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, February 21, 2006

Playing the Bubble Game

Updated to reflect another 1-2-3 in poll item.

By Mel Greenberg

I'm not going to get into specifics at this hour because I haven't looked at the magnified view of all the teams trying to feel good about at-large bids to the NCAA tournament if they falter in their conference tournaments.

Well, a quick numbers count on what a conference should get in terms of representation makes it seem that the bubble may not be very big as of now.

Part of the reason is the vast numbers of one-and-done conferences I spoke of in an earlier post.

But a quick count of simply at-large slots without regard to the 31 conference winners projects about 35 or 36 teams with some claim who are fighting to squeeze into the 33 available slots.

If this is true, unless I missed a conference on the printout of standings, there is some hope for an Indiana State, Old Dominion, or Hartford if anyone of them fail to win what is projected as a one-team league.

On the other hand, a few things could factor against them such as Louisiana Tech not winning the WAC because that is a one-team league and the Techsters are going to get a bid no matter what.

Since I went the long list route to see how long, I allowed for six Big East at-larges and four more in play, although they can winnow themselves down in the next week or so. But if the bubble theory holds, most of the ones on my list would get in. There are some other places in which less teams than previous years might go such as in the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10, which allows for the Big East glut.

But we'll be back unless someone wants to post here to verify if I counted right.

Dominating the Poll

A question came up earlier today when it was though that the ACC might have a 1-2-3 hit in the Associated Press poll if Maryland would move up.

And so it was asked, has that happened before.

Well, a glance at our fabulous poll history database that can produce many hidden facts, revealed that on January 9, 1989, the SEC trio of Auburn (1), Tennessee (2), and Mississippi (3) filled the top three slots.

The 1-2-3 trick was also achieved by the SEC on week 3 of last season on Nov. 22 with Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia ranked in that order.

The SEC crowd once had a better monoply earlier in the season when the powerful conference had four of the five top spots on Dec. 19, 1988. Tennessee was one, followed by Auburn at No. 3, Georgia at No. 4, and Mississippi at No. 5.

Chauffeur Service to the Famers

The news that Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor in the WNBA and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma are nominees out of the women's sub-committee for consideration to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., brought to mind a moment involving yours truly with those two back in 1995 at Colorado Springs.

Auriemma, fresh off his first NCAA title, and Chancellor, already a legend at Mississippi, were floor coaches during the trials for the United States squad that was going to spend almost 12 months together preparing for the Atlanta Games.

After one particular session, the two heard me discussing Zebs, an outstanding place for ribs if the restaurant still exists.

One of them yelled over, "We're going with you. We want to ride in the back seat with you and feel important."

So there you have it and we'll be back later today.

-- Mel

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Staley Named to USA Basketball Staff


Blog readers note (two of them)

Hi whomever is over here.

First, some of you will see a an AP-Pittsburgh Bureau story regarding the turnaround of Pittsburgh overall and especially in the Big East.

There will be a brief visit with yours truly and an allusion will be made that I claimed that eight or nine Big East teams will go to the NCAA tournament.

What I actually said was right now, at least eight or nine (went off the top of my head) are in play until they sort themselves out. Example: Several years ago, no one expected Miami to make it at this moment in time with a very distant RPI about 20 spots away from the bubble.
But the Hurricanes made a run and got to the semifinals with two big wins to gain an at-large bid.

Secondly, this morning I sent you to Philly.com to read a breaking news story.

As the headline above suggests, the news has occurred but the print version will be small because of space constraints.

So here is the longer version I donated to our Knight Ridder News Wire that goes to major markets and other places.

Will be back in a few hours after dining out (not China town) with commentary off tonight's news. -- Mel

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA — Temple women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley was officially named Thursday to the USA Basketball coaching staff as an assistant for the USA Women’s World Championship Team to compete at the FIBA championship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 12-13.

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors and WNBA Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault were also named to the staff headed USA Senior National Women’s coach Anne Donovan, who also coaches the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

The national team will ultimately become the Olympic team for the games in 2008 in Beijing, China.

Although Donovan was previously named to lead the team through its duration through 2008, assuming it becomes an Olympic qualifier, Staley’s appointment and that of the other two assistants are only through the FIBA championships.

However, any or all could be retained. USA Basketball president Val Ackerman, the former head of the WNBA, had previously commented, “Dawn Staley is someone we would want to keep in USA basketball for a long time.”

Staley, an all-star point guard with the WNBA’s Houston Comets, has won three Olympic gold medals prior to her retirement from international competition after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Donovan was an assistant with Duke’s Goestenkors to WNBA Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor in Athens.

“I think it will be a great experience,” Staley said of being reunited with the former Old Dominion all-America, who also won two Olympic gold medals. “I have the highest regard for Anne as a coach and as a person. Anne and I have a long and storied history together and I expect that we will use this experience to put another notch on our belts.”

The two nearly worked together in Philadelphia in the fall of 1998.

Donovan became coach of the Philadelphia Rage in the American Basketball League, which collapsed under bankruptcy in December, 1998.

Several months earlier Staley announced during the WNBA finals in Houston, she was moving to the rival NBA-run women’s pro league, which will launch its 10th year of competition this summer.

