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, February 28, 2007

Guru Musings: Why They Call It Madness

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA - The Guru took a quick timeout Tuesday night to attend meting of the local chapter of the National Sports Marketing Network at the Hyatt on Penn's Landing off the Delaware River.

The panel spoke on the business of college sports. The speakers are listed in this next paragraph.

Bill Bradshaw, Director of Athletics, Temple University
Linda Bruno, Commissioner, Atlantic 10 Conference
Burke Magnus, Vice President & General Manager, ESPNU
Kit Morris, Director of College Sports Marketing
Vince Nicastro, Athletic Director, Villanova University
Greg Shaheen, Senior Vice President for Basketball and Business Strategies, NCAA

So at one point during the Q. and A. your Guru asked opinions on the the effects off a proposal to move the calendar of the women's tournament a week or later to get out from under the shadow of the men's tournament.

Bruno, a former chair of the NCAA women's selection committee: ``I think it's ridiculous. The tournament does fine where it is with sellouts (the focus was the regional, Final Four end), media and television coverage.''

Bradshaw commented that he thought being away from home courts and the continuing evolvment was a good thing.

Locally Notable

In sending the Atlantic Ten Awards involving players from local schools to our desk for print in Wednesday's paper in the briefs' section, we inadvertently omitted that Temple freshman LaKeisha Eaddy was named to the all-rookie team.

That's what happens when your Guru grabs an individual school re-spin of the actual conference release.

And anyone making last-minute arrangements to be in Cincinnati for the A-10 tournament at the Cintas Center on Xavier's campus, such as your Guru did Tuesday night, don't let the $1,300 cost or so of a flight deter you.

The Guru found Southwest Airlines out of Philly to Columbus was only $212, and our good friend Jim Foster, the coach of Ohio State, informed it's a short ride from Buckeye land to Cincy.

So, the bottom line, is the way to the Atlantic Ten title game is through Ohio State, which actually will be elsewhere in the Big Ten tournament.

Speaking of Big Ten, Penn State's Amanda Brown, a graduate of Unionville High near here, was named to the All-Big Ten first team.

And in another A-10 note, the times of Sunday's semifinals have been changed from 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to allow both games to be televised on CSTV.


Jonathan forgot to mention that not only has he met Erin, BUT -------- his work station is only a few short feet away from Guru headquarters through a door to the Philly.com operations.

Big East Tourney

We'll be back in time for the title game Tuesday night in Hartford.

Now that the bracket has been determined, we add more in depth analysis to our overall view for the first week of Madness that posted on Monday.

West Virginia goes to absolute lock status with a second-round win, but may already be in the safety zone. South Florida needs to beat Seton Hall and then can enhance itself with a win over West Virginia.

Best opening game might be Notre Dame vs. DePaul. The Irish are probably in the field of 64. The Blue Demons need some wins to cancel the injury-effect. Either way, a quarterfinal game between either of those teams and Rutgers might be the best of the round.

Marquette, with a bye, is probably in the field of 64, but Pittsburgh can probably move close to lock status with wins over Cincinnati and Marquette. An opening round loss to Cincinnati might make things a little perilous.

Wednesday game slate

In non-tournament action, the Big 12 regular season wrapup with Texas A&M going for a title against Texas, while Oklahoma meets Baylor is the best of the night.

Oklahoma and Baylor are trying to improve their NCAA seed situation. Texas needs a bunch of wins, quickly.

Nothing compelling in tournament action with Southern Conference quarterfinals -- two games -- and Sun Belt opening round the only events being played.
In the Sun Belt, Denver is making a big push over its first-ever hosting an event in the post season.
Once a market of the old American Basketball League, perhaps the WNBA bunch, with an eye to future cities, will be watching to see if the game against Florida Atlantic can serve as some indicator of women's hoops interest.

Your Guru, who has an early flight Thursday, will be making a stop tonight at local Division II power Holy Family, the tenth-ranked team in the WBCA poll, which will open Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference action against Post.

And speaking of Post, we've now posted enough to make your increasing visits to Guru-land worthwhile.

Great job by Jonathan below this post on the Penn story, and great job by Acacia, who made international history at the Guru site on Monday with a direct post of her Molto Monday column from Italia.

-- Mel

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In an Ancient Conference, Senior Moments

By Jonathan Tannenwald

Before I start the post officially, two quick things. First, it was just a few minutes ago that Pat Summitt emerged onto the court at Thompson-Bolling Arena dressed in a Tennessee cheerleader's uniform to lead the crowd in 'Rocky Top' and climb to the top of a human pyramid supported by what I understand were her assistant coaches.

I'm sure you all saw it, and from this corner of Philadelphia I give Summitt all the credit in the world for both wanting to give that performance and having the mentality to really follow through with it -- not to mention the fitness to get up on top of that pyramid! And as a follower of both the men's and women's sides of the game, I am especially pleased that Volunteers men's coach Bruce Pearl is such a vocal and colorful (to put it one way) supporter of the women's team.

Second, you readers out there might not realize that the writers of this blog actually don't get to meet in person all that often, aside from Mel and I who (as he notes above) work a few feet away from each other. I met Erin for the first time on Friday over lunch in Boston, and quite enjoyed hearing her stories of covering Connecticut.

Speaking of UConn, that ties right into the story that starts below...

The last time the Penn women's basketball team beat Dartmouth, the Quakers knocked the Big Green out of the title race on their Senior Night.

That game took place when the team's current seniors were freshmen. So a certain circle was completed when Penn repeated the feat on this season's senior night this past Friday in a heart-stopping 56-53 win.

Back in 2004, though, the scene at the Palestra was rather different. What might be the largest crowd the building has ever seen for a Penn women's game brought the decibel level to a place normally reserved for the men's game as the Quakers won the Ivy League for only the second time in program history.

Since then, things have changed. The coach of that team, Kelly Greenberg, left a few months later for Boston University, and her successor, Pat Knapp, now has a team full of players that he recruited. But for the four players left from Greenberg's last team, the memories of that title run are still fresh.

It was a season that culminated in a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to eventual champions Connecticut. But while the crowd in Bridgeport that night was overwhelmingly in the Huskies favor, Penn embraced the challenge from the moment they cheered seeing the team's name on TV during the selection show.

Indeed, perhaps the most famous image to emerge from that game was of one of this year's seniors. Though all of Penn's starters from that season are long gone, the picture that remains in the memory is of 5-foot-4 freshman Joey Rhoads defending Diana Taurasi.

(You are free to ignore the byline on that linked story, by the way.)

"Sometimes it seems like a long time, but I still remember some things like it was yesterday," Rhoads said of her freshman year. "I kind of don't feel like I'm a senior, but I am."

A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, and a graduate of the same high school as Penn legend Diana Caramanico, Rhoads been the floor leader of Penn's offense over the last two seasons. She has also often been the first player turned to for perspective on a game. She offered just that on the transition from the coach who recruited her to the coach whose plays she ran over the last three years.

"With new coaches it's obviously a new system, but I think that at Penn we always play with a lot of pride," Rhoads said. "We hustle, we never give up."

More often than not, she has stood alongside fellow senior Monica Naltner, a forward who has been one of Penn's star players since being given a starting spot as a sophomore. Naltner is one of many who has treasured her time playing in one of college basketball's most famous arenas.

"I'm already missing the Palestra -- I took my last shot, my last steps on the Palestra floor," she said. "It's pretty sad, but what a way to go off, with a win."

Like her team, Naltner has endured quite a journey over the last few years. After suffering a knee injury early last season that had her in a brace for quite a long time, the knee finally healed this season and she got back to the form that had made her one of the league's most dangerous players.

"After I got to take the brace off this summer and got to work, I tried to get in shape and play my best ball," she said. "While we're not winning an Ivy League championship, I feel like we've accomplished a lot this year and have been able to bounce back from a less-than-stellar year."

Naltner wasn't the only member of her class to suffer a severe knee injury. Guard Lauren Pears tore an ACL in December of 2005 and didn't recover until just in time for the start of this season. But once she got back on the floor, she earned a place in the starting lineup.

"It requires a lot of work -- summers, mornings, nights, everything from hard lifts to early-morning runs to three-and-a-half hour practices -- but it's all worth it," Pears said. "It's a very difficult process just because I've had so many knee injuries, but I think just for that reason it makes it much more worth it to come back and play."

Penn's fourth senior, forward Ashley Gray, never quite made it to being a regular starter. But that hasn't lessened her desire to do whatever she can to help the team.

"I think I have the same mentality as any basketball player on our team, that we're going to keep working hard and keep working to win," she said. "Whether you play or don't play, we've always been proud of what kind role we've had on our team and what kind of contribution we're able to make."

This writer freely admits that the goings-on of a former 15-seed that hasn't seen the postseason since might not be of much relevance when the power-conference teams are rightly staking their claims to the spotlight. Having said that, I am sure that even the Connecticuts and Dukes of the world have players like Penn's seniors.

Of course they have their frontcourt and backcourt stars. But somewhere down that bench in Storrs, I bet there's a player like Ashley Gray: someone who does all the hard work in practice but doesn't get to hear her name called in the starting lineups. Duke's Lindsay Harding missed a full season -- though because of suspension, not injury -- yet, like Pears, she has come back and become a star.

So consider this piece just one portrait of a small piece of the college basketball landscape. The "mid-majors" of the women's game don't get the kind of prominence that they do on the men's side, not least because upsets aren't such a regular occurrence in the women's NCAA Tournament.

