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.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

AP WBB Poll Trivia: Streaking Top 25

Current Appearance Streaks of Women’s Teams in This Week’s Final AP Poll  – Mar. 12, 2018

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

1-469 Weeks Connecticut across 24 seasons began Preseason 1993-94
2-278 Weeks Baylor across 14 seasons began January 5, 2004
3-212 Weeks Notre Dame across 11 seasons began Preseason 2007-08
4-154 Weeks Maryland across 7 seasons began Preseason 2010-11
5-108 Weeks South Carolina across 6 seasons began Dec. 10 2012

6-74 Weeks Mississippi State across 4 seasons began Nov. 24, 2014
7-67 Weeks Florida State across 4 seasons began January 12 2015
8-59 Weeks Ohio State across 4 seasons began March 9 2015
9-56 Weeks Texas across 3 seasons began Preseason 2015-16
10-53 weeks UCLA across 3 seasons began November 30 2015

11-48 Weeks Louisville across 3 seasons began January 11 2016
12-34 Weeks Duke across 2 season began December 5 2016
13-31 Weeks Oregon State across 2 season began December 19 2016
14-23 Weeks Missouri across 2 seasons began February 20 2017
15 Tie – 19 Weeks Oregon began preseason 2017-18
15 Tie – 19 Weeks Tennessee began preseason 2017-18
15 Tie – 19 Weeks Texas A&M began preseason 2017-18

18 – 10 Weeks Wis.-Green Bay began week 10 of 2017-18
19  – 8 Weeks Georgia began week 12 of 2017-18
20 – 7 Weeks Stanford began week 13 of 2017-18
21 -6 Weeks N. Caro. St. Began week 14 of 2017-18
22 Tie – 5 Weeks South Florida. Began week 15 of 2017-18
22 Tie – 5 Weeks Belmont. Began week 15 of 2017-18
24 - 4 Weeks LSU. Began week 16 of 2017-18
25 – 3 Weeks Mercer. Began week 17 of 2017-18. 

Recent Departed Major Streaks Last Two Years

xx. Tennessee 565 weeks. Began Feb. 17, 1985 after 10-wk drought and ran across 32 seasons ending on 2/15/16.
xx. Duke 312 weeks. Began week 3 11/29/99 and runs across 17 seasons ending 1/11/2016.
Xx-312 Weeks Stanford across 17 seasons began Preseason 2001-02 ending 12/17/17
xx. Texas A&M 134 weeks. Began 11/16/09 2nd week and runs across 7 seasons ending final poll 2015-16
xx. Kentucky 132 weeks. Began feb. 1 2010 and runs across 8 seasons ending jan 2, 2017.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Big East Media Day: Villanova Women Look to Build On Standout 2017-18 Season

Guru’s note: Other Big East highlights from Andy Lipton will be on the @womhoopsguru twitter account.

By Erin Kate Dolan @erinkatedolan

NEW YORK -  With the excitement over returning to their larger now renamed  Finneran Pavilion,  the Villanova Wildcats women’s basketball team returned to Madison Square Garden here Thursday for the annual excitement of Big East Media Day to discuss their upcoming season. 

Their previous one was impressive for coach Harry Perretta’s squad,  going 23-9 overall, finishing third in the  conference, earning its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2013 with an at-large selection, and cracking the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2004-05 after winning its first 10 games. 

An early highlight was the upset of nationally-ranked Duke in the smaller packed Jake Nevin Field House.

But Nova’s 2017-18 season ended in a 72-98 loss to Notre Dame, which then went on to win the National Championship Title off Arike Ogunbowale’s buzzer beater over Mississippi State. Two days  earlier she made a similar shot to bring  powerful Connecticut’s unbeaten run to another last second elimination, repeating their ouster as an unbeaten in the 2017 semifinals.

Nova’s senior guard/forward Jannah Tucker had a team high of 19 points against Notre Dame and commented here on the team moving forward from that game, “I definitely think knowing how we finished last year, and knowing we can continue to expand with that even though we are a different team, yet still kind of the same team at the same time, is really exciting.”

A threat from 3-point range, senior guard Adrianna Hahn elaborated, “Going back to last season, I think we should have won that game and I think it was in our hands so losing that game is a big motivator for us coming into this season.”

 Perretta, who  has now spent 40 seasons on the Main Line guiding the Wildcats, said the biggest difference between Villanova and other elite teams is sustaining 40 minutes of play.

