Guru's Notes: Will Hall of Fame Knock on Doors of Mulkey and McGraw?
With Baylor and Notre Dame seeking to get to the Women’s Final Four on Sunday comes what could be really big lifetime moments for Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw in the next 48 hours, though not all of it will be immediately for public consumption.
Notre Dame (33-3), the top seed in the Lexington Regional in Kentucky, meets second-seeded Stanford (31-5) at 12:06 p.m. on ESPN2 before top-seeded Baylor (33-3) meets second-seeded Mississippi State (32-4) at 7:36 p.m. on ESPN2 in the Oklahoma City reginal.
That’s the public part.
Meanwhile both McGraw and Mulkey are finalists for the 2017 induction class of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., as is ESPN broadcaster Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn. Star in the mid-1990s who is in the contributor category, and the Wayland Baptist squad that won 131 games straight from 1953-58, the next winning mark that UConn is also a threat to break.
Deadline for picking the class, who will be inducted in September, was Tuesday froma a select panel of 24 voters..
Normally all the winning inductees are flown to the men’s Final Four, this year in Phoenix, Ariz., to be introduced the Monday morning before the men’s title game that night, though at the game the inductees are also introduced to the crowd.
Based on some winners’ recollections in the past, the official call telling each candidate either congratulations or regrets should be come Monday or Tuesday.
“It’s always my most joyous moment and also tough moment, telling the candidates whether they are in our out,” said Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva recently.
McGraw and Wayland were also finalists last year out of the women’s subcommittee but did not get voted in, a surprise in the case of McGraw, who was considered a strong favorite with former WNBA, Olympic and Texas Tech star Sheryl Swoopes, who did get voted into the Hall.
But here’s where some historical precedence may occur.
With wins Sunday, McGraw and Mulkey would have to be in Dallas for Friday night’s semifinals while Lobo is one of the key studio analysts for ESPN on the women’s tournament, so she would likewise have to be in Texas, which, coincidentally is where the Wayland campus is in the panhandle town of Plainview.
Usually, at least one of the women’s candidates makes induction. This is the second year by the way the subcommittee was allowed a maximum four nominees expanded from the limitations of two in the past.
Thus, the Hall may have to announce any or all three of the women’s winners, depending who makes it, perhaps as early as Friday next weekend because of the conflict and several sources confirmed in advance of the voting totals that a contingency was being explored if the situation goes into play.
If South Carolina, coached by Dawn Staley, and Connecticut, coached by Geno Auriemma, get to Dallas with their teams, and McGraw and Mulkey get picked, it means all the Women’s Final Four coaches would be Naismith Hall of Famers.
Auriemma is also the recent gold medal-winning USA coach in 2012 and last summer while Staley will be the 2020 Olympic coach in Japan.
Villanova Seeking WNIT Final Four
The Villanova men’s team, the 2016 NCAA champions, were knocked out of the NCAA field last weekend by Wisconsin in the second round, leaving the women’s team from the Main Line in Philadelphia’s Western suburbs, one of a handful still alive playing in the WNIT, which began with a field of 64 teams not in the NCAA women’s event.
The Wildcats, who were 16-14 after elimination in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, earned the automatic qualifier for the WNIT out of the conference as the highest team not in the NCAA field after Marquette, third in the final standings, upset regular-season co-champion DePaul in the conference title game, to earn a spot, and DePaul and Creighton, the other co-champion, were taken by the NCAA.
Villanova finished tied for fourth with Saint John’s but had the tiebreak to be the fourth seed, hence, also being in the WNIT AQ berth.
Once in and having to go on the road, the Wildcats came to life winning at Princeton, the AQ out of the Ivy League, at crosstown rival Drexel, an at-large pick, and at James Madison, the AQ out of the CAA.
That put veteran coach Harry Perretta and his team in Bloomington, Ind., Sunday, to visit Indiana (23-10) at 2 p.m. The winner will meet Michigan (26-9), in a WNIT Final Four game after the Wolverines eliminated Virginia Tech 80-62 on Saturday night.
In other WNIT Elite Eight games Sunday, surprising Alabama (22-13) will visit Georgia Tech (20-14) at 2 p.m. while Washington State (15-19), the AQ out of the Pac-12 after a record number of teams landed in the NCAA field visits Iowa (20-13) at 3 p.m.
Those winners will meet in the other WNIT national semifinals.
Villanova is the latest in string of Philadelphia-area teams making strong runs, beginning in 2013 when Drexel took the championship, followed the next year by Rutgers, while Temple made deep bids in 2015 and 2016, the latter when the Owls advanced to the semifinals.
That’s a wrap.