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.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Guru Musings: Big East Demise Ends Business as Usual in Women's Basketball

(Guru’s note: Because suddenly there is a bunch of things to cover locally and nationally and the Guru returned late from a trip to Hofstra for the Delaware game, he is combing both the national and philahoopsW coverage over here because he does not have time to do the coherent displays with photos to get everything done.

However, in turn, all NCAA women’s tournament coverage will be done at PhilahoopsW to take advantage of the technology.)

By Mel Greenberg

If you think the headline above this post refers to the number of upsets nationally Thursday night, that would have been right any other time.

But the big story of the day was the imminent launch of the break-off group of seven Catholic Schools from the Big East, though apparently that contingent will continue to be known as the Big East, according to multiple reports.

What this means is the near future in terms of a major impact on women’s basketball is about to become much sooner, though the 2012-13 season and its storylines on the court will finish out.

Those currents did take a big detour Thursday night, but we’ll deal with that in subsequent items in this blog.

It appears next week’s Big East women’s tournament, besides the stellar competition, will become a giant goodbye party as many of the 16 teams head to new destinations.

The news that as early as Friday, the so-nicknamed Catholic 7 nickname group of Villanova, locally; joined by DePaul, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, St. John’s and Providence will announce a launch for next season, with the addition possibly of Atlantic 10 members Xavier and Butler, the latter of which just joined the A-10, is like a loaded grenade in terms of the overall impact to women’s basketball.

Within that group with no more Connecticut, Louisville, and Rutgers to deal with, they become more competitive to themselves.

In fact, one side effect is the soon-to-be-vacant Seton Hall slot caused by Anne Donovan’s move back to the WNBA to coach the Connecticut Sun becomes more desirable.

Based on what has been said on the men’s side of things, the surviving schools plus some new ones to be added, such as Temple’s sports catching up to the football move, from the current Big East, will still have an automatic NCAA basketball tournament bid for their champion as will the so-called Catholic 7 configuration.

One impact is the tournament committee’s makeup will be affected because the change in geographical allocation.

And besides running the tournament, which starts in a few weeks and concludes April 7-9 in New Orleans, the committee must look ahead. Is a small expansion of the field, currently at 64 teams, necessary.

Across the board everyone will have their schedules affected. At this hour, Notre Dame next season could be looking at an earlier participation in the Atlantic Coast Conference or, as one report said, spend one year with the Catholic Seven.

Several referees during the season told the Guru that their assignments will be impacted by the change.

The current Big East headquarters is located in Providence and several athletic directors after the original announcement of the seven to leave told the Guru that someone – either the new or the survivors – will have to maintain that local because of the high price of the extended lease of headquarters.

While several writers are running before-and-after comparisons of what RPI teams would look like, the illustration isn’t totally accurate because scheduling affects the RPIs.

And terminology will have to change because if these moves become effective real soon, as of now pencil in Connecticut as the No. 1 mid-major in the country.

The politics of all this – UConn would stil like to join Louisville in the ACC, -- even affects the conference tournament. What does the XL Center in Hartford get, if anything, after being the host to the current Big East women’s event in recent seasons.

Some ADs thought the Mohegan Sun, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, would be a good place for the women’s conference tournament.

In addition to the seven émigrés, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are bound for the ACC after this season. Rutgers is waiting to make a move to the Big Ten as soon as possible while Louisville will be ACC bound to replace Maryland, which is also heading for the Big Ten.

Holly by Golly

With the win by Tennessee over Texas A&M to capture the regular season Southeastern Conference, perhaps one philosophical debate can end to the liking of everyone when it comes to both national coach of the year and the WBCA’s Maggie Dixon rookie coach of the year award in Division I competition.

The Maggie Dixon award is named for the late Army coach, who went from an assistant coach at DePaul under Doug Bruno to become coach of the Black Knights, whom in her initial season in 2000-06 she guided to their first Patriot League crown and hence NCAA appearance.

Dixon’s brother is the successful Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon.

But several days after the Women’s Final Four back in Boston ended, Dixon died suddenly of an undetected heart defect.

The outpouring included many activities instituted in her name such as the annual Maggie Dixon Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York and the WBCA’s award.

This year there were some 43-45 candidates among the 75 Division I coaching changes who technically are all rookies eligible for the WBCA honor.

At the outset it was talked in some circles as the season got under way that since Holly Warlick, the former associate head coach to Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, who stepped down last spring as an effect of her ongoing battle against early onset dementia, Alzeheimer’s type, was now a first-time head coach of the Lady Vols, she was in fact a rookie and potential front runner if her team exceeded expectations.

But though Warlick is by the letter of the Dixon award a rookie, she served at Summitt’s side for such a long time – besides playing for the Lady Vols – that was she really a true rookie moving up to continue the program loaded by high school all-Americans.

Someone such as Michelle Clark-Heard, the former assistant to Jeff Walz at Louisville, has made a major turnaround in her first season at Western Kentucky, where the Hilltoppers won just a few games last season.

That puts her more in terms of the spirit of the award in making an achievement approaching what Dixon did at Army, though we still have several weeks to see the final impact.

But here’s the thing.

Though some others have done outstanding jobs – Stephanie V. Gaitley at Fordham, Maryland’s Brenda Frese keeping the Terrapins competitive in the face of major roster losses by injuries, at this point in time Warlick, who also had to deal with injuries, has done more.