Staley, a former star at Dobbins Tech, has competed in USA basketball nearly annually from 1989 until 2004 when she retired from international competition as a player.

“I expect this level will be the most challenging for me, being on the other side of the whistle,” Staley said of her move to the sidelines from being the “floor coach” running the offense.

Donovan referred to Staley as “a winner and the ultimate competitior. Dawn defines everything ‘golden’ about USA Basketball and I am so glad that she will be on the sidelines with me.”

A former all-American at Virginia, Staley had no prior coaching experience before taking the Temple job in May, 2000.

She has since then led the Owls to three NCAA tournament appearances as Atlantic Ten champions and also has her team challenging for another title this season.

“This is what I do,” Staley said of her long involvement with USA Basketball. “I’m attracted to things that challenge me and USA Basketball has done that to me for years. I’m excited to be given the the opportunity to be challenged on the other end.

“I’m going to approach this challenge the same way that I did as a player, helping Anne in any way that I can and doing whatever it takes to come away with nothing less than the gold.”

WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks, a longtime friend of Staley's, who has competed with her on USA Basketball squads since Leslie’s days at Southern Cal, was excited about the new relationship with her former teammate.

“I feel extremely confident that we’ll win another world championship,” Leslie said from Houston, where she is participating in NBA all-Star Game activities, “just knowing Dawn will be there with us on the bench.

“Even though she won’t be there playing alongside me on the court, having her as a coach, having her passion, her attitude and her knowledge of the game will go a long way,” Leslie added.

“I’m really excited about returning (to the USA Basketball program) and playing for Dawn,” Leslie stopped herself and laughed. “Coach Dawn. It’s going to be hard calling her ‘Coach,’ I’m so used to calling her ‘Dawnie.’”

Thibault, who has led Connecticut to two straight runnersup finishes in the WNBA, including one to Donovan’s Seattle squad, has twice coached teams in the USA Basketball system on the men’s side when he was an NBA assistant.

“Obviously winning NBA championships and CBA championships and being in the WNBA finals are all highlights. But playing and coaching for your country in a gold medal game is pretty intense,” Thibault said

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Answers to Detective Work

By Mel Greenberg

In a post here a few days ago, in light of recent Maryland's back-to-back games against two different No. 1 teams, we were looking for similar occurences.

Thansk to a quick response from Christine Long of the sports information staff at Clemson, we received the following email of a similar high-quality week in the early 1990s.

In the 1991-92 season, Clemson faced #1 Virginia on Jan. 18, 1992 in Charlottesville and lost 85-52. Clemson then played #1 Maryland on Jan. 20, the next game, in College Park and lost 63-59.

Also in that season, Clemson again played #1 Maryland on Feb. 15.

This time, the Lady Tigers won the game, 72-55, at home. Then on Feb. 22, not the next game, but I think in the same week, Clemson fell to #1 Virginia, 85-81, at home.

USA Basketball announcement

USA Basketball is announcing Anne Donovan's assistants for the U.S. Senior National Team on Thursday.

If it's not noon, yet, and you are here, you need to go to Philly.com, the umbrella internet site to get some clues.

The internet gurus around here haven't shown me how to put the link into the copy, but I am being charitable sending hits in that direction.

Dupree honored.

Temple is honoring senior center Candice Dupree with a night of her own Friday at the Liacouras Center when the Owls meet St. Joseph's in a key Atlantic Ten and Big Five contest at 8 p.m. as the Temple star plays in her next-to-last regular season home game.

St. Joseph's won the first meeting at the buzzer on Jan. 27, but that game did not count in the Big Five race. Temple can gain a City Series sweep with a win tonight.

More important, the winner will hold down third place in the race for the four byes available for the Atlantic Ten tournament at St. Joseph's.

The Hawks are coming in a bit hobbled.

We reported Ayahna Cornish's knee injury earlier this week, but here's the official St. Joseph's announcement:

Saint Joseph's women's basketball guards Ayahna Cornish (Philadelphia, PA/Cardinal Dougherty) and Christine Roth (Buffalo, NY/Mt. Mercy Academy) will miss the remainder of the 2005-06 season for the Hawks.

Cornish, who sat out Sunday's game versus Dayton, will miss the remainder of the season after suffering tears to the ACL and Medial Meniscus as well as spraining the MCL in her left knee.

The junior guard suffered the injury during the first half of Saint Joseph's contest at Massachusetts as she made a drive towards the basket.

The Hawks leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, Cornish was having her best overall season to date in the Crimson and Gray, averaging a career-best 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

Earlier this season, Cornish helped Saint Joseph's to the Kansas State Wildcat Classic title, garnering MVP honors. Over the two-day tournament, Cornish averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, earning her Big 5 Player of the Week honors as well.

A senior, guard, Roth will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a left ankle injury. A transfer from Genesse Community College, Roth has averaged 5.6 points per game during her two seasons with the Hawks.

A three-point specialist, Roth sat out the final six games of the 2004-05 season due to injury and has missed the previous eight games for Saint Joseph's this season.

