Wednesday, September 22, 2021

OUR FIFTH OPPONENT OF THE SEASON WILL BE A VASTLY IMPROVED INDIANA HOOSIERS TEAM THAT RETURNS ALL FIVE STARTERS!

Tara feels our preseason schedule may be the toughest in the nation. We're playing eight teams that made it into the NCAA Tournament last season and two that made it to the Elite Eight - Texas and Indiana.

I've already covered our tough second game of the season against the Longhorns, and our games against Gonzaga and Portland. This week we'll get into our fifth game of the preseason against the Indiana Hoosiers. Last season was their best in modern memory. They made  it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Arizona in a hard fought battle 66 to 53. They have strong team chemistry and play great together. 

This season they'll have all their starters back plus a highly experienced grad transfer from Georgia, Caitlin Hose. Two of their returnees are All Americans, junior 6'-3" post player Mackenzie Holmes (17.8 points per game and 7.6 rebounds) and 6' senior guard Grace Berger (15.4 points per game and 6.8 rebounds).

Grace was a member of the FIBA Americup team, along with Haley Jones, that won Gold Medals down in Puerto Rico. I'd like to hear from Haley what she thought of Grace Berger - watching her play she seems super competitive and effective. You should dial up their NCAA Tournament game with N.C. State on YouTube to get a taste of how intense this group of Hoosiers are to play against. N.C. State was the number one seed in their region until they were eliminated by the Hoosiers. In several games of the NCAA Tournament the Hoosiers had all their starters in double figures and typically dominated the points in the paint. 

We're playing Indiana in the Baha Mar Thanksgiving Tournament in the Bahamas. They will be our first game on Thanksgiving Thursday. Stanford is the only team in the tournament that will play three games in three days - because the USF Lady Bulls are scheduled to play Stanford in the only game being played on Friday and the Bulls aren't even involved in the Baha Mar Tournament. 

USF is playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament that finishes up four days earlier at the Atlantis resort fifty miles away. Then they're driving over to play Stanford on Friday. 

Our Saturday opponent is a top ten ranked Maryland team, and like all the other teams in the tournament, they get the day off on Friday. Our players will have had two tough games and resulting tired legs going into battle with the Terrapins. All day Friday the turtles will be laying around the pool, while our players are locked in an intense contest with a determined and well-rested bunch of Lady Bulls from South Florida. 

I'll review the Bulls and the Terrapins next week. I know we play three games in three days in the PAC12 Tournament, but all the teams play at least three games in three days.    

AS YOU WELL KNOW, I LOVE THIS CARDINAL TEAM!!

DO WE HAVE ENOUGH DEPTH TO PLAY THESE THREE STRONG RESTED TEAMS ON THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS? I HOPE SO! GUESS WE'LL FIND OUT!

    

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

OUR JOB THIS SEASON IS TO PLAY LIKE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. - EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY GAME.

In my last blog piece I mentioned previewing our six "toughest" preseason opponents. Bear this in mind, I sure don't want to be a party to any underestimating of our other preseason opponents. 

Three years ago we went up to a packed arena in Spokane ranked in the top ten and lost to an unranked Gonzaga team. Our fifth game is against an unranked Bulldog team that will be feeding big-time off their great fans. Our team is not used to being defending national champs and we've all got to realize the size of the bullseye we're wearing this year. We certainly don't want to go into any game flat and make some hungry team's year. The Zags arena will be rocking and its a great opportunity for the Cardinal go into Spokane and play like national champions.

This season will be a re-building year for the Bulldogs, as their three leading scorers are gone - Jill Townsend, and the Wirth twins. But re-building at Gonzaga is different than at most other schools. As you know, their men's program is fantastic and for years their women's program has been at the top of the West Coast Conference and a tough "out" in the NCAA Tournament. As mentioned above, their fan base is voracious and their games are packed - especially when Stanford comes to Spokane. 

So, even with mostly new players in 2021, the Zags will be a strong opponent. For instance, Bree Salenbien a 6'-2" freshman guard is their highest ranked recruit in program history. She's the 7th ranked guard in the 2021 Class nationwide. She was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Michigan for her last season in high school and averaged 25.6 points, 11 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.6 steals. (See what I mean?)

Esther Little is another 6'-2" freshman guard from Ipswich, England who has had 50 games of international experience. Last season she averaged 15.5 points, 19.5 rebounds (no, that's not a misprint), and 6.8 assists in the Women's Elite Academy League.(I wonder if Hannah Jump has come across Esther in her English national age-group experience?)

