The No. 6 Stanford women’s basketball team had to wait until the final selection before hearing its name called during Monday’s selection show as the second seed in the Lexington region of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Cardinal will travel to Manhattan, Kansas, on Saturday to take on the 15th-seeded New Mexico State (24-6, 14-0 WAC).
The Cardinal return to March Madness for their 30th consecutive postseason appearance in the national tournament–all under legendary head coach Tara VanDerveer. Although Stanford earned the No. 2 seed, the team cannot host its matchup at the Farm due to conflicts with the Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
For this senior-led team, the goal was plain and simple heading into yet another NCAA March Madness. “I think the goal for every year is you want to win the national championship,” senior guard shooter Karlie Samuelson. “We want to win. We want to win every game and we’re going to start with this one and take it game by game.”
Tournament action begins on Saturday for the Cardinal who will take on a streaking New Mexico State for the first time in the program’s history. The Aggies finished their season with a WAC tournament title after marching towards a 17-game winning streak, defeating Seattle University 63-48 in the final.
Barring an upset, Stanford will stay in Manhattan, Kansas, to face the winner between the No. 24 Kansas State Wildcats (22-10, 11-7 Big-12) and No. 20 Drake Bulldogs (28-4, 18-0 MVC) on Monday.
Guard duo senior Moriah Mack and sophomore Brooke Salas lead New Mexico State in scoring with 13.2 and 13.1 points respectively. While VanDerveer admitted to not previously scouting the Aggies, stopping the NM State backcourt will immediately become a central focus for the Cardinal.
Stanford currently rides a 12-game winning streak in Round of 64 and Round of 32 games away from home, yet the team showed no worry over travelling to hostile territory. Despite being forced to travel to Manhattan, Kansas–home of the second-highest seed (7th) in the region– VanDerveer remained confident in her team, telling reporters in the Maples’ media room shortly after learning about her place in the tournament:
“We would like to host, just because it’s dead week and finals week.” the legendary head coach answered to reporters. “That said, our team has played so well on the road. We’re ready for it, and we’re excited about it. We’re really excited about the opportunity.”
The Cardinal boast a 10-2 record on the road this season and showed their tournament capabilities and vital depth by winning the Pac-12 championship in Seattle in such a dramatic fashion.
The Pac-12 conference as a whole flexed their strength and depth, breaking the previous record by entering 7 total teams including the likes of unranked Cal Berkeley (19-13, 6-12 Pac-12) and Arizona State (19-12, 9-9 Pac-12). Evidently, thus, the NCAA selection committee recognized the intensity and challenge of the Pac-12 conference throughout every game from the top of the standings to the bottom, a point coach VanDerveer hammered throughout the season.
That being said, the Cardinal remain heavily focused in the “next-game” mentality without letting many distractions get to the team. While the goal and the glory of the March Madness tournament lay in Stanford’s grasp, the team made sure their focus stayed on winning the next game and thus staying on the court.
“We’re just going to get focused on our first game and our only game coming up on Saturday against New Mexico State. We’re going to have to play very well and we’re going to have to learn a lot.” VanDerveer opened her statements on Monday. “But again, we’re really excited and really happy to be playing.”
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.