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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Guru Report: ‘Nova Falls to Creighton While Penn Continues Streak Beating Hawaii

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Creighton lived up to the school nickname Tuesday afternoon in the form of senior Jaylyn Agnew, who gave the Bluejays flight over Villanova in the Wildcats’ own specialty in Finnernan Pavilion, shooting 6-of-11 three-pointers on the way to 31 points and a 58-42 victory in the second Big East game of the season for both squads.

Elsewhere, Penn prevented a total sweep of the Guru’s group on a limited schedule, where out in the middle of the Pacific the Quakers took down host Hawaii, 70-55, in Honolulu in the final NCAA Division I game of 2019.

Rutgers fell at home to No. 14 Indiana, 66-56, and Penn State lost at Michigan, 82-48, in their Big Ten games of two others from the four of the Guru’s 11 local Division I teams who played and were involved in New Year’s Eve matinees. 

And, nationally, in two big upsets of ranked teams in the Big Ten, Ohio State won at No. 24 Minnesota 66-63 while Northwestern at home shocked conference favorite No. 12 Maryland 81-58.

Meanwhile, back here, Creighton’s Agnew, a 5-11 senior forward from Andover, Kansas, who also grabbed nine rebounds, arrived in town as the newly named conference player of the week after scoring 23 points in Sunday’s  65-56 victory at Georgetown in the nation’s capital that enabled the Bluejays (10-3, 2-0 Big East) to assemble a 2-0 road sweep to begin conference competition.

Temi Carda provided 12 points and dealt eight assists in a game whose outcome loomed well before the end of the half in the second quarter in which Creighton bolted from a seven-point lead and outscored Villanova 22-10.

The loss dropped Villanova (6-6, 1-1) to both an overall .500 record as well as an opening weekend split at home.

The Wildcats also provided a conference honoree to the matchup here in freshman Maddie Siegrist, who has won several rookie awards and last time around earned her second national freshman citation from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) after scoring 41 points against La Salle.

But while Mary Gedaka was able to equal Sunday’s 18-point performance in the win here over Providence, Siegrist was held off also scoring the same total twice, though she still produced a commendable combination of 10 points and eight rebounds.

The game also matched two veteran coaches in Creighton’s Jim Flannery, a graduate of the school who has been on the sideline of his alma mater for 18 seasons, while Villanova’s Harry Perretta is in his 42nd and final season here on the Main Line, having announced his forthcoming retirement this spring.

After completing the 2019 portion of the schedule in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, Perretta offered some philosophical approach to handling a game in which Creighton upped the series total to 8-6, though the Bluejays had lost three straight to the Wildcats and are now 3-4 here in The Finn.

“This team plays offense more with a system, and we’re worse guarding a system than athletes,” Perretta explained in dealing with the Bluejays. “In a system, our inexperience comes to the surface.”

He also noted Gedaka and Siegrist need to be supplemented by additional weapons “to score the ball” for Villanova to succeed.

“If they don’t shoot it, we can’t win, if they shoot it and shoot it poorly, we’re not going to win, but if you have a chance to shoot half decently, you have a chance to win.”

Perretta related that at the half with the game already out of hand, his players had a hard time understanding strategy to spend the next two quarters just doing things for improvement that will make the team better down the stretch of the season.

“The biggest thing that I was taught when I was younger was how to win,” he said. “This is what you have to do. If you don’t do this, you can’t win.”

Heading into the next Big East weekend following the arrival of 2020, Villanova steps into one of the deeper ends of the competition pool on the road, visiting Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J., Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. and then staying in the Metro area to visit St. John’s in Queens, N.Y., on Long Island Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

The Pirates of Seton Hall made it an opening sweep in the conference, winning easily at Xavier, 83-61, in the Musketeers’ Cintas Center in Cincinnati, as Shadeen Samuels, the preseason Big East player of the year, scored 17 for the visitors and Xavier’s A’riana Gray scored 22.

Saint John’s took a similar opening road sweep at Butler 67-42 in the Bulldogs’ Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The other conference teams were idle.

The Wildcats are back here on Friday, Jan.10 at 11:30 a.m. for a school day promotion hosting Butler, and then hosting Xavier the following Sunday at 1 p.m.

Penn Closes Decade Beating the Rainbows of Hawaii

The last score of the 2010s in all NCAA Division I women got posted from the middle of the Pacific Ocean where Penn opened its two-game swing continuing to handle non-conference foes, beating Hawaii 70-55 in this one in Honolulu.

The Quakers (9-1), who have just one more out of league game, which will be out in Hawaii playing  Chaminade Thursday, have lost just to Duke in Durham, N.C., in having their best season start ever.

Technically, there are two others this month visiting here at ‘Nova and at Temple seeking a first ever Big Five 4-0 sweep.

Following the Chaminade game, the Quakers return home  to The Palestra to begin preparing for their Jan. 11 Ivy opener against Princeton in the first meeting since they lost to the Tigers in the Ivy tourney title game at Yale in March.