"It obviously hurts losing two of our veteran players to injury for the season," said Saint Joseph's Head Coach Cindy Griffin. "Unfortunately injuries are part of the game. The depth of our team this year has been an asset and now other players will have the opportunity to step up and fill new roles."

The game will be televised in Philadelphia on CN8-TV and on the Atlantic Ten TV network.

See you in 24 hours --


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Help The Guru Play Detective

By Mel Greenberg

Maryland's trip to North Carolina and Duke in the past week gave rise to several questions.

Q. Has anyone played two different No. 1 teams back-to-back or within the same week?

A. We think so, but we're not sure.

Q. Has anyone ever beaten two No. 1s back to back?

A. Probably not. Maryland would have been the first.

However, now we have clues and it is up to you sports information directors out there or fans with media guides to help the cause.

What follows are all the in-season switches in the AP poll history except the first year.

If anyone can find people playing Delta State and Wayland Baptist back-to-back, let me know because they were the only two No. 1s in year No. 1.

After that, here are all the switches showing the date Team A became No. 1 and the date Team B took over. Anything close to someone playing those two teams in that particular two-week span, send the information along.

Some of what you'll see is easy to eliminate because the switches occurred during conference tournaments. And there are long gaps because in some years we had no switches when Connecticut, Tennessee, and Louisiana Tech, for example, went wire-to-wire.

So, hopefully if this chart cuts and pastes close to clean from our MS Word file, here is the list and thanks for your help.

-- Mel

Dates Team A Team B

1/25/77, 12/07/77 Tennessee Wayland Baptist

1/11/78, 1/18/78 Wayland Baptist LSU

2/8/78, 2/15/78 LSU Tennessee

12/12/78, 12/19/78 Tennessee Old Dominion

12/18/79, 12/25/79 Old Dominion Louisiana Tech

1/22/80, 1/29/80 Louisiana Tech Old Dominion/Texas (tie)

1/29/80, 2/5/80 Texas (from tie) Old Dominion

12/16/83, 12/23/83 Southern Cal Louisiana Tech

1/1/84, 1/8/84 Southern Cal Louisiana Tech

2/5/84, 2/12/84 Louisiana Tech Texas

11/26/84, 12/2/84 Georgia Old Dominion

1/20/85, 1/27/85 Old Dominion Texas

12/9/86, 12/16/86 Texas Tennessee

12/30/86, 1/6/87 Tennessee Texas

12/7/87, 12/14/87 Tennessee Texas

12/28/87, 1/4/88 Texas Iowa

2/22/88, 2/29/88 Iowa Auburn

3/7/88, 3/14/88 Auburn Tennessee

1/2/89, 1/9/89 Tennessee Auburn

3/6/89, 3/13/89 Auburn Tennessee

12/4/89, 12/11/89 Tennessee Louisiana Tech

12/31/90, 1/7/91 Virginia Penn State

1/7/91, 1/14/91 Penn State Virginia

2/25/91, 3/4/91 Virginia Penn State

12/8/91, 12/15/91 Tennessee Virginia

1/12/92, 1/19/92 Virginia Maryland

2/9/92, 2/16/92 Maryland Virginia

11/24/92, 12/8/92 Stanford Tennessee

12/29/92, 1/5/93 Tennessee Vanderbilt

1/26/93, 2/2/93 Vanderbilt Tennessee

3/2/93, 3/9/93 Tennessee Vanderbilt

1/18/94, 1/25/94 Tennessee Penn State

2/8/94, 2/15/94 Penn State Tennessee

1/10/95, 1/17/95 Tennessee Connecticut

11/14/95, 11/21/95 Connecticut Louisiana Tech

1/22/96, 1/29/96 Louisiana Tech Georgia

2/12/96, 2/19/96 Georgia Louisiana Tech

12/16/93, 12/23/93 Stanford Connecticut

11/6/98, 11/16/98 Tennessee Purdue

11/16/98, 11/23/98 Purdue Connecticut

1/4/99, 1/11/99 Connecticut Tennessee

2/15/99, 2/22/99 Tennessee Purdue

1/15/01, 1/22/01 Connecticut Notre Dame

2/12/01, 2/19/01 Notre Dame Tennessee

2/26/01, 3/5/01 Tennessee Notre Dame

3/5/01, 3/12/01 Notre Dame Connecticut

1/27/03, 2/3/03 Duke Connecticut

12/29/03, 1/5/04 Connecticut Duke

1/19/04, 1/26/04 Duke Tennessee

2/2/04, 2/9/04 Tennessee Texas

2/16/04, 2/23/04 Texas Connecticut

2/23/04, 3/01/04 Connecticut Tennessee

3/1/04, 3/8/04 Tennessee Duke

11/22/04, 11/29/04 Tennessee LSU

1/3/05, 1/10/05 LSU Duke

1/24/05, 1/31/05 Duke LSU

2/28/05, 3/7/05 LSU Stanford

11/28/05, 12/5/05 Duke Tennessee

1/23/06, 1/30/06 Tennessee North Carolina

2/6/06, 2/13/06 North Carolina Duke

Monday, February 13, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

By Mel Greenberg

This was one of the more interesting Sunday nights when it came to selecting the top of the newest Associated Press poll, to be announced Monday.

