The moment of truth has arrived--Duke will be playing against a
formidable Minnesota team for the right to advance to New Orleans. I got
to see the Gophers in person on Sunday and they are an impressive team.
Despite the fact that they were just a 7 seed, that low ranking came about
strictly because star player Lindsay Whalen missed a number of games with
a hand injury. While she's not necessarily scoring buckets of points
right now, there's no question that she's in complete control of that
While Whalen is the heart and soul of Gopher Nation (she is like unto a
goddess in the land of 10,000 lakes), Janel "Shaq" McCarville has carried
the team of late. The 6-2 center with meathooks for hands has dominated
everyone in her way, including Kansas State All-American Nicole Ohlde.
Against an undersized BC team, McCarville nearly had a triple double.
McCarville is huge and difficult to move out of the post, yet is extremely
agile for her size. She twice posted up and used a jaw-dropping spin move
to score inside. Then she posted up, noticed her defender laid off of her
a bit, and shot a fadeaway jumper from about 10'. McCarville grabbed
every rebound and even blocked 7 shots. Add to all of this a deft passing
touch and excellent body control, and you have a tough matchup. My guess
is that Coach G is going to have a lot of people taking turns on
McCarville in an effort to wear her down. She hasn't played a team quite
as physical as Duke and will face height disadvantages with everyone she
plays against. Tillis will try to use her speed to stay in front of her,
Bass will bang, and Hunter will try to intimidate her into bad shots.
Don't be surprised if Coach G even gives Alison Bales a minute or two
against her. She's got the bench and she's not afraid to use it
Minnesota runs a disciplined offense that doesn't make a lot of
mistakes. Whalen's court vision is tremendous, both in terms of finding
open players for scores and getting that crack of daylight she needs for a
drive or a shot. Her shot is not at 100% following her injury, but she
can still pop threes in someone's face. A former summer teammate of Alana
Beard's, Alana will likely draw her as her main defensive assignment. I
think that Harding will also get a crack at her as Beard perhaps cheats
down into the post again to prevent McCarville from getting the ball.
Minnesota was hardly bothered or bumped by BC on their cuts as McCarville
got the ball again and again; hopefully Duke will be able to disrupt that
with overplay on the wings.
Minnesota's stopper is Shannon Bolden, who forced BC star Amber Jacobs
into a bad game. She'll likely draw Alana or Monique. The team's slasher
(and a fine defender in her own right) is Khadidja Andersson, a player who
loves to hit the mid-range jumper. Shannon Schonrock is the team's
Krapohl-like point, a deadly three point shooter who doesn't make a lot of
mistakes. Duke will have to stay home on her because Whalen will get her
the ball if she's open. Whalen is one of the best players in the country
and I voted her as a first team all-american. McCarville has had a great
tournament and getting her into foul trouble she be Duke's immediate goal
because the Gophers don't have much experience from the backup posts. It
should be quite a game and a contrast in styles and personnel.
A few links: