Thursday, August 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Guru Musings: WNBA Enjoying Revolutionary Season

By Mel Greenberg

Guru Musings: WNBA Enjoying Revolutionary Season

By Mel Greenberg

  In the very early years of the WNBA, basketball purists found the court action to be -- well -- revolting, to put it mildly.

 More times than not, post play referred to guards mailing the ball to get it into the frontcourt without causing a turnover.

 Season 13, however, is anything but an unlucky number for the women's pro league if one dispenses with the national ecomonic conditions that have affected operations.

If a theme exists to date, it is Revenge of the Fallen, with perennial playoff-contending also-rans revolting against the teams that have been the dominate forces.

Much of that is due to the recent influx of new talented stars  who were the All-Americans of recent collegiate season.

In fact, this stretch right now could also be entitled The Underdog Days of August.

In many respects, the standings are almost a reflection of the last collegiate season with upsets galore.

True, Indiana is imitating the University of Connecticut record-wise, compared to the other 12 teams, but no one is bold enough to declare the Fever as the overwhelming favorite.

However, Indiana took one step to enhance credibility to its postseason hopes Saturday night in the desert when the Fever beat the Phoenix Mercury, 90-83, in a battle of conference leaders.

In an oddity, the word Connecticut can be applied to two aspects of the Fever's win with former Huskies star Jessica Moore scoring 19 points and former WNBA Connecticut Sun star Katie Douglas popping a career-best six three-pointers on the way to 28 points.

Indiana, which had its own UConn-Rutgers alumna roster combo in Moore and former Scarlet Knight Tammy Sutton-Brown (Phoenix has Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, besides Ketia Swanier), seems to be upholding a dubious WNBA tradition.

There's been a history in preseason stories of teams projected for extinction suddenly becoming the hot number. That happened to the Detroit Shock, Sacramento Monarchs, and Seattle who have all risen to win WNBA titles.

Indiana, enjoying its best season ever, holds a whopping 5 1/2 game lead over Washington - yeah you heard that right on both counts -  and may soon have control of home court advantage in the finals, assuming Indiana gets that far.

And that cautionary note is also different than what is normally said this time of year.

By now, one could pretty much have an idea of what cities will be involved for the championship round.

Los Angeles, Uncasville (Conn.), Detroit, and Houston (prior to the Comets' demise), have been the frontrunners heading into the stretch drive with a few others making guest appearances in different season.

But now, long-range planning has yet to have viability.

The East, especially, has one heck of a race in terms of newbies (or seldom-bies) fighting for the postseason. Washington, in second, holds a slim one-game lead over Chicago, Atlanta (what a jump for the Dream from its rookie season),  and normally dominate Connecticut for the other three conference playoff spots with the defending champion Shock two games back.

Detroit is getting near the moment where the Shock are going to have to find some consistency to move ahead of the pack, which will be beating up on each other. New York, which finally got its first win in three tries under new coach Anne Donovan is 3 1/2 back, but given the condition, the Liberty may end up playing the role of spoiler.

Hard to believe that a year ago the same New York team was minutes away from the WNBA finals. Incidentally, Donovan's first return to Seattle since last coaching the Storm in 2007, was made less joyous when the Storm won a 70-69 thriller on Saturday night.

Seattle's Sue Bird, (yet another former UConn star), hit two foul shots with 3:11 left to play and the game remained scoreless the rest of the way.

 Meanwhile, over in the West, Seattle seems a postseason lock slong with Phoenix while Minnesota and defending conference champion San Antonio need to hold off a late-season surge, if it comes, from Los Angeles, which finally has both Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker back on the court together.

In fact, with Leslie heading for the last days of her career, one can envision the Guru's ESPN friends pulling for a storyline out of Hollywood.

                                      Washington's Troops Increase

  The Penn State family has a new addition but NCAA eligibility rules prohit court-time until more than a decade from now.

