Stanford's sudden departure from the NCAA tournament Friday in many ways reflected the Cardinal's season. Good enough to reach the Sweet 16, the 14th-ranked Stanford women's basketball team wasn't good enough to advance.
No. 1 seed and second-ranked Notre Dame devoured every turnover, every mistake the younger Cardinal players made in a no-doubt-about-it, 77-57, victory over Stanford in the Oklahoma City regional semifinal..
The Irish (34-2) move on to play Baylor in the Elite Eight on Sunday. The Bears (33-3) ate up Iowa, 81-66.
Senior Bonnie Samuelson led Stanford (26-10) with 17 points, all via the 3-point shot or from the foul line. Samuelson is pretty good at both and leaves the school with 237 career 3-pointers, third on the Cardinal's all-time list behind former All-Americans Candice Wiggins and Jeanette Pohlen.
Samuelson also established the single-season record for free throw accuracy, converting 90.8 percent of them. She becomes the first Cardinal women to top the 90 percent mark.
Amber Orrange, who added 12 points, leaves with 1,426 points, 20th on the all-time Stanford list. She also recorded 552 assists, seventh all-time.
Stanford also loses Taylor Greenfield, the Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 tournament, and Erica Payne.
There will still be plenty of talent for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer to work with next year, beginning with sophomores Lili Thompson and Erica McCall, both of whom had more good games than bad, but also have a lot of upward mobility left to complete.
McCall had 12 points and 10 rebounds against Notre Dame.
Brian Roberson and Karlie Samuelson will return along with freshmen Brittany McPhee and Kaylee Johnson, who set the school record for rebounds by a rookie in a season.
These players give Stanford a good start building toward another run deep into the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 is stronger than ever, though VanDerveer always appreciates a good challenge.
VanDerveer and her staff did about as good a good coaching this year as at any point in the past. Stanford restructured its offense to fit with the players and there were a lot of growing pains.
Those same pains came back against Notre Dame. Stanford came back at the Irish time and again, only to turn the ball over or miss several shots in a row. It was both discouraging and encouraging.
The shooters took shots and besides the lack of decision-making, that's a good sign moving forward. It would be nearly impossible for Stanford to go through so many cold spells next year.
Stanford was constantly haranguing the Irish, and was within five points, at 52-47, with just over 12 minutes to play. Who can explain the ensuing ice sheet that formed over the basket? The Cardinal was 2 of 11 from the field and turned the ball over five times over a seven-minute stretch that Notre Dame used to build a 21-point advantage.
There are plenty of conversations that can be saved for a rainy day. The final thought should be positive. This team took a lot of steps forward. They also took too many backward. Those steps will be reversed.