Random thoughts from an outside observer and a longtime poster...
1) During the summer, I commented that it would be much harder to replace Dolson and that I had questions about where Stokes was in terms of range on her shot. Dolson provided so much in terms of the range on her shot, especially her junior and senior years. She was money with that free throw line jumper. What this meant was that it opened up the offense entirely. Every player could score from the outside. And by Dolson stepping out and drawing the defender with her, the guards had more clear paths to the basket (and Hartley and Moriah were truly excellent off the dribble last year). Dolson was also an excellent passer for a post player, not just in terms of racking up assists but making the "hockey assist" passes (i.e., making the pass that led to the assist).
Stokes is a stronger physical presence inside and is a better rebounder (at least by my eyes, but I do not see every game), but does not have the other array of skills that Dolson possessed. She does not have the same range on her shot or the consistency on that range. So this means that there were be an adjustment on offense, going from having situations where you can run five-out to a four-out, one-in.
2) Moriah Jefferson is a ridiculously speedy point guard who made leaps and bounds in terms of her improvement in both playmaking and shooting last year. But she is making an adjustment. Remember, last year, she was arguably the fifth option on the team (behind Stewart, KML, Dolson, and Hartley). This year, she is the third option (behind Stewart and KML) and is also responsible for having to create more for others (Chong and Stokes). Hartley, by contrast, did not need Jefferson to create for her, as she created for herself. With Chong and Stokes, Moriah needs to be more of a facilitator.
3) Stanford's win good news for ESPN and the sport of women's basketball, as there is a glimmer of hope that a team can challenge UConn. UConn is always a big draw on ESPN, but when there is a game against another highly rated team and it is expected to be close (or is close), the ratings are huge.
4) Going into this season, I thought Stanford was overrated at #6, due to the graduation of Ogwumike and having to rely on a lot of unproven players who were very good prospects out of high school, but not elite (certainly not of the caliber of Nneka and Chiney). But the Cardinal proved me wrong. Tara VanDerveer changed her offense from the triangle (or variations on the triangle) that had been a trademark of hers the past six or so years, to a more guard-oriented game. In a recent interview, she said doing so was a six-month process, with consultation and work with ex-NBA coach Mike D'Antoni, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Joe Prunty, and Jenny Boucek of the Seattle Storm.
(Side thought...If only a certain coach in Durham, North Carolina put in that much work)
5) UConn lost on the road by two points, in overtime, to the #6 team, in the second game of the year. What does this mean? First, it means the discussion of "streaks" can go dissipate, and Geno Auriemma can focus on individual player development and team cohesion. Arguably, there will be less of a distraction, at least from the media as to the issue of streaks.
More importantly, this young team will learn what it takes to close out games. Remember, the freshmen and Chong have never experienced a loss. They just know UConn is the offensive juggernaut that destroys teams. For them to experience the loss personally goes such a long way in terms of development. They learn they need to take things; nothing will be given to them. They learn they need to earn the win, not expect the other team to roll over. They learn that the sum (the team) must be greater than the individual parts, which means better chemistry, better cohesion, individual sacrifice for team success, and more intensity and focus in practice and in games.
As a Duke fan, I shudder to think of the beatdown UConn could put on the team. As a fan of the sport of women's basketball, I am truly afraid of what a more focused, more driven, more intense Geno Auriemma and UConn players mean going forward.
Geno is no doubt angry. Probably "2001 Final Four against Notre Dame" angry. And we all saw what happened after that...