March Madness: Rutgers' Defense Wins ... WNBA Coaches
The Guru has also been busy making the rounds, keeping up with the WNBA activities, and will have reports over night from the media and WNBA parties. There's still a chance Phoenix could make a deal involving the Mercury's No.1 pick.
We'll also be emceeing the United States Basketball Writers Association, Tuesday morning brunch, also open to media reps who are not members, if you are here in Cleveland, or contact the Guru ahead of time for access. It will be in the Marriott.
Later that day, the Guru has been asked to speak at the WBCA's Awards' brunch on behalf of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductees class of 2007, of which he is a member.
By Mel Greenberg
Inquirer Staff Writer
CLEVELAND - Rutgers' daunting defense isn't necessarily making the Scarlet Knights the favorite to win the NCAA Women's Final Four that gets under way tomorrow night at the Quicken Loans Arena.
However, the way Rutgers has developed to advance here has drawn praise and admiration from C. Vivian Stringer's colleagues at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association annual convention.
Michigan State's Joanne P. McCallie has seen her Spartans victimized twice by the Scarlet Knights this season, including a 70-57 defeat at home in East Lansing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"I don't want to see Rutgers any more. I've had enough of Rutgers," McCallie said with a smile.
"They've just gotten better and better. It's remarkable where they've come from. The young kids are surprisingly not young, and [Stringer] grew them up very quickly.
"They're remarkable to me considering the toughness and the aggressiveness of their defense."
McCallie coached Kia Vaughn, the Scarlet Knights' 6-foot-4 sophomore center, last summer on a USA Basketball squad.
"I'm very proud of her," McCallie said. "She's a force. She continues to get better and better. But even more so, she has a swagger about her defense that gets the team pretty excited, too."
Rutgers will meet Louisiana State, which also is being noted for its defense, in the opening national semifinals game before North Carolina meets Tennessee.
In the same downtown hotel lobby where McCallie spoke, WNBA coaches who are here for the pre-draft camp and Wednesday's selections were busy holding mock rounds among themselves.
Unlike a year ago, when Scarlet Knights senior Cappie Pondexter was the second overall pick in the first round by the Phoenix Mercury, the pro coaches are unable to target anyone on Rutgers this time.
The reason is simple. The squad does not have any seniors.
Still, Rutgers' style has caught the attention of the pro coaches, who are also looking ahead for future talent.
"I saw them early against Mississippi at Rutgers," said Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan, who will coach the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing, China. "They make you play ugly offense. Their defense is so strong and disruptive. It got them to the Final Four, so it seems to work for them."
New York Liberty assistant coach Nick DiPillo, who grew up in North Brunswick, near Rutgers' campus, saw the Scarlet Knights during various stages of the season.
"Playing in Coach Stringer's system, defensively, isn't the easiest thing in the world," he said. "But they did a great job of coming together as a team. They knocked off a couple of teams after a tough Old Dominion loss. That was a real turning point. They're really peaking at the right time."
Washington Mystics coach Richie Adubato has been known as a defensively-oriented specialist.
"They're probably as good a pressure team as I've seen play this year," Adubato said. "They've got great tenacity, and they're going to force a lot of turnovers. But it's constant pressure.
"Usually that type of defense wears you down in the end and makes a difference at the end of games when people can't shoot anymore. It's a credit to the way they play."
Minnesota Lynx assistant coach Teresa Edwards, a former star guard in the Olympics and at Georgia as well as in the professional ranks, saw little of Rutgers but was impressed nonetheless.
"They look more mature on the floor as individuals,'' Edwards said. "They have goals. You can really tell they are going for this [NCAA title] and they know what they want.
"They could have easily folded [early in the season], and they didn't, and that's a credit to Coach Stringer.
"I know who she is. I know what she stands for. Great coach. Great woman. Great credit to her."
Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or email@example.com.