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, October 31, 2011

Guru's College Report: A Rant About BCS Terminology in Women's Basketball

By Mel Greenberg

As Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberg pointed out on Saturday when the preseason poll was released, this is the first time that no one from a non-BCS school-- the so-called mid-major conferences -- was among the list of 25 teams determined by a national panel of media members or, considering the BCS roots began in the early 1990s, the coaches who made up the board through the end of the 1994 season.

While it is an interesting statistic, the comparison began in recent seasons or in the last decade to go back more because of the so-called money crowd that make up the BCS and the perceived non-money group that make up the mid-majors in terms of resources.

But in the women's game, sometimes the comparison gets a little carried away.

On one hand, last year a slew of mid-majors entered the poll, in part, because traditional teams in terms of poll history, such as Rutgers, which is back in the preseason vote, was in a down cycle. Penn State, which had only a few appearances the last two years, is back in the preseason at No. 12 after having been a longtime AP resident through the early part of the last decade.

But in some cases there are teams in the mid-majors who stand up on their own merits without regard to where they play their conference competition. There was a time when the Atlantic 10 was considered more powerful than the Big East before Rutgers and Penn State went elsewhere.

Maybe the A-10 takes a hit because with George Washington having dropped from lofty heights, besides the exits of Penn State and Rutgers, as well as West Virginia and even Virginia Tech, there has been some unfamiliarity.

The Colonial Athletic Association is another league with numerous members who can compete with BCS teams.

When the Guru first looked back inside the database, there was a case of one school keeping the Mid-Major streak alive in early 2004-05 when DePaul was ranked, but at the time as a member of Conference USA.

The Blue Demons for the most part have been consistently good under longtime coach Doug Bruno before they entered the Big East and afterwards.

For that matter, when one looks at teams on their own merits Princeton has excelled far beyond the normal regard of an Ivy school when it comes to playing teams outside the league. The Tigers have come under consideration for a ranking the last two seasons because of what they have done versus their out-of-league opponents.

When the football lingo began in the early 1990s, no one was using the BCS or mid-major comparison in women's basketball because schools like Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion were two of the dominant powers of the poll who went out and got after it well beyond the different conferences in which they held memberships.

Take Texas, for example. Today the Longhorns and Big-12 are synonymous in terms of identity. But prior to the formation of the Big 12 when Texas was part of the Southwest Conference, until Marsha Sharp developed Texas Tech as a challenger, one could look back now and say at the time that the SWC was more mid-major than major.

Even the Big East was a one or two-team league in terms of marquee value in the women's game until the past changes in membership.

Xavier was ranked because of who they were and who they played beyond anything to do or not do with their Atlantic 10 affiliation. The Musketeers, incidentally, having finished fifth, has taken one of the all-time between season plunges in not making the poll after 46 weeks.

But that was expected with four starters lost, including two WNBA first round picks in Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris, and coach Kevin McGuff's departure to coach at Washington in the newly-named and expanded Pac-12.

"Those were great players but at Xavier the tradition will continue," said Amy Waugh during last week's A-10 teleconference with the league's coaches. Waugh moved up from being an assistant.

In the early games-to-watch list, circle a visit from Penn State to Delaware, where the CAA-favored Blue Hens and junior star Elena Delle Donne will be waiting to take their shot at national notoriety. A month later they will get another chance playing in Maryland's tournament.

Of course, Marist out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference could work its way back as could Gonzaga out of the West Coast Conference.

Now with this history lesson ended, class dismissed and go on to the next new post in either direction.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For midmajor games to look forward to, don't miss either of the (2) U of Toledo vs Green Bay games. My hope is this becomes a yearly rivalry of gritty, "leave it all on the floor" teams.

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