"I can't get enough buttons on my pants!" via i.a.cnn.net
The sign of a truly successful program is consistency. Players only have 4-5 years in a program, so even the greatest players will become little more than a page in the history books sooner or later. Consistency in a coach and a system can carry a team far. Success comes from the top, in this case, Joanne Boyle, coach of the Cal Women's Basketball team. Success, they have had. Under Coach Boyle, the Golden Bears have made it to the Sweet16 in the NCAA Basketball tournament, farther than they've ever gone before.
We are very excited about women's basketball here at CGB. I realize this is somewhat odd for SBN blogs. Looking at some of the other college blogs, some of the are focused on next year's football season without a care about women's basketball at all. If that works for them, great, but here we feel that our readership wants to learn more about the women's basketball team, which is young, but only getting better.
To that end, we've teamed with Swish Appeal, SBN's women's basketball blog, to provide high quality content regarding women's basketball. You've already seen links to some of their writing sprinkled around this site. NorCalNick, our resident women's basketball guru, has already started working with them, too. Here, we've decided to ask Swish Appeal general questions about the Cal women's team this year. Enjoy their answers after the fold and GO BEARS!
PS And at the end, we have a very special treat, thanks to Swish Appeal. An interview with the University of Washington women's basketball team about what Cal, in specific, did to defeat them. Yay! GO BEARS!
1. What would you see as Cal's best and worst possible Pac-10 finish? And where do you see Cal ending up at the end of the season?
The way things have unfolded this year, I see three tiers: Stanford, a group of 4-5 teams vying for second, and a lower tier of teams trying to establish an identity. Cal is in that second tier, so I could see them finishing as high as second and as low as 6th. As of right now, USC is sort of separating themselves from the pack as the clear #2 in the conference, but given that Cal played USC very close in LA, it's certainly feasible for them to finish in second. The obvious struggle Cal has is their youth -- they know approximately what they will get from Alexis Gray-Lawson night to night, but the top supporting cast members have been all over the board game to game. That erratic play could cause them to fall all the way to 6th, but they have enough talent -- and a strong enough defense -- to avoid falling further than that.
2. Do you think Cal will make the tournament? If so, what does Cal need to do to get there?
3. What are Cal's strengths this year? What are Cal's weaknesses?
The biggest weakness looking at the losses to UCLA and USC is turnovers. Part of that is a matter of youthful inexperience and the fact that they haven't even played with one another for 20 games yet -- a lot of miscommunication, overthrow entry passes, or ball handling errors. Against teams like UCLA and USC -- who also pride themselves on their defensive prowess -- that can do them in. Nevertheless, they lost a heartbreaker to USC and UCLA forced them into a terrible shooting night as well. Over the last four games, the turnovers have been less of a problem, but they've been playing teams from the bottom tier of the conference.
Another weakness which they will need to work out is that aside from Alexis Gray-Lawson, they don't have a consistent second scorer. In theory, the way to beat Cal would therefore be to contain her and force someone else -- likely a freshman -- to beat you. That combined with the fact that Cal is 9th in the conference in three point shooting and Gray-Lawson is their best three point shooter, means that they are very susceptible to a zone that stops their penetration and fast break points and forces them to shoot outside.
4. Tell us about the importance of Coach Joanne Boyle as a mentor for these young athletes. Do you think that Joanne Boyle is doing a good job integrating 6 freshmen with her 3 returning senior guards?
The rest is just patience -- Washington's Sami Whitcomb made a good point: Cal's freshmen are all players that came into college after successful high school careers so really they don't know anything but winning. However, part of the natural development of any athlete is learning how to win at the next level. That comes with time and I think Boyle is doing a great job with that.
5. Cal is playing a lot of freshmen this year. Which of these freshmen do you think will have the greatest impact during her time at Cal?
6. What will it take to end the Terror Of Tara??? Anybody But Stanford, please!
Wait... you mean legal ways to end Stanford's reign? I'm not sure I can think of any.
They're obviously the class of the conference -- and the nation -- and they just keep reloading.
I've now heard from Tia Jackson and others that Nnemkadi Ogwumike's sister -- Chiney -- who will be attending Stanford next fall is actually the better of the two. That's actually frightening.
