No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball (25-5, 15-3 Pac-12) prepares for yet another postseason run in this year’s highly competitive installment of the Pac-12 Championship Tournament. The Cardinal women begin their tournament play on Friday against either Colorado or Washington State at the KeyArena in Seattle.
The Cardinal enter into the conference championships as the second seed after losing their share atop the conference standings in a crushing three-point loss against No. 6 Oregon State (27-3, 16-2), meaning that head coach Tara VanDerveer and her team only need three victories in order to win the tournament.
However, Stanford’s work remains cut out for them in this weekend’s action, as all four teams with a bye were also nationally ranked in a challenging conference. The lowest of these teams was No. 15 UCLA Bruins (22-7, 13-5) – the same Bruin team that earned the program’s first victory in Maples earlier this season.
VanDerveer knows the immense potential for upset and how necessary keeping the mind focused is in each and every game, without overlooking opponents, will be to the the Cardinal success.
Of the two potential teams in the first matchup for Stanford, neither Colorado (15-14, 5-13) nor Washington State (11-18,6-12) have earned a victory against the Cardinal women this season, and the closest margin in the final score in those three games was a 13-point Stanford victory.
Junior guard Brittany McPhee has been a key for the Cardinal offensively in their two matches against the Buffs this season. In their last contest, McPhee took control of a sluggish Cardinal offense in a 20-point second half performance that propelled and kept Stanford out of competition from the struggling Colorado squad.
While the Cardinal only played Washington State once so far, Stanford absolutely demolished the Cougars by an over-20 point margin, despite turning the ball over 23 times by holding Washington State’s offense to only 29 percent from the field. However, in that January match, the Cougars were still without leading scorer sophomore forward Borislava Hristova.
In just nine games back, Hristova has started every game and averaged 15 points per game. However, Hristova only plays, on average, 23 minutes per game in her short return so far, and the Stanford starters will definitely welcome her absence in the post-game in their expected extra 10 minutes on the floor.
Barring an upset from either part of the bracket, Stanford’s path towards reclaiming its tournament championship must go through hometown team No. 11 Washington (27-4, 15-3) who look for revenge against the Cardinal after losing a match in Seattle in January. Stanford surged to a second-half comeback in that victory against the Kelsey Plum-led Huskies and will surely need another great performance to defeat Washington – essentially at home – for the second time this season.
Nevertheless, in tournament season March Madness, only one game needs to go against the Cardinal in order to sour the whole weekend. Each round takes a day of action, as the quarterfinals will be played Friday, semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday.
The Cardinal will need to continue to play their balanced and smart basketball in order to claim victory after the weekend’s tournament. Stanford has been 13-2 on the road this season, and the offense has utilized six different leading scorers in their overall 25 wins in the season, showing their roster depth and versatility on attack.
Meanwhile, in postseason basketball, the Cardinal need to continue the defensive pressure that they have displayed this season that earned them second in field goal percentage defensively and second in scoring defense behind the top-seeded Beavers. In the history of Stanford’s Pac-12 tournament games, the Cardinal are 32-1 if they hold opponents to under 40 percent from the field.
With a team led by the senior core, Stanford has the experience to go far in the postseason. All postseason glory starts on Friday at 6 p.m. and will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.