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 31, 2012

Guru's College Musings: Delaware and Delle Donne Still Making Their Own Histories

By Mel Greenberg

A year ago going into the season, Delaware was below the radar by a short distance in terms of the Associated Press Poll, and, for that matter, was also barely blipping on the radar of the USA Today/ESPN Women's Coaches Poll.

Similarly was the situation for then-Blue Hens junior Elena Delle Donne, who would have been the nation's leading scorer in 2010-11 had not she missed 12 games suffering from Lyme's Disease before its determination by doctors finally allowed her to go on the road to recovery.

And once she hit the trail, though she still wasn't strong enough to carry Delaware to one last upset in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, once the formal season was over, she worked herself into shape to try out for the USA World University Team, competing among the best of the collegians below the level of the WNBA/Olympic crowd.

She made the squad, became the offensive and defensive statistical leader on the Gold Medalists and returned to school where she carried both herself and Delaware into national prominence, this time winning the national scoring title in Division I.

The key early in the season was an upset of Penn State at home and then getting lucky on what was a decent schedule at the outset but one that rocketed Delaware to the top in the nonconference RPI going into January because the Blue Hens' opponents all had dynamite records and many played each other to emhance the value.

And the CAA must have been better than the regard the Mid-Major usually gets because once Delaware got into conference play, the Blue Hens' RPI never fell out of the Top 15, fueling Tina Martin's bunch to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Penn State win also earned Delaware its first-ever national ranking and the Blue Hens' winning everything but a competitive loss at Maryland enabled them to finish seventh in the final AP vote taken before the NCAAs opened play.

Princeton, by comparison, also had a very strong nonconference schedule, but once the Ivy League kicked in, the Tigers dropped into the 30s, still not bad for an Ivy power winning three straight titles and actually getting into the final AP Poll, which was a first-ever for a league member.

Many believed that if Princeton were an Ivy runnerup, the Tigers were still tournament worthy as an at-large bid, though whether the committee would have the guts to offer the invite is another discussion.

Perhaps they might have considering Princeton landed the highest seed ever for an Ivy squad, though it would have collided with UConn had not Kansas State ousted the Tigers in the first round in Bridgeport.

Meanwhile, this time around, Delaware and Delle Donne are getting elite status approaching the opening gate with the Blue Hens picked 11th by the AP media voters and 10th by the coaches, their first ranking ever in preseason balloting.

In Delle Donne's situation, AP national writer Doug Feinberg, who was stranded in Chicago because of Hurricane Sandy and unable to return to the New York City home office, reported by remote Tuesday that in presenting the AP preseason All-American women's five, Delle Donne joined Baylor's Brittney Griner and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins in unanimously collecting all 40 votes from the media panel.

Delle Donne, however, is the first from a non-BCS conference to make the AP team since Amanda Wilson did likewise in 1998-99.

The AP preseason squad began in 1995-96, which is why you won't see Nancy Lieberman, Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Lynette Woodard or Carol Blazejowski's names on historical lists.

Technically, one could say Delle Donne is the first from a Mid-Major per se because back in 1998-99 no one was using BCS terminology, which is derived from the Bowl Championship Series in football.

The six power conferences usually monopolizing the BCS are Pac-12, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences.

No one was using Mid-Major terminology, either.

But when more media got into covering the sport before less media began covering the sport -- Feinberg has 12 new voters this season among the 40, which one can attribute to downsizing in the newspaper industry -- the BCS terminology came into play as a reference point.

In the days of pre-2000, the women's world was its own league, and Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech were at the top in polls and history and players and awards along with the Tennessees of the world.

Heck, UConn was still a baby in the woods back then, even though the Huskies had one NCAA title in 1995 before the 2000 triumph in Philadelphia flipped the switch.

The AP Poll history shows performance numbers that in some ways is a reflection of the influence of Title IX and the coming of the BCS crowd, which had the dollars to spend when they wanted to over-run existing Mid-Major types.

DePaul becomes a interesting specimen in this laboratory discussion because before the first wave of mass conference movement the Blue Demons were a power in an amalgamation of conference names through Conference USA, their last affiliation prior to joining the Big East.

Under veteran coach Doug Bruno, an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma on the USA Gold Medalists in London last summer, you didn't tell DePaul by its affiliation, you noted his bunch by their performance.

But the Big East brand did wonders for DePaul's status in the women's game as it did for Notre Dame, which had competed in similar leagues but had gained national recognition starting in the early 1990s when the Irish upset Louisiana Tech at Muffet McGraw's alma mater St. Joseph's in Philadelphia and earned their first ranking.

Actually, schools branded with the Mid-Major name, or sub Mid-Major, have done well in terms of polling in recent seasons. Xavier out of the Atlantic Ten, shot up into the Top Five in AP voting before being hit by graduation and the ensuing departure of coach Kevin McGuff for Washington.

St. Bonaventure in the A-10 came out of nowhere last season to eventually fill a spot Xavier held in terms of being ranked.

Wisconsin-Green Bay and Gonzaga have also been recent on-and-off consistent residents in the ranking with their former stars gaining national recognition.

But it is what it is today. However, one believes this Delaware team with Delle Donne would have been welcomed to the ranking and All-American party in any era.

But to see how times have changed, a look at the teams, who are called Mid-Major today, and how they stand in terms of total AP rankings through the start of Year No. 37, Louisiana Tech is still fourth because of a long run in the Top 5 and Top 10, Old Dominion is 18th, Long Beach, resulting from the Joan Bonvicini coaching era, is 23rd, Stephen F. Austin, mostly due to the late Sue Gunter, is 28th, Western Kentucky, which rose to power in the 1980s, is 30th, UNLV, off the late 1970s which were the first five seasons of the poll, is 44th, George Washington, resulting from the Joe McKeown era, is 45th, and Cheyney, dating back to the days of Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer's first coaching job in Division I, is 48th.

DePaul, by the way is 37th.

Louisiana Tech holds in preseason appearances at fourth but Old Dominion is 13th, while the others are close to their overall all-time numbers, though George Washington is actually 31st.

The next major shifts to come in terms of poll appearance rankings will be next season at the conference levels when teams with significant poll histories as Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech switch conferences, though the penthouse levels will be affected, also, especially when Notre Dame exits the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

That's it for now as the Guru continues his own adminstrative readiness for opening night Nov. 9.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Guru's College Report: Associated Press Preseason Poll Trivia

By Mel Greenberg

Well, the season has arrived at the ballot box with Saturday's release of the 37th Associated Press preseason poll, though action on the court won't officially begin until Nov. 9.

Doug Feinberg had tidbits in his wire story to accompany the poll but now that the Guru has spent the wee hours and deepening into daylight updating the database, there is lots more to add to the report since the internet has no limits.

Baylor continues last season's string, now being listed No. 1 for 20 straight weeks after going wire-to-wire last season with a 40-0 record on the way to the Bears' second NCAA title and first since 2005.

The change of 75 coaches at Division I schools, including twice at Mississippi since the season ends, is reflected in the poll because four coaches are making first-time appearances, though all their teams have been in the rankings in the past.

The Guru will have lots more to say about Tennessee below, but to continue here, Holly Warlick, who succeeded her boss Pat Summitt, now the Lady Vols coach emeritus, becomes the 30th woman to play for an AP ranked team and also coach one while she is also the seventh to do so at the same school.

If the email the Guru sent to himself comes through with the attachment, the list will be way down below.

Two of the four new coaches cannot achieve the same status as Warlick since they are males, though at some point the Guru may revisit the database and see which in the entire group played on AP ranked men's teams.

At St. John's, which is ranked 14th, Joe Tartamella moved up after Kim Barnes Arico left for Michigan, while Jim Littell was promoted almost a year ago and did an outstanding job healing Oklahoma State in the wake of the tragic death of head coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip last November.

The team went on to win the WNIT, beating James Madison.

Lindsay Gottlieb is in the poll for the first time as head coach of California, which she returned a year ago after Joanne Boyle left for Virginia. She had been the Bears' associate head coach in the past.

She played at Brown, which has never been ranked, though at the end of last season three-time champion Princeton became the first Ivy team to break into the AP Poll and while the Tigers are picked to win an unprecedented fourth straight trophy, just as a year ago they start out way back in the pack in the voting.

Overall 255 coaches have had teams in the poll, including five who were part of co-head coach tandems in terms of counting individuals.

Louisiana Tech's Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore, both Hall of Famers, had teams ranked in that capacity, but their listing in the database for this count is omitted because they also had rankings with the Lady Techsters when serving as coach in a single capacity.

Conference movement has made itself felt within the ranking representation, though next summer there will be seimsmic shifts in terms of teams with significant poll histories switching leagues.

At the moment, the count in the preseason vote shows the Big East and Southeastern Conference with five teams; the Big 12, Atlantic Coast, and Big Ten with four each; while the Pac-12 has two teams. Delaware, the only team making a first-ever preseason appearance, is also the lone mid-major and represents the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Blue Hens had a landmark season being led by Elena Delle Donne, the nation's top scorer who returns for one more go round. So does Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Baylor's Brittney Griner, who all are expected to be the top three picks in the next WNBA draft and will probably fill three of the five slots Tuesday when the AP preseason all-America team is announced.

Delaware will be challenged early in the Preseason NIT because on the Blue Hens' side of the bracket are North Carolina and Georgetown, which did not get ranked, but received votes. The Blue Hens would have to play both squads to move forward into the championship in the early season competition.

The conference count would be different had not movement occurred last summer because No. 17 West Virginia went from the Big East to Big 12, Texas A&M went from the Big 12 to the SEC, and if one went back to a year ago, Nebraska, which is in an AP preseason poll for only the second time, shifted from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.

If negotiations succeed, a year from now Notre Dame could make a quicker move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Oldtime rivals Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech are making shifts but while it has been a while since their poll appearances, they will be taking a heavy dose of numbers when they make their moves to new conferences.

It should be noted, though, in the Guru's database, there are two conference categories -- current affiliation and affiliation at the time of the ranking.

Loaded With Fame

The preseason poll has a nice collection of coaches in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. Ohio State's Jim Foster and Texas A&M's Gary Blair will be part of next summer's class, while Georgia's Andy Landers, Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, Tennessee's Holly Warlick, Baylor's Kim Mulkey, and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, are already inductees and Ariemma is also in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., as is VanDerveer.

Revolving Door

Besides Princeton (24), other schools in the final poll who failed to make a return appearance for now are St. Bonaventure (21), which made its debut; Wisconsin-Green Bay (10), Georgetown, (17) Rutgers (23), and South Carolina (25), which became the second school under legendary Dawn Staley to get ranked following her stint at Temple in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Replacing them are Oklahoma, California, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and DePaul.

