Oregon, Oregon St., and Southern Cal Enter the Britt Prince Sweepstakes

Britt Prince, the HS junior with as many state basketball championships as Elkhorn North HS (Elkhorn, Neb.) has years in existence, received offers from Oregon, Oregon St. and Southern Cal.

That brings the total to more than 30 (including one-third of the Pac-12 — I wouldn’t object to her signing with Utah, though the Utes have yet to extend an offer), as the schools’ stature increases with each new offer (Creighton, a high-profile program in Prince’s backyard, was among the first).

When progressions like this happen, I figure the only enticement a less-powerful program has left to offer is ideal academics (but we don’t know what Prince’s educational goals are). Harvard made an offer early, which a student-athlete surely has to consider.

Remember when Harvard was the elite American school? The wonderful documentary No Look Pass concerned student-athlete Emily Tay, a first-generation Burmese immigrant whose parents directed all of their energy at getting her into the one and only one American school they knew.

When Stanford enters that sweepstakes, can we agree that she’ll be able to go wherever she wants? Screw Connecticut; Stanford should be the most desirable place for a basketball player who wants to compete for a national title (Stanford’s is more recent than Connecticut’s) and get a diploma that opens eyes after basketball.

Last time I saw a HS student-athlete get this much next-level attention was the fictional running back in Friday Night Lights, the movie that inspired the hit TV show. It’s a heartbreak story for that kid, so I keep it out of mind.

How I spent the summer of 2022: _Without sports_

Every April, I beat myself up with the question of what I’m going to do all summer: Follow the WNBA, or baseball. And if baseball, then MLB, MILB, or 1948 (I find the 1948 American League pennant race endlessly fascinating).

This year, I’m fed up with major league baseball. The 1994-95 ‘labor stoppage’ pushed me away from major league ball for about a dozen years, and the 2021 kerfluffle might mean the end of the relationship. Driving home from the game store (The board game Wingspan is most remarkable; It holds the attention of those for whom games hold profound meaning — that is, me — while providing fun and education for the entire family. Nothing dies in that game but bird food, but slash-and-burn gamers also like it.) two weeks ago, I scanned the radio presets, and ran into Jon Miller calling a San Francisco Giants game.

Jon Miller is the best at what he does: He tells you what he sees on the field, and you fill it in with your imagination. Baseball is the sport that best lends itself to wordcraft, which is why the literature of baseball is so much greater than that of others.

Listening to Jon Miller in the middle of July while driving the panoramic Interstate 280 is a pretty good description of my ideal Sunday, but after a couple of outs were recorded, it hit me that I didn’t know any of the players Miller was talking about.

If I were to get into this baseball broadcast, I’d become the butt of a Jerry Seinfeld joke: Sports fans are rooting for laundry. Before the end of the reserve clause, and the start of free agency, if you backed a baseball team, you were backing mostly the same group of players for a long while. These days, the names change daily; it’s the uniforms — as Seinfeld said, “laundry” — that get one’s support.

It used to be that when the San Francisco Giants put new faces in the uniforms, I knew most of them when they were Class A San Jose Giants or Class AA Richmond Flying Squirrels. But my fondness for minor league baseball lessened when the Flying Squirrels lost their radio man who talked directly to me on the air. If the Flying Squirrels loaded the bases, their radio guy would say: “Frisco Del Rosario, the sacks are full of squirrels.” I loved that call, and he didn’t plan to use it more than the first time, but then the cards and letters started pouring in.

The last chance baseball had with me in 2021 rested with the Kane County Cougars (Geneva, Ill.) in the Pioneer League, so I could follow Atlee Hammaker’s son-in-law. My favorite player in the early ’80s had three daughters; two of them married catchers. The youngest, Anna, played basketball at Kansas State and Lipscomb; now she travels with husband Josh Rolette. Life in the minor leagues is grueling, but the Rolettes have some advantage in their ability to draw on the experience of her parents and her sister. I hope Josh realizes that big league dream.

But if you want to follow the Kane County Cougars, you have to buy a broadcast package for the entire Pioneer League, and that was that.

Which meant the summer of 2021 would be spent with basketball, where favorites Vandersloot and Quigley are league champions, and Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles are on farewell tours. How could I miss that?

I made it through one half of an Indiana Fever game on opening night, and hung up on the WNBA because the broadcasters are atrocious.

One reason I work at attending basketball games is because if I’m there, I can write down what I saw. If I have to watch a game on television, broadcasters tell me what they see, with great excitement, even when they see so little.

