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.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Openers Offer Quite the Warmup in Icy Venue

By Mike Siroky

The Super Sorority that is the Southeastern conference of women’s basketball opened its post-season tournament with barely a fanfare as a warm up to the real games which start Friday.

The four worst teams played of course.

Dealing with company business first the league announced its post-season honors. As feared, it went with the path of least resistance for votes by the 14 coaches or their emissaries’ easy votes, instead of judging the body of work for the season.

The coach of the year share is part going by the numbers South Carolina’s Dawn Staley; and the real coach of the season, Vic Schaefer of Mississippi State.

Why no love for UT’s Holly Warlick?

Of course, we are the only site to have picked UT to win another regular-season conference title, but she did win it, in only her second season in charge.

Also by the numbers is freshman of the year.

That is, A’ja Wilson, the player every team in America wanted, won rookie of the year despite not starting and the comparison with Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians, a starter in the surprise team of the decade.

Starter vs. reserve; when you say it that way it should not be a contest. Vivians has a better scoring average, by the way.

South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell repeats as Player of the Year. It’s as good a choice as any among the top performers and an award which usually goes to a member of the regular-season champion team as explanation of that.

SC fumbled the finish and tied with Tennessee as the statistical co-champions, with SC’s win the tiebreaker for purposes of seeding the tournament.

The interesting conundrum is she may not even be the best player on her own team. So will she will she win three, including next season? Lets be the first to just say no.

Texas A&M’s Jordan Jones also repeats, as Defensive Player of the Year, while Kentucky’s Jennifer O’Neill also repeats as Sixth Player of the Year.

O’Neill’s win is almost fabricated as she is the team’s leading scorer and more of a starter, but there is no way to rewrite the rules for such a bypassing of reality.

Jones is among the players done for the year, with a torn ACL.

South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Onto the games and Thursday’s matchups . . .

The neutral site is Little Rock, Arkansas, which shows the league draw is such they can afford to use a non-affiliated site, Next year, Jacksonville, Fla., takes over.

The games were scheduled a few hours early due to a wintry blast hitting the area,

Any fans not able to make the games will have their tickets honored today, but no refunds for all-tournament buyers if you missed the opening round.

The ganes Thursday have all been moved up, the first tipoff at noon, the icy weather causing power outages areawide.

In a guard-oriented league, sophomore Brandy Montgomery of Auburn said, “What about me?”

She had hit 3-of-3 3s and had 11 of Auburn’s 19-7 lead in the first 11 minutes.

Auburn was playing with more pride that was Florida. It was 38-25 at the half and Florida could just get a head start on spring break.

Where does a team from Florida go for spring break anyway?

Auburn started the second half on a 15-5 run.

The Tigers are one of those teams with nowhere else to go so they will make the most of where they are; even an unlikely run to the title of this conference would make them only .500. But they have won four in a row.

The Gators had taken the second game of the league season in January by 13.

Things have obviously changed. With one senior on the roster, Auburn is making the most of extra playing time.

They maintained; it was 61-44 with two minutes left.

Auburn earned a rematch with Texas A&M in the 71-49 win.

Montgomery had 22 points and Tra’Cee Tanner 19.

Each had started every game and averaged about 11, so that’s a good thing,

Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, in her third season, has yet to hit 20 wins there.

Doing the math, next year will be all her own players, so another NIT trip is valued.

"I thought our players came out and started the game exactly how we wanted them to start, and that's playing defense," Williams-Flournoy said.

"That's been key for us the last couple of games - them not only playing defense, but converting some of those turnovers into points for us as well."

Montgomery’s 22 points gives her 52 over the past two games and making her seventh time this year to top the 20-point plateau.

She did so on 7-of-15 shooting - she hit her first three 3-point attempts of the night - and was 5-for-5 at the free-throw line.

"It helps us a lot when Brandy is making shots," Williams-Flournoy said. "Once she's in rhythm, you're not going to stop her."

A&M was rated most of the season. The Aggies stumbled across the finish line with two losses, but did waste Auburn at Aggieland by 33.

Next up was Alabama and Vanderbilt.

Neither has a shot at a .500 season, though the alleged guru of bracketology on a sports website had Vanderbilt is his mix a few weeks ago.

Vanderbilt easily erased Alabama, 66-56, winning both halves and earning a match with Kentucky.

So the first two ranked teams start Thursday night’s festivities.

In all likelihood, the favored teams are already in the NCAAs as 20-game winners and maybe even at home for the first two games but on the end of that list.

The Tide was rolled when Commodore guards Rebekah Dahlman and Paris Kea each scored 16 with four rebounds,

Also, Dahlman 3-of-4 on 3s.

Vanderbilt needs another win to stay ahead of .500 and a chance to get in the WNIT.

The Commodores only had a two-point halftime edge.

And only by five with eight minutes left. But Key hit six points in the close and kept the momentum for another game.

No. 12 Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 82-68 in their only meeting this season at Nashville.

Also today Arkansas plays Ole Miss and Georgia gets Missouri. These are also teams playing for NIT positioning.

Due to the severe weather conditions, there was not post-game access to coaches for the second game as the arena was cleared.

MORE HONORS:
The list of SEC 2015 honorees

First Team All-SEC

Makayla Epps, Kentucky; Danielle Ballard, LSU; Tia Faleru, Ole Miss; Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina; Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina; A’ja Wilson, South Carolina; Cierra Burdick, Tennessee; Isabelle Harrison, Tennessee; Courtney Walker, Texas A&M

Second Team All-SEC

Jessica Jackson, Arkansas; Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky; Jordan Frericks, Missouri; Martha Alwal, Mississippi State; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State; Alaina Coates, South Carolina; Jordan Jones, Texas A&M; Courtney Williams, Texas A&M

All-Freshman

Haley Lorenzen, Florida; Mackenzie Engram, Georgia; Alexis Jennings, Kentucky; A’Queen Hayes, Ole Miss; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State; Morgan Williams, Mississippi State; A’ja Wilson, South Carolina; Rebekah Dahlman, Vanderbilt

All-Defensive

Linnae Harper, Kentucky; Danielle Ballard, LSU; Martha Alwal, Mississippi State; Alaina Coates, South Carolina; Jordan Jones, Texas A&M.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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