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, March 21, 2007

March Madness: Regional Reunions

(Guru's note: Hello all. Guru operations has moved on to Greensboro where we even got to see the estate-looking headquarters of the ACC right off the 15th tee.
Apparently, the post below did not take because of the connection we had late Tuesday night in Raleigh.)

By Mel Greenberg

RALEIGH, N.C. _ Soon after North Carolina State beat Baylor, 78-72, in overtime at the RBC Center, Tuesday night, to advance to the Sweet 16, Wolfpack 6-foot-7 senior center Gillian Goring allowed herself to look ahead to her team’s next opponent and smiled.

``Oh Lord, I guess soon I’ll be hearing from all of them,’’ Goring, a native of Trinidad, said. ``I’m ready for them. I can say that.’’

That would be the large, collective group of media following the Connecticut women, the Fresno regional top seed.

Goring’s appearance on the Wolfpack roster in the Fresno Regional semifinals gives the Huskies media contingent an extra story line besides N.C. State coach Kay Yow’s courageous battle against breast cancer.

There’s also some old karma here dating back to 1998 when the Wolfpack upset Connecticut in Dayton and moved on to the Women’s Final Four.

But when it comes to Goring, she once was the proud future of Connecticut basketball out of Germantown Academy in Philadelphia.

However, the blue chip talent ran into some NCAA academic clearing house difficulty and had to go to junior college in Iowa to get her grades up to gain eligibility at UConn.

When Goring just missed meeting the grade standard at her next stop, she moved on to a junior college in Arkansas and Connecticut eventually gave up pursuit.

Then Goring decided to follow a teammate down here where she thought it would be neat to play for Yow.

Last year she sat on the bench most of the season because the position was owned by Tiffany Stansbury, who was in the news earlier Tuesday signing a camp contract with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

Goring, who was a part of North Carolina State’s ACC tournament upset of Duke – the Blue Devils’ only loss to date – delivered 16 points and 11 rebounds against the Bears.

``It just feels so good because you’re so inspired to perform for coach Yow,’’ Goring said. ``Just seeing her, oh my gosh, you have to push it all for her.’’

Rutgers’ Measuring Stick

There will be a ``haven't we met before?’’ theme across the Sweet 16, but the place that might draw the most interest in the semifinals will be down the road from here in the Greensboro Regional.

That’s where No. 4 Rutgers will face No. 1 Duke, the overall top seed of the NCAA tournament.

The Scarlet Knights were whipped soundly back in December when the Blue Devils visited New Jersey and gave Rutgers an 85-45 pounding that became the worst loss for a C. Vivian Stringer-coached team at the school since she took over the program in the summer of 1995.

Besides Duke’s prowess, it didn’t help that Matee Ajavon played in her first game coming back from surgery on a stress fracture of her left leg. There was also the small matter of a youthful roster trying to figure out what Stringer meant by defense.

Someone could have made a lot of money at the time telling the Rutgers fan base that things might work out ok down the road. In fact, the Guru was one of the few who predicted that Stringer’s bunch, once they get the hang of it, would return to the rankings at the end of January and if they really had their act together by late February, they could make life interesting.

They did that in a dramatic one-week turnaround by squeezing Connecticut right out of the Big East title in Hartford after the Huskies had thrashed the Scarlet Knights at home at the end of the regular season.

The way Temple was able to play defense against Duke Tuesday night had to be encouraging for Rutgers, which was busy taking care of Michigan State.

A few months ago, we said that Rutgers was one of the few teams beyond five powers with a chance to dent one of them and advance to the Final Four.

A win Saturday will put Stringer’s team on the doorstep.

Incidentally, if Arizona State beats Cinderella Bowling Green, Saturday, then Rutgers, by advancing, will get to play the game that was cancelled at a tournament in the Caribbean over the holidays because of the death of a parent of one of ASU’s players.

Ohio of Life

It must feel that way for Tennessee, the top seed in the Dayton Regional, which no longer has a killer path to Cleveland.

Mississippi’s dispatch of defending NCAA champion Maryland, Tuesday night, and Marist’s upsets of Ohio State and Middle Tennessee means that Oklahoma will be the Vols’ toughest threat to advance.

And continuing with the reunion theme, another upset by Mississippi would make the region title game an all-SEC affair if the Vols subdue Marist.

Dancing in Dallas

In 1997 George Washington upset No. 1 North Carolina and advanced to the Elite Eight.

The Colonials will face the Tar Heels again in the semifinals. Meanwhile, if Georgia upsets No. 2 Purdue, and GWU stays alive, the region title game here would be a re-match from earlier in the season when the Colonials beat Georgia out West.

-- Mel


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