"Ding dong, the witch is dead. The wicked witch is dead!"
-- The Munchkins, in The Wizard of Oz
Usually the "cheap seats" for me are the couches in our family room or the chair at the computer desk. Sadly, I do not get to see my beloved Cardinal in person much these days. [That, of course, is why I tend to go a bit nuts when I finally get that chance. More on that later.]
But Sunday was one of those days. And what a day it was!
Before I get to my observations on a great day for our Cardinal women, I will start with my usual caveats. First, while fans from UConn, Michigan State, and elsewhere are certainly allowed to spend their time doing whatever they want to do in this free country of ours, including reviewing the ramblings of this incredibly biased observer who makes no pretense of objectivity, this column is not intended for them. It is written for Stanford fans. In fact, it is written for Stanford sports nuts like me — the ones who go completely crazy for our teams. Mild-mannered, rational, calm Stanford folks should probably look elsewhere also.
Without further ado, here are the assorted observations of this Cardinalmaniac™, who feels very fortunate to have been in Kansas City Sunday. Though the observations are rambling (and often maniacal!), I will try to sort them into some sort of arguable related thoughts.
An Easy Team to Love Although I am only a fan — in fact, one who has only seen two games in person — it is easy to see why Tara VanDerveer is so fond of this team. They really seem to enjoy their teammates. Even when the going is tough, they do not get down on one another.
Also, they really seem to enjoy playing the game. Candice Wiggins has a smile that is really contagious, but her teammates smile almost as much. Even though I am a huge college (well, Stanford) sports fan, I am sometimes troubled by the looks I see on some college athletes' faces. Playing a D-I sport is a huge amount of work, but it ought to be fun, too. This team seems to understand that.
A Team Win The game last night was rather typical of the season, because so many people contributed. The post-mortems in the papers focus on Candice and Susan Borchardt, and rightly so, but there were so many key contributions. Going by roster number: Kelley Suminski had that great drive at the beginning of the first half, then key free throws later in the half. Candice was fabulous in the second half. Susan was amazing from behind the arc and guarded a much taller UConn player very effectively. Brooke Smith was a force despite the non-calls on the many fouls on her. Sebnem Kimyacioglu hit an absolutely huge three at a key point in the game. T'Nae Thiel played well in her return. Kristen Newlin was solid underneath. Azella Perryman had some lovely lay-ups, as well as key rebounds and tough defense.
There might be teams that have better talent. Might be. [I must admit that I do not know the east coast teams all that well. You know — west coast bias and all.] But I doubt that there are teams that have as many viable options as we have.
As great as Candice has been, and she certainly has been great, I think that is the key to this team. No matter how good an athlete is, that athlete is going to have games or portions of games when she is not at her best. The good teams are able to pick up the slack.
"First, We Lull Them Into a False Sense of Complacency. Then We Move in for the Kill." If I have this figured right, we are 30-2 when we are ahead at halftime. Which is pretty darn good. However, we are undefeated when we are behind at halftime. _._._. had us in the Pac-10 semifinal game, and UConn had us Sunday.
Of course, I am not recommending being behind at halftime. Indeed, it had me plenty of worried Sunday. At halftime, I told MiniMizzouCard that the game reminded me of the men's Tournament game against Mississippi State. Midway through the first half, we looked great. By halftime, the opponent was starting to look pretty good. Shame on me, even though I was only trying to soften the blow.
Seriously, though, our ladies deserve a lot of credit. This must have been psychologically difficult. They had started out pretty well, particularly on defense. But the first half did not end well. The "block and fast break" on T'Nae really stung. They were in a hole.
But our ladies came out of the locker room and played even better defense. After a few miscues, they got the offense on track, also. Lots of intestinal fortitude, ladies. Very impressive.
Our Coach Can Coach Part of my halftime funk was from trying to figure out what I would want our team to do in the second half. It was clear that they were going to let Brooke get hacked inside without ever calling anything. But we were also cold as ice from the three-point line. What were we to do?
Just before the second half started, I thought "send Candice and Kelley to the hole." [Really. I actually wrote it into my notes.] Not that this was any great inspiration, but I could not come up with anything else. Curiously, though the referees were calling no big-on-big fouls, they were sometimes calling big on little fouls. Also, Candice was having trouble passing on the perimeter anyway, so why not try the dribble drive? Also, Kelley (like Dan Grunfeld, for those who primarily follow our men's team) is a lot better on the drive than she gets credit for.
