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.

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