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, January 20, 2015

Guru's College Report: The Real Penn-Villanova Showdown is at the Palestra Wednesday

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The Penn/Villanova men’s game Saturday night may have been a sellout but it is the women’s version early Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. in which many marbles will be involved in how the Big Five finally settles for the season.

A season removed from Penn doing diligence in a strong finish that brought a victory over Princeton for the Ivy crown and a trip to the NCAA, the Quakers are now making program history in their local competition.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s group has already claimed a first-ever three wins in the City Series round robin but also has gone 3-0 to clinch at least a tie for the Big Five trophy.

Along the way were a narrow win over Temple and a rare triumph over Saint Joseph’s, which will be cheering for Villanova to have a shot for a hand in a piece of the tie after winning the city outright last season.

So for Penn, it’s time to go after the icing – a win over the Wildcats – another that in intself would be a rarity – and the Quakers own the city.

But in what is actually a kick off to a really big week for Villanova, if the Wildcats can top Penn, then both tie and the only remaining issue is whether it becomes a three-way if Saint Joseph’s can top La Salle in a few weeks in the Hagan Arena home portion of the two-game set with the Explorers created by the Atlantic 10 schedule.

However it goes for Villanova, this weekend at the Pavilion is really big, and would be even bigger had not the Wildcats been tripped up at Butler last Friday. But all is not lost because if coach Harry Perretta’s group is to stay in the Big East race, already owning a victory over pre-season favorite DePaul, the new top of the heap, Seton Hall will be visiting Friday night.

On Sunday, Saint John’s, another of the upper echelon drops by and while it is possible that Villanova has the ability to win the NCAA automatic bid with a Big East title, now that everyone is healthy, the only way to get into the at-large hunt for an NCAA bid is to produce a sweep in the top games.

If the NCAA is not to be, Villanova is among the locals with a strong shot at the WNIT.

Temple and Cincy Coaches Will be Parking Friendships For 40 Minutes

The Owls and the Bearcats have already met in the Midwest in the front end of their home-and-home series in the American Athletic Conference with Temple grabbing a victory.

Now, part two comes Tuesday night in the only D-1 game in the area when the two longtime friends and equally formerly longtime assistants to UConn Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma reunite again in Temple’s Tonya Cardoza and the Bearcats’ Jamelle Elliott, who also played on the first UConn NCAA champion.

While most teams in the area are already needing to win conference titles to get to the NCAA tournament , Temple has a variety of ways to get to the WNIT despite the current 8-11 overall and 4-2 conference record.

Theoretically, the Owls were already counted as four conference losses playing as underdogs to UConn and USF, which have already each taken one of the victories in the two-game set.

Temple has had extra practice for this one coming up because after storming to a 49-20 lead over UCF in McGonigle Hall on Saturday afternoon, the opposition outscored the Owls 37-23 in the second half though Cardoza’s group found a way to win after having a huge lead reduced to eight points prior to the 72-57 final score.

“We can beat anybody but, probably UConn,” Cardoza said of the first half play. “But if we play like we did in the second half, we can lose to anybody.”

The key here is to pick up as many conference wins as possible because option 1, if Temple can finish third in the regular season, with the probability that both UConn and USF will be NCAA bound, the WNIT takes Temple as the conference rep no matter what the record is.

But if the Owls can finish over .500 there is a good chance they could land an at-large slot and Cardoza’s youngsters could get some needed postseason experience for the future.

Looking Ahead on the Schedule

On Wednesday night, it is possible to get from Penn to the back end of the La Salle game, which has a 7 p.m. tip at the Tom Gola Arena for the Explorers’ A-10 game against Saint Louis.

On Thursday, Drexel is at Hofstra on Long Island at noon looking for revenge for the recent CAA loss here in overtime to the Pride.

Delaware will be looking to bounce back from Sunday’s squandered loss at home to William & Mary when the Blue Hens host the College of Charleston at 7 p.m. in the Bob Carpenter Center.

