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.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guru's NCAA Musings: Most Top 16 Teams In Final AP Poll Survive First Two Rounds

By Mel Greenberg

First, the Guru interrupts his blog for this very important message – Just downloaded Angry Birds Space on the iPad, for $2.99. Being up all night at time does have its advantage.

Meanwhile, the Guru was not intending to blog until after the Syracuse-Temple game in the Sweet 16 round of the WNIT Thursday night, which will be be played at the Owls’ McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m.

Villanova, on the road, will tip at 9 p.m., EST, at Colorado in Boulder.

But since traffic to this site has spiked the last two days, apparently caused by either people googling information on Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, or people looking for commentary on the recently-opened vacancy at Texas, he decided to fill the space, but not on either topic, since there is nothing new to be said at the moment.

On second thought, because Delle Donne has no more games left to play, she may want to wear dark glasses during her free time in Denver at the Women’s Final Four, where she’ll likely be collecting several postseason awards.

Skylar Diggins of Stanford, Brittney Griner of Baylor and Nneka Omguwmike of Stanford are likely to still be busy with their teams in Denver, leaving Delle Donne to be the one of the consensus top four at the mercy of autograph hounds and, if UConn advances, well, you all know who.

Actually, considering that Delle Donne is 6-5, forget the dark glasses. It might be a good idea to hang with Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan, who once was an all-everything as a 6-8 center on the Olympics and at Old Dominion. But since the Delaware coaches will be on the scene for the WBCA convention, she should have her own posse, depending how many family and friends make the trip.

Incidentally, depending on who is sighted, don’t take any WNBA coaches exchanging pleasantries with Delle Donne as a sign they expect their own teams to miss the playoffs this summer, which would then put them in next year’s draft lottery when Delle Donne will be high on the list of coveted prospects.

Sweet 16 And Rankings

When we get to this phase of the tournament, it is always fun to see who survived among the teams that were in the first 16 spots in the final AP Poll.

The count shows 11 of the 16 made it, although since a couple teams were seeded to collide at some point in the early rounds, perfect attendance would not have been possible.

An aside to a Guru friend known as Volleyball Bonnie. It looks like the basketball crowd in their bracket didn’t get hit with the regionalization that caused great controversy when the NCAA draw for the fall sport was released prior to that national tournament.

Anyhow the teams that didn’t make it were, and we’re using the poll numbers not the NCAA seeds, No. 7 Delaware, which was upset by unranked Kansas; No. 8 Miami, which lost to unranked Gonzaga, though the Zags were ranked during the season; No. 10 Wis.-Green Bay, which lost to No. 12 Kentucky, which is actually the higher NCAA seed in that pairing, No. 13 Purdue, which lost at home to No. 25 South Carolina, which was also the lower seed, but by just one spot, and No. 16 Ohio State, which fell to unranked Florida, which was a seed lower.

But the Buckeyes would not likely have gotten past the second round considering the opponent would have been top-ranked Baylor.

The surviving poll teams within the four regions are grouped as follows:

In the Kingston (R.I.) semifinals, No. 11 Penn State will meet No. 3 Connecticut; unranked Gonzaga meets No. 12 Kentucky.

In the Raleigh (N.C.) semifinals, No. 4 Notre Dame meets No. 21 St. Bonaventure; No. 5 Maryland meets No. 22 Texas A&M.

In the Des Moines (Iowa) semifinals, No. 1 Baylor meets No. 15 Georgia Tech; No. 9 Tennessee meets unranked Kansas.

In the Fresno (Calif.) semifinals, No. 2 Stanford meets No. 25 South Carolina and No. 6 Duke meets No. 14 St. John’s.

If the chalk holds, the first six should make the Elite Eight as should No. 9 Tennessee, the next highest surviving ranked team; and No. 12 Kentucky. No. 11 Penn State is in a big underdog situation facing UConn.

Teams in the poll that went down early, though some by matchup where doomed: No. 17 Georgetown lost in the second round to No. 15 Georgia Tech; No. 17 Nebraska lost in the first round to unranked Kansas; No. 19 Louisville lost in the second round to No. 5 Maryland; No. 20 Georgia lost to unranked Marist in the first round; No. 23 Rutgers lost in the first round to unranked Gonzaga, which made the Scarlet Knights the only Big East team to lose an opener in either the NCAA or WNIT; No. 24 Princeton lost to unranked Kansas State, though the Wildcats would have been a slight favorite in some circles.

Huskies and Lady Lions To Continue To Dance

Besides Sunday’s matchup UConn announced Wednesday it will play Penn State home and home the next two seasons beginning in Connecticut this winter.

Make of it what you will, if anything, if the Guru’s beliefs are correct, the two-year home-and-home between Delaware and Penn State is concluded, so one could say the Lady Lions replaced the Blue Hens with UConn.

The Guru is ready to stand correct if his Newark followers claim that Penn State, whom Delaware beat at home early in the season, is still on the schedule.

Ironically, years ago when UConn was just getting its act together Huskies coach Geno Auriemma had trouble getting former Penn State coach Rene Portland to agree to a schedule, though both have common Philadelphia basketball roots.

Years later the shoe of complaints went to the other foot when the Huskies became a national power, though the two teams met as part of a special doubleheader in the winter of 1999-2000 at Disney World in Florida and then in the national semifinals that season when the Women’s Final Four was held in Philadelphia at what is now called the Wells Fargo Center.

They also met in Hartford in 2004 in the Regional Final, the last time Penn State advanced to the Sweet 16, and also at a neutral site event in Dec. 2008 when UConn was marching on the first of two back-to-back unbeaten seasons that helped establish a new NCAA win streak record at 90, breaking the 88-game run held by the UCLA men’s team.

USBWA Awards

The United States Basketball Writers Association will begin announcing its women’s awards over the next week, beginning in a few days. The list includes the 10-member All-America team, coach of the year, player of the year, and freshman of the year.

Look for a special announcement ahead of the player of the year announcing a famous women’s star of the past to be associated by name with the player of the year award in a scaled down, for now, version of the Oscar Robertson trophy that goes to the men’s top player.

Though coach of the year honors had been given out previously on the women’s side, the All-America balloting began in 1996-97. UConn has had nine different individuals selected through last season, some of which were multiple winners. Maya Moore is the only four-time honoree. Duke and Stanford have each had six different winners prior to this season’s announcement.

The awards will be presented in Denver, the Tuesday morning of the championship at the annual USBWA morning nibble – how’s that for honesty – but there’s no charge on this side of the fence unlike the elaborate affair at the men’s final four.

The event is open to all credentialed media at the women’s final four but there is room for other interested parties so give the Guru an email heads up if you wish to attend and are not covering the event.

Additionally, it’s already been announced that Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has won the USBWA most courageous award on the women’s side. Details of the presentation are on hold while the Lady Vols remain still in play in the Sweet 16 with a chance to advance to Denver.

There will be a special announcement to be made in Denver associated with the annual award Summitt is being given.

OK. Now that you have had some new material to read, it’s time to take care of some non-basketball affairs of state prior to Temple’s WNIT game.

Tweeting from the game, as well as news when warranted, originates from @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel

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