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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.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Duke-Tennessee: The Polls Are Closed - For Now

By Mel Greenberg

The first of two major clashes this week will occur Monday night when No. 4 Tennessee hosts top-ranked Duke in Knoxville.

Media voting for the new Associated Press women's poll closed Sunday night, so even though some of the populace will see a result of the game and then the next poll afterwards, they'll find the balloting totals not reflective of the outcome of the game.

The new poll will be released Monday afternoon.

Ah, but some of you are thinking, didn't everything get put on hold in 1995 when Tennessee and Connecticut met in the famous 1-2 match on a Monday afternoon?

That is correct, but the dynamics were slightly different.

The game that year in Storrs, Conn., was the only significant game being played on a Monday.

On the original schedule, the new poll, then on an alternating first-release cycle between afternoon and and morning editions, was not going to make its first appearance until the middle of the night.

The voting would have been completed, as usual, on Sunday.

However, the thinking back in 1995 was if Connecticut upsets Tennessee in the afternoon and the weekly voting results would be released a few hours later with the Volunteers still holding the top spot, it would have looked a little awkward.

This time, the new week of competition will be well under way. Besides, Monday night's result is only a piece of the equation to determine the upper spots over the next seven days.

On Sunday night, North Carolina, currently the No. 2 team to Duke, will visit No. 3 Maryland before a sellout crowd of 18,000 plus at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.

It will be the first meeting of the Atlantic Coast Conference rivals since the Terrapins upset the Tar Heels in the national semifinals in Boston on the way to the NCAA title. That triumph carried Maryland to the No. 1 spot in the poll to start this season and the Terrpins stayed there until a little over a week ago when they fell to Duke in Durham, N.C.

So the logic seems to work this way. If Duke wins Monday night, No. 1 will be settled for next time around a week from now.

But if Tennessee wins, well, a North Carolina win over Maryland would seem to put the Tar Heels at the top because they'll still be unbeaten, assuming the other games this week play out as expected, and Ivory Latta and company already own a victory over Tennessee.

Now if Tennessee wins its game, but North Carolina loses its game, depending how both results are achieved, the top spot will be thrown wide open.

Rutgers' Rocky Road

Just when the Scarlet Knights seemed poised to return to the rankings, Rutgers managed to squander a second-half lead to then-No. 15 Louisville, Sunday night, in a Big East game in Kentucky that continued to accent Rutgers' problems away from home.

That setback sets the scene for a dandy here in Philadelphia on Wednesday night when Rutgers visits Temple, a team that has upset the Scarlet Knights twice in the regular season the last two years.

``It's one of the few times this year, we'll be the team with a little more experience,'' Temple coach Dawn Staley said after the Owls beat Rhode Island in an Atlantic Ten game at the Liacouras Center.

This game didn't seem to have doubt in the outcome back in November in terms of Rutgers' ability to prevail.

Although the Scarlet Knights had lost all-American Cappie Pondexter to graduation, Rutgers seemed to be more loaded on talent that would have life figured out in terms of C. Vivian Stringer's defense by the time the two would meet.

Temple was re-grouping after the graduation of its all-American Candice Dupree.

Although Rutgers' nonconference schedule could be considered tougher, Temple still saw its share of seasoned outside opponents and grew to believe in itself when a second-half comeback almost topped Maryland here in Philadelphia.

"We learned we could play with anybody," Staley said of her team's pre-Atlantic Ten opponents.

Senior Kamesha Hairston has taken over the leadership role with Dupree now going against Pondexter in the WNBA.

Incidentally, with Dupree in the stands Wednesday night and former Scarlet Knights star Chelsea Newton as part of Stringer's staff, there will be at least two members of the Chicago Sky in the house since the two are teammates in the pros.

Since the Maryland game, Temple has won 11 straight and a win over Rutgers would put the Owls back on the national radar. Staley's bunch, if they lose, still has a few opportunities to gain at-large consideration if they continue their Atlantic Ten run straight into an end-of-the-regular-season game in the nation's capital against George Washington.

A Rutgers loss would make the Scarlet Knights' Big Dance prospects a little shaky, but with two games against Connecticut, at least, still on the horizon, it won't be the end of the world.

One note of disappointment is that somehow the Temple women will be playing at the same time that the Temple men's team will be at The Palestra with new coach Fran Dunphy going against Penn, the team he coached prior to moving to North Broad St. in the offseason.

And, the Penn women will be at St. Joseph's at the same time playing a Big Five game.

Sunday, the local fan base will get some separation. George Washington will be at La Salle at 1 p.m., while St. Joseph's will be hosting Temple at 5 p.m. If the Hawks beat Penn, they will be in position to dethrone Temple as Big Five champions on Sunday.

Incidentally, former Temple men's coach John Chaney was at the women's game Saturday and Staley had this to say about the Hall of Famer:

"He always tells me he loves me, so that's always a good thing," Staley said. `Coach' is `coach.' He has certainly helped me develop into a feisty coach, a cussin' coach, take no holds barred, and a discipline coach. He's someone I looked at to instill discipline in our players, and to approach the game a certain way.

"When you do it that way, you put yourself in position to get a few wins that you would not otherwise."

Chaney will be at the game Wednesday, also in part, because he and Stringer go back years ago to when they coached together at Cheyney out in the suburbs.

'Fame Comes to Caramanico and Zenzser.

The late John McAdams, the longtime Palestra and Big Five announcer, will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame later this week along with Penn all-time scorer Diana Caramanico and La Salle star Jen Zenzser, who was a four-time All Big Five Team Member and Academic All American.

Caramanico was a three-time Big Five women's player of the year who led the Quakers to their first Ivy title. A year ago, she married former Penn men's star Jeff Owens.

Depending who's handling this week's print coverage of the event in The Inquirer, we'll have more to say either here or at Philly.com.

Items from Italy

Acacia will be filing her first report from Balogna later Monday and is dreaming up some ``catchy, corny phrase,'' for a weekly report from overseas until she completes her studies at the end of May.

-- Mel


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