However, Penn was a co-champion of the regular season with Princeton and had a win up there in Jadwin Gym.

In the Tuesday win in the Stan Sheriff Center against Hawaii (6-7), which was in the afternoon at the home team’s  local time, Penn’s rookie sensation Kayla Padilla had another high-volume performance, scoring 23 points off 9-for-23 shooting from the field.

 Kennedy Suttle scored 11, propelled by three three-pointers, and grabbed nine rebounds, while Eleah Parker had 10 points and nine rebounds, and Tori Crawford also scored 10 points.

Amy Atwell scored 12 for the Rainbow Wahines.  

Big Ten Setbacks: Rutgers Downed by Indiana While Penn State Taken by Michigan

The season-opening joyride enjoyed by Rutgers got jolted at home in Piscataway, N.J., by No. 14 Indiana, 66-56 as the Scarlet Knights (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten) were unable to completely repeat the closing rally they mounted in the conference opener Saturday at Wisconsin.

On the other side, the Hoosiers (12-2, 2-0) are having one of their best runs in the history of the program having been ranked in all nine weeks of the Associated Press women’s basketball poll after only six other previous appearances in the rankings’ 44-year history.

Rutgers until Tuesday had been also having equal success, reaching the Knights’ best start in the C. Vivian Stringer coaching era at the Central New Jersey program and best overall since the 1990-91 team under Theresa Grentz burst to a 13-0 start in the days they competed in the Atlantic 10.

 Indiana’s Jaelynn Penn scored 14 points while Grace Berger scored 13. 

Though Rutgers has a reputation for tough defense, the Hoosiers are also being unyielding in holding all but then-No. 2 Butler under 70 points to date.

The visitors opened a 13-point advantage in the last stanza and Rutgers trotted out another rally to cut the deficit to five at 59-54 in the last minute before Aleksa Gulbe hit two foul shots with 31.1 seconds left in regulation to end a scoring drought of 4:16.

Talented Hoosiers guard Ali Patberg, whose team blew a lead to the Scarlet Knights and their vaunted 55 press a year ago, said Indiana was prepared by the coaches to counter Rutgers pressure.

“It comes down for us to executing and being confident to handle their pressure,” she said. “When they did make their run, we stayed calm we stayed composed and that was huge for us.”

 Arella Guirantes, who led the comeback at Wisconsin and has won several Big Ten weekly awards, had 23 for the home team, which next heads to Purdue on Sunday at noon in West Lafayette, Ind.

However, the Rutgers star hurt her ankle near the close and Stringer has yet to know how bad she was affected.

“I hate that happened,” Stringer said. “I don’t know right now, she’s limping. Going through a lot. She wants to play all the time. We need to give her a break.”

Khadaizha Sanders scored 16 and had five rebounds for Rutgers.

As to the nick to the team record, Stringer said of the past successes, “Dealing with a mirage before, I readily admit that. This was the Big Ten.

“It’s disappointing. We can’t keep playing from behind and fail to find our second and third reads. It ends up exhausting with the way we press and play defense. We need to figure that out.”

The Hoosiers, after being held to 25 points in the first half, broke loose for 41 the rest of the way.

Penn State, meanwhile, seemed poised to build on a near-successful rally from a huge deficit at home to Minnesota, by knotting recently ranked Michigan 7-7 early in the action in the Crisler Center at Ann Arbor.

But then the Wolverines exploded on a 16-2 run and the Lady Lions were unable to come back, losing 82-48.

Siyeh Frazier and Kamaria McDaniel each scored game highs of 16 points for Penn State (6-7, 0-2 Big Ten), while Hailey Brown had 15 points, Amy Dilk scored 13, Kayla Robbins scored 12, and Naz Hillmon scored 11 for Michigan (10-3, 1-1).

The Lady Lions stay on the road, heading to Wisconsin for a Saturday 4 p.m. game in Madison that will air on the Big Ten Network.

Big Ten Victims: Northwestern Ambushes No. 12 Maryland

On a day that Northwestern honored longtime coach Joe McKeown, the Father Judge graduate from Northeast Philadelphia who recently reached his 700th victory, his Wildcats did something extra special, upsetting the Big Ten favorite, No. 12 Maryland, 81-58, as Lindsay Pulliam scored 24 points and Veronica Burton added a career-high 23 and swiped six steals. 

Northwestern (12-1, 2-0 Big Ten) had lost seven straight games in the series to the Terrapins (10-3, 1-1). 

“First of all, great respect for Maryland, they’re one of the best teams in the country,” McKeown said. “They raised the bar when they came into the Big Ten. The first year or second year they went to the Final Four and they’ve stayed consistent.

“We’ve had some tough games, some not so good. And today, we played through everything. We played through mistakes. We played through turnovers and tried to stay relentless on defense, and second half, I just thought we controlled the pace. 

“We handled their traps and presses for the most part. We just have competitive kids.”

