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.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Guru Report II: Kane and Leer Star in Villanova Win Over Marquette

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. --
As it turned out, it may have been both Senior Night and Junior Night at Villanova Tuesday as the Wildcats wrapped up the regular season at the Pavilion with an 81-64 victory over Marquette in a Big East contest that gave Villanova (22-7, 12-6, Big East) a season sweep of the Golden Eagles (20-9, 11-7).

Starter Devon Kane, who was honored in pre-game ceremonies along with classmates Ellen Hill, Pearl Mensah and Jessica Wamala, set a career high with 23 points fueled by making three of four 3-pointers.

That total was matched by junior Emily Leer, who was on the path for another career high when she made her first nine shots, finishing with 23 points also. Caroline Coyer also scored in double figures with 12 points in a game in which the Wildcats nailed 13 treys and once again displayed ball control in getting less than double digits in turnovers, a statistic that leads the NCAA women.

Had veteran coach Harry Perretta not re-inserted Leer back into action late in the game with the outcome long decided, she would have joined several other Wildcats in the ‘Nova record book for having a night of perfection from the field.

“I wanted her to get a little more playing time,” Perretta said with an eye to this weekend’s new-look Big East tournament which will be mostly held in suburban Chicago in the Allstate Arena, the home of the WNBA Chicago Sky in suburban Rosemont.

The first round will be held in DePaul’s McGrath Arena.

The finish put Villanova in fourth place and Marquette fifth so they will meet again opening their play in the quarterfinals .n Sunday.

The winner could meet the top seed in host DePaul in the semifinals but though the Blue Demons, who returned to the rankings this week at No. 25 in the AP women’s poll, swept Villanova during the season, the matchup is not as daunting as in the Big East of a year ago.

“It’s exciting,” Leer said. “Everyone has a chance. In the past you just didn’t want to get into UConn’s part of the bracket.”

The breakup of the old configuration means the Big East marquee women’s event will be held in the Midwest instead of the Hartford XL Center in Connecticut.

But what’s left of the other former Big East pieces under the new American Athletic Conference name with additions will be playing for their NCAA automatic bid this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena in the casino-entertainment complex near New London that is the summer home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun.

UConn enters unbeaten and No. 1 nationally seeking to successfully defend last year’s NCAA title that would break a tie with Tennessee and put Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma all alone with nine titles – one short of the overall Division I record achieved under the late Hall of Fame UCLA men’s coach John Wooden.

Since the Big East survivors retained all the historical records by the time you merged the two sets of achievements from both conference listings of records you could label the unification the UConn media guide.

Royalty for this season has its privileges in that the top four seeds – Uconn, No. 2 Louisville, ranked third nationally; No. 3 South Florida and No. 4 Rutgers – get to stay at the lavish hotel on the Mohegan property while the other six will be elsewhere.

Temple, for example, will be a half-hour away in Mystic.

Incidentally, this is also the farewell for Louisville, bound for the ACC next season, and Rutgers, which will be heading for the Big Ten as will Maryland out of the ACC.

The Owls, who have a bye to Saturday’s quarterfinals, had their pathway involved in some change in the last two days as to what the original outlook was.

After beating last-place Houston at home in McGonigle Hall Monday night, Temple finished sixth, three spots above where the conference coaches predicted they’d be in the preseason poll.

But a half-hour later No. 24 Rutgers was upset by South Florida, who then moved into third ahead of the fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights. Then SMU beat UCF Tuesday morning in a weather-related makeup game and while technically the Owls were in a fifth-place tie with the Mustangs, because they split their games, the tie-break became SMU’s sweep of Cincinnati while Temple split their games with the Bearcats.

A week ago Temple almost beat South Florida at home. Rutgers out of this is in serious trouble in terms of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA field if they don’t win the automatic that comes with The American title.

The Owls, if they get to the semifinals, would probably see Louisville, a lesser poison than UConn., so they get to achieve what the Villanova players of the past wanted to avoid.

However, the departure of those heavyweights of a year ago, -- Notre Dame by the way is also unbeaten, No. 2 in the country and top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament – has a negative effect on Villanova.

Being fourth in the old Big East would make you a lock for the NCAA field. But on one simulation of the RPI used by the tournament committee had the Wildcats listed at 52nd with a strength of schedule at 100 on Monday.

“We just want to get as many wins as possible,” Perretta said after Tuesday’s game. “That’s what the focus was tonight. Everything looks easy when the shots go down but who’s to say that will happen again Sunday against Marquette. You just never know or can predict.”

Beating DePaul would have value but Villanova’s history with the Blue Demons is almost as bad as it was with UConn except the early years of the old old Big East when the Wildcats dominated the Huskies.

At worst, Villanova would get a WNIT bid and is quite capable of duplicating last year’s run by Drexel that led to the title.

Meanwhile, March Madness talk aside, Kane was overjoyed how things went down her final night in the Pavilion, though if in the WNIT some encores could lie ahead.

“It.’s meaningful,” Kane said. “It’s been a great ride these past five years here and I’ve played with a great group of girls here each year. It’s special. It’s awesome. It’s a good feeling.

“We’re definitely ready – we’re all pumped up to play (the Big East). Marquette’s such a good team so it’s going to be a struggle to beat them twice. It’s really exciting. St. John’s was up and then they lost the (conference) lead. So you never know with this league. It’s awesome.”

Looking Ahead

Drexel hosts Towson Wednesday night to wrap up its regular season and learn its seed in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association contest which again will be held at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., near Washington.

Then the only two of the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s Division I local coverage to continue thru Tuesday are the duo not involved in conference tournament action.

But Penn and Princeton are tied for first in the Ivy League and if they come out of this weekend’s hosting of Columbia and Cornell still tied or one-game apart, the quirk of the Ivy schedule has them meeting in Princeton Tuesday night for a decisive showdown for either a title or playoff.

Inherently, though, they are in tournament mode and both will be somewhere in the postseason.

We’ll set the table for the weekend after Wednesday’s Drexel game. We’ll also set up the Division III NCAA opening rounds involving Centennial champion Haverford in its part of the bracket and Colonial States Athletic Conference champion Cabrini in its part.

Also, below this post is an index approach to the baskets and boards individual performance on the season.

-- Mel




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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