After a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle earlier in March, Stanford women’s basketball (22-10) finished 15th on the AP Poll and was awarded a fourth seed for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The Cardinal will make their 31st straight tournament appearance, and get to play the first two games of the Big Dance at home in Maples. The team will kick off its tournament on Saturday at 3 p.m. PST against No. 13 Gonzaga (27-5), and could play again on Monday against the winner of No. 5 Missouri (24-7) and No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast (30-4). Stanford heads into the weekend 34-4 all time in Maples in the postseason, and has won its past 14 games when hosting the first two rounds.
After the program’s 13th Final Four appearance last year, the team is poised to make another long postseason run. Despite being a second seed last season, Stanford was fourth-seeded in 2015 and 2016, when it reached the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, respectively.
If the Cardinal make it out of their home stand, they will travel to Lexington for the fourth-straight year. The top three seeds in Stanford’s region are No. 1 Louisville, No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Tennessee. The Cardinal enters the tournament having met two of their region’s top three teams, which could be a scouting advantage. Nonetheless, Stanford dropped both of those games, first to Baylor 81-57 on Dec. 3, and then to Tennessee 83-71 on Dec. 23.
“We’ve played Baylor, we’ve played Tennessee, so we know matchups, and that gives us a certain advantage. We haven’t played against, but we saw Louisville,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We’ve played great teams, but we know we need to play better.”
After leading the team in scoring in Seattle, freshman Kiana Williams looks to repeat her performance in her first Big Dance. The point guard came close to a career night in the semis against ASU, as she notched 24 points. Seniors Kaylee Johnson and Brittany McPhee will also be impact players for the Cardinal after leading the team on and off the court in their final year on the farm.
“I thought Kiana did extremely well [in the Pac-12 tournament]. She shot about 70 percent, and we’ll take that,” VanDerveer said. “But honestly, tournament time — it’s the seniors. Down the stretch, it’s Kaylee [Johnson] that has been consistent, … doing the dirty work, but also scoring for us. I’m excited to be hosting for her and Brittany. ”
Tune in to ESPN2 at 3 p.m. on Sunday to see the Cardinal’s tournament debut.
“We’re really excited to be playing in the NCAA tourney. Hosting is great, it gives our fans a chance to come out and support us,” said VanDerveer. “We have a great bracket, … four great teams. We’re working really hard, and we’re excited for Sunday.”
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.