That, of course, is just what we did at the start of the second half. Of course, it is of absolutely no consequence that this thought had come to me at the end of the half. [We won't even mention the fact that Tara obviously came up with this strategy in 20 seconds, while it took me 20 minutes.] What was important was that it worked. It seemed to get us out of our shooting funk. In basketball, when nothing else is working, there is always the drive to the basket, just to stir things up. When that works, you can always expand your shooting zone backwards.
I Am Sorry, But I Have to Say It With a repeat of my earlier admission that I am pretty (make that extremely) biased when it comes to Stanford sports (just ask anyone with the misfortune of being seated within 50 feet of me Sunday), I must say that there is a serious problem with the refereeing of this Tournament. I am not talking about the uncalled traveling. That I can live with, even though Michigan State is the worst violator, so I would really like to see that changed. [Stanford gets away with some traveling, too, I will admit.]
But this "we are not going to call anything one big player does to another under the basket" is really troubling. For the most part, by the way, this is an across the board policy. They did not call many fouls on Michigan State under the basket (see below). They did not call many fouls on UConn under the basket. They did not call many fouls on Stanford under the basket. [However, they whistled Brooke pretty quickly on a couple of blocks that were arguably fouls, but were awfully tough fouls given the tenor of the calls in the game.] And, based on the relatively rare times I get the chance to watch other games on television, they don't call many big-on-big fouls on anyone.
The problem, of course, is that not all teams shove and hack equally. I will save the shoving analysis for later. But let's talk hacking. How many times did Jessica Moore hack Brooke? A dozen? Two dozen? Three dozen? I am sorry, folks, but this was really ridiculous.
Clearly, this is something that has come down from on high from the NCAA. Someone gave the Tournament officials the decree that there will be (almost) no calls inside. Now I know what some of you are going to say: "Let them play. The officials should not decide the game, the players should."
I agree wholeheartedly with the last sentence. But the first sentence is flawed. At some point, if the officials swallow their whistles, the players are playing a different game than basketball. We are reaching — or well past — that point. When the officials refuse to call fouls underneath, why not just continue to foul? I do not blame Moore or, for that matter, Michigan State's Kelli Roehrig, for doing everything the officials let them do. But if the officials let a player shove or hack another player without consequence, the shoved or hacked player has no real chance to show her skills. It has become not basketball, but a wrestling match.
What happened to Brooke is a crime. I do not see why playing in the post should subject a player to that kind of abuse. If Moore or, on a matter of more relevance now, Roehrig can simply toss Brooke aside every time she finds her in solid defensive rebounding position, what is Brooke supposed to do? If Moore can hack her whenever she shoots a shot, what is Brooke supposed to do? Seriously, I wish I could think of something. [Well, I have one thought, outlined below, but it is not related to what Brooke should do. Frankly, I have no idea what she should do, other than what she did in the second half — keep going at them, regardless of what happens and what is (not) called.]
I must admit, though, that I found it humorous to watch Moore's reaction the few times she was whistled. She was shocked, SHOCKED, that they would call a foul on her. In fairness to her, she had every right to be shocked. If a player gets away with a hack 10 straight times, it would have to be shocking to that player to finally get called for the same foul.
Of course, I will readily admit that my reaction to this obvious NCAA edict changing the rules of the game is tied to my belief that this makes it much harder for Stanford to win these games. If it is all about who can hack and shove the most, we are not going to win any more of these games. If it just about who has the largest players, we are doomed, starting tomorrow. But, then, why even play the game? Just line everyone up at half court, and award the game to the team with the biggest players.
Yes, it was once true that officials called way too many fouls in the women's game. A certain amount of physicality should be tolerated in the post. But the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. This is a serious cloud on the Stanford horizon, folks. It is rather clear that this is not going to change in this Tournament. The rulebook has been rewritten.
By the way, if you want to see the picture that sums up this game, check out the USA Today sports page. Below the fold, there is a picture of Moore all over Brooke. [I can just about assure you that she was not called for a foul.] That photographer must have a contact sheet with several dozen photographs that show pretty much the same thing.
While I am on the subject, how can the bigs get away with all that shoving and hacking, and the referees call (some) ticky-tacky tough fouls on the guards? Again, this is mostly an even proposition for both teams. Both UConn and Stanford guards had some ticky tacky fouls go against them. [The two back-to-back against Candice and Kelley late in the first half really stung, though.]
