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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Guru's Musings: UConn Seemed Doomed At Hands Of Stanford

By Mel Greenberg

For all the success of the Connecticut women’s basketball program, perhaps more so in terms of notoriety even beyond the head start performance at the top by Tennessee, there have been certain interventions by fate and irony along the way.

Perhaps 90 was the nice round number and no more selected by the basketball Gods to give to the top-ranked Huskies (12-1) and coach Geno Auriemma in establishing a new win streak record for Division I collegiate basketball that ended with Thursday night’s 71-59 defeat at No. 9 Stanford (9-2) in Palo Alto, Calif.

From the moment the Cardinal were put to rest by UConn in last season’s NCAA title game for the Huskies’ second consecutive unbeaten crown, Stanford stood as a major barrier to the continuation of the Huskies’ achievement once the date was established for the next meeting between the two super programs this season.

In most situations over the years, the arrival of Connecticut in an opponent gym would somehow cause the other team that was a serious challenger to be unable to handle the extra distractions caused by increases of its home crowd and media attention.

The week long hype involving the 1-2 game at Duke during the Diana Taurasi era several years ago comes to mind as an example. That’s when Auriemma pushed the buttons of the enemy student fans during a teleconference mentioning how he was aware of many Blue Devils graduates these days working in restaurants while discussing a player who had chosen Duke over the Huskies for the sake of a better diploma.

Though an underdog in that particular matchup, UConn established a deep one-sided lead early in the contest that was enough to withstand Duke after the Blue Devils regained their footing down the stretch.

Stanford was not in danger of suffering a similar collapse under the weight of the so-called Connecticut circus for several reasons.

The Cardinal play protecting their home court in Maples in the last several years has been as solid as Fort Knox. Their last loss was a 68-61 upset by Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The exception to Maples’ solid defenses comes with the territory. The court has a certain bounce-like give, which the Guru experienced one time watching a practice. The give is built into the venue that helps keep the place earthquake resistant.

Anyhow, returning to this discussion, appearances in the last three Final Fours already conditioned Stanford to the added attention a matchup with UConn would bring. And perhaps the fates that seem to conspire to stop the Huskies from total lifetime rule also decided that the Cardinal made the perfect bookend to UConn’s record run which started after and ended with Stanford as the other team on the high end of the scoreboard.

Because of its publication date in late February or early March, most of you would not have had the pleasure of reading in advance Bird at the Buzzer, the excellent book by former Hartford Courant women’s beat writer Jeff Goldberg that focuses on the 2001 Big East title game won by Sue Bird against Notre Dame with two long-range bombs at the end of the half and end of the game.

The Guru, who was given a copy he was able to read while imprisoned at home by the weekend snow, was able to relieve the histories of both the Huskies and Irish, which is extensively covered in the book.

He mentions it because the book enables one to remember the years of UConn hardships in the late 1990s when the Huskies continued to be cut down by key injuries prior to Regional play in the wake of winning their first NCAA unbeaten title in 1995.

That string of misfortunes final stopped with the second national trophy that was acquired in 2000 with a certain destiny attached when the Final Four was held in Auriemma’s stomping grounds in Philadelphia.

But then came the following 2001 season. When Midnight Madness arrived to start practice, that particular UConn edition assembled appeared to be the best ever.

However, the Notre Dame bunch was also quite talented and when the Huskies arrived in South Bend for their regular season Big East encounter, it was the Irish who were more fired up to finally end the string of losses that had been applied to them since joining the conference.

While UConn got even in the Big East championship contest courtesy of Bird’s personal missile attacks, it was Notre Dame that had the final say in the NCAA semifinals over the Huskies when Taurasi, then a freshman, suddenly had nothing but blank bullets in her arsenal and the Irish went on to win their only title.

UConn had been hampered in February by the foot injury suffered by Svetlana Abrosimova near the end of a game at Tennessee. Next came the tragic third knee injury to Shea Ralph, now a UConn assistant, during the Big East championship that ended her collegiate career.

Eerily, additions and subtractions were also part of the hand dealt the Huskies heading into Thursday’s visit to Stanford.

The additions involved two Big East games inserted into the December portion of the schedule caused to balance things up because of outside games during conference play ahead involving televised matchups at North Carolina and at home against Duke and Oklahoma.

But if events held otherwise as originally expected, UConn would now be only tied with the UCLA men and their mark of 88 established under John Wooden between 1971 and 1974 which ironically also has bookends attached, but in the name of Notre Dame instead of Stanford.

Then there are the subtractions to consider. Most observers have said that had not Elena Delle Donne left after one day on campus and remained a Huskie in 2008, this would have been the season she would have had her biggest impact when she would be a junior following the graduations of Tina Charles and Kalana Greene.

But that could be a wash considering her own fate at the moment, being sidelined with back problems keeping her out of the lineup at Delaware where she enrolled near her home.

More important, as was the basketball tragedy involving Ralph, was the third knee injury to Caroline Doty, the former Germantown Academy star, who is out of action again after the incident happened during last summer.

Furthermore, perhaps it didn’t hurt Stanford to suffer two losses, a shocker at DePaul when the Cardinal played shorthanded, and an overtime defeat at Tennessee. That removed any win-streak pressure heading into the Connecticut game.

Additionally, coach Tara VanDerveer was able to successfully execute a major test on Tuesday with a lopsided win at home over soon-to-no-longer-be No. 4 Xavier that had just suffered a narrow loss at No. 3 Duke.

The biggest threat to UConn this season to date heading into the trip west came in Game No. 2, a narrow escape over No. 2 Baylor.

So in many ways, Thursday’s events also had similarities involved when the former women’s streak record of 70 held by the Huskies came to an end in the Big East title game of 2003 at the hands of Villanova.

The Wildcats, especially with their methodical style of play, had the experience that night over the much younger Huskies team that would not have had much of a past drawing previous Villanova encounters.

Stanford on Thursday held the upper hand at Maples with a veteran and equally talented lineup.

Ironically, two streaks are alive for the Huskies, though one might die this weekend, and they exist as UConn’s next opponent, of all people, Villanova, which will visit Storrs and Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday.

Coach Harry Perretta’s group finally broke out of a maddening scoring slump the last two days with wins at Fordham’s tournament over Siena and Yale.

Still, the Wildcats will be a heavy underdog when UConn tries to return to winning ways, which would result in establishing a new home court win record at 70, the overall number Villanova stopped in 2003. The Huskies are currently tied with themselves and Tennessee at 69 for the current record.

Then there’s 51 straight weeks UConn has been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press women’s poll. Had the loss been much closer perhaps the Huskies would still be No. 1 But now it would appear that they could fall as low as third behind Baylor and Duke, while Stanford with upsets of a No. 4 and No. 1 should bolt back into the Top 5.

Overall, women’s basketball has been the real winner the last month. The UConn drive for the win streak record injected the sport into the mainstream conversation at a time NFL playoffs and bowl games are the dominating topics on talk shows and in the media.

And with the playing field appeared to be leveled a bit by the Huskies’ defeat, the race for the 2011 NCAA title has something that has been lacking the last two seasons – suspense the rest of the way straight into the finals in Indianapolis.


The Guru would have liked to simply ended today’s post in column mode. But other events on Thursday, including those by local teams, deserve to be noticed.

As mentioned, Villanova has now hit the 50s twice in scoring and winning games after having had trouble getting into the 40s. The Wildcats (7-6) completed a sweep of the Fordham Classic in New York with a 57-44 win over Yale (3-9) as Laura Sweeney and Lindsay Kimmel each scored 15 points.

Delaware, playing without Delle Donne, also as mentioned, got back into the win column, easily beating Alcorn State 76-36 in the consolation game of the Virginia Tech tournament as Lauren Carra scored 15 points for the Blue Hens (7-4).

Next up is a Colonial Athletic Association opener Sunday at home against Hofstra, which fell to former UConn assistant Jamelle Elliott’s Cincinnati team 65-63 in the consolation game of San Diego’s tournament. The Pride’s Shante Evans, a graduate of West Chester Henderson High, had 17 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.

Temple (7-6) again came up with a great effort against No. 3 Duke (13-0), this time in Durham, N.C., at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Owls fell short 71-64 and now need a dynamic run through the Atlantic 10 schedule to get back into the NCAA tournament conversation.

Karima Christmas, who bedeviled Temple so to speak last season in Philadelphia, again struck with 20 points while the Owls’ Qwedia Wallace scored a game-high 21 points.

Penn State (12-3) is definitely in the NCAA mix and perhaps even in the next AP poll mix, after rallying to upset No. 14 Iowa 68-59 at home in the Bryce Jordan Center in the Big Ten opener for both teams as the Hawkeyes fell to 12-2.

Alex Bentley scored 19 points for the Nittany Lions.

Rutgers (7-6) was routed at No. 5 Tennessee 87-51, as the Vols (12-2) dominated the boards with a 46-27 rebounding advantage. April Sykes scored 15 points for the Scarlet Knights.

Khadijah Rushdan was sidelined for Rutgers with a bruised knee suffered in the loss to Texas A&M a week ago Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic.

Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer expressed displeasure over the schools’ inability to re-schedule the game.

Apparently many of her players had trouble returning to campus after the Christmas break because of the weekend snow and the team left on the charter flight to Knoxville without having a practice in advance of the game.

Next up for Rutgers is George Washington, which hasn’t been seen since Valley Forge.

Drexel (8-3) finished with its best nonconference record under Denise Dillon as the Dragons topped Texas-San Antonio, 64-37, dropping the opposition to 4-9 after the third place game of San Diego State’s tournament. The Dragons’ Kamile Nacickaite scored 16 points.

No. 13 Ohio State (8-4) lost its fourth game of its last five, falling at Michigan 64-51 as the Wolverines improved to 8-5 after the Big Ten opener for both schools.

Finally, on a technical note: Back in 1998 when Stanford was on the bad side of history, losing as a No. 1 seed to No. 16 Harvard in an NCAA tournament opener at home, the Guru was in Columbus at the former ABL championship and listened to the game on his computer in his hotel room courtesy via Stanford’s radio station in the early days of the internet.

