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, September 27, 2011

Guru's WNBA/College Notes: 600th AP Poll Appearance Awaits Tennessee and Summitt

By Mel Greenberg

As this blog is written at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning before sunrise in the East on Sept. 27, there is no public word out there yet on the status of Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings, the WNBA’s most valuable player for this season, who injured her right foot late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss in Game 2 of the best-of-three Eastern finals.

Tuesday’s deciding Game 3 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis will determine whether the Fever returns to the finals for the second time in three years or the Atlanta Dream in season number four of their existence returns to the finals after being dispatched 3-0 in the best-of-five series a year ago in a set of narrow loses to the Seattle Storm.

None of the teams still alive, including the Western regular season and playoff winning Minnesota Lynx, who are in their first finals and await Tuesday’s winner for the championship opener at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Sunday, have ever won a WNBA title.

The list of the past 14 WNBA champions consists of the former Houston Comets (4), former Detroit (now Tulsa) Shock (3), Los Angeles Sparks (2), Seattle Storm (2), Phoenix Mercury (2) and former Sacramento Monarchs.

Whatever the fate of Catchings at this hour, Indiana coach Lin Dunn said after Monday’s practice her staff was planning two scenarios to deal with the Dream – one with Catchings in uniform and one without, according to the Indianapolis Star and several other media organizations.

The only good news in all this since Sunday’s mishap, at least the way Dunn put it in the postgame press conference, is the Fever seemed positive Catchings’ injury was not an ACL, for which she underwent surgery on the same leg in 2007.

So with that said and nothing more to be said on the Eastern finals, for the moment, since the Guru is not on site in Indianapolis, he thought he’d return to the college ranks and entertain you all with some preseason AP poll notes.

Tennessee And Summitt Set For AP Milestone

No, the rankings aren’t out yet – that won’t happen for several weeks.

But based on the close of business in Year No. 35, since Tennessee undoubtedly will be ranked and ranked high when the vote is taking, the release of that list will give Lady Vols legendary coach Pat Summitt and the program 600 appearances since the poll was launched in November, 1976.

Tennessee was not in the first-ever preseason poll when smaller schools such as Immaculata, Queens College, Southern Connecticut and several others were the power of the time.

Did you know Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors was there at the time coaching AIAW Region 2 power Tennessee Tech?

The Lady Vols did not miss many appearances through the years – in fact 14 overall counting the first poll and the last time they were unranked was in the mid-1980s.

Actually, if the AP would have a vote after the NCAA tournament concludes instead of running the final rankings just before it began, that streak might have ended when Tennessee was teetering on the bottom several years ago and actually dropped out of the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll of the WBCA, which does do a post-tournament ranking.

Following Summitt and Tennessee, Georgia and Andy Landers are both next in total rankings at 460 as of the 2010-11 final poll.

Texas is next at 453, followed by Louisiana Tech at 447, though most of that was a long time ago; then comes Stanford at 398, Connecticut at 367, Penn State at 347, North Carolina at 342, Maryland at 340, and LSU at 338.

Vanderbilt and Rutgers had been eclipsed from the first 10 in the aforementioned category the last several seasons but the Commodores sit at 11th with 335 appearances and the Scarlet Knights 12th at 329.

Tennessee has appeared in the top 10 of 33 of the 35 previous preseason polls followed by Georgia and Louisiana Tech at 20 each.

The coaches’ appearances digress in some instances from the school list – Rutgers’ numbers, for example, are a compilation of the Theresa Grentz and C. Vivian Stringer eras.

As for Stringer’s numbers, she is the leader of a handful of coaches who have guided three different programs into the rankings – Cheyney, Iowa, and Rutgers.

Summitt, approaching 600, as mentioned, is the overall leader on both the all-time and active lists, followed by Andy Landers at 460, former Texas coach Jody Conradt at 407, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, the recent Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, at 395, which includes her time at Ohio State; Stringer at 388 and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma at 367.

If you withdraw Conradt in the group mentioned, you have the leaders on the active list. Auriemma, incidentally, is followed by Ohio State’s Jim Foster at 346.

Though Connecticut may not be No. 1 when the next poll is announced after dominating the top the last several seasons, the Huskies have an overall total of 156 appearances at the top followed by Tennessee at 112.

The differential is so large that assuming a total of 19-20 polls per season, as has been the case in recent times, the Lady Vols would have to be No. 1 for the next two seasons and early in a third to catch Connecticut’s total.

Louisiana Tech is next at 83, compiled in the Sonja Hogg/Leon Barmore era and not likely to increase, then comes Texas with 47 No. 1 rankings, followed by Duke and Old Dominion at 34.

In the preseason poll, Tennessee has been No. 1 for 12 times, while Connecticut has been at the top spot eight times.

The Lady Vols have had 28 appearances in the Top 5 in the preseason poll, followed by Louisiana Tech at 15 and Connecticut at 14.

Another interior stat to look, though it is a little down the list but Maryland at 184 needs four more Top 10 appearances than Rutgers at 187 to pass the Scarlet Knights in that category.

Incidentally, Texas A&M, the reigning NCAA champion, at the moment is tied with Michigan State and Kentucky with 120 appearances but the Aggies will be taking their total, whatever the season increase is, over to the Southeastern Conference and away from the Big 12 a year from now.

Be aware, the Guru keeps two separate categories for conferences – the conference a school was in at the time of the ranking and the conference a school currently resides so the Big 12 won’t be totally lessened.

Adjustments have already been made to reflect Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to the Big 10 this season, as well as Colorado from the Big 12 to Pac-12 and Utah from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 as well as several other team/conference shifts.

Local Notes

Just a reminder from something mentioned earlier in the summer but the annual Big 5 and Drexel clinic will be held Sunday morning Oct. 15 at Villanova for the benefit of Coaches vs. Cancer.

Check any of the Big 5 school websites for details.

Also, Delaware coach Tina Martin is conducting a free clinic for girls in grades three through eight on Oct. 22 at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark – not the Newark where the Prudential Center is.

Check the Delaware website for those details.

Incidentally, looking at some exhibition games’ listed, two local Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference school – Holy Family and Philadelphia U have some interesting events.

Holy Family will travel to Maryland on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. while on the same Sunday Philadelphia U will play at Drexel at 2 p.m. Since both games are officially listed, the Guru believes the public can attend those games unless told otherwise.

WNBA Expansion

When the surprise departures at the college level of Hall of Famers Debbie Ryan at Virginia and Van Chancellor at LSU occured last season, the Guru mentioned in a conversation that one needs to keep track of executive hires such as athletic directors at schools to get a clue at reading tea leaves for future personnel moves.

That said, in terms of reading tea leaves, perhaps the Bay Area may have gotten a break in terms of a future WNBA franchise with the NBA Golden State Warriors hiring Rick Welts to oversee their business operations.

More important, he had been with the NBA Phoenix Suns but before that he worked in the business sector of the NBA and as such was a major player when it came to rolling out the WNBA and getting all the early hype and marketing done, that, in part, also played a role in burying the ABL.

Since Welts can be considered WNBA-friendly, perhaps the hire down the road may be a good omen for a team landing in the Bay Area market, considering his influence.

That’s it until the Guru slips back to the WNBA world unless some college news is called for.

See you at the next sunrise or earlier, though short breaking news will be posted on the Guru’s twitter account @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel


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