March 23, 2018

Stanford loses Sweet 16 game to Louisville, 59-86

The Stanford defense was good as usual and was clearly causing Louisville trouble, especially in the first half. Unfortunately for Stanford, the Louisville defense and offense were more athletic, more aggressive, more skilled, and sometimes luckier than Stanford's.

The game started out as a high-speed shooting match, with both teams hitting their shots. The score at the first media timeout was 10-13, with Stanford hitting 5 of 7 shots and Louisville 6 of 10. Alanna had hit all three of her first attempts. The quarter ended Louisville up 6, 19-25, but Stanford looking competitive.

In the second quarter it became apparent that Louisville was simply faster and more aggressive on both offense and defense. The most noticeable difference was in offensive rebounds, where by the end of the half Stanford had two, and Louisville, eight. The halftime score was 31-42.

If the coaches made any "adjustments" over halftime, Jeff Walz's were more effective. From the start of the second half, Stanford's offense simply stalled. There was one single possession on which Stanford had seven O-boards. That was the good news; the bad news was that they missed all eight shots before Louisville finally grabbed the ball. If you set aside that string of seven consecutive O-boards, the final count would be Stanford 3, Louisville 14.

The Cardinals completely shut Alanna down after her promising first quarter. From the mid-third quarter on, it seemed to a fan that everything Stanford put up, bounced, while everything Louisville put up, swished. It wasn't quite that bad, but the outcome was so clearly inevitable that Tara began to substitute bench players at the 6:00 mark of the fourth quarter, and pulled the last starter, Kiana, before the 2:00 point. This was sad because Brittany and Kaylee left the floor for the last time well before the scattering of Stanford fans realized they were gone.

Brittany had 15 points, six rebounds, a steal and a block in her last game in a Stanford uniform.

Kaylee had two points, four rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.

Next year's team had some good moments.

DiJonai had 14 points, four rebounds, and amid her usual disruptive defense, three steals.

Alanna had eight points, five rebounds and a block.

Kiana had an off-night (or maybe was well-scouted by the Cardinals) and scored seven points on 3-11 shooting.

Marta had four points and dished out five assists.

Maya played good defense and had two assists, a steal, and two solid blocks. Against the Louisville secondary in the closing minutes, Shannon sank a pretty three and Alexa went 3-3 for six points.

Stanford began this season with more losses than we are accustomed to having, and for a while didn't look as if they would rank high enough to host the first round, or even be competitive in their league. In the closing month they beat a string of quality teams — including UCLA and Oregon State, teams that are now in the Elite Eight after today's results — and contended for the league championship.

Next year's squad will add three promising freshmen to the base of players — Alanna, Kiana, Marta, DiJonai, Nadia and Alyssa — to name just the ones who played in regular minutes in this final game.

How will that team do? Will it start out winning? Will it reach the Sweet-16? Of course we can't know, but we can confidently expect that they will be, as always, confident, articulate young women who play with skill, who do astonishing things on the court, and who provide excitement and entertainment for their fans.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

A transcript of the press conference with Tara, Britt and DiJonai,

And the game highlights video.

March 22, 2018

The Dance continues in Lexington

Stanford heads to Rupp Arena for the third consecutive season to compete with Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen with Oregon State taking on Baylor in the other game.

Will the Cardinal face the Beavers in the Elite Eight? Not likely — Five Thirty Eight gives Stanford just a 13% chance of upsetting Louisville and Oregon State a 10% chance of upsetting Baylor.

Here's how the four teams in the Lexington Regional match up statistically:

Stanford Louisville Baylor Oregon State
Points per game 71.7 76.9 86.7 73.6
Scoring margin 15.2 20.0 31.0 15.5
Field goal % .445 .484 .510 .485
Opponents field goal % .350 .372 .321 .345
3-pointers per game 6.2 6.2 4.6 8.4
3-point % .356 .378 .378 .403
Free throw % .692 .752 .721 .711
Rebounds per game 41.1 38.7 49.1 42.4
Rebounding margin 7.4 7.8 19.1 10.2
Assists per game 15.4 16.9 20.3 19.1
Turnovers per game 13.9 14.1 13.1 14.1
Assist/turnover ratio 1.1 1.2 1.5 1.4
Steals per game 7.2 8.1 6.9 4.0
Blocks per game 5.6 3.5 6.8 6.0
Overall record 24-10 34-2 33-1 25-7
Conference record 16-4 15-1 18-0 14-4
RPI 13 3 4 42
Schedule strength 4 13 21 73

  Stanford Cardinal

Tara begins at 1:40. Britt and Kayl at 18:55.

