May 15, 2018

Ten Months Hence: Who Wins This Fantasy Game?

Warren Grimes

Fast forward to March of next year. The Stanford women’s basketball team has just completed the Pac 12 tournament, and now awaits the opening round of the Big Dance. In preparation, TVD decides to schedule a vigorous practice game. She breaks down the team into two squads, as listed below.

Veteran Squad Youth Squad
Alanna Smith Maya Dodson
Nadia Fingall Alyssa Jerome
DiJonai Carrington     Lexie Hull
Kiana Williams Lacie Hull
Marta Sniezek Jenna Brown

Consider how much talent there is in this list of ten players (there are four more on the roster that could have been mentioned). Each of these ten could start for most teams in the country. Each of these ten, if not a starter, has a good shot at being in the rotation next year. That’s a deep roster (and a longer rotation than the nine players who averaged 10 minutes on the 2017-2018 team).

So who should be favored?

The Veteran team, I suppose -- it is made up of 2 seniors, 2 juniors, and one veteran sophomore. It includes the second (Smith), third (Williams), fourth (Carrington) and fifth (Sniezek) highest scorers from last season. Except for Fingall, each started for at least a portion of last season. Each can shoot the three ball, although Williams stands out. Kiana had 71 three pointers, more than twice the number of any other player. And she shot threes at a .384 clip. Williams averaged 10.4 points per game for the season, but, during six post season games, averaged 15.5 per game. Williams could be the team’s top scorer next year and is All American material.

The highest 3-point shooting percentage? That belongs to Nadia Fingall, who shot threes at almost a 42 percent clip.

This roster could win games against most any team next year. Not that there aren’t areas for improvement – there is, for example, the matter of free throws. Williams shot free throws at just short of 82 % last season. None of the other four made the 70% mark; and Smith, who drew a lot of fouls, made only 53% of her charity tosses. Rebounding will also be an issue – Stanford is losing a gifted boarder and defender in Kaylee Johnson.

To replace top scoring McPhee, the veteran team needs more offense from players like Fingall and Sniezek. But the Veteran sqiad should be favored in this fantasy match up.

So what about the Youth squad?

There are a lot more unknowns for this squad of two sophomores and three freshmen. But all of these players could be in the-end-of season rotation, and each has a possibility of breaking into the starting ranks next year. It wouldn’t surprise me if a couple of them did.

The two veterans from last year’s rotation (Dodson and Jerome) have great promise. In roughly 10 minutes per game playing time, Dodson averaged 3.5 points; Jerome averaged 2 points. Dodson was a proficient shot blocker and has exciting potential as a post player. The team needs Dodson to step up her game. Jerome is less flashy, but shows steadiness and also has the potential for a sophomore break through. Each of these players needs to develop confident interior moves.

Then there’s the three freshmen, each of whom knows how to shoot free throws. How nice is that! The three face major adjustments to the college game, but there are reasons to hope that each will adjust with aplomb. With four months of college experience, all three could be impressive players.

Jenna Brown has international playing experience on USA youth teams. In the two high school all star games this Spring, she showed steadiness and maturity in handing out assists. Unlike a number of other participants, she seemed a team player, more than willing to help her teammates look good.

Then there’s the Hull sisters, whom might be dubbed the “chemistry sisters.” According to their high school coach, the twins are gym rats who practice with reliable intensity. They are said to be quick learners and very coachable.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the twins have talent, reflected in the many high school accolades, not to mention their team’s championship in the GEICO Nationals.

So the Youth squad, by the end of next season, should give the Veterans all they can handle, and maybe more. Four of the five players shoot the three ball (Dodson is the exception). Lacie Hull shot threes at 41% last season, and made a lot of them. Lexie Hull didn’t take as many, but made 39% of her attempts.

Overall, on offense, the Youth team could be led by Dodson, Lexie Hull, and Brown. Defense? The Hull sisters were on a team that played great help defense. They, and Brown as well, should fit easily into the Stanford defensive scheme that relies on help.

Rebounding? Dodson needs to improve her rebounding skills, as does Jerome. Two of the incoming freshmen know how to board. Of note is that Brown, while scoring an average of 21 points as a point guard, also averaged almost 10 rebounds per game last year. And Lexie Hull was the number one boarder on her championship team.

Chemistry? The Youth squad should have it in spades, with Brown’s mature point guard skills and the enthusiasm and passing skills of the Hull sisters.

So who wins this matchup?

You choose! It’s a fantasy game. My pick is that a motivated Youth squad scores a narrow upset victory by outshooting the Veterans from the free throw line.

No comments: