The NCAA tournament just wouldn’t feel the same for Stanford if the Cardinal weren’t playing in the Lexington Region in Kentucky.
After all, the Bluegrass State has been very good to Stanford.
The fourth-seeded Cardinal (24-10) has notched consecutive upsets of top-seeded teams, twice knocking off Notre Dame at Rupp Arena. And they’re looking for a threepeat in Friday night’s matchup with No. 1-seeded Louisville (34-2).
Stanford is younger this time around but has won eight of 10 entering the showdown.
“The place itself doesn’t do it,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said Thursday. “You have to have the players that do the work. But I think that when you feel good about things, it’s always good. We’re excited to be here.
“There’s a certain comfort that comes with familiarity. That won’t be enough, however. We know we have to play really well.”
That probably will mean solving a few defensive challenges.
Both teams excel on defense. Stanford ranks 26th in field goal defense at 36.2%, just ahead of Louisville at 37.2%.
Louisville ranks 27th in scoring defense at 56.9 points a game but faces a Stanford squad with senior guard Brittany McPhee (16.8 points) leading a lineup with three double-digit scorers.
The Cardinals that matching their per-game scoring average of 77 points is the least they will need to score.
“It’s going to take 40 minutes to beat this team,” Louisville senior forward Myisha Hines-Allen said, “and we just all have to be dialed in and know that scouting report. Who’s who on that team, who we’re going to be sagging off and who we’re going to let shoot the three.”
Second-seeded Baylor (33-1) will put its 30-game winning streak on the line when it faces sixth-seeded Oregon State (25-7) in the other semifinal.
Friday’s winners will meet in Sunday’s championship game.
On Saturday, the Albany Region features No. 2 South Carolina (28-6) against No. 11 Buffalo (29-5) and No. 1 Connecticut (34-0) against No. 5 Duke (24-8).