Basketball isn’t designed for play-by-play broadcast like baseball is. Baseball can be described as three hours of waiting for a couple minutes of action, and while I don’t agree with that, it shows that there is a lot of time for a play-by-play man to tell stories, or describe the weather, or make note of an outfielder taking two steps toward the foul line. That’s really what I love most about baseball: the word pictures, as Jon Miller calls them.

Basketball is most poorly suited for that type of broadcast. The play-by-play is almost never more useful than ‘player A has the ball, now player B has it’. Baseball is well suited for statistical analysis and debate because individual performance has meaning in baseball. No matter what a basketball boxscore says about a player’s performance in one game, it was not an individual effort. Everything that happens on the basketball floor is team-driven, and the best a broadcaster might do to describe a team effort is to tell us who’s setting a screen and who’s running around it.

Meanwhile, eight other people on the floor are taking their cues from that, and reacting accordingly. Which is something you have to look for, and you don’t want some nitwit jumping up and down in your ears, so to speak.

The WNBA season is two-thirds complete. I’ll have to take some interest in the playoff teams, but with the sound off, and that’s not the right way to watch basketball, either. Basketball is a game of runs, and runs have their own rhythm, which you can hear in the crowd. Crappy broadcasters ruin that, too.

In brief, I haven’t watched sports since early April. Four months is probably the longest stretch of my life without sports. During my seven-week hospital stay in 2020, I caught some highlights, and even watched college football.

Do I miss sports? Oh, certainly. But I’m tired of both sides of a major league baseball labor dispute behave as they’re being screwed. And if the WNBA would put a team in the Chase Center, I could be there — working, ideally — instead of hating the W on television.

The college basketball teams have begun their summer workouts, while the coaches are on the recruiting trail. November can’t come soon enough.

UCLA follows 28* other schools in offering a scholarship to Nebraska phenom Britt Prince

UCLA offered Elkhorn North HS (Omaha, Neb.) guard Britt Prince a scholarship, news that falls under our purview until 2024, when USC and UCLA join the Big Ten Conference. (I hoped that was a rumor. USC joined the Pacific Coast Conference in 1922. Crosstown rival UCLA and USC are further west than the University of Pacific, for heaven’s sake.)

Prince, a 5-foot-11 guard, has led the Elkhorn North Wolves to two state championships in two years, remarkable in itself because Elkhorn North opened two years ago. They might still be looking to fill teaching and administrative positions, but their girls’ basketball team has two championship banners in their gym. For the year, Prince averaged 24 pt, 7 rb, 4 st, and 4 as, while shooting 40.4 3FG% and 84 FT%. (See the video below for off-the-chart passing ability.)=

Legend goes that observers notified the University of Nebraska WBB program about Prince before she was was in junior high school. So you might compare the phenomenal status of Britt Prince with two players: Indiana’s Damon Bailey, and Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers.

Back in 1986, when sportswriter John Feinstein followed the Indiana men and coach Bob Knight ahead of his book Season on the Brink, Knight heard about 8th-grader Bailey, and went to watch him play. Knight said Bailey was already better than any Hoosier guard, which included Steve Alford the year before they won the NCAA championship.

With Coach Knight, you never knew if he truly meant something, or used it to motivate his current roster. In either case, it meant that before Damon Bailey entered Bedford North HS, he was booked for the University of Indiana, where he helped the Hoosiers reach the Final Four in 1992 (though he didn’t live up to his junior high school hype).

Paige Bueckers is an entirely different story, given the fact that it’s possible you’ve never heard until Damon Bailey until now, while millions follow Bueckers on social media, and she’s already one of the greatest beneficiaries of the NCAA’s new Name Image Likeness policies.

That would all be fluff if Bueckers couldn’t play, but she can. Britt Prince has been labeled “Paige Bueckers 2.0”, which fits insofar as they’re both hugely talented and versatile guards with yellow hair who hail from the Midwest. When I first heard of high school sophomore Bueckers, her Twitter profile said she saw herself as graduating from Stanford in ’24, which suited me just fine.

Then Connecticut entered the picture like a last-second eBay sniper, and there’s Bueckers is in Storrs, Connecticut, wherever that is. The University of Connecticut has been at the top of women’s college basketball for almost 30 years, but I still couldn’t find UConn on a map. It would be different if I were walking blindfolded, and Coach VanDerveer called ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ from center court at Maples Pavilion.

