FRESNO -- In keeping with the Nerd City theme of Stanford womens basketball season, the Cardinals secret weapon for the Final Four is going to be a 6-foot-8 alto saxophone player named Andrew Klein, who majors in math and computational science.
A year ago, Stanford thought it might face Baylor and its game-changing center Brittney Griner in the Final Four. So coach Tara VanDerveer asked Andrew to come practice with the team and took to affectionately calling him Brittney.
But, last year Baylor got bounced by Texas A&M and Andrews contributions went unused.
RELATED: Stanford trounces Duke to reach Final Four box score
Now its time to get the alto sax player back on the floor because Stanford will face Griner for the first time ever, in the NCAA semifinal next Sunday in Denver.
Im really looking forward to the matchup, said senior Nneka Ogwumike, who will have played in the Final Four in every year of her Stanford career.
Stanfords streak started a year before Nneka arrived on campus. When youve been to five straight Final Fours its hard to imagine that you can be considered an underdog.
But thats exactly what Stanford will be in Denver.
Nobody is giving Stanford a chance against Brawlin Baylor and Big Game Brittney, who was ejected from Mondays victory over Tennessee for coming off the bench when a fight broke out. Griner wont be suspended -- she came out to play peacemaker, rather than get involved in the fight. Besides, the NCAA would be nuts to eject the biggest draw in the womens game.
Everyone wants to see Griner. And everyone expects Stanford to suffer the same fate as all of Baylors other opponents this season: a loss.. Baylor is undefeated this season, 38-0
VanDerveer doesnt mind being discounted.
We dont get a chance often to be an underdog or be totally overlooked, she said.
But she was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer for a reason. When asked how she would contend with Griner, VanDerveer said,
Ill think of something. We will have a game plan.
It will be a new game plan because Stanford has never faced Griner. Thought the other top teams -- No. 1 seeds UConn and Notre Dame -- have already had to contend with Griners game changing presence, Stanford has avoided her for three seasons.
Im excited, said Ogwumike, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the Fresno Regional, scoring 39 points on Saturday and adding 29 points in Mondays 81-69 victory over Duke. I feel like everyone but us have played against her.
Ogwumike faced Griner once -- in high school in Texas.
Thats when I learned to shoot the three, she said.
Time to start shooting over the alto sax player.
Ann Killion is a regular contributor to CSNBayArea.com and Chronicle Live.