However, as Cal fans there may be a glimmer hope -- in the not-so distant future, all of these talented freshman will become a very, very potent team of seniors. Jackson says Cal's 2010 recruiting class is also very talented and will add a fresh set of guards to their already talented trio of rebounding freshmen. So in three years, this could be a very deep and well rounded team capable of * challenging * Stanford.
But that's more of a one shot deal rather than ending the dynasty. Long term? Overcoming the power of Stanford's reputation in recruiting will be very, very tough for any Pac-10 team.
Special Extra Content!
QMcCall, over at Swish Appeal, is in good with the UW women's team. He was nice enough to ask some questions on our behalf to them after the Cal-UW game, wherein Cal defeated the Huskies. Here are the quotes:
Coach Tia Jackson
On what happened to Sami Whitcomb against Cal:
Cal pressed pretty much the entire game, so Sami [Whitcomb] is typically on the back end of our press so when we had trouble breaking the press she didn’t see the ball much. But I think putting their best defender on her in Alexis Gray-Lawson is a tough assignment for anyone offensively. So she made her looks very hard, very hard.
On what changed in second half against Cal:
We lost our heads, to be honest with you. We’re not a team that dribbles through any press and all of a sudden we tried to do that. It’s a little different when you’re facing it. So when you got players out there going against two defenders you typically want to just run away from it as fast as you can. We tried to do that, which is not what we do. So for about 20 minutes – 15-20 minutes – we lost our cool. So when the kids saw it on tape they were saying, ‘How were you not going crazy?’ And I said, ‘How can I go crazy?’ I’m drawing it up in the timeouts saying, ‘Hey kids -- we want to pass it across, pass it back, throw it diagonal because if there’s two people on you, typically the open look is across the court.’ But again, if you’re in the trenches going against it, it’s kinda easier said than done. But I think we faced similar presses all year and for some reason we just couldn’t get it together – 30 turnovers. It’s hard to win when you turn it over 30 times.
On Eliza Pierre:
Yeah she’s fun. She’s quick as snot and she’s a player that – that’s all she’s known for really. Her defense is kind of her signature now. I know Joanne is going to do a lot with her down the road, but she’s a kid who’s very, very good. Especially on the ball, especially on the ball.
On Kristi Kingma’s struggles:
With Alexis Gray-Lawson on Sami [Whitcomb], they had their second best defender in Eliza Pierre on Kristi, who’s extremely quick – her hands are extremely quick. And we had a hard time getting into the half court set to get the looks we wanted. So before we knew it, it was 10 seconds on the clock and we had to shoot it.
On Cal’s program:
Yeah they signed some good ones too, so you haven’t even seen what’s coming. Yeah, they’re gonna be good. Joanne did a fine job kinda protecting home base as far as keeping those local kids there – all of the kids, or most, are from California or the Bay Area. California is always a hotbed for recruits. So I think she did a good job kinda keeping a gate around her home and keeping those kids there.
Senior guard Sami Whitcomb
Sami elaborating on a comment that they "only played one half" against Cal:
I think that we let our turnovers and sort of the little press that they had on us sort of influence how we were running and executing our offense. We didn’t take good shots, we forced a lot of stuff, we didn’t get into our sets, and that also played a role in what we did on defense – we let that affect our defensive energy and our defensive focus. I think we sort of just panicked a little bit because we weren’t able to get into any flow offensively. We didn’t stick to what we do, we didn’t stick to the game plan, we didn’t stay focused, we didn’t stay disciplined.
Sami on what they need to do differently against the press in the future:
I think we just need to have more patience. We were prepared for a press – there were a couple games where we were pressed and we didn’t respond the way we wanted to so I think people will see that and think that they should press us and that’s fine. We just need to show more patience and poise. There were a couple times where we did that in the Cal game and we got exactly what we wanted out of that. Then instead of sticking with that we just sort of reverted back to dribbling through and trying to break the press on our own. So if we use each other out there, keep our spacing and have patience to find the open person, I think we’ll be fine. Again, I just hthink we sort of started to panic.
On the toughest thing about playing a young team like Cal:
I think when you play a team like that, they don’t know any better to think that they can’t do anything. They’re all coming from great high school teams I would imagine – I know they had a really great recruiting class, they were probably All-Americans. And that’s what they know – they know how to win, they know how to be successful. So with that type of mindset it’s tough to really think of them as freshmen because that’s where they’re coming from. So I think those types of players are really dangerous because they just play – they’re not really thinking about too much other than that.