For far too long, if a high school star wanted to join a team that could win an NCAA championship, her choices were limited to Connecticut, and perhaps a team from last year’s Final Four, but if a prestigious college education and beautiful weather were attractions, then Stanford.

Maybe Prince wants to be a dentist after her basketbal career is over, which would put the mid-major University of the Pacific in the picture (true story, swear to god: a chap saw my Pacific Women’s Basketball jacket, and his first question wasn’t whether I was connected to the team, but if I were a dentist), but let’s say that’s too far-fetched, and her decision primarily pertains to basketball (and associated NIL opportunities).

The most recent Nebraska players of the year stayed close to home. 2022 player of the year Taylor McCabe ventured furthest, where Iowa is 270 miles from Fremont HS. 2021 Nebraska PY Alexis Markowski might have literally stayed home; U. Nebraska and her high school are five miles apart. 2020 PY Morgan Maly from Crete HS in Crete, Neb., chose Creighton.

Creighton is 15 miles from Elkhorn North, and reached the round of 8 last year, and I think were among the first to tend Prince an offer. I reckon if Prince has drawn a short list already, Creighton is on it. UCLA’s move to the Big Ten means the Bruins visit Nebraska on road trips.

Please go anywhere but UConn, Britt.

^Creighton, Nebraska, South Dakota State, Louisville, Iowa State, Omaha, Iowa, North Carolina, Maryland, Oregon, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Marquette, Penn State, NC State, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Virginia Tech, Harvard, Missouri, Mississippi State, Belmont, DePaul and Florida.

The WNBA is spending time and resources in foolish ways

The WNBA is applying its effort to stupid things, while its environment is poised for financial breakthrough.

Television viewership for the 2021 WNBA championship series averaged 548,000 viewers per game, a 23% increase over 2020 (447,000 per game), and 42% over 2019 (386,000 per game). Viewership for the 2022 WNBA college draft rose 20% over the year before.

A simple timeline for this sea change: Think back to the first year of WNBA play, 1997. Seimone Augustus, and other players born around 1984, were entering high school with a view toward pro league play following college ball. Augustus’ LSU teams reached the final four three times, and when she entered the 2006 WNBA draft, it coincided with the league’s expansion into Chicago (home of the 2021 WNBA champion Sky).

Also in 1997, Maya Moore and other players around her age were 8 or so, playing organized ball for the first time, while the WNBA was premiering on television. Her graduating class included Courtney Vandersloot and Liz Cambage. The girls watching them are graduating now.

If you want to look a generation ahead, Stephen Curry’s eldest daughter is 9. The girls around her age are watching “small” players like Curry and Aari McDonald dominate on the floor, while Caitlin Clark just signed a $1 million NIL deal.

The quality of play and players in the WNBA has never been better. The call for expansion — either by number of teams in the league, or number of players on the rosters — has never been louder (or more deserved). The 2022 preseason saw lottery picks and recent rookies of the year fail to make the final cut. Television ratings have never been higher. Social media awareness has never been greater — Paige Bueckers has an exceptional following, but I thought it was because she could play. The Cavinder twins at Florida have 4 million TikTok fans, despite winning at no higher league than the Mountain West.

In short, the potential for NCAA women and WNBA prosperity is roughly where the NBA was when Magic and Bird built record TV viewership in 1979.

The WNBA is poised to make a lot of money, for the first time, against the odds that go with existing as a women’s league. You could launch any shitty minor sports league of men — the USFL again, are you kidding me!? — and men with money will support and promote it, unfailingly and blindly. The difference in support between women’s and men’s basketball was made starkly and abundantly clear by the relative quality in training facilities during the 2021 NCAA tournament (that made me ashamed to be a man like Republicans make me ashamed to be an American).

The time has nearly come for American women’s professional basketball to emerge from its boutique status. There should be enough money in store to give more players jobs, and to make them more comfortable in the process — whichever rule was invoked that prevented the Liberty owner from flying his team on a charter (“for the sake of parity”, no doubt) could be abolished. Better yet, American players might be dissuaded from playing overseas, which in turn would keep them from being detained at checkpoints.

In the meantime, however, the WNBA seems determined to squander its resources with a deaf ear toward what people actually want.

It still requires a custom order to acquire replicas of most players’ jerseys. Instead, the WNBA has begun generating player-imaged NFTs for the NBA Top Shot marketplace. If you attend a WNBA game, the league would rather you have a picture of your player on your phone than wear her jersey.

