The No. 3 Stanford Cardinal begin their title defense in earnest when they face their first test of the season in the No. 25 Texas Longhorns at 3 p.m. on Sunday (ESPN).
The Cardinal are feeling disrespected because they are the defending champs but rank behind the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks and the No. 2 UConn Huskies. In order to prove they are worthy of a higher ranking they will need to take care of business against Texas.
The Longhorns, on the other hand, said last year that they planned on becoming a dynasty and that it was going to start that season. A blowout loss to West Virginia on Jan. 9 put those plans on pause and the Longhorns struggled to find consistency throughout the season. However, they upset a very 1-seed-like 2-seed in Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen and the final result of making the Elite Eight is the best way to measure Vic Schaefer’s debut season in Austin. And by that measurement it was a huge success and a huge step forward in building a program that can compete to be a dynasty.
Texas lost its best player in Charli Collier to the WNBA Draft (No. 1 overall), but the impact of the Elite Eight appearance will likely be felt in their recruiting efforts in the coming years. And Schaefer has already made great strides in that department by bringing in No. 6 Hoop Gurlz recruit Aaliyah Moore, No. 10 Rori Harmon, No. 24 Kyndall Hunter and No. 38 Latasha Lattimore this year.
Hunter dropped 27 points in her collegiate debut, a 131-36 thrashing of the New Orleans Privateers, which marked the second-most points scored by a Texas team in program history. Lattimore, Moore and Harmon added 11, nine and seven points, respectively. Lattimore grabbed six boards, Moore had five and Harmon dished out eight assists.
Texas returned Joanne Allen-Taylor, who was phenomenal in the Sweet Sixteen against Maryland, but without Collier and Celeste Taylor, who transferred to Duke, you can understand why the Longhorns are ranked as low as No. 25 to start the season. But if their freshmen are going to contribute right away, watch out.
Stanford also lost its best player to the WNBA Draft and that would be Kiana Williams, the San Antonio kid who won the national championship in her hometown. But with Final Four Most Outstanding Player Haley Jones back, you can understand why Stanford feels disrespected.
The Cardinal won their first game 91-36 over Morgan State. Dunking phenom Fran Belibi led the way with 12 points. Clearly neither Stanford or Texas has been challenged yet, so it’s hard to make any grand statements about where they stand. But Stanford is considered to be among an elite group of four or five teams that seem to be ahead of the rest of the pack and Texas has a player to watch in Hunter.
The Cardinal will be officially acknowledging their national championship at Sunday’s game.
No. 25 Texas Longhorns (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) vs. No. 3 Stanford Cardinal (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
When: Sunday, Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Stanford, CA
How to watch/listen: ESPN/Radio: 105.3 FM (Texas) or Varsity Network (Stanford)
Key to the matchup: Cameron Brink vs. Texas’ frontcout. Stanford’s offense is going to rely a lot on Jones, a small forward, and senior guard Lexie Hull. Can Brink, a 6-foot-4 sophomore and the No. 3 recruit from the class of 2020, hold things down in the frontcourt? So far her shot-blocking has been a strength, but can she become an even more productive scorer? She’ll have a height advantage over Moore and DeYona Gaston if Texas opts to start that frontcourt again.