Friday, June 3, 2022

NEXT SEASON HALEY JONES WILL EMERGE AS THE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR!

Since I'm in the "Preview" blog business, my most significant predictions for next season are that Stanford will once again finish the season as National Champions and Haley Jones will emerge as the National Player of the Year. From day one she'll be the point-forward, running the best offense in the country - making sizzling bounce passes to numerous cutters each game and high-velocity zingers to shooters, hitting them in hands ready to deliver three after three.

I'm well aware that Aliyah Boston of South Carolina has pretty much already been given this award for next season and that she plays on the East Coast under the constant adoration of the eastern sports writers. But I'm predicting that after Stanford's defeat of the Gamecocks in December in Maples - and then again in the Final Four in April of 2023, the women's basketball establishment will be forced to recognize Haley Jones as the best player in America.

Her own offense will be much like her best games of the past three seasons, but next season she'll start out with a dialed-in three-point-shot - swishing over 40%. The magic of her game around the basket will be better then ever, and her pull-up from 15' will be softer quicker and unstoppable. Her free-throws will fall at a rate pushing 90% and she'll average 25 points per game and 10 assists.

But, perhaps the biggest change will be her Lexiesque defense - the result of a conditioning level that will propel her to the number one spot in the WNBA draft next April. Her motor will be turned up several notches on defense resulting in steals and deflections that turn into tons of fast-break points next season. 

Her season-long Steph Curry dribbling drills will result in a lower profile dribbling position, fewer turnovers, and the more rapid ball movement when she dribbles will lead to even quicker one-handed passes off the dribble - using her remarkable hand-eye coordination and peripheral vision.

She'll end the season on the first string of every All American team in the land and again be given The Key to the City by Santa Cruz, CA her home town (and mine.)

Don't delay in putting down your season ticket deposit. This will be a season you'll want to witness in person. Get on the bandwagon!

COME ON STANFORD! LET'S WIN IT ALL - AGAIN!

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

IN DECEMBER WE'LL WELCOME THE GAMECOCKS TO A JAMB-PACKED MAPLES PAVILION AND SHOW THE NATION WHO THE REAL #1 TEAM IS!!

For the 2022/2023 women's basketball season Charlie Creme, in his Way Too Early Top 25, once again anoints the Gamecocks as the number one team in the nation - UConn #2 and Stanford #3.

Charlie - you're going to have to come out west for this showdown.

In December, we'll welcome the Gamecocks to a jamb-packed Maples Pavilion and show Charlie and the rest of the country who the real #1 is. If you'll allow me, I'd like to make some predictions about what I see as the biggest pre-season game of the year.

A front court to beat the Gamecocks:  

Center                      Ashten Prechtel    6'-5"    Senior

Power Forward        Lauren Betts        6'-7"    Freshman       

Small Forward        Cameron Brink    6'-4"    Junior 

The projected front court for the Gamecocks:  

Center                    Aliyah Boston        6'-5"    Senior

Power Forward      Kamilla Cordoso    6'-7"    Junior

Small Forward       Laeticia Amihere    6'-4"    Senior       

Ashten has dealt effectively with Aliyah Boston on defense because she refuses to get shoved back under the basket, but establishes a defensive position away from the basket and is strong enough to hold her ground. She also blocks some of Aliyah's shots, bothers others, and generally makes it tough for their star to score. 

Lauren Betts has had experience in big games playing for the USA U17 team and last summer in Hungary on the U19 team, when she had just finished her junior year of high school. At 17 she was the youngest player in the tournament. In the championship game she guarded the Australian post player who was 20, and Lauren turned out to be a key factor in the USA team winning the gold medal. She'll be able to effectively check Cardoso. 

Between now and our battle with the Gamecocks in mid-December, Cameron Brink is going to become a face-the-basket driver/slasher with a right and left hook at close range, a deadly pull-up mid-range jump shot, and a consistent three-point shot. Her first step will be so looong and so quick that defenders will have no other choice than to foul her - and next season she'll shoot foul shots in the mid-80% range. In other words, Cam is going to become the most dangerous offensive player in Division 1 next season - and she'll realize she has to play defense without fouling to stay on the floor and score.  

