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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guru Musings: Unprecedented WNBA Chaos

By Mel Greenberg

Unless some separation quickly occurs by the weekend, whatever the cause, a glance at the schedule beginning Tuesday night and through the end of the regular season on Aug. 22 reveals that almost every game will already be loaded with implication and contested at playoff intensity level just to get to the playoffs.

Even though the Eastern conference through mostly superior won-loss records gets credit for being the more rigorous of the two this season, both sides of the aisle have much to be decided in terms of getting to the postseason and claiming seed positions in the postseason.

Some say the dispersal of the former Sacramento Monachs and the downgrading of the former Detroit Shock roster on its transfer to Tulsa and the Western Conference are key factors for this season's competitive dynamic.

Los Angeles had a major injury with Candace Parker sideline most of the season with naggng shoulder problems dating back to Tennessee, while Minnesota played most of the year without Candice Wiggins becase of separate injuries, while Seimone Augustus missed almost the first month recovering from surgery.

Then there has been a migration of players from West to East like former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter from Phoenix to New York, though former Temple star Candice Dupree went East to West in the same deal involving Pondexter when Dupree went from Chicago to Phoenix.

And the influx of new talent has had its affect, though high round draft picks Tina Charles out of UConn and Kelsey Griffin out of Nebraska have been impact players in Connecticut, though the Sun is still scrambling for a playoff berth.

The New York Liberty and defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury have been the hot teams in recent weeks but neither has anything that could be called smooth sailing ahead.

That's true for almost everyone else. Though the Tulsa Shock and Chicago Sky are on the verge of being converted into spoiler rolls, every opponent won't be overlooking either team because there's little margin for error, especially with the possibility that tie-breakers may come into play.

A week ago the Sun appeared fading and heading for the sidelines the second straight season, though a year ago injuries played prominent roles in the franchise's first playoff ouster since moving to New England from Orlando, Fla.

But coach Mike Thibault's team found new life with a win at home Sunday over the Washington Mystics and if Connecticut can win again for the second straight time in less than 48 hours, but in the nation's capital Tuesday night, it could become a race to the wire for the last playoff spot, though no one in the East has locked anything up yet.

As previously refered to in terms of New York, until the games are actually played, the Liberty could keep rolling or start to slide.

Sign Of No Times -- Or Post

Here's Exhibit A on where the (fading) traditional print media stands in terms of the WBNA.

At Sunday's game in Uncasville, there were no out of town beat writers from Washington, nor are any from Connecticut expected Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, though the Hartford Courant has had its beat writer and columnist at games in New York or previously in Washington, while New London Day columnist/assistant sports editor Mike DiMauro has made similar trips.

But furthermore, none of the papers used freelancers, though the Associated Press files out of Connecticut, New York and Washington are quite credible.

There was a time not too long ago, however, when the seaboard trips involving the three cities were not considered that expensive -- heck the Guru is making them, though the non-substantial funding has come from the unused vacation reimbursement on the way out the door from his last place of employment.

Even if Connecticut wasn't going to be in Washington media travel plans, one would have thought the Washington press would have had someone Friday night in New York considering the implication of the game and this being potentially a vintage year for the Mystics, though as noted in the previous item things could sour quickly.

The Guru will doublecheck this item Tuesday night in case he missed noting a freelance assignment.

Meanwhile, those who think things may be better at the women's collegiate level should known that the numbers of print beat media reps from non-participating teams or non/host region/state/city publications were at an all-time low in San Antonio at the Women's Final Four.

But the Washington Post sent its Maryland writer to Texas, while the New York Daily News and Times also sent writers. There were veterans of past Final Four coverage but the publications they previous worked for were not on the scene.

Summer League Title Could Be Decided Tuesday Night

The Guru, as mentioned, plans to be at the Connecticut-Washington showdown but Tuesday night could see the title of the annual Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation Women's Summer League, sanctioned by the NCAA, decided at the Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades, in Hatboro, Pa., in the suburbs near Willow Grove.

Lime, which features St. Joseph's junior Katie Kuester and former St. Bonaventure and Pennsbury High star Dana Mitchell, at 7 p.m. will take on the Columbia Blue team consisting entirely of past and present players from Holy Family.

Though the Tigers have made playoffs in the past this is the first time the Division II outfit has made the best-of-three championship round.

Lime was challenged late in last Thursday's opener before taking command over the final minutes for a 66-56 victory. If Columbia Blue evens it up, the deciding game will be played 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Though he retired a year ago, David Kessler returned for another summer doing his usualy outstanding job supervising the league.

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Week

Friday night in Springfield, Mass., former WNBA great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, the new coach of N.C.-Wilmington, will be among the annual inductees into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Though many are saying the member of the former Houston Comets is the first WNBA star to make the hall, she is the first one who achieved national stardom in the league. Lynnette Woodard, the former Kansas star and Harlem Globetrotter, is a previous inductee and played on the former Cleveland Rockers the first few years in the league.

The Guru thinks he will be at the morning press conference Friday but his own WNBA situations at the moment caused by ongoing events needing coverage in the tight playoff races may have him staying with the games Friday night.

Don't pout. There will be plenty of coverage out there in Springfield off the ceremony -- Guru or no Guru.

-- Mel

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