Saturday, May 8, 2010

Digest 04-2010

* Mean Brigitte
* Erika de Souza (and others) Not Returning to Ros Casares
* Joe Maloof's Bizarre Plea
* The Future of NCAA Women's Basketball: Austin Murphy and Conference Realignment
* This Week's Games (That Weren't in the USA)

One of the arrivals in Atlanta training camp for 2010 is Georgia Tech graduate Brigitte Ardossi. Ardossi was the second round draft pick for the Atlanta Dream this year out of Georgia Tech university. For those who have never heard of Ardossi, Ardossi is a power forward who was forced to step up in a big way for Georgia Tech basketball this year when scorer Alex Montgomery - a junior in 2009-10 - was sidelined for much of the season recovering from an ACL injury. There were many games for the Yellow Jackets where Ardossi more or less carried the team on her back, scoring many of her points off of her own offensive rebounds.

Ardossi is a native Australian as well. She was written up in the Australian newspaper The Age.

From the link above:

''Six-foot-one, probably the quickest player out on the court and had a mean, very competitive streak in her,'' [Coach Adrian Giblin] said. ''It made her a bit of a handful to coach, but also made her a delight to coach because you knew she wanted the ball and wanted to win. That's a head start from anyone.''

Another interesting kernel of information was her background in netball:

Ardossi, at that stage, was also committed to netball. Although she eventually opted to give up on pursuing the sport in favour of basketball, Giblin said the skills she learnt from that code made her a much more damaging player.

'Her netball background gave her a bit of a leg-up because she was so agile and she moved brilliantly laterally, so she could go side-to-side as well as going forwards and backwards,'' [Giblin] said.

Interestingly enough, Ardossi is not the only potential Dreamer with a netball background. According to Mechelle Voepel, Sancho Lyttle also had a netball background and was on a national netball team with Sophia Young at one time.

The article implied that Australian basketball is keeping its eye on Ardossi. It's hard to say if Ardossi can make the dream, but the WNBL - the Women's National Basketball League, the premiere league in Australia - might be interested in having Ardossi on a team. There's also an outside chance that Ardossi could make the "Opals" - the Australian women's national basketball team.

Followers of women's basketball might be seeing Brigitte Ardossi for a long time...if not in the WNBA, then elsewhere.

(* * *)

For at least the last couple of years, Dream player Erika de Souza has been playing with the Ros Casares club in Spain. No longer. Erika de Souza will not be appearing in blue-and-orange next season. Neither will Amaya Valdemoro, Elisa Aguliar, Anna Montañana or Delisha Milton-Jones. After a Liga Femenina championshp and after making it to the finals of Euroleague, it looks like Ros Casares will be virtually disbanded. In addition, coach Isma Canto will be departing.

Currently, no definite information as to where de Souza will end up next year. The most likely destination is that of Perfumerias, the second-place finisher in the Liga Femenina and Ros Casares's opponent in the Liga Femenina Finals. This would put Erika de Souza on the same team with her Atlanta Dream teammate Sancho Lyttle.

(* * *)

An article by Ailene Voisin for the Sacramento Bee reports that Joe Maloof, the owner of the former Sacramento Monarchs, would like to bring the Monarchs back to Sacramento.

Maloof plans to beg WNBA President Donna Orender and plead with NBA Commissioner David Stern to reinstate the original WNBA franchise that captured the 2005 championship and routinely ranked near the middle in attendance.

"Just give us a few years," the Kings co-owner insisted. "Timing is everything."

For those of you new to women's basketball fandom, the Monarchs were one of the eight original WNBA franchises. On November 20, 2009, the Maloof brothers - owners of the Monarchs - folded the team. According to Mechelle Voepel at ESPN, even the employees of the team weren't informed - employees, season-ticket holders and the press all found out the same way, by press release. The idea was that with the Monarchs folded, the Maloofs would devote all of their energy to the Sacramento Kings - the NBA franchise in Sacramento.

How much advance notice the WNBA was given is still a state secret. In practical terms, it left the WNBA to scramble to find new ownership mere weeks before teams needed to know the upcoming season schedule and before the positions for the 2010 WNBA Draft were determined. Add the facts that the American economy was in recession and that it's very hard to wheel and deal during Thanksgiving and prospects for the Monarchs relocation or resale looked bleak. On December 8, 2009, the WNBA gave up the effort and on December 14, 2009 the former Monarchs were dispersed across the league.

Some WNBA writers, like Mike DiMauro, were glad that the Maloofs were gone:

It's great news, just not for the people of Sacramento, who will miss their team.

But for the future of the league? This is beautiful. Because the WNBA just rid itself of a fraudulent ownership group.

The WNBA did not - and does not - need owners who feign interest in their franchises. It's still a problem. Some owners supported shrinking roster sizes from 13 to 11 last season, a move that crippled teams beset with injuries.


Let's be clear on this: Owners who spend more time cutting jobs than finding new and creative revenue streams (as some franchises did last summer) should get rid of their franchises forthwith. No, really. Get out. It's OK. Clearly, you tolerate your teams at best. So dump them. And then don't let the doorknob leave a lasting impression.

So given the difficulties that the Maloofs caused the league, why would this ever come up as an issue again. As the song says, "How can we miss you if you won't go away?"

My first question is: was this an unprompted comment? Was Voisin's discussion with Maloof specifically about the Monarchs? Or was it about several topics, with the Monarchs being one topic of many? The article failed to make that clear, and context would help us a lot. Furthermore, did Joe Maloof contact Voisin or vice-versa? All of the context for this missing.

Context is important. If the conversation was about the Monarchs specifically, or if Joe Maloof initiated the conversation, it might indicate that Maloof really is interested in bringing the Monarchs back. But if Voisin posed the question, it could be that Maloof - to put it nicely - is feeding Voisin a massive line of horsepuckey. Maloof's thoughts might have been, "Hey, if I say something nice about the Monarchs I might be able to get a couple of ex-Monarchs fans to see Kings games."

The latter will probably never happen. WNBA fans and NBA fans tend not to overlap. The old Monarchs season-ticket holders would not want to be offered the Kings as a consolation prize, particularly if the unspoken message is "Ex-Monarchs fans, come and see the important Sacramento basketball team!" The impression left by the Maloofs when the Monarchs were dumped was that Monarchs fans were an afterthought to the Maloofs; it would take great effort by the Maloofs or Kings management to turn back the memories of that snub.

Let's assume that we're taking Joe Maloof's comments at face value - a dangerous proposition. Does the WNBA really want Joe Maloof back? It's not about the Monarchs being back; the W would be just as happy with some other owner with big pockets putting a team in Sacramento. Rather, it's about the Monarchs being back with Joe Maloof as the head.

Rick Horrow wrote in 2005 for CBS about the difficulties in starting a league. (Oddly enough, the Monarchs won their WNBA championship in 2005). One of the four factors that Horrow listed for a successful league was "The start-up league must attract a stable of emotionally and economically secure owners and investors committed for the long term."

Note the emphasis on emotional maturity. The WNBA doesn't need owners that will bail out at the first sign of trouble. No league does. At Pleasant Dreams I wrote the following in 2009:

For the WNBA, I think the more important question is that of the "emotionally secure" investors. How long have the owners of WNBA teams had their fortunes? How experienced are they as business managers? How likely are they to bail out at the first sign of trouble? I have my doubts about some of the WNBA owners - without naming names, I wonder if some of them really have the nerve - there's no nicer way to say it - to navigate the rough patches.

I wrote this in September 2009. Two months later, the Maloofs blinked in the face of the recession and the troubles with the Kings. They bailed. They didn't show emotional maturity, at least not on the WNBA side of the ledger. If Joe Maloof is being serious, the proper answer to the Maloofs by the WNBA , by the NBA and by Donna Orender or David Stern should be a collective " can't be serious."

(* * *)

The May 3rd edition of Sports Illustrated had an interesting article from Austin Murphy regarding the realignment of the major conferences. The article focused on the changes in the college football landscape, as the money making (*) sport in college sports is college football and it is the sport that gets the most attention.

Over the past twenty years, conferences changing their membership lists should be no surprise. Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1990, expanding the conference to 11 teams (and giving the conference a rather inaccurate name). In 1991, Arkansas and South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference. Two years later, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor abandoned the Southwest conference to join the (former) Big Eight, spelling the beginning of the end of the Southwest Conference. The Atlantic Coast Conference picked up Florida State in 1991 and then raided the Big East in 1994, spiriting away Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College out of the Big East.

Currently, college sports is ruled by the six BCS (Bowl Championship Series) conferences: the ACC, the Big East, the Big Ten, the Big Twelve, the Southeastern Conference and the Pacific (Pac 10). However, if one read the above paragraph, you'd recognize that conference alignments are never fixed. The SI article gets underway with a mention of Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, who mentioned that the "timing is right" for an expansion in twelve to eighteen months.

One rule in collegiate sports is that if football drives conference realignment, the other sports will have to follow. This includes our favorite sport, women's basketball. The article mentions three possible expansion scenarios, each with increasing impact on the sport scene.

