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 Ivy Report: Penn and Princeton Decide Their Postseason Fates

( Guru note: The American Tournament, other winners and locks and bubbles under this. post. )

By Mel Greenberg

It hasn't been often on the season-ending doubleheader involving the men and women's basketball teams of Penn and Princeton that the more marquee game has been the women's opening contest in late afternoon.

For the past four years the event for the women has been Princeton putting the ribbon on another successful run to the Ivy championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

But Tuesday night in the Tigers' Jadwin Gym in Princeton, N.J., the 5:30 p.m. opener will be an all-timer in the history of Ivy women's competition.

The virtually parallel runs since early January by Penn (21-6, 11-2 Ivy) and Princeton (20-7, 11-2) to a first-place deadlock after last weekend's games has created inherently something the Ivy has been the sole conference to avoid -- a postseason tournament to determine a bid.

But this event is still in-season and it amounts to a one-game tournament where the winner will go to the NCAA and the loser gets an automatic bid to WNIT because both teams hold the tiebreaker over Harvard in what would be second place in the standings.

Penn swept the season series with Harvard, while Princeton, which split with the Crimson killing that tiebreak, holds the next one in having a win over Penn in the league-opener in early January at the Quakers' Palestra in Philadelphia.

Harvard, however, is likely to get an at-large WNIT bid which would be a first in Ivy history for the third place team.

Princeton is after an unprecedented extension of its championship streak to five, and this one would come in the first season following the graduation of one of the Ivy all-timers in Niveen Rasheed, who is now playing pro ball in Greece.

Penn arrives a bit ahead of schedule and assuming the Quakers give it their best shot there won't be the disappointment that the Tigers would feel.

In Mike McLaughlin's fifth season, the Quakers are knocking on the door of an Ivy title after a constant progression that began with an agonizing two-win effort before this year's seniors arrived the following September to lead Penn back to the promised land.

Meanwhile, on the other bench Princeton's Courtney Banghart has become one of the prized group of younger coaches in the game.

In fact it has been suggested that to stop more attempted poaching likely to come in the next several weeks, perhaps Princeton should give her the AD's job with Gary Walters retiring and allow her to delegate so she can continue coaching.

Recruiting Rasheed was as important as Penn getting Alyssa Baron but Banghart made her mark with the Tigers getting big wins outside the league schedule.

This season Penn began to do likewise with an upset of host Miami on New Year's Day that was set up as a homecoming visit for Baron.

Also, the Quakers launched the most serious threat in the program's history to a Philadelphia Big 5 title.

And so it was when the league schedule began in January, there was much anticipation as to what the first of the two meetings would bring with Penn on a roll and Princeton being Princeton.

It didn't amount to much, however, with Penn taking a quick lead and then Princeton roaring to an 84-35 win that was as devastating as that 78-27 crusher to close out the 2011 regular season.

But Banghart after the win had concerns that Penn had the stuff to not lose the rest of the way going into Tuesday's game and her more youthful group might stumble somewhere.

She was one game off on her Penn assessment. The Quakers bounced back nearly upsetting Villanova and Saint Joseph's in Big Five road games before winning at Temple and then they returned to the Ivy wars with the highlight being a demolishing of Harvard in the first meeting with the Crimson held at the Palestra.

The key, besides such seniors as Baron and the return of Meghan Mcullough, was the addition of freshman Sydney Stipanovich, who has become a one-woman block party and likely to be McLaughlin's fourth straight Big Five rookie winner following Baron, Kara Bonenberger, and Keiera Ray.

That got Penn back to a tie at the top with the Tigers, who, after their annual three-week break for exams, fell to Harvard in Jadwin the previous evening.

But then Penn took a tumble at lowly Dartmouth the night after completing the sweep at Harvard. However, Princeton then did likewise the next weekend at Brown as both teams returned to the front-running deadlock.

That made last weekend the deal maker with both teams turning aside the visits from Columbia and Cornell.

The Friday games were addressed here in an early blog.

On Saturday night, when Penn and Princeton saluted their seniors, the Tigers in Jadwin after celebrating Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung, easily handled Columbia 92-48, highlighted by a lopsideded 58-25 advantage on the boards.

In the past five years, Princeton is 65-4 in league play with three of the four losses being to Harvard.

Penn, meanwhile, had to rally to beat Cornell 50-43, which gave the Quakers their second-best win total ever behind the 22 of the 2001 Ivy winners.

Stipanovich had 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks which brings her season rejections to 96, second best in Ivy history.

So here we are but there are a few items that need to be addressed considering there is also a men's game afterwards.

Penn, incidentally, had provided a bus to bring Quakers fans to Jadwin.

Whoever wins, there will be a presentation ceremony after the game and if Princeton wins, there will be a net-cutting celebration.

The men's game, which has no pressing significance, will be put on a small delay.

Ivy rules besides not allowing teams the option to fly to games of distance within the Ancient Eight to keep everyone with the same competitive advantage also do not allowing net-cutting on enemy courts.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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