But before the time comes for those early-round drubbings that the game's powers always give out, take perhaps you'll take just a moment to think about those lower-seeded teams that don't care who they play. Their moment in the spotlight is a pretty big deal -- and the memories really do last for a long time.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Molto Monday: Roman Holiday

Buon giorno tutti! As a little surprise for everyone, including The Guru, I am posting directly onto the blog this morning (afternoon now for me). Mel has been urging me to do so for awhile now, and after a failed attempt last week, here we are.

by Acacia O'Connor

ROMA, Italy--I spent this past weekend in The Eternal City, Roma, visiting with a small tour group from my hometown. I love Rome, so any excuse is good enough to take the three and a half hour train ride from Bologna there.

The reason I went, however, really was more than just a “good excuse” and a lesson in what things and which people influence your life and decisions the most.

And once again, there is a reoccurring theme: some of the greatest influences in my life have resulted from my experiences with and through sports.

In 2002, at the age of 16, I made my first journey to Italy with an ACIS Go-Play Tour headed up by my high school soccer coach, Paul Hemsley.

(Note to readers: Before attending Vassar, I played soccer for most of my life as well as basketball, often coincidently. I nearly played soccer at Vassar as well, but decided to make a choice of one varsity sport or the other.)

ACIS Educational Tours is a division of the American Institute of Foreign Study.

The Go-Play Tour took us on a trip through the northern half of the country, hitting the hot spots—Roma, Firenze, Padova, Verona, Siena, Venezia—and giving us an opportunity to play Italian women’s club teams in friendly matches as well.

The group consisted of about 20 girls from two schools—Bishop Grimes, my high school, and South Jefferson High School in Watertown, NY.

Over the course of 10 days, we played four games and ate roughly 50 portions of gelati.

After the games we would have meals prepared by the families and paesani of the Italian players, all together.

These meals still remain in my mind as unforgettable and unique cultural experiences.

That trip laid the foundation of everything that has happened since—taking Italian for five semesters, spending last summer in Siena, and now this five month stint.

“It could have been any country. Spain, France, Germany. But it was Italy,” I said the group’s ACIS tour guide over a cup of espresso Saturday night.

And I know that in large part, it was Italy because of soccer, because of the first trip and especially because of the encouragement of Hemsley.

Now, I’ve included this slightly tangential backstory to show how this weekend was a sort of coming full circle.

Maybe not entirely full circle, but a small circle in a series of life circles, anyway.

The Syracuse participants of this ACIS tour were, in all: three girls from Bishop Grimes, one of their mothers, my 9th grade earth science teacher Ms. Elsenbeck, her 16-year old son, and another woman from Syracuse.

Even though this was my fourth time in Rome, it could have just as easily been my first, for as much as I enjoyed it.

The group was unbelievably hospitable to me and I was glad I could help them out a few times with my ever-improving Italian language capabilities.

It was good to see people from home. Not because of the language, because I can speak English if I really wanted with my program peers, but because of my recent homesickness for my hometown and my family.

Hemsley was a storyteller, as he always has been.

Spending a few days with him was almost like seeing my parents, especially my dad. (They are good friends and they coach together at Bishop Grimes. There are many similarities, including a shared penchant for corny jokes.)

I had to remind myself Saturday night that I would not be returning to the U.S. with them. Instead, I took a morning train back to Bologna.

Was I sad to see them go?

Sure. The three months still in front of me had never seemed so long as in that moment.

But as I walked through the misty rain back to my dorm, with the Bolognese tower barely visible in the fog, it wasn’t Syracuse or Vassar—but in a way, I was home again.


Guru's Note. Acacia was in Rome this weekend, so her weekly Molto Monday report, probably will appear late in the afternoon. Here's the AP voters' link. We are in week No. 17, so the AP web site must reflect that for the voting profiles for the new poll to be up to date.

Now, on with our first look at conference week.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ Premium NCAA dance tickets are up for grabs, beginning this week, and the first order of business is to either grab one the selection committee issues automatically to a conference champion or try to present a best effort so the committee won’t lose sight when it’s time to issue one of 33 at-large bids.

For today’s exercise, let’s look at what’s at stake in each of the conference tournaments whose brackets have been established. There will also be some comment on a few other conferences, as necessary.

Note, when we speak in terms of numbers out of a conference to the NCAAs, we are not talking in terms of what the conferences deserve, but rather what those teams within the conference has shown compared to likes, elsewhere.


Much of the populace believes a bunch of time and money could be saved by making this event the NCAA tournament this weekend, based on what happened last year when three ACC teams advanced to the Women’s Final Four won by Maryland.

Those three have been at or near the top of the pile all season, though the defending NCAA champion Terrapins’ sole major flaw was a loss to Georgia Tech.

Top-ranked, No. 1 seed, and unbeaten Duke appears to have locked up the overall No. 1 seed in the field of 64. Even if the Blue Devils were to get shocked early, the body of work is too overwhelming to drop them to the second line.

Second-seeded North Carolina is probably also holding an NCAA No. 1 seed going into the ACC confab. Third-seeded Maryland, which might see Georgia Tech again, Friday, might fight its way back to a No. 1 NCAA seed by upsetting the Tar Heels and then also beating Duke for the automatic bid. Otherwise, Maryland will be a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs, assuming the ACC-title elimination is done by either North Carolina or Duke.

A key game, Friday, is Florida State vs. North Carolina State, which probably already has enough of a resume to get picked. (They have to come from somewhere, folks). Florida State can be thought of as a bubble team, but a high bubble team. The squad could help itself by lasting a few rounds. If it loses to Wake Forest, Thursday, then it drops to the general bubble category.


Top-seed George Washington, which made an unbeaten run through the league after outlasting runnerup Temple, Sunday, is in the NCAA tournament as a lock. The Colonials can’t relax, however, because a Top 16 NCAA seed is possible, even top 12, if GWU wins the Atlantic Ten in Cincinnati.

Temple might have played its way in as a probable lock after taking George Washington to the wire. A key game for the Owls, assuming they win their quarterfinal, Saturday, against either Massachusetts or St. Bonaventure, will be a potential semifinal matchup against third-seeded Xavier in the Musketeers’ arena., assuming Xavier beats either Richmond or Saint Louis in the quarterfinals. The Owls edged Xavier by a point earlier this season in Philadelphia.

Xavier might have enough to be taken by the NCAA committee, even if we only call them high bubble for now. Charlotte needs to make a deep run.

Incidentally, forgot to mention it in my print story off the GWU-Temple game, but the Colonials and coach Joe McKeown, a native of Philadelphia, deserve a virtual Big Five trophy for beating Temple, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, and Villanova. GWU didn’t play Penn, although back in the day, Quakers coach Pat Knapp and McKeown hooked up in D.C. when Knapp was coaching Georgetown.


We’ll be back here after the bracket is set following Monday night’s final regular season games. All eyes will be on Pisctaway, N.J., where Connecticut will try to complete a two-game sweep of Rutgers and finish the conference season unbeaten. The Scarlet Knights are now a lock for an NCAA bid, so they just need to gain wins for a decent seed. A No. 4 or even No. 3 is not out of the question, depending on what they accomplish.

Other teams in the Big East that seem NCAA bound are Marquette, Louisville, and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has an RPI that says “take me,” but the Panthers don’t have a solid lock, yet. West Virginia, Seton Hall, and South Florida remain discussion points. DePaul needs a deep run.


If teams from mid-majors get at-large bids, they owe their thanks to the Big Ten, which is a three-team conference. Favored Ohio State is looking at a No. 2 NCAA seed if it wins the conference tournament in Indianapolis, but maybe No. 3 if the Buckeyes get shocked. Yes, I know the RPI is great, but the drill-down exercise has OSU failing by comparison for all the good stuff. Purdue has a shot at a No. 2 NCAA seed with a conference title, but is probably no worse than a No. 4. Michigan State is playing for as high a seed as it can get, but it won’t be a premium one unless the Spartans get to the title game.
Illinois has a faint pulse if the committee will still be needing teams to complete the field.
There will be a Philly flavor to the Illini opener Friday against Penn Staste. Illinois coach Theresa Grentz and Penn State coach Rene Portland were teammates at Immaculata College on the national champions in the early 1970s.


The tournament is not until next week, but Texas A&M can win the regular season title this week with a win over Texas or if Oklahoma loses. Both Texas A&M and Oklahoma are locks for the NCAAs as is Baylor, with Nebraks and/or Iowa State as other possibilities. Texas may need to win the conference tournament to go, while the same goes for Texas Tech at this hour. Again, I say at this hour.


The Tournament is not until next week, but James Madison, Delaware, and Old Dominion are all in the hunt for at-large seeds if any of them doesn’t win the conference tournament next week at Delaware. Hofstra remains in the picture but could use an upset or two.


Tulane is the regular season champion, but this will be a one-team conference representative so it needs to win the tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


No tournament is held, but Harvard, with a three-game lead in the loss column, has clinched a tie.


Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., will be the scene for this weekend’s conference tournament in which No. 1 seed Marist needs to win or it will go to the NWIT, which guarantees a berth for all regular season conference champions not advancing by the NCAA.


Long Island, with two Fijians - freshman Valerie Nainima (Suva, Fiji) and junior Mikaelar Whippy (Suva, Fiji) – has landed the No. 1 seed under coach Stephanie Gaitley. The rest of the field will be determined this week.


Southeast Missouri State is the top seed, but this is a one-team conference so the regular season champion needs to emerge this weekend in Nashville, Tenn.


Top-seeded Stanford needs to find its way out of San Jose to land a No. 2 seed, maybe, from the NCAA committee. At worst, the Cardinal would get a No. 4.

Arizona State, the No. 2 seed, also is a lock but is fighting for a No. 3 or No. 4 seed from the NCAA committee. California is probably also an NCAA lock with a third place finish, but needs wins to enhance its seed. Washington is on the bubble, but could gain strength with a quarterfinal-round win over Southern Cal, which could become a factor, though not likely, with a few upsets.


