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.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Guru's Musings: Temple and UConn Women Headed For Big East "Family" Rivalry?

(Guru’s Note: A post with WNBA musings is below this one in blogspot. If you are in melgreenberg.com then click Mel’s Blog on the left side to go to the full archive.)

By Mel Greenberg

If the presidents of Big East schools vote to offer Temple full membership Sunday when they meet and the Owls were the accept the invitation there would be dramatic changes to the competitive nature of the women’s basketball program under Tonya Cardoza, who has entered her fourth season on North Broad St.

First, there would be annual reunions with Cardoza’s former boss, Geno Auriemma, under whom she served for 14 years as an assistant coach with the nationally powerful University of Connecticut Huskies.

Since leaving to succeed Dawn Staley at Temple, Cardoza’s Owls and UConn met once in 2010 when the Owls were wiped out in the second round of the NCAA tournament by the Huskies who were on the way to a second straight unbeaten national title.

The niceties ended before tipoff with a warm pregame handshake and hug to Cardoza from Auriemma, who, if he wanted to show more compassion than he did clearing the bench, would have had to recruit instant walk-ons from the Old Dominion campus in Norfolk, Va., to replace the bottom of his roster.

That is not to say Cardoza hasn’t kept Staley’s legacy alive because her first three seasons actually better Staley’s mark in many areas short of winning Atlantic 10 tournament titles.

Cardoza would also have a reunion with Cincinnati’s Jamelle Elliott, another former UConn star who was on Auriemma’s staff with her for 11 seasons.

She didn’t want to comment on the record, Saturday, because she had no familiarity with any potential move by Temple to the Big East.

Cardoza did allow two quick thoughts, one was hoping it was still feasible to maintain the Big Five relationships, which appears to be likely, and whether UConn would still be in the Big East by the time Temple became a member. The same goes for Rutgers, who has been a major nonconference rival in recent seasons.

That last thought was based on ongoing talk about the Huskies and Scarlet Knights seeking to move to the Atlanta Coast Conference, which could happen, but maybe not any time soon.

Depending on if, and, when, by the time Temple would be in the conference, Pittsburgh and Syracuse would be gone while, as of now, TCU would be in the mix, pending other conferences trying to claim the Horned Frogs as one of their own.

In 2013, with the addition as of now of TCU, teams in the Big East will play an 18-game conference schedule with most of them part of a 14-game single round-robin in season and two sets of home-and-home contests.

Conceivably from a regional standpoint, Temple could potentially meet Rutgers and/or Villanova in the home-and-home set up. The Owls already play both – Rutgers, as previously mentioned as part of a competition nonconference schedule which also includes Villanova as part of the Big Five City Series round robin.

Overall, the current in-season NCAA-mandated number of games, not counting special preseason situations such as the WNIT, is allowed at 29.

So one could say if the Big Five is in tact and the Atlantic 10 doesn’t go into major angst over Temple bolting, the Owls would be looking from a counting point at 21 games for starters – the 18 Big East games, of which Villanova would be part of last one, and three other Big Five games against St. Joseph’s, Penn, and La Salle.

The second game against St. Joseph’s, which now exists per the Atlantic 10 competition, would go out the window.

Temple would also jettison four annual nonconference opponents from the Mid-American Conference, which are on the schedule per a requirement under the agreement that brought the football team into the MAC.

Thus Cardoza’s bunch would still have eight other games to complete the schedule and have to ability to continue to put the recent ongoing likes of Duke from the ACC and others such as Southeastern Conference and Pac-12 members on the schedule to build a statistical profile for the NCAA tournament.

Conceivably, teams in the A-10 beyond the Big Five crowd such as Duquesne, Dayton, Charlotte or Richmond, could still remain Temple opponents on game day.

But Cardoza may also need to go a little less heavy in that area given the powerful numbers that are produced out of the Big East in terms of evaluation by the selection committee for the NCAA tournament.

For example, five Atlantic 10 teams had RPIs in Jerry Palm’s annual simulation of the NCAA ranking that were 207, which was La Salle, or worse.

George Washington was at 226 after falling on hard times in recent seasons but if one wanted to look at a trade off Duquesne, which used to have those kind of RPIs, was at 52 under the renaissance since former Penn State star Susie McConnell-Serio took over the program in her native Pittsburgh.

By comparison, in the Big East, which also has more members than the Atlantic 10, the worst RPI was owned by Seton Hall at 195.

Villanova, despite the recent struggles, was at 114, which was helped because of the nature of Big East strength.

Using a ballpark comparison under an extremely unscientific system other than to show a profile comparison of a chunk of required games, based on last season’s final statistics by Palm, the average RPI of Temple’s non-Big Five rivals in the Atlantic 10 and four MAC teams, using this coming season’s MAC slate off the annual rotation, is 151, derived from 14 teams, not counting rematches in nonconference tournaments.

The average from 13 teams that would be derived if Temple was already a Big East member is 63, an improvement of 88 spots if the Owls made the move under this, again, unscientific, comparison of the slice between two situations.

In counting Big East totals in the Temple projection, Pittsburgh and Syracuse were subtracted because they’d be gone and TCU, because they’re not in place yet, and Villanova because the Wildcats are an existing opponent of the Owls.

Remember, the real individual numbers would be different for the comparison if an actual simulation were run but it seems the comparison itself might not be much different in terms of where Temple would fall in each of the two scenarios.

This exercise, off much different numbers, will be repeated in the future if Temple makes the move, though for those who may miss this post Sunday morning, it may be appended to a reaction post to be written if events come to pass.

And if they don’t, well, you already would the affect would have been, though understand the Temple women are positioned either way to keep extending their string of NCAA appearances in the seasons ahead.

-- Mel

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