 “When we play really well, we can really play with teams, but you know the difference is on the level we are at, we can’t sustain it for 40 minutes. And the elite teams can,” he explained.

Experience and stamina are going to be two factors that could potentially hinder the Wildcats this season. 

Villanova has the 3-point shooters with Hahn, Tucker, and junior Kelly Jekot. But the team lost their main centers, Alex Louin and Megan Quinn, who were both impactful in scoring and rebounds down low.

“One thing I want to note for them is that we didn’t just lose size, but Alex and Megan are both experienced players. So losing them we lost some experience and that is something we have to adjust, too,” said Tucker.  

With that said, players who have never played in a collegiate game may come off the bench this season. The only option for the team is to see how they adjust to a Division I level.   

“You know Mary (Gadeka, who was named Big East Sixth Woman of the Year) played well and she played off the bench and now we will see how she is starting and now the other spot will be filled by Grace Stant and Bridget Herlihy and we will see if they can make up for Alex’s scoring,” said Perretta. 

The loss of some of that experience is likely to be made up by freshman Mackenzie Gardler, a local and high school graduate sensation from Cardinal O’Hara High School. Her mother Katie was a star at Saint Joseph’s.

“She’s doing really well. Working hard. Brings something new and can shoot the ball really well and she knows the offense well,” said Adriana. 

The Wildcats are picked third in the Big East Women’s Preseason Coaches’ Poll behind Marquette and DePaul, who are tied at first. But the competitiveness of the league makes conference play unpredictable. 

Villanova beat Georgetown twice in the regular season and then Georgetown beat Nova in the tournament. And on the other hand, The Wildcats beat DePaul by 30 unexpected points in their first of two meetings, when they played   

“Anyone can beat anyone, which Harry (Perretta) touched on earlier. That is the exciting part about playing in the Big East. To know you have to come out and compete,” said Tucker. 

“Like Tuck said, anybody can beat anybody in this league which makes it so competitive. You have to bring it every night,” added Hahn.  

Gedaka was picked by the conference coaches on the Big East preseason squad. Her mother Lisa starred for Villanova and was the 1987 Big East player of the year as a senior.

The Wildcats have a competitive schedule, playing Princeton, Georgia, and Virginia Tech aside from their regular conference schedule. As always the Big Five is competitive because Philadelphia teams want to represent their city to the best of their ability. 

“The Big Five are always competitive games, no matter who you play. We lost to Penn and you would think we should be able to beat them at home, but they put 79 on us,” commented Perretta.

The Wildcats start their season on November 1 in an exhibition game against East Stroudsburg on the road. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

AAC Media Day: Despite Changes The Goal Stays the Same for Conference Pick UConn

By Erin Kate Dolan @ekd

PHILADELPHIA - The University of Connecticut women’s basketball is a powerhouse.

 On paper, they have undoubtedly been the toughest team to beat in the NCAA over the last 20 years with 11 NCAA Championships and 11 consecutive Final Four appearances. 

This latest extremely gifted and refined contingent is led by Hall of Fame head coach Geno Auriemma, who is entering his 34th season guiding UConn.

 And while the Huskies may seem to be the only reason to even give thought to the AAC, Auriemma stressed the importance at media day here Monday at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott that the league is competitive despite his Huskies’ continued dominance as the preseason pick of the conference coaches.

“The league is competitive itself,” he said in one of several trips he’ll make back to his home haunts  along with the annual AAC game at Temple.  “ It just doesn't look that way because we are in it, so it makes it look like no one in the league is any good besides Connecticut.

“That's just not true. They are all really good within their own group so if you just took us out of the equation, there is not much difference between three and eight.”  

Despite the Huskies’ consecutive NCAA appearances, Auriemma believes that the AAC as a whole can and will have a stronger presence in the national tournament, which concludes in Tampa next April.  

“If Temple had not suffered all those injuries, we would have had at least three teams (in the NCAA) and with a little bit of luck and people scheduling better and a game here or there to go the other way.”

Auriemma also believes the goal to advancing into the NCAA tournament is to strategically plan on how to beat opponents and focus on the recruitment process. 

“I think every school has somebody that they are trying to beat so if you are Central Florida you are trying to figure out how do I beat South Florida every year. 

“And then that gets you into the Top 20,” he noted. “So every school has one or two schools just above them that if they can out-recruit them then they have a shot to get into the tournament.”

But before teams focus on the end goal, which is to win or even advance into the tournament, teams focus on recruiting the best potential players.