The Wildcats also got double figure scoring from Abi Scheid (12 points) and Abbie Wolf (10 points) in reaching their seventh straight victory.

The home-team defense forced 24 turnovers, good enough to mine 29 points to help account for the wide lead during the game. Northwestern next plays Iowa on Sunday.

Maryland’s Stephanie Jones scored 14 and Kaila Charles, who earlier in the day added the USBWA national player of the week award to her set of honors for the weekend win over Michigan, scored 10.

“Northwestern was sensational,” said veteran Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “They punched first and had a tremendous game plan. They played extremely hard for 40 minutes.

“It’s disappointing for us. I don’t think we responded well on the road, first conference game. We turned the ball over too many times and put ourselves in a difficult hole to climb out of.”

The Terrapins next host Ohio State Monday night at the XIFINITY CENTER in College Park.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s return to the rankings will likely be brief after being taken down by Ohio State 66-63, as the Buckeyes (8-5, 1-1 Big Ten) upset another AP team after earlier in the season beating then-No. 2 Louisville.

In this one after the Gophers held a 63-59 lead with 2:55 left in regulation, OSU defensed a shutout the rest of the way to regain the lead and take the victory.

“We stuck together and made plays down the stretch, which was nice to see,” said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff. “This is really a tough place to play and it’s always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten.

“I’m proud of how we played tonight and I hope this can help us take a step forward and we continue to get better.”

Aaliyah Patty had 13 points for the Buckeyes in the game played in Williams Arena in Minneapolis and teammate Kierstan Bell matched that total with all her points coming in the second half while Jacey Sheldon scored 10.

Destiny Pitts scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Gophers (11-2, 1-1), who also got 11 points and 14 rebounds from Taiye Bello, while Jasmine Brunson scored 13.

Minnesota had trailed 30-17 in the first half but rallied for a 41-37 lead in the third period before the game stayed tightly contested the rest of the way.

Ohio State, as mentioned above, next heads to Maryland on Monday night.

 Small Colleges: Narrow Win Keeps Rowan Streak Alive

Off to one of the Profs’ better starts, Rowan pulled out an 87-85 overtime triumph against Cabrini in Radnor, Pa., near here, in the title game of the Cabrini Classic to expand the win streak to eight while also running the overall record to 11-1. 

Eliana Santana scored a game-high 23 points for the visitors and grabbed nine rebounds for a near double-double while center Ayanna Johnson scored 21 and completed a double-double with 17 rebounds, along with eight blocked shots and three assists.

Nicole Mallard scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds, Kennedy Brown scored 13 points, and Grace Marshall scored 10.

Cabrini’s Lexi Edwards hit a three-ball with a second left in regulation to force the overtime.

In a tight extra period, the Profs were able to build enough of a slim lead to withstand Cabrini’s Kate Lannon’s three-pointer as time expired.

Katie Rodriguez had 18 points for the Cavaliers (7-4), while Edwards scored 17, Ashley Tutzauer had 16 and Cassidy Gallagher scored 12, and Lannon scored 10 and grabbed nine rebounds.

Rowan took the tournament opener Monday beating Eastern University 109-86.

And that’s the roundup game report to close 2019 and the rest of the 2010’s decade.












Guru’s End of the Decade Series: Teams and Conferences in the Ten AP Final Polls

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

An evaluation based on appearances in the AP WBB Final Polls 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Guru Decade (Jan 2010-Dec. 1019) Review

Table 1 - Programs of the Decade (Final Poll Appearances) (GR-Guru Rank when listed)

Connecticut 10 (7 No. 1, 10 Top 5, 10 Top 10, 5 NCAAs, 10 Final Fours) (GR-1)

Notre Dame 10 (7 Top 5, 10 Top 10, 1 NCAA, 7 Final Fours, 6 NCAA Title Games) (Gr-2)

Baylor 10 (3 No. 1 9 Top 5, 9 Top 10, 2 NCAA Final Fours) (GR-3)

Kentucky 10 (2 Top 10) (GR-10)

Stanford 10 (4 Top 5, 7 Top 10, 5 NCAA Final Fours) (GR-5-tie)

Texas A&M 9 (2 Top 10, I NCAA) (GR-8)

Maryland 9 (4 Top 5, 5 Top 10, 2 NCAA Final Fours) (GR-7)

South Carolina 8 (3 Top 5, 8 Top 10, 1 NCAA, 2 Final Fours) (GR-4)

Duke 8 (1 Top 5, 6 Top 10)

Louisville 8 (3 Top 5, 5 Top10, 3 Final Fours, 2 NCAA Title Games) (GR-5 -tie)

Florida State 8 (2 Top 10) (GR-11)

Ohio State 7 (3 Top 10)

Tennessee 7 (4 Top 5, 6 Top 10)

UCLA 7 (3 Top 10) (GR-11) (GR-12)

Mississippi State 5 (2 Top 5, 3 Top 10, 2 NCAA Final Fours) (GR-9)

