STANFORD — The road to a sixth straight Final Four begins on the Farm for the Stanford women’s basketball team and it could wind through a familiar foe in Spokane, Wash.
The Cardinal landed a No. 1 seed in the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday — the 10th time Stanford has done so — and will tip-off play in the Spokane Region against No. 16 Tulsa (17-16) at Maples Pavilion on Sunday. If the Cardinal (31-2) advance through the bracket, they face the prospect of running into cross-bay rival and No. 2 seed Cal in the Elite Eight.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” forward Joslyn Tinkle said. “But if it were to come to that, it would be fun.”
The Bears (28-3) handed the Cardinal one of their two losses when they stormed into Maples Pavilion and snapped an 81-game Pac-12 Conference winning streak with a 67-55 victory on Jan. 13. But Stanford won the first meeting at Haas Pavilion five days earlier.
Chiney Ogwumike said a rubber match in the Elite Eight would be a good showcase for the Pac-12.
“We have a rivalry that’s really great for women’s basketball in the west,” she said. “When I saw them in our region, I was like, hmmm. I wasn’t like, oh my gosh! I was just like, that’s interesting — that’s cool.”
But first, the Cardinal need to take care of business at Maples Pavilion. If Stanford defeats Tulsa over the weekend, it will face the winner of No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Villanova on its home court on Tuesday.
Ogwumike said the team is excited to open in front of the Cardinal faithful after flying to Virginia last year for the tournament’s first two rounds.
“I think it’s going to be great to have them there to get this year’s tournament started,” she said.
The junior forward is a consensus national Player of the Year candidate, ranking in the top six among Division I players in scoring (22.4), rebounding (13.1), field goal percentage (57.4) and double-doubles (26). She attracted triple coverage against UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament title game and expects to face similar defensive strategies in the NCAA Tournament.
“It just allows other people the opportunity to show what they’ve got,” she said.
Amber Orrange stepped up against the Bruins, dropping 20 points, and Tinkle (11.8 points per game) is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court if she’s neglected.
Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn also snagged No. 1 seeds and if Stanford does advance to the Final Four, Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears could be waiting for them in the national semifinal.
The Cardinal handed Baylor its only loss when the teams met in Honolulu back in November.
“We definitely haven’t forgotten about that,” Tinkle said.