Defending champion Army, whose former coach Maggie Dixon died suddenly several weeks after the Knights earned their first NCAA bid, finished second in the regular season.

They still have a shot. The first two rounds will be this weekend at Navy. If Army prevails on its side of the bracket, beating Lehigh, and then either American or Navy, it could still host the title game next Wednesday if Holy Cross, Lafayette, or Colgate upsets top-seed Bucknell. Otherwise, the title game will be at Lewisburg, Pa.


The SEC will produce multiples and Tennessee, the regular season champion, already has a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, perhaps even the second No. 1, no matter what happens this weekend in Duluth, Ga. Vanderbilt, Georgia, and LSU are locks and all fighting for either No. 2 or No. 3 NCAA seeds. Mississippi is on the bubble and everyone else needs to cause a stir.


A one-team affair in North Charleston, S.C. Chattanooga won the regular season, but it needs to win again to get a ticket to the Big Dance.


Middle Tennessee, the No. 1 seed, has an NCAA bid locked up, most likely, but winning out in Lafayette, La., would help its future seeding. Western Kentucky needs to do well to stay on the bubble.


Gonzaga was the regular season champion, but the Zags need to repeat in the tournament in Portland, Ore., this weekend. This will be another one-team conference.

-- Mel

Friday, February 23, 2007

Week of the Dragon -- Drexel Women Set Marathon Mark

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – “It’s been a great week to be a Dragon,” Drexel women’s basketball coach Denise Dillon exclaimed Thursday night after her team was on the winning end of an NCAA-Division I women’s record five overtime game in which the Dragons outlasted Colonial Athletic Association rival Northeasrn, 98-90, at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

The previous women’s record was four overtimes, which was accomplished 11 times.

Gabriela Marginean, a Drexel freshman who fouled out in the fourth period, set a home and program record in the Daskalakis Athletic Center with 47 points. The previous high was 38 points, also in the DAC, from Michelle Maslowski against Towson on Feb. 2, in 2001.

The Dragons’ win added another episode to Drexel athletics beginning in Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday night, when coach Bruiser Flint’s men’s team upset Creighton in an ESPN Bracket Buster triumph that might the squad back in the hunt for an NCAA at-large bid.

On Sunday, the Dragons’ men’s lacrosse team opened the season with an upset of top-ranked Virginia in Charlottesville, the first time any Drexel team had ever beaten a top-ranked team in any sport.

The same day, Dillon’s squad (8-19, 3-13 CAA) won for only the second time ever at UNC-Wilmington. Than Thursday night, her Drexel team gave up a 16-point lead that existed during the first half and became involved in the marathon with the Huskies (4-23, 3-13).

Drexel regained the high ground and held it from the opening tip of the fifth period when Delise Johnson won possession and got the ball to Narissa Suber, who scored.

“We told the kids just to keep working, keep working,” said Dillon, as graduate of Villanova.

Andrea Peterson, a transfer from St. John’s, added 16 points, and Suber had 15 for Drexel.

Shaleyse Smallwood had 37 points for Northeastern.

“It’s a shame somebody had to lose, they played so hard,” Dillon said of her team’s opponent.

Dillon praised her freshman.

“Gabi is one of the hardest workers on the team and that showed tonight,” the Drexel coach said. “To be able to play hard for 40 minutes is difficult for any athlete.

“But to sustain that level of intensity in a game like this really shows that she is a special player,” Dillon said. “And not just Gabi, but everyone on the floor in this game gave it their full effort. It was a great game to be a part of.”

Regulation ended in deadlock, 55-55, followed by a 62-62 tie after the first overtime. Then the two teams were glued together at 72-72 after each scored 10 points in the second overtime. The third extra period maintained the deadlock at 80-80. Then it was 85-85 before Drexel outscored Northeastern, 13-5 in the fifth and record-breaking session.

CAA Fireworks

No one’s any longer completely perfect in the CAA after third-place Delaware brightened its NCAA at-large outlook by beating No. 22 and previously unbeaten James Madison, 77-67, at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Thursday night.

Delaware will be hosting the CAA tournament in two weeks and is one of three teams with prospects for NCAA at-large bids along with JMU (24-3, 15-1 CAA) and Old Dominion, which has won all 15 CAA tournaments since joining the conference.

Blue Hens senior guard Tyresa Smith had a career-high 32
points and set a University of Delaware single season scoring record.

Delaware (23-4, 14-2) also got 22 points and nine rebounds from forward Chrissy Fisher, and the Blue Hens’ home win streak is now 14 straight. The Blue Hens had lost to the Dukes, 73-65, earlier this season in Harrisonburg, Va.

Meredith Alexander had 22 points and 13 rebounds for JMU.

It was the first time Delaware had beaten a ranked opponent at home in eight tries.

“Beating a nationally-ranked opponent is great and I’m very happy for our kids,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “Everything we wanted to do
gameplan-wise we did. We executed and we shared the ball. Tyresa is the
best guard to ever put on a Delaware uniform. Period. She is an
incredible athlete and more importantly a great kid. She does everything for this team.”

Atlantic Ten Action

Back in Philadelphia, La Salle put a hurt in Charlotte’s NCAA hopes with a 71-62 win over the 49ers at the Tom Gola Arena in an Atlantic Ten contest.

Junior Carlene Hightower scored a career-high 31 points for the Explorers, while senior Crista Ricketts scored 17 points for La Salle (18-10, 6-7 A-10) .

Charlotte fell to 17-11 overall and 18-5 in the league.

The news was greeted warmly in Washington, where St. Joseph’s will meet No. 9 George Washington tonight at the Smith Center, where your Guru will be on the scene.

“If we win our next two, we get fourth place and the bye,” St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said.

“Of course, the Colonials will be looking to stay unbeaten and go into Sunday’s final against Temple, which is expected to beat Duquesne in Pittsburgh tonight and also go unbeaten into the final game of the regular season.

Big Ten Notes

Illinois’ upset of No. 20 Michigan State could put the Illini into the NCAA picture depending what they do in the conference tournament.

Penn State fell (13-15, 6-9 Big Ten) fell at No. 5 Ohio State, 78-61, making it the first time in school history the Nittany Lions have gone winless on the road.

Worst, it seems PSU is also headed for back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in the program’s history, or at least the first time in the Rene Portland era when a significant numbers of games have been played, as opposed to the early days of the program.

--- Mel

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Player Movement

The Connecticut Sun have traded forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Los Angeles for Erica De Souza and L.A.'s #12 draft pick.

Official press release

The Sun have also signed Kristen Rasmussen (from Phoenix) to a three-year contract.

Phoenix has traded Sandora Irvin to San Antonio for their 2008 second round draft pick.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


by Erin Semagin Damio

On Saturday, I went back to the Hartford Civic Center to see the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team beat Pittsburgh, and to see former UConn star Shea Ralph, now an assistant coach at Pittsburgh, honored as a “Husky of Honor.” Ralph was unable to attend the ceremony in December.

Ralph, who has left her mark on the Connecticut program as much as anyone, was humbled.

"It was so special for me, they didn't have to do that," said Ralph, who won most of the major honors available in the 1999-2000 season, including Final Four MVP. "I'm so humbled and honored — my five years here were very special and I just really appreciate the fact they took time out before the game to honor me."

Both Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato expressed appreciation for what Ralph has brought to their programs.

“She’s really a role model for student-athletes,” Berenato said, talking about the “family” that is the Pittsburgh team – players showed they were as happy with Ralph’s honor as if they had earned it themselves.

Ralph said she had never planned to coach, but is now enjoying the experience. “I think about playing every day,” Ralph said. She’s suffered five ACL tears and seriously playing basketball again would be an impossibility, but Shea Ralph seems to have found her place in coaching and the Pittsburgh team.

In other news, a few hours ago UConn clinched the Big East regular season championship with an 81-67 victory over the University of South Florida, and freshman Tina Charles proved why she was the consensus national player of the year in high school

Charles finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 36 minutes. The last time a UConn player scored that many points was Diana Taurasi in 2003. The 34 points also puts Charles on the all-time single game scoring high list – tied for eighth with Kerry Bascom.

The double-double was Charles’ ninth for the season, breaking Rebecca Lobo’s record for most double-doubles as a freshman. Charles also passed the season record for most rebounds for a freshman (held previously by Svetlana Abrosimova). She has already tied the all-time single-game block record, with nine. Charles has had to begin her college career starting for a good team, and she’s had some big challenges and a lot of responsibility, but she’s stepped up and worked hard, and on nights like this you can see the payoff.

UConn junior Charde Houston also had a milestone night. She had 18 point, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block (after a solid week of averaging 21 points per game), and became the 28th Husky to score 1000 career points.

Congratulations to Tina and Charde!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Molto Monday: Cleaning Up at Carnivale

Guru's Note: Because Acacia's weekly column is now on top of the blog pile, your attention is also directed to two items directly underneath -- one is Jonathan's blog commercial taking you to his podcast at Philly.com that featured yours truly. And directly below that you'll find the AP voting link line on top of the Guru's NCAA tournament outlook.

We now return you to Italy.

Acacia will also make Guru site history later this week with the first direct international transmission directly into the blog before her trip to Rome. Part of the reason is we need a direct sign-in after the recent blogspot adjustments.


By Acacia O'Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- As this past weekend approached, friends asked me if I had anything planned.

“Not, really,” I told them. “Just going to stick around Bologna.”

Though I didn’t end up traveling very far—there were no trips to Venice or Florence or Milan—I found I had one of the most exciting and satisfying weekends yet.

I have Fridays completely free of classes and waking up, I discovered it was a beautiful day.

I decided, all’improvviso, to spend the day at San Luca—a church that sits atop one of Bologna’s hills and requires a mildly strenuous hike of two kilometers or so to get to.

It was certainly worth the trip and made for a well-spent free day.

