Stanford’s 2014-15 women’s basketball season has not gone as expected. Now the only question is whether the Cardinal can avoid its worst conference finish in 28 years.
The Cardinal is 20-8 overall, including 12-4 in the Pac-12, and Sunday’s loss to Cal in the Cardinal’s final regular-season home game officially ended Stanford’s chance of winning or sharing a 15th consecutive regular-season conference title.
Had the Cardinal won that game, Stanford’s trip to Oregon for its final two regular-season games might have been interesting. The Cardinal would have been 13-3, two games behind first-place Oregon State. Stanford then could have kept its title hopes alive by beating the Beavers in Corvallis on Thursday, and then hoping Cal could also knock off Oregon State on Saturday while the Cardinal finishes with a victory over 10th-place Oregon on Sunday.
That can’t happen now, and the culprit is not the loss to Cal as much as it was the shocking loss to Arizona back on Feb. 8. The Wildcats are 2-14 in conference play, and over the past nine games, they lost eight by double-digit margins. The lone exception in that span was the 60-57 victory over the Cardinal. Making it feel worse is the fact that Stanford held a seven-point lead when Bonnie Samuelson hit a 3-point shot with just 1:18 left in the game. The Cardinal then got outscored 10-0 over the final 78 seconds to lose.
As it stands, Stanford is now tied for third place with Cal at 12-4, a game behind second-place Arizona State and three in back of Oregon State, which has clinched at least a share of the regular-season Pac-12 title.
If Stanford drops behind Cal to finish fourth, it would be the first time since 1986-87 that Stanford finished outside the top three. The 1987 season was Tara VanDerveer’s second season at Stanford, when she was trying to rebuild the program almost from scratch. The Cardinal finished 8-10 in the Pac-10 that season, tied for sixth place.
The Cardinal’s ranking this week slipped to No. 19, and it’s hard to believe this is the same Stanford team that, back on Nov. 17, presented the only loss of the season to No. 1 Connecticut. Since then, UConn has overwhelmed every opponent by at least 16 points, including a 25-point win on Feb. 8 against a South Carolina team that was undefeated and ranked No. 1 at the time.
Even though it can’t win the conference title, the Cardinal could make its season by beating Oregon State, which is ranked No. 7 this week. This will be the only regular-season meeting between Stanford and Oregon State in 2014-15, and the Beavers are undefeated at home. Of course, the two could meet again in the Pac-12 tournament, which begins March 5 in Seattle.
Stanford is a team dominated by its backcourt this season, and, as has been mentioned before, guard-oriented teams are less likely to be consistent that teams that focus their offense inside. If Amber Orrange, Lili Thompson and Bonnie Samuelson all have good games, the Cardinal is capable of beating anyone in the country, as they have shown. The Cardinal has also shown it is capable of losing to just about anyone too.
This week’s trip to Oregon will be a good judge of this team’s character.