Our guards will be two of the best:

Point Guard            Haley Jones          6'-1"    Senior

Shooting Guard      Hannah Jump       6'-0"    Senior

The Gamecock's backcourt:

Point Guard            Zia Cooke            5'-9"    Senior

Shooting Guard      Brea Beal             6'-1"    Senior  

It's going to be a night of fierce back cuts and great passing to open shooters. Hannah, Haley, Ashten, and Cameron will hit a total of thirteen threes. Hannah will get switching help off of screens and hold Cooke to under 20 points. Haley will be at her passing/shooting best. 

Our backup players will be:

Center                Kiki Iriafen                   6'-3"    Sophomore

Power Forward  Fran Belibi                    6'-1"    Senior

Small Forward    Brooke Demetre          6'-3"    Sophomore

Point Guard        Jzaniya Harriel             5'-10"  R/S Freshman

                           Talana Lepolo               5'-6"    Freshman 

Shooting Guard  Agnes Emma-Nnopu    5'-11"  Senior 

                            Elena Bosgana             6'-2"    Sophomore 

                            Indya Nivar                 5'-9"    Freshman

                            Stavi Papadaki            5'-11"   Freshman

It's going to be a titanic battle and a great victory for the Cardinal. 

I can't wait! 

LET'S GO STANFORD!! 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

If you missed the 2022 Women's Basketball Team Banquet last Sunday afternoon, you made a mistake you need to correct next season. It was rare. I've been witness to a number of highly successful human organizations in my life, but this coach, her staff, and her players seem to be quality personified - which was clearly on display Sunday afternoon. 

During my playing years - junior high, high school, college and city league - I played on all kinds of basketball teams, and none of them had anything close to the level of closeness, selflessness, and affection I sensed in this group. These players love each other. Tara speaks of a "sisterhood" and on Sunday you could see it and feel it. 

On most teams there are one or two highly talented players and that usually leads to major stress and division. On this team Haley, Cameron, and Lexie get most of the awards, press, and notoriety, but it doesn't seem to cause any stress or division. Their teammates are their greatest fans. And when Anna, or Lacie, or Hannah, or Ashten or Agnes, or Kiki make a great play, all their "sisters" erupt in heartfelt celebration.

When you say this stuff it sounds natural, like why wouldn't they? Believe me, the depth of their sincerity is very rare.  

In interviews with our players, when asked about so-and-so having a big scoring night, they answer as though so-and-so was truly one of their sisters, "Wasn't she fantastic! When she gets hot, we all set screens for her and feed her the ball!"

Carol and I had the pleasure of sitting next to Cameron and could feel the depth of her sincerity in cheering and supporting all of her teammates. During the afternoon she expressed enthusiasm for the possibility of playing power forward down the road and developing her game facing the basket a la Elena Della Donne (her favorite player.) 

As she spoke, she set my mind racing - thinking of the possibilities of what she could bring to the table over the next two seasons and beyond. The sky is obviously the limit. I can see she's barely scratched the surface of what her game will become by the end of her senior season, in 2024. I can't wait to watch those explosive long first strides to layups above the rim - and all those pull-up jumpshots with her bewildered defender watching helplessly from below.

I'll continue through the off-season previewing the incredible possibilities awaiting us in November and beyond. Basically, we ain't seen nothin yet. Next season is going to be awesome! If you haven't put down the deposit on your season tickets yet - you need to!

GO CARDINAL! LET'S GO GET ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP!! 


     

 

   


    

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

ON FRIDAY NIGHT I THINK WE'RE GOING TO SEE BEST GAME EVER PLAYED BY A STANFORD WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM.

You've probably watched UConn as much as I have and know what our team needs to do on Friday night. Their three starting guards are among the five best backcourts in the nation - and ours are better. Our defense will have to be even more aggressive and stingy than Arizona's was last season, when they beat UConn in the semis in San Antonio.

Their starting "bigs" are not, in my opinion, among the twenty-five best frontcourts in the nation. Ours is one of the very best. We need to out-rebound and out-score the Huskies in the paint - and provide rim-protection all night against their guards' dribble drives (without fouling.)   

