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, February 25, 2016

AP Women's Poll: Tennessee Exit The Most Notorious But Other Big Names From Past Also Absent

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Tennessee in the Associated Press women's basketball poll's 40th season became the biggest story ever in the rankings' history because of the longevity of the 565-week streak that came to an end.

Technically, back in 2009, if voting continued past the first round of the NCAA tournament, as occurs in the coaches' poll, the Lady Vols would have been ousted sooner as they were then because of a stunning first-round loss to Ball State.

Perhaps the second biggest story, though we didn't think it was that big a deal but just a logical move to avoid confusion, was holding up the vote an extra day in 1995 so the outcome of the first Tennessee-UConn game at Storrs, Ct., would factor in a 1 vs. 2 showdown between two unbeatens in terms of who would emerge with the top ranking.

The third was Louisiana Tech's slide in 1991 after a long run in the Top 10 by a team that was the first to handle Tennessee better than most. Coach Leon Barmore was philosophical at first knowing the conditions of his roster back then would not allow superior success to go on forever, though the Lady Techsters eventually returned and hung around a bit longer.

Barmore, though, then began to lose his calm demeanor as the Techsters began to lose and hit new low threshholds as Tennessee has done this season.

Ironically, Tyler Summitt, the son of the Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, is now trying to revive the Lady Techsters' fortunes as their head coach.

The fourth biggest, which would be higher if not the other events, was Louisiana-Monroe being put on probation by the NCAA and barred from the tournament for rules violations -- the first Top 5 team and Final Four participant of the previous season -- to feel the NCAA wrath.

The AP setup allows votes even if a team is no longer tournament bound but the panel being coachdes, the feeling was why vote for a team not heading for the postseason -- especially since back then before metrics the ranking had more impact on the NCAA committee.

After the penalty went into effect, just 10 coaches still voted for the team but when one would evaluate talent on that basis, a top five had to still be awarded.

The support caused La.-Monroe to go from No. 3 to 19 in what was then a Top 20 vote, though several teams had more support in terms of the people casting ballots but since the point values were lower those teams didn't make it into the poll at first.

This dynamic is why the Guru always takes issue with people counting the the ranking below the cutoff as a true order but it is not.

The week after the 19th ranking the 10 coaches, they looked over their shoulder and also dropped Louisiana-Monroe and the team was gone the rest of the season.

There were lots of other stories after those big ones but the focus was more local on particular teams getting ranked -- Notre Dame, for example, was one of the last big time football/basketball programs in men's athletics to get ranked as the effect of Title IX and scholarships began to negatively affect the Immaculatas of the world.

And of course as time went on the poll numbers, especially ones posted by Connecticut, which didn't even make it nationally till the end of the 1980s, began. Items of interest because of their magnitude.

When the poll season ends in a couple of weeks, the Guru plans to put together a major package since that will mean the complete 40-season history will be over.

For now, here is a list of other teams who dominated the Top 10 at various junctures but have been missing in action for the most part in recent seasons:

Louisiana Tech
Duke -- The Blue Devils went overboard several weeks ago ending the third longest ranking streak.
North Carolina
Old Dominion
Penn State
Long Beach State
Texas Tech
North Carolina State
Southern Cal


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