Thursday night, while handling other information working at a laptop station in his FedEx store headquarters, the Guru watched the ESPN stream of the UConn game, courtesy of the free wifi available in the store.

Happy New Year!

-- Mel

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guru Report: St. Joseph's Dials 700 Wins Capturing Own Tourney

By Mel Greenberg

On Jan. 17, 1974 two years after the Congressional passage of Title IX, St Joseph’s University took the floor against Immaculata, the UConn of its time in women’s collegiate competition, and promptly got smacked in its then-called Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse by the Cathy Rush-coached Mighty Macs 59-24.

Three days later on Jan. 20, showing the resiliency of its mantra “The Hawk Will Never Die,” the team returned for another home game and met another local rival, routing Manor 67-30.

“We were playing so well I went home at the half,” assistant athletic director Ellen Ryan joked Wednesday afternoon of her one-year coaching stint on Hawk Hill.

Ryan’s comments came an hour before Cindy Griffin, a St. Joseph’s star of the late 1980s-early 1990s, guided her own alma mater to an easy 75-40 win over Lafayette to capture the Hawk Classic and post the 700th victory in the history of the women’s program.

That puts the Hawks (10-3), who won their seventh straight, just 47 behind a former staffer – one UConn coach Geno Auriemma who shares in 16 of the 700 wins from the 1978-79 season in which he was an assistant to Jim Foster, the newly-hired head coach who went 16-9 his first shot at the sidelines.

A star on that first team Ryan coached was Muffet O”Brien, later known to most of the women’s basketball world after her marriage to Matt as Muffet McGraw, the successful coach of Notre Dame. The Irish who beat Gonzaga on Wednesday, are now one win behind St. Joseph’s, the first Division I Catholic School to reach 700 and 31st overall in the histories of schools who compete in NCAA Division I.

Manor avenged the St. Joseph’s loss later that first season but that was it in terms of setbacks as Ryan guided the Hawks to a 9-2 record. The wins included a 4-0 sweep of Big Five schools that came prior to the official start of City Series competition in 1980-81 when each of the five schools associated with the men’s Big Five first played a formal round-robin.

Ryan then turned the reins over to a kid fresh out of Immaculata in Theresa Grentz, who was later to have success at Rutgers and Illinois. The Hawks turned to another Mighty Mac in Rene Portland, who went on to Colorado and Penn State. Then came Foster, who also became the head coach at Vanderbilt and currently Ohio State. Monmouth coach Stephanie Gaitley, a former Villanova star, followed Foster and was succeeded by Griffin in 2001.

The notoriety of this mentor tree – McGraw will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in June – has led to St. Joseph’s calling itself “The Cradle of Coaches.”

In Wednesday’s win over the Leopards (6-7), freshman Ilze Gotfrida of Latvia had a career-high 20 points and Katie Kuester, the tournament MVP, scored 19.

The Hawks will close out their nonconference slate Sunday afternoon when No. 18 Maryland visits.

Dianne Nolan, who grew up across the Delaware River in Gloucester, N.J., and was a longtime coach at Fairfield, coaches Lafayette. She is in her first season after being an assistant at Yale.

In the third place game, Quinnipiac (4-8) edged New Hampshire (2-9) when Lailah Pratt hit one of two foul shots with two seconds left in regulation for a 62-61 victory.

The Bobcats are coached by one of Nolan’s former Fairfield stars: Trish (nee Sacca) Fabbri, who also grew up in South Jersey. New Hampshire coach Maureen Margarity also has Philly DNA off her father Dave, the Army women’s coach who is from the City of Brotherly Love.

Delle Donne Return Questionable

Delaware sophomore sensation Elena Delle Donne is now said to be suffering from back problems according to the Wilmington News Journal as reported in beat writer Kevin Tresolini’s blog at Delaware Online.

The problem began on Nov. 20 during the win over Yale.

The nation’s leading scorer at 26.0 point per game, Delle Donne did not make the trip with the Blue Hens (6-4) to Virginia Tech where Delaware lost to Vanderbilt 72-51 in the first round of the Hokies Tournament in Roanoke.

Prior to the game coach Tina Martin has texted the Guru that Delle Donne did not make the trip and her return to action was unknown.

The Guru first heard of the back condition from a member of Delaware’s radio crew at the half of Delaware’s win at La Salle last month when Delle Donne removed herself six minutes into the game.

Afterwards, Martin said the 2008 national high school player of the year out of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy was suffering from fatigue. Delle Donne did not play in the next game, a loss to Princeton, but returned the following Sunday in a win at Navy.

She was voted the rookie and player of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association last season.

The Guru also heard of the back condition again Wednesday afternoon when a member of the St. Joseph’s coaching staff said they had been told by Delle Donne of spine problems prior to the Hawks’ win over the Blue Hens in Newark last Thursday.

The Blue Hens open CAA play next week at home against Hofstra, which has had one of its better season starts in the Pride’s history.

Delle Donne played in the loss at Penn State but has been sidelined in the Blue Hens’ three other setbacks.

Quakers Doubling The Output

When one is trying to rebuild a program the name of the opponent is inconsequential especially when similar teams were having their way a year ago.

So at the moment, credit second-year Penn coach Mike McLaughlin with making progress going into the 2011 portion of the schedule after the Quakers’ 66-38 win at St. Francis of New York (1-9) Wednesday night.

The Quakers, at 4-5, have now doubled last season’s entire win total and the two straight wins by more than 20 points have last occurred in that magnitude 30 years ago.

One reason for success – Penn last had four wins prior to January during the 2007 season – is the addition of freshman Alyssa Baron, who had a career-high 23 points. The Quakers head to Lafayette on Sunday and then open Ivy play next Saturday at their traditional rivalry spot – gulp – Princeton.

Villanova Ready For Some Streak-Busting Again At UConn?

While New York City continued tackling plowing problems in the wake of last weekend’s snow, Villanova used a visit to Fordham’s tournament in the city Wednesday afternoon to break through the Wildcats’ recent inability to score.

Coach Harry Perretta’s group (6-6) beat Siena 57-50 in the opener, although the Wildcats nearly squandered all of a 23-point lead that was built in the first half.

Rachel Roberts scored 18 points against the Saints (1-8) while transfer Lindsay Kimmel, a former Temple star, scored 17. Villanova will stay to play Yale Thursday afternoon in the tourney that had a one-day delay start because of the weather and related travel conditions.

Villanova, which drew national notoriety in 2003 when the Wildcats last stopped UConn’s then-women’s record win streak at 70 in the title game of the Big East tournament, will have at least one opportunity and perhaps two to repeat history during Wednesday’s visit to Storrs for a conference encounter with the two-time defending NCAA champions.

Unless No. 9 Stanford (8-2) gets to the Huskies first in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday night before a sellout crowd in the Cardinal’s Maples Pavilion (9 p.m., ESPN2), Villanova will be seeking to avoid becoming consecutive victim No. 92 during what is now a combined NCAA Division I win streak record for men and women.

UCLA had the former mark when the men’s team won 88 straight between 1971 and 1974 under John Wooden, the legendary Hall of Fame coach who died earlier this year.

But even if Stanford applies a bookend around UConn – the Cardinal were the last to stop the Huskies prior to the streak with an upset in the 2008 NCAA semifinals – Villanova can still regain notoriety in Tuesday’s Big East confrontation.

UConn last suffered consecutive losses when coach Geno Auriemma was using his Philly moxie to teach cavemen how to rub two stones together to light a fire thereby coining the phrase: “rubbing people the wrong way.”

Officially, the back-to-back losses happened more than 17 years ago when Auriemma could leave Storrs and visit his native Norristown outside Philadelphia for half the price it would cost to make the same trip today on a tank of gas.

But win or lose Thursday night, Connecticut will enter Wednesday’s game against ‘Nova tied with itself and former arch-rival Tennessee for most consecutive women’s home wins in Division I at 69.

Elsewhere Locally

Ebonee Jones set a career record for the second day, scoring 20 points, while Ashley Gale scored 19, but La Salle (4-8) lost the consolation game of Maryland’s tournament to Liberty 75-53 in College Park as the Flames improved to 5-7.

Apparently the Guru didn’t look at the tournament arrangement at San Diego State a while back when assembling the schedule and Drexel, which lost to No. 7 Texas A&M in the opener, had the night off before playing the consolation game Thursday against Texas-San Antonio.

Rutgers (7-5) is at No. 5 Tennessee (11-2) Thursday afternoon in a matchup of the two active women’s coaches, who are both Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers, with the greatest number of wins.

Tennessee’s Pat Summitt is at 1,048-198 in 37 seasons while Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer is at 850-300 in 40 seasons. In between retired Texas coach Jody Conradt, also a Naismith Hall of Fame, is at 850-309.

Rutgers, is at 7-5 overall but the Scarlet Knights are 1-5 in what Stringer would call real games having beaten Georgetown at home but experienced losses at California, Stanford, Temple, Boston College and recently to Texas A&M in the Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden.

This is Rutgers’ first visit to Knoxville since the infamous game in 2008 when Tennessee gained a 59-58 victory as a result of the clock in Thompson-Bolling Arena that inadvertently stopped. Game officials failed to apply the correct procedure for the hiccup and went unpunished for the error that allowed a foul call against the Scarlet Knights that gave the Vols the win at the finish.

Had Rutgers won, the Scarlet Knights would have become the first to beat two No. 1 teams in consecutive games. Rutgers was coming off an upset at home of Connecticut in a Big East contest.

That caused a change in the next poll and Tennessee rose to the top before the Scarlet Knights arrived for their next game on the schedule.

The furor rippled over to the next AP vote when Rutgers picked up eight first-place votes, despite the loss, from some media panel members who felt the team had been wronged.

Meanwhile, in another game of note Thursday, Temple will visit No. 3 Duke at night. The Owls are coming off a tough upset loss at Eastern Michigan, one that might be damaging in the long run in terms of NCAA at-large potential unless Temple can quickly reverse direction.

A year ago on New Year’s Eve the Owls stayed with the Blue Devils before fading down the stretch at home against the Blue Devils in McGonigle Hall.

