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.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

CAA Poster Child For Mid-Major NCAA Access?

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del.
– The Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament opens here Thursday at the Bob Carpenter Center on Delaware’s campus and is attracting some national interest that is rare for this conference.

In regards to the CAA, the only team that has advanced to the NCAA tournament most times in the past has been the conference champion with an automatic bid.

Furthermore, the only team to be “that” team has been Old Dominion, the grand old national title contender of yesteryear, which has claimed all 15 titles since the Monarchs became a member.

This year, however, things are a little different, even though Old Dominion (21-8) managed to take the regular season title.

``I think our conference showed this year we can play with and beat ranked teams,’’ Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. Her Dragons (9-20) seeded, ninth, opens the entire affair Thursday at noon against No. 8 Georgia State (15-14) , while Delaware has a bye.

Delaware (25-4) and James Madison (25-4) are both being discussed as potential at-large bids to the NCAA field, as is Old Dominion, if someone finally figures out a way to stop the Monarchs here this weekend.

Hofstra, before the Pride faded somewhat, and Delaware had big wins outside the league. The Blue Hens beat Kentucky back in December when the Wildcats were ranked, while Hofstra had a victory at Michigan State.

The CAA has become part of the speculation of NCAA at-large teams because the major conferences that normally send a slew of teams have not done exceedingly well. The Big Ten, for example, is only worth three representatives. The Atlantic Coast, even with the formidable trio of North Carolina, Duke, and Maryland, may only be limited to four or five teams.

The Southeastern Conference, which has sent six or seven in the past, is considered only good for five NCAA participants.

With the playing field somewhat more even beyond the major programs, hence the increased prospects of more CAA teams in the national tournament.

Drexel spent most of the year in 12th place before making a late move upwards towards the ninth seed.

``It took a while but we got some things done,’’ Dillon said.

The Dragons drew attention with a recent win over Northeastern in five overtimes, the longest women’s game ever played.

Freshman Gabriela Marginean, who starred in that marathon contest, was named the CAA’s rookie of the year at Wednesday night’s conference awards dinner. She was also named to the all-rookie team and the all-CAA’s third team. Delaware’s Tyresa Smith was named defensive player of the year and to the all-CAA first team.

```Gabby’ didn’t know what to expect when she came here,’’ Dillon said. ``But she worked hard and she’s going to be a big-time player.’’

SEC Coaching Merry-Go-Round?

Fillng NCAA slots won't be the only thing on the mind of Judy Southard, the chairwoman of the tournament committee, this weekend.

As the primary women's administrator at LSU, Southard now has a vacant women's basketball coaching position that needs attention.

As the CAA Awards dinner got under way here, many people through their internet access on their blackberry and cell phones got word off the Associated Press of the sudden resignation of coach Pokey Chatman, a former star player for the Tigers who became coach at her alma mater after former coach Sue Gunter had taken ill.

Chatman went on to lead the Tigers to the NCAA Women's Final Four in nearby New Orleans in 2004 and then became coach in her own right when Gunter anounced her retirement after that season.

A year later Gunter died shortly before the announcement of her selection to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Chatman continued to coach LSU at a high level.

Early indications are that Chatman might be headed for the vacant Florida job that became vacant when LSU's SEC rival fired Carolyn Peck shortly before the end of the season.

Though no one was speaking for the record, here, at least one coach mentioned hearing that Chatman may have visited Florida.

The AP report said Chatman had resigned ``to pursue other opportunities.''

Several persons associated in different capacities with teams here mentioned that coaching staff personnel at their schools with Florida ties had mentoned Chatman might be headed for Gainesville.

The AP report said there would be no further discussion while Chatman continues to coach the Tigers through the NCAA tournament.

Southard was on her way to Indianapolis for the annual behind-closed-doors deliberations of the NCAA committee.

Ironically, your Guru over the last several days had become involved with a hypothetical sports marketing project at a Midwest school involved with filling the Florida job.

Two student-players of one of the Guru's many coaching acquaintances checked in for ideas on who he might go after to fill the position.

After drawing up a list of prospective candidates for one of the students, he was told, ``Remember. Florida can spend whatever it wants on the next women's coach.''

Your Guru then elevated the list to much bigger fish and made the comment, ``Well, you can always try to go after LSU's Pokey Chatman, but I don't know how that would go over in the SEC involving rival schools.''

I guess, soon we'll fnd out.

As for filling LSU's vacancy, speculation has already begun at the Big 12 tournament involving Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who led the Bears to the 2005 NCAA title and is a Louisiana native who starred at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s.

Incidentally, Mulkey's alma mater was bounced out of the Western Athletic Conference tournament by New Mexico State Wednesday night and the school basically issued a concession statement involving the NCAA field.

Coach Chris Long ackowledged afterwards that the long streak of the Techsters having played in all previous 25 NCAA tournaments was over.

-- Mel

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