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.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NCAA Champion Terps Choose The Lords' Rings

By Mel Greenberg

Say this about the defending NCAA women’s basketball champion Maryland Terrapins: They are not shy.

At Tuesday’s media day, the players were sporting their championship rings that seemed quite gaudy in terms of the size of the players' fingers.

“Oh, that’s the men’s ring,” said one. “I mean you win something like we did, you want people to know about it.”

The Terrapins reached the top a year ahead of schedule last April based on the projected growth of the program under coach Brenda Frese as they earned their first national title.

To get the job done, they had to dispatch two longtime nemesis Atlantic Coast Conference rivals in the Women’s Final Four in Boston.

After upsetting North Carolina, the Terps rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the second half of the title game and caught Duke at the finish when freshman Kristi Toliver nailed a three-pointer with 6.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Maryland took over in the extra period and emerged with a 78-75 victory as sophomore Laura Harper, a Cheltenham High grad, was named most valuable player.

Tuesday’s theme was quite a contrast from media day a year ago when Maryland received a preseason ranking of 14th in the Associated Press poll. Based on some magazines, the Terrapins could receive their first-ever No. 1 vote in the AP poll, when the preseason rankings are released Wednesday, Nov. 8.

A year ago, several Terrapin players such as Shay Doron and Willingboro High’s Crystal Langhorne were coming off terrific summers in international competition.

Toliver and Marissa Coleman were part of another fabulous Maryland freshman class.

In fact, asked about expectations at this time last year, Toliver said, “My number one job is to get my teammates better, deliver the ball, distribute the ball, and yes, I'm a scorer. That's one thing I've been blessed with was a jump shot so that also opens up things, things for other teammates and for myself."

Nice outlook, considering what eventually occurred.

Harper was still a little tentative coming off a knee injury that had sidelined her most of her freshman year.

Frese’s opening statement 12 months ago simply began: “We're extremely optimistic for this upcoming season.

“How could we not be? Coming off 22 wins last season, back-to-back NCAA Tournament wins, nine letterwinners returning, including four starters. For the first time, we have six Parade and McDonald's All-Americans, and two Wade Trophy and Wooden Award candidates, with Crystal Langhorne and Shay Doron coming in for this season.”

Having accomplished the ultimate, the Maryland contingent faced a series of questions somewhat different than those that have been asked in the past of such defending champions as Connecticut and Tennessee.

“How do you avoid a letdown?” “What can go wrong?” “Is there anything left to accomplish?”

Through it all, the Maryland players stood firm and pointed to themselves as a a squad that’s even deeper this season.

“Our practices are killers,” said Harper referring to a situation similar to other powerhouses in the past where the first and second team on the roster are both capable of being nationally ranked.

As this line of questioning continued, Doron was asked on the side how much time was spent schooling the squad in what was likely to be asked on Tuesday.

The senior shot back, "Hey, it’s ok. It comes with the territory.”


By the time many of you are reading the Guru’s blog this (Wednesday) morning, he will be in the air on the way to Indianapolis where the NCAA and sportswriters from newspapers who have national perspectives will meet and discuss issues pertaining to growing coverage and other items.

Without getting into detail, yes, the bracket presentation on Selection Monday will be part of the discussion.

The NCAA group will include president Myles Brand, the women’s basketball division’s Sue Donohoe and several other of her staff, and new tournament committee chairwoman Judy Southard, who once served as a voting coach when the Guru was running the AP poll.

Some of the print media types will be Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star and ESPN.Com, Dick Patrick of USA Today, Jim O’Connell of the Associated Press (really), Chuck Schoffner, who is retired from the AP but still administers the weekly poll; and the Pittsburgh Tribune’s JoAnne Harrop.

The nitty gritty stuff will occur between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday. The Guru would say don’t expect any great revelations. However, since the latest agenda page is now more wide open instead of a point-by-point list of topics (the writers requested this meeting, by the way), if you have any thoughts or ideas you think need to be introduced into the discussion, you have until Wednesday night to email the Guru at either mgreenberg@phillynews.com or at poll@att.net, both of which will automatically forward to our blackberry.

Incidentally, on the labor negotiations front involving the newspaper where Guru world headquarters is located, an extension was given until Nov. 30 to reach a settlement.

In other news, an announcement will finally be made within the next two weeks of the United States Basketball Writers Association’s plans to honor the memory of the late Army coach Maggie Dixon.

-- Mel


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