Penn State opens Big Ten play at home against nationally ranked Iowa, giving the Nittany Lions another chance to enhance their potential to receive an at-large pick in the NCAA field if they fail to win the conference title and automatic bid.
Coach Coquese Washington’s team has incentive in that the Nittany Lions are one of 16 schools hosting first and second round games in the NCAA tournament.

House Finds New Home Returning To WNBA

As mentoned in the previous post, former New York Liberty and Washington Mystics assistant Jeff House has returned to the WNBA as an aide to new general manager-coach Pokey Chatman, the former LSU coach, with the Chicago Sky.

"The setup is a lot like New York with the offices being in a big downtown building like the Liberty are situated in the towers by Madison Square Garden and Penn Station," House said.

"Pokey has already done a lot of good things setting up scouting, organization, etc. -- things they didn't really have in place," he added.

That’s it for now. The Guru will return before the next sunrise following the next mega-showdown for UConn in the Stanford game.

-- Mel

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guru Report: Duquesne Gives McConnell-Serio Some Revenge

(Guru's note: If you got here first via melgreenberg.com click the mel's blog button to get back to blogspot to read the post under this one or if you are already in blogspot, there's a WNBA item of interest directly below).

By Mel Greenberg

The arrival of 2011 won’t become official until midnight Friday but plenty of fireworks lit the women’s basketball collegiate sky Tuesday with more to come after a return from the Christmas break except for delays of activity still being caused by Sunday’s winter blizzard along the Atlantic seaboard.

Suzie McConnell-Serio, the former Olympian, Penn State sensation, and WNBA All-Star, made a triumphant return to Ohio Tuesday where she once thrilled crowds along Lake Erie playing for the former Cleveland Rockers.

As the coach of Duquesne, McConnell-Serio settled some old scores from the days of the previous Atlantic 10 alignment in the late 1980s when the Nittany Lions hooked up with St. Joseph’s then coached by Jim Foster and she had some terrific guard battles on the court with the tenacious Debbie Black.

On Tuesday night Foster was on the bench in Columbus as the coach of No. 13 Ohio State, the Dec. 19th victim of the University of Connecticut’s consecutive game triumph 88 in New York at Madison Square Garden to tie the Division I win streak record of the UCLA men’s team (1971-74) under the late John Wooden, who died earlier this year.

Black was on the bench alongside Foster as one of his assistants.

What Duquesne did is virtually impossible at the Value City Arena where the unranked Dukes (10-2) upset the Buckeyes 71-67, rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes.

Ohio State (8-3) had been 115-2 at home against unranked opponents.

Wumi Agunbiade had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Dukes who have won a program record seven straight home games. Samantha Pollini added 14 points.

McConnell-Serio, who has revived the Dukes’ fortunes since taking the job in 2007, played for Foster when he was an assistant to former Rutgers-Illinois coach Theresa Grentz on the 1992 Olympic team that won the bronze medal.

Samantha Prahalis had 22 points and Jantel Lavender scored 21.

“It’s really exciting,” McConnell-Serio left a message for the Guru from her car heading home. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

Suddenly going into Atlantic 10 play next week, a sort of new alignment is behind front-runner Xavier, the No. 4 team in the country that got buzz-sawed by No. 9 Stanford 89-52 Tuesday afternoon in Palo, Alto, California.

It was the 51st straight home win for the Cardinal (8-2), who play at Maples Pavilion, the scene of Thursday night’s showdown with UConn, which will bring a 90-game win streak to town after cruising at Pacific 85-42 in nearby Stockton, Tuesday night.

Charlotte, Duquesne, and St. Joseph’s are the Atlantic 10 teams with gaudy records and the Dukes’ win over the Buckeyes puts them on an NCAA tournament watch list pending their early weeks of action in the conference.

Always one to get fired up to a challenge, McConnell-Serio, who also has coached the WNBA Minnesota Lynx and won a zillion high school state titles out of Pittsburgh, had noticed that the Buckeyes were 70-2 coming out after a loss.

Long Time Coming For LSU

LSU and coach Van Chancellor did a little streak busting of its own, getting the Tigers’ first signature win in a while with a 55-53 upset of No. 8 UCLA (10-1) at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, Calif., to snap a Bruins’ run of 10 victories.

Taylor Turnbow scored a career-high 18 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and hit the game-winner for the Tigers (10-4) with 14 seconds to play.

UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell is a former assistant of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt out of the Southeastern Conference where LSU also plays.

UConn Legacy Continues

It’s only season two for former UConn star and Huskies former assistant Jamelle Elliott at Cincinnati but she already has the Bearcats (6-5) challenging the nation’s best.

Her team wiped away a 10-point deficit in the second half against No. 23 Texas (9-3) in the Maggie Dixon Surf ‘N’ Slam Classic Tuesday night but the Longhorns had the final say in San Diego’s tournament opener with a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left that gave coach Gail Goestenkors’ team an 80-77 win and a spot in Wednesday’s title game against the tournament hosts.

The winning shot came from Chassidy Fussell, who scored 20 points.

A three-pointer from Hofstra fell short in overtime against San Diego (9-3) and the Pride (8-2) were edged by the Toreros 85-83 despite 23 points from West Chester Henderson High graduate Shante Evans, a sophomore.

Drexel Shot Down By Aggies

Meanwhile at nearby San Diego State’s tournament No. 7 Texas A&M (10-1) accumulated little rust in a long layoff dating to Dec. 19 since the win over Rutgers in New York as the Aggies overpowered Drexel 74-45 in the opener as the Dragons fell to 7-3.

Danielle Adams had 16 of her 20 points in the first half for Texas A&M who will play the host Dons for the tournament title while Drexel will meet Texas-San Antonio for third place.

Although Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite, the co-player of the week in the Colonial Athletic Association, was held to 11 points and Jasmina Rosseel to 10, the Dragons picked up more RPI juice playing the powerful Aggies of the Big 12 conference.

Drexel was forced into 24 turnovers.

Speaking of Drexel, after the Guru covered the opener of the St. Joseph’s tournament in another guest star appearance for his former place of employment (see the Inquirer print sports section at Philly.com), he shot down to West Philadelphia to watch Bruiser Flint’s men’s team demolish Niagara 84-39. The visitors scored two points less than UConn’s Maya Moore did with a career-high 41 against Florida State on Tuesday when the Huskies won set the new Division I win streak record at 89, which is now at 90 as previously mentioned.

Penn State Wins Valley War

Well, maybe it was a mountain war but freshman Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy, fired up 20 points as the Nittany Lions (11-3) recovered from last week’s home loss to Drexel to rout neighboring Bucknell 96-48 in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College and the Bisons fell to 2-8.

Coach Coquese Washington’s team has now the most nonconference games in a season since 1984-85 when Penn State had 17 under former coach Rene Portland.

Washington, the former associate head coach at Notre Dame, succeeded Portland in the spring of 2007.

Penn State is 11-0 against Bucknell and begins Big 10 play Thursday at home against nationally-ranked Iowa.

Down in College Park, Md., the No. 18 Terrapins (11-1) easily handled La Salle 83-45 in the opener of their own tournament and will meet nationally-ranked St. John’s on Wednesday. Ebonee Jones had 18 points for the Explorers (4-7) who will meet Liberty in the third-place game.

Maryland will visit St. Joseph’s Sunday afternoon.

Villanova experienced a one-day delay in Fordham’s tournament in New York because of the snow and will open against Siena on Wednesday before playing Yale on Thursday.

St. Joseph’s Rallies Over New Hampshire
(Here is the raw version of the Guru’s story for The Inquirer)

Junior guard Michelle Baker rescued the St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team from rough sledding against New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon by hitting the deciding shot with three seconds left for a 67-66 victory in the opener of the Hawk Classic at Hagan Arena.

The native of Wilmington, Del., who scored 13 points, had missed two foul shots with 47 seconds left in the game before redeeming herself. She drove inside for a layup on a length-of-the-court play after the Wildcats (2-8) had just taken the lead.

“I can’t even explain how I feel right now,” said Baker after producing her first collegiate game-winner. “`Coach’ set up the play and I just had to do it. And those missed shots were still in my mind.”

In Wednesday’s title game at approximately 4:30 p.m. the Hawks (9-3), attempting to win the 700th game in the program’s history, will meet Lafayette (6-6), which held off Quinnipiac (3-8) for a 56-54 victory. The third-place game begins at 2 p.m.

Katie Kuester, the daughter of NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, a former 76ers assistant, had a team high 14 points for the Hawks but deferred to Baker’s performance.

“She’s been doing that for us, possession after possession, game after game,” Kuester said. “She’s our go-to. I love playing with her. I’ve been playing with her since AAU and she’s just a great player.”

Samir Van Grinsven, a native of the Netherlands, had 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for St. Joseph’s. Kelly Cavallo scored 10, while Erin Shields, named Big Five women’s player of the week earlier in the day, scored nine points.

With St. Joseph’s beginning to look like legitimate NCAA tournament material for the first time in 11 seasons; this would have been a tough one for coach Cindy Griffin’s team to lose.

“New Hampshire is better than their record and we did not defend the three very well today,” Griffin said of the Wildcats’ 8-for-15 shooting from beyond the arc. “That gave them a lot of life and we just didn’t play smart.”

Before the game New Hampshire coach Maureen Margarity was hopeful of being able to stay with the Hawks. She is the daughter of Army women’s coach Dave Margarity, a native of Philadelphia.

The Wildcats exceeded her expectations, rallying from a 10-point deficit that existed with 15 minutes left in the game. Lauren Wells hit a trey with 31 seconds left and then followed with a jumper with 13 seconds left for New Hampshire’s brief lead.

Jill McDonald had a game-high 19 points for the Wildcats.

In the other game, Madeline Fahan made a steal in the closing seconds for Lafayette, which got a team-high 12 points from LaKeisha Wright. Danielle Fiacco blocked 12 shots. Quinnipiac’s Courtney Kaminski scored 14 points.

Be back with more in the next 24 hour.

-- Mel

A Little Pre-New Year's WNBA Gossip

(Guru’s Note: If you arrived here through the blogspot link, there is a collegiate post above this one.)

By Mel Greenberg

With less than 48 hours left before departing WNBA president Donna Orender’s name gets expunged from the league’s payroll sheets, there’s some interesting activity going along the underbelly though it has nothing to do with any potential successor to Orender’s throne.

