Look, Stanford has a great basketball team.
Oregon just happens to have an even better team this year.
Just a day after the men’s team also lost to Oregon in their regular-season finale, the women’s basketball team just didn’t have it against the Ducks, dropping the Pac-12 Championship Game, 89-56 against Oregon.
In what is just their sixth loss this year, the Cardinal saw a three-point first-quarter lead evaporate quickly with an ugly second-quarter performance, heading to halftime down 43-26. That was all it took for Oregon to cruise in the second half and now three of Stanford’s five conference losses this season have come at the hands of the Ducks.
Stanford saw a dismal shooting effort as they finished just .345 from the field and just .231 from behind the arc. They’re now 0-3 against Oregon and have been outscored by a combined margin of 250-177 in these meetings as they’ve been unable to stop the nation’s most efficient offense at all this year.
The Cardinal are headed into the Big Dance, the 2020 NCAA Tournament, but after losing so convincingly to the Ducks (again), there are serious concerns as to just how far this team can make it in March/April.
This most recent result doesn’t come as a surprise and gives serious reason for concern entering the tournament. They’re still essentially locked into a No. 2 seed even with the loss but if their best efforts have seen them cast away so easily from an Oregon team who is one of the best in the country, the Cardinal are no match for the top tier of the bracket.
South Carolina, Baylor, Oregon and Maryland are the projected No. 1 seeds and all have looked relatively unbeatable this season even if Iowa State did just upend the Bears in the Big 12 Tournament. That 57-56 loss to the Cyclones snapped Baylor’s 58-game Big 12 winning streak.
So what do we have to hope for for the Cardinal in the NCAA Tournament?
It’s simple, actually, and it’s the same thing that the rest of the country will hope for: more surprise victories from lesser-ranked teams over the top tiers that even the playing field. If Iowa State can defeat Baylor this late in the year, it’s at the very least conceivable that one of these one-seed teams could drop a game before Stanford has to pair up with them.
The defense will have to improve as well as the Cardinal have forced few turnovers and allowed too many open shots in their losses this season. They’ve also got to cut down on the unforced errors themselves. In their losses this year, Stanford has combined for 92 turnovers, reaching the double-digit plateau of turnovers in each of their six losses including 22 against Arizona just two weeks ago.
There are other concerns, as readers @Blackjoy and @SU74 have commented, that likely need to be tightened up and fixed as we head towards the tournament, stemming from differing offensive structures, range shooting improvements and defensive lapses among others.
Now that we’re out of the conference championship, and the No. 2 seed is still in play, how far do you think this Stanford team will make it? Elite Eight? Final Four?