The Stanford Cardinal has gone five seasons without making an appearance in the Big Dance, but this year's team is determined to not only make it to the NCAA tournament but to stick around in the tournament for a while.
Five things Stanford must do to remain one of the tournament teams and possibly increase their predicted seed are as follows:
1) Build off the loss, like usual.
The Cardinal has only dropped consecutive games once this year (1/2-1/9), standing with a 7-1 record on such occasions. Stanford has won the second game of each two-game road trip in PAC-12 play after losing the first game, helping them post a 6-3 road record (2nd in PAC-12 behind Arizona) in conference games. The Cardinal has another opportunity to do so following their loss to Arizona State on Wednesday night before playing the University of Arizona on Sunday.
2) Take advantage of playing top-tier teams.
Following Wednesday night's defeat, the Cardinal must now travel to Tucson to face #3 Arizona, who has not lost on their home court all year. When the two teams squared off earlier this season in Palo Alto, the Wildcats were able to avoid a defeat with a narrow 60-57 win. If Chasson Randle can put up 20+ points and shut down junior guard Nick Johnson on the defensive side of the ball, Stanford will have a chance for the upset victory.
3) Continue to boost RPI.
Stanford's RPI is 43rd in the nation right now, but has a chance to increase significantly in the remaining three games of the regular season. The Cardinal is 5-7 against top 50 RPI based teams, with two games remaining against top 50 teams (Arizona- #2, Colorado- #26). Regardless of how the team does against the Wildcats, the Colorado game is very winnable simply due to the fact of that it's in Maples. Stanford is 11-3 at home this season, including wins over Arizona State, UCLA, and Washington.
4) Win final three games of regular season.
If Stanford is able to defeat Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, it can move up to at least the #4 seed, if not higher, in the PAC-12 Tournament. The top four seeds in the tournament get a first round bye, which would prove very beneficial and would give the Cardinal players some well-deserved rest at the same time. If they could move up to second or third in the conference, they could also avoid playing Arizona until the PAC-12 Tournament championship.
5) Show out in the PAC-12 Tournament.
Hypothetically speaking, if the season ended today, Stanford would be the #5 seed in the tournament and face #12 USC, who they are 2-0 against this season. If they are able to win that matchup, they would face #4 seed Colorado. The winner of that game would probably face #1 University of Arizona in the PAC-12 semifinal game, so if they can get to that game and potentially knock off the PAC-12 powerhouse, Stanford could be placed very high in the NCAA Tournament.
As of February 28, 2014 the Cardinal are tied for 3rd in the PAC-12 Conference standings with Arizona State, California, and Colorado.
According to Joe Lunardi’s latest version of Bracketology, Stanford is predicted to be a 9-seed and face 8-seed Virginia Commonwealth in the first round.