 Many people have attributed UConn’s success to the recruitment process, claiming that they can pull from top candidates throughout the country. 

Auriemma completely disagrees. 

“When they were in high school, they were the best players so people say, ‘Oh Connecticut gets the best players.’ We’ll we get certain of the best players. 

“Because other best players will go somewhere else. We get the right ones so the ones that we got were the best players in high school, then they became the best players in college.”

Despite having some of the best players in the country, the outcome over the last two seasons was an undefeated team ruined by buzzer beaters in the national semifinals.

Auriemma continues to schedule rigid competition out of conference which this season highlights the annual Notre Dame game, which will be on the road Dec. 2 in South Bend. 

It’s the first meeting between the two since Arike Ogunbowale ousted UConn with her winning shot before doing likewise 48 hours later to Mississippi State to give the Irish their first title since 2001.

Other key road trips take the Huskies to Oklahoma, California and Baylor while Ohio State, DePaul and South Carolina will visit either UConn’s Hartford venue or on campus at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.

There’s a game hosting Vanderbilt an hour away at the Mohegan Sun Arena, which also continues to be the site of the AAC tournament, where the Huskies have finished all five seasons unbeaten against the conference since its formation out of the old Big East.

However, for only the second time in a long while, the Huskies are not likely to be atop The Associated Press preseason women’s poll when the rankings are released in a few werks.

Nevertheless, moving forward, Auriemma said he will take nothing from last season into the 2018-19 season, despite the roster transition in which Kia Nurse, Azure Stevens, and Gabby Williams have graduated to the WNBA, but AAC preseason player of the year Katie Lou Samuelson, and other preseason conference first team coaches’ picks Napheesa Collier, and Crystal Dangerfield return.

Sophomore Megan Walker and freshman Christyn Williams (Little Rock, Ark.) have arrived successively the last two seasons as the nation’s top high school prospects and Williams won a gold medal last summer with the USA U18 squad.

“Every year is different and every year we have to find the deal on what we need to get us where we are going ... This year is going to be one of those years that it is different than last year, way different than the year before, and light years different than Stewie's (Brenna Stewart) senior year.

“So the challenge as coaches is how do we accomplish some of the same thing without the same things.” 

And that is the main question, how will Connecticut continue to accomplish undefeated regular season and Final Four appearances? 

We will begin to find out when the Huskie’s open regular season play Sunday, November 4 at home in an exhibition game against Vanguard.

AAC Media Day: Temple Looks to Return to Relevance Among Growing Conference Foes

 By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – A year ago after Temple clawed its way through an early pre-season game, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza quipped, “I know this much. We’re not the number two team in the (American Athletic Conference).”

Her reference was to the AAC’s annual media day a few weeks earlier when the forecasts by the conference coaches were made and Temple was one summer removed from its best league performance and an NCAA opening round loss to Oregon on a blocked shot of a potential game-winner as time expired.

That moment enabled the winning Ducks of the PAC-12 to go on to the elite eight twice while Temple not so much.

The reason is between the time the 2018 AAC ballots were submitted and announced the Owls lost Alliyah Butts, their expected superstar point guard, to a knee injury, leaving the suddenly quite youthful squad to an operation by committee.

Along the way, Cardoza’s bunch lost other players to reduced time by injuries forcing the veteran Temple coach, who spent 14 seasons at powerful UConn on the staff of Geno Auriemma, to using some inexperienced freshmen and sophomores by necessity and still others who might not have ever seen the light of day.

The result of all that was a plunge to a 12-19 overall record and a dreary 3-13 performance in the conference that had one of the few bright spots near the finish. That’s when the Owls upset Wichita State 72-59 in the AAC tourney opener and suffered a competitive season-ending loss in the next round to a vastly improved UCF squad 77-70.

Of course the one benefit out of the misery  was the talented then-newcomers are able to arrive to their sophomore season more tooled for the experience. Combine  that with Butts returning for a fifth season back in the mix and it might be like old times.

The league coaches also seem to agree by rewarding Temple with a sixth place collective vote narrowly behind Cincinnati in the this year’s forecast which was announced with other preseason honors at the AAC’s annual media day Monday once again held right in this area down at the Marriott Airport Hotel.

So why not higher for the Owls if things are improved?

Well, first the ongoing frontrunner at the top of the pile is the annual national championship contender UConn bunch, who have yet to lose an AAC game in the previous five year history of the conference that was carved out of the breakup of the solid old Big East.