Payton Muma is a 5'-8" freshman guard who was the #2 ranked high school player in Colorado last season. (I would hazard a wild guess that Lauren Betts was #1.)  

Maud Huijbens is a 6'-3" freshman forward and a long-time member of the Netherland's national age-group teams. Last year she averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds in the European U18 Championships.

Anamaria Virjoghe is a 6'-5" senior transfer from Targoviste, Romania. She was the MVP of the Romanian national team in the U18 European Championships.

Melody Kempton is a 6'-1" senior forward. She was the program's first WCC 6th woman of the year last season on Gonzaga's conference championship team.

Calli Stokes is a 5'-11" freshman guard who averaged 21 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals, and 3 assists per game as a senior and league MVP at Redondo Beach High last season.

And I can't omit their current set of twins, Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong. Kayleigh was a starter and solid contributor for the Zags last season. So, you can see, Lisa Fortier - who replaced Kelly Graves as head coach - and her staff are great recruiters. Re-building at Gonzaga is not a multi-year process full of angst and disappointment. No, the Zags will come out smokin and you take them lightly at your peril. 

Our fourth game is against the Portland University Pilots in Maples. Eight of their players are from Australia and one is from New Zealand. I have no idea what we'll be up against that night, but one of their Aussies is 6'-8" and another is 6'-6". They had a so-so year last season, but many of their players are freshmen or transfers. Once again, our mentality has to be that of a powerful highly prepared defending champion with 12 of our 13 players returning from our team last season. Let's control this game from the opening tip - no letups and no coasting. 

The message of this piece is the absolute need to be mentally ready for every game and play 100 percent every minute, especially if our four freshmen get in late. Each game is our chance to show the nation that the eastern pundits have very little understanding of what this program is all about. It's an insult that they've ranked us #3 in this preseason and we need to play every minute of each game as the defending national champions. We're not running up the score. We're just that good from the top to the bottom - and we're not letting up.

TO PARAPHRASE MR. CHURCHILL, IF THIS PROGRAM LASTS 1000 YEARS - IT SHOULD BE AGREED THAT THIS WAS OUR FINEST SEASON.


   

 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

OVER THE NEXT SIX WEEKS I'LL PREVIEW OUR SIX TOUGHEST PRESEASON GAMES. THIS WEEK WE'LL START WITH THE LONGHORNS!!

I know everyone was anxious to see the new 2021/2022 preseason schedule! AND WHAT A PRESEASON IT IS!! I could almost see Tara's smile as she looked at the new schedule for the first time. We start with a small Division III school with 662 students that has been very successful for years playing schools their size.  





We end up before Christmas with the #1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, in front of 18,000 raucous fans in Colonial Life Arena. These are the same Gamecock fans who lay awake nights re-living that NCAA Tournament semi-final game. The same Gamecock fans and players who are dead set on avenging that one point loss we inflicted on them in the Final Four. 

Our preseason amounts to about as wide a spread in size, talent, and motivation as is humanly possible between early November and late December. The exhibition game on November 6 will be with Clarke University from Dubuque, Iowa. Then we welcome Morgan State University from Baltimore, which you could safely say is a non-major, but is ten times the size of the Clarkies.

Then the Longhorns get driven right down Palm Drive into Maples.    

This will be Vic Schaefer's second season at the helm in Austin and he has every intention of re-installing the Longhorns as a permanent fixture in the highest echelon  of women's basketball. From today until November 14th - he, his assistants, and his players will be devoting themselves to laying out a fool-proof game plan for beating the Stanford Cardinal. Can you imagine what a blockbuster win that would be for the resurgent Longhorns? 

In the NCAA Tournament, Vic and his sixth-seeded kids took down the mighty second-seeded Maryland Terrapins when many media types and pundits were predicting that Maryland - the nation's highest scoring team - would just roll right through everyone and win the whole thing. How, you might ask, did Texas do it?

Defense, my friend, with a capital "D". Maryland didn't score their usual 93 points - they were lucky to score 61 and they lost by three. Also, the Longhorns used every second they could of every shot clock, then went all out to get offensive rebounds so they could take another thirty or more seconds off the shot clock. Maryland got sick and tired of playing defense. 

The Maryland team T-shirts flashed their season motto at everyone, "ALL GAS - NO BRAKES!!  After making the Turtles play what seemed like endless defense on every possession - Vic took away their fast break points. He had his players totally focused on breaking the press with careful sure passes, with precious few live ball turnovers, allowed almost no steals, and very few careless ball-handling turnovers. They played the slowest dullest most careful basketball they could muster. And it worked.