Between seasons among the teams still continuing with AP appearances, there have major shifts in both directions. Purdue slipped from 13th to 21st, Miami, which graduated the duo of Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams to the WNBA, plunged from 8 to 24, Georgia Tech dropped from 15 to 22, but in the opposite direction, Cal came roaring back from nowhere to 13, Vanderbilt also emerged from unranked status and landed at 16, while Louisville jumped from 19 to 9 and Georgia made a smiliar 10 step jump from 20 to 10.

Odds And Ends

Nebraska's last preseason appearance was its first since the 1999-2000 season.

North Carolina's 10 straight streak of landing in the opening poll was stopped by the media panel of 40 voters, though, obviously, not all of them.

Penn State ties a high of landing No. 8, which occurred in 2003-04, the senior year of Kelly Mazzante, though the all-time preseason slot for the Lady Lions was third at the front end of 1991-92.

Texas, also among the others receving votes, matched the Tar Heels with a 10-year run ended in terms of the preseason list. Duke has been in 18 straight preseason votes and has been in the top 10 for 13 times in a row to start play. Kentucky's nod at sixth is an all-time high for the Wildcats in the initial balotting.

Stanford has been in 13 straight and 25 of 26 preseason polls, the streak marred in 1999-2000.

This is Connecticut's 23 straight appearance and the Huskies are the only team to be in the Top five in all 50 weeks since the decade counter flipped in the first week of January, 2010.

In terms of total apperances in the preseason polls, Tennessee missed just the preseason of the very first-ever poll, in November, 1976, and leads with 36 straight. Georgia is second with 31 appearances, Texas has 29, Louisiana Tech has 27, followed by Maryland and Stanford (25 each), Rutgers (24), Connecticut and Vanderbilt (23), LSU (22), North Carolina and North Carolina State, and Old Dominion (20), then Duke, Purdue and Virginia (19 each).

Tennessee has 34 top 10 appearances. Until Saturday's vote, in which they Lady Vols are 20th, the only other time out of the Top 10 was 14th at the start of the 1984-85 season.

Georgia and Stanford are next with 21 Top 10 preseason rankings, followed by Connecticut and Louisiana Tech (20), then Duke and Texas (14).

In terms of Top Five appearances Tennessee dominates with 29 preseason rankings, followed by Connecticut (16), which has gone ahead of Louisiana Tech (15), followed by Georgia and Stanford (12).

Tennessee was first 12 times and UConn eight and then there is a deep drop in the totals through the 11 other teams, though one of the seasons the Lady Vols and Lady Techsters were tied for No. 1 at the outset and played each other right off the bat, making it the only time No. 1 played No. 1.

Hard Times For Lady Vols

It is either a tough pill to swallow or a great challenge to accept in terms of Tennessee's No. 20, which, in a sense makes Warlick the frontrunner for the Maggie Dixon Division I rookie coach of the year at the outset, though she did serve 27 years under Summitt.

The reason is with expectations so low because of the departures of all five starters, if Tennessee can be anything close to its past self at the end of the season, one envisions a groundswell from the WBCA committee.

But a No. 20 slot also puts Tennessee on a ledge, though since the early 1990s, the expansion to Top 25 provides a cushion. The Vols almost fell there at the end of the disastrous 2008-09 season when the then-defending champions hit 19 and settled for 18 the final two weeks of the season.

Walking a poll tightrope, some early opponents for the Lady Vols include Georgia Tech on the road, along with a stop at Miami, a visit from Middle Tennessee and North Carolina, then on to Texas and Baylor before Stanford and Rutgers visit in late December.

If Tennessee survives that but is still lowly ranked, then it must deal with a Southeastern Conference gauntlet of Kentucky, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt, while several unranked conference opponents will offer anything but a piece of cake.

Had there been a postseason vote at the end of 2009 -- the AP season ends before the NCAA begins -- the squad, which fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament, might have dropped out altogether, which is what did occur in the coaches' poll.

Tennessee has missed only 14 appearances, the first-ever poll, three in 1981-82 when they hit 20, dropped out for three weeks, and then returned at 20.

In 1984-85, the year after Summitt coached USA to an Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles, there was a 10-week hiatus. At that point, Tennessee was collecting Final Four appearances, but didn't land the first of eight brass rings until 86-87.

That season was part of a run that included an incredible 383 straight Top 10 appearances until the 2008-09 slump arrived.

Coaching Milestones In AP Ranking Appearances

While Summitt's decision to step aside, affected by her ongoing battle against early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, that she revealed a year ago in late August, removes her from the top of the active list in the poll, she is still untouchable on the alltime list with 618 appearances.

Georgia's Andy Landers now takes over the top of the active list at 480 with the opening ranking. Stanford's Tara VanDerveer is No. 2 at 427 and this week she hits 400 with the Cardinal, good enough for No. 3 behind Summitt and Landers for most rankings with one team.

C. Vivian Stringer, who leads a small group of coaches with three different schools in the poll, is third at 407, while UConn's Auriemma is fourth on the active list at 387 and fifth behind former Texas coach Jody Conradt, another multi-hall of famer, who had 395 all with the Longhorns, while all his are with the Huskies.

Speaking of Texas, several other coaches who were high on the all-time list, have also departed since the end of last season, specifically the Longhorns' Gail Goestenkors, who is 13th at 295, including her time at Duke.

Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan, who left Virginia prior to last season, is ninth at 328 on the all-time list, while North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell, who had been posied to pass her former ACC rival, is still tied with another one -- the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow at 10th with 326.

Incidentally, in the upper career ranking lists there is a string of coaches, Auriemma (6th), Foster (7th), former Penn State coach Rene Portland (8), and Ryan (9th), all with ties to the hey day of Cathy Rush and the Mighty Macs of Immaculata.

Retired coach Theresa Grentz (Rutgers, Illinois) is 22nd on the list, while Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw is 20th at 236.

Philly Locals Playing Big-Timers

In terms of teams that got ranked, here's who the philly area teams will be seeing:

Temple goes to Nebraska (18) the first weekend of the season, and while no one else is ranked right now on the Owls' slate, Rutgers and Georgetown have potential, as does Michigan State.

La Salle goes to North Carolina, Georgetown and Rutgers, who all got votes, while Drexel goes to South Carolina, an also-ran, and plays Delaware home-and-home in the CAA.

Penn could meet Iowa State in the Cyclones' tournament and, of course, will go home-and-home with rank-worthy Princeton in the Ivy League. The Quakers also host Virginia on Nov. 12th at The Palestra.

Villanova meets Delaware in Dartmouth's tournament, and the Wildcats must see the likes of the Big East ranking or potential ranking brigade of UConn, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Louisville, St. John's, DePaul, as well as Georgetown.

St. Joseph's. meanwhile, which will host the first three rounds of the Atlantic 10, opens at home with Princeton, hosts Maryland, and travels to UCLA.

Rutgers' outside schedule features an opening weekend trip to Georgia, a road stop at Princeton in a neighborhood scrum, while the Scarlet Knights also meet Louisiana Tech in the Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden. They also host Miami and travel to Tennessee.

Delaware, besides the teams mentioned, visits St. John's.

Penn State battles three ranked teams in the Big Ten in terms of Nebraska, Ohio State, and Purdue. The Lady Lions, who are picked to win the conference, also will be traveling to Texas A&M, Miami, and Connecticut.

Incidentally, Division II power Holy Family will be traveling to play Connecticut Nov. 7 in Hartford.

If the opponents seem thin on some of the schedules mentioned, it is not to say that many teams the locals face could end up delivering value.

A year ago, Delaware's schedule looked good enough for an RPI in the 30s, worthy enough, but many of the Blue Hens' opponents had fantastic seasons resulting in a nonconference RPI of No. 1 in the nation at the beginning of January.

That provided enough weight to land a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and considering the Blue Hens host two early rounds, they will be looking to do likewise to land a good slot and leap into the Sweet 16.

Here's Some of the Lists The Guru Promised:

By Mel Greenberg
Women’s Hoops Guru
(Oct. 27, 2012)

Quick hits on AP poll (week 1– for coaches’ appearances week No. 1)
(This is 633rd poll after week 1 preseason for 2012-13). (Records on pages through week 1 -- Preseason)

Coaches With Three Ranked Teams
C. Vivian Stringer (Cheyney-85), (Iowa-155), (Rutgers-167), 407
Jim Foster (St. Joe-35), (Vanderbilt-164), (Ohio St.-166), 365
Gary Blair (Stephen F. Austin-79), (Arkansas-67), (Texas A&M-120), 266
Marianne Stanley (Old Dominion-141), (Sou. Cal-24), (Stanford*-18), 183
Lin Dunn (Miami-2), (Mississippi-1), (Purdue-130), 133
Don Perrelli (Northwestern-52), (S. Conn.-20), (St. John’s-1), 73
Tom Collen (Colorado St.-34), (Louisville-17), (Arkansas-7), 58
Sharon Fanning-Otis (Kentucky-4), (Miss. St.-48), (Tn.-Chattannoga-4), 56
Debbie Yow (Florida-2), (Kentucky-21), (Oral Roberts-1), 24

Kittie Blakemore, Scott Harrelson – West Virginia 8
Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 51
Jill Hutchison, Linda Fischer – Illinois St. 3
Jim Jarrett, Joyce Patterson – Georgia St. 1
Marianne Stanley, Amy Tucker – Stanford 18
Jim Bolla, Sheila Strike – UNLV 18

Coaches All Time Ranking Appearances
1.**- Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 618 (missed just 14 polls in AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 480
3. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 427
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 407
5. **-Jody Conradt, Texas – 395
6. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 387
7. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 365
8. **-Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
9. **-Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 328
10. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 326
10. **- Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 326
12. **-Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech (51-shared with Sonja Hogg) – 325
13.**- Gail Goestenkors (2 schools – Duke, Texas) – 295
14. **-Joe Ciampi, Auburn – 290
15. **-Sue Gunter (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, LSU) – 270
16. &&-Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
17. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 266
18. **-Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264
19. **-Van Chancellor (2 schools – Mississippi, LSU) – 261
20. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 236
21. **-Chris Weller, Maryland - 227
22. **-Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
23. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma 199
24. Kim Mulkey, Baylor 189
25. **-Marianne Stanley (3 schools – ODU, Southern Cal, Stanford*) – 183
26. **-Paul Sanderford (2 schools – W. Kentucky, Nebraska) – 182
27. **-Marian Washington, Kansas – 176
**-Not in college or not in as a head coach