Oregon State 5 (3 Top 10, 1 NCAA Final Four)

Texas 5 (2 Top 10)

DePaul 5

Miami 5 (1 Top 10)

Georgia 4

Gonzaga 4

Iowa 4 (1 Top 10)

Michigan State 4

Nebraska 4 (1 Top 5)

North Carolina 4

North Carolina State 4 (1 Top 10)

Oklahoma 4

Syracuse 4

West Virginia 4 (2 Top 10)

Wis.-Green Bay 4 (1 Top 10)

Arizona State 3

California 3

Georgetown 3

Iowa State 3

Penn State 3 (1 Top 10)

Purdue 3

South Florida 3

Delaware 2

Georgia Tech 2


Marquette 2

Missouri 2

Oklahoma State 2

Oregon 2 (2 Top 10, 1 NCAA Final Four)

Princeton 2

St. John’s 2

Xavier 2 (2 Top 5)

Washington 1 (! NCAA Final Four)

Belmont 1

Colorado 1

Colorado State 1

Chattanooga 1

Dayton 1

Drake 1

Florida 1

Florida Gulf Coast 1

George Washington 1

Hartford 1

Kansas State 1

Marist 1

Mercer 1

Middle Tennessee 1

Northwestern 1

Rice 1

Rutgers 1

St. Bonaventure 1

Southern Cal 1

Table 2 – Conference Representation 

Power Seven

Atlantic Coast

13 (8-Vets+5-Transients)

Vets: Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Va. Tech

Transients: Gone-Maryland; Arrived-Boston College, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse

Big Ten

9 (6-Vets+3-Transients)

Vets: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern

Transients: Arrived-Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers; Gone-None

Big 12

13 (8-Vets+5 Transients)

Vets: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech

Transients: Gone-Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M; Arrived: TCU, West Virginia 


11 (9-Vets+2 Transients)

Vets: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Stanford, UCLA, Washington

Transients: Arrived-Colorado, Utah; Gone-None

Southeastern Conference

12 (10-Vets+2 Transients)

Vets: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Ga., Kentucky, LSU, Miss. St., South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Transients: Arrive-Missouri, Texas A&M; Gone-None.

Big East        

12 (6-Vets+7-Transients)

Vets: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova

Transients: Gone-Conn., Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginia; Arrived-Creighton


5 (3-Vets+2-Transients)

Vets: Connecticut, South Florida, Temple

Transients: Gone-Louisville, Rutgers; Arrived-None



4 (3-Vets+1-Transients)

Vets: Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure

Transients: Gone-Xavier; Arrived-None


1-Vet: Hartford



Vet: Florida Gulf Coast



Vets: Delaware, James Madison



Vets: Wis.-Green Bay


2(2 Vets)

Vets: Delaware, James Madison



Vets: Middle Tennessee, Rice

Transients: Arrived: Rice; Gone-Houston



Vet: Princeton


1(1 Vets)

Vet: Marist

Missouri Valley

2(2 Vets)

Vets: Drake, Missouri State

Mountain West

2 (1 Vet+1Transient)

Vet: Colorado State

Transient: Gone-TCU; Arrived: None

Ohio Valley

1 (1 Vet)

Vet: Belmont

Southern Conference

2 (2-Vets)

Vets: Chattanooga, Mercer

West Coast Conference

3 (3 Vets)

Vets: BYU, Gonzaga, San Diego











Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Curtain Coming Up

By Mike Siroky

The historically best conference of women’s basketball, the Southeastern, is ready for another romp.

The prelude games are over.

On Thursday, the marathon starts with the new decade.

Someone will make history. 

The six ranked teams in the Associated Press poll are the most likely suspects.

 Being ranked at the start of the league is fine, because  strength of schedule should protect anyone from dropping back. None of these will lose 10 straight  as a former coach as Tennessee did last season.

Another part of the equation is to win 20 before the NCAA draw.

 No SEC team has ever jinxed that though gift selections have been awarded to 19-game winners, like the farewell prize which went to last season’s departing Tennessee coach.

Did all the out of conference auditions get the cast straight? 

As late as two games ago, Kentucky was implementing a transfer player who only became eligible once the semester ended.

The undisputed rookie of the year has done fine. 

But now real wars against quality opponents each week arrives. No more cupcakes, even among the bottom feeders of the league.

What if a major injury hits? Texas just lost its rebuild when the leading scorer blew an ACL.

One key player out near the top begins an alignment of dominoes falling. 

Coaches yet to establish themselves in the league may just wallop some who have been doing swell until now. 

The newest coach in the league has that potential. 

Even if she is coaching another’s recruits for the next few years.

The conference ejects one coach every year. We have our suspicions and have usually been able to identify the nearly departed for years, but it is an inexact science.

Some coaches carry over because their universities simply do not care, as long as no player causes a scandal. Some universities will even work with a player who might have been dismissed at another conference school.

So the stage is set. 

All the ranked teams  have 10 wins already in play against the world. Three have 12. 

