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.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Guru Weekend Outlook: Teams Dealing Tests on the Court Besides in the Classroom During Finals Time

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru416

PHILADELPHIA – Unlike many years past, it appears based on the Guru’s grid that while finals are going on the next several weeks in the classroom, court tests will also occur and be more plentiful in terms of not as many gaps between games.

And among our local PhilahoopsW crowd as well as the national scene the exams can be found as early as this weekend.

Right here at 4 p.m. on Saturday Villanova heads right into another Philadelphia Big 5 contest and one being one of the marquee events in the overall series as the Wildcats travel to Saint Joseph’s in Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill.

Both teams have had unexpected struggles but both teams have had their moments if not as many as they were expected to have at this point.

The Wildcats (2-4, 1-0) head into the matchup off Wednesday’s narrow win over La Salle. Right now the defending champions and Temple are the only two of the five who could win outright with 4-0 sweeps though if the Hawks (2-4, 1-1) prevail Saturday only the Owls at 2-0 in the city will be in that position prior to next Saturday’s Temple-Villanova matchup on the Main Line.

Last year Villanova was not perfect but did win outright at 3-1 when La Salle upset Saint Joseph’s near the end of the season to deprive the Hawks what would have been a piece of the title.

Two seasons ago Penn got to 3-1 for the first time and it became a tri-title shared among the Quakers, Wildcats and Hawks.

A Villanova loss will still leave the Wildcats in position for something and Saint Joseph’s at 2-1 could be alive for a shared spot potentially that would be gained, depending on the other games, if the Hawks beat La Salle near the end of the season.

Meanwhile Drexel tries to bounce back from last week’s loss at Bucknell when the Dragons visit  at Cornell. The setback was costly because after the upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse, coach Denise Dillon’s folk were in position to start collecting votes in the weekly polls.

Penn, which looked more like what was forecast for the Quakers at the season’s outset when they won at Lafayette on Wednesday, visits Wagner Saturday looking to gain traction heading into next Wednesday’s Big Five visit from La Salle.

The Explorers are 0-2 in the Big Five with losses to Temple and Villanova but a win over Penn takes the Quakers out of the title mix shared or outright. Yes, the assumption here is 2-loss teams won’t be in contention.

Penn State (5-2) is meeting Marshall (5-1) of Conference USA for the first time Saturday – the game is at PSU’s Bryce Jordan Center -- and the Lady Lions have been a bit of a mixed bag, beating Tennessee at home and losing at Drexel in the season opener and to Georgetown in Florida at the relocated San Juan Shootout.

They come into the game off a recent narrow win at Boston College as part of the Big 10/Atlantic Coast Conference challenge dominated by the ACC in the games played.

Finally, in terms of the local slate for Saturday, the continuing adventure into the unknown continues for 1-6 Rutgers at home, meeting Patriot favorite Bucknell.

The hosts Scarlet Knights, with a slew of transfers, got pounded again on Thursday night at home, losing to Duke in their end of the Big 10/ACC challenge.

Halftime was poignant, however, with all-time great Cappie Pondexter returning from her stardom in the WNBA and an Olympics to have her number retired and also a locker dedicated in her name in the future training center.

Rutgers also hosts Colonial Athletic Association defending champion and favorite James Madison Monday night.

Bucknell (5-2) has held its own playing normally powerful mid-majors by beating Drexel t home and rallying on Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

Princeton (3-4) is off until hosting Lafayette on Wednesday after reversing an 0-4 start slamming Rutgers and Seton Hall at home in Jadwin Gym each by 30 points to win the mini-Garden State tourney among the top New Jersey D-1 schools.

Incidentally, on Friday night George Washington handled visiting VCU 81-67 in an early start to the Atlantic 10 slate, a rearrangement to accommodate the new post season format in March in which the early rounds will be played on home courts the same weekend many are still wrapping up regular season competition.

In the same scenario La Salle Sunday heads to Dayton before visiting Penn on Wednesday.

Some other Friday scores saw Columbia (5-2) maintain its winning start, beating Massachusetts-Lowell 76-57 at home in the morning on eduction day before a record crowd of 2,271 in Levine Gym on upper Broadway.

Rider edged host Canisius 71-70 to get back on a winning track after losing twice in Florida last weekend following the best 0-3 season start in 38 years. A 12-0 run in the middle of the fourth period helped the Broncs withstand a late rally and get off to a 1-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference winning start for the first time in 14 seasons.

They continue league play in the Western New York trip visiting Niagara Sunday.

That’s the same day of a nice national/local combination of games.

After meeting twice in the last NCAA Sweet 16 the last two times around, Texas and Connecticut meet in the regular season at the Mohegan Sun with the Longhorns coming off a competitive loss to No. 3 South Carolina.

The Guru will be on the scene fort that one.

The Huskies are still unbeaten, as they have belied the early doomsday predictions for the dominate UConn program in the wake of three key graduation losses in Brenna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.

It's a big week for UConn with a looming 1 vs 2 game and the Huskies in an underdog role Wednesday heading to national and former old Big East conference rival Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Duke, fresh off its Rutgers massacre, hosts South Carolina while Baylor, which has been a dead end road block of Tennessee to the Women’s Final Four in some recent seasons, visits Knoxville to play the Lady Vols with a threat to knock them out of the polls again after their return at the start of the season.

No. 17 Kentucky visits No. 7 Louisville in a big Blue Grass State battle.

Locally, and not mentioned above for Sunday action, after escaping Robert Morris, Delaware hosts Georgetown at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Each team is 5-2 with the Blue Hens, the alma mater of Elena Delle Donne, being ne of the best surprises in the early going in terms of putting a youthful roster together.

Temple will try to shake off its upset road loss at Harvard when Vermont (3-4) visits the Owls (3-2). It’s a Philadelphia area homecoming for new Catmounts coach Chris Day, a former assistant at La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Indiana, and Penn, who is also the son-in-law to retired NBA ref Joey Crawford.

It’s also homecoming to his assistant Caroline Coyer, the recently graduated former Villanova star who suffered an ACL at the end of last season.

And that is all for the moment blog-wise.



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