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 01, 2018

Guru Musings: Rutgers in Perilous Waters Heading to Maryland With Three More Big Ten Toughies to Come

Guru’s Note: Wednesday’s few games of local and national note at the bottom


By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru


While Thursday’s national focus will be on the 1 vs. 7 Connecticut at South Carolina game in Colombia, there’s probably no bigger contest on Rutgers’ schedule just ahead than the one facing it on the Big Ten slate in College Park, Md., against the No. 11 Maryland Terrapins.


And win or lose, then move the marker to Sunday when No. 13 Michigan visits.


And while we must wait for the first two results before deciding the imperative labelling of the next one after them, which is a visit to No. 18 Ohio State, that alone has the Buckeyes among the four toughest jobs of the season, all coming at once and all out of the Big Ten.


Oh, you didn’t get the name of No. 4 in the string?


It’s Maryland, Part Deux, as the Terrapins return the previous encounter with the Scarlet Knights by visiting the Rutgers Athletic Center before the Scarlet Knights finish out the regular season visiting Wisconsin, hosting Iowa, and visiting Northwestern.


Then it’s the Big Ten tourney and the slotting will be ultimately resolved out of this finishing slate.


And then? And then? And then??


Ah ah, we do not know because by projection as they say in Congressional midterm election talk, the party on the down side, needs to do some flipping to get back on the up side.


And this is where we begin our story and then the ongoing story within the story.


It began back in the late fall, when Rutgers coming off the woeful six-win season of a year ago finally got to let loose all those ineligible via transfer bench players and it was like old times as the Scarlet Knights delivered payback after payback.


The rocketing start was temporarily halted by a competitive loss to South Carolina on a neutral court and then a hiccup a few days later to Washington State.


OK, these things happen. 


Rutgers got up, dusted itself clean and then it was off to the races, 11 straight.


In the the middle of it, Tyler Scaife, rehabilitated from a heart defect that caused her absence last season, had escaped from the Tomb of the Forgotten Scarlet Knight flashing the Roaring ‘20s night after the night as she became the third all-time leading Rutgers scorer, the third to pass 2,000 career points, and just ahead lies the No. 2 slot on the charts bypassing the great Cappie Pondexter.


As the run took hold, one could envision a nonstop express right into this Big Ten Rectangle where, back then, one could call each of these coming games a toss up.


One could see a return to the national rankings and a slot in the NCAA committee’s first reveal of its Top 16 seeds on that date.


There seemed to be a reminder to the fabled 2007 season when the non-conference schedule was killer — this one was less daunting but still respectable — but then a potential run was possible through the old Big East and perhaps the ability to then be UConn-ready — they were.


This sked, perhaps a little better courtesy of the Big Ten, also offered a chance to carry momentum straight to this week.


But then in the last six games we are suddenly talking 2-4 and Rutgers being the one getting flipped because Penn State on the first go-round almost rallied before taking the second in a controversial finish while Minnesota forced overtime before going down to defeat.


The threes have fallen off, and the scoreboard is no longer going off on the Rutgers side like the Fourth of July.


So now, the Scarlet Knights are an underdog, the ranking is a thing of the past and when the next reveal is made Thursday night that will be also, which means, barring a re-energized finish, opening rounds homecourt is out of the question if they get to the NCAAs, which could become a question.


If the given Ws don’t happen, it’s back to the bubble.


So Rutgers needs to get at least one of these Ws, while two would be ok thinking maybe Michigan is a get and one of the Maryland’s.


At the end of these four we will revisit this and see where we are.


Now, the second but much shorter tale, involves the Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.


At the beginning of the season when she started out 23 wins away from the fabled 1000 career triumphs, the thinking was maybe at the very end of this season or beginning of the next.


But while three coaches (D-1 Sylvia Hatchell, UNC, D-1 Geno Auriemma, D-2 Barb Stevens Bentley) have joined the special women’s club which already had members in the late Tennessee legend Pat Summitt and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, Stringer has been stuck around six left.


Now to be able to celebrate the achievement at home in the regular season, Rutgers must win the next six, which means sweeping the aforementioned Big Ten rectangle.


If imminent disaster strikes, it could still happen but it will likely be on the road unless Rutgers doesn’t make the NCAA and then gets home games out of the WNIT.


Again, this is tied to just what’s ahead so stay tuned.


Weekend of History


The Guru never got to writing a roundup over the weekend here but several things happened with the local group in terms of history.


Cindy Griffin, already the winningest coach at Saint Joseph’s, tacked on No. 300 on Hawk Hill to her overall record that also includes a prior stint at Loyola of Maryland.


In a game the Guru did report, Drexel in one of what became the front end of a two-game weekend sweep with narrow wins in the Colonial Athletic Association to take a solid hold of second place, beat Elon Friday night coming from a 10-point deficit in the final seven minutes. It was the largest  Dragon fourth quarter rally ever in the three seasons since the NCAA switched from 20-minute halves to 10-minute quarters.


And along the way of Sunday’s blowout by Penn of D3 Gwynedd Mercy, senior Anna Ross became the all-time career assist leader of the Quakers women with 429, eclipsing the previous mark held for 29 seasons since 1989 by Cheryl Rath, who now lives in Oregon.


Penn also got 34 points in the fourth quarter — must have been something in the neighborhood water this weekend considering Drexel up the street — the most ever for the Quakers in the final period since the NCAA format change.


It's awesome,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin afterwards of the assist mark. “Anna's been a terrific player for four years. She's won two championships, she's always that kid that's second or third in people's thought process.

