Stanford one of March Madness’ top title threats as it reaches Elite Eight


SPOKANE, Wash. — The good news, if you’re Tara VanDerveer, is that the team you’re coaching just (mostly) entered the Elite Eight with a 72-66 win over Maryland and didn’t not played near the level of which it is capable.

The bad news, if you’re everyone in women’s college basketball, it’s exactly the same.

Stanford reached its third straight Elite Eight on Friday night, and 22nd under VanDerveer. It wasn’t pretty in the end, with Maryland beating the Cardinal 30-13 in the final period, which the Hall of Fame coach didn’t find amusing.

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

But the fourth quarter was proof of one of the most alarming realities of the NCAA Women’s Tournament: The Cardinal has yet to peak. Not even close.

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

Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) and forward Francesca Belibi (5) celebrate Cardinal's Sweet 16 victory over Maryland.

Perhaps an even more troubling development — for opponents, anyway — Stanford, which won the 2021 national title, is actually better and deeper than last year.

Seriously.

As proof, one only had to watch the regional semi-final at Spokane Arena, when different Cardinal players took turns dominating the Terrapins.

First it was forward Haley Jones, the toughest matchup in women’s college basketball, who scored eight points in the first seven minutes. Then it was sophomore forward Cameron Brink, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half and disrupted nearly every possession for Maryland with his long frame. It took Spokane Sisters Lexie and Lacie Hull a while to warm up, but midway through the second quarter, Lexie hit a drive-thru layup and on the next possession, threw the ball to her sister for 3.


USA Today

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