Basketball, like most team sports, is a complicated game. The rules handbook PDF is 130+ pages, and that's before you even get to the index. Women's teams have 15 scholarships, and with 10 players on the court, there are endless permutations of players, strategies, and styles to use to try to win basketball games.
But sometimes we try to make it sound more complicated than it has to be. More often than not, the team with the best player on the court is the team that's going to win.
If you held a draft for the 2014-15 Pac-12 season, the first two players picked in that draft would be Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray. Probably in that order, depending on your preference for guard play or interior play. The duo are widely expected to be picked in the 1st round of the WBNA draft, with both perhaps going in the top 6. When you can roll with a 1-2 punch like that, you should be competitive against any team in the nation.
Cal fans know what they are getting from Boyd and Gray. One is a do-everything point guard, a player that can control the game on both ends of the court like few others. The other is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, with the size and strength to wear out defenses night after night. Both are getting a ton of pre-season All-American love.
Are they the best duo in the country? Probably not. UConn's Keleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart likely take the crown, and a few other teams (South Carolina, Tennesse and Notre Dame, just to start) who have been stockpiling elite recruits for a few years will have their say. But Cal's twosome is in the conversation, and that's an exciting place to be.
What makes the pair so much fun is their ability to play off each other. Since entering Cal together in 2011-12, their styles have meshed perfectly. Both love running the court, and Gray's length and athleticism lets her corral crazy Boyd outlet passes that other players wouldn't get to. When you play with Brittany Boyd from day 1 you learn to keep your hands up and expect passes in all situations.
Boyd and Gray will likely spend the season re-writing Cal's record book. Boyd is on pace to break the Cal record for career assists and steals, while climbing close to the top 5 in points. Gray should also get near the top 5 in points, and make a run at the top 5 in rebounds. Various single-season records will almost certainly get challenged. The question is: how much team success the Bears will enjoy to go along with individual numbers?
The general pre-season consensus is that Cal is somewhere between the 10th and 20th best team in the country. That suggests that pundits have a measure of reservation about Cal's depth of talent and/or experience past Boyd and Gray. Afure Jemerigbe, Gennifer Brandon and Mikayla Lyles have graduated, and that means that lots of underclassmen will have to step up. Courtney Range and Mercedes Jefflo will be expected to make sophomore season leaps. Gabby Green and Mikayla Cowling will have to contribute immediately as true freshmen. Penina Davidson and/or K.C. Waters will have to find roles spelling Gray and Justine Hartman.
How Cal answers the question marks after their inside/outside duo will likely determine the difference between a good season and a transcendent one. Either way, the main attraction this year will be two Cal greats playing at the height of their collegiate abilities. Either one is worth the price of admission alone. Together you're getting a bargain.