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, March 07, 2012

Guru's College Report: Big East To Reunite UConn's Auriemma and Temple's Cardoza?

(Guru’s note: Over at fullcourt.com, the Guru has a feature/news story on Princeton, which finished its season Tuesday night, keep trying if it isn’t posted yet depending how fast you are reading this, and Acacia O’Connor has a preview of the Big 12 tournament and coverage of the Big East title game.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Though two Atlantic Ten women’s basketball coaches went by the boards after elimination from the conference tournament over the weekend here at St. Joseph’s in George Washington’s Mike Bozeman and St. Louis Shimmy Gray-Miller, it now appears a team will also be departing for another conference.

Reports are that the Big East presidents are set to invite Temple for football immediately and it is unclear but it appears the Owls are also on track to join for all sports, but whether it is next season or one more remains to be seen.

The move, if for all sports, would create a reunion in women’s basketball for Temple coach Tonya Cardoza with her former boss Geno Auriemma at Connecticut, depending if and how fast the Huskies might decide to run off to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It also would mean another reunion with her good friend and former Huskies staff co-assistant Jamelle Elliott, who is now with Cincinnati, and, of course, because of football, depending whether the Bearcats might run someplace else.

Cardoza is not commenting for the record, yet, waiting to see what exactly transpires since the Temple administration does not seem to be talking to the coaches, except, perhaps, in football.

But should Temple go all in, the Guru has already pointed out how the Owl women would see their RPI take a major jump in terms of a profile for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

As for retaining A-10 rivals, the guess is La Salle and St. Joseph’s would remain on the schedule as a nonconference setup because of the local Big Five ties, but Temple would not be playing the Hawks home-and-home in the same season anymore.

It is possible, given the future size of the Big East, that if divisional play were created, Temple might see Rutgers and Villanova in home-and-home arrangements but this is speculation just from the Guru without having had much conversation with the right people.

Temple might even pop up a notch or two in recruiting, given the prestige of the Big East. If there’s any room, schedule-wise, and perhaps since the nonconference slate does not to be as high-profile as it is given what’s inside the Big East, it is interesting to see besides the two local schools, which A-10 schools would remain on the Owls’ schedule.

Duquesne could be one possibility since Suzie McConnell-Serio has developed the Dukes to no longer be an RPI-killer for those NCAA aspirants and it would be an in-state thing. Depending on who George Washington hires and if the Colonials restore their luster, a trip to Washington is not expensive.

Though St. Bonaventure has reached new heights and Dayton would also be a programs of value, as might Richmond, travel considerations might preclude playing that trio, though they do have value out of the A-10.

Given Temple’s resurgence when Dawn Staley became coach in 2000-01 and continuing with Cardoza beginning in 2008-09, here are the Owls’ records against each Atlantic 10 opponent in that span through this season.

Temple vs. Charlotte: 7-1.

Temple vs. Dayton: 12-6.

Temple vs. Duquesne: 15-1

Temple vs. Fordham: 17-0

Temple vs. George Washington: 9-9

Temple vs. La Salle: 14-0

Temple vs. Massachusetts: 14-3

Temple vs. Rhode Island: 13-2

Temple vs. Richmond: 12-2

Temple vs. St. Bonaventure: 16-4

Temple vs. St. Joseph’s: 23-4

Temple vs. Saint Louis: 7-0

Temple vs. Xavier: 7-8

Winning Rec.Vs. A-10 Teams: 11-1-1 (-1 .500 w Xavier; tied with GW 9-9)

Winning Conf. Percentage: 166-40. .806

NCAA Outlook

There was a chat with the women’s NCAA tournament committee chair on the internet Tuesday for both media and fans on a day that used to be a private media teleconference with the chair to get insights to prepare for the Selection Monday announcement.

Greg Christopher, the AD at Bowling Green, heads up the 10-member group who will be in Indianapolis at NCAA headquarters this weekend.

Judging by the script – the Guru was on the way to Princeton and did not participate – there wasn’t anything veteran observers of the sport and tournament haven’t heard before.

Anyhow, though, the Guru made up for it with a little chat during the doubleheader with Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, who was the men’s chair several years ago when Drexel off a landmark season did not get selected for the field.

So, the Guru started the conversation, he’s chatted with Walters several times on visits to Tigers games this season, given Drexel’s situation at the moment, could they get in this time around as an at-large if he was still on the committee?

“I couldn’t tell you,” Walters said. “I haven’t been really following all of them that close.”

Walters did allude, though he wasn’t at the game, to a key call against Princeton back in December – the Guru remembers because he covered it – that turned the game in Drexel’s direction in the last minute and the Dragons kept going from there.

As for the RPI, Walters said, “They should throw the RPI out and use the Sagarin Ratings because they are more accurante.

“The RPI is not a ranking index, it is a winning index. The home-court components need to be carried all the way through.”

Penn Wraps Up

As noted, the Guru has a story on Princeton at fullcourt.com off of Tuesday night’s Ivy finale hosting Penn.

But being the Quakers are local, here’s the Penn side of things as the team in Mike McLaughlin’s third season finished with a 79-42 loss to the Tigers and an overall 13-15 record and 6-8 in the Ivies.

Princeton was 24-4 and 14-0 in the league for the second time in three seasons going unbeaten and 41-1 overall in Ivy games the last three. The junior and senior class are the only groups to have two unbeaten seasons in their Ivy careers.

The Tigers are a league best-ever 74-12 to make their mark as the all-time era group for women in the Ivies.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron had 18 points, including 10-for-10 from the line, to win the league scoring title for the second straight season after being the first freshman to do so in 2010-11.

She edged Princeton junior star Niveen Rasheed, who had 10 points.

Jess Knapp, the senior who is playing with an ACL suffered in late December, went down during the game but returned a little later and in the spirit of harmony McLaughlin needed a little help from Princeton coach Courtney Banghart near the end so Knapp could make her final exit from the game as a senior.

“I was out of timeouts and thought the game might go the rest of the way without an opportunity for another one to occur so I asked Courtney if she had any left over and she did and she took the timeout for us to Jess could leave,” McLaughlin laughed.

“I owe her big time. She’s a part of Jess’s career exit now.”

In recapping the season, McLaughlin said, “We definitely took a step. We had a great weekend (road sweep at Brown and Yale) and went from 11 wins to 13 and two years ago we walked off this court with two wins and we have 13 now.

“We’re heading in the right direction – we have a long way to go – Princeton, the team everyone’s not even trying to catch, but just to get close to, we’re a long way where we have to be to get with them.

“But I’m proud of our group. We showed up with resilience all year. Jess Knapp, coming off a knee injury and wanting to play just show’s what our program is about – it’s a lot of pride.

“She’s special. … An Ivy League education. She wanted to walk off the court that last time by herself. She did it on her terms. She did it the right way. I have so much respect for Jess and how she sacrificed for herself and our program it’s remarkable.

“Courtney had the play of the day being part of Jess’ ability to walk off the court today.”

As for finishing unbeaten in the league, Banghart said, ““When (the players) have the chance to step away and realize they had the consistency to go undefeated on the road, at home, through (final) exams and tough times, it shows our depth, hunger and competitiveness.

“It shows their commitment to excellence and how they go about their work. I can’t yet grasp how cool it is to go undefeated, but we certainly are going to enjoy it,” Banghart added.

The Guru will be back later today Wednesday as news breaks and keep an eye on his twitter account @womhoopsguru

-- Mel

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