The ballot may come out differently but this was the thinking here in selecting the top ten, which will become moot if Maryland pulls another upset Monday night with a win at Duke.

But for now, I made Duke No. 1 for surviving the week.

Maryland was No. 2, based more on currency than of the entire who-beat-who season because of the win at North Carolina and losses to just the Blue Devils (a rout) and Tennessee (competitive).

North Carolina was dropped to third because it was an overtime loss so I didn't want to give the Tar Heels too much punishment for the setback.

LSU was bumped back a spot at No. 4 because the Tigers survived the week and had the win at Tennessee. I believe this team will probably be all over the upper map because of various interpretations, but with three Top Five teams losing at home, there was an impact in the decision-making process.

Rutgers was jumped to No. 5 because of the quality win at Connecticut. I gave them a jump over Ohio State because on the season, the win at UConn helps place them ahead with a quality triumph. Had Maryland lost and/or LSU lossed, it would have been easy to move the Scarlet Knights up another notch or two.

Ohio State was then moved up a spot to sixth, and Tennessee was dropped to seventh, although it's possible the Vols are capable of coming back and beating the teams above them listed this week on this ballot.

Connecticut was lowered to eight because Tennessee had the head-to-head win, but the drop from No. 4 to No. 8 should be thought more in terms of gymnastics decimal points in separation instead of ranking numbers, because of the lack of a clear frontrunner at the moment.

Then Oklahoma was left at No. 9 and Purdue at No. 10.

Immaculata reunion

Penn State's win at home over Illinois Sunday, for the moment, kept the Nittany Lions from avoiding a losing record, even though the schedule ahead would indicate that may happen for the first time since the cavewoman era in 1973 when Penn State was 3-5.

That was when Penn State coach Rene Portland and Illinois coach Theresa Grentz happened to be teammates at Immaculata, which won a second-straight national title.

Temple shaved again.

Oops. Sorry. For commentary on this one, you'll have to wait until its covered in the weekly Tuesday notebook in the printed edition of The Inquirer that will also be found at Philly.com.

Call of the Orient.

That subheadline above is a way of telling you I have 20 minutes to get over to a late-night restaurant in Chinatown, several blocks from here, to down a bowl of Won-Ton soup on the way home. :)

No matter what the postime time indicates, it's really 3:55 a.m.

We'll be back late Monday night after the Maryland game and to see how we did against the consensus pick of my colleagues.

-- Later


Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Tara 500

By Mel Greenberg

On a day in which a record crowd at the University of California's Haas Pavilion was news in of itself in terms of a turnaround under first-year coach Joanne Boyle, Saturday's show belonged to Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who gained her 500th win with the Cardinal and 652nd overall.

The Women's Basketball Hall of Famer joined a select group of coaches who have won 500 or more games at the same Division I school.

Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who passed that total 400 plus wins ago, leads the list.

Once Upon a Time

LSU associate athletic director Judy Southard will be the next chair of the NCAA women's basketball tournament committee when American U. athletic director Joni Comstock's term ends a few months after the end of the season.

Way back in time when Southard was a women's basketball coach at Marshall, we did have her as a member of our voting board when the Associated Press weekly poll panel consisted of coaches prior to 1994-95.

Villanova makes it two straight.

For you locals who may have had Sunday morning's Inquirer buried under snow in the event several inches fell in your area, here is an account of Villanova's win over Cincinnati at the Pavilion on Saturday.

Compiled by the Inquirer Staff

Villanova excelled at both ends of the court yesterday on the way to a 65-40 victory over Cincinnati in a Big East women’s basketball game at the Pavilion.Senior guard Jenna Viani provided the offensive firepower with 24 points, especially in the first half when she had 19 points and shot 5-for-9 on three-point attempts for the Wildcats (14-8, 5-6 Big East).

It was Villanova’s second straight win after a triumph Tuesday night at Notre Dame, which was ranked earlier this season.

The Wildcats next head to No. 8 Rutgers on Tuesday.
The Scarlet Knights are the only Big East team unbeaten in conference competition.

Viani’s first trey gave Villanova the lead for good at 7-5 early in the first half and the Wildcats roared to a 37-17 advantage at the break. She shot 9-for-17 from the field overall and finished with a career-high six three-pointers.

Overall, the Wildcats shot a season-high 13 treys. They also hounded the Bearcats (14-8, 4-7) into 16 turnovers, including 10 in the first half. Villanova committed only eight miscues.

“It was an old fashioned Villanova win,” coach Harry Perretta said afterwards. “We played good defense. And we executed the offense.
"I looked at the scoreboard with a few minutes to go and we had 58 points, which wasn’t a lot. But then I saw what they had and I said, ‘This is the way we used to win games years ago with our defense.’”

Villanova smothered Cincinnati early in the second half, holding the Bearcats (14-8, 4-7) scoreless for more than seven minutes early in the period.Cincinnati is one of five new Big East teams that used to play in Conference USA. The Wildcats were 2-3 against that group.

Betsy McManus added 10 points for Villanova, and Jackie Adamshick grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.Michelle Jones was the only Cincinnati player in double figures, with 10 points.

