Conference Questions: Women


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Stanford: Will Stanford lose a game this season?

The No. 4 Cardinal crushed the conference's only other ranked team, then No. 8 UCLA, by 26 points on Thursday in a game that wasn't even that close. Stanford (16-2, 7-0 in the Pac-10) is the best team in the Pac-10, but that doesn't mean it will go undefeated in conference.

This squad isn't without flaws. The Cardinal don't have a true point guard. Senior Jeanette Pohlen has been playing the point and playing it well - she is averaging 16.5 points and 4.9 assists per game. But will her inexperience at the position and occasionally shoddy ball handling and decision-making (she averages almost three turnovers a game) catch up to her?

Stanford is a tall team - its three starting forwards range from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4 -but not a particularly fast team. A quick squad that presses could give the Cardinal problems. They handled the Bruins' speed and press, but perhaps things will be different when they play UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 20.

But mostly, what could cause Stanford to lose a Pac-10 game is apathy. The Cardinal will probably have the conference crown and the top seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament locked up before the season ends.

Nevertheless, Stanford went undefeated in conference play last year and 17-1 the year before. The squad has been in this position time and time again. And the Cardinal have been utterly dominant this season. The closest game was their 26-point win over the Bruins, and two of their wins were by 44 points each.

Pac-10 Player of the Year and All-American Nnemkadi Ogwumike averages 16.8 points and 8.1 boards per game, but her supporting cast has been just as stellar. Her freshman sister Chiney has been a shut-down defender, holding Connecticut's Maya Moore to just 14 point on 5-for-15 shooting. Senior forward Kayla Pederson has been a monster on the boards (8.1 per game) but more importantly, brings the leadership of starting on three straight Final Four teams.

This squad might not lose until the NCAA Championship game - if it loses again.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

Oregon State: Will Oregon State win a Pac-10 game?

The Beavers (7-11) are 0-7 in the Pac-10, but going 0-18 seems unlikely. They went 2-16 last season, sweeping Washington State, and then beating Washington in the Pac-10 tournament.

Oregon State has not been nearly as bad as its conference record indicates. Six of the seven losses were by single digits, and the other one was only by 12 to a top-10 UCLA squad.

In fact, the Beavers have had several games go down to the wire. Against Arizona State on Dec. 31, Oregon State cut an eight-point deficit down to three late but Alyssa Martin missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.

Oregon State has proven it can compete with any conference team it has played. The Beavers just have not been able to close out games. They almost beat Washington on Jan. 6, leading, 52-39, before the Huskies went on a 16-0 run to close the game.

On Jan. 2, Oregon State showed its resilience against Arizona. The Wildcats were up by 15 points with eight minutes to go when the Beavers went on a 15-2 run to close out the game, falling just short, 67-65.

The squad has youth and potential, with two sophomores and two freshmen in the starting lineup. The team is led by Martin, a freshman guard averaging 14.9 points per game. Sophomore guard Sage Indendi averages 10.8 points a game and is a 40.4-percent 3-point shooter.

It is not as if the squad hasn't tasted any success this season. Oregon State finished with a winning record in non-conference play, going 7-4. Many of those wins were against the bottom feeders of mid-major conferences like Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge; regardless, the Beavers should have confidence from getting those early wins.

The best chance Oregon State has to win its first conference game is the final weekend of the season. It hosts Arizona on March 3 and Arizona State on March 5. The rivalry game against Oregon on Feb. 19 is another opportunity to prevent an embarrassing footnote in program history.

-Jonathan Kuperberg


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