Big Ten Plus One: The first scenario has Missouri becoming the twelfth team of the Big Ten. Sensing weakness in the Big Twelve - and wanting to increase the allure of their own national sports network - the Pacific Ten grabs Colorado from the Big Twelve and Utah from the Mountain West conference. The Big Twelve replenishes itself with the addition of Brigham Young and Texas Christian from the Mountain West. (This leaves the Mountain West as a six-team conference.)

Using the ratings from, how does each conference change in strength?

The addition of Missori to Big Ten women's basketball won't have Ohio State or Michigan State trembling in terror. Missouri would come into the Big Ten as the weakest team, probably replacing Northwestern (at least for a little while). The addition of Colorado and Utah will not affect the balance of power in the (hypothetical) Pac-12.

The teams added don't significantly affect this new version of the Big 12. Furthermore, the Big 12 actually gets stronger by swapping out some of its weaker members. The relative strength of each conference to each other doesn't change. But who is the real loser in this rearrangement of colleges? Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs women's basketball team finished as the Mountain West's regular season champion - they were eliminated in the quarter finals of the Mountain West tournament but went on to the NCAA Tournament where they were eliminated by Dayton.

But in a reconstituted Big 12, TCU wouldn't even be in the top half of participating teams. TCU would probably be buried under a mountain of Texas A&Ms and Oklahomas and Baylors and Texases and Iowa States. They'd have to play an extra game in the Big 12 tournament and would probably slip out of national notice - the NCAA would have to send seven or eight teams to the tournament from the Big East to get TCU in with the way things stand now. TCU might love the football money they get, but women's basketball would be a tradeoff - it might be easier for TCU to recruit but performance might suffer.

Big Ten Plus Three: The Big Ten decides to become a fourteen-team conference. The three teams that get added...Missouri...and Rutgers and Nebraska. Mama, hold the phone! The Big 14 want Rutgers for the New York connection, and New York has always been a hotbed of women's basketball talent. The Pac-10 add Colorado and Utah as indicated above. The Big Twelve drops to the Big Nine. The Big Nine could pick up TCU and Brigham Young as in the other scenario, but that would leave the last team to be either San Diego State, New Mexico, Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State or Air Force - which would probably kill the Mountain West conference dead and leave the Colonial Athletic as the most powerful of the mid-majors.

So how does the Big 14 shape up? Rutgers gets itself out of the tough Big East conference and if Nebraska's amazing 2009-10 is The Shape of Things to Come, then the Big Ten's landscape is changed and Jim Foster and Suzy Merchant have some competition. (And C. Vivian Stringer might get Iowa as a regular conference opponent.) The Big East loses a tiny bit of its luster, but could probably find a replacement somewhere for Rutgers. The Big Nine would be a very strong basketball conference - the Big Twelve Minus Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri would still be very, very strong. There's no real loser here, except for maybe San Diego State, a strong Mountain West team now playing in a weaker conference.

Big Ten Plus Five: According to Murphy's hypothesis, in order for the Big Ten to pick up Notre Dame as a football member, they have to wreck the Fighting Irish's Big East membership. So they do. Missouri, Nebraska, and Rutgers all come to the future Big Sixteen. The Big Sixteen grabs Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, sensing the momentum shift, leaves the Big East to join the Big Sixteen.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, having a history of successful Big East raiding, senses blood in the water. They extend the Atlantic Coast to the Mideast by picking up Cincinnati, Louisville, Syracuse and West Virginia out of the Big East - and the ACC becomes the next sixteen team conference. The Big East is reduced to a nine-team conference of schools from the Northeast...and South Florida.

The Southeastern Conference wakes up and determines not to be left out of the land-grab. The Pac-10 probably still takes Colorado and Utah, although it isn't mentioned in the article. The Pacific Ten wants Texas, but the Southeastern Conference wins the bidding war. Since Texas is technically southern, the SEC picks up Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. The Big Twelve is reduced to the Big Six and has to pick up spare parts from the Mountain West and the WAC.

This leaves five "superconferences" - The "Big Ten", the Pac-Twelve, the SEC, the ACC and the still-big-but-not-as-big Big East. (What becomes of the former Big Twelve no one knows.) These five superconferences then abandon the NCAA and form their own intercollegiate sports organization.

The Big Sixteen becomes more interesting. Notre Dame is more than a match for the Ohio States and Michigan States, and Notre Dame will be playing Michigan, Purdue and Indiana on a regular basis. As for the ACC, the addition of its four former Big East clubs don't really change the balance of power in the ACC, which will leave Duke and North Carolina breathing a sigh of relief. The Big East teams give the ACC the best of both worlds - they bolster the level of competition but aren't powerful enough on their own to change the ACC landscape.

