Commentary

Stanford faces opposite opponent

Cardinal rely on Chiney Ogwumike in post; Wolverines on 3-pointers

Updated: March 25, 2013, 9:58 PM ET
By Michelle Smith | espnW

Before Villanova coach Harry Perretta left California following his team's first-round loss on Sunday, he offered an assessment of the second-round matchup between Michigan and Stanford set for Tuesday night (9:50 p.m. ET/ESPN2).

The longtime head coach talked about how the best basketball matchups are based on "opposites," a quality he sees in this pairing.

[+] EnlargeJenny Ryan
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsCaptain Jenny Ryan is one of five seniors trying to get Michigan to its first Sweet 16.

"Michigan has the style that has a chance to win, I think," Perretta said. "Anytime when you play a team, opposite styles are usually better. Your best chance to win is if you play opposite."

The No. 8-seeded Wolverines, who are looking for the program's first second-round victory, are a perimeter team with shooters moving the ball around, looking for good opportunities, particularly beyond the 3-point arc.

The top-seeded Cardinal's offense runs through the paint, or more specifically, star Chiney Ogwumike. It relies on size to dominate on the glass and turned missed shots into points off rebounds.

Perretta's guess? Michigan will have to make 10 3-pointers to be able to knock off the Cardinal.

Michigan senior Jenny Ryan just smiled at the assessment. Her team only needed half that many to knock out Villanova. She also believes in something Wolverines softball coach Carol Hutchins told the basketball team earlier this season.

"She talks about this whole thing, which is, 'The game doesn't know,' " Ryan said. "We're going to prepare for Stanford like we would any game and I think we have the confidence in each other to beat any team in this country. I think the game doesn't know."

The game may not know, but the coaches do.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer knows her team will probably matchup better against Michigan, which relies less on quickness, defensive pressure and dribble penetration, than first-round opponent Tulsa.

[+] EnlargeChiney Ogwumike
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsChiney Ogwumike helped the Cardinal overcome Tulsa in the first round with 29 points and eight rebounds.

But she also knows the Cardinal will have to defend the perimeter and that means moving some of their size out of the paint and on to the wings and the high post to do it.

"We've got to look at what Michigan likes to do and just so, 'OK, here's what they're trying to do. Let's try to take that away,' " VanDerveer said. "And make them try to do a second read or a third read, and they're very good at that. If you switch, they take advantage of it so it's very challenging."

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico knows the Wolverines will have to defend inside and deal with Stanford's superior size -- not to mention Ogwumike -- and try to keep up, or at least not get beat too badly, in the rebounding column. She said her team will focus on four-minute segments, playing media timeout to media timeout.

"Let's just see if we can hang with them for four minutes and if they really hurt us in those four minutes, what kind of adjustments can we make to be successful the next four minutes and what kind of changes we can make," Barnes Arico said.

Two years ago, Barnes Arico's St. John's team faced Stanford in Maples in a second-round game. After a nip-and-tuck first half, the Cardinal blew out the Red Storm in final 20 minutes and won, 75-49.

But that Stanford team was loaded with future WNBA picks such as Nneka Ogwumike, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen. This Stanford team is Chiney-centric and limited in its ways to inflict harm.

The Cardinal are relatively young, relying heavily on sophomores and juniors who didn't play much before this season, anchored by the more experienced Ogwumike and senior Joslyn Tinkle.

The Wolverines, on the other hand, start five seniors but don't go very deep into the bench.

Ryan is right, however, about the larger point. The game doesn't know that Michigan has never been to the Sweet 16. Or that Stanford has endured two second-round losses on its home floor in the last 10 years.

"We know that it's going to be difficult, but like these kids said, the game doesn't know," Barnes Arico said. "We're just excited about the opportunity. We're going to try to play four minutes at a time and see what happens."

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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