Stanford’s path to a second consecutive women’s NCAA tournament title

Previous yr, the Stanford Cardinal entered the 2021 women’s NCAA match as a No. 1 seed. It took two straight nail-biters in the Ultimate 4 and NCAA championship in opposition to South Carolina and Arizona, respectively, but the Cardinal emerged from March Madness as national champions.

This 12 months, Stanford is the moment once again a No. 1 seed (and at the time once more Pac-12 champs). So the noticeable concern is: Can it repeat as national title winners?

The shorter response is certainly. This season’s squad truly acquired off to a slow start out, at least compared with sky-superior anticipations. Defeats to Texas, South Florida and South Carolina in the course of non-conference participate in saved Stanford at an uninspired 8-3 history. But then Pac-12 levels of competition started, and the Cardinal returned to type. Led by sophomore Cameron Brink and junior Haley Jones, they haven’t lost a match since, finishing 28-3 in general.

Stanford will commence its NCAA tournament title defense on Friday, March 18, from Montana Condition. The match will be performed at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, and it is risk-free to say everything less than a blowout will be seen as a disappointing end result for the Cardinal. Their opponents, the Bobcats, are 22-12 and gained the Huge Sky convention match. Which is an outstanding period, but it even now helps make them enormous underdogs.

Stanford’s likely round-two visual appearance will be on Sunday, March 20, against the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 video game among Kansas and Ga Tech. The two groups struggled from leading 25 opponents (the Jayhawks were being just 2-8), and the Yellow Jackets in particular have not been participating in nicely of late. Stanford would continue to be at house for this matchup, and would when once more be a hefty favorite.

It is a fool’s errand attempting to forecast Stanford’s possible opponents for each and every of the remaining rounds (that’s what March Insanity office swimming pools are for!), but there are a several groups worthy of flagging who could cause significant challenges for the Cardinal. On their side of the bracket is No. 2 Texas, a single of three teams to hand Stanford an early defeat this period. The Longhorns won the Major 12 and are crimson-very hot they’d be an tremendous problem in the Elite Eight, as would No. 3-seeded LSU, which was 6-1 vs. major 25 groups this period.

If Stanford helps make it all the way to the Closing 4, it may possibly have to contend with best-seeded N.C. Condition or No. 2-seeded Connecticut. The latter actually offers much more challenges — the Huskies are last but not least nutritious once again and have star guard Paige Bueckers back in the fold. They are as proficient, if not much more proficient, than any workforce in the country. 

And then, of training course, is the overwhelming opponent on the other facet of the bracket: No. 1 in general South Carolina. The Gamecocks went 29-2 this year, by now conquer the Cardinal the moment, and are hungry to get revenge in opposition to the software that defeat them in the 2021 Remaining 4. There’s a good deal that could transpire between the opening spherical and a probable NCAA tournament rematch, but if the major two groups in the place take care of business enterprise, it will definitely be a tossup for the championship. 

By Harriet