- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Gee, remember when the State Farm Tip-Off Classic really was the showcased start of the season? These past few days, however, were loaded with games.
The WNIT progressed. There were "Classics" right and left. Candace Parker dunked again. Seventeen ranked teams played on Sunday alone.
We already had some absurdities: a 33-0 run and a 25-point team total, both courtesy of LSU's dismantling of West Virginia. National champion Maryland already has played twice, a four-point victory at Middle Tennessee that drew 10,010 fans and a rout over George Mason at home before which the Terps hung their title banner.
Meanwhile, the Tip-Off Classic, which dates back to 1993, took place in Norman, Okla., with expected results: Georgia vs. Rutgers was close, Oklahoma vs. DePaul wasn't.
Georgia had just seven players for the game, but as it turned out, Andy Landers' crew didn't need more than that. Everyone got an introduction to Ashley Houts, a 5-foot-6 freshman from Trenton, Ga., who stepped right into the point-guard role.
She led Georgia with 18 points and seven assists. Janese Hardrick also had 18 points, and fellow senior guard Cori Chambers had 11. Georgia got all this guard production despite having lost two outstanding guards to graduation: Sherill Baker and Alexis Kendrick.
Post players Rebecca Rowsey and Angel Robinson, who both missed last season with knee injuries, combined for 16 points and eight rebounds. As they begin to round into form and Tasha Humphrey returns from a suspension, Georgia is going to look pretty dang good.
The 78-69 victory over Rutgers is nothing to sniff at, even if the Scarlet Knights are also not at full strength because of injuries and graduation losses. Rutgers was led by Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn with 16 points each. And the heralded freshmen made their mark, too, led by Epiphanny Prince with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Add injured Matee Ajavon back in this lineup and Rutgers is in very good shape.
It's hard to judge much about DePaul because the Blue Demons were going against a team that should be a national championship contender.
Oklahoma senior guard Chelsi Welch seemed like she'd been chomping at the bit all spring/summer/fall to get the memory of the Sooners' loss to Stanford last March out of her system. She had 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, plus six rebounds.
The Paris Juggernaut of twins Courtney and Ashley combined for 39 points (16-of-21 from the field) and 16 rebounds. But the statistic that Courtney, who got her 34th double-double, was probably most pleased with was zero. She didn't have any turnovers, and cutting down on those is a primary goal this season for her.
Some other notables from the weekend:
• Besides the games, there was other news out of Norman this weekend: the announcement of the inductees into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame next year.
They are Landers, former Tennessee players Bridgette Gordon and Daedra Charles-Furlow, Louisiana Tech's Pam (Kelly) Flowers, Texas' Andrea Lloyd Curry and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mel Greenberg. (By the way, last year's class also had a Georgia-Louisiana Tech-Texas flavor, as Katrina McClain Johnson, Janice Lawrence Braxton and Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil were all inducted.)
Landers took over the Georgia program in 1979, when he was just 26, and has led it to the Final Four five times. He has never had a losing season. Georgia has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice since it began in 1982, and even both of those years, Landers' records were 19-11 (1992) and 17-11 (1994).
And, of course, this is in the SEC where you don't have to slip very far to suddenly find yourself overtaken.
Flowers was an anchor on the great Louisiana Tech squads of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was on the all-tournament team for the first NCAA Final Four, in 1982, and also won the Wade Trophy that year.
Gordon was the catalyst for Tennessee's first and second NCAA titles, in 1987 and 1989. Charles was also on that '89 team and played a key role in getting the school's third title, in 1991. But her story is noteworthy not just because of her basketball success. She was what used to be called a "Prop 48 casualty," meaning she had to sit out her freshman season because of academics, as per the tenets of the NCAA's controversial Proposition 48. So she played just three seasons at Tennessee. However, she earned her degree in four years.
Lloyd Curry was part of Texas' undefeated national championship team in 1986, and she and Gordon were both on the 1988 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team.
• As for my pal Mel, you probably know he created the first national women's basketball poll in 1976, back when it could take hours just to try to track down results of games. I'm still not sure how on earth he did it.
The first time I put together preview capsules for all 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament was almost two decades later, in 1995. Then, we were right before the Internet explosion. The so-called "quick" way to get info on teams was through something called "fax-back."
You had to punch in a series of number sequences of about eight digits each on your fax machine -- the general call-in number, then the conference number, then the team number, then the sport number, then the specific information number (for stats, roster, schedule, etc). And you hoped you not only punched them in right, but that somebody at the school had updated all the information. It was not uncommon to get stats from December when you were requesting them in February.
At any rate, the Saturday before selection Sunday, I was still tracking down info and expanded the operation to every fax machine at my newspaper in Virginia. That was seven fax machines on two different floors. A lovely way to see the sunrise.
It was "punch-punch-punch-punch," run to next machine, "punch-punch-punch," run to next machine etc. Then you'd be back at the machine where you started at about the time it was spitting out something -- "Oh, crap, how did I get Big Ten swimming results?" -- and, of course, it's not as if fax machines don't jam every 8½ minutes. (When it was all said and done Sunday afternoon, I think about three were still operational.)
Well, Mel didn't even have that nutty fax-back to work with when he began the rankings. It was phone calls, mailings and gathering information in person. And you can be sure he heard plenty of barbs and cheap shots from some of his colleagues, such as, "Why are you wasting your time on a stupid women's poll?"
Mel didn't do it because he was angling to get in a hall of fame 30 years later. But, as with all of the 2007 inductees, it's a very well-deserved honor.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.