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.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Time to "Tea" It Up !

By Kate Burkholder
Of the Final Four Mel Team

BOSTON -- Maryland head coach Brenda Frese cracked a smile as she informally invited Louisiana State to what she called, “The ACC Tournament Part Two.”

But Frese’s statements carry some degree of truth, as this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament — in the year that also marks the 25th Anniversary of the women’s Final Four — for the first time features three teams from the same conference.

Duke, North Carolina, and Frese’s Terrapins comprise three-fourths of a Final Four overflowing with speed and athleticism, more than deserving of all the hype that the aforementioned squads have brought with them here to Boston — along with the fourth member, Pokey Chatman’s LSU Tigers.

As the three ACC strongholds have played a combined seven games against one another already this season, there certainly isn’t any secret about the way at least the UNC-Maryland game will shape up — marked with playground quickness
.
“I think the three teams that are here [from the Atlantic Coast], everybody plays a fast-paced game,” UMD’s sophomore forward Crystal Langhorne said. “Everybody likes to run, and I think that’s a trend a lot in the ACC. Everybody is very fast-paced in the league.”’

Maryland and UNC will meet Sunday at 7 p.m., followed by the LSU-Duke match-up immediately following.

The games will both be aired on ESPN from the TD Banknorth Arena.

The odd-man out of the situation would appear to be the Tigers, the powerful Southeastern Conference contingent known for unforgiving transition game and should have no problem running with the Blue Devils or anyone else if they should advance past the Sunday night showdown.
Or, they could slow it down.

“It’s never by design to slow a game down, you just go back and evaluate how you’ve been effective,” Chatman said. “You can run in transition and not necessarily get a shot out of it, and then make seven or eight passes in the half court… we just have been the most effective when we have run half court offense and made the opposition defend to get to the free throw line.”

If there’s one thing LSU has proven this year, though, besides the fact that Seimone Augustus is very, very good, it’s that the Tigers are resilient.

A year after the tragic passing of long-time head coach Sue Gunter, Chatman has stepped up to guide the Tigers along in a town marred this year with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Upon accepting her second consecutive State Farm Wade Trophy, Augustus deflected the prestigious award and hung her own successes on the mental toughness she’s acquired over the past couple years at LSU, what she referred to as “a credit to our mental focus.”

On the other side of the bracket, Frese can hope that her tournament comment is partially faulty, as she will look to lead her Maryland team past a bunch of Tar Heels that slipped up the Terps a couple of weeks ago in the finals of ACC Tournament Part One.

While collectively Maryland won’t acknowledge the underdog scenario many have plastered upon them, they are still a two-seed looking to topple a one ­— a familiar one at that.

“Everybody has to play the same amount of games to get to the same point,” Maryland guard Shay Doron said. “We just want to play hard and we know we can compete with any team in the country. We have proven that time and time again.”

The national favorite in the media seems to still rest with UNC, as the better portion of the media here at the Final Four is Carolina-based. Maybe that’s because the papers from down there on Tobacco Road had no need to jump out to Indianapolis to track the men’s team, as the Tar Heels were one of the many victims of the George Mason boys.

But in what will surely be a fast and furious Final Four showcase Sunday night, the UNC women will look to the smallest of sources, 6-foot-5 point guard Ivory Latta, to back up that reputation and give the Tar Heels their first National Championship since the 1994 season.

And look for them to run around in the process.

“I want people to fall in love with women’s basketball, and that’s one reason why we got up and down the floor,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchel said. “I want them to score a lot of points and make it exciting and fun. I don’t like low-scoring games, I made the comment it’s sort of like watching paint dry.

“I like to go up and down the floor and that’s what we’re all about.”

That’s what the ACC, it seems, is all about, while LSU looks to represent the SEC with some flash of their own.

---Kate Burkholder

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