If the hope was that two weeks of basketball would have supplied a clearer image of the hierarchy in girls’s faculty basketball this season, that has not been the case. In actual fact, most of my conversations since Nov. 6 has some variations on, “Wait, is Group X any good?”
Aside from South Carolina on the high — cease me when you’ve heard that earlier than — each different anticipated contender bought the lumps. Whereas the Gamecocks are taking up their opposition, most groups across the nation want a while to be taught new rosters and programs. Rising pains are anticipated, akin to LSU and Virginia Tech integrating new transfers, or Maryland and Indiana going through the commencement of WNBA first-round picks.
Nonetheless, total, the standard of play throughout the nation was higher than anticipated. However given my regional biases, and the truth that that is the final yr of the Pac-12 as we all know it, these inaugural rankings will level to the western convention being within the midst of an epic occasion .
Virtually Well-known: Duke, Princeton, Maryland
Has Stanford’s frontcourt promise been fulfilled?
The Cardinals had a humiliation of riches on the ahead positions final season, however there are too many choices for any particular person participant — aside from Cameron Brink — to get sufficient run, particularly for the reason that Stanford was all the time small with Haley Jones on the 4. Now the rotation is shorter, and the primary beneficiary is Kiki Iriafen, who’s progressing with a higher minutes load.
Carolyn Peck referred to as Iriafen a mixture of Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike with a touch of A’ja Wilson on Sunday’s Stanford-Duke broadcast, and whereas the reward appeared hyperbolic, Iriafen’s begin was vital. The junior averaged 21 factors and 9 rebounds per recreation by means of 4 contests, obliterating his per-minute averages from the earlier two seasons. The Cardinal are already a superb paint offense in 2022-23, changing 63 % of their shot makes an attempt on the rim; Iriafen’s success fee thus far is sort of laughable, as he has made 25 of 31 photographs on the basket. Brink’s capability to house the ground as a shooter and a high-low passer permits Iriafen to function in room, and the frontcourt tandem is the primary motive Stanford is undefeated regardless of to welcome two robust opponents (Indiana and Duke) to Maples Pavilion to begin the yr.
One of the complicated storylines in Stanford’s 2022-23 marketing campaign is the way in which the Cardinal used (or maybe, failed to make use of) Lauren Betts. The No. 1 recruit within the nation is a fixture in Stanford’s rotation, averaging lower than 10 minutes and DNP-ed twice, so it is no shock that Betts is in search of a unique location for the remaining in his faculty profession.
Betts’ transfer to Los Angeles clears up the frontcourt state of affairs for the Cardinal, and it is also a boon for the Bruins. UCLA performs an lively model of protection, swarming ballhandlers and making use of heavy ball stress, however that may create openings on the rim when the opponent is behind the protection, particularly if the Bruins spent many of the season and not using a conventional heart court docket. That is not a problem with Betts, who serves as an eraser within the paint, however extra usually stops opponents from even trying photographs round him. Opponents took lower than 15 % of their photographs on the rim towards UCLA, higher than 97 % of defenses, per CBB Analytics.
What’s fascinating is that Betts’ impression is definitely extra pronounced on offense. By way of 4 video games, UCLA is 38 factors per 100 possessions higher with Betts on the ground, with 25 of these factors approaching offense. He works arduous to seal off his defender so the Bruins can get him the ball inside, however when that does not work, he is a prepared and efficient screener who creates house for his guards to get to the basket . Towards Princeton, Betts made all 9 of his field-goal makes an attempt in three quarters, however he did not get any shot makes an attempt within the fourth because the Tigers did every part they may to disclaim him the ball. She responded by enjoying a pick-and-roll with Charisma Osborne, and whereas a defender stayed glued to Betts, Osborne had open jumpers and driving lanes.
Charisma Osborne and Lauren Betts mixed for 4️⃣3️⃣ factors to push No. 3 UCLA at Princeton in Pauley on Friday 😤
Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/OvAino7kdD
— Pac-12 Community (@Pac12Network) November 18, 2023
Probably the most full offensive participant within the Pac-12
Iriafen, Brink and Betts introduced issues to begin the season, and regardless that the Utes are the primary staff within the Pac-12 to register a loss in 2023-24, that does not diminish how good the reigning convention participant of the yr. . The one method to cease Alissa Pili is to get her off the court docket, as a result of Pili can do something on offense. He entered Sunday having made practically 79 % of his subject targets on the season; his jumper was on level, an nearly unequal complement to his stunning footwork within the put up.
