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.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

March Madness: Scarlet (Knights) Fever

By Mel Greenberg

GREENSBORO, N.C. _ The Guru first would like to take you back down memory lane to the beginning of that wonderful month, December, 2006.

On December 1, the Guru discussed the shrinking NCAA contender field so early in the season.

He named five teams that had solidified themselves as legitimate title threats -- Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma. In terms of dislodging any of the five, the Guru mentioned there was room for a Cinderella -- Can you say Mississippi over Maryland -- and then mentioned Georgia, LSU, and Connecticut as other threats besides a then-unknown Cinderella, which became the Rebels.

And then the Guru made this comment about a Rutgers squad that was slipping off almost every other person's forecast:

Looking at the rest of the rankings, Rutgers, which might slide off the list before moving upwards, has enough talent that if the Scarlet Knights have it all together in late February, they might be a decent threat.

And so here we are on the current marathon: Day nine of the Guru held travel hostage by the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Our own print coverage of the 53-52 win by Rutgers over Duke should eventually appear on Philly.com in a few hours, but we are here for enhancement.

So in those final, frantic seconds, we first heard what Essence Carson was thinking.

We then put the question to Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer and got an answer that caused a forest somewhere in Maine to lose three trees to provide the paper upon which Stringer's comments were printed.

So what was the Guru thinking as the final minute approached.

Just try and be normal -- no not Rutgers -- the Guru, who discovered that his seat placement put him squarely on row two but directly behind the two ESPN broadcasters, making possible a background appearance when the camera focused on the ESPN duo.

The ACC media czarina, incidentally, has informed that the Guru will be in the same location Monday night.

Now back to replay action.

Matee Ajavon hits a three and Rutgers is down just a point with 40 seconds left (I'm doing this off of memory so we may be a bit inacurrate).

They go the other way. A shot goes up from Duke, it misses, we see a crowd, and suddenly there's Epiphanny Prince going coast to coast and, wow, Rutgers has a one-point lead with 12 seconds left.

Imagine, a kid who became famous the year before for scoring 113 points in a high school game in Brooklyn is about to become Rutgers history with a mere field goal.

Think about it, field goal football -- landmark win, field goal wbb -- landmark win.

But there's still time for Duke. The Blue Devils head the other way, suddenly, Carson has taken the ball out of Lindsey Harding's hands with 5.6 seconds left.

What an amazing win. No way they lose now. But then a thought seeps through.

What do you mean, no way. This is C. Viv ball where anything is possible until the time expires.

And so Carson decides to go long-ball in the wrong sport. Harding gets the interception and gets fouled with 0.1 seconds left.

And so the Guru, thinks, how many more times does he have to go through covering this kind of moment in Stringer history.

From Cheyney-Maryland in AIAW history, to Iowa-Ohio State in NCAA history, to a bunch of games in between, and now this.

Harding goes to the line and takes the first shot. As they once said when the New York Giants won a Super Bowl on Buffalo's missed field goal -- wide middle.

OK, it will be overtime. Then the shot goes up and, and, clunk, wide middle again. -- Who would believe the best player on the best team in the nation would miss two foul shots.

And the next scene on the monitor is Stringer and assistant coach Marianne Stanley hugging each other -- what a great Philly picture.

And then it's wow -- one game from the Final Four, followed soon by a phone call from the home office. ``Stay down there with Rutgers all the way.''

So, we'll be back in print late Sunday afternoon and here in Guru blog land later.

(EDIT: You're also in the morning paper and on Philly.com, Mel -- Jonathan T.)

Incidentally, for those of you in Rutgers land desiring to attend, the city of Greensboro awaits you since there is a panic that the Greensboro Colliseum is about to turn into a cavern with Duke, the nearby local team, eliminated.

The drive for you will be about nine hours with a stop or two for gas or quick snacks. Head down 95 to 295 outside Washington and follow Richmond signs back to 95. Below Richmond you will branch into I-85 and then just past Durham you will jump on I-40 and head west to here.

OR

You might get a cheap Southwest Airlines fare out of Philly to Raleigh-Durham Airport and then rent a car for the one-hour drive to here.

OR

-- On second thought, never mind, the Guru is well-read in Arizona and will refrain from causing chalk talk on the Sun Devils' blackboard.

And one other quick thought.

You should know for one of the most excruciating moments any athlete at any level can experience as Harding did, she handled the post-game locker room scene and the media with class and dignity.

She's well on the way to becoming the pro the WNBA crowd desires.

-- Mel

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