Final Four Roundtable: Part II

As Stanford and UConn prepare to clash Sunday night on ESPN, get in the mood with Part II of our women's Final Four roundtable. Booties extraordinaire Warren Grimes and Bob Kinder and KZSU play-by-play broadcaster Jake Kelman, Stanford '09, look at the Stanford-UConn game, the Louisville-Oklahoma game and the NCAA Tournament as a whole.

As Stanford and UConn prepare to clash Sunday night on ESPN, get in the mood with Part II of our women's Final Four roundtable. [If you missed it, here's Part I.] Plus, we get the exclusive from Jake Kelman – you'll never guess where his broadcasting career is taking him next year.

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The Bootleg:Do the Card have a shot? What does Stanford need to do to beat UConn?

Warren Grimes: Well the match-ups are really interesting. First of all, yes they do have a shot. I don't want to put odds on it. I think Connecticut is rightly favored, but Stanford has some matchups I like. I think post play, [Stanford is] definitely superior there. I think Jayne Appel's better than anyone, and I think with Ogwumike and Pederson, I think we definitely have an advantage in the paint.
Connecticut has, on paper, the advantage on the perimeter. Maya Moore's statistics are without peer and Renee Montgomery is also a consensus All-American, so they do have more widely recognized players at the guard position. I think our guard play is underestimated though. I think we may see a surprise there. I think the real big match-up problem for the coaches is that Auriemma has to decide whether to put Kaili [McLaren] in, if he decides he needs more size in the paint. If he puts McLaren in the game, it makes it easer for Tara VanDerveer to play Ogwumike and the match-ups are better that way. But if he doesn't, then we have to go with Roz.

Bob Kinder: Number one, they have to stay out of foul trouble. If a player gets a foul—and this was true with Mike Montgomery some times—they're likely to leave the game for a couple of minutes. If it's Jayne or Pohlen, that's especially true. Maybe the UConn game will be the exception. But staying out of foul trouble, because when we have Pohlen at the point, we run, we move, we're so quick, and that's what wears the other team down. There's no rest. I compare it to men's basketball, everyone relaxes with Stanford when the defensive team is running down the court, but here comes the offense and they're not walking it down the court. They run, run, run. So a key is keeping Jeannete and Jayne out of foul trouble.
Plus, they're going to double Jayne, so we must hit some threes, and we haven't had to do that any of these [Tournament] games. We haven't had to shoot threes, because the other team has had less-than-average post players. So keep out of foul trouble, push the ball and hit some threes. And by the some, I mean seven or eight minimum. Because, on the other side of the coin, Connecticut is going to score. This is the best offensive team we've faced by far.

Jake Kelman:I think they definitely have a shot. I think need to control the paint, which is something Stanford always needs to do. That's where their greatest advantage always lies: scoring inside and offensive boards. I think the one area that could give Stanford trouble athletically is if UConn presses like Tennessee in the title game last year. If they apply full-court pressure, that's where they get turnovers and then have success. If Stanford can protect the ball and work it inside to the post, then they'll be in good shape. 

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TB:Who should we be rooting for in the other game?

WG:Well, I think Oklahoma should be favored [by 3] and so it'll be more interesting to see Oklahoma get into the final against whoever gets out of the other side of the bracket. But if we're looking for the team that's easier to beat, then I suppose were looking for Louisville. But Louisville has had a great Tournament and no one is going to be a pushover. … I think we'd have a little easier time against Louisville. I think Oklahoma is just strong at all positions, with the Paris twins in the paint and a really good guard in Danielle Robinson, she's really quick. So if Oklahoma is on their game, they're going to be hard for UConn or us to beat. But Louisville, I think, is very well-coached. They have only one really all-star player [Angel McCoughtry], but I don't think they have the quality through all five players that the other three teams have.

