There's no way getting around it. This is weird, repetitive, dumb, and very much not in the best interesting of Cal or Pac-12 women's basketball. But the inescapable is upon us and it's time to talk about the 2nd game of Cal's season series against the Stanford automaton. If you want to know more about specific Stanford players or certain match-ups, you may as well re-read what I wrote last Monday since it's presumably just as applicable now. But what can we learn from Tuesday's events?
Try, if you can, to harken back to three days ago, when Cal played Stanford so many sunsets ago. Cal did many good things, and other less good things. Can we reasonably expect Cal to continue to do the good things and fix the bad things? And should we expect Stanford's level of play to stay static?
THINGS TO DO AGAIN!
Dominate the glass: I'm very optimistic about Cal's chances at keeping Stanford off the offensive glass - the Cardinal seemed to cede defensive rebounds to the Bears as only Ogwumike was ever particularly near the basket. But can Cal pull down nearly half of their missed shots? Probably not. It really helped that Stanford's 2nd best rebounder, Mikaela Ruef spent the game mired in constant foul trouble. It helped that the refs called the game loosely, allowed Cal's physical forwards to rumble in the paint. Will these things all happen again on Sunday, in Maples?
Will it happen again? Yes, but not to the same extent.
Draw fouls, make free throws: It's not like Cal lived at the line or anything, but against a disciplined defense like Stanford, Cal drew an impressive amount of fouls and ended up attempting 21 free throws. I don't think there's any reason to expect Cal to be less aggressive on offense, and the Bears are usually good to draw a number of fouls when the crash the glass. But counting on refs to call the game the same way and counting on a 63% free throw shooting team to take advantage is inherently iffy
Will it happen again? Probably not.
Hope Stanford is inept from behind the arc again: Stanford made ZERO threes. After they missed a few early in the game they hardly even tried. Stanford has a number of players who can hypothetically hit an open three, but most of those players aren't especially quick and Cal's defense didn't have much trouble staying with them and preventing any blatantly open looks. Kokenis and Orrange are the two players who are fast enough and shifty enough to get open, but Orrange just doesn't shoot threes.
Will it happen again? Stanford's offense just isn't built to make a ton of threes, but expecting them to throw up another 0-fer is naive.
THINGS TO NOT DO AGAIN!
I'm just going to go ahead and steal the three things that went wrong for Cal as identified in a typically excellent column from Nate over at Swish Appeal:
Miss a ton of jumpers: I don't have much to add here that wasn't discussed in the game recap.
Will it happen again? As a man of science, I believe in the law of averages. No.
Let Stanford tear apart the press: I'll be honest - against elite teams, I don't think Cal's press is a very effective strategy. The Bears have the athletes to completely overwhelm teams that aren't capable of matching up. Stanford is capable. People have rightly made much of how UConn disrupted Stanford's offense with pressure. But over the last two years I've seen Stanford score a transition basket because they broke down the press much more often than I recall Cal slowing down the Cardinal. Granted, a decent amount of the press Cal played came at the end of the game, when the Bears were losing and were forced to make something happen. If the game is close, I don't want to see the press more often than once or twice as a surprise.
Will it happen again? No, because I have a feeling we'll only see the press once or twice, if at all.
Let Chiney dominate: Stanford's supporting caste is very good, but they don't have one player to carry the team after Chiney. And honestly, I think Cal gave plenty of attention to players other than Chiney, and there were plenty of times when she scored against single coverage. Does that mean that Cal might double her more often and possibly give up other shots? I don't know. There just isn't a good answer to this question.
Will it happen again? Probably. Sigh.
1. I still firmly, firmly believe that Stanford will lose a Pac-12 game this year. But Maples is still intimidating, no matter what UConn did to them a few weeks back. This is an uphill battle, and a loss, however disappointing, doesn't really change much about what the Bears can still achieve this year.
2. If Cal loses this game, the race for the Pac-12 crown is functionally over. Do you suppose that Stanford women's basketball fans show up at IRS headquarters each year to root for taxes?
3. The Pac-12 tournament had better be really friggin' exciting and well-attended this year.