The top four are obvious  candidates for earning Sweet 16 home seeds, yet another SEC tradition implemented by  Pat Head when she helped design the NCAA tournament.

We think we know what we know but we don’t. On Opening Night everyone is undefeated. Everyone starts out equal. Yet half the teams will lose the unbeaten luster on Thursday.

Catch the magic, put it in your pocket if you can. Be prepared to be heartbroken and then delighted by the same players. 

Get ready for rough road trips, bad meals, not sleeping in your own beds some nights.

Wear the unfamiliar road uniforms, weird colors compared to home whites. 

Look in those foreign stands for a few friendly faces, moms and dads at least. 

Some parents will take on more debt just to go there, to experience the joy of seeing their kid play, of hearing her booed and taunted. 

The coaches multiply that feeling by at least a dozen times, one for each player.

And those players have individual culture shocks. 

It is not entirely new to any of them, yet they are asked to dress and undress in strange rooms (what other occupation has that), minimalistic compared to the home campus. 

If anyone could do a walk through of Texas A&M’s home digs, you’d know what high cotton is and what you don’t have at your place.

Those away courts have different dead spots, sounds coming at you from different distracting angels. 

At Vanderbilt, your bench is on the endline, far away from your coach and teammates.

And you are supposed to remember all those intricate land mines for when you come back next season.

Your older teammates can help you, as you will help the rookies next season

The seniors begin the farewell tour. You don’t have to go there again. Or maybe this is a last chance to win one there if you are in the second division.  

Alabama has savored a sudden multi-season win streak against Tennessee and that is the kind of tradition you want to extend. Or stop if you wear Orange every day.

Vanderbilt won for the first time ever in state at Knoxville at the close of last season, for no decipherable reason other than the home team had quit on the coaches. Now they want to do that again.

The marvelous new Arkansas traditions seem possible with every starting jump ball. Boom! They mainly raised themselves in one SEC tournament to the upper berths. Now it is on to earning a place in the NCAA eliminations.

The powerhouse machines will roll into each road game confident and deadly breakers of hearts. 

Sure, the say the target is on their backs, but it is better that way than the opposite.

The out of town previews are over. 

It is familial battles with a random exception go from now until March Madness. The cast is ready. The scripts have been written and handed out. The pictures and Curriculum Vitae are in the hands of the  greatest fans in the land.

The costumes fit. Game Day hairstyles are defined. Places everyone. Know your role. The curtain rises.

Let the play begin.

The light play meant a relative break before the start of the annual rumble that is the conference season. Two took the week off.

The traditional powers of recent seasons remain the same.

The secret to winning the regular season title, the one the coaches and players  know really counts as opposed to the winner of the post-season conference tournament which earns the automatic NCAA bid, is to win every home game from here on out.

Whoever defends the home court wins the conference. 

That makes Jan. 5 Tennessee at Kentucky, Jan. 20 Mississippi State at South Carolina, Feb. 6 Mississippi State at Tennessee, Feb. 9 Texas A&M at Mississippi State, Fen. 16 Mississippi State at Kentucky, Feb. 16 Texas A&M at Tennessee and Feb. 23 South Carolina at Kentucky all interesting. 

The final game of the regular season, Texas A&M at South Carolina, should just be for fun.

In recent seasons, Tennessee has not really been in contention, so their home survival is the most questionable. 

A&M’s biggest games are on the road, but they are a program which always seems to slip in one unexpected loss. 

Mississippi State usually doesn’t lose at home in conference lately; they are also set up for their best league games on the road.

No one really holds a coaching edge among the top three teams – talent combined with coaching -- and no one has a talent edge, either. Each campus has a capable player leading the attack.

Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard was the national freshman of the year, though it is hard to put her as the league’s best player when matched with Chennedy Carter of Texas A&M. 

South Carolina has the undisputed best rookie in Aliyah Boston. 

There’s an example of no coach having enough guts to put her forward as an All-SEC player even before she played her first game, though they all recruited her and all knew how much quality she would bring. 

It happened to Howard last season, which is why we don’t put much faith in preseason all-conference votes. 

SC also has the best point guard in Tyasha Harris, the SEC career leader in assists.

With two premier players, SC  is clearly the top team now. A plus: Kiki Herbert Harrigan considered following other team mates into the transfer portal then decided to stay and is the better for it.

Everyone else has one designated star. 

State has a phenom in Jordan Danberry, as does Arkansas with Chelsea Dungee. 

Tennessee’s Rennia Davis is finally as impactful as she was recruited to be, even if that coach is no  longer in the league. 

The above-mentioned players are your All-SEC team.

Some coach will lose her position after this league season. 

No matter how badly Missouri continues to flop, it won’t be that coach as she has earned a mulligan in the past two seasons. Vanderbilt has resuscitated their coach. Florida is showing signs of life.

The top three remain South Carolina, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

In the next group are Kentucky, the revived Tennessee program and Arkansas. 