In addition, this too does not bode well for Stanford. We want Candice to be allowed to steal the ball. Having no calls underneath and ticky tacky fouls outside works against Stanford in both instances. [I am not suggesting that is why this is done. Of course not. But it does work to our disadvantage.]
I will add this note. There was a brief stretch with about five minutes to go in the game when a few calls in a row went against UConn. One was a pretty ticky tacky double dribble call on a fast break that was going to bring the lead down to eight or six. That one was a killer for UConn. It might have been the correct call — the UConn player's back blocked our angle, so I have no opinion on the technical correctness of the call. But it was the kind of thing that referees sometimes let go on a fast break. So, yes, to a certain extent these things even out. But when referees call a game that favors one style of play (we will call it "hack and shove"), that is not going to even out over time.
Still President of the Brooke Smith Fan Club As some of you know, I am a huge Brooke Smith fan. She gets a lot out of her talent, and she has more talent than many realize.
My latest appreciation from her play comes from Sunday's game. Sometime during halftime, she decided that, hacks or no hacks, she was going at UConn. She had a great second half. Not just going to the basket, but also dishing some sweet passes to teammates, particularly Azella.
I love it when an athlete fights back from adversity. This, of course, was true of our entire team in the second half. But, given the hacking she was taking and, ultimately ignoring, Brooke gets special mention here.
Rebound, Ladies! I would love to write this whole article with no criticism of the team, but that would not be accurate. Every team can improve. That includes our team.
Particularly in the last part of the first half, UConn's three-point shooting killed us. Either they made it or they got an offensive rebound and a cheap put-back basket. This is a dangerous tendency, particularly as we head into a game against a team with great inside presence. [See below.]
However, it should be added that we seemed to do somewhat better in this regard in the second half. Still, UConn got a lot of second chances, even then.
Go! Go! Go! For a brief period of time in both halves, we had a bit of trouble with their press. Neither segment lasted long, but both resulted in a bit of momentum for UConn.
I am not overly worried about our press break. However, I wish we would attack the basket once we break the press. [Not at the end of the game when running clock is more important than scoring, of course, but earlier in the contest.] We tend to pull up instead.
Not Bad for a Bunch of Old Fogies Like Me The Stanford crowd was mostly old folks like me. However, for a Stanford crowd, it was surprisingly rowdy. This, of course, is a relative concept — the key phrase in that last sentence is "for a Stanford crowd."
I plead guilty to being an absolute nut case when I get to cheer on Stanford in person. Sunday, of course, was no exception. Half of the Stanford crowd thought I was nuts. The other half was sure of it. Presumably the petition to rescind my degree is currently being circulated.
But there was that great rowdy fan across the aisle from me (way to go, ma'am!), and at least a few others. The Fast Break Club is a great asset for the women's program. They are not afraid to be heard. I love that in Stanford fans. You do not have to be as nuts as I am — in fact, that is undoubtedly not good for your heart. But it is good to see Stanford fans on their feet, not afraid to cheer. I actually think we made as much noise as UConn's fans, if not more. That does not happen in Stanford post-season games very often.
We even started stomping on the bleachers when UConn had the ball in the second half. Of course, I have no idea if this had any real effect, but it sure seemed like it. UConn did not shoot nearly as well after we started making noise. More importantly, I think our ladies might have heard it. It never hurts for your team to know it has your support.
Of course, the foot stomping will probably backfire tonight. We will be badly outnumbered by Michigan State fans. They had by far the biggest crowd of the four teams yesterday, even though their men's team was playing the same day. Presumably their crowd will be even bigger for this Elite 8 game, when the reinforcements have arrived. [By the way, Michigan State fans love the false "6-5-4-3-2-1" count when the other team has the ball. They got Vandy on it a couple of times Sunday, too.]
Quit Your Job, Get on a Plane, and Bring Some Hard Soled Shoes Given the likely large Michigan State crowd, we need anyone who is available. Sadly, there are plenty of good seats still available. In fact, there are not really any bad seats anywhere in the joint. [It does have a fun, old style feel to it, but there are still thousands of good seats available for the taking.]
Even MiniMizzouCard and I, the classic occupants of the cheap seats, had tickets in about the tenth row from the court. I am quite certain that the Stanford ticket office did not sell its allotment. We would love to have you in town for the regional final. So get here and do some stomping and yelling.
The First Amendment Is a Wonderful Thing By the way, I know that what I am about to say is not popular among a whole lot of Stanford folks (especially the poor lady in front of me who moved and started putting her hands over her ears every time I said "what would they have to do to Brooke Smith to get a foul?" — I am still looking for the answer to that question, by the way). But I am going to say it anyway. Stanford folks do not ride officials hard enough.
