Rebounding from Mediocre Shooting

Multi-sport Contributing Columnist Warren Grimes takes a closer look at some of the telling statistics produced by the still officially undefeated and #4-ranked Stanford Women's Basketball team through its first few games. Heading into the Paradise Jam tourney in the U.S. Virgin Islands, improved outside shooting vs. #2 UConn on Thanksgiving night will surely will be high on the Cardinal agenda.

Rebounding from Mediocre Shooting

The Stanford women's basketball team has won it's first three official games. The last two have been nail biters, won with heart and perhaps a bit of luck. The story of the season so far has been all about rebounding and shooting, one an astounding success, the other flawed and in need of improvement. 

Let's start with the rebounding. Stanford has been a powerhouse on the boards, out rebounding its three opponents by substantial margins. The closest of these margins was against Utah, but Stanford still pulled down 10 more boards than the Utes (57-47). Even in its exhibition against the U.S. national team, Stanford won the battle of the boards (36-32). There is no secret to the Cardinal's success. Jayne Appel, the team's most effective rebounder last season (averaging 39 boards for every 100 minutes played), is continuing at precisely that pace (39 boards per 100 minutes played). To put this in perspective, California's all-Pac 10 post players, Devanei Hamption and Ashley Walker, averaged respectively 28 and 26 boards per 100 minutes during last season. By avoiding the whistle and staying in the game, Appel provides Stanford a formidable presence on both the defensive and offensive glass. Can there be anyone better anywhere in college hoops? 

Well, ahh - yes, surprisingly, at this point in the season, there is. After three games, a freshman by the name of Kayla Pedersen is actually slightly ahead of Appel's pace. Pedersen has pulled down 40 boards in 99 minutes of play, for an average of slightly above her teammate's. Pedersen lacks Appel's singular strength, but is smooth and has a nose for the ball that allows her to grab many a misfired shot. Stanford may well end the season with two of the most effective rebounders in the country. The team has excelled on both the defensive and offensive glass, with 60 of the team's total 162 boards coming on the offensive end. 

There is, however a darker side to the team's astonishing effectiveness on the offensive boards. Against the USA Basketball team, Stanford had a decided 10-5 advantage in offensive rebounds, but lost the game by 35 points. A hot-shooting USA team converted with 59 per cent accuracy, while Stanford scored on just 40% of its shots. To put it bluntly, a team with a high shooting percentage has few opportunities to clear the offensive glass - it doesn't need them. 

A more accurate measure of a team's offensive board performance might be the number of offensive boards as a ratio of the total number of missed shots. When this measure is used, the difference between Stanford and its opponent is reduced, but not eliminated. Stanford still proves to be formidable on the offensive glass, even against the U.S. national team. The largest advantages for Stanford occurred in the Yale and Rutgers games.

Offensive Boards Per Missed Shot

                                        Yale       Rutgers    USA    Utah 

Stanford                           .607          .513       .294     .442 

Opponent                         .346          .286       .285     .333 

Stanford Advantage        .261          .227       .009     .109

Stanford has one very high-percentage shooter, and that is Jayne Appel, the reigning Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week. She has converted 32 of 52 attempts, for a 62% clip. The rest of the team looks pretty plain by comparison - 55 shots out of 154 attempted, or just under 36%. Not good. The Utah game was particularly dismal for Stanford shooters. While Appel converted 56% of her shots, the rest of the team shot only 26%. Unacceptable. Offensive rebounds saved Stanford against both Rutgers (20 offensive boards) and Utah (23 offensive boards), and allowed the team to carry off a narrow victory when the perimeter shots weren't falling. In short, offensive rebounds can be a safety net for the team, but a final four berth seems unlikely unless the team can convert a much higher percentage of shots. 

Preseason hopes for improved three-point shooting have yet to materialize. In three games, the Cardinal's three point shots have been falling at just a 25% clip. For the Utah game, only four of 24 three point attempts fell - that's a miserable 16.7%. Will Stanford's shooters rebound? I say yes. When the game was on the line in Salt Lake City, the Stanford perimeter players made shots at a higher percentage to pull away in the second overtime. And Melanie Murphy made an absolutely critical three-point shot in the last second of regulation to put the game into overtime. Her first three-pointer ever as a Stanford player, but surely not her last.

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