That’s six for the NCAA eliminations. 

 The league has had eight entrants recently, with the last one usually a gift. 

Florida (9-4) have already passed last season’s win total, so the Gators could earn a road invite to the eliminations, as does Alabama (10-3). The Tide has won five straight. 

LSU (11-2) will have problems in conference. Auburn has risen to the NCAA level in the past few seasons. 

After the top three, everyone else needs to pull at least one upset, even if at home.

Here's how the ranked teams open:   

Thursday: Kentucky at South Carolina; Texas A&M at Arkansas; Florida at Mississippi State;  Missouri at Tennessee;.

Sunday: Tennessee at Kentucky; South Carolina at Alabama; Arkansas at Auburn; Mississippi State at Georgia.

No poll position changed.



Dawn Staley’s the mist enigmatic coach in a conference with two other Hall of Fame leaders. She is living the life, with the Olympics this year as well.

Staley has proven amazing adjusting on the fly.

When she won her national championship, she supplemented her roster by having two hired gun transfer guards who played only that season in Columbia.  

She has continued the pattern of focusing on point guard, even with dominating centers.

Two starters left this season for no disclosed reason, but incoming was league freshman of the year, Aliyah Boston. She can deliver blocks if you need them, points if you need  them and she is a firm big. How fun. And she has the best point guard in the league

Staley needs to reaffirm her team as the league favorite, after Mississippi State took that away last season, regular season and conference tournament.

Each of the conference leaders have become a team you don’t want in your bracket. 

Of all unlikely places this season, the SEC’s best wants to be in Fort Wayne, Indiana at a whacky Regional site.

SC is among those with league-bests 12 wins, seven-game win streak, 7-0 at home.

They took the holiday weeks off.

 No. 11 TEXAS A&M (12-1)

The Aggies are on a seven-game winning streak, 8-0 at home. 

The mad scientist plan of starting five freshmen, then five sophomores and now five juniors is in play.

The best result has been Chennedy Carter, leading league scoring  at 22.9, fourth-best nationally. 

Her only flaw is her passion. 

She can be motivated by opponents to lose her cool. Ciera Johnson (12.7) and Kayla Wells (12.4) are snipers in the offense arsenal.

Gary Blair, a master motivator, has challenged center N’dea Jones to double every game because she can. She will in conference or they will not win.

So here came a final non-league home game. Texas A&M Corpus Christie welcomed a game against  the main campus team. The Islanders were 8-3 against a lesser schedule.

This was a last chance for eight seniors. Dalesia Booth, a 5-9 guard , is the best among them, 12.8 points per game.

Texas A&M showed no effects of an eight-day holiday layoff, as the Aggies posted a season-best offensive showing and routed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 85-48. 

They drew  3,804 at Reed Arena.

After shaking off a very brief slow start, Texas A&M took the lead four minutes in and kept it, running a  20-0 finish of the first, leading. They kept it up, 45-21 by half..

Chennedy Carter scored 20. Center N'dea Jones had her third double/double of the season,  13 points, 16-rebounds. 

Ciera Johnson scored 16, 6-of-6 from the line, her 10th game in double figures. Guard Kayla Wells scored 17.  

Senior guard Shambria Washington had five assists, the sixth time this season she has had at least five.

Johnson said, "We started off the game really well. In the second quarter we kind of slipped up a little bit. 

“We just have to play a little better going into Arkansas, because they're a very well-coached team with fantastic players. 

“So, we have to be a little more focused throughout the entire game or else we're going to lose to Arkansas."

"The boards were fine. I think we gave up a few offensive rebounds.”

“ They were stuck with nine for a while, and they finished with nine. So, I thought we did pretty good on the boards. Coach [Bob] Starkey said he wanted us to dominate the boards, and I think we did that."

"Considering the way we played, it was OK. We have to be a lot better, because Arkansas is a very well-coached team. They're going to get after us. "

It's the first game of SEC play, so they're going to be fired up. We had some slip-ups. If we don't maintain the level of play we had throughout the first quarter, then we will have a tough time against Arkansas.

“ I think if we stay on that level of play we had through the first quarter, then we will be just fine."

 Blair said, "We got out to a slow start, but we found our way by forcing a few turnovers.

“ I was disappointed early on because our post players were 3-for-11 in the first half. We have to learn how to get the ball deeper into the post against teams that are not shot blockers. 

"We keep shooting the ball because we're open, and we've had this problem all year long, we have to get our post players off to a good start so we can create and-one's and get into our press defense a little bit quicker. 

“Our post players did a much better job in the second half. There were four kids in double figures this afternoon and 11 kids played. We were efficient at the free throw line too; our kids did a good job in that regard."

""We're ready for SEC play only by our record, not by our improvement. We need to be getting better, improving, and correcting our mistakes.

 "We can't just turn it on when we're playing a Florida State or an Arkansas or a Georgia Tech. We have to do a better job of game planning and playing hard from the opening tip. 