The biggest winner is the Southeastern Conference. It could be a beast of a conference, with seven or eight of its 16-prospective teams regularly ranked in the Top 25. (Tennessee vs. Oklahoma! Texas vs. Vanderbilt!) The Big East takes a major hit, but in terms of women's basketball remains relatively strong.

The loser in this scenario? Baylor. Baylor would be one of the left-over teams in the (former) Big Twelve and would be left scrambling. Even though Baylor has a strong women's basketball team, they don't have a strong football history and football drives each of these realignments. So who would Baylor be playing? Iowa State and Kansas State? Or do they become the bigwig in some mid-major conference? And would Britney Griner transfer if Baylor stops becoming a "big-time" school?

Okay. Enough of the wishful thinking game. "Pet," you say, "nice try, but this could never happen." True, maybe it won't happen the way that Austin Murphy proposes it will. But I'll bet that something will happen. Conferences will realign to get bigger pieces of the football money stack, and women's basketball and all of the other sports will be dragged along with wherever football decides to go. So if you're a fan of a Big Six team, enjoy those matchups next year with your hated foes...because in a year or two, it might be an entirely different set of teams you'll have to learn to hate.

(*) College football makes a lot of money, but spends it just as quickly - according to many studies, college football does not add to the net profit of a university.

(* * *)

The Turkish League championships are still continuing, and that keeps Yelena Leuchanka off our shores...for now.... This is the section devoted to those Dream players that are still overseas....


LFB2: in the Liga Femenina 2, Burgos is playing a round robin with three other teams to determine which teams have a shot at being advanced to the upper division. The round-robin took place from May 6th through May 8th.

Burgos 70, Eivissa 48. Eivissa was held to 30 points over the final 30 minutes of the game.

EIV: Beachem 13, Lara Ramirez 10, Lopez Marques 9
BUR: Lozana Adan 20, Nascimento 10 (Jorge Portela 7)
Demetress Adams: 9 points, 3-for-6 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 33 minutes played

Navarra 69, Burgos 57. Burgos collapsed in the fourth quarter, scoring only nine points. Navarra was sent to the free throw line 21 times where they hit 20 shots.

BUR: Nascimento 12, Ortega Esarte 8
NAV: Cinite 17, C. Smith 16, Plumier 10
Demetress Adams: 11 points, 5-for-7 shooting, 6 rebounds, 20 minutes played

Ensino 79, Burgos 75. It comes down to the fourth quarter, with Ensino knocking regular-season leader Burgos to a 1-2 standing in the round robin and out of the chances for advancing to the Liga Femenino. Burgos coach Guillermo Fernandez blamed the fact that his team "qualified for the final too early."

ENS: Gomez Iglesias 25, Herrera Arevalo 15, Roddy 13
BUR: Nascimento 18, Lozana Adan 12, Pablos Villarroel 9
Demetress Adams: 10 points, 3-for-3 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 24 minutes played


Galatasaray 67, Mersin 62. Galatsaray moves on to the finals with a 3-0 sweep of Mersin - the first win came from the winning the regular season, and this was the second win of the playoffs. Galatasaray came back from a 38-34 halftime deficit. Ivory Latta helped get Mersin to 59-58, but it wasn't enough. Katie Douglas did not play in the game for Mersin due to a sprained foot.

GAL: Catchings 21, Young 17, Yigit 15
MER: Latta 14, Turner 14, Scott 12, Larkins 10
Yelena Leuchanka: 7 points, 3-for-6 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 24 minutes

Fenerbahce 57, Galatasaray 51. In the best-of-five finals seres, Galatasaray loses the first game on the road to regular season champion Fenerbahce despite being up by 11 early on. Leading 31-25 at halftime, Galatasaray remained ahead until a pair of Nevriye Yilmaz free throws put Fenerbahce up 41-39 at the end of the third quarter.

FEN: Vardarli 13, Hoffman 11, Tuncluer 11 (Taylor 9, Yilmaz 8, Sutton-Brown 5, Powell 0)
GAL: Young 18, Catchings 15, Palazoglu 11 (Douglas 0)
Yelena Leuchanka: 5 points, 2-for-6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 15 minutes played

Fenerbahce 61, Galatasaray 56. Fenerbahce wins Game Two of the best-of-five Turkish championship series and could win the Turkish title on Tuesday with another win. Galatasaray was shut out during the overtime period and Penny Taylor scored all five points of the overtime for Fenerbahce.

FEN: Taylor 19, Tuncluer 10, Yilmaz 9 (Hoffman 8, Sutton-Brown 7, Powell 1)
GAL: Catchings 14, Young 12 (Douglas 6)
Yelena Leuchanka: 8 points, 4-for-5 shooting, 9 rebounds, 3 offensive rebounds, 25 minutes played

No comments: