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, September 25, 2016
Friday, September 09, 2016
Sheryl Swoopes' John Hancock On a WNBA Contract Opened a New Nation for Pro Women's Basketball
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
WNBA Report: Another Minnesota-Los Angeles Showdown Just Ahead But Certainly Not The Last
“It’s a clash of the titans,” the Lynx guard and three-time United States gold medalist said during last week’s WNBA conference call previewing the matchup that tips at 10 p.m. on ESPN2. “Both teams understand what we’re trying to do and where we want to go.”
To accomplish that, they’ll have to get through each other.
Both the Lynx and Sparks enter the eagerly anticipated confrontation with sterling 24-5 records. The Sparks-Lynx contest is also the second-best combined winning percentage (.828) in league history for two teams having played at least 29 games each, falling just short of a 2014 game between the 25-4 Mercury and 24-6 Lynx (.831 winning percentage).
The Lynx have been a consistent rock of excellence as evidenced by the three championships in the last five years.
Minnesota has equaled its best 29-game start in franchise history (also 2012) and is now one victory shy of recording its fifth 25-win campaign in the last six years. As far as regular season games go, this is one of the biggest in the WNBA’s 20-year history, rivaling the old Hoston Comets-Sparks wars during the league's early era.
The Lynx and Sparks split a pair of meetings in mid-June with each winning on the road. The Lynx won 72-69 on Renee Montgomery’s late three-point shot in a game in which each team entered undefeated. Three days later, the Sparks got even with a decisive 94-76 victory.
The winner of this final regular season contest between each other will win the season series and own the tiebreaker for homecourt advantage should each squad finish with the same record.
By the way, unlike previous years, this could also be a sneak peek of the WNBA Finals thanks to the league’s new playoff format, in which the top eight teams, regardless of conference qualify for the postseason and get seeded accordingly at the outset.
The Sparks, Lynx and New York Liberty have clinched playoff spots. The Lynx and Sparks are close to securing a double-bye into the semifinals.
“We’re always hunting the No.1 seed and we have never settled for No. 2,” Augustus said. “Now we have an opportunity to be in the position we expected once the season started.
"We want home court throughout the playoffs because we understand how big that is. That’s what we’re focused on because if we get the No. 1 seed, we know the Target Center will be rocking," she continued.
"We enjoy playing at home. The atmosphere the fans created (during last year’s decisive fifth game of the WNBA Finals) willed us to victory when we were all exhausted.”
The Lynx and Sparks have mirrored each other all season.
It’s only fitting that they find themselves tied with the best record in the league.
Fueled by MVP candidates Nneka Oguwmike (Sparks) and Maya Moore (Lynx), each team sprinted to league record 13-0 starts, handed each other their first loss of the season and earned wins No. 23 last Friday & No. 24 Sunday.
Minnesota is currently tied for the league lead with an average of 85.7 points per game while Los Angeles is fourth with an 84.3-point per game average. The Sparks feature the WNBA’s top scoring defense, grudgingly yielding 75.5 points per game this season. The Lynx rank second in that category, allowing 76.1 points per game.
After an amazing 20-1 start to the season, the Sparks wobbled before and after the Olympic break with losses in four of five games. However, with three consecutive victories, it looks like they have found their groove.
Second in the WNBA with 14 double-doubles, Oguwmike has been a beast this season, connecting at an insane 69.6 percent from the field.
Since June 7 against New York, Ogwumike has shot 180-for-251 from the field, good for an incredible 71.7% mark.
No player with an average of at least eight shot attempts per game has ever performed that well over a 21-game stretch in league history. She has shot 50.0% or better in 27 of 29 games this season.
While the dynamic duo of Oguwmike and Candace Parker have paced Los Angeles’ offense, Alana Beard has fueled the Sparks’ tenacious defense.
“She’s everything to their defense,” ESPN commentator LaChina Robinson said. “She has a high level of intensity from the jump. I’ve seen teams run their offense away from her. The Lynx had Maya bring the ball up earlier this season because of Alana’s pressure. She gets steals and creates offense from defense.”