“When we do that, maybe it'll happen during conference play, we'll be a better team that will know how to play 40 minutes."

"If we get into a complete transition game with them, it'll be like our scrimmage against the U.S. Women's National Team. 

“They want to run and shoot the ball within seven seconds, that's their coaches' philosophy. They want to drive the ball and kick it out for three or score in transition. 

“If you get in there and try to trade baskets with them, we'll be playing to their strengths. Our strength is the balance between our inside game and our outside shooting. We need to be better than we were today at stopping the drive."

 Johnson said, "We started off the game really well. In the second quarter we kind of slipped up a little bit. We just have to play a little better going into Arkansas, because they're a very well-coached team with fantastic players. So, we have to be a little more focused throughout the entire game or else we're going to lose to Arkansas."

"The boards were fine. I think we gave up a few offensive rebounds. They were stuck with nine for a while, and they finished with nine. So, I thought we did pretty good on the boards. Coach Starkey said he wanted us to dominate the boards, and I think we did that."

"Considering the way we played, it was okay. We have to be a lot better, because Arkansas is a very well-coached team. They're going to get after us. It's the first game of SEC play, so they're going to be fired up. 

“We had some slip-ups. If we don't maintain the level of play we had throughout the first quarter, then we will have a tough time against Arkansas. I think if we stay on that level of play we had through the first quarter, then we will be just fine."

 No.  14 KENTUCKY (11-1)

The last game prepared them for the roughest league start, the first two against other ranked teams. They also had the week off.



If the Bulldogs can win a third consecutive SEC title, they would be the first to do so since 2004.

Thus the legend builds.

The breakout so far this season, are freshman Rickea Jackson and sophomore Jessika Carter Jackson is the MVP off the Duel in the championship, averaging 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  

No one will soon forget All-American league dominator Teaira McCowan, from wire to wire the SEC Player of the Year. 

Jackson is ahead of her at the same point in their careers. 

McCowan worked to earn a starting position. Jackson is the first rookie to start since Victoria Vivians, who started only because of a fundamental need for points back then. 

Vivians was a substitute for part of her senior season, until she developed more of an all-around game.

Carter is among the top in the league in scoring (14), seventh field-goal percentage  (545), second in rebounding (10.7), third in blocks (2.2) and (/7th). 

She has  led State in rebounding nine times and has scored double figures 10 times with four double/doubles this  

She was SEC Player of the Week after dominating in State’s wins over Murray State and Troy, averaging 22.0 points, 16.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Every season, coaches build a team identity. 

No one ever knows how new starters will fashion that. 

Schaefer, for all his yelling during games, is amazingly calm thereafter and certainly sees what happens in practices so he is less surprised than the rest of us.

He has the nation’s longest road winning streak at 12 games. 

 State has been in the AP rankings for 102 straight weeks. 

State ranks seventh the nation in scoring offense (83.8) and 10th in scoring margin (26.0).

 Five players shoot better than 50 percent from the field, the Bulldogs 16th in the country, leading the conference teams in field-goal percentage (.468). 

State has 203 offensive rebounds, 43 percent of its missed baskets, gaining 234 second-chance points.

On defense, State has forced 288 turnovers, an average of 22.2, 16th in the nation and second in the SEC.

The Bulldogs have been rejecting shots, an average of 5.8 blocks per game, which is 13th in the Division I. 

An emerging NCAA statistic, soon  to become NCAA official, is takin charges. Coaches preach this.  Mississippi State certainly ranks amongst the country’s best teams at drawing charges. 

So far, the Bulldogs have taken 42 charges, led by 23 from Myah Taylor.

StarkVegas was ready to party for its 5-1 home team, with 7,895 partyers. 

Arkansas-Little Rock was 2-8, winless in four road games, having just lost  to real Arkansas by 33. 

In that one, they experience 5,560 fans. 

They were led by Angelique Francis’ 15 points but were outscored every quarter, especially the 23-11 first. 

But good for their fearlessness.  It may serve them in the Sun Belt conference.

But in this one, State rushed to a 6-0 lead. Little Rock called a time out, breaking the momentum with a catch and shoot basket. 

The next few minutes were 8-5 Little Rock. At the first break, it was 25-12 followed by a 5-0 start of the second and a 37-23 half. 

Jackson had scored 14. But she didn’t shoot any in the third.

The Bulldogs kept a double-digit lead with steady if unspectacular play. 

The third quarter ended 62-41,

 Playing only eight players, they had a trio with three fouls as they scrambled to keep up.

Jordan Danberry led State, 5-of-6 from the field and the line for 15 points with four assists and three steals.

"I'm really proud of Aliyah (Matharu), coming off the bench, shooting the ball extremely well, and not having any turnovers," coach Vic Schaefer said. "She'll tell you that's a thing that's important to me."

"I'm really, really proud of our kids today, against a team a have a lot of respect for, in Joe Foley, and Little Rock," Schaefer said. "I thought we played, at times, pretty well. We had 60 points in the paint, which is what we had last year against them. That was our challenge and our goal today."