If the league put a team in San Francisco, they could probably count on me to buy tickets (considering I used to drive 105 miles one way to watch the Sacramento Monarchs). Instead, it settles for my $25 subscription to WNBA League Pass, which I don’t use for its unacceptable user experience.

The MLB At Bat app enables users to toggle Show/Hide Scores. The WNBA app does not, and even places the Watch links beneath the scores. On opening night, I could not manage the feat of squinting so as to find the Watch link while my avoiding spoilage of the score. Couple that with my dislike of announcers, and I can do without watching games. (It’s much easier to not watch a sports league when your region doesn’t have a horse in the race.)

The online experience for WNBA followers is bad in ways you wouldn’t expect, like looking at the league standings. In 1925, the box looked like this, and it hasn’t changed much because it’s not broken:

In the WNBA office, someone thought to devote a UI engineer’s time to presenting team standings like this:

That level of overdoneness is a group effort, a waste of team energy. If the WNBA can’t handle these small details properly, why should investors favor expansion.

I hardly need to mention the league’s climbing aboard the cryptocurrency pyramid by partnering in December with Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase, trading in the 140s a month ago, has rebounded like a dead cat to 65 following the crypto market crash.

The NBA is a personality cult, created and cultivated by men who invest in men

When the question arises “Will the WNBA ever succeed like the NBA?”, my answer is: “No, professional women’s basketball will never be more than a curiosity in the U.S. Mostly because the NBA is a cult of personality, the kind of which the WNBA couldn’t develop.”

Dr. David Berri, who teaches gender economics at Southern Utah University, presented a talk about the WNBA at the Basketball Analytics Summit last Thursday. Berri gave this example:

The corporate sponsorship money for the NBA and WNBA are pies labeled A and B. The NBA players receive J percent of A, while the WNBA players receive K percent of B.

If K were increased to halfway toward J — still not as much as the NBA players get, but improved — Courtney Vandersloot would’ve earned a more equitable and acceptable $1.2 million in the example year.

Why can’t the WNBA players get a larger share (K) of the
pie, or a larger pie to share (B)?

“Because men invest in other men,” said Berri.

Boom! that’s the phrase I’ve always needed. The NBA is a personality cult, in which men invest in other men. Men who own shoe and beverage companies invest sponsorship money in growing the legends surrounding male athletes, who play boyhood games for the enjoyment of mostly other men.

The size of the pie or the weight of the slice for women’s sports could be increased to fair amounts with an insignificant hit to men’s bottom line. But men have been in a war against women longer then they’ve been making Nikes and Gatorade, and men don’t want women’s basketball (or women’s anything) to prosper.

The data-driven scientific approach to basketball is in practice about 40 fewer years than sabrmetrics to baseball. Basketball analytics will catch up to baseball in fewer than 40 years, though.

Technical baseball analysts spent years devising methods for reducing a player’s whole value to one number, and then years settling in agreement that it’s a dumb thing to do. Basketball analysts were never as likely to fall into that trap, given they understood at the start that a numerical expression pinned to one player is derived so heavily from what nine other players are doing.

I was relieved to see at the Basketball Analytics Summit that analysts are still focused on tools for using relevant big data. Big data results in big solutions for big problems that don’t always exist.

Movings on

Four Colorado Buffaloes entered the transfer portal, including two key seniors, Tuitele and Finau.

Utah’s fifth-year senior Dru Gylten tweeted Monday that she’s entering the portal. She plans to move closer to home, and her fiancé. (Nothing good ever comes of marriage proposals.)

Home is Rapid City, South Dakota, where WNBA Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon grew up. Assuming Hammon is the most accomplished and best-known basketball player to attend Stevens HS (there’s also Eric Piatkowski, who spent nine years with NBA Clippers while they were terrible), I’d think they would rename their gym after her. I think that’s the least Rapid City could do; given Hammon’s status as a member of the WNBA 25th anniversary and Russian Olympic teams, a six-time all-star whose number was retired in San Antonio, I’d push to rename Main St. as Becky Hammon Drive were I on the Rapid City council.

Like I said, Gylten’s departure leaves an immeasurable hole in Utah’s roster, and I think 2023 will be a lost year for Utah unless it’s adequately patched. Utah’s in a weird place where lateral movement would be considered a failure, because that’s how fair-weather supporters are.

Arizona State named Natasha Adair head coach. Adair was at Delaware for five years, most recently coaching the Blue Hens to an NCAA appearance.

Adair replaces Charli Turner Thorne, who retired after 25 years with the Sun Devils. She won 488 games, 2nd-most all-time in the Pac. The leader in that category is Coach VanDerveer at Stanford, for whom Turner Thorne played in the late ’80s.

