Although Brittney Griner is unquestionably the Baylor Lady Bears' MVP, Brooklyn Pope's (above) work on the offensive boards could be a key part of their success in the Final Four. Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE
One of the central points in my recent article* about what separates the Baylor Lady Bears from some of the all time greats was a relative lack of depth.
That's not to say that Baylor is all Brittney Griner, but even when compared to their counterparts in the 2012 NCAA Women's Final Four they don't look particularly deep.
And depth - or, to be more precise, the distribution of statistical contributions to the team - is actually one of the understated aspects of this game as everyone focuses on explaining how each team has talent beyond their stars.
The numbers suggest that you could quite easily argue that both Baylor and Stanford are two-dimensional teams with nicely complementary parts - the players around their stars are certainly talented, but each team's pair of 2012 All-Americans have been responsible for right around half of their team's overall statistical production.
|Player Name||PVC||Min%||Rank||Player Name||PVC||Min%|
|Griner, Brittney||30.91%||80.89%||1||Ogwumike, Nneka||28.27%||73.35%|
|Sims, Odyssey||17.04%||79.64%||2||Ogwumike, Chiney||22.34%||71.06%|
|Williams, Destiny||13.98%||60.63%||3||Tinkle, Joslyn||13.15%||59.51%|
|Hayden, Kimetria||10.45%||63.33%||4||Kokenis, Toni||11.36%||74.80%|
|Pope, Brooklyn||7.10%||33.14%||5||Orrange, Amber||8.91%||48.16%|
|Madden, Jordan||6.85%||62.87%||6||Samuelson, Bonnie||4.04%||25.46%|
|Condrey, Terran||6.15%||46.36%||7||Greenfield, Taylor||3.72%||38.68%|
However, when you look a bit closer at the structure of these two teams, what's actually more important is that the "supporting cast members" complement their star players extremely well. That might be especially true for the Lady Bears.
Baylor key players: Brooklyn Pope & Destiny Williams
One of the things that seems to go unmentioned, or perhaps forgiven, in all the hoopla about Griner is that she's not really as dominant a rebounder as people might expect given her height. There are a number of possible explanations for that which we won't go into now, but it's important to note that when discussing the value of Pope and Williams.
While Williams leads Baylor in defensive rebounding at 20.4%, Pope leads the team in offensive rebounding with an impressive 18.85% rate in limited minutes, which actually makes their interior presence even more formidable than it would be if it was all Griner - with Griner rotating to block shots at the highest rate in the nation defensively and taking on such a large portion of the scoring load offensively, the Lady Bears benefit from two others whose most significant contribution is rebounding.
Baylor X-Factor: Who will step up against Stanford?
Although Baylor's rotation tends to be predictable unless Griner gets in foul trouble, it will be interesting to see what role players like Pope and Williams play against the Ogwumike-led Stanford Cardinal.
Against the Cardinal, the ability of Pope/Williams to help keep the Ogwumikes in check on the boards might end up being a major difference in the game. And while Pope has played limited minutes this season, this could be one of those games in which her limited minutes end up being significant.
For more on the 2012 NCAA women's basketball tournament, check out our "NCAA Tournament 2012" section.
* Just to be a bit more concise/direct: I don't think there's a strong argument for Baylor being the best ever even if they win the title this year, particularly after comparing the numbers to past teams. That's not to take away anything from Baylor, but some of those past undefeated teams set a pretty lofty standard that is just difficult to match.