Perhaps it would be nice if basketball was like golf, where the officials were unaffected by crowds and participants. Just ain't so, folks. Why do you think the Dookies and the Tar Heels get so many calls? Because their fans know how to work officials. Basketball is the home of the make-up call, because so many calls in basketball are judgment calls that could go either way. The officials have plenty of chances to make up for a mistaken call. But they won't make a makeup call unless they think they have a call to make up. That's the coach's job. And the fans' job. [The players should avoid protesting calls, because they need to focus on playing the game.]
This does not mean that we should protest every call. Bad idea. You lose your credibility that way. But basketball officials have to make dozens of close calls in every game. You have to let them know when they blow it.
If fans from all schools would enter into some sort of mutual disarmament pact wherein we all agree not to shout at referees, then you can talk to me about my admittedly obnoxious attempts to make up for the fact that bunches and bunches of us never say a thing. Until then, could we please defend our team a bit? [And, yes. What happened to Brooke Sunday was unconscionable. Perhaps I should be a nice enough human being to think "but that's okay — they are doing the best they can." I am not.]
LSJUMB What I am going to say next is perhaps equally shocking: I loved our band yesterday. They started up "All Right Now" at the appointed hour, just in time to finish before the game started. At the time, the UConn band was playing some random tune. Our guys just ignored them, then out-louded them. UConn's band gave up, then started up again with what was presumably their fight song when All Right Now was over. But they only had about 18 seconds before the introductions, so they didn't get much fight song out.
As you can tell, I love it when Stanford supporters say "this is our house." Some times we are too worried about looking classy. [Not me, of course, because I know nothing about class at a sporting event.] There is no need to go out of your way to be rude, but it is more important to support your team than to be constantly worried about being rude to the other team. Good work, LSJUMB!
Is That Jessica Elway's Dad? Before the Michigan State/Vanderbilt game started, MiniMizzouCard said, "Dad, do you know who that is?" It was The Man. It was a big moment for MiniMizzouCard, a lifelong John Elway fan, and for his dad. The elder Elway signed the women's basketball media guide that was already one of MiniMizzouCard's most precious possessions (because so many of our women's team players and coaches signed it earlier this year in Columbia). So did Curtis Borchardt, later in the Michigan State game. That media guide has now become pretty much the most precious thing MiniMizzouCard owns.
By the way, while walking to get a snack at halftime of the first game, we were going in the same direction as Sir John. If you think John Elway has any chance of being inconspicuous in Kansas City, think again. I heard shouts of "This is Kansas City, Elway!" [Do you think he did not know that?] Of course, one must remember that he caused a whole lot of pain in that town, so I guess I will cut them a little snack. As a Broncos fan, it brought back happy memories.
A Few Problems Speaking of food, make sure you check out one of Kansas City's great barbecue or steak places before coming to Municipal Auditorium. As a Missourian, I must sadly report that the food in its concession stands is the worst I have had at a game in a very long time.
Also, I sure hope there is never a fire in that place. The aisles in the bleachers lead to nowhere. All of the traffic has to exit on one end or the other.
What Kind of Dog Is That? Nobody who roots for a school that really does not have a mascot, other than a dancing tree, is in any position to criticize another team's mascot. But, hey, I already admitted I was not objective. Therefore, I must note that the UConn dog is quite lame. It is worth noting, however, that the dog's head does look quite a bit like Geno Auriemma's. Cannot be a coincidence. [What's with the beaver tail on the dog, though? What kind of dog has a beaver tale?]
The UConn Network? I was wrong in my earlier column when I suggested that ESPN will do anything to cover UConn. On the weekend hour and a half SportsCenter, they only managed about a half minute story on Sunday's UConn game.
Wait a minute. UConn lost? Oh, that is different, then. Perhaps they are hoping that nobody noticed.
By the way, don't give me that "it was a women's game on a big sports day" excuse. They have found plenty of air time during the big UConn women's run the last four years. But they managed to almost ignore the game when their 20-game tourney win streak ended. [As I said before, knowing that it is a huge deal to beat UConn in the post-season is a compliment to UConn.] But SportsCenter barely mentioned it. Also, it was not even the fist NCAA women's game covered during Sports Center. You have to be kidding me. We are not even the women's Tourney lead, when we stop a four-year win streak? Inexcusable.