Now, Italy is a romantic place and I try to keep up with that image.

You always hear about the Venetian gondola rides, the fine wines, the savory foods, la bella vita.
I’m about to give you a quick insight into a component of typical daily life that you don’t hear about: cleaning.

Contrary to the stereotype that Americans uphold about Europeans, Italians are in a lot of ways more hygienic than a lot of Americans I know.

At least American College students, anyway.

Italians, in fact, are very particular about keeping themselves and their living spaces clean.

My suite is cleaned three times a week and we all take turns. Friday, it was my turn.

I cannot tell you how much anxiety and self-consciousness it brings me to clean our apartment while my suitemates are around to look on.

You want to talk about American pride?

As I scrubbed the kitchen floor—something I have done rarely in my 20 years of life (I am somewhat ashamed to admit..)—I felt I was cleaning for all of us.

All 50 states, apple pie, Benjamin Franklin.


Now that my schedule has settled down into a more academic routine, I found myself trying to remember what it felt like to be a student. It’s difficult with so many distractions: gelato, crepes, tortellini…

Saturday morning, I decided I would go to a bar, get a caffè and read one of the many books I need to complete.

I went to La Linea in Piazza Maggiore, one of my favorite locales in the center of town and did just that.

Ten minutes later, I decided it was too nice to stay inside and read—I went out and went shopping instead.

Manzoni (author of The Betrothed) can always wait.

Saturday night, a friend and I went to one of the coolest concerts I have ever been to for an American band that is semi-well known in the college circuit—The Decemberists.

They were playing their only Italian tour date in a smallish venue outside of the city walls in Bologna.

The venue, called Estragon, was a sort of warehouse in the middle of a fairground right next to an Italian circus.

The concert was only 15 euro and we got to stand right in front of the stage.

It was one of those coincidental events that turns out to be amazing.

Returning to more Italian activities—Sunday was indeed Carnivale, as the Christian celebration of the Lenten Season begins on Wednesday.

While my friends spent time in a ridiculously packed, drunken and insane Venice, I opted to celebrate at a more family-friendly and G-rated event: La Parata dei Fantaviecoli.

“A Fantasy Vehicles Parade” in Imola, about a half-hour train ride away.

Carnivale is very similar to Halloween for kids in Italy. Kids dress up and march in parades, throw confetti and spray silly string.

The Imola parade, the only entirely ecologically sound Fantaviecoli parade (begging the question—how many Fantasy Vehicles Parades are there?) was celebrating its 10th anniversary.

I was definitely wowed by the variety, ingenuity and intricacy of the creations.

There were bikes of differing sizes, bikes with many wheels, floats that looked like meat-processors, catapults, airplanes, pianos. Some made entirely out of wood or flanked by empty liter water bottles.

The music of the band, a group of little old men in bright blue blazers and wing-tipped shoes, completed the festive atmosphere.

After a donut, a glass of spiced wine and the parade, I was wishing America could pick up on Carnivale.

This weekend, I will be filing after a trip to Rome, The Eternal City (it had to be said).

I’m meeting my high school soccer coach, who is leading a tour group, there.

So, I suppose—ci sentiamo un po’ dopo, per la prossima Molto Monday.

Mel Speaks to the Masses

By Jonathan Tannenwald

Greetings once again, Guru followers. I'm here to let you know that Mel has gone multimedia this week, as he made an appearance this afternoon in the Inquirer's College HoopsCast. Yours truly hosts the show, which usually sticks to the men's game but this week seemed like a good time to spotlight the women's side of things.

Mel and I talk about a bunch of stuff: Duke's chances of winning the national championship, whether Ivory Latta is the best player in the game, what Tennessee and Connecticut are up to, and how the local delegation of Rutgers and Temple is faring.

You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can go on iTunes and search for Philadelphia Inquirer and download it that way.

If you like it, email me and let me know. And if you also take an interest in the men's game, check out my blog, Soft Pretzel Logic.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

NCAA Tournament: Guru's Hunt For The Field of 64

Guru’s Note: Here is your weekly AP voters’ link, although we’re providing this hours ahead of Monday’s newest poll. When you get to the site, this is week 16, which will tell you if you have the newest ballots to peruse.

The next edition of Molto Monday from Acacia in Italy is unknown at this hour, but we’ll post it later in the afternoon or thereafter when we return to the office to work the desk.

And with that, it is time to start focusing on the NCAA tournament forecast.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ First and foremost, whatever we are about to discuss, as you have read elsewhere in tournament discussions, this work involves the scene as we see it today, subject to change, and using Jerry Palm’s RPI numbers, since they were available in up-to-date form late Sunday night.

So, who’s your four No. 1 seeds, Guru?

That part is easy after Duke once again tossed another Lindsey Harding missile at Maryland, the defending NCAA champions, this time Sunday night in College Park, making two doses of revenge for the Blue Devils’ losing to the Terrapins in last season’s national title game.

Duke gets the overall No. 1 seed, for now. The Blue Devils still have to play North Carolina again this coming Sunday, but at home, and will have to meet, barring upsets, either the Tar Heels or Terrapins, but not both, one more time in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

The next two No. 1 seeds go to North Carolina, without regard to the upset loss to North Carolina State, Friday night, and to Tennessee. Rank order is to be determined. And the fourth No. 1 seed is now Connecticut’s to lose. Maryland might re-gain the high ground if the Huskies stumble between now and the Big East title. But that alone wouldn’t do it. The Terrapins would have to win the ACC tournament to re-gain lost value.

For now, Maryland holds a high No. 2 seed, as does Louisiana State. Ohio State appears to have a shot at a No. 2, but the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State means they must win the Big Ten to hold on to the second line of the “S” curve. Then, a crowd of teams are right behind Ohio State in the seeding hunt. Oklahoma might get back into the Sooners’ pre-season regard by running the table into the Big 12 championship.

This discussion, however, is going to be more centered on just who is going to get into the 64-team field.

Right now, in a year that had a few frontrunners, nationally, and then everybody else, it appears the selection committee better have a good supply of headache medication, because never before have we seen so few “locks” at this late stage of the season. And it could come to a point that the committee will still be looking to fill the field with five or six teams. Of the remaining contenders for those tickets to the Big Dance, none may meet the premium standards we always discuss.

Looming as a key category this time, at least it would be for the Guru, if he was on the committee, is "last ten games."

Who are the hot teams now and how do they compare when the other numbers are applied.

That said, let’s attempt to do some counting. The teams we considered were all given a glance as to how they perform on the Nitty Gritty sheet, also known at Palm’s site as The Gory Details.

For the sake of filling the numbers, here are the conferences worth one team alone, although there is a small wrinkle to this.

The one-team groups include America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Continent, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Sun Belt, SWAC, Western Athletic, and West Coast.

That gives us 23 via automatic bids. The remaining eight will come from multi-representative groups. And everything else occurs off the search for 33 at-large teams.

Next, let’s zoom into the group of 23 conferences. If you think your team is on the bubble, you need to cheer for a few things in the 23 group to help your cause because a few conference leaders appear to be “locks,” meaning if “wrong winners” happen, these teams will bump out of the way some contenders for the at-large picks.

In the America East, Hartford, the frontrunner, is a long-shot for being saved if it doesn’t win the automatic. But the Hawks would be among a major pileup of teams under consideration if the committee is still trying to fill its last few spots.

Cheer for Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference because the math makes the squad too compelling not to be taken as an at-large. Ball State would be better served with an upset title, but the team appears to be one that will be discussed if the committee is struggling for those last spots.

The Mountain West is worth a headache or two after easily supplying multiples in the past. If BYU wins outright, that may be the end of it, although TCU would be discussed along with possibly New Mexico. But all couldn’t make it and any of them don’t compare much favorably with also-rans from other major conferences.

That’s a problem Wisconsin-Green Bay may run into if it doesn’t win the Horizon, because we can’t yet call them a lock.

Likewise to the MAC, Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt is a lock. Western Kentucky would be discussed, but at the moment we have them on the low bubble level.

Automatics and Locks

So now we must find 41 teams, of which eight will be automatics. In this discussion, we are only looking to draw the map of contenders. We can’t fill the slots at this hour, but we can give you an idea of the dynamics based on procedures we’ve observed in the past.

Let’s first work on the lock list.

Atlantic Coast -- In the ACC, Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland are all in, one probably will be the champion, and North Carolina State appears to have earned its spot after beating North Carolina on Friday night. We have Florida State in the high bubble group, and Georgia Tech in the medium bubble group.

Atlantic Ten -- In the A-10, George Washington is a lock, and is still the favorite to win the automatic. We’re being somewhat conservative with Temple, but we’re putting them in the high bubble group, for the moment, but understand, much of the high bubble group would have to get picked. The Owls, unbeaten in the league with George Washington at the moment, probably put themselves in the NCAA by beating Charlotte Sunday. They go head-to-head with GW this Sunday in Washington and the two could meet again in the conference championship.

Xavier, which will host the A-10, is also in the high bubble group, and likely to get picked. Charlotte needs to do some tournament damage.

Big 12 -- Next up, the Big 12, and does anyone have some aspirin for this discussion? Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Nebraska are locks and one will probably be the automatic winner of the conference. Iowa State is in our high bubble group. Texas Tech is in the lower bubble group, but could be one of the first taken if teams are still needed. Texas is also in the far group, but, hey, 3-7 in the “last ten games” category does not help. We put Texas Tech out in the farest group because of 5-5 in the last ten.

Big East -- And now we move to the Big East, which is really a hybrid of its former self and the former Conference USA configuration.

Give locks to Connecticut, Rutgers, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with Connecticut most likely to win the automatic bid. We have South Florida and West Virginia in the high bubble group, and, for now, Seton Hall and DePaul in the lower bubble group.

