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, March 03, 2018

The Guru’s Roundup: Rutgers Routed By Ohio State Leaving NCAA Prospects in Limbo After Big Ten Ouster

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

And now the waiting begins.

 That’s not the way it looked two months ago for Rutgers with one of the top turnarounds in the country (now at 14 wins) and sailing along with an 11-game win streak, a return to the weekly rankings for the first time in several seasons, and a place on the NCAA tournament committee’s first top 16, which would bring home court advantage in the first two rounds.

Two magnificent storylines also running side by side along the way were the countup of redshirt senior Tyler Scaife’s scoring pace to become one of the all-time greats in Scarlet Knights’ history and the countdown to Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer hitting the mark, perhaps even at home, to highlight her 47-year career by becoming one of the few with 1,000 or more victories.

And now all that remains achieved for sure after top-seed Ohio State racked up an 82-57 quarterfinals triumph over Rutgers (20-12) to dispatch the Scarlet Knights from the Big Ten tournament Friday afternoon at Bankers Life Field House in Indianapolis is Scaife’s permanent fixture as one of the Mount Rushmore collection of the best of the best in Rutgers history.

In terms of the NCAA committee's nod in their direction with an at-large bid, they are now classified with that indecisive “bubble” tag, and a precarious one at best considering the only positive at this point is the RPI ranking of 39 through Thursday and most of that is propped up through the front end of the season.

Rutgers will have to wait it out until Selection Monday night, 10 days away, to see whether survival would come over a slew of negatives, though even if it comes it will lead to a tough opponent on the road in the second round unless the seed is bad enough that the opener is also problematical.

And what are the negatives? 

If the microscope were applied to all since the high point, it shows a 3-9 slide and the three all could have easily gone the other way.

Worse, within the plunge, except for  a home win over Michigan which had been in the polls most of the season until recently, there were home-and-home losses to Maryland, the second seed, by scores of 72-54 and 88-60 and a 90-68 defeat at Ohio State before Friday’s 82-57 setback to the Buckeyes.

Furthermore there were losses after coming out of the Big Ten schedule version of the Bermuda triangle, one at home in overtime on senior night to Iowa, yielding a nine-point advantage to the Hawkeyes with three minutes in regulation, and then a loss at Northwestern.

Perhaps Rutgers might already be left-out on arrival had not Scaife rescued her team in the second round on Thursday with a shot before time expired to knock out Purdue, which had become another of the opponent rally club to overcome a large deficit to the Scarlet Knights.

During the Purdue game Scaife, who missed being involved in the woeful six-win mark of last season because of  a detected heart defect, passed WNBA All-Star Cappie Pondexter for second on all the program‘s all-time career scoring chart with what is now 2,232 points, behind retired WNBA New York Liberty great Sue Wicks. 

Scaife scored 13 points in Friday’s action against the Buckeyes (25-6), while Caitlin Jenkins grabbed 10 rebounds.

Kelsey Mitchell, one of the all-time scorers in NCAA women’s history, had a game-high 28 points to top four other OSU teams in double digits, while one of them, Stephanie Mavunga, had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Stringer’s record including previous stops at Cheyney in suburban Philadelphia and at Iowa is now at 997-402.

If she gets in the NCAAs and wins the first two rounds, the initial shot would be in a Sweet 16 regional semifinal game or wait till next year.

If Rutgers gets bypassed and accepts a bid from the WNIT, an event won several years ago when Stringer finally dropped her distaste for playing in the field after an NCAA omittance, her team could go on a run and surely it would land a home game for the third game and chance to get her 1,000th in the RAC.

Postgame, Friday, that business wasn’t in her mind as much as the recap and immediate future without regard to her own situation.

“I feel like we went through a grinder, so what else can I say? I think that the easiest thing for me to do is to go past this and act like it didn't happen, but to give a great deal of credit and recognition to the outstanding play of Ohio State,” she said.

“I thought that they played brilliantly. I thought that we were calm at first and tried to exploit what looked like was their weaknesses, but honestly, we were just overpowered. 

“I thought that when you have four people that score in double figures as efficiently as they do, they're a tough team to beat,” Stringer observed.

“I'm sorry because we've been having games like this where we have maybe one person that's scoring in double figures, and then we have a most difficult time getting -- just getting the second and third scorer, and you can't win a basketball game like that. I don't know if you know of any team that's kind of -- that kind of discrepancy. It just can't happen. You've got to have people that can flat-out get it done, and we didn't do that.”

In talking to her players about what she said, Stringers revealed, “I thought that -- I wanted to try to hone more on the positives because we have had tremendous growth, and I think that's rather obvious by our record. That doesn't necessarily mean that that's enough to do -- to get done and the invitation that we would like to have to the NCAAs.

“The greatest thing that you could ever hope for is to be able to control your own destiny, and long story short is you have to be grown ups about that. 

“We had a chance to control our destiny, we have had a chance throughout the year, and we have to accept whatever it is and let that be a lesson in life. And I'm hoping that we have an opportunity to play at the NCAA because I do believe that we are really unique in our style. 

“We can be probably the most -- the most unique to any team that's out here. So if I were another team, I wouldn't want to play us …  I think within our arsenal we have the capability of doing a number of things that can be nerve rattling to anybody that we're playing.” Stringer continued.

“So we've just got to keep our heads up. We've done this to ourselves. Be grateful and happy for the opportunity, should we get it, and take advantage of it. So I'm pleased and accept whatever is happening.”

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, other than the Ivy situation and the Atlantic 10, which are spoken on other posts, Drexel will host Charleston on senior day at 1 p.m. in the Daskalakis Athletic Center seeking to finish the regular season in the Colonial Athletic Association at least tied for first with James Madison.

That would give the Dragons the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament next week at Drexel, the first time it's ever been held there or as far north as Philadelphia.

A James Madison loss at home Saturday to William & Mary  coupled with a Drexel win gains the title outright. But if tied the deciding factor is RPI ranking and as of Thursday, the Dragons had a 20 spot lead on the Dukes.

Temple will open play at noon in the American Athletic Conference playing Wichita State, a first-year conference member, at the Mohegan Sun Arena near New London, Conn.

The top of the conference features top-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut, which has a bye on Saturday. The Owls are on the other side of the AAC bracket so they wouldn’t have to meet the Huskies until the title game.

Rider as the fifth seed and Fairfield as the fourth seed with identical 13-16 overall and 10-8 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference records opens quarterfinal tourney play Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Albany, N.Y., at the Times Union Center, which will also house an NCAA Women’s Regional, where Connecticut is likely to be as the overall number one seed.

The Broncs, who had highs and lows in a rebuilding year from the Cinderella run of 12 months ago, are looking to advance for the second straight year and third time in the program’s history.

The likely dubious prize for the winner in this one is a semifinals match Sunday with Quinnipiac, which went unbeaten in the MAAC, won the title last year over Rider, and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.

At the Division II level, West Chester is in the PSAC semifinals while host Jefferson and USciences are in the CACC semifinals, which are at Jefferson’s Gallagher Center, as well as the championship, also for the men, Saturday and Sunday.

And that’s the general report.


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