If one of your players from 30-some years ago retires as a coach, maybe you’d think about retiring yourself, but Coach VanDerveer is still having fun. There’s a video circulating of Coach doing the electric slide with her team. I didn’t know what an “electric slide” was until watching that video, and there’s Coach dancing with a bunch of kids.

If retirement were on Coach VanDerveer’s mind, I thought last year would’ve been a storybook moment, with those championships in the early ’90s and the one in 2021 as bookends. Also, that would’ve left this year’s championship-caliber team in the hands of (presumably) Coach Paye, who would later have a few years of experience in the big chair when a rebuild became of order.

Stanford and UCLA advance to their respective semifinals

I slept through UCLA 74, Oregon St. 66 in a round-of-8 WNIT game, though it was the last chance to Back The Pac on both sides. I might’ve erred by enrolling in a data science class before April, but I’m preparing for the Basketball Analytics Summit.

The Bruins get South Dakota State Thursday in a semifinal game. That’ll be weird, because I’ve rooted for South Dakota State since they came into Maples for NCAA rounds 1 and 2 some years ago, with fans who were insanely in love with their team. It was charming, and they said ‘you think this is nuts, come to a home game in Brookings’.

Stanford 59 Texas 50

There’s a common trope that says if you want to establish a bad guy as a serious threat, start by having him kick your toughest guy’s ass. The uber example is Worf on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. A Klingon warrior assigned to tactics and security, Worf got curbstomped repeatedly, just to set the bad guy of the week as bad.

That’s how I saw Texas. They’d already beaten Stanford, and they pounded Utah in round 2 of the NCAA tournament. Not even Stanford smacked Utah as hard as Texas did.

Stanford could get North Carolina St. (#1 from Bridgeport region) then Louisville (#1 from Wichita) or South Carolina (#1 in every sense of #1), and those teams don’t scare me as much as Texas.

Stanford beat Texas 59-50 by winning quarters 2-through-4 by margins of 2, 4, and 3, for being tougher and more physical than the Longhorns. Stanford’s been dealing with a “cute kids who get good grades and look like the girl who delivers your newspapers” misconception since the ’90s. If I were Coach VanDerveer, I’d milk that for as long as I could. The cute kids who get good grades and look like the papergirl out-rebounded Texas 45-29, and blocked 11 shots (to Texas’ 1). I thought 11 might’ve had some historic significance, but it’s not even their highest total of the season: The Cardinal blocked 13 vs. South Carolina Nov. 21.

It was sort of a tag team effort for Stanford. Cameron Brink might’ve delivered all of her 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 blocks during the 3rd quarter. In the 4th, it was all Haley Jones and Lexie Hull. A game as physical at that results in many free throws attempted, and Stanford shot 18-of-22 to Texas’ 11-of-20.

11Joanne Allen-Taylor7.6
03Rori Harmon7.1
01Lauren Ebo-3.3
05DeYona Gaston-2.3
10Shay Holle-0.4
31Audrey Warren7.3
21Aaliyah Moore5.3
02Aliyah Mathura-3.3
35Latasha Lattimore-1.7

Pythagorean win expectations

Everything is Bill James’ fault. Bill James is the nerd who began the trend toward baseball analytics (James coined the term “sabrmetrics”) as a household term.

Baseball analytics works, because baseball performance is usually an individual thing: one guy throws it, another guy hits it 500 feet or swings and misses. You can chart that with some basis in reality.

After the application of baseball analytics began saving and making major league baseball teams billions of dollars, basketball people naturally wanted to participate. But I don’t think basketball performance can soundly be quantified as an individual thing; even when Chamberlain scored 100, it was a cooperative effort of 10 players. Chamberlain’s teammates had to give him the ball, and their opponents had to give Chamberlain’s team the ball; the other team was committing turnovers on purpose at the end of that game.

Team-based analytics have a better shot at genuine usefulness. Take the Pythagorean Winning Percentage, which James concocted as a method for determining an expected winning percentage based on runs scored:

pwp = (runs_scored^2) / (runs_scored^2 + runs_allowed^2)

The 2021 San Francisco Giants won 107 regular season games (107-55, .660). The Giants scored 804 runs, and allowed 594, for a Pythagorean projection of .647, or 105 wins.