Stanford sends Florida Gulf Coast home, makes Sweet 16 date with Louisville

Five things to know about Louisville women's NCAA Sweet 16 opponent, Stanford

Stanford starts to shine ahead of another Lexington Sweet 16

After rough start to season and some doubt, Stanford is back

Alanna Smith’s shooting gives Stanford a shot in the arm in NCAA Tournament

Stanford wants to earn an "A" in aggressiveness in Lexington

A teammate’s struggles helped Stanford keep its perspective

Season Statistics
Game Notes

  Louisville Cardinals

Top-seeded Louisville women run past Marquette 90-72 in NCAA

Louisville braces for dangerous Stanford

Season Statistics
Game Notes

  Baylor Lady Bears

Baylor women to 10th Sweet 16 in row with win over Michigan

Kalani Brown looks to help lead Baylor back to the Final Four

Challenged post player helps Baylor women to Sweet 16 again

Oregon State, Baylor meet again in NCAA tourney

Season Statistics
Game Notes

  Oregon State Beavers

Tennessee loses in NCAAs for first time at home

Beavers one of four nonhosts to advance

Beavers take different journey to this Sweet 16

Baylor win brings back good memories

Preview: Oregon State battles Baylor in Sweet 16

Beavers have been building up Marie G├╝lich for this moment

Season Statistics
Game Notes

March 20, 2018

And the Best Three Point Shooting Team of the Sub-Regional Was?

By Warren Grimes

If you watched the games on TV, you could have no doubt about the answer to this question. The commentators, who were quite knowledgeable and balanced overall, could not say enough about Florida Gulf Coast University and its national record for long range bombing. The Eagle fans favorite T-shirt ("Raining Threes") was mentioned too many times to count.

And yes, it is true, midway through the fourth quarter, FGCU did in fact break the national season record for the number of converted three point shots. Against Stanford alone, FGCU launched a mind-numbing 47 three point attempts. They converted 36.2 % of these, or 17 in total. The percentage is not exceptional, but still very good. That's 51 points. That's 73% of the Eagles 70 point total. Throw in a bit of defense, and you will win most of your games with that sort of performance.

For the weekend, FGCU shot even better, or 37.5% from the three point line. But that figure does not even approach Stanford's weekend three point shooting percentage (51.3%). Against Gonzaga, Stanford was 11 for 22 (50%); Against FGCU, Stanford was 9 for 17, or 52.9%. Wow, that's pretty good shooting. Stanford shot three balls almost as well as it shoots free throws (ouch!).

The commentators had plenty of praise for Stanford, but I heard no acknowledgment of the team's three point shooting performance. In the Gonzaga game, one commentator declared flatly: “Stanford is not a good three-point shooting team.” Silly. She made the mistake of relying on season statistics.

The tournament is a new season. Want proof? Three Stanford players stood out in their three point shooting over the weekend. Kiana Williams was 6 for 10, or 60%. Alanna Smith was 7 for 13, or 53.8%. And DiJonai Carrington was 3 for 5, for 60%. Imagine what could have been if streaky-shooting Brittany McPhee had found her touch from outside.

Stanford's weekend long-range barrage may have been aided by the Maples factor. Stanford tends to shoot the three ball better at home, but seldom above 50%. Part of the high conversion rate doubtless stems from Stanford's well-executed Princeton offense, which leaves players with a lot of open shots. Stanford's ability to continue converting threes is a key for how they fare in the Lexington regional.

Another key to Stanford's victory over FGCU was the tactical decision to shut down the Eagles inside game. Against Missouri, FGCU had 32 attempts inside the three point arc, many of them layups. The Eagles converted 52.9% of these, for a total of 36 points. Not so against Stanford. The Eagles frequently could not even launch their interior shots. When they did, they missed more often than not, converting just 38.9 percent for 14 points. Stanford had 7 blocks.