And it is difficult to determine the validity though some well-grounded sources have confided that they have heard the same whispers and believe there might be some credence off of their sources.

The thread goes like this: Out in Sacramento – as in NBA Sacramento – several reports have been suggesting that Paul Westphal’s days may be numbered as coach of the Kings, although the time frame could allow him to stay at the helm until the end of the season.

As for a replacement: though they jettisoned the former WNBA Sacramento Monarchs a year ago this winter, the hearts of owners Joe and Gavin Maloof remained tied to a former prominent member of the one-time league champions.

That would be one John Whisenant, the former GM-coach who was recently hired in a similar dual capacity to guide the New York Liberty next season.

The Maloofs would like to have a three-year guarantee before getting seriously involved with Whisenant and if they intend to keep Westphal until the end of the season there’s no rush at their end to get to contract talks.

However, the Liberty would almost be in the same position as a year ago when Anne Donovan announced her departure as the new coach of Seton Hall but remained to guide New York to a serious challenge for the WNBA Eastern Conference title, losing to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs in the conference finals.

So who replaces Whisenant in New York? Well that could be a golden oldie – one Richie Adubato the former coach of the Liberty and Washington Mystics who loves the women’s pro league and is said to consistently keep his ears open to any new opportunity.

The biggest barrier to his return was moved aside when MSG Sports let go Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, who was the Liberty’s executive head for the entire 14-year history of the franchise dating to the league’s launch in 1997.

During the period after Blazejowski’s ouster and before Whisenant’s hire became official there were some former Liberty players ready to compaign on Adubato’s behalf to John Dolan, chairman of Madison Square Garden, Inc., and Donnie Walsh, the New York Knicks director of basketball operations.

The Liberty will be playing across the Hudson River in nearby Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center the next three summers while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.

Meanwhile a former Adubato aide is soon to be announced returning to the WNBA, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Sources familiar with the hire said Jeff House will be named as an assistant to new Chicago Sky general manager-coach Pokey Chatman, the former coach of LSU.

House’s last gig was as an assistant to Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan at Virginia and has remained living in the Charlottesville area.

As for Blazejowski, the all-time scoring star that played at Montclair State in the late 1970s has yet to make any public comments since her exit. Some of her friends have said she is still getting over the shock of her banishment, though becoming philosophical that things happen for a reason.

She does have support from various sectors in the women’s basketball community to succeed Orender, though many associated with the WNBA oval office have said they have yet to have any idea what NBA commissioner David Stern has in mind to fill the vacancy.

It is known Blazejowski has been invited to be part of a group associated with a special project the WNBA is planning involving the 15th anniversary summer of the league, which is expected to be announced sometime next month.

But that appointment has no bearing on the WNBA presidential search.

Stay tuned. We now return you to regular Guru collegiate coverage in the post above.

-- Mel

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guru Report: Mining RPIs Part I

By Mel Greenberg

It is a tradition in the Guru’s inner sanctum that this is the week he takes the first look at an RPI Report – The acronym stands for Ratings Percentage Index – to get some kind of picture of what lies ahead in terms of the NCAA long-range outlook and who needs to step it up in conference play, what are the surprises and what are the disappointments.

Understand, the RPI alone is the not end-all for the committee’s deliberations but it certainly does provide a snapshot of what has been going on and while one year doesn’t replicate into the next when it comes to designing the 64-team draw, one can mix the index with the so-called principles and procedures and begin to get an idea of who overall is in play for at-large bids if a berth doesn’t come via the automatic route out of winning the conference tournament.

Also, much will shuffle once conference play begins but the reason to look at the number now is that in many cases it will continue to stand as the nonconference RPI with some improvements or reductions per team the rest of the way.

And why is that important? Because if a team’s conference is creating a drag, it’s saving grace may be what it did try to do in terms of scheduling outside competition. And of course there’s the reverse in terms of what it didn’t do.

So first with a quick scan in terms of the teams near the Guru’s local coverage area three things immediately jumped out at him using, by the way, the Jerry Palm CollegeRPI.com/women website.

Tigers Are A Tankful

How about those Princeton Tigers? The Guru doesn’t ever remember seeing an Ivy team nearing the end of nonconference play with a 28. In fact, compared to the rest of the crowd, coach Courtney Banghart has built a machine similar to the WNBA champion Seattle Storm playing out of the Western Conference last summer.

That great Harvard team that upset Stanford didn’t have a 28. The Guru has already made several personal on-site observations and will see the Tigers several more times.

They have good losses and good wins. Now let’s say a race develops in the Ivies and Princeton was to get edged out at the finish – the league is the only one without a postseason tournament.

If the committee will back its philosophy that it looks at teams and not leagues – wink, wink – then by all means right now Princeton should be the first Ivy team to become quality at-large material, though the Tigers are again a threat to run the table and make the point moot.

Drexel Engineers New RPI Threshold

Next up in the Guru’s backyard, and there is no particular order to this, is Drexel. The Dragons team was perceived to be headed for major reconstruction after Gabriela Marginean, the all-time career scorer in local women’s collegiate history without regard to classification, graduated.

Oh, they’ve reconstructed, to be sure. Off a great win at Penn State last week and a 4-0 sweep of the Philadelphia Big 5 minus Temple along with some other achievements Drexel is holding a 30 going into another opponent with juice Tuesday when coach Denise Dillon’s bunch meets No. 7 Texas A&M in San Diego State’s tournament in Southern California.

In Dickie V language, playing Texas A&M is like getting points just for filling your name on the top of an SAT college entrance exam. And should Drexel win?

Pencil the sixth-place pick of the Colonial Athletic Association as the top performer now, though once conference play begins it will be a taffy pull despite disappointing records from James Madison and Old Dominion. Delaware’s record is a mixed bag due to the absence of Elena Delle Donne for several games due to a viral infection that has left her tired.

Hofstra has a quality team right now as does Virginia Commonwealth but the numbers are off for both. However, that is why league play was invented to show one’s self with Pride. What’s that, you say? Nickname? Their nickname? Hofstra Pride? Got it.

Hawks Are Marching In December

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s heads into its own tournament prior to conference play with an RPI of 24 that’s screaming at-large bid for its best shot at this stage of the season to get to the Big Dance since Cindy Griffin returned in the spring of 2001 to guide her alma mater.

There was a year or two along the way that the Hawks, two wins shy of 700 in program history, were victimized by other events. Helpful and surprising right now is St. Joseph’s conference – the Atlantic 10, which has a No. 7 conference RPI right behind the BCS gang of six.

But there are surprises inside the conference in all directions. Steady at the top has been fourth-ranked Xavier, the conference favorite, losing a tough one at No. 3 Duke last week but heading into a rematch at Palo Alto, Calif., Tuesday night against No. 9 Stanford, whom the Musketeers narrowly lost to in the NCAA Elite Eight last season.

Incidentally, if the Guru had seen this report from Palm prior to writing the last post, he would still make UConn a virtual lock for Philadelphia in the Sweet 16 but he would certainly switch a lot of other premises around that were made.

But it’s early. Besides St. Joseph’s from the A-10, Charlotte, and Suzie McConnell Serio-coached Duquesne are off to great starts while Dayton, picked for second in the A-10, has been a disappointment as has been Temple, which was picked for third.

The Owls need to show themselves but that may not be enough at Duke Thursday night.

By the way, on the local slate Tuesday along with Drexel out West and St. Joseph’s hosting a field that has Quinnpiac coached by Trish Sacca against her former coach Dianne Nolan in her first year at Lafayette – Trish played at Fairfield; Penn State, which has NCAA tournament-type numbers, for now, will host a singleton against Bucknell; La Salle is meeting host No. 18 Maryland in the Terrapins’ tournament, which also has No. 17 St. John’s and Liberty, while Villanova will meet Siena in Fordham’s tournament.

Out West, Connecticut goes for an extended streak record of 90 straight wins by playing at Pacific. Then it’s on to Stanford Thursday for the reunion from last season’s NCAA title game.

What A Big Feast

Once these games are all played later in the week the Guru will return to an in-depth look at all the conferences but cannot wait that long to talk about the Big East.

What once was the UConn conference in terms of domination – it still might be that way – is now the U Can conference. The AP voting board is not being overly generous with seven teams submitted to the rankings the last several weeks.

Yes, the Big East is third but that’s because the bottom of the conference has the effect of a being a block of cement used to bring bodies to the bottom of the sea.

But take a look at this – the Big Feast has nine, count ‘em, nine teams in the top 36 – no other conference is that close in terms of RPI ranking. Now to be sure, Rutgers is among those teams but seriously something needs to be done at Tennessee Thursday afternoon to turn things around because while the strength of schedule is great – it always is – the RPI is great because of it is great – the record, not so good.

So the Guru will return to this discussion after the update off of games heading into the New Year.

Guru vs. Snow Becomes A Wash

Incidentally, the Guru’s great plan in being able to park the car at the end of his street to facilitate a post-snowstorm exit into a main artery worked out like this: Ability to walk down the sidewalks to get to the vehicle: No problem. Snow melted off the car:
Clean as a bristle. Ability to step over the snow bank to open the door: Simple. Ignition and blast off: Battery dead. To be continued Tuesday with the next episode on this topic.

If it’s only the battery the Guru in a short amount of time will go from jumper cable to Jack Jumper, the women’s basketball media contact for the St. Joseph’s Hawks. Not to worry: The Guru bought a transpass to get around, just in case.

While the battery was unknowingly draining away all day Sunday, the Guru hunkered down and used the time to read an advance copy of Bird at the Buzzer, due out in very early March, by former UConn women’s beat writer Jeff Goldberg, formerly of the Hartford Courant.

Understand though the title stems from the famous Big East title game in 2001 and not Sue Bird’s buzzer-beating antics for the WNBA-champion Seattle Storm, this is a dual history book chronicling both the Notre Dame and UConn programs from the mid-1990s.

The Guru will officially review the book prior to the second of the Irish-Huskies Big East clashes for this year, which is set for Storrs on February 19.

But if you lived most of it with either or both teams, it is an illuminating revisit that screams movie material with all the characters giving you what their mindsets were along the way – and that includes Geno and Muffet really taking the reader inside through Jeff into the building and execution of their programs.