For reasons that escape me, Daryl Morey (NBA Philadelphia) and John Hollinger (NBA Memphis) use exponents of 13.91 and 16.5, respectively. Look at what this does to the 2022 Utah Utes women.

pwp = (points_scored^some_exponent) / (points_scored^some_exponent + points_allowed^some_exponent)

The Utes scored 2505 points, and allowed 2251, and went 21-12 (.636).

Using Morey’s exponent 13.91, Utah’s Pythagorean expectation was .816, or 27-6. Using Hollinger’s exponent 16.5, the Utes’ expectation was .854, or 28-5. I tried a range of exponents until landing on 5, which returned .631.

TeamScoredAllowedactual winsPythagorean expected
Oregon St.193218661716
Arizona St.164515571215
Washington St.180218001915
Southern Cal180118111214

No matter what happens to Stanford Sunday, the Pac-12 will survive in the WNIT

Defending champion Stanford could be ousted Sunday by Texas — Texas looked invincible against Texas, but were quite vulnerable vs. Ohio State — but the Pac-12 would still be alive in the WNIT, because UCLA and Oregon St. have to play each other in Corvallis.

UCLA 82 Wyoming 81 was weirdly anticlimactic for a triple overtime game. Maybe both sides were completely gassed, or at least disspirited for the disqualifications of each team’s leading scorers.

Oregon St. overcame a 30-point first quarter by New Mexico (the Lobos shot 8-of-12 3FG), and won each of the last three quarters to win 78-73. Senior Ellie Mack scored a season-high 22.

The Bruins and Beavers met once in the regular season, a 72-58 OSU win. UCLA, playing shorthanded all year, were without team leader Charisma Osborne.

What now, Utah?

Texas shot a season-high 63.6% (35-of-55) Sunday, and beat Utah 78-56 in the round of 32. The Longhorns’ previous high was on Nov. 9 vs. New Orleans (NET 342), when they shot 61% (47-of-77) in a 131-36 win.

35 of 55. I tweeted in exasperation “Does Texas always shoot this well?”. Couple that with full court pressure akin to Arizona’s or Colorado’s, and AP #6 Texas looks capable of beating South Carolina or Stanford.

Utah finished at 21-12, 16 wins better than last year, with their first NCAA appearance in the Roberts era, their first Pac-12 tournament final, and a bunch of post-season awards. Utah’s bandwagoneers share an opinion that the program has a bright future ahead, because that’s life on the bandwagon: Nothing but clear skies.

Maybe I’m the only one that thinks the Utes are in a precarious place.

What’s next year’s milestone? Let’s say it’s merely three or four more wins. One or two additional regular season wins earns a tournament bye. One more win in the tournament earns an automatic NCAA berth. One more win in the NCAA tournament means a trip to the regional finals site.

Doable? Not unless Utah is at least as well furnished at the one as they were this year. The easiest solution is for the coaching staff to persuade fifth-year senior Dru Gylten to return for a sixth, but this seems unlikely, considering Dru took part in senior night ceremony, and she also got engaged.

Without Dru, Utah is left with one one, freshman Ines Vieira, the fastest woman I’ve ever seen on a basketball floor. The only analogous NBA player is Leandro Barbosa, whom Phoenix Suns radio man Al McCoy calls “the Brazilian Blur”. Vieira is so fast that she can make steals by overtaking the ballhandler from behind, running around her, and swiping the ball without fouling. She scores and rebounds a bit more than Dru, but Dru defies quantification.

Dru Gylten is the heart and soul of the Utah Utes, the straw that stirs the drink, the spark that drives the engine, the catalyst that generates the chemistry, the coach on the floor, the elder statesman. She’s the first player Coach Roberts said I’d love, and was correct in the prediction.

Dru is irreplaceable, but her absence is inevitable. It’s not in the team’s scheme to let Vieira play 38 minutes, so what are their options for someone else to play 20?

1) Move a two to the one. Coach Roberts had unreal good fortune shuffling guards around at Pacific. In Pacific’s Big West Conference championship season, a natural two was playing at one while a natural one was playing at two, and it worked splendidly. I reckon if she tried this in Utah, she’d look at Kneepkens as a possible one, which would mean the team’s biggest offensive weapon would start with the ball in her hands, while returning senior Maxwell could resume starting at two.

2) Reel one in from the transfer portal. Pacific got a couple of outstanding transfers from Fresno State in 2014, but for an unfortunate stretch, Madison Parrish carried the team on her back. As went Madison Parrish, so went the Pacific Tigers. Utah most certainly doesn’t want that.

3) Recruit one. That would be swell for 2026, but the Utes are gunning for 2024.