How good is women's basketball?

The 2010-2011 Stanford women's basketball team is very, very good. They have won 10 straight – nine of these victories blowout wins by more than 20 points. However, though they're currently No. 4 in the land, pollsters and fans disagree about just how good Stanford is. Here are two sides of the argument.

Stanford is overrated

Stanford has lost two games, one of them quite decisively to a good-but-not-great DePaul team.

Stanford was at full strength and still lost to Tennessee.

Stanford beat Xavier decisively, but Xavier's best player (Amber Harris) was not at full strength (because of concussion symptoms) and did not start.

Stanford beat UConn, but it was at Maples – the game was close and UConn is not the team it was without Tina Charles.

Stanford has yet to beat any top-10 team on the road.

The Pac-10 is weak this year and most of the blowouts have come against Pac-10 opponents.

Stanford is underrated

Stanford had a steep learning curve without graduated seniors Jayne Appel and Rosalyn Gold Onwude and did not turn the corner until mid-December. .

Stanford's newcomers to the starting lineup, Chiney Ogwumike and Lindy LaRocque, began hitting their stride in mid-December and are now playing very well.

The Pac 10 is not as weak as some would suggest. UCLA and USC have all key players back from last year and have made strong showings in pre-conference play, with UCLA defeating Notre Dame on the road and USC coming within an eyelash of upsetting Xavier.

Since conference play began, Stanford is defeating Pac-10 opponents, many of them with improved teams over last year, by larger margins than last season. Last season's Pac-10 average victory margin was 23.8 points, thus far this season it's 36.6 points.

The superlative play of point guard Jeanette Pohlen, on track to set team three-point shooting records, is underestimated by many outside commentators.

Stanford's defense is also underestimated. In Pac-10 play so far, despite a faster-paced game, the team has held opponents to an average of 46.3 points (53 points last year).

Since mid-December, Stanford's more aggressive style of play has resulted in the team taking command of games much earlier, usually by midway through the first half. Although Stanford did not seal the victory against UConn until the last minute, Stanford never trailed in that game.

Stanford's more wide-open offense has greater balance than last season – four players are averaging in double figures (three last year).

Stanford has more depth than last year and is using it to run more. Eight players are averaging 16 minutes or more per game. Two more players are averaging over nine minutes per game.

A number of respected Pac-10 coaches, including Niya Butts, Nikki Caldwell, and Michael Cooper, have commented on the talent, intensity, focus and championship mentality of this year's Stanford team.

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So which arguments win the day? You decide. Fortunately, the opinions of the pollsters, pundits, and fans don't matter much to the coaches and players, who are focused on each individual contest and the longer-term goal of being the best team that they can be.

One more thing – be sure to watch this wonderful Stanford team in action. They play exciting basketball – and they do it with swagger and self-confidence.


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