Pac-10 preview: Stanford University

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the eighth installment of the Pac-10 previews: the Stanford University Cardinal.

by Daniel Uribe

The Stanford women’s basketball team has one goal in mind – a National Title – and after falling short last year, they will not settle for just another trip to the Final Four.

As one of the only teams expected to give the buzzsaw that was Connecticut a run last year, the Cardinal came up short in a game they expected to be much more competitive, losing 89-64 in the national semifinals.

This year however, they are hoping to turn the tables on the Huskies and are preparing for their goal with an early-season trip to Connecticut to face the defending national championships on their home court, Dec. 23. The Cardinal’s daunting schedule does not end there, with non-conference match-ups against Tennessee, Duke, DePaul, Old Dominion and Gonzaga, among others. Their schedule has been called one of the top five-hardest in the NCAA.

As for the Pac-10, the Cardinal – who are ranked no. 2 in both pre-season polls – are heavily favored to win their 10th consecutive title, and with rivals California and Arizona State losing their vaunted group of seniors, they may have what is considered a much easier path than last year.

Leading the way will be Pac-10 Player of the Year Jayne Appel (16.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) who is heavily-favored to repeat the award. Appel, a pre-season All-American, had off-season knee surgery to repair a cartilage problem but Tara VanDerveer said that she, along with JJ Hones, should be close to full playing capacity by the start of the season.

Hones, who is recovering from a season-ending ACL tear she suffered in last year’s game vs. Rutgers on Nov. 23, will lead a group of guards that VanDerveer sees as much improved. Joining Hones will be second team all Pac-10 performer, junior Jeanette Pohlen (10.7 ppg, 3.8 apg); redshirt senior guard Roslyn Gold-Onwude (3.8 ppg, 2.3 apg); redshirt junior guard Melanie Murphy (2.2 ppg, 1.5 apg); sophomore guard Lindy LaRocque (3.5 ppg, 1.0 apg); and sophomore guard Grace Mashore (0.7 ppg, 0.2 rpg). Also joining them will be junior guard Hannah Donaghe (2.4 ppg) who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered on Feb. 18.

The Cardinal’s only loss to graduation was forward Jillian Harmon who could best be described as a glue player for the team. A number of players could step up to fill that position including LaRocque, Pohlen or Kayla Pedersen (10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg). The junior forward was named third team All Pac-10 last year and will lead a deep wing crew for the Cardinal. She is joined by Mikaela Ruef, a 6’3″ freshman wing and Ohio High School Player of the Year; redshirt junior Michelle Harrison (3.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg); and junior Ashley Cimino (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg).

The post game is Stanford’s strength with arguably the best depth in college basketball right now. Appel will be joined by sophomore Nnemkadi (Nneka) Ogwumike (10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who will most likely get more playing time, has worked on her shot all summer and is expected to have a breakout year. Joining them will be 6’3″ freshman forward Joslyn Tinkle from Missoula, Montana. Sophomore center Sarah Boothe (5 ppg, 2.7 rpg) underwent off-season foot surgery and may potentially redshirt this season.

Stanford will open it’s season on the road with a match-up versus Old Dominion in Norfolk, VA on Nov. 13.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).