Here's how I see the starters for each team:

Stanford Frontcourt                                UConn Frontcourt

Cameron Brink (6'-4")                           Olivia Nelson-Ododa (6'-5")

In the next two games I see Cameron emerging as the consensus number one post player in the nation.

Fran Belibi (6'-1")                                  Aaliyah Edwards (6'-3")

Every game Fran gets better. She anticipates the flight of the carom, moves to the ball, and gets off the floor quicker every game. Against Texas she was using her 31" vertical, which more than makes up for her height, and ripping the ball out of the air. (On Friday night, once she secures a rebound, she'll protect it with her strong hands from those pesky thieving guards!) I predict our front court will score thirty-five points between them and their subs coming off the bench, including Ashten, Kiki, Brooke, and Alyssa.

Stanford Backcourt                                UConn Backcourt

Lexie Hull (6'-1")                                    Paige Bueckers (5'-11")

Lacie Hull (6'-1")                                                   Azzi Fudd (5'-11")

Haley Jones (6'-1")                                               Christyn Williams (5'-11")

Our three guard starters are longer and stronger than Geno's and they move at least as well. On Friday night, I think our guards will score fifty points between them and the subs coming off the bench, including Hannah, Anna, Agnes, Jana, Jordon, and Elena.

I'm looking for fifteen three-pointers. 

LET'S SHOW EVERYONE THAT OUR TEAM IS THE BEST DIVISION 1 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM IN AMERICA! PERIOD.





Tuesday, March 22, 2022

THE TERRAPINS WILL BE A STIFF TEST IN SPOKANE FRIDAY NIGHT.

Charlie Creme, ESPN's women's basketball bracketologist, has just revised his rankings for the teams remaining in the Sweet Sixteen. And guess what - he now has Stanford ranked #1 and the Gamecocks #2. He says South Carolina's field goal percentage hasn't reached 40% in four of their last five games. Against Miami in the second round, he says the Gamecocks' 49 points, "were an extreme example of an ailing offense." He adds that, "for the season, South Carolina ranks 310th in Division One for three point shot percentage made and their free throw percentage is only 67%." He went on to explain that they only dropped to #2, in his opinion, because their defense is so good. They only allowed 54 total points in their first two games of the tournament. Also, they lead the nation in blocked shots and opponent's field goal percentage.     

He ranks Maryland as #10 of the sixteen remaining teams, although he says they're peaking at just the right time. 

ESPN has also updated their list of the top 25 players in the remaining sixteen teams. Stanford and Maryland are the only teams with three players each on his list. Lexie was added, finally. The following is an ESPN piece after Sunday's games: 

Player of the year candidates and All-Americans were on the court Sunday. Who impressed you most individually?

"The three top candidates for player of the year were in action and none of them was particularly good. Boston rebounded well, but her tough shooting day was a big reason for South Carolina's offensive struggles. Smith was stymied by a smaller South Dakota defense. Clark had one of the toughest games of her career.

Instead, Stanford's Lexie Hull shot her way to a career-high 36 points. Hull is considered the third-best player on her own team, but had the biggest scoring output of anyone on Sunday."

Finally the eastern pundits are discovering Lexie and the depth of talent Tara is dealing with.

Diamond Miller, Angel Reese, and Ashley Owusu are Maryland's big three. Against Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday those three had 65 of the Terp's 89 points. They made 22 of 37 field goal attempts and 5 of 10 three pointers. Miller is a 6'-3" guard who is athletic and lethal. Owusu doesn't have a long lean basketball body, but she's 6' tall,  strong, and coordinated. Reese is another 6'-3" athletic player who does most of her work in the paint. 

Miller was injured and didn't play in November when Stanford beat Maryland in the Bahamas. Both teams have come a long way since that tournament, and Diamond Miller is back in the lineup and is a great addition. 

