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Preview: Stanford hosts recently-upset Arizona State in try for one last statement win

The Cardinal were nearly upset by Arizona on Friday, escaping with a 56-54 victory. But that same night, Arizona State fell at California, 69-60.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-ASU vs Stanford
Alanna Smith (right) of Stanford looks for a shot against Arizona State’s Sophia Elenga. Smith scored 25 points in the Cardinal’s win over the Sun Devils on Jan. 11.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

After a Friday full of upsets and close games across the Pac-12, Sunday’s games will have a lot more meaning to even more teams.

The Stanford Cardinal, winners of one of those close games, have a great chance to prove they’re not on the downswing after some recent mediocre play. Unfortunately, it’s against not just the No. 17 team in the country, but a team that wants to prove the exact same thing.

Arizona State, one of Friday’s upset victims, was having a smooth run, winning their last five games and creeping back up the AP Poll from their most recent lowest ranking, No. 21. The Sun Devils even managed a 60-58 win over Utah last Sunday. But they couldn’t repeat their 62-61 home win over Cal and instead dropped a 69-60 decision in Friday’s rematch.

Stanford, meanwhile, has put together a solid three-game win streak since being thrashed by Oregon on Feb. 10, taking down recent giant-killer UCLA by a wide margin in addition to USC and Arizona. Although their last two wins have been by just two points apiece, the Cardinal have two things on their side this afternoon: they’re playing at home, and they own the 1-0 season series lead.

Although Stanford is in contention for a top-two seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona State is still threatening to disrupt the Cardinal’s success, just two and a half games back. The Sun Devils had the misfortune of a canceled game at Washington on Feb. 9 that could have brought them within two games, but their final stretch could see them do even more damage to the Pac-12’s top teams.

With rematches against Washington and Washington State — both of whom the Cardinal beat by wide margins in January — rounding out Stanford’s Pac-12 schedule, the Cardinal could really use a win today to remind the country that they’re still worthy of their top-10 ranking and NCAA two-seed.

But as Arizona State prepares to host the powerful Oregon schools in their Pac-12 finale — playing both close in their first meetings and even beating Oregon State — grabbing a win over Stanford could provide the spark they need to do some last-minute bolstering of their postseason résumé. Coming out of their last two weekends with a handful of wins would be an excellent note on which to enter the Pac-12 Tournament.

Game information

No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils (18-7, 9-5) at No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (22-4, 12-3)

When: Sunday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA

How to watch: Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Bay Area, Pac-12 Arizona

Notes: It’s Senior Sunday at Maples Pavilion, and Alanna Smith, Shannon Coffee and Marta Sniezek will be honored after the game. The Cardinal will likely host two opening-round games at the NCAA Tournament, but today will be the last true home game for these players.