Enjoy and get your popcorn ready as these two heavyweights collide in what promises to be a memorable and fun contest. Two teams at the peak of its powers performing with plenty at stake. This is as good as it gets in professional sports.
Monday, August 22, 2016
USA Women's Basketball: An Appreciation of Team Dominance After It Continued in Rio
By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
The recently completed Rio Olympics felt like an extended farewell party to greatness.
While some of the once-in-a-generation and transcendent talents in the universe such as Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps provided lingering memories for the final time on the Olympic stage, the United States Women’s Basketball National Team also left a lasting impression by completing an extended victory lap and winning its sixth consecutive gold medal.
It was also a final salute for the golden triumvirate of Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi, who added their fourth gold medal to their impressive collection after helping Team USA defeat Spain, 101-72, last Saturday. Forming the foundation of one of the greatest teams in history, they are three of five women’s basketball players in history with at least four gold medals.
Watching Team USA’s sensational run to gold during the Olympics was like viewing a great movie that you never wanted to end.
Amid a lightning storm of flashbulbs and beneath the exultation of their latest accomplishment, there was slight sadness in knowing that a team like this will never be assembled again.
It was one of the reasons why head coach Geno Auriemma wept as he left the court and Bird stood off in a distance from her jubilant teammates soaking in the festive atmosphere while reflecting on her amazing 16-year journey with Team USA.
“We just did something that’s pretty incredible,” Bird said. “When you get together as a team and you know you only have a month to do something, it’s remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks. This put us on the map as arguable one of the best teams, and we had fun doing it.
“We saw Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Dawn Staley, Tina Thompson, these are Hall of Fame players, we saw them not care about points, not care about rebounds, not care about any stat and only care about the gold medal. And we learned from that. I think hopefully we’ve done them proud as well, because that’s exactly how we played in each of the Olympics that we’ve been in. We just go out there and try to win.”
That’s why this team was special. Most of the time members of Team USA approached each practice and possession like rookies trying to make a training camp roster, not like the superstars that they are. They tossed aside their egos and focused on the ultimate prize, which was refreshing.
In addition to the dedication, discipline, domination and determination, there was selflessness in heaping doses from the insane 40 assists on 46 baskets in a win over China to two-time WNBA scoring champion Angel McCoughtry taking two charges in the gold medal game and to Catchings relishing her role despite averaging 10.3 minutes per game.
“It’s just special,” Maya Moore said. “It’s one thing to do something unexpected, but it’s another thing to do what you’re expected to do – year after year, game after game, quarter after quarter. And, this team didn’t get complacent.
"I think that’s a sign of a true champion, someone who loves the game and plays for the right reasons. Every quarter that we stepped on the court, we respected the game, we respected each other and we did everything we needed to do to deserve this gold.”
The uninformed would say that Team USA had no competition because it topped 100 points six times and enjoyed a ridiculous 37.2-point margin of victory while extending its Olympic winning streak to 49 games. Overall, Team USA women has won eight gold medals and 66 of 69 games all-time in Olympic competition. While such thinking is disrespectful, it’s also short-sighted and wrong.
The women’s basketball tournament featured a record 26 current WNBA players, surpassing the previous record of 22 in 2000. That meant there were 14 WNBA current players on other rosters not including former WNBAers Leilani Mitchell and Elizabeth Cambage of Australia, which was upset in the quarterfinals. Team USA wasn’t beating up on scrubs.
“With this tournament, if you watch all the games, how many overtime games, how many close games, the fact that Australia is the number two team in the world and they got knocked out,” Auriemma said. “France played in the gold medal game in 2012 and they lost to Serbia. So a lot of good stuff is happening. If you just took us out of the tournament, this would be an amazing tournament but unfortunately we’re not going anywhere.”
It would be unfair to the other women’s teams, namely the 1996 squad, to rate this one as the best of all-time as each was unique. Personally, 1996 is when I fell in love with women’s basketball and that squad will always have a special place in my heart.
I enjoyed watching that squad compete and take out its wrath on the rest of the world. I still have the image of Staley, Teresa Edwards and Ruthie Bolton doing cartwheels across the Georgia Dome floor after beating Brazil.
