SAN ANTONIO - Stanford's loss to Connecticut was the only blemish on its 35-1 record. With one more victory - against Oklahoma in Game 1 at the Final Four tonight - coach Tara VanDerveer's players will have done their part to set up a tantalizing rematch with the Huskies in the national championship game.
"I think we have a lot of the mechanics it takes to win a national championship," said forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanford's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game and rebounder (9.6). "If we really work hard and play well, I think a lot of people will be happy with what they're seeing."
Stanford was the last team to beat Connecticut, in the 2008 Final Four. The Cardinal came closer to beating the Huskies this season than anyone else (an 80-68 loss in Hartford on Dec. 23). Like UConn, Stanford's season has been filled with lopsided wins. The Cardinal cruised in the NCAA Tournament until the regional final against Xavier. Xavier missed a pair of layups in the closing seconds, and allowed Jeanette Pohlen to race the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup.
"You make it by 40 points, you make it by 4 seconds - either way, you're still here at the Final Four," Stanford center Jayne Appel said. "I think that our team is aware of what we've accomplished this year. And we've played everyone: Duke, Tennessee, you name it. So we'll be coming out, ready to go."
So will Oklahoma, which enters the Final Four with a 27-10 record. The Sooners got here by overcoming the nation's toughest schedule - Stanford is the only No. 1 seed they haven't faced - and their tournament run has been boosted by the emergence of Abi Olajuwon, the daughter of Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.