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.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Guru's WNBA Musings: UConn-Tennessee Alums Dominate Playoff Elites

(Guru’s Note: The WNBA roundup wrapping up the regular season games of Sunday is below this post. If you are in melgreenberg.com then click the mel’s blog link on the left to get to the full blogspot archive.)

By Mel Greenberg

Things don’t change when Connecticut and Tennessee stars get to the WNBA.

Looking at the top two seeds for the playoffs in each conference there are nine UConn alums in the group and six former Lady Vols.

Five ex-Huskies are on the Connecticut Sun in Tina Charles, Klana Greene, Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, and Jessica Moore; two on the Minnesota Lynx in Maya Moore and Charde Houston, and two on the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm in Sue Bird.

Tennessee alums are the Sun’s Kara Lawson, Indiana’s Tamika Catchings, Shyra Ely and Shannon Bobbitt; Seattle’s Ashley Robinson, and Minnesota’s Alex Hornbuckle.

Additionally, former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Ketia Swanier are on Phoenix, making it 11, while the Mercury also has Sidney Spencer from Tennessee gives the Lady Vols a seventh representative.

Bird and Bobbitt Decide East Finish

When the finals standings are tightly compacted as they are in the East, one can look back and find what made the difference in the result as to the way it could have gone.

Yeah, one can talk about several blown leads by Connecticut down the stretch, but considering that the Sun and Fever tied at the top, if Seattle’s Sue Bird had not made that buzzer-beater at home over the Sun after Connecticut had rallied to take a lead a few seconds before, and had not Indiana’s Shannon Bobbitt not made a buzzer-beater in a 61-59 win at Washington, Connecticut would have one less loss and perhaps Indiana would have one less win.

Agler Reaches Pro Coaching Milestone

With Sunday’s Seattle win, Storm coach Brian Agler tied former Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor for No. 1 for total pro coaching wins at 211.

All of Chancellor’s occurred in the WNBA while Agler’s total is comprised of 139 in the WNBA, including a stint at Minnesota, and 72 in the former American Basketball League with the two-time champion Columbus Quest, whose Katie Smith was reunited with Agler when she was dealt to the Storm this season.

“The nice thing about this is every one of those wins someone in the locker-room was a part of, with Katie (Smith) being here,” Agler said after Sunday’s game.

“So that means a lot. You win with players and people. And you have to have great players and great people. And we’ve got both. And that’s the only reason things like that happen. Other than this means I’ve been around a long time.

“It’s easy to manage good people. You just sort of have to massage the situation. You rarely have to rule with an iron fist. You can reason, you can talk, you can communicate and things can get done. Obviously everyone is competitive so everyone has to be competitive. For the most part it’s worked pretty well.

“You have to have people give you opportunities so I got an opportunity and I got an opportunity in the ABL. The nice thing about the ABL, especially in Seattle because Seattle is an ABL city and they’ll understand this, is that league at that point was much better than the WNBA. The talent was better.

“Then I got the opportunity in Minnesota and then there were several people who kept me in the league just being an assistant. Seth Salk in Phoenix and Dan Hughes in San Antonio kept me involved. Things played out and Karen (Bryant) gave me another opportunity. Without those individuals I wouldn’t be able to be here talking about this.”

From Worse To Worsen

Tulsa, which set a WNBA record for ineptness Sunday finishing 3-31 on the 34-game schedule, was three wins less than the 6-28 mark of last season when the Shock had moved from Detroit.

As mentioned in the other post, Atlanta was 4-30 in its inaugural 2008 season and on the 30-game schedule Washington launched at 3-27. The Mystics also dropped from the 22 wins of a year ago to 6-28.

The .500 Plus Club

Maybe in part fueled by two teams that were really bad in their respective divisions but eight teams finished above .500 – the best overall performance in the WNBA since nine were above .500 in 2006 when Sacramento and Charlotte were still around for a 14-team total instead of the current 12.

A year ago, only one West team – Seattle – was above .500 – this time all four playoff teams in the conference were better than .500

Minnesota, which lost a tie-breaker for the playoffs at 13-21 with Los Angeles last season (and then got the No. 1 pick to take Maya Moore), inproved by 14 games to a league best 27-7, one less than Seattle’s 28-6 domination.