No. 20 ARKANSAS (12-1)

If you do not play well against Tennessee, maybe you work your way up by playing the satellite campus that produced Pat Head the player.

UT-Martin continued its 0-fer road record by losing a sixth. Among the previous was 82-46 at Mississippi State. The best Skyhawk is 6-2 junior Chelsey Perry, an impressive 18.9 average.

The Razorbacks broke out an 21-11 quarter.

 Dungee had eight points, including a 3 and  3-of-4 free throws. A 27-13 second cemented the win by halftime. They had nine 3s. Three players were in double figures.

By the end of the third, Alexis Tolefree had five 3s in her 17 points. The team averages 10 3s per game, a league best. The lead grew to 40. The Razorbacks had 13 in this one.

The lead cleared 50 in the final quarter. It was 96-46 at the clos

Arkansas is 9-0 at home, on a seve-game win streak. 

From now on, half the games are at home against generally higher quality foes. Certainly against teams that have more reasons to win.

The  win streak is the best since 2016. 

Alexis Tolefree had a career-best 23 points. The senior guard hit 6-of-12 3s. Chelsea Dungee scored 16, Amber Ramirez 14 and reserve A’Tyanna Gaulden had a fourth game off the bench in double figures, 12. 

Defensively, they had 18 steals, the most since since 2013.

The Razorbacks led by 10 after the first quarter, then went on a 12-0 run early in the second.

Tolefree has now scored 20 or more points in four of her last five outings. Taylah Thomas led rebounding,  nine.

Kiara Williams played her best game of the season, going for a season-high eight points to go along with two blocks.

Freshman center Destinee Oberg made her Razorback debut, playing just over four minutes, recording her first-career block.

“It was a really good way for us to close out the non-conference season,” coach Mike Neighbors said. "Would not have believed we would close this part if the season the way we have.

”The kids just find a way.

"We thought we  could run them over. That was what we did.  I would never have a game plan that would cause 21 turnovers. 

“But it builds on itself. We have to find out how we did that and replicate it. We turned it over less and when we do that, we score more.

"Tolefree) has the confidence of her teammates. When her teammates have confidence in her, that's better for everyone."

As the SEC starts, he said, "In the old days -- that's five years ago--- we could lie to the players and tell them how to prepare. 

“Now, they see the games on social media, they see the stats and they all have their own idea of what they need to do.

"We're better than we were at this place last year. Our defense is way better. But now you have to look at the 16-game schedule. We’ll see where we area after four.'

 No. 23 TENNESSEE (10-2) 

No league team is watched more than the Lady Vols. 

Of course, every new coach is scrutinized. 

Unlike other newbies, however, Kelly Harper is a Tennessee legacy, winning two NCAA titles as a player.

She inherited a fully stocked roster including three newcomers who each individually announced they had committed to the program well before the couching opening occurred and they were just fine with Harper and she with them.

This is still a previous coaches’ team, none of them recruited by Harper, but expected to be coached by her, the old as well as the new. 

She has different challenges and higher expectations than any new coach ever hired anywhere. She is doing just fine.

Harper has them back in the national discussion, perhaps aiming for a home NCAA sequence is the most-attainable goal.

They are the tallest team in the league -- all starters at least 6-0 -- which is reflected in their rebound dominance. They average 51.6, with a 16 average edge.

To get to 10 wins, they needed an 8-4 Howard on the schedule about now.  

They came in 5-1 on the road with an overall four-game winning streak. 

The six seniors are led in scoring by guard Sarah Edmond, 5-9, 15.1. The rebounding thing: They are outrebounded by two per game. Yikes.

A 22-6 first meant UT was ready to play. By the half, the Vols led 42-14. 

Harper had used five reserves at the start of the second quarter. 

Every  starter had scored. Rebounds were 34-14.

With 90 seconds left in the half, the defense had imposed six and eight-point back-to-back quarters. 

Two reserves had hit double figures. With limited time, no starter had. Rennia Dais and Tamari Key were in that rhythm.

The lead grew to 30 in the third. Rae Burrell had 18 with 10 rebounds off the bench. No one else doubled. 

Rookie reserve Jessie Rennie had three 3s and 16 points in her best game.

At the 88-38  end, Davis also 16, 5-of-6 free throws.

UT had seven 3s. They won rebounds, 58-42. 

"I thought in the first half we had some really, really good offensive possessions,"  Harper said. "I mean, our spacing was good, our ball movement was good, the timing on drives, the timing on post passes — I thought we had some really good possessions that we can build on in that first half.

"Not so much in the third quarter, but again, maybe a little bit in the fourth quarter, you know, we were able to get some good offensive executed plays."

"I've just been really mindful of crashing the boards every time, trying to go get a rebound," Burrell said. "So I'll probably take that into SEC play as well."

Tennessee is 7-1 at home. They are not likely to lose in league play all In January.