Baylor's 85-51 thrashing of No. 6-ranked Kentucky on Monday suggests No. 4 Stanford would do well to stay close, let alone win, in its women's basketball game against No. 1 Baylor today in Hawaii.
Baylor led 46-19 at halftime and totally dominated a Kentucky team that's expected to be a Final Four contender.
But it will be interesting to see how the Cardinal — including freshman post Tess Picknell from South Medford — does against a team like Baylor, the overwhelming favorite to win a second straight national champ.
The 6-foot-5 Picknell, a reserve, will be counted on to provide valuable minutes against reigning player-of-the-year Brittney Griner, who is 6-8.
"Baylor is ranked No. 1; we did play them last year," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said Tuesday. "I think the fact that we played them last year helps us this time around, but it probably also helps them, too, in that they know our team a little bit better. We always want to play a very challenging schedule and we want to know early on what we need to work on, areas where we need to improve.
"Our team is excited about it. It's not like you're going to end your season with one game. It'll be a game where we'll learn a lot about ourselves and it's a win-win. If you win the game, great, and if you don't win the game it's great because you played them."
Stanford lost to Baylor 59-47 in last season's Final Four, and that was with Nneka Ogwumike and a healthy Toni Kokenis playing for the Cardinal. Ogwumike, a first-team All-American, is now playing professionally, and Kokenis has been slowed by an illness that could limit her playing time today.
Meanwhile, Baylor returns all five starters.
Chiney Ogwumike and/or Joslyn Tinkle presumably will be matched up against Griner to start Friday's game, but the intriguing time for Stanford will be when Picknell enters the game and goes up against Griner.
Picknell will be overmatched, of course, but it will interesting to see how she reacts.
"(Tess) is excited about it," VanDerveer said. "I think the biggest thing is that we just have to tell her what to do, just say 'Here is what your job is.' You're not going to Brittney-Griner Brittney Griner, you're Tess, you do what you're good at. Really try to help her visualize where she should be and what she needs to be doing.
"Tess set some monster screens in our Santa Clara game, she did a really nice job screening for other people. She's a really unselfish player. She listens really well and I like how she doesn't get down on herself, she stays with things very well, which I think is a huge positive thing about a player. She has a good basketball sense and she's a hard worker."
Picknell played 14 minutes against Santa Clara and didn't score. But she had four rebounds and a blocked shot in the 92-57 victory on Sunday. In its first game, Stanford downed Fresno State, 72-61.
Ogwumike, Tinkle and Amber Orrange will be in the starting lineup, but it's unclear who the other two Stanford starters will be.
Mikaela Ruef is likely to be one of the two other starters, and Taylor Greenfield or Erica Payne could be the fifth starter. Jasmine Camp is the other possible starter.
"Right now I don't know what our starting lineup is for the Baylor game," VanDerveer said. "It might be game-to-game, it might be practice-to-practice based on who wants to be in our starting lineup and obviously doing the right things in the game."
There is room to experiment in this game. Although it is a high-profile game, it is only the Cardinal's third game of the season and won't mean much by the time the postseason rolls around.
Plus all the pressure is on Baylor, making it a rather comfortable game for Stanford.
"Last year (against Baylor) there was so much pressure to the game because we were at the Final Four, it could've been my sister's last game, just a lot of baggage that came with the game," Chiney Ogwumike said. "But this one I'm so excited, it's very light, we're going to be in Hawaii. We're very fortunate at this point to be playing such a high-quality opponent, to help discover who we are. It's going to be a gut check, a measuring stick to our team, so I'm excited, and Amber's excited."
Orrange will be going against Odyssey Sims, Baylor's first-team preseason All-American point guard. That matchup will provide an indication of how much Orrange has progressed from last season.
Three of the Associated Press' six first-team preseason All-Americans will be participating in the game — Griner, Sims and Ogwumike.