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.
Women's Preview: With Stewart gone, race is up for grabs
Those two words have been absent a long time from NCAA women's title race preseason forecasts.
But with the Breanna Stewart era concluded at Connecticut, where she was part of an unprecedented four-for-four title run as well as an equally unprecedented three-time USBWA Ann Meyers Drysdale national player of the year honoree, the landscape is altered for 2016-17.
Stewart's coach Geno Auriemma is still around after she and him and several other UConn prominent alumnae helped the USA claim a sixth straight Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games in Brazil last summer.
However, for the first time in four seasons, the Huskies are not the unanimous choice, or even majority choice, to take home another trophy, which this year gets claimed at the Women's Final in Dallas.
Furthermore there is no prohibitive favorite at the outset. But that doesn't mean there's pure parity at last in the women's game, even though a move in that direction occurred in April when the dark horse trio of Washington and Oregon State out of the Pac-12, and Syracuse out of the Atlantic Coast Conference made their way to first-ever Women's Finals appearances.
Unlike that threesome, teams at the top of our preseason women's 25 have won titles or gotten to the final weekend in the past, such as our top four Notre Dame, South Carolina, Baylor, and, yes, still a threat, UConn, which has enough talent to be a surprise winner though the Huskies are bound to get nicked up a bit on their demanding schedule.
Ohio State, Louisville, Maryland, Texas and UCLA have plenty of talent also to make their way to the American Airlines Center.c
Several other changes also occurred last season, with Tennessee dropping out of the AP Poll for the first time in three decades and Duke also dropping out after a long run.
The Lady Vols are still on our preseason list but, in a rarity, not in our top five or top 10.
Meanwhile, with Stewart gone, just like the team outlooks, there is no Meyers Drysdale frontrunner for national honors but there's definitely an array of talented contenders, with the likely winner being a player who either leads their team to glory or claims the prize with a dominating statistical performance.
So it would be no surprise to see the hardware in Dallas handed to the likes of Diamond DeShield (Tennessee), Brianna
Turner (Notre Dame), Myisha Hines-Allen (Louisville), Nina Davis (Baylor), Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State), Leticia Romero (Florida State), A'ja Wilson (South Carolina), Kia Nurse (UConn), Brionna Jones (Maryland), Kelsey Plum (Washington) or Victoria Vivians (Mississippi State), to name just a few of the top contenders.
USBWA Women's Preseason Poll: 1. Notre Dame; 2. South Carolina; 3. Baylor; 4. Connecticut; 5. Ohio State; 6. Texas; 7. Louisville; 8. Maryland; 9. UCLA; 10. Mississippi State; 11. Kentucky; 12. Tennessee; 13. Florida State; 14. Syracuse; 15. Stanford; 16. Miami; 17. Arizona State; 18. Auburn; 19. West Virginia; 20. Oregon State; 21. Washington; 22. Michigan State; 23. Oklahoma; 24. DePaul; 25. Florida.
– Mel Greenberg