Big Ten -- In the Big Ten, we have Ohio State, Purdue, and Michigan State as locks, with one of them likely to win the automatic bid. At this hour, we placed Illinois in the low bubble group to see how they would compare if teams were still needed. Of course, a loss before the tournament may make this move unnecessary, unless the Illini make somewhat of a run.

CAA -- As for the Colonial Athletic Association, James Madison appears a lock and this conference might be the chief beneficiary of the drought of high multiple providers from the past in places such as the Big Ten, and a few other conferences. We put Delaware, Old Dominion, and Hofstra in the lower bubble group, but at least one of them could get taken and, who knows, one of them might win the CAA, such as the perennial 15-title run of ODU.

Pac-10 -- Stanford and Arizona State are locks with Stanford likely to win the automatic bid. We have California on the high bubble list, and not quite a lock, only because of the Bears’ adventurous weekend in Oregon. We also Southern Cal in the high bubble group, but they could be interchangeable with Washington. This is our move, but we will note that the real committee could have their own ideas about Southern Cal and Washington.

SEC -- Still an outstanding conference is the Southeastern group, but not necessarily a top-to-almost-to-the-bottom collection as in the past. Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi, are locks, and that might be it. One is likely to win the tournament. A sixth could pop, but not before much deliberation.

Thus, our lock list, which includes eight automatics, but doesn’t count BYU, Middle Tennessee, or Bowling Green, which were previously discussed, comes to 25, if the Guru is counting this right.

Not So Tiny Bubbles

We said, we needed 41 to fill the field, so we’re still 16 short.

Our high bubble list of Florida State, Temple, Xavier, Iowa State, South Florida, West Virginia, California, and Southern Cal or Washington, gets us another eight, if all get picked.

The Finishing Touch

Then the real fun begins getting the picks from what’s left, which looks like 11 or more depending on wrong winners. And the committee, with all the math, will have more teams off a long list.

One other observation. The teams that get the No. 6 seeds in the NCAA will all be capable of playing against No. 3 seeds in the second round, but many will get tough competition themselves from some No. 11 seeds. No. 5 seeds could beat No. 4s, but the dubious prize will be going against top seeds. No. 7 seeds may not be desired, either, but one or two might be capable of upsetting a No. 2, depending who lands on the second row.

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rutgers Stays Hot Off Cold Villanova Shooters

Guru’s Note: A print version of the Villanova-Rutgers game leading the roundup appears on Philly.com. This is a longer version to include more quotes, creativity in the lead, and other information.
Also, if I didn’t mention it earlier, although you readers arrived here through the usual links, the blog was migrated into a google atmosphere and in the process, Acacia’s name vanished from the signature list of correspondents.
At the hour we are writing this she is still asleep overseas and unaware this has occurred, but we still expect, unless told otherwise, to have another Molto Monday arrive in the next 24 hours.

Here’s the longer game story.

By Mel Greenberg

-- Villanova was doubled up by No. 23 Rutgers Saturday night and also outscored by the temperature in a Big East women’s basketball chiller at the Pavilion.

The Scarlet Knights iced the Wildcats, 62-32, to extend the team’s record losing streak to 11 straight.

While Rutgers was scoring twice as many points as the Wildcats, even Mother Nature was posting better numbers with a thermometer reading of 33 degrees during the game and higher figures earlier in the day.

The effect was somewhat of a heat wave off the week’s earlier frigid conditions.

“It’s brutal,’’ Villanova coach Harry Perretta said afterwards about his team’s 12-for-55 shooting performance for 21.8 percent from the field. ``Whether you guard or us, or don’t guard us, that’s how many shots we make. It’s amazing.’’

The Wildcats (7-19, 1-12 Big East) made three of their first five shots at the outset before missing 19 of their last 21 attempts in the first half.

Essence Carson had a game high 16 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds for Rutgers (17-7, 10-3). Heather Zurich added a career-high 13 points, while Kia Vaughn(CQ) and Matee Ajavon each scored 10 points.

It was the 10th time in the last 13 games that Rutgers held a team to its season low at the time the game was played.

Maybe the defensive effort should be called The Scarlet Curtain.

Stacie Witman was the lone Wildcat to score in double figures with 14 points, although she was 3-for-14 on attempted 3-pointers.

“Going into the game, if we slowed it down, I thought we could hold them into the high 50s or low 60s,’’ Perretta said. ``But if you can’t score the ball, it doesn’t matter how many you hold them to.’’

The veteran Villanova coach said the game got out of hand after the Wildcats trailed, 31-20, with 16 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game.

``They hit a three, we came down and missed a three, and then the flood gates opened up and within three minutes, we were down 25,’’ Perretta explained.

Though not likely to qualify for the first time in the program’s history, Villanova is still faintly alive for the Big East tournament, although one the three remaining games will be against Connecticut on Saturday in Hartford.

Meanwhile, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was pleased with her team’s ability to handle the Wildcats’ motion offense.

``It’s always a great test for us whether they’re going to be more disciplined and run their stuff or whether we’re going to impose our will and execute and run our stuff,’’ Stringer said.

The night did feature some Villanova glory of yesteryear with halftime ceremonies honoring the Wildcats team that advanced to the AIAW national tournament Final Four at the Palestra 25 years ago.

“I don’t know if today’s kids understand the tradition and what these people went through,” Perretta mused about his former stars, who all said at Friday night’s reception, they played for the glory.

Earlier Saturday night, Villanova hosted its annual alumni game, which produced more consistency than the current Wildcats with such former players as women’s athletic director Lynn Tighe and Marie Caramanico making shots.

``It’s great,’’ said Diana Caramanico, from a remote location. She is Marie’s daughter and is also Penn’s all-time scorer with 2,415 points. ``Not many 59-year old women can run up and down the court and score in an alumni game.

“She’s usually good for a basket every other year,” said Diana, who was recently inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame and is married to former Penn star Geoff Owens.

Marie Caramanico was one of the first female students when Villanova went co-ed in 1969, and helped start the women’s basketball program, which was at club level that first season.

Back at the varsity game, Stringer, who usually is driven to headaches from having her team cope with Villanova’s complex passes, said she only had a near-headache this time guiding her team against the Wildcats.

She also gave the Wildcats some props.

``Harry’s group is young and I know he knows they’ll be there,’’ Stringer said. ``I know they have a young lady that transferred from Duke (three-point ace Laura Kurz), he’s an excellent coach, and as I said to my team, this (Villanova) is the smartest team in the country.

``They really are. I took my headache medicine before. Just because of the way they execute. I appreciate the way they play. A real credit to our team, I appreciate, is that for 40 minutes, we hunkered down and we took the switches. We did a great job.

``It doesn’t matter whether they (Villanova) made shots or missed shots. I was looking at positions. It was good to see Heather hit those shots from outside.’’

Former Villanova star Allan Ray and current NBA Boston Celtic, whose sister Brittany plays for Rutgers, was at the game.

Stringer was asked if she’d rather have played the Wildcats now than back in December when the Scarlet Knights were trying to find their way.

“Each game we’ve played, I thought that that has been the most perfect schedule for a team that is as young as this, to come along. With each of these games, it was perfect. The games that were home. The games that were away. The timing of the games. I thought we were ready for Connecticut. Back in December, no.’’

Zurich has had two her two best career games in the Philadelphia area after gaining her previous career high last month when Rutgers beat Temple.

Carson said her team still had to be cautious despite Villanova’s shooting difficulty.

``Great shooters, they’re going to keep shooting. Eventually, they’re going to start to fall,” Carson said. ``If you playing Michael Jordan and he misses his first couple of shots, just because he misses them, are you going to stop playing him?”


Carson said what happens in a game is more on what Rutgers does or doesn’t do rather than what is happening with the opponent.

“At this point, we realize we’re our worst enemy,” Carson said. “Whenever we lose a game, it seems to be the things we didn’t do correctly. The cuts we didn’t make. The defense we didn’t play. So we see we have to play every game like it’s the last game of our lives. At this point, it is.”

Perretta said that he felt Connecticut and then Rutgers are the two teams in the Big East that have improved the most from the beginning of the season.

The problem with this particular (Villanova) team is when they fall behind, 11-15 points, they start playing on their talent and they’re not talented enough. When we play talent against talent, thffft, the lead (by the other team) just expands. When you see us executing, we may not win the game, but we can compete a little bit.

“But this team hasn’t figured that out yet.”

The 19th loss reached by Villanova Saturday night matches the most ever in a season.

-- Mel

Saturday, February 17, 2007

WBHOF -- Red Carpet Film Debut in Knoxville

Guru's Note: This weekend is the 25th anniversary reunion celebration of the Villanova team that went to the AIAW Final Four at the Palestra in 1982.

We spent Friday night at the Montrose Mansion at the Villanova Conference Center for an elaborate reception honoring the coaches and players.

More events are planned with halftime ceremonies during the Villanova men's game Saturday afternoon against Georgetown at the Wachovia Center. We'll be on the scene at the Pavilion Saturday night for the women's alumni game and more ceremonies surrounding the Wildcats' game against Rutgers.

Incidentally, that season Villanova upset Rutgers in the EAIAW regional final, equivalent to beating Connecticut in the Big East in 2003. Rutgers got even in the national semifinals. The Wildcats beat Wayland Baptist for third place and Rutgers beat Texas for the last AIAW title.

Thus, we are withholding our report for 24 hours to get all the activities in one blog, although it should be noted that in Villanova coach Harry Perretta's remarks Friday night he said he had hoped to coach the Wildcats "until I die."

Erin may file this weekend off the Pittsburgh-UConn game. Acacia will be reporting again with another Molto Monday adventure from Bologna, Italy. And to not totally spoil his surprise, of sorts, we offer the words Pretzel, Podcast, Guru, Jonathan, Monday, as clues for a special broadcast that will air after the weekend. More detail Monday morning, I think.

