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, March 01, 2011

Guru Report: Rutgers Dodges Mayhem Monday In Big East

(If you are in melgreenberg.com, click on Mel's blog to read another post below this on awards winner and some noteworthy AP Poll trivia that Rutgers and St. John's fans will find interesting as well as Miami, Houston, Wis.-Green Bay ano others. Click media links and then philly local for D2 or D3 news. However, if it is in the 7 am hour, still posting it all right now so be patient. Actually, now done. Also, the conference pairings post is updated with Big East pairings and AP rankings in the skinny.)

By Mel Greenberg

The invisible basement division of the Big East made quite a racket on the final night of the regular season Monday with only Rutgers showing an ability to escape the mayhem that shook up this weekend’s tournament bracket in various places.

Big East play, also whispered as the UConn Invitational, will open Friday night at the usual place in Hartford at the XL Center, where the top-ranked Huskies in the comforts of one of their home venues will attempt to add another NCAA automatic bid in pursuit of their third straight national title.

The Scarlet Knights’ 71-47 victory at nearby state rival Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J., enabled Rutgers (18-11, 11-5 Big East) to finish outright in fourth following upset losses suffered by Louisville and No. 20 Marquette and be rewarded with a double bye.

That means Rutgers won’t play until Sunday, though the squad is on a semifinal collision course with the Huskies.

And thanks to Villanova being a disrupter, the opponent on the other side Sunday could be 12th-seeded Pittsburgh, whose media contact woman is Stacey Brann, in her first season with the Panthers after spending the past four years handling Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Of all the wild adventures in some recent seasons in which the Scarlet Knights at one moment seem headed for an early summer and then at a later one start acting like a tournament team, this one might have been the strangest.

It took almost to the close of regular season play for Rutgers to mount a winning streak that actually including some meaningful results such as the win at Marquette a week ago and the one at home Saturday that knocked West Virginia out of the AP Poll.

And then on Monday night Rutgers dispensed with sentimentality to handle a last place squad in the 16-team Big East that way it should if the Scarlet Knights still have designs on still making the month of March being a meaningful one.

April Sykes scored 25 points, while Chelsey Lee scored 16, and Khadijah Rushdan had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Walsh Gymnasium.

As for the sentimentality reference, the coach of the Pirates (8-21, 1-15) is Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, in her first season after last summer guiding the WNBA New York Liberty that includes several prominent Rutgers alumni such as Cappie Pondexter, Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn.

Donovan and Stringer were also on LSU coach Van Chancellor’s gold-medal-winning USA Olympic staff in Athens, Greece, when he was still in the WNBA in 2004. Donovan four years later moved up to head coach and led the USA to more gold in Beijing, China.

Meanwhile, Villanova (11-18, 3-13), coming off a tough last-minute loss at home Saturday to South Florida, rallied from an 11-point deficit in the first half to surge to a 54-42 win over the Panthers (13-16, 5-11) as Laura Sweeney scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half.

The win was coach Harry Perretta’s 597th and instead of meeting Pittsburgh again in the first round per the original projection, the 14th-seeded Wildcats will open at 8 p.m. Friday night against No. 11 Providence (13-15, 6-10).

The Friars swept Villanova in two games during the season but the squad is at least better to open against as opposed to the slew of heavy hitters that could lead to as many as 10 Big East teams in the NCAAs if the bracket projection experts are on the mark.

The winner of Friday’s Villanova game will advance on Saturday against sixth-seeded Louisville (19-11, 10-6), which began Mayhem Monday tied for fourth by but fell courtesy of being victimized at Providence 63-61.

In other upsets South Florida (12-18, 3-13) took down 17th-ranked Georgetown 60-55 at the Sun Dome in Tampa.

The Bulls were locked in a tie with Villanova off Saturday’s win and get the 13th seed because of that, opening Friday at noon against Pittsburgh.

The winner advances against 20th-ranked Marquette (22-7, 10-6), the sixth seed, which began the night tied for fourth but was taken down by host Cincinnati 65-62, which snapped at 13-game losing streak.

The upset enables the Bearcats (9-19, 2-14) to avoid being tied for last and coach Jamelle Elliott’s group will be a 15th seed opening against 10th-seeded West Virginia Friday at 6 p.m.

That winner will advance against 7th-seeded St. John’s (20-9, 9-7), which lost at West Virginia 69-49 Monday night, though the Mountaineers, who fell out of the poll and were picked second in the preseason by the Big East coaches, had already fallen to a 10th seed on a previous 2-7 record since late January.

Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse (21-8, 9-7) all began the night tied for seventh and all were still that way after suffering losses, though Syracuse’s 82-47 blowout by host Connecticut was expected as the Huskies (29-1, 16-0) finished perfect on top in the conference.

St. John’s won the tiebreaker for seventh. Georgetown (21-9, 9-7) as the eighth seed will play the winner of 16th-seed Seton Hall/ 9th-seed Syracuse on Saturday.

Connecticut on Sunday with a double bye will meet either Marquette, Pittsburgh, or South Florida.

In the one game that was the marquee event on the court – senior night featuring Maya Moore at UConn was marquee off the court – 12th-ranked DePaul (26-5, 13-3) shook off two losses and got to wear the upset label with a last-seconds 70-69 win over seventh-ranked Notre Dame (24-6, 13-3) at home in Chicago in a contest to determine the second and third seeds.

The Blue Demons and Irish could meet again Monday night in the semifinals with some premium NCAA seeding at different levels potentially at stake.

DePaul with the No. 2 seed on Sunday will meet the Saturday St. John’s winner while Notre Dame in the quarterfinals will open against Saturday’s Louisville winner.

In Monday night’s DePaul outcome, Felicia Chester scored 20 points and the game-winner against Notre Dame on a layup with five seconds remaining.

Skylar Diggins, who had 18 points, tried to go the other way and save the Irish but the ball was stolen.

In other games of note Monday night, Western Athletic Conference leader Louisiana Tech (21-6, 13-1) had its perfect run in the conference spoiled with a 71-66 setback to Nevada (20-8, 9-6), which began the day in fourth place.

Florida Gulf Coast lost again, this time 75-74 to South Carolina Upstate.

By the way, don't know if he was plugged into the implication but noticed the ESPN women's bracket guy Charlie Creme has a projected pairing in the first round of the NCAA with 11th seed Duquesne at 6th-seed Penn State. Don't know if he realizes it but that would put Dukes coach Suzie McConnell-Serio against her alma mater where she was an all-American.

During the Guru's recent visit to Pittsburgh he told the Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA All-Star don't be surprised if it does turn out that way if Duquesne makes the field.

-- Mel


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