However, for the second straight year the Huskies are not returning as the defending national champs following successive stunning upsets on time-expiring shots by Mississippi State in 2017 and eventual national champion Notre Dame last April, both in the semifinals to ruin unbeaten runs.

We’re not going to say much more about the Huskies in this file because multi-talent Team Guru newcomer Erin Kate Dolan will be along in the next 24 hours with photo-talent arrival at last Melissa Willhouse also in the mix this season.

Both are summa cum laude recent communications graduates, Erin, a Media resident out of Penn State who appears at the light of dawn several times a week locally on PHL17 with the overnight sports report, while Melissa, a Marlton, N.J, resident out of Rider, continues with her own Willhouse-Media.com business and her other ongoing job as the racetrack photographer down at Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester.

Behind UConn, Jose Fernandez has built quite the program at USF in Tampa, which will be the host area for the Women’s Final Four next April.

Furthermore, while Temple skidded south, UCF and Houston, who are picked third and fourth, rose to enjoy their best seasons in the AAC, while Cincinnati also had its best conference effort though in a surprise move Jamelle Elliott, a former UConn star and Cardoza’s good friend from their time as Auriemma assistants, was let go.

She was replaced by Michelle Clarke-Heard who rebuilt Western Kentucky into relevance.

And that’s where Temple should be if everything comes together, though the injury bug has already attacked the Owls with the loss of highly-regarded newcomer Destiny Samuel, who was hurt before the team made its first official practice for the road ahead.

“We’re working hard every day, trying to improve on some things, being more consistent in practice,” Cardoza said of what she has seen so far in the early going at the workouts in McGonigle Hall. “Just trying to get people getting acclimated to new roles.”

Butts and sophomore standout Mia Davis were named to the Preseason All-Conference second team.

As for Cardoza’s impressions of Butts’ rehab to date, “She’s working hard every day trying to get back to where she was. Like any player who’s been through that kind of uncertainty, just being a little timid.”

Butts thinks she has gotten over that aspect, saying on Monday, “One day in practice everything just started to click.”

As for the bonus experience on the roster, the Temple coach said, “It helps. They’ve been thrown in the fire so they have that experience and the newcomers are very solid players, they will be thrown into the fire as well. They are very talented.”

As for the schedule, it is not a killer but it isn’t a bakery shop of cupcakes either.

“We have a little of everything to help us get better every day,” Cardoza explained.

Temple will have one tuneup game, hosting USciences on October 30 in McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m., which has become a local Division II powerhouse under Jackie Hartzell, who was the runnerup for the vacant La Salle job in town.

There will be a lot of road stops, playing at Ole Miss of the Southeastern Conference as well as at the defending SEC champion South Carolina, Dawn Staley’s national powerhouse, both slates are return games from last year’s visits here.

There’s also stops at defending Big East champion DePaul, Atlantic 10 contender Duquesne, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contender Marist, and Atlantic Coast Conference contender Miami.

In the conference, the annual UConn visit on the home-and-home series, one of two games to be played in the larger Liacouras Center, will be January 20, while USF comes to town Jan. 5.

In the Big Five, Temple goes to Saint Joseph’s, another A10 contender, Big East contender Villanova, and Ivy  contender Penn, while La Salle, under first-year coach Mountain MacGillivray, a former Quinnipiac associate head coach returning to the area, is the lone home game in the City Series round robin.

“The city league is just, no matter what year you’re going through, it’s always going to be competitive,” said Cardoza, whose Owls have won several Big Five crowns in her previous 10 seasons here when she arrived after Staley’s departure.

“The players are competitive now. They look at that rivalry as something serious, knowing you can’t let any of those games slip away.”

The other two freshmen are guard Marissa Mackins of North Carolina, and forward Alexa Williamson of Houston, Pa., while some of the veteran standouts are sophomore Nicolette Mayo and her sister Emani, perhaps the more prominent of the two; sophomore Mia Davis, and forward Breanna Perry.

As for the rest of the ACC team picks behind the Owls, SMU and ECU are 7th and 8th, followed by Tulane, Wichita State, Memphis and Tulsa.

Preseason player of the year is no surprise in UConn senior Katie Lou Samuelson, a likely WNBA first-round pick next spring, as is teammate Napheesa Collier, another conference first squad choice, along with Huskies’ Crystal Dangerfield, USF scoring sensation Kitija Laksa of Latvia, and Houston’s Jasmyne Harris.

Joining the Temple duo on the second team are Houston’s Angela Harris, USF’s Laura Ferreira, and SMU’s Alicia Froling.