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Stanford, Pac-12 champions

Some tall timber from the Bay.

Ezra Shaw

Who? The Cardinal of Stanford.

What? It's a color. It's not a bird, a religious figure, or even a kind of direction. And the ever-changing Tree is not a mascot, but a member of The One, The Only, The Truly Incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.

Where? Palo Alto, California, whose name means "tall stick". Seems appropriate.

When? March 10th, in Seattle, Washington.

Why? They won the Pac-12 conference tournament.

How? Amber Orrange's driving lay-up with 8.3 seconds left was the deciding basket in Stanford's 51-49 win over UCLA. Orrange had 20 points and was the only Cardinal player to score in double figures. Chiney Ogwumike was held to 3 points on 1-9 shooting, but contributed 10 rebounds.

Surprise? Predicted to finish first in the conference, they finished tied for first with Cal; one extra out-of-conference game gave them the top seed.

RPI: 4

SOS: 8

Record: 31-2 (17-1 Pac-12)

Good wins: Baylor in Hawai'i. Dismantling Gonzaga in Spokane is not easy, either.

Bad losses: Cal, by default, though that beatdown by UConn was brutal in its extent.

Who's running this show? Tara VanDerveer, since 1985. She's north of 800 victories.

Extra, Extra! The San Francisco Chronicle.

For a team with the talent of Stanford, they have a dangerous tendency to lean heavily on junior forward Chiney Ogwumike. She's been superlative this year, averaging 23 points and 13.2 rebounds per game- but she can't do it alone. Senior Joslyn Tinkle started the season hot, but she's cooled off in conference play. Sophomore guard Amber Orrange has had the reins of the offense thrust into her hands with the absence of Toni Kokenis, and she's performed well- but not up to Stanford standards.

If the Cardinal get Kokenis back for the tournament, they are a title threat, with the psychological advantage of having beaten Baylor. If not, all bets are off. A team that specializes in smothering defense could spring an early surprise on them.