  Nittany Lions coach Coquese Washington gave birth to Rhaiyna Kamille Brown, the second child of the former Notre Dame star and her husbansd Raynell Brown, on July 23. The Guru is sure, newspapers existingt or not, that when Rhaiyna first puts on a uniform, her presence will be a reason for spell-checkers to remain on word processing programs to make sure reporters get her first name right.

The Guru got the email announcement but hadn't had a chance to say congratulations and, unless he missed it, hadn't seen a posting at the major public women's sites.

                                      Geno at the Beach

  Before heading to vacation, the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla worried that major news involving UConn would occur during his absence from the beat, which had become the case in recent situations.

Sure enough, Auriemma will be in the news Wednesday with  a nice gesture but nothing that will make John leap into the Connecticut River.

It was almost a year ago at this time that Auriemma finally ended of a summer of suspense when he sent word that Blue Chip recruit Elena Delle Donne had decided not to attend UConn.

She subsequently enrolled at Delaware, near her home, played volleyball in the fall and then decided to return to basketball where she will be a freshman with the Blue Hens when school resumes next month.

This summer's action at the Jersey shore is somewhat different.

 Auriemma will join his Philly buds and men's coaches Phil Martelli (St. Joseph's), Fran Dunphy (Temple men's coach), Steve Lappas (formerly Villanova and several other school who now commentates for CBS College Sports), and Chris Ford (former Villanova star and coach of the 76ers and Boston Celtics) just outside Ocean City, Wednesday morning to support Ocean City Bank president Steven E. Brady in a check presentation to Operation First Response.

The organization is a nonprofit entity that assists wounded soldiers and their families in times of crisis.

                Making A Point

      The Point Guard College for high school and collegiate men and women, run by former Virginia star Dena Evans and  will be held this week at St. James School in Hagerstown, Md., Monday thrugh Thursday.

    In the past, such notables as Kristi Toliver (WNBA-Chicago Sky, Maryland), Rashanda McCants (Minnesota Lynx, North Carolina), Lyndsey Medders-Fennelly (Iowa State and now a PGC director), Abby Waner (Duke), and Jenny Boucek (Virginia, who was recently WNBA Sacramento coach), have been among the attendees.

More information can be found at the web site pointguardcollege.com.

                 Personal Guru

   The Guru would just like to note that he was not involved in last Friday's Twitter collapse, even though curiously the computer server disaster happened within an hour of the Guru's most recent previous post in which he took a tongue-in-cheek shot at Twitter.

   Yes, to follow up on one of the 140-plus character comments, the Guru did get his hair cut.

 Furthermore, unlike others, the Guru is not involved with an endorsement deal for the Dr. Dre Heasdphones that have come onto the market in a partnership with Monster Technology.

   That said, although he does own the regular-size version, he purchased the new smaller "tour" edition, in the mode of Ipod buds, and he would like to say that the sound emanating from speakers of such tracks as Lady Gaga's Eh, Eh is quite remarkable.

      -- Mel   

 

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
About this blog
Mel Greenberg covers college and pro women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he has worked for 38 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. He was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.



Click here for Mel's list of All-Decade players from Philadelphia-area schools.

Other contributors

Jonathan Tannenwald is a producer with Philly.com. In addition to covering the local college scene, he spent two years as the Washington Mystics beat writer for Women's Hoops Guru. He also writes his own blog, Soft Pretzel Logic, which covers men's college basketball, football, and other sports.

Kathleen Radebaugh is a recent graduate of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She covered women's basketball for the school's newspaper, The Hawk, and served as sports editor her sophomore year. She was also a four-year member of the varsity crew team.

Erin Semagin Damio covers the University of Connecticut and the WNBA's Connecticut Sun for the blog, and contributes other features. The Storrs, Conn., native also attends Northeastern University, where she is a coxswain on the varsity crew team.

Acacia O'Connor is based in Washington, D.C., where she reports on the Mystics and the college basketball scene in the nation's capital. A graduate of Vassar college, she played on the varsity women's basketball team and was editor of the student newspaper.

Click on any of the contributors' names above to e-mail them.

Reach Mel at poll416@gmail.com.

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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