Rust: "I tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it's just one story. The oldest."
Marty: "What's that?"
Rust: "Light versus dark."
- True Detective
Light versus dark. That's kind of the way it is for Stanford women's basketball team. In the end, every single year is all about one story. Them versus UConn.
It depends on your perspective whether or not the light or dark is winning - but it's undeniable who owns the series. Since 2009, UConn is 6-1 against Stanford. Should they win on Tuesday, they'll take home their third NCAA championship since '09.
The Cardinal have no trophies to show for making the Final Four six of the last seven years.
In women's college basketball, the principal players don't change. Every season is like a Wes Anderson movie. UConn as Bill Murray. Tennessee as Owen Wilson. Baylor as Luke Wilson. Stanford as Jason Schwartzman. Notre Dame as Willem Dafoe. Occasionally the supporting actors change. It's just the supply and demand of women's basketball: there are only so many great players out there and they all gravitate to the same schools to play for the same great coaches.
So in a business like this, it stands to reason that you'll eventually get your turn as the lead actor. The group that gets to hold a trophy aloft at the end of the season. The coach who gets to cut down the net, held aloft by the pleasant platitudes of ESPN announcers.
And it's not going to happen for the 22nd consecutive year for Stanford. No national titles since 1992. There's no need to pound the table and demand change or call for Tara VanDerveer's job. No need to complain about talent. It's just a lament about two things: time and the measuring stick that's been set across that time frame.
Timing is a lot of life. Sometimes it's all you need to explain why businesses, relationships or teams succeed or fail. Right now, Stanford basketball is like the San Diego Chargers from 2004-2009. Or the Bills from 1990-1994. Plenty of great players - including a few all-time greats - passed through the door. But the competition has always deviled them in the postseason. Sometimes it's been because of one great player (Brittney Griner), sometimes it's been one unfortunate injury (Jayne Appel), sometimes it's been an inexplicable meltdown when the moment seemed just right (2011 vs Texas A&M).
At the end of the season every year, UConn is the only standard that Stanford basketball is judged by. Sure those Pac-12 titles are nice. As are those high draft picks and Final Four banners. It was nice to break UConn's 90-game win streak, if only so SportsCenter would stop talking about it. But I'm certain that VanDerveer doesn't wake up every morning satisfied. She's had to live wedged right between the Huskies and Tennessee her entire career.
It's fun and rewarding to have a team that's this good every year. Most women's basketball programs will never approach even half of what Stanford has accomplished since 1992. But every year, it's just one story. So when will the story finally end the way we want it to?