Email to this address will reach Mr. or Ms. staff. :)

ESPN Practice Time

As part of readying to telecast the NCAA tournament, ESPN will offer eight regional games Sunday in the format used to broadcast early round games.

The schedule on ESPN2 is:

( 3 p.m.) Connecticut at Texas; Minnesota atPurdue; Wisconsin at Michigan State; Georgia at LSU.
(5 p.m.) N. Carolina at Virginia; TCU at New Mexico; Vanderbilt at ennessee; Notre Dame at DePaul.

Meanwhile, we'll be either at Xavier visits La Salle or Dayton visits St. Joseph's, today, both games impacting the fourth and final bye spot for the Atlantic Ten tournament next month.

-- Mel

Friday, February 10, 2006

Parity At Last?

By Mel Greenberg

This has become a week worth noting for future discussion.

In the recent past, when some programs began moving up the ladder and we would get a few upsets in clumps, coaches and fans would immediately take to the campaign trail and proclaim that parity had at last arrived in the women's game.

And then I'd be asked to comment and my conservative response was that more people had arrived at the table and in that regard, the competitive field for an NCAA title was increasing.

But in terms of top to bottom, no, it wasn't yet like the men in which anything might happen anywhere on a given night. True, we've had some of those deals with the women, but maybe the team that got upset, in some situations, was given more credit than it was worthy, and maybe the team that did the sniping was taken less seriously than necessary.

Now, however, in light of the last 48 hours, here's what's worthy and maybe new.

We've had powers get knocked down before, but I cannot remember a 48-hour period in which three of the top five have suffered defeats at home.

First, Rutgers actually managed to find a way to get its collective brains to board the bus for the trip to Connecticut, and, thus, was able to play a game without self-destructing, even if it got a little hairy down the stretch at Gampel.

Coach Stringer had been beside herself much of the season complaining about Matee Ajavon being out of synch at times.

Yet on Tuesday night, Ajavon was certainly looking like the stud recruit coach Viv signed two years ago.

Speaking of Stringer, nice pressure at the beginning of the season calling Cappie Pondexter the best player in America when consensus winner Seimone Augustus of LSU was still in the house.

Guess what?

The masses, especially in the media world, are beginning to swing into Stringer's thought process.

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, LSU won at Tennessee shortly before Maryland took its biggest step under Brenda Frese and shocked North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Of course, whatever reward the Terrapins get from the AP voters when the next poll is announced on Monday, will have to quickly be placed on the shelf until the trip that night to Duke is over.

In fact, you all might want to weigh in on how you would jumble the top eight if the vote was tomorrow.

But, yes, Terrapin fans, you have entered the speculation line, for now, about No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, as has Rutgers, with Connecticut dropping back to the second line, for now.

Geno sets the trend and pays the price

When Connecticut was a rising program, coach Geno Auriemma talked on the side about building a roster to contend with Tennessee, which eventually happened.

So it was interesting after the loss hearing his side comments about the other team making half-baked shots and his troops still had a chance to win.

Understand, it was an analytical comment before you people think it came from the emotion of the rivalry.

Well, guess what?

Rutgers has spent the last several years building a roster that might finally be able to compete in the Big East, as well as the nation, with Geno's trend-setters.

I seem to remember a player with the Huskies, who made a living out of making half-baked shots that bailed Geno's troops out countless times, especially when that particular player was surrounded by younger and inexperienced teammates in 2003.

Apparently, so do some of the Connecticut media crowd.

There was a moment during the game when Cappie made a big play and someone on press row commented, "Rutgers has Cappie Pondexter. And no one else in America does."

Un-Happy Valley?

Thursday night's loss to Indiana by Penn State is close to ensuring the Nittany Lions at 10-13 are about to experience their first losing season in the Rene Portland era.

In fact, the only previously losing season, according to the media guide, was 3-5 in 1973.

Speaking on a basketball-on-the-court-only basis, there is talent, but young, and there are recruits coming in. So, without any examination of effects caused by the harrassment charges by a former player against coach Rene Portland, it might simply be the program's turn to go through "one of those seasons."

A year ago, St. Joseph's here in Philadelphia suffered its first losing season, winning only seven games, but the Hawks had suffered major losses from graduation and were hit with some injuries. It was also known a fine freshman class was coming aboard this season.

Therefore, although there has been some recent stumbling that could cost St. Joe's an NCAA bid, the win total has doubled and the prospects for the future are much brighter.

Worth noting.

On the way back from UConn on Wednesday, we stopped by the Connecticut Sun media luncheon in casino-land (worthwhile just on those merits) and there were a few comments from execs as to the health of the WNBA as it approaches year ten.

They were certainly informative.

Still, and this won't affect future growth, per se, but if the New York Knicks lost two veteran players to free agency as the Liberty did the last two days, there would be a zillion stories in the New York papers.

So somebody point me in the right direction because, just as it happens here at times, maybe those internet sites don't have the total content of the printed sports sections.

And maybe the Olympics have totally eclipsed space for the topic, and maybe something is coming down the pike, but it seems that it's still a newsworthy occasion to note the departures of Crystal Robinson and Vickie Johnson, with more to come if rumors become facts.

