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 10, 2014

Guru Report: NCAA Outlook Dismal for Local Hopefuls

( Guru note: Later Monday with a day open before the night's championship in The American between Uconn and Louisville, the Guru will set up Princeton and Penn and recap the Saturday night senior salutes finish of both teams.)

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. --
The Guru hates to be the bearer of bad tidings but this could be one of the bleaker years inside the Philadelphia Big Five in terms of making the field of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

And the others in his PhilahoopsW overall mix are not fareing well either.

Villanova's fate was sealed Sunday night in the final minute of the Big East quarterfinal at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago, when Marquette's Katherine Plouffe hits a pair of foul shots with 18 seconds left to lift the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles (21-9) to a 56-53 victory over the fourth-seeded Wildcats (22-8) to advance to Monday night's semifinal against top-seeded DePaul (25-6), which advanced with a 78-54 win over Georgetown.

The other semifinal was set with No. 2 St. John's (21-9) beatung Seton Hall 66-60 while thid-seeded Creighton (19-12) beat Butler 61-52.

In the Villnova game, Ashley Santos hit two free throws for Marquette and the game's final points.

The loss negated two wins in the regular season by Villanova over Marquette, including Tuesday's regular season finale when the Wildcats shot the lights out of the Pavilion for an 81-64 triumph.

Veteran coach Harry Perretta cautioned after the game that set up an immediate rematch in terms of the Big East pairings that one night's breather doesn't guarantee anything next time around.

Villanova senior Devon Kane, who was named to the all-Big East first team, scored 19 points while Taylor Holeman scored 13 and Caroline Coyer, winner of the sixth player award, scored 10.

Plouffe had a team-high 14 points for Marquette.

Villanova needed to win and get a chance to upset DePaul since the new-look Big East is not as shiny in the eyes of the NCAA committee as the blinding gleam that existed before last summer's realignment of membership.

The overnight RPI simulation at the Sports Illustrated web site had the Wildcats at 50th, way below DePaul and St. John's, who each swept Villanova during the regular season.

The Wildcats, though, would clearly land a spot in the WNIT, won last season by Drexel.

Saint Joseph's (22-9) and Rutgers (22-9), which was wiped out by top-ranked Connecticut(33-0) with a 25-4 opening and eventual 83-57 victory, will stay in the discussion for at-large consideration but both are clearly on the bubble, though ESPB bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Hawks still in the field with a ninth seed despite being ousted by George Washington by three points in overtime in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.

Creme's theory is St. Joseph's RPI listing of 22, though it had been near the top 10 until the last couple of weeks, and the fact that no team in the top 30 unless it had a losing record had ever been omitted from the field by the committee, which has an ongoing rotation of members.

The Hawks' strength of schedule is listed at 31.

Rutgers, on the overnight, is listed at 52 whle the Scarlet Knight's strength of schedule is 91 after Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer deliberated softened the nonconference competition (that index number was pretty gruesome at the end of December) due to a roster devoid of seniors.

But if it came down to a discussion of either or, based on the Guru's past experience at NCAA mock bracket exercises, between Rutgers and Saint Joseph's, it become interesting.

The mathematical argument favors Saint Joseph's inluding clear indication the Hawks scheduled tough, Rutgers did not.

But the basketball argument would be that perhaps the Scarlet Knights with a roster heavy of high school all-Americans would beat Saint Joseph's head-to-head most times off a random sample suggested.

Still, there were prominent people whispering in the Mohegan Sun Arena during The American semifinals that a roster with that much talent shouldn't be getting routed like that.

Some of the Rutgers faithful in going over the carnange were clining on the Scarlet Knights being the only team to outscore UConn in the second half.

But the other problem is they lost at home last week to South Florida (18-11), which is now healthy and nearly upset No. 3 Louisville, the second seed, in the other semifinal that went down to the final half-minute.

The Bulls' RPI is 56 on the overnight with a schedule strength of 42.

Saint Joseph's, if it doesn't make the NCAAs, would quickly accept a WNIT bid while Stringer when asked by the Guru at the postgame press conference here if she might change her stance toward the WNIT, if that's the only option, conceded that it was a possibility.

The only reason the Guru asked the question now is it's going to come up next Monday if Rutgers is not in the NCAA field and the Guru sensed that since the WNIT has gained a bit from its non-stature days and that Stringer might not want the Connecticut onslaught to be her team's last taste would take an event they'd have a great shot at winning.

Now, should all four AAC teams in the top of the standings, South Florida was third by the way, the next sound you hear is hand wringing at Temple (14-16).

No, Temple had no shot at the NCAA and Saturday's 72-44 rout by South Florida wasn't helpful, but if all four went to the NCAAs, then the fifth-place team goes to the WNIT as the automatic qualifier, without regard to a winning record.

Temple tied for fifth with SMU (17-13), which faded in the second half Saturday and fell to Rutgers 68-49.

But SMU had the fifth seed and tiebreak because of Temple failing to sweep the Mustangs, the first tiebreaker, and then also failing to sweep Cincinnati, which SMU did to make the second tiebreaker stand.

La Salle had a good closing stretch but while 15-15 gets you eligible, a RPI of 157 might be off the charts.

Within the Big Five, at this hour Penn has a shot at the NCAA by beating Princeton in the Ivy showdown Tuesday night before the men play the second game at Jadwin Gym in central New Jersey.

But it is a tall order for all the Quakers (21-6) accomplished to try to win at Princeton (20-7), which is going for an unprecendted fifth straight Ivy crown.

The Tigers are also one of the Guru's 10 PhilahoopsW teams, by the way.

The loser of the game is guaranteed the Ivy's spot in the WNIT field off tiebreakers with Harvard but the Crimson is capable of getting an at-large invite.

Of the remaining three of the PhilahoopsW group, No. 11 Penn State (22-7) is certain to get an at-large NCAA bid even after getting destroyed by Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals that was the Lady Lions' first action in the conference tourney.

Penn State is also one of the host sites for the first and second rounds.

Drexel or Delaware could make it there by winning this weekend's Colonial Athletic Association tournament whose favorite is James Madison (25-5), the top seed.

The tourney again returns to Upper Marlboro, Md., at the Show Place Arena.

But if an upset happens, JMU might still make it to the NCAA field. Delaware (18-9) as the second seed has the WNIT invite.

Drexel (14-15) has the fourth seed, meaning Charleston at No. 3 gets the WNIT bid if JMU and Delaware are NCAA bound. The Draqons would have to get to the CAA title game to be eligible to defend last season's WNIT title.

That's it for now but more to come this afternoon as the Guru works from afar.

-- Mel










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