April 2, 2011
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer takes a look at the games in the women's Final Four. She is in the unique position of having coached against all four teams this season:
This is an exciting game for me with two of my fellow BIG EAST teams going head-to-head. Notre Dame needs another strong performance from its guards, especially Skylar Diggins who has been playing extremely well throughout the tournament. Natalie Novosel has also been showing up in a big time way.
The play in the paint is going to be important as well, so Devereaux Peters has to try to stay out of foul trouble and continue to attack inside. Becca Bruszewski has to also play physical and give the Irish a 1-2 punch in the post.
The key for Notre Dame is to not be intimidated by playing UConn, because the psychological edge could honestly be the biggest factor in the Huskies' favor. They've been there before, having advanced to four straight Final Fours. The Irish have to play free with a different mindset and not worry about who they're playing, like they were able to do against Tennessee (0-20 all-time vs. the Lady Vols prior to the Elite Eight matchup).
On the other hand is Maya Moore, who in my opinion is the most focused, determined player I have ever seen. She is completely tuned in for the entire 40 minutes every time she plays. It seems like the greater the stage, the more she shows up. She can will her team to win, but you don't have to do much to push that Connecticut team because they're focused.
Stefanie Dolson has also been playing with much more confidence. She's moving well, making good passes, rebounding and wreaking all kinds of havoc in the paint. Another advantage for UConn is its seven-player rotation, which is what most coaches will play when it gets to crunch time. They have their rotation set and everyone knows their role.
At the end, it's going to come down to who is going to outrebound and have more opportunities on the offensive side.
This is an interesting matchup because Stanford's triangle offense is conducive to backdoor cuts which is one way to attack Texas A&M's defense. The Aggies play one of the toughest styles of defense in the country, but if you have an offense that keeps it moving and understands timing, you can find success. I'm interested to see the types of tweaks within their offense Stanford makes to combat that pressure.
The Ogwumike sisters will be a big factor for Stanford. I'm sure Texas A&M will focus on both but the freshman Chiney is the key. She's hard on the boards and a quick leaper who is so instinctive. It's impressive the way she's been playing.
Stanford is going to have all it can handle with Danielle Adams. She's bound to play well because she didn't do so offensively against Baylor and a player of her caliber doesn't have very many bad games in a row.
Texas A&M has a lot of weapons with Sydney Colson, Sydney Carter and Tyra White, but so does Stanford with Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen. The difference is Stanford's shooting will rely on passing execution and there needs to be rhythm to that. Rhythm can be broken up when you get high and play hard in the lane like Texas A&M does, so it can be disruptive.
The Aggies don't necessarily need the precision of the pass. Someone like Colson can make an in-and-out move, step back and break you down herself. Texas A&M has a number of players that can take you off the bounce. I see them driving more to create situations where players are going to have to move laterally. In the end, I still think Stanford can handle it because they're overall taller and longer.
It's going to be a close game.