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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

WNBA Musings: UConn Angles Are Everywhere

By Mel Greenberg

During the recent WNBA All-Star game involving the USA Nationals, the issue began to appear about whether there was an issue with the number of former UConn stars and senior Maya Moore likely to be on the roster of Huskies coach Geno Auriemma when the team heads to the FIBA World Championship in September.

Most agreed, however, that in terms of talent few could argue right now that someone might belong on the squad that is currently blocked by the presence of another player with UConn DNA.

It is one thing to have a Huskies reunion that most would certify.

But what is also becoming noticeable is the reason they all are easily assembled is because when apart from each other they are dominating storylines individual nightly in the league.

Moore, herself, because of her immeasurable talent, is the invisible-elephant-in-the-room story as the regular season heads down the stretch. The reason is while one can focus on the tight race in both conferences to make the playoffs -- Western won-loss records notwithstanding -- that same tightly-packed crowd means those that fail will become the quartet of also rans with the chance to win the draft lottery and gain the rights to pick Moore overall No. 1.

On a quiet night such as Thursday in which only two games were played, the Moore speculation and ex-UConns were again making news.

Out West, the defending WNBA champion and high scoring Phoenix Mercury once again lit up the scoreboard with a 110-92 victory over the Minnesota Lynx in the Arizona desert.

On the Lynx (7-16), which lost its fifth straight game, Charde Houston matched career highs in scoring and rebounding with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Houston, for those with short memories from several collegiate seasons ago, is one of the few members of the Blue and White who was both a Huskie and also a perpetual resident in a doghouse owned by Auriemma.

Phoenix (11-13), on which former UConn star Diana Taurasi is the reigning WNBA MVP, moved closer to a playoff spot and closer to the West getting a second team that is .500 or better. The other is the runaway Seattle Storm (21-2), which, by the way, has three ex-UConn stars in eventual Hall of Famer Sue Bird, as is Taurasi, Swin Cash and Svetlana Abrosimova.
Because of the record-tying domination of Seattle, night after night one can find a quote from Bird comparing situations to her days in Storrs.
Cash, incidentally, a centerpiece in the Detroit Shock WNBA titles, has been a renaissance woman since going to the Storm after her last days in Motown.

Incidentally, as a bone to the Guru's alma mater at Temple, former Owl Candice Dupree, formerly with the Chicago Sky, finished with 18 points and enjoyed her best July since joining the WNBA in 2006. She averaged 22.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in a performance that may help her be one of the non-UConn types to make the USA final roster for September's competition.

The loss by the Lynx means Minnesota needs help from the New York Liberty Friday night to keep the Los Angeles Sparks from creating space above the Lynx in the fight for the fourth and final playoff berth, though three spots remain open in the West.

But then again, thoughts of Moore kick into play because even though Tulsa, the former Detroit franchise, has the worst overall record, it is not a given the Shock will emerge with the top pick.

Three seasons ago, Minnesota was dreadful all summer but Los Angeles, which lost Chamique Holdsclaw to a temporary retirement and Lisa Leslie to pregnancy, discovered the joys of losing down the stretch and ultimately was able to gain the rights to pick former Tennessee star Candace Parker.

As mentioned in previous posts the Lynx could actually have two of four chances to land Moore if they fall out of the playoff loop and likewise if so do the Connecticut Sun, which sent its 2011 first-round pick to Minnesota in a draft-day trade in April for former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin.

Meanwhile in Thursday's other game, which was played here at the Verizon Center, no ex-UConn players were on the court in the San Antonio Silver Stars' 79-75 victory over the Washington Mystics.

Former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw -- she's been around if you've noticed from this blog post -- had 17 points for San Antonio against the Mystics, who took her with the overall No. 1 pick in 1999. Former Baylor star Sophia Young added 16 points, as did All-Star Becky Hammon.

Former Duke star Monique Currie had 22 points for Washington and former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., near Philadelphia, had 18 points and nine rebounds.

The outcome may be a game-changer in different directions for both teams.

San Antonio, which had been terrible on the road, was able to hold third place, staying close to second-place Phoenix in the West and move slightly away from the four-five tandem of L.A. and Minnesota.

Washington, which made great strides this season, once again allowed a bunch of unforced turnovers to contribute to their demise -- a situation that has happened frequently and prevented from the Mystics being a virtual lock right now for a playoff berth.

Instead, the Connecticut Sun, which was idle, caught Wasbhington for third place. But New York is one game behind in fifth so even if the Sun -- yeah the team with Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Asjha Jones -- can avoid slippage, New York, yeah the team with rookie Kalana Greene, now has a shot at slipping past Washington for fourth place.

Big games loom Friday night with Connecticut hosting Atlanta and New York hosting Los Angeles.

The problem with Washington's donated loss is the Mystics, on a back-to-back, head to first-place Indiana Friday night with a daunting task. If a stolen game can't occur in the Midwest against the Fever to erase the effects of what happened here, the visit from Tulsa Sunday here may be a moot point.

Which is why even without the presence here Thursday night of players with UConn backgrounds, suddenly the speculation jumped into the mind -- Wouldn't it be something if Maya Moore became a Mystic.

Well, at least if that happened, she could keep her game in shape by visiting the nearby White House to play one-on-one against its top occupant on a regular basis.

-- Mel


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