Stanford still undefeated with Pac-12 league play right around the corner
One big weekend of non-conference matchups remains before Arizona and Arizona State kick off 2019-20 league play in Pac-12 women’s basketball. Let’s look back on two of Sunday’s games and revisit the breaks of this season’s conference schedule with what we’ve seen to date in mind.
Short-handed Cardinal cruise at home
Stanford improved to 9-0 with a comfortable win over Ohio State, even without the services of Maya Dodson, DiJonai Carrington and Lacie Hull.
Haley Jones (15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 stocks) led the way and drew her fourth start of the season. Sloppiness got the better of Jones (7 turnovers) and the Cardinal as a whole, especially in the second half as Ohio State dialed up some full-court pressure.
Setting those moments aside, Jones excelled making decisions from the middle of the floor. The prized freshman found windows for her pull-up jumper and punished opposing bigs stuck in no man’s land with pinpoint entries to set up Fran Belibi and Nadia Fingall rolling to the rim.
Hannah Jump and Anna Wilson were the top guards off the bench with Carrington and Lacie Hull sidelined. Jump clearly needs to be scouted as the Shekinna Stricklen of the Pac-12. Teams rush to get back to build a wall against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Opponents almost need to do the opposite for Jump, designating somebody to go hug her at the 3-point line in transition.
Kiana Williams has really made concerted efforts to get the ball up the floor quickly at every opportunity. Just about any outcome is better than allowing Jump to step into an open triple.
Lexie Hull had the foresight to collect seven steals—all in the first half—to kindly balance out the turnover count.
The Cardinal have two big showdowns left in this tough eight-game stretch. Sunday’s game at Texas will be televised on ESPN2.
UW improves to 7-2
I jumped on the chance to go see Washington in person at the University of San Diego on Sunday. Mai-Loni Henson and Khayla Rooks got a chance to play a game close to home, but freshman big JaQuaya Miller really felt like the story of the day posting one of her best lines of the season in 18 minutes off the bench.
The 3-point strokes of UW’s bigs are very much a work in progress. There’s value investing in that potential now. Miller stands to add the most value because she can attack off the bounce for some bully-ball drive, especially in transition if the matchups are scrambled.
UW gets a little more juice with Miller on the floor. A capable rim-runner fits in nicely with a team that wants to speed up the game and fan out for open 3-pointers.
The Huskies have two games left on the non-conference slate before opening league play on the road against Washington State. UW will host San Francisco and Vanderbilt, who nearly beat Seton Hall and Rutgers over Thanksgiving, over the weekend. Both games will be available via their in-house live stream.
Revisiting the in-conference schedule
Now that all 12 teams have played at least eight games, it’s worth highlighting the way the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule broke and how the race for NCAA Tournament bids might be affected.
Start with Stanford. They play the Oregon schools twice this season. As long as teams aren’t guaranteed two matchups with everybody, I’d like to see the Pac-12 step in and force these four games to happen every season to showcase their top programs.
The Cardinal went 2-2 against the Oregons in 2016-17, 2-0 in 2017-18 and 1-1 last season. The ugly home loss to Oregon probably left a bad taste in the mouths of viewers that don’t have a Pac-12 Network subscription. While it did make for a compelling Pac-12 Tournament championship game, that one glimpse a national audience got of Oregon-Stanford didn’t accurately reflect the quality of the league’s two best teams. Case in point: Did people really pay any mind to Stanford making quick work of the Beavers two days prior?
This season’s schedule broke beautifully for those three programs. Stanford travels to Oregon in mid-January—you couldn’t script a better prelude to civil war weekend—then will host the Ducks and Beavers two weeks before the conference tournament.
UCLA, meanwhile, will only see Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State once apiece. If the Bruins happen to go, say, 2-1 in those games, they’ll probably be happy with this year’s draw. If they get blown out multiple times, I’d be frustrated not getting more bites at the apple. Most pundits would probably be willing to look on even a close loss with favor and lacking the top-tier status as an undisputed national championship contender, UCLA may not get the benefit of the doubt as NCAA Tournament seeding is finalized.
Arizona gets two cracks at the Oregons but will only see Stanford once. And though that date with the Cardinal is in Tucson, the final weekend of the regular season may be the worst time to run into them as the Stanford freshmen have 20-plus games under their belt, gets healthy and settles on its best combinations.
With UCLA and Arizona as my favorites to grab the No. 4 and No. 5 slots, I’ll take Utah as the next team in line to grab a bid. They drew the UCLA quirk last season, only seeing Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State once. Those extra opportunities will come in handy without a signature non-conference win. Injuries were still their biggest enemy last season. The newcomers have looked good, and Daneesha Provo—one of the best wings in the conference when healthy—has returned from last season’s ACL tear.
- In case you missed it, here’s the previous edition of ‘Around the Pac-12’ on some notable non-conference facts and figures:
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