Saturday, September 20, 2014
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NCAA WBB Tnmt: Guru's Sudden Thoughts And After-Thoughts

By Mel Greenberg

NCAA WBB Tnmt: Guru's Sudden Thoughts And After-Thoughts

By Mel Greenberg

  A prophet in Louisville: That would be Cardinals coach Jeff Walz, who this time a year ago was about to take his team on a run straight to the title game.

  A few weeks ago on the night Louisville visited Rutgers for the last game of the regular season, Walz dropped by the media room to chat with a few reporters.

  Discussing the lay of the land, Walz said: You know what. This is the year the committee should take a bunch of mid-majors and let those others go elsewhere.

Which brings us to:

 Left out: For all the bracketologists' talk about Michigan being the best of the bottom of the barrel, the Guru noticed the Wolverines were not discussed one bit when it came to comparing surprise picks against similar omissions on Monday night.

  Not that Michigan was on the Guru's list. 

  The Guru wasn't all that high on Boston College or Southern Cal, either, but prior to some upsets in conference tournaments, they appeared to be among the next group after the so-called locks were counted. Remember, even after taking the entire next group of seven on the Gurus's mock selection board, the Guru was still looking for three teams.

  He did have some sympathy after the field's unveiling for Southern Cal's omission in that two Michael Cooper assistants -- Ervin Monier and Mary Wooley were Temple staffers under Dawn Staley with Wooley staying another year as operations director last season when Tonya Cardoza arrived.

  There are two ways to look at the dynamics that knocked out USC, since the Trojans seem to be the depicted as the most aggrieved as was South Florida a year ago.

   The Bulls, incidentally, took out their frustrations by winning the WNIT. That won't happen with the Trojans.

   The Guru still needed a few more teams to fill out his bracket as at-large picks after getting to an oveall total of 61 counting automatic qualiifiers.

   Vermont was perceived as a wrong winner out of the America East over Hartford, but that may be a wash in that the Catamounts might have been chosen if they had been the runnerup.

   Fresno, a narrow loser to Louisiana Tech in the Western Athletic Conference, and TCU, which lost early in the Mountain West to Utah, which lost the title game to San Diego State, sent two teams into the field that would not have been taken as at-large picks. So on one hand, B.C. and USC can look here as to what went wrong.

  But the committee picks of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Arkansas-Little Rock have been seen as the surprise guests, so depending on your viewpoint, they can be the culprits as well.

  Doubling up: Louisiana Tech's win in the WAC guided by rookie coach Teresa Weatherspoon and St. Francis, Pa., winning the Northeast Conference under Susan Robinson Fruchtl, gives the tournament at least two more women who have played and coached in the Big Dance.

  Weatherspoon, who is coaching her alma mater Techsters, was one of the all-time players and later became an all-star with the WNBA New York Liberty.

   Robinson Fruchtl was one of Penn State's all-time players and is one of four women to score over 2,000 points -- a number recently increased when Nittany Lions senior Tyra Grant joined the club.

   The Guru reunited with Robinson Fruchtl at the beginning of the season when St. Francis opened the season at home in Loretto, hosting Delaware and the collegiate debut of Elena Delle Donne.

  "We've come a long way since that night," she said looking back at the season. 

Tigers make Ivy history: A year ago at the Women's Final Four in St. Louis, the Guru was invited to the "Step Over the Newspaper" party hosted by broadcasters Debbie Antonelli and Beth Mowins after their live podcast -- an extension of the weekly airing under the aegis of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

  Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, a former Dartmouth star who also becomes another to play and coach in the NCAAs, was also in the room.

   At point, Banghart approached the Guru and said, "You come see us next year, we're going to be a lot better."

   Her prediction proved corrected.

   Princeton blitzed the Ivies 14-0 and lost only two games overall -- competitive affairs with Rutgers and UCLA. The Tigers also beat Drexel, Delaware and La Salle.

    Their reward on Monday night was a Number 11 seed -- highest ever for an Ivy team. The best seed in the past was a No. 13 several times.

   The most miscalculated seed occurred in 1998 when Harvard, with senior Allison Feaster, upset No. 1 seed in the first round.

   While this is one of the most talked about upsets in history, an asterisk needs to be placed upon the Crimson's win.

  For one, everyone outside the committee knew that Harvard was more than just your annual Ivy in-and-out, who cares? name on the bracket from certain viewpoints.

   Secondly, Stanford had two key knee injuries between the close of the Pac-10 conquest and the announcement of the field, so they were no longer a real No. 1 seed in terms of talent reduction.

  That win stands out alone on the Ivy 1-17 record since the league began receiving automatic bids when the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64 teams. 

   But this weekend, the Tigers have at least an even shot at an opening win when they meet No. 6 St. John's, which had its best season. If this game had been scheduled late in the season and Princeton won, the Tigers would surely bolt into the AP poll considering the consistant votes they received as also-rans in the weekly voting over the final two months.

   Thanks and No Thanks. A year ago when Temple coach Tonya Cardoza  made her collegiate debut and was placed one potential game away from meeting tournament favorite Connecticut in Storrs, where she worked for 14 seasons as an assistant to Geno Auriemma, the former Virginia star was delighted with the draw.

  Apparently this time around, the story is a little old for Cardoza, though if the Owls get past James Madison on Sunday, Temple will probably be able to milk their 48 hours in the spotlight as the next challenger to the Huskies' ongoing record win streak.

   Cardoza emphatically said Monday night she wasn't happy with the draw, not that being a No. 7 wouldn't also mean meeting other quality teams in early rounds.

   The one diference this year is Temple was pretty sure it would be in the field and didn't go through angst waiting for the Owls to go up on the screen, although a sense of dread began creeping over Cardoza's face when the other regional listings had all been announced.

  Being on Old Dominion's campus in Norfolk, Va., this weekend brings Temple to a host -- though not participant -- that was one of the early powers of the modern era.

  The Monarchs' Ted Constant Center is a pretty nifty arena compared to The Scope facility ODU would play its major games in the past.

   Conspiracy Theory: The fact that Rutgers has to face Iowa in the first round at Stanford has Scarlet Knights fans thinking the committee put a special on this matchup because of Rutgers' coach C. Vivian Stringer's past affiliation with the Hawkeyes.

  Trust the Guru: It would be one thing if the media types were putting together a mock bracket and then forcing the issue because they might see the match was do-able without affecting the integrity of the bracket.

  It's another among the real committee, many of whom in looking at Rutgers data and Iowa data aren't even thinking about players or coaches involved.

 There is one exception: Jane Meyer, the committee chair, is in charge of Iowa's overall women's athletic program.

  But remember, she has to leave the room when Iowa is in charge of any discussions involving selection or seeding.

 So if she returned, saw the matchup, and swallowed hard, her experience is similar to Duke's Jacki Silar, last year's chair, who returned to the room and saw the Blue Devils were being sent to Michigan State, the school previously coached by Duke's Joanne P. McCallie, whose exit for Cameron Indoor Arena did not sit two week with the Spartans' fan base.

   Come to think of it, Silar is still on the committee, and she didn't have to leave the room when Iowa was discussed.

  Do we have a revenge conspiracy in play?

       Much more to come.

    -- 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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