In my relentless quest to provide you with my "insights," I scouted the Michigan State vs. Vanderbilt game. Remember, take all thoughts with a grain of salt. As we lawyers like to say, "she who gets free legal advice, generally gets what she pays for." The same is true of basketball scouting advice from me.
Frankly, I am worried about the matchup against Michigan State. In a normal basketball game where fouls were being called under the basket, I would like our chances. But we are in trouble if Michigan State can shove with impunity.
Hey! We Are Supposed To Be "The Trees" There is no other way to say it. The Spartans are H-U-G-E. Not just tall, though they are indeed plenty tall. HUGE. As soon as they start their warm-ups, it is impossible to miss their size. They must have four players taller than our tallest player — and we are not exactly midgets. They are tall. They are big. They are strong.
Not Just Big. Also Good. MSU's Kelli Roehrig, though not the tallest, is the biggest. But she is not only big. She is also good. Nice footwork for a big player. Solid finisher. Great rebounder. (See shoving discussion below, though.) No doubt about it. She is tough.
My only slight criticism is that she does not have great hands. Not terrible hands, but classic big person's hands that result in the occasional fumbled pass or rebound.
"Shove It!" Another thing that must be said about Roehrig: She will never be out of work. I do not know what her career plans are, but if they do not work out, she can always go to Tokyo and be one of those folks who shoves people onto the crowded commuter trains. She certainly has the experience. She shoves on offense. She shoves on defense. She shoves when she rebounds. She probably shoves during the national anthem, though I must admit I was not watching.
Any game where this woman is still under five fouls before the second television timeout should result in an immediate Congressional investigation. The second television timeout in the first half, of course. Which leads me to my next, most troubling point….
No Fouls Underneath in This Game, Either Though Roehrig has clearly perfected the art of the shove, she has also trained her sizable teammates in this fine art. These people must practice in full football gear.
All of which would not be all that troubling, if the game was basketball. As noted above, however, that is no longer the game of choice. With six minutes to go in the first half, how many team fouls did the Shovers have? One. One! Though I did not care that much who won the game, I must note that this was simply ridiculous, given all of the shoving they do.
As noted above, it is quite clear that the NCAA had some sort of meeting or other communication with its Tournament officials wherein they laid down the law that there would be very few "big on big" foul calls. That is NOT a good development for us, given that we play the Shovers in the next round. This is a bad matchup for us, folks. Unless we do something creative, they are going to toss Brooke around like a rag doll, and the officials are going to do absolutely nothing about it.
Free Throw Rebounding Michigan State gets a lot of rebounds off of their free throw misses. In two possessions relatively close in time in the first half (perhaps two consecutive trips), they canned three-point shots off of missed free throws. We really need to box out and get ready for the inevitable shoves in the back. This is a matter of concern, because we seem to have some defensive rebounding concerns. (See above.)
Threes Release Me Speaking of threes, Michigan State had an interesting game in that regard. At first Vandy killed Michigan State from the outside. With those two threes after free throw misses, though, Michigan State started to turn the tide. In the second half, they seemed to outshoot Vandy.
Here is a newsflash: The three-pointers will be a key to this game. If Susan gets hot again or if Kelley or Seb lights it up, we will be in good shape. If not, it is entirely possible that, even though people think of Michigan State as an inside-dominated team, their guards could shoot us out of the gym.
Move Over, Geno Michigan State made some great coaching adjustments at halftime. I know nothing about Vanderbilt, so I do not know if this is a season-long trend, but in this game Ashley Earley did not show much on the offensive end. On the other hand, Vandy's Carla Thomas was awesome, particularly in the first half. Given Earley's troubles, coupled with the fact that Vandy's three other players pretty much parked themselves at the three-point line, Thomas was the entirety of Vandy's inside presence.
It seemed clear that Michigan State decided at halftime that Thomas was not going to beat them. As soon as she got the ball, she was double- or even triple-teamed. This worked well. She was not nearly as effective going to the hoop herself in the second half, and she had trouble passing out of the double team.
If Brooke has a solid first half, we should expect her to get similar treatment in the second half. However, Brooke threw some very nice passes to Azella in the second half that resulted in left-handed lay-ups. The key, as always when the double-team comes, will be to react quickly, before they can shove her.
So what would I do, if I was coaching? [What a crazy thought. If my scouting is worth its price, what about my coaching?] Well, because you asked...
