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NCAA: Duke Rolls Over Vandy, 96-80
Player by Player
NCAA: Devils Storm Past St. John's, 74-47
The Nutshell

2012 NCAA Fresno Regional Preview
#2 Duke vs. #3 St. John's & #1 Stanford vs. #5 South Carolina
Published March 23, 2012

By Rob Clough

#2 Duke vs #3 St. John's

Saturday, March 24th, 9:00pm, (ESPN networks)

Last Meeting: .12/28/2005: Duke 105, St. John's 57

Current Records: Duke 26-5 (15-1 ACC), St. John's 24-9 (13-3 Big East)

Current Rankings: Duke #6, St. John's: #14/#21 (AP/ESPN)

The Roster: Guard Nadirah McKenith (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 5 apg, 2 apg), guard Eugenia McPherson (12 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg), wing Shenneika Smith (13 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1 bpg, 1 spg, 30% 3FG), forward Da'Shena Stevens (11 pg, 6 rpg), forward Amber Thompson (6 ppg, 6 rpg), guard Keylantra Langley (4 ppg, 2 rpg), center Mary Nwachukwu (4 ppg, 2 rpg)

The Skinny: This is a small, defensive-oriented team that played against a very tough schedule and steadily improved over the course of the season. Playing without key starter Stevens for the first eleven games led to the Red Storm getting off to a mediocre 6-5 start, including losses to Hofstra, Iowa and St. Bonaventure. They did manage to beat a couple of quality teams in Temple and Howard, and what seemed to be shaky losses at the time turned out to be quality losses as well. St. John's is not a great offensive club and can't keep up with powerhouse offensive teams, especially if they can't dictate tempo. Losses to Harvard and Marquette (neither great teams) occurred because SJU allowed both teams to score over 60 points. The Red Storm are just 5-8 when opponents reach the 60 point mark, including a buzzer-beating win over Creighton in the first round of the tournament and a tight win over Oklahoma in Norman that earned the program its first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. When their starting five really started to gel in February, they knocked off Rutgers (twice), West Virginia, Georgetown, Louisville and most impressively, they defeated UConn on the road. That game was a St. John's special: game in the 50s, and their guards hit just enough long range shots to win. This is not a great shooting team, shooting just 29% from three. Smith and McPherson shoot near the break-even range of 33% and they are streaky; hitting 4-10 from three is what gave them the edge over Oklahoma. What St. John's likes to do on offense is break opponents down with dribble penetration and either score or get to the line. McKenith and McPherson are both small (5-9 and 5-8, respectively), but they can apply a lot of ball pressure on an opponent. Smith floats between post and perimeter, and her versatility makes her difficult to guard. Stevens and Thompson are both undersized at around 6-2, but they are tough and physical. Langley is their go-to player off the bench at guard, while Nwachukwu (the former Boston College player) gives solid depth at the post. She and Thompson split play time, while the other four starters play over thirty minutes a game. St. John's doesn't turn the ball over much (14 times a game), but each of the backcourt players can be pressured, as they average 3 turnovers per game apiece. This isn't a very pretty team to watch, but they are well-coached, have great chemistry and have been through all the battles together.

The Match-Up: . I expect St. John's to try to turn Duke over if possible, so Chelsea Gray has to be especially sharp. Vanderbilt's press definitely bothered Duke in the second half of their game, and the Devils have to be prepared for that kind of pressure. Gray needs to be aggressive but patient; SJU is fast enough that any passes that aren't perfect will get picked off, so she has to be absolutely sure before she throws one. Duke ran Vandy out of their gym in the round of 32, but St. John's won't have any problems keeping up. Depth won't be a factor as both teams will be rested and only play 7 or 8 players at most. SJU loves to get other teams in foul trouble, so Duke has to be cautious in that regard--Vandy actually put some Duke players in serious foul trouble late in the game. I suspect St. John's will jam Duke's shooters (Tricia Liston and Haley Peters in particular) much like NC State did in the ACC tournament and force them to drive into the lane and beat them that way. This means that Elizabeth Williams has to be prepared to receive some tough passes, but it also means that Shay Selby has to step up and have a big game, because I suspect she's the one player SJU will stay away from. Duke has size advantages across the board and needs to exploit this, both by dominating the boards and by getting players the ball in good scoring position and letting them take advantage of the frequent mismatches that will occur. Patience is the watchword here. Shots and looks will be there for Duke if they take care of the ball and set up mismatches. Defensively, Duke needs to stop penetration and force the Red Storm to shoot the ball. The matchup zone and Allison Vernerey will be the key to stopping them on offense, but Duke must also be aggressive on defense and force turnovers from vulnerable players. If Duke is simply solid on the boards but wins the turnover battle, they will win.