On that note, it's time to beat the sun, as in sunrise, home.

-- Mel

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blair Hits A Trifecta

By Mel Greenberg

OK, I said I'd come back before hitting the highway to UConn for the Rutgers game tonight if there was any news of sorts.

Well, there is, for you stat freaks.

The appearance of Texas A&M in this week's AP poll allows coach Gary Blair exclusive membership in the three-different-teams-in-the-poll-club.

To some this is so big a deal that Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, who has made enough fame ten times over in her current job, reminds me that she was the first every time I go to see a Terps game in College Park.

Here's the current coaching file that I send around to notable friends and conference PR types to share with members. The trio club is at the top.

Also, next week, C. Vivian Stringer, the grandest trio coach of all, will hit the 100-poll mark with Rutgers. And Tennessee legend Pat Summitt is two weeks away from the 500 mark, missing just 14 polls.

Here's the file to hold you all over until tonight, unless you want to read a print account in Tuesday's paper at philly.com that's a short version of what I offered you all in a previous post.

Later -- Mel

Here's the file.

By Mel Greenberg
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Quick hits on AP poll performance for coaches thru week No. 13 of the 2005-06 poll

(This is 512th poll after week 13). (Records on pages through Monday, 2/06/06)

Coaches With Three Ranked Teams

C. Vivian Stringer (Cheyney-85), (Iowa-155), (Rutgers-99), 339
Jim Foster (St. Joe-35), (Vanderbilt-164), Ohio St.-51), 250
Marianne Stanley (Old Dominion-141), (Southern Cal-24), (Stanford*-18), 183
Gary Blair (Stephen F. Austin-79), (Arkansas-67), (Texas A&M-1), 147
Lin Dunn (Miami-2), (Mississippi-1), (Purdue-130), 133
Don Perrelli (Northwestern-52), (S. Conn.-20), (St. John’s-1), 73
Sharon Fanning (Kentucky-4), (Miss. St.-46), (Tenn.-Chattannoga-4), 54
Debbie Yow (Florida-2), (Kentucky-21), (Oral Roberts-1), 24

Kittie Blakemore, Scott Harrelson – West Virginia 8
Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 51
Jill Hutchison, Linda Fischer – Illinois St. 3
Jim Jarrett, Joyce Patterson – Georgia St. 1
Marianne Stanley, Amy Tucker – Stanford 18
Jim Bolla, Sheila Strike – UNLV 18

Coaches All Time Ranking Appearances

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 498 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 390
3. Jody Conradt, Texas – 386
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 339
5. Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
6. **-Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech (51-shared with Sonja Hogg) – 325
7. Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 323
8. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 306
9. Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 292
10. **-Joe Ciampi, Auburn – 290
11. **-Sue Gunter (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, LSU) – 270
12. Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
13. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut, 266
14. Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264
15. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 250
16. **-Chris Weller, Maryland - 227
17. Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
18. **-Van Chancellor, Mississippi – 221
19. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 216
20.. Gail Goestenkors, Duke – 205
21..**-Marianne Stanley (3 schools – Old Dominion, Southern Cal, Stanford*) – 183
22. **-Paul Sanderford (2 schools – W. Kentucky, Nebraska) – 182
23. **-Marian Washington, Kansas – 176
24. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 147
25. **-Ceal Barry, Colorado – 142
**-Not in college

Active Coaches-All Time AP Ranking Appearances

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 498 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 390
3. Jody Conradt, Texas – 386
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 339
5. Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
6. Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 323
7. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 306
8. Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 292
9. Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
10. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 266
11. Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264
12. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 250
13. Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
14. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 216
15. Gail Goestenkors, Duke – 205
16. Gary Blair, (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 147
17. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 139
18.Wendy Larry, Old Dominion – 127
19. Kristy Curry, Purdue – 118
20. Carol Ross, (2 schools – Florida, Mississippi) - 112
21. )))-Chris Gobrecht (Washington) - 104
22. Cathy Inglese (2 school - Boston College, Vermont) – 97
23. ---Jane Albright (N. Illinois, Wisconsin) _ 96
24. Bill Fennelly, (2 schools – Toledo, Iowa) – 95
25. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma – 92
26. Joe McKeown, George Washington – 82
27. &&-Jim Bolla, UNLV* – 75
28. Melanie Balcomb (2 schools – Xavier, Vanderbilt) – 74
28. Doug Bruno, DePaul – 71
29. Pam Borton, Minnesota – 70
30. Kim Mulkey-Robertson, Baylor – 68
31. Debbie Patterson, Kansas St. – 67
32. Sharon Fanning (3 schools – Tenn.-Chattanooga, Kentucky, Miss. St.) – 54
32. Mark French, UC Santa Barbara – 54
34. @@-Cheryl Burnett, Missouri St., 51
35. Kathy Olivier, UCLA 48
35. Joanne P. McCallie, Michigan St. – 48
37. Harry Perretta, Villanova – 44
38. ##-Kurt Budke, Louisiana Tech. – 42
39. Elaine Elliott, Utah – 40
40. Brenda Frese (2 schools, Minnesota, Maryland) – 38
41. ++-Bonnie Henrickson, Virginia Tech – 36
42. Lisa Stockton, Tulane – 34
42. !!-Tom Collen, Colorado St. – 34
44. Pokey Chatman, LSU – 32
&&-Active at Hawaii (Shared 18 with Sheila Strike); @@-Active at Michigan; ##-Active at Oklahoma St.; ++-Active at Kansas; !!-Active at Louisville; )))-Active at Yale; ---Active at Wichita St..

