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

James Madison, Five Others Complete Successful Quests for NCAA Automatic Bids

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Once upon a time the power center of Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball used to be located in Norfolk, Va., from the time Old Dominion joined the conference until Drexel broke up the monopoly in 2009.

These days until proven otherwise, the rest of the league is still ruled from the state of Virginia but over to the middle where James Madison is located in Harrisonburg.

On Sunday despite CAA player of the year Precious Hall suffering a power failure, shooting 1-for-20 from the field, the Dukes repulsed a new title game challenger in Hofstra from the New York metro area and emerged with a 62-56 victory to maintain last season’s conference title and return automatically to the NCAA tournament.

Hall’s rare non-productive performance was one of two shortages – the other being a real outtage that knocked out the lights midway through the second half and forced stoppage of play at the Show Place Arena equestrian center

What Hall was unable to do was made up for by teammate Jazmon Gwathmey, who was all over the Pride (20-12) and earned most outstanding player honors for the Dukes (29-3) with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Toia Giggetts also scored in double figures with 14 points for a James Madison program that has been built in various ways over the years, many of which the Dukes would be the bridesmaid to ODU’s shining moments.

Hofstra came in to Sunday’s game as the third seed and made its way forward as second-seeded Drexel was cut down by seventh-seeded Delaware in the quarterfinals and then the Pride ousted the Blue Hens in the semifinals.

Delaware had played in all five CAA finals held in this building until this time around and there will be one more conference tourney here next year when the current contract runs out.

“We weren’t just happy to be here,” nine-year veteran coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky said of Hofstra falling just short but she refused to point to the power stoppage with JMU ahead 41-40 and 10:03 left in the game.

The Dukes began to pull away with seven minutes left in the game.

“We didn’t rebound, we didn’t dive for loose ball,” Kilburn-Stevesky referenced a host of factors echoed by the stats that showed JMU with 48-40 advantage on the boards, including 22-15 on the offensive end.

Coach Kenny Brooks squad cashed the latter stat into a 21=13 advantage on second chance points.

Each team was 1-for-9 on three-point attempts and each made 15 foul shots though while Hofstra missed seven times , JMU missed only twice and despite her anemic struggle from the field, Hall was still a perfect 7-for-7 on the line.

Though the end was disappointing for the Pride, there is reason to look ahead considering the fact that no players will be lost through graduation.

Elo Edeferioka had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Hofstra, while Anjie White also scored 11, and Kelly Loftus scored 16. Freshman star Ashunae Durant was held in check with six points and one rebound.

There’s still the current season alive for Hofstra over in the WNIT as a probable at-large pick. CAA runnerup Drexel from the regular season has an automatic qualifier to the event won by the Dragons two years ago and Rutgers last season.

Conference newcomer Elon, that gave JMU a strong challenge in the semifinals, also has a chance to get picked by the WNIT committee.

Meanwhile, while Hofstra didn’t get to the Big Dance a sister New York program is going for the first time with St. Francis having shocked Northeastern Conference favorite and host Robert Morris 77-62 to land an automatic NCAA bid among the other five leagues finishing up the conference tournament action Sunday.

Saint Francis, N.Y., is going into the NCAAs with a 14-18 record.

Florida Gulf Coast, which has been enjoying its first rankings run in the polls this season, was guaranteed a chance to go once the team reached the title round through a technicality due to Northern Kentucky still in transition to Division I.

But FGC went through the front door of the Atlantic Sun, beating NKU 77-62.

While teams on the NCAA bubble were able to breath easier with JMU’s win since Hofstra wasn’t going to be picked as an at-large, they had to gulp hard watching the Horizon Tournament until favored Green Bay topped Wright State 86-77 in overtime.

Favored Wichita State beat Missouri State 85-71 to capture the Missouri Valley Conference and Northwestern State topped Division I newcomer Houston Baptist 58-50 to repeat as Southland champs, though Stephen F. Austin was the tournament top seed at the outset but won’t get picked.

With all 32 conference automatic NCAA bids decided the selection committee was hard at work through Sunday night completing the field with 32 at-large invitations and setting up the pairs for the public presentation on ESPN Monday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Once the WNIT knows who has been picked by the NCAA folks, it will announce its field at 9:30 p.m. and then present the pairings several hours later.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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