Home US SportsNCAAW Defending NCAA Tournament champion Stanford is better than last year — and has room to improve

Defending NCAA Tournament champion Stanford is better than last year — and has room to improve

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Defending NCAA Tournament champion Stanford is better than last year — and has room to improve

SPOKANE, Wash. —The excellent news, in case you’re Tara VanDerveer, is that the workforce you coach simply (principally) cruised into the Elite Eight with a 72-66 win over Maryland and didn’t play near the extent of which it’s succesful.

The unhealthy information, in case you’re everybody else in girls’s school basketball, is, effectively, the very same factor.

Stanford superior to its third consecutive Elite Eight on Friday night time, and the twenty second below VanDerveer. It wasn’t fairly on the finish, with Maryland outscoring the Cardinal 30-13 within the remaining interval, one thing the Corridor of Fame coach didn’t discover entertaining.

“We had three good quarters,” VanDerveer quipped. “I’m glad the game is only four quarters.”

However the fourth quarter was proof of one of many extra alarming realities of the ladies’s NCAA Event: The Cardinal hasn’t peaked but. Not even shut.

“I think we can do better,” VanDerveer mentioned. “I’m glad we’re able to play again and have another game to show how much we’ve improved.”

Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) and ahead Francesca Belibi (5) rejoice the Cardinal’s Candy 16 win over Maryland.

Maybe an much more troubling improvement — for opponents, anyway — Stanford, which won the 2021 national title, is definitely higher, and deeper, than it was final 12 months.

Severely.

For proof of that, all you needed to do was watch the regional semifinal in Spokane Enviornment, when totally different Cardinal gamers took turns dominating the Terrapins.

First it was point-forward Haley Jones, the hardest matchup in girls’s school basketball, who scored eight factors within the first seven minutes. Then it was sophomore ahead Cameron Brink, who scored 13 of her 15 factors within the first half and disrupted virtually each Maryland possession along with her lengthy body. It took some time for the Spokane Sisters, Lexie and Lacie Hull, to warmth up, however halfway by means of the second quarter, Lexie hit a driving layup and on the subsequent possession, tossed the ball to her sister for 3.

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At one level, sixth girl Fran Belibi tried to steal the highlight when she swatted a Maryland perimeter try and sprinted down the ground to … dunk? The group rose to its ft in anticipation, screaming earlier than Belibi even bought to the important thing.

She finally settled for a layup, however the message had been despatched. Everybody on this Stanford workforce can play, and so they’re all completely satisfied to take turns doing so. And that was simply within the first half, when Stanford constructed a 39-23 lead earlier than the break.

“From my time here, we’ve gotten deeper and deeper every year,” mentioned Jones, who completed with 17 factors and 10 rebounds. “I see it every day at practice. No matter who is on what team, a different team wins every time.

“I got hot, Cam got hot, Lexie got hot and whoever it is, I think we do a really good job at feeding that hot hand. We do that every game.”

It’s odd to suppose that the defending champs, who return virtually their total roster (they solely graduated one participant, All-American level guard Kiana Williams) and are favorites to go to their second consecutive Ultimate 4, don’t have a real nationwide participant of the 12 months candidate.

However that may be a testomony to their depth — and it’s going to proceed to be an issue for each different workforce that matches up towards the Cardinal. Each participant, save for guard Anna Wilson, who performs vital minutes for Stanford is no less than 6 ft tall, and lots of have a fair longer wingspan. They’re a nightmare defensively, utilizing their size to disrupt passing lanes, block pictures and customarily make different groups miss. Offensively, each participant is a menace to go off.

Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who has had the privilege of taking part in Stanford twice this season, mentioned there’s “no question” the Cardinal is one of the best workforce within the nation.

“That’s their 23rd win in a row,” Frese mentioned. “They’re the deepest, most talented team I’ve ever faced.” She added that Stanford doesn’t get practically the eye or respect it deserves nationally.

Maybe one of the best instance of Stanford’s depth was the play of freshman put up Kiki Iriafen, who got here in when Brink bought in foul hassle and performed an environment friendly 10 minutes, scoring 4 factors and grabbing 5 boards. It wasn’t simply Iriafen’s play that stood out, however the way in which her teammates celebrated her.

“Our team has bought into, ‘this is my role, I’m going to do it and I’m supportive of my teammates,’ ” VanDerveer mentioned. “It’s really special. They’re about we instead of me. It’s refreshing.”

Brink is healthier than final 12 months – and that got here after a completely stellar freshman marketing campaign. Wilson is extra constant offensively. Jones higher understands easy methods to take over video games. Belibi is extra dependable. The listing goes on and on.

Simply how significantly better can Stanford get earlier than it ideas off towards Texas at 9 p.m. EST Sunday?

The reply to that may scare everybody else within the NCAA Event.

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Stanford a top March Madness title threat as it reaches Elite Eight

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