So, what will he cook up against us. When he was the defensive coordinator at A&M in 2011, they had the most lethal full court press I've seen and beat us in the Final Four, before beating Notre Dame for the national championship. Our ball-handling was our weak spot that season and they were all over it.

The 2021/2022 Texas team actually has some large holes to fill. Charlie Collier (leading scorer, 6'-5" number one WNBA draft pick), Celeste Taylor (second leading scorer, team leader), and Kyra Lambert (veteran point guard) will be replaced by Junior 6'-4" Post Lauren Ebo; Audrey Warren, Junior Guard, great effort player; and Joanne Allen-Taylor, their new point guard.  

Our third game of the season will need to be our soundest most error-free game of the preseason and we'll be fine. Whoever we put at point guard will be the key, in concert with our other strong ball-handlers. We'll need to keep our turnovers in single digits.

LET'S GO STANFORD!! CORRAL THE HORNS!!       

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

WHO SAYS THIS IS THE OFF SEASON? MAJOR THINGS ARE GOING ON ACROSS THE WORLD IN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL!!


In my most recent post, I covered our Under 16 girls team playing in the World Cup of the Americas in Mexico. The Gold Medal game with Canada was what a lot of the people were waiting to see. The undefeated Canadians seemed light years ahead of the kids on the other teams in the tournament who had been completely undone by Sue Phillips' (Archbishop Mitty H.S. in San Jose, CA) full court press.

But no, the kids from up north withered and wilted, as well. Cassandre Prosper, a 6'-2" forward, emerged, to me, as the MVP of their team. Turns out almost no girls on their team, or any of the other teams in the tournament, could handle the press executed by the kids who had USA across the front of their jerseys, who were quick as hell and could anticipate where the next pass was going. A few minutes in, the games all seemed to turn into a layup drill. 

Those two qualities pretty much defined the girls in red, white and blue. They ended up winning the Gold Medal game by 60, and Coach Sue shut down the press in the third quarter and played her least lethal players from there on. The quickest of our numerous quick guards was Jaloni Cambridge (#4), a 15 year old 5'-5" projectile who accelerates like something shot from an electric rail gun. She brings Aari McDonald to mind - how Aari must have played when she was 15.

At the same time, in Debrecen, Hungary the FIBA U18 3X3 women's World Cup tournament was happening. I was particularly interested in watching Kiki Rice ( #7.) She's the highest ranked point guard in the 2022 class and was locked in a series of six great basketball battles. 

Kiki is being as heavily recruited as Lauren Betts was by all the major powerhouse schools, including Stanford - but Kiki hasn't made her decision yet. My sources tell me that Stanford had a coach at that tournament and that her folks have deep ties to The Farm. She seems to me like a Kiana with a bigger frame. She's 5'-11", built strong, able to play through contact, and can shoot. Here's hoping Kiki picks up the Cardinal colored hat on signing day. 

The USA 3X3 team was made up of three of the top ranked recruits in the Class of 2022 and one in the Class of 2023. Only one of which has committed, to date. Ayanna Patterson (#4) has verbally committed to UConn. The other three were Kiki Rice, Janiah Barker (#11), and Mikaylah Williams (#12) (2023).  (Janiah is a beast!)

You should treat yourself to watching some of all the games our 3X3 team played this past week on YouTube. It was a brutal gauntlet - nothing like the cakewalk our U16 5X5 team enjoyed. You had the feeling, watching the USA/Russia 3X3 quarter-final contest that the Russian players' families might lose their homes or their careers, if they lost. It was no game for anyone with weak knees or a faint heart. The refs had to stop the play several times and warn the players to reduce the level of contact - and handed out technical fouls, as well, trying to moderate the level of physicality. Bodies were strewn about the tarmac now and again. The Russians won in overtime, but I think it took so much out of them they lost their semi-final game.

We played the Spanish team for the Gold Medal. They played great basketball and were the European 3X3 champs. Winning that Gold Medal was a massive accomplishment. My hat is off to those four brave indefatigable American warriors.  

Anyway, who says this is the off season?

COME TO STANFORD, KIKI, AND HELP US WIN!! AND TREAT YOURSELF TO THE BEST UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD (AND NEEDS A GREAT POINT GUARD!!)



