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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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guru Report: Princeton Battling Ivy Foes And Computer Rankings

(There is a post above this on Saturday's action)

By Mel Greenberg

PRINCETON, N.J. - Ivy opponents are causing Princeton more problems when it comes to computer rankings than they are in the actual games though Cornell made things interesting for a half here Friday night before the Tigers put away the Big Red 64-35 in Jadwin Gym.

Kate Miller had 14 points, Megan Bowen scored 10 and Rasheed Niveen had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the two-time defending Ivy champions (12-4, 2-0 Ivy).

Clare Fitzpatrick scored 12 for Cornell (5-9, 0-1).

The Big Red stayed with the Tigers for the first 20 minutes, trailing just 25-17 at the break. Then Princeton roared from the locker room with a 13-0 run and stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way.

“The first half against the zone, I thought we knew were the gaps were but we weren’t getting to the gaps the way we wanted to get to the gaps,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “So at halftime we found the gaps and these are the ways we want to get our bodies there and we did a much better the second half.”

Cornell coach Dayna Smith, a former Penn assistant when Boston U’s Kelly Greenberg, a La Salle grad, was in charge the front end of the last decade, spoke of the game from here viewpoint.

“I thought we did a nice job of protecting the gaps in the first half,” Smith said. “Second half, they spread us out too much – we were undisciplined in our zone. But, yeah, they’re very, very talented so it’s hard to keep them down.

“This team is bigger and stronger than any team in the league at every position,” Smith said. “They have size, they have strength, and skill set in each position. – Very unique.”

It’s enough to make one wonder after a rigorous non-conference schedule and the long break ahead followed by a group of opponents who will be heavy underdogs in each Princeton games, how the Tigers will maintain their mojo.”

“This group is not complacent – so that was not a complacent effort,” Banghart said of Friday’s game. “It wanted it so bad they were getting where they needed to go but they weren’t getting there the right way – we weren’t playing together and this is a team that needs to play together.”

When the question came up as to what challenges might exist from Princeton’s Ivy rivals, Banghart said, “Anyone watching this game might think, `Boy they’re a beatable team.’ We have to be sharper.

“Fortunately, we have depth, we have great effort, we had more offensive rebounds (26) than they had total (55), but I still expect better play from our starters and I think we’ll get it Sunday.”

That’s when Columbia will visit before Princeton goes on a three-week break for finals before resuming the Ivy schedule the rest of the way.

“There are some good teams in our league. Our league RPI is 11 out of 31. Last year it was 28 out of 31. We have to make them look bad and we’re going to try.”

One reason is Princeton alone is lifting the league level with its amazing designation at 14 RPI and 10 strength of schedule.

It was even higher before being dragged down by Cornell (273) followed Sunday by Columbia (335).

Saturday's daily simulation looked like this in the Ivy section in terms of RPI and Strength of Schedule:

Princeton 14 10

Yale 93 136

Harvard 143 215

Penn 165 197

Brown 215 319

Dartmouth 253 85

Cornell 273 305

Columbia 335 304

If Princeton runs the table, the Tigers could get the highest seed ever given an Ivy team in the NCAA tournament because many concede that on a blind sampling of sorts they could be mistaken as one of the bonafide BCS bunch.

The Tigers are taking a bigger hit in the computer ranking because they had been as high as 11 before this weekend’s set of games.

If such a thing were possible, the Ivies should declare Princeton the champion, put the number of games needed to sweep the league into the Tigers’ win column, freeze their RPI and then let the rest of the league play for the WNIT berth, which is what is going to inherently happen anyway.

One just hopes when the NCAA committee meets to set up the 64-team draw the infamous blind test of teams on their own merits and not where they come from will be used to give the Tigers their due.

-- Mel

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