Active Coaches-All Time AP Ranking Appearances

1. Andy Landers, Georgia – 480
2. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 427
3. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 407
4. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 387
5. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 365
6. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 326
7.&&--Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
8. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 266
9. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 236
10. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma – 199
11. Kim Mulkey, Baylor – 189
12. Joanne P. McCallie (2 schools - Michigan St., Duke) – 166
13. Melanie Balcomb (2 schools – Xavier, Vanderbilt) – 154
14. Brenda Frese (2 schools, Minnesota, Maryland) – 141
15. Kristy Curry (2 schools – Purdue, Texas Tech) – 136
16. Doug Bruno, DePaul – 136
17. Bill Fennelly, (2 schools – Toledo, Iowa St.) – 131
18. %%- Joe McKeown (2 schools – New Mexico St., Geo. Wash.) – 116
19. ==== Jim Davis, Clemson, 106
20.)))-Chris Gobrecht (Washington) - 104
21.@@@@- Cathy Inglese (2 school, Vermont, Boston College) – 98
22. !!!- Jane Albright (2 schools – N. Illinois, Wisconsin) – 96
23. Debbie Patterson, Kansas St. – 92
24. Pam Borton, Minnesota – 75
25. Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona St. – 74
26. Joanne Boyle, California (2 schools – California, Virginia) – 61
27. Tom Collen, (3 schools, Colorado St., Louisville, Arkansas) – 58
28. Sue Semrau, Florida St. – 57
29. ***-Kathy Olivier, UCLA 52
30. ^^^-Kevin McGuff, Xavier – 50
31. Mike Carey, West Virginia – 49
32. ____Terri Williams-Flournoy, Georgetown – 48
33. Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky – 46
34. Bonnie Henrickson, (2 schools -- Virginia Tech, Kansas) – 45
34. Sharon Versyp, Purdue – 45
34. Jeff Walz, Louisville – 45
37. Harry Perretta, Villanova – 44
38. Suzy Merchant, Michigan St. – 41
38. Connie Yori (Creighton, Nebraska) – 41
40. Jeff Mittie, TCU – 38
41. Agnus Berenato (2 schools – Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh) – 37
42.%=%= Matt Bollant, Wis.-Green Bay – 35
43. Lisa Stockton, Tulane – 34
44. $$$- June Daugherty (2 schools – Boise St.,Washington) – 32
45. MaChelle Joseph, Georgia Tech – 31
45. Katie Meier, Miami –31
45. Dawn Staley (Temple, South Carolina) – 31
48. Lisa Bluder (2 schools – Iowa, Drake) – 28
49. Terri Mitchell, Marquette – 25
50. Kevin Borseth, Wis.-Green Bay – 24
51. ()() Kim Barnes Arico, St. John’s 23

&&-Active at Seattle; )))-Active at Yale; $$$-Active at Washington State.; %%-Active at Northwestern; !!!-Active at Nevada; @@@@-Active at Rhode Island; ()()-Active at Michigan; ^^^-Active at Washington; ==== Active at Tennessee Tech; ____Active at Auburn; %=%= Active at Illinois.


(Played for and Coached Ranked Teams)


1. Katie Abrahamson-Henderson Missouri St. ​Georgia/Iowa
2. Cheryl Burnett​ Missouri St. ​ Kansas
3. Amanda Butler% Florida Florida
4. Nikki Caldwell UCLA Tennessee
5. Pokey Chatman%​ LSU​ ​LSU
6. June Daugherty​ Boise St./Washington ​Ohio St.
7. Nell Fortner​ Purdue/Auburn ​ Texas
8. Susie Gardner​ Arkansas​ Georgia
9. MaChelle Joseph Georgia Tech Purdue
10. Wendy Larry%​ Old Dominion Old Dominion
11. Joanne P. McCallie​ Michigan St./Duke ​ Northwestern
12. Kathy McConnell-Miller Colorado Virginia
13. Muffet McGraw​ Notre Dame​ St. Joseph’s
14. Katie Meier Miami Duke
15. Cheryl Miller%​ Southern Cal​ Southern Cal
16. Kim Mulkey​ Baylor​ Louisiana Tech
17. Mary Murphy​ Wisconsin​ Northwestern
18. Kathy Olivier​ UCLA​ UNLV
19. Carolyn Peck​ Purdue/Florida Vanderbilt
20. Laurie Pirtle​ Cincinnati​ Ohio St.
21. Jennifer Rizzotti Hartford Connecticut
22. Carol Ross%​ Florida/Mississippi ​Mississippi
23. Bev Smith%​ Oregon​ Oregon
24. Dawn Staley​ Temple​Virginia
25. Jan Ternyik ​San Francisco ​Montclair St.
26. Charli Turner Thorne​ Arizona St.​ Stanford
27. Amy Tucker*​ Stanford​ Ohio St.
28. Holly Warlick% Tennessee Tennessee
29. Coquese Washington Penn State Notre Dame
30. Terry Williams-Flournoy Georgetown Penn State

*-Filled in for Tara VanDerveer in 1995-96

%-Seven played and coached at same ranked school.

That's it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guru's WNBA Musings: "Bad Boy" Bill Laimber Broadway Bound Back To The WNBA

By Mel Greenberg

Until some 48 hours ago, if someone used the phrase "the light at the end of tunnel" to fans of the WNBA New York Liberty, they might take that reference as Secaucus.

That's where the world becomes bright again on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River when one travels from Manhattan on commuter rail lines to the Prudential Center in Newark.

The venue, a move that has cost the Liberty thousands of fans reluctant to make the trip and thus impacted WNBA overall attendance, has served as the temporary home of the franchise. The regular home, Madison Square Garden, has one more summer of three overall to undergo a major reconstruction.

However, the phrase referenced in the first paragraph took on a new meaning late Thursday afternoon when the Liberty dropped a bombshell that "Bad Boy" Bill Laimbeer was returning to the WNBA as the coach-general manager of the New York franchise.

The former member of the NBA Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys" championship era steered the former Detroit Shock to three titles as coach-general manager.

At the same moment, the Liberty also announced the exit of coach-general manager John Whisenant, who had held similar status with the former Sacramento Monarchs.

Hired by the Liberty in the winter prior to the 2011 season, Whisenant came East to guide the New York fortunes, which this past season had been more of misfortunes even though the injury-riddled squad at 15-19 made the playoffs to be swept by the top seeded Connecticut Sun 2-0 in the first round of the Eastern semifinals.

Whisenant's hire came on the heels of the firing of longtime Liberty vice president Carol Blazejowski, a Basketball Hall of Famer, and the departure of coach Anne Donovan, another basketball legend and famer, to Seton Hall in the rugged Big East conference.

The person, who pulled the trigger on Blazejowski, was MSG's Scott O'Neil, president of Madison Square Garden Sports, who abruptly departed near the end of the Liberty season in early September in what was alluded in reports to be a falling out with Garden chairman James L. Dolan.

In hearing that news at the time, the Guru here had wondered whether there might be a change on the Liberty sidelines considering the front office change as well as the fact that Whisenant's wife is in a tough battle with cancer.

There's also the fact that Whisenant is a West Coast guy who never got totally comfortable with the hustle and bustle of the Metro area that resulted in numerous traffic incidents and other travel difficulties getting from airports or the Westchester training center up north near White Plains to the Prudential Center.

"I think John, who's a great guy, and the franchise came to a mutual agreement and his departure happened once the buyout terms were to his satisfaction," said a longtime WNBA observer who has had numerous dealings with front offices in the league.

"It is unusual to get both those announcements on the same day."

The moves are the latest in a string of October surprises, as they say in presidential election campaign lingo, that have occurred after the playoffs, including the departures of former presidents Val Ackerman and Donna Orender from the WNBA, the demise of franchises such as the former Houston Comets and Laimbeer's Detroit Shock, which won a slew of championships, and blockbuster offseason trades.

The Shock still exist, but they do as a team that moved to Tulsa three seasons ago and was tranformed to resemble an expansion outfit after a bunch of Detroit stars opted out against moving to Oklahoma.

By then Laimbeer was long gone, having moved to the staff of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves that lasted until it was ousted after the 2011 season.

Since then, Laimbeer, one of the NBA Detroit Piston "Bad Boys," who won several titles, has been getting bored in Florida with fishing rods and golf clubs, though he has maintained his entertainment by keeping a close eye on the WNBA from afar.

It is unknown whether the Washington Mystics, who are looking for a general manager and coach in either combination or two hires, was aware of Laimbeer's desire to return to the league.

But the path back through the WNBA may have come through Kristin Bernert, vice president of marketing and operations for the Liberty who was director of operations in Detroit during the Laimbeer era.

Also, NBA New York Knicks assistant general manager Allan Houston, who oversees the Liberty, is a former teammate of Laimbeer's in Detroit.

Furthermore, it is believed that former teammate Isiah Thomas, who is no longer the Knicks general manager, is still allowed to whisper to the ear of Dolan.

In fact, Laimbeer, while still with Detroit, was considered for the Knicks coaching vacancy that existed at the time when Thomas was in charge.

Should that occur again down the road while Laimbeer has brought back the Liberty to prominence or even the first title for a franchise that launched with the WNBA in 1997, he would be inside the Knicks' MSG family to be considered.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Reeve, his former assistant on the Shock and a graduate of Philadelphia's La Salle University, got a team of her own in 2010 as coach of Minnesota with some help from Laimbeer in the hire and led the Lynx to their first WNBA title last summer.

Their attempt to repeat this time around, however, was cut short in the championship round by the Indiana Fever, who last Sunday got their first chance to sip the bubbly after a long history of playoff failures.

Detroit was reeling in the summer of 2002 on a 13-game losing streak and was said to be in danger of total collapse until Laimbeer convinced ownership that he could turn things around.

After he took over, Detroit played .500 ball the rest of the way and the following season executed a worst-to-first reversal dispatching the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Sparks in a deciding Game 3 in the championship round.

"He's going to go in here one day," the late Pistons Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly once quipped to the Guru at an induction weekend in Springfield, Mass. "But it's certainly not going to be for anything he did for me."

In the WNBA, Laimbeer became a fierce competitor and a lightning rod for opposing fans who either jeered his antics or were not enamored of the Shock's rough, physical style of play.

"This may be the be the best thing the Liberty has ever done from a public relations perspective," said Bruce Levy, a longtime player agent since the launch of the league in 1997.

"The most important thing is he is respected by the media. He is perfect for New York and you might see coverage take an upswing," Levy said.

"And as for players, I've already been approached by several with free agent status who would like me to get them to New York because they know of his competitive fire."

On his teleconference Thursday Laimbeer spoke of the Liberty needing an identity and giving a new meaning to the phrase started in this post by saying the fans, who will see a return to The Garden in 2014, need to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Who knows? Maybe at some point in the future a headline may proclaim Broadway Bill if New York returns to the stature of its early years in the league.

