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, December 05, 2006

The Guru's Take: Parity or Anarchy in AP Rankings?

By Mel Greenberg

Forget parity when it comes to watching team movement in the lower portions of the Associated Press weekly women’s poll.

How about anarchy?

While records have never been kept when it comes to point totals from the voters in the 31-year history of the ranking, this much can be said.

The totals of the bottom three teams that made it through the revolving door this week _ New Mexico, Marquette, and Nebraska _ might be some of the lowest point accumulations from voters ever held by teams in a given week since the expansion from a Top 20 to a Top 25 in the early 1990s.

This is not a knock at the trio in those last three spots. But until some solidification occurs and more meaningful games are played, which may not happen until conference competition gets under way, anyone can become nationally-ranked.

This is not to say things are diluted out there, either, because there are a lot of talented teams that can begin to rise once they hit the key games on their schedule.

Over the years, there has always been a concern in a given season that if soft teams show up in the early weeks of the rankings, it might a few months before the pecking order shows its true nature.

Our ballot the last few weeks has included Delaware and Hofstra because of our old-fashioned approach to consideration during the front end of the season.

If you can get a big win, especially on the road, to go with your record, you earn a vote.

Delaware beats Kentucky, which had a lot of regard, in a tournament in a neutral site, the Blue Hens proved worthy of a reward. Hofstra wins at Michigan State, considered one of the best of the Big Ten Conference, likewise is true.

Understand, this is not about those two should be ranked right now ahead of teams that made the list. Only voters in this part of the country know about the two CAA teams. And voters in the Midwest know more about Nebraska and Marquette.

But overall, few voters know about anything, which one can quickly discern by looking at the points.

Tennessee fell from out of the Top 5 from fourth to sixth after Sunday’s loss at North Carolina, but the Vols were only a point in the voting behind Ohio State.

Yet if those two were going to play each other this weekend, you tell me the overwhelming favorite going into that game. Down below, George Washington missed cracking the Top 20 area by a point behind Michigan State.

In some ways, it’s interesting because a match-up between those two teams could be as close.

There are schools not even showing themselves with votes that could end up in the Top 15 once they get to play the strong favorites in their respective conferences.

Pittsburgh is a team that might be AP-ready. The Panthers were on our ballot, by the way.

But they may have to wait a while. However, the opportunity is there. If Pitt keeps winning, eventually their forthcoming Big East battles will help them along.

Meanwhile, things may get worse before they get better at Rutgers, which got routed at home by Duke Monday night. A loss at DePaul on Thursday night will put the Scarlet Knights’ 42-week ranking streak in jeopardy despite an assumed victory at home Saturday night against Princeton.

Incidentally that Saturday night game in Piscataway has been billed in the underground as “The Two Sisters Classic” for reasons that have nothing to do with anything that will occur on the court.

But even if Rutgers vanishes from the poll for a while, it won’t be the first time that has happened to a young C. Vivian Stringer-coached team.

What usually happens soon afterwards is a re-grouping followed by a bolt right back into the thick of things.

Interestingly, if the NCAA selection committee had to fill out a field right now, its members would really have their hands full. In fact, if a statement was made that would minimize the RPI (computer ranking) in importance, unlike the debate of last March, this time the comment would be right on the mark.

-- Mel

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