Katie Smith mentioned earlier on Dishin’ & Swishin’s amazing and popular podcasts that their teams in 2000 and 2004 were better defensively.
The comparisons are for others.
This squad stands alone for how the veterans and rookies coalesced during this rampage through Rio. One of those rookies, Elena Delle Donne, had some shining moments despite missing a game because she was poked in the eye during pre-game warmups. Some would argue that was the only duress this team faced.
“That’s something I learned being a part of this, because it does look easy from afar,” Delle Donne said. “That’s kind of what I always thought watching it from afar, but being a part of it, it’s tough. It’s really tough. It’s demanding, and you have to be at your greatest self every single day for this team. Like I said, it’s been really hard. It’s not easy at all.”
Japan made Team USA work hard in the quarterfinals as did France in the semifinals. Spain was competitive as well.
Japan had the audacity to score the first four points of the second half and slice Team USA’s lead to 56-50. As great teams do, Team USA turned up the heat and sprinted to finish with a mesmerizing and breathtaking burst that resulted in a 110-64 victory.
“It wasn’t as easy as sometimes it looked,” Auriemma said. "These last two games especially with France and today against Spain. These are very good teams that we’re playing, and you could see that it wasn’t just a cake walk, that it was a struggle.
"Then finally, because of our depth and because of the experience on our team, we were able to separate ourselves. But the way we played, we respected our opponents and we respected the game itself, we earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I’m really proud of that.”
As the tournament progressed, more people seemed to gain an appreciation for how special this team was. They had fun, enjoyed one another and savored every moment. That’s why this farewell seemed sadder than most because America will never be blessed with a team like this ever again.
Although the future is bright with great young talent, which should keep the good times rolling, it will be different though.
Moore, Tina Charles and McCoughtry will still be in their prime in 2020 in Tokyo while Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart and Brittney Griner will be more experienced. They will form the core of the next Team USA team tasked with winning a seventh consecutive gold medal to match the men’s basketball team’s standard of excellence from 1936-1968.
Maybe the Minnesota Lynx trio of Seimone Augustus Lindsey Whalen and Sylvia Fowles will play in 2020. One thing we know is we won’t see Catchings again and most likely Taurasi and Bird too.
“Not many people have an opportunity to play in the Olympics, one, let alone two, three and four,” Catchings said. “To be among that group, select individuals that have represented the game so well on and off the court, and to be one of those, I’m blessed for all the opportunities I’ve had and all the lives that I’ve been able to impact by using the platform of basketball. And, all the places I’ve gone. I was thinking about that and am just thankful for the opportunity.”
Friday, August 19, 2016
Guru Musings: Bridgeport Without UConn in an NCAA Regional?
Sunday, August 07, 2016
AP Women's Poll History Summer Update: Active Coaches' Appearance List Staff Change Adjustments
Friday, August 05, 2016
Philly Women's Summer League: A Golden Finish for Team Gold Topping Maroon Ahead of the Olympics
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
And Bob Heller
HORSHAM, Pa. -- After a one-year absence from finishing at the top, Gold is golden once more in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Certified Women's Summer League.
Coach Keith Woods' second-seeded team snapped a two-game losing streak to top-seeded Maroon, Gold took an early and went on to a 48-34 victory over the squad, alson known as Division II USciences in the winter, Thursday night at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades.
Gold was able to win on a night that hot-scoring Alex Smith was unable to attend and Saint Joseph's junior Adaisha Franklyn was held under control, though she was still able to be the leading team scorer with 11 points in front of a shared effort.
By seed, the Gold win may read as an upset but in terms of roster talent with several Division I standouts, the new and former league champs were favored each of the past several games in their meetings.
It should be noted that there are changes in color and team rosters in many parts of the overall league makeup -- 13 squads the last several seasons and 12 this summer -- but under NCAA rules Division II and Division III men's and women's programs are allowed to play intact. Gold has also been able to produce a solid frontrunning contender the last several summers.