When the Liberty inched into the playoffs one game ahead of Chicago on the final days of the regular season, it was said that in afterthought the Sky made out better than the Liberty because in the lottery they landed the No. 2 pick -- likely to be Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, unless they go for Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, or unless Baylor's Brittney Griner is bypassed by the Phoneix Mercury, who have the No. 1 pick and decide to take Delle Donne.

But with Laimbeer on the scene, New York has similar value in hope for the future as the teams holding the top three picks.

Furthermore, if Tulsa wants to deal Australian sensation Elizabeth Cambage, the second-year pro and overall No. 2 pick of the 2011 draft who bypassed the season to prepare for the Olympics on the front end and then declare a sort of burnout afterwards, one can envision Laimbeer ready to talk shop.

The Liberty hold the No. 5 overall pick and Laimbeer could certainly use that as part of a package with with pieces that would help Tulsa continue its revival. The Shock also hold the No. 3 pick and will have back former Texas center Tiffany Jackson, who missed this past season due to pregnancy.

Homage to the Rutgers alumni association on the Liberty might end with one exception -- All-Star Cappie Pondexter, who said the right things publicly during Whisenant's two-year stay running the team.

However, those who who know Pondexter well said the scoring ace was not totally found working Whisenant's "White Line" defensive schemes, which did result in Sacramento winning the 2005 title.

Pondexter, who re-signed near the end of this past season, is likely to be approached by Laimbeer, who could be using the Book of Swin Cash in their initial conversation.

Cash, a former UConn All-American now with Chicago was a rookie not accustomed to losing before Laimbeer took over. The first thing he did was call Cash into his office, promise her things will get better and he said he was going to build the team around her.

The following winter Lsimbeer picked up former Notre Dame star center Ruth Riley out of the dispersal draft and then grabbed former Louisiana Tech center Cheryl Ford, who is out there at the moment as a free agent, though she has had battled knee problems.

And then it was on to three titles in 2003, 2006, and 2008, and annual contention in between.

If Cambage has upside and lands in New York, the inside-outside attack of her and Pondexter could be deadly, especially if Laimbeer has enforcers in the frontcourt to help the Australian.

Kara Braxton and Plenette Pierson, currently Liberty frontcourt attackers, were valuable commodities for Laimbeer in Detroit.

Incidentally, it is not known if Laimbeer, whose appetite might have drawn him to Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse when his daughter played for the Orangewomen, is aware another franchise in the chain opened last May next door to the Prudential Center.

Stern Shipping Out The Guru addressed this item in his twitter account @womhoopsguru but for those of you yet to become followers -- 28 more hits the 2,000 milestone -- he observed that when longtime NBA commissioner David Stern announced he will be stepping aside in 2014, the ensuing coverage in major news organizations and papers didn't contain one sentence about Stern helping launch the WNBA and being one of its strongest advocates.

It is hard to imagine or there would have been such a league had he not been in charge or that the league would have been able to last this long considering the honeymoon ended quickly with some NBA owners who had WNBA teams.

Stern when noting the WNBA has always jested that he had to see the league start of "Val Ackerman and Carol Blazejowski would have killed me."

Both worked in the NBA home office under Stern in New York before the league launched -- Ackerman, a former Virginia star as a staff lawyer, and Blazejowski in marketing.

Whither The Mystics? It is now a month since Washington fired general manager-coach Trudi Lacey and her staff and not a stir has arisen from the front office in the nation's capital, which might still be reeling from the shock of having the worst record in the league, but getting stunned in the lottery when the Mystics landed the fourth overall pick, one below the slots that will be filled by the superstar collegiate senior trio of Delle Donne, Griner and Diggins.

Sheila Johnson, who heads the Mystics, promised transparency to the fans as the search is executed to find either one person to fill both jobs or individual hires for each.

Former Houston Comets and 2004 gold-medal Olympic coach Van Chancellor would love to get involved, but has not had any contact.

There was an unconfirmed rumor that Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, one of the stars of the Comets' four title run (1997-2000), applied for the coaching position in Washington.

She had been coach of UNC Wilmington but left after last season to return to the Lone Star State to coach at Texas Southern after a previous stint when she launched her collegiate coaching career at Prairie View A&M.

While not having knowledge of any discussions, several contemporaries have said off the record that they believe Cooper would want to return to the WNBA.

It is not known if Chicago assistant Jeff House, who was an aide to Richie Adubato in the past in Washington, has been contacted or made contact.

Connecticut assistant Scott Hawk during the playoffs said he had no interest in the position.

Marynell Meadors, the former Atlanta Dream general manager-coach fired after the Olympics during the ongoing flap with All-Star Angel McCoughtry, served as an assistant in the past in Washington.

"Marynell can put teams together," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who serviced with Meadors and former Mystics aide Jen Gillom to UConn's Geno Auriemma during the run to last summer's London Games and a fifth straight Olympic gold medal.

The College Scene -- Sometime Saturday, unless it is already out there, the 37th Associated Press preseason women's poll will flash across the wire with defending NCAA champion Baylor, led by senior Brittney Griner, expected to be No. 1 after going wire-to-wire in voting by the nationwide media panel in 2011-12 and 40-0 on the court.

Connecticut, which has been to five straight Final Fours, is likely to be No. 2 with four starters back and the nation's top recruiting class.

Questions at the hour of this post, though some of you will have already learned the answers, include how low will Tennessee be ranked after losing all five starters.

The Lady Vols for the first time since the poll was launched in November, 1976, will be without Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, who stepped down after last season and becoming coach emeritus during an ongoing battle with early onset dementia, Alzhemier's style.

Hall of Famer and former Lady Vol Holly Warlick, a longtime associate head coach to Summitt, has stepped up to succeed her.

In all 36 previous preseason polls, Tennessee has missed the Top 10 only twice, being omitted entirely in the first-ever poll and ranked No. 14 in the 1984-85 preseason vote, where they later dropped out and were unranked for 10 weeks.

Tennessee has been in every poll since and has missed just 14 overall.

When in the poll, the lowest they were ranked, prviously, was 20 in February, 1982, when the rankings only listed 20 teams.

Since the early 1990s the weekly list includes 25 schools or a few more depending on ties. In 2009 as defending champions, Tennessee fell to 19th in the next-to-the-last vote, finished 18th and then were bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament, unprecedented for the program.

Summitt remains the all-time leader in coaching appearances in the poll, but Georgia's Andy Landers, a Tennessee rival in the Southeastern Conference, now tops the active list.

Delaware, with Delle Donne leading the Blue Hens, is likely to be in its first-ever preseason poll after debuting last season and rocketing all the way to the Top 10.

The Guru will have all the numbers and trivia out of the master database of poll history late Saturday. So that is it until then.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guru's College Report: Atlantic 10/Ivy League Announce Preseason Picks - The Guru's Cut

(Guru's note: This is the unedited longer version of a story sent to The Inquirer that needed trimming for print space. Go to philly.com to see all the picks under that story or at the league websites. The Ivy League does not do a preseason women's teleconference but Princeton is having its own media day on Halloween. Hearing coach Courtney Banghart is always a treat. It's soon time to depart to Rutgers for C. Vivian Stringer's sunrise services also known as the annual women's media day. )

By Mel Greenberg

In an expanded Atlantic 10 that has grown by two to 16 teams, Dayton was picked by the conference's women's basketball coaches to repeat as champion in the preseason selections announced Wednesday prior to the annual teleconference.

Temple was picked fifth, but with just three points less than Duquesne, while St. Joseph's was picked sixth, collecting six points less than the Owls, and La Salle was picked ninth.

It's a season of transition in A-10 competition, which will conclude in March with the three rounds of the conference tournament returning to St. Joseph's through the semifinals.

But in a twist, after the two survivors emerge from the Sunday games, they will pause until the following Saturday when they head to Brooklyn, N.Y., to be part of a tripleheader alongside the men's semifinals in the new Barclays Center to determine who will receive the automatic bid to the NCAA women's tournament.

Meanwhile over in the Ivy League while Penn has continued to climb in the preseason forecast from being picked last in coach Mike McLaughlin's first season, Princeton and Harvard remained a 1-2 punch for the fourth straight season.

The Quakers were picked fourth behind Yale by a panel of 17 writers and broadcasters who cover the Ivy women.

A-10 Rundown. "I think they're crazy," said Dayton coach Jim Jabir of his colleagues' choice of his Flyers. The squad lost four starters from the team that upset Saint Bonaventure last season in the title game on Hawk Hill at Hagan Arena.

Considering that six teams received first-place votes, the first time that so many were named on the top of the ballots, experience was a factor in the teams that landed in the first four slots.

"I don't remember six teams getting first place votes," said St. Bonaventure coach Jim Crowley, whose hire in 2000 tops the Hawks' Cindy Griffin by one year as the most tenured in the conference. The Bonnies were picked seventh.

His team got a first-place vote, as did Temple."I think that's because of the youth, but it's great youth," Crowley said of the overall voting.

Dayton, which received seven first place and 239 points, returns six letterwinners, including Andrea Hoover, who was the conference rookie of the year.

Temple, which is headed for the Big East next year and has gone 13-1 the last two seasons in the A-10, will be much younger. However, senior center Victoria Macaulay, the lone returning starter, landed on the conference preseason first team joined by La Salle senior Brittany Wilson.

Macaulay and Wilson were also named to the all-defensive team, while St. Joseph's senior Ashley Prim was named to the third team to round out the individual choices from the three Big Five schools in the conference.

St. Joseph's lost four seniors, including three-point ace Katie Kuester as part of 50 percent of the Hawks' scoring that has graduated, but seven letter winners return, including junior three-point ace Erin Shields.

The Hawks got an early start in August by taking a trip to Ireland.

"The trip was important because it gave us a chance to see how we jell and who are going to be our leaders," Griffin said. "The competition was very good and we were battle tested. A lot of good things emerged."

Wilson is La Salle's lone returning starter but two transfers -- Leeza Burdgess from Pittsburgh and Shanel Harrison from Virginia Tech -- were expected to help. However, Burdgess has been lost for the season with a foot injury.

"Before she went down, I thought we could be among the top three or four in the conference," said La Salle coach Jeff Williams, who begins his third season with the Explorers.

It's been a while since Temple was picked so low though the Owls have always thrived as an underdog.

"Obviously, there's no replacing Shey (Peddy), Kristen (McCarthy), and BJ (Williams), but this team has a chance to make a fresh start and really surprise a lot of people," said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who is starting her fifth season. "We're going to have to ask a lot of our sophomores and freshmen."