Enough said. From here on out, every opponent will be higher seeded, starting with the region's number 1 seed Louisville. From here on out, I hope it will not be said of Stanford, that they "rained three balls." Rain falls all over the place. Instead, I hope it is said that Stanford continued to "launch well-aimed guided missiles."

March 19, 2018

Cardinal cages Eagles 90-70 to advance to Sweet Sixteen

In the pregame press conference Tara spoke generously of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles' abilities, and how despite their "raining threes" slogan they also scored well in the paint — which in fact we had seen in their upset of Missouri in Friday's game.

In this game, the Cardinal defense caged the Eagle's inside game so effectively that of their 70 points, exactly 14 came from two-point field goals. Time and again an FGCU player would drive and find herself fenced off from the basket by two larger players, and have to pass the ball out.

In the early minutes the game seemed close, with FGCU hitting timely threes to stay in the game. However, almost every time an Eagle dropped a three, a Cardinal would respond soon after. For example, around the 3-minute mark, the Eagles' Lisa Zderadicka hit a three, bringing the Eagles within four at 19-15. Seconds later, DiJonai hit a three to restore the prior lead, and a possession later, Kiana hit one.

An exciting, entertaining first quarter ended with Stanford up 33-17. At this point the Eagles' 17 points comprised five three-pointers and two free-throws — nothing in the paint.

In the second quarter, Stanford's offense sputtered while FSGU kept shooting threes and making enough of them to catch up to within five, 40-35, with a minute left. The teams went to their locker rooms at 43-35 and the Eagles, presumably, felt they had a chance at the upset.

A few minutes into the third quarter came the highlight of the game. With the Eagles on offense, Brittany poked the ball away from their guard. Marta grabbed the loose ball and fired a three-quarter-court outlet pass toward Kiana racing toward the opposite goal. The pass was a bit too long and it looked as if it would go out of bounds, but Kiana overtook it and, while leaping over the end-line, fired backward behind her to Brittany for an easy layup.

(If video clip doesn't appear, click here to view it.)

This quarter ended with Stanford up 66-48. In the fourth, the Eagles hung on behind four three-pointers by China Dow, but Alanna, Brittany and DiJonai kept scoring to hold them off to the final minute, when both coaches put in their subs and the crowd stood to applaud the starters coming off the floor.

Alanna dominated the scoring early and late, with 28 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. She hit four of seven three-point shots and hit 11-21 overall (and incurred only two personal fouls).

Brittany had 17 points on 6-13 shooting, plus nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

DiJonai had 14 points in only 20 minutes of playing time, hitting 5 of 9 tries, including two of two three-point shots. She disrupted the Eagle's offense with three gaudy steals.

Kiana scored 12 points and recorded six assists (one of them, the highlight-reel save described earlier) against one turnover.

Marta had eight points, from hitting one three-pointer and five of six free throws. She had four assists against three turnovers.

Kaylee had six points, collected 12 rebounds and had two assists and two blocks.

Stanford now heads to Lexington KY to play Louisville on Friday evening. For the first time ever: Cardinal vs Cardinals!

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The video press conference with Tara, Alanna and Britt,

The game highlights video,

And a gallery of photos by Bob Drebin (

March 17, 2018

Cardinal advances to second round with a shower of 3's

The first half of this game was fast and somewhat sloppy with frequent steals and turnovers. And it was close at first, with Stanford up only four, 22-18, at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter Alanna hit a three, Kiana hit a three, Alanna had a layup, and the Gonzaga coach, suddenly facing a 32-20 deficit, had to call time. The teams played even the rest of the period and at the half it was Stanford by 11, 47-36.

In the third quarter the Zags made a bit of a run, coming within eight, but then, starting at the 4:00 mark, Alanna made a three, Kiana made a three, and Nadia made a three. Meanwhile Gonzaga went scoreless. The 9-0 swing closed the quarter at 65-48 and the game was pretty well decided.

Kiana just edged Alanna for top scorer, hitting 5-8 threes and 8-16 shots in all for 21 points. She caught two rebounds, and recorded two assists and two steals, against one turnover.

Alanna hit 3 of 6 threes, 8-13 overall, for 20 points, and recorded six rebounds, two steals and four blocks.

Brittany had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, plus six assists and two steals.

DiJonai had 11 points on 4-8 shooting, and five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in limited minutes.

