Helen of the Women's Hoops Blog and proud member of "the women's basketball intelligentsia" made perhaps the greatest contribution to the entirely illogical argument that UConn is bad for women's basketball: a list of all the women's basketball articles about UConn this morning.
And there's a lot of print about UConn this morning.
Anyway, the two articles that caught my eye were the one by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel (of course) and another by Kevin Robbins of the American Statesman staff. The point in both articles was similar: this game is not about history, or really anything else of that nature not related directly to what occurs on the court. As Robbins' article is titled UConn's streak and this game will come down to "precision, execution, and perfection". That's about the only thing the first game taught us - Stanford simply outexecuted UConn in every facet of the game in the first half then UConn turned up the pressure and executed a brilliant defensive game plan in the second half.
So all that said, I haven't looked at UConn season statistics until this morning because honestly Scotter pretty much covered it in non-conference play and petrel did a nice analysis of how UConn's first halves this season were enough to beat some people.
So why look at statistics now before a national championship game that will come down to intangibles?
Simple: Kalana Greene.
During the WNBA pre-draft media conference, Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson said that playing on such a talented team a player like Greene is likely to be overlooked. He suggested she might be the most athletic player on the team and I've heard others suggest that she would be considered the best guard in the nation were she not playing for UConn. And fans watching the tournament may have noticed that there are times when she seems quiet.
So with the draft approaching, I finally looked at UConn's team statistics to try to put Greene in context. Then I had the opportunity to just ask Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve for her thoughts.
The stats do tell us three things: first, Maya Moore may very well be more remarkable a basketball player than people give her credit for. Perhaps the thing that goes least recognized (not saying unrecognized) is that her ballhandling skills are outstanding. Her point guard numbers (pure point rating of 2.576, assist rate of 18.68%, points/empty possession ratio of 2.81) are better than many, many point guards in the country. I'm not necessarily saying Moore should run point for UConn, but I am saying that she would be a better point guard option than a majority of the starting point guards playing in the tournament. Strategically, it reinforces an obvious point - if you focus solely on Moore's scoring, she'll hurt you by facilitating scoring for others. The best way to stop Moore? Get her in foul trouble.
The second thing is this Tina Charles player who puts up numbers that project as one of the best collegiate center prospects to enter the draft in at least the last 7 years. I'd probably feel pretty secure saying the last decade, but I can't say for sure because I had trouble finding a complete set of numbers for some of those fourth round picks at the turn of the millennium.
The third thing is that Greene has put up absolutely phenomenal scoring numbers for a shooting guard prospect. However, it doesn't necessarily show up when watching her because she plays with a historically good duo of women's college basketball players. Just to make that concrete, Charles and Moore combine for 45% of the team's total production. If we were to extend petrel's point to these duo, they actually are even more responsible for the team's production than that because they are often the ones involved in building those big leads. Moore has a usage percentage of 30% and Charles 29%. I have yet to see a team that has two players using 60% of the team's possessions. In other words, Greene is hard to make sense of - even when she seems to "disappear" for long stretches - because her teammates are so dominant.
So how do watch her as a prospect when she plays tonight?
"I think Kalana Greene is a player that I think she's so well coached in that she has an understanding of how important the defensive side is - which is something that very rarely gets talked about on Connecticut, except for the coaches all understand how good of a defensive team they are," said Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve in a media conference call today. "On the opposite side of that, I think Maya Moore and Tina Charles make it a lot easier for the people around them. So you do have to say, ‘Ok, take the out of that and put her with your team and what she's going to be asked to do and can she do those things?'"
In other words, part of it requires looking at Greene's strengths and her defense and shooting efficiency are certainly among those and her 12.73% defensive rebounding rate is not bad for a guard. And looking back historically, the APBRmetrics community has identified some definite indicators of success and red flags -- Greene has more of the former than the latter. It's just watching her go long stretches seemingly having so little impact is frustrating for WNBA fans who may or may not have watched her for four years.
But of course, it's not like any professional sports GM really knows how a player will pan out - this is more subjective than science.
"It's not an exact science," said Reeve. "You project to the best of your ability. You just try to say what is the basics that this player brings? What areas do they have to improve upon? And you just try to project those things and make the best possible projections that you can."
- Note: No offense to Robbins, but related to Helen's point, I find the correction at the end of his article humorous.