Are the Stanford ladies even higher this yr than the 2021 title staff?

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Might the Stanford Cardinal be higher this 2022 ladies’s NCAA event than the staff that went 31-2 to win the nationwide championship final season?

That query appeared laughable in early November, when Texas spoiled the Cardinal’s celebration of the title with a 61-56 come-from-behind win at Maples Pavilion. Stanford would lose a neutral-site sport to South Florida later within the month, matching the variety of losses through the championship season in simply six video games.

Because the Cardinal and Longhorns put together for a rematch Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Spokane, Washington, with a spot within the Last 4 on the road, Stanford stands 31-3, having accomplished an undefeated journey by way of Pac-12 play and cruising to the Elite Eight. The Cardinal’s solely loss in that point was 65-61 at No. 1 South Carolina.

After dropping to Stanford for a second time this season in Friday’s Candy 16 match, Maryland coach Brenda Frese — whose staff misplaced to 3 of the 4 No. 1 seeds on this yr’s event (South Carolina and NC State) — did not hesitate when requested if the Cardinal have been the perfect staff within the nation.

“No query,” Frese mentioned. “I’ve been lucky with the No. 1 seeds we have performed. Their size, the way in which they cross, the way in which they’ll rating the basketball, and clearly that size offers you suits on the defensive finish with their dimension.

“We actually struggled on the offensive finish. I’ve mentioned all of it yr, I do not assume they in all probability get even sufficient credit score on the West Coast nationally for what they’ve performed all yr. That is their twenty third straight win in a row. The deepest, most gifted staff I’ve confronted.”

Though ESPN’s Basketball Energy Index nonetheless has South Carolina as the favourite to win the title, Friday’s efficiency lifted Stanford’s BPI ranking to 29.1 — barely higher than final season’s nation-leading 28.9 mark.

Due to the extra yr of eligibility granted to gamers because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cardinal returned eight of the 9 gamers who noticed no less than 10 minutes per sport in 2020-21. Solely level guard Kiana Williams, the staff’s main scorer at 14.0 PPG, departed for the WNBA.

Actually, Stanford struggled with changing Williams early within the season. Her absence was keenly felt within the fourth quarter on Nov. 14 as Texas outscored the Cardinal 26-16 after trailing by 5. Stanford went scoreless for greater than 4 and a half minutes. Its seven assists have been the one time all season it failed to achieve double figures in that class.

The Cardinal stay susceptible to scoring droughts. That they had a pair of them Friday, making only one subject purpose within the opening six minutes of the second quarter and none within the closing 6:51 of regulation, because the Terrapins turned a 21-point deficit right into a tight-looking 72-66 closing margin. VanDerveer later declared that her ideas on the fourth quarter have been unsuitable for print.

But between these stretches, Stanford reached a stage unseen throughout final yr’s event run that gained VanDerveer her first nationwide championship since 1992. The Cardinal made an underseeded Maryland staff that ranked No. 3 in HerHoopsStats.com’s adjusted offensive rating look out of its depth because it led by as many as 26 factors late within the third quarter.

The strongest argument, nevertheless, is the event of sophomore middle Cameron Brink, who was simply coming into her personal throughout final yr’s event. Brink’s shot-blocking (4.0 per sport) was a key think about that run, however she averaged simply 9.0 PPG as a real freshman.

Now Brink is the Cardinal’s main scorer and has scored double figures in all three event video games — together with 15 factors to associate with eight boards and 5 blocks in simply 19 minutes earlier than fouling out Friday. If Brink can keep away from foul hassle and keep on the court docket, she might additionally make a distinction from the primary assembly in opposition to Texas, when she scored simply seven factors on 2-of-3 capturing.

“I believe we now have improved rather a lot [since November],” VanDerveer mentioned after Friday’s sport, “though the fourth quarter was an excellent reminder [that] hey, you have to play 4 quarters. I believe it is working our offense and doing issues that you must do to win basketball video games.”

Regardless of the BPI ranking, this yr’s Stanford staff will finally be judged on its skill to match the championship normal set final March in San Antonio. And earlier than this model of the Cardinal can show its mettle in Minneapolis subsequent week, it should first overcome the Texas take a look at it failed again in November.

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