#1 Stanford vs. #5 South Carolina, 11:32 PM

#7 Stanford

Record: 33-1, (18-0 PAC-12)

Roster: Forward Nneka Ogwumike (22 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 apg, 1 bpg, 1.5 spg, 33% 3FG), forward Chiney Ogwumike (16 ppg, 10 rpg, 1 bpg), forward Joslyn Tinkle (9 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 bpg, 40% 3FG), guard Toni Kokenis (9.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg, 1 spg, 28% 3FG), guard Amber Orrange (5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg), forward Taylor Greenfield (4 ppg, 2 rpg, 36% 3FG), center Sarah Boothe (3 ppg, 2 rpg), guard Lindy La Rocque (4 ppg, 1 rpg, 25% 3FG)

Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike and then-player Joy Cheek compete for a rebound during Duke's 56-52 victory on December 16, 2008.
Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike and then-player Joy Cheek compete for a rebound during Duke's 56-52 victory on December 16, 2008.
DWHoops file photo by Orin Day
The Skinny: Stanford has one of the best frontcourts in the country, led by the fabulous Ogwumike sisters and versatile Joslyn Tinkle. All three players were Duke targets at one point. Nneka is one of the best players in the country and has become an awesome offensive force who can score from anywhere on the floor. She gets to the foul line about six times a game and converts at an impressive 82% rate. Chiney still prefers to hang around the basket a bit more, but both players are ruthless on the offensive boards (4 a game apiece) and are unselfish. Tinkle is a solid third option who can post up or nail the three, making the prospect of defending their frontcourt a nightmare. Their guard play is less dynamic, but still pretty solid. Kokenis is not a great shooter, but she scores enough to keep other teams honest. Frosh Orrange is really coming of late, playing extremely well in Stanford's second-round victory over West Virginia. The Cardinal are not especially deep, as Boothe, La Rocque and Greenfield are role players who can hit an occasional shot, play defense and simply spell the starters competently. As such, the Cardinal are vulnerable to foul trouble. That said, they don't foul very much. The one knock against Stanford is that they played in a very weak league, with only Cal emerging as a solid team this year. They did beat Gonzaga and crushed Tennessee, and Stanford will have an advantage playing on the west coast for this regional. The team will go as far as Nneka can take them, and given that she can score 40+ points on a given night, that's potentially as far as the Final Four.

#5 South Carolina

Record: 25-9, (10-6 SEC)

Roster: Guard Markeshia Grant (11 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2 apg, 35.5% 3FG), guard La'Keisha Sutton (10 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg), guard Ieasia Walker (8 ppg 4 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg), wing Charenee Stephens (5 ppg, 5 rpg), guard Courtney Newton (1 ppg, 2 rpg), wing Aleighsa Welch (8 ppg, 4 rpg), wing Ashley Bruner (7 ppg, 5 rpg), wing Tina Roy (4.5 ppg).

The Skinny: This is a team built on speed, quickness, agility and more speed. The Gamecocks force 18 turnovers a game and hold opponents to 51 ppg. They have played a tough schedule, beating UNC and losing to Penn State, along with SEC wins over Vanderbilt (twice), Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. They went to #4 seed Purdue and beat them with a gritty defensive performance and a surprisingly robust offense. USC is the opposite of St. John's: instead of losing if an opponent reaches a certain number of points, USC is 19-0 when they score at least 60 points. Generating that kind of offense against a stingy Stanford team will be no easy task, but the Gamecocks will try to overwhelm Stanford's guards with physical play and sheer speed, attempting to turn them over and clog up Stanford's offense. This is not a great shooting team from anywhere, including the foul line (59%), though Grant and Sutton both shoot over 70%. To beat Stanford, a lot has to go right for USC (better than average shooting, few turnovers, a lot of trips to the foul line) and a lot has to go wrong for Stanford (foul trouble, poor shooting from the guards, lots of turnovers). USC has a way of making good teams look very bad, and if they can get to that magic 60 point plateau while controlling tempo, they could give Stanford a hard time. If they struggle from the field, the game will be over very quickly.

DWHoops will provide detailed recaps of Duke's play in Fresno. We will also cover the Raleigh regional which features #2 Maryland vs. #3 Texas A&M and #1 Notre Dame vs. #5 St. Bonavenure.

NCAA: Duke Rolls Over Vandy, 96-80
Player by Player
NCAA: Devils Storm Past St. John's, 74-47
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and ACC Women's Basketball from 2006 to the present day via ACC WBB Digest.

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