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, August 06, 2010

Guru Musings: WNBA UConn Elders Give Seattle Win Over Sun Youngsters

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru will be honest -- he wasn't planning to write for another day until covering the New York Liberty-Washington Mystics Eastern showdown Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

But then the thought occurred -- why not? Besides a few things from different worlds have happened and while many are worthy of their own headline, the Guru decided to go with his cash (he wishes though the traffic is there) cow subject.

But all of it is lumped together and any of it might interest different sectors.

So let's start with yet another incarnation of the UConn alumni game that is now less likely to also be known as the WNBA championship series later this month.

Out in the Northwest in Thursday night's sole WNBA game, the Seattle Storm (23-4) snapped a two-game losing streak -- its only such set of setbacks this season -- by rallying for an 82-81 win over the Connecticut Sun (13-14).
Seattle set a franchise record for wins in a season.

The Storm are now 14-0 at home at Key Arena and could with an expanded schedule top the only perfect season home mark to date in the WNBA -- The 16-0 performance by the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks.

Surrounded by such former UConn stars of earlier eras as Sue Bird, Swin Cash, and Svetlana Abrosimova, former Penn State star Tanisha Wright hit two foul shots with 53.9 seconds left to produce the winning margin.

Australia's Lauren Jackson had 22 of her 31 points for Seattle in the first half as the Storm moved closer to gaining overall home court advantage in the playoffs laster this month.

But if Seattle falls in the West, several Eastern teams could gain that right by emerging from the conference playoffs.

On the Sun side, which has the younger UConn crowd in Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles to go with Asjha Jones, a former Huskies teammate of Bird and Cash, another excruciating loss has put Connecticut in dire straits.

Montgomery, a second-year pro, had her first career double double with 22 points and a career-high 10 assists. But she also committed a costly foul near the finish.

Rookie Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 draft pick, had 23 points as the Sun suffered its fourth straight loss with next up on the schedule a visit from the Washington Mystics Sunday night.

At one instance a month ago, it was plausible the Sun could get to the title round and meet Seattle but now it appears the only future meeting will be Seattle's return visit.

Connecticut is now 2.5 games behind the New York Liberty (15-11) and one more considering New York has already clinched the season series. The Sun trail Washington and Indiana by 3.5 games.

It could get worse Friday night in that Indiana and Atlanta will also meet, besides the Washington-New York matchup, making the Sun's attempt at the postseason even steeper.

And there's no Maya Moore fantasy to go with missing the playoffs for the second straight season in terms of the UConn senior likely to be the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft.

Minnesota, which may or may not make the playoffs, own the Sun's pick courtesy of last April's draft day trade that saw former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin go to the Sun after her selection by the Lynx.

Seattle, which clinched first place late last month, is now 9.5 games ahead of the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury (13-13), which meets third place San Antonio (10-16) for the second time this week Friday night and the Silver Stars trailing the Mercury by three games. They also only lead fourth place Minnesota (9-16) by 0.5 games and fifth place Los Angeles (9-17) by one game.

The other game Friday night has Los Angeles meeting Western cellar dweller Tulsa (5-22). The Shock are close to elimination for the playoffs but closer to have the best chance to land UConn's Moore depending on who's manufacturing the ping pong balls that will be used in the draft lottery.

Minnesota and Chicago (12-16) meet in a cross-conference game Saturday with the Sky closer to the lottery draft than a playoff spot.

A-10 Duo Close To Philly Summer League Title

The Guru did not get the statistics yet but attended the first of the best-of-three Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation Women's Summer League playoffs, sanctioned by the NCAA, Thursday night at Kelly Bolish Gym in suburban Hatboro, Pa.

The Columbia Blue team, which consists entirely of past and present DII Holy Family players such as Catherine Carr, almost caught the Lime squad, which has former St. Bonaventure and Pennsbury High star Dana Mitch, and St. Joseph's junior Katie Kuester.

Lime managed to get to a comfort level in the closing minutes to win 66-56 with Game 2 set for next Tuesday at 7 p.m. If necessary, the third and deciding game will be next Thursday.

For those who don't read the blog regularly, Kuester's parents were at the game -- her father is Detroit Piston's coach John Kuester, a former 76ers assistant.

In some chit-chat afterwards, they revealed to the Guru that many years ago, they had met a gentleman who was the father of all-time Penn State scoring sensation Kelly Mazzante, who was with Phoenix in the WNBA the last several seasons.

When asked how his daughter got so good, he credited the AAU programs for her foundation. And so at age nine that is where Katie got her AAU start and based on her play this summer -- Lime is the top seed -- perhaps Hawks coach Cindy Griffin might finally see that long elusive NCAA berth in 2011.

NCAA Women's Expansion

A recent news item says the NCAA women's tournament committee is looking at different possibilities at expanding the tournament from 64 to as much as 80 or 96 teams several seasons from now.

Monmouth vice president/athletics director Marilyn McNeil, the new chair of the committee, told USA Today in Monday's editions she now favors the growth though she was initially against it.

So what does the Guru think?

He certainly has a different viewpoint than backing the plan that grew the tournament to 64 teams.

At that time the only contention from the coaches was whether to make the new slots all at-large -- favored by the power conference schools -- or give every conference an automatic bid, which allowed some of the lesser leagues access to the Big Dance.

While the at-large case was certainly one to be made back then, the Guru then agreed with then-chairwoman Judith Holland out of UCLA that giving all conferences bids would grow the game at the grass roots level because there was finally a prize for such groups as the Ivy waiting at the end of conference battles to the wire in regular season or conference tournament play.

This time, however, based on last season, the Guru is not so sure expansion is warranted.

He says that because, for a moment, forget the UConn and Stanford 1-2 domination of last season. When voting in the weekly AP Poll last season, the problem was in filling the bottom slots and not necessarily the very bottom slots, it wasn't a case of a bunch of worthy teams fighting for rankings but rather a fishing expedition to find worthy teams.

It certainly wasn't like several years ago. Now, if the NCAA wants to add a few more slots to the tournament, well, yeah, could live with that. Maybe it was a season of generational transition and with experience there will be more worthiness out there.

But let's wait to see that transpire first before forcing a situation that could really dilute competiion in the early rounds.

A Penn Star of Yesterday

Hey, Jonathan, you'll like this one -- it's too late to call him on the phone because he is not working at Philly.com the rest of the week.

So the Guru comes in to his Fedex place in Cherry Hill, N.J., to write the blog and do a few more odds and ends in the world of computing since his body clock still prefers vampire hours.

Meanwhile, he mentions to someone in the pod next to the Guru that late next month Fedex will having free wifi in its stores, according to a knowledgeable Guru source. There had been a T-mobile affiliation, but that stopped several months ago. The Guru simply uses his aircard to stay connected, though mindful of the 5 Gig monthly data limit.

Anyhow as the conference on techie things continued we got to the introduction stage and the individual in the next pod was none other than former Quaker men's star Stanley H. Greene, who played in the early 1970s making him close to a contemporary of the Guru years at Temple as a basketball manager.

Greene revealed he almost went to Temple, those were his final choices, and he still has the recruiting letters. The Guru may get together with former Owls assistant and NBA coach Don Casey down the Jersey shore later this month, incidentally.

That set off a whole series of conversations of common names and events.

Speaking of grass roots early, Greene is president and CEO of Synthetic Turf Systems.

And with that little story from nights of post-Inquirer life this summer, the Guru signs off until Friday night from Madison Square Garden.

-- Mel


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