Meanwhile, it's debut time again as Karen Tucker of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame joins the blog team. As previously mentioned, she'll be providing news and info involving the WBHOF in Knoxville and activities she will be overseeing.

When you see the WBHOF letters in the headline, it will be her report. We also just gave you a direct line to the Hall's web site as part of our ongoing exchange.

Because the Guru is, ahem, one of the six inductees, we'll be making our own announcements, as promised, from our end.

Sometime soon, former Texas star Andrea Lloyd Curry, who now does color commentary and is also an inductee of the Class of 2007, will appear here in a blog in which we will interview each other.

The Guru also promised to let you all in on some of the deliberations involving the induction ceremonies.

Right now, the Guru and his cabinet are considering the appointments of escorts at the induction ceremony as well as those who will speak as part of the video introduction.

There are two different main groups to draw from -- the Guru's basketball associates over the years (coaches, players, etc.) and his media friends (Inquirer staffers and executives, past and present, as well as other media and SID friends.).

The Guru would like your input, even if in the ultimate decisions will be his and his alone. But you can influence with recommendations and nominations, based on what you know of the Guru's life. Just send your picks (with reasons, if you'd like) to his email address.

And now, direct from Knoxville, Karen would like to provide her own greeting before her first report.

-- Mel

Greetings from Knoxville!

I know Mel has already officially introduced me to his site (Jan. 12) but since it’s been over a month (wow, time flies!) I wanted to come on and introduce myself again.

My name is Karen Tucker and I am the Director of Basketball Relations at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Connecticut, I have been in Knoxville for four months now and am still adjusting to the Southern lifestyle (not to mention the sea of orange that is everywhere I turn).

Since my background is in journalism, having covered the Connecticut women’s basketball team/WNBA for the New Haven Register prior to joining the Hall of Fame team, I was glad to accept Mel’s invitation to be a part of his blog.

My plan is to post news from the Hall of Fame, specifically information leading up to Mel’s shining moment as one of our six Inductees in the Class of 2007.

Induction will be in Knoxville on June 8-9, so I am sure I’ll have plenty to report between now and then.

I will also be chiming in with news from the women’s basketball world when appropriate.

The following article is one that I wrote for the WBHOF’s latest newsletter regarding a movie premiere for the film “Believe in Me” that we are hosting in Knoxville on March 8.

The movie is based on the true story of legendary high school girls’ basketball coach Jim Keith.

Through planning the event, I have gotten to know Keith and some of his former players and have become fascinated with his story.

Therefore, I wanted to share it with those of you who will not have the opportunity to read it in “Off the Backboard.”


By Karen Tucker
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

When "Believe in Me" was shot in New Mexico in 2005, Jim Keith, the legendary Oklahoma high school girls’ basketball coach and subject of the movie, was invited to the filming.

“(My wife Jorene and I) went out four times, for about a week at a time, and we just got to thinking that we were awfully important,” Keith said with a laugh.

When he returned to his hometown of Oologah, Oklahoma, a small town of less than 400 residents, however, Keith realized that little had actually changed.

In fact, Keith still volunteers his time to help coach a high school basketball team.

“I know I’m crazy to do this at 79 years old, but I’m eating it up, I’m just having a ball,” Keith said. “I sit in the bleachers and the little devils come running over and talk to me during timeouts. It’s kind of embarrassing but when I see these kids and they say, ‘coach can you help me with this?’ or ‘can you show me that?’ it takes the fame right out of it.”

Despite Keith’s modesty, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is teaming up with Beyond the Box, IFC Films, National CineMedia and Regal Cinemas to host the VIP Premiere for Believe in Me, the true story of Keith’s life coaching girls’ basketball in Oklahoma, on March 8 at the Pinnacle Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"I am elated; I can’t think of any place I’d rather see it be than at the (Women’s Basketball) Hall of Fame,” Keith said. “I think it’s good for the Hall of Fame and I think it’s great for women’s basketball.”

Keith refers to the players that were on the Sayre team that the book and movie focuses on as “The Originals.” Many of them are hoping to make the trip to Knoxville for the movie premiere.

“He’s so special to all of us,” Jerry (Robertson) Bibb said. “We never thought something like this was going to happen, so we’re really excited.”

"Believe in Me" will be released in select markets nationwide on March 9.

Directed by Robert Collector, the movie is adapted from the 1974 novel Brief Garland written by Harold Keith, Jim Keith’s uncle. The film focuses on Keith's experiences when he arrived in Sayre, Oklahoma in 1964 to coach a boys’ team and found out that he has been re-assigned as the girls’ basketball coach.

It was a story that appealed to Collector on many levels.

“I am a player and I have a daughter who is a college athlete and both my wife and my daughter really urged me to do this,” Collector said.

“The decency of the people and the civil rights aspect for women really appealed to me. In an age where I think money has ruined sports, the fact that I could do a story about people who wanted to play for the love of the game really inspired me. I just thought it was so worthwhile.”

Collector wanted the movie to be realistic and without the special effects of Hollywood, so he cast all the players in the movie and sent all of them to boot camp for two weeks before the movie began production.

“I auditioned them, I had them read and the ones I was interested in, I said, ‘now you have to audition on the floor,’” Collector said. “All you have to do is look at somebody for three seconds and you know (if they can play). I just really needed it to be authentic.”

Actors Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis and Bruce Dern star. WNBA/USA Basketball great Diana Taurasi makes a brief appearance in the film as well.

“So many great people came together to make this film possible” Collector said. “It ended up that my affection for Jim, my affection for the town and the girls and their parents and what this young man went through was such that I looked forward to going to work everyday. It was a really emotionally satisfying experience for me, a real labor of love.”

Friday, February 16, 2007

Senior Nights Arrive Early This Year

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ It’s only just over the middle of February, but quirks of scheduling are already producing senior nights and final home games.

Such was the occurrence Thursday night when Temple honored Kamesha Hairston and Fatima Maddox before the Owls beat Saint Louis, 74-64, in an Atlantic Ten game at the Liacouras Center.

Meanwhile on Hawk Hill, St. Joseph’s said farewell to seniors Ayahna Cornish, Whitney Ffrench, Erica Pollock and Zoya Pavlovskaya, who combined for 56 points and 21 rebounds to lead coach Cindy Griffin’s squad to a 76-67 victory over St. Bonaventure in an Atlantic Ten contest at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

In past years, the tributes at the A-10 schools, along with La Salle, would be quasi-symbolic because the conference tournament was held locally at either St. Joseph’s or Temple.

This season, the Atlantic Ten fight for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will be held in Cincinnati at Xavier University.

Temple kept pace with No. 8 George Washington with perfect conference records. The Colonials slipped past Charlotte, 64-59, in North Carolina. The Owls will travel to Charlotte, Sunday, for a game to air on CSTV.

If coach Dawn Staley’s team survives, it could be that the regular season A-10 title won’t be decided until the final day of the regular season when Temple visits George Washington at the Smith Center.

We were at the Temple game, of which details are in the print version also on Philly.com.

But space limitations caused quotes from the Owl seniors to hit the cutting room floor.

Maddox has played nearly two seasons for Temple after transferring from New Mexico.

“I feel everyone has embraced me here,” she said. “Even though it was a short time, I enjoyed all of it.”

Maddox’s game has been at its best during the close of her college career.

“Fatima has been playing solid basketball,” Staley said. “I’ve been on her for about a month just trying to get her to focus on playing the way she was capable — scoring when she has the opportunity, running our team, defending, she’s doing all of those things for us right now.”

Hairston said she felt a little emotional before the game. The native of Toledeo, Ohio, also spoke of being able to talk Staley out of removing her when she picked up her fourth foul early in the second half.

“I guess I’ve earned her trust,” Hairston said.

With the game under control, Staley — with an eye to postseason play — also thought it was worth keeping Hairston in the lineup.

In recent weeks, Hairston has been mentioned as a potential late first-round pick in the WNBA draft.

“When you look at the talent that’s in this class, I think Kamesha’s right there,” Staley said. “Her stats are proven against our conference and some of the tougher nonconference teams that we’ve played. She’s ready for the WNBA; she just lacks the experience on a nightly basis. But she’ll get that.”

Back at St. Joseph’s, individually, Cornish led all scorers with a career-high 29 points and five rebounds, while Pollock posted a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ffrench added 12 points and two assists in her final game at Hawk Hill.

It’s possible that if St. Joseph’s doesn’t get to the NCAA tournament, the Hawks might host a game, as they have in the past, at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Future Senior Salutes

Because we won’t be able to get to all the senior days and nights, here are a few local farewell performances still ahead.

Jenna Graber and Crista Ricketts will make their final Tom Gola Arena appearance for La Salle on Feb. 25 when the Explorers host Saint Louis on the last day of the regular season.

Jackie Adamshick and Clarisse Garcia will make their Pavilion farewell appearance on Feb. 26 on the last day of Villanova’s regular season when the Wildcats host Providence in a Big East game.

Penn’s Joey Rhoads, Ashley Gray, Monica Naltner, and Lauren Pears will make their Palestra farewell appearance on Feb. 24 when Dartmouth visits in an Ivy game. They will have one last area appearance, however, when Penn visits Princeton on March 6.

Delaware’s Tyresa Smith, Chrissy Fisher, and Alena Koshansky will be honored on Feb. 25 when Drexel visits in a Colonial Athletic Association contest on Feb. 25.

However, the Blue Hens trio will get some bonus days in the Bob Carpenter Center because Drexel will be hosting the CAA women’s tournament.

That will also allow Kira Karlstrom one extra appearance for Drexel after the Dragons honor their lone senior on March 1 when George Mason visits the Daskalalis Athletic Center.

