By Mel Greenberg
There are 13 days left in the WNBA regular season and there's more unknown than is known about the playoff race in its final two weeks.
What is absolutely known is the Indiana Fever, which has been sprinting in front of the East most of the season, is about the lock up a first-ever conference title.
That could come as early as Tuesday night if the guest second-place East team of the moment, second-year Atlanta, loses at Los Angeles. If the Dream prevail, then it makes Wednesday's solo night interesting when the Fever can take care of its own business by beating Western leader Phoenix at home.
Of course, with the Mercury holding just a two-game lead in the West, Phoenix will be motivated to care of business in its own division, where it is two games ahead of Seattle. The two West teams have already locked up playoffs spots, though the Storm will be without the injured superstar Lauren Jackson for now.
Los Angeles appears to have fought its way back to reaching the postseason, while everything else is a major gridlock. Even the New York Liberty, which hosts Seattle Tuesday night, is alive sitting in the East basement, while Sacramento in the West still has a mathematical life.
That said, here is a look at what's left for each team fiighting for its playoff life to help you people figure out who will be standing on Sept. 13 and who will be reduced to dreaming of landing possession of the top draft pick.
Atlanta: Road (4): at Los Angeles -Sept. 1; at Sacramento - Sept. 4; at Phoenix - Sept. 5; at Washington - Sept. 12.
Home (1) Connecticut- Sept. 11.
Washington: Road (3) at Chicago - Sept. 4; at Indiana - Sept. 5; at New York - Sept. 13.
Home (2) Seattle - Sept. 3; Atlanta - Sept. 12.
Chicago: Road (1) ar Detroit - Sept. 6.
Home (3) Washington - Sept. 4; Indiana - Sept. 10; Detroit - Sept. 12.
Connecticut: Road (2) at Sacramento - Sept. 1; at Atlanta, Sept. 11.
Home (2) New York - Sept. 4; Indiana - Sept. 13.
Detroit: Road (2) at Minnesota - Sept. 9; at Chicago - Sept. 12
Home (4) Phoenix - Sept. 1; Indiana - Sept. 4; Chicago - Sept. 6; New York - Sept. 10.
New York: Road (2) at Connecticut - Sept. 4; at Detroit - Sept. 10.
Home (3) Seattle - Sept. 1; Indiana - Sept. 8; Washington - Sept. 13.
Summary: New York's problem is it needs a lot of teams to slide, which mathematically can't happen since teams in front will be playing against each other.
Here are best-case scenaio forecasts without regard to upsets. Wild card will be how Indiana finishes out. Also, remember that while each is looked at as team's best hope, those that succeed will be costly to others' best hopes.
Atlanta 1-4 but could get to 2-2.
Washington: 3-2 but could easily be forecasted anywhere from 0-5 to 2-3.
Chicago: 0-4 but could steal here and there and get to 2-2.
Connecticut: 3-1 but could also get trapped to 2-2 or 1-3.
Detroit: 4-2 but could also fall to 3-3 or 2-4.
New York: 0-5 but a a few steals could mean 2-3 or 3-2, which doesn't appear good enough when looking at the probables in front of the Liberty.
Western Group (and remember we're talking about qualifying, not placement):
Minnesota: Road (3) at San Antonuo - Sept. 1; at Los Angeles - Sept. 11; at Sacramento - Sept. 13.
Home: (2) Seattle - Sept. 5; Detroit - Sept. 9.
San Antonio: Road (2) at Los Angeles - Sept. 8; at Sacramento - Sept. 10.
Home (3) Minnesota - Sept. 1; Los Angeles - Sept. 5; Seattle - Sept. 12.
Sacramento: Road (1) at Los Angeles - Sept. 8
Home (3) Connecticut - Sept. 1; Atlanta - Sept. 4; Minnesota - Sept. 13.
Summary: It's wild with long odds on Sacramento.
Minnesota: 1-4 but could steal to go 2-3.
San Antonio: 4-1 is not out of question but more likely 3-2 or 2-3.
Sacramento: 0-4 but 2-2 or a little better is not outlandish. However, won't be good enough to pass two teams in front.
Cardoza Keeps Up the Connecticut Connections
When Temple coach Tonya Cardoza was hired a year ago she said at her introductory press conference her staff would always have a spice from her long 14-year association as an assistant coach with powerful Connecticut.
Thus in year one, Brittany Hunter was hired right after her playing career as the third assistant, while former manager Stacey Nasser became a graduate assistant.
Hunter has since left for grad school but, althougth the Guru hasn't seen the release, which may not have occurred, he doesn't know how his all-knowing media friends in Huskies land didn't latch on to this.
Apparently former post player Willnett Crocket replaced Hunter based on a listing at the glitzy Atlantic 10 prospectus on-line publication at the conference web site. Also, Karen Auerbach, who had been at Northern Arizona, is the new media contact for the Owls' women's team along with several other Temple sports. She, too, has UConn DNA in her background as a former staff assistant in the sports information office prior to moving West.
Aimee Cicero is now an assistant PR with the new MISL soccer team.
Furthermore, Cardoza will be going against one of her former point guard pupils when Temple travels play Hartford, Nov. 28. The Hawks are coached by Jen Rizzotti, who will actually come to Philadelphia to play the St. Joseph's Hawks on Dec. 4.
Still to come in the future are probably games against Cincinnati, whose new coach Jamelle Elliott, a former UConn star, served on Geno Auriemma's staff with Cardoza. And discussions continue about taking on the Olympic coach himself at some point in the next several seasons.
Speaking of the Atlantic 10, the Guru doesn't know if the announcement made print here, but the women's basketball tournament will be going neutral for the first time Mar. 5-8 when the competiton for an NCAA bid is held at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., near the northern shore of the Patomac River across from Washington.
The arena seats over 4,500 persons and is near a hotel-entertainment complex by the Patomac.
Hall of Fame Ceremony Goes to New Digs
We're less than two week away from Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and apparently there will be a change of scenery for ceremonies.
The class also includes former player greats Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and John Stockton along with coach Jerry Sloan.
While there have been jokes about the weekend adding an extra day to accomodate Stirnger's acceptance speech, the magnitude of the class has caused the folks in Springfield to move the ceremonies from the hall where it has been held since the current structure opened several years ago. The ceremony will now be held at the 97-year-old Symphony Hall, which seats more than 2,600. The auditorium at the hall seats about 1,200.
The Guru will be on the scene as he was a year ago for former Immaculata coach Cathy Rush at this site to provide all the extra tidbits.
The New Delaware Delle Donne Era
It was a year ago Monday that former Delaware High school sensation Elena Delle Donne at a press conference at nearby Delaware announced she was dropping basketball to take up volleyball after giving up her Connecticut scholarship, which didn't stop the Huskies from going unbeaten and winning a sixth NCAA title.
In June, Delle Donne announced she regained her passion for the game and was joining the Blue Hens.
Delaware announced its non-conference schedule a month ago, and her first collegiate game will be at Saint Francis, Pa., coached by former Penn State star Susan (nee Robinson) Fruchtl, on Nov. 17.
Some Delaware athletic department officials at one point after Delle Donne's announcement were contemplating asking St. Francis if it would like to switch the opener to Newark in light of the attention the game might receive, but apparently that never occurred.
La Salle will make an appearance at Delaware, Dec. 13, while the Blue Hens will visit Philadelphia at a date to be determined to play one of its two games with Drexel, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion with reigning player of the year Gabriella Marginean, who will probably attract a few WNBA scouts this winter.
Delle Donne's first home appearance won't be until Dec. 11 against Navy.
However, as coach Tina Martin noted, some road games won't be too far from this area. There's be a visit to Princeton Nov. 21, and at Columbia on Dec. 2,
La Salle's Non-Conference Schedule
The Explorers released dates for their non-Atlantic 10 games Monday. In addition to the Delaware game, Loyola of Maryland, coached by former St. Joseph's assistant Joe Logan, will help La Salle open the season at home Nov. 13, while La Salle will be at Drexel, Dec. 5. The two Big Five/non-Atlantic 10 games will be against Villanova Dec. 22 at home and against Penn and new Quaker coach Mike McLaughlin at home on Jan. 2.
Patriot League champion Lehigh will visit Nov. 29 and Big East member Georgetown will be at the Tom Gola Arena on Dec. 1.
The complete list of non-Atlantic 10 games is posted at the Explorers' web site.
Back to Italia
Acacia O'Connor, who joined the Guru's blogging team first filing stories from Italy several years ago when she was an undergraduate at Vassar, is heading back to Europe and Italy to teach for nine months or more on a Fullbright English Teaching Fellowship.
She had been working in Washington at American Publishing Co.
Acacia's email report said she'll be near Naples in an area "known for the mafia, limocello and Buffalo mozzarella.
And that's the news for now.