Sunday will mark the biggest game of Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin’s career at Ole Miss to date, and the opponent will be one of the most talented her team has faced this season.
When the ball tips off at 8:30 CT in Palo Alto, Cali., 8-seed Ole Miss (24-8) will have a chance to advance to the program’s 11th Sweet Sixteen berth if it can overcome 1-seed Stanford (29-5) on its home court. In Coach Yo’s fifth season, it’s a huge moment to push the program to the next level of national relevancy.
For Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, this is old hat, ho-hum another tournament in her 37th season at Stanford compiling over 1,000 wins. There is of course some David and Goliath elements to this game, but when you look at common opponents, the gap between these two teams is not as big as it appears.
Both teams lost in overtime to South Carolina on their home courts. Yes, the Gamecocks went across the country into Stanford and beat the Cardinal on its home court just like it did against the Rebels in Oxford. In fact, this is the only home loss Stanford recorded this season
The other common opponent is Utah who clipped the Rebels early in the season by one point in a controversial finish. Utah and Stanford split in the regular season with each team winning on its home court.
So Ole Miss has been in games like this before in SEC play against the likes of South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee, but the main thing is that it hasn’t won any of these types of games just yet. Stanford has rarely lost them as the Cardinal won the whole damn thing in the ‘20-’21 season and lost in the Final Four the next season.
For Ole Miss to become a Cinderella on Sunday, it has to find a way to outwork on the offensive glass. The Rebels and Cardinal are both phenomenal when it comes to rebounding and hold +7 and +13 margins per game this season respectively. If Stanford gets more of the 50/50 rebounds, it will be a long night for the Rebels.
Secondly, the Rebels have to do what its done all season and dominate defensively in a low scoring game. Stanford is also a ridiculously good defensive team that doesn’t have an unbelievable perimeter shooting attack similar to Ole Miss. Pretty much it’s going to come down to protecting the paint and keeping 6’4” forward Cameron Brink off her game - she is the leading scorer on the team at more than 15 points per game.
The last key to the game is winning guard play as the Cardinal have a two-headed monster in Hannah Jump and Haley Jones who both average double digit points per game. Ole Miss meanwhile will counter with Angel Baker and Marquesha Davis, and Baker or Davis or both have got to have a career night to make this win a reality.
Sunday’s game will tip off at 8:30 CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.
It will be undoubtedly a longshot for the Rebels to pull this win off, but it’s college basketball in March. Anything is possible. Cheers!