Monday, February 06, 2006

NCAA Women's Outlook I: Slotting the Contenders

By Mel Greenberg

Now that we're into the second week of February, and we've gone once-around the conference regular season races, enough action has occurred to at least look at the long list of candidates who are contending for the Big Dance.

This first contribution is more about numbers counting involving getting into the door. How they fit once through the door will be a topic in the near future, although we'll have some mention of that discussion in this post.

Because one of the RPI simulated sites was updated early Sunday night, it's possible to discuss the scene as it exists today, Feb. 6.

In terms of the formulas, we know that in the field of 64, there will be 31 automatic bids through conference titles, and 33 at-large picks.

At this point in time, it's usually easy to identify a bunch of locks, although enough time remains for some to unlock themselves through losing streaks, key injuries, and other factors.

The rest of the numbers count will usually be larger than slots available, thus that particular group become known as the teams "on the bubble."

That topic is also a future discussion, and that's when we'll get into the "NittyGritty" component of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) that will help narrow the field.

For now, let's develop the long list.

The One-Team Conferences

It appears that this group consists of 23 of the 31 available leagues. Basically, we look at the data of all the conferences and, using past discussions with committee members about procedures over the years, the same mindset can be used to identify this crowd.

Team names are not necessary at the moment, with limited exceptions. The conferences that as of now appear able to only send their tournament winners, besides the Ivy regular season champion, are:

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Mid-American, Mid-Continent, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Sun Belt, Southwestern Athletic Conference, Western Athletic Conference, and West Coast.

The eight that appear certain to send multiple representatives are:

Atlantic Coast, Atlantic Ten, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-10, and Southeastern.

Wrong-Winners and Rescue Work.

Nothing goes entirely according to plan and occasionally an upset in conference tournaments that are perceived as "one-team- only" leagues creates a "wrong winner." The perceived team, in some situations, has so much going for it, that it becomes part of the at-large pool and "bumps" someone else out of the field of 64.

Incidentally, won't pre-selection Sunday be fun since we'll have all day and night to talk about this because of the move to Monday night to announce the women's field.

As far as the 24 conferences go, let's just say in the spirit of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, for the most part, St. Bernards won't be out on the sloops with barrels marked Red Cross on their chests ready to rescue victims. Teams that dominated those conferences are not all guaranteed a second shot.

Some might be, so let's examine a few of those.

America East _ Hartford has a good RPI at the moment at 39. So, we'll kick the Hawks on the bubble shelf for future comparison if they falter along the line.

Colonial - Old Dominion would be one of the dicier discussions. The Monarchs are dominating the league and play a strong schedule. However, they don't bring a lot to the table in terms of outside victories. But they are definitely worthy of consideration. Remember, a smaller bubble and a large supply of available NCAA at-large slots will benefit someone in this situation.

Conference USA - For those who look at the glut of Big East possibilities, do this. If you would lump these two conferences together, you would get near the combined total number that went in the past. The realignments change the equation, however, in terms of limiting this conference, but not the total overall number. Tulsa, new to C-USA, has the best RPI at 64 and is in the race for the title. The RPI is not great, but the team can be sent to the bubble for now and let's see what happens. Obviously, a title puts an end to this topic.

Missouri Valley - Indiana State with an RPI of 28 and a solid lead would at least put the team on the bubble. Then it would have to undergo comparisons. Again, a title ends this discussion.

Western Athletic - Louisiana Tech probably goes no matter what. We put the Techsters on the bubble as part of a one-team league, but also acknowledge that they would be an early team off the bubble into the field. The lock list is never that huge, although by the final days of pre-selection week we can usually give locks to more teams on the basis of the data.
Fresno State is right there in the WAC hunt, but an RPI of 94 isn't much of a help.

So that gives us five on the bubble for starters, although three of them, if not all, will have gotten their dance tickets the easy when we re-visit the issue before Selection Monday.

The Multiple Groups

Atlantic Coast - A No. 1 conference RPI ranking can usually produce an extra team and this crowd could use the extra help. North Carolina, Maryland, and Duke are locks, and one may be the next ACC champion.
This week Maryland goes to North Carolina and then to Duke. Great success elevates the Terrapins to a candidate for an NCAA No. 1 bid. Total failure at worst slips them to three. Then there's the conference tournament.
More will go from here, but as of now, it's a jumble. So when we place these teams on the bubble, some are either-ors on the same line because they all won't go. Virginia Tech, for an example, is an enigma with a weak conference record but a great RPI (16). Same thing for North Carolina State with an RPI of 10. So we'll keep those two on the bubble as of now, along with Florida St., Miami, and Boston College. We'll also keep Virginia involved, for now, because the Cavs have enough time left for improvement.