Two Can Play That Game First, it is important to recognize that there is only one way to effectively deal with a bully. When she shoves you, you have to shove back. I am reminded, in fact, of the men's St. Louis regional semifinal game against Purdue in that magical year of 1998. All week the papers said this guy Brian Cardinal and his tough buddies were going to shove Stanford into oblivion, because Purdue played in a much more physical conference than Stanford. Guess what? Monty's guys met them shove for shove, negating their primary advantage.
So element number one of my strategy is to find someone to meet Roehrig shove for shove, whenever the game slows down to a half court game. Please understand what I am suggesting here. I am NOT by any means talking about a John Chaney "hard foul" strategy. Do not push them any harder or more often than they push us. But do not push them one bit less, either. Meet them shove for shove.
Why? In the first place, I bet very few teams have had the guts to do this. If Stanford, another allegedly wimpy West Coast team (that's what they always say about this, whether it is true or not) shoves back, they will be surprised. They will react in one of two ways. First, it might throw them off their game. Probably not, but it might. Second — the more likely reaction — is for them to shove back harder and harder. When that happens, we still meet them shove for shove. [Again, we never do any more than they do, but we never do any less, either.]
If that happens, the referees will be forced to do something about it. No matter what the NCAA has told them, they cannot let a regional final game deteriorate into a riot. So they will, finally, start to blow their whistles. If they actually start to enforce the rules again, we are in business. If pushing and hacking once again become fouls somewhere in the course of this game — if the game becomes basketball again — Brooke is going to eat them up on the inside. She is better at basketball. They are better at wrestling.
Thus, I believe Kristen Newlin is a big key to this game. Brooke is in no position to take on Roehrig, but Kristen can. If T'Nae was in better physical shape, she could add some muscle also. Even Azella could help.
The message, though, needs to be sent loud and clear: Maybe everyone else is willing to take this from you, but not us.
Pound It Inside Admittedly, this seems like strange advice against a team with lots of size inside. However, Vanderbilt did its best work when Thomas touched the ball inside, especially in the first half. [They did not do nearly as well when she got the ball at the free throw line.] Two things tended to happen in the first half when they fed Thomas in the post. Either she scored, or she tossed it to one of the three players on the three-point line for the face-up jump shot.
Admittedly this did not work as well for Vandy in the second half. However, I don't think Thomas, though she is one heck of a player, is as good at passing out of the double-team as Brooke is. Also, she does not have complementary inside players like T'Nae and Azella. If they double Brooke, she can make them pay with quick, short passes.
Of course, this piece of advice is to be put in play when the next piece of advice does not work. Whenever it (the next thought) can be employed, it should be employed.
Run! I have been waiting for years to say it before a big Stanford basketball game, so it gives me great pleasure to say it now: We are quicker, faster, and more athletic than our opponent. [Man, it felt good to say that!] They are bigger, stronger, and slower.
Therefore, we should not miss any opportunity to run. This means our guards must be ready to fly, of course. Just as importantly, our bigs really need to run the floor. Not so coincidentally, our bigs are pretty good at running the floor.
Press About half way through the first half, when fatigue is starting to set in for Michigan State's bigs, I would play some press. Pressure the ball. Force Roehrig to handle it in the back court. As noted above, her hands are not as good as her feet (except for shoving). Force her to catch and throw passes in a full court game. And force her to run.
A CONCLUDING THOUGHT
As you may recall from the Wizard of Oz, the munchkins sang "the wicked witch is dead" not at the end of the story, but near the beginning. They were celebrating Dorothy having killed the Wicked Witch of (fittingly) the East when her house landed on her. But the big battles with the Wicked Witch of the West were still ahead of her.
The day that house crashed was a great day for the Munchkins, just as Sunday was a great day for the Cardinal women and their fans. But Dorothy still faced many obstacles in her struggle to kill the Wicked Witch of the West and meet the Wizard. Thus, while the song quote at the beginning of this column is meant in part as a celebration of a great victory, it is also a reminder that the journey is not over. Instead, it is just beginning.
The road ahead is indeed filled with great obstacles. We just beat a #3 seed. From here out, every game Stanford manages to win, like Sunday night's win, probably sets us up for a matchup with a team rated higher than the seed we just beat. [To date, we cannot even say "I told you so" to the Tournament committee, because we have not beaten a higher seeded team.] There are no Cinderellas — no easy outs — left in this Tournament. One can easily look at every team left in this Tournament, as I have with Michigan State above, and say, "Yikes. Can we beat them?"
The answer remains to be seen, of course. But I am happy, and proud, to be rooting for Stanford. I like our chances at least as well as anyone else's chances.
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