Kaylee went 3-4 to get six points, plus eight rebounds a steal and three blocks.

The team as a whole hit 50.8% of their shots, and exactly 50% of their long shots (11-22). Unfortunately they hit almost the same proportion of free throws, at 55% (11-20). For a brief while, the field goal percentage was higher than the free throw percentage, but they did better at the stripe the second half.

In the closing minutes, Gonzaga fouled repeatedly to get the ball. Even so, there were a total of 39 fouls called in this game. Note that number for contrast to the other game of the day.

In the first game of the day, #12 FGCU upset #5 Missouri, 80-70.

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have a team slogan, "Raining Threes" and that is supposed to be their offensive style -- and one would think appropriately so, as none of the team are taller than 5-11, while at least a third of the Missouri Tigers are over 6 feet. However, right from the start of this game, the Eagles took the ball inside again and again, and succeeded, either scoring or getting fouled. Their defense was also disruptive, causing many more turnovers than they conceded.

It is not clear if the referee squad for this game was calling it very tightly, or if both teams were being intentionally physical. At any rate, there were a total of 56 fouls whistled in this game (as against 39 in the Stanford-Gonzaga game). Both teams were in the bonus in every quarter, and many free throws were shot.

The Eagles did attempt 17 threes, making 7 of them (compare to Stanfords' 11-22 in their game). Meanwhile the Tigers had an abysmal shooting day, going 4-24 on threes. The Floridians pulled out a 9-point lead in the first half. Despite a heroic effort by Missouri's Sophie Cunningham -- who played 40 minutes and ended with 35 points, 14 of them from free-throws -- the Eagles held on to their lead to the end of the game to secure the upset.

Stanford and FGCU will play for the right to advance to the Lexington Regional at 6pm Monday.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The game statistics,

The game highlights video from the Pac-12,

The game highlights video from Stanford Athletics,

The video press conference with Tara, Alanna, and Kiana,

And a gallery of photos by Al Chang and Don Feria (,

March 16, 2018

On the eve of The Dance

Press Conference: Tara, Kaylee, Britt

Stories about the Stanford pod

A guide to the women’s NCAA Tournament’s Stanford subregional by Eric Lee (The Missourian)

Upsets upcoming at Stanford on Saturday? by Alex Simon (Summitt Hoops)

Stories about Stanford and Gonzaga

Stanford, Gonzaga meet again but in NCAA Tournament by Fox Sports

Nostalgia aside, Stanford women ready to play by Rick Eymer (Palo Alto Online)

Stanford's VanDerveer had a moment of doubt on NCAA chances by Janie McCauley (Associated Press)

Stanford women face a point guard from Gonzaga named Stockton by Tom Fitzgerald (San Francisco Chronicle)

Gonzaga faces tough test of stopping Stanford’s Brittany McPhee by Jim Allen (The Spokesman Review)

Stanford's Kiana Williams eyes Final Four by Michelle Smith (Pac-12 Conference)

Wagner alum Williams gets her shot at Stanford by David Hinojosa (San Antonio Express-News)

Stories about Missouri and FGCU

Tigers hope offense heats up on West Coast by Daniel Jones (Columbia Daily Tribune)

Can Mizzou finally break through to Sweet 16 in NCAA women's tournament? by Aaron Reiss (Kansas City Star)

FGCU women very confident vs. much taller Mizzou in NCAA first-rounder by Dana Caldwell (Naples Daily News)

FGCU focused on slowing down Missouri's Sophie Cunningham by Do-Hyoung Park (Naples Daily News)

March 15, 2018

The Dance begins at Maples

Here is how the teams that will play rounds 1 and 2 at Maples match up statistically:

Stanford Gonzaga Missouri FGCU
Points per game 68.0 72.4 69.7 78.4
Scoring margin +6.5 +13.7 +9.4 +19.1
Field goal % .419 .437 .459 .441
3-pointers per game 7.0 4.8 7.9 12.0
3-point % .309 .294 .379 .361
Free throw % .639 .733 .757 .691
Rebounds per game 40.9 39.7 39.2 36.6
Rebounding margin +4.4 +4.9 +8.7 +1.7
Assists per game 13.7 14.5 16.0 16.7
Turnovers per game 14.5 13.5 14.8 12.1
Assist/turnover ratio 0.94 1.07 1.08 1.38
Steals per game 7.4 9.5 4.9 9.5
Blocks per game 5.2 3.6 3.9 1.6
Overall record 22-10 27-5 24-7 30-4
Conference record 14.3 17-1 11-5 13-1
RPI 13 34 24 47
Schedule strength 4 94 43 188

FiveThirtyEight gives Stanford an 89% chance of defeating Gonzaga and gives Missouri an 80% chance of defeating FGCU. The chance of advancing to the Sweet 16 is 74% for Stanford and 19% for Missouri.

  Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Zags earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs by winning the West Coast Conference (WCC) tournament. This is the second consecutive year that they've won both the tournament and regular-season titles.

They've been to the NCAA tournament nine times in the past 10 years, with four trips to the Sweet 16 and one to the Elite Eight.

The Zags are led by head coach Lisa Fortier, who took the reins from Kelly Graves four years ago. She has been named the WCC Coach of the Year three times.

The Zags and the Cardinal have played each other almost every season for the past nine years. The Zags won for the first time, 68-63, at Maples last season.

The Zag's leading scorer, redshirt junior forward Jill Barta, laid 26 points on the Cardinal that day and is looking forward to the rematch. Barta averages 18.8 points per game on 49% shooting. She also leads her team in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocks (1.0 bpg).

Junior forward Zykera Rice also scores in double digits at an average of 12.0 points per game and grabs 5.3 rebounds per game.

Here are Gonzaga's season statistics and roster

  Missouri Tigers

Mizzou earned its third consecutive at-large bid to the Big Dance by placing fourth in the tough Southeastern Conference (SEC) behind Mississippi State, South Carolina and Georgia.

This is its fifth invitation to the Big Dance. It advanced to the second round the past two seasons and to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001.

Mizzou is led by head coach Robin Pingeton, now in her eight season at the helm.

Junior guard Sophie Cunningham might be the best shooter at Maples this weekend. She averages 18.0 points per game at a rate of 53.8%. She takes almost half her shots from beyond the arc, sinking 2.3 per game at a rate of 46.6%, the third-best 3-point field goal percentage in the nation. And she makes 83% of her free throws — just under four per game.

Cunningham may also be the toughest player. She's received negative comments about her playing style in the social media, but her mother says, "Dang it, she’s not a dirty player. She’s hard-nosed. With that said, she’s feisty ... She won’t back down from a physical fight or a verbal fight. Even as a little girl Sophie always had to have the last word. And it's frustrating being on the other side."

Junior forward Cierra Porter leads the team in rebounding with 7.7 per game. She is just short of being their third double-digit scorer with 9.9 points per game.

Redshirt senior forward Jordan Frericks is Mizzou's second-best scorer and rebounder with 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Here are Mizzou's season statistics and roster.

   Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Eagles

Florida Gulf Coast has been a Division I program in the Atlanta Sun (ASUN) conference since the 2007-08 season, and has been eligible for postseason play since 2011-12. It has dominated the conference in those past seven years.

This is the fifth time that the Eagles have earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs by winning the ASUN tournament. They've advanced to the second round just once, in 2015.

The Eagles are also the ASUN regular season champion, which they have been for all but one of the past seven years.

Karl Smesko has been the head coach at FGCU ever since 2002-03, the program's first year (when it played in Division II). He has been named the ASUN Coach of the Year nine times in the eleven years that FGCU has been a member of the conference.

The Eagles' social media mantra is #RAININGTHREES. It's a style that Smesko has been preaching since he started coaching.

The Eagles have attempted 1126 3-pointers this season and made 407 of them — more than any other team in the nation. They've averaged the second-most 3-pointers per game (12.0, just shy of DePaul's 12.1).

The Eagles' barrage of treys is a team-wide performance.

Redshirt senior guard Taylor Gradinjan makes the most — 2.7 per game at a rate of 38.9%. This is Gradinjan's sixth season at FGCU. She has suffered two ACL tears, but has played more minutes this season than any FGCU player and has at least one 3-pointer in all but two games.

Senior forward Rosemarie Julien is close behind with 2.1 3-pointers per game at a rate of 35%, and is the team's top scorer with an average of 13.4 points per game.

