The Stanford Cardinal men’s basketball team received an early exit from the PAC-12 Tournament at the hands of the UCLA Bruins; officially dousing the last burning embers of NCAA Tournament hopes and dreams that may have remained for the Stanford faithful.
So... Now what?
Do we retract into a cave of morose self-pity, mumbling about how KZ Okpala missing the tournament is the greatest travesty since Ben Simmons watched games from the couch at LSU? Do we become the raving and hateful lunatic who pounds on tables as he rages against the three PAC-12 teams that made the bracket? Do we lay out on the couch, lying to ourselves and everyone else, turning into the guy that “doesn’t care about any team, I just want to see good games.” That guy sucks.
None of those seem appropriate for the most entertaining event in college, basketball and maybe the world. No, a bitter descent into a dark hole has no place in this realm; there is a better way.
Here is who Stanford fans should pull for in March —
The Women’s Team
The Stanford Cardinal Women’s Basketball team pulled a No. 2 seed, thanks to a 28-4 season, along with the PAC-12 Title. It is the 32nd consecutive trip for Stanford and hopes are high for a program that has collected six final four trips and a 36-4 Tournament record.
Their explosive offense has averaged 74.8 points per game this season and will host UC Davis (25-6) in the first round. Go, Ladies!
Reid Travis and Kentucky
The graduate transfer assembled 1,427 points and 758 rebounds during his four-year tenure at Stanford. He was a great player and a key piece for the Cardinal.
Now, he wants a real shot in the tournament in his fifth year. Who can blame him for wanting to make one run on a team with a championship pedigree? With the Kentucky Wildcats, he goes to one of college basketball’s Meccas. For the first time, he will be part of the Tournament, living out the dream of every basketball-loving kid ever. Hopefully, he will be able to make a run with the Wildcats.
The Gardner-Webb Bulldogs
The Bulldogs started the season 0-3. Since that disappointing start, Gardner-Webb has gone 23-8 and closed out on a five-game winning streak.
Red hot at precisely the right, the Gardner-Webb style of basketball is fast paced and high scoring. They throw up 78.3 points per night and allow 70.5 points to the opposition. They also have racked up 233 steals and a plus 3.0 assist to turnover ratio.
In the first round, playing fast passed and spread offense while capitalizing off of turnovers gives them a chance to knock a No. 1 seed on their heels. It seems cruel to cheer against the Virginia Cavaliers, especially after what happened just one year ago.
Wait, what am I saying. It would be hilarious.
And Gardener-Webb has the play style that gives Virginia fits. Right down to a guard who shoots 41 percent from three and will persecute them from deep (David Efianayi).
Hot take alert: Morant is Russell Westbrook light. He is a ruthless assassin, continually gunning for the opposition’s throat.
He has posted a blurring 24.6 points per game, paired with 10 assists and 1.8 steals. Morant is vicious, with his foot permanently on the gas pedal. His high motor and high efficiency allow him to take over games and impose his will.
Blinding speed makes him so hard to stick with on defense, that he is sent to the line to the tune of 8.3 attempts from the charity stripe, where he shoots 81 percent. It is a pure joy watching him tear through a defense and get to the basket. Watch every drop of his dominance.
The story of Caleb and Cody Martin growing up in Cooleemee, North Carolina with their mother Jenny Bennett is remarkable. What this family had to endure and their road to the NCAA left me floored. Bleacher Report and Master Tesfatsion did a fantastic job telling their story. Watch this video, then try not pulling for them.
This one has very little to do with actual basketball. You see, the former Louisville Cardinals head coach was named Rick Pitino. He did some pretty bad stuff. I won’t get into all of it here, but it involved a fair amount of ladies of the night, illegal payment and some boys who just wanted to ball.
So Pitino was fired, but instead of taking it on the chin, he went and sued the school for doing what any school would have done when they realized the American Gangster was coaching their basketball team.
That is pretty lame. And for this blue blood program that is now swimming in mediocrity and lead-blowing heartbreak, it is a bit malicious.
Now here comes the Minnesota Golden Gophers, coached by this guy’s son. And the Cardinals have a chance to beat him. No, it does not change what happened or end the legal battle. It is not even Rick himself. But maybe it helps a little. And it is probably the only victory Louisville can hope for now.