December 09, 2019

What's Next for Stanford WBB: My Interview With Two Fantasy Fans

Warren Grimes

When I heard that Stanford had been given the #1 ranking in the AP poll, I was excited to tell Mort and Mary.  They are Stanford fans, but a bit of an odd couple.  Mort is, well – a cynic, and a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy.  Mary, on the other hand, is upbeat – her glass is always half full.

When I spilled the news, Mort didn’t hesitate.

“What’s the big deal?”  he said.  “A month from now, no one will remember who had the #1 ranking in early December.  What matters is who has it in April!”

“Well,” I asked, “Isn’t it still an achievement?  Stanford has gone 7 years without a number 1 ranking.”

Mary jumped in.  “It is an accomplishment.”  Mary said.  “Stanford won the Victoria tournament, defeating two top 20 teams on neutral turf.”

Mort was unconvinced.  “Stanford eeked out the narrowest of victories against unranked California Baptist, and gave up 78 points to that team.  And,” Mort continued, “Stanford barely beat Mississippi State.”

Mary wouldn’t be quieted, “I was impressed.  Stanford won these games without three players who were pivotal to last year’s team.  Alana Smith graduated and neither Maya Dodson nor Dijonai Carrington, two key players from last year, played a single minute in the tournament.”

I’ll go with Mary on that last point.  Stanford fielded a tournament team that lacked two of the three top scorers from last year.  Only Kiana Williams played.  This was a young team, with freshmen and sophomores playing absolutely critical roles.  Senior Nadia Fingall (tournament MVP) and junior Kiana Williams played very well.  But here are some of the young players’ accomplishments in the Victoria tournament.

Sophomore Lexie Hull averaged over 10 points and 6 boards while converting 9 of 11 free throws.  Her sister, Lacie Hull, played substantial minutes and contributed through defense.  Lacie had six blocks and 3 steals during the tournament.

Freshman Haley Jones made her first two starts (against Syracuse and Mississippi State) and, in those two games, played more minutes (36 per game) than any other player.  Jones averaged 13.3 points and 4.5 boards for the tournament.  Against Mississippi State, Jones had a team leading 4 assists. 

Freshman Hannah Jump had a break out game against Syracuse, playing 29 minutes and contributing a team leading 24 points, all of them on three point attempts (for the tournament, Jump converted 10 out of 17, or 59%, from three point range). 

Freshman Fran Belibi, playing just over 12 minutes per game, averaged 8 points and 3.7 boards.  That’s actually quite impressive.  For the season, Belibi has the highest field goal percentage (62.5%) and the highest rebounds per minute (.419) of any player.  If Belibi can address turnovers and fouling, she is likely to see a lot more minutes.

Freshman Ashten Prechtel averaged only 4 minutes per game.  Her potential, however, remains substantial.  Prechtel is the team’s second most efficient rebounder, trailing only Belibi on a per minute basis, and has averaged 6.5 points per game with a high field goal conversion percentage (52.3%). 

Of course, the team’s depth and experience will be greatly enhanced if Dijonai Carrington and Maya Dodson can return.  In their absence, the Stanford team has demonstrated grit and determination.  That’s a critical intangible.

Stanford’s next tree games, against Ohio State, Texas, and Tennessee, will be a challenge.  Thinking about all of this, Mary said: “If we can win all three, Stanford will be well deserving of the number one rank.” 

Looking dour, Mort responded: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

I say "Watch this team!  They are great fun and can only get better."   

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