Up North, Rutgers, which will visit Villanova, Saturday night, will not have a senior night because no seniors exist this season on the Scarlet Knights’ roster, if we read that correctly.

Finally, at Penn State, Charity Renfro and Unionville High’s Amanda Brown say goodbye to the Bryce Jordan Center on Feb. 25 when Indiana visits on the final day of the Big Ten Conference regular season.

Villanova Homecoming

Not to sound like a former society column writer of years ago at The Inquirer, but we will be on the Main Line Friday night at Villanova when a reception will be held – there will also be ceremonies Saturday night at the Rutgers game – to note the 25th anniversary of the Wildcats women’s team that reached the AIAW Final Four here at the Palestra.

Rutgers ultimately won the tournament, the last held in 1982 which was also the start of the NCAA tournament, and Villanova finished third.

Among the former players who will be at the reception is Stephanie Gaitley, the current coach of Long Island U, who has the Blackbirds currently in first place in a record-setting year in the Northeast Conference.

We’ll be back with a special report in this space late Friday night.

-- Mel

Monday, February 12, 2007

Florida Fires Carolyn Peck

By Jonathan Tannenwald

Hi folks... it's been a while since I posted on here, but Mel asked that I get this up.

Florida announced today that women's basketball coach Carolyn Peck has been fired effective at the end of the season. The Gators are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak at the moment.

And if I may self-promote for a moment, if you have an interest in the men's side of the game, especially in the Philly area, check out my blog, Soft Pretzel Logic. I deal with the women's game too, when I can... and might just have a surprise in store involving Mel at around this time next week.

Molto Monday: A Bump in the Road? More Like a Mountain Range

Guru's Note: First, to those of you looking for the this week's AP voter's link, here it is. We should be at week No. 15 when you look at individual ballots.

Next follows yet another of Acacia's Molto Monday columns _ this one marking the fourth in a series from Bologna, Italy. She also includes a link to the work she's doing for her school paper at Vassar.

We'll be back in the next 24-48 hours with a look around the country.

Now, take it away in Italy.

-- Mel

By Acacia O’Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- If you’ve traveled anywhere you know to expect the unexpected, no matter how bullet-proof your itinerary may be.

Even the best laid plans are bound to be confounded by mishaps, missed trains, changing times and general confusion.

With poorly laid plans, the margin for error is even greater—a fact I experienced several times this weekend, when my friend Molly Finkelstein visited me from London.

Molly and I share a column from abroad in Vassar’s The Miscellany News entitled Two Broads Abroad.

One of the beauties of Europe is proximity.

When living in Europe, a dozen countries are within a couple hours flight from you at all times.

And flights are also very cheap, thanks to airlines such as Ryanair.

Booking through Ryanair, Molly was able to get a roundtrip flight from London to Forlì, an airport outside of Bologna, for something like $60.

It was all set: Molly would get into Forlì around 10 a.m. on Thursday. I would take a quick, hour-long train ride to pick her up, returning to Bologna for my classes later that day.

Thursday morning came and I was up and running early, making an 8:10 train.

I wasn’t on the train ten minutes when my phone rang.

It was Molly, informing me that because of a freak snowstorm in London, her flight had been cancelled.

Since she didn’t know any more info, I was to stay in Forlì for a little while.

Forlì is home to a branch of Bologna’s university -- And little else, as I discovered in my hours of waiting there.

Molly’s flight got changed to that night, and I hopped a train back to Bologna.

Problem solved, right?

Yeah, right.

Since I had a cooking class that night, I wasn’t going to be able to go back and get my friend.

There was only one train and one bus left running after 10 p.m.

Therefore, she had to get from the airport to Bologna alone, knowing absolutely no Italian, with a very small window of time.

I waited anxiously at my cooking lesson (though I did my best not to let my worries cloud the excitement of making our own pasta by hand—tagliatelle al ragù, in fact).

Just as we finished clearing the dinner table, my phone rang.

It was Molly, who said she was at the station. I breathed a sigh of relief and went off to fetch her.

Our plan for the next day was to go to Venice.

I love Venice, Molly had never been there and Carnivale, the famed pre-Mardi Gras (is it Mercoledì Grasso in Italian?) celebration, had just started.

Friday morning, however, we got an email from another Vassar friend, Kathryn, saying she was coming to visit that day as well. So we made a very successful and uncomplicated daytrip to Ferrara instead, returning that afternoon to meet up with Kathryn.

Things had smoothed out and we were excited about the next day’s trip to Ravenna, a scheduled tour with my Program.

I set my cell phone alarm for 7:30 a.m.

Around 9, I woke up wondering why it hadn’t rung yet. Could it possibly not be 7:30 yet?

On the bedside table, my cell phone was buzzing almost inaudibly.

Someone was calling me.


“Hey. Where are you? We’re at the train station and the train leaves in 8 minutes.”


My phone was on vibrate.

I told the group members we’d try to catch the next train and meet them there. Molly and I headed to the train station.

Standing at the self-service ticket machine, we checked out train times.

It was a little before 10 a.m., and the next train to Ravenna wouldn’t get in until 12:30.

Basically, there was no point in going.

I suggested we go to Venice instead, and switched over to those times.

The next train was set to depart in approximately four minutes.

What did we do?

We sprinted.

Three minutes later, we were breathless, but we were off to Venice.

On the train, we threw out possible leads for our next column.

“How much can go wrong on a trip and you still have a good time?”

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

“This part of our trip is called RUNNING.” (Have you seen the movie Pursuit of Happiness?)

The train ride from Bologna to Venice is a flat two hours and costs about 8 euro.

I still can’t believe that I can get on a train and be in Venice by lunchtime—pretty sweet, I have to say.

Although it was raining, Venice was as lovely as ever.

It’s beautiful, but also sad. There is very little in the city that could be called authentic.

Despite the fact it was February, Piazza San Marco was swarming with tourists taking pictures and buying Carnivale masks.

The best way to describe it is Cultural Disneyland. There is nothing there that exists outside of tourist consumption—the city now is nearly synonymous with its tourism bureau.

To escape the crowd, Molly and I walked back to the north side of the city where you can catch a waterbus (vaporetto) to the small islands off the lagoon, including Murano, home of Venetian glass production.

We had our sights on the very gothic-looking island of San Michele—the cemetery island where Ezra Pound is buried.

I was psyched, until we stepped off the vaporetto and onto the platform. The waterbus pulled away from the dock just as we realized the island had closed in that precise moment, as the clock struck 4 p.m.

We caught the next vaporetto to Murano instead, and wandered around there for a couple hours.

Murano was quiet and serene, a stark contrast to the tourist-ridden center of Venice.

But all it had to offer besides the serenity were stores upon stores of glass knick-knacks.

Still, the stop was worthwhile, if only for the return boatride back to the main island and into the blaze of setting sun.

When Molly and I got back to Bologna, we wrote our column and looked through our pictures.

Truthfully, all one can do is learn a lesson from these sorts of things: don’t let one little bump in the road ruin your time…

…because then what will you do when there are 10 more bumps?

Sto scherzando.

As we walked back to the dorm, I told myself how good it was to be back at “home.”

Well one of them.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Duke-North Carolina: Historic Matchup of AP Unbeatens

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ History of sorts will be made when No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina hook up Thursday night in Chapel Hill, the home of the Tar Heels.

In the Associated Poll women’s history, dating back to the origin in Nov., 1976, this will be the deepest into the season that two unbeaten teams ranked first and second will face each other and the first time it will occur within the same conference.

This is the 17th occurrence of 1-2 unbeaten meetings with the No. 1 team holding a 10-6 record in such matchups..

Additionally, the 24-0 record of Duke and 24-0 record of North Carolina are the most loaded marks opponents will be carrying into the game.

It’s also the first time neither Tennessee nor Connecticut is involved with this kind of game deep into the season.

On Feb. 1 of the 2002-03 season Connecticut ranked No. 2 had a 19-0 record when the Huskies traveled to Durham to upset No. 1 Duke, 77-65, when the Blue Devils entered the game at 20-0.

A year ago, on the last day of the regular season, Duke and North Carolina also met as a 1-2 with the Tar Heels being the also ran. Duke already had a loss however. But earlier in the season, another unbeaten 1-2 game occurred with the Blue Devils holding off No. 2 Tennessee, 75-53, in Durham.

Your Guru will be on the scene after sacrificing the Connecticut-Rutgers game to help staff shortages here by covering a high school girls game for print Thursday night that probably exists on philly.com.

Anyhow, here’s the all-time list of unbeaten 1-2 matchups results but more research in media guides will be required for records at the time of the game.

1981: No. 1 Louisiana Tech 81, No. 2 Old Dominion 47 at Ruston, La., off 80-81 season.
1981: No. 1 Louisiana Tech 68, No. 2 Old Dominion 51, at New York early in 81-82.
1982: No. 1 Southern Cal 64, No. 2 Louisiana Tech 58, at Ruston, La., early in 82-83.
1985: No. 1 Old Dominion 84, No. 2 Long Beach State 71, at Norfolk, Va., early in 84-85.
1987: No. 2 Texas 97, No. 1 Tennessee 78, at Knoxville, Tenn., very early in 87-88.
1989. No. 2 Louisiana Tech 59, Tennessee 58, at Knoxville, Tenn., very early in 89-90.
1992: No. 2 Tennessee 74, No. 1 Stanford 72, ot, at Honolulu, Ha.., very early in 92-93.
1994. No. 1 Tennessee 105, No. 2 Stanford 69, at Knoxville, Tenn., very early in 94-95.
1995. No. 2 Connecticut 77, No. 1 Tennessee, 66, at Storrs, Conn.; mid 94-95.
1996 No. 1 Stanford 74, No. 2 Alabama 65, at Stanford, Calif., 1996-97 opener.
1997: No. 1 Tennessee 75, No. 2 Louisiana Tech 61, at Knoxville, Tenn., early 97-98.
2000: No. 1 Connecticut 81, No. 2 Tennessee 67, at Knoxville, Tenn., early 2000-01.
2002: No. 1 Connecticut 86, No. 2 Tennessee 72, at Knoxville, Tenn., early 2001-02.
2002: No. 1 Duke 76, No. 2 Tennessee 55, at Raleigh, N.C., early 2002-03.
2003: No. 2 Connecticut 77, No. 1 Duke 55, at Durham, N.C., late in 2002-03.
2006: No. 2 Duke 75, No. 1 Tennessee 53, at Durham, N.C., mid 2005-06.

-- Mel

Monday, February 05, 2007

Molto Monday: Acacia's Touch of Class -- Sort Of

Guru's Note: Acacia's adventures continue today with the start of class. Those looking for the quick link to the AP voting profile for week 14, it is posted near the top of my bare-all reason for my ballot, which is in the blog immediately below Acacia's report.
This weekend, she will be in Venice. Hopefully, she will not have to tread water in pursuit of art, culture, and pasta.

-- Mel

By Acacia O’Connor

BOLOGNA _ Monday was a beautiful spring day in Bologna—temperatures in the 50s (I still don’t know what that means in Celsius…25?), warm bright sun, blue skies.

If it weren’t for the fact that the date is February 5th, it would be perfectly normal and wonderful.

After a quiet weekend, I was more than ready to face the next phase of the semester here: University classes.

Because courses in different departments, called Facoltà, begin at different times of the month, some of my friends in the program had a long weekend.

A couple of my friends went to places like Amsterdam and Paris. I stayed and cooked pancakes for my Italian housemates.

My roommate, Raffaela, was telling her friend about them later in the day—“I woke up and Acacia was cooking pancakes! Just like in the American films!”

Needless to say, my Facoltà (Lettere and Filosofia) began classes today.

At 9 a.m.

I’ve been getting used to waking up earlier and everything is so relaxed here I find I don’t really mind.

In fact, several times in the past two weeks I’ve gotten up before dawn to go for a run to Giardini Margherita.

Believe me when I say that in the past, I was never an early riser.

But there are several advantages to running before Bologna awakes—but more about that in a bit.

This morning, I was up and out in plenty of time to walk to the Department of Italian Studies for my first potential class: “Letteratura Italiana Rinasciamentale” (Italian Renaissance Literature).

Via Zamboni was full of students making their way to classes in the departments all along that street.

I found the department and followed a stream of students toward the classrooms. Most of the students seemed to be going into a large lecture hall.

“È questa Aula uno?” I asked the man in the glass information booth.

He looked confused for a moment, but then nodded.

“Sì, aula uno.”

I went into the hall and squeezed into the middle of one of the rows.

The professor came in and turned on her microphone, so as to be heard by the sixty-some students in the classroom, and began her lecture.

She began talking about the different types of “didattiche”—didactics?

Ten minutes of note-taking later, I began to have doubts. Was this my class?

Soon it became apparent to me that this was not Renaissance literature, but some sort of Social Education class.

I wanted to escape to find my actual class, but my foolish choice of seating made that impossible to do subtly.

On the plus side, I understood everything and learned a little bit about the different types of didactics and what comprises them.

Unfortunately, I missed the chance to sit in on either one of two classes I may take that met at that same time.

After consulting the schedule board outside, I noticed that they had changed the Aula, but hadn’t updated the website. Thank You, Unibo.

I had the rest of today free, so I decided to go to the park and shoot around.

On the ten-minute walk to the park, I was confronted by the many confused faces of strangers. I realized a while ago that it is strange and abnormal to walk around outdoors in either sweatpants or shorts.

Even if I am ostensibly jogging, physically running as a mode of physical exercise in the direction of the park—I feel like a weirdo.

Hence the beauty of running in the morning.

In the dark. When no one is around.

At the park, I was shooting around when a guy in a sweater and jeans asked if he could shoot, too. Down at the other end, a group of people in jeans and sweaters were playing 2 on 2.

Apparently even on the court, wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt is odd.

Soon after, three Albanian guys wanted to start a game.

I agreed, but I realized soon after it might’ve been a bad call. These guys were playing for fun, which I completely respect.

But they were the out-of-control, shots off the backboard (or missing the backboard completely), run-straight-at-you-while-you’re-taking-a-shot type of player you sometime meet in rec ball.

The type of player that brings terror to the mind of every injury-fearing athlete.

Fortunately, I escaped with everything intact and our side defeated the Albanians 21-4.

Tomorrow I will be attempting to attend classes again.

Maybe my blatantly foreign self will go for a run in the light of day.

Maybe not.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Mess -- The Guru's AP Vote

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ First, this just in, actually this just in several hours ago.

Acacia reported from Balogna, Italy, that her "Molto Monday" column will move a little later this week so she can report on her first day of attending classes as she moves into the next phase of her studies overseas.

Also, the voting link to the internet site is a few paragrahs below. Figured, I'd put it in now so it doesn't foul the graciousness and entertainment of Acacia's story when it arrives.

Now, to continue stateside:

If my own experience is any example, this past week's wild group of results among the Associated Press poll teams is guaranteed to create quite the shakeup, depending on philosophy by any individual voter.

Undoutedly, many of you will go to the AP voter site to see who did what to who with their ballots. This will be Week No. 14, so if you don't see that number, the web site has yet to be updated.

Since your Guru is babysitting the desk here Sunday night in the sports department at the paper while the small remaining staff is focused on a certain football game, I decided to jump the gun, give you my ballot now, and explain the motives.

I worked off the actual poll itself, and not my own previous ballot, which was quite close to the final tally, anyway, in the last release.

There is no uniform logic because of the way the competition went. Philosphically, I went with such precepts as ``Who's playing well, now,'' ``Some comparative results,'' and worked more on getting the right levels and neighborhoods of teams, than any specific ranking order.
And furthermore, you can't be reflective with the pure ranking philosophy method.

So let's begin the tour.

!. Duke
2. North Carolina

That was easy and they'll decide the issue, for now, against each other in Chapel Hill on Thursday night.

3. Tennessee.

Also easy with Georgia getting a chance to change the perception Monday night.

4. Connecticut.
5. Maryland.

Ok, OK, the Huskies had a scare at Marquette and Maryland deserves more punishment for losing at unranked Georgia Tech. However, as a line once was stated in a NASA movie, ``We have a problem.''

The bottom of the top ten collapsed, leaving not much to move to the penthouse. So, in terms of fielding teams on the floor, technical merit keeps those two teams high. Connecticut has begun a stretch of games which will either solidify the Huskies or hurl them back to the masses.

6. Ohio State
7. LSU

Head-to-head, it should be the other way based on that previous outcome. But that was then and this was this week. And it's one thing to lose to Georgia, it's another to barely escape South Carolina.

8. George Washington
9. Georgia

The Colonials get a move-up nod from No. 11 based on survival among teams with losses.
Georgia needed to be rewarded for beating LSU, but George Washington, in the mix, needed to be placed in perspective for a previous win over Georgia.

And now the fun begins because there's little difference between levels the rest of the way.

10. Oklahoma.

The Sooners deserve more punishment, yes, for the loss to Texas, but, hey, this whole neighborhood of teams imploded. Thus by comparison of teams and talent, along with the valued factor of wins and losses, Oklahoma seems to get a slight nod ahead of the remainder of the crowd.

11. California.

The Bears won't be questioned this season after moving close, if not in, among teams considered a lock for the NCAA tournament. Sunday's 72-57 win over spoke volumes how well California has done since coach Joanne Boyle took over last season.

12. Stanford

Yeah, again, another instance of more punishment needed than was handed out. But another best of the rest, maybe, qualification halts the Stanford slide to here.

13. Purdue.

Can't punish too much for losing to Ohio State. A 10-13 drop is caused by the advancement of California and Georgia.

14. Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights kept their heads in a week many others were losing theirs and C. Vivian Stringer's team is playing its best ball of the season. So by comparison, this is a nice slot going into Tuesday night's game at Connecticut that will help tell us alot about both teams right now.

15. Nebraska.

Reward for Iowa State and Baylor wins. We had Rutgers ahead of the Cornhuskers simply because we think that head-to-head, right now, the Scarlet Knights win that game.

16. Bowling Green.

Didn't want to punish but couldn't move up much in comparison to the floor talent of some other teams in the neighborhood. A big conference test this week with Ball State, a team that could start pulling votes with an upset.

17. Louisville

We liked what we saw at Villanova early last week. Yeah, Cardinal fans will wonder how Rutgers has jumped so far ahead after the recent loss to Louisville. Well, although the home team did its own talking, but if Rutgers had taken care of business, I wouldn't even have a need to make a comment on the subject here.

18. Marquette.

Not totally shameful losing to Rutgers and competitively to Connecticut.

19. Arizona State.
20. Baylor.
21. Vanderbilt.
22. Texas A&M.

They fall in proportion to each other from their previous positions. We just don't know about Vandy in a group that is large and even. So the punishment looks severe but for the Commodores, that's why man and woman invented the Southeastern Conference.

23. Middle Tennessee.

They held ground and dropped not for what they did wrong but because of others who did more and leaped ahead.

24. James Madison.

Nice win over Old Dominion to hold up the return to the poll last week after a long absence.

25. Wis.-Green Bay.

No reason to drop them out.

There are many others we have our eye on, but the bottom of last week's group was actually more stable than the middle, so there wasn't much room for replacements.

And so there you are, the answers of why I did what I did before you ask. Let's see how the overall total comes out compared to this shot.

-- Mel