AP Trivia

OK, it’s Tuesday, the post-Christmas rankings are out as of Monday – Something old: UConn still No. 1. Something sort of new: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer jumped over former Texas coach Jody Conradt to third place all time in the coaches appearance category at 396 behind Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, who’s at 588, Georgia’s Andy Landers at 455; and ahead of Jody 395, Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer at 388 and UConn’s Geno Auriemma at 356.

So while we are discussing coaches, here are two different charts off the Guru’s AP database showing all-time coaching appearances in the Top 10 and Top 5 rankings with a minimum cutoff in each category.

Ranking Of Coaches In AP Total Top 10 and Top 5 Appearances
(Multiple Schools listed but not broken down) – Minimum 40

Appearances In Top 5

1. Pat Summitt – Tennessee 432
2. Geno Auriemma – Connecticut 264
3. Andy Landers – Georgia 258
4. %-Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 178
5. Tara VanDerveer – Stanford 165
6. Jody Conradt – Texas 157
7. Gail Goestenkors – Duke 114
8. Sylvia Hatchell – North Carolina 109
9. *-Marianne Stanley – Old Dominion 96
10. C. Vivian Stringer – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers 95
11. Marsha Sharp – Texas Tech 94
12. Jim Foster – Vanderbilt, Ohio State 77
13. Joe Ciampi – Auburn 66
14. %-Sonja Hogg – Louisiana Tech 62
15. Joan Bonvicini – Long Beach State 60
16. Debbie Ryan – Virginia 57
17. Sue Gunter – Stephen F. Austin, LSU 55
18. Rene Portland – St. Joseph’s, Penn State 44
19. Brenda Frese – Maryland 43
19. Muffet McGraw – Notre Dame 43
19. Chris Weller – Maryland 43
22. Sherri Coale – Oaklahoma 42
*-Also had10 as Co-head coach Stanford 1995-96
%-Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore shared 39 Top 5s

Appearances in Top 10 – Minimum 100 appearances

1. Pat Summitt – Tennessee 531
2. Geno Auriemma – Connecticut 308
3. Tara Vanderveer – Ohio State, Stanford 298
4. C. Vivian Stringer – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers 243
5. %-Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 238
6. Marsha Sharp – Texas Tech 230
7. Jody Conradt – Texas 217
8. Sylvia Hatchell – North Carolina 191
9. Jim Foster – Vanderbilt, Ohio State 183
10. Joan Bonvicini – Long Beach State, Arizona 179
11. Rene Portland – St. Joseph’s, Penn State 158
12. Debbie Ryan – Virginia 154
13. Gail Goestenkors – Duke, Texas 151
14. *-Marianne Stanley – Old Dominion, Southern Cal 130
15. Joe Ciampi – Auburn 1119
15. Theresa Grentz -- Rutgers, Illinois 119
15. Chris Weller – Maryland 119
18. Van Chancellor – Mississippi, LSU 118
19. Sue Gunter – Stephen F. Austin, LSU 111
20. Kim Mulkey – Baylor 103
%-Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore shared 51 Top 10s
*-Also had 17 as co-head coach of Stanford 1995-96

Ok this is a wrap and the Guru will be back at the end of Tuesday night with all there is to roundup.

-- Mel

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Long Range Forecast: UConn Likely In Philly For Sweet 16

(Guru's note: For those of you who haven't visited here since before the holiday break, you will want to read the post under this one about the new initiative. And the Guru has been spending the hours trapped inside the house by the storm - had no place to go till Tuesday anyway - reading the advance copy of Bird At The Buzzer by Jeff Goldberg, former Huskies women beat writer for the Hartford Courant. It is movie material going inside both UConn and Notre Dame history focusing on the famous Big East title game of 2001. Big week for Huskies coach Geno Auriemma whose beloved NFL Eagles beat out the Giants for the East title while being delayed two days by the snow.)

By Mel Greenberg

More and more it looks like top-ranked Connecticut, the two-time defending and unbeaten NCAA women’s basketball tournament champion, is on another collision course with this region to make an appearance in the 2011 episode of March Madness.

The City of Brotherly Love and Temple’s approximately 10,000-seat Liacouras Center will be one of the four host venues on March 27-29 at the Sweet 16 stage of the tournament leading directly to the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

The other four sites are Dayton, Ohio; Dallas, and Spokane, Wash.

Whether the Huskies’ NCAA-record Division I winning streak will still be alive or sealed into a future standard to be attained remains to be see. However, Stanford, Thursday night; North Carolina, Notre Dame or Duke in January; and Notre Dame again and Oklahoma in February have the best shots to apply the plug. Otherwise, perhaps an upset looms in the Big East tournament as did occur in 2003 when a seasoned Villanova team pulled the shocker over a young UConn team in the conference title game at Rutgers to stop the previous women’s all-time streak in Division I at 70.

Previously, in terms of UConn and Philly and the NCAAs, the Huskies won it all, beating Tennessee in the title game in 2000 in a Women’s Final Four held at the then-named Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia.

That event served as a special homecoming beyond conference trips to Villanova for Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown.

Temple has since hosted a first-second round stage of the tournament and also a regional final but UConn played elsewhere both times. The Huskies did pass through Trenton, the capital city of New Jersey about 40 minutes to the North, and the then-called Sovereign Bank Arena in 2009 for a regional appearance on the way to winning the title in St. Louis during the first season of the current win streak.

Now, unless some standards have since been changed from last year by the tournament committee, when it comes to pairing of the 64-team field and line placement, four No. 1s, etc., seeding and bracketing, unlike the men’s tournament, the activity is not the same.

So to again to repeat what has been related before, especially off media-attended mock-bracketing exercises at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis in recent seasons, after the four No. 1 teams have been determined, each team at the top gets placed in near geography in order of the best seed.

The same is then applied to the No. 2s so there is not necessarily a true overall No. 1 meeting an overall No. 8 along the way if upsets don’t occur.

Based on what has occurred to date, it is way too early to have a gauge how the top four to be placed in each region is played out. For one, the committee will have its hands full because as of now UConn is the only true Eastern team among the upper crowd based on the weekly polls and RPIs.

The West has a minimal number of teams also – basically Stanford and UCLA, which has experienced a resurgence under former Tennessee assistant Nikki Caldwell.

But the focus here is the odds of Connecticut being engraved into the Philadelphia regional.

So first, the easy deal – UConn is the overall No. 1 and gets placed in Philadelphia though there will be no homecoming Caroline Doty makes good story this season. The former Germantown Academy star is sidelined again with a third overall ACL knee injury and second since her rookie season in 2009.

“I guess no matter what happens to the season, she’ll still be unbeaten,” Auriemma jested last summer while expressing regret and sympathy for Doty’s situation after it occurred.

But to continue, now let’s say Duke beats UConn and navigates successfully through the Atlantic Coast Conference and gets the overall No. 1 and UConn is the overall No. 2. It’s academic, by the way, if the Huskies fall any lower because the next potential teams in the pecking order right now have their near geography elsewhere and not Philadelphia.

If the unforeseen occurred and the Huskies dropped to a No. 2 seed they would definitely be placed in Philadelphia unless Maryland, Rutgers or Penn State made an amazing run to get in the tournament – that part still potentially possible and less amazing – and landed ahead of the Huskies as a No. 2, which is not likely to happen.

But consider this even if Duke were the overall No. 1 and Connecticut the overall No. 2:

According to Google maps, which might be a little different than the program used to help the NCAA committee, Duke is 94 miles closer to Philadelphia then Dayton with a time of 45 minutes shorter.

UConn is 245 miles from Philadelphia and 4 ½ hours away in driving time. The Storrs campus is 760 miles from Dayton and 12 ½ hours away.

So even if Duke were the overall No. 1, it’s a virtual wash for the Blue Devils in site placement. Thus, the committee would look a bit foolish, don’t you think, by not letting the Huskies play at Temple.

That takes care of the original premise. However, looking at the other parts of the scene right now the committee will be in for some real long discussions in filling the top of the bracket in terms of the Sweet 16.

Let’s start with Charlie Creme, the ESPN women’s bracketologist, and his current video cast naming the top eight seeds if things were done today.

OK, Baylor is the second best No. 1 – simple, Dallas.

Duke is the third best – simple again, Dayton.

Now he calls Tennessee the four and Xavier the best No. 2 as the fifth overall seed.

If that held, that would mean Tennessee goes to the last open spot, which is Spokane, the home of Gonzaga, on line 1, while Xavier would be at nearby Dayton on line 2.

Let’s flip that and it becomes interesting because Xavier though two hours or so away from Dayton would have to go to West.

Meanwhile, to complete his eight, and he stopped there, Stanford was second best No. 2, followed by Texas A&M and then UCLA.

Well, Stanford would go to Washington, Texas A&M should go to Dallas, and then UCLA would actually back into Philadelphia.

The other waggle in that scenario is Texas A&M and Baylor, two Big 12 conference teams, meeting before the Final Four, though it is legal as those of you with memories of UConn-Rutgers in Greensboro, N.C., several years ago could affirm.

But remember this is still early in the overall game of projection, really early. Also, an extra caveat is the committee can shuffle around to make sure all four regions have balanced bracketing.

That last thing said, if Stanford rose to the fourth No. 1, a possibility, the Cardinal goes to Washington, Xavier or Tennessee, depending who wins out, fight it out over going to Dayton or Philly.

Aha, the Guru knows what flashed into your mind – a potential Tennessee-UConn game in Philly.

Possibly, but in terms of near geography Tennessee is 304 miles and five hours from Dayton as opposed to 623 miles and 10½ hours to Philly, which the Guru can affirm having made the drive two years ago – do it once for the thrill – to attend induction ceremonies at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Connecticut-Xavier has its own little twist for the media crowd in that Pat McKenna, the new athletic department media liaison for the Huskies this season, had previously worked with the Musketeers.

So that should be plenty to store in the back of your minds heading into the New Year. See you at the next post.

-- Mel

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Guru Home Launched For The Holidays !

By Mel Greenberg

Seasons greetings everyone.

I hope you all get to enjoy the next several days with family, etc.