However, a year ago, Maroon, which has grown in stature during the regular collegiate season, upset Gold in the semifinals and nine days ago on the final night of the regular season Maroon pulled a 44-43 upset to finish in a first-place tie with Gold at 9-2 and take the top seed.
In 2014 Gold won the local league title led by then-Saint Joseph's incoming senior Natasha Cloud, the Cardinal O'Hara grad who went on the following spring to become a second-round pick of the WNBA Washington Mystics. She has since earned distinction as one of the bright young talents developing in the women's pro league.
Finally being on a title team after being in the league several seasons was a sweet honor Thursday night for 2012 La Salle grad Michele McCaughern.
"She was my Kevin Love this summer," said Woods, who added McCaughern in the annual draft in May. She scored 10 points in the title game against Maroon.
Woods' comparison was to the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers veteran power forward who has been linked in recent days to trade rumors that would see him land on the 76ers.
As for how the game here went Thursday night, McCaughern's steady play helped offset the off-night of Franklyn caused by a tenacious defense from Maroon.
A former La Salle captain who played four years for the Explorers, McCaughern was one of three Gold players in double figures besides Franklyn (Bayard Rustin HS) and Nia Holland (10 points), the Shipley School graduate who is a sophomore at Lafayette under Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Theresa Grentz.
Sophomore Alyx McKiernan (Immaculate Heart Academy) led the Maroon squad with eight points, which included two three point fields goals while freshman Maddie Ritsick (Crestwood HS) added six points on two three-point field goals.
The normally offensive-minded Team Gold turned in a strong defensive game on this night, causing many forced shots and misses from Team Maroon, holding them to their lowest offensive output of the season. Coincidentally, the point totals by Gold and Maroon in the two times they faced each other in 2016 were each team’s two lowest offensive productions totals of the season.
McCaughern keyed a 10-0 run by Gold at the end of the first quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a seven point lead by quarter’s end, scoring both the first and last baskets of the run.
In the second quarter, junior Molly Greenberg’s (St. Basil Academy) layup brought Maroon back within four at 17-13.
Gold then ran off seven points in the final five minutes to close out the half with a 24-13 lead. Gold’s run also included a 2:31 stretch where neither team put any points on the board. The two teams combined for just five total field goals in the second quarter.
The two teams exchanged baskets for much of the third quarter as the lead oscillated between nine and 11 points over the first seven minutes of the period.
McCaughern’s baseline jumper with 3:00 left followed by a fast break layup from Mia Hopkins 28 seconds later pushed the Gold lead to 14 at 35-21.
Layups from Greenberg and junior Laura Trisch (Archbishop Wood HS) in the final two minutes cut the deficit back to where it was at the start of the period, 11 points, 37-26.
McKiernan’s triple to open the fourth quarter would trim the Gold lead to eight, 37-29 but a 7-0 run keyed by two Franklyn layups gave Gold a 15-point lead at 44-29.
McKiernan added another trey at the 4:16 mark to make the score 44-32 but it would be Maroon’s final points until the last 15 seconds.
Gold connected on 4-8 free throws in the final 2:34 to seal the win.USciences junior Colleen Walsh (The Shipley School) added a layup with 14.7 seconds left to make the final score 48-34.
Champion Gold Roster
1-Shira Newman (5-7), Millersville '13, Upper Dublin
2-Jazmin Horne (5-7), Saint Joseph's '17, Franklin
3-Tuga Goff (5-4), Rosemont, Upper Dublin
13-Danielle Derr (5-10), Bloomsburg '13, Upper Dublin
14-Ashley Wood (5-7), Kutztown '13, Spring-Ford
15-Nia Holland (5-7), Lafayette '19, Shipley School
22-Alex Smith (5-7), Holy Cross '14, Peddie School
23-Monica Newman (5-5), Millersville '10, Upper Dublin
33-Adaisha Franklyn (6-1), Saint Joseph's '18, Bayard Rustin
34-Mia Hopkins (5-9), Bloomsburg '17, Pittston Area High School
40-Michele McCaughern (5-11), La Salle '12
Coach: Keith Woods
Final Regular Season Standings