Although rivalries are certainly born under the pressure of high stakes competition, the UC Berkeley - Stanford women's basketball rivalry should hold a special place in women's basketball history: it was the first college rivalry game in women's basketball history by virtue of being the first intercollegiate women's basketball game 116 years ago.
Yet the not-so-subtle underlying theme of Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer's point that Cal should have been ranked during 2011-12 season is that either people don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the Pac-12.
There are obviously perfectly good reasons for this problem, but with the Battle of the Bay coming up tomorrow (6 p.m. PST on FSN), I figured I'd enlist the help norcalnick of SB Nation's California Golden Blogs and C&R of the Stanford Women's Basketball Blog to help shed some light on their teams before jumping into a more detailed preview.
1. Swish Appeal: Although these two teams are already locked in at #1 and #2 in the conference at this point, every Big Game is a big game because it's a rivalry game with bragging rights on the line. But with Cal arguably the closest it has been to Stanford in years, where does your anticipation for this particular game rate in the larger context of this ongoing rivalry?
C&R: This game has huuuuge implications. The thinking goes if Stanford loses to Cal, they lose the number 4 seed in the NCAA tourney. If Cal loses, they get seeded 8th and will meet a team like Baylor in the early round, yet a win would give them a more favorable draw throughout the tourney (we just learned that from norcalnick). This is going to be a nail-biter.
norcalnick: It's difficult to precisely place this game, in part because there have been bigger Cal/Stanford games in terms of conference standings, rankings, etc. But I think it's a chance for Cal to send a HUGE message not just for this season, but for next season. With a win, Cal can claim that they have perhaps caught up with Stanford. The Cardinal losing Nneka Ogwumike and Cal doesn't have a single senior. A win on Sunday night would be a statement that the conference race next year is going to be a battle.
2. SA: For people who haven't seen these two teams often, what is something that is really important to know about your team that doesn't show up in the box score?
C&R: Stanford sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike really enjoy playing the game with each other. Really, they are a joy to watch as they rack up 7/8ths of Stanford's points. Although a huge box score statistic in this game will be rebounding. The sisters are used to jumping over everyone, and Chiney makes her living on weak side rebounds and easy put backs for points. Cal prides itself on its rebounding and is one of the top teams in the nation statically, or something like that. Something's gotta give. Norcalnick pointed out that if Stanford freshman guard Amber Orrrrange goes against Cal freshman guard Brittany Boyd, there's going to be contact, good or bad. Also, he predicts BB will harass Stanford's playmaker.
norcalnick: I think Cal has a certain level of versatility to their style of play. Like most teams, they want to beat you in a certain way, and for Cal that means pushing the tempo, getting out in transition, occasional pressure defense and clobbering teams on the boards. But they have the depth and versatility to win games when they can't play their preferred style. The addition of Brittany Boyd, improvements from Eliza Pierre, a deeper post rotation - all of these things have allowed Cal to be more successful in the half court set and the personnel flexibility to match up well with most teams. They don't want to get bogged down in a slow down game with Utah or Oregon State, but they'll still pull out the win.
Also: I suppose this is reflected in the box scores, but Cal took Rutgers, Ohio St., Texas and Stanford down to the final possession. Allow me to be a homer and humbly suggest that the Bears are the best unranked team in the country.
C&R: Sorry, we haven’t seen much of Cal this season (no offense meant, really), but we have been super impressed with Brittany Boyd. She certainly didn’t back down at Maples. C and R will definitely have their eye on her. Also Cal’s Layshia Claredon. And, this is between you, me, and the tree, but the media has said Stanford’s Taylor Greenfield and Sarah Boothe are going to be reinserted into the lineup. Both have been out with injures. However in their absence, Jos Tinkel has stepped up. C and R would almost hate for coach Tara to mess with a good thing, ya know?
norcalnick: That's hard to answer in part because Cal's attack is deep and balanced. But it will probably be a guard, which means it would probably be Layshia Clarendon. She's Cal's best shooter, she's Cal's most consistent penetrator, and she's our tough, grizzled veteran. Layshia brought Cal back when they trailed Stanford late in regulation at Maples, and she's been playing her best basketball late in the season. The Ogwumike sisters make it hard to earn a win with post play, and that means Layshia and the rest of the guards have to step up.
4. SA: As hard as it is to neutralize the Ogwumike sisters on the boards (a combined 27 rebounds in their overtime win on January 28 this season), is it possible for Cal to win this game if they don't win the rebounding battle?
norcalnick: Yes, and I say that mostly because Stanford won the rebounding battle earlier in the season and Cal still almost won. But they won it by a slim margin, and Cal stands a much, much greater chance if they do out-rebound Stanford. like they do most teams.
If Cal can't out-rebound Stanford then they need the Cardinal to have an unusually poor shooting game and/or the Bears need to shoot particularly well. Both of those things happened earlier in the year, which is why Cal kept it close despite getting out-rebounded. I wouldn't expect Stanford to shoot 3-20 from three again, so Cal probably needs to do better on the glass. But it's college basketball. Weird things happen!
C&R: In a word, no.
In more words, rebounding, smebounding, you have to stop Nneka and Chiney from SCORING if you want to win this game.
SA: What development (positive or negative) since the first game between these two teams might have the biggest impact on this second game?
C&R: Hmm, I think the emergence of Amber Orrrranges and Jos Tinkle’s confidence and playing time is a positive. Negative is Stanford’s other guard Toni Kokenis is hurt. Will she be full strength on Sunday? Also, Cal has gone 13-2 in the last 15 games and their coach seems to have solved some of the chemistry issues they had last year. She also has them believing they can win, whether it’s true or not, it’s the mark of a good coach. Also, Cal is giving away free tickets to employees and selling others for $1 to pack the house and intimidate the "Nice girls from Stanford". That doesn’t’ seem fair! LOL!
norcalnick: I think the biggest change for Cal might just be the psychological knowledge that they can play right with Stanford. Since Cal's last win in 2009, the Bears have lost to Stanford seven straight times, and until this year none of them were especially close - the smallest margin of victory was 15. When Alexis Gray-Lawson graduated there wasn't a player left who had beaten Stanford.
The Cardinal may very well make it eight in a row, but I don't think they have that psychological advantage that they do over most teams where when they run on the court you know the game is already over. The Bears believe they can beat Stanford, and taking them to overtime at Maples is one of the reasons.
SA: This game is televised, which is great (especially after how amazing the first game was). But what excites you most about next season's new Pac-12 television network as a women's basketball fan?
C&R: Being able to see all the Pac-12 women’s basketball games, of course. Although… we were reading a Pac-12 release recently and it proudly boasted that the new Pac-12 channel would show over 40 women’s basketball games. Uh, wait a minute. Didn’t they promise they would show EVERY single Pac-12 woman’s basketball game? C and R are a little math-challenged, but w think that’s more than 40. Hope they are not "revising" their promise. And then again, the start of every new women’s basketball season excites us.
Thanks for your questions and taking the time to listen. Love the work you do on Swish Appeal (Shameless plug fro Nate!)
norcalnick: From a writer's perspective, it will be so much easier and so much more fun. It gets very frustrating and repetitive to try to draw insights from a radio broadcast or a box score. And as a fan of basketball in general, it means I can watch a game between Utah and Arizona St. if I so desire (and I do!) I also think that the Pac-12 has always lagged ever so slightly behind other conferences in women's basketball, and this kind of exposure could be a huge step forward for recruiting and marketing.
But mostly, I get to watch every game my team plays! It's what being a fan is all about!
For far more on this game, visit California Golden Blogs for their questions of C&R and the Stanford Women's Basketball Blog for their questions of norcalnick.