It began with a shocker, and ended with a knockout punch.
And now the Stanford regional comes down to a David and Goliath ending; no. 2 Stanford, who is looking to make their ninth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance (and 23rd overall), will step into Maples Pavilion on Monday to face the no. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who is looking to make their first Sweet 16 after beating no. 5 Miami 74-71 on Saturday.
The Jackrabbits are beyond excited about making it to the second round for the first time since 2009. Head coach Aaron Johnston, who has coached both teams, thinks this win was even sweeter due to their underdog status.
"It's exciting for everybody (to beat Miami). It's a culmination of a lot of work that goes into not only this year, but even previous years," Johnston said. "It's neat to see everybody be rewarded in this way for a chance to play together as a group and represent South Dakota. And in this case, do it against Stanford, really one of the storied women's basketball programs in the country."
This won't be the first time that Stanford and South Dakota State have graced the hardwood together. In 2013, the two faced off in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; a game that Stanford won 80-60.
Senior guard Gabby Boever, who was a sophomore the last time they played, knows that time has played a role on both teams.
"We are a completely different team than we were two years ago," Boever said. "We are a lot smaller, and they are a lot different. Definitely looking forward to the opportunity to play again."
Stanford, who is going in as the favorite, comes into the game fresh off an 85-58 win over no. 13 San Francisco. However, even they know that the season all comes down to a single game at this point.
Head coach Tara VanDerveer, who has been in her fair share of tournaments, took a second to explain how teams like South Dakota State make teams like Stanford keep things in perspective.
"We play against it a lot. Sometimes you feel a team like Jennifer's (Azzi) team, USF, or some teams, are playing with house money," VanDerveer said. "They can be relaxed and play very hard. I think South Dakota State has a great tradition of women's basketball. They come out and play aggressive. It's a one-game season."
Sophomore guard Kaylee Johnson isn't looking at the seeding of South Dakota State, either. Johnson understands that the Jackrabbits are going to be going into the game pumped after their Miami win.
"Every team we face, we know that we have to give our best because it's tournament time and everyone is giving their best," Johnson said. "Obviously, South Dakota State is really excited about the big win, but seeding doesn't mean anything at this point. It's all going to come down to the preparation."
The winner of the Stanford-South Dakota State game will move on to the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Kentucky; they will face off against the winner of the Notre Dame-Indiana game.
Monday's game tips off at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time, and will be aired on ESPN2.