A number of confusing elements accompany the Stanford women’s basketball team as it approaches its regular-season opener on Friday, Nov. 14, against Boston College at Maples Pavilion. The confusion starts with the fact that the Cardinal has two players with the same name, but we’ll get to that later.
1. The Cardinal jumps right into the fire, playing No. 1 Connecticut in its second game — a 6 p.m. home game on Monday, Nov. 17, that will be televised by ESPN2. All of the Cardinal’s perceived shortcomings will be on display before coach Tara VanDerveer has much chance to get this season’s team in order. The Huskies have won 46 straight games, and that streak no doubt will be 47 by Monday because UConn plays at UC Davis on Friday before facing the Cardinal. The Cardinal ended UConn’s record 90-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion four years ago, but that was a more talented and more experienced Cardinal team than the one VanDerveer has this season.
2. Stanford was picked as the Pac-12 favorite by the conference’s coaches, but not by the media that covers the conference. Stanford was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll, behind Cal, but the Cardinal was coaches’ choice for the 15th consecutive season, with Cal second. In both cases, the vote was very close. So is Stanford the favorite? And will the Cardinal’s run of 14 straight regular-season conference titles come to an end this season?
3. For the first time in six years, Stanford will not have an Ogwumike on the court. Nneka Ogwumike and sister Chiney Ogwumike are two of the best players in Stanford history, as proven by the fact that both were No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA draft. Their intensity and energy will be missed as much as their tremendous talent. Stanford got to the Final Four in five of the six years during the Ogwumike Era. Can the Cardinal continue to be a Final Four team without them?
4. The Cardinal’s star this season is a guard — Amber Orrange, the Cardinal’s only preseason all-conference pick. The Cardinal has been a national power in recent years largely because of its strength in the frontcourt. Now the focus shifts to the backcourt. What will that mean?
5. Stanford is ranked No. 6 in both the Associated Press and coaches preseason national polls. It is the first time in seven years the Cardinal has been ranked lower than No. 5 to start the season. Some wonder whether Stanford is top-10 caliber this season. Is it?
6. Here is the most confusing thing of all: Stanford has a 6-foot-3 forward named Kaylee Johnson and another 6-foot-3 forward named Kailee Johnson. The former Johnson is a highly regarded freshman who is likely to get more playing time than the other Johnson, a sophomore. It is not impossible for Kaylee Johnson and Kailee Johnson to be on the floor at the same time, though, creating more confusion than experienced when two Ogwumikes were on the court together.