You're not supposed to waltz into the Final Four unchallenged, and believe you me, our next two games will be tough challenges. Look for a starting five for the Terps that looks something like this:

Diamond Miller        6'-3"    Jr.        Guard

Angel Reese             6'-3"    So.       Forward

Ashley Owusu          6'-0"    Jr.        Guard

Katie Benzen            5'-6"    Grad    Guard

Chloe Bibby             6'-2"    Grad    Forward 

The Hull twins will be playing in front of their friends and family. Let's make this next game our best of the season - so far - which will include Haley hitting a dozen 12' jumpshots in the painted area, several three-pointers, and a bunch of her patented magical layups. 

I've added a piece below, that I wrote several weeks ago about the Longhorns, in case we see them on Sunday.

LET'S GO CARDINAL!! WE'RE ROLLING!! 

Saw something the other night that I commend to you. Maybe you can bring it up on YouTube. Some weeks back, Texas (#9) played The Lady Red Raiders in Austin. I watched it because Charlie Creme has Texas as the #2 seed in the Spokane Region and they were a tough problem for our team in December. Everything I said about beating the Gamecocks applies to Vic Schaefer's Longhorn team and we may need to beat the Longhorns to get a shot at the Gamecocks. 

The Texas Tech coach got her team so ready - they outfought'em. It looked like the longest hardest forty minutes any one of those players had ever had. Almost every possession the kids from Lubbock attacked the basket. Very few pull-up jumpers or long balls - they went at'em. Two of Vic's stars fouled out, two had four fouls, and four had three. The Lady Raiders made thirty-four free throws. There were some offensive charges, but they were relentless in their attack.

Also, they had a forward (think Haley Jones) bring the ball up hard with the defender trying to keep up. And they fired their passes or did dribble hand-offs.  Then, when the slightest daylight opened up - vrooom!! - they drove the basket. They played a two/three zone that allowed almost no drives to the basket - it collapsed on any driver. Texas hit twelve threes, but it didn't matter - they lost by double digits to those unranked kids from Lubbock who came to outfight the Longhorns.   

Destini's tough, and so are those Texas guards - I'll grant you, but honestly their steals, our ballhandling, and crisp passes are the only obstacles between us and a National Championship. In March we can clean that stuff up. We shoot, move, rebound, guard, and play the game better than they do.  So yeah!

Another Championship is within our reach!


Monday, March 14, 2022

ON FRIDAY WE GET THE BIG SKY CHAMPIONS - THE 22 & 12 MONTANA STATE BOBCATS FROM BOZEMAN. ONE OF THE BEST 16 SEEDS EVER.

Lace'em up tight, Stanford. The Montana State Bobcats love to win basketball games and they're coming to Palo Alto looking for a fight. Darian White has a better scoring average than any of our players at 16 ppg and Kola Bad Bear is, as her name implies, a big strong problem. Leia Beattie isn't called "Buckets" for nothing. The days of first round walkovers is gone forever. These Cats won the Big Sky championship last week by beating several good determined teams. They will not go quietly into the night. 

It's just as well, because if we get past the Bobcats, on Sunday we play either Kansas or Georgia Tech and both are legit. Both teams have four players averaging double digit scoring. And both have defenses that limit their opponents to average scoring in the 60's. The Ramblin Wrecks have one of the best international players in the country in 6'-4" Lorela Cubaj (pronounced CooBye) who averages a double double and was recently named to the All-ACC First Team and ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Kansas has a 6'-6" post player and a 6'-3" forward who between them score 20 points a game and pull down 15 rebounds. Then, there's a flock of four guards who average forty points and 15 rebounds per contest. These Jayhawks are dangerous and are to be taken seriously.  

Okay . . . enough with the obligatory cautionary respect.

I just read a piece in ESPN by a compendium of pundits brandishing ten completed brackets - eight had the Gamecocks winning the championship, one had Stanford and the other UConn.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of their monumental disrespect!  

Let's play Friday and Sunday like the obvious best team in the country - no cruising, no easing up, no letting up - a minimum of fifteen threes per round, a dozen breakaway fast break buckets, and three or four Most Outstanding Players. And lockdown defense. We're on our own court - let's make some noise that can be heard from Waco to Storrs! How about a couple of hundred point outings to get things started!!

