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, March 05, 2011

Guru Report:Kane Raises Villanova; Penn State Advances

(Guru's note: Besides the lede post which you are reading, if you are in melgreenberg.com click mel's blog to see other posts below this one in blogspot such as the daily and overall conference trackers and an individual game story off Penn-Harvard that focuses on the Ivy race targeting front-running Princeton, where the Guru may end up on the way to the A-10s.
But first he was requested by a former coach of his -- Don Casey -- to be at the Temple hall of fame ceremonies for induction of the NIT 1969 champions of which the Guru was the manager. Oh, a press media links and philly local for a quick recap of the CACC tournament in Division II at Holy Family as well as other D2 and D3 news.)

By Mel Greenberg

It may still be a short ride in the Big East women’s basketball tournament for Villanova but it is lasting a little longer than anyone would have expected two weeks ago.

Freshman Devon Kane was the heroine for the second straight game, this time hitting what became the winning basket with 1:05 left in overtime and the 14th-seeded Wildcats (12-18) closed the first day of business at the rugged tournament at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, with a narrow 52-50 win over 11th-seeded Providence (13-16).

Villanova had been swept by the Friars during the season but earned a third matchup on the final day when Kane led the Wildcats to an upset of Pittsburgh on the road.

That was also a close finish as was the previous game when coach Harry Perretta’s bunch lost in the final seconds at home to South Florida.

Villanova gets to close shop again Friday night on another busy day of activity but this time in the 8 p.m. start the Wildcats will go against sixth-seeded Louisville (19-11), which had a first-round bye.

The winner of that contest advances to Sunday night’s quarterfinals against seventh-ranked Notre Dame (24-6), the third seed and one of four heavy hitters that received double byes.

The other three are top-ranked Connecticut (29-1), which went unbeaten in the conference, 12th-ranked DePaul (26-5), the second seed; a fourth-seeded Rutgers (18-11), which was aided on the last night of the season by upsets of Louisville and Marquette from the conference’s underbelly.

That’s where Villanova has lived most of the season, a struggling young squad that has most likely extended the wait for Perretta’s 600th career victory until early next winter.

But at least he’s a little closer at No. 598.

Maybe Villanova was trying to send a mini-message because the Wildcats in a rarity did not receive one award of any nature in the Big East coaches’ postseason balloting.

In this Providence game, Cherokee High’s Laura Sweeney of Marlton scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Kane scored her 13th point and the game-winner off a steal and layup after Sweeney tied the game 50-50.

Villanova had trailed by double digits in regulation.

The other three higher seeds in the first round advanced with Pittsburgh holding off South Florida, Syracuse handling Seton Hall, and West Virginia beat Cincinnati.

In other action by teams followed locally, St. Joseph’s (19-10) made La Salle’s return to the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time in four seasons short-lived with an easy 79-55 win over the Explorers.

The Hawks will open quarterfinals play at noon Saturday at the tournament at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., against sixth-ranked Xavier (25-2), the Atlantic 10’s top seed, which went unbeaten through the other 13 opponents.

The Guru, who will be on the scene in the semifinals, handled print coverage by remote and there is a story at Philly.com.

Saturday’s quarterfinals in Massachusetts should be quite the battle since it is unclear how many at-large candidates exist among the field contending for the guaranteed way to the NCAAs – the A-10 title and automatic bid.

Temple (22-7), the second seed which lost only to Xavier at home on the final day of the regular season, seems assured of another NCAA trip if the Owls fall short of a title.

They’ll play seventh-seeded St. Bonaventure (19-10), which beat Fordham 48-41. In the other two games, third-seeded Duquesne (22-7), which had a bye, will meet sixth-seeded Dayton, (19-10), which had a narrow 61-58 win over George Washington (8-20).

Fourth-seeded Richmond (18-10), which had the other bye, will meet fifth-seeded Charlotte (22-8), which turned back Massachusetts 77-66.

Over in the Big Ten, there are two ways one could gauge second-seeded Penn State’s semifinal game Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis against No. 11 Illinois (9-22), the surprise of the tournament.

One way is the Lady Lions (23-8) suddenly have an easier way to the title game against top-seeded Michigan State (26-4), the 11th-ranked team in the AP Poll, or fifth-seeded Ohio State (20-9), that has been playing better as an underdog in recent weeks.

The other is that with upsets of sixth-seeded Wisconsin, and third-seeded Michigan, coach Jolette Law’s Illini could be quite the dangerous bunch.

But Penn State can take comfort in the Lady Lions’ 73-61 win over seventh-seeded Purdue (19-11) in the quarterfinals after a recent setback at home to the same Boilermakers.

Devon’s Julie Trogele, the lone Penn State senior, scored 12 points, as the Lady Lions advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2007, the last season under former coach Rene Portland.

Penn State has not been to the NCAAs since 2005, but Friday’s win virtually assured a trip back and one that will begin at home no matter how the Lady Lions place in the 64-team field.

The fallout from Friday’s Big 10 results is that things get shakier NCAA-wise for Michigan and Purdue while Ohio State’s 71-61 win over fourth-seed and 24th-ranked Iowa (22-8) makes the losing Hawkeyes’ projected seed to suffer a mild hit.

Maryland’s potential NCAA seed certainly suffered some damage after the 13th-ranked Terrapins (23-7) were upset 70-64 by fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (23-9), in quarterfinals play at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C. at the Coliseum.

Eighth-ranked and top-seeded Duke (27-3) handled Wake Forest 79-50 while second-seeded Miami (27-3), the 10th-ranked team in the AP Poll, held off North Carolina State 93-85.

Sixth-seeded North Carolina (24-7), ranked 19th, picked up ground with a 78-65 upset of 14th-ranked Florida State (23-7), the third seed.

With the top four seeds advancing in the Southeastern Conference at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the NCAA door may be closed to anyone else, though fifth-seeded LSU (19-12) may be discussed after a narrow 60-58 loss to second-seeded and sixth-ranked Kentucky (23-7).

Third-seeded Vanderbilt (20-10) turned back Mississippi State 69-55, and fourth-seeded Georgia (20-9) probably sent South Carolina (17-14) on the way to the WNIT after dealing a 66-34 setback. Fourth-ranked and top-seeded Tennessee (29-2) stopped Florida 92-75.

Princeton with a potential win at home over Harvard Saturday night in the Ivy League would earn a second straight automatic bid.

Other conferences such as the Big 12 are finishing the regular season this weekend and then begin next week’s second wave of tournaments while the current group will be wrapping up their pursuits over the next several days.

Other titles that will be decided on Saturday, even if the Ivies get extended into Tuesday through a Harvard win, are the Atlantic Sun between fifth-seeded Jacksonville (15-16) and second-seeded Stetson (19-12) in Macon, Ga.; the Ohio Valley between top-seeded Tennessee Tech (23-6) and second seed UT Martin (20-10) in Nashville.

The Big 10, SEC, and ACC will be determined on Sunday.

-- Mel


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