Butler, which was picked 12th, has joined the A-10 from the Horizon League, while Virginia Commonwealth, the other new team and picked for 13th, was a power in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Charlotte, which was picked third with a first place vote but one less point than second-place Richmond, will be heading to Conference USA.

The league has three new coaches among the 75 nationally who filled Division I positions. Jonathan Tsipis, the former associate head coach to Muffet McGraw at two-time NCAA runnersup Notre Dame, joined George Wasington.

Lisa Stone, a past coach at Iowa, is at Saint Louis, while Marlene Stollings moved from Winthrop to VCU.

Temple opens at home November 9th hosting Montana, while on Nov. 11 La Salle will open at home against Loyola of Chicago and St. Joseph's will host Princeton.

Tigers Still Roar. Princeton continues to dominate the Ivy League, looking to land an unprecedented fourth-straight title while returning senior Niveen Rasheed, the reigning Ivy player of the year.

TheTigers, who earned a first-time ranking for an Ivy school in the Associated Press poll in the final vote of last season, received 13 of 17 first-place votes in the Ivy balloting. Harvard collected the other four.

"It's where you finish," Princeton coach Courtney Banghart tweeted from her account after the vote was announced.

Penn returns junior Alyssa Baron, runnerup in Ivy scoring with a 16.9 points per game average, and sophomore Kara Bonenberger, who joined Baron in successive seasons as the league's top rookies. The league does not offer a preseason team.

The Quakers open Nov. 9 at Norfolk State and then returns home Nov. 12 at The Palestra to host traditional Atlantic Coast Conference power Virginia.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guru's NCAA Musings: Adding to Auriemma's Suggestions Changing The Women's Game

By Mel Greenberg

Funny. After nearly two weeks of practice with his powerful University of Connecticut team, Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, back at the collegiate level after guiding the WNBA/Olympians to a fifth straight gold medal in London, suddenly has ideas of changing the women's game.

For example, in an exclusive interview with the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla, one of the things drawing national attention that Auriemma suggested was lowering the women's rim a bit to make scoring easier.

Making his Courant-travel dollars bring in more value this time around, Altavilla got more out of the loquacious Auriemma in 20 minutes at Mohegan than he did his previous trip a little over a week earlier in twice as much time when the WNBA host Connecticut Sun were routed in deciding Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final by the eventual first-time champion Indiana Fever.

Auriemma didn't seem to have much problem with the pros playing overseas when he had the attention of the Olympic media brigade, when they bothered to arrive on the scene to watch the Americans mop up except for a first-half struggle in the semifinal against Australia.

Incidentally, a bit of an observation, the Guru notes that Auriemma got to make remarks as a guest on a weekly show, "Beyond The Beat," at Mohegan, featuring Hartford columnist Jeff Jacobs and New London Day Deputy Sports Editor/Columnist Mike DiMauro, that is carried by public station CPTV, the longtime telecaster of UConn women's games that was jettisoned last summer by the university after 18 seasons in favor of SNY.

Anyhow, as they say in sports talk radio show land here in Philadelphia when the hosts try to take a national news item and turn it into an exercise for listener participation, your Guru, off comments by Auriemma, decided to make his own list off coverage at local venues and elsewhere of what can be done to speed things up and make the women's game more enjoyable to those who have to provide coverage.

The list production is not ranking-specific so just consider the numbers as a way of organizing ideas and for those who need clarity, this is the Guru's ill-attempt at humor while working on a local initiative that will soon be announced publicly and it will be major when it comes.

Here goes.

1. One helper when deadlines are actually in play would be for friendly Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato, known for coming into the media room and shaking everyone's hand after the game -- a simple task at home but not so simple among the large contingent at UConn games -- to actually arrive and shoot the breeze with reporters before the opening tip.

2. A special line should be established at the tasty barbeque concession stand at Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center to speed things up. Believe or not, Elena Delle Donne is the next best thing making quick work of opponents, but she'll be gone next season while the cooking will endure.

3. Rutgers should figure out the most probable ways an outcome would occur against an opponent ahead of time and then before the tip provide transcribed quotes from Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer to cut the amount of time at the back end between the final buzzer and closing paragraphs from the coach.

4. UConn, on its video boards at the Hatford Civic Center while another blowout is under way, should provide a montage of past remarks made by Auriemma and former Huskies great Diana Taurasi, who currently is the top star of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury when she isn't trying out for the part in the movie sequel to Tank Girl.

Some pearls from the past to illustrate: For you youngsters not around when the Huskies made their mark in the early 1990s onto the 1994-95 first-championship season when Auriemma complained to the folks with TV cameras: "Do you know how difficult it is for me to be me?"

Or, early on before Auriemma worked his way to millionaire status winning seven NCAA titles with the Huskies, the women's job at Kentucky was open in Lexington, where Rick Pitino was coaching the nationally powerful men's team.

"Can't you see the two of us down there?" Auriemma said to a circle of reporters with a smile musing about going after the job: "We'd be great. It would Geno and Pitino."

As for Taurasi, during one late December game when UConn pulled its traditional act of being lethargic in the first outing after finals for the semester, even though the outcome was never in doubt, she was asked whether she found it remarkable that there was more media attention being paid to the Huskies' performance than a current scandal at the time involving the governor.

"Leave the governor alone," Taurasi shot back with her sly smile when she's about to top Auriemma in the quip department. "I like the governor. So what if he took a few extra cans of paint for his beach house."

In her early years in the WNBA, there was a game in Washington where Taurasi got into some physicality with DeLisha Milton-Jones, the current Los Angeles Sparks veteran who was at the time with the Mystics.

Responding to questions about the confrontation afterwards, Taurasi said straightfaced: "I tripped over her. I've been working out in the gym. I guess I don't know my own strength."

Anyhow, there's enough of those to fill a season-worth of viewing at UConn home games.

5. Auriemma talked about reducing the shot clock to 24 seconds and limiting play to eight seconds in the backcourt, a move that most media would agree with because it shorten any game with Villanova in which veteran coach Harry Perretta has his Wildcats milking every nano-second before finally attempting to put the ball in the basket.

6. When Temple plays in newly-renovated McGonigle Hall the next block after the Liacouras Center, the hot dog concession stand needs to be moved downstairs to save a little time at the half when one has to dart to the upper level.

The Guru will note, by the way, that pizza is usually served in the media room right behind the stands on the ground floor, but the media covering women's games in town do not live by pizza alone, though one can go through a study diet in a four-game stretch covering Temple, Saint Joseph's, La Salle, and Penn.

OK, Penn does have a hamburger option in the media room in The Palestra and other offerings.

7. Up at Penn State some things got faster and some things not when the Lady Lions moved out of old Rec Hall to the Bryce Jordan Center.

In the old days, one had to dash from high atop the stands in Rec Hall through the crowd to the floor and then head all the way back to a place in the gym for postgame interviews and then head back up the stairs to write the account of the game.

Today, the media and work area are in the same place, as is the pre-game meal.

However, the writers are not on the floor and hence, considering the crowds in State College, it is a small adventure to get downstairs after the game.

And yes, there is an elevator offeing a shorter route except the entire route is lengthened by the trip to the elevator.

8. Princeton can be an adventure in Jadwin Gym when the regular media room is in use located in some cavern several floors below that is believed to house a pair of Martians who went undected back in 1938 when they landed in nearby Grovers' Mill as described by Orson Wells in his War of the Worlds broadcast.

(Had to get a Halloween reference here, right?)

All Bets Off In Jadwin Speaking of Princeton, there's a rumor circling that considering tht the university is located in central New Jersey, Tigers women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart and others in the athletic department are no longer allowed to use phrases, such as "I'd bet on my team any day of the week," a statement that, given the recent news, might cause the NCAA to remove Jadwin from the campus.

And that's it for now. The Guru will be on the phone all morning on the annual Atlantic 10 preseason teleconference call that has grown into marathon status given the influx of new teams that have come into the conference such as Virginia Commonwealth and Butler and teams that are heading elsewhere next season such Temple and Charlotte.

The A-10 would not confirm or deny it is opening the session by playing a few bars of TheBeatles singing Hello/Goodbye.

But the Guru will be covering the call, in terms of locals here, for his alma mater newspaper -- as Jonathan would say, find it on philly.com and the Guru would say, win a prize if you find it quickly -- just kidding.

About now the Ivy forecasts are due -- the Guru hasn't checked if Wednesday's the day, but if so, he will add the news which will probably include Princeton being picked to win an unprecedented fourth-straight women's crown and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guru's College Musings: SEC Influence Comes To Big East And UConn

By Mel Greenberg

The Big East Conference and University of Connecticut now has two former notables out of the Southeastern Conference running administrative matters on the northern side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Danielle Donehew, a former director of basketball operations for legendary Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, has been an associate commissioner of the Big East for several years and serves primarily over women's basketball.

Though working out of the league office in Providence, R.I., she is one of the leaders running the Pat Summitt Foundation, which is raising funds to combat Alzheimer's.

In late August of a year ago, Summitt revealed she was battling early onset dementia, Azlheimer's type, and after a Hall of Fame career that extended through last season, she announced the reigns of head coach of the Lady Vols were being turned over to her longtime former associate and former player Holly Warlick.

Meanwhile, directly at UConn, itself, a reunion of sorts occured in early September between Hall of Fame women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma and Deb Corum, who was hired by athletic director Warde Manuel as the Huskies Senior Women's Administrator as well as in charge of several other functions.

She replaces Pat Babcock, who retired last summer.

Corum, a graduate of Vanderbilt, comes directly out of a long stint in the Southeastern Conference office, and she also has been one of the athletics administrators at Louisiana State and Stanford.

"Geno now has a boss he can talk basketball to," someone on the Big East and UConn scene recently quipped when the hire was discussed.

Corum is a past member of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Committee and in 2000 when the Women's Final Four was held at the then-named First Union Center in South Philadelphia, an event that served as a special homecoming for Auriemma, Corum drew the committee asignment to be the liason with the Huskies, who went on that weekend to beat Tennessee for the second of seven national titles.

Auriemma was recently asked about Corum's arrival during the media session with him earlier this month at the annual Jimmy V dinner, run by ESPN and the V Foundation in New York at Chelsea Piers, to preview the men's and women's events.

Connecticut will be hosting Maryland early in the season in Hartford, Conn., as the women's event of Jimmy V week. A men's doubleheader will be held in Madison Square Garden in New York.

"That's one of the best things we've done in a long time, is hire Deb," Auriemma said. "She has so much experience in basketball at a lot of different levels.

"It's not every day you get somebody from Stanford, Vanderbilt, LSU, and the (SEC) conference office to come and work at our place. She's one of the most well-respected women's basketball administrators in America.

"We're really, really fortunate to have her."

