Few tournaments have gone as close to the books as the 2012 Women's NCAA Tournament. Each of the Final Four contestants is a number 1 seed, and each punched their ticket to Denver with relative ease.
However, the last three games of the tournament will be hard fought battles, especially between Stanford and Baylor. If each team plays their best, Stanford should pull through with the victory.
There is no question that the Baylor Lady Bears have put together an outstanding team; their 38 wins came with large margins of victory every time, and their dominance of the Big 12 went completely unopposed. Brittney Griner is clearly the best player in women's college basketball, averaging 23.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, not to mention her 199 blocks. After watching Baylor defeat Tennessee in the Elite Eight matchup, I saw first-hand how Griner dominates the paint.
But the Stanford Cardinal also deserve their spot in the Final Four. Their 35 wins came with only one loss, to Connecticut early in the season, and they too have some real play-makers. Nnemkadi Ogwumike averaged 22.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while her sister Chiney averaged 15.3 and 10.3, respectively. Those who watched Stanford tear up the Pac-12 know that the two Ogwumike sisters are virtually impossible to stop in the paint. They will be the keys to Stanford's victory.
Brittney Griner has the ability to spread the floor for Baylor and to unravel the defense of opposing teams. But against the Ogwumike sisters, she will face two forwards who are not only capable of guarding her, but also able to score and rebound just as well as she can.
The advantage goes to Stanford because there is not one, but two, very talented power forwards who can have tremendous impacts in the game. Surely Brittney Griner can't guard both of them at the same time.
The presence of the Ogwumike sisters will allow Stanford's defense to stay intact when Griner has the ball, and to take away the perimeter shooting which has been the backup strategy for Baylor.
And in terms of three point play, Stanford has the upper hand. True, Odyssey Sims and Kimetria Hayden each have 40 percent 3-point shooting on the season, but Stanford has six players who shoot over 33 percent from behind the arc.
In the end, Stanford is the more balanced team, both offensively and defensively. The combination of two excellent power forwards and a great array of guards will be able to successfully compete with Baylor's over-reliance on Britney Griner's performance, fantastic though it may be. Get excited for a great game, but don't be too surprised to see Stanford move on when the undefeated Baylor Bears meet their match.