(Guru note: At the middle-of-the-night hour this post is being written there was no one around to confirm some of the A-10 standings information and the Guru proceeded with the discussion based on traditions of the past. Any errors will be updated Thursday or – if someone says, Good Guess, the Guru will confirm that.)
By Mel Greenberg
Saint Joseph’s moved into position to clinch a bye for the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament with an easy 87-50 win over Massachusetts in the farewell game – but not really – for the Hawks seniors at home Wednesday night.
Temple, meanwhile, lost at conference newcomer Butler 59-55 in famed Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, while La Salle’s rally at home fell short in a 54-46 loss to Duquesne and both PhilahoopsW teams in the Atlantic 10 are now in a messy situation in terms of getting into the conference tournament.
The reason it was not really a farewell for the Saint Joseph’s seniors is the Hawks (20-7, 11-2 A-10) will host the first three rounds of the A-10 tourney at Hagan Arena beginning next Friday with Sunday’s survivors of the semifinals heading to Brooklyn, N.Y., the following weekend to play for the title in the middle of the men’s tourney semifinals that Saturday at the new Barclays Arena.
The departing seniors on Hawk Hill are Chatilla van Grinsven, Mireia Vila, Ashley Prim and Shelby Smith.
Van Grinsven continued her stellar player this season for Saint Joseph’s with 21 points and 12 rebounds for her 14th double double. Ilze Gotfrida scored 13 points and Shelby Smith scored 11 over UMass. (3-25, 1-12).
The Hawks, who have won 20 or more games for three straight years, finish up the regular season at conference frontrunner Dayton (24-1, 12-0), the 12th-ranked team in the country, Sunday in a game that will be televised at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.
In terms of the standings, the Hawks right now are tied with Fordham (21-7, 11-2) for third but would be the fourth seed off of last weekend’s overtime loss at Fordham. They could also be tied for fourth with Duquesne (21-6, 10-3), but off an overtime win against the Dukes in Pittsburgh earlier this month, they still would be fourth.
There is the possibility there could be a three-way tie for third and at the moment, the Guru needs to tiebreak from the league for that scenario.
Meanwhile, being fourth is not totally desirable, especially with Saint Joseph’s considered on the NCAA bubble, because it would mean if the seeds advance coach Cindy Griffin’s squad would have to face the Flyers in the semifinals.
However, if Saint Joseph’s were to pull a major upset Sunday while Fordham were to lose at Temple, then the Hawks could slide into a three seed.
And if that happens, unless Saint Joseph’s fell in the quarterfinals of the conference tourney, they could be considered a lock for an NCAA berth, even if Dayton repeats as the A-10 champion with the automatic bid.
The Flyers upset then-conference-unbeaten Saint Bonaventure in the title game.
The Bonnies (9-19, 2-11), however, won’t be around this time after a 62-50 loss at Fordham in the Bronx, Wednesday night, eliminated them from the conference tourney since only 12 of the 16 teams qualify.
That was true in previous seasons before the additions last summer of Butler from the Horizon Conference and Virginia Commonwealth from the Colonial Athletic Association.
Fordham, having its best season in a long time, needs to beat Temple Sunday for a bye because if the Rams tie with Duquesne, the Dukes get fourth off their win over the Rams. Of course, they could also be part of that potential three-way deadlock.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island (6-22, 1-12) have also been eliminated but La Salle (8-20, 4-9), Virginia Commonwealth (10-17, 3-9) and Temple (12-16, 5-8) are in a three-way fight for the final two spots.
The Explorers travel to Saint Bonaventure Sunday.
La Salle Rally Falls Short
In the game with Duquesne, La Salle sliced 29-15 halftime deficit to 52-46 but that was as close as the Explorers could get as the Dukes went on to tie a school record for most conference wins since becoming a member in 1983-84.
Duquesne is coached by former Penn State star Suzie McConnell-Serio, an Olympic gold medalist who also became a WNBA all-star and coach in the pro league after also being a successful high school coach in her native Pittsburgh.
La Salle got 13 points from Jordan Mosley, while Ebonee Jones scored 11, and Shanel Harrison had 10 points and 15 rebounds in her farewell appearance in the Tom Gola Arena.
Vanessa Abel had 12 points for Duquesne, which shot 30 percent from the field but managed to survive and stay in the hunt for a bye.
Butler Does It to Temple
This was not the way Temple thought it would be saying adios to its A-10 rivals before heading off to whatever configuration the Big East will be next season.
Saddled with a youthful roster, coach Tonya Cardoza has had her biggest challenge since succeeding Dawn Staley in the spring of 2008.
An 8-0 run late in the game by Butler (17-11, 8-5) enabled the conference newcomer to win and lock up the sixth seed for the tournament where the Bulldogs could meet the Owls in the opening round if Temple makes its way into the field.
It’s been a long time since Temple has had to play the first day, though the Owls could be in position to not play at all.
But hold that thought for the stats.
Wasted was a 21-point, 13-rebound performance by Victoria Macaulay, the lone Temple senior who also blocked five shots and who will be honored Sunday when the Owls host Fordham in McGonigle Hall.
The Owls also had a 51-35 rebounding advantage. Natasha Thames grabbed 10 rebounds for Temple, while Rateska Brown scored 12 points off the bench.
Taylor Schippers scored 19 points for Butler.
Temple cannot afford to finish in a three-way tie with La Salle and VCU because the Owls lost to both teams.
Look for a lot of cheering for Charlotte Thursday night from the Temple sector because if the 49ers beat VCU, Temple will back into a slot, no matter what happens Sunday in the Fordham game.
Material from team reports was used to compile this report.