Yours truly will continue the recent tradition of visiting Drexel men’s coach Bruiser Flint and family on Christmas Day.

Anyhow, many of you have heard from Kelly Kline of the internet magazine Inside Women’s Basketball about the new association with the Guru and vice versa. So I thought I’d take advantage of the down time, news of Diana Taurasi’s situation notwithstanding, to give you the Guru’s side of how things have evolved and also probably answer some questions you might have.

I first met Kelly several years ago at the Women’s Final Four in St. Louis. There’s no question her passion for the sport is the equal of those of us who have been around from way back or those who are slightly younger.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have played the game as in Kelly’s case.

This meeting occurred at a time where it was pretty obvious about the way print media were diminishing coverage due to the economy and staff shortages.

Although the Guru was still at the place of his employment at that moment, a sizeable number of colleagues elsewhere were leaving with exit papers either through retirement options or buyout situations.

In fact, when the Guru looked at what he called the “real list” of print representatives at the Final Four who were not associated with host city or competing teams, the diminished roll call count was shocking.

Some regulars were still on the scene though they came on their own whether still employed or off the ship.

Most of the ones departing checked in with the Guru on the way out the door saying to keep in touch, and they still would like to find a way to continue in some capacity the coverage in which they excelled.

Some of them have landed elsewhere with new entities and in some cases are doing dual work in maintain their own personal blogs. Michelle Smith, the former Stanford beat writer, is at AOL Fanhouse, as is Milton Kent, who covered the Washington Mystics and University of Maryland primarily in his locale.

Mechelle Voepel left the Kansas City Star but has become bigger than life at ESPN.com and virtually all the associated parts of the mega sports network.

Wendy Parker has her own blog, actually several the Guru thinks, since leaving the Atlanta Constitution.

Vicki Friedman is still at the Virginia Pilot in Norfolk but off the Old Dominion beat. She does however collaborate to produce Lady Swish on the internet focusing on women’s hoops at Virginia schools.

Aditi Kinkhabwala, the Rutgers beat writer at the Bergen Record, had her career hit a sudden stop though she has since found work as the New York Giants beat writer with the new Wall Street Journal sports initiative.

Mike Potter, who covered the triangle trifecta of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State departed the Durham Herald but has managed to find some internet publications.

Dick Patrick, the national women’s writer for USA Today, was a layoff victim a year ago and is since doing other things to help support his family, though the Guru is exploring ways to get him back in the fold.

Also, considering the situation at that moment with The Philadelphia Inquirer’s bankruptcy deal – the paper has recently emerged under a new owner again – the Guru knew it was a matter of time before he would have to make a decision.
He was gratified during the thought processes but also humored at comments on message boards that in observing news of someone leaving there would be a little aside “At least the Guru or Mel Greenberg is still at The Inquirer.”

The preceding just now have updated you with the behind the scenes swirl to set the background for you.

Meanwhile, the Guru was already working on a vision on how to replace what used to be the norm for the sport in daily print publications. He had the concept elements but had to find someone to develop the blueprint or help execute it.

Well, to continue, after meeting Kelly the Guru took a look at her site and was immediately impressed. Surely, she had the mold in her quarterly effort in the shape of the Guru’s concept.

The only thing now -- and they're working on it -- is finding a way to bring those videos into iPad viewing technology -- go figure that Apple would come up with a better way to stay off computers and peruse the internet.

One Year Later

Anyhow, by the time mid-January of last season approached, it was pretty obvious that if the financial numbers were right the Guru was going to have to use the retirement mechanism though he has tried to make it clear he was not leaving to mow lawns.

Everything would continue to go forward that was financially feasible. In fact, due to shortages, the Guru has been making guest star appearances in The Inquirer defacto replacing himself and having to answer the question from some “I thought you retired.”

The Guru announced the move while on the way to San Antonio for the Final Four and while on the scene numerous coaches (those with a business acumen) suggested he should try to purchase the domain melgreenberg.com.

He was able to do so, the price was relatively cheap, but it stayed in storage while returned to the original blogspot.com address to quickly go into WNBA coverage for the summer. The address was the first platform he used when the paper began experimenting with the blogosphere in the spring of 2005.

Then last September when the Guru visited Atlanta, Kelly’s headquarters city in recent seasons, for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, he began telling her old war stories about Seattle coach Brian Agler and the victory party after the Columbus Quest won the first of the two titles in the former American Basketball League in 1997.

(There’s no deep secrets. The Guru wrote of that party back in September.)

But during the conversation, Kelly said perhaps we could help each other and she’d be in touch. And here we are.

The Mechanics

So here is what you need to know. From a standpoint of helping to make an impression on traffic numbers, the Guru suggests the following options in rank order but that action is in your control.

1. Go to insidewomensbasketball.com and then you can click on the Guru blog tab.

2. If you’ve seen everything there is to see previously from the issue, you can also bookmark direct to melgreenberg.com.

3. The Guru will still post in womhoops.blogspot.com but the most recent post will appear as the story of the day on melgreenberg.com. If he writes several he will call your attention to each as he did Sunday with two stories to set up the Connecticut-Ohio State game.

In melgreenberg.com you have three ways to get to blogspot to read the archives and other posts of the day – click on either the headline of the main story, click “mel’s blog,“ or click the blog option in headlines.

Now the plan is to grow this whole entity that will approach the original Guru vision from the blog side.

Kelly’s expertise in this area was part of the attraction for the Guru to join forces.

Some things on the planning table are a new and different kind of poll by mid-January if not sooner, possibly some player or team of the week awards. The Guru, of course, will continue to devote a large portion of the blog to his local Division I nine and will try to augment the other classifications.

The Guru would like to get his friends in CoSIDA involved to post daily transactions and is exploring one of several ways to get it done. Feel free to email the Guru your interest.

Since photos and videography are Kelly’s specialty we’re trying to figure the most efficient way to send photos since, if you noticed in this blog and others, the Guru often goes long, creating space on the side, which can be filled with photos.

Perhaps a weekly gallery will be developed and this is open to all schools to submit photos. Feel free to email suggestions and the Guru will use his SID contacts list to work with you so the as not to bore the general fan base with procedural stuff.

The Guru and Kelly when she can will tweet from @womhoopsguru to alert when something new has been added. Twitter postings are also on the home page of melgreenberg.com so if you want to follow wen he might tweet live from a game, that is another option for you.

Perhaps we can do a “this day in history” and, yes, as soon as we can figure it out, the AP poll historical database will be inserted and you won’t need the Guru to trot out all the data quasi-manually as he did recently to celebrate week No. 600.

The Guru’s Other Activities

First, as coverage warrants or budget allows (theirs), the Guru will continue to make guest star appearances in his former paper and when that is happening he will notify you to go to philly.com to find the stories although when needed, other aspects of the event will appear here or the Guru will designate his own guest stars and staff to write in his place.

The Guru did mentioned to the paper that there is, ahem, a regional final at Temple in Philadelphia.

There are discussions looming with another entity or two that may develop into something but it will be different than what you read here and most likely won’t supersede it.

But understand, this is the Guru’s home base and it is here at Insidewomensbasketball.com and melgreenberg.com that we will move into a new future that way we launched into what became today’s world pre-internet back in the 1970s.

OK, the Guru apologizes for going long but other than Diana’s testing controversy or lack thereof, what else was there for you to read today.

Again, Happy Holidays everyone.

See you here after the weekend.

-- Mel

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guru Report: Delaware's Delle Donne Sits As St. Joseph's Wins

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. –
A year ago in a closed private scrimmage Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne reportedly put up 50 points at St. Joseph’s against the Hawks on the way to the one-year delayed start of her collegiate career.

If the 2008 high school athlete of the year out of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy surprised that afternoon by not showing any rust, the Hawks were in for another shocker on Wednesday night when Delle Donne did not warm up prior to the non-conference game at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center.

“She called me a half hour before shoot around. And I had no idea,” Blue Hens coach Tina Martin related after St. Joseph’s held off Delaware 50-45 to continue dominating the series between the two schools 11-1.

“She just said, “I don’t feel well today, `Coach, I don’t think I can go.’ And that was that. We had it 1-2 and she called me at 12:30. She came to the shoot around and said, `I feel awful again. I don’t feel strong. I feel really weak and I just don’t feel like I could play tonight.”

Hawks coach Cindy Griffin is not the first coach since Delle Donne returned to basketball to go against the Blue Hens (6-3) and find out shortly before tipoff that the scouting reports and practices for the game had become virtually worthless.

“We did prepare for Elena to play, of course, and you have to make an adjustment, obviously,” Griffin said. “For us it was not a bad adjustment, right? But I think our kids really battled and we find ways to win.

“It’s not always pretty but gut and determination of this team is remarkable.”

Freshman Erin Shields, a 5-foot-6 guard and an Archbishop Carroll graduate, had a career high 15 points and connected on 3-of-5 three-pointers for the Hawks (8-3). Katie Kuester scored 13 and hit on 3-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc.”

Jaquetta May scored 14 for the Blue Hens who, without Delle Donne, missed the nation’s leading scorer averaging 26 points a game.

Delle Donne was both the rookie and player of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association last season despite missing several games because of various injuries.

The latest health situation, which has been characterized as a fatigue syndrome stemming from a viral illness, became public almost a month ago in Philadelphia when Delle Donne, six minutes into a win at La Salle, removed herself from the game and Martin said Delle Donne had not been feeling well as early as the previous game – a win at home over St. Francis, Pa.

Delle Donne did not play the next game in a home loss to defending Ivy champion Princeton but returned several days later at Navy scoring 20 points and pronouncing herself on the mend.

The Blue Hens had a long layoff before losing Sunday at Penn State in a game in which Delle Donne scored 25 points. She practiced with the team Tuesday but sat out Wednesday, wearing her warm up suit.

The game had another element involving the two schools with Delaware using 6-3 junior center Sarah Acker, a former Hawk who was Big Five freshman of the year in 2008.

Acker suffered a hip injury and did not play in 2009 before transferring out to a junior college. She then enrolled with the Blue Hens for this season and satisfied NCAA eligibility issues involving the transfer and became activated for the Navy game.