Villanova hosting Seton Hall is the only D-1 game in the area Friday.

On Saturday, the revitalized George Washington squad visits La Salle at 1 p.m. while Saint Joseph’s hosts Saint Bonaventure at 2 p.m. for those who want to catch a little of both in A-10 action.

Sunday it is possible to do a triple-header beginning with the Saint John’s/Villanova game at noon, then Drexel hosts Delaware at 2 p.m. in their first of their two CAA local rivalry games, and at 5:15 p.m. Rutgers hosts Minnesota in a game involving two nationally-ranked Big Ten teams that are NCAA bound at the moment.

Penn will be at NJIT for the Quakers’ last non-conference game of the regular season.

Postseason Outlook

OK, some of our teams in the 10-team Guru PhilahoopsW group were not discussed above because the less said the better right now.

To give it you graphically, here, in order, are the overall won-loss records, the RPI, and the Strength of Schedule, off one reliable simulation of the measurements used by the committee to evaluate and then the Guru will give you the skinny.

1. Princeton (17-0), RPI-16, SOS-110
2. Rutgers (13-5), RPI-57, SOS-106
3. Penn (7-5), RPI-72, SOS-37
4. Drexel (10-7), RPI-74, SOS-64
5. Villanova (10-8), RPI-106, SOS-126
6. St. Joe (5-12), RPI-128, SOS-7
7. Temple (8-11), RPI-177, SOS-167
8. La Salle (10-8), RPI-183, SOS-275
9. Delaware (7-10), RPI-200, SOS-175
10. Penn State (3-15), RPI-225, SOS-32

Princeton likely to win the Ivy barring a fight from Penn though depending on what happens at the finish the Tigers are at-large worthy, a rarity for an Ivy team.

Rutgers, barring a collapse, will get to the NCAA either as Big 10 champs or an at-large pick.

Penn is not dead yet in terms of the NCAA but let’s wait for the first half of the Ivy race to end. However, the Quakers either as the Ivy runnerup or a strong season showing could land in the WNIT.

Drexel must win the CAA, a long shot given JMU’s domination of the league. But the Dragons could get to the WNIT.

Villanova could creep into the at-large discussion, though not there now, has the ability to win the Big East, but at worst lands in the WNIT.

Saint Joseph’s collapse has been stunning but maybe the Hawks will become Cinderella at the A-10 tourney. However, Dayton, George Washington, and Fordham falling would be a major surprise.

Temple’s situation was mentioned above. The best hope and achievable is the WNIT.

La Salle has a winning overall record but is 1-3 in the conference. As for the postseason, not totally dead but not every much alive.

Delaware could go on a late run and get to the WNIT and host – that is if Elena Delle Donne will be around for an autograph session.

As for Penn State, the Lady Lions are young but no one expected this. But the way, since it wasn’t mentioned above, if the weather is suitable, Indiana is at Happy Valley, Thursday, but the better option is Sunday when Northwestern, coached by Father Judge grad and former GW coach Joe McKeown, visits in what will be a game featuring two teams whose fortunes have reversed.

Division II: USP Turning Into a Power

Considering the way the Devils performed in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer League, maybe their climb to the top of the Southern Division of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference shouldn’t be a surprise.

On Monday, the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia, took time off from the conference to host Kutztown, the team on which Penn center Kara Bonenberger’s sister plays.

The Devils, playing at home in Bobby Morgan Arena in Southwest Philadelphia collected their 10th straight win 77-68 to improve to 12-4 overall – they’ve only lost once in the CACC by the way.

Brianne Traub had 23 points to help drop the Golden Bears to 6-11.

Kaitlyn Schmid tied a career-high with 13 points, a total matched by teammate Laura Trisch while Jessica Sylvester scored 10 points.

Defensively, Isabelle Ross grabbed nine rebounds while Traub collected seven, and Schmid dealt seven assists.

That’s it for the moment. The Guru will be tweeting from Temple.

- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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