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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guru's American Conference Report: Done and Won in Casino-Land

By Mel Greenberg

Like the headline says on this blog, on Monday night no matter how you looked at the rebranded American Athletic Conference championship out of a part of the former Big East coniguration, it was a done-and-won event.

On the court, top-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut, the defending NCAA champion, comepleted the first phase on the road to national title number nine, with a quick knockout of No. 3 Louisville 72-52 for the Huskies' first conference hardware with a different name.

The game was over quickly, though late in the first half the Cardinals (30-4) got within eight points only to have most outstading player Breanna Stewart propel the Huskies (34-0) back into strong command and a 40-22 lead at the break.

"It's not about the hats, the trophies and the shirts," Hall of Fame UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The significance of all this is that you have a goal before the season -- to win the conference championship. The whole process is about that."

The other part of the process was off the court and that was successfully done and won also though some tweaking here and there needs to be done next time around.

The old Big East women's tournament was played for years in the Hartford XL Center though the coaches' desires were to move the event here to Mohegan, a casino-entertainment complex.

Wih conscientous objectors no longer involved in decision making, The American took up a one-year renewable year.

Mohegan looked to be doing business on the tournament weekend even better than on summer nights when the WNBA Connecticut Sun plays home games here.

But for the most part, everyone was thrilled with the atmosphere and electricity even if like everything else in this state, the event was UConn induced.

Back on the court, statiscally, Stewart finished with 20 points, six assists, four blocks, a pair of steals, and nine rebounds.

Bria Hartley, who seems to perform best in showtime games, had 16 points while her senior classmate Stefanie Dolson had 10 points and 16 rebounds.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 13 points and all three Huskies behind Stewart, whose vote is separate, made the all-tournament team.

Shoni Schimmel, who was the only Cardinal in double figures, had 20 points and also made the all-tourney squad as did South Florida's Courtney Williams, whose Bulls narrowly lost to Louisville in the semifinals.

"I think you saw three of the top 10 players in America on the floor in this game," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of Schimmel, Hartley and Stewart.

These two teams, who played for the NCAA title last season and in 2009, could see each other again in the Big Dance either at the regional level in Louisville, which is contending for a No. 1 seed but is the host, or in the Final Four in Nashville.

Walz was not totally dismayed after his Cardinals had racked up the third of three losses to UConn out of the four on the season.

"We did some good things," he said. "We just didn't do enough of them ... "

And Walz said that if the two were to meet again, though someone would have to seriously question the committee's logic in putting them on a collision course through the same regional, there would be nothing timid on his side.

"If someone thinks they can't be beat, let's save a bunch of money and just give out the trophies now," he said easily referencing last season's stunning upset when Louisville knocked off then unbeaten Baylor in the Sweet 16.

Auriemma said that Louisville is good enough to beat Connecticut but that the Cardinals just happen at the moment to be catching the Huskies with one of their best-ever squads playing excellently.

"Things are definetly clicking," Dolson said. "We are playing extremely well as a team. There's room for improvement, but we know it. But we think we will continue to get better."

Louisville, though, won't be back next year since the Cardinal is heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference, though still likely to play UConn out of league.

Dance Tickets

A year after Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Foster was let go by Ohio State he is back in the NCAA tournament after guiding Tenneseee-Chattanooga to the Southern Conference title.

Albany claimed the America East crown, while perennial Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Marist had to rally over new member Quinnipiac to claim another title.

Baylor edged West Virginia to claim another Big 12 title although the Mountaineers, whose No. 5 ranking in Monday's AP women's poll is their highest ever, are a lock for an at-large bid.

Top-seeded DePaul had to fend off a challenge from fifth-seeded Marquette, while second-seeded St. John's had to go into double overtime to beat third-seeded Creighton and advance to Tuesday night's title game in the reconfigured Big East at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., near Chicago.

Holy Cross upset two-time defending Patriot League champion Navy while Army beat American in the semifinals to advance to the title game Saturday at Army.

If Army wins it would be the first time since 2006 when the late Maggie Dixon coached the Black Knights to their first title and then died suddenly several weeks after their NCAA appearance.

Gonzaga and BYU advanced to Tuesday's West Coast Conference title game.

Finding the 32 at-large

A Guru quick look taking both a conservative approach and liberal as to locks and bubbles in terms of who will be on the table for discussion.

We will refine and rediscuss more in next few days.

American -- Lock-1 Louisville. Bubble-2 South Florida, Rutgers

ACC -- Lock-7 Duke, Maryland, N.C. State, UNC, Syr, Ga Tech. Bubble-None

Atlantic 10 -- Lock-1 Dayton. Bubble-1 St. Joseph's

Big Ten -- Lock-4 Penn State, Mich. St., Iowa, Purdue. Bubble-1 Minnesota.

Big 12 -- Lock-4 West Va., Texas, Okla State, Iowa State. Bubble-0

Big East -- Lock-1 Loser of DePaul/St. John's.

CAA -- Bubble-1 JMU if not wwinning CAA.

C-USA -- Bubble-1 Middle Tenn if not winning C-USA

Pac-12 -- Lock-4 Stanford, Oregon St, California, Ariz. St.

SEC -- Lock-5 Texas A&M, South Carolina, Kentucky, LSU, Georgia

West Coast -- Lock-1 Loser of BYU/Gonzaga

Locks 30 -- Bubble 4 plus two wild cards as noted. Means two need to be cut.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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