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Interview with Swish Appeal AND MORE!

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"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?


Right now, Cal's RPI is 58, but the conference's RPI makes them sixth of the 6 "major" conferences. Given their slow start in conference, a bad loss to San Jose State, and the fact that the Pac-10 only had 3 teams in the tournament last year -- arguably much better Cal and Arizona State teams -- it will be tough for them to make it. I'm not sure I see the Pac-10 placing 3 teams in the tournament again this year so Cal needs to shoot for finishing second in conference play at the very least. But having already lost to other contenders for second place in UCLA and USC, they absolutely must win those games at home to make a legitimate case for getting into the tournament -- getting swept by them would make an already difficult case for Cal much tougher. Out of their 11 remaining games, they'll be forgiven for a home loss against Stanford, but they need to win their remaining home games, definitely sweep the Washington road trip, and at least split Arizona to have an outside chance. That's winning 9 of the next 11. Their best bet is winning the Pac-10 tournament but of course Stanford is standing in the way of that.

 

3.  What are Cal's strengths this year?  What are Cal's weaknesses?



Their clear strength all season has been their pressure defense and their offensive rebounding and the reason is their athleticism. While their freshman are understandably inconsistent, they are all athletic. Just to put things in perspective, they held Oregon to their lowest point total of the season last Thursday. So they are athletic enough to run with the fastest teams in the nation and shut them down. Against Washington, they just took them completely out of what they wanted to do which led to impatience and frantic play. Cal has the potential to do that to just about anyone.

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via www.dailycal.org



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?


When I asked University of Washington coach Tia Jackson about the program, the first thing she commented on was Boyle and the outstanding recruiting job she's done. Boyle is known as a defensive coach and one of the first things you notice about this team is that she has done an outstanding job getting the entire team to buy into the team's defensive concept. Most importantly, she's putting the young players in position to succeed whether it be within the defense or offensively. Even despite the mistakes the team makes, the team generally looks cohesive in what they're doing, which says a lot about her ability to integrate the 6 young players into the team.

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?

I find it hard not to like Eliza Pierre's potential. Right now, she's known as a defensive player, but if you look at her lines game by game, she's a player that's able to fill up the box score in ways other than scoring, whether it be assists, rebounds, or steals. Watching her I've come away even more impressed -- she makes freshman mistakes occasionally forcing the ball, but she also has the speed to blow by defenders, is able to create space for jumpers off the dribble, has a very good sense of how to use angles and change of pace in space to set up other players, and she's generally a very decisive player with the ball in her hands. She has a great foundation with which to build upon and Boyle might be the best coach for her -- someone who can bring out the best in her defensively and help her refine her game offensively.
 
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:

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via seattletimes.nwsource.com

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.

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via cache.boston.com


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.