Cal Q and A, Part I: A Look At Stanford After Beating UConn

Happy New Year to you (And it is indeed a happy one, as we are still basking in the glow of Stanford beating UConn).

The folks over at California Golden Blogs sent us some Stanford Women’s basketball questions in honor of Stanford traveling to Cal to start PAC-10 play. Here are their questions and our long and rambling answers. At the end are our questions back to them, which we will post in Part II.

1. Jeanette Pohen has always been a good player, but after averaging about 10 points per game over the last two years, she's suddenly averaging over 15 per game and shooting around 45% from 3. Is this just an isolated hot streak, or has her game taken a big step forward?

That is a good question. A great question. My what a handsome question… Any questions? Next question.
No, we were modeling a cartoon TV show’s smarmy politician to avoid answering that question because… we don’t know either. After the UConn game, you can say the new and improved Jeanette Pohlen is here to stay, with her career 31 points and her determined game face. She wants a championship, and has improved her game. But can she sustain it? Only time will tell. However, stats don’t lie (although you CAN manipulate the heck out of them) and she is averaging 17 points a game, which does show some consistency. C and R hope if it is a hot streak., it lasts until the championship game.

2. Chiney Ogwumike: talk about her strengths and weaknesses 11 games into her career.

C and R, in particular C, had such high, high hopes riding on Chiney. She thought for sure she would lead the world in scoring by now! In retrospect, perhaps they were unrealistic. Her sister did not have a break out year until her sophomore year, and Chiney is about where Nneka was her freshmen year. It is a big adjustment to the college game. We saw her play in the SF summer league before she got any Tara tutelage, and she was still playing as a high school player, the best athlete on the floor which could let her gamble on defense and usually recover quickly. In man-to-man coverage in the games we saw, she often left her man and went for the steal. She would often miss, probably a new experience, and the other players with college experience found her wide-open man. We thought that was a weakness and coach Tara VanDerveer would "beat it out of her". Lo and behold, to our surprise, Tara took Chiney’s weakness and turned it into a strength and unveiled a new 1-3-1 defense, with Chiney on the point. Her job was to run around like crazy chasing the ball and use her long arms and leaping ability and go for a steal. If she missed, then there were 4 Stanford veterans behind her to make sure it did not result in a basket. Did we mention we think Tara is a genius? Weaknesses, how many games has Chiney fouled out of? UConn was no exception. She has to corral that instinct to reach out and touch someone. We think her biggest contribution to a disciplined Stanford team though, is her ability to create her own shot. Once Tara gave her sister Nneka the green light her sophomore year, even moving out established senior post Jayne Appel to give her room to create, she flourished. We believe next year Tara will do the same for Chiney and she will be incredible on offense.

PS sometimes big sis Nneka looks for Chiney and forces the ball to her inside where it is stolen, just trying to be all nice and sisterly and everything.

3. A 20 point loss to DePaul was shocking to see, particularly that Stanford allowed DePaul to go for 91 points. But they bounced back by routing Xavier. Was DePaul a fluke? How much did missing Kayla Pedersen impact things?

Geez, you ask good questions! If you strictly compare the DePaul game to Xavier and UConn, you can easily vote fluke. But in context, having one player go down, in this case Kayla Pedersen being out of the DePaul game and not 100% for Tennessee, Stafnord is just not the same team emotionally. She is their security blanket because she can rebound on both ends of the floor, make a big defensive stop, create a shot or handle the ball. Last year when teams pressed us because our guards were suspect on ball handling and were running for their lives in the back court, if they got a pass into Kayla’s hands, no matter where Stanford was on the court, you could see them visibly relax. Oh good, Kayla has the ball, we’re okay. That is a huge dependency to take away. And we didn’t count on the team feeling the same way about Jeanette this year. When she fouled out of the Tennessee game early in overtime, the team just deflated. So we rely on one or two people, much like UConn relies on Maya Moore. If you can stop or limit a team, any team’s "security" you have a shot in beating them (Witness the UConn victory).

4. How has Stanford been coping with the losses of Jayne Appel and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, particularly from a defensive perspective?

Well, we were going to say it’s hard to replace PAC-10 defender of the year in losing Ros Gold-Onwude, but after the Uconn game, our defense is juuuuuuust fine. What that says is Tara has great defensive schemes, teaches the fundamentals well, and can tailor a game plan to any individual team like no body’s business. And smaller Nneka was on tall tall Xavier’s post players, and gave up about 3-6 inches, yet her quickness allowed her to play deny defense and her leaping ability took away the back door pass. Tinkle (Jayne Appel’s doppelganger) also looked really good in her defense at the UConn game.

5. Predictions for Sunday?

Oh, let’s not spoil our friendship with a little thing like picking sides, now shall we?

However, a different question would be who will win the rebounding battle? We are picking the Stanford Trees.

C and R's Questions for California Golden Blogs

1. How much does this team miss Alexis Gray Lawson? Who has stepped up to fill her scoring shoes?

2. How do the incoming freshmen look? And why did Joanne Boyle only recruit guards?

3. Cal beat Illinois for their first road win. Why is it hard for this team to win on the road?

4. Compare and contrast centers DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell. Which one will give Stanford fits more?

5. One of Stanford’s new interns this year is Cal’s Lauren Greif, who was a senior on the basketball team last year.
Do you think:
A: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew freely and easily?
B: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew only after being tortured by being shown those Stanford Women’s Basketball videos wherein they had supernatural powers of no use on continuous loop?
C: She gave up all of Cal’s secrets to Tara VanDerveer and crew but made them all up. (And for their out of bounds play, they like to inbound it off the backside of the opposing player… and oh, in man to man coverage, they plan to have all five players guard Lindy, even if she is sitting on the bench, because, you know, she can really bomb some threes!)

6. Predictions for the amount of available parking spots in Berkeley on Sunday?