But she was a non-factor against her former team, shooting 1-for-4 for two points and grabbing five rebounds in 29 minutes of action.

Griffin said it was the first time she ever had to coach against someone she had coached at St. Joseph’s and previously at Loyola of Maryland.

“It’s definitely a weird thing, “ Griffin said. “But you prepare the same way you do for any team.”

Acker said she had memories of her Hawks experience on the court.

“They were calling plays and I knew them – even though we went over them on walkthroughs and stuff like that,” Acker said. “I still remembered them.”

Martin, though upset with the overall team effort, especially the sophomores, downplayed Acker’s performance because of the circumstances involved.

“When you go against your former school, there’s a lot of emotions involved,” Martin said. “You can either play outstanding or you can struggle because you want to play so well.

“Tonight she missed some shots she normally makes and I thought she tried to battle on the boards, but we have to have those shots. You have to make layups, you can’t rush and be too much in a hurry and tonight a lot of us were in a hurry.”

St. Joseph’s, which next hosts New Hampshire Tuesday to start its annual tournament at Hagan Arena, is becoming the best Big
Five team following Temple’s stumble at Eastern Michigan. However, ,Drexel at the moment has been the most consistently successful among the six Division I schools in the city.

“We’re right about where I thought we’d be,” Griffin said, “though we haven’t gotten there exactly the way I thought.”

Shields was looking forward to playing against Delle Donne but said that the Hawks didn’t have make many adjustments.

“Of course our defensive strategy changes because she’s not out there but they still have a very good team,” Shields said. “It was more us wanting to keep our energy – we emphasized that in the huddle.”

Delaware was 0-for-9 on three-point attempts.

Shields’ trey with 9 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game gave the Hawks a 16-point lead at 43-27 before the Blue Hens rallied to draw closer.

“They were scrappy but we were scrappy, too, but it was too late,” Martin said.

“Too many times we wait to take the other team’s first punch and you can’t play the game of basketball like that.”

Shields has a sister Kerri, who stars at Boston College. Their mother Renie was a freshman at St. Joseph’s when Ohio State coach Jim Foster first guided the Hawks in 1978-79 and brought along UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who had been his assistant coaching the Bishop McDevitt Girls in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Renie is also the compliance director at her alma mater and also does the color commentary on Hawks radio broadcasts.

Erin said she has no problem knowing her mother is right there near the sidelines.

“I’m so used to it,” she said. “I’ve been coming to the games since I was born so I’m used to her being on the radio and being at all my games.”

In the other game involving a Division I local school, La Salle’s Ashley Gale scored17 points and grabbed 11 points but the Explorers (4-6) fell at Seton Hall 65-62 in a nonconference game in South Orange, N.J.

That made Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, first-year coach of the Pirates, 2-1 against Philadelphia teams having also beaten Temple at home and losing at Drexel. Seton Hall (6-7) will also play Villanova as part of the Big East slate.

Donovan, a former Olympic gold medalist and star at Old Dominion, guided the WNBA New York Liberty last summer.

UConn Factor Dominates WNBA’s Summer Start

The WNBA announced next summer’s schedule and while the press release doesn’t exactly read it this way, do the revenue math.

For example, the 15th season launches with a yet-to-be-named new commissioner at the helm in the wake of Donna Orender’s departure effective at the conclusion of New Year’s Eve a week from Friday.

On Friday, June 3 the Minnesota Lynx will visit the Los Angeles Sparks, featuring the return of former Tennessee superstar Candace Parker, who missed most of last season with the team from Tinsel town due to shoulder surgery.

Now, give the authors a pass because one can’t officially anticipate, but Minnesota is more than likely to be going with the No. 1 overall pick out of April’s draft who most probably will be the University of Connecticut’s star Maya Moore.

On Saturday, June 4, the reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm will host the Phoenix Mercury in a nationally televised game on ABC-TV.

Though not phrased this way in the release, members of the UConn alumnae will be going against each other in Seattle’s Sue Bird and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, who most definitely will also be teammates on the U.S. Olympic team guided by UConn coach Geno Auriemma in the London Games of 2012.

Those looking for a weekend jaunt will like the Connecticut Sun schedule which shows 11 of the 17 home games on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, meaning one can head for some side entertainment at the Mohegan Sun Casino-Entertainment complex.

On Saturday, June 11, the Indiana Fever will visit the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. in the first home game at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., off a three-year summer hiatus from Madison Square Garden, which will be undergoing renovations.

The Liberty, which tied the Washington Mystics for first in the regular season in the East, will also be under new coach-general manager John Whisenant following the jettison of longtime general manager Carol Blazejowski and former coach Anne Donovan’s departure for Seton Hall.

Incidentally, there will be one more women’s basketball event in the Garden this winter when UConn visits St. John’s in a 9 p.m. Big East contest in January.

An All-Star game, if it is to be held, hasn’t been announced, but the date looks like Saturday July 22 or Sunday July 23 because no games are listed on either of those dates.

That’s it until the next post 24 hours or less from now.

-- Mel

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guru Report: A Streak Stopped Near Hartford

By Mel Greenberg

That's right. The Guru is writing back in the hotel near the end of of what is on the other side of the window beyond the adjoining mall rush hour outdoors. Now that he has your attention with the teaser headline, it was not anything associated with the Huskies involving a streak being snapped.

First, the Guru's game story was done as a guest star again for the Inquirer sports print section, so there's probably a zillion links as part of a zillion links on everything UConn this Wednesday morning after the Huskies claimed the 89-win streak record as their own Tuesday night with a 93-62 win over No. 21 Florida State in front of a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center.

You can find it in philly.com and click on the inquirer link and head to sports.

By now most everything that happened is probably posted by the stories from the local horde media beat writers as well as elsewhere among the 100 plus persons in attendance that were the credentialed media representatives. That's more than the Final Four gets these days from newspapers -- much more.

The highlights beyond UConn's version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Maya Moore with a career-high 41 points to go with 10 rebounds, singlehandedly trailing the Seminoles just by one27-26 at the half; and freshman Bria Hartley's 21 points, a career-high fueled by 5-of-6 three pointers) were as follows:

A pre-game interview by the media with Greg Wooden, a grandson of the late UCLA men's coach John Wooden, who guided the Bruins to the 88-game streak (1971-74) the Huskies tied in New York Sunday. He said everyone connected with the Wooden family including the Wizard of Westwood himself, had he still been alive, offers blessings to the effort by the UConn women.

He also said it was his first women's game, ever, "but I picked a good one." Well, not really in terms of a game in which the Huskies crossed 89 twice Wednesday night -- the first is when the Huskies registered points 89 and 90 near the end of regulation and the second, of course, is the new number attached to the streak.

From this moment forward, the number will continue to change until put a stop by either someone like Stanford next week, Duke or North Carolina or Oklahoma down the road or Notre Dame in one of two Big East games. No, sorry Harry, the Guru doesn't think Villanova will get it done this time as is 2003 when the previous women's mark held by UConn stopped at 70.

There was the call from President Obama creating Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma's humorous interaction with the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

The Guru was treated kindly by the sports department editors but the original quip in his story from the Guru was actually: It was a seminal night for women's basketball and basketball in general but a long one for the Seminoles of Florida State.

Auriemma showed his age, saying ESPN's mega coverage on Tuesday was like "(President John F.) Kennedy's funeral, which a majority of media in the room and his entire team were probably not alive to watch back in 1963.

He did comment on the reaction to his postgame Sunday's comments about persons being forced to cover the event who had never been to a women's game. He said he was not criticizing -- just stating the facts. "But if we got your attention," all is well and good, however little it will last.

Now about the broken streak -- the Guru must first take you back to 2005 near here -- in East Hartford -- where the Guru wrote his very first blog about life on the road and that the morning began with a conversation with a member of the room crew who did not speak much English.

The Guru gave a greeting upon departing for an interview and noted to her that a light bulb needed to be changed that was located alongside his bed.

Returning hours later, the Guru determined that the sentence in the maid's language must have meant -- "It's ok. You don't have to make up my room."

Anyhow, to continue, since 1997 when at the Women's Final Four in Cincinnati, the Guru has always made a point of getting several keys upon hotel checkin after leaving his lone one on the other bed continuously throughout the week in Cincy.

So a spare was always kept somewhere on the Guru's person, especially the way the electronic cards get de-magnitized if placed near cell phones, credit cards, etc.

The Guru noted in the previous post about making the midnight ride to here and upon finishing the previous post headed off to sleep and never made it to Reins Deli. Will try in a bit before heading South.

So with Reins about to close at the time near leaving the XL Center -- they're open till midnight -- the Guru headed off to the nearby Vernon Diner -- located in the last civilian outpost on the way to the Storrs campus alongside Route 84 about a half-block from Reins.

And so he spent the time with a light meal and using the iPad to check on everything else associated with the game and other events Tuesday night.

Now upon returning to the hotel entrance one needed a room key to open the second door after entering the tweener area -- it was warm there, don't worry. At that moment the Guru noticed that he had left his keys in his room.

Not to worry, just dial the desk on the door phone to gain admittance -- except that the nice young lady at the desk was not responding. So the Guru waited a bit, thinking she might have been detained -- we've all been in that situation -- hers maybe -- in life.

Still, no response. The Guru looked from an outside window to the other side of the desk and it was definite that no harm had befallen her. But still, no answer.

Finally, after 15 minutes the Guru remembered that the general on-site number from making the reservation on the way up to here might still be in his cell phone and he dialed. The young lady answered on a cell as she was just returning to the front desk and said she had been putting away laundry.

Hey, it was 3 a.m., so just chalk it up to bad timing on the Guru's part -- it probably wouldn't have happened had he not been hanging around the diner for several hours, let alone have the backup key he always had until ending the streak.

Elsewhere In the Women's World

Two games Tuesday night might have gotten more attention had not everything been eclipsed on the longest night (Dec. 21) of the year by the Huskies' date with history.

Actually, a third was Temple, which had been on a roll, losing at Eastern Michigan and the less said about that result the better except for the second straight night a member of a staff used some words in conversation -- this time via Facebook messenger -- not suitable to quote exactly in the Guru's post.

But how about Drexel and maybe the time has come to stop referring to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) as a mid-major conference. At least it's a conference with teams superior to mid-major designation.

