I only saw the second half of Stanford's 88-86 overtime win over UConn tonight, but I got two emails afterward from people who saw the whole thing to summarize what I was feeling.
The first was the obligatory, "Wow!!" -- everyone whose basketball opinion I trust knew that this would be a down year for UConn, but I didn't know anyone (outside of Stanford fans or Pac-12 homers) who picked Stanford to win that one.
The second email was more specific and highlighted the thing that probably surprised me the most: to paraphrase the exchange, that looked like one of the least prepared UConn teams I've ever seen.
That's not to take anything away from Stanford: defensively, their game plan was simply outstanding. UConn has a number of players with glaring weaknesses -- to the point where they can be turned into a liability on one side of the ball or the other -- and Stanford forced each of them out of their comfort zones to exploit those weaknesses. Offensively, the new guard-oriented offense allowed Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson to play to their strengths by simply beating Huskies defenders off the dribble - there's no denying that Stanford came into this game with an excellent game plan and executed it to the point where they flat out outplayed a team that very, very rarely gets legitimately stifled.
Nevertheless, it's so rare that UConn gets outplayed to that extent that it's almost hard not to turn the focus to them instead of the victor. The fact that Stanford outplayed UConn while still in the very early phases of implementing a new offense really is stunning. That UConn made so many mental mistakes in key moments -- a five second call, a lackadaisical entry pass, not denying the three or fouling when up three at the end of regulation, etc. -- is stunning simply because it's abnormal for a Geno Auriemma coached team.
The result is certainly enough to cast some doubt over the outcome of a season that seemed all but fated to end with another Huskies title -- which adds some intrigue to the season -- but it was also such an uncharacteristic performance from a Huskies team that you have to figure they'll eventually work their problems out and at the very least show the ability to execute at a level closer to what we're used to from the program.
But the unavoidable point after watching the game is that Tara VanDerveer won the coaching matchup with Geno Auriemma no matter how you look at it and led her team to a huge upset. Now we get to watch how UConn responds moving forward.