312. That’s how many consecutive weeks that the Cardinal have been ranked in the AP’s top 25, but this past Christmas morning: no more.
Tara VanDerveer’s Cardinal are sitting at 6-6 so far this year with five out of the six losses coming from teams that were ranked in the top 10. The exception was of course the stunning loss to the leathernecks of Western Illinois in Maples (but who are 10-3).
A season of transition for Stanford Cardinal Women’s basketball:
While the Cardinal are coming off a final four appearance last season but the 2017-18 season is one of transition for Stanford. This season the Cardinal must replace team captains and some of the best players in the country as well as long time Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker. Losing a critical part of the couching staff as well the leadership from team captains is a lot to manage for a younger roster featuring 8 freshmen and sophomores and only two seniors. Replacing the statistical production of Erica McCall, Karlie Samuelson, and Briana Roberson is another huge task.
Trial By Fire:
Making this transition more difficult was that the Stanford women’s basketball schedule had little opportunity to ease into the season. The first game of the season was a trip across the country to Columbus, Ohio taking on the now 12th-ranked Ohio State. Two days later was the number one team in the nation UCONN. Five of their first twelve games were against opponents currently ranked in the top 12. The Cardinal have also faced much of their brutal schedule without starter Brittany McPhee because of injury. The senior guard was second on the team in scoring last season.
Embracing the challenge:
The Cardinal will take on the always tough 11th-ranked UCLA on December 29th followed by USC on New Years Eve. Stanford fans are still hanging tough with conference play about to get underway but this is something they are not used to. The Cardinal rank 154th in scoring offense and have work to do and desperately need a good start in conference play.
Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer sees this as a potential challenge, stating:
"We can schedule it so that we are 12-0 or 10-2. But this team went to the Final Four last year, and that's the level that we have to get to [. . .] Tennessee wasn't in the Final Four last year, Baylor wasn't, Ohio State wasn't, but those are the teams you have to play to get there. We need our tough schedule to pay off for us. But it only pays off if we build on it. Don't get frustrated. Get mad and go to work. We are looking up at people right now. We need people to look up at where we need to be and embrace that challenge.”
Stanford will tip off versus the Bruins on Friday December 29th at 5:30 PM PT at Maples.