I picked the No. 8 seed Ole Miss Rebels to beat the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal in almost all my brackets, together with my most important bracket. The Rebels achieved the feat on Sunday, profitable 54-49 in Stanford to develop into the primary group to knock off a No. 1 seed earlier than the Candy Sixteen since 2009.
I used to be a bit of nervous about my choose given Stanford’s expertise on paper and the composure this system has proven all through the years underneath Tara VanDerveer, together with when its present two largest stars, Haley Jones and Cameron Brink, helped it win the nationwide championship in 2021. Nevertheless, I didn’t anticipate Stanford to have that composure this 12 months, as a result of within the common season, the Cardinal repeatedly demonstrated that they couldn’t care for enterprise towards far inferior opponents:
- Jan. 8: solely beat non-tournament group Cal (13-17, 4-14 Pac-12) by 4
- Jan. 15: misplaced to eventual No. 8 seed USC by 9
- Jan. 27: solely beat non-tournament group Oregon State (13-18, 4-14 Pac-12) by three
- Jan. 29: solely beat non-tournament group Oregon (18-14, 7-11 Pac-12) by eight
- Feb. 5: misplaced to non-tournament group Washington (17-14, 7-11 Pac-12) by 5
- Feb. 17: solely beat eventual No. 8 seed USC by three
On paper, I believe Jones and Brink comprise top-of-the-line star duos within the nation and Hannah Soar went from 3-point specialist to star this 12 months whereas taking pictures a career-best 44.1 % from past the arc. Plus, freshman Talana Lepolo got here in and was a distributing wizard instantly, and the Cardinal nonetheless had secret weapons in No. 1 Hoop Gurlz recruit Lauren Betts, Fran Belibi and Ashten Prechtel, with the latter two taking part in lesser roles than they’d earlier of their careers.
With the expertise Stanford had in 2021-22, I even picked them to win the nationwide championship. However come event time, you must carry out underneath strain, particularly as the upper seed, and I simply didn’t belief the Cardinal anymore.
This isn’t to take something away from Ole Miss. I knew the Rebels took the undefeated No. 1 total seed South Carolina Gamecocks to extra time. And so they had been extremely spectacular within the first spherical, defeating a Gonzaga group that was ranked very excessive within the AP Ballot 71-48!
On Sunday, they held Stanford to 32.7 % taking pictures from the sphere and 2-of-7 taking pictures from three. They had been 5-of-11 from downtown themselves, outrebounded the Cardinal 44-39 and compelled a whopping 21 turnovers. The sport was actually received with these clutch free throws down the stretch. Madison Scott went 2-of-2 on the stripe with 18 seconds remaining to make it 51-49 and Marquesha Davis was additionally excellent at 15 ticks left to make it a two-possession recreation.
For a stretch within the fourth, it appeared like Jones was going to attempt to rating on each Stanford possession and he or she was having some success merely driving straight by means of the Ole Miss protection. Nevertheless, the Rebels’ protection on Jones was phenomenal on the ultimate few possessions, together with once they trapped her and the ball went out of bounds off her earlier than a prolonged overview.
The Rebels hadn’t been to the Candy Sixteen since 2007. Even final 12 months with Shakira Austin, after I picked them to the Candy Sixteen, they suffered a disappointing first-round loss as a No. 7 seed. To return again the next season with out the participant who was credited with turning this system right into a contender and go two rounds or extra additional is an outstanding accomplishment.