This reverse end from Pili towards Baylor excessive on the glass is obscure in actual time.
It is actually stable protection, however Alissa Pili has the angles and footwork right down to mastery
Just like the reverse spin on the glass? Who does this lmao
What a basket pic.twitter.com/WEIR3459yL
— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) November 16, 2023
At a later date, we’ll delve into the defensive enhancements Utah must make and the way it can keep afloat when Pili is in foul bother. For now, it is extra enjoyable to understand an extremely expert offensive participant Pili.
Why the Buffs are within the nationwide dialog
We’re nonetheless just a few weeks away from convention play, and I am already nervous in regards to the Pac-12’s potential participant of the yr race. The league is crammed with dominant frontcourt gamers, however for 2 weeks, I could not take my eyes off Jaylyn Sherrod. At 5-foot-7, he finishes 60 % of his photographs within the restricted space and will get there practically 5 occasions per recreation. It takes an unimaginable mixture of pace and power to get to the basket persistently and successfully, particularly when his long-range jumper is actually non-existent. Even when defenses get down on Sherrod as a result of he isn’t a risk to take off a display screen, they cannot corral him on his method to the ring.
— Colorado Ladies’s Basketball 🦬 (@CUBuffsWBB) November 19, 2023
What’s most spectacular about Sherrod is his capability to adapt to any transfer. Colorado is snug executing within the half court docket, whether or not that is permitting Sherrod to dictate the motion from the highest of the important thing or utilizing its forwards as hand hubs on the elbows. Sherrod may also shove the ball down opponents’ throats together with his transition pace. Towards LSU within the opener, the Buffaloes excelled within the open court docket, and towards SMU Saturday, Colorado needed to execute towards a set protection. Each video games resulted in snug victories.
A feminine destroyer of the Notre Dame crew
From a fifth-year senior to a daring rookie, the standing of guard play in faculty basketball is at an all-time excessive. It is arduous to consider Hidalgo is in his first yr at Notre Dame, as he instructions the staff on each ends of the ground like a seasoned veteran. Accidents to Olivia Miles and now Sonia Citron (though coach Niele Ivey was relieved to disclose that Citron ought to be again in just a few weeks) have given Hidalgo extra duty for the Irish, but it surely appears – together with his belief – he’ll get it. greater position although.
Hidalgo is a one-woman wrecking crew at Notre Dame, and it is becoming that the participant who sealed a gold medal for Group USA on the FIBA U-19 World Cup this summer season with a steal carries that defensive talent degree in South Bend . He averaged practically seven takeaways per recreation — for context, 117 Division I groups recorded fewer — and had a 12-steal night time that tied a program document with fellow New Jersey fireball Marina Mabrey.
It is complicated to see opposing groups attempt to carry the ball towards his full court docket stress or go proper at Hidalgo on protection with out making an attempt to display screen him off the ball. He has an countless motor as a point-of-attack defender and nice instincts to assist the protection. Notre Dame is 22.1 factors per 100 possessions higher defensively solely when Hidalgo is on the court docket, which looks like a misprint till you notice that opponents flip the ball over 11 % extra. all the time these minutes. Two weeks into his faculty profession, Hidalgo is likely to be probably the most thrilling defensive participant within the nation.
– NCAA March Insanity (@MarchMadnessWBB) November 18, 2023
Is Iowa’s shot distribution the difficulty?
Monika Czinano tried 10.6 subject targets per recreation final season, with one other 7.7 from McKenna Warnock. That is about 18 photographs per night time that Iowa must relocate for this season. The best outcome was Hannah Stuelke accounting for many of that workload, however she solely added 4 extra makes an attempt per recreation. Sharon Goodman and Addison O’Grady have every added three extra shot makes an attempt to their averages, however nonetheless depart about eight extra subject targets per contest, and most of these go to Caitlin Clark.
In idea, giving extra photographs to the perfect offensive participant within the nation is not an issue, however Clark’s workload is a bit heavy for Iowa proper now. And the reigning nationwide participant of the yr admitted after the Hawkeyes’ loss to Kansas State that he must get higher at getting everybody concerned. Coach Lisa Bluder additional introduced the purpose residence when she mentioned of her put up gamers: “We’ve got to have extra confidence in them.”
The magic that Clark created with Czinano will not be simply replicated, although it looks like Iowa is all the time rolling in a single nice put up after one other. However the one hope that can occur is that Clark will give Stuelke, Goodman and O’Grady an opportunity.
(Picture by Te-Hina Paopao: Jacob Kupferman / Getty Pictures)