 
“Great athlete. Selfless. When you get an assist record that means a lot of sharing went on. I think that's great of a team sport, we just commended her for that ... It takes a lot of people to do what she did."


Since the Guru covered Rath and remains connected, she sent the following on learning of the assist record going to a Quakers descendent.


“Happy that the record is finally broken,” she wrote. “30 years is certainly a long time! And I still have great memories of Ivy and Big 5 games in The Palestra.


“I’ve remained friends with old teammates and players I coached even tho we are spread far and wide. And we all love to see Penn winning!,” Rath continued.


“Especially another Big 5 Championship! I remember dribbling the ball out at Temple so they wouldn’t break 100. I think we lost 99-40 (smilie). So proud to be part of the Quaker family. Hope to make it back for my 30th reunion next year.


“Perhaps I will get in shape and play in the alumni game.”


Penn, holding second a game behind Princeton, resumes defense of its two-time Ivy championship as both the Quakers and Tigers return to league play from a three-week break, heading to New England with Penn at Brown while Princeton is at Yale Friday night and then vice versa on Saturday.


WNBA: Give Me Liberty! Really?


No one knows who is giving what — or taking — involving the once storied, but now, beleaguered franchise that has been put up for sale by MSG head James Dolan as the team has been doing the limbo rock.


No one but privileged insiders knows exactly the state of things but one item that has seeped on the rumor mill as the two worlds mix during the collegiate season is that Dolan is offering only six home dates in Madison Square Garden to whomever is seeking to take hold.


Maybe the local colleges ought to share the team in their arenas, though some of the capacity is not feasible.


Or maybe 76ers executive Scott O’Neil, who used to oversee the Liberty at MSG, and whose current organization was recently the subject of a Forbes article for its having several women in key front office positions, ought to offer some Philly dates, like when Washington with Elena Delle Donne is suppose to visit New York on the Eastern side of things.


This limbo is also holding the league up, likely, from releasing a schedule that usually has been out for a while by now.


Stay tuned on this one, also.


The Guru Wednesday Roundup: Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Penn State All Swept


Saint Joseph’s fell in Atlantic 10 action at VCU in Richmond, reversing an earlier win over the Rams, losing 56-54 as a potential winning three-point buzzer beater fell short.


The Hawks (10-11, 5-4 Atlantic 10), trailing in the final 37 seconds, got a turnover with nine seconds left, advanced the ball to halfcourt with a timeout, but Alyssa Monaghan came up short.


The game had 13 lead changes and six ties.


Monaghan had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists while Adashia Franklyn had 14 points and blocked three shots.


Amanda Fioravanti had 12 points and nine rebounds.


Tera Reed had 18 points and was 10-for-10 on the foul line for VCU (6-16, 3-7).


The Hawks are home Sunday — yes Super Bowl Sunday — hosting George Mason in an A-10 at 4 p.m. yes 4 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.


Temple, meanwhile, also got reversed, losing on the road in Dallas to SMU 60-56 by fading to the Mustangs in the fourth quarter in an American Athletic Conference Game.


Freshman Emani Mayo had a career-high 20 points for the Owls (9-12, 1-7 AAC) while Tanaya Atkinson had another double double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.


Freshman Mia Davis had nine points and six rebounds.


SMU is now 8-14 and 2-7 in the conference.


Temple next hosts Tulsa at 1 p.m. in McGonigle Hall


And in the other local game, Penn State lost at No. 18 Ohio State in a Big Ten wipeout 94-64 at the Buckeyes’ Value City Arena in Columbus.


The hot shooting Buckeyes (18-5, 7-3 Big Ten) connected on 46 percent from the field as Kelsey Mitchell had 27 points to move into fourth on the all-time NCAA scoring list with 3,125 points. She also tied an NCAA mark with 80 straight games making at least one three-pointer.


Stephanie Mavunga had 19 points and 11 rebounds while Linnae Harper had 13 points, Sierra Calhoun and Alexa Hart each scored 12.


Jaida Travascio-Green had 14 points for the Lady Lions (13-10, 4-6 Big Ten) while Teniya Page had 13 points and Amari Carter scored 12.


Penn State is next home on Sunday at 2 p.m. to host Michigan State in a Big Ten tilt on BTN2go.com which is the conference’s internet network.


In another game of note, defending A-10 champion and host Dayton is the last unbeaten conference team after topping Duquesne 79-70 as Javonna Layfield and Jenna Burdette each scored 14 for the Flyers (17-4, 10-0 A-10).


Duquesne fell to 18-4 overall and 8-1 in the conference.


Looking Ahead


On Thursday, you’ve already been told at the very top about Rutgers at Maryland and the national hookup with UConn at South Carolina.


Involving two other locals, La Salle is at George Washington at 7 p.m. in the A-10 while Rider is hosting Manhattan at 7 p.m. in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.


In another national game of note, No. 14 Texas A&M is at No. 12 Tennessee in the SEC, while No. 4 Louisville in the ACC is at Virginia. Also in the SEC, No. 2 Mississippi State is at No. 15 Missouri.


On Friday, you’ve been told about the Ivies, while Drexel hosts Towson in the CAA at 7 p.m.


On Saturday, You’ve been told about the Ivies and Temple, while Villanova hosts Georgetown in a Big East game at 1 p.m. and Rider is at Monmouth at 2 p.m. in the MAAC.


We’ll wait a few days to give you the Sunday slate and should the Eagles when the Super Bowl and the city of Philadelphia goes down the tubes in a wild celebration a rescue helicopter may be needed to save your Guru.


That’s the report.
 

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