        

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

THE USA U16 GIRLS TEAM IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN THE FIBA AMERICAS CHAMPIONSHIP IN MEXICO.

The US players now competing in Mexico in the FIBA U16 Americas Championship are entering their junior year of high school. The coach is Sue Phillips, the head coach at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. Besides helping to develop Haley Jones' skill set, her teams have won a number of California state titles and is a perennial powerhouse. 

I recommend watching a game or two on YouTube to gain familiarity with the next "generation" of basketball stars. None have yet committed to a college team - that's probably a year away. 

The most outstanding player is Judea "Juju" Watkins who is averaging 21 points in the first two games in limited minutes. She's also the number one ranked recruit in the 2023 class. For her first  year of high school she played for Vanessa Nygaard at the Windward School in Los Angeles. Recently, she transferred to Sierra Canyon ahead of her junior season. Last year she was named Los Angeles Player of the year.

Last season Coach Nygaard took a leave of absence from Windward to be the assistant coach of the WNBA Las Vegas Aces. From 1993 to 1997 she was a star player for the Cardinal. Seems like Stanford might have an inside track in recruiting Juju - with the help of Ms. Nygaard. 

Another key player for the US U16 team is Breya Cunningham, a 6'-4" player from La Jolla Country Day in La Jolla. Wonder if Candice Wiggins might be willing to take in some games at her old high school next season and talk to Breya about her years as a Cardinal. While she's at it, Jada Williams, a terrific guard prospect, is also a member of the current US U16 team and is Breya's teammate at Country Day.

While you're watching check out Delaney Thomas a leader in both scoring and rebounding, Margaret Mendelson, a 6'-6" post prospect, and Olivia Olson an all-around gifted player. The other teams in the tournament they've played, so far are weak, but Canada will provide more of a challenge. I haven't seen the Canadian team play yet, but hopefully we'll have a shot at some of their star players in a year, or so.

Anyway, its great to have a bunch of California kids playing for a great California coach and representing the USA. Do you think they know where Haley played in high school? And what team won the national championship last season? I think so, too.

STANFORD IS ON THE MOVE!! LET'S WIN IT AGAIN!!       

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

LAUREN BETTS IS THE YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE USA UNDER 19 FIBA WORLD CUP BASKETBALL TEAM!!

Lauren Betts

From August 7th to the 15th we were provided a glimpse into Stanford women's basketball future. The FIBA U19 women's basketball World Cup tournament was played in Hungary. You can still see some of the games on YouTube. 

Lauren Betts is 17 years old and 6'-7". She was the youngest player on the USA team, the number one ranked recruit in the 2022 Class, and as you know, she's committed to Stanford. The team had five post players, but two got 90% of the minutes - Lauren Ware, who will be a sophomore at Arizona next month and Lauren Betts, who will be a senior in high school. 

Sania Feagin got some playing time and is entering South Carolina as a freshman top five recruit. Amari DeBerry, also a top five recruit is entering UConn, and Jersey Wolfenbarger, a seventh ranked recruit that has signed with Arkansas, got into games once they were safely in the "win" column. The USA won all six of their games in the tournament, and beat Australia in the gold medal game 70 to 52.    

The level of competition was obviously challenging for Lauren.  Grandview High School in Centennial, Colorado doesn't play national teams like our U19 team faced last week - Australia, Italy, Russia, France, Canada, etc. In the first game she had 17 points and 15 rebounds in about twenty-five minutes. So, she's pretty good, even when she's playing against 19 and 20 year old college women. The age limit is nineteen or younger on January 1, 2021. Te'Hine Paopao, the US starting point guard, will be a junior at Oregon in September. That's a stretch for a girl like Lauren Betts, who just finished her junior year in high school.

As you would expect, her game shows room for improvement, but in her case it's called incredible upside potential! It will be interesting to watch her development during her senior season and the 2022 off-season. I get the feeling she's focused and motivated. 

She plays AAU basketball for the same team that Ashton played for - coached by ex-NBA All Star and versatile big man - Keith Van Horn. He's constantly pushing Lauren to new limits and already has her working hard on her perimeter shooting, dribbling, and passing - when she's not perfecting her moves in the paint. Lauren's dad has been her greatest source of inspiration to become a player. Andrew is 7'-1" and played for Long Beach State and professionally in Europe. 

She has friends on the Cardinal team in Fran Belibi and Jana VanGytenbeek, who come from the same area of Colorado. In fact, Jana's high school, Cherry Creek, and Lauren's high school, Grandview, could be battling next season for the state championship.

