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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hofstra Ends Delaware Season on Way to First-Ever CAA Title Game

By Mel Greenberg

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. --
Those hanging elsewhere on the bubble in terms of teams right on the border of perception as to whether they make or not make the NCAA tournament field to be announced Monday night will be focused here at the Show Place Arena where Hofstra will be making its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association tournament title game appearance at 1 p.m. against regular season heavyweight James Madison.

The third-seeded Pride got there Saturday afternoon for the first time in Krista Kilburn-Stevesky’s nine seasons at the school on Long Island by grinding out a feisty seventh-seeded Delaware squad 45-42 afte jumping off to a 15-point lead in the first half.

The Blue Hens (15-17), who will miss the title game for the first time in six seasons, two of which finished perfect conference runs with all-American Elena Delle-Donne, got as far as they did by upsetting Drexel in the quarterfinals.

The Dragons will live to see another day because their second-place finish guarantees a spot in the WNIT, which they won two seasons ago.

Not so Delaware, whose 15-17 record is one reversible loss short of owning the .500 or better mark needed to stay under consideration for at-large selection by the WNIT folks.

“In the end we finally got it,” veteran Blue Hens coach Tina Martin said of a team that nearly gave away another one against its local conference rival Drexel Friday afternoon.

But they didn’t get the win despite 14 points from Courtni Green and 10 from Erika Brown.

The biggest flaw was failing to go the easy way to get points, shooting 11-for-18 from the free throw line.

Now, one would think at first blush since the CAA is considered a one-bid league that those on the NCAA bubble are out of the woods.

Unfortunately, not as in the case of the other final five conference championships Sunday to determine the remainder of the 32 automatic qualifying slots in the 64-team NCAA field.

If any of the favorites have already lost or go on to lose it is not likely they will be rescued as at-large picks by the NCAA committee – one place in mid-major land that could happen is out of the West Coast Conference where BYU instead of Gonzaga won the conference crown.

But James Madison (28-3) is almost a lock to go but the Dukes showed signs of not necessarily getting there through the front door after having to rally and hold off new conference member Elon 63-60 on the play of CAA player of the year Precious Hall with 19 points, though she missed several attempts to lock things from the charity stripe in the closing minute.

Lauren Okafor had 11 points and Angela Mickens scored 10.

Elon (19-12), coached by former North Carolina star Charlotte Smith, famous for the three-point shot at the buzzer that gave the Tar Heels a come-from-behind NCAA title over then-powerful Louisiana Tech in 1994, got 18 points from Shay Burnette and 13 from Jennifer Rhodes.

“Survive and advance,” said veteran JMU coach Kenny Brooks with a near-discernible sigh of relief.

The challenge to JMU put Elon into the WNIT at-large deliberations and Hofstra is likely to land there if the Pride don’t win the NCAA bid.

But that is not out of the question from a group that won big several weeks ago at James Madison to spoil the Dukes’ otherwise unbeaten regular season mark in the CAA.

Elo Edeferioka got 12 points and 16 rebounds for Hofstra, which had rookie sensation Ashunae Durant held to just two points.

“It’s going to be a heck of a game,” Delaware’s Martin said. “We swept Hofstra, playing them early before they started playing their bigs together.”

Meanwhile, American beat Lehigh as the top-seeded Eagles beat sixth-seeded Lehigh to win a first-ever Patriot League title. It’s possible that the squad could gain an opening round match with unbeaten Princeton, who was given one of the tougher challenges by American in Washington early in the season.

Stephen F. Austin, a grand old program from yesteryear and the AIAW pre-NCAA era, was upset by Division I newcomer Houston Baptist in a Southland semifinal game upset of the No. 1 Ladyjacks.

On the local from among the Philadelphia teams whose postseason is destined for the WNIT, as has been mentioned Ivy runner-up Penn, Drexel, and Big East third-place squad Villanova are headed to the tournament via the AQ slot.

In theWildcats’ case, both Big East runnerup and top seed Seton Hall is likely to join tournament champ DePaul in the NCAA group, leaving Villanova with the AQ gift from the WNIT.

Temple, which finished .500 at 16-16 is alive for discussion as a bubble type by the WNIT folks, who indicate the Owls’ strong non-conference schedule is their chit in comparisons with other teams at their level also under consideration.

We’ll be back tweeting from court side Sunday afternoon down here and then filing Sunday night besides looking at an overview of what is likely to happen in the construction of the NCAA draw.

Rob Knox will be back with Lincoln in the ECAC title game.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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