The Storm, affected by the Laura Jackson hip injury, fell seven games to 21-13.

Connecticut, which was 17-17, improved to 21-13 plus 4; Atlanta, the fourth seed a year ago, was plus one from 19-15, while Indiana at 21-13 had the same record but the number three seed.

Chicago was 14-20 both times. Phoenix improved from 15-19 by four games; San Antonio at 18-16 was up four games, while Los Angeles improved from 13-21 to 15-19 a plus two and also affected by the Candace Parker knee injury.

The New Season

In terms of playoff opponents in the Eastern Conference semifinals No. 2 seed Connecticut and No. 3 Atlanta split 2-2, while No. 1 Indiana and No. 4 New York did likewise.

In the West, No. 1 Minnesota went 4-0 over No. 4 San Antonio, but the first two were won just before time expired; No. 2 Seattle was 3-1 over No. 3 Phoenix.

Postseason Awards

Without revealing his Guru vote yet on the media panel here’s an idea on how plentiful the supply of candidates is for not as many slots.

Coach of the Year – 1

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota – Took talent and made it all work. You still have to coach it.
Lin Dunn, Indiana – Added depth and enabled team to keep going after Briann January injury.
Marynell Meadors, Atlanta – Guided the Dream to recovery from the woeful start when injuries and other matters caused problems.
Mike Thibault, Connecticut – Took youngest roster and made them better.
John Whisenant, New York – New coach, new system, new home, missing veterans and he kept the Liberty in the hunt, especially with a bunch of comebacks.

Rookie of the Year – 1

Maya Moore, Minnesota. OK by default. Danielle Adams missed games at Texas A&M due to injuries; Liz Cambage suffered being on the Shock.

Sixth Player – 1

Jia Perkins, San Antonio – Helped Silver Stars’ early surge out of the gate.
Kara Lawson, Connecticut Sun – Had several big shots and kept flow going.
Jessica Davenport, Indiana – Consistent off bench all year.

Defensive Player – 1

Tina Charles, Connecticut – Top rebounder
Sylvia Fowles, Chicago – Right there with Charles
Tamika Catchings, Indiana – Always in the hunt in this category

Most Improved – 1

Matee Ajavon, Washington – Had to fill in as starter and produced with Alana Beard sidelined.
Jessica Davenport, Indiana – Unsung heroine off the bench
Essence Carson, New York – Had many big moments – Could also be a sixth player candidate.
Kia Vaughn, New York – They split votes but she merits consideration.
Epiphanny Prince, Chicago – Joining Carson and Vaughn as a third former Rutgers star in the hunt for this.
Tiffany Jackson, Tulsa – A constant in roster needing to find its way.

Most Valuable Player – 1

Tina Charles, Connecticut – Set another double double record and got Sun to Conference tie and No. 2 seed
Tamika Catchings, Indiana – Always in the hunt.
Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota – The captain of the offense and other worthy candidate Lynx teammates say she’s the one.
Sylvia Fowles, Chicago – Perhaps the Sky would be total darkness otherwise.
Becky Hammon, San Antonio – They’re nowhere without her.
Cappie Pondexter, New York – More big shots scored than many others.
Sue Bird, Seattle – Kept things going when Jackson was sidelined
Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta – Led the revival.

All-Stars (Combined slots for two total teams)

Centers -- 2
Tina Charles, Connecticut
Sylvia Fowles, Chicago
Kia Vaughn, New York

Forwards – 4
Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta
Crystal Langhorne, Washington
Penny Taylor, Phoenix
Candice Dupree, Phoenix
Tamika Catchings, Indiana
Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota
Asjha Jnes, Connecticut
Swin Cash, Seattle
Maya Moore, Connecticut
Sophia Young, San Antonio
Plenette Pierson, New York
Tiffany Jackson, Tulsa
Erika De Souza, Atlanta

Guards – 4
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
Cappie Pondexer, New York
Seimone Augustus, Minnesota
Becky Hammon, San Antonio
Sue Bird, Seattle
Renee Montgomery, Connecticut
Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota
Katie Douglas, Indiana
Epiphanny Prince, Chicago
Lindsey Harding, Atlanta

See you at next sunrise.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mel, don't forget that Matee Ajavon is also a former Rutgers player, making that 4 in the most improved player category along with Kia, Essence and Piph.

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