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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guru's NCAA Report: Texas-Maryland Matches Programs of Tradition in 2nd Round

By Mel Greenberg

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There's a lot of tradition in the matchup of Texas and Maryland in Tuesday's night's second round game of the Louisville Regional in the NCAA women's basketball tournament here at the Terrapins' Comcast Center.

Both programs stem from original guidance by former Maryland coach Chris Weller, a Women's Basketball Hall of Famer, and former Texas mentor Jody Conradt, who has a similar accolade along with enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The two programs have had their setbacks but Maryland's Brenda Frese has made the Terrapins a national power again with an NCAA title in the trophy case in 2006 while Karen Aston, a past Longhorns assistant, has gotten Texas on the road back after she had made head coaching stops at Charlotte and North Texas before returning to Austin last season.

The Longhorns (22-11) snapped a first-round losing streak in getting their first win since 2008 on Sunday when they rallied to beat Penn.

Maryland (25-6) was also slow getting out of the gate but then turned on the jets to run over Army.

Both programs are among the top 10 in terms of all-time appearances in The Associated Press women's poll, having appeared in the rankings in the very first season in 1976-76.

However, the two have not met since 1993 and historically the Terrapins have been a thorn to Texas in going 3-1 including wins in the 1989 NCAA regional in Austin and at Maryland 1980 in an early round of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

Since arriving here in the spring of 2002, Frese has groomed a nice collection of all-Americans such as Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne and her latest star in Alyssa Thomas,a 6-2 senior forward from Harrisburg in the state capital of Pennsylvania who is expected to be an early first round pick in this spring's WNBA draft.

Thomas on Sunday set the school scoring record for men and women breaking former men's star Juan Dixon's record of 2,269 points by two.

She is also only 38 boards away from Crystal Langhorne's 1,229 school record for rebounds.

"I don't think there is anybody in the country similar to Alyssa Thomas," Aston said at Monday's press conferences to preview Tuesday's game. "She is a phenomenal basketball player and it is all because of her competitive spirit.

"A lot of players can score. We've played some of the most remarkable scorers that I've ever seen, beginning with (rival Baylor's) Odyssey Sims (in the Big 12 conference). She is a remarkable scorer but the intangibles add some special things to Thomas," Aston said.

"Her rebounding ability and the fact she can begin the break off the backboard is really special because she has her teammates that can get out on transition."

Katie Rutan, a three-point shooting ace from Springside School in suburban Philadelphia, is familar to Aston because Rutan was a freshman at Xavier when Aston was coaching Charlotte in the Atlantic 10.

Alicia DeVaughn, a 6-4 senior center, is another threat on the boards for Maryland while freshman guard Lexi Brown has become one of the nation's top rookies.

Aston has firepower in 6-7 sophomore Imani McGee-Stafford, who is averaging 10.6 points pewr game and 7-2 rebounds.

Nneka Enemkpali is averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.

In the backcourt senior Chassidy Fussell is averaging 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds.

"They are extremely up-tempo and obiously they rebound extremely hard so it's going to take a tremendous team effort," Frese said of confronting Texas.

"It is kind of two teams that mirror each other when it comes to depth, both teams have. When you get into foul trouble you are able to go to your bench."

Aston said Baylor and West Virginia, rivals of Texas in the Big 12, have similarities to Maryland, while Frese referenced North Carolina and Duke, rivals in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as reminders of Texas.

Next season Frese's reference library of conference competition will have a new look considering Maryland is bound for the Big Ten this summer.

Brown said a goal of Maryland was to get McGee-Stafford in foul trouble and out of the game to which the Los Angeles native responded, "We'll I'm flattered I'm a target but I'm not really sure that I'm the only person they should be worried about.

"A lot of teams have said that. ... I would hope they are worried about more than me because we have a lot of players that can do a lot of things."

The winner who gets to Louisiville, the regional site for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, will see top-seed Tennessee or No. 8 seed Saint John's, who met later Monday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

That's it for the moment.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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