Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer spent time texting congratulatory remarks before the weekend’s round of Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. They were the only schools west of Texas to advance.
“We had to represent the West,” Zags coach Kelly Graves said prior to his team losing to Kentucky on Sunday. But Stanford defeated Duke on Monday, making a NCAA-record-tying fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four in Denver this weekend.
The Cardinal will play undefeated Baylor (38-0) and C Brittney Griner. According to The Associated Press, Stanford is likely to pull in 6-foot-5 male practice player Andrew Klein to play the part of the 6-8 Griner in practice. The team did the same while preparing for a possible matchup with Baylor last year that didn’t happen. (But Stanford F Nnemkadi Ogwumike did play against Griner in high school)
Stanford (35-1), is looking for the program’s first national title since 1992. The heralded matchup where all eyes will be on Griner is Sunday at the Pepsi Center.
“We don’t get the chance often to be an underdog and totally overlooked,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer told reporters.
Side note: Isn’t interesting how Stanford going undefeated at home is harmful to the Pac-12 image, according to on-air broadcasters, while Connecticut just lost its first game at home in 99 tries and there’s no problem there? I’m the first to admit the Big East is better than the Pac-12, but Stanford would go undefeated in a few of the major conferences, not just the Pac-12.
But I digress.
In addition to Stanford advancing to the Final Four, Ogwumike was named a first-team All-American for the third consecutive year. Gonzaga F Kayla Standish received an honorable mention nod along with Pac-12 players Davellyn Whyte (Arizona) and Michelle Plouffe (Utah).
Stanford F Chiney Ogwumike was a second-team pick.
“Not a lot of people can say they play with their sister and win an award,” said Nneka, a senior. They’re the first sister act to be named first and second team All-Americans. “I’m really proud of Chiney. She even has more to grow on as she’s only a sophomore. For her to be one of the top players in the country as a sophomore is remarkable.”