AP Preseason Women's Poll

An advisory from the Associated Press on Monday informed the preseason poll will hit the wire release on Oct. 27, this Saturday.

The women's preseason all-America team will move next Tuesday.

Defending NCAA champion Baylor, which went 40-0 and wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the rankings, could be expected to continue at the top, especially with the return of senior Brittney Griner and junior Odyssey Sims.

That would be the only two times the Bears have started out No.1, athough after Kim Mulkey's squad won the 2005 title, Duke was the preseason team at the top for 2005-06.

The voters almost got that right. The Blue Devils advanced all the way to the championship game in Boston at the end of the season, only to have a lead gobbled up by Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland.

The Terrapins' Kristi Toliver, now with the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, nailed a long three pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime and Maryland grabbed its first and only title to date.

As of now the Guru's database history of the rankings, which begin their 37th season, shows Tennessee has the most-ever preseason No. 1s with 12 appearances at the top, followed by Connecticut, which has helped launch the rankings as the No. 1 team eight times.

Here's the complete list of preseason No. 1 teams (thru 2011-12):

1. *Tennessee, 12 times. ('78, '79, '88, '89. '90, '92, '94, '95, '98, '99, '05, '08).
2. Connecticut, 8 times. ('96, '00, '01, '02, '04, ,09, '10, '11).
3. *Louisiana Tech, 3 times. ('81, '82, '90).
4. Duke, 2 times. ('03, '06).
(tie) Texas, 2 times. ('86, '87).
(tie) Southern Cal, 2 times. ('83, '84).
(tie) Stanford, 2 times. ('93, '97).
8. Delta State, 1 time. ('77) -- the first-ever poll.
(tie) Old Dominion, 1 time. ('80).
(tie) Georgia, 1 time. ('85).
(tie) Virginia, 1 time. ('91).
(tie) Maryland, 1 time. ('07).
(tie) Baylor, 1 time. ('12).
* -- La. Tech and Tennessee tied preseason No. 1 at outset of 1989-90.

It will be interesting to see where Tennessee appears, given that a new coach, though one who is a longtime member of the program, is taking over a team depleted of last season's starters.

In two previous polls, the Lady Vols missed the first-ever preseason vote and in 1984-85, right after Pat Summitt guided USA to its first Olympic gold medal, Tennessee was ranked 14th -- the only other time the team was not listed in the preseason Top 10.

There are 60 teams that have been in preseason Top 10s thru a year ago.

Here are the frontrunners and times they have been listed.

1. Tennessee 34
2. Georgia 20
Tie. Louisiana Tech 20
Tie. Stanford 20
5. Connecticut 19
6. Texas 14
7. Duke 13
8. LSU 11
Tie North Carolina 11
Tie Old Dominion 11
11. Long Beach State 10
Tie Rutgers 10
Tie Virginia 10
Honorable mention: Purdue (9), Auburn, Maryland, Penn State (8 each).

As for Top 5, there have been 38 teams.

Here are the frontrunners:

1. Tennessee 29 out of 36.
2. Connecticut 15
Tie Louisiana Tech 15
4. Georgia 12
5. Stanford 11
6. Texas 10
7. Old Dominion 7
8. Duke 6
9. LSU 5
Tie Maryland 5
Tie Rutgers 5
Tie Southern Cal 5

In terms of the present decade, several teams such as Delaware, Princeton, and St. Bonaventure achieved their first-ever rankings during last season with Delaware shooting into the Top 10, while Princeton hit No. 24 in the final poll.

Delaware, with senior Elene Delle Donne back for one more round, is expected to land in its first-ever preseason poll considering the magazines are all listing the Blue Hens and Delle Donne was the nation's leading scorer.

Here are the frountrunners in terms of total preseason rankings:

1. Tennessee 35
2. Georgia 30
3. Texas 28
4. Louisiana Tech 26
5. Maryland 24
Tie Rutgers 24
Tie Stanford 24
8. Penn State 23
9. Connecticut 22
Tie Louisiana State 22
Tie Vanderbilt 22
12. North Carolina 20
Tie North Carolina State 20
Tie Old Dominion 20
15. Southern Cal 18
Tie Purdue 18
Tie Virginia 18
Tie Southern Cal 18
19.Duke 17
20. Auburn 16
Tie Mississippi U. 16
22. Ohio State 15
23. Iowa 14
Tie Long Beach State 14
Tie Notre Dame 14
Tie Texas Tech 14
27. Kansas 13
28. Oklahoma 12
Tie Western Kentucky 12

Current Consecutive Preseason Appearances Thru 2011-12

1. Tennessee 35 -- missed just the first-ever preseason poll
2. Connecticut 22
3. Duke 17
4. Oklahoma 12
5. Stanford 12
6. North Carolina 10
7. Texas 10
8. Baylor 9

OK, that's today's entertainment. The Guru will be back with more.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guru's WNBA Musings: Indiana Is #1 And Dunn Is A WNBA Champ At Last -- As Is Catchings

By Mel Greenberg

Finally, after all these decades spanning the collegiate ranks and in the pros, Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn was able to finish off Sunday night in Indianapolis when her squad cut short the one-year reign of the Minnesota Lynx and captured the organization's first WNBA title.

As a No. 2 seed out of the East, the Fever are the first true under-seed to rise up, make the finals and evict the defending champions, who were the top overall seed and prohibitive favorite.

Instead of another Minnesota romp in terms of the domination of a year ago, Dunn's Fever ousted the Lynx 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

Winning as an underdog is appropriate for Dunn, who has had a history of taking teams and doing a total construction or reconstruction depending their state at the time of her hire.

"Building programs is what I do," Dunn quipped with much seriousness to Seattle Times sportswriter Jayda Evans back at the time of her hire to guide the Storm from its inception as a franchise.

Dunn has always been entertaining off the court with her folksy humor and twang as a child of the South -- she's a graduate of Tennessee-Martin and then went on to get a degree from Tennessee.

Your Guru remembers back in the NCAA Final Four in Tampa, Fla., in 2008 -- a season in which the Big Ten conference had not performed with luster as it did in Dunn's time at Purdue.

When the Guru entered the bar in the hotel headquarters of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), Dunn was seated with some former conference coaches who had gone on to the WNBA and she implored:

"Come join us. We're here toasting the memory of the Big Ten."

When she had become the coach of the then-expansion Seattle squad, she jested that in the expansion draft Seattle and the other three teams should be able to protect just two players.

In talking about reaction from the established coaches and teams to her concept, she said, "I don't know why I can't get my good friend (then-Houston Comets coach) Van Chancellor to call me back."

Dunn is one of only nine coaches to have three different teams get listed in the Associated Press women's basketball poll, though Mississippi and Miami were short-lived experiences when she was on the sidelines at those two schools.

Nevertheless, both programs went on to become nationally successful in the sport and then she went on to make Purdue a national force in the 1990s.

But she was gone by the time Purdue grabbed its only NCAA title in 1999 though that year in San Jose, Dunn became a focal point because in the championship contest two of her former players were on the Boilermakers and two more were on the opposing squad from Duke where they had tranferred.

At that moment, Dunn was out of work for a brief period because of the collapse of the former American Basketball League.

Midway through the ABL's second season in 1997-98 Dunn was hired to coach the Portland Fire, which she took from the bottom of the league to champions of the Western Conference.

In Seattle, in back-to-back years in 2001-02, Dunn was able to grab the first overall pick in the WNBA draft and successfully added Australian then-teenage sensation Lauren Jackson in 2001 followed by Sue Bird, University of Connecticut's national player of the year, in 2002.

But again, Dunn was gone when the recruiting seeds grew into Seattle's first WNBA title in 2004 under Anne Donovan.

By then she gravitated to the Fever organization, becoming an assistant until the 2008 season when she replaced Brian Winters as head coach in Indiana.

Dunn, incidentally, was an Olympic assistant in 1992 but the favored USA squad fell short and had to settle for the bronze medal -- the only non-gold acquirement since 1984.

In 2009, with homecourt advantage against the Fever in the best-of-five championship series, Indiana entered Game 4 as it did Sunday night, with a 2-1 advantage only to see the Phoenix Mercury rally and take the contest and then finish off at home in Game 5 in Arizona.

Twice in the early rounds of the just-completed playoffs, Indiana started out with a loss in the best-of-three series, first against Atlanta in the Eastern semifinals, which the Fever rallied to capture at home, and then in the conference finals, where they triumphed by stunning the regular season conference champion Connecticut Sun on the road.

"Now they can't say we can't do that anymore," Dunn said after the win over Connecticut in terms of rallying and finishing off opponents.

In the finals, the Fever actually went opposite direction by stealing the opener in Minneapolis and then after the Lynx rallied in Game 2, Indiana took over back home before sellout crowds of 18,000 plus in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, formerly known as Conseco.

So now Dunn has her title at last leaving the San Antonio Silver Stars' Dan Hughes and the Connecticut Sun's Mike Thibault as the only two coaches with longevity in the WNBA who have yet to win titles.

Getting Closure

Dunn isn't the only one to achieve closure with Indiana's win.

Of course, sentiment was with veteran Tamika Catchings, who has been in the league with Indiana since the 2001 draft when she was taken out of Tennessee.

Catchings had achieved everything exccept a championship Sunday night. Her college coach Pat Summitt, now coach emeritus of the Lady Vols, was in the house as was Pitt coach Agnus Berenato to watch her former player Shavonte Zellous continue to star for Indiana.

Fever assistant Mickie DeMoss left Tennessee after multiple terms as a longtime aide to Summitt to join Dunn's staff after the squad was bounced out of the NCAA tournament regional final by eventual champion Baylor.

Unable to see the Lady Vols gain a ninth NCAA title, DeMoss now has a WNBA ring her first year in the league.

Katie Douglas, a member of the 1999 Purdue champions, who is one of the more veteran players in the league, has her first title after two failed efforts in 2004 and 2005 with Connecticut before being traded back home to Indiana several years later.

Rutgers, meanwhile, has another alum to join New York's Cappie Pondexter, who won titles in Phoenix in 2007 and 2009.

Canadian Tammy Sutton-Brown, a 2001 graduate of the Scarlet Knights who was a member of Rutgers' Final Four contingent in Philadelphia the previous season, has her first title after playing with the former Charlotte Sting and later joining Indiana.

It seems like yesterday back in the early part of the 1997-98 season, Sutton-Brown's freshman year, when an under-sized Saint Joseph's squad upset Rutgers on Hawk Hill and Scarlet Knights legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer looked incredulously at the boxscore performance of her rookie, who was a 6-5 center, and two others and asked, "Can someone tell me how our post players combined only have five rebounds against these people?"

Well, Sutton-Brown now has a championship ring, also.

No Move For Indy GM Becomes a Good Move

To re-visit this item the Guru recently noted: During late summer as the NCAA, which is also headquartered in Indianapolis, got down to crunch time in filling the nine-month vacancy for the organization's top women's basketball administrative position, Indiana Fever general manager Kelly Krauskopf was said to be one of the individuals high on the NCAA search list.

It seems she could even be the front-runner considering a deep history that includes stints as an associate commissioner of the former Southwest Conference in the Lone Star State, where Krauskopf is an alum of Texas A&M. She was also one of the major architects, working in the NBA at the time, when the WNBA was being prepared for its inaugural summer in 1997.

But Krauskopf had her named withdrawn before the NCAA was ready to make a decision and ultimately former Northwestern star Anucha Brown-Sanders, who was most recently the top female athletics administrator at the University of Buffalo, was hired.

"I was honored they were interested, but I just didn't feel it in my gut," Krauskopf told the Guru several weeks later. "I just couldn't see myself going back to college."

Now she can take pride in what she has done over the years to eventually produce the mix that led to Sunday's championship.

WNBA Sunday

Those of you who may not have been on the scene back in the early years of the WNBA are not aware how the league elders said it was imperative that the season must end before Labor Day in September so it doesn't get overshadowed by the NFL and collegiate football and other events.

In 2003, the season did dip into September and actually with the two-time defending Los Angeles Sparks and upstart Detroit Shock on the rise butting heads, the finals held their own in terms of media coverage as well as ratings.

In later years, such as this one, the Olympics and ensuing one-month suspension of the schedule, has resulted into the playoffs dipping into October.

This time it has dipped deep into October but it seems the playoffs have survived in awareness and actually with the collegiate season approaching its annual launch, there seems to have been added attention.

The Guru is curious as to what the numbers will show because he knows, though twitter is a newer phenomenon, the period in which tweets were coming from people and places he follows, he has never seen traffic that high in terms of references to the WNBA.

UConn Famine

Connecticut writers were quick to note that as a result of Indiana wrapping things up, it is the first time since 2005 -- former Sacramento won -- that an alum of the University of Connecticut was not on the WNBA championship team.

That may because a few squads have grabbed many, such as the Connecticut Sun, which had five former UConn stars on the roster when they were dispatched in the Eastern finals by Indiana.

Replacing Catchings

No, veteran Tamika Catchings isn't heading off to the wilderness now that she has her first WNBA title, but Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberg tweeted late Sunday night, asking, who, now is the best player without a championship ring.

Well, the Guru went through the WNBA roster and has a result, though the emphasis was on finding players who have been in the league for a while.

Extra attention was paid to the veteran people who were on the Olympic squad who might fit the description. And you New Yorkers, before you mention Cappie Pondexter, who wasn't on the squad, remember she already has two titles in Phoenix as previous noted.

So here we go. The best players who do not have a title with some commentary.

1. Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky. Actually, the league is much younger in terms of doing this search, but Fowles get a small percentage shot at the top because in her five years, the Sky has yet to even make the playoffs. That might end next year, considering Chicago will have the No. 2 pick in the draft.

2. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks. She also came in the league the same season as Fowles in 2008 and actually was the No. 1 pick while Fowles went second. But the Sparks have made the playoffs, though the Chicago native has missed time with pregnancy and injuries. Still, in light of talent, considering the many who have earned rings, talent here rules over longevitiy.

3. Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars. Having been in the league since 1999 as the most famous WNBA undrafted free-agent, ever, when she signed with New York, the veteran years combined with the talent makes Hammon a most definite number three on the list.

4. *Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun. Actually, the fact the former UConn great has been in the league only three seasons would seem to not really make her eligible for this discussion. However, because of the talent factor, she has to go high on the list but with an asterisk the way one was once applied to Roger Maris concerning Ruth's home run record and the expanded schedule when Maris achieved the feat. Technically, Charles goes ahead of Hammon, but being a veteran must be acounted for in terms of Becky.

5. *Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream. Like Tina Charles, not a lot of time in the league, having arrived in 2009,but still, add the talent factor and she too gets on the list, but with an asterisk for youth.

6. Candice Dupree, Phoenix Mercury. The former Temple star just missed the Phoenix title in being traded from Chicago for 2010. But she has been a multiple All-Star since her draft in 2006 and has been an Olympic also-ran.

7. Asjha Jones, Connecticut Sun. Viewing talent as per this year's performance, including being a member of the league combined with a veteran history back to her first-round draft pick in 2002, makes this an appropriate spot for Jones and the Guru concedes she might be worth being placed up a spot or two.

8. Sophia Young, San Antonio Sliver Stars. The former Baylor star has been in the league since 2006 and this seems the right spot per the specs.

Because she'sa rookie, Nneka Oguwmike with the Los Angeles Sparks is not eligible and she should get a title, soon enough, but as Catchings' career demonstrates, one never knows for sure.

Honorable mention: And the Guru believes that is it until the question gets re-visited the next time around in the 2013 playoffs. But for now, here are some other names that were gleaned in the process in terms of longevity and talent. Feel free to offer anyone you feel left out: Alana Beard, 2004 (missed two seasons), Essence Carson, 2008; Matee Ajavon, 2008; Lindsay Harding, 2007; Epiphany Prince, 2010; Kristi Toliver, 2009.

Other than issues in Washington with the Mystics in terms of general manager and coaching vacancies as well as looking over the winter at the prospective draft list, or other news coming out of nowhere, that's it for the WNBA as a primary focus and it's on to the colleges.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Indiana Eyes Title And Making WNBA History As An Underdog

By Mel Greenberg

The Indiana Fever can make history Sunday night or, if necessary, in what would be a decisive Game 5 back on the road Wednesday night, by dethroning the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.

Should the Fever emerge with a first-ever league championship trophy they would be the first true underdog as in underseed in the 16-year history of the playoffs to walk away with a title and unseating the prohibitive favorite and defending champion in the process.

If the series goes to Wednesday and Indiana wins, the Fever would also be one of the few to wrap things up on the road.

Of course, Minnesota, which has the league's best overall record, is looking to rally from a 2-1 deficit and pounding in Game 3 Friday night and become one of a few in playoff championship series history to rally from a 2-1 deficit since the finals were expanded to five games in 2005.

Several others have rallied from 0-1 deficits in the original three-game format while there have also been some lower seeds take titles, but none that accomplished the feat knocking out the reigning champ, as well as the top seed.

There are seven previous finals worth looking at in different shades among all the championship series ever held.

In 2007, the former Detroit Shock were the top seed in the East as well as defending champion off the 2006 title and they entered the playoffs at 24-10 which was just one game better the Phoenix Mercury, which was the top team in the West at 23-11.

The series went to Game 5 and Phoenix won the first of two Mercury titles by also becoming the first to win on the road, period, but also while knocking out the defending champs 108-92 after evening things in the Arizona desert 77-76 in Game 4.

Incidentally, the second Mercury title came as a result of a rally over Indiana in 2009, the final year former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter was teamed with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor in Phoenix.

Trailing 2-1 in Indiana, Phoenix rallied in Conseco Fieldhouse, now called Bankers Life, and then left Indianapolis to rerturn home and shortcircuit the Fever in the final minutes of Game 5.

In 2006, which resulted in the second of three Shock titles before the franchise was to later move to Tulsa under new owners, Detroit was not the top seed out of the East, but neither were the former Sacramento Monarchs out of the West, though they were the defending champions.

When the regular season ended, the Connecticut Sun was No. 1 in the East at 26-8 while the Shock at No. 2 were 23-11. Over in the West, the Los Angeles Sparks had the top seed at 25-9 while the Monarchs were 21-13 at No. 2.

Sacramento stunned the the Sparks, dousing them with a 2-0 sweep while Detroit rallied from an 0-1 deficit and then in Connecticut hammered the Sun in Game 3 in the same manner Indiana did completing a rally on the road in the Eastern finals at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Detroit was then the higher seed in the finals and handled the Monarchs but was also the favorite.

In 2004 when the finals were still a best-of-three, Connecticut was the top seed in the East but was 18-16 in the regular season. Los Angeles in the West had the best overall record at 25-9 while the Seattle Storm was 20-14 as the two-seed.

Sacramento did the dirty work, beating Los Angeles and then Seattle knocked off the Monarchs to gain the finals and the home court over Connecticut because of the better record.

The Sun took game one, but Seattle edged Connecticut in the second game, played in the Northwest, grabbing a 67-65 victory made possible when the Sun's Nykesha Sales, a former UConn great, just missed a potential three-pointer. Seattle then took control late in a tightly=played Game 3 to win the first of two titles. The other, of course, came in the dominating season of 2010.

The 2003 finals is worth noting in this narrative but is also a wash in terms of how Indiana is being discussed competing against Minnesota.

Detroit was the best in the East with an overall 25-9 record, enough by one game to gain homecourt advantage in the finals over defending champion Los Angeles, which was 24-10, and the top team in the West.

The Sparks hammered the Shock in the Staples Center by building a 42-21 at the half and then settling for a 75-63 win in Game 1.

Following the carnage, then general manager/coach Bill Laimbeer mounted the podium, smiled, and opened the postgame press conference boldly declaring, "We feel great.We know what we have to do to adjust and we're going home."

Well, in an thrilling game two, Detroit evened the series with a 62-61 victory and then grabbed Game 3 in the closing minutes 83-78.

The year 2000 was noteworthy because of the two monsters dominating the West in Los Angeles, which finished 28-4 and by one game relegated the three-time defending champion Houston Comets to the West No. 2 seed possessing a 27-5 mark.

But Houston could not be denied again and swept the best-of-three conference finals 2-0 and then beat the New York Liberty at home in Game 2 in overtime 83-78 for a sweep.

The Comets also delivered the first rally and defense of a title, following the inaugural 1997 championship, when they fell at Phoenix in Game of the finals.

The first two years, the playoffs were like a Final Four and the Conference top two teams crossed over so the Mercury, the No. 2 team in the West at 19-11, knocked off the host ad former Cleveland Rockers, the top Eastern team, while Houston, which was 27-3, dismantled the former Charlotte Sting.

An aside: In writing this, it's amazing how many teams are no longer in place as they were at the times being referenced.

Anyhow, Game 2 in the finals returned to Houston where Phoenix, then coached by Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller, had a 15-point lead in the second half before the Comets rallied and won in overtime.

Then Houston prevailed in Game 3, pulling away in the second half.

So there you have it. If Indiana wins, the rest is history and so will be the Lynx.

Otherwise, the Guru will revisit this discussion to put Minnesota's place in perspective as a defending champion as well as team rallying from a 2-1 deficit in the finals.

