The Van Derveer Era defines "The tedious monotony of victory"

The Van Derveer Era defines "The tedious monotony of victory"
March 26, 2012, 3:22 pm
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Tara Van Derveer has been here so many times, with so many teams, and done it the same way every time, that she has actually and without realizing it created the phrase the tedious monotony of victory.That sounds daft, and it is, but it is no less true for being absurd. A Stanford womens basketball season makes make the table of the tides seem madcap and unpredictable by comparison.Or you can stop me when we veer of course.Start season with high hopes, and a relatively equal sprinkling of senior leaders and precocious underclassmen. Schedule every tough game available, lose one, maybe even two. Run through Pacific 10 or 12 season with either zero, one or two losses, and crush the conference tournament. Advance through NCAAs, reach Final Four, lose to one of the game other three or four power schools.Repeat annually.Oh, within the team, which is where Van Derveer wisely keeps her focus, winning never gets old, or less enjoyable. The Ogwumike sisters smile just as broadly and with as much satisfaction as Jennifer Azzi did in the Pleistocene era of womens college basketball.But outside that group, there is a crushing one-note symphony that tends to diminish the yearly accomplishment, and it is there where we stand again tonight, as the Cardinals prepares to face Duke in the regional final at Fresno.Part of the problem, of course is that womens basketball remains stubbornly top-heavy. This year, not untypically, the four one-seeds face the four two-seeds. The same names are there all the time, and the best program has transferred from Tennessee to Connecticut with what was once a healthy dislike of each other but has matured into something less contentious as Pat Summitt has approached the end of her career and Geno Auriemma has stopped tilting at whatever windmill happens to wander by.Stanford is the logical third wheel then, with Baylor fourth and closing fast, and Duke, North Carolina and Notre Dame not far behind. And so it has been, and so seemingly it shall remain.Questions? Okay. Here are the last 25 seasons, and you tell us where theyve become zany and unpredictable.1988: Sweet 16.
1989: Elite 8.
1990: Champion.
1991: Final Four.
1992: Champion.
1993: Sweet 16.
1994: Elite 8.
1995: Final Four.
1996: Final Four.
1997: Final Four.
1998: Harvard (first round; dont ask).
1999: Maine (first round).
2000: Georgia (second round).
2001: George Washington (first round).
2002: Sweet 16.
2003: Elite 8.
2004: Elite 8.
2005: Elite 8.
2006: Elite 8.
2007: Florida State (second round).
2008: Title Game.
2009: Final Four.
2010: Title Game.
2011: Final Four.
With the exception of that Florida State loss, the Van Derveer Era is a nearly perfect upside-down bell curve, with no more surprises than the reading of the minutes at next months city council meeting.And over the years its become increasingly fashionable to ignore this success as, well, success. Yes, they had their version of the Mike Singletary era (see Harvard), but they havent gone eight years without a postseason (49ers), or nine (Raiders), or 18 of 19 (Warriors).They are the metronome on Van Derveers piano, and because the culture demands that we have constant change to keep from getting bored, we have ignored, sometimes willfully, what the Stanfords have done, and are trying to do yet again tonight.We have certainly lost the curiosity to understand how difficult it is, to the point where a loss to Duke would be regarded as failure except that nobody gives the program enough mental energy to determine if it is failure or not. Harvard and Maine were failures, and so was GW. This is not.Except that it would be, if only by a snobby few, and success wont be properly appreciated either. A win over Duke would get a nod, a win next week over Baylor in the semifinals would get a vigorous nod, and beating UConn would get as close to paroxysms of joy as the sport can manage. Auriemma is, if anything, more predictable.On the B-side, though, beating Baylor and then beating Tennessee would rob Summitt of perhaps her final best chance at a title, which would make it kind of a downer.But were getting ahead of the curve, which is as close to actual piefight-quality fun as it gets with this team. Its Duke tonight, in Fresno one more remake of the same movie. A skillfully done remake like most of the others, but a remake nonetheless.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

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