Just 24 hours after James Madison upset Virginia at the finish, Drexel (7-2) upset host Penn State (10-3) in Happy Valley, a major 87-73 or 84-73 -- can't read the scribble -- triumph for the Dragons who suffered a tough setback on Friday night at Princeton -- a team beyond what one usually one thinks about when the term Ivy League is used in the same sentence.

In the first year since the graduation of super scorer Gabriela Marginean, the Dragons continue to astound in their performance in what is a best start. Next game by the way is against Texas A&M at San Diego State so no expectations there.

Kamile Nacickaite tied a career high with 27 points and senior Jasmina Rosseel had 20, including the 1,000th point of her career. Drexel slammed down 13 three-pointers in a game between the top two teams in the nation in three-point shooting success in terms of percentage ability.

Nittany Lions freshman Maggie Lucas, the Germantown Academy graduate, had 20 after being named Big Ten rookie of the week for a fifth straight time -- a conference record.

Drexel, which had trailed in double digits early, came out of the locker room after the half and holding a one-point lead and blasted off to a 13-0 run.

Anybody can get a call from the White House upon achieving sports success but how many coaches on the team bus heading back home get a phone call from the Guru on the same night..

"They played us zone, which surprised us a bit since we expected them to use their bigger bodies to their advantage," Dillon said. "We didn't know about Jas' milestone until Britt (Britt Faulstick, the able media contact) told us afterwords because we don't put a lot of emphasis on that kind of thing, even when `Gabby played for us. But it's always great when something like that happens.

"Princeton was a tough loss but the team learned a lot in that game and so did we as coaches."

Meanwhile, down in Durham, N.C., in what would have been the story of the night had not the game conflicted with events here, No.3 Duke rallied to edge No. 4 Xavier 46-45 -- UConn here outscored both teams combined -- as Jasmine Thomas hit the second of two foul shots with two seconds left after missing the first. She then raced down the court and blocked what appeared to be a wide-open layup attempt as time was expiring.

While it was all happiness for the Blue Devils, who are starting to look as a candidate for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, it was a galling defeat for the Musketeers and coach Kevin McGuff, who apparently was not a happy camper according to reports reaching here.

An aside, the UConn new media relations person this year is Pat McKenna, who had been at Xavier and had already suffered a worst loss in what became his final game with the Musketeers when the team blew layups at the finish that would have resulted in a shocking upset of Stanford and a trip to the Final Four.

So now it's time to pack the bags, maybe hit Reins, and head to Delaware where the Blue Hens and St. Joseph's have a date at 6 p.m. That will either be a game story here or in print, depending on the outcome of a phone call to be made along the way.

Adios for the moment, though the Guru will tweet sometime later.

-- Mel

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guru's Musings: Thoughts And Facts

By Mel Greenberg

No, the Guru is not in the home of a certain Hall of Fame coach set to make more history down the road in Hartford Tuesday night, barring interference from No. 21 Florida State nor is he at the residence of the new media liason, who is not new to the Guru.

But since the hotel located on the grounds of a mega-mall out here is located within the boundaries of the dateline, that is why it says what it says.

If you haven't been at the previous posts, the Guru's advance of the game went to print at the employee alma mater as another guest star appearance as will be the situation Tuesday night so head over to Philly.com in the Inquirer subset sports section.

For those of you who know the Guru's little trick, the answer is made the midnight ride, sailed without traffic, and 2-for-1 is in play with a reasonable rate attached.

There are two things the Guru is amused at concerning what is now the attempt to establish the all-time streak at 89.

In terms of television, as the song goes, we went from a U buried behind the NFL to a deuce in 24 hours with all kinds of programing attached going into the game at the expected sellout XL center.

Then there was the Sunday quote from the Philly guy that set everyone atwitter which these days means the traditional besides themselves and the modern make sure whatever your reaction is -- keep it under 141 characters or use a special long tweet twitter apps.

If you were in the media room the Garden and saw how the whole postgame flowed, those that are atwitter might be less so.

The best quote, actually, came from a member of the Buckeyes staff familiar with the Guru who used to drive the Garden crowd insane when the summer action is held.

Passing the Guru, the individual smiled to nod hello and then said "Oh (expletive deleted. What else can you say?"

Next up: the Seminole post game reaction.

Weekly AP Poll Trivia

OK, the Guru is keeping this post short to get a little shuteye having made the midnight ride, as noted, but he did do his weekly diliegence in updating the poll history file as we start the next 600 weeks of AP voting.

So those of you who like to throw odds and ends in your pregame notes or just likes what spits out of the data sheet, the Guru begins by saying happy 300 to Sylvia Hatchell and Stanford.

Hatchell, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach with the North Carolina Tar Heels is making her 300th appearance this week while Stanford is making its 300th appearance as a team in the top 10.

The Cardinal trail Tennessee (530), Louisiana Tech (373), and UConn (307) in terms of all-time Top 10 rankings.

Meanwhile, the Guru uses a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program to house all the polls, so congratulations to Kentucky, which fell on line 14,000. In other words the first team ever ranked in 1976 -- Delta State -- is on line 1, and so on and so forth through the years.

Arkansas is ranked for the first time since Jan. 7, 2008. Tom Collen is in the elite group with three different teams in the AP Poll -- Colorado State (34), Louisville (17), and Arkansas (3) for 54 appearances.

While Florida State coach Sue Semrau is working on her concession speech for Tuesday night's game -- just kidding -- she reached her 42nd poll appearance, just one behind Villanova's Harry Perretta ranked 36th -- the same number his team has had on the scoreboard in the closing minutes.

North Carolina tied Rutgers for all-time appearances in 10th place with 329.

OK, the drill the rest of the way is some quick sleep, a must stop at nearby Reins Deli in Vernon and then over to the XL Center. The Guru will tweet depending on bandwith cooperation with the iPad.

-- Mel

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guru's Musings: Notes Off UConn's Win - Other Items

By Mel Greenberg

Hello all.

The Guru’s coverage of UConn’s 88th win to tie the UCLA men’s record actually became another guest star appearance in print in The Inquirer so you can go to Philly.com to read it.

There will also be an advance for Tuesday’s game in Hartford and the Guru will be on the scene.

But here are a few notes and thoughts at the top here of the day’s and weekend’s events.

First, the crowd of 15,000 plus was the second-best women’s collegiate attendance in Madison Square Garden behind a Rutgers-Tennessee tilt several years ago. It was the top for the Maggie Dixon Classic since the event moved over from the first year at Army, where Dixon coached the Black Knights for a season and led them to the Patriot League title and NCAA tournament before her sudden death several weeks later due to heart disease.

The original record was about 12,000 back in the day when Immaculata and Queens played the first women’s game there in the early 1970s.

In later years the WNBA New York Liberty drew crowds of 17,000 or more when first launched in 1997 and going forward for several years. A few All-Star games in the WNBA held in the Garden also drew similar numbers, I think.

Former WNBA president Val Ackerman was in the house as was Renee Brown of the WNBA home office.

Seemed a bit strange in that this was the first event for women’s hoops in the house since former Liberty general manager Carol Blazejowski’s contract wasn’t renewed after she had been the franchise’s top executive the past 14 seasons since the Liberty launched.

John Whisenant, the new coach-GM who held similar positions with the former Sacramento Monarchs was interviewed on the in-house video screen during a timeout. A bit earlier the Guru had internally mused that he thought the MSG handlers might have had him visit the media room to hobnob, especially since several UConn beat writers cover the WNBA Connecticut Sun in the summer.

Because of the magnitude of the UConn attack on the streak, other things that would normally be highlights of the day were relegated to second fiddle.

Of course, Rutgers reduced itself to a paragraph except by the Scarlet Knights beat writers by succumbing quickly in a rout by Texas A&M.

Tennessee’s first bit of any notice was a wire story out of Knoxville going into the weekend in which the headline indicated Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt was questioning the heart of her team.

Of course, Tennessee righted itself a bit beating Stanford in overtime, but picked the wrong day to do it. As for the Cardinal, that’s two straight losses, again stopping Tara VanDerveer from getting her 800th victory which Bentley’s Barb Stevens achieved Sunday.

Two straight Stanford losses will now leave some suspense over what kind of threat the Cardinal will be to UConn when the Huskies visit The Farm on Dec. 30.

Right now if one wants to look ahead to the Temple regional, it appears the only way UConn would have problems being placed in that part of the NCAA bracket on the top row would be a sudden collapse or a loss to Duke that might put the Blue Devils ahead of the Huskies and then getting an edge on near geography.

However, Duke could win the game but run into trouble in the ACC and not jump over UConn if they were on the same seed line.

The Local Mix

Temple’s win over Villanova appears to set up a future Big Five showdown between the Owls and St. Joseph’s next to the final overall game of the regular season.

Both teams are likely to be 3-0 and are the only two unbeatens left in the city with Temple 1-0 and St. Joseph’s 2-0. La Salle is 0-1 and Villanova is 1-2 with Penn left on the Wildcats’ schedule.

St. Joseph’s got a nice double overtime win at home against Princeton, the defending Ivy champions who have never beaten the Hawks in nine tries.

When the Tigers defeated Drexel Friday night despite an early loss of Niveen Rasheed to foul trouble, coach Courtney Banghart had said it was nice to win a close one for a change. That lasted just two days.

St. Joseph’s has another test Wednesday at 6 p.m. playing Delaware which, besides having Elena Delle Donne, also has Sarah Acker, the former Hawks rookie who became eligible several weeks ago. She had been the Big Five rookie of the year.

Delle Donne had 25 Sunday at Penn State in her first game in two seasons against a superior opponent outside the Colonial Athletic Association. But the Blue Hens fell down the stretch after extending the Nittany Lions a long way.

The two schools had not met since 1991.

La Salle beat Rider to stay perfect in the series with the Broncs at 9-0, which is also the same number in reverse of their current record this season.

Drexel is at Penn State Tuesday night, which will be a good test for both teams before Drexel plays Texas A&M in the opener of San Diego State’s holiday tournament.

In another life, the Guru would venture out to Happy Valley but duty calls at UConn.

Be back with something in the next 24 hours.

-- Mel