January 16, 2018

A Two-Weekend, Four-Game Assessment: Stanford is Better than Its Ranking

By Warren Grimes

Over the past two weekends, Stanford went 3-1, with the one loss coming at Arizona State. These four games were mid-season, and provide an apt opportunity to assess Stanford’s accomplishments and shortcomings. Kiana Williams started all four of these games, and is a significant reason for the team’s improved performance. She’s upped her game in a number of important categories. The chart below compares Kiana’s season averages with her averages for the last four games.

Minutes Points/Game FG % 3-Point % Assists/Game Steals/Game
21.6/31.5 8.2/12.0 .355/.441 .337/.348 1.3/1.75 .6/1.0

Kiana deservedly was chosen conference freshman of the week for the Arizona weekend. The likelihood is that statistics will continue to improve for this gifted freshman.

A veteran who has also upped her performance is Kaylee Johnson. For the season, she’s averaging .378 boards per minute; but in the last four games, she’s tearing down boards at a .452 per minute clip. She is, by a significant margin, the team’s best rebounder. She is also finishing underneath better. Her season-long field goal percentage is 46%; during the four game run, it was 60%.

Improvements came too for DiJonai Carrington. In the last 4 games, DiJonai shot 40% from three point range (compared to a 25.8 % clip for the season) and became the team’s # 1 theft artist. Her 11 steals during the four games was double her season-long steals per minute rate. Carrington also continues to be one of the team’s best rebounders, with the same per minute rebounding rate as Alanna Smith.

Alanna Smith did not up her point or rebounding performance, but the last 4 games showed her a more efficient scorer. Her field goal percentage, 51.2 for the season, went up to 53.3 in the last four-game stint. Her 3-point percentage is 32.6% for the season, but was 37.5% over the last 4 games. And Alanna’s assist numbers are up: 1.5 per game over the season, but 2.25 over the last 4 games.

Improved assist performance is even more dramatic for Brittany McPhee. She has averaged 2.9 assists per game over the season, but, for the last 4 games, had 3.75 assists per game. Indeed, Brittany was the number one assist maker during the last two weekends (Marta Sniezek was second with 3 assists per game). Brittany’s point per game average was down, but she is making collapsing defenses pay by picking out the open player. That is an indication that Stanford’s quick-pass offense is becoming more efficient.

Looking at the big picture, the conference continues to be highly competitive, with Oregon the only team undefeated in conference. Both Washington and Arizona, although losing by significant margins to Stanford, showed moxie under their new coaches. In not atypical fashion, Charli Turner Thorne has her team fast out of the gate. The issue for ASU in past years has been an inability to sustain that momentum in the second half of the season.

For this week, the AP pool has five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 25, with Oregon holding the #7 position. OSU, California, and ASU all made the lower end of the top 25. Stanford is unranked. Are all of these teams better than Stanford? Are they likely to be ahead of Stanford at season’s end?

Ask yourself this question: Would you want to trade players (and coaching staff) with any of these teams for the current Stanford lot?

A silly question. Stanford had a rough beginning; but now, almost all roads lead upward.

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