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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Georgia Tech Eyes UConn and Moore

(Guru's note: Commentary from here on the WNBA finals can be found on post above this one, which is college specific. Guru needed a long rest -- one reason for not booking a flight out until Saturday AM).

By Mel Greenberg

In a perfect day of juxtapositon, hours before the Seattle Storm finished a three-game sweep to a WNBA championship here over the Atlanta Dream to conclude the 14th summer of professional competition, the Georgia Tech women were already in early season intensity well in advance of another collegiate winter.

The Guru was in a bit of surprise when Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph, whom he covered in her days at Purdue, sent a text upon his arrival to stop on by for Georgia Tech's first full practice.

Wait a minute, the Guru thought. I know it's not yet time for midnight madness so how can this be.

Well, as Theresa Wentzel, the Georgia Tech senior women's administrator, explained at the arena, a rules change from the NCAA that the Guru both missed and not seen discussed anywhere at any point in time now allows a certain number of full drills over a period of time leading up to the October festivities.

So feel free to add another nickname to the vernacular -- perhaps September Start Day unless any of you have something better, which you might.

But to continue, perhaps heading for some more good times ahead, Joseph was not tolerating any laid back demeanors on Day One.

And with good reason.

As the Guru watched some different players shifting around on defense as is done with scout teams, he later asked Joseph, "Which of those were playing the role of Maya Moore?"

Joseph, who is about to be inducted into the Purdue Hall of Fame, just grinned at the observation.

The Yellow Jackets, who gave the two-time defending NCAA champions a workout in their last meeting on UConn's court, won't be overlooking much in targeting the Huskies' visit here on November 21.

The game will also be the official homecoming for UConn senior Maya Moore, likely to be the overall No. 1 pick in next spring's WNBA draft.

Georgia Tech has four games prior to the UConn game, the most testing, perhaps, is a tilt with Old Dominion.

And if anyone thinks that's it in the early going for the Atlantic Coast Conference school, a week later down in the Caribbean the Yellow Jackets also will be meeting Tennessee at Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on Nov. 26.

So when the big monents get closer, if anyone here in what is also SEC country in the Peach Tree State starts hearing a lot of UConn-Tennessee talk in town, it won't be about resumption of the famed national women's rivary that ended in 2007.

No, it will be about looking to something that will be equally historic if Georgia Tech can pull wins in both confrontations.

Guess Who's In Line To Spoil The Streak?

Actually, he was already in line but thanks to Big East officials now Jim Foster's position has put the Ohio State coach to potentially become even more of a villain this winter when the Buckeyes meet Connecticut in the Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19.

The Big East on Friday released its women's conference slate and in a new move inserted two games into the December calendar. The consequence is a change of the projection of when coach Geno Auriemma's squad could tie and break the famed UCLA streak of 88 achieved by the Bruins' men's streak under the legendary John Wooden, the Hall of Famer who died earlier this year.

UConn's conference opener will be Dec. 2 at South Florida and the Huskies will host Marquette on Dec. 9th on campus at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.

Prior to the Big East element, counting what was solely nonconference competition, Game No. 88 in the UConn streak would have been Dec. 28 at Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

Had the tie been achieved, two days later the attempt to set the new mark for combined Division I basketball genders would have been attempted at Stanford, which nearly ruined the Huskies' second straight unbeaten title in the NCAA championship game in April in San Antonio, Texas.

Now if the record gets tied, the potential victim to yield what would be the new mark of 89 is Florida State, which visits UConn at the XL Center in Hartford on Dec. 21. That's also the first official day of winter on the calendar, creating the longest night of the year, which would be even longer in Connecticut if the Seminoles were to become the streak stopper.

But this is not to say that any of this will even come into play.

Prior to the potential historic moments, UConn will hit a few speed bunps in a visit from Baylor on Nov. 16th in the XL Center, the trip to Georgia Tech, and a visit from LSU on Nov. 28th.

For those who do not know, though the Guru began writing this without seeing what the coverage is among the media horde in Connecticut, Foster, in his days coaching St. Joseph's in the late 1970s, hired Auriemma as an assistant for a brief period.

Auriemma later took a job as an aide to Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan at Virginia, which became the launching point for his hire as head women's coach at UConn.

The two longtime friends have not played each other much over the years because of their relationship.

But they have met infrequently and one time in an NCAA tournament Connecticut beat Vanderbilt, which Foster then coached, in Chicago to advance to a Final Four.

Last spring, Auriemma noted to the Guru in a conversation in Knoxville, Tenn., during the induction weekend that a push should be made to get Foster inducted.

Back in the day someone in the coaching ranks referred to Foster as "Dr. Naismith" after a game involving strategic moves on both sides in the closing minutes.

But if Connecticut does prevail with the new mark in the changed lineup of opponents the Guru can hear Harry (not Kalas) now: Geno just topped Wooden and Naismith.

-- Mel


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