Understand, though, we still have to go through conference tournaments and early rounds of the NCAA tournament and a darkhorse could come through asd was soon several years ago.

But Warlick is definitely a strong candidate, nationally, though with several coach of the year honors handed out by various organizations, there may not be one consensus winner.

Stay tuned.

The Monopoly is Broken

Until Duke fell to Miami Thursday night, teams currently in the top six of the Associated Press Women’s Poll were heading for a rarity in not losing to any opponents outside themselves.

But with such setbacks as Penn State’s loss, causing the Lady Lions into a must-win game at Nebraska Sunday to avoid sharing the Big Ten regular season title with the Cornhuskers – PSU still has the tiebreak for No. 1 seed – as well as several. In the SEC and also Maryland’s loss to Florida State, are these upsets an omen that perhaps things may get wide open in the race for Sweet 16 and Final Four slots?


PhilahoopsW Action

Meanwhile, of the three PhilahoopsW teams that played – one was Penn State, which lost, as mentioned – the two Colonial Athletic Association frontrunners – Delaware and Drexel -- continued their winning ways.

No. 18 Delaware here shook off a rough start as Elena Delle Donne scored 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Blue Hens over Hofstra 79-50 while Danielle Parker had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Trumae Lucas scored 13 for Delaware (25-3, 16-0), which has won 25-straight CAA games over three seasons and 20 straight overall.

The Blue Hens for the second straight season clinched the CAA regular season title outright and hold the top seed for the CAA tourney later this month again at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Candace Bond had 14 points, while Shante Evans scored 12 for Hofstra (12-15, 8-8).

Delle Donne, adding to her total of all-time CAA records became the conference’s top career holder in blocking shots. She now trails Florida International’s Jerica Coley (26.0) by 0.6 with a 25.4 average in the race for the Division I scoring title Delle Donne won last season.

Drexel, meanwhile, used a 17-0 run to beat host Georgia State 58-49 in Atlanta in what was the final meeting between the two as CAA opponents before Georgia State heads elsewhere.

That move has caused the CAA to bar Georgia State (13-15, 5-12 CAA) as well as departing Old Dominion from appearing in the conference men’s and women’s tournaments.

Drexel (20-7, 13-3), which will be at least the three seed, kept its pace to get to No. 2 as Hollie Mershon scored 23 points, Meghan Creighton scored 12, and Renee Johnson-Allen had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Penn State, which fell 89-81 at Minnesota in Minneapolis, got 23 points from Maggie Lucas, 19 from Alex Bentley, and 15 from Nikki Greene for the Lady Lions (23-4, 13-2 Big Ten), who have been seventh in the AP poll the last several weeks.

Minnesota improved to 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten.

The Lady Lions, as mentioned, move to Nebraska Sunday for the wrap up prior to next weekend’s conference tournament at Hoffman Estates in suburban Chicago.

Though Baskets and Boards aren’t being updated online at PhilahoopsW until Saturday, the file itself has been and all who qualified were mentioned in this area of results from Penn State, Delaware and Drexel.

Temple Backs Into A-10 Tourney Leaving La Salle Scrambling

The Owls did more for themselves doing nothing Thursday night than they have the past several weeks in falling into a four-game losing streak in the Atlantic 10.

Charlotte’s win over Virginia Commonwealth Thurday night dropped the Rams two games behind the Owls, thus ensuring Temple will be one of the 12 teams in the field at the A-10 tournament next weekend, which opens with three rounds at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena.

In the past two teams did not go but with the expansion, which will be short-lived, four teams don’t go this time around.

Temple’s seed will be determined Sunday after hosting Fordham, which is fighting for a bye. It could be the Owls might open with George Washington, which would be an irony since because of the number of teams this season, they did not meet the Colonials of the nation’s capital, with whom they’ve enjoyed a long rivalry.

The Owls after this season will go to the remnants of the current Big East, which will be renamed according to reports Thursday.

The last slot now is now up for grabs between La Salle, which visits St. Bonaveture, Sunday, and VCU, which plays Rhode Island.

La Salle needs either to win or VCU to lose. If the two tie, VCU, a conference newcomer, will get the nod because of a head-to-head win over the

Good Look Rosa Gatti

The news that Rosa Gatti has retired from her top PR position at ESPN brings fond memories to the Guru.

Back in the day when the Guru was about to launch what became the AP women's poll, it was Gatti, then overall SID at Villanova, Penn State's Mary Jo Haverbeck, liason for the Lady Lions, and then-Pittsburgh PR Joyce Aschenbrenner, who went to the SID convention and informed the membership of the Guru's plans.

That of course elicited a longtime relationship between the Guru and the CoSIDA membership, without whom none of what the Guru had achieved would haver been possible.

Looking Ahead

It’s Ivy Night at PhilahoopsW with Princeton at Harvard Friday night while Penn visits Dartmouth before the travelers switch sites Saturday.

Princeton, which is 50-1 over four seasons with a record win streak in the league, is closing in on a fourth straight Ivy crown and can knock Harvard from contention with a win Friday night.

Penn has a chance to finish second and go to the WNIT, even though technically the Quakers right now are still alive in the fight for first.

Friday night, due to the Guru’s inability due to other matters from getting to Boston for the two nights Harvard hosts in nearby Cambridge, he will visit Rider, which hosts Siena in an MAAC game.

At some point soon, while philahoopsw coveraged detoured here, the conference and NCAA coverage may go the other way to take advantage of the technology for a better presentation.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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