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, April 01, 2014

Guru's Musings: Rutgers Gets to Women's NIT Semifinals

By Mel Greenberg

For the fourth time in the history of the Rutgers women's basketball program the Scarlet Knights are in a poatseason final four, though for the second time not in the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers edged host Bowling Green 55-50 Monday in the Women's NIT on the road in a hostile environment and thus advanced to the semifinals in what is now an intriguing storyline.

Before moving on to the Big Ten, which though not official until July 1 is defacto official once the final horn of the season sounds, Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer's group gets a bit of a do-over Wednesday night when they travel to Tampa to meet South Florida in one of the semifinals.

In a semifinal on the other side of the continent, UTEP will meet South Dakota State.

It was South Florida that upset the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J., near the end of the regular season that resulted in the Bulls finishing third and Rutgers, in their one year tour of duty, landed in fourth in the American Athletic Conference standings.

The consequence was that the Knights had to deal with Connecticut in the semifinals of the conference tournament as opposed to dealing with a lesser poison, but poison nonetheless, in facing Louisville.

The difference is that with the burden of the move to a lighter schedule for this season, for a variety of reasons, a chance to beat Louisville and then face Connecticut in the championship might have been enough to tip the scales to an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

That's how it was looking forward. However, looking backward, it might not have made much of a difference.

The Bulls took Louisville down to the last few seconds and weren't given the time of day by the NCAA committee so nothing could be assured that life would have been altered if history ran a different course for Rutgers.

So there is a revenge factor to use as motivation though at this point the smell of a trophy might trump all other issues.

But the fact that Rutgers got here, fending off noble challenges from Delaware, Harvard, and especially the overtime affair with Seton Hall all at home prior to Monday's ability to prevail over Bowling Green, can now give you insight as to why the Guru posed a question to Stringer at the end of the postgame press conference that Saturday afternoon a month ago after Rutgers had been waxed for the third time by UConn, which is also on its way to a Final Four to defend its NCAA title.

Normally, the Guru would have passed on the opportunity to mention the WNIT at all, knowing Stringer's longtime stance of not giving the event any attention.

But, in fact, if Rutgers ended up not getting into the NCAA, the question would come up at that point if not a few days earlier.

However, the Guru first of all referenced the experience of Drexel a year ago and coach Denise Dillon who only minutes after suffering the heartbreak of a near-upset of the Elena Delle Donne-led Delaware squad in the Colonial Athletic Association title game was asked about the WNIT.

Dillon embraced the opportunity telling the media that if one is a competitor why would you not want to keep competing.

She even noted it would be nice if the tournament had 100 games instead of six.

Three weeks later, Drexel found itself in the national spotlight for winning the championship and was able to carry around a great feeling all summer.

And so as Stringer talked about her team in the same mode of being a competitor, the Guru broached the question to his longtime friend even at the risk of the finger wagging that came his way during the response about he of all people should know her longtime stance on the WNIT.

Well, but he also thought what might be better to sign off on as the final memory of the season -- another crusher by the Huskies or the hoisting of a trophy that actually jump starts you to the whole new era ahead.

And the Guru thought Stringer might be at that same place, because after calling the Guru on his lack of memory, she suddenly shifted gears and said the following:

"Probably what's best for the team is that we take advantage of the experience, the opportunity, one to practice, to play, to compete," she said. "But, don't tell anyone else that, because we're planning to go to the NCAA."

And here we are -- a chance for a little revenge and a chance to win it all and keep the WNIT title in the Guru's PhilahoopsW family.

By the way, the other three Final Fours involving Rutgers were the 2000 NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia and 2007 NCAA event in Cleveland, and in Philadelphia in 1982 when Theresa Grentz was the coach, the last AIAW tourney which consisted of the teams, many solid, that didn't make the initial jump to the NCAA.

Abandon Ship?

The trouble with people who tweet links, many at their own papers for those who are still at their own papers, many times they promote stories in their areas but don't provide promotional codes such as The Inquirer and Daily News tweet to get users past firewalls.

So it was not possible to read the total coverage by the Knoxville contingent over Tennessee's loss to Maryland in the Louisville Regional semifinal Sunday.

But the headlines certainly sparked curiosity because it is hard to fathom whether the same words might have appeared if Pat Summitt was still at the helm of the Lady Vols.

Again, sometimes the headlines are actually more suggestive than the actual coverage so it is hard to totally gauge what was written, so just take this as an observation.

Master Charges of the Notre Dame Regional

With all the talk of special meetings this week in Nashville concerning the state of women's basketball -- marketing on Friday highlighting the presentation of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and the NCAA's own massive sessions on Monday as another follow-up to the White Paper produced by Val Ackerman late last spring -- it takes two to tango.

Unless there is such insulation that no one running the show was aware of the outrage on twitter (many from reputable beat writers) and on TV the way the Notre Dame-Baylor game was called, it would seem some display of accountability would go a long way to at least offer some explanation of what went down.

And the Guru is not saying it has to be a specific on the record communication. But if it was a mess and addressed aftewards just make people aware so at least the next time this kind of thing occurs -- and it could happen as early as this weekend -- at least there's a comeback to the man in the street that the powers know they have a problem and they're working on it.

And the Guru offers Exhibit A.

Since he was not at a Regional for reasons previously explained, he happened to be in a restaurant that actually had the game on a big screen. (He was prepared to go with his iPad and Watch ESPN app.)

Here's the good news -- People actually seemed to have some knowledge (the name Notre Dame has a way of drawing interest) and were paying attention to the contest.

Here's the bad news -- the officiating was turning them off big time.

And it is with mixed emotions writing this because one member of that crew works many games back here and there is always a nice exchange of plesantries pre-game and during timeouts during the season.

But back to the bottom line. If you think all is great in the world because the number one goal was achieved by placing the site at Notre Dame -- a sellout crowd.

Guess what? To paraphrase a radio message that became noteworthy during Apollo 13 in the glory NASA Days: Indy? You got a problem.

There is a post under this that also went up with enhanced details of Monday's announcement of the 10-member women's all-American team picked by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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