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.

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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