We're the defending champs!! Let's play like it!!

COME ON STANFORD - LET'S ROLL!!            


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

ARE THE STANFORD CARDINAL AND THE SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS ON A COLLISION COURSE?

Maybe you've read Mechelle Voepel's piece on ESPN's online news feed with the above title. Of course, it's an exercise of counting chickens weeks before they hatch, but then she proceeds to write a lengthy coronation piece about how the Gamecocks will win their second national championship, Aliyah Boston will be named the player of the year, and Dawn Staley coach of the year. 

Stanford will just be the last inconsequential bump on their path to impending glory. The Basketball Gods have spoken. In Mechelle's mind and in all the eastern sportswriter's minds, this is actually a fait accompli. The NCAA Tournament will just be a formality.    

Reminds me of the scene in the movie "Seabiscuit" when Jeff Bridges' character quotes the eastern sportswriters about their upcoming match race with War Admiral,  He's speaking to a Depression Era crowd gathered around the back of their train taking Seabiscuit across the country, "Yeah, they say our horse is too small, our jockey's too big, our trainer's too old, and I'm too dumb to know the difference."

Another classic battle between the relatively unknown champion from the west against the overwhelming favorite - the invincible Champion from the East. I love The Iceman's line after the "Biscuit" looks War Admiral in the eye, "See ya later, Charlie," as they leave them in their dust.

Well, just for the hell of it, let's imagine that Stanford and South Carolina do actually survive what could be the toughest gauntlet of a tournament of all time - and meet in the Final in Minneapolis. The betting line in Vegas will probably be 10 to 1.

You probably still have the December game against the Gamecocks recorded on your DVR. Go back and watch the first, second, and fourth quarters. {The third quarter, of course, was the worst quarter in Stanford women's basketball history - so don't watch it.) Anyway, we beat them in the first two and played them even in the fourth. 

So, what does it take to put together four quarters where we take care of the ball and hit shots? The eastern sportswriters obviously think we can't do it. I know we can. We have "practice" players who can equal Destini Hendersen's ball pressure. 5'-7" with quick feet and hands and lots of energy. I saw during the pregame warmup in Oregon, Haley doing a close facsimile of Steph Curry's terrific dribble workout. During March our players should all get that workout down, plus dribble for hours against Hendersenesque ball pressure, and have the ball taken away every time it's held out for the taking.

Saw something the other night that I commend to you. Maybe you can bring it up on YouTube. Some weeks back, Texas (#9) played The Lady Red Raiders in Austin. I watched it because Charlie Creme has Texas as the #2 seed in the Spokane Region and they were a tough problem for our team. Everything I said about beating the Gamecocks applies to Vic Schaefer's Longhorn team and we may need to beat the Longhorns to get a shot at the Gamecocks. 

The Texas Tech coach got her team so ready - they outfought'em. It looked like the longest hardest forty minutes any one of those players had ever had. Almost every possession the kids from Lubbock attacked the basket. Very few pull-up jumpers or long balls - they went at'em. Two of Vic's stars fouled out, two had four fouls, and four had three. The Lady Raiders made thirty-four free throws. There were some offensive charges, but they were relentless in their attack.

Also, they had a forward (think Haley Jones) bring the ball up hard with the defender trying to keep up. And they fired their passes or did dribble hand-offs.  Then, when the slightest daylight opened up - vrooom!! - they drove the basket. They played a two/three zone that allowed almost no drives to the basket - it collapsed on any driver. Texas hit twelve threes, but it didn't matter - they lost by double digits to those unranked kids from Lubbock who came to outfight the Longhorns.   

Destini's tough, and so are those Texas guards - I'll grant you. but honestly their steals, our ballhandling, and crisp passes are the only obstacles between us and a National Championship. In March we can clean that stuff up. We shoot, move, rebound, guard, and play the game better than they do.  So yeah!

Another Championship is within our reach!

Let's Go Stanford! 

       
 

 

 

    

NEXT SEASON HALEY JONES WILL EMERGE AS THE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR!

Since I'm in the "Preview" blog business, my most significant predictions for next season are that Stanford will once again fi...