BK:I'll be rooting for Oklahoma. They have two players who almost went to Stanford, or gave us a big look in Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hands. Then the Paris sisters are local [Piedmont, Calif.], Robinson's local [San Jose] – they're Bay Area kids and I'll be rooting for them because they're Bay Area kids, and because I know Appel is at least Courtney Paris' equal.
Definitely, Oklahoma has improved a lot. They're very, very balanced. I saw them play against Cal at San Jose State. Oklahoma came out down 26 at the half and they won going away. They're both very impressive teams so at this point, other than UConn, Louisville and Oklahoma are six of one, a half-dozen of another.

JK:Well, to be honest, I haven't seen a whole ton of Louisville, so I can't comment that much on them. I know they're athletic and pretty good defensively, which is the type of team that has given Stanford trouble. At the same time, Oklahoma is a great team. From a fan standpoint, get Courtney Paris, a Bay Area kid, get her versus Jayne Appel, two tremendous post players, two of the best centers in the country: from a fan's perspective, what a fun matchup. But they're two really good teams. Stanford hasn't seen Louisville in this era and only saw Oklahoma three years ago. The key, if Stanford were to get there, is that there could be no letdown after beating UConn. Stanford would have to make sure to realize the title is not already won, because those are two pretty good teams on the other side.

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TB:This year's women's basketball Tournament has seen more parity than years pasts', more parity than this year's men's Tournament, going by seeds. We have been hearing this for decades, but is women's basketball really better than in years past?

WG:Yes, I do think so. And I've been noticing that too. We have a three, a two, and two one-seeds now. But in the Elite Eight, we had two six-seeds. So I think there is more parity, though I haven't followed the men's bracket quite as closely. There are certain coaches that have recruiting advantages traditionally. UConn and Tennessee, between them, have won something like eight of the last 12 national titles. So as long as UConn is in there, there's still too much predictability for my taste. I'd like to see them get bumped off, but I guess that's up to us. I think Stanford has the best chance of defeating UConn of any of the teams. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but we have a shot at it.

BK:No question, the parity not only is better, but recruits seem to be committing less and less in droves to the top-five teams and more to teams that might be top-25 or so. I think that's something we're going to see continue. You're always going to have UConn, Stanford, Tennessee, but the fact is that Louisville made it this far, as did Iowa State, as did Arizona State, who had lost their top scorer. So I think the parity is very real and I think it's better than we've ever seen before.

JK:Yeah, I think it's definitely deeper. Look at the two six-seeds in the women's Elite Eight in Arizona State and Purdue, and then look at the men's side, where 14 out of 16 Sweet 16 teams were one through four-seeds, so just comparing between the two, it was one of the first years where there were more upsets in the women's Tournament. Plus Duke fell in the second round as a one-seed. Tara talked about this: there's a better depth of talent in the game, there are more good players available to more good schools. Not every good player is going to a UNC or a Tennessee, which is just better and speaks to the growing popularity of the game, having more young girls play basketball, and thus more good players, and more to go around at this stage. She called women's basketball a young game last week. It's been in existence for only 30 years, and I expect in the next 15 to 20 years, more and more teams will a chance to compete.


Jake Kelman on his last Stanford broadcast:
It's an emotional thing. I've thought about calling my last Stanford game. I've been really lucky that during this Tournament, Stanford has been a pretty heavy favorite throughout, so I've sort of put off thoughts of a farewell speech until this weekend. But this weekend, you see the light at end of tunnel, there's a max of two games left, win or lose. So I think I find myself getting a bit nostalgic, as you think about the beginning years, with Topher Anderson and you at reins, and now I'm concluding my career. Obviously, it's been a tremendous experience and I don't want to see it come to an end.

On his plans for next year:
I interned this past summer at the Oakland A's radio team and I was able to meet a lot of people there. So this year, I sent out demo clips to minor league organizations in baseball and I heard back from the Pioneer League, a short-season league in Utah, Montana and Wyoming, that area. I'm going to be broadcasting with the Ogden Raptors in the Dodgers' organization; they're an hour north of Salt Lake City. I'm starting this summer, and after that who knows, but I'm hopeful I'll get my foot in the door and work my way up.

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