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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Musings For A Tuesday - Because That's Today

By Mel Greenberg

The Women’s National Invitation Tournament is expanding its field from 40 to 48 teams, meaning that 112 schools will live beyond their conference tournaments when the NCAA field of 64 is included in the total.

Overall, around a third of Division I will now go somewhat deep into March Madness. The real lucky ones will still be around for April’s Antics.

The WNIT’s move guarantees every conference at least one team in its field and will be viewed in some places as increased opportunities. However, a little extra pressure has just been added to the coaching profession.

I mean, it will be almost embarrassing if you don’t take a team to either the NCAA or WNIT.

When the fields were smaller, at least there were enough people to blame for not getting picked when it came time to discuss contract extensions or renewals.

Furthermore, for those who are on the bubble, it was bad enough when their teams didn’t get at-large berths because of lesser conferences that had automatic bids to send representatives to the NCAA championship.

Now how bad will the feeling exists among schools in the mid-to-lower reaches of the Big East, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Southeastern, Big 12, and Pac-10 conferences who won’t get picked because twice as many lesser teams will now gain access?

Planning Ahead

With the WNBA season consigned to the history books, Geno Auriemma enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and the FIBA World Championships almost concluded, the Guru turned his attention to the annual drudgery of producing the first draft of the composite winter schedule which serves as a compass for coverage in The Inquirer as well as in a few other gigs.

The ingredients that go into our excel spreadsheet are locally on the women’s front: The Big Five contingent of St. Joseph’s, La Salle, Temple, Villanova, and Penn; along with Drexel and Delaware, Penn State and Rutgers. Also, in what the Guru considers as his ongoing gender-equity training at the paper, there’s also the Drexel men’s team that he covers. And of course, there’s the key national games. And, yeah, not to be forgotten, but not part of this specific exercise, are our friends in Divisions II and III.

This year the Guru gives a special thanks to his local teams, who usually have no idea what the overall pattern looks like beyond their own schedule.

The reason is you somehow managed to avoid major conflicts, potential date changes notwithstanding, and, thus, the Guru now has greater flexibility to stay on top of things.

Liberty Springboard.

While a small stir was created with the recent hiring of Marianne Stanley as an assistant coach at Rutgers after holding positions in the WNBA, she is not the first to have sat on the Liberty bench in Madison Square Garden as a head coach or assistant _ she was an assistant in New York -- and then moved back into the collegiate ranks from the professional ranks.

Former Liberty head coach Nancy Darsch has been with a few collegiate programs, while Jeff House, who was with Richie Adubato in New York and Washington, is now in his second season as an assistant to Debbie Ryan at Virginia. Melissa McFerrin, who was with Darsch in New York and Washington and also served as a Mystics general manager, is now the head coach at American U.

USA in Transition

So after all the fretting about Yolanda Griffith and Lisa Leslie not being able to play for the United States in the FIBA World Championship because of family considerations, coach Anne Donovan’s team has yet to be in serious danger of suffering a setback.

Of course, things can quickly turn around on a dime as recently demonstrated in this town on Sunday when the NFL Eagles coughed up a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.

But if anything, the United States is getting a head start in re-shaping its roster for a younger generation of players to become the new leaders by 2008 when the Olympics are in Beijing, China.

Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker is performing well with the USA group, but in closed circles some have wondered how much she might suffer academically from missing almost a month of school in Knoxville.

Traffic Report

Apologies to the 150 of you who stopped by the Guru’s blog on Monday and the several 1,000 others who also visited and found nothing new since our journey to Maryland (the team) in College Park on Thursday.

A study of the statistics on the recent jump in traffic to the site revealed that people stumbled into us from such places as Japan, and Switzerland.

There was even one visit from Brazil, although we believe that might have been a certain coach Staley who apparently enjoys tracking the Guru for the purpose of future harassment. There are one or two other suspects down there in South America with the USA contingent, but the Guru won’t drop any more names at this time.

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

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