Reshirt senior guard Jessica Cattani is the Eagles' most accurate 3-point shooter. She comes off the bench for about 14 minutes per game to sink 1.6 treys at a rate of 43.5%.

Sophomore forward Tytionia Adderly leads the team in rebounding with an average of 9.1 per game.

Here are FGCU's season statistics and roster.

March 14, 2018

How long will the Cardinal dance?

FiveThirtyEight, the statistical analysis website, in article 2018 March Madness Predictions gives Stanford:

A 74% chance of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
A 12% chance of upsetting Louisville and advancing to the Elite Eight
A 2% chance of advancing to the Final Four.

ESPN in article UConn is favored in NCAA tournament, but BPI likes field uses ESPN's brand-new Basketball Power Index (BPI) for women's college basketball to give Stanford:

A 45% chance of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen
A 14% chance of advancing to the Elite Eight
a 4% chance of advancing to the Final Four

Charlie Creme (ESPN) in article UConn leads way in 1-64 NCAA tournament power rankings sizes up the chances of the other 63 contenders. For Stanford:

Best case: The NCAA tournament and Stanford can't be discussed without "Final Four" entering the conversation -- and the Cardinal do it again. Brittany McPhee catches a hot streak like she did in the regionals last March and Stanford shocks Louisville and Baylor to get to its third Final Four in five years and the 14th in program history.

Worst case: The Cardinal reach the Sweet 16, but the season ends there because this is the game Louisville's Asia Durr finds her stroke again. The Cardinal have no answer even after massive halftime adjustments by coach Tara VanDerveer.

Graham Hays (ESPN) in article Five burning questions for the women's NCAA tournament bracket thinks that Louisville has the most difficult road to Columbus:

It might be the shortest path to Columbus, barely 250 miles even with a slight detour to Rupp Arena along the way, but Louisville will feel every one of those miles if it emerges unscathed.

Geography obviously helps the ACC champions. Should the Cardinals reach the regional round in nearby Lexington, no other No. 1 seed will likely be as well supported -- the opportunity to cut down nets on a rival's court all the sweeter in a season in which Kentucky missed the tournament.

But that is about all Louisville has going for it in its draw.

A No. 1 seed hasn't lost in the second round or earlier (sorry, Stanford) since 2009, so the first weekend should be a foregone conclusion. That said, Louisville failed to defend its own court in the NCAA tournament before, in a regional final against Maryland in 2014 and a second-round game against DePaul in 2016. It also lost a tournament game against Dayton in 2015, and while the players and even the coach are different this time, the Flyers are still bigger and more athletic than most mid-majors. It's worth noting if those teams should meet in the second round.

It's the weekend at Rupp Arena that gets tricky. Potential Sweet 16 opponent Stanford would be playing in Lexington for the third year in a row. A year ago, the Cardinal upset top-seeded Notre Dame in the regional final. The year before that? They upset top-seeded Notre Dame in the Sweet 16. You get the feeling the Cardinal wouldn't be overwhelmed by the surroundings, even with the kind of partisan crowd that was missing the past two years.

Stanford [is] a potential thorn in Louisville's side, but that involves the Cardinal getting through a loaded bracket in the first two rounds. A win at Stanford could be another step toward stardom for Missouri's Sophie Cunningham, but both favorites face difficult openers against mid-majors with athleticism and experience playing big games. Keep an eye on Gonzaga's Jill Barta, who might be the most talented player in the building.

Jim Oxley (Hero Sports) in article Lexington Region Predictions predicts:

Cardinal (no 's') all the way: That battle between the Cardinal and the Cardinals in the Sweet 16 is what will ultimately decide the region.

Stanford are winners of 10 of their last 12, including wins against ranked Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State teams. They did lose badly to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, but they've got veteran leadership in the form of Brittany McPhee and Alanna Smith, among others, while the performance of freshman Kianna Williams (8.4 points, 5.7 rebounds per game) has been a strong addition.

In my predictions they would get Louisville in the Sweet 16 and Tennessee in the Elite Eight, a team who beat them in California back at the beginning of the season. Five of Stanford's 10 losses on the season (including the Tennessee loss) came in the Cardinal's first 11 games. They were a different group to finish the season.

This Stanford squad made it to the Final Four as a two seed in the Lexington region just a year ago. Can they get back again this season? I like their chances.