Why they'll win: Baylor/Stanford
Farnum chooses Lady Bears while McKesson picks Cardinal
Why Baylor will win
Everybody is talking about Brittney Griner and the Ogwumike sisters in this matchup, and of course that will be interesting to watch. But where Baylor really has the edge against Stanford is at the point guard position.
There may be only a year between the two young point guards in this game – Baylor sophomore Odyssey Sims and Stanford freshman Amber Orrange – but the experience factor will play a part in Sunday’s semifinal contest.
Sims’ freshman season ended with a disappointing performance (0-for-6 from the field with two total points) in the Bears’ loss to Texas A&M in the regional final. But that was last year, and Sims has grown into one of the nation’s best point guards, and fully embraced her role.
“I can assure you she’s a different basketball player today than she was a year ago,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “The talent was there a year ago, but she’s more experienced. She has really grown both in her mental makeup of how to handle it at this level – the constructive criticism, the understanding of what’s on your shoulders as a point guard.”
Sims has upped her game as a sophomore, and the Bears have definitely benefitted from her maturation process. She is averaging 14.8 ppg, and has more than doubled her steals total from last year with 114, and garnered Associated Press Second Team All-America honors for her contributions.
With Sims running the offense, the Bears rank third in the nation with a 1.32 assists to turnover ratio. She has only turned the ball over six times in four NCAA tournament games. Sims’ speed, quickness and constant pressure on the ball, she will be a tough match-up for any of Stanford’s guards.
“Obviously playing perimeter defense against the guards that are in the pool now, whether it's Skylar Diggins or Bria Hartley or Odyssey Sims, you've got to have the quickness and the kind of determination to match up with them,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “And we will have to work very hard to guard Odyssey Sims.”
Sims is coming off a 27-point performance against Tennessee in the Elite Eight. She raises her game against big opponents, and is averaging 20.5 points per game against ranked foes this season, well above her season scoring average.
All eyes will be on the battle of two of the best post players in the nation, and that is a special matchup. But this game will be won in the backcourt, and for Baylor, that starts with Sims.
--Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
Why Stanford will win
The Cardinal is full of surprises, at least for Baylor. Stanford is the only team the Lady Bears haven’t met on the court this season, and could also be the best team in the country to give them a run for their money and put a halt to their dreams of a 40-0 record.Of course, the All-American duo is a point of concern for Baylor. The Ogwumike sisters, the first sisters to be named to AP All-America Team in the same season, go for nearly half of the points for the Cardinal on average. And their chemistry on the hardwood is undeniable, having played together on and off throughout their careers.
“I talk about playing on the court with Chiney is like playing with three teammates, not four,” senior forward Nnemkadi Ogumike said. “We kind of understand each other's games. And when it comes to constructive criticism, things are a little different when we communicate between each other.”Even Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma thinks this is a really good matchup.
“So Brittney [Griner] and Odyssey Sims and Baylor, they don’t know anything about how to defend Stanford,” Auriemma said. “…I don’t know who is going to win. But those people who say Baylor’s got an 80 percent change of winning [Sunday] night, I think they’re dead wrong.”
One area the numbers fall in Stanford’s favor is in tournament play. Appearing in their fifth consecutive Women’s Final Four on Sunday, the Cardinal program has made 24 appearances in the NCAA tournament with 11 Final Four appearances, in comparison to Baylor’s 11 appearances and three Final Fours.
With Nnemkadi Ogwumike’s 22.5 points and 10.3 boards per game and her on-court leadership and demeanor, this team has the makeup to make this happen if they can get all of the parts moving succinctly together on Sunday.
Behind every good post player (or two in this case), is a team of guards that has to find a way to get them the ball. Stanford’s backcourt combo of sophomore Toni Kokenis and freshman Amber Orrange has raised the bar during tournament action.
Together, the pair has committed only 13 turnovers in the Cardinal’s path to Denver. Orrange has been the breakout player, dishing out a career-high 11 assists versus Hampton and putting up a career-high 18 points against West Virginia.
it never hurts to have a pair of nerdy rap stars on the team to help liven up the Stanford team and make sure they have a little fun out there on Sunday.
--Summer McKesson, NCAA.com