Thursday, September 3, 2015

NCAA WBB Tournament: UConn Owes A Debt To James Madison

By Mel Greenberg

NCAA WBB Tournament: UConn Owes A Debt To James Madison


By Mel Greenberg

    If James Madison happens to get by Temple in Norfolk, Va., Sunday, the Dukes will attempt to repeat a  historic upset.

 Back in 1991 JMU played havoc with the NCAA tournament, then a 48-team affair, when the Dukes travelled to Penn State in the second round and upset the top-seeded Nittany Lions.

   Though Virginia was perceived to be the real overall number one team, Penn State moved back into first place in the final Associated Press poll courtesy of a Cavaliers loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

   The Nittany Lions moved to the top of the poll for the first time ever earlier in the season with a buzzer-beater win at Virginia.

   They had a bye in the first round and with the Regional Finals being held at The Palestra, basketball people eagerly looked to potential large crowds because of the following the women's team in Happy Valley has always had in the City of Brotherly Love.

  But when the Dukes prevailed it became the first time an unanked team beat a No. 1 team. Georgia later pulled the trick against Tennessee in the SEC tournament and on a terribly snowing night in New Jersey, Rutgers brought down Tennessee a few seasons later making it the first time an unranked team beat a No. 1 prior to tournament play.

Thus if JMU gets a chance to play UConn and somehow wins, it won't be the first time the Dukes were notorious.

   But in a way, the Huskies were a benefit of that upset.

    On UConn's side of the bracket, Toledo got past host Rutgers before the Huskies survived the Rockets in the next round when a shot at the buzzer was waived off. Iowa State's Billy Fennelly coached that Toledo team.

    The win over Toledo suddenly made UConn the local heartthrob in Philadelphia because of the Big East affilation and coach Geno Auriemma's ties to the city.

    With Penn State removed, the path got a little lighter as the Huskies beat N.C. State and Clemson to advance to their first Final Four.

      The trip to New Orleans impressed a recruit back home watching all this on television in Massachusetts.

        The deal for Rebecca Lobo was sealed and after a brief retooling period, UConn capped Lobo's senior season with its first unbeaten run in 1995.

       So if by chance JMU were to still be around next week, former coach Sheila Moorman who is still at the school, can smile and say, "Been there. Done that!"

       -- Mel


Inquirer Sports Columnist
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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 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

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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