Atlantic Ten -- Temple and George Washington should go and one might be the champion. Charlotte has had a great debut but the 49ers will have to get to at least the semifinals to breathe better. They're worthy of bubble talk for now. Dayton and St. Joseph's need a run to the title game, if not more.

Big 12 -- Oklahoma and Baylor are locks. Oklahoma also can get all the way to a No. 2 seed by running the table. Baylor looks like either a No. 3 or No. 4 if the Bears slip further. Texas has a great RPI, but not a lot of meat and potatoes. That could change with a win Sunday over Connecticut. Texas A&M, Missouri, and Kansas State stay alive until we see how the Big 12 race concludes.

Big East -- Connecticut, Rutgers, St. John's, and DePaul are locks. Hugh game in Storrs, Tuesday, between the Huskies and the Scarlet Knights. UConn is the outside contender for a No. 1, so a win keeps that alive. Rutgers can join that hunt, but otherwise is looking at a No. 2. A few slips might relegate the Scarlet Knights to a three. But, these two will play once more, for sure, and then mayber again in the conference tournament. More will come out of here, but it is a logjam at the moment so it's up to Marquette, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame, and South Florida to build momentum over the last weeks. They will do so at each other's expense, and who knows if Villanova might start causing trouble for this crowd.

Big Ten -- Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Michigan State have tentative dance tickets. Ohio State's best shot is a No. 2 seed by running the table, although the Buckeyes may get one, anyhow. Worst case is a No. 3 unless a slide drops them to No. 4. Someone needs to get something going from the next group to get on the bubble. There's still time.

Mountain West -- Two of three from BYU, Utah, and New Mexico will probably go - but which two? A wrong winner from deep below will ruin it for somebody. TCU is still alive for bubble comparisons but not before the trio above in this conference.

Pacific Ten -- Stanford is a lock as is Arizona State, with both looking at potentially a No. 3 or No. 4 seed if both or either get to the conference championship and depending what every one else contending for a Top 16 seed is doing. Washington and Southern Cal are in the hunt and belong with the bubble list. For now, we'll keep UCLA alive. California has fallen short, barring a run, but what a great turnaround for the Golden Bears.

Southeastern -- LSU, Tennessee, and Georgia are in with LSU and Tennessee running strong for a No. 1 seed as of now. Georgia, depending on the finish, is looking at a No. 3 or No. 4, but a great run puts them in contention for a No. 2. Arkansas' RPI at 106 is terrible and we've never seen that ranking get an at-large bid. But, hey, they're in the race for a good finish. This is another conference where a No. 2 conference RPI might create some extra weight. The other bubbles are Florida, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, any of whom could get picked quickly. We have to wait for them to sort themselves out.

Doing the match roughly, with all the locks we assigned for now, we're around 37 or 38, needing 27 to fill the need. Anything can happen. We could get close to fit where it will be six teams for three spots or it could get worse.

That's what this month's about. In February, the fever develops, and then March arrives and it's all madness.

This particular exercise will continue in as few weeks. Next time out, unless news warrants otherwise, we'll be in Storrs, Tuesday night for the Big East showdown.

-- Mel

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rutgers toughens one out

By Mel Greenberg
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — No. 13 DePaul gave ninth-ranked Rutgers a solid workout Saturday in a Big East Conference game at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.
The battle finally turned in the Scarlet Knights’ favor with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
That’s when fifth-year senior Cappie Pondexter hit two foul shots to snap a 50-50 tie and send Rutgers on an 11-0 run that ended in a 67-57 win.
Saturday’s game prepared Rutgers (17-3, 9-0 Big East) for its showdown with No. 4 Connecticut on Tuesday on the Huskies’ campus.
“We hadn’t demonstrated to ourselves that we could play at a certain level, so this was nice,” coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "This was a test. I felt much better (after this win).”
Cappie Pondexter had another impressive effort with 27 points in front of a crowd of 5,376 that included several WNBA coaches.
“Cappie is the player of the year by me,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said afterward. “And not just because we’re both from Chicago."
This is the first year in the Big East for the Blue Demons (18-5, 5-5), who had been part of Conference USA.
“If you really study and watch what this kid’s been doing all year percentage-wise, field goal-wise, three-point wise ... her decision-making is awesome. She’s making very simple plays, and great players know how to make the simple plays,” Bruno said. “She’s obviously defending better, too.”
Pondexter, who was 3 for 5 on three-point attempts, is expected to be among the top three picks in the WNBA draft.
Matee Ajavon added 18 points for the Scarlet Knights, and Essence Carson scored 16.
Allie Quigley led three DePaul players in double figures with 16 points.Rutgers, which has had trouble holding large leads, had to rally in this one from an early 8-0 deficit.
The Scarlet Knights bolted to a 17-13 lead off a 17-5 run with 8 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.
But the Blue Demons fought back and the teams went into halftime deadlocked at 27-27.
“You have to be smart to finish close games,” Bruno said, alluding to some poor decisions and turnovers by his players. “If you put yourself in position to win over the first 87 percent of the game, you have to continue down the stretch.”
Pondexter compared Saturday’s game to Rutgers’ recent loss to Temple.“They kept coming and we didn’t make stops,” she said of the Owls. “Today, we made stops.”