Tennessee Ties

With Indiana on the brink of a championship, two individuals on the Fever with University of Tennessee backgrounds are drawing sympathetic support.

All-Star and Olympian Tamika Catchings, one of the all-timers for the Lady Vols, is drawing sentiment because of a championship is the only thing missing from an illustrious WNBA career dating to 2002 on the court, though she's been a member since 2001 but an injury during her senior year kept her on the sidelines as a WNBA rookie.

Meanwhile, Fever assistant Mickie DeMoss was a longtime aide to legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who stepped aside after last season to become coach emeritus following the revelation in August 2011 that she was battling dementia, early onset Alzheimer's type.

Tennessee was unable to secure a ninth NCAA title for Summitt, losing in the Des Moines (Iowa) Regional final to eventual and unbeaten champion Baylor, whose Brittney Griner led the Bears to a 40-0 record.

DeMoss left to join Indiana soon thereafter but before Summitt's move to step aside in favor of another longtime aide in Holly Warlick, who had a Hall of Fame playing career at Tennessee.

Now just seven months later, DeMoss is 40 minutes away or 80 at the most, overtime notwithstanding, from having her first champagne soaking, WNBA style, that comes with winning titles.

And with that the Guru will be back Sunday night following the action.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Guru's Mixed Musings: Zellous' Career Night Has Indiana On The Bring Again For 1st WNBA Title

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- Time for a little odds and ends out of both the WNBA and collegiate worlds as the overlap continues at least through Sunday and maybe into Wednesday.

The Indiana Fever are right where they were in 2009, just one win away at home from a first-ever WNBA title after demolishing the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.

Back then the Fever had grabbed Game 2 in Phoenix against the Mercury and then took Game 3 at home, poised to finish the quest.

But Phoenix, which then had New York's Cappie Pondexter in the mix with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor, escaped elimination with a 90-77 win at then-named Conseco Fieldhouse, whose name now is known as Bankers Life.

Then back home, Phoenix pulled away in the closing minutes in what had been a thrilling and high-scoring five game finals to win the Mercury's second championship in three seasons.

Right now, it looks like former Pitt star Shavonte Zellous might be heading for MVP honors if Indiana grabs the trophy.

Zellous had a career high 30 points Friday while Indiana teammates Katie Douglas, who has been nursing an ankle injury, and Jeanette Pohlen, who got hurt in Game 2, remained on the sidelines.

The former Panther great, who had been a substitute, is not only helping to carry the team on the floor, but give her some recruiting credit to help convince former North Carolina star Erlana Larkins, who had been away from the WNBA for two seasons, to join up with the Fever this season.

Larkins and Zellous were teammates overseas last winter.

As far as the Lynx go, one wonders, coaching strategy aside from Indiana's Lin Dunn, whether the post-Olympic wall has finally caught up with the Minnesota trio of Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, and Seimone Augustus, who helped land USA's fifth straight gold medal.

While most other members had their problems after returning from London, the Lynx brigade kept on going. But so did Indiana veteran Tamika Catchings, who claimed to be an old hand with three Olympics under belt.

If Indiana wins, the Fever will join the former Detroit Shock and former Houston Comets as the only Eastern Conference teams to capture WNBA titles.

Houston, in the WNBA's inaugural summer of 1997 when just eight teams existed, was in the East in a four-team one-and-done playoff of two rounds.

The Comets were then moved to the Western Conference the following season when a series of expansions began.

Replacing Trenton

Apparently, according to several news reports, Fairfield Univesity and Bridgeport in Connecticut are bidding to take the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament Regional that was removed this week from Trenton when New Jersey said it is nearing the launch of sports betting on professional and collegiate games.

Considering Fairfield is a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the bid would have some strength depending on Bridgeport specs since Rider, a MAAC school, and the conference were the co-hosts for Trenton.

Guru travel tip which he will revisit if this becomes reality: There is a town called Shelton, 15 minutes north on Route 8, that has some excellent brand named hotels that can be obtained at cheap rates. There is also an all-night restuarant minutes away that is quite good with an extensive menu.

The Guru knows because he has used the locale as a way station traveling back and forth from Mohegan when the Connecticut Sun played. You do remember the Sun?

Meanwhile, Temple, which hosted in 2010, continues to have interest, at least at the level above the excellent worker bee corp, as expressed to the Guru Friday night when the Guru dropped by for Temple's Cherry & White night at McGonigle Hall.

Incidentally, those who have remembered the frontal construction blockades when McGonigle was being renovated should know everything is done and the place looks fabulous.

Only two things the Guru noticed missing were a photo of him from his managerial days on the men's team that went on to win the NIT in Madison Square Garden when the NIT was virtually the equivalent of the NCAA, and a wifi connection.

However, ace women's basketball media operative Karen Auerbach had her mifi at the table and the Guru was able to watch the Indy-Minnesota game on his iPad, though it quickly became less of a necessity in light of the blowout.

Some committee members have also mentioned The Palestra on Penn's campus here in Philadelphia along with the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.

It is not known from this end whether Penn would like to get involved.

Several years ago when bidding for a Regional here was underway, Saint Joseph's athletic director Don DJulia spoke of a two-prong effort that would offer Temple's Liacouras Center as a modern-type facility and The Palestra as one of the most fabled basketball venues in the country.

The Palestra would at least by default put in place one part of a grand scheme proposed by Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberg a while back suggesting using the more famous sites as a neat approach to the early rounds of the tournament.

Leftover Interview Tape From Conference Media Days

By now it should be apparent that the Guru was back on semi-active duty this week for his alma mater newspaper covering the Immaculata Hall of Fame event last Saturday as well as the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) men's and women's media event in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, and also covered the Big East women's media day in New York.

Thus, he refrained a bit from blogging this week but did have more discussions than was able to fit in the print coverage.

So, here are some of the other bits.

Manhattan Big East Chatter:At the Big East event, the Guru chatted with Marquette coach Terri Mitchell about her new assistant, one Tyler Summitt, whose mother is Pat Summitt, the legendary now coach emeritus at Tennessee, which Tyler recently graduated.

"He doesn't have his mom's famous stare," Mitchell said with a smile. "But he's great. He's going to be a star in his own right.

"She's suppose to come visit for a week, so that will be great, also."

The Guru noted that Villanova's travel doesn't look as arduous once the Big East portion of the Wildcats' schedule kicks into play in January.

"The bad thing about our league is when you play everybody only once, that's the only bad thing in that you can get a year when you have seven flights," said Villanova's Harry Perretta, the dean of Big East women's coaches.

"But then you can get another year when you have none. We do have a favorable schedule that way -- that's the only negative in having such a big league when you travel a lot when you play the fringe teams on the road, you can get beat."

The Guru will at be Rutgers' singular media day at the end of the month, but for the moment, Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer said of the how things are going with her team since practice started:

"There's three seniors, no juniors and six sophomores and five freshmen," Stringer said. "But it's ok. They're highly enthusiastic, work extremely hard, have nothing but great respect.

The leadership from the upper class is phenomenal and I haven't had enjoyed coaching as much as I do with this group in a long time. I love this group. There's enough drive inside of them that we will be able to do a lot of things."

Delaware Not Unknown Anymore: Meanwhile, down near the nation's capital, the Guru talked to Delaware coach Tina Martin about the encore to the landmark season just past and the final go-round for senior Elena Delle Donne, projected to be among the top three picks in the next WNBA draft with Baylor's Brittney Griner and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

"I think with the starting five behing back, expectations are really high," Martin said. "But we have to focus on what our goals are and understand we really are a different team.

"Last year we had several seniors that did a lot of off court stuff as far as leadership goes and really got the team in a good frame of mind. We have six first-year players now and we have six seniors," she continued.

"So half the team is really young. And half the time is obviously very veteran and older. Bringing those groups together and making them mesh as one is probably the number one priority right now," Martin said.

"I'm not looking for so much an encore as symbolic. What I'm looking for is the kids come together and become a team. And so I'm not concerned with what the expectations are right now.

"I'm more concerned with how we're going to develop and how the kids are going to bring in the new group of players so we'll be ready right away. Playing in the (preseason) WNIT is going to a challenge right from the get-go.

"So some of those young players and some who had smaller roles last year really have to step up and help us. We have to give them an opportunity to develop. With have to have a deep bench considering we're playing Maryland and St. John's.

"We have to have those players accept their roles again and accept to play bigger roles. And they have to develop."

Delaware was headed for a quality schedule last year but some of the opponents such as St. Bonaventure, had all-time seasons, while others, such as Villanova, improved.

Incidentally, this year the Wildcats and Blue Hens will meet in the first round of Dartmouth's tournament in Hanover, N.H.

"When you schedule, you have to look at teams that are going to be on the rise and we did a good job of looking at teams -- Jeanine Radice does our scheduling -- she did a good job looking at who is on the rise in the Atlantic 10, who is on the rise in the ACC ...

"I think it's more about being prepared. When you are looking at scheduling it is not an easy thing to do and to get them to play can be very, very difficult. But we were fortunate and the RPIs took off, which we thought they would."

As for Delle Donne's farewell tour:

"Elena has improved in her strength and conditioning and I think she has been more of a leader," Martin said. "She really is talking more, she's more vocal. Our team needs that. They need her to step up and be that way.

"I'm anxious to see her as a senior. This is now truly her team and we are only going to go as far as she take us both how she plays physically and how she is vocally on the floor. I think she's ready for that challenge and we're excited. She's matured a lot."

Meanwhile, quirks of scheduling has Drexel idle three weeks in December because the Dragons lost an opponent on the schedule in that period.

"I thought we would find ourselves in the middle of the pack," Dragons coach Denise Dillon said of a fourth-place preseason pick in the conference by the CAA coaches. The Dragons pulled some upsets to get to the CAA title game last season.

"Even though we knocked James Madison out, I thought they were still deserving of an NCAA bid and they proved it getting to the finals of the NIT.

"We obviously know the players we lost and how important they were to the program. But the veteran players returning, we're excited about and are going to expect a lot more some and our newbies are going to need to step it up early."

As for Delaware's growth nationally, "Returning the core group, obviously they're going to be picked to be among the top in the country and picked to win the conference.

"So it's a matter of competing with them. It cannot be them coming in and beating people by 30 plus or we're going to lose the wow factor of the CAA. So we need to have people prepared to give them a battle."

As for that schedule gap, similar to the one Princeton undergoes in January because of the academic calendar:

"It will be good, actually. Part of that period are finals and it will be a good time for any injuries to heal and it will be like a second preseason practice period to get ready for the CAA."

And that is that for now. The Guru, who is headed for a noon kickoff between Temple hereand Rutgers in football, will be back soon enough.

-- Mel

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