy path with an automatic bid.

But here they are in a list of no particular order with a little comment from yours truly:

Hartford (24-3) -- RPI - 36. Strength of schedule 128. Weak SOS, but no losses to 100+ teams and 1-2 against Top 50 and 4-3 against the top 100.
Because Stony Brook has been mentioned out of the America East, the record is 20-8, RPI - 26, Strength of schedule is 29. However, 2-3 against Top 50, 5-5 against the Top 100, but three losses to 100+ teams. Hartford on the road is 12-3, Stony Brook is 7-6, but two have come out of here once before.

Old Dominion (21-8). RPI - 16. SOS - 19. Monarchs usually save us difficult work on Saturday night by winning the CAA. 1-7 against the Top 50, and 7-8 against the Top 100. No bad losses.

Bowling Green (27-2). RPI - 41. SOS 179. 0-1 Top 50. 6-2 Top 100. But SOS reading means, it's safer to win the MAC.

Indiana State (25-4). RPI 37. SOS 110. 1-2 against Top 50. 7-2 against top 100. Better to win the conference because of SOS readout. Remember, all of these are going to be compared against the official bubble crowd from the power conferences.

Louisiana Tech (25-4). RPI - 35. SOS 109. But Techsters are playing a team for the WAC title whose rpi is above 200. 0-2 top 50. 5-4 top 100. Need to be the only wrong loser today, not to fare better against the others in this category, but to be in the mix with the regular bubble crowd.

That said, we will go to the next post.

-- Mel

Chewing The Fat - II

By Mel Greenberg

For the first time in the 25-year history of the NCAA women's tournament, none of these three teams will appear -- Penn State, Texas Tech, and Texas.

Most times, all three have been in the field of 64, and many times all have been given prominent seeds. But not this season. The RPI drops of the three are worth noting from the previous two seasons. Texas Tech, whose coach Marsha Sharp has resigned, but not because of the record, has dipped on a 12-13-63 slope. Texas has slanted on a 5-12-54 path. And Penn State, which is a host site next weekend, is on a 3-20-98 plunge.

Your Two Cents

On Sunday, besides the final balloting to complete 30 years of AP voting history (we'll have numbers next week and lists to help kill time waiting for the Dance music), we have to select Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, and three teams of five for the all-American vote.

Here's your chance to lobby me through Sunday afternoon. The Inquirer email address is mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

From a national perspective, I'm thinking about Sherri Coale at Oklahoma, Gary Blair at Texas A&M, and Sylvia Hatchell at North Carolina.

But there were others I thought of, especially those that made impacts on their arrival or achievements in recent seasons.

Coming to mind are St. John's Kim Barnes Arico, Charlotte's Amanda Butler (for challenging in the Atlantic Ten), California's Joanne Boyle, Louisiana Tech's Chris Long (who got the job quicker than I could fill a request from a Techster type who asked me in Indy last year to lobby for Long), Army's Maggie Dixon, Stony Brook's Maura McHugh, Tulsa's Charlene Thomas-Swinson, and Pittsburgh's Agnus Berenato, to name a few. Also a special mention Kathy Olivier for winning the PAC-10, and to Joan Bonvicini, for staying the course at Arizona after the preseason tragedy there.

Congrats to Bill Jauss

In what was a very competitive field this year, former Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss, who retired in December, has won the Women's Basketball Coaches Association media award, which is formally called a name similar to the byline at the top of these blogs. :)

Anyhow, one of the most pleasing things about making this year's presentation at the Women's Final Four at the WBCA Convention, is that I'll be giving it to someone who is actually older than me. Bill has done great work over the year and he was actually nominated by DePaul coach Doug Bruno, the current WBCA present.

But I can personally verify the books were not cooked.

Tiger's Tale or The Super Bowl Coach and Me.

So when it was no longer worthwhile to hike up to Hartford for the Big East championship game, the final Penn-Princeton clash was being played up the road near Trenton, one of venues for first and second round games, and considering Princeton was after a tie in the Ivies, the evening seemed worthwhile enough.

It just so happens, that the Tigers have a super sophomore named Meagan Cowher, whose father happens to be the winning Super Bowl coach in Pittsburgh. He also is married to one of the former Wriggly Doublemint Twins, whose other claim to fame was that Kaye and her sister Faye starred at North Carolina State.

And so it was that yours truly approached Mr. Cowher at halftime, introduced myself, and then said, "Bill, when you get back home, tell Kaye you met me and I said I am so old that I'm the only one who has written about both your wife and daughter during their collegiate basketball careers. :)

And with that, it's on to more serious stuff in the next blog.

-- Mel

Chewing The Fat - I

By Mel Greenberg

Thoughts to ponder after finishing my computer profile going into the last two days before Selection Monday.

We're going to do this over several posts.

But upon entering conference winners, etc., into my working grid, it seemed that a change in the landscape has occurred.

So using CollegeRPI.com, because it's the easiest for me to work from in an organizational setting, I detected some interesting changes on what types of teams are being sent to the tournament from the mid-major to major-minor groups.

I pulled the final RPI sheets from 2004 and 2005 as they were at this same weekend and here's a look at the RPI number of the team champion, although the school itself won't be mentioned except for interesting points.

Some conferences aren't done yet, so projector identifications were made for the either/or teams playing in championship games. If the team upset the regular season winner and was the only team advancing to the Big Dance, the word upset is in parentheses.

Here's a look:

Conference 2004 2005 2006

America East 56 77 36/25

Atlantic Sun 115 162 (upset) 149/210

Big Sky 36 52 105/180

Big South 65 67 48--All Liberty

Big West 55 72 135/183

Colonial 18 31 16/45

Conference USA (we know why) 7 23 46 (Tulsa - new)

Horizon 82 37 77

Ivy League 118 98 91/100

Metro Atlantic 93 111 (Upset) 71

Mid-American 66 59 41

MEAC 134 115 116

Mo. Valley 41 145 (Upset) 37

Mountain West 72 (Upset) 28 20/21

Northeast 79 102 101/109

Ohio Valley 75 64 88

Patriot 149 135 117

SWAC 161 (Upset) 130 174/252

Southern 35 148 (Upset) 33

Southland 100 76 (Upset) 70/110

Sun Belt 60 51 (Upset) 81 (Upset over 17)

Western Athletic 24 33 35/204

West Coast 48 92 (Upset) 156 (Upset)

Tulsa, interestingly enough, was around the same RPI performance a year ago but the team went from a middle also-ran in the WAC to winning the re-vamped Conference USA.

A bunch of teams that might not ordinarily benefit appear to be heading to some gain closer to the middle of the bracket because of all the poor numbers. But we'll see. There seems that there will be much discussion to place seeds No. 11 through No. 15.

And now on to a new post.

-- Mel