Chasing after their first Elite Eight berth in five years, No. 1 seed Louisville has the dubious task of taking on one of the legendary programs in women's college basketball history on Friday in their NCAA Women's Tournament Sweet 16 game in Lexington, Ky..
Stanford may have slogged through their worst regular season in 18 years, but Tara VanDerveer's squad is as dangerous as ever come postseason.
So much for the gift of a No. 1 seed, the first in program history for Louisville.
"I've seen them in person," VanDerveer said after Stanford's 90-70 second-round win over Florida Gulf Coast. "They were practicing in the same place we were. They have a great team. They have a great fan base, the player of the year, Asia Durr, and the ACC. I've watched them play, and they are very impressive. I'm going to choose to enjoy tonight, and then, you know, probably wake up really early, like 4 in the morning, and I'll watch their video."
VanDerveer might want to queue up some midseason footage to get an accurate reading of Durr.
Durr, the ACC Player of the Year and a Naismith Award finalist, finally broke out of a late-season swoon with a 19-point, six-assist, five-rebound performance in the Cardinals' second-round win over Marquette. Beginning with the start of the ACC Tournament and including the team's first-round win over Boise State, Durr had been 15 for 53 from the field and 4 of 24 from 3-point range. Those are results not typical.
"I just kept talking to her the past two weeks," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "I mean, it's what you do; you play basketball. Stop worrying about making every shot. I'm trying to get them all to understand that if you made every shot, it would be a tie game, and then they wouldn't need coaches. So like I appreciate when they miss a couple, because then it's called job security.
"If you think about it, you made every single shot, why pay anybody to coach? So like I told them, when you miss, I'm clapping. Just don't miss too many of them."
It is a testament to the talent and depth of Walz's team that the Cardinals not only survived without Durr at her best, but thrived. Even against the Golden Eagles, Myisha Hines-Allen led the way with 24 points, Sam Fuehring had 19 and Jazmine Jones had 14.
"We needed a game like this just to give a little confidence back, I think, offensively, for Asia, for Jaz," Walz said. "We've been playing good basketball. You know, to win the ACC Tournament is not easy. You know, I mean, they're great teams. We figured out a way to win three games in three games by a total of 10 points, and that's what prepares you for this.''
Stanford will counter the balanced Cardinals with forward Alanna Smith, who had 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting with four 3-pointers in the team's second-round win over No. 12 seed FGCU, and guard Brittany McPhee, who had 17.
"(Smith) kind of has a way of playing well in the Tournament," VanDerveer said. "Thank goodness for that. You know, she really had a great game tonight. I mean, knocking down her three, finishing on the block. Her defense I thought was fantastic. Holding their leading scorer to seven points, really focused.
"I'm excited for Alanna, going into the regional with momentum. Like she said, both Britt and Alanna played really well there, and we will need them to again."