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.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: All-League Also-Rans Show Depth of Talent

(Guru’s note: There is a post below this about an award Dawn Staley is receiving next week in Chicago. If you are reading this in melgreenberg.com, click mel's blog on the left and the link will take you to the archive in blogspot.).

By Mel Greenberg

Debate is a good thing within in the WNBA faithful, especially when it comes to discussing this season’s All-League first and second teams, which were announced Tuesday.

It shows just how deep the talent has gotten considering the worthy people that didn’t make it. And that means that perhaps as the Guru mentioned going into the vote by the WNBA-media appointed panel, perhaps the time has come to add a third team to the postseason mix.

Remember, the All-Stars, which are produced by the fans in terms of starters and then filled in for the rest of the rosters by the league’s 12 coaches, produce an overall group of 22 players with 11 each on a side.

The WNBA postseason group produces just 10 players combined with a first and second starting five. Also, one is directed to voting by position, which can create confusion in terms of those listed in swing situations such as G-F and C-F.

Three persons who were on last year’s squads did not repeat this time – Seattle center Lauren Jackson, the three-time MVP, who was omitted because of the number of games she missed with the hip injury.

Los Angeles Sparks center Candace Parker, who seemed destined to make it this time after missing all but 10 games last season, also suffered by the number she missed with her knee injure before returning in late August, as did Jackson.

The other person who did not repeat was Washington Mystics forward-center Crystal Langhorne, the most consistent player on the WNBA forlorn team in the nation’s capital who made the second team a year ago.

Here are two reasons why that probably happened. First, the forward-center designation creates some confusion, especially in terms of slotting for position and the competition for all the spots was extremely tough.

The second, here’s another thing to lay at the feet of Washington’s situation, without regard to the unfortunate circumstance of two key injuries in terms of former Duke stars Monique Currie, who didn’t return until near the very end of the Mystics’ 6-28 performance, and Alana Beard, who didn’t play at all for the second straight season.

A year ago, Langhorne stood out because the Mystics had their best season in history with a 22-win performance, a tie for first in the East and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

This time, not going to mention the record twice, but the result was that that kind of finish can be a deal-breaker rather than a deal-maker in victimizing a worthy candidate.

Indiana Fever forward Katie Douglas, a 2010 second team selectee, also did not repeat, which really shows how tough the competition was since the Fever finished tied for first with the No. 1 seed in the East.

The votes, which you may have been by now, were:

First Team
Tamika Catchings, F, (also the MVP in a separate vote), Indiana Fever, 187
Angel McCaughtry, F, Atlanta Dream, 172
Tina Charles, C, Connecticut Sun, 166
Diana Taurasi, G, Phoenix Mercury, 168
Lindsay Whalen, G, Minnesota Lynx, 164

Second Team

Penny Taylor, F, Phoenix Mercury, 82
Seimone Augustus, F, Minnesota Lynx, 69
Sylvia Fowles, C, Chicago Sky, 150
Sue Bird, G, Seattle Storm, 123
Cappie Pondexter, G, New York Liberty, 94

Incidentally, Big East Alumni McCaughtry (Louisville), Charles (UConn), Taurasi (UConn), Bird (UConn), and Pondexter (Rutgers) comprised 50 percent of the two-team total. The SEC was next Catchings (Tennessee), Augustus (LSU), Fowles (LSU) at three, followed by Big Ten in Whalen (Minnesota) and Australia (Taylor) at one each.

The fall off in points for the forward slots on the second team illustrate just how competitive the voting was for those spots.

A year ago, Jackson, voted the MVP, was on the first team, along with Pondexter (NY tied for first in the East) and Fowles, while Catchings and Taurasi are first team repeaters.

Langhorne, as mentioned, was on the second team, along with McCoughtry and Charles, who each moved up a rank, Bird, who repeated, and Indiana’s Katie Douglas.

The Guru’s ballot went like this: First team: Catchings, Whalen, Taurasi, Charles, and Rebekkah Brunson of Minnesota, who did not make either squad. The nod to Brunson based on her work in the paint on a team that ran away from everyone else.

His second team picks were Phoenix’s Candice Dupree (and not because of the Temple connection), McCoughtry, Fowles, Pondexter and Bird.

Now, here’s who did not make it on the official list that were all All-League worthy and actually who you could draft for a franchise and contend for a title.

Forwards: Brunson and Langhorne, as mentioned; San Antonio’ Silver Stars’ Sophia Young and rookie Danielle Adams (who missed time), Seattle Storm’s Swin Cash, Minnesota’s Maya Moore (the rookie of the year), Connecticut Sun’s Asjha Jones, Tulsa Shock’s Tiffany Jackson and New York Liberty’s Plenette Pierson. (One can also consider Sancho Lyttle on Atlanta, who did miss some time, though).

Centers: Due to shortage; New York’s Kia Vaughn (voted most improved) and Atlanta’s Erika de Souza. – More so for third time consideration.
Guards: San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Connecticut’s Renee Montgomery, Indiana’s Douglas, Washington’s Matee Ajavon, and Chicago’s Epiphanny Prince.

That’s it for now.

-- Mel


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