See what I mean, when in numerous blog pieces I've said the magnetic poles in the women's NCAA basketball world are reversing from the east coast to the west coast? All the powerhouse teams were recruiting Lauren Betts for all they were worth - UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Louisville - but she chose Stanford before she'd even set foot on the campus. The best new coaches are coming to the PAC12 - and so are many of the best players.

In the 2022 Recruiting Class, as I mentioned above, Lauren Betts is ranked number one. Six of the top eleven ranked players are committed to PAC12 schools and three haven't committed yet. So six of the eight, who have signed, are coming to the PAC12. The tectonic plates of the WBB world of the NCAA are definitely tilting toward the west coast.

An interesting side note: the number one recruit in the nation for 2021, Azzi Fudd, who has signed with UConn, did not shine in Hungary. She started every game, played sound defense, made numerous turnovers, and was passive on offense. Caitlin Clark (Iowa) was the tournament MVP and Sonia Citron (Notre Dame) was named, along with Clark, to the All Tournament team. Lauren Betts, Payton Verhulst (Louisville), and Diamond Johnson (N.C. State) were standout players, as was Paopao (Oregon). 

If I was Geno - I'd be pondering several questions: Alright we got Fudd, but how did we miss out on Clark, Citron, and Verhulst? And Betts!! Yee Gads, she's going to make my life miserable until 2026!!      

LET'S GO STANFORD!!             


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I PREDICT BAYLOR WILL NOT BE A ONE SEED NEXT MARCH AND OREGON WILL BE NEXT SEASON'S ARIZONA!!

Charlie Creme and the ESPN pundits are all figuring Baylor to be a one seed in the 2022 tournament, currently ranked number four in the nation behind UConn, South Carolina, and Stanford. Even after Kim Mulkey left for her dream job at LSU and took Moon Ursin and Hannah Gusters (a 6'-5" center) with her - and after Didi Richards and DeJonai Carrington left for the WNBA. 

NyLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo are very good players, but in my opinion the eastern pundits place them on much too elevated a pedestal. In their minds, even though the Hall of Fame coach and the core of last year's team have gone - they think NyLyssa and Queen and their role-players will make the Bears a number one seed in 2022. I respectfully disagree.

In 2020 the bears recruited two top 100 recruits. Sarah Andrews will be a sophomore guard next season and Hannah Gusters transferred to LSU, as mentioned above. In 2021, all the top 100 recruits have committed and one (listed as committed to Marquette) is going to Baylor. In 2022, to date, about half the top 100 have committed and none to Baylor. There's time, but Baylor needs to do some serious recruiting. Who is lurking in the Transfer Portal that can lift the Bears to a number one seed?

In 2021, Trinity Oliver a 5'-8" guard transferred from Baylor to Washington and Ja'Mee Asberry transferred from Oklahoma State to Baylor. One freshman, Kendra Gillispie a 6'-2" Forward, a four star recruit ranked #58 has signed at Baylor for the 2021/2022 season

So, my thought is that Nicki Cullen (Baylor's new coach) definitely has her work cut out. I think all of the two seeds and some of the three seeds (Maryland, Louisville, N.C. State, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Iowa, and Oregon) of next season's projected bracket could beat the Bears as presently constituted. And during the Big Twelve season, I think Texas will finally beat'em. 

So, who do I think the fourth number one seed should be? 

Oregon. 

In March, Oregon went into the tournament without their point guard. Te-Hina Paopao is back from her season-ending injury and was recently named to the USA Under 19 team that will compete in Hungary next month. She will return from that experience better than ever. Endiya Rogers is an All PAC12 slashing scoring problem for any defense. Her decision to transfer from USC to Oregon was a major coup for Kelly Graves. Nyara Sabally and Sedona Prince will come back next season ready to be a dominant force in the paint. 

They've got the coach and the team and by March they'll be battle-hardened and ready for the bright lights on the big stage. All along I've been predicting that Oregon (currently a three seed) will be next season's Arizona - so, watch out UConn, South Carolina and Stanford! 

COME ON CARDINAL!! LET'S GO BACK TO BACK!!



 

OUR FIFTH OPPONENT OF THE SEASON WILL BE A VASTLY IMPROVED INDIANA HOOSIERS TEAM THAT RETURNS ALL FIVE STARTERS!

Tara feels our preseason schedule may be the toughest in the nation. We're playing eight teams that made it into the NCAA Tournament las...